Thursday, May 31, 2007

Among peaceful nations: We're the number one! ...err, uh, make that number 96 !!!

On several ranking of nation states previously quoted on this blog -- environmental quality, strength of public education, health of democracy, etc. -- the good old U.S.A. has been significantly down in the ratings recently. Hence, I looked eagerly at a new study, "The Global Peace Index" prepared by the Vision of Humanity organization, a joint project of the Economist magazine and the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Sydney, Australia. The study polled "an international panel of peace experts from Peace Institutes and Think Tanks" and rated the world's nations on several categories: measures of ongoing domestic and international conflict; measures of societal safety and security; measures of militarisation, etc.

The United States came in at number 96, just behind Yemen but a notch better than Iran. Will this study get much attention here? Probably not. Americans know that "We're Number One" in every way, including in our role the world's best hope for enduring peace.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

More "Support the Troops"

It was the best of armies. It was the worst of armies. Two news stories paint a picture of the way the nation honors the defense of freedom on Memorial Day.

From The Daily Freeman (appropriately named)

Appeals court bars Cheney foes from West Point
Associated Press

WHITE PLAINS - The mere presence of Vice President Dick Cheney does not turn West Point into a public forum and is not an "open invitation" to protesters, a federal appeals court ruled on Friday.

Cheney is scheduled to deliver the commencement speech at the U.S. Military Academy today, and about 1,000 people had hoped to march onto the campus for an anti-war demonstration. ....

The protesters' attorney, Stephen Bergstein, said the military gets too much respect.

"No other institution in our society enjoys the deference that the military establishment enjoys," he said. "There are things you can't do in our society, and protesting at a military institution is one of them. It's a shame because they invite Cheney and he can say whatever he wants."

Besides the constitutional issue, the court agreed with the Army that it had legitimate security concerns.
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[In another story, some "legitimate security concerns" show up prominently.]

CNN: Young officers leaving service at 'alarming' rate

CNN reported on Friday about the "alarming number" of mid-level army officers leaving the military as soon as they complete their initial commitment, many of them citing family reasons and multiple deployments. The army has been forced to offer new incentives for re-enrolling, including bonuses and extra training.

The percentage of career officers deciding not to stay in the military is the highest it has been since the Vietnam War and includes many West Point graduates, "creating a brain drain in the top ranks." A general interviewed by CNN expressed concern that "we're losing the next generation of future combat leaders for the army."

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Perhaps what our intelligent career officers have figured out is that the current and future wars of Bush and Cheney have had a negative effect upon the defense of freedom in "Homeland" (formerly known as the U.S.A.). In years to come perhaps Memorial Day will become a time to remember the wisdom of avoiding the kinds of unjust, futile slaughter that cynical old "leaders" often impose on American youth. In this mode, Memorial Day could start by asking: What kind of war is it that will not permit photographing coffins of our fallen soldiers?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Support the troops with censorship: military brass unplugs MySpace and YouTube

The military has taken another brilliant move in Iraq. From Wired:

"Fresh from its battle against blogs, the U.S. military now appears to be going after video and social networking sites (at least those it doesn't control). Effective Monday, U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan will not be allowed access to websites like MySpace and YouTube using military networks, Stars and Stripes reports."

Friday, May 04, 2007

Wally Shirra, astronaut, dies at 84

From an article in the Guardian

``Mostly it's lousy out there,'' Schirra said in 1981 on the occasion of the first space shuttle flight. ``It's a hostile environment, and it's trying to kill you. The outside temperature goes from a minus 450 degrees to a plus 300 degrees. You sit in a flying Thermos bottle.'' . . . .

In one of his last interviews, last month with The Associated Press, Schirra said he was struck by the fragility of Earth and the absence of borders.

``I left Earth three times. I found no place else to go. Please take care of Spaceship Earth,'' he said.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Bush spying on the citizenry continues (without warrant)

From the New York Times story:

"Senior Bush administration officials told Congress on Tuesday that they could not pledge that the administration would continue to seek warrants from a secret court for a domestic wiretapping program, as it agreed to do in January.

Rather, they argued that the president had the constitutional authority to decide for himself whether to conduct surveillance without warrants."

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I suppose this is a policy that "conservatives" in the Republican party would endorse. But what in the world are they "conserving"? Certainly it can't be rights and liberties specified in the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution.

America's Reichstag fire continues.