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Member since: Sat May 15, 2010, 03:48 PM
Number of posts: 7,555

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STUNNER in Sunday's NY Times concerning Blackwater!

[font size=5]Before Shooting in Iraq, a Warning on Blackwater[/font]


WASHINGTON — Just weeks before Blackwater guards fatally shot 17 civilians at Baghdad’s Nisour Square in 2007, the State Department began investigating the security contractor’s operations in Iraq. But the inquiry was abandoned after Blackwater’s top manager there issued a threat: “that he could kill” the government’s chief investigator and “no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq,” according to department reports.

American Embassy officials in Baghdad sided with Blackwater rather than the State Department investigators as a dispute over the probe escalated in August 2007, the previously undisclosed documents show. The officials told the investigators that they had disrupted the embassy’s relationship with the security contractor and ordered them to leave the country, according to the reports.

After returning to Washington, the chief investigator wrote a scathing report to State Department officials documenting misconduct by Blackwater employees and warning that lax oversight of the company, which had a contract worth more than $1 billion to protect American diplomats, had created “an environment full of liability and negligence.”

< . . . . >

His memo and other newly disclosed State Department documents make clear that the department was alerted to serious problems involving Blackwater and its government overseers before the Nisour Square shooting, which outraged Iraqis and deepened resentment over the United States’ presence in the country.

< . . . . >

(Emphasis added.)
Posted by markpkessinger | Mon Jun 30, 2014, 02:57 AM (19 replies)

Full documentary on Aaron Swartz now available on YouTube . . . .

.Highly recommended!

Synopsis (from IMdb):

The Internet's Own Boy follows the story of programming prodigy and information activist Aaron Swartz. From Swartz's help in the development of the basic internet protocol RSS to his co-founding of Reddit, his fingerprints are all over the internet. But it was Swartz's groundbreaking work in social justice and political organizing combined with his aggressive approach to information access that ensnared him in a two-year legal nightmare. It was a battle that ended with the taking of his own life at the age of 26. Aaron's story touched a nerve with people far beyond the online communities in which he was a celebrity.

Posted by markpkessinger | Sun Jun 29, 2014, 07:46 PM (2 replies)

The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz (full documentary)

The complete documentary about the extraordinary life and tragic death of Aaron Swarts, "The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz" is now available for viewing on YouTube.

Synopsis (from IMdb):

The Internet's Own Boy follows the story of programming prodigy and information activist Aaron Swartz. From Swartz's help in the development of the basic internet protocol RSS to his co-founding of Reddit, his fingerprints are all over the internet. But it was Swartz's groundbreaking work in social justice and political organizing combined with his aggressive approach to information access that ensnared him in a two-year legal nightmare. It was a battle that ended with the taking of his own life at the age of 26. Aaron's story touched a nerve with people far beyond the online communities in which he was a celebrity.

Posted by markpkessinger | Sun Jun 29, 2014, 06:40 PM (10 replies)

A red-letter day for the Courts!

First, there was the Supreme Court's ruling against warrantless cell phone sesarches of those who are arrested. Then there was a Federal District Court's ruling that the no-fly list is unconstitutional, and finally the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down Utah's ban on same-sex marriage.

Days like this give me hope!
Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Jun 25, 2014, 12:11 PM (1 replies)

James Baldwin Debates William F. Buckley (1965)

I had no idea there ever was a formal debate between one of my all-time favorite authors, James Baldwin, and William F. Buckley, let alone that there was any video of it available. This is truly great stuff!

Posted by markpkessinger | Sat Jun 21, 2014, 12:38 AM (10 replies)

David Brooks (somewhat surprisingly) gets it exactly right on Bergdahl

Can't say I'm a fan of David Brooks -- much of the time I find him clueless. But in this column in today's New York Times concerning the deal to secure the release of Sgt. Bergdahl, Brooks gets it exactly right. And even the rather mild criticism he makes of the Obama Administration is, I think, a fair one. In any case, kudos to Brooks for a much-needed injection of sanity into the discussion.

[font size=6]President Obama Was Right[/font]

JUNE 5, 2014

< . . . . >

These commitments (of soldiers not to leave any American behind), so crucial, are based on deep fraternal sentiments that have to be nurtured with action. They are based on the notion that we are members of one national community. We will not abandon each other; we will protect one another; heroic measures will be taken to leave no one behind. Even if it is just a lifeless body that we are retrieving, it is important to repatriate all Americans.

The president and vice president, the only government officials elected directly by the entire nation, have a special responsibility to nurture this national solidarity. So, of course, President Obama had to take all measures necessary to secure the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Of course, he had to do all he could do to not forsake an American citizen.

It doesn’t matter if Bergdahl had deserted his post or not. It doesn’t matter if he is a confused young man who said insulting and shameful things about his country and his Army. The debt we owe to fellow Americans is not based on individual merit. It is based on citizenship, and loyalty to the national community we all share.

< . . . . >

It is not dispositive either that the deal to release Bergdahl may put others at risk. The five prisoners released from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in a swap for Bergdahl seem like terrible men who could do harm. But their release may have been imminent anyway. And the loss of national fraternity that would result if we start abandoning Americans in the field would be a greater and more long lasting harm.

< . . . . >
Posted by markpkessinger | Sat Jun 7, 2014, 10:31 AM (3 replies)

Very powerful response to the Bergdahl nonsense by a retired US Navy Chief Warrant Officer

I have never read any of this blogger's work until today, when a friend shared it with me on Facebook. The blogger's name is Jim Wright, a retured US Navy Chief Warrant Officer who lives in Alaska and writes the Stonekettle Station blog. The utter disgust and contempt he feels towards those who suggest Sgt. Bergdahl should have been left behind is positively palpable in this piece. I've posted an excerpt below, but do yourself a favor and go to the link to read the entire piece, because a 4-paragraph excerpt doesn't begin to capture it..

[font size=3]Monday, June 2, 2014[/font]
[font size=5]Negotiating With Terrorists[/font]

< . . . . >

I didn’t think these people could dishonor the spirit of this country any more than they already had, but I was wrong.

Oh, I get it. I understand that frightened people become more and more irrational, especially when they are allowed, encouraged, to feed incestuously on each other’s fear. And I get that they are afraid. I can see it in their faces, I can hear it in their voices. I get that they’re afraid of change. I get that they’re afraid of the future. I get that they’re afraid of the past. And I get that they’re afraid of the present. I get that they’re afraid of losing power and privilege and prestige. I get that they’re afraid of their capricious and childishly vengeful god. I get that they’re afraid of different races and different cultures and different accents and different religions and different sexual orientations and different viewpoints and different politics. I get it, they’ve screamed their small fears over and over and only a dead man could possibly miss it.

I get that they are so consumed with rage and so filled with naked hate and so programmed with their diseased ideology that it poisons their minds like a computer chip submerged in acid.

I get that they are so utterly terrified of the world that they piss themselves in abject fear at the mere thought of going to the grocery store without a goddamned gun stuck in their pants like an extra oversized prick.

< . . . . >

Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Jun 4, 2014, 04:41 AM (100 replies)

The simplistic reductionism of "Is {Bergdah/Snowden/Manning} a Hero or a {Deserter, Traitor, etc.}"

I have been more than dismayed to see so many news outlets running stories with some variation of the headline, "Hero or Deserter," regarding Sgt. Bergdahl, the newly freed POW who had been held in Afghanistan. Below is the text of a comment I posted to an article on CBS's website titled, "Bowe Bergdahl: Hero or deserter?", in a fit of exasperation after seeing dozens of similar headlines in one mainstream media outlet after another.
I'm not sure, and at this point neither is anyone else, of what were the exact nature and circumstances of Sgt. Bergdahl's absence from his duties. But CBS should be ashamed of itself for reducing what is a very complex and complicated issue to a false choice between the facile categories of 'hero' and 'deserter.' There is very little in life that is so black and white, and the use of such emotionally charged labels such as 'hero' and 'deserter' are particularly unhelpful.

One of the big problems we have as a society is precisely this widespread tendency to view every issue through a simplistic, binary filter, in which even the most morally complex questions are reduced to two opposing choices, one of which is perfectly good (i.e., patriotic, heroic, etc.) and one of which is perfectly bad (i.e., treasonous, cowardly, etc.), when the reality of the matter is that, in almost every instance, there are an infinite number of ways to see a particular issue that fall somewhere along the continuum of good-to-bad, and thus resist such facile, binary categorizations. Politicians, political parties, and certainly military leaders have long sought to encourage this kind of simplistic, binary thinking among the general public, because the more they can force the public to perceive, say, the question of support for a particular military engagement as a choice between patriotism and treason, or between nationalism and disloyalty, the fewer hard questions the public asks about those military engagements, and the easier it becomes to portray those who ask such hard questions as being somehow disloyal or unpatriotic. This was never more on display than in the run up to the war in Iraq: those who dared to question the impending invasion were labeled as being 'anti-American, or as being part of some alleged "blame America first" crowd.

The military has a long and rather unsavory history of employing this kind of reductionism in its approach to the question of desertion. We all learned in school, for example, about Washington's concern, during the Revolutionary War, for his troops, of his importunings to the Continental Congress to allocate funds to adequately feed, clothe and compensate the soldiers in the Continental Army. Here we had soldiers, most of whom were conscripts, and many of them unwilling conscripts, and most of whom were drawn from the ranks of those who were too poor to own land or businesses and thus had little stake in the outcome of the war (which was, after all, more of an aristocratic insurrection than a genuine revolution). Having been forced to serve by the aristocrats who sat in the Continental Congress, they found themselves, in the dead of winter, having not received the pay to which they were entitled in months, hungry, ill-clothed and dying of exposure, while their commanding officers (all drawn from the landed gentry, of course) continued to wine and dine in relative comfort, to say nothing of the fact that the entitled aristocrats in the Continental Congress who had compelled them to serve continued to dig into their own pockets in order to fund a military engagement that really served only the interests of the landed gentry! Should we really wonder, then, that desertion had become a major problem for the Continental Army? And can we really blame those soldiers for refusing to allow themselves to be so exploited?

But we all heard much less in school about Washington the brutal, despotic General, who routinely ordered the summary executions of those caught attempting to flee their forced servitude. In one instance in New Jersey, when a group of soldiers was caught attempting to desert, not only did Washington order their executions, but he forced the friends of those attempting to desert to serve on the firing squads for those same soldiers. That is an example of psychological terror of the most brutal sort. Nor de we hear -- indeed, because there was nothing to hear about -- of Washington caring enough for his troops that he was willing to sacrifice his own comfort, or that of his officers, to help the conscripts who were forced to sleep in overcrowded, poorly ventiolated and disease-ridden cabins. Washington cared about his men? Well, as a means to an end, perhaps.

The military tries to foster the notion that desertion has only two possible motives: treason or cowardice (that is to say, the military reduces desertion to a choice between malicious intent and character weakness). The reality is usually a whole lot more complex. Sometimes, a soldier is simply not psychologically equipped to handle the mental and emotional stress of combat,, and in a cloud of confusion, sees his only option as being that of simply walking away. Is it really fair to characterize such a soldier as either a traitor or a moral weakling? I hardly think so. And if a soldier is, indeed, under such an absolute obligation to the military and governmenet, should there not be a corresponding obligation on the part of the military not to mischaracterize, and certainly not to romanticize, the true nature of the service a potential recruit is likely to face? And this is not even to mention the question of the government's obligation to be honest with the American people about the true motivaions and objectives of any given war. If the government, and/or the military, can cavalierly break faith with a soldier by misrepresenting the true nature of an ongoing conflict and that soldier's likely service in it, why, then, should the soldier continue to bear the burden of an obligation that was entered into in bad faith by the military and/or the government?

Sgt. Bergdahl's actions may or may not meet the legal criteria for desertion -- that is for a court-martial, not a public opinion poll, to determine. But until those larger questions are addressed, I don't think any of us has the right to be particularly moralistic in our assessments of a particular soldier's decision to walk away from his post. And as Americans, if we are ever to be anything other than the tools of whatever politicans happen to be in power, or the tools of those who are, for the moment, not in power, then we all need to begin recognize when politicians, aided and abetted by mainstream news outlets, begin to try to frame very important yet morally ambiguous issues into a dualistic framework of good versus bad, patriot versus traitor, or hero versus deserter.
Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Jun 4, 2014, 04:04 AM (5 replies)
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