Happy Birthday Jed! You're on the Rolls as a Potential Draftee in America's Wars

America’s wars came home today in the mail, with a letter from the Selective Service. Enclosed was my son Jed’s draft card, just a week ahead of his 18th birthday.

The card, which unlike the ones in my day, comes in technicolor, arrived along with a glossy brochure advertising the US military as: “The career you were born to pursue.”

The card featured a color photograph of a bunch of Army recruits jogging towards the reader wearing gray T’s and camo pants. Over the head of each of these runners was a career: scuba diver, computer software engineer, occupational therapist, firefighter, public relations, accountant, human services assistant, interpreter, musician, journalist…etc.

The journalist, appropriately, was buried behind the pack, so all you could see was about two thirds of her face. You might say she was “embedded” in the group.

Left out of these military careers were some important ones though: trained killer, sniper, spy, mass murderer, propagandist, wheelchair-bound amputee, depleted uranium cancer victim, homeless untreated PTSD sufferer, guilt-ridden survivor, incarcerated or dishonorably-discharged war resister.

The mailing also said nothing about the option of declaring one’s self a conscientious objector against war.
Jed Lindorff, potential draft resisterJed Lindorff, potential draft resister

Not Licensed to Kill: America's Imperious Attitude in Pakistan is Wearing Thin

There was a truly bizarre and telling paragraph at the end of a Wall Street Journal news report today on Pakistan’s demand that the US bring home hundreds of CIA and Special Forces personnel operating undercover in that country, and that it halt the drone strikes in the border regions abutting Afghanistan, which have been killing countless civilian men, women and children.

Reporters Adam Entous and Matthew Rosenberg, with no sense of irony, wrote:

The US hasn’t committed to adjusting the drone program in response to Pakistan’s request. The CIA operates covertly, meaning the program doesn’t require Islamabad’s support, under US law. Some officials say the CIA operates with relative autonomy in the tribal areas. They played down the level of support they now receive from Pakistan.

Let’s parse this astonishing clip a bit. Earlier in the story, in fact in the lead, the article states that Pakistan has “privately demanded” that the CIA halt the drone strikes and pull out most of the CIA and Special Forces personnel operating in the country. But by the end of the article, we learn that the country is “requesting” a halt to attacks by the US on its own territory and people. But more odd is this notion that because the CIA is a covert agency, its operations don’t need Pakistan’s support under US law.

Excuse me for asking, but what exactly does US law have to do with whether or not the CIA needs another government’s support for it to operate in that country legally?

Missile-firing US drones have killed hundreds of innocent civilians in PakistanMissile-firing US drones have killed hundreds of innocent civilians in Pakistan

In Praise of Older, More Experienced Teachers

Back in the late 1980s, when I lived in a little town in rural Upstate New York called Spencer, I joined the local library board, eventually ending up through default becoming president of the board. We ran a dinky one-room library with a dedicated part-time librarian. The back of the library was piled with boxes of books that could not be shelved for lack of space. For years, the board had been trying to raise funds to expand the library, which was an adjunct to the local firehouse. After finally raising most of the cash needed through donations, we decided to approach the local Lions Club to ask for a check. Our vice president, Sharon Haefele, feisty co-owner of a little mom-and-pop cable TV operation in town, offered to make the pitch. She asked for $1000 of the proceeds of the next summer’s little annual Lions Club town picnic. The club president, a local businessman, replied, “What do we need a library for anyhow? I haven’t read a book in years!” Haefle’s response was memorable.

“I’m not surprised to hear you say that Tom,” she said, “but I am surprised to hear you say it in public.”

Let’s face it. Among the business and political elite, education, and anything connected to learning, like a library, is not valued. At best it is viewed as a way to train docile workers, and to regiment children into conformity.

In fact when it comes to education, the popular thing today in American politics is trashing experienced teachers.

Politicians like Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin (who never finished college), Gov. John Kasich of Ohio and Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, and myriad members of the House and Senate who were at best B students in high school and in many cases worse, are saying the key to educational “reform” is ending tenure and seniority so that older teachers can be trashed in mid-career to be replaced by supposedly high-performing young replacements.

My English Teacher Sandy Taylor offered a reading list of banned booksMy high school English Teacher Sandy Taylor offered a reading list of banned books

Toxic Intervention: Are NATO Forces Poisoning Libya with Depleted Uranium as They 'Protect' Civilians?

President Obama’s criminal launch of an undeclared and Congressionally unauthorized war against Libya may be compounded by the crime of spreading toxic uranium oxide in populated areas of that country.

This is latest concern of groups like the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons, which monitor the military use of so-called depleted-uranium (DU) anti-tank and bunker-penetrating shells.

Images of Libyan civilians and rebels celebrating around the burning hulks of the Libyan army’s tanks and armored personnel carriers, which had been hit by US, French and British aircraft ordnance in the early hours of the US-led assault on the forces of Col. Muammar Gaddafy, could well have been unknowingly inhaling the deadly dust of the uranium weapons favored by Western military forces for anti-tank warfare.

Libyan rebels celebrate on burning Gaddafy military vehicle may be inhaling toxic uranium oxideLibyan rebels celebrating on burned-out Gaddafy military vehicle may be unknowingly inhaling toxic uranium oxide

Specifically, the British-built Harrier jets used by British naval air forces and also by US Marine pilots, are often equipped with pod-mounted cannons that fire 20 mm shells–shells that often have uranium projectiles designed to penetrate heavy armor.

So far, the US has not introduced its A-10 Thunderbolts, known also as Warthogs, into the Libyan campaign, probably because these sub-sonic, straight-wing craft, while heavily armored, are vulnerable to shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles which Libyan forces are known to possess in large numbers. Once the air-control situation is improved by continued bombardment, however, these specialized ground-attack aircraft will probably be added to the attacking forces. The A-10 has a particularly large automatic cannon which fires an unusually large 30 mm shell. These shells are often fitted with solid uranium projectiles for attacking tanks, APCs or groups of fighters holed up in concrete bunkers.

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UPDATE (3/31/11)! The US has now begun flying A-10s over Libya, which means it is even more likely that DU shells are being used against Gaddafy’s armor and military emplacements.

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CIA Contractor Raymond Davis Sprung from Murder Rap in Pakistan after US Pays 'Blood Money'

 
Raymond Davis, the CIA contractor indicted for the murder of two young Pakistani motorcyclists, whom he gunned down in the back in broad daylight through his car windshield in a busy section of Lahore, Pakistan, has been freed, after the payment of $2.34 million in “blood money,” called diyya, to relatives of the two slain men.

The surprise “deal,” which Pakistani news reports are saying appears to have been forced on the relatives of the two men, who up to March 15 had insisted they wanted no blood money but only justice, was announced in a court session March 16 in Lahore, at which the prosecution’s case of murder was to have been presented.
There were angry protests in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad on word of the pardon of DavisThere were angry protests in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad on word of the pardon of Davis
 

Both the US Ambassador, who expressed regret for the killings and gratitude to the victims’ families for their “generosity” in agreeing to the pardon, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, denied that they had paid any blood money for a deal, but that did not mean the CIA didn’t put up the cash. The New York Times (which withheld for two weeks at the behest of the White House information it had that Davis was a CIA contractor, even as it reported the official US lie that he was a “diplomat”) is reporting that a “new” counsel” representing the families of Davis’s victims, Raja Irshad, is saying the blood money was paid by the Pakistani government, but it, and the Wall Street Journal, are both also reporting that the US is reimbursing Pakistan. A more likely ultimate source of the funds is the CIA, which operates with a “black budget,” free of outside scrutiny.

The integrity of this “deal” is in question, though, with Pakistani media reporting that the two families suspiciously “went missing” several days before the hearing, with some having been seen taken away by unidentified men. They were delivered, also by unidentified men, to the court the day of the hearing, where each was asked by the judge if they pardoned Davis, and if they had received the blood money required under the country’s Sharia Law. Each reportedly replied affirmatively to both questions.

The 19 have subsequently vanished, leading to charges in Pakistan that they were compelled to accept a deal, and have subsequently left the country, fearing retaliation from groups that were demanding that Davis face trial for murder.

Hate to Say It, but We Told You So!

It seems rather silly now, doesn’t it, all the US concern about terrorism?

The nuclear crisis in Japan, which continues to worsen, threatens to become a total multiple meltdown, combined with the perhaps even more disastrous explosion and fire in one or several spent fuel rod ponds. If any of these things happen, not to mention many of them, several hundred square miles of Japan would be rendered indefinitely uninhabitable, costing hundreds of billions of dollars. And it could be worse. If the winds are blowing south during such a disaster, all of Tokyo, which has a metropolitan population of over 30 million, could have to be evacuated.

A study by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission back in 1997, found that one spend fuel disaster could devastate almost 200 square miles of the US, and cause half a trillion dollars in damage!

And we’re spending hundreds of billions of dollars a year chasing after a few thousand ragtag Taliban fighters and supposedly pursuing a few hundred Arab terrorists, most of whom are fighting back with their shoes and their underwear?

So where is the real risk to America’s security?

Well, for starters, we could consider the 23 nuclear plants currently operating in the US that were built by General Electric using the same basic flawed design as those that are blowing up in Fukushima, Japan right now. Those plants, which are located in my state of Pennsylvania, as well as everywhere from Alabama to Nebraska and Vermont, are as much as 40 years old. They are only still in operation today because the NRC is such an industry-captive regulator that it has granted them long license extensions running way past their sell-by date. It has even given many of them the okay to run at capacities exceeding 100% of design standards!

There are other plants, also creaky with age, such as the ones in San Onofre and Diablo Canyon, California, which were knowingly built within a few miles of major earthquake faults–faults which could produce earthquakes on a scale of the one that just hit Japan. Both those facilities were designed to allegedly be able to survive (when new) a 7.5 quake. That was an untestable assertion of faith, but in any case, with an 8, an 8.5 or a 9, all bets would be off.

The Idiocy and Hubris of Engineers: Will GE Get Whacked for the Catastrophic Failure of its Nuke Plants in Fukushima?

GE, the company that boasts that it “brings good things to life,” was the designer of the nuclear plants that are blowing up like hot popcorn kernels at the Fukushima Dai-ichi generating plant north of Tokyo that was hit by the double-whammy of a 9.0 earthquake and a huge tsunami.

The company may escape tens or hundreds of billions of dollars in liability from this continuing disaster, which could still result in a catastrophic total meltdown of one or more of the reactors (as of this writing three of the reactors are reported to have suffered explosions and partial meltdowns, and all could potentially become more serious total meltdowns with a rupture of the reactor container), thanks to Japanese law, which makes the operator–in this case Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) liable. But if it were found that it was design flaws by GE that caused the problem, presumably TEPCO or the Japanese government could pursue GE for damages.

In fact, the design of these facilities–a design which, it should be noted, was also used in 23 nuclear plants operating in the US in Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Vermont–appear to have included serious flaws, from a safety perspective.

The drawings of the plants in question, called Mark I Reactors, provide no way for venting hydrogen gas from the containment buildings, despite the fact that one of the first things that happens in the event of a cooling failure is the massive production of hydrogen gas by the exposed fuel rods in the core. This is why three of the nuclear generator buildings at Fukushima Dai-ichi have exploded with tremendous force blasting off the roof and walls of the structures, and damaging control equipment needed to control the reactors.

One would have thought that design engineers at GE would have thought about that fact, and provided venting systems for any hydrogen gas being vented in an emergency into the building. But no. They didn’t.
 A second GE nuclear reactor building at Fukushima Dai-ishi suffers a hydrogen gas explosion.There goes the neighborhood: A second GE nuclear reactor building at Fukushima Dai-ishi suffers a hydrogen gas explosion.

Word Games: Most US Media Hide an American Atrocity in Afghanistan Behind 'NATO' and Fudge the Victims' Ages

The people of Afghanistan know who was flying the two helicopter gunships that brutally hunted down and slaughtered, one by one, nine boys apparently as young as seven years old, as they gathered firewood on a hillside March 1. In angry demonstrations after the incident, they were shouting “Death to America.”

Americans are still blissfully unaware that their “heroes” in uniform are guilty of this obscene massacre. The ovine US corporate media has been reporting on this story based upon a gutless press release from the Pentagon which attributes the “mistake” to “NATO” helicopters.

The thing is, this terrible incident occurred in the Pech Valley in Afghanistan’s Kunar province, where US forces have for several years been battling Taliban forces, and from which region they are now in the process of withdrawing. Clearly then, it is US, and not “NATO” helicopters which have been responding to calls to attack “suspected Taliban forces.”

So why can’t the Pentagon say that? And if they won’t say that, why won’t American reporters either demand that they clearly state the nationality of whatever troops commit an atrocity, or exercise due diligence themselves and figure it out?

There is a second issue too. Most publications appear to have followed the lead of the highly compromised New York Times, and are going with the Pentagon line that the boys who were killed were aged 9-15. That’s bad enough. It’s hard to see how helicopter pilots with their high-resolution imaging equipment, cannot tell a 9-year-old boy when they see one, from a bearded Taliban fighter. But at least one news organization, the McClachy chain, is reporting that the ages of the boys who were murdered from the air were 7-13. If that latter range of ages is correct, then it is all the more outrageous that they were picked off one by one by helicopter gunners. No way could they have mistaken a 7-year-old for an adult.
 Taking out little boys in AfghanistanUS helicopter gunship: Taking out little boys in Afghanistan