U.S. Reveals Death Toll From Airstrikes

When I voted for President Obama in 2008 I saw him as someone who would take a biblical dove view of the world and treat war and murder as an abomination to be avoided at all costs except for eliminating imminent danger for U.S. citizens.  He has proven to NOT be that person. In fact he seems no better than any of his predecessors. It funny how all those generals in the flashy uniforms and many medals can turn a peace leader into a hawk.

WASHINGTON — Partially lifting the secrecy that has cloaked one of the United States’ most contentious tactics for fighting terrorists, the Obama administration on Friday said that it believed that airstrikes it has conducted outside conventional war zones like Afghanistan have killed 64 to 116 civilian bystanders and about 2,500 members of terrorist groups.

The official civilian death count is far lower than estimates compiled by independent organizations that try to track what the government calls targeted killings, and human rights groups expressed doubts about the reliability of the government’s numbers. Most of the strikes have been carried out by drones in chaotic places like Libya, tribal Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, though a small number have involved traditional aircraft or cruise missiles.

Source: U.S. Reveals Death Toll From Airstrikes Outside War Zones – The New York Times

As mentioned in the source above he took President Bush’s use of drones and elevated them to an extreme level. We are told that the innocent lost of life because of these drone strikes are one of the primary reasons so many hate us in that part of the world.  They strike so quietly and devastatingly to strike terror into innocent citizens of those Middle East countries. Yes, we are known by some as terrorists in that part of the world.

If only we could have admitted our mistakes as soon as they happened we might be in a very different place in our world.  But given the renowned bravado of U.S. citizens that was never going to happen. We would never say we were wrong about WMDs and then quietly leave. Instead we simply dig a deeper and deeper hole for ourselves.  Instead of liberators we have become those hated Americans to far too many in that part of the world.

Vietnam was the war of my generation. We invaded that country to keep the world free of communism. Of course we know that didn’t happen. In fact our number one trading partner, read someone who makes all our “stuff”,  is an avowed communist nation.  We also know that the body counts the generals came up with in that war were grossly over stated. I admit that because of that and other things I am a skeptic when it comes to information coming out of our military establishment, they are all kind of Dr. No’s to me, so I expect the same thing this time around.

Hillary Clinton who is likely, if we maintain our sanity as a nation, our next president is on the surface is much more hawkish than the current office holder. I can’t imagine what kind of trouble she will get us into.  My mantra is “Give Peace A Chance”. Pretty naive isn’t it?

Privatize It….

The GOP solution to almost everything that is wrong with America is to privatize it. They simply don’t think that government has much of a place in today’s American society. Democrats on the other hand believe that in many cases government is the most effective solution.  One of those disputed areas is healthcare. Which one is right? Maybe the answer lies in trying both out and see which gives the best results?

2016-05-25_08-48-26.pngFor more than two years, the Veterans Affairs department has struggled to deal with a long-buried crisis in its service to veterans, a systemic and widespread fraud that concealed long wait times at its hospitals and clinics….

Five years later, however, whistleblowers produced evidence that dozens of veterans had died while being denied access to care at the Phoenix VA. Evidence emerged that the wait-list fraud was not localized to one VA center but was standard operating procedure in much of the country. VA executives earned bonuses while veterans languished in medical limbo — and some of them perished in it, too. Obama sacked Shinseki, the only Cabinet official to resign under pressure from the president, and appointed Robert McDonald to clean up the VA.

SOURCE:  Obama’s VA scandal is much bigger than a callous Disney analogy

The VA just seems to have been plagued with troubles for most of my life. They just can’t seem to figure out what needs to be done to fix it. On the other hand Medicare is for the most part praised for its effectiveness.  As usual the solution to the VA problems is split along party lines. Each is convinced that their solution would work the best.

So, let’s see which is better.  Right now Medicare provides 55 million people with healthcare coverage. The VA provides coverage for 23 million. Why don’t we privatize the VA?  Give them a voucher for going out and getting coverage on their own and then wait and see what the results are.   The Republicans want to privatize Medicare and put us seniors on our own so lets test it with our veteran population first.  If it works out there then there would be evidence that Medicare would also benefit from privatization. If not then maybe we can finally put the privatization mantra to rest.

But, I don’t think that will happen. My GOP friends are for the most part big backers of our military establishment. They seem to not be able to see a military expense that they can turn down. I really think they can see that government provided healthcare that if properly run is the true future foundation for our nation’s healthcare system as it is for the rest of the world but they just don’t want to admit.  Why else would they keep trying to fix the VA  to make is as effective as Medicare instead of just privatizing it.

As a test of who has the best solution let’s let the Republicans privatize the trouble prone VA and see what happens…..

 

I Want To Weep…..

alone_being_alone_answers.jpgPolitics, guns and religion are making me anxious. Following the coverage of the Iowa caucus, I see people cheering for Donald Trump or Ted Cruz and I want to weep. It’s not the politics, it’s the way they have taken the stereotype of the Ugly American one step further – bullish stupidity and crass hatred. I don’t know why people think this will serve us well.

If we’re going to turn this country into a reality show, I’d like to vote some people off the island. And most of them are citizens.

Much of the public display of religion has become devoid of ethics. It is being used to justify repressing others and it all gets packaged up in an American flag, a cross, guns and a whole lot of whiteness. I believe that we should have the freedom to believe what we choose, up until the point where you’re in my government, in my bedroom or at my child’s school. Or showing up at my Target with an AR-15, when I’m just trying to buy toilet paper.

SOURCE: Shaken, but Stirred | The Green Study.

Even though we are quite different I relate to my friend over at The Green Study on so many levels. Politics, guns and religion are the three primary topics make me anxious. VERY Anxious… Sometimes I just need to get away from all the noise and insanity of these topics.

Politics has become so skewed toward the fringes to make be more than anxious.  I have been struggling to find just the right phrase to describe my feeling when I came across this post and discovered it. “I want to weep” over all this insanity.  Is this country really falling apart or am I just too fixated on this topic to understand that most people just ignore this insanity and go on with their daily lives?

The topic of religion also makes be weep. It just seems so intertwined with the ugliness of the present country.  It seems whenever the media talks about all the hatred and bigotry, “evangelicals” are prime source! Everything religious seems to be about politics now. I am embarrassed to think that all a politician needs to do today is to bring an unopened Bible that his mother gave him and all the Christian sheep will quickly fall in line with whatever hatred that spews out of him. Below the belt issues dominate  way too much of the religious realm for me. I am embarrassed that the church just doesn’t seem to be Christian anymore. At least the Christ that I love and know.

I’m sure that anyone but the most avid gun loving NRA activist weeps with all the destruction caused by guns in our society. Even after almost fifteen years some continue to weep because of 9/11 but seem to be very placid to the fact that hundreds of times more people have lost their lives since then due to gun violence.

Has anxiety become the norm now in our society?

I know fear is a new norm but is continuous weeping becoming another norm?

Were We Wrong??

From the title it is hard to determine where this post is going. We can be wrong about almost anything in this life and there seems to always be someone around to alert us of that fact. If we get something set in our minds that just isn’t true then we are the worst kind of wrong. But… that is not where this post is going.🙂

2015-12-27_12-48-23.pngFinally, here is the full question,  were we wrong to separate from mother England, especially through  violence?

Looking back with hindsight it is always easy to judge the past by today’s criteria.  I will try not to do that but will use the wisdom of what came next to speculate how we might be different if we had not collectively made the decision we did.

It seems that the primary reason for our revolt against the mother country was money.  We simply didn’t like being taxed, especially since we had no say in where those taxes would come from. Of course the other primary reason was probably the arrogance of a king and the nobles who depended on him for their lifestyles.  They saw America as a source for income and not much else. When that income started dwindling they just raised taxes even more.

Was this reason enough to go to war over? Like most wars our revolution was an ongoing thing. One thing led to another. The Boston massacre might have started it but then a tit for tat scrimmages escalated it.  Initially there was little thought of becoming an independent nation. We simply wanted to keep more of our income to ourselves instead of shipping it off to people we knew little about.

Even when the war became official with our “Declaration of Independence” barely half of us agreed with that document. Raising an army to go against the toughest in the world was by no means a sure thing.  But soon the you kill us and we will kill you mentality took over.

In the overall scheme of the world we are still a relatively new country. Less than three hundred years of existence where many are ten times that old.  Most countries have little or no idea about how they came about because they seem to have been always there.

What would have happened if we had not rebelled? A likely scenario would be Canada. Yes, they are independent of their mother country but did so by peaceful means about a hundred years later than us.

On my visits to our northern neighbors I have realized a basic difference between us and them. They, for the most part are much less belligerent than we are. They spend on the military about the same percentage as the rest of the world whereas we spend almost a hundred times more.  Is part of this aggressiveness on our part associated with our founding? Is our obsession with guns and the NRA part of it too?

Canada, who for the most part have the same lineage as us took a very different track to world affairs. Would we be more like them if we had not rushed to war in 1776?  That is an idea certainly interesting to ponder…

 

Taking Personal Responsibility…

2015-11-13_09-22-23In my mind taking personal responsibility is a big part of the bedrock of what makes the U.S. a success story among the nations of the world. We encourage, some would even demand, that each of us take personal responsibility for our well being and especially for our future needs. The graphic to the right pretty well sums up the benefits and obstacles associated with personal responsibility. It starts with self control and eventually peaks with wisdom. Self control means that we make the choices necessary to provide the desired outcomes. All of us need to take personal responsibility for our actions and lives and to suffer the consequences when we don’t.

The Republicans among us are very adamant, maybe even paranoid, about personal responsibility.  They just don’t 2015-11-13_09-24-42seem to want any of our citizens to get something that they haven’t earned through personal responsibility.

  • why do most from the GOP establishment seem to encourage other nations shirk their responsibilities when it comes to defending their lands and their way of life?
  • Why do we let them insist that we, the U.S., must do almost everything in this area for them?
  • Why aren’t we letting others beyond our shores take personal responsibility?
  • Why are so many in the GOP  so against giving aid to our poorest citizens but at the same time eager to run in and taking over all the responsibility for almost all regional conflicts in the world?

Whenever there is a problem in the world, particularly the kind involving aggression, we seem to rush in telling everyone else “don’t worry we will take care of it for you”.

When it comes down to it isn’t ISIS just a group of Muslims who radically differ with the majority of that religion on how Islam is to be practiced. If I understand it right ISIS wants their version of the faith to be everything in its believers’ lives. They want every aspect of life, including government, to be controlled by their religious dogma much like it is in Iran. Wouldn’t you think that this is something that others in that religious group should be taking personal responsibility for? Why should the U.S. send our young people and spend so much of our tax dollars to do it for them? Isn’t that allowing Muslims to shirk their responsibility of controlling those within their own group?

Even the Middle East in general seems to always be one religious group battling another. Look at Iraq, or at least what there is left of it after our invasion. It seems every bomb that goes off and every killing that occurs is one religious belief fighting another.  It is Sunnis against Shiites against Kurds.  I kind of suspect that if Israel were not in the middle of all this stuff and the target of much of the anger in that part of the world, we would not be so interested in spending American human and monetary capital on the other side of the world.

I don’t know the answer to all this stuff that we keep getting ourselves into but I do know that insisting that others take personal responsibility for their circumstances is a big part of the solution.

Obama’s Neocon Critics…

It’s an incantation repeated among Obama’s neocon critics: the Iraq surge worked; things were going swimmingly until we withdrew; the same thing will happen in Afghanistan if we pull out completely.

Let’s assume it’s true, that we could keep peace and order in these countries if we kept tens of thousands of troops (or more) on the ground.

Here’s my question: Why on Earth would we do such a thing? How does it serve American interests to spend vast quantities of blood and treasure serving as a national police force for countries on the other side of the globe with no end in sight?

These are the questions that we must keep in mind as we assess Obama’s foreign policy.

It’s easy to say we should have done “something” in Syria three years ago. That “something” usually means helping supposedly moderate rebels to overthrow Assad and form a decent, democratic government. Sounds lovely. Except for the fact that everything we’ve learned since 2001 tells us that it wouldn’t have gone like that at all.

Overthrow Assad and the place will tear itself apart even more thoroughly than it already has.

Source: Putin isn’t humiliating Obama in Syria. He’s doing the U.S. a favor.

MyScans167I am very much a peacenik. I think war is absolutely the last thing we should try in tackling almost every problem.  So, when I hear the latest version of neocons wanting to race to yet another war as a solution for everything it turns my stomach.  I agree with my Quaker friends War is Not the Answer. Especially when we have no idea of what to do after we have defeated the bad guys. Most often than not they are just replaced by other bad guys who are sometimes even worse.  The answer in Syria, like it should have been in Iraq and most other middle eastern countries, is to just let it work its own way out. Don’t butt in with our great wisdom when we obviously don’t have any. There has not been a war in my lifetime that had even a remote semblence of what we thought would come out of it.

When Biden suggested that if we MUST invade Iraq we should then turn it into three different countries: Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish.  That might not have totally solved the problem but we certainly would have been better off if we had taken Joe’s advice than to rush in with our unbaked ideas of forming a democracy in that part of the world that has no conception of what a democracy is.

These new neocons seem to be ready to jump into war as a solution to everything. They never see a conflict that they don’t want to take over or a military budget that they don’t want to increase. Is this what the USA is all about now or is this just another fringe wing-nut group asserting themselves on the rest of us? I just don’t know.

Simply stated we just don’t need to be the policemen of the world. We are just not very good at it in the first place.

Being The Adult….

McConnell said that this year, Democrats objected to spending bills drafted under existing tight budget caps — known as sequestration — because they want more spending for domestic programs. Republicans are seeking more defense spending than the current caps allow….

White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Tuesday  “I would expect that in the weeks ahead we’ll have more of a discussion about how Democrats and Republicans in Congress can work together to make sure that we adequately fund both our national security and economic priorities, while of course taking the necessary steps to prevent a government shutdown in an unnecessary injection of volatility into the national economy.”

Source: Congress gears up for major budget talks with White House

I’m going to put on my fiscal conservative hat here.  I don’t like to wear the “C” cap very often but  it is necessary. Fiscal conservatism used to be the job of the GOP but since they are now in the “anti-” mode someone has to be the adult and talk about our spending.   It seems that both parties want to pile on more spending year over year. One for the safety net for our citizens and one for  expanding an already over bloated war machine so that we can get even more involved in all the conflicts around the world.

Instead of constantly increasing our spending someone needs to look at what we spend our current budgets on and eliminate those items that are no longer useful.  Some one needs to be the adult here.  Let’s start with the military.  We spend more on our war machine than the rest of the world combined and we are only 5% of the world’s population.  I say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. You hear almost every day about the next “$1000 toilet seat”. I’m sure there is at least 25% of that budget that no longer serves any purpose. Why can’t we root that out and get rid of it instead of just piling on more money? One of the answers is that if someone tries to cut military cost someone else will scream “you are making our soldiers less safe!!” But someone has to be the adult and do it anyway as the vast majority that wasteful spending it has nothing to do with the safety of our soldiers.

One the domestic side I personally have seen several people who are on disability payments who when no one is watching work just as hard as the rest of us. It is just too easy to get a government payment. I know I sound like a card carrying member of the GOP here. But, I am not saying that most, or even many, are in that mode but there are sufficient numbers who do game the system that if we took a closer look could substantially reduce our safety net costs.  I”m sure there are  many other examples of where we could reign in spending if we just put our mind to it.

I have been on a fixed budget for over 15 years now. Yes, some things change for instance the ever increasing cost of healthcare. Medicare pays for 80% of my medical costs for about $100 a month and that hasn’t changed dramatically but to cover the other 20% has increased from about $100 to over $250 and for my wife over $350.  In order to pay those bills we have had to cut back other places. Why can’t the government do the same?

Ready, Fire, Aim….

2015-10-07_13-12-55Gen. John F. Campbell, commander of the United States forces in Afghanistan, told a Senate panel on Tuesday that the hospital was “mistakenly struck” as a result of a decision “within the U.S. chain of command.”

Doctors Without Borders, which has likened the bombing to a war crime, said the purpose of the investigation would not be to establish criminal liability, but rather to clarify the laws of war and the conditions under which medical teams can operate in situations of armed conflict.

Source: Doctors Without Borders Calls for Inquiry Into Kunduz Hospital Attack – The New York Times

Doctors Without Borders is one of my favorite organizations. Their donors give so much without expecting anything in return. That is very unusual in today’s world. When I heard that a U.S. military operation bombed one of their hospitals I was devastated. The statement above is endemic to my conception of military leaders.

the hospital was “mistakenly struck” as a result of a decision “within the U.S. chain of command.”  

I hope someone “within the chain of command” is taken to task for this unnecessary death especially for doctors who volunteer to take care of the least of these.  We can’t allow the military leadership to decide when it is ok to kill innocents!

It seems to me, but what do I know, that too many within the military establishment are too focused on just getting the bad guys at any cost. They just seem to be ready-fire-aim type of guys. They call it “collateral damage” when they kill innocents in the process and somehow think that makes it ok.   The articles goes on to say that if we, the self proclaimed moralists of the world, think it is ok to destroy a Doctors Without Borders’ hospital that will allow everyone including those they fight so hard against to claim it is ok for them too.  I know Mr. Bush’s reasoning that torture was ok because we might save lives was against the Genova Convention too but I hope this incident doesn’t get included in the category also.

The Good Old Days…

2015-09-17_10-04-38a world that is boiling over in violence and cut-throat theocracy makes me nostalgic for the days it was merely “simmering in resentment and tyranny

Source: How the refugee crisis is teaching us the value of Hussein, Mubarak, and Gadhafi

Don’t we all wish for the “good old days” when Saddam ruled with an iron fist and as a result kept the lid on the Middle East.  Yeah his bravado rankled many but we for the most part just ignored him. He did kill thousands of his own people to maintain control but millions have been killed in the aftermath of his takedown by the U.S. military under their commander-in-chief George W. Bush.

Civil wars have tarnished history throughout time perhaps no more so than our own war over the right to own another person. The same can be said for religious wars. We seem to be a race that “MUST” always have an enemy in one form or another. If we don’t have one we search far and wide until we find one.  I often wonder if the other civilizations in the universe are as belligerent as we are or have they learned to coexist with each other?

Yeah we took down Saddam’s regime but I kind of think that the old saying “Be careful what you wish for as you just might get it” holds true here. There are perhaps thousands of lessons about needless wars in our past and we just never seem to fathom them especially when a new opportunity presents itself.

The U.S. has by a very wide margin the biggest war machine in the world. I wonder what would happen if we spent half the amount we spend on our weapons of destruction on finding a peaceful way to just get along.

I know that I am a naive idealist but isn’t thinking against the grain how paradigm shifts happen?

About Our Defense Budgets… An Historic Perspective..

2015-03-25_14-59-11Total U.S. defense spending (in inflation-adjusted dollars) has increased so much over the past decade that it has reached levels not seen since World War II, when the United States had 12 million people under arms and waged wars on three continents. Moreover, the U.S. share of global military expenditures has jumped from about one-third to about one-half in this same period. Some of this growth can be attributed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the baseline or regular defense budget has also increased significantly. It has grown in real terms for an unprecedented 13 straight years, and it is now $100 billion above what the nation spent on average during the Cold War. The fiscal year 2012 budget request of $553 billion is approximately the same level as Ronald Reagan’s FY 1986 budget. As a result of this “gusher” of defense spending—to quote former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates—Pentagon leaders have not been forced to make the hard choices between competing programs as they traditionally have. And the ballooning defense budget played a significant role in turning the budget surplus projected a decade ago into a massive deficit that forces the U.S. government to borrow 43 cents of every dollar it spends. As the nation attempts to bring this massive deficit—which chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen calls the greatest threat to our security—under control, leaders from both parties recognize that these unprecedented levels of defense expenditures cannot be maintained. The question currently facing Congress and President Barack Obama—how much to spend on defense in times of large deficits or in the final years of a war—is not new. Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton had to identify reasonable levels of defense expenditures as the United States transitioned from war spending to peacetime budgets, while President Ronald Reagan needed to control defense spending in the face of rising deficits. Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and George H.W. Bush confronted both scenarios at once, like President Obama today.

SOURCE: A Historical Perspective on Defense Budgets | Center for American Progress.

In looking at the chart above it is obvious that two American presidents are primarily responsible for most of our outrageous military spending. I don’t think I have to tell you which ones those are. Sadly, for the most part those increases in spending were matters of choice. Yes, the Iron Curtain was up for one president but it had been up long before he came into office.  Yes, a rag-tag bunch of fanatics managed to kill three thousand of our citizens with some box cutters but in the world scheme of things  more people than that have died daily in the world from lack of food and drinking water. If we had just gone after the rogues instead of invading nations that had nothing to do with the tragedy our military expenses would never have risen to such mammoth levels.

Can we continue to spend such levels in these times of rising deficits? Aren’t the deficits causing us more harm than the enemies we are supposedly facing. Fear just seem to be the primary driver of our nation today. We have long forgotten one of our most meaningful American quotes “All we have to fear is fear itself”. We need to just get over this paranoid fear that has come to grip us so  forcefully…

Will Our Gushing Military Spending Ever End?

I know there are many of U.S. citizens who have never known a time when our military spending did not dwarf everything else in our discretionary spending budgets. We just seem to be a nation that wants to be policemen of the world. We want to put our noses into every conflict we can find.  It doesn’t matter that in places like Iraq and Afghanistan they have been having the same battles for hundreds and sometimes thousands of years. We just can’t seem to find a conflict that we think we stay out of or can’t solve with our military might.

Only those of us over the age of forty have ever know a time when our military budgets haven’t dominated everything else. But in reality the vast majority of our over-blown war spending can be attributed to just two presidents, George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.  here is a little more about this. Check on the source to see the entire article.

2015-03-25_14-59-11

Total U.S. defense spending (in inflation-adjusted dollars) has increased so much over the past decade that it has reached levels not seen since World War II, when the United States had 12 million people under arms and waged wars on three continents. Moreover, the U.S. share of global military expenditures has jumped from about one-third to about one-half in this same period…. The ballooning defense budget played a significant role in turning the budget surplus projected a decade ago into a massive deficit that forces the U.S. government to borrow 43 cents of every dollar it spends. As the nation attempts to bring this massive deficit—which chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen calls the greatest threat to our security—under control, leaders from both parties recognize that these unprecedented levels of defense expenditures cannot be maintained. The question currently facing Congress and President Barack Obama—how much to spend on defense in times of large deficits or in the final years of a war—is not new. Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton had to identify reasonable levels of defense expenditures as the United States transitioned from war spending to peacetime budgets, while President Ronald Reagan needed to control defense spending in the face of rising deficits. Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and George H.W. Bush confronted both scenarios at once, like President Obama today.

SOURCE:  A Historical Perspective on Defense Budgets | Center for American Progress.

Given that historically we can and have reduced our military spending. It just takes a different point of view to make that happen. I don’t think that the GOP’s combination of inert fear of others and the bravado of getting the bad guys will go away anytime soon but historically we can almost count on that eventually happening again.  The big question as to when, is all about when  we as voters finally realize that we fear way too much and we can’t solve thousand-year old tribal battles on the other side of the world with our million dollar plus smart bombs and drones. It is very possible to drastically reduce our military spending with little or no difference to our security. It just takes more voters at the polls who realize that possibility.

Weighing Nuclear Option…

2015-03-16_09-11-08“We were ready to do it”

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he considered putting the country’s vast nuclear arsenal on alert to prevent outside agents from stopping the Kremlin’s forced annexation of the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine last year.

Putin’s admission was aired during a prerecorded documentary called Homeward Bound, which was broadcast on a state-backed television network Sunday in the run-up to the first anniversary of Crimea’s annexation later this week.

SOURCE: Vladimir Putin Admits to Weighing Nuclear Option During Crimea Conflict | TIME.

During our 30+ years of the Cold War and the nuclear standoff with the USSR a strategy was developed by the west called MAD. It stood for “Mutually Assured Destruction”. It went something like this. If the USSR bombs us with a nuclear weapon we will send off our entire nuclear arsenal on them and that will basically ensure that both countries, and probably the rest of the world, would be totally destroyed. The USSR then said we will do the same to you.  I’m sure that was constantly on the minds of both country’s leaders during those times.

Why do we constantly fear another country, rogue or not getting a nuclear weapon? The sixty year old technology is pretty much known to all the world’s scientists now. It is just a matter of getting the materials together to build one. We need a different deterrent to stop the spread of nuclear weapons than just trade embargoes and such. We need TAD, “Totally Assured Destruction”. That is the statement signed by all, or almost all, countries that says that if you use a nuclear weapon on another country the rest of the world will do whatever it takes to insure that your country is totally destroyed. No “if”, “ands” or “buts”. Your country is toast.

Can you image a hundred war machines immediately charging into Iran for example because they used a nuclear bomb on Israel. Would they really want to use a bomb under those circumstances? Of course part of this new tactic would require that the rest of the world start carrying their share of military might and that the US trim down our totally dominate war machine.  But wouldn’t that be a win-win scenario for everyone.

Let’s enact TAD and stop all these political games of one-upmanship that goes around a country buying aluminum cylinders..  Stop the current stupidity and come out plainly with “You use a nuclear bomb and your country will cease to exist”.

Occam’s Razor is a widely known theory that in its most basic form is “Keep things simple!“. That should apply here. We have prevented possible aggression with NATO in the past. Now it is time for TAD

Enough said….

On The Backs Of The Poor….

2015-03-16_08-52-01WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans now in charge of Congress offer their budget blueprint this week with the pledge to balance the nation’s budget within a decade and rein in major programs such as food stamps and Medicare. More pressing for many Republicans, however, is easing automatic budget cuts set to slam the military.

SOURCE:GOP to offer budget blueprint with Medicare, food stamp cuts – Yahoo Finance.

It is not accident that the GOP wants to take money away from helping  the poor and give it to our already super extravagant military budgets to the tune of exactly $50 billion on each budget. But that is just the first step in the process. The overall goal as the article mentions is to eliminate Medicaid and food stamps entirely from the federal budget and turn it over to the states. Can Medicare be very far behind??

As a stop gap measure the GOP wants to just throw a given lump sum of some undetermined value to the states and then walk away.  The problem with that strategy is that all the States must balance their budget but that is rightly not a requirement for the federal budget. Sending it to the States would mean that in times of downturns helping the poor would have to take a big hit. It is not as if suddenly just working two minimum wage jobs would meet a poor family’s needs during hard times.

Will all those senior citizens who vote exclusively GOP tolerate this happening? If their purse is robbed will they look for other political approaches? I kind of think they finally will. Yes, we have to do something about balancing our federal budgets but doing it on the backs of the poor and with no pain in the military budgets is NOT the way to do it.  We, 5% of the world’s population, spend more than the rest of the world combined on our war-machine.

If we just quit trying to be the policemen of the world and pared our military budgets to be on parity with everyone else our overall budgets would quickly balance. We don’t need to be hip deep in all regional conflicts in the world.  That practice just makes too many enemies who then want to do us harm. We need to step back and tell our world neighbors to take care of their own backyards and we will do the same.

PLEASE DON’T BALANCE OUR BUDGETS ON THE BACKS OF THE POOR.

The War Slush Fund….

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Take Action: Urge your member of Congress to close the Pentagon’s Overseas Contingency Operations account and to require all funds spent by the Pentagon to be part of its regular budget. Since 2011, almost the whole federal government has been operating under tight spending limits. Pentagon contractors (weapons manufacturers) were concerned about how these limits might affect their profits. Then their trade association leaders reminded them that the OCO account provides them a “cushion.” The Pentagon can use the OCO account to get around budget caps — and military contractors are pushing for even more money in this account. According to the Constitution, Congress controls military spending. Tell your member of Congress to take control of this slush fund, and require that the Pentagon be accountable for all of its spending through its regular budget.

The above notice came to me recently from my friends over at FCNL (Friends Committee on National Legislation) which is a Quaker organization promoting peacemakers instead of our never-ending rushes to war. It seems that the outrageous military budgets are still not enough for some so they created a slush fund to tide them over from any budget cuts.  We seem to always have more than enough money to spend more than the rest of the world combined on our war machine but never enough to try to promote peace.

America doesn’t trust its experts anymore

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It’s healthy to question expertise, but we need actual experts. The brilliance of the Fox News motto, “We report, you decide,” is that it encourages our vanity that we can know as much as anyone else, we can be experts, given a stream of carefully curated facts and opinion. MSNBC, which has a similar business/editorial model, is stuck with the less-empowering “Lean Forward.” There are a number of ways forward for expertise in America. We can become increasingly mistrustful of scientists, doctors, professors, bureaucrats, bankers, and other experts in their fields; or we can find a better way to filter out the would-be experts spreading misinformation; or we can continue disregarding all experts who don’t confirm what we already believe. Perhaps we’ll all suffer because we didn’t heed our experts, or perhaps our experts will win back our trust. SOURCE:  America doesn’t trust its experts anymore – The Week.

Experts are someone who has spent sometimes years studying a particular part of life. They have looked at it from many different angles and views. They have studied the background information that made this topic what it is.  There are also experts who bring us the goods and services that we so need in a modern society and some that we don’t need but insist on having. I spent thirty years becoming an expert in my field and would like to think that I contributed to society by my contributions.

But there are some who absolutely refuse to recognize expertise, especially in the areas that they think they know better. My wife, bless her soul, is one of those people who refuses to accept any validity to statistics. She thinks none of it is valid. Unfortunately there are those, who are usually Fox News viewers, who think their opinions are worth as much or more than those who have spent much time studying the subject.  There are just too many of us who think we know it all but in reality have much of it simply wrong.  We seem to cling to our prejudices instead of knowledge in too many areas of life. We need trust experts to help us understand things they we don’t have the time to spend to study them ourselves.  But then again there are some areas that where we need to rigorously question even the experts.

I find it unfathomable how many people think our military is the most trusted institution in America.  I kind of think this poll represented one portion of our population more than others. Trust in our institutions has been constantly decreasing for several decades in America and one of those institutions that is falling out of favor is organized religion. Forty years ago more than two-thirds of us had a total trust in it. Now that number has decreased by more than a third. Less than half of us have much trust in organized religion and that is tragic. A big part of that lack of trust is likely due to the political allegiances of so many in those institutions cling to.

 

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We just don’t seem to be able to know who to trust anymore??

ISIS has Advanced Surface-to-air Missiles!!

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I remember the details of the Vietnam war still today. While my hearing impairment kept me out of it I did lose several good friends to that totally unnecessary war.  One thing I remember is the daily body counts from the DOD of Viet Kong killed. It was acknowledged later that these numbers were grossly over counted.  It seems that the military establishment thought they could get unlimited funds if they show us that the “enemy” was much stronger than it really was. I think that mentality still reigns today inside that pentagon shaped monolith in Washington DC.

The news today is almost 24/7 about ISIS, that is the extreme muslim group determined to reek jihad on the rest of the world. It is impossible to really say outside the DOD spin just how many belong to that group but their hatred of things non-muslim is very obvious indeed. The almost daily beheadings that happen now are meant to strike terror among us and they seem to accomplish that task.  But how much do we need to do to eradicate ISIS?

I’m sure that behind the scenes the Pentagon is asking for trillions of more dollars in their budgets in order to take on these hate-mongers. I am certainly not a military strategist but it seems pretty simple to me. Cut off their source of funding and they will evaporate. Cut off their source of supplies and they will become a toothless old lion. I am afraid that Mr. Obama will eventually give in to those who want us to send in our troops to take them out. If he does he will likely get us into another endless war….

What we should be doing is to find the people or countries that are giving them the missile launchers and retaliate against them. Almost all banking today , including ISIS funding happens electronically so drying up their bank accounts is very doable. We don’t need to get down in the mud with the ISIS gutter mongers, we just need to cut off their sources and they will go away.

I kind of think the same thing is going on with all these terrorist’s groups lately. In my gut, for what that is worth which is nothing, I kind of suspect that ISIS is a pretty small and in terms of power pretty inconsequential. We don’t need trillions of buck to eliminate their effect today. When I read the above “speed read” from my friends at The Week the first thing that I thought of is that we should be spending our resources against those who are funding ISIS instead of its ragtag members.

Is It Worth It???

2014-09-04_09-31-04If it were challenged by Russia, how important is Estonia’s sovereignty to you? Would you kill and die for it? Send your children to do so? Would you risk the nuclear annihilation of your civilization? Is your gratitude for use of Estonia’s airspace during the war on terror that great?

SOURCE: Don’t save Ukraine – The Week.

The publication “The Week” is becoming a favorite of mine. It is from a British organization so it lends a different viewpoint than most traditional U.S. sources.  It seems to have the same contrarian philosophy as me. When we take away all the spin of being the “policemen of the world” is preventing part of a country’s population from splitting off into a different allegiance worth billions of our dollars and more importantly thousands of American kids lives? That should be the first question we ask ourselves whenever we get involved in yet another conflict on the other side of the world.  I know my answer to that question and I suspect you know yours without hesitation.

North Korea’s military is falling apart

Nearly 25 years later, the North Korean People’s Army, Navy, and Air Force are relics of a different era. Nearly everything is obsolete. North Korean tanks and armored fighting vehicles are up to 50 years old. This summer, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was photographed onboard an old Romeo-class submarine, an antiquated design first produced in the 1950s. The North Korean Air Force is only slightly better off; its newest fighter jets are now 25 years old most are closer to 50.Not only is the equipment obsolete, it’s becoming unusable. Late last year during naval exercises, two North Korean People’s Navy patrol boats sank within days of each other, killing tens of North Korean sailors. On June 24, a helicopter exploded in midair.One major problem: North Korean equipment is so old nobody makes spare parts anymore. For years the military has cannibalized some equipment in order to keep the rest running. The fact that three MiG-19s have crashed in the span of seven months is a strong indication that cannibalization is no longer working and entire types of equipment are overdue for a trip to the junk heap. SOURCE: North Korea’s military is falling apart — is Kim Jong Un’s regime next? – The Week.

The above article is good news but also bad news.  We just might be able to see some light at the end of the Korean tunnel. As more and more of their military equipment breaks down the North Korean despot will lose more and more power. But that is also the bad news.  As he loses power he will likely strike out on a last ditch effort to maintain his stranglehold. I know he is frantically trying to build a nuclear bomb and if he manages I have little doubt that he would use it!

 

America Stands Alone…

2014-08-03_10-52-27I just finished watching a Shields/Brooks segment of the PBS Newshour where Mark Shields made the statement that “America stands alone in its unflinching support of the current actions of Israel. He mentioned that almost all of the EU countries and other developed nations are condemning the atrocities that are being put upon the Palestinian people. Even though I have for the most part boycotted this area of life, his statement got me to thinking about it. So, here goes. As they say fools rush in where…

The latest toll is something like 60 Israeli soldiers killed and over 1900 Palestinians, mostly civilians, killed!  It seems that whenever and Israeli soldier is killed they think they must kill 50 people in revenge. With this almost indiscriminate bombing I can certainly understand why there is so much hatred of Israel in that part of the world. The Isrealis seem to have almost no sense of “collateral damage”. They seem to deem it totally acceptable to bomb schools full of children and U.N. facilities because another very crude “rocket” was launched from that general area.

Now don’t get me wrong, I do not have any sympathy for Hamas who has been inciting much of this violence. They are a very small minority thug organization who if they had the power that Isreal has would be doing worse to their enemy. To hold all the people in Gaza accountable for Hamas’ actions is kind of like us nuking Atlanta because the KKK bombed a government building somewhere.

2014-08-05_08-26-47This whole debacle seems very much like a “David vs Goliath” but this time it is a Jewish Goliath. The response to a crude missile being fired into Israel they destroy yet another Gaza neighborhood, women children and all. I recently saw a report that Israel is asking the U.S. to ship them an emergency supply of bombs and missiles as they are quickly running out with their current vendetta. At least a “cease fire” might actually come if they do run out of bombs and laser guided missiles.  The U.S. currently give them about $3 billion a year of our military hardware. What are the limits to where we as a country say enough is enough with the disproportionate killing in the Middle East?

Why are so many of our politicians, including the current president, sitting back and saying nothing? Why do we continue to send them our bombs to kill so many innocents along with a few bad guys?  Is there nothing they can do that we will find unconscionable? Yes, I agree that they have a right to exist but there are limits to what they need to do to convince themselves that they feel safe.

Enough said. I will get off my soapbox now and try ignore such things for as long as I can before chiming in again.

 

Injured Warriors….

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It has happened throughout humanity’s history. When our country/tribe feels threatened by one thing or another and we go to war many of our young men rush to enlist.They see adventures in war. They think it will turn back the boredom of their daily lives. I don’t think there has been a teenager in existence that doesn’t feel a lack of stimulation during those years. They all have some grandiose vision of having a uniform and fighting the bad guys.  The teenage years are vexing to most of us.  Our brains are not fully formed so we often have an incomplete vision of life.

Our young men, and now our young women, rush to war. They don’t seem to contemplate the reasons for the war. They don’t know the trauma of taking another life. All they see is the glamor and maybe to some degree a sense of duty.  “My country needs me”.

The realities of war do not sink in until they are knee deep in it. Isaac Sims found out that war is something other than glamor. It is death and many dead bodies. I recently watched an American Experience episode entitled Death and the Civil War. It showed the realities of those times.  Over 750,000 were killed and many times that  amount seriously wounded, and that was with a total U.S. population of only 30 million.

I will admit up front that I have no experiences with the military establishments of today. All I know I learned from stories. But I have heard that many generals just don’t take PTSD seriously. They see it as just the weaklings who can’t stomach the realities of war. To them real men just do their duty and disregard what they see.

 

No one should have to see what this young Isaac Sims did!

Privatizing Prisons…

For-profit prisons have now become the norm throughout our country. We now leave it up to others to house those who we deem unfit for society. Some, especially fiscal conservatives, say that is a good thing.  After all doesn’t the private sector always do it better than the public one.  Doesn’t the drive for profit always mean a better way of doing it?

Here are some sobering statistics about this:

PrisonThe biggest private prison owner in America, The Corrections Corporation of America, has seen its profits increase by more than 500% in the past 20 years. Moreover, the business’ growth shows no sign of stopping, having already approached 48 states to take over government-run prisons. One way for-profit prisons to minimize costs is by skimping on provisions, including food. A psychiatrist who investigated a privately run prison in Mississippi found that the inmates were severely underfed and looked “almost emaciated.” During their incarceration, prisoners dropped anywhere from 10 to 60 pounds.

100% of all military helmets, ID tags, bullet-proof vests and canteens are created in federal prison systems through prison labor. Though prisoners are “generously” compensated cents per hour, it’s clear having this inexpensive, exploited labor force is critical to the military industrial complex. States sign agreements with private prisons to guarantee that they will fill a certain number of beds in jail at any given point. The most common rate is 90%, though some prisons are able to snag a 100% promise from their local governments.

Because of these contracts, the state is obligated to keep prisons almost full at all times or pay for the beds anyway, so the incentive is to incarcerate more people and for longer in order to fill the quota. Violent crimes are down overall, so how does the United States keep prisons stocked instead? Amplifying the war on drugs: there are now 11 times as many people in jail for drug convictions than there were in 1980, constituting 50% of the prison population. Longer mandatory minimum sentences also keeps the inmates in longer. Most people incarcerated for drug charges are non-violent, have no prior record, and are addicts rather than major drug-traffickers. The three largest for-profit prison corporations have spent more than $45 million on campaign donations and lobbyists to keep politicians on the side of privatized incarceration. In light of all of their ethical violations, it’s obvious that they have to offer some incentive for keeping their business legal. SOURCE: For-Profit Prisons: 8 Statistics That Show the Problems | Care2 Causes.

I will let you decide whether all of the above is a good thing.  For those of you who think it is, let’s drop the other shoe.  Let’s privatize our armed forces. Think of all the money we could save. We could layoff soldiers during those few times when we are not at war with someone. We could sell off the Pentegon or at least give it a corporate name.  How about Halliburton World Headquarters?   I’ll bet we could make a bundle off of that place. I’m sure all the statistics above could easily be duplicated for our defense establishment as they are for our prison system.  What do you think???? PRIVATIZE is the name of the game isn’t it??

Let Them Do Their Own Fighting….

2014-01-15_09-20-30“If we can just let other people alone and let them do their own fighting. When you get into trouble 5,000 miles away from home, you’ve got to have been looking for it” – Will Rogers, 9 February 1932

The world is a much smaller place now than it was in 1932 when Will spoke these words. The first multiple channel trans-Atlantic cable would not be laid for almost 25 years and communications satellites where also decades away. 1932 was just the beginning of our addiction to the automobile so it would be again decades before we became dependent on middle-Eastern oil. The world is a much smaller place now…

But I still kind of believe that Will got it right even for today. We seem to go out of our way to find some use for our massive military complex. I see the recent budget agreement tacked another $60 billion for Afghanistan on top of the other $600 billion already approved. Those yahoos just can’t spend enough money on our fighting capabilities or too little on our peace making efforts. If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail…

The Campaign to Kill Killer Robots Gains Steam…

2013-10-27_09-10-12A slew of reports over the last two weeks detailing cases of U.S. armed drones killing civilians signaled a new wave of outrage over the unregulated use of drones by the U.S. There was one report from the United Nations, another from Human Rights Watch, and one from Amnesty International. The uproar—and the sense that Washington has done little to make more transparent its use of drones—culminated in a debate Friday at the UN.

But a parallel movement has emerged to make sure that a different and perhaps more terrifying technology never makes it this far.

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is a coalition of weapons monitors and human rights groups leading an effort, formally since April, to establish an international ban on fully autonomous lethal weapons. Dubbed (by opponents) “killer robots,” it’s a technology that can kill targets (humans) without any human input. Whereas drones today have someone somewhere remotely determining where and when to fire, a fully autonomous air, land, or sea weapon could be making the decisions on its own.

SOURCE:  The Campaign to Kill Killer Robots Gains Steam | TIME.com.

A World Gone Mad???

2013-11-14_16-48-53The snapshot above was from a Time Magazine article about the 25 best inventions for 2013. Many of the inventions they noted were pretty frivolous in nature but not this one.  Of course we all should have expected that our current drone program is only the beginning. There are trillions of dollars more to be made by our military industrial complex before drones have run their course. This is just a logical next step.  Before long we will be able to kill thousands of our enemies, along with those deemed “collateral damage”, and still make it home for supper!! And this was developed during the administration of a president that won  the Nobel Peace Price in his first year in office and vowed to keep us out of more wars!!  I am afraid that this is just the beginning of a world gone mad.

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