Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Tomgram: William Astore, Confessions of a Recovering Weapons Addict | TomDispatch

Tomgram: William Astore, Confessions of a Recovering Weapons Addict | TomDispatch:

Perhaps you’ve heard of “Makin’ Thunderbirds,” a hard-bitten rock & roll song by Bob Seger that I listened to 30 years ago while in college. It’s about auto workers back in 1955 who were “young and proud” to be making Ford Thunderbirds. But in the early 1980s, Seger sings, “the plants have changed and you’re lucky if you work.” Seger caught the reality of an American manufacturing infrastructure that was seriously eroding as skilled and good-paying union jobs were cut or sent overseas, rarely to be seen again in these parts.

But today our manufacturing sector is famous for very different merchandise. Thunderbirds have become drones and predators and F14s and America supplies the world. Its our number one export.

Clearly, the U.S. has grabbed the brass ring of the global arms trade. When it comes to investing in militaries and weaponry, no country can match us. We are supreme. And despite talk of modest cuts to the Pentagon budget over the next decade, it will, according to President Obama, continue to grow, which means that in weapons terms the future remains bright. After all, Pentagon spending on research and development stands at $81.4 billion, accounting for an astonishing 55% of all federal spending on R&D and leaving plenty of opportunity to develop our next generation of wonder weapons.

But at what cost to ourselves and the rest of the world? We’ve become the suppliers of weaponry to the planet’s hotspots. And those weapons deliveries (and the training and support missions that go with them) tend to make those spots hotter still -- as in hot lead.

As a country, we seem to have a teenager’s fascination with military hardware, an addiction that’s driving us to bust our own national budgetary allowance. At the same time, we sell weapons the way teenage punks sell fireworks to younger kids: for profit and with little regard for how they might be used.

Sixty years ago, it was said that what’s good for General Motors is good for America. In 1955, as Bob Seger sang, we were young and strong and makin’ Thunderbirds. But today we’re playing a new tune with new lyrics: what’s good for Lockheed Martin or Boeing or [insert major-defense-contractor-of-your-choice here] is good for America.

How far we’ve come since the 1950s!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Stephen Colbert Super PAC Ads Spoof U.S. Election System and a possible solution from Larry Lessig

Nine PAC Ads from Stephen Colbert Spoof U.S. Election System | Open Culture
If you have not seen Steven Colbert's brilliant Super Pac Ads here is one of them. Also on the serious side here is a proposal by Harvard professor and founder of the Creative Commons Lawrence Lessig to convene a constitutional convention to change our governmental processes connected with elections and lobbying. Its is something built into the constitution that we the people can do.

Warning: the Lessig video is long but well worth the time to watch.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

10 reasons the U.S. is no longer the land of the free -

10 reasons the U.S. is no longer the land of the free - The Washington Post:
Johnathan Turley is the Shapiro professor of public interest law at George Washington University. One more nail was put in the coffin for our Bill of Rights in December when Obama signed the National Defense act. Turley lists and explains 9 more "nails" including: Assassination of U.S. citizens, Indefinite detention, Arbitrary justice, Warrantless searches, Secret evidence, War crimes
Secret court, Immunity from judicial review, Continual monitoring of citizens, and Extraordinary renditions. his summary putting these changes in historical perspective is quoted below. Click the link above to read his description of the loss of our democracy as we slowly, security law by security law, become more like the totalitarian countries our government likes to criticize.

An authoritarian nation is defined not just by the use of authoritarian powers, but by the ability to use them. If a president can take away your freedom or your life on his own authority, all rights become little more than a discretionary grant subject to executive will.

The framers lived under autocratic rule and understood this danger better than we do. James Madison famously warned that we needed a system that did not depend on the good intentions or motivations of our rulers: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”

Benjamin Franklin was more direct. In 1787, a Mrs. Powel confronted Franklin after the signing of the Constitution and asked, “Well, Doctor, what have we got — a republic or a monarchy?” His response was a bit chilling: “A republic, Madam, if you can keep it.”

Since 9/11, we have created the very government the framers feared: a government with sweeping and largely unchecked powers resting on the hope that they will be used wisely.

The indefinite-detention provision in the defense authorization bill seemed to many civil libertarians like a betrayal by Obama. While the president had promised to veto the law over that provision, Levin, a sponsor of the bill, disclosed on the Senate floor that it was in fact the White House that approved the removal of any exception for citizens from indefinite detention.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Primary Relief: Paul ambushed by 'Vermin Supreme' who is also running for President!

N.H. primary pranks: Paul ambushed by 'Vermin Supreme' - Washington Times

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Texas Rep. Ron Paul's final full day of campaigning in New Hampshire got off to a bizarre start Monday when he was met by a bullhorn-toting man with a rubber boot on his head who challenged him and President Obama to a "panty-wrestling match to decide it all."

My favorite part of this whole episode is that apparently Vermin Supreme's foreign policy consists of making Iraq and Afghanistan US States. It is a unique idea!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What Iraq can teach us about Iran |Going Forward in the middle East

What Iraq can teach us about Iran | Stephen M. Walt:

Looking ahead and at US policy in the Middle East and our relationship with Iran:

Ali A. Allawi has an interesting op-ed in today's New York Times, where he outlines the main challenges in post-occupation Iraq and maps out a broad approach for dealing with them. he says: "Iraq must reimagine the Middle East, creating new economic, security and political structures that weave Middle Eastern countries closer together while peacefully accommodating the region's ethnic and religious diversity.

In the American-Iranian cold war, Iraq must resist being dragged into a confrontation. We have real interests on both sides and can play an important role in mediating and even defusing that conflict.

Wait says that American foreign policy going forward in the Middle East could follow this advice as well as Iraq.

In essence, Allawi is saying that Iraq should strive to play a balance of power game in the Middle East and Persian Gulf region, seeking good relations with all its neighbors, and adopt a creative and flexible approach to dealing with the diverse social and religious forces in the region. Such a strategy would not preclude Iraq tilting one way or the other as currents of power and interest shift, but it implies not allowing Iraq to get drawn into rigid alignments or permanent commitments that harden animosities or limit its diplomatic flexibility.

What struck me, however, was how Allawi's blueprint applies even more strongly to the United States. The United States is not a Persian Gulf state, and we have no interest in trying to run these countries. Instead, the United States has only three overriding strategic interests in the Gulf region: 1) make sure that Gulf oil and gas keeps flowing to world markets (even though the U.S. gets very little of its own energy from this region, a reduction in the global supply would send energy prices soaring), 2) discourage the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and 3) reduce the danger from anti-American terrorism. The best way to pursue these three objectives is to play balance-of-power politics ourselves: minimizing our military footprint in the region while striving to make sure that no single power dominates it and reducing incentives for anti-American terrorism or WMD proliferation.

Wait applies this general approach specifically to Iran:

It follows that the United States should be seeking to have good relations with as many states as possible -- so as to maximize its diplomatic options and resulting leverage -- and to do what it can to dampen regional tensions. (Note: this is also what Allawi advises Iraqis to do). From this perspective, a prolonged Cold War with Iran is in fact a policy failure (or at least not an achievement), even though avoiding one may be difficult given all that has already occurred. Our various "special relationships" in the region should be rethought as well, especially in light of the political upheavals that have been sweeping the region and rendering the future more difficult to forecast. In such circumstances, a smart great power would seek to maximize its options going forward, instead of being permanently and visibly committed to a status quo that is visibly shifting before our eyes.

Special relationships with Israel and confrontational relationships with Iran reduce our ability to reach the three objectives that are vital to our foreign interests. Of course this will require us to stop playing politics with our Middle East policy and possibly to consider having a a greater emphasis on diplomacy rather than brute force. Two recommendations from my side would be to get rid of the Drones and reexamine our investment in the State department. We should not have a Department of State whose total numbers of staff are less than you find in the Navy band.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Graphic Charts of Crony Capitalism Being Alive and Well in Fascist America « Blog

Graphic Charts of Crony Capitalism Being Alive and Well in Fascist America « Blog

An amazing series of info-graphics that show the relationship between powerful business concerns and "our" government. Its obvious if you study these whose government it is.

for a better look go to the original page where the images are large and easy to read.