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.”