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.
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