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Ralph Lopez's blog
The most little-understood fact of war, in my opinion, is the sheer, mind-boggling, nearly incomprehensible magnitude of the money which is spent on a daily basis to keep the occupation and boom-and-zoom operations going. Former General Barry McCaffrey put the "burn rate" of US taxpayer dollars in Afghanistan at $9 billion per month, which is fully one-half the average yearly state budget for the 50 states. Two months of this kind of spending is the entire Pell Grant appropriation for 2010.
More than one-third of that "burn rate" (and you have to hand it to McCaffrey for not caring how this sounds to the public, literally burning taxpayer money) is fuel costs, both aviation and ground. Time reports that:
Let's break this down. First one witness outright denies that there were any Taliban present whatsoever.
Zalmai Ayoubi, a spokesman for the governor of Kandahar, said that a NATO reconnaissance aircraft spotted five militants planting mines in the village of Siacha, in Zhare District on Wednesday. The plane targeted the insurgents, killing two and wounding a third, and then pursued the other two suspects as they carried their injured comrade away.
“The plane chased them, the insurgents entered a street where children were playing and as a result of its shooting, seven people have been killed, including six children, and two girls also have been injured,” Mr. Ayoubi said. The victims were members of two families.
It's as an obscene a scenario as you can imagine. Year after year, Afghan villages to which aid can easily be delivered are faced with starvation because the regions are peaceful and there is no need for Pentagon press releases about winning "hearts and minds."
Submitted to the Sovereign People of Occupy Wall Street for deliberation.
As Occupy Wall Street moves into the winter of 2011, many are asking: What now? The failure to issue demands which are understandable to a much broader segment of the populace plays into the hands of those who will define us if we do not define ourselves. These enemies are powerful and determined. Gandhi carefully chose an issue which symbolized a reasonable and fundamental right when he marched in protest of the salt tax.
For consolidation with overlapping demands lists. Following straw poll is at media site coupmedia.org. Voting software prevented repeat voting from the same IP. Voting closed on Oct. 21, 2011. Total of around 1/4 million votes cast. Following that are proposed demands by Matt Taibbi, political and financial writer for the Rolling Stone, which have gained broad attention. Finally there is a proposed “one demand” to “get the money out of politics,” and additional proposed demands.
COUP MEDIA OCCUPY WALL STREET STRAW POLL DEMANDS PASSED, VOTING CLOSED ON OCT. 21, 2011 (2/3 “YES” VOTE THRESHOLD FOR INCLUSION INTO FINAL LIST)
Months after Occupy Wall Street first burst onto the scene, weeks after Scott Olsen was shot in Oakland, and days after Bloomberg revealed that Bank of America, with federal approval, has put the taxpayers on the hook for a possible bailout which, according to financial analyst Avery Goodman, could trigger a chain of events which could result in major devaluation of the dollar, Harvard students last night joined the fray and did so in a big way. The arrival of students at elite universities throws a monkey wrench into the coordinated media campaign to portray protesters as the incapable or lazy who have lost the economic race.
It's real money, especially since "Bank of America Deathwatch" financial pundits have multiplied on the web and it has become a bit of a geek guessing game. When will BoA finally tank? And when it tanks, the question becomes, who will walk away with all their money, and who will be left holding the bag? The deal just snuck through with the Federal Reserve's, and implicitly, Congress's approval insures Wall Street casino gambler's debts by moving them into accounts meant for penny-pinching grandmas.
Citing Bloomberg, financial commentator Avery Goodman tells us:
The media has settled on pushing the "slacker" image for OWS protesters. Excuse me? The truth is exactly the opposite: it is Wall Street and the wealthiest 1% which has not been "making it" to their satisfaction under free market capitalism and now want further hand-outs from the middle-class.
These hand-outs, called bailouts for bankers, may cost middle-class taxpayers up to $23 trillion for incompetent and slovenly business practices, according to Neil Barofsky, former Inspector General for the TARP bailouts and according to Glenn Greenwald one of the most straight-talking men in Washington. This is impressive because Greenwald does not just say this about anyone.
Update note: One of the boys in AYPV has had a family member killed in yesterday's Kabul suicide bombing.
Not many folks know that in Afghanistan right now there is an amazing group of young people who have for nearly two years been trying to build the foundation for peace in Afghanistan, by reaching out across tribal and ethnic lines and promoting the ideas of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. The Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers have so far sponsored a half-dozen Global Conference Calls for Peace. Many people from around the world have Skyped in to the youth in Kabul to share messages of peace, love, and hope for a better world. Callers have had remarkable discussions and have been able to ask questions about what it is like for a young person living in the war zone.
One of the fictions now pushed by the Powers That Be who promote divisions is that Occupy Wall Street is somehow the "Tea Party of the left" and somehow fundamentally opposed. This completely forgets that the whole reason the Tea Party took off was outrage over the bail-outs of Wall Street and GM, before the Republican establishment got its hooks in and began steering the conversation to things IT wanted to get rid of to balance the budget, like Medicare and Social Security.
Some of the most active citizen lobbying against the bailouts came from the powerful ALIPAC, the anti-illegal immigration group which was making Republican politicians quiver in their shoes across the country. In its announcement "No More Power and Money for Government Failures! ALIPAC Opposes Wall Street Bail Out" ALIPAC said:
Thank you for your bravery Occupy Oakland.
There is one problem with many of the excellent demands and proposals I have seen floated by those in the OWS movement, from re-instating Glass-Steagall, to ending the Federal Reserve, to enacting a jobs bill. That is, they have little chance of passing in effective form as long as Congress answers to the corporate powers which flood the system with money. If the incentives are skewed, the results will be skewed. Even if the demands are agreed to in principle, politicians beholden to money will constantly be busy finding ingenious and enterprising ways to undermine the intent of the laws.
A recurring theme of Occupy Wall Street is "We are the 99%" but what do they mean by that? Why 99%? The number is based on the well-understood distribution of wealth in America, that is, the ownership of assets.
A brazen reversal of reality has been a hallmark of our politics since Ronald Reagan's "Peace through Strength." For the first time in the Post World War II Era embracing Orwell, or rather that which Orwell warned of, the authoritarian right in America, as distinguished from true small government Goldwater conservatives, did not hesitate to attack opponents or opposing ideas by appropriating their language and turning its meaning on its head. The party which prepared for war in Reagan's unprecedented peacetime build-up was the party that was for peace. Impoverishing the middle class to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy was in fact the road to "prosperity." And opponents of the agenda stood for "socialism," even though unprecedented largess in the form of defense dollars was enriching stockholders and CEOs of military contractors with taxpayer money.
Forgive me for being cynical about Washington, the major parties, or anything to do with them right now. Obama just gave a shout-out to the Occupy Wall Street protesters, saying:
"I think people are frustrated, and the protesters are giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about how our financial system works,"
Excuse me, but that's like tossing a match at a house full of kerosene and then saying how much you sympathize with the fire department. The way "our financial system works" is exactly the way people like O'Bailout made it work.
It's not the $700 billion TARP bailout which Barack supported, going as far as issuing a joint statement on September 24, 2008 with John McCain, the Republican nominee, before the vote warning: "The effort to protect the American economy must not fail."
Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has been stripped of legal immunity for acts of torture against US citizens authorized while he was in office. The 7th Circuit made the ruling in the case of two American contractors who were tortured by the US military in Iraq after uncovering a smuggling ring within an Iraqi security company. The company was under contract to the Department of Defense. The company was assisting Iraqi insurgent groups in the "mass acquisition" of American weapons. The ruling comes as Rumsfeld begins his book tour with a visit to Boston on Monday, September 26, and as new, uncensored photos of Abu Ghraib spark fresh outrage across Internet. Awareness is growing that Bush-era crimes went far beyond mere waterboarding.
As a spate of news reports and a congressional committee warn that depression "looms" in Afghanistan, my question is: how do you tell the difference? Is a "depression" in Afghanistan when 90% of the children are clinically malnourished instead of fifty percent like it is now, or when unemployment among young men is at 80% instead of the present 40-50 percent? Or when only 10 percent of the country has access to clean drinking water instead of the only 20 percent who do today?
Urgent posting on behalf of Kathy Kelly, who is now on the US Boat to Gaza.
June 27, 2011
Last week, newly-arrived in Athens as part of the US Boat to Gaza project, our team of activists gathered for nonviolence training. We are here to sail to Gaza, in defiance of an Israeli naval blockade, in our ship, "The Audacity of Hope." Our team, and nine other ships' crews from countries around the world, want Israel to end its lethal blockade of Gaza by letting our crews through to shore to meet with Gazans. The US ship will bring over 3,000 letters of support to a population suffering its fifth continuous decade of de facto occupation, now in the form of a military blockade controlling Gaza's sea and sky, punctuated by frequent deadly military incursions, that has starved Gaza's economy and people to the exact level of cruelty considered acceptable to the domestic population of our own United States, Israel's staunchest ally.
We kind of take electricity for granted, until you have appendicitis or are having a baby and your doctor is working in the dark, because there is no electricity. Sure, there are generators, but what if there is no fuel for the generators? Not to mention basic medical supplies like disinfectant, clean bandages, and surgical instruments.
JOIN Global Conference Call with Afghan Youth Peace Activists ON NOW (2pm EST) Live Webcast...through 8pm EST
Imagine peace now, reach out to young Afghan peace activists on a global teleconference call right now, let it begin. The possibilities of the Internet for peace and people connecting are amazing. Talk with young, brave people in Afghanistan, the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers, about what they think of life there, the war, whatever. Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers GLOBAL CONFERENCE CALL ON NOW! Marathon session 8pm EST Sat. until 8pm Sunday.
These thoughtful, polite young people ages 8 through 21 who study Gandhi could be a hope for the world. Please wish them well.
North America Call: (661) 673-8600 & access code: 295191#
24-year-old MIT student David House, friend of PFC Bradley Manning who appeared on MSNBC and revealed to the world that Bradley seemed to be near "catatonic" after being held for nearly a year in a 6 by 12 foot cell for 23 hours a day with almost no human contact, took the Fifth before a federal grand jury yesterday and refused to testify. Manning's treatment has drawn harsh criticism of President Obama, who once said in a press conference that Manning's treatment was "appropriate."
On May 28, Memorial Day weekend 2011, a small flashmob decided to dance at the Jefferson Memorial in celebration of the American First Amendment right to free speech and expression, of which Thomas Jefferson is considered the father. ; This is what happened.
More info: Obama is Worse Than Bush
As President Obama's date for commencing the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan approaches, the question becomes will the U.S. once again abandon the Afghan people to their fate. In the aftermath of the Mujaheddin's successful routing of the Soviets in the Nineties, the culmination of Zbigniew Brzezinski's desire to give the Russians "their own Vietnam," a tragedy ensued in which over 2 million Afghans starved or froze to death in the following years, as rival factions fought for power with the majority of the population, as always, caught in the middle. With the economic infrastructure in ruins, there was nothing to build upon, and war became the primary business, with the ability to control a piece of the opium trade a major prize.
Now watch this drive.
Caught on video, after the fundraiser in San Francisco last week when Bradley Manning supporters at a $5,000-a-plate dinner broke out in a song in support of Bradley, then were duly escorted out before dessert. Overlooking entirely the kind of prosecutorial misconduct known as "prejudicial statements," which includes public statements assuming the guilt of an accused which makes it impossible for him to get a fair trial, President Obama makes the interesting claim that we are "a nation of laws." But I don't see Dick Cheney doing time after his office's leak of the identity of a covert agent, Valerie Plame, which really was a crime specifically prohibited by the Covert Agents Identity Act which did real national security damage.
A Review of the case of Private Bradley Manning one year after his arrest.
It is the right of all Americans, and a bedrock principle of our law, that we are to be presumed innocent unless found guilty of a crime. So why, before he has even been tried, has Pfc. Bradley Manning been held in a 6 ft. by 12 ft. cell for nearly a year now, for 23 out of 24 hours each day, in mind-breaking isolation? Pfc. Manning is not allowed to exercise in his cell. He cannot tell if it is night or day outside. He is allowed no radio, clock, or personal items. He takes his meals in his cell alone.
Thank you Rep. Grijalva and the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) for submitting the People's Budget. Now, what is it?
It's a lot to go through, but it's important to summarize the main points. Slogging through the slightly wonkish language of CPC's summary the question can be answered in short by answering the question: Who takes the hits?
Both Obama's and Ryan's budgets are most notable for what is NOT on the table. CPC corrects this. The thumbnail version of the CPC budget is:
- Medicare/Medicaide, Social Security, and education do not take the hits
They have almost made a clean getaway, still looking over their shoulders but receding into the distance. Question: how can we cut the debt and balance the budget without cutting a single program or hurting a single person except those who will have plenty left? The genius of the current robbery taking place in Washington as they prepare to slash entitlements as the "big ticket" items on which we are going to have to make "hard choices," is that there is another big ticket item which, along with Pentagon spending and wars, put us here in the first place.
Funny, I don't see anything on "Debt Clock" about this all-time greatest theft in world history, the Wall Street bail-outs, up there with what are often called the "big three" responsible for most government spending: Social Security, Pentagon, and Medicare/Medicaide. Where is "bail-outs?"
You Can Help End the War in Afghanistan, Push it Down to the 'Hood
As congress votes Thursday, March 17th on whether or not to continue military operations in Afghanistan, which in one week costs as much as Wisconsin's entire estimated budget deficit, it is critical to understand why disapproval of having our troops in Afghanistan is at an all-time high, an astonishing two-thirds of Americans, but congress keeps passing the money. The reason is most people in your neighborhood, if you are represented by a Democrat, don't know that he/she keeps voting for it (unless yours is one of a very small number of solid "no" votes listed below.)
You've got to wonder who they are. Even my friends on the right wing of the spectrum, in discussing Bradley Manning, grudgingly admit that he has yet to be convicted of anything and cannot be punished before he is tried. "So try him then put him away, but yea, you are still innocent before found guilty, ok, so what?" -- is a typical small debate victory, before going on to the rest of the work of trying to explain why Bradley Manning is a hero who was doing exactly what, in 2005, General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said:
“It is absolutely the responsibility of every U.S. service member [in Iraq], if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to try to stop it.”
But online one can get the eerie feeling of a disconnect:
We know this: the optics of modern helicopter gunships are crystal clear at vast distances. The image below is from the attack on men in Baghdad in 2007 at a range of one mile. This is from the video released by Wikileaks which includes an attack on a wounded man crawling on the ground. The distance can be calculated by the known speed of a .30 cannon round and the clocked time between vibrations indicating the commencement of fire, and the rounds striking the men and the ground. At a mile, the helicopter is not much more than a speck in the sky, which explains why the men seem so unconcerned. They probably didn't even see it.
In the "accidental" killing of nine Afghan boys, ages 9 to 15, collecting firewood last week, the range was close enough for a surviving boy to report: