Category Archives: military

Freedom Is Not Free — Risk In The Age After 9/11 & The Snowden Revelations

NSA Snooping: The War on Terror Is America’s Mania

I’ve voted for him as President twice. He prevented a world-wide depression. He signed the Recovery Act of 2009 launching a transition to a clean energy economy, doubling our renewable power, and financing unprecedented investments in energy efficiency and technology research. He instituted what I have worked to see in the U.S. for decades, nearly universal health insurance with no denials. He shut down our immoral war on Iraq. He removed “Don’t Ask. Don’t Tell” so gays may militarily serve their country with honor. He led us to the point where the Supreme Court allowed federal recognition of same-sex marriages, allowing many of us, including myself, to feel as citizens with actual rights for the first time. He has been a transformative president.

President Obama is also one of my greatest political disappointments.

shutterstock_116570707-e1360254685668He has not shut down the failed war in Afghanistan. He failed in his attempts to shut down the illegal, unethical, and immoral Guantanamo Bay where we imprisoned a total of 779 “detainees” for “indefinite detention,” and where we still imprison 166 persons. He continues escalated use of drone attacks that have killed many innocent victims and likely helped create more terrorists. And, now there is PRISM — a clandestine mass electronic surveillance data mining program operated by the United States National Security Agency (NSA) since 2007…


prism_logoPRISM began as an adjunct to The Enabling Act… uh, I mean Patriot Act… in 2007 with passage of the Protect America Act under the Bush Administration, and we know now that it has been dramatically and dangerously expanded under Obama. The program is operated under the supervision of the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court, or FISC) pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Its existence was leaked several months ago by NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who warned that the extent of mass data collection was far greater than the public knew and included what he characterized as “dangerous” and “criminal” activities.

Published internal documents identified several technology companies as participants in the PRISM program, including Microsoft joining in 2007, Yahoo! joining in 2008, Google joining in 2009, Facebook joining in 2009, Paltalk joining in 2009, YouTube joining in 2010, AOL joining in 2011, Skype joining in 2011, and Apple joining in 2012.

Subsequent disclosures included that the NSA could unilaterally perform “extensive, in-depth surveillance on live communications and stored information” including email, video and voice chat, videos, photos, voice-over-IP chats (such as Skype), file transfers, and social networking details; further, the NSA engaged in “hacking” civilian infrastructure networks in other countries such as “universities, hospitals, and private businesses.” Further releases showed the U.S. had data-mined even the United Nations and offices of our European allies.



I’ve truly grown weary of this trite, generic resort to mimicked patriotism: “Freedom is not free.” I don’t believe most Americans understand the truth behind this phrase and, in fact, get it largely wrong when they make the attempt.

Let me just say that, indeed, “freedom is not free.” Freedom has a cost. It should cost us when we say we will go to war to “fight for our freedom” — or, more to the point contemporarily, protect our oil interests and execute the vendetta of a sitting present whose father was the target of an assassination plan. It should cost us all in blood and in treasure…if the battle is worth engaging. It is the cost against which we would balance any “benefit” of war and violence.

This cost — this payment for freedom — should have meant that many American families — rich and poor… lower, middle, and upper class… urban, suburban and rural — were sending sons and daughters into harms way to protect our perceived “freedoms,” while it should have cost the rest of us the money to fight this war “for freedom.” But that didn’t happen. Mostly poorer, less-educated families tossed their kids into battle, and no taxes were specifically raised or public-financed bond issues bought by citizens.

So, it’s just a trite phrase because most Americans paid nothing for our recent war ventures (our continuing “War Against Terror”) in terms of blood and in terms of treasure…nope, we just put it on the credit card with no sacrifice and let “kids with no future” fight the battles. This freedom most Americans wanted and got for free. The poorer, less educated kids fighting who lost limbs, mental stability, careers… they paid and continue to pay, as will our children who will have to pay off our war credit cards.


Truth is that, in a more meaningful concept, freedom is not free…it has another cost: risk.

True freedom means you live in an open society with free movements and communications and protections through the Constitution. True freedom means risk. It means you are exposed and that this is a good thing. It means that free persons are always at risk from others who may take advantage of our freedoms and hurt us. It is a balance the brave used to proudly accept as the exception in the world.

ike-on-freedomTo be completely relieved from risk would be like living in a self-imposed prison.

This other and perhaps most important area where we see the “freedom is not free” cliché ignored or misunderstood is with the freedom we forfeited for a smidgen more of actual safety and “sense of safety” from the bad international guys as we permitted the Patriot Act and other freedom-robbing laws to be enacted and which effectively nullified some of our guaranteed constitutional freedoms.

A free society means that we may walk down a street without a police battalion present and talk on our cell phones without being monitored and, thus, at risk for someone coming up and hitting us with a kidney punch. That’s the opposite of the non-free, fully monitored and protected society where no one could hostilely run up to you in a public crowd because there is such police presence around, where you chat on the cell phone while your calls are monitored for transmission to whom and where and for how long… where, no one can “hurt” you. In this opposite world, you are no longer in a truly free society, but you do feel safe… whether actually you are or not.

Truth is freedom means risk. It means being exposed to the glory of sunlight and free movement, association, and communication. It means you are vulnerable and know that this is an acceptable price because “Freedom Is Not Free!”

Modern America has grown risk averse and willingly forfeited freedoms of privacy, movement, communications and protection from unreasonable searches and seizures.

071811_tsa-lgFly anywhere lately and have to remove shoes, get scanned, confine travel products to certain sizes, stand in security for an hour? Take a bus or train anywhere and be monitored and checked for danger? Drive your car on interstate highways with pole-mounted cameras or police car-mounted cameras that are snapping millions of license plates daily and recording the information and movements? Talk on your cell phone recently, now knowing that all your calls are being recorded for contacts and length of duration? Send an email or post to Facebook while now knowing that it’s stored in central federal data banks?

Americans couldn’t handle the price — the risk — of freedom and gave it up for perceived safety. But, as Benjamin Franklin said, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”


It seems we Americans have grown unworthy of our central precepts of freedoms and unworthy of the freedoms themselves…because we are unwilling to pay the cost of freedom: blood, treasure, and risk.

As I said to a friend who is very casual about loss of their freedoms from NSA surveillance (because, ostensibly, “they’ve got nothing to hide”):

“You may not want or deserve your freedoms, but I do want and deserve my freedoms… They are guaranteed to me as a Right, and I want them back.”

An insightful article about our American truth comes from outside, from a nation that also once forfeited its freedoms for security: Germany…


NSA Snooping: The War on Terror Is America’s Mania

A Commentary By Klaus Brinkbäumer


The NSA spying scandal shows that America’s pursuit of terrorists has turned into a mania. Spying on citizens is as monstrous and unlawful as Guantanamo Bay and drone warfare. The German government’s response has been woefully weak.

America is sick. September 11 left it wounded and unsettled — that’s been obvious for nearly 12 years — but we are only now finding out just how grave the illness really is. The actions of the NSA exposed more than just the telephone conversations and digital lives of many millions of people. The global spying scandal shows that the US has become manic, that it is behaving pathologically, invasively. Its actions are entirely out of proportion to the danger.

Since 2005, an average of 23 Americans per year have been killed through terrorism, mostly outside of the US. “More Americans die of falling televisions and other appliances than from terrorism,” writes Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times, and “15 times as many die by falling off ladders.” The US has spent $8 trillion on the military and homeland security since 2001.

America has other threats. The true short-term danger is homegrown:

  • More than 30,000 Americans are killed by firearms every year.
  • An American child is 13 times more likely to be shot than a child in another industrialized country.

When it comes to combating the problem, President Barack Obama and Congress are doing very little — or, to be fair, nothing at all. They talk about it every now and then, after every killing spree. The gun lobby, incurably ill, counters that the weapons are necessary for self-defense.

And when it comes to real long-term dangers, such as climate change, America, its prime perpetrator, does nothing — or, to be fair, too little too late.

As Monstrous as Guantanamo

All of this is not to say that terrorism doesn’t exist: 9/11 happened, and al Qaida is real. But spying on citizens and embassies, on businesses and allies, violates international law. It is as monstrous and as unlawful as Guantanamo Bay, where for 11 and a half years, men have been detained and force-fed, often without evidence against them, many of whom are still there to this day. It is as unlawful as the drones that are killing people, launched with a mere signature from Obama.

There has been virtually no political discussion about all of this. Attacks have been prevented through the spying program — Obama says it, German Chancellor Angela Merkel says it, and we have to believe them. Voters and citizens are akin to children, whose parents — the government — know what is best for them.

But does the free America that should be defended even still exist, or has it abolished itself through its own defense?

An American government that gives its blessing to a program like Prism respects nothing and no one. It acts out its omnipotence, considers itself above international law — certainly on its own territory and even on foreign ground. The fact that it’s Obama behaving in such a way is bleak. If this were happening during the administration of George W. Bush, we could at least think, “It’s just Bush. He’s predictable. There is a better America.” Now we know: There is only one America. Did Obama, the Harvard Law student, even believe what he was saying in his speeches about the return of civil liberties? Can someone be so cynical that they promise to heal the world, then act in such a way all the while giving the xenophobic explanation that only foreigners would be monitored? Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela are Obama’s role models. What would they say?

The Stasi Comparison Stands

The German government has shown devastating weakness. Merkel should say, “You are manic, and what you are doing is sick.” That’s what friends do. Instead she weighs every word to avoid annoying the Americans. She said that a comparison between the NSA and the Stasi is inappropriate, but she’s wrong. A comparison doesn’t require that two things be identical. The Stasi destroyed families, the NSA probably not. But the use of technology, the careful nurturing of the image of the enemy, the obsessive collection of data, the belief of being on the right side, the good side: Is there really no resemblance?

Angela Merkel promised to defend the German people from harm. To have your phone wiretapped and accept the fact that every one of your emails could be monitored — the violation of the private sphere — that qualifies as harm.

Every voter knows that realpolitik can be ugly, because politics require the balancing of many considerations. The decisive question is: What greater good justifies this breach of law by the US and the cooperation of German agencies? It is time for answers.


Gun Slingers Overreact To Proper Presidential Executive Orders. Really?

Rand Paul Vows Gun Challenge… State Rep. Proposes Bill Targeting Federal Agents… Mississippi Gov: I’ll Block… Second Congressman Floats Impeachment… Wyoming Lawmaker: Make Assault Weapons Enforcement A Felony… LONE STAR LOON: Rep. Tries To Ban Gun Laws… LAWLESS SHERIFFS: We Won’t Enforce Gun Laws… NRA UNHINGED: Ad Targets Obama Children… ‘Fight Of The Century’

Wow. The president sets out to use his executive powers to enforce laws already on the books and gun slingers across the US react as only the uncontrolled, unbalanced and obsessed are able.

Truly, when YOU say that, “Guns aren’t the problem… People with guns are the problem”… I agree, and I now know it’s you with whom we must be concerned and must fear. You are the threat to my freedoms. You have proven yourselves incapable of restraint and clear thinking under pressure.

Time to send in the jack-booted thugs to confiscate your guns and make the nation safe for civilized citizens. (Oh, that’s right, we don’t have jack-booted thugs you fear nor an effort to collect your weapons you don’t deserve and can’t responsibly handle… crap!)


The PROPER Part Of The Second Amendment That Gun Slingers Ignore:

A WELL REGULATED MILITIA being necessary to the security of a free State…

Not A Well Regulated Militia

Nope, not this either…

Nope, Not This

Oh, God no!

Oh God, No

And… well, this is the point, isn’t it?

And… well, this is the point, isn't it?


See a past Faustian urGe — The Art of Guns, God, and Country — for another interpretation.

Former Secretary Of State Colin Powell Issues New Book… Time To Recall The Iraq Lie

“It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership” by Colin Powell Begs Us To Evaluate Truth Of Iraq War


The Consequences

  •  $3 trillion cost to the U.S. Treasury & Taxpayers, plus massive debt burden on future generations
  • 4,487 U.S. service members dead
  • 100,000 Innocent Iraqis killed
  • 32,226 U.S. service members wounded
  • 500,000 US citizens/service members toll from cumulative psychological and physiological damage


The Lie

  • Bush insisted in his own 2010 memoir, “Decision Points,” that the invasion was something he came to support only reluctantly and after a long period of reflection. During his book tour, he even cast himself as “a dissenting voice” in the run-up to war. “I didn’t wanna use force,” he said.


The Truth

  • In his new book, “It Worked For Me: In Life and Leadership,” former Secretary of State Colin Powell provides the most authoritative confirmation yet AND supports the well-documented conclusion that there was actually no decision-making point — or decision-making process — about going to war with Iraq during the events between the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, a sovereign nation which had nothing to do with those attacks.
  • In his own 2007 memoir, former CIA Director George Tenet admitted, “There was never a serious debate that I know of within the administration about the imminence of the Iraqi threat.” Nor “was there ever a significant discussion” about the possibility of containing Iraq without an invasion.
  • Downing Street Memos, first published in 2005, document the conclusions of British officials after high-level talks in Washington in July 2002 that, “Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”
  • Indeed, history shows through documents and verified facts that W. Bush had long wanted to strike out at Saddam Hussein and was trying to link Iraq to 9/11 within a day of the terrorist attacks.


The Traitors of Truth & Democracy

  • George W. Bush
  • Dick Cheney
  • Condoleezza Rice
  • Donald Rumsfeld
  • Paul Wolfowitz
  • Scooter Libby


The Truth Revealers

  • Colin Powell
  • George Tenet
  • Valerie Plame
  • Joe Wilson
  • Col. Larry Wilkerson

Dresden Military History Museum (Opens)— Architect Daniel Libeskind Invades Germany

Follow Up to Article:

The Military History Museum in Dresden, Germany, has been reopened to the public after an extensive redesign led by US-based architect Daniel Libeskind.

Initially founded in 1897, the attraction is now the official central museum for the country’s armed forces and has more than 10,500 exhibits on display dating back to the 14th century.

The museum is one of the largest across Germany, with around 20,000sq m (215,278sq ft) of exhibition space. The redesign is thought to have cost EUR62.5m (£54.7m, US$86.4m).

At the heart of the new-look museum is a five-storey wedge of glass, concrete and steel that “slices” through the centre of the original 135-year-old building.

The wedge has a 99ft (30.2m) viewing platform overlooking Dresden, with the tip marking the location where the first bombs of an Allied air raid fell on 13 February 1945.

RePost: Letter From A Liberal To A Young Marine (That 53% Guy)

Rarely do I ever like to just repost someone else’s work, but this one… this one… is simply a magnificent liberal response to an “anti-99%” letter from a young and hard-working Marine. The understanding the original author presents is an example to me — and I hope all of us, liberal or conservative — of how to respond to those who disagree with us. I am humbled and awed at once. Great response Max Udargo. You reset the bar very high.

I briefly visited the “We are the 53%” website, but I first saw your face on a liberal blog.  Your picture is quite popular on liberal blogs.  I think it’s because of the expression on your face.  I don’t know if you meant to look pugnacious or if we’re just projecting that on you, but I think that’s what gets our attention.

In the picture, you’re holding up a sheet of paper that says:

I am a former Marine.
I work two jobs.
I don’t have health insurance.
I worked 60-70 hours a week for 8 years to pay my way through college.
I haven’t had 4 consecutive days off in over 4 years.
But I don’t blame Wall Street.
Suck it up you whiners.
I am the 53%.
God bless the USA!

I wanted to respond to you as a liberal.  Because, although I think you’ve made yourself clear and I think I understand you, you don’t seem to understand me at all.  I hope you will read this and understand me better, and maybe understand the Occupy Wall Street movement better.

First, let me say that I think it’s great that you have such a strong work ethic and I agree with you that you have much to be proud of.  You seem like a good, hard-working, strong kid.  I admire your dedication and determination.  I worked my way through college too, mostly working graveyard shifts at hotels as a “night auditor.”  For a time I worked at two hotels at once, but I don’t think I ever worked 60 hours in a week, and certainly not 70.  I think I maxed out at 56.  And that wasn’t something I could sustain for long, not while going to school.  The problem was that I never got much sleep, and sleep deprivation would take its toll.  I can’t imagine putting in 70 hours in a week while going to college at the same time.  That’s impressive.

I have a nephew in the Marine Corps, so I have some idea of how tough that can be.  He almost didn’t make it through basic training, but he stuck it out and insisted on staying even when questions were raised about his medical fitness.  He eventually served in Iraq and Afghanistan and has decided to pursue a career in the Marines.  We’re all very proud of him.  Your picture reminds me of him.

So, if you think being a liberal means that I don’t value hard work or a strong work ethic, you’re wrong.  I think everyone appreciates the industry and dedication a person like you displays.  I’m sure you’re a great employee, and if you have entrepreneurial ambitions, I’m sure these qualities will serve you there too.  I’ll wish you the best of luck, even though a guy like you will probably need luck less than most.

I understand your pride in what you’ve accomplished, but I want to ask you something.

Do you really want the bar set this high?  Do you really want to live in a society where just getting by requires a person to hold down two jobs and work 60 to 70 hours a week?  Is that your idea of the American Dream?

Do you really want to spend the rest of your life working two jobs and 60 to 70 hours a week?  Do you think you can?  Because, let me tell you, kid, that’s not going to be as easy when you’re 50 as it was when you were 20.

And what happens if you get sick?  You say you don’t have health insurance, but since you’re a veteran I assume you have some government-provided health care through the VA system.  I know my father, a Vietnam-era veteran of the Air Force, still gets most of his medical needs met through the VA, but I don’t know what your situation is.  But even if you have access to health care, it doesn’t mean disease or injury might not interfere with your ability to put in those 60- to 70-hour work weeks.

Do you plan to get married, have kids?  Do you think your wife is going to be happy with you working those long hours year after year without a vacation?  Is it going to be fair to her?  Is it going to be fair to your kids?  Is it going to be fair to you?

Look, you’re a tough kid.  And you have a right to be proud of that.  But not everybody is as tough as you, or as strong, or as young.  Does pride in what you’ve accomplish mean that you have contempt for anybody who can’t keep up with you?  Does it mean that the single mother who can’t work on her feet longer than 50 hours a week doesn’t deserve a good life?  Does it mean the older man who struggles with modern technology and can’t seem to keep up with the pace set by younger workers should just go throw himself off a cliff?

And, believe it or not, there are people out there even tougher than you.  Why don’t we let them set the bar, instead of you?  Are you ready to work 80 hours a week?  100 hours?  Can you hold down four jobs?  Can you do it when you’re 40?  When you’re 50?  When you’re 60?  Can you do it with arthritis?  Can you do it with one arm?  Can you do it when you’re being treated for prostate cancer?

And is this really your idea of what life should be like in the greatest country on Earth?

Here’s how a liberal looks at it:  a long time ago workers in this country realized that industrialization wasn’t making their lives better, but worse.  The captains of industry were making a ton of money and living a merry life far away from the dirty, dangerous factories they owned, and far away from the even dirtier and more dangerous mines that fed raw materials to those factories.

The workers quickly decided that this arrangement didn’t work for them.  If they were going to work as cogs in machines designed to build wealth for the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts and Carnegies, they wanted a cut.  They wanted a share of the wealth that they were helping create.  And that didn’t mean just more money; it meant a better quality of life.  It meant reasonable hours and better working conditions.

Eventually, somebody came up with the slogan, “8 hours of work, 8 hours of leisure, 8 hours of sleep” to divide the 24-hour day into what was considered a fair allocation of a human’s time.  It wasn’t a slogan that was immediately accepted.  People had to fight to put this standard in place.  People demonstrated, and fought with police, and were killed.  They were called communists (in fairness, some of them were), and traitors, and many of them got a lot worse than pepper spray at the hands of police and private security.

But by the time we got through the Great Depression and WWII, we’d all learned some valuable lessons about working together and sharing the prosperity, and the 8-hour workday became the norm.

The 8-hour workday and the 40-hour workweek became a standard by which we judged our economic success, and a reality check against which we could verify the American Dream.

If a family could live a good life with one wage-earner working a 40-hour job, then the American Dream was realized.  If the income from that job could pay the bills, buy a car, pay for the kids’ braces, allow the family to save enough money for a down payment on a house and still leave some money for retirement and maybe for a college fund for the kids, then we were living the American Dream.  The workers were sharing in the prosperity they helped create, and they still had time to take their kids to a ball game, take their spouses to a movie, and play a little golf on the weekends.

Ah, the halcyon days of the 1950s!  Yeah, ok, it wasn’t quite that perfect.  The prosperity wasn’t spread as evenly and ubiquitously as we might want to pretend, but if you were a middle-class white man, things were probably pretty good from an economic perspective.  The American middle class was reaching its zenith.

And the top marginal federal income tax rate was more than 90%.  Throughout the whole of the 1950s and into the early 60s.

Just thought I’d throw that in there.

Anyway, do you understand what I’m trying to say?  We can have a reasonable standard for what level of work qualifies you for the American Dream, and work to build a society that realizes that dream, or we can chew each other to the bone in a nightmare of merciless competition and mutual contempt.

I’m a liberal, so I probably dream bigger than you.  For instance, I want everybody to have healthcare.  I want lazy people to have healthcare.  I want stupid people to have healthcare.  I want drug addicts to have healthcare.  I want bums who refuse to work even when given the opportunity to have healthcare.  I’m willing to pay for that with my taxes, because I want to live in a society where it doesn’t matter how much of a loser you are, if you need medical care you can get it.  And not just by crowding up an emergency room that should be dedicated exclusively to helping people in emergencies.

You probably don’t agree with that, and that’s fine.  That’s an expansion of the American Dream, and would involve new commitments we haven’t made before.   But the commitment we’ve made to the working class since the 1940s is something that we should both support and be willing to fight for, whether we are liberal or conservative.  We should both be willing to fight for the American Dream.  And we should agree that anybody trying to steal that dream from us is to be resisted, not defended.

And while we’re defending that dream, you know what else we’ll be defending, kid?  We’ll be defending you and your awesome work ethic.  Because when we defend the American Dream we’re not just defending the idea of modest prosperity for people who put in an honest day’s work, we’re also defending the idea that those who go the extra mile should be rewarded accordingly.

Look kid, I don’t want you to “get by” working two jobs and 60 to 70 hours a week.  If you’re willing to put in that kind of effort, I want you to get rich.  I want you to have a comprehensive healthcare plan.  I want you vacationing in the Bahamas every couple of years, with your beautiful wife and healthy, happy kids.  I want you rewarded for your hard work, and I want your exceptional effort to reap exceptional rewards.  I want you to accumulate wealth and invest it in Wall Street.  And I want you to make more money from those investments.

I understand that a prosperous America needs people with money to invest, and I’ve got no problem with that.  All other things being equal, I want all the rich people to keep being rich.  And clever financiers who find ways to get more money into the hands of promising entrepreneurs should be rewarded for their contributions as well.

I think Wall Street has an important job to do, I just don’t think they’ve been doing it.  And I resent their sense of entitlement – their sense that they are special and deserve to be rewarded extravagantly even when they screw everything up.

Come on, it was only three years ago, kid.  Remember?  Those assholes almost destroyed our economy.  Do you remember the feeling of panic?  John McCain wanted to suspend the presidential campaign so that everybody could focus on the crisis.  Hallowed financial institutions like Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch went belly up.  The government started intervening with bailouts, not because anybody thought “private profits and socialized losses” was fair, but because we were afraid not to intervene –  we were afraid our whole economy might come crashing down around us if we didn’t prop up companies that were “too big to fail.”

So, even though you and I had nothing to do with the bad decisions, blind greed and incompetence of those guys on Wall Street, we were sure as hell along for the ride, weren’t we?  And we’ve all paid a price.

All the” 99%” wants is for you to remember the role that Wall Street played in creating this mess, and for you to join us in demanding that Wall Street share the pain.  They don’t want to share the pain, and they’re spending a lot of money and twisting a lot of arms to foist their share of the pain on the rest of us instead.  And they’ve been given unprecedented powers to spend and twist, and they’re not even trying to hide what they’re doing.

All we want is for everybody to remember what happened, and to see what is happening still.  And we want you to see that the only way they can get away without paying their share is to undermine the American Dream for the rest of us.

And I want you and I to understand each other, and to stand together to prevent them from doing that.  You seem like the kind of guy who would be a strong ally, and I’d be proud to stand with you.




2011-20: Decade Of U.S. Economic Hell

More Bad News For America’s Worst Decade

Adapted From The Commentary By Paul B. Farrell, MarketWatch

Next decade? Toxic politics promises to make economic matters much worse than even today.

“The U.S. economy appears to be coming apart at the seams,” warned Columbia Prof. Robert Lieberman earlier this year in Foreign Affairs.

Now, over at Foreign Policy magazine, Josh Rogin warns: “This Fight Ain’t Over: Think the debt ceiling gridlock was ugly? Congress is just getting warmed up. Here are eight more foreign-policy battles right around the corner,” when they get back to sinking the economic recovery even deeper this fall.

All this was punctuated last week by the one-day 513-point market drop, S&P’s downgrade of the U.S. credit rating on Friday, as well as the 634-point drop in the stock market yesterday, Monday… and all the implications toward a double-dip recession.

Another Foreign Policy expert, James Taub, warns of what the “debt-ceiling deal tells us about the Tea Party’s grim vision of American power.”

There’s a disaster ahead, Taub writes: “All Guns, No Butter … depleting the national treasury to pay for the military … when many Americans want to reduce the role of government at home and especially abroad, the debt deal just concluded is likely to preserve the country’s hypertrophied defense budget, at least if congressional Republicans get their way.”

Mitch McConnell, the GOP’s Darth Vader, is doing just that, doubling down on his vow to make certain Obama is a one-term president, intentionally ignoring the collateral damage, killing economic recovery.

How? Ol’ Mitch is already sabotaging the new congressional debt “super-committee,” vowing to appoint only Republicans who have signed Grover Norquist’s “no new taxes” pledge.

Expect more deadlocks as economists warn that recovery is impossible without new revenues.

Beyond toxic nondemocratic pledges on taxation, America really is “coming apart at the seams.”

Both parties are to blame:

  • Dems for lack of strong leadership.
  • The GOP and the Tea Party with their bizarre Schumpeterian conviction that destroying the economy is the only way to save America and pave the way for a revival of their anarchistic, free-market Reaganomics.

Politics sabotage economy

Yes folks, our politicians really are out of control, utterly unable to manage the economy. They’re irrational, and worse, clueless and myopic in economics.

No surprise the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI:DJIA) crashed 513 points in one day last week and by 634 points on Monday. Nor a surprise that pundits are pointing to high-tech multiples, warning of a new dot-com crash and double-dip recession, as well as a collapse in commodities, in emerging markets and endless debt problems for Europe.

The WARNING, in short, is that we’re headed into a perfect storm rivaling the disastrous political insanity of the 1930s that prolonged the depression, driving the economy into far reaching global problems that added fuel to an irrational zeitgeist and world war.

Over the past decade we predicted the 2000 crash, the 2008 meltdown and the short-lived 2009 rally, and now it seems quite clear that future historians will indeed look back on the 2011-20 decade as the “Worst Decade in American History.” Worse than the “Great Depression” of the 1930s. Totally predictable, totally denied.

Early this year we made 10 predictions of a chain of events that would reach a critical mass and consume America in a torrent of “creative destruction,” finally crippling • our too-greedy-to-fail monetary/banking system, • our capitalism for the super-rich and • our corrupt political system.

The recent debt-ceiling deal is a wild red flag, warning that it’ll be much worse for a long time.

Dead ahead…

  • a protracted new civil war between special interests and the super-rich versus the middle class and disadvantaged,
  • a wasteful internecine war that will further downgrade America as the world’s superpower, while enemies cheer loudly.
  • So buckle your seat belts folks, it will get uglier and uglier for years.

10 Annual Predictions — a year-by-year look at a decade of economic battles between the haves and have-nots

So here’s an update of my 10 annual predictions, a year-by-year look at a decade of economic battles between the haves and have-nots, with no room for compromise between the three ideologies destroying our nation from within. The “wealth gap,” the greed, the entitlements, the hostilities are now so entrenched, compromise is impossible.

Only a catastrophic 1929-style collapse of capitalism, democracy and a descent into economic hell will force America to restructure.

Here’s how it will unfold in the coming 10 years:

2011: Wall Street’s super-rich control Washington

Thanks to the conservative takeover of America’s so-called democracy over the past three decades, from Reagan to Obama, our activist Supreme Court delivered the coup de grace into America’s psyche last year, overturning long-established precedent giving rich owners of zombie corporations the same rights as live citizens. That decision would have gotten a failing grade in my constitutional-law class back at the University of Virginia.

2012: Super-rich solidify absolute power over our political system

That bizarre Supreme Court decision legalized political bribery. Now, billions pass through lobbyists to politicians with one goal: a promise that every politician vote in line with their ideology. Wealth rules. America is no longer a democracy, not even a plutocracy. Today our middle class is in a rapid trickle down into Third World status, while the rich get richer and the “gap” between the super-rich and the rest steadily widens. It is now irrelevant who wins the 2012 race, because money corrupts and Obama is already a puppet of this system favoring lobbyists and wealthy donors.

2013: Pentagon’s global commodity wars accelerate

During the Bush presidency, Fortune analyzed a classified Pentagon report predicting “climate could change radically and fast. That would be the mother of all national-security issues.” Billions of new people spread unrest worldwide as “massive droughts turn farmland into dust bowls and forests to ashes.” Most disconcerting, from the Pentagon report, “by 2020 there is little doubt that something drastic is happening … an old pattern could emerge; warfare defining human life.” Trapped in denial, political leaders will chose war over cooperation.

2014: Global population exploding, rapidly wasting resources

America’s “conspiracy of the super-rich” drains trillions from middle-class taxpayers. The invested super-rich see global population growth exploding by 100 million annually not as a drain on scarce commodities, but as tool to get richer through free-market globalization, ignoring the tragedies triggered as the population climbs to 10 billion — all demanding more of the world’s limited, nonrenewable resources. In the end, all will be demanding payback for our failures to heed warnings of environmentalists like Bill McKibben: “It might be too late. The science is settled, the damage has already begun.” We can’t save the planet.

2015: ‘Gilded Age’ explodes America’s ‘Global Empire’

Kevin Phillips warned in “Wealth and Democracy” that around the time of the Pentagon’s prediction of WWIII in 2020: “Most great nations, at the peak of their economic power, become arrogant and wage great world wars at great cost, wasting vast resources, taking on huge debt and ultimately burning themselves out.”

Similarly, financial historian Niall Ferguson, author of “Colossus: The Rise and Fall of The American Empire,” warned that we deceive ourselves, thinking “about the political process in seasonal, cyclical terms.”

2016: Reaganomics self-destructs; crashes come

“But what if history is not cyclical and slow-moving but arrhythmic?” asks Ferguson. “What if collapse does not arrive over a number of centuries but comes suddenly,” too rapid to respond in time? The new GOP president ignores the lessons of history, like Jared Diamond’s warnings in “Collapse”: “One of the disturbing facts of history is that so many civilizations share a sharp curve of decline. Indeed, a society’s demise may begin only a decade or two after it reaches its peak in population, wealth and power.”

2017. Middle-class revolution: Buffett’s ‘rich class’ loses

The seeds were planted years ago. Warren Buffett saw the revolution coming: “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” After the 2016 presidential election, political rage explodes into a new civil war. The income “gap” pops a bubble, there’s economic collapse and riots spread against another bailout of our “too-greedy-to-fail” banks. New depression ignites class rebellion.

2018. The Fed and Wall Street collapse, Glass-Steagall reinstated

Diamond says he’s a “cautious optimist:” Leaders need “the courage to practice long-term thinking, make bold, courageous, anticipatory decisions at a time when problems have become perceptible but before they reach crisis proportions.” They delay, fail to act boldly. This crisis triggers a cultural revolution. History tells us most leaders act by short-term self-interest, not long-term public interests, especially politicians funded by billionaires who can’t see past quarterly earnings, year-end bonuses, the next election.

2019: Global commodity wars spread, killing millions, wasting trillions

More than half our federal budget goes to the Pentagon’s war machine, limiting America’s fiscal and monetary policies. In this context, new commodity wars are ignited by an accelerating global population against a decline in the world’s scarce resources. That also forces a total rethinking of the balance between spending to protect against external enemies and a rapid deterioration of domestic programs: employment, education, health care, retirement.

2020. America’s first woman president, patriarchal dominance ends

It is clear that patriarchy — male dominance of world culture, politics and economics throughout history — has failed, bringing the world to the brink of total destruction.

Why do male leaders fail? Jeremy Grantham’s firm GMO manages $108 billion. He predicted the 2008 meltdown and now warns: Male leaders are emotional, “impatient … management types who focus on what they are doing this quarter or this annual budget.” Leadership “requires more people with a historical perspective who are more thoughtful and more right-brained.” Yet “we end up with an army of left-brained immediate doers,” which guarantees that “every time we get an outlying, obscure event that has never happened before in history, they are always to miss it,” as in 2000, 2008, 2012, 2016 and in 2020.

In the coming post-capitalism America…

Grantham’s research suggests that women leaders will naturally emerge not just because the male brain is a short-term saboteur. The bigger reason is that women’s brains have evolved naturally as superior long-term thinkers. Brain researchers tell us 75% of men are short-term left-brain thinkers, while 75% of women tend to have strong right-brain traits as forward-thinkers, more aware of the future, the big picture, with a sense of future consequences, peacemakers rather than gamer-players.

Bottom line: These 10 predictions deserve serious consideration, so invest wisely, defensively and never listen to the happy talk from males across Wall Street, Washington or from the super-rich.

— Paul B. Farrell, MarketWatch

Dresden Military History Museum — Architect Daniel Libeskind Invades Germany

A revolutionary German military museum — designed by architect Daniel Libeskind — is about to open in Dresden. Although established by the German armed forces, the Bundeswehr, the museum’s curators intend that the museum will cast new light on war and the suffering it causes.

Heretofore, most military museums — like the Imperial War Museum in London and the Musée de l’Armée in Paris — seemed as shrines to the glories of warfare rather than places for reflection. Most other war museums showcase weapons, polished machinery and pressed uniforms, celebrate great battles, and recall the heroic deeds of brave soldiers patriotically fighting against the odds and sacrificing their lives for their country.

Dresden: the bombers of the Royal Air Force and the U.S. Army Air Force rained destruction on the Saxon capital, reducing most of the city to piles of rubble, and killing tens of thousands of women and children in the process. One of the few buildings to survive the cataclysmic and morally questioned bombing campaign was the old garrison arsenal, which after the war was turned into a military museum.

Provocative and controversial architect Daniel Libeskind has driven a 30-meter (100-foot) steel-and-glass wedge through the arsenal’s late classicist facade. As a result, the museum looks like the bow of a ship breaking though an iceberg, pointing in the direction from which the British and American bombers came to attack the city.

“It is something like a lantern, a signal, a beacon that evokes the city itself,” Libeskind told the press. “It creates a question mark about the continuity of history and what it means. It gives people a point of reflection.”

The exhibitions are still in the process of being set up.

Part of the museum will try to dissect the relationship between the military and everyday life as reflected in art, fashion, language and photography.

Many of the objects on display are surprising, simply because you’d never expect to find them in a military museum — for instance, models of abused animals that served as the subjects of military experiments, including elephants, cows and dogs.

Just like the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Military History Museum in Dresden will lead visitors from top to bottom.

Gorch Pieken, the museum’s scientific director, thinks the Military History Museum could help Dresden overcome decades of noted self-denial about its darker past and recognize the evil of the war as well as the evil that led to the war. “The people of Dresden tend to forget who actually started the war,” he says.

In August 1943, German soldiers attacked the village of Kommeno in western Greece. They burnt down homes and drove the villagers’ cattle away. They raped the women and tortured the men. They stuffed gasoline-soaked cotton wool into babies’ mouths and lit it. At dawn, a priest with a Bible under his arm confronted the soldiers. He died in a hail of bullets. The Bible fell to the ground.

Historian Gorch Pieken says he tells this story whenever people ask him why he is opening a war museum, and in Dresden of all places. He tells it again as he wanders through the as yet unfinished exhibition, through dark, empty rooms and past oppressive, angular walls designed by architect Daniel Libeskind.

Pieken, 49, reconstructed the attack on Kommeno for the museum. He discovered that the brave priest’s Bible was kept in the village church. Pieken now wants to display the yellowed and bloodstained Bible alongside the other 7,000 objects at the Bundeswehr’s Military History Museum in Dresden, the first war museum of the reunited Germany.

They want to tell the history of war — of all wars — from an entirely new perspective. “We expect to trigger a heated debate,” Pieken says.

Many Dresdeners are appalled by the new architecture, but Libeskind’s uncompromising style has rarely seemed more appropriate than in Dresden.

Dresden had become known for its commendable/reprehensible “progress” in rebuilding the historic structures destroyed during the war and left as rubble during the Communist period. The completion of the Frauenkirche (above, the Lutheran Church of Our Lady) has been particularly applauded almost universally, even while the balance of the historic city center rebuild is duly mocked as a Disney-like romanticized reconstruction in pursuit of forgetting history as bad memory.

Libeskind attacks this faux progress, claiming that “sentimentality is not a foundation on which you can build a new city.”

Libeskind’s aim was to smash through the original imperial structure, convinced that only a radical break with the existing architecture could fulfill the museum’s stated goal of providing a new perspective on war.

The museum addresses the big questions in human history: From where does violence stem? Is humanity evil? Is there such a thing as a just war?

These are the kinds of questions that are being asked in Germany right now as German soldiers are dying in Afghanistan, NATO is bombarding Libya, and a dictator in Syria is having his own people shot and killed.

As the saying goes, the first casualty of war is truth. Certain events are deliberately not talked about, and the negative aspects of narratives are glossed over. Anyone who, like the curators in Dresden, claims to provide the true picture of war, risks sounding presumptuous and at worst naïve.

The only presumptuous and naïve are those who deny the evils of war and seek to avoid truth. The museum aims to stimulate thought so that we may properly balance decisions before going to war again… perhaps then we may have created new solutions to the wars of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya…

Thanks to the thinkers, the creators, the architects, the artists, the historians, the poets, the playwrights who help us to review and rethink with new perspective.