The Watering Hole; Friday December 20 2013; Of Mice . . . Of “Men”??

I’ll be brief. In his poem “To a Mouse” Scottish poet Robert Burns summed up a big pile of ‘stuff’ more than two centuries ago when he wrote:

Still thou are blest, compared wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But och! I backward cast my e’e,
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!

He also, around the same time, wrote “To a Louse” in which he enumerated the essence of most everything else:

O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion:
What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
An’ ev’n devotion!

Burns wrote those words in the late 1700′s, circa 1785. That’s roughly 225 yrs ago, and yet he somehow summarized the very pile of crap we still, on this very day in December of 2013, find ourselves having to deal with. Photo evidence follows; first, the Mouse (photo by Denny Green, Tempe AZ, December 2013):

Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!

MouseStill thou are blest, compared wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee . . .

And then there is, too and of course, The Louse:

Ha! whare ye gaun, ye crawlin ferlie!
Your impudence protects you sairlie . . .

Bon erYe ugly, creepin, blastit wonner
Detested, shunn’d, by saunt an’ sinner . . .
Gae somewhere else and seek your dinner
On some poor body

So: even though the answer is invariably OBVIOUS, apparently that always eternal question forever remains: “Whereto from here”??

Burns proffers those two options: a Mouse, or a Louse. The choice remains, apparently, up to each and all of us.

Me? I’ll take the mouse. He be cool. The Louse? Not so much.

OPEN THREAD

The Watering Hole: Thursday, March 7, 2013, Report Shows Billions Wasted in Iraq & Afghanistan

Military Spending Waste: Up To $60 Billion In Iraq, Afghanistan War Funds Lost To Poor Planning, Oversight, Fraud

As much as $60 billion in U.S. funds has been lost to waste and fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade through lax oversight of contractors, poor planning and payoffs to warlords and insurgents, an independent panel investigating U.S. wartime spending estimates.

U.S. Wasted Billions Rebuilding Iraq

As the 10th anniversary of President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq approaches, the body charged with overseeing Iraq’s reconstruction has issued its final report, capping a tale of spending far too much money for very little results.

There is much more at the two links above.  The question is how will this all turn out to be President Obama’s fault?  George W. Bush stopped being responsible for anything the day President Obama was inaugurated in 2009 according to the GOP.

THIS IS TODAY’S OPEN THREAD.  GO AHEAD AND VENT.

To Know War Is To Know Madness In This World – President Lyndon B. Johnson

I posted this yesterday on Pennsylvania for Change.

Chuck Hagel served in this war.  So did John Kerry.  Yet the yellow elephants that got deferments find fault with these warriors.

Here’s a few cowards that were unwilling to serve or made sure that they didn’t have to fight:

  • George W. Bush – remained in the States
  • Ted Nugent
  • Rush Limbaugh
  • Donald Rumsfeld
  • Dick Cheney
  • Mitt Romney

They wear flag pins and called themselves patriots.  Yet when ‘Uncle Sam’ called them to serve, they found ways to get out of fighting in a war.   I’m sure there are more names to add to this list.

Let’s take a look at this war…

We fight differently these days.  Now the drones fly over our ‘enemies’ and someone thousands of miles away gives the command to fire off the smart bomb.   Without the close contact, our enemies are faceless and their deaths have less of an emotional impact on us.

I once had a soldier tell me that firing a gun at someone that is 100 yards away isn’t that difficult.  Killing someone with a knife is hard to do because it is up close and personal.  It’s hard to kill someone when you are looking in their eyes.

There’s no two ways about it.  War sucks.

Playing for Change:

Give me love my brother, give me love my sister, it’s just a kiss away.

The Death of a Nation (a retrospective on the W. Bush era, Part 6: MILITARY)

The essay which follows was written in March, 2005, and remains, (admittedly) at best, a superficial overview: a (potentially futile) attempt to at least suggest that the aggressive militarism of the United States which bubbled to the surface quite rapidly in G.W. Bush’s first term was not only bad, but dangerous as well.  Sadly, to this day the war horror of that period continues with the USA still involved in what has now become the longest war in America’s insanely war-stained history: the war in Afghanistan.

Military. War. During my lifetime, the ‘known’ wars and (aggressive) “skirmishes” with American participation include (but are in no way presumed, herein, to be limited to): the Second World War; Korea; Cuba; Vietnam; Chile; Grenada; El Salvador; Panama; Bosnia/Herzegovina; the Persian Gulf; Afghanistan; Iraq; and now (potentially) Libya, Syria, Iran . . . et al., et al.

(Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5)

War.

The Incessant Voice of War:

One wearies of incessant Voice of War.
Across full breadth of time each nom de guerre
Inflicts upon the Human soul a scar
Which screams in mockery of hallowed prayer.
How many millions must we finally kill
Before is learned this simple quirk of fate:
That murdered dead, in valley or on hill,
Do NOT portend a Greatness in The State?
Upon this Earth of monuments and tombs
Which weep for fallen souls, it’s fair to shout
NO MORE! to darkness that forever looms
In constant threat. And let there be no doubt
Of this–War’s victims hang upon the Cross
Of senseless death . . . in silent, wretched, loss.

So, whereto from here? More of the same? Are ‘we’ inextricably embedded in the muck and mire of incessant war? A look back at the policies and products of the George W. Bush presidencies is not, necessarily, encouraging. Nor is the prospect of yet another right wing Republican presence in either the Congress or, most emphatically, in the White House; e.g. Romney-Ryan. Time will tell . . . apparently. In its invariably nerve-wracking fashion.

**********

Military:

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”  ~Dwight D. Eisenhower

I include that quote not because Eisenhower was the Five-Star General who commanded the allied forces to victory in Europe during the Second World War; not because he, as President (note the use of upper case) made good on his pledge to go to Korea following his election in 1952 to find a way to stop hostilities there, and that on July 27, 1953 an armistice was signed; not because President Eisenhower, once he’d had enough of Sen. Joseph McCarthy and his bogus ‘hearings’ in search of Communists behind every tree, found a way to put a stop to the nonsense and send McCarthy back into his hole; and not because Eisenhower was a Republican who won two elections with landslide margins.  No, I include that quote in order to point to the contrasts between then and today, only fifty years apart.

Dwight D. Eisenhower was a West Pointer, a bold yet measured military man who commanded the allied forces that smashed the Nazi war machine.  He was also a firm negotiator who understood and realized the stupidity that drives men constantly to war; he was, too, a Republican. Continue reading

The Watering Hole, Thursday, September 20th, 2012: Veterans for Romney?

So far, the one and only yard sign for Mitt Romney that I’ve seen read “Veterans for Romney.” Since I cannot imagine any reason why any veterans would support Romney, I started looking for further information.

The website vetsforromney.com only leads to more confusion: it consists of a photo of Romney with some people dressed in military garb, and a section entitled “Our Platform”; here’s a few bits of said “platform”:

A Responsive Department of Veteran Affairs (VA): As with most government agencies, the VA is growing to become a behemoth…

[sigh - Mitt, keep ignoring those eight years increase in the size of the government under George W. Bush, and keep ignoring the provable fact that President Barack Obama cut several hundred thousand government jobs.]

National Defense: The strength of this nation is built on the bedrock of a strong national defense. They call it low hanging fruit. It’s easy to target defense spending as the first area of cuts. unchecked spending threatens the sovereignty of our nation. Excessive levels of debt disrupt all financial units – whether it be a family, a business or a local, state or federal government. But, the knee jerk reaction can not be to axe away at defense spending while the current administration is unwilling to even mention, let alone seriously consider, reductions in entitlement programs. The strength of this nation is built on the bedrock of a strong national defense.

[Okay, yeah, yeah, strength, bedrock, defense, enough! Mitt, quick question: how do you reconcile this sentence with the one that immediately follows? "It’s easy to target defense spending as the first area of cuts. unchecked spending threatens the sovereignty of our nation."

However, that site led me to some interesting places. Clicking on “ISSUES” at the top brought me directly to…a page on Mitt Romney’s website. There is not one single word on this page regarding veterans, nor in the available links to a variety of “issues” (including “Human Capital”, a disgusting and degrading term.) So, Mitt, what about those veterans and military families?

Next…at the bottom of the “Issues” page is a box that says “Paid for by Romney for President, Inc.” I tried looking into “Romney for President, Inc” and found two sites: one which, oddly, lists Romney’s campaign staff along with brief bios of each; the second appears to be a business search site, simply listing the corporation, its address and a little contact info. Nothing there about veterans and their families, either.

One of the other tabs on the Romney site was labeled “COMMUNITIES”, which was where I found “Veterans and Military Families for Romney.” Aha! I thought: now I’ll find something about why veterans would support Mitt Romney. However, the page does not seem to have any actual Veterans and/or Military Families writing or speaking in support of Mitt Romney. Aside the usual requests for donations, and offers to purchase “Veterans for Romney” merchandise, the only mention of the military is a story about “National Military Voter Readiness Day”, which apparently occurred this past Saturday, September 15th.

The “NEWS/BLOG”, linked from the ‘Veterans for Romney’ website, appears to be a work that’s not in progress. Underneath its amateurish appearance, it at least gives a sort of time-capsule, there are some gems of information about Romney’s reign in Massachusetts, such as a 2007 report by the Gun Owners’ Action League (GOAL). Here’s an excerpt:

General Comments:
In the first months of the Romney administration the Governor isolated himself to all but a handful of close advisors most of whom came from the business community. This caused the Governor to make some rather serious political missteps that could have been avoided through better communications. However, relations dramatically improved and in the end, GOAL had more access to this administration than any other since the days of Governor Ed King in 1979.

Okay, STILL no mention of veterans and their families, jobs, the V.A., etc.

Either Mitt Romney doesn’t have a plan for America’s veterans and military families, or it is extremely well hidden.

I want someone to ask Mitt Romney to tell America’s veterans whether he approves of the Senate Republicans’ filibuster of the bipartisan Veterans Jobs Corps Bill killing it until next year. I want someone to ask Mitt Romney why he refuses to cut a dime from the bloated Defense budget, yet will be happy to cut “entitlements” and the “behemoth” V.A., which benefit veterans and active military personnel.

Again I ask, why “Veterans for Romney”?

This is our Open Thread. Speak Up on any topic that you choose.

The Watering Hole, Monday, May 21st, 2012: DoD Noise Machine?

PROPAGANDA:prop·a·gan·da: [prop-uh-gan-duh]
1. publicity to promote something: information put out by an organization or government to promote a policy, idea, or cause
2. misleading publicity: deceptive or distorted information that is systematically spread

(Synonyms: slanted, distorted, one-sided, polemical, partisan, extremist, manipulative)

While perusing the recent threads at ThinkProgress, I came across this brief piece with the disturbing headline: “Congressmen seek to ‘legalize the use of propaganda on American audiences.”

The piece referenced an article from BuzzFeed, part of which states:

“In a little noticed press release earlier in the week — buried beneath the other high-profile issues in the $642 billion defense bill, including indefinite detention and a prohibition on gay marriage at military installations — Thornberry warned that in the Internet age, the current law “ties the hands of America’s diplomatic officials, military, and others by inhibiting our ability to effectively communicate in a credible way.”

[Note: While every article that I found on this issue used the phrase, "...in a little-noticed press release...", not one article linked to the press release itself; so, here is the press release from co-sponsor Rep. Mac Thornberry's (R-Texas) website.]

The text of the bill, H.R. 5736, (an amendment to the NDAA) co-sponsord by Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), can be found here. I confess to be somewhat confused about the conflicting wording in Section 208, “CLARIFICATION ON DOMESTIC DISTRIBUTION OF PROGRAM MATERIAL.”

`(a) In General- No funds authorized to be appropriated to the Department of State or the Broadcasting Board of Governors shall be used to influence public opinion in the United States. This section shall apply only to programs carried out pursuant to the United States Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948 (22 U.S.C. 1431 et seq.), the United States International Broadcasting Act of 1994 (22 U.S.C. 6201 et seq.), the Radio Broadcasting to Cuba Act (22 U.S.C. 1465 et seq.), and the Television Broadcasting to Cuba Act (22 U.S.C. 1465aa et seq.). This section shall not prohibit or delay the Department of State or the Broadcasting Board of Governors from providing information about its operations, policies, programs, or program material, or making such available, to the media, public, or Congress, in accordance with other applicable law.

`(b) Rule of Construction- Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the Department of State or the Broadcasting Board of Governors from engaging in any medium or form of communication, either directly or indirectly, because a United States domestic audience is or may be thereby exposed to program material, or based on a presumption of such exposure…”

According to a Daily Kos piece,

““It removes the protection for Americans,” says a Pentagon official who is concerned about the law. “It removes oversight from the people who want to put out this information. There are no checks and balances. No one knows if the information is accurate, partially accurate, or entirely false.”

Another article that I came across during my search mentions:

“The Pentagon spends some $4 billion a year to sway public opinion already, and it was recently revealed by USA Today the DoD spent $202 million on information operations in Iraq and Afghanistan last year.”

[Makes ya wonder where the rest of the $350+ billion is spent "to sway public opinion."]

Mediaite, Dan Abrams’ website, has an article about this as well, along with a related article which states:

“United States Central Command (Centcom) is working with a California-based company, called Ntrepid, to produce new software that would help military service people create fake online accounts (known as “sock puppets”) with the intent of spreading pro-America propaganda (or, alternately, quash anti-American sentiment) across various online comment threads, such those found on blogs or message boards. The military has said that the accounts won’t publish comments for American audiences (as that would be illegal) or even in English, but, rather, in Arabic, Farsi, Urdu and Pashto. The accounts would also steer clear of U.S.-based social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.”

[Oh, goody, they’re creating more sockpuppets and trolls?

It already bothers me that our country has been using propaganda overseas for, well, forever; it already bothers me that taxpayer money pays for such bullshit. But taxpayers having to pay to be lied to by our own military? I realize that this occurs already, with so many TV commercials encouraging young men and women to join the armed services, but this amendment appears to want to broaden those efforts to a scope closer to indoctrination than simple recruitment.

We were already lied to far too many times by the Bush administration in order to fulfill Dubya’s wet dream of invading Iraq. We already hear enough lies from politicians, corporations and other interest groups; whether through various news outlets, media commercial advertising, or opinionated pundits. It is hard enough now to sort through and fight all of the lies, both of commission and omission, that permeate our ‘news’ media. With so few real investigative journalists of integrity out there, how much of the truth will still be able to get through to citizens and voters?

This is our daily open thread — feel free to discuss this topic, or whatever’s on your mind!

The Watering Hole: Saturday, May 19, 2012 Armed Forces Day

Today is Armed Forces Day, a day when we honor those who serve our country in uniform.

President Harry S. Truman led the effort to establish a single holiday for citizens to come together and thank our military members for their patriotic service in support of our country.

On August 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day to replace separate Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force Days.
The single day celebration stemmed from the unification of the Armed Forces under the Department of Defense.

We are all one, big happy service.

But in addition to thanking our active duty service members for their sacrifices to our country (as well as the sacrifices of their families), I would like to ask people to remember the costs of going to war, and not just in terms of dollars and cents, but in lives lost. And I’m not talking about those lost in combat, of which there have already been far too many, but those who came back from war and found civilian life too unbearable. It is estimated by the Veterans Administration that about 18 vets commit suicide each day!. The VA has a Veterans Crisis Line and they do work hard to help returning veterans who find life difficult. If any of you know a veteran struggling to cope, please tell them about the Veterans Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255 Press 1). They risked their lives for us; let’s do all we can for them. Thank you.

This is our daily open thread –
If you see any active duty service members today, please thank them for their service.

The Watering Hole, Monday, May 7th, 2012: Monday Mix

Today’s mix is comprised of some recent articles which caught my eye on Foreign Policy Magazine and on Yahoo!News.

When I first clicked on Foreign Policy’s link entitled “A brilliant long rant about Iraq” by Thomas E. Ricks, I thought it was going to be Tom Ricks ranting about Iraq. However, it turned out to be Ricks’ brief introduction to an upcoming book called “The Long Walk” by Brian Castner. Ricks’ article includes a dozen or so evocative quotes from the book which, although worlds away from my own personal “Year from Hell”, touched a nerve of recognition in my brain. “The Long Walk” sounds like it will be well worth the read; I also found the comments after the article fascinating, and I strongly suggest reading those as well.

For all of the dog lovers amongst us, one of FP’s “Photo Essays” is “War Dogs of the World.” Not exactly cute puppy pics, but fascinating shots of soldiers and their canine teammates.

Two connecting articles at Yahoo!News drew my attention: in chronological order, a generic-drug manufacturer in India will be copying, and undercutting the price of, a cancer drug for which Bayer hold a patent, obviously pissing off Bayer. I’m rooting for the Indian drug company, Cipla, since their motivation is humanitarian: they’ll be selling the drug for about 1/30th of the cost of Bayer’s version.

Lastly, three Putin stories: Today Vladimir Putin will be sworn in as President of Russia, and apparently not all Russians are happy about this. And on a lighter(?) note, another “Photo Essay” from FP, titled “Putin Forever.”

Enjoy!

This is our daily open thread — discuss one of the above topics, or whatever’s on your mind!