Monday, July 31, 2006


The power of the blog medium

Not much sooner did I set up my link to Michael Bérubé's blog did I test it this morning to find that he'd plugged my earlier post about anti-semitism in some anti-war demonstrations. Can't be sure, but I may have left him with the impression that I'm a British citizen.

Be that it may, he acknowledges my points and those of others, but also raises some interesting points about the difficulties of mainstream liberals who express criticism of Israel and some other engaging thoughts about the conflict, including the following points:
But there are two things I’d like to add. The first is that I did not expect Hezbollah’s resistance to be quite so . . . resilient. I thought this would be a political disaster for the region and a humanitarian disaster for Lebanon, but I did not imagine that it would also be a strategic disaster for Israel.

The second is that I was probably wrong to say that there is no braking system in place. In one sense that’s true, because the U.S. has clearly green-lighted the “kill them all” option, and the wingnuts have begun to debate whether we made a mistake in not killing enough Sunni men between 15 and 35 in the course of our noble quest to liberate Iraq. A bunch of dead children, bombed in their sleep, and our government can’t even demand a cease-fire. (But let’s not overlook Condi Rice’s very first diplomatic triumph: getting Israel to announce a 48-hour suspension of air strikes. Oops, wait a sec . . . It turns out that “despite Israel’s announcement of 48-hour suspension of aerial strikes, bombs continued to fall across Lebanon, albeit at a slower pace and at more limited targets than earlier in the offensive.” Well, Secretary Rice, congratulations on that much.)

It's his first post on the topic since the war broke out. He crammed a lot into one post (and you thought I was long winded), but it's a worthwhile read.


If only...

Those of us who are opposed to the jihads of Hamas and Hezbollah as well as the excesses of the Israeli responses thereto have lamented the lack of a presence of a Ghandi or MLK figure in the region. There have been such figures, but unfortunately they don't live very long. There was Anwar Al-Sadat, who negotiated with President Carter's help a peace between Israel and Egypt that has been sustained for nearly three decades. He was of course assassinated just a couple of years later, and lest we compare him too favorably with the figures above, he was in the process of a crackdown against intellectuals of all stripes at the time. Still, he did make some progressive movement in a very medievalesque climate.

There was another figure - a leader in the PLO - lost in history who might have made a huge difference had he been allowed to live. Even educated folk I know aren't familiar with him. I read about him during my first year of college, when he was assassinated. His name was Dr. Issam Sartawi. He was killed in Portugal in 1983 while attending a meeting of the Socialist International. I knew a woman who was a hard leftist in most respects, but also profoundly Zionist in defiance of the political culture of UC Santa Cruz at the time. We lived in a communal endeavor together and had already had some very intense arguments about Israel/Palestine. She was a year ahead of me, and had already become very defensive by the time I arrived, on the tail-end of the last Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Sartawi was killed during the spring quarter and I expected indifference based on what seemed to be her blanket rejection of any redeeming qualities of the PLO. Instead she was saddened and asked rhetorically "Why him?"

I would later learn that he was largely responsible for bringing the PLO to the negotiating table with Israel and had received international recognition for his efforts. This took him out of favor with Abu Nudal's band of crazies, and they killed him, probably silencing for years whatever moderate figures remained in the PLO at the time.

As a mostly unreconstructed leftist, I don't often subscribe to what we have referred to as the "great man" theory of history. But I believe there are moments when individuals do make huge differences in the course of history, and there are certain individuals who show that potential. It could be argued that even what is left of the "peace process" between Israel and Palestine would not have been possible without his initial efforts. He made it very clear that economic development of Palestine was a must for enduring peace, commenting in reference to international soccer: "There will be no peace until the team of Israel plays against the team of Palestine - and we win." A few details of his efforts can be found in the Wikipedia link above.

As noted the link above he also helped to establish the Palestine Red Crescent Society. In 1998, he received recognition within Israel with the creation of the Issam Sartawi Center for the Advancement of Peace and Democracy at Al-Quds University, an Arab University in Jerusalem.

I think it's safe to conclude that the combination of Arabic heritage and leadership qualities for peace endeavors is not particularly conducive to the perpetuation of any genetic line, and is therefore not being selected for at the moment. That doesn't mean it won't happen.

Photo source

Sunday, July 30, 2006


Madeline Rose Coker

Two beautiful young women died last month in a horrible freak car accident. Madeline was 19. Her memorial was held today at the Southern Humboldt Community Park. I didn't know her very well. I had represented the driver, Emily Moody, a few years ago. I know Madeline's mother fairly well.

A story from today's memorial sticks out. When she was a girl, her parents bought some goldfish for their pond. Madeline was very fond of the fist, but they started to disappear one after another. One day they spotted a blue heron flying into the pond. Apparently the heron had been chowing down on a daily basis. Her response was a thoughtful young girl's response - "I really loved those fish. Now I guess I'll have to love the heron."

She wrote the following poem at age 14.

I will always be your angel
I will be your shoulder whey you cry
When hope is gone, I will always be here
No matter how far you are, I'm near
I will always be your angel
I will help you find your way through night and day
And I want you to know in my heart you will always stay
Through everyting you must be strong and carry on
I am your angel from heaven
In heaven you will always belong


Sad news

The following was e-mailed to me. Ironically, I'm going to be posting a postmortem for someone else shortly. This came to me from Richard Salzman. Let's leave the peanut gallery comments for another thread, please?
Tim McKay, the executive director of the Northcoast Environmental Center (NEC) for virtually its entire 35-year existence, died at Stone Lagoon of an apparently massive heart attack on Sunday while he was engaged in one of his favorite activities: birding.

McKay, 59, was a relentless and inspirational defender of what he called the Klamath-Siskiyou. A native of Stockton who spent his boyhood in Benicia, McKay's interest in the environment bloomed during a family trip to Alaska in the 1950s.

After coming to Arcata to study at Humboldt State, where he was a student government vice-president and eventually received a degree in history, McKay did a stint with the Forest Service in 1971. He also helped pioneer an early conservation group called Save Our Siskiyous.

A federal grant allowed him to become co-director, and later executive director (and sole employee) of the NEC. He had guided its concerns, activities, goals and dreams ever since.

McKay leaves a daughter, Laurel, 25; son, Forrest, 21; a brother, Gerry, his partner Michelle Marta, and numerous relatives and friends.

Plans for a celebration of his life in August are in progress.

Conact can be made through the NEC 707.822.6918 (M_F 10-6)
Hopefully he saw one last Bachman's Warbler before he went.


Scandal of the week - State Department cooked books on Iraq reconstruction projects

More for the American heartland folk to ignore as they obsess on gay marriage and flag burning. Maybe it's a deliberate Republican strategy to sleaze out so often that anything becomes old news fast. For whatever it's worth, the NY Times is reporting that a federal audit has revealed "an accounting shell game to hide ballooning cost overruns" of State Department projects in Iraq.
The agency hid construction overruns by listing them as overhead or administrative costs, according to the audit, written by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, an independent office that reports to Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department.
I imagine it's getting some coverage on the talking head shows today, with the same old white geezers sitting around a table telling us that they will "wait for the facts." Of course, there won't be much media follow-up, and in a week's time it'll be old news as some other payola scandal emerges and Republicans can scream about what a negative campaign the 5th Column is running on behalf of the Democrats. Even on the NYT website, the link's on small print now in the "Washington" section half way down the page listed under an article about Condi Rice returning to Washington and Joe Lieberman's "sluggish start."

Is anybody still wondering whatever happened to the 9 billion reported missing a few years ago? Not me. I've moved on. That's what we do here. Old news. Get over it.

Update: Truthout is posting an LA Times article on topic. But I'm not finding any mention on the main pages of the cable news sites.

Saturday, July 29, 2006


An inconvenient truth, at a convenient moment

Well, I saw An Inconvenient Truth tonight. The Garberville Theater was filled with many of the usual suspects, and a surprising number of younger people which is encouraging simply for the interest. The film consisted of a Powerpoint slide presentation conducted by the former VP and arguably president elect 2000, laced with frightening footage of disappearing glaciers and convincing graphics of everything from the correlation between warming and increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to a convincing argument that the Republicans' sheltering of the American auto industry from strict emission standards isn't doing the car makers any favors in a global market. We were also treated with a touching family history, and I mean that without sarcasm - particularly at Gore, Sr.'s decision to stop growing tobacco after his daughter's death at the hands of the poison the family had been selling.

Most shocking is that Gore is, for the first time in his life, is charismatic (a friend of mine remarked during the 2000 election that you knew it was a boring campaign when among the four candidates for President and VP, Gore was the most flamboyant). The Republicans have harped over the years that he continually "reinvents himself." Well, he may have settled upon an effective invention this time. It wasn't staged - he was in front of an audience, and he was engaging, humorous, and persuasive. And it looked natural. Arguably "presidential."

Afterwards I met my good friend Fred Baron who shared my thought, and the thought of any political geek watching the film - the film marks the beginning of Gore for President, 2008. Certainly, the release was timed for the 2006 elections as well. And as reported earlier on this blog, it's doing quite well.

The film wasn't detailed on the science, though I'm told that the book addresses the science with considerably more depth. Other than the striking footage, the film presented nothing new to me in terms of substance. I would be more impressed if the film attempted to address the skeptics' quite reasonable question as to whether the increased CO2 levels are causing the warming or simply an indicator of it. The arguments for causation rather than mere correlation are compelling, and Gore ought to have shared some of them. Perhaps he does in his book, but it's central to the debate, and the film will reach many more people.

Which brings me to my problem with the film. Yes, it affected me. It's impossible to sit through a two hour film with that kind of power without being affected, and I pride myself on my skepticism. But actually, it's the power the film had over me that disturbs me about it, precisely when I am cognitively aware of its deficiencies. As George Orwell once remarked, "All propaganda is lies, even when you are telling the truth." I agreed with Gore, for the most part, before I saw the film. The film inspires a sense of urgency, and I definitely share it.

I can understand Gore's point about skepticism, but I'm uncomfortable with his attempt to discourage it. Truth, especially truth so important, should be able to withstand scrutiny, and even becomes more compelling when it does. The film should have incorporated a few of the intelligent criticisms, and dealt with them. Gore decried the reference to global warming as a "theory." But evolution is a theory. Relativity as well. Other theories are treated as fact and applied that way, but remain theories because they can't yet be proven in the sense that all variables have been eliminated. That's the nature of science. Bush's whining and use of tax money to dispute the relative consensus in the scientific community is actually beside the point. It doesn't matter if there's consensus. A theory doesn't become a law until all variables are excluded.

A critic of Moore's films once remarked that if he was a filmmaker he'd feel much more successful if the viewers were arguing in the aisles afterward, rather than applauding in unison. Personally, I believe that the cause against global warming would actually benefit from a film of that nature, precisely because I believe Gore's premise is compelling. But unfortunately, propaganda, even for a good cause, doesn't allow for much nuance. After the 2004 election, nuance is a bad word. Gore can't afford to come across as reflective. He has to preach the word.

Which brings me to the fact that I saw Elmer Gantry last night for the first time. The experience may be coloring my response to tonight's film.

All but one of the Rotten Tomatoes reviews are positive. And the one starts off by comparing Gore to Moore, revealing a political agenda of his own. Still, I appreciated the following passage:
Look, if you think Al Gore is a lunk head, and what he has to say about global warming is utter hogwash, then you're gonna hate this movie. But if you like the man and agree with him politically, then you'’ll love it. The film makes him out to be a bigger martyr and a better savior than Jesus Christ, himself.
On the other hand, all criticisms of the film and speculations abouulterioror motives aside, Gore is most likely right. And the warming trend is now indisputable, the only question being whether humanity is responsible for it. And even that isn't the core issue. The core issue is simply whether reducing CO2 emissions will mitigate the warming. The scale of the problem alone requires considerably more thought than the vast majority of pols are currently willing to commit to it.

Recently, Bush was asked whether he would be seeing the film. He responded with his characteristic smirk and said "Doubt it." That clip, if available, should be added to the film as it plays right into its theme of mass denial.

For what it's worth, Gore's presentation has converted a former global warming skeptic. Well, that and four other books.

I'll be updating this post with more links on topic over the next few days as I come across interesting comments on the film.

Update: Although he hasn't seen the film, and has no intention of seeing it, Republican Senator James Inhofe feels quite qualified to compare the movie to Hitler's Mein Kampf. How much do you want to bet that he's never read that one either?


Playing the gay card in the Ohio election

By now you're read Heraldo's Humboldt Herald post on Rob Arkley's contribution to the Ohio GOP's efforts to get black voters to vote for their black candidate. And by now you've probably heard that their candidate for governor, current attorney general Ken Blackwell, is in deep trouble. Blackwell is facing allegations of impropriety in the 2004 election, when he presided over the state's election while simultaneously serving as co-chair of Bush's campaign.

Well, in what appears to be a desperate move, the Ohio Republican's "social conservative director" Guy Lankford is spreading innuendo to imply that the Democratic Party candidate Ted Strickland is gay. The evidence is that Strickland and his wife spend much of their time in separate residences, and that they have no children.

Playing to homophobia reaped rich rewards for the Ohio GOP (and President Bush) in 2004. This time however, they have a problem in that they would be appealing to a group of voters who probably won't vote for Blackwell because he's black. You play you pay.

Update: As pointed out in the comments section, Blackwell is the Secretary of State in Ohio, not Attorney General - which makes sense because the SOS is in charge of elections. Duh.

Friday, July 28, 2006


Freeform Friday

Honestly, I haven't really followed the issue of the Balloon track/tract closely. I guess I should dip my feet in. I've heard a great deal of partisan squabbling, but North Coast Journal has published a description, a history, and a settling of the track vs. tract debate. And now I know where "balloon" came from.

One Ferndale resident isn't concerned about whether the current potential buyers might lose interest. Maybe somebody involved can answer whether the predominant opposition to the Arkley plan is environmental or economic (ie. anti-big box). Yes, I know everything goes hand-in-hand, but really it doesn't. Re Home Depot, will somebody explain why Measure J didn't resolve that issue?

The Humboldt Advocate covered an effort by Eureka City Council Member Jeff Leonard to sell the proposed plan to members of the public. The article references some excellent questions, but didn't provide Leonard's response. Did he respond to them, or simply "stick to his original point?"


It seems that the polygraph results in the Whitethorne kidnapping/rape case will be released in August. Why so long? In all the television cop shows, the test administrator simply nods or shakes his head at the interrogating cop and that's that.


My neighbor showed me a google download of History of Oil, by Robert Newman. It's a monologue reminiscent of Spalding Gray's old stuff, back when he was political. It's a history known to those of us who were raised on Noam Chomsky, delivered in hilarious fashion. I don't agree with all of it, but he raises some excellent points. It's worth it for the entertainment value alone.

Update: I've been reminded that Spalding Gray isn't apolitical now. He's dead.


An Inconvenient Truth is at the Garberville Theater this weekend. I hope to see it simply because the federal government has spent tax money to discredit the movie, or more specifically to discredit AP's report that scientists had praised the movie.

Meanwhile, our favorite blonde hippie was on Hardball and called Gore a "total fag."


Listening the Thank Jah on KMUD this morning, somebody mentioned that Owl was suspended for a week. Does anybody know what that was about? That's the second suspension arising from that show, the first being of Kathleen Creager for discussing the new station firing policy.

Update: Apparently they were referencing a joke. Should have figured I'd have heard about it otherwise.


I'll be adding a new non-local blog to my list of links soon. Michael Berube has written for The Nation and other periodicals, and possibly related to a very entertaining debate with David Horowitz a few years ago ended up on Horowitz' 101 most dangerous professors (here's Berube's response). I'll be making a more detailed introduction later. For now I'll just tell you that Berube is a terrific writer and a profound thinker, and you should give him a read. He also warns that blogging can ruin your career. Hmmmmm.

Update: I've been informed that Berube has accused Horowitz of editing his arguments in the above-linked debate.


Meanwhile, Molly Ivins is pushing for a Bill Moyers presidential candidacy. We could do much worse.


And Ned Lamont supporters are energized for what could be the upset of the century over Joe Lieberman.


Lastly, Save Ancient Forests introduces us to the PL relief team.


Turns out, Barbara Ehrenreich also has a blog. In her latest entry, she writes about how expensive it is to be poor. I can add a number of items to her list.

If Michael Walzer starts one, I'll be a happy camper.

Thursday, July 27, 2006


"War is Hell."

It's a hawk catch phrase -goes without saying for everyone else. The ultimate expression of mitigation for any war effort, endeavoring to negate any criticism that might involve a weighing of consequences with the utility of the aggression.

I picked up a copy of July's Greenfuse, a free monthly put out by anarcho-green activist Paul Encimer and friends. You won't find Greenfuse online, but it is freely distributed at bohemian type places around the northcoast. It's a bit narrow in ideological scope for my taste, but it has some compelling writing and maintains a countercultural aesthetic that's probably going to be lost in a generation or two sans some new mass revival of an appreciation for homegrown culture.

Anyway, you'll find some compelling prose this month, with a piece in particular grabbing my attention. Page 6, Orphaned in Gaza, by Sami Abu Salem, a resident of Jabalia Refugee Camp. He writes about a family with guests eating lunch with children playing when an Israeli rocket hit their home, ending lives and destroying the collective life of the family forever.
It is just an old house at the northern edge of Kahan Younis, in the south Gaza STrip. Its asbestos ceiling, wrinkled wall, and old wooden doors ridden with holes reflect the cruel poverty of Abdelqader Ahmed, 57.

His 80-year-old mother, Fadhiyya Ahmed, spent yesterday in one of her favorite pastimes - being with her family. Sons, daughters, grandsons, and sons-in-law gathered around her, celebrating the return of her son Zakariyya from Saudi Arabia.

The family and their guests were eating lunch when an Israeli rocket slammed into the house. Zakariyya, 45, in whose honor the family had gathered, was instantly killed, as was his pregnant sister Fatima, 37. Fatima's 18-month-old son, Khaled, was critically wounded and carried to the hospital. Another relative, Shaima, 25, and pregnant, was critically wounded in the attack.
I respect the principled pacifism that opposes all war. We need more people with that level of faith. I don't have it. From my view, at this point in our social and biological evolution, we remain a violent species. We don't just have to fight. We like to fight. We're going to fight. And sometimes, we have to fight. Certainly, the fight was justified 65 years ago in response to Hitler's "Final Solution."

And certainly, there are stories much like the one above about that fight. Stories of similar suffering perpetrated by the "good guys." Sometimes deliberately. Millions of such stories actually if you consider Hiroshima, Nagasakai, Dresden, Tokyo, etc. "War is Hell." The hawk will remind you that suffering is inevitable in war, but war is sometimes necessary - and that perhaps it is irresponsible of the dove to bring up the suffering in opposition to the war. Suffering being inevitable, the suffering is thus irrelevant to the discussion of whether the aggression itself is just and appropriate. We can discuss maybe whether the particular acts were necessary to the justice of the objective, but we cannot criticize the overall actions. There are bad apples, and we do our best to root out the Lt. Callys and Abu Ghraib guards. But don't link the suffering and crimes to the overall war effort.

Insane from my point of view, but then I live on a different planet apparently. Why suffering should be excluded from the scale in weighing the utility of the aggression with the consequences is beyond me. Maybe the suffering is inherently on a magnitude of scale that we could almost never justify a war unless we could show that the suffering by the omission of the aggression would be worse. Would more Israelis be dying right now if the Ahmed house hadn't been destroyed? We certainly can't prove that. I can understand the difficulty of the hawk perspective. Better to not talk about it, or respond with stories about suffering on the other side, particularly as the result of murderous deliberation. Get the blood boiling. Whom did the Ahmeds vote for anyway?
He said that Fatima was talking and laughing with her sister, whiile their children yelled and played and the family talked all around. Suddenly everything was turned upside down. The rocket hit the house; he did not see anything because of huge clouds of dust until people carried him to the hospital.

"It is an unendurable life. We had been waiting for this nice moment for three years, but the Israelis turned it into a bloody moment. We can not bear such a life."
Were the Israeli attacks justified? The situation there is filled with complexity and confusion - I don't know what reasonable people in Israel or Palestine can do. I can't judge whether acts are immoral or unnecessary, except when they can be shown to be deliberate efforts to kill with no broader strategy. I don't think the Israelis meant to destroy this family. I do know that the act left the world a slightly more dangerous place for Israelis - however many survivors may have been converted to warriors. I hope for Israel's sake that the utility of the attacks outweigh at least that consideration. It's hard for me to imagine that it outweighs the humanitarian consideration. But I haven't lost a son or daughter to a suicide bomber in a teen dance club either.

How much value do the Ahmed survivors place on life now?

Photo source - BBC

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Paul Hagen's legacy with local enviros

The Arcata Eye has published a follow-up article on the Paul Hagen firing - focusing on the local environmentalist movement from which came mostly praise for the terminated environmental prosecutor. I don't know much about him, but this article leaves me with a strong impression of the man as a class act, particularly his willingness to complete a prosecution after his release - without compensation.

The praise isn't universal in the article, but the small amount of criticism seems kind of vague and ambiguous. I certainly hope these environmental groups are pressuring CDAA for an explanation - something Hagen can't provide due to a gag order that Hagen probably agreed to for a severance package. If Paul Gallegos is in any way responsible, he should also provide some explanation. Hagen wasn't his employee, so the ethics around personnel issues shouldn't apply. There is also the possibility that Hagen himself doesn't really want to talk about it, but in previous interviews he seemed to imply that it was he who was made to agree on the gagging, and not CDAA.

But as I've been saying, to convince me that Gallegos is responsible somebody is going to have to show me how Gallegos has that kind of influence with CDAA, a conservative organization for the most part - at least historically.


PL on its last lap?

I'm not going to venture an analysis of my own. I haven't been following the story closely enough to have anything deep to say and some of the other blogs are already on it. PL is acting like a company in distress, the most recent indication being the sudden loss of its CEO as covered by Heraldo at Humboldt Herald. Captain Buhne sees a fire sale in the works. Save Ancient Forests provides us with a summary review of Robert Manne's legacy. The conservative blogs are thus far silent.

So why is he gone? Well, you can find some very educated conjecture in the above links. Or you can accept Manne at his word as reported in the Times Standard that he's basically gotten a raw deal and does what CEOs often do best - when in doubt blame the tree huggers.
Manne was also at the receiving end, and giving end, of much criticism during his stint. He said lawsuits by environmentalists and regulation that has crimped the company's harvest by a third has made the transitions challenging.
And the Eureka Reporter, perhaps eager to cover the parting in a positive light, entitled its article PALCO Announces New President. And the intrepid (yes, the word's been overused since Colbert's stunt) reporter's prose would seem to admonish us to not read too much into the event.
Although it may appear sudden, Manne said he has been discussing plans to leave.

It has been in the works for awhile, and it'’s a mutual thing with the board of directors who I reported to, he said, adding that his contract was coming to an end. It has been a privilege for me to lead PALCO for the past five years (and) now that the refinancing has been successfully completed, I believe the company is poised to achieve great things.”
This is followed by about half a dozen rosy paragraphs. Nothing has changed. PL is poised to do great things. Go team. Yada yada yada.

Pay no attention to the Manne behind the curtain.


Where's the outrage???

Humboldt County Coroner Frank Jager reported on Monday that the inquest into the death of Cheri Moore will be postponed until after Labor Day in order to locate and bring in witnesses. It's been two days, and still no Worth Dikeman press conference! Isn't Jager "politicizing" the process by delaying it? The Eureka Police Department has already held an investigation and issued it's findings exonerating itself, so what is Jager's game?

I'm sure Gallegos is behind it. The timing's a little suspicious, isn't it? That the inquest would be postponed while Gallegos is on vacation? Is Jager in Gallegos' pocket, just like the California District Attorneys Association?

Where does the vicious circle end?



This is a test. I'm having problems accessing the blog. Trying an end-around.

Update: Okay, that was weird. I was trying to access via my bookmark and I got a blank page. Then I tried to access from links on Humboldt Herald and Fred's Blog - same result. Then I went back to Fred's, accessed my account through the blogger link and found I could make a post. Now everything's back to normal. Any geeks out there who can tell me what happened?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


The children of Lebanon can use help now

With reports of families begging for rides out of the battle areas, even begging to ride in the trunks of cars, there are certainly families who could use some help at this moment. The following is being distributed by UNICEF.

July 25, 2006

Dear Friend,

As hostilities in the Middle East continue, innocent children bear the brunt of the conflict. More than a third of those already killed and injured have been children.

With staff in Lebanon since 1948, UNICEF has been able to rapidly assess the situation of the estimated 350,000 children forced to flee their homes. I hope that you will be able to make a donation today to help these children in their hour of critical need.

38 tons of emergency supplies—including essential medicines as well as water and sanitation kits—were sent from UNICEF's warehouse in Copenhagen over the weekend. UNICEF staff on the ground are working around the clock to deliver aid to the children and families isolated by the destruction of roads and bridges.

This is only the beginning of relief efforts in the region. UNICEF still needs $23.8 million to save and protect the children caught in this crisis. Please give generously.

Thank you for your support.


Charles J. Lyons
President, U.S. Fund for UNICEF


Some lunchbreak notes

In the comments section of the post immediately below, Mike Harvey displays his political acumen - having predicted the Field Poll results which have Gov. Schwarzenegger leading Angelides by 8 points. Lots of undecideds though. The race is far from over.


Thompson's Wilderness Bill passed the house. Now it's up in the Senate. We've discussed the bill on this blog previously of course here and here.


California has declared a power emergency, largely due to the heat. So far, we're barely dodging a return of the rolling blackouts.


And this is stunning. Netroots darling and Connecticut Senate primary challenger Ned Lamont is ahead of Lieberman in the latest Rasmussen poll. Rasmussen is probably not the most accurate of late as the recent Angelides/Schwarzenegger poll might indicate, but it shouldn't even be this close! The same source linked above notes a Quinnepac poll from last week that also shows Lamont ahead, though by less of a margin. The poll also has Lamont dead even with Lieberman in a three way race. The poor Republican candidate nobody's heard of just can't get no respect.

Has Kos become a kingmaker?


And In These Times reminisces on The Death of a Toker's Utopia. It's about the demise of Michigan's Rainbow Farm a few years back in a review of Dean Kuipers’ Burning Rainbow Farm: How a Stoner Utopia Went Up in Smoke recently released.


Update: Went to grab a sandwich at Calico's and they had MSNBC on. Apparently, four UN observors were killed in an Israeli air strike. The good news, maybe, is that the Bush administration has finally come around to discussing some sort of peace plan. I'm wondering if there's any connection between the two events. Probably any news site will have the latest. Meanwhile, Hezbollah made a statement that undermines my theory of motivations, claiming that they expected only the "usual limited response" from Israel.

Second update: The Field poll for the governor's race may be waking a some people up. Expect a barrage of ads with photos of Arnold and Bush together.


Glass vs Arkley

Thanx to Heraldo for bringing it to my attention. Apparently the Arkley family and associates are giving The Works owner Larry Glass a hard time about his anti-Arkley paraphernalia. Frankly, I'd be flattered, but then I don't get the deluge the Arkleys get. Then again, I haven't done anything to earn it. In the post linked above, Heraldo links to a couple of stories that provide some explanation as to how Arkley may have earned it, and posts a jpg of the offending car sticker. Here's another article about Glass/Arkley about a month old with some background, and another about the merchandise in particular.

Yesterday I mentioned some of Arkley's altruism. For his part, Glass has also contributed to the community, including the dedication of profits on Mothers Day to the Planned Parenthood which has made Mothers Day gifts to my mother and wife easy. His altruism doesn't match the scale of Arkley's, but maybe it ought to be considered in terms of proportion. And Glass has taken public stands separating himself from his fellow Chamber folk in the past, including his backing of Measure T.

Coincidentally (?) there's a profile piece in today's Times-Standard.

Glass is receiving some public vilification as well, including a proposed boycott from this ER reader. You take public stands, you take your lumps. Glass knows it. Why are the Arkleys taking it so personally? I'd think by now they'd have a sense of humor about it.


I'm flattered, but he or she is missing my point

I got a nice little plug on the Little Green Footballs blog, and I'm getting some traffic from them. Comment #25 - some person named Kilgore Trout.
Koskidz are revolting (and converting)

Why I probably won't participate in the demonstrations against Israel

So at the end of my word day, I notice that there are posts up justifying Hezbollah violence and it resonates with a post I wrote last night. Because I'd like to get home to my family, I post the link because I don't see anybody else discussing the problem - anti-semitism in the peace movement.
follow the link..
Why I probably won't participate in the demonstrations against the Israeli attacks on Lebanon
Zombie pics, moonbat media, even a comment to Puddinhead . Send this guy an LGF registration.
Had a little incident at Daily Kos. I posted something in a hurry and broke a taboo against linking to one's own blog or something. In 112 degree weather with no air conditioning at home, I didn't handle it very well.

And LGF registration? Yeah, that'll do wonders for my credibility with fellow leftists on the issue. Hate to break it to Mrs./Ms. Trout, whom I'm sure is a very nice conservative, but I've never been enamored with Hezbollah. Hence no "conversion."

Lest we think the right is unified on this, consider these Frontpagemag articles:

The Protocols of Pat Buchanan

Paul Craig Roberts and the Certifiable Right

Update: A couple of Mideast war links, then I'm going to move into some other topics for awhile.

Here are some shots of the peace demonstration in Tel Aviv. Didn't notice any "we are all Hezbollah" signs.

And here's a Nation Magazine piece on Nasrallah that provides a little more detail than you'll find most other places.

And Alan Dershowitz, who once argued the propriety of torture so long as it is regulated by warrants, suggests that some civilians are more civilian than others.

Monday, July 24, 2006


A few notes

Taking a break from catching up after my vacation. Sometimes I wonder if vacations are worth the trouble. The heat isn't helping either - air conditioner's at full blast and I'm still hot.


Just came across a blog I hadn't heard of, and I'm kind of surprised. Looks like it's been around for a year at least. It's called "Arkleywatch," and it does just as the title suggests - watches Rob Arkley, Jr. I'll set it up in my links list later - right next to Watchpaul which hasn't been updated for awhile.

What would it be like to have a blog dedicated to watching you? Kind of creepy actually. I think they'd get bored of my life pretty quickly, and start watching my kids instead. They're much more interesting.


Speaking of Arkley, I visited the Sequoia Park Zoo yesterday and had an opportunity to view the Arkleys' tribute to Bill, the 60 year old chimp (and he smoked when he was younger!). It's a nice piece of work, and whatever my political differences with the family I can't complain about their community altruism. They are entitled to their due.

The zoo also has a nice new exhibit regarding the local forests, and they're offering classes for kids.

Check out Bill's watercolor work.


In order to make room for a Mateel radio event, my next All Things Reconsidered episode will be heard on August 31 instead of August 17. Haven't figured out a topic yet, but I will invite Tom Hanson again. I want to get as much as I can from that well before his move to Michigan. Oh, and Kathleen? I love you dearly, but Tom is in fact a leftist - old school variety.


Heraldo is making some very interesting posts on the Scotia plan, or lack thereof. Apparently, the posts have resulted in a Wikipedia edit. Witness the power of blogging!


Congressman Henry Waxman (D) reports that federal abortion clinic employees have been lying to women about the risks of abortion.
Female investigators,who posed as 17-year-olds seeking advice about an unintended pregnancy,telephoned the 25 pregnancy resource centers that have recieved capacity-building funds from the Department of Health and Human Services. The results were very alarming. Eighty-seven percent of the centers reached by investigators provided false or misleading information about abortion....
Hit the link for more info.


Apparently the "vast majority" of Californians want to reform Three Strikes. But then, why did they vote down a modest change in the law a couple of elections ago? Either the polls are off, or California voters are fickle as a, well, whatever's fickle. I should probably stop typing right now.

Sunday, July 23, 2006


Why I probably won't participate in the demonstrations against the Israeli attacks on Lebanon

I want to thank my callers on my radio show Thursday night (I also apologize for the technical difficulties at the beginning). I expected much more dogmatism and far less thought given the topic which was: Can there be a decent left? based on the Walzer article of the same title. The show gave me some hope that there can be. Only one caller attempted to defend Hezbollah's actions in all this, and even he backed off a bit when we brought up the fact that Hezbollah's rockets being sent into Israel are stuffed with ballbearings with no strategic value except to kill Jews (and as Steve Lewis points out, anybody else who happens to be in the area).

But I'm also discouraged by an e-mail I received today about a demonstration in London yesterday at which George Galloway exclaimed:
"I am here to glorify the resistance, Hezbollah. I am here to glorify the leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah."
Well, below is a photo of the movement gorgeous George wants to glorify. I'm taking it from Harry's Place, the site of a left wing blogger who puts the problem this way:
"The most chilling thing about this Hezbollah ceremony is that it took place just across the border from Israel-- the houses in the background are in the northern Israeli town of Metullah. Are people like Galloway even capable of imagining what an elderly Holocaust survivor who happened to glance across the fence might have felt?"

And for good measure, here's a quote from Hezbollah's venerable leader:
If they (Jews) all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.
--Hassan Nasrallah, quoted in the Lebanon Daily Star, October 2002
Is that something you leftists out there want to support? These people, I won't call them evil. They were raised in a dark aged milieu conditioned by constant war and conflict. But they are bad news. Whatever your feelings about Israel, don't jump on this bandwagon without getting the facts, or you'll find yourself embracing the ignorance expressed in the following comment from a female activist in New Zealand:
"We socialists had a telling off from a Muslim woman for not chanting
"Victory to Hezbollah", so we took a vote and decided to adopt that
slogan, and I'm proud of it.
The very same ignorance is expressed at Lenin's Tomb, which posts photos of signs that read "We are all Hezbollah." As Harry points out, these elements are making certain that these are not anti-war demonstrations, but instead pro-fascist. I am at least encouraged by the fact that attendance at similarly themed demos in the US have been minimal (Lest I appear to hold Israel blameless, the shots of the children writing messages on Israeli missiles are also very sickening - the photos are posted towards the bottom).

So let's make sure I'm clear. I oppose what Israel is doing to Lebanon. I think they're playing right into Hezbollah's hands. I also believe that bonafide peace demonstrators ought to be much more discerning about their associations.

Update: I neglected to link to a photo essay about a recent demo in SF. Thanx to Fred for the heads-up. Also somebody sent me an "explanation" for the photos of the Israeli children writing messages on the weaponry, but I just don't see how it mitigates anything about what I'm seeing in those photos. And apparently an obnoxious right wing blogger was assaulted at a "peace" rally. I'm sure his behavior was less than innocuous, but it doesn't justify the aggression. Here's an interesting account of a journalist who spent some time with Hezbollah folk. And here are some more shots of the NYC demo, again with some decent people and some not-so-decent signs. I must admit I'm fascinated by some of the shots of Hasidim in these demos. I wish they'd speak to some of their fellow demonstrators about the anti-semitism.

Also, speaking of Michael Walzer, he has published in TNR a "just war" analysis of the current conflict.

And about the Hassidim - they're a group called Neturei Karta. Somebody just sent me a Salon article link, but you have to register to read the whole article.

Second update: And here are some photos of the London demo, which was pretty large. Note that there is a little more to George Galloway's comments (captioned under his photo), which I think are at best ignorant but more likely fundamentally irresponsible pandering. Give him credit for balls though. Some of these photos are particularly intense. I wouldn't have felt comfortable there.

Third update: I got most of these links from Michael Pugliese, who has also spread a link to this post around. He deserves production credit.


Well, what have I missed?

109 degrees in Redway today. I'm already missing my open-air cabin in the Mendocino Headlands.


The president sexually harassed a foreign head-of-state, and exhibited some other curious behaviors at the G-8 conference.


Apparently the war between Israel and the Lebanese infrastructure rages on unabated certainly by any leadership from this country. Hezbollah appears to have played Israel like a harp. Apparently no overt aggressive moves from Syria, which is good. Hezbollah from it's psychopathic perspective is raining Israel with rockets strictly designed to kill Jews. The Lebanese government's desperate calls for just discussions of a cease fire are being ignored by the Bush administration as the infrastructure that has been built up over 20 plus years has been all but dismantled in the course of a week. Israel has begun a ground invasion but claims its goals are limited. Meanwhile, other than this brief mention in Robert Scheer's latest column, I haven't come across any analysis of the Iraqi government's response - which I find curious, and disturbing.
As for the democracy in Iraq that Bush wants Russia to emulate, things haven’t worked out as neocons like invasion architect Richard Perle had hoped when he fantasized about Pentagon favorite Ahmed Chalabi leading Baghdad to recognize Israel. On Sunday, according to Reuters, the notoriously divided Iraqi parliament unanimously passed a motion condemning the Israeli offensive and urging the U.N. Security Council and the meeting of the Group of Eight leaders to intervene “to stop the ... Israeli criminal aggression.”

12 million Americans blog. 57 million read blogs regularly. And most of it is boring and irrelevant.


Apparently the media monopoly of the Bay Area is consolidating.


I've skimmed Hank Sims' North Coast Journal article about Warren Murphy and what might have been had he thwarted the Maxxam takeover of Pacific Lumber back in the 1980s. Looks like a great read. I look forward to reading it more carefully tomorrow.


Dan Quayle whined as he walked out of a John Mellencamp concert because the singer criticized the current administration and because "it wasn't a very good show." Mellencamp's feelings apparently weren't hurt. Former NBA superstar and ex-Republican Charles Barkley expressed kinder and gentler feelings towards Mellencamp and added: "I was a Republican, until they lost their minds."


Some very mentally challenged individuals have been dumping soiled diapers along of Arcata's Seventh Street overpass to the extreme detriment of city workers who are most likely not compensated adequately for such a clean-up task. Is this some sort of obscure "direct action" protest?


Meanwhile, Captain Buhne reports that Paul Bunyon and Babe the Blue Ox may be on Bin Laden's target list, at least according to Homeland Security.

Reminds me of a joke I heard on Thank Jah a few years ago:
Q: Why doesn't Earthfirst! like Al Qaida?

A: Because Osama been loggin.
Guess you had to be there.

Sunday, July 16, 2006


I'll be back next weekend

I'm going to have to break off the discussions here just as some of them are getting interesting. Please continue to comment as you will. I'll be camping in the Mendo Headlands with a bunch of Unitarian hippie types, staying away from telephones if at all possible, except that I will be telephoning my radio show in on Thursday evening at 7 p.m. The topic is as previously announced, "Can there be a decent left?" Tom Hanson will be in the studio.

I'm falling asleep in the meantime. Have a lot of packing to do in the morning. Later.


Remembering the first environmentalist movie

Way back in the 1950s the Japanese culture, still fresh from the first and what will hopefully prove to be the last nuclear attacks, generated a series of monster movies - heavy-handed metaphors for the consequences of reckless human endeavors. The grandaddy of them all is of course Godzilla (Gojira in Japan), a giant radioactive dragon somehow given his size and powers by atomic testing in the South Pacific. The theme was quickly lost in a string of film in which he's put in a ring against other giant lizards, as well as a giant bird, moth, lobster, spider, preying mantis, and even some of the tougher challenges of an enlarged King Kong, a three headed lightning spitting dragon, and whatnot. The films were vacuous entertainment for the most part. A number of the films were dubbed with little care to detail and shipped over to be shown to kids like me who looked forward to staying up with Bob Wilkins on Saturday Night's Creature Features as a lead-in to a more "serious" scary movie like, well, Dracula meets Frankenstein. But the original theme returned with a more overt environmentalist message in 1971.

I probably saw each of the dubbed films 4 or 5 times, but even as a kid one of them stood out as oddly different. I didn't really think about it until my 4-year-old started taking interest in Godzilla movies having seen the one with a robot Godzilla in a medical waiting room. I started pulling them up on Netflix and came across Godzilla vs. Hedora (which had been entitled Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster as it was introduced to me). A quick perusal of the reviews reveals that many hardcore Godzilla fans resented the "politics" of the film. Of course, hardcore fans of anything tend to whine about anything that might demand something of them, political or otherwise. But the whining should come as no surprise to anybody who watches it. In many respects, this film though far from brilliant art was revolutionary - especially in Japan.

As a kid I remember the Smog Monster version being of course dubbed throughout. The movie starts with a hippie-looking woman singing "Save the Earth" with one of those psychodelic squish-the-water-between-the-plastic-sheets-over-colored-light shows behind her. In the dubbed version she sounded suspiciously like the woman in Coven who sings One Tin Soldier. The DVD eliminated that particular dubbing, and though the rest of the film is dubbed on the languages feature they leave the song in Japanese and the woman sounds nothing like my memory of her.

She sings the same song at several points throughout the film, including the finale where Godzilla finally defeats the sludge monster (much more than a smog monster), but I'm getting ahead of myself. The work is very psychodelic, for lack of a better term, throughout. There are scenes of Japanese hippies singing and protesting (protesting the monster and getting sprayed with toxic goo for it), and though they don't actually show anybody taking drugs (except arguably Hedorah as it's sucking a smokestack suspiciously like a big bong) there is at least one scene where a character hallucinates that everyone in a bar is transformed into a humanoid with a fishhead, like something out of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. This is just before an attack by Hedorah consisting of a river of sentient sludge that comes down the stairs to ruin the party.

The plot is basic. Some alien virus mixes with our pollution to create a monster that seeks to alter the atmosphere to its own liking (at our expense of course) and reproduce. Godzilla shows up, prompted by a prophetic dream of a small boy who is the son of a scientist who invents a weapon that helps Godzilla defeat Hedorah. Seems like a typical Godzilla movie, except for didactic little animated pieces between each scene, the above-mentioned psychodelia, and actually some artistic work with the camera. Usually, the scenes consist of men in rubber suits ad libbing a fight on a set full of minature buildings. You have the suits in this one, though Hedorah, who goes through several phases of evolution throughout the film, is very creative in its execution. And there are interesting build-ups to the fight scenes. On one scene the kid is on a roller coaster, having a good time, then on one twist/turn catches a glimpse Godzillas Silhouette on the horizon. It takes him awhile to find him again after the coaster stops, and all of the sudden an idyllic amusement park is transformed into lethal chaos.

That's another aspect of this film that differs from all the other films before and after - you actually see people die. You see the consequences of two 300 or so foot tall creatures wrestling in the presence of much smaller critters. The mush from Hedorah burns like acid and kills. We even see multiple television screens popping up simultaneously showing us the fight from different angles, the military response, and people dying - including a very disturbing image of an infant sinking in the sludge.

And later, at night, we see a panoramic view of Tokyo from the heights of Mt. Fuji. We don't see the monsters themselves but we see the blue flame from Godzilla and the red lightening like energy Hedorah casts from its eyes lighting up the horizon, the blasts sounding like thunderclaps in the distance. It's actually a very captivating visual experience and probably made quite an impression on a full screen. The monsters don't make martial arts moves or sports moves like they do in the other movies. This film sticks to what might be expected of large creatures with these shapes and powers.

So here you have what may be the first "green" movie to hit the mainstream theaters, separated from the sequels not only by its content but it's artistic innovations. It didn't last more than one movie, and in fact the franchise seemed to abandon all creativity whatsoever for years thereafter. What happened? As pointed out by a net reviewer simply identified as Gary P.:
The shots of acid trip hallucinations, spontaneous Hedorah cartoon shorts, dancing skeleton cartoons, multiple images of yelling people on one screen whose faces turn into a series of flashing lights, fish-eye views of the monsters, monochrome scenes, and Riichiro Manabe's (surprisingly one of Akira Ifukube's students) bizarre and sometimes psychadelic musical score gives the viewer enough information that this movie was created in that strange decade known as, "The '70s." At first site to the casual observer, Godzilla vs. Hedorah can be taken for a heap of garbage, yet below this movie's strange taste is one of the most original and better Godzilla films.
Well, according to the same reviewer (who also provided the photos by the way), the film was the product of an odd twist in fate. By the way, I'm leaving the typos in the blockquoted passages because that's the way I got them.
Producer Tomoyuki Tanaka was hospitalized from an illness succombed during the production of Godzilla vs. Hedorah, and had left (Yoshimitzu) Banno unsupervised. After viewing Banno's final cut, Tanaka was disgusted and angrily banned him from directing another kaiju film, yelling to Banno, "You ruined Godzilla!" Jun Fukuda would then replace Banno's place as director for the next three films. Hedorah would not get its reapperance on the screen for 33 years, when Director Ryuhei Kitamura would feature a rather short appearance of the smog monster inGodzilla: Final Wars (2004). Banno would finally get to direct another Godzilla film again in 2005, when Toho granted him rights to use Godzilla and Hedorah (renamed to "Deathla") in a 40 minute IMAX feature, due to be released in 2006.

So basically, the innovation was punished. But it's really the only Godzilla film besides the original that's worth watching for anything but ironic kitsch value (I haven't seen Banno's latest, but I assume he's learned his corporate lesson by now).

So here's the question. Can anybody think of an earlier movie with an environmentalist theme? The Lorax came about a year later and is banned in many schools to this day. I wonder if Godzilla v. Hedorah was banned in any part of Japan, or here.

Friday, July 14, 2006


"Open war"

A few days ago Israel threatened to set Lebanon "back 20 years" if the two captured Israeli soldiers weren't returned. Looks like they're making good.

The photo comes from the SF Chronicle - originally from Reuters. Casualties are starting to mount on both sides, though the Lebanese civilians are taking the worst of it.

In my view, Israel has to protect its soldiers. But tearing the whole country apart in retaliation seems a bit disproportionate. How was this bridge related to the captures? Well, according to some of the reports the Israelis are taking out all bridges that would enable Syrian support of Lebanese troops. I guess they're anticipating a wider war.
"You wanted an open war and we are ready for an open war," Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said in a taped statement. He vowed to strike even deeper into Israel with rockets.
Meanwhile, I'll be going home to my wife and kids tonight. We'll be eating some spaghetti. I'll probably play a game of Chutes and Ladders with my 4-year-old. After we get the kids asleep I'll get on the stationary bike and watch something from Netflix. I may come online for a news update and some closing blog thoughts for the evening. I'll walk my dog in the serene Redway air in the near full moon light. If it's quiet enough I'll be able to hear the Eel River as I walk down Redway Ave. I'll then join my wife in bed without fear of aerial bombs, armed groups showing up at my door, or my child being killed at a nightclub by a suicide bomber of the same age. In my 40s I still wonder why I was fortunate enough to be born here and not there.


Friday's freeform flap (running out of ideas)

The Times Standard reports that Arcata Republicans voted to support the nanny-state big government policy of forcing medication down the throats of private citizens yesterday. Quoting one Dr. Ann Lindsay:
While it's true that fluoride can be toxic in large doses, the amount put in drinking water is nowhere near such a dose, she said. She said a person would have to drink an entire bathtub of water to get a toxic dose of fluoride.
Okay, now I would vote against Measure W if I was an Arcata resident (yeah, siding with the reactionaries again I guess), but I don't know if I'd find this explanation comforting as it doesn't exclude the possiblity of cumulative effects.

The Arcata Eye posted online not only the previously discussed gold rush era letter, but also two interesting letters on the fluoride issue, one pro and one con.


Meanwhile, Professor Abdul Azziz argues that Islam is essentially a feminist religion. He's got Quran passages and everything.


I haven't commented on the flap between KMUD and Steven Lewis because I don't yet understand it. Lewis was the closest thing to to a conservative to have a show on KMUD and he's quit the show apparently as the result of being told he couldn't discuss something called the "Heartlands Project." I haven't yet had the opportunity to speak to Michael Jacinto about it and I don't understand Lewis' explanation. However, we should always be concerned about allegations of censorship with outcomes like this, and KMUD could benefit from a token conservative or two just to make things interesting if nothing else. I never got to hear Lewis' show, but I would like an explanation at some point from the station's perspective. Were there liability concerns? If so, what were they?


Captain Buhne is now allowing comments. His latest post reports that Reggae on the River tickets are going for $225.00 on ebay. That's illegal folks!


The North Coast Journal follows-up on Hoover's D.A. scoop with more information about the Hagen firing including some strong disappointment expressed by Del Norte County District Attorney Mike Riese, one of three DA's who benefitted from Hagen's work. The question-of-the-week is why Hagen was forced to agree to a gag by the CDAA.

Gallegos for his part denies direct responsibility, although he acknowledges writing two reviews of Hagen's performance that may not have been particularly supportive. The timing also seems highly coincidental, though I'd need a lot more information than I've seen to conclude that Hagen's HDCC vote was the cause of the termination. Why would CDAA care? However, I don't respond well to secrecy regarding issues of public interest, and if there was a legitimate reason for the firing why not at least a general explanation from the CDAA as to the reason for the gag agreement. Especially in the case of an environmental prosecutor, the secrecy would raise questions even absent the Gallegos related coincidences. My first thought would be lobbying from one of the defendants, for example. CDAA should come clean, or explain why it can't.


Looks like SF Mayor Gavin Newsom and Supervisor Tom Ammiano have reached an agreement that will make the city the first to introduce universal healthcare. According to Calitics, the plan would offer coverage to 85 thousand uninsured residents. "
The projected cost of the plan -- initially estimated at $200 million per year -- would be paid for with the $104 million in city funds that officials say already goes to provide care to the uninsured, plus $56 million in contributions from consumers, with most of the rest coming from employers."

I look forward to watching how this works. Will it put Kaiser Permanente out of business?


Calitics also reports that Rasmussen, a polster with conservative leanings, has Angelides with a slight lead over Schwartzenegger. Guess recycling the Westley ads hasn't paid off, which kind of makes sense - I mean they didn't exactly pull it off for Westley. This is the second post-primary poll to call an Angelides lead, with one poll giving the Governor a 7 point average a couple of weeks ago. As I've said before, I'm surprised Angelides isn't in a hole. And apparently, he hasn't even spent much of anything yet on his ads. He's apparently a late innings rally kind of campaigner, which is bad news for Arnold.


Meanwhile, as most of you probably know, Valerie Plame is suing half the Bush administration. I haven't caught up with the story yet, but I wanted to invite insights and opinions now.

Update: Whew! Media Matters is not happy with the mainstream media coverage of the lawsuit! Scroll down to the list - it's pretty much across the board.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


Whatever happened to Johnny Walker Lindh?

Remember the kid who was captured along with Taliban fighters on the tail end of the invasion of Afganistan? Few really sympathized with the kid at the time - 911 being a fresh wound. Right wingers railed on him, and his hometown county of Marin, making him a symbol of the ravages of permissive liberal parenting.

While in military custody he was apparently tortured into some kind of confession and brought back to the US to face 11 charges involving several death penalties. I don't remember that we were ever really given the details of those charges. Because of the coerced confession the case started to go south for the prosecution very quickly, and the government offered him a plea bargain of two counts (fighting with the Taliban and carrying weapons) with a 20 year sentence. The kid obviously didn't want to die so he grabbed it, although given what I've since learned about the case I'm wondering if he made the right decision. Absent the requisite two witnesses that could testify that he actually shot at American troops or otherwise conspired against America, I don't know how the treason charges could have stuck. Let's remember that the Taliban were the recipients of 43 million in aid mere months before 911, with the protests of womens' groups over the Taliban excesses falling on deaf ears in Washington. Arguably Lindh did nothing specifically against the law.

Salim Muwakkil of In These Times has an article in the current issue, and the following passage boggles my mind:
Once eligible for several death penalties, Lindh pled guilty to only one of the 11 charges initially lodged against him—providing assistance to the Taliban government in violation of the economic sanctions imposed by President Bill Clinton, a charge completely unrelated to terrorism. But Lindh still received a 20-year sentence and a gag order that bars him from relating the specifics of his ordeal.

In retrospect, Lindh was “the first American to get Abu-Ghraibed.” This insight, foretelling the pull of brutality in the war on terror, was one of many offered by Tom Junod in an article featured in Esquire’s July 2006 edition. Junod’s piece, headlined, “Innocent: Can America and Islam Coexist?” eloquently tells Lindh’s horrific tale.

Now 25, Lindh is confined to a federal, medium-security prison in Victorville, Calif. He is allowed no visitors except his family and attorneys, and none of them can publicly reveal anything he says. The government has complete access to his communications and forbids him from speaking Arabic, in which he is fluent.

What exactly was the government so anxious to hide, and why did the press let everybody off the hook? It may be that the gag order was discussed in the news, but I don't remember it and was shocked to learn it from this article. Shame on me for not paying attention at the time either?

I was starting to type a "don't get me wrong, Lindh deserves what he got," but I'm not even so sure that anything he did was particularly evil. It sounds like a kid who took a wrong turn and got caught in the wrong place at the worst possible time.

Muwakkil's piece references an article in the July edition of Esquire, by Tom Junod. Very compelling reading, including the following passage:
He is a better person than you or I. He has gone away, but his story hasn't, because his story is about something no prison can extinguish. Even in prison, he has a glow, a light on his face. He has a spiritual presence. His list of don'ts stretches further than your list of dos, and his list of dos keeps him occupied in the vast chronological wasteland of prison. He's very kind. He has no anger, no dark testosteronal currents. He has a sad story to tell, but he doesn't tell it as a sad story. He is not bitter. He's funny, in fact. His father, on the lecture circuit now, says that when he visits his son in prison, they sit for five and six hours at a time, talking, laughing. The guards look at them. Not that he's flippant, a wiseguy. He's very, very serious. He's very concerned about the poor—so concerned that he's lived among them. He's committed to social justice, though he's the first to admit that he's made some bad decisions in that regard. But that's another thing about him. He never lies. He never changes his story, even when he has every reason to. He's very consistent, to put it mildly.
He's been assaulted by a fellow inmate, but other than that his prison time seems to have been "uneventful," except for the expected indignities of imprisonment as described in great detail in the Esquire article. The article also challenges even my lingering assumption that he took a "wrong turn," and provides quite the narrative of his life. Hamza, as he now calls himself, may be confused under my secularist standards, but he seems far from evil. If you aren't sold on the article, here's one more piece of enticement.
Still, Hamza is careful. The greatest fear of his father and mother is simply that he will be killed in prison, and it is probably Hamza's, too. He doesn't go where there is a lack of supervision. He doesn't play sports, and he doesn't spend a lot of time out on the yard, except on Fridays, when after Friday prayers some of the brothers find a corner in the yard and talk about God and nobody dares mess with them or with Hamza. Well, almost nobody: "A Christian guard—a good, decent man—told me something one day," says Shakeel Syed. "He said, 'Some of us try to provoke him once in a while. We try to make him mad.' Then he said, 'We fail miserably.'
Or this one:
Take another look. Now Hamza is on a plane, being transported to an ad hoc American base set up outside Kandahar called Camp Rhino. He still has the bullet in his thigh. He can't walk, but his wrists are bound so tightly that he begins to scream. He says, "Please don't kill me," and a soldier tells him to shut up. Later he's duct-taped to a stretcher, naked, and put in a shipping container. Soldiers are spitting in his food and taking souvenir pictures of him and his blindfold emblazoned with the word SHITHEAD. Who is the righteous one? And who is favored by God?
You know you want to read it, even if you don't. Kudos to Esquire, a magazine I normally wouldn't even bother to glance at in the Supermarket line.

So again, where is the media scrutiny of this gag order? Were they even interested? In 16 years we may find out precisely what the government was so desperate to hide. If he makes it that long.

But hey, for equal time and perspective, let's just remember that he's a scumbag. It's easier that way in any case.

Photos are courtesy of Google and Frontpagemagazine.


The last socialist mayor of a U.S. major city moves on

Frank Zeidler died today at age 93. He had been the third socialist elected mayor in Milwaukee, and reigned from 1948 to 1960 - three terms - right in the shadow of the man Edward R. Murrow often referred to as the "Junior Senator from Wisconsin," a distinction ironically held by one of the more liberal Democrats of this day.

There are a couple of great obits: here (also the photo source) and here.

He would later run unsuccessfully for governor, and against Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford in 1976, collecting just over 6000 votes, most of them from Wisconsin. This was of course just a few years following the split of the Socialist Party into three groups including what is now Democratic Socialists of America and an odd group that supported Nixon called Social Democrats USA. Zeidler stuck with the party proper and for a brief time tried to step into the shoes of Eugene Debs and Norman Thomas.

I see his view of socialism as more Enlightenment oriented than Marxist, at least as he expressed it - sort of along the lines of the Fabians or Bertrand Russell.

"There is always a charge that socialism does not fit human nature. We've encountered that for a long time. Maybe that's true. But can't people be educated? Can't people learn to cooperate with each other? Surely that must be our goal, because the alternative is redolent with war and poverty and all the ills of the world."

His 1976 run was in his words simply to "keep the red flag flying." But from what I've read he was also a very effective mayor, which would account for two re-election wins. His first win is often attributed to the fact that his more conservative brother Carl had been a great mayor. He chose to retire as mayor in 1960. He was by all accounts a pleasant individual, and stayed involved in politics until his death, speaking at the SP convention as late as 2001. Another one of those "Energizer Bunnies of the left" often used in reference to surviving Abraham Lincoln Brigade veterans who stay active.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Can we take a deep breath folks?

Okay, I made light of the breast blow-up, because I'm a man and just don't understand the oppression women face every hour of every day despite my faux progressive credentials. Fine. I can take that, and pretty much anything else you dish out. But ease up on Teresa Porter.

Sources tell me that Porter is leaving town for awhile. You've managed to drive her to tears with hundreds of angry telephone calls. She feels that the whole community has turned against her, and at this point the Porters are even very sensitive to jokes about the whole thing.

Of course, the inevitable response is "all she has to do is apologize properly." You mean all she has to do is publicly humiliate herself and her son because of course her perspective has absolutely no validity. It's the law after all. She broke the law. She oppresses women. Never mind that hundreds of women have breastfed their babies at the Benbow over the years - and few even bother to ask if there was anything different about this particular instance. You have the answers you want. Go get em. Beat them down until you get the meaningless apology you want.

To even suggest that somebody rational might have a different way of looking at the issue is of course reactionary, because we aren't supporting the young woman's rights. And the reluctance of some in the community to join the bandwagon of anger and protest is just, well, further proof of the prevalence of male domination, because even so-called progressives like Eric Kirk just don't get it. It's not about a rude manager. It's about civil rights and the oppression of women everywhere! There is no other perspective. You're either for her or against her.

That's sure what it sounds like.

I've tried to engage some discussions here, and people have shown up, dropped an argument or two; but then left presumably because they don't feel they can convince me of anything because I am hopelessly sexist or simply blind about the severity and oppressiveness about being asked to breastfeed in the hotel lobby. I've had a few thoughtful posts, but there does seem to be lacking a serious interest in discussing the issue with any kind of exchange. The law is the law and that's that - end of discussion.

The Le Leche League locals have privately informed Ed Denson that the Redwood Times fabricated a statement that suggested they too saw grey areas in the controversy, and they were going to inform the Redwood Times of the same. Well, if they did, the Redwood Times didn't bother to note it as of this last issue. Well, I'm calling on the Le Leche League to clarify, because if Ortiz was indeed quoted correctly, it could go a long way to diffusing the whole situation. But it sounds like they just don't want to get involved, kind of like the NYC neighborhood residents several decades ago who stood by and glared out their windows as a woman was stabbed to death. If the RT misquoted you, then call them on it. Otherwise, publicly stand by your statement that you spoke to people on both sides of the issue and found both stories credible.

For the record Mr. Miller, I am not on the Porter payroll. My wife used to run a daycare center out of our home, and she watched Teresa Porter's daughter. Teresa was very warm and comforting when we where trying to have a child and my wife had miscarriages. Speaking of her daughter, I'm just very thankful that school is out. It could otherwise be very rough on her - as if it isn't already. This isn't a faceless corporation you're haranguing. It's a family. If they pissed you off and didn't rectify the matter to your satisfaction, then don't do business with them. But let's try to move on.

Go to San Francisco and pick on the Carnelian Room. They probably deserve it, for some other reason if not this one. Mr. Miller, don't forget your suit and tie - mandatory. Here's a helpful tip.


Quick note on forum civility

Later on tonight I hope to set aside some time to discuss civility of political discourse that has taken an even steeper decline locally over the Benbow breast incident, and it's taking a very unfortunate and hopefully unintended toll - more on that later.

The topic of civility will be at the forfront of my radio show next week, the broader topic being the "state of the left." I will be phoning my participation in from family camp, and Tom Hanson will be in charge at the studio. If you want to do some homework ahead of time, you should read Michael Walzer's Can There be a Decent Left? The article focuses on the anti-war movement, but we'll be talking in more general terms in our ongoing discussion about why the left is in many respects less powerful than its numbers. In fact, I'd like to translate some of the points into a local focus.

Certainly the left has no monopoly on uncivil discourse as is easily uncovered in the comments threads of local blogs, as well as sites like Free Republic which contains vitriol of the most bizarre quality, yet kicks you off if your posts even carry a whiff of leftism (last time I tried I was a participant for 12 minutes before the sheriff showed up and showed me the door). And over the past couple of days, we've had some less than productive discourse on my blog. For my part, I let it get to me. I'm going to avoid it in the future.

I don't want this to be a Free Republic type site. I finally understand Captain Buhne's decision to eliminate the comments function, but I want this blog to be a free forum. I have censored several posts involving a bizarre obsession with a local female public figure. If posts are otherwise crossing lines of very basic decency I will strike those posts as well. It will have to be pretty bad, and basically all I ask for is basic respect, particularly for non-celeb individuals. I'll be less strict when it comes to public figures, but even in that case there will be some basic limits.

I will be much more lenient with posts aimed at me. You can be disrespectful, and I won't zap the post unless it is so far out of bounds of decency that I can't let it stand. However, it is going to be my policy to not respond to posts I find disrespectful, even if the post also raises interesting or salient points. Basically, you're free to insult me as you will, but I'm going to ignore the post. I suggest that others interested in lively but productive debate do the same.

I will continue to allow anonymous posting. I am looking for candid discourse, and sometimes even respectfully expressed opinions can get somebody into trouble. But I will scrutinize anonymous posts more closely than posts which identify the speaker.

And if I start acting in any way hypocritical in this policy, please call me on it.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Free Website Counter
Free Web Site Counter

Cost of the War in Iraq
(JavaScript Error)
To see more details, click here.
Click for