Entries tagged with “Norman Solomon”.

“A new poll of Americans has found that though the nation remains wary over the prospect of becoming involved in another Middle Eastern war, the vast majority of US citizens strongly approve of sending Congress to Syria,” The Onion reported in its Sept. 5 issue.

“The New York Times/CBS News poll showed that though just 1 in 4 Americans believe that the United States has a responsibility to intervene in the Syrian conflict, more than 90 percent of the public is convinced that putting all 535 representatives of the United States Congress on the ground in Syria… is the best course of action at this time,” the satirical newspaper and website added.

In fact, the Obama Administration’s proposal to attack Syria to punish its ruler for attacking its own civilians with poison gas was a terrible farce. Thank God that idea seems to be fading. According to news reports, the Syrian government had moved its weaponry to residential neighborhoods, thus creating a human shield for its arsenal. As a result, the primary effect of air raids on Syria could well have been to kill hundreds, if not thousands, more civilians.

Fortunately President Obama on Monday announced that if there are adequate safeguards, he’s prepared to accept Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plan to head off a US attack: let the UN take possession of Syria’s chemical weapons and destroy them. The proposal, which has Syria’s blessing, comes only days before Congress was to vote on whether to approve an attack. That vote has now been postponed. To many people, Obama’s statements in preparation for the vote seemed downright disgraceful.

Former congressional candidate Norman Solomon of Inverness Park commented in the Sept. 8 Marin Independent Journal, “President Barack Obama is seeking authorization from Congress for use of military force against Syria, while asserting the right to ignore the decision by Congress if it doesn’t go his way.

“Blending tragedy and farce, this approach would destroy the meaning of congressional ‘authorization,’ turning Congress into an advisory body when it votes on whether the US government should launch a military attack on another country,” Solomon wrote.

“In matters of war and peace, the next step might be for the Executive Branch to provide all 535 members of Congress with juice, graham crackers and blankets for naptime….

Democrat Norman Solomon and his wife, Cheryl Higgins, campaigning in the 2012 Western Weekend parade.

“An American attack would also provide major help to ‘rebels,’ aligned with al-Qaeda and other Islamic extremists, who are as repressively cruel as the Assad regime they seek to overthrow. The chilling parallels with massive US aid to mujahedeen forces in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan during the 1980s should be hard to miss….

“It’s crucial that Congress vote against attacking Syria. But the problems with the president’s approach go far deeper than his scenario for war, awful as it is. Without enormous pushback, Obama will succeed in establishing a political precedent that is antithetical to the separation of powers and the consent of the governed.

“As with the president’s atrocious support for the now-exposed surveillance programs that have put the National Security Agency in a Big Brother role, our country’s basic constitutional principles are at stake.”

So what should the US do? In a letter to the editor printed in the Sept. 5 San Francisco Chronicle, Pete McCloskey proposed one reasonable response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons. A much-decorated Navy and Marine Corps veteran who served in Congress from 1967 to 1983, McCloskey wrote:

“Whatever might be the vote with respect to military action against Syria, it would be a good time for Congress to reassert its reliance on international law and the World Court’s jurisdiction to try national leaders for war crimes such as the use of poison gas….

“Declaring Bashar Assad a war criminal and suggesting that a tribunal be convened to try him might do as much to deter future use of poison gas by Assad as any ‘surgical’ military strike…. If deterrence of future use of poison gas is a primary goal of President Obama, it is entirely consistent with the goal that Assad know that he will one day face trial as a war criminal.”

Former Congressman Pete McCloskey at West Marin School in November 2011. Annoyed at the “new brand of Republicanism,” McCloskey in 2007 switched from Republican to Democrat.

If Assad loses his grip on Syria, it will, of course, be possible to put him on trial, so it’s worth remembering that the State Department for some time has predicted that his regime isn’t going to last too much longer. In July a year ago, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters, “The sand is running out of the hour glass… [It] should be abundantly clear to those who support the Assad regime: the days are numbered.”

Assad’s government is a brutal one, the US government correctly declares, but that very brutality is the reason our government had a close working relationship with Syria until recently.

After 9/11, the CIA began a program of “extraordinary rendition” in order to use torture to interrogate foreigners we captured in the Middle East. Because it was unable to use “enhanced interrogation” techniques on US soil, the CIA began sending detainees to foreign countries. As The Washington Post reported last Feb. 5, the CIA often counted on foreign governments, “some of them quite nasty,” to do the torturing.

The Post quoted a 2005 New Yorker article that noted, “Syria was one of the ‘most common destinations for rendered suspects.’ [Syrian] government forces, according to [an Open Society Foundation] report, held some of the US-provided detainees in a prison known as ‘The Grave’ for its coffin-sized cells and subjected them to ‘torture involving a chair frame used to stretch the spine and beatings.'”

Interestingly, some of the other renditions were to Iran which, like Syria, is usually our adversary. So why did the two countries cooperate with the US? Syria and Iran, like the US, are enemies of al-Qaeda, The Washington Post explained, and it was a matter of the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Whether President Assad ordered a poison-gas attack on his own people was still being debated as recently as last weekend. Assad was claiming the rebels did the gassing. The German press said government forces may have carried out the attack without his authorization. And the Russian press claimed the West’s account of what happened “doesn’t make sense.”

Is Syrian President Bashar Assad getting the message?

I personally believe that Assad did order a poison-gas attack and, like McCloskey, think he should eventually be held accountable.

In the meantime, is there anything else to be done?

According to the poll of Americans quoted by The Onion, “91 percent of those surveyed agreed that the active use of sarin gas by the Syrian government would, if anything, only increase poll respondents’ desire to send Congress to Syria.”

The Onion quoted a “survey respondent and Iraq War veteran Maj. General John Mill” as saying that sending Congress or at least congressional leaders to Syria “is the correct course of action.” But the US needs to take action “sooner rather than later,” Mill added. “This war isn’t going to last forever.”

Ironically, an actual poll by the Associated Press found public opinion isn’t much different from the tongue-in-cheek poll reported in The Onion. “Only 1 in 5 Americans believe that failing to respond to chemical weapons attacks in Syria would embolden other rogue governments,” AP reported Monday. The wire service described these findings as “rejecting the heart of a weeks-long White House campaign for US military strikes.”

I found it fascinating that the results suggest Democrats are significantly more hawkish than Republicans, at least in this case. “The poll indicated that 53 percent of Democrats, 59 percent of independents, and 73 percent of Republicans believe Congress should vote against the plan to strike Syria,” AP reported.

“Overall, 61 percent of people surveyed said they wanted Congress to vote against authorizing military strikes in Syria.” This gets us back to The Onion’s poll: if members of Congress ignore public opinion and vote for an attack, send them all to Syria.

The 63rd annual Western Weekend, which celebrates West Marin’s agricultural heritage, drew one of its largest crowds in a decade last weekend. On Saturday, the West Marin 4-H Fair, the Western Weekend queen’s coronation, and a barn dance were all held at Toby’s Feed Barn.

Sunday’s events began with a noontime parade down the three-block-long main street of Point Reyes Station. Despite the short route, the parade lasted more than an hour because street performances frequently stopped the procession. In addition, a few entries upon reaching the end of the route took a side street back to the starting point and made a second pass through town, thereby lengthening the parade.

Following the parade, the Marin County Farm Bureau held a chicken barbecue in Toby’s parking lot while a band played, people danced, and 4-H members sold pastries.

4-H Fair  Olivia Blantz of Point Reyes-Olema 4-H (left) and Emily Charlton of San Rafael 4-H cradle their poultry prior to the judging in Toby’s Feed Barn. Olivia’s hen won Best in Show.

Emily’s sister Erin Rose Charlton won the Showmanship award in the Junior category for her hen.

Goats  Olivia Tyrnauer’s goat Cinnamon (right) won first place in  Senior Showmanship. Olivia is a member of Mill Valley 4-H.

A Pigmy goat named Sylvester, which is owned by Megan Sintef of Nicasio 4-H, won a first place award in Junior Showmanship.

Altogether five goats were entered for judging in the 4-H Fair.




Rabbits  Amelia Paulsey, 6, from San Rafael 4-H with her bunny Butterfly is questioned by her mother Kari Paulsey, who happened to be one of the judges.

For the first time in memory, no large animals such as cows and horses were entered in the 4-H Fair. As Allison Keaney, Marin County 4-H program representative, explained: “The fair in general has been running the risk of just not happening. With the alterations of the school schedules over the years, the first weekend in June [became] hard for folks.

“Our fair only had 36 members enter, representing only 25 families. That is actually up from last year. We only had two large-animal entries in 2010 and 2011 and therefore scratched the competition.

“Also, the demographic of our county enrollment has changed. The average age of our members has dropped a lot. We have lots of little members, which is exciting for the future, but members can’t do a large-animal project until they are nine years old.”

Western Weekend Queen Brenda Rico of Point Reyes Station riding in Sunday’s parade.

Parade Grand Marshal Michael Mery of Point Reyes Station.

Marin County Sheriff Bob Doyle (right) rides on a buckboard in Sunday’s parade.

Last hurrah  Lynn Woolsey (D-Petaluma) takes a last ride in a Western Weekend parade as a congresswoman before she retires from the US House of Representatives.

Incumbent Marin County Supervisor Steve Kinsey of Forest Knolls (center) does some last-minute campaigning during the Western Weekend parade in advance of this week’s election.

Congressional candidate Norman Solomon (D-Inverness Park) and his wife Cheryl Higgins led a large contingent of supporters in the Western Weekend parade.

The Aztec Dancers of Santa Rosa, traditional Western Weekend parade favorites, stopped periodically during the procession to dance to the beat of a drum. The dancers took third place in Adult Street Shows. They also won the parade’s Grand Prize.

KWMR community radio, 90.5 FM in Point Reyes Station and 89.9 FM in Bolinas, was represented by numerous marchers and an elaborate float. The entry won 2nd place among Adult Drill Teams.

Youngsters took advantage of the main street’s curb in order to have front-row seating for the parade, as well as to grab candies thrown from floats.

Adult spectators took whatever seating they could find, which for Gary Martin (left) and Bill Barrett was a spot on the front of the judges’ stand.

The Nave Patrola annually spoofs the World War I Italian Army, with the patrol’s soldiers marching chaotically and sometimes pausing to anachronistically shout, “Il Duce!, the group won the Best Adult Drill Team award, as well as the overall Best Drill Team award.

In the early 1970s, an official from the Italian Consulate in San Francisco complained to parade organizers, the West Marin Lions Club, that the patrol disparaged Italians, what with its seemingly confused marchers colliding with each other and going off in all directions. Defenders of the patrol replied that many of the members are of Italian descent.

The seventh and eighth grade rock band from West Marin School were highlights of the parade. Here the eighth grade performs some rock’n roll classics. The West Marin Kids Who Rock band won first place in Kids’ Music plus the overall Best Music award.

Papermill Creek Children’s Corner preschool in Point Reyes Station took 1st place among Kids’ Drill Teams.

The Wedding Party with Carol Rossi and pugs won first in Adult Animals. Possibly influencing the judges’ decision was their being given the top layer of the wedding cake.

Blazing Saddle Jason McLean of Point Reyes Station (left) sits astride one of two metal deer he built, with his deer shooting fire out its rear end. McLean’s entry took 1st place among Adult Vehicles.

West Marin Community Services, which sponsors among other things the Food Pantry, the Thrift Store in Point Reyes Station, and the Tomales Bay Waterdogs swimming classes for youths, took 1st place among Kids’ Floats.

A 1920s buggy driven by Ethan McNamara took 1st among Kids’ Horses and won the Best Horse award.

West Marin Pharmacy joined the parade for the first time this year and won 1st place in Adult Music.

Halleck Creek Ranch in Nicasio, which operates a riding club for disabled children, took 1st in Kids’ Animals and the Best Animal award.

West Marin’s own tap dancers, the Fab-U-Taps, provided a street performance called Women of the World for Peace. The group took 1st place among Adult Street Shows, as well as the overall Best Street Show award.

Following Sunday’s parade, the West Marin Lions Club held a chicken barbecue in the parking lot of Toby’s Feed Barn. Members of Point Reyes-Olema 4-H sold pastries, and the Doc Kraft Dance Band inspired people to get up and dance.

At least eight of the 11 candidates for Congress from 2nd District in the June 5 election are on record as favoring an end to the federal Drug Enforcement Agency crackdown on medical-marijuana dispensaries and on people using medical marijuana.

Their stance is in accord with that of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), who on May 2 condemned the Obama administration’s crackdown on medical-marijuana dispensaries and stressed pot’s medicinal value:

“Access to medicinal marijuana for individuals who are ill, or during difficult and painful therapies, is both a medical and a states’ rights issue.

“Sixteen states, including our home state of California, and the District of Columbia have adopted medicinal-marijuana laws, most by a vote of the people,” said Pelosi (left).

“I have strong concerns about the recent actions by the federal government that threaten the safe access of medicinal marijuana to alleviate the suffering of patients in California, and undermine a policy that has been in place under which the federal government did not pursue individuals whose actions complied with state laws providing for medicinal marijuana.

“Proven medicinal uses of marijuana include improving the quality of life for patients with cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and other severe medical conditions.”

Many other elected officials ranging from Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts, to Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee are also upset by the DEA’s raids on dispensaries.

Congressional candidate Larry Fritzlan (Democrat) would like to legalize all drugs for adults 18 and older. This, he says, would allow presently illicit drugs to be regulated, and their cost would drop drastically, driving underground drug dealers out of business.

Fritzlan (below) describes himself as “a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in drug and alcohol intervention and treatment.” He formerly worked at San Quentin prison.

“Today over half of all prisoners in jails and prisons are there because of crimes involving drugs,” he says. If all drugs were legalized, Fritzlan adds, “75 percent of our prisons could be closed….

“Some people think that legalization of drugs would lead to more drug use,”  Fritzlan wrote on his website. They should remember, he added, “Capitalism works. Drug dealers sell drugs to make money. Any drug-seeking person can land on any part of the earth and within hours, if not minutes, find and acquire all the drugs they want.

“Only those who have never visited ‘the street’ could possibly believe that the legalization of drugs would make drugs more available.” He would like to see “all drugs become legal for adults aged 18 and over, and taxed like we currently tax alcohol and tobacco.”

Jared Huffman (right) would prefer more limited reforms.

“I support legalization/taxation/regulation of marijuana and have voted to do so as an Assembly member,” the Democratic legislator (right) wrote me.

“I also support stronger regulations to bring greater integrity to the medical cannabis framework so that we can hopefully get the federal government to show deference to California and stop the raids.

“I do not favor legalization of all drugs.”

Democrat Norman Solomon says, “I support legalization of marijuana use for adults. The federal government should remove marijuana from Schedule I, a classification intended for only the most dangerous drugs.

“State and local governments should have the authority to regulate and tax marijuana.

“I will fight to stop federal threats against jurisdictions that implement innovative and reasonable permitting policies,” Solomon (left) says.

“I will defend the right of patients to safely access cannabis for medical needs.

“Limited federal funds should not be used to raid legitimate collectives and cooperatives. Just as with alcohol in the 1920s, the prohibition of marijuana has created a black market rife with organized crime and other harmful consequences.

“The cultivation of marijuana on state and federal lands and in dangerous, poorly-wired ‘grow houses’ is unacceptable. In addition to legalization, I support targeted enforcement for public safety and environmental protection.

“I support the legalization of industrial hemp to create new businesses and jobs in industries ranging from paper and textiles to fashion and food.”

Democrat Tiffany René (right), the vice-mayor of Petaluma, says without embellishment she wants to “legalize, regulate and tax marijuana.”

John Lewallen of Mendocino County (below), an Independent whose website describes him and his wife as “wild-seaweed harvesters,” says, “Working with the president, Congress should end the prohibition of marijuana, a prohibition which is causing violence, economic and human waste, and harmful ignorance on many levels.

“This is the year to enact HR 2306, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, which will repeal all federal penalties for production, distribution and possession of marijuana.

“By bringing cannabis into the light of legalization, we can openly discuss and deal with the problems caused by marijuana abuse, and make available the many exciting therapeutic uses of cannabis now being discovered.”

Democrat William Courtney, a surgeon, says his “area of specialty is non-psychoactive, dietary cannabis,” on which he has presented scientific papers across the US, as well as in Germany, Israel, Austria, Luxembourg, Jamaica, France, and Morocco.

Dr. Courtney (left) also says he has written for numerous scientific journals, advocating the use of raw, unheated marijuana, which he “juices” in a blender.

“Cannabinoid acids are, at least, a conditionally essential dietary element required as an antioxidant/ anti-inflammatory for individuals in the 4th decade and beyond.”

He adds that medical studies “argue for the designation of cannabinoid acids as essential across the entire life span. I have thousands of patients who are beginning the largest informal clinical trials in the world.”

On his campaign’s website, the physician includes a video showing him preparing of raw cannabis, which doesn’t get you high. In the video, one of Dr. Courtney’s patients attests to the benefit she has received from his therapy.

Susan Adams, a Democrat, says, “As a doctorally educated nurse whose specialty is addiction in pregnancy, I have some basis for the following comments:

“First, the federal policy on marijuana is a failed and costly policy. Prohibition on alcohol did not work in the 1920’s and it’s not working for marijuana now.

“The people of California voted in a majority vote to allow for the use of medical marijuana, and unfortunately the state has provided no leadership in this area including pushing back on the Feds with a State’s Rights assertion.

“More than 400 cities and towns and 58 counties in California are grappling with how to institute the state law without violating federal law and losing federal funding from a variety of programs. Supervisor Lovelace from Humboldt and I serve on the California State Association of Counties working group on this issue and have posted several papers and reports on the topic on the CSAC website.

“The solution seems obvious. Remove the prohibition. Allow the growth and sales of industrial hemp as well as marijuana. Tax it, regulate it, zone it, ensure the consumer safety of it. We don’t see people shooting each other on our public lands over illegal vineyards.

“In my clinical practice, I was far more concerned about a woman’s alcohol consumption where alcohol is associated with the devastating teratogenic effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, the number one cause of preventable mental retardation in the United States.

“Last December, I coauthored a letter with Supervisor Kinsey from our Board of Supervisors to the President and the US Attorney General requesting they cease the heavy handed enforcement of legitimate dispensaries. I would rather they focus their energies on going after the illegal grows on our public lands, which are degrading the environment and polluting our waterways and causing a public health and safety crisis.”

Democrat Andy Caffrey wants “a big transition” that includes the federal government’s expanding the “social safety net.”

This would mean Medicare for all, making our public schools the best in the world, free college and trade schools, apprenticeship support, homeowner mortgage support, free public transportation and Social Security for all.

Caffrey suggests several ways to finance all this: ending “corporate personhood,” taxation of the “super rich,” reducing military spending, “ending the War on Drugs, and legalizing marijuana.”

As for the three other candidates in the District 2 race, Democrat Stacey Lawson could not be reached for a comment. I left a message with Democrat Banafsheh Akhlaghi and Republican Daniel Roberts, but neither of them responded.


Approximately 65 people showed up Sunday morning in West Marin School’s parking lot to take part in the Occupy Wall Street movement, which began Sept. 17 in New York City and since then has spread around the world.

As of two weeks ago, there had been protests in 70 major US cities and more than 600 smaller communities. There had also been protests in more than 900 foreign cities. A Time magazine survey earlier this month found that 54 percent of Americans have a favorable impression of Occupy Wall Street while 18 percent do not.

The movement is in essence a protest against the unequal distribution of wealth in the United States and elsewhere. In this country, the protesters’ slogan “We are the 99 percent” refers to the disparity in wealth between the top one percent of society and other citizens.

The phrase came out of the 2000 presidential candidate debates between Al Gore and George W. Bush. Gore repeatedly accused Bush of supporting the “wealthiest one percent” rather than the welfare of everyone else. That was followed by a 2006 documentary film, The One Percent, made by Johnson & Johnson heir Jamie Johnson. The film noted that the wealthiest one percent of Americans then controlled 38 percent of the nation’s wealth.

Already this country’s disparity in wealth was well known. In 2001, Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel winner in economics, had written that the wealthiest one percent of US citizens at that time controlled 40 percent of America’s wealth.

Among those assembling to be photographed at West Marin School was Congressional candidate Norman Solomon (in blue shirt). Sunday’s protest lasted less than half an hour and caused no disruptions.

Because Occupy Wall Street has no list of specific demands, only that income should be spread more evenly and that large corporations should have less influence over government policies, some politicians and mainstream media have dismissed it as irrelevant.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va) characterized the movement as “growing mobs” and said President Barack Obama’s “failed policies” have pitted “Americans against Americans,” leading to the protests. White House press secretary Jay Carney then accused Cantor of “hypocrisy” since Cantor has been supporting Tea Party protests. “I can’t understand how one man’s mob is another man’s democracy,” Carney said.

The protests are coming at a time when millions of Americans have lost their homes and many millions more have lost their jobs largely because of big banks’ risky lending, which triggered a stock-market crash that has led to a recession.

Many congressional Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, have said they support Occupy Wall Street. In contrast, several high-profile Republicans have denounced it. Presidential candidate Herman Cain, a former banker and pizza chain owner, called the protests “anti-capitalist…. Don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks if you don’t have a job and you’re not rich,” he said. “Blame yourself!”

Candidate Ron Paul, however, shot back, “The system has been biased against the middle class and the poor…the people losing jobs. It wasn’t their fault that we’ve followed a deeply flawed economic system.”

Point Reyes Station photographer Art Rogers, who currently has an exhibition at the Jack Mason Museum of West Marin History, documented the event. Here he directs protesters to find spots where his camera can record everyone’s face.

Giving support to the protests have been a number of labor unions and even several well-off people whose wealth puts them in the upper one percent. Leah Hunt-Hendrix, 28, granddaughter of the conservative, Texas oil tycoon H.L. Hunt, earlier joined Occupy Wall Street protesters and said, “We should acknowledge our privilege and claim the responsibilities that come with it.”

Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke observed: “People are quite unhappy with the state of the economy and what’s happening. They blame, with some justification, the problems in the financial sector for getting us into this mess, and they’re dissatisfied with the policy response here in Washington. And at some level, I can’t blame them.”

Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney was more emphatic, saying income inequality and economic performance are the main motivators for the protests, which he called “entirely constructive.”

As it happens, Occupy Wall Street is the brainchild of Canada’s Adbusters Media Foundation, which publishes an advertisement-free, anti-consumerist magazine Adbusters. The foundation last summer proposed a peaceful occupation of Wall Street to protest corporate influence on democracy. By now Canada itself has had protests in all 10 of its provinces.

In this country, Vikram Pandit, head of Citigroup, has called the protesters’ sentiments “completely understandable” and said Wall Street has broken the trust of its clients.

Conservative Republicans have called the protests “class warfare,” but Bill Gross, manager of PIMCO’s Total Return Fund, the world’s largest mutual fund, disagreed. “Class warfare by the 99 percent?” he asked. “Of course, they’re fighting back after 30 years of being shot at.” PIMCO’s co-CEO Mohamed El-Erian concurred that people should “listen to Occupy Wall Street.”

Bloomberg news service on Oct. 12 reported, “Hedge-fund manager John Paulson, who became a billionaire by betting against the US housing market and then profited from the recovery of banks, criticized the movement. His townhouse was among those targeted by marchers who left a fake tax-refund check made out for $5 billion on his doorstep, which was barricaded by police.

“Paulson & Co. and its employees have paid hundreds of millions in New York City and New York State taxes in recent years and have created over 100 high paying jobs in New York City since its formation [in 1994],’ the $30 billion hedge fund said yesterday in a statement. ‘Instead of vilifying our most successful businesses, we should be supporting them and encouraging them to remain in New York City and continue to grow.'”

Regardless of New York tax rates, the Occupy Wall Street movement by Sunday had spread 2,580 miles from that metropolis on the East Coast to this small town on the West Coast.

Only in Point Reyes Station, there was no Zuccotti Park where sometimes-animated protesters have been camping out near Wall Street. Here there was just a brief get-together in the parking lot of West Marin School where 65 residents stood absolutely still to be photographed protesting.