Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Simpson to disabled vets: You cost too much

Daily Kos: State of the Nation

RALEIGH, N.C.—The system that automatically awards disability benefits to some veterans because of concerns about Agent Orange seems contrary to efforts to control federal spending, the Republican co-chairman of President Barack Obama's deficit commission said Tuesday.

Former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson's comments came a day after The Associated Press reported that diabetes has become the most frequently compensated ailment among Vietnam veterans, even though decades of research has failed to find more than a possible link between the defoliant Agent Orange and diabetes.

"The irony (is) that the veterans who saved this country are now, in a way, not helping us to save the country in this fiscal mess," said Simpson, an Army veteran who was once chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee....

"It's the kind of thing that's just driving us to this $1 trillion, $400 billion deficit this year," Simpson said. "It's not that I'm an uncaring person, but common sense is the most uncommon thing in Washington."

Just like the irony of millions of Americans paying into Social Security on the promise that they would receive benefits back, while the rich get off the hook for repaying the fund they "borrowed" from for their tax cuts and wars. Disabled vets are just like seniors--those "lesser people" of Simpson's, the ones who fought our wars. Those disabled vets that our own military poisoned while they were serving, can just shove it.

This comes right on the heels of an announcement from Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric K. Shinseki that the VA, with the "unwavering support of President Obama," is finally doing the right thing by those veterans exposed to Agent Orange. In announcing this, Shinseki said "the President and I are proud to finally provide this group of Veterans the care and benefits they have long deserved."

Maybe this attack from Simpson will be enough for President Obama to give Simpson the boot.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Our Only Existing Jobs Program Is the Military -- an Insane Way to Keep Americans employed | Economy | AlterNet

Our Only Existing Jobs Program Is the Military -- an Insane Way to Keep Americans employed | Economy |
Something w all know but with statistics to back it up:

"Over 1,400,000 Americans are now on active duty; another 833,000 are in the reserves, many full time. Another 1,600,000 Americans
work in companies that supply the military with everything from weapons to utensils. (I'm not even including all the foreign contractors employing non-US citizens.)"

"If we didn't have this giant military jobs program, the U.S. unemployment rate would be over 11.5 percent today instead of 9.5 percent.

And without our military jobs program personal incomes would be dropping faster. The Commerce Department reported Monday the only major metro areas where both net earnings and personal incomes rose last year were San Antonio, Texas, Virginia Beach, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. -- because all three have high concentrations of military and federal jobs.

This isn't an argument for more military spending. Just the opposite. Having a giant undercover military jobs program is an insane way to keep Americans employed. It creates jobs we don't need but we keep anyway because there's no honest alternative. We don't have an overt jobs program based on what's really needed."

see the complete article at the link above

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

DC Circuit, Want to Rethink that Habeas Ruling for Afghan Detainees?

DC Circuit, Want to Rethink that Habeas Ruling? | Emptywheel

Back in May, the DC Circuit decided that detainees at Bagram Air Force base were not entitled to habeas corpus because, since the base is in an active war zone, it would be unduly burdensome for the government to hold a real hearing.

I’m wondering if the DC Circuit would like to rethink that decision?

After all, in July, the Afghans proved themselves capable of holding a trial in the very same base in which Americans claim to be helpless to do the same, relying on assistance from US military lawyers who claim to be unable to hold their own meaningful hearings.

The chief judge asked God’s forgiveness if he had reached the wrong decision, and then he sentenced four members of an Afghan family charged with making bombs: two brothers to 10 years in prison and two other family members to time already served.

The courtroom, deep inside the American-run detention center in Parwan, erupted. The prosecutors complained that the sentences were too light, and the defense lawyers protested that they were too heavy; one of the defendants, Masri Gul, said he had not been allowed to examine the evidence; and the guards tried to quiet everyone.


The American military made a great effort to showcase the bomb-making trial as a symbol of the transfer of authority, inviting Afghan and Western news media. However, the judges’ verdict seemed to depend in large part on crucial forensic work primarily from American technicians, and over all, Americans will continue to play a substantial role in decisions about the transfer of detainees. So far, Afghan and American officials have identified 110 cases for Afghan trials.

If a bunch of US military lawyers are already actively involved in hearings in Afghanistan (ones they’re proud enough to turn into a press spectacle), and if Afghans can pull a trial off, then doesn’t it follow the American military can muster some kind of real review of detainees?

Add in the fact that–as Spencer describes it–this base is looking more and more like an American exurb, down to the traffic jams and the road named Disney.

More notable than the overstuffed runways is the over-driven road. Disney Drive, the main thoroughfare that rings the eight-square-mile base, used to feature pedestrians with reflective sashes over their PT uniforms carrying Styrofoam boxes of leftovers out of the mess halls. And those guys are still there.

But now the western part of Disney is a two-lane parking lot of Humvees, flamboyant cargo big-rigs from Pakistan known as jingle trucks, yellow DHL shipping vans, contractor vehicles and mud-caked flatbeds. If the Navy could figure out a way to bring a littoral-combat ship to a landlocked country, it would idle on Disney.

Expect to wait an eternity if you want to pull out onto the road. Cross the street at your own risk.

Then there are all the new facilities. West Disney has a fresh coat of cement –- something that’s easy to come by, now that the Turkish firm Yukcel manufactures cement right inside Bagram’s walls.

There on the flightline: the skeletons of new hangars. New towers with particleboard for terraces. A skyline of cranes. The omnipresent plastic banner on a girder-and-cement seedling advertising a new project built by cut-rate labor paid by Inglett and Stubbs International.

If we’re going to build infrastructure for a permanent empire in Afghanistan, then we ought to build in all the things empires bring, like real judicial systems.

Seriously. With all this building and trialing and whatnot, the DC Circuit now looks like a collection of chumps buying a transparent government lie about the ability to hold hearings. Isn’t it time to rethink habeas in Afghanistan?