Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Molly Ivins ROCKED!!!

Molly Ivins died today ... I'll miss her writing ... she was a damned fine LIBERAL!!!:

Molly Ivins dies of cancer at 62

By KELLEY SHANNON, Associated Press Writer

Best-selling author and columnist Molly Ivins, the sharp-witted liberal who skewered the political establishment and referred to President Bush as "Shrub," died Wednesday after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 62.

Ivins died at her home while in hospice care, said David Pasztor, managing editor of the Texas Observer, where Ivins had once been co-editor.

Ivins made a living poking fun at politicians, whether they were in her home state of Texas or the White House. She revealed in early 2006 that she was being treated for breast cancer for the third time.

More than 400 newspapers subscribed to her nationally syndicated column, which combined strong liberal views and populist humor. Ivins' illness did not appear to hurt her ability to deliver biting one-liners.

"I'm sorry to say (cancer) can kill you, but it doesn't make you a better person," she said in an interview with the San Antonio Express-News in September, the same month cancer claimed her friend former Gov. Ann Richards.

To Ivins, "liberal" wasn't an insult term. "Even I felt sorry for Richard Nixon when he left; there's nothing you can do about being born liberal — fish gotta swim and hearts gotta bleed," she wrote in a column included in her 1998 collection, "You Got to Dance With Them What Brung You."

In a column in mid-January, Ivins urged readers to stand up against Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq.

"We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war," Ivins wrote in the Jan. 11 column. "We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, 'Stop it, now!'"

Ivins' best-selling books included those she co-authored with Lou Dubose about Bush. One was titled "Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush" and another was "BUSHWHACKED: Life in George W. Bush's America."

"Molly Ivins was a Texas original," Bush said in a statement. "I respected her convictions, her passionate belief in the power of words, and her ability to turn a phrase. She fought her illness with that same passion."

Dubose, who has been working on a third book with Ivins, said even last week in the hospital, Ivins wanted to talk about the project.

"She was married to her profession. She lived for the story," he said.

Ivins' jolting satire was directed at people in positions of power.

"The trouble with blaming powerless people is that although it's not nearly as scary as blaming the powerful, it does miss the point," she wrote in a 1997 column. "Poor people do not shut down factories ... Poor people didn't decide to use 'contract employees' because they cost less and don't get any benefits."

In an Austin speech last year, former President Clinton described Ivins as someone who was "good when she praised me and who was painfully good when she criticized me."

Ivins loved to write about politics and called the Texas Legislature the best free entertainment in Austin.

"Naturally, when it comes to voting, we in Texas are accustomed to discerning that fine hair's-breadth worth of difference that makes one hopeless dipstick slightly less awful than the other. But it does raise the question: Why bother?" she wrote in a 2002 column.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whom Ivins had playfully called "Governor Goodhair," praised Ivins for her wit and insight. "Molly Ivins' clever and colorful perspectives on people and politics gained her national acclaim and admiration that crossed party lines," Perry said in a statement.

Born Mary Tyler Ivins in California, she grew up in Houston. She graduated from Smith College in 1966 and attended Columbia University's journalism school. She also studied for a year at the Institute of Political Sciences in Paris.

Her first newspaper job was in the complaint department of the Houston Chronicle. She worked her way up at the Chronicle, then went on to the Minneapolis Tribune, becoming the first woman police reporter in the city.

Ivins counted as her highest honors the Minneapolis police force's decision to name its mascot pig after her and her getting banned from the campus of Texas A&M University, according to a biography on the Creators Syndicate Web site.

In the late 1960s, according to the syndicate, she was assigned to a beat called "Movements for Social Change" and wrote about "angry blacks, radical students, uppity women and a motley assortment of other misfits and troublemakers."

Ivins later became co-editor of The Texas Observer, a liberal Austin-based biweekly publication of politics and literature.

She joined The New York Times in 1976, working first as a political reporter in New York and later as Rocky Mountain bureau chief.

But Ivins' use of salty language and her habit of going barefoot in the office were too much for the Times, said longtime friend Ben Sargent, editorial cartoonist with the Austin American-Statesman.

"She was just like a force of nature," Sargent said. "She was just always on and sharp and witty and funny and was one of a kind."

Ivins returned to Texas as a columnist for the Dallas Times-Herald in 1982, and after it closed she spent nine years with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. In 2001, she went independent and wrote her column for Creators Syndicate.

"She was magical in her writing," said Mike Blackman, a former Star-Telegram executive editor who hired Ivins in 1992. "She could turn a phrase in such a way that a pretty hard-hitting point didn't hurt so bad."

In 1995, conservative humorist Florence King accused Ivins in "American Enterprise" magazine of plagiarism for failing to properly credit King for several passages in a 1988 article in "Mother Jones." Ivins apologized, saying the omissions were unintentional and pointing out that she credited King elsewhere in the piece.

She was initially diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999, and she had a recurrence in 2003. Her latest diagnosis came around Thanksgiving 2005.

Associated Press writers April Castro in Austin and Matt Curry and Jamie Stengle in Dallas contributed to this report.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

18 Unconvincing Arguments for God!!!

This is from August Berkshire (the public relations rep for Minnesota Atheists and VP of Atheist Alliance Intl) ... good read!!!:

18 Unconvincing Arguments for God

(1) Holy Books - Just because something is written down does not make it true. This goes for the Bible, the Qu’ran, and any other holy book. People who believe the holy book of their religion usually disbelieve the holy books of other religions.

(2) “Revelations” - All religions claim to be revealed, usually to people called “prophets.” But a revelation is a personal experience. Even if the revelations really did come from a god, there is no way we could prove it. As Thomas Paine said, it is a revelation only to the first person, after that it is hearsay. People of one religion usually disbelieve the revelations of other religions.

(3) Personal Testimony / Feelings - This is when you are personally having the revelation or feeling that a god exists. Though you may be sincere, and even if a god really does exist, a feeling is not proof, either for you or for someone else.

As a matter of fact, scientists have begun to study why some people believe and other don’t, from a biological perspective. They have identified certain naturally occurring chemicals in our bodies that can give us religious experiences. Studies of identical twins separated at birth seem to indicate that god-belief is about 50% nurture and 50% nature. Some claim to have found a “god gene” that makes people more likely to believe.

In studies of religion and the brain, a new field called neurotheology, they have identified the temporal lobe as a place in the brain that can generate religious experiences. Another part of the brain that regulates a person’s sense of “self” can be consciously shut down during meditation, giving the meditator (who loses his sense of personal boundaries) a feeling of “oneness” with the universe.

(4) “Open Heart” - It will do no good to ask atheists to “open our hearts and accept Jesus” (or any other deity). If we were to set aside our skepticism, we might indeed have an inspirational experience. But this would be an emotional experience and, like a revelation, we’d have no way to verify if a god was really speaking to us or if we were just hallucinating.

(5) Unverifiable “Miracles” / Resurrection Stories - Many religions have miracle stories. And just as religious people are usually skeptical towards miracle stories of other religions, atheists are skeptical toward all miracle stories.

Good magicians can perform acts that seem like miracles. Things can be mismeasured and misinterpreted. A “medical miracle” can simply be attributed to our lack of knowledge of how the human body works. Why are there never any indisputable miracles, such as an amputated arm regenerating?

Regarding resurrections, atheists will not find a story of someone resurrecting from the dead to be convincing. There are many such legends in ancient literature and, again, most religious people reject the resurrection stories of other religions.

Modern resurrection stories always seem to occur in the Third World under unscientific conditions. There have been thousands of people in hospitals hooked up to machines that verified their deaths when they died. Why didn’t any of them ever resurrect?

(6) Fear of Death / “Heaven” - Atheists don’t like the fact that we’re all going to die any more than religious people do. However, this fear does not prove there is an afterlife – only that we wish there was an afterlife. But wishing doesn’t make it so.

There is no reason to believe our consciousness survives the death of our brains. The mind is not something separate from the body. Chemical alteration and physical damage to our brains can change our thoughts.

Some people get Alzheimer’s disease at the end of their lives. The irreversible damage to their brains can be detected by brain scans. These people lose their ability to think, yet they are still alive. How, one second after these people die, does their thinking return (in a “soul”)?

(7) Fear of Hell - The idea of hell strikes atheists as a scam – an attempt to get people to believe through fear what they cannot believe through reason and evidence.

Then there is the problem of which religion’s hell is the true hell. Without evidence, we can never know.

(8) “Pascal’s Wager” / Faith - In short, Pascal’s Wager states that we have everything to gain (an eternity in heaven) and nothing to lose by believing in a god. On the other hand, disbelief can lead to a loss of heaven. We’ve already addressed the issues of heaven and hell, so let us address the faith wager part.

First, it assumes a person can will himself or herself into belief. This is simply not the case, at least not for an atheist. So atheists would have to pretend to believe. But according to most definitions of God, wouldn’t God know we were lying to hedge our bets? Would a god reward this?

Part of Pascal’s Wager states that you “lose nothing” by believing. But an atheist would disagree. By believing under these conditions, you’re acknowledging that you’re willing to accept some things on faith. In other words, you’re saying you’re willing to abandon evidence as your standard for judging reality. Faith doesn’t sound so appealing when it’s phrased that way, does it?

(9) Blaming the Victim - Many religions punish people for disbelief. However, belief requires faith, and some people, such as atheists, are incapable of faith. Their minds are only receptive to evidence. Therefore, are atheists to be blamed for not believing when “God” provides insufficient evidence?

(10) The End of the World - Like hell, this strikes atheists as a scare tactic to get people to believe through fear what they can’t believe through reason and evidence. There have been predictions that the world was going to end for centuries now. The question you might want to ask yourselves, if you’re basing your religious beliefs on this, is how long you’re willing to wait – what amount of time will convince you that the world is not going to end?

(11) Meaning in Life - This is the idea that without a belief in god life would be meaningless. Even if this were true, it would only prove we wanted a god to exist to give meaning to our lives, not that a god actually does exist. But the very fact that atheists can find meaning in their lives without a belief in god shows that god belief is not necessary.

(12) “God is Intangible, Like Love” - Love is not intangible. Unlike “God,” we can define love both as a type of feeling and as demonstrated by certain types of actions.

Unlike “God,” love is a physical thing. We know the chemicals responsible for the feeling of love.
Also, love depends upon brain structure – a person with a lobotomy or other types of brain damage cannot feel love.

Furthermore, if love were not physical, it would not be confined to our physical brains. We would expect to be able to detect an entity or force called “love” floating around in the air.

(13) Morality/Ethics - This is the idea that without a god we’d have no basis for morality. However, a secular moral code existed before the Bible: the Code of Hammurabi.

Christians can’t even agree among themselves what’s moral when it comes to things like masturbation, premarital sex, homosexuality, divorce, contraception, abortion, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, and the death penalty.

Christians themselves reject some of the moral laws found in the Bible, such as killing disobedient children or people who work on the sabbath.

Other animals exhibit kindness toward one another and a sense of justice. Morality is something that evolved from us being social beings. It’s based on the selfish advantage we get from cooperation, and on consequences.

(14) Altruism - People sometimes say that without a god there would be no altruism, that evolution only rewards selfish behavior.

However, it can be argued that there is no such thing as altruism, that people always do what they want to do. If they are only faced with bad choices, then people choose the thing they hate the least.

Our choices are based on what gives us (our genes) the best advantage for survival, including raising our reputation in society.

“Altruism” towards family members benefits people who share our genes. “Altruism” towards friends benefits people who may someday return the favor.

Even “altruism” towards strangers has a basis in evolution. This behavior evolved in small tribes, where everyone knew each other and a good reputation enhanced one’s survival. It is now hard-wired in our brains as a general mode of conduct.

(15) Free Will - Some would argue that without a god there would be no free will, that we would live in a deterministic universe of cause and effect and that we would be mere “robots.”

Actually, there is far less free will than most people think there is and, in fact, most atheists have no problem admitting that, indeed, free will may be an illusion.

Some believe that the only free will we have is to exercise a conscious veto over actions suggested by our thoughts.

(16) Difficulties of Religion - It has sometimes been argued that because certain religious practices are difficult to follow, nobody would do them if a god didn’t exist. However, it is the belief in the existence of a god that is motivating people. A god doesn’t really have to exist for this to happen.

Difficulties can serve as an initiation rite of passage into being counted one of the “select few.” After all, if just anybody could be “saved,” there would be no point in having a religion.
Finally, the reward for obedience promised by most religions – a heaven – far outweighs any difficulties religion imposes.

(17) False Dichotomies - This is being presented with a false “either/or” proposition: where you’re only given two choices when, in fact, there are more possibilities. Here’s one that many Christians are familiar with: “Either Jesus was insane or he was god. Since Jesus said some wise things, he wasn’t insane. Therefore, he must be god, like he said he was.”

But those are not the only two possibilities.

A third option is that, yes, it is possible to say some wise things and be deluded that you are a god.

A fourth possibility is that Jesus didn’t say everything that is attributed to him in the Bible. Maybe he didn’t actually say all those wise things, but the writers of the Bible said he did. Or maybe he never claimed to be God, but the writers turned him into a god after he died.

A fifth possibility is that Jesus is a fictional character and so everything was invented by the authors.

Here’s another example of a false dichotomy: “No one would die for a lie. The early Christians died for Christianity. Therefore, Christianity must be true.” What’s left out of this is that there is no direct evidence that anyone who ever personally knew Jesus (if he even existed) was ever martyred. We only have stories of martyrdom.

Another explanation is that followers had been fooled, intentionally or unintentionally, into thinking Jesus was God.

A final point is that if, for whatever reason, you believe you’ll end up in a heaven after to die, then martyrdom is no big deal. Does the fact that the 9/11 bombers were willing to die for their faith make Islam true?

(18) God-of-the-Gaps (Medicine, Life, Universe, etc.) - The god-of-the-gaps argument says that if we don’t currently know the scientific answer to something, then “God did it.”

God-of-the-gaps is used in many areas, but I’ll focus on the three main ones: medicine, life, and the universe. You’ll notice that God never has to prove himself in these arguments. It is always assumed that he gets to win by default.

Here’s a medical example: A person experiences a cure for a disease that science can’t explain. Therefore, God did it.

But this assumes we know everything about the human body, so that a natural explanation is impossible. But the fact is, we don’t have complete medical knowledge. Why don’t we ever see something that would be a true miracle, like an amputated arm instantaneously regenerating?
Several studies of prayer, where the patients didn’t know whether or not they were being prayed for, including a study by the Mayo Clinic, have shown prayer to have no effect on healing.

And, of course, this raises the question of why we would have to beg an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving god to be healed in the first place. It also raises the Problem of Evil: Why would we be praying to an all-loving god to be cured from diseases and the effects of natural disasters that he himself created?

An example of god-of-the-gaps as it applies to life is creationism and “intelligent design.” It says we don’t know everything about evolution, therefore “God did it.” This ignores the fossil and genetic evidence and also fails to explain the many poor and sub-optimal “designs” we find in nature. Is “God” an incompetent or sloppy designer?

The final and most popular example of god-of-the-gaps is the universe. But to say we don’t know the origins of the universe – if the universe even had an ultimate beginning – does not mean that “God did it.”

Conclusion - Religious people have a tough, if not impossible task to try to prove a god exists, let alone that their particular religion is true. If any religion had objective standards, wouldn’t everyone be flocking to the same “true” religion? Instead we find that people tend to believe, to varying degrees, the religion in which they were indoctrinated. Or they are atheists.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


Doomsday Clock Moves Closer to Midnight

Associated Press WriterJanuary 17, 2007, 10:06 PM CST

LONDON -- The world is nudging closer to nuclear or environmental apocalypse, a group of prominent scientists warned Wednesday as it pushed the hand of its symbolic Doomsday Clock closer to midnight.

The clock, which was set two minutes forward to 11:55, represents the likelihood of a global cataclysm. Its ticks have given the clock's keepers a chance to speak out on the dangers they see threatening Earth.

It was the fourth time since the Soviet collapse in 1991 that the clock ticked forward amid fears over what the scientists describe as "a second nuclear age" prompted largely by standoffs with Iran and North Korea. But urgent warnings of climate change also played a role.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which sets the clock, was founded in 1945 as a newsletter distributed among nuclear physicists concerned about nuclear war, and midnight originally symbolized a widespread nuclear conflict. The bulletin has grown into an organization focused more generally on manmade threats to human civilization.

"The dangers posed by climate change are nearly as dire as those posed by nuclear weapons," said Kennette Benedict, director of the bulletin.

Stephen W. Hawking, the renowned cosmologist and mathematician, told The Associated Press that global warming has eclipsed other threats to the planet, such as terrorism.

"Terror only kills hundreds or thousands of people," Hawking said. "Global warming could kill millions. We should have a war on global warming rather than the war on terror."

This is the first time the bulletin has explicitly addressed the threat from climate change.

"We are transforming, even ravaging the entire biosphere. These environmentally driven threats -- threats without enemies -- should loom as large as did the East-West divide during the Cold War era," said Martin Rees, president of the Royal Society, Britain's academy of science. "Unless they rise higher on international agendas, remedial action may come too late," he added.

There is no actual Doomsday Clock in keeping with the bulletin's symbolic exercise. But the group has used several makeshift clocks or replicas over the years in logos, images and publications.

Since it was set to seven minutes to midnight in 1947, the Doomsday Clock has been moved 18 times, including Wednesday's adjustment. It came closest to midnight -- just two minutes away -- in 1953 after the successful test of a hydrogen bomb by the United States. It has been as far away as 17 minutes, set there in 1991 following the demise of the Soviet Union.

The decision to move the clock is made by the bulletin's board, composed of scientists and policy experts, in coordination with the group's sponsors, who include Hawking and science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke.

Despite the organization's new focus on global warming, the prospect of nuclear war remained its primary concern, the bulletin's editor, Mark Strauss, told The AP.

"It's important to emphasize 50 of today's nuclear weapons could kill 200 million people," he said.

The organization floated a variety of proposals to help control the threat of nuclear proliferation and repeated a call to nuclear nations to whittle down their arsenals and reduce the launch readiness of their weapons.

Panelist Lawrence Krauss, a physics professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, criticized the use of military means to deal with nuclear proliferation and emphasized the use of diplomacy.

"If we want to address proliferation we want to do it in a unified way, and not with the sole country acting pre-emptively," he said.

* __

On the Net: The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists:

Copyright © 2007, The Associated Press

Friday, January 19, 2007

God's Hostages!!!

Sam Harris get it right!!!:

God's Hostages

Kajal Khidr was accused of adultery by her husband's family and held hostage by six family members in Iraqi Kurdistan. Kajal Khidr was tortured and mutilated; family members cut off part of her nose and told her she would be killed after the birth of her child. After fleeing to Syria, two of her abusers were arrested. However, they were both released within twenty-four hours because authorities determined they had acted to safeguard the honor of the family. No charges were ever brought against them. (Amnesty International Website)

In northern Uganda, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) abducts children, forcing girls into "marriage" and institutionalized rape... The men then have total sexual control over their "wives" and "domestic helpers," subjecting them to rape and various other forms of violence. (Amnesty International Website)

Mary Ann Kingston was pulled out of school at 13 and told to prepare for marriage. At 16, she was forced to marry her 33-year-old uncle. The order teaches that incest is a preferred practice to preserve a pure family bloodline originating from Jesus Christ. When Mary Ann ran away, her father took her to a remote ranch near the Utah-Idaho line and beat her with his leather belt. She counted 28 lashes before passing out. [The number of people in polygamous families in Utah is estimated at as many as 50,000.] (J. Nichols. “Wives suing to bring end to abuse under polygamy.” The Arizona Republic. October 15, 2003.)

For millennia the world’s great prophets and theologians have applied their collective genius to the riddle of womanhood. The result has been polygamy, sati, honor killing, punitive rape, genital mutilation, forced marriages, a cultic obsession with virginity, compulsory veiling, the persecution of unwed mothers, and other forms of physical and psychological abuse so kaleidoscopic in variety as to scarcely admit of concise description. Some of this sexist evil probably predates religion and can be ascribed to our biology, but there is no question that religion promulgates and renders sacrosanct attitudes toward women that would be unseemly in a brachiating ape.

While man was made in the image of God, the prevailing view under Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is that woman was made in the image of man. Her humanity, therefore, is derivative, contingent, ersatz (Gen: 2-21-22 Koran 4:1; 39.6; 7.189). Of all the animals, woman was the last to be made but the first to sin (Gen 3:12). The Old Testament puts the monetary value of a woman’s life at one-half to two-thirds that of a man’s (Leviticus 27). The Koran elaborates: it requires the testimony of two women to offset that of one man (2:282) and every girl deserves exactly one-half her brother’s share of inheritance (4:11). God suggests in his tenth commandment that the woman next door is your neighbor’s material possession which, along with his house, slaves and oxen, must not be coveted (Exodus 20:17); Deuteronomy 5:21).

The God of Abraham has made it perfectly clear that a woman is expected to live in subjugation to her father until the moment she is pressed into connubial service to her husband. As St. Paul put it: "Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands." (Ephesians 5:22-24). The Koran delivers the same message, and recommends that disobedient wives be whipped (4:34). The suppression of women under Islam achieved hideous precision through the writings of Al-Ghazali (1058-1111), perhaps the most influential Muslim since Muhammad:

She should stay home and get on with her spinning, she should not go out often, she must not be well-informed, nor must she be communicative with her neighbors and only visit them when absolutely necessary; she should take care of her husband and respect him in his presence and his absence and seek to satisfy him in everything… she must not leave the house without his permission and if given his permission she must leave surreptitiously. She should put on old clothes and take deserted streets and alleys, avoid markets, and make sure that a stranger does not hear her voice or recognize her; she must not speak to a friend of her husband even in need… Her sole worry should be her virtue, her home as well as her prayers and her fast. If a friend of her husband calls when the latter is absent she must not open the door nor reply to him in order to safeguard her and her husband’s honor. She should accept what her husband gives her as sufficient sexual needs at any moment… She should be clean and ready to satisfy her husband’s sexual needs at any moment.(Cited in Ibn Warraq’s, Why I Am Not Muslim, p. 300).

Recall the blissful lives of Afghan women under the Taliban, or reflect upon how many Muslim girls throughout the world are still obliged to wear the veil, and you will understand that this type of thinking has consequences.

The net effect of religion (especially in the Abrahamic tradition) has been to demonize female sexuality and portray women as morally and intellectually inferior to men. Every woman holds the dignity of men for ransom, and is liable to tarnish it with a glance, or destroy it outright through sexual indiscretion. From this perspective, rape is a crime that one man commits against the honor of another; the woman is merely Shame’s vehicle, and often culpably acquiescent—being all blandishments and guile and winking treachery. According to God, if the victim of a rape neglects to scream loudly enough, she should be stoned to death as an accessory to her own defilement (Deuteronomy 22:24). Every man’s daughter is a potential whore liable to grow drunk on the blood of good men—a Delilah, a Jezebel, a Salome. Every girl, therefore, must be mastered and locked away before she can succumb to the evil that is her all-too-natural enthusiasm. According to God, women have been placed on earth to service men, to bear their children, to the keep their homes in order, and above all to not betray them by becoming the object of another man’s sexual enjoyment. And so it falls to every man to shield his women from the predations of his rapacious brothers and oblige them, until death or decrepitude, to fulfill their most sacred purpose—as incubators of sons.

If we ever achieve a civilization of true equity, respect, and love between the sexes, it will not be because we paid more attention to our holy books.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Bush Doesn't Care!!!

This is from last Tuesday's (1/9/2007) Progress Report:

VETERANS -- VA 'BUCKLING' UNDER RISING DEMAND CREATED BY IRAQ WAR: "As the Iraq war approaches its fourth anniversary," wrote Linda Bilmes of the Kennedy School of Government and Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University, "the Department of Veterans Affairs is buckling under a growing volume of disability claims and rising demand for medical attention." So far, more than 200,000 veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan have been treated at VA medical facilities -- three times what the VA projected, according to a Government Accountability Office analysis. "More than one-third of them have been diagnosed with mental health conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder, acute depression and substance abuse. Thousands more have crippling disabilities such as brain or spinal injuries. In each of the last two years, the VA has underestimated the number of veterans who would seek help and the cost of treating them -- forcing it to go cap in hand to Congress for billions of dollars in emergency funding." The VA medical system "has a reputation for high-quality care," but the high volume of new claims has created waiting lists that "run as long as several months," understaffed Vet Centers, and a "bureaucratic nightmare" for those receiving disability checks. In a report written earlier this year, "The Economic Costs of the Iraq War," Stiglitz calculated the true costs of the Iraq war would exceed a trillion dollars, assuming all U.S. troops were home by 2010. The cost estimate included "expenditures not in the $500bn CBO projection, such as lifetime healthcare and disability payments to returning veterans."