May 20, 2013 - Eliminate Command E-9s
While the number of Generals and Admirals need be cut in half, there is fat on the enlisted side too. The growth of Command Sergeants Major (Army and Marines) Command Chief Master Sergeants (Air Force) and Navy (Force/Fleet Command Master Chiefs) has created an odd layer of command fat. These didn't exist until after the Korean war, yet grew like a fungus until every General and most Colonels now have a $100,000 a year E-9 sidekick. These political hacks aren't part of the official chain-of-command, yet they hold meetings, attend conferences, and tour "their" command to enforce the latest political fad. The senior ones (from four-star commands) acquire flag officer status. These E-9s rate extra pay, have personal staff, travel on executive jets, and hold press conferences.
I like the idea of a traditional Sergeant Major, who are the senior enlisted man of 200-1000 man units, usually those led by a mid-level officer with court-martial authority. There is no need for enlisted positions above them, something proven during World War II. Eliminating these "command" positions would cut a thousand senior bureaucrats out of our bloated command structure, and free enlisted men of annoying "elite" E-9 visitors. If Generals or Colonels wish to consult with senior enlisted men, they can summon unit E-9s, who are more in tune with enlisted problems at their frontline posting, and would no longer kiss ass in hopes of selection to a celebrity "command" slot.
May 18, 2013 - More BRAC stuff
I've refrained from commenting on potential domestic military base closures since it's more important to close unneeded overseas bases. But some bases are so worthless that I can't resist. The last BRAC commission in 2005 made several political compromises, especially with small Air National Guard bases. Squadrons (usually called Wings) were stripped of aircraft, but kept active, pending "a new mission."
Not surprisingly, new aircraft never appeared as USAF inventory numbers continue to fall. According the 2013 Air Force Almanac, since the 2005 BRAC, the number of fighter/attack aircraft in the Air Guard fell from 764 in 2005 to 635 in 2012. The number of aerial tanker aircraft (KC-135s) fell from 252 to 189. This means that squadrons are missing aircraft, so several more Air Guard "Wings" and their bases should close.
There is no point pretending those units that lost their aircraft in the 2005 BRAC will get any now. Good jobs are hard to find, but the average active duty airman costs $100,000 a year and the average reservist $30,000 a year. Unless overhead is slashed, we'll end up with an Air Force with no aircraft! Rather than press for another BRAC right now, I wish the White House and Air Force Generals would simply highlight this waste and present legislation to close a few hollow Air Guard bases instead, and New Castle too, which the USAF wanted closed in 2005! (see May 16th blog). A strong majority in Congress should agree. Since most states would not be affected, why not endorse a sensible plan to close a few small bases in other states quickly rather than roll the dice with another BRAC? Here an example of a hollow wing/base:
Capital Airport Air National Guard Station - this 91-acre facility is leased from the Springfield Airport Authority. It is home to the 183rd Fighter Wing of the Illinois Air Guard and occupies two administrative and 31 industrial buildings totaling 267,600 square feet. It employs 321 full-time and 800 part-time military personnel, whose single fighter squadron was deactivated in 2008 as the last of its F-16s departed. Peruse its website to see these expensive airmen and hundreds of civilians pretending they have a mission. They do some jet engine maintenance, but that work can be done much faster and more cheaply at bases that have F-16s. If this base were shut down tomorrow, the USAF would be unaffected, except that personnel costs would drop and lease payments to Springfield would end.
May 15, 2013 - North American English Dialects
Those who travel outside their hood know that Americans have many different dialects. I found this website with a detailed map of such dialects very interesting, along with video clips of people from different cities who provide audio samples.
May 13, 2013 - The Men Who Killed Kennedy
This is a famous British documentary that led to legal action and further controversy. I recall seeing one part that I recently rediscovered on youtube. Soon after the 17 minute point, there is solid, first-hand evidence about the odd death of a Navy officer who had taken never released pictures and film of Kennedy's controversial autopsy.
After seeing this over a decade ago, I followed up on the portion about disappearing assassin Army Captain David Vanek, who the Army later claimed never existed. I was aware of thick Army manuals in a large university government documents section that listed commissioned Army officers for each year. I found the 1965 book and checked to find that yes, Capt. David H. Vanek was listed as a commissioned U.S. Army officer.
May 12, 2013 - Syrian Chemical Weapons?
One of the most blatant lies promoted by America's corporate media and imperialist politicians is that Syria recently used chemical weapons. This is absurd! Using chemical weapons against insurgents is impractical. The gas drifts with the wind and can endanger those who employ it, nearby civilians, and contaminates areas for days. It is useful against huge targets where thousands of enemy soldiers are assembled in an area of a few square miles, but not against insurgents scattered in urban areas.
Robert Fisk is the most knowledgeable and experienced western reporter in the Arab world. He recently said:
"I had a talk with a Syrian army intelligence officer over coffee in Damascus, and I put it very frankly: "Look, you’ve got chemical weapons. You’ve always had chemical weapons, from the Russians. Do you use them?" And he said, "Why on earth would we want to?" He said, "We’ve got MiGs, with firepower infinitely more destructive than chemical weapons. Why would we want to use chemical weapons when we have MiGs with bombs?" which did seem to be a fairly, you know, straightforward argument. I have to say that on none of the soldiers which I saw, either in the area of Daraya, one of the suburbs of Damascus where there’s fierce fighting around the site of Zeinab Mosque in Damascus, or on the northern frontier opposite Turkey, were any of the soldiers carrying gas masks, which, if they were in the habit of using poison gas, they would have done."
The existing Syrian regime can probably survive its current rebellion, openly supported by the USA and Turkey with millions of dollars in "humanitarian" aid. This is why American imperialists and war profiteers are calling for American military intervention, especially with the profits from the war in Afghanistan rapidly decreasing. They know that public support is low, so are trying the old WMD lie again. Its seems desperate, but it worked for Iraq.
The Obama administration has said the use of chemical weapons would prompt direct American intervention. Since using chemical weapons against Syrian rebels is unnecessary and impractical, and has been called a red line that would prompt direct American intervention, there is no way Syria will employ them. That is common sense, yet watch our media and politicians continually claim they have been used.
Allow me to repost my Nov. 25, 2011 blog entry:
As the U.S. military semi-covertly supports another CIA/Mossad coup, I recall something former NATO Commander and retired four-star U.S. Army General Wesley Clark wrote in his 2003 book: "Winning Modern Wars"
"As I went back through the Pentagon in November 2001, one of the senior military staff officers had time for a chat. Yes, we were still on track for going against Iraq, he said. But there was more. This was being discussed as part of a five-year campaign plan, he said, and there were a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia, and Sudan."
Iraq, Libya, Somalia, and Sudan have now been conquered. You may recall that Somalia was invaded by American equipped and "advised" Ethiopian troops who took over that nation's capital. The USA maintains a small camp at the airport where Americans coordinate occasional airstrikes against warlords who continue to rule most of Somalia. The USA used African peacekeepers to invade Sudan, and helped break off South Sudan into a separate nation. Is all this just a coincidence? Or, is there a secret group in charge of American foreign policy that has long-term plans to dominate the entire world?
It may prove difficult to topple Syria, an effort that began two months ago. After that, Lebanon is next. The last and most difficult conquest will be Iran, which may send the world into oil shortage chaos. Meanwhile, keeping pro-western puppet dictators in place in Bahrain, Yemen, and Egypt is difficult.
Update: Our friendly dictator in Egypt was toppled last year, although the USA deftly took credit. There has been progress in Syria, but this conquest may require American troops. Hundreds have been deployed to Jordan, including troops from America's 1st Armored Division this past couple of weeks. Our Generals are not excited about intervening in Syria, but damn it, Congress seems serious about cutting their budget! We need a fresh war!
May 10, 2013 - The Boston Trade Dispute
I learn from a new book "Bunker Hill" that the real conflict with England was not about a tiny tea tax, but selling it too cheap. The English had produced too much tea in India that had filled its warehouses, so were "dumping" it in the American market at below cost. This was great for consumers, but devastating to American tea wholesalers and those who imported Dutch tea. These wealthy businessmen organized a "tea party" to protest, but spun it to pretend they were acting on behalf of all Americans by protesting the small tax on tea.
May 6, 2013 - 2015 BRAC
I was discussing the proposed BRAC with a Congressional staffer and mentioned that obvious targets are several Air National Guard Bases located less than an hour's drive from a major USAF base. Distance is important because expensively trained and skilled reservists won't drive long distances each month for weekend drills. If a unit moves more than two hours away, most of its personnel might quit.
A great example of an unneeded base is the one for the Delaware Air National Guard, yes I'm picking on that state again. It was founded in 1946 at the New Castle Army Airfield with the 142nd Fighter Squadron, and an authorized strength of 49 officers and 263 enlisted men. It converted to an airlift wing after the Korean war, and now operates eight C-130 aircraft with a crew of five each. These 166th Airlift Wing aircraft have a total of 40 crewmen, and along with maintenance and headquarters personnel, perhaps some 200 airmen are needed for this squadron.
So why does it have 1100 airmen assigned, and 294 are full-time personnel, more than the manning requirements for an active duty C-130 squadron! Most fat exists because this small squadron has it's own base adjacent to the New Castle Airport, even though the huge Dover AFB is 40 miles down the road and has space to accommodate eight C-130s. Dover's an Air Mobility Command base too, and includes two Air Force Reserve airlift squadrons. It would be easy to move the 166th down to Dover to utilize its base support. More than half the 166th's personnel slots could be eliminated at its base at New Castle shuts down. There are a dozen of other examples around the nation, as shown on this official USAF map. One can also see clusters of Air Guard bases in some states that could be consolidated, which is important because it costs more to operate these bases than the tenant (operational) unit itself.
May 5, 2013 - Union Regiments Should Have Invaded Delaware
As a follow up to yesterday's blog, Delaware organized several Union regiments that fought in the Civil War. Here is photo of this slave state's Union soldiers ready to die, to free slaves? They could have swept through their own state to accomplish that. As I've discussed many times, interesting history is whitewashed. The State of Delaware's detailed website of the Civil War fails to mention that it remained a slave state during the war. No need to confuse the public with facts.
May 4, 2013 - Union Slave States
Our history books and corporate media simplify our greatest national disaster - the Civil War. For example, four slave states never declared a secession: Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri. They were allowed to keep 800,000 slaves during the war as they sent troops with Union armies to reclaim federal property in the South, not to free slaves. (see my Jan 2, 2011 blog for details) These states are referred to as "border states" in books, rather than loyal slave states, so as not to confuse the public.
Lincoln's 1863 Emancipation Proclamation did not apply to these states. Missouri and Maryland abolished slavery during the war. In Kentucky and Delaware, 40,000 slaves remained after the war, until freed by the ratification of the 13th Amendment in December 1865.
May 3, 2013 - Health Care for Profit
While I often complain about America's dysfunctional health care system, allow me to defend it from mindless Feds and their lobotomized media allies. We learn from the "media" that a state mental health hospital in Nevada "dumped" 1500 patients in recent years by giving them a bus ticket back home. No one mentioned that federal law requires hospitals to admit anyone an ambulance dumps off, and these 1500 people were from out-of-state and had no money to pay for care, and the feds refuse to reimburse state hospitals for this federally mandated care for non-residents.
Should anyone be surprised that lots of mentally unstable people end up penniless in Las Vegas? It attracts lots of troubled people who can gamble, drink cheap alcohol all day even in public along the Strip, and smoke indoors at clubs and casinos! And it doesn't snow, which is very important for outdoorsmen (aka homeless) visitors. If you can pay, no hospital will give you a bus ticket, and may keep you longer than needed! Since hospitals have limited budgets, "dumping" deadbeats after a few days of free care is a natural result of our system. We should thank this state mental health hospital for paying for their bus ticket home! The reaction of the Feds is interesting. They threaten to end Medicare payments to the hospital, so it may soon put visitors over the age of 65 on the bus too.
Apr 28, 2013 - Playing the Hollow Force Card
In my Jan 13th blog (far below) I noted that our Generals were preparing to defend their bloated budgets with the old "hollow force" strategy.
"No outdated overseas bases will close, no failed weapons programs will be cancelled, no bloated headquarters will be deactivated. Temporary cuts will be made by reducing training, manning levels, and maintenance. After a couple of years readiness will be poor, and Generals scream that they can't fight a war because the force has been hollowed out by devastating budget cuts."
This was confirmed this week when the Army’s Chief of Staff warned Congress that military budget cuts and canceled training exercises are hurting the Army’s readiness, including the ability to respond to a potential conflict on the tense Korean peninsula. He failed to explain that South Korea's military is five times stronger than North Korea's, so any future conflict does not require help from a single American soldier. The Generals didn't wait for readiness to gradually decline, they targeted all cuts on readiness accounts to play their hollow force card sooner.
Apr 27, 2013 - Buy Basic Laptops
The desktop/laptop industry is at a profitable dead end, and sells fashion and myths for profit margins. I remember buying a basic Dell laptop in 2006 for $1500, which was a good deal. Dell is considered a high-end, reputable company, yet I just bought a basic "Inspiron" Dell laptop at Best Buy with a 15.6 inch screen for $280! This laptop is much more capable than my 2006 Dell, so I don't understand why people buy laptops for several times more, or why anyone buys big, immobile desktops. Unless you have an odd need for advanced specs, there is no need to waste your money for anything but basic models, especially since most laptops are destroyed within four years with falls or spills. Repairs can easily cost $200, so its best to just buy a new one, and pass on the extended warranty.
Apr 22, 2013 - A Few More Lost Battles of the Vietnam War
In my readings about bloody battles along the DMZ during the Vietnam war, I was surprised that foot infantry was normally employed when armored units would have been far more effective. It seems because the NVA didn't have tanks and APCs, our Generals assumed that we didn't need our own. This thinking changed during the war as more armored forces were deployed, as described in the great book: Mounted Combat in Vietnam, which can be read on line.
The Army eventually fielded the nimble and deadly M-113 ACAV (pictured), with a shielded .50 cal. machine gun and two side mounted .30s, and a frontal RPG-RR shield, but the Marines never adopted them. These would have been great in Iraq and Afghanistan too, but the U.S. military retired the ACAV without a similar replacement.
My list of lost battles will soon total 64 with these additions:
The Dragon's Jaw - On Apr 3, 1965, the U.S. military conducted the first of hundreds of bombing raids to destroy the Thanh Hoa Bridge in North Vietnam. Thousands of bombs were dropped and eleven American aircraft shot down with several more damaged beyond repair until the iron bridge finally fell in 1972.
The Battle of Ia Drang - This was the first of many disastrous airmobile assaults, when infantry helicoptered into a remote area and encountered a larger enemy force with ample ammunition. On Nov 14, 1965, the 1st battalion of the 7th Cavalry landed at LZ X-ray and found itself surrounded with little ammunition and no heavy firepower.
It was nearly overrun while suffering 79 killed and 121 wounded, and survived only by demanding all available air support in Vietnam. The 7th Cavalry immediately left the area after declaring victory, while survivors pondered the wisdom of an attrition strategy using American foot infantry.
The Battle of Thon Cam Son - In July 1967, the 2nd battalion of the 9th Marines crossed into the DMZ to find the NVA. They found abandoned base camps and bunkers because the NVA had pulled out and moved around behind them. The Marines had to fight their way back home, and more than half the unit bled as it lost 41 killed and 355 wounded.
Ambush at Ap Nhi - On Aug 25, 1968, a resupply convoy of 81 trucks from the 48th Transportation Group departed Long Binh. Seven drivers lost their lives in an ambush, 10 were wounded, and two taken prisoner as most trucks were destroyed. Drivers held on with air support until a rescue force arrived nine hours later after suffering 23 killed and 35 wounded.
Apr 20, 2013 - Perpetual War
Tom Engelhardt's brilliant article: US creates enemy-industrial complex provides a clear view of recent American history filled with bogus enemies.
Apr 16, 2013 - Those Evil Ruskies!
The United States just banned 18 Russian citizens accused of human rights violations from travelling to the USA, so Russia banned 18 Americans from traveling to Russia. If your news comes from CNN, you read their headline: "Russia lashes out at US human rights blacklist". It mentions the Russians were angry about the list and created a list of 18 American it banned in retaliation, but didn't name names.
If you read foreign news, or off-beat websites that compile interesting news, like the "Atlanta Blackstar" you learn:
According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, its list of 18 American officials are those ”implicated in human rights violations.” The statement says the list “primarily includes those who are implicated in legalization of torture and perpetual detentions in Guantanamo prison, to the arrests and kidnapping of Russian citizens." The Russian list names four people allegedly involved in Guantanamo: David Addington, who served as chief of staff under former Vice President Dick Cheney; John Yoo, a former U.S. Justice Department official who wrote legal memos authorizing harsh interrogation techniques; and two former commanders of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center — retired Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller and Adm. Jeffrey Harbeson.
Apparently, CNN editors didn't think Americans should know the details to appreciate the irony of widespread human rights abuses by American officials, who are never prosecuted. It seems CNN is following the Fox News strategy of ignoring news that upsets Americans, lest they change the channel and ratings fall.
John Yoo is a perfect example of an American human rights abuser. He sold his soul for a nice gig at the Bush White House where he crafted legal memos requested by the Bush Administration stating that torture is legal if necessary. Woo ruled the Geneva Conventions void if the U.S. President chose to ignore them because he is a deity. Woo was later sued and investigated, but never punished for his crimes and somehow appointed a professor at the University of California law school at Berkeley. I wrote about this back in 2003.
Bush Administration defies the Geneva Conventions
In February 2003, the Geneva-based International Red Cross ruled that Muslims captured in Afghanistan were Prisoners of War (POWs) and entitled to the protections afforded by the Geneva Conventions. The Bush administration rejected this decision and shocked the world community by openly defying the Geneva Conventions and insisting the POWs were "detainees". America's corporate media ignored this story, implying that each head-of-state is allowed to interpret the Geneva Conventions however he pleases. The International Committee of the Red Cross is charged with interpreting the Geneva conventions and using diplomacy to encourage compliance. The world is outraged as the US military continues to violate the Geneva Conventions by interrogating POWs for long periods while boasting some will be executed.
The Bush administration claimed that the execution of six German saboteurs during World War II set a precedent. However, a formal state of war existed at that time after a declaration of war by the US Congress, and those Germans were captured in the USA with plans for specific attacks, unlike the current prisoners who were captured on a battlefield overseas. The Bush Administration ordered soldiers at the US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (called Gitmo) to call their POWs "detainees." Gitmo was chosen because of its unique status as a parcel of territory occupied against the will of a host nation. Cuba objects to the continued occupation of Gitmo and its use as a prison. The base was established after the Spanish-American war and no longer serves any military purpose.
American military officers are taught the rules of the Geneva Conventions and told they must ignore illegal orders that violate these treaties, even if they come from "temporary occupants of the White House" as General Douglas MacArthur once described. This caused conflicts last year as a courageous General in charge of security at Gitmo, Brigadier General Rick Baccus, insisted on obeying the Geneva Conventions by referring to the prisoners as POWs. Baccus was removed after irritating Major General Michael Dunlavey, who is in charge of interrogating the prisoners, with his decision to allow the Red Cross to put up posters advising detainees they need only provide their name, rank and number during questioning.
Meanwhile, quiet resistance within the US military delayed plans for military tribunals, avoiding another violation of the Geneva Conventions. The British sent stern warnings that executing British citizens deemed POWs by the Red Cross would not be tolerated, so their nine citizens have been excused from death threats. This past Summer, after months of private discussions about POW treatment at Gitmo, the Red Cross openly declared the US Government in violation of the Geneva Conventions based upon first hand reports from Cuba. Food quality and exercise rights were tied to cooperation during interrogations, reports of physical torture emerged, and it was revealed that three boys under age 16 were in custody. Since Gitmo was run as a high security facility with all activities considered secret, Gitmo commanders were enraged at the prospect of facing an international war crimes tribunal in the future.
Three people who worked among POWs at Gitmo were promptly arrested, and espionage was suggested as the reason. The most noteworthy "spy" was US Army Captain James Yee, who was found to have notes about POWs in a briefcase when he flew into Jacksonville, Florida, which is not uncommon for a chaplain. This West Point graduate was not imprisoned at the Army stockade at nearby Fort Stewart as is customary; he was transported to a maximum security Navy Brig at Charleston, South Carolina, where three other US citizens are held without charges or access to lawyers. Yee was not formally charged within 45 days as required and not allowed free pending charges as is customary for a simple accusation of "mishandling classified information." Yee was recently released after 76 days of confinement and charged with failing to use proper cover sheets for classified documents. Prosecutors also charged him with adultery and viewing pornographic material on a government computer. Since most US servicemen can be charged with such "crimes", a strong message has been sent to every soldier at Gitmo to keep his mouth shut.
According to an October 24, 2003 article in the Washington Post,
Military authorities launched an investigation of Army Capt. James Yee, a Muslim chaplain at the Guantanamo Bay prison, after a series of confrontations between him and officials over the treatment of al Qaeda and Taliban detainees there, according to military officials and other informed sources.
Yee, who ministered to the inmates at the U.S. Navy prison in Cuba, protested what he believed were lives of unrelieved tension and boredom experienced by his fellow Muslims in captivity, the officials and other sources said.
Some interrogators at the prison complex objected after concluding that Yee's private, one-on-one meetings with inmates interfered with their attempts to fully control the prisoners' environment, numerous sources said. Some detainees appeared less cooperative in interrogations after visits from Yee, the sources said.
Apparently, the senior intelligence officer at Gitmo, US Army Colonel Jack Farr, crossed his superiors too. On November 29, 2003 he was charged with "wrongfully transporting classified material without the proper security container on or around Oct. 11, 2003" and lying to investigators. Criminal charges for such petty violations are extremely rare, and indicate retribution for reasons that remain secret.
Apr 14, 2013 - Budget Games
The President's proposed FY2014 military budget was just released, exact details here. The budget is odd in that it ignores the $50 billion cut required by the sequestration law. It is higher than last year, but lowers spending 1.8% when inflation is factored. The common "war funding" note remains that spending may be greater due to the "war." Also note the "sudden" threat from North Korea filling our airwaves as the budget is rolled out and our "war" in Afghanistan draws down.
Apr 13, 2013 - 500,000 Americans Quit Working
Yet another example of how our corporate media manages the truth is news that unemployment for March fell to a four-year low of 7.6%. This math was possible after government experts declared that 500,000 Americans had stopped working and "dropped out" of the labor force, so they aren't counted as unemployed. The labor force participation rate (i.e. employment rate) is the lowest since 1972. And what solution is favored by our two corporate political parties? A second amnesty for illegal aliens to encourage millions more poor, desperate foreigners to flood across our borders.
Another interesting stat is that recent graduates living at home with either a parent or grandparent have increased. In 2005 the share of 22-24 year olds who had at least a bachelor’s degree but were living at home was 36%, and it reached 43% in 2011. This is why our government reports "household income" rose. It doesn't report individual income, which has plummeted this past decade and forced millions more Americans to share homes with friends and family members. This causes household income to rise since more workers are in each house, and is reported as good news.
Apr 8, 2013 - Another Overseas Base to Close
Cut Army Fat in Europe - close USAREUR and Wiesbaden
Apr 7, 2013 - Heil America!
Few Americans know that our Pledge of Allegiance was written by an American socialist to encourage support for a strong centralized state. The Feds encouraged its adoption in public schools after millions of Americans failed to support our mindless participation in World War I, which led to Adolph Hitler. I'm not being funny, read some history, like Pat Buchannan's great book!
The daily pledge was opposed by some religious groups, who considered it a prayer to a false idol, a violation of the 2nd Commandment: “You shall not make for yourself an idol”. The phrase "under God" was added years later to make it more acceptable. As part of national indoctrination, school students are required to stand and say a prayer to the flag each morning. Students prayed with their hand extended forward (pictured) until 1942 when Congress passed a law instructing them to place their hand on their heart. If you don't know why, read some history?
Flag worshiping goes beyond the Pledge of Allegiance. Read about flag retirement ceremonies, like that recommended by the Boy Scouts of America, in which an old flag is burned (yes, a public flag burning). The ceremony includes:
• CFR: "Two. Please bow your heads as <<person giving
the benediction>> leads us in the benediction"
April 3, 2013 - Buy CFL Bulbs!
Most Americans pay no attention to light bulb technology. A decade ago, compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) appeared that last eight times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs and use much less electricity, but they cost three times more. CFLs are those spiral tube types. Older bulbs waste most of their energy producing heat. Touch one to find out, then touch a CFL, and you'll understand. LED bulbs have recently appeared, which use even less electricity and last even longer but cost several times more.
As CFLs became more popular, and LED bulbs appeared, CFL prices have plummeted. I just bought a pack of twelve Great Value 60-watt CFLs at Walmart for $15, which is the same unit cost as older, traditional "round" bulbs. So why does anyone buy the old ones, which break easily? CFLs cost the same, use one-quarter the electricity, and last eight times longer! Some progressives want to ban the sale of traditional bulbs to help save the environment, and save consumers from their ignorance. This has been done in several modern nations, and I would support a ban here, except for certain decorative bulbs.
Apr 2, 2013 - A Manufactured Korean Crisis
As I explained in my Mar 27 blog, the Pentagon will do anything to deter budget cuts. There is an ongoing effort to prevent Korean reunification, and inflame the friction. We impose ever more sanctions, North Korea makes threats, so we send nuclear armed B-52 and B-2 bombers on publicized flights over South Korea? As the brilliant Eric Margolis recently explained, this yet another fake crisis, yet these petty provocations could provoke war, which would be just fine with many of our Generals.
Generals say we are at the brink of war. Then why aren't they evacuating the thousands of American military families from South Korea? They've been spinning this "dangerous" line for years, even as they doubled the number of accompanied military families tours in Korea? Is this just a game to justify budgets?
The behavior of our Army Generals in Korea over the past few years is insubordinate and near criminal. In 2006, South Korea and the USA agreed to spend billions of dollars to build new facilities to move American troops away for the DMZ and south of Seoul. This was supposed to reduce tensions and save money in the long-term. Over $13 billion American taxpayer dollars have been spent to expand other bases (mostly Camp Humphreys), yet most American bases near the DMZ remain open. One of the largest bases yet to be closed is Camp Casey, where the U.S. Army built and opened a K-8 school for military families in 2010, the first American school north of Seoul. (pictured) If Camp Casey is closing, why spend millions of dollars to build a school? And if Korea is truly a dangerous place, why base American families near the DMZ at a primary North Korean artillery target?
Mar 31, 2013 - Organized Crime at your Pharmacy
One simple solution to our nation's high medical costs is for the government to allow Medicare to negotiate medicine prices with large pharmaceutical companies. This is done by the Veterans Administration and some large insurers. This would save Medicare and taxpayer billions of dollars a year, money that now goes to easy corporate profits.
The current issue of "Consumer Reports" magazine provides examples of how med prices are greatly inflated. For example, a 30-day supply of Lipitor costs $17 at Costco (you don't have to pay their $50 annual membership fee to use their pharmacy), but costs $144 at Target and $150 at CVS! Plavix costs $15 at Costco, but $50 at Walgreens and $137 at Rite Aid! These mark-ups are so high that one might assume Congress would intervene. Price gouging people buying medicine!
Our corporate media remains mostly silent about this ongoing scandal. Consumers with insurance don't notice because they assume their "discount" saves them money. In many cases their insurance medicine copay is greater than the full cash price at Costco! This explains the criminal conspiracy known as Medicare Part D, which arose during the Bush Administration and costs our government and elderly billions of dollars a year. The cash price at Costco is usually cheaper than the Medicare Part D co-pay, AND the pharmacies bill Medicare for the rest, which is pure profit!
For example, a senior who watches lots of TV might feel comfortable choosing the Medicare Part D Rx plan offered by AARP for $28.80 a month, so they only pay $43 each month for Lipitor. But they can buy it for $17 at Costco with no monthly membership fee! We don't hear anything about this racket when our two corporate sponsored political parties debate budget problems or medical costs. Some have suggested that we simply eliminate Medicare Part D and tell seniors to buy their meds at Costco, but that makes too much sense.
Mar 28, 2013 - The Best Murder Method
I came across an old CIA manual on assassination and was skimming for anything of interest. It advised that the best method is the high-rise fall. Note the target's public routine and if he walks along a rail at least four stories high, grab his ankle from behind and shove him over. There is no evidence of violence and investigators never know if he just fell or committed suicide or what. There is no murder weapon to acquire or dispose of or evidence of foul play, unless someone witnessed the two second shove off.
Mar 27, 2013 - The Reality of the American Empire
This great video explains recent American history. The late Chalmers Johnson was far more knowledgeable and experienced than I, yet we both came to the same realization at the end of the Cold War. The United States had evolved into a corrupt, undemocratic empire committed to ruling the world, even if it bankrupted the nation.
The empire became more obvious this past year. Our total military budget has doubled since 2002 and our nation teeters on bankruptcy, but efforts to cut it back have failed. Thus far, the only "cuts" were to plans for continued growth, although the Pentagon's propaganda machine (aka the liberal media) tries to convince Americans otherwise. The Pentagon spin machine now infiltrates social media websites, where full-time employees use dozens of fake identities to manipulate on-line posts and conversations.
The other revelation was the Obama administration's decree that they could assassinate any U.S. citizen anywhere if he were deemed a threat, and has already killed several, including a teenager. Rand Paul was the only Senator to loudly object, while crazed imperial warmongers Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham denounced him for upsetting citizens. They say we should focus our attention on conquering Syria (since the bloody CIA funded rebellion failed) and seek more ways to provoke war with Iran.
Mar 26, 2013 - Oil from Irak
It has been ten years since the USA invaded Iraq. Few Americans understand what that was all about. All is explained in my 2007 classic: Oil from Irak. There have been many recent articles about this 10th anniversary, and many still discuss if Bush really believed WMDs existed. I don't understand why so few remember that Hans Blix's UN inspectors were allowed to check all suspect WMD sites several weeks before the US invasion, and reported that nothing was there!
Mar 25, 2013 - Ten More Lost Battles
After a long pause, I plan to add new entries to my series: Lost Battles of the Vietnam War:
The Sinking of the USNS Card - This World War II aircraft carrier was later used as a transport for American military cargo. On May 2, 1964, it was moored in a heavily defended harbor in the Saigon River. Two VC commandos crawled down a sewer pipe and attached explosives to the ship. The explosion knocked a huge hole in the hull and killed five American crewmen, causing the ship to sink 45 feet to the river bed.
Attack on Bien Hoa Airbase - On November 1, 1964, Viet Cong squads shelled the airfield at Bien Hoa with mortars. The attack began shortly after midnight and lasted 20 minutes. It was estimated that there were three 81mm mortars. The attack was effective as 27 aircraft were hit, including 20 B-57s (5 destroyed), 4 helicopters, and 3 A-1H Skyraiders. A fourth Skyraider crashed trying to take-off. Five Americans and two Vietnamese were killed, and 43 were wounded.
Death of Supply Column 21 - Operation Starlite was the first major Marine Corps operation in Vietnam, and fighting was tougher than expected. A ship landed an armored supply column to support combat forces, which became lost and was attacked in a rice paddy on Aug 18, 1965. Five of the seven armored vehicles were destroyed (including two tanks) during a day long firefight. Five of the 27 Marines were killed and 17 wounded as they held off the enemy until daybreak.
Operation Utah - On Mar 4, 1966, the 2nd battalion of the 7th Marines helicoptered into an area near Quang Ngai to investigate reports of an NVA regiment in the area. They found it dug into fortifications around Hill 50 and attacked across open rice paddies. The attack failed and the Marines fell back, but were surprised when the NVA counterattacked. The battalion was in trouble and more Marine units where flown in to join the battle. The enemy withdrew, but only after the Marines lost 98 dead, 278 wounded, with several aircraft destroyed.
Attack at Binh Duong - On Feb 26, 1967, a Viet Cong battalion nearly overran Alpha Company, 4th Battalion, 9th Regiment, of the Army's 25th Division. The VC slipped past camp defenses in a surprise attack that killed 19 Americans and several ARVN soldiers.
Slaughter at LZ Margo - The 2nd battalion of the 26th Marines helicoptered into LZ Margo near the DMZ for a standard search and destroy mission. Contact was light over the next three days as units swept the area. On Sept. 16, 1967, the battalion received an order from higher headquarters to withdraw into the small LZ where they had arrived, because a big B-52 airstrike was planned in the area. Marines were worried because they were tightly grouped and the ground was rock hard so they couldn't dig in. They knew the NVA kept them under observation and were a perfect target for a mortar barrage. A short time later, hundreds of mortar rounds tore into the tightly packed Marines, killing 30 and wounding nearly 200 until the NVA ran out of ammo.
Battle for Nui Ho Khe (Hill 88) - Marines were concerned that enemy units near their big Con Thien base threatened their main supply route. On Sept 10, 1967, the 3rd battalion of the 26th Marines ventured forward to secure Hill 88. It was surprised to encounter an entire NVA regiment, which counterattacked causing a bloody fight in which 3/26 suffered 300 casualties (40% including 37 KIA) and lost several tanks. It withdrew to Hill 48 where it made a successful last stand. While the NVA suffered more causalities, poor intel resulted in this clumsy assault that failed to reach its objective.
Rocket Attack on Da Nang - On July 15, 1967, the NVA conducted a major rocket bombardment on the key U.S. airbase at Da Nang. A total 83 NVA 122mm and 140mm rockets hit the base just before dawn, resulting in 8 killed, 175 wounded, 10 aircraft destroyed and 49 damaged.
Operation Crimson Tide - On Oct 18, 1966 the first official mission to rescue an American POW was launched. It ended in disaster, with 12 killed, 17 missing, two helicopters shot down, and no prisoners rescued.
Operation Lam Son 719 - In early 1971, a major offensive was launched into Laos to sever the Ho Chi Minh Trail supply line. The United States provided logistical, aerial, and artillery support to the operation. American ground forces were prohibited by Congress from entering Laotian territory, but supported the offensive by rebuilding the airfield at Khe Sanh. South Vietnam provided its best units for this month long offensive, and the Pentagon was confident that American firepower would guarantee victory. After a series of lost battles, the South Vietnamese retreated back home after losing nearly 1,600 men. The U.S. Army lost 215 men killed, 1,149 wounded, 38 missing, and lost 108 helicopters while 7 American fighter-bombers were shot down.
Mar 19, 2013 - Cut Two Carriers!
Yet another article has highlighted our Navy's infatuation with huge aircraft carriers: At What Cost a Carrier? Our Navy halved its overall fleet since the end of the Cold War, but still has eleven ultra-expensive super carriers, plus twelve large STOL carriers used by the Marines. Precision anti-ship missiles have improved in quality and quantity, while the number of escort ships available to protect carriers has shrunk. In addition to deadly submarines and long-range cruise missiles, long-range ballistic anti-ship missiles have appeared, such as the Chinese DF-21. Two were successfully tested against a carrier-size target last January. (results below)
Such missiles are difficult to counter since they strike at Mach 5 and hitting them head-on with a missile is nearly impossible. Proximity fuse anti-aircraft weaponry are of little value because of their high speed and the incoming missile doesn't need a warhead, just a solid long-rod penetrator used by anti-tank missiles. Just the impact of a large solid spear at Mach 5 on a carrier deck may prove catastrophic.
As I noted in my June 24, 2012 blog, aircraft carriers are powder kegs packed with fuel and ammo. A single solid missile slicing through several decks would explode or ignite something, which may explode something else, and may set off a chain of explosions that bursts the ship, killing all 6000 sailors aboard. Rather than early decommissioning of another 30 ships, our Navy should immediately decommission two supercarriers this year. This would instantly solve its sequester budget problems and rebalance the fleet.
However, our Navy should keep the two carrier air wings. Everyone forgets that most airpower used in the Pacific during World War II operated from land bases, and our military has several strategic airbases around the world where naval aviation can base aircraft for sea control missions. While fixed airbases are easy to target, they are huge and can't be sunk. A missile hit on an airfield usually just causes a big hole that can be patched in a few hours. I'd place one "shipless" carrier air wing in the Pacific and one the Mediterranean/Persian Gulf region.
Here is the basic organization of a Navy Carrier Air Wing (CAW), although the Navy is likely to rename a land-based CAW a "Tactical Support Wing" (TSW) since that is what it calls its land-based reserve "carrier" wing
Here is a notional basing of two land-based naval TSWs. These would include six CONUS based Marine Corps squadrons that rotate deployments "UDP" to keep two deployed. The other four could deploy within a couple of weeks during times of crisis along with thousands of reservists specifically trained to flesh out the numerous austere Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) kept ready in peacetime by a small cadre of contractors.
CAW-1 (from NAS Oceana, Virginia) moves to:
NAS Bahrain - TSW-1 HQ; HS squadron; HSM squadron; VMFA squadron (6 mo. UDP from Cherry Point)
MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina - three VMFA squadrons (one on UDP rotation to Bahrain)
NAS Sigonella, Italy - VFA squadron; VAQ squadron; VAW squadron; VRC det.
Navy/Marine support dets at existing airbases: NAS Souda Bay, Crete; Thumrait, Oman; Lemonnier, Djibouti; Diego Garcia; and varied sites in the Persian Gulf, which can provide fuel and munitions support.
Family space is very limited at Bahrain, and it's a potential war zone, hence the UDP (i.e. three Marine Corps squadrons rotating unaccompanied personnel on six-month tours). Sigonella is ideally located, but basing costs may require some units to locate at NAS Rota, Spain, which could have plenty of room if someone cancels the screwy plan to move four destroyers there.
CAW-5 (from NAS Atsugi, Japan) moves to:
Anderson AFB, Guam; TSW-5 HQ; HSC squadron (already there); VFA squadron; VAQ squadron; VAW squadron; VRC det
RAAF Darwin, Australia: HS squadron; VMFA squadron (on 6 mo. UDP from Miramar)
MCAS Miramar, Calif.: three VMFA squadrons (one on UDP rotation to Darwin)
Dets at new Forward Operating Bases that can provide fuel and munitions support.
CAW-5 is now based at Atsugi, Japan near the "super target" aircraft carrier USS George Washington. However, Guam in the central Pacific is a far better location. The Navy agreed to remove CAW-5 from Atsugi by 2014 due to noise complaints in the Tokyo area, but no other Japanese community wants them. If CAW-5 departs, Atsugi could accommodate some large "quieter" aircraft from vulnerable Okinawa, allowing the overdue closure of MCAS Futenma.
Japan can defend its mainland from China, but no U.S. naval combat aircraft are based in the central and south Pacific, so a TSW at Guam fills that gap. The Marines recently received approval to use RAAF Darwin, which is mostly abandoned as the RAAF shifted aircraft inland to RAAF Tindal. This is a better location since Darwin is hampered by bad coastal weather (typhoons) and vulnerable to surprise attacks from the sea.
During wartime, TSW aircraft could move amongst the FOBs depending on the tactical situation. They may join CAWs on deployed aircraft carriers while the CAW aircraft may utilize the network of FOBs. During wartime, Admirals would wisely keep their mighty aircraft carriers safely outside the Persian Gulf and far from China (east of Guam) until the enemy submarine and missile threat is fully suppressed. They can feed their aircraft into the fight utilizing the network of unsinkable FOBs. I plan to write a full article about all this in the future.
Mar 17, 2013 - Another Base Closure Victory
Another two bases on my overseas base closure list have been ordered closed, or in this case not opened. I never know if my list has any impact, but its good to think it may have influenced some. The two "missile defense" bases under construction in Poland and Romania will not open. The entire concept was unworkable and a fraud. The closures were spun as an effort to improve relations with Russia, although this article notes: "A slew of recent reports by congressional and defense analysts suggested the interceptors might not work." It also quotes Tom Collina, research director at the Arms Control Association. "We give up nothing since Phase 4 was not panning out anyway. This is a win-win for the United States. "
Mar 11, 2013 - California Gold
In response to my last blog on artificial water shortages, a reader writes:
I live in Los Angeles County, specifically in the "Inland Valley". Contrary to popular belief, this region isn't a Desert, because evaporation does not exceed precipitation --- it is a "Steppe" region, which receives a fair amount of year-round rainfall, and a HUGE volume of it during the Winter. This is also true for much of LA County east of the Puente Hills (the LA Metropolitan Area), which for the most part is a flood plain. It is, nonetheless, relatively hot through much of the year, and frequently very dry (the summers are often rather severe). The flooding was a major problem for many years, and in the early 20th century, what was at one time the most elaborate flood control system ever seen was built in LA County. It included literally THOUSANDS of miles of channels, tunnels, and concrete-lined rivers (to say nothing of dams, levees, storm drains, and floodgates), all to allow this rainfall to simply slide-off into the ocean. As this system grew and grew every year like a giant slime mold colony, there has steadily been less and less flooding in this area. The last big floods in my own hometown was in the 1970s. Are you starting to see where this is going? It's a long story, but it has to be that way to understand the situation. This county steadily became known less for flooding and more for water shortages, and this is why the California Aqueduct was created, which is another little-appreciated marvel of modern engineering. To keep water available for everyone's faucets, sprinklers, garden hoses, fountains, and crops, the Aqueduct grew and grew over time, stabbing further into the northern regions of the state. The demand for water is such that numerous Desert Lakes that have been brimming with water since time immemorial are now bare salt pans. Notably, Owens Lake was once so full, that miners and other settlers living around it used *steamboats* to shuffle people and cargo back and forth across it --- until a campaign to allow it to slowly recover began (only a few years ago), Owens Lake had been completely dry for almost a century. The "Great California Water Heist" didn't finally take a big hit until recently, when people in Northern California began to scream bloody murder about Southern California taking all of their water. On top of that, the public started becoming vividly aware that one of the biggest lakes in this state --- Mono Lake, on the edge of the Mojave Desert --- had lost more than half it's water. Thus, the political pendulum has swung in favor of the Northern 4/5th of the state's geography. The "Southerners" and the state government are predicting doomsday for the state's agriculture, should this trend continue, and their proposed solution is (naturally) to keep doing the same thing we had done for a century --- robbing Peter's lakes to water Paul's crops. Completely unmentioned in ANY of this hysteria is that billions of gallons of water that nature herself deposits upon LA County is simply allowed to drain out into the ocean, while we fight over water that doesn't belong in this area. No one ever seriously thought to *store* any of this water, even though god gives it to us for free, no questions asked. On top of that, I have also personally seen dozens of what appear to be concrete-lined reservoirs all over the county, which are appreciably gigantic. Several of these are right here in my home town, and though the city seems to try it's darndest to hide them, their efforts were never a match for my vigor or curiosity. In three decades that I've lived in this area, I have never once seen any of these reservoirs filled. It's a disgrace. This isn't just a local issue, by the way, because there are 30 million people living in the aforementioned area, and --- as a direct result --- a huge chunk of the nation's overall agriculture and industry. The LA County's incompetent resource management has thus, over time, caused immeasurable economic damage to the entire nation. Also, this is just ONE county. I don't dare contemplate how much all of the others mismanage their resources
I also noticed this strange issue when I lived in Southern California, lots of fresh water flowing into the ocean. I lived near the Sweetwater River, just south of downtown San Diego, where I watched lots of fresh water flow into the ocean year around.
Why doesn't San Diego County simply take fresh water from here before it empties into the ocean and mixes with salt water? This doesn't require a dam, just large intake pipes that suck some freshwater out of the river. You never read anything about this simple solution to the state's "water shortage." Even more amazing is that San Diego County is spending millions of dollars to build a large desalination plant a few miles up the coast from where the Sweetwater River dumps fresh water into the ocean. These plants use lots of electricity to remove salt from ocean water, and this plant will draw energy from a nearby coal-fired power plant.
This is an obvious criminal conspiracy. Wasting millions of dollars to build this plant (and others) and wasting millions more on electrical costs to produce fresh water from salty ocean water. Why aren't California environmentalists screaming about this? Why aren't citizens screaming? Where is the media?
Mar 10, 2013 - Turning Water into Gold
In my Jan 19, 2011 blog entry, I noted:
"Monopolizing water supplies is a great racket because people must have water, and most have no option but to pay whatever their local water monopoly demands.
This helps explain why the USA has not built a major dam in 30 years. Dams control floods, provide cheap, clean hydroelectric power, provide water for crop irrigation, and drinking water. We hear frequent stories of flooding causing billions of dollars in damage each year, most recently in North Dakota and Tennessee. We hear stories of rising food costs due to drought, and shortages of drinking water. We hear stories about the threat of global warming, and why we must urgently phase out dirty coal plants. We hear stories about "peak oil" and the need to reduce our dependence on imported oil, which many people still burn for electricity as home heating oil. We also hear stories about the need for wise government stimulus spending to improve our national infrastructure.
Yet we never hear anyone suggest building more dams, which our growing population obviously needs, if only for drinking water. The only news stories about dams are written by ignorant or faux "environmentalists" demonizing dams by spreading lies about their danger, and proposing their removal. If anyone in Southern Nevada suggested that building Hoover dam was a mistake, local citizens would declare them insane. Yet the Power Elite killed all proposals for more American dams in the 1970s by using their environmental fronts to convince citizens that dams are unsafe or they destroy the environment, or they harm fish and endangered species. There are trade-offs, but given the choice between water, food, and electricity at home, or whitewater rafting in remote areas, 99.9999% of citizens would vote for dams.
Meanwhile, China is building dozens of large dams, for the same reasons the USA should. I am convinced that billionaires have blocked new dam construction, and are covertly involved in dam removal efforts, which serve the interests of the coal and natural gas corporations, and the new water monopolies. Keep this in mind as your water rates soar, and electric rates rise due to depletion of accessible natural gas, coal, and oil deposits. Ask your local political leaders why we are not building dams to solve these problems. They will look perplexed, and might mumble something that everyone knows dams are not a good idea, despite great success with nearly all dam projects."
I just read this related article: Water Scarcity Could be Liquid Gold for Investors, which reveals the big investment banks outlook on profiting off of water. Water cover 70% of our planet, yet we have a shortage? Global warming is causing oceans to rise. So why don't we build dams to retain fresh water inland, so it doesn't add to the problem?
Mar 2, 2013 - "Drastic" Budget Cuts?
While Pentagon and corporate propaganda machines churn out stories of "devastating" budget cuts, two simple charts show the reality. These cuts are small, only 5% of what is required to balance our budget. Pentagon spending will be rolled back to 2007 levels, when we had thousands of troops in Iraq, and still higher than Cold War peaks (even after adjusting for inflation) and remain scheduled to increase every year!
If our Army is really concerned and downsizing as fast a possible, why does it continue to mobilize reserve units for overseas occupation duty? Rather than cutting specific programs, the bureaucracies have chosen to create chaos by furloughing half of federal workers, who will lose 20% of their paycheck. Since most live paycheck to paycheck, thousands may be forced to file bankruptcy every week. Federal employees had a pay freeze for over two years, resulting in a 5% pay cut due to inflation. Now most will lose another 20% due to furloughs? If you are dissatisfied with federal bureaucracy now, just wait! Our billionaires love this chaos, because it will prove government doesn't work and should be slashed to spare them tax increases.
Feb 24, 2013 - The "Crisis" in Africa
As we reduce forces in Afghanistan, our war machine is seeking new villains. Africa has plenty of conflicts, and we were recently informed that a crisis requires us to dispatch troops to Mali. The Washington Post recently published an article that explains this unexpected event. However, G2mil recalled an interesting document from last year, which we copied off the Internet before it was removed. This July 2010 briefing details U.S. Army construction projects in Europe, Israel, and Africa. There is a picture of a U.S. Special Forces installation under construction at Goa, Mali. (below)
I suppose this is just another coincidence. U.S. military base camps are quietly constructed, then a crisis erupts nearby, and U.S. troops arrive to restore order. Luckily, new facilities were just constructed prior to their "unexpected" intervention.
In other news, on Feb. 20th the U.S. Army held a groundbreaking ceremony for a new $12.5 million fitness center at Ausbach, Germany. You may recall news of how most Army combat units will not be ready to fight should Congress cut its budget 7% this year, along with tales of devastating problems. One might assume the Army would delay new overseas construction projects until it adjusted to cuts, but it's just a political game the Generals play.
Feb 23, 2013 - Jump to Netflix
Netflix is killing cable TV. For $8 a month it provides more entertainment than you can watch on cable whenever you want. You can watch Netflix content on your TV, laptop, tablet, and even smartphone. It doesn't have everything you want, but neither does cable TV. Basic cable is usually $50 a month for what you can watch for free on digital airwaves with a $10 "rabbit ear" antenna from Walmart. Other cable content costs much more, and you can only watch it when it is scheduled, unless you spend more to buy a DVR and program it.
Most of what I was watching on cable TV is available for free over the internet anyway. Of course you have to pay $50 a month for high speed Internet to watch good video, but most people already pay for that, so another $50-$150 a month for cable TV is unneeded. Of course millions of older American still don't use the Internet and will stay with cable TV, but as they die off, so will the entire cable TV industry, which used its monopoly power to drive prices so high that customers are fleeing.
John Dvorak is a well-known geek who seconds my opinion. I've been watching a great TV series "Breaking Bad" on Netflix whenever I want as I have time because I was never able to watch it on cable when it was scheduled, and if you miss a TV series program on cable, you miss a chunk of the ongoing story. I dislike 99% of the junk out of Hollywood, and watch little TV, but "Breaking Bad" is really well done. If you have yet to cut the cable, be sure to spend an extra $40 the next time you buy a TV to get a "smart" one with Wi-Fi internet built in so you are ready for today's superior and cheaper video-on-demand, like Netflix offers.
Feb 19, 2013 - North American Union
The unpopular political push for another amnesty began soon after the last one in 1986. In 2007, Sanders Research published one of my most popular articles: "Will the USA Invade Canada", which stated:
"A recent effort to create a “North American Union” (NAU) with Canada, the USA, and Mexico is a semi-secret effort by industrialists in these three nations. The goal is similar to the “European Union” in that it would allow low-cost Mexican labor and abundant Canadian energy reserves to fuel the huge industrial machine of the USA and create the world’s greatest economic power. The 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is the cornerstone of this union.
However, the free movement of cheap labor from Mexico resulted in angry opposition from American workers. Legal obstacles have been evaded by encouraging illegal immigration. Current immigration laws are rarely enforced and the number of illegal immigrants is now so great that they openly hold political rallies and make demands. As a result, NAU leaders are attempting to squeeze a second amnesty law through the U.S. Congress to provide legal status to this cheap labor. This will ensure that millions more Mexicans flood across the lightly patrolled border and depress wages further, thus boosting profits with what NAU leaders call the “free movement of labor.”"
Feb 17, 2013 - Obama's Misdirection on Amnesty
All good magicians rely on misdirection to fool their audience. President Obama insists that he will not grant amnesty to America's illegal immigrants, but simply offer them a lengthy path to citizenship. In reality, citizenship is not worth much. The money comes from a social security card, which Obama wants to provide immediately. This allows one to work legally, join our military, collect welfare, disability, student aid, and thousands of dollars a year from the IRS via the Earned Income Credit and the Additional Child Tax Credit. Below average income Americans (with a social security number) who pay no income tax collect hundreds of billions of dollars a year from these programs, and now foreigners might collect too.
Citizenship only allows one to vote or work for the federal government. Many "green card" holding foreigners live in the USA for decades and never bother to apply. Nevertheless, Obama spins the "path to citizenship" line while our supportive corporate media acts dumb. If he succeeds in slipping a second amnesty into law, federal, state and local governments would see a major surge in applications for benefits by foreigners with their newly minted social security numbers. Millions more poor, desperate foreigners would surge across our borders to sign up for this free aid.
Amnesty is very unpopular with most American voters, which is why both our corporate funded political parties waited until just after the elections to ram this through. The Republicans are playing along to score points among voters, but most quietly support the idea and may allow a "compromise" to pass. In reality, there is nothing wrong with our current immigration laws, except the executive branch refuses to enforce them. The 6.7 billion non-US citizens on our Earth do not "deserve" a path to citizenship, we simply don't have the jobs or the resources for everyone among our 0.3 billion people.
Feb 12, 2013 - Lower the Medicare Age!
There is crazy talk that we should raise the Medicare age to 67 to save money. Why? Do our 65 and 66 year olds no longer need medical insurance? This would simply shift costs to Medicaid (insurance for the poor) and for average incomers--the local hospital ER. It would also force millions of elderly Americans to keep working another two years, thus increasing unemployment by an equal number of young workers.
Our nation should move the other direction and lower the Medicare age to 62. This would save Medicaid and local hospitals billions of dollars and allow millions of Americans to retire at age 62. Many Americans have enough income to retire with Social Security at age 62, and would like to stop working, but can't afford ultra-expensive private insurance, so they hang on until age 65. Allowing them to retire to 62 would open jobs to millions of younger unemployed Americans now on welfare related programs.
This is win for everyone, except the private insurance racketeers who would lose a few million customers to the far more efficient Medicare system. For those Americans misinformed by our corporate media, America's mostly private health insurance system costs twice as much per person as other industrialized nations, yet is rated below average, as another independent study recently confirmed.
This idea would shift costs from welfare programs supporting young, healthy unemployed Americans over to Medicare. Local hospitals would save billions of dollars as they no longer got stuck with huge bills for uninsured Americans age 62-64, thus lowering medical costs for everyone. The billions saved from welfare related programs could be used for deficit reduction. Medicare would need additional funding, which is possible by simply raising the payroll tax for Medicare from 1.45% to 1.8%. This is an expansion of a flat tax that imposes an equal burden on all workers, who would all be eligible for Medicare at age 62. Unfortunately, our nation's powerful insurance racketeers hate this idea, and are pushing their front men in Congress and the White House the opposite direction.
Feb 2, 2013 - Actually, Obama Does Support Perpetual War
David Sirota over at Salon wrote this brilliant summary about one of the biggest myths in the USA established by our corporate media:
"Four years into his presidency, Barack Obama’s political formula should be obvious. He gives fabulous speeches teeming with popular liberal ideas, often refuses to take the actions necessary to realize those ideas and then banks on most voters, activists, reporters and pundits never bothering to notice – or care about – his sleight of hand.
Whether railing on financial crime and then refusing to prosecute Wall Street executives or berating health insurance companies and then passing a health care bill bailing out those same companies, Obama embodies a cynical ploy – one that relies on a celebrity-entranced electorate focusing more on TV-packaged rhetoric than on legislative reality.
Never was this formula more apparent than when the president discussed military conflicts during his second inaugural address. Declaring that “a decade of war is now ending,” he insisted that he “still believe(s) that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.”
The lines generated uncritical applause, much of it from anti-war liberals who protested against the Bush administration. Living up to Obama’s calculation, few seemed to notice that the words came from the same president who is manufacturing a state of “perpetual war.”
Obama, let’s remember, is the president who escalated the Afghanistan War and whose spokesman recently reiterated that U.S. troops are not necessarily leaving that country anytime soon. He is the president who has initiated undeclared wars in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya. He is also the president who, according to data from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, has launched more than 20,000 air strikes — and those assaults show no sign of stopping.
We know that latter point to be the true because just days before Obama’s inaugural address declaring an end to war, the Washington Post reported that the administration’s new manual establishing “clear rules” for counterterrorism operations specifically creates a “carve-out (that) would allow the CIA to continue” the president’s intensifying drone war.
That’s the “perpetual war,” you’ll recall, in which Obama asserts the extra-constitutional right to compile a “kill list” and then order bombing raids of civilian areas in hopes of killing alleged militants – including U.S. citizens.
According to a study by the New America Foundation, roughly one in five of those killed by such strikes are civilians. However, even that troubling number may understate the situation. That’s because, as the New York Times previously reported, the Obama administration “counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants” even though, according to a CIA official, Obama aides “are not really sure who they are.”
Obama partisans’ typical riposte to these horrifying truths is to first and foremost attack the messenger. As just one example, a confidante of Obama’s national security director recently berated war critics as “Cheeto-eating people in the basement working in their underwear.”
These same partisans then typically blurt out two words: national security. But the argument that the president’s drone war is protecting America is as flip as it is inaccurate.
That’s the conclusion of a new analysis by the Council on Foreign Relations – an establishmentarian group that cannot be dismissed with insults about snack food, subterranean dwelling and tighty-whities. Citing a concurrent increase in drone strikes and terrorists in Yemen, CFR says there is a predictable “blowback” effect whereby bombings result in “heightened anger toward the United States and sympathy with or allegiance to al-Qaida” among local populations.
These facts, of course, are a downer for those mesmerized by the president’s soothing inauguration rhetoric. No doubt, he is hoping we simply ignore reality because we so want to believe the anti-war oratory. If we do that, though, we will be aiding and abetting the very state of “perpetual war” that the president has created."
Feb 1, 2013 - $10 Samsung Cell Phone
Cell phones have become cheap. Walmart sells a Samsung "Trackphone" for just $10, with no contract! It has all the features of a modern cell phone, but no camera. Then you can buy lots of pre-paid minutes for $20. This is perfect for children, poor people, and people who rarely use cell phones.
I discovered it after AT&T screwed me around with their pre-paid phone. I kept it as a back-up, and its minutes expire. But when I needed it after five idle months and tried to load new pre-paid minutes with my credit card, it wouldn't work. Customer service said my SIM card had "expired" and I would have to go to their store and purchase a new one for $25. I already knew that AT&T prepaid was more expensive than competitors, but had been too lazy to change. Now some corporate genius came up with the BS idea of "expiring" SIM cards to make easy profits, but now they are losing thousands of customers a month, including me.
Jan 28, 2013 - Chuck Spinney is Back
I am happy to learn that one of America's most insightful political/military writers, Chuck Spinney, has begun to write more and post comments online. This began back in 2011, but I just stumbled across his blog. Another brilliant commentator is Eric Margolis, who posts his insight at this blog.
Jan 27, 2013 - Trillion Dollar Coin
I follow financial news, but only the truly independent "American Free Press" offered hard news about the recent trillion dollar coin game. Laws exist that place limits on how much money the executive branch can borrow, and how many gold and silver coins it can mint. However, there are no laws about other types of coins, so the idea arose that a President could order a trillion dollar platinum coin minted, and then "deposit" it at the Fed to create a trillion dollars out of thin air.
Experts agreed that such of tricky move was legal, and President Obama publicly said it was an option. Within a week, our compliant corporate news reported something very odd, that the Fed and Treasury Department ruled a trillion dollar coin was not an option. Federal Reserve Governors are appointed by the President and work as part of his economic team, although they are officially independent. However, the Treasury Secretary is appointed by and works for the President, serving at his pleasure. How did he overrule the President? Soon afterwards, the Republicans suddenly dropped their debt limit threat.
I was perplexed, until the "American Free Press" reminded me of the banking racket. Our government does not create money out of thin air. This is done by a private banking cartel known as the "Federal Reserve", which is not a federal department and not run by government employees. The "Fed" creates money in its computers, and then lends it to big American banks interest free. These banks earn commissions by selling U.S. Treasury bonds, which amounts to billions of dollars a year in easy profit. They also buy Treasury bonds themselves, earning billions of dollars in interest on money the Fed had loaned to them interest free, and a sales commission too!
If our federal government bypassed this racket and created its own money with trillion dollar coins, the private bankers would no longer "earn" billions of easy dollars each year from American taxpayers. As a result, the "coin" idea was quickly tossed aside by their political front men in the White House, while their boys in the Republican party were told to end their debt limit game, which was drawing attention to their profitable shell game.
Jan 26, 2013 - Pentagon Games
You've read numerous stories about our military cutting civilian manpower and maintenance to meet minor budget cuts. No one discusses one simple solution. The Pentagon can delay awarding contracts for military construction and family housing approved in the FY2013 budget. That instantly saves $10 billion this year, and would cause no immediate harm to our military. Given that more overseas and domestic bases should be closed, we shouldn't build new things until a plan is devised. Everyone should agree that it's not urgent to spend over $200,000,000 to build new DoD elementary schools in Korea, Japan, England, and Germany this year.
One can review this partial list to see where these billions of dollars will go, which explains why no one mentions this simple option. If Congress objects, it can provide an additional $10 billion in Pentagon funding. Otherwise, it can reconsider these projects for the FY2014 budget due Oct 1, 2013.
Jan 20, 2013 - Not News
One reader suggested that the current debate about gun violence and gun control is a classic effort to distract workers from real issues, like continued job losses due to free trade and immigration, and the cost of our empire. I will add the Lance Armstrong saga to the list of distractions. No one gives a damn about boring bicycle races or that guy, but we are forced to watch hours of "news" coverage.
Few outlets have picked up on the real story. The U.S. Postal Service gave Armstrong and his fellow American bikers $30 million to "sponsor" them, while asking Congress for billions of dollars in subsidies. Why was this permitted? Where did this money go? Does anyone really think that more Americans mail letters after seeing a postal logo on these guy's funky clothing?
Stop giving the Postal Service taxpayer money. It's a monopoly, it should generate cash. Boost first class mail from 42 cents to 50 cents. Eliminate the special cut rate for junk mailers (known as 3rd Class mail) and make them pay first class rates. Cut home delivery to three days a week. Eliminate most expensive domestic airmail cargo flights and use more trucks and trains. This costs a fraction of the price, and only takes 1-2 days longer. What's the rush to send it air freight, it's already known as snail mail? For example, daily Amtrak trains could also carry mail from Chicago to Los Angeles in 41 hours! These changes would allow the Postal Service to earn a big profit and repay taxpayers billions of dollars, and increase revenues for Amtrak, thus reducing the need for its taxpayer subsidy.
Jan 19, 2013 - Crazy Fighter Pilot
I occasionally check mishaps at the Navy Safety Center because some make for an interesting read. One mishap occurred when a Marine Corps AV-8B attack jet somehow dropped a bomb that damaged two parked Marine Corps helicopters. Another mishap occurred as two Navy FA-18 jets made a strafing run in support of Marines in Afghanistan, and the lead FA-18 was shot down by his own wingman!
And a Nov. 6, 2012 mishap is truly bizarre. A Navy FA-18 fighter jet from the USS Nimitz made an emergency landing at a Marine Corps airbase in California. The Navy Safety Center declared it a "mishap" because the Navy pilot suffered a severe psychological event while flying, and was discharged as permanently disabled. It is not uncommon for pilots to have problems, lose their wings, and move to a "ground" job. But to be quickly discharged due to an inflight mental problem, after two years of expensive flight training? This means he (or she) is collecting monthly disability checks as a result of permanent flying trauma.
Jan 13, 2013 - The Hollow Force Strategy
After decades of growth, the Pentagon must finally cut its budget. It has fooled most Americans by establishing a myth that it already cut its budget by $50 billion a year. Closer reading shows that nothing was cut, only changes in plans dreamt by Generals for continued increases over the next decade.
Political support now threatens real cuts to the Pentagon's budget, an actual $50 billion a year, pushing it back to 2007 levels. The Pentagon has done nothing to prepare, encouraged by the dismal performance of Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who demands ever more money, lest the nation face an undefined catastrophe. Now that his scaremongering has failed, he has adopted the old "hollow force strategy" of doing nothing, which the Pentagon has employed in the past.
Nothing of substance will be cut. No outdated overseas bases will close, no failed weapons programs will be cancelled, no bloated headquarters will be deactivated. Temporary cuts will be made by reducing training, manning levels, and maintenance. After a couple of years readiness will be poor, and Generals scream that they can't fight a war because the force has been hollowed out by devastating budget cuts. The Pentagon's budget will remain several times larger than any other nation, but Generals will claim our military has become worthless because Congress has failed to provide unlimited funding for whatever they desired.
I am very encouraged by President Obama's nomination of Chuck Hagel to replace the worthless Panetta. One of Panetta's first actions was to reverse Secretary Gates plan to reduce the number of General officers. He also wasted millions of dollars on weekend flights to California to visit his family, since his wife prefers to live there. Panetta has cancelled no big programs or cut back overseas bases, which generate huge profits for insiders, which is why he is "well respected" in the Pentagon. In contrast, Vietnam war combat vet Hagel (pictured) has expressed common sense and leadership traits that threaten the establishment's line of profit, which is why he is "controversial." Last year, he noted that the Pentagon's budget has doubled since 9-11 and could be cut back, which is why many oppose his nomination.
Jan 12, 2013 - Why Export Coal?
One of the most senseless things in the USA is the export of coal. Since people are concerned about global warning, American utilities have been pressured to generate electricity more expensively using wind and cleaner fuel, like natural gas. As a result, the number coal powered plants has declined, and coal producers have lost domestic business. As a result, there is a coal export boom as American coal is sold to nations like China. They burn this dirty fuel to produce cheaper electricity and pollute our planet instead. This is insane!
Jan 5, 2013 - District 9
I rarely watch new movies because I rarely like them. However, I did like "District 9." I found it interesting because the aliens who arrive from outer space mean no harm. They have engine trouble and broke down over South Africa. They just want help so they can leave, but the unfriendly humans are more interested in their technology.
Jan 1, 2013 - The White Man Unburdened
This year's blog is named after a phrase used by the late Gore Vidal to describe the awkward economic transition as Asian productivity begins to surpass that of the USA and Europe. The shift in wealth is so sudden that Asian nations have trillions of dollars in Western credits (mostly U.S. Treasury bonds) and are unsure what to do with this windfall. Meanwhile, they've been loaning the surplus back to the West, providing the USA with hundreds of billions of dollars in economic aid each year.
A couple centuries ago the phrase "The White Man's Burden" was used to explain why citizens of Western nations must devote resources to civilize the world. Gore Vidal used "The Yellow Man's Burden" to explain why citizens of Asian nations were devoting so much wealth to keep the USA and much of Europe wealthy. If our citizens suddenly lost 30% of their annual income due to tax increases and spending cuts needed to truly balance our national budgets, they would be outraged. They might learn that this was the result of "free trade", which might result in revolution and wars. Those who have profited off "free trade" by selling out their citizens know its best to let the working class learn this truth slowly.
Carlton Meyer editor@G2mil.com
2012 Blog - The Empire in Turmoil
2011 Blog - The Empire Retreats
2010 Blog - The Empire Crumbles
2009 Blog - The Bankrupt Empire
2008 Blog - The End of the Empire
2000-2008 - Monthly Editorials