Ben Buchwalter

US To Appeal Blackwater Ruling. Then What?
February 17, 2010, 8:31 pm
Filed under: Foreign Affairs, Scandals | Tags: , , ,

In 2007, guards employed by the independent security contractor Blackwater Worldwide killed 17 civilians in Iraq’s Nisour Square. Nearly three years later, Blackwater continues to operate in Iraq in a diminished capacity (and under the new name Xe Services). Last month, Iraqis were outraged when a district court judge dismissed charges against the guards because the State Department bungled the case against them. But at the end of January, Vice President Joe Biden said that the White House intends to appeal that decision and hold the guards accountable. This is a great step forward to ensure that security contractors acting under the American flag don’t get away with murder. But we’ve still got a long way to go, as I wrote for MoJo:

Demanding full accountability for security contractors will take more than cracking down on the five guards connected to Nisour Square. It means implementing comprehensive regulations and laws for all contractors working under the American banner. Last July, the DOD adopted interim rules to govern the selection and oversight of security contractors abroad. Whether or not the Justice Department resurrects its case against the Blackwater guards, these rules should be strengthened to include clear guidelines for prosecuting private contractors in order to prevent future Nisour Square incidents.


“Patriot” Hero Charles Dyer Goes Down
February 17, 2010, 8:03 pm
Filed under: Crime and Justice, Mother Jones, Scandals | Tags: , ,

The Tea Party movement has produced its share of interesting characters. Chief among them is Charles Dyer, who’s YouTube videos (codename: july4patriot) have made the ex-Marine a hero of the anti-government extremists who say they will fight back against the US government if it threatens the right to bear arms or declares Martial law. Dyer’s die hard supporters were shocked last month when he was arrested on child rape and illegal weapons charges. So shocked, in fact, that they have said that he was set up by the US government. They call him “the 1st POW of the 2nd American revolution” due to his flagrant statements against the Department of Homeland Security and American leadership:

Dyer was already a notorious figure. As an active-duty sergeant in the Marine Corps, he posted incendiary videos on YouTube under the handle July4Patriot. Clad in a skull mask, he warned of grave threats to the republic and called for armed resistance against the American government. In one clip, referring to an April 2009 Department of Homeland Security report (pdf) on domestic extremism, Dyer exclaimed, “With DHS blatantly calling patriots, veterans, and constitutionalists a threat, all that I have to say is you’’re damn right we’re a threat. We’re a threat to anyone that endangers our rights and the Constitution of this republic.” He invited viewers to join him at his makeshift training area—”I’m sure the DHS will call it a terrorist training camp.”

Dyer will face trial in April, and depending on the outcome, this could be yet another call to arms for the increasingly militant Tea Party movement.

“Pink Panties” Sheriff Joe Arpaio Targets ACORN
January 10, 2010, 9:07 pm
Filed under: Civil Rights, Mother Jones, Scandals | Tags: , , , ,

September 22, 2009

There are a number of loons in the news that I just can’t get enough of. One of those loons is Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is one of the country’s leading crusaders against immigration. Arpaio is loved by some (and hated by others) for his controversial crime sweeps in mostly Hispanic neighborhoods and immigration arrests in the field, which the USDOJ has continuously opposed. One of Arpaio’s most trusted deflection techniques is blaming third parties. In September, he targetted ACORN for allegedly using federal funds to launch a PR campaign against the sheriff’s tactics. I contacted ACORN to get their reaction. Here’s what they said:

ACORN spokesman Scott Levenson says that there is no basis for these claims and welcomes Arpaio’s opposition. “Sheriff Arpaio has long been the poster child of racist and prejudiced behavior around law enforcement,” he told me. “I’m confident that Sheriff Arpaio attacking Acorn is proof that we’re heading in the right direction.”

Holder’s Proposed Torture Probe: Worse Than Doing Nothing?

August 10, 2009

One of the reasons Democrats were so excited to see Obama in the Oval Office was that he has pledged to demand some accountability for government officials who participated in torture under the Bush administration. But even after Obama’s first few months, it became deafeningly clear that his torture initiatives would be even more toothless than expected. In August, Attorney General Eric Holder caught fire when he proposed a torture probe would not target the authors of the so-called torture memos or Bush administration officials who knew what was going on. Instead, the probe would only hold accountable those soldiers who went beyond the interrogation tactics approved by the Bush administration. I reported the response of the human rights community for MoJo. Here’s an excerpt:

Opinions were divded among human rights and civil liberties groups about the merits of this approach. On the one hand, Tom Malinowski, the Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, thinks that a probe that lets the authors of the interrogation policies off the hook would be more destructive than constructive.  “An investigation that focuses only on low-ranking operators would be, I think, worse than doing nothing at all,” he told the Los Angeles Times….

But Gabor Rona, the international legal director of Human Rights First, is more optimistic about the proposed inquiry. He agrees that the investigation should not be confined to low-level interrogators because “if we end up having scapegoats as responsible people instead of those who authorized and solicited torture, then it would be an abdication of our international legal responsibility.” But he thinks it would be possible to start with those who overstepped the rules of interrogation and cast a wider net later—that is, if federal investigators follow where the evidence leads and investigate accordingly.

GOP Hijinx!
January 30, 2009, 3:07 pm
Filed under: 2010 and 2012, Race, Republicans, Scandals | Tags: , , , ,


So here’s what has happened so far in the GOP’s quest for a new leader of the Republican National Committee.

  1. The incumbent, Duncan, narrowly wins the first ballot, but does not receive enough votes to clinch.
  2. Duncan and Steele, an African American, tie on the second ballot.
  3. Steele pulls into the lead on the third ballot.
  4. Duncan drops out.
  5. Dawson, who used to belong to a “whites only” country club and received 20 votes in the first ballot compared to Steele’s 46, pulls into the lead with 62 votes.

Odd, to say the least.  I may be reading too much into this, but is it a racial backlash against Steele? Blackwell, the other African American candidate, has dropped out to endorse Steele.

From TPM:

This is now pitting Steele, an African-American conservative who has criticized the GOP for failing to reach out to minority voters, against Dawson — who until recently belonged to an all-white country club, and has said he got involved with politics as a teenager in opposition to busing programs.

RESULTS UPDATE: The GOP averted bigot catastrophe today. But that does not mean the process was not hilarious and embarrassing for the Republican Party. Michael Steele, the African American Lt. Governor from Maryland became the Chairman of the Republican Party on the sixth ballot. This was after a fringe candidate who once belonged to a “whites only” country club – Katon Dawson – gained nearly 50 votes to lead Steele when it looked like he would win. For a while there, it seemed like the old white party was desperately clinging to that standard.

The GOP now must rush through the elections for lower leadership positions to make way for a wedding taking place in the same space later tonight.

Friday Brain Dump

A scandal ends, GOP basing continues, and a new Republican will be elevated to their party’s highest position today. This is an exciting Friday.

  • Rod Blagojevich, the country’s favorite asshat Governor, was impeached by a vote of 59-0 yesterday. Without a doubt my favorite Blago quote: “I did a lot of things that were mostly right.” Stunning appeal to keep his job.
  • The big debate in the blogosphere this week has been about the economic stimulus package that passed with no Republican votes. Some say that this is a big defeat for Obama. Some say it will bite the GOP in the heiny. Some, myself included, have said that it is a great strategic move for Republicans but a boon to bipartisanship. I think Kos has the best commentary on bipartisanship: “there is nothing inherently good about ‘bipartisanship’. The only thing that matters is whether a solution is good or not.”
  • The Republican National Committe will vote on its new leader today. The leading candidates are the current RNC head, Mike Duncan, and Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele. On the first vote, no one received a majority. I tend to like Steele because he has consistently chastized the Republican Party for not paying enough attention to Black voters. Either way, its good for the GOP that former Tennessee Governor Chip Saltsman, the man who released a CD to friends with a song titled “Barack, the Magic Negro” to the tune of “Puff the Magic Dragon” is no longer in the running. UPDATE: Duncan and Steele tied on second ballot. Still, neither has a majority.
  • Superbowl this weekend! I’ve been hesitantly going for the Cardinals because I still have not forgiven the Steelers for beating the Seahawks in 2006. But MoJo makes a pretty good argument for why progressives should support the Steelers. 

Have a good weekend.

Friday Brain Dump

I don’t have much to say about much, so I’ll say a little about much. General thought for this week: hearing Obama’s cabinet choices calling torture torture and confirming that science is real highlights the perverse deviance of the opposite opinions.

  • Obama Attorney General choice Eric Holder unequivocally declares that “waterboarding is torture.” Also that “no one is above the law,” even the President and DOJ officials apparently. That’s change we can… you know. BarbinMD of Daily Kos and Todd Beeton of MyDD for more. CIA, on the other hand, still likes torture. 
  • In an interview with the Washington Post, Obama says that he will work to reform Social Security and Medicaid, the long-lasting but endangered loves of the Democratic Party. 
  • I really think that Obama is going to engage in talks with Hamas. He says he will form a team to deal with the Gaza situation on day one and that discussions can’t “be solved in isolation. And we’ve got to be active in all these areas in order for us to be successful in any of these areas.”
  • It looks like the GOP is going to challenge some of Obama’s cabinet picks. Really? At the end of the day, these picks are going to pass. It turns out that no one cares that Geithner screwed up his taxes, the benefits of Holder outweigh his lack of judgment in pardons a decade ago, and Daschle is, well, I don’t really understand what their problem is with him. I’m not saying I’m against solid debate, but hullabaloo for the sake of hullabaloo is tiresome. And we’ve got other things to focus on.
  • I’m getting excited for the innagural address. Did you know it’s during the day? Lamesauce. Hello Obama! Peeps gots to work!
  • Stimulus plan bigger than many expected. Way to go Obams. Rep Bohner (lol) says OMG