Thursday, April 9, 2009

You Can't Eat Bullets

In the last few days I have seen several newspaper headlines that talk about the "gutting" of the defense budget and have listened to a number of politicians in both parties talk with paroxysmal spasms about the destruction of the military and the loss of associated jobs (miraculously right there within their own district).

What they are so upset about is that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has advocated cutting a total of $1.4 billion from the missile defense program. This act, cutting funding to a program that has been replete with problems and failures, is completely sensible and represents a negligible cut in defense spending.

Or at least it is being portrayed as a cut in defense spending. It is in reality nothing of the kind. The Obama Administration has submitted a Defense Budget request of $534 billion. Compare this to the last Defense Budget submitted by Bush which was for a total of $513 billion. Hopefully, our educational system has not collapsed to the point that we are unable to see that this is an increase of $21 billion, NOT a decrease.

This is but a sad example of how skewed the debate has become around the defense establishment. Cutting one sorry program is decried as damaging the military even when the largest military budget in history has just been proposed. Rather than bemoaning the loss of one spectacularly bad program and trying to manipulate the public through lies that an increase is a cut, the real questions should be about the fact that this is the largest budget in history.

The facts of world military expenditures argue that we are completely off base when it comes to the issue of defense spending. We are not cutting anything, but we certainly should be. Let us look at the figures.

According to CIA- The World Factbook, posted at, the U.S. spent $623 billion dollars on military expenditures in 2008 and the rest of the world combined spent $500 billion. China had expenditures of $65 billion and Russia clocked in at $50 billion. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute put the numbers in 2007 at $547 billion for the U.S. (45% of total) $58.3 billion for China, $35.4 billion for Russia and $59.7 for our ally Britain which was second in total expenditures.

In other words, we spend around half of the total worlds military expenditure dollars. The only two countries with any realistic ability to challenge our military superiority, China and Russia spend only around a tenth of what the U.S. does. Put another way, if we were to cut our expenditures in half and they were to triple their spending we would still outspend each of them by at least $100 billion.

What are we so afraid of? Terrorism? No amount of money on earth can stop a person who is prepared to give up their own life. But the events of 9/11 cannot explain our excessive military buildup. Fighting fanatics is more about intelligence than weapons and soldiers. Geographically the U.S. is one of the most protected nations on earth. Protected by two oceans, we seriously have to question what we are so worried about. Our need to feed the military budget comes close to suggesting a collective paranoia.

In an era where politicians of all stripes are expressing concerns about deficits this is the logical place to start. The U.S. could easily pull $300 billion off the books by beginning a return to a sensible military budget. This won't happen, of course, as Eisenhower's warning of the military industrial complex has become true. Our politicians are not worried about our defense, they are worried about defending their base - the military contractors to whom they are beholden.

British Petroleum Gulf Oil Spill Costs

  • 11 workers killed in initial blast
  • Damage to Ocean Ecosystem
  • 35,000 to 60.000 Barrels of Oil Per Day. That's somewhere between 1,500,000 to 2,500,000 gallons a day or 150 to 300 million gallons already spilled into the ocean as of July 27th by that estimate.
  • Gulf Fisheries Industry
  • Gulf Tourism (ongoing costs)
  • Long Term Health Effects to Humans and Wildlife (to be determined)

Worst Oil Spills

  • Kuwait 1991 - 520 million gallons: Gulf War I
  • Gulf of Mexico 2010 - 206 million gallons: BP Oil
  • Mexico, Bay of Campiche 1979 - 140 million gallons: Pemex Oil
  • Trinidad & Tobago 1979 - 90 million gallons: Greek Oil Tanker Atlantic Empress
  • Russia 1983 - 84 million gallons: Leaky Pipeline collapsed into Kolva River
  • Iran 1983 - 80 million gallons: Tanker collided with Oil Platform
  • South Africa 1983 -79 million gallons:Tanker Castillo de Bellver sank
  • France 1978 - 69 million Gallons: Amoco Cadiz ran aground and broke in half.
  • Angola Coastal Waters (700 miles at sea) 1991 - 51-81 million gallons: ABT Summer exploded at sea.
  • Italy 1991 - 45 million gallons: M/T Haven Oil Tanker exploded.
  • Source: Mother Nature Network. The 13 largest oil spills in history. by Laura Moss. Friday July 16, 2010.

Nuclear Accidents (Under Construction)

  • 1957 Windscale, UK
  • 1961 Idaho Falls, Idaho, US
  • 1979 Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania, US
  • 1984 Athens, Alabama, US
  • 1985 Athens, Alabama, US
  • 1986 Plymouth, Masachusetts, US
  • 1986 Chernobyl, Ukraine, USSR
  • 1996 Waterford, Connecticut, US
  • 1989 Griefwald, Germany
  • 1999 Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan
  • 2002 Oak Harbor, Ohio, US
  • 2004 Fukui Prefecture, Japan
  • Source: Benjamin Sovacool

Mining Disasters (Under Construction)

  • China 1942 - 1549 deaths
  • France 1906 - 1100 deaths
  • Japan 1963 - 447 deaths
  • Wales 1913 - 438 deaths
  • South Africa 1960 - 437 deaths
  • Source: Epic Disasters Website
  • Note: Do not look at the dates herein and conclue that mining disasters are a things of the past. Every year thousands of miners die worldwide in largely unreported accidents.

OIL IS OVER! - Resources

  • Hibbert's Peak - "The" source that explains why Oil is Over.
  • Tragedy of the Commons -Garrett Hardin
  • The Land Ethic - Aldo Leopold
  • Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight - Thom Hartmann
  • Eco-Defense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching


  • The Dirt People - Ray Bawarchi (yes, that's me)
  • The Razor's Edge - Somerset Maugham
  • Demian - Herman Hesse
  • Black Elk Speaks - Black Elk (as told to R. Neimur)
  • The Quiet Don - Mikhail Sholokov
  • Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
  • Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
  • 1984 - George Orwell
  • Delicious Laughter - Jallahudin Rumi
  • The Sybil - Par Lagerksvitz
  • The Fixer - Bernard Malamud
  • Spirits Rebellious - Khalil Gibran
  • The Quiet American - Graham Greene
  • Midaq Alley - Nagib Mafouz
  • Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Slaughterhouse 5 - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Farenheit 451- Ray Bradbury
  • We - Yevgeny Zamyatin


  • John Coltrane - St. John the Divine
  • Patti Smith
  • The Clash - the only band that matters
  • Billy Bragg
  • Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band
  • Art Blakey
  • Death - pre-punk visionaries from Detroit
  • PJ Harvey - Polly Jean, Polly Jean
  • Woody Guthrie
  • Michael Franti (Spearhead)
  • Public Enemy
  • Ray Charles - the Genius
  • Bob Dylan
  • Velvet Underground
  • Flaming Lips
  • John Doe & X
  • The Beatles

opiate of the masses

  • God is a comedian, playing to an audience too afraid to laugh. - Voltaire
  • I do not feel obliged to believe that the same god who has endowed us with sense, reason and inellect has intended us to forgo their use. - Galileo Galilei
  • The ink of a scholar is worth far more than the blood of a martyr.- Mohammad
  • If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him. - Sheldon Kopp
  • No one will be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest. - Louisa Mae Alcott
  • When it is a question of money, everyone is of the same religion.- Voltaire
  • If God were alive today, he'd be an athiest. - Kurt Vonnegut
  • The god I worship is not short of cash, Mister. - Bono
  • Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine. My sins they only belong to me. - Patti Smith
  • God sure baked a lot of fruitcake baby, when Adam met the Eden lady. - Joe Strummer