Sunday, December 8, 2013

If Accurate, This is Very Scary: "7,500,000 Bq/m3 of “Strontium-90″ detected from groundwater near [Fukushima] reactor 1"

7,500,000 Bq/m3 of “Strontium-90″ was measured from groundwater. The sampling date was 9/11/2013. They haven’t announced it for 3 months.
The location is in the seaside of reactor1. Tepco has been analyzing the groundwater around the reactor buildings.
This November, Tepco confirmed reactor1 directly leaking the coolant water out of the vessel.
(cf, Leaking part of reactor1 is made of “poly vinyl chloride” [URL])

Friday, December 6, 2013

Doug Fine's Too High to Fail

On Sunday, I'll be hosting author and journalist Doug Fine at the Firedoglake Book Salon, as he fields questions about the rapidly changing scene regarding cannabis legalization on the state level in the U.S.A.

Since publication last summer of the paperback edition of his look at organic, outdoor medicinal cannabis cultivation in California's Mendocino County, the political field on the legalization issue in various states is changing rapidly. Fine regards the passage of ballot initiatives calling for a legalization regime for recreational use in Washington state and Colorado as seminal. "It is no stretch to say that the Berlin Wall of the Drug War fell," wrote Fine in the augmented paperback edition.

I loved Too High to Fail: Cannabis and the New Green Economic Revolution so much, I soon read the author's two other books, Not Really an Alaskan Mountain Man and farewell, My Subaru:  An Epic Adventure in Local Living.

Because Fine's book is one of the most important yet published on failings and stupidities of the War on Drugs, he has been in demand for public speaking engagements on legalization issues and their ramifications.  He has taken a holistic approach toward how legalization, cultivation, marketing, product development and hemp-cannabis infrastructure might rationally work.  In that, he is in the forefront.

He recently returned from Europe, where he gave talks as part of his Drug Peace Tour.  Here he is, on November 13th, addressing the London, UK branch of NORML.  It is over 80 minutes long, but well worth watching:


  image:  Doug Fine, at his Funky Butte Ranch, with two of his goats

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

21 Ways the Canadian Health Care System is Better than Obamacare

--- by Ralph Nader

Dear America:
Costly complexity is baked into Obamacare. No health insurance system is without problems but Canadian style single-payer full Medicare for all is simple, affordable, comprehensive and universal.
In the early 1960s, President Lyndon Johnson enrolled 20 million elderly Americans into Medicare in six months. There were no websites. They did it with index cards!
Below please find 21 Ways the Canadian Health Care System is Better than Obamacare.
Repeal Obamacare and replace it with the much more efficient single-payer, everybody in, nobody out, free choice of doctor and hospital.
Love, Canada
Number 21:
In Canada, everyone is covered automatically at birth – everybody in, nobody out.
In the United States, under Obamacare, 31 million Americans will still be uninsured by 2023 and millions more will remain underinsured.
Number 20:
In Canada, the health system is designed to put people, not profits, first.
In the United States, Obamacare will do little to curb insurance industry profits and will actually enhance insurance industry profits.
Number 19:
In Canada, coverage is not tied to a job or dependent on your income – rich and poor are in the same system, the best guaranty of quality.
In the United States, under Obamacare, much still depends on your job or income. Lose your job or lose your income, and you might lose your existing health insurance or have to settle for lesser coverage.
Number 18:
In Canada, health care coverage stays with you for your entire life.
In the United States, under Obamacare, for tens of millions of Americans, health care coverage stays with you for as long as you can afford your share.
Number 17:
In Canada, you can freely choose your doctors and hospitals and keep them. There are no lists of “in-network” vendors and no extra hidden charges for going “out of network.”
In the United States, under Obamacare, the in-network list of places where you can get treated is shrinking – thus restricting freedom of choice – and if you want to go out of network, you pay for it.
Number 16:
In Canada, the health care system is funded by income, sales and corporate taxes that, combined, are much lower than what Americans pay in premiums.
In the United States, under Obamacare, for thousands of Americans, it’s pay or die – if you can’t pay, you die. That’s why many thousands will still die every year under Obamacare from lack of health insurance to get diagnosed and treated in time.
Number 15:
In Canada, there are no complex hospital or doctor bills. In fact, usually you don’t even see a bill.
In the United States, under Obamacare, hospital and doctor bills will still be terribly complex, making it impossible to discover the many costly overcharges.
Number 14:
In Canada, costs are controlled. Canada pays 10 percent of its GDP for its health care system, covering everyone.
In the United States, under Obamacare, costs continue to skyrocket. The U.S. currently pays 18 percent of its GDP and still doesn’t cover tens of millions of people.
Number 13:
In Canada, it is unheard of for anyone to go bankrupt due to health care costs.
In the United States, under Obamacare, health care driven bankruptcy will continue to plague Americans.
Number 12:
In Canada, simplicity leads to major savings in administrative costs and overhead.
In the United States, under Obamacare, complexity will lead to ratcheting up administrative costs and overhead.
Number 11:
In Canada, when you go to a doctor or hospital the first thing they ask you is: “What’s wrong?”
In the United States, the first thing they ask you is: “What kind of insurance do you have?”
Number 10:
In Canada, the government negotiates drug prices so they are more affordable.
In the United States, under Obamacare, Congress made it specifically illegal for the government to negotiate drug prices for volume purchases, so they remain unaffordable.
Number 9:
In Canada, the government health care funds are not profitably diverted to the top one percent.
In the United States, under Obamacare, health care funds will continue to flow to the top. In 2012, CEOs at six of the largest insurance companies in the U.S. received a total of $83.3 million in pay, plus benefits.
Number 8:
In Canada, there are no necessary co-pays or deductibles.
In the United States, under Obamacare, the deductibles and co-pays will continue to be unaffordable for many millions of Americans.
Number 7:
In Canada, the health care system contributes to social solidarity and national pride.
In the United States, Obamacare is divisive, with rich and poor in different systems and tens of millions left out or with sorely limited benefits.
Number 6:
In Canada, delays in health care are not due to the cost of insurance.
In the United States, under Obamacare, patients without health insurance or who are underinsured will continue to delay or forgo care and put their lives at risk.
Number 5:
In Canada, nobody dies due to lack of health insurance.
In the United States, under Obamacare, many thousands will continue to die every year due to lack of health insurance.
Number 4:
In Canada, an increasing majority supports their health care system, which costs half as much, per person, as in the United States. And in Canada, everyone is covered.
In the United States, a majority – many for different reasons – oppose Obamacare.
Number 3:
In Canada, the tax payments to fund the health care system are progressive – the lowest 20 percent pays 6 percent of income into the system while the highest 20 percent pays 8 percent.
In the United States, under Obamacare, the poor pay a larger share of their income for health care than the affluent.
Number 2:
In Canada, the administration of the system is simple. You get a health care card when you are born. And you swipe it when you go to a doctor or hospital. End of story.
In the United States, Obamacare’s 2,500 pages plus regulations (the Canadian Medicare Bill was 13 pages) is so complex that then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said before passage “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”
Number 1:
In Canada, the majority of citizens love their health care system.
In the United States, the majority of citizens, physicians, and nurses prefer the Canadian type system – single-payer, free choice of doctor and hospital , everybody in, nobody out.
For more information see Single Payer Action at

Max Blumenthal at the National Press Club Tuesday

Video streaming by Ustream

Saturday, November 30, 2013


I find the film itself quite compelling. It owes a lot in its format to the films Woodstock (split screen) and Koyaanisqatsi (split screen, minimalist-esque score, slowed motion and hypnotic images). I don’t agree with some of the inferences the director takes from Hayes’ writing, but the film is well worth viewing, in spite or its pessimism. After all, I’m far more pessimistic myself.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Elegy for JFK

The Anchorage Civic Orchestra will be giving our 2013 Fall Concert on November 22nd.  Back in late August, when we began our once-per-week rehearsals, a member observed that our concert will occur on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

The theme of our concert is Four Centuries of American Music, with works written in the 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st centuries being programmed.  After mulling over the idea for four days, I wrote this simple, direct elegy over Labor Day weekend.

The music doesn’t take a point of view in a sense of reflecting my opinions on why or how President Kennedy was killed.  It is merely a civic tribute to the man, and what he gave that day.  The sound track of the Youtube is a MIDI version, created with Finale notation software and Garritan orchestral sound samples.

I will conduct its premiere on Friday, November 22nd, in Anchorage.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Paul Jay's Real World News Interviews with Max Blumenthal

Saturday I hosted a two-hour on-line firedoglake Book Salon with Max Blumenthal, author of Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel.  I've known Max since 2008, when he came to Alaska to perform research on Sarah Palin's religious background, and religious followers.

The Real World News' Paul Jay interviewed Max recently, in five parts.  Here they are:

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

Part Four:

Part Five:

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I Will Be Hosting Max Blumenthal This Saturday, at Firedoglake's Book Salon

Bestselling author Max Blumenthal's new book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, came out on October 1st.  Reception to the book has been mixed, as it is a scathing look at the growing racism, jingoism and authoritarianism inside Israeli society.

I will be hosting Max at the two-hour on-line forum, held between 1:00 and 3:00 pm Alaska time.

Come join us.  Ask Max anything that comes to mind.

Here is the latest video interview with Max on his new book:

Vince Beltrami to Address Bartlett Club This Thursday

Should be good. Vince is an excellent, knowledgeable speaker on labor issues - as one would expect.

My teaching schedule this semester keeps me from being able to attend the Bartlett Club.  Finally, beginning in January, for the first time since Spring, 2011, I'll be able to once again attend this important weekly forum.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

As U.S. Seacoast Shows Signs of Fukushima Cesium Contamination, Radiation Levels Spike at the Meltdown Site

This is only the beginning:
New testing done by Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering found Fukushima cesium in US Pacific sea weed.  
The samples were standardized against a known amount of cesium 137 and cobalt 60. The finding of cesium 134 would indicate this is at least partially from the Fukushima nuclear disaster.   
“Washington State Pacific coast eel weed sample contained 0.22 pCi/g of Cs134 and 0.24 pCi/g of Cs137.
It also contained 0.1 pCi/g of Co60” These values converted to the more common bq/kg are:  
Cesium 134: 8.14 Bq/Kg
Cesium 137: 8.88 Bq/Kg
Cobalt 60: 3.7 Bq/Kg
Meanwhile, in the wake of last week's typhoon, radiation levels in water at the site have jumped significantly:

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Two Looks at Next Week's Intense AIPAC Lobbying of Congress, Supporting Violence Against Syria

In the last week of August, some speculated that the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) would stay out of the congressional debate about military intervention by the U.S. in Syria.  But as the whip counts add up, and it is even being questioned whether the House and Senate will even vote on resolutions supporting the President, AIPAC has let it be known that this coming week they are going to launch a major lobbying effort in the halls of congress:
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) will deploy up to 250 Jewish leaders and activists to Capitol Hill starting next week to warn members of Congress that failure to take action in Syria will raise the risk of Iran developing a nuclear bomb, officials told Politico. 
According to the report, AIPAC will lobby "virtually every member of Congress."
AIPAC's arguments about Iran are well known.  That they will highlight this, as opposed to arguments directly addressing helping the Syrian people, is quite telling.

Will this week be AIPAC-ageddon?  Or, will it be the most recent example of how much clout this lobbying organization has?

Here are two views on AIPAC's entering the field.

First, Cenk Uygur, on The Young Turks:

And Iran's Press TV:

More Rep. Alan Grayson - on RT TV, He Describes U.S. House "Whip List"

Thursday, September 5, 2013

If You Want to Send a Message, Send Hallmark, Not Missiles

It boggles the mind how enormous the gulf between the war pushers in the media and the American public is getting to be in this debate.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Come to Our Fundraiser for Jim Sykes for Mat-Su Borough Assembly

Judy, Jim and Me - at a rally for Alaskans for Clean Elections
 On Sunday, Judy and I are hosting a fundraiser for Jim Sykes.  He is running for the Mat-Su Borough Assembly seat currently held by Warren Keogh, who is stepping down:

For assembly District 1, incumbent Warren Keogh announced he won’t seek re-election. By end of day Friday, a quartet of borough residents had filed paperwork to be on the ballot. They are Douglas Glenn, Jim Sykes, George Rauscher and Glenda Smith.

Jim is one of our state's most dedicated and knowledgeable public servants.  He has been active in many issues important to Mat-Su Valley residents.  Most recently, he was a key figure is local efforts to support the referendum to repeal Senate Bill 21, the big oil giveaway:
Jim (second from right) with supporters of the Referendum to repeal SB21

The fundraiser will be from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm.  There will be refreshments, and goodies from our bounteous gardens.

What:  Fundraiser for candidate Jim Sykes for Mat-Su Borough Assembly Seat 1

When:  2:00 pm to 4:00 pm Sunday, August 25th

Where:  7127 Ea. Shorewood Drive, Wasilla, Alaska

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What Have You Let Us Become, President Obama?

I just finished watching Democracy Now's interview from Tuesday with Lavabit founder, Ladar Levison, and with Levison's attorney, Jesse Binnall.  It was a compelling interview, with Levison reminding me of absolutely nothing I've ever seen before on a news interview about how someone has had to respond to Federal government pressure.

It was all a bit disturbing, close to scary.  This statement by Levison was, to me, the most troubling:

there’s information that I can’t even share with my lawyer, let alone with the American public. So if we’re talking about secrecy, you know, it’s really been taken to the extreme. And I think it’s really being used by the current administration to cover up tactics that they may be ashamed of.

 Please watch this interview:

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Catching Up on the 2013 Vegetable Gardens

I've taken a major break from blogging this spring and summer.  I haven't posted garden pictures at all.  That is too bad, as this has been the best growing summer I can remember in Alaska.  Time to catch up!

Above is an image of the main garden.  The plants are easily twice as large in most cases than last year, which was chilly.  We've wet records this year for consecutive days over 70 degrees, and over 80.

Below are part of the beet patch:

Below is a flowering set of soy bean pods:

Green beans, ready to pick:

Runner beans, with snow peas in the background:

The potato patch, with ripening raspberries at the far right:

The burdock box:

The carrot patch:

A red cabbage, growing very fast!

The cabbage patch:

Pod peas ripening:

Red Aroch - great for salads, ready to be made into brilliant scarlet pasta noodles:

Cilantro, ready to be made into pesto:


Ripe Stupice tomatoes:

Unripe Green Zebra tomatoes:

Eight-foot tall Green Zebra tomato plant:

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Saturday Alaska Progressive Blog Roundup: Which Alaska Bloggers Qualify as "Journalists"

The U.S. Senate is in the midst of attempting to either define what it is to be a journalist in America, or to limit it.  This revolves around congressional concerns over the revelations of massive surveillance programs conducted by our government and its highly-paid contractors, by writers, radio announcers and television personalities.

These attempts to limit who qualifies as a journalist are meant to leave certain categories of people who publish information and ideas unshielded from retaliation, or exempt from so-called "whistleblower protections":
The Senate Judiciary Committee, looking to provide protections for journalists and their sources, ran into a roadblock Thursday when lawmakers couldn’t agree on the definition of “journalist.”

Under the legislation, journalists wouldn’t have to comply with subpoenas or court orders forcing them to reveal sources or confidential information unless a judge first determines there’s reason to think that a crime has occurred and government officials have exhausted all other alternatives. 
It’s the third time Congress has considered a “shield law” for journalists. Similar bills have failed despite bipartisan support.
"I’m hoping the third time’s a charm," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the committee’s chairman. 
The bill defines a journalist as a person who has a "primary intent to investigate events and procure material" in order to inform the public by regularly gathering information through interviews and observations. The person also must intend to report on the news at the start of obtaining any protected information and must plan to publish that news.

But senators disagreed on how to define journalists, since some thought the bill’s definition wasn’t specific enough.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., wondered whether it could be used to provide protections to employees of WikiLeaks, an organization that allows anonymous sources to leak information to the public.

"I’m concerned this would provide special privilege to those who are not reporters at all," she said.
Feinstein wants to have whether or not one is paid to publish and distribute information to be a limiting factor:
Feinstein suggested that the definition comprise only journalists who make salaries, saying it should be applied just to "real reporters." The sponsor of the bill, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., was against that idea, since there are bloggers and others in the Internet age who don’t necessarily receive salaries.  
"The world has changed. We’re very careful in this bill to distinguish journalists from those who shouldn’t be protected, WikiLeaks and all those, and we’ve ensured that," Schumer said. "But there are people who write and do real journalism, in different ways than we’re used to. They should not be excluded from this bill."
Not surprisingly, some, most notably from the on-line community, are concerned:
The debate comes amid a chilling climate for journalists and their sources who cross US power. Bradley Manning was found guilty Tuesday of over 20 counts including espionage and is facing a potential 136 years in jail for revealing documents to WikiLeaks that exposed US human rights abuses and corruption across the world.

"It is dangerous to rely on only those sources the government deems worthy of protection," said Nathan Fuller, writer for the Bradley Manning Support Network. "WikiLeaks is a serious news publication: it edits material and protects sources. Wikileaks has anonymous submissions because it knows its contacts don't get protection."

The bill advances following a May scandal in which Justice Department officials were publicly exposed for seizing phone records of AP reporters without due process or notice and monitoring communications of a Fox News reporter.

Meanwhile, journalists expressed outrage at Feinstein's denigration of unpaid reporters in a climate where journalism jobs are quickly disappearing and independent, and often unpaid, reporting plays a key role in exposing the truth and holding power accountable.
Alaska bloggers have been responsible, on occasion, for exposing egregious wrongs of government officials, and questioning various policies of the state of Alaska, and other government bodies or agencies.  The question of whether or not we are journalists seldom if ever comes up in such an acute way as it is during this U.S. Senate debate.

Is there a working definition of "journalist" in Alaska?  I don't think so.

During some criminal trials and civil proceedings, the people responsible for security at these proceedings seem to have been arbitrary in the past on how they treated bloggers or people not directly affiliated with a published newspaper, radio or television station.  Even though I am certainly unpaid for every article I've published at Progressive Alaska, I have seldom been excluded from a hearing, or from a press event.

Rather, the opposite has occurred:  Soon after I started this blog, I was asked to join the Alaska Press Club.  Soon afterward, one of the club's officers asked me to run for the board of directors, which I did.  I served a term, and part of another one.  Some reporters in Alaska certainly do look down on bloggers, but that's just them, not the prevailing culture.

Using Diane Feinstein's criteria of choosing "those who are not reporters at all" from any protections for uncovering wrongdoing, how many Alaska bloggers are "reporters," how many not?  Does it have to do with salary, number of hours spent per week on performing research or related efforts, and if one has a boss-editor?  Beats me.

Would my status change in Feinstein's eyes, if I started running ads at PA, like they do at The Mudflats and The Immoral Minority?  Or posted a Pay Pal button, like at The Alaska Commons?

Is Steve Aufrecht at What Do I Know?, author of by far the best series on Alaska's ongoing redistricting epic, not a journalist, merely because he doesn't beg for money, or have some other stipend related to the blog?

The Senate bill, while posing as something that will assure journalists of certain rights, is looking like it will end up limiting them.  We can also see, state statutes forbidding photographing animal abuse at meat packing plants, for instance, as doing the same - limiting rights held under the 1st Amendment.

There will be more of this, as the National Security State grows, hand-in-hand, with corporate kleptomaniacs.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Mildred Munger - 1918-2013

My mom, Milly Munger, passed away late yesterday morning, south of Seattle.

She had been playing croquet with friends at the retirement home in Des Moines, where she had been residing since March.  She had won the first game, and was having a wonderful time, when her huge heart gave out on her.  She passed out and away on a warm, sunny morning.  She was happy up until the time she was called away.

She leaves her daughter, Judy Koenig, three sons - Phil, Steve and Bob, twelve grandkids and one great-granddaughter.  She was preceded by her husband, Gene, and son, Gene.

Judy and I got to spend Christmas break with mom.  Our kids, Julia and Alex visited her within the past two weeks.

She was finishing one of the finest of the hundreds of hand-stitched quilts she had made over the past decades.  She had hoped to enter it in the Washington State Fair, where she has won awards in the past.  We're going to try to encourage members of her quilting club to finish it for her, so it can be entered:

My favorite recent picture of mom was last August, when I accompanied her, Judy and Julia around Mt. Rainier:

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

From the Shootdown of Iran Air Flight 655 to the Aerial Interdiction of President Evo Morales - 25 Years

USS Vincennes radar plot room - c. 1988
As Bolivian President Evo Morales sits marooned in a Vienna airport on the dawn of July 3rd, 2013, having possibly avoided aerial interception over the Atlantic Ocean by U.S. fighters or missiles, it might be fitting to think about the fate of Iran Ar Flight 655, 25 years ago today (emphases added):
Iran Air Flight 655 was an Iran Air flight from Bandar Abbas, Iran to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. On 3 July 1988, at the end of the Iran–Iraq War, the aircraft serving the flight, an Airbus A300B2-203, was shot down by U.S. missiles fired by the United States Navy guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes as it flew over the Strait of Hormuz. 
The aircraft, which had been flying in Iranian airspace over Iran's territorial waters in the Persian Gulf on its usual flight path, was destroyed. All 290 onboard, including 66 children and 16 crew, perished. Ranking seventh among the deadliest disasters in aviation history, the incident retains the highest death toll of any aviation incident in the Indian Ocean and the highest death toll of any incident involving an Airbus A300 anywhere in the world. The Vincennes had entered Iranian territorial waters after one of its helicopters drew warning fire from Iranian speedboats operating within Iranian territorial limits. 
According to the United States Government, the crew incorrectly identified the Iranian Airbus A300 as an attacking F-14 Tomcat fighter (a plane made in the United States and operated at that time by only two forces worldwide, the United States Navy and the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force). The Iranian government maintains that Vincennes negligently shot down the civilian aircraft. 
The event generated a great deal of controversy and criticism of the United States.
25 years later, we have another event that is quickly generating criticism of the USA - the forcing down of the aircraft flying the president of Bolivia back to his home state, after attending a conference of natural gas exporters last week, in Moscow (NOTE - if you are on a US military base overseas, you will not be able to link to the article quoted next.  To attempt to do so may lead to an investigation of you, so just read the excerpt, OK):
Bolivia reacted with fury after a plane carrying the country's president home from Russia was diverted to Vienna amid suspicions that it was carrying the surveillance whistleblower, Edward Snowden. 
France and Portugal were accused of withdrawing permission for the plane, carrying the president, Evo Morales, from energy talks in Moscow, to pass through their airspace. 
Officials in both Austria and Bolivia said Snowden was not on the plane. The Bolivian foreign minister, David Choquehuanca, said: "We don't know who invented this lie. We want to denounce to the international community this injustice with the plane of President Evo Morales." 
In a midnight press conference, Bolivian vice-president Alvaro Garcia said Italy and Spain were also denying the plane permission to fly through their airspace. He described Morales as being "kidnapped by imperialism" in Europe. 
"The ambassador for Spain in Austria has just informed us that there is no authorisation to fly over Spanish territory and that at 9am Wednesday they would be in contact with us again," defence minister Ruben Saavedra said. The Spanish government had made "revision of the presidential plane" a condition of granting it passage, he said. 
Choquehuanca earlier told reporters Portugal and France had abruptly cancelled air permits. "They say it was due to technical issues, but after getting explanations from some authorities we found that there appeared to be some unfounded suspicions that Mr Snowden was on the plane." 
Choquehuanca said in a statement that after France and Portugal cancelled authorisation for the flight, Spain's government allowed the plane to be refuelled in its territory. From there the plane flew on to Vienna. He said the decision by France and Portugal "put at risk the life of the president".
Watching this story break and develop on twitter Tuesday evening, I was struck by how quickly Latin American leaders reacted.  Needless to say, we're still waiting on one of them to support the weird event, universally accepted to have been prompted by American actions, but which have yet to be (midnight 2-3 July PDT) acknowledged by the U.S. government.

Thinking back to the shootdown of Iran Air Flight 655, I remember being appalled.

 Just over two years later, we convinced Saddam Hussein that if he invaded Kuwait, we would only consider it a dispute outside our realm of serious interest.  So he invaded.

Since then, we've been killing scores of thousands of Arabs and Muslims, from the Philippines to Libya.  The resulting blowback has killed or injured Americans.  Our response has not made us tangibly safer.  It has directed a few trillion tax dollars into the pockets of people who aren't making us less vulnerable.  They're supposed to make us feel like we're safer, though, so they can keep conning us.  Hence the importance of keeping Snowden's independence throttled, short of capturing or killing him.

The Ticonderoga-class cruiser that shot down Iranian flight 655 was known by its crew as "Roboship."   The movie, RoboCop, had come out the year before the shootdown.

Defenders of Obama's illegal policies, which have been brought into the spotlight by Wikileaks, whistleblowers, independent fact finders and journalists, and that rare instance when MSM journalists actually uncover something through investigating, have less to stand on every day.  They're beginning to resemble robots.

Worldwide reactions to Snowden's disclosures are starting to snowball.  This face will not slow it at all.  In this case, the U.S.A. appears quite ludicrous, let alone irresponsibly arrogant.

It's almost as if we don't care who we piss off over this.

And - hey!  It isn't that Obama's denizens don't want to off Evo Morales.  They just don't want their bloodstains or DNA on the murder weapons.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Saturday Alaska Progressive Blog Roundup: Alaska Blogs and the Snowden-Greenwald Smear Circus

Progressive Alaskan blogs - September 2009.  Click to enlarge.
I.  Progressive Alaska used to carry a weekly feature, titled Saturday Alaska Progressive Blog Roundup.  I dropped it about three years ago.  As part of my new approach to this blog, I've decided to bring the feature back.

The "new approach" means far fewer articles than I used to write.  Since April, the number of articles I've actually written here has dropped off considerably.  There have been a number of reasons for this, not least of which have been: my work, musical composition and public volunteer activity schedules.  Here's an enumeration of Progressive Alaska articles per year, since PA started in early November, 2007:

2007:      78 articles --- 1.35 per day
2008:    924 articles --- 2.52 per day
2009: 1,006 articles --- 2.76 per day
2010:    786 articles --- 2.15 per day
2011:    712 articles --- 1.95 per day
2012:    576 articles --- 1.58 per day
2013:    178 articles ---   .99 per day

I'm re-thinking what my blogging and writing mean, over the course of this summer.  While composing six new works (a piece for narrator, chorus and orchestra, about Elizabeth Peratrovich (in collaboration with Diane Benson), a trumpet concerto, a song cycle, some short a capella pieces, my 5th Symphony, and transcriptions for brass quintet of several madrigals by Don Carlo Gesualdo),  I'm also preparing notes for a book about the Alaska I've been lucky enough to have known, experienced and taken a small part in shaping.

Writing hundreds of articles over the past six years at PA, and at firedoglake has helped me to become a better writer.  I appreciate that.

Although I hope to concentrate most centrally here in the future on environmental issues concerning Alaskans, I view the startling, seemingly unchecked growth of the national surveillance state as an existential threat to American democracy, and to the framework of our constitution and its bill of rights.  Hence, my longstanding coverage here of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, and - recently - Edward Snowden.

In one of the last Saturday Alaska Progressive Blog Roundups I posted here, I described my take on the evolution of these outlets over the course of two years or so.  Since that September, 2009 post, the Alaska progressive blogging community has diffused in interesting ways.  I'll get back to that next Saturday.  (hopefully .....)

II.  Most of the coverage of the flight and revelations of former CIA and NSA techie, Edward Snowden, has been pretty much confined to three Alaska blogs:  Stonekettle Station, The Immoral Minority, and PA.  I'll look at the coverage in that order:

Stonekettle Station:  I met Stonekettle's host, Jim Wright a couple of months ago, when he addressed our monthly Mat-Su Democrats' Egan Dinner.  Although Wright is somewhat affable and an excellent public speaker, he is an intense authoritarian.

His talk was about the insanity of the ways we deal with gun control and the 2nd Amendment in public life and lawmaking.  On the subjects of gun violence and gun fetishes, I was pretty much in agreement with Wright.  However, in his talk, and responding to audience questions afterward, his worldview struck me as somewhat warped by his military background and present business, in which he "occasionally consult[s] for the military."

His strange naivety about process might be illustrated in his sole essay so far on the subject of the role of the National Security Agency, in which he writes:
In the horrific aftermath of 9-11, we, as a nation, we Americans demanded that those who protect this country be right every single time, no matter the cost.  
We demanded that the enemy, whoever he was, could not get lucky, even once. 
No matter what the consequences.  
And so we changed the rules.
Wright claims, and I trust his veracity on this, that he fought against and objected to all the "stupid" in what "we" changed:
These programs began a long, long time ago, and right after 9-11 they were ramped up to full throttle and the safeties were removed and they’ve been running that way ever since.

And there were plenty of those who raised the alarm, including yours truly right here on this blog, plenty who protested – on both sides of the political aisle. They were ignored. They were dismissed as alarmists, denounced as cowards and traitors and enemies of America (and in fact if you go back and read the comments under certain posts here on Stonekettle Station, you’ll find accusations of exactly that. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been called a traitor by supposed patriots).
I've been fighting against our relentless, needless wars since the last few months of my U.S. Army service, back in the mid-60s, when Wright was probably in elementary school.  Wright describes, as a postscript to his article how close he was to NSA [emphases added]:

I used to work for NSA. As a uniformed member of the US Naval Security Group and its successor organization, I spent more than twenty years in and around the agency. Unlike Edward Snowden, I take my oath very, very seriously indeed and therefore I will not discuss my duties in any fashion whatsoever. Suffice it to say that I am intimately familiar with the National Security Agency and while I may be biased, I have very good reason to believe in the organization’s professionalism and regard for the rights and liberties of all Americans. I don’t expect you to take my word for it, but I will say this: unless you’ve been inside, everything you think you know is wrong.  
Here’s what I know for certain, based on my personal and professional experience: The folks at NSA are dedicated professionals who hold their oath to the nation above all else. No one is more aware of the power they wield and the potential for abuse than they are – because they, my friends, are Americans too. They were set a task and authorized to carry it out and they will do so with the utmost dedication – until they’re told to turn it off. If you, as a nation, want it turned off, really want it turned off, then you need to hold your elected representatives to account. I’ll offer this caution however: think very carefully before you command the Djinni, think it all the way through.  
Regarding Edward Snowden: He was a contractor IT dweeb, not an operator, not an analyst, and certainly not a policy maker and you should regard anything he says from that perspective. The programs he revealed are legal under our current laws and as I said in the article they should have been a surprise to nobody. Snowden claims that he can’t get a fair trial in the United States, boo hoo, he’s got nobody to blame but himself. He betrayed his oath, he broke the terms of his contract, he purposely violated the provisions of his security clearance. If he had concerns, he could have availed himself of any of a dozen avenues of address, including contacting members of Congress directly, instead he chose to make himself into a martyr and so now he can suffer the consequences.
It actually hasn't been positively ascertained whether or not Snowden, as an employee of a private contractor, took any sort of "oath."  When I was Whittier Harbormaster and Fire Chief, I was a sworn officer of the city and state, and took an oath.  When I was Director of Allvest's Cordova Center, the state's largest halfway house, and with more control over peoples' destinies than I ever had in my Whittier service, I took no oath, as I was an employee in the private sector.  While with Allvest, I had to watch as my employer, Bill Weimer, routinely violated his contracts with the State of Alaska.  I have a hunch Snowden had similar experiences.

Wright's essay on the National Security Agency is quite good in some respects, but he minimizes the implications of many of Snowden's revelations, particularly about the extent of of our spying, eavesdropping and tapping of governments, institutions and individuals around the world, often in violation of treaties our country has solemnly obliged to honor.  And that authoritarian streak in Wright seems to throttle and hold him back every time he's about to break on through to the other side.

Additionally, the commenting community at Wright's blog, though sometimes confrontative, can be knowledgeable and informative.

The Immoral Minority:  Jesse Griffin has written a few posts on Snowden's flight and its implications.  At first Gryph was agnostic or non-commital, writing:
Okay I am not going to prejudice any discussion by telling all of you what I am thinking about this whole thing right now, though I ma thinking quite a lot actually, and instead open up the floor to discussion on whether you think Snowden a hero, a criminal, a dupe, or a facade for others to hide behind. 
I will weigh in with one opinion however. I saw Glenn Greenwald on MTP today, and he came off as a complete asshole. Not that assholes can't be right, but he did not do himself too many favors with his attitude and arrogance. 
I disagreed with Jesse's assessment of Greenwald's confrontation with David Gregory, commenting at IM:
My diary on Snowden's move from Hong Kong to a Moscow airport at firedoglake.  
It is probably too early to tell who Edward Snowden really is, but I disagree strongly that Mr. Greenwald "was a complete asshole" on CNN Sunday morning. He could have answered Gregory's question implicating Greenwald in possible criminal activity better, but few here in the comments have chosen to delve into Gregory's continuing accommodation to USG talking points, without questioning their veracity.
My appearance as a commenter at IM infuriated someone:
Why the fuck are you promoting your far left wing bullshit on Jesse's blog. I thought Jesse had banned you? WTF Jesse, why do we have to be subjected to this asshole's garbage comments again? WTF? He doesn't add anything of value except bashing Obama and the US. WTF Jesse? WHY IS HE HERE AGAIN????????
and it infuriated someone else, too [even more - emphasis added]:
Greenwald is not only a complete asshole, he is a despicable, smarmy traitor to this country, along with Snowden.  
As I see, Munger is sucking on Greewald's dick again, as he has done for years. 
Guess birds of a feather flock together, eh? It 's a pity that Gryphen has caved to let you back on the blog, you're a disgrace to this country. And now you're already attacking people on this blog. WTF is wrong with you? 
It's very disturbing that you found some way to twist Gryphen's arm and allow you to putrify the comment sections of his blog.
In spite of this uncharitable person's assertion, I haven't twisted Jesse's arm.

Griffin returned to Snowden about the time the organized slime campaign against the fleeing whistleblower emerged:
I have been asked my opinion on Mr. Snowden and here it is.

While I think learning about these programs and recognizing that our government, and yes that includes President Obama, lied to us is an important and necessary thing to learn, I do not think that how Edward Snowden went about this is defensible, nor do I trust his motives.

As for Glenn Greenwald, I am not a fan and believe that if a better journalist had been the one to break this story Snowden would not be gallivanting around the country dropping our personal information, and top Secret data, all over the world like a tipsy businessman into the ear of a $200 streetwalker.
Griffin seemed to back away a bit in his next post on Snowden:
The problem with the information that Snowden revealed is that it hit us in the face with information that most liberals either did not think about or actively hoped was not true. And that was that the apparatus put into place by the Bush administration, the same apparatus that infuriated liberals all over the country, was now being used by an administration that we desperately wanted to trust and support.

Now we can agree that Snowden is no angel, and in fact might even be considered a traitor. But the information that he revealed, well that is another matter altogether.  
But here's the thing. We also learned through Snowden's documents, that Britain has a similar program. As does Israel. And I think it goes without saying that China, Russia, most Middle Eastern countries, and possibly the majority of European countries have programs that are quite similar.
I doubt that "the majority of European countries" or "most Middle Eastern countries" have anything remotely resembling what has come to light.

Jesse has continued to write on this subject:

Edward Snowden might find himself stranded as Ecuador cools to the idea of allowing him into the country. Update!

An interesting aspect of Griffin's articles on Snowden is that commenters defending Snowden (and Glenn Greenwald) are almost universally respectful and on topic, but are often attacked with the same vitriolic enthusiasm as I was there.

Progressive Alaska:  Most of my articles on Snowden and the issues raised by his flight and disclosures have been mere cut-and-pastes of videos I wanted to post because they appeared to be important.  The firedoglake version of my article on Snowden's move from Hong Kong to Moscow elicited 274 comments there, while the version of it at Progressive Alaska received two.

In the course of twitter interaction over my article, I Call the White House Regarding the Edward Snowden "We the People" Petition, I was able to interact and communicate with prominent liberartian thinker, writer and blogger, Justin Raimondo, founder of, whose work I've been following since the beginning of the century.

If other Alaska progressive blogs have covered Edward Snowden, I've somehow missed it.

I'll conclude with an interview Thom Hartmann conducted on RT TV with Pentagon Papers revealer, Daniel Ellsberg, to whom Edward Snowden has often been compared:

Monday, June 24, 2013

I Call the White House Regarding the Edward Snowden "We the People" Petition

On June 9th, someone started a petition at the White House niche, We the People, requesting the President address Edward Snowden's legal status:
Pardon Edward Snowden 
Edward Snowden is a national hero and should be immediately issued a a full, free, and absolute pardon for any crimes he has committed or may have committed related to blowing the whistle on secret NSA surveillance programs.
When I signed this morning, there were about 108,000 signatures.  Supposedly, once a petition gets over 100,000 signatures, it receives front-rank attention.  Here's the video the White House posted at YouTube, explaining the process.  Note that a specific number of signatures for the "signature threshold" isn't mentioned in the video:

Soon after I signed, Justin Raimondo urged twitter followers to call the White House, and politely ask about the petition's status, now that it had gone over the 100,000 signature threshold.

I called.  After jumping through some hoops, I got a real person.  I wanted to know:
1). Does some specific action happen when a petition reaches 100,000 signatures? 
2).  Are there specific people assigned to the "We the People" site to deal with petitions deemed to have met the "threshold" when they get there? 
3).  If so, is there a way you can connect me with one of them over the telephone?
The courteous young man responded to my likewise courteous questions with vague answers, ending up with "I've got a lot of calls coming in, and I don't have time to refer you to somebody who can answer your questions specifically, but if you call back ........."

I've given the White House 20 minutes.  I'll call back now.  The petition is up to 112,379 signatures.

My call went through the hoops.  Another nice young man eventually answered.  When I started explaining why I was calling, the line went dead.  Must be some glitch in their switchboard, eh?  I'll try again.  112,408.

Sort of the same thing.  I got through.  This not-so-young male listened, said "OK," and the line went dead.  Must be some other glitch, huh?

One more try - 112,419.

On my fourth call, I finally was given a different phone number - the White House switchboard - 202-456-1414.

This time (fifth call), a polite, very professionally polished young woman answered.  She stated that all petitions that reach the 100,000 mark are dealt with the same way.  There is no established time frame in which that might happen, though.  She stated that although specific people at "We the People" handle this task, they are never available to take calls from, uh we, the people.  She did note that she has received a lot of calls on this petition.

We wished each other a nice day.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

I Am Bradley Manning

As Edward Snowden Wings to Moscow (and Beyond?) American Hubris, Criminality and Arrogance Are Challenged on Several Fronts

On Saturday, an arrogant White House, perturbed that Hong Kong seemed to be taking its time in responding to an extradition request for Edward Snowden, was quoted by CBS News:
If Hong Kong doesn't act soon, it will complicate our bilateral relations and raise questions about Hong Kong's commitment to the rule of law.
Before the government of Hong Kong had time to reply in writing to the American extradition request, the statement, believed to have been made by White House National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, was the butt of several tweets by national security writer and blogger, Marcy Wheeler:
The Administration that won't prosecute James Clapper for lying to Congress is lecturing Hong Kong about the rule of law.
followed by:
The Admin that has not prosecuted a single major bankster is lecturing Hong Kong about the rule of law.
The Admin that didn't prosecute any torturers is lecturing Hong Kong about rule of law.
and, finally:
The Admin that did not prosecute anyone for illegally wiretapping Americans is lecturing Hong Kong about rule of law.
The Hong Kong government refused to be intimidated (emphasis added):
HKSAR Government issues statement on Edward Snowden *************************************************** 
The HKSAR Government today (June 23) issued the following statement on Mr Edward Snowden: 
Mr Edward Snowden left Hong Kong today (June 23) on his own accord for a third country through a lawful and normal channel. 
The US Government earlier on made a request to the HKSAR Government for the issue of a provisional warrant of arrest against Mr Snowden. Since the documents provided by the US Government did not fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law, the HKSAR Government has requested the US Government to provide additional information so that the Department of Justice could consider whether the US Government's request can meet the relevant legal conditions. As the HKSAR Government has yet to have sufficient information to process the request for provisional warrant of arrest, there is no legal basis to restrict Mr Snowden from leaving Hong Kong. 
The HKSAR Government has already informed the US Government of Mr Snowden's departure. 
Meanwhile, the HKSAR Government has formally written to the US Government requesting clarification on earlier reports about the hacking of computer systems in Hong Kong by US government agencies. The HKSAR Government will continue to follow up on the matter so as to protect the legal rights of the people of Hong Kong. 
Ends/Sunday, June 23, 2013 
Issued at HKT 16:05
By refusing the demand from the Obama administration, Hong Kong gave Snowden a window to exit the appendage of the PRC. He's headed to Moscow, but that may not be the end destination:
His departure was revealed on the website of the the Hong Kong newspaper the South China Morning Post, which said that Russia was not thought to be his intended final destination. 
It is thought that the eventual destination could end up being Iceland or Ecuador. 
He is understood to have left on the Russian airline Aeroflot flight SU213. 
The paper said it left Hong Kong around 11am local time (4am UK time) and was due to arrive in Moscow around 5.15pm local time (1pm UK time). It is believed to be currently in the air.
That is fairly soon, from the time of my writing.

Meanwhile, the questions being raised globally about our own commitment to the rule of law are playing out in many arenas every day.  My favorite one this past week was the speech given on the floor of the lower house of the Irish Parliament, the Dáil Éireann, by member Clare Daly, an unabashed Irish progressive.  Ms Daly is objecting to the slavish, lavish coverage Irish and Northern Irish media and institutions gave to Obama (and the Obamas) during his attendance at the G8 Conference:

Whether it is the government of Hong Kong, a back-bencher in the Dáil Éireann, an Ecuadorean government resentful of past travesties we have inflicted upon their sovereignty, a Russian government upset about brazen American espionage, or an entire world community disturbed about implications of what Snowden and others have recently revealed about how fully we break treaties and conventions with them by the way we surveil and target their citizens, corporations, leaders and people, we may be about to witness a tsunami rise against our empire.