October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween


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Posted by Dakota at 04:35 PM

Let's Not Get Hung Out to Dry Again


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Bill Moyers reminds us that Dick Cheney has been slavering after our civil liberties for thirty years.

Now, as the FISA Bill is reconsidered, Christopher Dodd struggled, almost singlehandedly, to preserve a last shard of our Constitution by putting a hold on its passage until immunity for telecom companies is dropped, Anonymous Liberal writes:

From a purely political standpoint, I find it virtually incomprehensible that Democrats are not tripping over each other to oppose granting immunity to the telecoms. I understand that many Democrats live in constant fear of being labeled "soft on terror," but this issue is easily severable from the issue of surveillance law generally. It has nothing to do with the president's surveillance authorities going forward, and any voter can readily understand that. This is about a president (who is painfully unpopular) asking Congress to do something totally unreasonable (blindly grant sweeping immunity for unspecified illegal conduct) on behalf of huge corporations (whom no one much trusts or likes) who are more than capable of taking care of themselves (they have massive legal budgets and top-notch lawyers). If Democrats in Congress don't think they can present their opposition to such legislation in a way that the public will understand, then they might as well pack up and go home because they're clearly not cut out for this line of work.

Opposition to telecom immunity should be a political no-brainer for Democrats. It is passionately opposed by virtually all left-leaning activists and bloggers (as well as many non-left-leaning folks), and it is hard to see what possible political downside there could be to opposing immunity. Sure, Republicans could try to use such opposition to paint Democrats as weak on terror, but it's not going to be very convincing to anyone ("unless you retroactively immunize AT&T, the terrorists win!").

The BIG QUESTION is why hasn't this been a no brainer? All of us here at Dakota have the sinking feeling that some democrats have been purchased by the corporatocracy, though Steny Hoyer, Barack Obama and Hillary are coming around -- ever.... so...... slowly.

Studs Terkel who has lost his civil liberties more than once in his lifetime writes in the New York Times:

I was among those blacklisted for my political beliefs [during the McCarthy era]. My crime? I had signed petitions. Lots of them. I had signed on in opposition to Jim Crow laws and poll taxes and in favor of rent control and pacifism. Because the petitions were thought to be Communist-inspired, I lost my ability to work in television and radio after refusing to say that I had been “duped” into signing my name to these causes.

By the 1960s, the inequities in civil rights and the debate over the Vietnam war spurred social justice movements. The government’s response? More surveillance. In the name of national security, the F.B.I. conducted warrantless wiretaps of political activists, journalists, former White House staff members and even a member of Congress.

Glenn Greenwald tells us what we can do about retroactive telecom immunity, as well as how and why we should do it.

Photo note: Airing out dirty laundry - not getting hung out to dry - honestly just a nice picture at dawn

Posted by Dakota at 09:09 AM

October 30, 2007

Dick O' Lantern


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Although the news is not exactly hot, The Center for Research on Globalization which is based in Montreal, has published a horror story just in time for Halloween.

It involves the six nuclear missiles which were reported "missing" from Minot (ND) Air Force Base on August 29-30, 2007. Investigative reporter Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya walks us through the complex security systems that are in place and should have prevented an incident like this from ever happening. He leads us to the logical conclusion that the command to move these weapons came from on (very) high. No surprise.

And nuclear weapons are not all that's missing. Nazemroaya reports six "accidental" deaths of Air Force personnel related to this incident, as well as the many staff reassignments in and out of Minot Air Force Base since August.

The six nuclear warheads were not meant for use in theatre operations against Iran. This is obvious because if they were then they would have been deployed via the proper procedural routes without the need to hide anything. Besides, there are already theatre-level nuclear weapons ready and armed in Europe and the Middle East for any possible Middle Eastern mission. There was something more to the incident.

What's the Dickbush planning? Instant global warming?

Be a good citizen -- read the whole article. It's important.

Photo note: This week's New Yorker cover, shot in the low light of my waiting room (forgive the focus) --- I'm sure the copyright lawyers won't mind, since we're publishing in the name of patriotism.


Posted by Dakota at 06:30 AM

October 28, 2007

October 27, 2007

Autumn at the Agora


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Every once in awhile one happens upon a person who is perfectly costumed for the occasion. This is a scene from the autumnal Farmer's Market in Davis Square. Note that our subject has acquired two pumpkins, one for each basket of her orange bicycle, which at another time of year, might seem garish. (Redheads, in my experience, are naturally drawn to orange personal possessions.)

Let's face it, nowadays, Farmer's Markets are the place to see and be seen. They are at the very heart of the Slow Food movement here in the USofA. Wednesday, the public schools were out in full force, showing off their schoolyard gardens, their compost, and their culinary skills. The folks from "Think Outside the Bottle" covered the margins. The rest of us shopped, sampled, sipped, socialized, made cider and dug for earthworms.

Alice Waters of Chez Panisse and The Edible Schoolyard recommends the Farmer's Market highly. Salon interviewed her for her new book "The Art of Simple Foods, in which she makes it clear that food is a political issue for all of us:

I was just thinking about something Brillat-Savarin said. "The destiny of nations depends on how we feed ourselves." That's a really important thing. I want whoever's running for president to say that. The destiny of our nation depends on how we nourish ourselves.

More elaborately from a graduation speech at Mills College:

If you choose to eat mass-produced fast food, you are supporting a network of supply and demand that is destroying local communities and traditional ways of life all over the world—a system that replaces self-sufficiency with dependence. And you are supporting a method of agriculture that is ecologically unsound—that depletes the soil and leaves harmful chemical residues in our food.

But if you decide to eat fresh food in season—and only in season—that is locally grown by farmers who take care of the earth, then you are contributing to the health and stability of local agriculture and local communities....

Actions have consequences, and people acting responsibly can make a difference. I believe that how you eat, and how you choose your food, is an act which combines the political—your place in the world of other people—with the most intensely personal—the way you use your mind and your senses, together, for the gratification of your soul. It can change the way we treat each other, and it can change the world.

Meet you at the agora, and be sure to dress accordingly.

Photo note: It's not easy to get a clear shot with all the folks who did not take the time to dress for the occasion milling mindlessly in front of your camera.

More about Alice Waters

Posted by Dakota at 06:24 AM

October 25, 2007

It's All For Sale


In a corporatocracy
it's all for sale

your senator
your professional organization
your state lottery
your charity
your army
your municipal water supply
your friends
your hope for the future


if you don't
sell it to them
they'll just
steal it

Photo note: Sign on a shopping cart at Marshall's - no need for a blown up version here - though I might get one for the President

Posted by Dakota at 07:54 PM

October 24, 2007

How's the Weather?


California's burning
floods are
New Orleans
twenty four
tornadoes touched down
in Florida
one day
last week
when "severe weather"
left six
and the South
is having
an epic drought
but it's really
not so bad

so what?

if the cherries
blossomed early

in Washington D.C.
and zinnias
are all abloom
for Halloween
in Boston

it's probably not
global warming

if it

Photo note: Nice zinnia for late October in Gloucester, MA

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in context

Posted by Dakota at 08:25 AM

October 21, 2007

The Cosmos


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it's eerie
and abnormal
when the
lesser cosmos
bloom far
into October

no doubt
the greater
cosmos is
terribly awry

Photo note: Clear light and double triangles couldn't hurt

Posted by Dakota at 09:15 PM

October 20, 2007

Our Vanishing Constitution


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The other day I saw something on a computer screen called TinyWatcher. I was told that TinyWatcher looks for unwanted implants on your computer, deposited by god knows who. (Evidently Real Player is a big offender.)

Fabulous idea -- I wanted my own TinyWatcher until I realized that I know so little about my computer that even if a list of what had been installed on my computer overnight was handed to me on a platter, I wouldn't know what I didn't want. And worse, I'm really not that interested in finding out. I'll just hope for the best, that is until it's too late and I'm infested with something terrible, and my computer clogs. Oh well, I can always replace it.

Some things, however, are irreplaceable. My TinyWatcher lethargy helps me understand why people are having so much trouble paying attention to what is happening to democracy. It's complex and it's complicated and it's going down the drain, but it takes quite an effort to understand how it's happening. And guess what, the Democracy Demolition Team and their press corps prey on our disinterest.

Actually, it's not just democracy that's tanking. As we, good citizens, turn our flitting attention to baseball statistics and Reality TV, our food supply has been contaminated by agribusiness, our water and petroleum resources have been privatized, as have our armed forces and our medical and prison systems. Corporate takeover of public education has not as yet proved profitable, though No Child Left Behind has all but eliminated thinking in the classroom. Oh and our Constitution is being systematically dissembled, right before our very eyes.

Perhaps we will begin to pay attention when Great Aunt Sadie is strip searched at the airport hauled off to an island in the Indian Ocean, or maybe we simply won't miss her that much if the World Series is on.


Did you know that Bush authorized domestic spying BEFORE 9/11

Now there is a lawsuit brought by the The Electronic Frontier Foundation explained for our edification by Glenn Greenwald A short excerpt follows, but if you are a good citizen, you will read the whole thing:

The EFF/AT&T lawsuit -- based in part on the testimony and documentation of Mark Klein, a former AT&T employee -- will entail an investigation into the extent to which AT&T and other telecoms enabled the Bush administration to spy illegally on their customers. As of now, these telecom lawsuits are the best (arguably, the only real) hope for obtaining a judicial ruling as to whether these surveillance programs were illegal. Precisely for these reasons, the Bush administration is demanding "telecom amnesty" -- to bring a halt to EFF's lawsuit and thus ensure that no investigation of its spying activities on Americans ever occurs, and that no ruling is ever obtained as to whether it broke the law.

The FISA law is up for a vote once again in the Senate complete with a succulent immunity clause for the telecoms. But our democratic heroes have greatly disappointed us. It seems that they have been purchased for a pittance.

Christopher Dodd is the hero of the day because he put FISA on hold, but there will be consequences. From Dodd

The Military Commissions Act. Warrantless wiretapping. Shredding of Habeas Corpus. Torture. Extraordinary Rendition. Secret Prisons.
No more.
I have decided to place a "hold" on the latest FISA bill that would have included amnesty for telecommunications companies that enabled the President's assault on the Constitution by illegaly providing personal information on their customers without judicial authorization.
I said that I would do everything I could to stop this bill from passing, and I have.
It's about delivering results -- and as I've said before, the FIRST thing I will do after being sworn into office is restore the Constitution. But we shouldn't have to wait until then to prevent the further erosion of our country's most treasured document. That's why I am stopping this bill today.

Had enough? I have, but not before I donate to Christopher Dodd for good behavior.

Photo note: Vulnerable wires, hanging out there, just waiting to be tapped.

Posted by Dakota at 05:13 PM

October 19, 2007

October 16, 2007

Direct From Iraq


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Just in case you are sick of swallowing lies like flies, we thought we'd post a few views from the inside the Iraq that emerged over the past couple of days.

Based on an post from a soldier serving in Iraq, this video is part of a larger project by Martin Firrell who has set out to redefine the meaning of the word hero.

And speaking of same, Monday The Washington Post published an editorial written by twelve brave former army captains who served in Iraq.

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.

And finally, Truth's beautiful counterpart to the lying Ms. Perino, CBS correspondent Lara Logan told Jay Leno that things are going very badly in Iraq. She should know, since she's been there since the invasion. I love this
story about her.

Kurtz related that Lara Logan’s bosses at CBS had once asked her “to do the lighter side of Baghdad–let’s do a story about female soldiers who are keeping cyberpets online.” I guess if Kurtz had received that request, he would have jumped from his desk and begun preparing a long segment on G.I. Jane and “Barky” the Cyberdog. Logan, because she has self-respect, refused. Indeed, as Kurtz related, she emailed back, “I would rather stick needles in my eyes than spend one second of my time on that story.” Kurtz seemed appalled by this, but Stewart clearly sided with Logan. His reply to Kurtz: “Good for her.”

It seems to be a consensus.

Photo note: Many flags -- out of line

Posted by Dakota at 04:16 PM

October 11, 2007

Capturing Food Thoughts


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About a month ago I began taking two tablespoons of light olive oil each morning upon awakening, before any flavor whatsoever passed my lips, in order to lose some weight. The crucial thing about this strategy that Berkeley psychologist Seth Roberts assures me will eventually adjust my "set point" is that I must not taste ANY flavor for an hour on either side of the oil dose. I have no problem taste-fasting in the hour before I sip my oil at 6AM, since I have generally been sound asleep beforehand, and, at that sudsy/ blow dry time of day, it's not hard to wait an hour for coffee/breakfast, though not using toothpaste does feel like a small sacrifice.

Another dose of oil is recommended sometime later in the day -- it's harder for me to avoid tasting something for the hour on either side. This difficulty simply proves to me how orally challenged I am. I have come to realize that much of what I place upon my tastebuds lands unconsciously.

I am also a third of the way into Martha Beck's new psychologically based undiet book entitled "The Four Day Win" -- I find her very entertaining. Of course, had I been taking notes rather than pictures while I listened to it on tape (resistance?) I may have retained more than two ideas. One is that it takes about four days of conscious concentration to make a change, and, two, it might help to observe my food thoughts with benign curiosity as they float by.

In fact, I'm being hit by a food thought at this very moment in time, which, because I am hanging it up right in front of my consciousness, I can resist. However, I think I will get up and get a glass of water as a substitute for something much more delicious . While filling my glass with water, I remembered that I meant to put some stevia (the only safe sugar substitute, sadly) in my purse. When I opened the cupboard to get it, I caught sight of a container of sprinkles. That stimulated the thought that I might snarf a handful. Now I have sprinkles on the mind. (They are at least a year old and have not been touched since my aborted attempt to join the The Sprinkle Brigade, but, in my world of foodthinking, considering other choices in the cupboard, they were tempting).

The sprinkles did not lure me relentlessly, but there are foods that will call from the recesses of my kitchen in inexplicibly persistant ways. For example, the stale half loaf of cinnamon bread, that sends a seductive signal for m the back of the frig. If I should succumb to its questionable charms, here's what happens in my mouth as a result of the stimulation. Believe me, all that activity is hard to quiet once it gets started.

So I'm just letting my my food thoughts linger for now, trying not to act on more than half, and staying abreast of the latest in dieting news, so that I don't overwhelm myself unnecessarily.

Photo note: Food (Goose neck squash, in this case) captured and hung -- I don't think I ever had a food thought about squash until this very moment

Posted by Dakota at 11:45 AM

October 08, 2007

(Almost) All About Dana Perino


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Some of us here at Dakota have taken an intense dislike to Pretty Perky Press Secretary Perino . Perhaps it's easier to tolerate a villain who looks like one. Dana Perino makes us want to shake her until her hair product fails.

D.C. Gossip Blogger Wonkette begins her piece entitled "Sexpot Dana Perino Makes A Funny" with:

So you’re elevated to your current position because your predecessor got cancer, and every single official you represent is a thieving scumbag with 2% approval ratings, and the country is so crippled that Honduras could probably launch a successful invasion. What do you do, Dana Perino? You make Alex Trebek jokes, obviously:

Q Yes, thank you, Dana. Two questions on American business. In the -
MS. PERINO: American business for 200. (Laughter.) I’ve always wanted to be on that show. Go ahead, Les, I’m sorry..........

The press has shown more persistance and teamwork recently when responding to her perpetual evasive condescension -- watch the Dainty D squirm when they push her on torture. ( P.S. Pelosi contradicts Perino)

Marty Kaplan captures Dana P.'s slithery silver tongue perfectly for the Huffington Post:

Q: When President Bush says, "This government does not torture," isn't that true only because he got Alberto Gonzales to write a secret memo redefining the meaning of torture?

A: Yes. The Constitution grants the power to redefine words to the unitary executive.

Q: You're making that up. That's not in the Constitution.

A: Yes, it is. It's in a secret Article.

Q: But there's no such thing as a -

A: I see you're not wearing your flag lapel pin.

Q: The President says he vetoed SCHIP because it's big-spending socialized medicine. Does that mean the Republicans who voted for it are big-spending socialists?

A: Answering that would only help the terrorists.

Q: What does terrorism have to do with health care?

A: 9/11 changed everything.

Q: Dana, does President Bush agree with Rush Limbaugh that troops who don't support his Iraq policy are phony soldiers?

A: Everyone in America is entitled to our opinion.

Q: Does the President believe he needs to ask Congress for authorization if he wants to use military force against Iran?

A: As the President has said repeatedly, all options are on the table.

Q: But does he think that the Kyl-Lieberman amendment gives him that authority?

A: We appreciate the broad bipartisan support our policy enjoys.

Q: But in a New Yorker article, Seymour Hersh says sources tell him that the Administration is already planning a military strike on Iran.

A: Every few months, Sy Hersh provides us with an excellent argument against a Federal shield law for journalists.

Q: Dana, Minnesota National Guardsmen returning from Iraq have charged that the Pentagon deliberately ordered more than a thousand of them home one day short of the 730 days needed to qualify for full educational benefits under the GI Bill.

A: The President often reminds his staff that college is overrated.

Q: What's the Administration's stance on Senator Craig's refusal to resign?

A: That's for the Senate to decide.

Q: Not even a smile, Dana?

A: Any other questions?

Q: Republican Presidential candidates are avoiding mentioning President Bush on the stump. Isn't that a repudiation of his policies?

A: I don't remember Al Gore campaigning on President Clinton's record.

Q: So you think Bill Clinton will be a liability for Senator Clinton?

A: He did raise taxes.

Q: But he left you a surplus.

A: And a recession. And 9/11.

Q: 9/11 was Clinton's fault?

A: Please don't put words in my mouth.

Q: The Washington Post quotes a former senior official as saying that "nearly everyone who has left the administration is angry." Is that a fair assessment?

A: If you weren't so busy being Hezbollah's sock-puppet, Helen, you might see how ridiculous that charge is on the face of it. Lester?

Q: Dana, isn't the Democrats' attempt to tie the President's hands in Iraq a blatant interference with the powers of the Commander-in-Chief, not to mention a reminder of Senator Obama's inexperience, Senator Edwards' haircut, MoveOn.org's treason, and Chappaquiddick?

A: I'm glad you asked.

For those of you who are dying to know a little more about Da Delectable Dana's personal life, here are some juicy morsels. Unfortunately, they do not tell us where she prays, just at whose feet she worships.

Photo note: A metaphorophoto - Prettily framed mirrors reflecting a brick wall and an air conditioner

Posted by Dakota at 11:16 PM

Fun With Fundamentalism


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In his October 7, 2007 editorial in the New York Times entitled "A Nation of Christians is Not a Christian Nation", Jon Meacham rebuts John McCain's recent nod to the right wing fundamentalists. McCain repeated an evangelical article of falth “The Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation.” in an interview this week on Beliefnet.com.

A pseudonymous opponent of the Connecticut proposal had some fun with the notion of a deity who would, in a sense, be checking the index for his name: “A low mind may imagine that God, like a foolish old man, will think himself slighted and dishonored if he is not complimented with a seat or a prologue of recognition in the Constitution.” Instead, the framers, the opponent wrote in The American Mercury, “come to us in the plain language of common sense and propose to our understanding a system of government as the invention of mere human wisdom; no deity comes down to dictate it, not a God appears in a dream to propose any part of it.”

Actually, fundamentalists have been in the news lately, making hay over at Oral Roberts U, and worrying radio stations about airing famous American poems-- it's not just Christian fundamentalists either.

So all of us Goddess Wannabes here at Dakota figured we'd hop on the bandwagon and tell our readers why fundamentalists hate Noah's Ark.

While we're at it, we would also like to introduce you to a revised fundamentalist text -- The Dr. Seuss Bible.

Oh, God

Photo note: A cross in light and shadow on a funeral cubby at Mt. Auburn Cemetery where a veritable plethora of Unitarians are buried.

Posted by Dakota at 11:08 AM

October 05, 2007

The Occasional Attention to Beauty


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To live content with small means;
to seek elegance rather than luxury,
and refinement rather than fashion;
to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not, rich;
to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with open heart;
to study hard; to think quietly, act frankly, talk gently,
await occasions, hurry never;
in a word,
to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common -
this is my symphony.

---"Symphony" by William Henry Channing

He was wont to say: “Men are so inclined to content themselves with what is commonest; the spirit and the senses so easily grow dead to the impressions of the beautiful and perfect, that every one should study, by all methods, to nourish in his mind the faculty of feeling these things. For no man can bear to be entirely deprived of such enjoyments: it is only because they are not used to taste of what is excellent, that the generality of people take delight in silly and insipid things, provided they be new. For this reason,” he would add, “one ought every day at least to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.”

-- from Goethe's "Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship"

Underwear unknotted yet?

Photo note: The cliche editor approved a flower picture in honor of the occasion - honeysuckle rose

Posted by Dakota at 05:46 PM

A Stroll Down the Warpath


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Senator Robert Byrd had a few pointed words to say to his colleagues about their shocking support of the Kyl-Lieberman amendment on Iran:

It is deeply troubling to see the U.S. Senate joining the chest-pounding and saber-rattling of the Bush administration. I am no apologist for the Iranian regime, anymore than I was for Saddam Hussein, but I fear that we may become entangled in another bloody quagmire. We have been down this path before. We have seen all too clearly where it leads.

Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker is deeply troubled too, and he's been right about a lot of testosterone saturated secrets in his day. Hersh thinks Bush will invade Iran, in spite of our Stepford Press Automoton's evasively snotty denials. The hero of mainstream media, Keith Olbermann interviewed Hersh on Countdown, and you can watch the movie, if your underwear isn't sufficiently knotted.

Larry Beinhart does a little myth bashing at AlterNet by exposing the warmongering lies that are meant to lead us down the warpath -- this time.

Fog Fact No. 1: The president of Iran is not a dictator. -The position of president used to be a figurehead, but recently it was combined with that of prime minister and now has much real power. However, he does not control the army and the intelligence and security services. He does not have the power to go to war.

Fog Fact No. 2: The "appeasement" in the myth is very specific and rather narrow. - It refers to one country taking over the territory -- or the whole -- of another country.....It does not refer to "allowing" one country to posture, threaten, arm or rearm.

Fog Fact No. 3: Sometimes "appeasement" works well; it was American policy for 50 years.

Fog Fact No. 4: Nobody is speaking of what happens after a war with Iran.- The ultimate goal of the strategy of war is the shape of the peace that follows.

More? Debra Cagan, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Coalition Affairs to Defense Secretary Robert Gates confided to a group of British MPs visiting the Pentagon "I hate Iranians". Although the lady looks like she needs to increase her current dose of estrogen (maybe it's just those fascist fashion choices) -- we must keep in mind that she's immersed in the prevailing consciousness of the Offense Department.

Well, time's growing short for this administration, and George W. could certainly use another feather in his cap so he has something to put in his library.

Photo note: A metaphorophoto -- brilliant white markers along a familiar path -- the flag and its shadow - kindly disregard the peaceful body of water at the end

Posted by Dakota at 04:55 PM

October 03, 2007



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It's a good idea to pay attention to Blackwater, however unsavory, since its for profit armies are coming to a street corner near you . Ask the good people of New Orleans about being "contained" by Blackwater personnel after Katrina. This perky private army is growing -- recruiting red blooded American testosterone addicts, in addition to fierce warriors from bloodbaths around the world to carry forth its dubious mission.

The House Oversight Committee is conducting an investigation into Blackwater activities in Iraq (skipping over the 17 people they recently assassinated, because Blackwater is in the process of doing their "own" undoubtedly impartial investigation). Eric Prince (of Darkness), Blackwater's elusive CEO, came out of hiding to testify. The folks at Firedoglake were not impressed by the media coverage. This comment on their blog cuts to the heart of the matter:

war profiteers and mercenaries. these were once anathema to the political mainstream, not to mention the public at large. now, the serious people embrace them, and the conversation is about their efficiency and return on investment. could someone explain where the shame went in our lives? has the relentless force feeding of white-is-black, down-is-up permanently poisoned the pool of values from which we all drink? sadly, this doesn’t change even if the reins of power slip from reps to dems. this looks like it’s here forever.

According to the Washington Post Blackwater's services are not cheap

Blackwater's pricing was to be on "a per person support basis, not including costs for housing, subsistence, vehicles and large equipment items," according to the contract. The team would be made up of two senior managers, 12 middle managers and 20 operators.

Regency was to provide Blackwater personnel with housing and necessities, including meals, as well as office space and administrative support. In addition, Regency would provide basic equipment, including vehicles and heavy weapons, while Blackwater was responsible for purchasing individual weapons and ammunition.

According to data provided to the House panel, the average per-day pay to personnel Blackwater hired was $600. According to the schedule of rates, supplies and services attached to the contract, Blackwater charged Regency $1,075 a day for senior managers, $945 a day for middle managers and $815 a day for operators.

According to data provided to the House panel, Regency charged ESS an average of $1,100 a day for the same people. How the Blackwater and Regency security charges were passed on by ESS to Halliburton's KBR cannot easily be determined since the catering company was paid on a per-meal basis, with security being a percentage of that charge.

This compares to:

An unmarried sergeant given Iraq pay and relief from U.S. taxes makes about $83 to $85 a day, given time in service. A married sergeant with children makes about double that, $170 a day.

Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Baghdad overseeing more than 160,000 U.S. troops, makes roughly $180,000 a year, or about $493 a day. That comes out to less than half the fee charged by Blackwater for its senior manager of a 34-man security team

Of course Eric Prince and his family are tied to Bush with a big magnetic yellow ribbon.

In a veiled threat to Oversight Committee Chairman, Henry Waxman, California Republican Representative Darrell Issa warns Waxman that he will be guarded by Blackwater personnel should he choose to personally investigate its activities further in Iraq.

Really, if you have a little time, watch Democracy Now's in depth coverage of the hearings, and see the debonaire, fundamentalist Christian, war entrepreneur make sweet talk for yourself.

Photo note: Forget blackwater, florescent pond scum is more like it

UPDATE: "House moves to rein in security contractors"

Posted by Dakota at 11:36 AM