Thursday, January 31, 2008

What hath deregulation wrought?

When both CounterPunch and the New Yorker provide essentially the same information, I know to pay attention.

First I read "An Inverted Pyramid of Subprime Slop - The Great Credit Unwind of 2008," Posted on January 29th at CounterPunch. This is a rather alarming article, and its author, Mike Whitney, points the finger at former President Bill Clinton for creating the situation that has exacerbated the slide of the US economy into a recession that even a $156 billion stimulus package can’t fix.

What did Clinton do? “The US' current account deficit (nearly $800 billion) has been recycling into US Treasuries and securities from foreign investors. Up to this point, American markets were an attractive place to put one's savings. The dollar was strong, and the stock market had a proven record of profitability and transparency. But since President Bill Clinton repealed Glass-Steagall in 1999, the markets have been reconfigured according to an entirely new model, 'structured finance.'

“Glass-Steagall was the last of the Depression-era bulwarks against the merging of commercial and investment banks. As a result banking has changed from a culture of ‘protection’ (of deposits) to ‘risk taking’, which is the securities business. Through ‘financial innovation’ the investment banks created myriad structured debt instruments which they sold through their Enron-like ‘off balance’ sheets operations (SIVs and Conduits) Now, trillions of dollars of these subprime and mortgage-backed bonds---many of which were rated triple A---are held by foreign banks, retirement funds, insurance companies, and hedge funds. They are steadily losing value with every rating's downgrade.”

There’s more to this article about bond insurers going belly-up. If you read the whole article, you may not get a good night’s sleep.

When my February 4th New Yorker came, I thumbed my way through it to “The Talk of the Town,” and found "The Minsky Moment," by John Cassidy: “Twenty-five years ago, when most economists were extolling the virtues of financial deregulation and innovation, a maverick named Hyman P. Minsky maintained a more negative view of Wall Street; in fact, he noted that bankers, traders, and other financiers periodically played the role of arsonists, setting the entire economy ablaze. Wall Street encouraged businesses and individuals to take on too much risk, he believed, generating ruinous boom-and-bust cycles. The only way to break this pattern was for the government to step in and regulate the moneymen.”

Read on. Cassidy points the finger at Alan Greenspan and Robert Rubin for the current credit crisis and likelihood we’ll have a recession: “Since the nineteen-eighties, Congress and the executive branch have been conspiring to weaken federal supervision of Wall Street. Perhaps the most fateful step came when, during the Clinton Administration, Greenspan and Robert Rubin, then the Treasury Secretary, championed the abolition of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which was meant to prevent a recurrence of the rampant speculation that preceded the Depression.”

(photo of Clinton signing the bill repealing the Glass-Steagall Act -

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Senator Russ Feingold on warrantless wiretapping

The Protect America Act, which would give the telecoms immunity for illegally providing our private communications to the government and would allow continued warrantless wiretapping, will be voted by the Senate sometime within the next fifteen days. The House has voted to extend the vote for 15 days, and it appears that the Senate and Bush are in agreement with the extension.

Please watch this 30 second video clip:

If you found Feingold's comments as compelling as I did, go to The Democratic Activist to learn what you can do to stop the surveillance of our phone calls and e-mails without a warrant.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Thanks to Heifer International and the Gates Foundation, 1 million people in Africa will have better lives

This morning as I went online, the first thing I saw was an e-mail alert from Caroline Bonnet, my friend and tireless organizer for Heifer International ,* "Heifer Receives 42.8 Million Grant from the Gates Foundation." The grant targets one million people living in poverty in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. I love good news! Check out the announcement, and join me celebrating this wonderful partnership between Heifer International and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

*See my previous posts: January 27, 2007,
"My end run around government" and July 21, 2007, "Heifer International - My refuge from the world of woes."

(photo and map from
Heifer International)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Worth reading: "Waving Goodbye to Hegemony"

This weekend, I started reading "Waving Goodbye to Hegemony," by Parag Khanna, a senior research fellow in the American Strategy Program of the New America Foundation. This is an important article which I’ll finish as time allows.

Steve Clemons of The Washington Note thinks it’s important, too. This morning he posted "America Diminished: Parag Khanna's 'Waving Goodbye to Hegemony.'" Check out his post; there’s a great photo illustration of the world and the future role of the U.S. Steve is also a senior research fellow in the American Strategy Program of the New America Foundation.

(drawing: Professor Florig's homepage)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Tomorrow is the big day - telecom amnesty and warrantless eavesdropping will be voted on by the Senate

The Senate is voting tomorrow on the controversial Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). On January 26th, Glenn Greenwald, who blogs for, posted about the upcoming vote, "More disruptions to the Cheney/Rockefeller plan" (an ad will pop up, wait a few seconds, then go the link at the right top of the ad, “Enter Salon.” to read Greenwald’s post).

Today I worked with my friend, Chris Borland, who blogs at The Democratic Activist, to alert citizens to tell their senators to vote NO to telecom amnesty and warrantless eavesdropping.

Chris I are also concerned about Net Neutrality, so Chris’s action alert also includes how to take action to protect our access to the Net.

I included the following information in my e-mail:

1. Tell the Senate: NO IMMUNITY for Bush and His Telecom Buddies

2. Net Neutrality Ninjas Needed NOW!

I believe that our ability to communicate with one another via the Internet (e-mails, blogs, alerts from organizations like will be severely compromised if:

1. Congress gives the telecom giants immunity for illegally providing our private communications to the Bush Administration (how free will we feel to take positions in opposition to what your government is doing?); and

2. The Internet becomes privatized, with those who can pay given preferential treatment over those of us who have limited incomes and rely on a free Internet. Citizens’ interests will be sacrificed to corporate interests, which already control the mainstream media.

As you know, I count on the Net to be involved in election integrity, impeachment, saving state parks, you name it. I feel so strongly about being able to continue doing this that I’m asking for your help.

Please go to Tell the Senate: NO IMMUNITY for Bush and His Telecom Buddies and Net Neutrality Ninjas Needed NOW!, get up to speed on what’s going on, and take action now. The Senate is voting on telecom immunity this Monday, the 26th. The deadline to file comments with the FCC regarding Net Neutrality is February 13th.

(Cartoon: Scranton Times)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Recommended reading: Two articles on the US economy and one on the myth of free trade

What is happening to the U.S. economy? Why are the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, dominated by the US, preaching "free markets" and "free trade," which are myths? Here are three recently published articles, all interesting, and, in my opinion, related.

1. Richard Heinberg’s "Peak Everything Economics, or, What Do You Call This Mess?" Heinberg, according to his bio, is “[O]ne of the world's foremost Peak Oil (oil depletion) educators and is a Senior Fellow of Post Carbon Institute. He is the author of eight books including The Party's Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies, Powerdown: Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World and The Oil Depletion Protocol - A Plan To Avoid Oil Wars, Terrorism, and Economic Collapse.

2. Chalmers Johnson’s "The Myth of Free Trade." The American Empire Project (cofounded by my favorite blogger, Tom Englehardt), describes Johnson: “[P]resident of the Japan Policy Research Institute, a non-profit research and public affairs organization devoted to public education concerning Japan and international relations in the Pacific. He taught for thirty years, 1962-1992, at the Berkeley and San Diego campuses of the University of California and held endowed chairs in Asian politics at both of them. At Berkeley he served as chairman of the Center for Chinese Studies and as chairman of the Department of Political Science. His B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees in economics and political science are all from the University of California, Berkeley.”

Johnson’s most recent books, a trilogy: Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, The Sorrows of Empire - Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic and Nemesis - The Last Days of the American Republic.

3. Scott Horton’s post at Harper's, "How Bush's Fiscal Mismanagement Produced a Recession," commenting on and linking to the excellent study, "Is the 2007 U.S. Sub-Prime Financial Crisis So Different? An International Historical Comparison. This evening, I'm tackling this study, a 12 page draft published on January 14, 2008.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Freedom's Watch - a right wing MoveOn?

I’ve been watching Freedom's Watch since its inception in August of 2007, posting about it on September 13th and October 3rd.

According to Right Web, “…Freedom's Watch (FW) is a well-funded pro-war advocacy outfit that was set up by a group of prominent conservatives to, in their words, ‘protect America's interests at home and abroad, foster economic prosperity, and strengthen families’….Among the group's core agenda items are supporting the ‘surge’ in Iraq and advocating intervention in Iran….”

On January 20th, The Washington Post published "A Conservative Answer to MoveOn - Political Advocacy Group Formed by Former Bush Aides Plans a Broad Agenda." “Freedom's Watch has loudly announced that there will be no limits to what it might do. From its $15 million summer ad campaign defending the Iraq strategy to its six-figure effort in the House special election in Ohio, the group has put Democrats on notice that its agenda will go far beyond the conservative principles of its largest financial backers….

"We're a permanent political operation here in town. We're not going to be Johnny One Note," said Joe Eule, executive director of the expanding group, a nonprofit organization that many are describing as the MoveOn of the right....

“Wes Boyd, who co-founded with his wife in their home in Berkeley, California, said the two groups are fundamentally different because his liberal organization was set up outside the influence of Democratic Party operatives and is funded primarily by small-dollar donors around the country.

“Freedom's Watch, on the other hand, is ‘doing attack ads by Beltway operatives, financed by billionaires, at the request of the White House,’ Boyd said by e-mail. ‘MoveOn helps millions of real people get engaged and be heard and is solely funded by these same people.’"

My recommendation: Read The Washington Post article, then keep your eye on Freedom's Watch. Perhaps you’ll decide to give a little more to MoveOn.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Of State Parks and Toll Roads

I’m off to a meeting this evening about the proposed toll road through San Onofre State Beach, which is in Orange County, California. I’m in northern California, so why am I going to a meeting this evening to learn more about saving a state park in southern California?

1. It’s sponsored by the Sierra Club, which I belong to. The speaker is Mark Massara, Sierra Club Coastal Director.
2. I’m getting uneasy about all the articles I’m reading about toll roads. It looks like our country is letting our public highways and streets deteriorate, replacing them with roads that extract a fee from those who use it. This is appalling.
3. According to Elizabeth Goldstein, President of the California State Parks Foundation, “Approval of the Foothill-South Toll Road through San Onofre State Beach would set a dangerous precedent and put ALL our parks at greater risk...."

If you want to learn more and/or take action, go to Save San Onofre)

(photo: Visit USA)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Today's must read: Juan Cole on 935 false statements that led a nation to war

Please take time to read "935 False Statements that Led a Nation to War," posted this morning by Juan Cole at his blog, Informed Comment.

Then ask yourself why Congress and even the public don’t think lies that take this nation to war are impeachable offenses. If you do, go to The Democratic Activist and scroll halfway down the page to the action items.

So far, according to AlterNet, we're one step closer to impeaching Cheney because nine out of 23 Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee favor starting impeachment hearings against Vice President Dick Cheney.

That doesn’t feel close enough to me.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Backtracking: Jim Lobe's January 18th post about Bush's failed efforts to form an anti-Iran coalition in the Gulf

A must-read: "Anti-Iran Coalition in the Gulf? Read This,"posted by Jim Lobe on January 18th. From this article, it appears that President Bush’s main purpose in visiting the Gulf a couple of weeks ago – to build a containment and isolationist strategy against Iran – not only failed but also was counterproductive.

In the last paragraph, there’s a link an article at the
Royal United Services Institute of Defence and Security Studies (RUSI)*, "Dire Straits: U.S. Mid-East Policy: The Gulf Arab States and US Iran Relations" my next must-read.

*RUSI was founded in 1831, the oldest such institute in the world, at the initiative of the Duke of Wellington. Its original mission was to study naval and military science, what Clausewitz called the ‘art of war.’

(photo of Jim Lobe from

Monday, January 21, 2008

Laura Taichman's law school term paper inspired a pro bono effort that has resulted in the release of a young man wrongfully convicted of murder

This past Friday, my friend Laura Taichman* sent me an e-mail with a link to an article about her in The New York Law Journal, "Tankleff Pro Bono Effort Born of Ex-Classmate's Law Paper," published on January 18th.

I urge you to read the whole article because you’ll feel better for doing it, but here’s a partial description of Laura’s major role in overturning the conviction for murder of an innocent person, Marty Tankleff (link to Marty's website with lots of information about the case).

Laura grew up in Belle Terre, Long Island and went to high school with Marty. He had just turned 17 when he was arrested for killing his parents, Seymour and Arlene Tankleff, in their home on Long Island, NY. He was convicted in 1990, sentenced to 50 years to life in prison, and sent to the Clinton Correctional Facility at Dannemora, New York.

On December 24th of last year, Marty's murder conviction was vacated by New York's Appellate Division.

What did Laura have to do with the overturning of Marty’s murder conviction? Read on.

While attending Northeastern School of Law in the early 1990’s, Laura wrote a term paper on Marty’s conviction. According to The New York Law Journal article by Thomas Adcock, "’I always followed the case,’ Ms. Taichman said in a telephone interview Wednesday from her home in California, where she was once an associate at the San Francisco headquarters of Morrison & Forrester….

"’For my paper,’ she said, ‘I read all the court transcripts and interviewed all the lawyers. I never thought Marty did it. The facts didn't make sense.’

"Among the first of Ms. Taichman's doubts, she said, was a gruesome detail in the police report. Seymour Tankleff's killer or killers bludgeoned him to death, after which they performed a coup de grace commonly used by drug dealers as a warning to rivals - the so-called ‘Colombian necktie,’ whereby the tongue is pulled out from a slit throat.

"’In the days pre-Internet, I don't believe little Marty Tankleff could know of such things,’ said Ms. Taichman. ‘We were middle-class kids who trusted the cops, and believed they had nothing less than our best interests at heart.’"

You may still be asking how a law student’s term paper could result in the overturning of a murder conviction. I urge you to read the article. There are many heroes, inspired by Laura’s term paper, who took on Marty’s case pro bono. There’s also a suspect.

*I met Laura in November of 2004, when were supervising attorneys on the National Campaign for Fair Elections voter protection hotline (800-OUR-VOTE) in San Francisco. After the election, Laura, Tillie Botz, and I worked on a "Get Ready to Vote" effort with the League of Women Voters of Sonoma County and the Sonoma County Registrar of Voters. Laura is one of the brightest and nicest persons I’ve ever met.

(photo of Laura with her permission)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Susan Truitt, Ohio election integrity activist, asks for our help

In November, 2004, the “epicenter of the world” was Ohio. That’s how the Reverend Jesse Jackson described it to the plaintiffs in the Ohio Supreme Court case, Moss v. Bush. I decided to keep the spotlight on Ohio and started scouring the country for recount observers and volunteer attorneys to help the Moss v. Bush legal team press its case against Bush, Cheney, Karl Rove and others. The goal was to keep George Bush from being elected president.

Susan Truitt was one of the four attorneys handling this monumental challenge to George Bush’s “win” in Ohio. We became acquainted and have maintained contact over the past three years.

Susan, who co-founded CASE Ohio, is still beating the drums for election integrity in Ohio. Karl Rove has targeted Ohio as one of the 11 key states in the 2008 election.

Below is Susan’s request asking us to help her challenge the ouster of a staunch election reform advocate, State Senator Teresa Fedor (Democrat, 11th Dist.), as Minority Leader of the Ohio Senate (photo).

We’re in it together, folks. If we don’t reach across state borders and support election integrity activists wherever they are, Karl Rove is likely to have his way.

Please heed Susan’s request for help.

Please WRITE - EMAIL - CALL Ohio Democratic Party Leaders

The Ohio Democratic Party has ousted staunch election reform advocate, State Senator Teresa Fedor, from her position as Minority Leader. Senator Fedor was sounding the alarm regarding the unsafe nature of touch screen voting machines (DREs) years before most people had ever heard of them. Her removal as the leader of the Democrats in the Ohio Legislature is a dramatic blow to the election reform movement in Ohio. She has worked tirelessly for years for election reform, first as a state representative and then as a state senator.

Among other things, Senator Fedor spearheaded the 2004 Joint Committee on Ballot Security, which, with the help of CASE Ohio members, prevented the purchase of any new DREs in Ohio prior to the 2004 election. She invited many computer experts, and others, to testify before the committee, educating not only the legislature, but also the public, about the dangers of DREs. She introduced and passed the bill requiring a paper trail for all voting machines. But she has not stopped there - she has continued to advocate for voting rights and voting reform for years.

She was also instrumental in exposing the Thomas Noe scandal in Lucas County (see Noe indicted for helping steal 2004), and the scandal of former Ohio Congressman Bob Ney, who, unfortunately, pushed through the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) which has created the DRE nightmare.

Who is behind her removal from power and why? Who expressly and tacitly approved it?

Why, with only months to go before a presidential election, have the Dems removed from a leadership position the one legislator who has devoted herself to election reform? Especially in the key state of Ohio?

Is this move driven by those who do not buy into the grave nature of the election system in Ohio and in the entire U.S.? Is it more insidious than that? This move clearly indicates that there are Ohio Democrats in key leadership positions who are unaware of the dire situation regarding the unreliable, unverifiable, and untrustworthy DREs. To oust Senator Fedor as a party leader, after her years of devotion and unflagging work, is an abomination.

Who will lead the election reform charge, now?

Write, email, and call the Chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, Chris Redfern, ask him why Senator Fedor was removed as Minority Leader:

Chris Redfern
77 S. High St., 10th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111
Telephone: (614) 644-6011
Fax : (614) 719-6980
Email Address:

Write, email, and call the Chief Legal Counsel for the Governor, Kent Markus, who also serves as the Chief of State-Legislative Relations, and ask him why Senator Fedor was removed as Minority Leader:

Kent Markus
Office of Governor Ted Strickland
77 South High Street, 30th Floor
Columbus, Ohio 43215-6117
Phone:(614) 466-3555
Fax:(614) 466-9354
Capitol Phone:(614) 466-2000
Email address:

EVEN IF YOU DO NOT LIVE IN OHIO - IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN ELECTION REFORM, Call, email, and write them now and demand some answers about why Senator Fedor has been punished for her years of exemplary service to the State of Ohio and to the issue of election reform.


Susan Truitt

(photo of Sen. Fedor from her website; photo of Susan Truitt, Fairness by Beckerman)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Where have I been?

I missed posting yesterday, even though I was home.

Here’s what I’ve been doing:

1. This morning I took a hike at Lake Sonoma with my friend and fellow family law attorney, David Gonzalez. 2. This past week, I spent a lot of time working in my law office.
3. I spent Monday and yesterday caring for my eleven month old grandchildren, Sophia and Rody. 4. I’m getting new flooring for my kitchen, a gift from my sons, Jeff and Rody. Last Saturday I went to the natural flooring store, Naturlich, to pick out the lineoleum I wanted. While there I met an old attorney friend and her husband. We spent about 45 minutes talking in the parking lot, and I discovered that the husband, Dan Gurney, also blogs.

He’s "Mr. Kindergarten," and now I have the link on my desktop so I can frequently check on what he’s doing. If you need a spirit-lifter, check out his blog.

An altogether satisfying week even if I missed posting yesterday.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Important Public Health Announcement

Every morning I check the e-mail alert from Votelaw. Item number 5 this morning caught by attention because it wasn’t about voting, "Important Public Health Announcement."

Intrigued, I opened the link to discover a 5 minute video titled "Why Don't We Do It in Our Sleeves?" I watched it. It’s funny but also contains a message about not spreading germs from coughing and sneezing.

Ed, who blogs for Votelaw, has the same idea I do about blogging. If something strikes us as interesting, we post it.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Wexler addresses the House: What you can do to support impeaching Cheney

Last night I watched Representative Robert Wexler (19th Dist., Florida) address the House about his efforts to get the House Judiciary Committee to hold hearings on impeaching Vice President Cheney. It was a great speech (5 minutes) available here.

Today Wexler is presenting the petition signed by 189,000 people to the House Judiciary Committee along with a letter to Rep. John Conyers. Wexler is gathering colleagues’ signatures on this letter urging Conyers to begin investigating what Wexler described in his speech as Cheney’s “incredible abuse of power.”

Last night, Wexler said that all together, there are over one million signatures on various petitions asking the House Judiciary Committee to hold hearings on H.Res. 799, the impeach Cheney resolution submitted by Rep. Dennis Kucinich.

It’s not too late to contact Congress. In fact, it won’t be too late tomorrow, the next day, or next week. Go to Chris Borland’s post. Scroll down to “Here's what you can do, specifically, to join the effort” and “Other ideas.”

(photo of Rep. Wexler: Wikimedia)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Did you know that there are no international waters in the Straits of Hormuz?

There’s a basic factual error in our mainstream media’s reporting on the recent incident in the Straits of Hormuz.

According to Paul Woodward (see my Dec. 13th post), “Witness the spectacle of an international “incident” that after a few days has devolved into a debate about a Filipino Monkey. The only comfort the White House can take from this drama is that the press never even noticed when the stage upon which it was set, came into question.

Iranian speedboats threatened US warships in international waters in the Straits of Hormuz. So far only one analyst — Kaveh L Afrasiabi, writing in Asia Times — has pointed out the most basic factual error in this account: there are no international waters in the Straits of Hormuz.”

My point: If the mainstream media can’t get the facts straight, why should we believe anything it reports? My solution? I rely on alternate news sources, including Paul Woodward’s invaluable War in Context. Recommendation: Sign up for daily e-mail alerts.

(map: University of Texas Libraries - double click to enlarge)

Monday, January 14, 2008

"We are moving into an era of a thousand pin-prick tests of our resolve and global position"

Steve Clemons cautions us that while our attention is on the roiled Middle East, the "Bubbling Balkan Crisis is Back."

Russia is resisting Kosovo’s desire to become independent by vetoing U.N. recognition and giving moral support to the Serbs. If independence is not granted, it’s likely the Kosovo Albanians will revolt.

Clemons observes that there are “…[A]nti-Putin, anti-Russian hardliners in Washington who want yet more reasons to ignite global conflict and tension -- which reinforces the high-fear politics they have become vested in.

“But beyond some folks in DC demonizing Putin and a resurgent Russia, there is little evidence that Russia is a priority today on Washington's foreign policy roster of concerns. As one former senior G.W. Bush administration official said at a Nixon Center gathering, ‘I can see no evidence that this administration has a strategy towards Russia of any kind.’

“And thus I would suggest … that Russia thinks it can push its agenda now with little fear of blowback because it senses no serious strategic plan of the United States towards it.

"This is one of the reasons I believe that the next President of the United States is going to get the crap kicked out of him or her -- far worse than when Khrushchev famously manhandled John F. Kennedy in their early encounters.

“Our allies as well as our real and potential foes just don't know what our genuine priorities are, and what the reality of American power is and isn't. There is a sense that America is less and less able to secure the objectives it sets for itself internationally.

“We are moving into an era of a thousand pin-prick tests of our resolve and global position.”

(photo of the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin: The Washington Note)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Thinking out loud about my year of blogging

One year ago today I started blogging in earnest. This is my 347th post.

I’m particularly grateful to Pat Denino, who’s been blogging at Wandering Wonderings for several years. Without her encouragement, I never would have started.
In November 2004, Pat (I didn't know her) responded to my request to provide housing in Columbus, Ohio for recount observers and attorneys who were willing to travel to Ohio to challenge Bush’s election. Now I visit Pat at least once a year and was welcome even during her cancer treatments. Pat's hair has now grown back.

I’m also grateful to Janie Sheppard, in the photo below with her partner Bill Radtkey and their best friends, Heidi and Gerry. On July 2nd, I posted What do skateboarding and blogging have in common? I decided I ought to give up blogging as I did skateboarding a few years ago. Janie encouraged me to continue. Without her support, I wouldn’t have made it this long.

Janie sends my posts to her political allies and has been my guest blogger at least four times, here, here, here and here. She spearheaded a local to impeach Cheney, culminating in a hearing before the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors last August 14th.

Additionally, Janie, Bill, Heidi and Jerry welcome me to their home on weekends. Each time I visit, Bill prepares hot cereal made with steel cut oats and serves it with yogurt, fruit, and nuts. At their home, I get to think out loud, which is why I’m so comfortable with them.

Thanks to all of you who have posted a comment, e-mailed me about something I posted, or simply told me that you appreciate my blog.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Action alert: What can we do to reduce the risk of a naval incident between the US and Iran triggering a war?

Yesterday I heard about Incidents at Sea agreements for the first time and posted about it here. According to Jim Lobe, there exists “…[T]he possibility that the Navy and the Pentagon chose to dramatize the incident [the recent confrontation in the Straits of Hormuz] not so much to isolate and embarrass Iran as to enhance the chances for a new “incidents-at-sea” agreement that they have been pushing on the White House without success for many months now.

Here’s what I’ve learned and what I think we can do to jump start an effort to get the Bush Administration to start talking with Iran about an Incidents at Sea Agreement.

1. What is an Incident at Sea Agreement? According to the Federation of American Scientists, “The Incidents at Sea Agreement serves to enhance mutual knowledge and understanding of military activities, to reduce the possibility of conflict by accident, miscalculation, or the failure of communication, and to increase stability in times of both calm and crisis."

2. Has the U.S. entered into an Incidents at Sea Agreement with other countries?

A. Russia (formerly the USSR): The Agreement was signed by Secretary of State John Warner and Soviet Admiral Sergei Gorshkov during the Moscow summit meeting in 1972. There’s a good summary of the Agreement at Global Beat Syndicate. This agreement was reached in the middle of the Cold War.

B. China. In January, 1998, China and the United States signed the Agreement.

3. Why won’t the Bush Administration enter into an Incidents at Sea Agreement with Iran if the Navy and Pentagon want it? Beats me.

4. Is Iran open to it? Yes, according to William Arkin, who blogs for The Washington Post, they appear to be open to it. “At this point, Washington has two choices: It can release every shred of intelligence and information it has in an attempt to show how the Iranians are lying. Or it can let the matter drop and focus instead averting these types of incidents in the future. If it chooses the latter, it may find that Iran is a more willing partner than it appears. What Tehran is saying, after all, is quite similar to what the U.S. Navy is saying.”

5. What can we do? Former Secretary of the Navy, John Warner, who signed the Agreement on behalf of the US with the USSR, is an influential Republican US Senator. He retiring at the end of his current term. Why not contact him and ask him to use his power and influence to persuade the Bush Administration to start Incident of the Sea Agreement negotiations with Iran?

How to contact Sen. Warner:
1. Use the CONTACT FORM on his website
2. Call his office: Capitol Switchboard: 800.828.0498, or directly, 202.224.2023
3. Fax or mail a letter: fax: 202.224.6295; Senator John Warner, 225 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C., 20510.

(photo of US Naval ships:

Friday, January 11, 2008

An alternate explanation for the Straits of Hormuz incident

This evening, Jim Lobe, who blogs at, made an interesting observation about the recent naval incident in the Straits of Hormuz. Lobe is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy, particularly the neo-conservative influence in the Bush administration. He is also the Washington Bureau Chief of the international news service agency, Inter Press Service.

In his post, About that Straits Incident...., Lobe raises “…[T]he possibility that the Navy and the Pentagon chose to dramatize the incident not so much to isolate and embarrass Iran as to enhance the chances for a new 'incidents-at-sea’ agreement that they have been pushing on the White House without success for many months now….

“It’s been no secret for some time now that the Pentagon, and the head of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), Adm. William Fallon, in particular, have been pressing the White House — without success — for negotiating a new ‘incidents-at-sea’ agreement with Iran that would reduce the risk of a an accidental confrontation in the Straits of Hormuz and the Gulf itself.

“Frustrated until now in their efforts to get the White House to authorize negotiations over a new agreement, could it be that Fallon … and other Pentagon and Navy officials decided to dramatize the danger just as Bush was embarking on his trip, anticipating that the president would get an earful from his Gulf state hosts about their fears that a naval confrontation could quickly escalate into a real war in which they would suffer significant collateral damage?”

It will be interesting to see if there are any other articles or posts about the “incidents-at-sea” agreement.

See previous posts linking to Jim Lobe’s blog: here, here, here, here, here, and here.

(photo of Jim:

Thursday, January 10, 2008

On this day a year ago, Bush's false promises about the surge

How well I remember January 10, 2007. It was the day that an impeachment forum which I organized (with help) and moderated was held. The buzz at the forum was Bush's speech that night about the war in Iraq.

Thank goodness Dan Froomkin, who blogs for the The Washington Post, took time to remind us of Bush’s promises in today's post, "Promises, Promises."

Here’s what Bush promised:

1. “…[W]e can expect to see Iraqi troops chasing down murderers, fewer brazen acts of terror, and growing trust and cooperation from Baghdad's residents. When this happens, daily life will improve, Iraqis will gain confidence in their leaders, and the government will have the breathing space it needs to make progress in other critical areas….

2. “To establish its authority, the Iraqi government plans to take responsibility for security in all of Iraq's provinces by November.

3. “To give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country's economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis.

4. “To show that it is committed to delivering a better life, the Iraqi government will spend $10 billion of its own money on reconstruction and infrastructure projects that will create new jobs.

5. “To empower local leaders, Iraqis plan to hold provincial elections later this year.

6. “And to allow more Iraqis to re-enter their nation's political life, the government will reform de-Baathification laws, and establish a fair process for considering amendments to Iraq's constitution."

Here's the text of Bush’s speech.

Froomkin adds: “And lest anyone think that Bush didn't take these Iraqi promises seriously, he vowed that ‘America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced.’ [emphasis mine]

“A year later, security has undeniably improved greatly -- although some experts suggest that the relative calm is due in part to all the ethnic cleansing that has already taken place. But all that promised political reconciliation? There are no signs of it whatsoever.”

Now what? “…[R]ather than hold the Iraqi government accountable -- say, by threatening to withdraw or pull back U.S. troops -- administration officials have come up with yet another plan....

Thomas E. Ricks and Karen DeYoung write in The Washington Post: ‘In the year since President Bush announced he was changing course in Iraq with a troop 'surge' and a new strategy, U.S. military and diplomatic officials have begun their own quiet policy shift. After countless unsuccessful efforts to push Iraqis toward various political, economic and security goals, they have decided to let the Iraqis figure some things out themselves. . . .

"’In many cases -- particularly on the political front -- Iraqi solutions bear little resemblance to the ambitious goals for 2007 that Bush laid out in his speech to the nation last Jan. 10. . . .

"’Although some progress has been made and legislation in some cases has begun to slowly work its way through the parliament, none of [the major political] benchmarks has been achieved. Nor has the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki taken over security responsibility for all 18 provinces, as Bush forecast it would. . . ‘.” [emphasis mine]

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Is this how the U.S. is winning hearts and minds in Iraq?

Please take time to read Iraqi Soldier Who Killed U.S. Troops is a Hero in Iraq.

Then ask yourself if it matters which version of the story is true.

Finally, ask yourself if you support how the Iraqi soldier who killed the U.S. soldiers, Kaissar Saady al-Juboory, is being treated: ”Independent sources have since told Inter Press Service that Kaissar was captured by a special joint Iraqi-U.S. force, and he is now being held and tortured at the al-Ghizlany military camp in Mosul.” [emphasis mine]

(picture of Iraqi woman being searched, National Coalition Against Censorship)

Monday, January 07, 2008

Rural living

This morning while I was working on today’s post, my daughter-in-law called and asked if I would come help with my 11 month-old grandchildren. I dropped everything and drove to the family ranch, which is off-grid in Northern California. They rely on solar and hydropower produced on the property.

At least my younger son and his wife didn’t have to worry about losing power, which happened to 2 million people in northern and central California this past weekend.

However, due to a fire in the area a couple of years ago, there are many dead trees that topple over in strong winds and rains.

Last Saturday night, my son drove to the ranch ahead of the rest of the family, and in the dark he encountered this:

I had it easy today, no gaping holes in the road, no trees blocking my way, and on my arrival, I took my youngest grandchildren for a great walk. Many of the trees had mossy skirts, and the creeks, full to the banks, bubbled and burbled.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Patterson's EXILE perpetuates the belief that Iran is Israel's biggest enemy

Last night I started reading Richard North Patterson's EXILE and at 1:30 a.m., had covered 300 pages. I picked up the book, lent to me by a friend months ago, because Charles Peters of the Washington Monthly recommended it in his Tilting at Windmills column in the December issue. Peters describes EXILE as “factual fiction.”

Set in San Francisco, the Prime Minister of Israel, Ben-Aron, has come to the U.S. to talk about his peace plan. He is assassinated. The plot is about finding who killed him and the personal courage of the Jewish defense attorney for the Palestinian woman (his lover from college days) who has been arrested as the perpetrator of the killing.

All well and good. An exciting read. However, having recently read Dr. Trita Parsi's Treacherous Alliance - The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the U.S., which I posted about on October 11th, I was dismayed at how Iran was portrayed.

Following is an excerpt from the fictional Ben-Aron’s speech, at page 113, in response to a question about the extremist regimes such as Syria and Iran: “And the most dangerous are the mullahs in Iran. They are extremist and they are fundamentalists….They help Hamas recruit Palestinians, and enlist Israeli Arabs against us. They wish to change the balance of power in the Middle East. That is why – and do not doubt this – they are building a nuclear bomb until they become a dominant force.

“As an ideological matter, Iran wishes to eradicate the State of Israel. As a practical matter, Iran needs violence between Jews and Palestinians to divert the world from its nuclear ambitions. Which, once realized, are a mortal threat to Israel….We must deal with Iran, our greatest threat…”

Anyone who reads Treacherous Alliance, carefully researched and copiously footnoted (1,289 of them!), will understand that Iran is not the inflatable bogey as described in EXILE.

Why am I so exercised about what a work of fiction says about Iran?

1. It’s being presented as “factual fiction” by someone of Peters's stature.
2. As a best-selling thriller, EXILE is being read by lots of people and presenting Iran as the biggest threat to Israel will influence these readers’ opinion of it.

I suspect very few people who read best selling fiction will take time to read:
1. Treacherous Alliance
2. Jim Lobe’s January 3rd post, "More Signs of Iran Detente...From Petraeus", which opens: “In a new blow to the neo-conservative hard-liners at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), their hero, Gen. David Petraeus, has apparently concluded that Iran is indeed following through on its reported pledge earlier this fall to the Iraqi government to cut its alleged supply of weapons to Shi’a militias in Iraq. That assessment comes from none other than the far-right Washington Times which featured a front-page article by Sara Carter Thursday, entitled “Iran No Longer Aids Iraq Militants.”

I hope readers of this post will take time to learn the truth about the shifting relations between Iran and Israel from 1948 to the present, including the complicated triangular relations of these countries and the U.S.

(book cover: Liberty Associates)

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Election Watch 2008 Update

Yesterday I posted links to the three sources I plan to rely on to stay informed about the 2008 election.

Here are three more:

1. Congressional Quarterly Politics. This is a comprehensive site which includes an interactive election map that allows the viewer to check congressional districts as well as the larger races. It also has a “balance of power scorecard” for each race.

2. Yahoo! News Election 08 Political Dashboard, recommended by my blogging buddy, Chris Borland, who posts at The Democratic Activist. The interactive map takes the viewer to each state’s presidential primary, polling results for the presidential candidates, and voter breakdown by party.

3. Project Vote Smart, recommended by an old friend, “Weedburner,” who blogs at Weed Garden. The PVS site invites the reader to browse through more than who’s running and projections of who is likely to win. The Voter’s Self-Defense System project caught my attention. Check it out.

I’ll continue to check sources of election information and post about them. My goal is to spend a limited amount of time finding out what is going on and a lot of active time as the 2008 election approaches. Also, I haven’t yet given up on impeaching Cheney, who is increasingly vulnerable. See Washington Post blogger Dan Froomkin’s Will Justice Go After Cheney?


Friday, January 04, 2008

2008 Election Watch

Here are the sources I will be checking between now and November 4, 2008:

1. The New York Times Election Guide 2008: This is the one-stop place to go to learn everything you want to know about each of the 15 “officially announced” presidential candidates, the primary results, the candidates’ schedules, campaign contributions, and their positions on the issues.

2. Wonkosphere: Here you’ll be able to monitor the onservative, liberal, and independent blog “buzz” about each presidential candidate.

3. 1st Tuesday: On the first Tuesday of each month, I’ll be receiving an e-mail alert from Stephen Gale,, who will provide reliable polling information and insight into the presidential election, all 33 senatorial races and all 435 house races, with special emphasis on those Republican seats that are most vulnerable.

If you’d like to know more 1st Tuesday, go here. Sign up by e-mailing and ask to be put on his 1st Tuesday e-mail alert list.

(picture: Coalition Resources)

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Juan Cole's recommended reading for Thursday

Three recommendations at Juan Cole’s Informed Comment.

Engelhardt’s post is a must-read, and Rubin’s is fascinating for those of us who have been involved in election integrity in this country. I’m also baffled by Pelosi’s position on impeachment.

1. The Justice Department is going to investigate the destruction of videotapes of the interrogation of prisoners in US custody that showed torture. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi keeps asking what Bush has done that is impeachable. Shredding the constitution should count, and if that doesn't then this should.

2. Tom Engelhardt on how Bush took us to the dark side, i.e. how he tempted us into torture.

3. Barnett Rubin on vote rigging in Pakistan. A fascinating dialogue is emerging on some of these issues between him and his colleagues that is a testimony to the interactive character of writing on the Web.

(photo of Cole from his blog)

Second Chance: an important, basic primer on how to think in a structured way about foreign policy decisions

Every morning I check Steve Clemons’s The Washington Note. Yesterday morning, the January 1st post was at the top of the screen, "The Brzezinski Challenge for Presidential Candidates in 2008." I dropped everything and walked to the Healdsburg Public Library to pick up the only copy of Zbigniew Brzezinski’s Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower.

If Steve says Second Chance is “an important, basic primer on how to think in a structured way about national security* decision-making,” I’m going to read it to help me evaluate how the 2008 presidential candidates make foreign policy decisions.

In the introduction, Brzezinski states that “…America’s emergence as the world’s most powerful state has saddled Washington’s leadership with three central missions:

1. To manage, steer, and shape central power relations…so that a more cooperative global system can emerge;

2. To contain or terminate conflicts, prevent terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and promote global collective peacekeeping …so that global violence recedes rather than spreads;

3. To address more effectively the increasingly intolerable inequalities in the human condition…and to prompt a common response to the new environmental and ecological threats….”

Brzezinski asks, “[H]ow did America’s first three global leader presidents – George H.W. Bush, William J. Clinton, and George W. Bush – interpret the essence of the new era? Were they guided by a historically relevant vision, and did they pursue a coherent strategy? ….Did they leave the world in better or worse shape, and was the American position in that world stronger or weaker?”

I'm looking forward to reading Brzezinski's conclusions about these presidents, then applying his analyses to those who are vying to be our next president.

*A sound foreign foreign policy clearly affects national security, but it's more than that. Our foreign policy affects other countries (and the earth) as well, which is why I prefer to focus on it, not just our national security.

(book jacket:

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The power of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency

Two articles published shortly after Benazir Bhutto's death (the cause still a mystery) caught my attention.

1. Ken Silverstein, who blogs for Harper’s Magazine at Washinton Babylon, posted "Support for Taliban Missing from Bhutto Obits" on December 29th. Silverstein quotes from Steve Coll's best-seller, Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden: “Benazir Bhutto, who was secretly authorizing the Taliban’s covert aid, did not let the Americans know. She visited Washington in the spring of 1995, met with President Clinton, and promoted the Taliban as a pro-Pakistan force that could help stabilize Afghanistan… During her visit and for many months afterward Bhutto and her aides repeatedly lied to American government officials and members of Congress about the extent of Pakistani military and financial aid to the Taliban… Bhutto had decided it was more important to appease the Pakistani army and intelligence service than to level with her American friends.”

The intelligence service Coll referred to is the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI. I have Ghost Wars, so I checked the index for references to the ISI. There are 26 separate references, including:

A. Bhutto opposed by, 191-92, 212, 217, 289, 349
B. bin Laden’s collaboration with, 16, 212, 327, 341, 375, 407, 439, 452, 456, 477
C. CIA collaboration with, 11, 63-65, 99, 127, 129, 131-132, 148, 150, 152, 164, 180, 183-84, 191. 207, 208, 211, 213, 217-20, 225, 233-37, 277, 315, 329, 336, 373, 374, 375, 415, 436. 442-43, 505, 508, 513, 516, 551-52,
D. Taliban aided by, 291, 292-94,296, 331, 332, 348, 414. 456, 510, 517, 565.

2. The next item appeared in an e-mail from my election integrity allies at Election Defense Alliance, linking to a McClatchy Newspapers article posted on December 31st, "Bhutto report: Musharraf planned to fix elections": “The day she was assassinated last Thursday, Benazir Bhutto had planned to reveal new evidence alleging the involvement of Pakistan's intelligence agencies in rigging the country's upcoming elections, an aide said Monday.

“Bhutto had been due to meet U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., to hand over a report charging that the military Inter-Services Intelligence agency was planning to fix the polls in the favor of President Pervez Musharraf.”

(symbolic intelligence agent and Pakistan flag: BBC News)

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Bush and Ca (cabal) scandal sheet

Did you have trouble keeping track of all the Bush Administration officials who have been accused of corruption and/or resigned in the face of scandal?

You can start 2008 with an updated list, to which you can then add the fresh faces that appear before Bush leaves office.* Go to "TPM's Great List of Scandalized Administration Officials," posted yesterday by Paul Kiel.

Below are all the names. If you’re consumed with curiosity about the scandal associated with each of these persons, go to the post.

Indicted / Convicted/ Pled Guilty
Eric G. Andell, Claude Allen, Lester Crawford, Brian Doyle, Steven Griles, John T. Korsmo, Scooter Libby, David Safavian, Robert Stein, and Roger Stillwell.

Resigned Due to Investigation, Pending Investigation or Allegations of Impropriety
Philip Cooney, George Deutsch, Michael Elston, Kyle Dustin “Dusty” Foggo, Alberto Gonzales, Monica Goodling, Michelle Larson, John T. Korsmo, Howard "Cookie" Krongard, Julie MacDonald, Paul McNulty, Richard Perle, Susan Ralston, Janet Rehnquist, James Roche, Kyle Sampson, Joseph, Bradley Schlozman, Thomas Scully, David John Tanner, Sara Taylor, Ken Tomlinson, Carl Truscott, and Paul Wolfowitz.

Nomination Failed Due to Scandal
Linda Chavez, Timothy Flanigan, Bernard Kerik, and William Hans von Spakovsky.

Under Investigation But Still in Office
Stuart Bowen, Lurita Doan, and Alfonso Jackson

*My hope, of course, is that Bush and Cheney will be impeached, thereby limiting the 2008 additions to the list, but enough citizens do not appear to be upset about the lawlessness of the current regime.

(Bush with shredder –