Monday, March 31, 2008

American Militarism: A Critical Issue on which (surprisingly) Barack Obama and John McCain appear to be in complete agreement. . . .

Warning: a strong punch-line preceded, however, by lots of necessary (and sometimes very technical) background, which should be read in the context of already having digested the information in A few facts for those who think we can't have a limited government. . . .

I research and teach military history, which is not that often specifically germane to what I post about here.

(I'm primarily interested in armies as social organizations, if you're really concerned.)

But lately I have been remembering what I taught in the American Military History course (offered primarily for ROTC candidates) in the early to mid-1990s.

I explained that at the end of the Cold War (Reagan, Bush 41) the official Pentagon doctrine was that the US Armed Forces should be able to fight (and presumably win) two simultaneous regional conflicts, besides meeting our security commitments in Central Europe. Examples most often given included an outbreak of hostilities on the Korean peninsula, intervention in the Persian Gulf, or defending Taiwan against invasion.

Around the end of the Bush 41 administration or the beginning of the Clinton administration (I'd have to go back and look up the exact date, but frankly it's unimportant), in the aftermath of the Cold War the Pentagon changed that doctrine to the ability to fight one regional conflict while deterring another. (Deterring such a conflict obviously requires fewer forces, the argument goes, than actually fighting it.) This was viewed as an acceptable reduction in capability, given the military collapse of the former Soviet Union, although many within the Department of Defense viewed it as a virtual sell-out of America's military posture abroad.

During the Clinton years, several things happened that are germane to my narrative:

1) Military expenditures, which had reached their high point of 34.8% of the total Federal budget in 1987, decreased in the aftermath of the Persian Gulf War and the end of the Cold War to roughly 20% of the total budget. This decrease was widely advertised as the "peace dividend" made possible by the dissolution of the Soviet Union; although conservatives tended to see it as the gutting of the American military.

Such a reduction in military spending after 1990 was certainly inevitable, if for no other reason than our security commitment in Central Europe had virtually disappeared, rendering most US military installations as logistical support or forward bases for new commitments in the Balkans, the Middle East, or even Africa, rather than the home installations of the large-scale US Army in Europe (USAREUR). A similar build-down would have occurred even if George H. W. Bush had won the election of 1992 (Bush had already reduced the military percentage of the total budget to the vicinity of 25-26% of the total budget, even while fighting the First Gulf War).

However, what happened during the 1990s that was almost disastrous for the US military was that this reduction in budget and force, far from being handled as a rational process, degenerated almost immediately into a free-for-all of empire-building and back-stabbing within the Pentagon that neither Clinton SecDef (Les Aspin or William Cohen) ever managed to control. The sane way to reduce the military budget would have been to take a long hard look at (a) the strategic situation in the world; (b) the kinds of interventions/wars that we might need to fight; (c) the doctrine necessary to fight and win those wars; and therefore derive (d) the best balanced force structure that could be maintained with the available budget resources.

Instead, what we got was different offices in the Pentagon (usually aligned with military contractors) fighting tooth and nail to preserve their programs, weapons, installations, or units regardless of how those elements actually fit into a rational military strategy. As a result, America's military in 2000 was a grossly imbalanced force, not as a result of funding cuts, but as the direct consequence of poor leadership at the top military and civilian levels (in both parties).

2) The Clinton administration began the dangerous large-scale employment of private military companies under contract through the State Department or our allies to outsource our smaller wars. Corporations like MPRI, Kellogg Brown & Root, Vining, Airscan, etc., soaked up former military personnel from the US, UK, South Africa, and the former Soviet Union to perform dirty jobs in places like Croatia, Indonesia, Angola (Cabinda), Colombia, and many others.

The employment of these mercenaries significantly weakened the accountability of our interventionist foreign policies to Congress or the public at large, and changed the nature of the US military posture throughout the world.

3) The so-called Revolution in Military Affairs convinced many military and geo-political thinkers that the US had acquired such a high-tech advantage over our possible opponents (this might be called Post-Persian Gulf Delusional Syndrome) that the traditional "boots on the ground" infantry and armor-heavy forces of the Cold War era could be traded in for whiz-bang weaponry supported by lots of glitzy Special Operations units. Ironically, although the RMA happened during the 1990s, it was not defense strategists during the Clinton years who adopted it as their mantra, but the then-out-of-power Republican strategists who would not regain the keys to the Pentagon until after the election of 200.

4) Also during the Clinton years, at the behest of the larger military producers of everything from small arms to fighter planes, pretty much all restrictions (and there had never been many) on unfettered international arms sales by American companies were removed. In a manner similar to the great tobacco settlements (which left Philip Morris crippled in America but free to purse lucrative overseas markets), McDonnell-Douglas, Grumman, Martin Marietta, Lockheed, and a host of other defense contractors begin to recover the revenues they had lost from sales to our military by marketing their wares more freely on the world's open market.

All of this happened well before September 11.

Since then, we have seen our military budget expand from the $294.4 Billion (under the last year of the Clinton administration) to the projected FY 2009 budget of $607.3 Billion. Only the extravagant growth of all other sectors of the Federal budget has kept the military percentage down to 24-25%, even though it more than doubled in eight years.

Here's a figure for you: one dollar out of every two dollars in individual income taxes collected by the IRS now goes to fund the US military, and that figure does not include the Department of Homeland Security.

We can neither sustain this level of spending, nor can we maintain the same level of military interventionism (both through active operations and strategic basing) that we have maintained for the past several decades.

And yet. . . .

Senator Barack Obama, the presidential candidate perceived as most likely to change or restructure America's role in international affairs has already proven that he stands for nothing more than BUSINESS AS USUAL.

Here is Senator Obama's plan, direct from his official campaign website:

Building a 21st Century Military

The Problem: The excellence of our military is unmatched. But as a result of a misguided war in Iraq, our forces are under pressure as never before. Obama will make the investments we need so that the finest military in the world is best-prepared to meet 21st-century threats.

Rebuild Trust: Obama will rebuild trust with those who serve by ensuring that soldiers and Marines have sufficient training time before they are sent into battle.

Expand the Military: We have learned from Iraq that our military needs more men and women in uniform to reduce the strain on our active force. Obama will increase the size of ground forces, adding 65,000 soldiers to the Army and 27,000 Marines.

New Capabilities: Obama will give our troops new equipment, armor, training, and skills like language training. He will also strengthen our civilian capacity, so that our civilian agencies have the critical skills and equipment they need to integrate their efforts with our military.

Strengthen Guard and Reserve: Obama will restore the readiness of the National Guard and Reserves. He will permit them adequate time to train and rest between deployments, and provide the National Guard with the equipment they need for foreign and domestic emergencies. He will also give the Guard a seat at the table by making the Chief of the National Guard a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Have you considered this carefully? What's here is (at least on paper) a massive commitment to more troops and more equipment, combined with no promise at all to reduce America's gigantic holdings in foreign military installations.

Senator Obama may not take money from oil companies, but he'll certainly be keeping the big defense contractors happy.

Curiously, Senator Hillary Clinton's website completely lacks any general statement about the future of the armed forces, but Senator John McCain is much more forthcoming--and damned if his future military policy doesn't sound almost exactly like Obama's:

Our existing force is overstretched by the combination of military operations in the broader Middle East and the need to maintain our security commitments in Europe and Asia. Recruitment and retention suffer from extended overseas deployments that keep service personnel away from their homes and families for long periods of time.

John McCain believes that the answer to these challenges is not to roll back our overseas commitments. The size and composition of our armed forces must be matched to our nation's defense requirements. As requirements expand in the global war on terrorism so must our Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard be reconfigured to meet these new challenges. John McCain thinks it is especially important to increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps to defend against the threats we face today.

There is NO CANDIDATE running for President in either the Democratic or Republican Party who will even stop to think about--much less commit to--a meaningful change of direction in America's military policy.

That's in large measure why I'm a Libertarian.

What does Libertarian candidate George Phillies say about US military policy?

When the Cold War ended, America should have contracted its military to match its defense needs. We maintain a huge fleet in the Atlantic, an ocean that borders only on friendly countries. That fleet makes no sense. Our military spending is half the world's total, and most of the rest is spent by our allies; that spending makes no sense. There should be massive cuts in defense spending. We should take seriously FDR's laws on military reserves: As an organizational issue, States should put their main emphasis on their State Defense Force, not on their National Guard, putting the same fine people where they can best protect America. The search for Mr. Bin Laden needs groups of specialists, not shoals of tanks and clouds of aircraft that muddy the waters.

Or perhaps Christine Smith?

Stop the U.S. government empire building and all its cruel victimization of thousands worldwide. End our history of militarism by returning to a U.S. government enforced/limited under the Constitution in which only Congress can declare war (the president can only enforce/wage such war after Congress has declared it). Bring our troops home from around the world. I am for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops and government personnel from Iraq. I oppose all wars of aggression. We should lead the world into greater liberty only by serving as a beacon - an example - not by aggression. Government should try to keep us out of war - not police the world - and not start wars of aggression. Defend American soil and shores. Our troops and military resources must be used only to defend America. For that, we must maintain a strong defense, and efficient effective communication between our own intelligence gathering agencies. We must stop our government from being the provocateur it has become. We must end all US government meddling in the affairs and conflicts of all other nations. Close military bases and end all military presence in parts of the world that pose no direct threat to our land and waters and which we have no business being in. Further, acts of terrorism must be tried as the criminal acts they are and not used as an excuse for the government to wage war against civilians in sovereign nations nor an excuse to rationalize the stripping of our civil liberties and fundamental rights as Americans.

Perhaps Mary Ruwart?

Commerce, not coercion, should be the touchstone of our foreign policy. The best way to prevent attack is to create as few enemies -- and as many trading partners -- as possible. The best way to repel an attack is to have our troops at home where they can readily defend our shores.

To those who believe that the US has engaged in an empire-building, interventionist foreign and military policy for years, while crippling our domestic economy with excessive defense spending, I have a simple question:

If I took the names off these position statements, who would you be voting for?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Toussaint L' Ouverture


I supported François-Dominique Toussaint L'Ouverture. Reinstate Jean Aristide.

So people in Haiti do not need to keep eating dirt to stay alive.

You can read more about it here and here. This remarkable people is being reduced. Their brilliance is being lost. Their poverty is preventing their life, let alone liberty which some people parody but which Porter Goss really hates.

And this all benefits kleptocrats who you can read about here and Dyncorp with the UN and contractors.

The OAS should send them food if we have our head that far up our ass. If that move into Haiti was "a lab for what UN control is like," I am very concerned about the quality of the work.

Let's start with this- send them food.

Thank you, Tom Jefferson.

Slippery Slopes and My Cold Dead Hands

While the Supreme Court deliberates, the Washington DC police are out frantically going door-to-door asking for permission to search for handguns. They claim that they will not act on any other evidence of illegal behavior they might find while looking (without warrants) for firearms, but as Drug War Rant asks,

If they find a few kilos of heroin, piles of cash, or a severed head, they're not going to ask any questions? Even if they make no immediate arrests, what guarantee is there that they won't be back later, with a warrant ostensibly based on an independent source of information?

Even the DC Black Police Officers Association thinks this is a BAAAD plan:

Ron Hampton, of the Black Police Officers Association, said he doesn't expect many in the community to comply.

"This is one of those communities where the police even have problems getting information about crimes that are going on in the community, so to suggest, now, that the police have enough community capital in their hand that the community is going to cooperate with them, I'm not so sure that's a good idea," Hampton said.

Meanwhile, as we careen down the slippery slope toward total gun confiscation, is it any surprise that the Boston Police Department is pursuing a similar strategy? Perhaps the real surprise is that the citizens of Boston (ala 1776) are resisting this idea in the spirit of Sam Adams:

Boston police officials, surprised by intense opposition from residents, have significantly scaled back and delayed the start of a program that would allow officers to go into people's homes and search for guns without a warrant.

The program, dubbed Safe Homes, was supposed to start in December, but has been delayed at least three times because of misgivings in the community. March 1 was the latest missed start date.

One community group has been circulating a petition against the plan. Police officials trying to assuage residents' fears have been drowned out by criticism at some meetings with residents and elected officials.

In some ways it is NOT surprising to find the New Black Panther Party channeling the Sons of Liberty:

"Police are like vampires. They shouldn't be invited into your homes," said Jamarhl Crawford, chairman of the New Black Panther Party in Roxbury, who moderated the meeting.

"Vampires are polite; they're smooth," he said in an interview the following day. "But once they get in, the door closes. Havoc ensues."

Other comparisons have been no more favorable.

"The community doesn't want this," Lisa Thurau-Gray, managing director of the Juvenile Justice Center at Suffolk University Law School, said at the meeting. She likened the police persistence to a sexual aggressor who refuses to stop assaulting a victim despite her pleas. "What part of no don't they understand?" she said.

The larger Constitutional issue here is not only the Second Amendment, but also the slippery slope of using gun confiscation to open up a gigantic hole for warrantless searches of the homes of law-abiding citizens.

You know, all you folks who are so upset with George W. Bush and FISA surveillance, where's your outrage at Boston and Washington DC for trying to give the police the right to toss people's homes at will?

Around the Horn Friday--Jokers to the Right edition coming up

Ryan Silberstein of Jokers to the Right has stepped into the breach for Around the Horn Friday next week.

Send your nominated stories by Thursday to, or turn yourself over to his not-so-tender mercies.

Check Point USA & Sex Abuse

This document from the US Customs service, speaks for itself.

I love how it gives any federal bureaucrat the right to do with me whatever they want. Maybe they can sexually abuse me at the border like they do down near Mexico or poor "M.C." from Jamaica? I loved the TV show about Customs Special Agents , but one thing is sure, this type of behavior is not helping the image or reputation of the organization.

I want to see someone on CNN discuss this problem.

ICE enforcement agent arrested for aggravated sexual abuse of detainee by SOPnewswirePosted November 22, 2007

MIAMI - R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Steven J. Mocsary, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Office of Professional Responsibility, Donald J. Balberchak, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General, and Al Lamberti, Sheriff, Broward County Sheriff's Office, announced the filing of criminal complaint and arrest warrant against defendant, Wilfredo Vazquez.

The complaint, filed late on Friday, charges Vazquez with three counts of knowingly causing a detainee under his supervision to engage in a sexual act, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 2241(a)(1), 2242(1); and 2243(b)(2). Vazquez was arrested Friday afternoon in Tampa, Florida, by federal agents and is expected to make his initial appearance in Tampa federal court later today.

If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

According to the complaint, on September 21, 2007, the victim, "M.C.," was being transferred to the Broward Transition Center from the Krome Service and Processing Center to await deportation to Jamaica. Immigration Enforcement Agent Wilfredo Vazquez agreed to transport M.C. to the Broward Transition Center from Krome. During that transport, Vazquez removed M.C.'s restraints and sat her in the back section of the van behind a partition. While still waiting to exit the Krome facility, Vazquez told M.C. that he would move her to the front of the vehicle after they left Krome if she was a "good girl." A short time after they left Krome in the van, Vazquez pulled over to the side of the road and escorted M.C. to the front passenger seat.

Vazquez then allowed M.C. to use his personal cellular telephone to make personal calls. Following these calls, Vazquez asked M.C. to show him her underwear, but M.C. refused. Vazquez then told M.C. that he wanted to have oral sex with her and that he was taking her to his house for this purpose. Vazquez then drove M.C. to his residence in Tamarac, Florida.

According to the complaint affidavit, M.C. described in detail the route to Vazquez's home. In addition, M.C. allegedly provided law enforcement with a very detailed description of the exterior and interior of the residence. She stated that once in the residence, Vazquez directed her to take off her clothes, and that Vazquez returned to the room with a condom. Immediately thereafter, Vazquez allegedly began to stimulate M.C. M.C. stated that she did not outwardly resist Vazquez because she was afraid of him and he wore his firearm at all times. According to M.C., Vazquez then forced her to engage in oral sex and to have sexual intercourse with him.

Thereafter, Vazquez and M.C. continued the trip to the Broward Transition Center. Vazquez again placed M.C. in the front of seat the van, where she remained until Vazquez stopped at a gas station next to the Broward Transition Center. At the gas station, Vazquez placed M.C. back in the rear section of the van and drove to the Broward Transition Center, nearly two hours after having left Krome.

On September 27, 2007, Vazquez agreed to be interviewed by law enforcement. During this interview, Vazquez denied making any stops between Krome and the Broward Transition Center, other than at the gas station. Vazquez also denied taking M.C. to his house, and having had any sexual contact with M.C. Subsequent investigation, however, confirmed M.C.'s description of the exterior and interior of Vazquez's residence. Additionally, a review of the SunPass transponder records of the vehicle used by Vazquez to transport M.C. confirmed that Vazquez exited the Florida Turnpike towards his home before arriving at the Broward Transition Center.

U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta stated, "When a federal officer abuses his position and his power to harm someone in his custody, the harm he causes goes well beyond the individual victim. The act also violates the public's trust and shakes the public's confidence in our system. The U.S. Attorney's office is committed to bolstering confidence in our law enforcement officers by prosecuting those -- whether federal, state or local officers -- who misuse their office."

"ICE takes employee misconduct very seriously," said Steven J. Mocsary, Special Agent in Charge of the ICE Office of Professional Responsibility in Ft. Lauderdale. "All allegations of misconduct are investigated thoroughly and swift corrective action is taken when appropriate."

Donald J. Balberchak, Special Agent in Charge of the DHS Office of Inspector General said "The Office of Inspector General will aggressively pursue allegations of employee misconduct. The efforts of the Broward County Sheriff's Office were instrumental in this investigation."
Mr. Acosta commended the investigative efforts of the ICE-OPR, DHS-OIG, and the Broward County Sheriff's Office. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Daniel Rashbaum.

-- ICE --

Aside from the inital response of disgust I have to this, it is not at all comforting to me that by expanding the size and scope of what government can do we encourage abuse without even knowing it, and only when it is discovered do we make a big deal about the offender, but we never seem to question the system that gives a person that much power over another person in the first place.

It is a dialog we need to have.

Let's Taser All The Kids

Great idea, we should taser all the kids at least once, arrest them and hold them in prison for emotional disturbances. It is so much easier then getting them psychological help when they need it. This sure is the right way to "detain and restrain" bad and psychologically disturbed kids.

This is how all Republics treat their citizens. Think it was much worse when we used to make kids work in factories right?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Thought of the Day- Vicente Fox

Mexico's President Vicente Fox said May 16, 2002 at Club 21 in Madrid: "Eventually, our long-range objective is to establish with the United States, but also with Canada, our other regional partner, an ensemble of connections and institutions similar to those created by the European Union" (or as Gorbachev refers to the EU, the "European Soviet").

My response:

"In matters of conscience, stand like a rock." Thomas Jefferson

"Rather than jingle like the jade, Rumble like the rocks" Lao Tzu

Dear Señor Fox,

Let me be frank, thanks for clarifying your vision of a North American Union similar to the European Union, but that vision is flawed because it does not include the rest of the Americas. If we want Pan-Americanism, that is fine, free bilateral trade and respect for each other as a group of power blocks is also fine. To do it Vicente we need to ensure it is big enough, free enough and productive enough to fulfill Jefferson's vision of pan-American liberty and it must include everyone, even those who offer differing models so that we work together. It was Jefferson's vision to create unified constitutional republics that work together and are partners like the individual states of the United States.

I am not sure if the unified monetary policy is a bad idea, in fact it may be a very good idea given the Fed's mismanagement of our dollar. But replacing one central bank with an even bigger conglomerate of banking cartels would be a terrible mistake.

Let's all think of ourselves as Americans from Newfoundland to Tierra Del Fuego, but let's not let Spain build our Texas. As it was documented by the Texas Legislature and initiated by Gov. Rick Perry in 2002 after your remarks, Vicente.

We do not need Henry Clay's bastardized vision of America as the Head Honcho of an empire to do it. We need Jefferson's vision of states that work together and protect each other whether they are to the right or left, like the OAS advocates. That would be a good thing...

If Vermont wants to be socialist and New Hampshire wants to be libertarian we work together to bring about changes and to do business together. All the Americas can do that Vicente.

Let's not let European countries control our resources or extend their imperialism back into our hemisphere under any guise. And let's collectively reassert both the Monroe Doctrine and Pan-American Jeffersonianism along with the Latin American Doctrine of Bolivar, O'Higgins and Jose De San Martin without all this animosity.

The only government Jefferson supported in Europe during the 18th Century was the revolutionary government of France. Those Frenchmen did not mince words, they minced their aristocracy. That is not a very good model for the future Vicente.

You know he said this about the start of the revolution here and repeated it for the French there, "May [the Declaration] be to the world, what I believe it will be ... the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government."

So once we Americans dump Bush we can have pan-Americanism and do so pragmatically, I mean he is only in your words a "windshield cowboy." If I was him, we'd have had an international incident after you said that on national TV. Maybe even a big international incident with you, the former president of Spain Jose Maria Aznar, the former president of Peru Alejandro Toledo; I mean, all of you together seem like extreme big government right wingers to me.

I am sure it is nothing the CIA couldn't solve; but maybe you forgot the last time we had an international conflict with your country? You can read about it here.

Difference being that this time it would not be to extend slavery but to end aristocracy. Imagine what the blessing of human liberty would do for your people.... Good thing I am not president huh, Vicente?

If you are interested in a better pan-American vision I suggest you start with this reading list of on Jeffersonian ideals that are not conducive to a giant federal government and why a giant federal government will not work in the Americas:

Name: Charlick , Carl
Title: "Jefferson's NATO."Publication: Foreign Service Journal Volume: 31
Date: 1954 Pages: 18-21, 58
Notes: TJ attempted to organize European nations to engage with the U.S. in concerted action against the Barbary pirates.

Name: Cox , Isaac Joslin
Title: "The Pan-American Policy of Jefferson and Wilkinson."Publication: MVHR Volume: 1 Date: (1914) Pages: 212-39
Notes: TJ's desire to gain the Floridas influenced his whole attitude toward both Bonaparte and the Spanish colonies.

And continue with these:

For an overview of these concepts, it is helpful to understand Jeffersonian Democracy generally.


This imperial vision is not helpful. It is like European Imperialism. FDR wanted to end both following Jefferson's "good neighbor" doctrine. So did Truman.

This is a remarkable chance for the development of our hemisphere. It will be a real historical tragedy if we waste it on in-fighting. As all these resources show, we cannot maintain any semblance of human liberty if we sell it or its people as a commodity for big government consumption. CATO has repeatedly critiqued the Big Government Federalist vision.

Henry Liu sums it up best in this economic article that helps us understand how the American System works and how it is not anything like Clay or Bush or Milton Friedman's neo-liberal vision of a political economy.

It is time to start listening to what these people have to say.... Are you listening now Vicente?

Weekend Watching- Staring at People on the Subway-Nose Edition

h/t to Stuff Asian People Like for this:

Weekend Watching- Sally Kern Would Not Like This Cartoon- What Values Does This Teach?

You remember Sally Kern, the politician who said that people who are lesbians, gays, or otherwise some type of homosexual were more dangerous to our country that terrorists? Well, I wonder what Ms. Kern would think of a cartoon where a woman turns into a man and whose family turns her back and forth from a man to a woman?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Apparently Lacking Real Crime, NYC Decides to Make Conversation Illegal . . .

. . . at least in theaters or other public events.

According to Liberty for All,

Move over, Miss Manners, politicians want to start correcting people’s rude behavior - at least when it comes to talking on a cell phone.

In New York, the City Council is considering the nation’s first law banning cell phone calls during indoor performances such as movies, concerts and Broadway plays. Call it cell phone etiquette for the chattering class.

The measure, expected to be approved in December, would impose a $50 fine on anyone who uses a cell phone - or fails to turn off the ringer.

Can you picture it?

Imagine every movie theater equipped with phone fighters who dash down the aisle every time a ringer goes off - flashlight in hand - then demand a drivers license from the offender and issue a ticket.

With an army of cell phone cops disturbing the peace, patrons would long for the days when a cell phone ringer was their greatest annoyance.

Another consequence: Diverting officers to “phone patrol” means less manpower to fight real crimes. Shouldn’t protecting people from murder, rape, and robbery get a higher priority than issuing cell phone citations during Harry Potter?

This is where we're headed in this country.

Transportation Security Administration = Two-bit Gestapo

From Cara at The Curvature:

Think it was bad when Southwest Airlines started kicking women off of their planes for dressing “inappropriately?” Well they’ve apparently got nothing on the Transportation Security Administration. They recently forced female traveler Mandi Hamlin to remove her nipple piercings before allowing her to board a plane — even though she offered to show her piercings to the female officer and required pliers to remove the jewelry.

The commentary suggests to me, again, why Feminists and Libertarians follow many of the same lines of thought:

I also don’t think that there’s any huge leap in calling this sexual assault. Granted, it doesn’t seem as though any of the officers touched her. But they did force her to touch private areas of her own body for their personal enjoyment, despite her protestations and despite the pain it caused her. This was not a security measure, but the agents used their authority as an excuse for the abuse. Other than sexual assault, I don’t know what the hell else you call that.

Though I find the whole thing to be outrageous, nothing about it surprises me. When you put men in positions of extreme authority in a patriarchal culture that strongly cherishes that authority, rape and other violence against women (and numerous other oppressed groups) is just going to happen — particularly when the violence is regularly condoned, ignored and defended. And it does happen. All the fucking time. It’s only natural that once federal security starts taking a larger role in our daily lives, and once those who used to be lowly security have supreme authority, more dangerous and discriminatory abuse of power will follow.

And just for kicks and grins, how does the TSA respond to all this? From the official TSA website:

TSA has reviewed the circumstances related to the screening of a passenger with body piercings that occurred recently in Lubbock, Texas. It appears that the Transportation Security Officers involved properly followed procedures in that incident. They rightly insisted that the alarm that was raised be resolved. TSA supports the thoroughness of the Officers involved as they were acting to protect the passengers and crews of the flights departing Lubbock that day.

TSA has reviewed the procedures themselves and agrees that they need to be changed. In the future TSA will inform passengers that they have the option to resolve the alarm through a visual inspection of the article in lieu of removing the item in question. TSA acknowledges that our procedures caused difficulty for the passenger involved and regrets the situation in which she found herself We appreciate her raising awareness on this issue and we are changing the procedures to ensure that this does not happen again.

So this is the party line of our new Gestapo; It was appropriate for a bunch of sweaty, giggling bureaucrats to force a woman to use pliers to remove her nipple rings, while ignoring her belly-button ring.

Next thing you know, you'll have to give the Nazi salute to get on a plane.

Weekend Watching- How To Create the Perfect Big Brother State

I was driving down the street today when I noticed a new 360 degree optical view closed circuit camera with facial recognition the same type I noticed in the EU- what was it doing hanging over a red light?


In that vein let me present you to the Big Brother State in easy steps.

Anyone can understand it- this is for your weekend viewing pleasure and for your own protection you see. You can even buy the facial recognition software for your own computer. because as of today, I see it as a new reality for Americans.

It was interesting for me anyway, I was discussing this with a friend of mine who speaks Russian, he reminded me that, "Vhat you expect? Chertoff is colloquial Russian for 'son of devil'; you people stupid enough to hire him, you know dey say that you get vhat you buy, vell you got vhat you bought....ha.ha.ha....чёрт - tshert mean devil's- like belong to him- and "off" mean "son of"....ha.ha.ha...." for some reason I am not laughing so much.


What is important about the PA Democratic Primary is the Turn-Out, Not the Result

For Senator Barack Obama, so far success has depended on energizing new voters and collecting the support of independents.

This has manifested itself in high turn-out for both caucuses and primaries.

Some polls suggest that the Reverend Wright affair is cutting into that support.

How we will know (and what the Clintons will be looking for) is by how high the turn-out goes in the PA primary.

If the turn-out is above average, even by a few percentage points, then Obama has weathered the storm.

If the turn-out is average or below average, then Obama has been significantly hurt by the incident, and you can look for Hillary to take it all the way to the convention.

ATHF- Around the Horn Friday, Black Market Edition

OK boys and girls, you are at my tender mercies and I am going to sell you the goods faster than a South East Asian pirate sells spare boat parts at a floating marine market. That is, even faster than our politicians sell votes to lobbyists. Maybe.

This week's best story goes to Duffy who has a piece on why there is a Thieves Market located a few blocks from the UN. While over at Down with Absolutes, Mat Marshall has been sold as the youngest communications director ever to Karen Hartley-Nagle. Congratulations Mat you are going to be a national figure soon!

Delaware Liberal is bashing (un) "free" markets and that bastion of corporatism Walmart for selling out a woman who was paralyzed and they are sure someone owns Dave Burris.

Shirley at Delaware Curmudgeon is selling something that we really need, wind power.

Dana at Delaware Watch is selling us the fact that no one from the Delaware GOP wants to run for governor. Mike Protack asks, "Dana why did you forget me? I am running."

Kavips, continues to send out a beacon call for independents, to sway the political winds of the state.

Over at FSP (Sorry Dave I like the old school) David and the guys are cutting the hell out of the budget so we don't buy too much. And William Chandler made a guest appearance to call for a reasonable approach to the politics of development in lower Delaware. A voice of reason? Wow. Moving on....

At the Colossus of Rhodey, Hube is ripping the ignorant, but I still can't get his site to work. Hmmm. Wonder why?

While taking on the complex problem of Mid-East Peace, apparently Nancy stole George W. Bush's monogrammed bath robe. Good Job Nancy.

Jokers to the Right have been on spring break but have some interesting articles about state-wide politics. Buying all the good stuff I suppose....

Finally Waldo is taking aim at Sally Kern for comparing homosexuals to terrorists. They are not- everybody knows they all want to be firemen, Indian chiefs, construction workers and pirates....who can tell me I'm wrong? Anyway, nobody shops more than a bitchy queen boy when they are really frustrated, screw that Kern lady. She needs to get laid.

You'll have to trust me on this one.

And be prepared this Saturday morning, Tommywonk, Shirley and Dace will be on WILM 1450 AM to discuss all the things that need discussing.

While Becky the Girl in Shorts always discusses what I like....And I was worried about the relationship between men and women...

Before you leave the market make sure to check out Steve, Tyler and my idiosyncratic Libertarian rantings and drug legalization arguments.....we have been jamming all the goods into this black market blog.

While Tyler got the big headlines this week by announcing that Tom Ross will running for the GOP chairmanship, let's hope he pirates the party for the Libertarians.....And Steve's brilliant analysis of exactly how much property the government landlord owns is worth more than a read, well, it is brilliant. Good job Prof.

It's been fun, before you go remember to take this weekend to reflect on all the things we will have to write about next week.

Next week, I nominate Jason330 at Delaware Liberal for Around the Horn Friday, unless Dave Burris wants to do it....Peace out.

Uh-Oh, A Libertarian Finally Got the Oppurtunity to Review the Federal Budget....

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Answer for Liberalgeek: Supporting a $.50 minimum-wage increase is like supporting the surge in Iraq . . .

. . . it creates the dangerous illusion that we're somehow winning (or even fighting) the right war.

Last week I posted Minimum wage, living wage, and the State as Vampire to the Working Poor, in which I argued that the real culprit in keeping the poor in working poor was the government tax bite, not the penury of business owners. If you haven't read that one, you should go back and do so, because the argument is pretty detailed.

But if you're not willing, here was my main point: Poverty in America's Living Wage Calculator reports for Delaware that Federal and State taxes (income plus payroll) take a 16.5% bite out of a family of four struggling to reach their target living wage of $45,673. If we were to adopt the principle of not taxing people until after they had earned enough money to meet their family's basic needs, each earner in a two-income family of four would only need to average $9.57/hour in order to achieve the living wage. Under our current tax structure, however, those earners now need to bring home $11.46/hour to make the ends meet.

Essentially, eliminating those taxes for people below the living wage is the equivalent of giving both earners a $2/hour raise, instead of the $.50/hour raise envisioned in current legislation.

Liberalgeek then entered the dialogue with me in the comments section. After several interchanges, I challenged him:

I go back to my original premise and ask if you can sign on to it in principle: the government should not be able to tax your income until after you have made enough to provide the basic necessities for your family.

He met this in a forthright manner, and then added a counter-challenge:

Indeed I can sign on to it, in principle. I am looking at ways to help now.

From a legislative standpoint, there is only a yes or no question on the table. So, let me kick it back to you, my friend, yes or no to the minimum wage hike on the table?

Legitimate question, that I could not answer immediately because (as we all know happens occasionally) real life intervened.

But his willingness to answer my challenge straight out places the obligation on me to be equally frank:

My answer is no. But I think my reasons are quite different from what most people would expect, so I want to lay them out and let people examine them closely.

First I wanted to check and see if what I found for Delaware held true for other states. That Living Wage Calculator is a great tool with one serious flaw. You can figure out the living wage for a lot of counties in the US and even their projected averages for entire states, but you can't--even for ballpark estimates--do a general average for the entire country. I realize that, given the varying costs of living around the nation it would a very abstract term, but it wasn't the cost of living I was interested in--it was the tax burden.

So--truth in advertising--I did an incomplete survey, looking at several noted high-tax states (Connecticut, Massachusetts), several low tax states (Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee), and a few in the middle. I had neither the time nor (at least not today) the inclination to work my way through all fifty states. So the statistical conclusions I offer below are rough impressions at best.

I discovered that the tax bite on the working poor in Delaware (16.5%) is probably right around the national median. Tennessee had the lowest I found (14.4%), which is certainly because the Volunteer State has no income tax. Massachusetts, on the other hand, hit the working poor for 19.6%. Most states (I did fourteen of them) ran in the 15-17% range.

(Side note: people may get a lot more in services for their 19.6% in Massachusetts, which is impossible to quantify using this data, but I remain skeptical.)

So what I discovered (I think) is that on average the government is reaching into the pockets of the people just scraping by and taking out (for a family of four) $7,000-8,000/year. Imagine what that family could do with an additional $288 of net income every two weeks.

Now consider the proposed minimum wage increase of $.50/hour. Poverty in America points out that raising the minimum wage is not a very effective way of improving people's lives. Why? Because of taxes! The site notes that a $.70/hour increase only actually nets the worker a $.30/hour increase in purchasing power. By that standard, the $.50/hour increase under consideration works out to a paltry $.21/hour increase in purchasing power.

Over the course of two forty-hour weeks (one for each of our earners), that's just $16.80 more a week, $33.60 more every two weeks.

Let's see: $33.60 versus $288.00? Which to choose?

Liberalgeek essentially suggests--and it is a point we must consider--that the difference is that the $33.60 is potentially available now, that some relief is better than no relief, and that it's unlikely my proposal would ever actually be adopted.

My problem is that--like the surge in Iraq--all raising the minimum wage a few cents here or a few cents there does is to (a) create the mistaken impression that we're making progress toward helping the working poor reach a living wage, and (b) even worse arguably prevents us from ever taking the big steps necessary to fix the problem.

Why? Because it continues to avoid and ignore the government's direct role in keeping the working poor from making it by taxing them at unjustifiably high rates.

Yesterday I posted A Few Facts for Those Who Think We Can't Have A Limited Government, at the end of which I noted (talking about the Federal government alone):

So let's recap the Federal Government's holdings in just three areas:

Land: 670,000,000 acres (we think, but even the government doesn't know for sure)

Federal buildings: 1,700 (most decaying, many being deserted by government agencies, and now being leased to the private sector instead of being liquidated)

Military bases: 3,700 (including 766 in other countries) with nearly 600,000 "buildings, structures and utilities" spread between them. (That means, by the way, that the US military owns roughly one building for every three troops.)

We're not taxing the working poor to pay for essential services like health care or police protection--we're taxing them to subsidize the Federal government as the largest landlord on the entire planet.

So, Geek, here's the short version of a long-winded answer: I will only support minimum-wage increases that are guaranteed by the government to be tax-free, so that these workers actually get to keep the money.

Otherwise, all we're doing is erecting concrete barriers in Baghdad and pretending we've brought peace to Iraq--because on the current terms every minimum-wage increase is also a tax revenue increase on the poorest working Americans.

And that's a large compromise for me, by the way, because I really want to tie them to drastic tax reductions or eliminations for our working poor, tax eliminations that are paid for by reducing the size of our bloated government, not by spreading the debt to other income ranges.

BREAKING : Tom Ross - The Next Chairman of the State GOP

Tom Ross, currently the Chairman of the Wilmington Republican Party, will be running for State Chairman of the Delaware Republican Party.

Tom just sent out the announcement. He let the State Executive Committee know last night. To my knowledge he will be unopposed for the position.

I can't think of a better person for the job. I have known Tom for years. In spite of some wrangling when I ran for State Senate in 2006, we remain great friends.

More importantly, he is a very libertarian-oriented, inclusive, grassroots Republican who has, as long as I have known him, been about accountable limited government in Delaware. He is practical on issues with no ideological axes to grind.

When I heard about Terry Strine stepping down Tom was the first person I thought about and I certainly hoped he would go for it. He is going to make an excellent state chair and will get the party on track and growing again. This is a huge step forward for Delaware Republicans.

It looks like the FARC got itself......

....depleted Uranium from Colombia or from someone else? Interpol is investigating. The case is still open but at least these days the OAS/OEA is doing and monitoring the investigation. It seems likely that they got it from Colombia or an arms dealer and were trying to strut their stuff, good thing is that they are in the jungle....

It is not quite Steve's biggest fear, and confirms many of the suspicions I have had about the case and real causes of the conflict have more to do with the Exxon case against Venezuela or at least as much as the hostility between the governments, as both are partners with the U.S. against terrorism: one on the pragmatic big-government left, one on the big-government right.

I am waiting to see what the OAS/OEA discovers with Interpol's help. (For Interpol it is more important then this case by far)

We can speculate now- could the depleted uranium have been in the form of bullets? Is it just a pretext of the Colombian government to try to save face and justify its claims? Was Hugo Chavez the boogey man people thought he was? Is the FARC trying to cause a war between the states for its own advantage? It is still unclear.

But what is clear is that there was no threat of a bomb or anything like it, so now all the states in the region are scrambling to save face.

It is interesting to watch this unfold, so let me share a bit of it with you.

The press in Latin America has not discovered much yet, Bloomberg has not discovered much yet, but both simply cast the bait back and is like a spicy love triangle on a Univision soap opera with the OAS/OEA acting as the good guys.

Chavez `Concerned' by Colombia Claims of FARC Ties (Update1)
By Matthew Walter

March 27 (Bloomberg) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he's ``concerned'' that the
Colombian government continues to publish accusations linking his government and the government of Ecuador with Colombia's biggest guerrilla group.

Chavez said he called Colombian President Alvaro Uribe yesterday to discuss why Colombia continues to publish accusations based on information in four laptop computers recovered from a guerrilla camp.

``This computer could say anything,'' Chavez said today during a visit to Brazil, in comments broadcast by state television. ``I expressed my concern that they keep doing these things, that they keep saying these things -- that Ecuador supports guerrillas, that Venezuela supports guerrillas.''

Chavez said making the data on the computers public amounts to a ``provocation.'' Earlier this month, he said that Colombia's attack on a camp of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia in Ecuadorean territory might provoke a war.

The Venezuelan president said he's spoken with Uribe three times since the leaders agreed to resolve the conflict March 7, and that he's pleased with the message he's received from the Colombian leader.

``Beyond that, there are very powerful forces at work,'' Chavez said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Matthew Walter in Caracas at

Even the same paper is getting two stories, so ferreting out the truth is very difficult:

Colombia Probes FARC Ties to Uranium Seized in Bogota (Update1)
By Joshua Goodman

March 27 (Bloomberg) -- Colombian authorities are investigating what the country's biggest guerrilla group planned to do with 30 kilograms (66 pounds) of depleted uranium seized in a raid on the outskirt of Bogota.

General Freddy Padilla, head of Colombia's armed forces, said in a news conference yesterday that authorities were led to the buried cache by informants linked to an arms dealer named on slain rebel leader Raul Reyes's computer. The find supports intelligence that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, were trying to get uranium since 2005, Padilla said.

``It's exactly the same material listed on Reyes' computer,'' said Padilla. ``Why the FARC were so anxious to obtain this material we still don't know.''

The seizure of the uranium underscores the value of intelligence gleaned from a half-dozen laptop computers the military seized from the FARC this month and shows how the underground operations of the 44-year-old insurgency are crumbling. Colombia used data from Reyes's laptops, taken after a lethal cross-border raid into Ecuador, to implicate the governments of Venezuela and Ecuador in supporting the rebels.

Colombia's Vice President Francisco Santos said earlier this month that evidence on the laptops showed the FARC was seeking 50 kilograms of uranium to build dirty bombs, conventional explosives that spread radioactive materials.

The U.S., Canada and the European Union classify the FARC as a terrorist group.

Health Risk

The material found yesterday in a rural area outside the city poses no health risk and can't be used to build a dirty bomb, Charles Ferguson, a nuclear affairs analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. A video released by the military showed it had a slow radiation rate of 1.5 Microsieversts per hour, he said.

``You could stand next to this material for days and nothing would happen to you, unless you dropped it on your foot,'' said Ferguson.

Possible uses for the FARC might include making armor- piercing conventional weapons or an ingestible poison, Ferguson said. Less likely, the metal could be used as a shield while handling more potent radioactive materials that would be used to make a dirty bomb.

`Stronger Rocket'

``The FARC may have wanted this material to build a stronger rocket that destroys the president or a minister's armored car, not create a weapon of mass destruction,'' said Cesar Restrepo, from Bogota's Security and Democracy Foundation.

Padilla said informants he didn't identify, who are close to an apparent arms supplier Reyes called ``Belisario,'' led the military to the uranium. Authorities are investigating the origin of the material, he said.

Embossed on the two metal lodes, in English, was the warning ``Caution: Radioactive Material. Depleted Uranium,'' according to the military's video.

The computer files have already led authorities in Costa Rica on March 17 to uncover $480,000 in cash at a guerrilla safe house. Authorities said it also was useful in tracking down in Thailand suspected Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

``Reyes's computers are proving to be a gold mine, everything listed on it that President Hugo Chavez says are lies is proving true,'' said Restrepo. [meaning it is true that they are lies? Or true that Exxon mobile placed them on the computer, or true that Chavez was somehow complicit? It is never made clear in the English story but in the Spanish version, it makes it a little more clear that Chavez was not involved except to transfer money from one group of countries to free hostages the Farc was holding] It even was suggested here with Chavez joking that George Bush was likely to find he and Osama Bin Laden together on the Laptop and in Spanish- with a cut out head and a turban on.... because Chavez says, in the Latin papers, he is sure that someone is setting him up and as usual points at George Bush and the Empire.

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez has said evidence on Reyes's computers showing he funneled $300 million to the FARC was a fabrication.

``This computer could say anything,'' he said during a visit today to Brazil.

To contact the reporter on this story: Joshua Goodman in Bogota at

While the news from Brazil rejected Colombia's claim and in a statement today supported the OAS/ OEA declaration of the soverign rights of states and came out in support of Chavez who was called in some publications the "humorist" of Latin America.

Recife, Brasil, 27 Mar. ABN .- Con referencia a la reciente crisis suscitada entre Ecuador y Colombia, el presidente de la República Federativa de Brasil, Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva, afirmó que su país no acepta, bajo ninguna circunstancia, la intervención de la soberanía de un país por otro, y es la posición que ha expresado siempre.

Dijo que la posición expresada por su gobierno en la Reunión de Cancilleres de la Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA) fue clara y representa su respaldo a la soberanía de Ecuador."La posición de Brasil fue clara en defensa de la soberanía de Ecuador en la OEA. Ahora, no aceptamos bajo ninguna hipótesis, que un país interfiera en la soberanía de otro. Punto y final, sentenció."

La aseveración la hizo este jueves durante una rueda de prensa que realizó junto al presidente de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, en la ciudad de Recife, estado de Pernambuco, con motivo de la realización de una reunión bilateral para revisar los acuerdos de cooperación vigentes y la concreción de nuevos instrumentos.

Es importante mencionar que durante la visita del Primer Mandatario Nacional a la referida ciudad carioca, los Gobiernos de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela y la República Federativa del Brasil suscribieron ocho instrumentos de cooperación en las áreas de educación, agropecuaria, desarrollo productivo y seguridad alimentaria, a fin de ampliar las relaciones bilaterales y promover la integración regional.

The Libertario, and the Libertarian Parties of most parts of Latin America are questioning the premise of the conflict.... even as they provide excellent critical analysis of each individual government in the region. You can download the entire Libertario webzine at the link above if you can read Spanish.

Let's hope Interpol can solve this case, and let's hope they make sure they know where the information on that laptop came from.

Good thing for all of Latin America that OAS works much better than conflict.

Graft is How Politics Works... least until this guy comes around. Ben Olken who studies graft, corruption and the politics of assassination is one of the most gifted young economists discusses why politics and graft go together like bricks and mortar for some societies. We are no exception, where throughout the 19th century Jacksonian democracy encouraged a type of nepotistic graft, as well as a type of oligarchy. This was perfectly represented by the infamous William "Boss" Tweed.

I think much of what we are seeing today is the same old oligarchy reassert itself to in their own words, "correct the excesses of democracy" which instead of translating into promoting constitutional liberty, as it should have, has translated into reasserting oligarchic control to dominate your life with restrictive orders, laws and rules. Oh joy.

"I'm the law around here see...." I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for you to watch this last link.....

Bob Marley in Delaware

It is a little known historical fact that reggae superstar Bob Marley and part of his family live in Delaware. Not only that, but they run Tuff Gong clothing.

On his website it points out that:

Bob's mother, Cedella, had remarried and moved to Delaware in the United States where she had saved sufficient money to send her son an air ticket. The intention was for Bob to start a new life. But before he moved to America, Bob met a young girl called Rita Anderson and, on February 10, 1966, they were married.

Marley's stay in America was short-lived. He worked just enough to finance his real ambition: music. In October 1966 Bob Marley, after eight months in America, returned to Jamaica. It was a formative period in his life.

Every year we hold the People's Festival to honor Bob Marley and his contribution to Delaware's cultural heritage.

The first time I was in the hospital, Bob's aunt was my nurse and as a 10 year old I had the biggest crush on her....ahh the good old days....

His mother's house is still in Wilmington. The family bought a home that still stands at 2313 Tatnall Street and members of the extended family continue to live here and work for social justice.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A few facts for those who think we can't have a limited government. . . .

. . . because I persist in believing that they don't have the slightest idea just how bloated the leviathan has become.

First, think about Federal lands. East of Denver the US government owns less than 2% of the land. West of Denver the Federal government owns an astounding 65% of it. Break that down by states, and you find that the Feds own 98% of Alaska, 86% of Nevada, 65% of Idaho.

Exactly how much land is that? Nobody knows. That's right--not even the Feds themselves, because--as MAPPS (the Management Association of Private Photogrammetic Surveyors--points out in a recent position paper:

How much land does the Federal Government own? Congress can have a healthy debate over whether the
government’s real property portfolio is too large or too small, but the answer to the above question is – we
really don’t know.

In December 2006, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported the Federal government failed its
audit for FY 2006. GAO has repeatedly (108th, 109th, 110th Congresses) designated Federal Real Property Asset
Management one of the high-risk areas within the Federal government most prone to waste, fraud and abuse.
One of the reasons cited by GAO is the fact that the government does not have a current, accurate inventory of
the land it owns. The General Services Administration (GSA) collects data from at least 30 Federal agencies,
but its system has been criticized by GAO for being “unreliable and of limited usefulness” and “not current or

Representatives Chris Cannon (R-UT) and Ron Kind (D-WI) have repeatedly introduced legislation called FLAIR (Federal Land Asset Inventory Reform Act) since 2005, without success. Cannon argues that we need an updated database because

The federal government owns an estimated 670 million acres of land, almost one-third of all land in America. The key word here is “estimated”. The fact is, we really don’t know. To make matters worse, not only do we not know what the federal government owns, we also don’t know what all the federal land is being used for, where its boundaries are located, or whether it is being put to its best use.

Let's try that number again: 670,000,000 acres out of 2,263,960,000 total, or about 29.6% of all land in the United States.

Don't get me wrong: there are often good reasons for the holding of public land--but tell me, did you really know that the government owned between one-fourth and one-third of all the land in the country?

Next, consider Federal buildings.

According to the General Accounting Office, the US Government owns approximately 1,700 Federal buildings, or:

. . . an average of 34 Federal buildings per state . . .

Many of these buildings are in such poor shape that the GAO estimated nearly a decade ago that, despite receiving an average yearly repair budget of $606 million, it would require at least an additional $4 Billion to conduct backlogged repairs that threaten the health and safety of workers, customers, and visitors to these facilities. I cannot find more recent figures, but a glance at recent Federal budgets verifies that this $4B was never allocated, leading me to believe that the number of needed repairs have probably increased significantly.

The GAO reports are filled with unintentional irony. As Federal buildings become too decrepit for some agencies to remain, they move out into more costly leased space in privately owned buildings, leaving the GAO to argue before Congress for additional repair funds, not to bring back the government agencies that have fled, but to attract private lessees in order to generate more income for the upkeep of the buildings, because, after all:

Unlike a private sector company, GSA cannot always dispose of a building simply because it would be economically advantageous to do so.

Which may, after all, be the most significant sentence in the various reports.

Finally (at least for tonight), consider American military bases and buildings at home and abroad.

(Note: this map was generated in 2003, prior to the beginning of construction of at least twelve major, permanent bases in Iraq.)

According to the Pentagon,

The Department of Defense remains one of the world’s largest “landlords” with a physical plant consisting of more than 571,200 facilities (buildings, structures and utilities) located on more than 3,700 sites, on nearly 30 million acres.

DOD admits to 766 bases overseas in forty foreign countries, including more than 50,000 "buildings, structures, and utilities" on other nations' soil.

Careful researchers like Chalmers Johnson point out that these estimates are in fact way too low, as they ignore (a) facilities with a total worth of less than $10 million; (b) bases considered transient or temporary that nonetheless exist for multiple years; (c) US buildings and structures owned with foreign military bases; (d) bases officially owned by the State Department or the CIA but utilized by the military; and (e) bases that the military has determined to have operational security requirements that prohibit releasing information.

For example, the Pentagon figures omit several thousand National Guard and Reserve component armories around the country because their individual building value doesn't necessarily reach $10 million, as well as all bases in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq, Israel, Kosovo, Kyrghizistan, and Macedonia.

So let's recap the Federal Government's holdings in just three areas:

Land: 670,000,000 acres (we think, but even the government doesn't know for sure)

Federal buildings: 1,700 (most decaying, many being deserted by government agencies, and now being leased to the private sector instead of being liquidated)

Military bases: 3,700 (including 766 in other countries) with nearly 600,000 "buildings, structures and utilities" spread between them. (That means, by the way, that the US military owns roughly one building for every three troops.)

And I thought I needed to clean out the garage. . . .

American Economic News, Politics & The Ship of State: A Picture of the Day in Review

Since Steve and Tyler are taking a moment to vent, there is something I need to get off my hairy chest by way of a day in review. Let's dive right in....

While Carl Ichan continues to make financial and business deals in a way that will position his companies for a bright financial future. The same cannot be said for Henry Paulson or the U.S. housing market.

And while weaker economic growth led stocks lower for a second day after what I call the "fools rally" American equities and ownership of resource shares globally is on the same track as Her Majesty's Northern Rock Bank. With both Social Security and American medical programs like Medicaid and medicare driving up the demand for services. You may ask, well, how does having programs like Medicaid and Medicare drive up demand?

Well they do, they in essence are government mandated programs that control and periodically increase costs for services to make the managers of HMO's and group managed health care rich while leaving the non-managerial nurses, porters and even doctors left to handle the burden of the uninsured. But if we look closely, voluntary insurance programs in the end cost much less then mandatory insurance and health care programs for the critically ill are less then 5% of overall military spending in the United States.

In that sense we are not like France or Norway.

American politics on the other hand remains mired in the classic post-modern triad of 1. race, 2. gender and 3. sexuality. With tensions flaring over even tiny insults or slight innuendos that could cause the loss of face everyone from the bastions of right-wing-know-it-all-ism to those among the left's new-found feelings of moral vindication after seven long years of the current administration, have been on the offensive.

I know, I know you'll say, America's list of addictions are long, her vices numerous, but none more so than the continuing inability to live with people as they are without judging them. I can almost hear you ask "Brian you always talk about tolerance, people must think you are nuts!?"

Well, I am sure some do. But the fundamental lesson to learn is that to operate in free markets you need trust; and to develop trust you need some level of social toleration and understanding between people. Hmmm. Sounds really crazy to me.

Ichan says it and gets paid a billion bucks, I say it and people say I'm full of it. That's life.

This lack of tolerance on our part is not any worse than anyone else in the world however, and often it is much better. I would rather be here than discriminated against somewhere else...where I actually am a minority. But at least I know for a fact it is not any worse than Rush Limbaugh. It may be comforting to some to know at least we are not better or worse than anyone else....we all have our moments, don't we? As individuals we are bound to do so; as groups we condemn each other to do so.

But there is an impetus among some in the media to try to control people and to turn them into what "they should be." From Gillian McKeith the food Nazi on the BBC, to the hosts of "What not to Wear" to "Big Brother IV."

Thus in the mainstream media scenario Barack Obama should be more "white," like Tiger Woods. And conversely John McCain is a racist homophobe along with the "she-Clinton" who is not female enough for Laura Ingarham and I listened to a talking color blob on MSNBC say that "everyone likes to complain about something." Everyone. No exceptions. Great sense of finality in that, jackass.

It is would require a long trip down the rabbit hole that is the American psyche to explain the whole thing, but in essence it is a variant of mass cognitive distortion. In the end the media storyline is like a pharmacopoeia of hallucinogens that turn individuals into groups, groups into classes, and always search out an elect worthy of reward and a majority who can rest easy knowing they are the bottom of a very large pyramid.

When the founders told us that people should be judged as an individual on the content of their character, the Puritans among us said, "nah we hate those.....(fill in the blank with a group or class or race or sexual orientation)....who have....(fill in the blank with a real or perceived grievance)."

Incapable of seeing, enjoying and genuinely liking individuals exactly as they are, and God forbid tolerating others and their aspirations, we turn into intellectual cannibals hungrier than the "real ones" that Robinson Crusoe found on the Island. Great commentary on human nature if that is what it is....

So I was so frustrated after listening to this miasma the only way I could represent an overall picture of the day, is through pictures. At least pictures are something everyone can understand and probably will not judge me too harshly for.
I honestly think this picture of the Titanic sums up the political and economic news of the day.

If you listen closely I bet you can almost hear Celine Dion singing "My Heart Will Go On..."

Anyway, that is about how I see so much political drama while serious structural and financial problems continue unabated and unaddressed. I guess we can console ourselves with the fact that we are no better or worse than human beings have ever been.