Wednesday, April 28, 2010

BOMB POWER: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State


In his 2010 book, writer and historian Garry Wills narrates the fascinating history, from the secret (and unauthorized) creation of the Manhattan Project and development of the first atom bomb to the present day, of the relentless consolidation of power into what is now referred to as the "unitary executive" of the American Presidency.

The following are excerpts.


P. 25

The Target Commission convened by General Groves made a list of Japanese cities for use of the Bomb, deliberately choosing ones not yet damaged by the firebomb raids (which would make it hard to see the extent of the Bomb’s own devastation) and ones with dense populations. (Secretary of War) Stimson wrote in his diary how he explained the choice of previously unbombed cities to President Truman: “[I said] I was a little fearful that before we could get ready, the Air Force might have Japan so thoroughly bombed out that the new weapon would not have a fair background to show its strength. He laughed and said he understood.”

P. 35

The military Joint Chiefs of Staff, of course, never turn down an addition to their tools, They told the President that it was “necessary to have within the arsenal of the United States a weapon of the greatest capability, in this case the super bomb.” (This refers to the hydrogen bomb, 1,000 times more powerful than that used on Hiroshima.) Reflecting the charge that would be leveled against Oppenheimer – that opposition to the Super was a (possibly treasonous) gift to the Soviets – they claimed that refusal to build the Bomb “might be interpreted as the first step in unilateral renunciation of the use of all atomic weapons.”

P. 42

Between 1953 and 1955, the U.S. strategic stockpile doubled, from 878 weapons to 1,756, whiles its total yield increased almost forty times, from seventy-three megatons (4,867 Hiroshimas) to 2,880 megatons (192,000 Hiroshimas).

P. 99

In the 1950s American foreign policy called on the American government to do things no American government had ever tried to do before. The new American approach to world affairs, nurtured in the sense of omnipresent crisis, set new political objectives, developed new military capabilities, devised new diplomatic techniques, invented new instruments of foreign operations and instituted a new hierarchy of values. Every one of these innovations encouraged the displacement of power, both practical and constitutional, from an increasingly acquiescent Congress into an increasingly imperial Presidency.

P. 99

Accountability is the essence of democracy. If people do not know what their government is doing, they cannot be truly self-governing. But the National Security State assumes that government’s secrets are too important to be shared, that only those in the know can see classified information, that only the President has all the facts, that we must simply trust that our rulers are acting in our interest.

P. 100-101

(According to the Constitution,) Congress is the supreme judge of national security, not the President. It alone can declare war. It alone can fund war. It alone can call militias into national service. It alone can decide what needs to be kept secret. Not the President.

P. 101

Article II (of the Constitution), begins:
(The President) shall from time to time give to Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.
P. 101

It is a sign of the inflation of the presidency in modern times that the “State of the Union” address is now treated as a presidential prerogative, not as a duty, as his power to set a legislative agenda (far from the “recommending” duty of the clause itself.)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Advice from Noam Chomsky



The following is from a Chris Hedges interview with Chomsky, posted on truthdig.
“I try to encourage people to think for themselves, to question standard assumptions,” Chomsky said when asked about his goals. “Don’t take assumptions for granted. Begin by taking a skeptical attitude toward anything that is conventional wisdom. Make it justify itself. It usually can’t. Be willing to ask questions about what is taken for granted. Try to think things through for yourself. There is plenty of information. You have got to learn how to judge, evaluate and compare it with other things. You have to take some things on trust or you can’t survive. But if there is something significant and important don’t take it on trust. As soon as you read anything that is anonymous you should immediately distrust it. If you read in the newspapers that Iran is defying the international community, ask who is the international community? India is opposed to sanctions. China is opposed to sanctions. Brazil is opposed to sanctions. The Non-Aligned Movement is vigorously opposed to sanctions and has been for years. Who is the international community? It is Washington and anyone who happens to agree with it. You can figure that out, but you have to do work. It is the same on issue after issue.”

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Deafening Silence



The mainstream media has all but ignored the "World Peoples’ Conference on Climate Change" that has taken place this week in Bolivia. In this final Democracy Now broadcast from Cochabamba, Bolivia, Amy Goodman interviews President Evo Morales. Morales represents one voice speaking out for the vast majority of the world's people who have been subject to centuries of exploitation, primarily from northern countries.

His idealistic message naively paints capitalism as the root of all evil. Hearing Morales speaking his truth may be uncomfortable for most Americans, but it is clearly also uncomfortable for President Morales, who must balance this idealism with his own nation's pursuit of riches through the extraction of Bolivia's vast mineral resources.

In the course of the interview, Goodman confronts him on many of the internal issues facing Bolivia. Such a candid discussion would be unlikely with an American President. It is refreshing to see the reporter and politician spar.

Friday, April 23, 2010

War is good. War is our god. We worship war.

Americans will sacrifice everything for war. And we are doing just that. Administrations may change, but it is clear who is in the driver's seat in Washington. The "military-industrial complex" is thriving as never before, at the expense of our welfare and security (and, indeed, that of all humanity.)

In the following, Arianna Huffington sums up our misguided priorities.
Guns vs. Butter 2010

By Arianna Huffington
Huffington Post April 22, 2010
See if you can identify the bleeding heart liberal who said this:

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."

Noam Chomsky? Michael Moore? Bernie Sanders?

Nope, it was that unrepentant lefty, five-star general Dwight Eisenhower, in 1953, just a few months after taking office -- a time when the economy was booming and unemployment was 2.7 percent.

Yet today, while America's economy sputters down the road to recovery and the middle class struggles to make ends meet -- with over 26 million people unemployed or underemployed and record numbers of homes being lost to foreclosure -- the "guns vs. butter" argument isn't even part of the national debate. Of course, today, the argument might be more accurately framed as "ICBM nukes, Predator drones, and missile defense shields vs. jobs, affordable college, decent schools, foreclosure prevention, and fixing the gaping holes in our social safety net."

We hear endless talk in Washington about belt-tightening and deficit reduction, but hardly a word about whether the $161 billion being spent this year to fight unnecessary wars of choice in Afghanistan and Iraq might be better spent helping embattled Americans here at home.

Indeed, during his State of the Union speech in January, President Obama proposed freezing all discretionary government spending for three years -- but exempted military spending, even though the defense budget has ballooned over the last ten years. According to defense analyst Lawrence Korb, who served as Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration, the baseline defense budget has increased by 50 percent since 2000. Over that same period, non-defense discretionary spending increased less than half that much.

In fact, the president is on track to spend more on defense, in real dollars, than any other president has in one term of office since WWII. In that time we've had Korea, Vietnam, the massive military buildup under Reagan, and Bush's funded-by-tax-cuts invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, but in the most trying economic times since the Depression, Obama's out-gunning them all. Read more.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth


(Click on image to visit conference site.)

It appears that Bolivian President Evo Morales has been able to stir up more interest and excitement about meeting the challenge of Global Warming (and the related issues of indigenous peoples' rights) than his relatively impotent, spineless northern counterparts were able to do at Copenhagen.

The first World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth has kicked off in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

This week, Democracy Now is broadcasting from the site of the conference near in nearby Tiquipaya. I found this segment with Canadian Pat Mooney to be particularly interesting:



In many ways, this conference takes the climate debate to ground zero as it draws direct cause-and-effect lines from our demands for "ever more" to the consequences: rampant exploitation of poor nations by the wealthy nations, environmental degradation, and the resulting climate change and threat to all life on this planet.

While the conference is underway, protesters are blocking access to a silver mine in the city of Potosi, Bolivia. The Japanese company operating the mine has failed to deliver on its promises to local communities. The same mining company is under attack for plans to develop lithium extraction operations on the Salar de Uyuni, one of the most popular destinations in South America. Among other things, lithium is used to power batteries in our computers, portable electrical devices and electric vehicles. With the emphasis on electric vehicles, demand for lithium is expected to skyrocket.

Elsewhere, protests are drawing attention to the northeast, near Altimira on the Xingu River in the state of Pará, Brazil, where up to 40,000 indigenous Brazilians may be displaced or seriously impacted by the proposed Belo Monte Dam, the third largest dam in the world (and only one in a series of proposed dams to be built in the Xingu River system - thus effecting many more indigenous peoples and destroying even more of the Amazonian rain forest.) Bel Monte is being developed largely to supply power for the mining of bauxite and other minerals in the Amazon Basin. Bauxite is the raw material for aluminum. Not only will these projects lead to the initial displacements, destruction of forest and damage to the river system, but the construction and mining jobs will draw further migrants (and hence, settlers) into one of the Earth's most important ecosystems, only exacerbating an already dire situation.

The conference also spotlights the sad fact that only the United States and Canada have maintained their opposition to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Is America poised to deliver unwelcome "freedom and democracy" to yet another nation?

According to an article by Gareth Porter published today, "An opinion survey of Afghanistan's Kandahar province funded by the U.S. Army has revealed that 94 percent of respondents support negotiating with the Taliban over military confrontation with the insurgent group and 85 percent regard the Taliban as 'our Afghan brothers'".

Yet America is moving ahead with a major military campaign to oust the Taliban from the Kandahar region. Where else have we seen our leaders bent on delivering "freedom and democracy" to a people who are not especially interested in our particular brand?

***

And in yet another demonstration of the warm welcome our committed blood and treasure shall receive:

Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, Threatens to Block Nato Offensive
Published on Sunday, April 11, 2010 by TimesOnline/UK

by Stephen Grey
The president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, has cast doubt over Nato's planned summer offensive against the Taliban in the southern province of Kandahar, as more than 10,000 American troops pour in for the fight.

Karzai threatened to delay or even cancel the operation - one of the biggest of the nine-year war - after being confronted in Kandahar by elders who said it would bring strife, not security, to his home province.

Visiting last week to rally support for the offensive, the president was instead overwhelmed by a barrage of complaints about corruption and misrule. As he was heckled at a shura of 1,500 tribal leaders and elders, he appeared to offer them a veto over military action. "Are you happy or unhappy for the operation to be carried out?" he asked.

The elders shouted back: "We are not happy."

"Then until the time you say you are happy, the operation will not happen," Karzai replied.

General Stanley McChrystal, the Nato commander, who was sitting behind him, looked distinctly apprehensive. The remarks have compounded US anger and bewilderment with Karzai, who has already accused the United States of rigging last year's presidential elections and even threatened to switch sides to join the Taliban.

For President Barack Obama, the battle to drive the Taliban from their heartland is seen as the main test of his "surge" strategy to send 30,000 extra US troops to Afghanistan. The United States calls Kandahar the "centre of gravity" of the war in Afghanistan.

Senior commanders and diplomats emphasise, however, that success would depend on action by Karzai to eliminate corruption and set up a form of local government. (Read more at TimesOnline/UK)

Nato's plans envisage political manoeuvres, from a purge of provincial leadership to the creation of precinct councils, to tackle the roots of the Taliban rebellion. The aim is to wrest power from so-called warlords - including the president's own brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai.

With the Afghan president increasingly regarded as "gone rogue", hopes of such action were fading. One US official said after the shura that Karzai had proved neither a reliable ally nor popular with his own people: "He can rail against the West all he likes - no one wants him to look like a foreign puppet. The trouble is, his erratic speeches are matched by erratic actions. That's why this tension is undermining the offensive."

The latest row began when Karzai decried "huge fraud" in the elections, saying it was "done by the foreigners". After telephoning Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, the next day to clarify his remarks, Karzai escalated the attack. Witnesses said he told MPs at a private meeting: "If I come under foreign pressure, I might join the Taliban." His spokesman hastily denied it.

In Kandahar he persisted, deflecting complaints against himself with further criticism of outsiders and saying he had now "rescued myself from foreigners' orders".

Few elders at the shura seemed impressed. They pressed for a purge of his officials. "If we speak out and if we tell you the truth of what's happening here, we will not last the night," said one elder. "We will be assassinated. Everyone is scared."

A white-bearded frail man stood up, leaning on a walking stick, and said: "The other day people came with guns and told me to shut my shop and go to my house. I phoned the police. They said, ‘It's none of our business and we don't care'."

Sitting just off the stage at the meeting was the president's brother. Ahmed Wali Karzai is the head of Kandahar provincial council and is alleged by US officials to profit from drug trafficking and organised crime. The president is reported to have refused US requests to remove him from his post.

On the streets of the city this weekend there appeared to be little or no support for a Nato push in the province. "Look what happened in Marjah," said one local government official in Kandahar, referring to the last US offensive launched in February in central Helmand province.

"The US controls the place by day but the Taliban control it by night. What is the point? If you help the government, you will be murdered."

At a popular coffee shop in the city centre, Khaled, a medical student from Kabul, said the influence of the Taliban was creeping back into the area.

"A Nato offensive here will not help," he added.

"We know what they do. They arrive in great numbers and provide security for two weeks and then they go and the insecurity returns."

General Karl Eikenberry, the US ambassador to Afghanistan, had warned Clinton about Karzai's character last year. He said that McChrystal's proposals for a a troop surge should not be supported unless the president changed.

"President Karzai is not an adequate strategic partner," he wrote in a telegram that was later leaked.
© 2010 Times Newspapers Ltd.

Friday, April 16, 2010




Drinks That Eat Teeth
(See also Toothpastes That Eat Teeth)

This is the most complete listing of drink contents on the internet, a project begun in 1999. if you have any data to share with us, or feel any listing here is incorrect, please contact me at KentSmith@21stCenturyDental.com

Well, not ALL drinks eat teeth, but we have as many drinks listed here as possible, so you can make sure your favorite beverage is not one of the tooth-eaters! Demineralization, or loss of tooth material, begins at a pH of 5.5, although under certain conditions, may even start at a higher pH.
Missing data is unknown at this time
Drink

Acid
(pH)

Sugar
(teaspoons in 12oz.)

Caffeine
(grams)

Calories (in 12 oz.)
Battery Acid 1.00 0 0 0
Stomach acid 2.00 (as low as 1.0 with projectile vomiting) 0 0 0
Lime Juice 2.00-2.35
Lemon juice 2.00-2.60
Cranberry Juice, canned 2.30-2.52
Vinegar 2.40-3.40
Sunny Delight 2.4 6.3 0 0
Gatorade Clear 2.4 5.5 0 0
Pepsi 2.49 9.8 (27 grams) 37 150
Country Time Lemonade 2.5 5.4 0 0
SoBe Sugarfree Tropical 2.5 0 0 0
RC Cola 2.50 43.2
Cherry Coke 2.52 8.9 34 0
Coke Classic 2.53 9.3 (27 grams) 34 140
SoBe Strawberry-Grape 2.6 6.5 0 0
Capri Sun 2.6 5.5 0 0
Orange Crush 2.7 10.5 0 0
Hi-C Blast Fruit Punch 2.7 5.5 0 0
Tang 2.7 5.1 0 0
HiC Lemonade 2.7 5.5 0 0
Extran 2.74 0 60
Powerade 2.75 15 grams 0 115
Orange Minute Maid 2.80 11.2 (48 grams) 0 180
Mellow Yellow 2.8 10.1 51 0
Diet Cherry Coke 2.8 0 34 0
Welch's White Grape 2.8 7.8 0 0
Mr. Pibb 2.8 0 40 0
Hawaiin Fruit Punch 2.82 10.2 0
Squirt 2.85 9.5
Lipton Brisk 2.87 7 9 0
Upside Down 7-Up 2.9 6.3 0 0
Grapefruit Juice, canned 2.90-3.25
Cranberry Juice, white 2.9 5.5 0 0
Dr Pepper 2.92 9.5 (40.5 grams) 40 160
Gatorade 2.95 5.5 (21 grams) 0 75
Nestea Sweetened Lemon Iced Tea 2.97 7 16.6 0
Grapefruit juice 3.00 35 grams 0 150
Diet Rite (white grape) 3.00 0 0 0
Grapefruit juice 3.00 7.4 0 150
Kool-Aid Jammers (cherry) 3.00 5.1 0 0
Sierra Mist 3.00 5.5 0 0
Surge 3.02 10 51 170
Nestea 3.04 5 11 to 26
Pepsi One 3.05 0 36 1.5
Vinegar, cider 3.10
Diet Code Red Mountain Dew 3.1 0 0 0
Pepsi Blue 3.1 5.7 0 0
V8 Splash Berry Blend 3.1 5.5 0 0
Vinegar, cider 3.1 0 0 0
Orange Slice 3.12 11.9
Dole (orange strawberry banana) 3.2 6.3 0 0
Fresca 3.2 0 0 0
Propel 3.2 0.4 0 0
Snapple Tea 3.2 7.6 31.5 0
Snapple Tea Diet 3.2 0 0 0
Twist Up 3.2 5.5 0 0
Fresca 3.20 0
Mountain Dew 3.22 11 (46 grams) 55 165
Grape Minute Maid 3.29 11.9 0
Pineapple Juice, canned 3.30-3.60
Orange Juice, Flordia 3.30-4.15
Orange Juice, California 3.30-4.19
Diet Mountain Dew 3.34 0 55
Sherry-wine 3.37
Diet Coke 3.39 0 45
Dole (pineapple juice) 3.4 5.7 0 0
Apple Juice 3.4 4.8 0 0
Diet Dr Pepper 3.41 0
Sprite 3.42 9 0 140
Plum Nectar 3.45
Ultima 3.50 15
Juicy Juice 3.5 4.6 0 0
Tea (iced) 3.5 0 70.6 0
Tropicana Sprite Remix 3.5 5.5 0 0
Sherry-wine 3.37
Diet 7UP 3.67 0 0
Cytomax 3.79 75
Accelerade 3.86 4.4 0 120
Enervit G 3.88 8.9 0 81
Powerbar Endurance 3.89 0 0 105
Vegetable Juice 3.90-4.30
Prune Juice 3.95-3.97
Dad's Root Beer 4 9.7 0
Pear Nectar 4.03 0 0
Milk, Acidophilus 4.09-4.25
Tomatoes, Juice 4.10-4.60
A&W Crème Soda 4.2 9.7 29
GU20 4.29 75
A&W Root Beer 4.3 0 0
Buttermilk 4.41-4.83
e load 4.50 216
Diet Barq's 4.55 0
Barq's 4.61 10.7 22
Emend 4.95
Milk, sour, fine curd 4.70-5.65
Emend 4.95 0 0
Milkfish 5.30
Guava Nectar 5.50
Brewed Coffee 5.51 203
Instant Coffee 5.51 143
Milk, evaporated 5.90-6.30
Alo Juice 6.00-6.80
Milk, condensed 6.33
Milk, Cow 6.40-6.80
Milk, Goat's 6.48
Chrysanthemum Drink 6.50
Coconut Milk 6.10-7.00
Milk, 2% 6.8 3.5 0
Milk, skim 6.8 3.5 0
Water 7.00 0 0 0
Soybean Milk 7.00
Milk, peptonized 7.10
Wax Gourd Drink 7.20
Tea (brewed) 7.2 0 70.6
Tea 7.20
7UP 9.3 0 140
A&W Crème Soda 29
A&W Diet Crème Soda 22
Kick 57
Mellow Yellow 51
Ocean Spray 100% Cranberry Juice 35 grams 0 180
Pepsi One 55
Schweppes Ginger Ale 22 grams
Skim Milk 11 grams
Starbucks Latte 9.5 grams
Snapple 4.5 to 31.5
(see NSDA website)
Sunkist Diet Orange 42
Sunkist Orange Soda 35 grams 41
TAB 45
Tropicana Orange Juice 22 grams
Honest Tea Peach Oo-la-long 4.5 (18 grams) 60
Milk 18 grams 0 180
Orangina 7.75 (31.5 grams) 135
Fizzy Lizzy Grape 29 grams 0 120
Jones Soda Co. Green Apple 11.5 (46 grams) 180
Sweet Leaf Raspberry Sweet Tea 6.375 (25.5 grams) 105
Spark Mandarin-Carrot Juice Drink 10.5 (42 grams) 180
Minute Maid Apple Juice 10 (39 grams) 165
Original Arizona Iced Tea 9 (36 grams) 135
The Switch Black Cherry 9 (36 grams) 180

Because the pH scale is logarithmic, a one unit change in pH is associated with a 10 fold change in the acidity. For example, lemon juice has a pH of 2.0, while grapefruit juice has a pH of 3.0. Lemon juice would therefore be 10x as acidic as grapefruit juice. Even more enlightening, Coke Classic is roughly 100 times as acidic as Barq's root beer.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Most Dangerous Man in America

Last night, I was able to see the film The Most Dangerous Man in America in our local Rialto Lakeside theater. I was surprised how much of the film is taken directly from Ellsberg's memoir mentioned below. It serves a useful purpose, cementing with imagery and sound the memoir's narrative.

Co-director and co-producer Judith Ehrlich was on hand to introduce the film and take questions afterward. When I asked if Ellsberg had ever been considered for the Presidential Medal of Freedom, she chuckled and said "no, but he did receive the 'The Right Livelihood Award'", sometimes referred to as "The Alternative Nobel Prize".

Monday, April 05, 2010

A worthy candidate for the Presidential Medal of Freedom



Daniel Ellsberg should be on President Obama's list for the 2010 awards.



Ellsberg's 2002 best-seller Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers should be required reading for all high school government and college-level basic Political Science courses. Ellsberg describes in remarkable detail his progression from "cold warrior" (Marine Corps officer) to Washington insider (nuclear weapons analyst and consultant with the Rand Corporation, State Department official in Vietnam for two years, special assistant to Robert McNamara's Assistant Secretary) and finally to anti-war activist.

In his preface, Ellsberg writes:
The heart of this memoir tells the story of how it was that starting from this common insiders’ position critical of our policy, I eventually came to go beyond efforts to stop the war from within the executive branch, to be willing, instead, to give up clearances and political access, the chance of serving future presidents, my whole career and to accept the prospect of a life behind bars. It focuses on what in my experience made it possible for me to do in 1969 through 1972 what I now wish I (or others) had done in 1964 or 1965: go to Congress and the press and tell the truth, with documents.

It’s easy to say that the idea of doing this simply didn’t occur to me at the time, any more than it did to others. The question remains why it didn’t. Like so many, I put personal loyalty to the president (and to my career, my access to inside information and influence, however I realized my purposes) above all else.  Above loyalty to the Constitution. Above obligations to truth, to fellow Americans, and to other human lives. It was the face-to-face example, for which I will always be grateful, of young Americans who were choosing to go to prison rather than to take part in a war they knew was wrong that awakened me to these higher loyalties.
(As I've done with other readings, I intended to extract and transcribe here some of the more significant passages from Ellsberg's memoir, but when I finished the book, I had literally hundreds of "Post-Its" flagging "important" passages. I couldn't very well transcribe the entire book! So, you'll just have to check it out yourself.)