Friday, November 30, 2007
So I've just read yet another gloom and doom prediction about what's in store for our country. This time, it's about the dollar crashing by 90% and hard times like no living American has ever seen.
Cheers! Pour another merlot and go shopping. Or if you really want it all to go away, simply join the ignorant masses and rally 'round 'Good Morning America,' 'The Today Show' or virtually any so-called newscast on television.
My wife an I just returned from a trip deep into the bowels of Republicanism, Florida, where we spent five days catching up with old friends at my thirtieth class reunion. We talked about old times, but save for one particular classmate, who now resides in Germany, no one talked about current times. And unlike our cable system back home, neither of the two hotels we stayed at had MSNBC available on their systems, not that we actually had much opportunity to watch television.
We spent the last day at the in-laws, who watched "Dancing With The Stars" in the evening, and "Good Morning America" over coffee the next day. They, like most of the others we talked to (besides my ex-Pat German friend) were living in total blissful ignorance of anything political. It's easy to see why; if you rely on "the media" as a source of news, this country is doing great. There is not a care in the world. Even the sub-prime mortgage crisis gets short-shrift, and is brushed off as a minor blip, despite the fact that where we stayed, there were more For Sale signs than palm trees. Some boldly advertised the desperation of the homeowners -- "MAKE OFFER," "MUST SELL," "Rent to own, Move in Today."
Despite what every student of the non-mainstream "news" sources know, that the plummeting housing market still has probably a year to go before it reaches the bottom of the ravine, in the brief time I did catch some so-called news, the local reporter was declaring "It's a buyer's market! Now is the time to buy!" Well, sure. If you want to see your investment depreciate faster than an entry-level Kia.
If a regular reader of any online news forum dares log off for a few days, he will discover a la la land of carefree Americana. There can be no doubt that the American corporate/defense conctractor-owned media does not want to scare the masses. They could easily get people shopping again, but they don't really view a run on canned goods and bottled water the kind of holiday numbers that make the Happy News Hour. German ex-Pat and I were talking about the state of the economy and the ignorance of the general population, specifically regarding the plunging dollar. Another classmate nursing a beer nearby chimed in that we were crazy. "The dollar always fluctuates. It goes up and down all the time."
"Yes, it does," I told him, "but when was the last time you remember the Canadian dollar being worth more than ours? When was the last time you remember foreign nations dumping the dollar as their currency of choice?" We gave him a long list of examples, which were met with eye-rolling, and his segueing into a bizarre non-sequitur about the real problem...the real problem, according to Mr. Don't Worry Be Happy, was the number of nudist resorts in Florida, where old people were taking Viagra and having unprotected sex and spreading aids.
I paused to belt back a drink as rapidly as possible, hoping the numbing effects of alcohol would stop me from responding the way I wanted to. It rarely works that way, though, does it? But I was able to resist the urge to go off on a tirade, accepting that this was not the time or place, and the guy really wasn't even part of the original conversation to begin with.
So I dare you, DUers. Log off for a week. You'll quickly understand why my friend and my in-laws and the rest of America isn't marching in the streets with torches and pitchforks, demanding the impeachment and imprisonment of our so-called leaders. It's because in the media-fed world in which most people live, there simply is no longer ANY source of real news. On GMA that final morning, my in-laws listened in rapt attention to a very serious analysis of Marie Osmand's dance routine and her standing among her competitors. This was NEWS. It went on seemingly endlessly.
The evening news, the local variety, was all about local heroes, holiday air traffic, recipes for Thanksgiving leftovers. But notice how we're not hearing any news about the holiday shopping numbers? Oh, and of course, "The Surge" has been a resounding success and we love the war again.
In my fantasy world, as George W. Bush and Richard "Dick" Cheney are frog-marched from the White House in hand cuffs, the executives at NBC/GE, ABC/Disney, Viacom and Fox will be tethered to them by a length of heavy chain attached to a cannon ball, crisp orange jump suits awaiting them after a long bus ride to a Halliburton detention center.
The fan is spinning at high speed, and there is a stock pile of shit just waiting to topple over right onto it. But don't count on the media to get anyone prepared for it. It'd be bad for advertising sales.
Posted in full with author's permission.
Originally posted at democraticunderground.com: http://journals.democraticunderground.com/Atman/73
* Bush IRS Helps Hedge Funds Strip U.S. Assets, Evade Taxes
* Wealthy Tax Exiles Hail IRS as It Generously Extends Deadline For Offshore Corporations to Report "Assets Stripping" Until After Bush-Cheney Leaves Office
Put this is the category of things only your tax attorney knows that might kill your job and cost middle-class Americans billions in additional taxes. In a little noticed IRS ruling on August 31st, the Bush Administration gave offshore companies doing business in the U.S. until December 14, 2008 to report assets moved overseas.
Read this another way: foreign-owned companies, and those that only pretend to be, now have a 13-month window of opportunity to move assets in the U.S. into offshore accounts and hedge funds, but they don’t have to tell anyone about it until after Bush-Cheney leaves Washington. That puts the burden of chasing down international tax cheats squarely on the incoming Democratic Administration and Congress, and shifts the tax burden away from global equity funds such as Carlyle Group and foreign-based companies, such as Dick Cheney’s Halliburton.
Thanks, Dubya, for making capital flight cheap and easy, and all you’re doing for America.
BIGGEST CORPORATE TAX DODGE OF ALL TIME: Bush Admin. Makes Tax Evasion Cheap and Easy for Offshore Corps.
Like most other disasters that have occurred since 2000, it’s not as if Bush Administration officials are unaware of the problem. See, http://www.reuters.com/article/governmentFilingsNews/id...
Wed Nov 28, 2007 2:44pm EST
WASHINGTON, Nov 28 (Reuters) - Foreign-controlled U.S. companies that move their headquarters overseas are rampantly "stripping" earnings to avoid paying U.S. corporate income taxes, according to a new U.S. Treasury Department study released on Wednesday.
The practice of earnings stripping by foreign-controlled firms involves adding excessive debt or other costs to a U.S. subsidiary to reduce local profits and avoid tax liabilities.
The Treasury study noted the existence of "strong evidence" of earnings stripping by foreign-controlled corporations that have undergone so-called "inversion" transactions -- those in which a U.S.-based parent company is replaced with a foreign parent in a low-tax or no-tax country.
That raises the question, what are the current crop of Congressional leaders and Presidential Candidates going to do about it?
WAL-MART’S FAVORITE INT’L TAX DODGE
Inversion, also called "assets stripping", has allowed huge multinational corporations such as Wal-Mart and McDonald's to move money offshore while they evade paying U.S. taxes. What a deal.
Here’s how that particular offshore scam has worked.
Let’s say you’re a big retailer, Wal-Mart for instance, that’s publicly listed on a U.S. stock exchange, has three-quarters of a million American employees working at thousands of locations across the 50 states, with corporate headquarters in Arkansas, and is incorporated in Delaware. Pretty safe to say, that company has to pay U.S. federal and state taxes on earnings, right?
Wal-Mart, like many large American-based companies, such as McDonald’s Corp., with subsidiaries abroad has been claiming deductions for rent it pays an off-shore subsidiary, a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT), which it claims owns its real estate in the U.S., and then deducts that money from its U.S. taxes. See, See, http://www.taxjustice-usa.org/index.php?option=com_cont...
Why Wal-Mart Set Up Shop in Italy
Retailer Has No Stores, As Tax Spat Lays Bare
By Jesse Drucker
Wall St. Journal, Nov 14, 2007
More than 4,500 miles separate a small Wal-Mart Stores Inc. office in Florence, Italy, from the company's dozens of Illinois retail outlets. But thanks to a convoluted tax arrangement, court records show, Wal-Mart's Italian Wal-Mart set its affairs so that its Italian outpost is the only operating unit of a real-estate subsidiary that controls billions of dollars of the retailer's property in Illinois and other states. Because technically its only employees are based in Italy, the real-estate unit claims its operations are foreign, exempt from Illinois corporate income taxes.
Earlier this year, the Illinois Department of Revenue objected to the Italian tax maneuver, demanding $26.4 million in back taxes, interest and penalties. Wal-Mart paid the amount in dispute and then sued the state for a refund, according to a complaint filed in May in Illinois Circuit Court in Springfield, Ill.
A Wal-Mart spokesman declined to comment beyond a prepared statement: "We have a disagreement with the state of Illinois over our tax liability last year, and we've asked a judge to resolve that for us." He declined to explain why Italy was chosen as the home of this particular foreign operation or whether Wal-Mart has other such arrangements.
The dispute with Wal-Mart is part of a wider effort by some states to crack down on what they believe is abusive use of so-called 80/20 companies. These companies are domestic subsidiaries that conduct at least 80% of their business overseas. States typically don't tax income from outside the U.S., and many companies have used 80/20 subsidiaries to legitimately shield foreign operations from state taxation.
But authorities in several states have challenged a number of companies over the 80/20 units, claiming the structure was improperly used to shift income away from the purview of state taxing authorities.
The misuse of 80/20 companies is "shocking to the conscience," said Brian Hamer, director of the Illinois Department of Revenue. "These kinds of manipulations clearly were never contemplated by the state legislatures," added Mr. Hamer, who wouldn't comment on any single company or legal case. "It ought to have been clear to businesses that this was highly questionable conduct."
Illinois tax authorities are in a dispute with McDonald's Corp. over nearly $11 million stemming from its use of an 80/20 subsidiary. Details are sketchy, but McDonald's, based in Oak Brook, Ill., says in court papers that a Delaware financing unit that owns restaurants in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, conducts 80% or more of its business activity outside the U.S., exempting its operations from being included in Illinois tax calculations.
Minnesota, BNSF Wrangle
Meanwhile, Minnesota tax authorities are taking issue with interest payments made by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. to a pair of Delaware subsidiaries doing business in Canada. The railway company deducted the interest associated with the payments but didn't pay taxes on most of the income received by the subsidiaries. The state's revenue department says in an audit report that this was "done purely for tax avoidance purposes." The Fort Worth, Texas, company paid a disputed $4 million in back taxes and interest and sued the state in May for a refund.
(Wal-Mart’s REIT in Italy) employs 22 people at its office in central Florence, according to a company official who answered the door there on a recent weekday morning. The office is responsible for procuring merchandise from around Europe, he said. Wal-Mart has no stores in Italy.
THE "FOREIGN-OWNED DOMESTIC CORPORATION" SCAM
The foreign real-estate holding company tax dodge is just one facet of a slew of slimy tax shelters that large U.S. companies have started using to evade paying their fair share of taxes to Uncle Sam and to State Governments. These creative accounting practices can be expected to continue during the remainder of the Bush Administration, because the IRS has announced it doesn’t want to know the details of assets transferred from U.S. holdings of companies that claim to be foreign-based.
The Adminstration has made it frighteningly easy for big multinationals to strip their assets and send them to offshore tax havens. They can forget about even filing the necessary paperwork with IRS until next summer. There won’t be any real penalties assessed, no matter how many billions of dollars of U.S. assets are converted and then counted as part of off-shored entities, most of which are located in foreign tax havens, such as the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, the Isle of Man, Singapore, etc., where real tax rates approach zero and the government, such as it is, would like you to offer you another rum punch with an umbrella in the mug.
If you’re Wal-Mart, or McDonald’s, or Halliburton, and you claim to be a Foreign-owned Domestic Company, the IRS just doesn’t want to know the details.
The rush is on to offshore hedge funds. A new IRS rule creates a window of opportunity until 12/14/08 for companies to avoid notifying IRS of U.S. assets sent offshore.
The penalties for foreign companies that fail to comply with IRS reporting requirements are ridiculously light. In it's final rule published in August, the Bush Administration gave foreign owned companies until next June to file without penalty. Even after that date, IRS imposes a $50,000 maximum fine for willful failure to file the required information about offshored assets. Of course, the only limit on the amount of U.S. assets companies can strip and divert abroad is the total value of their U.S. assets. There is no other incentive for foreign companies to report assets stripping. See, http://www.irs.gov/irb/2007-35_IRB/ar12.html
Information Returns Required With Respect to Certain Foreign Corporations and Certain Foreign-Owned Domestic Corporations
(k) Failure to furnish information—(1) Dollar amount penalty(i) In general. If any person required to file Form 5471 under section 6038 and this section fails to furnish any information described in paragraphs (f) and (g) of this section within the time prescribed by paragraph (i) of this section, such person shall pay a penalty of $10,000 for each annual accounting period of each foreign corporation with respect to which such failure occurs.
(ii) Increase in penalty for continued failure after notification. If a failure described in paragraph (k)(1)(i) of this section continues for more than 90 days after the date on which the Director of Field Operations, Area Director, or Director of Compliance Campus Operations mails notice of such failure to the person required to file Form 5471, such person shall pay a penalty of $10,000, in addition to the penalty imposed by section 6038(b)(1) and paragraph (k)(1)(i) of this section, for each 30-day period (or a fraction of) during which such failure continues after such 90-day period has expired. The additional penalty imposed by section 6038(b)(2) and this paragraph (k)(1)(ii) shall be limited to a maximum of $50,000 for each failure.
How many billions can be sent to Bermuda accounts for a mere $50,000? Until the penalty is made large enough to be meaningful, the value of U.S. inversions into underlying hedge funds will remain unreported. If you don't know the scale of the problem, you can't possibly do anything about it.
U.S. BALANCE OF PAYMENTS CRISIS LEADING TO ASSETS STRIPPING AND CAPITAL FLIGHT?
Paul Krugman is widely credited as the economist who first accurately described the mechanism underlying the "balance-of-payments crisis". His work on currency crises is considered a pillar of neo-Keynesian literature, beginning with his seminal article, A Model of Balance-of-Payments Crises, Paul Krugman, Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Vol. 11, No. 3 (Aug., 1979), pp. 311-325.
Krugman surveyed the causes that led to the 1997 Asia Crisis, a panic sell-off of overleveraged markets and currencies that spread to a dozen countries from Thailand to Brazil. That crisis resulted in a collapse of the Russian economy, and an end to much of the short-lived experiment in radical market-based restructuring of the former Soviet Union. See, http://web.mit.edu/krugman/www/crises.html
Most notably, Krugman’s study of the Asia Crisis describes the role of global hedge funds and speculator pools that preyed on vulnerable currencies and overvalued equities markets in overly-indebted countries. Following a decade-long binge of heavy borrowing, by the mid-1990s, a number of Asian economies suffered serious imbalances in the ratio of borrowing to national product and exports. Many of these countries displayed spectacular bubbles in real estate and seriously overvalued prices for stocks and bonds traded on national exchanges. This was blood in the water to global speculators, who moved in to short weakened national currencies, equities markets, and bonds, collapsing one overheated national economy after another. The hedge fund operators and foreign bargain-hunters that followed in their wake – buying up remaining assets at fire sale prices and exporting profits -- made huge fortunes, while local banks and investors were ruined, thousands of companies folded, and millions of people in the developing world were plunged into economic depravation that erased decades of gains in living standards.
This is a pattern of debt speculation, assets bubbles, stock shorting, and assets stripping that the United States has developed as a result of Bush-Cheney policies.
The looming balance of payments crisis and downward spiral in the U.S. Dollar has been long foreseen by financial industry analysts. Richard W. Arms advised readers on the financial services newsletter, on November 15, 2004: http://www.tradersmagazine.com/column.cfm?id=217
The attempt by central banks (largely Asian central banks) to stop the dollar from going where it needs to has only worsened the global imbalances. The US economy is spending 5% of GDP more than it is earning. Less than 1% of GDP worth of this financing gap is being financed by free-market private sector transactions. The rest (over 4% of US GDP) is financed by foreign central banks. Since these central banks are just trying to stop the dollar from falling, not pushing their currencies up, they are setting up a one sided bet that speculators across the globe are starting to see.
If central banks continue to intervene the dollar will stay flat, if they give up the dollar will collapse. The only way the dollar rises significantly is if, on net, the private sector suddenly wants to fill the 4% of GDP gap that central banks are currently filling. This is extremely unlikely. The markets rarely grant these kinds of great opportunities, and it is thanks only to the non-profit seeking activities of global central banks that this opportunity has materialized.
In addition to to hedge fund operators and central banking officials, investors and corporate officers also have a major role in setting off currency crises by offshoring funds in anticipation of market crisis. The Bush Administration is only making this easier, and the eventual spiral in the Dollar more severe by making assets inversion (capital flight) cheap and painless. As the economist Steven Suranovic explains: http://internationalecon.com/Finance/Fch90/F90-5.php
The broader effect of capital flight, which occurs in anticipation of a balance of payments crisis, is that it can actually force a crisis to occur much sooner. Suppose the US was indeed running low on foreign reserves after running successive balance of payments deficits. Once investors surmise that a crisis may be possible in the near future and react with a change in their expected exchange rate, there will be a resulting increase in demand for pounds on the FOREX. This will force the central bank to intervene even further in the FOREX by selling foreign pound reserves to satisfy investor demand and to keep the exchange rate fixed. However, additional interventions implies an even faster depletion of foreign reserve holdings bringing the date of crisis closer in time.
It is even possible for investor behavior to create a balance of payments crisis when one might not have occurred otherwise. Suppose the US central bank depletes reserves by running balance of payments deficits. However, suppose the FED believes the reserve holdings remain adequate to defend the currency value, whereas investors believe the reserve holdings are inadequate. In this case capital flight will likely occur which would deplete reserves much faster than before. If the capital flight is large enough, even if it is completely unwarranted based on market conditions, it could nonetheless deplete the remaining reserves and force the central bank to devalue the currency.
CAN CAPITAL FLIGHT BE CONTROLLED?
The answer to that is, of course, if there's the political will to do so. Congress could easily impel the IRS to immediately implement the Inversion reporting rule by signalling that it will be considering doing this by law. Congress can also raise fines to a level that would truly serve as an incentive to companies to report what they're doing with their assets. Congress could also block the loopholes that allow multinationals to set up offshore shell companies to shelter their real estate holdings from taxes.
Democrats should demand that their representatives an presidential candidates address these issues in a meaningful and pro-active way.
There are also long-term solutions to consider. Just as HC emissions have spurred creative mechanisms for global controls and market-based approaches to pollution, the same "Cap & Trade" approach might be taken to solve the problems of capital flight and employment offshoring. Companies that want to move capital across borders to take advantage of taxation arbitrage might be required to offset those transfers (and loss of public revenue) with a collateral creation of jobs in the same country. Similarly, a company that increases employment would earn credits that could be traded for the ability to move capital across borders without penalty.
We aren't helpless to do something about this crisis. Do it today, or we and our children will pay, and pay, for it for decades.
2007. Mark G. Levey
Posted in full with author's permission.
Priginally posted at democraticunderground.com: http://journals.democraticunderground.com/leveymg/326
When this administration and its enablers issue executive orders, work to enact legislation, or block legislation meant to ease the burden on the average American, they are, in fact, waging class warfare downward, attacking the very people that have helped them rise to such high positions.
When John Edwards speaks of poverty, and the not-so-slow erosion of the middle class, he is returning a volley that has already been delivered, the volley that leaves American workers and their families standing in the ruins of their shattered lives.
Medical bankruptcy, discrimination of all different kinds, "Free Trade," and barriers against a minimum wage hike--these are all weapons in the arsenal of the Class Warriors holding the pass between what America is and what it could be.
We didn't declare Class Warfare. They did. Nearly everything they do stinks of it. They wish to make use of our labor, depend on us as consumers, yet want to give as little back as possible. They wish to exploit us.
Of course it's Class Warfare. What else could it be? Those with the most are seemingly willing to do anything to gain more, at the expense of the rest of us.
Living wages? Not going to happen on THEIR watch. They'd like to destroy Social Security, to plunge millions of workers into poverty and starvation so they can be more easily exploited. Educational opportunities? Not on your life. Educated people have options, and critical thinking skills. They cannot be manipulated so easily by a little infotainment.
The credit card companies engage in blatant usury, the insurance companies pick our pockets and give back as little as possible, and the pharmaceutical companies pay billions to push their poisons on us and expand their influence on doctors and other medical practitioners at every opportunity.
They pretend that campaign finance is "free speech" and stand idly by while REAL free speech is curtailed. They fight to control vast media empires through which only certain voices can be heard. They fight to restrict the internet based upon the ability to pay, and claim that regulating their ability to do this would somehow "impair" the free flow of information.
They want everything, and want to give us nothing. We are meant to be good worker bees and consumers and, if necessary, cannon fodder for the next war. Their lies are blatant, their misdirections as facile as any stage magician's, and their messages are nearly flawless.
But we know lies when we hear them. Some of us have not lost our ability to discern truth from falsehood, and we are speaking up even if we are accused of practicing Class Warfare.
Of course it's Class Warfare, you bastards. You should know--you started it! Did you really expect us to roll over and allow you to pick our pockets and leave us for the crows? And say nothing? We know you'd like nothing more than to turn us all into good little Fox viewers, but some of us can't restrain our gag reflexes long enough to listen even for a moment.
You turn us against each other, playing on our race, religion, sexual identity, and even our social and economic backgrounds. But we're ONE HELL of a lot more like one another than we are like YOU. We get up in the morning and go to work, and fight tooth and nail so our children can have it a little better than we did. We fight an uphill battle every day that you people will never understand because you don't have to fight it. You don't have to worry about how you're going to pay for your kids to go to college, or even how to pay for school supplies and clothes for the next school year.
You don't know what it's like to have to decide between a new pair of shoes and gas to get to work.
You don't know what it's like to have to choose between a new bike and a good winter coat.
AND YOU NEVER WILL.
You're damn right it's class warfare, motherfuckers. You declared it, fired the first salvo, and are expecting us to run just because you make faces and call us names?
Better think again. We've got a hell of a lot less to lose than you do. And, in the end, a hell of a lot more to gain.
We are SO done.
Posted in full with author's permission.
Originally posted on democraticunderground.com: http://tinyurl.com/2na8qg
Today the Chinese government told the bear where to shit in the woods. They let us know that they are unhappy with their client, the U.S. Indeed, the Chinese Foreign Minister now confirms that China's last-minute cancellation of a U.S. Navy visit to Hong Kong was not the result of a misunderstanding, but because American/Chinese ties are "disturbed and harmed". While he refused to elaborate, his negative characterization of U.S.-China relations appeared to indicate that Beijing canceled the visit deliberately in order to register its displeasure over U.S. actions.
Don't be deceived. It's not just the sale of weapons to Taiwan or the visit by the Dalai Lama that has China miffed. It's also the cheap dollar. It's economics. It's the continued down spiral of the U.S. dollar that is squeezing China's profits of goods they sell here forcing them to either take smaller margins or to raise the value of their currency against ours.
And so, the chickens are coming home to roost.
China has bankrolled George W. Bush's war adventures and are not happy with the ever falling dollar to pay back that debt.
China is more and more in the driver's seat with regards to U.S. economic and foreign policy.
One can not blame China for taking care of China and for playing this administration and our corporate heads for the greedy, near-sighted fools that they are. China's government is looking out for their interests. The same can not be said about our nation's leaders.
The U.S. is bleeding our capital resources to China for manufactured goods and to Middle Easter dictators for energy.
We are now down to a mere 10% of our own manufacturing of where we were just a decade ago.
We import more than half of all of our energy requirements.
Our nation is collapsing under debt and hemorrhaging two hundred years of capital accumulation away.
Our military is stretched beyond its ability. Our military hardware is wasted away.
The U.S. Dollar is no longer the currency of choice in the world.
New York is no longer the financial center of the world.
We have become a toothless, fat, spoiled, superstitious creature who is running out of money and still needs a fix for our many addictions. Our political leadership panders to our need to be consoled with platitudes that we are "the greatest" people on earth.
The future is not bright. The state of the nation is worse than it has been since the Civil War.
This country needs new leadership.
Posted in full with author's permission.
Originally posted at democraticunderground.com: http://tinyurl.com/2roc8c
Thursday, November 29, 2007
I believe that Eisenhower was the last President that told the American people anything that resembled the truth when he warned us about the military complex.
I remember as a child arguing with a fellow classmate about Eisenhower and Stevenson. We were both about 9 years old. We were nine years old and arguing about who could lead this country to the betterment of this country. Nine years old. Arguing over who is the better man to lead this country.
Today, you cannot find many 30 year old men to argue one way or another.
People have had basic rights in the USA for so long that they no longer consider that thousands of Americans died to give them these freedoms. They look at our current "leaders" and depend on them to do the right thing. What they forget is the fact that prior to 1776 (Who can tell me what that year represents) we----the people----did not have any rights to govern ourselves. We fought and won that right. That right to be ours forever.
The only problem is that we must guard that right to the death of the last American. You see, this is not a God given right but a right that was fought for and paid for in blood. We must continuously stand up and be ready to die for our freedom.
The people in power at this time are taking away our freedoms and our privelages of being a citizen of the United States. The people in power claim to be citizens of the United States, but they are not. They are fascists from the depths of their "souls". They have a goal of attaining "The New World Order".
The people that want this "New World Order" happen to be the "elitists" of the U.S.
They have a goal of evenly dividing the wealth among the U.S. citizens. That goal is to have 100% of the wealth going to them and the rest of the wealth going to the other 300 million people in the U.S. They do not care how many people have to die to attain this goal.
Dominate the world's oil and you control the world. Simple as that.
I can go on forever and take up gigabytes of storage. The bottom line is that Bush and his crones are criminals of the highest order and need to be dealt with immediately.
Apathy is for the weak. Apathy means death.
Posted in full with author's permission.
Originally posted at democraticunderground.com: http://journals.democraticunderground.com/rockybelt/32
The use of torture by the Bush administration, which usually refers to torture as “coercive interrogation techniques”, is much more widespread than is commonly realized. In a recent post, I discuss in detail the abundant evidence for widespread torture condoned by the Bush/Cheney administration, referencing numerous Bush administration memos, the testimony of eyewitnesses, and evidence put forth by human rights organizations and journalists. Charlie Savage sums up the situation in his recent book, “Takeover – The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy”:
This coercive system of interrogation was put into widespread use following the 9/11 attacks. Eyewitness accounts put it all over – at Guantanamo, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in CIA prisons, and… in a military brig on U.S. soil. There were clearly hundreds and hundreds of U.S. officials employing these techniques in many contexts simultaneously around the globe… and the president had declared that the Geneva Convention did not apply to the war on terrorism.
Given the widespread use of torture by our government, and given that torture is morally shameful, disgraces the United States in the eyes of the world, obliterates fundamental rights provided in the U.S. constitution and the Geneva Conventions, and puts U.S. prisoners at grave risk of being tortured when captured, it is imperative that we carefully consider what our torture policies are and are not accomplishing.
Why torture doesn’t provide useful information
Savage discusses in detail in his book why torture doesn’t provide useful intelligenc. First he provides some background:
The CIA spent millions studying (torture) techniques to see whether it could make use of them; it concluded in a 1963 interrogation manual that the coercive approach was not very helpful outside the context of producing false propaganda because “under sufficient pressure subjects usually yield but their ability to recall and communicate information accurately is as impaired as the will to resist.”…
Neither trainers… nor their Special Forces trainees understood that the coercive techniques used in the program were designed to make prisoners lose touch with reality so that they will falsely confess to what their captors want to hear, not for extracting accurate and reliable information….
Savage then describes the explanations of the navy’s top forensic psychologist, Dr. Michael Gelles:
Abuse, Gelles said, inevitably introduces false information into the intelligence system because people will say anything to get relief from suffering and fear…. Finally, Gelles said, inflicting pain and humiliation on a prisoner destroys the opportunity to build rapport with him in order to persuade… him into saying what he knows, the technique that professional, trained interrogation experts overwhelmingly prefer… “If the goal is to get reliable and accurate information… rapport-building is the best approach… Why would you terrify them with a dog? So they’ll tell you anything to get the dog out of the room?”
And finally, because the large majority of our prisoners have no connection to terrorism whatsoever, the system is overwhelmed by false confessions:
False confessions only exacerbate things, given how many prisoners are unlikely to be able to offer a true confession. For example, a Red Cross report in 2004 estimated that between 70 percent and 90 percent of military detainees in Iraq had been arrested by mistake in the confusion of the insurgency. That same year, the head of interrogations at Guantanamo said that the majority of the detainees there had no useful information…
So, if torture provides little or no useful intelligence, then why does the Bush administration use it so much?
Use of a torture “confession” to help justify the Iraq War
In January of 2002, captured Al Qaeda operative, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, stated while being tortured that Al Qaeda had received chemical weapons training from Iraq. A Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) intelligence summary the following month said that al-Libi’s statement lacked pertinent details and that it was most likely false and based solely on his desire to stop being tortured. Charlie Savage describes the importance of al-Libbi’s “confession” for justifying the war in Iraq:
Obtaining “confessions” of terrorist plots to scare Americans
Bush, Cheney, and their minions like to hype the terrorist threat whenever they get a chance. This was especially important prior to the 2004 election. Thus it was that George Bush pressured CIA Director George Tenet into having Abu Zubaydah tortured. Savage, borrowing from Ron Suskind’s “The One Percent Solution” describes this process:
Stirring up the insurgency in Iraq
It is an established fact of guerilla warfare that support of the local population is critical in determining the probability of success for either side. With that in mind, perhaps the most striking series of polls to graphically illustrate the sinking fortunes of the U.S. military in Iraq are the public opinion polls sponsored by the Coalition Provisional Authority asking Iraqis If Coalition forces left immediately, would you feel more safe or less safe? The results for those answering less safe
November 2003: 11%
January 2004: 28%
April 2004: 55%
May 2004: 55%
That same poll, in May 2004, indicated that 92% of Iraqis saw the Coalition forces as occupiers, versus 2% who saw them as liberators and 3% who saw them as peace keepers. And 86% wanted the Coalition forces to either leave immediately (41%) or as soon as a permanent government is elected (45%).
These statistics obviously raise the question of what caused such a dramatic and abrupt rise in the discomfort that Iraqis felt with the presence of U.S./Coalition forces. One likely answer, it seems to me, is the awareness of how we were treating Iraqi prisoners. The revelations of the torture of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib under the auspices of the U.S. government were first made in April 2004. Though we have no way of knowing precisely when Iraqis first became aware of this, it would seem likely that the revelations in April did not come as a complete surprise to many Iraqis.
How might this have impacted U.S. casualties? I don't know, but for the year beginning April 2003 there were 540 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq, compared to 929 during the year beginning April 2004 (then remaining at a high level, with 796 in the year beginning April 2005 and 899 in the year beginning April 2006), approximately concurrent with the rather abrupt rise in the percentage of Iraqis who felt less safe with Coalition forces present than absent (though we don’t know precisely when the rise occurred or how abrupt it was).
The lesson should be obvious. Though George Bush claimed that one major purpose of his invasion of Iraq was to “liberate” it and bring it “freedom and democracy”, instead we torture Iraqis by the hundreds (or thousands?), and our invasion and occupation of their country has killed over a million Iraqis and produced over four million refugees. Why should it be surprising that a World Opinion poll of September 2006 showed 91% of Iraqis want us out of their country, 78% think we’re provoking more conflict than we’re preventing, and 61% approve of violent attacks on U.S. forces?
Intimidating the American public
Naomi Wolf, in “The End of America”, notes that the Bush administration has made no effort to punish those responsible for torture even when the scandal at Abu Ghraib became public. She writes:
This institutional calm in the face of reports of torture, even death, suggests that the goal of establishing torture in a place beyond the rule of law may have been tactical. Americans now know a lot about how terrible the fate of a Guantanamo prisoner is…
It would take one high profile arrest, or a mere handful of them, to chill dissent quickly in America.
Conclusion – The Bush/Cheney torture policies do what they were designed to do
So, the Bush/Cheney torture policies have helped to supply an excuse for war, provided “information” used to make the American people believe that the next terrorist attack was just around the corner, fueled the Iraq insurgency, and probably intimidated many thousands of Americans (including myself).
None of this is by accident. George Bush knew full well that the information obtained from al-Libi and Zubaydah was likely to be grossly inaccurate. He was told so by his own intelligence agencies. But obtaining accurate information clearly is not the purpose of the Bush/Cheney torture policies. Savage describes what happens when Bush is warned that information obtained under torture is worse than useless:
Congress has tried to put an end to it. As bad as the Military Commissions Act is, at least Congress added a provision that prohibited torture. But George Bush simply added a “signing statement” when he signed the law, which indicated that he wasn’t bound by the anti-torture provision.
In doing that, George Bush once again made clear his contempt for the checks and balances provided in our Constitution, as well as our Eight Amendment prohibition against “cruel and unusual punishment”. There is only one appropriate way for Congress to respond to that, and that is impeachment and removal from office. There is no excuse for their failure to do that.
Posted in full with author's permission.
Originally posted at democraticundergrouond.com: http://journals.democraticunderground.com/Time%20for%20change/250
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Passive assent or agreement without protest.
Norman Lloyd, who is now 93 years old, was one of the victims of the blacklists of the acting industry which arose from the McCarthy hearings. Here is more about him here in this article.
At 93 and the subject of a new documentary, Norman Lloyd is still in the biz
Such passion helps provide an answer to the question "Who is Norman Lloyd?" but he is hardly an unknown. Younger generations might recognize him from Curtis Hanson's In Her Shoes. He was a regular on St. Elsewhere, guest-starred on The Practice, and was recently—and belatedly—inducted into the Players Club. Having started his stage career in 1932 with Eva Le Gallienne, who recommended that he take elocution lessons to rid himself of his Brooklynese, Lloyd was Cinna the Poet in Welles's celebrated, 1937 fascist-themed staging of Julius Caesar—and is one of the few surviving members of the Mercury Theater. And he participated in multiple WPA productions in the '30s, something he believes might have helped get him blacklisted in the '50s.
He said something vital on Countdown tonight. Keith Olbermann asked him why so many actors gave up their friends to be blacklisted. It was like a communist witch hunt gone mad. There are so many ways to compare it to today's climate.
He said they "acquiesced." That word started my mind racing.
If you are not putting forth active resistance to things that are wrong-headed, you are acquiescing. It indicates a passivity that seems to exactly fit what is happening in our country today about major issues.
Keith Olbermann and Norman Lloyd hoped to tweak some consciences with that discussion.
We invaded a country that was no threat to us. Our leader lied about the reason. He later joked at a political dinner about where all those WMDs were...going so far as to look under a table. The Republicans and Democrats in attendance laughed as though it were funny.
We have killed hundreds of thousands of their civilians, unknown numbers of our military have died, we destroyed their infrastructure, bombed their neighborhoods carelessly. We hung their leader, killed his sons, put their bodies on public display.
Now we are talking about going on to the next country.
No one is actively opposing this president, at least not that openly.
When you go along to get along, to not make waves, to be "bipartisan"....when you go along to not offend your new powerful donors in the business world, you are acquiescing.
The media is going to try to destroy those whom it does not like, those who speak out and threaten to regulate, those who go on the air and are too outspoken about the horrors we have done.
They are going to do it whether we go along or fight. Our party should stop giving "tacit assent", and start standing up for what is right and moral.
The silence seems deafening to me sometimes. Maybe those of us who are older feel the betrayal of our country's morality more than some do. It seems like it is so far back to where we should be that my husband and I despair we will see it.
Lloyd and Olbermann were most surely speaking of today.
Posted in full with author's permission.
Originally posted at democraticunderground.com: http://journals.democraticunderground.com/madfloridian/1668
Dear IVAW Supporter,
IVAW members are speaking out all over the country. I want to point out two of the most recent articles about IVAW members, which you can read on our website.
San Francisco Chronicle reporter Joe Garofoli interviewed IVAW members Jabbar Magruder, Geoff Millard and Selena Coppa for an article about recent films that have dealt with the Iraq war and their failure to find an audience in a country that continues to show apathy toward the war and returning veterans.
"'America doesn't want to deal with Iraq, period,' Magruder said. 'There's just apathy. And that's what a lot of veterans, no matter what their position on the war, are finding when they come back home.'"
Read the rest of Garofoli's article on our website.
In Denver, my friend and longtime IVAW member Mark Wilkerson was profiled in 5280 magazine. Mark served in Iraq in 2003 and 2004, and then went AWOL after being denied Consciencious Objector status. He was sentenced to seven months in prison after turning himself in, and soon after his release last July, he participated in the largest gathering of anti-war Iraq Veterans to date in St Louis during IVAW's annual meeting. Mark talks about his experience in St. Louis in the article:
"I feel rejuvenated coming here," Mark says. "And I want to do the same thing that all of you here want to do—keep this number from getting any higher," he says, pointing at the black number, 3,781, written on duct tape on his shoulder. It is the number of American soldiers who'd been killed in Iraq at that date. Mark talks about enlisting as an optimistic teenager, his experience on the ground in Iraq, and his eventual disillusionment with the war. And he tells the group about going AWOL, about deserting the brothers in his unit. To the assembled vets, Mark's actions have made him a hero. But Mark is less certain. "I don't know where that line is between courage and cowardice," he says, adding: "Peace cannot be won with the barrel of a gun. This war won't stop until more soldiers stand up and say, 'I'm not going to go.'"
You can read more of Mark's story on our website.
How you can help
IVAW members speak out so that other veterans and active duty service members will know that they're not alone. There are lots of ways you can help - by making a donation ( https://secure.groundspring.org/dn/index.php?aid=11951 ), telling veterans and service members you know about IVAW, and by supporting war resisters. Many resisters have fled to Canada to avoid prosecution, and last week, the Canadian Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal by two resisters who are seeking refugee status. Courage to Resist is stepping up and pushing the Canadian government to pass a provision that would allow US war resisters to stay in Canada. You can help support war resisters like Brandon Hughey and Jeremy Hinzman, seeking refuge in Canada, by signing on to the "Dear Canada: Let US War Resisters Stay" appeal. Find out more about how to support US war resisters at www.couragetoresist.org .
The more IVAW members speak out, the more applications for membership arrive at our office in Philadelphia. Before he turned himself in at Ft. Hood, Mark Wilkerson, Elizabeth Spradlin and I founded IVAW's first chapter in 2004. Last week, we welcomed chapter number 32. With your support ( https://secure.groundspring.org/dn/index.php?aid=11951 ), we'll continue to grow, and grow stronger, so we can bring an end to this war.
Former Sergeant, Army National Guard
Iraq Veterans Against the War
After reading about US prosecutors having withdrawn a subpoena seeking the identities of thousands of people who bought used books through Amazon.com, I just thought I’d send a message to Agent Mike and the gang.
Hey, if you want to know what books I’m reading, what TV shows I’m watching, where I get my news info, and where I go on the internet, feel free to call and ask.
It’s not that I think you have any right to the information. But if this is what you’re wasting your time and the taxpayers’ money on, maybe I can save you a couple of bucks and free up your afternoons.
You see, I, as the saying goes, have nothing to hide – and allow me to be specific.
I’m FOR impeachment, criminal investigations into this corrupt administration, the immediate end of the Iraq occupation, a full accounting of the billions of dollars that have allegedly been spent on this bogus War on Terror, along with full disclosure of every communication, email, letter, and minutes of meetings ever written, sent and/or received by the hoodlums who are currently running my government. And I WANT that information with respect to every issue from the intelligence that was ignored pre-9/11, to the fabrication of psuedo-facts that led up to Shock ‘n Awe, to the firing of US attorneys.
And let me add that phrases like executive privilege and redacted for reasons of national security mean the same thing to me they mean to most citizens: SOMEBODY’S LYING – BIG TIME.
My TV viewing habits are not difficult to discern – but again, I’m more than happy to let you in on them; no need to sit outside my house in the cold and spy (although there is an open-all-night coffee shop around the corner, in case your investigation yields trivia too boring to keep you awake).
You won’t catch me watching FOX-News (because I have an IQ higher than a house plant), or CNN (because I really don’t care what Paris or Britney are doing today), or any other MSM news outlets (because life is too short to waste ingesting mind-numbing pablum spooned-up by corporate shills).
I get my news on the internet, sourced from actual journalists, domestic and international, who have an odd predilection for facts. I also watch The Daily Show and the Colbert Report, because after a day of reading about what this administration is doing to my country, as well as others, I really need a dose of laughter with my news at the end of the day.
My internet travels also contain visits to sites that discuss what you spooks like to refer to as conspiracy theories – and I know that’s an irritating craw in your collective throats of late. Here’s an idea: Persuade the government you work for to TELL THE GOD-DAMNDED TRUTH about what happened on 9-11, in the lead-up to the Iraq invasion, or about the undeniable ties between the profits of Halliburton, the Carlyle Group, Big Oil and Big Pharma and those in power and maybe – just maybe – people will stop gathering together on-line to speculate about the truth in the face of one cover-up after another.
As for the reading habits of people like myself, no need to subpoena Amazon for their records. Get on a f*ckin’ bus or subway and look at what people are reading on their commute to-and-from work. And guess what? I doubt you’ll see any noses buried in the worthless crap that spews from the pens of the Swiftboat Veterans or Bill O’Reilly – and Good God, people, doesn’t that TELL YOU ANYTHING?
Honestly, you won’t find anyone missing their bus-stop because they’re engrossed in Ann Coulter’s latest (and a word to the wise: If you’re really interested in reading her crap and think the 99-cent on-line offers aren’t enticing enough, you can always pick up a copy of whatever at one of the dollar stores where these tomes are dumped by the carton-load after being purchased by some right-wing group in order to get the recorded sales numbers up into Best Seller territory.)
As you can plainly see (or would see, if you only had your heads completely out of your asses) – in spite of my reading habits – I’m not that anti-American subversive you should be focused on.
I’m not a Republican politician with an industrial-strength paper-shredder, plus an IT guy on retainer to ensure that when I hit that select all - delete configuration on my computer, all of the embarrassing and/or incriminating email actually does irretrievably disappear.
I’m not an elected-to-office GOPer with so many skeletons in my closet, I don’t have room for a mothball - and I’m not an in-the-mothball-bereft closet pedophile texting sexual invitations to under-aged kids.
I’m not a big-mouthed “Christian pastor” with an ability to deliver votes to the right party in exchange for that party not defining my tax-exempt status too narrowly.
I am not a torture-loving, warmongering idiot with a penchant for undermining the Constitution. I am not in danger of being arrested for war crimes if I travel internationally. I am not a recipient of a dime from Jack Abramoff, Duke Cunningham and Dusty Foggo have never been to my house for cocktails, and Jeff Gannon never got a fake press ID from me or anyone I know.
Not for nuthin’, guys, but if you really want to know who the criminals in this country are – the ones who’d sell this entire nation down the river for a fat bank deposit into an offshore account, or, alternatively, a golfing trip to Scotland or some good seats at a basketball game – you’re not going to get anywhere issuing subpoenas to an on-line book seller.
You’d be much better off taking a good hard look at the people who don’t read (or can’t) – and we all know who they are, don’t we?
Anyway, if you need any further scintillating information about what citizens like myself are focused on these days, just give me a call - and in exchange, I promise to give you AN EARFUL (although it's stuff you probably won't want to hear). As for my phone number - well, if you're as on-the-job as you seem to think you are, you'll already have that information, won't you?
Waiting to hear from ya ...
Posted in full with author's permission.
Originally posted at democraticunderground.com: http://journals.democraticunderground.com/NanceGreggs/311
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
"I knew from the start that I was bound to be crucified either way I moved. If I left the woman I really loved-the Great Society-in order to get involved in that bitch of a war on the other side of the world, then I would lose everything at home. All my programs…. But if I left that war and let the Communists take over South Vietnam, then I would be seen as a coward and my nation would be seen as an appeaser and we would both find it impossible to accomplish anything for anybody anywhere on the entire globe." -- President Lyndon B. Johnson
Strange man, that Lyndon Johnson. He was an extreme mixture of good and bad. Despite his personal flaws, his concepts for a Great Society were progressive. He was also aware that all government programs tended to bloat, and that social programs could only work if the public saw they got "a dollar’s worth for every buck spent."
At the same time, he was able to convince himself that a war he was afraid to stop was actually not only a way of combating the evil threat of communism, but a way to spread the fruits of social progress on a global scale.
By late 1967, LBJ had begun to lose touch with reality. His closest and most loyal advisers were concerned by his behaviors. The rest of the nation experienced an extreme mix of good and bad as 1967 became 1968. If younger folks want to know what 1968 was really like (or if older folks want to refresh foggy memories), the book "An American Melodrama: The Presidential Campaign of 1968" by Chester, Hodgson, and Page is the single best comprehensive source of information.
There are, of course, valuable lessons to be learned from 1968. Just like then, there are numerous issues that are important to the majority of democrats today. These include ending the wars of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan; repairing the damage the Bush-Cheney administration has done to our reputation on a global scale; restoring the Constitutional balance of federal powers; improving the economy; investing in education; insuring the rights of all US citizens; addressing the environmental crisis; and creating real job opportunities in our communities.
We can see that those who oppose these traditional democratic values seek to divide us. As long as we are divided into small groups, our enemy can break us like individual fingers. Yet when we recognize that we have common interests – and are confronted by a common enemy – we can see the advantages of joining the individual fingers together to create a fist that is powerful enough to confront that common enemy.
We must also see that it will be impossible to deal with the other problems in a meaningful way if we continue down the administration’s path in the Middle East. The PNAC/neoconservative policies of violence are not going to spread the fruits of social progress in Iraq. It is a policy that can only lead to an expanded level of violence involving Syria, Iran, and eventually other interests in that area of the world.
The war budget will make it impossible to deal in any meaningful way with the other urgent problems we face in this country. There isn’t enough money for butter and bombs. That was true in 1967, and it’s true in 2007. It isn’t just the lower economic class that is suffering from the economic crunch the Bush-Cheney policies have caused: it’s the shrinking middle class, as well. The war is taking money that should be being invested in the communities across this nation. As we become poorer, a tiny minority becomes richer. They are the common enemy looking to break your fingers and steal what is good about America from you.
When we talk about the democratic party being a big tent, that’s fine -- just as long as we don’t allow ourselves to be fooled into thinking it includes those who would continue the current war of occupation in Iraq.
Posted in full with author's permission.
Originally posted at democraticunderground.com: http://journals.democraticunderground.com/H2O%20Man/240
Monday, November 26, 2007
You can call it purity, if you so desire. I don't really care what it's named anymore. But I'm a democrat for many reasons.
I believe in fairness.
I believe in unions.
I believe in a living wage.
I believe in holding corporations accountable for their business practices.
I believe in government programs to help those less fortunate than us, that cannot help themselves, for we, as a nation are only as good as our weakest links.
I believe in protecting the environment, at any cost.
I believe in my freedoms.
I believe in preserving the constitution.
I believe in taxes and big government.
I believe in holding our leaders accountable to the rule of law, and to the the provisions of our constitution, which contain remedies for politicians who have committed high crimes and misdemeanors.
I believe we SHOULD NEVER GO TO WAR based on lies.
I believe we SHOULD NEVER SUBVERT THE CONSTITUTION, by diverting hundreds of millions of dollars marked for war against the Taliban and al-qaeda in Afghanistan, so that we can overthrow the leader of a different and sovereign nation.
I believe that we should never be taught by our leaders to live in fear.
I believe in the freedom of choice, and that includes a woman's right to abortion.
These are just some of the things I believe in that make me a democrat.
Now, it has become painfully clear, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the republican party of this era holds beliefs which are antithetical to everything I've mentioned above. It is also clear that, while our democratic leadership made a lot of noise before the 2006 mid-term elections, most of the noise pandering to the liberal wing of the party, they have ended up becoming most ineffectual in stopping this administration, and in some cases have actually collaborated as co-conspirators to acts that may be construed as unconstitutional, and contrary to the good of our citizens.
So I have had to ask myself, since most of my beliefs are, for the most part democratic beliefs, then why are my democratic leaders continually caving in, showing no backbone, always ready to spout feel good rhetoric, but never digging in their heels and fighting tooth and nail for what is right for our party and this country? What kind of leaders are they, that always cave in to this most corrupt of administrations? We count on our leaders to do our bidding. We count on them to side with us.
I said the other day that to me, the definition of a moderate is someone who hasn't paid attention, or just doesn't care. I believe right now, at this moment in time that there SHOULD BE PARTY PURITY. There should be a unified effort by our democratic leadership to stop this war, and to hold those responsible for undermining our constitution. And anyone who is not part of this solution is part of the problem. Our party leaders should either lead, follow, or get the hell out of our way. And the only reason they are able continue down this road of incompetence and acquiescence is because we are impotent, as the liberal wing of the party. We are not organized, like the religious right became, within the republican party. And because this is so, we will continue to be ignored.
A little party purity right now? I say DAMNED RIGHT!!
Posted in full with author's permission.
Originally posted at democraticunderground.com: http://tinyurl.com/3e2eaq
A few hundred yards down the road from the main gate of Fort Stewart, the newly built Chapel Complex was recently christened. Red brick, with angled lines and a pristine white steeple; looking more like a courthouse than a place of worship, the building stands ready for the soldiers who will be returning from their year long deployment to Iraq next spring.
Across the street, on the grounds of the PX shopping mall stands another display of shiny pinwheels planted in the ground. The sign behind the display reads, “These pinwheels represent the 138 cases of spousal abuse confirmed at Fort Stewart in fiscal year 2007.” In 2006 the sign read “131 cases of spousal abuse” and another read “191 cases of child abuse.” What will 2008 bring?
My husband filed a conscientious objector application in 2005. He did so because of his firsthand experiences with this war, and with the abusive treatment the soldiers and veterans faced as they struggled to fulfill the oath they took to serve their country. He did so to call attention to the threats and intimidation military personnel faced, and the lack of respect they received for their service.
The military command refused to accept the application, choosing to find a way to put my husband in prison as punishment for his choice instead. As we worked to see that due process was given to my husband’s choice, I had the opportunity, one evening, to be in the same room with the command sergeant major of my husband’s battalion. I took the opportunity to ask this senior NCO if he would mind my asking him some questions, civilian to civilian. He said “No” so I asked.
“Have you ever had to kill anyone?”
The man put his hands behind his head, stared up at the ceiling and responded: “Yes I have had to shoot to kill many times.”
“Didn’t it bother you at all to know that you had killed another man?”
With his hands still behind his head and one leg crossed over another, he leaned back in his chair and said “You know I’ve got 22 years in the Army. You learn that you don’t think about what you do, you just do it. I’ve never seen the results of my shooting. That’s the problem with the ‘boys’ they’re bringing in today. I tell them and tell them in training, don’t look back – just shoot ‘rat-a-tat-a-tat’ (holding his hand out as a weapon) and don’t look back. When we was first starting out, the soldiers I came in with and me, we all learned in training, shoot and look away – walk away but don’t look at what you’ve done. If I could get anything across to these new ‘boys’ it’s that they can’t look. I see them; they shoot and then look to see if they hit their target, if they did good, if they followed orders. I see their eyes and there’s fear, and I know right away if there’s going to be trouble with that one or the other by their face after they see the result of the explosion. We’ve got to teach these boys to shoot and look away, and they wouldn’t be so bothered by what they did.”
“What do you think of the war?”
The man didn’t move much. He hunched his shoulders a little, looked across the desk and said “That’s political stuff and I don’t get involved in none of that political stuff. I do my job. If I have to go back to Iraq I go, and I take care of my soldiers. I care about my soldiers, but I don’t have no business paying attention to whether the war is good or bad, or if the president did right. I have 22 years in, and I have to do what I’m ordered to do so I don’t ask no questions.”
“What do you think about conscientious objection?”
This time he leaned forward a little, stretched and took a breath before he re-crossed his legs and folded his hands back behind his head. “There ain’t no true conscientious objectors. I’ve been in a long time, and I’ve seen only one or two that might have been real religious. It’s been my experience that when a soldier brings in an application, I always sit and talk with them and ninety-nine percent of the time he’s not a conscientious objector he’s just got major problems with his command. Whenever anyone brings in one of those applications it’s because there’s a bad command and we got to do something about fixing that. If we do the soldier ain’t got no more problems and he can go on doing his duty, but we got to get him to talk and tell us what the command is doing wrong, ‘cause it’s not religion, it’s a bad command.”
Throughout the conversation my husband was standing beside me at parade rest, having invoked his right to not respond to any questions the sergeant major wanted to ask him. At the time he was under investigation by the command which claimed his conscientious objector application was simply a protestation of the war, not worthy of their time. The command sought to charge him with “making disloyal statements” and “disrespecting a superior officer’ for having spoken out in an effort to find help for the soldiers in his unit being threatened and abused by his command.
My husband went to prison. The sergeant major went back to Iraq.
Now, suicide rates are increasing among military personnel. Spousal abuse is becoming more of a problem and no doubt more children are afraid of the empty look they see in their returning parents’ eyes.
We tell the soldiers to do what they can to get out of the military – to avoid returning to Iraq. It will not solve the problem.
Building a multi-million dollar chapel complex on one military installation is not going to fix what has been broken inside a man or a woman who has been to war.
The anger and rage of those who have been in combat will not go away simply because we tell them to get out while they can, to “walk a different road” without showing them where that road will lead.
Going to prison to speak out about what is happening to our military personnel is not going to make things right, not unless we, those of us who claim to care about our “troops” find a way to work together to do our part.
We can’t think that simply taking
someone out of the war also takes them out of combat. In war, the rage makes sense and the killing of an enemy can be easily justified. War doesn’t end when the soldier comes home, and the nightmare of combat only grows darker when the battle waged is waged inside; intended to protect a place and loved ones that once meant peace from the anger of an experience that cannot be left behind.
When these men and women return home and face those they love, that anger can become a seed inside which feeds and grows off of memories of the horrors, the nightmares and the need for release – but at home there’s no battlefield on which to let go, there are only children, a spouse, or themselves when they come to fear the damage they could do if left uncontrolled, and when "help" is only a word, too many will lose the battle.
People say they understand – trust me – you don’t; not if you haven’t felt it inside, or stood helpless wondering what more can be done to simply bring peace to the heart of the person you want so much to heal.
Holiday lights are far from bright enough to light the path of those who need the peace this holiday is meant to honor.
The pristine steeple on Fort Stewart’s new chapel complex may see the day when every seat in the building is occupied. Experience tells me that those in attendance may find sanctuary but they will not find peace, even if the room is full.
Men and women volunteered to put their lives on the line to defend the peace our laws were meant to give. Their service has been abused by everyone who has stood and watched this travesty of war unfold; offering words of help only to turn and look in another direction when more than words were needed.
People will write and say, “They volunteered. They got what they deserved.”
The war is coming home and if Americans are not willing to stand together to fix what we are all responsible for breaking, they will know firsthand what it means to “get what is deserved.”
It's time to stare into the eyes of what we have allowed to happen.
Peace is not simply a word, and war does not go away when you look in a different direction.
What do you know of war?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for accommodating religious and cultural differences, acknowledging that not everyone has exactly the same perspective on every issue, even making life a bit clearer for the common-sense-impaired.
But when it comes down to coddling the abjectly stupid, or those who seem to spend every waking hour looking for something to be offended about, I have to stand back and yell, “What the f*ck!”
Who are you people who think shopping mall Santas should refrain from saying “ho, ho, ho” because it might be construed by female passers-by as an insult to their sexual activities? Shouldn’t such people be kept out of the malls because stupidity might be contagious, and we’ve already got enough of that going around?
Who are you people who report to parents of pre-schoolers that their children’s tendency to nuzzle against your chest is a blatant sexual advance? Shouldn’t such alleged ‘adults’ be kept as far away from innocent children as possible? Just how repressed/sexually confused do you have to be before someone decides that maybe the ‘problem’ lies not with the kids, but with you?
Who are you people who think they’re being persecuted as Christians if the local department store wishes you a Happy Holiday instead of a Merry Christmas? Maybe I’m just out of the loop, but I haven’t seen any TV commercials advertising Christians v Lions events, nor read any reports about anyone being hauled off to prison in the dead of night after being rounded-up outside the local church.
Let’s get real, people. The fact that your local stores are wishing all and sundry, regardless of religion, a joyous holiday is a matter or embracing everyone, and not a personal affront to you or your beliefs.
And by the way, encouraging you to spend money you don’t have under a banner of Merry Christmas flying over a manger scene in the parking lot is not meant to keep Christ in Christmas – it’s meant to keep you shopping in their store. And as long as your credit card transaction goes through, they don’t really care if those are Christian dollars or pagan dollars making the cash register go ca-ching, ca-ching.
Who are you people who think that a group of Muslims praying in an airport terminal before take-off are obviously terrorists about to take down the flight? Did it ever occur to you that if a group of people had such plans, they wouldn’t be drawing any undue attention to themselves before boarding?
Honest to God, to Allah, to Buddha, to all that is holy, should people as dumb as you be allowed to fly without a psychiatric professional accompanying you from the terminal of departure to your final destination – and shouldn’t a straight-jacket be part of your carry-on luggage?
Who are you people who believe there’s such a thing as a Gay Agenda? Do you honestly believe that every homosexual belongs to a secret society, one that meets regularly in order to contrive ways to force you, a heterosexual, into their lifestyle?
Have you looked in the mirror lately? And if and when you did, did you actually surmise that the gay agenda will never be fully realized until a gay man or a lesbian can openly brag that they got you into bed? Think it through; you’re probably less attractive to them than the last heterosexual man/woman you took home when the bar lights flickered, someone yelled “last call”, and you didn’t want to go home alone.
Who are you people who think that Harry Potter is the gateway book to adopting witchcraft as a religious belief, or The Golden Compass should be banned from school libraries because it was written by an atheist?
No, don’t tell me – you’re probably the same people who think that the earth (despite all scientific knowledge to the contrary) is 6,000 year old, that evolution is a myth, and the concept of global warming is being promoted by corporations that own weather networks.
I rest my case – and yet, I feel compelled to ask: Have you actually read these books before deciding to condemn them? More to the point, have you ever read any book?
This is only speculation on my part, but I’m figuring you people are the same ones who actually need that warning label on the electric hairdryer that specifically states – lest there be any confusion – that it shouldn’t be operated while showering.
You’re also probably the same people who think that Support the Troops is a bumpersticker and not something that should be backed up with actual support, that freedom of religion means your religion and not anyone else’s, that flag-burning is the most pressing problem our nation currently faces, that “hot coffee” doesn’t actually mean “hot coffee”, so feel free to balance it on your lap while driving … oh, and that ”Not to be used as a step” warning at the top of a ladder is merely a suggestion, not meant to be heeded by the brain-dead who can later sue the ladder manufacturer on the basis that said warning did not contain their name specifically – therefore, how were you supposed to know they were talking to YOU!?!
I consider myself to be a reasonable person. But when I am expected to accept the asinine, incoherent ramblings of people who belong in long-term mental health care programs as part of the fabric of society who need attention, protection and validation, count me out.
In those circumstances, I can be as intolerant as the next person – who, like me, is probably sane.
Posted in full with author's permission.
Originally posted at democraticunderground.com: http://journals.democraticunderground.com/NanceGreggs/310
Never before in our history has the stubbornness of the Democratic voter been made more blatantly obvious than it has over the past seven years.
In the face of BushCo’s ability to rewrite history, spin every fallacy into accepted dogma, and drag our nation into the depths of despair, the ideology of the Democratic party has persisted in its stiff-necked refusal to embrace the liars and the lies, to support those who refuse to uphold the Constitution, to accept the empty promises that consistently foretell any number of successes regardless of the fact that they will never materialize.
Where is our shame when we criticize a president during a time of war? Why can we not simply ignore the fact that it is a war he created himself (“War on Terror” – patent pending), and proceed as though it were something legitimate, something realistic, something based on fact rather than a steady stream of fabricated intelligence? Why can we not ignore its dire consequences, and act as though we believe there is some good to come out of this entire debacle, and that victory is not only achievable, but imminent?
Where is our shame when we point our fingers at the immoral behavior of elected family values Republicans, and staunchly refuse to accept I asked Jesus to forgive me, and he did as being an end to the matter? Can we not just pretend that confessions of wrongdoing are spurred by a desire to clear the conscience, and the fact they surface after the fact of being caught are merely coincidental?
And speaking of coincidence, where is our shame when we discuss the profits of war-profiteers like Halliburton and their ties to the increased wealth of administration members and their respective families and friends? Can we not just marvel at the incredible coincidence of such occurrences, and be done with it?
Where is our shame when we pursue investigations into government corruption? Must we always be so righteous in our indignation that tax dollars have gone missing without explanation, or that bribery has become business as usual at the highest levels of our government? Can we not simply accept our losses, chalk it up to experience, and move on?
Where is our shame when we prattle on endlessly about the plight of the less fortunate? Why can’t we just jump on the it’s all about ME bandwagon, and agree to stop wasting money on social programs that assist the poor, the homeless, the down-and-out? Why can’t we just dismiss these lazy sub-humans out-of-hand and look out for only ourselves?
Where is our shame when we stand up for the rights of homosexuals who want to be treated as equal under the law? Why can’t we just ferret out some Bible verses that condemn their behavior, and insist that they have a foresworn agenda whose only purpose is to undermine the fabric of society?
Where is our shame when we staunchly refuse to agree that the Constitution is just a piece of paper that should be shredded and/or rewritten to accommodate more modern views of our nation and its relationship to our global neighbors? Why can’t we abandon all notions of freedom and democracy, and learn to go along to get along?
Where is our shame when we don’t fall into lockstep behind our elected party members, regardless of whether we agree with their positions or not? Why can’t we just go along with those who allegedly represent us, and not question them when they take impeachment off the table, or accept their kow-towing to the opposition as being a matter of compromise for the betterment of the nation as a whole?
Where is our shame when we steadfastly stand our ground on issues like torture? Why can’t we talk ourselves into believing that it isn’t immoral or illegal, and convince ourselves that in spite of the sanction of its use, we are still the good guys who hold ourselves above such barbarism?
Where is our shame when we raise issues about vote-counting, and our election system as a whole? Why can’t we just defer to the better judgment of Diebold, and embrace the idea that if certain citizens wind up not being able to vote, it’s probably because they shouldn’t be able to vote in the first place?
Where is our shame when we talk about support for our troops actually being non-existent? Why can’t we just put a bumpersticker on our vehicles and declare that as support enough?
Where is our shame when we suggest such outlandish ideas as diplomacy in our international dealings, and candid discussion with our enemies as well as our allies? Why can’t we get behind the idea that anyone who doesn’t agree with this administration is the enemy, and should be destroyed without hesitation?
Where is our shame when we question administration policies that have been proven, time and again, to be detrimental to world peace and the security of our country? Why can’t we stand behind failed policies and just pretend they have been successful in the past, and will continue to be successful in future?
Where is our shame when we call attention to a draft-dodging, ill-informed PNAC puppet making a fool of himself over and over, domestically and internationally, and even dare to question his sobriety and mental stability? Why can’t we at least act like the emperor has some clothes, even though his nakedness is readily apparent?
Where is our shame when we deride our so-called journalists and news media for failing to report the facts? Why can’t we blindly accept their biased parroting of right-wing propaganda and accept it as the unvarnished truth?
Where is our shame when we brazenly exercise our freedom of speech through protests, or calls for investigations into obvious wrongdoing? Why can’t we just shut up and go about our business, and ignore the fact that the running of our country is our business, and that our voices are meant to be part of the process?
Where is our shame when we adhere to fact in instead of ever-evolving fiction, science instead of ignorance, common sense instead of nonsense? Why can’t we just join the hopelessly ignorant and abjectly stupid among us, and denounce intelligent thought as the work of the devil?
Where is our shame, my fellow Democrats? Why do we cling to outmoded, outlandish ideas like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Why do we persist in ensuring that such concepts shall not perish in the face of those who seek to manipulate, convolute, and reinterpret their intent and their meaning?
Why can we not give up and give in; repeat the talking points as though they were truth, accept corporate greed as the highest form of patriotism, adopt the idea of war being the only sure road to peace?
Why can we not sever, once and for all, the connection we feel to our fellow global citizens who are discriminated against, dealt with unjustly, left to suffer and die because they cannot survive without our speaking out on their behalf?
Where is our shame? Are we pretending that it simply does not exist, or are we choosing to bury it under the insanity of being true patriots who believe in our party’s, and our country’s, lofty ideals?
I have no easy answer. Perhaps the best course of action is to continue our shameful conduct – because without it, there will be nothing left of our country for anyone to be proud of ever again.
Posted in full with author's permission.
Originally posted at democraticunderground.com: http://journals.democraticunderground.com/NanceGreggs/309
Sunday, November 25, 2007
You put your surge troops here you put your surge troops there you put your surge troops here and you shake them all about, you do the Hokey Pokey and you move the troops around, that’s what it’s all about.
On November 22, the UK Independent reported here that the Taliban now have resumed control of most of Afghanistan and a think-tank says that the NATO force in the country will need to be doubled to cope with their resurgence. Current NATO troop levels in Afghanistan total approximately 40,000 troops so doubling would mean another 40,000 troops totaling 80,000 troops.
Coincidentally, the Iraq surge, which has temporarily reduced violence levels in Iraq but failed in its primary purpose, providing a respite so a political solution could be enacted, totaled 30,000 troops. These troops will now likely need to be redeployed to Afghanistan to provide a surge in the worsening situation there. No, no one has come forth and said any of this yet, but the Bush administration is not going to have a choice. Either they can cede Afghanistan to the Taliban or they will have to send the additional troops. When the troops are redeployed and resurged to Afghanistan, they will confront a situation not only where the Taliban are becoming stronger and reasserting control, they are confronting a situation where the Taliban are becoming more popular and in some cases the preferred leadership choice in one or more Afghan provinces. This article from the UK Independent talks about how Afghans the Independent interviewed back in April said they prefer Taliban control because they feel safer under the Taliban. Since there is no political solution in Iraq, the chances are good that as soon as the surge troops are redeployed to Afghanistan, violence in Iraq will increase again. This administration has put our foreign policy and troops into a terrible no-win situation in two countries where violence is only temporarily controlled with the influx of massive and unsustainable numbers of US troops. The GOP has been spending most of the last few months trying to convince everyone that our Iraq policy is a success because the surge has reduced violence levels in Iraq. Republicans know that this is a lie of omission designed to obfuscate the political failures in Iraq that mark the entire war there as a failure. The Democratic congress, along with much of the country and world, realizes that our Iraq and Afghanistan policies are failures, but seems powerless to affect changes against the Bush Presidential Veto and other Republican maneuverings. The latest Bush threat is that if the Democrats wield the power of the purse to stop one or both wars and bring home the troops, the administration will take it out on 100,000+ civilian federal employees who they will furlough or layoff in retaliation. They intend to go public and claim that if/when the Democrats cut off funding for the war, the government could no longer afford to pay these employees. The Democratic congress, timid as it is already to confront the administration on its Iraq policy, may again feel forced to back down because of this threat. All of this is happening simultaneously with a reminder of the shady manner the Bush administration sold the Iraq war in the first place with the revelations of former Press Secretary Scott McClellan that he was intentionally sent out to lie to the public in the Plame-gate scandal. The Republican Party has become a rotting putrid carcass of a political entity. They and their President are happy to send forth our troops into and have them do the Hokey Pokey back and forth between twin meat-grinders. They are happy to lie about it and threaten the firing of innocents as long as it prevents the revelation of the failures of these polices during the tenure of the current administration. Bush, Cheney and anyone in the administration involved in any of this should be impeached and removed from office. Any Republican legislator lying to the American people about the supposed successes of the surge should be brought before the House or Senate ethics committees. The troops are not pawns of a failed administration and its congressional lackeys. They deserve better than that. The troops in Iraq and should be brought home right away and our Afghanistan policies should undergo a complete review to determine what it is we are trying to do there, what would constitute success and if it is achievable and consistent with the desires of the Afghan people. We should not continue this administration's policies of failure.
Coincidentally, the Iraq surge, which has temporarily reduced violence levels in Iraq but failed in its primary purpose, providing a respite so a political solution could be enacted, totaled 30,000 troops. These troops will now likely need to be redeployed to Afghanistan to provide a surge in the worsening situation there. No, no one has come forth and said any of this yet, but the Bush administration is not going to have a choice. Either they can cede Afghanistan to the Taliban or they will have to send the additional troops.
When the troops are redeployed and resurged to Afghanistan, they will confront a situation not only where the Taliban are becoming stronger and reasserting control, they are confronting a situation where the Taliban are becoming more popular and in some cases the preferred leadership choice in one or more Afghan provinces. This article from the UK Independent talks about how Afghans the Independent interviewed back in April said they prefer Taliban control because they feel safer under the Taliban.
Since there is no political solution in Iraq, the chances are good that as soon as the surge troops are redeployed to Afghanistan, violence in Iraq will increase again. This administration has put our foreign policy and troops into a terrible no-win situation in two countries where violence is only temporarily controlled with the influx of massive and unsustainable numbers of US troops.
The GOP has been spending most of the last few months trying to convince everyone that our Iraq policy is a success because the surge has reduced violence levels in Iraq. Republicans know that this is a lie of omission designed to obfuscate the political failures in Iraq that mark the entire war there as a failure.
The Democratic congress, along with much of the country and world, realizes that our Iraq and Afghanistan policies are failures, but seems powerless to affect changes against the Bush Presidential Veto and other Republican maneuverings. The latest Bush threat is that if the Democrats wield the power of the purse to stop one or both wars and bring home the troops, the administration will take it out on 100,000+ civilian federal employees who they will furlough or layoff in retaliation. They intend to go public and claim that if/when the Democrats cut off funding for the war, the government could no longer afford to pay these employees. The Democratic congress, timid as it is already to confront the administration on its Iraq policy, may again feel forced to back down because of this threat.
All of this is happening simultaneously with a reminder of the shady manner the Bush administration sold the Iraq war in the first place with the revelations of former Press Secretary Scott McClellan that he was intentionally sent out to lie to the public in the Plame-gate scandal.
The Republican Party has become a rotting putrid carcass of a political entity. They and their President are happy to send forth our troops into and have them do the Hokey Pokey back and forth between twin meat-grinders. They are happy to lie about it and threaten the firing of innocents as long as it prevents the revelation of the failures of these polices during the tenure of the current administration. Bush, Cheney and anyone in the administration involved in any of this should be impeached and removed from office. Any Republican legislator lying to the American people about the supposed successes of the surge should be brought before the House or Senate ethics committees. The troops are not pawns of a failed administration and its congressional lackeys. They deserve better than that. The troops in Iraq and should be brought home right away and our Afghanistan policies should undergo a complete review to determine what it is we are trying to do there, what would constitute success and if it is achievable and consistent with the desires of the Afghan people. We should not continue this administration's policies of failure.
Posted in full with author's permission.
Originally posted at opednews.com: http://www.opednews.com/articles/opedne_steven_l_071125_iraq_and_afghanistan.htm