Posts Tagged ‘russia

17
Nov
08

Spy Arrested for Selling NATO Secrets to Russia

Herman Simm

Herman Simm

An Estonion ministry of defense official, Herman Simm, was arrested Sept. 21 of this year after having spied for Russia since the late 1980’s. As the investigation into Simm’s past activities it is becoming clearer the breadth of his espionage, potentially including handing over secrets of U.S. missile defense and the protection of secret data flow.

Now, I’m not surprised in the least at the uncovering of a tentacle of Russian spy endeavors. The West wants to place missiles pointing at Russia around the country’s borders, isolate the country into good behavior and bring all of Russia’s neighbors into NATO, an organization born from Cold War tensions meant to counter Soviet military threats. If Russia had the capabilities to threaten the U.S. similarly, we would be going ballistic. Literally.

What shocks me is that the mainstream media hasn’t issued a peep, let alone aired a decent profile of these events that most certainly rocked the intelligence world in the last couple of months. The U.K.’s Times Online is comparing Simm to Aldrich Ames, yet American audiences are largely unapprised of this potentially catastrophic development for U.S. security.

The International Herald Tribune carried The Associated Press’ write-up the story. And while The IHT may be well-read internationally, it is not here in the U.S. and the only publication outside of our borders, besides the Times, to substantially cover the story is The Baltic Times, it seems. And I saw it on The Drudge Report. So what gives?!

Sure the media has fed our insatiable appetite for all coverage relating to our recent historic election – but when secrets of life-and-death importance are traded to Russia at a time when Putin is strengthening his autocratic hold on his hydrocarbon-rich nation, WE DESERVE TO KNOW.

Could it be that our government is trying to keep this quiet? It is well known that our executive administration has waived their dicks all over our mainstream media in an attempt (successfully) to influence coverage – which is why the internet and its ubiquitous bloggers have become such an inevitable tool for enhancing transparency necessary to the health of a democracy.

In any case, Tom Brokaw, Andrea Mitchell, Wolf, Anderson, Bob Schieffer, Politico, Brian Williams, Steve Kroft, Chris Wallace, Bueller, anybody, GET ON THIS! Tell us what the hell is going on over there! This is a major, important news story, for chrissakes!

11
Nov
08

Term Limits, People, Term Limits!!

I have to be honest, it irritates the damn hell out of me that House Representatives and Senators and elected officials across our great 50 can engross themselves with political power and influence with little accountability due to the relative inability of the electorate to instate reasonable term limits.

Year after year, term after term, we watch as our elected officials gerrymander, vote themselves pay raises, trade influence for donations and gifts of all sorts – above the radar and beneath it. We watch with disdain and judgment as Russia closes the curtain on its sovereign democracy and Master Putin asserts his constant iron-fisted rule. Haha, you fools! America has the most superior democracy in the land!

Bullshit.

Sure, our president has term limits. The Legislative Branch, however does not. Nor does the Supreme Court.

The longer Reps and Sens serve, the more their influence and name recognition and fundraising ability grows and the more difficult it is to vote them out of power. Ted Stevens, who has been a senator since 1968, was just convicted of seven felonies and Alaska still can’t manage to vote the bastard out (though many votes are yet to be counted, so it could potentially happen). Barring a scandal or once-in-a-blue-moon alteration in voter sentiment on a national level, the vast majority of incumbents find themselves sitting pretty on election day.

Every day a government official serves, is another day closer to the next election. And these people are pathologically competitive – they are not driven by a selfless need to serve. Their arrogance and certainty in their superiority keeps them fighting toward election day again and again. Politicians can’t take steroids, however, to win their races. So they take lobbying donations.

And who do you think they were talking to during bailout negotiations? As House Reps were hearing from their constituents across the land not vote for the bailout, the many Representatives held back, claiming to abide by the wishes of their specific supporters.

Not so. An army of lobbyists were unleashed by the banking industry to insure a little extra sugar was inserted into the bailout package. You see, Great Britain included stipulations in their bailout package requiring the banks to start issuing loans in order to receive government funds. Not ours. And, golly gee, they’re not loaning any money. Neither Congress, nor the Bush administration specified the bailout cash could not be used for executive bonuses. And with Christmas coming up, who do you think Santa will visit? Right.

The latest stinger is that the Treasury Dept. issued a notice during all the bailout hubbub giving banks a tax break if they acquire other failing banks. Tax payers could end up paying nearly $140 billion for this new policy. Certain legislators have openly questioned this potentially illegal move (Congress never even got to debate the new tax policy), however, we’re only now hearing about these reprehensible shenangians AFTER the election and most congresspeople won’t even touch it with a ten-foot pole because they think the attention could lead to greater economic mire.

As the bailout battle waged, the package grew sweeter by the hour for the banking industry. The Reps weren’t holding off because of their constituents, they were playing fast and dirty with banking lobbyists. Most of them will be returning to the House next year, spank you very much. The lack of term limits once again ensures the Corporatocracy of America thrives, feeding voraciously off the American consumer and taxpayer.

term-limits1Furthermore, there is an entrenched dance and culture in Congress new members must learn. Obama felt the wrath of McCain after offering bi-partisan cooperation on lobbying and ethics reform and then having to rescind that offer to save his hiney from uber-partisan Harry Reid. Obama had yet to learn the dance. Hillary learned it fairly well – junior Senators keep their mouths shut, nose to the grindstone and prostrate themselves before their party elders. With such unspoken, yet rigid rules and ginormous egos, it is no wonder our Congress is fairly ineffective much of the time and certainly slow to respond to voter sentiment.

This petrifying and paralytic condition in our legislative branches both state and federal would have a much harder time clogging the engine of government if the cleansing of term limits were permitted.

Now, U.S. Term Limits asserts House members should be limited to three two-year terms. Other proposals have been for Senators only have two six-year terms available to them while House members have six two-year terms available.  I think giving everyone an opportunity for two four-year terms, like the president, would be optimum solution.

The Supreme Court should also have term limits. Justices should serve no more than 12 years  I see no benefit in the appointment, especially of younger justices, for life as times, supreme-courttraditions, cultures and the American people change and grow and progress. Our leadership should reflect our values and opinions. We should not be held hostage by the ideologues of yesteryear or yesterdecade.

The argument against term limits is that if the government official is not performing properly, they should be ousted through an election. Term limits punish good performances and erase the motivation for good behavior by a lame-duck representative. This is a short-sighted argument. There are plenty, plenty of qualified Americans to represent Americans at the federal level. Term limits hinder the ability of career-politicians to sacrifice the good of the American people for their self interests.

Would we lose a few good politicians? Sure. But term limits would profit voters and Americans in a significant decrease in lack of corruption and lobbying influence. Lame duck legislators would have an eye on their legacy, not their approval ratings, which would be a much more effective motivator for proper governance.

Americans overwhelmingly approve of term limits. According to a Pulse Opinion Research Poll, 83 percent of Americans believe elected officials should serve limited terms. Though this poll only surveyed 1,000 people, many ballot initiatives in the 1990’s for term limits were approved. In fact, movements against term limits are largely funded by special interests whose livelihoods depend on the success of the Corporatocracy of America.

The national electorate, however, is practically powerless to have term limits approved. The debate over length of terms and specific term limits would be long and hard fought. And the Supreme Court decided in 1995 that the states could not issue term limits on their federal representatives. You cannot have some senators under term limits and others not. Basically, the Congress would have to approve their own term limits – and it ain’t happenin’ any time soon, sister.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful we could just have a national election and let the American voters decide if our federal representatives should have term limits? How democratic! But you see, we have a representative democracy – not a direct democracy. We elect representatives to carry out the will of the majority of the electorate. It is meant to protect against tyranny of the majority. Ergo, no national proposition on term limits.

So, we must wait until the fat kid decides it’s time for him to put the cookie jar down. We Americans can lobby the kid, yell at the kid, try and try and try to convince the fat kid that cookies aren’t good for him. He needs vegetables, dammit! But that kid has the “over my dead body” look in his eyes. Maybe one day we’ll get close enough to the fat kid to choke him until he sees the light. I’ll certainly try.

And I’ll be keeping a close eye on fat kid Bloomberg up in New York who led the City Council in sneaking term limits out the back door while the peeps were paying attention to the crashing stock market and plummeting retirement savings. Some concerned citizens and future politicians are suing to stop the mayor from poisoning their well of democracy and I wish them all the success in the world. His behavior is shameful.

And that’s the problem with politicians. They all want to save the world. But they want to be the ones to do it. The only ones. The first ones. No one else can save the world the way they can. So, they hold on to their seats by whatever means possible. And until we decide as a nation to give more and more good citizens their opportunity to serve their country and remove then remove them before they are sullied by the game, we will suffer in a multitude of unfortunate and unnecessary ways.

Federal politicans always claim they’re going to change the way things are done in Washington. Every election season find change in Washington the main mantra. The biggest change, the best change would undoubtedly be the limitation of terms. It would be revolutionary. And we’d be pissed off at our government a lot less.

02
Jul
08

Anti-Intellectualism Half a Century Ago

History repeats itself – an oft-repeated proverb warning us that the the lessons of the past are once again the sins of today. Certainly, I found myself mentally saying a church-worthy Amen! to this proverb as I began reading the Pulitzer Prize-winning Anti-Intellectualism in American Life by Richard Hofstadter, published in 1962, 1963.

anti-intellectualism in american life

Let me just say that if this weren’t a library book, I’d be highlighting the hell out of it. Instead, I’m reduced to tearing post-it after post-it to mark all the points of interest. And I haven’t started Chapter 2. My consumption of this work is a result of research I’m conducting for my own respective book, butrichard hofstadter phots Hofstadter’s observations have already shocked me into open-mouth disbelief as his descriptions of the anti-intellectualism of the 1950’s readily apply to today’s culture clash between the learned and the petrified. The author does assert that anti-intellectualism suffers cyclical fluctuations and will never fully abate to the netherworlds of silly history, with other theories such as “the sun revolves around the Earth” and “the 2008 election will be between Giuliani and Hillary” (yeah, that was my own Nostradamus endeavors into electoral predictions).

So, please forgive the length of this blog as I indulge myself by providing a few (a bunch?) unusually relevant excerpts from Chapter 1, with my intensely insightful commentary to follow.

…the launching of Sputnik by the Soviets precipitated one of those periodic surges of self-conscious national reappraisal to which the American public is prone. The Sputnik was more than a shock to American national vanity: it brought an immense amount of attention to bear on the consequences of anti-intellectualism in the school sysytem and in American life at large. Suddenly, the national distaste for intellect appeared to be not just a disgrace but a hazard to survival. Pg 4-5.

Perhaps I’m overreaching in my cocoon of progressive political theory, but I view global warming and the rise in fuel prices as the space race of our day. Before you emit a Moe-esqe, “Whaaaa?”, allow me to explain. While there are untold quantities of hydrocarbon beneath the surface of the Earth in not only the U.S., but also Iran, Russia, the South China Sea and other areas, global energy demands – especially of India and China – are helping fuel the rise petrol prices and will continue to do so.

The U.S. must focus on a transcendent energy policy today in the same manner we did with the space race in the ’60’s. Scientific ambitions aiming at a forward-thinking fuel-efficiency and alternative-energy development will help the U.S. maintain a technological and, thus, economic advantage in global markets. If we can me be a maverick in this area, we just might hold on to our hegemony a bit longer – though that need not be the main goal. We need to ride the wave of motivation high gas prices are providing toward cleaner energy and end our reign as Pollution Bastards of the World (especially as China will pick up the slack and more).

The labels of Intellectuals and Anti-Intellectuals were thrown around in the 1950’s in much the same way Liberal and Conservative are today. They were used as bad words by those who hurled them against their opponents and worn as badges of honor by those they described. Obviously, Hofstadter was an intellectual and the examples of anti-intellectual rhetoric he presents are laughable in this day and age – hopefully in the same manner Creationism and Intelligent Design will be laughable in another half century. If you haven’t chuckled today, allow me to send some historical fodder from Anti-Intellectualim your way that will surely entertain:

Novelist “of the right-wing persuasion,” Louis Broomfield, pg 9:

Egghead (euphemism for intellectual): A person of spurious intellectual pretensions…Fundamentally superficial. Over emotional and feminine in reactions to any problem. Supercilious and surfeited with conceit and contempt for the experience of more sound and able men. Essentially confused in thought and immersed in mixture of sentimentality and violent evangelism…

President Eisenhower’s definition of an intellectual, pg. 10:

…a man who takes more words than are necessary to tell more than he knows.

The disdain for intellectualism opened education and the education system itself up for the attacks from the more conservative commentators of the day as well.

Billy Graham, pg 15:

billy grahamYou can stick a public school and a university in the middle of every block of every city in America and you will never keep America from rotting morally by mere intellectual education.

[In place of the Bible] we substituted reason, rationalism, mind culture, science worship, the working power of government, Freudianism, humanism, behaviorism, positivism, materialism, and idealism. [This work of ] so-called intellectuals. Thousands of these ‘intellectuals’ have publicly stated that morality is relative–that there is no norm or absolute standard…

Arthur Bestor, junior-high school principal in Illinois, pg. 17:

When we come to the realization that not every child has to read, figure, write and spell . . . that many of them either cannot or will not master these chores . . . then we shall be on the road to improving the junior high curriculum.

(This is the best part) Between this day and that a lot of selling must take place. But it’s coming. We shall some day accept the thought that it is just as illogical to assume that every boy must be able to read as it is that each one must be able to perform on a violin, that it is no more reasonable to require that each girl shall spell well than it is that each one shall bake a good cherry pie.

I’ve never made a cherry pie, but I can make a mean cherry cobbler. Does that count?

Jack Schwartzman, of the Freeman, pg. 13:

Our universities are the training grounds for the barbarians of the future, those who, in the guise of learning , shall come forth loaded with pitchforks of ignorance and cynicism, and stab and destroy the remnants of human civilization…

If you send your son to the college of today, you will create the Executioner of tomorrow. The rebirth of idealism must come from the scattered monasteries of non-collegiate thought.

Does it get any better than that?! This quotation thoroughly tickles my funny bone because I have a close family member, who recently turned 70, who continually blames my political viewpoints on the fact that I attended “one of those liberal universities.” I had no idea the University of Texas was a cesspool of left-wing larva ready infiltrate governmental policy-making (don’t tell the frat boys!). In fact, he repeats that these “liberal colleges” are why young people tack liberal and why this world is going to hell in a handbag. I continually try to remind him that I retained nothing from college classes. Especially French.

And perhaps to close, this final quotation from Hofstadter himself that proves yet another proverb: the more things change, the more they stay the same. Pg 12 – and keep in mind, he wrote this in 1962:

Far more acute and sweeping was the hostility to intellectuals expressed on the far-right wing, a categorical folkish dislike of the educated classes and of anything respectable, established, pedigreed, or cultivated. The right-wing crusade of the 1950’s was full of heated rhetoric about ‘Harvard professors, twisted-thinking intellectuals . . . in the State Department.’

Am I the only one who feels like they’re in the Twilight Zone? George Bush thinks the jury is still out on global warming AND evolution. Hillary Clinton somehow warped into the working man’s candidate (talk about shape-shifting) and decried “experts” who opposed her gas tax holiday. Schools across the country are peppered with teachers who want to assert Intelligent Design as a scientific principle when it’s the absolute antithesis to the definition of science itself.

When will these perverted objectors realize that science, math, literature – EDUCATION – is what provided them their military weaponry, their computers, their energy capabilities, every day conveniences, “free market” dreams, and overall U.S. success and domination. It is a shame that people have to suffer when factories close and the jobs that require less education go overseas. As it is natural for species to go extinct in biological evolution and so is the case with jobs during economic evolution. Would the laid-off factor worker rather keep his job, yet amputate the very tools with which the U.S. retains its global position and military domination? Well, that would be unpatriotic.

Anti-Intellectualism is an embarrassment that has enjoyed many a decade hindering the development of humanity. For some inexplicable reason, Americans tend to wallow in more than their fair share. I suppose fear of change and development is at the heart of the matter, though it is hard for me to reconcile the “Great American Dream” with this entrenched detestation of progress and reason.

I do, however, think we’ve come a long way since Hofstadter penned his academic opinions. College education is ever more the norm and I’m sure 50 years from now we’ll laugh at the crazy old people who didn’t want the gays to marry and thought someone having a college education was a clear indication of anbush bumpersticker like a rock only dumber elitist in their midst. And I appreciated a sentiment by James Carville (who has stoked some of my ire during the current primary season) who said on AC 360 the other evening, “Competence is patriotic.” Well, halle-freaking-lujah.

I can tell I’m really going to enjoy the rest of this book. In the meantime, let’s get-to on those alternative energy sources!!




Scarlet Letter of Atheism

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