September 29, 2007

Cultural Creatives

Based on survey work conducted in the late 1990s, sociologist Paul Ray found that about 26% of American adults care deeply about ecology and saving the planet, peace and social justice, and self-expression. Known as "Cultural Creatives," these people are typically the product of a social consciousness movement, from the 1960’s civil rights and women's movements right up to the 1999 World Trade Organization demonstrations in Seattle.

26% may not sound large, but remember that George Bush gained power with votes from only about 17% of American adults. We can take hope in knowing that at no time in US history has there been as large a pool of potential social activists as there is today.


Cultural Creatives . ORG

September 26, 2007

RAID Hard Drive Basics

RAID allows two inexpensive hard drives to function as one.

RAID 0 - Uses two drives as one large drive
RAID 1 - Uses one drive to set up a mirror of the other drive.

September 25, 2007

Flagship Contractor Sinking in Blackwater

Guest Writer: L. Vincent Sebastian

Dateline: September 19, 2007

For the third day in a row, the controversy surrounding Blackwater security guards in Iraq is headline news. Last Sunday, the Blackwater guards of a State Department motorcade allegedly killed as many as 20 Iraqi civilians in a firefight with armed insurgents in Baghdad [1]. In response, the Iraqi government suspended Blackwater's license to work in Iraq and has ordered a full investigation of the incident.

This might seem like just another violent episode in the chaos that is Baghdad, but it is much more significant. Secretary of State Condolleezza Rice has been pressuring Prime Minister Maliki to return Blackwater's license, and President Bush himself plans to weigh in on the issue when he meets with Maliki next Tuesday. The revocation of Blackwater's license is fundamentally unacceptable to the Bush administration because it represents a setback in the achievement of their goal of a huge ramp-up in the U.S. private military force, as openly stated by Dick Cheney and other neocons formerly in the administration. The removal of a private security
contractor is not a precedent Bush & company would like to see set. Blackwater, as one of the largest and the most prominent of 28 contractors working in the region, is something of a flagship. The public's perception of Blackwater will be a strong indicator of the public's support for a privatized military.

Editor's Notes:

1. By some accounts there weren't "armed insurgents" shooting at the motorcade.

2. According to DemocracyNow!, Sept. 21, 2007, there is no "license" to be revoked.

A more grave issue being exposed by this controversy is that the US has become dependent on the military contractors. Peace movement activists might consider focusing energy on removing contractors from Iraq to undermine the viability of the occupation.

September 19, 2007

Israeli Security Cabinet: Blatant War Criminals

So what's new? There's no additional risk to Israeli decision-makers; they're already war criminals many times over simply for their disproportionate use of force, use of indiscriminate cluster munitions in civilian areas, and collective punishment against Lebanese people in 2006.

So, they have little to loose by declaring the entire geographic region of Gaza an "enemy entity." They think they can create a legal fiction, commit collective punishment by cutting off power and fuel supplies and get away with it. They are wrong.

I'm not alone in condemning Israeli leaders as war criminals on par with the most notorious in history. I boycott Israeli products, and speak freely of their atrocious behavior, their false claims of "good faith". I don't trust Israel at all. They have pushed me to challenge the legitimacy of the Israeli state.

Israel and the US have exposed themselves by blatantly undermining the legitimate results of the elections that gave Hamas a parliamentary majority.

I declare the current US and Israeli governments to be "enemies of democracy."

This isn't a legal fiction. Sufficient evidence exists to prove that this phrase applies to these governments, and continue to be a legal sickle hanging over the necks of specific decision makers after they leave office. They will be prosecuted. We will reclaim our democratic principles, institutions, and power.

September 18, 2007

Would Blackwater Get Away with that in America?

Reacting to the most recent killing of civilians by Blackwater USA in Iraq, Baghdad resident Halim Mashkoor told AP Television News:
"We see the security firms ... doing whatever they want in the streets. They beat citizens and scorn them..." "If such a thing happened in America or Britain, would the American president or American citizens accept it?"

Yes. It happend with Blackwater in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.


Diplomatic convoys curtailed in Iraq, Associated Press, September 18, 2007.

Overkill: Feared Blackwater Mercenaries Deploy in New Orleans
, DemocracyNow, September 12th, 2005.

September 17, 2007

Privatized War is a Black(water) Box

Guest Writer L. Vincent Sebastian

The expansion of Blackwater USA to new locations in Illinois and California is a grave indicator that America is moving in the wrong direction with respect to private military and security contractors (See ~ Blackwater Grows as Support For Iraq Shrinks). The role of these contractors should shrink, not grow, due to a number of legal and moral problems.

Some of the controversies surrounding Blackwater and other private contractors have been covered here previously this year (see - June 26; March 11 (3-Part Series); and February 9). And today, controversy erupted anew when the Iraqi government ordered Blackwater to leave the country after the fatal shooting of eight Iraqi civilians following a car bomb attack against a State Department convoy (see "Iraq expels American security firm" by Robert H. Reid, Associated Press, September 17, 2007).

Questioned in response to this incident, American officials refused to explain the legal authority under which Blackwater operates in Iraq or say whether the company was complying with an order. The real problem here is one of accountability: Private security contractors operating on foreign soil are not really accountable to anyone. By and large, they operate beyond the control of U.S. military and are not subject to military law. At the same time, they have immunity from Iraqi law (akin to diplomatic immunity). Apparently, the only thing holding a contractor in check is the prospect that its client (the State Department in this case) will be dissatisfied and not renew its contract. But in the insider game of no-bid government contracts, how likely is this for the politically connected Blackwater?

Ultimately, the biggest problem with private contractors is a moral one that affects us all. As war becomes increasingly privatized (about 129,000 contractors are currently operating in Iraq), it becomes further removed and concealed from the attention of the American people. The historic role of our government as the legitimate perpetrator of a war shifts to one of manager-at-arms-length of a war carried out by third parties, the contractors. This further distances us, the public, from the war and its consequences, and separates us from the sense of buy-in, participation, oversight, and responsibility we all must have if war is to be waged.

Blackwater License to be Revoked

Breaking News:

Iraqi Government is going to revoke the license for Blackwater USA to operate in Iraq. According to the Associated Press:

The Iraqi government said Monday that it was revoking the license of an American security firm accused of involvement in the deaths of eight civilians in a firefight that followed a car bomb explosion near a State Department motorcade.

Interior Ministry spokesman Abdul-Karim Khalaf said eight civilians were killed and 13 were wounded when contractors believed to be working for Blackwater USA opened fire in a predominantly Sunni neighborhood of western Baghdad.

"We have canceled the license of Blackwater and prevented them from working all over Iraqi territory. We will also refer those involved to Iraqi judicial authorities."


"Blackwater license being revoked in Iraq,"Associated Press, Sept. 17, 2007, BASSEM MROUE.

September 14, 2007


Sometimes the establishment media slips through a poke in the eye of authority:
The president's speech marked only the latest shift in direction — and rationale and packaging — for a war that has lasted 4 1/2 years and cost a half trillion dollars and nearly 3,800 American lives.

- JENNIFER LOVEN, Associated Press

This indicates that a significant fraction of the establishment have had enough of the Iraq war.


Associated Press, "Bush preserves big troop level in Iraq," JENNIFER LOVEN, September 14, 2007.

September 13, 2007

Sattar Abu Risha: Former US Contractor, Conman

At least 15,000 Shiite households were forced out of Anbar Province in a fifteen day ethnic cleansing purge some time ago. They now live in a slum near Baghdad.

According to Rick Rowley, independent filmmaker with Big Noise films who visited Anbar and the slums:

"The road home for the Shiite families of Taji is made more difficult by the Americans' new strategy. The refugees say they know exactly who it was that bombed their houses and cleansed the Shia from the region: Sunni tribes American soldiers are working with."

We are told by the Bush propaganda machine that a man named Sattar Abu Risha has unified the Sunni tribes in Anbar. Captain Martin Wohlgemuth, operating on the ground in Anbar calls Sattar Abu Risha, "a living legacy in his own right. He's probably better known as Lawrence of Arabia to the Americans.

According to Sattar Abu Risha, "I am head of the Iraq Awakening Council, leader of all the Iraqi Arab Tribes." Rawly found him in Jordan, where Abu Rissha said, "And to the terrorists, I say that I will be in Anbar in five days, and if they want to see me, I am ready for them."

Someone was ready for Abu Risha. He was assassinated a few days ago. According to Rowley, "Sheikh Ali Hathem from the Dulaimi tribe, the largest and most important tribe in Anbar, ... claims Risha [was] a conman who has received millions of dollars in construction contracts from the Americans who have tried to turn him into a symbol of their success."

Ali Hathem continues, [translated] "This is nothing new for us. The Americans like to create characters, like Disney cartoon heroes." The only difference is these cartoon characters don't walk away when their faces are blackened by a bomb.


DemocracyNow, "U.S. Fueling Sectarian Civil War in Anbar by Funding Former Insurgents to Fight Al Qaeda," September 11, 2007.

September 11, 2007

President to Announce Troop Cut: Pathetic

President Bush will tell the nation Thursday evening that he plans to reduce the American troop presence in Iraq by as many as 30,000 by next summer but will condition those and further cuts on continued progress, The Associated Press has learned.


King George has no clothes on this spin. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also rolled her eyes at Bush's "big announcement":

Please. It's an insult to the intelligence of the American people...

Think of it, we'll reduce the size of the US occupation from 170,000 to 140,000 a year from now, not counting private mercenaries and black operators, PROVIDED the victims of the US war of aggression make progress that we define.


September 9, 2007

Many In Guantanamo are Innocent

The Guantanamo Bay detention facility has been using Administrative Review Board (ARB) panels to assess what to do with detainees. According to the Associated Press:
As of Sept. 6, [2007] the U.S. had transferred or released about 435 prisoners from Guantanamo to more than two dozen nations since the detention center opened in January 2002. Most were subsequently released by their home countries.

About 340 detainees remain 340 there today. In response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the Pentagon "handed over transcripts of 64 [ARB] hearings" conducted in 2006. These were the second round of hearings. Some transcripts were withheld.

It's true that some were militants who openly oppose US foreign policy. Others had military training in Afghanistan... to fight the Northern Alliance war lords. Maybe some were desperate and saw military service as a way out of a life going nowhere.... Naw, that never happens.

For what appears to be the majority, there's no evidence.

... in case after case, the source of often very serious accusations against the men is unclear, hamstringing detainees' efforts to contest the allegations.

Read: Hamstringing the "presumed guilty" from proving their innocence.

Or, perhaps they are simply guilty by association. The AP article provides an example of the US applying the principle "guilt by association" and holding a person, without charge, without counsel, for five years:

Ayman Saeed Abdullah Batarfi, a doctor from Yemen, acknowledged treating wounded al-Qaida fighters at Tora Bora in Afghanistan, but said he was forced to do so.

"I deny these allegations against me," Batarfi said. "It is the same information used against me last year. ... I don't want to be back to the same point again next year."

Aside from the fact that these are mostly powerless dark-skinned people, there is an explanation. Most of them were set up. Most of them are in US hands because the US had a bounty for "terrorists" and people collected on the bounty by turning over... anyone.

"You did not catch us in Pakistan — we were sold in Pakistan," said Abdennour Sameur, an Algerian. "The Pakistani army was very poor, that's why they were selling us to you."

What the AP didn't report:

Professor Mark Denbeaux at Seton Hall Law School has conducted a profile of 517 Guantanamo detainees using data from the US Department of Defense. Among other things, he found that only 5% were captured by the US.

Denbeaux found that
as many as 86 percent were handed to US for bounties.

A large proportion of the Guantanamo cases are thinner than "guilt by association." Many are simply "guilty by bad luck" of being fingered for a bounty. They aren't terrorists. They're innocent.

Guantanemo, Guantanimo

September 8, 2007

Blackwater Grows as Support for Iraq War Shrinks

Guest Writer: L. Vincent Sebastian

With each passing month, more and more Americans are finding the Iraq war unacceptable and are calling for near-term troop redeployment and withdrawal. As for political progress in Iraq, the recent report of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report said the Iraqi government has failed to meet 11 of 18 benchmarks set by the U.S. Congress earlier in the year, and has only partially met another four benchmarks. On the military side, the "surge" has had only mixed results and violence continues in most parts of the country. The widely anticipated report by Gen. Petraeus later this month will be mixed as well, giving both sides of the debate plenty of reasons to stick to their positions.

Against this backdrop of civil war in Iraq and political stalemate here at home, the private military contractor Blackwater is quietly expanding outward from its 7,000-acre headquarters in Moyock, North Carolina. Blackwater now has two new facilities in the works: a newly completed 80-acre compound in Mount Carroll, Illinois, and plans for an 800-acre facility in the hills outside San Diego, California. Groups of concerned citizens such as Blackwater Watch and Clearwater are keeping an eye on, and in some cases protesting, this expansion.

As Blackwater expands its geographic footprint, it is also growing the list of services it offers. The most recent new service is its training class to prepare law enforcement officers to handle active shooters such as the one who killed 32 people at Virginia Tech. This five-day session will put trainees into simulated scenarios at a mock high school. While special tactical units such as SWAT teams are often part of large domestic law enforcement agencies, the direct involvement of a private military contractor in the training of police here at home is cause for concern. It blurs the line between our domestic police and our national defense, and unfortunately puts us one step closer to a militarized home front.


The Virginian-Pilot, "Others not so neighborly to Blackwater as North Carolina", by JOANNE KIMBERLIN, , August 26, 2007.

Associated Press, "Blackwater Offers Classes to Combat Active Shooters", by MIKE BAKER, August 27, 2007.

CLICK for Related Pieces by L. V. Sebastian

September 7, 2007

The Alternative Hypothesis on Iraq Leads to the Original Hypothesis

Here we are. Fellow Earth travelers. We're not privy to what the real inside crowd knows, not to be confused with the pundits who think they're on the inside, 'cuz their salaries are excessive.

One hypothesis to explain the predicament we're in is that Bush is intentionally managing by chaos. No security, but the security we provide. Imagine if you were in charge of security; you decide what comes and goes. Not a bad situation, eh?

The alternative hypothesis is that Bush and Co. used the al Qaeda threat to gin up public consent for an illegal invasion, only to find out that the Shia majority, under democratic influences, has filled the vacuum, and they lean toward Iran, which naturally leans back, and both look at the US like, "OK, you can leave now, thank you very much." The US can't accept this; getting duped by Chalabi to take out Iran's arch enemy, Saddam, and then being asked to leave with all quiet on the Iraqi front.

This finds us with the US actually turning to the original enemy, the non-religious (AKA secular) Sunnis, AKA Bathists, to counter-balance the Shia. The situation has devolved beyond anyone's control. Nerdy experts postulate it's going to get worse before it gets better, or possibly spirals into an expanded conflict to who knows where.

Both hypotheses are correct. The first is part of the continuum. Bush unleashed the "Salvador Option" involving death squads on both sides, right around the time the Askariya mosque's golden dome was destroyed. It, coincidentally, coincided with a point in time that you'll even find the EM (establishment media) reporting on Sunni and Shia unification. The US turned to divide and conquer.

The sectarian conflict then grew, and once started, retribution set in to keep it going. Now, we are where we are. The trigger of infighting was pulled by the US, and lost to history long ago. We now live within the "after effects," a swirling mess of factions, sniping at the political level, US electoral politics and "life on the urban streets and in little villages" of people trying to survive, and taking sides, or not, as necessary.

I'm reminded that Bush is responsible for this mess, this "accumulated evil" that constitutes a crime against peace. He will be a scape goat for a broader break down of democracy.

September 5, 2007

The Iraq Quagmire is NOT an Accident

I recently blogged, again, on the question: Is the Chaos in Iraq on Purpose?

One highlight comes from Pulitzer prize writer Seymour Hersh who concludes:
The US is "... in the business of supporting the Sunnis anywhere we can against the Shia." "... in the business of creating ... sectarian violence."

The chaos in Iraq is not an accident. It's as if we're supposed to believe they didn't know the egg would break when they threw it on the ground. Evidence that the US has knowingly created a state of chaos in Iraq abounds. The following 1994 video clip is a smoking gun:

1994: Dick Cheney says invading Baghdad would be a "quagmire"

We are witnessing the take-over of the US by what Henry Kissinger called a "Revolutionary Power." The Bush regime is putting us on a permanent war footing to justify consolidation of executive power. The Judicial and Legislative branches can't or won't stop it. The fourth branch, establishment media, is corrupted by commercialism. Only the people we see in the mirror can stop it.

September 3, 2007

The British Pull Out of Basra and Talk of Blitzing Iran

What does the British pull out of Basra tell us?

I'd like to think that public opinion has finally turned the tide in Britain. A friend explained it's about economics, not public pressure. He's been following "The Economist" magazine, based in London. For those not following the on-going financial crisis, we're in the middle of a big one. It's been coming for a few years now. Britain saw it coming, and their withdrawal reflects their economic concerns. They cannot afford to go deeper into debt for things that don't have a return, like this quagmire called the Iraq War.

So, the British withdrawal from Basra tells us the Iraq war is a quagmire. If it were not, Britain would stick it out until they could leave as part of a made-for-TV withdrawal by the flag-waving, victorious members of the Coalition of the Willing. The British pull out tells us that ain't gonna happen for quite a while.

It also seems to be an unintentional experiment. The Associated Press reports on the British pulling back to the Basra airport, leaving their last post in downtown Basra, a former Saddam Hussein place:
The Basra palace had come under near daily rocket and mortar fire from Shiite militias until the British released about 30 gunmen a few months ago and spread the word that they would soon leave.

Since then it has been relatively quite at the Palace. Is this the calm before a storm of an inter-Shia power struggle, or is it evidence that if the occupiers leave, Iraq might be able to find stability on its own? We all know the answer to that (it's none of our business), but this is still a real-world experiment on withdrawal that's worth watching (Bush's laboratory). The prediction of the think-tank Security & Defense Agenda is ugly (Bush's fault).

Perhaps a hint:

People on the streets of Basra cheered the departure of the British.

"We are pleased that the Iraqi army are now taking over the situation. We as an Iraqi people reject occupation. We reject colonialism. We want our freedom," resident Rudha Muter told AP Television News.

But there is another thing to watch in Basra:

U.S. officials have been concerned about the prospect of British troops handing over control of a city where armed militias hold sway. Basra controls a key land supply line from Kuwait to Baghdad and farther north, and is also near important oil fields.

My sense is the Democrats are not ready to call for a pullout from Iraq. They're concerned about being blamed for leaving a power vacuum that would naturally be filled by Iran (this isn't a criticism of Iran.. they can't leave a power vacuum on their boarder).

Unfortunately, the more timely question we need to be asking is whether or not the Democrats will go along with a Pentagon plan for a "Three-Day Blitz" on Iran. So, when you write Congress asking them to withdraw from Iraq, don't forget to also say "no" to bombing Iran.


Associated Press, Britain pulls out of downtown Basra base, DAVID RISING, September 2, 2007.

The Sunday Times, Pentagon ‘three-day blitz’ plan for Iran, Sarah Baxter, September 2, 2007.