Memorial Day Thoughts on National Defense

From Robert Reich:

Robert Reich
Saturday, May 26, 2012

We can best honor those who have given their lives for this nation in combat by making sure our military might is proportional to what America needs.

The United States spends more on our military than do China, Russia, Britain, France, Japan, and Germany put together.

With the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, the cost of fighting wars is projected to drop – but the “base” defense budget (the annual cost of paying troops and buying planes, ships, and tanks – not including the costs of actually fighting wars) is scheduled to rise. The base budget is already about 25 percent higher than it was a decade ago, adjusted for inflation.

One big reason: It’s almost impossible to terminate large defense contracts. Defense contractors have cultivated sponsors on Capitol Hill and located their plants and facilities in politically important congressional districts. Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and others have made spending on national defense into America’s biggest jobs program.

So we keep spending billions on Cold War weapons systems like nuclear attack submarines, aircraft carriers, and manned combat fighters that pump up the bottom lines of defense contractors but have nothing to do with 21st-century combat.

For example, the Pentagon says it wants to buy fewer F-35 joint strike fighter planes than had been planned – the single-engine fighter has been plagued by cost overruns and technical glitches – but the contractors and their friends on Capitol Hill promise a fight.

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FAQ # 6 – If There is an Equal Rights Amendment Will Women Be Drafted?

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Nasty Like Us

From The New York Times:

Published: May 26, 2012

Plainsboro, N.J.

EDITORS and pundits seem to agree that the 2012 presidential election will be one of the hardest fought in memory. Even the international press has jumped in; an Economist cover predicts “Hardball,” and in April The Guardian called the campaign “ruthless in its backstabbing,” warning, “you have seen nothing yet.”

What should be explained instead is how civil our recent contests have been, for as a society America has always been attracted to ruthlessness. It might be defined not just as hard competition but as the deployment of unfair, unethical and distasteful (if often technically legal) methods. American culture blended a Protestant sense of mission and virtue with a pragmatism that could countenance slavery and Indian removal.

America hardly invented ruthlessness — think of that all-American hero, Napoleon Bonaparte — but it extended it to the common people. Moralists from Benjamin Franklin to Horatio Alger and beyond might celebrate character as the path to success, but the man in the street knew differently. Adventurers like the notorious filibusterer William Walker became folk heroes. After a New Orleans jury acquitted Walker of violating the Neutrality Act of 1818, he began a fund-raising tour for a new adventure. The early 20th century rags-to-riches baseball star Ty Cobb “came in hard and with spikes high,” as his biographer Charles C. Alexander put it, and kept alive the false rumor that he sharpened them.

Secession sought to protect not just the plantation owners’ way of life but also the aspirations of Southern yeomen to slaveowning wealth, following the career of the populist military hero and president Andrew Jackson. And after the war, the robber barons were as much admired as condemned for their tactics. As the muckraking historian Matthew Josephson wrote during the Depression in his book “The Robber Barons,” objections to the ethics of post-Civil War entrepreneurs like Jim Fisk and Jay Gould were countered by the observation that they were “smart men.”

Americans had mixed feelings about their 20th-century technological and financial heroes, too. Thomas A. Edison’s Motion Picture Patents Company hired thugs to enforce his patent claims; independent filmmakers moved to Hollywood partly to avoid them. Steve Jobs paid little attention to conditions in his Chinese contractors’ factories. After his death protests grew too large for Apple to ignore; but even then, not only was “bad Steve” praised, but many of the demonstrators in the early Occupy Wall Street movement still revered him.

Attacks on the ruthless may actually increase their allure. In the 1930s, The New Yorker reported that a young man applying for a brokerage job declared that he had read “The Robber Barons” and wanted to become one of them. Fifty years later, the Oliver Stone film “Wall Street,” intended as an exposé of greed, inspired a generation of fans of the fictional Gordon Gekko, as portrayed by Michael Douglas. Perhaps it was this dark glamour that helped persuade President Bill Clinton, supported by his deputy attorney general (and current attorney general), Eric H. Holder Jr., to pardon a refugee from justice, Marc Rich.

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Greek Misery: Looted, suicidal, desperate

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Victory, unprecedented

From Salon:

How the gay movement’s successes surpassed feminism and civil rights — and became a model for a new era

Sunday, May 27, 2012

This article is an excerpt from “Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution,” available June 5 from Harper.

At the height of the real estate boom in the 2000s, Robert M. “Robby” Browne, 2007 Corcoran Real Estate National Sales Person of the Year, put on his woman’s bathing suit and silver heels and walked out onto the Club Exit stage. A thousand screaming, cheering, photo-snapping real estate brokers roared their approval. The openly gay Browne, six feet tall and nearly two hundred pounds, danced a sweetly amateurish version of the Village People’s gay anthem, “YMCA,” as ten half naked male Broadway dancers backed him up.

“Is there any question of who the star is?” Browne asks proudly, watching the video today. For most real estate brokers, a third year as Corcoran’s top producer would have been stardom enough, but when Corcoran CEO Pam Liebman began planning the 2007 event, Browne thought he wouldn’t bother to attend. He’d had enough top-earner, $100-million-club years. He was turning sixty, and he was thinking about his life as a whole. Finally he said he would show up, but only if he could accept the award in drag. Browne’s beloved gay older brother, Roscoe Willett Browne, died of AIDS in 1985. He’d never forget the day when President George H. W. Bush said that dying of AIDS wasn’t as important as losing your job. “George H. W. Bush did not acknowledge the sacrifice of my brother and our love. My brother. He’s in his eighties and he still has his brothers and I don’t have any brothers,” says Browne. “And my brother was a Yalie and he was in Vietnam; Bush, how could he be more your person?” We exist, says Browne, looking at the video of his awards ceremony. “This show says we exist.”

Exist? You can’t pick up a paper without seeing evidence that gay people exist and are compelling American society to acknowledge them. The federal government protects them from homophobic violence and twenty-one states have laws against discrimination; 141 cities across the country constitute enclaves of equal treatment. A federal nondiscrimination bill gains more support in Congress with each passing year. Poll numbers show Americans overwhelmingly support protection for gays and lesbians against hate crimes and equality in health benefits, housing, and jobs. In July 2010, a federal judge struck down the federal law, the Defense of Marriage Act, that excluded gays from the federal benefits for which married people were eligible and that allowed the states to refuse to recognize the marriages if they pleased. In August, another federal judge invalidated the amendment to the California constitution, added by Proposition 8, that limited marriage to a man and a woman. September had hardly dawned when a third federal judge found the policy requiring gay soldiers to hide their sexual orientation, don’t ask/don’t tell, unconstitutional as well. The United States Congress repealed the law prohibiting out gays and lesbians from serving in the armed forces. Right after the Fourth of July in 2011, the federal courts in California ordered the United States military to stop screwing around getting ready and just cease enforcing it at once.

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Abortion clinic protests raise fears over doctors’ safety

From The Guardian UK:

US-style vigils cause distress to women preparing for termination and could deter young doctors from field, says health specialist

and, Sunday 27 May 2012

Doctors who help women end unwanted pregnancies are growing concerned for their own safety as anti-abortion groups step up protests outside clinics, a specialist in women’s health has warned.

Tony Falconer, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, described the American-style protests outside abortion clinics as distressing and humiliating for those preparing to have a termination.

Falconer called the rising use of vigils and human chains at clinics an unwelcome and worrying development that could also deter younger doctors from opting to perform abortions. Falconer said colleagues were very anxious and worried about the provision of the service. “It doesn’t help to have a sort of clamour [against] individual people who are trying to provide a difficult service for women in a period of their lives when they are in great difficulty.”

While there is no evidence that doctors carrying out abortions have been threatened in Britain, some abortion doctors in the US were murdered, he said.

Asked if he was worried that doctors here could become a target too, Falconer said: “We don’t have any evidence for that, but that could be a worry. It’s obviously not as bad but it seems to be going down that line.”

Falconer said that he wanted the requirement in the 1967 Abortion Act for two doctors to approve each abortion, to be altered to one doctor, to reduce the length of time women might have to wait for the procedure.

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Fischer: Eric Holder Will Never ‘Prosecute Someone if the Victim is White’

I just love it when neo-Nazi bigots/racists like Bryan Fischer make out like white Christian heterosexuals are the ones being persecuted because they aren’t allowed to persecute minority groups.

From Right Wing Watch:

Kyle Mantyla
on Fri, 05/25/2012

Over the last few weeks, Bryan Fischer has been growing increasingly vocal about his views that President Obama hates both the Constitution and the United States of America because he thinks it is “one big, giant Ku Klux Klan meeting” and is therefore intentionally trying to destroy the country.

And he made the case again on his radio program yesterday, this time adding in Attorney General Eric Holder, claiming that Holder will never “prosecute someone if the victim is white”:

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