However, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates emphasized in two television interviews today that American troops would play an increasingly limited role in Iraq.
Sunday, September 30, 2007
* Yes, we know Jeralyn Merrit coined that phrase!
** Yes, we know skippy coined that phrase!
Cross posted at VidiotSpeak
SteveAudio: My best to John and the great crew at C&L too
Saturday, September 29, 2007
But I have to do this one. You know the song from the Old Navy commercial? You know the one I mean, that you can't get out of your head? It's Ingrid Michaelson singing "The Way I Am".
Here's a live version, stripped to one acoustic guitar and backup singer, and Ingrid. And it's even more stunning than the album version. It proves music doesn't need a big busy production to be wonderful:
This talented woman has no record deal, yet she's had her music played on Gray's Anatomy, has played live on several TV shows, and is currently touring the US. Here's her MySpace page.
We're witnessing the new paradigm for music marketing. Take heed, kids.
Update: To everyone stopping by from Scout.com and Yahoo Answers, thanks. I write about politics, and also an insiders view of the music world, where I work in recording studios.
Please click on "Home" below and check out what I and my co-bloggers are writing about today.
A senior leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq was killed in a US air strike in Iraq this week, a US military commander said Friday, calling it a key loss to a group already fractured by US operations.Yet on the very same day:
"Abu Usama al-Tunisi was one of the most senior leaders within Al-Qaeda in Iraq," said Anderson, the chief of staff of Multi-National Corps Iraq.
The general said the September 25 strike that killed al-Tunisi was a "significant blow" to al Qaeda in Iraq, which he said has been severely disrupted by US operations and may now be reassessing its position in Iraq.
A wave of bombings and shootings swept Iraq yesterday, killing at least 50 persons and raising fears that al Qaeda has begun a promised new offensive. The U.S. military acknowledged that violence was on the upswing and blamed it on the terrorist movement.Isn't it amazing what disrupted, fractured, and leaderless people can do if they just put their mines to it.
Friday, September 28, 2007
State Dept. intercedes in Blackwater probeSo without an investigation the State Department is already backing the mercenaries.
A House panel reveals a letter telling the firm not to disclose information about its Iraq operations without the administration's OK.
WASHINGTON -- The State Department has interceded in a congressional investigation of Blackwater USA, the private security firm accused of killing Iraqi civilians last week, ordering the company not to disclose information about its Iraq operations without approval from the Bush administration, according to documents revealed Tuesday.
A preliminary Iraqi investigation said the shootings occurred without provocation; Blackwater and the State Department said the convoy was ambushed and the guards opened fire after being attacked.
In his letter to Rice, Waxman also objected to a move by the department to bar its officials from speaking with committee investigators about corruption inside the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki.
An e-mail received by the committee Monday night indicated that the State Department was treating information about corruption as classified, suggesting it might undermine bilateral relations.
Waxman said that previous official reports of corruption within Iraqi ministries were treated as "sensitive but unclassified." The State Department retroactively classified the reports after his committee requested them, Waxman said.
But wait, I thought there was supposed to be an investigation? Oh, right:
A joint commission of five U.S. State Department officials, three U.S. military officials and eight Iraqis has been formed to investigate the incident, though almost two weeks later, the commission has yet to meet. A U.S. Embassy statement on Thursday, the first official written comment from the embassy since the al Nisour shooting, said that the group was “preparing” to meet.It sure sounds like the State Department is engaging in a cover up.
But isn't there an Inspector Generals office that investigates things like that? Oh, right, as we noted here the State Dept's IG is actively blocking the investigations.
But wait! There's more!
Waxman: State Dept. Officials Threaten Krongard's Staffers
Congressman Says Staffers Threatened With Termination if They Cooperate in Probe
Two senior staffers for State Department Inspector General Howard J. Krongard have told employees they could be fired if they cooperate in a congressional probe of Krongard and his office, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) charged today.
Waxman said that two officials in Krongard's office had agreed to go on the record about the alleged threats. The two officials, Special Agent Ron Militana and Assistant Special Agent in Charge Brian Rubendall, work as career investigators for Krongard.
According to Waxman's letter, Militana said he kept contemporaneous notes of the conversations with Heide and an office attorney. Waxman cited them in his letter.
"The meeting happened," Heide said in response to Waxman's charges. "The conversation was not as reported. . . . I categorically deny that I was telling them they would be retaliated against. Nothing could be further from the truth."
According to Waxman, when Special Agent Militana questioned her statement, Heide told him: "You have no protection against reprisal. You have no whistleblower protections. Howard could retaliate and you would have no recourse."
Waxman said the committee "will not tolerate any intimidation of potential witnesses," noting that "Congress has passed civil and criminal prohibitions against threatening and tampering with witnesses, retaliating against whistleblowers, and providing false information to Congress."
Cross posted at VidiotSpeak
Bush astounds activists, supports human rightsThe nerve of the war criminal Bush and his most excellent war that has unleashed the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse on Iraq:
President Bush implored the United Nations on Tuesday to recommit itself to restoring human decency by liberating oppressed people and ending famine and disease.
Bush didn't mention the U.S. prisons in Afghanistan or at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. practice of holding detainees for years without legal charges or access to lawyers, or the CIA's "rendition" kidnappings of suspects abroad, all issues of concern to human rights activists around the world.
War - Lies about WMDs, lies about not choosing his most excellent war.
Famine - In an oil rich country.
Pestilence - Cholera outbreak in Iraq spreading.
Death - more civilian deaths in the 4.5 years of Mr. Bush's most excellent war than Saddam perpetrated in 24 years.
But all would be forgiven* if our Fearful Leader and his Enablers (R-IMNOTGAY et al) weren't also deadbeat dads with their UN dues.
* Yeah, I lied, I can never forgive or forget Bush et al for starting this war, continuing this war and refusing to stop this war.
Cross posted at VidiotSpeak
Woo ah, mercy mercy me, Ah things ain't what they used to be, no no, Where did all the blue skies go?
When scientific knowledge has been found to be in conflict with its political goals, the administration has often manipulated the process through which science enters into its decisions.
-- excerpted from a letter signed on February 18, 2004 by more than 60 leading scientists, including Nobel laureates, medical experts, and former federal agency directors, voicing their concern over the misuse of science by the Bush administration.
WASHINGTON - "Myth: The president refuses to admit that climate change is real and that humans are a factor. Myth: The U.S. is doing nothing to address climate change. Myth: The United States refuses to engage internationally."
Actually, it's more about bullshit. Despite the apparent attempt by Iron Eyes Bush during his waning days in office to whitewash his legacy, his pretending to care about the environment only rings hollow, and most look on with skepticism that nothing more will come of the U.S. portion of the upcoming global climate conference other than presentations, organizing groups to study and discuss the issues and overall faux proactiveness. Kind of like the co-worker who all day just shifts piles of papers from one side of his desk to the other pretending to be busy.
By and large, the Bush administration has shown less legitimate interest in environmental protection. On issue after issue, the president and his appointees have created new threats to our air, water, land, and wildlife, siding with those special interests eager to make a quick profit. A large percentage of the president's appointees represented those interests before taking office. It is up to the American people and their representatives in Congress to turn back the administration's efforts to undermine environmental protection.
[...]One modus operandi for the Bush administration is "sue and settle." An industry or other special interest files a lawsuit challenging a federal action (such as the snowmobile phase-out for Yellowstone), and then the administration settles the lawsuit on terms favorable to the plaintiff. Among other things, this m.o. enables the administration to bypass Congress.
Another common thread is the Bush administration's proclivity for ignoring or misstating the findings of the scientific community. [...]
Then-Interior Secretary Norton told the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that she supported its wetlands proposals—but failed to pass along criticism from biologists at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. She gave inaccurate testimony to Congress on caribou calving facts, later claiming she fell victim to a typo. When the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) issued a report concluding that Arctic Refuge drilling would, in fact, harm caribou and other wildlife, the administration directed other employees to produce a different forecast and gave them ten days to do so.
[...]The only voices that this administration wants to listen to are those pushing for exploitation of our natural resources.
Concealment of documents from the public is yet another way that the administration pursues its agenda. Again and again, federal agencies are refusing to allow the public access to decision documents and reports that form the background and rationale for decisions impacting federal lands.[...]Mr. Bush once told reporters recently that he'd read Edmund Morris's latest Theodore Roosevelt biography and was a great admirer of the 26th president. We urge him to emulate the man who, more than any other Republican, established the GOP as a party committed to conservation. Right now, the contrast between these two presidents on land conservation could not be starker. Roosevelt started the National Wildlife Refuge System; Bush wants to allow oil drilling in the most spectacular refuge. Roosevelt protected a number of the areas in our National Park System; Bush is fighting Park Service efforts to temper off-road vehicle traffic. Roosevelt greatly expanded the National Forest System; Bush is undermining protection of pristine portions of those forests. Roosevelt was the first to create national monuments by using the Antiquities Act; Bush is trying to weaken protection of the monuments created during the past five years. In each of the four systems of public lands, then, Bush's record is the polar opposite of Roosevelt's.
[graphics by Dancin' Dave]
Thursday, September 27, 2007
As we've written about here before, there's a lovely new initiative here in CA to take electoral votes away from any Democratic candidates:
- Under the guise of “reform,” Republican operatives are funding a scheme to change the way California allocates electoral votes in the 2008 Presidential election by putting an initiative on the June ballot.
- Instead of awarding all 55 of California’s electoral votes to the Presidential candidate who wins the statewide vote, this Republican scheme would award votes one-at-a-time, based on the candidate who wins each of the state’s Congressional districts.
Here's the real deal, from the Office of the Federal Registrar:
There are 48 States that have a winner-takes-all rule for the Electoral College. In these States, whichever candidate receives a majority of the vote, or a plurality of the popular vote (less than 50 percent but more than any other candidate) takes all of the State's electoral votes.
Only two States, Nebraska and Maine, do not follow the winner-takes-all rule. In those States, there could be a split of electoral votes among candidates through the State's system for proportional allocation of votes. For example, Maine has four electoral votes and two Congressional districts. It awards one electoral vote per Congressional district and two by the state-wide, "at-large" vote. It is possible for Candidate A to win the first district and receive one electoral vote, Candidate B to win the second district and receive one electoral vote, and Candidate C, who finished a close second in both the first and second districts, to win the two at-large electoral votes. Although this is a possible scenario, it has not actually occurred in recent elections.
So sure, popular majority in elections might be a great idea. Why, imagine what might have happened in 2000 if . . . well, I'm sure the Republicans don't want you to think about that.
"Winner Take All" is really a stupid idea, one that we've been stuck with for too long. But to claim it is unfair in only one state is blatant hypocrisy.
Read the entire article at Fair Election Reform. It spells the whole ugly thing out, including the Giuliani connection, and the SwiftBoatBastards connection.
Omigawd, these people are ugly and sick.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Washington D.C. - Inspired by the recent story of the 13th century document, the Magna Carta, being auctioned off at Sotheby's, President George W. Bush has decided to place the Constitution of the United States up for sale on eBay, the popular internet site for selling items of a wide variety.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Not a day goes by that Rudy, Rudy, Rudy doesn't attempt to exhume the remains of the departed souls of 9/11 for his political ambitions.
Sure, Bush et al continually use the tragedy for their excuse to attack a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, no WMDs, and no ability to attack the US, but Rudy thinks he can use it to become the next Fearful Leader: pandering.
Cross posted at VidiotSpeak
Monday, September 24, 2007
U.S. Aims To Lure Insurgents With 'Bait'
Snipers Describe Classified Program
A Pentagon group has encouraged some U.S. military snipers in Iraq to target suspected insurgents by scattering pieces of "bait," such as detonation cords, plastic explosives and ammunition, and then killing Iraqis who pick up the items, according to military court documents.
It comes complete with some big red X's, fake tunnel paint, a bag o' Acme™ terrerist food pellets, some rocket powered roller skates, a couple of Iraqi civilian cars (complete with pregnant mothers and children), and a get out of jail free card.
But wait! There's more! Call right now and we'll include the Acme™ anvil with the patented Acme™ anvil launcher!
This offer not good in the United States, accountability not included.
Cross posted at VidiotSpeak
Sunday, September 23, 2007
The wingnut-o-sphere is in full alert, or cardiac arrest, over the issue of Ahmadinejad speaking anywhere in the US. After all, he's Satan, or something:
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has got to be secretly pleased with himself. His visit to the United States so that he can once again harangue the United Nations General Assembly with his warped and twisted view of history and current events has generated so much controversy, he must be hugging himself with glee that his name is on the lips of so many, his every move watched and commented upon.
. . . And if one more lefty throws the coup against Prime Minister Mossadegh (after he had prorogued Parliament over a dispute involving compensation to the Brits for nationalizing the oil industry) in my face as a reason that the Iranians hate us, I am going to slit my wrists. We certainly supported it.
Promises, promises. Dude, talk is cheap.
As the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave™, surely we can handle the speechifying by this 3rd rate dictator, although one can argue that he's not the real power, but merely a mouthpiece for the Mullahs:
He is the highest directly elected official in the country, but, according to Article 113 of Constitution of Iran, he has less total power than the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces of Iran and has the final word in all aspects of foreign and domestic policies.
Oh but wait! Free speech in USA is alive and well after all:
I actually support Columbia University’s decision to invite the Iranian President to speak. Academic freedom must be as close to absolute as possible. Ward Churchill may be a fool but trying to shut him up only makes him a martyr. Similarly, hearing what Ahmadinejad has to say will be an eye opening experience for some, I’m sure. He will condemn himself out of his own mouth and save the Administration from having to gin up outrage over the danger posed by he and his government.
Look, if the U.S. and its Contitution, and Representative form of government is so fragile and small that it can't handle the pontifications of this guy, then they can't handle the rantings of any totalitarian leader.
Oh wait, we have GWBush.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Jane, the first one to speak, writes about it at FireDogLake.:
Rick Jacobs and the Courage Campaign are currently fighting the “Presidential Election Reform Act” in California, which — if it passes — would give up at least 20 of California’s current “winner take all” electoral college votes to Republicans in 2008. The lawyers behind the ad are Bob Perry’s swift boat lawyers. Which should safely put it in “say no more” territory, but if that’s not enough:Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk is one of the most politically involved law firms in the state. According to a news story on its Web site, Bell keeps a life-sized cardboard image of President Bush in his office. Federal records show the firm does legal work for a host of political committees, most with Republican or business ties.Republicans have the strangest fetishes. Really.
And the lovely and talented skippy, who usually is anonymous, spoke out on camera, and blogged about it at his place.
Here's more from the Courage Campaign:
Yes, the Republicans are at it again with one of the most dangerous initiatives ever put before voters. If the so-called "Presidential Election Reform Act" passes on June 3, 2008, California will unilaterally be forced to divide up its electoral college votes by congressional district, resulting in the Republican theft of at least 20 electoral votes in November's general election -- the equivalent of Ohio.
Seriously, this proposed legislation is crap. The only way to eliminate the "winner take all" electoral system we have is to do it, all at once, in every state and voting territory. Doing it only in the most blue of states is hypocritical and blatantly unfair.
Kind of like the Republican Party. I'm sure they don't want us to try the same trick in, say, Texas.
It seems Dan Rather is pissed:
Mr. Rather, 75, asserts that the network violated his contract by giving him insufficient airtime on “60 Minutes” after forcing him to step down as anchor of the “CBS Evening News” in March 2005. He also contends that the network committed fraud by commissioning a “biased” and incomplete investigation of the flawed Guard broadcast and, in the process, “seriously damaged his reputation.”
His former producer Mary Mapes adds this (from HuffPo):
We reported that since these documents were copies, not originals, they could not be fully authenticated, at least not in the legal sense. They could not be subjected to tests to determine the age of the paper or the ink. We did get corroboration on the content and support from a couple of longtime document analysts saying they saw nothing indicating that the memos were not real.
Instantly, the far right blogosphere bully boys pronounced themselves experts on document analysis, and began attacking the form and font in the memos. They screamed objections that ultimately proved to have no basis in fact. But they captured the argument. They dominated the discussion by churning out gigabytes of mind-numbing internet dissertations about the typeface in the memos, focusing on the curl at the end of the "a," the dip on the top of the "t," the spacing, the superscript, which typewriters were used in the military in 1972.
It was a deceptive approach, and it worked.
These critics blathered on about everything but the content. They knew they would lose that argument, so they didn't raise it. They focused on the most obscure, most difficult to decipher element of the story and dove in, attacking CBS, Dan Rather, me, the story and the horse we rode in on -- without respite, relentlessly, for days.
But here's the deal: In Clinton v. Jones, the Supremes decided that Pres. Clinton had to testify. No executive privilege applied, he had to appear before the Grand Jury.
Here's the money quote from Clinton v. Jones:
In sum, "[i]t is settled law that the separation of powers doctrine does not bar every exercise of jurisdiction over the President of the United States." Fitzgerald, 457 U. S., at 753-754. If the Judiciary may severely burden the Executive Branch by reviewing the legality of the President's official conduct, and if it may direct appropriate process to the President himself, it must follow that the federal courts have power to determine the legality of his unofficial conduct. The burden on the President's time and energy that is a mere by product of such review surely cannot be considered as onerous as the direct burden imposed by judicial review and the occasional invalidation of his official actions. [n40] We therefore hold that the doctrine of separation of powers does not require federal courts to stay all private actions against the President until he leaves office.
Indeed. So what?
It means GWBush can be subpoenaed and made to testify about his Texas Air National Guard service.
The Supremes have decided that that POTUS is not exempt from civil litigation.
He can be made to testify.
"Did you indeed shirk your TANG duty, Mr. Bush?"
Gotcha, you bastard!
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Here it is:
QUESTION: Do you think there’s a risk of a recession? How do you rate that?
BUSH: You know, you need to talk to economists. I think I got a B in Econ 101. I got an A, however, in keeping taxes low and being fiscally responsible with the people’s money.
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said the odds of a recession remain ’somewhat more’ than one in three even after this week’s cut in interest rates, with home prices likely to drop further and hurt consumer spending.Yale University economist Robert Shiller, an economist who has long predicted this decade’s housing market bubble would deflate said the residential real estate downturn could spiral into ‘the most severe since the Great Depression’ and could lead to a recession.”CBO Director Peter Orszag notes that “the housing issues and problems in the subprime mortgage markets have created a yellow level of concern. ‘The risk of a recession is clearly elevated,’ he says.”
· 2003: -$378 billion (2nd largest deficit in U.S.history)
· 2004: -$413 billion (largest deficit in U.S. history)
· 2005: -$318 billion (3rd largest deficit in U.S.history)
"Part of the reason why there's not this instant democracy in Iraq is because people are still recovering from Saddam Hussein's brutal rule. Sort of an interesting comment, I heard somebody say, `Where's Mandela?' Well, Mandela's dead because Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas."
Cheney defended his 1986 vote against a resolution that called for U.S. recognition of the African National Congress in South Africa, freedom for the organization's then-imprisoned leader Nelson Mandela and negotiations with the black majority. "The ANC was then viewed as a terrorist organization,'' Cheney said. "It was a step that we simply weren't prepared to take.''
Now, Cheney says he believes the ANC has "mellowed'' and Mandela is "a great man.''
"He deserves an enormous amount of credit for the transformation of South Africa,'' Cheney said "But I don't have any problems at all with the vote I cast 20 years ago.''
Arianna & Huffington Post organized a special screening of the new film "The Kite Runner" on the Paramount lot last night which we attended. This film is based on the remarkable book by Khaled Hosseini, which chronicles the rapid and heartbreaking changes in Afghanistan in the last 20 years, starting with the fall of the Afghan monarchy, continuing with the Russian invasion, and ending with the rule of the Taliban. All this is told through the story of a young boy, who escapes with his father to Pakistan and then America, but who has to return to Kabul as an adult to finish some surprising, and dangerous business.
Here is the wikipedia entry about the book, and here's the entry for the film.
The films is really 3 stories: Amir, the young boy of privilege but not courage, who eventually finds the strength to atone for his earlier shame and take charge of his life; the recent history of Afghanistan and its invaders; and finally, the brutality of the Taliban, and the hypocrisy that seems to be a part of all totalitarian regimes.
This last part is the most politically relevant today, as many in the US seem to feel that Taliban isn't that harsh or dominant in that region. And while many here also tend to confuse the 2 major -stans with each other, Pakistan is shown to be much different from Afghanistan. Of course, artistic license may affect the presentation. Still, the differences are startling.
Mark Kleiman, fellow L.A. blogger who also saw the film, posts this about it:
From a commercial perspective, the political timing of the film wasn't ideal. In its unblinking depiction of the disgusting viciousness of Taliban rule in Afghanistan, The Kite Runner could have been the Casablanca of the Global War on IslamoFascismoTerrorismo Nastitude. That's not the message most likely to resonate with the moviegoing public right now; the people who would otherwise like to hear it won't want to be reminded of the way the Bush Administration took its eye off the ball in Afghanistan, allowing the Taliban resurgence, in order to invade and occupy Iraq.
In case anyone has forgotten, the Taliban has had its share of US support. Recognize the guy on the right, the only one smiling because he's holding a butch, manly rifle?
Yep, it's Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA). Bastard.
It's due to be in theaters Nov. 2nd. Go see it, don't take young children (PG-13 is really generous, it ought to be R for violence).
Update: Changed title to a better one.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
When doing a Wikipedia search for 'black water', a couple of things come up:
Blackwater USA is a private military company and security firm founded in 1997 by Erik Prince and Al Clark. It is based in theSounds like they are pretty much describing the same thing. And here's the latest news on these foul-smelling mercenaries:
U.S.state of where it operates a tactical training facility which it claims is the world's largest. The company trains more than 40,000 people a year, from all the military services and a variety of other agencies. […] At least 90% of its revenue comes from government contracts, two-thirds of which are no-bid contracts. North Carolina
Blackwater (waste) is a relatively recent term used to describe water containing fecal matter. It and urine is also known as brown water, foul water, or sewage. [...] Blackwater is heavily polluted and difficult to treat because of the high concentrations of mostly organic pollution.
(CBS/AP) The United States on Tuesday suspended all land travel by U.S. diplomats and other civilian officials in Iraq outside Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, amid mounting public outrage over the alleged killing of civilians by the U.S. Embassy's security provider Blackwater USA.
The move came even as the Iraqi government appeared to back down from statements Monday that it had permanently revoked Blackwater's license and would order its 1,000 personnel to leave the country - depriving American diplomats of security protection essential to operating in
"We are not intending to stop them and revoke their license indefinitely but we do need them to respect the law and the regulation here in
," government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told CNN. Iraq
[...]The Iraqi Cabinet decided Tuesday to review the status of all foreign security companies. Still, it was unclear how the dispute would play out, given the government's need to appear resolute in defending national sovereignty while maintaining its relationship with Washington at a time when U.S. public support for the mission is faltering.
Ah the dilemmas of holding together a puppet government.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki looked to gain political capital from the move against unpopular foreign security contractors. His government said Tuesday it would review the status of all foreign security firms working in the country.
Meanwhile, radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who wields tremendous influence among regular Iraqis and many politicians despite his militia being one of the most feared in
, called for a ban on all the companies of "the occupiers." Iraq
The State Department moved quickly to tamp down anger and possible repercussions after the alleged killings.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice telephoned Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Monday to express regret at the loss of life and promise that the results of an internal investigation into Sunday's incident would be shared with the government in
"She told the prime minister that we were investigating this incident and wanted to gain a full understanding of what happened," said deputy State Department spokesman Tom Casey. "She reiterated that the
does everything it can to avoid such loss of life, in contrast to the enemies of the Iraqi people who deliberately target civilians." United States
And I'm sure the civilians know the difference between a missile or bomb that hits their homes or wedding parties "accidently" and those that are aimed deliberately. "I lost my mother, brother and two children, but since I found out it was all a big mistake, I'm good with it."
Rice and al-Maliki "agreed on the importance of working closely together in the time ahead on a transparent investigation,"Casey added.
Or at least as transparent as most "investigations" by this administration are, that is to say Superman with his X-ray vision might have a shot at seeing what's going on (though word is they are going to line the walls with all the excess lead from Chinese products so even the Man of Steel will have a difficult task of it).
Yassin Majid, an adviser to
Iraq's prime minister, made no mention of the order to expel Blackwater, and it was unlikely the United Stateswould agree to abandon a security company that plays such a critical role in American operations in . Iraq
[...] Also exploiting public rage over the killings of what police said were 11 civilians by Blackwater guards, anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr demanded that the government ban all 48,000 foreign security contractors. [...]
Many Iraqis, who have long viewed security contractors as mercenaries, dismissed Blackwater's contention that its guards were attacked by armed insurgents and returned fire only to protect State Department personnel.
"We see the security firms ... doing whatever they want in the streets. They beat citizens and scorn them,"
resident Halim Mashkoor told AP Television News. "If such a thing happened in Baghdad Americaor , would the American president or American citizens accept it?" Britain
Blackwater is among three private security firms employed by the State Department to protect employees in
Iraq, and expelling it would create huge problems for government operations in this country. U.S.
[...]Unlike many deaths blamed on foreign contractors, Sunday's shootings took place in a crowded area in downtown
with dozens of witnesses. Baghdad
Whoops! That complicates things a bit.
Blackwater says State Department personnel came under attack from insurgents and that its guards returned fire. Iraqi police say a car bomb exploded near a State Department convoy and that Blackwater guards opened fire. Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, who announced the Blackwater ban, said 11 people were killed. A preliminary Iraqi report on a shooting involving an American diplomatic motorcade said Tuesday that Blackwater security guards were not ambushed, as the company reported, but instead fired at a car when it did not heed a policeman’s call to stop, killing a couple and their infant.
The incident drew attention to one of the controversial American practices of the war - the use of heavily armed private security contractors who Iraqis complain operate beyond the control of
military and Iraqi law. U.S.
I had to highlight that last part. I think it pretty much says it all. "Privatization" is a holy word to the neocons, the idea that all ills of this country - from the infrastructure to war - can be fixed through private enterprise. But the reality is, private firms are only interested in one thing, and one thing only... profit. And if a private company's source of this profit is war, why in the world would they have any incentive to hope for peace? No money in that. Wouldn't it set up a scenerio wherein the company could work behind the scenes to do secret nasty things to keep the pot stirred up and the contracts renewed? Just a thought.
I recommend taking a gander at the following video. It kind of puts it more into perspective the danger of having a "private army" beyond the reach of normal checks and balances.
For more on other war profiteers, go to youtube and type "iraq for sale" and see how all those rascals like Haliburton are literally screwing the taxpayers of this country out of billions and billions of dollars.
Well, my tiny little brain is starting to hurt now, so I'll leave further pondering of such issues to those better informed than me.
Instead, I'll end this by showing a video for the title tune of this post, a great song by the Doobies:
One year ago today I received the best email of my life. Let me be Frank with you:
There are those who'd bet
Love comes but once - and yet
I'm oh so glad we met
The second time around
State Dept. Official Accused of Blocking Inquiry
A top House Democrat began an inquiry on Tuesday into accusations that the State Department's inspector general repeatedly interfered with investigations into fraud and abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan, including security defects at the new United States Embassy in Baghdad.
Representative Henry A. Waxman of California, the chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent the inspector general, Howard J. Krongard, a 14-page letter spelling out accusations made by several current and former employees of Mr. Krongard's office who documented their charges with e-mail messages.
Some of the accusers have sought whistle-blower status, which protects government employees from being punished for reporting possible malfeasance, Mr. Waxman said.
"One consistent element in these allegations is that you believe your foremost mission is to support the Bush administration, especially with respect to Iraq and Afghanistan, rather than act as an independent and objective check on waste, fraud and abuse on behalf of U.S. taxpayers," Mr. Waxman wrote. He invited Mr. Krongard to respond to the accusations at a committee hearing on Oct. 16.
Last year, when Republicans still controlled Congress, they tried to do away with the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, which had uncovered numerous construction abuses and contract violations.
Cross posted at VidiotSpeak
Here's a sample of bushspeak translated to piratespeak:
The pirate speaks,"T' threat comes from Iraq. It arises directly from t' Iraqi regime's own actions -- its history o' aggression, and its drive toward an arsenal o' terror. T' Iraqi regime has violated all o' those obligations. It possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It be seekin' nuclear weapons."Hmmm, he actually seems more literate this way.
Cross posted at VidiotSpeak
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
And then the punches flew and chairs were smashed in two, There was blood and a single gunshot, but just who shot who?
LOS ANGELES (Sept. 17) - Pop singer Barry Manilow, a major Democratic fundraiser, said on Monday he has scrapped plans to appear on the television talk show "The View," because he did not want to be interviewed by its conservative co-host.Manilow was scheduled to appear on the ABC morning show Tuesday, the same day his new album, "The Greatest Songs of the Seventies" hits stores.
But those plans fell through because of his issues with Elisabeth Hasselbeck, an abortion opponent and supporter of the Iraq war."I had made a request that I be interviewed by (co-hosts) Joy (Behar), Barbara (Walters) or Whoopi (Goldberg), but not Elisabeth Hasselbeck. Unfortunately, the show was not willing to accommodate this simple request so I bowed out," he said in statement."It's really too bad because I've always been a big supporter of the show, but I cannot compromise my beliefs."In an earlier statement, Manilow said Hasselbeck was "dangerous" and "offensive."
Hasselbeck: Hi Barry! Welcome to the 'View'.
Manilow: Thank you. Good to be here. To be honest, I was a bit leery to come on the show.
Hasselbeck: Awww, come on, we don't bite! Ha ha ha!
Manilow: Heh heh, yeah, well I know Joy and Whoopi don't, but...
Hasselbeck: I don't bite, either. I'm a compassionate conservative. Ha ha ha ha!
Manilow: Uh, well, if you say so. [Gives audience a wink]
Hasselbeck: Oh, come on now, I'm not as bad as everyone likes to make me out to be. Just because I'm the only one here who is on the right side of the political spectrum...
Manilow: ...you mean the conservative side?
Hasselbeck: No, I mean the RIGHT side, the correct side. The side that believes in God and family and babies and patriotism.
Manilow: Oooh boy, how about we just talk about my new album?
Hasselbeck: Oh sure! I love your music. It's so 'oldies' and stuff.
Manilow: Yes, well, I come from an earlier era than you grew up in, my dear.
Hasselbeck: Oh, I know it. My mom remembers listening to your stuff back when she was a little girl.
Manilow: Uhhh, thank you... I think. [turns and rolls eyes. Audience laughs]
Hasselbeck: Oh yes. I really loved your song "You're Having My Baby". It's so nice to see you are a pro-life kind of guy.
Manilow: For one thing, that wasn't my song. Paul Anka did that one.
Hasselbeck: Oh. Well. You could have covered it on your new album. It's about songs from the seventies, isn't it? And that song is from the seventies.
Manilow: I have no interest in covering that song, regardless of when it was out. And in response to what you just said, I am pro-choice. I believe in a woman having the right to choose for herself what...
Hasselbeck: That is only God's choice to make! And the government's, who are only trying to protect us.
Manilow: Protect us from what?
Hasselbeck: Terrorists! Don't you know that's why we are over in Iraq? The terrorists are all there and they want to wipe out Christianity. If George Bush wasn't over there bravely fighting this war, the terrorists would win and come over here and make all the women here have abortions and wipe out our race!
Manilow: I don't mean to be rude, but that has got to be the dumbest thing I...
Hasselbeck: God isn't dumb! And he doesn't like people who are for abortion. Maybe that's why he punished you by having that white tiger attack you in Las Vegas.
Manilow: That wasn't me you are thinking of, Ms. Hasselbeck. You know, I think I've had about enough of...
Hasselbeck: Do you think my breasts are perky?
Hasselbeck: I've had one child and have another on the way, and my breasts have no sag at all. I think that's God's way of rewarding me for following the plan he has for me. That's why Rosie hated me, you know. Her breasts weren't perky like mine and she was so jealous. She just couldn't accept that God hates her kind.
Manilow: Lady, I always try to be a gentleman, but I really have to say, you are a 100% complete nutcase.
[audience laughs and claps]
Joy: Now you see what we have to put up with, Barry. Ha ha ha!
Manilow: Calling her "offensive" doesn't even begin to describe it. I have to get out of here. Maybe I can still catch the afternoon taping for Leno. [audience claps and cheers]
See? Told you we didn't miss much. And like the news story itself, this post was nothing more than a silly diversion from more pressing issues of the day.
We now return you to our regularly scheduled program, already in progress.
[graphic by Dancin' Dave]
I was contacted by Zach Edwards from the Nevada portion of the Barack Obama campaign, wanting me to respond, as a blogger, to some thought-provoking questions. Here are the questions, and my answers:
1. Should bloggers be considered journalists? Should bloggers have access to press passes through the same outlets as traditional media? Should they accept press passes?Yes, yes, and yes. Clearly the idea of the "journalist" has changed in recent years since the advent of blogs. The assumption of bloggers as partisan, or issue-driven, is really a myth spread by the traditional media. I make no attempt to hide my liberal, pro-Democratic ideology. But does that make me unfit to be considered a journalist? No.
Even before Fox News we had agenda-driven journalists. Does anyone think a credentialed reporter from the NRA would be an unbiased commentator? Or how about one from the Wall Street Journal? The difference with bloggers is that we, on both the left and the right (largely) are open about our biases, unlike the aforementioned Fox, which hides behind their "Fair And Balanced" slogan.
2. How do you feel about Net Neutrality? What issues do you think are the most important in the Net Neutrality debate?The airwaves, all spectra of radiated information, are actually owned by the people of the United States, and leased & licensed, however unfairly, to corporate media. This was why, in the early days of broadcast, we had the Fairness Doctrine.
The internet, while not broadcast through the air in the traditional sense, needs to be open and unrestricted. The minute some ISP is allowed to add a surcharge for certain content, or block content entirely, the same thing can happen to airborne broadcast media. Imagine having basic cable, and having to pay extra for CBS content? For HBO, no problem, as it is not a broadcaster but a content provider. Thus, a surcharge to have a premium cable package is acceptable. But content made available freely everywhere can not be censored nor charged extra for.
3. How do you feel about provisions in the Patriot Act that allow internet communications to be intercepted and analyzed if one party is outside the U.S.? What is your biggest concern about the Patriot Act and internet privacy?
The FISA Court rulings address this issue very well. While I personally find them too intrusive, the fact that they mandate an application for a warrant, although after the fact, is somewhat comforting.
But the wholesale breaking of the FISA Court laws, and the demands for protection from prosecution by telecom companies, is disgusting, hypocritical, and frankly frightening.
Well, that was fun. I asked my contact to try and organize a meet-up with Sen. Obama & L.A. bloggers, so we'll see what happens.
Monday, September 17, 2007
I've been meaning to write about this, but the people at Reason Magazine beat me to it recently. Wikipedia has some discussion of fatherland, motherland, and homeland.
I think it was a deliberate invocation of Nazi obedience by our current administration. Didn't we already have a Department of Defense? Doesn't that department have lots of civilian employees? I thought coordination of intelligence and response efforts was a problem.
Domestic Security would say it less imperialistically; but I'd rather see the Department of Homeland Security merged into the Department of Defense.
Let's see, that'd be God (Gott), Emperor (Kaiser), and Fatherland, all teamed up like, "religious" conservatives, imperial Bushites, and the 9/11 Overscare.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
I'm really glad OJ's been arrested. No one deserves to have their ass in jail more than him.
I'm so glad you reported this to me.
Now, please SHUT UP about it, because there's stuff more, you know, important, taking place (according to the NYTimes):
Your liberal media at work.By DAMIEN CAVE 4:04 PM ET
It was unclear what role the suspect might have played in last week’s killing of a tribal leader who had collaborated with the U.S.
University of CA Irvine, down in Orange County, has created an embarrassing situation by hiring then firing a new Dean for their new law school:
UC Irvine officials on Friday were attempting to broker a deal to once again hire liberal scholar Erwin Chemerinsky as dean of its fledging law school, just three days after its chancellor set off a national furor by dumping him.
But wait, it gets worse:
An agreement would be an extraordinary development after Chemerinsky contended this week that Drake succumbed to political pressure from conservatives and sacked him because of his outspoken liberal positions. The flap threatened to derail the 2009 opening of the law school and prompted some calls for Drake's resignation.
Also Friday, details emerged about the criticism of Chemerinsky that the university received in the days before Drake rescinded the job offer, including from California Chief Justice Ronald M. George, who criticized Chemerinsky's grasp of death penalty appeals. Also, a group of prominent Orange County Republicans and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich wanted to derail the appointment.
That reactionary conservatives in OC would have a problem with Chemerinsky is not surprising:
He worked against California's three strikes law, argued in support of judicial review for detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and represented Valerie Plame Wilson, the CIA agent whose cover was blown by members of the Bush administration.
But what's this about L.A. County Supervisor (not my district, thankfully) voicing an opinion on this? Granted, Antonovich is a known Republican partisan, but he has no standing to try and affect anything in Orange Co. Here's what the AP says:
A conservative Los Angeles County politician asked about two dozen people in an e-mail last month how to prevent the University of California, Irvine from hiring renowned liberal scholar Erwin Chemerinsky as its founding law school dean, a spokesman for the politician said Friday.
Making Chemerinsky the head of the law school "would be like appointing al-Qaida in charge of homeland security,'' Michael Antonovich, a longtime Republican member of the county Board of Supervisors, said in a voicemail left with The Associated Press.
. . . The Antonovich e-mail was disclosed after UCI Chancellor Michael V. Drake withdrew an offer earlier this week to appoint Chemerinsky to the law school post.
What a stupid, arrogant, and distasteful thing to say.
UCI certainly has egg on its Administrative face, and there's nothing I can do about that. But as a voter in Los Angeles, I can do something about Antonovich. Here's the email I sent to his office:
I am appalled that Supervisor Antonovich would not only get involved with Orange County business, but that he would say the following:Making Chemerinsky the head of the law school "would be like appointing al-Qaida in charge of homeland security,'' Michael Antonovich, a longtime Republican member of the county Board of Supervisors, said in a voicemail left with The Associated Press.
This is a disgustingly partisan thing to say, and it indicates to me that Mr. Antonovich is no longer an advocate for citizens of his district, but has become a shill for the failed policies of the Bush Administration. I will work to defeat Mr. Antonovich in the 2008 election.
One of the Right-wingers over at PowerLine even supports Chemerinsky:
I was thus saddened to see Professor Chemerinsky hired and fired within the space of a week as the founding dean of the new law school at the University of California-Irvine. The events seem to me to speak poorly of university chancellor Michael Drake, who does nothing to clear up the controversy in his Los Angeles Times column this morning. Like David Horowitz, I have no taste for Professor Chemerinsky's clients or his causes. But it seems to me that in hiring and then firing Professor Chemerinsky Chancellor Drake has disgraced his institution.
For once, clear non-partisan thinking. How unusual.
The Pentagon has released a censored audiotape of suspected Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — deleting a part officials said could be used to recruit future terrorists.Apparently they are counting on a lot of 'childern' being left behind since they don't mind you reading it but it's classified if you hear it.
The public may read that statement in a 26-page transcript previously released by the Defense Department
Freedoms like the Dean of a California law school being fired a couple of days after he'd been hired. Rethuglican politicians and the California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald M. George got him fired.
A conservative Los Angeles County politician asked about two dozen people in an e-mail last month how to prevent the University of California, Irvine from hiring renowned liberal scholar Erwin Chemerinsky as its founding law school dean, a spokesman for the politician said Friday.WTF is wrong with rethuglicans!? [/rhetorical question] They screech about a MoveOn.org ad telling the truth about Petraeus' "cooking the books," but they see nothing wrong with comparing one of the most respected constitutional scholars in the country to al-Qaida.
Making Chemerinsky the head of the law school "would be like appointing al-Qaida in charge of homeland security," Michael Antonovich, a longtime Republican member of the county Board of Supervisors, said in a voicemail left with The Associated Press.
And it wasn't just a rethuglican politician that complained, California Chief Justice Ronald M. George also whined about Chermerinsky's appointment in an L.A. Times op-ed. One would think that Chief Justices would be above this type of swiftboating. One would be wrong.
And Chancellor's Drake defense?
Chemerinsky didn't lose the dean's position because of his politics, saying that it was only because he expressed himself in a polarizing way.Get that? He can get his job back as long as he gives up his freedom of speech. Sounds a bit much to expect from a lawyer, constitutional scholar and American citizen. Any American citizen.
Any deal would therefore require Chemerinsky to "successfully transition from being a very outspoken advocate on many causes to being a dean of the stature that we expect in a start-up law school," said Malcom, a prominent Orange County Republican who was going to be a member of Chemerinsky's advisory board.
Freedoms like the Reverend Lennox Yearwood being assaulted by Capitol police for the crime of, gasp!, trying to attend Petraeus'
Here's an interview about the incident with the good Reverend
I will be on crutches on Saturday. I’ll be on crutches for quite some time, unfortunately, for what was done to me. I might have been beaten in the halls of Congress, but my spirit wasn't beaten.
Cross posted at VidiotSpeak
The "Grand Old Party" is a little more compassionate and a little less grand today:
Lincoln D. Chafee, who lost his Senate seat in the wave of anti-Republican sentiment in last November’s election, said yesterday that he has left the party.
. . . “There’s been a gradual depravation of … the issues the party should be strong on,” and the direction of the national party, he said.
That’s no secret. In a Journal Op-Ed piece published on the Thursday before the election, Chafee himself laid out some of the ways he disagreed with his party, notably as one of only 23 senators and the only Republican to oppose the resolution supporting the invasion of Iraq. He went on to criticize the “permanent deficits” caused by Republican tax cuts.
Chafee referred yesterday to the broad-based, bipartisan Iraq Study Group that Congress created, a process Chafee approved of. The study group recommended a gradual pullback of American forces, and insistence that the Iraqi government take more responsibility for security. But he said that since the study group made its recommendations, which he agreed with, “no one’s paid any attention to them.”
As the election approached, Chafee cited his record opposing Republican initiatives like drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
I hadn't heard about his opposition to drilling in the ANWR, that's a good thing. Sounds almost like a . . . Democratic position, doesn't it. Not like the typical "pro-business" Republican mind-set.
But here's the most startling part:
He said the “starve the beast” strategy that Republicans have used in an attempt to shrink government has undermined social programs that bolster a strong American middle class. He mentioned Pell grants, which help needy students attend college, and Head Start programs, which support the education of low-income children. Instead of supporting those “good social programs,” he said, the party’s approach was “squeeze, squeeze, squeeze.”
Really now? That's going to put him in direct opposition to the Grover Norquist wing of the Party. Of course, even the libertarian Cato Institute doesn't much like the "Starve the Beast" theory of fiscal governance:
There are at least three problems with this perspective:
- It is most implausible that reducing the tax burden of government spending on current voters would reduce the level of government spending that Congress would approve. In private markets, there is a consistent negative relation between the price of a good or service and the amount demanded.
- The “Starve the Beast” assertion is inconsistent with the facts, at least since 1980. My study finds that there was a strong negative relation between the federal spending percent of GDP and the federal revenue percent of GDP from 1981 through 2005, even controlling for the unemployment rate.
- An increased belief in the “Starve the Beast” assertion has substantially reduced the traditional Republican concern for fiscal responsibility – leading to a pattern of tax cuts, increased spending, and increased deficits. This pattern has been strongest during the current Bush administration, primarily because the Republicans control both the administration and a majority of both houses of Congress.
Indeed. And in re: Chafee, what's that old saying about the enemy of my enemy...?
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Louisiana's 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, acting on an emergency defense appeal, reversed the aggravated second-degree battery conviction of Mychal Bell, 17, ruling that the youth had been tried improperly as an adult in a case that has raised allegations of unequal justice in the small, mostly white town.Bastard!
[Prosecutor] Walters later reduced the charges to aggravated second-degree battery, contending at Bell's trial -- the first case to go to court -- that the tennis shoes Bell was wearing constituted a dangerous weapon.
Walters said in a statement Friday that he intended to appeal the reversal of Bell's conviction to the Louisiana Supreme Court.
Below the graphic are some lowlights from the original post.
Via Pursuing Holiness we bring you the latest noose:
Racial demons rear headsBoy, we're gonna give you a fair trial ... and then we'll hang you.
JENA, La. -- [...]One morning last September, students arrived at the local high school to find three hangman's nooses dangling from a tree in the courtyard.
The tree was on the side of the campus that, by long-standing tradition, had always been claimed by white students, who make up more than 80 percent of the 460 students. But a few of the school's 85 black students had decided to challenge the accepted state of things and asked school administrators if they, too, could sit beneath the tree's cooling shade.
"Sit wherever you want," school officials told them. The next day, the nooses were hanging from the branches.
Three white students were quickly identified as being responsible, and the high school principal recommended that they be expelled.
But Jena's white school superintendent, Roy Breithaupt, ruled that the nooses were just a youthful stunt and suspended the students for three days, angering blacks who felt harsher punishments were justified.
"Adolescents play pranks," said Breithaupt
But the LaSalle Parish district attorney, Reed Walters, opted to charge six black students with attempted second-degree murder and other offenses, for which they could face a maximum of 100 years in prison if convicted. All six were expelled from school.
Black teen convicted in beating of white student
Those charges could lead to a sentence of more than 20 years for Bell
The five-woman, one-man jury started deliberating around 11 a.m. Thursday and returned around 2 p.m.
(Cross posted at Vidiotspeak)