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Tomas Young, Dying Iraq War Veteran, Pens ‘Last Letter’ To Bush, Cheney On War’s 10th Anniversary

20 Mar

“I write this letter, my last letter, to you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. I write not because I think you grasp the terrible human and moral consequences of your lies, manipulation and thirst for wealth and power. I write this letter because, before my own death, I want to make it clear that I, and hundreds of thousands of my fellow veterans, along with millions of my fellow citizens, along with hundreds of millions more in Iraq and the Middle East, know fully who you are and what you have done. You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans—my fellow veterans—whose future you stole.”

US President George W. Bush speaks to th

Young goes on to attack the “cowardice” of Bush and Cheney for avoiding military service themselves, and to encourage them to “stand before the American public and the world, and in particular the Iraqi people, and beg for forgiveness.”

(Read Young’s entire letter here.)

Tomas Young

Days after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Tomas Young, then a 22-year-old from Kansas City, Mo., made a decision repeated by many other Americans around the country: He was going to enlist in the military in hopes of getting even with the enemies who had helped coordinate the deaths of nearly 3,000 men, women and children.

Less than three years later, Young’s Army service placed him not in Afghanistan — where then-President George W. Bush had told the nation the terrorist plot had originated — but in Iraq. On April 4, 2004, just five days into his first tour, Young’s convoy was attacked by insurgents. A bullet from an AK-47 severed his spine. Another struck his knee. Young would never walk again, and in fact, for the next nearly nine years, he would suffer a number of medical setbacks that allowed him to survive only with the help of extensive medical procedures and the care of his wife, Claudia.

The Last Letter

A Message to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney From a Dying Veteran

To: George W. Bush and Dick Cheney
From: Tomas Young

I write this letter on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War on behalf of my fellow Iraq War veterans. I write this letter on behalf of the 4,488 soldiers and Marines who died in Iraq. I write this letter on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have been wounded and on behalf of those whose wounds, physical and psychological, have destroyed their lives. I am one of those gravely wounded. I was paralyzed in an insurgent ambush in 2004 in Sadr City. My life is coming to an end. I am living under hospice care.

I write this letter on behalf of husbands and wives who have lost spouses, on behalf of children who have lost a parent, on behalf of the fathers and mothers who have lost sons and daughters and on behalf of those who care for the many thousands of my fellow veterans who have brain injuries. I write this letter on behalf of those veterans whose trauma and self-revulsion for what they have witnessed, endured and done in Iraq have led to suicide and on behalf of the active-duty soldiers and Marines who commit, on average, a suicide a day. I write this letter on behalf of the some 1 million Iraqi dead and on behalf of the countless Iraqi wounded. I write this letter on behalf of us all—the human detritus your war has left behind, those who will spend their lives in unending pain and grief.

You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans—my fellow veterans—whose future you stole.

I write this letter, my last letter, to you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. I write not because I think you grasp the terrible human and moral consequences of your lies, manipulation and thirst for wealth and power. I write this letter because, before my own death, I want to make it clear that I, and hundreds of thousands of my fellow veterans, along with millions of my fellow citizens, along with hundreds of millions more in Iraq and the Middle East, know fully who you are and what you have done. You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans—my fellow veterans—whose future you stole.

Your positions of authority, your millions of dollars of personal wealth, your public relations consultants, your privilege and your power cannot mask the hollowness of your character. You sent us to fight and die in Iraq after you, Mr. Cheney, dodged the draft in Vietnam, and you, Mr. Bush, went AWOL from your National Guard unit. Your cowardice and selfishness were established decades ago. You were not willing to risk yourselves for our nation but you sent hundreds of thousands of young men and women to be sacrificed in a senseless war with no more thought than it takes to put out the garbage.

I joined the Army two days after the 9/11 attacks. I joined the Army because our country had been attacked. I wanted to strike back at those who had killed some 3,000 of my fellow citizens. I did not join the Army to go to Iraq, a country that had no part in the September 2001 attacks and did not pose a threat to its neighbors, much less to the United States. I did not join the Army to “liberate” Iraqis or to shut down mythical weapons-of-mass-destruction facilities or to implant what you cynically called “democracy” in Baghdad and the Middle East. I did not join the Army to rebuild Iraq, which at the time you told us could be paid for by Iraq’s oil revenues. Instead, this war has cost the United States over $3 trillion. I especially did not join the Army to carry out pre-emptive war. Pre-emptive war is illegal under international law. And as a soldier in Iraq I was, I now know, abetting your idiocy and your crimes. The Iraq War is the largest strategic blunder in U.S. history. It obliterated the balance of power in the Middle East. It installed a corrupt and brutal pro-Iranian government in Baghdad, one cemented in power through the use of torture, death squads and terror. And it has left Iran as the dominant force in the region. On every level—moral, strategic, military and economic—Iraq was a failure. And it was you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, who started this war. It is you who should pay the consequences.

To read Chris Hedges’ recent interview with Tomas Young, click here.

I would not be writing this letter if I had been wounded fighting in Afghanistan against those forces that carried out the attacks of 9/11. Had I been wounded there I would still be miserable because of my physical deterioration and imminent death, but I would at least have the comfort of knowing that my injuries were a consequence of my own decision to defend the country I love. I would not have to lie in my bed, my body filled with painkillers, my life ebbing away, and deal with the fact that hundreds of thousands of human beings, including children, including myself, were sacrificed by you for little more than the greed of oil companies, for your alliance with the oil sheiks in Saudi Arabia, and your insane visions of empire.

I have, like many other disabled veterans, suffered from the inadequate and often inept care provided by the Veterans Administration. I have, like many other disabled veterans, come to realize that our mental and physical wounds are of no interest to you, perhaps of no interest to any politician. We were used. We were betrayed. And we have been abandoned. You, Mr. Bush, make much pretense of being a Christian. But isn’t lying a sin? Isn’t murder a sin? Aren’t theft and selfish ambition sins? I am not a Christian. But I believe in the Christian ideal. I believe that what you do to the least of your brothers you finally do to yourself, to your own soul.

My day of reckoning is upon me. Yours will come. I hope you will be put on trial. But mostly I hope, for your sakes, that you find the moral courage to face what you have done to me and to many, many others who deserved to live. I hope that before your time on earth ends, as mine is now ending, you will find the strength of character to stand before the American public and the world, and in particular the Iraqi people, and beg for forgiveness.

“Stop Coddling the Super-Rich” by Warren E. Buffett

15 Aug
August 14, 2011

Stop Coddling the Super-Rich

By WARREN E. BUFFETT

Omaha

OUR leaders have asked for “shared sacrifice.” But when they did the asking, they spared me. I checked with my mega-rich friends to learn what pain they were expecting. They, too, were left untouched.

While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks. Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as “carried interest,” thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate. Others own stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they’d been long-term investors.

These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It’s nice to have friends in high places.

Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.

If you make money with money, as some of my super-rich friends do, your percentage may be a bit lower than mine. But if you earn money from a job, your percentage will surely exceed mine — most likely by a lot.

To understand why, you need to examine the sources of government revenue. Last year about 80 percent of these revenues came from personal income taxes and payroll taxes. The mega-rich pay income taxes at a rate of 15 percent on most of their earnings but pay practically nothing in payroll taxes. It’s a different story for the middle class: typically, they fall into the 15 percent and 25 percent income tax brackets, and then are hit with heavy payroll taxes to boot.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, tax rates for the rich were far higher, and my percentage rate was in the middle of the pack. According to a theory I sometimes hear, I should have thrown a fit and refused to invest because of the elevated tax rates on capital gains and dividends.

I didn’t refuse, nor did others. I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off. And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. You know what’s happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation.

Since 1992, the I.R.S. has compiled data from the returns of the 400 Americans reporting the largest income. In 1992, the top 400 had aggregate taxable income of $16.9 billion and paid federal taxes of 29.2 percent on that sum. In 2008, the aggregate income of the highest 400 had soared to $90.9 billion — a staggering $227.4 million on average — but the rate paid had fallen to 21.5 percent.

The taxes I refer to here include only federal income tax, but you can be sure that any payroll tax for the 400 was inconsequential compared to income. In fact, 88 of the 400 in 2008 reported no wages at all, though every one of them reported capital gains. Some of my brethren may shun work but they all like to invest. (I can relate to that.)

I know well many of the mega-rich and, by and large, they are very decent people. They love America and appreciate the opportunity this country has given them. Many have joined the Giving Pledge, promising to give most of their wealth to philanthropy. Most wouldn’t mind being told to pay more in taxes as well, particularly when so many of their fellow citizens are truly suffering.

Twelve members of Congress will soon take on the crucial job of rearranging our country’s finances. They’ve been instructed to devise a plan that reduces the 10-year deficit by at least $1.5 trillion. It’s vital, however, that they achieve far more than that. Americans are rapidly losing faith in the ability of Congress to deal with our country’s fiscal problems. Only action that is immediate, real and very substantial will prevent that doubt from morphing into hopelessness. That feeling can create its own reality.

Job one for the 12 is to pare down some future promises that even a rich America can’t fulfill. Big money must be saved here. The 12 should then turn to the issue of revenues. I would leave rates for 99.7 percent of taxpayers unchanged and continue the current 2-percentage-point reduction in the employee contribution to the payroll tax. This cut helps the poor and the middle class, who need every break they can get.

But for those making more than $1 million — there were 236,883 such households in 2009 — I would raise rates immediately on taxable income in excess of $1 million, including, of course, dividends and capital gains. And for those who make $10 million or more — there were 8,274 in 2009 — I would suggest an additional increase in rate.

My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.

Warren E. Buffett is the chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway.

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Embattled Dictators: Walker, Gadaffi, Mubarak, Isa Al Khalifa

23 Feb

Earlier this month, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) “sent shockwaves across the state” when he unveiled a budgetary bill that would strip most of the state’s public workers of collective bargaining rights, essentially devastating state government employees’ ability to negotiate for fair wages, benefits, and working conditions. At the time, many local news observers thought the bill would easily pass. After all, Republicans won commanding majorities in the legislature during the last election and stood united  in support of the bill. Yet on the eve of the bill’s certain passage, all 14 state Senate Democrats  fled the state, denying the Senate the quorum needed to proceed and freezing the anti-labor bill in its tracks. Tens of thousands of Wisconsinites then took to the streets in support of the “Wisconsin 14,” invigorating a nascent progressive movement. And all around the country, Americans inspired by Wisconsin’s example are taking action and battling attempts by conservative-led state governments to attack organized labor, slash education and environmental funding, and to make America a country where only the privileged and well-connected can prosper. While conservatives may believe that the last election gave them a wide mandate to decimate the social safety net and enact policies that will make us an even more unequal country, it appears that Americans disagree. By trying to enact their radical agenda, conservatives have stirred America’s Main Street into action. The progressive protests that are sweeping the country are defending the American Dream itself, the idea that anyone, no matter what their socioeconomic background, can succeed and prosper.

ASSAULT ON THE MIDDLE CLASS: While Walker’s assault on his state’s public employees’ labor rights is the most visible assault on the middle class, conservative governments across the country are waging similar campaigns. In Ohio, Gov. John Kasich (R) is backing legislation similar to Wisconsin’s in that would  gut the organizing rights of public employees. Kasich has already killed his state’s federally-funded high-speed rail project, which will cost Ohio  $400 million in infrastructure investment and thousands of jobs. While he justifies these moves by claiming he’s tackling his state’s deficit, he also is championing a slew of tax cuts that could actually  double the state’s deficit. New Jersey’s Gov. Chris Christie (R), who previously vetoed progressive efforts to raise taxes on his state’s millionaires, is trying to ram through steep cuts to education funding and municipal assistance. In Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal (R) has unveiled cuts to the state’s treasured subsidized college tuition program, HOPE, which would lead to hundreds of thousands of college students paying thousands of more dollars out-of-pocket in order to be able to get a higher education. Deal is also cutting overall education spending by  seven percent, and he simultaneously plans to dramatically reduce the corporate income tax rate, further reducing the state’s revenue coffers. Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) has dismissed tax increases while simultaneously slashing funding for K-12 education, because, he argued, “That’s where the money is.” Michigan’s Gov. Rick Snyder (R) has  unveiled a spending plan that includes “$1.2 billion in cuts to schools, universities, local governments and other areas while asking public employees for $180 million in concessions” while at the same time giving $1.8 billion in tax cuts to businesses.

WORKING AMERICA FIGHTS BACK: To the chagrin of right wingers like Walker, Americans have decided that they don’t want to live in a country where their labor rights are destroyed and their children grow up in the most unequal era since the 1920s. All over the country, ordinary Americans are fighting back, because they understand that if you want a strong middle class you need organized labor and important social services. Yesterday, Indiana House Democrats inspired by Wisconsin’s example fled the state to prevent the passage of a bill that would enact “right-to-work” policies that would cripple the right to organize in the state. After the departure of the House Democrats,  hundreds of unionized workers and students marched into the state capitol and began a sit-in in solidarity with the state’s labor unions. Meanwhile, as many as  10,000 union workers and other Ohioans demonstrated both inside and outside the state house in Columbus, as former Gov. Ted Strickland (D) and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) joined the rally to show their support for the protests. So many people showed up that the Ohio Highway Patrol was ordered to lock the doors of the state capitol to stop more demonstrators from getting into the building. At least   2,000 demonstrators rallied in Olympia, WA, against state budget cuts and in solidarity with the Wisconsin protests. In Montana, hundreds of “conservationists, sportsmen, firefighters, teachers, correctional officers and others” gathered at the state capitol to defend the state’s environmental laws and protest budget cuts. Hundreds of teachers in Idaho marched against legislation that would layoff 700 teachers and leave schools severely understaffed. Emboldened, the South Central Federation of Labor, a Wisconsin union federation consisting of 97 unions and representing 45,000 workers,  voted on Monday to endorse a general strike if the state’s anti-union law is passed by the legislature. Although the strike would be restricted by federal law thanks to the  1947 anti-labor Taft-Hartley Act, it represents a courageous act of civil disobedience and solidarity.

CONSERVATIVES BACKING DOWN: There is evidence that the massive groundswell of legislative disobedience and grassroots protests that have erupted all over the country have started to succeed in forcing conservative governments to back down. Despite the passage of Indiana’s right-to-work bill out of a House committee, Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-IN) “signaled [yesterday] afternoon that  Republicans should drop the…bill that has brought the Indiana House to a standstill for two days and imperiled other measures.” Conservative Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) refused to endorse Walker’s anti-union bill for his own state, saying, “My belief is as long as people know what they’re doing,  collective bargaining is fine.” Right-wing Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) also said he has no plans to enact a Wisconsin-style law. Although in Michigan, Gov. Snyder does plan to take aim at public worker compensation, he so far has said he’s “not interested in making Michigan a right-to-work state, or going wholesale after the bargaining rights of unionized workers.” One reason these conservatives may be backing down is because they realize Main Street America is against their anti-middle class agenda. A USA Today/Gallup poll found that  61 percent of Americans oppose a Wisconsin-style anti-labor law and only 33 percent favor such a law.

DEFENDING THE AMERICAN DREAM: As CAP Senior Fellow Van Jones writes, this new Main Street progressive movement seeks to “renew and redeem the American Dream.” “It’s time to draw a line in the sand — nationally,” he writes. “Someone has to stand up for common sense and fairness.” A coalition of progressive groups and organizations is taking up this call to “Save the American Dream” by announcing rallies at every single statehouse in the country on Saturday at noon. The groups, led by Moveon.org, are calling for Americans to “[d]emand an end to the attacks on workers’ rights and public services across the country. Demand investment, to create decent jobs for the millions of people who desperately want to work. And demand that the rich and powerful pay their fair share.” It is up to Americans to ensure that states do not balance their budgets by gutting important services and attacking public workers in order to deal with the effects of a recession  caused by Wall Street’s misdeeds —  not those of policemen, firefighters, teachers, students, and other hard-working middle class Americans.

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35,000 Protest Christie’s Budget Cuts, Outnumbering Tea Partiers 87-1

25 May

About 35,000 people rallied outside the New Jersey Statehouse in Trenton on Saturday after Gov. Chris Christie (R) vetoed a progressive attempt to fix the state’s budget crisis. New Jersey is facing a projected $10.7 billion budget deficit due to the recession, and to close it, progressive state legislators passed a bill creating a new tax bracket on residents making more than $1 million. The state’s nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services estimates that the new tax would lead a household making $1.2 million annually to pay only $11,598 more a year. Yet Christie vetoed the bill, despite the fact that the state has the “second-highest personal income in the country.” Instead, the governor has proposed massive cuts to public services, like an $820 million reduction in the state’s education budget, and ending millions of dollars of aid to cash-strapped municipalities.

On Saturday, 35,000 New Jerseyans, outraged at Christie’s choice to protect the wealthiest citizens of his state rather than its schools and infrastructure, demonstrated outside the statehouse, chanting, “We are not the problem.” It was “one of the largest protests ever in the state.” Christie, meanwhile, was at a bill signing at a racetrack where he simply dismissed the protests. “I’m here. They’re there. Have a nice day,” he said. The massive rally is particularly significant when compared to the right-wing Tea Party protests, which the media have covered obsessively. At a Tea Party rally in Trenton last month, police estimated that, at a maximum, only 400 people attended. Which means that at the very least, the protesters marching against Christie’s budget cuts and for decent investment in public infrastructure outnumbered the anti-government tea party protesters 87-to-1.

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Obama: Moving in The Right Direction

24 Mar

Thank God for an intelligent lucid President to guide us through the worst crisis the US has seen in years. Imagine our straight-C former President faced with the same challenges…

mills-obama480

General Colin Powell Endorses Barack Obama, Says It Best

20 Oct

One part of what Colin Powell said on Meet The Press ” really hit home to me “… we have managed to convey to the world that we are more unilateral than we really are. We have not explained ourself well enough. And we, unfortunately, have left an impression with the world that is not a good one. And the new president is going to have to fix the reputation that we’ve left with the rest of the world.”

General Powell feels, as many of us do, that part of the great damage done by the Bush administration (the crumbling economy, huge Chinese-owned deficits and social injustice aside) is the damage done to the international reputation of the United States.

This has immense ramifications on security, on our ability to act militarily and also economically: let’s not forget someone has to buy our goods and services. General Powell (a Republican Party Secretary of State and decorated war hero) also agrees that Barack Obama is the best choice for President.

“I came to the conclusion that because of his ability to inspire, because of the inclusive nature of his campaign, because he is reaching out all across America, because of who he is and his rhetorical abilities… as well as his substance–he has both style and substance–he has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president.  I think he is a transformational figure.  He is a new generation coming into the world stage, onto the American stage, and for that reason I’ll be voting for Senator Barack Obama.”

General, you said it best.

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The Great Schlep

1 Oct

The Great Schlep aims to have Jewish grandchildren visit their grandparents in Florida, educate them about Obama, and therefore swing the crucial Florida vote in his favor. Don’t have grandparents in Florida? Not Jewish? No problem! You can still become a schlepper and make change happen in 2008, simply by talking to your relatives about Obama.