the united states -- a military with a country attached
"Here’s a bit of cheery news: Last week, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates met with the nation's top defense company executives, including the CEOs of those mega-military-industrial combines Lockheed Martin and Boeing, and called for a “closer partnership.” He also made them a promise. He pledged, according to his spokesman, “to work with the White House to secure steady growth in the Pentagon's budgets over time.”
"Let’s put that pledge in context. Last week, President Obama did something common in the Bush years, something he swore never to do; he requested a supplemental $33 billion over and above the fiscal year 2011 defense budget, mainly for his Afghan surge. That sum, when appropriated by Congress, will bring the total official Pentagon budget to $708 billion dollars ($159 billion of which will be directly slated for Afghan and Iraq war costs). To put that sum in context, it’s close to what the rest of the world combined spends on military matters. And you can be guaranteed of one thing: this won’t be the last supplemental request of 2011.
"By the way, if you were to add up the real “defense” budget, including funds for the Department of Homeland Security, the Energy Department (which handles the U.S. nuclear arsenal), veterans' care, the State Department’s planned near-billion-dollar expansion of its embassy in Pakistan into a mega-command post for the region and the planned doubling of the number of personnel in its already monstrous embassy in Baghdad for a similar purpose, and many other relevant things, you would be closing in on $1 trillion per year.
"Meanwhile, in December 2009, the total funds Congress has so far appropriated since 2001 only for our two wars topped $1 trillion dollars, with no end in sight, and that figure doesn’t include projected future costs ranging from care for soldiers wounded in those wars to the cost of replenishing worn out military equipment. At the war-fighting level, the Congressional Budget Office has already projected direct war costs over the next decade at $867 billion.
"The Pentagon’s 2011 budget is already the highest since World War II, according to defense analyst Winslow T. Wheeler. Now, consider that the secretary of defense has just “pledged” more of the same for years to come. And note that none of this -- with the possible exception of that $33 billion supplemental request -- is considered particularly controversial by anyone who matters in Washington, or worth much front-page news attention. Sums that put health-care reform in the shade cause barely a stir. In other words, the Pentagon rules the roost and, as TomDispatch regular William Astore indicates, it could get a lot worse."
Blaine sent me this link. We've talked about designing and building a view camera but when I can buy a view camera of the quality and capability of my Toyo View D45M for $150, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to try to make my own given that I probably couldn't buy the materials to make one for what I bought the Toyo for, not to mention the time in designing and building. I do have to admire someone who does do it. This is an interesting one.
"I first got the idea when I was surfing the web for some camera information I needed, exactly what I can´t recall. But I found this german company called Sinar which manufactures various kinds cameras, mainly for medium format applications. I thought the design of these cameras was really cool and I started researching how they worked, only to discover that they were essentially just simple view cameras. Only in a more sophisticated and fancy package than the old wooden box versions. One particular model called P3 really got my attention with it´s extremly analouge appearance and huge knobs. My second thought were something like: wouldn´t it be possible to build a camera like this with Lego technic parts around a really cheap lens and a bellow? Well at that point i just knew i had to try!
"Thus the goal of this project is pretty simple, to build a fully functional camera from scratch that in the end can be used with either full format or medium format (probably medium format) negative film, and offer about the same functionality as the "real" equivalents do. I do not plan on obtaining flawless image quality but rather just understand all the physics and produce some at least decent pictures."
martin luther king, jr. 1929-1968
"Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability,
"Thank God for Helen Thomas, the only person to show any courage at the White House press briefing after President Barack Obama gave a flaccid account of the intelligence screw-up that almost downed an airliner on Christmas Day.
"After Obama briefly addressed L'Affaire Abdulmutallab and wrote "must do better" on the report cards of the national security schoolboys responsible for the near catastrophe, the President turned the stage over to counter-terrorism guru John Brennan and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
"It took 89-year old veteran correspondent Helen Thomas to break through the vapid remarks about channeling "intelligence streams," fixing "no-fly" lists, deploying "behavior detection officers," and buying more body-imaging scanners.
"Thomas recognized the John & Janet filibuster for what it was, as her catatonic press colleagues took their customary dictation and asked their predictable questions. Instead, Thomas posed an adult query that spotlighted the futility of government plans to counter terrorism with more high-tech gizmos and more intrusions on the liberties and privacy of the traveling public.
"She asked why Abdulmutallab did what he did.
"Thomas: "Why do they want to do us harm? And what is the motivation? We never hear what you find out on why."
"Brennan: "Al Qaeda is an organization that is dedicated to murder and wanton slaughter of innocents... They attract individuals like Mr. Abdulmutallab and use them for these types of attacks. He was motivated by a sense of religious sort of drive. Unfortunately, al Qaeda has perverted Islam, and has corrupted the concept of Islam, so that he's (sic) able to attract these individuals. But al Qaeda has the agenda of destruction and death."
"Thomas: "And you're saying it's because of religion?"
"Brennan: "I'm saying it's because of an al Qaeda organization that used the banner of religion in a very perverse and corrupt way."
"Brennan: "I think this is a - long issue, but al Qaeda is just determined to carry out attacks here against the homeland."
"Thomas: "But you haven't explained why."
"Neither did President Obama, nor anyone else in the U.S. political/media hierarchy. All the American public gets is the boilerplate about how evil al Qaeda continues to pervert a religion and entice and exploit impressionable young men.
"There is almost no discussion about why so many people in the Muslim world object to U.S. policies so strongly that they are inclined to resist violently and even resort to suicide attacks."
"Twelve years ago, Carl Weese parked his truck off Route 8 in rural Connecticut and stood in a field. Something peculiar had caught his eye.
"From the middle of the field, Mr. Weese could see the screen of an abandoned drive-in movie theater at the foot of a nearby hillside. It was half-covered in a thicket of overgrown trees. The image of the derelict screen blending into the surrounding landscape intrigued him.
"The following morning he got up early. At dawn he photographed the drive-in, just as the day’s first shafts of light fell upon the white screen and illuminated it.
"It was Mr. Weese’s first photograph of a drive-in theater. Over the years, he has produced hundreds more. “Drive-ins are this stealthily strong feature of American history,” said Mr. Weese, who takes a sociological approach to much of his photography.
"Since 1998, he has traveled to 27 states in search of theaters that convey a story of the nation’s love affair with the automobile and the open road, as well as a sense of the country’s past and present.
"Most of the theaters Mr. Weese has visited are abandoned or deserted. Of the nearly 5,000 drive-ins that were open in 1960, he said, fewer than 500 still function. Development pressures have often contributed to their demise.
" “There’s a saying: there’s only one way to get rich off a drive-in theater, and that’s to sell it to Wal-Mart,” he said."
Carl also has a photo blog I follow:
america the beautiful
Bass Boats and Queer Marriage
"Holy smoking Jesus, America is losing its middle class! "We're taxing the middle class out of existence," charge the conservatives. "The middle class is being hollowed out," wail the liberals, pouring forth great mock turtle tears (although one wonders how such a vacuum, as middle class life in America could be further hollowed).
"For both political camps, high dudgeon over "the vanishing middle class" is supposed to represent some sort of "new populism." Not that the populace disagrees with them, mainly because the populace, if we are referring to the genuine America populace, hasn't the slightest notion of the definition of populism. But the word sounds like it has to do with popularity, the highest virtue in the American mind, and can even lead to the celestial heights called celebrity. So what the hell, they're willing to run with it.
"In any case, much overwrought political theater is being dedicated to the subject of the middle class' demise. If demise is the right word for losing its ability to engorge on commodities at obscene levels.
"A month or so ago I watched news footage of some fat guy being interviewed inside his the three car garage of his $300,000 cardboard house. The poor fellow was about to lose his bass boat, and maybe his home too. From the looks of it, I'd say the bass boat was a Ranger X520. Now these babies start at $45K, not to mention the $30K for the four wheel drive usually seen pulling. Looked like it was sitting on a 20-plus foot Hurricane boat trailer, another $4K or $5K. My wife, who was watching the show with me, turned and said, "What class is this man supposed to be in?"
" "I don't know, they say middle class."
" "Hmmm. Whatever it is, we've never been members."
"George Jones and Tammy Wynette said it all when they sang:
"No we're not the jet set
"Indeed, we are witnessing the death of the American lifestyle, bass boats and all. Unless of course, the Chinese banksters will keep on loaning us enough dough for one more fix, one more snort of crank to keep the American lifestyle from going into withdrawal. Yeah, sure.
"That does not keep both political parties from assuring us that "the great American middle class lifestyle is not negotiable," then proceeding to negotiate the hell out of it."
"The economy that is. Especially the part that consists of swapping paper certificates. That's the buzz I've gotten the first two weeks of 2010, and forgive me for not presenting a sheaf of charts and graphs to make the case. Just about everybody else yakking about these thing on the Web provides plenty of statistical analysis: Mish, The Automatic Earth, Chris Martenson, Zero Hedge, The Baseline Scenario.... They're all well worth visiting.
"Bank bonus numbers are due out any day now. The revolt that I expected around the release of these numbers may come from a different place than I had imagined earlier -- not from whatever remains of "normal" working people, but from the thought leaders and middling agents in administration (including the prosecutors) who, for one reason or another, have been diverting their attention, or watching and waiting, or making excuses for a couple of years now. When Frank Rich of The New York Times starts calling for Robert Rubin's head, then maybe the great groaning tramp steamer of media opinion is turning in the water and charting a new course for the port of reality.
"Anyway, the grotesque carnival of rackets and lies that the US economy has become -- held together with the duct tape of stimulus cash, gamed accounting, mortgage subsidies, carry trades, TBTF bailouts, TARPS, TALFS, shell-game BLS reports, and MSNBC "green shoots" cheerleading -- gives every sign of tipping into collapse at a moment's notice. There are just too many obvious things that can go wrong, and that means there are many less obvious, hidden things that can go wrong, and isn't it tragically foolish to tempt Murphy's Law, since it operates so well without any help from us? The call is even going out lately for criminal prosecution of the current Treasury Secretary, Mr. Geithner, for engineering AIG's $14 billion credit default swap payoff to Goldman Sachs as part of the AIG bailout. Okay then, why not Paulson, Bernanke, Blankfein...?"
"The Bamboo Bike Studio is run by three men in their late 20s who know a lot about bamboo and a lot about bicycles. On a cool autumn morning, two of them are out on a bamboo harvest — in a dense grove near New Brunswick, N.J.
"Justin Aguinaldo and Sean Murray carry a small Japanese pull saw and a caliper to find bamboo stems that are 1 1/2 inches thick. When they find stems that are just right, they tap the bamboo to make sure it's not too soft: "If the bamboo's too watery, it's not as dense and it's not as strong," Aguinaldo explains.
"Aguinaldo makes his living as a bicycle messenger. Sean Murray is a former schoolteacher whose voice mail greeting makes note of the fact that he is now living the dream of making bikes with his friends."