If the media didn't cover it, did it happen?

Hell yes, it happened.

A one year anniversary protest and rally against Blackwater was held on Saturday, September 13th in front of Blackwater lobbying firm Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice's headquarters in downtown Winston-Salem. The protest coincided with protest rallies held the same day at Blackwater facilities located in San Diego, Idaho, and Illinois. The event was sponsored by Blackwater Watch. Co-sponsors included North Carolina Stop Torture Now, UNC Chapel Hill Students for a Democratic Society and Fight Imperialism-Stand Together. There was no coverage of the event by the mass media. The protest was covered by alternative media however and video will be available for later viewing.

Statements were read by representatives of the groups present. Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice was asked to rescind their contract with Blackwater under threat of organizing a nationwide boycott targeting their current as well as prospective customers.

Headquartered in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice is the third lobbying firm hired by Blackwater since October 2007. Womble Carlyle lobbyists representing Blackwater are: John Mashburn, former general counsel and policy director for Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., who is the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee; and Mark Harkins, who was chief of staff to Rep. Brad Miller, D-N.C., chairman of the Investigations and Oversight subcommittee of the House Science and Technology Committee.

It's a crying shame that North Carolina's most powerful institutions - the General Assembly, our federal officials, the media, have all closed ranks in silence about the mercenaries. America is a free country, they say, and war is good business. So what's the big deal if the revolving door spins one more time?

I wonder what Congressman Brad Miller thinks of Mark Harkins' move to the Dark Side? He's probably too much of a gentleman to say anything, I'm sure. So I'll say it for him: Prostitution is good business too.


Why fear mercenaries?

One look at the secrecy, retribution and incompetence we would have from a McCain-Palin ticket is all you need to know. Moose Mom wouldn't hesitate to put her private army of shock-troops on the street, all the while tapping your phones and restricting your travel in the name of national security.

I see a scenario in which a McCain victory could trigger widespread violence right here at home. Indeed the secessionist movement of which Palin was a part in Alaska could easily spread.

Have you bought your gun yet?


Doubts about Dole?

Don't start the revolution without me?

I see a scenario in which a McCain victory could trigger widespread violence right here at home. Indeed the secessionist movement of which Palin was a part in Alaska could easily spread.

Have you bought your gun yet?* James

If the neo-cons pull off this election with fraud and other evil methods supported by the mainstream corporate media. I can assure you that a revolution will occure. No doubt it will be open hunting season on the idiot conservatives cannon fodder troops. They have no idea how much hate that have against them and their police state agenda after 8 years.........

It seems redundant to say it but,

mercenaries are "for sale" to the highest bidder. There is no allegiance to America except for the show they might display. Are we ready to have these hired guns purchased by someone with an anti-American agenda and pointed at us?

Already we have seen evidence that Blackwater operates in Iraq without regard to American values. How much of a leap do you have to make to understand that we are not safe from this monster that we have let be created and foster here in our state.

Progressive Democrats of North Carolina

The monster

as you rightly point out, is Blackwater, and what Blackwater does.

The monster is not W/C, and if we don't like lobbying, we should certainly attack the system that feeds it.

But attacking Womble Carlyle for choosing to represent Blackwater is not attacking the system at all. It's singling out the lobbyist on the basis of his client. That's not smart, not effective, and it's certainly not consistent with "American values."

The lobbying part is what makes the circle complete

Without W/C the money stream is interrupted. I have no problem with legal representation for anyone, even the most hardened criminal deserves it, but why does that representation include lobbying? Where is it written that corporations must be allowed to pedal a stream of money into the People's House through a lobbyist? How can we break this insidious beast if we don't find its weak spot and attack there?

As you say, it may not be effective, but accountability is a means to an end. If W/C is uncomfortbable in that spotlight, maybe they should be.

And since when is not an American value to stand up and speak when your tax dollars are being used against your wishes? As far as I know, Blackwater's main client is the USA.

Progressive Democrats of North Carolina

American values

are up for grabs, I guess, but I would hope that progressives shy away from the "ends justify the means" argument. It's a poor one.

Again, if you want to attack lobbying, per se, then I'm with you. But this is an attack on a particular lobbyist because of its choice to represent a particular client.

I haven't seen any evidence whatsoever that Womble Carlyle is uncomfortable in the spotlight. They aren't shy folks. Nor is there anything to suggest that anyone at Womble Carlyle is worried about James' little campaign. There's a good reason for that.

So again, it boils back down to this being an ineffective campaign (to protest Blackwater) launched for an unworthy purpose (to silence its messenger) that reflects badly on no one but its participants.

It's the wrong thing to do. It's wrong in principle and goofy in result.

What will work?

I think the best bet is continued focus on Blackwater itself, what it is, what it does, and what the result has been for this country. Politicians love money and they love power but they hate, hate, hate bad publicity. It isn't Womble Carlyle that has to worry about being elected. They're very secure and they'll remain secure. But if the focus on Blackwater continues to garner attention (and it has been picking up some attention), and that attention continues to be negative, then eventually a politician will have to worry about whether his or her support of that agency is going to cost him or her a seat in the Senate or House of Reps.

That's what elections are for. The challenge is to get people motivated to build up as strong a constituency that is opposed to Blackwater as there currently exists to support it.

I worry about the conflation of attorneys and military mercs.

Even the "dark side" deserves legal respresentation, and having met Mark Hawkins personally, I find it difficult to envision him as Darth Vader. In fact, I'm rather glad he's there, because he seemed like such a good, decent man, my hope is that there is now a little light shining inside the cave of darkness.

I'm sure that's why they chose him.

This isn't about legal representation. This is about lobbying.

I've heard he's a nice guy too, Linda. And I'd love to hear that his mission at Blackwater USA is to lead Erik Prince to a business model that doesn't perpetuate death and destruction. Seems unlikely, but still. I'd love to be wrong on this.

The end of an error

Being able to present your side

whether in the courtroom or in the halls of the General Assembly is part of the same concept, supposedly one we care about, articulated so beautifully by John Stuart Mill in his essay On Liberty.

James and others who want to demonize W/C for representing Blackwater are making a mistake.

First, the effort makes BlueNC look silly by highlighting a bit of inconsistency on the part of those who would otherwise claim to believe in and act upon progressive ideals (I submit that shooting the messenger isn't one of those ideals). Again, I refer to James' counterparts on the far right: those who publish the names of Doctors who perform abortions on website along with statements of moral indignation. Their goal is that these doctors stop doing their jobs; James' is that W/C stop doing its job.

Second, eventually James and others who want to support this strategy are going to bump into one too many of these lobbyists in person, and be forced to notice the absence of horn and tails. They will also discern, eventually, that the reason Brad Miller and other public officials they respect do not denounce W/C is that they don't think W/C should be denounced. It has nothing to do with being a gentleman or a lady.

Third, it's not going to result in any positive direction for the underlying purpose, which is to oppose what Blackwater is doing. This is why you don't see people or groups who are interested in effective change adopting this strategy to oppose a given move by Duke Energy or Monsanto or any other large and powerful entity that employs large and seasoned lobbying firms. Look around. Notice that.

Now this is a good argument, Bru:

This is why you don't see people or groups who are interested in effective change adopting this strategy to oppose a given move by Duke Energy or Monsanto or any other large and powerful entity that employs large and seasoned lobbying firms. Look around. Notice that.

But it also presents some really good arguments for curtailing lobbying, especially in the case of Monsanto, which has mastered the conflict of interest approach. They've hired countless former government officials as lobbyists, and have been able to implant numerous former lobbyists in government agencies.

And I see (sort of) the same thing beginning to happen to WC, when they hired Brad's guy and (I think) a few former elected officials. It's one thing to advocate on behalf of a client as a "neutral" party, but something entirely different to use insider knowledge and influence. I know we've talked about this before also, but I don't like it, and it lies at the core of lobbying reform that needs to take place.

Curtailing lobbying

I have no problem with folks who want to challenge the current system, but personally have a difficult time formulating an argument that would curtail lobbying that doesn't abrogate constitutional principles -- not to mention law. I may lack imagination in this regard, though, and remain open to the idea.

It was poor wording on my part LofT

When I refer to groups "interested in effective change," I mean any activists and/or coalitions that oppose initiatives by the big powers (such as Duke, Monsanto, etc.)

What I've seen is a given group targeting the specific issue they're concerned about, such as whether a proposed schedule of release from dams is going to have an adverse effect on aquatic habitat (I'm tired and this is the easiest example I could think of), which in turn can affect recreational fishing (tourist dollars) or it can affect someone's livelihood. Of course, the groups that succeed have managed to muster sufficient numbers to constitute a threat to a given representative's chances for reelection in his/her district. They can be members of an industry or they can be property owners.

Whatever the interest, what you don't see is groups trying to to promote their concerns by attacking whomever is lobbying for Duke's proposal. It's a waste of time and energy and serves no purpose.

Why would they?

Why would the media cover people who can't distinguish between Blackwater facilities and a lobbying firm? It was a goofy place to picket.

Lobbying and the influence of big business on government

Mr. Schneider Goes to Washington

Amazingly, Washington’s political elite agrees. Lobbyists, Members of Congress, lawyers, even the Commissioner of the agency responsible for regulating the influence of money in Washington candidly admit this is the most destructive influence on American democracy.

Yet no one seems to care. More people voted for their favorite American Idol candidate than for their favorite candidate for President of the United States. We care more about the marital status of our favorite celebrity than what our elected leaders are doing in Washington.

See the trailer here and view the entire film free for the next week:


Progressive Democrats of North Carolina

It does look that way

I can't argue with that point. But if you want to bring about change you have to reckon with that fact and still be willing to push ahead against the odds. Without people willing to bet against the odds, no significant change is possible.