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Posts tagged "opinion"
We’ve been at war for decades now - not just in Afghanistan or Iraq, but right here at home. Domestically, it’s been a war against the poor, but if you hadn’t noticed, that’s not surprising. You wouldn’t often have found the casualty figures from this particular conflict in your local newspaper or on the nightly TV news. Devastating as it’s been, the war against the poor has gone largely unnoticed - until now. The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement has already made the concentration of wealth at the top of this society a central issue in US politics. Now, it promises to do something similar when it comes to the realities of poverty in this country. By making Wall Street its symbolic target and branding itself as a movement of the 99 per cent, OWS has redirected public attention to the issue of extreme inequality, which it has recast as, essentially, a moral problem. Only a short time ago, the “morals” issue in politics meant the propriety of sexual preferences, reproductive behaviour or the personal behaviour of presidents. Economic policy, including tax cuts for the rich, subsidies and government protection for insurance and pharmaceutical companies and financial deregulation, was shrouded in clouds of propaganda or simply considered too complex for ordinary Americans to grasp. Now, in what seems like no time at all, the fog has lifted and the topic on the table everywhere seems to be the morality of contemporary financial capitalism. The protesters have accomplished this mainly through the symbolic power of their actions: by naming Wall Street, the heartland of financial capitalism, as the enemy, and by welcoming the homeless and the down-and-out to their occupation sites. And of course, the slogan “We are the 99 per cent” reiterated the message that almost all of us are suffering from the reckless profiteering of a tiny handful. (In fact, they aren’t far off: the increase in income of the top one per cent over the past three decades about equals the losses of the bottom 80 per cent) The movement’s moral call is reminiscent of earlier historical moments when popular uprisings invoked ideas of a “moral economy” to justify demands for bread or grain or wages - for, that is, a measure of economic justice. Historians usually attribute popular ideas of a moral economy to custom and tradition, as when the British historian EP Thompson traced the idea of a “just price” for basic foodstuffs invoked by 18th century English food rioters to then already centuries-old Elizabethan statutes. But the rebellious poor have never simply been traditionalists. In the face of violations of what they considered to be their customary rights, they did not wait for the magistrates to act, but often took it upon themselves to enforce what they considered to be the foundation of a just, moral economy.

Frances Fox PivenThe war against the poor in America - Opinion - Al Jazeera English

Rampant poverty and further welfare cuts have created a need to move towards a moral economy of the many, not few.

We were warned there would be no ticker-tape parade, no soldiers kissing nurses in Times Square, no spoils of war.

What we got was a president so somber and worn, it looked as if he needed a good rest, even though he just got back from one.

No amount of rest could have made it more palatable to announce the end of what began as shock and awe, but then turned shockingly awful. More than 4,400 American lives lost in Iraq so far, more than $700 billion spent, and what do we have to show for it?

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America began the new millennium with optimism and confidence. Today, two recessions and two wars later, the optimism is weakened and the confidence is waning. U.S. military spending has risen to nearly half of the global total, but the U.S. share of global output is eroding steadily as other economies grow faster.

An assessment by the National Intelligence Council in November 2008 warned that the ongoing transfer of wealth from the U.S. and other Western nations to East Asia is “without precedent in modern history.” U.S. trade and budget deficits in this decade have also been unprecedented, with the federal government borrowing more than 40 cents of every dollar it spends.

In such circumstances, claims that America is the sole surviving superpower sound increasingly hollow. Experts can debate what role defense spending has played in this decline, but what is beyond dispute is Washington’s waning ability to sustain military outlays at current levels.

There are a number of near-term steps the Obama administration can take to reduce the burden of military spending, such as winding down the U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan and cutting outlays on unneeded weapons. Defense Secretary Robert Gates estimates that cuts he made last year will reduce planned weapons outlays by $330 billion, and now he has launched a campaign to slash support costs.


Force levels will need to be cut too, because the cost of military pay and benefits has risen to a point at which the affordability of the all-volunteer force is in doubt. This will provoke a bitter political debate, given the sacrifices U.S. troops have been asked to make in this decade. Yet with a $1.47-trillion federal deficit, the government is spending $4 billion it does not have each day, and our forces must shrink. This is particularly true because, as Gates has noted, after Iraq and Afghanistan, we will not do nation-building under fire again.

The big question for policymakers is not whether defense spending will be cut — that is inevitable — but how global security will be maintained as the U.S. role diminishes. Since World War II, the United States has played a central part in preventing wars and protecting vital areas such as the industrial centers of northeast Asia and the oilfields of the Middle East.

Now Washington must become more selective in its commitments, even as threats grow more diverse. It appears the only way this can be accomplished without encouraging aggression is to expect more of allies and friends. In other words, countries such as Germany, Japan and India must help fill the strategic vacuum created by America’s retreat.

The Obama administration does not concede that America is in retreat, but it has fashioned a National Security Strategy that is well suited to current trends. The strategy emphasizes the importance of allies and “newly emerging partners” in accomplishing shared defense goals, and commits the United States to helping partners do more for their own defense, especially in coping with terrorism and insurgencies.

This is a sensible approach given the fact that allies will usually have more “forward presence” overseas than U.S. forces can muster, and typically will understand the cultural context of local conflicts better. But there are some steps that Washington needs to take so that partners can take on roles now beyond America’s means.

For example, the Pentagon needs to build weapons that are affordable and appropriate for its partners. Nobody can afford the new $3-billion destroyer the Navy has developed — Gates canceled the program — but many countries can afford the faster, more agile Littoral Combat Ship. Similarly, the $150-million price tag on the Air Force’s twin-engine F-22 fighter is too high for allies, but if the single-engine F-35 can be fielded for less than half that cost, it will have major export potential.

The White House has already embarked on a series of initiatives to engage allies in more robust security roles while loosening the export restrictions that impeded arming them. These steps may have trade benefits for America, but their real significance is that America’s eroding economic might makes unilateralism too costly to be feasible. Washington needs to help overseas friends play a bigger security role so it can concentrate on rebuilding its economy.

Lawrence Korb is a defense analyst at the progressive Center for American Progress. Loren Thompson is a defense analyst at the conservative Lexington Institute.

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For some reason, the power used by computers is a source of endless fascination to the public.  Most folks think that the power used by computers is a lot more than it actually is, and that it’s growing at incredible rates.  Neither one of these beliefs is true, but they reflect a stubborn sense that the economic importance of IT somehow must translate into a large amount of electricity use.  That incorrect belief masks an important truth:  Information technology has beneficial environmental effects that vastly outweigh the direct environmental impact of the electricity that it consumes.

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