Posted 6 months ago on Dec. 4, 2012, 8:52 p.m. EST by LeoYo
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The Barack Obama Story: From Community Organizer to Robot President
Tuesday, 04 December 2012 14:40 By Tom Engelhardt, Tom Dispatch | News Analysis
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear President Obama,
Nothing you don’t know, but let me just say it: the world’s a weird place. In my younger years, I might have said “crazy,” but that was back when I thought being crazy was a cool thing and only regretted I wasn’t.
I mean, do you ever think about how you ended up where you are? And I'm not actually talking about the Oval Office, though that’s undoubtedly a weird enough story in its own right.
After all, you were a community organizer and a constitutional law professor and now, if you stop to think about it, here’s where you’ve ended up: you’re using robots to assassinate people you personally pick as targets. You’ve overseen and escalated off-the-books robot air wars in Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, and are evidently considering expanding them to Mali and maybe even Libya. You’ve employed what will someday be defined as a weapon of mass destruction, launching history’s first genuine cyberwar against a country that isn’t threatening to attack us. You’ve agreed to the surveillance of more Americans every which way from Sunday than have ever been listened in on or (given emailing, texting, and tweeting) read. You came into office proclaiming a “sunshine” policy and yet your administration has classified more documents (92,064,862 in 2011) than any other in our history. Despite signing a Whistleblower Enhancement Protection Act, you’ve used the Espionage Act on more government whistleblowers and leakers than all previous administrations combined, and yet your officials continue to leak secret material they see as advantageous to the White House without fear of prosecution. Though you deep-sixed the Bush administration name for it -- “the Global War on Terror” (ridding the world of GWOT, one of the worst acronyms ever) -- you’ve accepted the idea that we are “at war” with terror and on a “global battlefield” which (see above) you’re actually expanding. You’re still keeping uncharged, untried prisoners of not-quite-war in an offshore military prison camp of injustice that, on the day you came into office, you promised to close within a year. You’re overseeing planning that, according to recent reports, will continue the Afghan War in some form until at least 2017 or possibly well beyond. You preside over an administration that has encouraged the further militarization of the CIA (to which you appointed as director not a civilian but a four-star general you assumedly wanted to tuck safely away during campaign season). You’ve overseen the further militarization of the State Department; you’ve encouraged a major expansion of the special operations forces and its secret presidential army, the Joint Special Operations Command, cocooned inside the U.S. military/ You’ve overseen the further post-9/11 expansion of an already staggering national security budget and the further growth of our labyrinthine “Intelligence Community” -- and though who remembers anymore, you even won what must have been the first prospective Nobel Prize for Peace more or less before you did a damn thing, and then thanked the Nobel Committee with a full-throated defense of the right of the U.S. to do what it pleased, militarily, on the planet! And if that isn’t a weird legacy-in-formation, what is?
I mean, you have my sympathies. The Bush administration did you no favors. You inherited hell for a foreign policy and when it came to matters like Guantanano, the Republicans in Congress hung you out to dry.
Still, who woulda thunk it? Don’t these “accomplishments” of yours sometimes amaze you? Don’t you ever wake up in the middle of the night wondering just who you are? Don’t you, like me, open your eyes some mornings in a state of amazement about just how you ended up on this particular fast-morphing planet? Are you as stunned as I am by the fact that a tanker carrying liquid natural gas is now making a trip from Norway to Japan across the winter waters of the Arctic? Twenty days at sea lopped off an otherwise endless voyage via the Mediterranean Sea, and the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Did you ever think you’d live to see the opening of the Northeast Passage in winter? Don’t you find it ironic that fossil fuels, which helped burn that oceanic hole in the Arctic ice, were the first commercial products shipped through those open waters? Don’t you find it just a tad odd that you can kill someone in distant Yemen without the slightest obstacle and yet you’ve been able to do next to nothing when it comes to global warming? I mean, isn’t that world-championship weird, believe-it-or-not bizarre, and increasingly our everyday reality?
Aren’t you amazed that your Pentagon has recently issued a directive meant to ensure that armed robots will never kill human beings on their own? Not so long ago, that was the stuff of sci-fi; now, it’s the subject of a bureaucratic document. Tell that to Skynet someday, right?
Who could make this stuff up? Maybe William Gibson -- maybe he already did -- but not me and my guess is not you either.
Putting Yourself in a Box http://truth-out.org/news/item/13144-the-barack-obama-story-from-community-organizer-to-robot-president
Welcome Back to the Dark Ages
Tuesday, 04 December 2012 07:03 By Paul Krugman, Krugman & Co. | Op-Ed
Quite a few bloggers are having fun with Senator Marco Rubio's bobbing and weaving in response to a question from GQ magazine during a recent interview:
GQ: How old do you think the Earth is?
Marco Rubio: I'm not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that's a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. ... I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in seven days, or seven actual eras, I'm not sure we'll ever be able to answer that. It's one of the great mysteries.
As I like to say, the G.O.P. doesn't just want to roll back the New Deal; it wants to roll back the Enlightenment. But here's what you should realize: when Mr. Rubio said that the question of the Earth's age "has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow," he was dead wrong.
For one thing, science and technology education has a lot to do with our future productivity — and how are you going to have effective science education if schools have to give equal time to the views of fundamentalist Christians?
More broadly, the attitude that discounts any amount of evidence — and boy, do we have lots of evidence of the age of the planet! — if it conflicts with prejudices is not an attitude consistent with effective policy. If you're going to ignore what geologists say because you don't like its implications, what are the chances that you'll take sensible advice on monetary and fiscal policy? After all, we've just seen how Republicans deal with research reports that undermine their faith in the magic of tax cuts: they try to suppress the reports. I'm belatedly reading Chris Mooney's "The Republican Brain"; if truth be told, I was afraid that the book would be too much red meat for my own predispositions, and wanted to keep my cool. But Mr. Mooney actually makes a very good point: the personality traits we associate with modern conservatism, above all a lack of openness, make the modern G.O.P. fundamentally hostile to the very idea of objective inquiry. If they want your opinion, they'll tell you what it is; doubters of orthodoxy need not apply, and will in fact be persecuted. So don't laugh over Mr. Rubio's young-Earth apologetics. If he, or anyone else from his party, wins in 2016, the joke will be on us.
How We Know the Earth Is Old
One thing that kind of tickles me about Mr. Rubio's age-of-the-planet stuff is that it leads right to one of my favorite science stories — the founding of modern geology by James Hutton, part of the Scottish Enlightenment.
Mr. Hutton was, for a time, a farmer — and in that occupation, observing the process of erosion and the laying down of deposits of various materials, he realized that the landscape he saw around him could be explained by the same forces operating over immense periods of time, as long as you posited that there were other forces uplifting ancient sediments to form today's geological features. How could he know whether this theory was right? He made predictions; in particular, that in places you would find "angular uncomformities," or striated bodies of sedimentary rocks from different eras that were tilted relative to each other. And, sure enough, he found them.
And once you accepted that the landscape we see was created by the same processes we see every day, you also had to accept the notion of a very ancient planet.
Why do I like this story so much? I think because it's science of a kind everyone should be able to understand; it doesn't rely on exotic instruments or hard math (not that there's anything wrong with either of these), just on keen observation and an open mind.
Too bad that such open minds are so rare in America today, at least on one side of the spectrum.
© 2012 The New York Times Company
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Fast Food, Slow Death
Tuesday, 04 December 2012 15:22 By Thom Hartmann and Sam Sacks, The Daily Take | News Analysis