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I like Ike

I’ve been wondering about this. When was the turning point, where the U.S. decided pursuing war for empire was our path? That military might was preferable to actually improving the lives of our citizens? Why don’t the people who live here get any say in making these decisions? This piece from the Atlantic is enlightening, go read it all:

DURING EISENHOWER’S PRESIDENCY, few credited him with being a great orator. Yet, as befit a Kansan and a military professional, Ike could speak plainly when he chose to do so. The April 16 speech early in his presidency was such a moment. Delivered in the wake of Joseph Stalin’s death, the speech offered the new Soviet leadership a five-point plan for ending the Cold War. Endorsing the speech as “one of the most notable policy statements of U.S. history,” Time reported with satisfaction that Eisenhower had articulated a broad vision for peace and “left it at the door of the Kremlin for all the world to see.” The likelihood that Stalin’s successors would embrace this vision was nil. An editorial in The New Republic made the essential point: as seen from Russia’s perspective, Eisenhower was “demanding unconditional surrender.” The president’s peace plan quickly vanished without a trace.

Largely overlooked by most commentators was a second theme that Eisenhower had woven into his text. The essence of this theme was simplicity itself: spending on arms and armies is inherently undesirable. Even when seemingly necessary, it constitutes a misappropriation of scarce resources. By diverting social capital from productive to destructive purposes, war and the preparation for war deplete, rather than enhance, a nation’s strength. And while assertions of military necessity might camouflage the costs entailed, they can never negate them altogether.

“Every gun that is made,” Eisenhower told his listeners, “every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” Any nation that pours its treasure into the purchase of armaments is spending more than mere money. “It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.” To emphasize the point, Eisenhower offered specifics:

The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities … We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.

Yet in Cold War Washington, Eisenhower’s was a voice crying in the wilderness. As much as they liked Ike, Americans had no intention of choosing between guns and butter: they wanted both. Military Keynesianism—the belief that the production of guns could underwrite an endless supply of butter—was enjoying its heyday.

What do they call a president

Who happens to be black? If you’ve read Malcolm X, you already know the answer. Chauncy Devega at We Are Respectable Negroes writes a compelling essay on racism, and how it permeates the national discussion on Obama. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, because the things that racists say to other white people are so shocking, not only for the content of their fevered insanity, but for their assumption that every other white person agrees with them. Still. In America.

I do believe that most overt racists are unaware of the workings of their own psyche. Why else would they go to so much trouble to fabricate lies to justify their hatred of a black president? I have my issues with President Obama, but they’re based on policy, not skin color. Since he’s been elected, I’ve had people say things to me that are so vile, I can only shake my head — after I point out that they’re clearly more upset about his skin color than anything else.

It sickens me. Not that we don’t all have unconscious biases (and yes, belief in white supremacy is a hard one to shake. After all, how else would you explain the American habit of doing whatever needs to be done to suck up the world’s resources while everyone else suffers?), but we try. We keep talking. I don’t know how we’ll ever heal this festering sore of racism, but we have to keep trying.

The personal is political. The rage machine that presumes the worst of Barack Obama, precisely because he is not white, is old hat. Black folks have known that game for centuries. We did not need to read Thomas Jefferson’s racist tract, Notes on the State of Virginia, in order to grasp the deep wells of anti-black sentiment which are the beating heart of America’s political culture.

My surprise at the claim that President Obama shares anything in common with a “skinny, ghetto, crackhead” is rooted in its absurdity. Obama is human. He is imperfect. I often disagree with his politics. Obama is a man. He is nothing more, nothing less. But a crackhead? Impulsive drug user? A hype? Nope. Not ever. Obama’s personhood and habitus, his relaxed and effortless black cool pose (even if some do not possess the cultural framework and lens necessary to perceive it) is obvious–and unapologetic.

The inability by some on the Right to see Obama’s full and dignified black humanity, as opposed to a default of black drug use, criminality, and omnipresent, irrepressible “niggerdom,” is the source of my hurt. I must ask: If the white conservative imagination can frame a man of Obama’s abilities, poise, intelligence, genius, life accomplishments, and talent as a skinny, ghetto, crackhead, how do they see the rest of us?
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Protection

I read an intriguing article years ago (I think it was in Harpers) about how SUVs were actually designed to look hostile and aggressive — to appeal to the angry white male. There was a lot of talk about how buyers would perceive them as rolling fortresses to protect themselves and their families in a dangerous world. (It was more than a little ironic that so many of the early SUVs had a little problem with rollover that killed their passengers, but I digress.) For someone who’s paranoid, you can’t possibly have enough protection – unfortunately for the rest of us.

I’d suggest that we all just stay home, but at least two people were shot by stray bullets while they were asleep this past week.

Anyway, the Times takes a look at how that open-carry law in North Carolina has worked out, so be sure to go read the rest:

Alan Simons was enjoying a Sunday morning bicycle ride with his family in Asheville, N.C., two years ago when a man in a sport utility vehicle suddenly pulled alongside him and started berating him for riding on the highway.

The bullet passed through Mr. Simons’s helmet.

Mr. Simons, his 4-year-old son strapped in behind him, slowed to a halt. The driver, Charles Diez, an Asheville firefighter, stopped as well. When Mr. Simons walked over, he found himself staring down the barrel of a gun.

“Go ahead, I’ll shoot you,” Mr. Diez said, according to Mr. Simons. “I’ll kill you.”

Mr. Simons turned to leave but heard a deafening bang. A bullet had passed through his bike helmet just above his left ear, barely missing him.

Mr. Diez, as it turned out, was one of more than 240,000 people in North Carolina with a permit to carry a concealed handgun. If not for that gun, Mr. Simons is convinced, the confrontation would have ended harmlessly. “I bet it would have been a bunch of mouthing,” he said.
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The destroyers

When you have pieces like this appearing in Newsweek, you know how inevitable an upheaval has become. Michael Thomas:

This time, I fear, the public anger will not be deflected. Confessions, not false, will be exacted. Occupy Wall Street has set the snowball rolling; you may not think much of OWS—I have my own reservations, although none are philosophical or moral—but it has made America aware of a sinister, usurious process by which wealth has systematically been funneled into fewer and fewer hands. A process in which Washington played a useful supporting role, but no more than that.

Over the next year, I expect the “what” will give way to the “how” in the broad electorate’s comprehension of the financial situation. The 99 percent must learn to differentiate the bloodsuckers and rent-extractors from those in the 1 percent who make the world a better, more just place to live. Once people realize how Wall Street made its pile, understand how financiers get rich, what it is that they actually do, the time will become ripe for someone to gather the spreading ripples of anger and perplexity into a focused tsunami of retribution. To make the bastards pay, properly, for the grief and woe they have caused. Perhaps not to the extent proposed by H. L. Mencken, who wrote that when a bank fails, the first order of business should be to hang its board of directors, but in a manner in which the pain is proportionate to the collateral damage. Possibly an excess-profits tax retroactive to 2007, or some form of “Tobin tax” on transactions, or a wealth tax. The era of money for nothing will be over.
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Screwed

Remember how the state rep’s office intervened to get me into the pre-existing condition insurance program one month earlier? Turns out the insurance company has no record of that and my effective date will be Feb. 1st.

Another month of this shit…

Operation Oliver

I’m really glad to see this — but also ashamed and infuriated that here in America, we have so many neighborhoods not much different from war-torn countries. This LA Times story is still inspiring, though [via Cabdrollery]:

Earl Johnson’s boots crunch broken glass from liquor bottles as he walks down an alley in East Baltimore’s Oliver neighborhood.

He is just blocks from the site of the firebombing of a family who called the police on drug dealers and were killed for it, and just yards from some of the most memorable scenes of urban decay in television’s “The Wire.”

At his side are Rich Blake, 32, a Marine Corps veteran; and Jeremy Johnson, 34, a Navy veteran. Like Earl (no relation to Jeremy), they are on a different kind of mission.

They’ve come to this neighborhood once synonymous with the worst of Baltimore to help it become something better. They call this mission Operation Oliver.

As the men walk, they pick up empty Seagram’s gin and Bacardi rum bottles. They point to progress — refurbished homes, a painted playground — and to vacant houses and trash-filled alleys that still need work.

“A lot of the conditions from places we’re deployed to, Iraq and Afghanistan, are not that much different from the conditions here in Oliver,” says Blake, executive director of the 6th Branch, one of several nonprofit groups involved in Operation Oliver.

“We’re not afraid to dig in and make a difference in a community that’s got a bad reputation in the city,” Blake says. “The discipline, the go-get-’em, let’s-do-this-now, aggressive attitude — it really lends itself to community service in a way traditional organizations haven’t been able to do.”

Operation Oliver, which began in July, is a one-year commitment to the neighborhood, the veterans say. It involves cleaning up alleys, rehabilitating homes, organizing volunteers and notifying police about illegal dumping sites and drug dealing.

To say the idea has caught on would be an understatement. Word of the intensive yearlong service project has spread throughout Maryland — and the nation.

Paul Krugman uses facts to skewer the myth of balanced reporting every chance he gets, but do you think NYT’s reporters and editors — even though the facts are available — will ever run a story headlined “Romney campaign based on falsehoods”? More here.

Clusterf**k

I have to think this is in our future, too. (After all, we’re giving a loan guarantee to TEPCO to build a nuclear plant in Texas.) And it’s pretty clear that when it comes to these corporate disasters, the financial needs of the corporations are always going to override the public’s health:

TOKYO — Japan’s response to the nuclear crisis that followed the March 11 tsunami was confused and riddled with problems, including an erroneous assumption an emergency cooling system was working and a delay in disclosing dangerous radiation leaks, a report revealed Monday.

The disturbing picture of harried and bumbling workers and government officials scrambling to respond to the problems at Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant was depicted in the report detailing a government investigation.

The 507-page interim report, compiled by interviewing more than 400 people, including utility workers and government officials, found authorities had grossly underestimated tsunami risks, assuming the highest wave would be 6 meters (20 feet). The tsunami hit at more than double those levels.

The report criticized the use of the term “soteigai,” meaning “outside our imagination,” which it said implied authorities were shirking responsibility for what had happened. It said by labeling the events as beyond what could have been expected, officials had invited public distrust.

“This accident has taught us an important lesson on how we must be ready for soteigai,” it said.

The report, set to be finished by mid-2012, found workers at Tokyo Electric Power Co., the utility that ran Fukushima Dai-ichi, were untrained to handle emergencies like the power shutdown that struck when the tsunami destroyed backup generators – setting off the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

There was no clear manual to follow, and the workers failed to communicate, not only with the government but also among themselves, it said.

But wait, there’s more! Health experts are also extremely critical:

International authorities have urged Japan to expand the exclusion zone around the plant to 80 kilometres but the government has instead opted to “define the problem out of existence” by raising the permissible level of radiation exposure for members of the public to 20 millisieverts per year, considerably higher than the international standard of one millisievert per year, Gould adds.

This “arbitrary increase” in the maximum permissible dose of radiation is an “unconscionable” failure of government, contends Ruff. “Subject a class of 30 children to 20 millisieverts of radiation for five years and you’re talking an increased risk of cancer to the order of about 1 in 30, which is completely unacceptable. I’m not aware of any other government in recent decades that’s been willing to accept such a high level of radiation-related risk for its population.”

Following the 1986 nuclear disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukraine, “clear targets were set so that anybody anticipated to receive more than five millisieverts in a year were evacuated, no question,” Ruff explains. In areas with levels between one and five millisieverts, measures were taken to mitigate the risk of ingesting radioactive materials, including bans on local food consumption, and residents were offered the option of relocating. Exposures below one millisievert were still considered worth monitoring.

In comparison, the Japanese government has implemented a campaign to encourage the public to buy produce from the Fukushima area, Ruff added. “That response [in Chernobyl] 25 years ago in that much less technically sophisticated, much less open or democratic context, was, from a public health point of view, much more responsible than what’s being done in modern Japan this year.”

Religious extremists

Nothing says “doing God’s work” quite like spitting on little girls, does it?

Toxic

We can expect a lot more of this sort of thing as businesses push their employees to cut costs. Corners will be cut, safety will be compromised.

And so it goes.

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