Thursday, August 23, 2007

And So it Begins.....

General Petraeus’s report on the “progress” in Iraq isn’t even completed yet and already the spinning has begun. This highly anticipated report, due next month from the top U.S commander in Iraq General David Petraeus, is expected to have a large impact on public opinion and future Iraq policy. The spinning was subtle at first, like when the Bush administration kept asking lawmakers and the public “to withhold judgment on the troop surge” until the report was released, and when Defense Secretary Gates announced that he would wait until the report was released before he would discuss a troop drawdown.

But lately the White House has ramped it up a bit with President Bush publicly supporting Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki (even while the intelligence community doubts his ability to lead), and with GWB’s recent comparison of the Iraq civil war to the Vietnam experience.
While most academics and Vietnam veterans consider the comparison tenuous at best, the “parallels” regarding the perils of troop reduction is being made in several speeches by GWB as an “effort to "provide broader context" for the debate over the upcoming Iraq progress report.” And it has just been reported that a multi-million dollar advertising campaign to support Bush's position is about to be unleashed.

With almost two-thirds of Americans now opposed to this war, the White House and Congressional republicans are getting mighty nervous about this report.
And so the stage is being set.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Supporting the Troops

OK, I admit it, I'm a little confused. To listen to the current Administration and all it's propagandists in the media, it's a simple truism that Democrats could care less about our military troops while the Republicans, ever the patriots, always support the troops no matter what.

Right? Isn't that what you hear on practically every talk show on the radio and TV?

But let us think abut this......the Democrats have passed a pay raise for miltary personnel (as much as 1/4-1/3 of the military enlisted earn so little that they are eligible for food stamps). This pay raise was conducted over the OBJECTIONS of the Republicans by the way.

The Dems also voted for an additional $3.4 billion for military readiness and equipment and, in preparing for when the troops finally do come home, have passsed legislation to increase emergency funding for veteran's health care by $3.7 billion, as well as passing the largest veteran's package in the 77 year history of the Veteran's Administration.

By comparison, the current Administration recklessly put our troops in harm's way without a coherent entrance and exit strategy, without the proper, safe equipment (remember the body armor fiasco?), without effective leadership, and, perhaps worst of all, they blatantly lied to these troops as to the reasons why they were going to be put in harm's way in the first place.

The Pentagon also "supported" their troops by trying to blame junior personnel for the now infamous Abu Ghraib incident, by trying to cover up the Pat Tilman murder, and by extending length and numbers of tours in Iraq to inhumane levels.

What do we have to show for the Republican's patriotic hard work and military loyalty?
The Army's suicide rate is at a 26 year high, 1 in 5 vets have signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, divorce rates are through the roof, and 35% of them are seeking mental heath advice to deal with this war.

Someone please explain to me who is supporting whom?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Things to Ponder...

Number of the 121 U.S. biofuel refineries that have been cited by the EPA since 2004 for polluting: 54

Chances that a US worker in 1990 drove to and from work alone: 3 in 4
Chances today: 4 in 5

Average annual cost to taxpayers of a US government intelligence officer: $126,500
Average annual cost to taxpayers of a private intelligence contractor: $250,000

Number of times FDA officials met with consumer and patient groups as the agency revised its drug review policy last year: 5
Number of times they met with industry representatives: 113

Percentage of Americans who report being able to get a same-day or next-day doctor’s appointment when sick: 51
Percentage of the French who do: 57

Chances that a US firefighter is overweight or obese: 9 in 10
Rank of on-the-job heart failure among top killers of firefighters: 1

Days by which the average length of the western US wildfire season since 2000 has exceeded that in the 1970s: 92
Percentage of the US Forest Service budget in 1991 and today, respectively, designated for firefighting: 13, 43

Amount that Hillary Clinton had received by this spring from former donors to George W. Bush: $454,850
Amount that Barack Obama had received from such donors: $320,514

Source: Harper’s Magazine

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Ever the Optimists…Apparently the Glass IS Half Full!

It seems that while we mere mortals argue over the existence of global warming, the US government and several corporations have been watching it firsthand and, quietly staking out claims to the vast Artic lands that are being exposed by the rapidly melting ice cap. As early as 2003 the State Department, US Navy, Coast Guard and the Minerals Management Service have been scanning the Artic seabed and mapping out potential territories in anticipation of tapping into the estimated $1.3 TRILLION worth of resources hidden under the melting ice pack. Included in these resources are over $650 billion in oil on the Alaskan shelf alone, (an estimated 1/5 of all undiscovered oil is in the Artic), billions of tons of natural gas and countless diamonds and other stones and minerals. All waiting for the myriad of companies chomping at the bit to leave their mark on the previously untouched Artic wonderland.

Recently Russia, in a daring, symbolic show of their own intention to grab the riches, sent a submarine to the North Pole to “plant” a Russian flag on the ocean floor proclaiming much of the land as their own.

In anticipation of global climate change and the land rush of this new “last frontier,” Citigroup, Lehman Brothers and UBS have recently drafted reports on how savvy investors can profit in such a climate (no pun intended) by highlighting investment opportunities at 74 companies, in 21 different industries, in 18 different countries. Of the six natural gas producing nations that they mention, four (Russia, Canada, Norway and the US), are all laying claims to the rich oil and gas fields of the Artic.

I suspect that the ice cap can’t melt fast enough for these countries and companies……..

Friday, August 10, 2007

Is the Military Promoting Armageddon or just Dehumanizing non-Christians?

With the blessing of the Pentagon and the Pentagon Chaplain, an evangelical group calling themselves “Operation Straight Up” (OSU), will soon be mailing care packages (called "Freedom Packages") to the Soldiers in Iraq that contain the controversial Left Behind: Eternal Forces video game. The game is inspired by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins' bestselling Left Behind series about a blood-soaked Battle of Armageddon pitting born-again Christians against Jews, mainline Christians, Muslims, atheists, Buddhists, and everyone else who does not adhere to their particular theology. In LaHaye's and Jenkins' books, the non-believers are ultimately condemned to "everlasting punishment" while the evangelicals are "raptured" up to heaven.

The best thing about the Left Behind books is the way the non-Christians get their guts pulled out by God." -- 15-year old fundamentalist fan of the Left Behind series

The video game, set in a landscape looking like post 9/11 New York, has players commanding a virtual evangelical army, complete with tanks, helicopters and an arsenal of automatic weapons at their disposal, as they wage a violent war against United Nations-like peacekeepers who represent the armies of the Antichrist. Each time a player kills a UN soldier, their virtual character exclaims, "Praise the Lord!" To win the game, players must kill or convert all the non-believers left behind after the rapture.

In addition to the video, OSU's “Freedom Packages” will include a copy of evangelical pastor Jonathan McDowell's More Than A Carpenter -- a book advertised as "one of the most powerful evangelism tools worldwide" -- that is double-published in Arabic. Considering that only a handful of American troops speak Arabic, the book is ostensibly intended for proselytizing efforts among Iraqi civilians.

OSU also plans a trip to Iraq, again with the expressed permission of the Pentagon, to perform a crusade. On their website OSU proudly proclaims, "We feel the forces of heaven have encouraged us to perform multiple crusades that will sweep through this war torn region ..…We’ll hold the only religious crusade of its size in the dangerous land of Iraq."

I wonder what the intended, and unintended, consequences of this action will be. What does the U.S. Government hope to achieve by endorsing such a project?