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?

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