30 May 2007

Kniphofia Flower

Native to South Africa, this flower was photographed in Olympia Washington.
Kniphofia Flower
[edit:] By the way, I welcome constructive criticism of this photograph, and anything posted to this blog - for that matter.

- Rob

28 May 2007

Remember Vietnam

Washington State Vietnam Memorial:
Washington State Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Tens of thousands of American Uniformed Servicemen died in Vietnam without good reason. Does this sound familiar?

Bring them home from Iraq now.

24 May 2007

23 May 2007

Responding to President Bush

From the BBC: US President George W Bush has shared intelligence that Osama Bin Laden was seeking in 2005 to set up an al-Qaeda cell in Iraq to strike US targets.
These allegations from President Bush have no credibility. He also said that there was WMD in Iraq. He said that Saddam Hussein posed a threat to US targets maybe even in the form of mushroom clouds from nuclear explosions.

President Bush is known to have been involved in a scheme wherein the "facts were being fixed around the policy" of invading Iraq.

I would advise taking the President's assessment of threat with a grain of salt.

God forbid against more terrorist attacks in the USA. But it seems that Bush's unjustified and unnecessary invasion of Iraq has opened the window to the increased possibility of such attacks. The invasion and occupation have inflamed anti-US sentiments. The occupation leaves the USA open to retaliation.

It's time to begin the healing process by implementing a systematic and complete withdrawal of US forces from Iraq.

21 May 2007

Capital City 2007 Half-Marathon Results

I finished the half-marathon. I am happy with my performance. I came in 110/797 overall; 91-327 amongst men overall; and 13/29 amongst males in my age group (25 to 29 years old). Click here for results.

My finish time was 1 hour 42 minutes and 11 seconds. More information can be found at the official Capital City Marathon site.

More Purple Flowers

Which version do you prefer, 1 or 2?

Purple Rhododendron

19 May 2007

Purple Flowers

I am running my first Half-Marathon tomorrow. Wish me luck!
Ready to Run

Here is some Lavender for you. Have a good day!
Purple Flowers

18 May 2007

Orange Flowers

Let's End the Occupation of Iraq.

Orange Flowers

60 Iraqis Killed Yesterday

It is Friday in Iraq. Yesterday, 60 Iraqis were killed as a result of violence. These were deaths that would not have occurred had the US not belligerently and aggressively invaded. The invasion was, and the occupation is, unjustified by national security prerogatives.

There was no WMD in Iraq prior to the invasion. There was no insurgency, no "al-quaeda," and no terrorism. Iraq did not pose a threat to US national security.

The occupation is making the US less safe from global terrorism by fanning the flames of anti-USA sentiment around the world.

Here's a link to a story from Washingtonpost.com about the violence in Iraq and the potential for national collapse.

16 May 2007

Chalmers Johnson - Evil Empire

This article is truly worth reading in full. It is well written and full of great information. From Tomdispatch.com: go to original

Evil Empire

Is Imperial Liquidation Possible for America?
By Chalmers Johnson

In politics, as in medicine, a cure based on a false diagnosis is almost always worthless, often worsening the condition that is supposed to be healed. The United States, today, suffers from a plethora of public ills. Most of them can be traced to the militarism and imperialism that have led to the near-collapse of our Constitutional system of checks and balances. Unfortunately, none of the remedies proposed so far by American politicians or analysts addresses the root causes of the problem.

According to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, released on April 26, 2007, some 78% of Americans believe their country to be headed in the wrong direction. Only 22% think the Bush administration's policies make sense, the lowest number on this question since October 1992, when George H. W. Bush was running for a second term -- and lost. What people don't agree on are the reasons for their doubts and, above all, what the remedy -- or remedies -- ought to be.


15 May 2007

Batiste on Iraq

General Batiste is not antiwar. But I agree with him insofar as the futility of the occupation and non-necessity of invasion. I wonder how many military personnel are becoming more sympathetic and in line with antiwar views given the sheer idiocy of the current policies in Iraq.

You can view a segment he did on Olbermann's Countdown here on Truthout.org.
Batiste: Keith, this is less about deadlines and timelines than it is about coming to grips with the fact that we went to war with a fatally flawed strategy, flawed then in March of 2003, flawed today over four years later. This is all about a president who's relying almost solely on the military component of strategy to accomplish the mission in Iraq.

Sadly, we're missing the diplomatic, the political, and the economic components that are fundamental and required to be successful...

14 May 2007


One of the wonderful things about the Rhododendron is the longevity of its blooms.

Light and Dark

This is the dividing line between light and dark - between light and day - on Earth as see from a commercial jet airplane at cruising altitude:
Sunset at 29,000 feet

Marine Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold (RETIRED)

Excerpted from an article posted on Time.com in April of 2006:
go to original

General Newbold:


From 2000 until October 2002, I was a Marine Corps lieutenant general and director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. After 9/11, I was a witness and therefore a party to the actions that led us to the invasion of Iraq--an unnecessary war. Inside the military family, I made no secret of my view that the zealots' rationale for war made no sense. And I think I was outspoken enough to make those senior to me uncomfortable. But I now regret that I did not more openly challenge those who were determined to invade a country whose actions were peripheral to the real threat--al-Qaeda. I retired from the military four months before the invasion, in part because of my opposition to those who had used 9/11's tragedy to hijack our security policy. Until now, I have resisted speaking out in public. I've been silent long enough.

I am driven to action now by the missteps and misjudgments of the White House and the Pentagon, and by my many painful visits to our military hospitals. In those places, I have been both inspired and shaken by the broken bodies but unbroken spirits of soldiers, Marines and corpsmen returning from this war. The cost of flawed leadership continues to be paid in blood. The willingness of our forces to shoulder such a load should make it a sacred obligation for civilian and military leaders to get our defense policy right. They must be absolutely sure that the commitment is for a cause as honorable as the sacrifice.

With the encouragement of some still in positions of military leadership, I offer a challenge to those still in uniform: a leader's responsibility is to give voice to those who can't--or don't have the opportunity to--speak. Enlisted members of the armed forces swear their oath to those appointed over them; an officer swears an oath not to a person but to the Constitution. The distinction is important.


What we are living with now is the consequences of successive policy failures. Some of the missteps include: the distortion of intelligence in the buildup to the war, McNamara-like micromanagement that kept our forces from having enough resources to do the job, the failure to retain and reconstitute the Iraqi military in time to help quell civil disorder, the initial denial that an insurgency was the heart of the opposition to occupation, alienation of allies who could have helped in a more robust way to rebuild Iraq, and the continuing failure of the other agencies of our government to commit assets to the same degree as the Defense Department. My sincere view is that the commitment of our forces to this fight was done with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions--or bury the results.


To be sure, the Bush Administration and senior military officials are not alone in their culpability. Members of Congress--from both parties--defaulted in fulfilling their constitutional responsibility for oversight. Many in the media saw the warning signs and heard cautionary tales before the invasion from wise observers like former Central Command chiefs Joe Hoar and Tony Zinni but gave insufficient weight to their views.

12 May 2007

Retired General Speaks of Iraq Mismanagement

go to original
Army Career Behind Him, General Speaks Out on Iraq

ROCHESTER, May 10 — John Batiste has traveled a long way in the last four years, from commanding the First Infantry Division in Iraq to quitting the Army after three decades in uniform and, now, from his new life overseeing a steel factory here, to openly challenging President Bush on his management of the war.

“Mr. President, you did not listen,” General Batiste says in new television advertisements being broadcast in Republican Congressional districts as part of a $500,000 campaign financed by VoteVets.org. “You continue to pursue a failed strategy that is breaking our great Army and Marine Corps. I left the Army in protest in order to speak out. Mr. President, you have placed our nation in peril. Our only hope is that Congress will act now to protect our fighting men and women.”

Those are powerful, inflammatory words from General Batiste, a retired major general who spent 31 years in the Army, a profession sworn to unflinching loyalty to civilian control of the military. Many senior officers say privately that talk like this makes them uncomfortable; when you pin that first star on your shoulder, they say, your first name becomes “General” for the rest of your life.

But General Batiste says he has received no phone calls, letters or messages from current or former officers challenging his public stance, although he occasionally gets an anonymous e-mail message with the heading “Traitor.” Having quit the Army in anger at what he calls mismanagement of the Iraq war, he says he chose a second career far from Washington and the Pentagon so that he could speak freely on military issues.

“I am outraged, as are the majority of Americans,” General Batiste said over sandwiches in a blue-collar diner here. “I am a lifelong Republican. But it is past time for change.”

Bush Unpopular over Health Care

Two articles for juxtaposition:
Moore blasts Bush over film-trip probe

By DAVID GERMAIN, AP Movie Writer Fri May 11, 7:09 PM ET

LOS ANGELES - Filmmaker Michael Moore has asked the Bush administration to call off an investigation of his trip to Cuba to get treatment for ailing Sept. 11 rescue workers for a segment in his upcoming health-care expose, "Sicko."

Moore, who made the hit documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11" assailing President Bush ‘s handling of Sept. 11, said in a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson on Friday that the White House may have opened the investigation for political reasons.

"I understand why the Bush administration is coming after me — I have tried to help the very people they refuse to help, but until George W. Bush outlaws helping your fellow man, I have broken no laws and I have nothing to hide."

"This time, we didn‘t want the fight, because the movie unites both sides," Weinstein said. "We‘ve shown the movie to Republicans. Both sides of the bench love the film. The pharmaceutical industry won‘t like the movie. HMOs will try to run us out of town, but that‘s not relevant to the situation.

The health-care industry Moore skewers in "Sicko" was a major contributor to Bush‘s 2004 re-election campaign and to Republican candidates over the last four years, Moore wrote...
"...Bush’s approval ratings are lowest for his handling of Iraq and domestic issues including health care, with about one-third seeing him favorably. About four in 10 like the job he is doing on the economy and foreign policy..."

Iraqi Parliamentarians Oppose Occupation

US mainstream media is loath to report on opposition within the ranks of the members of Iraq's Parliament regarding the occupation.
Majority of Iraqi Lawmakers Now Reject Occupation
By Raed Jarrar and Joshua Holland

On Tuesday, without note in the U.S. media, more than half of the members of Iraq's parliament rejected the continuing occupation of their country. 144 lawmakers signed onto a legislative petition calling on the United States to set a timetable for withdrawal, according to Nassar Al-Rubaie, a spokesman for the Al Sadr movement, the nationalist Shia group that sponsored the petition.

It's a hugely significant development. Lawmakers demanding an end to the occupation now have the upper hand in the Iraqi legislature for the first time; previous attempts at a similar resolution fell just short of the 138 votes needed to pass (there are 275 members of the Iraqi parliament, but many have fled the country's civil conflict, and at times it's been difficult to arrive at a quorum).

Reached by phone in Baghdad on Tuesday, Al-Rubaie said that he would present the petition, which is nonbinding, to the speaker of the Iraqi parliament and demand that a binding measure be put to a vote. Under Iraqi law, the speaker must present a resolution that's called for by a majority of lawmakers, but there are significant loopholes and what will happen next is unclear.

What is clear is that while the U.S. Congress dickers over timelines and benchmarks, Baghdad faces a major political showdown of its own. The major schism in Iraqi politics is not between Sunni and Shia or supporters of the Iraqi government and "anti-government forces," nor is it a clash of "moderates" against "radicals"; the defining battle for Iraq at the political level today is between nationalists trying to hold the Iraqi state together and separatists backed, so far, by the United States and Britain.

The continuing occupation of Iraq and the allocation of Iraq's resources -- especially its massive oil and natural gas deposits -- are the defining issues that now separate an increasingly restless bloc of nationalists in the Iraqi parliament from the administration of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose government is dominated by Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish separatists.

News from Al Jazeera

09 May 2007


I picked up some new glasses today. The lenses are so much better than the old ones!

06 May 2007

These Deaths are Unacceptable

Already 25 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq in the first 6 days of May.

Further occupation related deaths in Iraq are unacceptable. Not one more American soldier ought to lose his or her life. Not one more Iraqi ought to lose his or her life.

The occupation is plainly unjustified by any real national security need. There is no legitimate justification for the continued militaristic occupation of Iraq. The continued presence of the US military is a destabilizing influence. The US presence is exacerbating sectarian tensions.

The Bush administration must be opposed from establishing an ability for international oil corporations to exploit and reap profits off of the oil that exists under (and "floats") the nation of Iraq.

No blood for oil. The US federal government has made the world less safe from the threat of terrorism.

I, as an American Citizen, will not stand for this any longer. Immediate de-escalation and withdraw are necessary. Reparations must be made to the Iraqi people for the devastation of their lives and livelihoods.

The Occupation of Iraq: Not In My Name!

05 May 2007


Although the concept of freedom may in actuality be quite hollow, there are certain freedoms, which are fundamental to the good life. These freedoms include religion, association, and speech.

Contrary to President Bush's rhetoric about freedom and democracy, life has taken a turn for the worse, in regard to freedom, since he has been in office - both in Iraq and in the USA. Now, I don't think it is the most effective strategy to challenge Bush. Because I think that the democrats are equally capable of maintaining the type of tyranny we are currently experiencing. The two party duopoly is a problem. But I am not sure that there is a political solution.

I think the solution is economic and social. The solution is to "make like a tree and just walk away." : )

But, the reason that we need change is because we have a system in which the "most powerful" decision maker on Earth (i.e. 'President' Bush) is able to say that we are in Iraq to fight for freedom. And no one has presented a practical challenge to his rule. It is up to we the people. Congress won't do it. They're in cahoots. They might make some noise, but in terms of fundamental change...well, I'll believe it when I see it (feel free to show me.)

Anyway, what is freedom? A fundamentally important freedom is the freedom from fear. To be able to live without fear. Fear of being persecuted or targeted because of belief or ideology or lifestyle; I want to live in a society that is free of that type of fear.

Fear is the enemy. It seems that in the current political climate George Bush is free to spew hateful and fearsome rhetoric. The main streams of media must challenge this trend, but instead they just sit by idly and play along.

Ultimately it will be people like you and me who make a conscious decision to withdraw our participation in this current economic and political system. Many are already taking steps in this direction. Because a better world is possible. A better society is possible. The potential, for not only stability, true freedom and security, but also a beautification of the environment and our lives is great. But in order to actually fulfill an alternative society, the bonds that tie us to this current system - of exploitative manipulation of nature and each other, and of colossal destruction and waste - must be severed.

US Soldiers Murdering Iraqis

Killing innocent civilians is tantamount to murder. It is murder. An effective effort must be made by the Pentagon to remedy this serious violation of ethics and human rights. Civilians have a right to live without fear of being raped, killed or tortured by an occupying military force.
go to original

Associated Press Writer

In a survey of U.S. troops in combat in Iraq, less than half of Marines and a little more than half of Army soldiers said they would report a member of their unit for killing or wounding an innocent civilian.

More than 40 percent support the idea of torture in some cases, and 10 percent reported personally abusing Iraqi civilians, the Pentagon said Friday in what it called its first ethics study of troops at the war front. Units exposed to the most combat were chosen for the study, officials said.
Only 47 percent of the soldiers and 38 percent of Marines said noncombatants should be treated with dignity and respect.


Which version do you like more?

Pink RhododendronPink Rhododendron

Red over brown at QB.
Molding or Trim

02 May 2007

Oil Grabbing in Iraq

I've never handled crude oil, but I can imagine that it's slippery (though maybe it's more sticky...) Anyway, check out Antonia Juhasz's account of the power grab for control over the petroleum under the sands of Iraq:
go to original

Whose Oil Is It, Anyway?
by Antonia Juahsz, New York Times
March 13th, 2007

TODAY more than three-quarters of the world’s oil is owned and controlled by governments. It wasn’t always this way.

Until about 35 years ago, the world’s oil was largely in the hands of seven corporations based in the United States and Europe. Those seven have since merged into four: ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell and BP. They are among the world’s largest and most powerful financial empires. But ever since they lost their exclusive control of the oil to the governments, the companies have been trying to get it back.

Iraq’s oil reserves — thought to be the second largest in the world — have always been high on the corporate wish list. In 1998, Kenneth Derr, then chief executive of Chevron, told a San Francisco audience, “Iraq possesses huge reserves of oil and gas — reserves I’d love Chevron to have access to.”

A new oil law set to go before the Iraqi Parliament this month would, if passed, go a long way toward helping the oil companies achieve their goal. The Iraq hydrocarbon law would take the majority of Iraq’s oil out of the exclusive hands of the Iraqi government and open it to international oil companies for a generation or more.

In March 2001, the National Energy Policy Development Group (better known as Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy task force), which included executives of America’s largest energy companies, recommended that the United States government support initiatives by Middle Eastern countries “to open up areas of their energy sectors to foreign investment.” One invasion and a great deal of political engineering by the Bush administration later, this is exactly what the proposed Iraq oil law would achieve. It does so to the benefit of the companies, but to the great detriment of Iraq’s economy, democracy and sovereignty.

Since the invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration has been aggressive in shepherding the oil law toward passage. It is one of the president’s benchmarks for the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a fact that Mr. Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Gen. William Casey, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and other administration officials are publicly emphasizing with increasing urgency.

The administration has highlighted the law’s revenue sharing plan, under which the central government would distribute oil revenues throughout the nation on a per capita basis. But the benefits of this excellent proposal are radically undercut by the law’s many other provisions — these allow much (if not most) of Iraq’s oil revenues to flow out of the country and into the pockets of international oil companies.

The law would transform Iraq’s oil industry from a nationalized model closed to American oil companies except for limited (although highly lucrative) marketing contracts, into a commercial industry, all-but-privatized, that is fully open to all international oil companies.

The Iraq National Oil Company would have exclusive control of just 17 of Iraq’s 80 known oil fields, leaving two-thirds of known — and all of its as yet undiscovered — fields open to foreign control.

The foreign companies would not have to invest their earnings in the Iraqi economy, partner with Iraqi companies, hire Iraqi workers or share new technologies. They could even ride out Iraq’s current “instability” by signing contracts now, while the Iraqi government is at its weakest, and then wait at least two years before even setting foot in the country. The vast majority of Iraq’s oil would then be left underground for at least two years rather than being used for the country’s economic development.

The international oil companies could also be offered some of the most corporate-friendly contracts in the world, including what are called production sharing agreements. These agreements are the oil industry’s preferred model, but are roundly rejected by all the top oil producing countries in the Middle East because they grant long-term contracts (20 to 35 years in the case of Iraq’s draft law) and greater control, ownership and profits to the companies than other models. In fact, they are used for only approximately 12 percent of the world’s oil.

Iraq’s neighbors Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia maintain nationalized oil systems and have outlawed foreign control over oil development. They all hire international oil companies as contractors to provide specific services as needed, for a limited duration, and without giving the foreign company any direct interest in the oil produced.

Iraqis may very well choose to use the expertise and experience of international oil companies. They are most likely to do so in a manner that best serves their own needs if they are freed from the tremendous external pressure being exercised by the Bush administration, the oil corporations — and the presence of 140,000 members of the American military.

Iraq’s five trade union federations, representing hundreds of thousands of workers, released a statement opposing the law and rejecting “the handing of control over oil to foreign companies, which would undermine the sovereignty of the state and the dignity of the Iraqi people.” They ask for more time, less pressure and a chance at the democracy they have been promised.

Antonia Juhasz, an analyst with Oil Change International, a watchdog group, is the author of “The Bush Agenda: Invading the World, One Economy at a Time.”

01 May 2007

Face Off in DC Over Iraq

go to original:
By Gail Russell Chaddock | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Washington - The Democrats controlling Congress could have rushed the emergency war-funding bill they just voted to the president's desk, where a presidential veto is all but inevitable.

Instead, they're waiting until May 1 – the four-year anniversary of President Bush's "mission accomplished" speech on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln.

It's a signal of the drama about to unfold on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue as lawmakers and the White House figure out what to do after a veto. Increasingly, the most likely scenario looks like a high-stakes game of chicken where each side waits for the other to blink.

Mr. Bush says he wants a clean bill: no extra spending, no timetables or deadlines. Democrats, citing the 2006 elections, say they have a mandate to change direction in Iraq – and that the public will back them in a standoff with the White House over the war.

On Friday, the president invited lawmakers to the White House on May 2, after his veto, to discuss the "way forward." So far, neither side is disclosing negotiating points. But, in the run-up to an expected presidential veto, consensus is building around three approaches.
"It's a great bill. The president should read it and sign it," says Rep. John Murtha (D) of Pennsylvania, who chairs the House panel that drafts defense spending bills. A longtime strong supporter of the military, his repudiation of his 2002 vote supporting the use of force in Iraq gave a congressional face to the antiwar movement.
"If the president vetoes the emergency spending bill, he's the one who will be denying our troops funding and he's the one who will be denying the American people a path out of Iraq," says Sen. Joseph Biden (D) of Delaware, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a presidential candidate.