September 05, 2006


Caption: War is hardest on the little ones.

While public support for the war in Iraq continues to erode, President Bush and Defense Secretary/Poet of Thanatos Donald Rumsfeld have stepped up their rhetoric in its defense.

In contrast to these appeals to neocon ideology, two recent news stories highlight some of the realities faced by military families.

First, the Associated Press reports that increasing numbers of military personnel have been turning to predatory payday lenders for help in making ends meet--at a very high cost. The situation has led the Defense Department to back legislation to limit interest rates:

Worried that too many members of the military are falling to victim to ruinous interest rates and getting into deep financial trouble, the Pentagon is backing an effort in Congress to slap a nationwide cap of 36 percent on payday loans to troops. An increasing number of states are taking steps, too.

In a report released August, the Defense Department estimated 225,000 service members - or 17 percent of the military - use payday loans. The Center for Responsible Lending, a nonprofit group seeking stricter industry controls, says that one in five service members took out such a loan in 2004, and that someone who borrows $325 pays an average of $800 in charges.

(If El Cabrero rightly recalls his Dante, usurers wind up in the seventh circle of hell sitting on burning sand and being pelted by flames. See Inferno, Canto 17)

On a different note, the Boston Globe recently reported that the Maine National Guard has begun giving families lifesize images of service members deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. The images are known as "Flat Daddies" and "Flat Mommies" and are reported to be very popular with Guard families.

Here's hoping they don't have to wait too long for the safe return of the real thing.


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