(From the AARP Magazine, May/June 2010 issue)
The true cost of American wars is much higher than what is spent in Supplemental Appropriations each year. It is also the cost of permanent medical care for the troops who are sent overseas to kill and who come home maimed in body and mind–and their loved ones. Over the years Congress has passed bills granting veterans generous benefits, but it doesn’t publicize them, and it doesn’t always make them easy to get, either–Dave
Last Memorial Day, Sue Christensen had a revelation. A retired nurse administrator, Christensen, then 83, was laying a wreath at the veterans’ monument in East Norriton, Pennsylvania, when she heard a speaker at the remembrance ceremony say that many vets suffer lingering problems from their wartime service—and don’t realize they could receive help from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). “It suddenly hit me,” recalls Christensen. “For 57 years I’ve suffered from panic attacks. Could it be from my time in the Navy?”
Like the cop who batters someone senseless at a demonstration and then accuses the victim of “banging his head against my baton,” Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused the victims of Israel’s brutal military assault on a peace convoy to Gaza of attacking Israeli soldiers. An Israeli deputy ambassador to the UN went further, saying, “What kind of peace activists use knives, clubs and other weapons to attack soldiers who board a ship in accordance with international law?”
Let’s straighten this out. The question to be asked is: what kind of country
sends heavily armed troops to assault a boat filled with unarmed, peaceful civilians, and slaughters nine or more of them as if they were enemy troops in a war zone?
It’s Memorial Day Weekend and I am sick to death of the glorification of war in America.
And I am even sicker of politicians who wrap themselves in the bloody flag and try to rub off some of the stench of death from the bodies of those who have died, mostly in vain for worthless causes, in hopes that taking on some of the odor will cause them to be perceived as admirable patriots themselves.
President George W. Bush, who dodged danger in the Vietnam War by signing up for the Texas National Guard and then ducked even that domestic duty, and Vice President Dick Cheney who used five different excuses to duck military service, morbidly rubbed themselves with that flag for eight long years, even as they sent hundreds of thousands of young men and women into harm’s for their own personal political advantage.
President Barack Obama (who also avoided military service), continued this obscene tradition when, in his weekly PR address to the nation, he urged Americans to “leave a flower” on the grave of a soldier who died in one of America’s wars “so the rest of us might inherit the blessings of this nation.” Obama is also sending young Americans to kill and die halfway around the world in a war that has no purpose other than to demonstrate his political “toughness.” Yet he disingenuously declares that it was “to preserve America and advance the ideals we cherish” that “led patriots in each generation to sacrifice their own lives to secure the life of our nation, from the trenches of World War I to the battles of World War II, from Inchon and Khe Sanh, from Mosul to Marja.”
What utter crap and nonsense!
Even as BP’s blown well a mile beneath the surface in the Gulf of Mexico continues to gush forth an estimated 70,000 barrels of oil a day into the sea, and the fragile wetlands along the Gulf begin to get coated with crude, which is also headed into the Gulf Stream for a trip past the Everglades and on up the East Coast, the company is demanding that Canada lift its tight rules for drilling in the icy Beaufort Sea portion of the Arctic Ocean.
Let me make a postulate: In a democracy, if there is a legislative proposal that would significantly benefit 80 percent of the population and cost them nothing, and that would be paid for by a insignificant tax on the richest 20 percent of the population, who themselves would receive some benefit from the added tax, that proposal would be overwhelmingly approved.
If you accept that postulate, you would have to conclude that the US is no longer a functioning democracy.
President Obama claims to have learned a lesson from the disastrous blowout of British Petroleum drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico: a “cozy relationship” between the agency that regulates oil drilling, the Minerals Management Service, and the oil industry, he charges, allowed companies to drill in vulnerable offshore areas without properly assessing the risks to the ocean and its ecology.
He’s only just figuring this out?
When I lived in Hong Kong back in the ‘90s, I was surrounded by gamblers. Everyone, from wealthy bankers to stuggling street vendors, bet on everything from the horses to the stock market–and they were all well aware that there was not much difference between the two. Horse-racing was a guessing game for the masses, and a rigged deal for those in the know. But so was the stock market, with the prices of key stocks controlled by oligarchs who could pass inside information to key associates, and, increasingly, by Chinese government authorities who could make decisions that would pump up the shares of Chinese firms listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange–the so-called “Red Chips.”
Americans are learning that our vaunted financial markets are no different.
Look at what happened on May 6, when the equities markets plunged by 10 percent in minutes, and some big companies, including Procter & Gamble, one of the companies in the 30-stock Dow Industrials Index, fell by over 30 percent briefly.
With British Petroleum spewing more than 200,000 gallons of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico in what could be an ecological cataclysm, it is useful to look at the hypocrisy of the energy companies when it comes to an even worse crisis threatening life itself on the planet–rapid climate change due to increasing carbon in the atmosphere.
For years, the oil industry, and especially its largest company, Exxon Mobil, has been funding foundations and scientists that seek to refute the mounting evidence of global warming. A recent Greenpeace study, released in March, found that Exxon Mobil was second only to Koch Industries in offering financial backing for these climate change deniers. Between 2005 and 2008, Koch Industries, a privately held oil firm based in Texas, gave $24.9 million to anti-global warming scientists and foundations. Exxon Mobil, over the same period, gave $8.9 million.
Shrinking polar cap opens new oil drilling opportunities
Heavily criticized for its climate denial propaganda and lobbying, Exxon Mobil claimed in 2006 that it would no longer fund such activities. It has continued to do so, however, though a stealth campaign of funding foundations like the Atlas Economic Research Foundation and International Policy Network in the UK and the Cato and Heritage Foundations in the US, all of which themselves give money to the climate change deniers.
Other oil companies, like Shell, Chevron and others, do the same thing but at a lower level and with a lower profile than Exxon Mobil.
But here’s where the hypocrisy and lying become chutzpah.
One thing you don’t hear much mention of in all the coverage of the BP oil rig blowout that is now pouring 210,000 gallons of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico, just a few dozen miles off the coast of Louisiana, is the 2010 hurricane season, which officially starts on June 1, but which can start significantly earlier.
This is, after all, an El Nino year, so storms could be more frequent and stronger than usual. In 2007, recall, the first storm of the season was Tropical Storm Andrea, which reached a size strong enough to merit a name on May 7, just a week later than today.
The former Los Angeles police chief, Daryl Gates, who died late last month of cancer at his home in California, is being widely credited in mostly laudatory newspaper obituaries as the man who developed the idea of Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT)units–those paramilitary police teams so loved by Hollywood filmmakers–who bring the art and weaponry of modern warfare into communities, breaking into houses with faces covered in ski masks, and carrying assault weapons in order to make arrests for often minor offenses, or blowing away people–often innocent people–in what the modern military c