Friday, November 30, 2007

Impeaching Vice President Cheney may end up on the table after all! It depends on you.

For those of us who are trying to hard to convince Congress to put impeachment back on the table, blogger Chris Borland's November 29th post, Only a few House Judiciary Committee Democrats blocking impeachment, raises our hopes considerably that Cheney, for starters, will indeed face impeachment.

Bottom line: Those calls we’ve been making to the House Judiciary Committee Democrats who just wanted Rep. Kucinich’s impeachment of Cheney resolution to go away are making a difference.

Check out Chris’s post and by following his suggestions, you’ll be moving from hope to action.

Chris Hedges - A pessi-realist

Reading what Chris Hedges writes is not easy. That’s why I decided to describe him as a “pessi-realist,” not knowing whether or not such a word existed. A Google search reveals that I’m not the first person to use that description. It applies to Hedges because he writes about issues we’d rather not think about, avoiding a patina of optimism to beguile us into thinking that things aren’t quite as bad as they really are.

Hedges is currently a senior fellow at The Nation Institute in New York City and a Lecturer in the Council of Humanities and the Anschutz Distinguished Fellow at Princeton University. He spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than fifty countries, and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, where he spent fifteen years.

Hedges was part of The New York Times team that won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for the paper's coverage of global terrorism. He received the 2002 Amnesty International Global Award for Human Rights Journalism.

My introduction to Hedges was in 2003, when I read his book, War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. I try to read everything he writes. Since I know he writes for Truthdig, I frequently check this link to find his most recent articles.

Here are two that I consider must-reads:

1. America in the Time of Empire posted November 26th;
2. Chris Hedges' Civil Disobedience, posted November 21st.

Hedges aptly expresses how I feel in both these articles. Rather than excerpt from them, I hope you’ll take time to read both of them and join me as a Chris Hedges fan.

(photo of Chris Hedges – Truthdig)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

On this day 60 years ago....

On November 29, 1947, the U.N. General Assembly approved a proposal to partition Palestine into two states, one Arab and the other Jewish.

Strange, isn’t it, that sixty years later there is only one state.

(map: Truman Library)

Update: In this morning’s Washington Post: "1973 U.S. Cable on Mideast Mirrors Current Events": “A March 1973 State Department cable released yesterday by the National Archives recounts a promise by Saudi Arabia's King Faisal that terrorist threats to U.S. interests could be resolved as soon as Washington pressed Israel to withdraw from territory it had seized.”

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Howard Dean: "The eventual Democratic nominee can't win the White House without ALL of California's 55 electoral votes."

Tomorrow is the deadline for the signature gathering campaign to put an initiative on the June ballot that would allow the voters in California to vote yes to splitting our 55 electoral votes in the November 2008 presidential election.

I’ll be waiting to see if the initiative qualifies. If it does, I think this will be the most important issue facing California voters and will have a profound impact on the upcoming presidential election. I’m not counting on the courts overturning it as unconstitutional.

The Dean quote is from the pro-initiative website, Electoral Reform California.

Anti-initiative websites: No More Dirty Tricks and Fair Election Reform.

(picture of blue/red Congressional districts in California – Fair Election Reform)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Health Matters

I’m baffled why those of us who live in the U.S. allow our health care to be so thoroughly subordinated to the profit motive.

Take, for instance, cancer and the emphasis on treatment, including expensive drugs, radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery. Why hasn't been there been more emphasis on the causes of cancer and how to prevent it?

Dr. Devra Davis, (photo) Director of the Center for Environmental Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer institute, answers this question in her book, The Secret History of the War on Cancer.

Yesterday Dr. Davis was interviewed by Michael Krasny on. KQED. Dr. Davis pointed out that the link between smoking and cancer was discovered in the 1930’s but was suppressed by the tobacco companies for decades. Her research, which appears to be extensive, has revealed that cancer-causing agents have not been eliminated from consumer goods, even after they are known to cause cancer, because of the profit motive. Dr. Davis also cautions about the use of cell phones, citing a Swedish study that indicates that ten continuous years of cell phone use has resulted in twice as many brain tumors. Dr. Davis urged listeners to check the website Prevent Cancer Now. The audio, an hour long, is available here.

A brief description of The Secret History of the War on Cancer from the publisher, The Perseus Books Group: “The War on Cancer set out to find, treat, and cure a disease. Left untouched were many of the things known to cause cancer, including tobacco, the workplace, radiation, or the global environment. Proof of how the world in which we live and work affects whether we get cancer was either overlooked or suppressed. This has been no accident. The War on Cancer was run by leaders of industries that made cancer-causing products, and sometimes also profited from drugs and technologies for finding and treating the disease. Filled with compelling personalities and never-before-revealed information, The Secret History of the War on Cancer shows how we began fighting the wrong war, with the wrong weapons, against the wrong enemies—a legacy that persists to this day. This is the gripping story of a major public health effort diverted and distorted for private gain. A portion of the profits from this book will go to support research on cancer prevention.”

(photos of book jacket and Dr. Devra Davis, The Perseus Book Groups)

Monday, November 26, 2007

How I spent my day

I spent the day babysitting with my youngest grandchildren, almost 10 months old. I had great plans to post something this evening, but I'm too tired.

(photos taken today)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

H.R. 1955 - one more foot in the door?

On November 12th, I posted "Why aren't we hearing more about H.R. 1955..?" Known as the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007, it is now receiving some attention:

1. On November 19th the Baltimore Sun published "Here Come the Thought Police," an excellent description of H.R. 1955, which sailed through the House with a 404 –6 vote and is expected to be swiftly approved by the Senate.

2. On November 20th, Amy Goodman covered Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act Raises Fears of New Government Crackdown on Dissent on Democracy Now. “A little-noticed anti-terrorism bill quietly making its through Congress is raising fears of a new affront on activism and constitutional rights….Critics say it could herald a new government crackdown on dissident activity and infiltration of universities under the guise of fighting terrorism. The bill would establish two government-appointed bodies to study, monitor and propose ways of curbing what it calls homegrown terrorism and extremism in the United States….

“Critics say the bill's definition of 'extremism' and 'terrorism' is too vague and its mandate even more broad. Under a false veil of expertise and independence, the government-appointed commissions could be used as ideological cover to push through harsher laws.”

Amy interviewed Jessica Lee, reporter for the Indypendent and Kamau Karl Franklin, Racial Justice Fellow at the NY-based Center for Constitutional Rights.

3. The Center for Constitutional Rights has a factsheet on H.R. 1955. Because everyone believes that the Senate will pass the bill, the focus is on the commission(s) that the bill establishes. The factsheet states, “The act claims to set up a Commission for a study that will ‘examine and report upon the facts and causes’ of so called violent radicalism and extremist ideology then make legislative recommendations on combating it.

"If we are lucky the commission will just be a way for Congress and committee members to have a few meetings in expensive hotels and work on their tan. However the greater fear should be the possible future outcomes of any report, which will focus in on passing additional federal criminal penalties that are sweeping and inclusive in criminalizing dissent and protest work more surveillance on thought rather than on actions. Further this bi-partisan attempt can set the ground for an even more acquiescent Congress to presidential power, never wanting to look weak on terrorism.”

The factsheet also notes Rand Corporation influence: “Brian Michael Jenkins, Rand Corporation’s so-called counterterrorism expert, testified on the Violent Radicalism hearings.”
Jenkins has written several books on terrorism, including Unconquerable Nation: Knowing Our Enemy, Strengthening Ourselves. On terrorism, Jenkins says, “In their international campaign, the jihadists will seek common grounds with leftist, anti-American, and anti-globalization forces, who will in turn see, in radical Islam, comrades against a mutual foe.”

My concerns:
1. “Violent radicalization” and “homegrown terrorism” are too loosely defined in the bill. The planned use of force and or threatened use of force by a group or individual are included. What is “force”? H.R. 1955 could be used to stifle dissent, especially of those who are viewed as “leftist, anti-American, and anti-globalization.”

2. The findings at Sec. 899B (3) that “The Internet has aided in facilitating violent radicalization, ideologically based violence and the homegrown terrorism process in the United States by providing access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda to the United States.” Will our Internet access be curtailed?

3. The language of Section 899B (8) regarding the protection of our constitutional rights is vague.

4. How do we keep an eye on the commissions that are established to study violent radicalism and extremist ideology and make legislative recommendations? Given the 9/11 Commission’s track record, which I posted about here, I’ve concluded that the public has very little, if any, impact on federal commissions.

(photo: FBI)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Leaders who lie - Have we had enough?

Last Monday, Dan Froomkin, who blogs for the Washington Post at White House Watch, included in his post a couple of paragraphs under Impeachment (Non) Watch: "The Project for Excellence in Journalism finds that during the week of Nov. 4 -9, Rep. Dennis Kucinich's introduction of a measure to impeach Vice President Dick Cheney was 'barely a blip on the larger news-scape.'

"The story did not come close to cracking the top-10 stories in PEJ's overall News Coverage Index. But on talk radio, it was 'the top story with 20% of the total airtime.'"
The next day Public Affairs Books, publisher of former press secretary Scott McClellan’s forthcoming book, What Happened, released an excerpt:

"The most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So I stood at the White House briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby.

"There was one problem. It was not true.

"I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the Vice President, the President's chief of staff, and the President himself."

On November 22nd, Dave Lindorff, co-author of the excellent book, The Case for Impeachment posted, "Impeachment is Back on the Table": “With that one little statement…all excuses for not impeaching President Bush and Vice President Cheney, not to mention indicting Cheney (who of course has no immunity from prosecution while in office), have evaporated.

“There is no way that American democracy can continue to survive, even in its current truncated form, if the Congress continues to duck this issue and pretend that it has 'more important things to do,' as Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her retinue of leaders in the House have continued to claim for an entire year in control of the Congress.

“To keep impeachment ‘off the table,’ knowing that the president and vice president brazenly lied to the American people and to the Special Counsel's office about such a serious offense, is to make a mockery of the Constitution and the law."

I'll be watching the mainstream media to see if impeachment becomes more than a "blip on the larger news-scape" and if more than 20% of the talkers on radio shows "seize on [the] impeachment issue."

Even if the media continues to ignore impeachment, the former press secretary's disclosure is so significant that those of us who support H. Res 799 can urge members of the House Judiciary Committee to subpoena Scott McClellan and begin the impeachment investigation immediately. I highly recommend you go to Chris Borland’s Action Plan: Cheney Impeachment Resolution for contact information for selected House Judiciary Committee members.

(graphs: Project for Excellence in Journalism)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Recommended reading while I'm away

I may be away for two to three days. In my absence, I recommend that you read Tom Engelhardt’s November 15th dispatch, "As the World Burns."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

"The Suddenly Impeachable Mr. Cheney"

This is my third post featuring an article by Jon Spitz, who has written a column for The Mendocino County Observer for a couple of years. Jon consistently rights well on a variety of subjects, as is evident here and here.

”The Suddenly Impeachable Mr. Cheney,” published today in The Mendocino County Observer, is the best description I’ve seen of what happened in the House of Representatives on November 6th when Representative Dennis Kucinich introduced H. R. 333, calling for the impeachment of Vice President Richard Cheney. The resolution is now H. Res. 799.

Jon clarifies the confusing trail of votes resulting from the maneuvering by both Republicans and Democrats. The end result is that the House voted to refer the resolution to the House Judiciary Committee. The resolution had already been submitted to the committee by Rep. Kucinich last April, but Rep. John Conyers, chair of the committee, did not act on it by initiating an investigation.

Jon also describes the three articles of impeachment in H. Res. 799, compares them to the articles on impeachment against Nixon, and suggests additional articles that the House Judiciary Committee should add to H. Res. 799. In Jon’s opinion, these articles would have a better chance of being accepted by the House than the ones Rep. Kucinich came up with.

Because there’s no deadline for the Judiciary Committee to act on H. Res. 799, Jon ends his article with a call to action. Otherwise, he, along with many others including myself, believes that H. Res. 799 will never get to the House floor.

I urge you to read the full article.

(photo of Jon in front of his home)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

"Our humanity has been compromised by those who use Gestapo tactics in our war"

On November 8th, the Senate voted 53 to 40 to confirm Michael B. Mukasey as our next Attorney General. On the final day of his confirmation hearing, he avoided a declaration that simulated drowning, known as waterboarding, constitutes torture under U.S. laws.

Is waterboarding so tricky that a reasonable person can’t figure out whether or not it’s torture?. According to Elizabeth de la Vega, a former federal prosecutor with more than 20 years of experience, it's easy to figure out. In "What Real DOJ Trial Attorneys Say About Torture," published in Truthout on November 18, de la Vega describes the White House and Mukasey’s positions on torture: “…More than anything, White House officials want us to believe that the law of torture is so terribly confusing and vague that no lay person could comprehend its complexities…”

“Consider, for example, Dana Perino on October 5, 2007. This was the press conference where the White House spokesperson made it clear…that she was not pleased about the reporters repeatedly asking her to define the term ‘torture.’ She had already told them the day before: ‘It's a very complicated legal matter’ better left to the experts…. [lawyers]

“Newly sworn Attorney General Michael Mukasey…is an attorney, not to mention a former federal prosecutor and veteran federal judge. But, hiding behind a mask of lawyerly caution, he has deliberately perpetuated the same false idea, refusing to acknowledge to the Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats the starkly obvious conclusion that waterboarding is illegal under US law on the ground that legal opinions must be based on 'real life’…

“ What Perino and Mukasey are doing, of course, is deliberately obfuscating the law of torture to support the president's effort to inoculate himself and his henchmen against possible future prosecution. Perhaps they can succeed in confusing at least some percentage of the public (an increasingly small percentage, it appears), but they are not fooling the prosecutors. Indeed, before uttering even one more patently ridiculous and legally unsupportable word in furtherance of this shameful campaign, Bush administration officials should find out what their own Justice Department career attorneys have already said about the law of torture - not in secret memos, but in publicly filed court documents.”

De la Vega goes on to describe the prosecution of ”Charles 'Chuckie' Taylor Jr., son of the former president of Liberia, Charles McArthur Taylor, with committing and conspiring to commit acts of torture on behalf of the former Liberian government's Anti-Terrorism Unit. The statute under which Taylor Jr. is charged - Title 18, United States Code, Section 2340 - is the very law that contains the definition of torture Bush administration appointees seem to find so befuddling…."

Read the whole article.

Then turn to former Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman’s article, "Beyond Mukasey's Confirmation, White House Liability Issues Loom Large, published in Truthout on November 13th. “…[A]ttorney general nominee Michael Mukasey's evasiveness on the definition of torture has done something historic. It has made it unmistakably clear to mainstream observers that the president may be criminally liable for violating anti-torture laws. Criminal liability of this White House will have wider repercussions than Mr. Mukasey's confirmation. It will reverberate through his tenure as attorney general and beyond the end of the Bush administration.

“We now know that the reason Mr. Mukasey refused to acknowledge that waterboarding meets the legal definition of torture, or at the very least cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment, clearly had nothing to do with not being briefed about the procedure. If he didn't know at the time of the Senate committee hearing, he certainly learned afterwards that the US had considered waterboarding criminal and prosecuted it for at least a century. The real reason, as mainstream news analysts now acknowledge, was that publicly admitting waterboarding is torture or cruel and inhuman would have put the president in jeopardy of criminal charges.”

This article is also well worth reading in its entirety.

I note that on this day 62 years ago, 24 Nazi leaders went on trial before an international war crimes tribunal in Nuremburg, Germany, which brings me to The New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Rich’s October 14th article, "The Good Germans Among Us," in which he states, “ It’s time to confront the darker reality that we are lying to ourselves…. By any legal standards except those rubber-stamped by Alberto Gonzales, we are practicing torture, and we have known we are doing so ever since photographic proof emerged from Abu Ghraib more than three years ago. As Andrew Sullivan, once a Bush cheerleader, observed last weekend in The Sunday Times of London, America’s 'enhanced interrogation' techniques have a grotesque provenance: ‘Verschärfte Vernehmung, enhanced or intensified interrogation, was the exact term innovated by the Gestapo to describe what became known as the ‘third degree.’ It left no marks. It included hypothermia, stress positions and long-time sleep deprivation.”

Rich’s final comment: "Our humanity has been compromised by those who use Gestapo tactics in our war. The longer we stand idly by while they do so, the more we resemble those 'good Germans' who professed ignorance of their own Gestapo. It’s up to us to wake up our somnambulant Congress to challenge administration policy every day. Let the war’s last supporters filibuster all night if they want to. There is nothing left to lose except whatever remains of our country’s good name.”

I wonder if our generation will be described as the “torture generation.” We live in a democracy, albeit a weakened one, but it’s not a dictatorship yet. How can we not be blamed if we allow our leaders to continue to torture?


Monday, November 19, 2007

The Democratic Activist highlights John Nichols's talk at the San Francisco Green Festival

Fellow blogger and friend, Chris Borland, blogging at The Democratic Activist, has posted John Nichols rocks the house at the SF Green Festival.

We’re collaborating. Chris borrowed my camcorder and filmed the event, including the exclusive interview of Nichols before he gave his talk to the public. I uploaded a short clip of the interview to YouTube for Chris’s* post.

It’s a great relief to have a blogging buddy. Sometimes I’m blogged out, especially days like today when I am helping take care of my 9 month-old twin grandchildren.

*The first rule in Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, 4th edition, is “Form the possessive singular of nouns by adding ‘s. Follow this rule whatever the final consonant.” This book, first published in 1935, is a classic, and I use it as my writing guide.

(photo of John from the SF Green Festival)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I'm off on a relaxing adventure today

In an hour, I’m hopping on the Golden Gate Transit bus to San Francisco for the birthday party of a one-year old whose parents my son and I met on the Nation cruise in November of 2005.

Since I’ll be on the bus for five hours round trip, I’m taking my current reading: Treacherous Alliance - The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the U.S. by Trita Parsi, and The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman.

I’m looking forward to this day because I’ll have a chance to relax. I seem to have forgotten how.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Lesson learned: Don't spread rumors

I could kick myself. When I received an e-mail alert last Sunday that Nancy Pelosi would put impeachment back on the table if she received 10,000 hand-written letters, I passed this on in my post after determining that the source was credible by reviewing many previous e-mail alerts from her. I also stated that it might be a rumor but that it was probably a good idea anyway.

Why didn’t I wait until Monday and call Nancy Pelosi’s office to verify the information?

Reason: Since November 6th, I’ve devoted a lot of energy* to alerting people about the need to support H.R. 333, now H. Res. 799, Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s resolution to impeach Cheney, introduced as a privileged motion that day.

The miracle was that it didn’t die an ignoble death; it was referred to the House Judiciary Committee. The committee has been sitting on the resolution for months, but gee whiz, if we could get a huge calling and letter-writing campaign going, maybe the committee will send it back to the House with a recommendation to impeach.

So why wait? I felt a tremendous sense of urgency to do anything I could to support impeaching Cheney.

The result of not checking first: Yesterday I posted that the 10,000 hand-written letters = Pelosi putting impeachment back on the table has been verified as a rumor.

I learned today that on November 15th, Raw Story posted "Speakers office denies 10,000 letter rumor" and gives my blog credit for spreading it. Double gee whiz: I’ve always assumed that only a few people read my posts. I’m not on RSS, Digg, or any other blog feeds. Is this the “viral” spread of information that until now I had only heard about?

Today I also learned that not all people who support impeachment agree with me that we shouldn’t use rumors as a tactic or take advantange of them when they mysteriously appear.

It would have saved me a lot of time and grief to have verified the information first.

*I posted about it on November 5th, 7th, 9th, and 10th.

(graphic of telephone:

Friday, November 16, 2007

Should liberals/progressives use rumors as a tactic to achieve our goals?

Last Sunday I posted an action item urging readers to send a hand-written letter to Nancy Pelosi in support of impeachment. I based my post on an e-mail I received that morning that said, “…Nancy Pelosi is reported to have replied to the question of impeachment that if she received 10,000 hand written letters she would proceed with it.”

I checked previous e-mails from the sender and found her credible. I also checked “urban legends” online and didn’t find any mention that this was a myth. I cautioned readers that I didn’t know if it was a rumor but that it sounded like a good idea to send Nancy Pelosi a hand-written letter in support of impeachment even if it was.

I have since learned that it is a rumor. According to Undercurrents, the Hartford Independent Media Center blog, Pelosi Staffer Denies She’ll Put Impeachment on the Table if She Receives 10,000 Letters, posted November 14: “I decided to check this out, and I called the Speaker’s office in Washington, DC. The staffer who answered denied the report. The aide told me that members of Pelosi’s staff are aware of the report, but the aide wouldn’t confirm that the Speaker herself was aware of it. He said the report is 'baseless' and that she never made such a statement.”

The sender of the e-mail I received last Sunday also sent me an e-mail stating that it was “a very good rumor,” “a fabulous idea.”

What do I do when I inadvertently spread a rumor, even if it leads to a positive result, in this case thousands of letters to Pelosi?

1. I disclose that I’ve learned that it’s a rumor in the same forum I put out the rumor.
2. I am more careful next time to track down something as significant as this. I should have called Pelosi’s office, too.

No matter how desperate we liberals/progressives feel about the need to impeach Bush and Cheney, I don’t believe we should resort to tactics or tools that are “extreme,” i.e., not based on the truth.

On July 1st, I posted, Read Rove's lips. He has resorted to rumor more than once in order to assure that Republicans win. Here’s an excerpt from my post: From Joshua Green’s 2004 Atlantic Monthly article, Karl Rove in a Corner: “…[N]o other example of Rove's extreme tactics that I encountered quite compares to what occurred during another 1994 judicial campaign in Alabama. In that year Harold See first ran for the supreme court, becoming the rare Rove client to lose a close race. His opponent, Mark Kennedy, an incumbent Democratic justice…was no stranger to hardball politics….This August, I had lunch with Kennedy near his office in Montgomery….When his term on the court ended, he chose not to run for re-election. I later learned another reason why. Kennedy had spent years on the bench as a juvenile and family-court judge, during which time he had developed a strong interest in aiding abused children….At the time of the race he had just served a term as president of the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect. One of Rove's signature tactics is to attack an opponent on the very front that seems unassailable. Kennedy was no exception." [emphasis mine]

Some of Kennedy's campaign commercials touted his volunteer work, including one that showed him holding hands with children….some within the See camp initiated a whisper campaign that Kennedy was a pedophile….what they tried to do was make him look like a homosexual pedophile. That was really, really hard to take." [emphasis mine]


Thursday, November 15, 2007

"Legacy of Ashes" - Tim Weiner wins National Book award for best non-fiction

I knew it! I posted about Legacy of Ashes - The History of the CIA on July 26 and October 17. I’m slowly working my way through it because it’s dense. It’s also fascinating.

This book surely deserves the best non-fiction National Book award. In the Washington Post article this morning, “Weiner expressed deep gratitude to Yaddo, the Saratoga Springs, N.Y., artists colony where he spent eight weeks writing with no Internet, no telephone and ‘12 bankers' boxes of documents.’ Two thousand words a day were the result." Smart guy.

(photo of book: Random House; photo of Weiner – The New York Times)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

No subprime loan needed here

Each morning, my friend, Pat Denino, sends me a photo. I thought you might enjoy this one, titled, “No subprime loan needed here.”
(photo used with Pat’s permission)

Crawford v. Marion County Election Board - the most important voting rights case since Bush v. Gore

The Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law has recently published ”Crawford v. Marion County Election Board,” describing this Indiana voter ID case as “[T]he most important voting rights case since Bush v. Gore.” The case will be heard by the United States Supreme Court this winter.

I urge you to take time to go here and read the Center’s brief summary of what is at stake. Of the many, many links in the article, I recommend taking time to read this brief, which is an excellent explanation of the absence of in-person voter fraud.

In-person voter fraud is the basis for the strict voter ID requirements being challenged in this case. According to the Brennan Center, the result of such restrictive ID laws now common in many states is the exclusion of many eligible voters.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Columnists Frank Rich of The New York Times and Jon Spitz of the Mendocino County Observer comment on the Mukasey confirmation

From New York City (population 8,214,426) to Laytonville, California (population 1,301), the confirmation of Judge Michael Mukasey as our 81st Attorney General has our best columnists hopping mad.

Most of you know Frank Rich. Jon Spitz (photo) isn’t quite so well known, but I’m working on it. My first of what I hope are many posts featuring Jon’s columns appeared on October 23rd.

You may have already read Rich’s column, "The Coup at Home." He links Musharaff’s arrest of judges, lawyers, and human rights activists in Pakistan last week to Mukasey’s confirmation:
"Constitutional corners were cut in Washington in impressive synchronicity with General Musharraf’s crackdown in Islamabad."

You won’t read what Jon says about it unless you happen to buy The Mendocino County Observer this Thursday in Laytonville or go here. Titled “Truth or Dare,” Jon describes the awkward position Mukasey found himself in when asked if waterboarding is torture. His inability to answer this straightforward question didn’t bother six Democrats, who joined with the Republicans to confirm Mukasey last Friday.

There’s a lot more to Jon's column, and it’s as interesting and as well written as Frank Rich’s.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Why aren't we hearing about H.R. 1955, the bill "to prevent homegrown terrorism," overwhelmingly passed by the House on October 23rd?

I just learned about H.R. 1955 last night from my blogging buddy, Chris Borland, and am so alarmed about it that it’s now at the top of my concerns, although I will continue making calls to Congress in support of H.R. 799, the impeach Cheney resolution.

I need to get a handle on it. A link to the text of the bill is here. The details regarding the stunning 404 to 6 vote here.

The best post I’ve seen so far on it is here.

Right off the top:

1. Section 899 F of the bill, the protection of civil liberties, appears extremely weak to me, and the "auditing mechanism" by the DHS isn't an independent audit.

2. It also appears to open the door to identifying "thoughtcrime" in order to take preemptive action against those considered likely to commit a crime in the future.

I admit I don’t know much about it, but I plan to learn more. Please post a comment if you are aware of ramifications of this bill.

Update: Keep your eye on Scott Horton’s blog for Harper’s, No Comment. I expect to see a post on this soon.

(photo: Informed Dissent, also worth checking re H.R. 1955)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Want to see Cheney impeached? Send a hand-written letter to Nancy Pelosi!

The following alert was in my e-mail this morning from Emily West.* I haven’t verified the information, but decided it’s a good idea no matter what:

Emily's message: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is reported to have replied to the question of impeachment that if she received 10,000 hand-written letters she would proceed with it. What are we waiting for? Letters should go to her San Francisco office.

Nancy Pelosi 450 Golden Gate Avenue, 14th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94102

Phone: (415) 556-4862

My suggestion: Tell Pelosi you support H. Res. 799 and urge her to support swiftly moving it out of the House Judiciary Committee and on to full debate and consideration by the entire House.

* I checked for previous e-mails from Emily, and see that she supports progressive causes. (photo: Greenpeace)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

If not now, when? Take 30 minutes or less to show your support for impeaching Cheney

1. Want to know what to do? Go to Action Plan: Cheney Impeachment Resolution.

2. Do you need to know that what you will do will make a difference? Go to Janie on impeachment, a three-minute radio interview of Janie Sheppard, which aired last night on KZYX, 91.5 FM in Ukiah, California.

3. Are you ready to take action?
A. Call the Capitol Switchboard number (202-225- 3121) and ask to be put through to the offices of John Conyers, Chairman, and the nine Democratic representatives on the House Judiciary Committee who are opposed to allowing a vote on the resolution to impeach Cheney: Howard Berman, Frederick Boucher, Artur Davis, William Delahunt, Zoe Lofgren, Jerrold Nadler, Linda Sanchez, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Adam B. Schiff.

B. Go here if you want to fax or mail a letter.

4. The message: Express your support for Cheney impeachment resolution H. Res. 799 and urge the House Judiciary Committee to make passing this resolution its top priority, hold a hearing on the resolution as quickly as possible, and work hard to swiftly move the resolution out of committee and on to full debate and consideration by the entire House.

If you're uncertain whether or not Cheney deserves to be impeached, find a comfortable chair, put your feet up, and read Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency. This may take longer than 30 minutes, but this four-part description of Cheney's use and abuse of power, published in the Washington Post last June, is worth every minute.

(picture of Cheney:

Friday, November 09, 2007

A new blog, The Democratic Activist, has a terrific action plan for impeaching Cheney + John Nichols speaking on impeachment in SF this Sunday

I'm closing in on 300 posts, which I expect to hit next week. I started last January after I organized and moderated an impeachment forum in my town, Healdsburg. It was well attended, and there’s been a lot of local impeachment actions, including Janie Sheppard’s* effort to get the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors to pass a resolution in support of impeaching Cheney.

Despite the efforts of many people to hold our leaders accountable, until this past week I wasn’t optimistic. Then on Tuesday, Representative Dennis Kucinich’s resolution to impeach Cheney, H. Res. 799, was referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

Now it’s up to us, folks. And just in time**, Chris Borland created the best plan of action for impeaching Cheney that I’ve seen so far.

Here’s Chris’s introduction to his new blog:


For the past two days, it's been nearly impossible to get through on the phone to the office House Judiciary (HJC) Committee Chairman John Conyers. Nothing but busy signals. He and other HJC committee members have been deluged with calls from citizens demanding their support of the Cheney impeachment resolution now before the committee.

This is it. We actually have a
real chance to impeach Dick Cheney!It's likely now, or never. It's time to move. It will take work. But we can do it.

How can you make it happen? All it takes is about half an hour. Get the details

My recommendation: Put The Democratic Activist icon on our desktop and check it frequently.

*Janie is my friend, political ally, and frequent guest blogger. My posts by or about her are all linked here. Thanks to Janie for keeping the impeachment issue alive here in northern California.

**I’m pretty worn out. I want to pace myself to last through the 2008 election.

Update: John Nichols, the person who convinced me last November to support impeachment, is appearing in San Francisco this Sunday:

The Nation's John Nichols on Impeachment
San Francisco Green Fest
Noon Sunday, Nov. 11
Main Stage Giftcenter Pavillion Theater
888 Brannan Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

Update: Thanks to Janie Sheppard, here is the contact information for the 9 Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee who voted to table H. Res. 799 (meaning they are not willing to vote on it.) In addition to John Conyers,* Chair of the House Judiciary Committe, Chris Borland recommends we contact:
1. Howard Berman, CA-28 2
221 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Phone: (202) 225-4695
Fax: (202) 225-3196
14546 Hamlin Street, Suite 202
Van Nuys, CA 91411
Phone: (818) 994-7200
Fax: (818) 994-10502
2. Frederick Boucher, VA-92187
Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
1 Cloverleaf Square, Suite C-1
Big Stone Gap, Virginia 24219
3. Artur Davis, AL-7
208 Cannon H.O.B.
Washington, D.C. 20515
(202) 225-2665 (phone)
(202) 226-9567 (fax)
20th Street North Suite #1130
Birmingham, AL 35203
(205) 254-1960 (phone)
(205) 254-1974 (fax)
4. William Delahunt, MA-10
2454 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Fax: 202-225-5658
146 Main Street
Hyannis, MA 02601
Toll-Free: 800-870-2626
Fax: 508-790-19595
5. Zoe Lofgren, CA 16
102 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Phone: (202) 225-3072
Fax: (202) 225-3336
635 N. First Street, Suite B San Jose, CA 95112
Phone: (408) 271-8700
Fax: (408) 271-8713
6. Jerrold Nadler, NY-8
2334 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Tel. 202-225-5635
445 Neptune Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11224
Tel. 718-373-31987
7. Linda Sanchez, CA-39
1222 Longworth Building
Washington, DC 20515
17906 Crusader Ave. Suite 100
Cerritos, CA 90703
8. Debbie Wasserman Schultz - Florida, 20th
118 Cannon H.O.B
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: 202-225-7931
Fax: 202-226-2052
10100 Pines Blvd.
Pembroke Pines, FL 33026
Phone: 954-437-3936
Fax: 954-437-47769
9. Adam B. Schiff - CA, 29th
326 Cannon House Office Building
Washington D.C. 20515
Phone: (202) 225-4176
Facsimile: (202) 225-5828
87 N. Raymond Ave. #800
Pasadena, California 91103
Phone: (626) 304-2727
Facsimile: (626) 304-0572
*Rep. John Conyers:
2426 Rayburn Building
Washington, DC 20515
phone: 202.225.5126,
fax: 202.225.0072
Michigan phone numbers:

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Taking a blogging break to brush up on kayak rolling

This evening I’m heading to the pool to help a friend work on his kayak roll. I’ve been teaching rolling for about seven years and also supervise rolling practice as a volunteer with the Sequoia Paddlers.

Last night I watched a DVD of “Greenland Rolling with Dubside,” (photo), who performs miracles getting his kayak back up with or without a paddle. That’s a folding kayak trailing along behind him.

Almost 300 posts ago, I posted this photo of me kayaking down the E. Fork of the Russian River, my very first post. I’m not getting out there as often these days, but I still love it and really enjoy helping others learn to roll.

The minute and a half videoclip demonstrates learning the Greenland roll.

(photo of Dubside from his website -videoclip of Greenland rolling courtesy of Matt Johnson)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Kucinich's impeachment resolution is in the hands of the House Judiciary Committee- what can we citizens do?

Late yesterday, The New York Times reported that the effort to table H.R. 333, the resolution to impeach Vice President Cheney, failed largely because the Republicans decided they wanted the resolution to go to a House floor vote to “…[I]rritate Speaker Nancy Pelosi …who has said that the Democrats have no interest in impeaching Mr. Cheney or President Bush.

"After a motion to table Mr. Kucinich’s bill failed, the majority leader, Steny H. Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland, stepped in with a motion to refer the bill back to the House Judiciary Committee. That motion succeeded, by a near party-line vote of 218-194, and spared the Democrats a potentially embarrassing distraction." [emphases mine]

Wait a minute! “Democrats have no interest in impeaching Mr. Cheney or President Bush”? Sending the resolution to the House Judiciary Committee is supposed to spare the “Democrats a potentially embarrassing distraction”?

The final sentence of the Times’ report: “And the bill has been referred to the Judiciary Committee where it is likely to remain for the rest of the year.”

We need to remind the House Judiciary Committee members that it only took five months to impeach and acquit President Clinton. *

Here’s my plan: bombard the House Judiciary Committee members with calls, e-mails, faxes, and letters. Did you know you can have a letter hand-delivered to your representative for only $8.95? If he/she is on the Judiciary Committee, go to Advocacy Express (scroll down to find it) and follow the directions (thanks to Barbara Temple for telling me about this).

Even if your representative isn’t on the House Judiciary Committee, you can contact the members here. Or you can send an e-mail to the entire committee here. Lean on the chair of the committee, Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (photo). I recall that he was for impeachment before he was against it.

*Impeach the President - The Case Against Bush and Cheney, Chapter 1, p. 15, Impeachment: The People’s Nuclear Option, by Judith Volkhart, Esq. Regarding the short time it took for Congress to handle Clinton’s impeachment, Volkhart added that it proves…”that with sufficient motivation our elected officials can move quickly on matters of impeachment.” [emphasis mine]

(photo of John Conyers from the Judiciary Committee website)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Pakistan Watch: Three posts worth reading

1. This excerpt from Dan Froomkin’s Washington Post White House Watch, ”Another Bush Backfire”:

What Cheney Wrought
Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid writes in a Washington Post op-ed: "The spread of anti-Western feelings and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism have been fostered by a U.S. policy that has sought to prop up Musharraf rather than forcing him to seek political consensus and empower a representative civilian government that would have public support for attacking the extremists."

And who's most responsible for that policy? Here's what Rashid wrote in The Post in June: "Current and past U.S. officials tell me that Pakistan policy is essentially being run from Cheney's office. The vice president, they say, is close to Musharraf and refuses to brook any U.S. criticism of him. This all fits; in recent months, I'm told, Pakistani opposition politicians visiting Washington have been ushered in to meet Cheney's aides, rather than taken to the State Department.

"No one in Foggy Bottom seems willing to question Cheney's decisions."

2. Scott Horton at No Comment: "Bush's Musharraf Envy."

3. Barnett Rubin at Informed Comment Global Affairs: "Islamabad: Parting Thoughts on Policy."

Monday, November 05, 2007

Congress must hold the Vice President accountable. You can hold Congress accountable. Call or fax your representative today!

Today Rep. Dennis Kucinich (photo) will introduce a resolution to impeach Vice President Richard Cheney as a privileged motion. It’s highly likely there will be a counter-motion to table voting on the resolution. Tabling usually means the resolution is never voted on. If the resolution doesn’t go to the House floor, we won’t know our representative’s position on impeachment. Please contact your Congressional representative and urge him/her not to table H.R. 333.

Why I feel so strongly about impeachment: This weekend I read Phillip Cunningham’s America Cannot Be Said to Be Good at the group blog, Informed Comment Global Affairs: “George W. Bush may indeed be the worst president ever, and Dick Cheney the worst vice-president imaginable but that does not exonerate the American people because Americans have the constitutional right and responsibility to remove miscreants from office.” [emphasis mine]

Cunningham compares Bush-Cheney’s America with Japan leading up to and during World War II, finding similarities in the…[W]illful disregard of international law, the pursuit of diplomacy by force and failure to account for war criminality.”

Cunningham concludes: “Just as it should be acknowledged that the people of Japan share a certain culpability in Tokyo’s terrible war, a war that ravaged Asia and eventually Japan itself, Americans have to own up to Iraq. But it can also be said in defense of the average Japanese in the days after Pearl Harbor that there was much they didn’t know and couldn’t talk about; --the media was completely censored and the Kempeitai dealt brutally with domestic opposition.

"When the day of reckoning comes for ordinary Americans to assess their culpability in the debacle of Iraq, a hideous and heinous war fought in view of a free media and in the context of relatively unfettered freedom to protest, what will the excuse be? [emphasis mine]

"If Bush is unjust, if he is, as they say, the worst ever, then the free people who support, tolerate and enable him cannot be said to be good.”

Cheney is worse than Bush. On the day of reckoning, I, an ordinary American, do not want to feel responsible for the Iraq war, torture, and all the other “high crimes and misdemeanors” of Vice President Cheney.

Getting into action: My letter to my representative is here. If you know your representative’s name , go here. If you don’t, enter your zip code here. If you don’t know your ZIP + 4, go here, then back to here.

(photo of Rep. Dennis Kucinich

An extraordinary woman writes about her extraordinary experiences..and her book is reviewed by another extraordinary woman!

My introduction: Quite a few years ago, I met Laura Fogg in front of a bakery in my hometown. Laura lives in Ukiah, California, 60 miles north of me. She, too, was interested in whitewater kayaking.

We never went kayaking together, but a year or so ago I joined my political ally and close friend, Janie Sheppard,* for hikes in the hills outside of Ukiah, and Laura was in the group that takes hikes together every week-end.

Slowly I learned about Laura’s many talents. She quilts. She designed and tiled her shower, creating an incredible Venus rising out of a shell. She rode her bike to the August 14th Mendocino County Board of Supervisors impeachment public hearing. An extraordinary woman.

Last week Janie contacted me about her review of Laura’s new book, Traveling Blind: Life Lessons from Unlikely Teachers. My first thought: Laura writes books in addition to all her other creative activities? My second thought: I want to post Janie’s book review. On September 7th, I posted Janie’s review of a book about an Israeli and Palestinian. Janie is also a gifted writer, another extraordinary woman.

Janie’s introduction: “Upfront disclosure: the author of this wonderful book is a good friend. That said, I will tell you a bit about what I learned about Laura, her profession, and her students. I don’t know what I expected, but I couldn’t put down the book. I became engrossed in the stories.

“Laura is a mobility instructor, meaning that she teaches children who are missing one or more senses how to get around in the world: How to walk around town with a cane, how to order a meal, how to shop, and, perhaps most important, how to have friends. I had never heard of a mobility instructor before meeting Laura. Now, having read her book, I am an advocate for such instructors. Below are some excerpts to give you inklings of what to expect.”

The book: Janie selects three vignettes: Nicole, a blind infant; Forrest, who contracted meningitis and only lived three years; and Michelle, who lost her vision gradually and was terminally ill. In her book, Laura lamented, “I still had to get up in the morning and take a shower and go to work and cook meals for my own children, even though Michelle was dying.”

Janie ends her review with a reference to Laura’s own close call with death. “I won’t reveal how this happened, but you will learn how she comes to relate her own experience to Michelle’s dying and how she comes to learn perhaps the hardest lesson, that her sorrow for Michelle was more for her own spirit, really her own ego. This book is nothing if not brutally honest….[T]his is a book for anyone who wants to dig deeply into the human spirit in its many manifestations.”

Janie’s review is posted at Medusa Muse, the publisher, has a thumbnail sketch of Laura and short review of Traveling Blind here.

* Janie has either been my guest blogger or the subject of my post here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

(photos of Traveling Blind and Laura: Medusa's Muse)

Sunday, November 04, 2007

My awards for best coverage of the Law of the Sea Treaty

On October 31st, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 17-4 in favor of sending the Law of the Sea Treaty to the full Senate.

I’ve been following this issue for some time now, and would like to make the following awards:

Best blog: The Washington Note (TWN): Scott Paul, Deputy Director of Government Relations for Citizens for Global Solutions, has consistently kept us informed on this issue since he joined Steve Clemons at TWN earlier this year. Scroll through these TWN links, and you’ll be up to speed on the Law of the Sea in no time.

Best mainstream media coverage: The New York Times: July 14th op-ed, August 25th editorial, October 31st editorial, and November 3rd op-ed, by Gail Collins, titled “My Favorite Menace.”

Best magazine coverage: Harper's Magazine: The September, 2007 issue has a fascinating article by McKenzie Funk, Cold rush: The coming fight for the melting north. Check it out at the public library or subscribe and get access to Harper's archive online. Funk accompanied Canadian sailors, Mounties, and Vandoos (young camo-clad teenagers belonging to a Quebec regiment) as they conducted a “sovereignty operation” in the far north in the frigate Montreal. You can also listen to a 40 minute interview of McKenzie Funk here.

This is a big story. I'll be watching to see if the Senate ratifies the treaty.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

In a disaster, there's no substitute for being able to think on your feet

After six weeks* of instruction on how to help in a disaster, I and my CERT team members would get to test our skills in a simulated disaster.

Last Thursday night, we met at the Healdsburg Fire Department, which had provided the training and was now the scene of the disaster scenarios intended to replicate what would happen if we were to have an earthquake (Healdsburg sits right on top of the Rodgers Creek Fault).

I had attended every session, did my homework each week, and spent last weekend organizing my rescue pack so I could find everything I needed quickly. I numbered every pocket in the pack and made an alphabetical list of what was in each pocket.

Using index cards, I reduced a binder full of instructions on what to do down at each stage of a disaster to a few key points and tucked them in my backpack.

And what were the results of all this preparation? I blew it in one of the three scenarios, triage, when I was asked to lead the rescue team. Without going into detail, I and another rescuer got “electrocuted” because I didn’t assess the safety before we entered a room full of screaming victims. I simply couldn’t think on my feet. It was a disaster.

As a team member in the other two scenarios, extinguishing a car on fire and conducting search and rescue, I did okay.

Here’s a two minute clip of the three scenarios: triage, fire suppression, and search and rescue.

Lessons learned:
1. I’m a better team player than a leader in a disaster.
2. I’m going to participate in simulated disasters that are put on in my area by the Red Cross. This may improve my ability to think on my feet in stressful situations.
3. I’m still better prepared to take care of myself and help others in my neighborhood for having taken the training. I earned my certificate and the embarrassment I felt for blowing it during the triage. I’ll keep the certificate but let go of the embarrassment!

* For more information on our training, check : here, here, here, here, here, and here. I included information that helps people prepare for a disaster and to encourage everyone to take the CERT training.

Friday, November 02, 2007

"Boylan is almost certainly a partisan hack..."

I check Glenn Greenwald’s blog every morning, and this week it’s been fascinating because he’s taken on Colonel Steven Boylan, (photo) the military’s top spokesman in Iraq.

Here’s my thumbnail sketch of what’s going on: Boylan is busy, busy, busy monitoring liberal bloggers and frequently contacts them, as he did Greenwald. Boylan's e-mails are aggressively critical of the bloggers and what they write. Then he disavows that he sent such an e-mail to Greenwald, suggesting that a hacker used his military e-mail address to send it.. Given that this would be a huge security breach, you would think he would be eager to find the culprit. But no, he’s not. He stops e-mailing Greenwald and starts sending messages to Greenwald’s readers..

This is incredibly bizarre. I highly recommend that you read Greenwald's, starting on October 28th, followed by October 29th, October 30th, and October 31st.

The conclusion that “Boylan is almost certainly a partisan hack…” is from a commenter at John Cole's Balloon Juice, linked in Greenwald’s October 31st post, where he also links to Farhad Manjoo’s article, "The Case of the Angry Colonel," in which he discovers and assembles the facts about Boylan's e-mails.

(photo of Col. Boylan: His Vorpal

Thursday, November 01, 2007

I didn't invite Norman Podhoretz to go trick or treating with me last night

Decked out in my 20 year-old clown costume, I and several others, including seven year old Casey (photo) went trick or treating* last night. I didn’t invite Norman Podhoretz.

Why in the world would I even consider inviting Podhoretz? Because yesterday in the Washington Post, I saw his name linked to Halloween in Susan Jacoby’s post, "Does Any Sane Person Take Halloween Personally?" Jacoby was actually focusing on Norman’s son, John Podhoretz, who is taking over his dad’s job at Commentary Magazine, “…[A] once-fascinating and intellectual publication that is now a bastion of Neanderthal thought.” Jacoby describes Norman as a “…[N]eoconservative warrior…whose ideas are so scary that he can go as himself to any costume party on October 31….”

Because Rudy Giuliani is the front running Republican presidential candidate, and Norman Podhoretz is his Senior Foreign Policy Aide, I agree that he’s scary. See Glenn Greenwald’s October 30th post about Podhoretz, "Hitlers, Hitlers, and more Hitlers."

So I didn’t let Norman Podhoretz come with me last night. I even left all thoughts of him at home, in my turned-off computer.

*Only the kids get candy; we adults come along for the fun.