September 19, 2007 archive

Ummm, I really don’t have an opinion on that.

Oh, really.  No opinion?  None?  A blank piece of paper on the topic?  Bullshit. 

To make money to pay for my internet connection, food, and other stuff necessary to keep on, I spend my days as a media strategist at a marketing communications firm.  (OK, fine.  It's an advertising agency.)  We spend our time trying to get people to initiate some kind of behavior.  Buy something.  Use something.  Switch from something else.  It's an honest living, though maybe close to the line.  Anyway, we do a lot of research.  Focus groups.  One on one interviews.  Copy tests.  Taste tests.  Surveys.  And through all that, one thing that I find utterly baffling is when someone says:  I don't have an opinion on that.”

Four at Four

This is an OPEN THREAD. Here are four stories in the news at 4 o’clock to get you started. My apologies in advance, but today’s Four at Four news is all related to Iraq.

  1. The fallout from the Bush administration using private contractors for security for U.S. officials in Iraq continues and with Rice’s apology yesterday on the behalf of Blackwater and the company’s own defiant non-apology, it is clear that the Bush administration will not abandon its Praetorian Guard anytime soon.

    The Guardian reports that now the U.S. has restricted diplomat travel in Iraq. “The US has suspended all land travel by its diplomats and other civilian officials outside Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone due to an “increased threat” in the aftermath of the alleged killing of civilians by the American embassy’s security provider, Blackwater. ¶ The move came as the Iraqi government appeared to back down from its initial statements after Sunday’s shootout that it would order Blackwater’s 1,000 personnel to leave the country. ¶ ‘We are not intending to stop them and revoke their licence indefinitely, but we do need them to respect the law and the regulation here in Iraq,’ a government spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh” said. The article reports that 20 Iraqis were killed in the Blackwater shootout, eleven more than originally reported.

    AFP also is reporting that the Iraqi government is apparently backing down from kicking out Blackwater from Iraq even though Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki wants them to be replaced. ‘For their own interests, the Americans should hire a new company to protect their people so they can move freely… This is a big crime and the seventh such crime committed by this company and which has been registered by the interior ministry,’ Maliki said.” However the article quotes Dabbagh: “We understand that this company is giving security to embassy staff so we don’t want to revoke their licence permanently.”

    It seems obvious that pressure is being applied to the Iraqi government and not Blackwater USA, which leaves Time magazine to run a headline for a story featuring quotes from Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice asking can the U.S. live without Blackwater? “When asked if the State Department should reconsider its reliance on such companies to secure U.S. personnel, Rice said not yet. ‘It’s very early to try to do that kind of analysis, I think.’ In the meantime, the State Department has just announced the formation of a new, joint U.S.-Iraqi commission that will handle details of the Blackwater episode, an apparent attempt to defuse the growing controversy.”

  2. The Los Angeles Times also reports that normally misdeeds by private security contractors are covered-up. “Several U.S. diplomats speaking on condition of anonymity said in interviews that past private security misdeeds had been swept under the rug. ¶ ‘It’s one of the big holes we’ve had in our policy: the lack of control, the lack of supervision over the security force,’ a U.S. diplomat told The Times on condition of anonymity because of the topic’s sensitivity. ‘No one took on the responsibility of policing these units, neither the military or the Regional Security Office [the embassy’s security department]… So many people, not just the Blackwater people, are there in Baghdad unsupervised with basically diplomatic immunity,’ he said.” And, it is not just Iraqis who are the target of Blackwater, the company has also shot at other private security firms. “‘They are untouchable. They’ve shot up other private security contractors, Iraqi military, police and civilians,’ said one security contractor, who declined to give his name because of the sensitivity of the issue.”

  3. McClatchy Newspapers has a story about two survivors of the Blackwater USA shootout that happened at a busy Baghdad traffic roundabout on Sunday.

    Hassan Jaber Salma, 50, a lawyer who suffered eight gunshot wounds in the incident, said he and other motorists were attempting to clear a path for the convoy when the Blackwater guards suddenly strafed the line of traffic with gunfire.

    Sami Hawas Karim, 42, a taxi driver who was shot in the hip and side, said he, too, had stopped for the convoy when he saw the guards suddenly open fire on a car bearing a man, a woman and a small child. The guards then opened fire on maintenance workers in the square, the car in front of him, the car behind him and a minibus full of girls.

    When he felt the pain of his two wounds, he opened the door of his car and fell to the ground; his 13-year-old son in the car with him wasn’t harmed. “I thought about my family and my five kids,” he said. “I remembered my two brothers who were killed, and I said to myself, ‘I’m going to be the third.'”

    …Neither of the two survivors interviewed at Baghdad’s Yarmouk Hospital said he’d heard explosions or gunfire before the Blackwater guards opened fire on cars that had stopped to allow a four-vehicle convoy to pass.

    Salma said that as the Blackwater guards opened fire, he turned his car into oncoming traffic in an effort to escape, only to have Iraqi soldiers nearby also begin firing on him, apparently fearing that he was a suicide bomber. Ducking his head to avoid bullets that slammed into the driver’s seat and dashboard, he lost control of the car and slammed into a truck carrying cooking gas canisters, breaking three ribs.

    “I swear they were not attacked by anything,” said Salma, his torso wrapped in a heavy plaster cast and his breathing labored from gunshot wounds in the chest, stomach and back. His wife sobbed next to him.

    Both Karim and Salma said a helicopter was on the scene. Salma said it also fired into the line of cars, contradicting Blackwater’s statement that its helicopter didn’t open fire.

    CNN has more from the two men in “Wounded Iraqis: ‘No one did anything’ to provoke Blackwater“. “‘So we turned back, and as we turned back they opened fire at all cars from behind,’ Salman said. ‘All my injuries, the bullets are in my back… Within two minutes the security force arrived in planes — part of the security company Blackwater. They started firing randomly at all citizens.'”

  4. Lastly, BBC News is reporting that the Pope ‘refused to meet with Rice’. “Pope Benedict XVI refused a recent request by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to discuss the Middle East and Iraq, Vatican sources say. ¶ The Pope refused a request for an audience during the August holidays. Senior Vatican sources told the BBC the Pope does not normally receive politicians on his annual holiday at the Castelgandolfo residence near Rome. But one leading Italian newspaper said it was an evident snub by the Vatican towards the Bush administration.” The story gives two reasons for the Pope’s refusal. “It was Ms Rice who just before the outbreak of the Iraq war in March 2003 made it clear to a special papal envoy sent from Rome, Cardinal Pio Laghi, that the Bush administration was not interested in the views of the late Pope on the immorality of launching its planned military offensive.” The second reason is the Vactican says Iraqi Christians are not protected under the Iraqi’s new constitution.

So is there any news outside of Iraq today?

A Very Disturbing Found Object

I’ve long been a fan of found objects.

They could take the form of a discarded piece of still-functional furniture hauled out to the sidewalk, and quite possibly with a hand-written “Free! Take Me!” sign affixed to it with masking tape. Perhaps a photograph. A plastic toy whose time on the street has left it gravel-scratched, and therefore, to me anyway, somehow more appealing. On a morning walk to work back in June, as schools were letting out for the summer, I happened upon a rather elaborate, hand-drawn, construction and manila paper game board that some youngster presumably crafted for a school project. The name of their invented game, delightfully, is Osos Locos, and while I was disappointed that my surruptitious treasure did not include the game cards as well, I was pleased enough with my find to share it in the office–an online retailer of games, ironically–for all to enjoy, which we still do.

For some parts of this colorful chunk of the planet I now call home, I employ an advisable look but don’t touch rule. Off-puttingly soiled or otherwise unportable items upon which I stumble may only come back home with me in memory or photograpic form.

And some found objects are truly unsettling, such as the scrap of paper that I’m going to put into the shredder imminently.


I’m working remotely today so I’ve got cspan on the tube in the living room. Every time I walk into the room it seems some republican senator is blathering on in opposition to Jim Webb’s amendment to mandate that stateside time matches deployment time (I’ll leave it to others to detail said amendment).
On and on they go where they’ll stop I’m afraid only they know.

A Civil Debate

To judge by how I/P discussions proceed on blogs and end up tearing them to pieces with the vitriol from both sides, it would seem there’s no other way and that the topic can’t even be discussed.

I’d just like to call your attention to the debate series called The Doha Debates. I’ve only watched one, when it was on BBC, the March 28th, 2007 one, on the topic of Palestinians’ right of return, and found it very illuminating, unlike the invective-laced “discussion” anything I/P brings out on the blogs.

If these people can talk civilly with one another and share their life-and-death opposed perspectives without killing one another or insulting one another’s integrity, surely people here can too:

Pushing Tin

John Carr, the former president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association is another whose whistle-blowing cost him his job. He writes an absolutely riveting blog called The Main Bang. You don’t need to know a thing about air traffic control to like it.


It’s all about worker safety and passenger safety.  It’s all about Republicans gutting the air traffic controllers’ safety provisions.  It’s all about Dems fighting back.

It’s all about legislation that needs your support right now.  This week.

It’s all about Americans remaining safe in the air and on the ground.

It’s all about how the FAA has acted in bad faith, aided and abetted by the Rethugs.

Here.  Have a look. You’ll feel the need for speed (dialing your Congress member, that is.)

Abortion QuickFlashes from

Welcome to

These and other stories focusing on abortion, reproductive rights, birth control and right wing sexual hypocrisy were featured at the HotFlashReport this week.  Stop by and just read.  Or, sign up for an account in order to comment and post Diaries yourself. 

NOTE that the NEWS Page has daily feeds from:  BuzzFlash,, Feminist Majority Foundation, OurBodiesOurBlog, Media Matters, Smirking Chimp, Talk2Action, Women’s e-News, RH Reality Check, and DailyKos Abortion Tag.  With one click, you can get an overview of the important abortion-related news of the day.  So, check here daily for a one-stop news source.


okay… let’s keep it goin’ you swashbucklers and swine… those Errol Flynn-like sexy or toothless and grimy… talk about yer favorite movies

here’s an interesting site that claims to list every pirate movie ever made

but to get you started:

hay hay hay… it’s pfiore8 in the corral today… featuring pirate films. so start yer chit and chatting… but first, a Pirate Song by George Harrison (really… stick with it for a few seconds…)

in Other news…

This is a weekly roundup of news related to the gay, lesbian, bi, trans, and otherwise “other” community.

  • Proof that non-heterosexual orientation is destructive towards a healthy military environment,… or not… the British Armed Forces are holding their third annual Joint Service LGBT conference.  Despite the repeated warnings of our brave Congressmen on this side of the Pond, you can almost hear the Queen’s military crumbling under the fear and suspicion that openly gay servicemembers create:

    All three services have approved the two day event, at which service personnel will be updated on developments in diversity training, participate in presentations and workshops, and take advantage of a social networking opportunity for personnel and their partners.

More below…

The House of Wisdom

Most of the younger detainees are held in a facility that the military calls the “House of Wisdom.”

The House of Wisdom is a prison for kids.

Talk Like a Pirate Day is actually… w/poll

an insideous plot by followers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (may he be praised, Ra-men)!

The Steam Vent

(x-posted from PFF)

Every now and then, one simply needs to vent. Here’s mine for today, feel free to add your own!

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