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Lunatics at the Pentagon

8:10 am in Uncategorized by szielinski

Back in the 1950s, they wanted to blow up the moon! Their goal: To intimidate the Soviet Union.

The Air Force would not comment on this report. Their refusal should surprise no one. After all, who would want defend a truly stupid idea like this one?

Recommended: Epitaph for a Four Star

8:32 am in Uncategorized by szielinski

Colonel Douglas Macgregor, Ret. addresses the now dispirited aura surrounding General David Petraeus, Ret., an officer who surely was the product of corrupt, ineffective and wasteful institutions — the Pentagon specifically and the security-surveillance establishment generally. Macgregor uses conclusive evidence to make his point: The United States has known defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Petraeus notably led the failed efforts to pacify both countries while also consolidating America’s power in the region. These failures were costly, of course, wasting American lives, money and prestige. The empire is weaker now because of these ventures. Despite his personal failures, Petraeus received promotion after promotion, eventually reaching four star rank and subsequently finding a post-retirement spot atop the CIA, a job which gave him a public platform from which to launch his presidential campaign.

Let us hope that the militaristic component of America’s civil religion also takes a hit from the Petraeus Affair.

Re: The State of the Union

6:21 am in Uncategorized by szielinski

There are so many nits to pick, foolish claims to debunk, neoliberal hooey to ridicule…. I shall limit myself to three points the President failed to address last night:

  • Weakening the dollar
  • Dismantling America’s empire
  • Planned reindustrialization

    A strong dollar cheapens the price of America’s imports. It also feeds Wall Street with foreign capital. It is, in other words, the chief reason the United States has a service economy dominated by the FIRE sector.

    America’s empire absorbs capital and labor power, it wastes both on non-consumable goods, it drives the growth of the security-surveillance apparatus, it directly and indirectly undermines the Constitution and it creates political and military debacles which produce blowback. It must go as quickly as it can be safely dismantled.

    Education and training will do Americans little good if they fail to find jobs which make use of their cultural capital. In fact, an educated and trained work force that fails to make good on its talents is one that wastes resources. To avoid wasting these resources, the United States ought to institute an industrial planning agency with the capital resources and legal means to develop an ecologically sound industrial sector. It makes no sense to demand a low rate of employment for a well-educated workforce when those workers will work at service sector jobs that pay little.

    These reforms are radical with respect to the social system now in place. If achieved,they would decisively change the identity of that system. But they are not comprehensive and do not touch on so many related problems that would also need to be addressed. These include reforming the tax code, making it strongly progressive; developing public transportation; reforming the campaign-finance laws; etc. But the three points listed above would be one place to start.

    The United States as it looks to a German writer

    11:15 am in Uncategorized by szielinski

    Writing for Der Spiegel, Jakob Augstein paints a dismal but accurate picture of the United States today:

    The word “West” used to have a meaning. It described common goals and values, the dignity of democracy and justice over tyranny and despotism. Now it seems to be a thing of the past. There is no longer a West, and those who would like to use the word — along with Europe and the United States in the same sentence — should just hold their breath. By any definition, America is no longer a Western nation.

    How so?

    The US is a country where the system of government has fallen firmly into the hands of the elite. An unruly and aggressive militarism set in motion two costly wars in the past 10 years. Society is not only divided socially and politically — in its ideological blindness the nation is moving even farther away from the core of democracy. It is losing its ability to compromise.

    America has changed. It has drifted away from the West.

    America’s national disintegration sits aside the disintegration of the west.

    The country’s social disintegration is breathtaking. Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz recently described the phenomenon. The richest 1 percent of Americans claim one-quarter of the country’s total income for themselves — 25 years ago that figure was 12 percent. It also possesses 40 percent of total wealth, up from 33 percent 25 years ago. Stiglitz claims that in many countries in the so-called Third World, the income gap between the poor and rich has been reduced. In the United States, it has grown.

    Economist Paul Krugman, also a Nobel laureate, has written that America’s path is leading it down the road to “banana-republic status.” The social cynicism and societal indifference once associated primarily with the Third World has now become an American hallmark. This accelerates social decay because the greater the disparity grows, the less likely the rich will be willing to contribute to the common good. When a company like Apple, which with €76 billion in the bank has greater reserves at its disposal than the government in Washington, a European can only shake his head over the Republican resistance to tax increases. We see it as self-destructive.

    Political disintegration sits aside social disintegration.

    The same applies to America’s broken political culture. The name “United States” seems increasingly less appropriate. Something has become routine in American political culture that has been absent in Germany since Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik policies of rapprochement with East Germany and the Soviet Bloc (in the 1960s and ‘70s): hate. At the same time, reason has been replaced by delusion. The notion of tax cuts has taken on a cult-like status, and the limited role of the state a leading ideology. In this new American civil war, respect for the country’s highest office was sacrificed long ago. The fexact that Barack Obama is the country’s first African-American president may have played a role there, too.

    Augstein concludes his article with a call for Germans and Europeans to avoid America’s fate, a sentiment that would shock many Americans were they to know of it but which is all too appropriate given the circumstances of the day. America, we need to remind ourselves, is now a low-growth, high-unemployment economy. Its economic and political elite prey on the “lesser people,” and the lessers have nary a jot of political clout within America’s rigid and unresponsive polity. This powerlessness exist by design. Indeed, the Constitution was written to secure this outcome. Moreover, every level of government in the United States today is committed to participating in a security-surveillance system that is utterly lacking in external and internal military threats. This system exists as a tool to be used by the government for political and social control. Because of these facts, that is, because of America’s elitism, militarism, economic decline, etc., one may rightly fear the direction in which the United States now travels. I would not find it surprising if the “Land of the Free and Home of the Brave” were to end with the creation of a novel form of authoritarian government. I believe this kind of government is the telos present within current political and economic trends. The many will be economically, socially and politically disenfranchised.

    It is ironic that the “greater people” in the United States may have learned one lesson from the support they long gave to dictators like the Samozas, Pinochet and Shah, namely, they learned that they do not need the support of their subjects. The irony, I believe, issues from the fact that so many of these dictators were ruined by their unruly subjects. They just would not tolerate tyranny forever.

    Who be bad?

    11:55 am in Uncategorized by szielinski

    Alexander Cockburn asks:

    In terms of evil deeds, is Qaddafi a Mobutu, a Bokassa, a Saddam, or any U.S. president?

    His answer: “Surely not.”

    I find it difficult to disagree with his answer given Qaddafi’s opponents, who were all unrepentant killers.

    I ought to mention that neither Cockburn’s question nor his answer would hold any significance whatsoever if it were not for the American need to justify its imperial sorties by claiming these military actions were meant to check the actions of or depose outright an archfiend. It is believed, wrongly, I would guess, that Americans will not long tolerate war-making unless the war-makers target radical evil. Thus, for this American President, the name Qaddafi along with the aura that surrounds that name does provide the President with the fortitude needed to produce another costly political-military spectacle. That Obama’s actions in Libya are legally dubious and morally suspect are matters which remain unresolved. Neither the quality of Qaddafi’s character nor America’s pretensions to being exceptional can resolve them. Nor also an act of Congress and a Supreme Court judgment.

    Fortunately, Ralph Nader and Dennis Kucinich have already identified one path that would resolve the issues raised by Obama’s Libyan actions: Impeachment. I believe this outcome, one that would be politically and legally relevant, would provide a more effective and durable remedy to Executive branch lawlessness than would Congressional disapproval or a Supreme Court ruling that could not be enforced except by the use of violence. After all, the impeachment option would require the proponents of the action to make their case in public to the American people and thus by extension to the whole world.

    Someone gave a proper order to a few very current events

    10:22 am in Uncategorized by szielinski

    Chris Floyd had the honor:

    The uprising in Egypt on Tuesday is of infinitely greater importance than the goon show staged by the corporate-lackey-in-chief and the great mooing herd of cud-chewers in Congress the same night. For decades, the remarkably brutal — and rottenly stagnant — dictatorship in Egypt has been one of linchpins of Washington’s never-ending effort to “project dominance” over the Middle East. If the Cairo regime falls to a popular revolution, it will send shock waves all through the world-spanning tentacles of the American Empire.

    So, while Barack Obama exhorted Americans to suck it up and to firmly grab their bootstraps — “The future is ours to win.” and “It [the future] has required each generation to sacrifice, and struggle and meet the demands of a new age.” — parts of the world were then forcing the American Eagle to retract his claws.

    Blowback? Yes, indeed! Expected? Yes, at least by some. Welcomed? Yes, by many, for retrenchment of this kind is both inevitable and timely. It’s inevitable because the United States cannot afford to engage forever in wars of conquest and pacification, especially since these will remain wars which it will never truly win. This incapacity can be explained by the fact that both global political and military power presuppose a globally significant economic power by the country that would be a world power. Yet having economic power of this magnitude is something which America can only watch dissipate while this economic power passes eastward from its hands to China and India’s. It’s timely because, for decades, America’s global empire garroted America’s modestly democratic institutions while it has also wasted the lives of millions of Americans and millions more of those targeted by Uncle Sam’s juggernaut. Americans should never forget that the United States was the Rogue State in the world, one that was too powerful to resist by most of the Lilliputians who confronted it. Fortunately, successfully resisting the Rogue Power has since become a feasible goal for those willing to fight and die for their political project. This is their moment. This is America’s descent to a condition of unexceptional existence.

    As his speech neared its conclusion, Obama the myth-monger (on which, see this, this, this, this, this) exclaimed, “We do big things.” Indeed, America has done many big things over the course of its history. In making this claim Obama clearly meant to convey to his audiences that he was hopeful about the future. Nevertheless, America will fail spectacularly simply because it does so many things in a very big way, as Floyd suggests in his conclusion:

    Poor Barack. Not that long ago, he was taking the world stage in Cairo, with a speech that offered a “new start” in relations to the regions — empty words which have long since proved to have been just another part of the vicious deceptions currently being exposed by al Jazeera. Now Cairo is ablaze with the promise of a genuine new start, driven by the needs of ordinary people, not the greeds of the elite. More than ever, Obama looks like yesterday’s man, abandoned by history as it sweeps forward, leaving him mired with the goons and the loons, fighting a rearguard action to save the pomps and privileges of a rotting empire.

    This article was cross-posted at All Tied Up and Nowhere to Go