September 2007 archive

Mr. Death Squad in Charge of Blackwater Oversight

The sheer bonk-on-the-head idiocy of leaks put out by the Bush Administration are occassionally useful for the White House, in that they get the reporter and the reader to miss the one really salient fact being conveyed.

For example, in the midst of all of the mind-numbingly stupid leaks put out by the State Department over the past few days about Blackwater, no one seems to have noticed that State has put John D. (“The ‘D’ stands for ‘Death Squad'”) Negroponte in charge of Blackwater oversight. 

New York Times Sept. 29:

— big snip —

The Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, has asked Mr Negroponte to oversee the department’s response to problems with security contractors.

— big snip —

Jean Luc Ponty, Al Di Meola and Stanley Clarke

Just got back from the show at The Egg in Albany, NY.  The show started off with a piece written by Al, then one by Jean Luc, and one by Stanley, they also did a John Coltrane number then Al walked off stage and Jean Luc and Stanley did an amazing piece together.  Al then came back on stage and began the solo section where each musician played 4 or 5 pieces of their choosing.

After an intense percussive groove that saw Stanley literally punching his instrument to achieve the sound he wanted he looked up at the audience and said:

“The pain in my right hand is for you.”

We ALL Live in Jena

First of all, I’d like to say that the graphic here and the title of this essay are taken from Nezua over at The Unapologetic Mexican with his permission.

After seeing his diary, I spent some time this afternoon trying to understand why I haven’t engaged more with the Jena 6 issue. While I have been aware of the situation for several months now, I haven’t really spent a lot of energy on it or gotten involved at all. Part of me thinks that’s wrong and I’m sorry.

But I just saw something on Fox News (yeah, can you believe that one!!!) that helped me understand why. In a roundtable discussion about several issues related to race that have happened this week, one of the commentators talked about a case where a white boy had been beaten up by a group of black boys, but had gotten no media attention. This is the problem with advocacy by anectdote. If we are going to rely on one case to make our point – the other side is more than capable of coming up with a case in counterpoint. But we all know what a lie that turns out to be, don’t we?

Saturday Night Bike Blogging: Gearing Up for the Commute

The votes are in. Commuting issues beat coast to coast cycling by a massive Two to One margin … that is, two votes for commuting issues, versus one votes for coast to coast cycling.

And this week I got some more gear for my cycle commute, so my mind seemed to turn to the topic of gearing up for the commute.

Of course, any SNBB essay is also … probably primarily … a cycling open thread … so whatever your cycling thought, observation, or recollection, drop on in.

A Tale of Two Suburbs

This past week we witnessed the responses of two local law enforcement agencies to increasing political pressure to rely upon them to enforce federal immigration policy:

In Irving Texas, a suburb in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, 2000 protester marched this week to highlight that city’s participation in a Federal program that has caused deportations to increase 500% from that city in the last year alone.

In Nassau County NY, a suburb in Metro NYC, the county’s highest ranking police official announced this week that his department would no longer assist federal authorities with the apprehension of undocumented immigrants.

Across the country, municipalities large and small are now being forced to examine exactly what their rights and responsibilities are when it comes to enforcing federal immigration policy.

In a heated political climate where incendiary speech and inflammatory rhetoric often pass for public discourse, too many local leaders have chosen to make political hay by claiming it is now their responsibility to take on the burden of enforcing Federal law.

Others have taken a much wiser approach.

The Young Dems Made Me Sick: Event Planning Lessons

cross posted at/adapted from my blog

It’s been a rough week.  Work has been very busy and Mr. D (my live-in boyfriend) and I single-handedly planned and executed a Young Democrats event on Thursday night.

This event, which had been talked about and conceptualized for about two months, literally came together in less than two weeks.  With some (read: minimal) help from the Board President and other members, we created and mailed about 1100 post card invites, learned “constant contact” and sent email invites to current members with its email marketing application, spruced up the website and myspace page to advertise the event, shopped for and prepared all the food and drink for about 70 guests, set-up and broke-down the day of the event…I am totally shocked it went off (seemingly) without a hitch.

Help Send Three Kossacks to Congress

As many of you know, three members of the netroots community are running for Congress. We all talk the talk. They’re daring to walk the walk. All face uphill battles, but with a little luck, lots of hard work, and your help, all three can win.

We’re coming to the end of the quarter, for filing campaign contributions. A late rush is always helpful, not only for the obvious reasons, but for the buzz it creates. They can all also use volunteers and cyber-volunteers. Please do what you can, and do it by Sunday. Thanks!

Here are some diaries about our three candidates, plus links to their campaign webpages, ActBlue pages, and volunteer sign-up pages:

Jerry Northington for Congress- DE-AL

His Daily Kos page: possum

My introductory diary: (DE-AL) Kossack Jerry Northington (possum) for Congress!

We’re used to politicians who posture and spin, and whose every move is meticulously calculated. How often do we see politicians who think and write like Jerry Northington? He’s a warrior for peace, a teacher and healer, a scientist with the soul of a poet. We don’t often have the chance to send such a person to Congress. We now do.

Jerry’s announcement diary: possum for Congress

The issue on which my campaign is based is the war. As a Vietnam veteran I know from firsthand experience what war can do to the troops and to civilians. We must end this war and end it as soon as possible. So many other issues are not being addressed in this country today. The monies being squandered on a failing Iraq occupation need to be redirected. In addition we must work to see our freedoms restored. We have lost so much in the past six long years. If we fail to begin soon to change direction we may lose all in the end.


Contribute, through ActBlue!

(and two more, below the fold…)

Pony Party: Obscure Sport Edition

The whole world is full of sport, competition, and bored people who can turn any kind of competition into a sport.

It does seem as we become less physically active as a society, we put more energy in cherishing our our passive past times of watching other people who are in shape do fascinating things.

Juan Williams’ Pathetic Attempt To Curb Criticism of O’Reilly

Time magazine gives space to Juan Williams to attempt to shut down criticism of Bill O'Reilly. Jaun Williams, like O'Reilly, is an employee of Fox News. Williams writes two things that struck me as pathetic and ridiculous. The first:

That twisted assumption led me to say publicly that the attacks on O'Reilly amounted to an effort to take what he said totally out of context in an attempt to brand him a racist by a liberal group that disagrees with much of his politics.

Um, so Juan, you feel comfortable smearing poeple while at the same time taking umbrage that you were smeared by ONE commentator on CNN?

But the out-of-context attacks on O'Reilly picked up speed and ended up on CNN, where one commentator branded me a “Happy Negro” for allowing O'Reilly to get by with making racist comments without objection.

Well, shame on that commenter Juan, but shame on you for smearing people yourself. For smearing people like Eugene Robinson:

ROBINSON: Well, you know I'm not going to go inside of Bill O'Reilly's head — you know, is he racist, what does he know? You know, all I know is that it was, at best, a casually racist remark. But you know, what really ticks me off is that when you say that, when you point that out, you know, immediately you get charged by O'Reilly and cohorts with, you know, you're the thought police, you're the thought Gestapo, you're the word Nazis, you're interfering with free speech, and somehow cutting off an honest debate about race. . . .

And for the record Juan, Eugene Robinson is  a black man too. I wonder if Time will give him a chance to respond to your smears.

Four at Four

This is an OPEN THREAD. Here are four stories in the news at 4 o’clock to get you started.

  1. When George W. Bush decided to go after Iraq’s oil rather than finish the job in Afghanistan, I wonder if he thought he would see this headline, Afghan president offers to meet Taliban leader, in the Los Angeles Times four years later? Heckuva screw-up, George. “President Hamid Karzai, expressing horror at a suicide bombing here in the Afghan capital that killed at least 30 people and wounded dozens more, offered today to meet with Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar to stop the carnage. Karzai spoke at an emotional news conference hours after an early morning blast tore through a bus carrying soldiers to their posts.”

    Saturday’s appeal, aimed directly at fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Omar and warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, carried more raw urgency than the U.S.-backed president’s previous overtures.

    “If I find their address, there is no need for them to come to me — I’ll personally go there and get in touch with them,” Karzai told reporters at his presidential palace.

    Apparently paraphrasing the question he would put to them, he asked: “‘Esteemed mullah, sir, and esteemed Hekmatyar, sir, why are you destroying the country?’ “

    There is more on the Kabul suicide attack in the Washington Post, suicide bomb attack kills dozens in Kabul. “The massive explosion, one of the largest suicide attacks in Afghanistan since the U.S. invasion almost six years ago, ripped through the roof and sides of the bus, leaving it an unrecognizable chunk of twisted and charred metal. The blast broke shop windows up to a block away and scattered splinters of glass, chunks of flesh and chards of metal for hundreds of yards… ¶ The 6:45 a.m. blast in the central Kabul neighborhood of Baharistan could be heard for miles in a city that was just waking up… The explosion occurred in front of a large movie theater, at a place where Afghan soldiers gather every morning to be picked up by a bus that takes them to their jobs, army spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi said in a telephone interview. He said the bomber, apparently wearing an explosive vest, boarded the bus at the stop dressed in a regular Afghan army uniform and blew himself up almost immediately.”

    The explosion comes on days after NATO’s top commander in Afghanistan, U.S. Army General Dan McNeill expressed doubts the Taliban was ever defeated by the American invasion and said he didn’t have enough troops to hold captured ground. McNeill told the BBC that he expected the Taliban will recapture territory this winter. With the United States’ attention not diverted to Iraq, things in Afghanistan could have been different as this Washington Post story, A haven of prosperity in Afghan’s Panjshir valley suggests. “This is the way reconstruction in Afghanistan was supposed to be. A little bit of U.S. pump priming, combined with profit motive and human need, would be harnessed by a grateful, liberated population to transform their lives and country. In the process, the people would become loyal allies in the fight against terrorism. ¶ It hasn’t always worked that way. Instead, Afghanistan is besieged by a growing insurgency that is shifting U.S. money and manpower from reconstruction to security, undermining vital road, electricity, school and other projects that are designed to extend the authority of the national government and win hearts and minds.” The U.S. never secured Afghanistan and defeated al-Qaeda and the Taliban before going after Iraq’s oil. Now the Afghans and the West will be paying the price of the Madness of King George.

  2. I appears that early September’s propaganda surge by the White House and Gen. David Petraeus could not withstand reality for even a month. The Los Angeles Times reports, Petraeus acknowledges rise in Iraq violence. “Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, acknowledged today that violence had increased since Sunni Arab militants declared an offensive during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. ¶ ‘Certainly Al Qaeda has had its Ramadan surge,’ Petraeus said in his first comments to reporters since he returned from Washington to give lawmakers a status report on the war in Iraq. But he said the level of attacks was ‘substantially lower’ than during the same period last year.” Right… Petraeus “saw no need to revise the projections he presented to Congress” regarding the planned-since-the-Spring troop withdrawal due.

    After years of war and occupation in Afghanistan and Iraq, their is finally recognition that the troops face a serious threat from improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The Washington Post reports they are ‘The single most effective weapon against our deployed forces’. The first IED attack was on the morning of March 29, 2003, over a month before George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” day. “Since that first fatal detonation of what is now known as an improvised explosive device, more than 81,000 IED attacks have occurred in Iraq, including 25,000 so far this year, according to U.S. military sources. The war has indeed metastasized into something ‘completely different,’ a conflict in which the roadside bomb in its many variants — including ‘suicide, vehicle-borne’ — has become the signature weapon in Iraq and Afghanistan… ¶ IEDs have caused nearly two-thirds of the 3,100 American combat deaths in Iraq, and an even higher proportion of battle wounds. This year alone, through mid-July, they have also resulted in an estimated 11,000 Iraqi civilian casualties and more than 600 deaths among Iraqi security forces. To the extent that the United States is not winning militarily in Iraq, the roadside bomb, which as of yesterday had killed or wounded 21,071 Americans, is both a proximate cause and a metaphor for the miscalculation and improvisation that have characterized the war… ¶ Despite nearly $10 billion spent in the past four years by the department’s main IED-fighting agency, with an additional $4.5 billion budgeted for fiscal 2008, the IED remains ‘the single most effective weapon against our deployed forces,’ as the Pentagon acknowledged this year… ¶ In Afghanistan, although IED attacks remain a small fraction of those in Iraq, the figures also have soared: from 22 in 2002 and 83 in 2003, to 1,730 in 2006 and a thousand in the first half of this year. Suicide attacks have become especially pernicious, climbing to 123 last year, according to a United Nations study, a figure that continues to grow this year, with 22 in May alone.” I think it can be argued that the Taliban learned IED tactics from observing their deadly effectiveness in Iraq.

  3. The scrutiny on Blackwater USA by the traditional media thankfully continues.

    • The AP reports that five Blackwater incidents in question. “Five cases this year in which private Blackwater USA security guards killed Iraqi civilians are at the core of a U.S. review of how the hired protection forces guard diplomats in Iraq, officials said Friday. Iraqi authorities are also concerned about a sixth incident in which Blackwater guards allegedly threw frozen bottles of water at civilian cars, breaking windshields. No one was killed.” Only five or six? Come on, they’re barely looking.

    • MSNBC’s Richard Engel reports on Blackwater’s Ugly Americans. “They are becoming the poster boys for excess. A new ‘photo cartoon’ circulating in Baghdad among security contractors and some U.S. soldiers – and the laughter it’s generating here – speaks for itself.” Engel reports that “a picture is emerging” of the September 16th Nisour Square massacre. “Two American sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity have told me that during the incident at least one Blackwater guard ordered his colleague to ‘stop shooting.’ The guard went so far as to draw a weapon to try to force him to stop. ‘It was a Mexican standoff,’ a contractor said.” Engel writes:

      I met Mohammed Abu Razak today. He’s a well-spoken automotive parts importer, who survived the Sept. 16 incident. His 10-year-old son Ali did not.

      Ali was in the seat behind Abu Razak when a bullet hit him in the head, shattering his skull. Abu Razak picked up the pieces of his son’s skull and brain with his hands, wrapped the boy in a cloth and buried him in Najaf.

      “I can still smell the blood, my son’s blood, on my fingers,” he told me, looking down at his hands, fingers spread wide.

      Razak gave NBC News cell phone video (available here) he took shortly after the shooting. “Abu Razak says the shaky video proves that Blackwater did not fire with directed shots at clearly defined targets – the standard of military professionals – but shot multiple times at unarmed civilians cars like his.” The horror no father, no parent should ever have to face. The murder of their child. Congress needs to outlaw Blackwater and the rest of these mercenaries immediately. The murdered must be brought to justice and held accountable.

    • The Washington Post reports more on Krongard intimidation threats in State Department agents say their jobs were threatened. “Two career investigators in the office of State Department Inspector General Howard J. Krongard have charged that they were threatened with firing if they cooperated with a congressional probe of Krongard and his office. ¶ Told by Terry P. Heide, Krongard’s congressional liaison, that he should not agree to a request for a ‘voluntary’ interview by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Special Agent Ron Militana said he was then advised that reprisals could be taken against him. ‘Howard can fire you,’ he said Heide told him. ‘It would affect your ability to get another job.'” “In recent weeks, the agents relayed their concerns about Krongard to Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the oversight panel. Waxman has said he is investigating allegations that Krongard has repeatedly thwarted investigations into alleged contracting fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan, including construction of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and weapons smuggling allegations against Blackwater USA, a private security firm working under government contract in Iraq… ¶ In a letter, Waxman “included an internal e-mail that indicated Krongard had intervened to stop his office from cooperating with a Justice Department investigation into alleged arms smuggling by Blackwater. In a North Carolina case, two Blackwater employees have pleaded guilty to weapons charges and are cooperating with Justice officials.”

    • A bit more on the cancelled Blackwater real estate deal in North Carolina first covered in yesterday’s Four at Four. The News and Observer reports Amid uproar, Blackwater stops land deal. Blackwater “canceled a $5.5 million real estate deal to buy 1,800 acres of farmland near Fort Bragg”. The real estate deal was initiated by another company. “TigerSwan wanted to set up a training center near Fort Bragg with firing ranges, Miller said. TigerSwan planned to train soldiers from Fort Bragg, as well as corporate executives from Research Triangle Park and elsewhere.” The seller, Wayne Miller, president of Southern Produce Distributors, “said he was impressed with [TigerSwan President Jim] Reese and his project but wanted to know whether TigerSwan could finance such a land purchase… ¶ Miller said he had a hunch that Blackwater was backing the deal. When he asked, Reese confirmed it.” The contract allowed Blackwater to backout of the sale through September 27. What I am really curious about are these corporate executives that are being trained by Blackwater. If that doesn’t smack of class warfare, then I don’t know what would. (Hat tip Anglico.)

  4. Finally, a story about how the Bush administration’s weak U.S. dollar and the stupidity of ethanol impacts America’s ability to provide foreign aid. Celia Dugger of The New York Times reports that as prices soar, U.S. food aid buys less. “Soaring food prices, driven in part by demand for ethanol made from corn, have helped slash the amount of food aid the government buys to its lowest level in a decade, possibly resulting in more hungry people around the world this year. ¶ The United States, the world’s dominant donor, has purchased less than half the amount of food aid this year that it did in 2000, according to new data from the Department of Agriculture… ¶ Corn prices have fallen in recent months, but are still far higher than they were a year ago. Demand for ethanol has also indirectly driven the rising price of soybeans, as land that had been planted with soybeans shifted to corn. And wheat prices have skyrocketed, in large part because drought hurt production in Australia, a major producer, economists say. ¶ The higher food prices have not only reduced the amount of American food aid for the hungry, but are also making it harder for the poorest people to buy food for themselves, economists and advocates for the hungry say.” The New York Times also reports that ethanol’s boom is stalling as supply glut depresses price. “The ethanol boom of recent years — which spurred a frenzy of distillery construction, record corn prices, rising food prices and hopes of a new future for rural America — may be fading… ¶ Companies and farm cooperatives have built so many distilleries so quickly that the ethanol market is suddenly plagued by a glut, in part because the means to distribute it has not kept pace. The average national ethanol price on the spot market has plunged 30 percent since May, with the decline escalating sharply in the last few weeks.” So not enough food, but too much ethanol. Also keep in mind the story Spiegel ran earlier in the week — Biofuels ‘Emit More Greenhouse Gases than Fossil Fuels’.

So, what else is happening?

On Becoming Way Too Fucking Serious

I HATE it when that happens!

In the timeline of the Universe which stretches out for billions of years of planets and stars and such….the existence of we as humans Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
is like unto fresh lemon custard.  We are n00bs. If we are lucky we will be converted into some sort of pie and be thrown at an advanced race of beings.

Preferably Vogons.

Yes we face serious problems and are at a critical point in our species’ history…but we do have to have a bit of perspective and not take ourselves TOO seriously. After all just about everyone who has ever had the bad luck to live on this ridiculous planet have had to face serious problems and were (in their perspective) at a critical point in our species’ history.



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