Iraq records huge rise in birth defects, the Cost of War, Continued….

It played unwilling host to one of the bloodiest battles of the Iraq war. Fallujahs homes and businesses were left shattered; hundreds of Iraqi civilians were killed. Its residents changed the name of their “City of Mosques” to “the polluted city” after the United States launched two massive military campaigns eight years ago. Now, one month before the World Health Organisation reveals its view on the legacy of the two battles for the town, a new study reports a “staggering rise” in birth defects among Iraqi children conceived in the aftermath of the war.High rates of miscarriage, toxic levels of lead and mercury contamination and spiralling numbers of birth defects ranging from congenital heart defects to brain dysfunctions and malformed limbs have been recorded. Even more disturbingly, they appear to be occurring at an increasing rate in children born in Fallujah, about 40 miles west of Baghdad.

via Iraq records huge rise in birth defects – Health News – Health & Families – The Independent.

There is “compelling evidence” to link the increased numbers of defects and miscarriages to military assaults, says Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, one of the lead authors of the report and an environmental toxicologist at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health. Similar defects have been found among children born in Basra after British troops invaded, according to the new research.

US marines first bombarded Fallujah in April 2004 after four employees from the American security company Blackwater were killed, their bodies burned and dragged through the street, with two of the corpses left hanging from a bridge. Seven months later, the marines stormed the city for a second time, using some of the heaviest US air strikes deployed in Iraq. American forces later admitted that they had used white phosphorus shells, although they never admitted to using depleted uranium, which has been linked to high rates of cancer and birth defects.

The Iraq War happened.  Even when many in this country can’t remember how Wall Street destroyed the economy four years ago and are now poised to vote for a Wall Street Tycoon, err, “Job Creator, we also forget about the nearly decade long occupation of Iraq.   There’s going to be more to this story.  I’ll write about it from time to time, but if anyone wants to dedicate their lives to solving a real and horrid problem…this is a good one.

You can also continue to advocate against offensive, BASED-ON-UTTER-BULLSHIT WARS!!

The problems they cause tend to last for generations.  Generations.

If you’re wondering why I fight for peace so hard, this is reason N!.

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Tax Cuts for the Rich, Service Cuts for Everyone! (and we all share the debt…oh…and why Revolutions happen)

I’ve written/ranted about this before, but I just was exposed to yet another instance of it, and wanted to bring it up once again (plus I get to recycle my graph, which I like).

From none other than the occasionally rational David Brooks comes the mantra…it goes something like this…

But I have to say, many of these great people [who do good work in useful publicly funded programs] are suffering under a misimpression. They assume that if they can only persuade enough people that their programs are producing tremendous results then they will be spared from the budget ax. They are wrong about that. The coming budget cuts have nothing to do with merit. They have to do with the inexorable logic of mathematics. Over the past decades, spending in nearly every section of the federal budget has exploded to unsustainable levels. Each year, your family’s share of the national debt increases by about $12,000.

Now I want you to do what I did.  Click on this link, it goes to David Brooks myopic offering, then hit CTRL-F and type “taxes”.

“Myopic”, for those that haven’t googled it yet to make sure, means “short-sighted”.  As in, it is incredibly short-sighted to claim that our current “crisis” has been driven by anything other than tax cuts.   From Reagan to Bush to Bush to, sadly, Obama, by faaar our largest deficits come directly after our largest tax cuts.   This has been done because it has been claimed, each and every time tax cuts were not accompanied by equal spending cuts, that the resulting “increased economic activity” would pay for the difference.

Thirty years after this ridiculous idea (the “Laffer Curve”) was put into practice, our national debt has jumped by 1,400% from 1 Trillion (roughly) in 1980 to 14 Trillion (roughly) in 2010.  We do, however, have pretty low taxes, so we got that going for us.  In fact, they haven’t been lower since the mid 20th century.

So we have this huge debt, driven by cutting revenue…and what does the party of “fiscal responsibility” do… force through $400,000,000,000 of tax cuts, and is now fighting amongst themselves to come up with $100,000,000,000 worth of spending cuts.

I don’t think it takes really much of a math genius to see that leaves “us” $300,000,000,000 further in the hole.  That’s with Congress cutting hard and deep.  Add to that the Rand Clan egging on the “let’s default on our debt/end the Fed” brigade and  “our” debt may very well get very expensive to maintain.  (That $300,000,000,000 they just added?  Costs about $25,000,000/day in interest).  It may very well get impossible to maintain.

In fact, it is impossible…if you suffer from tax myopia.  If you can look at the U.S. debt, try to offer solutions, and not even mention the word “taxes”, you shouldn’t be listened to.  You should be roundly mocked, if not flogged in the public square for being so damn myopic.  Nothing like a public intellectual flogging to cure ideologically based short-sightedness.   We need to raise taxes.  We need to do it now.  We need to do it on “us”.

So by now you’ve picked up on my little “quote” trick.  Us, our, us, us…all in quote…all talking about the wealth/debt in the U.S.   Oh…you didn’t realize they were the same thing, did you?   Yea…that’s what debt is.  It means you have more and you owe more.  Well, not “you” per se, dear reader.   A small percentage of you has most of the wealth here.

And most of the debt.

Sure, sure, folks like David Brooks can talk about how “each year, your family’s share of the national debt increases by about $12,000″, but somehow, for some reason, your family’s share of the national wealth goes up by, well, whatever you grab that year, it would seem (relative to your “neighbors” on Wall Street, but of course, ).   

Just to be extremely clear here, I don’t think everyone’s wealth should go up like everyone’s debt does.  I’m actually pretty fine with that whole “whatever you grab” kinda thing, with the requisite rules and regulations of a robust modern economy.    My point here is how we talk about it.    We socialize the debt, and privatize the profit. We do this so much we don’t even notice it.  This is a mistake.  In the real world, when it all falls apart, the “debt” isn’t paid by everyone.   The debt is paid directly proportional to the wealth.

When you have nothing to lose, losing everything means nothing.

Which, in a long and roundabout way, bring us to the final bit of the title of this post, the Revolution part.  There’s a lot of revolutioning going on right now, for reals.  Good stuff, for the most post.   Here’s my theory about why that stuff happens, ultimately.  Yes, yes, there are always proximate causes and triggers (in this case it was seven men setting themselves on fire, the spirit of the people of the Middle East followed), but the explosive fuel of revolutions, what really drives them over the top, is *always* economics.  Or more precisely, the lack thereof.

I brought this point to a very fine edge while honing my theory against a libertarian friend of mine (yes, one of those…the kind it takes ten minutes of examples to finally get them to admit that yes, there is a reason to inspect food, and yes, it is  legitimate reason for gubmint to exist).   In our meanderings back and forth he mentioned that one of purest reasons for a government to exist was to protect the property of its citizens.   Fair enough, I said, how well does that work when half the country’s property is in the hands of 1% of its citizens? Or even just one?

What happens when half, or more than half have no legitimate need of that government.    That’s when the thing turns over, that’s when it revolves.

When your citizens would rather burn in hellfire than live under your government, that’s when it revolves.

..

I want to finish this back wherefrom I began, that myopic fool in the top tax bracket preaching to the pandering peons while assiduously ignoring that such things like “taxes” exist…

Over the next few weeks, Republicans will try to cut discretionary spending to 2008 levels and tell their constituents they are boldly reducing the size of government. That is a mirage. Anybody who doesn’t take on entitlement spending is an enabler of big government.

Yea…take on “entitlement spending”.  Take on those “promises we made”.   Tear apart that “social security”.    How close to Revolution, do you think, the U.S. came during the early years of the Depression?  What were the promises made to avert it?    How did that work out for us?

And I’m sorry, but WTF is “big government”?  Is it one that can pay its debts? One that keeps its promises?  Is the “big” a moral reference?  Or one of stature, like the “big man of the tribe”. I thought having a government big enough to cover its costs was called  “fiscal responsibility”?

Republicans now want to cut spending back to 2008 levels, when we ran huge deficits.  How about taking taxes back to 2000 levels, when we had a balanced budget?  And what about the population?  You can’t cut that back with rhetoric, myopia, or horrid math.  It’s not going back to 2008 levels.    Doing less, for more, leads the country one direction.   Down.

Cutting services four times less than cutting revenues, leads the debt one direction, up.

I guess some take solace when Rush gets his tax cuts and Big Bird gets the ax.

Not me, I call bullshit.

..

And no, I don’t think there’s near enough Americans calling bullshit at this point.  Many of the current crop are completely dependent on the government for income and healthcare (Hi! Tea Party!).  The only revolutions they are starting are on their rotary phone dials.

But cut out that social safety net, create a permanent underclass of “illegals”, keep the wealth pooling at the top, wait twenty years….and you’ll find a whole lot of people who realize their “share” of the national debt is many, many times their “share” of the national wealth.  In other words….bullshit.

And so it revolves.

Iran, CNN, Fearmongering, and Nukes. Lots and Lots of Nukes

This was going to start off as a post about Iran’s recent test firing of some missiles.

It starts with the CNN story of the firing, was going to mention the US response to the 40-year anniversary of the ABM treaty (from a couple weeks ago) and was going to finish with a mention that Iran had photoshopped one of their released “proof” photos to add a missile.

My main point was going to be that it was simple dick-waving. I was going to mention during the ABM article dissection that Israel (which is/was mentioned in the original CNN article) didn’t sign it and has nukes and isn’t afraid to use them in defense. So, all in all, it was a stalemate and dick-waving. Not much to see here.

Then I reloaded the CNN article.

A subtext of a lot of my media coverage over the last, oh, 10 years or so, has been their penchant of blood and guts. They have a desire to forment war, at least a little bit. I’m not alleging anything more nefarious here than news sells eyeballs. So helping the news along isn’t beyond the pale, generally. There is an incentive.

It’s sometimes hard to find. Sometimes easy. This article is now going to include all of that stuff before, but since there are now two (2) different CNN articles, both with quite different tones, I’ll point that out as well.

See if you can spot the difference. These are screenshots. I’ll try and archive the originals as well. Right now this proof only exists in the memory of my computer and some others out there that have been sitting on this story for a couple weeks.

Here is the original article.

This was how the article originally appeared

This was how the article originally appeared

[full size]

Things to note here

Title:
Iran test fires missiles in riposte to U.S., Israel

Bullet Points:

  • Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards test fire nine long and medium range missiles
  • Officials say war games are in response to U.S. and Israeli threats
  • Drill conducted in the Persian Gulf and the strategic Strait of Hormouz

Paragraph 2 and 3:The Islamic Republic News Agency and Press TV reported that the naval forces of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Wednesday test-fired a Shahab-3 missile during war games in the Persian Gulf.

The exercises come a month after Israel conducted a military drill in the eastern Mediterranean involving dozens of warplanes, and the latest Iranian activities prompted concern from Israel and condemnation from the United States.

So in this version we have a pretty simple action/reaction narrative going (bolded). We do something, they do something, etc. etc.

Now on to the updated version. This one is much punchier.

How the article looked after the update.

How the article looked after the update.

[full size]

Things to note here

Title:
Iran Gen.: Our finger is always on the trigger

Bullet Points:

  • Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards test fire long and medium range missiles
  • NEW: Iranian general: “Our finger is always on the trigger”
  • NEW: U.S.: Iran is “as serious… a problem as any we face today
  • Missile tests were part of Iranians war games in the Persian Gulf

Paragraph 2 and 3:

“We want to tell the world that those who conduct their foreign policy by using the language of threat against Iran have to know that our finger is always on the trigger and we have hundreds and even thousands of missiles ready to be fired against predetermined targets,” Gen. Hossein Salami, commander of the Revolutionary Guard ground forces, said on state TV.

We will chase the enemies on the ground and in the sky and we are able react strongly to enemy’s threats in shortest possible time.”

So here we have a slightly different narrative (bolded).

Note how any mention of outside influence is relegated to a minor point of the story. This is how you war-monger in print.

————-

The articles then move a bit towards each other in content. With the updated one including the following.

There are worldwide worries that Israel, which is concerned by Iran’s plans, is pondering a unilateral strike.

Israel’s recent aerial military exercise was in part an effort to send a message that it has the capability to attack Iran’s nuclear program.

The distance involved in the exercise was roughly the same as would be involved in a possible strike on the Iranian nuclear fuel plant at Natanz, a U.S. military official said.

In 1981, Israel attacked a nuclear facility in Iraq. Israel also struck a site in Syria that some say was a nuclear reactor under construction.

One Israeli Cabinet member, Shaul Mofaz, recently said it “will attack” Iran if the nuclear program was not halted.

So that’s where we are there. This is a confrontation between Israel (not a signatory of the NPT (Nucular [sic] Non-Proliferation Treaty) and has nukes) and Iran (signatory of the NPT and has a large number conventional missiles).

So here’s how we marked the 40 year anniversary of a treaty meant to end the spread of such things…

GENEVA (Reuters) – The United States, marking the 40th anniversary of the fraying nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), said on Tuesday it was concerned that countries like Iran had “violated” the pact.

Garold Larson, deputy U.S. ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament, also urged the NPT’s near-global membership to deter violators from withdrawing from the treaty in the future.

Speaking to a U.N. seminar in Geneva celebrating the 40th anniversary of the NPT, which aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, Larson said the past two decades had witnessed the proliferation and misuse of nuclear technology.

“The United States remains very concerned that parties like Iran have violated their commitments and thereby undermined the treaty,” he said.

Larson did not refer to U.S. intelligence findings that Syria covertly tried to build an atomic reactor with North Korean help at a site bombed by Israel last year. Syria denies the accusations.

Investigators from the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency said after a four-day visit to Syria last week that they had examined the site but that more checks were needed.

Unlike Syria, Israel has not signed the NPT. It is widely believed to have the only nuclear arsenal in the Middle East.

So, we take a swipe at one group and look the other way from the other

And as we look over the horizon half-way around the world…we see this…

10320641h21253011

A photo of Iranian missiles being test-fired yesterday was “apparently digitally altered to show four missiles rising into the air instead of three,” according to Agence France-Presse.

The image, which the wire service says it obtained from a website controlled by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, appeared in newspapers and blogs across the world, including USA TODAY and On Deadline.

The Lede blog says “the second missile from the right appears to be the sum of two other missiles in the image.”

[full post]

So the general idea here is that we are supposed to be deathly afraid, so afraid that we’ll allow for another “pre-emptive” attack, on Iran because of their fearsome arsenal.

Which has been photoshopped to look scarier.

Riiight.

I spent the vast majority of my life 15-minutes away from being vaporized by Crazy Ivan’s nukes launched from super-secret subs and tropical paradii.

Iranian editing skills don’t scare me. In the slightest.

Obvious News of the Day (Saudis, Oil, Israel)

Saudis see no reason to raise oil production now – Yahoo! News

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – Saudi Arabia’s leaders made clear Friday they see no reason to increase oil production until customers demand it, apparently rebuffing President Bush amid soaring U.S. gasoline prices.

It was Bush’s second personal appeal this year to King Abdullah, head of the monarchy that rules this desert kingdom that is a longtime prime U.S. ally and home to the world’s largest oil reserves. But Saudi officials stuck to their position that they will only pump more oil into the system when asked to by buyers, something they say is not happening now, the president’s national security adviser told reporters.

This was a big part of Bush’s mideast trip. The funny part that the other part was to go and praise Israel and everything they do.

JERUSALEM – President Bush said Wednesday that 60 years of Israel‘s existence is cause for optimism for democratic change throughout the Middle East. “What happened here is possible everywhere,” Bush said, opening a trip divided between ceremonial duties and a new push for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

“I suspect if you looked back 60 years ago and tried to guess where Israel would be at that time, it would be hard to be able to project such a prosperous, hopeful land,” Bush said during a meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres. “No question, people would have said, ‘We’d be surrounded by hostile forces.'”

Yet Bush’s message of optimism was immediately offset by troubling realities in the region.

Israel confirmed plans to expand settlement activity in the West Bank, a development likely to undermine peace talks with Palestinians. A weakened Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert fended off corruption allegations. And another burst of violence erupted in the Gaza Strip just ahead of Bush’s arrival in Israel.

[full story]

I’m not sure if a country dominated by a particular religion, having a 40-year occupation of another religion, having secret nuclear weapons, a history of pre-emptively attacking her neighbors, and occasionally assassinating whoever they want is exactly the example we are looking for here. Yes, sure, people get to go out and party (which is a big deal), but to act like Israel is the end-all be-all of Middle Eastern civilization is a bit of stretch.

And that’s a decent part of why the Saudi’s and like “meh” when it comes to sending more oil (and they are bathing in cash right now, which tends to silence the pleas of others).

Who In the What Now?

What Every American Should Know About the Middle East

What Every American Should Know About the Middle East

By Daniel Miessler on March 30th, 2008: Tagged as America | Civilization | Education | Politics