Document released just before holiday season includes disputed claims about spy agency to share with ‘family and close friends’
Some points include the following:
"NSA programs protect Americans and our Allies. As an example, they have helped to understand and disrupt 54 terrorist events since 9/11: 25 in Europe, 11 in Asia and 5 in Africa. Thirteen of those had a homeland nexus.”
"NSA analysts do not decide what topics to work. They respond directly to requirements driven by the President’s Intelligence Priorities Framework and managed by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence."
"NSA does not and will not steal industry secrets in order to give US companies a competitive advantage."
"NSA performs its mission exceptionally well. We strive to be the best that we can be, because that’s what America requires as part of its defense in a dangerous world. More than 6,000 NSA cryptologists have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Twenty have died in the line of duty helping our troops accomplish their missions.”
"The men and women of NSA take an oath to the Constitution. As private citizens themselves, NSA employees are acutely aware of the importance of upholding the Fourth Amendment, and they uphold it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week."
"We encourage the American public to work with us to define the way ahead in balancing transparency and national security. We embrace public dialogue."
Here is a link to the memo:
Terrible, terrible, terrible and sad.
As a gov’t contractor, I couldn’t help but share this on my Facebook. This is really, really sad.
“But even if Lord Keynes’ assumption were correct, no good could come from such a deception. Great conflicts of ideas must be solved by straight and frank methods; they cannot be solved by artifices and make-shifts. What is needed is not to throw dust into the eyes of the workers, but to convince them. They themselves must realize that the traditional union methods do not serve their interests. They them-selves must abandon of their own accord policies that harm both them and all other people.”—Ludwig von Mises (via conza)
If irony is the ethos of our age — and it is — then the hipster is our archetype of ironic living.
The hipster haunts every city street and university town. Manifesting a nostalgia for times he never lived himself, this contemporary urban harlequin appropriates outmoded fashions (the mustache, the tiny shorts), mechanisms (fixed-gear bicycles, portable record players) and hobbies (home brewing, playing trombone). He harvests awkwardness and self-consciousness. Before he makes any choice, he has proceeded through several stages of self-scrutiny. The hipster is a scholar of social forms, a student of cool. He studies relentlessly, foraging for what has yet to be found by the mainstream. He is a walking citation; his clothes refer to much more than themselves. He tries to negotiate the age-old problem of individuality, not with concepts, but with material things.
He is an easy target for mockery. However, scoffing at the hipster is only a diluted form of his own affliction. He is merely a symptom and the most extreme manifestation of ironic living. For many Americans born in the 1980s and 1990s — members of Generation Y, or Millennials — particularly middle-class Caucasians, irony is the primary mode with which daily life is dealt. One need only dwell in public space, virtual or concrete, to see how pervasive this phenomenon has become. Advertising, politics, fashion, television: almost every category of contemporary reality exhibits this will to irony.
Take, for example, an ad that calls itself an ad, makes fun of its own format, and attempts to lure its target market to laugh at and with it. It pre-emptively acknowledges its own failure to accomplish anything meaningful. No attack can be set against it, as it has already conquered itself. The ironic frame functions as a shield against criticism. The same goes for ironic living. Irony is the most self-defensive mode, as it allows a person to dodge responsibility for his or her choices, aesthetic and otherwise. To live ironically is to hide in public. It is flagrantly indirect, a form of subterfuge, which means etymologically to “secretly flee” (subter + fuge). Somehow, directness has become unbearable to us.
How did this happen? It stems in part from the belief that this generation has little to offer in terms of culture, that everything has already been done, or that serious commitment to any belief will eventually be subsumed by an opposing belief, rendering the first laughable at best and contemptible at worst. This kind of defensive living works as a pre-emptive surrender and takes the form of reaction rather than action.
Life in the Internet age has undoubtedly helped a certain ironic sensibility to flourish. An ethos can be disseminated quickly and widely through this medium. Our incapacity to deal with the things at hand is evident in our use of, and increasing reliance on, digital technology. Prioritizing what is remote over what is immediate, the virtual over the actual, we are absorbed in the public and private sphere by the little devices that take us elsewhere.
Furthermore, the nostalgia cycles have become so short that we even try to inject the present moment with sentimentality, for example, by using certain digital filters to “pre-wash” photos with an aura of historicity. Nostalgia needs time. One cannot accelerate meaningful remembrance.
While we have gained some skill sets (multitasking, technological savvy), other skills have suffered: the art of conversation, the art of looking at people, the art of being seen, the art of being present. Our conduct is no longer governed by subtlety, finesse, grace and attention, all qualities more esteemed in earlier decades. Inwardness and narcissism now hold sway.
Born in 1977, at the tail end of Generation X, I came of age in the 1990s, a decade that, bracketed neatly by two architectural crumblings — of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the Twin Towers in 2001 — now seems relatively irony-free. The grunge movement was serious in its aesthetics and its attitude, with a combative stance against authority, which the punk movement had also embraced. In my perhaps over-nostalgic memory, feminism reached an unprecedented peak, environmentalist concerns gained widespread attention, questions of race were more openly addressed: all of these stirrings contained within them the same electricity and euphoria touching generations that witness a centennial or millennial changeover.
But Y2K came and went without disaster. We were hopeful throughout the ’90s, but hope is such a vulnerable emotion; we needed a self-defense mechanism, for every generation has one. For Gen Xers, it was a kind of diligent apathy. We actively did not care. Our archetype was the slacker who slouched through life in plaid flannel, alone in his room, misunderstood. And when we were bored with not caring, we were vaguely angry and melancholic, eating anti-depressants like they were candy.
FROM this vantage, the ironic clique appears simply too comfortable, too brainlessly compliant. Ironic living is a first-world problem. For the relatively well educated and financially secure, irony functions as a kind of credit card you never have to pay back. In other words, the hipster can frivolously invest in sham social capital without ever paying back one sincere dime. He doesn’t own anything he possesses.
Obviously, hipsters (male or female) produce a distinct irritation in me, one that until recently I could not explain. They provoke me, I realized, because they are, despite the distance from which I observe them, an amplified version of me.
I, too, exhibit ironic tendencies. For example, I find it difficult to give sincere gifts. Instead, I often give what in the past would have been accepted only at a White Elephant gift exchange: a kitschy painting from a thrift store, a coffee mug with flashy images of “Texas, the Lone Star State,” plastic Mexican wrestler figures. Good for a chuckle in the moment, but worth little in the long term. Something about the responsibility of choosing a personal, meaningful gift for a friend feels too intimate, too momentous. I somehow cannot bear the thought of a friend disliking a gift I’d chosen with sincerity. The simple act of noticing my self-defensive behavior has made me think deeply about how potentially toxic ironic posturing could be.
First, it signals a deep aversion to risk. As a function of fear and pre-emptive shame, ironic living bespeaks cultural numbness, resignation and defeat. If life has become merely a clutter of kitsch objects, an endless series of sarcastic jokes and pop references, a competition to see who can care the least (or, at minimum, a performance of such a competition), it seems we’ve made a collective misstep. Could this be the cause of our emptiness and existential malaise? Or a symptom?
Throughout history, irony has served useful purposes, like providing a rhetorical outlet for unspoken societal tensions. But our contemporary ironic mode is somehow deeper; it has leaked from the realm of rhetoric into life itself. This ironic ethos can lead to a vacuity and vapidity of the individual and collective psyche. Historically, vacuums eventually have been filled by something — more often than not, a hazardous something. Fundamentalists are never ironists; dictators are never ironists; people who move things in the political landscape, regardless of the sides they choose, are never ironists.
Where can we find other examples of nonironic living? What does it look like? Nonironic models include very young children, elderly people, deeply religious people, people with severe mental or physical disabilities, people who have suffered, and those from economically or politically challenged places where seriousness is the governing state of mind. My friend Robert Pogue Harrison put it this way in a recent conversation: “Wherever the real imposes itself, it tends to dissipate the fogs of irony.”
Observe a 4-year-old child going through her daily life. You will not find the slightest bit of irony in her behavior. She has not, so to speak, taken on the veil of irony. She likes what she likes and declares it without dissimulation. She is not particularly conscious of the scrutiny of others. She does not hide behind indirect language. The most pure nonironic models in life, however, are to be found in nature: animals and plants are exempt from irony, which exists only where the human dwells.
What would it take to overcome the cultural pull of irony? Moving away from the ironic involves saying what you mean, meaning what you say and considering seriousness and forthrightness as expressive possibilities, despite the inherent risks. It means undertaking the cultivation of sincerity, humility and self-effacement, and demoting the frivolous and the kitschy on our collective scale of values. It might also consist of an honest self-inventory.
Here is a start: Look around your living space. Do you surround yourself with things you really like or things you like only because they are absurd? Listen to your own speech. Ask yourself: Do I communicate primarily through inside jokes and pop culture references? What percentage of my speech is meaningful? How much hyperbolic language do I use? Do I feign indifference? Look at your clothes. What parts of your wardrobe could be described as costume-like, derivative or reminiscent of some specific style archetype (the secretary, the hobo, the flapper, yourself as a child)? In other words, do your clothes refer to something else or only to themselves? Do you attempt to look intentionally nerdy, awkward or ugly? In other words, is your style an anti-style? The most important question: How would it feel to change yourself quietly, offline, without public display, from within?
Attempts to banish irony have come and gone in past decades. The loosely defined New Sincerity movements in the arts that have sprouted since the 1980s positioned themselves as responses to postmodern cynicism, detachment and meta-referentiality. (New Sincerity has recently been associated with the writing of David Foster Wallace, the films of Wes Anderson and the music of Cat Power.) But these attempts failed to stick, as evidenced by the new age of Deep Irony.
What will future generations make of this rampant sarcasm and unapologetic cultivation of silliness? Will we be satisfied to leave an archive filled with video clips of people doing stupid things? Is an ironic legacy even a legacy at all?
The ironic life is certainly a provisional answer to the problems of too much comfort, too much history and too many choices, but it is my firm conviction that this mode of living is not viable and conceals within it many social and political risks. For such a large segment of the population to forfeit its civic voice through the pattern of negation I’ve described is to siphon energy from the cultural reserves of the community at large. People may choose to continue hiding behind the ironic mantle, but this choice equals a surrender to commercial and political entities more than happy to act as parents for a self-infantilizing citizenry. So rather than scoffing at the hipster — a favorite hobby, especially of hipsters — determine whether the ashes of irony have settled on you as well. It takes little effort to dust them away.
"The American Bar Association’s (ABA) Texas Capital Punishment Assessment Team recently reviewed the Texas death penalty system to find what surprises no one — it’s an expensive program that is run poorly and makes mistakes. The analysis, led by legal experts and former elected officials across the ideological spectrum, found that Texas relies on outdated, unscientific, and unreliable methods to prove guilt. Many changes were suggested to attempt to prevent wrongful convictions and provide fair due process.
This same Texas system of capital punishment that Governor Perry and some of his predecessors are so proud of has led to disastrous consequences. It is responsible for at least 12 men being wrongfully convicted and then released from death row and perhaps others were even wrongfully executed. Carlos DeLuna was executed using no forensic evidence, sloppy crime scene investigation, and essentially one eyewitness account who later said he was 50 percent sure DeLuna was the perpetrator. Claude Jones was put to death in 2000 based, in part, on the analysis of a hair found at the crime scene. This hair analysis has since been shown not to be scientific, and recently, DNA evidence revealed that it was not Jones’s hair after all. Cameron Todd Willingham was executed in 2004 primarily after local investigators testified that arson was the cause of the fire that killed his three young daughters. This “evidence” has since been debunked by nine fire experts who have examined the case and determined that it was a tragic accident, not arson.
Texans continue to be subjected to paying taxes for this program that grants so much power to the state and often fails miserably. The average cost for a death penalty case in 1992 in Texas was $2.3 million as opposed to $750,000 for a case involving a life sentence. Jasper County, Texas was forced to raise property taxes by nearly 7 percent just to pay for one death penalty trial. A single capital punishment case, in part, led Gray County, Texas to withhold county employees’ raises and to increase county taxes. The cost on the local, state, and federal levels are a heavy burden on the taxpayers while the death penalty fails to deter crime.”
Capital punishment is simply more state power. It is non-justifiable, insofar as a human life is in question. The government murders, and it is an accident. That’s all — slap on the wrist — we’ll get’em next time and the search continues.
"If the government wants to obtain a document stored in your home file cabinet, the law requires a warrant signed by a judge. The warrant needs to show that there’s probable cause that such an intrusion of your privacy will expose proof of illegal activity.
Under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, however, some government agencies argue that they don’t need a warrant to access your online data. They simply send a subpoena — which doesn’t require a judge’s signature or the same burden of proof — to the Internet service.
To be clear, Google requires a search warrant before releasing any data relating to contents of Gmail or other Google services.
That said, the number of requests from law enforcement to Google are growing — in the first half of this year, Google received 10,918 requests for information about our users from government investigators in the US. That’s an increase of 205% since 2009.”
"In this fascinating public experiment, a German town wanted to see what would happen to traffic flow if they got rid of street signs, lights and other restrictions. The results are intuitive, but not what you would expect! Everything got safer and faster. Would this model hold true for other areas of infrastructure? Drivers must give way to the left and not drive too fast. That’s the only rule. Even the police love the new system, and best of all, people are safer on the road. Drivers are much more aware and use eye contact and instincts. People WANT to stop for other people and help things move more efficiently.”
The town of Bohmte. A fascinating experiment. I’ve tossed ideas around to deal with traffic jams and stoppages. I’ve concluded that it must be to abolish all traffic lights and codes.
Simply states, “I don’t believe gay marriage (Or, respectively, anything) should be, “legalized,” Because that notion assumes a, therefore, legal entity takes takes precedence over my humanity. I am a human being, whose rights come from my humanity, Not from a government Or piece of paper. Moreover, So are you. You have full control over your person and will decide whom you befriend, Or whom you belove, for any amount of time. You do Not need permission to do So.
By far the most secret and least accountable operation of the federal government is not, as one might expect, the CIA, DIA, or some other super-secret intelligence agency. The CIA and other intelligence operations are under control of the Congress. They are accountable: a Congressional committee supervises these operations, controls their budgets, and is informed of their covert activities. It is true that the committee hearings and activities are closed to the public; but at least the people’s representatives in Congress insure some accountability for these secret agencies.
It is little known, however, that there is a federal agency that tops the others in secrecy by a country mile. The Federal Reserve System is accountable to no one; it has no budget; it is subject to no audit; and no Congressional committee knows of, or can truly supervise, its operations. The Federal Reserve, virtually in total control of the nation’s vital monetary system, is accountable to nobody – and this strange situation, if acknowledged at all, is invariably trumpeted as a virtue.
Thus, when the first Democratic president in over a decade was inaugurated in 1993, the maverick and venerable Democratic chairman of the House Banking Committee, Texan Henry B. Gonzalez, optimistically introduced some of his favorite projects for opening up the Fed to public scrutiny. His proposals seemed mild; he did not call for full-fledged Congressional control of the Fed’s budget. The Gonzalez Bill required full independent audits of the Fed’s operations; videotaping the meetings of the Fed’s policy-making committee; and releasing detailed minutes of the policy meetings within a week, rather than the Fed being allowed, as it is now, to issue vague summaries of its decisions six weeks later. In addition, the presidents of the twelve regional Federal Reserve Banks would be chosen by the president of the United States rather than, as they are now, by the commercial banks of the respective regions.
It was to be expected that Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan would strongly resist any such proposals. After all, it is in the nature of bureaucrats to resist any encroachment on their unbridled power. Seemingly more surprising was the rejection of the Gonzalez plan by President Clinton, whose power, after all, would be enhanced by the measure. The Gonzalez reforms, the President declared, “run the risk of undermining market confidence in the Fed.”
On the face of it, this presidential reaction, though traditional among chief executives, is rather puzzling. After all, doesn’t a democracy depend upon the right of the people to know what is going on in the government for which they must vote? Wouldn’t knowledge and full disclosure strengthen the faith of the American public in their monetary authorities? Why should public knowledge “undermine market confidence”? Why does “market confidence” depend on assuring far less public scrutiny than is accorded keepers of military secrets that might benefit foreign enemies? What is going on here?
The standard reply of the Fed and its partisans is that any such measures, however marginal, would encroach on the Fed’s “independence from politics,” which is invoked as a kind of self-evident absolute. The monetary system is highly important, it is claimed, and therefore the Fed must enjoy absolute independence.
“Independent of politics” has a nice, neat ring to it, and has been a staple of proposals for bureaucratic intervention and power ever since the Progressive Era. Sweeping the streets; control of seaports; regulation of industry; providing social security; these and many other functions of government are held to be “too important” to be subject to the vagaries of political whims. But it is one thing to say that private, or market, activities should be free of government control, and “independent of politics” in that sense. But these are government agencies and operations we are talking about, and to say that government should be “independent of politics” conveys very different implications. For government, unlike private industry on the market, is not accountable either to stockholders or consumers. Government can only be accountable to the public and to its representatives in the legislature; and if government becomes “independent of politics” it can only mean that that sphere of government becomes an absolute self-perpetuating oligarchy, accountable to no one and never subject to the public’s ability to change its personnel or to “throw the rascals out.” If no person or group, whether stockholders or voters, can displace a ruling elite, then such an elite becomes more suitable for a dictatorship than for an allegedly democratic country. And yet it is curious how many self-proclaimed champions of “democracy,” whether domestic or global, rush to defend the alleged ideal of the total independence of the Federal Reserve.
Don’t know how many times I’ve heard individuals blame the free market, for what the Fed has done.
Voices of protest have been raised in Hollywood against Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty, an account of the hunt for Osama bin Laden, which endorses the actions of the Central Intelligence Agency, the US military and the systematic use of torture.
In a statement published January 9 in Truthout (“And the Academy Award for the Promotion of Torture Goes to …”), actor David Clennon explains, “I’m a member of Hollywood’s Motion Picture Academy. At the risk of being expelled for disclosing my intentions, I will not be voting for Zero Dark Thirty—in any Academy Awards category.”
Clennon goes on, “Everyone who contributes skill and energy to a motion picture—including actors—shares responsibility for the impressions the picture makes and the ideas it expresses. … So Jessica Chastain won’t get my vote for Best Actress. With her beauty and her tough-but-vulnerable posturing, she almost succeeds in making extreme brutality look weirdly heroic.”
The Emmy-award winning actor (best known for his role on television’s thirtysomething) writes, “If, in fact, torture is a crime (a mortal sin, if you will)—a signal of a nation’s descent into depravity—then it doesn’t matter whether it ‘works’ or not. Zero Dark Thirty condones torture. … If the deeply racist Birth of a Nation was released today, would we vote to honor it? Would we give an award to [German filmmaker] Leni Riefenstahl’s brilliant pro-Nazi documentary, Triumph of the Will?”
It is entirely to his credit that Clennon has made this statement, and spoken out against Bigelow’s film, which has received almost universal, shameful praise from the US media and its so-called “film critics.”
According to CBS’s Los Angeles affiliate station, veteran actors Martin Sheen and Ed Asner have also appealed “to other actors to vote their conscience on whether to reward the movie [Zero Dark Thirty] with a win on Oscar night.”
Sony Chairman Amy Pascal issued a defensive statement in support of her studio’s film, asserting, “Zero Dark Thirty does not advocate torture. To not include that part of history would have been irresponsible and inaccurate. We fully support Kathryn Bigelow and [screenwriter] Mark Boal and stand behind this extraordinary movie.”
Only a multi-millionaire Hollywood film executive, who thinks she can make up reality as she goes along, could have added this preposterous and hypocritical comment:
“We are outraged that any responsible member of the Academy would use their voting status in AMPAS as a platform to advance their own political agenda. … To punish an Artist’s right of expression is abhorrent. This community, more than any other, should know how reprehensible that is.”
One feels safe in suggesting that if a new version of the Hollywood anticommunist blacklist were to be launched tomorrow, the overwhelming majority of studio chiefs would sign up without a moment’s hesitation.
Clennon’s public statement and related events no doubt indicate revulsion against Bigelow’s film within sections of the industry. That she was left out of the Academy Awards best director nominations, announced last week, was an indication of some degree of opposition. Bigelow was hailed as the first woman to win an Oscar for best director for The Hurt Locker in 2010. At the time, entirely false claims were made as to that work’s “anti-war” credentials.
This time around, with even less to go on, various liberal and “left” figures insist that Bigelow is being subjected to unfair attacks. Scott Mendelson, for example, on the Huffington Post website, writes that Bigelow has “been called a warmonger, an apologist, and yes, a Nazi. … All because Bigelow and Boal didn’t spoon-feed their opinions to the audience in a way that made for easy digestion. They didn’t have a fictionalized scene where a character explicitly explains to the audience how they got each piece of vital information over the eight years during which the film takes place. They trusted the audience to make the connections.”
Filmmaker Michael Moore has chimed in, disgracefully, with support for Bigelow as part of a wider and equally disgraceful defense of the Obama administration. On Twitter January 9, Moore asserted, “I’m sorry, but anyone who claims that Zero Dark Thirty endorses torture either hasn’t seen the movie or wasn’t paying attention.
“Zero Dark 30 makes it clear: 7 yrs of torture under [George W.] Bush doesn’t find Osama bin Laden. [Barack] Obama elected, torture stops, guess what? WE FIND BIN LADEN.”
Moore’s statement fully accepts the so-called “war on terror,” which his own Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004) associated with the American elite’s drive for global domination.
His miserable comments help explain how and why the official anti-war movement has folded up its tent and gone away under Obama.
Moore went on to say, “Also, this is a MOVIE. It is a work of art & tells a great story. ‘Depiction does not imply endorsement,’ says the director & she’s right.”
He was paraphrasing Bigelow’s comment at the New York Film Critics Award ceremony earlier this month: “I thankfully want to say that I’m standing in a room of people who understand that depiction is not endorsement.”
It is difficult to conceive of a more dishonest or self-deluded comment. Mendelson, Moore and Bigelow, first of all, leave out one minor detail: Zero Dark Thirty (which borrows its very title from the US military) was developed and made with the fullest cooperation of the military, the CIA and the highest echelons of the American government. Is it likely that the latter would have facilitated a work that offered criticism of their activities?
As we reported last May, Bigelow and screenwriter Boal, a former “embedded reporter” in Iraq in 2004, were given “top-level access” to those involved in the bin Laden killing. They were even offered the opportunity, which they jumped at, to meet with a member of the US Navy Seal death squad involved in the assassination.
Right-wing media watchdog Judicial Watch, for its own purposes, obtained hundreds of pages of emails and transcripts of conversations, including a July 14, 2011 meeting attended by Bigelow, Boal, Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers and other Defense Department officials. The transcript reveals that Boal had previously held discussions with top administration officials, including Obama’s Chief Counterterrorism Advisor John O. Brennan and Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough. Brennan, the man in charge of the murderous drone program, has recently been nominated as CIA director.
The transcripts and emails reveal Bigelow and Boal as accomplices of these top murderers in the US military and intelligence apparatus.
In an email to Vickers on June 9, 2011, for example, Pentagon media official Robert Mehal spoke glowingly of Boal, who had promised not to reveal any military secrets, adding “that he [Boal] was proud of not giving anything away in Hurt Locker.”
Furthermore, the screenwriter had explained that he wanted “to highlight the great cooperation/coordination between CIA/DoD [Department of Defense] and the extensive Intel work (decade) that culminated in the OP.” Boal told Mehal that assassinating bin Laden was a “gutsy decision” by Obama.
When Vickers, at the July 14, 2011 meeting, told Bigelow and Boal that the military would make available to them “a guy … who was involved from the beginning as a planner, a SEAL Team 6 Operator and Commander,” Boal responded, “That’s dynamite,” and Bigelow put in, “That’s incredible.” At the end of the conversation, Bigelow told Vickers, “So wonderful meeting you.”
Bigelow, supported by Moore and others, claims Zero Dark Thirty is neutral in relation to the events it depicts. “The film doesn’t have an agenda and it doesn’t judge,” she told the media. “I wanted a boots-on-the-ground experience.”
This is spurious. Zero Dark Thirty tells its “great story” from the point of view of the CIA and its torturers. Its supposed objectivity is a self-conscious aesthetic stance. Bigelow has long been fascinated with violence and brutality and those bold enough to carry it out, without regard for commonplace concerns. (For example, this bit of sophomoric dialogue from anti-hero Bodhi [Patrick Swayze] in Bigelow’s 1991 Point Break: “See, we exist on a higher plane, you and I. We make our own rules. Why be a servant of the law … when you can be its master?”)
We noted in regard to The Hurt Locker that the film “glories in and glamorizes violence, which the filmmaker associates with ‘heightened emotional responses.’ All of this, including its element of half-baked Nietzscheanism, is quite unhealthy and even sinister, but corresponds to definite moods within sections of what passes for a ‘radical’ intelligentsia in the US.” The Hurt Locker, we pointed out, “merely pauses now and then to meditate on the heavy price American soldiers pay for slaughtering Iraqi insurgents and citizens. As long as they pull long faces and show signs of fatigue and stress, US forces, as far as Bigelow is apparently concerned, can go right on killing and wreaking havoc.”
I liked the film, for the most part. But it does portray torture as leading to helpful information. It glorifies it. It hearkens back to Bush-era torture, without mentioning George Bush. It subtly praises Barack’s effort and accomplishments. It begins, precisely, now, and doesn’t remind us that it began with Bush.
The same people that condemned torture, are the same people praising this torture porn of a movie.
"How many times does the American public need to be told that torture did not yield the results the government promised? How many times does it need to be said that waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, 183 times obviously didn’t work? How many times does it need to be pointed out that torture can — and did — produce misleading or false information, notably in the torture of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, the Libyan who ran an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan and who confessed under torture that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?"
Spooked by left-wing environmental activists, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been dithering over whether or not to approve the production of natural gas by means of hydrofracking from the Marcellus Shale formation in his state. Activists are trying to block approval by claiming that fracking can cause health problems. Today, theNew York Timesis reporting that a study done a year ago by the state’s Health Department finds thatfracking can be done safely. TheTimesnotes:
The state’s Health Department found in an analysis it prepared early last year that the much-debated drilling technology known as hydrofracking could be conducted safely in New York, according to a copy obtained by The New York Times from an expert who did not believe it should be kept secret….
The eight-page analysis is a summary of previous research by the state and others, and concludes that fracking can be done safely. It delves into the potential impact of fracking on water resources, on naturally occurring radiological material found in the ground, on air emissions and on “potential socioeconomic and quality-of-life impacts.” …
“By implementing the proposed mitigation measures,” the analysis says, “the Department expects that human chemical exposures during normal HVHF operations” — short for high-volume hydraulic fracturing — “will be prevented or reduced below levels of significant health concern.”
TheTimesalso reports that a much longer Environmental Impact Statement—1,500 pages—is still being compiled.
Of course, these studies are largely excuses for delaying decisions made politically painful by activist misinformation campaigns. Unless the studies find (which they won’t) that fracking causes massive cancer outbreaks and pollutes thousands of water wells, activists will simply dismiss inconvenient information and try to provoke fear and uncertainty among citizens using whatever junk science they can gin up.
I have always been in favor of fracking. It is obviously a controversial subject with very outspoken critics and advocates. However, I am for any market responses to cheaper, quicker, and easier access to gas. There is a movement here, in Colorado, even among libertarians, to end fracking. I can’t condemn this method.
I am a big fan of used cars generally. I just can’t bring myself to buy a new one given the immediate depreciation which occurs once I wave goodbye to the salesman. It’s just too painful for me. I prefer to buy my cars used.
The secondary market is also important for those who can’t afford a new car. Given that 2013 autos average over $25,000, that’s true for a good number of American families. The total amount paid of course, depending on the interest rate, is in the end a whole lot more than $25K too. The used car market is a key (but often overlooked) part of the economy, and a vital resource for millions of people.
Cash for Clunkers decimated this market because it took many functioning (and paid for) older cars off the road, while at the same time it encouraged people to take on heaps of debt in the midst of the worst recession in 70 years.
Sadly this brilliant scheme didn’t work so well and many people who bought new cars could not actually afford them. To boot, the good used vehicles which remained in the market rose significantly in cost. Many Americans found themselves with a repo man in their driveway and suddenly priced out of a once affordable market.
I suppose if people wait it out enough repossessions will hit the street eventually that used car prices will again edge down. But it sure seems like a lot of pain to get nowhere, and way too much time on the bus.
The Department of Defense, with its 2.3 million workers, is the single largest employer in the United States. The defenseindustry, which is the main private-sector recipient of defense dollars, directly or indirectly employs another 3 million people. This, in a nutshell, is why it’s so hard to cut government spending in general and military spending in particular.
The scope and reach of the government are far bigger than we think, explains John J. Dilulio of the National Academy of Public Administration in the Spring 2012 issue ofNational Affairs. It’s more than just the money Washington spends or the people it employs. It’s also the people in the private sector who live off that spending. It’s the nonprofit organizations paid to help administer government programs. It’s the contractors who run the programs, the contractors’ sub-contractors, and so on.
Dilulio calls this interconnected mass “BIG PAP,” short for “Big Inter-Government” and its “Private Administration Proxies.” In 2012, for example, the Department of Defense shelled out $688 billion to cover, among other things, the salaries of some 801,000 civilian employees and 766,000 contractors. The Pentagon’s BIG PAP therefore amounts to more people than the headcount of the active duty military. The biggest contractor, Lockheed Martin, hires an additional 40,000 subcontractors as well.
If you live in northern Virginia, the most military-heavy region of the state that receives more Pentagon money than any other, you almost certainly know someone who works for the Department of Defense or one of its contractors or sub-contractors, or who is married to someone else who does. While Virginia takes top dollar, a 2011 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report notes that the Defense Department is by far “the top federal employer in most states.” It also employs “more than 90 percent of federal civilian employees in foreign countries.” BIG PAP is everywhere.
The business of government is extremely lucrative. AsTheWashington Examiner’s Tim Carney noted in a September column, the three counties in America that have a median income above $100,000 are all in northern Virginia, and seven of the 10 richest counties are all within commuting distance of the District of Columbia. As he concludes, “You can surmise where the wealth is coming from: the expanding federal government.”
On average, federal employees are paid more than their counterparts in the private sector. A 2009 study by Chris Edwards, director of fiscal studies at the Cato Institute, found that the average federal civilian worker now earns twice as much in wages and benefits as the average private-sector worker. According to the CRS, the average 2010 salary in the federal government was $74,800, compared to a national average of $44,400 for all workers. The difference is even more pronounced within the military industry. A March 2012 report by the consulting firm Deloitte found that roughly 80 percent of aerospace and defense industry employment is paid for mostly by the government, and that in 2010 the average wage for their industry was $80,100.
The biggest military contractors end up relying on the Pentagon for the vast majority of their sales. According to USAspending.gov, the five top recipients of Defense Department contracts, loans, and loan guarantees are Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman. In 2010, the percentage of overall company sales that the federal government accounted for was, respectively, 60 percent, 82 percent, 63 percent, 88 percent, and 92 percent.
The money blasting out from Washington is notoriously—and predictably—misspent. Congress reliably fails to apply any kind of meaningful oversight over military spending, and it hasn’t even managed to pass a budget since 2009. Individual members of Congress make things worse by pushing for whatever weapons system or aircraft engine that can be produced in their district, regardless of whether the Pentagon wants it.
The Hoover Institution economist David R. Henderson gives an example in a July 2012 Mercatus Center working paper: House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) pushed to fund an alternate engine for the F-35 joint strike fighter over the objections of Defense Secretary Robert Gates (who said it “would be a waste of nearly $3 billion”), simply because the engine’s manufacturer had “about 1,000 employees working on the engine in a facility near Cincinnati” at the time.
Extended periods of war solidify this pathology, knitting Pentagon contractors into the fabric of big government. A May 2011 CRS report noted that the Defense Department had more contractor personnel than uniformed personnel in Afghanistan and Iraq. It added that the department spent $11.8 billion on contracts in Afghanistan and surrounding countries in FY2010. Needless to say, these contractors are unlikely to consider the end of the conflict good for business.
Even when military contractors’ profits have reached an all-time high, Congress seems committed to sheltering the companies from any budget cuts. Industry lobbying probably plays a role here. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the U.S. defense and aerospace lobby doled out $24 million to political campaigns and committees during the 2008 campaign cycle and spent nearly $60 million on lobbying in 2011. Lockheed Martin alone spent $15 million in 2011 on its lobbying efforts, plus $2 million in political contributions. Boeing spent $16 million on lobbying the same year.
In his seminal 1971 article “The Theory of Economic Regulation,” the Nobel-winning economist George Stigler noted that agencies eventually become captive of the very interest groups they were ostensibly designed to police. Writing regulation or even spending legislation requires in-depth industry knowledge, so federal agencies and lawmakers tend to hire directly from the very companies they must oversee or spend money on.
The reverse is true too. In order to gain better access to their regulators and government funds, companies hire lobbyists who used to work for Congress or government agencies. Of the 408 lobbyists employed by the military industry to apply pressure on Congress, 70 percent used to work on Capitol Hill.
In the face of this relentless pressure to expand military spending, there are still reasons to be optimistic. In the 1990s, the only category that allegedly limited-government Republican lawmakers really ended up cutting was Pentagon spending, thanks to the peace dividend when the nation ramped down at the end of the Cold War. Perhaps we can manage at least that much this time around.
The New Mexico desert gets blistering hot, but inside the small windowless container where Brandon Bryant worked as a drone operator in the U.S. Air Force it stays a cool 63 degrees all year long.
Nicola Abé at der Spiegelspoke with Bryant, no longer in the Air Force, who relays a disturbing and tragic scene from his time inside that isolated container in the American desert.
Sixty-three finger numbing degrees and Bryant describes sitting with a group of other pilots looking at more than a dozen computer monitors. The crew are directing drones over Afghanistan 6,250 miles away and the screens jump with a two to five second delay, as infrared video sent from the UAVs whips through the air to New Mexico.
When the order to fire on a target arrives, Bryant paints the roof of a hut with the laser that will guide in aHellfire missilefired by the pilot beside him.
"These moments are like in slow motion," he says to Abé.
No doubt, because on this occasion Bryant says a child walked from behind the building at the last second. Too late for him to do anything else but ask the other pilot, “Did we just kill a kid?”
"Yeah, I guess that was a kid," the pilot replied.
"Was that a kid?" they wrote into a chat window on the monitor.
Then, someone they didn’t know answered, someone sitting in a military command center somewhere in the world who had observed their attack. “No. That was a dog,” the person wrote.
They reviewed the scene on video. A dog on two legs?
The article follows anotherwidely publicized story from the Marine Timesabout children killed by Americans on Afghan soil published just weeks ago. While obviously a tragedy for the victims and their families, Bryant describes the incredible toll taken on U.S. troops required to obey orders producing such dire results.
From his mother’s couch in Missoula, Montana Bryant talks of his 6,000 Air Force flight hours and says he used to dream in infrared. ”I saw men, women and children die during that time,” he says. “I never thought I would kill that many people. In fact, I thought I couldn’t kill anyone at all.”
The three part article digs deeply into the life of a troubled former servicemember and the war-fighting policies that don’t look to be changing anytime soon.
Though Sean Hannity would disagree, PTSD isn’t simply caused by a lack of American support. There is a quality of consciousness when one has to take another’s life. And when you weigh what you’re being told, by your superiors, versus what you are acting out, they are two starkly different realities.
The Westboro Baptist Church operates as a tax-exempt church. While it speaks volumes that many Americans value their right to free speech, this does not mean that we have to pay for their vitriol.
The WBC is not and should never have been considered a legitimate church for tax-exemption purposes, and this could be declared so either directly or with legislation affirming any or all of the following:
1) The WBC does not engage in any charity comparable in scope to their public image. They are only known for hate.
2) The WBC is not inclusive of its surrounding community, restricting membership. It is regarded by some as a tax shelter for its family’s law operations.
3) The WBC uses invective speech under its name, actively denigrating classes of people - soldiers, homosexuals, and others
Why do people feel the need to defeat individuals they disagree with through the state? It is always someone with whom someone else disagrees with. Taxing the rich, regulating capital, and just general disagreement. This is precisely why the state must be abolished. The state will stay in power as long as it is given the power to do so.
The argument for leaving 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014 is more or less reasonable on its face. The Kabul government is fragile; our gains might be reversed; the Afghan military is not ready to stand on its own. Here’s the unreasonable, unavoidable part: If we don’t leave then, we probably never will.
The lesson of the past several decades is that once Americans establish ourselves to assure security, we stay as long as it takes and then stay some more. World War II has been over for 67 years, but we still have 37,000 troops in Japan and 53,000 in Germany.
At one time, these forces could be justified as a counterweight to the Soviet Union, but the Cold War is ancient history. The Korean War ended in 1953, yet 28,500 American troops remain in South Korea.
Going over the fiscal cliff may not be good for the economy, but it might have one valuable result: forcing Americans to reassess our enormous defense budget.
Taking $492 billion away from the Pentagon over the next decade wouldn’t be hard to do if we forced other nations to take more responsibility for their own defense—and used the opportunity to reduce our overall troop strength. What’s hard, and expensive, is our vast array of overseas commitments.
Why do we maintain these deployments? Partly out of inertia, partly out of a feeling they can’t do any harm and partly from an incessant fear that anything that happens anywhere poses a potential danger to our security.
This last factor is hard to overstate. Earlier this year, Dartmouth College political scientist Benjamin Valentino constructed a poll that was carried out by YouGov. When respondents were asked if they think the United States “faces greater threats to its security today than it did during the Cold War,” 63 percent said it does, with only 14 percent disagreeing.
"It’s astonishing to me," Valentino told me in an interview in his campus office last month. Not only are we no longer under the constant threat of nuclear annihilation, he notes, but we have few actual adversaries. Many Americans are aware that we spend more on the military than the next 17 countries combined. What they may not realize, says Valentino, is that "of the next 10 biggest military spenders, all but two (Russia and China) are allies." You have to go to No. 25, Iran, to find a real enemy.
In world history, he says, “there is no precedent for the strongest power to have allies among so many other military powers. Russia and China are only quasi-adversaries.” Iran and North Korea are military pipsqueaks, with or without nuclear weapons.
Al-Qaida is a terrorist threat, but it never had any hope of defeating us—only of terrorizing us. And it hasn’t been able to carry out an attack on U.S. soil since 9/11.
Our enviable strategic position gives us plenty of room to reduce defense outlays without compromising our safety or inviting attacks on our allies. It’s hard to see any remaining military threat to Germany or the other countries of Western Europe that our forces ostensibly protect. Nor do we need troops there for one of NATO’s original purposes: to keep the Germans under firm control.
Japan and South Korea may face genuine threats (China and North Korea), but they have ample resources to manage them. Japan has the world’s third-biggest economy. South Korea’s economy, which ranks 15th, is 80 times bigger than North Korea’s.
But our allies punch below their weight. The U.S. spends 4.7 percent of its gross domestic product on defense. Japan spends just 1 percent, and South Korea 2.8 percent. In Germany, the figure is 1.3 percent. They have no reason to spend more as long as they can free-ride.
Would our permanent pullback from Europe and Asia change the strategic environment? Certainly. But after decades of American protection, our friends can form their own alliances to confront any adversary, present or future.
Worries about China and uncertainty about U.S. intentions have already moved Japan in that direction. “We want to build our own coalition of the willing in Asia to prevent China from just running over us,” Yoshihide Soeya, director of the Institute of East Asian Studies at Keio University, toldThe New York Times.
We could foster more such efforts by our allies to work together to defend themselves. Or we could go broke doing it for them.
The David Petraeus scandal has shined a light on the luxurious, subsidized lifestyle of the U.S. military’s top generals. But so far, what the media has uncovered only scratches the surface of the abuses. Here are seven absurd ways the military wastes our money — and none of them have anything to do with national defense.
1. A whole battalion of generals? The titles “general” or “admiral” sound like they belong to pretty exclusive posts, fit only for the best of the best. This flashy title makes it pretty easy to say, “so what if a few of our military geniuses get the royal treatment — particularly if they are the sole commanders of the most powerful military in human history.” The reality, however, is that there are nearly 1,000 generals and admirals in the U.S. armed forces, and each has an entourage that would make a Hollywood star jealous.
According to 2010 Pentagon reports, there are 963 generals and admirals in the U.S. armed forces. This number has ballooned by about 100 officers since 9/11 when fighting terror — and polishing the boots of senior military personnel — became Washington’s No. 1 priority. (In roughly that same time frame, starting in 1998, the Pentagon’s budget also ballooned by more than 50 percent.)
Jack Jacobs, a retired U.S. army colonel and now a military analyst for MSNBC, says the military needs only a third of that number. Many of these generals are “spending time writing plans and defending plans with Congress, and trying to get the money,” he explained. In other words, a large number of these generals are essentially lobbyists for the Pentagon, but they still receive large personal staffs and private jet rides for official paper-pushing military matters.
Dina Rasor, founder of Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog group, explains that this “brass creep” is “fueled by the desire to increase bureaucratic clout or prestige of a particular service, function or region, rather than reflecting the scope and duties of the job itself.”
It’s sort of like how Starbucks titles each of its baristas a “partner” but continues to pay them just over minimum wage (and a caramel macchiato per shift).
As Rasor writes, “the three- and four-star ranks have increased twice as fast as one- and two-star general and flag officers, three times as fast as the increase in all officers and almost ten times as fast as the increase in enlisted personnel. If you imagine it visually, the shape of U.S. military personnel has shifted from looking like a pyramid to beginning to look more like a skyscraper.”
But the skyscraper model doesn’t mean that the armed forces are democratizing. In fact, just the opposite; they’re gaming the system to allow more and more officers to deploy the full power of the U.S. military to aid their personal lives — whether their actual work justifies it or not.
2. The generals’ flotillas. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates appointed Arnold Punaro, a retired major general in the Marines, to head an independent review of the Pentagon’s budget. Here’s the caution he came up with: “We don’t want the Department of Defense to become a benefits agency that occasionally kills a terrorist.”
So, just how good are these benefits? For the top brass, not bad at all. According to a Washington Post investigation, each top commander has his own C-40 jet, complete with beds on board. Many have chefs who deserve their own four-star restaurants. The generals’ personal staff include drivers, security guards, secretaries and people to shine their shoes and iron their uniforms. When traveling, they can be accompanied by police motorcades that stretch for blocks. When entertaining, string quartets are available at a snap of the fingers.
A New York Times analysis showed that simply the staff provided to top generals and admirals can top $1 million —per general. That’s not even including their own salaries — which are relatively modest due to congressional legislation — and the free housing, which has been described as “palatial.” On Capitol Hill, these cadres of assistants are called the generals’ “flotillas.”
In Petraeus’ case, he didn’t want to give up the perks of being a four-star general in the Army, even after he left the armed forces to be director of the CIA. He apparently trained his assistants to pass him water bottles at timed intervals on his now-infamous 6-minute mile runs. He also liked “fresh, sliced pineapple” before going to bed.
3. Scandals. Despite the seemingly limitless perks of being a general, there is a limit to the military’s (taxpayer-funded) generosity. That’s led some senior officers to engage in a little creative accounting. This summer the (formerly) four-star general William “Kip” Ward was caught using military money to pay for a Bermuda vacation and using military cars and drivers to take his wife on shopping and spa excursions. He traveled with up to 13 staff members, even on non-work trips, billing the State Department for their hotel and travel costs, as well as his family’s stays at luxury hotels.
In November, in the midst of the Petraeus scandal, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta demoted Ward to a three-star lieutenant general and ordered him to pay back $82,000 of the taxpayers’ misused money. The debt shouldn’t be hard to repay; Ward will receive an annual retirement salary of $208,802.
Panetta may have been tough — sort of — on now three-star general Ward, but he’s displayed a complete refusal to reevaluate the bloated ranks of the military generals. Unlike his predecessor Robert Gates, who has come out publicly against the increasing number of top-ranking officers and tried to reduce their ranks, Panetta has so far refused to review their numbers and has yet to fire a single general or admiral for misconduct. He did, however, order an “ethics training” after the Petraeus scandal.
4. Warped sense of reality. After the Petraeus scandal, the million-dollar question was: Did the general who essentially built the world’s most invasive surveillance apparatus really think he could get away with carrying on a secret affair without anyone knowing? Former Secretary of State Gates has floated at least one theory at a press conference in Chicago: “There is something about a sense of entitlement and having great power that skews people’s judgment.”
A handful of retired diplomats and service members have come out in support of Gates’ thesis. Robert J. Callahan, a retired diplomat who served as U.S. ambassador to Nicaragua, wrote an Op-Ed in the Chicago Tribune explaining how the generals’ perks allow them to exist on a plain removed from ordinary people:
“Those with a star are military nobility, no doubt, and those with four are royalty. Flying in luxurious private jets, surrounded by a phalanx of fawning aides who do everything from preparing their meals to pressing their uniform trousers, they are among America’s most pampered professionals. Their orders are executed without challenge, their word is fiat. They live in a reality different from the rest of us.”
Frank Wuco, a retired U.S. Naval intelligence chief, agrees.
“With the senior guys and the flag officers, this is like the new royalty,” he said on his weekly radio show. “We treat them like kings and princes. These general officers in the military, at a certain point, become untouchable… In many cases, they get their own airplanes, their own helicopters. When they walk into a room, everybody comes to attention. In the case of some of them, people are very afraid to speak up or to disagree. Being separated from real life all the time in that way probably leaves them vulnerable (to lapses in moral judgement).”
Sounds like a phenomenon that’s happening with another pampered sector of society (hint: Wall Street). Given the epic 2008 financial collapse, do we really want to set our security forces on a similar path of power, deception and deep, crisis-creating delusion?
5. Military golf. Of course, generals and admirals aren’t the only ones who get to enjoy some of perks of being in the U.S. armed forces. Although lower-ranking service members don’t get private jets and personal chefs, U.S. taxpayers still spend billions of dollars a year to pay for luxuries that are out of reach for the ordinary American.
The Pentagon, for example, runs a staggering 234 golf courses around the world, at a cost that is undisclosed.
According to one retired lieutenant colonel in the Air Force, who also just happens to be the senior writer at Travel Golf, the very best military golf course in the U.S. is the Air Force Academy’s Eisenhower Blue Course in Colorado Springs, Colo.
He writes, “This stunning 7,000-plus yard layout shares the same foothills terrain as does the legendary Broadmoor, just 20 minutes to the south in Colorado Springs. Ponderosa pines, pinon and juniper line the fairways with rolling mounds, ponds and almost tame deer and wild turkey.” (The Department of Defense did come under fire a number of decades ago when it was discovered that the toilet seats at this course cost $400 a pop.)
And the number of golf courses is often undercounted, with controversial courses in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Mosul, Iraq, often left off the lists, which makes assessing the total costs difficult.
Yet some courses rack up staggering expenses as they become far more than mere stretches of grass.
According to journalist Nick Turse, “The U.S. Army paid $71,614 [in 2004] to the Arizona Golf Resort — located in sunny Riyadh, Saudi Arabia,… The resort actually boasts an entire entertainment complex, complete with a water-slide-enhanced megapool, gym, bowling alley, horse stables, roller hockey rink, arcade, amphitheater, restaurant, and even a cappuccino bar — not to mention the golf course and a driving range.”
DoD’s Sungnam golf course in the Republic of Korea, meanwhile, is reportedly valued at $26 million.
6.“The Army goes rolling along!” Vacation resorts aren’t the only explicitly non-defense-related expenditures of the Department of Defense. According to a Washington Post investigation, the DoD also spends $500 million annually on marching bands.
The bands are [pun intended] “an instrument of military PR,” according to Al McCree, a retired Air Force service member who owns Altissimo Recordings, a Nashville record label featuring music of the service bands.
The CDs are — by law — distributed for free, but that doesn’t mean the private sector can’t profit off these marching bands. According to the Washington Post article, “The service CDs have also created a private, profitable industry made up of companies that obtain the band recordings under the Freedom of Information Act. They then repress and package them for public sale.”
As if subsidizing the industry of multibillion-dollar arms dealers weren’t enough, the record industry is apparently also leeching off the taxpayer-funded military spending.
7. The Pentagon-to-Lockheed pipeline. While the exorbitant costs of private planes and hundreds of golf courses may seem bad enough, the most costly problem with the entitlement culture of the military happens after generals retire. Since they’re so used to the luxurious lifestyle, the vast majority of pension-reaping high-ranking officers head into the private defense industry.
According to William Hartung, a defense analyst at the Center for International Policy in Washington, D.C., about 70 percent of recently retired three- and four-star generals went straight to work for industry giants like Lockheed Martin.
“If you don’t go into industry at this point you are the exception,” Hartung said.
This type of government-to-industry pipeline, which he said was comparable to the odious Wall Street-to-Washington revolving door, drives up the prices of weapons and prevents effective oversight of weapon manufacturing companies — all of which ends up costing taxpayers more and more each year.
“I think the overspending on the generals and all their perks is bad enough, but the revolving door and the ability of these people to cut industry a break in exchange for high salaries costs more in the long run,” said Hartung. “This can affect the price of weapons and the whole structure of how we oversee companies. It’s harder to calculate, but certainly in the billions, compared to millions spent on staff per general.”
I work for the DoD, so this is particularly interesting. I have also seen the huge and acclaimed golf course.
I must be the only one against RTW (Right-To-Work) laws, that proceed to ban union membership as part of your hire. Seemingly, libertarians are rather silent on this issue, save Ron Paul, whomfavors right to work laws . However, I am an anti-interventionist, across the board. And a monopolistic entity which intervenes between businesses and unions — despite my unappreciative attitude towards unions — is synonymously as unethical as corporate welfare.
Just yesterday, a local libertarian, in my home state, praised Michigan’sRight To Work passage. Hailing it as a job creator. A mutual friend of his remarked about protesters against RTW, “because creating jobs is so bad!” He quipped.
This unnerved me. While, he makes an interesting point; RTW states generally enjoy higher standards of living and lower unemployment — admittedly, by theBLS — it is precisely at what cost, that unnerves me. It is a law so good, it must be mandated.
I am, however, reminded of Mises’subjective theory of value, which states, “the value of a good is not determined by any inherent property of the good, nor by the amount of labor required to produce the good, but instead value is determined by the importance an acting individual places on a good for the achievement of their desired ends.”
It hearkened to mind because RTW laws (and all the employment and standards of living they bring) are metaphysically regarded as a good, and thusly, overshadow allacting individuals, in a coercive way. Thewise overlords, as Tom Woods puts it, focus entirely on empirical evidence as means to place the utmost value within RTW laws.
I contend, that it is not a legislators (nor anyone [else’s]) place to instill such value on goods or services. And therefore, I cannot praise a law that does so.
However, correct me if I am wrong. I am not in the business of changing hearts and minds. Only observation.
The bigger the lie the more people will believe it. We all know who said that – but it still works. Bashar al-Assad has chemical weapons. He may use them against his own Syrian people. If he does, the West will respond. We heard all this stuff last year – and Assad’s regime repeatedly said that if – if – it had chemical weapons, it would never use them against Syrians.
But now Washington is playing the same gas-chanty all over again. Bashar has chemical weapons. He may use them against his own people. And if he does…
Well if he does, Obama and Madame Clinton and Nato will be very, very angry. But over the past week, all the usual pseudo-experts who couldn’t find Syria on a map have been warning us again of the mustard gas, chemical agents, biological agents that Syria might possess – and might use. And the sources? The same fantasy specialists who didn’t warn us about 9/11 but insisted that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction in 2003: “unnamed military intelligence sources”. Henceforth to be acronymed as UMIS.
Coup de théâtre
And now, the coup de théâtre. Someone from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation called me up this week to talk about the use of chemical weapons by Hafez al-Assad in Hama during the Sunni Muslim uprising in the city in 1982. Their sources were the same old UMIS. But I happened to have got into Hama in February 1982 – which is why the Canadian was calling me – and while Hafez’s Syrian army was very definitely slaughtering its own people (who were, by the way, slaughtering regime officials and their families), no one ever used chemical weapons.
Not a single soldier I saw in Hama carried a gas mask. No civilians carried gas masks. The dangerously perfumed air which I and my colleagues smelt after chemicals were used by our (then) ally Saddam against Iranian soldiers in the 1980s was not present. And none of the dozens of civilian survivors I have interviewed in the 30 years since 1982 ever mentioned the use of gas.
But now we are to believe that it was used. And so the infantile new fairy tale has begun: Hafez al-Assad used gas against his own people in Hama 30 years ago. So his son Bashar may do the same again. And wasn’t that one of the reasons we invaded Iraq in 2003 – because Saddam had used gas against his own people already and may do so again?
Yes, the bigger the lie, the better. Certainly we journos have done our duty in disseminating this bunkum. And Bashar – whose forces have committed quite enough iniquities – is about to be accused of another crime which he has not yet committed and which his father never did commit. Yup, chemical weapons are bad news, folks. That’s why the US supplied Saddam with the components for them, along with Germany (of course).
That’s why, when Saddam first used gas on Halabja, the UMIS told CIA officers to blame Iran. And yes, Bashar probably does have some chemicals in rusting bins somewhere in Syria. Madame Clinton has been worrying that they may “fall into the wrong hands” – as if they are presently “in the right hands”. But the Russians have told Bashar not to use them. Would he piss off his only superpower ally?
And by the way, which was the first army to use gas in the Middle East? Saddam? Nope. The Brits, of course, under General Allenby, against the Turks in Sinai in 1917. And that’s the truth.
The war drum bangs, whilst both parties singing harmoniously intertwined and in tune to an audience of sheeple.
“The crucial role of taxation may be seen in the fact that the state is the only institution or organization in society which regularly and systematically acquires its income through the use of physical coercion. All other individuals or organizations acquire their income voluntarily, either (1) through the voluntary sale of goods and services to consumers on the market, or (2) through voluntary gifts or donations by members or other donors. If I cease or refrain from purchasing Wheaties on the market, the Wheaties producers do not come after me with a gun or the threat of imprisonment to force me to purchase; if I fail to join the American Philosophical Association, the association may not force me to join or prevent me from giving up my membership. Only the state can do so; only the state can confiscate my property or put me in jail if I do not pay its tax tribute. Therefore, only the state regularly exists and has its very being by means of coercive depredations on private property."
“A further point: in a profound sense, no social system, whether anarchist or statist, can work at all unless most people are “good” in the sense that they are not all hell-bent upon assaulting and robbing their neighbors. If everyone were so disposed, no amount of protection, whether state or private, could succeed in staving off chaos. Furthermore, the more that people are disposed to be peaceful and not aggress against their neighbors, the more successfully any social system will work, and the fewer resources will need to be devoted to police protection. The anarchist view holds that, given the “nature of man,” given the degree of goodness or badness at any point in time, anarchism will maximize the opportunities for the good and minimize the channels for the bad. The rest depends on the values held by the individual members of society. The only further point that needs to be made is that by eliminating the living example and the social legitimacy of the massive legalized crime of the state, anarchism will to a large extent promote peaceful values in the minds of the public.”
“We cannot of course deal here with the numerous arguments in favor of anarchism or against the state, moral, political, and economic. Nor can we take up the various goods and services now provided by the state and show how private individuals and groups will be able to supply them far more efficiently on the free market. Here we can only deal with perhaps the most difficult area, the area where it is almost universally assumed that the state must exist and act, even if it is only a “necessary evil” instead of a positive good: the vital realm of defense or protection of person and property against aggression. Surely, it is universally asserted, the state is at least vitally necessary to provide police protection, the judicial resolution of disputes and enforcement of contracts, and the creation of the law itself that is to be enforced. My contention is that all of these admittedly necessary services of protection can be satisfactorily and efficiently supplied by private persons and institutions on the free market.”
“One important caveat before we begin the body of this paper: new proposals such as anarchism are almost always gauged against the implicit assumption that the present, or statist system works to perfection. Any lacunae or difficulties with the picture of the anarchist society are considered net liabilities, and enough to dismiss anarchism out of hand. It is, in short, implicitly assumed that the state is doing its self-assumed job of protecting person and property to perfection. We cannot here go into the reasons why the state is bound to suffer inherently from grave flaws and inefficiencies in such a task. All we need do now is to point to the black and unprecedented record of the state through history: no combination of private marauders can possibly begin to match the state’s unremitting record of theft, confiscation, oppression, and mass murder. No collection of Mafia or private bank robbers can begin to compare with all the Hiroshimas, Dresdens, and Lidices and their analogues through the history of mankind.”—Murray Rothbard (on society without a state)
Since the beginning of Iran’s nuclear crisis, the West has been convinced that one approach offers the best hope of altering Tehran’s nuclear policy and halting its enrichment activities: comprehensive international sanctions and a credible threat of military strike. During the same period, I have repeatedly warned my friends in the West that such punitive pressures, no matter how severe, will not change the Iranian leadership’s mindset, and that a military option would be catastrophic for Iran, the region and beyond.
Almost a decade has passed and the unrelenting Western pressures applied on Iran have not achieved the objectives they set. Instead, they have resulted in Iran having an expanded and more sophisticated nuclear program. It is time for the West to acknowledge these realities.
The question that remains is whether Iran ultimately aims to get a nuclear weapon. If Iran isn’t after the bomb, then the Western accusations and concerns would be reduced enough to allow a diplomatic solution.
The following reasons aim to strengthen the case for why Iran is not after a nuclear bomb:
1.Religious Obligations:Besides an international commitment to Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Iran has religious obligations against nuclear weapons. Basedonthe Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s religious edict or fatwa, the use of nuclear weapons and all other types of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) is forbidden or haram—constituting a sin, while being useless, costly, harmful and a serious threat to humanity. Iran’s authorities were informed about this religious view in 1995, eight years prior to Iran’s enrichment program became known to the West. Leaving no room for discrepancy, all Muslim Shia grand ayatollahs have issued the same religiousfatwa.
Iran’s stance against weapons of mass destruction, which is far from new, has been put to the test. During the Iran-Iraq war, Saddam Hussein ordered chemical weapons to be used against Iran in the 1980s, resulting in 100,000 Iranian soldiers and civilians being killed or injured. Iran did not retaliate in kind primarily because Imam Ruhollah Khomeini wasagainst the use of weapons of mass destruction based on religious beliefs.
2.No Long-Term Advantage: Based on Iranian assessments, the possession of nuclear weapons would provide only a short-term regional advantage that would turn into a longer-term vulnerability. It would trigger a regional nuclear arms race, bringing Egypt, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia into the fold sooner or later.
3.Technology Choices: The technical configurations Iran has chosen for its nuclear program demonstrate a preference for a robust enrichment capability rather than for a rapid nuclear weapons breakout capability. Iran’s development program is focused on next-generation nuclear technologies, rather than mass production or maximum installation of centrifuges. There are more advantageous configurations Iran could implement if it was determined to acquire weapons in the near term.
Iran has shown no urgency to advance its nuclear dual-use efforts. Even the activities detailed in the November 2011 International Atomic Energy Agency report are not directed at any specific nuclear weaponization.Accordingto Robert Kelly, an American top nuclear expert and the former International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspector, the report was misleading and aimed to bolster hardliners “by taking information and feeding it as raw meat to people who want to move forward with war.”
4.Isolation: Iran recognizes that by becoming a nuclear weapons state, it will compel Russia and China to join the United States and implement devastating sanctions that would paralyze the Iranian economy.
Iran recognizes that becoming a nuclear weapons state would give the Israelis ample ammunition to rally the United States and the international community on a perceived existential threat to its existence for creating another war in the Middle East.
5. Aspirations: Iran’s ultimate strategy is to be a modern nation, fully capable of competing with the West in terms of advanced technologies. The majority of Iran’s prominent politicians believe that possessing nuclear weapons would be an obstacle in the long-term for Iran’s access to vast technological cooperation with developed countries. They do not want to see Iran come under the kind of extreme international isolation levied against North Korea.
6.Goodwill: During negotiations from 2003 to 2005, with Iran and France, Germany, and the UK (the EU-3), Iran submitted proposals which included a declaration to cap enrichment at 5 percent; to export all low-enriched uranium or fabricate it into fuel rods; to commit to an additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement and subsidiary arrangements to the agreement, which would provide maximum transparency; to allow the IAEA to make snap inspections of undeclared facilities; and to ship its enriched uranium to another country for fabrication into fuel rods for Tehran Research Reactor. Similarly, Iranwelcomed the Russian step-by-step proposal in the summer of 2011, whichaddressedall the West’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear activities.
These offers were intended to ensure that no enriched uranium would be diverted to a nuclear weapons program in the future. That’s why the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman recentlysaid: “Iran, in order to prove its goodwill, has even gone beyond the commitments enumerated in the agency’s regulations.” But the United States and EU still rejected the offer.
7.No Stockpile: Accusations levied against Iran for stockpiling enriched uranium to build nuclear weapon are misleading, since Iran requires 27 tons of uranium enriched at 3.5 percent level annually to provide fuel for its only nuclear power plant in Bushehr. Up to now, Iran has produced about 7 tons and needs an additional 20 tons.
8.Enrichment Offers: The West’s biggest concern and therefore highest priority in nuclear talks have centered on Iran’s 20 percent enriched uranium. First in February 2010 and for the second time in September 2011, Iran proposed to stop its 20 percent enrichment in return for fuel rods—and once again the West declined. At a meeting between EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton and Iran’s leading nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili on September 19, Iran once againofferedto suspend its enrichment of uranium to 20 percent, provided proportionate reciprocation would be taken by P5+1. “If they give us the 20 percent [enriched] fuel, we will immediately halt 20 percent [enrichment],” Ahmadinejadsaidin an interview with Iranian state-run television. But Europe responded to his goodwill by placing more sanctions.
9.Deterrence: A major accusation levied against Iran is that once it acquires nuclear weapons, it will use it against the United States and Israel. This makes no rational sense, since any provocation by Iran against two states that possess thousands and hundreds of nuclear weapons respectively would result in Iran’s total annihilation. Iran has publicallyacknowledgedthis fact.
10.Forget Regime Change: The view of some U.S. politicians is that Iran’s motive for seeking nuclear weapons is nuclear deterrence—to ensure Washington would not attack it at will, instigate regime change or reach its objectives. If this concern is accurate, then Iran’s nuclear weapons could be used to prevent war—a positive outcome. But this concern relies on the wrong premise, as Iran has not aimed to acquire nuclear weapons in the face of a concerted effort by the United States and the West to engineer regime change in Tehran, including the use of war. During eight years of Iraqi aggression against Iran, the United States and the West did their utmost to support the aggressor and yet failed to bring defeat to Iran. Paradoxically for some, Iran without nuclear weapons has become more powerful year after year in the past 34 years, stymying Western efforts to bring about the collapse of the regime. Meanwhile, the U.S. and Israeli positions in the region have declined despite the thousands of nuclear weapons between them.
These are just a few reasons the West should enter into a genuine, face saving and realistic solution—rather than continuing to push aggressively and ineffectively against Iranian nuclear development.
Tehran would only accept a deal in which the P5+1 recognizes Iran’s legitimate rights of enrichment under the NPT and gradually lifts the sanctions. In return, to assuage Western worries, Iran would operationalize Ayatollah Khamenei’s fatwa banning nuclear arms, implement the Additional Protocol and the Subsidiary Arrangements (Code 3.1), and cooperate with the IAEA to resolve technical ambiguities and its worries about possible military dimensions. It would also export its enriched uranium stockpile beyond domestic consumption or convert it to fuel rods, cap enrichment at 5 percent, and establish a multilateral consortium for enrichment in Iran.
This package can guarantee Iran’s legitimate NPT rights of enrichment while ensuring that Iran will remain a non-nuclear-weapon state forever.
Ambassador Seyed Hossein Mousavian is a research scholar at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School and a former spokesman for Iran’s nuclear negotiators. His latest book is The Iranian Nuclear Crisis: A Memoir, published by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
In attempting to outline how a “society without a state” – that is, an anarchist society – might function successfully, I would first like to defuse two common but mistaken criticisms of this approach. First, is the argument that in providing for such defense or protection services as courts, police, or even law itself, I am simply smuggling the state back into society in another form, and that therefore the system I am both analyzing and advocating is not “really” anarchism.
This sort of criticism can only involve us in an endless and arid dispute over semantics. Let me say from the beginning that I define the state as that institution which possesses one or both (almost always both) of the following properties: (1) it acquires its income by the physical coercion known as “taxation”; and (2) it asserts and usually obtains a coerced monopoly of the provision of defense service (police and courts) over a given territorial area. An institution not possessing either of these properties is not and cannot be, in accordance with my definition, a state.
On the other hand, I define anarchist society as one where there is no legal possibility for coercive aggression against the person or property of an individual. Anarchists oppose the state because it has its very being in such aggression, namely, the expropriation of private property through taxation, the coercive exclusion of other providers of defense service from its territory, and all of the other depredations and coercions that are built upon these twin foci of invasions of individual rights.
Nor is our definition of the state arbitrary, for these two characteristics have been possessed by what is generally acknowledged to be states throughout recorded history. The state, by its use of physical coercion, has arrogated to itself a compulsory monopoly of defense services over its territorial jurisdiction. But it is certainly conceptually possible for such services to be supplied by private, non-state institutions, and indeed such services have historically been supplied by other organizations than the state. To be opposed to the state is then not necessarily to be opposed to services that have often been linked with it; to be opposed to the state does not necessarily imply that we must be opposed to police protection, courts, arbitration, the minting of money, postal service, or roads and highways. Some anarchists have indeed been opposed to police and to all physical coercion in defense of person and property, but this is not inherent in and is fundamentally irrelevant to the anarchist position, which is precisely marked by opposition to all physical coercion invasive of, or aggressing against, person and property.
The crucial role of taxation may be seen in the fact that the state is the only institution or organization in society which regularly and systematically acquires its income through the use of physical coercion. All other individuals or organizations acquire their income voluntarily, either (1) through the voluntary sale of goods and services to consumers on the market, or (2) through voluntary gifts or donations by members or other donors. If I cease or refrain from purchasing Wheaties on the market, the Wheaties producers do not come after me with a gun or the threat of imprisonment to force me to purchase; if I fail to join the American Philosophical Association, the association may not force me to join or prevent me from giving up my membership. Only the state can do so; only the state can confiscate my property or put me in jail if I do not pay its tax tribute. Therefore, only the state regularly exists and has its very being by means of coercive depredations on private property.
Neither is it legitimate to challenge this sort of analysis by claiming that in some other sense, the purchase of Wheaties or membership in the APA is in some way “coercive.” Anyone who is still unhappy with this use of the term “coercion” can simply eliminate the word from this discussion and substitute for it “physical violence or the threat thereof,” with the only loss being in literary style rather than in the substance of the argument. What anarchism proposes to do, then, is to abolish the state, that is, to abolish the regularized institution of aggressive coercion.
It need hardly be added that the state habitually builds upon its coercive source of income by adding a host of other aggressions upon society, ranging from economic controls to the prohibition of pornography to the compelling of religious observance to the mass murder of civilians in organized warfare. In short, the state, in the worlds of Albert Jay Nock, “claims and exercises a monopoly of crime” over its territorial area.
The second criticism I would like to defuse before beginning the main body of the paper is the common charge that anarchists “assume that all people are good” and that without the state no crime would be committed. In short, that anarchism assumes that with the abolition of the state a New Anarchist Man will emerge, cooperative, humane, and benevolent, so that no problem of crime will then plague the society. I confess that I do not understand the basis for this charge. Whatever other schools of anarchism profess – and I do not believe that they are open to the charge – I certainly do not adopt this view. I assume with most observers that mankind is a mixture of good and evil, of cooperative and criminal tendencies.
In my view, the anarchist society is one which maximizes the tendencies for the good and the cooperative, while it minimizes both the opportunity and the moral legitimacy of the evil and the criminal. If the anarchist view is correct and the state is indeed the great legalized and socially legitimated channel for all manner of antisocial crime – theft, oppression, mass murder – on a massive scale, then surely the abolition of such an engine of crime can do nothing but favor the good in man and discourage the bad.