Sunday, January 28, 2007


On January 25, we were at Portland City Hall for the press conference of Congressman Earl Blumenauer, Oregon 3rd District, about his "New Direction for Iraq Act of 2007." Explaining that, for the past six years under Republican control, congressional Democrats could not hold hearings or introduce legislation, Earl presented a summary of his proposed legislation. I'm highlighting this proposed act here because it is a lot more than a plan and timetable for withdrawal of US military forces; Earl's legislation addresses and plans for corrections of the very serious flaws in US actions in Iraq, US foreign policy in the Middle East, and war profiteering resulting from the outsourcing of the war effort. Equally important, the legislation addresses the needs of the Iraqi people for security, jobs, an end to sectarian conflict, and reconciliation. The US has broken Iraq, and Earl's proposed legislation is perhaps our best shot to help mend it.

In their last gasps of administration, the Bushies are still trying to find a way to "victory" by "surging" more US troops into Iraq, and using the same old worn out red herrings that anyone opposing this escalation is "emboldening the enemy." Nothing can embolden the enemies of peace and democracy more than the failed invasion and occupation of Iraq by the Bush Administration, and the continuation of their failed policies. Congressman Blumenauer has proposed a series of reasoned and reasonable steps for coming out of the Iraq mess with the possibility of hope for the Iraqi people, US military forces and their families, and the credibility of our country. It's about time!

Photo: Congressman Earl Blumenauer (foreground), Portland, Oregon Mayor Tom Potter (background); photo copyright:

Friday, January 19, 2007


A clever plan to solve Portland's increasing traffic congestion has been quietly implemented by the City of Portland, Oregon. Faced with a rapidly growing population (another one million people in the next 20 years) and a limited capacity to handle traffic, the new City plan makes mass transit use a more attractive option for commuters. The plan is ingenious in it's simplicity: make travel by automobile so difficult, people will flock to mass transit or other options.

Evidence of the Plan is visible everywhere in the city. Closures or lane restrictions on one or more Willamette River bridges, streets closed for construction without adequate warning or signage, detours that lead nowhere, areas of the city that seem impossible to get to from where you are. The frustration of all this makes drivers think about the bus, light rail, streetcar, bicycling, walking, and even The Tram. Brilliant!

The only possible down-side of this plan is the transit mess downtown resulting from new light rail construction. Oh well, nothing is perfect.

Monday, January 15, 2007


It is fitting, on the U.S. holiday Martin Luther King Jr. Day, to contemplate the condition of our world in terms of human relations. There is so much hatred of "the other" that one has to wonder if humanity can survive.

A small science item in the local newspaper truly enlightens the discussion: "Fossil skull offers proof modern humans migrated out of Africa." A team of scientists has concluded that a skull of modern humans (the species Homo sapiens) found about 50 years ago in South Africa closely resembles those of humans in Europe, far-eastern Asia and Australia from the same time period, about 36,000 years ago. This finding corroborates archaeological and genetic evidence by providing a crucial fossil link for the period of 70,000 to 15,000 years ago.

This additional support for the conclusion that modern humans originated in sub-Saharan Africa and migrated to Europe and Asia is meaningful for all people on Earth today: we are all related, and our common ancestors were Africans.

Alas poor Yorick, I knew him, Horatio!

Saturday, January 13, 2007


President Bush's speech the other night seems to have been about as convincing as Richard Nixon's statement "I'm not a crook." The way I interpret Bush's bold "new way forward" is that the U.S. will rely on the Iraqi government to provide the security it has never been able to provide. Great plan, George!

I have three key questions that Congress needs to ask, and that President Bush needs to answer, before this new plan is supported:

1. What do the Iraqi people want? I think the Iraqi people should decide whether or not they want an escalation (no Condi, it is not an "enhancement") of the U.S. occupation of their country. Iraq is, after all, a democracy, isn't it?

WPO Report dated January 13, 2007. A new poll of the Iraqi public finds that a large majority of Iraqis think the US plans to maintain bases in Iraq permanently, even if the newly elected government asks the US to leave. A large majority favors setting a timeline for the withdrawal of US forces, though this majority divides over whether the timeline should be over a period of six months or two years. Nearly half of Iraqis approve of attacks on US-led forces—including nine out of 10 Sunnis. Most Iraqis believe that many aspects of their lives will improve once the US-led forces leave, but are nonetheless uncertain that Iraqi security forces are ready to stand on their own.

CNN Report dated September 27, 2006. Seventy-one percent of Iraqis responding to a new survey favor a commitment by U.S.-led forces in Iraq to withdraw in a year.

2. How do you define "victory." President Bush and his apologists insist that the U.S. must have a victory, and that a defeat would be a disaster. But has anyone defined what a victory is, and how we'll know when we have one?

The definition of a victory should be based on achieving the goals of the invasion and occupation. Now, this has been a moving target since the beginning, but this is what I remember:

Mission 1: find and destroy weapons of mass destruction. Well, we looked, and there weren't any, so that mission was accomplished, and that equals victory.

Mission 2 (stated when Mission 1 didn't pan out): depose the evil dictator Saddam Hussein. He was deposed, he was tried, he was hanged. Mission accomplished, and that's a victory.

Mission 3: create a democratic government in Iraq. Well, the Iraqi's wrote a constitution, they had democratic elections, they have a democratically elected government. Mission accomplished, another victory (wow, three for three!!).

So what's the problem here? Come on guys, if fact isn't good enough, certainly Carl Rove can spin it so everyone is convinced that victory is ours!

And by the way, Bush's rhetoric about "winning the war on terror" is a red herring in this conversation. If he wanted to win the so called "war on terror" he should not have established the world's largest terrorist training camp - Iraq - in the first place. Show me the analysis that says Iraq is the key to world terrorism. This is more of the Bush-Cheney scare tactics.

3. What's the price tag for this "surge?" Why would any American buy an expanded occupation in Iraq without first knowing the cost? The Iraq War is not a budget item in The Decider's budget - I have no idea how it's paid for (but I bet my grandkids will find out). A government agency recently published their calculation that this misadventure is costing two billion dollars per week ($2,000,000,000). That's one hundred four billion dollars per year ($104,000,000,000). Who approved that kind of expenditure? Congress needs to get ahold of the purse strings and cut of this irresponsible little boy's allowance, unless he can really justify why American taxpayer money should be spent like this. Talk about fiscal irresponsibility!

So, let's review: the Iraqi people don't seem to want us there, victory has already been achieved at least three times, and this occupation is costing us a fortune, using money that could be doing a lot of good right here at home. And the President wants us to commit more troops (with many more injuries and deaths), many more billions of dollars, and further destroy the reputation of the United States in the eyes of the world.

I would say it's a no brainer.