Independent Democracy

Thought provoking commentary

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November 15, 2008 Posted by | Animals, Barack Obama, Books, Cult, Current Events, Election 2008, Entertainment, Environment, Florida, Fun Stuff, Health, Helpful Resources, Humor, Iraq, John McCain, Letters to the Editor, Magazines, Military & War, Money, Movies, Music, News, News of the Wierd, Newspaper, Politics, Radio, Random, Religion, Rhode Island, Sarah Palin, Shopping, Sirius, Sirius Radio, Sports, Tampa Tribune, Television, Uncategorized, Utah, Utne, XM, XM Radio | Leave a comment

Is McCain lying to the American people?

Facts can be funny things.

Over the past several weeks, Sen. John McCain has been occasionally tripping over them in his advocacy for continuing America’s presence in Iraq. Most memorably, he repeated – three times – the assertion that Iran was arming al-Qaeda despite the fact that there is no known connection between country and the group, and that the two are clearly of different religions.

On Sunday, McCain made another Iraq-based claim that is highly debatable if not simply false.

As Think Progress was first to point out, appearing on Fox News Sunday, the Arizona Republican stated that the recent flair up of violence in Basra was ended after Shiite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr declared a ceasefire. This, he said, was proof that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government was gaining the upper hand, both militarily and politically.

“It was al-Sadr that declared the ceasefire, not Maliki,” said McCain. “With respect, I don’t think Sadr would have declared the ceasefire if he thought he was winning. Most times in history, military engagements, the winning side doesn’t declare the ceasefire. The second point is, overall, the Iraqi military performed pretty well. … The military is functioning very effectively.”

It is a convenient interpretation for a candidate who later went on to tout the political successes of the American troop surge. But it seems to contradict almost all news accounts from last week. Indeed, it was the Iranian government and members of Maliki’s government who brokered the ceasefire, not Sadr. McClatchy newspapers wrote in its lead paragraph:

“Iraqi lawmakers traveled to the Iranian holy city of Qom over the weekend to win the support of the commander of Iran’s Qods brigades in persuading Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr to order his followers to stop military operations.

“Moreover, in the process of fighting Sadr, at least 1,000 of Maliki’s troops deserted the battle. McCain tried to put a good face on this too, by reminding viewers that, slightly more than a year ago that number would have been much higher. But that too ignores the testimony of many Iraq experts who suggest that far from showing the strength of Maliki’s forces, the recent battle in Basra did little but make Sadr stronger. As Jonathan Steele wrote in The Guardian:

“Iraq’s prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki…has emerged with his authority severely weakened. … Meanwhile, Moqtada al-Sadr, the target of the assault, comes out of the crisis strengthened. His militiamen gave no ground and, by declaring a ceasefire that has successfully held since Sunday, Sadr has demonstrated his authority and the discipline of his men.”

Vodpod videos no longer available. from www.huffingtonpost.c posted with vodpod

April 6, 2008 Posted by | Current Events, Iraq, Military & War, News, Newspaper, Politics | Leave a comment

Study proves Bush lied to American people before Iraq war

Study: False statements preceded war

By DOUGLASS K. DANIEL
Associated Press Writer

A study by two nonprofit journalism organizations found that President Bush and top administration officials issued hundreds of false statements about the national security threat from Iraq in the two years following the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The study concluded that the statements “were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses.”

The study was posted Tuesday on the Web site of the Center for Public Integrity, which worked with the Fund for Independence in Journalism.

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel did not comment on the merits of the study Tuesday night but reiterated the administration’s position that the world community viewed Iraq’s leader, Saddam Hussein, as a threat.

“The actions taken in 2003 were based on the collective judgment of intelligence agencies around the world,” Stanzel said.

The study counted 935 false statements in the two-year period. It found that in speeches, briefings, interviews and other venues, Bush and administration officials stated unequivocally on at least 532 occasions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or was trying to produce or obtain them or had links to al-Qaida or both.

“It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to al-Qaida,” according to Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith of the Fund for Independence in Journalism staff members, writing an overview of the study. “In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003.”

Named in the study along with Bush were top officials of the administration during the period studied: Vice President Dick Cheney, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and White House press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan.

Bush led with 259 false statements, 231 about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 28 about Iraq’s links to al-Qaida, the study found. That was second only to Powell’s 244 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 10 about Iraq and al-Qaida.

The center said the study was based on a database created with public statements over the two years beginning on Sept. 11, 2001, and information from more than 25 government reports, books, articles, speeches and interviews.

“The cumulative effect of these false statements — amplified by thousands of news stories and broadcasts — was massive, with the media coverage creating an almost impenetrable din for several critical months in the run-up to war,” the study concluded.

“Some journalists — indeed, even some entire news organizations — have since acknowledged that their coverage during those prewar months was far too deferential and uncritical. These mea culpas notwithstanding, much of the wall-to-wall media coverage provided additional, ‘independent’ validation of the Bush administration’s false statements about Iraq,” it said.

On the Net:

Center For Public Integrity: http://www.publicintegrity.org

Fund For Independence in Journalism: http://www.tfij.org

January 22, 2008 Posted by | Current Events, Iraq, Military & War, News, Politics | Leave a comment

US Military Deaths in Iraq at 3,901

While you’re ringing in the new year on December 31, take some time to remember this post. Also remember this when it comes time for YOU to vote in the next election.

As of Saturday, Dec. 29, 2007, at least 3,901 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes eight military civilians. At least 3,175 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military’s numbers.

The British military has reported 174 deaths; Italy, 33; Ukraine, 18; Poland, 21; Bulgaria, 13; Spain, 11; Denmark, seven; El Salvador, five; Slovakia, four; Latvia, three; Estonia, Netherlands, Thailand, Romania, two each; and Australia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, South Korea, one death each.

December 29, 2007 Posted by | Current Events, Iraq, Military & War, News, Politics | Leave a comment

President George Bush pardons record 3 turkeys in 2007

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Adhering to a tradition now entering its 60th year, President Bush on Tuesday delivered a full presidential pardon to the national Thanksgiving turkey in the Rose Garden at the White House.

He also announced the names of the bird and its alternate, which were chosen by people who voted online. They will officially be called May and Flower, the president said.

“That’s certainly better than the names the vice president suggested: Lunch and Dinner,” Bush joked.

This marks the second and third pardons by President Bush this year. It’s the first time in the history of the country a U.S. President has pardoned 3 turkeys in the same calendar year. As you probably recall, Bush pardoned Lewis Scooter Libby on 2 July of this year, not long after a jury of U.S. citizens convicted him of lying in the presidential CIA leak scandal.

On a more serious note, the president reminded Americans they have much to be thankful for this holiday season.

  • They have to be thankful that they’re not like military personnel and overpaid mercenary contractors who are spending the holiday in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • They have to be thankful that billions and billions of US debt is being racked up for future generations rather than being fiscally responsible and paying for this war now by making all taxpayers pay their fair share and fund his war through increased taxes. After all, we all need to sacrifice and support the troops, don’t we?
  • They have to be thankful that the President chose to recycle and redeploy military personnel 2, 3, 4, or more tours rather than asking all U.S. citizens to sacrifice and support the war effort by instituting a draft.

The President went on to say, “May they live the rest of their lives in blissful gobbling and may all Americans enjoy a holiday filled with love and peace,”.

I guess this love and peace comment does not apply to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens who have either been displaced, injured, or killed in the course of our “liberation” of their country from Saddam Husein. Oh that’s right, those people, those Iraqis, they live over there and we really don’t care about the suffering that has been brought upon them as we try to force democracy upon a people that doesn’t want it.

Happy Thanksgiving Everybody

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November 20, 2007 Posted by | Current Events, Fun Stuff, Humor, Iraq, Military & War, News, Politics, Random | 1 Comment

The cost of the Iraq war – What can $611 billion buy?

Do you have any other ideas on how to spend $611 billion – or comparisons for what that money could have bought? Please leave your comments.

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If the Bush administration succeeds in its latest request for funding for the war in Iraq, the total cost would rise to $611.5 billion, according to the National Priorities Project, a nonprofit research group.

The amount got me wondering: What would $611 billion buy?

Nearly 4,000 Newton North High Schools
Tagged as the most expensive high school in Massachusetts, at $154.6 million, the construction design for the new Newton North High School could be replicated almost 4,000 times using the money spent on the war.

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40 Big Digs

At almost $15 billion, Boston’s Central Artery project has been held up as the nation’s most expensive public works project. Now multiply that by 40 and you’re getting close to US taxpayers’ commitment to democracy in Iraq – so far.

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Almost 18 months’ worth of free gas for everyone
US drivers consume approximately 384.7 million gallons of gasoline a day. Retail prices averaged $3.00 a gallon in early November. Breaking it down, $611 billion could buy gasoline for everybody in the United States, for about 530 days.

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Many, many environment-friendly cars on the road

With $611 billion, you could convert all cars in America to run on ethanol nine times over.

TheBudgetGraph.com estimates that converting the 136,568,083 registered cars in the United States to ethanol (conversion kits at $500) would cost $68.2 billion.

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Nearly 14 million years’ worth of tuition, room, and board at Harvard
At published rates for this year, $611 billion translates into almost 14 million free rides for a year at Harvard University.

Tuition and fees at the University of Massachusetts-Boston could be paid for over 53 million years.

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More than a year’s worth of Medicare benefits for everyone

In fiscal 2008, Medicare benefits will total $454 billion, according to a Heritage Foundation summary. The $611 billion in war costs is 17 times the amount vetoed by the president for a $35 billion health benefit program for poor children.

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A looong contract for Dice-K

The Red Sox and Daisuke Matsuzaka agreed on a six-year, $52 million contract. The war cost could be enough to have Dice-K mania for more than 70,000-some years at this year’s rate.

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A real war on poverty
According to World Bank estimates, $54 billion a year would eliminate starvation and malnutrition globally by 2015, while $30 billion would provide a year of primary education for every child on earth.

At the upper range of those estimates, the $611 billion cost of the war could have fed and educated the world’s poor for seven years.

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November 12, 2007 Posted by | Current Events, Environment, Fun Stuff, Health, Humor, Iraq, Military & War, Money, News, Politics, Random, Sports | , | 3 Comments

Store and share your holiday photos online with Smugmug

I’ve tried trial versions of about a half-dozen photo sharing/storage sites and Smugmug is by far the best. There are numerous reasons why I love Smugmug which I’ve listed below. The age old saying is you get what you paid for. In the crowded field of online photo sharing services, Smugmug has been everything I’ve ever needed and then some.

If you want to try out the service free for 14-days and get $5 off a new membership, use this link:  Sumgmug $5 coupon code

Hey, it’s free, and you don’t even need to provide a credit card. Why not give it a try?

Things I love about Smugmug and why I chose it over other competing services:

  • They allow you to try the service free for 14 days. You can try EVERY feature they offer without any restrictions
  • Your photos are safe and secure. They keep 4 backup copies of each photo in 3 states so you’ll always have access to them
  • You can lock galleries with passwords to keep them private
  • Smugmug doesn’t send you SPAM and there are NO ADS on the site
  • You can share your photos with friends & family without them having to register with Smugmug
  • A+ customer service. It’s fast, friendly, and professional
  • Basic account offers UNLIMITED storage
  • Prints can be ordered right from Smugmug. No need to get them ordered with a different company
  • Comments, tags, keywords, and compatibility with blogs and forums – very convenient!
  • Video clips are allowed with a Power User account
  • Very helpful and friendly forum called “Digital Grin” who can answer just about any photo related question you can think of
  • The company is FAMILY OWNED and not run by some internet conglomerate like Yahoo or Kodak
  • Company has always been profitable so there’s no risk of them going out of business then you lose all your files

November 12, 2007 Posted by | Animals, Blogroll, Books, Current Events, Environment, Fun Stuff, Health, Helpful Resources, Humor, Iraq, Letters to the Editor, Military & War, Money, Movies, Music, News, News of the Wierd, Politics, Random, Religion, Rhode Island, Sports, Television, Utah | Leave a comment

Billy Graham tries to overshadow Veterans Day with his religious dogma

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Despite the long history of Armistice Day (now called Veterans Day) being celebrated on November 11 each year, Billy Graham and his right-wing Evangelistic organization took the occasion to overshadow the holiday by declaring November 11, 2007 “International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church”. The web site says “Sunday, November 11, 2007 is the International day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church—a day to pray for Christians around the world who experience opposition because of their choice to follow Jesus Christ.”

This blatant disrespect for American Veterans and their one day of honor is absolutely incredible. How dare he use his religious dogma to take over a holiday that has been used to pay respect to America’s Veterans for more than 75 years.

I have no doubt that the religious radicals over at BillyGraham.org will try and cover up this despicable act once the national media grabs hold of this attempt by the religious right to take over Veterans Day and make it a religious holiday. Below you will find two pdf screen captures I made of the Billy Graham website to record this insult before the web site is changed.

Feel free to leave your comments here or contact the Billy Graham Headquarters directly to tell them to keep their religious dogma to themselves and stop insulting America’s Veterans by attempting to take over their holiday.

Graham screen capture 1

Graham screen capture 2

Freedom from Religious Foundation
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November 11, 2007 Posted by | Current Events, Iraq, Military & War, News, Politics, Random, Religion | 9 Comments

Does the White House support military personnel and their families?

Also, here is an article (pdf file 220kb) from AF Times on 22 Oct 2007 which talks about White House opposition to military pay raises and caps on Tricare health insurance fees.

Bush administration budget officials said on Wednesday that the troops don’t need bigger pay raises. The White House also opposes increasing benefits for widows of slain soldiers by $40 per month, and opposes additional benefits for surviving family members of civilian employees.But the Bush administration supports removing accountability from contracts with private Defense contractors because of the higher costs that accountability provisions “impose on the Department’s contractors.”

What about the costs to our troops and their families?

Here are more details from the Army Times:

Troops don’t need bigger pay raises, White House budget officials said Wednesday in a statement of administration policy laying out objections to the House version of the 2008 defense authorization bill.The Bush administration had asked for a 3 percent military raise for Jan. 1, 2008, enough to match last year’s average pay increase in the private sector. The House Armed Services Committee recommends a 3.5 percent pay increase for 2008, and increases in 2009 through 2012 that also are 0.5 percentage point greater than private-sector pay raises.

The slightly bigger military raises are intended to reduce the gap between military and civilian pay that stands at about 3.9 percent today. Under the bill, HR 1585, the pay gap would be reduced to 1.4 percent after the Jan. 1, 2012, pay increase.

Bush budget officials said the administration “strongly opposes” both the 3.5 percent raise for 2008 and the follow-on increases, calling extra pay increases “unnecessary.”

Here are relevant excerpts from the Statement of Administration Policy. First, the excerpt in which the White House “strongly opposes” a larger pay raise for the troops:

Military Pay: The Administration strongly opposes sections 601 and 606. The additional 0.5 percent increase above the President’s proposed 3.0 percent across-the-board pay increase is unnecessary. When combined with the overall military benefit package, the President’s proposal provides a good quality of life for service members and their families. While we agree military pay must be kept competitive, the three percent raise, equal to the increase in the Employment Cost Index, will do that. The cost of increasing the FY 2008 military pay raise by an additional 0.5 percent is $265 million in FY 2008 and $7.3 billion from FY 2008 to FY 2013.

Here the Administration opposes an additional $40 per month for widows of slain soldiers:

Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance: The Administration opposes section 644, which would pay a monthly special survivor indemnity allowance of $40 from the DoD Military Retirement Fund. The current benefit programs for survivors, DoD’s Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) and Department of Veterans Affairs’ Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC), provide sufficient benefits and avoid duplication of two complementary federal benefits programs established for the same purpose — providing a lifetime annuity for the survivor of an active, retired or former servicemember. This offset policy is consistent with private sector benefits. The provision is estimated to cost $27 million in the first year and about $160 million through FY 2013. It appears to be the first step toward eliminating the offset between SBP and DIC; full elimination of this offset would cost the Military Retirement Fund between $6 and $8 billion over 10 years.

Here the Administration opposes additional benefits for surviving family members of civilian employees:

Death Gratuity for Federal Civilian Employees: The Administration strongly opposes section 1105, which would amend the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA) to provide an additional $100,000 death benefit for surviving family members of civilian employees who died supporting U.S. forces in a contingency operation. This provision would raise equity concerns by eroding the uniformity of benefits provided by FECA.

Here the Administration opposes price controls for prescription drugs under TRICARE, the military’s health care plan for military personnel and their dependents:

The Administration strongly opposes section 703, which would impose price controls on prescription drugs when they are dispensed to enrollees in TRICARE through community pharmacies. The Administration believes market competition is the most effective way to promote discounts in the community setting. Government price-setting at community pharmacies will eliminate retail competition; it could also have an adverse impact on other markets, which could limit access to life-saving drugs, reduce convenience for beneficiaries, and ultimately increase costs. Drugs dispensed directly by DoD in its hospitals, clinics, and mail order facilities are already purchased at government purchasing schedules and DOD is working to encourage beneficiaries to take advantage of the lowest prescription drug prices available whenever possible.

And here the Administration urges deletion of various contract accountability provisions:

Acquisition Policy: While the Administration supports the underlying interests of section 806, 821, 822, 824, and 843, the Administration urges their deletion because each of these provisions is either duplicative of recently-enacted laws and implementing regulations or would be counterproductive and not of practical help in strengthening the acquisition process. Section 824, in particular, which imposes exhaustive reporting on contract deficiencies, will interfere with agencies’ ability to address and resolve contract performance problems in a timely manner. In addition, section 326(b) would impose on the Department’s contractors unmanageable and costly reporting requirements with questionable benefit.

November 11, 2007 Posted by | Current Events, Iraq, Military & War, News, Politics | Leave a comment

No End in Sight DVD Review ****

This movie is for those people who believe President Bush and his administration made the right choices in the buildup to the Iraq war. It’s for those people who believe President Bush and his administration made the right choices after the war began. Finally, it’s for the people who have believed all along that this war was a mistake and must be ended now.

This must-see documentary shows the facts about the war from the people who were there when it started. The mistakes that were made are quite simply embarrassing. People who had no clue about foreign policy or how to give the Iraqi people “democracy” were selected for senior level positions within the Bush administration. What we read, see, and hear about everyday in the news regarding the Iraq was can be traced back to their mistakes in the early stages of the war. I believe history will look back at this time in our history and point blame and shame squarely on the shoulders of our current administration. Watch this film and decide for yourself.

This in-depth, award-winning documentary from filmmaker (and former Brookings Institution fellow) Charles Ferguson examines the decisions that led to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and the handling of the subsequent occupation by President George W. Bush and his administration. Featuring exclusive interviews with central players and detailed analysis, the film pulls no punches as it chronicles the twists and turns America took on the path to war.

 

http://www.noendinsightmovie.com/

Sameritech’s 4 star guide:

**** Loved it
*** Really liked it
** Average, but watchable
* Didn’t like it, wasted my time, would rather have watched a George Bush speech

November 9, 2007 Posted by | Iraq, Military & War, Movies, Politics | Leave a comment