June 30, 2008 archive

Four at Four

  1. Seymour Hersh, writing for The New Yorker, reports on the Bush administration’s secret moves in Iran for “Preparing the Battlefield. Congress agreed to George W. Bush’s request of up to $400 million “to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran… designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership. The covert activities… include gathering intelligence about Iran’s suspected nuclear-weapons program.”

    Clandestine operations against Iran are not new. United States Special Operations Forces have been conducting cross-border operations from southern Iraq, with Presidential authorization, since last year. These have included seizing members of Al Quds, the commando arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and taking them to Iraq for interrogation, and the pursuit of “high-value targets” in the President’s war on terror, who may be captured or killed.

    The highly classified funding was approved by the Democratic members of the “Gang of Eight”: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Jay Rockefeller, and House Intelligence Committee chairman Silvestre Reyes. “In other words, some members of the Democratic leadership… were willing, in secret, to go along with the Administration in expanding covert activities directed at Iran”. Even though Bush’s funding request came at the same time the December 2007, National Intelligence Estimate on Iran was released ” that concluded that Iran had halted its work on nuclear weapons in 2003.”

    The Pentagon, both the military and civilian leadership, has been pushing back against White House suggestions for military action against Iran. According to Hersh:

    A Democratic senator told me that, late last year, in an off-the-record lunch meeting, Secretary of Defense Gates met with the Democratic caucus in the Senate. (Such meetings are held regularly.) Gates warned of the consequences if the Bush Administration staged a preĆ«mptive strike on Iran, saying, as the senator recalled, “We’ll create generations of jihadists, and our grandchildren will be battling our enemies here in America.” Gates’s comments stunned the Democrats at the lunch, and another senator asked whether Gates was speaking for Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney. Gates’s answer, the senator told me, was “Let’s just say that I’m here speaking for myself.”

    Former head of U.S. Central Command, Admiral William Fallon, was another critic of the Bush administration’s plans for a military strike against Iran. Fallon was forced to resign in March. He told Hersh:

    “Too many people believe you have to be either for or against the Iranians,” he told me. “Let’s get serious. Eighty million people live there, and everyone’s an individual. The idea that they’re only one way or another is nonsense.”

    When it came to the Iraq war, Fallon said, “Did I bitch about some of the things that were being proposed? You bet. Some of them were very stupid.”

    Nevertheless, Congress approved of the money for Bush’s covert war campaign and since these are covert military actions, unlike CIA operations, the Bush administration’s legal “interpretation” is that Congress does not need to be kept informed because it would interfere with the role of the commander in chief to direct combat forces. “As a result, Congress has been given only a partial view of how the money it authorized may be used.”

    “In recent months, according to the Iranian media, there has been a surge in violence in Iran; it is impossible at this early stage,” but it is not yet known if American covert activities are responsible, nor is possible “to assess their impact on the Iranian leadership.” However, what is known is the White House is relying on “questionable operatives” and “possible lethal action inside Iran”.

    Responding to the story, the Washington Post reports the Bush administration has “denied that U.S. forces were engaged in operations inside Iran.”

Four at Four continues with the capture bin Laden (or not), the business of war for oil, and the Great Lakes compact.

Covering Mud With Straw

Thich Nhat Hanh writes in Being Peace (1987):

The fourth practice is Covering Mud with Straw.  You know when you walk in the countryside after a rain, it is very muddy.  If you have straw to spread over the mud, you can walk safely.  One respected senior monk is appointed to represent each side of the conflict.  These two monks then address the assembly, trying to say something to de-escalate the feeling in the concerned people.  In a Buddhist sangha, people respect the high monks.  We call them ancestral teachers.  They don’t have to say very much; whatever they say is taken very seriously by the rest of the community.  One says something concerning this monk, and what he says will cause the other monk to understand better and de-escalate his feeling, his anger or his resistance.  Then the other high monk says something to protect the other monk, saying it in a way that the first monk feels better.  By doing so, they dissipate the hard feelings in the hearts of the two monks and help them to accept the verdict proposed by the community.  Putting straw on mud– the mud is the dispute, and the straw is the loving kindness of the Dharma

I want to put straw on the mud.  I am not a senior monk.  I am just another person asking us to stop the fighting, to pause, unconditionally to cease the hostilities.  Maybe if we just stopped and breathed, we could find refuge.

I am inhaling all of the darkness and misunderstanding and hurt feelings and anger and sadness of the past few days, and I am exhaling peace and relaxation.  I am inhaling the disputes and arguments, and I am exhaling peace and happiness. This practice is called Tonglen.

Pema Chodron has written about tonglen:

This is the core of the practice: breathing in other’s pain so they can be well and have more space to relax and open, and breathing out, sending them relaxation or whatever you feel would bring them relief and happiness.

Enough talking.  Enough explaining.  Enough thinking.  Enough.  Let’s try breathing.  Let’s try stopping and breathing.  Let’s just stop.

Thich Nhat Hanh writes:

In the peace movement there is a lot of anger, frustration and misunderstanding.  The peace movement can write very good protest letters, but they are not yet able to write a love letter.

He could be talking about blogs.  He could be talking about us.  May we be excellent to each other.  May we all be safe.  May we all be well.  May we all be peace.

What Part of Me is She?

I made a comment a moment ago….

That that is the question I (should more often) always ask of myself before I go asshole, or try and CONTROL another’s behavior, rather than understand them.

Maybe this video will help.


Be eachother.

‘Change’ Happens

This is hard. But then change is almost always hard. This is messy, but then change is almost aways messy. It is almost always uncomfortable, unpleasant, chaotic and confusing. That is why we avoid change. It is painful. Whether it is on the personal level, the national level or the world level.

And we are just getting started. Change is here. We can’t change that. The changes that are occurring on the national and word level are fundamental changes that will…and already are….affecting everyone on the planet in a deep personal way. For eight years we have been crying out for change, now we are about to get more than we bargained for! Some of it will be good, some of it will be bad, but just about all of it will be dramatic. Not neat and tidy and comfortable.

Electing a Dem that we will disagree with. Dealing with the racism…both apparent and subtle (and within ourselves) that goes with that. Cleaning up the unholy mess of Bushco, especially dealing with what they have created in Iraq and Afghanistan. Adjusting to a society where the Right Wings influence has waned and our ‘enemies’ are not so blatantly evil.

And then the big one, Climate Change. The immense changes that will come as oil runs out or becomes too expensive. Food shortages, water wars, Climate refugees…etc. etc.

Change is here. It will affect us all. It will frustrate and scare and anger all of us. How do we deal with it? NONE of us is perfect, none of us have all the answers, all of us have baggage.

And yet we have to find a way to work together. How do we do that? We see even here, where people agree on most things, that working together, that changing together, produces heat and friction. We want change, change is here. Change IS happening…and it is hard.

Now what?


Feingold’s FISA Strategy

I'm as disappointed as the next that Obama's not jumped into the fray, but in the meantime, we've got a damn good quarterback on the field in Russ Feingold, and instead of whining that your favorite's on the bench, let's get to work with the team we've got.

Russ' strategy here is more than a classic filibuster. The real fight comes before the cloture vote on the bill itself. Russ has announce that he plans to introduce 6 Amendments. If even one passes (or for that matter even Specter's) the Bill returns to the House. Only if the 2 Chambers pass identical legislation does it move to the President's desk. If we send a bill sufficiently not to his liking to draw a veto, that kicks the can further down the road. If this mess can be stalled through Labor Day, when the Congress breaks for campaign season, it's dead.

Holy moly… another flamewar and another GBCW

it seems to me we run around talking about saving the world and can barely save ourselves.

hey Robyn, how many times have you been here? you were contemplating leaving and/or stopping writing just days ago, feeling ineffectual. i hear this from you often. people don’t read your stuff. they don’t listen to you.

weill, i am leaving. but not because of any one person. and it’s not because i’m misunderstood or nobody listens to me.

i’m am tired of the whining. not yours. but the whole fucking thing. i’m tired of sacred cows, whether it’s using a word or saying Bill Clinton fucked us. i’m tired of transgender, black, white, progressive, hispanic, women, fuck fuck fuck… when do we get back to just being human beings? instead of targets and victims and winners and losers and progressives who don’t realize they marginalize others be labeling them as haters…

i’m tired of hurt feelings. and absolutes. it’s not about you. or me. there are far more serious problems to solve. but for sure, we are kidding ourselves if this is as good as we get. distorting each other’s feelings, facts, intentions.

i am tired of being a progressive. and yet, i realize i’ve never thoroughly mourned the loss of my democratic self. i am tired of politics. i am tired of people pretending they want the truth. “we can challenge each other.” i might just vomit… nobody really wants to hear truth. i think sometimes agreement disguises itself as truth. the truth is there is nothing absolute about it… it breaks like light into colors of all kinds through 6.7 billion different prisms.

i’m tired of talking. writing. thinking about George W. Bush.  i am tired of nancy pelosi and botox. i’m tired of lies. i hope Obama is the second coming of christ and that i don’t feel compelled to write another political thought.

i’ve been on the verge of this for a while. and this, this was one one too many for me. i think what happened here was wrong. yes. i do.

and yes, this is about you Robyn. hear this from a fan of your writing: you lose me when you start the pity party. who gives a fuck how many people read you? there are people who do. write to them. not to those who aren’t there. i know i got into a “why don’t you give a pony” with NL. but it was never about how many ponies… you’ll just have to take my word on that.

as a reader of yours, i always end up feeling cheated when you go down the “i’m misunderstood road” and i say, fuck. don’t squander your power with this shit. you’ve got power Robyn. you blow me away. but then you go and give it away. you have the makings of blockbuster. get out of your own way.

whether you stay here or you go somewhere else. listen to what scribe said. that was a spot-on comment.

it’s time. change the game Robyn. you’ve already changed the rules and the board. you, having been man, woman, father and wondering how to approach those things with your daughter now can go for it…  on so many levels.

so just fucking do it. i am sorry, but i do expect more of you… i hope you take it this as it’s meant. it’s a compliment AND a kick in the ass.


Liberal Media Bias? Are we REALLY getting ready to attack Iran?

The Peoples Republic of CNN reports today that the Bush Administration is running a whole lot of covert operations inside Iran in order to prepare the battlefield for an attack against their nuclear facilities while really trying to make trouble for the current regime in Iran.  

My guess is that the real reasoning has nothing at all to do with nuclear anything, but has much more to do with the fact that the current regime in Iran isn’t very friendly to Exxon-Mobil, British Petroleum, Shell Oil, etc, etc.  I think that the entire situation emanating from BushCo regarding Iran is all about regime change due to oil.  The continuation of the War On Terror For Oil, if you will.

Hey, call me silly, but it could be true!  šŸ˜‰

Docudharma Times Monday June 30

This Is The 200th Issue

Of This Publication

Monday’s Headlines:

High gas prices hobble cities nationwide  

Protests in China at official ‘cover-up’ of teenager’s death

Government ‘smear’ in Malaysia causes crisis for opposition party

Farmer who exposed terror, Ben Freeth, is kidnapped with family

Will Africa take action against Zimbabwe’s Mugabe?

Israel’s prisoner swap with Hezbollah: too risky?

Report: Iranian gets death for Israel spying

Kosovo Serbs set up rival assembly

Court judgment for Turkey’s ruling party could stop EU membership

Amid Policy Disputes, Qaeda Grows in Pakistan


Published: June 30, 2008

WASHINGTON – Late last year, top Bush administration officials decided to take a step they had long resisted. They drafted a secret plan to make it easer for the Pentagon’s Special Operations forces to launch missions into the snow-capped mountains of Pakistan to capture or kill top leaders of Al Qaeda.

Intelligence reports for more than a year had been streaming in about Osama bin Laden’s terrorism network rebuilding in the Pakistani tribal areas, a problem that had been exacerbated by years of missteps in Washington and the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, sharp policy disagreements, and turf battles between American counterterrorism agencies.

U.S. Advised Iraqi Ministry on Oil Deals


Published: June 30, 2008

A group of American advisers led by a small State Department team played an integral part in drawing up contracts between the Iraqi government and five major Western oil companies to develop some of the largest fields in Iraq, American officials say.

The disclosure, coming on the eve of the contracts’ announcement, is the first confirmation of direct involvement by the Bush administration in deals to open Iraq’s oil to commercial development and is likely to stoke criticism.


Pentagon Fights EPA On Pollution Cleanup

By Lyndsey Layton

Washington Post Staff Writer

Monday, June 30, 2008; Page A01

The Defense Department, the nation’s biggest polluter, is resisting orders from the Environmental Protection Agency to clean up Fort Meade and two other military bases where the EPA says dumped chemicals pose “imminent and substantial” dangers to public health and the environment.

The Pentagon has also declined to sign agreements required by law that cover 12 other military sites on the Superfund list of the most polluted places in the country. The contracts would spell out a remediation plan, set schedules, and allow the EPA to oversee the work and assess penalties if milestones are missed.

My ‘Brothers’ Want Their Proud Name Back!!

When you hear the term “Swiftboat” what comes into your mind?

I already know your answer, but it isn’t the meaning for those who served on nor any Navy Personal who served In-Country Vietnam.

Not to far back a small group of misguided Navy personal, who served aboard ‘Swiftboats’ in ‘Nam, took that once proud name and used it for their political purposes and gains, with some others joining them, who not only never served on  swiftboats, and the extremely dangerous missions they were sent into, but some never served at all, in the Military nor In War/Occupations!

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning

State of the Onion XVIII

Speaking of ethics and morals…we were doing that, yes?…here’s a poem that was written in a most serious mood about an interaction I had with someone who believed that the Bible was the source of all goodness in the world.  But I suppose it doesn’t have to be that precisely directed.  The graphic is my effort at a stylized yin/yang.

Art Link

Not Quite Balanced

Stories to Tell

We both believe a story

(and so do they

and these and those…)

We both have a book

It’s just that you believe

that everyone should

worship your book

word for word

without context

while my book teaches me

that I must create

my own story

based on my principles

my ethical nature

my moral judgment

my basic goodness

as a human being

and laugh at the thought

that one person would seek

to force their thoughts

or beliefs

on another

I’ve read your book

You fear mine

And you claim

that your belief

is stronger?

You jest

I chuckle at your joke


You slay me

–Robyn Elaine Serven

–March 23, 2006

Please join us on the inside to celebrate, venerate, regenerate and/or motivate our muses.

Overcoming Bias

Here Dr. Washington was introduced by Judge W. S. Bullock, in an address that for sincerity and the highest praise can have no equal.

“Dr. Washington, you are engaged in a great work.  We sympathise with you in the delicate and arduous undertaking… My countrymen and my friends, I commend to you our distinguished guest on this occasion.  He comes upon a mission that we welcome.  He is the leader of the negro race in America… He is taking the benighted, vicious, ignorant and superstitious negro from their [his] condition and clothing him in the garments of industry, intelligence, and morality.  In short, he is qualifying the negro for citizenship.”

~From The Booker T. Washington Papers, Volume Eleven, page 484.  The above is a press release issued by the office of Dr. Washington

When reading the above, the most striking thing about it is how absolutely insulting it sounds, towards both Booker T. Washington, and to black Americans in general.  It would sound horrible if anyone today said this about the accomplishments of Dr. Washington.  It would be unforgivable if anyone said this about any contemporary person.  But at the time, he himself categorized it as the highest of praise.

What is the point of this example?  Well, for starters, that context is often everything.  We know all of the words, but they mean much different things to us today than they did to people then.  At the time, that was the height of progressivity about race in America, while today, it would be too insulting and antiquated a perspective to even voice public ally.

Several Essays

A Simple and Humbling Ideal:  I try to be respectful to the person in front of me.  It’s not exciting like freeing the slaves, it’s not beautifully whole like non-violent resistance, it’s not intoxicating like deep spiritual realization, nor is it grand like changing the world.  And since it is not a great cause with a long grand march to an imagined glorious outcome, the results are in almost immediately.  It’s not uncommon for me to be reminded that I’ll never be perfect it.  (At those moments, I like to think dreamily about the day all humans will live in freedom.  Ah, sweet distraction.)

There’s this guy who really gets under my skin.  I love to say ironically funny or insightfully critical things about him behind his back.  Yeah, I’m that kind of passive aggressive guy–afraid of confrontation but arrogant nonetheless.  Surely you know the type.  I wish I weren’t petty like that.  But there are a lot of different ways to disrespect people.  At least my way is occasionally funny.  OTOH, with explosive anger sometimes you get to see frighteningly spectacular displays of household goods being creatively employed contrary to their intended use.

There are all kinds of violence, aren’t there.  I lived for a couple of years at the Center for Non-Violent Action.  My wife and I were young while the other couple were experienced hands in the peace business.  One day my wife (ex) said to me, “They talk about and work for peace a lot, but if you think about it, they are pretty violent to each other.”  The plain truth of her claim was inarguable.

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