24 July 2006
Vleeptron notices a few things
Vleeptron has faithful readers going back more than a year, and readers from surprisingly many places all over the planet. Vleeptron is a very self-indulgent blog and writes what it likes, about what it likes, and resists all pressures to be an All-Politics blog, or a This Is Mufflez My Cat blog, or (the horror!) a Sports blog.
And of course when Vleeptron gets totally disgusted with goings-on on Earth, we just merrily hop the Zeta Beam and write about stuff on Planet Vleeptron in the Dwingeloo-2 Galaxy. Or even more cowardly (but in accord with the ancient tradition of my Pythagorean Kult), we escape into the beautiful land of Mathematics, where all is Truth and Mystery and Adventure.
In the Vleeptron Complaint Department is a somewhat stale e-mail wondering why our political passions ducked and dodged a particularly odd and dubious roundup of a dozen big-mouthed teenage suburban e-mail terrorists somewhere in NorthAm. For what it's worth, Nostrabobus predicts the government will try to frighten and badger and harrass these Youth, and in about 18 months will let all of them go if they plead guilty to cheap, sleazy petty misdemeanors and promise not to shoot their mouths off to journalists about what a lame non-case prosecutors had to begin with. Their families will have to bankrupt themselves with legal defense costs -- and that will be their Punishment, and a warning to all other big-mouth teenagers and college kids in the suburbs.
In the USA, the Justice Department's record with these high-profile Terrorist Roundups has been less than stellar. If they're citizens, having the rights to defend themselves with lawyers and demand their day in court really seems to put a big crimp in the Justice Department's efforts to win slam dunks. I don't really recommend hiring Bush-era Justice Department lawyers after they set up in private practice. These people could fuck up a wet dream.
Faithful readers might get the impression that Vleeptron hasn't noticed that there's a new nasty war going on in the Middle East.
I could plead that I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that Condoleezza Rice's trip to the Middle East will bring a prompt magical end to all the violence.
Not really. Dr. Rice and the Secretary of State who preceeded her are the Drunk Drivers of Middle East Policy, with barely any grasp of the short-term crisis issues, and utterly no heed or comprehension of the Long-Term Systemic Problems which have produced this war and offer almost no hope of any prompt end.
The State Department during the Bush years has essentially been running a Fiesta of Failure of Vision and Leadership from India to the Mediterranean. (Bush, after all, is the presidential candidate who didn't know the name of the Prime Minister of India, and said that, if elected, he wouldn't need to, he'd have Experts to tell him.) Dr. Rice inherits and celebrates an American foreign policy which seems to believe that the United States can achieve its economic and security wishes by direct military Shock and Awe here and there, and by threatening and bullying a half-dozen other uncooperative sovereignties and sub-national entities whom we're not quite ready to go to war with.
(One reason we're holding off on the next wars is that we've exhausted our reserves of combat-ready ground troops, and achieved no measurable or perceivable military objectives for all our losses and pain.)
As a former soldier during a war, my concerns have been understandably focused on the deaths (2565 of US military personnel to date) and maimings of our troops in Iraq, and on the bizarre (but not unprecedented) failure of commanders to enforce a respectable discipline on their troops. Iraq is rapidly degenerating into a ghastly re-run of American military forces in the Philippines during the decade after the Spanish-American War.
Our government's only possible excuse for that is that everybody who ever knew anything about American military activities in the Philippines circa 1900 is dead, and those with knowledge of American military activities in Vietnam are getting deader or at least quieter and more ignorable all the time. Our military activities in Iraq are justified the same way Steve Martin justified not paying taxes: "I forgot!"
But another frequent Commenter -- you know who you are -- is a Big Economics Brain, and has also cast some e-mail light not on the Red Blood issues in Iraq, but on the Green Blood issues Iraq and Afghanistan are doing to America's economy.
In small words: How much are these wars costing, when will we get the bill, and what will the bill do to the American economy?
Okay, here it is as of this moment:
That last question sounds too dry.
How many kids won't be able to finish their college educations, and instead of becoming economic contributors, become economic drains and dead weights for the rest of their working lives?
How many Americans will lose their jobs?
How much more crammed and packed will my homeless shelter be when it cranks up this winter -- when Johnny comes limping home, and he who will have borne the battle will be entrusted to the tender mercies of the Department of Veterans Affairs?
America as this is written is experiencing a startling upsurge in youth murders in its large cities. The primary cause is that federal funds for youth programs -- sports, clubs, after-school stuff, tutoring, summer jobs -- have dried up since 9/11 and all the federal money has been prioritized to Homeland Security. Kids are now on their own on the sidewalks around the clock; the alternatives that were there for them not long ago have vanished.
To make absolutely sure your loved ones and neighbors do not die from a Muslim terrorist bomb in our cities, your loved ones and neighbors are dying from youth gang driveby gunfire in our cities instead. As patriotic Americans, I am sure they would have preferred it that way.
The clueless Bush foreign and military policies are matched only by its far less noisy economic policy. How much are these wars, and Homeland Security -- which has quickly turned into The Mother Of All Pork Barrels -- costing America and where is the money coming from? When will the bill come due?
In your own personal or professional experience, when have you known six years of a spending spree, blowing thousands, millions, billions, trillions heedlessly, without any consequences?
I know some stuff about how America finally got the bill for the Vietnam War, and what happened to the American economy when the bill came due. Have we fixed things since then so we can blow these trillions on endless losing wars and never suffer economic consequences? With gasoline at around $3 a gallon, how does that work, exactly?
Incidentally, Iran -- one of our wannabe war pushpins -- has a much more worrisome and immediate threat than its nuclear enrichment program or its support for Hezbollah.
Iran can just stop its oil production and world oil sales for six months.