Russian Staff Leaves Iran

Lock and load people.  It would seem that Halliburtton is not happy with the profit margins in Iraq, so what we really need is a wider conflagration and more global upheaval.  We/Israel bombs Iran, Iran oil stops and with winter we get to freeze in the dark.  Cool huh.…

Shopping list.

What is that Biblical passage, Thou shalt hear of wars and rumors of wars.

Package Store Run!

Pony Party: Energy

Light Emitting Pickle here to bring you the most recent open thread. First, a few words about Pickle Pony Parties:

Please do not recommend a Pony Party when you see one.  There will be another along in a few hours.

As promised, here’s a brief description of why zapping a pickle makes it glow. {Betcha thought from the title that this essay was going to be about global warming or energy use} By zapping a cuke, you’re providing energy to everything contained within said preserved cucumber. As we all know, pickles contain a lot of sodium chloride (table salt). So, you’re also zapping the sodium and all its electrons.

Zapping the electrons excites them (w00t! let’s party!). As they relax, ideally with a dry martini or glass of red wine, they give off (emit) light. Different atoms will give off different wavelengths of light. Since wavelength is correlated with color, different elements will emit different colors of light.

Sodium salts will glow yellow-orange, copper salts glow green/blue, lithium salts glow red and potassium salts glow blue. So, if you pickle your cuke in KCl (potassium chloride), it’ll be blue upon electrocution!

[poll id=”



What We Have Lost: Impeachment As Existential Imperative

In the past weeks, even the most ardent Democratic partisans have come to condemn Congressional Democrats for their lack of will, in confronting Bush and the Republicans: the war, domestic spying, torture, the absurd MoveOn resolution, the dangerous Iran resolution- we’re all baffled and discouraged and heartbroken, and many of us are just plain pissed off. Those of us who still intend to work for the election of Democrats, next year, find it increasingly difficult to convince those who have been straying that they should remain in the fold. We continue to insist that we need larger Congressional majorities, the executive branch, and if nothing else- and this ought to convince even the most recusant- to prevent four more years of Republican judges. But we cannot pretend that we don’t feel betrayed. We cannot pretend that we are having trouble answering the question: why? We are not using our majority power, and we are not using all the legislative and procedural tools we have available. Why?

Some say the Democrats are willfully complicit- beholden to the same nefarious interests as are the Republicans. I disagree. To me, it all comes back to impeachment. It comes back to the lack of will to make the ultimate and necessary confrontation. It comes from allowing a criminal administration to remain in power, and thus conferring on it a legitimacy that its criminality should have long ago voided. It comes from establishing a precedent and a dynamic that say the Bush Administration can push all boundaries, and the Democrats will not push back. If impeachment is off the table, then every form of criminality is on it!

Let me state, at the outset, that I do think the window for impeachment likely has closed. Barring some new bombshell revelation, there is likely neither the will in Congress to even start proceedings, nor the time for such proceedings to produce fair results. I come neither to praise nor bury impeachment. I come to discuss what I deem to be the consequence of its not having been pursued: a paralysis in the Democrats that renders them incapable of confronting Bush on anything.

If we were lied into the war, then being unwilling to hold the Administration accountable for those lies makes it impossible to accept the necessity of ending what should never have been started. If domestic spying is a Constitutional crime, then being unwilling to hold the Administration accountable for that crime necessitates the further Constitutional outrage of attempting to legislatively make such crimes legal. If torture is a crime against humanity, then being unwilling to hold the Administration accountable for that crime gives it tacit permission to violate pretty much any legal or moral standard. Oversight and subpoenas are irrelevant, because there are no consequences to what is discovered, and subpoenas can be, and are being, ignored. Despite being as unpopular as any “president,” ever, Bush knows he can just thumb his nose at the Democrats, and they will do nothing. They are incapable even of sound and fury.

In December 2005, John Conyers proposed an impeachment investigation. Once the Democrats regained Congressional majorities, he began making excuses for not again doing so. Even before regaining the majorities, Barney Frank said:

I know of virtually no support for trying to impeach President Bush among House Democrats, because we understand that this would be entirely counterproductive to what we are trying to accomplish both politically and governmentally.

Note that he did not render an opinion on whether impeachment is even plausibly justified. His is a statement of pure political calculation. The concept of legal and Constitutional right seems irrelevant. And this from one of our best and smartest elected representatives!

And then there was Senator Russ Feingold, who wrote this diary, on Daily Kos. It included these telling words:

I believe that the President and Vice President may well have committed impeachable offenses.

And it then proceeded to make excuses for not holding the Administration accountable for such offenses- as if a President and Vice President committing impeachable offenses is somehow of little import. This, too, from one of our best and smartest elected representatives! My full response was here.

It is clear that many of our best elected officials believe, at the very least, that Bush and Cheney may have committed impeachable offenses. That they have been unwilling to do anything about it speaks to something much graver than the issue of impeachment. I want, now, to briefly discuss a psychological mechanism best articulated by Frantz Fanon, in his seminal work, The Wretched Of The Earth. Let me first say that the situations are not at all comparable, but I do think the psychology is. Writing of the insidious effects of colonialism, Fanon says:

At times this Manicheism goes to its logical conclusion and dehumanizes the native, or to speak plainly, it turns him into an animal. In fact, the terms the settler uses when he mentions the native are zoological terms. He speaks of the yellow man’s reptilian motions, of the stink of the native quarter, of breeding swarms, of foulness, of spawn, of gesticulations. When the settler seeks to describe the native fully in exact terms he constantly refers to the bestiary.

Now, the Bush Administration obviously hasn’t colonialized the United States, although it is imposing Neo-Colonial conditions on Iraq. But it is here, in the United States, that this Neo-Colonialism must be stopped. It is here that the continued failures of the Democrats prove that their will has been broken. Politically marginalized, their very ideology ridiculed by the corporate media, Democrats have come to accept that the best they can achieve is incremental advances on relatively small issues, while the largest issues, including the very legitimacy of government, cannot be even openly debated. They don’t need Bush or the Republicans to beat them down, because they have already internalized that they are beaten!

In The Hermeneutics of African Philosophy, Tsenay Serequeberhan succinctly defines Fanon’s answer to colonialism:

It is only when the colonized appropriates the violence of the colonizer and puts forth his own concrete counterviolence that he reenters the realm of history and human historical becoming.

Again, let me be explicit: clearly, what the Democrats have suffered is in no way comparable to the suffering of those subjected to imperialist violence; but just as clearly, impeachment is in no way comparable to revolutionary violence against imperialism. The scale is immeasurably different, but it is, again, the psychological mechanism that I propose as being the same. Having been, essentially, exiled from participation in both the functions of government, and the framing of its political dialogue, Democrats have been humiliated to the point of no longer even remembering who they are and for what they stand. They have come to accept that they have no role to play in the process of constructing major policy decisions, and that their entire ideology is effectively void. Politically, they have grown accustomed to being adrift and irrelevant. Psychologically, they have been not only neutralized, but neutered.

Impeachment, then, is not only necessary for Constitutional reasons, but for existential ones! Failing to pursue impeachment proceedings is a failure to rupture what has now become a calcined political framework, within which Democrats cannot fully function. Only something so bold and dramatic, only something so just but unthinkable, can restore to the Democrats their ability to reenter the realm of history and political historical becoming.

I hope I am wrong, and that the Democrats will soon begin actually standing up to Bush. I don’t see it happening. For the Democrats to realize the historical and practical necessity of taking control of our government, they will have to come to terms with the depths of the depravity that is the Bush Administration. It is not just about ending one war, or preventing another, or restoring the Constitutional rights that have been so blithely tossed to the wind, it is about truly confronting both the people and the ideology that have created this historical crisis. It is not going to be pretty, and it is not going to be nice. It will, of necessity, be as dramatic as have been the assaults on our American ideals.

For a generation, the Republicans have spoken of a revolution. The Democrats seem to have taken such talk as mere rhetoric. Clearly, it was not. This has been more than a revolution, it has been an anti-Revolution. It has been an attempt to effectively reverse the American Revolution! By failing to impeach Bush and Cheney, the Democrats have allowed our very system of government to teeter on the brink of collapse.

We may win, big, in next year’s elections, but will the nation we take over even any longer exist?

Quote for Discussion: 10.1.2007

Below the terra firma’s the murmur of many men
Resonatin’ the predication of RA’s eponym
It requires a higher degree of thought to transmit
Elevate above the base and retrace the semantics
Incommensurately we’ve been held incommunicado
From commoner to commodore – they breed bravado
I exercise authority over the lesser ranks
We rally and tally up at the shores of the West Bank
The shoddy lick the body politic – feel the kickback, son
Pardon the warden to remit that one
Sinkin’ solemnly into the vein of my pathology
I maintain the etymology of “I” defy chronology
Copy me, cosmically I seek to be laconic and terse
The meek shall admonish the earth
While the merits of inheritance are gainfully pealed
They symbolism of nepotism is painfully real
The provisioners of policy are plottin’ my demise
In addition, the aristocracy’s blockin’ the uprise
The commandant’s callin’ for change by any means
I’ve seen heaven and hell; it feels strange in between
Never settle – the medal pacifies rebel troops
But truth is the honor in the eyes of the resolute
Press on – employ the pen to postulate upon it
Verily I perform the pass summarily – you wonder why?

They say that he was born that way
They can’t imagine havin’ to go on that way
Maybe if you pray for him he’ll be drawn from the fray
Or maybe what? – maybe he’s OK…

Sharin’ hymns with the seraphims – praise in polyphonic fashion
The action reanimates the catatonic
Aid the abject and abjure the apathetic
Positive polarity and the draw is magnetic
They lurch and reel trynna reverse the field but can’t manage
The pull of my sign aligns planets
Secrets comin’ out in the wash of the ebb tide
Those who sought found; those who fled died
To the sight deprived sound might provide solace
The scholars of applied sciences supply the knowledge
Upon the foundation we erect the edifice – make it known
We dedicate the corner stone to Aeschylus
Fortified with more than 45’s – master the art of war
You blast trouble, but the struggle endures
Emaciated, the contemplative will kill for a drink
If not methodically restrained by the chain link
From my solid form I liquefy to be absorbed by the river
Stand re-delivered to mi amour
Chant “freedom” in their face and abase my captors
With grace I placate and await the rapture
In this colony I’ve seen atrocities personified
Still unable to affect the sovereignty of the allied
It’s the balance – they’re challengin’ your will to achieve
Imprison my coalition but the vision’s still free…

He had to have been born that way
A great many show envy towards the Lord’s protégé
And maybe if you pay for it he’ll perform a display
Or maybe what? – maybe you’re too late…

Common Market, My Pathology

BOOM! Waxman Fires a Shot Across Blackwater’s Bow!

Cross-posted on Daily Kos.

Today in the understated language that is his style, Rep. Henry Waxman, Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released a memorandum of Additional Information about Blackwater USA. In actuality, the memo is a shot across the bow of Blackwater and the craven Republicans on the committee and the State Department who will rise to defend the firm and its CEO Erik Prince who is scheduled to appear before the committee Tuesday, October 2 at 10:00 AM.

The memorandum, prepared by the Majority Staff, reveals:

Incident reports compiled by Blackwater reveal that Blackwater has been involved in at least 195 “escalation of force” incidents in Iraq since 2005 that involved the firing of shots by Blackwater forces. This is an average of 1.4 shooting incidents per week. Blackwater’s contract to provide protective services to the State Department provides that Blackwater can engage in only defensive use of force. In over 80% of the shooting incidents, however, Blackwater reports that its forces fired the first shots.

195 “incidents” coming at an average of 1.4 per week since 2005 where enter Blackwater shot first over 80% of the time.

Since this is a work of the U.S. government and not copyrighted, I’m going to quote liberally from the memorandum, which continues:

In the vast majority of instances in which Blackwater fires shots, Blackwater is firing from a moving vehicle and does not remain at the scene to determine if the shots resulted in casualties. Even so, Blackwater’s own incident reports document 16 Iraqi casualties and 162 incidents with property damage, primarily to vehicles owned by lraqis. In over 80% of the escalation of force incidents since 2005, Blackwater’s own reports document either casualties or property damage.

So not does Blackwater shoot first in 80% of the time, 80% of their “escalation of force incidents” either causes “casualties or property damage”. With the September 16 massacre at Nissour Square in Baghdad, the Iraqi investigations concluded that, once again, Blackwater was unprovoked. (Details of the Iraqi report can be found in the mentioned article in The New York Times, in victim accounts, survivor accounts, and in my diary, ‘Blackwater, Private Security Contractors “Making A Killing”‘. Even the ‘first blush’ report by the U.S. embassy in Baghdad has reached similar conclusions according to the Washington Post.) The number killed in the Nisoor Square massacre has been reported between 11 and 28 people. The memo continues:

The reports describe multiple Blackwater incidents involving Iraqi casualties that have not previously been reported. In one of these incidents, Blackwater forces shot a civilian bystander in the head. In another, State Department officials report that Blackwater sought to cover up a shooting that killed an apparently innocent bystander. In a third, Blackwater provided no assistance after a trafft accident caused by its “counter-flow” driving left an Iraqi vehicle in “a ball of flames.” Blackwater also reports engaging in tactical military operations with U.S. forces.

The State Department’s own people claim Blackwater has, at least on one occasion, tried to “cover-up” a crimes committed by one of its mercenaries. Almost everywhere Blackwater convoys go, they leave a trail of death and destruction at a rate significantly higher than the other two “private security contractors” employed by the State Department. The memo continues:

In addition to Blackwater, two other private military contractors, DynCorp International and Triple Canopy, provide protective services to the State Department. Blackwater reports more shooting incidents than the other two contractors combined. Blackwater also has the highest incidence of shooting first, although all three companies shoot first in more than half of all escalation of forces incidents.

In a September 20 article in the Washington Post, ‘Where Military Rules Don’t Apply‘. Jack Holly, a retired Marine colonel who oversees several private security firms as director of logistics for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said “the State Department was partly to blame for what he described as Blackwater’s ‘heavy-handed, almost arrogant’ tactics. ‘ how to get propecia without prescription It’s obviously condoned by State and it’s what State expects, because they have contract oversight and if they didn’t like it they would change it,’ he said.” Other reports have made it pretty clear that these mercenaries are Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s private army. Immediately after Blackwater’s Nisoor square massacre, Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and other senior officials in Iraq’s government expressed their outrage and initially tried to expel Blackwater from Iraq claiming this was a “crime” and an affront on Iraqi sovereignty. However, the Iraqis backed down after Rice apologized on Blackwater’s behalf and agreed to a joint-investigation to what happened that day. Since the massacre, Blackwater has remained defiant and maintains their employees were provoked.

The memorandum examines the State Department responses to the many Blackwater incidents. In nearly every case, the department payed a wergeld, blood money, to the victim’s family trying to quickly hush-up the matter. The memo states:

In the end, the State Department and Blackwater agreed on a $15,000 payment. One State Department offrcial wrote:
“We would like to help them resolve this so we can continue with our protective mission.”

The State Department took a similar approach upon receiving reports that Blackwater shooters killed an innocent lraqi, except that in this case, the State Department requested only a $5,000 payment to “put this unfortunate matter behind us quickly.”

There is no evidence in the documents that the Committee has reviewed that the State Department sought to restrain Blackwater’s actions, raised concerns about the number of shooting incidents involving Blackwater or the company’s high rate of shooting first, or detained Blackwater contractors for investigation.

There is no evidence of oversight of or accountabliy for Blackwater in Rice’s State Department. The Los Angeles Times reported that normally misdeeds by private security contractors are covered-up. “Several U.S. diplomats speaking on condition of anonymity said in interviews that past private security misdeeds had been swept under the rug. ¶ ‘It’s one of the big holes we’ve had in our policy: the lack of control, the lack of supervision over the security force,’ a U.S. diplomat told The Times on condition of anonymity because of the topic’s sensitivity. ‘No one took on the responsibility of policing these units, neither the military or the Regional Security Office [the embassy’s security department]… So many people, not just the Blackwater people, are there in Baghdad unsupervised with basically diplomatic immunity,’ he said.”

The memorandum shatters the myth that private contractors is saving the U.S. taxpayer money.

Using Blackwater instead of U.S. troops to protect embassy officials is expensive. Blackwater charges the government $1,222 per day for the services of a private military contractor. This is equivalent to $445,000 per year, over six times more than the cost of an equivalent U.S. soldier. In total, Blackwater has received over $1 billion in federal contracts from 2001 through 2006, including more than $832 million under two contracts with the State Depafment to provide protective services in Iraq.

The cost differences between the U.S. military and using mercenaries is startling. In a diary today, John Campanelli writes that Washington Post reporter, Walter Pincus, found that Gen. David Petraeus earns $493 per day, compared to the Blackwater Manager who make $1,075 per day.

And while Blackwater and other private contractors got their start during the Clinton administration, the memorandum from the oversight committee notes:

Blackwater’s government contracts have grown exponentially during the Bush Administration, particularly since the start of the war in Iraq. Blackwater went from having government contracts worth less than a million dollars in 2001 to contracts worth more than half a billion dollars in2006. Figure A shows the increase in Blackwater’s government contracts over the past six years, while Table A shows the dollar amounts Blackwater received in each of these vears.


Not only is Blackwater and other mercenaries not helping save money for the Unites States, but Blackwater’s numerous incidents are making the United States’ stated mission in Iraq more difficult. Blackwater is hated by the Iraqis and the State Department’s mercenaries are confused by the Iraqis with American troops. The use of Blackwater and other mercenary firms undermines the U.S. efforts to stabilize Iraq. Incidents like the 2004 deaths of Blackwater employees in Fallujah were found to be the fault of Blackwater, but yet triggered a major escalation in response by the U.S. military.

According to a TPM Muckraker exclusive, a report by private-military contractor expert P.W. Singer concluded “What the contracting industry diminishes in political cost it compounds in actual cost to counterinsurgency. Iraqis view private companies like Blackwater as lawless, and they have no reason to distinguish between private contractors and U.S. troops — thereby compounding the danger to U.S. forces from infuriated Iraqis… ¶ Even more simply, private military contractors aren’t in the chain of command, meaning U.S. officers are powerless to stop them from engaging in activities deleterious to a command plan.” And, the Washington Post reported last week that the U.S. military has formed similar conclusions in an article called ‘Private Security Puts Diplomats, Military at Odds‘:

In high-level meetings over the past several days, U.S. military officials have pressed State Department officials to assert more control over Blackwater, which operates under the department’s authority, said a U.S. government official with knowledge of the discussions. “The military is very sensitive to its relationship that they’ve built with the Iraqis being altered or even severely degraded by actions such as this event,” the official said… “This is a big mess that I don’t think anyone has their hands around yet,” said another U.S. military official. “It’s not necessarily a bad thing these guys are being held accountable. Iraqis hate them, the troops don’t particularly care for them, and they tend to have a know-it-all attitude, which means they rarely listen to anyone — even the folks that patrol the ground on a daily basis.”

“This is a nightmare,” said a senior U.S. military official. “We had guys who saw the aftermath, and it was very bad. This is going to hurt us badly. It may be worse than Abu Ghraib, and it comes at a time when we’re trying to have an impact for the long term.”

Not only is the presence of Blackwater undermining U.S. strategic efforts in Iraq by increasing the mistrust of Iraqis and further endangering U.S. military personel, but also the U.S. taxpayers are paying through the nose.

The memorandum from the House oversight committee is 15 pages long and it is densely packed with information. It is Waxman’s investigative bow shot and he lowers the boom on Blackwater and the State Department during the October 2 hearing. May he hit his mark and sink the use of mercenaries by the United States government.

For the Record: On Not Funding The Iraq Debacle

I had assumed everyone knew my precise position on not funding the Iraq Debacle. I find that is not the case. For my own reference purposes, I repeat what has been my position since January 2007; articulated clearly in this February 2007 post:

Many ask ‘so what is a Democratic Congress to do?’ With Mitch McConnell promising filibusters to all attempts to revoke the Iraq AUMF, cap troop levels and to cut funding for the Iraq Debacle, what is it I am asking of the Democratic Congress.

Let me explain again – I ask for three things: First, announce NOW that the Democratic Congress will NOT fund the Iraq Debacle after a date certain. You pick the date. Whatever works politically. If October 2007 is the date Dems can agree to, then let it be then. If March 2008, then let that be the date; Second, spend the year reminding the President and the American People every day that Democrats will not fund the war past the date certain; Third, do NOT fund the Iraq Debacle PAST the date certain.

Some argue we will never have the votes for this. That McConnell will filibuster, that Bush will veto. To them I say I KNOW. But that does not fund the Iraq Debacle. Let me repeat, to end the war in Iraq, the Democratic Congress does not have to pass a single bill, they need only NOT pass bills that fund the Iraq Debacle.

But but but, defund the whole government? Defund the whole military? What if Bush does not pull out the troops? First, no, not defund the government, defund the Iraq Debacle. If the Republicans choose to shut down government in order to force the continuation of the Iraq Debacle, do not give in. Fight the political fight. We’ll win. Second, defund the military? See answer to number one. Third, well, if you tell the American People what is coming for a year, and that Bush is on notice, that it will be Bush abandoning the troops in Iraq, we can win that politcal battle too.

Understand this, if you want to end the Iraq Debacle, this is the only way until Bush is not President. If you are not for this approach for ending the war, tell me what you do support. I think this is the only way. And if you shy away from the only way to end the Debacle, then you really are not for ending it are you?

The first Presidential candidate I supported was Tom Vilsack, the former chairman of the DLC. How could that be? you might ask. It is because he said this in January:

Congress has the constitutional responsibility and a moral duty to cut off funding for the status quo,” said Vilsack. “Not a cap – an end. Not eventually – immediately.

I have been accused of being obsessed. I plead guilty. I have been obsessed with ending the Iraq Debacle.

Four at Four

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

  1. The U.S. Supreme Court opened its 2007-08 term today. The Los Angeles Times provides a good overview of what the court will consider this term. The Supreme Court on Monday opens a new term that includes a rich mix of cases on election law, sentencing in drug cases, executions by lethal injection, age bias in the workplace and the rights of employees who put their money into 401(k) accounts. The court also will consider — again — whether the detainees at Guantanamo Bay have a right to plead their innocence before a judge… ¶ The dispute turns on the Constitution, which says ‘the privilege of the writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended,’ except during times of ‘rebellion or invasion.’ Civil libertarians have urged the court to say Congress violated this provision when it took away from the Guantanamo prisoners the right to go to court.”

    Already the Supreme Court is making news. Reuters reports U.S. top court won’t hear Guantanamo prisoner’s case. “The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday turned down an appeal by a Guantanamo prisoner whose legal challenges had forced changes to… George W. Bush’s anti-terrorism program last year. ¶ The justices refused to take up the case of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, who faces a possible military tribunal as an accused driver and guard for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan… ¶ The high court may have denied the appeal because a U.S. appeals court has yet to rule on Hamdan’s case.” The Los Angeles Times reports the Supreme Court rejects greater rights for church groups. “The Supreme Court refused today to expand the rights of church groups, turning down appeals in a pair of cases. ¶ In the first, the justices rejected a free-speech claim from an evangelical minister from Northern California who wanted to hold worship services in the meeting room of a public library. ¶ In the second, the court rejected a freedom-of-religion claim from Catholic Charities in New York, which objected to a state law that requires them to pay for contraceptives for their employees as part of their prescription drug coverage.”

  2. The AP is reporting US and Iraqi civilian deaths fell sharply in September. “Deaths among American forces and Iraqi civilians fell dramatically last month to their lowest levels in more than a year, according to figures compiled by the U.S. military, the Iraqi government and The Associated Press. ¶ The decline signaled a U.S. success in bringing down violence in Baghdad and surrounding regions since Washington completed its infusion of 30,000 more troops on June 15. A total of 64 American forces died in September — the lowest monthly toll since July 2006. ¶ The decline in Iraqi civilian deaths was even more dramatic, falling from 1,975 in August to 922 last month, a decline of 53.3 percent. The breakdown in September was 844 civilians and 78 police and Iraqi soldiers, according to Iraq’s ministries of Health, Interior and Defense. ¶ In August, AP figures showed 1,809 civilians and 155 police and Iraqi soldiers were killed in sectarian violence. The civilian death toll has not been so low since June 2006, when 847 Iraqis died.” Frankly anyone who claims this is progress is daft. Fatality statistics should be compared to pre-invasion counts not the previous year’s death toll. How anyone can see the deaths of 844 civilians and 78 Iraqi police as progress is beyond my understanding.

  3. Here is today’s summary of Blackwater news and op-eds.

    • In ‘Death From All Sides‘, Kevin Peraino of Newsweek writes about the “confidential incident report” it has obtained. The “extensive evidence file put together by the Iraqi National Police… including documents, maps, sworn witness statements and police video footage” that contradict Blackwater’s account of their massacre in Baghdad’s Nasoor Square on September 16. The report concludes that Blackwater mercenaries “‘ go to site opened fire crazily and randomly, without any reason.‘” The police video is “footage of burned human remains and show the street littered with brass bullet casings.” The burned human remains is a woman and an infant and the driver of her car. The report found that “‘helicopters opened fire from the air toward the cars and civilians.’ Gen. Hussein al-Awadi, the commander of the Iraqi National Police, [said] that the trajectory of some of the bullet wounds could only have been caused by fire from the air. ‘If anyone moved—whenever they saw someone leaving—either the convoy or the chopper shot him,’ says Ali Kalaf Salman, an undercover Iraqi National Police officer who was working as a traffic cop at the scene.” Blackwater has denied their helicopters were involved in the shooting. Blackwater is still claiming they were attacked by the people their employees killed.

      “No one shot at Blackwater,” says Col. Faris Saadi Abdul, the lead Iraqi police investigator. “Blackwater shot without any cause.” Al-Awadi, the National Police commander, says that minutes after he heard the shooting begin, he rushed to the scene, which is just around the corner from the National Police headquarters. (He says he was accompanied by a unit of American military trainers embedded with his police.) “We were trying to figure out why they were shooting” … “We tried to find a reason and we couldn’t.” He says that his men searched the civilian cars at the scene, but didn’t find any weapons. When Iraqi investigators later stopped a different Blackwater convoy near the scene of the shooting, the general says that the Blackwater guards refused to comment about the incident.

      Blackwater mistook everyday events for hostile actions. “I pulled my radio out to call an ambulance, and they shot at me,” said Sirhan Diab, a traffic policeman who was working in Nasoor Square at the time of the shooting. Blackwater also shot at Iraqi police trying to help the victims.

      According to the accompanying incident report, the Blackwater guards opened fire on an Iraqi Army checkpoint on a nearby road leading away from the square. The convoy also apparently sideswiped at least one Iraqi civilian vehicle in the circle. Samir Hobi, 40, says he got out of his car and complained to the Blackwater guards about the damage. He says one of the guards shouted back: follow “Shut up or I’ll shoot you.”

    • The House oversight committee has released new information about Blackwater. “Previously undisclosed information reveals (1) Blackwater has engaged in side effects from accutane 195 ‘escalation of force’ incidents since 2005, an average of 1.4 per week, including over 160 incidents in which Blackwater forces fired first; (2) after a drunken Blackwater contractor shot the guard of the Iraqi Vice President, the State Department allowed the contractor to leave Iraq and advised Blackwater on the size of the payment needed “to help them resolve this”; and (3) Blackwater, which has received over $1 billion in federal contracts since 2001, is charging the federal government over $1,200 per day for each ‘protective security specialist’ employed by the company.” In about 80% of the escalation incidents, Blackwater shot first. Additionally, disclosed in a committee staff memorandum, is the State Department’s suggestion to buy off the Iraqi families who had members murdered by Blackwater mercenaries. “The State Department took a similar approach upon recieving reports that Blackwater shooters killed an innocent Iraqi, except in this case, the State Department requested only a come comprare vardenafil online con garanzia $5,000 payment to ‘put this unforunate matter behind us quickly.'” The Blackwater hearing is scheduled for tomorrow.

    • The Los Angeles Times reports that a U.S. team has begun a review of private contractors in Iraq. “Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, the department’s director of management policy, and Ambassador Eric Boswell, a former assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, arrived in Baghdad on Sunday and have begun meeting with U.S. and Iraqi officials, said Embassy spokeswoman Mirembe Nantongo. ¶ Other members of the team are expected to arrive soon. Kennedy, who heads the panel, will present his preliminary findings to Rice by the end of the week, Nantongo told reporters.”

    • Harold Pincus reports in the Washington Post that the U.S. pays a steep price for private security in Iraq. “It costs the U.S. government a lot more to hire contract employees as security guards in Iraq than to use American troops. It comes down to the simple business equation of every transaction requiring a profit… How much more these costs are compared with the pay of U.S. troops is easier to determine. ¶ An unmarried sergeant given Iraq pay and relief from U.S. taxes makes about $83 to $85 a day, given time in service. A married sergeant with children makes about double that, $170 a day. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Baghdad overseeing more than 160,000 U.S. troops, makes roughly $180,000 a year, or about $493 a day. That comes out to source site less than half the fee charged by Blackwater for its senior manager of a 34-man security team.(Hat tip John Campanelli.)

    • The craven Wall Street Journal has an op-ed written by a mercenary and apologist: Ben Ryan, a “a former U.S. Navy SEAL officer who spent time in Iraq as an employee of Triple Canopy, a private security firm.” Ryan praises Blackwater contractors as “highly professional and well trained” and excuses their Nissour Square massacre because of what happend with Blackwater in Fallujah in 2004. Ryan claims “contractors are cost-effective” because “they usually receive no benefits”. He also feels mercenaries are not above the law. “Contractors are also subject to numerous U.S. statutes and regulations, as well as international treaties. Just last year, Congress amended the Uniform Code of Military Justice to include contractors. Contractors can also be prosecuted under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act of 2000, which permits charges to be brought in federal court for crimes abroad.”

    • In a very colorful op-ed in the New York Post, worth reading for the use of language alone, retired Army officer Ralph Peters writes about ‘Trouble for Hire‘ and places the blame for Blackwater at the State Department’s doors. “Americans have always despised mercenaries. Our dislike of hired killers dates back to the days of our Founding Fathers. When Washington crossed the Delaware to defeat the Hessians at Trenton, he targeted hirelings who’d burned, raped and murdered their way across northern New Jersey… And now the United States has become the world’s No. 1 employer of hired thugs. By a conservative count, we and our partners in Iraq employ 5,000 armed American and other Western expatriates, at least 10,000 third-country-nationals or TCNs, and upwards of 15,000 Iraqis who should be serving their own country in uniform.” Peters writes that American troops get the blame for Blackwater’s crimes. “The Bush administration has made sure that there’s no real accountability in the contracting arena, but the particular villain in this mess in the State Department. Our military has been doing all it can to keep Blackwater’s cowboys at arms’ length in Iraq. But State’s diplomats – the men and women theoretically responsible for building good relations with Iraqis – prefer the Blackwater approach (shoot first, and don’t bother asking questions)… ¶ So State’s mission for Blackwater is straightforward: ‘Protect the principal.’ Defend the diplomat, whatever the cost. Well, maybe it’s time for State to risk a few principals in support of America’s principles. ¶ Our country has been dishonored. By our ‘Hessians.'”

  4. The Guardian reports that Portugal gambles on ‘sea snakes’ providing an energy boost. “Portugal is poised to open what will be the world’s first commercial wavefarm, and while the coastline’s formidable surf will be a source of electricity, the engineers need a decent “weather window” to be able to get their machinery out to sea. ¶ The Pelamis machines, named after the Latin for sea snake and developed by a Scottish company that leads the world in one of the newest renewable energy fields, are a series of red tubes, each about the size of a small commuter train, linked together, and pointed in the direction of the waves. The waves travel down the tubes, causing them to bob up and down, and a hydraulic system harnesses this movement to generate electricity. ¶ The three ‘sea snakes’ will soon be towed out to a spot some three miles from the coast of northern Portugal at Agucadoura, from where the electricity they produce will be pumped into the national grid.”

One more story about the Kiwi’s flag below the fold…

  1. The Telegraph reports New Zealand in flap over plans for new flag. “New Zealand’s prime minister, Helen Clark, has suggested removing the Union flag from her country’s national flag. Ms Clark said that removing the British emblem would ‘New Zealandise’ the flag, leaving it as a stylised Southern Cross on a blue background. ¶ New Zealanders have agonised for years over whether to change their national emblem, with some recoiling at the inclusion of the Union flag and wanting it replaced with a Maori-influenced design. The most favoured alternative design is a silver fern, in Maori a ponga, on a black background — the emblem of the All Blacks national rugby team since 1893.”

Monks Massacred in Myanmar?

From The Daily Mail


Thousands of protesters are dead and the bodies of hundreds of executed monks have been dumped in the jungle, a former intelligence officer for Burma’s ruling junta has revealed.

The most senior official to defect so far, Hla Win, said: “Many more people have been killed in recent days than you’ve heard about. The bodies can be counted in several thousand.”

Read the article. Tyranny wins again.

Can the world do anything? Will it? Or is this just the way things are?

Now that Bushco has gutted the UN’s power and credibility, who is left to respond to this sort of thing?

Political power comes from the barrel of a gun, never forget it. Without some sort of world police force to stop this sort of thing, all governments can just ruthlessly murder their people when it suits there purpose. And apparently many many soldiers have gone against their religion to kill monks for their government. Authoritarianism at its absolute worst.

I cannot stop myself from saying that this would not have happened in a world that has taken several steps backward into savagery under the influence of George Bush and Dick Cheney. When the alleged beacon of Freedom and Justice acts illegally and immorally it gives license to the rest of the world to engage in barbarity.

Are humans civilized or not?

Not if we do not stop the excesses of the worst of us, or even the best of us on a ‘bad day.’ This sort of thing and Darfur are exactly why the UN was founded. But is in the interest of tyrants to destroy their power. That is what Bushco set out to do and has done. He had to, they called his war illegal.

And in case you are wondering, yes….this too is about oil profits.

Out There Where the Buses Don’t Run

This feels somewhat unfinished, but this is process writing, not a finished thing for me…. it refers to a conversation I had on MLW.

I wanted a break from daily writing and time to work some of this out, yet I seem unable to work it out without writing it.  So I am putting it out in order to feed the muse, and hope some new kernel of truth will redirect me to the place I am striving to find.

A running dialogue on why the Left cannot seem to become an entity to be reckoned with….
(pesky prepositions)

I think I was on the right track when I penned this:

“Out there where the buses don’t run” is a good thing imo. Lots of us are completely honest, its just our brand of honest opinions do not match other’s brand of opinions.

The thing is, the Right lock steps about hating EVERYONE, and by being inclusive we end up with myriad ideas.

I think my impasses is where we do not allow ourselves to even discuss that some/any of these areas may have merit, to move that Window left, by merely talking among ourselves about the “What ifs” without these labels being used to slap us into speaking only of mainstream acceptable talking points.

The right has long made “LIBERAL” a dirty word. The Rush-list comes flying into our minds, making us cringe and try and distance ourselves from those words.  You know the list, the list that makes us look laughable and in no way connected with the average American.

That is not true, but we will discuss that further below.

My debate partner claimed to hold some of his labels dear. I replied, in part:

Because I have both despair and disbelief in the electoral process being unable to change anything, I have been labeled a ammo-gathering freak, more or less.

We HAVE to be able to talk.


The point is, you never convince an enemy, or make them have empathy for your side by calling them names.

World-generational-endless problem, here in the microcosm of a blog.

Then he pointed out we do call the far Right names all the time.  True that. 

But the right doesn’t call eachother names.

Example 1:

See, I totally believe the electoral machine is broken. 

Documentation of the machines being tampered with is monumental.

Documentation of voters who are liberal being turned away, or challenged is rampant.

Re-districting to marginalize liberals out of existence is on the Law books.

And the Kicker?

Without corporate funding and support, a candidate doesn’t stand a chance of being even considered.

Speaking those things aloud in even the most liberal company opens the door to ridicule by those who would claim “no one will take us serious if we talk about working outside the process.”


We cannot even talk about it?

Then the name-calling starts, a strange and disjointed combination of slurs used by the Right to marginalize us, and slurs from the Left, accusing us of wanting Dictatorial reign.

“If we vote long enough, hard enough, we can fix all that!”

How, I ask.  How can you vote the graft away from those accepting it?

But the devolutionary (diane word, needed it, made it) part is that we cannot even sanely discuss it, without the TAGGING!!!!!

Moving on………

Back to the discussion. I said:

But the right don’t call eachother names, or have litmus tests for “rightness” like the left does.

I wonder why?

I just wish it didn’t block our common goal so badly of ridding this failed administration’s power over us.

To which my debate partner conceded: (MY bold, as I didn’t really want to snip this comment)


You’re right 
There is no similar dichotomy on the Right.  For instance, I hate how the GOP was taken over by the Ralph Reed, Fraud, Wedge Issue Southern based Fundies in the late 80’s.  I’m not particularly in love with the Neo Conservative movement of the late 90’s. But, we don’t eat our own.  We certainly don’t air our displeasure publicly.  Our collective goal is to keep the Baby Boomer 60’s Marxist ethos, Red Diaper Baby, Free Love, Arthouse Film attending, Mother Jones reading crew out of power.  We don’t hate everything you stand for, just most of it.  Now, I’m more of a Barry Goldwater-Jack Kemp kind of Republican and we’ll have our day in the sun again.  Bush has made sure of that.  The left doesn’t have that cohesive strength.  Everyone is too afflicted, too victimized, too angry.  Your hatred for Bush has blinded your judgement.  No matter how much you hate them, you need to win over middle class fly over country Americans.  You’ll never do that without a cohesive message. BTW, I’m a huge Bunuel, Tarkovsky and Fellini fan.

I have no answer to this response.

We are the party that is REALLY the party of less government intrusion into our personal lives, how do we convince people this IS mainstream, when we LABEL it and MARGINALIZE it ourselves?

We need to counter this “Big Government, High Taxing, All out Spending” meme with the hard truths.  We need to not cringe saying it, or beat eachother for saying it to appease the middle.  We are Middle America, really.

Liberals generally want individual freedom. (to a lesser extent that Libertarians) Republicans are micro-managing YOUR life, while letting Big Business run rampant over you.

Personal Choices, Gender Equality, Racial Equality, Health care, Infrastructure, Education, Peace, Environmental Protection, Business responsibility, Fair and Safe Labor practices, Government Transparency.

Are these not “fly-over” American values?  Are these not Liberal values?

Again, we have to be able to at least discuss the possibilities without self-labeling, and the self-loathing taught us by the ones who want to remain in power.

More pending……

Not Funding Iraq and Discharge Petitions

Reading the comments in Buhdy’s diary at the Big Orange Satan’s place, this is what passes for rebuttal:

Discharge petition

Get all the Republicans and 18 Democrats to sign on, and it comes up for a vote. Not hard to do. And people would hold the other 210 Democrats personally responsible for 18 Bush Dogs doing it, too.

An interesting theory. Now, it so happens that those of us who argue for the not funding option are aware of the discharge petition, and the more likely avenue, a motion to recommit. We are aware that the Republicans, joined by enough Democrats, can force funding without timelines. It is why we have argued that we need 218 to embrace the not funding without timelines option. And despite saying “it would be easy” to get majority support for a motion to recommit or a discharge petition, saying it does not make it so. But let’s assume it is easy, the benefit of forcing the Republicans do that is it will prove to all of us that the Democrats in Congress have done everything they can to end the war. There is truly nothing more we can ask of Speaker Pelosi. And we do not ask for more than that. But she will not do it. So she has not done everything she can.

You want to make it a Republican war? Make the Republicans pass THEIR bill funding it. Let the Dems who want it to be their war go on the record and vote for it. Why anyone would be opposed to this strategy is beyond me.

Apparently there are a few:

Congress will vote to pass it (4+ / 0-)
Recommended by:brittain33, beachmom, magi, Justanothernyer

All of the Republicans will vote for it (they have a unified party). The red-state Democrats will vote for it (we don’t have a unified party). Voila… it passes. Where do you get the idea that Pelosi or Reid can force Congresspeople to vote the way they want them to vote? You can yell as lous as you want. It won’t make the red-state dems less conservative.

You vote independent… I’ll stick with the party that brought us social security, civil rights, and environmental protection.

by dianem on Mon Oct 01, 2007 at 10:18:53 AM PDT

Buhdy responds correctly:

And THEN whose war is it? (0 / 0)

THEN there is no doubt.

What do we lose by having that happen?

We get to see who wants the war and who doesn’t. The Blue dogs get to own their vote for siding with the Republicans.

What do we lose?

This rejoinder is simply not dealing in reality:

There is no doubt now

It’s Bush’s war. He owns it, and the Republican party are accomplices in maintaining it. But once the Democrats make a stand, and some of them vote to support the war (and that is how it will be played in the media), then it becomes a two-party war. Heck, right here on dKos there are a lot of people who are claiming that the Democrats inability to stop the war amounts to implicit support of the war. How hard do you think it will be for the right-wing media to make the same case?

Right there on dkos of all places? Imagine that. the progresive base sees through the bullshit and cries foul? Imagine that. Frankly, that is the reason to push the issue. And what the hell, you may even win. How bad would that be?

Silly people who think they are “shrewd” strategists. Rahmbo Jrs.


This is a meta-diary. Fair warning.

Agendas. Everyone has at least one. Merriam-Webster gives us the following definition:

Main Entry: agen•da
Pronunciation: &-‘jen-d&
Function: noun
Etymology: Latin, neuter plural of agendum, gerundive of agere
1 : a list or outline of things to be considered or done (agendas of faculty meetings)
2 : an underlying often ideological plan or program (a political agenda)

Let’s discuss our agenda(s), shall we?

Agendas are sneaky little, often underlying, motivators. Note that agendas are NOT always the same thing as goals. It is far easier to be honest about your goal(s) than it is to be honest about your agenda(s).

It has been asked here – Why Do You Blog? Being as honest as I can with myself, I would offer my own agenda (not necessarily goal) list for blogging as something like this:

1) To provide an outlet for my political (mostly) and lifestyle (secondary) ideas / ideals.
2) To have fun with likeminded people.
3) To influence others to my way of thinking.
4) To hone my writing skills.
5) To be read.
6) To give back to the blogging community that has taught me a great deal.
7) To assist with building a community that has real influence in the so-called ‘real’ world.
8) To provide an outlet to flirt with hot blogging babes.

I wrote this list with as much honesty as I could muster, and it’s ranked in order of importance with said honesty in mind. Note that #3, #5 and #8 (especially) are not particularly honorable motives. Actually, #6 is pretty good. And #7 should be way higher on the list given our discussions lately, yet truthfully it’s not. In looking at the list, I would say it’s not too bad and pretty much matches up with why I am enjoying myself so much here.

So what’s the point? I think that if you can be honest with yourself about your personal agenda(s), you can learn a great deal about where you stand vis-à-vis the important relationships in your life. Especially if you have a good understanding as to the other side’s agenda.

Many of us here got our start at Teh Big Orange. I would suggest that most of us who started there are writing here now because our personal agenda bumped up against the agendas of ‘the powers that be’ at DK or elsewhere. Their main agenda isn’t that hard to figure out. Their #1 goal is to elect Democrats. The agenda / primary tactic behind that goal appears to be to build an audience that provides enough horsepower to help achieve the goal. There’s not much more to it, really. Individuals, and individual goals and agendas, can (and should in their minds) be sacrificed if they bump up too hard against the main agenda. Varied opinions are great as they most often drive traffic, but traffic appears to be the trump card. If a controversial topic or individual threatens overall traffic or site ‘credibility’, the topic or individual will be discouraged.

For me, I really enjoyed myself over on Orange for a long time. But eventually, I realized I wasn’t getting too much traction on my personal agendas #3, #5 and #7 (small fish in a huge pond) above. I was cool with that, and then #2 started becoming harder and harder to find. I wasn’t so cool with that. So I started searching, and I found my new home here. Hopefully, this one will last. As I’ve said before, I have a good feeling about it.

The democrats of course have their own agenda(s). And they too don’t match mine very well right now.

But regardless, my reason (agenda even) for writing this is to ask you to think about your agenda list and to see if it lines up with the important relationships in your life. Not necessarily blogging relationships, but for the purposes of this essay, I suppose that’s what I’m getting at. This essay was written with agenda items #1, #2, #5, #6 and #7 above firmly in mind.

Hopefully this all made sense. Cheers.

Pelosi Throws In The Towel

Going up on Dkos soon.

Nancy Pelosi admits no legislation passed in the House will end the occupation because the Republican minority in the Senate will block it. Bi-partisanship won’t work.

Nancy Pelosi admits re-deployment is the only answer, but has stopped trying to achieve it. She has stopped trying to send bills to the Presidents desk.

Nancy Pelosi admits she can defund the occupation. But she won’t.

Nancy Pelosi has given up on ending the Iraq War.

h/t Armando.

BLITZER: But you could in the House of Representatives use your power of the purse, the money, to stop funding the war if you really wanted to.

PELOSI: I wish the speaker had all the power you just describe. I certainly could do that. That doesn’t bar the minority from bringing up a funding resolution. They have their parliamentary prerogative as well.

Um….what’s so bad about letting the Republican MINORITY propose a funding bill? And then voting it down with your MAJORITY in the House?

Her lofty goals now? Holding Bush accountable and explaining that it is not her fault.

BLITZER: So, are you telling your angry base out there in the Democratic Party that wants to see this war over with, wants to see the U.S. troops home, that you, as speaker, there’s nothing you can do, you have to just throw your hands up and say…

PELOSI: No. I didn’t say that at all.

BLITZER: … given the legislative problems in the Senate and the president’s stubborn refusal to back down, that there’s nothing that you can do?

PELOSI: How could you have ever gotten that impression?

BLITZER: All right, well, tell us…

PELOSI: What I have said, for those who pay attention, is that we will hold this administration accountable time and time again for the conduct of this war in Iraq.

She does NOT say that the House Democrats under her Speakership will continue to try to end the war. She says that they will hold Bush ‘accountable.’

How will they hold him accountable? Not through Impeachment.

Impeachment is off the table, this is Bush’s War, Cheneys War, the Republican War

She says there is a choice….

So we’re talking about a greatly diminished force there and a redeployment that’s safe and responsible within the next year. The president is talking about 10 years and then after that, a Korea-like presence in perpetuity. That’s the choice.

Speaker Pelosi, by not attempting defunding you have just MADE that choice for all of America. YOU have taken OUR choice away, not because you have been forced too, but because you have CHOSEN to source site give up without doing all you can with the power at your disposal.

The choice is this Speaker Pelosi: You can do EVERYTHING you can to end this war and TRULY hold Bush accountable….or you can throw in the towel. You can tell Bush and America that YOU will not continue the war….by not funding it.

You can do EVERYTHING you can to hold Bush accountable for lying us into war… Impeaching him and Cheney.

Or you can throw in the towel.

Apparently you have made your choice.

Our only choice now is to try to shame you into doing your job.

Watch the video, read the transcript, check andgarden’s diary on Rahm.

The Dems have given up.

Opposing Bush is now off the table.

Can we Yell Loud enough to put it back on? Or should we just accept years and years of more war?

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