Monday, December 31, 2007

"Full-spectrum Impotence" by Jon Spitz

One of the highlights of 2007 was discovering Jon Spitz. For the past two years, he has written a bi-monthly column for the Mendocino County Observer, published in Laytonville, a very small town in northern California.

In late October, former Congressman Dan Hamburg sent me Jon’s "The Collapse Has Begun." I was so impressed that I called Jon up and asked if I could link to all of his upcoming articles. It’s a pleasure working with Jon. I’ve featured his columns here, here, here, and here.

Jon’s current column, "Full-spectrum Impotence" is so well researched and written that I urge you to read the whole thing. Starting with the May, 2000 U.S. Defense Department’s "Joint Vision 2020," which espoused full spectrum military dominance, Jon describes how the Bush regime has attempted to implement this policy and the results of these efforts.

I look forward to working with Jon in 2008. Jon’s columns and our e-mail exchanges have deepened my understanding of the “fault lines” that lie below the surface news.

(photo on Jon on the Pacific Coast)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Recommended reading: "Oligarchical Decay"

I’ve been away for several days, helping care for family members who have had the flu.

On checking back into the blog world, I read this morning’s post by Glenn Greenwald, "Oligarchical decay - Increasingly, as our political establishment sees it, the law is only for the masses."

As I read the article, I kept wondering why the masses don’t say, “Enough is enough!” and demand the impeachment of Bush and Cheney.

Even if you don’t support impeachment, I highly recommend that you read Greenwald’s post. It may help you change your mind.

(photo of Greenwald from his website)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

What "tools" will the future president willingly give back?

No one questions that President Bush has vastly expanded the Executive Branch’s powers by using signing statements (over 800), issuing executive orders to circumvent Congressional action, and even ignoring numerous laws.

What will the next president do with these increased powers?

John Nichols, Washington correspondent for The Nation Magazine and author of The Genius of Impeachment - The Founders' Cure for Royalty, believes that the toolbox of powers assumed by President Bush and Vice President Cheney will be passed on to the future president; regardless of who wins in ’08, he/she is not likely to hand any tools back.

That’s why John Nichols supports impeachment. In his July 13th interview with Bill Moyers, Nichols said, “On January 20th, 2009, if George Bush and Dick Cheney are not appropriately held to account this administration will hand off a toolbox with more powers than any president has ever had, more powers than the founders could have imagined. And that box may be handed to Hillary Clinton or it may be handed to Mitt Romney or Barack Obama or someone else. But whoever gets it, one of the things we know about power is that people don't give away the tools. They don't give them up. The only way we take tools out of that box is if we sanction George Bush and Dick Cheney now and say the next president cannot govern as these men have."

In December 22nd, Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe published a study of the responses of 9 of the 12 top presidential candidates' responses to 12 questions about their positions on executive powers. Savage’s report is the most comprehensive effort to date to get the candidates to declare in specific terms what checks and balances they would respect, and whether they would reverse the Bush administration's legacy of expanded presidential powers.

Along with Savage’s article, you can read the candidates’ answers (Giuliani, Huckabee, and Thompson failed to respond) and also read these candidates’ answers by question.

Even though Rudy Giuliani didn’t respond to Savage’s questions, it is clear that he would expand presidential powers if elected president, as reported in "Rudy Awakening" in the November, 2007 issue of the Washington Monthly.

A day after Savage’s report was published, Glenn Greenwald zeroed in on Mitt Romney's responses to the 12 questions, describing his pursuit of power literally tyrannical.

Balkinization blogger Marty Lederman posted a brief summary of all the responsive candidates’ positions on December 22nd: Some highlights:

”On the Democratic side, Senators Clinton and Obama both disclaim any presidential authority to disregard statutes and treaties such as the torture act, FISA, statutes imposing troop limits, and the Geneva Conventions. Senators Biden and Dodd, and Governor Richardson, agree, except that Governor Richardson adds that the President can disregard statutory limits "in some limited circumstances, such as where it is necessary to protect the troops on the ground or to repel an attack not contemplated by the congressional directive." Senator Edwards strongly believes that President Bush should not have disregarded (or threatened to disregard) such laws; but he does not quite clearly answer the questions about constitutional power.

“As for the Republicans:”Senator McCain denies that the President has the constitutional power to violate the torture act, or FISA, or treaties, but in response to the question about a statute limiting troop deployment, he states that 'it's beyond Congress's authority to micromanage wars.' (On the other hand, he states categorically (and mistakenly) that 'I don't think the president has the right to disobey any law,' so his views on this question remain a bit uncertain.) McCain also denies that the President has the constitutional power to unilaterally bomb Iran, absent an imminent threat. Surprisingly (and in my view unfortunately), McCain states that he would not issue any signing statements.

"Ron Paul, true to his convictions, is libertarian across the board, which in this case means skeptical of executive power.

”Romney? Let's put it this way: If you've liked Dick Cheney and David Addington, you're gonna love Mitt Romney.”

I wonder if John Nichols is right, that no president willingly gives up increased powers. Since impeachment doesn’t have the active support of a majority of citizens, I guess we’ll find out when a new president is elected.

(toolbox: Electronic Toolbox)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Juan Cole: Ten Top Myths about Iraq 2007

Juan Cole never misses a beat, posting right through the holidays. Today’s post: "Ten Top Myths about Iraq 2007."

The myths are listed below. Cole dispels each one.

10. The US public no longer sees Iraq as a central issue in the 2008 presidential campaign.

9. There have been steps toward religious and political reconciliation in Iraq in 2007.

8. The US troop surge stopped the civil war that had been raging between Sunni Arabs and Shiites in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.

7. Iran was supplying explosively formed projectiles (a deadly form of roadside bomb) to Salafi Jihadi (radical Sunni) guerrilla groups in Iraq.

6. The US overthrow of the Baath regime and military occupation of Iraq has helped liberate Iraqi women.

5. Some progress has been made by the Iraqi government in meeting the "benchmarks" worked out with the Bush administration.

4. The Sunni Arab "Awakening Councils," who are on the US payroll, are reconciling with the Shiite government of PM Nuri al-Maliki even as they take on al-Qaeda remnants.

3. The Iraqi north is relatively quiet and a site of economic growth.

2. Iraq has been "calm" in fall of 2007 and the Iraqi public, despite some grumbling, is not eager for the US to depart.

1. The reduction in violence in Iraq is mostly because of the escalation in the number of US troops, or "surge."

(photo of Juan Cole: University of Detroit Mercy)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Rebecca Solnit: The Hope Helper

In the past couple of weeks, several of my political allies started feeling hopeless about making a difference. In my efforts to cheer them up, I tell them about Rebecca Solnit, author of Hope in the Dark - Untold Histories, Wild Possiblities, which I read several years ago. It has helped sustain me when the news is consistently grim.

Rebecca was discovered by my favorite blogger, Tom Engelhardt, who has been posting at TomDispatch since shortly after 9/11. He edited Hope in the Dark, and he offers Rebecca the TomDispatch platform for an occasional article.

A sensible blogger, Tom is checking out until after the holidays, but he left us a great gift, "Rebecca Solnit on Hope in Print.” Rebecca shares her “secret library of hope,” 12 books “that offer the reader encouragement not to curl up in despair when faced with a grim world.”

Of the twelve books Rebecca recommends, I’m singling out Adam Hochschild’s Bury the Chains - Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire's Slaves (also edited by Tom) because it has sustained me this past year in my efforts to promote impeachment, considered by many as a hopeless endeavor. I previously posted about it here.
I’ll be away for several days, traveling with my family. My gift to you is to point you in Rebecca Solnit’s direction. She’s the ultimate hope helper.

(Bury the Chains book cover: Quakers in Britain)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Story of Stuff

1. Yesterday I posted
"What happens to your discarded computer?".
2. Yesterday “Anonymous” posted a comment to my March 7th post,
"After 9/11, Bush urged us to go shopping," and included a link to The Story of Stuff.
3. This morning I received an e-mail from an old kayaking friend who sent me a link to The Story of Stuff.

Shopping: I don’t like to shop. I either shop locally or online. I shudder thinking about walking into Macy’s and being confronted by a thousand purses. This afternoon I walked three blocks to downtown
Healdsburg, population 11,000, and bought a few Christmas presents, mostly books.

When I got back home, I watched the 20 minute video,
The Story of Stuff. It was well worth every minute. I highly recommend that everyone take one-third of an hour from the frenzy of holiday shopping to watch this video.

You’ll also find a link to resources that will provide you with more information and an opportunity to get involved in stopping stuff from taking over your life.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What happens to your discarded computer or other electronic device?

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a seminar for lawyers and learned that it’s standard practice for law offices to replace computers every three years.

This evening, I read "High-Tech Trash - toxic components of discarded electronics are ending up overseas" in the January, 2008 issue of the National Geographic Magazine.

I wonder if my colleagues think about what happens to their old computers. I keep my computers well beyond the recommended three years. I also make sure that when I have to discard a computer or other electronic device, I deliver it a “recycle roundup” specifically for electronic devices. The next time I’ll ask what happens to the items they are collecting.

There are several links included along with the National Geographic article, including a photo gallery, Test Your Knowledge of E-Waste, and E-Cycling Etiquette- How to Help.

(photo: Discarded shells of computers and monitors float in a drainage ditch channel in Accra, Ghana: National Geographic)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Recommended reading while I'm away

I’m off to help with infant grandchildren for a couple of days.

Worthwhile reading:
1. Paul Krugman, The New York Times op-ed columnist: "Pundits Say Hil or Obama, But Edwards Is The Best Bet to Beat GOP."
2. Barnett Rubin, Afghan expert, "Afghanistan: Who's to Blame?"
3. Daily afternoon reading Monday through Friday, Dan Froomkin’s blog at the Washington Post, White House Watch.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Please sign the Wexler petition urging Cheney impeachment hearings plus send to 10 others

Please drop everything, go to Wexler Wants Hearings and sign the petition calling for impeachment hearings of Cheney. When you sign up, note the number who have also signed. There were 63, 541 signers at 5:55 pm this evening.

Representative Robert Wexler, Democrat, 19th Congressional District, Florida, is a member of the House Judiciary Committee (HJC). He, along with HJC members Rep. LuisGutierrez (D-IL) and Rep. Tammy Baldwin, (D-WI) are fed up with the lawlessness of Vice President Richard Cheney.

Last Friday, sent out "Reps. Wexler, Gutierrez, and Baldwin Call for Cheney Impeachment Hearings", and the result has been the stunning number of signatures gathered over a busy pre-holiday weekend.

Rep. Kucinich’s impeach Cheney bill was submitted on April 24, 2007. It has languished since then in the HJC. It was given new life on November 6th when Kucinich submitted a privileged resolution to impeach Cheney, H. Res. 799, on the House floor. Mixed motives were behind the bipartisan majority of 218 House members who voted to sent it back to the HJC.

Many Democrats who voted to move the resolution to the HJC hoped it would continue to gather dust. Until now, it appeared that H. Res. 799 would indeed be forgotten by the HJC, which is made up of 23 Democrats and 15 Republicans.

Impeachment has been by highest political priority since November 2, 2006, when I heard John Nichols speak about impeachment. John is the Washington correspondent for The Nation magazine and author of The Genius of Impeachment - The Founders' Cure for Royalism.

I hope you’ll join me in calling for hearings on impeaching Cheney. Don’t worry about the outcome, just add your voice to the growing number who don’t want to see Vice President Cheney get away for so many lawless acts. Then spread the word to 10 friends.

(photo of Cheney from Wexler Wants Hearings)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Impeach Cheney movement gains momentum

Updated below.

This afternoon I wore my “Impeach Cheney?” cap to do my errands on foot in my hometown, Healdsburg. I’ve lived here for forty years, am 67 years old, and have decided that I can wear or do anything I want. *

I was pleasantly surprised by the positive responses from other walkers. I got into quite a conversation with a 30-ish brother and sister, whom I had never met before, who saw my cap and told me they, too, want to see Cheney impeached.

This feedback came at a good time because many of the people I’ve worked with on impeachment became very discouraged this past week when we learned that key Democrats knew that the CIA planned to destroy the torture tapes and did nothing about it. No wonder the Democrats aren’t interested pursuing impeachment against Cheney or Bush; that they are complicit in the illegal destruction of the tapes would inevitably come out.

However, all is not lost. Three Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee, Wexler, Gutierrez, and Baldwin, are calling for impeach Cheney hearings, well described by Bob Fertik of in an e-mail alert I received yesterday. If you haven’t done so already, I recommend that you read Fertik’s alert, then go to Join Congressman Wexler's Call for Cheney Impeachment Hearings and sign the petition.

It’s up to us to put pressure on the House Judiciary Committee to stop sitting on H. Res. 799, the impeach Cheney resolution introduced by Rep. Dennis Kucinich. It’s never too late to let the Vice President know that he is not above the law.

Update: 36,000 people have signed Wexler's petition in less than 24 hours. Sign here.

*I have the well-known book, When I Am an Old Woman, I Shall Wear Purple. What I say is, “When I grow old, I’ll wear any color I want and tell the truth about what I believe!”

Friday, December 14, 2007

Understanding the relationship between the U.S. and Iran: I'm casting a wide net

Last February, after I had been blogging for a couple of weeks, I posted "Writing and bouillabaisse soup," describing the similarities between writing and making this famous fish soup. I wrote, "First, you take a big fishnet and, standing on a rock jutting out into the sea, cast it as wide as you can. After you gather the net and pull it up on the rock, you begin a careful examination of everything caught in it.”

I’m throwing my net wide to try to gather as much information as possible about why the relationship between the U.S. and Iran is so difficult and even scary. The recent National Intelligence Estimate that Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program four years ago has not dispelled Bush's fear that Iran remains a threat and cannot be trusted with even the scientific knowledge to enrich uranium for peaceful civilian use.

This fear has trickled down to many ordinary Americans, and some of this fear is expressed as hatred for Iran. I was saddened yesterday to read's "Nick Turse, The Holiday Gifts from Hell (on Earth)": “You might also think about the ‘Give Peace a Chance - Bomb Iran' fitted t-shirt from SnafuGear. Or slip over to to pick up that ’Tic Tac Toe Anti-Iran’ T, featuring the snazzy game-board motif, with Afghanistan and Iraq already Xed out and all those bombs heading Iran-wards. Or what about the ‘Tehran Forecast’ t-shirt that reads: ‘15,000 degrees, high radioactive winds.’

“Had enough of shirts? Feelin' a tad sad because the latest National Intelligence Estimate wrecked that plan to take out Iran? How about a trucker hat emblazoned with a picture of Iranian President Ahmadinejad's face on toilet paper and the phrase ‘Shiite Head’ in faux Arabic script?

“And, for goodness sake, don't forget the Xmas cards you'll need to accompany your gifts. Perfect for the T's and the hat are DareWare's ‘Funny Anti-Iran Anti-Muslim Greeting Cards’ with a lovely image of a mushroom cloud and the classic all-seasonal line:‘Nuke Iran for Peace.’ "

So far my net has caught the excellent The Great War for Civilisation - The Conquest of the Middle East by Robert Fisk. His first-hand description of US support for Iraq in its war of aggression on Iran in the 1980’s is mind-boggling. This 1000+ page book has helped me understand the animosity the US has felt for Iran since the revolution unseated the Shah Mohamed Pahlavi in 1979, an event described in Chapter Four, “The Carpet-Weavers.”

Another catch is Trita Parsi’s Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealngs of Israel, Iran, and the U.S. I now have a better understanding how Israel’s and Iran’s relations have shifted from covert cooperation (even when Ayatollah Seyyet Ruhollah Khomeini was in power) to Israel's conviction today that Iran is an existential threat.

Since last January, I’ve read a lot of articles and blogs on Iran and wrote 41 posts, which I've listed below. By following my “recipe” in "Writing and bouillabaisse soup," I hope to write knowledgeably about this important subject in future posts.

January 25
February 1
February 8
February 13
February 26
March 26
March 28
April 4
April 7 - guest blogger Jim Stoops
May 23
May 24
May 25
May 26
May 27
June 2
July 3
July 5
August 24
August 25
August 30
August 31
September 3
September 3
September 5
September 6
September 6
September 14
September 17
September 20
September 21
September 22
September 25
September 28
October 2
October 3
October 9
October 11 (about Trita Parsi’s Treacherous Alliance)
Oct. 18 (Iran hasn’t launched a war in 222 years)
October 24 (a great photo, even if you don’t read the post)
October 25 (I highly recommend you check this one)
December 5

(Persian miniature: Iran Chamber Society, also worth checking to learn more about Iranian culture)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

"Don't Look Now, But Here Come the Thought Police"

Today the Mendocino County Observer of Laytonville, California (population 1,301) is publishing Jon Spitz’s "Don't Look Now, But Here Come the Thought Police"

Three previous articles by Jon published by the Observer are linked here, here, and here.

The article came with the following e-mail message from Jon: “Attached is my latest column about Bush’s police state. What is happening is so horrible that I found this piece very hard to write. I have nightmarish visions of Hitler’s rise to power in the ‘30s. It’s chilling yet riveting.”

I, too, have been watching what I describe as the Bush administration’s getting “all its ducks in a row” to declare martial law. I’m relieved that Jon has written about this daunting issue because I couldn’t find the time and energy to tackle it.

In "Don't Look Now..." Jon walks us through what might trigger the imposition of martial law then proceeds to list the “ducks,” i.e., the various laws and executive orders that are now in place, notably the Military Commissions Act of 2006, the John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007, the National Security Presidential Directive 51, and the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act, currently making swift passage through Congress.

Jon also describes the “unconstitutional secret operations” either conducted by the Bush Administration or with its approval.

As I read Jon’s article in preparation for posting, I caught this statement in reference to the Military Commissions Act of 2006: “With the so called ‘war on terror’ as his justification Bush, unilaterally claimed the authority to name anyone he chooses as an ‘enemy combatant’ and to then secretly abduct and detain them indefinitely without any legal right to challenge his detention (the human right known as habeas corpus).”

I thought, “Wait a minute!” I recall that the Military Commissions Act states that ‘alien’ unlawful enemy combatants will be tried by military commissions, where the right to apply for a writ of habeas corpus has been removed, and citizen unlawful enemy combatants will be tried in US courts and therefore will retain the right to apply for a writ of habeas corpus.

I called Jon and told him I thought his statement was too sweeping. He sent me a link to "Bush's Chilling New Definition of 'Unlawful Enemy Combatant," by Elliot D. Cohen, published in Buzzflash shortly after the Act was passed. This paragraph supported Jon’s assertion that citizens are also susceptible to being detained with no right to apply for a writ of habeas corpus “In chapter 948c ('Persons Subject to Military Commissions'), the Act does stipulate that 'any alien unlawful enemy combatant engaged in hostilities against the United States or having supported hostilities against the United States is subject to trial by military commission...' (my italics). However, any student of elementary logic knows that, from ‘All A are B it does not follow that All non-A are non-B.’ In other words, this does not mean that someone who is determined by the President or the Secretary of Defense to be an ‘unlawful enemy combatant,’ but who also happens to be an American citizen is therefore automatically off the hook.”

I still believe that citizens who are determined to be unlawful enemy combatants have the right to apply for a writ of habeas corpus, but agree that there’s some ambiguity in the Military Commissions Act. Also, there are other laws and executive orders that may preempt citizens' rights to challenge their incarceration. Then, too, my concerns aren’t limited to citizens. I believe habeas corpus should be available to all people regardless of citizenship.

What is refreshing is that Jon and I could disagree yet still work together with the goal of getting the bigger message, the possibility of the imposition of martial law before the 2008 election, out to the public.

(photo of Jon Spitz)

War in Context

Every day I receive an e-mail alert from War in Context, an online news collection service run by Paul Woodward. My favorite blogger, Tom Engelhardt of TomDispatch counts on it, and so do I.

Woodward is Managing Editor of the Conflicts Forum, which began in 2004 with the aim of opening up a new relationship between the West and the Muslim World.

Check it out, and if looks like a worthwhile source of information, sign up for daily alerts.

(photo of Woodward: Conflicts Forum)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Mike Huckabee's other half- not as nice as he is?

With former Governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee’s miraculous ascendancy to one of the top Republican presidential contenders, he’s worth watching (click to enlarge).
Yesterday, Frank Rich, The New York Times op ed columnist, wrote "The Republicans Find Their Obama": Comparing Huckabee to Obama, Rich observes, “Both men have a history of speaking across party and racial lines. Both men possess that rarest of commodities in American public life: wit. Most important, both men aspire (not always successfully) to avoid the hyper-partisanship of the Clinton-Bush era.”

But wait! Presidents bring their wives with them to the White House, where they, too, exert a profound influence on the tone of the administration.

According to Steve Clemons of The Washington Note, Huckabee’s wife Janet bears watching. On December 9th he posted "An Interesting Email Exchange with Mike Huckabee Spouse: Janet Huckabee”: ”In 2004, an associate of a friend began a correspondence with Janet Huckabee, wife of then Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. His concern at the time was that Janet Huckabee was simply too aggressive and snarky at a polling station when challenging those who did not show identification at the polls -- and in some cases, sending people away when it was, in fact, their right to vote whether or not they chose to show identification.”

What follows is a fascinating exchange of e-mails between Clemon’s source and Janet Huckabee. Clemons also points out that the Huckabees registered with Target to make it easy for their friends and supporters to buy presents for them for their farewell party from the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion.

That doesn’t bother me nearly as much as Janet’s efforts to discourage people from voting. Each election I work on the national voter protection hotline with the National Campaign for Fair Elections to prevent such behavior.

(photo of 1974 Huckabee wedding – Political Ticker CNN blog; chart: Wonkosphere)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

A break from blogging - recommended reading

I suspect I’m going to miss posting every day until after the holidays. My law and mediation practice is keeping me busier than usual, I’m spending 2+ days a week with my youngest grandchildren, and I like to remember my family and friends during the holidays with cards, gifts, and homemade pumpkin bread. I’m wondering if I can make time to help two of my grandchildren make a gingerbread house again this year. If you have a "blog quota" you like to fill, I recommend the following:

1. The Democratic Activist: Chris Borland is doing a wonderful job keeping people informed and inspired regarding impeachment. Go there if you are committed to supporting House Resolution 799, the impeach Cheney resolution, currently before the House Judiciary Committee.

2. Scott Horton’s No Comment. Horton is the most prolific blogger I’ve come across, and he’s amazingly eclectic. For instance, today he posted Rumi's 'The Snake-Catcher's Tale' and about the scapegoating going on in the CIA tape destruction debacle on December 8th.

3. If you, like I, need someone who blogs every single day on important issues, go to Juan Cole's Informed Comment. I describe Juan as "my Middle Eastern expert," but I'm happy to share him.

If you only have time for an article or two a week, I recommend signing up for e-mail alerts at If I had to give up all but once source of commentary on the news, this is the one I'd keep.

Looking for a book to read during those stolen moments from holiday preparations? I highly recommend Tim Weiner’s National Book Award winner, Legacy of Ashes - The History of the CIA, which I posted about here, here, and here. If you read this book, you’ll no longer be surprised by anything the CIA does, such as destroying hundreds of hours of videotaped interrogations of two Al Qaeda operatives. Or buy it for someone as a holiday gift, then borrow it.

(photo – 2006 gingerbread house baking crew: Grandma Gail and two grandchildren)

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Why isn't war obsolete?

I am digging more deeply into the issues that underlie the news and analyses of the news on blogs, i.e., the “fresh hell”* I read each morning.

In order to learn more about what’s going on in the Middle East, I’ve read Robert Fisk’s 1000+ page Great War for Civilisation -The Conquest of the Middle East and Pity the Nation - The Abduction of Lebanon, Richard Ben Cramer’s How Israel Lost- The Four Questions, and most recently Trita Parsi’s Treacherous Alliance - The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the United States.

Joe Conason’s It Can Happen Here - Authoritarian Peril in the Age of Bush has helped me understand the slow and steady erosion of the underpinnings of our democracy.

Currently I’m interested in why human beings continue to engage in or support war. In my October 1st post I asked Why isn't war obsolete? I think this is coming up for me because I’m spending a lot of time with my twin grandchildren. I see their chubby little legs and feel their soft, silken skin and can’t imagine them growing up and heading off to war to either have their legs blown off or to die.

In order to understand the why war has endured throughout human history, I’m rereading Chris Hedge’s War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. I’ve dog-eared half the pages to return to again and again.

Hedge’s describes the enduring attraction of war: “Even with its destruction and carnage it can give us what we long for in life. It can give us purpose, meaning, a reason for living. Only when we are in the midst of conflict does the shallowness and vapidness of much of our lives become apparent.” War gives our lives meaning because we have become disillusioned with “…a sterile, futile, empty present.”

My question: Why are our lives shallow, vapid, sterile, futile and empty if we don’t have a war to fill the void? I’m so full of purpose with my family, my work as a mediator, and my passion for this country that these adjectives don’t describe my life. Yet I sense that meaningless exists for many, many people. My next question: If lives lack meaning unless there’s a war to be fought or launched, what can I or what can we do about this underlying condition?

* As I read the news and my favorite blogs, I say to myself, "What fresh hell is this?" attributed to Dorothy Parker

Friday, December 07, 2007

How I spent my day

I confess, taking care of babies beats blogging. I spent the day with my two youngest grandchildren, ten month old twins. I'll be back on board tomorrow.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

What if your community runs out of drinking water?

Yesterday morning I took a hike in the hills above Lake Sonoma (photo) with a friend. The “mud ring” is indicative of a very low water level.

Lake Sonoma, along with Lake Mendocino, both water supply reservoirs, is a primary source of water in Sonoma County, where I’ve lived for 40 years.

According to the Sonoma County Water Agency, as of November 28, "Water Levels in Lake Mendocino Approach Record Lows."

Within the past two weeks, I have e-mailed and called the water agency, asking about contingency plans if we have another dry winter or two. No one has responded to my question.

Tom Engelhardt’s November 15th post, "As the World Burns" alerted me to the universal lack of contingency plans if communities, including large cities, actually run out of water. Subtitled
“ How Dry We Are: A Question No One Wants to Raise About Drought,” Tom raises the question and finds that the issue is not being addressed in the mainstream media.

Atlanta, Georgia, is one those communities, 5 million strong and growing, that is currently projected to run out of drinking water in 132 days.

From Tom’s post: “According to the How Dry I Am Chart of ‘livability expert’ Bert Sperling, four cities in Southern California, not parched Atlanta, top the national drought ratings: Los Angeles, San Diego, Oxnard, and Riverside. In addition, Pasadena has had the dubious honor, through September, of experiencing its driest year in history.”

I checked the How Dry I Am Chart for my town, Healdsburg, and learned that we are experiencing moderate drought.

Tom asks, “So why is it that, except at relatively obscure websites, you can hardly find a mainstream piece that mentions more than one drought at a time?

“An honorable exception would be a recent Seattle Times column by Neal Peirce that brought together the southwestern and southeastern droughts, as well as the Western 'flame zone,' where 'mega-fires' are increasingly the norm, in the context of global warming, in order to consider our seemingly willful ‘myopia about the future.’"

I’m wondering why the Sonoma County Water Agency isn’t responding to my question about contingency plans if we run out of water.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

U.S. and Israel vs. Iran: Now What?

Coincidentally, I finished reading Dr. Trita Parsi’s Treacherous Alliance - The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the U.S. last Monday, the same day that the National Intelligence Estimate regarding Iran’s cessation of a nuclear weapons program in 2003 was released to the public.

I first learned of Parsi and his must-read book on October 11th. I ordered it right away and it has taken me almost two months to slowly and carefully read it. It’s 284 pages long, carefully footnoted, and Appendix A sets forth Iran’s May 2003 negotiation proposal to the U.S. which was summarily rejected.
For those who are involved in their own “Iran Watch,” this book is indispensable. It explains why Bush insists Iran remains a threat despite arms data and Israel believes Iran has restarted nuclear arms work.

(book cover: Yale University Press, Dr. Trita Parsi, The Washington Note)

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Where is her liver?

Whenever I see an extremely thin woman, especially a fashion model, I ask myself, "Where in the world is her liver?"
I know that the liver is the biggest internal organ and has four lobes. It seems to me it needs a lot more room than what is available in a pencil-thin person.

Just thinking outloud. I'm off to help with my 10 month old twin grandchildren for a couple of days.

(photo of model: MSNBC; diagram of torso: Geocities)

Saturday, December 01, 2007

"08 or Bust" - an online guide to foreign policy in the 2008 presidential elections

Want to know how your favorite (or most hated) presidential candidate’s position on foreign policy?

Announced by Scott Paul on November 30th at The Washington Note: "08 or Bust: Now Live": “Citizens for Global Solutions just launched an interactive web tool that TWN readers should find interesting. '08 Or Bust is a guide to foreign policy in the 2008 presidential elections. It allows users to compare candidates' direct quotes on some of the most important foreign policy issues with which the next president will have to grapple. Users can contribute quotes, both in text and embedded video format, to the site. Help filling in the blanks is much appreciated.”

Check it out. Along with Wonkosphere, which I posted about here, it will help me stay informed on how the various presidential candidates, if elected, will deal with the rest of the world.

(banner from Global Solutions)