Thursday, October 30, 2014

OCTOBER 2014 BONEHEAD ABSURDITY OF THE MONTH

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Wow, what a month for absurdities. I don’t know if there’s something about October or if I’m just finding more bonehead statements. Whatever, here are 12 worthy candidates:

1. New Hampshire GOP state Rep. Steve Vaillancourt raised sexism and ageism to new heights when he called Democratic incumbent Ann McLane Kuster "ugly as sin" and therefore too ugly to win!! His words:

"Let's be honest. Does anyone not believe that Congressman Annie Kuster is as UGLY AS SIN? AND I HOPE I HAVEN'T OFFENDED SIN," Vaillancourt wrote on NH Insider, a New Hampshire politics blog.   His bonehead absurdity is representative of the kind of misogynistic theater of the absurd that inhabits right-wing talk radio shows.
 
2. Louisiana Senator David Vitter is urging colleagues to hold up the $1 billion the white House has requested to combat the Ebola virus because it: “focuses on Africa and largely ignores our own borders.”

Most of the money has been held up for nearly a month, as Republicans on key committees demand more details from the administration. The $1 billion is to be used for the construction of medical facilities, supply distribution, and medical training for military and civilian personnel. Given that speed is critical to fighting the epidemic, the Vitter statement and GOP intransigence are not only absurd, they’re unconscionable.

Monday, October 20, 2014

ECONOMIC INEQUALITY: THE POLITICAL DIMENSION

  By Ronald T. Fox  


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"We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." 
                     Louis Brandeis

Is social inequality an inherent feature of free-market capitalism and if so is this necessarily a bad thing? Ideological liberals tend to think so. Most conservatives strongly disagree. To them inequality is a natural result of what happens in a free society where citizens possess vastly different levels of intelligence, education, talent, work ethics and personal drive. Soaring incomes at the top are seen as a just reward for initiatives taken and services rendered, like job creation. The investors of capital produce economic growth which provides economic opportunities for all. As the economy grows, all incomes will rise and an expanding middle class will enjoy a greater share of the national wealth.   

It would be great if this is how things really worked, but as is abundantly clear to most, save those living in the splendid insulation great wealth provides, the America of today presents quite a different picture. Social inequality in the United States is souring, reaching proportions not seen since the Gilded Age. The return on capital has increased much faster than economic growth and incomes have not only failed to rise, they’ve actually declined over the last couple of decades (median middle-class household income peaked at $56,080 in 1999 and it stands at roughly $50,017 now). This development finds average Americans struggling to grab a share of the American Dream. It also finds them increasingly marginalized in our political system. The wealth that has been accumulating at the top of our social strata has generated wide political inequality that is threatening the very foundation of our democratic system. It has turned America into a plutocracy.  

Extreme inequality is harming American society in many ways. I’ve written about some in previous posts (see: Does Economic Inequality Matter?  Economic Inequality and the Failure of ElitesEconomic Inequality and the Cheating Cultureand The Collapse of American Journalism and the Growth of Institutional Corruption). This essay will focus on the political dimension of economic inequality.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

THE 2015 DEFENSE BUDGET: A FINAL NAIL IN THE A-10 COFFIN?

 
By Ronald Fox
 
I predicted in a previous post (Say Goodbye to the A-10 Warthog: Shame on the Air Force) that it was likely the Air Force’s A-10 “Warthog” close air support (CAS) airplane would be phased out. The Pentagon’s recently leaked preview of its 2015 budget confirmed the suspicion of many who have followed the issue: the fleet of 350 A-10 attack planes is scheduled to be permanently retired. Should the elimination be finalized, it will be a sad day for combat troops who have grown to love the highly effective CAS aircraft. It will also disappoint military reformers who have long been critical of the Air Force’s “deep strike” strategic bombing mindset, which they argue has been responsible for excessive costs, ineffective air power, and, arguably, longer wars. These reformers would like to see the Pentagon purchase weapons where mission cost effectiveness is the overriding procurement criteria. It is clear, however, that the Pentagon remains fixated on expensive high tech weapons of unproven effectiveness.

Monday, October 13, 2014

IT AIN’T OVER TIL’ IT’S OVER: THE A-10 WARTHOG IS STILL BREATHING


By Ronald T. Fox


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The A-10 Attacks

Much has been written about the ability of the Pentagon to get the Congress to do its bidding. Working in tandem with the individual military services, weapons manufacturers and other contractors that desire a piece of the procurement action, and members of the Senate and House who drool over bringing big contracts home to their state or district, the Pentagon can field a formidable machine extremely adept at moving favored legislation.

clip_image004It also has a formidable propaganda machine capable of shaping public opinion, as Senator J. William Fulbright wrote about decades ago. To build support for a new weapon, the Pentagon and the individual services frequently resort to embellishing the weapon’s capabilities, playing down its costs, and puffing up similar weapons possessed by our enemies. If it meets organized resistance, which is rare, it pulls no punches in fudging facts and discrediting critics. With such tools, it rarely loses a political fight, especially since it can count on pro-military members on Congress who prioritize defense spending over real defense.
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The Most Expensive Weapon Ever Made

An excellent case to observe the Pentagon machine at work is its current fight to retire the Air Force’s A-10 Thunderbolt (affectionately also known as the Warthog) and replace its close air support (CAS) mission with a combination of aircraft: the speedier B-1B bomber, F-15E, and the F-16.

Until recently the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter was also offered as an effective alternative, but with its cost souring (it’s reputed to be the most expensive weapon ever made) it has become too expensive to risk close to the ground where airplanes are vulnerable (see previous post: F-35 Cost Explodes: Business as Usual at the Pentagon). It seems the Air Force is operating under the assumption that future wars will be high tech affairs against heavily-armed foes sporting sophisticated air defenses, wars that don’t favor the slow-moving A-10. This seems strange given the current saber-rattling over going to war against ISIS, which would present precisely the kind of challenge that favors the A-10.

In two previous essays, I sang praise of the A-10’s virtues in supporting troops on the ground and lamented that it had lost favor with the Air Force and would likely soon be retired (see: Say Goodbye To the A-10 Warthog: Shame on the Air Force and The 2015 Defense Budget: A Final Nail in the A-10 Coffin?). It appears now that I may have been premature in my prediction.