Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘military spending

Tuesday Midday

leave a comment »

* Why Are UC Administrators Such Bad Letter Writers, And Why Should We Care?

* UC Davis Students Set Up Huge Geodesic Dome On Quad.

* Turns out the optimal marginal tax rate is… 76%.

* Pennsylvania will put its plan to rig the Electoral College on pause. Hooray?

* And Jon Taplin just can’t understand why progressives think they lost the budget fight.

President Obama immediately threatened to veto any attempt to undo the spending cuts. That means that Republicans would have to get a 2/3rds majority to undo the first meaningful cutback in the Military budget in 60 years. In addition, if Obama also threatens to veto any attempt to restore the Bush Tax cuts in 2012 (they expire automatically on January 1, 2013), progressives will have totally changed the inequality dynamic, without having to pass a single piece of legislation.

If we had some ham, we could have ham and eggs, if we had eggs…

On Libya

with one comment

Allow me to suggest that the most predictable failure in modern American military policy may in fact be the belief that these events represent “failures” at all. For the governmental and corporate institutions that rely on outsized military spending for their survival and growth, the inevitability of death, destruction, and destabilization in these regions and the continuing necessity of prolonged, open-ended commitment at greater and greater cost in money and lives is a feature, not a bug. The popular notion that the United States constantly propels itself into these “humanitarian interventions” with only the best of intentions, only to be undone time and time again by a tragic lack of foresight, is a self-protective fantasy calculated to short-circuit any real debate about the nation’s hundred-plus-year history of global empire. The narratives are always the same, from Spanish atrocities in Cuba to Vietnam to our twenty-first century parade of Hitlers-of-the-moment; only the details change.

The stated goals for these interventions are never achieved because they were not the true goals; the missions creep and swell because they are intended to. In this sense the persistence of these “failures” only represents the smooth operation of the machine.

See you in Iran—or Syria, or Bahrain, or the northern states of Mexico, or…—in 2013.

From the ‘It’s Worse Than You Thought’ File

with one comment

The U.S. Army illegally ordered a team of soldiers specializing in “psychological operations” to manipulate visiting American senators into providing more troops and funding for the war, Rolling Stone has learned – and when an officer tried to stop the operation, he was railroaded by military investigators. Via.

Essential Weekend Viewing: Kim Stanley Robinson at Duke, 1.29.10

with 27 comments

“Science began as a Poor Clare. Science was broke and so it got bought. Science was scared and so did what it was told. It designed the gun and gave the gun to power, and power then held the gun to science’s head and told it to make some more. How smart was that? Now science is in the position of having to invent a secret disabler of guns, and then start the whole process over. It’s not clear it can work. Because all scientists are Galileos, poor, scared, gun to our head. Power lies elsewhere. If we can shift that power… that’s the if. If we can shift history into a new channel, and avoid the nightmare centuries. If we can keep the promise of science, a promise hard to keep.”
—Kim Stanley Robinson, Galileo’s Dream, p. 524-525

Kim Stanley Robinson’s outstanding talk at Duke last week, “Science, Religion, and Ideology,” is now up at YouTube and embedded below. It’s truly essential viewing, not only for his fans but for anyone interested in either science fiction or the Utopian possibilities of scientific practice.

I’m a little bit religious about Stan’s novels, which may come across in my nervous and unusually fidgety (even for me) intro at the start of the clips. (I’d have probably just cut myself out altogether, but Stan outplayed me by taking a line from my intro and turning it into a recurring hook for the talk.) A full audio podcast is up at iTunesU. (Warning: the link is public, but launches iTunes.) The video clips are each embedded below.

I’ve refrained from a full transcript, but it’s a highlight quotable talk and so I’ve put a rough take on a few especially quotable moments.

This talk was part of the “Competing Cosmologies” event I helped organize with Priscilla, Barry, and Kevin , and came off very well, if I do say so myself. Meeting Stan and Nisi Shawl was especially a thrill, as I love the work of both. Video of Nisi and Bruce Lincoln’s talks will be online in some form soon; Michael Taussig declined to be filmed this time around. (UPDATE: Podcast versions of the Shawl and Lincoln talks are now also up at iTunesU.)

I have some video from the other event Stan did while he was here with our “Ecology and the Humanities” working group; I’ll try to get a few bonus clips from that event up over the weekend. (UPDATE: Click here.) My capsule review of Galileo’s Dream, for those who are interested, is here.

…And I also want to argue in the rest of this talk, try to make the case as Gerry has pointed out, preempted me in a way, or given away the game: science is a Utopian project; it began as a Utopian project and it has remained so ever since, an attempt to make a better world. And this is not always the view taken of science because its origins and its life have been so completely wrapped up with capitalism itself. They began together. You could consider them to be some kind of conjoined twins, Siamese twins that hate each other, Hindu gods that are permanently at odds, or even just a DNA strand wrapped around each other forever: some kind of completely imbricated and implicated co-leadership of the world, cultural dominance—so that science is not capitalism’s research and development division, or enabler, but a counterforce within it. And so despite the fact that as Galileo says that science was born with a gun to its head, and has always been under orders to facilitate the rise and expansion of capital, the two of them in their increasing power together are what you might call semi-autonomous, and science has been the Utopian thrust to alleviate suffering and make a better world.

…And yet, at the time, in its own internal workings the scientific community was having to deal with Rachel Carson and Silent Spring, and the notion that human-to-nature = master-to-slave was being replaced by the notion that human-to-nature was more like parasite-to-host. And at that point there were shifts going on that basically come down to the birth of the ecology movement, because parasites kill hosts all the time. E. coli, for instance, is a parasite outbreak that can kill off its hosts. And in essence parasites have to be good to their hosts if they want their livelihood to continue.

…There was a person who wanted to do Feng Shui at the South Pole. The South Pole had never been Feng Shui’d.

…And yet within the sciences the rule seems to come out of one of the oldest proverbs in our language: enough is as good as a feast. And this I think the science community is a physiological fact: that enough is even better than a feast, because a feast makes you sick, whereas enough is enough. And I was talking to a group of scientists about this, and I must say the scientific community is very uncomfortable with this line of my talks—they don’t like this—but one of them said “Enough is a bad word. That’s a bad word in America. Enough sounds like not enough. You should change it to Goldilocks, where there’s too little, there’s too much, and then there’s just right. And what you want is just right. And you can easily have too much.”

So I thought, okay, Goldilocks. I’ll change it always and mention that it’s not only that enough is as good as a feast, but enough is just right.

…So there, to end, and this is the only time I’ll mention it, you get science as a religion. It’s a religion in the sense of religio, it’s what binds us together. It’s a form of devotion: the scientific study of the world is simply a kind of worship of it, a very detailed, painstaking, and often tedious daily worship, like Zen. So you can think of science as a religion, and a devotion to something you can easily regard as miraculous: the Big Bang, out of a single singularity, out of a geometrical point of infinite mass, that has a inflationary period where at 10^-33 seconds after the beginning of everything suddenly there was an expansion of 10^30 time. This is our current explanation of our universe; if that’s not sounding miraculous to you I don’t know what would sound miraculous.

…The notion that we are the most sophisticated culture ever, because we’re more sophisticated than the Victorians or the early moderns etc., we immediately think, “Oh, it’ll never get better than this.” But it only take a little bit of extrapolation to think that oh, we’ll be looking back at the 2010s and thinking “They had just discovered the laptop and lost their minds.” It’s like in the discovery of the telephone; for a while there there was the euphoria of the telephone, and everyone had to call everyone, and we’re in that kind of moment for the Internet—but eventually you get past these technologies and we’re just back to people doing things.

…Government is a site of contestation, science, in a way, is also, in terms of aiming it towards one or the other. If the biomedical budget was $700 billion and the defense budget was $5 billion—and there are countries in the world where that proportion obtains. In the social democracies of North Europe they don’t spend a whole lot of money on a defense budget and they do a lot of health research. So I don’t think I’m being unrealistic, I’m trying to describe the situation in a way that gives us things to do…

Tuesday Night Linkdump

with 3 comments

* From the Onion: Massive Earthquake Reveals Entire Island Civilization Called ‘Haiti’.

* In an opinion issued on Monday, a three-judge panel of the Chicago-based Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals hexed a lawsuit challenging a ban on the game of Dungeons & Dragons by the Waupun Correctional Institution in Wisconsin.

* Welcome to the future: ‘Movie made by chimpanzees to be broadcast on television.’

* SCOTUSblog has a Citizens United roundup with a ton of links. Here’s another legislative fix for Citizens United that targets any company doing business with the federal government.

* Bitter Laughter has your word of the day: chronesthesia.

* ‘The most likely scenario for using combat aircraft in a U.S. war is an alien invasion’: Another day, another chart about our insane national priorities.

* The Canavan Plan for health care sanity is now “the consensus” among Democrats on the Hill, says John Podesta. Clyburn says House Democrats are on board. The usual suspects are unhappy, but the nice thing about reconciliation is they don’t matter.

* Of course, when the elites think their money is at risk, 51 Senate votes is suddenly enough.

* James O’Keefe, the gonzo journalist whose deceptively edited tapes brought down ACORN, has been arrested with four others for allegedly attempting to illegally wiretap Mary Landrieu’s office. If convicted he could spend 10 years in jail. Fox, naturally, is devastated.

* Today’s stunning evidence that paywalls don’t work.

* And Oregon voted today on whether or not to eat the rich.

DoD Cuts Always Already DOA

with one comment

It’s time for “everyone” to sacrifice and suffer some more — as long as “everyone” excludes our vast military industry, the permanent power factions inside the Pentagon and intelligence community, our Surveillance and National Security State, and the imperial policies of perpetual war which feed them while further draining the lifeblood out of the country.

I still think Greenwald is dramatically wrong about Citizens United, but good Lord he’s right about defense spending.

Since much of that overall spending is mandatory, military spending — all of which is discretionary — accounts for over 50% of discretionary government spending. Yet it’s absolutely forbidden to even contemplate reducing it as a means of reducing our debt or deficit. Since much of that overall spending is mandatory, military spending — all of which is discretionary — accounts for over 50% of discretionary government spending. Yet it’s absolutely forbidden to even contemplate reducing it as a means of reducing our debt or deficit. To the contrary, Obama ran on a platform of increasing military spending, and that is one of the few pledges he is faithfully and enthusiastically filling (while violating his pledge not to use deceitful budgetary tricks to fund our wars)…

Spencer Ackerman is also beating this drum. The simple fact is that any attempt to tackle either deficit spending or long-term structural debt without deep cuts at the Department of Defense is, by definition, totally unserious, not to mention disingenuous.

Other Links

leave a comment »

Other links.

* Inevitable endpoint of historical trends: Administrators in the Undergraduate Studies (US) office [at UC Davis] have asked if freshmen seminar instructors would voluntarily opt out of their quarterly stipend for teaching the one-to-two-unit courses for freshmen.

* The Italian magazine Wired has your map of the future.

* Bootleg DVD covers.

* Dick Armey: “The largest empirical problem we have in health care today is too many people are too overinsured.” Of course! That’s the problem.

* Someone really didn’t think this one through.

* How American politics works, part 1: [The Boxer] bill will be a dead letter. Already there’s an undercurrent of anxiety in Washington that a bill can never pass as long as it’s associated with an unpopular lady senator who runs one of the body’s most liberal committees. The Senate isn’t like the House. There is no party discipline among Democrats; in fact, Democratic senators are fond of explicitly disclaiming party discipline. It’s a chamber full of large, jostling egos and not a little old-boy sexism. They’re not about to let a combative liberal woman run the show.

* How American politics works, part 2: What not to spend your empire’s money on.

* Who is running for president in 2012? Only the new mayor of Manchester, N.H., knows for sure. Matt Yglesias has your chart showing no Republican can win in 2012, while Hendrik Hertzberg has something you can’t get in your fancy East Coast universities: his gut.

* And Pandagon considers Betty Draper.

Disagreeing with Everybody

leave a comment »

Given the unseemly amount of Obama love that’s been passing through this blog lately, it seems worth it at this moment to link to a wonderful chart highlighting just one area where I wildly disagree with the man and anything he’s likely to do as president, helpfully provided by Ezra Klein.

This is a perverse and wasteful state of affairs. This is something that needs to stop.

Written by gerrycanavan

February 1, 2008 at 1:45 pm