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Member since: Wed Mar 16, 2005, 11:12 AM
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Ruling Hindu Tea Party wants to “Develop” India for its 1%


Ruling Hindu Tea Party wants to “Develop” India for its 1%
By contributors | Jul. 1, 2014
By Gyanendra Pandey New Delhi

Through the President’s address to Parliament on June 9, 2014, the newly elected Indian Government has officially outlined its short and longer-term agenda. The emphasis, as expected, is on faster economic growth. Questions of welfare and security for the poor and disadvantaged are, however, very superficially addressed. This has to be cause for concern if sabka saath, sabka vikas is indeed the aim of the Government’s programme: All the more so, given the brutal violence the country continues to witness against women, religious minorities, and the lowest castes and classes.

The central slogan of the programme is ‘Development through good governance’. Development is an old idea, prescribed in the period after World War II by a triumphant capitalist, imperialist West for the colonised and ex-colonised nations of Asia, Africa and Latin America. A different orthodoxy arose a few decades later, in the form of a strategy of economic liberalisation, encouragement of private investment, trickle-down theories of growth and technocratic solutions for social problems. This turn, too, was initiated in the West, most stridently by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. It was adopted wholesale in the early 1990s, by a Congress government led by P.V. Narasimha Rao. And it has been followed by every Indian government since.

A BJP campaign hoarding ahead of the Lok Sabha elections

The BJP Government is set to continue these neo-liberal policies. The difference is that it describes the economic results- the spurt in investments and profits at the top, the growth of a large new consumerist middle class, mass disempowerment, and increasing disparities in wealth and income, security and welfare- as ‘development’.

The other vital term in the Government’s official agenda is ‘governance’. What this means is not so obvious. But any careful reading of the President’s speech, and of earlier statements and documents put out by the leaders of BJP, makes clear that it refers primarily to better coordination between different arms of Government and greater bureaucratic efficiency and speed, both to be realised through new technology as much as anything else. So we now have a promise of: ‘governance’, ‘e-governance’, a ‘Digital India’, a national e-library, a ‘national mission “e-Bhasha” that will develop digital vernacular content and disseminate our classic literature in different languages’, and ‘a National Multiskill Mission (to develop a) Skilled India’. In short, what human endeavour and political struggle have failed to deliver, science and technology are now going to do.
Posted by unhappycamper | Tue Jul 1, 2014, 07:30 AM (0 replies)

The Debacle of the Caliphates: Why al-Baghdadi’s Grandiosity doesn’t Matter


The Debacle of the Caliphates: Why al-Baghdadi’s Grandiosity doesn’t Matter
By Juan Cole | Jun. 30, 2014

Ibrahim al-Badri, a run-of-the-mill Sunni Iraqi cleric, gained a degree from the University of Baghdad at a time when pedagogy there had collapsed because of the Saddam Hussein dictatorship and international sanctions. After 2003 he took the name Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and turned to a vicious and psychopathic violence involving blowing up children at ice cream shops and blowing up gerbils and garden snakes at pet shops and blowing up family weddings, then coming back and blowing up the resultant funerals. This man is one of the most infamous serial killers in modern history, with the blood of thousands on his hands, before whom Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy fade into insignificance.

Al-Baghdadi leads the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL), which today changed its name just to “the Islamic State.” And its members made a pledge of fealty to al-Baghdadi as the “caliph.” Let us please call it the “so-called Islamic State,” since it bears all the resemblance to mainstream Islam that Japan’s Om Shinrikyo (which let sarin gas into the subway in 1995) bears to Buddhism.

After the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632 in Medina, West Arabia, the clans of Mecca favored as his successor notables of his noble clan, the Quraysh (the “Little Shark Tribe”). The first three were Abu Bakr, Omar and `Uthman.

Some clans in the neighboring city of Medina preferred a dynastic principle, wanting to see a close relative of Muhammad succeed him as his vicar. They favored Ali ibn Abi Talib, his cousin and son-in-law, i.e., the closest thing he had to a living son at the time of his death. Ali was passed over three times by the notables in Mecca but finally became the fourth caliph in 656 AD. He was, however, assassinated in 661 only five years later. Those Muslims who accepted the first four “Orthodox caliphs” gradually became known as ‘people of the tradition,’ or ahl al-sunnah, i.e., the Sunnis.
Posted by unhappycamper | Mon Jun 30, 2014, 07:00 AM (0 replies)

Surge in patients outpaces fayetteville's VA health care's building boom


Surge in patients outpaces fayetteville's VA health care's building boom
Posted: Sunday, June 29, 2014 12:00 am
By Drew Brooks Military editor

The Fayetteville VA Medical Center has been playing catchup for years.

A surge in the veteran population following a decade of war has stressed the system since at least 2010, when Elizabeth Goolsby took the helm of the 21-county region served by the Fayetteville VA.

In the four years since, the number of patients seen at the local VA has grown more than 10,000 to nearly 60,000 each year.

A building boom across several counties is adding new clinics, centers and offices, including significant changes to the VA's main campus in Fayetteville. But it still won't be enough.
Posted by unhappycamper | Sun Jun 29, 2014, 06:42 AM (0 replies)

(CA) Southland falls short of achieving 20% voluntary cut in water use


The effects of California's severe drought can be seen in the parched lawn at the Capitol in Sacramento. No region of the state has met Gov. Jerry Brown's goal of a 20% voluntary cut in water use.

Southland falls short of achieving 20% voluntary cut in water use
Bettina Boxall

outhern Californians have fallen far short of achieving the 20% voluntary cut in water use sought by Gov. Jerry Brown in the face of the deep drought afflicting every corner of the state.

A recent statewide survey found that urban water use in coastal Southern California declined by only 5% from January through May. And a Times review of data from the region's three largest cities shows that use actually went up over the last year.

Local water officials attribute the meek response in part to the conservation successes of recent years, which they say make it more difficult to realize further reductions.

"It's a little bit more of a struggle now," said Ken Weinberg, director of water resources for the San Diego County Water Authority, which recorded a 4% uptick in overall demand since last summer after a 27% drop in daily per capita use from 2007 to 2013. "We got rid of a lot of waste."


Strangely enough a desalinization plant or two should be able to provide potable water much of SoCal.


Where can the money come from? Simple. Don't build one $5+ billion dollar Zumwalt-class destroyer. Problem solved.
Posted by unhappycamper | Sat Jun 28, 2014, 08:16 AM (7 replies)

Many in military using Roth TSP to save for retirement


Many in military using Roth TSP to save for retirement
Contributing Writer
June 28, 2014

Military savers are discovering the special advantages a Roth-type Thrift Savings Plan provides to them, given that their taxable income is dampened by tax-free allowances and periodic tax-exempt combat tours.

The Roth TSP choice became available only in May 2012. TSP account balances so far average only $2,500 for all uniformed personnel. But the military participation rate in Roth TSP tells the tale. While uniformed personnel have 15 percent of all TSP accounts, they are 46 percent of Roth TSP participants.

“When we were preparing to launch the Roth TSP option, we anticipated it would be particularly attractive to our military participants,” said Kim Weaver of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, which administers TSP for federal civilian workers and the military.

Service members “generally are lower paid and so don’t benefit as greatly from a traditional pre-tax/tax-deferred option. But allowing them to contribute after-tax dollars that can grow for decades and that can accept tax-exempt combat pay, is very attractive to military participants.”
Posted by unhappycamper | Sat Jun 28, 2014, 07:06 AM (0 replies)

Canada’s aboriginals win historic victory for ancestral rights over their land


Canada’s aboriginals win historic victory for ancestral rights over their land
By Agence France-Presse
Friday, June 27, 2014 9:25 EDT

Canada’s Supreme Court recognized native groups’ rights over a large swathe of land for the first time Thursday in western British Columbia province.

The landmark ruling in favor of the semi-nomadic Tsilhqot’in people — numbering about 3,000 — could have an impact on similar Native American claims currently pending in court, as well as on impact on mining, forestry and other projects exploiting raw materials across vast portions of Canada.

In 2012, a British Columbia appeals court had refused to recognize the Tsilhqot’in people’s ancestral rights over the land in center of the province, saying that they needed to identify the “specific sites” their ancestors had used when the Europeans arrived, rather than lay claim to the broad area.

The Supreme Court tossed that decision out, stressing that “occupation sufficient to ground Aboriginal title is not confined to specific sites of settlement but extends to tracts of land that were regularly used for hunting, fishing or otherwise exploiting resources and over which the group exercised effective control at the time of assertion of European sovereignty.”
Posted by unhappycamper | Sat Jun 28, 2014, 06:13 AM (0 replies)

German parliament cuts ties with Verizon in wake of spying scandal


German parliament cuts ties with Verizon in wake of spying scandal
By Reuters
Friday, June 27, 2014 14:42 EDT

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s lower house of parliament has joined the government in cutting ties with U.S. telecoms firm Verizon Communications Inc , in reaction to a scandal last year over U.S. government spying and allegations firms were handing over data.


The Bundestag lower house of parliament plans to end its contract with Verizon “as soon as possible,” a government spokesperson told reporters on Friday. It had been due to run until the end of the year.

A day earlier the German Interior Ministry said the federal government would not renew its contract with the firm. The government needed a very high level of security, it said, and the NSA row had revealed ties between foreign intelligence agencies and companies.

Revelations of U.S. spying have prompted Germany to overhaul its internal communications and secure government networks. The decision to cut ties with Verizon are the first actions as a result. The government does not use U.S. firms for any other IT services, a spokesman said.
Posted by unhappycamper | Sat Jun 28, 2014, 06:05 AM (1 replies)

Editorial: Japan must step up on TPP or be eased out


Barack Obama meets with John Key.

Editorial: Japan must step up on TPP or be eased out
5:00 AM Wednesday Jun 25, 2014

In large measure, John Key achieved the main objective of his visit to the White House. President Barack Obama recommitted the United States to the Trans Pacific Partnership as a comprehensive deal incorporating the elimination of all tariffs and imposed a November deadline. This signified that New Zealand's notion of a gold-standard deal still holds sway. The deadline, for its part, while far from the first, indicated the Americans were not content for the negotiations to drift. However, neither part of the President's statement addressed the steps that must be taken to reinvigorate proceedings. Therein lies the answer to what becomes of the TPP.

Allowing Japan to enter the negotiations appears increasingly to have been a mistake. While its economic clout would add much, its long history of protectionism runs counter to the ambitions enunciated by New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei and Chile three years ago when they began what evolved into the TPP talks. Whatever the lip-service paid by Japan to the ideal of free trade, there was always the likelihood that bad habits would resurface in the nitty-gritty of negotiations.

As much became evident in April when it signed a low-grade free trade pact with Australia. Rather than the reduction of all tariffs to zero within 10 years, as espoused by the TPP's initiators, there was, for example, a cut in the tariff in fresh beef to 23.5 per cent after 15 years. Australia might have been happy with what it considered a foot in the door, but the implications for the TPP were alarming. The pact showed the Japanese that at least one of the other prospective TPP signatories was willing to condone its protectionist instinct. That, in turn, made it easier for it to resist the higher ambitions of others.

President Obama discovered as much on a visit to Tokyo soon after the signing of the bilateral pact. In no meaningful way was he able to use his country's leverage to break through Japan's reluctance to open market access in what it considers its sacred agricultural sectors - rice, wheat, beef, pork, sugar and dairy products.
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Jun 27, 2014, 09:11 AM (1 replies)



By Bill Shunas
Spring 2014

In today's USA, what does it mean to be a veteran, and what role do veterans play? Being a veteran of a recent war is in many ways a lot different than back in the Vietnam days. Of course there are similarities with all wars. There are after effects such as limitations on care for vets, limited jobs for vets, and PTSD. However today everyone in the whole US of A knows when it comes to veterans that something special is happening here, and they usually show respect and give a vet some space if not the opportunity needed.

This reception is similar to World War II and before when veterans were shown respect and treated as heroes. However there are some differences between present day vets and World War II. For one, nowadays the GI Bill is much weaker. It is also different in a good way in that recognition of PTSD and traumatic brain injury is common among vets, is a problem and can be helped. WWII vets had to deal with any of these problems by themselves.

Unlike now or WWII, Vietnam vets didn't return to a welcome. The best we could hope for was to be ignored. Maybe this was because we were fighting against a concept (anti-communism) rather than against an enemy which was taking territory from other countries and sending civilians to death camps. Maybe it was because we lost our war. Or grew our hair long. Or dissed the establishment. Or smoked dope. Or disobeyed.

When I returned from Vietnam, I soon headed for my favorite bar. There I was greeted by old friends and acquaintances I hadn't seen for about a year. Some said they were glad to see me back. Some said they were glad that I served unlike those who went to Canada or pulled strings to get a draft deferment. After about 20 or 30 minutes the talk returned to the NBA playoffs and the beginning of the baseball season. I no longer felt like a returning veteran, nor did I want or expect to feel so. I only wanted to slip back into my life.

Many had different, less welcome experiences. Due to what was experienced in Vietnam many needed emotional as well as material support and didn't get it. Then again, many of you had similar experiences as I. Maybe you started school on the GI Bill and never told anyone you were a vet. Many at school heard other students disparaging vets. You stayed quiet and wondered. Did we have any say in that debacle? (VVAW members on campus and other vets in the peace movement helped change some of the backward sentiment about soldiers/veterans.)

Much has been said about Vietnam vets not being welcomed home. Back in about 1975 the Chicago Chapter of VVAW had a rally to honor Vietnam vets. There wasn't much of a turnout. Vietnam vets just didn't connect to being a veteran in the way that Iraq and Afghanistan vets do today. A few years later Vietnam vets were discovered. Cities started to have welcome home parades, and maybe this kicked off the period of changing attitudes toward vets leading up to the situation today.

Today veterans are chic. Rick Morrissey, sports columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times began his last year's Veterans Day article by writing, "I can't recall the last time I attended a sporting event without seeing some sort of tribute to military members." Everybody supports us now. Or exploits us.

There used to often be movies or TV programs about a Vietnam vet doing drugs or going off and having a shoot-em-up. More accurate movies like Coming Home or Born on the Fourth of July were less common. Now on the TV series or in the movies the vet is outstanding. The only exception is when he works as a military contractor for Blackwater or some other mercenary outfit. If PTSD causes the hero to do something stupid or tragic — well — that is to be understood, and he'll (most often he) receive TLC from the leading lady.

Vets obviously play political roles. In the collective mind of the civilian population before Vietnam there used to be assumptions that equated being a veteran with being a patriot. This transferred into being a supporter of the military and a supporter of any war started by our government. In the aftermath of Vietnam that had changed or was not talked about as much. That was because half the Vietnam vets (or maybe the more visible) had long hair and questioned war.

When Vietnam vets started getting thanks for our service there was another change. We now fit into the old formula. Vietnam vet equals good. All vets are good. Good vet equals patriot. Patriots support the military. Supporting the military means supporting the current (and next) war. Vets are thanked as having defended our freedom and risking the ultimate sacrifice in order that we civilians may enjoy our way of life because of the wars fought. Unstated is any doubt that the sacrifices have anything to do with the freedoms enjoyed in the homeland.

A large portion of civilians buy into the vet equals patriot idea to the point where speaking out against a war such as the Gulf War in the early nineties meant that you were denigrating heroes. I remember an anti-war demonstration back then. Off to the side were a handful of people waving flags and shouting support for our soldiers. This was apples versus oranges, but the perception was that not supporting the war meant you were somehow against the soldier.

Over time things got better and you could say what you wanted as long as you saluted our soldiers. But it still needs work. Sometimes people who consider themselves to be patriots oppose (a) war but stay quiet because they are afraid that speaking out is unpatriotic. It is sometimes hard to speak out against the loud voices of the self-righteous.

So we have reached the glorious situation where the nation wants to do all it can to support and help recently returned vets. PTSD and TBI are considered to be things that need to be dealt with. Everyone knows that these folks made great sacrifices and are deserving. One problem. We are in a prolonged economic slump. There is less money to do the things that veterans need to be done. So, yes, the nation feels for vets, but the budget doesn't include what's needed. And if things don't get cut, neither do they expand to the extent needed.

One thing that can be done for the future veterans of war is to create fewer of us. The way that's done is to have fewer and shorter wars. In the meantime we are here as a social and political force with social needs. We are not always understood, but we are usually honored. We need to make as the accepted wisdom the slogan "Honor the Warrior, Not the War."
Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Jun 27, 2014, 09:05 AM (0 replies)

J Randy Forbes: China. There, I said it


Republican J Randy Forbes (R-VA) is the Chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee and co-chair of the Congressional China Caucus.

China. There, I said it
By J Randy Forbes
Jun 27, '14

In June 2012 I wrote in the article "China. There, I said it" about an effort to generate a conversation about how the United States was publicly discussing the competitive elements of its relationship with the People's Republic of China (PRC). At the time, I felt like there was an unnecessarily tight muzzle on our civilian and military leadership that prevented the US from having a frank and honest conversation about the subject.

If Congress is going to be asked to marshal the resources to sustain its enduring interests in the Asia-Pacific region - including a balance of military power that favors the US and its allies - I contended that the administration and specifically the Pentagon would only be successful if they were comfortable publicly making the case why these investments were required.

Two years on, I have observed occasional improvements in the discourse. Between President Obama's strong position on the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands before his recent trip to Asia, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel's forceful speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue, or Assistant Secretary of State Danny Russel's stern testimony on maritime disputes in the region, the statements and testimony from administration officials and the president himself in the past two years have taken on a new level of seriousness toward China.

However, in military and security terms we still struggle to communicate how the defense budget is being built to manage the security competition with China. For instance, our military's capabilities for anti-surface and anti-air warfare, counter-mine operations, missile defense, long-range strike, and base resiliency are increasingly discussed in public briefings and strategy documents. Unfortunately, there is a tendency to justify these missions as an end in themselves rather than explain why they have taken on a newfound importance. Classified briefings will continue to be used to translate this information to the Congressional defense committees, but if the Pentagon aims to justify its budget to Congress as a whole and avoid further rounds of sequestration cuts, for instance, it will need to move beyond discussing missions and programs to identify the actual risks associated with failing to counter China's emerging military capabilities.


Posted by unhappycamper | Fri Jun 27, 2014, 08:16 AM (0 replies)
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