October 3, 2007 archive

Competition, Collaboration, and Co-Creation

I have a .net head and a .org heart.
I am trying to transform a .com game using .gov players.

The nature of American politics is highly competitive. It is not rule by the majority. It is rule by those who can take power and dig the deepest trenches to defend it. Getting an office is a series of rivalries and victories. At each step another 49% of the voices get pushed aside, and the remaining 51% go on to the next divisive round. Tiny factions get the spoils.

This paradigm of competition is such a deep part of the structure, that to generate participation I sometimes have to cloak ‘all of us together’ projects in the language of ‘us vs. them.’

I think there is a larger point to be made here about cooperative blog projects, the ecology of bloggers each doing their own thing, and the underlying competitiveness of Left vs. Right, Dem vs Rep, DLC vs Progressive, and my blog vs. their blog.

I am not sure that I can fully make that point, but I will nibble around the edges while telling you what I am doing to mess with the system in the Colorado 2nd Congressional District ‘Coats and Cans‘ straw poll.

Living in Limbo

Sometime in the next few weeks the Senate will once again take up legislation regarding immigration reform. This time it will be the DREAM Act sponsored by Sen.Dick Durbin(D-Il). The legislation would allow hundreds of thousands of students who were brought here as children by their undocumented parents to go on and complete their education and eventually earn the right to become legal residents and citizens.

This piece of legislation is so important right now because the right-wing, flush from their victory in stalling any form of comprehensive immigration reform in Congress, have decided to make defeating the DREAM Act their top priority. They feel that they are in a position now where they do not need to give an inch on any reforms, and would view the passage of DREAM as a major defeat.

Unfortunately it is the lives of hundreds of thousands of kids that are being effected by this Washington gamesmanship. With that in mind, I’m more than willing to risk the appearance of monotony, and discuss another group of young people who anxiously await the passage of DREAM …those who have already graduated from college …because their futures depend on it now.

Tommy Douglas

One of the great strengths of this social experiment we call ‘blogging’ is how one writer’s words can inspire others to look at problems in a new light. Even casual throw away comments can cause a light bulb to flash somewhere and start a chain reaction leading to…well, to anywhere one might imagine.

There has been a lot of brainstorming about what to ‘do next’ around here, and it’s all very inspirational stuff. The other day, Meteor Blades stopped by in Buhdy’s manifesto diary with a link to a 40-year old article discussing many of the issues we are struggling with today.

Light bulb. People have been through this before. Duh – how obvious. Still, sometimes the obvious escapes us. Other groups, other communities, other countries have struggled with very similar issues we face today. How do you break through and effect real change? Where do we find our inspiration? How will we be nurtured on this journey? Perhaps history can help us a little.

Four at Four

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

  1. As expected, George W. Bush, the ‘compassionate conservative’, vetoed the children’s health insurance bill Congress sent to him. The New York Times reports, Bush Vetoes Children’s Health Insurance Bill. “Mr. Bush wielded his pen with no fanfare just before leaving for a visit to Lancaster, Pa. The veto was only the fourth of Mr. Bush’s presidency. ¶ ‘Because the Congress has chosen to send me a bill that moves our health care system in the wrong direction, I must veto it,’ Mr. Bush said in his veto statement, adding that he hoped to work with the lawmakers ‘to produce a good bill that puts poorer children first.’ ¶ The bill was approved by Congress with unusual bipartisan support, as many Republicans who side with the president on almost everything else voted to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or Schip, from its current enrollment of about 6.6 million children to more than 10 million.” In its story, the Washington Post reports Bush saying, “The initial intent of the program is not being recognized. It is not being met.” “He also repeated claims, disputed by some, that the measure he vetoed would allow children in families earning as much as $83,000 a year to receive coverage under the program. ¶ ‘That doesn’t sound poor to me,’ Bush said.” With Bush’s weak dollar, that doesn’t sound very wealthy either. I recommend anyone with a craven Republican representative who didn’t vote for this, to give them a call supporting a veto override.

  2. BBC News reports that monks are ‘trying to escape Rangoon’. “Scores of monks are trying to leave Burma’s main city, Rangoon, following the military’s bloody crackdown on anti-government protests, reports say. Monks were seen at the railway station and bus drivers were reportedly refusing to take them, out of fear they would not be allowed petrol. Curfews and night-time police raids are continuing in Rangoon. Correspondents describe a climate of fear there.” The Guardian reports that an unnamed Burmese army major defected to Thailand. “A Burmese army major defected today, raising renewed hopes of dissent in the armed forces that is seen as crucial to bringing down the ruling junta. The unnamed officer fled to Thailand apparently in disgust after being ordered to beat Buddhist monks protesting against the regime last week.”

    The military rulers of Burma, er Myanmar have cut off communication to the outside world. Reporting for The New York Time, Seth Mydans filed this story: In Crackdown, Myanmar Junta Unplugs Internet. “It was about as simple and uncomplicated as shooting demonstrators in the streets. Embarrassed by smuggled video and photographs that showed their people rising up against them, the generals who run Myanmar simply switched off the Internet. ¶ Until last Friday television screens and newspapers abroad were flooded with scenes of tens of thousands of red-robed monks in the streets and of chaos and violence as the junta stamped out the biggest popular uprising there in two decades. ¶ But then the images, text messages and posts stopped, shut down by generals who belatedly grasped the power of the Internet to jeopardize their crackdown. ¶ ‘Finally they realized that this was their biggest enemy, and they took it down,’ said Aung Zaw, editor of an exile magazine called Irrawaddy, whose Web site has been a leading source of news over the past weeks.”

  3. In today’s Four at Four, I focus on the Blackwater news not directly related to yesterday’s hearing. For my hearing coverage, please see my essay, Pop! Or, how the Blackwater Hearing Was Covered by the Media.

    • In ‘From Errand to Fatal Shot to Hail of Fire to 17 Deaths‘ reporting for The New York Times, James Glanz and Alissa Rubin meet with Haider and Mariam Ahmed, whose mother and older brother were killed by Blackwater in the Nisour Square massacre, and their father. ” The car in which the first people were killed did not begin to closely approach the Blackwater convoy until the Iraqi driver had been shot in the head and lost control of his vehicle. Not one witness heard or saw any gunfire coming from Iraqis around the square. And following a short initial burst of bullets, the Blackwater guards unleashed an overwhelming barrage of gunfire even as Iraqis were turning their cars around and attempting to flee. ¶ As the gunfire continued, at least one of the Blackwater guards began screaming, ‘No! No! No!’ and gesturing to his colleagues to stop shooting, according to an Iraqi lawyer who was stuck in traffic and was shot in the back as he tried to flee… A traffic policeman standing at the edge of the square, Sarhan Thiab, saw that a young man in a car had been hit.”

      “We tried to help him,” Mr. Thiab said. “I saw the left side of his head was destroyed and his mother was crying out: ‘My son, my son. Help me, help me.’”

      …Then Blackwater guards opened fire with a barrage of bullets, according to the police and numerous witnesses. Mr. Ahmed’s father later counted 40 bullet holes in the car. His mother, Mohassin Kadhim, appears to have been shot to death as she cradled her son in her arms. Moments later the car caught fire after the Blackwater guards fired a type of grenade into the vehicle…

      The shooting started like rain; everyone escaped his car,” said Fareed Walid Hassan, a truck driver who hauls goods in his Hyundai minibus. He saw a woman dragging her child. “He was around 10 or 11,” he said. “He was dead. She was pulling him by one hand to get him away. She hoped that he was still alive.”

      You must read this piece.

    • ABC News suggests mental stress on employees may be factor in Blackwater killings. Said one military contractor, “Blackwater might have a house shrink, but I’d be surprised if they do. Anyone who has spent more than a few months in Iraq is bound to have mental health issues… You put a bunch of jittery guys into a situation where everyone wants to bomb or kill Americans and that’s a recipe for a really bad situation.” “The VA estimates that 34 percent of soldiers suffer from post-traumatic stress. A DynCorp study found that 24 percent of contractors reported having symptoms, a number the company’s psychologist, Paul Brand, said was probably low due to people too embarrassed to report conditions honestly. ¶ Some 125,000 American and international contractors are working in Iraq.”

    • The AP reports that “Congress is moving to close a loophole in the law that has left private security contractors in Iraq like Blackwater immune to criminal prosecution, despite warnings by the White House that expanding the law could cause new problems. ¶ The House was expected to pass legislation on Wednesday by Rep. David Price, D-N.C., that would extend criminal jurisdiction of U.S. courts to any federal contractor working alongside military operations. Senate Democratic leaders said they planned to follow suit as soon as possible and send the measure to… Bush to sign… ¶ White House officials say they support increasing accountability of contractors abroad, but worry that the House bill is too vague and may go too far. An administration statement issued Wednesday said the bill would have ‘unintended and intolerable consequences for crucial and necessary national security activities and operations.'” In an earlier story, Legal Avenues Against Blackwater Murky, the AP reported “Somewhere in western Washington state is a former Blackwater contractor who might, under normal circumstances, be on trial in Baghdad… Amid an outcry from Iraqis who questioned how an American could kill someone in those circumstances and return to the U.S. a free man, the Justice Department announced it would investigate.” Anonymous Bush administration officials claimed “the case has been turned over to the U.S. attorney’s office for western Washington, where the man lives”. “It’s been 10 months and the Justice Department has not done anything to him,” Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) said. “If you work for Blackwater, you get packed up and you leave within two days and you face a $1,000 fine.”

    • The AP reports that John Edwards wants to limit the government’s of security contractors. In remarks provided by his campaign to the AP, Edwards says “We must put the democracy back in our military and prevent a disaster like the continuation of the Iraq War from ever occurring again… As commander in chief, I will transfer most security missions currently performed by contractors back to military command, where they belong… If you’re not ending combat operations, you’re not ending the war”.

    • Once again according to AFP, Iraq PM says ‘unfit’ Blackwater must go. “Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Wednesday that Blackwater should leave the country because of the mountain of evidence against the under-fire US security firm… ¶ ‘I believe the abundance of evidence against it makes it unfit to stay in Iraq,’ Maliki told a televised press conference in Baghdad.”

    • According to the Los Angeles Times, the State Department is examining its Iraq security practices. “Members of a team dispatched by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have begun a review of the State Department’s security practices in Iraq… ¶ Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, the State 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 U.S. 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 said.”

    • Steve Fainaru of the Washington Post reports that, shock, mercenaries report far fewer incidents than actually occur. “Two former Blackwater security guards said they believed employees fired more often than the company has disclosed. One, a former Blackwater guard who spent nearly three years in Iraq, said his 20-man team averaged ‘four or five’ shootings a week, or several times the rate of 1.4 incidents a week reported by the company. The underreporting of shooting incidents was routine in Iraq, according to this former guard.” David Horner, a former truck driver contractor for Crescent Security Group said preemptive firing was part of traveling through town. “I know that I personally never saw anyone shoot at us, but we blazed through that town all the time… Personally I did not take aim at one person. But I don’t know what everybody else did. We’d come back at the end of the day, and a lot of times we were out of ammo.” Horner “said he quit after one of Crescent’s Iraqi employees fired a belt-fed PK machine gun from the bed of Horner’s truck and hit what appeared to be two members of the Iraqi National Guard.” The man in charge of monitoring contractors under military contract in Iraq, Maj. Kent Lightner of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said he normally accepted a company’s report. “I’m not going to investigate. I’m not going to worry about it, unless somebody comes back and says, ‘Yeah, they dropped two children, or they dropped a woman,'” Lightner said.

    • Somewhat lost in yesterday’s hearing, the House Oversight Committee released a memo on ‘The Crash of Blackwater Flight 61’. “On November 27, 2004, a flight operated by Blackwater Aviation and designated ‘Blackwater 61’ crashed in a canyon in a remote area of Afghanistan, killing the members of the flight crew and three U.S. military personnel who were passengers. According to government investigative reports and other documents obtained by the Committee, the crash and the deaths of the crew and passengers were caused by a combination of reckless conduct by the Blackwater pilots and multiple mistakes by Blackwater, including hiring unqualified and inexperienced pilots, failure to file flight plans, and failure to have proper equipment for tracking and locating missing aircraft.”

  4. And now for something completely different. The Telegraph reports a new Wallace and Gromit film is in the works. “The adventures of plasticine friends Wallace and Gromit are set to continue with the pairs’ next film, a murder mystery set in a bakery entitled Trouble At Mill. Creator Nick Park has revealed to fans details of the next Aardman Animations venture… Trouble At Mill, to be shown on BBC1, is a return to the 30 minute format… It sees flat-cap favourite Wallace in his new bakery where he is ‘dough-eyed’ in love with bread enthusiast Piella Bakewell… The film is currently in pre-production but exclusive clips can be viewed on the Wallace and Gromit website.”

So, what else is happening?

Pop! Or, how the Blackwater Hearing Was Covered by the Media

Cross-posted on Daily Kos.

This diary is an overview of yesterday’s hearing of the House Oversight Committee featuring testimony from Blackwater CEO Erik Prince and three officials from the State Department: Ambassador David Statterfield, Ambassador Richard Griffin, and Deputy Assistant Secretary William Moser. Video of the hearing is available.

This diary is also a follow up to my previous diary, BOOM! Waxman Fires a Shot Across Blackwater’s Bow!

The overview is divided into two parts: blog coverage and traditional media coverage. But first, here are my three observations that I didn’t see covered anywhere else. My observations concern the remarks of Ranking Member Tom Davis (R-VA) and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH).

On Iraq: Is Steny Hoyer The Problem?

Via mcjoan.

In a recent post, I excoriated Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi for her statement on not funding the Iraq Debacle. But as mcjoan notes, one has to wonder who is calling the shots in the House. After all, Pelosi voted against the war and championed John Murtha for the #2 slot in the House leadership. The question to ask – is Steny Hoyer the actual Dem leader in the House?

Internal tensions erupted yesterday among House Dem leaders over Rep. David Obey's threat to block war funding without withdrawal timetables and his suggestion of a war tax, The Hill reports. . . .  “It’s hard to believe you could pick a worse time to do something to divide the caucus than the day Democrats and Republicans come together on both an Iraq bill and in sending the children’s health bill to the president,” a Democratic leadership aide told the paper. “The timing of this announcement made no sense.”

I'm told, however, that there's a bit more to these tensions than meet the eye. House insiders say they think that this anonymous dumping on Obey came from the office of House Dem leader Steny Hoyer. Hoyer is a big proponent of the new House Iraq bill being sponsored by Dem Rep. Neil Abercrombie that was voted on yesterday and passed overwhelmingly. Because this measure lacks a binding withdrawal timetable, others in leadership — like Pelosi — are cool to the idea, insiders point out.

. . . “The dumping on Obey likely came from Hoyer, who was much more enthusiastic about the moderate — read: toothless — Ambercrombie legislation than the rest of leadership is,” a House insider tells me.

Steny Hoyer, like Rahm Emanuel, has been awful on Iraq and obviously he seeks to torpedo the not funding without a timeline idea. It looks like he and Rahm Emanuel are the problem.

A Call to Obey……Can Help End the War: Action!

skymutt has an excellent diary up on Representative David Obey, chairman of the Appropriations Committee. Amondgst other things, he discusses the tax aspect of Obey’s recent statements….and that is what the media is covering.

Is Obey the key to ending the Iraq Occupation? If his statements are any indication it is indeed a possibility. He is the first person in  our government to take the next STRATEGIC step in ending the war….or at least changing the conversation. By indicating he will not just give Bush a blank check, this at the very least, changes the balance of power.

Obey is indicating that he will…as is within his power, defund the war. This bold statement is well worth our support. Especially when that support….support to take the next step in the ending the occupation will take about…..five whole minutes of your time.


Crossposted at Orange.


Bush Kills Children

This morning, behind closed doors, George W. Bush vetoed the SCHIP legislation.  Millions of children are already denied access to essential and affordable health care.  Tens of thousands of children suffer preventable health problems and die preventable deaths.

Follow me beneath the fold to read what Child Killer Bush said about our children, and what the facts are behind his intentional lies and distortions.

in Other news…

Welcome to a weekly roundup of news related to the gay, lesbian, bi, trans, and otherwise “Other” community.

  • First openly gay person to have a celestial body named after him?  The honor goes to George Takei, famous for his role as Star Trek‘s Hikaru Sulu, who came out in 2005 and has been working as an LGBT activist ever since – And now his name will grace the asteroid formerly known as 1994 GT9. (h/t Mombian, also mentioned in ek’s Morning News) By the way, if you’ve never seen Takei’s hilarious response to Tim Hardaway’s anti-gay comments, watch it now!
  • Senator Barack Obama has called on President Bush to reconsider his veto threat (yeah, right!) against the Hate Crimes Act, which recently passed in the Senate.  Obama was one of the bill’s co-sponsors.  In other candidate news: gaining some ground since his gaffes at the HRC-sponsored debate, Governor Bill Richardson has said he’d refuse an honorary chairmanship of the Boy Scouts of America, on the grounds of their discriminatory policies.
  • You know we’re achieving progress when we’re upgraded from comparisons to animal-lovers and murderers to comparisons to… kleptomaniacs!  The Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church made the comparison in a speech yesterday in front of the Council of Europe (h/t Towleroad):

    Attempts are made to justify homosexuality by calling it a disease, the patriarch said. Yet kleptomania can also be considered a disease, he argued. “Why then no one advertises kleptomania while homosexuality gets advertised via gay parades?” he said.
      “It is advertisement that is being forced on people who are a very long way from it,” Alexy said.

    Dear Alesha (can I call you Alesha?): Your anti-gay speech is also advertisement that is being forced on people who are a very long way from it.  But I suppose we shouldn’t expect better from former KGB, now should we?

More below…

Pony Party… have a puppy party

this one is going to the dogs…….. and remember, don’t rec the pony  party.

The Netroots At A Crossroads

With the publishing of today’s Washington Post poll, I believe the Netroots is at a crossroads. The poll shows Senator Hillary Clinton with a huge lead in the race for the Democratic nomination.  Left blogs have spent an inordinate amount of time on horserace blogging, with a great deal of attention paid to national polls.

Focus on personalities, horseraces and the ins and outs of campaign finance, with many leading bloggers doing their best Charlie Cook imitations, has crowded out focus and activism on issues. Like Iraq. Like not funding the Iraq Debacle.

When the Netroots came to be, it was because of issues, not personalities and political campaigns. Howard Dean and Wes Clark were not supported because of who they were, but because of where they stood and what they said. It was because of the issues.

I have been saying for some time that the Netroots has failed in 2007 on Iraq and in general. That failure is manifest now. Concentrating on the elections of 2008, it has had zero impact on the discussion of issues outside the campaign. Even the impact it has had, like on Hillary Clinton’s position on Iraq, has been pooh poohed.

I have long said it – pols are pols, and will do what they must to get elected. The Netroots needs to realize that its goals on issues do not revolve around particular politicians, but around particular policies and issues. In the fevered coverage of the 2008 campaign, the issues and policies of 2007 have been left behind by the Netroots. And to what end? This wrongheaded thinking now reaches a crossroads. Which road will the Netroots travel from here on out? Let’s hope it is the road that focuses on issues, not personalities. 

Pony Party, Stop the War

On October 27th, United for Peace and Justice is organizing 11 coordinated demonstrations in Boston, Chicago, Jonesborough (no event details are listed for Jonesborough), Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and Seattle. (In Los Angeles, this protest is being coordinated with A.N.S.W.E.R)

This is a WesPAC site dedicated to stopping the rush to war in Iran.  You can send a form email (and we all know I always do what Wes♥Clark tells me to).  The campaign is apparently a joint venture by Wes’s Securing America and the Vote*Vets PAC.

This image is from AfterDowningStreet, not WesPAC or VoteVets, but I’m putting it here anyway…

The Green Party of Michigan’s Stop the War Slate is coordinating anti-war leafletting at polling places on election day.

Google ‘stop the war’ and you will get 146,000,000 options…. 😉  Or go directly to a place like DemocracyRising or the Iraq Moratorium site and find millions more ways…

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