Someone important had to say it …

Posted in Decline and Fall, Extremism, War On Terror, Why the World Doesn't Need US at 9:09 am by George Smith

The only fault is that the nation is now seen to lack character and a basic morality in men of this station — except for Jimmy Carter. The silence from everyone else is deafening. And it tells you everything you need to know about the empire in decline.

Jimmy Carter, on the opinion page of the New York Times:

THE United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights.

Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended …

While the country has made mistakes in the past, the widespread abuse of human rights over the last decade has been a dramatic change from the past …

At a time when popular revolutions are sweeping the globe, the United States should be strengthening, not weakening, basic rules of law and principles of justice … But instead of making the world safer, America’s violation of international human rights abets our enemies …


They read the books so you don’t have to…

Posted in Decline and Fall, Why the World Doesn't Need US at 9:58 am by George Smith

Paul Krugman linked to his and Robin Wells’ review of a handful of books for a famous publication. It’s not so much a book review as an analysis of the Great Recession, the whys of political and economic paralysis and the bleak future.

The government — and as a consequence, the country, has become unworkable, they conclude. It’s an analysis that leads one to believe the US is a new, but bad, thing — essentially the largest and most powerful failed state in the world.


The immediate effect of this bitter [two party] confrontation has been to paralyze economic policy in the crisis. Obama might have had a window of opportunity in his first few months in office, but as Scheiber shows, that window was lost—and there has been little chance of effective action since. So the slump drags on. But as Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein say in the title of their new book, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks.* They argue that Congress—and indeed the whole American political system—is close to complete institutional collapse … ultimately the deep problem isn’t about personalities or individual leadership, it’s about the nation as a whole. Something has gone very wrong with America, not just its economy, but its ability to function as a democratic nation. And it’s hard to see when or how that wrongness will get fixed.

This isn’t news to anyone who’s been living through it. However, it is edifying to see it so persuasively put together.

The essay also gets at why the Democratic Party has been so ineffective at combating the radicalism of the GOP, a topic I’ve whined a lot about.

Basically, they’re losers because they didn’t grasp any moral narrative when the economy failed because of Wall Street. Someone needed to be blamed. The public craved it. The Democrats went absent. The Republicans, and the Tea Party, provided a message of blame — big government which forced American financial businesses to give loans to people who didn’t deserve it.

Wrong as it was, because there was no moral story from the other side (Obama certainly didn’t furnish one), it stuck.

Not coincidentally, various arms of the DNC and the Obama campaign have filled e-mail in boxes with increasingly hysterical solicitations for money. All of these are wrapped around the truth that the Citizens United decision have given the GOP an unlimited supply of crazy billionaire sugar daddies. So the first time in history, the incumbent will be outspent by the oligarch, Mitt Romney, a man who would be a world calamity as president. But whom I increasingly suspect will be who we get because he’s the president the country deserves, in the sense of a fable with a moral that punishes those nations that fiddle while everything burns.

The Obama campaign used to ask for 5 dollar micro-payments. Perhaps because of donation fatigue in the mailing list, it has been ratcheted down to 4 dollars. But they still apparently believe crowd-sourced serial micro-collection is an answer to oligarchs.

It is another instance in which they are now proven wrong. (Along with the Meet Barack for dinner with GeorgeClooneySarahParkerBillClinton lotteries for jackasses.)

Until Citizens United is nullified, they need to find their own oligarch douchebags. There are probably none for them, though, compelling the party to take a united stand as fanatical as that of the opponent, purge the hacks or risk losing what should have been a more easy election against a character with no quality at all.

By the way, if you want to make a minor donation to the blog, you can get ol’ DD a book to review, either this (cheap) — or this (not quite as cheap). Just one will do, thank you.

I’d go with the first. If anyone wants to take the plunge, e-mail me for an address.

This concludes today’s minor plea event.


Fruit of the loom: Platoons of suspected underwear bombers

Posted in War On Terror, Why the World Doesn't Need US at 8:48 am by George Smith

What happens when the national obsession with terrorism is taken to its final mentally ill conclusion:

Law enforcement and homeland security personnel face an average of 55 daily encounters with “known or suspected terrorists” named on government watchlists, officials told Reuters.

The figure – which equals more than 20,000 contacts per year – underscores the growing sweep of the watchlists, which have expanded significantly since a failed Christmas Day 2009 bombing attempt of a U.S. airliner. But officials note that very few of those daily contacts lead to arrests …

All because of the failed underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

al Qaeda can only wish it had 20,000 under-trouser men.

Trivia note; This Reuters piece was penned by Mark Hosenball.

Hosenball, along with Michael Isikoff, were the journalists who were assigned to cover the London ricin trial when I broke the news of it in this country through GlobalSecurity.Org.

I wrote last week, in a piece on the travesty of al Qaeda and underwear bombers:

[Everything in the story] was wrong except the things I told him and a colleague.

You have to go a bit of a way to find national security journalists who are worse than these kinds of guys.


Security news/journalism as a commodity

Posted in Cyberterrorism, Why the World Doesn't Need US at 8:51 am by George Smith

Self-profile of someone, publishing a piece of advertising for a cybersecurity service, in an article at Forbes:

I cover the IT security industry for IT-Harvest. I am the author of Surviving Cyberwar, a Government Institutes book available on Amazon. I have presented at conferences and industry events in 26 countries on six continents. I am a prolific source for journalists and news media.

I bet.


Never having to declare victory has its perks

Posted in War On Terror, Why the World Doesn't Need US at 7:20 am by George Smith

Eternal war-footing and willful blindness to what’s happening on the homefront being two of them. The complete handing over to the military of how the US deals with the world and is perceived as a nation being still another.

Maybe Lady Gaga is famous worldwide. But the ubiquity of Predator drones and camouflage uniforms make them much much bigger.

From the warrior caste:

The top commander of U.S. special operations forces said Wednesday that Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida is bloodied and “nearing its end,” but he warned the next generation of militants could keep special operations fighting for a decade to come …

But the four-star admiral warned of the fight to come against what he called al-Qaida 2.0

Does al Qaida actually refer to itself now as 1.x going toward 2.0?

Rhetorical. It’s another fatuous American semantic invention from people who think only in terms of devices, be they digital or real world.

A few one line rebuttals for the one-liner claims in the Associated Press piece:

[With] new leaders like American-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen, who Olson said understands America better than Americans understand him.

Doubt it. Yeah, every older American whose been living in Yemen for years understands “America.” Righty-right.

Olson said others like al-Awlaki will probably refine their message to appeal to a wider audience …

Not if Inspire magazine and Adam Gadahn are examples. They’re both jokes.

“This idea of being able to wait over the horizon and spring over and chop off heads doesn’t really work,” he said, describing the “yin and yang” of special operations as including capture-and-kill raids as well as long-term engagement with host countries’ militaries.

Then why is that the entire national thrust? And how has propping up toady country leadership with military aid worked out over the last decade?

The latter involves U.S. troops “developing long-term relationships, learning languages, meeting people, studying histories, learning black markets.”

See above. There’s no evidence buying the locals off through the new Peace Corps works. Arab Spring indicates many are pretty much done with thinking highly of us.

The article notes near the end that the next super-leader of special ops will be Bill McRaven, the overall commander of the bin Laden raid.

And where has the dividend of actually disposing of Osama bin Laden gone?

Here at home there was no dividend except for a couple days of cheering. Then it was business as usual. He might as well not been popped at all.


The Empire’s Dog Feces: Arms manufacturing -is- entitlement spending

Posted in Permanent Fail, Why the World Doesn't Need US at 7:22 am by George Smith

A good deal of this blog has been devoted to the Economic Treason and Empire’s Dog Feces tags over the past twelve months. Both deal with the only area where American manufacturing jobs are protected: arms manufacturing.

The rest of the country has been allowed to wither. The primary US export to the world is weapons. The country now leads in very little except minor innovations in the fields of smart bombs and unmanned flying killing machines which are of no benefit to anyone except the CEOs of the companies that make the things.

Imagine! The nation that invented rock ‘n’ roll and the electric guitar shipped all that stuff away and fired most everyone involved in making the equipment for it.

But the M1 tank, the F-16, the MRAPS, all the flying drones and idiotic robots and pathetic ray gun test systems — all that stuff is protected labor for which any price will be paid.

Imagine! This is a country that spends more on its expanding killer drone budget for obliterating small numbers of paupers and the even more unfortunate around the world than it wants to expend on ensuring that our food and drugs are safe.

Pine View Farm tips us to an article on the same in the Asia Times today.

An excerpt from the A Times piece:

If [the weapons shops] were disbanded, the economy would be crippled by soaring unemployment, plant closures, and bankruptcies.

Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power, writes:

Most politicians understand … that weapons production is currently the number one industrial export product of the US. They know that major industrial job creation is largely coming from the Pentagon. Thus most politicians, from both parties, want to continue to support the military industrial complex gravy train for their communities.

I’m considering starting a new blog category. Permanent Fail has filled up quickly. Now we’re into the Decline and Fall stage. It needs its own category.


Not Made in China: US Senescence

Posted in Made in China, Permanent Fail, Why the World Doesn't Need US at 8:22 am by George Smith

From the New York Times, Louis Uchitelle’s conclusion that losing the manufacturing base wasn’t such a good idea.

Quotes from various “experts,” easy observables by anyone on the street:

Losing an industry or ceasing to manufacture a particular product, in this case stainless steel flatware, has indeed become a fairly frequent event. Just in the last few years, the last sardine cannery, in Maine, closed its doors. Stainless steel rebars, the sturdy rods that reinforce concrete in all kinds of construction, are now no longer made in America. Neither are vending machines or incandescent light bulbs or cellphones or laptop computers.


Concern is increasing that this decline has gone too far. “I think there is a growing recognition that a diminished manufacturing sector will undermine our economy,” says Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Analytics. (Unintentional knee slapper by ‘economic expert.’ Correction: “Has undermined the economy through mass unemployment and diminished buying power.”)


How did the nation get into this situation? It gambled, in effect, that by importing more from foreign suppliers and from American companies that had set up shop abroad, consumer prices for manufactured products would fall, without any sacrifice in product quality. Low-wage workers abroad would make that happen.

American manufacturers, on the other hand, would be the world’s best innovators, developing sophisticated new products here at home and producing them, at least initially, in their domestic factories.

The first part of the arrangement worked very well. Consumer prices did fall as imports flooded in — from foreign manufacturers, of course, but also from factories newly opened abroad by American multinationals … The second part of the arrangement, however, has been more problematic. As it turns out, the United States is not the only path-breaker.


The loss of manufacturing capacity, measured in lost workers, is startling. From the high point in the summer of 1979, through last month, employment in manufacturing has fallen by 8.1 million, to
11.6 million, with most of the drop in just the last decade. While consumers have benefited from lower prices, made possible by unrestricted imports, on the other side of the ledger are tens of billion of dollars in lost manufacturing wages.

Something else is gone, too. “We had a storehouse of knowledge and skill built up in these workers and we can’t use it now,” says James Jordan, president of the Interstate Maglev Project, promoting a high-speed rail technology that uses special magnets to levitate and propel trains. Maglev was invented in the United States … [but not used here].

Uchitelle’s piece, of course, forgets one big thing.

The US still manufactures weapons. Lots and lots of weapons. And that’s about all.

Furthermore, weapons manufacturing is not constrained by any of the things which have destroyed domestic product-making in the US.

It is not subject to death spiral pricing competition; its workers are not constantly downsized for cheap overseas slave labor. And it is underwritten entirely by the US taxpayers even if the taxpayers can afford it less and less.

There is no network of Walmart superstores pillaging the business, offering equivalent dirt cheap Chinese made kit for every missile, armored vehicle, landmine and drone manufactured in the States.

Diminished buying power and lost wages have no effect on US weapons manufacturing. Sacrifice is for everybody else.

Uchitelle’s story frets that the US will cede “innovation” due to loss of domestic manufacturing. Unless you count Mark Zuckerberg, future Nobel laureate, Pulitzer prize winner and global bringer of freedom to oppressed populations worldwide.

It has not lost “innovation,” if that’s what one calls it, in arms manufacturing.

There are General Atomics drones for every future possible application in global assassination, new varieties of cluster bombs, elaborate grenade launchers for blowing up people hiding behind rocks, and robots galore, to no discernible effect, for the forever war in Afghanistan.

It’s a great game for those on the winning side. For most of us, however, not so much.

The most highly read story on the blog early this year has been Not Made in China: US Bullshit Manufacturing. (Basically because of Internet random event. A high traffic sight, WhatReallyHappened, linked here after a few Twitters. Paradoxically, I don’t use Twitter anymore, being obsolete in my mental processes.)

From it:

[While] what production of durable goods in the US that remains is charted, it — along with the fortunes of the middle class and the new mass of unemployed — cratered in 2009. However, military production did not.

It went through a minor dip and then soared.

This is immoral. It destroys any argument on fairness and shared burden and consequences being a part of US society.

It is also economic treason.

The related series: US Bullshit Manufacturing.


GOP damaged high school science education: Proven by science

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Extremism, Stumble and Fail, Why the World Doesn't Need US at 9:01 am by George Smith

This quote from the New York Times piece channeling a recent article in the journal, Science, is all you need to know:

“With 15 to 20 percent of biology teachers teaching creationism,” he continued, “this is the biggest failure in science education. There’s no other field where teachers reject the foundations of their science like they do in biology.”

When I was in high school in the Seventies in very conservative Pine Grove, PA, this was not an issue.

One might say it has evolved, driven by extreme religious right GOP efforts to use science as a wedge issue, not only because its findings conflict with its ideology but because people can be rallied by insinuating their faith is under attack by the other side which believes the hated “elites.”

PGAHS had a fine biology lab and equally good instruction. It prepared my entire class, most of which was headed toward a college education.

One of the academics interviewed by the Times did not think more education was an answer. And that’s because the right rejects evolution outright.

“At least 25 percent of high school teachers in Minnesota explicitly teach creationism,” says one professor to the Times.

This would have presented me with a dilemma in 1972.

Walk and try to find a school where there wasn’t a creationist (PGAHS had only one high school biology instructor) or have my time wasted.

And when the president went on television to say we need more interest in science I just laughed. If people who were in a position to do something about that in this country now we would be able to reverse this atrocious statistic and run the creationists out of town.

The paradox is that American science hasn’t been up to this job. For many years the denial of science was taken as just a laugh-it-off kind of thing in University-land.

Who’s laughing now?

One has only to review the history and continuing existence of Michael Behe in the biology department at Lehigh University, my old alma mater, for a working example.

So we don’t live in a country where just more rational discourse has any effect. We live in a country that is in decline, that has lost a self-correcting capability, and this is one symptom of it.

When half the political establishment detests science and actively works to undermine it, it’s a driver of decline.

Over at Armchair Generalist, Jason Sigger has embedded a bit from Bill Maher. Here five trivial people, Maher included, argue global warming and evolution.

At this point there are only two solutions to the behavior.

The nice one is that you don’t give the Republicans an opening. You don’t invite them if you plan to discuss it. It’s not entertainment. It’s just more of the problem.

If Republicans — or any random heevahavas — get to open their mouths they present myths and falsehoods, now packed with the maddening implication that it’s they who have the scientific outlook because it is they who have evaluated all the data and are now being criticized for it.

They cling to the idea that the rightness of something is determined by the number of people who adopt it. And since their tribe is the one to adopt non-belief in science, that is what’s right.

The not-nice solution is to wind up and knock the grinning Georgia politician’s teeth out when he starts up on cable television.

“It’s a mystery how these people get dressed in the morning,” concludes Armchair Generalist.

They are a collective disgrace.


Yeah, right

Posted in Crazy Weapons, Why the World Doesn't Need US at 8:48 am by George Smith

The American habit of brainlessly bragging about all things always produces something like this:

It looks and acts like something best left in the hands of Sylvester Stallone’s “Rambo,” but this latest dream weapon is real — and the US Army sees it becoming the Taliban’s worst nightmare …

After years of development, the XM25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System, about the size of a regular rifle, has now been deployed to US units on the battlefields of Afghanistan, where the Army expects it to be a “game-changer” in its counterinsurgency operations.

And for those who get erections watching clips from Futureweapons on YouTube:

The gun’s stats are formidable: it fires 25mm air-bursting shells up to 2,300 feet (700 meters), well past the range of most rifles used by today’s soldiers, and programs them to explode at a precise distance, allowing troops to neutralize insurgents hiding behind walls, rocks or trenches or inside buildings.

“This is the first time we’re putting smart technology into the hands of the individual soldier …”

Use of the XM25 can slash civilian deaths and damage …

The next weapon, always promised to be game-changing and nice to civilians. And then the war grinds on, and civilians keep getting killed, the Taliban doesn’t give up, the bodies stack up, the government remains corrupt, its soldiers turncoats, etc …

But the promos sure look great.

Just can’t curb the bragging and delusional thinking over weapons technology.

Bugsplat was going to change everything, too. Not to mention the sensor-fused cluster bomb, the … and the …


Hot Jobs: For those who get erections from cluster bombs

Posted in Crazy Weapons, War On Terror, Why the World Doesn't Need US at 2:08 pm by George Smith

Here’s a story, straight from Popular Mechanics, written by and for guys who get hard-ons thinking about machines that blow foreigners up, preferably those smaller, darker and poorer.

Featured prominently on Google News, which was probably paid to display it, here are the great quotes:

How small can air-to-ground weapons get? Air Force officials are publicly suggesting the development of 1-pound munitions that could kill an individual in a crowded area without harming innocents standing nearby.

So, guys, you go stand right next to the wooden target on the test range, then. Any takers? Thought not.

[The small flying cluster bomb/anti-tank mine] spins like a maple seed as it descends, scanning the area for its targets using laser and infrared sensors.

Like a maple seed. I bet the p.r. person at Textron who came up with that description got a raise.

The 9-foot torpedo, petite enough to be carried by unmanned submarines and drone helicopters, is currently under development at Penn State University, in association with the Naval Undersea Warfare Center.

Petite. A 9-foot torpedo is petite. Who could write such s—? Someone not to be invited over for drinks and barbecue, that’s for sure.

Now, if you know some androids who throw parties where they eat bags of arsenic and roofing nails for kicks …

The work of that segment of the economy unhurt by the Great Recession. If you were in the business of making petite torpedoes and anti-tank mines that spin like maple seeds, things have been great.

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