Monthly Archives: June 2010

Blackwater Lawsuit Update

CBS news is rerunning the story of the Blackwater pilots who flew into a mountain, and the widows’ lawsuit against the firm.

But as we reported last February, it was an accident that never should have happened and you would not be hearing about it now if it weren’t for his widow, herself a former high-ranking Army officer, who waged a five-year battle against one of the military’s most important contractors.

Col. McMahon was no ordinary widow and in her mind her husband was the victim of Blackwater. Until her retirement a few months ago, the West Point graduate and former helicopter pilot seemed to be a future candidate for general, but her life changed when her husband and West Point classmate was killed on a routine flight back to his cavalry squadron in western Afghanistan.

And while still on active duty, she decided to sue Blackwater’s aviation subsidiary for flagrant safety violations and reckless disregard for human life.

You may remember this quote:

“I swear to God they wouldn’t pay me if they knew how much fun this was,” Captain English said on the recording.

English and his co-captain, Butch Hammer, had only been in Afghanistan for 13 days, and neither one of them had ever flown the route between Bagram and Farah. And their inexperience showed: they didn’t file a flight plan, and instead of taking the easier route to the southwest with lower mountains, they set off to the north and never seemed to get their bearings.

“I hope I’m going in the right valley,” English said on the voice recording.

Flight mechanic Mel Rowe voiced his concern early on. “I don’t know what we’re going to see, we don’t normally go this route,” Rowe said.

To make matters worse, the Blackwater operations center in Bagram didn’t have the equipment necessary to track the flight. So once it left the air base, the company had no idea where its plane was. But the crew seemed unperturbed.

“You’re an X-wing fighter. Star Wars man,” co-Captain Butch Hammer said to Noel English.

“Damn right. This is fun,” English replied.

Jeanette McMahon says that she and the other widows probably would never have filed the lawsuit if Blackwater or its aviation wing had shown some remorse.

McMahon told Kroft no one from Blackwater ever called her to express their condolences. “Never. They took absolutely no responsibility. I mean, if they had come out with open arms and said, ‘We are responsible. We are so sorry.’ That point never really came across,” she said.

Can’t expect God’s Own Contractors to apologize for anything.

And here comes the part I have always found ironic, and so appropriate for this blog:

Neither Blackwater nor Presidential Airways would give us an interview. But court records show they tried to get the lawsuit dismissed on the grounds that they were part of the military and immunized from civil lawsuits.

They also claimed there was no actual proof of what caused the crash, and even asked that the case be tried under Islamic law because the crash occurred in Afghanistan.
Under Islamic law companies are not liable for the actions of their employees.

Blackwater CEO Erik Prince, of course, is an evangelical Christian. The following allegation has been made against him by a former employee:

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.”

To that end, Mr. Prince intentionally deployed to Iraq certain men who shared his vision of Christian supremacy, knowing and wanting these men to take every available opportunity to murder Iraqis. Many of these men used call signs based on the Knights of the Templar, the warriors who fought the Crusades.

Mr. Prince operated his companies in a manner that encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life. For example, Mr. Prince’s executives would openly speak about going over to Iraq to “lay Hajiis out on cardboard.” Going to Iraq to shoot and kill Iraqis was viewed as a sport or game. Mr. Prince’s employees openly and consistently used racist and derogatory terms for Iraqis and other Arabs, such as “ragheads” or “hajiis.”

From here.

And this site, Truth or Treason, has some facts and some speculation about Prince’s exact religious beliefs.

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Mid-Summer Sunday Cat Photos

tortie tortoiseshell cat dark linoleum floor

The camera-shy tortoiseshell and her little sister, the calico.

calico cat floor sunlight linoleum

It’s a lazy Sunday for me. Sat down to watch the England-Germany game and fell asleep instead. Was quite surprised to see the score, when I woke up again around minute 85.

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Stories for the Weekend

1. Benighted wasteland Texas provides two stories, elected official Louie Gohmert, (R-Texas), reveals his understanding of a fiendish plot whereby terrorist pregnant ladies give birth in the US, then whisk their babies back to the Axis of Evil to rear them as Manchurian candidates…much like Barack Obama, himself.

…And it appeared they would have young women, who became pregnant, would get them into the United States to have a baby,” said Gohmert. “They wouldn’t even have to pay anything for the baby. And then they would turn back where they could be raised and coddled as future terrorists. And then one day, twenty, thirty years down the road, they can be sent in to help destroy our way of life.

“Coddled”? And by the way, why wouldn’t they have to pay anything for the baby? I mean, babies are free, in the sense that they just come right out of your body, but usually there are at least hospital bills involved.

Rep Gohmert is apparently climbing aboard the “ignore the 14th amendment” bandwagon that is gaining ground among Constitution-loving Americans.

2. Which reminds me to post a link a to this cool campaign by United Farm Workers. You think Mexicans are stealing your jobs? Apply for those jobs here.

3. Also in Texas news, taking a page from shariah law, the state GOP includes recriminalization of oral sex in its party platform.

I assume somewhere it also says it wants less government interference in people’s private lives.

4. Israel has seized seven oxygen machines that were donated to the Palestinian authority.

Israel confiscated seven oxygen machines en route to hospitals in the West Bank and Gaza based on the claim that there was a chance the generators attached to the machines would not be used for medical purposes, Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported Saturday.

5. Real Middle East expert Juan Cole is getting tired of dealing with fake Middle East experts. Also, this:

More recently I have provoked the ire of a burly former Israeli military prison guard at the notorious Ketziot detention camp during the first Intifada, who is among our foremost journalists of the Middle East and given a prominent perch at The Atlantic magazine–Jeffrey Goldberg.

Goldberg has not only not exactly been at the forefront of the peace movement, he has argued and agitated against doing anything practical to achieve this increasingly unlikely goal. He is the Rottweiler of ideologues when it comes to making sure that no Israeli policy is ever criticized by anyone without his branding the critics bigots and even genocidal. Since, as noted, Goldberg is possibly still an Israeli army reservist and actively served in the Israeli Army as a prison guard during the first Intifada or Palestinian uprising, I can’t understand why anyone takes him seriously when he lashes out at critics of Israeli policy. I mean, what would you expect? If an Arab-American had served in the Palestine Authority police, would anyone give him a perch at The Atlantic and routinely bring him on CNN to denounce critics of Mahmoud Abbas?

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Cuckoo Cleric, Wacky Fatwa

Everyone loves to laugh at the antics of the out-of-touch religious men who make silly pronouncements based on their confusing and ambiguous, semi-ancient texts. Here’s a new one for you.

A little background on our man of religion. He has an undergraduate degree in philosophy from a real school, topped off with a graduate degree from one of the sectarian religious schools (departments include Spiritual Formation & Leadership and Theological Studies) that abound in his native country. He was once the official cleric of his provincial governmental body, because in his country religion and politics too often go hand in hand.

He’s part of a religious organization that claims over two million online supporters, and which owns and operates nearly 200 radio stations.

So what’s his funny juridical decree? That God is showing us his wrath because we don’t kill his creatures when we ought to.

God said a curse would fall on a land which turned its back on him, and one consequence would be more tragic deaths at the hands of predatory animals. The truly sad thing here is that we are bringing this curse upon ourselves.

History reveals that God’s covenant with an ancient nation suggests that one of the consequences for a nation which walks in his statues is that it will have nothing to fear from wild animals. “If you walk in my statutes…I will remove harmful beasts from the land”

On the other hand, “[I]f you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments…I will let loose the wild beasts against you”

Because this animal was given a nap instead of a bullet, a human being is dead, and a savage animal is alive, on the prowl, and ready to kill again.

The fatwa was prompted by this story.

I found this at this site.

The exact same cleric was already spouting the same line back in February, after the killer whale Tillikum killed his trainer. This is what he said then:

Says the ancient civil code of Israel, “When an ox gores a man or woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner shall not be liable.” (Exodus 21:28)

So, your animal kills somebody, your moral responsibility is to put that animal to death. You have no moral culpability in the death, because you didn’t know the animal was going to go postal on somebody.

But, the Scripture soberly warns, if one of your animals kills a second time because you didn’t kill it after it claimed its first human victim, this time you die right along with your animal. To use the example from Exodus, if your ox kills a second time, “the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death.” (Exodus 21:29)

If I were the family of Dawn Brancheau, I’d sue the pants off SeaWorld for allowing this killer whale to kill again after they were well aware of its violent history.

He has actually updated and edited his blog since that time, and now claims that he never meant that Tillikum’s owners should be put to death. Or that Tillikum should be stoned to death. Seems pretty clear, though. I mean, based on the words he used.

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Happy Father’s Day

Here’s to my dad! I was lucky enough to have one who liked being a dad, who played ball with us and took us to sporting events and coached our teams and refereed our games and volunteered with Boy Scouts. He drove cars full of girls* to games and parties, and that couldn’t have been pleasant. (In the days before seatbelt laws, we once crammed the majority of my soccer team into the car)

He took us kids camping places like this:

and this:

He took us to the Boy Scout tree lot to pick out a Christmas tree every year. He surprised me by showing up at my elementary school graduation and tousling my hair in front of people. Daaaa-aaad!

So thanks, Dad, for everything, including the stuff I don’t know about. I’m glad you’re my dad.

*I was going to use the cliche “squealing girls,” but it doesn’t paint the whole picture. Sure we might have squealed a lot, but with girls of that age there’s a terrible undercurrent of backstabbing, envy, and jockeying for position.

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Sunday Cat Photo

Calico cat with catnip mouse.

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Video of Israeli Commando Executing American

I wasn’t going to post any more about the Freedom Flotilla, but over on Juan Cole’s site I found this post, Video Shows Israeli Commando Executing American. From there:

The Israeli military attempted to confiscate and erase the photographic and video evidence of its brutal asault on the Mavi Marmara aid ship on Memorial Day. But it turns out that digital images can often be recovered after erasure, and can be put on small memory sticks that can be hidden in nooks and crannies of luggage. So some images are in fact surfacing.

The most damaging is a film of an Israeli soldier kicking an American citizen while the latter is on the ground,and then executing him. This film completely refutes the rightwing Israeli government’s narrative of besieged lightly armed troops haplessly fending off naked aggression on the part of the aid workers.

I can’t make out very well what’s actually going on in this video. Try it yourself. There is no graphic gore visible.

There’s also a post over at Tikun Olam, IDF Executed Mavi Marmara Victims.

I don’t want to post the video here, but you can search for it on YouTube under İsraeli soldiers killing Furkan 19 years (The Freedom Flotilla) .

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Ooh, Chipmunks!

Now I’m sure we have chipmunks living near my house. All these years and I’ve never seen one, and then this week I thought I saw one and today I’m sure I saw one. Cute little critters. Probably the cutest of the rodents.

I did not take this picture. But cute!


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American Citizen Among Those Killed by Israelis

New York Times story here.

One of the dead passengers aboard the Mavi Marmara, which was boarded by Israeli commandos on the high seas in the dead of night, leaving at least nine dead, was an American citizen.

ISTANBUL — One of the nine people killed in an Israeli commando raid on a flotilla of ships heading for Gaza this week was a United States citizen of Turkish descent, officials in Turkey and Washington said Thursday.

Reports in the Turkish press identified the American as Furkan Dogan, 19, who was born in the United States before returning to Turkey with his family as a young child.

Mr. Dogan’s brother, Mustafa, described him as “clean-hearted with a happy face,” and said that he had asked for his parents’ blessing before leaving with the flotilla, according to a report in the Turkish newspaper Zaman.

The Cihan news agency reported that Mr. Dogan had one bullet in the chest and four bullets fired into his head from close range.

We’ll be eagerly waiting to hear what our brave administration has to say about this. Also, reputedly Sarah Palin is preparing a Facebook update on the massacre at sea. Can’t wait.

There’s a good post and comment thread over at Balloon Juice on this topic.

Well, it took about an hour and a half, but one of the back benchers in the WH Press Corpse finally asked Gibbs if it mattered to the WH that an American was among one of the flotilla dead.

The response from Gibbs when finally asked was so evasive and noncommittal that I can’t remember anything other than his mentioning that Obama had a good talk with Erdogan two days ago.

Some funny comments:

Then, of course, you have Elian Gonsalez who was really an American citizen even though he wasn’t born here and neither were his parents. This shit is confusing.

Joe Lieberman has just introduced a bill to take away the citizenship of any Americans killed by Israel.

UPDATE: by the way, there’s a hilarious spoof Twitter account called Israel Global PR. Here’s their most recent tweet:

Israel apologises for the death of a US citizen aboard the flotilla, however we must state that the individual was not white

And some earlier tweets from them:

US citizens from the flotilla have been released. USA, please try to control our taxpayers.

Israel has seized CCTV footage from the flotilla: The rest of the tape was uninteresting and has been disposed of

Sneak preview of our impartial investigation: “Israel’s response was proportionate and justified”


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Israel Fakes Weapons Photos

It’s hard to know what to believe these days, you can’t even trust your old, reliable eyes when it comes to footage and photos. So if you were skeptical about the footage Israel was posting on YouTube, your instincts were the right ones.
Here’s an article at The Arabist about Israel’s photos of purported weapons caches found aboard the Mavi Marmara. As you might have guessed, the pictures were actually taken several years earlier and, naturally, someplace else.

My friend Ibn Kafka has a wonderful post catching Israel in a propaganda f**k-up. The Israeli Ministry Foreign Affairs posted on its Flickr account pictures of the terrifying weapons they found on the IHH ship. You know, things like bulletproof vests for emergency services, pepper spray, kitchen knives, bits of wood and other weapons of mass destruction. Except that they did not realize that Flickr displays EXIF data, which is the information that cameras record when they take pictures: aperture, shutter speed, flash status… and the time the picture was taken.

Which, as Flickr commenters quickly pointed out, was sometime in 2006.

So the Israeli MFA quickly changed the EXIF date, but not before I was able to take snapshots of before and after:

In other news, an American citizen had her eye put out by a tear gas canister fired by Israeli soldiers. Story here at Salon.

A student at New York’s Cooper Union School of Art is recovering in an Israeli hospital after being shot in the face with a tear gas canister on Monday during a demonstration at a check point between Israel and the West Bank.

“They fired many canisters at us in rapid succession. One landed on either side of Emily, then the third one hit her in the face,” said Soren Johanssen, a Swedish ISM volunteer who was standing with Henochowicz at the protest.

In related news, the US strongly feels that only Israel can properly investigate this incident, as any other entity might be impartial might not have Israel’s best interests at heart is unncessary when Israel already has the politicians ready and able to tell us what happened. Guardian story here.

This is so shameful that it’s almost as if Cheney GWB were still president.

The Americans also blocked criticism of Israel for violating international law by assaulting a ship in international waters in the security council statement proposed by Turkey, the Palestinians and Arab nations.

Yeah! Why criticize Israel just because they violated international law in one more way, this time by assaulting a humanitarian ship in international waters, killing nine, whose names they haven’t even released yet? It’s not like they’re Somali pirates or anything.

And vice president Biden plays the absolute moron with these statements:

“They’ve said, ‘Here you go. You’re in the Mediterranean. This ship — if you divert slightly north you can unload it and we’ll get the stuff into Gaza,'”, he said. “So what’s the big deal here? What’s the big deal of insisting it go straight to Gaza? Well, it’s legitimate for Israel to say, ‘I don’t know what’s on that ship. These guys are dropping… 3,000 rockets on my people.

“Look, you can argue whether Israel should have dropped people onto that ship or not — but the truth of the matter is, Israel has a right to know — they’re at war with Hamas — has a right to know whether or not arms are being smuggled in.”


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