Town Hall Meeting

30 Jun 2014

Warfare Queens

Filed under: — Al @ 8:53 am

I first heard this term the other night on The Daily Show. Hilarious and true. That segment was mostly about politicians who make their career on the advice of invading any and every country who is having a problem. If people only would pay attention to the waste and fraud going on right in front of them in the “Defense” industry. Since more than half of the annual federal budget goes only to this, it is so ripe for reform it is uncanny.

12 Nov 2013

From the It’s-Very-Doable-Department

Filed under: — Al @ 11:47 am

The problem is crappy private contractors, and there are tons of them, and most of them make their money in the “defense” industry (feel safer?). 3 folks in the Bay Area decided to just write their own health care exchange website using publicly available data built by the healthcare.gov folks. Try it out, it’s amazingly quick and easy.

http://www.thehealthsherpa.com/

‘We were surprised to see that it was actually fairly difficult to use HealthCare.gov to find and understand our options,’ says George Kalogeropoulos, who created the site along with Ning Liang and Michael Wasser. ‘Given that the data was publicly available, we thought that it made a lot of sense to take the data that was on there and just make it easy to search through and view available plans.’ Of course, it’s not fair to compare the creation of Health Sherpa to the rollout of the more complicated government ACA site, which even President Obama has acknowledged as a horribly botched affair. ‘It isn’t a fair apples-to-apples comparison,’ says Kalogeropoulos. ‘Unlike Healthcare.gov, our site doesn’t connect to the IRS, DHS, and various state exchanges and authorities. Furthermore, we’re using the government’s data, so our site is only possible because of the hard work that the Healthcare.gov team has done.’ “The Health Sherpa makes it ridiculously easy for anyone to compare health care plans covered under Obamacare in 34 states,” writes Connor Simpson at Atlantic Wire. “The result is a simple, beautiful, remarkably responsive website that anyone could use.'”

Read more on Slashdot.

-Al

27 Apr 2012

Your Tax Dollars At Work

Filed under: — Al @ 9:50 am

When it comes to who wins the massive federal spending competition, it’s not even close. Most of your money goes to one thing: the very loosely named “Defense.” In 2012, under a “socialist, anti business, pacifist” (yeah, right) President, “Defense” was given $707 billion. Remember, that is for 1 year! For a little context, spending on housing was $67 billion, and education was $73 billion.

Some people like to confuse the issue of federal spending by bringing up Medicare and Social Security. Those are paid for separately, and should never be part of this conversation. That’s why in your paycheck, you have one line for “Federal Tax” and one for “Medicare” and “FICA” (aka Social Security). The pie chart shows how the “Federal Tax” is divided. And this is the tax that everyone gets so upset about, such as when people say lets raise the top federal tax rate from 35% to 38% on income above $250k (another annoying thing is people don’t realize that income up to $249k isn’t effected at all).

2013 Budget Pie Chart

And even worse, if you count other reasonable things as “Defense,” such as veterans affairs, homeland security, and veterans health and pensions, the total number becomes over $1 trillion, again for just 1 year! Isn’t this how countries fail? While people are homeless, unemployed, underemployed and sick, the elites are polishing their fancy new toys.

03 Mar 2012

U.S. Navy “Disposes” of Old Ships by Sinking Them at Bottom of Ocean

Filed under: — Al @ 3:09 pm

Wow, this is unbelievable. They call it “SinkEx” for Sink Exercise. The U.S. Navy blows up old warships with missiles and torpedoes, including an aircraft carrier, off the coast of California and Florida. Obviously this could cause lots of problems for the environment.

Check out the AP article here:
http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2012/03/03/ap_enterprise_navy_sinkex_raises_pollution_fear/

In the past 12 years, this has been done 109 times. Again, UNBELIEVABLE. While people struggle to meet their basic needs, the military shines its billion dollar toys, and blows up the old ones with million dollar missiles. The whole thing is repugnant. The Navy says its okay what they are doing because it gives them useful testing of their weapons. So…what is more important: sustaining life through a clean environment, or they possibly/maybe/could improve at blowing shit up?

Some reports I read just make my head spin in disbelief. Thanks to the reporters for exposing this story.

30 Sep 2011

2009 Nobel Peace Prize Winner Kills 2 More People Today

Filed under: — Al @ 5:43 pm

Another sign we live in bizarro world. President Obama carried out the goal of killing Anwar al-Awlaki along with another US citizen today in Yemen. Apparently killing your own citizens is bad when Libya does it, or when Syria does it, but not when the US does it (or Bahrain or Yemen for that matter). Remember the good old days when we would get upset that President Bush would wiretap US citizens without a warrant or detain US citizens without charges. The Peace Prize winner has just taken that to a whole new level by killing without charges. Whoa this one is tough to get my head around.

Constitutional law expert Glenn Greenwald has great analysis on this here.

11 Aug 2011

For Your Defense

Filed under: — Al @ 8:37 am

These are the types of things that the military spending (50% of your federal taxes) go to each year. Note that “the troops” aren’t part of it. Most people don’t realize where the bulk of taxes go, unfortunately. I suspect our much-talked-about existential threat, the al qaeda, isn’t very worried about hypersonic missiles. Although I must admit it is an interesting engineering experiment, and possibly not as ridiculous as the Gay Bomb idea.

“The first HTV-2, launched by Pentagon bleeding-edge research arm DARPA in April of 2010, disappeared over the Pacific after just nine minutes of flight. The vehicle was never recovered.”

“tens of millions of dollars poured into the Falcon program every year”

“Lockheed Martin was paid to build two copies of the aircraft before the first was even flown. If there turned out to be a flaw in the design, correcting it might’ve been near-impossible.”

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/08/pentagons-mach-20-missile/

A pie chart to show the craziness in picture form….
http://www.warresisters.org/pages/piechart.htm

The “Gay Bomb”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gay_bomb

04 Aug 2010

Pentagon Denies Embed Request to Reporter Behind McChrystal Story

Filed under: — Al @ 2:47 pm

From DemocracyNow!

The Pentagon has rejected an embed request from the reporter whose recent article in Rolling Stone magazine led to the firing of General Stanley McChrystal. The reporter, Michael Hastings, quoted McChrystal and his aides making disparaging remarks about top administration officials. The Pentagon says it’s denied Hastings’ request to embed with US troops in Afghanistan because it can’t trust him to abide by military reporting rules.

Retaliation can come in many ways, and here is a very public and blatant one. If you haven’t read that article, make sure to. It’s still very relevant with that general gone because it lays out how that war is going and probably will go for a long time. You can read it here. It’s very interesting how “Rolling Stone” is doing the best journalism, while rags like “Newsweek” are going bankrupt and being bought by rich-Conrgressional-husbands for $1.

US military retialiates against Michael Hastings

16 Jun 2010

Obama Continuing Bush’s Worst Foreign Policies

Filed under: — Al @ 7:01 pm

Many of you probably know these things already, but now “The Daily Show” has summed up some of the worst policies Obama and his Secretary of State Clinton have retained. This includes kidnapping and keeping people in jail without charging them with a crime indefinitely. Some of this has been posted on townhallmeeting.org before, most recently here and also days after Obama won the Presidency here. Anyone who has read Howard Zinn’s great book “A Peoples History of the US” will know that throughout American history, Democrats and Republicans have almost always had bipartisan agreement on foreign policy. For recent examples of bipartisan foreign policy, check out the chapter “Carter-Reagan-Bush: The Bipartisan Consensus.” But the examples go all the way back to America’s beginning, including both Roosevelts, Woodrow Wilson, Kennedy, etc. It seems scary foreigners can unite Washington, just like in Orwell’s “1984.”

22 Mar 2010

Obama’s Hashish Army?

Filed under: — Administrator @ 9:15 pm
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kc8w0IX4UQc

With all the talk about health care, don’t forget there are U.S. military troops fighting or ready to fight all over the world. The question we should all ask is why?

Thanks G for the links!

03 Feb 2010

Top Intelligence Leader Admits Killing Americans is Okay

Filed under: — Al @ 4:11 pm

Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair told a House Panel today that intelligence agencies have the authority to kill Americans if they are considered a terrorist threat. Blair is infamously known for giving aid to Indonesian military officers who led the 1999 Liquica Church Massacre, while commander of U.S. Pacific Command.

We take direct actions against terrorists in the intelligence community, if … we think that direct action will involve killing an American, we get specific permission to do that.

Whether that American is involved in a group that is trying to attack us, whether that American has — is a threat to other Americans. Those are the factors involved.” Blair explained. “We don’t target people for free speech. We target them for taking action that threatens Americans.

02 Feb 2010

Truth in Jest

Filed under: — Al @ 12:10 pm

“American Dad” and “The Cleveland Show” take a whack at the CIA and Blackwater…

11 Dec 2009

“The People Speak” by Howard Zinn to Air on US TV

Filed under: — Al @ 1:23 pm

This is based on Zinn’s book “A People’s history of the United States: 1492-present” and the actual words of the people in the book, such as Helen Keller and Frederick Douglass. It’s going to appear on the “History Channel” on Sunday, December 13 at 8pm (7pm CT). Check it out, you will be amazed by the U.S. history you may have missed.

02 Nov 2009

Accountability for Washington’s Wars

Filed under: — Al @ 11:45 am

Bring back the draft. An all volunteer military is one of the worst ideas I can think of. It naturally leads to the whole idea of “the troops are better than us” stuff because only a certain type of person would go to war voluntarily. This idea is backed up by rhetoric from almost everyone in the media. Which then must make the troops wonder at some point, why am I dying for people who are just sitting at home drinking and having a good time, when I’m the better person? A draft democratizes war, and it helps ensure that a majority of Americans are in favor of it because they are the ones that will be fighting and dying for it.

12 Aug 2009

Think of a Map

The Israel/Palestine debacle can be confusing and nuanced. I highly recommend looking at a map anytime you are thinking about or discussing this issue. It is a great way to start a discussion from an honest place. In case there is yet another peace deal made, don’t buy into it unless you first see a map with clear borders, pointing to the settlements and Israel-only highways in the West Bank. I believe this is important not only because it will lead to justice, but because it is easier for the average person to understand.

The best place for maps of Israel and Palestine can be found at The Foundation For Middle East Peace. You can find all their maps here.

The most disturbing maps are of the West Bank. Check out a full screen view of the below West Bank Map here. The dotted green line is the internationally recognized border of the West Bank, written in 1949, the so-called “green line.” However, looking at a map, you can see just how aggressively Israel has usurped Palestinian land, beyond what they were given after World War 2.

West Bank Map Divided Partitioned

This short video from American Friends Service Committee has a very enlightening set of maps of the West Bank that really tells you just how much land has been taken from Palestinians since 1948.

For more detailed information on Israel and Palestine and America’s involvement, watch this interview with Phillip Wilcox, President of the FMEP.

22 May 2009

Breaking Through the Propaganda on Pakistan

Filed under: — Al @ 4:41 pm

The PBS show Bill Moyers Journal (last Friday) started with an extremely enlightening discussion about Pakistan, with 2 people who have actually lived there (again, what a journalistic concept!). It seems most of the fear mongering is not true, sound familiar? For example, the “Taliban” in Pakistan are not really all Taliban. In reality there are a handful of different factions who do not all agree with each other that are being lumped in to the word “Taliban” by the US Establishment (mass media, political leaders, pundits). Then there are only about 4000 of these “bad guys,” vs about 550,000 Pakistani military forces. And the fact that Pakistan was able to get rid of a military dictator and demand free and fair elections and ended up electing the most popular candidate at the time (who has his own issues of corruption though), is considered a weak and unstable place!? What a propaganda job we are getting here in the good ‘ol US of A!

You may ask, “What is the motive for the fear-mongering?” The answer is the US wants Pakistan to do something it does not want to do, so threatening them and calling them unstable will force them to take action they would not otherwise take. In this case, the US wants them to militarily attack the northwest territories as a backstop for the US military’s efforts in Afghanistan.

Watch Bill Moyers, Shahan Mufti, and Juan Cole Discuss Pakistan

Watch Moyers, Mufti, and Cole Discuss Pakistan

20 May 2009

“Since 1945, the United States has lost 11 nuclear weapons”

Filed under: — Al @ 11:49 am

Amazing article by an excellent journalist Jeffrey St. Clair. It’s about a nuclear bomb that was lost off the coast of Savannah, GA in 1958 when two military planes accidentally hit each other. The government never recovered the bomb, so it sits there to this day. Instead they spent their time on a PR campaign in order to calm nerves in hopes to keep their precious nuclear program. Not to worry though, “We’ve looked into this particular issue from all angles and we’re very comfortable,” says the US Air Force. Your Department of Defense/War at work…

When We Almost Nuked Savannah
The Case of the Missing H-Bomb
By JEFFREY ST. CLAIR, CounterPunch

Things go missing. It’s to be expected. Even at the Pentagon. Last October, the Pentagon’s inspector general reported that the military’s accountants had misplaced a destroyer, several tanks and armored personnel carriers, hundreds of machine guns, rounds of ammo, grenade launchers and some surface-to-air missiles. In all, nearly $8 billion in weapons were AWOL.

Those anomalies are bad enough. But what’s truly chilling is the fact that the Pentagon has lost track of the mother of all weapons, a hydrogen bomb. The thermonuclear weapon, designed to incinerate Moscow, has been sitting somewhere off the coast of Savannah, Georgia for the past 40 years. The Air Force has gone to greater lengths to conceal the mishap than to locate the bomb and secure it.

Read the rest here

CounterPunch - Lost Nuclear Bomb Near Savannah

On a side note, if you haven’t read it yet, check out his book Whiteout which is part of our progressive library.

14 Apr 2009

Pirates and the 21st Century

Did anyone know that the 3 pirates killed by the US military were aged 17-19? Check out this interview by Davey D (Oakland representin) of K’naan a Somalian rapper, poet, activist about piracy. Again, what a novel journalistic technique: interview someone who is from the country you are reporting about! The largest point is the mass media omission of the fact that nuclear waste is being dumped into the ocean off the Somalian coast.

02 Feb 2009

Pro-Israel Rally in US

Filed under: — Al @ 9:46 pm

Wow, it’s hard to really comment on this. “Wipe them all out,” they say in this. Isn’t that what the atrocities of the holocaust was all about? Do they not see the insanity of their position, given that Jews went through similar hatred? It’s too much to even think about. Just watch.

17 Nov 2008

Continuity, Not Change

The guy leading Obama’s intelligence transition team is apparently John Brennan. He says that rendition (also known as kidnapping) is not only useful but okay. We gotta nip these things in the bud if we really get “change we need” rather than this same old crap.

John Brennan Likes Extraordinary Rendition

Check out this excerpt from the interview:

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to excerpts from a December 2005 interview with John Brennan, the former CIA official now leading Obama’s intelligence transition. Brennan was interviewed by Margaret Warner on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer about his views on the Bush administration’s practice of extraordinary rendition.

MARGARET WARNER: So, was Secretary Rice correct today when she called it a vital tool in combating terrorism?

JOHN BRENNAN: I think it’s an absolutely vital tool. I have been intimately familiar now for the past decade with the cases of rendition that the US government has been involved in, and I can say, without a doubt, that it has been very successful as far as producing intelligence that has saved lives.

MARGARET WARNER: So is it—are you saying both—in two ways, both in getting terrorists off the streets and also in the interrogation?

JOHN BRENNAN: Yes. The rendition is the practice or the process of rendering somebody from one place to another place. It is moving them. And US government will frequently facilitate that movement from a country to another.

MARGARET WARNER: Why would you not, if this—if you have a suspect who’s a danger to the United States, keep him in the United States’ custody? Is it because we want another country to do the dirty work?

JOHN BRENNAN: No, I don’t think that’s it at all. Also, I think it’s rather arrogant to think that we’re the only country that respects human rights. I think that we have a lot of assurances from these countries that we hand over terrorists to that they will in fact respect human rights. And there are different ways to gain those assurances. But also, let’s say an individual goes to Egypt, because they’re an Egyptian citizen, and the Egyptians then have a longer history, in terms of dealing with them, and they have family members and others that they can bring in, in fact, to be part of the whole interrogation process.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s John Brennan, who heads up the transition team on intelligence. Mel Goodman?

MELVIN GOODMAN: Well, John Brennan is being completely dishonest there. All of the operational people I’ve talked to know that the people who were turned over to the Arab intelligence services—and remember, this is Egypt, this is Syria, this is Jordan, this is Saudi Arabia—that all of these foreign intelligence services commit torture and abuse. Now, if any of these suspects had anything to say to us that was of any utility, we would have kept them. We would have controlled these people. They would have become our sources and our assets. When we turned them over, we were turning over people who we felt had very little to offer, and we were turning over them to them, to the Arab liaison services for torture and abuse.

John Brennan has defended the warrantless eavesdropping. John Brennan has basically defended all of the violations that were committed at the CIA in the run-up to the war and in the postwar period. So the signal this sends to CIA employees who tried to get it right—and there were a few who tried to get it right—is the worst kind of signal. And if this is Obama’s judgment about a national security team, it’s very reminiscent of what Bill Clinton did in 1993, when he appointed people such as Jim Woolsey and Les Aspin and Warren Christopher and Tony Lake to the national security positions, and all of them had to be removed before the first term was over. So this is very disquieting, what
we’re learning now.

AMY GOODMAN: In fact, NPR attributed Obama’s reversal on FISA and telecom immunity to the fact that he was relying on the advice of John Brennan, an emphatic supporter of these policies.

MELVIN GOODMAN: Well, then you have to wonder who he’s relying on, in terms of advice, to keep Bob Gates at the Pentagon, which I think is another example of continuity and not change. You mean to tell me that there are no Democrats who are qualified to become the Secretary of Defense? Bob Gates has supported all of the policies that Obama said he was going to look at very carefully and seemed to oppose: expansion of NATO, bringing Georgia and Ukraine into NATO, deployment of missiles in Poland, deployment of radars in the Czech Republic, the continued acquisition of a national missile defense, which is the most expensive item in the Pentagon’s procurement project, an item that we’ve spent over $500 billion on in the last forty years. This is—again, this is not change; this is continuity.

UPDATE
Brennan is now “Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Adviser for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism.” Sigh.

23 Sep 2008

Privatization and Deregulation Hits the Fan

Even our little blog has had 3 entries on the giant red alarms leading us up to this point, post 1, post 2, and post 3, dating back to early July. So ANYONE who says they had no way of seeing this coming is completely full of it. I repeat, this financial meltdown was expected.

To stay a little ahead of the game, check out one of our recommended blogs by NYU professor Nouriel Roubini. He has been sounding the alarm on this since at least early 2007. Oh, and for those who say where was Congress to sound the alarm? the guy who wrote this article is Michael Hudson, Dennis Kucinich’s chief economic adviser. People have been sounding the alarm, it’s just that the national media has completely dropped the ball, (think WMD). They are only interested in one thing: profit, and therefore ratings, NOT NEWS. Speaking of not in the news, the proposed defense budget for 2009 is over $600 billion. That is more than the defense budget of all other nations combined! You’ll have to learn about this from the Asia Times. If you don’t believe them, check it out on the white house website. We the people have got to stop reckless privatization and an insane war budget, let’s start now!

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