October 23, 2007 archive

Blackwater may soon be patrolling our own borders!

In case you thought all the recent bad news about Blackwater might be curtailing the market for private military contractors, two new reports suggest otherwise. Given the Bush Administration’s obsessive efforts to privatize our entire government, it should come as no surprise that Blackwater may be, in fact, as have so many Bush cronies, failing upward. What they have done to Iraq, they may soon have the opportunity to do on our own border.

First, the New York Times reports that the privatization of security in Iraq has been acknowledged to be a mess and a disaster. This according to an internal State Department report, and an audit by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.

A State Department review of its own security practices in Iraq assails the department for poor coordination, communication, oversight and accountability involving armed security companies like Blackwater USA, according to people who have been briefed on the report. In addition to Blackwater, the State Department’s two other security contractors in Iraq are DynCorp International and Triple Canopy.

At the same time, a government audit expected to be released Tuesday says that records documenting the work of DynCorp, the State Department’s largest contractor, are in such disarray that the department cannot say “specifically what it received” for most of the $1.2 billion it has paid the company since 2004 to train the police officers in Iraq.

The review was ordered last month by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and did not include the recent massacre of seventeen Iraqi civilians by Blackwater “guards.” The FBI gets to investigate that one.

But in presenting its recommendations to Ms. Rice in a 45-minute briefing on Monday, the four-member panel found serious fault with virtually every aspect of the department’s security practices, especially in and around Baghdad, where Blackwater has responsibility.

Not much new, in that. Virtually every aspect of everything the Bush Administration has done in Iraq has been found to be at serious fault. If the words “serious fault” can somehow encapsulate mass murder, torture, and a humanitarian crisis that has created more than 4,000,000 refugees.

The report also urged the department to work with the Pentagon to develop a strict set of rules on how to deal with the families of Iraqi civilians who are killed or wounded by armed contractors, and to improve coordination between American contractors and security guards employed by agencies, like various Iraqi ministries.

Strict rules would be nice for a lot of things, in Iraq, but this borders on the surreal. Strict rules for dealing with the families of civilians who are killed and wounded?

“Oops. Sorry. Have some money, and we’ll try not to kill anyone else. Today.”

How about some strict rules in pursuance of the goal of not killing or wounding civilians? 

Pony Party, some Halloween fun

Article 140, the Kurds, and Turkey: Explaining the Current Crisis

Elements of the PKK based in the Kurdish northern part of Iraq recently conducted a cross-border raid into Turkey and took, they claim, eight Turkish soldiers hostage. 

What follows is a speculation about why they did that.  I have not read this speculation in the traditional media, which strikes me as a reason to believe that it’s correct.  If it is, then the Bush Admistration has a bigger problem, even, than they are letting on.  The White House has been performing an extremely unstable balancing act with Baghdad and the Kurdish Regional Government vis-a-vis Kirkuk.  The PKK move, I suspect, has blown it up.

I speculate that the PKK is holding the eight Turkish soldiers it claims to have captured, hostage, in order to pressure Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki and the Bush Administration into allowing the Kirkuk referendum to go through this year, as required by article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution.

So the PKK has taken eight Turkish soldiers as hostages.

Docudharma Times Tuesday Oct. 23

This is an Open Thread. Let’s Talk.

Even Closer to the Brink
Published: October 23, 2007

The news out of Iraq just keeps getting worse. Now Turkey is threatening to send troops across the border to wipe out Kurdish rebel bases, after guerrillas killed at least a dozen Turkish soldiers. This latest crisis should have come as no surprise. But it is one more widely predicted problem the Bush administration failed to plan for before its misguided invasion – and one more problem it urgently needs to deal with as part of a swift and orderly exit from Iraq.

Turkey’s anger is understandable. Guerrillas from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K., have been striking from bases in Iraqi Kurdistan with growing impunity and effect, using plastic explosives, mines and arms that are far too readily accessible in Iraq. The death toll for Turkish military forces is mounting.

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning

The muses are ancient.  The inspirations for our stories were said to be born from them.  Muses of song and dance, or poetry and prose, of comedy and tragedy, of the inward and the outward.  In one version they are Calliope, Euterpe and Terpsichore, Erato and Clio, Thalia and Melpomene, Polyhymnia and Urania.

It has also been traditional to name a tenth muse.  Plato declared Sappho to be the tenth muse, the muse of women poets.  Others have been suggested throughout the centuries.  I don’t have a name for one, but I do think there should be a muse for the graphical arts.  And maybe there should be many more.

Please join us inside to celebrate our various muses…

Think Differently: An Idea, and a Calculus Link

If anything defines the thrust of my postings here, it is a repeated exhortation both to myself and to others to think about things differently.  To me, this is of upmost importance.  Far too often, we are limited in our thinking by predefined boundaries or conceptions.  This has the result of limiting our answer set to the various questions we ask ourselves, often without our even knowing it.

This is not an original thought on my part: what is more a cliché of our times than to “think outside the box”?  Yet, we do not think outside the box very often at all, and no place less than in the political arena.  Take, for example, the issue of public education in American politics.  What are the major political issues relating to this subject?  Vouchers, class size, teachers’ unions, merit pay, increased spending per student, standardized testing, and charter schools.  These issues have been the major political issues regarding public education for at least the last decade, the period of time that I have been a voting citizen in the US.  And the sides in the debate are fairly static; Democrats are good for reducing class size, higher spending per student, and supporting teachers’ unions, Republicans are good for vouchers, charter schools, and supporters of merit pay and standardized testing.  We are left with both a supposed “crisis” in public education which is persistent (and in many ways mythical) as well as with a static debate, with political impasse allowing for these issues to remain dominant and no theoretical reforms ever fully implemented.  Ideas outside of this spectrum, such as the expansion of either the school day or school year, tend to lack partisan support from either side and languish, undebated and unimplemented.

You Don’t Say?

From today’s New York Times:

Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut said the special inspector general has shown, once again, “how vulnerable the federal government is to waste when it doesn’t invest up front in proper contract oversight.” He added, “This scenario is far too frequent across the federal government: we spend billions of dollars for goods and services with no oversight plans in place and hope and pray that an audit will identify any mistakes later.”

Well, no shit!

Live Blog- The California Fires

For any southern Californians, or friends or loved ones of southern Californians, who need a place to talk, commiserate, or check in, please use this as an open thread. Our thoughts are with all of you.

Howard Dean in Portland: Inspiration but I Wanted More

I don’t think the Governor liked my question.

Tonight was billed as “An Evening with Governor Howard Dean”, held at the Benson Hotel in Portland, Oregon. The food was pretty good! Salmon, crab cakes, chicken-kabobs, grilled vegetables, cheese, fruit…mm yum! We spent the first half hour or so eating buffet style, getting to know other Democrats.

The first speaker was former Governor Barbara Roberts and she gave us one of her patented pep talks, reminding us to vote for Measures 49 and 50. She was followed by Meredith Wood Smith, chairman of the Oregon Democratic Party. Besides pumping us up for Gov. Dean’s upcoming talk she also introduced a few of our local candidates. To my surprise, one is an old friend who’ll make a terrific member of the State House. I met up with him later and signed on to his campaign.

Meredith finished up her remarks and introduced Gov. Dean, who entered from the side door like a rock star. That’s when I started taking notes.

Aaauuuggghhh! Big Papa Orange is down

ct has the site unavailable for a while.  The way he wrote it, I think that means A WHILE.  I, still, hang out at dkos the most.  But I do come over here at least once per evening to see what’s shakin’.

Confession: I need to make more of an effort with giving mojo here.  It’s just that I’m so lazy about actuating the pull down ratings thingie.

So anyway, for refugees of dkos needing a fix, come gather here.  Talk about the CA fires, group create an OND, whatever blows your hair back.  I’ve got another hour ’til beddy time.

The Stars Hollow Gazette

I’ve played in several bands, in fact I’m a member of one today, though I’m not very active.

When I started out in 6th grade I played trumpet.  I had a choice of trumpet (Richard), flute (Emily), piano (Emily), or Guitar (Richard).  Too many keys, too many keys, too many strings and what the hell is a chord anyway?

Trumpets have only three keys so you can guess what someone as shallow and one dimensional as I picked.

Frankly I wasn’t good enough to cut it.  The other gal in class with me (just the 2 of us) went on to become a solo with The Connecticut Hurricanes which was at the time a very happening professional marching band.  My current band is professional too but you take out your pay in beer at the end of the parade.

Anyway it was clear by the time I was 13 years old that I was hopeless as a trumpet player, third seat third as they put it in Junior Band not Concert and my Band Director (one of the greatest leaders it’s ever been my honor to work under and I’ve had a few) suggested I borrow a Baritone Horn from the school.  AND because I am incapable of reading Bass Clef I could use the Tenor Sax music!

Since I was now instantly the second best player my attitude improved a lot.  Also he was very tough.  One period every day for group rehearsal, three nights a week after school,  Three sectionals a week (so you could thoroughly embarrass yourself in front of the same guys you’d been playing with all week who already knew that this was the part where you kind of hummed along so you didn’t fuck it up).

He was tough, and we played tough music and dominated our crosstown rivals and mostly everyone in the State.  Made us some trips too.  When you graduated you went on to High School Marching Band and by comparison it was a cakewalk.  Two short seasons, springtime all parades not drills, and we never had to play that good, just make our marks and play fast, loud, or both fast AND loud.

But that’s not what I’m here to share with you tonight.  I’m here tonight to tell you the difference between a Baritone Horn and a Euphonium.  Like a Trumpet a Baritone Horn has a tubular bore and a Euphonium has a conical one like a Cornet.

J-Pop for the Gosh Oh Gee of It! w/poll!

Ah, another day, another rumbling that things aren’t really going very well.  Many prayers for those in Southern California in the hopes that you and yours get through this horrible fire.  Many prayers that the Turks and Kurds can find some way not to flare into full scale war.  Many hopes and prayers that we can find a way to remove the warmongers Dick and W from office.

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