28 February 2007

This and That

A little bit of this:
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Harper's Weekly
For its temporary embassy in Washington, D.C., the Iraqi government purchased a $5.8-million Tudor-style mansion across the street from the home of Dick Cheney on Massachusetts Avenue. The mansion features a built-in espresso machine, heated floors, soft pistachio carpeting, and a Jacuzzi...
And a little bit of that:
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BAGHDAD, Feb. 26 — The Iraqi cabinet approved a draft of a law today that would set guidelines for countrywide distribution of oil revenues and foreign investment in the immense oil industry.

The endorsement marked a major agreement among the country’s ethnic and sectarian political blocs on one of Iraq’s most divisive issues.

The draft law approved by the cabinet allows the central government to distribute oil revenues to the provinces or regions by population, which could lessen the economic concerns of the rebellious Sunni Arabs, who fear being cut out of Iraq’s vast potential oil wealth by the dominant Shiites and Kurds.

The law also grants regional oil companies the power to sign contracts with foreign companies for exploration and development of fields, opening the door for investment by foreign oil companies in a country whose oil reserves rank among the world’s top three in size...

27 February 2007

Impeachment in Washington State

The impeachment ball is rolling in Washington State.

Senate Joint Memorial (SJM) 8016 requests an investigation into actions by the President and Vice President. It is scheduled for a public hearing beginning at 3:30pm on March 1st. Prior to the hearing there will be a rally on the Capitol Steps at 1:00pm.

I hope to see you there!

23 February 2007

Question of Conscience

“Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ Vanity asks the question, ‘Is is popular?’ But, conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?’ and there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because one’s conscience tells one that it is right.”
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

21 February 2007

Constitution in Crisis: The Case for Impeachment

Last night I attended the town hall meeting Constitution in Crisis: The Case for Impeachment.

It was a great event, inspiring and very compelling. I am encouraged to step up the pressure on congress to move forward with investigations into impeachable offenses committed by the Bush Administration.

Here are some pictures:

Impeachment Advocates

The Citizens’ Movement to Impeach Bush/Cheney: A Town Hall Meeting - Constitution in Crisis: The Case for Impeachment

The Citizens’ Movement to Impeach Bush/Cheney Presents A Town Hall Meeting  Constitution in Crisis: The Case for Impeachment

(pictures are linked to larger versions.)

The meeting was very well attended, the Washington Center for the Performing Arts was packed. I don't know how many it holds, but I would estimate that there might have been as many as 3,000 people there. [edit: although it was packed, I don't think that it holds 3,000. There was close to 1,000 though. I just checked the seating capacity.]

The panelists made a very persuasive argument that to hold impeachment hearings, based even on only the evidence currently available to the public, is a necessity.

Here's the video:

19 February 2007

Fascist Authoritarianism in America?

This excerpt is from Joe Conason's new book, It Can Happen Here:
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What worries many Americans ... is that the authoritarians can excuse their excesses as the necessary response to an enemy that every American knows to be real. For the past five years, the Republican leadership has argued that the attacks of September 11, 2001 -- and the continuing threat from jihadist groups such as al Qaeda -- demand permanent changes in American government, society, and foreign policy. Are those changes essential to preserve our survival -- or merely useful for unscrupulous politicians who still hope to achieve permanent domination by their own narrowly ideological party? Not only liberals and leftists, but centrists, libertarians, and conservatives, of every party and no party, have come to distrust the answers given by those in power.
The question that we face in the era of terror alerts, religious fundamentalism, and endless warfare is whether we are still the brave nation preserved and rebuilt by the generation of Sinclair Lewis -- or whether our courage, and our luck, have finally run out. America is not yet on the verge of fascism, but democracy is again in danger. The striking resemblance between Buzz Windrip [the demagogic villain of Lewis's novel] and George W. Bush and the similarity of the political forces behind them is more than a literary curiosity. It is a warning on yellowed pages from those to whom we owe everything.
If this isn't on your radar, please crawl out of your cave and inform yourself.

Port of Olympia Public Testimony

[edit: Let me preface this statement by saying that in no way do I think the employees and commissioners of the Port are intending to do the wrong thing (in regard to military shipments.) I think that the Port's goal of creating prosperity for the county is an honorable one. But there is a point when we, as human beings - and as citizens - have to make decisions about what is right and what is wrong. The unnecessary violence that has occurred, and continues unabated in Iraq, has been promulgated [edit: caused] by US actions. The ongoing presence of US forces is exacerbating, and it prolongs, the problem. (The violence won't stop immediately if the US pulls out rapidly - but it's not stopping now, while the US remains, either.)

It is time to stop this "war." By encouraging (and forcing via nonviolent civil disobedience if necessary) local institutions to comply with moral, humanitarian and legal imperatives, PMR (see below) will take an important step in creating a scenario that will promote the acceleration of an end to the US military presence in - and domination of - Iraq.]

Here is the text of a written comment I submitted a recent Port Commission meeting. I also summarized the comment in verbal testimony during the public comment period of the meeting.

Port Militarization Resistance (PMR) has recently adopted a campaign strategy to oppose the further use of the municipal Port of Olympia to enable the continuance of the illegal and immoral occupation of Iraq. More on that later.

Here's the comment:
Monday, January 22, 2007
Robert Whitlock
Resident of Thurston County

Port of Olympia Commission Meeting Testimony:
The Legality of US Actions in Iraq
vîs a vîs
The Shipment of Military Cargoes Through the Port

In light of the illegality of the ongoing occupation of Iraq by US military forces, I request and urge the Commissioners of the Port of Olympia to adopt an official policy relating to the shipment of military goods through the Port of Olympia. By allowing further military cargoes, the Port is aiding, abetting and enabling the Occupation – thereby subjecting itself to legal vulnerabilities. The Port, in good conscience, must stop allowing cargoes destined to further the occupation of Iraq.

Therefore, I hereby renounce my own support for the allowance of military cargoes destined to support the illegal occupation of Iraq through the Municipal Port of Olympia. Further, as a resident of Thurston County, I request legal and moral asylum from any ongoing participation, by the Port, in the Occupation. I hereby formally revoke assent so as to absolve myself from complicity in the County’s support for the illegal military actions.

But it is not enough to politically revoke my complicity or formally request legal asylum. It is my duty as a citizen to actively oppose the illegal actions of my government. In so doing, I will present evidence to convince the Commission of the basis for my legal understanding of the US presence in Iraq.

Here’s a brief outline of some legal issues relating to the actions of the US in Iraq:
  1. Article VI of the Constitution (USA) says:
    “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any state to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

  2. The Principles of Nuremberg were adopted by the United Nations International Law Commission, in 1950. We have seen the Bush Administration’s prewar intelligence for what it is – a fraud. It is clear that there was no legitimate military motive for launching the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq; therefore the war can only be viewed as a war of choice – a war of aggression. The Principles of Nuremberg are enlightening in regard to the invasion and occupation (and conduct thereof) of Iraq:
    Principle Vl
    The crimes hereinafter set out are punishable as crimes under international law:

    a. Crimes against peace:

    i. Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;
    ii. Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i). [emphasis added]

    b. War crimes:

    Violations of the laws or customs of war which include, but are not limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave-labor or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or illtreatment of prisoners of war, of persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.

    c. Crimes against humanity:

    Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhuman acts done against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds, when such acts are done or such persecutions are carried on in execution of or in connection with any crime against peace or any war crime.

    Principle VII
    Complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity as set forth in Principles VI is a crime under international law. [emphasis added]

  3. Former Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, said the unilateral invasion of Iraq violated internationally recognized legal agreements. Annan said that the USA’s actions in Iraq violated the UN Charter, which requires Security Council approval before the invasion of a sovereign nation.
All of this information is public. I hope this list makes it clear that there is a firm legal basis for my assertion that the war is, indeed, illegal. I request that the Port develop a clear policy relating to any possible future military cargoes destined to Iraq. I ask that the Port deny any further cargoes that are designed to further the occupation of Iraq. Please, do not hesitate to ask me if you have any further questions or to request more information.

Thank you.

Robert Whitlock

16 February 2007

Beaver Dam Pond

Beaver Dam Pond, originally uploaded by rwhitlock.

From McLane Creek Nature Trail.

12 February 2007

Dick Cheney Resorts to Obscenity

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Cheney Dismisses Critic With Obscenity
Clash With Leahy About Halliburton
By Helen Dewar and Dana Milbank
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, June 25, 2004; Page A04

A brief argument between Vice President Cheney and a senior Democratic senator led Cheney to utter a big-time obscenity on the Senate floor this week.

On Tuesday, Cheney, serving in his role as president of the Senate, appeared in the chamber for a photo session. A chance meeting with Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, became an argument about Cheney's ties to Halliburton Co., an international energy services corporation, and President Bush's judicial nominees. The exchange ended when Cheney offered some crass advice.

"Fuck yourself," said the man who is a heartbeat from the presidency.

Leahy's spokesman, David Carle, yesterday confirmed the brief but fierce exchange. "The vice president seemed to be taking personally the criticism that Senator Leahy and others have leveled against Halliburton's sole-source contracts in Iraq," Carle said.

As it happens, the exchange occurred on the same day the Senate passed legislation described as the "Defense of Decency Act" by 99 to 1.
This was not the first foray into French by Cheney and his boss. During the 2000 campaign, Bush pointed out a New York Times reporter to Cheney and said, without knowing the microphone was picking it up, "major-league [expletive]." Cheney's response -- "Big Time" -- has become his official presidential nickname.
Is this the kind of behavior that we expect or require from the holders of the highest elected offices? I think that we are delinquent as a nation, for allowing these men to remain in office far past their date of expiry.

10 February 2007

Pentagon Deception

Two more years of this. And then what? Something has to give.
Pentagon office produced 'alternative' intelligence on Iraq

By Jonathan S. Landay
McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON - A special unit run by former Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld's top policy aide inappropriately produced "alternative" intelligence reports that wrongly concluded that Saddam Hussein's regime had cooperated with al-Qaida, a Pentagon investigation has determined.

The Department of Defense Inspector General's Office found that former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith and his staff had done nothing illegal or unauthorized.

But Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who requested the investigation, called the findings "devastating" because senior administration officials, particularly Vice President Dick Cheney, used Feith's work to help make their case for the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.

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Mountain Range - Sign - Tree

Olympic Mountains

"Century of Change"

Tree Perspective

09 February 2007

Iran and Iraq and 'Inconsistent' Intelligence

Two stories to keep you busy this weekend, dear reader (i.e. Mom.)
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Senators Debate Significance of Pentagon Report On Intelligence

By Walter Pincus and Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, February 10, 2007; Page A01

Senate Democrats and Republicans disagreed yesterday over the meaning and importance of a Defense Department inspector general's conclusion that a Pentagon policy office produced and gave senior policymakers "alternative intelligence assessments on Iraq and Al Qaida relations" that were "inconsistent" with the intelligence community's consensus view in the lead-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
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Iran will strike U.S. interests if attacked
By Jonathan S. Landay
McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON - Iran's supreme leader ratcheted up tensions with the United States on Thursday, warning that his country would strike American interests around the world in retaliation for any U.S. strike on Iran.

At the same time, a senior Iranian diplomat said that his country was ready to participate in diplomatic efforts to reduce instability in the Middle East, including the sectarian bloodshed unleashed by the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

The Iranian statements follow U.S. charges that Tehran is shipping weapons to Shiite Muslim militias in Iraq for attacks on American forces. U.S. and Iraqi forces have detained Iranian operatives in Iraq, and President Bush's dispatched a second aircraft carrier strike force and additional anti-missile batteries to the Persian Gulf.
[edit]and one more:
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Target Iran: US able to strike in the spring

Despite denials, Pentagon plans for possible attack on nuclear sites are well advanced

Ewen MacAskill in Washington
Saturday February 10, 2007
The Guardian

US preparations for an air strike against Iran are at an advanced stage, in spite of repeated public denials by the Bush administration, according to informed sources in Washington.

The present military build-up in the Gulf would allow the US to mount an attack by the spring. But the sources said that if there was an attack, it was more likely next year, just before Mr Bush leaves office.

Neo-conservatives, particularly at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute, are urging Mr Bush to open a new front against Iran. So too is the vice-president, Dick Cheney...

Budd Bay and Percival Landing and Carbon River Hike

Budd Bay from Percival LandingThis seems to be out of focus. I took it as I was leaving a weekly peace vigil that I attend. I was leaving early because the automotive exhaust was exacerbating my symptoms of bronchitis. My bronchial passageways have become very irritated in the past month. Something in the air?

WaterfallThis photo was taken on a hike to Mt. Rainier's Carbon Glacier.

City of Olympia Bring Them Home Resolution

The City Council of Olympia Washington recently passed a historic resolution that calls on the President and Congress of the U.S.A. to immediately commence plans to end the occupation and bring all U.S. troops safely home from Iraq.

The resolution will be forwarded not only to Washington State's National Congressional delegation, but to the entire US congress, all 535 members. A nice touch, in my opinion.

Here is a link to a PDF of the draft resolution that was voted on (with a friendly amendment) and passed unanimously by the seven-person council this past Tuesday, Feb 6th, 2007: Full Text (minus friendly amendment.)

link to OMJP

link to City of Olympia

08 February 2007

Iran in the Crosshairs

This is a Tom Englehardt (Tomdispatch.com) article. Englehardt has some startling insights and has connected and collected a lot of information in regard to the potential for a military confrontation between the U.S.A. and Iran.

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Former officials are now crawling out of the Washington woodwork to denounce Bush/Cheney policy in Iraq and Iran with the fervor (however masked by official Washington language) of an exorcism. There, for instance, is former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski in front of Congress, more or less predicting the end of the Roman… sorry, the American empire:
"The war in Iraq is a historic, strategic, and moral calamity. Undertaken under false assumptions, it is undermining America's global legitimacy. Its collateral civilian casualties as well as some abuses are tarnishing America's moral credentials. Driven by Manichean impulses and imperial hubris, it is intensifying regional instability… If the United States continues to be bogged down in a protracted bloody involvement in Iraq, the final destination on this downhill track is likely to be a head-on conflict with Iran and with much of the world of Islam at large… A mythical historical narrative to justify the case for such a protracted and potentially expanding war is already being articulated…"

Photos from Oly

Downtown Oly Panorama

Tree Under Street Light

07 February 2007

Top Planners Expect Troop 'Surge' to Fail

This article appears in Salon.com - please take a look at it.
The Pentagon's not-so-little secret

As the president and Republicans continue to hype the surge -- and stifle debate about it -- Bush's own war planners are preparing for failure in Iraq.

By Sidney Blumenthal

Feb. 8, 2007 | Deep within the bowels of the Pentagon, policy planners are conducting secret meetings to discuss what to do in the worst-case scenario in Iraq about a year from today if and when President Bush's escalation of more than 20,000 troops fails, a participant in those discussions told me. None of those who are taking part in these exercises, shielded from the public view and the immediate scrutiny of the White House, believes that the so-called surge will succeed. On the contrary, everyone thinks it will not only fail to achieve its aims but also accelerate instability by providing a glaring example of U.S. incapacity and incompetence.

The profoundly pessimistic thinking that permeates the senior military and the intelligence community, however, is forbidden in the sanitized atmosphere of mind-cure boosterism that surrounds Bush. "He's tried this two times -- it's failed twice," Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said on Jan. 24 about the "surge" tactic. "I asked him at the White House, 'Mr. President, why do you think this time it's going to work?' And he said, 'Because I told them it had to.'" She repeated his words: "'I told them that they had to.' That was the end of it. That's the way it is."

On Feb. 2, the National Intelligence Council, representing all intelligence agencies, issued a new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, as harsh an antidote to wishful thinking as could be imagined. "The Intelligence Community judges that the term 'civil war' does not adequately capture the complexity of the conflict in Iraq, which includes extensive Shia-on-Shia violence, al-Qaida and Sunni insurgent attacks on Coalition forces, and widespread criminally motivated violence. Nonetheless, the term 'civil war' accurately describes key elements of the Iraqi conflict, including the hardening of ethno-sectarian identities, a sea change in the character of the violence, ethno-sectarian mobilization, and population displacements."
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More Photos from Watada Rally

Peace Dove

Link to more pictures of Monday's rally: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rwhitlock/sets/72157594523285250/

04 February 2007

Olympia at Night

Tomorrow is the big day at Ft. Lewis for Ehren Watada. I am planning on attending some of the rallies and vigils, so it is straight to be and sleep for me!

02 February 2007

Brown White and Blue

Brown White and Blue

Legality of U.S. Actions in Iraq

Two weeks ago, citizens from around the United States gathered at The Evergreen State College Tacoma Campus for a hearing on the legality of U.S. actions in Iraq. The gathering was prompted by First Lieutenant Ehren Watada's (thankyoult.org) courageous refusal to deploy for service in what he considers to be the illegal and immoral occupation of Iraq.

Watada believes that the war was justified on false premises, and that there was no true military cause or necessity for the invasion and subsequent ongoing occupation. As such, the war can be seen as a war of choice, i.e. a war of aggression.

The Citizen's Hearing panelists have recently released a report of their findings. It can be found here.

Please support Watada's courageous and principled stand in opposition to an illegal, immoral, aggressive and imperialist military action.

Tree in Bloom

Tree in Bloom

Foggy Weather

Foggy Morning

A zone of high pressure has parked itself over the Puget Sound over the past couple weeks, and there have been a lot of cold nights, which have given way to dense fog, which usually burns off by late morning or early afternoon and leaves the sky open and clear, and the cycle repeats itself. I love the fog personally. But the freezing fog is unpleasant on the lungs.

The air mass has become stagnant at the same time, due to thermal inversion and a lack of mixing. So there is a lot of pollution - smoke and particulates - in the air as well. My lungs could use some fresh air.

01 February 2007

The Decider

The problem is that Bush is the decider, but his decisions are not good ones. His decisions are not right for America, for Iraq, or for the world.

It's not okay to decide to invade and occupy a nation because of a desire to control its natural resources (that's oil, folks).

And that is what the USA has done in Iraq. The invasion and nearly 4 years of occupation have been about establishing geo-strategic and geo-economic dominance. It's a Project for a New American Century.

In other words, Iraq is hot property, and George Bush (et al.) decided to go for it; whatever the cost. Unfortunately, the cost has been immeasurably high for a great many uncounted hundreds of thousands Iraqis and Americans alike, who have suffered grievous harm as a result of the callous and careless, illegal and immoral war of aggression that the Bush Administration has foisted upon the world.