Posts tagged USA
Spain today, The USA tomorrow? A country in depression.
Spain is the country of Picasso, Miro, Gaudi, Salvador Dali, Don Quixote, and a former superpower (centuries ago.) Now it is a shadow of even what it was a decade ago. This report comes to us from a friend of ACC.
“…The grandparents are the safety net for the extended family. They provide lodging for the children and grandchildren. The grandparents have avoided debt and own more than one home mortgage free. They pay for groceries, school, and clothing for the children and grandchildren.
There is no hiring beyond what is absolutely necessary. The same people stock shelves, make deliveries and act as cashiers in grocery stores. Self checkout kiosks are ubiquitous.
Small business staff with family and friends who are paid under the table. Businesses open sporadically and share what business there is by deciding among themselves which days they will be open.
People who are working full time are almost all older than you would expect. They are tenured employees who do not quit until they qualify for a pension.
The wonderful network of toll roads is deserted. One can drive 50 kilometers and encounter maybe 10 speeding Mercedes and BMWs and no trucks.
The new high speed rail (AVE) is little used because it is so expensive. Intercity and long haul bus routes thrive.
NOBODY drinks wine – only beer….wine is too expensive. Café owners complain that young people don’t go out but instead buy their booze at supermarkets and drink in the parks.
There are many street side vendors who are in the country illegally.
It is considered bad form not to give to beggars (as long as they are not gypsies.)
Tax avoidance is common. You know when you get no receipt that the sale is not reported.
Abandoned cars are common (too expensive to put on the road.)
The 1% goes on – No one knows where all their money comes from.”
Image credit: http://www.againstcronycapitalism.org
George Orwell and the Cold War: A Reconsideration
[From Reflections on America, 1984: An Orwell Symposium. Ed. Robert Mulvihill. Athens and London, University of Georgia Press, 1986.]
In a recent and well-known article, Norman Podhoretz has attempted to conscript George Orwell into the ranks of neoconservative enthusiasts for the newly revitalized cold war with the Soviet Union. If Orwell were alive today, this truly “Orwellian” distortion would afford him considerable wry amusement. It is my contention that the cold war, as pursued by the three superpowers of Nineteen Eighty-Four, was the key to their successful imposition of a totalitarian regime upon their subjects. We all know that Nineteen Eighty-Four was a brilliant and mordant attack on totalitarian trends in modern society, and it is also clear that Orwell was strongly opposed to communism and to the regime of the Soviet Union. But the crucial role of a perpetual cold war in the entrenchment of totalitarianism in Orwell’s “nightmare vision” of the world has been relatively neglected by writers and scholars.
In Nineteen Eighty-Four there are three giant superstates or blocs of nations: Oceania (run by the United States, and including the British Empire and Latin America), Eurasia (the Eurasian continent), and Eastasia (China, southeast Asia, much of the Pacific). The superpowers are always at war, in shifting coalitions and alignments against each other. The war is kept, by agreement between the superpowers, safely on the periphery of the blocs, since war in their heartlands might actually blow up the world and their own rule along with it. The perpetual but basically phony war is kept alive by unremitting campaigns of hatred and fear against the shadowy foreign Enemy. The perpetual war system is then used by the ruling elite in each country to fasten totalitarian collectivist rule upon their subjects. As Harry Elmer Barnes wrote, this system “could only work if the masses are always kept at a fever heat of fear and excitement and are effectively prevented from learning that the wars are actually phony. To bring about this indispensable deception of the people requires a tremendous development of propaganda, thought-policing, regimentation, and mental terrorism.” And finally, “when it becomes impossible to keep the people any longer at a white heat in their hatred of one enemy group of nations, the war is shifted against another bloc and new, violent hate campaigns are planned and set in motion.”
From Orwell’s time to the present day, the United States has fulfilled his analysis or prophecy by engaging in campaigns of unremitting hatred and fear of the Soviets, including such widely trumpeted themes (later quietly admitted to be incorrect) as “missile gap” and “windows of vulnerability.” What Garet Garrett perceptively called “a complex of vaunting and fear” has been the hallmark of the American as well as of previous empires: the curious combination of vaunting and braggadocio that insists that a nation-state’s military might is second to none in any area, combined with repeated panic about the intentions and imminent actions of the “empire of evil” that is marked as the Enemy. It is the sort of fear and vaunting that makes Americans proud of their capacity to “overkill” the Russians many times and yet agree enthusiastically to virtually any and all increases in the military budget for mightier weapons of mass destruction. Senator Ralph Flanders (Republican, Vermont) pinpointed this process of rule through fear when he stated during the Korean War:
Fear is felt and spread by the Department of Defense in the Pentagon. In part, the spreading of it is purposeful. Faced with what seem to be enormous armed forces aimed against us, we can scarcely expect the Department of Defense to do other than keep the people in a state of fear so that they will be prepared without limit to furnish men and munitions.
This applies not only to the Pentagon but to its civilian theoreticians, the men whom Marcus Raskin, once one of their number, has dubbed “the mega-death intellectuals.” Thus Raskin pointed out that
their most important function is to justify and extend the existence of their employers. … In order to justify the continued large-scale production of these [thermonuclear] bombs and missiles, military and industrial leaders needed some kind of theory to rationalize their use. … This became particularly urgent during the late 1950s, when economy-minded members of the Eisenhower Administration began to wonder why so much money, thought, and resources, were being spent on weapons if their use could not be justified. And so began a series of rationalizations by the “defense intellectuals” in and out of the Universities. … Military procurement will continue to flourish, and they will continue to demonstrate why it must. In this respect they are no different from the great majority of modern specialists who accept the assumptions of the organizations which employ them because of the rewards in money and power and prestige. … They know enough not to question their employers’ right to exist.
In addition to the manufacture of fear and hatred against the primary Enemy, there have been numerous Orwellian shifts between the Good Guys and the Bad Guys. Our deadly enemies in World War II, Germany and Japan, are now considered prime Good Guys, the only problem being their unfortunate reluctance to take up arms against the former Good Guys, the Soviet Union. China, having been a much lauded Good Guy under Chiang Kai-shek when fighting Bad Guy Japan, became the worst of the Bad Guys under communism, and indeed the United States fought the Korean and Vietnamese wars largely for the sake of containing the expansionism of Communist China, which was supposed to be an even worse guy than the Soviet Union. But now all that is changed, and Communist China is now the virtual ally of the United States against the principal Enemy in the Kremlin.
Along with other institutions of the permanent cold war, Orwellian New-speak has developed richly. Every government, no matter how despotic, that is willing to join the anti-Soviet crusade is called a champion of the “free world.” Torture committed by “totalitarian” regimes is evil; torture undertaken by regimes that are merely “authoritarian” is almost benign. While the Department of War has not yet been transformed into the Department of Peace, it was changed early in the cold war to the Department of Defense, and President Reagan has almost completed the transformation by the neat Orwellian touch of calling the MX missile “the Peacemaker.”
Submitted by Michael Nystrom
Found this on reddit and it made me sick
Visually stunning. Loved it. Then started looking at it closer, and got depressed. Then literally, I started to feel ill. Like I was going to throw up, looking at it.
Good post Michael, this seems to be a picture the new USS flag, United States of Surveillance.
A former manager for one of the biggest US defense contractors says he was removed from his job after accusing his higher-ups of defrauding the government.
Cornelius Hosch, the one-time head of counter-IED intelligence for BAE Systems Information Solutions’ eastern Afghanistan office, sued his former employer in federal court on Tuesday.
Hosch, a US Army veteran with nearly 20 years of experience in the military, says his problems with BAE began after he alerted his supervisor to what he considered fraud in December 2011, just days after he started his employment with the company.
During his tenure with BAE, Hosch says the company overcharged the US government for services they were contracted to do.
“BAE was hiring certain personnel to complete logistical and administrative tasks but BAE was using these personnel to bill the government for more lucrative labor,” he alleges in the complaint, discovered by Courthouse News.
“By falsely and purposefully miscategorizing the work performed, BAE charged the government for more work than was actually performed or which was contractually permitted,” he claims.
After voicing his concerns with his supervisor, Hosch says he was harassed by higher-ups within the company. He claims to have spoken up against in February 2012, and was warned against voicing his concerns again.
“‘You better not talk to me again about labor category fraud and time card fraud because I am using guys at my HQ to do my admin and help Mr. Tutt with ghostwriting of FRAGO’s,” Hosch claims his former supervisor, Dan Weber, told him. Courthouse News suggests that “FRAGO” is shorthand defense-speak for “fragmentary orders.”
“Weber also threatened Hosch by saying that if he ‘kept it up’ then he would ‘end up like Tony,’ an employee whose contract was not extended after the first year because Tony would ‘question things’ that did not ‘look or sound right,’” the complaint continues.
Hosch says he reported Weber’s behavior and the allegations of fraud to his employer’s ethics department, and was removed from his job shortly after. He says BAE retaliated against him in violation of the False Claims Act and is seeking compensatory damages and special damages for mental and emotional distress and harm to his reputation.
With two decades to go before it can reprocess spent nuclear fuel, the US will have to bury nearly 70,000 tons of it, a research lab reports. It comes after Congress and the Obama administration defunded a planned nuclear waste repository in 2011.
The Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a facility that does research for the Department of Energy (DOE), said that “about 68,450 [metric tons] or about 98 percent of the total current inventory by mass, can proceed to permanent disposal without the need to ensure retrievability for reuse or research purposes” in its report, published near the end of 2012. The rest of the waste, the report said, could be kept available for research on fuel reprocessing and storage.
The report was fairly obscure until being cited in a DOE document that showed plans to find a new permanent waste dump after Congress and the Obama administration cut funding for the Yucca Mountain repository in 2011.
Reprocessing has little support in Washington due to concerns that spent fuel could fall into the wrong hands. Nevertheless the DOE started looking into reprocessing methods in 2005.
But following the March 2011 disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, US officials became wary of recycling radioactive waste. The Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, co-chaired by Energy Secretary Steven Chu, said that “no currently available or reasonably foreseeable reactor and fuel cycle technology developments — including advances in reprocessing and recycling technologies — have the potential to fundamentally alter the waste management challenges the nation confronts over at least the next several decades, if not longer” in a report.
Reprocessing was not taken off the table following the report, though, with American officials saying it was “premature for the United States to commit, as a matter of policy, to ‘closing’ the nuclear fuel cycle given the large uncertainties that exist about the merits and commercial viability of different fuel cycle and technology options.”
The method is seen as a dangerous cash grab by anti-nuclear activists.
“Recycling is a euphemism for reprocessing which is one of the worst polluters of the atmosphere and the ocean, and is a direct conduit to proliferation,” Mali Martha Lightfoot, executive director of the Helen Caldicott Foundation, told Forbes. “It is not really a solution to anything except how can the industry get more of our money. It also ups the ante for reactor accident danger, as in the case of Fukushima, because MOX fuel has plutonium in it.”
So-called MOX fuel, short for mixed-oxide, is used in nuclear warheads usually consists of a mix of plutonium and uranium.
The stock of used nuclear fuel currently held at 79 temporary locations in 34 US states “is massive, diverse, dispersed, and increasing,” according to the Oak Ridge report.
The Pentagon has approved a deal to supply 6,900 precision bomb kits to replenish Israel’s weapons stockpiles, diminished by the recent war against Hamas in Gaza. The contract is valued at $647 million.
“The United States is committed to the security of Israel, and it is vital to U.S. national interests to assist Israel to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defense capability,” the Pentagon said in a statement. The deal is expected to sail through formal approval by legislators.
The Boeing-made Joint Direct Attack Munitions are complex electronic guidance devices fitted onto missiles to make them vastly more accurate. Precision air-strikes were the main tactic employed by Israel during the 8-day attack on Gaza last month.
10,000 explosive charges are also part of the contract. Of these, 3,450 are one ton bombs, 1725 bombs weighing 250 kilograms with the rest being BLU-109 and GBU-39 bunker busters.
The Gaza bombardment, which Israel says it started in response to more than 2,000 Palestinian rockets launched this year, has been costly for both sides.
Palestinian authorities said that the cost of 120 buildings destroyed and 8,000 damaged buildings amounted to $1.2 billion.
Meanwhile, military operation Pillar of Defense cost Israel around $760 million. Officials estimate the conflict also indirectly cost the country $1.8 billion in lost tourist revenues.
More than 180 Palestinians were killed in the conflict and six Israelis.
As President Obama insists on a speedy end to the war in Afghanistan, his administration has other plans. A facility owned by the private security force once known as Blackwater has been awarded a $22 million contract to house US troops through 2015.
The private military company Academi — formerly Blackwater and, more recently, Xe — is the proud winner of a no-bid contract that will keep them profiting off Uncle Sam’s wars for the next few years. Under a deal first reported by Wired.com’s Danger Room, Academi will assist the recently created US Special Operations Joint Task Force–Afghanistan with housing facilities and office space on their massive 10-acre compound in Kabul named Camp Integrity.
According to Danger Room reporter Spencer Ackerman, Academi won the rights to lease Camp Integrity to the special ops team through May 2015, providing accommodations for some 7,000 elite troops.
If the growing use of governmental tip-toeing to wiretap phone lines and emails doesn’t seem serious, think again. So heightened lately are concerns over surveillance that two major organizations have published a primer on federal spy programs.
Both ProPublica and the Electronic Frontier Foundation have released thorough guides this week that explore what the US government can and can’t do in terms of tracking US citizens using an array of weirdly-worded wiretap laws currently on the books.
The EFF, a long-time opponent of the expanding evasive spy state, published on Thursday a collection of information they’re considering “Warrantless Surveillance 101: Introducing EFF’s New NSA Domestic Spying Guide.” Just two days earlier, the independent journalism project ProPublica released their own breakdown, “No Warrant, No Problem: How The Government Can Still Get Your Digital Data.”
The United State Department of Agriculture has finalized a report to address concerns from farmers who fear they’ll be next on an ever-expanding list of defendants sued by biotech giants Monsanto, but those worries aren’t about to end.
The Monsanto Company dominates more than just grow fields across the US, as evident in their stellar track record of taking small-time farmers to court and winning cases, an occurrence that Think Progress acknowledges happens roughly a dozen times a year. Time and time again, Monsanto’s patented, lab-made genetically engineered seeds are sold to one farmer, only for Mother Nature to move the crop onto neighboring fields with the help of a bit of wind. Just as often, of course, Monsanto’s team of high-paid litigators take the little guys to court, only to triumph thanks to a legal counsel that collects around $10 million a year just to take other farmers to court.
With Monsanto-led lawsuits all too common, the USDA was tasked with putting together a panel — the Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture, or AC21 — to analyze, among other items, “What types of compensation mechanisms, if any, would be appropriate to address economic losses1 by farmers in which the value of their crops is reduced by unintended presence of genetically engineered(GE) material(s)?”
The AC21 panel released their findings in a report [PDF] entitled ‘Enhancing Coexistence’ that was sent to the secretary of agriculture this week. In it, however, they have little to say to the farmers who are likely to be brought before a judge while Monsanto and other biotech kings come out on top.
Right as the sailors and Marines aboard three of the US Navy’s assault ships were on their way home for Thanksgiving, they received an order to turn the ship around and set sail for Israel.
After passing the Strait of Gibraltar, south of Spain, the USS New York, USS Iwo Jima and the USS Gunston Hall were forced to return in the direction they had just come from. The ships had been on their way back to the US after a six-month deployment, but will now have their deployment extended on the Israeli coast.
Rather than return shortly after Thanksgiving, the estimated 2,500 Marines will now be delayed until the most recent Israel-Gaza clash settles down.
The ships will be on reserve for Americans who need to escape Israel as a result of the recent conflict with Gaza or require treatment for injuries from the conflict. Deadly rocket attacks and bloody missile raids have left many dead in a week of continuous fighting.USS Gunston Hall (AFP Photo / U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kristopher Wilson / Handout)