Saturday, July 28, 2007

The War Racket: How Americans Pay for Bush's War Crimes at the Bank, the Pump, the Shop & the Graveside

by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

Bush had hoped to pull off a quick victory cheap. But nothing worked out as hoped or planned. The American people are stuck with the tab, paying for the war with high hidden taxes, higher prices and American lives. The cost of Bush's war crime has tripled since Bush declared the end of major combat operations. The American people are not safer for having sacrificed the lives of loved ones. The war on terrorism is either a criminal fraud or a miserable failure and I challenge my critics at the Heritage Foundation to debate me on that issue.

War is a racket fought by the masses for privileged elites, big corporations, and venal politicians like Bush. Bush's quagmire is fought for the benefit of no-bid contractors like Halliburton and Blackwater and financed by America's working poor and middle classes who pay for the war —with their lives abroad and with their jobs, their retirement prospects, and their access to health care at home. Bush's base —the nation's elite, his corporate sponsors, and the so-called defense industry —have paid nothing, risked nothing! Rather —they feed at the trough. The upper one percent of the population has gotten several tax cuts while the big oil companies report record profits rising concurrently with higher prices at the pump.
Just two days after 9/11, I learned from Congressional staffers that Republicans on Capitol Hill were already exploiting the atrocity, trying to use it to push through tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. ... We now know that from the very beginning, the Bush administration and its allies in Congress saw the terrorist threat not as a problem to be solved, but as a political opportunity to be exploited. The story of the latest terror plot makes the administration’s fecklessness and cynicism on terrorism clearer than ever.

Hoping for Fear, by Paul Krugman, Using Fear Commentary, NY Times
There are big profits in the death business. Go to Texas and ask the CEO at DynCorp.
The war in Iraq has boosted DynCorp's revenues, responsible for about $400 million of the company's nearly $2 billion in sales. And while the company didn't specify how much the effort has added to profits, there has certainly been an upside, Lagana said, although he added that profit margins are lower than in other private industry -- often below 10 percent.

For government contractors and other US-based businesses that are doing work in Iraq, the war there has continued to provide opportunity and benefits, although experts and companies alike say they are difficult to quantify. To be sure, security businesses, oil producers and defense contractors are among the biggest winners. Those who manufacture key products, from bulletproof vests to bullets themselves, and, more recently, those involved in reconstruction, have reaped the benefits, too.

--Businesses find benefits, costs in war work
Over the longer term, however, the effects of Bush's war against the people of Iraq war are only temporary, benefiting the entire economy only for a short period of time, the period of time in which the pump is primed. On the whole, the effect is minimal. Average Americans have not benefited from mass murder, torture, and other atrocities perpetrated by the "state". As Economic Policy Institute economist Jared Bernstein noted, whatever economic stimulus war might have provided becomes increasingly less significant over time. Defense spending had a big effect on job growth in 2004, but its effect since that time is relatively small. Wealth, however ill-gotten does not trickle down.

The number of US troops in Iraq, put at 145,000, does not include more than 126,000 private contractors. Author Jeremy Schahill calls it “the world’s most powerful mercenary army.” But that is polite. They are, in fact, hired hit men financed, enabled and paid by the people of the United States whether they want to or not. Under Bush, the US taxpayer no longer has a say in how his/her money is spent.

Scahill and filmmaker Robert Greenwald have told the House Appropriations defense subcommittee that these so-called "contract workers", these hired killers murder with impunity and undermine the better efforts of US command and control.
...contract workers have been involved in — but not punished for — numerous scandals during the Iraq war, the pair claimed. These contractors were among the interrogators and translators who tortured prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison, Greenwald said.

In one short period, senior military personnel documented 12 instances in which contract workers shot at Iraqi civilians, killing six, Scahill said, but no contractors were charged with crimes.

Contract employees were granted immunity from prosecution under Iraqi law by Paul Bremmer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority that ruled Iraq in 2003 and 2004, Scahill said. And they were not subject to US military law.

Truck drivers working for Halliburton routinely drove empty trucks across Iraq because the company is paid by the number of trips, not by the amount of cargo a truck carries, Greenwald said.

-- US House Panel Puts Iraq Contractor Abuse Claims ‘On the Record’
One of the more insidious falsehoods about Iraq has turned out to have been Bushco estimates of its cost. In 2002, George W. Bush himself predicted the war would cost between $100 billion and $200 billion —tops! To be expected —Bush was dead wrong. A report by the Democratic staff of the House Budget Committee now estimates that Bush's war of aggression in Iraq could cost the US $646 billion by 2015 —depending on the scope and duration of operations. Nobel prize winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz, Columbia University, estimates the cost of the war from one trillion to two trillion dollars!

Ongoing operations in Iraq were estimated at $5.6 billion per month in 2005. And costs have surely risen since then as the intensity of fighing increases accompanied by significant losses of materiel and maintenance.
The Bill So Far: Congress has already approved four spending bills for Iraq with funds totaling $204.4 billion and is in the process of approving a “bridge fund” for $45.3 billion to cover operations until another supplemental spending package can be passed, most likely slated for Spring 2006. Broken down per person in the United States, the cost so far is $727, making the Iraq War the most expensive military effort in the last 60 years.

Long-term Impact on US Economy: In August 2005, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the cost of continuing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at current levels would nearly double the projected federal budget deficit over the next ten years. According to current estimates, during that time the cost of the Iraq War could exceed $700 billion.

Economic Impact on Military Families: Since the beginning of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, more than 210,000 of the National Guard’s 330,000 soldiers have been called up, with an average mobilization of 460 days. Government studies show that about half of all reservists and Guard members report a loss of income when they go on active duty—typically more than $4,000 a year. About 30,000 small business owners alone have been called to service and are especially likely to fall victim to the adverse economic effects of military deployment.

The Iraq Quagmire: The Mounting Costs of War and the Case for Bringing Home the Troops, Institute for Policy Studies
The Bush administration has been able to keep the precise cost of the war a matter of guess work and estimates. But however much is wasted killing civilians in Iraq that is money that is not being spent educating Americans, providing for health care, fixing Social Security, rebuilding a deteriorating infrastructure, or addressing real threats to our environment.

However much has blown up in Iraq, it is lost forever to the victims of Bush's incompetence in the face of Katrina. It is lost forever to those millions losing retirements to corporate mismanagement and greed. It is lost forever to those unable to pay the high costs of health care, education, transportation, housing, and getting enough to eat each day.
US Budget and Social Programs: The Administration’s FY 2006 budget, which does not include any funding for the Iraq War, takes a hard line with domestic spending— slashing or eliminating more than 150 federal programs. The $204.4 billion appropriated thus far for the war in Iraq could have purchased any of the following desperately needed services in our country: 46,458,805 uninsured people receiving health care or 3,545,016 elementary school teachers or 27,093,473 Head Start places for children or 1,841,833 affordable housing units or 24,072 new elementary schools or 39,665,748 scholarships for university students or 3,204,265 port container inspectors.

Social Costs to the Military/Troop Morale: As of May 2005, stop-loss orders are affecting 14,082 soldiers—almost 10 percent of the entire forces serving in Iraq with no end date set for the use of these orders. Long deployments and high levels of soldier’s stress extend to family life. In 2004, 3,325 Army officer’s marriages ended in divorce—up 78 percent from 2003, the year of the Iraq invasion and more than 3.5 times the number in 2000.

Costs to Veteran Health Care: The Veterans Affairs department projected that 23,553 veterans would return from Iraq and Afghanistan in 2005 and seek medical care. But in June 2005, the VA Secretary, Jim Nicholson, revised this number to 103,000. The miscalculation has led to a shortfall of $273 million in the VA budget for 2005 and may result in a loss of $2.6 billion in 2006.

Mental Health Costs: In July 2005 the Army’s surgeon general reported that 30 percent of US troops have developed stress-related mental health problems three to four months after coming home from the Iraq War. Because about 1 million American troops have served so far in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan some experts predict that the number eventually requiring mental health treatment could exceed 100,000.

The Iraq Quagmire: The Mounting Costs of War and the Case for Bringing Home the Troops, Institute for Policy Studies
Many delusions were promoted in order to commit this nation to aggressive war. In the short months after 9/11, Bush erected a strawman upon which to direct American frustration, anger, and vengeance —an “axis of evil” consisting of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. His intentions were made clear at the time. This "Axis of Evil" was responsible for world terrorism in general and our nation would wage war against it. Bush's speech was most notable, however, for what he did not say. Bush did not tell the American people that he had no intention of paying for the war. He would leave the deficit to future administrations and generations. Rather than expect his privileged base to pony up, he would reward their loyalty with several tax cuts. Nor are sons of daughters of that base required to serve their nation militarily. Bush's base gets a free ride as the rest of the nation bears the cost of war —in both lives and dollars.

If wars are not paid for upfront, they are paid for in the form of higher interest rates, prices, and lives. Wealth does not trickle down. But the effects of a falling dollar is felt by everyone. The exponential rise of wage and income inequality began with a vengeance in the Reagan 80's, most closely associated with the Reagan tax cut of 1982. Only the top 20 percent of the population benefited. Wage/income disparities have increased since then with only a short respite during Clinton's second term. The current trend began before a great wave of technical change and a computer revolution —none of which has benefited working Americans. Indeed, if you work for a living you have paid and continue to pay for Bush's war of aggression while Bush's base gets preferential treatment!

It is no coincidence that as prices increase, so, too, the national deficit. American credit abroad is dodgy. As the dollar continues to slide on world exchanges, not only gasoline prices increase but also prices of imported goods. Bush had said that he favors a strong dollar but, in fact, his administration has let the dollar slide, a cynical ploy designed to finance the Iraq folly upon the backs of working Americans. That it provides a moderate relief to US exporters is a bad trade off. What —other than death, torture and destruction —do we export these days?

Like Bush's mythical "Axis of Evil" the idea that a nation can wage a free war is an evil GOP fairy tale. Wars are always paid for, if not now, later, and in ways you won't like.

An update:
A pipeline shuts down in Alaska. Equipment failures disrupt air travel in Los Angeles. Electricity runs short at a spy agency in Maryland.

None of these recent events resulted from a natural disaster or terrorist attack, but they may as well have, some homeland security experts say. They worry that too little attention is paid to how fast the country's basic operating systems are deteriorating.

"When I see events like these, I become concerned that we've lost focus on the core operational functionality of the nation's infrastructure and are becoming a fragile nation, which is just as bad — if not worse — as being an insecure nation," said Christian Beckner, a Washington analyst who runs the respected Web site Homeland Security Watch (

The American Society of Civil Engineers last year graded the nation "D" for its overall infrastructure conditions, estimating that it would take $1.6 trillion over five years to fix the problem.

"I thought [Hurricane] Katrina was a hell of a wake-up call, but people are missing the alarm," said Casey Dinges, the society's managing director of external affairs.

British oil company BP announced this month that severe corrosion would close its Alaska pipelines for extensive repairs. Analysts say this may sideline some 200,000 barrels a day of production for several months.

Then an instrument landing system that guides arriving planes onto a runway at Los Angeles International Airport failed for the second time in a week, delaying flights.

Those incidents followed reports that the National Security Agency (NSA), the intelligence world's electronic eavesdropping arm, is consuming so much electricity at its headquarters outside Washington that it is in danger of exceeding its power supply.

"If a terrorist group were able to knock the NSA offline, or disrupt one of the nation's busiest airports, or shut down the most important oil pipeline in the nation, the impact would be perceived as devastating," Beckner said. "And yet we've essentially let these things happen — or almost happen — to ourselves."

The Commission on Public Infrastructure at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, said in a recent report that facilities are deteriorating "at an alarming rate." ...

--Chuck McCutcheon, Newhouse News Service, Experts warn US is coming apart at the seams; becoming third world

Bush Plans Dictatorship

    "If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator."

    George W. Bush
Bush uttered those very unfunny words on December 18, 2000. On that day the president-elect went to capitol hill to meet with Congressional leaders and emerged from the meeting flipping them and the American people this rhetorical bird.

The president is making good on those words and there hasn't been a peep out of Congress or the press. In a document released on May 9, 2007 entitled "National Continuity Policy," Bush makes good on his sick fantasy. In case of “any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the US population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government function” Bush will control the entire US government, not just the federal branch.

It isn't really surprising. Bush decides who is an enemy combatant, a person without legal rights, and who should be spied upon.

If ever there was a moment for conspiracy theories, this is it. Will there be a phony terror attack, or a declaration of war against Iran? We don't know what the trigger will be but it is time to be afraid.

Actually it is time for impeachment. Bush's unpopularity makes him particularly dangerous. So does the acquiescence of the media and the silence of the Democrats. State legislatures have the right to begin the impeachment process but they have been smacked down by Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.

We are screwed. The phrase may be inelegant, but it says it all. Maybe we will all end up in Guantanamo. Who knows? The National Continuity Policy contains "classified continuity annexes." WTF!? As I said, we are screwed.
Indeed, Bush has arrogated unto himself the power to interpret the Constitution. I suppose he can now just dismiss the Supreme Court. Already he claims the authority to re-write laws passed by Congress and denies Congress the authority to subpoena witnesses
It defines a “catastrophic emergency” as “any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the US population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government function.”

Bush Anoints Himself as the Insurer of Constitutional Government in Emergency
And this just in from Bluebloggin'.

US Department of Interior Investigates Bush

Posted by nytexan on July 27th, 2007
How many investigations can one administration have? I suppose if you’re Bush and Cheney and you completely ignore laws, you could technically be investigated every month. Well this time it’s the US Department of Interior going after them for the Endangered Species Act.

Mother Jones
  • Two government entities are investigating the Bush administration over the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Christian Science Monitor reports the US Interior Department is reviewing the scientific integrity of decisions made by a political appointee, Julie MacDonald, who recently resigned under fire. Fish and Wildlife Service employees complained that MacDonald bullied, insulted, and harassed the professional staff to alter their biological reporting. The inspector noted that although she has no formal educational background in biology, she nevertheless labored long and hard editing, commenting on, and reshaping the endangered species program’s scientific reports from the field. Last week Fish and Wildlife announced that eight decisions MacDonald made under the ESA would be examined for scientific and legal discrepancies.
Legal discrepancies seem to be the standard operating procedure for the Bush administration.

Bush has a habit of putting incompetent people to oversee and bully scientist. This is exactly what Bush did with the national weather scientist so global warming would be watered down.
  • Meanwhile Congress is investigating evidence that Vice President Dick Cheney interfered with decisions involving water in California and Oregon resulting in a mass kill of Klamath River salmon, including threatened species. As the CSM reports, both episodes illustrate the Bush administration’s resistance to the law. Earlier, the Washington Post ran the story of Cheney’s personal interference in the water decision that killed the salmon in 2002:
  • In Oregon, a battleground state that the Bush-Cheney ticket had lost by less than half of 1 percent, drought-stricken farmers and ranchers were about to be cut off from the irrigation water that kept their cropland and pastures green. Federal biologists said the Endangered Species Act left the government no choice: The survival of two imperiled species of fish was at stake. Law and science seemed to be on the side of the fish. Then the vice president stepped in. First Cheney looked for a way around the law, aides said. Next he set in motion a process to challenge the science protecting the fish, according to a former Oregon congressman who lobbied for the farmers.
An update on Bush's transparent attempts to undermine US obligations with regard to the Geneva Convention.
To date in the war on terrorism, including the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks and all U.S. military personnel killed in action in Afghanistan and Iraq, America's losses total about 2 percent of the forces we lost in World War II and less than 7 percent of those killed in Vietnam. Yet we did not find it necessary to compromise our honor or abandon our commitment to the rule of law to defeat Nazi Germany or imperial Japan, or to resist communist aggression in Indochina. On the contrary, in Vietnam -- where we both proudly served twice -- America voluntarily extended the protections of the full Geneva Convention on prisoners of war to Viet Cong guerrillas who, like al-Qaeda, did not even arguably qualify for such protections.
The Geneva Conventions provide important protections to our own military forces when we send them into harm's way. Our troops deserve those protections, and we betray their interests when we gratuitously "interpret" key provisions of the conventions in a manner likely to undermine their effectiveness. Policymakers should also keep in mind that violations of Common Article 3 are "war crimes" for which everyone involved -- potentially up to and including the president of the United States -- may be tried in any of the other 193 countries that are parties to the conventions.

--P.X. Kelley and Robert F. Turner, War Crimes and the White House
Tipped off by Fuzzflash, I post the following video experience. Just as it is impossible to make meaningful statements about a syntax from within a syntax, we may find it impossible to make statements about our own culture. Perhaps the Ancient Mayans have shown us a non-verbal truth from outside our paradigm. The "text" is by William Borroughs but the video was produced and added by one who uses the label, Karma, who writes"
This is a tribute to both William Burroughs and Hiroshima. Its a video I have been wanting to put together for some time now and release on the day of concern.

61 Years ago to day Hiroshima felt the atom split in anger. Today lets remember both Hiroshima Nagasaki which followed on the 9th August 1945. Lets hope the lion never rages again. 

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Simpsons vs the New World Order

Alternet has called The Simpsons "the most subversive TV show to ever achieve the status of pop culture institution." That's why I grew to love this series. The Simpsons had always slammed fox news but it was their 400th episode that attracted the attention of Alternet.
Because of its nearly 20 years of popularity and more important, profitability, the show has been able to ridicule its network more than any other TV program would ever dare to. Last night was no exception. During its heavily promoted 400th episode, Homer, Lisa and Springfield anchorman Kent Brockman launched into a discussion about Fox News as a hilarious parody of the cable channel, featuring a Rush Limbaugh inspired caricature played on their TV set. Lisa wonders [about] a network infamous for tasteless programming (Temptation Island anyone?)

--The Simpsons Slam Fox News

Following is an excerpt from an enraged "Kent Brockman", the Simpsons' all-too-typical news anchor. Brockman is akin to Network's Howard Beales (Peter Finch) who is "mad as hell and not going to take it anymore". Brockman makes a similar appeal but does so ala Ed Murrow complete with a cigarette and curling smoke.
Friends, the press and the government are in bed together in an embrace so intimate and wrong, they could spoon on a twin mattress and still have room for Ted Koppel. Journalists used to questions the reasons for war and expose abuse of power. Now, like toothless babies, they suckle on the sugary teat of misinformation and poop it into the diaper we call the 6:00 News. Demand more of your government. Demand more of your press.

--The Simpsons v. the media, Think Progress

The Simpsons is the best television since Ed Murrow, since "You Are there", since Playhouse 90, Star Trek, and Kenneth Clark's Civilization. That alone is enough to recommend the series. But that's not all, The Simpsons is on Fox, almost daring what is otherwise the worse network in TV history to do something about it. Matt Groening is modest. He claims that that they are just a tiny part of the vast Fox empire. Perhaps! But it is the thinking part, the part that pays attention, the part that agitates.

Nevertheless, the evil empire did strike back.

D'oh!: Fox slams parody 'Simpsons'

By Andrew Wallenstein

An Internet parody of "The Simpsons" has drawn the ire of 20th Century Fox.

The studio is pressuring online video hub to remove "The O.J. Simpsons," three animated clips that reimagine the Fox series starring the former football star. After receiving notices from Fox lawyers, Broadcaster Inc. is reviewing their demand but noted Friday that fair-use doctrine protects parodies.

"We respect the rights of content owners," Broadcaster CEO Martin Wade III said. "We are examining all the issues raised by the Fox request. Our goal is to be a respecter of content rights and at the same time find legal ways to bring our community members the content they enjoy."

Fox, which declined comment, has been aggressive about protecting perceived copyright infringements. In January, Fox had Google subpoenaed over uploaded episodes of "24" and "Simpsons" (HR 1/25). Google complied, disclosing the names of individuals who did the uploading.

The three "O.J. Simpsons" clips are titled "Black and White Christmas," "Warzone" and "If I Did It," which directly references Fox and its decision to withdraw publication of O.J. Simpson's proposed book about the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ron Goldman. ...
Fox has also prohibited The Simpsons from satirizing Fox's annoying and gaudy data crawl.

I caught on to the Simpson's fairly early in their evolution. I use the word evolution deliberately to piss off the state of Kansas. It was an episode about how Homer became a "Stonecutter" that really won me over. A brilliant satire of Freemasonry, the Stonecutter episode is classic, but more, importantly, a clue.

Homer becomes a "Stonecutter", a secret society of mysterious rituals and great productions numbers.

Canyanero excoriates America's less than brilliant obsession with a lumbering leviathan called the SUV.

A witty look at a prudish society nevertheless obsessed with sex.

Most recently, The Simpsons took on the Iraq war with their favorite aliens --Kang and Kodos.

The allusions are always rich. This recalls Alred Hitchcocks's Rear Window with James Stewart and Grace Kelly.

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Pure Pork Gravy Train: How the Government Robs the Social Security Trust Fund and Gives it to the Military/Industrial Complex

by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

The fortunes of the American Empire and the Military/Industrial Complex have until recently risen and fallen together. Most recently, however, the US Military/Industrial Complex has become a vast web entangling the US government, foreign "allies, and a vast infrastructure of contractors and suppliers. This un-elected, unaccountable web threatens to kill the goose that laid the golden egg.

The American Military/Industrial complex was not immediately "institutionalized". Yet it's rise to power seems not to have been slowed by our disastrous wars in Korea, Viet Nam and now Iraq. In a real world, failure is its own reward; but in the Lewis Carroll world of the American Military/Industrial complex, power is accrued exponentially despite failure, despite incompetence, despite criminality at the very highest levels.

At some point, however, a house of cards must fall of its own weight. America's untenable position in Iraq subverts US security by revealing to the world a paper tiger, a deteriorating economy, and Bush's inability to define a victory that cannot be achieved. At the very heart of the problem is a tail that wags the dog, a cancer that thinks it is the body. Needed now is a critical re-evaluation of America's most notable fascist institution --the Military/Industrial complex.

By Military/Industrial complex we mean the Pentagon Bureaucracy, the Military Command, the vast network of defense contractors, and the branches of government that must interface with this leviathan --primarily the President as "Commander-in-Chief" and those committees in congress charged with appropriations and oversight.

Author Gore Vidal is very specific with regard to the Military/Industrial Complex. He credits Harry Truman with its creation, specifically the decision to "militarize the economy". Historically, we were approaching a "red scare", the Rosenberg case, a McCarthy era. All seemed justification enough to maintain a vast military infrastructure that spanned the globe. But as we maintained troops, bases and equipment throughout the world, we denied monies for education, health care, and basic infrastructure. Stories of little red school houses are legion and typically American. I have a true one --my vivid memories of a first grade spent inside a grim, gray cinder block building that looked more like Hitler's bunker than a school building. We were fortunate to have had desks and a blackboard.

One day I will calculate how many schools, how many books, how many computers might be acquired for the price of a single carrier, a single nuke, a single global hawk, a single campaign of "shock and awe", a "desert storm", an Iraqi Freedom in which one "brutal dictator" is simply replaced by another.
“On September 16, 1985, when the Commerce Department announced that the United States had become a debtor nation, the American Empire died. The Empire was seventy-one years old and had been in ill health since 1968. Like most modern empires, ours rested not such much on military prowess as on economic primacy.

--Gore Vidal, The Decline and Fall of the American Empire

This essay began as a series of notes on Social Security --it's future should Bush survive his second term, its future should the American people not learn the lessons of the past six years. It is not enough that our government has put into place various mechanisms by which wealth is taken from the poor and re-distributed among the very, very wealthy, it conspires to rob the retired of proceeds they've already paid in. More accurately, those monies are incinerated in Iraq!

Everyone has a pet theory and I have mine. We are witnesses to the decline of the largest empire since Rome, perhaps the largest empire in the history of the world. If you are not taking notes, you should be. You have a ringside seat.

According to Vidal, the "American Empire" has been at war since 1950. The historical precedents are legion, Roman Legion, specifically. The Roman Empire was likewise stretched to the limits of current technology. When the time came to withdraw from Briton, the legions, for the most part, walked back home to Rome. It is easy to imagine a long walk through a desolate landscape of farms, decaying estates, and hungry serfs. There is a poignant description in Thomas Cahill's How the Irish Saved Civilization.

Roman writer and military strategist Flavius Vegetius Renatus --supported in modern times by Arthur Ferrill --believed that Rome's decline is traced to the use of German mercenaries in the legions. Certainly, any fan of the BBC's historic "I, Claudius" based upon the books by Robert Graves will remember the "Germans" who wore the tunic, who fought the battles, who took the orders.

A state of Orwellian "perpetual war" or foreign occupation is a defining characteristic of empire and fascism. A series of foreign wars and internal struggles preceded Caesar's "crossing the Rubicon". The rest is grist for Shakespeare's mill who may not be literally true but captures more important, essential truths about the sources of empire and the internal dynamics driving the will to power. The result in America, as in Rome earlier, is the literal "auctioning off" of the office of President of the United States, an eventuality embodied in Mussolini's term: corporatism.

Something similar occurred on March 28th, 193 AD, when the Praetorian guards, literally, sold the Roman empire to the wealthy senator Didius Julianus for the bargain price of 6250 drachmas.
A magnificent feast was prepared by his order, and he amused himself until a very late hour, with dice, and the performances of Pylades, a celebrated dancer. Yet it was observed that after the crowd of flatterers dispersed, and left him to darkness, solitude, and terrible reflection, he passed a sleepless night; revolving most probably in his mind his own rash folly, the fate of his virtuous predecessor, and the doubtful and dangerous tenure of an empire, which had not been acquired by merit, but purchased by money.

- Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire; See also: Edward Gibbon: General Observations on the Fall of the Roman Empire in the West

An important point must be made here. Gibbon reports that Julianus paid for the Roman Empire in "drachmas". "Drachmas" denotes Greek currency--not Roman. At that time, the basic unit of currency in Ancient Rome was a bronze coin called an as or aes. A sestertius, another bronze coin, was worth four asses. A silver coin, the denarius, was worth 16 asses. [I will not go there!]

If Gibbon is correct, it is an indication that Rome, by that time in decline, had suffered a catastrophic devaluation of its coinage, just as it is evident that the dollar is weak today. Even now "real" money is considered by some to be "gold". That Didius Julianus would pay in Greek currency, not Roman, indicates to me that the smart money had already dumped the as, the asses, and the sestertius for drachmas. At last, bronze would seem to have little intrinsic value as "real" money. I would wager that only the very wealthy Roman aristocracy possessed denarius, which they might have held against the complete collapse of bronze coins, as many today would hold another currency or precious metals against the complete collapse of the US dollar.

Here's where everything begins to hit us where we live. Gibbon is remembered not only because he wrote a comprehensive nine volume history of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, he ventured a thesis: the Roman Empire, he claimed, fell to barbarian invasions because of "a loss of civic virtue". The citizenry had become lazy. The empire had taken up the habit of "outsourcing" to barbarian mercenaries the more odious jobs, primarily the defense of the empire itself. By the time the emperor Valens faced barbarians at Adrianople 330-395 CE[ Ammianus Marcellinus (330-395 CE): The Battle of Hadrianopolis, 378 CE ], the ranks of the legions were most certainly entirely "barbarian". They were, perhaps, the 379 AD version of Blackwater, composed largely of Syrians and "barbarian" troops from Gaul.

Other reasons given by other historians for the fall of Rome are, likewise, just as credible. The reasons given sound very modern. It is pointed out that the Roman system lacked budgetary controls, resources were wasted. Roman rule was essentially a kind of Ponzi scheme premised on conquest and plunder. Booty from conquered territories always trickled up forcing small-scale farmers into destitution, just as it did just prior to Boudicca's revolt in Briton. Unlike the US Social Security system, a "Roman dole" never paid its own way. Poorer farmers got poorer and a landed elite escaped taxation altogether. How much of this is beginning to sound familiar?
The men who possess real power in this country have no intention of ending the cold war."

--Albert Einstein
The military industrial complex seems designed to keep the rich and powerful rich and powerful, at the expense of decency, common sense and the American taxpayer. It is one of two primary means by which wealth is transferred from the working and lower classes to the upper "ruling classes" who themselves maintain the offices of the "complex". Unfair "tax cuts" favored by Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush are another means by which this is achieved. The one method reinforces the other. The primary beneficiaries of such tax cuts are the CEO's of big military contractors. It's hard not to think of the tax cuts as payoffs for support and, likewise, a promise of more pork to come.

It is not surprising that this establishment would covet the monies that are paid into what is euphemistically called the Social Security trust fund. In fact, government does not hesitate to raid those funds regularly to cover current expenses. Right now, the big expense is Iraq.

Contrary to what Social Security opponents will tell you, Social Security actually turns a profit, or, as Paul Krugman puts it: "Right now the revenues from the payroll tax exceed the amount paid out in benefits." That "profit" is literally "stolen" from you by your government to pay current expenses. That, clearly, is not a failure of the program as the GOP would have you believe. It is, rather, irrefutable proof that Social Security may be the government's only success story. If Social Security had not been a such a rousing success, there would be no monies to be looted. To be sure, those monies are routinely looted to pay for or otherwise cover up the extravagances of Pentagon bloodsuckers. All of this is pure pork --a GOP gravy train.

Social Security is the victim of its own success, a target of every politician who happens to be owned, body and soul, by the MIC. If the "social security trust fund" had not been available for periodic "raids" by unprincipled politicians of both parties, the US government might have gone belly up a long time ago. Do FOX and other MSM apologists tell you that?

Republicans are, by far, the most egregious offenders but, sadly, the US government itself is the Ponzi scheme --not Social Security, unfairly expected pay its own way but also that of every other government program. How much of that money, I wonder, has wound up in Dick Cheney's pocket? How much in Bush's pocket by way of his corporate sponsors?

Halliburton and Blackwater, I am sure, get paid when others stand in line. When the other sources run dry --as they often do --our "government" just gets on board the GOP gravy train, a Ponzi scheme meets Murder, Inc. Our government will simply take another unprincipled dip into the cookie jar.

If the GOP should succeed in turning Social Security into a "privatized scheme" run by slick talkers from Wall Street, it will have killed the goose that laid the Golden Egg. Whatever will the GOP do for quick cash when it doesn't have Social Security to kick around anymore?

As its counterpart was in ancient Rome, the Military/Industrial complex is a leech, a blood sucking parasite, a black hole, a pit! The US has not made a lousy blood soaked dime by murdering folk in Iraq but we have, to be sure, paid out "billions and billions". Bills come due and we, the people, foot the bill for treason and incompetence. And, each evening, numbed by a scintillating corporate experience, we turn on FOX to get lied to and brainwashed.

The Military/Industrial complex is legalized fraud and grand larceny on a scale that would have made Roman emperors blush. People go along because it is believed that the contracts awarded will trickle down. Wealth has never trickled down. If it had, income disparities in this country would have disappeared years ago. That didn't happen. While the rich have gotten much, much richer, the poor have very nearly fallen off the scale, robbed of work, future, and self-esteem by unworkable GOP visions of a fascist America.

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Media Conglomerates, Mergers, Concentration of Ownership, Global Issues, Updated: January 02, 2009




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