September 28, 2007 archive

“River Rising”: The Washita Flood of 1934

Seventeen lives were lost in the Washita Flood of 1934, that brought about the
  flood prevention system for the surrounding area.
Little known is this flood with its impact and death toll. Less known than that is the Cheyenne Arapaho band that escaped that flood and why they survived. Nearly completely unknown is the short conversation my grandfather had with their Chief as he led his people to higher ground…

These Boots are Made For Walking

Magnifico said:

These boots are made for walking (4.00 / 2)

Marching right over the Bill of Rights.
Someone clever could do a mash-up with Nancy Sinatra’s song and Condi Rice’s fascist fashions.

Well, I searched around for somebody clever, but I couldn’t find anyone. I decided to give it a go myself…

Breaking: Coup/Army Mutiny in Myanmar

(cross-posted from Daily Kos)

Note – as I prepared a previous Diary, I recieved news via Cbox that a coup had been initiated and quickly drafted the following story first posted at Daily Kos you may refer to updates and discussion there.


The dissident website The Burma File in London is reporting news of an Army Mutiny and Political Coup with Than Shwe disposed by No. 2 General Maung Aye.

“Fuck you, army. We only want democracy.”

Myanmar: Junta Cuts The Line, People Crank The Volume Up

Protests turn to hit & run confrontation as people follow monks into the streets

Four at Four

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

  1. The New York Times reports that a senior State Department calls the Kurd oil deal at odds with Baghdad. “A senior State Department official in Baghdad acknowledged Thursday that the first American oil contract in Iraq, that of the Hunt Oil Company of Dallas with the Kurdistan Regional Government, was at cross purposes with the stated United States foreign policy of strengthening the country’s central government… ¶ Hunt Oil, a closely held company, signed a production-sharing agreement with the Kurdistan Regional Government this month. The company’s chief executive and president, Ray L. Hunt, is a close political ally of President Bush and serves on the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board… ¶ The embassy official said at least four other American and international oil companies had consulted with the State Department about energy investment in Iraq… ¶ Iraqi Kurdish officials bristled Thursday at word that the Iraqi central government would sign an agreement with Turkey on Friday that Kurds fear might pave the way for Turkish soldiers to cross into Iraq to pursue Turkish Kurdish separatists who take refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan.” In semi-related news, Spiegel has an interview with Seymour Hersh claiming Bush has ‘accepted ethnic cleansing’ in Iraq.

    The Surge means basically that, in some way, the president has accepted ethnic cleansing, whether he’s talking about it or not. When he first announced the Surge in January, he described it as a way to bring the parties together. He’s not saying that any more. I think he now understands that ethnic cleansing is what is going to happen. You’re going to have a Kurdistan. You’re going to have a Sunni area that we’re going to have to support forever. And you’re going to have the Shiites in the South.

  2. News from Aghanistan in The Guardian today — Taliban stands to recapture territory, warns Nato commander. “The Taliban stands to recapture ground this winter previously lost to British forces, the Nato commander in Afghanistan has warned. ¶ General Dan McNeill said the alliance had made important military gains in the past six months. ¶ But he said Afghan security forces might not be able to hold the territory as the Taliban regroups during the winter.” The BBC has more with Gen. McNeill in Afghan gains ‘could be lost’. Even more on McNeill and the detiorating situation in Afghanistan in my essay, ‘Top Commander in Afghanistan Doubts Taliban Ever Defeated‘.

  3. According to the Los Angeles Times, the U.S. Army looks to accelerate expansion. “Army Secretary Pete Geren said the planned expansion from its official size of 482,000 to 547,000, announced by President Bush in December as the first post-Cold War increase in U.S. forces, should be completed in four years rather than five to alleviate the strain on troops from frequent combat tours… ¶ The new Army plan would attempt to build the larger force in a shorter time by instead moving aggressively to retain personnel. ¶ The military has begun to consider options beyond the traditional cash bonuses and college scholarships to entice soldiers to continue service. New approaches under consideration include the promise of graduate school for young officers and the offer of educational benefits for career soldiers’ children. ¶ The new approaches reflect the continuing fallout of the 4 1/2-year-old Iraq war… ¶ Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Thursday that he was inclined to support the Army plan to speed up the expansion. But he said he would not allow the Army to enlist more recruits without high school diplomas.” The AP has more in Gates expects to approve Army expansion. The Army’s proposal would cost “nearly $3 billion extra”.

  4. Of course, more Blackwater coverage today.

    • Reporting for The New York Times in ‘Blackwater Shooting Scene Was Chaotic‘, James Glanz and Sabrina Tavernise write “Participants in a contentious Baghdad security operation this month have told American investigators that during the operation at least one guard continued firing on civilians while colleagues urgently called for a cease-fire. At least one guard apparently also drew a weapon on a fellow guard who did not stop shooting, an American official said.” After an IED detonated near to where “senior American officials” were meeting, Blackwater mercenaries decided to evacuate the officials from a “secure compound” instead of remaining in lock down until the situation on the Baghdad streets calmed down. During the September 16th Nisour Square massacre, Blackwater first shot a man driving a car and his passengers, a woman holding an infant.

      After the family was shot, a type of grenade or flare was fired into the car, setting it ablaze, according to some accounts. Other Iraqis were also killed as the shooting continued. Iraqi officials have given several death counts, ranging from 8 to 20, with perhaps several dozen wounded. American officials have said that no Americans were hurt.

      At some point during the shooting, one or more Blackwater guards called for a cease-fire, according to the American official. The word cease-fire “was supposedly called out several times,” the official said. “They had an on-site difference of opinion,” he said.

      In the end, a Blackwater guard “got on another one about the situation and supposedly pointed a weapon,” the official said. “That’s what prompted this internal altercation,” the official said.

      The official added that in the urgent moment of a shooting events could often become confused, and cautioned against leaping to hasty conclusions about who was to blame.

      AFP has more coverage in Blackwater besieged by more Iraq allegations. “‘The Americans are embarrassed,’ said Jalal Al-Din Al-Saghir, a member of parliament from the ruling Shiite majority. ‘What happened … is a crime.’ ‘To deter the company it is not enough to accuse it, it should first be condemned then closed down,’ he added.” The Washington Post has even more in ‘First Blush’ Report Raises New Questions on Shooting. The story details how the Army had to restore calm and extract Blackwater from the shootout. “‘The U.S. Army QRF’ — quick-reaction force — ‘arrived on scene at 12:39 hours and mediated the situation,’ the report said. ‘They escorted TST 22 out of the area and successfully back to the [Green Zone] without further incident.'” TST is a Blackwater ‘tactical support team’.

    • The New York Times reports by State Department count, there have been 56 shootings involving Blackwater so far this year while guarding American diplomats in Iraq. According to a State Department letter signed by Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte, Blackwater made 1,873 “convoy runs” in Iraq and its employees fired weapons 56 times.

      Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has asked Mr. Negroponte to oversee the department’s response to problems with security contractors. A government official who was briefed on an hourlong meeting involving State Department officials on Thursday morning said that Ms. Rice had appeared surprised at the report that Blackwater had been involved in a higher rate of shootings than its competitors.

      “She needs to be convinced that Blackwater’s hands are clean,” the government official said. Ms. Rice was also said to be taken aback by pressure from Representative Henry A. Waxman, the California Democrat who is chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, who issued an angry letter to her this week complaining about what he saw as the State Department’s efforts to block his panel’s investigation into Blackwater.

      The meeting on Thursday with Ms. Rice seems to signal that the State Department’s leaders now recognize that the Blackwater issue is more serious than they had first thought, and that it may become harder for the Bush administration to defend Blackwater and allow the company to retain its prominent role in providing diplomatic security in Iraq.

    • According to McClatchy Newspapers, Blackwater guards killed 16 as U.S. touted progress. “As [U.S. Ambassador Ryan] Crocker and [Army Gen. David] Petraeus told Congress that the surge of more U.S. troops to Iraq was beginning to work and President Bush gave a televised address in which he said “ordinary life was beginning to return” to Baghdad, Blackwater security guards shot at least 43 people on crowded Baghdad streets. At least 16 of those people died… ¶ It was an astounding amount of violence attributed to Blackwater. In the same eight-day period, according to statistics compiled by McClatchy Newspapers, other acts of violence across the embattled capital claimed the lives of 32 people and left 87 injured, not including unidentified bodies found dumped on Baghdad’s streets.” The article gives accounts of many Iraqis being gunned down by Blackwater in cold blood including Batoul Mohammed Ali Hussein, a clerk in the Iraqi customs office in Diyala province, and four others in Khilani Square.

    • The House oversight commitee has released their findings on the death of four Blackwater USA employees in Fallujah, Iraq. “These eyewitness accounts and investigative reports conflict with Blackwater’s assertion that they sent the team out with sufficient preparation and equipment.” The committee’s full report (pdf) is available. The Virginian-Pilot has coverage on the report, Congressional probe faults Blackwater in Fallujah ambush. ” A congressional investigation has found Blackwater USA at fault on multiple levels in the infamous 2004 Fallujah convoy ambush in which four of its operatives were killed by Iraqi insurgents. The report, issued Thursday, also accuses Blackwater of repeated efforts to stonewall the investigation, even defying a congressional subpoena at one point.”

      The March 31, 2004, ambush in the restive Sunni Arab stronghold of Fallujah, in which two of the victims’ mutilated bodies were hung from a bridge, drew worldwide attention and prompted a devastating retaliatory assault on the city by U.S. military forces that fueled the Iraqi insurgency to new heights.

      The report by investigators on the staff of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee says Blackwater “ignored multiple warnings about the dangers of traveling through Fallujah, cut essential personnel from the mission, and failed to supply its team with armored vehicles, machine guns, sufficient threat intelligence, or even maps of the area.”

      Based on reports from Blackwater, the company that held the contract previously, the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the investigation found details of the incident “disturbing, revealing an unprepared and disorderly organization operating in a hostile environment. Mistake apparently compounded mistake.”

      The investigators concluded that Blackwater’s actions “raise serious questions about the consequences of engaging private, for-profit entities to engage in essentially military operations in a war zone.”

      One of the four sections in the 18-page report was labeled “Impediments to the Committee Investigation.” The report says Blackwater consistently delayed and impeded the inquiry, erroneously claiming that the relevant documents were classified and then seeking to get them retroactively classified. The committee finally issued a subpoena for the documents, but Blackwater still refused to comply. It was only after the committee threatened a vote to hold Blackwater in contempt of Congress that the company produced the documents, according to the report.

      The Washington Post story seemed surprised to report that Blackwater is focused on cost, not safety, report says. “The private security firm Blackwater USA brushed aside warnings from another security firm and focused on cost, not safety… ¶ The report disclosed that another complicating factor was a contract dispute with a different company. The report suggested that Blackwater never intended to armor its own vehicles. Instead, Blackwater employees were told to ‘string along’ the other company in hopes of forcing them out of their contract or giving them ‘no choice but to buy us armored cars,’ according to interviews by the committee staff with Blackwater officials.” Blackwater, of course, claims the report is “one-sided”.

    • The Pentagon announced on Thursday that Blackwater was awarded a $92 million contract to deliver people and cargo. “Presidential Airways, Inc., an aviation Worldwide Services company (d/b/a Blackwater Aviation), Moyock, N.C., is being awarded an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (IDIQ) type contract for $92,000,000.00. The contractor is to provide all fixed-wing aircraft, personnel, equipment, tools, material, maintenance and supervision necessary to perform passenger, cargo and combi Short Take-Off and Landing air transportation services between locations in the Area of Responsibility of Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan. This contract was competitively procured and two timely offers were received. The performance period is from 1 October 2007 to 30 September 2011. The United States Transportation Command Acquisition Directorate, Scott Air Force Base, Ill., is the contracting activity (HTC7 11 -08-D-0010).”

News on mammoth cloning beneath the fold…

Writing to George: Pledges, Oaths, and White Rabbits

I have never been a truly religious person. I have my faith. And as my grandfather used to tell me, that’s between me and…well at the time, Harvey. Yes…the big white, invisible pooka of Jimmy Stewart fame.

That was pretty useful since my other grandfather a) never went to church, b) growled at the minister when he did show up at the farm, and c) had an interesting relationship with the land that I would now call magical.

In their own ways, both of my grandfathers instilled some basic things in my brain.

1. Faith is personal.
2. Question Authority…or even those who carry the trappings of authority.
3. Think critically about stuff…don’t just accept stuff, even loyalty to country, blindly.
4. Oaths and pledges are supposed to be taken seriously.
5. Eat my veggies.

The Dollar Got It’s Ass Kicked Overnight — Pluto Gets Rich

The dollar is got pummeled against all major currencies today.  It’s a dangerous time for the greenback because it has plunged below its all-time lows (set back in 1992).  Often major breaks below key levels can lead to a whole new wave of selling. I’m seeing that start to play out against the dollar today.  It’s going to get very ugly for the dollar before it gets better. 

This is fabulous news for YOU!

Remember when Marty McFly got his hands on that sports almanac, and took it back to the past? That cleap little almanac became the most valuable item on the face of the planet — because the person who possessed it knew how reality was going to unfold — and could wager on it.

It was a sure thing! And so is the dollar (for the next 6 to 18 months) — as long as you bet against America you can be a millionaire lickity split. I’ll show you one way I’m doing it, below the fold.

Dispatches From The Abyss

Does that title suck or what? Todays first item in the mosylikelysoontoberenamedcolumn Dispatches From The Abyss; I need a new name for this column.

I grew up reading Herb Caen… One of the all-time great newspaper columnists, though I am obviously prejudiced. How can I resist trying out a column format now that I have a place where we can write anything we want? Herb was known as the father of three dot journalism….

Those who know my style(s) can see his influence there. Though I tend to use the three dots differently…I like the rhythm they give. I have no idea where all the exclamations points come from…except the desire to see peoples heads esplode when I use way too many exclamation points. But to me they signal a rising upbeat tone at the end of a sentence…and I like that!!!

On the sad anniversary of “More and Better Democrats”

The slogan “More and Better Democrats” has taken firm root of late in blogospherical political culture.  After Darcy Burner recently adopted it for last month’s fundraising appeal to mark Bush’s visit to her district to plump for her opponent, I decided to do some wordsleuthing to derive its original usage.  This has all been DKos-Search-and-Google-based work, so of course it’s not definitive — and I’d welcome any corrections — but I found it interesting for reasons that will become obvious.

The phrase has been attributed to Darcy and to Howie Klein, but most often (and, as it turns out, with fair reason) to Atrios.

Today is the second anniversary of the first utterance of the phrase in the progressive blogosphere and the first anniversary of its first use as a political slogan.  Within three hours after its appearing on Eschaton, it was stolen and used repeatedly and self-consciously on this site as a rallying cry.  The perp, I was surprised to discover, was me, one year ago today.

So that means that I really /can/ explain its original usage: it was coined out of despair and grief.  That’s because today is not /solely/ the anniversary of “More and Better Democrats.”  Read on.


Still Photos from Edgewood Arsenal: Human Experimentation Seen Up Close

Crossposted from Invictus

Thanks to tigana for the link to this online resource regarding the U.S. Army’s decades-long experimentation of biological and chemical agents on human subjects. The site has a number of documentary photographs from the testing at Edgewood itself. The photos include both animal and human exerimentation. They are shocking in their display of cold, clinical, Nazi-like science. I recommend following up by reading the link to the Senate hearings included below. I will have much more to say on this subject in the near future.

Whistle Blowing Primer

Today I am selling my laptop if the prospective buyer actually buys. 

Everything else I own is in storage and it is all for sale.  I haven’t found buyers for it, and none of it has any real value. 

But it’s what’s left after whistle blowing and experiencing years of retaliation. 

I use it to sell in order to pay for places to stay, as I am homeless, permanently jobless and have no ability to compete for jobs playing by your rules. 

What is retaliation? 

To me, it has included an active threat of death, being shot at, experiencing extreme isolation, ostracism, shunning, defamation, stalking, theft, and fraud.  The least of it has been promises that I will never work again.

I am only sharing this here because progressives so easily and loudly proclaim the duty of people to whistle blow.  I don’t believe there is any real understanding of the dangerousness of that act, nor of the consequences which rain down on the person who does try to speak truth to power.

Whistleblowers have been likened to bees: a whistleblowing employee has only one sting to use, and using it may well lead to career suicide. In a survey of 87 American whistleblowers from both public service and private industry all but one experienced retaliation, with those employed longer experiencing more. Whistleblowers face economic and emotional deprivation, victimisation, and personal abuse and they receive little help from statutory authorities.

  Better off dead is not an exaggeration of the fate of whistle blowers.  There is no charity or respite for us.  Most of us die early deaths, from the research that is done. 

How could we not? 

The typical whistleblower’s health is very poor. In a survey I did in 1993, reported in the British Medical Journal (1), 29 of the 35 subjects had an average of 3.6 symptoms at the time of the survey. Though high, this was less than the average of 5.3 at the time they blew the whistle. The most common were difficulty sleeping, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and feelings of guilt and unworthiness. They also suffered from nervous diarrhoea, trouble breathing, stomach problems, loss of appetite, loss of weight, high blood pressure, palpitations, hair loss, grinding teeth, nightmares, headaches, tiredness, weeping, tremor, urinary frequency, ‘stress’, and ‘loss of trust’. Fifteen subjects (i.e. over half of those with symptoms) were now on medication they had not been on before blowing the whistle – for depression, stomach ulcers, and high blood pressure.

The reason for this poor state of health is clear. They had suffered intense victimization at work, being made redundant, demoted, dismissed, or pressured to resign; their position was abolished, or they were transferred. While still in the workplace they were isolated, physically and personally; were given impossible tasks to perform, menial work, or no work at all; were subjected to constant scrutiny and verbal abuse, forced to see psychiatrists, threatened with defamation actions and disciplinary actions; were constantly criticised, fined, subjected to internal inquiries, adverse reports; and received death and other threats. The most common outcome was to resign because of ill health caused by the victimization. The treatment they receive appears to be standard, and is described in more detail, for example, by Bill de Maria in his large survey of Queensland whistleblowers. (2)

As a result of what happened they also suffered severe financial loss. Only eight of the 35 subjects had not suffered any loss of income; in twelve cases their income was reduced by over 75%. They faced large medical, other, and particularly legal costs, and in over half the cases their estimated total financial loss was in hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Families disappear.  Wherever we go, people literally turn their backs, or they attack.  Friends – who are those phantoms?  We are sitting ducks just because we played by the rules which are also in place to kill us and our knowledge.  Trust which is stripped from us will never return.  We are less than human. 

The very ethical framework which caused us to speak truth to power over the recognition of authority figures to direct unethical and illegal behavior causes us to be seen as – in the terms you use frequently – nuts and wacko. 

In my own case, even though I kept as much evidence as possible, no one was interested in receiving it and doing anything with it.  So I acted ethically in a true vacuum. That’s the norm. 

There are few, if any, parties who are interested in acting on whistle blowers’ findings because to even acknowledge what is truth is dangerous. 

So I leave you with just an inkling of what happens when someone is even being encouraged to whistle blow with many more “protections” than I had (none). 

And a warning:  unless you are willing to stand up and with whistle blowers, you have no right to ask anyone to sacrifice his or her life for you. Because that’s exactly what it is – certain lethality.

That doesn’t mean spouting attaboys and way to go’s on blogs.  That means giving them jobs, sheltering them, supporting their legal expenses, and protecting them from physical and emotional harm.  It means not abandoning them after they have been used for their information and discarded not unlike rotting fruit. 

There is no effective whistle-blower protection system, and there needs to be.

Those with power – sometimes that’s legal power, political power and firepower – real weaponry, and deep pockets and resources are brought to bear – to oppress by any means available – those few of us who truly stand alone.  Here’s just a very tiny taste (pdf) of what whistle-blowing is like.  And Waxman’s admonishments to the contrary, there are no real protections for whistle-blowers.  We are on our own.  We have no lobby group, no movement, no supporters.  We have no one and less than nothing.  Remember that the next time you cockily and breezily demand whistle-blowing.

Remember – someday, it will be you.

Pony Party, bereft of alliteration.

And I’m not feeling at all wordy today. Must be a weekend coming up.

Let’s see if this will embed: 

Well, it’s not showing up in my preview, so how ’bout a picture? I can do those:
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