Monday, October 29, 2007

Grisley Body Counts Still Found in "Peaceful" Iraq

So today we have numbers to add to the true total of deaths that General Petraeus should have reported to Congress in September after a grave of 15 female students was found in the al-Ehaimer area of Diyala Province, northeast of Baqubah, which is under the control of al-Qaeda in Iraq. Elsewhere in Diyala yesterday, a suicide bomber on a bicycle blew up 32 other police recruits at morning rollcall. 18 others were also injured, including a mother and her child. Other violent attacks occurred across Iraq, including a car bombing of a bus terminal in Kirkuk that killed 8 and wounded 25. Also in that city, armed men kidnapped the managing editor of the Turkmen magazine al-Akhaa, Qasim Muhammad Sari Kahiyah. You know he's going to die. A roadside bomb in Iskandariyah on Saturday, killed three 30 miles from Baghdad.

How much confidence can the Iraqis have in their central government if their Prime Minister might not even be able to toss Blackwater to the curb sometime this year? The death toll since the "success" of the surge was proclaimed in Washington certainly isn't reasuring. Last Wednesday, 25 died in bombings, including 9 police officers, in attacks that included a explosive-laden sewege truck. One killed two Iraqi soldiers and four civilians at an Iraqi army checkpoint, and another killed an Iraqi police cheif in Mosul. An Iraqi Sunni tribal leader and his son were gunned down west of Baghdad for recently siding with American troops. 2 civilians were killed in a bombing in Zaafaraniyah, a predominantly Shiite neighborhood in southeastern Baghdad. Shiite extremists are being changed to an increasing threat in classified campaign strategy for the Iraq, by Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, which covers the period through summer 2009. Not that it's news to us but, their plan also acknowledges that the U.S. military cannot guarantee a wholesale defeat of its enemies in Iraq, and instead is seeking "political accommodation" to persuade them to end the use of violence.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Constant Moonbat

Moonbat's spawned a John Edwards for President blog at The Constant Moonbat. The name plays off the title of John Le Carre's novel, the Constant Gardner.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Blackwater Just Wants to Spread the Love...

So today Wired brings to light the story that Blackwater stole two airplanes from the Iraqi Air Force in 2005, according to the military who let that one slip to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Of course, which one of the C-130 air transports, SAMA-2000 light reconnaissance aircraft, Huey-2 helicopters and Mi-17 helicopters, is for now a secret, but Blackwater has until November 2nd to confess. Things look bleak for Blackwater, with the resignation of their paid lackey at State and the Iraqi government revoking Order 17. A lot to fit in with revamping its website, and the startling news that Blackwater USA will alter its name to Blackwater Worldwide. Guess patriotic jingoism is fading in fashion even for Republicans these days?

Blackwater found protesters recreating their Nisour Square Massacre outside their front door recently, complete with dead bodies for the police to cart away. Guess they must have been freaked out. So they vamped up their "love us like we love to pump innocent civies with lead" campaign, and sent out an email encouraging supporters to contact Congress. Yeah, oh I have a letter for Congress... and I'm going to sign it with a bloody hand print too.

"Cost efficiency of Blackwater — saving the US taxpayer millions of dollars so that the US Government doesn’t have to take troops from their missions or send more into harm's way."

Of course, it's a lie that mercenaries are cheaper than soldiers. The average Blackwater merc takes home $600 a day in Iraq. If you are a US soldier you get a lousy $83-$85, and if you're married you get $170. Just because Republicans love him the most of all our soldiers, General Petraeus gets $493 dollars a day. Feel the support for our troops?

Oh look, just as Blackwater rolls out it's new PR campaign, we have another "we don't work for Blackwater, we just want to have their babies" blog at BlackwaterBirds. Who is this? Oh, it's Standish, of course!! His sock puppet blog "Blackwater Facts" just happens to be linked to by... Blackwater USA!!. Their list of blogs includes also includes another "New" blog called Blackwaterreporting. Groomed over, of course, as Blackwaterreporting now conceals that it was registered to GoDaddy by an Internet brand advertising company. As far as results go, they suck. You, dear readers, can do better by helping Blackwater pick a new logo!!

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Bush Holds Cocktail Hour to Raise War Funds

So today we can only wish that were the truth as Bush demands we shell out $46 Billion More in War Funds. And he's demanding it by the end of the year. The rate Bush is going of course, his little foreign adventures are going to cost a total of $1 trillion dollars by the time his term is up. Yeah, that's more than the total of Vietnam and Korea. The total for this year alone in appropriations will be the highest year since the "War on Terror" began in 2001: $196.4 billion. As Pelosi points out, for the cost of 40 days in Iraq, we could provide health care to 10 million children for a year. Even though Bush insists the war contractors need the money to buy nonexistent troops Christmas trees and pudding, we know the Pentagon doesn't need a penny more until after February and the primary elections. Bush made his announcement at the White House while surrounded by the family of a dead Marine, and exorting Democrats to prove they support the troops. Political theater much? Does this family have granite countertops?

Meanwhile, with the border between Iraq and Turkey heating up, we are faced with yet another Bush lie: that by staying in Iraq we reduce the chances for regional war. Undoubtedly, the presence of US troops gives courage to Kurdish insurgents, who dart into Turkey and back out to Iraqi strongholds which are technically within US borders. The surge of refugees out of Iraq continues to destabalize the societies and governments of countries that surround it, placing an enormous economic and social strain on allies in the region. Relief from them is likely never to come, as Iraqis displaced by ethnic fighting become the new international Palestinians, forever holding an identity with a country to which they can never go home. And after all of the reconstruction efforts in Iraq, the aggregate of the lives of Iraqis is worse than before the invasion of 2003. Far from reducing terrorism, the one last goal clung to by the Bush administration, Iraq has become a proving ground for terrorism tactics, and the successes are exported to Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan.

What does Bush plan to do with this windfall if we give it to him? Get it stolen. Let's take a little peak into the $44.5 billion Iraqi reconstruction effort, and the auditing of just one $1.2 billion contract:
In a January audit of DynCorp's work under the INL contract, [auditors] found that the State Department paid $43.8 million for manufacturing and temporary storage of a residential camp that had never been used. The audit also questioned the State Department's payment of $36.4 million for weapons and equipment, including body armor, armored vehicles and communications equipment that couldn't be accounted for because "invoices were vague and there was no backup documentation." [Auditors] raised questions about INL's payment of business-class travel expenses for DynCorp officials. After INL questioned the charges, it said DynCorp re-paid $108,000. INL officials, according to Bowen's report, "have no confidence that the government has paid for only valid expenses under the contract."

Meanwhile, we find out that Blackwater ducks payroll taxes by calling it's employees "private contractors." Which might go a long way to explain why Blackwater takes no interest in their conduct. Who thinks Bush should get money to pay for this $H!T??!!

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Republicans Open For Attacks Over Airline Security

So let's be honest. The Republican side of the ticket statements to the American public that their support for the Iraq War and The Great Wall of Texas proves that they are keeping America safe. When the Democratic side of the ticket replies that by watching over civil liberties we are saving Americans from their government, we look like we think paper and lawsuits can protect people from ending up like those who jumped to their deaths out of the World Trade Center. And what we concentrate on now is not an effective counter to the 9-11 propaganda of the neo-cons. Lawsuits and civil liberties don't stop hijackers. And by keeping to such a strict form of attack of the "War on Terror," Democrats and liberals participate in the Republican strategy of using valid concerns over terrorism to push conservative agendas on spying and illegal immigrants. Years after the publishing of Lakoff's "Don't think of an elephant" we are no better at finding ways to define the argument that allow us to attack them at their weakest point.

Think of Katrina and the debacle of emergency management. That's a point that remained valid because constant media attention has kept the issue about how a hurricane devestated an American city, and the Bush Administration failed in it's duties. But we have let the neo-cons define terror threats in terms of phone calls and illegal immigrants, both old debates around which hard concerta wire got laid decades ago between both Democrats and Republicans. While attention to both issues remains important, gaining an inch in either debate will require trench warfare and an immense spilling of loyal blood. Especially without a liberal President and a liberal veto proof majority in Congress, and at least a fair and moderate Supreme Court. But will the fear that the CIA is listening to your phone call to your mother on Sunday night bring voters to the polls? Not likely. The vast majority of American voters understand they aren't likely to be the political operatives that an abuse of power could target, in a return of Hoover-style surveillance. Most of us really aren't that interesting.

What was 9-11 about? It was a group of men, who were on terror watch-lists, had expired visas, had arroused concern by the FBI for their unusal interest in flying skills. It was a low-key, well-planned, easily repeatable attack and it was real. And the Republicans are doing everything they can to make people forget that, and get the American public to think of 9-11 in terms of rogue nuclear nations and weed coming in over the border with Mexico. Why are they so energized to do so? Just like Katrina exposing the farse that Bush had made of FEMA, it shouldn't take another 9-11 style attack on our country to expose what the Bush Administration has done with airline security. Especially, since if there is ever another attack, liberal concentration on lawsuits and potential government abuse will be the Republican ticket to ducking the blame. But right now, airline security is a weak juicy underbelly to the Republican mantra that they are the ones to protect Americans.

To point out how Democratic dialogue over 9-11 has wandered onto thin ice, here's a blog from Congressman Mike Honda from California. His concerns are certainly valid and commendable, and ensuring that people aren't arbitrarily targeted due to their religion is a worthwhile Democratic goal. However, as this has become the Democratic response to 9-11 and airline security, and focuses on a very small part of the American voting public, we are left open to attacks of weakness and pandering by neo-cons. While nothing we do on the issue of airport security is likely to bring over Republican voters, swing voters are going to look closely at the two sides, and they are going to consider the Republican argument stronger. Which is unfortunate because this is an issue over which the Republicans and neo-cons have left themselves wide wide open.

Let's start with this: Rates of Failure to Find Suicide Bomb Tests by TSA.

Yesterday, Representative Kirk from Illinois rose on the House floor during open comments to bring up this subject, calling for a reveiw of airport security involving congressional leaders and the upper management of TSA. This set up and review has been coming for a long time and it has nothing to do with improving airport security, but wrapping up a federal agency as a private contract and handing it out to Republican campaign contributors. The study itself is questionable, given that it compares two of the worse airports against an airport that has been the subject of intensified training. But more importantly, the review will include the upper management of TSA and given current SSI laws which prevent airport screeners from commenting frankly in public, it holds no hope of providing accountability or insight into what is going on in airport security. However, airport passengers have begun to notice that there are fewer screeners at airports than there used to be, and job searches show that TSA offers part-time employment instead of concentrating on a full-time and steady workforce. Without full union representation, and full union rights for airport screeners, the public and Congress will find the truth elusive.

All of this will go on despite the prime opportunity this represents to assail the Republican line that private contractors are the route to take with American government. For instance:

1. Private Contractos Mass Mails SSNs to Wrong People.

TSA spokeswoman Amy von Walter said the breach was "an administrative error, and the contractor has taken steps to ensure it's not repeated." Accenture, a contractor that handles TSA personnel, sent 1,195 documents to the wrong former employees during a recent mailing, according to a letter signed by Richard Whitford, TSA assistant administrator for human capital. The documents were standard forms that are sent to employees after they leave the government. The forms often list an employee's Social Security number, birth date and salary. It's unclear how many forms had that information.

2. Private Contractors Loose Hazardous Material Trucker Data on TWO laptops.

According to a letter the TSA sent to lawmakers on Oct. 12, the laptops—both of which belonged to a TSA contractor—contain names, addresses, birthdays, commercial driver's license numbers and, in some instances, Social Security numbers of the affected truckers.

3. Go back to the use of private contractors in the founding of TSA.

Those details are contained in a federal audit that calls into question $303 million of the $741 million spent to assess and hire airport passenger screeners for the newly created Transportation Security Administration after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The audit, along with interviews with people involved in the passenger-screener contract, paints a rare and detailed portrait of how officials at the fledgling agency lost control of the spending in the pell-mell rush to hire 60,000 screeners to meet a one-year congressional deadline.

The audit, performed by the Defense Contract Audit Agency at the TSA's behest, spotlights scores of expenses: $20-an-hour temporary workers billed to the government at $48 per hour, subcontractors who signed out $5,000 in cash at a time with no supporting documents, $377,273.75 in unsubstantiated long-distance phone calls, $514,201 to rent tents that flooded in a rainstorm, $4.4 million in "no show" fees for job candidates who did not appear for tests.

The audit faulted the prime contractor, NCS Pearson Inc., which was hired by the TSA to test, interview, fingerprint, medically evaluate and pre-certify the candidates. The audit said Pearson failed to properly justify costs and improperly awarded subcontracts without competitive bidding. The audit also said the company demonstrated a "lack of management or oversight of subcontractors."

One of the audit's key revelations is that a decision to move the hiring process from Pearson's 925 U.S. private assessment centers to 150 hotels and other meeting facilities added at least $343 million to the cost of the contract, according to an estimate by Pearson. The company said it was ordered to make the change by the TSA, which said it made the decision in collaboration with Pearson.

Here we find outselves on difficult ground. While the actual testing methods used cannot be disclosed, in order to find enough acceptable hirees in the part-time worker labor pool, physical requirement tests are rumored to have been eliminated. Also rumored is it's not uncommon for the hirees to enter their own personal data into the private contractor's database for their background checks, while overseen by one contractor. Undoubtably, the contractors get paid as if they enter the data.

There's a very good report on discussing private versus federal airport security by the General Accounting Office. If you want to really understand airport security though, read what is claimed is being done by TSA management, and then the next time you fly, ask the TSOs there if it's true or not. Look around and see what's happening beyond the fact that you can't take your water bottle.

There are other weak points to go after Republican mismanagement of our nations terrorism efforts. For instance, as noted in a Senate Commerce Committee by Missouri Democrat MacCaskill, there a great lapse in security at overseas repair stations for airlines in terms of background checks. There should be honest discussion about TSA's application of SSI rules to prevent any dissent or critcism escaping the agency, and also the absurd application leading to some confusion for the public. Honestly, this is one of those cases where SSI claims are bogus. International fliers may present handwritten passports, where the expiration dates and names are all entered by hand. Countless US states allow the renewal of driver's liscenses by mail, to the point where the person has considerably aged compared to their photograph. Even if states have reasons to not renew driver's id's in five year intervals, that doesn't mean that photo identification should not be undated. Photo identification, in the age of credit card and ID theft, is appropriate as a part of airport security, even though recent intensification in this area admittedly has been aimed at finding illegal immigrants.

Airline security as a way to come out on top of the Homeland Security debate between liberals and conservatives is ripe for the taking, but it's a window that won't be open for long. It should be our issue, and it can be. Reframing the debate, as Lakoff points out, gives us a real chance to show our strengths and values, instead of always being on the defensive. With our record of standing up for civil liberties to balance out a call for a renewed focus on airline security, positions us better in the public debate. Airline security is being able to quickly match names against watch lists, and see Al Gore's "Assault on Reason" if you don't understand how important that is. Six years after 9-11 and hundreds of millions of dollars later, it's not possible for the Bush Administration to do what credit card companies do all the time. It would be done if it hadn't been used as a way to make Republican war contractors rich. Airline security is bomb sniffing dogs to prevent frontal attacks on people waiting in ticket lines outside of security. Count how many you see on a busy morning the next time you fly. Airline security is the testing for explosive traces. Next time you fly, how many people are getting their heavy sneakers and boots tested? Their bookbags tested? Ask the airport screeners about their views of their jobs and what they spend their time doing. Ask for the truth and then write your senator and congressional representative.

9-11 involved strong and trained young men using small hand weapons to hijack airplanes and fundamentally change America and our politics. Yet years later, we still let warmongering neo-cons define the debate and set us up to take the blame if it happens the next time. If there is another 9-11, they plan to make us take the blame because we are weak and don't support the war in Iraq. They will trot out how many times they focused on homeland security and they will control the debate. If we let them. Homeland Security and counterterrorism at it's most basic is airport security, and it's time to sent the Republicans to remedial class.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Vote Edwards in Democracy for America Poll!!

So today Republicans refused to vote for SCHIP on Capital Hill. A moment to reflect. Republicans sided with Bush even though he and their party pundits waged a horrible campaign full of deliberate misinformation, lies, and the slandering of a 12 year-old-boy and his family. Edwards released a statement that is spot on: Republicans should be made to pay a price at the polls.

Edwards dropped by the WaPost today to answer live questions from a few of the commentators there. He answered questions about health care and the No Child Left Behind Act, and about the excessive hype placed on standardized testing. As he points out: "You don't make a hog fatter by weighing' it."

I was pleased to see he had a ready answer for the likelihood that Republicans will campaign on tax cuts next year, despite the fact that Bush put us $9 trillion in the hole. Edwards went on to say he will point out to voters that Republicans mean to lower taxes on wealthy people, while Democrats lower taxes on working people. "If you believe we should finally value work, and not just wealth in America, you should vote for me."

In Iowa, the Edwards campaign announced today the formation of a Statewide Rural Advisory Committee, a wide group of leaders including first responders, business leaders, elected officials and agricultural leaders. One of it's most recognizable members is Denise O'Brien, an organic farmer and the founder of the Women, Food and Agriculture Network, was the Democratic nominee for secretary of agriculture last year. Earlier this month, Edwards was endorsed by Iowa's Monroe County Supervisor Denny Ryan. Representing rural interests played a part in more more key endorsements from the Georgian Democratic Party, including the former Governor.

The importance of rural voter outreach extends to more than just the presidential caucus, as MyDD points out, as Democratic votes increased in rural counties in both 2004 and 2006. "That was a big change from the 1990s, when rural voters swung significantly against the Democratic Party. I believe that John Edwards would be by far the best candidate in our field to continue this trend, which would hurt the GOP badly. I urge you to consider this: the presidential election is more than 50 statewide elections. It also coincides with 435 House races and thousands of races for the state legislature." Out of the states come our national leaders and our next presidential candidates.

Edwards also signed the Presidential Pledge to expand Americorps to expand service positions by 100,000. Speaking before the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Edwards spoke about the need to return the production of our military's equipment to American soil, a point which I strongly support him. Edwards' also proposed a "Brownie's Law" which would require that those nominated as political appointees to federal agencies meet the same strict hiring requirements as a civil servant, and that they possess actual work experience for that position.

Another good policy point is that Edwards has proposed national cancer networks which would increase funding for cancer research at the National Institutes of Health, include specific research into what chemicals increase the likelihood of cancer, make more widely available home visits from nurses, and also called for an Internet clearinghouse for information about services that are available for families dealing with the disease.

Election data shows what happens when you match up each of the Democratic candidates against the Republicans: Edwards beats every Republican with a larger margin than either Clinton or Obama. Edwards is the only Democratic candidate with a significant lead against Republican front runner Rudy Giuliani. Edwards' out performance against Clinton and Obama in match ups with the Republicans are particularly is also significant in the key battleground states of Iowa, Missouri, and Ohio. We all know how important to a Democratic victory are voter margins in Ohio. As for swing voters, Edwards at this point demonstrates the greatest appeal among Democratic candidates to Independents, beating Giuliani by 13%. Obama wins Independents by 5% and Clinton wins them by 3% against Giuliani.

Vote for Edwards in the Democracy for America Poll!!!

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Twelve Angry Soldiers and the Iraq We All Know

12 Army Captains spoke out in public today on the 5 year anniversary of the authorization of force in Iraq and the fiasco that has been Operation Iraqi Freedom, and the thousand "Operations this or that" which have followed. Bush's administration and the vaunted neo-conservative movement which brought him to power failed to rebuild a capitalist, foreign-owned, democratic and pro-West puppet. While the military found Saddam in a hole in the desert, and the Iraqi judicial court found him guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced him to death, we stayed in Iraq for the dreams of Wall Street.

Within months, our own brutal military tactics and the irresponsible outsourcing that allowed in mercenaries sparked the rise of a bloody insurgency. Bush winked and nodded while American contractors sailed off to the Caribbean with $9 billion in stolen Iraqi oil money we had been entrusted with by the U.N. And three thousand soldiers died, more than half from weapons constructed out of munitions the Bush administration failed to secure during the invasion, so sure the only dangerous thing to be found would be the still invisible WMD. (We'll find it on Nov. 1, 2008, wait and see!!)

U.S. forces, responsible for too many objectives and too much "battle space," are vulnerable targets. The sad inevitability of a protracted draw-down is further escalation of attacks -- on U.S. troops, civilian leaders and advisory teams. They would also no doubt get caught in the crossfire of the imminent Iraqi civil war.

Iraqi security forces would not be able to salvage the situation. Even if all the Iraqi military and police were properly trained, equipped and truly committed, their 346,000 personnel would be too few. As it is, Iraqi soldiers quit at will. The police are effectively controlled by militias. And, again, corruption is debilitating. U.S. tax dollars enrich self-serving generals and support the very elements that will battle each other after we're gone.

This is Operation Iraqi Freedom and the reality we experienced. This is what we tried to communicate up the chain of command. This is either what did not get passed on to our civilian leadership or what our civilian leaders chose to ignore. While our generals pursue a strategy dependent on peace breaking out, the Iraqis prepare for their war -- and our servicemen and women, and their families, continue to suffer.

There is one way we might be able to succeed in Iraq. To continue an operation of this intensity and duration, we would have to abandon our volunteer military for compulsory service. Short of that, our best option is to leave Iraq immediately. A scaled withdrawal will not prevent a civil war, and it will spend more blood and treasure on a losing proposition.

America, it has been five years. It's time to make a choice.

The Jawa Report claims the 12 Captains are actually anonymous WaPost staffers who paid the soldiers for the use of their names. Blackfive spins the usual "your opinion doesn't matter unless you served in the military" to "veterans are idiots." Interesting that Uncle Jimbo dodges the draft (lol) proposition by the Captains, with the emotional plea of "victory **(see conditions, updated and revised, subject to further pie-in-the-sky reevaluation)." The Captains also get smeared as dirt by FloppingAces, who are betraying better soldiers who had the guts to stay. One commenter on Confederate Yankee said that the only reason they were no longer on active duty was because they were losers. Looks like the Republican congressional leaders need to burn some midnight oil about not saying meanie things about our soldiers.

In the October 22 edition of Time Magazine, Samantha Powers notes the erosion of America as the world's superpower in an article noting Bush's complete inability to lead the world towards ending human rights violations and creating true democracy in Sudan and Burma, just as he claims he has been trying to do in Iraq.

"The U.S. has raised its voice on Darfur and Burma louder than any other country. George W. Bush has regularly denounced the Sudanese campaign of destruction as "genocide," Washington has spent $2.5 billion on humanitarian aid to keep Darfur's refugees alive, and the Administration has spearheaded creation of a 26,000-person, U.N.-led peacekeeping force. When the Burmese regime cracked down on protesters, it was Bush who used his appearance before the U.N. General Assembly to announce that the U.S. would freeze the assets of Burma's repressive leaders and deny them visas.

Yet when he urged "every civilized nation" to use its diplomatic and economic leverage to "stand up" to the regime, his appeal was largely ignored. Many countries acted as if they agreed with Burma's self-serving claim that the crackdown was simply an "internal matter." Not withstanding the U.S.'s $500 billion military budget and $13 trillion GDP, its summoning power has dwindled.

The inaction is partly backlash against the discredited American messenger. Torture, "black sites," extraordinary rendition and the bungled, bloody invasion and occupation of Iraq have all made U.S. human-rights appeals ring hollow."

America's time as the world's only super power began with one President Bush and ended tragically with the presidency of his son. Castro may even live see Bush pack it up and move out. What sort of world will we face in 2009, when the idea of a world safe for democracy has become a punchline, and communism finally eclipses us on the international scene? When the U.S. finally faces our $9 trillion debt, what sort of military will we be able to afford? And how many more genocides will we have to categorize and memorialize?

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day: Eat Fish- Vote Democrat!!

So today is a Blog Action Day for the Environment, and moonbat feels moved to talk about her own humble beginnings as an environmentalist. For many years as a child, I had always believed that the lake behind my house was a natural phenomenon, designed there to house fish and frogs. At some point I had to expand my mind to the idea that bulldozers and men had created a five acre pit, where legend had it that a pick-up truck got stuck in, and was abandoned to the waters. Leeches lived there, and a childhood project to transfer cattails to increase frog habitats still shores up one of the banks. Then one year I brainstormed the idea to do a science fair project on how the fish in the lake got along, using the same pet-store equipment my sister used to test her gold fish tank. Although she used tablets to adjust the water in the tank, surely the lake with it's grasses and algae could regulate and control it's own waters. I proved that in fact the lake had no natural ecosystem, ammounting to nothing more self-regulating than a puddle of muddy water. I won the Divisional Award.

Years I spent in subsequent projects trying to figure out why man-made lakes devolved into cesspools of poison while natural lakes sustain life. Over that time, the beautiful sunspots and small-mouth bass dissapeared from it's waters, and the populations of lawns around the lake exploded. Having no way to cheaply measure other forms of pollution in the run off, and being unable to use an increase in water flora to prove the lake could be given an ecosystem, I gave up in despair. The lake continues to grow brown, and I turned away from the life of a professional scientist towards an interest in labor ecomonics and politics. Still, I love to sit with a glass of wine and listen to the frogs on a summer's evening. Someday soon, they too will be gone. Year after year, the summer drough season grows. Twenty years ago it was the month of August. This year it lasted four months and the ethanol-destined corn crops failed. You could walk across the lake and not get the top of your head wet.

Today I live outside of the District of Columbia, and one of my favorite pastimes is to run along the public park trails of the local watershed. The boulders and shale ledges are stunning, the chipmunks defiant, the occasional red fox a delightful blur. But every so often I pass the signs that state the danger of stepping a foot into the waters or eating the fish. Next to them, children play and dogs drink, and parents teach children how to hook a worm. We say that we live in a society where people are free to choose their own reckless demises, but we fail as a people to ensure that each generation has the ability to judge correctly the dangers they face. I spent time last year campaigning against a toll highway, promoted by developers, which will bulldoze low-income communities to allow for greater traffic access to the metropolitan area. Sierra Club counter argued that the money spend on the road would be better spent on expanding the public Metro system in ways that linked the suburb work centers of the capital city, reducing both traffic congestion and air pollution. The air polliution of our cities gives you the same risk of chronic heart disease as living with a smoker. Still, people generally greated us with the expectation that the developers were going to make their lives easier, and that we were the unintelligent fruitcakes. Even though we would have saved them money.

The damages caused by permission to pollute that is pervasive in the Republican Party line are slowly coming to light. Chevron's refinery in Richmond, California, dumped more mercury and other pollutants into San Pablo Bay than allowed under its permits during half of the reporting periods in 2005. 57 percent of the 3,600 major facilities nationwide that must report to EPA exceeded their Clean Water Act permits at least once in 2005. The average violation was almost four times the legal limit of what can be dumped into waterways. 628 facilities violated their Clean Water Act permits for at least half of the monthly reporting periods, and 85 sites exceeded their permits during every reporting period. The pollutants include mercury, copper, selenium, coliform, chromium, zinc, nickle, nitrogen, and ammonia. All of this goes into our streams and rivers and oceans, into our food, and into us. Yet we have built the whole notion of our ecomony around the idea that if the litter is too small to see, we shouldn't hold the trashy person that spills it accountable. We stage a manhunt for someone with TB, but we don't hunt down executives who kill people by what they exhale into the air for profit.

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

John Edwards Endorsed as "Green " & "Pro-Union"

So today John Edwards received an endorsement for President in 2008 by the environmental group Friends of the Earth Action. The group cited Edwards' pledges to institute carbon caps as early as 2010 with a cap-and-trade system, to work for a new climate treaty that includes developing countries, and his opposition to federal subsidies for new nuclear power plants. "For these reasons, we trust John Edwards to work for a healthy environment and fight for the rights of regular people in our country and around the world," commented Brent Blackwelder, the group's president. "After 7 years of the most destructive environmental president in modern history, we feel strongly that John Edwards is the candidate most likely to stand up to the powerful, corporate polluters and their lobbyists." Edwards' plan will reduce carbon emissions by 15% in 2020 and 80% by 2050, increase energy efficiency, and fund green energy technology through a greenhouse emissions permit system designed to raise $10 billion in funds. Edwards' plan also repeals all subsidies for Big Oil. That move, and charging industrial polluters for their "air litter" in order to fund a cleaner world for all of us, are what really draw me to the plan. Polluters should pay. Simple!

Let's take a moment along with Edwards and pass a cold beer to Al Gore:

"Congratulations to Al Gore. The Nobel Peace Prize rewards three decades of Vice President Gore's prescient and compelling -- and often lonely -- advocacy for the future of the Earth. His leadership stands in stunning contrast to the failure of the current administration to pursue policies that would reduce the harm of global warming.

"The Nobel Committee's recognition of Vice President Gore shines a bright light on the most inconvenient truth of all -- the selection of George Bush as president has endangered the peace and prosperity of the entire planet.

"Two terms later, Americans are ready for bold change, ready to be patriotic about something other than war and ready to take action to stop global warming before it's too late. The stakes are sky-high -- as Al Gore predicted, our Earth is in the balance."

Big support also for Edwards' Green Collar Jobs Initiative. His point is this, "We can turn the crisis of climate change into an opportunity for a new energy economy, right here in America. Now is the time to make sure that the economy of tomorrow is an all-aboard economy where nobody is left behind." The initiative would create 150,000 new jobs a year, with 50,000 of them specifically skilled labor jobs for the working poor. "His national 25 percent renewable electricity standard can reenergize America's manufacturing sector with increased demand for wind turbines, solar panels and biomass engines. His emphasis on distributed generation will drive consumers and businesses to new businesses that can market, install, and service on-site power production. To freeze our demand for electricity, workers will be needed to design, construct, weatherize and retrofit energy-efficient buildings and homes. Many of these jobs must be done locally." Why should this make the working poor vote for Edwards? Maybe because 640,000 workers were mass laid-off in the first few months of 2007, and one in every four American workers holds a low-wage job with few benefits and little hope for advancement. That's not liberal propaganda, that's Bush's Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Green Collar Jobs won't be a federal show either, for all of you who are now mouthing "big government." Block grants will unite small business, unions, community colleges, and high schools to create training programs that will give Americans the skills and knowledge needed to make this a success for America. Green Collar Jobs won't just create Wal-Mart disposable labor, but skilled workers with credentials through high schools and colleges. "Employers who hire Stepping Stone graduates and offer living wages and benefits will be eligible for existing Work Opportunity Tax Credits and given preference in public contracts." In part because of this, Edwards will also get the nod from SEIU-Iowa this afternoon, which is great news. SEIU's local endorsement will bar union supporters of Obama or Clinton from Chicago or New York from streaming into Iowa to campaign against Edwards, as stipulated under union rules. SEIU-California also endorses Edwards, and they will be able to volunteer in his campaign in Iowa. Sigh. Moonbat can only dream...

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

John Edwards Unveils 'One Democracy' Initiative

So today after work I switched off the rock stations over to CSPAN RADIO on the way to the public library, there of course to have a full two hours of blissful tax-payer funded internet access. Why the free? Or I should point out, I pay taxes, so why reduced to the free? Although I had a laptop, my poor baby fell mortally wounded to ad-ware over a year ago, and a federal employee's salary holds no room for even refurbishment. To my delight I recognized the voice of John Edwards, who yesterday held a town-hall meeting in New Hampshire. I admit to having spent the last few weeks feeling a bit uninspired about 2008, despite the overall outlook for Democrats and working stiffs like myself. Politics is a cruel addiction, providing neither cute animal team mascots or cheerleaders, or a never ending supply of muscled young men in sports-bars on a Saturday night. Especially when you don't have a million dollars squirreled away in your sock drawer. Edwards is right; we don't have elections, we have auctions.

"The American people are sick and tired of business as usual. Lobbyists and the special interests they represent are pouring millions of dollars into the system, corrupting our democracy and stopping the change we need dead in its tracks. With all the money flooding into politics, you'd think that instead of holding elections we were auctioning our leaders off to the highest bidders. Our founding fathers intended our government to do the will of the people, but regular people can't afford a voice in today's pay-to-play Washington.

"It's time to put an end to the special deals enjoyed by lobbyists and insiders at the expense of regular Americans. We must strengthen voting and campaign finance laws and curb the influence of campaign contributions from special interests, so that everyone has a voice in the political process and the people decide who leads this nation."

I'm tired of the hype that the measure of being American is dying in a foreign war. We used to have these two twin holidays as a people: Memorial Day and Labor Day. These holidays honored the two strengths of our citizens, both the defense and the work of democracy. Now, Labor Day is a holiday where shoppers get discounts and specials, and visit obscene levels of cruelty against the common worker stocking the shelf and cooking their meals because they have to wait in a line. Edwards was right to talk about the point of being American, instead of spending time talking about what he would do if only he had been elected instead of Bush. Whatever happens, January 2009 isn't going to look a whole lot like October 2007. What makes an American an American? What should be the purpose of our government, the pampering of the uber-jet-setters or the concerns of someone who would like public transportation to be available to the working poor?

A little math: For an hour's commute and errands, my gasoline bill is about $200 a month. So far this year, the upkeep of my car has included repairs at almost 2/3 of my whole 2006 federal tax bill, and way more than both state and local tax bills. There is a federal program that would cover the $170 a month cost for me to take the DC Metro and the Maryland commuter train to work. But.. the trains don't run on schedules geared for the working poor who need them most. They run on schedules built for the upper middle class: 6AM to 10PM, Monday through Friday. I work Saturday and Sunday, one of the lots of anyone whose working poor. Even then, the local Amtrak honors the government vouchers for those days. Even if I got a tax-cut of 25% of my tax rate now, that would still be only be about $1200. Which is gas for only half the year, if they don't rocket towards the sky yet again. If there was a train, I would save double the ammount in cash, before car maitenence. Why would I vote for a tax-cut again? In essense, the working poor don't need tax-cuts, we need good government spending on social programs.

The White House Intel Report blogged live on Edwards' speach:

I’m watching his New Hampshire speech right now. It’s live, it is a beautiful speech about Democracy, the American dream and moral leadership. The man stands for a lot of what I believe in and I can’t see why he isn’t one of the top two political players right now. After listening to all of the candidates, I really believe John Edwards is the best candidate to push forth the message of Democrats. Unlike Hillary Clinton, who many liberals believe has sold out, he is sticking to his Democratic roots, he is catering to “the people” and looking after the little guy rather than sucking up to the wealthy corporations.

So I listened to the speach today, and without the benefits of notes (which at 65 mph on an interstate is a tad unwise), these are my impressions: The Federal TIPS program that I am a part of, which matches what I save if I put away 5% of my paycheck towards either a mortage or college, or as a form of disaster insurance, is a great idea for expanding into the working class. Who could not love this idea? Given that the resulting nest-egg will go into the economy in ways that will boost the American economy, while increased national savings should help keep down long term interest rates. (Yes, I'm reading Greenspan's book.) There will have to be national laws slapping down this payday lending industry and the resumption of usury practices by the credit lending industry. Television ads for political office as approved by the candidate will have to be divided equally between candidates. They encourage as much thought as a Kit-Kat bar commercial. Federal political office should not be influenced by lobby donations, and should require canadacies funded without K Street. Personal donations should be topped at $1,000. At that point, it's time to stop buying television ads and start talking to your friends and neighbors. That's how a democracy surives.

Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain recognized John Edwards as "A Blue Collar Candidate for a Blue Collar America!" MyDD blogger TomP applauds, noting that "And that is just what we need. For too long the rich have ruled our country, trampling our rights, and screwing workers right and left. No more. It's a damn good thing, because unless you are an owner, an investor of real money, not a 410K, but real money, we're all blue collar now. That's what Two America means." The AFL has a point that Edwards also echoed in New Hampshire. Unlike Clinton and Obama, Edwards beat the Red State party machine and got elected to the Senate. Democrats true blue to liberal ideas sell themselves and American short with the idea that what we need is a measurement of bank accounts in the Blue States. We do live in a Democracy, and as Edwards points out, there are liberals in Arkansas.

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Blackwater Faces a Cold, Cruel World Alone

So today the military started dropping "I survived Blackwater" stories of there own. Utterly beyond belief that "former soldiers" could harbor such disrespect for their uniformed comrades in the age where looking at a soldier funny in the States is an act of treason. Of course, why shouldn't Blackwater be the lords and ordinary marines and army privates be the serfs? After all, Blackwater allows it's members to reach the true mark of acheivement for men in the modern age: a six-figure yearly salary and no responsibility to the Constitution.

Oct. 15, 2007 issue - 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."

...Unlike nearly everyone else who enters the Green Zone, said an American soldier who guards a gate, Blackwater gunmen refuse to stop and clear their weapons of live ammunition once inside. One military contractor, who spoke anonymously for fear of retribution in his industry, recounted the story of a Blackwater operative who answered a Marine officer's order to put his pistol on safety when entering a base post office by saying, "This is my safety," and wiggling his trigger finger in the air. "Their attitude was, 'We're f---ing security; we don't have to answer to anybody'."

Meanwhile, the "we swear we aren't Blackwater, we just want to have their babies" blog "Blackwater Facts" has chosen the tactic of defending Blackwater in it's legal troubles by labeling sueing Blackwater as a terrorist attack, and part of a vast conspiracy by the Al-Qaeda planners of 9-11. Hence, in it's attempts to smear the lawyers involved in the lawsuit, it posts a nice big picture of one of the hijacked jets flying into the World Trade Towers on 9-11. Blackwater Facts hasn't bothered to comment a word of course on what the military has to say about Nisour Square, despite claiming to have been formed to correct "misinformation in the media." What does Blackwater Facts therefor leave as established facts?

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.

"It was absolutely tragic," said Maj. Gen. Joseph Fil, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division and the Army's top commander for Baghdad. "In the aftermath of these, everybody looks and says, 'It's the Americans.' And that's us. It's horrible timing. It's yet another challenge, another setback," he said.

The Washington Post on Thursday examined a storyboard of the soldiers' assessment that has been forwarded to senior U.S. military commanders, photos taken by aerial drones shortly after the shooting and sworn statements by two U.S. soldiers at the scene that day. The Post also reviewed photos taken by U.S. soldiers of the shootings' aftermath. These, along with interviews with four of Tarsa's soldiers who inspected the scene, revealed previously undisclosed details:

At least two cars, a black four-door taxi and a blue Volkswagen sedan, had their back windshields shot out, but their front windshields were intact, indicating they were shot while driving away from the square, according to the photos and soldiers. The Volkswagen, which crashed into a bus stand, had blood splattered on the inside of its front windshield and windows. One person was killed, soldiers said.

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. They found evidence of ammunition used in American-made weapons, including M4 rifle 5.56mm brass casings, M240B machine gun 7.62mm casings, M203 40mm grenade launcher casings, and stun-grenade dunnage, or packing.

A white sedan, carrying a doctor and her son, had not entered the Nisoor Square traffic circle, where the Blackwater vehicles had stopped, when it was fired upon, according to the aerial photos. News reports have said the guards shot at the car because they believed it approached them in a threatening manner.

"I was surprised at the caliber of weapon being used," said Capt. Don Cherry, 32. "My guys have 203s with nonlethal rounds we use as warning shots. It's a rubber ball that bounces off the windshield."

"I was upset this happened," Cherry said. "This was uncalled for."

Startling to learn that the US military uses rubber bullets to fire warning shots, but the conservative commentators among us will battle to the last breath to defend Blackwater's right to arbitrarily kill Iraqi civilians because they have a gut feeling that they are suicide bombers. The gut feeling supplied merely by the desire to be going faster through rush hour traffic in the capital city. So far, when you google "blackwater" in the blog links, the right is being silent on the fact that Blackwater and their CEO Prince have lied about coming under fire from the Iraqi police or insurgents, given that the only bullets fired were American. Tomorrow of course, they will claim that Blackwater got confused, and really it was the American military who was trying to kill Blackwater!

An Iraqi colonel walked up to Lt. Col. Mike Tarsa and described the Blackwater shooters as men in "tan uniforms, black helmets, and that flag," pointing at the U.S. flag on Tarsa's sleeve. The colonel added that he knew the U.S. military wasn't involved. Still, Tarsa dispatched his soldiers across their sector over the next few days.

"I wanted our guys to be on the ground, to look people in the eye, to listen to their anguish, listen to their outrage, to let them know we're going to help those people personally affected," Tarsa said.

"I was concerned about acts of vengeance and misinformation somehow indicating we were part of this event," he said. Tarsa spoke with community and tribal leaders.

"It was a very tense 24 hours," said Maj. David Shoupe, the battalion spokesman. "We didn't know which way it was going to go."

Blackwater quit the International Peace Operations Association, a lobbying and public-relations firm for private military companies, effective Oct. 10th. Blackwater stated that it intended to pursue other "other aspects and methods of industry outreach and
The bite in Blackwater's tone got explained today in IPOA's official statement:

In recent weeks, IPOA was actively engaged with senior management at Blackwater USA, both through our Standards Committee and our Executive Committee, to ensure that they were fully compliant with the IPOA Code of Conduct. On October 8, 2007 the IPOA Executive Committee authorized the Standards Committee to initiate an independent review process of Blackwater USA to ascertain whether Blackwater USA's processes and procedures were fully sufficient to ensure compliance with the IPOA Code of Conduct.

All IPOA member companies are required to follow the IPOA Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct is a set of ethical and professional guidelines for companies in the peace and stability operations industry. The Code stresses human rights, corporate ethics, International Humanitarian Law, transparency, accountability, and responsibility and professionalism in relationships with employees, clients, and partner companies.

Blackwater has scattered the Nisour murderers to the winds inside the US, while CBS reports that the FBI may be neglecting to investigate several of the vehicles targeted in the shootings. The bus which Blackwater shot up is still making it's regular rounds, bullet holes and shattered glass and all, while the white family car of the Iraqi woman doctor and her son still remains on the road to Nisour Square in a grisly monument.

Military analyst Col. (ret.) Steve Lyons told CBS .... there is little chance the US government will meet Iraqi demands either by severing all ties with Blackwater, which is by far the largest and most competent of the many security contractors in Iraq, or by turning over the gunmen responsible for the shooting. Even the Iraqi demand of $8 million in compensation for each of the victims is uncertain.

"These contractors are long gone," Lyons stated. "They're back in the United States. They've scattered, really, to the four winds. ... They're not going to get any money from those individuals."

Condi Rice floated the idea that the State Department's diplomatic security force assign observers to ride along with Blackwater. Presumably, they are supposed to be competent enough to judge Blackwater's conduct and having them join Blackwater will save us money, by allowing Blackwater to continue to replace them. Love the illogic here. State can't seem to end the torrid romance, and plans to hide Blackwater employees on the government payroll:

Under terms of the department’s Worldwide Personal Protective Security contract, which covers privately contracted guards for diplomats in Iraq, Blackwater, Dyncorp and Triple Canopy are the only three companies eligible to bid on specific task orders there.

If Blackwater goes, the slack almost certainly would have to be picked up by one or more other companies, which may require certifying other firms to bid, including non-U.S. ones, the officials said.

Of interest to the department is the possibility of standing up Iraqi companies with Iraqi employees to protect U.S. diplomats as local guards do for embassy staff in other countries, they said. That would bring the guards fully under the jurisdiction of Iraqi law but is not a short-term option given inadequate training facilities.

The Pentagon has been reluctant to provide security for diplomats but another alternative might be joint State-Defense department patrols. Yet another would be hiring Blackwater and other private guards as temporary U.S. government employees, the officials said.

A passenger walked by me at the airport with one of the Blackwater books, which suddenly renewed my faith in democracy. So I brought the subject of Blackwater up at work, us being federal employees engaged in protecting the nation from terrorists and all. One of my coworkers is an Iraqi veteran, who in his tour of duty crossed paths with Blackwater's mercenaries several times. "First off, they're not the shit," commented the reservist Srgt. "Everybody has a 'how Blackwater got ambushed' story, and they're a national shame. Blackwater makes the insurgency look like they are tactically capable. And they are mercenaries. Who does Blackwater answer to but Blackwater?"

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Iraqi Victims Sue Blackwater for their Blood Money

So today, that good old American urge to sue bastards has inspired the victims and families of victims of the Blackwater massacre in Nisour Square to file in federal court against the mercenary company and it's financiers. Seeing the delaying tactics used by Blackwater for all the other lawsuits against it, they are in for one hell of a ride. Blackwater's announced that it has no interest in paying even a single penny, because hey, depriving them of their blood money will harm Bush' ability to effectively fight terrorism around the world!!

The Nisoor Square lawsuit focuses on the alleged "recklessness" of the Blackwater security contractors and seeks to punish the company for its "mercenary" tactics in the war zone that have led to "repeated callous killings of innocents," according to a complaint.

"Blackwater created and fostered a culture of lawlessness amongst its employees, encouraging them to act in the company's financial interests at the expense of innocent human life," the 16-page complaint says. "This action seeks compensatory damages to compensate the injured and the families of those gunned down and killed."

Also today, the U.N. Assistance Mission to Iraq released it's biannual report. The pressure the Bush administration will use to conceal sectarian violence is quite obvious in the Iraqi government's reluctance to release statistics gathered by it's IPA constructed Health Ministry on civilian deaths. The report notes that between the period of April 1 to June 30, the UN could confirm through other sources that 88 Iraqi civilians had been killed by US air strikes as part of the US "troop surge" effort to increase security. One incident involved the deaths of seven elementary-aged students who died when helicopters bombed their school near the Iranian border. The report goes on to note several records of "killings carried out by privately hired contractors with security-related functions in support of U.S. government authorities." The UN urged the US to find ways to increase oversight and accountability of it's mercenary forces.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Blackwater Drunken War Games in Bahdad Hotel

So today here's a story about Blackwater from a journalist who worked in Baghdad in the summer of 2003, staying at a hotel where Blackwater also housed some of it's mercenaries:

Over time, however, our Blackwater pals wore out their welcome. I can’t pinpoint when it happened. Was it one too many beer-drenched party that upset the Iraqi families who lived in neighboring homes? Was it the parade of young Iraqi prostitutes that crept out of their rooms when the sun rose? Was it when their speeding SUV convoys began cutting down any Iraqi with the misfortune to block their path?

Our own security adviser, an older Brit who sneered at what he considered Blackwater’s unprofessional behavior, was conducting his rounds late one night when he noticed shadowy figures lurking about the hotel. From his balcony, he later told me, he observed the fully armed, camouflaged men creeping around corners as if ready to attack. Alarmed, our guard took the safety lock off his weapon and prepared to fire.

Then he realized it was the Blackwater boys, apparently drunk and playing war games after dark. Our security adviser was livid and lodged complaints with the hotel. I don’t remember whether he also contacted Blackwater. In any case, this wasn’t the first time managers had received such gripes and the Blackwater team was kicked out.

Hannah Allam goes on to tell of frequent encounters with Blackwater around Baghdad, where they hasseled local Iraqi civilians. One Blackwater mercenary told her that he was there for the six-figure-income, and a chance to guard Victoria Secret models at the the lingerie company’s annual fashion show. Hannah goes on to relate her own tail of running into a mercenary-escorted convoy on the streets. The mercenaries sped up behind them and forced them off the road with the threats of their guns, before speeding off. Although neither she or her Iraqi friends have a clear memory of having seen the company's logo, they always referred to it as "Blackwater." Hannah has one last encounter to share, and this time it involved Blackwater:

A few months later, I was dropped off at the gates of the Green Zone to meet a security contractor friend who worked for a Blackwater rival. I sat in the car with my Iraqi driver, waiting for my American friend to show up and escort me into the Green Zone, when a convoy of SUVs suddenly blazed onto the scene. Gunners hung out the windows, shouting for the Iraqi civilians to “move!” An Iraqi man failed to get out of the way in time. My driver and I watched as the security guards fired a single shot through his windshield.

The convoy was gone by the time the Iraqi man’s car door opened. He stumbled out, clutching his bleeding chest, and collapsed on the street. Other Iraqis loaded the shooting victim into a car and left for the hospital just as my American friend showed up. My friend shared my outrage and made it his personal mission to track down the convoy and force the contractors to file an incident report.

Although her American friend helped her track down Blackwater accross the Green Zone, neither could work up the courage to actually confront them. They trailed them inside, where instead of going to report having shot an Iraqi civilian to death, the Blackwater mercenaries went straight for the salad bar.

Blackwater may be able to get away with murder in Iraq, but it is facing money problems here at home. Turns out, one of Hillary Clinton's key pollsters runs the PR company providing guidance to Blackwater in the weeks leading up to last week's congressional hearings. The Spokesmans-Review in Spokane reports that the shootings in Nisour Square have held up Blackwater's purchase of an Idaho police training company. Not all everything is gloomy however, as the "we swear we don't work for Blackwater blog "Blackwater Facts has run with the story about Blackwater's purchase of a 183-ft ship called the McArthur.

There's a Blackwater employee running for Congress. Although these plans were announced some time ago, Blackwater is displaying photographs of it at the annual Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) meeting going on today. What can be done about Blackwater? About the corrosion of the authority of government where the powers of war can be bought by campaign contributors? So far, the only statement on any of the Democratic candidates websites is one on John Edwards.

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Blackwater Pursues Plans for Darfur's Civilians

So today, Blackwater may not have been involved in killing innocent Iraqi civilians, but we find out that US taxpayers were still buying the bullets. While Blackwater kept itself busy scrapping off all of it's prominent company logos from it's convoy escort SUVs, Australian mercenaries gunned down two Christian women who were driving home from work. The mercenaries worked for Unity Resources Group, "a Dubai-based company founded by an Australian and registered in Singapore. The firm was employed by RTI International, a nonprofit organization that does governance work in Iraq on a contract for the U.S. Agency for International Development." Mercenaries in the last vehicle of the convoy opened fire on the white Oldsmobile and it's four passengers when the car pulled up in traffic behind them. Unity Resources claims that the shooters threw a signal flare at the Oldsmobile, and opened fire after the woman driver failed to increase distance with the convoy. The shootings was immediately reported to the Interior Ministry and Unity has expressed regret in public.

"A vehicle got close to them, and they opened fire on it randomly as if they were in the middle of a confrontation," said Ahmed Kadhim Hussein, a policeman at the scene. "You won't find a head. The brain is scattered on the ground."

He added: "I am shaking as I am trying to describe to you what happened. We are not able to eat. These were innocent people. Is it so natural for them to shoot innocent people?"

The Oldsmobile was shot first in the radiator as it passed a plumbing supply shop, employees said. The shooting continued and the car came to rest about 50 yards away, next to a yellow and white median curb marked by broken glass and blood.

"Probably they were not paying attention and they weren't able to stop right away," said one employee, who would not give his name.

The Oldsmobile, towed to a police station in Karrada, left little doubt how the women died. There were holes from at least 35 bullets that scarred the hood, punctured the windshield, popped tires and shattered three windows. Rivulets of blood ran down the driver's door.

The driver of the vehicle, 49-year-old Marony Ohanis, drove friends to and from work in order to make ends meet for her family after the death of her husband two years ago. Also killed: 30-year-old Geneva Jalal Entranic. A young boy in the back seat with another woman was shot in the arm, but is expected to recover. Unity Resources was involved in another fatal shooting in March 2006, where one of it's mercenaries killed an Australian resident of Baghdad at a security checkpoint. That incident was later settled with the Iraqi government. Unity Resources also operates in Pakistan, Sudan, Asia and Australia. For yesterday, 45 other people died in shootings and bombings in outbreaks of sectarian violence across Iraq. Among the dead of two car bombings in the oil-refinery town of Baiji were five Iraqi police officers. One of the car bombs went off in front of the house of the police chief, the other in front of the house of Samir Ibrahim, the area leader of the Awakening Council.

The Iraqi government had issued demands that the US severe all contracts with Blackwater in Iraq within six months and that the company pay $8 million in compensation to each of the families of those killed at Nisour Square. The Iraqi government also demands that US authorities hand over those Blackwater mercenaries involved in the shooting spree for prosecution in Iraqi courts. The Iraqi government intends to try them under criminal codes from 1969. The official Iraqi report also found that "Blackwater guards also had killed 21 Iraqi civilians and wounded 27 in previous shootings since it took over security for U.S. diplomats in Baghdad after the U.S. invasion." The US State Department has admitted that Blackwater has been involved in 56 shooting incidents this year alone.

Blackwater CEO Erik Prince worked the crowd at the Association of the US Army trade show today, pushing a warm and fuzzy version of Blackwater. In proposed service involved Blackwater's "Peace and Stability Operations Institute, which would provide armed forces to put down domestic insurgencies and rebellions as a way to prevent genocide. For instance, the civilians being massacred in Sudan are targeted because they support a rebellion against a cruel regime, fought by Sudanese rebel forces.

Blackwater would go in on the behalf of the brutal dictatorship, wipe out the rebels, and leave the local civilians completely undefended and under the same government-paid forces that are killing them. Who will, Blackwater reasons, suddenly feel restraint. And why shouldn't they want a piece of the pie. Naval Facilities Engineering Command currently has a $450 million dollar contract with Dyncorp to provide "global disaster response services." Read: point guns at civilians.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

White House Terror Officials Feed Intel to Fox News

So today we wake up to discover that the recent OBL video overshadowed by sordid tale of how it was acquired early by the Bush White House and then leaked to FOX NEWS. Two senior officials in Bush's Administration were given an emailed link around 10 a.m. to the video on a private intelligence company's website that monitors Islamic terrorists. Those two officials are White House counsel Fred F. Fielding and Michael Leiter, who holds the No. 2 job at the National Counterterrorism Center. The Search for International Terrorist Entities first contacted Fielding, and then emailed the link to Fielding and also to Leitner, at the suggestion of Joel Bagnal, deputy assistant to the president for homeland security. Fielding and Bagnal both told SITE that Bush's White House did not yet have a copy of OBL's video.

Within 20 minutes, a range of intelligence agencies had begun downloading it from the company's Web site. By midafternoon that day, the video and a transcript of its audio track had been leaked from within the Bush administration to cable television news and broadcast worldwide.

The founder of the company, the SITE Intelligence Group, says this premature disclosure tipped al-Qaeda to a security breach and destroyed a years-long surveillance operation that the company has used to intercept and pass along secret messages, videos and advance warnings of suicide bombings from the terrorist group's communications network.

"Techniques that took years to develop are now ineffective and worthless," said Rita Katz, the firm's 44-year-old founder, who has garnered wide attention by publicizing statements and videos from extremist chat rooms and Web sites, while attracting controversy over the secrecy of SITE's methodology. Her firm provides intelligence about terrorist groups to a wide range of paying clients, including private firms and military and intelligence agencies from the United States and several other countries.

The precise source of the leak remains unknown. Government officials declined to be interviewed about the circumstances on the record, but they did not challenge Katz's version of events. They also said the incident had no effect on U.S. intelligence-gathering efforts and did not diminish the government's ability to anticipate attacks.

While acknowledging that SITE had achieved success, the officials said U.S. agencies have their own sophisticated means of watching al-Qaeda on the Web. "We have individuals in the right places dealing with all these issues, across all 16 intelligence agencies," said Ross Feinstein, spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

At first blush, we are faced with the idea that the Bush Administration is so extraordinarily sloppy with controlling sensitive information, that people began forwarding the emails sent to Feilding and Leitner at-will. As a federal employee, constantly trained in the handling of sensitive information and reminded by marks on every document and email, this innocent excitement seems implausible. Of course, this wouldn't be the first time that analysts in either the CIA or the DIA have used or misused intelligence in order to fight their constant turf battles. How alarming it is that Bush has created an entire security apparatus in order to fight terrorism and it's plagued at the top by people who just want to be the first to leak to their overlords at FOX NEWS.

Conservative bloggers are fighting the notion of a White House Intel Leak tooth and nail. One attempt involves stating that since the transcipts, which include a translation, were done on the 6th, the day before the link was provided to the White House, that is de facto proof that American intelligence had the video the day before... because only American intelligence could have done the translation. However, the Jawa Report is in (deliberate?) error. The "marks" are in fact SITE marks. You can discover that for yourself by hunting down the original posting of the "marks" on FOX NEWS... which shows the same document without the header chopped off. The header clearly shows the translation was downloaded off a SITE website and gives the address.

CounterterrorismBlog also corrects another one of The Jawa Reports inaccuracies, when it claimed that blogger Laura Mansfeild had the video. Laura Mansfeild only knew the video was coming, and released a link to another jihad video which came out the day before. The Jawa Report goes on to claim that it had the video, but check out their actual posting of the OBL video. The time stamp reads as posted By Dr. Rusty "John Doe" Shackleford at September 7, 2007 03:39 PM. That would be after the release on FOX NEWS. One amusing misquote of Jawa's "marks" claim further distorted the claim to the point that the marks proved ABC had the video and transcript on the 6th!!

Other conservative bloggers attempt to make hay with an ABC story on the video after latching onto the date marker for the article, which reads 9:23 AM. The Jawa Report's blog on the marks has found life as a source for this spin. At first blush, perhaps to those who didn't actually read the article, it would seem that ABC had the transcript previous to SITE's emails at 10 AM. However, when you get to the bottom of the article, you find the words "This post has been updated." Which means that the original story of the Blotter, talking about DHS statements on possible terrorist attacks against the US and New York City on 9-11, which you can extrapolate out of the text, was amended later to include the blurb that there was a new video. You would think that they would take this as a chance to scream about how the liberal media is just trying to discredit the DHS and US counterterrorism by making it seems as if the DHS got caught sleeping, but even a chance to scream "liberal media bias" gets sacrificed in the need to defend Bush.

Con-blogs resist document comparison between the ABC and FOX transcripts which leave little room for doubt that they are the same document, and work hard at insisting that ABC posted the video before FOX. The evidence against them would be the comment section for the Blotter's post. Surely, if ABC had posted the actual video at 9:23 as is being claimed, the comments would include references to the contents. Yet the comments contain no discussion of OBL's rant on the state of the mortgage industry in our country. And it is not until 3:37:45 PM that comments on the content of the video begin, including a count on the number of times OBL says "Wake Up."

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