(Watch Richard D. Wolff on Link TV Sunday evening at 6:00 PM, and Monday morning at 1:00 AM. Also watch "Manufacturing Consent" on Link TV Monday at 3:00 AM, "Ecological Collapse" at 6:30 AM and "Consumerism" at 9:00 AM. And "Do the Math" anytime you can find it on. You'll be sobered up.)
Nice to have someone of integrity speak up about his military "service," isn't it?
He's the first, but maybe not the last.
April 12, 2015
Editor’s Note: Fifty years ago this spring, the U.S. military deployed combat units in South Vietnam for the first time. A massive escalation in the war followed — within three years the U.S. had more than 500,000 troops on the ground in Vietnam. When the war finally ended on April 30, 1975, with the fall of the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon to Communist forces, more than 4 million Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians and 58,000 Americans had died in the conflict.
For militarists here in the United States, the battle never really ended. They have sought ever since to reframe Vietnam as a “noble cause” betrayed by antiwar protesters who failed to appreciate the sacrifices of the troops and who then perpetuated the public’s aversion to prolonged military adventures in other countries for another generation before 9/11 opened the door on a new era of overseas wars.
Now, the Pentagon is heading up a 13-year, $65 million campaign to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the war that is slated to run from 2012 to 2025. The Vietnam War Commemoration Project will see its own massive escalation starting this year on Memorial Day, as the Pentagon looks to partner with 10,000 corporations and local groups “to thank and honor veterans of the Vietnam War.”
But what does all this unsolicited gratitude mean to a veteran who has dedicated himself to waging peace in the 45 years since he came home from war?
A fellow Vietnam vet once quipped to me that there are two high holy days for him — Veterans Day and Memorial Day. We both laughed since he’s an avowed atheist, and I consider myself something of a secular humanist. But with all jokes that skirt around deeper truths, this one has its barbs attached. We lack religious fervor. We do not proselytize much.
We are conflicted. We really don’t want to stand in any spotlight, but we are pissed off that the warmongers and the chickenhawks have claimed these days as their own personal property. We are thrust into a public arena, surrounded by many people who are either woefully uninformed about the true nature of war or dead-set on mythologizing it for their own warped ends. But, reluctant “clerics” that we are, we feel compelled to speak up. For our children’s sake.
Neither one of us is proud of our so-called “service” to the flailing dinosaur of an empire that calls itself the U.S. of A. Neither one of us wants to celebrate or commemorate those dark hours in our lives that found us tools of the “green machine.” But these days of so-called commemoration are foisted upon us by people who we think mean no harm; in fact, they probably think they are doing us a service. Trust me, they are not.
This past Veterans Day I ventured to Washington, D.C., to meet up with an old buddy from the Vietnam War. We visited the Arlington Cemetery and the Vietnam War Memorial, the twin slabs of stone that allow you to see your reflection as you read the names of the American war dead etched in black granite. I like this guy a lot and we have much in common, but he sported a “Vietnam Veteran” baseball cap, and I wore my Veterans For Peace (VFP) shirt with a quote emblazoned on the back from former General-turned-President Dwight Eisenhower about hating all wars.
An interesting dynamic played itself out as people approached my friend to thank him for his service and then looked at me a bit askance — even compelling my friend on occasion to say, “Hey, he’s a namvet too, you know.” This naturally set up that most awkward of exchanges for me — total strangers thanking ME for my service (usually they look into the sad eyes of a guy wearing a VFP logo espousing our admonition to abolish war and look away quickly).
“Uh-oh. Here it comes,” I think. The decade ahead just winked at me.
We can usually gird ourselves to withstand the well-wishing gestures of folks who mistakenly think that, as Vietnam War veterans, we want them to perform some kind of public penance to make up for not burying us in flowers and kisses throughout the sixties and seventies. Okay, whatever. But now that we enter this year, the 50th “anniversary” of the beginning of the real technological slaughter that caught fire in 1965, we have to prepare ourselves for 10 years of these “commemorations.”
But don’t pity me — I have some jiu-jitsu in mind. I am going to use this opportunity to fully disclose the true nature of that war. When thanked, I will remind people whenever I can that our little war took place in a country called Vietnam, that we were not just “losing our innocence” or “gaining our manhood” in some little sandbox. The Vietnamese people suffered greatly at our hands. Millions lost their lives, hundreds of thousands still suffer from the ravages of Agent Orange and unexploded ordnance just waiting to be touched and set off.
“What gives you the right to say anything?” You might ask. Fair enough. I certainly don’t pretend to speak for all Vietnam War veterans. I am only one person out of 3 million U.S. troops who were dispatched to Vietnam over the course of the war.
When I arrived in Vietnam in July 1969 for a 13-and-a-half-month tour of duty, I was a 22-year-old graduate school dropout from Rochester, New York, who was on a run of bad luck. I had been jilted by my fiancé and when I subsequently withdrew from the university, I was soon called up by my draft board. I knew from mandatory ROTC classes I had taken as an undergraduate that I would hate military life. However, I didn’t have the moral courage to resist the draft. And, there was a part of me that was secretly caught up in the romantic myth of going off to war and finding out if I could hack it.
I was assigned to a mobile artillery unit in the central highlands that supported the 173rd Airborne Division. I spent all of my time either on a landing zone or a firebase, with an occasional convoy to other firebases. I survived mortar attacks. I hovered in bunkers in anticipation of hordes of the “enemy” overrunning our position. I witnessed death. I witnessed brutality. I never really want to go “there” again. But as a member of Veterans For Peace, I have taken a pledge to not remain silent about the devastating moral injuries that beset all of us who become mired in war.
All these years later I am now a grandparent and a retired college instructor and administrator who lives in Maine. It deeply saddens me to see that our nation’s self-perpetuating war machine is cranked up and once again running in high gear. Here in 21st-century America, there is an insidious, self-serving faux adulation at play, one that has been fed on steroids, to turn every soldier automatically into a “hero,” so every poor soul coming back from her or his war (and, oh yes, we do own those wars) can’t even cuddle up with a loved one and speak the truths of his or her experience for fear of tarnishing the thread-worn mantle of hometown hero.
This is by design. Unscrupulous politicians use returning veterans as the emotional equivalent of human shields to deflect the public’s frustration with disastrous wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Heaven forbid if these new veterans would ever join us old namvets and stop the palaver about valor and heroics for a moment to acknowledge the grotesqueries of war.
Think of how the munitions factories and war colleges would all have to shut their doors. And people would have to publicly thank teachers, nurses, doctors, maintenance workers, police officers for their service. Imagine that.
Doug Rawlings is the author of two books of poetry and a co-founder of Veterans For Peace, a nationwide organization of veterans and their allies dedicated to abolishing war as an instrument of national policy. For more, see veteransforpeace.org.
This article originally appeared at theindypendent.org.
Ambassador: US handed Cambodia to ‘butcher’ 40 years ago by Denis D. Gray
Man of the hour.
By Charles Pierce, Esquire
10 April 15
he kidz at Tiger Beat On The Potomac have a real jones for serious politicians who can raise serious money and throw serious parties for other serious people, such as the kidz at Tiger Beat On The Potomac. They are serious whores for power. Their new hero is Rahm Emanuel, the most despicable Democratic politician since Robert Byrd left the Klan. He showed those hippies where the real power can be found.
Okay, first, I love Paul Begala, but come on, dude. This dog isn't even considering hunting.
"Rahm Emanuel is a progressive mayor, period," said Paul Begala, a longtime Bill Clinton adviser and a friend of Emanuel who advises the pro-Hillary Clinton Priorities super PAC. "I don't think people should say a right-wing Democrat won. I think you've got to actually look at what he did and what he ran on."Sure, Paul. You should remember that the next time you're on TV defending the Affordable Care Act that this guy wanted to strangle in its cradle.
First of all, for all this piece's seething contempt for Jesus Garcia and his campaign, he forced a hedge-fund fattened Democratic superstar incumbent into a runoff nobody expected, and the incumbent won the runoff by the same 11 points by which he'd finished in front in the preliminary. He won because he outspent Garcia six-to-one, something that the TBOTP piece merely alludes to in passing. But it's right there on how effectively to punch hippies.
To many Democrats, there are two possible lessons: First, that the professional left talks a much better game than it delivers even as it starts to make big promises about the presidential race. And second, that focusing voters on the progressive elements of a candidate's record, as Emanuel did during his runoff, can blunt a challenge from an ineffective opponent.Especially if you have a limitless credit card given to your campaign from some of the dingier elements of the otherwise Republican plutocratic class. (Being buddies with the governor who's on his way to making Illinois into Scott Walker's Wisconsin is a lot of things, but progressive is all the way down the list.) You could say that Rahm sold his soul, but, frankly, that's like someone selling you the Brooklyn Bridge.
Bartender, a double Prestone and see what the pundits in the back room will have.
# 2015-04-10 21:42
Always good to hear a "thank you!"
(Besides your next tax bill for the damages.)
April 10, 2015
This tax season, America’s billionaires are toasting you, the ordinary taxpayer.
That’s because you’re the one picking up the tab for our nation’s ailing infrastructure of roads, bridges, and rail transport. You’re also footing the bill for military forces, disaster relief, veterans’ health services, and national park protection.
The share of taxes paid by the 1 percent is declining, even as wealth flows upward to them at dizzying pace.
Maybe you’re not shocked to hear that the wealthy shift their tax obligations onto ordinary Americans. But perhaps you don’t know all their tricks. Here are five tax secrets billionaires deploy to keep you paying more than your fair share.
1. Tax Work More Than Wealth.
The United States taxes income from investments more lightly than the money you earn by working.
For example, a teacher who earns $40,000 from her job owes Uncle Sam 25 percent of her income. But a hedge fund billionaire raking in $400 million from investments will only pay between 15 and 20 percent of that haul in taxes.
2. Hide Money Offshore.
Senator Elizabeth Warren quipped that Boston’s winter had been so harsh that Mitt Romney “left his money here and he went to the Cayman Islands.”
But that’s no joke. Congressional researchers estimate that people who use offshore tax havens cost the rest of us as much as $70 billion a year. And that’s just the tip of the tax-dodging iceberg.
Global Financial Integrity, a financial watchdog agency, estimates that global corporations and wealthy individuals are hiding a total of over $21 trillion.
3. Assemble Tax-Proof Trusts.
You can’t hitch a U-Haul of money to your hearse, though some billionaires have found ways for their fortunes to live forever. They deploy tax planners who design trusts and other mechanisms to reduce or flat-out eliminate their estate taxes.
In 2013, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson used a complex trust mechanism to transfer $8 billion to his heirs, shielding over $2.8 billion in federal estate and gift taxes on the assets they’ll inherit once he passes on.
Congress could close these billionaire loopholes tomorrow, if it weren’t so busy cutting college Pell Grants for working-class college students.
4. Inherit Fortunes.
If I find $100 on the street, that’s taxable income. But if my grandfather gives me $100 million, I don’t pay any income tax on that jackpot. Inheritances are 100-percent exempt from the income tax.
While a tiny number of extremely rich families will pay taxes on estates before distributing funds, their relatives who inherit that money don’t need to fork anything over to the IRS once they take possession of those assets.
Combine this arrangement with low-tax or no-tax trusts, and you can see why the living is easy for the children of billionaires.
5. Subsidize Charity.
When a billionaire donates money to a large hospital or university, we’re encouraged to applaud their generosity. We seldom realize that we’re actually subsidizing those buildings adorned with the billionaire’s name.
Since donations reduce taxes on a billionaire’s income and estate, ordinary taxpayers chip in about 50 cents of every dollar they donate. And we’re not even invited to the gala.
If billionaires aren’t paying their fair share of federal taxes, who is?
You are — every time you pay higher state and local taxes as the federal government shifts responsibilities onto local jurisdictions, or when it imposes steeper fees for you to exercise your right to obtain a passport or enter a national park.
And that’s why America’s billionaires owe us all a thank you note this tax season.