Archive for Militarism

The Media’s Failed Look At What Is Happening On The Streets And A Personal Reflection

Occupation for Dummies

There has been no shortage of media confusion in DC this week regarding the OccupyDC and October2011 Stop The Machine actions. I got into a conversation yesterday with a reporter from a local television station who was interviewing people at OccupyDC, she seemed to genuinely want to understand the difference. I pointed out that it seemed like very few members of the Mainstream Media had bothered to check the websites for the two groups which would clarify quite a lot.

Isn’t this sort of like the opposite of the Tea Party, she wondered. I pointed out that these movements represented people who were out of work, had lost their homes, had no health insurance, and wanted an end to  militarism without end and the number of people impacted by those issues is a lot larger than the number of people who identify with the Tea Party.

But the most idiotic media confusion in DC this week has been who was where. It wasn’t so complicated–OccupyDC at McPherson Square, Stop The Machine at Freedom Plaza. Yet in Sunday morning’s Washington Post, with OccupyDC at McPherson for over a week and Stop The Machine in place since Thursday, the caption writer for this photo still got it wrong.

The WaPo caption erroneously reads, "A crowd gathers Thursday at Freedom Plaza for the first day of the OccupyDC rally..."

And the headline–hello? It isn’t the same as the one used online, but, “The common man”? Really? Which century is this? They also apparently didn’t look at the photo which rather clearly shows the common woman.

With this kind of media, no wonder many people are confused about what is happening in the streets.

The best way to understand the movement that is taking root everywhere is to go find out for yourself.  Yes, there is an Occupy near you.

Several people have said to me, oh it is just a bunch of kids.  No, it is not.  And it’s not just a bunch of hippie peaceniks either.  It ranges from toddlers who are there with their parents (there was a little area with toys and crayons at OccupyDC yesterday) to elders with plenty of folks in between.  I talked for a bit with a young man in an army uniform. It was very courageous for him to be there. He had been to Iraq once and was due to ship out again soon, but he said he wasn’t planning to re-deploy, what he had experienced on his first tour had made him realize that militarism was deeply flawed.  He looked sad and wise beyond his years.

And do not underestimate the numbers, it isn’t just a hundred here and a thousand there, it is far, far larger than that.

A crowd shot at Occupy Wall Street--that is A LOT of people

This isn’t about one issue, it is about the American people connecting all the issues and finally saying enough.  There are those who have criticized what is going on for not having a clear statement of purpose or intent.  What they miss is that people everywhere have decided to take back the commons, and that is intention enough.

There is more to say, much more, the time I have spent on the street this last week has been transformative.  I have re-connected with old friends, made new ones and for the first time in a long time felt genuine hope.  Don’t be afraid, come out and join us.

Addenda:  The amount of inaccurate reporting involving Occupy DC and Stop the Machine is becoming epic.  Today the Washington Post reports that OccupyDC may stay in Freedom Plaza past the time time they have a permit.  Sorry, wrong group.  Yahoo News is now calling the pepper-spraying of protesters at the Air and Space Museum on Saturday a riot and ABCNews7 tweeted this morning that at least one person planned to stay past the permit time in Freedom Plaza although the article they linked to actually says a number of people plan to stay.  And that is just today.  The amount of media stupid when it comes to reporting what has transpired over the last week plus in DC is to the point where it is hard to see it as anything but deliberate.



At What Cost?

And so we finally got Bin Laden.  In the run-up to the President’s announcement as the news pundits could hardly find enough superlatives to fill the time, my only thought was “at what cost?”.

This war of retribution has cost us dearly, and by us I mean the global us.  In Afghanistan and Iraq the most, countries ruined, so many innocent lives lost.

Here in the U.S., not only did we lose those who died on September 11th, but so many who were sent to fight, dead and maimed too.  And in the process, we have all but bankrupted our country, social services decimated, education cut, children hungry, people without jobs or homes or healthcare.

How sad that this is how we define victory.


And That Was The Day That Was–Monday Edition

Epic Days are becoming far too common place, and not in a good way.  From today’s headlines–A no fly zone in Libya that seems to be taking out about as many civilians as targets in order to support rebels of uncertain political aspirations (perhaps on the assumption that they could hardly be crazier than Gaddafi and dammit, we need that oil).  Memo to the good people of Sudan, Ivory Coast and other places where innocent civilians are under siege–sorry, your lives aren’t worth jack unless you’ve got something we want.

And while everyone is totally distracted, Israel starts in on Gaza again.  Meanwhile existing home sales skidded, well actually nose-dived would be a better adjective, the NRC says no changes needed in the U.S. nuclear program while the Japanese figure out how to deal with radioactive lettuce and milk and still smoking reactors not to mention the significant percentage of their country that just got trashed by Mother Nature.

The World Bank says no worries though, the Japanese disaster won’t have a long term effect on the global economy. Oh and trophy pictures have surfaced of U.S. soldiers gloating over dead civilians in Afghanistan, which couldn’t possibly be true because Abu Ghraib was just a few bad apples.

I probably missed a few things, but truly that is enough, and that was just today.  Dear ones, we cannot continue like this.  Kurt Vonnegut warned us about becoming what we pretend to be.  But we seem hellbent in doing just that and it is a very sorry sight.


Saturday Night Oil Slick Dictator Overthrowing Nuclear Rant

Early Saturday evening I decided to just ignore the fact that President Obama decided to start another war on a weekend after we’d just spent a week being totally traumatized by the disaster in Japan. I mean really? This couldn’t have waited until Monday? So I selfishly took two hours off to watch a cheesy movie without my laptop at my side. I know, you can see this coming– the second the credits are rolling I tune back in and bam! Now we have an oil slick too? I need to join a union, didn’t they bring us weekends?

But let’s go back to that morally uplifting idea of helping the Libyan rebels by enforcing a no-fly zone because the dude in charge is bombing his own people. Yes, I’m all about supporting people who are overthrowing dictators. Especially dictators that are bat-shit crazy. But guess what–that isn’t why we’re there and anyhow, we bomb innocent civilians all the time–think Afghanistan and Pakistan. If it  actually was the reason why we’re now lobbing missiles, don’t you think maybe we might have possibly put in an appearance in other countries with violent ruthless leaders? The Congo and Sudan come to mind. Burma, Indonesia Uganda. I could keep going.

And doesn’t this sound scary familiar–shouldn’t take too long we’re told, it’s about taking out strategic targets, not bombing civilians. Oh yeah and there is an Al Queda connection. Only a matter of days until we’re there to rescue women too. But guess what, it’s not about that either–the reason we are really there–one word and it isn’t plastics–OIL.  Oil that we lust after that has the unmitigated chutzpah to be under their sand.

But hey it’s March, how are your brackets working out? We now return you to your regularly scheduled reality show.

Rant over, feeling much better and looking forward to whatever tomorrow’s crisis du jour might be.


What We Should Really Be Scared Of

Donna Smith makes the excellent point that it isn’t WikiLeaks that is killing America, it is lack of healthcare:

Today, in cites and states across the United States, 123 people died because they lacked enough money to buy healthcare services.  That brings the annual death toll for 2010 to 41,082.

WikiLeaks had nothing to do with the deaths of the 123 people who died today or any of the 41,082 who died so far this year.

The 123 who died today did so with the full knowledge of all who allowed their deaths.  The 123 who died today might have lived if they had access to appropriate healthcare.  The 123 who died got no mention on any news program or website – liberal, conservative or otherwise.  So much for the value of 123 human lives.

And all that TSA groping and x-raying didn’t save them either.


We Are A Self-Terrorizing Nation

During a week where our government has been trying to sell us on the idea that  being groped and radiated will make us safe, it occurs to me that we have become a self-sustaining terrorized state.  We don’t actually need terrorists to attack us, we just terrorize ourselves.

Not only that but our military is out to get us too.  A few weeks ago I pointed to the good folks down at Ft. Knox who ran exercises that caused fires that were so bad that a half hour down the road, the entire city of Louisville had an air pollution alert.  And now down in Tennessee, a plant that produces nuclear fuel and processes uranium for the Navy is polluting the bejeepers out of the Nolichucky River.

I have heard people say well that is just the way it is today.  But you know what, where is that written?  Why are these damaging absurdities acceptable?  We live in a country with shocking numbers of unemployed, homeless, hungry people without health care, we pollute our water and foul our air, send our children to fight in wars that are causing a lot more problems than they are solving, allow corporations to be people who disenfranchise real people and then just accept that getting groped at the airport will make us safe.  From whom?

We have met the enemy and he is us.


Don’t Get Cooked For Thanksgiving–Opting Out Of The New Airport Scanners

Unfortunately for those of us flying the formerly friendly skies to get to Grandma’s for Thanksgiving, the turkey may not be the only thing that is getting cooked this year thanks to the new body scanners now in place in many airports.

The TSA originally said that these machines would be used only for secondary screening, for those passengers that set off an alarm at the walk-through metal detector or Explosives Trace Detection (ETD) machine. They are now being used as primary screening at 45 airports, to take nude images of passengers who have done nothing more suspicious than present a boarding pass.

And while the privacy issue is a major concern, what ought to be scaring us a lot more is that these machines are x-raying us.  And there is absolutely no such thing as a safe dose of radiation, which is a long proven cause of cancer, because radioactive load in our bodies is cumulative and every dose, no matter how small adds to that and can lead to cancer,

Backscatter X-ray uses ionizing radation, a known cumulative health hazard, to produce images of passengers bodies. Children, prengant women, the elderly, and those with defective DNA repair mechanisms are considered to be especially susceptible to the type of DNA damage caused by ionizing radiation. Also at high risk are those who have had, or currently have, skin cancer. Ionizing radiation’s effects are cumulative, meaning that each time you are exposed you are adding to your risk of developing cancer. Since the dosage of radiation from the backscatter X-ray machines is absorbed almsot entirely by the skin and tissue directly under the skin, averaging the dose over the whole body gives an inaccurate picture of the actual harm…

…Another type of device uses millimeter wave technology, which if improperly calibrated can cause burns. Less is known about the potential health risks of the millimeter wave devices than those of backscatter X-ray, and as with the backscatter devices, no independent testing has been conducted.

While you can opt out, be aware that TSA is now using,

an “enhanced pat down” in many instances. These pat downs are much more rigorous and often include the TSA using their palms to touch your genitals in a manner that could feel like sexual assault.

But isn’t national safety more important?  Consider this: a group of scientists have raised significant concerns including that the additional risk of additional radiation is about the same as the risk of dying in a terrorist attack and that the amount of radiation that these machines give off may actually be much higher than is being reported.  In addition, the Allied Pilots Association is recommending that their pilots opt out and demand to be patted down instead.

And let’s  bear in mind that public safety is only trotted out when it is convenient in this country.  the EPA allows who knows how much pollution to be legally dumped in our air and water and on our land, the military regularly pollutes wherever they want with no real regard for public safety, we allowed BP to dump shocking amounts of dispersant in the Gulf of Mexico with no regard for our food chain, our roads are a dangerous disgrace, and on and on.

Also it helps to know who has been cheerleading these machines.  Does the name Michael Chertoff ring a bell? And funny thing, these babies are quite lucrative,

Today, 40 body scanners are in use at 19 U.S. airports. The number is expected to skyrocket at least in part because of the Christmas Day incident. The Transportation Security Administration this week said it will order 300 more machines.

In the summer, TSA purchased 150 machines from Rapiscan with $25 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds.

Mother Jones has a lot more background on who is hawking these machines here.

Which brings us to this–Wednesday November 24th is National Opt-Out Day.  If you are traveling on that day, if faced with these scanners, opt out and go through the pat-down.  We need to say no to these machines that are both dangerous and an assault on our privacy.  If enough people do it, it will lead to a massive slow down on the busiest travel day of the year and that will send a message that is hard to ignore.

Honestly, if I have to opt out of the scanners, and go through a pat-down, if anyone gropes my personal parts in that manner, I cannot swear that I will not haul out and punch them, and I suspect most people will feel grossly violated by this procedure. But these scanners are dangerous and not an appreciable contribution to public safety. Perhaps as an alternative, we could all just travel naked and they’d have to arrest us all for public nudity…


If you’re not already outraged, watch this, you will be–since when are three year old kids who just had their teddy bears taken away considered terror risks?  And then read this.


All I Need Is The Air That I Breathe…

It is been an extremely dry fall here where I live in Kentucky and as a result the fire danger is way up.  But that hasn’t stopped the military from conducting fire-causing exercises at nearby Fort Knox.

Training at Fort Knox this fall has caused the most fire on the post in nearly 25 years, including the burns that blanketed Louisville with smoke two weekends ago.

According to the Ft. Knox commander,

(M)ilitary exercises that involve everything from tanks to rifles can’t stop just because of drought that has produced tinder-dry conditions. Troops need to be trained, including 3,500 that will soon be deployed to the war in Afghanistan, he said.“You don’t want us to stop training,” he said.

Yeah actually we might want you to do that because,

The fires sent fine-particle levels soaring at some Louisville air monitors. The smoke caused the Air Quality Index to reach 183, the highest in at least eight years, said Matt Stull, spokesman for the Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control District.
At that level, the air is considered unhealthy for everyone — not just people who may have asthma or other lung ailments. Residents were advised to limit their outdoor activity.

So there you have it, the U.S. military is defending us by making it impossible for our own citizens to breathe. Makes sense to me.


A Time To Turn Away

In a moment completely severed from reality, Vice President Joe Biden went on The Colbert Report the other night and thanked former President Bush for honoring the people who serve in the military.

“Mr. President, thank you,” Biden said of Bush during his interview in a “Colbert Report: Been There Won That” special. “You’ve honored these guys, you’ve honored these women, you’ve honored these troops. And I’ve known you your entire eight years as president. I’ve never known a time when you didn’t CARE about happened. We disagreed on policy. But you deserve a lot of credit, Mr. President.”

Why he did that is truly a mystery.  Credit for what exactly?  Indeed we should be disagreeing about policies that include lying to the American people about the reasons for going into a war that has been a huge contributing factor to our economic disaster and has cost so many lives.  And imagine if instead of honoring the lives of soldiers, we honored the lives of civilians?  Our civilians, their civilians.  The civilians who reportedly had their fingers turned into trophies by some of our hash smoking defenders,

Twelve American soldiers face charges over a secret “kill team” that allegedly blew up and shot Afghan civilians at random and collected their fingers as trophies.

Five of the soldiers are charged with murdering three Afghan men who were allegedly killed for sport in separate attacks this year. Seven others are accused of covering up the killings and assaulting a recruit who exposed the murders when he reported other abuses, including members of the unit smoking hashish stolen from civilians.

And combat mission over or not, Iraq is still game on, with private contractors and other troops still very much in residence in Iraq and the horrors experienced by Iraqi civilians because of our actions being woefully unaddressed.  One wonders what it is the Pentagon thinks it is defending.  Apparently not freedom of the press:

Defense Department officials are negotiating to buy and destroy all 10,000 copies of the first printing of an Afghan war memoir they say contains intelligence secrets, according to two people familiar with the dispute.

Meanwhile a judge who obviously has a better grip on the Constitution than the Pentagon does, courageously rules the obvious that should have been understood and rectified years ago rather than a hate-filled ongoing national debate,

In a blockbuster legal decision, a California judge last night declared the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that bars gay and lesbian soldiers from serving in the US military to be unconstitutional, saying the ban violated the first amendment rights of homosexuals and harmed the effectiveness of the armed forces.

But never mind all that, will he or won’t he, America waits breathlessly,

An anti-Islamic preacher backed off and then threatened to reconsider burning the Quran on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, angrily accusing a Muslim leader of lying to him Thursday with a promise to move an Islamic center and mosque away from New York’s ground zero. The imam planning the center denied there was ever such a deal.

To borrow the famous words of Phil Ochs, it is time to turn away from this.


We Know Depleted Uranium Is Highly Toxic And We’ve Known For A Long Time

While I”m delighted to see this piece in Truthout about the horrors of depleted uranium, it erroneously refers to, 

“a previously undisclosed 1993 Defense Department document written by then-Brigadier Gen. Eric Shinseki, now the secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), shows that the Pentagon was concerned about DU contamination and the agency had ordered medical testing on all personnel that were exposed to the toxic substance.”

Not quite. I wrote about it here in 2005,

“It is the military’s use of Depleted Uranium that should cause the most alarm. Not only is the evidence of irreparable harm becoming undeniable, it is also quite clear that the U.S. government has been aware of the lethality of these weapons for quite some time. Despite denials of health risks, a 1950 Army pamphlet states, “Although there is negligible danger from uranium and plutonium outside the body, it is possible for dangerous amounts of these elements to enter the body through the lungs, the digestive system, or breaks in the skin.” (14) An FAA Advisory Circular written in 1984 stated, “if particles are inhaled or ingested, they can be chemically toxic and cause a significant and long-lasting irradiation of internal tissue.” In 1990, U.S. Army Armaments, Munitions and Chemical Command (AMCCOM) reported that depleted uranium is a “low level alpha radiation emitter, which is linked to cancer when exposures are internal.” AMCCOM’s radiological task group also pointed out that the “long term effects of low doses [of DU] have been implicated in cancer, there is no dose so low that the probability of effect is zero.” The risk to our own military personnel was spelled out in a 1993 letter from the U.S. Army Surgeon General stating that, “When soldiers inhale or ingest DU dust, they incur a potential increase in cancer risk.” And in 1995, a U.S. Army U.S. Army Environmental Policy Institute report to Congress says that depleted uranium has the potential to generate “significant medical consequences”. (15)”

So enough already, we’ve known about the risks for decades, at least back to 1950, it is time to stop using these toxic chemicals.  Not only do they harm our “enemies” in ways that violate the Geneva Convention, not to mention human decency, they also harm our own soldiers and citizenry and while the first part of that might be hard to understand, being our own collateral damage defies all logic.

Addenda:  Truthout has changed their wording to, “little-known”, which is much better wording.  I think an issue this does bring up is that it isn’t so much that this stuff is un-disclosed than that it is there,hiding in plain sight. It just requires some digging and some persistence by the media to make sure that it gets seen.  In that, I am appreciative that Truthout is bringing it up and broadening the base of people who are aware of these atrocities.