Friday, May 28, 2010

And a big yellow taxi took away my old man's pages listing the casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq began as we prepared a special report to cover the invasion of Iraq. One of the elements of the special report had to be a page listing the names - and when possible - the photos of the men and women who died while serving in the conflict. I did not update the page at the start of the war but once "major combat" ended, the responsibility of adding names to the list returned to me.
See the Home and Away casualties interactive
I remember thinking then that the war was not over and as the months went by, the number of fatalities began to climb. In 2004, we added another page listing the names of those who died serving in Afghanistan and other countries.
I don't think anyone ever thought that the list of casualties from both wars would eventually encompass more than 6,000 names from 32 countries. It includes six recipients of the Medal of Honor, all posthumous, and one posthumous recipient of the British Victoria Cross.
It is also a list that, unfortunately, keeps growing, just like the civilian toll, which is even higher.

The above is from Douglas Wood's "Home and Away: Tracking the casualties of war" (CNN). Monday is Memorial Day and remember John King USA will be noting the fallen on Monday's program (7:00 p.m. EST). Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times offers Douglas L. Kriner and Francis X. Shen's "America's 'casualty gap':"

Nationally, in the Korean, Vietnam and Iraq wars, communities in the lowest three income deciles suffered 35%, 36% and 38% of the casualties, respectively. Yet communities in the top three income deciles sustained significantly fewer casualties -- 25%, 26% and 23% of the casualties, respectively.
More advanced statistical analyses, which account for a variety of other important factors, also offer strong evidence of casualty gaps between communities with different levels of income and education. In Los Angeles, for example, citywide almost 27% of residents hold a college degree. By contrast, in the specific L.A. neighborhoods that have lost a young man or woman in Iraq, less than 12% of residents graduated from college. Similarly, in New York City, the citywide average median family income is nearly $42,000, while the average in neighborhoods that have experienced an Iraq war casualty is $34,000, 19% lower.

Which you might think would have some sort of impact; however, you would be wrong.

Late last night
I heard the screen door slam
And a big yellow taxi
Took away my old man
-- "Big Yellow Taxi," written by Joni Mitchell, first appearing on her Ladies of the Canyon album.

This week's big yellow taxi is the US Senate which, Brian Faler (Bloomberg News) notes, pushed through the war supplemental bill late last night on a 67 for and 28 against vote. Bill now goes to the House which will debate it sometime after their Memorial Day vacation.

Foreign Policy In Focus' Bonnie Bricker and Adil E. Shamoo's "Will US Troops Ever Leave Iraq?" ( notes some of the truths that should be discussed openly but are instead being ignored:

Now, in 2010, a drawdown of troops in the barely organized chaos of Iraq marches towards benchmark dates. But with the sharply decreased American media coverage of Iraq, much of the news has focused on random bombings around the country and partial coverage of the recent Iraqi elections. How many average Americans are aware that while troop numbers come down, contractor numbers go up? The number of troops in Iraq is supposed to go down by this August to 50,000 but with contractors the number would be 125,000. Can you imagine that candidate Obama would have campaigned on the promise of having 125,000 personnel in Iraq by the end of summer 2010? How many total U.S. personnel would be left by the end of 2011? Is the number by end of 2011 zero as promised, or 50,000 or more? Who is reporting about special operations in Iraq involving troops that are not Iraqi-based, but merely sweep in, do their work, and sweep out again?

In order to understand policy implications, Americans need information about the current status of Iraq, as well as the impact of policies as changes are anticipated. Should we keep large numbers of U.S. troops in Iraq for an extended period to ensure security in Iraq? Should we withdraw as quickly as possible so that Iraqis fully determine the outcome of their country? Is our oil policy good for Iraq or good for America and the West or both? Do policies based on sectarian divisions in Iraq promote fairness — or rabid sectarianism? These are the kind of questions that many Iraqis are asking and Americans must openly discuss. Democracy in our country and in Iraq depends on information, and with that, open and honest discussions.

The Senate Democratic Policy Committee continues to highlight the economy and finances and the Gulf Disaster:

As the BP oil spill continues, the Gulf Coast ’s fishermen, tourism industries, small businesses, and local governments are being threatened with serious economic costs. While the total economic impact of the spill remains to be seen, it is clear that the damages will be significant, given that the tourism and fishing industries alone generate billions of dollars each year.

Here are just a few examples of the value of the industries to the Gulf Coast .

Tourism— Gulf Coast

1. The value of the Gulf Coast ’s tourism industry [EPA; Last Accessed 5.18.10]:

$20 billion

Tourism— Florida

2. The value of Florida ’s tourism industry [Miami Herald; Last Accessed 5.18.10]:

$60 Billion

3. The percentage reductions in hotel occupancy rates between Pensacola and Panama City [Wall Street Journal; Last Accessed 5.18.10]:

30 Percent

4. The estimated percentage reductions in hotel occupancy rates during Memorial Day along the Florida panhandle[1] [Wall Street Journal; Last Accessed 5.18.10]:

70 Percent

Tourism— Alabama

5. The amount of money spent by tourists on Alabama ’s beaches in 2008 [Reuters; Last Accessed 5.18.08]

$2.3 Billion

6. The number of workers supported by tourists on Alabama ’s beaches in 2008 [Reuters; Last Accessed 5.18.08]


7. Percentage of cancellations already being recorded on Dauphin Island where the first tar balls came ashore [Wall Street Journal; Last Accessed 5.18.08]:

50 Percent

Tourism— Louisiana

8. The amount of money domestic travelers spent in Louisiana in 2008 [Louisiana Office of Tourism; Last Accessed 5.18.10]:

$9.3 Billion

9. The amount of tax revenue for generated by domestic travel in Louisiana for federal, state, and local governments in 2008 [Louisiana Office of Tourism; Last Accessed 5.18.10]:

$1.1 Billion

10. Number of Louisiana ’s 64 parishes that received over $100 million in travel expenditures in 2008 [Louisiana Office of Tourism; Last Accessed 5.18.10]:


Commercial Fishing— Louisiana

11. The value of the commercial seafood industry in Louisiana [The Economist; Last Accessed 5.18.08]:

$2.4 Billion

12. The percentage amount of seafood that Louisiana catches in the continental U.S. [Wall Street Journal; Last Accessed 5.18.08]:

40 Percent

Commercial Fishing— Gulf Coast

13. The size of the area in the Gulf of Mexico currently closed to fishing [Associated Press; Last Accessed 5.18.10]:

46,000 square miles

14. The value of the commercial seafood harvest that was to begin on May 15th [Wall Street Journal; Last Accessed 5.18.10]:

$21 Billion

15. The percentage amount of total U.S. seafood production coming from the Gulf Coast [Wall Street Journal; Last Accessed 5.18.10]:

20 Percent

Recreational Fishing— Louisiana

16. The value of the recreational fishing industry in Louisiana [The Economist; Last Accessed 5.18.08]:

$1 Billion

DPC FACT SHEET | Economic Statistics of the BP Oil Spill

The following community sites updated last night:

And we'll close with this from Military Families Speak Out:

Contact: Nikki Morse, 347-703-0570,
Deborah Forter, 617-983-0710,

May 27, 2010, Nationwide -- This Memorial Day Weekend, Gold Star Families Speak Out members whose loved ones died as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Military Families Speak Out members who have a loved one who has previously served or is currently serving in Afghanistan or Iraq, can speak a truth Americans need to hear.

Celeste Zappala, a member of Gold Star Families Speak Out from Philadelphia, PA, whose son was killed in Iraq and was the first Pennsylvania National Guardsman to die in combat since World War II, said,

"With great sadness my family and I recognize Memorial Day and the 7 years since we last saw my son, Sgt. Sherwood Baker alive. On April 26, 2004 he died in an explosion while looking for the nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. We are but one of the over 5,000 American families who mourn the loss of their loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan; physical and spiritual casualties affect thousands more - and yet the wars that kill our young and drain our treasure do not create peace. It is long past time to bring our troops home, and find real solutions for Peace."

Earlier this month, an ABC News /Washington Post poll found that a majority of Americans are again opposed to the Afghanistan war, with 52% saying it's not worth fighting.

Military Families Speak Out members Larry and Judy Syverson, of Richmond Virginia, said,

"We are the parents of three active duty sons. Our oldest son, Branden, is in Afghanistan with the Second Infantry (our family's sixth deployment in these wars). We are disheartened by Obama's foreign policy. With the 1,000th American soldier killed in Afghanistan this past week and war spending reaching $1 trillion on May 30th, 100,000 troops are in Afghanistan chasing an illusive target that has not made us safer in this country or closer to achieving peace and stability in Afghanistan. In poll after poll, the American people have repeatedly stated they want these wars to end. President Obama should honor the American people's wishes and end both wars and bring our troops home now."

Gold Star Families Speak Out members whose loved ones died as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Military Families Speak Out members who have a loved one who has previously served or is currently serving in Afghanistan or Iraq are available for interview over Memorial Day Weekend. To schedule an interview, contact Nikki Morse at or Deborah Forter at

ELSEWHERE IN THE COUNTRY: Members of Military Families Speak Out will also be participating in events around the country. To arrange for an interview, contact us at the information above.

Military Families Speak Out (MFSO) is a national organization of over 4,000 families who are opposed to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and have loved ones who serve or have served in the military since the fall of 2002. Gold Star Families Speak Out is a national chapter of MFSO with families whose loved ones died as a result of these wars.

For more information about Military Families Speak Out, please visit
For more information about the chapter Gold Star Families Speak Out see

The e-mail address for this site is

thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends