Failed Empire

Chronicling the collapse of a failed society

Monthly Archives: June 2011

On the Road

I’ll be away from the Intertubes for the next few days, taking a much needed mini-vacation.  Should be back on Saturday.

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400,000 Brain-Injured Veterans a Fair Price for American Empire

Bush and veteran burn victim

In addition to the trillion dollar price tag, 600,000+ dead civilians, 1 million orphans and 6,100 dead American soldiers, we can now add 400,000 brain-injured veterans to the cost of our latest wars of aggression:

 Independent experts suggest that more than 400,000 American service members will return from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with traumatic brain injuries that could lead to severe personality disorders, and little is being done to help them.

Having wasted countless billions – trillions, in all likelihood – on our five concurrent wars and exposed hundreds of thousands of American soldiers to the dangers of the battlefield, our gifted military leaders have identified the true culprit behind our reckless spending:  health care for soldiers.

Afflicted veterans have every reason to expect their government to continue to treat them as expendable waste, as the Pentagon actively opposes formal diagnoses of the condition, known as mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) and denies the validity of treatment that its own researchers have said could help. Defense Secretary Robert Gates called for a cut in the military’s $50-billion-a-year health budget, saying “health care costs are eating the Defense Department alive,” according to a Huffington Post article in January.

And that in a nutshell is the very essence of American empire.  Exploit the little guys for all they’re worth, using them in any way necessary to reap maximum profits.  Because war is, after all, little more than a business venture for the giant corporate entities within the military-industrial complex.  Just as the private sector throughout America has little interest in providing health care for the workers it underpays and overworks, so too does our for-profit military increase it profits for its shareholders by cutting corners on such luxuries as medical care for the severely wounded.

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Obama Boasts of Troop Reductions in Afghanistan, The Machine Trudges On

Tahrir Square

For the last ten years, we’ve been hearing about troop withdrawals in Afghanistan.  It’s not at all surprising that politicians will try to manipulate the masses with promises of an end to the war, but it is somewhat shocking that we seem to fall for it over and over again.  So with the latest reports that Obama is pledging a reduction in troop numbers in Afghanistan, it’s a good idea to ignore the corporate puppet and listen to what Pentagon officials have to say:

 U.S. Undersecretary of Defense Michele Flournoy reminded lawmakers the U.S. troop force in Afghanistan will still be larger than it was when Obama took office, despite the President’s pledge to reduce the military presence in the country.

Michele Flournoy: “Even after the recovery of the surge forces, totaling about 33,000 troops, we will still have 68,000 U.S. service members in Afghanistan. That is more than twice the number as when President Obama took office. Clearly, this is not a rush to the exits that will jeopardize our security gains. More importantly, at the end of summer 2012, when all of the surge forces are out, there will actually be more Afghan and coalition forces in the fight than there are today.”

We’re not leaving Afghanistan, or Iraq, Libya, Yemen or Pakistan at any point in the foreseeable future.  As long as there is something to be gained by maintaining a troop presence, we will be there.  Such is the nature of empire, and ours is no different.  It doesn’t matter if the nation bankrupts itself in the process, because the wealthy elites that are pulling the strings have rigged the system in such a way that they always profit.  When the masses lose, they win.  When we’re struggling to survive on the unemployment line, they’re greedily lining their pockets with our national wealth, and laughing all the while.

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Adventures in Modern Capitalism: Man Robs Bank of $1 to Obtain Prison Health Care

James Verone robs bank for health care

The only surprising thing about this incident is that it hasn’t happened more often:

Uninsured Man Robs Bank of $1 to Gain Prison Medical Coverage

A North Carolina man who had no health insurance has admitted to recently robbing a bank of one dollar in order to be sent to jail to get free medical coverage. James Verone, a laid-off employee of Coca Cola, recently noticed a protrusion in his chest and had developed arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome. Without health insurance or money for private care, Verone concluded his best option would be to go to prison. Verone told a local newspaper, “The pain was beyond the tolerance that I could accept. I kind of hit a brick wall with everything.” Since being held in jail he has seen several nurses and has an appointment with a doctor Friday.

The story communicates much about our society.  A giant, multinational, multi-billion dollar corporation laid off an employee, leaving him without income and without access to medical care.  Verone was then sentenced to prison for stealing $1 from a bank, an ironic development considering that banks prosper by stealing money from people in any way they can.  As an ordinary law-abiding citizen Verone was not afforded the access to health care, but somehow criminals are deemed worthy of this most basic of human rights.

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FDR’s Second Bill of Rights: Nearly 70 Years On, Still Exactly What We Need

It’s rather shocking to think just how much we’ve devolved socially in the 67 years since FDR first proposed his Second Bill of Rights:

It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.

This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.

As our nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

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Massive Protests in Spain Offer Lessons to U.S. Leftist Movement

anti-austerity protests in Spain

As 1 million people turn out for the Stanley Cup parade in Boston, hundreds of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets across Europe to decry proposed austerity measures:

 Anti-austerity rallies have been held across Europe – in Spain thousands marched to protest against high unemployment and their government’s handling of the economic crisis.

It was the first major demonstration since the end of the so called Indignant campaign in which Madrid’s central square was occupied by activists for several weeks.

A protest movement called “The Indignant” is leading the way in Spain:

 More than 100,000 protesters took to the streets in cities across Spain on Sunday, accusing politicians and bankers of implementing economic policies that led to the highest unemployment rate in the eurozone.

In Spain’s capital, Madrid, protesters converged near the parliament building where 500 police were deployed to maintain security. The police estimated that between 35,000 and 45,000 people joined the demonstrations with no reports of violence.

I’m here because this is a con,” Juanjo Montiel, a 26 year old who works in information technology, told the news agency Reuters. …

Since its founding in May, the protest movement has fanned out across Spain with protesters on Sunday reading a manifesto calling for a general strike and for a revolution.

The capitalist system does not work, it only benefits a few and harms the majority,” a young female protester told the news agency dpa. …

“The banks and the governments that caused this situation must know that we do not agree with the measures and the budget cuts, that we intend to be heard,” the “indignant” movement said when calling for nationwide protests.

With the official unemployment rate in Spain exceeding 20%, the rage felt by ordinary citizens is quite understandable.  Their situation is in many ways similar to our own; after years of reckless profiteering by the banks and other corporations, ordinary citizens are now faced with the prospect of slashing social services to bail out the very entities that caused the crisis in the first place.  There are, of course, crucial differences between them and us – perhaps the most notable being that people in Spain are actually turning out en masse to protest the latest proposed austerity measures.

But beyond that, the situation across Europe is different in that they actually have meaningful social services at risk of being lost.  Universal health care, free or reduced college education and comprehensive unemployment benefits are the norm throughout the EU, meaning that normal citizens actually have a lot to lose if the proposed measures are implemented.

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Intellectual Engagement with the Fringe Right: “It’s like a retarded person who had AIDS”

idiocracy

Over the last few days, Failed Empire has received quite a bit of attention from, shall we say, less than sympathetic readers.   In the interest of openness I never delete any comments, but the comments that self-professed conservatives tend to leave say quite a lot about what we’re up against in the fight to build a better world.  Consider the following examples (I’ve put all personal insults and particularly ignorant comments in bold).

From the post “One Million Expected for Bruins Rally as Nation Crumbles“:

the write of this article is a complete jackass. yes there are lots of problems in the world. and having parades like this to celebrate good things, things that make people happy, helps remind us what we are fighting wars for. Just sit at home and be miserable you fucking loser.

 — “Joe,” blowme@here.com

lol this guy is such a tool.
fight the power, pro! lmao.

 — Anonymous

And then a slew of comments from a particularly mature individual who has given himself the devastatingly witty moniker “Impeach Hussein”:

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One Million Expected for Bruins Rally as Nation Crumbles

Canadian hockey fans revolt after Stanley Cup loss

It’s good to see Americans have their priorities straight:

BOSTON (AP) — The Red Sox, Patriots and Celtics have all had at least one in recent years, and now it’s the Bruins turn for a parade.

The Stanley Cup champions will be the toast of the town on Saturday. Police expect as many as one million people to converge on Boston to honor the Bruins.

Did you catch that?  One million people are expected to turn up for the Bruins victory parade.  The economy is collapsing, millions are unemployed, we’re fighting five concurrent wars and increasingly living in a police state, the climate is shifting, cancers are spreading, the banksters are ripping off the masses on an unprecedented scale and the people can’t be bothered to get off their asses to do anything about it, but one million people will happily attend a frivolous parade to celebrate winning the fucking Stanley Cup.  You gotta love America, right?

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EWG’s Dirty Dozen: The 12 Most Toxic Fruits and Vegetables

farmers applying pesticide spray

From Mother Jones:

Every year, Environmental Working Group sifts through USDA testing data and figures out which “dirty dozen” fruits and veggies deliver the largest doses and the widest variety of pesticides. This year’s winner, announced Monday: apples. According to EWG, 92 percent of the apples tested by USDA carried two or more pesticide residues. And even as supermarket shelves feature a pretty narrow range of apple varieties—Red Delicious, Granny Smith, etc.—farmers are spraying them with a stunning diversity of poisons. Altogether, USDA picked up no fewer than 56 distinct pesticides on the apples it tested, EWG reports.

And the full list from EWG:

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$6.6 Billion Missing in Iraq Simply Par for the Course in the American Corporatocracy

Iraq war profiteers

The profiteering frenzy incited by war knows no bounds:

Federal auditors now believe as much as $6.6 billion earmarked for Iraq might have been stolen in the early years of the Iraq war in what is now being described as possibly “the largest theft of funds in national history.” Between 2003 and 2004, the United States shipped $12 billion in cash to Iraq in what was the biggest international cash airlift of all time. For years, the Pentagon has been unable to account for where more than half the money went. The Los Angeles Times reports Iraqi officials are now threatening to go to court to reclaim the money, which came from Iraqi oil sales, seized Iraqi assets and surplus funds from the United Nations’ oil-for-food program.

The incident truly epitomizes the rationale behind most armed conflict, though the insatiable greed here  boggles the mind.  Just try to picture what exactly what transpired.  As the invasion went underway, warmongers everywhere smelled the impending cash influx and flocked to the source as $12 billion in cash was physically loaded into aircraft and delivered to Iraq.  Literally stacks of cash then went missing, as money-grubbing profiteers helped themselves to the bounties of the latest American war of aggression.  Such is the norm in war, and has been throughout all of human history.

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