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Archive for May, 2011

Cost of war in Afghanistan will be major factor in troop-reduction talks

The Washington Post via: Huff Post

By Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Published: May 30

Of all the statistics that President Obama’s national security team will consider when it debates the size of forthcoming troop reductions in Afghanistan, the most influential number probably will not be how many insurgents have been killed or the amount of territory wrested from the Taliban, according to aides to those who will participate.

It will be the cost of the war.

The U.S. military is on track to spend $113 billion on its operations in Afghanistan this fiscal year, and it is seeking $107 billion for the next. To many of the president’s civilian advisers, that price is too high, given a wide federal budget gap that will require further cuts to domestic programs and increased deficit spending. Growing doubts about the need for such a broad nation-building mission there in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death have only sharpened that view.

“Where we’re at right now is simply not sustainable,” said one senior administration official, who, like several others interviewed for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal policy deliberations.

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I’m going to start this post out properly. This is a day meant to honor fallen veterans, so let’s do that first.

This is a list of United States Armed Forces members killed in Afghanistan in the month of May, 2011.

Army Pfc. William S. Blevins

Army Pvt. Andrew M. Krippner

Army Pvt. Thomas C. Allers

Army Sgt. 1st Class Clifford E. Beattie

Army Pfc. Ramon Mora Jr.

Army Cpl. Brandon M. Kirton

Army Staff Sgt. David D. Self

Army Spc. Bradley L. Melton

Army Pvt. Lamarol J. Tucker

Army Pvt. Cheizray Pressley

Army Spc. Brian D. Riley Jr.

Army Sgt. Robert C. Schlote

Army Sgt. Amaru Aguilar

Marine Lt. Col. Benjamin J. Palmer

Marine Sgt. Kevin B. Balduf

Army 1st Lt. Demetrius M. Frison

Army Sgt. Ken K. Hermogino

Army Spc. Riley S. Spaulding

Army Sgt. Kevin W. White

Does this bother you? It makes me sick to my stomach. It bothers me even more that we officially crossed the 6,000 dead mark in May of 2011 (Iraq and Afghanistan combined) and nobody noticed. We officially stand at 6,014; I do not have the latest death listed here because the name of the latest dead soldier has not been released, as far as I can tell.

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Gas Prices Tightening Family Budgets Just In Time For Summer

JONATHAN FAHEY   05/27/11 05:17 PM ET   AP via HuffPost

NEW YORK — There’s less money this summer for hotel rooms, surfboards and bathing suits. It’s all going into the gas tank.

High prices at the pump are putting a squeeze on the family budget as the traditional summer driving season begins. For every $10 the typical household earns before taxes, almost a full dollar now goes toward gas, a 40 percent bigger bite than normal.

Households spent an average of $369 on gas last month. In April 2009, they spent just $201. Families now spend more filling up than they spend on cars, clothes or recreation. Last year, they spent less on gasoline than each of those things.

Jeffrey Wayman of Cape Charles, Va., spent Friday riding his motorcycle to North Carolina’s Outer Banks, a day trip with his wife. They decided to eat snacks in a gas station parking lot rather than buy lunch because rising fuel prices have eaten so much into their budget over the past year that they can’t ride as frequently as they would like.

“We used to do it a lot more, but not as much now,” he said. “You have to cut back when you have a $480 gas bill a month.”

Alex Martinez, a senior at Arcadia High School outside Los Angeles, said his family’s trips to San Francisco, which they usually take once or more a year, are on hold. As he stopped at a gas station to put $5 of fuel in his car – not much more than a gallon – he said the high prices are crimping social life for him and his friends.

“We’re always worrying, `How are we going to get home. We’ve got less than half a gallon left,'” Martinez said. “We definitely can’t go out as much, and we can’t go as far.”

As Memorial Day weekend opens, the nationwide average for a gallon of unleaded is $3.81. Though prices have drifted lower in recent days, analysts expect average price for 2011 to come in higher than the previous record, $3.25 in 2008. A year ago, gas cost $2.76.

The squeeze is happening at a time when most people aren’t getting raises, even as the economy recovers.

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A few years ago, on my very first day in the United States, I read these stirring words on an information plaque on Boston Common.

What do we mean by the American Revolution? Do we mean the American war? The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments, of their duties and obligations…This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people was the real American Revolution.” John Adams

A few years later, I quoted them during a conversation over breakfast with an American couple who were visiting us in the UK while on holiday.

My father asked our guests whether the revolution was still alive, and they replied that it was.

Personally, I despair.

Below is an article posted on Op Ed News by Susan Lindauer, a U.S. Asset and one of the very first non-Arab Americans indicted on the Patriot Act, accused of acting as an “Iraqi Agent” for opposing the War. She was imprisoned on Carswell Air Force Base for a year without a trial.

The Patriot Act: When Truth Becomes Treason

Susan Lindauer | Op Ed News | May 26, 2011 at 21:19:59

Many Americans believe they understand the dangers of the Patriot Act, which Congress has vowed to extend 4 more years in a vote later this week. Trust me when I say, Americans are not nearly frightened enough.

Ever wonder why the facts about 9/11 never got exposed? Why Americans don’t fathom the leadership fraud surrounding the War on Terror? Why Americans don’t know the 9/11 investigation failed? Why the “Iraqi Peace Option” draws a blank? Somebody has known the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden— or his grave–for the past 10 years. But nobody’s talking.

In significant part, that’s because of the Patriot Act— a law that equates free speech with sedition. It’s got a big agenda, with 7,000 pages of Machiavellian code designed to interrupt individual questioning of government policy. In this brave new world, free speech under the Bill of Rights effectively has been declared a threat to government controls for maintaining “stability”. And the Patriot Act has become the premiere weapon to attack whistleblowers and dissidents who challenge the comfort of political leaders hiding inconvenient truths from the public. It’s all the rage on Capitol Hill, as leaders strive to score TV ratings, while demagoguing their “outstanding leadership performance” on everything from national security to environmental policy.

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Between 1994 and 1995 I was working as a teacher of English at a school run jointly by the British Council and the Warsaw University of Technology in Warsaw, Poland.

In my free time, having little to do, I watched CNN and Sky News around the clock and was appalled at what I heard of what was going on in Yugoslavia including the shelling of the market place in Sarajevo, in which a large number of civilians going about their lawful business were killed and maimed.

This was also the year that Schindler’s List, or Lista Schindlera, to give it its Polish title, came out–hence the Polish version of the ad above which was posted all over Warsaw at the time.

This, readers may remember, is the film in which Liam Neeson failed to bring off a scene in which he says, “I could have done more” — Spielberg’s own comment on what was going on in Yugsolavia at the time, and a scene which against the better judgment of his friends who tried to persuade him to ditch it, he deemed to be absolutely necessary.

At the time, I was very much in favor of intervention in the conflict and watched the news daily in the hope that something would be done about the slaughter.

US foreign policy on the conflict lacked coherence, with a statement issued by the White House one minute being contradicted by a statement issued by the Department of State the next.

As time wore on, however, I couldn’t escape the sneaking feeling that I was being manipulated by what I saw and heard on the news—a feeling since confirmed by what I now know about how this conflict was reported in the MSM.

Despite this, I was livid with rage when I read the news in the early morning newspapers on tube station in London late one evening of the massacre of “thousands” (so it was alleged) of men and boys in Srebrenica.

A few years ago, I posted a series of articles by Andrew G. Marshall, titled, “Kill, Burn and Loot”, in which the real reason for NATO’s somewhat belated intervention are given and why the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade was “accidentally on purpose” (if you know what I mean) bombed.

While I have little sympathy of the Serb War leaders, I could not help agreeing with them that the International Court at the Hague is little more than the judicial wing of NATO.

I am also posting a link to an article on the recent arrest of Ratko Mladic by Stephen Lendman which gives much food for thought.

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Crowd at New York's American Union Bank during a bank run early in the Great Depression. (Photo: Public Domain)

Inviting Chaos: The Perils of Toying With the Debt Ceiling

Friday 27 May 2011
by: Ellen Brown, Truthout

[T]hreatening to default should not be a partisan issue. In view of all the hazards it entails, one wonders why any responsible person would even flirt with the idea.
Alan S. Blinder, Princeton professor of economics, former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve 

A game of Russian roulette is being played with the national debt ceiling. Fire the wrong chamber of the gun, and the result could be the second Great Depression.

The first Great Depression led to totalitarian dictatorships, war to consolidate power and concentrations of capital in the hands of a financial elite. The trigger was a default on the global reserve currency, in that case the pound sterling. The US dollar is now the global reserve currency. The concern is that default could create the same sort of global panic today. Dark visions are evoked of the president declaring a national emergency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) plans locking into place, camps being readied for protesters and the secret government taking over.

This may all just be political theater, but do we really want to get close enough to the economic precipice to find out? The conservative ideologues toying with the debt ceiling are doing it to force cuts in the budget, a budget that was already approved by Congress. Congress is being held hostage by a radical minority pushing a risky agenda, one that is based on an economic model that is obsolete.

High-Stakes Gambling

On May 16, The Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece titled “The Armageddon Lobby,” which claimed that a “technical default” on the federal debt was just “political melodrama” and not really a big deal: “[B]ond markets can figure out the difference between a genuine default when a country can’t pay its bills and a technical default of a few days if it serves the purpose of fixing America’s fiscal mess.”

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Black Eyed Peas – The Time (Dirty Bit)

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