Saturday, September 29, 2007

"Black Waters, Black Waters Run Down Through The Land"

Nobody sees a flower---really---it is so small it takes time---we haven't time---and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.

---Georgia O'Keeffe

Let us be moral. Let us contemplate existence.

---Charles Dickens

We learn something by doing it. There is no other way.

---John Holt

Many of us here in the coal mining regions of Appalachia can hear Jean Ritchie's sweet voice in our imaginations by just reading her lyric in the title up there. Black water refers to the toxic sludge that kills all life in the creeks and streams near mining operations, particularly what's called mountaintop removal. Sometimes whole hillsides of the stuff falls down on top of properties owned by people for generations. Folks have been killed in those landslides, but there's little recourse since Bush made the previously banned practice legal 5 years ago.

So when I learn a good Republican Christian boy decided to name his private security company Blackwater, and stick it in North Carolina, I thought there must be some kind of---er---black humor involved. Maybe there is. Erik Prince was making the Navy Seals his career until his mother died and left him the family fortune. His sister was the chairperson of the Republican Party in Michigan, and wife to gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos. Erik moved South, set up Blackwater, and also sits on the board of Christian Freedom International, a group helping "Christians who are persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ".

This was 10 years ago, when Erik was 27. Now, we learn, "Blackwater is currently the biggest of the US State Department's three private security contractors. At least 90% of its revenue comes from government contracts, two-thirds of which are no-bid contracts." To be well connected thus seems the best way...and maybe the only really get in to the true American liberty we call global capitalism. Papa Bush introduced it as The New World Order, but wasn't that a mite Roman Empire? So the following presidents just talk about the freedom and democracy of globalization. We know quite a few families have gotten very rich from all this, but many of the rest of us look at our tax bill and feel we're financing the whole thing. Are the returns worth it?

Economist Paul Krugman yesterday called global capitalism's need for companies like Blackwater a "Hired Gun Fetish."

Tomorrow The New York Times Book Review section will offer up opinion on Naomi Klein's view of global capitalism. The work is called "The Shock Doctrine," referring specifically to CIA interrogation techniques, and is reviewed by Joseph E. Stiglitz, a university professor at Columbia, who was awarded the Nobel in economic science in 2001. His latest book is “Making Globalization Work.”

As a sort of footnote to how well the United States is managing its liberation of the globe, Jane Goodall this week warned of what many saw as the problem with alternate fuels based on corn crops and such. You want corn? Developers in Brazil will just plow down what remains of the rain forest and plant it for you.

Here are the full lyrics to Black Waters~~~

BLACK WATERS(Jean Ritchie)

I come from the mountains, Kentucky's my home,Where the wild deer and black bear so lately did roam;By cool rushing waterfalls the wildflowers dream,And through every green valley there runs a clear stream.Now there's scenes of destruction on every handAnd only black waters run down through my land.

CHORUSSad scenes of destruction on every hand,Black waters, black waters, run down through my land.

O the quail, she's a pretty bird, she sings a sweet tongue;In the roots of tall timbers she nests with her young.But the hillside explodes with the dynamite's roar,And the voices of the small birds will sound there no more;And the hillsides come a—sliding so awful and grand,And the flooding black waters rise over my land.

CHORUSSad scenes of destruction on every hand;Black waters, black waters run down through the land.

In the rising of the springtime we planted our corn,In the ending of the springtime we buried a son,In summer come a nice man, said, "Everything's fine—My employer just requires a way to his mine"—Then they threw down my mountain and covered my corn,And the grave on the hillside's a mile deeper down,And the man stands and talks with his hat in his handAs the poisonous water spreads over my land.

CHORUSSad scenes of destruction on every hand;Black waters, black waters run down through the land.

Well, I ain't got no money and not much of a home;I own my own land, but my land' s not my own.But if I had ten million thereabouts—I would buy Perry County and I'd run 'em all out!Set down on the bank with my bait in my can,And just watch the clear waters run down through my land!

CHORUSWell, wouldn't that be like the old Promised Land?Black waters, black waters no more in my land!

Source: Celebration of Life - Jean Ritchie, Geordie Music Publishing © 1971

YouTube has a video of her singing it, with pictures of the Appalachians~~~


bluemountainmama said...

our country needs to know about Big Coal and its destructiveness. glad to see people are spreading the word about it.....

Tom Bombadil said...

Blackwater...what an image, indeed! It does conjure pictures of coal and mines, a world that Emil Zola brought so vividly to life in his famous novel: Germinal (1885).

So much have changed since then. And yet, so much has remained the same. Oh, to be sure, and in so far as the West is concerned, the world has become a little less Dickens-like (in some parts of the world or society) and yet so very little of the dynamic at work has really very much changed: the ever widening gaps between the haves and have-nots, wasteful extravagances next to widespread grinding poverty, and corruption in high places, with whole sections of society either left in neglect (willful neglect, sometimes, as the revelations in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina's impact on New Orleans served to bring to public attention,) or exploited (wage slavery, or even actual slave labor in some part of the world, or society, like in Dubai, for instance, a neo-liberal paradise---Halliburton's HQ relocation---where artificial Islands and gleaming towers are being built by exploited migrant construction workers, from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, who are little more than indentured servants.)

And the issues, too - would you believe it? - have remained pretty much unchanged, the false quarrel of science vs. religion, the issue of education vs. oppression and labor vs. capital , more relevant than ever in the "Information Age" (How many "no child left behind" can a functioning "New World Order" neo-liberal global economy in need of cheap labor really can afford?) And there are those who look longingly back to the fifties, when people were less educated (education has always been viewed suspiciously in the US) and when "everyone knew his - and certainly HER - place". And so people surrender their power to a man like our president whose mandate it is then, I suppose, to turn the clock back and undo some of the things that happened in the 20th century that some people apparently couldn't get over (legal decisions that protect individuals' rights to a safe workplace and freedom from abuse and discrimination, etc.) So, then again, little wonder here that an administration which rose to power under such circumstances would make some banned practices, such as mountaintop removal, legal again.

As for the use of mercenaries (and - notwithstanding the 1977 legalese Protocol Additional to the Geneva Convention - this is really what we are talking about here with the like of Blackwater, isn't it ?) it has some notorious European precedent with the Swiss mercenaries famous for their service, especially to the armies of the Kings of France: the Swiss Guard had the primary role of protecting the doors, gates and outer perimeters of the Tuileries Palace under Louis XVI, and, well, as it turned out, it was massacred by an hostile mob and the assembled National Guardsmen during the French revolution.

Thank you for the interesting commentary on this issue, Richard, as well as the fresh viewpoint on so many of your entries on this blog - a fine piece of citizen journalism. Many interesting links, too - which incidentally, I don't know if you intended them to work as embedded hypertext link or not, they do not work that way (i.e. nothing happens if you click on a link), so basically I have to copy the addresses and paste them in my browser in order to access the articles you are referring to. (NB: Hypertext Links can be created and/or edited on Blogspot, either directly from the COMPOSE window (by highlighting the text that one wants to make into a link, clicking on the LINK icon on the tool bar, and entering the html address into the pop-up box) or from the EDIT HTML window, using basic html:

jazzolog said...

Thank you both for your comments. Bluemountainmama has one of the more popular blogs here, and it was there I most easily located a link to Black Waters lyrics. It's great to make her acquaintance.

Tom I've known online for some years, and coincidentally just visited his old Up the Withywindle blog at about the same time he was leaving his comment. I lamented nothing was going on there, but now am happy to learn the action has switched to new writings at This Side of Arda.

I use 4 platforms online to mount my mouthings: , , , as well as this one. I really prefer the ease available at MySpace, but I'm not much into the social whirl there and so nobody reads it. NewCiv draws the most comment, not only from members but the amazing people Google references bring in.

Of them all, Blogspot gives me the most trouble. I find the technology unpredictable here, and as I am not very educated in computer workings I can't figure out how to make things easier for myself. The stuff doesn't post the way I expect, sometimes comments I write elsewhere don't show up at all (I'm wondering if this one will), and I was unaware that what appear to be hyperlinks don't even work. Computing generally seems to be becoming more and more frustrating...and you ain't seen nothin' 'til you buy a machine with Vista on it! I like to stay simple and not spend too much time fussing around, so I'm starting to spend even less time at these keyboards.

Tom Bombadil said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Bombadil said...

Umm...apparently the link I provided in the above comment was cut off, and doesn't display properly.

I see what you mean about Blogspot. It is a little clunky, isn't it?

Tom Bombadil said...

In any case, as I was saying above, I am not much in the "social whirl" either, I am afraid - LOL. Though, now that I think of it, it occurs to me that I might have met some of the same online network members of which Richard speak. Last I heard, they did tend to repeat themselves redundantly over and over, however. A little bit like one of those online programs designed to create the illusion (however brief) of human-human interaction. But then again it occurred to me that those new generation programs (such as N.U.D.E. -
ultimate-digital-experiment.htm) would never possibly remain so one-dimensionally or so static in their online interaction with others: those are softwares that are, after all, programed to "adapt" and "evolve." But that's the thing with programing, isn't it? Programing is as programing does. And while there are machines that sound like humans, there are humans who sound like machines. I suppose it cannot be helped.

I wonder if they’ll eventually dream of electric sheep...

I like the quote by John C. Holt on this entry, "We learn something by doing it." I might be inspired to post something along that theme in the near future.

jazzolog said...

Yeah, and the comment posting problems continue for me. Tried for 2 days, and now again. Fried each time.

Tom Bombadil said...

1. BLACKWATER operates under immunity from Iraqi law (such immunity was granted Blackwater by U.S. officials in 2004).

2. With respect to American laws and the accountability of Blackwater to the U.S. military (and ultimately to the US government - and by extension "We the People," assuming, of course, that we still live in a Republic, and our government has not been privatized too, just as yet - which for all practical purpose it might as well have been - a legitimate question in an era where big corporate power and corporate media hold more influence and power over both congress and the electoral process than the average citizen does) Blackwater's status is rather murky to say the least.

By a bizarre twitch of things, some officials are asking now whether the contractors of private security firms in Iraq, such as Blackwater's, could be considered unlawful combatants as defined by the infamous and very controversial U.S. Military Commissions Act of 2006, or even, for that matter, and appropriately so in this instance, under international agreements.

In terms of the image of the U.S. abroad the implications – legally, ethically and politically - should be of consequences.

They should be, but they won't be. Neither abroad, nor at home.

For there is little room for the "rule of law" where MIGHT MAKES RIGHT.

And even less room for dissent.

Isn't that the legacy of the Bush administration, the definition of this new millennium?

Controversies over the legality of matters pertaining to Iraq specifically or foreign policy in general is not exactly something that just emerged of recent date, now, is it?

Back in 2002, already, serious legal questions surrounding the Bush Doctrine of preemptive war, and subsequently the invasion of Iraq and the conduct of the occupation of Iraq , have been raised - to no avail.

The fact of the matter is that the U.S. launched an unprovoked war on a nation that was no threat to us.

On September 16, 2004 Kofi Annan, the Secretary General of the United Nations, said of the invasion, "I have indicated it was not in conformity with the UN charter. From our point of view, from the charter point of view, it was illegal.”

Did it matter?

The definition of what is legal or not legal, or of what constitutes or doesn't constitute an "unlawful combatants," or what qualifies or doesn't qualify as "rogue state" behavior varies depending on who writes history and who the dominant power of the time happens to be.

For better of for worse, it now happens to be the United States of America. As this country emerged as the only dominant superpower, the hopes of those who imagined that America would be that " shining city upon a hill" have been shattered, it seems. For now.

Despite the eerily medieval, pre-Camelot sound of “might makes right” those are the times we are stuck with. By the grace of George.
Very little, indeed, has changed in this new millennium, very little for the rule of law: whoever has the best weapons makes the law.

Little wonder then, that the U.S. and its close allies are responsible for approximately two-thirds of all military spending on Earth (the US is roughly responsible for half of it). Military spending accounts for more than half of the United States' federal discretionary spending, which is all of the U.S. government's money that is not used for pre-existing obligations. In addition, the United States has black budget military spending which is not listed as Federal spending and is not included in published military spending figures. The recent invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan are largely funded through supplementary spending bills outside the Federal Budget, so they are not included in the above military budget figures.

Tom Bombadil said...

I stumbled onto a related article ("The Coalition of the Billing" dated 9/23/07) from a couple of your fellow bloggers on blogspot, "Life has taught us..." (

FYI, I took the liberty of leaving a comment there in which I mentioned your entry about Blackwater.

Kevin said...

I found you through Tom who also posted at our blog, "Life has taught us."

Great post. It hits on two of the many things that get me riled up. You can check out our post "Coalition of the Billing" on the one subject.

On the other subject, I highly recommend Lost Mountain by Erik Reece.

The rape of Appalachia is one of the worst environmental and cultural tragedies that no one in this country has ever heard of.

jazzolog said...

Thanks for the new comments. I thought Blogger let us know what date people leave comments, not just what time it was! Anyway, here I sit typing, wondering whether any of it will show up.

Thanks Tom for connecting me to Kevin and his blog, which I've added to Favorites. It's pretty difficult to network in here unless you really work at it. I'm going to like following the progress of that handsome boy they like to share with us.

I became aware of Erik Reece a couple years ago ( ) and, since he lives relatively nearby, have been trying to encourage groups to get him up here to Athens. Maybe Kevin and I should meet halfway and just go there.

We've been working with such people as Elisa Young, seen here , and Geoff Buckley, a geography prof at OU, to lead coal tours around the region. It's amazing how many of us live in areas like this for decades and never take the time to view the environmental disasters caused by this cheap energy process.

Getting back to Blackwater and all that, be sure to take a look at Frank Rich's column from Sunday. He continues relentless, thank goodness.

PUZZLED said...

Great article. The world could use more columnists like Frank Rich.

A "Good German" is a term that has come nowadays to be used to refer more generically to people in any country who observe reprehensible things taking place — whether done by a government or by another powerful institution — but remain silent, neither raising objections nor taking steps to change the course of events.

I remember a time when America, especially those among us with conservatives values, used to be more vocal in its concern over the welfare of our institutions.

What of The Phyllis Schlafly Report at for intance? One wonders what happened to that? They used to be unsurpassed in their vigilance over the protection of our institutions and the danger of "Power Grab through Executive Order" and "patently dictatorial, unconstitutional action," and "reckless military meddling" abroad, etc. (e.g. Vol 32, No. 8 - March 1999)

And now...what?...Nothing? Not a word about Iraq or Blackwater?

Gosh I miss them!

Where were they when the President

...declared that he was the one and only “decider"?

...declared repeatedly that a president can refuse to answer to any kind of accountability or oversight by Congress?

...took bills passed by Congress and signed them, while scribbling in the margins that “this bill means only what I say it means” (or something to that effect)?

... vastly increased government secrecy, to levels never seen before, not even when we were in a life/death struggle against the Soviet KGB?

...engaged in illegal wiretapping schemes, spying on American citizens and interfering with their rights?

... sent twelve billion dollars of taxpayer money into a war zone -- as a raw cash, unsupervised slush fund -- and then somehow managed to lose nine billions of it...

...made US taxpayers subsidize a huge, private, mercenary army, controlled by one of his closest liberal-democrat supporters?

...then signed documents making those mercenaries immune from any law, American or foreign?

...then let those mercenaries exonerate themselves from cold-blooded murder, by ghost-writing a “report” under US diplomatic letterhead?

Where is the outrage? Where are all the impassioned articles? What happened to all the concern over “undermining the Constitution and grabbing power?”

Where are the patriots?

Anonymous said...

The numbers speak for themselves: A September 2007 survey conducted by the Civil Society Institute found that 65% of Americans oppose the Bush Administration's proposal "to ease environmental regulations to permit wider use of 'mountain top removal' coal mining in the U.S." The study also found that 74% Americans are opposed to the expansion of MTR coal mining in general, and that 90% of Americans agree that more mining should be permitted only after the United States government has assessed its impacts on safety and the environment.

But who cares about the will of the people?

Not very much to date, though a bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives to amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act and clarify that fill material cannot be comprised of waste (H.R. 2169). If passed, the bill would specify that coal mining waste does not constitute fill material, in effect disallowing valley fills. The amendment would help prevent the mining industry from dumping into streams and rivers.

More about this here from the Mountain Justice Summer pages:

A federal judge has twice ruled that most valley fills are illegal under the Clean Water Act (CWA). His first ruling was overturned on a jurisdictional issue, and his second ruling is now under appeal by the Bush administration. In case the appeal doesn’t go the way he wants, Bush has rewritten a 25-year-old rule of the CWA, thus legalizing illegal valley fills. The federal judge reminded Bush that only Congress can rewrite the laws of the land.

But who cares about the constitution or the law of the land?

The whole issue is up in the air. Other aspects of MTR are also illegal, but the outlaw coal industry has many politicians, from the local to the national level, in its pocket. Coal companies continue to buy politicians’ support, so they can do whatever they want, choking out the democratic political process just as their frequent spills choke the life out of streams.


Bush received millions of dollars from the coal industry during his 2000 election campaign. One of Bush’s big supporters in West Virginia, James “Buck” Harless (a Bush “Pioneer”), who raised $250,000 for Bush, had a private audience with the President at Bush’s ranch. What’s more, his grandson, James H. Harless II, was chosen as an energy policy adviser during the White House transition.

George Washington said...

"All obstructions to the execution of the laws with the real design to direct, control, counteract the constituted authorities, are destructive...and serve to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests. ...They are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion."

jazzolog said...

Wonderful comments friends. It really is amazing how liberal and conservative supporters can unite at this time of constitutional and ethical crisis. It's good to know so many of us still realize what this country has always been least for the most part. I hope you guys continue the dialog at Blogger.

Suddenly everywhere I look for help in our sinking republic, there's Joe Lieberman in charge of the life rafts. Interested in seeing someone run the Department of Justice? Mike Mukasey's old buddy, Joe Lieberman, filled in for busy Hillary to introduce him for confirmation yesterday.,0,441637.story Worried about global warming? Joe Lieberman has the bill.,0,5928613.story Concerned that CEO contractors actually are running the country? Joe's looking into it. How about this culture of violence in the States? Joe knows Marilyn Mason is the one behind it all. See? Don't you feel better and safer now? And of course, the Dalai Lama got the Congressional Gold Medal. From Bush's past record I thought Erik Prince of Blackwater would get it!

An interview in Monday's Spiegel Online caught my eye yesterday. It's with American military historian Gabriel Kolko. He's Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus at York University in Toronto, and Wikipedia has an article on his achievements. Professor Kolko reports many in the American military believe the Commander In Chief is a runaway cannon and are on the verge of rebellion~~~

October 15, 2007
'Many in the US Military Think Bush and Cheney Are Out of Control'

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. Kolko, editorials in US papers like the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard and the National Review are pushing for military action against Iran. How does the leadership in the US military view such a conflict?

Gabriel Kolko: The American military is stretched to the limit. They are losing both wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Everything is being sacrificed for these wars: money, equipment in Asia, American military power globally, etc. Where and how can they fight yet another? The Pentagon is short of money for procurement, and that is what so many people in the military bureaucracy live for. The situation will be far worse in the event of a war with Iran.

Many in the American military have learned the fundamental dilemma of modern warfare: More money and better weapons don't mean that you win. IEDs, which cost so little to make, are defeating a military which spends billions of dollars per month. IEDS are so adaptable that each new strategy developed by the United States to counter them is answered by the Iraqi insurgents. The Israelis were also never quite able to counter IEDs. One report quotes an Israeli military engineer who said the Israeli answer to IEDs was frequently the use of armored bulldozers to effectively rip away the top 18 inches of pavement and earth where explosive devices might be hidden. This is fantastic, as the cost of winning means destroying roads, which form the basis of a modern economy.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Are people in the Pentagon getting nervous about how influential voices in the White House continue to push for conflict with Iran?

Kolko: Many in the US military think Bush and Cheney are out of control. They are rebelling against Bush and Cheney. Washington Post reporter Dana Priest recently said in an interview that she believed the US military would revolt and refuse to fly missions against Iran if the White House issued such orders.

CENTCOM [US Central Command, the military grouping whose responsibilities include the Middle East] commander Admiral William Fallon reportedly thwarted Cheney's wish to sent a third additional aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf. One paper wrote that he "vowed privately there would be no war against Iran as long as he was chief of CENTCOM."

Lt. Gen. Bruce Wright, in charge of US forces in Japan, told the Associated Press last week that the Iraq war had weakened American forces in the face of any potential conflict with China. He was quoted as saying, "Are we in trouble? It depends on the scenario. But you have to be concerned about the small number of our forces and the age of our forces."

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Do you think that conflict with Iran is likely?

Kolko: All the significant economic journals (Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, etc.) recognize that the American and European economies are now in a crisis, and it may be protracted. The dollar is falling; Gulf States and others may abandon it (as an investment currency). A war with Iran would produce economic chaos because oil would be scarce. There are states which the United States wishes to isolate, like Russia and Venezuela, who can develop great influence through their ability to sell oil in such a crisis. The balance of world economic power is involved, and that is a great issue.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: But aren't the Gulf States interested in seeing Iran weakened through a conflict with the United States?

Kolko: The Gulf States do not like Shia Iran, but they export oil, which makes them rich. They are dependent on peace, not war.

Kolko: Iran fought Iraq for about a decade and lost hundreds of thousands of men. Perhaps they will roll over, but it is not likely. There are a number of tiny islands in the gulf they have had years to fortify. Can 90 percent of their weapons be knocked out? Even if this United States could achieve this, the remainder would be sufficient to sink many boats and tankers. The amount of oil exported through the gulf would thereby be reduced, perhaps cease altogether. This would only strengthen American rivals like Russia and Venezuela.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: But what about the bunker-buster bombs? Wouldn't that be a technology which Iran could not match?

Kolko: Bunker busters are only able to knock out so many bunkers, but alas, not all. If bunker-buster bombs are nuclear they are very useful, but they are also radioactive. In addition to killing Iranians, they may also kill friends and nearby US soldiers.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What about the so-called 'Cheney plan' to let Israel attack Iran? What role would Israel play in a conflict with Iran? Isn't Israel also interested in seeing that the United States weakens its greatest threat in the region?

Kolko: Israel may be a factor. They must cross Syrian and Jordanian airspace, and the Iranians will be prepared if they are not shot down over Syria. Their countermeasures may be effective, but perhaps not ... War with Iran will lead to a rain of rockets and Israel would be left with an inability to deal with local priorities. Iran is likely to get nuclear bombs sooner or later. So will other nations. Israel has hundreds already. Israeli strategists believe deterrence will then exist. Why risk war?

Israel dislikes Iran and the prospect of Iranian nuclear weapons, but they believe they can handle it with a deterrent relationship. Israel needs its army, which is not large enough for potential nearby problems -- for Palestinians and its Arab neighbors, who it rightfully fears and hates. That means Israel can be belligerent, but it is not capable of playing the US role, except of course with nuclear weapons.

So I regard the Israelis as opponents of a war with Iran which would involve them. They certainly noticed how during the war with Lebanon the Palestinians in Gaza used the opportunity to increase pressure on Israel from the south. Israelis opposed the Iraq war because it would lead to Iranian domination of the region, which it has.

Hence, the report that Cheney is trying to use Israel, if it is true, shows that he's confused and quite mad -- but also unusually isolated.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: But what about the Democratic Party? Isn't it in the interest of the Democratic Party to do everything they can to end the war?

Kolko: All three leading Democratic Party presidential hopefuls -- Clinton, Obama and Edwards -- refused at a debate recently in New Hampshire to promise to pull the US military out of Iraq by the beginning of 2013. The American public is a small factor, as elections have repeatedly shown, but may play some role also. As the last election proved, anyone who thinks Democrats will stop wars is fooling him- or herself. But war with Iran would require new authorizations. Then the Congress would, potentially, be very important.

Interview conducted by John Goetz,1518,511492,00.html

Tom Bombadil said...

Umm...T'is strange indeed that Blogspot just stamps comments with a time but no date. Maybe one ought to bring it up with the Blogger Help Group:

And, yes, it's "pretty difficult to network in here unless you really work at it." For that matter, it is generally pretty difficult to network anywhere - and that's true of meatspace as of cyberspace - unless one really works at it.

And working at it depends on one's incentives - or desperation.

There are as many kinds of networking as there are people.

Putting together and maintaining a system that values the contribution of all kind of people without losing focus on diversity and growth and the mean to implement it (i.e. the "whats" and the "hows") is a challenge for any network to which innovation is a core value and which is sincere in its desire to grow beyond just the mere sum of its parts. Such a network exist: it's the meta-network known as the World Wide Web.

"Don't spend a long time rubbing only one side of an elephant
and don't be surprised by a real dragon."

Cyberspace chance encounters, and bloggers of all stripes make strange bedfellows. Finding people one can work with is key. So is the ability to find ideas from one place that can be applicable in other areas. Insofar as the "whats" and the "how" are concerned, Google's information retrieval system and Wikipedia's multilingual free-content online encyclopedia have been two of its best developments to date.

Cyberspace is still in its infancy...

Tom Bombadil said...

Cyberspace is still in its infancy...

And so is mankind.

Or so it is said.

Puzzled said...

Hmm, Garret Keizer (Harper's Magazine) has been calling for a general strike on November 6, 2007 across the country.

What do you think, Richard?

Anonymous said...

Jim Hightower kind of endorsed the idea in his commentary in the October Lowdown:

Sam Adams, the organizer of the Boston Tea Party, knew that it is the citizenry itself that ultimately has to do the heavy lifting of democracy building. "If ever a time should come when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats of government," he declared, "our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin."
And here's a creative idea from Garret Keizer. I have no idea who he is, but he wrote a punchy piece in the October issue of Harper's Magazine that I like and that Lowdowners might want to embrace. He's calling for a general strike. Not by unions, but by us-you and me. As a symbolically appropriate day, he suggests the first Tuesday of November, the traditional date for our elections--this year, Nov. 6...

A general strike means that We The People, as many of us as possible, would disobey the inept, corrupt, undemocratic (add your own adjective here) system by withholding our presence at for least one day:

Don't go to work. Stay home. Better yet, take some political action. Also, don't go to the mall, the supermarket, or the bank; don't use your credit card or make any commercial transaction. This would be the ultimate affront to the corporate president who so pathetically told us after 9/11 that our highest patriotic response to the attack was to "go shopping." So don't fly, use your cell phone (hard, I know), watch TV, or otherwise participate. Sometimes, silence is the loudest sound of all.
On one level, the strike is against the war, against Bush thumbing his nose at the American majority that has already emphatically said--OUT!--and against the Democratic leadership that can't seem to muster the will to rein in the Bush administration.

On another level, however, this is a strike for the Constitution, a strike against the betrayal of the rule of law and our democratic ideals. It's a strike for the America we thought this was...

For those who don't subscribe to the Hightower Lowdown, a copy of the entire commentary can be found here.

jazzolog said...

To be fair to Blogger, I believe comments do have dates to them at other Tom Bombadil's for instance...and I think they used to here. I could investigate the mystery I suppose, but there are others that intrigue me more---especially for those of us exhausted with Vista's antics.

There are so many issues around which to organize a general strike, Puzzled, that I imagine the real test is to find an issue to focus on. I think the emergence of corrupt election procedures is central. It seems to be common knowledge everywhere that Bush did not in fact win the 2000 election, but ruled anyway because the Supreme Court handed the office to him. I haven't gotten over the fact the American people DIDN'T roar out into the streets then. If the results of our own elections can't be trusted, what's left?

Garret Keizer is a very interesting fellow, and one could do worse than spend a weekend catching up on his online essays. The guy was an Episcopal priest for a while and then decided to teach English instead I think. There's a brief entry about him at Wikipedia, with some links~~~

jazzolog said...

I may have seen one too many George Clooney movies lately, but I'm beginning to analyze my options. Would I prefer death by CIA torture in a secret prison, bullets from Blackwater, a heart attack delivered by corporate assassin, or maybe just a hose out of the exhaust in the comfort of my own garage? Frank Rich adds some clout to your morning coffee~~~

The New York Times
October 21, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist
Suicide Is Not Painless

It was one of those stories lost in the newspaper’s inside pages. Last week a man you’ve never heard of — Charles D. Riechers, 47, the second-highest-ranking procurement officer in the United States Air Force — killed himself by running his car’s engine in his suburban Virginia garage.

Mr. Riechers’s suicide occurred just two weeks after his appearance in a front-page exposé in The Washington Post. The Post reported that the Air Force had asked a defense contractor, Commonwealth Research Institute, to give him a job with no known duties while he waited for official clearance for his new Pentagon assignment. Mr. Riechers, a decorated Air Force officer earlier in his career, told The Post: “I really didn’t do anything for C.R.I. I got a paycheck from them.” The question, of course, was whether the contractor might expect favors in return once he arrived at the Pentagon last January.

Set against the epic corruption that has defined the war in Iraq, Mr. Riechers’s tragic tale is but a passing anecdote, his infraction at most a misdemeanor. The $26,788 he received for two months in a non-job doesn’t rise even to a rounding error in the Iraq-Afghanistan money pit. So far some $6 billion worth of contracts are being investigated for waste and fraud, however slowly, by the Pentagon and the Justice Department. That doesn’t include the unaccounted-for piles of cash, some $9 billion in Iraqi funds, that vanished during L. Paul Bremer’s short but disastrous reign in the Green Zone. Yet Mr. Riechers, not the first suicide connected to the war’s corruption scandals, is a window into the culture of the whole debacle.

Through his story you can see how America has routinely betrayed the very values of democratic governance that it hoped to export to Iraq. Look deeper and you can see how the wholesale corruption of government contracting sabotaged the crucial mission that might have enabled us to secure the country: the rebuilding of the Iraqi infrastructure, from electricity to hospitals. You can also see just why the heretofore press-shy Erik Prince, the owner of Blackwater USA, staged a rapid-fire media blitz a week ago, sitting down with Charlie Rose, Lara Logan, Lisa Myers and Wolf Blitzer.

Mr. Prince wasn’t trying to save his employees from legal culpability in the deaths of 17 innocent Iraqis mowed down on Sept. 16 in Baghdad. He knows that the legal loopholes granted contractors by Mr. Bremer back in 2004 amount to a get-out-of-jail-free card. He knows that Americans will forget about another 17 Iraqi casualties as soon as Blackwater gets some wrist-slapping punishment.

Instead, Mr. Prince is moving on, salivating over the next payday. As he told The Wall Street Journal last week, Blackwater no longer cares much about its security business; it is expanding into a “full spectrum” defense contractor offering a “one-stop shop” for everything from remotely piloted blimps to armored trucks. The point of his P.R. offensive was to smooth his quest for more billions of Pentagon loot.

Which brings us back to Mr. Riechers. As it happens, he was only about three degrees of separation from Blackwater. His Pentagon job, managing a $30 billion Air Force procurement budget, had been previously held by an officer named Darleen Druyun, who in 2004 was sentenced to nine months in prison for securing jobs for herself, her daughter and her son-in-law at Boeing while favoring the company with billions of dollars of contracts. Ms. Druyun’s Pentagon post remained vacant until Mr. Riechers was appointed. He was brought in to clean up the corruption.

Yet the full story of the corruption during Ms. Druyun’s tenure is even now still unknown. The Bush-appointed Pentagon inspector general delivered a report to Congress full of holes in 2005. Specifically, black holes: dozens of the report’s passages were redacted, as were the names of many White House officials in the report’s e-mail evidence on the Boeing machinations.

The inspector general also assured Congress that neither Donald Rumsfeld nor Paul Wolfowitz knew anything about the crimes. Senators on the Armed Services Committee were incredulous. John Warner, the Virginia Republican, could not believe that the Pentagon’s top two officials had no information about “the most significant defense procurement mismanagement in contemporary history.”

But the inspector general who vouched for their ignorance, Joseph Schmitz, was already heading for the exit when he delivered his redacted report. His new job would be as the chief operating officer of the Prince Group, Blackwater’s parent company.

Much has been made of Erik Prince and his family’s six-digit contributions to Republican candidates and lifelong connections to religious-right power brokers like James Dobson and Gary Bauer. Mr. Prince maintains that these contacts had nothing to do with Blackwater’s growth from tiny start-up to billion-dollar federal contractor in the Bush years. But far more revealing, though far less noticed, is the pedigree of the Washington players on his payroll.

Blackwater’s lobbyist and sometime spokesman, for instance, is Paul Behrends, who first represented the company as a partner in the now-defunct Alexander Strategy Group. That firm, founded by a former Tom DeLay chief of staff, proved ground zero in the Jack Abramoff scandals. Alexander may be no more, but since then, in addition to Blackwater, Mr. Behrends’s clients have includeda company called the First Kuwaiti General Trading and Contracting Company, the builder of the new American embassy in Iraq.

That Vatican-sized complex is the largest American embassy in the world. Now running some $144 million over its $592 million budget and months behind schedule, the project is notorious for its deficient, unsafe construction, some of which has come under criminal investigation. First Kuwaiti has also been accused of engaging in human trafficking to supply the labor force. But the current Bush-appointed State Department inspector general — guess what — has found no evidence of any wrongdoing.

Both that inspector general, Howard Krongard, and First Kuwaiti are now in the cross hairs of Henry Waxman’s House oversight committee. Some of Mr. Krongard’s deputies have accused him of repeatedly halting or impeding investigations in a variety of fraud cases.

Representative Waxman is also trying to overcome State Department stonewalling to investigate corruption in the Iraqi government. In perverse mimicry of his American patrons, Nuri al-Maliki’s office has repeatedly tried to limit the scope of inquiries conducted by Iraq’s own Commission on Public Integrity. The judge in charge of that commission, Radhi Hamza al-Radhi, has now sought asylum in America. Thirty-one of his staff members and a dozen of their relatives have been assassinated, sometimes after being tortured.

The Waxman investigations notwithstanding, the culture of corruption, Iraq war division, remains firmly entrenched. Though some American bribe-takers have been caught — including Gloria Davis, an Army major who committed suicide in Kuwait after admitting her crimes last year — we are asked to believe they are isolated incidents. The higher reaches of the chain of command have been spared, much as they were at Abu Ghraib.

Even a turnover in administrations doesn’t guarantee reform. J. Cofer Black, the longtime C.I.A. hand who is now Blackwater’s vice chairman, has signed on as a Mitt Romney adviser. Hillary Clinton’s Karl Rove, Mark Penn, doubles as the chief executive of Burson-Marsteller, the P.R. giant whose subsidiary helped prepare Mr. Prince for his Congressional testimony. Mr. Penn said the Blackwater association was “temporary.”

War profiteering happens even in “good” wars. Arthur Miller made his name in 1947 with “All My Sons,” which ends with the suicide of a corrupt World War II contractor whose defective airplane parts cost 21 pilots their lives. But in the case of Iraq, this corruption has been at the center of the entire mission, from war-waging to nation-building. As the investigative reporters Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele observed in the October Vanity Fair, America has to date “spent twice as much in inflation-adjusted dollars to rebuild Iraq as it did to rebuild Japan — an industrialized country three times Iraq’s size, two of whose cities had been incinerated by atomic bombs.” (And still Iraq lacks reliable electric power.)

The cost cannot be measured only in lost opportunities, lives and money. There will be a long hangover of shame. Its essence was summed up by Col. Ted Westhusing, an Army scholar of military ethics who was an innocent witness to corruption, not a participant, when he died at age 44 of a gunshot wound to the head while working for Gen. David Petraeus training Iraqi security forces in Baghdad in 2005. He was at the time the highest-ranking officer to die in Iraq.

Colonel Westhusing’s death was ruled a suicide, though some believe he was murdered by contractors fearing a whistle-blower, according to T. Christian Miller, the Los Angeles Times reporter who documents the case in his book “Blood Money.” Either way, the angry four-page letter the officer left behind for General Petraeus and his other commander, Gen. Joseph Fil, is as much an epitaph for America’s engagement in Iraq as a suicide note.

“I cannot support a msn that leads to corruption, human rights abuse and liars,” Colonel Westhusing wrote, abbreviating the word mission. “I am sullied.”

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company with links to research sources

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link to the heads up by Frank Rich in the October 14 NY Times, The Good Germans'Among Us. I also found the article covered here on HRS 4 ALL.

Frank Rich makes a simple but striking point:
“BUSH lies” doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s time to confront the darker reality that we are lying to ourselves.

David Brin addresses here a similar concern:

So long as one of our great national parties is run by "culture warriors," politics will grow ever-more vicious, void of negotiation or reason. Extreme partisans of both sides may relish this. But the pragmatist-progressive majority will despair as their Great Experiment slides ever-deeper into a bitter sea of bile.

There is a solution: America must overwhelmingly repudiate neoconservatism. This monstrous, mutant version of conservatism should not be left in charge of a major party, licking its wounds and preparing for a comeback
in 2008, or - failing that - in 2012.

In a series he titled Ostrich Paper, he describes as "the ostriches" people like your mostly-decent uncle, who stays glued to Fox News, desperately seeking reassurance that his side has not gone insane. Burying his head in denial, reciting the slogan-of-the-week, trying not to think about what conservatism has become.

The bad news?
By now, only a fraction of GOP supporters are accessible via reason. No amount of evidence will sway the insiders and thieves who are benefiting most from the Great Kleptocratic Raid. Or their high-paid shills. Or the fanatics and extreme dogmatists. Or even the narrowminded variety of libertarians, who ignore 4,000 years of history by seeing only one enemy of freedom -- bureaucrats.

The good news?
That still leaves millions of our neighbors who are sincere in seeing themselves as reasonable (if conservative) Americans. Folks who have let themselves be led, step-by-step into accepting a redefinition of their movement, from prudence to recklessness, from accountability to secrecy, from fiscal discretion to spendthrift profligacy, from consistency to hypocrisy, from civility to nastiness, from logic to unreason.

Today’s critical issue has nothing to do with the outdated so-called "left-right" political axis.

With the very survival of Constitutional government and the American Experiment at stake, we cannot afford to leave this to simpleminded partisanship.

jazzolog said...

Thanks for another illuminating comment, Anonymous...and for the links to HRS 4 ALL, where I immediately jumped into Jen's latest post about the tasered student, and to David Brin's site. Both are treasures I need to explore when I have more time. So many wonderful blogs on the Internet! If indeed you contribute elsewhere, I'd love to know where. A private email could do it.

Macduff said...

. . . . . . . The privatization of warfare!

In part 4 of an ongoing series on Blackwater (and also Amway), DhinMI argued today on Daily Kos that, if one thinks of it, the “private army” of Blackwater is, de facto, the penultimate illustration of what “privatization” means to the Bush governance:

“… part of Blackwater’s financial success (and probable appeal to the Bush administration) is that they provide almost no long-term security to the individuals they hire. They make their gunmen pay for their own training, and they do not pay them as employees but instead as individual contractors, thus avoiding paying payroll taxes to the government or pensions, long-term medical insurance and other benefits to their individual gunmen.”

Welcome to "Madmax Beyond Thunderstorm"... I guess!

Alexis said...

Hmm... Doesn't the concept of Private Military Firms (PMF) raise the specter of the replacement of a citizen's army with a force that seems dangerously free from democratic control?

Blackwater raises the problem of the potential implications of a growing private military divorced from its polity. Isn't it there basically what happens when "war-for-profit" directly contradict the military culture's original foundations of sacrifice for the collective good?

Furthermore, this points to more fundamental issues concerning the balance of individual rights and responsibilities in a liberal democracy and whether a liberal democracy can ever adequately function as an imperial power.

Throughout time, various civilizations have raised and sustained armies through a variety of means; to date, the lesson of History is that the most loyal and effective militaries have consisted of domestic citizens organized and influenced by means other than simple monetary incentives.

jazzolog said...

I imagine other aspects of Blackwater that Bush likes, Macduff, are the apparent lack of government oversight on our investment in them, immunity from prosecution, and of course how oh-so-Christlike is its administration. And thank you, Alexis, for your succinct and brilliant comment. If the Bushies read history, instead of disparaging it as "reality" ("We're too busy making history to bother reading it!") they'd see their practices mark the beginning of the end for regimes and civilizations.

Theophillus said...

Blackwater Worldwide is mounting an aggressive legal, political and public relations counterstrike - link to NY Times article:

"Blackwater is pursuing a bold legal strategy, going so far in a North Carolina case as to seek a gag order on the lawyers for the families of four Blackwater employees killed in an ambush in Falluja in 2004. The company argues that the dead men had signed contracts that prohibited them from talking to the press about Blackwater and that this restriction extended to their lawyers and their estates even after death."

WOW - rather Faustian, isn't it?

jazzolog said...

Thank you Theophillus. Naturally we expect a media blitzkrieg in retaliation from the New World Order. There are many Theophilluses (usually spelled with one "l") through history. It is possible our writer here refers to the Eastern Roman emperor (829–842) who was the principal promoter of the 9th-century Byzantine renascence of learning, and the last advocate of the Eastern heresy of Iconoclasm (the destruction of religious images) in a reign beset by Arab invasions.

Interestingly, the Sydney Morning Herald (you remember Australia: our big ally?) on Halloween carried a special report from its correspondent in the States about America's leadership in torture around the world. The information source is one Manfred Nowak, an Austrian human rights attorney and professor at the University of Vienna. He also maintains a post with the United Nations for which he travels around the world investigating incidents of torture carried out by various governments. Last year he said torture in Iraq, including that done by our private contractors (hello Blackwater), is worse now than under Saddam Hussein's regime. The Herald article hones in on American tactics specifically~~~

US accused of torture
Ian Munro Herald Correspondent in New York
October 31, 2007

THE United States's willingness to resort to harsh interrogation techniques in its so-called war on terror undermined human rights and the international ban on torture, a United Nations spokesman says.

Manfred Nowak, UN Special Rapporteur on torture, said the US's standing and importance meant it was a model to other countries which queried why they were subject to scrutiny when the US resorted to measures witnessed at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib prison.

Mr Nowak was speaking after releasing his finding that the use of torture was routine and widespread in Sri Lanka ,despite laws against it.

"I am very concerned about the undermining of the absolute prohibition of torture by interrogation methods themselves in Abu Grahib, in Guantanamo Bay and others, but also by rendition and the whole CIA secret places of detention. All that is really undermining the international rule of law in general and human rights but also the prohibition of torture," said Mr Nowak.

"(Other countries) say why are you criticising us if the US, the most democratic country with the oldest history of human rights, if they are torturing you should first go there. It has a negative effect because the US is a very powerful and important country and many other countries take the US as a model."

His comments come amid continuing controversy over whether the use of waterboarding - which simulates drowning - is torture. US senators are threatening to stop the appointment of Michael Mukasey, President Bush's new nominee for Attorney-General, following Mr Mukasey's refusal to condemn waterboarding at judiciary committee hearings recently.

Reports have linked CIA interrogations of al-Qaeda suspects, including alleged 9/11 planner Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, to the technique.

President Bush has said the US does not restort to torture, but his administation has refused to say if waterboarding has been used. During waterboarding a cloth is used to cover a prisoner's mouth and water poured over it, triggering the gag reflex.

Commenting on his investigation into Sri Lanka, Mr Nowak said that the use of torture in counter-terrorism operations was prone to become routine.

During his visit there this month he received many "consistent and credible" allegations from detainees who claimed they were ill-treated by police.

He said that he was alerted to a new form of torture which his medical aide had initially thought was impossible. It involved individuals being suspended only by their thumbs which were bound together so they could be hoisted into the air.

He said he had received two independent accounts of its use in Army camps. The effects were verified by medical examination. Six months after the alleged incidents the individuals had not regained use of their thumbs.

Mr Nowak said that Italy and Germany had shown in the 1970s and 1980s that terrorism could be beaten within the rule of law.

"Certain human rights such as the prohibition on torture are absolute. It doesn't matter how dangerous a person is, governments have an absolute obligation never to resort to torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment," said Mr Nowak.

"In my opinion, this ill-conceived, security oriented counter terrorism strategy is having a very, very negative effect, not only on human rights in the USA, but for the first time I would say in a long period of time, the US is really engaging in systematic violation of human rights, but also a very negative effect on many other countries."

Mr Nowak is next month to investigate complaints of torture in Indonesia. He said that he expected the use of torture to have diminished following action by the Indonesian government but would not discuss the nature of the allegations until after his inquiries.

jazzolog said...
Blackwater's Owner Has Spies for Hire
Ex-U.S. Operatives Dot Firm's Roster

By Dana Hedgpeth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 3, 2007; A01

First it became a brand name in security for its work in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now it's taking on intelligence.

The Prince Group, the holding company that owns Blackwater Worldwide, has been building an operation that will sniff out intelligence about natural disasters, business-friendly governments, overseas regulations and global political developments for clients in industry and government.

The operation, Total Intelligence Solutions, has assembled a roster of former spooks -- high-ranking figures from agencies such as the CIA and defense intelligence -- that mirrors the slate of former military officials who run Blackwater. Its chairman is Cofer Black, the former head of counterterrorism at CIA known for his leading role in many of the agency's more controversial programs, including the rendition and interrogation of al-Qaeda suspects and the detention of some of them in secret prisons overseas.

Its chief executive is Robert Richer, a former CIA associate deputy director of operations who was heavily involved in running the agency's role in the Iraq war.

Total Intelligence Solutions is one of a growing number of companies that offer intelligence services such as risk analysis to companies and governments. Because of its roster and its ties to owner Erik Prince, the multimillionaire former Navy SEAL, the company's thrust into this world highlights the blurring of lines between government, industry and activities formerly reserved for agents operating in the shadows.

Richer, for instance, once served as the chief of the CIA's Near East division and is said to have ties to King Abdullah of Jordan. The CIA had spent millions helping train Jordan's intelligence service in exchange for information. Now Jordan has hired Blackwater to train its special forces.

"Cofer can open doors," said Richer, who served 22 years at the CIA. "I can open doors. We can generally get in to see who we need to see. We don't help pay bribes. We do everything within the law, but we can deal with the right minister or person."

Total Intel, as the company is known, is bringing "the skills traditionally honed by CIA operatives directly to the board room," Black said. Black had a 28-year career with the CIA.

"They have the skills and background to do anything anyone wants," said RJ Hillhouse, who writes a national security blog called The Spy Who Billed Me. "There's no oversight. They're an independent company offering freelance espionage services. They're rent-a-spies."

The heart of Total Intel operations is a suite on the ninth floor of an office tower in Ballston, patterned after the CIA counterterrorist center Black once ran, with analysts sitting at cubicles in the center of the room and glass offices of senior executives on the perimeter.

A handful of analysts in their 20s and 30s sit hunched over Macintosh computers, scanning Web sites, databases, newspapers and chat rooms. The lights are dimmed. Three large-screen TVs play in the background, one tuned to al-Jazeera.

The room, called the Global Fusion Center, is staffed around the clock, as analysts search for warnings on everything from terrorist plots on radical Islamic Web sites to possible political upheavals in Asia, labor strikes in South America and Europe, and economic upheavals that could affect a company's business.

"We're not a private detective," Black said. "We provide intelligence to our clients. It's not about taking pictures. It's business intelligence. We collect all information that's publicly available. This is a completely legal enterprise. We break no laws. We don't go anywhere near breaking laws. We don't have to."

Total Intel was launched in February by Prince, who a decade ago opened a law enforcement training center in Moyock, N.C., that has since grown into a half-billion-dollar business called Blackwater Worldwide. Prince has nine other companies and subsidiaries in his Prince Group empire, offering a broad range of security and training services. (One, Blackwater Security Consulting, is under scrutiny because of a Sept. 16 shooting incident in Iraq that involved some of its armed guards and in which 17 Iraqi civilians were killed.) Prince built Total Intel by buying two companies owned by Matt Devost, the Terrorism Research Center and Technical Defense, and merging them with Black's consulting group, the Black Group. Devost, a cyber security and risk management expert, is now president of Total Intel.

Devost runs day-to-day operations, overseeing 65 full-time employees. At the Global Fusion Center, young analysts monitor activities in more than 60 countries. They include a 25-year-old Fulbright scholar fluent in Arabic and another person with a master's degree in international affairs, focused on the Middle East, who tracks the oil industry and security in Saudi Arabia.

Black and Richer spend much of their time traveling. They won't say where. It's a CIA thing. Black called at midnight recently to talk about Total Intel from "somewhere in the Middle East."

"I don't spend a lot of time telling people where I am as part of my business," he said. "I am discreet in where I go and who I see. I spend most of my time dealing with senior people in governments, making connections."

Black, who also serves as vice chairman of Blackwater Worldwide, said he also does "a lot more mundane things like go to conferences and trade shows," looking for business opportunities. "I'm going to have to go," he said. "My guy is motioning for me. I have to go meet people."



Government people? Business people?

All kinds.

The company won't reveal its financial information, the names of its customers or other details of its business. Even looking at an analyst's screen at its Global Fusion Center wasn't allowed.

"No, no," Richer said, putting his hands up. "There may be customers' names on there. We don't want you to see."

In their conference room overlooking the Global Fusion Center, Total Intel executives fired off a list of some of their work. Are some recent bombings at major cities in India isolated incidents or should you pull your personnel out? What are the political developments in Pakistan going to mean for your business? Is your company popping up on jihadist Web sites? There's been crime recently in the ports of Mexico, possibly by rogue police officers. Is the government going to be able to ensure safety?

Since 2000, the Terrorism Research Center portion of the company has done $1.5 million worth of contracts with the government, mainly from agencies like the Army, Navy, Air Force, Customs and the U.S. Special Operations Command buying its data subscription or other services.

To Black and Richer, one of the most surprising things about being in the private sector is finding that much of the information they once considered top secret is publicly available. The trick, Richer said, is knowing where to look.

"In a classified area, there's an assumption that if it is open, it can't be as good as if you stole it," Richer said. "I'm seeing that at least 80 percent of what we stole was open."

As he's no longer with the CIA, Richer said he's found that people are more willing to share information. He said a military general in a country he would not name told him of the country's plan to build its next strike fighter. "I listened," Richer said.

"We talked business and where we could help him understand markets and things like that." At the end of the conversation, Richer said, he asked the man, "Isn't that classified? Why are you telling me this?"

Richer said the man answered, "If I tell it to an embassy official I've created espionage. You're a business partner."

Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company

Theophillus said...

It's called "aggressive questioning," - not "torture."

All that spin is precisely the reason why our President doesn't read the papers.

Newsmax had that great piece about that a few years ago.


President Bush says he doesn't bother reading newspapers. He prefers instead to learn what's going on from people who know what they're talking about.

When asked by Fox News anchorman Brit Hume during an exclusive interview how he gets the news, the president said he glances at the headlines "just to get the kind of flavor for what's moving." But "I rarely read the stories." He gets "briefed by people who have probably read the news themselves."

This, he said, has been his practice since taking office.

"I have great respect for the media. I mean, our society is a good, solid democracy because of good, solid media. But I also understand that a lot of times there's opinions mixed in with news."

(Actually, our republic is not a "democracy," but this appears to be a losing battle.)

Bush is obviously familiar with the likes of the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, where it's hard to determine where the news stops and the opinions begin, even if he has the good sense not to read those biased leftist newspapers.

"I appreciate people's opinions, but I'm more interested in news," he told Hume. "And the best way to get the news is from objective sources. And the most objective sources I have are people on my staff who tell me what's happening in the world."



Now, Newsmax and Foxnews, that's objective news!

In Predident hopeful Rudolph W. Giuliani's own words, "these liberal newspapers have exaggerated..." things.

“Now, on the question of torture..." Giuliani (just like our sitting president) is very, very clear about this - I quote - "We should not torture. America should not stand for torture, America should not allow torture." But - still quoting - "America should engage in aggressive questioning."

There, doesn't this make you feel better, now?

Alexis said...

This always cracks me up.

When people use the word "democracy" what they are referring to nowadays is a representative democracy with an elected head of state, such as a President, serving for a limited term - most everyone understands that. So, at the risk of paining the Newsmax's editorialists here, and other neat-pickers, I 'll have to disagree with them on their rejoinder that a republic is a not a democracy.

This kind of neat-picking makes one sometimes wonder at the mental age (or the motives) of the kind of editorialist who even bother bringing it up - are they high-school freshmen or sophomores showing off, still basting in their freshly acquired etymological "understanding" of democracy?

Don't get me wrong, democracy and governance are topics that sure are worthy of interest and are too often taken for granted - not enough is done about that. I also find it a legitimate concern to wonder whether our "representative democracy" is all what's it's cracked up to be or what people just assume it to be. But seriously, Fox - LOL - although the term "republic" has many different meanings (as does the word "democracy"), it is generally widely understood that the term "republic" is used to describe a representative democracy, in contrast to a direct democracy.

For those of us who are nostalgic of those good old high-school days, I don't know, read the Federalist Papers, again. Or, hey, here is an idea: maybe some modern Federalist papers - the sequel ( "The Federalists 2008," or "Federalists - Y2K" ) ought to be written (with the perspective of knowing what we know today that the Federalists didn't know then - or is it the other way around?) This topic is developed here at some length:

When considering the works of the Founding Fathers of the United States, the word "democracy" was associated with radical egalitarianism and was often defined to mean what we today call direct democracy. In the same historical context, the word "republic" was used to refer to what we now call representative democracy. For example, James Madison, in Federalist Paper No. 10, advocates a constitutional republic over a democracy to protect the individual from the majority.

Now, one may agree or disagree with James Madison (Federalist No 10 advocates for a large republic and warns of the dangers of a democracy) but that's not the point and it just doesn't seem to me that there is any need to "lecture" people about that every time someone uses very loosely (yet very correctly and knowingly so) the word "democracy" in its modern etymology when referring to our contemporary republics.

Theophillus said...

---In Primus: I just want to apologize for the slightly out of sequence position of my previous entry about "aggressive questioning," which was intended to be read, naturally, as a response to jazzolog's comment (at 5:31) on the article, "US accused of Torture."
I just finished reading the next entry about spies for hire," and I am still digesting it - pass the Alka-Seltzer.

----Secondus: I like "Federalists Y2k," Alexis. Catchy title!!! It would have made a good blog at the time. I am surprised no one jumped on it.

Sigh - Political Philosophy is dead!

That reminds me of the famous Doonesbury cartoon by Garry B. Trudeau (01/27/85):

In a classic Doonesbury cartoon, a rumpled professor holds forth from a lectern while his students dutifully scribble away in their notepads: ” . . . and in my view, Jefferson’s defense of these basic rights lacked conviction. Okay, any discussion of what I’ve covered so far?”

“Of course not,” he thinks to himself. “You’re too busy getting it all down.”

“Let me just add,” he goes on, “that personally I believe the Bill of Rights to be a silly, inconsequential recapitulation of truths already found in the Constitution. Any comment?”

The students continue to take notes.

“No, scratch that!” he says, raising his voice and waving his hands. “The Constitution itself should never have been ratified! It’s a dangerous document! All power should rest with the executive! What do you think of that?”

They keep writing, their faces blank.


The students are still taking notes as the professor collapses on the podium, announcing, “Teaching is dead.”

“Boy, this course is really getting interesting,” one student says.

“You said it,” another responds. “I didn’t know half this stuff.”

Anonymous said...

First, Blackwater.... and now............ this?

The President made a call for more vigilante justice! What can I say, it was just bound to happen.

Bush Lifts Ban On Vigilantism
'Let's See What Happens,' Says President

WASHINGTON, DC—In a striking departure from centuries of American belief in rule of law, President Bush gave his approval Monday to a limited experiment in public vigilantism "to see if it works."

"Groups of dedicated citizens who band together for a common cause—be it rounding up car thieves or castigating suspicious loiterers—strengthen and reinforce the social order," Bush said at a White House press conference. "I've never supported government intrusion in people's lives; I've always put more faith in the private sector. So I say, what the heck! Let's give vigilantism a go and see how things shake out. Why not?"

Bush's self-described "plan to have no plan" permits elected and appointed government authorities to "look the other way" while bands of U.S. citizens enforce both the community standards that the existing legal code overlooks and those laws that police fail to enforce.

Bush's remarks came in the wake of criticism among his ultraconservative supporters, who argue that "activist judges" often make decisions that contradict the will of the people. To help remedy this problem, many special-interest groups had been calling for an official tolerance of "vigilante judicial committees."

"Vigilantes have an undeserved reputation for recklessness," Republican pollster Jennifer Mendenhall said. "As we phase vigilantism in, be prepared to hear a lot of talk about 'mob-ocracies' and 'tyrannies of the bat-wielding, roving majorities.' That rhetoric is meant to scare peaceful citizens into thinking they need magisterial authority to protect their interests. But vigilantism is not about crazed drunkards clustering in town squares, waving pitchforks and crying out for blood. It's about an opportunity to let the citizens of America serve as their neighbors' meter maids, correctional officers, chiefs of police, or, if necessary, SWAT teams."
Bush's endorsement of vigilante activity caught Capitol Hill Democrats off guard.

"I'm not sure vigilantism is in the best interest of the nation," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said. "Vigilantes are bad, aren't they? I read The Ox-Bow Incident in high school. They ended up hanging the wrong guys in that book, I think. That sort of situation could lead to a major problem for the government."

Bush stressed that his move was experimental, characterizing vigilantism as "practical."

"Frankly, government officials have all they can handle right now, overseeing foreign wars and doling out unemployment benefits," Bush said. "The truth is, we'd really appreciate some help maintaining domestic order while we take care of the important stuff."

"Let's see what happens, America," Bush added. "After all, our government is supposed to be of, by, and for the people. That's from the Constitution."

................and... this?

In October 2007, Blackwater USA, a self-described private military company, rebranded themselves as Blackwater Worldwide:

Innovation Begins with Experience

Blackwater Worldwide efficiently and effectively integrates a wide range of resources and core competencies to provide unique and timely solutions that exceed our customers’ stated needs and expectations.

We are guided by integrity, innovation, and a desire for a safer world. Blackwater Worldwide professionals leverage state-of-the-art training facilities, professional program management teams, and innovative manufacturing and production capabilities to deliver world-class, customer-driven solutions.

Our leadership and dedicated family of exceptional employees adheres to an essential of core corporate values- chief among these are integrity, innovation, excellence, respect, accountability, and teamwork.

One couldn't make any of that stuff up. Well... actually the bit about Blackwater Worldwide is real, the stuff about Bush lifting the ban on vigilantism is actually from The Onion. I know, it's hard to tell the difference between reality and parody nowadays.

jazzolog said...

Wonderful comments as usual, thank you. Two things I might mention: first, I too am interested in the whole democracy/republic thing, but tend to agree that we don't have a pure democracy (the ol' town meetings were closer) but always should strive to get as pure as possible (I mean, does anybody really want the electoral college?); and second, I'm probably going to mount a Part 2 to this (these) topic(s) just as soon as I can find time. Hopefully tomorrow morning. Sometimes a great pile of comments is discouraging to the new reader...and too much scrolling can be tiring. :-)

Tom Bombadil said...

Interesting idea. I am glad to see that my good friend Richard has lost none of his jazzy touch to get a good thread going, here.

The "ol' town meetings" is an interesting concept. On the other hand, ol' Tom Bombadil is a reclusive sort, you know, so town meetings have never really been his thing - lol - but I like Richard's idea of mounting a Part 2 on the theme of Democracy. I, for one, would be very interested in hearing of what a "pure democracy" is. To my knowledge, it has never been done. How would it work? Is it feasible? Would it be a good thing? Or perhaps the discussion should be more centered around the theme of governance and/or self-governance.

Maybe Alexis's suggestion is a good one. I like the idea of some modern Federalist Papers network. Or maybe the notion of Federalism vs. anti-federalism is too specific for our times. What about something more general like “Grass-root Governance” or "Second Millennium Governance"? (Naah - too pompous, I don't know, I am sure Alexis, or someone can come up with a better title.) And, Richard, I don't want to push you into something you don't want to get into, or anything, but doesn't the topic (and the required format) exceed the boundaries of a mere "part 2" post? You could open a second blog, you know, (possibly a collective blog, like HRS 4 All) specifically dedicated to that topic.

I agree with you that "a great pile of comments is discouraging to the new reader...and too much scrolling can be tiring."

Simply put, it's not the ideal format for any kind of meaningful exploration of some of those themes here, nor is it very practical in trying to follow-up on what other participants might be contributing to the thread. The comment sections (here on bloggers and elsewhere) are typically too linear. Ideally threads should be more tri-dimensional. Ideally the perfect thread engine would allow comments to expend horizontally as well as vertically. It would also – still ideally - allow for participant to tag their comments (by theme or topic) so that anyone clicking on any specific tag on any given thread would be able to see everything that had been said on any given theme or topic of interest to them without having to plow through the entire thread when they don’t have the time or the inclination to do so. It is technically feasible, yet it has not been done anywhere – not really. Possibly because there is no market for it (maybe people are really just not that interested in “genuine” and “open” exchange of ideas with other, or maybe they just like to blow off some steam and are not all that committed in the kind of time and effort connecting with other in a “meaningful” or “productive” fashion really would require), or possibly because the designers and programmers and people who finance such projects do not find it profitable to go that way – the profit comes from creating a lot of noise (a lot of members, a lot of activity), the more noise, the better - the better for the ranking of a network, the better for sponsors and advertisers. With a few rare exceptions (Googles and wikipedia come to mind – but those are not, of course, social networking websites provider per se, they are not wizards but meta-wizards), developing tools that allow people to organize so that meaningful music can emerge from that noise has not been a major concern for social networking websites provider (Myspace is a perfect example). When I say “organize,” I am talking grass-root organization, of course, as opposed to many of the top-down (oftentimes politically oriented) networks out there.

Alexis said...

Hehehe - I came across this snapshot of a town meeting in Dark Age (an online Fantasy game):


Quite interesting how politics is everywhere. People talk of politics as if it were something else - out of their everyday lives - something "dirty" even associated with "others" (usually "them" corrupt politicians.) The truth of it, is that wherever and whenever you place 3 or more persons in a room (be it virtual space or "real" space), politics will be observed, it's part of all human group interactions:

There are towns in Dark Ages with player-run political systems. Players can write laws, vote on laws, enforce laws, and judge trials. As with any political system, politics in Dark Ages is quite ruthless. Players can support or attack political officials. There are good officials and there are corrupt officials, it is up to the players for who they support.

They also have their blogging community. The following piece, for instance, is by Korda (a self-proclaimed "Tyrant, Misogynist, and Labor Merchant":

A Utopian Society

I find that I sometimes learn more about human interaction on ludic networks such as Darkage, than I do on more seriously minded forums. Though, I must say that it has also been my experience that even those "playful" networks can often turn deadly serious as some people get caught in the game or take their character very seriously. LOL... go figure. Politics, I tell you. It is everywhere ;-)

Anonymous said...

Virtual Townhalls: so much more could be done in that area. Some tentative and sporadic efforts have been made here and there in that department, in the past - e.g.: the Etsy Town Hall at Etsy Garden (aka "a place to watch our ideas grow"): here, in early 2006. The blog was eventually closed as of September 10th, 2007 with apparently no explanation other than an invitation to visitors to "help support Etsy, by picking up all the hot product being served up at the Etsy Labs."

I think Tom might be right about this. Large scale networking is time consuming and it might just be human nature that people will not invest in it unless they can see some $$$ return in it.

Myspace is indeed a good example of that phenomenon, something might yet come out of it, but its orientation is strongly commercially focused (e.g.: MySpace’s much-celebrated music section is heavily weighted in favor of record labels rather than breakthrough musicians) and it's no accident that it is essentially so Profiles-centric (to a narcissistic extreme) with blurbs "About Me" and "Who I'd Like to Meet" and very superficial "Interests" sections.

Despite the tentative involvement of groups like ACLU or Greenpeace which have created Myspace accounts to keep in touch with and expand their membership base, the overall atmosphere is one of crass commercialism and superficiality rather than one of depth or growth of understanding, and it's a medium which appears more concerned with the potential exploitation of its users rather than with their empowerment. But then again, this is pretty much one of the dominant trend of our culture, so what reason was there to expect that it would be any different in cyberspace?

Theophillus said...

CHORUS: Ad scenes of destruction on every hand;
Black waters, black waters run down through the land.

Black water, back water wherefrom comes thy source?

CHORUS: Black waters, black waters, runs down through cyberspace.

And the man stands and talks with his cyber-hat in his electronic hand. As the poisonous water, there too on cyber-land, spreads.

As above, so below says the man with the cyber-hat.

Blackwater, it hints at the darkness within us all, doesn't it?

Alexis said...

Faith in the Night.....

Yes, Theophilus, but below the waters also lay the mythic interior darkness of Jonah .

And Cyberspace still does remain a privileged environment when it comes to the exploration of what the shadows of our political, social, and psychological landscape offer us - as it did Rilke, "faith in the night":

"I love the dark hours of my being . . . [when] the knowledge comes to me that I have space within me for a second, timeless, larger life."

CyberDeck 13 said...

An unrepresentative Congress has given an unelected President unconstitutional authority to wage an unprovoked war.

"Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience…Therefore [individual citizens] have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring"
-- Nuremberg War Crime Tribunal, 1950

First they came for the Communists
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics
and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me,
but by that time, no one was left to speak up.
-- Pastor Martin Niemoeller, Nazi Germany


The presidency is now a criminal conspiracy
By Keith Olbermann. Study after study for generation after generation has confirmed that torture gets people to talk, torture gets people to plead, torture gets people to break, but torture does not get them to tell the truth. Of course, Mr. Bush, this isn't a problem if you don't care if the terrorist plots they tell you about are the truth or just something to stop the tormentors from drowning them. If, say, a president simply needed a constant supply of terrorist threats to keep a country scared... Now if that's what this is all about, you tortured not because you're so stupid you think torture produces confession but you tortured because you're smart enough to know it produces really authentic-sounding fiction -- well, then, you're going to need all the lawyers you can find - because that crime wouldn't just mean impeachment, would it? That crime would mean George W. Bush is going to prison... Mr. Bush, in the seven years of your nightmare presidency [sic], this whole string of events has been transformed. From its beginning as the most neglectful protection ever of the lives and safety of the American people ... into the most efficient and cynical exploitation of tragedy for political gain in this country's history ... and, then, to the giddying prospect that you could do what the military fanatics did in Japan in the 1930s and remake a nation into a fascist state so efficient and so self-sustaining that the fascism would be nearly invisible.


Election Workers Plead No Contest In Recount-Rigging Case
Workers Rigged 2004 Presidential Recount in Ohio. The case against two elections workers charged with rigging a recount during the 2004 presidential election [coup] in Cleveland was settled Monday. Prosecutors said Jacqueline Maiden and Kathleen Dreamer rigged the recount to avoid a more thorough hand-count. [See: Coup 2004 .]

Anonymous said...

Ha! I remember couple of months ago Chris Mattews introducing one of his guest on MSNBC news network as a daily newspaper editor from one of the "most conservative papers in America." His guest corrected him, saying their editorial page was conservative, and then corrected herself, saying "more Libertarian, really."

It's another sign of the growing concern over the perceived radicalization of this so-called Republican party, when a staunch conservative paper disavows a connection to the party.

Theophillus said...

LOL... Well, there is a saying:

"Libertarianism is the hot tea that cools in the saucer of conservatism".

As the Republican party faces an almost daily onslaught of breaking news portraying its leaders as unethical, scandalous and incompetent, and more recently with the whole controversy over Blackwater, more and more Republicans and their supporters in the media-- anchors, pundits, commentators, even whole newspaper editorial departments, are characterizing themselves as Libertarian, as opposed to Republican.

I find it a very significant an interesting development that "Libertarian-leaning" Giuliani has become the leading prospective GOP nominee.

Alexis said...


I don't understand, Theophilus.

Isn't Libertarianism all about privatization and outsourcing?

It seems to me that Blackwater goes at the core of more than just the Bush administration or the "radicalization" of the GOP, it goes right at the ideological core of Libertarianism itself.

If anything, there is a case to be made here against putting human rights decisions into the hands of private firms.

Theophillus said...

You're confusing Libertarianism with Anarcho-capitalism.

Alexis said...

Hmm... Eric Prince of Blackwater considers himself a Libertarian.

I don't mean to imply any "guilt by association" here (aka "association fallacy") but the fact deserved to be mentioned - just as an FYI.

Insofar as "libertarianism" is concerned, I think I am going to wisely steer clear off the debate over what Libertarianism is or isn't, lol.

Just for the record: Anarcho-Capitalism and Minarchism are widely considered as two schools and/or different forms of Libertarianism.

Those who self-identify as Libertarians can't seem to agree among themselves over what form exactly "Applied Libertarianism" should take (and again here: I don't mean to imply more than just a simple statement of facts by that - the definition and identification debate is an issue that can be easily extended to most existing political, philosophical or religious ISM in existence to date.)

jazzolog said...

I think the Libertarian Party is going to be crucial in 2008...and so is the Green. Neither party is particularly focused but more and more people are fed up to the gills with what the 2 majors have been putting down..and I do mean DOWN.

Here in Ohio it was the Libertarians who really took on the Green Party's bill when we demanded a recount in 2004. Kerry and the Democrats didn't know what to do. But ultimately a coalition of Libertarians and Greens is impossible, because they have opposing views about the very essence of social programs.

But the Libertarians themselves are all over the map. You've got PrisonPlanet and Blackwater in the same political bag. Well they both worship guns. If you listen to or enter into a political conversation out here in the sticks, you may come to believe a shootout in this country is not out of the question.

I too was hopeful about the Ohio vote rigging case, but nothing final really happened. They're all still dancing around, and the barebones coverage doesn't even tell us what the case is about or what the charges were. Nope, the nation sleeps on as the clock ticks toward a year from now...when perhaps Americans will be too fatalistic even to lift a finger.

I put up a Blackwater Part 2 just now, in case anyone wants to switch over. Naturally I hope too things continue in here, particularly if conversation wants to go on about "pure" democracy and all that. Thank you all for your concerns and beautifull written remarks!

CyberDeck 13 said...

Certainly, jazzoLOG, you're welcome. I mean I haven't contributed anything here, blogger isn't my forte - though I do have a blogger account, but thanks for what you do anyway ... I'll try to participate, here, more as time contraints will allow. Seems like a nice bunch of people.

"Those who cast the votes decide nothing, those who count the votes decide everything." --Joseph Stalin

How American Elections Became a Criminal Enterprise By Michelle Mairesse (Part I)

Reality Perception Management is a 'go' in the sacred halls of the almighty 'STATE.' Ron Paul is a libertarian. Etymologically speaking the word, presumedly, comes from the word 'liberty' which smacks, to me, of Thomas Jefferson. A little bit of this, a little bit of that, gingerbread!

That Bush isn't president, really, should be obvious to all but the most die hard fundamentalists. American 'politics' has always been a dirty affair. Could it be the fault of the money masters? ;)

"Let me control (print) the nations money and I care not who makes the laws." - Baron Von Rothchild [loosely quoted;)]

Lets see if the href, anchor in the above link, works...

Valerie and Jow ... doing the rounds. Bush inc., IS guilty of treason, but can you define torture for me please Mr. M.?

Please, Mr. Balack Water boarder, board me if you can.

It's that 'Greek culture' don't ya know?

Rho Delta Alfa (F digamma not Phi)

Now onward to jazzologs' part the second - if I can find a link to it somewhere?

jazzolog said...

Yes, Lucky Cyberdeck (sounds like the name of a first mate on ol' time radio's Space Patrol), Tom and I have discussed earlier some of the problems here at Blogger. Somehow it seems more claustrophobic in here, but other sites you and I travel have their troubles too. To get to Part The Second, just click the jazzoLOG hyper up at the top.

Tom Bombadil said...

One of the things that appeals to me about blogs, such as jazzolog here (in its full four-folds manifestation: 1, 2, 3, and 4), is that I have seen there what appears to me like some genuine efforts at building bridges, not walls.

Bridges are a difficult thing to build, especially in a culture where so many walls already have been erected. Most of the internet culture, while operating in a medium that purportedly favors the circulation of a wide range of ideas, with the implied expectation that it will foster dialogue, remains, in practice, pretty much a culture of isolationism insofar as many of its users act and behave. While the phenomenon has sometimes been attributed to a process akin to a meme's war (i.e. the notion that people are not active in Cyberspace to "communicate" with one another, or take part in any kind of a genuine "synthesistic" exchange of ideas, but are engaged instead in a protracted war of ideas,) I merely see in that phenomenon (putting aside, of course some of the very real propaganda wars that rage there, as they do everywhere else) something much more trivial, similar in nature in what is observed among young bucks.

Building walls is both a defense and a growth mechanism (kind of a chrysalis phenomenon.) It sometimes has to do with "insecurity" and/or "lack of maturity" and the concern that genuinely attempting to communicate with others - i.e. "opening to other" - will compromise the integrity of one's own budding "identity," or might expose one's own vulnerabilities or perceived (or imagined) inadequacies to other.

More frequently, it has to do with self-assertion, which sometimes manifest in its most extreme narcissistic (and at times mythomaniac) aspect under the form of the "snotty teen" who's read too much poorly digested philosophy and/or SF books and, having absorbed the sordid notion that an intellectual elite should rule the subhuman masses, convinced himself that reading a few bad novels qualifies him as a member of the elite. Even though none of that is necessarily a bad thing and might even be looked at as a welcome and necessary thing in the formative stage of anyone - young or old - one may regret that more adults are not to be found too on the World Wide Web. Building walls is easy, trying to genuinely find what is good in others and building bridge instead is much more difficult.

jazzolog said...

Thank you for your view of jazzoLOG, Tom. I confess writing on the Net is a heck of a lot more fun than a letter to the editor. It truly is a thrill to read a comment or get a response from somebody who just happened to run across your stuff while Googling.

I did not approach computing eagerly. I was lured in when I got shown some message boards about jazz. From there I joined a few groups...and learned within a matter of days how much trouble you could get into with a wisecrack.

The original NCN Log was started on the advice of an Internet friend in defense of myself against a person who ultimately got the label of bully. I'm not sure that really was true in that case, but I started writing...and for the first time ever really enjoyed it. Maybe I needed to see my words up on a bright screen, ya think?

What I like to write best are personal histories and attempts to relate interactions with Nature. But I sensed great danger with the so-called election of 2000...and I haven't been able to stop political writing. Perhaps, like the Roman example, I can return to the toils of the garden when the trials on the battlefield have settled.