The seizure is seen by international strategists as a devastating blow to the already troubled regime of reclusive publishing maven, Rabbit founder and reknowned binge drinker Angus McCreavy.
McCreavy, long considered a major threat to the self-esteem and personal empowerment of junior staffers, has stridently insisted that we, er, they “focus on long-term industry issues” and “close yer yammerin’ pieholes before I introduce ya to the business end of my cane.”
In a brief communiqué, the rebel leader so far identified only as Che proclaimed: “With this bold act, the Rabbit Underground has taken a major stride toward … hey, back off the controller, dude, I’m leading the next Halo mission …”
Staffer demands reportedly include one million dollars, a fully gassed Super Tucano aircraft, and one large pizza.
The most shocking news of the evening, however, had to be rumors that the rebel faction will live blog the entire dog-and-pony show, er, Oversight Committee hearing Tuesday.
Or at least as long as they can stand the hypocrisy and grandstanding.
Public reaction to the news ranged from total indifference to complete disinterest.
“I am getting utterly bored already,” stated passerby Herman J. Snurtz. “Isn’t Dancing With the Stars on tonight?”
1004 - Apparently the hearing has started, and CSPAN-3 finally broke away from some dude hawking his book to actually cover the hearing
1007 - These CSPAN guys need to get onboard with media production. Get a soundtrack or something. Prince enters ... cue "Lord Vader's March" from the Star Wars soundtrack.
1015 - Hank is rambling about Haliburton. Switch to "Fake It" by Seether.
1017 - Here we go again with the military salary vs. total cost of contractor. The price of the contractor is turnkey. The military salary is a tiny slice. Ya think that the recruiting, training, feeding, equipping, comms support, satellites, air wings, tank battalions, etc. ad naseum are free? They do different missions guys.
1020 - Knew Abu Ghraib would have to be in there. The 800 lb gorilla in the room is that IF contractor actions are ruining the otherwise flawless U.S. effort in Iraq, has anyone thought to ask whether the POLICIES in place are a problem? We (the nation) give these companies their RUF.
Doesn't accountability mean government supervision and, when appropriate, criminal punishment? Since when does accountability mean windfall tort litigation? I guess since our servicemembers can't sue the government if it makes a battlefield decision that ends badly then our military is "unaccountable" too.
1028 - There haven't been any prosecutions? Then why the heck aren't Justice and FBI at the table today? Sure, making one company squirm makes great TV, but if these guys are at all serious where is that hearing??
1030 - The beauty of this hearing is that it's not really about Blackwater. In fact, it's not really about PSCs. It's about use of contractors generally to support the U.S. And if those who oppose the U.S. effort in Iraq cannot force a military withdraw through appropriate legislative action, they can impose their position by attacking the contractors. (Not that they don't deserve attacking for some actions!!) Amb. Crocker all but issued an engraved invitation for this when he discussed the reliance on Blackwater.
1035 - If we're really examining privatization of our military, why is the privatized DSS force at the table? That's a great discussion to have. But that ain't this hearing. Let's be real.
1038 - This live blogging thing sort of reminds us of Pop-Up Video on VH-1 back in the day. Except that we're less funny and less informative. And you don't have to watch Paula Abdul dance with a cartoon cat. Or listen to her.
1040 - I'd like to "hear what Mr. Prince has to say" as well. Listening to these clowns bloviate before anyone has even testified doesn't seem like much of a hearing. Gotta get that video clip down for the folks back home. Re-elections happen, you know.
1042 - Very interesting that the State panel is going up AFTER the private party. This is HIGHLY unusual. Interesting to speculate on exactly why they might want to do that.
1044 - Those special effects folks at Blackwater Light & Magic did a bang-up job. You can't even see the horns through the make-up, and the prosthetic hand Mr. Prince is raising to testify covers up the cloven hoove so well you can hardly tell it's there. Oh wait, imagine if he turns out to be just a normal guy-next-door who is trying to support our country. (Admittedly we don't have a billionaire in our neighborhood, but still). Any bets on whether we'll read about that?
1050 - Blackwater is apparently already trying to re-brand: looks like they launched an all new website this morning. We miss the scary guys with guns theme.
1053 - Six thousand five hundred missions last year? Certainly one incident where U.S. forces have to shoot is more than we want, but does it strike anyone that ~170 over the several years they've been running around in the middle of a civil war is not that many? Not sure what the "appropriate" number is, but it would seem like they'd end up shooting more than 1% of the time.
1056 - Questioning begins. On deposition for the plaintiffs: H. Waxman. Hope Prince answers because it's pretty salacious, but not holding our breath
1105 - Of the 349 people who originally tuned into CSPAN-3 for this hearing, 93.684 percent have now switched over to Jerry Springer or The View
1107 - Whoa--They often take fire on their armored vehicles and don't bother to return it because it's not a threat? I.e., they do not even report it when they are fired upon, only when they fire? Wonder if that will be noted when the "Incident reports say Blackwater fires first 80% of the time" thing is flashed everywhere?
1110 - The "we've never lost a protectee" thing, while hugely interesting to Congressmen on various junkets, is a good point but doesn't address the use of force issues so much. A better question is whether the RUF in place are too aggressive. Of course, the flip side is we go to a can't-fire-until-fired-upon sort of regime that has caused so much discontent in the past. E.g., even if the guys on the COLE saw the explosives, they wouldn't have had the ROE to engage. (If their weapons had been loaded.)
1114 - The firings have come up. There seems to be a drive to point these out as some weakness or impropriety. Isn't this the sort of self-policing that "doesn't happen." Wouldn't we rather see more? Heavens knows the military would like to be able to simply can people who don't behave/perform.
1118 - Does Ms. Maloney get it that the FBI, IZ police and CID were involved? What exactly does she expect the company to do? Take 'em back out and shoot em? He hasn't been arrested---guess Blackwater should have arrested him. Does she understand that USG directed the dude be removed from country?
1122 - Hey, discussion of the RUF and use of force continuum--now this is meaningful discussion. Will they follow it up?
1023 - Uh, no.
1029 - Does anyone else suspect that the government/armed contractor relationship is currently about like that of a psycho-ex that you've had a few good times with, but was way too needy and eventually even the sex got boring? Now, you've moved on and they're still stewing about it, drunk-dialing and leaving rambling voicemails asking for another chance and promising it "can change."
1133 - Interesting that DoJ was able to turn off the 9/16 discussion today. Of course, now Blackwater can continue to be Nifong'ed in the back by the media. Not getting what we mean? We're the first to admit that the 9/16 incident may have been a Mai Lai-like rampage. Or, it may have been a team under attack who explicitly followed the rules set forth by our country. WE DON'T KNOW. But you sure ain't reading that many other places.
1139 - OK, that Kuchinich/Prince exchange about whether DeVos, etc. helped him win the GSA contract may be the blue ribbon prize winner for the day. Even now, a crack team of Kuchinich staffers are furiously researching every point of that statement. Hopefully we'll get to see Denny threaten jailtime. This hearing needs someone beating on a table with their shoe.
1143 - What this hearing needs is Mike Gravel. He's a hoot.
1150 - Wow, if this whole Rep. thing doesn't pan out for Davis, he's got a bright future in Verizon voiceovers.
1152 - Ouch, the Blackwater guys thwarted a cover-up attempt? Not what was in reports. Better switch tactics. Now the charge is that they try to compensate the families---isn't the LACK of that argued as a lack of accountability out of the other side of the mouth?
1154 - Since they're calling these 'rounds' of questions, our question is: Where is the card girl?
Still searching for a corresponding photo of Hasselhoff in a leather thong.
1202 - Why hasn't GAO, CRS, or some other government body taken a fact-based look at which actually costs more on a per mission basis? Both "sides" argue that X is cheaper--why don't we have a statistical analysis this far into the war? Where are RAND and all those guys when you need 'em?
1205 - We typed the above before Prince called on Congress to do the same. Notice how the Committee skipped right on over that little idea!!!
1208 - Ooops. Quoting Axline-Starr to attack Prince? Guess the staffers didn't bother to notice that BW says she's a disgruntled (i.e., fired) former Blackwater IC. Do these guys really believe that a given military unit isn't focused on execution of its specific tactical mission rather than vague national objectives? The departure from a citizenry with military experience does not bode well for our nation's future.
1212 - Holy Smokin' Car Bombs!! Did you get a load of that Suburban photo? Why isn't that on their new website?
1217 - Company profit is 10.4%. Is this profiteering? We're not going to bother arguing yes or no---the vast majority of folks already have their minds made up, whether it is .0001% or 90%
1222 - 98.732% of those who thought this hearing would be interesting have now moved on to far more compelling activities, such as debating the failed British strategy during the War of Jenkin's Ear. Far more interesting.
1224 - Did one of these guys just make a statement "to the American people" about hypocrisy? Bwaaa haaa haaaaa.
1228 - We need to find a bar. One that keeps a funnel on hand.
1230 - We're not particularly impressed by Rush Limbaugh, but what does Mr. Prince have to do with that?
1231 - We're starting knock-off of Newhart. Every time someone says "mercenary" or "killed civilian"---another shot.
1233 - HEY, Rep. Watson gets it!! These are policy questions that the government (a/k/a we as a nation) need to answer, not one company or the industry. PLEASE follow up on this, ma'am!!!
1248 - More letters from plaintiff's lawyers??? Or is this guy bringing up the old one?
1249 - That sounds like a new one. Wow.
1251 - Ouch. Rep. Westmoreland is being pretty brutal (toward the majority). Is there a question in there somewhere?
1252 - We'd like to submit a proposal. The phrases "one decision: window or aisle" and "coalition of the billing" shall never be used in this public debate again. We're not going to hold our breath.
1254 - Did we miss something? What does Hope College have to do with the hearing? ???
1259 - And a pound of tea costs $3.95 in yen when purchased on the moon
1304 - Tooth-to-tail is not a good subject for PSC detractors---better get them off this subject fast, Henry
1305 - Another suggestion of an Activity Cost Study by Prince ... let's see where this one goes.
1307 - Lead balloon
1311 - Other than general interest, why does it matter what Prince understands about relevant laws? He doesn't get to decide what the laws say.
1317 - Prince understands the Arms Control Export regime? At least better than this Congressman.
1320 - If the point of this hearing were truly to bring out useful information about the industry and applicable law, this export law vein is excellent. Of course, the point is anything but. Best move along from the conspiracy theories if you want your soundbite on the local news, Congressman.
1330 - Do we need to say again that DoJ/FBI/etc. are the ones who need to be asked these questions? If these guys were really even a little interested in accountability, or the Christmas Eve shooter, wouldn't they hold a hearing on that? Bash on PSCs all you want, but why in the world isn't there a cry for some sort of explanation about ENFORCEMENT??
1333 - Blackwater endorses Price Bill and other accountability improvements.
1334 - Did someone just pull the firealarm? Somebody doesn't like the way this hearing is going down!!
1339 - Mr. Welch is scoring points with his constituency. Apparently the guy never ran a business, though.
1341 - So, are they giving him the answer, or the b-slap?
1343 - Those side-angle camera shots let out the dirty little secret of these Committees: Most of the members don't bother to hang around before or after they get their mug on TV. Right now there are two of 'em in the room. The purpose of this hearing is: inquiry ... or theater?
1347 - Rep. Lynch's statements about the "gratitude effect" are a good point ... but it's hard to see how that is specific to a PSC team, vice a DSS agent team or a military PSD team. Will he propose some outside observer be instated, or just go for the dirt?
1350 - He does both! Not a bad idea. Hope it goes somewhere.
1357 - The call for a GAO investigation is helpful, but man, the rest of the good Gentlewoman's statement was basically a soliloquy in Wookie.
1358 - How is Ms. Shack even in the room? Is she on this Committee? Can we go ask some questions?
1400 - Chileans ... this isn't going how she planned. Keep throwing the gasoline on!
1419 - The Chairman just pushed the State guys on prosecution. Too bad Justice wasn't at the table with them.
1427 - This is actually the most useful part of the hearing, the State guys just asserted that the fully loaded cost of a DSS agent is $400K to $1M, and that the PSCs are the lower cost solution. Too bad they're not making the documentation of that public.
1428 - Sadly, looking at our traffic analysis, most of you are more interested in staring at the photo below than reading more narration from us. For you diehards--listen to what State says, it should be the truly useful part of this hearing.
Can you see the rust forming on that bumper?
1522 - Told you not to tune out--State officials just confirmed that the $330M sole-source (a/k/a "no bid") contract awarded in 2004 was shopped to FOUR other PSCs (who were deemed incapable of performing) before they went with Blackwater. There is so much obfuscation and partisanship on these issues it is hard to believe.
1530 - Just reported that three BW guys were gravely injured after Iraqi police directed their motorcade into an EFP ambush.
1533 - Adjourned.