Murder, destruction of evidence, weapons smuggling, corruption --- those are just some of the explosive allegations made by two former employees of the private military contractor formerly known as Blackwater. The claims were made in sworn statements filed on August 3rd in federal court in Virginia.
The two men claim Blackwater’s owner, Erik Prince,* may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company. One also alleges that Prince, quote, “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 significance was underscored in Scahill's Aug. 4 remarks on MSNBC's Countdown:
[W]hat we had here was...a force that acted as an armed wing of the [Bush] administration, not subject to the military command, not subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice...and the allegation that they were running around, shooting Iraqis as part of a war to eliminate Islam globally…is extremely disturbing to anyone who believes in any semblance of constitutional law or human rights.
While the allegations are extremely disturbing, they are apparently not disturbing enough to warrant coverage in almost all of the nation's leading newspapers. That, even though, as reported in Scahill's book, amongst the first to arrive in the aftermath of Katrina --- before the U.S. government and most aid organizations --- were a contingent of 150 Blackwater mercenaries, "some with M-4 automatic weapons, capable of firing nine hundred rounds per minute"....
"We killed the President that day. You could have been a part of it --- you know, part of history. You should have stayed. It was safe. Everything was covered in advance. No arrests, no real newspaper investigation. It was all covered, very professional." - Sworn deposition testimony provided in Hunt vs. Liberty Lobby, Inc. by Marita Lorenz, Fidel Castro's former girlfriend and CIA asset, recounting what her CIA recruiter, convicted Watergate burglar Frank Sturgis, told her after the assassination of JFK.
Sibel Edmonds' recent on-air revelation that, prior to 9/11, Osama bin Laden was relied upon by the Bush administration as a Central Asian asset, added one more disturbing piece to an incomplete puzzle, which, as could be expected, lent itself to a number of comments asking whether 9/11 was "an inside job." These, in turn, were summarily dismissed in another comment as "conspiracy theory."
Where does this concept of dismissing inquiry into momentous events as "conspiracy theory" come from?...
Since I signed off the syndicated Peter B. Collins radio show in March, I've been able to zoom out from the close-up view of day-to-day political combat.
On a daily basis, I reflect on the "change we can believe in" that candidate Obama promised us just a year ago. Certainly, the new administration is better than the Bush/Cheney gang on many fronts; and Bush left Obama an economic meltdown and other serious problems that need attention.
we still have 135,000 troops and even more contractors in Iraq, with no clear plan or timeline for our exit, just vague promises and the hope that the Iraqis will kick us out next year. Most of the US troops that have left Iraq went to Afghanistan;
the escalation of our presence in Afghanistan is very dangerous, and contradicts some of Obama's own statements about the prospects for "success" there. He had the chance to reverse direction after the election, but chose to double down on the "good war";
the massive interception of domestic electronic communications continues, and the Obama Justice Department has reinforced and expanded on the bad legal precedents set under Bush/Cheney. Most Democrats are silent on this issue, and I see no effort to restore our privacy rights.
Remember how they dubbed Ronnie Reagan the "Teflon president"? Obama seems to have a new and improved coating, I call it "Leftlon," protecting him from challenges from the progressives who helped him beat Hillary for the nomination.
He keeps reaching out to GOP nuts who want to scuttle his tepid health care "reform," refuses to allow investigations while Cheney spits at him regularly, and expects us to trust the Goldman Sachs Alumni Association to fix the economy that they continue to plunder.
When will Obama deliver for the progressives who got him elected?
Here are two fresh programs I'd like you to check out. You can download each and/or listen online below. One is co-hosted with me by FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds, featuring NSA expert James Bamford as guest. The other is my exclusive interview with Mark Klein, former AT&T technician turned NSA surveillance program whistleblower...
AllSpinZone's Richard Blair comes out of self-imposed blogging hiatus --- writing via email that he's "not sure what it means that my internal levy finally broke this evening" --- to notice:
Healthcare. Afghanistan. Iraq. Unemployment. TARP. State-level governments going tits up. Homelessness. Hunger. Veteran’s affairs. Torture. Gitmo. Not one piece of the progressive agenda is being meaningfully addressed, and congress is about to go on a month’s vacation.
Is there a reset button for the reset button? If so, the coming Congressional recess would be a good time to hit it, boys and girls on Capitol Hill.
Kudos --- for the actual reporting and literal legwork --- to Mike Stark of Firedoglake ("Scum of the earth," according to Rep. Tom Price (R-GA)) for nailing this in between FDL reader-funder Capitol Hill reportage on health care (ya know, stuff that actually matters).
Kudos too to Rep. Tommy Franks (R-AZ), for his willingness to admit, for the camera --- unlike all of the other Republicans that Stark tried to get comment from on the Hill --- that Obama is a natural born "citizen of the United States of America."
We were prepared to offer Franks a much-sought, but too-rarely bestowed BRAD BLOG Intellectually Honest Conservative Award, but then he blew it at the very end by noting his condemnation of Obama "for promoting abortion on demand, for standing by and letting Jihad gain traction in the word, and for doing things to undermine our constitution and for turning us into a Socialist nation." Too bad. And you were so close, Mr. Franks!
BTW, in a very related late update, FDL's Jane Hamsher notes...
So the DailyKos' Markos Moulitsas is scheduled to be on Bill Maher's Real Time tonight (which will be back on live again on HBO this evening).
Good. Hopefully Maher will push Kos hard to concede that President Barack Obama is not Progressive enough, is not bringing the change he'd promised, is failing to bring the accountability for the previous administration's blatant violations of the Rule of Law and the Constitution as the Democratic base and the majority of Americans had come to expect that he would.
If Maher presses Kos specifically, hard and loudly, on these points --- and he will have to --- I'd suspect Kos will agree with him. If he does, and makes such direct criticism of Obama heard in no uncertain terms, I suspect that might even catch Obama's attention, and further force him to ponder his current untenable stance on these matters and perhaps encourage him to begin to push back against the Rahm Emmanuels in the administration who are urging him down the easy "Clinton middle" instead
If anybody is in direct touch with Maher, or Kos, --- or even Obama --- please bring this opportunity to their attention. It starts with Maher. And, if anybody can do it, he can. It'd be a shame to see such an opportunity wasted.
UPDATE 7/18/09: Opportunity missed. Maher didn't push Obama or Kos. Kos didn't use the opportunity to push for more progressivism or accountability. Too bad. Maher's closing "New Rules" monologue was awesome, however. I'll try to get that posted here soon if possible.
Several weeks ago, VelvetRevolution.us, in coalition with a number of other accountability groups, filed bar disbarment complaints against 12 different Bush Administration attorneys in four states and the District of Columbia in regard to their approval of banned torture techniques used during detainee interrogations.
In a press conference today we (Disclosure: The BRAD BLOG is co-founder of VR) added two more to that list, both top CIA attorneys who continue to serve at the agency under the Obama Administration.
A grassroots coalition will file complaints today with the Washington, D.C. bar against two Central Intelligence Agency lawyers for their involvement in authorizing the use of controversial interrogation techniques against detainees in US custody.
Velvet Revolution, a coalition of over 150 grassroots groups, will register complaints against CIA lawyers Jonathan M. Fredman and John A. Rizzo. Fredmen, who is currently counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, served as the Associate General counsel for the CIA from 2001-2004. Rizzo is the current Acting General Counsel for the CIA but is retiring this month. His nomination to become full General Counsel has been held up for years over his alleged role in enabling the CIA’s controversial interrogation program.
DC lawyer and activist Kevin Zeese, along with a former Reagan administration Associate Attorney General Bruce Fein, held a press conference this morning at the National Press Club in which they discussed the complaints they will be filing later today.
“We call for dismissal of two torture architects still working in the Obama administration,” said Zeese. “The United States must face the reality of the extent of the torture program under the Bush-Cheney administration. War crimes were committed. The toxic poison of torture will not be removed from the body politic unless the rule of law is applied.”
Please see Alexandrovna's coverage today for details of revelations discussed at the presser this morning (eg. the "crucifixion" of a detainee who "died from asphyxiation after having been hung by his arms, in a hood, and suffering broken ribs" and details on, and links to, the new complaints against Rizzo and Fredman, both of whom still serve in the CIA today, incredibly enough).
More information on the campaign, including all of the complaints filed, is available at VR's DisbarTortureLawyers.com campaign. A quick video of Zeese's announcement, summarizing the complaints after today's press conference follows below...
In last week's "New Rules" segment on HBO's Real Time, Bill Maher blasted President Obama for "not getting the job done," adding "this is not what I voted for." He had been critical of Obama's lack of fight for health care reform, and "nibbling" that's leaving insurance companies "still running the show," bailed out banks "laughing at us about how easy it was to get back to 'business as usual,'" and scientists' vital warnings about serious climate change being largely ignored.
We ran that video last week, and found it was linked to by an enormous number of rightwing websites, using the opportunity to suggest that Maher now agreed with them about Obama.
This week (video above-right) Maher clarified the record. He first noted: "Last week in this space, I criticized President Obama for not fighting corporate influence enough, and it made some Liberals very angry. My phone rang off the hook." But he then removed any doubt about whether he was actually "in league" with those on the Right.
"As far as you folks on the Right that think that we're somehow in league --- we're not in league! I was criticizing Obama for not being hard enough on the corporate douche bags you live to defend. I don't wanna be on your team. Pick another kid."
"So I stand by my words," Maher said, before launching into a no-holds barred attack on the Democrats and Obama for their failings, yet again. "There is another side to the story. And that is, that every time Obama tries to take on a Progressive cause, there's a major political party standing in his way --- the Democrats."
"We don't have a Left and a Right party in this country anymore. We have a center-Right party and a crazy party. And over the last thirty-odd years, Democrats have moved to the Right, and the Right has moved into a mental hospital."
He went on to criticize Democrats for becoming the party of "hedge fund managers, credit card companies, banks, defense contractors, big agriculture and the pharmaceutical lobby [who] sit across the aisle from a small group of religious lunatics, flat-earthers, and Civil War re-enacters...who mostly communicate by AM radio and call themselves the Republicans."
The major concluding thesis in his scathing criticism: "Bottom line, Democrats are the new Republicans"
Diane Sweet of RAW STORY observed in her coverage: "If Maher had finished by declaring his candidacy for public office, by the sound of the applause in response to his monologue, he would have left the studio Friday evening with an audience full of supporters."
If you're unable to watch the video (above right), a text-transcript of the key quotes from this week's must-see monologue follow below. As with last week's, we find ourselves hard-pressed to disagree with a word of it...
While I couldn't care less about Bill Maher's 'Obama being on TV too much' schtick here, as seen on last night's Real Time on HBO, his scathing criticism of Obama which follows it is dead on the money.
Sorry folks, but this President is not fighting for real health care reform. It's nibbling that leaves insurance companies still running the show. And the banks, the banks that brought us to financial ruin and then got bailout money, are laughing at us about how easy it was to get back to 'business as usual.' And scientists keep saying that if we want to keep living, you know, on Earth, it's kind of essential we reduce carbon dioxide by 40% in the next ten years. Obama's bill calls for 4%.
This is not getting the job done, and this is not what I voted for.
Maher continues by arguing that "if you can't shove some real reform down [Republican] throats now, then when?" before adding: "I never thought I'd say this, but what he needs in his personality is a little George Bush. He needs to stop worrying about being loved, and bring out that smug, insufferable swagger that says, 'Suck on it, America!'"
"I'm glad Obama is President," Maher concludes, "but the 'Audicity of Hope' part is over. Right now, I'm hoping for a little more audacity..."
UPDATE 6/20/09: Maher follows up this monologue with another, equally as scathing, the following week. Details and video here...
* * *
Video of this week's scathing monologue is above right, the complete text transcript follows below...
"Americans think that it’s healthcare that produces health, when there really is very little evidence for that. What turns out to be really important is the nature of caring and sharing in society….Where societies are more equal --- and economic equality is the thing that is most important in this --- people look after each other…and pretty well everyone does better. There’s almost nothing that is better in a society that tolerates the extreme levels of inequality in the United States. And so, we end up dying younger than people in all the other rich countries, despite spending half the world’s healthcare bill." - Dr. Stephen Bezruchka, March 30, 2009
"Who are we? Is this what we have become --- a nation that dumps people off like garbage who can't pay their hospital bills?" - Michael Moore, following a segment in which a confused elderly woman in a flimsy hospital gown is dumped curbside near a Skid Row rescue mission, in his documentary Sicko!*
In Failed States (2006), Prof. Noam Chomsky, a preeminent linguist and one of this nation’s most prolific political writers, concludes that the U.S. suffers from a “democracy deficit” --- the significant gap between the policy positions of the electorate and their elected representatives --- which he attributes to the manner in which “elections are skillfully managed to avoid issues and marginalize the underlying population…freeing the elected leadership to serve the substantial people.”
The deficit is especially acute in what Chomsky describes as “the most dysfunctional healthcare system in the industrial world.” Chomsky notes that a single-payer system --- that is a system in which all medical providers would be paid by a government entity as now occurs with Medicare --- has long been overwhelmingly favored by “a considerable majority” of the American people, but routinely dismissed by both the corporate media and the leaders of both political parties as “lacking political support” and not being “politically possible.”
The issue touches on the core contradictions which arise because we have allowed private authoritarian entities, corporations, to subvert democracy by controlling our economy, our mass media and the manner in which we conduct elections.
This piece will focus on the irrationality of a privatized health care system which values the wealth of a handful of CEOs of the parasitic and entirely unnecessary middle-men --- for-profit carriers and HMOs --- over the health and very lives of our people. It will explain what corporate America and their bought-and-paid-for politicians do not want you to hear...
President Barack Obama has nominated 54-year old Sonia Sotomayor, a Judge on the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeal in New York, to fill the upcoming vacancy brought about by the pending retirement of Supreme Court Justice David Souter.
Despite degrees from Princeton (A.B. summa cum laude 1976) and Yale Law School (J.D. 1979), Sotomayor's Puerto Rican roots are truly working class. Her father, a tool-and-die maker with a third grade education, died when she was nine years old. She and her brother, who became a physician, grew up in a Bronx housing project, raised by her single mother, a nurse.
Although she was initially nominated to the federal bench by George H. W. Bush, in 1998 (when she was approved by a vote of 35 to 11, among still serving U.S. Senators) and is considered a judicial centrist by the ABA journal, her nomination to the Second Circuit Court of Appeal was bottled up by Republicans for more than a year after she was nominated by President Clinton. The hold-up was no mere coincidence...
"In politics we presume that everyone who knows how to get votes knows how to administer a city or a state. When we are ill...we do not ask for the handsomest physician, or the most eloquent one." --- Plato
During the campaign, amid their state of elation, many disregarded Presidential Candidate Senator Barack Obama's past record and took any criticism of these past actions as partisan attacks deserving equally partisan counterattacks. Some continued their reluctant support after candidate Obama became grand finalist and prayed for the best. And a few still continue their rationalizing and defense, with illogical excuses such as 'He's been in office for only 20 days, give the man a break!' and 'He's had only 50 days in office, give him a chance!' and currently, 'be reasonable - how much can a man do in 120 days?!' I am going to give this logic, or lack of, a slight spicing of reason, then, turn it around, and present it as: If 'the man' can do this much astounding damage, whether to our civil liberties, or to our notion of democracy, or to government integrity, in 'only' 120 days, may God help us with the next [(4 X 365) - 120] days.
I know there are those who have been tackling President Obama's changes on change; they have been challenging his flipping, or rather flopping, on issues central to getting him elected. While some have been covering the changes comprehensively, others have been running right and left like headless chickens in the field - pick one hypocrisy, scream a bit, then move on to the next outrageous flop, the same, and then to the next, basically, looking and treating this entire mosaic one piece at a time.
Despite all the promises Mr. Obama made during his campaign, especially on those issues that were absolutely central to those whose support he garnered, so far the President of Change has followed in the footsteps of his predecessor. Not only that, his administration has made it clear that they intend to continue this trend. Some call it a major betrayal. Can we go so far as to call it a 'swindling of the voters'?
On the State Secrets Privilege
Yes, I am going to begin with the issue of State Secrets Privilege; because I was the first recipient of this 'privilege' during the now gone Administration;
For those who have wondered (particularly when looking at the incredible miscarriages of prosecutorial injustices and improprieties in cases like Gov. Siegelman's), no, Obama has yet to replace Bush's partisan U.S. Attorneys, incredibly enough. But he will, says AG Holder, according to Politico...
President Barack Obama plans to replace a "batch" of U.S. Attorneys in the next few weeks and more prosecutors thereafter, according to Attorney General Eric Holder.
"I expect that we'll have an announcement in the next couple of weeks with regard to our first batch of U.S attorneys," Holder said Thursday during a House Judiciary Committee hearing which stretched out over most of the day due to breaks for members' votes. "One of the things that we didn't want to do was to disrupt the continuity of the offices and pull people out of positions where we thought there might be a danger that that might have on the continuity--the effectiveness of the offices. But...elections matter--it is our intention to have the U.S. Attorneys that are selected by President Obama in place as quickly as they can."
Holder's comments Thursday came in response to a question from Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) "Many jurisdictions are waiting desperately to see what is going to be done. As we understand it, the protocol has been that U.S. Attorneys would hand in their resignations and would give the new administration an opportunity to make new appointments, we don't see that happening quite fast enough," she said, pointing to complaints about prosecutors in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama.
Gosh. Take your time, kids. Although, in fairness (where any may be due here), the following bears keeping in mind...
If the first U.S. Attorney selections from Obama do come in the next few weeks, he will still be ahead of Bush's timetable. He proposed his first U.S. Attorneys on August 1, 2001.
U.S. Attorneys require confirmation by the Senate and are usually proposed with the concurrence of the senators from that state.
Tesla Motors revealed its all-electric Model S sedan last week in Los Angeles. At half the price of its Roadster model, which was $109,000, the Model S will be priced at $49,900 after tax credits ($57,400 before such credits). "After factoring in savings on gas," Tesla points out, that's "comparable to a $35,000 Ford sedan," the New York Times reports. A blog item from the Timesdescribes the Model S as "sleek, sporty and sexy."
Tesla hopes the price tag will come down to "less than $30,000," as the price "will presumably go down as the technology improves." They plan the manufactured version to get 300 miles to a single charge, with a 45-minute recharge time.
While the company has raised millions from private investors, they need still more to be able to set up a production plant, which they plan to do in Southern California. But, for the moment, they are waiting on federal loan programs, as the credit market has otherwise locked up, according to the Times.
In the meantime, Detroit's big three automakers are also asking for federal funds and, in advance of President Obama's announcement of plans for the auto-industry, he has reportedly demanded that GM's CEO step down. So let's add one plus one here...