Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Blackwater's bad neighbor policy

If you want to know if it's a good idea for Blackwater to move into your neighborhood, you can look to Moyok, NC to get a sense of how they are once they've gotten settled in.

According to MoJo Blog, a WTKR reporter was not allowed inside Blackwater's bi-annual "community forum". Other community members were kept out because their properties weren't adjacent to Blackwater. According to interviews with some of the 50 people who were allowed into the meeting room that seated 300, the primary concerns of the neighbors were related to the noise and the traffic generated by Blackwater.

He (Blackwater President Gary Jackson) also talked about a possible solution to all the traffic that drives down the narrow Puddin Ridge road to their gate. He hinted that if the Navy builds an outlying landing field on the site near Blackwater it could open the door to a new access road for the compound.

I can't help but think it odd that they think the answer to the traffic and noise is a Navy landing field. Yes, it might grant another access point, but is a noisy, traffic generating NAVY BASE the solution?

According to the video Blackwater Holds Community Forum, found on WTKR's video page, they weren't just trying to keep out "troublemakers"...there's an interview with a man who seems kind of bewildered that he'd be kept out because he supports them. Sounds like once they're in the door, they may not need those friendly residents anymore.

That's not very neighborly, if you ask me.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sunday random thoughts on the fires

Yesterday was the last day that Border Angels and MAPA were collecting donations at Chicano Park. Today they'll be having a noon press conference in front of the Federal building in downtown San Diego.

You can still donate supplies for underserved communities at Western Service Workers Association,3014 Imperial Ave., SD 92102—PLEASE CALL FIRST to schedule a drop-off time (619-238-9763), as their staff/volunteer capacity is limited.

Items most needed in the coming weeks include: food, water, toiletries, feminine hygiene products, diapers, men's clothing, clean socks, new underwear (for men, women, & children), and tents/canopies/tarps.

It's a mistake to assume everyone in SoCal can hop into their car, and drive away to safety when a disaster strikes. People that live in dry riverbeds don't get reverse 911 calls. Even if they manage to get to an official shelter, without appropriate ID, they can't get help from the Red Cross. There are both migrants and homeless people in the areas burned, and they often have no ID. We do have poor people in San Diego, believe it or not, and they do get left behind in a disaster. We just hide our poor very well in SoCal. I'm not suggesting this is a catastrophe to the degree of what happened in New Orleans, but it still happens and thankfully there are people like Mr. Morones who recognize the problem, and care enough to do something to help.

That is one of the reasons I've been so completely repulsed by the Good-Ol'-Boy-we're-sure-not-New-Orleans! backslapping here the past few days. The fires have been terrible, but it's not a disaster of the same magnitude that Katrina brought to the gulf coast. We didn't have dozens of bodies floating down Main Street. We have millions of unaffected people left in town who can pitch in and help. It's not a comparable situation, and I don't know why they act like they deserve brownie points for not failing completely and miserably. The self-congratulatory behavior by state and local public officials was just . . . icky.

They should quite patting themselves on the back, and look at providing adequate fire protection in San Diego and throughout SoCal for a change.

(edit) Exhibit A.

Lamentably, New Orleans has long been its own worst enemy. That city, perhaps fittingly known as the Big Easy, is plagued by historically corrupt politics, chronically high crime rates, inept policing, bad schools and far too little of the civic glue that holds communities together in adversity.

The nightmarish breakdown of order, public safety and civility at New Orleans' Superdome in the days after Katrina is the enduring image of civic dysfunction. San Diego's counterpoint was Qualcomm Stadium where 10,000-plus evacuees were sheltered amid an outpouring of volunteers and mountains of donated supplies – everything from bottled water, food, diapers and sanitary items to clothing and sunscreen – in perfect safety and relative comfort.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

When Log Cabin Republicans Attack!

Romney has the reputation of being a flip flopper, and with good reason. He's currently having a "reap what you sow" moment with the Log Cabin Republicans.

A 30-second TV spot that recently aired in Iowa opens with a still frame of Mitt Romney and a calm female voice intoning, "For years, he's fought conservatives and religious extremists." It goes on to show the former Massachusetts governor stating a variety of socially moderate views, at one point reprising a video clip from a 1994 debate in which he says, "I believe abortion should be safe and legal in this country." The ad closes with the lines, "A record fighting the religious right. A pro-choice record. Massachusetts values. Mitt Romney."

As Romney strives to remake himself as a social conservative—the candidate who represents "the Republican wing of the Republican party," as he recently put it—his previously moderate views on gay rights, abortion, and gun control are precisely the issues he's trying to distance himself from. So who's behind the devious ad? Not a liberal 527 or one of his GOP rivals—it's the Log Cabin Republicans, the national organization of gay conservatives, who have made Romney the target of a full-fledged attack campaign.

Mitt Romney has done a complete reverse on LGBT issues. When he ran for governor of Massachusetts, he had the Log Cabin Republican's endorsement, based on his stated support of domestic partnership rights, federal non-discrimination legislation, and his statements of support for "gays and lesbians . . . to serve openly and honestly in our nation's military."

Now Romney is the only Republican candidate to support a constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriage. He now also opposes federal non-discrimination legislation (ENDA), and supports Don't Ask, Don't Tell. That's a dizzying spin in a few short years.

Romney is one who will tell you what you want to hear to get your endorsement....and your vote. I don't know about you, but I'm really hoping to elect a president this time that places some value on personal honesty. The cheap, cynical pandering to the far right is getting tiresome. I'm sort of burned out on the deception thing now.

In addition to the commercial below, LCR has provided a helpful list of Romney's ever changing statements, in all their flip-floppy goodness.


Donations needed!

I just received word that says the Chicano Park drop off location is facing an increasing demand for food and clothing, but the donations have dropped off significantly. They've been receiving calls from places like Potrero, Pala and Valley Center as the immediate danger is lifting, and people are beginning to ask for help in the rural areas.

The following items can be dropped off at Chicano Park on Logan Avenue under the Coronado Bridge (5 Freeway, Cesar Chavez exit) from 8 am-7 pm on Friday and Saturday:

Non-perishable food (preferably items which don’t need to be cooked)
Water / Juice
Blankets / Sleeping bags
Tents / Canopies / Tarps (for shade)
Eye drops / Face masks
Toiletries / Feminine hygiene products / First aid supplies
Sunscreen / Hats / Sunglasses
Baby products (diapers, formula, food, etc.)
Activities for children (books, games, toys, etc.)
Small- to medium-sized boxes for sorting & transporting supplies

Much-needed monetary contributions can be mailed to: Border Angels, P.O. Box 86598, San Diego, CA 92138 (please write “Fire Victims’ Relief” on the memo line).

Friday, October 26, 2007

FEMA's Fake Forum

The Al Kamen at WaPo makes note of yesterday's press conference where the FEMA PR team posed as reporters and threw softballs to deputy administrator, Harvey Johnson.

FEMA's got some serious spin control going on there, don't they? I see that Fox broadcast it as a legit press conference. No biggie for them. It's just another day at the office. I don't know if it was on other channels, but I suspect so.

Heck of a job.

Video at Think Progress.

Chris Dodd's speech on FISA and the rule of law

The full text of his remarks

Mr. President, for 6 years the President has demonstrated time and again that he doesn't respect the role of Congress, nor does he respect the rule of law. It is the latter point that I want to address this morning because it is the rule of law which draws us all together, regardless of politics, ideology, or party. It is the rule of law, not of men, which we swear to uphold when we take the oath of office in this Chamber, as Members do in the other Chamber, and certainly as the President does on January 20 every 4 years.

For 6 years this President has used scare tactics to prevent the Congress from reining in his abuse of authority. A case in point is the current direction this body appears to be headed in as we prepare to reform and extend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Many of the unprecedented rollbacks to the rule of law by this administration have been made in the name of national security. The Bush administration has relentlessly focused our Nation's resources and manpower on a war of choice in Iraq. That ill-conceived war has broken our military, squandered our resources, and emboldened our enemies.

The President's wholesale disregard of the rule of law has compounded the damage done in Iraq, made our Nation less secure, and as a direct consequence of these acts, we are far less secure, far more vulnerable, and certainly far more isolated in the world today.

Consider the scandal at Abu Ghraib, where Iraqi prisoners were subjected to inhumane, humiliating acts by U.S. personnel charged with guarding them.

Consider Guantanamo Bay. Rather than helping to protect the Nation by aggressively prosecuting prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, these individuals have instead become the symbol of our weakened moral standing in the world. Who would have ever imagined it?

Consider the secret prisons run by the Central Intelligence Agency and the practice of extraordinary rendition that allows them to evade U.S. law regarding torture.

Consider the shameful actions of our outgoing Attorney General who politicized prosecutions in the U.S. Attorney's Office, who was more committed to serving the President who appointed him than laws he was sworn to uphold as Attorney General.

Consider the Military Commissions Act, a law that allows evidence obtained through torture to be admitted into evidence.

It denies individuals the right to counsel.

It denies them the right to invoke the Geneva Conventions.

And it denies them the single most important and effective safeguard of liberty man has ever known, the right of habeas corpus, permitting prisoners to be brought before a court to determine whether their detainment is lawful.

Warrantless wiretapping, torture, the list goes on.

Each of these policies share two things in common.

First, they have severely weakened our ability to prosecute the global war on terrorism, if for no other reason than they have made it harder, if not impossible, to build the kind of international support and cooperation we absolutely need to succeed in our efforts against stateless terrorism.

And second, each has only been possible because the U.S. Congress has not been able to stop the President in his unprecedented expansion of executive power; although I might add, some in this body have certainly tried.

Whether these policies were explicitly authorized is beside the point. In every instance, Congress has been unable to hold this administration to account for violating the rule of law and our Constitution. In each instance, Republicans in the Congress have prevented this body from telling this administration that a state of war is not a blank check.

And those are not my words. Those are the words of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, nominated by President Ronald Reagan.

Today, it appears that we are prepared to consider the proposed renewal of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a law that whatever form it eventually takes will almost certainly permit the Bush administration to broadly eavesdrop on American citizens.

Legislation, as currently drafted, that would grant retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that helped this administration violate the civil liberties of Americans and the law of this Nation.

While it may be true that the proposed legislation is an improvement over existing law, it remains fundamentally flawed because it fails to protect the privacy rights of Americans or hold the Executive or the private sector accountable if they choose to ignore the law.

That is why I will not stand on the floor of the Senate and be silent about the direction we are about to take.

It is time to say: No more.

No more trampling on our Constitution.

No more excusing those who violate the rule of law.

These are fundamental, basic, eternal principles. They have been around, some of them, for as long as the Magna Carta.

They are enduring.

What they are not is temporary.

And what we do not do in a time where our country is at risk is abandon them.

My father served as executive trial counsel at the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals in 1945 and 1946. What America accomplished at those historic trials was not a foregone conclusion. It took courage.

When Joseph Stalin and even a leader as great and noble as Winston Churchill wanted to simply execute the Nazi leaders, we didn't back down in this country from our belief that these men, as terrible as they were -- some of the worst violators in the court of history of mankind -- ought to have a trial. We did not give in to vengeance.

As then, the issue before us today is the same.

Does America stand for all that is still right with our world. Or do we retreat in fear?

Do we stand for justice that secures America, or do we act out of vengeance that weakens us?

I am well aware this issue is seen as political. I believe Democrats were elected to help strengthen our Nation, elected to help restore our standing in the world. I believe we were elected to ensure that this Nation adheres to the rule of law and to stop the administration's assault on our Constitution.

But the rule of law is not the province of any one political party. It is the province of each and every one of us as American citizens, on our watch and our generation, to make sure we are safer because of its inviolable provisions.

Mr. President, I know this bill has not been reported out of the Judiciary Committee yet.

But I am here today because if I have learned anything in my 26 years in this body, particularly over the last 7 years, it is that if you wait until the end to voice your concerns, you will have waited too long. That is why I have written the majority leader informing him that I will object to any effort to bring the legislation to the Senate floor for consideration.

I hope my colleague, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Leahy is able to remove this language from the FISA bill. Pat Leahy is as strong a defender of the Constitution as any Member of this body.

But if he is unable to do so, I am prepared to filibuster this bill.

President Bush is right about one thing: The debate is about security but not in the way he imagines it.

He believes we have to give up certain rights to be safe.

I believe the choice between moral authority and security is a false choice. I believe it is precisely when you stand up and protect your rights that you become stronger, not weaker, as a nation.

The damage that was done to our country on 9/11 was stunning. It changed the world forever.

But when you start diminishing our rights as a people, you compound that tragedy. You cannot protect America in the long run if you fail to protect our Constitution. It is that simple.

History will likely judge this President harshly for his war of choice and for fighting it with a disregard for our most cherished principles.

But history is about tomorrow. We must act today and stand up for the Constitution and the rule of law.

Mr. President, this is the moment. At long last, let us rise up to it.

I urge my colleagues to join me in this effort.

Oct 27: Fall out against the war

Despite the fact that the solidarity march and rally against the occupation in Iraq has been postponed in San Diego due to the fires, everything else is still a GO for tomorrow's National Mobilization to End the Iraq War, called by United for Peace and Justice. The closest action to San Diego will be in Los Angeles and there will be a number of solidarity actions throughout the county.

As Molly Ivins said in her final column earlier this year, "We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, "Stop it, now!"

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Border Angels

As I mentioned earlier, in the wake of the fires, several groups are collecting emergency supplies in San Diego county. The Border Angels and several other local grassroots and humanitarian organizations are accepting food, water and other emergency relief supplies at Chicano Park that will be delivered, both to shelters and to assist those who fall outside the usual social safety nets. They collected over 100 truckloads of supplies, and several of their trips were to fields and migrant camps in the north county where workers continued their work in the fields, breathing in the smoke filled air, while residents evacuated the area. According to Enrique Morones of Border Angels, they were able to persuade some to seek safe shelter during the fires.

The park is located in Barrio Logan beneath the SD-Coronado Bay Bridge, and please feel free to join them if you'd like to help in this relief effort. According to Enrique, they'll be there this coming Saturday if you'd like to help or make a donation this weekend.

They will continue to collect supplies in Chicano Park over the next few days, despite harrassment by the bullying Minutemen who appear to have nothing better to do than attempt to disrupt relief efforts for people in need. I can't even begin to understand the mindset of those people.

My mama raised me to believe in helping people without judging their skin color, religion, politics or by asking for thier immigration status. Since it's being reported that ICE has been at Qualcomm checking papers, that's not exactly a safe place for migrants to go seek help. I'm very glad there are people in this world like Enrique Moreno, the Border Angels and their associates that will lend a hand without judgement.

Buh-bye to Order 17

Yesterday the Iraqi government revoked the Coalition Provisional Authority's decree that US contractors be granted immunity from prosecution in Iraq. This decree, also known as Order 17, had been one of Paul Bremer's last acts as he left Baghdad in 2004, and has protected firms, such as Blackwater, from prosecution for criminal actions.

Article 1 of Section 2 of CPA order 17 issued by then US administrator for Iraq, Paul Bremer, stipulates that the "multinational force, foreign liaison missions, their personnel, property, funds and assets and all international consultants shall be immune from Iraqi legal process."

As a side note, I can't help but think of the irony of US contractors demanding they shouldn't be subjected to Iraqi law while in Iraq, while at the same time, people in the US are screeching about how terrible migrants are for not respecting our sovereign borders.

If our goal is for Iraq to be a sovereign nation, then we MUST follow their laws. Period. Why is there any question? Remember the phrase, "when Iraqi's step up, we'll step down". Well? Maybe it's time to start stepping down. In fact, they probably will once they realize they will be subject to a law other than their own.

One of the problems with depending as heavily on contractors as we have in Iraq is that they're not the military, and can not be controlled in the same way. Contractors can just up and leave whenever they decide it's no longer in their best financial interest to be there. They are different people, with different missions and different priorities, but the US government has put us in a position of dependency upon for-profit private military contractor. That was incredibly stupid, if you ask me, but they think the free market provides the answers for everything. Guess what. It doesn't.

In other Blackwater related news, the NY Times has an article today about Blackwater's bunker mentality after the September shootings in Nisour Square. Coincidentally, or not, I noticed the leader of the convoy at that Baghdad square was someone named Hoss. I'm wishing I had my copy of Jeremy Scahill's book Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, but I loaned it to someone. That nickname sounds very familiar.

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Oct 27 Peace Rally Postponed

Due to the fires, the scheduled "Fund Healthcare, Not Warfare" rally and march in Downtown San Diego have been cancelled. You can find the entire announcement on the San Diego Coalition for Peace and Justice website.

We decided, finally, that now was not the time for such a public discussion but rather a time for coming together in support of those most impacted by the fire's destruction.

With this in mind, we would like to urge each and every person who planned to come to the demonstration this Saturday to volunteer and/or contribute to relief efforts - especially for those who find themselves outside of the traditional safety net. Suggestions include helping the Border Angels and the Displaced Farm Worker Drive.

Last I heard, donations were being taken at Chicano Park for these organizations. I'm checking to see if that drive is on-going, and will update you with any more information about these efforts to assist as soon as I receive it.

Also, there is still a rally for this Saturday that is scheduled to go on as planned in the Los Angeles ares. For more details: United for Peace and Justice.

(update) I've been told they're still collecting donations at Chicano Park that will be used to assist migrant farmworkers. I'll keep working on getting more details.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Reverse 911 on your cell?

Many people have given up their land lines, and are depending completely on cell phones these days, but the reverse 911 system doesn't call cell phones. I heard that bit of information somewhere yesterday, and it seemed a compelling reason to keep a pretty pink princess phone on your nightstand (other than the obvious reason that it will make you feel like a princess. duh.) Today the UT has posted on their fireblog that you can register your cell phone to receive emergency alerts on the City of San Diego emergency website, however the county just installed their system over the last few months, and that functionality isn't set up yet.

Funding fire fighting in CA

Miriam Raftery blogs at Brad Blog about the inadequate resources dedicated to fire fighting in California, including the Governor's veto of increased budget funding for equipment and staff.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and local officials have made media appearances claiming credit for swiftly responding to the disaster. “There is much more equipment available, more manpower is available, quicker action,” Schwarzenegger said, according to the Associated Press.

What the Governor failed to mention is that he vetoed four bills that would have increased staffing and fire resources after the Cedar Fire, at a cost of tens of millions of dollars. A fifth bill, signed by Schwarzenegger, requires local governments to first submit safety plans to the California Department of Forestry and will not take effect until 2010, the Los Angeles Times reported in a May 20, 2007 article titled “Fire danger acute as 2003 lessons fade.” That article has since disappeared off the newspaper’s website, but a copy is here.

We can't continue to inadequately fund infrastructure and basic support services. Our funding priorities are out of whack, and in the long run it costs more to constantly rebuild and replace than it would be properly fund these functions in the first place.


Wednesday in San Diego

Hey all. Things seem to be slightly calmer overall today. The winds are not as fierce, though it's still blowing. In fact, some of the winds have switched direction and smoke that's been blowing out over the Pacific Ocean the last few days, has started to head back into town. The air quality is very bad this morning.

As I mentioned last time, KPBS is still providing regular updates (including Twitter text updates), and are be back at their regular location on the dial at 89.5. When they were knocked off the air, 94.9 gave them their signal so they could continue to broadcast. Kudos to 94.9!

KPBS also has a great Google map showing fire locations, evacuation centers, etc.

Calitics also continues to provide updates from people throughout SoCal.

Recent updates have reported the Harris fire has consumed 73,000 acres, the Witch fire has consumed 196,000 acres and the Rice fire has consumed 7500 acres, and around 1300 homes have been destroyed. Many more are damaged. There have been six deaths, and numerous injuries, and nearly a million people have been evacuated or displaced.

Evacuations today have included Fallbrook, Julian, Birch Hill near Palomar, and Valley Center.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Photos of the Harris Fire at Mt San Miguel

Helicopter preparing to lift water from the Sweetwater reservoir.

Another shot of the helicopter. This was taken from Dictionary Hill, facing Mt San Miguel.

Taken from Dictionary Hill, facing Mt San Miguel.

This one was taken from the east end of Palm Avenue in Lemon Grove. The hill is Dictionary Hill, and Mt San Miguel is beyond that.

My husband took these photos this morning.


San Diego Fire Information

Here are several sites where you can access San Diego County fire information and updates.

KPBS news

KPBS Twitter page with fire updates

San Diego County Emergency Fire Information

SD City Emergency Fire Information

CA State emergency info

Calitics So Cal fire updates

Phone numbers:
Irvine: 714-628-7085
Santa Clarita Evacuations: 661-295-6366
US Forest Line: 626-574-5208
Animal Evacuations: 818-991-0071
Malibu: 310-456-2489
Riverside: 909.988.3650
Buckweek, Canyon Fire: 323-881-2411
Coronado Hills Fire: 619-590-3160
Grass Valley Fire: 909-383-5688
Harris, Rice, McCoy Fire: 619-590-3160
Ranch Fire: 626-574-5208
Roca Fire: 951-940-6985
Santiago Fire: 714-573-6200
Sedgewick Fire: 805-681-5546
Slide and Witch: Fire 619-590-3160


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Fire in the east county

There's currently a fire burning in the east county between Potrero and Julian, it's exceedingly dry, and the winds are blowing like crazy. Stay tuned.


A major wildfire is burning in Potrero (Harris Fire). Evacuations are have been ordered west of Harris Ranch Road and east of Potrero Valley Road. Highway 94 is closed at Forest Gate. The fire has jumped 94 at the Potrero Cafe.

Structures are burning in the area. There are 300 firefighters on the scene, 3 helicopters, 2 helitankers and 5 air tankers, but thick smoke is obscuring the view for aerial support. There are also 45 engines, 2 dozers, and 5 hand crews trying to save Potrero. The fire is currently burning towards Potrero Peaks (the mobilehome park).


I just got home from an event up in La Jolla, and at some point another fire has started up near Ramona. (Witch Creek) It's smokey as hell here, and ashes were falling on us from the sky. Here's an update from the UT.

They've had trouble attacking the fires from the air because of high winds. Also, it's being reported that a firetruck was engulfed by flames in the Potrero area. I've heard conflicting reports. I heard one report that a firefighter was killed, but another report is saying the death was of a migrant hiking through the back country. There are also reports of injuries.

With 30-60 mph Santa Ana winds blowing from the east, the fire is quickly moving toward Dulzura.

The UT newsblog is publishing regular updates of the situation.


Blackwater in the news

Did you watch Bill Moyers Journal on PBS this past Friday to see Jeremy Scahill on Blackwater? If not, you can view the video at the link. Scahill is a human fountain of information and data on Blackwater USA. Since the September 16 killings at Nisour Square in Baghdad, Blackwater has been under intense congressional and media scrutiny. In response this past week, the private owner of the private army, Erik Prince, has embarked on his own media PR blitz. He's been on 60 Minutes, Charlie Rose, and Late Edition pushing the line that Blackwater is a responsible, all-American part of the coalition force.

The government of Iraq does not agree. They have attempted to exert their sovereignty and expel Blackwater from their country, but so far have been less than successful. Blackwater's contract in Iraq expires in May 2008, and there has been talk that they will be eased out of their role between now and then. I will believe it when I see it, but I'd be willing to bet that if it does happen, they'll simply be replaced with another private "peace and security" contractor asap. Unfortunately the whole system of using large numbers of armed private contractors in a war zone is thoroughly rotten to the core, and the shut out of one company doesn't fix the larger problem. Part of that problem is that the US is completely over-extended in Iraq and the mission is substantially larger than our capability to handle it. The only way to manage it at all is with enormous numbers of private contractors. In other words, Bush bit off way more than WE can chew. The answer? Leave. Now. We shouldn't have invaded in the first place, and our continued occupation is only making things worse as every day goes by.

You might think that I'd be reveling in the idea of Blackwater suffering the slings and arrows of negative media attention, and their potential ouster from Iraq, but paradoxically, it gives me some additional concerns. One of them being that if they are forced out of Iraq, this will create a situation where they seek to quickly and aggressively increase their role in providing both security forces both here at home, and as private mercenaries in other countries. I see both their actions in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and their push to establish additional training facilities in the US as a window into their future, and I don't like what I see. They want to be both military, and a private equivalent of our National Guard. This is privatization run amok.

A private army is antithetical to democracy. They're not accountable to the people, or the constitution, nor are they constrained by traditional codes of military conduct. We see this playing out in Iraq, and we saw it in New Orleans. Blackwater is simply a business serving their own best interests. No matter how all-American they may claim to be, the balance sheet is the true master of any company. Not the constitution. Not the people. Not the government. Blackwater now says they want only "the market" to decide their actions. It's awfully convenient for them to get to pick and chose when they're warriors and when they're suits. They straddle that fence, and under the current model they can jump off to either side, at will.

For example, Blackwater is attempting to frame the establishment of a training facility in Potrero, CA as a simple free market issue. Ignorant and ridiculous. If they want to be government contractors, which is the foundation of their business model, there are rules that will have to guide them other than the vastly over-rated invisible hand of the free market. Erik Prince and Blackwater made this choice, and they can't repudiate it whenever it's politically convenient for them to do so. The ideals of the free market neither guide the actions of our military, nor ensure the security of this nation. They may like to claim their role is not political, but Blackwater has made the choice to be overseen by the American people. They chose politics, and that's what they're getting. Oversight by the government, and oversight by the people. They'd better get used to it.

In fact, we will have our next opportunity to do just that this coming Tuesday (10/23/07) when Brian Bonfiglio of Blackwater USA will be the guest host at Cafe San Diego. If you have questions about Blackwater's plans in San Diego county, here's your opportunity to ask them.


Friday, October 19, 2007

The Call

In a column this week, Laura Flanders reprints "Resist: A Call to Resist Illegitimate Authority", which was written during the Vietnam war but is troublingly relevant today.

The Call

Forty years ago, a handful of smart Americans had an idea how to end a war. They published a call for moral, political and financial support for those refusing to serve. Initially signed by Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Grace Paley, Dr. Benjamin Spock, Marcus Raskin, and the Reverend William Sloane Coffin among others, eventually, 20,000 signed on and the indispensable RESIST foundation was formed.

Forty years later, the first few paragraphs are again meaningful.
An ever growing number of young American men are finding that the American war in Vietnam so outrages their deepest moral and religious sense that they cannot contribute to it in any way. We share their moral outrage.

We further believe that the war is unconstitutional and illegal. Congress has not declared a war as required by the Constitution. Moreover, under the Constitution, treaties signed by the President and ratified by the Senate have the same force as the Constitution itself. The Charter of the United Nations is such a treaty. The Charter specifically obligates the United States to refrain from force or threat of force in international relations. It requires member states to exhaust every peaceful means of settling disputes and to submit disputes which cannot be settled peacefully to the Security Council. The United States has systematically violated all of these Charter provisions for thirteen years.

Moreover, this war violates international agreements, treaties and principles of law which the United States Government has solemnly endorsed. The combat role of the United States troops in Vietnam violates the Geneva Accords of 1954 which our government pledged to support but has since subverted.

The shape of resistance, may be different now than it was during Vietnam, but again we will resist. Resist the unprincipled priorities of the Bush administration. Resist attempts to silence, and cripple the work of peaceful anti-war activists. Resist the urge to be rocked to sleep, so we can stand up and raise our voices against the immoral actions of those who are supposed to represent the American people.

If you're in San Diego on Saturday Oct 27, you will have an opportunity to show that you resist the current occupation of Iraq by joining the San Diego Coalition for Peace and Justice in a rally and march at Horton Plaza at noon.

We will highlight the cost of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, by identifying the corrupted priorities of a president who can spend billions on an illegal, immoral, counter-productive war, but says we can't afford health insurance for children, not to mention healthcare coverage for all.

After the protest, we will march to Pantoja Park for a rally to demand a change in our national priorities.

At the current pace, I'm certain our foreign policy will financially bankrupt our country. The actions of our government are already morally bankrupt. Join us on October 27. Stand up and resist.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Senator Dodd to put hold on FISA

I was feeling pretty crummy about the Democratic surrender compromise deal whateverthatwas on FISA, giving immunity to the telecoms for violating the law, and allowing unlawful access to phone records without a warrant. I'm afraid it's not that they're afraid of being called Soft on Terror TM, but because they actually agree this is the right thing to do. Depressing, eh?

Then this afternoon I got a one line email from a friend that said, "Chris Dodd is putting a Senate hold on FISA."

I have to admit I got a little shiver. Wow. What a shock. I was expecting complete capitulation. My second thought was to wonder how we got to the point where when a Senator insists we uphold the rule of law I get a joyous little thrill.

I think this is now at least the third time I've asked myself why I'm not paying more attention to Dodd's campaign. We get more than enough Clinton and Obama factoids, and I'm not completely thrilled with either of them. As I've mentioned before, I do like Edwards a lot more than either of them, but even he holds several positions that make it hard for me to be 100% enthusiastic.

I wonder how much change we can really expect from any of the front runners. Who among them have seriously addressed the expanded executive powers of this administration. They've been weak, in that regard. Maybe they're hoping to hold those expanded powers themselves someday soon. I keep waiting for them to seriously address the erosion of the Constitution and civil rights, and they just don't. I find that massively disappointing, to say the least.

But then there's Dodd. Glenn Greenwald at Salon reprints a blast from the recent past. He was right in this August interview, and he was right today. Nothing else really matters if the Constitution is in shreds.

When I heard Dodd speak in San Diego at the State Democratic Convention, I thought he was great, his speech was vastly under-rated, and and he was tragically ignored by the media who were panting along behind Hillary and Obama all day long. As I listened to Dodd, I wondered, what's wrong with Dodd? Why not him?

I did a little online quiz a couple weeks ago that a friend sent in an email, where you answer a few questions and it tells you who is most aligned with your views. Dodd came in second for me, and again I thought, well, why not Dodd?

Now this, and again I'm wondering if Dodd isn't the one who's the real deal, and the candidate to support in the primary. At any rate, he's moved up several more notches in my estimation, and I truly believe he is sincere and right on this issue.

It saddens me that it even has to be an issue -- the fact that "defending the Constitution" even has to be an issue in the presidential race. - Senator Chris Dodd

Me too, Senator. Me too.

You can indicate your support for Senator Dodd right here.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Eat spaghetti. Support peace and social justice.

You can do both of those things at once this week!

On Wednesday, October 17 at 6-8 pm, you can support both the Peace Resource Center and San Diego Street Light by coming to the famous Big Kitchen at 3003 Grape Street, San Diego, 92101 for a spaghetti dinner. The menu includes spaghetti with meat or veggie sauce, garlic bread, salad, tea, coffee lemonade and a brownie. If you have an instrument, bring it. You can be part of the evening's entertainment.

The suggested minimum donation is $10, but feel free to donate more!

Please buy tickets in advance or RSVP so they know how much food to prepare by calling Allen 619-282-4358 or Sue 858-274-8447.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Another nail in the coffin

According to today's San Diego UT, there will be an official announcement next week that KLSD, San Diego's only progressive talk radio station, will switch to an all sports format in the coming weeks. Rumor was that there had been delays in the flip because they were having trouble hiring talent for a fourth sports station in the area, but apparantly that became a moot point when Chris Ello decided to leave XX Sports and signed a multi year contract with Clear Channel yesterday.

I've heard some say that it doesn't matter that San Diego will have multiple sports radio stations and multiple conservative talk radio stations, and no progressive format, because radio is the format for conservatives, and we have a huge advantage in our use of the internet. There's a kernal of truth there, but I'm a strong advocate of having diversity of opinion on our public airwaves. Yes, we do a great job of communicating on the net, but that doesn't mean we should just give up on access to our airwaves.

With the likely assumption that KLSD is flipping to sports, what's next? It's a wee bit pricey to buy a station. There's been some recent talk (and action) about a low power alternative. Not the ideal solution, but it's a positive development. Locally oriented Internet radio and podcasts? It could happen.

As of now, we can't count on being able to hear LA's Radio Pacifica because the FCC assigned the same spot on the dial to powerful signals from both LA (KPFK 90.7) and Tijuana/San Diego (90.7 XLNC1) so they walk all over one another. XLNC1 has formally requested they be given a new frequency. If that happens, we should be able to get Radio Pacifica in San Diego, which would include Amy Goodman's Democracy Now. In the meantime, we can listen to Radio Pacifica online, and maybe we can find a way to join the Pacifica affiliate network and bring progressive/liberal radio back to the San Diego region.

Obviously, I don't know the answer, but I do know there are possibilities. None of the suggestions above are ideal solutions, but I think it's time to think outside the box. No matter how many protests are held, no matter how many calls made and emails sent, it sounds to me that KLSD is dead. Clear Channel has said they hear us, but that doesn't mean they're listening. It's time to figure out viable alternatives, as our voices are being increasingly shut out from traditional media channels.

(edit)- KLSD has an update on their website that says:

All of your feedback has had a positive impact and you can expect a formal announcement in the next few days about the future of our Progressive Talk format in San Diego!

Curiouser and curiouser. I think the sports talk is a done deal, so what are they getting at w/r/t the positive impact and the future of the format? Hmmmmmm......


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Rally at KLSD radio

As of today, KLSD San Diego is still progressive talk, but that's still subject to change at any time. The station is rumored to be scheduled to flip to sports talk within the next few weeks, and fans of KLSD are going to rally to save progressive talk radio in San Diego again this coming Friday.

WHAT: Save KLSD / Progressive Talk Radio Rally

WHEN: Friday, October 12, 6:00 to 9:00 a.m.

WHERE: Intersection of Aero Drive & Ruffin Road, near Clear Channel offices at 9660 Granite Ridge Dr., San Diego (92123) (see update below)

More info: Save KLSD or jon@saveklsd.com

We don't need a fourth sports talk station in San Diego. We need KLSD. I don't think I can overstate the importance of this radio station to grassroots activists in San Diego. KLSD has been vital in connecting local activists in a city where for a very long time there were very few places to connect with other liberals, Democrats, social justice advocates, and other politically oriented activists. KLSD provides that space in a very unique way.

Updated 10/11: Here's some updated "where" information about tomorrow's rally.

WHERE: Intersection of Aero Drive and Ruffin Road, (the main cross
streets near Clear Channel Offices, 9660 Granite Ridge Drive, Suite
100, San Diego, CA 92123) At 8:15, we will make the short walk up
to Clear Channel's offices to finish our rally in the Clear Channel
parking lot.

CAR PROCESSION: Some of your fellow activists plan to meet in the
southwest corner of the Walmart parking lot located at 3382 Murphy
Canyon Road at 6:30 to form a car caravan up to the rally site. We
will put signs on our car and do one or two passes by Clear
Channel's offices honking our horns before dropping passengers off
at Aero Drive and Ruffin Road. If you would like to be a part of
the car procession, please rsvp to saveklsd@gmail.com.


Monday, October 08, 2007

Happy Blogday to me!

My blog is 3 years old today. That's 21 in Internet years.

Sunday in the Park with Blackwater

xpost at Courage Campaign

Despite widespread outrage about their actions in Iraq, Blackwater USA is still looking toward their future growth as a private army. In response, a Stop Blackwater West educational encampment was held in Potrero, CA this weekend. As you may already know, Blackwater USA is proposing to build a training facility in a peaceful, rural valley east of San Diego and just a smidge north of the US/Mexico border. If Blackwater succeeds in their plans, the peace, quiet and natural beauty of this mostly undeveloped valley 45 minutes east of San Diego will be shattered, and the infamous mercenaries of Blackwater USA will have established their foothold in Southern California. A majority of Potrero residents do not want this facility to be built in their community.

Local residents and advocates for retaining the natural peace and tranquility of Potrero, and keeping mercenaries out of California held an encampment in Potrero this weekend to explore the beauty of the threatened area, and to inform about the hazards associated with the plan to allow a training facility to be built. Saturday was filled with camping, hiking and educational workshops about the drawbacks of such a development in a sensitive and fragile natural environment. Events included a Sierra Club led hike through the beautiful and diverse Hauser Wilderness Area which is threatened by both Blackwater's development, and/or the possibility of a southern route for the unnecessary and unaffordable Sunrise Powerlink project. (For more information about development in California's southern-most wilderness areas, check out Wilderness for All.)

After the morning hike, there were workshops about Blackwater USA, the environmental impact of this invasive and inappropriate development, and the dangers associated with militarization of the US/Mexico border. This location is so completely wrong for a military style training camp. Not only is there a small, rural community that has already been severely disrupted by Blackwater's plans, but this area is a sensitive wildlife corridor, home to Golden Eagles and other threatened species, in the flight path of the severely endangered California Condor, and on land with an already impacted water table. Additionally, this property is a short distance from the Mexican border, and in these xenophobic times there are understandable concerns about the placement of mercenaries on border lands.

Saturday evening's events included music and spoken word performances, and 50 people spent the night at the campground. Over the course of the two days, approximately 400 people participated in the weekend's events.

Sunday's scheduled events included a rally and a one mile walk to the gates of the proposed site. The 1 p.m. rally featured Rep Bob Filner (CA-51) who has recently introduced legislation to stop private military training from occurring anywhere other than on federally owned and regulated property. If successful, this legislation would stop this Blackwater West training camp in it's tracks. Please let it be so!

Other speakers included Raymond Lutz; Citizens' Oversight Projects (COPs), Jan Hedlun; Potrero Resident and Potrero Planning Group Member, Jeanette Hartman; Sierra Club Land Use Committee, Rick Jacobs; Courage Campaign, Billy Crawley; Potrero Resident and Candidate for Potrero Planning Group, and Dave Patterson and Gloria Daviston; San Diego Chapter of Veterans for Peace. The speakers addressed the range of issues that have arisen in Potrero ranging from opposition to the nature of Blackwater's business to the environmental impact of placing a large military style training camp in a peaceful, rural community. Strangely enough, Blackwater employees and a handful of pro-Blackwater locals sat across the street watching us with a "Let Free Market Principles Decide. NOT POLITICS!" sign. Well, they mostly sat across the street until our scheduled walk to the gates. A few came to the rally to glare and mutter and shake their heads, and as we soon found out, a few people headed down the march route ahead of us.

The walk was supposed to be to the gate that overlooks the valley, and our intention was to just get to a place where we could view the area, but we'd been told that sometime early that morning chains had been strung across the dirt road about 100 yards before the gates. Undeterred, we set off on the one mile march to the site. As we headed down the road, several men in a white jeep approached and slowly passed on our left, with one guy pointing his finger and pulling his pretend "trigger" like a small boy playing army men. Some people felt threatened, but if you ask me, it's mostly just very strange and sad behavior for a grown man.

When we arrived at the entrance to the site, Blackwater's Brian Bonfiglio was standing next to his white Hummer, right at the chains. My first thought was, "why is HE here?" but then the light dawned, and I realized it was for the media. They did swarm around him, of course. A number of protestors gathered around him with the media, but most continued to walk up a hillside to an overlook so they could see the valley as intended, and some just started walking back to the rally site. Bonfiglio claims our protest actually helps Blackwater, and doesn't hurt them because it was nothing but a "political circus". He doth protest too much. If we were so insignificant, he wouldn't have bothered showing up. Personally, I think it's telling and a bit worrisome that Blackwater employees seem to not grasp the concept of participatory democracy, and will publicly scoff at people for organizing within their community. It reminded me of the famous saying by Gandhi; “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” It looks like we've made it to stage two. Onward to stages three and four!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Saturday afternoon book fair blogging

I spent a few hours this afternoon browsing around the San Diego City Book Fair. Believe it or not, I only bought ONE book. I don't know if that fact amazes you, but it amazed me and my husband was shocked to his core. I touched a whole bunch of them though, and added about a dozen to my mental book list, including Paul Krugman's The Conscience of A Liberal, and Brother, I'm Dying by Edwidge Danticat.

The only book I purchased was The Best American Essays of 2007, edited by David Foster Wallace. I'm a sucker for a good essay, plus they're perfect reading for the bus ride between home and work.

Photojournalist David Bacon who's books include The Children of NAFTA, and Communities without Borders, spoke this afternoon at the book fair on the interrelatedness of labor, migration and trade. Excellent and interesting. I've read some of his essays at Alternet and The Nation, but now I really want to read his books, and his photos of migrant workers across Mexico and the US are fascinating.

I love to hear it when someone expresses the links between complicated issues in ways I've never really considered, and Bacon does exactly that by speaking about the connection between government clampdowns on migrant workers, in the wake of increased union and social justice organizing. In fact, that Nation article contains the jist of today's talk. It's good stuff...give it a read.


In today's "I couldn't have said it better myself" news

Dave Johnson from Seeing the Forest has a great post asking the eternal question, Do California Taxes Hurt?

I've long said that the oft-spoken comments about how government can't be trusted, means WE can't be trusted to govern ourselves, and that's a pretty scary mindset that could lead to .... uh....where we are now with our public sphere dominated by corporations, and the Cult of Bush in power. The anti-tax, anti-government drumbeat has been pounding steadily since sometime in the 1970s, and it's starting to make my head hurt.

Personally, I'm not inclined to hand over my right to self determination, and my decision-making powers to someone else to be my protector and my decider. I'm a big girl now, and I don't need another daddy. We govern ourselves. Is it a pain in the neck sometimes? Does it take some effort? Of course. Would I have it any other way? Hell, no. You'll have to pry my Constitution out of my cold, dead hands.

Taxes are not inherently bad. They are necessary to run a civil society. The economic problem we face is the misuse of the power we grant to the government for taxation. For example, when the president decides to throw a big war for all his friends, and the congress (other than Feingold) doesn't object. THAT is a problem.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Blackwater in Potrero

It seems to be all Blackwater, all the time these days.

I have a preview of an upcoming documentary about Blackwater's attempt to establish a training facility in Potrero, CA.

Blackwater in Potrero will broadcast (date/time tbd) on the tv program, Alternate Focus, which is available on the Dish Satellite Network (Free Speech TV, channel 9415) as well as Cox Cable (Ch 23, 6pm Mondays) and other cable stations around the country. Alternate Focus is a volunteer-run, viewer-supported 501(c)(3) organization that broadcasts documentaries and interviews about Middle East issues.

This weekend is the Stop Blackwater encampment at the state park in Potrero.

There are still some campsites available: Instructions on how to get a site are at www.prcsd.org/encampment.html


Activities start on Saturday at 9am with an easy walking tour of the Hauser Wilderness led by Ellen Shively from the Sierra Club, with wildlife expert Geoffrey Smith. Meet at Potrero Regional Park at 9am to carpool to the trail head!

Workshops begin at 2pm and will be held in the Pavilion at Potrero Regional Park:

Workshop 1--Overview of Blackwater and its expansion, "Blackwater West" in Potrero by Raymond Lutz, Citizens' Oversight
Workshop 2--War Profiteering led by David Wiley and Jim Brown, San Diego Veterans for Peace

Workshop 1--Potrero Wildlife led by Renee Owens, Sierra Club
Workshop 2--Militarization of the Border led by Enrique Morones, Border Angels

Saturday evening will move to a different location for evening events:
5:30 pm
Bring your dinner and picnic before the evening program of music and spoken word---Location: 23975 Yerba Santa Road (corner of Round Potrero Rd. and Yerba Santa). Parking is available on the property. Once in Potrero, from I-94 go north on Potrero Valley Road, go left onto Round Potrero Road and continue to location.

Please bring flashlights, camp chairs and water; please NO fires, candles, kerosene lanterns, etc. due to fire hazard.

6-7 p.m. Drum circle (bring your drums!)
7 p.m. Music and spoken word program

Gather at 3975 Yerba Santa Road (corner of Round Potrero Rd. and Yerba Santa). Parking is available on the property. Once in Potrero, from I-94 go north on Potrero Valley Road, go left onto Round Potrero Road and continue to location. Watch for signs.

We have a great lineup of speakers, including Representative Bob Filner.

Bring camp chairs for the rally! And be sure to bring hats, sunscreen, water!


For more information:

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