Closing Out The War Tab

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Last week the war in Iraq, a long hard slog, something that I’ve commented a lot about over the past decade, finally ended (at least officially). This war has cost us more than we will ever know, but the easiest and hopefully-not-but-who-knows-it-very-well-might-happen way of tabulating the cost is saying that it’s all down hill from here. One should know that Afghanistan is where empires go to die. First the British, then the Soviet Union. Now us? Hmmm….
One thing that is certain through the fog of war is that we took our eye off the Tora Bora ball to concentrate on Mesopotamia and while we took the hanging gardens, and the barbarian dictator of a gardener who looked after them, we didn’t exit nearly as fast as we thought we would going into the event and it didn’t turn out the way that the rose colored projections said it would.
So, in that vein, let’s bring up once again my main topic, the one that I’ve commented on in the past which is the costs associated with the war. Now that its “over,” forces more experienced and much more well researched than me, namely the Center for American Progress’ Matt Duss and Peter Juul, have added up the costs of the second Iraq War lead by the second Commander in Chief named George Bush, and by costs I mean the human, financial, and strategic costs. The results are not pretty:
Human costs

  • Total deaths: Between 110,663 and 119,380
  • Coalition deaths: 4,803
  • U.S. deaths: 4,484
  • U.S. wounded: 32,200
  • U.S. deaths as a percentage of coalition deaths: 93.37 percent
  • Iraqi Security Force, or ISF, deaths: At least 10,125
  • Total coalition and ISF deaths: At least 14,926
  • Iraqi civilian deaths: Between 103,674 and 113,265
  • Non-Iraqi contractor deaths: At least 463
  • Internally displaced persons: 1.24 million
  • Refugees: More than 1.6 million

Financial costs

  • Cost of Operation Iraqi Freedom: $806 billion
  • Projected total cost of veterans’ health care and disability: $422 billion to $717 billion

More detailed costs:

  • Total U.S. service members who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan: More than 2 million
  • Total Iraq/Afghanistan veterans eligible for VA health care: 1,250,663
  • Total Iraq/Afghanistan veterans who have used VA health care since FY 2002: 625,384 (50 percent of eligible veterans)
  • Total Iraq/Afghanistan veterans with PTSD: At least 168,854 (27 percent of those veterans who have used VA health care; does not include Vet Center or non-VA health care data)
  • Suicide rate of Iraq/Afghanistan veterans using VA health care in FY 2008: 38 suicides per 100,000 veterans – PLEASE NOTE: National suicide rate, 2007: 11.26 per 100,000 Americans

Iraq reconstruction (as of September 30, 2011)

  • Total funding: $182.27 billion
  • Iraqi government funds (including Coalition Provisional Authority spending): $107.41 billion
  • International funds: $13.03 billion
  • U.S. funds (2003-2011): $61.83 billion
  • Total U.S. unexpended obligations: $1.66 billion

Strategic costs
The foregoing costs could conceivably be justified if the Iraq intervention had improved the United States’ strategic position in the Middle East. But this is clearly not the case. The Iraq war has strengthened anti-U.S. elements and made the position of the United States and its allies more precarious.

  • Empowered Iran in Iraq and region.
  • Created terrorist training ground.
  • Loss of international standing.
  • Diverted resources and attention from Afghanistan.
  • Stifled democracy reform.
  • Fueled sectarianism in region.

I wish this was better news but transparency is important. I read today that “When everything is changing, be consistent. When everyone is confused, be transparent. And when the world seems bleak, be good.” When thinking through the “What did we get our of this war?” question, everyone is definitely confused.
All info was obtained for the Center for American Progress



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Azealia Banks is an unsigned 20 year Harlem born rapper whose debut song “212” is ridiculously good. Right now you can’t buy it anywhere but its a huge club hit and Pitchfork named it one of the 10 best songs of the year. Three days ago I had never heard of her. Since that time, I’ve listened to this song about 15 times and can’t get enough. Others think so as well. Mumford and Son’s keyboardist Ben Lovitt called the rapper’s single ‘mind-blowing’.
Flavorpill’s Judy Berman had this to say about her:

Azealia Banks is its future. In a year that brought us the confounding viral success of Kreayshawn, we’re clearly hungry for women in hip-hop. But Harlem’s own Banks, who topped NME‘s 2011 Cool List and had been an under-the-radar critical favorite for a few months before that, is far more likely to sustain the momentum for long enough to release a great album. Mark our words: 2012 will be the year of the smart, funny woman emcee.

I wholeheartedly agree is female rappers are going to put out more songs like “212.” Please note, there are some choice words in it, so if you happen to have any kids or prudes around, you might want to listen using your headphones. Happy Friday – enjoy.


Outdated Videos That Are Still Awesome

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This post is a literal “lift and shift” of content that I received from Flavorpill. The post was titled “Outdated Videos That Are Still Awesome” and was written by Contributing Editor Tom Hawking and yeah, I cribbed his title and content but hey, I gave credit! Also, while their post had 10 videos, I only thought that 4 of them were actually awesome and unfortunately due to copyright reasons, only 3 of them were on the web. The FP write up, and video where possible, is all below – enjoy! Thanks again Tom.
Peter Gabriel — “Sledgehammer” (1986)
In the era of Pixar and huge-budget animation, the idea of stop motion animation crafted frame-by-frame on tape seems almost laughably primitive. Of course, people still use the technique today — Michel Gondry has deployed it to great effect, and it also features in Wolf Parade’s “Modern World,” one of our favorite videos of recent years. But even so, it’s easier these days — at least, if nothing else, you have digital editing technology. No such luck for Nick Park (of Wallace and Gromit fame), who made this video. The creation of “Sledgehammer” was incredibly torturous — at one point, Gabriel apparently lay under a sheet of glass for 16 hours while Park carefully shot single frame after single frame. But while the techniques belong to yesteryear, the video is just as mind-blowing in 2011 as it was in 1986 (especially the dancing chickens!).

A-Ha — “Take on Me” (1984)
As with “Sledgehammer,” these days this would all be done digitally, and would probably be fairly straightforward for any filmmaker with the requisite knowledge. But back in 1984, making this video involved a painstaking process called rotoscoping, whereby the animated sequences were traced over to create the animation. However, tedious as it must have been, the technique gives the video an enduring charm — like, say, Star Wars, where the models of the original trilogy look way better than the CGI of the second, the use of analog technology and one’s own hands creates a degree of realism that digital equivalents still struggle to match.

Bob Dylan — “Subterranean Homesick Blues” (1965)
One camera. One take. One simple idea. Ten years before “Bohemian Rhapsody.” And still far more effective.
Genesis — “Land of Confusion” (1986)
Much as it pained us to put a song we adore (David Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes”) onto our list of videos that really aren’t all that good, it’s even more galling to put bloody Genesis onto this list. But there’s no denying that the Spitting Image-style puppets in this video are awesome — the whole thing is beautifully executed, tying into the anti-Thatcher ‘n’ Reagan sentiments of the song and featuring some pretty impressive puppetry. That Phil Collins doll is fucking terrifying, though.