October 1, 2007 archive

What We Have Lost: Impeachment As Existential Imperative

In the past weeks, even the most ardent Democratic partisans have come to condemn Congressional Democrats for their lack of will, in confronting Bush and the Republicans: the war, domestic spying, torture, the absurd MoveOn resolution, the dangerous Iran resolution- we’re all baffled and discouraged and heartbroken, and many of us are just plain pissed off. Those of us who still intend to work for the election of Democrats, next year, find it increasingly difficult to convince those who have been straying that they should remain in the fold. We continue to insist that we need larger Congressional majorities, the executive branch, and if nothing else- and this ought to convince even the most recusant- to prevent four more years of Republican judges. But we cannot pretend that we don’t feel betrayed. We cannot pretend that we are having trouble answering the question: why? We are not using our majority power, and we are not using all the legislative and procedural tools we have available. Why?

Some say the Democrats are willfully complicit- beholden to the same nefarious interests as are the Republicans. I disagree. To me, it all comes back to impeachment. It comes back to the lack of will to make the ultimate and necessary confrontation. It comes from allowing a criminal administration to remain in power, and thus conferring on it a legitimacy that its criminality should have long ago voided. It comes from establishing a precedent and a dynamic that say the Bush Administration can push all boundaries, and the Democrats will not push back. If impeachment is off the table, then every form of criminality is on it!

Let me state, at the outset, that I do think the window for impeachment likely has closed. Barring some new bombshell revelation, there is likely neither the will in Congress to even start proceedings, nor the time for such proceedings to produce fair results. I come neither to praise nor bury impeachment. I come to discuss what I deem to be the consequence of its not having been pursued: a paralysis in the Democrats that renders them incapable of confronting Bush on anything.

If we were lied into the war, then being unwilling to hold the Administration accountable for those lies makes it impossible to accept the necessity of ending what should never have been started. If domestic spying is a Constitutional crime, then being unwilling to hold the Administration accountable for that crime necessitates the further Constitutional outrage of attempting to legislatively make such crimes legal. If torture is a crime against humanity, then being unwilling to hold the Administration accountable for that crime gives it tacit permission to violate pretty much any legal or moral standard. Oversight and subpoenas are irrelevant, because there are no consequences to what is discovered, and subpoenas can be, and are being, ignored. Despite being as unpopular as any “president,” ever, Bush knows he can just thumb his nose at the Democrats, and they will do nothing. They are incapable even of sound and fury.

Quote for Discussion: 10.1.2007

Below the terra firma’s the murmur of many men
Resonatin’ the predication of RA’s eponym
It requires a higher degree of thought to transmit
Elevate above the base and retrace the semantics
Incommensurately we’ve been held incommunicado
From commoner to commodore – they breed bravado
I exercise authority over the lesser ranks
We rally and tally up at the shores of the West Bank
The shoddy lick the body politic – feel the kickback, son
Pardon the warden to remit that one
Sinkin’ solemnly into the vein of my pathology
I maintain the etymology of “I” defy chronology
Copy me, cosmically I seek to be laconic and terse
The meek shall admonish the earth
While the merits of inheritance are gainfully pealed
They symbolism of nepotism is painfully real
The provisioners of policy are plottin’ my demise
In addition, the aristocracy’s blockin’ the uprise
The commandant’s callin’ for change by any means
I’ve seen heaven and hell; it feels strange in between
Never settle – the medal pacifies rebel troops
But truth is the honor in the eyes of the resolute
Press on – employ the pen to postulate upon it
Verily I perform the pass summarily – you wonder why?

They say that he was born that way
They can’t imagine havin’ to go on that way
Maybe if you pray for him he’ll be drawn from the fray
Or maybe what? – maybe he’s OK…

Sharin’ hymns with the seraphims – praise in polyphonic fashion
The action reanimates the catatonic
Aid the abject and abjure the apathetic
Positive polarity and the draw is magnetic
They lurch and reel trynna reverse the field but can’t manage
The pull of my sign aligns planets
Secrets comin’ out in the wash of the ebb tide
Those who sought found; those who fled died
To the sight deprived sound might provide solace
The scholars of applied sciences supply the knowledge
Upon the foundation we erect the edifice – make it known
We dedicate the corner stone to Aeschylus
Fortified with more than 45’s – master the art of war
You blast trouble, but the struggle endures
Emaciated, the contemplative will kill for a drink
If not methodically restrained by the chain link
From my solid form I liquefy to be absorbed by the river
Stand re-delivered to mi amour
Chant “freedom” in their face and abase my captors
With grace I placate and await the rapture
In this colony I’ve seen atrocities personified
Still unable to affect the sovereignty of the allied
It’s the balance – they’re challengin’ your will to achieve
Imprison my coalition but the vision’s still free…

He had to have been born that way
A great many show envy towards the Lord’s protégé
And maybe if you pay for it he’ll perform a display
Or maybe what? – maybe you’re too late…

Common Market, My Pathology

BOOM! Waxman Fires a Shot Across Blackwater’s Bow!

Cross-posted on Daily Kos.

Today in the understated language that is his style, Rep. Henry Waxman, Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released a memorandum of Additional Information about Blackwater USA. In actuality, the memo is a shot across the bow of Blackwater and the craven Republicans on the committee and the State Department who will rise to defend the firm and its CEO Erik Prince who is scheduled to appear before the committee Tuesday, October 2 at 10:00 AM.

The memorandum, prepared by the Majority Staff, reveals:

Incident reports compiled by Blackwater reveal that Blackwater has been involved in at least 195 “escalation of force” incidents in Iraq since 2005 that involved the firing of shots by Blackwater forces. This is an average of 1.4 shooting incidents per week. Blackwater’s contract to provide protective services to the State Department provides that Blackwater can engage in only defensive use of force. In over 80% of the shooting incidents, however, Blackwater reports that its forces fired the first shots.

195 “incidents” coming at an average of 1.4 per week since 2005 where Blackwater shot first over 80% of the time.

For the Record: On Not Funding The Iraq Debacle

I had assumed everyone knew my precise position on not funding the Iraq Debacle. I find that is not the case. For my own reference purposes, I repeat what has been my position since January 2007; articulated clearly in this February 2007 post:

Many ask ‘so what is a Democratic Congress to do?’ With Mitch McConnell promising filibusters to all attempts to revoke the Iraq AUMF, cap troop levels and to cut funding for the Iraq Debacle, what is it I am asking of the Democratic Congress.

Let me explain again – I ask for three things: First, announce NOW that the Democratic Congress will NOT fund the Iraq Debacle after a date certain. You pick the date. Whatever works politically. If October 2007 is the date Dems can agree to, then let it be then. If March 2008, then let that be the date; Second, spend the year reminding the President and the American People every day that Democrats will not fund the war past the date certain; Third, do NOT fund the Iraq Debacle PAST the date certain.

Some argue we will never have the votes for this. That McConnell will filibuster, that Bush will veto. To them I say I KNOW. But that does not fund the Iraq Debacle. Let me repeat, to end the war in Iraq, the Democratic Congress does not have to pass a single bill, they need only NOT pass bills that fund the Iraq Debacle.

But but but, defund the whole government? Defund the whole military? What if Bush does not pull out the troops? First, no, not defund the government, defund the Iraq Debacle. If the Republicans choose to shut down government in order to force the continuation of the Iraq Debacle, do not give in. Fight the political fight. We’ll win. Second, defund the military? See answer to number one. Third, well, if you tell the American People what is coming for a year, and that Bush is on notice, that it will be Bush abandoning the troops in Iraq, we can win that politcal battle too.

Understand this, if you want to end the Iraq Debacle, this is the only way until Bush is not President. If you are not for this approach for ending the war, tell me what you do support. I think this is the only way. And if you shy away from the only way to end the Debacle, then you really are not for ending it are you?

The first Presidential candidate I supported was Tom Vilsack, the former chairman of the DLC. How could that be? you might ask. It is because he said this in January:

Congress has the constitutional responsibility and a moral duty to cut off funding for the status quo,” said Vilsack. “Not a cap – an end. Not eventually – immediately.

I have been accused of being obsessed. I plead guilty. I have been obsessed with ending the Iraq Debacle.

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 U.S. Supreme Court opened its 2007-08 term today. The Los Angeles Times provides a good overview of what the court will consider this term. The Supreme Court on Monday opens a new term that includes a rich mix of cases on election law, sentencing in drug cases, executions by lethal injection, age bias in the workplace and the rights of employees who put their money into 401(k) accounts. The court also will consider — again — whether the detainees at Guantanamo Bay have a right to plead their innocence before a judge… ¶ The dispute turns on the Constitution, which says ‘the privilege of the writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended,’ except during times of ‘rebellion or invasion.’ Civil libertarians have urged the court to say Congress violated this provision when it took away from the Guantanamo prisoners the right to go to court.”

    Already the Supreme Court is making news. Reuters reports U.S. top court won’t hear Guantanamo prisoner’s case. “The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday turned down an appeal by a Guantanamo prisoner whose legal challenges had forced changes to… George W. Bush’s anti-terrorism program last year. ¶ The justices refused to take up the case of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, who faces a possible military tribunal as an accused driver and guard for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan… ¶ The high court may have denied the appeal because a U.S. appeals court has yet to rule on Hamdan’s case.” The Los Angeles Times reports the Supreme Court rejects greater rights for church groups. “The Supreme Court refused today to expand the rights of church groups, turning down appeals in a pair of cases. ¶ In the first, the justices rejected a free-speech claim from an evangelical minister from Northern California who wanted to hold worship services in the meeting room of a public library. ¶ In the second, the court rejected a freedom-of-religion claim from Catholic Charities in New York, which objected to a state law that requires them to pay for contraceptives for their employees as part of their prescription drug coverage.”

  2. The AP is reporting US and Iraqi civilian deaths fell sharply in September. “Deaths among American forces and Iraqi civilians fell dramatically last month to their lowest levels in more than a year, according to figures compiled by the U.S. military, the Iraqi government and The Associated Press. ¶ The decline signaled a U.S. success in bringing down violence in Baghdad and surrounding regions since Washington completed its infusion of 30,000 more troops on June 15. A total of 64 American forces died in September — the lowest monthly toll since July 2006. ¶ The decline in Iraqi civilian deaths was even more dramatic, falling from 1,975 in August to 922 last month, a decline of 53.3 percent. The breakdown in September was 844 civilians and 78 police and Iraqi soldiers, according to Iraq’s ministries of Health, Interior and Defense. ¶ In August, AP figures showed 1,809 civilians and 155 police and Iraqi soldiers were killed in sectarian violence. The civilian death toll has not been so low since June 2006, when 847 Iraqis died.” Frankly anyone who claims this is progress is daft. Fatality statistics should be compared to pre-invasion counts not the previous year’s death toll. How anyone can see the deaths of 844 civilians and 78 Iraqi police as progress is beyond my understanding.

  3. Here is today’s summary of Blackwater news and op-eds.

    • In ‘Death From All Sides‘, Kevin Peraino of Newsweek writes about the “confidential incident report” it has obtained. The “extensive evidence file put together by the Iraqi National Police… including documents, maps, sworn witness statements and police video footage” that contradict Blackwater’s account of their massacre in Baghdad’s Nasoor Square on September 16. The report concludes that Blackwater mercenaries “‘opened fire crazily and randomly, without any reason.‘” The police video is “footage of burned human remains and show the street littered with brass bullet casings.” The burned human remains is a woman and an infant and the driver of her car. The report found that “‘helicopters opened fire from the air toward the cars and civilians.’ Gen. Hussein al-Awadi, the commander of the Iraqi National Police, [said] that the trajectory of some of the bullet wounds could only have been caused by fire from the air. ‘If anyone moved—whenever they saw someone leaving—either the convoy or the chopper shot him,’ says Ali Kalaf Salman, an undercover Iraqi National Police officer who was working as a traffic cop at the scene.” Blackwater has denied their helicopters were involved in the shooting. Blackwater is still claiming they were attacked by the people their employees killed.

      “No one shot at Blackwater,” says Col. Faris Saadi Abdul, the lead Iraqi police investigator. “Blackwater shot without any cause.” Al-Awadi, the National Police commander, says that minutes after he heard the shooting begin, he rushed to the scene, which is just around the corner from the National Police headquarters. (He says he was accompanied by a unit of American military trainers embedded with his police.) “We were trying to figure out why they were shooting” … “We tried to find a reason and we couldn’t.” He says that his men searched the civilian cars at the scene, but didn’t find any weapons. When Iraqi investigators later stopped a different Blackwater convoy near the scene of the shooting, the general says that the Blackwater guards refused to comment about the incident.

      Blackwater mistook everyday events for hostile actions. “I pulled my radio out to call an ambulance, and they shot at me,” said Sirhan Diab, a traffic policeman who was working in Nasoor Square at the time of the shooting. Blackwater also shot at Iraqi police trying to help the victims.

      According to the accompanying incident report, the Blackwater guards opened fire on an Iraqi Army checkpoint on a nearby road leading away from the square. The convoy also apparently sideswiped at least one Iraqi civilian vehicle in the circle. Samir Hobi, 40, says he got out of his car and complained to the Blackwater guards about the damage. He says one of the guards shouted back: “Shut up or I’ll shoot you.”

    • The House oversight committee has released new information about Blackwater. “Previously undisclosed information reveals (1) Blackwater has engaged in 195 ‘escalation of force’ incidents since 2005, an average of 1.4 per week, including over 160 incidents in which Blackwater forces fired first; (2) after a drunken Blackwater contractor shot the guard of the Iraqi Vice President, the State Department allowed the contractor to leave Iraq and advised Blackwater on the size of the payment needed “to help them resolve this”; and (3) Blackwater, which has received over $1 billion in federal contracts since 2001, is charging the federal government over $1,200 per day for each ‘protective security specialist’ employed by the company.” In about 80% of the escalation incidents, Blackwater shot first. Additionally, disclosed in a committee staff memorandum, is the State Department’s suggestion to buy off the Iraqi families who had members murdered by Blackwater mercenaries. “The State Department took a similar approach upon recieving reports that Blackwater shooters killed an innocent Iraqi, except in this case, the State Department requested only a $5,000 payment to ‘put this unforunate matter behind us quickly.'” The Blackwater hearing is scheduled for tomorrow.

    • The Los Angeles Times reports that a U.S. team has begun a review of private contractors in Iraq. “Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, the department’s director of management policy, and Ambassador Eric Boswell, a former assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, arrived in Baghdad on Sunday and have begun meeting with U.S. and Iraqi officials, said Embassy spokeswoman Mirembe Nantongo. ¶ Other members of the team are expected to arrive soon. Kennedy, who heads the panel, will present his preliminary findings to Rice by the end of the week, Nantongo told reporters.”

    • Harold Pincus reports in the Washington Post that the U.S. pays a steep price for private security in Iraq. “It costs the U.S. government a lot more to hire contract employees as security guards in Iraq than to use American troops. It comes down to the simple business equation of every transaction requiring a profit… How much more these costs are compared with the pay of U.S. troops is easier to determine. ¶ 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.(Hat tip John Campanelli.)

    • The craven Wall Street Journal has an op-ed written by a mercenary and apologist: Ben Ryan, a “a former U.S. Navy SEAL officer who spent time in Iraq as an employee of Triple Canopy, a private security firm.” Ryan praises Blackwater contractors as “highly professional and well trained” and excuses their Nissour Square massacre because of what happend with Blackwater in Fallujah in 2004. Ryan claims “contractors are cost-effective” because “they usually receive no benefits”. He also feels mercenaries are not above the law. “Contractors are also subject to numerous U.S. statutes and regulations, as well as international treaties. Just last year, Congress amended the Uniform Code of Military Justice to include contractors. Contractors can also be prosecuted under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act of 2000, which permits charges to be brought in federal court for crimes abroad.”

    • In a very colorful op-ed in the New York Post, worth reading for the use of language alone, retired Army officer Ralph Peters writes about ‘Trouble for Hire‘ and places the blame for Blackwater at the State Department’s doors. “Americans have always despised mercenaries. Our dislike of hired killers dates back to the days of our Founding Fathers. When Washington crossed the Delaware to defeat the Hessians at Trenton, he targeted hirelings who’d burned, raped and murdered their way across northern New Jersey… And now the United States has become the world’s No. 1 employer of hired thugs. By a conservative count, we and our partners in Iraq employ 5,000 armed American and other Western expatriates, at least 10,000 third-country-nationals or TCNs, and upwards of 15,000 Iraqis who should be serving their own country in uniform.” Peters writes that American troops get the blame for Blackwater’s crimes. “The Bush administration has made sure that there’s no real accountability in the contracting arena, but the particular villain in this mess in the State Department. Our military has been doing all it can to keep Blackwater’s cowboys at arms’ length in Iraq. But State’s diplomats – the men and women theoretically responsible for building good relations with Iraqis – prefer the Blackwater approach (shoot first, and don’t bother asking questions)… ¶ So State’s mission for Blackwater is straightforward: ‘Protect the principal.’ Defend the diplomat, whatever the cost. Well, maybe it’s time for State to risk a few principals in support of America’s principles. ¶ Our country has been dishonored. By our ‘Hessians.'”

  4. The Guardian reports that Portugal gambles on ‘sea snakes’ providing an energy boost. “Portugal is poised to open what will be the world’s first commercial wavefarm, and while the coastline’s formidable surf will be a source of electricity, the engineers need a decent “weather window” to be able to get their machinery out to sea. ¶ The Pelamis machines, named after the Latin for sea snake and developed by a Scottish company that leads the world in one of the newest renewable energy fields, are a series of red tubes, each about the size of a small commuter train, linked together, and pointed in the direction of the waves. The waves travel down the tubes, causing them to bob up and down, and a hydraulic system harnesses this movement to generate electricity. ¶ The three ‘sea snakes’ will soon be towed out to a spot some three miles from the coast of northern Portugal at Agucadoura, from where the electricity they produce will be pumped into the national grid.”

One more story about the Kiwi’s flag below the fold…

Monks Massacred in Myanmar?

From The Daily Mail


Thousands of protesters are dead and the bodies of hundreds of executed monks have been dumped in the jungle, a former intelligence officer for Burma’s ruling junta has revealed.

The most senior official to defect so far, Hla Win, said: “Many more people have been killed in recent days than you’ve heard about. The bodies can be counted in several thousand.”

Read the article. Tyranny wins again.

Out There Where the Buses Don’t Run

This feels somewhat unfinished, but this is process writing, not a finished thing for me…. it refers to a conversation I had on MLW.

I wanted a break from daily writing and time to work some of this out, yet I seem unable to work it out without writing it.  So I am putting it out in order to feed the muse, and hope some new kernel of truth will redirect me to the place I am striving to find.

A running dialogue on why the Left cannot seem to become an entity to be reckoned with….
(pesky prepositions)

Not Funding Iraq and Discharge Petitions

Reading the comments in Buhdy’s diary at the Big Orange Satan’s place, this is what passes for rebuttal:

Discharge petition

Get all the Republicans and 18 Democrats to sign on, and it comes up for a vote. Not hard to do. And people would hold the other 210 Democrats personally responsible for 18 Bush Dogs doing it, too.

An interesting theory. Now, it so happens that those of us who argue for the not funding option are aware of the discharge petition, and the more likely avenue, a motion to recommit. We are aware that the Republicans, joined by enough Democrats, can force funding without timelines. It is why we have argued that we need 218 to embrace the not funding without timelines option. And despite saying “it would be easy” to get majority support for a motion to recommit or a discharge petition, saying it does not make it so. But let’s assume it is easy, the benefit of forcing the Republicans do that is it will prove to all of us that the Democrats in Congress have done everything they can to end the war. There is truly nothing more we can ask of Speaker Pelosi. And we do not ask for more than that. But she will not do it. So she has not done everything she can.

You want to make it a Republican war? Make the Republicans pass THEIR bill funding it. Let the Dems who want it to be their war go on the record and vote for it. Why anyone would be opposed to this strategy is beyond me.


This is a meta-diary. Fair warning.

Agendas. Everyone has at least one. Merriam-Webster gives us the following definition:

Main Entry: agen•da
Pronunciation: &-‘jen-d&
Function: noun
Etymology: Latin, neuter plural of agendum, gerundive of agere
1 : a list or outline of things to be considered or done (agendas of faculty meetings)
2 : an underlying often ideological plan or program (a political agenda)

Let’s discuss our agenda(s), shall we?

Pelosi Throws In The Towel

Going up on Dkos soon.

Nancy Pelosi admits no legislation passed in the House will end the occupation because the Republican minority in the Senate will block it. Bi-partisanship won’t work.

Nancy Pelosi admits re-deployment is the only answer, but has stopped trying to achieve it. She has stopped trying to send bills to the Presidents desk.

Nancy Pelosi admits she can defund the occupation. But she won’t.

Nancy Pelosi has given up on ending the Iraq War.

h/t Armando.

Pony Party: Procrastination

Light Emitting Pickle here to bring you the most recent open thread. First, a few words about Pickle Pony Parties:

Please do not recommend a Pony Party when you see one.  There will be another along in a few hours.

Money is Made of Electrons and Neurotransmitters

Bonddad over at DKos has got it wrong about not being able to afford a war on Iran.

Money is not something with a physical limit at the hands of the Bush Maladministration, aided and abetted by their stooges, the US Federal Reserve Bank (the latter, answering to no one except “the market”).

Money today is made of electrons in computers, and those electrons are backed up by the thoughts in the heads of billions of people, with neurotransmitters and even more electrons bopping around inside their heads.

(Crossposted at The Orange Maelstrom of Hillarization)

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