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Incarceration level: the clearest indicator of a viable society
by yarra - ICH Friday, Feb 20 2009, 9:06pm
international / peace/war / other press

No prizes for guessing the world’s NUMBER 1 incarcerator is the USA! Yessiree Bob, that utopian/dystopian capitalist wonderland/HELL is fast approaching its FATE – America is about to confront itself! The portrait of Dorian Gray looks like a Cherub in comparison.

Wake-up video below – it is never too late but ACTION is REQUIRED. Americans ONCE WERE WARRIORS FOR PEACE and SOCIAL JUSTICE -- do you remember how you stopped the criminal Vietnam War? MARCH AND FIGHT YOU FUCKERS, F-I-G-H-T! The REAL ENEMY is on the Hill and on the ‘Street’!

I still carry police baton scars on my head that once streamed blood BUT it was necessary -- until you fight the GOOD FIGHT against the vile filth and fat cats and WIN (the people ALWAYS WIN when they FIGHT) you will never know what it is to be a REAL HUMAN BEING!

WE ARE ALL BORN WITH AN INNATE SENSE OF JUSTICE AND FAIR PLAY. Each time we tolerate or ignore an injustice we die a little until we become the new American citizens/zombies of today:

“Let 'em eat jellybeans let 'em eat cake
Let 'em EAT SHIT, whatever it takes
They can join the Air Force, or join the Corps
If they can't make it here anymore.” -- James McMurtry

"We Can't Make it Here"

Vietnam Vet with a cardboard sign
Sitting there by the left turn line
Flag on the wheelchair flapping in the breeze
One leg missing, both hands free
No one's paying much mind to him
The V.A. budget's stretched so thin
And there's more comin' home from the Mideast war
We can't make it here anymore

That big ol' building was the textile mill
It fed our kids and it paid our bills
But they turned us out and they closed the doors
We can't make it here anymore

See all those pallets piled up on the loading dock
They're just gonna set there till they rot
'Cause there's nothing to ship, nothing to pack
Just busted concrete and rusted tracks
Empty storefronts around the square
There's a needle in the gutter and glass everywhere
You don't come down here 'less you're looking to score
We can't make it here anymore

The bar's still open but man it's slow
The tip jar's light and the register's low
The bartender don't have much to say
The regular crowd gets thinner each day

Some have maxed out all their credit cards
Some are working two jobs and living in cars
Minimum wage won't pay for a roof, won't pay for a drink
If you gotta have proof just try it yourself Mr. CEO
See how far 5.15 an hour will go
Take a part time job at one of your stores
Bet you can't make it here anymore

High school girl with a bourgeois dream
Just like the pictures in the magazine
She found on the floor of the laundromat
A woman with kids can forget all that
If she comes up pregnant what'll she do
Forget the career, forget about school
Can she live on faith? live on hope?
High on Jesus or hooked on dope
When it's way too late to just say no
You can't make it here anymore

Now I'm stocking shirts in the Wal-Mart store
Just like the ones we made before
'Cept this one came from Singapore
I guess we can't make it here anymore

Should I hate a people for the shade of their skin
Or the shape of their eyes or the shape I'm in
Should I hate 'em for having our jobs today
No I hate the men sent the jobs away
I can see them all now, they haunt my dreams
All lily white and squeaky clean
They've never known want, they'll never know need
Their shit don't stink and their kids won't bleed
Their kids won't bleed in the damn little war
And we can't make it here anymore

Will work for food
Will die for oil
Will kill for power and to us the spoils
The billionaires get to pay less tax
The working poor get to fall through the cracks
Let 'em eat jellybeans let 'em eat cake
Let 'em eat shit, whatever it takes
They can join the Air Force, or join the Corps
If they can't make it here anymore

And that's how it is
That's what we got
If the president wants to admit it or not
You can read it in the paper
Read it on the wall
Hear it on the wind
If you're listening at all
Get out of that limo
Look us in the eye
Call us on the cell phone
Tell us all why

In Dayton, Ohio
Or Portland, Maine
Or a cotton gin out on the great high plains
That's done closed down along with the school
And the hospital and the swimming pool
Dust devils dance in the noonday heat
There's rats in the alley
And trash in the street
Gang graffiti on a boxcar door
We can't make it here anymore.

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Afghanistan: Growing Public Hostility to Troops May Hurt U.S. Surge Plans
by Pamela Constable via reed - Washington Post Saturday, Feb 21 2009, 10:11pm

KABUL, Feb. 21 -- The additional 17,000 troops the Obama administration is preparing to send to Afghanistan will face both an aggressive, well-armed Taliban insurgency and an unarmed but equally daunting foe: public opinion.

In more than a dozen interviews across the capital this week, Afghans said that instead of helping to defeat the insurgents and quell the violence that has engulfed their country, more foreign troops will exacerbate the problem.

The comments echoed a recent survey by the BBC and ABC News that found that although 90 percent of Afghans oppose the Taliban, less than half view the United States favorably, a sharp drop from a year ago, and a quarter say attacks on U.S. troops can be justified.

In the interviews, most people said they did not like the Taliban and were terrified of the suicide attacks that often occur in public places. Yet they also spoke with anger and suspicion about the U.S.-led coalition forces -- questioning their motives and bitterly complaining about civilian casualties, home invasions and other alleged abuses they suffer at the hands of the once-welcomed American and NATO troops.

"Bringing in another foreign army is not going to help. They always come here for their own interests, and they always lose. Better to let everyone sit down with the elders and find a way for peace," said Ibrahim Khan, 40, a cargo truck driver from Paktia province. "People are feeling hopeless and afraid, but nobody knows who the enemy is anymore."

The comments came as American military officials here, in an effort to soften public criticism, acknowledged Saturday that U.S. airstrikes in the western province of Herat on Tuesday had killed 13 civilians and three insurgents. A U.S. general traveled to the site to investigate the incident, and the announcement of the results was highly unusual. The United States had initially reported that 15 insurgents were killed, but Afghan officials had disputed the assertion.

The growing negative perception of foreign forces is especially worrisome because U.S. military planners say they are counting on intensified interaction and cooperation with Afghan civilians as a vital complement to their expanded use of ground troops and firepower against the Islamist fighters.

Critics in diplomatic and human rights circles have warned of a conundrum facing the expanded military effort: How can officials protect ground troops from a sophisticated indigenous insurgency without employing more aggressive tactics that will further alienate and antagonize the local populace?

The public disillusionment has several causes, observers said. One is that people see the security situation worsening as the number of foreign troops increases and figure that there must be a connection. Another is that Afghan political leaders, especially President Hamid Karzai, have vehemently denounced coalition bombings that have killed civilians but have been far less outspoken in criticizing Taliban attacks; Karzai often refers to the Taliban as brothers.

"People are getting conflicting messages," said Ahmad Nader Nadery, a member of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. "They see video clips of Taliban abuses, but the government only talks about coalition bombings. They hear more U.S. troops are coming, but NATO doesn't want to send any. It is a time of great confusion and uncertainty."

After a telephone conversation with President Obama this week, Karzai backed off from his harsh rhetoric about coalition bombings, and the two governments agreed to work more closely on military coordination. A delegation of Afghan officials is traveling to Washington shortly to participate in the new administration's strategic review of its policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In addition to the widely publicized issue of civilian casualties in coalition air raids, Afghans complain about abuses that are less deadly but closer to home. Many this week recounted experiencing, or hearing from relatives, incidents in which foreign troops stormed at night into houses where women and children were present, arrested innocent farmers as suspected insurgents and forced trucks off highways.

"I was driving on the road from Jalalabad last month, and an American military convoy came from the other direction," recalled Mahmad Humayun, who has a small shop that sells women's garments.

"They started flashing their lights at us to slow down, and then they started firing their guns at the road in front of us. This is our country, and these are our roads," he said angrily. "Don't we have the right to drive in peace?"

Humayun's shop is across the street from the Afghan Justice Ministry, which was targeted Feb. 11 in a coordinated assault on three government buildings. He and his neighboring merchants were just unlocking their shops that morning when gunfire erupted. Afghan commandos battled the attackers for nearly four hours before restoring order in the panicked capital.

"We Afghans are used to fighting but not to these terrible suicide bombings," said a watchmaker in the market, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was afraid. "Our fear is that if more foreign troops come, there will be more suicide bombings and the violence will get worse. We appreciate the Americans' help, but they should send their soldiers to the borders near Pakistan, where the trouble is from. When they hurt civilians, it creates more hate."

Most of the Afghans interviewed said they would prefer a negotiated settlement with the insurgents to an intensified military campaign. Several pointed out that the Taliban fighters are fellow Afghans and Muslims, and that the country has traditionally settled conflicts through community and tribal meetings.

Afghans are closely following the progress of a peace agreement in Pakistan between the government and a group of Taliban fighters in the scenic northwest Swat Valley. Under the deal, which was announced Monday but has yet to be finalized, the fighters would curtail their campaign of violence in exchange for strict Islamic law being instituted in the region.

Critics in Pakistan and abroad say the agreement will provide radical Islamist groups with a steppingstone to imposing their religious ideology on the country, but others see it as a possible model for Afghanistan. The U.S. special envoy to the region, Richard C. Holbrooke, has warned that the deal might be tantamount to a government "surrender," but Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said this week that under the right conditions, "we would be very open" to a Swat-like deal for Afghanistan.

Observers here also said that despite concerns, most Afghans still want foreign troops to stay, because they recognize that the troops' departure could usher in a new era of civil conflict, chaos and warlordism. They may not be happy with the troops' behavior, the argument goes, but they realize that the alternative would be worse.

"Nobody likes fighting, and there are terrible things happening in this fight between the Taliban and the government," said Mohammed Wardak, 45, a cart puller in Kabul, adding that U.S. forces raided his native village in Wardak province three months ago, rounded up all the men and killed several, including a poor potato farmer. "We just want to feel secure and to live in peace under the flag of Islam."

2009 The Washington Post Company

Depressed economy boosts military enlistments
by Bryan Bender via rialator - Boston Globe Sunday, Mar 1 2009, 9:16pm

WASHINGTON - The faltering US economy is fueling a dramatic turnaround in military recruiting, with new statistics showing that the Army is experiencing the highest rate of new enlistments in six years.

The Army exceeded its goals each month from October through January - the first quarter of the new fiscal year - for both the active-duty Army and the Army Reserve, according to figures compiled by the US Army Recruiting Command.

Officials said it is the first time since the first quarter of fiscal year 2003, before the start of the Iraq War, that the Army has started out its recruiting year on such a high note.

In recent years the Army either missed its initial goals or barely met them, and was forced to accept increasing percentages of recruits who either did not graduate from high school, scored in the lowest category on the armed forces qualification test, or required a waiver for past criminal activity.

Those trends had sparked deep concern that the largest branch of the armed forces was headed for a crisis in quality at a time when it is expanding the size of the overall force.

The latest recruiting outlook "is good news in the nick of time," said Beth Asch, a senior economist specializing in military manpower studies at the government-funded Rand Corporation.

Citing historical trends, Asch and other specialists predict that quality will improve along with the numbers, including the share of new recruits who have earned high school diplomas and scored high on entrance exams.

The Army has long had a goal of ensuring that at least 90 percent of new recruits have high-school diplomas - considered a key measure of competence and commitment. But in recent years the percentage of enlistees who completed high school has dropped below 80 percent.

The recruiting command, based at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, does not compile statistics on the quality of new recruits until the end of the fiscal year, so such information about recent enlistees is not yet available.

But Asch, who frequently advises the Pentagon on demographic trends, thinks the Army has reason to be hopeful.

"What the enlistment models would predict is there would be an increase in high-quality enlistment," said Asch.

Alan Gropman, a professor at the National Defense University in Washington who specializes in military recruiting, agreed. "They have more people to choose from and they will choose better people," he said.

Another factor that may be driving the recent gains, specialists said, is the improved situation in Iraq and the expectation that US military involvement in the war will be winding down - thus decreasing the likelihood that a new recruit would be deployed there.

On Friday, President Obama announced a plan to withdraw combat troops from Iraq by August 2010.

A recent study by researchers at Clemson University concluded that the Iraq war was a major factor in the steep drop in enlistments, especially among the most highly qualified potential recruits. The 2007 study found that the Iraq war had "reduced Army high-quality enlistments by one-third, after controlling for other factors."

"If you extrapolate, this Iraq affect will disappear and presumably there will be a reversal of that and there will be an increase in enlistment," said Asch.

But the dominant factor driving more people to consider Army careers appears to be the steady rise in the unemployment rate across the country. Since September, the unemployment rate nationwide has increased from roughly 6.2 percent to 7.6 percent, a rise of more than 20 percent, according to government figures.

Government studies in recent decades have indicated that for every 10 percent increase in unemployment there is usually a 5 percent boost in military recruiting.

"Typically a bad economy has worked to the benefit of the military," said retired Navy Rear Admiral John D. Hutson, currently the dean of the Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord, N.H.

So far this fiscal year, the Army's recruiting numbers show a steady improvement in every month. The Army exceeded its goal by 293 in October, 730 in November, 429 in December, and 706 in January for a total of 2,158.

"It was our best [period] in six years, in that we achieved our monthly missions [in] both active and Reserve each month," said Douglas Smith, a spokesman for the recruiting command. "We know that historically an increase in the civilian unemployment rate has resulted in an increase in Army enlistments."

Indeed, it appears that the sagging economy is helping all the branches of the military, not just the Army, which has borne the brunt of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In February, the Defense Department released figures showing that for the month of January all branches of the active-duty military met or exceeded their recruiting goals. The Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps also met or exceeded their goal of re-enlisting current members.

In the Reserve corps, only the Army National Guard did not meet its January goal, but remained "well ahead" of its annual goal to date, the Pentagon reported.

But while a bad economy is usually a boon for military recruiting, Hutson warns that the Pentagon still must closely monitor who it is bringing into the ranks.

People who are joining the ranks for purely economic reasons may not make the best soldiers, he said - especially when the economy turns around and they discover that they still must complete their service.

"The military has to be very careful about the motivation of the people it is bringing into the force," said Hutson. "Military service is hard work. It is not easy to serve well and honorably. Motivation has to be very good. If your motivation is you can't get a job anywhere else that is not necessarily the motivation they are looking for."

2009 Boston Globe Newspaper Company

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