Friday Night at 8: Sex and Rock & Roll

Rock and roll.  Started out black music, started out being the blues.  Started out sung in the fields by slaves, trying to get through their lives day by day.

Changed over the years, but folks never forgot where it came from, which is why there was so much furor over rock and roll when it started to affect white kids.  It was why Alan Freed was really destroyed, not because of the official story of payola.

And while Little Richard was blasting this new music into the waiting ears of young black kids, Pat Boone was the one making all the money (try, once, to listen to Little Richard do “Tutti Fruitti” and then listen to Pat Boone singing it — you may just go mad).

It all boiled down to sex, though.  It did.  Listen to the blues, to early rhythm & blues, listen to that beat and try not to move your body to it, try  not to get turned on.  Can’t be done, sez I.

But this isn’t going to be a political essay about racism or the music business.  And I have no particular judgment over what I’m about to write.  I just find it interesting, and hope some of you will find it interesting as well.

Let’s look at a song.  “Boom Boom” performed by John Lee Hooker:

Boom boom boom boom
I’m gonna shoot you right down
Right off of your feet
Take you home with  me

Boom boom boom boom
mmm mmm mmm
mmm mmm mmm
I love to see you walk
Up and down the floor
When you’re talkin’ to me
That baby talk

Just like it like that
When you talk like that
It knocks me dead
Right off of my feet

Wish you could all hear Little Willie John singing the original version of “Fever” – Peggy Lee would never sound the same.  But here’s a good one as well — “All Around the World”

Oh you know I love you baby,
You know I love you baby,
If I don’t love you baby,
Grits ain’t groceries,
Eggs ain’t poultry
And Mona Lisa was a man …

And of course, we got Little Richard (Long Tall Sally):

Long Tall Sally, she’s
built sweet
she got everything
that Uncle John needs
Oh baby …

It’s raw and its about sex and the music makes you move.  What more could horrify the good white citizens of America in the 50’s?  There were record burning festivals, preachers spinning fiery tales of dread and doom for those who listened to this music, oh woe!  And worse things.

Yet none of that mattered — the music swept the nation and, eventually, the world.  Nothing could stop it.  Nothing.

I think of Muddy Waters singing, in “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” how he don’t need a woman to cook his meals or clean his house.  He just wants a woman to touch and hold and make love to.  No high minded romantic flowery poetry.  He wants to get laid.

That was the beginning, I think, in many ways, of the sexual revolution, and the birth control pill made it a reality.  Boys and girls went from feeling they had to be married first to feel comfortable having sex (and of course that was never the case, folks just pretended it was, hid their sexual practices, didn’t talk about them — much like the Republicans of today) to knowing they could experiment, could play around, could experience multiple partners openly, live together openly, and it seemed we had finally overcome our Puritan repressions, then BAM!  Along came AIDs, and things changed, they changed very much, and those who wanted sex put back in the closet had a field day.

I think of the direct lyrics of these early blues, r&b and rock & roll songs, they were very simple, very direct.

Now we have songs with reams of densely written lyrics, analysis, introspection.  What happened, I wonder?  And we have loads of irony as well.  No one would say any longer “I must have you or I will die!” or “If you leave me, I’ll go crazy!” (Little Willie John) without having folks think they were obsessed or about to go stalking.  And I don’t think those feelings have changed — it’s just the expression of them that has, the self-consciousness of the lover not wanting to be wounded over the deep feelings of need that arise during sex, falling in love, all that.  I dunno.

No matter how we express our feelings about it, repress it, celebrate it, sex doesn’t change, nor does the need for it.  They couldn’t kill rock & roll — of course they could and did coopt it for the corporations, but that don’t matter either.  Rock & roll can’t exist in captivity, it always breaks out eventually, no matter the foes aligned against it.

Sex and rock & roll.  All the abstinence programs in the world won’t obliterate either of ’em.

Another “Phony Soldier”

Ricardo Sanchez:

In a sweeping indictment of the four-year effort in Iraq, the former top American commander called the Bush administration’s handling of the war incompetent and warned that the United States was “living a nightmare with no end in sight.” In one of his first major public speeches since leaving the Army in late 2006, retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez blamed the administration for a “catastrophically flawed, unrealistically optimistic war plan” and denounced the current “surge” strategy as a “desperate” move that will not achieve long-term stability.

. . .  “There was been a glaring and unfortunate display of incompetent strategic leadership within our national leaders,” he said, adding later in his remarks that civilian officials have been “derelict in their duties” and guilty of a “lust for power.”

Cue Rush. We got another Jesse Macbeth on our hands.

Friday Philosophy: Outness

I sometimes refer to when I came out/was outed.  Sometimes people ask what I mean by phrasing it that way.  I’ll get to that in the story that follows.

I am out.  I make no secret about being a lesbian.  And I make no secret about being born male.  Some people don’t like that.  Some people think I’m doing a disservice to all sorts of folks by being out.  Some people think I should shut up and go back into the closet, so everyone (except maybe me) might be able to be happy.

Recently I’ve been engaged in several discussions about the proposed exclusion of gender-variant people from the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.  A few days ago someone wrote to me:

Are you a woman or not? If so, then the rights you should be fighting for are those of womens’ rights. Which means being legally recognized as a woman and having access to all the rights of women and nothing more.

Seeking special laws to address transsexual women is a self-proclamation that they are ‘different’ from other women, which is a setback and a political dead-end.

Yesterday was National Coming Out Day.  Since it was on a Thursday, I didn’t have much time to participate.  So I assembled this piece, which I posted on our campus email.

Cross-posted at Daily Kos.

At first I was amused by the fact that someone else claimed to know what would make my life experience more authentic than I would.

I responded, but first I have an excerpt from a longer story.  Some people don’t like that I make my points by telling stories.  I’m told it’s too ego-centric.  On the other hand, if I say what I want to say without telling a story, I’m asked how I can possibly speak for the entire transgender community.  I tell my stories.  Interpret them however you will…

I’ve written about my coming out before, in Gender Workshop IX.  But I haven’t done more than allude to what happened next.

October 8, 1992

I heard nothing back from my chairman until Friday afternoon after I left my coming out letter on his desk on Wednesday.  About 3 pm, after everyone else had gone home, he called me into his office and we discussed the letter and what was going to happen.  My major impression from the meeting was that the reaction of the administration was not good.  They had held a meeting (Chuck, my dean, the president of the university, the school lawyer, and the head of personnel) to discuss the situation.  How nice it might have been if they had invited me along so that we could discuss it together, but that was not to be.

In fact I was told that any communication I wanted with anyone in administration would have to go through Chuck or Helen Russell in personnel.  I was also informed that they wanted me to take sick leave immediately.  I declined that “offer” as I knew it would mean that I had abandoned my classes in the middle of a semester and that would mean that they would have grounds to terminate my tenure.

The upshot of the meeting was that if I was not going to take sick leave, then I needed to communicate to my colleagues in some manner what was going to be happening.  I spent the evening deciding on what form such a communication would take.  Perhaps fear entered into the picture, but I opted for a letter again.  I did not have enough confidence in myself to speak to my colleagues as a group and knew if I addressed them one at a time, that before I told #2, #1 would be telling others.

I don’t know what exactly happened over the weekend, after I put the letters in the mailboxes on Saturday.  I learned later that some anonymous person had made copies and placed them on the desks of all the secretaries on campus.  Since we generally only have keys to our own buildings, I can only think that there must been some sort of collusion with people “higher up.”

A copy of the letter was also forwarded to someone at the local newspaper.  I found this out the hard way.  I got a phone call on Monday from a reporter at the paper (the Log Cabin Democrat).  She said at first that “rumors” had been passed on to the paper from someone at the First Baptist Church (the largest and most politically powerful church in this community).  Since one of my colleagues is treasurer of that church, I had a pretty good idea where the rumors came from.

I answered a few questions rather defensively and in turn questioned why it was necessary for the reporter to do a story on this.  I was told that a story would be done, with or without my cooperation.  I was rather on the spot and I had to make a rather rapid decision, so I agreed to an interview for Wednesday morning.  I hoped that at least a little of my side of the story would actually appear for public consumption.

In the meantime several of my students (from the class with which I had discussed my situation) had come to my office to express their support.  A few of my colleagues dropped by (all women).  A couple of them were somewhat supportive.  One of the supportive women told me, “I can’t say I understand this completely, because I don’t understand it at all, really.  And my first reaction was negative, I have to admit.  Then it occurred to me that I believe that a woman has the right to self?determination of her body when it comes to abortion.  Why shouldn’t you have the right of self?determination of your body?”

Not all of the reaction was positive, of course.  One of my women colleagues (what we call temporary full-time…she does not have tenure or a tenure track, but teaches full-time here) came into my office bearing all sorts of christian literature about being gay. She was in tears (I learned later that she was a former Miss Arkansas and married a very eligible lawyer with the intentions of living the idyllic southern married lifestyle, but that her husband had turned out to be gay).

The departmental secretary told me that she didn’t agree with this at all (as if she was being asked to agree), but that she would attempt to work with me (how nice of her!).  To this day when she answers a telephone call for me when I am not in my office, she refers to me as “he.”

I didn’t want to spring this on the administration as a surprise, so I attempted to warn my chairman, who was out of town, my dean (same), the president (same), and the vice president for academic affairs (same).  Finally I got in touch with the school attorney and informed her what had transpired.  She said she appreciated the warning but had no additional comment.

When Wednesday morning rolled around, I got dressed in my usual androgynous mode and headed to school, trembling a bit about what was going to take place.  It turned out to be not so bad.  The reporter was not a native of the area, which was probably a good thing.  She tried to ask meaningful questions and I answered as honestly as I felt was needed.  I did try to keep my sexual orientation out of it.  I didn’t really think that everyone needed to know that.  I did stress that I was not a gay male though…in fact, no kind of man at all.

On the following date, October 8, 1992 (I knew we would get there eventually), the article was run in the newspaper.  I was now out, at least locally, to the whole community of over 20,000 people.

[I would include a copy of the article here if I had one, but my search last night did not reveal it’s whereabouts.  I have mailed copies to friends in the past and will get a copy in the future and post it to the list.  It goes here :-)]

I wish that were the end of it.  It wasn’t.  The Associated Press picked up the article and spread it to at least 6 states.  The main newspaper in Arkansas printed a portion of the article.  I got phone calls from people in Missouri, Oklahoma, Louisiana, as well as Arkansas, and several semesters later had a student in a class that told me he read about it in the gay press in Los Angeles.

I was told that it made the 6pm news on the 8th, as well as drive-time radio.  Like it or not, I had become a “celebrity” or sorts.  I have not really had any privacy since.  There has been no question of me going out in public without people knowing who I am.  Some transsexuals worry a lot about “passing”…about being able to be in public without people knowing they once lived as the other gender. Sometimes I wonder what that must be like.

–October 8, 1994

I am a woman.  I am transsexual.  And I’m a lesbian.  Those are not incompatible identities.  I work for women’s rights.  I work for rights for gender variant people.  I work for gay rights.  These are also not incompatible.  I am one of the women’s studies faculty on this campus, co-coordinator of the Gay/NonGay Alliance and I write about being differently gendered.  That takes a lot of effort on top as my regular job and having a life, but they aren’t incompatible.  Someone has to teach about people like me.  If not me, who?

This is not a “political dead end.”  I should work for women’s rights and forget about the rights of transwomen?  When transwomen do not have some of the rights women have in this country?  I spent several years trying to arrange it so that transwomen even had a chance to participate in the community of women. 

Would a lesbian be told to work for women’s rights and not gay rights?  I don’t think so.  So this view must be something special for transfolk.  Some think we should by all means have the right to transition, but we better not be damn visible about it.  Or somehow we fail to be human.

How does that make sense?  How can some people tell us, on the one hand, that we haven’t done enough work to deserve to be included in ENDA, but on the other be told to shut up and blend into the woodwork?

So I will stand firm.  I’d love to one day not refer to myself as a transwoman. Someday when I have equal rights, I may do that.

Jay Elias, Troll

So you gotta love Jay’s comment in Digby’s first DKos diary:

Digby, you’re pretty smart… (0+ / 0-)
…so I’ll ask you this:

I’ve been making it my business to let those four Democrats know that at least one Democrat supports their vote.  I’ve been doing so not because I oppose health care for children, but because no one had come up with a meaningful explanation of why this plan should be funded entirely on the back of tobacco smokers except for political expediency.

If you can explain why else that should be in a satisfying way, I’ll stop trying to hurt your cause.  I hope you see that as a decent deal.

The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it. ~ H.L. Mencken

Jay’s question is a good one. He asked me last night. As you can see, I did not have a good answer. Anybody else have a good one?

P.S. For the record, Digby and I go back in our blogging and I admire her greatly. HEr diasry is admirable. But Jay raises a good question. 

CIA Investigates Its Own Inspector General for Investigating the CIA About Torture

In the latest of a seemingly endless series of shocking revelations about the Bush Administration’s attempts to punish anyone who attempts to hold them accountable to the rule of law, it is being reported today that the CIA is investigating its own Inspector General for investigating the CIA for committing acts of torture.

From the New York Times:

The director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, has ordered an unusual internal inquiry into the work of the agency’s inspector general, whose aggressive investigations of the C.I.A.’s detention and interrogation programs and other matters have created resentment among agency operatives.

Detention and interrogation programs? In other words, torture.

A small team working for General Hayden is looking into the conduct of the agency’s watchdog office, which is led by Inspector General John L. Helgerson. Current and former government officials said the review had caused anxiety and anger in Mr. Helgerson’s office and aroused concern on Capitol Hill that it posed a conflict of interest.

Concern? This warrants more than concern! This warrants an immediate and aggressive investigation by Congress into a clear case of attempting to suppress dedicated public servants because they may believe the United States should abide by international law and basic human morality.

Any move by the agency’s director to examine the work of the inspector general would be unusual, if not unprecedented, and would threaten to undermine the independence of the office, some current and former officials say.

To state the obvious: that’s stating the obvious.

The CIA, of course, officially says this investigation of the investigators is no big deal, completely appropriate, have a doughnut and some coffee and- hey, how’s the weather, today?

Meanwhile, back in reality:

A report by Mr. Helgerson’s office completed in the spring of 2004 warned that some C.I.A.-approved interrogation procedures appeared to constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, as defined by the international Convention Against Torture.

The Los Angeles Times adds this:

Helgerson has become an unusually high-profile occupant of the position largely because his tenure has coincided with a series of historic intelligence blunders.

An examination of failures leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks was sharply critical of Tenet and other senior CIA officials, saying they “did not discharge their duties in a satisfactory manner,” and calling for the creation of special in-house panels to determine whether they should be reprimanded.

The CIA had fought to keep that report secret. But Hayden reluctantly released its key findings in August after Congress passed legislation requiring the CIA to declassify the document’s executive summary.

In other words, yet another clear case of CIA failure was brought to light by Helgerson and his team, the CIA fought to keep their findings secret, but were thwarted by Congress. Clearly, yet another reason why the Inspector General must be investigated!

This story fits the pattern of absolutely everything this Administration does: fail, commit crimes, try to cover up those failures and crimes, and when honest and competent people make honest and competent efforts to keep our government honest and competent, punish them.

As Richard Brautigan wrote, decades ago:

The last surprise is when you come
gradually to realize that nothing
surprises you any more.

Which Candidates Support Native American Concerns?

Source

Department of Justice officials have quietly opposed Native Hawaiian self-determination but the administration didn’t outright come out against the recognition bill until last fall.

– snip –

The anti-Hawaiian campaign has since been extended to urban Indians, lineal Indian descendants and certain Alaska Natives. In testimony to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, a DOJ official said that health care for these groups could violate the U.S. Constitution.

I feel less than optimistic about Native American concerns. The recent year has been very difficult and heartbreaking. Since it’s a long list, I will summarize what I am aware of by saying that vital Native American concerns failing within the courts and within congress are far outweighing Native American concerns succeeding within the courts and within congress. So, I will be direct in what I want.

I want the next president and congress to have solid, working knowledge of the issues surrounding and including tribal sovereignty, and to uphold the promises that have been made to the tribes. Adding to that broad topic, I want the next president and congress to have a comprehensive, alternative, and clean energy plan that they are willing to implement. Please allow me to explain how it relates specifically to tribal sovereignty in my opinion.

Natural energy resources reside mainly on Indigenous lands which the states and the government yet seek to acquire. Overall, Indigenous tribes have not drained the natural resources from their land like the states and the government have used and exploited theirs. Otherwise, why is “most of the world’s remaining natural resources — minerals, freshwater, potential energy sources and more – (are) found within indigenous peoples’ territories.”

I left my crystal ball at home, but as I stated in the beginning, “I feel less than optimistic about Native American concerns.”

I am intentionally not linking to any more “Native American concerns,” so please forgive the shortness of this diary. I want to know that the presidential and congregational candidates know what they are and that they are going to do something about it. The last reason that this is so short is because the Iraq Occupation overshadows most everything else, including Native American concerns in my opinion. I hope that by my making this brief and to the point, that it might receive more attention than it would receive otherwise. Enough said – on to the direct questions.

Does your candidate or you yourself (if you are a candidate) have “a solid working knowledge of the issues surrounding and including tribal sovereignty,” and are you or they willing to work to uphold the promises that have been made by making the time to communicate and to work with the tribal chiefs, elders, and those representing them and their respective tribes when they come to you to talk?

I need to know who to vote for.

I am not and cannot speak for any tribe, and I look forward to hearing your responses, your candidate’s responses, and anyone else’s responses that have something to add to this discussion.

Mitakuye Oyasin

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Quote for Discussion: 10.12.2007

Welcome to today’s installment of quotes for discussion!  Without further ado…

Move to the room
Down on the bed
These are the things she said
And make it good
And make me clean
These are the things I need

But I can’t just want
Because it isn’t enough for me

We’ll understand
Talk in your sleep
Tell secrets that we keep
I’m calling you
Out of the crowd
Yeah mommy is so proud

But I can’t just want
Because it isn’t enough for me
And I can’t just want
You know it isn’t enough for me

Want isn’t clean
And want isn’t man enough for me
To make me believe
That want could ever fill my need
To be

And I can’t just want
You know its never enough for me
And I can’t just want
You know it isn’t enough for me

Want isn’t clean oh yeah yeah
Want isn’t man enough for me
To make me believe oh oh yeah
That want could ever fill my need
Want isn’t clean
And want isn’t man enough for me
Just make me believe
Make me believe
Make me believe

~ Giant Drag, High Friends in Places

For more excellence from Giant Drag, I recommend the song which has the perfect intersect of title and music: You Fuck Like My Dad.

Four at Four

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

  1. Greg Miller of the Los Angeles Times reports the CIA investigates conduct of its inspector general. Gen. Michael Hayden, the CIA Director, “has mounted a highly unusual challenge to the agency’s chief watchdog, ordering an internal investigation of an inspector general who has issued a series of scathing reports sharply critical of top CIA officials… The move has prompted concerns that Hayden is seeking to rein in an inspector general who has used the office to bring harsh scrutiny of CIA figures including former Director George J. Tenet and undercover operatives running secret overseas prison sites. The inquiry is focused on the conduct of CIA Inspector General John L. Helgerson and his office.”

    The New York Times reports that the investigation is “particularly focused on complaints that Mr. Helgerson’s office has not acted as a fair and impartial judge of agency operations but instead has begun a crusade against those who have participated in controversial detention programs.” CIA officers have complained about length of the inspector general’s investigations and that they have “derailed careers and generated steep legal bills for officers under scrutiny”.

    A 2004 report by Helgerson’s office “warned that some C.I.A.-approved interrogation procedures appeared to constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, as defined by the international Convention Against Torture.” His office also “rankled agency officials when it completed a withering report about the C.I.A’s missteps before the Sept. 11 attack — a report that recommended ‘accountability boards’ to consider disciplinary action against a handful of senior officials.”

  2. The Guardian reports China joins UN censure of Burmese regime. “China turned against the Burmese government last night and supported a UN security council statement rebuking the military regime for its suppression of peaceful protests, and demanding the release of all political prisoners.” This “marked the first time that Beijing had agreed to UN criticism of the junta. The statement did not threaten sanctions, but the significance of its unanimous support by all 15 members of the security council would not have been lost on Burma’s generals, who had hitherto been able to count on China, a neighbour and key trading partner, to block UN censure.” The Independent reports that in order to secure “the agreement of China and Russia”, Western countries had to “water down a draft statement that had originally demanded a transition to democracy in the country.”

  3. The New York Times reports Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, has criticized top Bush administration officials over missile defense shield. “President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia sharply upbraided the visiting American secretaries of state and defense on Friday as little specific progress was made during negotiations intended to resolve growing disagreements over missile defense and other security issues.

    “During a day of lengthy negotiations here, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates presented what they described as a series of ‘new ideas’ intended to narrow the divide between the countries.” BBC News reports that the Russians have urged a U.S. missile ‘freeze’. “After high-level talks in Moscow, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia saw the shield as a ‘potential threat’ and wanted to ‘neutralise’ it.” Rice said the Bush administration would not stop its missile “shield” plans. According to the NY Times:

    Mr. Putin himself set the tone for the day when he kept Ms. Rice and Mr. Gates waiting 40 minutes for a morning meeting at his suburban residence, or dacha, and then surprised them with a derisive lecture in front of the television cameras…

    Mr. Putin appeared to catch Mr. Gates and Ms. Rice off guard with his remarks since no public statements were planned in advance.

    Mr. Putin, though, arrived with notes and spent eight minutes welcoming the opportunity to talk about where Russia strongly disagreed with the Bush administration. Ms. Rice appeared angered, though Mr. Gates reacted impassively.

    No one could have predicted being ambushed by Putin. Rice is out of her league. At least Gates kept his poker face.

There’s more below the fold. Today’s “Guns of Greed” with HUGE news about a U.S. Army report that details how Blackwater fired at vehicles fleeing the scene of the Nisoor Square massacre. Plus a bonus story about a collector of vintage and obsolete computer equipment — the time lord of technology. So, step into that TARDIS disguised as an old mainframe and voyage to the place known only as… below the fold.

  1. A huge story from the Washington Post ledes today’s episode of “Guns of Greed”.

    • Sudarsan Raghavan and Josh White of the Washington Post report
      Blackwater Guards Fired at Fleeing Cars, Soldiers Say
      First U.S. Troops on Scene Found No Evidence of Shooting by Iraqis; Incident Called ‘Criminal’

      Blackwater USA guards shot at Iraqi civilians as they tried to drive away from a Baghdad square on Sept. 16, according to a report compiled by the first U.S. soldiers to arrive at the scene, where they found no evidence that Iraqis had fired weapons.

      “It appeared to me they were fleeing the scene when they were engaged. It had every indication of an excessive shooting,” said Lt. Col. Mike Tarsa, whose soldiers reached Nisoor Square 20 to 25 minutes after the gunfire subsided.

      His soldiers’ report — based upon their observations at the scene, eyewitness interviews and discussions with Iraqi police — concluded that there was “no enemy activity involved” and described the shootings as a “criminal event“…

      In the hours and days after the Nisoor Square shootings, the U.S. military sought to distance itself from Blackwater. Dozens of soldiers went door-to-door to seek out victims, offer condolence payments and stress that the military was not involved in the shootings, Tarsa and his soldiers said. Their actions underscore the long-standing tensions between the U.S. military and private security companies — and the military’s concerns that such shootings, and the lack of accountability for the private security industry, could undermine U.S. efforts to stabilize Iraq.

      Here are new details from the September 16 massacre:

      • Two cars “had their back windshields shot out, but their front windshields were intact”.

      • “U.S. soldiers did not find any bullets that came from AK-47 assault rifles or BKC machine guns used by Iraqi policemen and soldiers.”

      • Blackwater mercenaries shot at a car carrying a doctor and her son that had not entered the traffic circle. Blackwater had claimed the car was approaching in a “threatening manner”.

      When the troops arrived on the scene, the first Blackwater convoy — the one that had opened fire — had left. “Iraqi police had blocked in a second Blackwater convoy” and “refused to let the Blackwater convoy leave until another U.S. military unit escorted it back to the Green Zone.”

    • AP reports Afghans are cracking down on security firms. “Afghan authorities are cracking down on lucrative but largely unregulated security firms, some of which are suspected of murder. Two private Afghan security companies were raided and shut down this week, and a dozen or so more contractors — including some protecting embassies — would be closed soon”.

      “It also emerged Thursday that an American security company, U.S. Protection and Investigations, which does security work for the State Department aid arm USAID, was raided last month in Kabul by the Blackwater security firm… Afghan police provided security for the raid on the company, according to Paktiawal, and the U.S. official said Blackwater security teams took computers and office files. Two Afghan workers were taken into custody, and Blackwater held American and Canadian citizens at gunpoint, the official said.”

    • Rod Nordland and Mark Hosenball of Newsweek reports that ‘Blackwater Is Soaked‘.

      The colonel was furious. “Can you believe it? They actually drew their weapons on U.S. soldiers.” He was describing a 2006 car accident, in which an SUV full of Blackwater operatives had crashed into a U.S. Army Humvee on a street in Baghdad’s Green Zone. The colonel, who was involved in a follow-up investigation and spoke on the condition he not be named, said the Blackwater guards disarmed the U.S. Army soldiers and made them lie on the ground at gunpoint until they could disentangle the SUV. His account was confirmed by the head of another private security company. Asked to address this and other allegations in this story, Blackwater spokesperson Anne Tyrrell said, “This type of gossip has led to many soap operas in the press.”

      (Hat Tip MsLibrarian.)

    • More on the war crimes inquiry facing Blackwater from Anne Penketh reporting for The Independent. “The American firm Blackwater USA has been served notice that it faces investigations for war crimes after 17 unarmed Iraqi civilians were killed in a hail of bullets by its security guards in Baghdad.”

      Ivana Vuco, the most senior UN human rights officer in Iraq, spoke yesterday about the shootings by private security guards, which have provoked outrage among Iraqis. “For us, it’s a human rights issue,” she said. “We will monitor the allegations of killings by security contractors and look into whether or not crimes against humanity and war crimes have been committed.”

      […]

      Ms Vuco said human rights laws applied equally to contractors and other parties in a conflict. “We will be stressing that in our communications with US authorities. This includes the responsibility to investigate, supervise and prosecute those accused of wrongdoing,” she said at the launch in Baghdad of the latest UN human rights report, covering the period from April to June. It described the human rights situation in Iraq as “very grim”.

  2. Yesterday, writing for The Guardian, Liz Todd brought an interesting story about old and obsolete computers and the man who collects them in — Meet the time lord of technology.

    For self-confessed computer nerd Sellam Ismail, it’s all in a day’s work. The Silicon Valley-based expert collects old machines, and has more than 3,000 of them. He’s also the brains behind Vintage Tech, a data retrieval service promising to get back that crucial information no matter how outmoded the software.

    Ismail, 38, did actually sell a computer once. It was 1983, and his mother made him get rid of his Mattel Aquarius when he upgraded to an Apple II Plus. He was devastated…

    By the time he was 17 he had at least eight machines, and to keep his mother happy he told her he would start a museum one day. “I was mostly joking, but then the idea of being an archivist started forming,” he says. “I collected software and very meticulously maintained it. I would collect applications I would never use, but there was something about it that compelled me to hold on…

    In the late 1990s, Ismail hooked up with fellow vintage collectors online. He was working as a software engineer when money was being thrown around Silicon Valley and he spent all his spare cash on the retro machines…

So, what else is happening?

Conspiracy Theories

The Ultimate Source of Conspiracy Theories:

The Vatican has published secret documents about the trial of the Knights Templar, including a parchment – long ignored because of a vague catalog entry in 1628 – showing that Pope Clement V initially absolved the medieval order of heresy. . . . The order of knights, which ultimately disappeared because of the heresy scandal, recently captivated the imagination of readers of the best-seller “The Da Vinci Code,” which linked the Templars to the story of the Holy Grail.

The Vatican work reproduces the entire documentation of the papal hearings convened after King Philip IV of France arrested and tortured Templar leaders in 1307 on charges of heresy and immorality. The military order of the Poor Knights of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon was founded in 1118 in Jerusalem to protect pilgrims in the Holy Land after the First Crusade.

. . . The parchment, in remarkably good condition considering its 700 years, apparently had last been consulted at the start of the 20th century, Frale said, surmising that its significance must have not have been realized then.
. . . According to the Vatican archives Web site, the parchment shows that Clement initially absolved the Templar leaders of heresy, though he did find them guilty of immorality, and that he planned to reform the order. However, pressured by Philip, Clement later reversed his decision and suppressed the order in 1312.

Jacques de Molay, Grand Master of the Templars, was burned at the stake in 1314 along with his aides.

Surviving monks fled. Some were absorbed by other orders; over the centuries, various groups have claimed to have descended from the Templars.

Conspiracy Theories

The Ultimate Source of Conspiracy Theories:

The Vatican has published secret documents about the trial of the Knights Templar, including a parchment – long ignored because of a vague catalog entry in 1628 – showing that Pope Clement V initially absolved the medieval order of heresy. . . . The order of knights, which ultimately disappeared because of the heresy scandal, recently captivated the imagination of readers of the best-seller “The Da Vinci Code,” which linked the Templars to the story of the Holy Grail.

The Vatican work reproduces the entire documentation of the papal hearings convened after King Philip IV of France arrested and tortured Templar leaders in 1307 on charges of heresy and immorality. The military order of the Poor Knights of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon was founded in 1118 in Jerusalem to protect pilgrims in the Holy Land after the First Crusade.

. . . The parchment, in remarkably good condition considering its 700 years, apparently had last been consulted at the start of the 20th century, Frale said, surmising that its significance must have not have been realized then.
. . . According to the Vatican archives Web site, the parchment shows that Clement initially absolved the Templar leaders of heresy, though he did find them guilty of immorality, and that he planned to reform the order. However, pressured by Philip, Clement later reversed his decision and suppressed the order in 1312.

Jacques de Molay, Grand Master of the Templars, was burned at the stake in 1314 along with his aides.

Surviving monks fled. Some were absorbed by other orders; over the centuries, various groups have claimed to have descended from the Templars.

Carrots and Sticks

Credit when due. Criticism when appropriate. Today, credit to Markos:

Pelosi may think it’s a waste of time for us to try and hold our elected officials accountable, but that doesn’t mean we have to listen. They want us to write a check, cast a vote for them, and then shut the f’ up. But we certainly won’t. . . . We’ve got an incredible candidate challenging Wynn in the primary, the impressive Donna Edwards (yeah, I’m smitten). And since the entire Democratic Machine is now arrayed against her, it’ll be up to us to prove that people-power can overcome the morally compromised leadership.

Don’t be smitten though. Pols are pols. Also credit to Chris Bowers:

If there is one line about activism that angers me more than any other, it is the complaint that progressives who target other Democrats are wasting their time and resources doing so. In a much discussed quote this morning, Nancy Pelosi offered up a variation on that line . . . Many writers have commented on this article today, making this anything but a groundbreaking blog post.  . . . Intra-party presidential nomination fights are one of the biggest sectors of the entire political industry. If leading Democrats want to talk about circular firing squads or a misuse of resources by targeting other Democrats, they should talk about the presidential primary first. Even expensive, well-funded primary challenges to sitting House or Senate Democrats would cost less than 5% of the money that is being used in the nomination campaign.

. . . In this circumstance, it seems to be that Pelosi simply doesn’t like the people hanging around her home. In other, more common circumstances, it means that someone simply favors the incumbent in a primary, or opposes the issue position being advocated.

Good post.

Why Is This Blind Person Running for Congress?

Here is Dennis Shulman’s story about living as a blind man in a sighted world.

It’s a moving and honest account of his struggle to not only live with but transcend his disability.

And it’s about how and why his disability is leading him to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2009.

To learn more about Dennis check out Shulman for Congress.

Load more