11.28.2007

random notes on the empire

This will not be a pleasant post.

I have a bunch of links sitting in my inbox that readers (mostly Allan and James, but some others as well) have sent - items I'd never see if I weren't blogging, and perhaps you haven't seen them, either.

I know I've been belabouring the war and war resisters lately, but as I've said elsewhere, this blog reflects what's on my mind. I'm so disgusted, enraged, heartsick, horrified - got any other words? - at what's going on in Iraq, at how veterans are being treated in the US, at how ordinary citizens are being treated in the US. Wmtc is a chance to vent that, and maybe bring some items to your attention that you haven't seen.

So here goes. We'll file these under "The Hidden Costs of War".

  • Low-income U.S. families planning to rely on a federal program to help pay expensive heating bills this winter are in jeopardy after President George W. Bush on Tuesday vetoed spending legislation that would have provided the financial assistance.
    Bush rejected the compromise appropriations bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, which also contained $2.4 billion in funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, commonly known as LIHEAP.

    Bush's veto puts "the health and well-being of millions of families at risk this winter," said Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, chairman of a House Education and Labor subcommittee, which held a hearing on Tuesday on the LIHEAP program.

    "With energy costs consistently on the rise, more and more families must make the tough decision whether to heat their homes or put food on the table," McCarthy said. "We'll fight for the money."

    With prices forecast to be up for all heating fuels this winter, the poor will need LIHEAP assistance more than ever.

    . . .

    "Congress needs to cut out that pork, reduce the spending and send me a responsible measure that I can sign into law," Bush said.

    In the same speech a few moments later, Bush also expressed his concern about high energy prices.

  • A detailed analysis of data obtained from death records from 2004 and 2005, found that veterans were more than twice as likely to commit suicide in 2005 as non-vets.
    It found that veterans were more than twice as likely to commit suicide in 2005 than non-vets. (Veterans committed suicide at the rate of between 18.7 to 20.8 per 100,000, compared to other Americans, who did so at the rate of 8.9 per 100,000.)

    One age group stood out. Veterans aged 20 through 24, those who have served during the war on terror. They had the highest suicide rate among all veterans, estimated between two and four times higher than civilians the same age. (The suicide rate for non-veterans is 8.3 per 100,000, while the rate for veterans was found to be between 22.9 and 31.9 per 100,000.)

  • At least 20,000 U.S. troops who were not classified as wounded during combat in Iraq and Afghanistan have been found with signs of brain injuries, according to military and veterans records compiled by USA Today.
    The data, provided by the Army, Navy and Department of Veterans Affairs, show that about five times as many troops sustained brain trauma as the 4,471 officially listed by the Pentagon through Sept. 30. These cases also are not reflected in the Pentagon's official tally of wounded, which stands at 30,327.

    And from The Continuing Expansion of the Police State, we have...

  • Military recruiters already have the right to give presentations in public schools and to access databases with the contact information of all public school students whose parents do not remove their children from the list.

    Now they can send retired veterans directly into public schools to teach them how to shoot guns and take orders.
    One in 10 public high school students in Chicago wears a military uniform to school and takes classes -- including how to shoot a gun properly -- from retired veterans.

    That number is expected to rise as junior military reserve programs expand across the country now that a congressional cap of 3,500 units has been lifted from the nearly century-old scheme.

    Proponents of the junior reserve programs say they provide stability and a sense of purpose for troubled youth and help to instill values such as leadership and responsibility.

    But opponents say the programs divert critical resources from crumbling public schools and lead to a militarization of US society.

    "To call these young people child soldiers might be technically inaccurate, but it does reveal the truth of it," said Oscar Castro, a spokesman for the National Youth and Militarism Program, an advocacy group.

    . . .

    While military officials say the junior reserve programs are not used as recruiting tools, about 30 to 50 percent of cadets eventually enlist, according to congressional testimony by the chiefs of staff of the various armed services in February 2000.

    This is particularly troubling given that the programs are concentrated in low-income and minority neighborhoods, said Sheena Gibbs, a spokeswoman for the Chicago branch of the American Friends Service Committee which lobbies against the programs.

    "If you want to teach discipline and leadership then do it for everyone and don't make them wear (military) uniforms," Gibbs said. "Students (at regular schools) protest that they have to still share books but the military academy has laptops."

  • How about a man tasered for refusing to sign traffic ticket? Watch the video.

    And finally, from so many wmtc categories that it almost defies categorization:

  • Wal-Mart is suing a former employee who is permanently brain-damaged for the cost of her medical care. And it's perfectly within their legal rights to do so. To paraphrase Yossarian, that's some law they got there.

    Read about Deborah Shank's story here, here, here, and elsewhere.
  • 15 comments:

    L-girl said...

    I'm not implying that Deborah Shank's case is a Catch-22. It's not. But seeing that Wal-Mart's actions are perfectly legal reminded me of that quote.

    James said...

    Here is another taser story -- a man zapped for not taking his baseball cap off at a city council meeting.

    A suggested rule of thumb for police: If you didn't have your taser, would you use your sidearm in this situation?

    Then again, with some of these guys, maybe they would...

    s1c said...

    At the risk of being a wet blanket, the suicide study has been debunked at multiple places but the best at explaining the study is from Just One Minute which can be found here. On a personal note suicides are not unknown even during peace time for those in the service as I can attest (2 attempted but failed, 1 successful) just during my time on the old sub.

    As for the tasering, like most things that have been introduced to be more humane, it usually appears to get over used. Shore patrol was always warned, if you pulled out your baton, even in self defense, be warned, you will be standing at captains mast. Similar attitudes should be taken in the police ranks.

    L-girl said...

    At the risk of being a wet blanket, the suicide study has been debunked at multiple places but the best at explaining the study is from Just One Minute which can be found here.

    The "debunking" has been debunked. I'm on deadline right now and don't have time to find the link, but the supposed debunking has been discredited.

    On a personal note suicides are not unknown even during peace time for those in the service as I can attest (2 attempted but failed, 1 successful) just during my time on the old sub.

    Of course suicides are not unknown in peace time! No offense s1c, but: duh. As are suicides among the civilian population. My own life and Allan's has been touched several times by suicides.

    The fact remains, I believe, that suicide is much more prevalent among veterans than non-veterans. That speaks, in my opinion, to a terrible, hidden cost of serving in the military.

    As for the tasering, like most things that have been introduced to be more humane, it usually appears to get over used.

    Indeed. Hundreds of grieving families would agree.

    deang said...

    Another item in your list could have been about the increasing cries by (especially young) US right-wingers for people they disagree with or find annoying to be tased. I've heard this sort of thing frequently over the past few years, and people here know full well that tasers are not safe, that they do destroy people. I somehow doubt that even a small segment of the Canadian population regularly calls for people they disagree with to be shot with enough volts to cripple or kill them, yet it's become a familiar cry now in the US.

    L-girl said...

    For the record, I just went to the link s1c supplied. That's debunking? Gender difference? Holy cow. The study looks at men in civilian population vs male veterans, and women to women. With "debunking" like that, who needs facts?

    s1c said...

    For the record, I just went to the link s1c supplied. That's debunking? Gender difference? Holy cow. The study looks at men in civilian population vs male veterans, and women to women. With "debunking" like that, who needs facts?

    You missed the facts then.

    redsock said...

    You missed the facts then.

    The only sentence of substance at the link you provided says:

    "... CBS News found an epidemic by comparing a vet suicide rate of 18.9 per 100,000 with a national average of 8.9 per 100,000; this sort of overlooks the fact that there is a huge gender difference in suicide rates - men kill themselves at about 18 per 100,000 in this country and most vets are male, so the "epidemic" isn't."

    Which is exactly what Laura addressed -- the supposedly overlooked gender difference. (Sweetman, JOM's other example, also limits his "debunking" to gender.)

    Even in a self-described "earlier debunking", the JOM blogger confines his argument to gender. Interestingly, he ends that post with this:

    "That suggests a suicide rate about 30 percent higher among male veterans than among male non-veterans."

    While he suggests that his figure of 30% "may not be the epidemic CBS was raving about ... it does suggest something has been happening."

    Indeed.

    M. Yass said...

    GBA! TGNOTFOTE!

    L-girl said...

    I somehow doubt that even a small segment of the Canadian population regularly calls for people they disagree with to be shot with enough volts to cripple or kill them, yet it's become a familiar cry now in the US.

    I would say that the segment of the Canadian population that would speak that way would be extremely small and wields no power. Any time that kind of rhetoric rears its head, people react in horror at how uncivil society is becoming - even if it's only one voice.

    In the US they command at least one mighty media empire.

    L-girl said...

    You missed the facts then.

    I looked only at the purported fact.

    In the post you linked to, once you strip away the snark, there's only one claim, and it's incorrect.

    If you have a fact to share, share it. The post you linked to has none.

    * * * *

    I have no stake in making war appear any more horrible than it is. War's effects on human beings cannot be exaggerated: it is devastating, and the evidence of that is all around us.

    Some people do have a stake in making war appear less harmful than it is. But little evidence will support their point of view.

    Lone Primate said...

    L-Girl, you have a kindred spirit in all these points over at The Hell It Can't. I believe its author, Steve, has dropped by here on occasion, because that's how I found the blog. You guys ought to cross-pollinate, blogologically speaking. :)

    L-girl said...

    Thanks for that link. Excellent stuff over there - graphic and powerful.

    s1c said...

    L-girl- I see it looks like I was being snarky (was in a rush and basically this is my first time back since then), was not my intention and I apologize.

    I just pointed to his last post on the subject, but if you had clicked on his link you will see the numbers. Basically, if you compare the Military age, gender and race profiles, the Suicide study shows the military to be slightly lower. 18 to 19.

    To me, you have to look at the age gender break outs because, the military does not track along society in age, gender etc. (ie, fewer percentage of women in the military) than in the country as whole.

    To me, to say this is a hidden cost when the percentage is almost identical, would not be true. Nor would I be trumpeting it as a plus.

    As for Redsocks comment - The key point here and which I made in my first post, during peace time suicides are also prevelant. In my example, think about this, in 26+ months on my sub, 2 attempted and 1 successful. During that time period, the total amount of sailors posted to the sub, probably less than 200 (normal crew of 110+).

    The highest rate, were by those based on the missile subs (I was on a fast attack). While I would never regret my service and served in a relatively peaceful time, (the pentagon shows almost 3 years of war service on my record), almost a year later I still woke up sweating as I had some type of flash back.

    As for making war other than what it is, a brutal and horrendous experience, I would never try to do that.

    My family has more than one name on memorials and from every war that has been fought since the Spanish-American. My father was also a disabled veteran. The only relevance to that of course is just like a lot of other people, war has affected my family, including the ultimate sacrifice.

    Of course that is to be expected when your great grandfather decided to have 22 kids and your grandfather married the youngest of 11 kids (thats just on the paternal side). Needless to say, family reunions back in the sixties and seventies were huge affairs.

    L-girl said...

    I see it looks like I was being snarky

    I didn't think you were at all. My reference to snark was to the post you linked to, which was almost entirely snark.

    To me, you have to look at the age gender break outs

    You do have to look at it. And the study in question did look at it. The so-called debunking claims it did not - but it did.

    Either you did not read my comment or I was not clear.

    The original study that I linked to *did* factor for gender.