Friday, September 30, 2016

Pentagon chief outlines preparations for nuclear war with Russia

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US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter delivered a speech to “missileers” at the Air Force Global Strike Command base in Minot, North Dakota Monday, defending the massive modernization of the US nuclear arsenal and issuing bellicose threats against Russia.
Carter’s trip to Minot was the first he has taken to a nuclear missile base since becoming secretary of defense in February 2015. It coincided with the steady escalation of conflicts pitting the US against nuclear-armed Russia and China that threaten to ignite a new world war.
The thrust of Carter’s speech was a defense of the Pentagon’s proposed $348 billion plan to rebuild Washington’s so-called nuclear triad of strategic bombers, missiles and submarines. Estimates are that over a 30-year period, this nuclear buildup will siphon fully $1 trillion out of the American economy.
Delivered to the officers and enlisted personnel tasked with launching Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles, each carrying warheads with 60 times the destructive capacity of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, the speech at times seemed to echo the title of the satiric 1964 film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.
This massive US death machine, Carter insisted, provided “the bedrock of security” that has “enabled millions and millions to get up in the morning to go to school, to go to work, to live their lives, to dream their dreams and to give their children a better future.”
He went on to predict that “given what we see in today’s security environment, it’s also likely that our children and their children will probably have to live in a world where nuclear weapons exist.” In reality, assuming the continuation of the present “security environment” and the continued existence of nuclear weapons, there is good reason to fear that the world will be incinerated in the lifetimes of “our children and their children.”
While using the anodyne Pentagon jargon of “our nuclear enterprise” to refer to the US nuclear war arsenal, Carter’s speech contained passages hinting at the undeniable fact that the threat of a nuclear conflagration is now greater than at any time since the height of the Cold War.
He warned that while “in the more than seven decades since 1945, nuclear weapons have not again been used in war, that’s not something we can ever take for granted.”
He added: “In today’s security environment, one that’s dramatically different from the last generation, and certainly the generation before that, we face a nuclear landscape that continues to pose challenges…that continues to evolve, in some ways less predictably than during the Cold War, even though many around the world and even some in the United States are stuck in the Cold War in their thinking.”
What has changed in the wake of the Cold War and the Stalinist bureaucracy’s dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 is the eruption of American militarism, based on the conviction of the US ruling establishment that, with the demise of the USSR, it could freely employ its military might in a bid to assert world hegemony and reverse the global economic decline of American capitalism.
The wars fought over the last quarter century, particularly in the Middle East, have produced a series of debacles and a world historic catastrophe for the peoples of the region. At the same time, they have metastasized into broader conflicts pitting the US ever more directly against Russia and China.
In a press conference after his speech, Carter gave vent to the mounting frustration in Washington over the failure of its five-year-old proxy war for regime change in Syria. This has taken the form of ever more hysterical denunciations of Russia for “war crimes”—this from a government responsible for well over a million deaths in the region.
“What’s going on now in Syria is tragic, disgraceful, preventable, and—as I think everyone around the world has been emphasizing over the weekend—Russia and the Syrian regime bear responsibility for the violence, particularly against civilians,” Carter told the media.
The real concern in Washington is not the loss of civilian lives, but rather the prospect that the Syrian government, backed by Russian airpower, is on the verge of overrunning east Aleppo, one of the last bastions of the Al Qaeda-affiliated militias that constitute the main fighting force in the US-orchestrated war for regime change.
Attacking Russia in his speech, Carter said: “Moscow’s recent saber rattling and building of new nuclear weapons systems raises serious questions about its leaders’ commitment to strategic stability, their regard for long-established abhorrence of using nuclear weapons and whether they respect the profound caution that Cold War-era leaders showed with respect to brandishing nuclear weapons.”
The Obama administration, which recently signaled its decision to abandon even the Democratic president’s pretense of renouncing a nuclear first strike as official US policy, has attempted to portray Russia as responsible for igniting a new nuclear arms race. Given that Russia’s military budget is little more than one-tenth that of the US, and less than that of Washington’s closest Arab ally, Saudi Arabia, this amounts to an absurd pretext.
The nuclear saber rattling is being carried out by the US government, and Carter’s trip to Minot was part of it.
The defense secretary described the nuclear bombers and missiles as a force that served to “enable” US troops “to accomplish their conventional missions around the world.”
“As you know, they’re standing with our NATO allies and standing up to Russia’s aggression in Europe,” he said, referring as well to US operations in “the vital Asia-Pacific region,” “deterring North Korea’s provocations” and “countering Iran’s malign activities in the Middle East.”
Referring to the relentless US-NATO military buildup against Russia, Carter declared: “Across the Atlantic, we’re refreshing NATO’s nuclear playbook to better integrate conventional and nuclear deterrence to ensure we plan and train like we’d fight and to deter Russia from thinking it can benefit from nuclear use in a conflict with NATO, from trying to escalate to de-escalate, as some there call it.”
The US and its NATO allies are deploying thousands of troops on Russia’s western border and have created a 40,000-strong rapid reaction force in preparation for war. The stated commitment to “integrate conventional and nuclear” forces in this effort has placed the threat of nuclear war on a hair trigger.
Last week, the Russian news agency Tass quoted the commander of Russia’s Strategic Missile Force, Sergey Karakayev, as reporting that the latest Yars mobile ballistic missile systems are being deployed to the Tver region, the country’s westernmost ICBM command. Moscow is carrying out the deployment in response to Washington’s positioning of an antimissile defense system in Romania and plans to set up similar batteries in Poland. While the US pretext is that the systems are directed against Iran, which has no nuclear weapons, Moscow sees the deployments as an attempt to make a first strike against Russia more feasible. It also charges that the ABM systems can easily be converted to fire short- and medium-range offensive nuclear missiles.
In his speech Monday, Carter also made a brief reference to a Pentagon effort to boost morale among the military personnel assigned to launch a nuclear war, saying it was “bearing fruit.” In 2013 and 2014, over 100 officers and enlisted personnel at nuclear bases were implicated in a scandal involving drug abuse, cheating on proficiency tests and gross security violations. The nuclear war command also saw a series of top officers removed from their posts.
The claim of improved morale was called into question, however, with the court martial in June of one member of the security forces at the F.E. Warren nuclear missile base in Wyoming on charges of using and distributing the hallucinogenic drug LSD. Fourteen other airmen have been suspended for suspected drug use there.

Police Killings Won’t Stop

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The corporate state, no matter how many protests take place in American cities over the murder of unarmed citizens, will put no restraints on the police or the organs of security and surveillance. It will not protect the victims of state violence. It will continue to grant broader powers and greater resources to militarized police departments and internal security forces such as Homeland Security. Force, along with the systems of indoctrination and propaganda, is the last prop that keeps the corporate elites in power. These elites will do nothing to diminish the mechanisms necessary for their control. 

The corporate state, by pillaging the nation, has destroyed capitalism’s traditional forms of social control. The population is integrated into a capitalist democracy by decent wages and employment opportunities, labor unions, mass-produced consumer products, a modest say in governance, mechanisms for marginal reform, pensions, affordable health care, a judiciary that is not utterly subservient to the elites and corporate power, the possibility for social, political and economic advancement, good public education, arts funding and a public broadcasting system that gives a platform to those who are not in service to the elites. These elements make possible the common good, or at least the perception of the common good.

Global capitalism, however, is not concerned with the cohesion of the nation-state. The relentless quest for profit trumps internal stability. Everything and everyone is pillaged and harvested for profit. Democracy is a mirage, a useful fiction to keep the population passive and compliant. Propaganda, including entertainment and spectacle, and coercion through state-administered surveillance and violence are the primary tools of governance. This is why, despite years of egregious police violence, there is no effective reform.

Propaganda is not solely about instilling an opinion. It is also about appropriating the aspirations of the citizenry into the vocabulary of the power elite. The Clintons and Barack Obama built their careers mastering this duplicity. They speak in words that reflect the concerns of the citizenry, while pushing through programs and legislation that mock those concerns. This has been especially true in the long campaign to curb excessive police force. The liberal elites preach “tolerance” and “professionalism” and promote “diversity.” But they do not challenge the structural racism and economic exploitation that are the causes of our crisis. They treat the abuses of corporate oppression as if they were minor administrative defects rather than essential components of corporate power.

Naomi Murakawain her book “The First Civil Right: How Liberals Built Prison America” documents how the series of “reforms” enacted to professionalize police departments resulted in placing more money and resources into the hands of the police, giving them greater power to act with impunity and expanding legally sanctioned violence. All penal reform, from President Harry Truman’s 1947 Committee on Civil Rights report to the Safe Streets Act of 1968 to the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 to contemporary calls for more professionalization, have, she notes, only made things worse.

The fiction used to justify expanded police powers, a fiction perpetrated by Democratic politicians such as Bill Clinton and Obama, is that a modernized police will make possible a just and post-racial America. White supremacy, racism and corporate exploitation, however, are built into the economic model of neoliberalismand our system of “inverted totalitarianism.” A discussion about police violence has to include a discussion of corporate power. Police violence is one of the primary pillars that allow the corporate elites to retain power. That violence will end only when the rule of these elites ends. 

The calls for more training and professionalization, the hiring of minority police officers, the use of body and dash cameras, improving procedures for due process, creating citizen review boards, even the reading of Miranda rights, have done nothing to halt the indiscriminate use of lethal violence and abuse of constitutional rights by the police and courts. Reforms have served only to bureaucratize, professionalize and legalize state abuse and murder. Innocent men and women may no longer be lynched on a tree, but they are lynched on death rowand in the streets of New York, Baltimore, Ferguson, Charlotte and dozens of other cities. They are lynched for the reasons poor black people have always been lynched—to create a reign of terror that serves as an effective form of social control.

The wreckage left behind by deindustrializationcreated a dilemma for the corporate state. The vast pools of “surplus” or “redundant” labor in our former manufacturing centers meant the old forms of social control had disappeared. The corporate state needed harsher mechanisms to subjugate a population it condemned as human refuse. Those on probation and parole or in jails or prisons grew from 780,000 in 1965 to 7 million in 2010. The kinds of federal crimes punishable by death leaped from one in 1974 to 66 in 1994, thanks to the Clinton administration. The lengths of prison sentences tripled and quadrupled. Laws were passed to turn inner-city communities into miniature police states. This had nothing to do with crime.

Amiri Baraka, the author of the incendiary poem “Somebody Blew Up America,” understood. In that poem he called us to examine the epicenters of capitalist power and the dark heart of imperialism. He knew the organs of state security served not only a corporate system but also a dehumanizing ideology. It is the system and the ideology that are the evils. The police are only its most visible and public instruments of oppression.

In this excerpt from the poem, Baraka asked:

Who stole Puerto Rico 
Who stole the Indies, the Philippines, Manhattan 
Australia & The Hebrides 
Who forced opium on the Chinese
Who own them buildings
Who got the money 
Who think you funny 
Who locked you up 
Who own the papers
Who owned the slave ship
Who run the army
Who the fake president 
Who the ruler 
Who the banker
Who? Who? Who?
Who own the mine 
Who twist your mind 
Who got bread 
Who need peace 
Who you think need war
Who own the oil 
Who do no toil 
Who own the soil 
Who is not a nigger 
Who is so great ain’t nobody bigger
Who own this city
Who own the air 
Who own the water
Who own your crib 
Who rob and steal and cheat and murder 
and make lies the truth 
Who call you uncouth
Who live in the biggest house 
Who do the biggest crime
State-administered violence is all that lies between the corporate state and widespread unrest. The power elites know it. They also know that as this unrest begins to define the white underclass, the legal and physical shackles perfected for poor people of color can easily be expanded. Rights in America have become privileges. And the corporate state has created legal mechanisms, including the loss of our right to privacy, to remove these privileges the instant it feels threatened.

Liberals’ rhetoric of compassion is as destructive as conservatives’ call for law and order. The liberal stances are patronizing. They reduce structural and economic oppression to personal and psychological problems, as if we can solve police murder by training and empowering “good” people, supporting families or rewriting regulations. As long as our discussion of police violence ignores the social functions of police and prisons, the elites have nothing to fear. The police, in the end, are not the problem. They, like the military, are the foot soldiers for the corporate leviathan.

The corporate state needs to create the illusion that the courts and the police are impartial and just. Once this illusion is cemented into the public consciousness, victims can be blamed for their oppression. Institutionalized murder becomes acceptable. Police violence becomes part of the cost of keeping us safe. The oppressed have no legitimacy or voice.

The corporate state is interested only in fostering these illusions. Reforms will be, as they have been in the past, cosmetic. What advances have we made since police murdered Michael Brown two years ago in Ferguson? Have the some 200 civilian review boards across the country, most of them toothless and ineffectual, prevented police from gunning down people in our streets or brought the killers to justice? Police have killed over 700 people this year. The illusions of reform are used to alter public consciousness rather than the machinery of corporate power. These illusions are created to reassure us that those that are arrested, beaten, killed or sent away to prison for decades deserve their fate. Yes, the state may admit, there is an abuse committed here or an injustice committed there, but the system itself, the state insists, is fundamentally fair and just. This is a lie the elites go to tremendous lengths to disseminate. 

The corporate state is counting on counterviolence against police, which is inevitable, and further acts of domestic terrorism, which also are inevitable. Acts of violence directed against the state are used by the organs of state propaganda, including the corporate press, to foster a culture of fear, to deify the police and to demonize the oppressed in our inner cities and in the Middle East. All criticism of excessive state violence, once these illusions dominate the society, will be condemned as disloyal and unpatriotic. The corporate state, until it is destroyed, will do what it is designed to do—kill with impunity.

Deep State America Why U.S. Policies Serve No National Interests

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On September 9th theWashington Post featured a front page article describing how the Defense Department had used warplanes to attack targets and kill suspected militants in six countries over the Labor Day weekend. The article was celebratory, citing Pentagon officials who boasted of the ability to engage “multiple targets” anywhere in the world in what has become a “permanent war.” The article did not mention that the United States is not currently at war with any of the six target countries and made no attempt to make a case that the men and women who were killed actually threatened the U.S. or American citizens.

Actual American interests in fighting a war without limits and without an end were not described. They never are. Indeed, in the U.S. and elsewhere many citizens often wonder how certain government policies like the Washington’s war on terror can persist in spite of widespread popular opposition or clear perceptions that they are either ineffective or even harmful. This persistence of policies regarding which there is no debate is sometimes attributed to a “deep state.”

The phrase “deep state” originated in and was often applied to Turkey, in Turkish “Derin Devlet,” where the nation’s security services and governing elite traditionally pursued the same chauvinistic and inward-looking agenda both domestically and in foreign affairs no matter who was prime minister.
In countries where a deep state dominates, real democracy and rule of law are inevitably the first victims. A deep state like Turkey’s is traditionally organized around a center of official and publicly accepted power, which means it often includes senior government officials, the police and intelligence services as well as the military. For the police and intelligence agencies the propensity to operate in secret is a sine qua non for the deep state as it provides cover for the maintenance of relationships that under other circumstances would be considered suspect or even illegal.

It has been claimed that deep state activities in Turkey are frequently conducted through connivance with politicians who are able to provide cover for the activity, with corporate interests and sometimes even with criminal groups, which can operate across borders and help in the mundane tasks of political corruption to include money laundering. This connection of political power with the ability to operate under the radar and generate considerable cash flows are characteristic of deep state.

As all governments for sometimes good reasons engage in concealment of their more questionable activities or even resort to out and out deception, one must ask how the deep state differs. While an elected government might sometimes engage in activity that is legally or morally questionable there are normally some checks and balances in place to limit resort to such activity as well as periodic elections to repudiate what is done. For players in the deep state, there are no accountability and no legal limits and everything is based on self-interest justified through assertion of patriotism and the national interest if they are ever challenged.
Every country has a deep state of some kind even if it goes by another name. “The Establishment” or “old boys’ network” was widely recognized in twentieth century Britain. “Establishment” has often also been used in the United States, describing a community of shared values and interests that has evolved post-Second World War from the Washington-New York axis of senior government officials and financial services executives. They together constitute a group that claims to know what is “best” for the country and act accordingly, no matter who sits in the White House. They generally operate in the shadows but occasionally surface and become public, as when 50 foreign so-called policy experts or former senior officials write letters staking out political positions, as has been occurring recently. The “experts” are currently weighing in to both support and fund the campaign of Hillary Clinton, who, they believe, shares their views and priorities.

The deep state principle should sound familiar to Americans who have been following political developments over the past twenty years. For the deep state to be effective it must be intimately associated with the development or pre-existence of a national security state. There must also be a perception that the nation is in peril, justifying extraordinary measures undertaken by self-described patriots to preserve life and property of the citizenry. Those measures are generically conservative in nature, intended to protect the status quo with the implication that change is dangerous.
Those requirements certainly prevail in post 9/11 America and also feed the other essential component of the deep state, that the control should work secretly or at least under the radar. Consider for a moment how Washington operates. There is gridlock in Congress and the legislature opposes nearly everything that the White House supports. Nevertheless, certain things happen seemingly without any discussion, including the bipartisan, unconstitutional and extremely dangerous assumption of increased executive authority by the White House.

As the Post article demonstrates, there is also widespread acceptance by our country’s elites of the fiction that America is threatened and that Washington has a right to intervene preemptively anywhere in the world at any time. Unpopular and unconstitutional wars continue in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq while the American president routinely claims the meaningless title “leader of the free world” even as he threatens countries that do not adhere to norms dictated by Washington. In the case of Russia, some American leaders actually believe a potentially nuclear war can be won and should be considered while at least one general has taken steps to bring about such a conflict.
Meanwhile both targeted citizens and often innocent foreigners who fit profiles are assassinated by drones without any legal process or framework. Lying to start a war as well as the war crimes committed by U.S. troops and contractors on far flung battlefields including torture and rendition are rarely investigated and punishment of any kind is so rare as to be remarkable when it does occur.

Here at home banks are bailed out and corporate interests are protected by law. Huge multi-year defense contracts are approved for ships and planes that are both vulnerable and money pits. The public is routinely surveilled, citizens are imprisoned without being charged or are tried by military tribunals, the government increasingly cites state secrets privilege to conceal its actions and whistleblowers are punished with prison. America the warlike predatory capitalist operating with little interference or input from the citizenry might be considered a virtual definition of deep state.
Some observers believe that the deep state is driven by the “Washington Consensus,” a subset of the “American exceptionalism” meme. It is plausible to consider it a 1950s creation, the end product of the “military industrial complex” that Dwight Eisenhower warned about, but some believe its infrastructure was actually put in place through the passage of the Federal Reserve Act prior to the First World War. Several years after signing the bill, Woodrow Wilson reportedly lamented “We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated governments in the civilized world, no longer a government by conviction and the vote of the majority, but a government by the opinion and duress of a small group of dominant men.”

As I have noted, America’s deep state is something of a hybrid creature that operates along a New York to Washington axis. Where the Turks sometimes engage in unambiguous criminal activity like drug trafficking to fund themselves the Washington elite instead turns to the banksters, lobbyists and defense contractors, operating much more in the open and, ostensibly, legally. U.S. style deep state includes all the obvious parties, both public and private, who benefit from the status quo to include key players in the police and intelligence agencies, the military, the treasury and justice departments and in the judiciary. It is structured to materially reward those who play along with the charade and the glue to accomplish that comes ultimately from Wall Street. “Financial services” might well be considered the epicenter of the entire process. Even though government is needed to implement desired policies, the banksters comprise the truly essential element, capable of providing genuine rewards for compliance. As corporate interests increasingly own the media, little dissent comes from the Fourth Estate as the process plays out while many of the proliferating Washington think tanks that provide deep state “intellectual” credibility are similarly funded by defense contractors.
The cross fertilization that is essential to make the system work takes place through the famous revolving door whereby senior government officials enter the private sector at a high level. In some cases the door revolves a number of times, with officials leaving government before returning in an even more elevated position. This has been characteristic of the rise of the so-called neoconservatives. Along the way, those select individuals are protected, promoted and groomed for bigger things. The senior government officials, ex-generals, and high level intelligence operatives who participate find themselves with multi-million dollar homes for their retirement years, cushioned by a tidy pile of investments.

The deep state in American is completely corrupt because it exists to sell out the public interest and it includes both major political parties as well as government officials. Politicians like the Clintons who leave the White House “broke” and accumulate more than $100 million in a few years exemplify how it rewards its friends while a bloated Pentagon churns out hundreds of unneeded flag officers who receive munificent pensions and benefits for the rest of their lives. And no one is punished, ever. Disgraced former general and CIA Director David Petraeus is now a partner at the KKR private equity firm even though he knows nothing about financial services. More recently, former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell, who supports Hillary and is publicly advocating assassinating Russians and Iranians, has become a Senior Counselor at Clinton-linked Beacon Global Strategies. Both Petraeus and Morell are being rewarded for their loyalty to the system.
What makes the deep state so successful? It wins no matter who is in power by creating bipartisan supported money pits within the system. Unending wars and simmering though hard to define threats together invite more spending on national security and make for good business. Monetizing the completely unnecessary and hideously expensive global war on terror benefits the senior government officials, beltway industries and financial services that feed off it. Because it is essential to keep the money flowing, the deep state persists in promoting policies that otherwise make no sense, to include the unwinnable wars currently enjoying marquee status in Iraq/Syria and Afghanistan. The deep state knows that a fearmongered public will buy its product and does not even have to make much of an effort to sell it.

The United States of America is not exactly deep state Turkey but to be sure any democracy can be subverted by particular interests hiding behind the mask of patriotism buttressed by phony international threats. Ordinary Americans frequently ask why politicians and government officials appear to be so obtuse, rarely recognizing what is actually occurring in the country. That is partly due to the fact that the political class lives in a bubble of its own creation but it might also be because many of America’s leaders actually accept and benefit from the fact that there is an unelected, un-appointed and unaccountable presence within the system that actually manages what is taking place from behind the scenes. That would be the American deep state.

Does Free College Threaten U.S. All-volunteer Military?

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Does free college threaten our all-volunteer military? That is what Benjamin Luxenberg, on the military blog War on the Rocks says. But the real question goes beyond Luxenberg's practical query, striking deep into who we are and what we will be as a nation.

Unlike nearly every other developed country, which offer free or low cost higher education (Germany, Sweden and others are completely free; Korea's flagship Seoul National University runs about $12,000 a year, around the same as Oxford), in America you need money to go to college. Harvard charges $63,000 a year for tuition, room, board and fees, a quarter of a million dollars for a degree. Even a good state school will charge $22,000 for in-state tuition, room and board.

Right now there are only a handful of paths to higher education in America: have well-to-do parents; be low-income and smart to qualify for financial aid, take on crippling debt, or...
Join the military.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides up to $20,000 per year for tuition, along with an adjustable living stipend. At Harvard that stipend is $2,800 a month. Universities participating in the Yellow Ribbon Program make additional funds available without affecting the GI Bill entitlement. There are also the military academies, such as West Point, and the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, commonly known as ROTC, which provide full or near-full college scholarships to future military officers.

Overall, 75 percent of those who enlisted or who sought an officer’s commission said they did so to obtain educational benefits. And in that vein, Luxenberg raises the question of whether the lower cost college education presidential nominee Hillary Clinton proposes is a threat to America's all-volunteer military. If college was cheaper, would they still enlist?

It is a practical question worth asking, but raises more serious issues in its trail. Do tuition costs need to stay high to help keep the ranks filled? Does unequal access to college help sustain our national defense?

Of course motivation to join the service is often multi-dimensional. But let's look a little deeper, and ask what it says about our nation when we guarantee affordable higher education to only a slim segment of our population. About seven percent of all living Americans were in the military at some point. Less than 0.5 percent of the American population currently serves. Why do we leave the other 99.95 percent to whatever they can or can't scrape together on their own?

The issue of how to pay for broader access to higher education always comes up, and was used by Hillary Clinton to knock down some of Democratic primary rival Bernie Sanders' more aggressive proposals. Republican White House candidate Donald Trump may bring up the same question in the upcoming debates about Clinton's more modest plans.

Money does matter, but what the country can get for its money is also important. We’ll leave aside the not-insignificant question of how so many other developed nations manage to pay for their citizen’s education, and stay in America.

As a kind of thought experiment, let's begin by rounding off the military higher education benefit, tuition and living stipend, to $53,000 a year. We’ll note a single F-35 fighter plane costs $178 million.

Dropping just one plane from inventory generates 3,358 years of college money. We could pass on buying a handful of the planes, and a lot of people who now find college out of reach could go to school.
The final question many people will be asking at this point is one of entitlement. What did those civilians do that the United States should give them college money?

Ignoring the good idea of expanding “service” to include critical non-military national needs, the answer is nothing. If we started giving out the funds today, those civilians did nothing for them. But maybe it is more important than that.

Security is defined by much more than a large standing military (and that does not even touch the question of how, say, an eight year occupation of Iraq made America more secure). The United States, still struggling to transition from a soot and steel industrial base that collapsed in the 1970s to something that can compete in the 21st century, can only do so through education. More smart people equals more people who can take on the smarter jobs that drive prosperity. It is an investment in one of the most critical forms of infrastructure out there – brains.

To be sure, the issue of how much the United States should spend on defense, and how that money should be allotted, is complex. But the changes to spending discussed here exist far to the margins of that debate: the defense budget is some $607 billion, already the world’s largest by far. The cost of providing broader access to higher education would be a tiny fraction of that amount, far below any threshold where a danger to America’s defense could be reasonably argued.

No one suggests veterans should have their benefits reduced. But for a nation that can clearly afford to pay for a broader base of accessible higher education if it wants to, it seems very wrong to simply leave the nation's future to a Darwinian system of financial survival

Monday, September 19, 2016

What’s Behind the Latest Government Scam to Rob You Blind?

“The fact is that the government, like a highwayman, says to a man: Your money, or your life. And many, if not most, taxes are paid under the compulsion of that threat. The government does not, indeed, waylay a man in a lonely place, spring upon him from the road side, and, holding a pistol to his head, proceed to rifle his pockets. But the robbery is none the less a robbery on that account; and it is far more dastardly and shameful.”—Lysander Spooner, American abolitionist and legal theorist

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If a cop wrongfully attacks you, you cannot fight back.

If a SWAT team wrongfully raids your home, you cannot defend yourself.

If a highway patrol officer wrongfully takes your money or your valuable possessions, you cannot get them back without a lengthy, costly legal battle.

It used to be that the Constitution served as a bulwark against government abuses, excesses and wrongdoing.

That is no longer the case.

Having been reduced to little more than a historic document, the Constitution now provides scant protection against government abuses, misconduct and corruption.

Not only are “we the people” painfully vulnerable to the whims of any militarized cop on the beat, but we are also sitting targets for every government huckster out to fleece the taxpayer of their hard-earned dollars.

We get taxed on how much we earn, taxed on what we eat, taxed on what we buy, taxed on where we go, taxed on what we drive, and taxed on how much is left of our assets when we die.

Because the government’s voracious appetite for money, power and control has grown out of control, its agents have devised other means of funding its excesses and adding to its largesse through taxes disguised as fines, taxes disguised as fees, and taxes disguised as tolls, tickets and penalties. For example, red light cameras, which were sold to the public as safety measures, have in practice become backdoor taxes aimed at swelling government bank accounts.

The government’s schemes to swindle, cheat, scam, and generally defraud Americans have run the gamut from wasteful pork barrel legislation, cronyism and graft to asset forfeiture schemes, the modern-day equivalent of highway robbery, astronomical health care “reform,” and costly stimulus packages.

Americans have also been made to pay through the nose for the government’s endless wars, subsidization of foreign nations, military empire, welfare state, roads to nowhere, bloated workforce, secret agencies, fusion centers, private prisons, biometric databases, invasive technologies, arsenal of weapons, and every other budgetary line item that is contributing to the fast-growing wealth of the corporate elite at the expense of those who are barely making ends meet—that is, we the taxpayers.

Those football stadiums that charge exorbitant sums for nosebleed seats? Our taxpayer dollars subsidize them. Those blockbuster war films? Yep, we were the silent investors on those, too. Same goes for the military equipment being peddled to local police agencies and the surveillance cameras being “donated” to local governments.

Now the government and its corporate partners in crime have come up with a new scheme to not only scam taxpayers out of what’s left of their paychecks but also make us foot the bill, and it’s coming at us in the form of a war on cash.

What is this war on cash?

It’s a concerted campaign to do away with large bills such as $20s, $50s, $100s and shift consumers towards a digital mode of commerce that can easily be monitored, tracked, tabulated, mined for data, hacked, hijacked and confiscated when convenient.

According to economist Steve Forbes, “The real reason for this war on cash—start with the big bills and then work your way down—is an ugly power grab by Big Government. People will have less privacy: Electronic commerce makes it easier for Big Brother to see what we’re doing, thereby making it simpler to bar activities it doesn’t like, such as purchasing salt, sugar, big bottles of soda and Big Macs.”

Much like the war on drugs and the war on terror, this so-called “war on cash” is being sold to the public as a means of fighting terrorists, drug dealers and tax evaders. Just the mere possession of cash is enough to implicate you in suspicious activity and have you investigated. In other words, cash has become another way for the government to profile Americans and render them criminals.

The rationale is that cash is the currency for illegal transactions given that it’s harder to track, can be used to pay illegal immigrants, and denies the government its share of the “take,” so doing away with paper money will help law enforcement fight crime and help the government realize more revenue.

Despite what we know about the government and its history of corruption, bumbling, fumbling and data breaches, not to mention how easily technology can be used against us, the campaign to do away with cash is really not a hard sell.

It’s not a hard sell, that is, if you know the right buttons to push, and the government has become a grand master in the art of getting the citizenry to do exactly what it wants. Remember, this is the same government that plans to use behavioral science tactics to “nudge” citizens to comply with the government’s public policy and program initiatives.

It’s also not a hard sell if you belong to the Digital Generation, that segment of the population for whom technology is second nature and “the first generation born into a world that has never not known digital life.”

And if you belong to the growing class of Americans—46% of consumers, approximately 114 million adults and rising—who use your cell phone to pay bills, purchase goods, and transfer funds, then the government is just preaching to the choir when it comes to persuading you of the convenience of digital cash.

In much the same way that Americans have opted into government surveillance through the convenience of GPS devices and cell phones, digital cash—the means of paying with one’s debit card, credit card or cell phone—is becoming the de facto commerce of the American police state.

It is estimated that smart phones will replace cash and credit cards altogether by 2020. Already, a growing number of businesses are adopting no-cash policies, including certain airlines, hotels, rental car companies, restaurants and retail stores. In Sweden, even the homeless and churches accept digital cash.

Making the case for “never, ever carrying cash” in lieu of a digital wallet, journalist Lisa Rabasca Roepe argues that cash is inconvenient, ATM access is costly, and it’s now possible to reimburse people using digital apps such as Venmo. Thus, there’s no longer a need for cash. “More and more retailers and grocery stores are embracing Apple Pay, Google Wallet, Samsung Pay, and Android Pay,” notes Roepe. “PayPal's app is now accepted at many chain stores including Barnes & Noble, Foot Locker, Home Depot, and Office Depot. Walmart and CVS have both developed their own payment apps while their competitors Target and RiteAid are working on their own apps.”

It’s not just cash that is going digital, either.

A growing number of states—including Delaware and California—are looking to adopt digital driver’s licenses that would reside on your mobile phone. These licenses would include all of the information contained on your printed license, along with a few “extras” such as real-time data downloaded directly from your state's Department of Motor Vehicles.

Of course, reading between the lines, having a digital driver’s license will open you up to much the same jeopardy as digital cash: it will make it possible for the government to better track your movements, monitor your activities and communications and ultimately shut you down.

So what’s the deal here?

Despite all of the advantages that go along with living in a digital age—namely, convenience—it’s hard to imagine how a cashless world navigated by way of a digital wallet doesn’t signal the beginning of the end for what little privacy we have left and leave us vulnerable to the likes of government thieves and data hackers.

First, when I say privacy, I’m not just referring to the things that you don’t want people to know about, those little things you do behind closed doors that are neither illegal nor harmful but embarrassing or intimate. I am also referring to the things that are deeply personal and which no one need know about, certainly not the government and its constabulary of busybodies, nannies, Peeping Toms, jail wardens and petty bureaucrats.

Second, we’re already witnessing how easy it will be for government agents to manipulate digital wallets for their own gain. For example, civil asset forfeiture schemes are becoming even more profitable for police agencies thanks to ERAD (Electronic Recovery and Access to Data) devices supplied by the Department of Homeland Security that allow police to not only determine the balance of any magnetic-stripe card (i.e., debit, credit and gift cards) but also freeze and seize any funds on pre-paid money cards. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in June 2016 that it does not violate the Fourth Amendment for police to scan or swipe your credit card.

Third, as the ever insightful Paul Craig Roberts observes, while Americans have been distracted by the government’s costly war on terror, “the financial system, working hand-in-hand with policymakers, has done more damage to Americans than terrorists could possibly inflict.” Ultimately, as Roberts—who served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy under Ronald Reagan—makes clear, the war on cash is about giving the government the ultimate control of the economy and complete access to the citizenry’s pocketbook.

Fourth, if there’s a will, there’s a way. So far, every technological convenience that has made our lives easier has also become our Achilles’ heel, opening us up to greater vulnerabilities from hackers and government agents alike. In recent years, the U.S. government has been repeatedly hacked. In 2015, the Office of Personnel Management had more than 20 million personnel files stolen, everything from Social Security numbers to birth dates and fingerprint records. In 2014, it was the White House, the State Department, the Post Office and other government agencies, along with a host of financial institutions, retailers and entertainment giants that had their files breached. And these are the people in charge of protecting our sensitive information?

Fifth, if there’s one entity that will not stop using cash for its own nefarious purposes, it’s the U.S. government. Cash is the currency used by the government to pay off its foreign “associates.” For instance, the Obama administration flew more than $400 million in cash to Iran in January 2016, reportedly as part of a financial settlement with the country. Critics claim the money was ransom paid for the return of American hostages. And then there was the $12 billion in shrink-wrapped $100 bills that the U.S. flew to Iraq only to claim it had no record of what happened to the money. It just disappeared. So when government economists tell you that two-thirds of all $100 bills in circulation are overseas—more than half a trillion dollars’ worth—it’s a pretty good bet that the government played a significant part in their export.

Sixth, this drive to do away with cash is part of a larger global trend driven by international financial institutions and the United Nations that is transforming nations of all sizes, from the smallest nation to the biggest, most advanced economies.

Finally, short of returning to a pre-technological, Luddite age, there’s really no way to pull this horse back now that it’s left the gate. While doing so is near impossible, it would also mean doing without the many conveniences and advantages that are the better angels, if you will, of technology’s totalitarian tendencies: the internet, medical advances, etc.

To our detriment, we really have little control over who accesses our private information, how it is stored, or how it is used. Whether we ever had much control remains up for debate. However, in terms of our bargaining power over digital privacy rights, we have been reduced to a pitiful, unenviable position in which we can only hope and trust that those in power will treat our information with respect.

America’s founders, however, did not believe in trusting government officials or giving them too much power. In fact, they believed those entrusted with power will eventually pervert it into tyranny. As Thomas Jefferson observed, “Let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.”

Unfortunately, that Constitution has since been shredded.

Our republic has been transformed into an oligarchy.

We have come full circle, back to a pre-revolutionary era of taxation without any real representation.

Lysander Spooner, a 19th century American abolitionist and legal theorist, was right when he concluded that the government is far more disingenuous and dangerous to the rights, property and lives of the citizenry than the common criminal or highwayman. As Spooner points out:

[Unlike the government,] the highwayman … does not pretend that he has any rightful claim to your money, or that he intends to use it for your own benefit…  He has not acquired impudence enough to profess to be merely a “protector”… He does not persist in following you on the road, against your will; assuming to be your rightful “sovereign,” on account of the “protection” he affords you. He does not keep “protecting” you, by commanding you to bow down and serve him; by requiring you to do this, and forbidding you to do that; by robbing you of more money as often as he finds it for his interest or pleasure to do so; and by branding you as a rebel, a traitor, and an enemy to your country, and shooting you down without mercy, if you dispute his authority, or resist his demands… In short, he does not, in addition to robbing you, attempt to make you either his dupe or his slave.
How tragically apropos the analogy remains today.

We the people, once free citizens of a free nation, are now at the mercy of cutthroats and villains masquerading as government agents and elected officials.

We continue to be robbed at gunpoint, treated like cattle, tracked incessantly and forced to serve and obey.

We continue to be branded rebels and traitors and enemy combatants, shot without hesitation for daring to resist an official order or challenge injustice, and duped into believing all this was done for our “good.”

In the end, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People,we are no better than when we first started out more than 200 years ago as indentured slaves to a government elite intent on using us for their own profit and gain.