Drain Clogs – 10-02-2010

More Transparency and Accountability

NYT: Blackwater Reaches Deal on U.S. Export Violations

A settlement of $42 million over has been reached with the State Department who they’re currently still contracting with, not an actual court.  It almost certainly includes provisions about “admitting to no wrongdoing” so this is really just a whitewash.   The fines were for “export violations” including:

  • Illegal weapons exports to Afghanistan.
  • Making unauthorized proposals to train troops in Sudan.
  • Providing sniper training for Taiwanese police/paramilitaries.

The first is an actual export violation, the others could be if you count them as “services” but that’s kind of a ridiculous way to treat the situation in Sudan in particular.   The story cited anonymous sources and it’s all probably classified so I don’t expect any documents to be released.


On the same day, the NYT has an Op-Ed about how Afghan women will be maimed at a faster rate if foreign contractors are banned.

UNDER orders from President Hamid Karzai, over the next four months Afghanistan will be phasing out almost all foreign private security companies, a move meant to bring the country’s vast security apparatus under tighter government control.

It’s a laudable goal. But it also means that foreign aid workers, government officials and companies will have to rely instead for security on the Afghan National Police and the Afghan National Army — arguably two of the most corrupt and incompetent organizations in the country. Without a more effective replacement for foreign security companies, Mr. Karzai’s order could make the situation in Afghanistan significantly worse.

Who created and trained them in the first place again?  Oh, that’s right, foreign contractors!  And only a year ago it was about putting an “Afghan face” on the war:

There is a new push to dramatically expand the size of the Afghan Army and police, as the military operations now under way in southern Afghanistan is marked by a conspicuous absence of Afghans in the fight.


The Helmand offensive points to the need for more Afghans in the battlefield. There are roughly 4,000 US Marines operating in the Helmand region, but only about 650 Afghan soldiers fighting alongside them. There are also 6,500 British troops in the province.

“I’m not going to sugarcoat it,” said Brig. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, commander of the Marine Expeditionary Brigade running the operation there, in a briefing with reporters earlier this month. “The fact of the matter is, we don’t have enough Afghan forces, and I’d like more.”

There are in fact a total of 5,000 Afghan soldiers in Helmand, and more are said to be on the way, but officials haven’t explained why they’re not involved in the new offensive. The rest of the Afghan army is posted around the country, with many in the north, where violence is reasonably low.

Putting an “Afghan face” on military operations is more than window dressing.

“Building a larger – yet still professional – ANA [Afghan National Army] will be one of the pillars of a successful counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan,” says Carter Malkasian, an analyst with CNA, a think tank in Washington. “The ANA are cheap, good at gathering information, and respected by the population. The more well-trained, well-advised Afghan soldiers, the better.”

Same strategy in Afghanistan

Which is to say none, really.  Keeping in mind the bankruptcy of the “safe haven” argument, let’s see what government officials and the press have to say about changes after McChrystal’s embarrassing exit.

LA Times

A debate over the administration’s war strategy is already underway, as Democratic and Republicans lawmakers clashed Sunday over whether Obama should rethink his pledge now that a new commander will oversee the war.”I’m against a timetable,” Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Warning that a timetable emboldens the enemy to wait for Americans to depart, he added, “A high-ranking Taliban prisoner said, ‘You’ve got the watches and we’ve got the time.’ ”

But Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the committee chairman, said a timetable is crucial to show “urgency to the Afghan government that they must take responsibility … for their own security.”

“The only way you get things done is by setting dates,” Levin said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

The dispute over the start of the U.S. withdrawal is likely to be a prominent issue Tuesday when Petraeus faces senators in a hearing on his confirmation. Petraeus, now head of all U.S. forces in the Middle East, was chosen for the top post in Afghanistan after the removal of Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal for comments critical of civilian leaders in a magazine article.

And as a bonus:

CIA Director Leon Panetta, appearing on ABC News’s “This Week” on Sunday, said the agency had awarded Xe Services LLC — the company formerly known as Blackwater — a contract to protect its installations in Afghanistan. The contract, reported by the Washington Post to be worth $100 million, is in addition to a separate contract Xe has with the State Department to protect U.S. officials in the country.

Blackwater was involved by a series of controversial incidents, including a deadly shootout in Baghdad in 2007 that claimed the lives of Iraqi civilians and became a political liability for the U.S. government.

Drain Clogs – 06-08-2010

Hey, don’t look now, but we’ve had a second oil spill in the Gulf, this one happened on April 30th!! It’s still going, btw.

Yesterday we found out Blackwater Pro Gear was for sale, today we find out Blackwater itself is for sale!

California voted for Prop 14, which changes the primaries so either it is a dagger in the heart of special interest groups or it assures that only the milquetoastiest of moderates get elected to do anything. Awful Props 16 and 17 were voted down.

Dr. Orly Taitz failed in her bid to become the Republican candidate for Secretary of State. All the fun we could have had…wasted.

Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln won her runoff election against Bill Halter, after which a White House official blasted the unions (saying “Organized labor just flushed $10 million down the toilet.”) As Blanche Lincoln will get beat down heavily in November, good riddance to her, while the unnamed White House official should go suck a lemon after blasting the working class people who comprise the core of the Democratic Party like that.


Nevada GOP Senate candidate Sharron Angle earlier in her career spoke out strongly against fluoride, the substance known alternately for improving dental health and as a Communist plot to undermine Western democracy.

Cartoon of the Day:

Drain Clogs – 06-08-2010

The Bush Administration may have medically experimented on detainees. Sorry, no joke about this, because fuck them if this is true.

The “Ground Zero mosque” protest (of the mosque that will not be on Ground Zero, but whatever, stupid people are stupid) ended as it began, as a bunch of totally not-racist garbage. The most hilarious racism was when the protestors attacked two Coptic Christians who had come to protest the mosque as well.

At one point, a portion of the crowd menacingly surrounded two Egyptian men who were speaking Arabic and were thought to be Muslims.

“Go home,” several shouted from the crowd.

“Get out,” others shouted.

In fact, the two men – Joseph Nassralla and Karam El Masry — were not Muslims at all. They turned out to be Egyptian Coptic Christians who work for a California-based Christian satellite TV station called “The Way.” Both said they had come to protest the mosque.

“I’m a Christian,” Nassralla shouted to the crowd, his eyes bulging and beads of sweat rolling down his face.

But it was no use. The protesters had become so angry at what they thought were Muslims that New York City police officers had to rush in and pull Nassralla and El Masry to safety.

“I flew nine hours in an airplane to come here,” a frustrated Nassralla said afterward.

Just imagine what would have happened had they been racist!

Rep Bart Stupak (D-MI) sucks, but not so much that fathers and sons should be making joint death threats against him!
The letter of threatening threats

Russell Hesch, 73, and David Hesch, 50, were charged with conspiracy to threaten to assault, kidnap or murder a U.S. official. They face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

In the most explicit threat from the letter, the author threatens to “paint the Mackinaw [sic] Bridge with the blood of you and your family members. … Maybe you will be the main character of a story that parents tell their children as they cross the bridge decades from know [sic]. The red paint of Bart Stupak!”

Afghanistan is now the longest US military combat action in history. WOOOOooOOOOO!!!

Are you smarter than this WSJ Op-Ed? (Enlightened Answer: Yes)

Who is better informed about the policy choices facing the country—liberals, conservatives or libertarians? According to a Zogby International survey that I write about in the May issue of Econ Journal Watch, the answer is unequivocal: The left flunks Econ 101.

Let’s see the questions:

The other questions were: 1) Mandatory licensing of professional services increases the prices of those services (unenlightened answer: disagree). 2) Overall, the standard of living is higher today than it was 30 years ago (unenlightened answer: disagree). 3) Rent control leads to housing shortages (unenlightened answer: disagree). 4) A company with the largest market share is a monopoly (unenlightened answer: agree). 5) Third World workers working for American companies overseas are being exploited (unenlightened answer: agree). 6) Free trade leads to unemployment (unenlightened answer: agree). 7) Minimum wage laws raise unemployment (unenlightened answer: disagree).

I guess to be Enlightened means to be a Libertarian douchebag that is against regulation of industries to have standards, spiraling rent costs, worker exploitation, against regulations of markets that cause things like the Great Recession, and against anyone having a living wage. Daniel Klein is the King of Enlightenment.

Buy Blackwater/Xe crap! Hate shopping online? Just go to their retail stores!

There are lots of elections going on today, vote and stuff if you can.

Cartoon of the Day: