Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Secret Domestic Spying -- Chalk another up to things I don't understand -

In the wake of the latest revelations about secret domestic spying, a surprising number of pundits and politicians have leapt to the government's defense. This in spite of NSA head James Clapper's fidgeting performance before Congress a few short weeks ago where he outright lied about what his organization was actually doing. Under the cloak of keeping the homeland "safe," politicians from both the left and right have answered the clarion call for approval of further encroachment on our civil liberties. The seeming majority support is surprising because many of these same persons readily wrap themselves in the flag and defend the Constitution when it affects them or their guns. Now, it seems, they are saying that the 4th Amendment of the Constitution can be damned. For those who don't remember, this is what our cherished document says about this issue:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

That this outpouring of vocal support has influenced a public opinion majority is also surprising because these self-same pols and pundits have not yet finished investigating and castigating another arm of the government, namely the IRS, for its role in using its vested powers to target political enemies. Yet, the short-sighted would-be spies fail to see the possibility of the same abuses within the domestic spying program.

How many times have celebrities from all walks of public life, most especially politicians, been faced with embarrassing quotes only to claim they have been taken out of context? Yet they are willing to allow government bureaucrats to data-mine every conversation they've had for a period of years (many of which they wouldn't even remember) to weave together a narrative that could sound egregiously misleading. Whom among us has not uttered or written something in the context of the moment that wouldn't sound embarrassing or foolish at a later time?

When will the citizenry rise up and say that enough is too much? The evil of large government is not that it fosters social programs that cultivate a dependent population, as we have been brainwashed to believe. No, it is that such governments necessarily become fascistic as they concentrate power in the hands of all too many individuals who cannot be trusted to keep the best interests of our democracy in the forefront or their actions.

Just listen to the accusations of "traitor" for the whistle-blowers who go public with these abuses. Sounds like condemnations we hear coming out of Russia or China. So, whom have these people betrayed? The State? Or the people, who in a democracy are supposed to be the "government."

Wake up America! To paraphrase a line from John Donne's No Man is an Island: Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Why Can't Everybody Have Nukes?

Lost in all the uproar about the proliferation of nuclear technology, and the inevitable consequent weaponry in North Korea and Iran, is the murky argument against their possession of such know-how. Why is the nuclear club restricting its monopoly membership?

The club’s original five members, US, Russia, China, Great Britain, and France, has grown to nine or ten members, depending on who’s counting. Non-signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), who now have such weapons, include Pakistan, India, and Israel. North Korea withdrew its membership in 2002.

A little talked about, yet very important issue is the existing worldwide total number of warheads--estimated to be in excess of 20,000--that are aimed at various military targets and population centers around the globe. Why so many--given that number could destroy our planet several times over? One can only guess at the brilliance behind such planning, and it conjures up images of the preparation that went into such masterful strokes such as Vietnam and Agent Orange, and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. Also, given that these weapons have a limited shelf (or silo) life, and disregarding the huge cost of building them in the first place, what of the price of maintenance, and now of replacement? Congress mandated the never discussed Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program in 2004 “to improve the reliability, longevity, and certifiability of existing [nuclear] weapons and their components.” Lots of money for defense contractors involved here.

Whenever this subject comes up, the US’s arsenal is benignly described as a “deterrent force,” meaning that no one would dare attack us for fear of retaliation—read annihilation (or “obliteration” as Hillary Clinton once warned Iran it faced). The deterrent argument’s thrust is that by owning nuclear weapons others are deterred from attacking you. This rationale obviously does not apply to nuclear wannabes Iran and North Korea. After all, if ever we wanted to mount an attack on either of these nations, it wouldn’t do for them to have big bombs riding atop missiles that might be launched in retaliation.

Another argument for restriction is that these governments are unstable “rogue” states and their weaponry could easily fall into terrorist hands. This argument has been effective with the American public because it plays the fear card. The “wolf is at the door” claim is not new to us. A frightened populace has been proven time and again to be a controllable populace--one that is quite willing to give up basic freedoms while entrusting their safety to a few “brilliant” bureaucrats. These are the “smartest people in the room” who plot the fate of the world--in fortified, undisclosed locations that will ensure their survival in case of nuclear war. Never mind that they are of the same ilk as those who decided that we should fill our arsenals with more than enough nuclear warheads to end civilization as we know it, and other previously mentioned colossal blunders.

Also disregarded is the notion that if nukes are a defensive weapon for us (even though the previous administration threatened to violate that premise) why wouldn’t they be the same for every nation? Why would North Korea, or Iran, want to launch what would amount to a Kamikaze attack on anyone? Surely they know that their country would be in ashes shortly after such a blunder. This result is spelled out in the Mutually Assured Destruction corollary to the deterrence strategy. (It has a wonderfully descriptive acronym--MAD!)

By the way, what standing do the nuclear-tipped nations have to deny other nations the same capability? Is it like an exclusive country club that has racial or social barriers to entry? Would the presence of such weapons deter the current nuclear powers ability to blackmail others into doing their bidding?

Let’s face it, the US has become a militaristic enterprise that feeds on controlling the activities of other nations. We now have a military presence in 135 countries around the globe. For what purpose? Take a wild guess.

Finally, if our deterrence strategy is indeed sound, then we have nothing to worry about. In fact it’s so good it should be expanded to include everyone. Just think, if every country had nuclear weapons then no one would be attacking anyone else for fear of retaliation, and there would be no wars--because everyone would be…deterred!

Sounds good to me.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


Everybody has heard at least some of the commentary on the "Sequester," and for me to the point of ad nauseam.  I don't like being "played," and this is what is happening.

We are told the cuts are draconian, unfair, using a meat-axe, endangering military preparedness, hurting our security, denying healthcare, and won't allow us to feed the pigeons (just a little joke). Yet, when looked at as a percentage of the total budget, the cuts look infinitesimal. So, why this huge disconnect? The reason is simple--the cuts are designed to provoke public outcry, which in turn is supposed to rally the troops to one side or the other. In other words furthering the divide that already exists in this country. You will either end up wanting "no more tax increases" or demanding cuts to "entitlements."

The cuts are often said to be "across the board" when they are not even remotely so. A parade of public officials, including army generals, have loudly decried the "Sequester" and are predicting disaster. In fact the proposed cuts are NOT ACROSS THE BOARD. The executive order the president signed says that the sequestration "requires a 7.8 percent reduction in NON-EXEMPT defense discretionary funding and a 5.0 percent reduction in NON-EXEMPT nondefense discretionary funding. The sequestration also requires reductions of 2.0 percent to Medicare, 5.1 percent to other NON-EXEMPT nondefense mandatory programs, and 7.9 percent to NON-EXEMPT defense mandatory programs." It never define which programs are exempted. Also, the cuts are mandated to be implemented over a seven month period rather than twelve, making the cuts a larger percentage of the actual spending.

 So, what is the actual percentage of the cuts? $85 billion seems like a lot of money but when compared with the actual spending plan of $3.8 trillion, it comes out to be 2.24% of the total budget. If they were indeed made across the board every budget would be cut that amount--hardly debilitating. For those worried  that people way down on the food chain getting Social Security might miss $17 per month, remember SS shouldn't even be in the discussion. It's already paid for and isn't part of the budget nor does it affect the deficit. But literally no one wants to be cut so the reduction is designed to create chaos and adverse public reaction.

When I lived in upstate New York, a certain school district responded to proposed budget cuts by saying the football team would be the first to go--playing up to the predictable outcry. When I was in university life, the medical school met budget cut proposals by prophesying that "people will die!" Israel's supporters are now meeting in Washington to demand that the Sequester does not affect their annual stipend. The talking heads are having a field day but never seem to talk about those who are mandated to receive no cuts. And so it goes.

I'm totally amused by the reaction to military cuts. I have personal experience with waste in the armed forces. When the company I was assigned to needed a jeep, the commander ordered me to put in a requisition for five jeeps. He reasoned that the powers above would cut whatever he asked for and this way he might actually end up with two jeeps. There is an incredible amount of waste in the military budget, from defense contractors padding bills (I have experience with that as well) to unneeded new equipment ending up in storage or sold as scrap. Yet, if the military sustains any cuts, preparedness and national security will suffer. What a pile of horse manure.

Face it folks, our system of government has become so corrupt, so wasteful, so mendacious that in order to keep us suckers in line, the propaganda machine has to work 24/7. But then, think of how many people it employs?