Friday, November 28

Really? You Have Mush For Thanksgiving?

Roger Cohen, "A Command of the Law". November 26

WHAT kind of Indian would say a fool thing like that?
It’s Thanksgiving. I’m thankful for many things right now, despite the stock market, and first among them is the fact that the next U.S. commander in chief is a constitutional law expert and former law professor.

Who didn't just vote to renew the trampling of constitutional rights via FISA, but did a Jim Rockford 180º to get there in time.

Look, we have already suggested that Barack Obama--should he find himself the beneficiary of an actual honeymoon period, and not just the current exasperated longing of an electorate for George W. Bush to vanish, from the Presidency, from history, and/or the planet--is entitled to one which doesn't invoke national commentary written as though the author found the entire honeymoon concept either new or foreign or rare.

So then are we also justified, maybe required, to suggest the opposite: that while the public may certainly indulge in the standard hopeful celebration of a new President accorded even so obvious a dud as George W. Bush, perhaps especially at a time when nothing has gone right for two election cycles now, the Public is an Ass; the punditasters ought to try to keep the tweenie squealing under control, unless they want to be mistaken for Jonas Brothers fans or Keith Olbermann.

It would be one thing if these platitudes could be mouthed in a glass without embarrassment. They can't. This was, as we said earlier, the first election in memory where the people who did vote would be the ones who couldn't bitch. Even the most zomboid of Obama fans cannot insist their man was elected, or plans to govern, as anything other than a career politician. He was, in fact, celebrated for that. This is of itself neither good, bad, fish nor fowl--nor required, as twenty-year-old political geniuses kept informing us during the campaign--it's a description of how we arrived where we are. Obama reversed himself on FISA, then excused the reversal on the grounds it was the best deal possible. At that point he'd been campaigning for President for eighteen months as the guy who was going to put an end to the white-socks-and-sandals unfashionableness of partisan politics. He did not pledge to do so while remaining a First, Fourth, or Fifth Amendment absolutist, not as I recall, but he did vow to "finish the fight with al-Qaeda" and express a preference for hot pursuit over the constraints of international law. Supposing we are still maintaining troops in Iraq come 2009, or still practicing "extraordinary rendition" people will have a right to be angry, but no right to feign shock.
Before I get to why, allow me to add two other reasons for thankfulness. The first is that Barack Obama is a man of sufficient self-confidence to entrust the critical job of secretary of state to his former rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton. She has the strength and focus to produce results.

The second is that he’s a man of sufficient good sense to retain the remarkable Robert Gates as defense secretary.
Well, maybe so...I don't think, given the circumstances, that Gates was a bad choice, and given insider information he might even be a wise one, but neither of us has insider information, though one of us might imagine he does. If it's wise this sort of blather has nothing to do with it; the idea that Gates is retained, or not, as a signal about Obama's intentions in Iraq is prime Inside Baseball idiocy. It's a gurgled cry from anti-war leftists who imagined they were backing an anti-war leftist. Iraq is not your worry with Obama; whether there's enough recognition of our serious, generation-long military deficit is. And I don't mean whether or not he'll live up to that campaign pledge to rebuild the military (remember that one?), but whether we are going to see, at long last, a decision made to bring Cold War militarism to heel while there's still some pressure left in the brake lines, or whether it's going to have to proceed like Reaganomics has, until we're steered off a cliff, screaming all the way down about how we got there. America: You Only Have To Hit Us Over The Head With A Brick Twice Per Issue! It's amusing, in a sick sort of way, to see this from Jim Bianco:

• Marshall Plan: Cost: $12.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $115.3 billion

• Louisiana Purchase: Cost: $15 million, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $217 billion

• Race to the Moon: Cost: $36.4 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $237 billion

• S&L Crisis: Cost: $153 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $256 billion
• Korean War: Cost: $54 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $454 billion

• The New Deal: Cost: $32 billion (Est), Inflation Adjusted Cost: $500 billion (Est)

• Invasion of Iraq: Cost: $551b, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $597 billion

• Vietnam War: Cost: $111 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $698 billion

• NASA: Cost: $416.7 billion, Inflation Adjusted Cost: $851.2 billion

TOTAL: $3.92 trillion

TOTAL bailout commitment so far: $4.6165 trillion

but the thing that's left out there is what a colossal pile of shit we've bought since 1946 in the effort to retain our post-war military/economic hegemony. Not to mention how that PR campaign eventually began feeding on itself, and we wound up spending just to maintain the spending, and had to talk ourselves into the hegemony part. We spent more on NASA since 1958 than we spent on the first round of bailouts, yes, but NASA's a trillion-dollar lab coat we put on the militarization of space, apparently to fool the rubes who, it turns out, were with the program from the moment they heard something was gonna blow up anyway. We've spent roughly $23.3 trillion in daylight on "Defense" (figures, taken from the Center for Defense Information, here) since the Second World War ended. That's using budget requests or projections for the last five years (through fiscal 2009), which doesn't change the total much, but it also exempts the Iraq and Afghanistan wars which,  you may recall, we're funding as a sort of side bet. Certainly not all of that $23 trillion, plus whatever's been spent off the books, plus NASA and whatever other extra-military spending's been going on qualifies as boondoggle, but we'd be remiss not to remind you that in there, somewhere, you, your parents, or your grandparents bought $1 billion (in 1950s dollars) worth of Atomic-Powered Aircraft development (after intelligence information suggested the Ruskies had already developed one); sixty-eight AWACS flying radar stations (at $200 million per in 1970s dollars), the realization of a post-WWII dream thirty years late, which had, by the time the first one was delivered, gone through three different justifications just to keep up with changing military and technical environments and which, today, serves basically as a sort of YouTube for the Air Force; the equally belated B-2, proudly fighting the Cold War since 1997 at a cost of $2.1 billion per in 1997 dollars, and whose vaunted stealthiness remains a rumor; God Knows How Much tossed down the Star Wars hole, dutifully dug with $1500 Pentagon-procured shovels for an octogenarian President with terminal brain bubbles; and the tenth carrier of the Nimitz class, the soon-to-be-deployed USS George H. W. Bush, (Motto: "Freedom at Work!"), which, at an estimated $4.5 billion, will thankfully be obsoleted six years later by the new Gerald R. Ford class carrier, at $8 billion per, not counting the $5 billion in development, and fittingly named for the only President of the United States ever to kill a man with an errant golf shot. By the time the third Ford class carrier is completed it is hoped that sophisticated navigational upgrades will keep many of our two-dozen carriers from colliding with each other despite there barely being enough room left on the world's oceans to swing a catfish. (Global warming should also help.)

Carriers, as you might know, represent another WWII solution in search of a problem, though this has largely been solved by our regular desire to push around tenth-rate nations with no navy, or air force, and frequently no coastline.

And these are just examples, folks, and conspicuously leave out the most egregious high-ticket embezzlements (say, the Safeguard Anti-Ballistic Missile Program, which, for $6 billion 1960s dollars, protected one US ICBM site for four months from a theoretical Soviet attack which was theoretically impossible. Safeguard was itself a re-tread of the Sentinel program, which was designed to protect US cities. That one was never deployed at all, if that tells you anything you didn't suspect already).

And, okay, easy to pick on things, even when they are major programs, but leave us also remember that all this money, and plenty more, has managed to fail to achieve political objectives in four intervening wars, "spent" the Soviet Union into a bankruptcy it was already headed for, and found itself a much-needed new justification shortly thereafter, on September 11, 2001, thirty-nine minutes before NORAD managed to get two fighters to the most populous city in the country, assuming you're using the 9/11 Commission's timetable.

So you'll forgive me if I'm less that fascinated by whether Robert Gates is the right man at Defense or not, or whether his retention signals something or other about the Obama administration's real Iraq timetable, as my ratiocination in that area remains focused on how long we're going to imagine we can keep spending our way to a military hegemony notable for its big-ticket expenditures and near-total inability to actually defeat tenth-rate powers armed with sharpened spikes and the F-14 Tomcats we sold 'em back when the Shah was in power. For cryin' out loud, the incoming President faces not just the Sargasso Sea of flotsam left by the Bush administration; it also faces the prospect of trying to turn things around while professing a bipartisanship designed to elicit cooperation from the two parties which have so thoroughly fucked things up to this point. And he, or else some successor, will face the obligation at some point to scrap the whole thing and rebuild one based on reality. Better to try to do that when it's a choice than wait until it becomes a necessity.

So, too, you'll forgive me for imagining that New York Times Op-Ed columnists could find something more important to consider than whether Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will be able to work together (!), or to express belated admiration for the (projected) dismantlement of a Gitmo their own paper's tub-thumping helped fill in the first place.


Jaye Ramsey Sutter said...

Bill Clinton was a con law expert/professor at U of Ark Law--yes they have law in the whole Ark-La.-Miss area as they call it. Why can't anyone remember anything that happened before Obama? Hillary taught at the law school, too.

Most of my law school profs were fine folks but not commander in chief material--so I don't think that it is sort of a two way street.

As far as Obama getting us out of Iraq: I seem to recall people being giddy about Nixon's secret plan to end the war in Vietnam. That worked really well, didn't it? I don't believe we are leaving. I think too it was very easy for Obama to be against the war that he kept voting to fund because frankly, his city wasn't bombed and Hillary would never have been re-elected after New York was bombed if she hadn't supported the war. She was told she was getting the same intel the president got and he said their were MWDs there.

Obama isn't psychic, he is from Chicago. He makes good speeches. I hope he can make good government but we just don't know about that now, do we.

Anonymous said...

Now maybe I'm just an idiot who focuses on the smaller points, but I can't help but wonder if all the fuel used by the US military isn't a bigger global warming contributor than, let's say, the next largest 44 armies in the world. Bein' as we spend more on the military than the next 44 countries in line for that designation, it makes sense, no? Perhaps we should all note that while our driving habits are a bit of a problem, the military is a much bigger one.

I have to have a little bit of hope on curbing the military spending, otherwise my pessimism gets overwhelming. Maybe some well-placed ads equating each new carrier with how many Social Security pensions it would have paid for instead. But no, the media that we have won't allow that; after all, GE has bigger fish to fry than to be bothered with our puny little thoughts out here in taxpayer land.

One friend recently noted with sadness that the way we got out of the last depression was with the spending for WWII. I had to point out that we were already spending plenty on that now and currently had not 1 but 2 wars going, so no, that probably wasn't going to work this time. Though I am sure we can expect to see military spending praised as the best way to move the economy again, especially as it gets much worse. Fear and money go so well together.

Kathy said...

We know that any disagreement within Repug ranks is considered dangerously heretical. Naturally they would assume disputes & discussions in the Dem party to be THE END of everything. Morans.

cavjam said...

Boy, you'd think with all them ships at sea a few disenfranchised Somali fishermens would never even think o bein' pirates, argh.

The U.S. nuclear weapons program spending is in the DOE budget - $35 billion last year, 10K+ warheads on hand.

Some of the anti-narcotics programs, DoJ budgeted, are military ops, strangely enough at odds with the apparent pro-narcotics Pentagon program in Afghanistan.

The UN, IMO and according to its charter, a peace organization, has a total budget of $20B. The U.S. has 96% of its budget arrears.

Anonymous said...

Rather than trying to stomp out poppy growing in Afghanistan, why don't we just buy up the crop every year? It would certainly be cheaper than the current military expense of being there in a war, and make us more popular with the locals too since that is the only thing that makes a profit in that foresaken land. We have to make our medical supply of morphine from poppy products anyway, why not buy from this source? Ooops, too logical; my apologies.

Anonymous said...

But, Jeff Sessions (Whiny Little Bitch, AL) says: "They's peepul out thayah who wone keeel us!"

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I've spent the last eight years from the gag rule to this bailout scanning the news fearfully waiting for the next outrageous fuckup of the current administration, and I look forward to spending the next four watching the Republicans try to make Obama look like Carter.

I won't be pretty, but it will be better.