Independent Democracy

Thought provoking commentary

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.

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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

Cell Phones for Soldiers – Suppport the Troops, donate a cell phone

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 http://www.cellphonesforsoldiers.com

About the Program

Cell Phones for Soldiers hopes to turn old cell phones into more than 12 million minutes of prepaid calling cards for U.S. troops stationed overseas in 2007. To do so, Cell Phones for Soldiers expects to collect 15,000 cell phones each month through a network of more than 3,000 collection sites across the country.

The phones are sent to ReCellular, which pays Cell Phones for Soldiers for each donated phone – enough to provide an hour of talk time to soldiers abroad.

“Americans will replace an estimated 130 million cell phones this year,” says Mike Newman, vice president of ReCellular, “with the majority of phones either discarded or stuffed in a drawer. Most people don’t realize that the small sacrifice of donating their unwanted phones can have a tremendous benefit for a worthy cause like Cell Phones for Soldiers.”

Cell Phones for Soldiers was founded by teenagers Robbie and Brittany Bergquist from Norwell, Mass., with $21 of their own money. Since then, the registered 501c3 non-profit organization has raised almost $1 million in donations and distributed more than 400,000 prepaid calling cards to soldiers serving overseas.

“Cell Phones for Soldiers started as a small way to show our family’s appreciation for the men and women who have sacrificed the day-to-day contact with their own families to serve in the U.S. armed forces,” says the teens’ father, Bob Bergquist. “Over the past few years, we have been overwhelmed by the generosity of others. But, we have also seen the need to support our troops continue to grow as more troops are sent overseas for longer assignments.”

Through increased fundraising efforts, the Bergquist family hopes to raise more than $9 million in the next five years to fund new programs, such as providing video phones with prepaid service to allow soldiers abroad to see their families on a regular basis.

November 5, 2007 Posted by | Current Events, Helpful Resources, Iraq, Military & War, News | Leave a comment

Waterboarding Video – Watch it here

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NPR Talk of the Nation has an excellent interview with the guy (Kaj Larsen) receiving the waterboarding in the video. Click here to read more about his experience and listen to the interview.

Despite Geneva Convention rules that outlaw waterboarding, the overwhelming evidence that it IS torture, and his refusal to answer basic, simple questions in his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings about the legality of waterboarding, President Bush continues to endorse former federal judge Michael B. Mukasey for the position of Attorney General of the U.S.A.

Below is a video of this torture in action. Watch for yourself and decide, is this acceptable treatment of a human being, no matter who they are?

Please leave your comments and pass this link on to a friend.

Christopher Hitchens Waterboarding – Vanity Fair

November 5, 2007 Posted by | Current Events, Iraq, Military & War, News, Politics, Random | 49 Comments

11 year old from the CBS show Kid Nation says George Bush “not smart at all”

Kelsey from the CBS show Kid Nation recently said in an episode that George W. Bush was “not smart at all but he won the presidency two times in a row”. Click the picture to view the video.

Well Kelsey, you may only be 11 years old but you are a very smart girl and obviously have smart parents.

October 30, 2007 Posted by | Current Events, Fun Stuff, Humor, Iraq, Military & War, News, Politics, Television | Leave a comment