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A Sea Change in US-Israeli Relations?

 

By Dave Lindorff

 

The situation in the Middle East has reached a dangerous point, to be sure, but there are also signs that a sea change may be taking place here in the US which could herald a whole new relationship between the US, Israel and the rest of the Arab and Islamic world.


The Military Spending Cut Scare

The fearmongering is on.  Here's a typical article, this one from the only daily newspaper in my hometown:

"Defense spending could face large loss from federal cuts

"Charlottesville and Albemarle County could see a potential loss of $46.5 million in defense-related spending if federally mandated cuts, which are slated to start next year, come to fruition."

There are several ways in which this is misleading.  First, "defense" here means military, whether or not defensive.  Second, "cuts" in Washington-talk includes reductions in a budget from one year to the next, OR reductions from a desired dream-budget to a less-desired budget, even one that is an increase over last year's.  For the past 13 years, military spending has grown to levels not seen since World War II. It's over half of federal discretionary spending, and as much as the rest of the world combined.  The Pentagon's budget grew each year George W. Bush was president and the first three years that Barack Obama was president.  It is being cut by 2.6% this year, not the 9% used to calculate a portion of that $46.5 million figure.  If the mandated cuts mentioned above go through, the Pentagon will still be spending next year more than it did in 2006 at the height of the war on Iraq.

In addition, military contractors have been bringing in more federal dollars while cutting jobs.  They employed fewer people in 2011 with bigger contracts than in 2006 with smaller ones.  So the logic of bigger contracts = more jobs is essentially a bucket of hope and change.

And the Pentagon's base budget is less than half of total military spending. It's necessary to add in war spending (over $80 billion nationally this year), nuclear weapons spending through the Department of Energy, military operations through the State Department, USAID, and the CIA, the Department of Homeland Security, etc., to get the real total. The Pentagon also has $83 billion in unobligated balances it can draw on.

The war industries in the United States are also by no means limited to the U.S. government.  U.S. weapons makers brought in $66.3 billion last year from foreign governments.  Many of those governments, like our own, are engaged in horrendous human rights abuses, but as long as we're being sociopathic about job creation, there's no reason to leave this out.

The article continues:

"The figures - compiled by the Center for Security Policy and the Coalition for the Common Defense, conservative-leaning Washington, D.C.-based think tanks - are based on publicly available information on Department of Defense contracts compiled and made available online through the Federal Procurement Data System website.

"The coalition describes itself as a group of individuals and local and national organizations 'committed to the Constitutional imperative to provide for the common defense and returning the United States to sensible fiscal principles without sacrificing its national security.'"

Never mind that the Constitution was written to include the creation of armies in times of war, not the permanent maintenance of a military industrial complex as a jobs program.  The above is how the two groups pushing the "news" in this article describe themselves.  How would a journalist describe them?  Well, as long as they're promoting military spending, it seems most relevant and significant to describe the ways in which they benefit from that spending.

The Center for Security Policy has a board of advisors packed with weapons makers executives and lobbyists from such disinterested parties as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, TRW, Raytheon, Ball Aerospace & Technologies, and Hewlett-Packard.  The Coalition for the Common Defense has been maneuvering the anti-spending Tea Party behind massive military spending. Hence the Constitution-talk.  But the "Coalition" isn't run by Constitutional scholars.  It's dominated by weapons company lobbyists, including the Aerospace Industry Association, which represents Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Honeywell, L-3 Communications, and other military industry corporations.  The Aerospace Industry Association spends over $2 million a year lobbying our government in Washignton.  Much of that money ends up being spent on luxurious lobbyist lifestyles in the great Commonwealth of Virginia.  Never forget the danger of the loss of that source of job creation should Congress simply and unquestioningly take direction from the weapons makers.

The article goes on:

"The data is reported by fiscal year and does not include grants or loans.

"From 2000-2011, more than 14,000 Virginia businesses provided defense-related goods and services, according to a state level report prepared by for Common Defense.

"Based on fiscal year 2011 defense contract date, the estimated reduction in Albemarle County in 2013 would be $43.25 million; in the city, the reduction would be an estimated $3.25 million.

"Earlier this year, defense budgets were cut by about $487 billion, an average of a 9 percent cut over a decade. In addition, the reports reflect the impact of sequestration, a 2011 mandate for about $500 billion more in defense spending reductions from 2013-2021, which averages to about an overall 18 percent cut in defense spending."

Here it's worth pausing to note that the $487 billion figure has been multiplied by 10.  It's a figure "over a decade."  Divided by 10 it would be $48.7 billion "over a year."  Or, it could be multiplied by 100 to give us $4,870 billion "over a century."  The reasons to talk about the decade are two.  First, it sounds bigger that way.  Second, by loading the later years heavily, politicians can claim to be making big cuts while actually passing those cuts on to future politicians who may not make them.  While all the news articles deal with cuts "over a decade," Congress actually only passes budgets for a year at a time.

"Published earlier this year, the reports indicate the Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads regions would see the most severe losses if the cuts are fully implemented, while the state overall could lose $7.24 billion in earnings and more than 122,000 jobs.

“'There’s no question that Virginia will be the most impacted,' Christine Brim, chief operating officer of the Center for Security Policy told The Daily Progress. 'Virginia has the largest amount of defense spending. This is, without a doubt, the state that is the most impacted.'

"Furthermore, Brim said the effects go beyond just the financial to the core of Virginia’s identity, history and culture as a state important to America’s defense, character traits that still hold true today."

Here's Democratic Virginia Senate candidate Tim Kaine claiming that one in three Virginians depends directly on military spending.  These claims are almost certainly exaggerated. They are for Albemarle County.  The county's website says: "The economy of Albemarle County is vital and growing. The predominant economic sectors are services, manufacturing, education, retail, tourism, trade,  care & social assistance, technical & professional services and agriculture. The County of Albemarle's labor force is roughly 53,000 and its unemployment rate of 2.6% is consistently lower than the state and national averages." 

"However, Jeff Caldwell, a spokesman for Gov. Bob McDonnell, said the state does not yet have any estimates for the effect of sequestration in Virginia.

“'With so many variables involved, there is no firm number to delineate that impact on the commonwealth or any particular area,' Caldwell said by email.

"Rep. Robert Hurt, R-5th, called the looming cuts 'devastating' for his district, which encompasses most of the Charlottesville region.

“'The White House and the Senate must join with the House [of Representatives] in addressing this impending crisis so we can keep our military men and women adequately equipped, protect jobs across the 5th District and the Commonwealth, and reduce our national debt in a responsible manner,” Hurt said in a statement."

A few points missed in the above: First, refusing to cut military spending does the opposite of reducing the national debt.  Second, military spending is the least cost-efficient way to produce jobs.  It produces fewer jobs than spending on infrastructure, green energy, education, or even tax cuts for working people.  So, if the goal is to save money while producing jobs, military spending is exactly the place to cut.  Third, there is absolutely no evidence that "adequate equipment" is what's on the chopping block here.  Hurt makes it sound like putting the U.S. navy on Jeju Island, South Korea, against the passionate will of the people there, is being done not to threaten China but as an act of philanthropy for U.S. sailors.

"House Minority Leader Eric Cantor, whose 7th District encompasses portions of the Charlottesville region, issued an even more sharply worded statement on his website, calling the planned cuts a 'dangerous threat' and urging President Obama and Senate Democrats 'to take serious action to prevent these arbitrary, devastating cuts from taking place.'"

Did he offer any evidence for those sharp words?

"While Brim acknowledged the need and desire to cut federal spending, she said gutting the defense budget would derail America’s recovery from the recession.

"That’s because conflict would interrupt trade and commerce and 'there would be nothing more costly than having our trade routes disrupted,' she said."

Now this is a new one.  Unless we continue to borrow money from China with which to build up our military presence all over the globe, including in every location strategically helpful in cutting off China's trade routes, our trade routes will be disrupted.  What trade routes?!  Can she name one?  Conflict, indeed, dirupts peaceful activity.  But conflict comes from war spending.  War spending and war preparation spending does not reduce conflict.

"Local leaders, however, were more measured in their assessment of the effect of the cuts on the local economy.

“'While our area would be affected by any change in federal spending, the overall impact would be minimal given that defense spending constitutes a small percentage of our overall economy,' Chris Engel, Charlottesville’s economic development director said by email.

"Albemarle County spokeswoman Lee Catlin said recent reaffirmations of the county’s AAA bond rating in spite of potential defense-related reductions is an indicator of confidence and stability in the local economy.

“'However, we are home to several major federal installations and associated defense contractors who are valued and important partners in our economy, so we are concerned about funding uncertainty,' Catlin said by email.

"And if the spending cuts do come to pass, Engel expressed confidence that the region’s economy would persevere. 'I think our business community has proven itself to be very adaptable in the past and this could be another instance where that trait will be needed,' Engel said."

If these last paragraphs had come first, this would not have been a bad article at all.

Harvey Pekar, Graphic Art and Israeli State Policy

 

By John Grant


A review of:
NOT THE ISRAEL MY PARENTS PROMISED ME
By Harvey Pekar and J.T. Waldman
With an epilogue by Joyce Brabner
Hill and Wang, 2012
$24.95. 
$14.67 on Amazon
 

FBI Foils Own Plot Yet Again

NY Times:

An 18-year-old suburban Chicago man, who the authorities say was enamored with Osama bin Laden and intent on killing Americans, has been arrested after attempting to detonate what he thought was a car bomb outside a Chicago bar, officials said Saturday.

There was never any danger that the suspect, Adel Daoud, would actually detonate a bomb. The plot, which ended with Mr. Daoud’s arrest on Friday, was proposed by undercover F.B.I. agents posing as extremists, according to a statement released by the United States attorney’s office in the Northern District of Illinois.

New: ColdType Magazine & The Reader


Issue 68

86 Pages: Our biggest issue so far. Cover story is Eamonn McCann’s tale of the strange affair of Marian Price, a gravely-ill former IRA bomber, who has been detained by the British government. The story says much about the state’s denial of legal and human rights to its citizens. Other stories cover the suspicious and unresolved death in 1961 of UN chief Dag Hammarskjold in a plane crash, how Karl Rove and his billionaire chums are trying to fix the US election, why Julian Assange is right to avoid trial in Sweden, and much more. Contributors include Greg Palast, Edward S. Herman, Michael Parenti, John Pilger, George Monbiot and many others.

PLUS: Our second freebie this month is a 66-page e-book, The Terrorist's Brother, in which investigative reporter Jason Leopold tells the amazing tale of the FBI and the US-based brother of Al Qaeda terrorist, Abu Zubaidah.Tony Sutton, Editor

Click here or on image above to download ColdType magazine

Click here or on image above to download The Terrorist's Brother e-book

Writing Down Rants

In an age when the "conservative" political party cracks jokes about the destruction of the only planet we have to live on, and the other party -- which actually holds that 90% of governing power that now resides in the White House -- gets a free pass on its record of destroying that planet because the other party cracks jokes about it, cool dispassionate political science textbookese is out of place.  I'll care what Rational Man would do under each of the various systems of oppression when you find me somebody rational.  And then I'll just ask him or her what they are doing, so you won't have to tell me.

Media Scoundrels Promote Permanent Wars

 

Media Scoundrels Promote Permanent Wars

 

by Stephen Lendman

 

Real journalists report issues responsibly. Scoundrels operate by different rules. They play lead US imperial roles. Without them, pretexts for war wouldn't matter. Selling them depends on widespread dissemination. Messages not heard don't exist. 

 

Iran's Call for Nuclear Abolition by 2025 is Unreported by New York Times

By Alice Slater

The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), formed in 1961 during the Cold War, is a group of 120 states and 17 observer states not formally aligned with or against any major power bloc.  The NAM held its opening 2012 session yesterday under the new chairmanship of Iran, which succeeded Egypt as the Chair.

Significantly, an Associated Press story in the Washington Post headlined, “Iran opens nonaligned summit with calls for nuclear arms ban”, reported that “Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi opened the gathering by noting commitment to a previous goal from the nonaligned group, known as NAM, to remove the world’s nuclear arsenals within 13 years.  ‘We believe that the timetable for ultimate removal of nuclear weapons by 2025, which was proposed by NAM, will only be realized if we follow it up decisively,’ he told delegates.”

Yet the New York Times, which has been beating the drums for war with Iran, just as it played a disgraceful role in the deceptive reporting during the lead-up to the Iraq War, never mentioned Iran’s proposal for nuclear abolition.  The Times carried the bland headline on its front page, “At Summit Meeting, Iran Has a Message for the World”, and then went on to state, “the message is clear.  As Iran plays host to the biggest international conference …it wants to tell its side of the long standoff with the Western powers which are increasingly convinced that Tehran is pursuing nuclear weapons”, without ever reporting Iran’s offer to support the NAM proposal for the abolition of nuclear weapons by 2025.

Surely the most sensible way to deal with Iran’s nascent nuclear weapons capacity is to call all the nations to the table to negotiate a treaty to ban the bomb.   That would mean abolishing the 20,000 nuclear bombs on the planet—in the US, UK, Russia, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel—with 19,000 of them in the US and Russia.   In order to get Russia and China to the table, the US will also have to give up its dreams of dominating the earth with missile “defenses” which, driven by corrupt military contractors and a corporate- owned Congress, are currently being planted and based in provocative rings around Russia and China.  

The ball is in the U.S. court to make good faith efforts for nuclear abolition.   That would be the only principled way to deal with fears of nuclear proliferation.   The US must start with a genuine offer for negotiations to finally ban the bomb in all countries, including a freeze on further missile development.  It should stop beating up on Iran and North Korea while it hypocritically continues to improve and expand the US arsenal, with tens of billions of dollars for new weapons laboratories and bomb delivery systems, and fails failing to speak out against the nuclear activities of other nations such as the enrichment of uranium in Japan and Brazil and the nuclear arsenal of Israel. 

Navy Vet Responds to Navy Week P.R.

By Mike Ferner

All this summer, the U.S. Navy has put on a multi-million dollar dog and pony show called “Navy Week” in 15 cities across the country.  Six stops on the Great Lakes featured guided missile frigates, coastal patrol boats and the historic brig “Niagara,” the ship Oliver Hazard Perry transferred to during the War of 1812’s Battle of Lake Erie (“Don’t Give Up the Ship”), when the “Lawrence” was blown out from under him.

At each stop, Navy officers and enlisted gave numerous press interviews, visited kids in hospitals, played musical concerts, helped build projects for the disabled and everywhere displayed banners with its motto, “America’s Navy: A Global Force for Good.”

A Shift in the Zeitgeist? Hitchhiker Finds Drivers Suddenly More Willing to Give a Lift

 

By Dave Lindorff


Sometimes a journalist just has to go with the story, even if it’s going all wrong. 


PEACE GRANNIES, MOMS AND VETS DISS NBC'S NEW REALITY RAH RAH WAR SHOW, "STARS EARN STRIPES"

By Joan Wile

 
In a remarkable display of unity, a number of New York peace groups joined together in just a few days to plan and carry out a protest at NBC headquarters in Manhattan regarding the debut of the new reality show, "Stars Earn Stripes."  The program is an abomination that touts war as a game, as a sort of sports competition, an entertainment where minor on-their-way-down celebrities along with military personnel compete with each other in carrying out simulated missions, using real ammunition in demonstrations of war maneuvers -- long-range machine guns blowing up mock human targets, for instance.
 
This demonstration of the deadly capacity of modern monster weapons is hosted by none other than retired Gen. Wesley Clark, an anti-war candidate for President of the U.S. in 2004.  One wonders how a person proclaiming to deplore war could get involved in such a display of seemingly almost psychotic militarism.  Among his so-called celebrity participants are Sara's husband, Todd Palin, celebrated for ... exactly what?
 
Among the 50-60 participants in the action were MFSO (Military Families Speak Out) mothers with sons deployed in Afghanistan; Veterans for Peace; Gray Panthers; Brooklyn for Peace; U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW); OWS Anti-War Committee; World Can't Wait; PANYS (Peace Action New York State); and  peace grandmothers groups including the Granny Peace Brigade, Grandmothers Against the War, and the Raging Grannies, who sang their spirited anti-war songs throughout the demonstration. 
 
http://entertainment.inquirer.net/files/2012/08/Stars-Earn-Stripes.jpg
Raging Grannies singing at protest at NBC Aug. 13  photo by Brigitte AFP
 
U.S. Navy veteran Bill Gilson protest against NBC's U.S. Navy veteran Bill Gilson protesting NBC Aug. 13                    Photo by Charles Eckert, amNewYork
 
Reviews of the show were mostly negative.  In addition to being objectionable as gung ho war propaganda, it was a profoundly boring mishmash interspersed by seemingly a zillion commercials.  Said the New York Times: 

"The teams race to complete missions under conditions that include live ammunition and explosives, the claim being that this will give the stars a taste of what real soldiers experience. That is an absurd overstatement, of course, since no one is shooting back or planting roadside bombs intended for them."

"The show is treacly, exploitative military porn, according to the early reviews" said a writer for WIRED.

The protesters had with them a petition launched by Roots Action, with approximately 18,000 signators (so far) urging that NBC "air an in-depth segment showing the reality of civilian victims of recent U.S. wars."  When women of Military Families Speak Out attempted to deliver the 500-plus-pages petition to an NBC executive, the head of security, Jim Kelly, lined up near the protest with six other security officials throughout the demonstration, insisted that they could not do so.  There was a stand-off for over an hour while the women negotiated with him as he stalled them.  Ultimately, the only thing he would allow was for them to give it to him personally, which they did.  Will it ever be seen by a top NBC executive?  Unfortunately, probably not.

The cause to shut down "Stars Earn Stripes" was aided immeasurably by nine Nobel Peace Prize winners, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who sent a strongly worded letter to Robert Greenblatt, Chairman of NBC Entertainment, Gen. Clark, Producer Mark Burnett, and others urging its cancelation. 

In part, the letter read:  "We call upon NBC to stop airing this program that pays homage to no one, and is a massive disservice to those who live and die in armed conflict and suffer its consequences long after the guns of war fall silent."  Tutu's huge reputation attracted media coverage in the thousands all over the world to the Nobel Prize recipients' opposition.

Encouraged by passersby's sympathetic responses to the protest as well as the enormous media attention, the coalition decided to proceed with further actions.  They plan to continue their Monday protests throughout the four-week run of the series, initiate a letter-writing campaign to NBC top-level people, and launch a boycott of the many sponsors.

Rev. Steve Chinlund at the protest                                                                                photo by Bud Korotzer

We urge readers to sign the Roots Action petition, created by David Swanson.  Go to starsearnstripes.org.

Among the many expressions of anger by the protesters was this one:“Having my son return from two REAL wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with the cost of war carried in his body and heart, I find this deeply offensive,” said Sarah Fuhro, a member of Military Families Speak Out. “Having met wounded children and refugees from these and other wars, I find this disgusting. I hope NBC will reconsider this form of entertainment.”

From our perspective, "Stars Earn Stripes" earns nothing more than contempt and outrage.

Democracies Don't Start Wars, But Fake Democracies Sure Do!

 

 

By Dave Lindorff


We’ve all heard it said by our teachers when we were in school, we’ve all heard it said by politicians, including presidents: “Democracies don’t start wars.”


NBC's Celebrity Warriors: "They barely survived the first week!"

If you sat through the two-hour debut of NBC's "Stars Earn Stripes" on Monday, you heard the promotion for next week's show: "They barely survived the first week!"  And you thought to yourself: "Uh, no, that was me."

What intolerable filth!  In this "reality" show, "celebrities" we've mostly never heard of are paired off with current or former members of the U.S. military to "play" at "missions reminiscent of counterinsurgencies that have taken place all over the world."  It's war for fun.  This sport has all the excitement of golf, but without the same level of danger.  Nobody "barely survived."  Nobody killed anybody.  Nobody's suffering moral anguish from what they've seen and done.  Nobody's lost any limbs.  And nobody's a suicide risk, with the possible exception of the producer.

Just prior to the show's debut, nine Nobel Peace Prize laureates, not including the one whose "counterinsurgencies" the show reenacts, released a statement demanding the show's removal from the air:

"Real war is down in the dirt deadly.  People -- military and civilians -- die in ways that are anything but entertaining.  Communities and societies are ripped apart in armed conflict and the aftermath can be as deadly as the war itself as simmering animosities are unleashed in horrific spirals of violence.  War, whether relatively short-lived or going on for decades as in too many parts of the world, leaves deep scars that can take generations to overcome – if ever.  Trying to somehow sanitize war by likening it to an athletic competition further calls into question the morality and ethics of linking the military anywhere with the entertainment industry in barely veiled efforts to make war and its multitudinous costs more palatable to the public."

In other words, we're dealing here with the crime of war propaganda, not for any particular war, but for the normalization of eternal war on the borders of the empire. 

A crowd protested the show at NBC headquarters in New York on Monday evening, chanting "Shame, Shame, War is not a Game," and delivering a petition bearing thousands of signatures.

The show's first episode opened with co-host and retired general Wesley Clark claiming that soldiers sacrifice for the rest of us.  Dean Cain, an actor who played Superman, remarks that he had never before had to "be a superhero for real."  Numerous other voices go on and on about soldiers' heroism, claiming that they "do this" "for our freedom."  But the "this" turns out to be a game that the contestants describe themselves as "playing."

One of the military "operatives" paired with a celebrity brags about having killed 160 people.  That split-second comment is the only appearance in the two-hour marathon of the enemies or victims of war.  One celebrity asks their partner if he's ever killed anyone, and he replies, "We don't talk about that."  Neither does NBC.  The people whom U.S. troops slaughter in our one-sided occupations or wars are never brought up.

The episode involved training for a mission and then performing the mission as a contest with four people on each team.  The "mission" was to "infiltrate a hostile encampment."  This meant that they had to ride in a helicopter, jump in a lake, climb in a boat, pretend to be shot at by "enemies" not actually shooting or appearing, blow up a guard tower with no guard in it, shoot human-sized paper targets, wade through mud, locate a box of ammunition and move it into a building, and blow up the building by pushing a button.

This stupidity is chock full of exclamations and commentary about real bullets and real explosives that are really real.  It may be the noise of their own voices that prevents anyone involved from discovering that they aren't actually shooting at anyone and no one is actually shooting at them.

Kicking in doors is a big focus of the mission.  This ought to inform thoughtful viewers about what "battlefields" look like in "counter insurgencies."  Our wars are fought in people's homes.  But when these celebrities and the tough guys they worship kick in doors there are no screaming children behind them.  This act of terrorism is transformed into an act of athletic accomplishment.  Blowing up a poor person's house is transformed into an act of special effects, creating a gigantic explosion with the push of a button while being lifted on a rope tied to a helicopter.  When, at the end of the show, it is time to eliminate the worst warrior from future programs, the two worst warmakers thus far pair off in a contest that involves kicking in a door, entering a room, and shooting a bunch of humanoid targets in the head.  I wonder which missions that is reminiscent of.

Muhammad Ali famously remarked, when refusing to participate in war: "I ain't got no quarrel with them Viet Cong. . . .  No Viet Cong ever called me nigger."  His daughter Laila Ali is a Stars Earn Stripes celebrity contestant blissfully unconcerned about whether or not she has a quarrel with the people who theoretically might inhabit the buildings she's shooting up.  War lovers must feel some satisfaction in having brought Ali's daughter into the fold, along with the late football star and soldier Pat Tillman, who had turned against our wars but for whose charity one of the Stars Earn Stripes celebrities is competing.  When one of the celebrities lies, "I know there's a chance I could die," one imagines he must have in mind friendly fire.  Like Tillman, he would die with no enemy present.  To make the show seem dangerous, the producers show one celebrity, Dolvett Quince, having trouble swimming.

The losing team in each mission/sporting event loses by completing the mission with the slowest time.  Yet the show itself is almost unbearably slow, repetitive (literally replaying the same little snippets of "action"), and so packed with commercial breaks that it's hard to imagine people waiting through them voluntarily.  But the whole thing is a commercial for war, the business of 49% NBC owner General Electric.  No matter how small the audience for this slime, it is likely to be disproportionately made up of young people contemplating enlistment.  And what a massive and deadly lie this show is to them!

These celebrities are unlikely to suffer PTSD or to die in the most common way in which actual members of the military die (suicide).  There's no fear, no horror, no revulsion, no moral crisis.  Asked what their biggest concerns are prior to their "mission" they say things like "how high the helicopter will fly."  This is beyond promoting war as a hell that is somehow necessary as a last resort.  This is war as exciting sport with no moral component, no killing, no dying, no downside.  Now we don't have to be sociopaths to support the military as a jobs program; we can be patrons of the arts (or the sports anyway).

At one point, one of the celebrities, Eve Torres, in tears, says that she appreciates those who do such difficult stunts "every day" as their job. "We do this for fun," she says.  Yet, when her heroes practice these extreme sports they do so with real victims in real nations, generating real enemies.  NBC doesn't include that complication.  Nowhere in Stars Earn Stripes do we hear about the list of countries that Wesley Clark said the Pentagon wanted to attack and overthrow right after 9-11: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Iran.  And of course we are not told what he said the motivation for those attacks would be, namely trying to look strong and to dominate the globe.  Clark was outraged to learn that "the purpose of the military is to start wars and change governments, it's not to deter conflict; we're going to have to invade countries, and you know my mind was spinning; they wanted us to destabilize the Middle East . . . . They could hardly wait to finish Iraq so that they could move into Syria."  Clark was talking then about the same sort of people who are running the U.S. military now.

Stars Earn Strips could have gone differently.  Imagine if the "mission" were to put out a fire or rescue people from a storm.  Or the mission could have been to save our atmosphere.  Or how about a mission to see who is fastest at building the fastest and most energy efficient trains?  Or . . . anything useful in any way!

The excitement (such as it is) of NBC's "reality show" lies precisely in its being "reminiscent" of war, and not of some beneficial project.  And yet it is not war.  And it may be doomed to low ratings.  If it were war, however, its ratings wouldn't necessarily rise.  Americans don't want to see families slaughtered, children mutilated, whole regions of the world ruined for human life, refugees struggling to survive, cluster bombs and depleted uranium killing for generations.  What's fun about that?

If NBC would like to show the uglier side of war, we've provided resources to get them started at http://StarsEarnStripes.org

Nine Nobel Peace Laureates Call on NBC to Cancel "Stars Earn Stripes"

http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/2012/08/nine-nobel-peace-laureates-call-on-nbc-to-cancel-stars-earn-stripes/?ref=18

WAR ISN’T ENTERTAINMENT— AND SHOULDN’T BE TREATED LIKE IT IS

An Open Letter to Mr. Robert Greenblatt, Chairman of NBC Entertainment, General Wesley Clark (ret.), Producer Mark Burnett and others involved in “Stars Earn Stripes”:

During the Olympics, touted as a time for comity and peace among nations, millions first learned that NBC would be premiering a new “reality” TV show.  The commercials announcing “Stars Earn Stripes” were shown seemingly endlessly throughout the athletic competition, noting that its premier would be Monday, August 13, following the end of the Olympic games.

Batten Down the Hatches: Israel Likely to Strike Iran Before November

Israel’s ‘Bomb Iran’ Timetable

August 12, 2012

Editor Note: As the clock ticks down to the U.S. elections in November, another clock is ticking in Israel. There is increasing evidence that Israel's leaders plan to get hostilities going with Iran in the coming weeks, in the expectation that Obama will have no alternative but to commit U.S. forces to support Israel.

By Ray McGovern

More Washington insiders are coming to the conclusion that Israel’s leaders are planning to attack Iran before the U.S. election in November in the expectation that American forces will be drawn in. There is widespread recognition that, without U.S. military involvement, an Israeli attack would be highly risky and, at best, only marginally successful.

What Paul Ryan Has and Obama Wants

According to the Huffington Post, "President Barack Obama's reelection campaign and Democratic political groups have been eager for Romney to pick Ryan, the architect of plans to slash government spending and overhaul entitlement programs that Democrats believe are political losers."  ABC agrees: "The selection of  Ryan as running mate makes it far more likely that Medicare, Social Security, and dramatic spending cuts will be as central to the campaign conversation this fall as jobs and the economy. Adding some of those famed political third rails into the mix is not just a potential risk Romney is willing to take, it is also clearly a potential risk he felt he had to take."

So, cutting Medicare and Social Security are unpopular, and Obama benefits from Romney's risky move in picking a runningmate willing to cut them.  That's the story.

Now, however, read this from the New York Times: "The news media have played a crucial role in Mr. Obama’s career, helping to make him a national star not long after he had been an anonymous state legislator. As president, however, he has come to believe the news media have had a role in frustrating his ambitions to change the terms of the country’s political discussion. He particularly believes that Democrats do not receive enough credit for their willingness to accept cuts in Medicare and Social Security, while Republicans oppose almost any tax increase to reduce the deficit."

So Obama too is willing to take the political risk of cutting the popular programs called Medicare and Social Security.  In fact, what Obama wants is not to protect these programs from cuts, but rather to receive appropriate credit from the media corporations for his willingness to cut them.  This, we are about to be told endlessly, is in stark contrast to Romney-Ryan's willingness to cut Medicare and Social Security.  But the biggest contrast seems to be that the media gives Romney and Ryan the credit that Obama covets.

Oh no, Obama supporters will reply, there's a big difference.  Romney wants to cut these programs, while Obama is willing to cut them. Romney is evil, while Obama is noble and gracious in his appeasing of evil.  I'm sorry, but won't the catfood that grandma lives on taste as bitter regardless of whether her income was removed maliciously or accommodatingly?

Oh, but Romney-and-Ryan want to cut more than Obama wants to cut. 

Are you sure?  RR need only triple their demand for Obama to double his.  The longer the debate goes on, the more old people Obama wants to starve to demonstrate his willingness to accommodate.  In fact, exactly how many old people starve -- whether Iranians living under sanctions or Americans living under austerity -- is hardly relevant.  The important thing is to have gone further toward meeting RR's demand than RR went toward meeting yours. 

But what about the demand of the majority of the country that Social Security and Medicare be expanded rather than cut?  What about the popularity of lifting the cap on payroll taxes, lowering the retirement age, and expanding Medicare to include us all?  Will that agenda be advanced by cheering for a compromiser over an unapologetic crapitalist?

Of course not.  What would move both of these reprehensible candidates away from deeper cuts to decent programs, and toward deeper cuts in the war machine, the fossil fuel funding, the bankster bailouts, and the "Bush" tax cuts is an independent movement that makes its minimum demand an absolute bar on any cuts to Social Security or Medicare whatsoever. 

If you don't soon see progressive groups advancing that demand, expect bad times ahead, regardless of who wins the world's worst reality drama.

A Temple and a Mosque; Worship in America

By Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich

On August 5,  a Sikh temple in Southern Wisconsin was attacked.  Six worshippers lost their lives before the gunman was killed.   There was an outbreak of condemnation – rightly so.  President Obama ordered flags at public buildings to be flown at half-staff and Mrs. Clinton called her Indian counterpart. Mitt Romney offered his prayers to the families of the victims.   Left ignored, was the burning down of a mosque in Missouri -  predictably so.  Worship in America is a political prerogative in sink with U.S. policies.  

Best Southern Corporate Editorial Ever

One cannot always count on words of wisdom from the editorials published by corporate newspaper chains in the Southern United States, or anywhere else.  This one is far from perfect, but remarkably great.  This was published by the Charlottesville Daily Progress on Tuesday and adapted by them from their corporate sister the Richmond Times Dispatch.  Possibly numerous other Media General (Warren Buffet) newspapers printed the same or similar:

"Would cuts in defense spending be a bad thing?

"Gov. Bob McDonnell suggested President Obama hold Congress in session until it hammers out a deal to avert what is known as sequestration — whose effects on Virginia could be profound."

Note that this editorial is about to challenge the claims of the state's Transvaginal Governor who is also trying to get himself nominated for U.S. Veep on the Romney ticket.  Not only that, but a gang of U.S. Senators including the previous Republican presidential nominee John McCain recently stopped in Virginia on a tour of swing states hyping the danger to the U.S. economy of any cuts to the military budget.  This editorial does not name those senators but does handily reject their bogus claims.

"Sequestration is the term applied to automatic budget cuts that will take effect Jan. 2 unless Congress acts now to prevent them. They are the result of last year’s Budget Control Act. That law tasked a special committee with finding $1.2 trillion in budget cuts over the next decade. If it failed, automatic cuts — half of them in defense spending, half in domestic discretionary spending — would kick in. The committee failed."

Of course "defense" is code for military, even while few would pretend that attacking Libya or Syria or continuing in Afghanistan or drone bombing Pakistan or Yemen, etc., is defensive.  The code is well understood and virtually unavoidable in a corporate newspaper.  You'll recall that there was huge public pushback against the Super Congress, that the public told pollsters we favored taxing the rich and cutting the military.  The Super Congress failed to push through a deal to enlarge the military and continue tax cuts on the wealthy.  And rightly so.  But Congress is intent on accomplishing post-2012-election what the Super Congress couldn't do.

"Without action soon, the first of $600 billion in defense spending cuts will start to bite. That could mean the loss of tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of jobs here in the commonwealth — which is the No. 2 recipient of federal defense outlays. That is a frightening prospect indeed."

Note, however, that dollars don't translate simply and predictably into jobs.  When the military had less money several years ago, it also produced more jobs. Also, the $600 billion is "over 10 years," and might as well be called $1200 billion "over 20 years" for all such monkeying with the numbers enlightens us.  It's $60 billion "over one year," but reduced from that in order to put more of the cutting later in the 10-year period. $50 billion or less, cut from $1.2 trillion or so in total military spending can only frighten people who are truly intent on being frightened.  Of course, fear is what allows military spending on this kind of scale to begin with.

"But it is not in itself a sufficient reason to oppose the cuts. National defense is not a jobs program. Many of the very arguments conservative Republicans have made with regard to government spending over the years — about inefficiency, about the displacement of private investment, about gargantuan bureaucracies doling out contracts to the politically connected — might apply just as well to the Pentagon as to any other government agency."

This is a stunning bit of honest sanity.  Reflect on the earthshattering, "debate" crashing, impoliteness of introducing this bit of truth to the public.  Of course it's also the understatement of the year.  Spending on the military produces fewer jobs than spending on education, energy, infrastructure, or even tax cuts for working people, because it is so incredibly wasteful.  How wasteful?  We don't know, since it's the only department that is never audited.  But we know that it routinely misplaces billions -- with a b -- of dollars, something no other department is allowed to do.  We also know that in much of the world spending money on killing in order to generate jobs would be viewed as sociopathic.

"What’s more, the alarms being rung about the hollowing out of the military sound considerably less grim when put in context. For example, ask yourself this: Was the U.S. military on the brink of collapse in 2007? Few people would answer yes. Yet if sequestration occurs, then military spending would revert to — you guessed it — 2007 levels. That doesn’t sound quite so horrible."

Again, this is simple and obvious but staggeringly new.  It renders ludicrous countless "news" reports that have been published by these papers.

"Even after adjusting for inflation, Pentagon spending is now almost double what it was in 2000. And that leaves out the billions lavished on Homeland Security. And the further billions spent on ongoing military operations abroad, which add more than another hundred billion to the tab."

This too is new and different, pointing out that the "Homeland Security" budget is added on top of the Pentagon's.  But let's not forget State, Energy, CIA, and all the other departments that include military spending, plus the expense of caring for the veterans our wars keep producing.  The total cost of the military is about $1.2 trillion per year, many times what any other nation spends, more than all other nations combined, and more than half of federal discretionary spending.

"True, federal defense outlays are smaller as a share of the federal budget than they have been in many years,"

Oops.  That's not true, not when all military ("defense") expenses are counted.

"and they are smaller as a percentage of gross domestic product than at any time since World War II. But this is not a very useful comparison. It implies that whenever Washington creates a hugely expensive new entitlement program, or whenever the economy booms, Pentagon spending should be jacked up just to keep the proportions steady."

Wow.  This is amazingly decent and dismissive of an entire genre of public "discourse."  The Congressional Budget Office has repeatedly stressed to Congress that military spending is low as a percentage of GDP.  Even though it's high and has been rising each of the past 15 years as a dollar amount adjusted for inflation, as a percentage of the federal discretionary budget, and as a percentage of global military spending, the theory indeed seems to be that if we have more money we should buy more weapons because we can.  This requires a psychiatrist, not an economist.

"The real question is how much the U.S. needs to spend to maintain military dominance. To help answer it, consider a more useful comparison: For every dollar the world spends on military outlays, America accounts for 46 cents. China, a distant second, comes in at about 7 cents."

Hmm.  Is that the real question?  Isn't the real question how the United States can best keep its nation safe?  Isn't it at the very least an open question whether striving to dominate the globe is making us safer or putting us at risk? The answer above to the wrong question is dramatically understated, and yet hugely important and worldview shattering for many potential readers.  I hope they read it.

"Gov. McDonnell is right to worry about the effect of defense spending cuts here in Virginia. Congress should pass legislation to stave off the sequestration meat ax. However, it needs to make judicious cuts to the defense budget. Overseas bases, redundant weapons systems, even force structures should all be on the table. The nation currently borrows 43 cents of every dollar it spends. And there is simply no way to fix that problem without including military cuts as part of the solution."

Wouldn't you know they'd reach the wrong conclusion after so much good rhetoric.  The sequestration meat ax would cut that $1.2 trillion budget by about $50 billion.  It should be cut by much more.  Cutting back to merely three times the size of China would allow us not only to pay off debt but to make college free, eliminate student loans, develop a massive green energy program, and update our infrastructure.  Those are the tradeoffs that should have been mentioned.  The mass murder of non-Americans that is generated by the war momentum that Eisenhower warned us war spending would create might also merit consideration.  Nonetheless, I doubt I shall ever see this good an editorial in my local paper again.

KPFT's The Monitor Takes on Violence

Listen here.

The theme of this week’s show: Guns and Media

  • RootsAction.org and Just Foreign Policy have launched a campaign targeting NBC’s new program, “Stars Earn Stripes,” a reality show co-hosted by retired U.S. General Wesley Clark and co-starring Todd Palin, which the network is advertising during the Olympics. We discuss this with David Swanson
  • Another mass shooting, this time in Wisconsin, has people wondering what can be done about gun violence, the gun lobby and the debate about second amendment protections. We discuss this with Ladd Everitt

More about this week’s guests:

David Swanson

David Swanson holds a master’s degree in philosophy from the University of Virginia. He has worked as a newspaper reporter and as a communications director, with jobs including press secretary for Dennis Kucinich’s 2004 presidential campaign, media coordinator for the International Labor Communications Association, and three years as communications coordinator for ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.

He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works as Campaign Coordinator for the online activist organization http://rootsaction.org

In April 2012, Swanson began working for Veterans For Peace. Swanson hosts Talk Nation Radio.

Quote: “NBC is marketing its new show during the Olympics as the next big sport, featuring former Olympic athletes, but the sport is war, with — so they tell us — real bullets, real explosives, and real danger. If NBC is really risking blowing off the head or arm or leg of Sarah Palin’s husband and the other stars, then we’ve regressed to ancient Rome. Bread and circuses are now Big Macs and NBC war-o-tainment shows. I suspect and hope that in fact NBC is not putting these people at risk and nobody is going to die on Stars Earn Stripes (note, link does not take you to the NBC show page). And I am certain that the 95 percent of casualties in U.S. wars who rarely get mentioned on any NBC program, namely the non-Americans, will not be featured. We will not see children and grandparents blown to pieces. We will not see cluster bombs picked up as toys. We may see doors kicked in, but not the screaming terrified families behind them. NBC is sanitizing and normalizing war as a sport. Gone is any concept of war as an emergency, any notion of war time as separate from peace time. We are into permanent war, and war for its own sake.”

—————————————————————————————

Ladd Everitt

Ladd Everitt is the Director of Communications of Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. He has served as the Director of Communications of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence since May 2006.  In this position, he is responsible for developing and managing a wide range of communications activities in support of the organization’s overall mission.

Mr. Everitt has served in a volunteer capacity with the D.C. Crisis Response Team, a group which offers comfort, support and referral services to victims and survivors of homicide in the District of Columbia. From 2002-2007, he served as the volunteer President of the D.C. Chapter of the Million Mom March. Under his direction, the chapter conducted events for victims and survivors of gun violence, published letters and editorials in local and national periodicals, participated in press conferences and demonstrations calling for sensible gun laws, networked with other community groups who are interested in stemming the tide of gun violence, and authored a comprehensive resource book for victims and survivors, which was used by the Metropolitan Police Department.

Ladd relocated to the District of Columbia from New York in September of 1993 to pursue a Masters degree in U.S. Foreign Policy at American University.  After completing his degree, he worked as a Research Associate with the U.S.‑Saudi Arabian Business Council in Washington, DC, and as a Chief of Policy Development for the Air Force Association in Arlington, Virginia.

A statement from Coalition to Stop Gun Violence issued in the wake of the incident in Colorado read in part: “Reports indicate that the shooter, 24-year-old James Holmes wore body armor and was armed with two Glock handguns, a tactical shotgun, and an AR-15 style assault rifle. He also released some type of chemical gas into the theater during the massacre. Twelve fatalities have been reported so far, with approximately 38 moviegoers injured, including 16 critically.  “Sadly, there is nothing novel about this tragedy. It is yet another massacre perpetuated by a homicidal maniac who was given easy access to lethal, military-style firepower.     “The pro-gun movement has told us that bloodbaths like Aurora are the price we must pay to guarantee freedom and individual liberty in the United States. Rational Americans should reject such radical ideology and demand immediate reform of our gun laws.  “The truth is that there is no greater threat to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ than the wanton gun violence that continues to destroy American families and communities. Until our legislators stand up to the extreme leadership of the National Rifle Association and enact laws to assure the thorough screening of gun buyers, tragedies like Aurora will continue to haunt America. It is long past time to put public safety back on the agenda in the U.S. Congress, and in our state legislatures.”

The  Coalition to Stop Gun Violence has also released a statement about the shooting in Wisconsin. You can read it here.

ladd callout

America a Democracy? Really?

By Dave Lindorff

This article was originally written forPressTV

We Americans are taught it in school. The propaganda put out by Voice of America repeats the idea ad nauseum around the globe. Politicians refer to it in every campaign speech with the same fervor that they claim to be running for office in response to God’s call: America is a model of democracy for the whole world.

But what kind of democracy is it really that we have here? 

Children's Book Illustrator Needed

I'm searching for a good children's book illustrator to illustrate my first children's book. If you are one or know one, please write to david at david swanson dot org

City on the Ledge

I just read a terrific novel set in contemporary Quito, Ecuador, with the main characters employees of the U.S. State Department and the CIA.

This is not an easy one to write about without spoiling the plot.  Let me just say that it's politically and psychologically insightful.  It doesn't simplify or glorify.  It doesn't beautify or brutalize human behavior.  And you will find yourself trusting that it's going somewhere good, but you will not be able to say exactly where.

If Bradley Manning didn't exist we would have to invent him.  Kraske has invented a narrative that takes us inside the workings of our government in a way that no collection of State Department cables ever could.  For better or worse, I suspect he's taken us to a place very closely resembling the real thing.

 

Audio: David Swanson and Coy Barefoot Discuss NBC's New War Reality Show

Charlottesville Right Now: 7-30-12 David Swanson

David Swanson from davidswanson.org joins the show to discuss a new NBC show called Stars Earn Stripes that turns war into a reality show. LISTEN.

And then ...

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