Friday, December 31, 2010

Cost of War: Teacher Layoffs and War

Editorial: Teacher Layoffs and War

Just one more example of the Cost of War and of the priorities exposed by the choices our Government is making on how to spend money.

Our government’s perverse definition of “national security” was on display again this summer. By large majorities, the U.S. Congress approved a so-called emergency appropriation of $33.5 billion to escalate the war in Afghanistan—adding to the more than $1 trillion that the United States has already spent waging wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Meanwhile, as schools faced the potential layoff of an estimated 300,000 teachers across the country, Congress dawdled until the second week in August, finally approving $10 billion to save the jobs of about half that number. The catch was that Congress “found” the money by cutting $12 billion in spending on food stamps (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)—a measure that the Food Research and Action Center says will hurt 40 million people, almost half of them children, when the cuts take effect in 2014. As Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro, who voted for the bill, said, “I cannot in good conscience condone what we have taken away. . . . The bill shamefully pits these priorities against each other.”

This juxtaposition of robust war spending and inadequate support for education highlights the moral bankruptcy of political and economic leaders who seem to find endless piles of money to kill people abroad but not much to educate them at home. And, of course, the relationship is plain: The more dollars spent on war, the fewer available for human needs—whether alternative energy, food stamps, in-home elder care, public libraries, or keeping teachers in their classrooms.

And the morally bankrupt pattern that emerges makes you wonder if there is not indeed a plan here:

It’s worth pausing to ask: Who stands to gain by the jobs crisis in our country’s schools?

As Naomi Klein argues so powerfully in The Shock Doctrine, the “shock” of a calamity—whether natural or human created—offers opportunities for powerful interests to push their privatization, market-oriented schemes even more forcefully. This neoliberal agenda in education includes weakening teacher unions and dampening worker expectations, expanding charter schools, shifting curricular authority away from teachers and school communities to corporations, and establishing a regime of accountability through standardized tests. Oh yes, and squeezing more work out of school district employees for less money.

It’s not hard to recognize how a layoff crisis furthers this agenda. States starving for education money fall all over themselves in the Race to the Top competition, abolishing caps on the number of charter schools, tying teacher compensation to test scores, adopting national standards, and agreeing to “reconstitute” struggling schools.

So as people become more aware of the injustice and greed on display both in congress and in the workplace what can be done? The article points out the stark contrasts on display and some of the responses.

One Pot of Money

Simultaneously debating war funding and money to stave off teacher layoffs, as Congress did this summer, inadvertently draws attention to the truth that there is one pot of federal revenue, and how it gets allocated is a matter of political choice. Every dollar spent for war is a dollar not spent on children or other human needs.

If there is a silver lining to this crisis, it’s the increased activism along these lines that we see throughout the country—and the willingness to connect grievances. For example, this summer the United Auto Workers and Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition launched a campaign to “rebuild America with jobs, and justice, and peace.” This UAW/Rainbow PUSH initiative links demands “to rebuild the nation’s cities, provide jobs and education, enact a moratorium on foreclosures, and end the wars in the Middle East.

Stop the profiteering! Stop the War!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Atlantic Archives: The Power Of Protest - The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

The Atlantic Archives: The Power Of Protest - The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

Andrew gives an example of protest under the Nazis in which Aryan wives of German Jews held a street protest of their detention that let to the freeing of those Jews. He then applies it to injustice in the US today:

To be clear, I am in no way suggesting that the Nazis and their misdeeds are "morally equivalent" to the contemporary sins of the French or the British, or the torture carried out by the Bush Administration, or the prison rape that so routinely occurs in the United States, or the many innocent civilians who are inadvertently killed by our overseas bombing campaigns.

But these are serious transgressions against morality and the propositions declared self-evident in our founding documents. That our leaders are often well-intentioned, that our systems successfully guard against atrocities better than so many others, and that we’re free to protest without fear of being gunned down or disappeared would seem to increase rather than decrease our obligation to dissent.

The big question is why don't more people rise up? the majority of the American people are against the war in Afghanistan. Why are there not more of them out on the street corner protesting with VFP?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

UN to investigate treatment of jailed leaks suspect Bradley Manning | World news | The Guardian

UN to investigate treatment of jailed leaks suspect Bradley Manning | World news | The Guardian

The United Nations is investigating a complaint on behalf of Bradley Manning that he is being mistreated while held since May in US Marine Corps custody pending trial. The army private is charged with the unauthorised use and disclosure of classified information, material related to the WikiLeaks, and faces a court martial sometime in 2011.

The office of Manfred Nowak, special rapporteur on torture based in Geneva, received the complaint from a Manning supporter; his office confirmed that it was being looked into. Manning's supporters say that he is in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day; this could be construed as a form of torture. This month visitors reported that his mental and physical health was deteriorating.

The costs of war-"The nation we are failing to build in Afghanistan is our own". -Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel - The costs of war

Another analysis of the review of "progress in Afghanistan" released this week.

Some highlights:

We're spending $100 billion a year on a country that had a gross domestic product of a little more than $2 billion when we invaded in 2001. We manage this feat only by helping to fund both sides of the conflict (much of the aid ends up in the hands of the Taliban as well as regional warlords who don't support the Karzai government). The military focus displaces attention that should be devoted to regional diplomacy and a political settlement within Afghanistan

She then focuses on how this multi-billion investment plays out at home:

Missing in the president's review are the actual costs of the war. That includes what economists call "opportunity costs," or what we miss by continuing this course. By 2014, this administration will have spent more than $700 billion on Afghanistan directly. Poverty is an unfashionable word in Washington, but it afflicts a record 43 million Americans. Childhood poverty is rising. Nationally, only one in seven black male teens held any type of job in the first quarter of this year. We should not fool ourselves: A generation of children raised on dangerous streets is being condemned to a life of misery - hunger, broken families, unemployment, drugs and crime. The nation we are failing to build in Afghanistan is our own.

If poverty is too liberal a concern, consider the costs of Afghanistan to our economic competitiveness. America is literally falling apart. Our aged and decrepit infrastructure is becoming a clear and present danger. Lives are lost when a bridge falls in Minneapolis or the levees collapse in New Orleans. SUVs are swallowed by collapsing sewage systems in New York. Children go to schools judged dangerous to their health. Hours are lost when aged train switches freeze, sewer systems collapse or traffic snarls. Even the basics of civilization, such as access to clean water, are increasingly at risk because of aging and leaky sewage systems. Our electric grid, our broadband system and our transportation system all lag behind those of global competitors. Combine the $700 billion spent in Afghanistan and the $700 billion to be squandered on tax breaks for the richest 1 percent of Americans over the next decade, and you have real money, even for Washington. Money that this increasingly challenged country can no longer afford to waste.

And finally the investment in human capital echos John Kerrys words about Vietnam.

Notably absent in the commentary about the president's review, too, are the war's human costs. The service of those in our volunteer army is routinely praised on all sides. The Democratic Congress under President George W. Bush and Obama committed itself to improving military pay, educational benefits and medical and psychological care. But celebrating servicemembers' courage ignores the basic question: How do you ask young men and women to give their life or limbs for a cause that you know is lost? Or worse, has no justifiable purpose?

To Sum it up: We ain't learned nothin yet and our war profits industries and their "Masters of War" do not want to learn about the consequences of their profits.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Why VFP tied themselves to the White House Fence or What's Missing in the Latest Afghanistan Review | Stephen M. Walt

What's Missing in the Latest Afghanistan Review | Stephen M. Walt

We saw the heart felt demonstration against War by VFP members last week. Now look at this article analyzing the facts and consequences of the Afghanistan war which is becoming the Pakistan war with a little history thrown in to remind us that we have been this way before and it did not turn out well. by Stephen Walt:

The article begins with these two New York Times articles:
"U.S. Will Widen War on Militants Inside Pakistan" and "Germany Will Begin Afghan Exit Next Year."

Walt questions the Policy Review as being more politics than reality:
what's missing in all this role-playing was a clear and convincing statement of costs and benefits. For all the talk of defeating al Qaeda (which isn't in Afghanistan any more), or preventing "safe havens," the administration scrupulously avoided the question of whether the money spent, lives lost, and presidential time consumed is worth it in terms of advancing core American interests.

If you look at the first headline above it is clear that we are now fighting in Pakistan. Chapter 14 already has Memorial Day tombstones dedicated to US soldiers who died in Pakistan. Walt's more strategic take:
the news that the United States intends to expand the war even further into Pakistan is especially worrisome. On the one hand, it suggests that the administration has figured out that it cannot ever win in Afghanistan so long as the Taliban have a safe haven across the border (and the tacit or active support of some key elements in the Pakistani military). But as Anatol Lieven notes in The Nation, unleashing additional violence in Pakistan could have long-term destabilizing consequences that would be far more significant than whatever ultimately happens in Afghanistan.

He also brings in a chilling historical parallel here:
And it is hard not to see echoes of Nixon's decision to invade Cambodia in 1970, in a failed attempt to eradicate Viet Cong bases there. The two situations are hardly identical, but both illustrate the tendency for wars to expand in both the scope and extent of violence, especially when they aren't going well.

In any case it will mean for our chapter and for the American people that there will be more tombstones next year honoring the dead from Pakistan. I still hold im my memory an Army pilot friend from Vietnam who flew into Cambodia and whose plane went down in flames and remains MIA.

If history holds true the people of Pakistan will pay an even higher price. Walt remembers what the result of US intervention for the Cambodian people:

Let's not forget that the invasion of Cambodia in 1970 also helped destabilize that country, and helped usher in the brutal rule of the Khmer Rouge. I'm not predicting a similar outcome here, but that example is a cruel reminder that military force is a crude instrument whose ultimate effects are difficult to anticipate in advance.

And finally the long view:
Decades from now, historians will look back and wonder how the United States allowed itself to get bogged down in a long and costly war to determine the political fate of landlocked country whose entire gross national product is about a quarter the size of the New York city budget. And when they reflect on the fact that the United States did this even after a major financial collapse and in the face of persistent budget deficits and macroeconomic imbalances, they will shake their heads in amazement.

Monday, December 20, 2010

YouTube - Veterans for Peace White House Civil Disobedience to End War

YouTube - Veterans for Peace White House Civil Disobedience to End War

Chris Hedges Message of Hope at the

Thanks to Bill for sending this out on the listserve. Great video of an great speech about why we protest.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The U.S.S. Prius -

The U.S.S. Prius -

Unlike the Congress, which can be bought off by Big Oil and Big Coal, it is not so easy to tell the Marines that they can’t buy the solar power that could save lives. I don’t know what the final outcome in Iraq or Afghanistan will be, but if we come out of these two wars with a Pentagon-led green revolution, I know they won’t be a total loss. Wars that were driven partly by our oil addiction end up forcing us to break our oil addiction? Wouldn’t that be interesting?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ellsberg, VFP members and Other Anti-War Protesters To Chain Themselves To White House Fence

Ellsberg, Other Anti-War Protesters To Chain Themselves To White House FenceDan Froomkin
Vietnam-era whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and several dozen other anti-war protesters will be chaining themselves to the White House fence, inviting arrest in the name of peace.
"We are dedicated to exposing the true costs of war and militarism," explained Mike Ferner, the president of Veterans for Peace, the group organizing Thursday's Lafayette Square rally and civil disobedience.

"We've killed well over a million people. We've orphaned and displaced five times that number at least. And here in our own country, we've managed to throw millions of people of out work and out of their homes," Ferner told reporters at a press conference Wednesday. "There is a connection there. That connection is the true cost of war."

Citing information available for every city and state in America on the Cost of War website, the former Navy hospital corpsman noted that his hometown of Toledo alone has sent almost a billion dollars into the war effort.

Obama is expected to cite "progress" in the war as he releases a review of American strategy in Afghanistan. During his visit to Bagram Air Force Base earlier this month, the president telegraphed his position by telling the troops that "thanks to your service, we are making important progress. You are protecting your country."

Ellsberg, the former military analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971 as an act of protest against the Vietnam War, took particular umbrage at Obama's claim that the troops in Afghanistan are keeping Americans safe.

"I regard that last assurance as a lie. As a big lie," he said. Ellsberg said Obama knew full well when he announced a major troop-escalation plan a year ago that the war was unwinnable, and that putting in more troops would actually bolster the Taliban -- and, by extension, al Qaeda -- by helping their recruiting efforts.
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"It is our military operations that are not only failing to protect Americans, they are endangering Americans," said Ellsberg, 79, for whom this will be the 80th civil disobedience arrest.

"There comes a time when you need to put your body in it," said former CIA analyst-turned-activist Ray McGovern, paraphrasing Martin Luther King, Jr. "If the making of peace means prison, that's where we need to be."

"We are hoping that our actions will spark resistance everywhere," said Veterans for Peace Vice President Leah Bolger. "We are hoping to make people question what the government is doing in our name."

A brief rally is scheduled for 10 a.m. across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House with remarks from Ellsberg, McGovern, Ferner, "Peace Mom" Cindy Sheehan, Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin, and others.

Protesters will then head for the White House, where organizers hope 100 or more people with chain themselves to the fence and get arrested.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Reaction of Governments to Wikileaks Should Scare the Hell Out of You

a Tweet that says it all:

The Reaction of Governments to Wikileaks Should Scare the Hell Out of You

A Marine's review of Wikileaks ongoing battle with government secrecy.
Roberto Arguedas is a public school teacher in Atlanta with a focus on diplomatic history. He served in the Marine infantry in Fallujah (post Phantom Fury) and Ramadi (during the surge). He blogs at Philistine Vulgarity about politics, games, and more.

His comments on the free speech aspects of this new kind of electronic conflict are especially relevant.

Finally, the reaction of governments to these leaks should scare the hell out of you. The seemingly inevitable arrest (via Reddit) of Julian Assange by British authorities on Swedish sexual assault charges as encouraged by the American government likely represents a 21st century remix of the classic honeypot, and the willingness to use it on such a high profile individual should be worrisome irrespective of the veracity of the charges. It's just the tip of the iceberg, though. Apart from Facebook's notably understated position, the ease and rapidity with which corporations across the US and the world were reminded of where the fishes sleep should be of tremendous concern. If Amazon, credit card companies, Paypal, and Swiss banks are the big stories with their reliance on technicalities to wriggle out of their responsibilities in obvious response to government pressure, it is EveryDNS being brazenly strongarmed into abdicating its role as a neutral gatekeeper that should set the tone for future conversations about net neutrality.

The potential for Comcast or Verizon abusing their place in the food chain pales in comparison to an overt example of governments colluding to silence what they can't defeat in court with intimidation and technological warfare. Naturally, some will point to the "hacktivist" response (apologies if that's your first exposure to that term) as an equal and opposite reaction: while possibly emotionally gratifying, in the end it has the same outcome of discouraging corporate work with transparency organizations since dealing with governments is not as easy to opt out of. As Senator Joseph Lieberman makes clear (via Cory), it's easy for unscrupulous advocates of censorship to view this as an opportunity, a watershed that brings together their traditional loathing of old media with contemporary technology.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Wikileaks and the New McCarthyism: Maybe we Just Need a More Open Government | Julian Assange Interviews

Wikileaks and the New McCarthyism: Maybe we Just Need a More Open Government | Informed Comment

Juan Cole's take on Wikileaks:
A big issue in the Wikileaks controversy has to do with restrictions on freedom of speech in a democratic society, and the use of pressure tactics and of corporate policy to curb speech that is not shown to be illegal. That tendency is very troubling, and recalls the strong arm tactics of the House of Representatives, the FBI, and major corporations during the McCarthy era.

Wikileaks continues to be under political pressure (I say political rather than legal because as far as I can tell, the organization has not been indicted or formally charged with wrongdoing), and I found it impossible to get through to their new Swiss site this morning. But there are now lots of mirror sites up all over Europe. The documents are also being made available via torrents that can be picked up through peer to peer (p2p) networks. Presumably the more important cables are in the “insurance” file available at the various wikileaks mirror sites and also via torrents, and which founder Julian Assange says has been downloaded 100,000 times. An encryption key will be disseminated if anything happens to the organization.

He also comments on the effects of the document dumps form a historian's point of view and quotes Robert Gates:

On the other hand, I don’t see the leaks as the end of the world. Most of the authors of the cables have been rotated to another embassy by now, and leaders come and go. There is no evidence of anyone being killed because of the leaks, though one German spy for the US has been summarily fired. I saw Robert M. Gates on Aljazeera reacting to the leaks in Realist fashion. He said that countries interact with the US for three reasons. Some are friendly and interact on that basis. Others are enemies and seek engagement for that very reason. Still others think they need the US. Gates said he didn’t see in what way the leaked cables would change any of those three sorts of relationship. And he is right.

Open culture provides interviews with Julian Assange that may illuminate his position more fully:

A key passage explaining Assange’s world view appears below, and you can get the full profile right here. Next up, we have Chris Anderson, the head of TED, in conversation Assange. The interview, running 20 minutes, tells you essentially “Why the World Needs WikiLeaks.” And then why not add to the list Forbes’ lengthy interview with Assange, published earlier this week. (Thanks Avi for that.)

He had come to understand the defining human struggle not as left versus right, or faith versus reason, but as individual versus institution. As a student of Kafka, Koestler, and Solzhenitsyn, he believed that truth, creativity, love, and compassion are corrupted by institutional hierarchies, and by “patronage networks”—one of his favorite expressions—that contort the human spirit. He sketched out a manifesto of sorts, titled “Conspiracy as Governance,” which sought to apply graph theory to politics. Assange wrote that illegitimate governance was by definition conspiratorial—the product of functionaries in “collaborative secrecy, working to the detriment of a population.” He argued that, when a regime’s lines of internal communication are disrupted, the information flow among conspirators must dwindle, and that, as the flow approaches zero, the conspiracy dissolves. Leaks were an instrument of information warfare.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

America's Two Faces | Republic or Empire

America's Two Faces | Stephen M. Walt

Some perspective on this question by looking at History, specifically the history of Britain's bargain with Hitler before WWII and how that affected the British public's view of their society and its role int he world. I am presently reading Cleopatra by the historian Stacy Schiff and that history is set at the Transition for the Roman empire from Republic to Dictatorship. The picture of Roman politics with its anything to gain power impetus and the hurling of lies and epithets between political opponents (Marc Anthony and Octavian) show a disturbing parallel to present day American political life, from the lies and propaganda to the bread and circuses for the masses.

Stephen Waite comments on a essay called "Post Munich" in the Novel Two Cheers for Democracy by EM Forester: "The essay is called "Post-Munich," and it is a reflection, written in 1939, on the curious political psychology that gripped England after Chamberlain made his deal with Hitler. He describes the country as in a strange double-state: still deeply fearful, and yet simultaneously distractible by the routines of life promised through the deal. Here is what Forster writes:

'This state of being half-frightened and half-thinking about something else at the same time is the state of many English people today. It is worth examining, partly because it is interesting, partly because, like all mixed states, it can be improved by thought.'

Forster goes on to describe why it is so hard to break free and face what needs to be done:

'We are urged. . . to face facts, and we ought to. But we can only face them by being double-faced. The facts lie in opposite directions, and no exhortation will group them into a single field. No slogan works. All is lost if the totalitarians destroy us. But all is equally lost if we have nothing left to lose.'" If you just substitute terrorists for totalitarians and terrorism for fascism, you have a pretty good picture of our politics today. But here's the important question this raises in my mind:

Why, I ask myself, does the United States today seem like England after Munich? The Taliban are not Hitler. I think it is because we have indulged this same appeasement, but with ourselves. We are on both sides of the bargain: we are the world's threatening tyrant, and we are the world's best hope for freedom. And rather than fight out that battle, we have decided we can have it both ways. We have walked up to the fundamental choice that we face about our role in the world, and we have made a Munich pact with ourselves instead of choosing liberty and democracy for all. The point here is that it is as unstable and unholy a pact as Munich. It will come undone, and it should come undone. But then the real choice and the real peril will confront us."

My reaction: I reproduced his email because I think Chris is on to something (just as Forster was back in 1939). Americans think we ought to be managing the whole world, but we shouldn't have to pay taxes or sacrifice our way of life in order to do it. We use our military machine to kill literally tens of thousands of Muslims in different countries, and then we are surprised when a handful of them get mad and try (usually not every effectively) to hit us back. But then we docilely submit to all sorts of degrading and costly procedures at airports, because we demand to be protected from threats whose origins we've been refusing to talk about honestly for years. We are constantly warned about grave dangers, secret plots, impending confrontations, slow-motion crises, etc., and we are told that these often hypothetical scenarios justify compromising liberties here at home and engaging in practices (torture, targeted assassinations, preventive missile strikes at suspected terrorists, etc.) that we would roundly condemn if anyone else did them. We think it is an outrage when North Korea shells a South Korean island and kills four people, (correct), yet it is just "business as usual" when one of our drones hits some innocent civilians in Pakistan or Yemen. We have disdain for our politics and our politicians, but instead of questioning the institutions and practices that fuel this dysfunction, we indulge in fairy tales about so-called leaders who will somehow lead us out of the darkness."

Wait Concludes:
"...the lesson here is that the United States cannot be a republic and an empire, because the latter inevitably ends up corrupting the former. This is the central point raised by the late Chalmers Johnson (who passed away last week), by Andrew Bacevich, and by a number of other thoughtful people. It is an issue that gets raised in various corners of the blogosphere, but hardly ever in the mainstream press and certainly not at most of the think tanks and talk shops inside the Beltway, most of whom are devoted custodians of energetic international activism. And until that debate starts happening in a serious way, we will continue to stumble about, simultaneously bearing the weight of the world and being afraid of our own shadow. "

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Only 48 hours Left for Vets to Claim Stop Loss Money - Heads Up!

Only 48 hours Left for Vets to Claim Stop Loss Money -

Do you know someone who served in Iraq or Afghanistan and was stop-lossed?

IAVA fought hard in Washington D.C., and recently, Congress passed legislation that entitles veterans who were stop-lossed after September 11th, 2001 to additional pay. But time is running out, and there are just two more days for them to collect the pay they've earned.

Help us get the word out by forwarding this email to any eligible veteran you might know. They can learn more at IAVA’s Stop Loss HQ.

Eligible veterans can receive $500 for each month they were held under stop loss orders. Survivors of servicemembers who were killed in combat or died after their service are also entitled to compensation. The deadline to apply is this Friday, December 3rd.

Getting stop loss back pay is simple. Click here to visit the IAVA Stop Loss HQ and get all the details.

Please help us spread the word by forwarding this email to vets who might be eligible for this benefit. Let's make sure no one misses out.

Thanks for having our back.


Tom Tarantino
Senior Legislative Associate
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)