Onward Trillion Soldiers $100 Billion More for Wars
Your tax-dollars at work
From the AP via the SFChronicle: The Pentagon wants the White House to seek an additional $99.7 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to information provided to The Associated Press. The military's request, if embraced by President Bush and approved by Congress, would boost this year's budget for those wars to about $170 billion. Military planners assembled the proposal at a time when Bush is developing new strategies for Iraq, such as sending thousands of more U.S. troops there, although it was put together before the president said the troop surge was under consideration. Overall, the war in Iraq has cost about $350 billion. Combined with the conflict in Afghanistan and operations against terrorism elsewhere, the cost has topped $500 billion, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service. The additional funds, if approved, would push this year's cost of the war in Iraq to about $50 billion over last year's record. In September, Congress approved an initial $70 billion for the current budget year, which began Oct. 1. [...] The budget request includes:
$41.5 billion to cover the costs of ongoing military operations.
$26.7 billion for replacing and repairing equipment damaged or destroyed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
$10 billion for body armor and other equipment to protect U.S. troops from attack.
$2.5 billion to combat roadside bombs and other improvised explosive devices.
Our Friends at Pantex When They Almost Nuked Texas
From Ari Berman writing in The Nation’s blog: “In March 2005, a nuclear warhead almost exploded in Texas. The near miss accident occurred in Amarillo, when workers at the Pantex nuclear weapons plant bungled the dismantling of a W-56 warhead, a weapon 100 times stronger than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima during World War II. Details of the averted catastrophe have been kept under wraps until last month, when the Department of Energy (DOE) fined the company that operates the plant, BWX Technologies, $110,000 for safety violations. In a letter obtained by the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), technicians at the plant blamed the accident on severe working conditions, including mandatory 72 to 84 hour work weeks. One nuclear scientist told POGO that he “would not work on his car engine if he were fatigued from a 72-hour work week, and sure as hell would not work on a nuclear weapon.” Besides hellish hours, workers described the “degrading” physical state of the plant in the letter to the BWX board. “Look around the plant. You will find leaking roofs, crumbling buildings, waist-high weed-infested landscapes, barricades and safety tape that makes this once-proud plant look like a crime scene.” In 2007, production goals at the plant will increase by 50 percent, which POGO calls a “recipe for disaster.” Clearly it’s time for the DOE to step in and show that the government is serious about nuclear security, both abroad and at home.”
Reagan at the Koreas' DMZ, November 13, 1983. Even he didn't see that one coming.
And now, South Korea wants its own missile defense system. From the Korea Herald: "South Korea is considering building a missile defense system to fend
off North Korean nuclear warheads, a Seoul source said yesterday. The proposal is outlined in a classified directive booklet by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which was issued after the North's atomic test in October, the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said. With its own missile defense plan, Seoul would beef up its independent aerial defense capabilities rather than participating in a U.S.-led missile defense system, analysts said. "The Korean ballistic and guided missile defense system would take a basic form compared to the U.S.-Japan system," the source said. The antiballistic missiles would be designed to intercept low-flying short- and medium-range ballistics such as Scud, Frog and Nodong missiles, he added. The United States and Japan are currently jointly developing a global missile defense system for all types of medium- and long-range missiles, including North Korea's intercontinental Taepodong-2 missiles which are thought to be capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. Washington has hinted that it would like South Korea to join the program. "The U.S.-Japan missile defense system will cost between 8 trillion and 10 trillion won ($8.7 billion-10.8 billion), so it would be impossible to win public consent to join the program given our current defense budget," another source said." The full story...
As a rule, the justification for government secrets is always exaggerated, usually by means of using “confidentiality” or “national security” or some such vague, all-encompassing notions to keep the locks on documents that couldn’t possibly have anything to do with either. The FBI’s release of John Lennon files proves it. The content of the files isn’t what’s interesting here. The contents are silly. Inconsequential. But that’s just the point. They show what sort of mentality leads to government secrets, what sort of indefensible rationales and outright lies do. Imagine what kind of documents are being kept secret now. And whose. From the LA Times:
The FBI agreed Tuesday to make public the final 10 documents about the surveillance of John Lennon that it had withheld for 25 years from a UC Irvine historian on the grounds that releasing them could cause “military retaliation against the United States.” Despite the fierce battle the government waged to keep the documents secret, the files contain information that is hardly shocking, just new details about Lennon’s ties to New Left leaders and antiwar groups in London in the early 1970s, said the historian, Jon Wiener. For example, in one memo, then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover wrote to H.R. Haldeman, President Nixon’s chief of staff, that “Lennon had taken an interest in ‘extreme left-wing activities in Britain’ and is known to be a sympathizer of Trotskyist communists in England.” Another document had been blacked out on the grounds of national security when Wiener obtained it more than 20 years ago through litigation brought under the Freedom of Information Act. It is now known that it said two prominent British leftists, Tariq Ali and Robin Blackburn, had courted Lennon in hopes that he would “finance a left-wing bookshop and reading room in London.” But the newly released document adds that Lennon apparently gave them no money “despite a long courtship by Blackburn and Ali.” Another surveillance report states explicitly that there was “no certain proof” that Lennon had provided money “for subversive purposes.” And yet another says there was no evidence that Lennon had any formal tie to any leftist group. The full story…
Not that he should have been jailed in the first place. Holocaust deniers are idiots. They’re not criminals. From the UK Times: “David Irving, the historian jailed for three years in Austria for denying the Holocaust, is free after a court reduced his prison sentence on appeal. Irving, who was sentenced in February, was released after Vienna 's highest court ruled today that he should serve one year in prison and the remainder of his sentence on probation. After already serving 13 months behind bars since his arrest in November 2005, Irving had his handcuffs removed today in a small courtroom crowded with his supporters and members of the local press. "He is free, and he can leave, and he will leave," said Herbert Schaller, his lawyer, adding that he would advise the historian to leave Austrian soil as soon as possible. Irving , under strict instructions not to talk to journalists, did not confirm whether he would be flying to Britain but shook hands with his supporters and returned to prison to pick up his belongings. He left court triumphant and, by coincidence, to a blast of Mozart, which was being played in the courthouse to celebrate the appointment of a local judge.” Now that last bit, the Mozart thing—that’s insulting to Mozart. Idiots and slanderers shouldn’t so publicly be privileged to skim the sublime. The full story…
Lucky Grumpy Old Men They’re Living Longer in Canada
What was that about Canada ’s health scare system being of a lesser quality than America ’s for being a national system? This just in from the Toronto Star: “Whether they smoke less, eat better or take new wonder drugs to tame their cholesterol, Canadian men are living longer and pushing the average lifespan beyond 80 - a record for this country, a new study shows. The bad news is, these booming ranks of elderly Canadians could crash our health system unless we focus more on helping old people stay healthy and independent, warns an international expert in public health. “There’s a demographic tsunami headed our way: By the year 2050, the biggest single group in the Canadian population will be people over 80 - the `old-old,’ ” cautioned Dr. Alejandro Jadad, a physician and leading researcher in using technology to enhance people’s health. “It’s wonderful to live longer, but unless we find ways to help people lead independent lives - imagine tiny tools that prevent you from accidentally pouring soap into your soup or that sound an alarm if your head suddenly falls by more than a meter - this group could break our economy,” said Jadad, a professor at the University of Toronto who holds the Canada Research Chair in electronic innovations for promoting health.
From Der Spiegel: “Comic fans across the globe have grown up with the intrepid adventures of Tintin and his furry friend Snowy. They know by heart Captain Haddock’s drunken rants (“Billions of billious barbecued blue blistering barnacles!”) and antiquated curses (“Anthropithecus!”, “Cyclotron!”). The tales, which also feature the absent-minded Professor Calculus and the bumbling Thompson twins, have been a favorite with readers for over 70 years. Hergé, the Belgian creator of Tintin, paved the way for comic books—not only as an art form, but also as a political forum. Earlier this year the Dalai Lama honored the artist with the Light of Truth award for “Tintin in Tibet.” The exiled spiritual leader of Tibet said Hergé had managed to bring the problems of his country to a new public. Now the Pompidou Center in Paris is putting on a comprehensive exhibition to mark the 100 th anniversary of the artist’s birth. More than 300 original drawings are on show. At its core are 124 works from “The Blue Lotus” album of 1934, in which the adventurous reporter and his four-legged friend fight an opium-smuggling ring in China. On the outside wall of the Pompidou a massive placard hangs of the famous red and white chequered rocket from the “Destination Moon” series. The exhibition includes artists notes, recordings and self-portraits and it also deals with the accusations that the comics contained clichéd and anti-Semitic representations. The catalog includes a letter Hergé wrote in reply to a reader, who had criticized him for portraying Tintin’s adversary in 1942’s “The Shooting Star” as a Jewish banker.”