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Christmas at Homeland Security

Police and military types have an overwhelming lust for the latest, greatest and most expensive technology — and a talent for rationalizing the budget expenditures. Since 9/11, it’s been one long Christmas list of weapons of war and anti-terror, and Santa Congress denies very little. In the meantime, anything that directly benefits We The People gets slashed. It’s time, as this L.A. Times article suggests, that we take a much closer look at what we get for all that money. I’d also like to suggest a name change – “Homeland Security” reminds me very much of Nazis:

A decade after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, federal and state governments are spending about $75 billion a year on domestic security, setting up sophisticated radio networks, upgrading emergency medical response equipment, installing surveillance cameras and bomb-proof walls, and outfitting airport screeners to detect an ever-evolving list of mobile explosives.

But how effective has that 10-year spending spree been?

“The number of people worldwide who are killed by Muslim-type terrorists, Al Qaeda wannabes, is maybe a few hundred outside of war zones. It’s basically the same number of people who die drowning in the bathtub each year,” said John Mueller, an Ohio State University professor who has written extensively about the balance between threat and expenditures in fighting terrorism.

“So if your chance of being killed by a terrorist in the United States is 1 in 3.5 million, the question is, how much do you want to spend to get that down to 1 in 4.5 million?” he said.

One effect is certain: Homeland Security spending has been a primer-pump for local governments starved by the recession, and has dramatically improved emergency response networks across the country.

An entire industry has sprung up to sell an array of products, including high-tech motion sensors and fully outfitted emergency operations trailers. The market is expected to grow to $31 billion by 2014.

Like the military-industrial complex that became a permanent and powerful part of the American landscape during the Cold War, the vast network of Homeland Security spyware, concrete barricades and high-tech identity screening is here to stay. The Department of Homeland Security, a collection of agencies ranging from border control to airport security sewn quickly together after Sept. 11, is the third-largest Cabinet department and — with almost no lawmaker willing to render the U.S. less prepared for a terrorist attack — one of those least to fall victim to budget cuts.

The expensive and time-consuming screening now routine for passengers at airport boarding gates has detected plenty of knives, loaded guns and other contraband, but it has never identified a terrorist who was about to board a plane. Only 14 Americans have died in about three dozen instances of Islamic extremist terrorist plots targeted at the U.S. outside war zones since 2001 — most of them involving one or two home-grown plotters.
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Smackdown

I get so frustrated when otherwise sensible people praise Tom Friedman. That’s why I’m happy that Dean Baker really lets The Mustache of Truth have it:

Yes, it’s Sunday and Thomas Friedman has another of his whacky big picture columns:

“Now let me say that in English: the European Union is cracking up. The Arab world is cracking up. China’s growth model is under pressure and America’s credit-driven capitalist model has suffered a warning heart attack and needs a total rethink. Recasting any one of these alone would be huge. Doing all four at once — when the world has never been more interconnected — is mind-boggling. We are again ‘present at the creation’ — but of what?”

Pretty profound stuff.

Okay, let’s get to specifics. We leave out the Arab world, skip China for a moment, and jump to the European Union. Friedman tells us:

“Farther north, it was a nice idea, this European Union and euro-zone: Let’s have a monetary union and a common currency but let everyone run their own fiscal policy, as long as they swear to work and save like Germans. Alas, it was too good to be true. Large government welfare programs in some European countries, without the revenue to finance them from local production, eventually led to a piling up of sovereign debt — mostly owed to European banks — and then a lender revolt. The producer-savers in northern Europe are now drawing up a new deal with the overspenders — the PIIGS: Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain.”

There is lots of good stuff here. First, the European Union and the euro-zone are not the same thing. There are countries with names like the United Kingdom, Denmark, and Sweden that have been longstanding members of the European Union that are not members of the euro-zone. While there have been some suggestions that heavily indebted countries consider leaving the euro, one would be hard-pressed to find anyone suggesting they leave the European Union.
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Hah

I wish more organizations stopped inviting Republicans to events honoring things they don’t support. May I suggest Tom Morello instead?

Community parades often feature local politicians waving to the crowds, but this year’s annual Labor Day parade in Wausau may be short a few elected officials.

That’s because the head of the group that sponsors the Wausau Labor Day Parade, the Marathon County Central Labor Council, is telling Republicans lawmakers from the area that they’re not welcome on Sept. 5.

“Usually they’ve been in the parade, but it seems like they only want to stand with us one day a year, and the other 364 days they don’t really care,” said Randy Radtke, president of the Council. The Council is made up of about 30 local unions from the Marathon County area.

In a statement, Radtke added that parade is intended to celebrate working men and women and what the labor movement has given them: weekends, a 40-hour work week, child labor protection and a safe working environment.

“It should come as no surprise that organizers choose not to invite elected officials who have openly attacked worker’s rights or stood idly by while their political party fought to strip public workers of their right to collectively bargain,” Radtke said.

Debate

Between atheists and deists. Steve Volk has a real knack for writing about the space between belief and non-belief, go read it.

Appointment

I wonder if the president will actually listen to him. Well, here’s hoping!

President Barack Obama on Monday plans to nominate Princeton University’s Alan Krueger to be chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, a White House official said.

If confirmed by the Senate, Mr. Krueger, a labor economist, is likely to provide a voice inside the administration for more-aggressive government action to bring down unemployment and, particularly, to address long-term joblessness.

Mr. Krueger, 50 years old, returned to Princeton a year ago after serving as assistant Treasury secretary for economic policy during the first two years of the Obama administration—which means he has recently cleared the sometimes treacherous Senate confirmation process.

He would succeed Austan Goolsbee, who left earlier this month to reclaim his teaching post at the University of Chicago.

Moment of truth

This is the widow of the Army Ranger I wrote about recently. I’m glad that she got the all-too-rare opportunity to tell one of these callous warmongers to his face what she thinks of him and his enablers:

Two people were removed from Friday’s Donald Rumsfeld book signing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, including the Yelm widow of an Army Ranger who blames the military for her husband’s suicide.

Security officers for the former secretary of defense escorted Ashley Joppa-Hagemann out by the arm, she said this evening. She and Jorge Gonzalez, the executive director of Coffee Strong, a Lakewood-based anti-war group that links soldiers with benefits and counseling, confronted Rumsfeld as he promoted his memoir, “Known and Unknown.”

According to an account posted today on Coffee Strong’s web site:

Mrs. Joppa-Hagemann introduced herself by handing a copy of her husband’s funeral program to Rumsfeld, and telling him that her husband had joined the military because he believed the lies told by Rumsfeld during his tenure with the Bush Administration.

Joppa-Hagemann complained about Rumsfeld’s response to her account of Staff Sgt. Jared Hagemann’s multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and his death at age 25. He belonged to the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.The web site said Rumsfeld’s

only response was to callously quip, ‘Oh yeah, I heard about that.’ Despite the reply, Mrs. Joppa-Hagemann continued to lay the blame directly at the feet of Rumsfeld and the military for not providing enough care for soldiers and veterans returning from deployments in combat zones. However, within moments Ashley and Jorge were dragged from the Post Exchange by a group of 5-6 security agents and military police officers, and told not to return.

A base spokesman said the pair were causing a minor disturbance.“Two people were quietly and peacefully escorted out of the PX after they caused a disturbance at the book signing,” public affairs officer Bud McKay said.

Joppa-Hagemann said the pair spoke calmly and weren’t trying to make a scene. She should have been allowed to finish talking to Rumsfeld, she said.The pair did take a picture with Rumsfeld, after Gonzalez unbuttoned his shirt to reveal an “Iraq veterans against the war” T-shirt.

Fukushima

Worse than Chernobyl.

Storm stories

Why do I get more information about our floods in the NYTimes than I get in my local papers? I didn’t know any buildings collapsed:

In Philadelphia, which lies between the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers, water levels in some areas were 15 feet above normal on Sunday and were approaching the 17-foot record set in 1869, said Mark McDonald, a spokesman for Mayor Michael Nutter.

The storm, which dumped at least six inches of rain on the city, caused the collapse of seven buildings, Mr. McDonald said, including a six-story structure just south of Center City. No one was injured, but 20 residents had to be evacuated. In one neighborhood on the Schuylkill, employees of the Mad River Bar & Grille watched the water inch up Main Street from their stoop until it became an island.

The bar’s general manager, Joe Decandido, 28, said his employees kept moving equipment and merchandise to higher ground but could not outrun the water rising in the basement. “You feel like you’re in the Titanic,” Mr. Decandido said. “It keeps rising, and there’s not much you can do.”

Black and blue

Boggia:

The road I must travel

Tom Morello:

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