Thursday, December 29, 2011

Drone Wars Lead to Roving Death Squads in Pakistan

Drone Wars Lead to Roving Death Squads in Pakistan | FDL News Desk: Here’s another unfortunate and completely predictable consequence of our drone wars: when they become unsustainable, and the CIA or JSOC have to leave the country which they carpet-bombed, the natives who helped them designate targets get marked for death.

Our new war in Pakistan is leading to more unintended consequences:

Those abducted tell stories of torture, and few of them live to tell those stories. So a villager in the Waziristan region has to avoid the drone strike and the band of marauders looking to assign blame. The CIA exploits desperate poverty in the region by offering large sums to informants. That clearly does not come with any personal safeguards. What’s more, the Khorasan Mujahedin doesn’t seem to care whether they kill someone innocent of informing or guilty of it. They want merely to send a message. So drone strikes that sometimes kill innocents perpetuate revenge killings that often kill innocents.

The Author concludes:

We’re not only terrorizing the countryside by the air, we aren’t stopping the continued terrorism on the ground. So villagers have a choice: side with the Americans, or against the forces leading to their destruction.

Remember the blow-back of 911? It came from the same region from groups of "terrorists" we created. Sound familiar?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Change For A Dollar and the Homeless Santa - Merry Christmas from VFP

Change For A Dollar - YouTube

Remembering in these days our homeless vets and their friends not only as people with needs but also as people with gifts to give.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Christmas Message From America's Rich | Common Dreams

A Christmas Message From America's Rich | Common Dreams
Mat Tabbibi gives us a window into the machinations of the giant banking corporations that have Occupy on the streets. His analysis and expose revolves around the now infamous statement by private equity chief Stephen Schwarzman who said that the poor had no right to complain because they had no "skin in the game" meaning they paid no taxes. Here are some of Tabbibis comments on this statement which clarifies it greatly:

Schwarzman is factually wrong about lower-income people having no “skin in the game,” ignoring the fact that everyone pays sales taxes, and most everyone pays payroll taxes, and of course there are property taxes for even the lowliest subprime mortgage holders, and so on.

It’s not even because Schwarzman probably himself pays close to zero in income tax – as a private equity chief, he doesn’t pay income tax but tax on carried interest, which carries a maximum 15% tax rate, half the rate of a New York City firefighter.

But it goes further than these immediate "facts"

The real issue has to do with the context of Schwarzman’s quote. The Blackstone billionaire, remember, is one of the more uniquely abhorrent, self-congratulating jerks in the entire world – a man who famously symbolized the excesses of the crisis era when, just as the rest of America was heading into a recession, he threw himself a $5 million birthday party, featuring private performances by Rod Stewart and Patti Labelle, to celebrate an IPO that made him $677 million in a matter of days (within a year, incidentally, the investors who bought that stock would lose three-fourths of their investments).

But it gets much worse and the real skin in the game becomes more visible.

But it seems to me that if you’re broke enough that you’re not paying any income tax, you’ve got nothing but skin in the game. You've got it all riding on how well America works.

You can’t afford private security: you need to depend on the police. You can’t afford private health care: Medicare is all you have. You get arrested, you’re not hiring Davis, Polk to get you out of jail: you rely on a public defender to negotiate a court system you'd better pray deals with everyone from the same deck. And you can’t hire landscapers to manicure your lawn and trim your trees: you need the garbage man to come on time and you need the city to patch the potholes in your street.

And in the bigger picture, of course, you need the state and the private sector both to be functioning well enough to provide you with regular work, and a safe place to raise your children, and clean water and clean air.

Wall street on the other hand lives in a different world:

The entire ethos of modern Wall Street, on the other hand, is complete indifference to all of these matters. The very rich on today’s Wall Street are now so rich that they buy their own social infrastructure. They hire private security, they live on gated mansions on islands and other tax havens, and most notably, they buy their own justice and their own government.

So since government has no real value for them they use if for profit. Here are two examples that Tabbibi offers, one local and one international involving Jamie Dimon, Obama's favorite banker and chair of the NY Fed:

Dimon, incidentally, is another one of those bankers who’s complaining now about the unfair criticism. “Acting like everyone who’s been successful is bad and because you’re rich you’re bad, I don’t understand it,” he recently said, at an investor’s conference.

Hmm. Is Dimon right? Do people hate him just because he’s rich and successful? That really would be unfair. Maybe we should ask the people of Jefferson County, Alabama, what they think.

That particular locality is now in bankruptcy proceedings primarily because Dimon’s bank, Chase, used middlemen to bribe local officials – literally bribe, with cash and watches and new suits – to sign on to a series of onerous interest-rate swap deals that vastly expanded the county’s debt burden.

Essentially, Jamie Dimon handed Birmingham, Alabama a Chase credit card and then bribed its local officials to run up a gigantic balance, leaving future residents and those residents’ children with the bill. As a result, the citizens of Jefferson County will now be making payments to Chase until the end of time.

Do you think Jamie Dimon would have done that deal if he lived in Jefferson County? Put it this way: if he was trying to support two kids on $30,000 a year, and lived in a Birmingham neighborhood full of people in the same boat, would he sign off on a deal that jacked up everyone’s sewer bills 400% for the next thirty years?

And the international incident also compliments of Chase:

Having seen how well interest-rate swaps worked for Jefferson County, Alabama, Chase “helped” Greece mask its debt problem for years by selling a similar series of swaps to the Greek government. The bank then turned around and worked with banks like Goldman, Sachs to create a thing called the iTraxx SovX Western Europe index, which allowed investors to bet against Greek debt.

In other words, Chase knowingly larded up the nation of Greece with a crippling future debt burden, then turned around and helped the world bet against Greek debt.

Does a citizen of Greece do that deal? Forget that: does a human being do that deal?

So having skin in the game is about being part of a community. Here is a graphic example.

People like Dimon, and Schwarzman, and John Paulson, and all of the rest of them who think the “imbeciles” on the streets are simply full of reasonless class anger, they don’t get it. Nobody hates them for being successful. And not that this needs repeating, but nobody even minds that they are rich.

What makes people furious is that they have stopped being citizens.

Most of us 99-percenters couldn’t even let our dogs leave a dump on the sidewalk without feeling ashamed before our neighbors. It's called having a conscience: even though there are plenty of things most of us could get away with doing, we just don’t do them, because, well, we live here.

So everyone with skin in the game needs to support Occupy! Just show up and bring a friend.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Andrew Bacevich answers the question: Was the Iraq War Worth It? -

Was the Iraq War Worth It? - Council on Foreign Relations

Here is part of Andrew Bacevich's answer,which can be summarized as "War is U.S."

in inviting a narrow cost-benefit analysis, the question-as-posed serves to understate the scope of the debacle engineered by the war's architects. The disastrous legacy of the Iraq War extends beyond treasure squandered and lives lost or shattered. Central to that legacy has been Washington's decisive and seemingly irrevocable abandonment of any semblance of self-restraint regarding the use of violence as an instrument of statecraft. With all remaining prudential, normative, and constitutional barriers to the use of force having now been set aside, war has become a normal condition, something that the great majority of Americans accept without complaint. War is U.S.

His complete text and the other three answers are available at the link above.
The other three responders are:
Max Boot, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
Michael Ignatieff, Professor, University of Toronto
Michael O'Hanlon, Senior Fellow for Foreign Policy Studies, Brookings Institution

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Bradley Manning appears in US court - Americas - Al Jazeera English

Bradley Manning appears in US court - Americas - Al Jazeera English

Bradley Manning, the US soldier accused of giving massive troves of classified US documents to WikiLeaks, has appeared in a military court for the first time at a pre-trial hearing into his case.

Lieutenant Colonel Paul Almanza, the presiding officer, called an end to Friday's proceedings after advising Manning again of the charges and his rights and rejecting a defense request that he recuse himself from the case.

Watch the video which includes an interview with Lt Ehren Watada who was the first officer to refuse to deploy to Iraq.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Navy Gives Neck Injections A Shot At Curing PTSD | Danger Room |

Navy Gives Neck Injections A Shot At Curing PTSD | Danger Room |
“I think of SGB as being similar to re-starting a computer, only we’re talking about circuitry of the nervous system and chemical pathways,” says Capt. Anita Hickey. Hickey is the director of Integrative Pain Medicine at the Naval Medical Center San Diego, where she’s studied a variety of new approaches to PTSD diagnosis and treatment among military personnel, including brain scans and acupuncture. “We’re seeing very positive results.”

The study is the latest evidence of the Pentagon’s increasing desperation to get a handle on PTSD — a frequently debilitating condition that affects an estimated 250,000 soldiers just from this decade’s wars, and thousands more from earlier conflicts. Doctors across the country are getting Pentagon dollars to study ideas as far-out as dog therapy and “digital dreaming” software. Capt. Hickey says that the Navy alone is currently funding 82 different studies on potential PTSD treatments. So far, nothing’s proven to be a magic bullet.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Traffic in Frenetic HCMC, (formerly saigon) Vietnam on Vimeo

Traffic in Frenetic HCMC, Vietnam on Vimeo: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is an amazing up and coming city.
This time lapse is a culmination of 10,000 RAW images and
multiple shoots capturing some of the cities relentless energy
and pace of change.

Traffic in Frenetic HCMC, Vietnam from Rob Whitworth on Vimeo.

Everyone who has visited Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon)
Vietnam knows part of the magic (love it or hate it) is in the traffic.

I will never forget my year in Vietnam and the amazing traffic patterns in Saigon. I see they still ride their scooters. And what a beautiful vibrant city it is today!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Are The Millennials Detached From War? - The Dish | By Andrew Sullivan - The Daily Beast

Are The Millennials Detached From War? - The Dish | By Andrew Sullivan - The Daily Beast

Two posts from Andrew Sullivan on the future of public support for wars.

A Pew report ... finds that more than three-quarters (77%) of adults over 50 said they have an immediate family member who served in the military; among people between 18-29 years old, the number is only one-third.

The analysis he offers here postulates an increase in wars because of disengagement and desensitization of the public.

His second post goes in the opposite direction positing a combination of "the hard lessons of Iraq" and the anti-imperialist influence of Ron Paul on the younger generation producing less support and perhaps more opposition (less disengagement) by the younger generation.

So what do you think the trends are here?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Defying Police Blockade, Boston’s Occupy Builds a City | Threat Level |

Defying Police Blockade, Boston’s Occupy Builds a City | Threat Level |

An article from inside Occupy Boston:
Between the 19th and the 21st of November, Occupy Boston had two teach-ins, a street-theater training, a reggae concert, and countless meetings — managing to use one of those as a cover to sneak a large weatherized tent past the ever-present Boston Police.

It was a member of the Occupy Boston’s Women’s caucus that told me they’d managed it, grinning widely, just as the tent was being set up as a dry, safe, and relatively warm place for women to shelter in the Occupy.
“It’s considered contraband,” she said, though she was gone before I could ask who considered it so. It was my introduction to the problems faced by these new residents of Dewey Square, in Boston’s Financial District, where it plays out its particular flavor of protest camp in the shadow of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

Jose Wiley, 32, volunteers in Logistics and lives at the Occupy. He moved to Los Angeles to become a filmmaker, but returned frustrated and unable to find work.

“We’re all at that stage in our lives where we should be building our careers and it’s not been an option for a lot of us,” says Wiley. “I often say that’s why I think this movement popped up overnight and exploded, and it has so many deeply committed people…. I think maybe some of us are realizing that maybe what we’d hoped for in life isn’t going to happen.”

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

VFP Members Attacked as Over 100 protesters arrested at Occupy Boston, at least nine facing charges

Daily Kos: Over 100 protesters arrested at Occupy Boston, at least nine facing charges

Chris Hedges:
Boston police moved in and began arresting scores of Occupy Boston protesters who refused to leave a large part of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway early this morning.

At 1:20 a.m., the first riot police officers lined up on Atlantic Avenue. Minutes later, dozens of sheriff vans and police wagons arrived and over 200 officers in uniforms and riot gear surrounded the Greenway.

Police Superintendent William Evans and Commissioner Edward F. Davis watched from across the street. Evans gave the crowd two minutes to disperse from the park, warning that they would be locked up if they did not comply.

The crowd of protesters, energized by the sudden appearance of the Boston and Transit police officers, chanted, ‘‘The people united will never be defeated,’’ “This is a peaceful protest,” and “the whole world is watching.’’

About 10 minutes later, the first officers entered the park and surrounded the group. Evans, using a loudspeaker, gave one more warning and then each protester was individually put on his or her stomach, cable-tied, and dragged off as others tore down tents and arrested and detained people on the fringe of the park.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Afghanistan and Iraq Wars Not Worth Fighting, say a Third of US Veterans | Common Dreams

Afghanistan and Iraq Wars Not Worth Fighting, say a Third of US Veterans | Common Dreams: Poll results pose dilemma for Obama administration as it tries to bolster support for continued presence in Iraq and Afghanistan

Not worth fighting and in fact harmful to the well being of our military families and to everyone who is affected by the war economy (the 99%!)

One in three US veterans of the post-9/11 military believes the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were not worth fighting, and a majority think that, after 10 years of combat, America should be focusing less on foreign affairs and more on domestic problems, according to an opinion poll.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Protesters Greet Former Defense Secretary - Boston News Story - WCVB Boston

Protesters Greet Former Defense Secretary - Boston News Story - WCVB Boston

Edited on Tue Sep-27-11 04:38 PM by Hissyspit
Source: Raw Story / WCVB-TV

Check out the video at the link above for some interviews of VFP members. Apparently this meeting house is known for its long history of citizen protest.

BOSTON -- Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld got a rude welcome in Boston Monday night as he promoted his new book.

Several protesters tried to disrupt a forum with Rumsfeld at the Old South Meeting House, shouting and holding up signs as most of the audience shouted and booed them down.

"I went down in front and looked Donald Rumsfeld in the eye and said, 'I'm making a citizen's arrest,' said protester Nate Goldschlag, a member of the group Veterans for Peace, who had to buy Rumsfeld's book to get into the event.

"He lied us into Iraq. He lied about weapons of mass destruction. He lied about Saddam Hussein being involved in 9/11," Goldschlag said.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Ike’s Grandson Reissues Famous Military-Industrial Complex Warning

Ike’s Grandson Reissues Famous Military-Industrial Complex | Veterans Today

David Eisenhower, grandson of the president who warned Americans of a “military-industrial complex(MIC) 50 years ago, says in an essay this month that that coalition today “retains significant influence…” Yes, indeedy! In fact, when the Pentagon gets more than half of all taxes collected from the American people and spends more for war than all our 50 governors spend to run their states, his phrase “significant influence” may be a wee bit understated.

Is cutting military spending on the block along with other parts of the discretionary budget? Some deficit hawks are fearful of appearing soft on their proclaimed war on terror. But Eisenhower had no qualms about military spending.

Eisenhower writes that his grandfather meant every word of his famous warning. Proof: the popular (“I like”) Ike slashed military spending 27% during his eight years in office.

Twenty seven percent of the present day military budget would slash over a quarter of a trillion per year from the deficit or 2.5 plus trillion in a decade. But don't hold your breath and if they do cut get ready to fight like hell for veterans benefits. You wouldn't expect it to come out of contractors pockets!

Friday, September 16, 2011

War Economy Picket - Vets for Peace Chapter 14 Gainesville Chapter

Vets for Peace and Allies
Every Tuesday through October
Second and Fourth Tuesdays
Corner of University avenue and 441

First and Third Tuesdays
Corner of Archer Road and 34th street

Join Us Between 4:30 and 6:30
Giant Banner on the military Budget and Cost of War Signs
Bring your own sign or choose from one of ours

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Noam Chomsky on How the Military Is Bankrupting Us and Why Corporate Interests Want to Destroy Public Programs

Noam Chomsky on How the Military Is Bankrupting Us and Why Corporate Interests Want to Destroy Public Programs | World | AlterNet:

Chomsky describes the problems affecting the US economy, including Military spending.

The healthcare system...the huge military spending, the very low taxes for the rich [and corporations]...those are fundamental problems that have to be dealt with if there’s going to be anything like successful economic and social development in the United States."

He comments on Ron Paul's statements about Al Qaeda and 911 and its successes in "bankrupting the US at home".

...he (Bin Laden) was pretty explicit about that. He wanted to draw the United States into what intelligence agencies called a trap, which would inflame and incite hostility in the Muslim world, he hoped, help mobilize people for his cause—I don’t think that happened—but also bankrupt the U.S. at home. I mean, current estimates—there was a recent estimate, a study at Brown University, estimated the cost just of the two wars at about $4 trillion. If you count in the costs of, you know, homeland security and so on, probably doubles that. That’s pretty serious. Between the wars, the housing bubble and Bush’s tax cuts for the rich, that—it creates the economic crisis that we’re now.

And finally why cut Social programs instead of Military spending. This is a dark view of the elites who now run our company through purchase of its democratic institutions:

Social Security is based on a principle. It’s based on the principle that you care about other people. You care whether the widow across town, a disabled widow, is going to be able to have food to eat. And that’s a notion you have to drive out of people’s heads. The idea of solidarity, sympathy, mutual support, that’s doctrinally dangerous. The preferred doctrines are just care about yourself, don’t care about anyone else. That’s a very good way to trap and control people. And the very idea that we’re in it together, that we care about each other, that we have responsibility for one another, that’s sort of frightening to those who want a society which is dominated by power, authority, wealth, in which people are passive and obedient.

But I think we all can recognize people exactly like this. They applauded someones death at the recent debates and their rhetoric is consistently "non-caring".

Vets for Peace is countering this rhetoric with the facts in our War Economy pickets on tuesdays from 4:30 to 6:30. Join us!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Cost of War: Caring for Our Wounded

Ron Glasser: A Modest Proposal:
In Vietnam you were mainly shot and died; in Iraq and Afghanistan you are blown up and live. In Nam, there were 2.4 casualties to every death. In Iraq and Afghanistan the ratio has become an astonishing 16 to one. Unlike Vietnam, our troops are surviving but with terrible injuries that clearly would have been lethal in Nam or in any of our other wars. The legacy of Iraq and Afghanistan is no longer the graveyard, but the neurosurgical unit, the orthopedic ward, the neurology treatment center and the PTSD clinic.

Medicare for all vets needing long term care is the modest proposal of Vietnam military physician Ron Glassman:

The Veterans Administration is currently 400,000 disability claims behind, with that number growing each month. The lack of adequate and necessary medical care for those we have once again sent our to fight our wars is also increasing exponentially. The reality of Iraq and Afghanistan is that nobody expected so many survivors with so many terrible wounds.

Part of this tsunami of wounded has to do with the effectiveness of the new body armor that eliminated the penetrating chest wounds and abdominal injuries that led to our armies, in previous wars, literally bleeding to death. Part also has to do with the more effective battlefield medicine that keeps soldiers alive during that "Golden Hour" post-trauma by maintaining airways, stopping the bleeding, and quickly replacing fluid and blood losses. In Vietnam it was said that if you keep going back, you will be killed. In Iraq and Afghanistan they tell you that if you keep going back, you will lose a limb and be brain damaged.

Glassman illustrates our new medical world with some examples:

The story of Congresswoman Giffords is a bit of Afghanistan brought to Arizona. She survived a brain injury but will need long-term physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and cognitive rehabilitation therapy. Brain injuries are like that -- they now account for 22 percent of overall casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan and 59 percent of all blast related injuries.

He praises the effectiveness of medicare as he recommends it as a solution.

There are some 50 million people on Medicare right now. Another seven hundred thousand of the most recent wartime casualties would increase enrollment less than one and a half percent. Despite what those few detractors might say, Medicare is a proven effective and efficient system that could easily absorb the VA patients without any substantial start-up or developmental costs that would be a part of any significant upgrading of VA programs or facilities.

The "Medicarization" of the VA would give female soldiers and marines -- 44% of the 300,000 female Iraq and Afghan Veterans are expected to receive on-going health care from the VA over the next decade -- the specialized care in women's health that is lacking in VA facilities geared to both male patients and male problems.

But perhaps the greatest benefit of Medicare to those wounded, and their caregivers tied to the need of follow up care, is the problem of distance. Traveling to a distant VA is no easy task and certainly not with gas hovering around four dollars a gallon. The VA does not give travel vouchers. Simply getting to a VA for multiple visits or routine care can be a financial burden if not an almost impossible physical task. It would clearly be easier on a wounded veteran to go to a physician or clinic or hospital close to home.

A reasonable sounding proposal. But I would not stop there. Lets put all of America on Medicare with its reduced costs and and eliminate the insurance companies in the middle who siphon off so much of the money that ought to be going to physicians and clinics and hospitals. We could then use the VA system for prescription drugs and vastly reduce those costs. Medicare with VA prescription drugs for All!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Empire Watch: How to Avoid Bush's Iraq Mistakes in Libya

How to Avoid Bush's Iraq Mistakes in Libya | Informed Comment: How to Avoid Bush’s Iraq Mistakes in Libya

Posted on 08/24/2011 by Juan

The illegal American invasion of Iraq and subsequent occupation was so epochal a catastrophe that it spawned a negative phrase in Arabic, “to Iraqize” or `arqana .Tonight I heard an Alarabiya anchor ask a spokesman for the new government in Libya whether there as a danger of the country being “Iraqized.” He was taken aback and asked her what she meant. Apparently she meant chaos, civil war, no services, etc. (Those Neoconservatives who trumpet their Iraq misadventure as a predecessor to the Arab Spring should take a lesson; no one cites Iraq among the youth movements except as an example of what must be avoided)

Juan goes on to list the mistakes in Iraq not to be repeated in Libya. Of course the basic assumption is that the US or NATO will run things or have a strong Imperial Presence and influence as Libya transitions and this is probably true considering the close relationship between the rebels (just who are they?) and those same imperial powers. But its still a good list for starters on how not to repeat some of the mistakes made in Iraq. Here are some examples:

1. No Western infantry or armored units should be stationed in the country. Their presence would risk inflaming the passions of the Muslim fundamentalists and of the remaining part of the population that is soft on Qaddafi.

2. As much as possible of the current bureaucracy, police and army should be retained. Only those with innocent blood on their hands or who were captured rather than surrendering or switching sides should be fired. The EU is doing the right thing in trying to ensure the bureaucrats get paid their salaries

There are ten points in all. you can read the article at the link above to see them all but I want to include one more as this is one of the first things done in Iraq. In the midst of the looting a insecurity Brennen was sent in to rewrite the constitution so privatization could begin and rebuilding contracts were inevitably handed to outside corporations leaving more Iraqis out of work or paying them a fraction of the money to do the whole job while the outside corporations kept the rest. This is what we have been calling "democratization".

5. Avoid a rush to privatize everything. Oil countries anyway inevitably have large public sectors. Impediments to entrepreneurship should be removed, but well-run state enterprises can have their place in a modern economy, as some of the Asian nations have demonstrated. Rajiv Chandrasekaran demonstrated in his Imperial Life in the Emerald City how the US fetish for privatization destroyed state factories that could otherwise have been revived and that could have supplied jobs.

Read the rest. Its a pretty good description of what we have been doing in Eastern Europe as well as Iraq as we follow our free market ideology and conflate it with Democracy.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

PTSD Therapy: Restoring Honor to the Enemy

PTSD Therapy: Restoring Honor to the Enemy - Miller-McCune

VFP members, I would be interested in your comments on this take on PTSD:

One side of post-traumatic stress that not many people talk about — maybe because it’s so hard to separate from waging a modern war — is the way a nation and its military tend to dehumanize the opposing side. Erich Maria Remarque’s novel about World War I, All Quiet on the Western Front, took dehumanization as its theme, and it still has a lot to say about war trauma even if Americans have cornered the market on clinical descriptions of PTSD.

Some interesting summer reading suggested in this second quote.

The psychologist Jonathan Shay, in his essential book on combat stress called Achilles in Vietnam, points out one difference between the Trojan War and America’s war in Southeast Asia: “The Iliad contains no derogatory nicknames for the enemy used by soldiers when talking among themselves; we hear no hint of ancient equivalents of ‘Gook,’ ‘Dink,’ ‘Zip,’ or ‘Slope,’ used so freely at all levels of the American military in Vietnam.”

Shay says honor for the enemy — for his fighting skills as well as his will to live — helps a soldier maintain common sense during a war and stay sane afterward. Officers who underestimate the Japanese fighting ability, he argues, may fail to predict something like Pearl Harbor (which really happened); and a soldier who comes home feeling he fought a war against subhuman vermin is in trouble whether his side loses or wins. “The veteran’s self-respect never fully recovers as long as he is unable to see the enemy as worthy,” Shay writes. “Restoring honor to the enemy is an essential step in recovery from PTSD.”

Friday, July 22, 2011

News of the Empire: U.S. Blocks Oversight of Its Mercenary Army in Iraq

Exclusive: U.S. Blocks Oversight of Its Mercenary Army in Iraq | Danger Room |
Remember Nisuor Square? Seventeen Iraqi civilians died at the hands of Blackwater security contractors under contract to the US State Department. You might think this kind of activity has stopped or at least decreased but in fact it has increased and the same companies(with different names) still serve there. In an effort to maintain our imperial presence in Iraq the US is is placing a record number of diplomats in our Fortresses around Iraq. To protect these bases including the worlds largest embassy in Baghdad the State Department has spent 10 billion dollars to deploy a heavy combat battalion sized force of 5,500 mercenaries to protect their bases and to guard the movement of State personnel as they move from place to place in the same kind of armed to the teeth convoys that were involved in the incident in Mansour Square. So State has gone to war and they are refusing to inform the Inspector General charged by Congress with ooversight of their plans for things like rules of engagement:

Stuart Bowen, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), is essentially in the dark about one of the most complex and dangerous endeavors the State Department has ever undertaken, one with huge implications for the future of the United States in Iraq. “Our audit of the program is making no progress,” Bowen tells Danger Room.

For months, Bowen’s team has tried to get basic information out of the State Department about how it will command its assembled army of about 5,500 private security contractors. How many State contracting officials will oversee how many hired guns? What are the rules of engagement for the guards? What’s the system for reporting a security danger, and for directing the guards’ response?

Anyone who says all our troops will be out in December is dead wrong. The mercenaries under whose watch many egregious abuses of human rights occurred will be there in combat brigade sized numbers and without Inspector General oversight.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Cost of War: US war spending could top $4 trillion -

Study: US war spending could top $4 trillion - Americas - Al Jazeera English

A new study from Brown University estimates the eventual cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq could reach 4 billion dollars. This is a billion more than the predictions that Joseph Stiglitz of the National Priorities Project, that VFP uses on our cost of war signs, and his colleague Linda Bilmas predicted in their book The Three Trillion Dollar War. Their book factors in replacing equipment and medical care for returning veterans to arrive at their 3 trillion dollar figure.

The Brown study builds on this information and also uses a Congressional Research Service report that estimates war costs to date at 1.4 Billion. The study then adds the debt incurred so far (185bn) and the increase in the base Pentagon budget (625bn) which results in a doubling of that budget since 2001. They then project these combined costs out a decade or more to predict a debt that may range from 3.2 trillion on the conservative side to as much as 4 billion dollars.

In addition the Brown study attempts to measure the human cost both to the US and to the nations we occupied.

Casualty figures are well-documented: 6,051 US soldiers have been killed, along with roughly 2,300 contractors and 18,000 members of the Iraqi and Afghan security forces.

(for Afghanistan) The report also includes the number of Pakistani soldiers killed - 3,520 - fighting the Taliban over the last decade.

Civilians have suffered far more, with at least 137,000 of them killed since 2001 - a figure the report says is almost certainly an underestimate.

"Nearly every factor that is associated with premature death - poverty, malnutrition, poor sanitation, lack of access to health care, environmental degradation - is exacerbated by the current war," the report notes about Afghanistan.

It makes a similar statement about Iraq.

You can find more details of this new study at the cost of war site that we have used for many years. Two areas of interest are job creation that could be done with the savings and hidden costs not included in the estimates, including the Drone program and the budget of the National Intelligence Agency. The updates based on this new study are presented graphically"to spur public debate about America at war." So when we can get past the Mainstream media circuses, let the debate begin!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

U.S., Vietnam take ‘key first step’ to clean up Agent Orange - Checkpoint Washington - The Washington Post

U.S., Vietnam take ‘key first step’ to clean up Agent Orange - Checkpoint Washington - The Washington Post

Thirty-six years after the end of the Vietnam War, the United States and Vietnam have taken a critical step toward cleaning up the environmental damage caused by Agent Orange.

That step, the detection and removal of unexploded ordnance in Danang, is part of a long and complex process to eliminate the painful legacy of dioxin, one of the chemicals used in Agent Orange and one of the world’s most toxic pollutants. The herbicide, which the U.S. military sprayed to defoliate areas where enemy troops had taken cover, has been blamed for health-related problems in millions of Vietnamese.

Although the U.S. and Vietnam have spent decades wrangling over who bears responsibility for cleaning up the damage, it wasn’t until 2001 that they agreed to begin working together to study the possible effects of dioxin contamination. Since then, the sides have had to determine the best method to clean it up.

In a statement, the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi on Friday called the removal of ordnance a “key first step.”

“The clearance of unexploded ordnance by the Ministry of National Defense is an excellent example of the strong collaborative relationship our two governments have built on the dioxin remediation project,” said Virginia Palmer, the U.S. charge d’affaires.

The project around the airport in Danang — one of three dixoin “hotspots” in Vietnam — will focus on an area of roughly 70 acres. After ordnance is removed, the soil will undergo a process known as “in situ thermal desorption,” in which the soil will be heated to extremely high temperatures to remove contaminants.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Memorial Day Tribute calls for Dedication and Reevaluation

2010 slideshow of Memorial Mile Tribute

by Bill Salmon
It sometimes takes a while for the meaning of events to sink in. We need to have perspective over time to really understand how major events figure into our daily lives.
We find ourselves now, after many years, reassessing and reexamining the armed conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Some conclusions can be reached regardless of the sources of information one chooses to use.
There can be no question of the loss of our young women and men in uniform who daily are ordered to action that could result in the ultimate sacrifice. Not just on the battlefield but also as the result of the separation from family; delay of education and careers; life-threatening and lifelong physical and mental injuries and reestablishing their lives upon their return to civilian life.
For all of us there is the never-ending quest to grasp the huge costs and tradeoffs between claims for physical security and declining support for other programs: education, health care, our economy, our commitment to basic human rights and aid to others less fortunate. Those are the things our country is rightly dedicated to and which deserve recognition as a world leader. That status is slipping.
For a proper perspective from which to examine our current circumstances we need the facts regarding the costs and consequences of this county's actions over the last nine or ten years.

First, the costs. Over 59% of Mr. Obama's 2011 budget will be spent on military matters while a mere 6% will be applied to health and human services, 4% to education, just 3% to homeland security and 3% to necessary housing and urban development.

The $51.1 billion scheduled to be spent in Iraq in FY2011 could provide:
* 782,542 elementary school teachers for one year OR
* 894,529 firefighters for one year OR
* 6.7 million Head Start slots for children for one year OR
* 6.6 million military veterans receiving VA medical care for one year OR
* 774,095 police or sheriff's patrol officers for one year OR
* 6.5 million scholarships for university students for one year OR
* 9.2 million students receiving Pell Grants of $5,550

The $119.4 billion scheduled to be spent in Afghanistan in FY2011 could provide:
* 1.8 million elementary school teachers for one year OR
* 2.1 million firefighters for one year OR
* 15.7 million Head Start slots for children for one year OR
* 15.3 million military veterans receiving VA medical care for one year OR
* 1.8 million police or sheriff's patrol officers for one year OR
* 15.1 million scholarships for university students for one year OR
* 21.5 million students receiving Pell Grants of $5,550

Next, the consequences. No one can ignore the immense costs and sacrifices that have been expended over those years to install the governments of our choice in Iraq and Afghanistan.
We did not have the legal right to invade and occupy Afghanistan or Iraq. Respect we have had from the rest of the world we are in jeopardy of losing.
It must be remembered that there are just two legal and constitutional justifications for attacking a foreign country. One, if we are attacked on our shores, and two if the United Nations declares war. These are grounds we are committed to by signing the treaty. (A signed treaty is the second highest level of law, just below the Constitution itself.) Netiher of them have occurred in either Afghanistan or Iraq.
Is there evidence of progress, which has really never been defined, and allows Washington to continuously reinvent justifications for these conflicts, and what constitutes the mission and progress? After all these years, the answer to whether our continued commitment is justified seems to be, questionable. Actually that decision was made on October 27, 2007 when Barack Obama said, "I will promise you this, that if we have not gotten our troops out [of Iraq] by the time I am president, it is the first thing I will do."
Those expenditures, at the cost of our own needs, must be examined and challenged by all dedicated citizens. Veterans are a key source for these efforts and there are many local organizations one can turn to. One particularly dedicated to pursuing peaceful solutions is Veterans for Peace. The chapter here in Gainesville has been tireless for years in its efforts to raise our awareness and educate us, Specifically:
* Veterans for Peace has honored and recognized the ultimate sacrifice of every citizen killed in Afghanistan and Iraq by erecting monuments every Memorial Day on Miracle Mile (NW 8th Avenue between NW 34th Street and NW 23rd Street.) The monuments include the particulars of every individual and are cataloged so as to allow a loved one to locate their Honoree's monument almost instantly. The Memorial is monitored 24 hours a day.
* For many, many years dedicated veterans and supporters have appeared with signs expressing the need for peace on Tuesdays at major intersections here in Gainesville.
* Veterans for Peace sponsors a Peace Poetry contest in all Alachua County schools. The purpose is to raise awareness and open a dialog on the subject of Peace. It is always enlightening to see and read what our children, our future, have to say about our current circumstances.
* Veterans for Peace provides booklets, pamphlets, videos and informed expert speakers, available at any time upon request.
* Scholarships are provided to deserving students striving towards new directions.
These are among the major priorities of Veterans for Peace, revealing not only a dedication to peaceful alternatives but more importantly that we as a community have a local, easily accessed means of learning, understanding and achieving a global impact when called upon to act.
Along with the Memorial Day monument walk is presented a telling, eye-opening explanation of where our immense resources go and what could be done alternatively for the betterment of not only the security of our own shores but also the vital interests of our health and well-being, fiscal responsibility, economic growth and adherence to fundamental precepts set out in our Constitution that make our country great.
For more information, contact Scott Camil at 375-2563 or visit VFP's website at or email at

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Superman renounces US Citizenship over Middle East Propaganda

f | Weekend Edition: "Conservative commentators and bloggers react with disgust to the DC Comics superhero's decision

After years of declaring he stood for 'truth, justice and the American way,' Superman has provoked the ire of rightwingers by threatening to renounce his US citizenship.

In the latest issue of Action Comics, which went on sale on Wednesday, the Man of Steel decides to take the step after he intervenes in a protest against the Iranian government.

After the Islamic regime brands his non-violent protest as an act of war taken on behalf of the US president, the DC comic hero says he will renounce his citizenship before the United Nations.
"I'm tired of having my actions construed as instruments of US policy," he says."
read the comic online here

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cost of War - CBO analysis: Spending 'cut' deal doesn't actually cut spending

Daily Kos: CBO analysis: Spending 'cut' deal doesn't actually cut spending: "The Congressional Budget Office estimate shows that compared with current spending rates the spending bill due for a House vote Thursday would pare just $352 million from the deficit through Sept. 30. About $8 billion in cuts to domestic programs and foreign aid are offset by nearly equal increases in defense spending.

When war funding is factored in the legislation would actually increase total federal outlays by $3.3 billion relative to current levels."

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Daily Kos: Franken introduces 'Pay for War' resolution

Daily Kos: Franken introduces 'Pay for War' resolution

The most serious policy-maker in Washington D.C. today is former comedian. Go figure.

The Pay for War Resolution gives Congress the option to finance war through budget cuts, creating new revenue or a combination of both budgetary means. Franken said the bill is meant to avoid a repeat of the $1.25 trillion that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have added to the national debt.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Daily Kos: Compiles news coverage of DC protests

Daily Kos: Sanctimonious Sunday: Arrested: "Hundreds of protesters attended the rally and marched around the White House, but the crowd — which included many military veterans — thinned considerably as the U.S. Park Police warned that they'd be arrested if they didn't move. As officers moved in with handcuffs, one protester who clutched the gates outside the White House shouted, 'Don't arrest them! Arrest Obama!' and 'You're arresting veterans, not war criminals!'"

Here is a video of the march that includes some views of our own local vets:

Cost of War: Bombing people costs money - Ezra Klein - The Washington Post

Bombing people costs money - Ezra Klein - The Washington Post: "A Tomahawk Missile cost $569,000 in FY99, so if my calculations are correct, they cost a little over $736,000 today assuming they are the same make and model. The United States fired 110 missiles yesterday, which adds up to a cost of around $81 million. That's twice the size of the annual budget of USIP, which the House of Representatives wants to de-fund, and is about 33 times the amount of money National Public Radio receives in grants each year from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which the House of Representatives also wants to de-fund in the name of austerity measures."

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Cost of War: The Pentagon’s Biggest Boondoggles - Op-Chart -

Unworkable or unnecessary systems tend to have something in common: their costs are often uncontrollable. A 2009 Government Accountability Office study of 96 major defense acquisition programs found that almost two-thirds of them suffered major cost overruns — 40 percent above contract prices, over all — with average delays of nearly two years. Those overruns totaled close to $300 billion, about the amount of President Bill Clinton’s last full defense budget request a decade ago. Listed below is just a sampling of what systems could be ended without endangering America; indeed, abandoning some of them might actually enhance national security. These cuts would generate only small savings initially — perhaps just several billion this fiscal year, as contracts would have to be wound down. But savings would swiftly rise to more than $50 billion annually thereafter.

And there’s plenty more where these came from.
To see the full chart go to:
The Pentagon’s Biggest Boondoggles - Op-Chart -

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Brutalization Of Bradley Manning - The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

The Brutalization Of Bradley Manning - The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan: "I find the military's explanation of why they strip Manning naked each night and then require him to stand naked outside his cell every morning ... er, unpersuasive. They've made his bedding suicide proof - why not find some clothing that could do the same - even though there's no evidence he's a real threat to himself. "

This article outlines a number of accounts of Manley's treatment and Andrew describes it somewhat kindly as Sadism. I would call it Torture.

From his lawyer:
The decision to strip PFC Manning of his clothing every night for an indefinite period of time is clearly punitive in nature. There is no mental health justification for the decision. There is no basis in logic for this decision. PFC Manning is under 24 hour surveillance, with guards never being more than a few feet away from his cell. PFC Manning is permitted to have his underwear and clothing during the day, with no apparent concern that he will harm himself during this time period. Moreover, if Brig officials were genuinely concerned about PFC Manning using either his underwear or flip-flops to harm himself (despite the recommendation of the Brig's psychiatrist) they could undoubtedly provide him with clothing that would not, in their view, present a risk of self-harm. Indeed, Brig officials have provided him other items such as tear-resistant blankets and a mattress with a built-in pillow due to their purported concerns.

More links in the article to Glen Greenwald's articles on this disgraceful subject. As Andrew states, Bush torture and lies continue under Obama.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Make Agent Orange History

Make Agent Orange History

There is a petition to sign in support of this plan. Go to the website to access it.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Petition to Support Bradley Manning

f | Latest:
"Ellsberg’s leak of the Pentagon Papers proved our government systematically lied about the war in Vietnam. The WikiLeaks dumps have proved that our government systematically lies about democracy."

Sign the petition: Tell Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to Drop Ridiculous “Aiding the Enemy” Charges Against Bradley Manning

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A revolution against neoliberalism? - Understanding what we are fighting

A revolution against neoliberalism? - Opinion - Al Jazeera English

This article on Aljazeera focuses on Egypt but could just as well help explain what is happening to the middle class anywhere in the US.

Here is a simple explanation of where we are going in this country:
What is neoliberalism? In his Brief History of Neoliberalism, the eminent social geographer David Harvey outlined "a theory of political economic practices that proposes that human well-being can best be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterised by strong private property rights, free markets, and free trade." Neoliberal states guarantee, by force if necessary, the "proper functioning" of markets; where markets do not exist (for example, in the use of land, water, education, health care, social security, or environmental pollution), then the state should create them.

Guaranteeing the sanctity of markets is supposed to be the limit of legitimate state functions, and state interventions should always be subordinate to markets. All human behavior, and not just the production of goods and services, can be reduced to market transactions.

And the application of utopian neoliberalism in the real world leads to deformed societies

In these societies the very rich have one foot in government and the other in big business so they are perfectly positioned to take of advantage of the privatization of government services.

Take this a step further to how Neoliberalism is implemented. The best example of this is Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine:

Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine — a searing indictment of neoliberalism which argues that the free-market fundamentalism promoted by economist Milton Friedman (and immensely influential in the United States) is predicated on restructuring economies in the wake of catastrophic disruptions because normally functioning societies and political systems would never vote for it. Disruptions can be natural or man-made, such as … revolutions.

The chapters in The Shock Doctrine on Poland, Russia, and South Africa make interesting reading in the context of Egypt’s revolution (and Wisconsin!). In each case when governments (communist or apartheid) collapsed, "technocrats" were brought in to help run countries that were suddenly without functional governments, and create the institutional infrastructure for their successors. The technocrats always seemed to have dispensed a form of what Klein calls "shock therapy" — the imposition of sweeping privatization programs before dazed populations could consider their options and potentially vote for less ideologically pure options that are in their own interests.

Our "Shock" has of course been the recent recession which is actually ongoing for Main Street and the working and middle classes. This opportunity to privatize is personified by the two Governor Scott's efforts to privatize and benefit their cronies (Koch and health care execs) as they proceed. It is so easy to think we are fighting against corrupt individuals or institutions when in reality we are fighting a whole ideology supported by a confluence of government and business including the media business. Its the System! We also need to realize that the Dems are also neoliberal including Clintons and Obama and this explains their disturbing positions on education and other public services.

Finally as Veterans we need to understand the Military's position. We can immediately see how the contractors fit into the picture but it goes further as you look at the huge sums invested in the Military that benefit private industry. The article addresses how the Egyptian military, now in charge, benefited from Neoliberalism under Mubarak:

Military spending itself was also lucrative because it included both a state budget and contracts with American companies that provided hardware and technical expertise. The United States provided much of the financing for this spending under rules that required a great deal of the money to be recycled to American corporations, but all such deals required middlemen. Who better to act as an intermediary for American foreign aid contracts than men from the very same military designated as the recipient of the services paid for by this aid? In this respect the Egyptian military-industrial complex was again stealing a page from the American playbook; indeed, to the extent that the Egyptian military benefited from American foreign aid, Egypt was part of the American military-industrial complex, which is famous for its revolving-door system of recycling retired military men as lobbyists and employees of defense contractors.

Again proximity to power translates into individual enrichment.

It may seem that the odds are totally against us (and they probably are). Our advantages are knowledge and numbers (and those numbers actually control our society with their work and services). So I see our strategy as being to get the word out of what is really happening. The media is part of the problem so we need to create our own media on the street corner and in print and online. As an educational institution this perfectly fits the VFP mission.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Drone Attacks: Yet Again, Terror War "Vital Tool" Revealed as Security Theater Prop | MyFDL

Drone Attacks: Yet Again, Terror War "Vital Tool" Revealed as Security Theater Prop | MyFDL:

From the Washington Post:

"CIA drone attacks in Pakistan killed at least 581 militants last year, according to independent estimates. The number of those militants noteworthy enough to appear on a U.S. list of most-wanted terrorists: two."

But these highly costly attacks (each missile launched, like its counterpart the cruise missile, costs a million dollars)are apparently not so essential after all:

Reports first started coming out on Sunday that there had been no drone attacks in northwest Pakistan since just a few days before Raymond Davis was captured in Lahore after killing two Pakistanis. Almost immediately after those reports came out, however, a new attack occurred Monday:

A U.S. drone strike killed at least seven people on Monday in a tribal region along Pakistan’s western border, local officials said, the first such attack in a month as a diplomatic feud strains U.S.-Pakistani ties.


It is the first time since January 23 that intelligence officials have reported a U.S. drone attack, marking a resumption of a campaign that has become the centerpiece of U.S. efforts to halt militants launching attacks on its soldiers in Afghanistan.

Many analysts believe Washington halted the attacks for weeks to avoid further inflaming anti-American fury in Pakistan just as it pressures Islamabad to release Raymond Davis, a U.S.consulate employee imprisoned after shooting two Pakistanis last month in what he said was an attempted robbery.

The article probes further into how the drone program evolved from targeting high-level operatives to the current claim of “foot soldiers” being targeted:

Experts who track the strikes closely said a program that began with intermittent lethal attacks on al-Qaeda leaders has evolved into a campaign that seems primarily focused on lower-level fighters. Peter Bergen, a director at the New America Foundation, said data on the strikes indicate that 94 percent of those killed are lower-level militants.

“I think it’s hard to make the case that the 94 percent cohort threaten the United States in some way,” Bergen said. “There’s been very little focus on that question from a human rights perspective. Targeted killings are about leaders – it shouldn’t be a blanket dispensation.”

Bearing witness to the “all war, all the time” attitude of the Obama administration, the government responds to the accusation:

“This effort has evolved because our intelligence has improved greatly over the years, and we’re able to identify not just senior terrorists, but also al-Qaeda foot soldiers who are planning attacks on our homeland and our troops in Afghanistan,” said a U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the classified program.

“We would be remiss if we didn’t go after people who have American blood on their hands,” the official said. “To use a military analogy, if you’re only going after the generals, you’re likely to be run over by tanks.”

During this month-long hiatus in killing foot soldiers, there doesn’t seem to have been a dramatic increase in attacks on US personnel near the Pakistan border in Afghanistan, so how can the drone attacks be as vital as the government claims? In the meantime, the military contractors certainly reap rewards from the program, as each of the drone strikes (now at over 100 per year) costs the government over $1 million.

So how do we decide who is killed by this "essential defense"?

How depraved has our government become when “analysts” in Pakistan and on US bases work together to sit in judgment on “foot soldiers” arbitrarily deemed guilty from afar and then execute them without detention and trial? Now, heaped on that offense is the realization that all of this is for show, because it can be switched on and off depending on how much political “heat” is on the program.

So the US continues its contortions as the "Leader of Democracy" and enforces its high ideals by illegal wars, detentions, torture and summary execution no longer reserved for high values leaders. The victims of these attack are now chosen by a judge and jury consisting of intelligence analysts who are no doubt advised by the military contractors who profit from the drone operation in the first place.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dear Poor People, Thank You for Going Without Heat So We Can Buy Another Week of War | FDL Action

Dear Poor People, Thank You for Going Without Heat So We Can Buy Another Week of War | FDL Action

Note the trade off here: After one of the coldest winters recorded and with climate models predicting more of the same we choose to fund war over heat for the poor. Here are the details. Do the Math! To help you I bold printed the information you will need.

Your president is planning to cut $2.6 billion from Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helps people afford keeping their homes warm during the winter, despite the fact that due to the economic downturn the number of poor people needing help has increased significantly.

As a result of your going without heat next winter, we will be able to afford almost one whole week of fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which cost about $468 million a day. Although when you add in the many hidden costs like increased long-term veteran’s health care due to the conflicts, your sacrifice is probably only really going to cover maybe half a week.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Joining The Tea Party on civil liberties - Our last best hope? - Glenn Greenwald -

The Tea Party and civil liberties - Glenn Greenwald -
It's long been clear that the best (and perhaps only) political hope for civil liberties in the U.S. is an alliance that transcends the standard Democrat v. GOP or left v. right dichotomies. Last night's surprising (and temporary) failure of the House to extend some of the most controversial powers of the Patriot Act -- an extension jointly championed by the House GOP leadership and the Obama White House -- perfectly illustrates why this is true.

or most civil liberties incursions over the last decade, there's been at least some glimmer of opposition on the Left -- exemplified by people like Russ Feingold in the Senate and the Congressional Black Caucus and Dennis Kucinich in the House. But they've been easily overwhelmed by the civil-liberties-hating mainstream of the Democratic Party, and particularly hampered by the lack of any meaningful partners on the Right (where Ron Paul has been a solitary voice on such matters).

on the very same day that the Obama White House demanded that Egypt repeal its 30-year-old "emergency law," it also demanded enactment of the House GOP's proposal to extend America's own emergency law -- the Patriot Act -- for three more years with no new oversight (the White House actually wants a longer extension than the House GOP is willing to support).

what happened last night highlights the potential to subvert the two-party stranglehold on these issues -- through a left-right alliance that opposes the Washington insiders who rule both parties. So confident was the House GOP leadership in commanding bipartisan support that they put the Patriot Act extension up for a vote using a fast-track procedure that prohibits debate and amendments and, in return, requires 2/3 approval. But 26 of the most conservative Republicans -- including several of the newly elected "Tea Party" members -- joined the majority of Democratic House members in voting against the extension, and it thus fell 7 votes short.

Rachel Maddow last night pointed out that there is a split on the Right -- at least a rhetorical one -- between what she called "authoritarian conservatives" and "libertarian conservatives." At some point, the dogmatic emphasis on limited state power, not trusting the Federal Government, and individual liberties -- all staples of right-wing political propaganda, especially Tea Party sloganeering -- has to conflict with things like oversight-free federal domestic surveillance, limitless government detention powers, and impenetrable secrecy (to say nothing of exploiting state power to advance culture war aims). Not even our political culture can sustain contradictions as egregious as (a) reading reverently from the Constitution and venerating limits on federal power, and then (b) voting to vest the Federal Government with extraordinary powers of oversight-free surveillance aimed at the American people. This was the contradiction which Dennis Kucinich smartly exploited when challenging the Tea Party to join him in opposing the Patriot Act's extension:

More on a left right alliance on Afghanistan with Rachel's show stringing together a series of breathtaking videos showing Republican congressmen opposing the Afghanistan War below:

What about it? Should we join forces here?

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Thursday, February 10, 2011

VA & HUD Issue First-Ever Report on Homeless Veterans : Veterans Today

VA & HUD Issue First-Ever Report on Homeless Veterans : Veterans Today: "For the first time, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development today published the most authoritative analysis of the extent and nature of homelessness among Veterans. According to HUD and VA’s assessment, nearly 76,000 Veterans were homeless on a given night in 2009 while roughly 136,000 Veterans spent at least one night in a shelter during that year."

Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness

* More than 3,000 cities and counties reported 75,609 homeless Veterans on a single night in January of 2009; 57 percent were staying in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program while the remaining 43 percent were unsheltered. Veterans represent approximately 12 percent of all homeless persons counted nationwide during the 2009 ‘point-in-time snapshot.’
* During a 12-month period in 2009, an estimated 136,000 Veterans—or about 1 in every 168 Veterans—spent at least one night in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program. The vast majority of sheltered homeless Veterans (96 percent) experienced homelessness alone while a much smaller share (four percent) was part of a family. Sheltered homeless Veterans are most often individual white men between the ages of 31 and 50 and living with a disability.
* Low-income Veterans are twice as likely to become homeless compared to all low-income adults. HUD and VA also examined the likelihood of becoming homeless among American Veterans with particular demographic characteristics. In 2009, twice as many poor Hispanic Veterans used a shelter at some point during the year compared with poor non-Hispanic Veterans. African American Veterans in poverty had similar rates of homelessness.
* Most Veterans who used emergency shelter stayed for only brief periods. One-third stayed in shelter for less than one week; 61 percent used a shelter for less than one month; and 84% stayed for less than three months. The report also concluded that Veterans remained in shelters longer than did non-Veterans. In 2009, the median length of stay for Veterans who were alone was 21 days in an emergency shelter and 117 days in transitional housing. By contrast, non-veteran individuals stayed in an emergency shelter for 17 days and 106 days in transitional housing.
* Nearly half of homeless Veterans were located in California, Texas, New York and Florida while only 28 percent of all Veterans were located in those same four States.
* The report studied the path homeless Veterans take into the shelter system and found most Veterans come from another homeless location and few entered the shelter system from their own housing or from housing provided by family or friends.
* Sheltered homeless Veterans are far more likely to be alone rather than part of a family household; 96 percent of Veterans are individuals compared to 63 percent in the overall homeless population.

For more information on VA’s efforts to end homelessness among Veterans, visit VA’s Web page at

Monday, February 7, 2011

The "Manufactured Safety" Of Egypt's Army - The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

The "Manufactured Safety" Of Egypt's Army - The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

Analysis of the position of the Egyptian Army describes the military elites as wanting before all else to "maintain its access to the treasury". And of course that treasury is well supplied by US Taxpayers to the tune of 1.5 Billion dollars a year in the form of US manufactured Arms. Public Radio did an interesting report this morning on the relationship between Egyptian paid lobbyists, US congress members and the Arms industry when the Egyptian Generals come shopping every year. Although there are threats by the US to cut this budget, what they would actually be doing is cutting the incomes of some of the giants of the military industrial complex such as General Electric and McDonnell Douglass whose influence is not to be trifled with in the Halls of Government. So where does this backdrop of unholy alliances leave the Egyptian people protesting in Cairo and the American taxpayer, largely preoccupied by the Superbowl back home? Not in a very hopeful place I fear.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Activists delivering Bradley Manning petition held at Quantico | Raw Story

Activists delivering Bradley Manning petition held at Quantico | Raw Story
Update from Firedog lake:
In December 2010, House came forward with testimony that he witnessed a deterioration in Manning’s physical and mental state due to the conditions of solitary confinement. House traveled to the Quantico brig to check up on Bradley’s well-being after a week in which Manning’s lawyer filed an Article 138 complaint over Manning’s mistreatment at Quantico. House and Hamsher also planned to deliver a 42,000 signature strong petition calling for an end to the inhumane conditions that Manning is being held. Upon arriving at the main entrance at Quantico, House and Hamsher were stopped and detained by military police who provided no explanation of detainment aside from a statement from one MP that his orders to detain had “come from the top.”

From 1:00 – 1:30 MPs took their IDs and made them sign a form that they could not deviate to the brig or else they would be trespassing. At this time, one of the MPs asked for Hamsher’s auto insurance card. Hamsher attempted to produce a digital copy of the card, at which point MP Gunnery Sgt. Foster informed Hamsher that her car would be towed. House and Hamsher offered to drive away off the base but were denied, despite being detained only ten feet inside the base’s perimeter. The MPs took the Social Security numbers, phone numbers and addresses of House and Hamsher.

Around 1:40 the tow truck arrived and MPs instructed House and Hamsher to leave their vehicle, informing them that their vehicle would be searched. At 2:00 pm House observed military officers arriving and entering the MP outpost which oversaw his detainment. House expressed concern that he would miss Manning’s visiting hours but was informed that he could neither exit nor move forward to the base. No explanation for House and Hamsher’s detainment was provided until at 2:50 when they were informed they could leave the base. They were detained for two hours up until Manning’s visitation time period was set to expire at 3:00.

In past visits, Hamsher and House have had no problem driving onto the base to visit Manning. This is the first time House has been denied access to Manning. House and Hamsher’s detainment comes on the heels of Amnesty International calling for an investigation into the conditions of Manning’s confinement. The UN rapporteur has also announced that the UN will be starting an investigation and Manning’s attorney has filed an article 138 complaint citing inhumane and overly harsh conditions on part of the Brig. Now House, Manning’s primary visitor outside of his attorney, who has provided public testimony about Manning’s deteriorating conditions as a result to his solitary confinement, has effectively been denied access to Manning.

These reporters are still being detained as we publish this. Check back for updates.
By Daniel Tencer
Sunday, January 23rd, 2011 -- 2:35 pm

Activist reporters who tried to deliver a petition protesting Bradley Manning's treatment by the US military were blocked from seeing Manning and held against their will at Quantico on Sunday, while their cars were towed on seemingly flimsy pretenses, the reporters say.

FireDogLake blogger Jane Hamsher told her Twitter followers that she was detained at the gate to the US Marine base at Quantico when she showed up to deliver a petition signed by 42,000 people, demanding that the US military take Bradley Manning -- the alleged source of the State Department cables released by WikiLeaks -- out of solitary confinement.

"Now been here at Quantico gate for 30 min.," Hamsher tweeted early Sunday afternoon. "Will not let us leave base, holding us."

David House, a FireDogLake blogger and computer programmer who is one of very few people authorized to see Manning, reported similar issues as he arrived at Quantico on Sunday to ask Manning about conditions in the prison.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Playing God in the Middle East: an Iraqi Reassessment

Michael Brenner: Playing God in the Middle East:
A rarely seen assessment of the cost to the Iraqi people of the American invasion of that country.
"We are now in the 10th year of the first decade of the 'war on terror.' So the inevitable anniversary assessments are beginning to appear. Iraq reappraisals specifically are back in vogue. They favor the drawing of balance sheets."

Brenner then offers an alternative to "Cost Benefit Analysis" remote from the realities of War:
here are some too readily slighted facts. 100,000 - 150,000 Iraqis are dead as the consequence of our invasion and occupation. That is the conservative estimate. Untold thousands are maimed and orphaned. 2 million are uprooted refugees in neighboring lands. Another 2 million are displaced persons internally. The availability of potable water and electricity is somewhat less than it was in February 2003. The comparable numbers for the United States would be 1.1 - 1.6 million dead; an equal number infirmed; 22 million refugees eking out a precarious existence in Mexico and Canada; 22 million displaced persons within the country. We did not do all the killing and maiming; we did most of the destruction of infrastructure. To all these tragedies we are accessories before and during the fact.

let me suggest a couple of ways to approximate that experience.

Step one. Go to your nearest cemetery; read and count the tombstones up to ten. Do that ten times, then multiply by a thousand. Try visualizing only half that number since it is in the nature of all of us to diminish drastically the affect and identity with those who are not part of our community.

Step two: go to RFK stadium, imagine it full. Do that 3 times and then imagine them all -- men, women and children -- in their graves. Repeat the exercise -- this time imagine them hobbling on one leg, lying crippled or blind on a cot in a cinderblock house. Imagine them as Americans -- men, women and children -- who placed USA stickers on their cars, chanted USA! USA! watching the Olympics, eating hot dogs and drinking Coke. Imagine them now six feet under. Imagine them all as the victims of an invasion and occupation by Iraqi Muslims who were deceived by their lying leaders who hid their own dark purposes.

Does this imply that pacifism is the only ethically acceptable conduct? No -- but it does give us a better fix on the true meaning of our shameful adventure in Iraq. Moreover, keep in mind that the Iraqis never gave us permission to do those things to them. We willfully imposed ourselves on them, did so based on the accusation of a fabricated threat that never existed.

Will we learn anything this time around (other than controlling the media is effective)?