Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Saturday, September 25, 2010 5:55 pm

Playing catch-up

As blogging goes, I have been slackeriffic of late, so let’s see what I can do to get caught up here.

Damn. Maybe I should just stop now.

Ah, well, like the man said, I can’t go on. I’ll go on.

  • But we’re not giving it up without a fight: Barack Obama believes he has the power to order American citizens executed without charge or trial. The ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights are fighting that.
  • Some of America’s greatest leaders? Would be considered terrorists today.
  • They’re everywhere: Government at multiple levels in this country is blurring the distinction between dissent and terrorism. In Pennsylvania, where activists are opposing new oil drilling (entirely understandable, if not ultimately a good idea, in the wake of Deepwater Horizon), opponents are being monitored by the state Department of Homeland Security, and when the governor was asked about it, he at first defended the program.
  • And it ain’t just government: Monsanto hired Blackwater to monitor activists who oppose genetically modified seeds, despite the risks they pose.
  • Double standard: When the Democrats nominate someone who’s insane for the U.S. Senate, they disown him. When the Republicans do it, they embrace her and give her lots of money.
  • But, no, we’re not racists: The National Federation of Republican Women has Sen. Glenn McConnell attend dressed in a Confederate Army uniform and pose with African Americans dressed as slaves. In 2010. For reals.
  • Enthusiasm gap: If Democrats and the White House wonder why their base is so much less motivated to turn out in November than the GOP base, they might consider issues such as this and conclude that warning against “the return of George W. Bush” is pretty pointless when you’re going Bush one better.
  • In deep: How could the Deepwater Horizon disaster happen? When Interior Department regulators are being bullied by the industry they oversee and undercut by their managers, I’d say anything is possible.
  • Risk assessment: Emptywheel poses a very good question: Is the greatest danger to our financial system really terrorism?
  • Well, at least he’s honest: U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R- Okla., tells the American people to, quite literally, eat shit.
  • Scheduling an election is not rocket science. So would it be too much to ask that states get ballots to troops overseas in time for those ballots to be cast? Sheesh. (h/t: Fred)
  • Questions of ownership: GMAC, one of the nation’s largest home-financing firms, tries to foreclose on a home whose mortgage has been resold only for a judge to conclude, quite reasonably, that, hell, no, it can’t foreclose on something it doesn’t own; further investigation suggests GMAC may be executing 10,000 fake documents a month related to mortgages. As a result, GMAC foreclosures are on hold in 23 states. But the real fun, not obvious at first glance, is that dealing with this issue is going to make it harder for a lot of insolvent banks to hide the fact that they’re insolvent.
  • Maybe somebody should have shot the deputy: Charlie Munger, populist billionaire Warren Buffett’s right-hand man at Berkshire Hathaway, recently suggested that America’s unemployed and underemployed should “just suck it in” and added, “Thank God for bank bailouts.” Why would he say such a thing when BH took no bailout money? Uh, because companies in which BH is invested took $95 billion, maybe?
  • You will know him by his trail of dead: Howard Fineman, one of the most relentlessly conventional journalists in American history — and, therefore, a guy who has whiffed on most of the significant political stories of the past 15 or so years — is deserting the sinking ship at Newsweek to go work for the Huffington Post. Conservatives everywhere should be of good cheer; if he does there what he did at Newsweek, HuffPo will be dead inside of three years.
  • Who broke the Senate?: Something called “Gingrich senators.” That’s a very short way of describing what is actually a pretty well-documented phenomenon.
  • Apparently we need another war on poverty. Sigh.
  • Fight the police state: Reason magazine offers tips on how.
  • The Washington Post’s problems in just three words: It. Can’t. Think.
  • Funniest line ever posted at PowerLine, by Paul Mirengoff on Christine O’Donnell: “It’s great to hear that O’Donnell learned from her experiences dabbling in witchcraft. You wouldn’t want a U.S. Senator who dabbled in witchcraft and learned nothing from it.” Heh. Indeed.
  • Genetically, we’re not only close to apes, we’re pretty close to jackals: Nancy Nall on scrapping, physical and financial.
  • Corruption in Afghanistan: Not that big a deal after all, the administration decides.
  • When was the last economic recovery that WASN’T jobless?: Oh, about 20 years ago.
  • Question for everyone who still believes in “the liberal media”: What do you think would happen if DEMOCRATS had filibustered a defense appropriations bill? And, naturally, John McCain lied about the reasons for it.
  • He is the egg man: Austin “Jack” DeCoster, whose company was implicated in the recent problem with salmonella-tainted eggs, may have been the guy responsible for introducing salmonella into the U.S. egg supply in the late 1970s or early 1980s.
  • Larry Summers gone: The problem is, unless his replacement is named Warren, Krugman, Bakker Baker, Shiller or DeLong, we’re going to have the same problems we have now.
  • Fannie and Freddie weren’t the ones who broke the economy: So said Barry Ritholtz a while back; so says the FHFA now.
  • Alternatives to bank bailouts: Let me show u them. We did, in fact, have some, which is worth remembering two years on.
  • Chain of command: I’ve got little but contempt for Bob Woodward’s “reporting” these days, but if he has accurately reported that Gen. David Petraeus told colleagues that President Obama “is f—ing with the wrong guy,” then Obama should fire Petraeus and thank Woodward for bringing that insubordination to his attention.
  • The Tea Party isn’t just about deficits and taxes and spending: Whether it started out this way or not, it is rapidly being taken over, if it has not already been, by the Christian Taliban. (More here.) Despite already having called for Obama’s impeachment, I’m not under any illusions about what else is going to happen next year if the GOP regains control of Congress in November. Nobody else should be, either.
  • Kidding themselves: Even such normally sensible outlets as Zero Hedge are buying into this silly-assed notion that businesses aren’t hiring because of an “atmosphere of uncertainty.” No. There’s always uncertainty in the business world, not least every election year. The problem this time isn’t uncertainty, it’s that no one is buying anything because no one has any money because they’re in debt up to their eyeballs, unemployment/underemployment is at its highest level in three-quarters of a century and even the people who have jobs are afraid they’re going to lose them. Moreover, consumers are afraid, probably with good reason, that things will get worse before they get better.
  • Stop the presses!: The new version of the GOP Contract on America was written by a former lobbyist for Exxon and AIG.
  • Pre-emptive strike: Is a newly discovered super computer virus the means by which Iran’s nuclear threat will be nullified? And did the virus originate in Israel?
  • Apparently neither a joke nor an urban legend: Good news, ladies! Having unprotected sex, although it can put you at increased risk of sexually transmitted disease if you’re not really careful and picky and can, of course, get you pregnant, also can render you significantly less likely than your latex-dependent friends AND your chaste friends to suffer from depression. And there’s actually a chemical reason for this!
  • Even Napoleon thought the third time was enemy action: Glenn Fine, inspector general of the U.S. Justice Department, expects us to believe that three separate FBI investigative efforts of the Thomas Merton Center’s anti-war activities during the Bush administration were isolated, coincidental and in no way politically motivated. He also expects us to believe in unicorns, too, I guess.
  • On the road to recovery: Uh, not so much, says well-known liberal Paul Volcker.
  • Here’s the thing about Republican congresscritters and stimulus spending: The most offensive thing isn’t that they’re hypocrites for criticizing the program while still trying to land some of its money for their districts. It’s that they’re lying when they say it doesn’t work.
  • Good news, bad news, Internet edition: Radio spectrum being abandoned by TV as it moves to hi-def could be made available for next-generation WiFi at little cost to the public or, in the alternative, be auctioned off for that purpose at huge benefit to the Treasury. But that’s not going to happen.
  • I want to play Roy Blount in poker: The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Missouri challenged Democratic opponent Robin Carnahan to six debates … and then backed out of four of them after she took him up on it.

Sunday, June 20, 2010 10:43 pm

See ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya: Erik Prince edition

Filed under: Hold! Them! Accountable! — Lex @ 10:43 pm
Tags: , ,

I noted two months ago that five Blackwater/Xe folks, including its ex-president and corporate counsel, had been indicted, and I asked at the time, “If, as the indictment alleges, the corporate counsel was involved, what are the odds that CEO Erik Prince wasn’t?”

Apparently Prince doesn’t like those odds very much because he’s reported to be moving to the United Arab Emirates, which — imagine that! — doesn’t have an extradition treaty with the U.S.

If we’re going to be doing extraordinary rendition, perhaps we could start with Mr. Prince.

UPDATE: Prince has put Xe up for sale. Buh-bye, Erik.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010 11:24 pm

Can somebody lock this guy up already?

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 11:24 pm
Tags: , ,

You’d think that with his company already in serious legal trouble, Erik Prince of Xe (nee Blackwater) would keep his damn mouth shut. But no: This guy apparently wants to freelance at least two wars, one of them against a nation possibly close to obtaining nuclear weapons, while disguising his warmongering as “protection” for U.S. oil interests.

Hey, why not? What could possibly go wrong?

Friday, April 16, 2010 9:11 pm

But they’re patriotic Americans!

Filed under: Hold! Them! Accountable! — Lex @ 9:11 pm
Tags: , ,

Blackwater ex-president, four others indicted:

The former president of Blackwater Worldwide was charged Friday with using straw purchases to stockpile automatic weapons at the security firm and filing false documents to cover up gifts given to the king of Jordan.

Gary Jackson, 52, who left the company last year in a management shake-up, was charged along with four of his former colleagues, according to the federal indictment.

If, as the indictment alleges, the corporate counsel was involved, what are the odds that CEO Erik Prince wasn’t?

Interestingly — to me, anyway — Blackwater spokesman Mark Corallo was John Ashcroft’s PR director at Justice.

Saturday, February 13, 2010 11:18 pm

Your tax dollars at work; or, The fun never ends with these people

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 11:18 pm
Tags: ,

Blackwater-trained Afghans are defecting to the Taliban. Can we just shut the company down and confiscate all the assets of the corporation and its officers and directors, please? Maybe we can use the money for the education of the survivors of U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan/Iraq.

Saturday, January 9, 2010 11:07 pm

Odds and ends for 1/9

Roger Ailes: drama queen. Dude, the Islamicist terrorists of the world are not out to get you because the Islamcist terrorists of the world, by and large, have no freakin’ idea who you are.

Charles Murray, shorter: Man, there are a lot of black people in Paris.

Dick Cheney sure looks funny with that second southern orifice, thoughtfully torn for him by Phoenix Woman at Firedoglake.

Because everything else they’ve touched has worked out so well: Blackwater is a contender for the contract to train the Afghan national police force — and wants a cool billion for the job.

Speaking of Afghanistan, we’re out of our depth there from an intelligence standpoint (witness the CIA deaths at Forward Operating Base Chapman), and the general who wrote the report with that conclusion leaked it because apparently his superiors were ignoring him. But the surge will make everything peachy!

Thursday, December 3, 2009 9:15 pm

Odds and ends for 12/3

With friends like these: Iraqi lawyer helps U.S., gets tortured by Iraqis for his trouble and now is suing U.S. for $200MM for trying to murder him.

With friends like these, cont.: Someone else unhappy with U.S. conduct in Iraq — the head of Blackwater (now Xe), Erik Prince.

Women’s rights: I wouldn’t say I expect to enjoy reading this book, but I’m looking forward to it. Nick Kristoff can be an insufferable ass sometimes, but on this issue he is doing God’s work and has been for a long time. (h/t: Janice)

Reality check: Who are we, Zbigniew Brzezinski asks, to criticize Afghanistan about government corruption? “Americans, of course, hate hypocrisy,” the LA Times’ Andrew Malcolm observes, “by everyone else.”

Elizabeth Warren for president: “America today has plenty of rich and super-rich. But it has far more families who did all the right things, but who still have no real security.”

The Republicans have a plan for health-care reform: Prevent it by any means necessary.

They also have a plan for fixing the deficit: killing Social Security and Medicare. Actually, that’s backward. It’s not that they want to kill SocSec/Medicare to fix the deficit. It’s that they’re making a big deal about fixing the deficit (now; not so much when it was Bush’s deficit) because that’s a plausible excuse for what they really want to do, which is pulling the New Deal and Great Society up out of our culture by the roots. Unfortunately, they lack the intellectual integrity to say so forthrightly. When they did say so forthrightly, about Social Security, in 2005, they got their heads handed to them.

Call this bluff: The banksters at Royal Bank of Scotland, which got the world’s largest bailout, say they’ll quit if they don’t get their bonuses. Don’t let the door hit you in the bum as you leave, tools.

Dylan Ratigan FTW: Reject Bernanke. He started the damn fire.

Shorter Jonathan Weil: FDIC, man up. Banks, pay up. Amen.

Jason Linkins points out a bit of a discrepancy in criticism of the Afghanistan withdrawal date: Critics suggest that setting a start date for withdrawals will just embolden terrorists to wait until we leave. This ignores the fact that even while we’ve been threatening “to go hard, forever,” the average yearly number of global jihadi terror attacks  has increased 607% since we invaded Iraq. Oops.

Relatedly: George Will takes a couple of cheap shots at Obama, and embraces the flawed slippery-slope argument in the item above, and mistakenly believes that Afghanistan is winnable anymore, but he also believes the right thing for most of the right reasons: This will not end well.

To all the first-time voters who supported Obama because you thought he’d get us out of George Bush’s ill-conceived wars: Here’s to the loss of your political virginity.

Lou Dobbs’ presidential aspirations = FAIL: Anti-immigrant group pulls support. Bwa!

Sunday, September 13, 2009 12:58 am

Goose, gander, sauce, etc.

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 12:58 am
Tags: , ,

The government has dropped its contract with the liberal organizing group ACORN after hidden cameras capture staffers giving tax advice to people posing as operators of a prostitution ring. Good.

The government also has dropped its contract with Blackwater, now known as Xe, after its employees indiscriminately fire on a bunch of civilians, killing at least 35. Also good.

Oh. Wait.

(h/t: Digby)

UPDATE: OK, I admit it: I laughed.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009 8:07 pm

Witnesses: Blackwater murdered at least one informant

Filed under: You're doing WHAT with my money?? — Lex @ 8:07 pm
Tags: , ,

Disclaimers up front: The source material for this article, uncorroborated by any other person or document, constitutes two depositions, given under penalty of perjury by a person claiming to have been a Blackwater manager and someone who may or may not still be on the Blackwater (now known as Xe Services LLC) payroll.

So this may be totally bogus.

But if it’s not, holy hell:

A former Blackwater employee and an ex-US Marine who has worked as a security operative for the company have made a series of explosive allegations in sworn statements filed on August 3 in federal court in Virginia. The two men claim that the company’s owner, Erik Prince, may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company. The former employee also alleges that Prince “views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe,” and that Prince’s companies “encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life.”

The two sources also claim that Blackwater, a private government contractor, allowed the unjustified killing of Iraqi civilians, knowingly employed people who were mentally unfit for duty (and fired mental-health professionals who refused to certify employees as fit) and illegally trafficked in weapons.  (ABC reported in 2008 that a grand jury here in North Carolina, where Xe is based, was looking into similar allegations. I can’t find any record in Google of charges being filed, and as much of a target as Blackwater has become for people who opposed the Bush administration’s Iraq strategy, if charges had been filed I’m sure we’d have heard about it.)

Again, we have zero corroborating evidence that any of this is true. But if it is true, I wonder how much the U.S. government knew about it at the time, or shortly thereafter.

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