Frida Berrigan has a great essay in Foreign Policy in Focus about U.S. military spending. As she points out, military spending is at its highest level since WWII and hardly any politicians or mainstream pundits are questioning this growth.

Here’s an excerpt:

Once upon a time, people researched and wrote reports about lower defense spending and converting the military-industrial complex into a peacetime economy. These reports came from university research institutions, private think tanks, and the federal government. They are memorials to the hope kindled in the brief post-Cold War and pre-War on Terrorism moment when anything seemed possible. Even cutting the military budget was not unthinkable because we had pulled the planet back from the brink and survived five decades on the edge of nuclear midnight. Scholarship turned itself to the work of dismantling the war machine in such a way that no one — no machinist turning bolts on bombs or aircraft engineer with his polished plans — was crushed in the process.

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In a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee heads Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Arlen Specter (R-PA), 24 former intelligence officials today urged the senators to “not send Mukasey’s nomination to the full Senate before he makes clear his view on waterboarding.” From the letter:

If Mukasey continues to drag his feet, you need only to facilitate a classified briefing for him on waterboarding and the C.I.A. interrogation program. He will then be able to render an informed legal opinion. We strongly suggest that you sit in on any such briefing and that you invite the chairman and the ranking member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to take part as well. Receiving the same briefing at the same time (and, ideally, having it taped) should enhance the likelihood of candor and make it possible for all to be–and to stay–on the same page on this delicate issue.

If the White House refuses to allow such a briefing, your committee must, in our opinion, put a hold on Mukasey’s nomination. We are aware that the president warned last week that it will be either Mukasey as our attorney general or no one. So be it.

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WASHINGTON — Despite President Bush’s claims that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons that could trigger ”World War III,” experts in and out of government say there’s no conclusive evidence that Tehran has an active nuclear-weapons program.

Even his own administration appears divided about the immediacy of the threat. While Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney speak of an Iranian weapons program as a fact, Bush’s point man on Iran, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, has attempted to ratchet down the rhetoric.

”Iran is seeking a nuclear capability . . . that some people fear might lead to a nuclear-weapons capability,” Burns said in an interview Oct. 25 on PBS.

”I don’t think that anyone right today thinks they’re working on a bomb,” said another U.S. official, who requested anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity.

Outside experts say the operative words are ”right today.” They say Iran may have been actively seeking to create a nuclear-weapons capacity in the past and still could break out of its current uranium-enrichment program and start a weapons program. They, too, lack definitive proof but cite a great deal of circumstantial evidence.

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I fear for this country…

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Despite President Bush’s perpetually abysmal approval ratings, his increasingly hostile rhetoric against Iran has drummed up enough fear of a “nuclear holocost” or a World War III that a majority of Americans are in favor of a US strike against the country aimed a curtailing its apparent nuclear ambitions, a new poll shows.

The Zogby International survey shows 52 percent of Americans would support a strike on Iran, while 53 percent expect President Bush to launch such an attack before the end of his second term. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton is voters’ No. 1 choice to deal with Iran, with 21 percent saying they would like to see her take on Tehran from the White House. Republican Rudy Giuliani was voters’ second choice, with 15 percent.

Just 29 percent of Americans think the US should not attack Iran, with one in five people unsure about military action. Of those who would support a strike, 28 percent believe military action should wait until the next president is in office, while 23 percent want to see Bush let lose US missiles against Iran.

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Anarchism is not a romantic fable but the hardheaded realization, based on five thousand years of experience, that we cannot entrust the management of our lives to kings, priests, politicians, generals, and county commissioners.

-Edward Abbey

This isn’t really a new tactic in this administration. They have been actively deceiving the American public for 7 years now. The real crime is that the mainstream media didn’t pick up on this until after the fact. And then, after a couple of days pass by, we get a story in the Washington Post on page A19.

Further proof that this country is slipping into that dark realm of ignorance, deceptive politics, and closed doors — a far cry from democracy.

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FEMA has truly learned the lessons of Katrina. Even its handling of the media has improved dramatically. For example, as the California wildfires raged Tuesday, Vice Adm. Harvey E. Johnson, the deputy administrator, had a 1 p.m. news briefing.

Reporters were given only 15 minutes’ notice of the briefing, making it unlikely many could show up at FEMA’s Southwest D.C. offices. They were given an 800 number to call in, though it was a “listen only” line, the notice said — no questions. Parts of the briefing were carried live on Fox News, MSNBC and other outlets.

… He was apparently quite familiar with the reporters — in one case, he appears to say “Mike” and points to a reporter — and was asked an oddly in-house question about “what it means to have an emergency declaration as opposed to a major disaster declaration” signed by the president. He once again explained smoothly.

… Very smooth, very professional. But something didn’t seem right. The reporters were lobbing too many softballs. No one asked about trailers with formaldehyde for those made homeless by the fires. And the media seemed to be giving Johnson all day to wax on and on about FEMA’s greatness.

Of course, that could be because the questions were asked by FEMA staffers playing reporters. We’re told the questions were asked by Cindy Taylor, FEMA’s deputy director of external affairs, and by “Mike” Widomski, the deputy director of public affairs. Director of External Affairs John “Pat” Philbin asked a question, and another came, we understand, from someone who sounds like press aide Ali Kirin.

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If you look in this story, you’ll see the line that says “…even though it would damage the vested interests of powerful industries.” I think that about explains it all, don’t you?

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Lewis Smith, Environment Reporter of The Times
The speed at which mankind is using and abusing the Earth’s resources is putting humanity’s survival at risk, scientists have said.

The bleak assessment of the state of the environment globally was issued as an “urgent call for action” amid growing concerns of worldwide waste, neglect and governmental inertia.

Fundamental changes in political policy and individual lifestyles were demanded by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) as it gave warning that the “point of no return” for the environment is fast being approached.

The damage being done was regarded by the UN programme as so serious that it said the time had come for the environment to be a central theme of policy-making instead of just a fringe issue, even though it would damage the vested interests of powerful industries.

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The “war on drugs” might just be the biggest waste of lives, energy, and resources in the history of the world. These are arrests…Imagine how many people use marijuana in this country — now imagine if we taxed it!

On another note, I just realized that Joe Biden (see below), current Democratic presidential candidate, sponsored the RAVE Act in 2002. Read this Kuro5hin article for more information on this awful piece of legislation. Unfortunately, given this news and combined with the fact that Biden was behind the creation of a “Drug Czar” post in the White House, I don’t think Biden deserves my attention.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — For the fourth year in a row, U.S. marijuana arrests set an all-time record in 2006, according to the just-released FBI Uniform Crime Reports. Marijuana arrests totaled 829,627, an increase from 786,545 in 2005. Similar to previous years, 738,916 or 89 percent were for possession, not sale or manufacture, and marijuana possession arrests again exceeded arrests for all violent crimes combined.

“The steady escalation of marijuana arrests is happening in direct defiance of public opinion,” said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C. “Voters in communities all over the country, from Denver to Seattle to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and Missoula County, Montana, have passed measures saying they don’t want marijuana arrests to be a priority, yet marijuana arrests have set an all-time record for four years running. It appears that police are taking their cue from White House Drug Czar John Walters, who is obsessed with marijuana, rather than the public who pays their salaries.

“The bottom line is that we are wasting billions of dollars each year on a failed policy,” Kampia continued. “Despite record arrests, marijuana use remains higher than it was 15 years ago, when arrests were less than half the present level, and marijuana is the number one cash crop in the U.S. Marijuana is scientifically proven to be far safer than alcohol, and it’s time to start regulating marijuana the same way we regulate wine, beer and liquor.”

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OK, this is pretty scary…What’s next???

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The Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security are quietly pushing for a set of crazy new rules. All travellers in the U.S. will be required to get government-issued credentials and official clearance before every flight, both within the United States as well as internationally.

And Monday we received a new political action alert from Edward Hasbrouk, The Practical Nomad blogger who’s been fighting the plan (and who testified about it at a TSA hearing). “The international Advance Passenger Information System rules were published, as ‘final’ effective February 19,2008, with no further opportunity for public comment even on the changes from the original proposal.”

Hasbrouck sees this as a very ominous development. “The Department of Homeland Security can now evade debate on the similar elements of their Secure Flight proposal by claiming that it’s needed to ‘harmonize’ the domestic and international travel restrictions — as though travel within America was tantamount to and subject to the same government restrictions and controls as crossing international borders.”

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California fires blog

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