You are hereBlogs / davidswanson's blog

davidswanson's blog


If War Was Funded Like College Tuition

Are you as tired as I am of news stories about college tuition costs rising? I've been out of college for many years, and you'd have to pay me to go back, but this is ridiculous. 

To see how ridiculous, try a little thought experiment. Imagine opening your newspaper and reading this:

"War and War Preparations Costs to U.S. Households Rose Again This Year

"Continuing a decades-long trend, the cost each U.S. resident pays for his or her wars and war preparations rose 5.3 percent this year. 

"With all costs of the U.S. military, across numerous government departments, reaching $1.2 trillion annually, according to Chris Hellman of the National Priorities Project, and with a U.S. population of 314 million people, bills to those opting for war-making as their foreign policy choice this year came to $3,822 each -- not counting room, board, and books."

Of course, that bill is for anyone who supports the U.S. government's spending priorities and anyone who doesn't, and it's a bill for every person, from disabled senior citizen to new-born infant. 

It's a bill that might strike some as a bit high.  So, here's one way this imaginary news story might develop:

"In an expanding trend, thousands of Americans opted for a smaller military investment this year.  Choosing to pay their share of a military the size of China's -- $188 billion, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute -- some war consumers bought the $599 war plan this year. 

"Others opted for the Russian model at a cost of $280.  But with polls showing that Americans believe Iran to be the greatest threat to peace, the Iranian-sized military has become this year's most rapid climber in the rankings; of course, the $20 price tag doesn't hurt.

"Buddy Beaverton of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, remarked at the post office as he mailed a check: 'If we could have Canada's annual supply of wars for $59 each, why should I have to pay $3,822? It's bad enough they've got cheaper prescription drugs that we're not allowed to buy!'"

Mr. Beaverton would have a point.  Some other nations that don't invest in wars and war preparations the way the United States does also make college education free or affordable -- and still have plenty of money to spare for frivolous luxuries like healthcare or energy systems that don't render the planet unlivable.

What would our lives be like if college were as free and unquestionable as military spending is now, but military spending arrived as an optional bill? 

Those who didn't want it could choose not to pay.  Those who wanted a coast guard, a national guard, and some anti-aircraft weapons could chip in a few bucks.  Those who wanted a bit more than that could pay a bit more.

And those who wanted troops in 175 nations, aircraft carriers in every sea, enough nuclear weapons to destroy life on several planets, and fleets of drones with which to traumatize and antagonize several nations at once -- well, they could pay their $3,822, plus of course another $3,822 for anybody opting out.

What a naive proposal! Left to individual choice, the commons would be destroyed, and our national defense would crumble!

Really?  People in the United States give over $300 billion to charity each year.  Nobody forces them to.  If they believed weapons and wars were the most important cause to donate their dollars to, they'd do it.  No nation on earth spends $300 billion or anywhere close to it on its military, other than the United States.

And with the government no longer funding the military in its socialistic manner, it might choose instead to fund many of the humanitarian causes to which private charity is now largely devoted. Private giving could take care of the Pentagon. 

But if wisdom about the counter-productive results of militarism spread, if nonviolent alternatives were learned, if free college had a positive impact on our collective intellect, and if the fact that we could end global poverty or halt global warming for a fraction of current military spending leaked out, who knows? Maybe militarism would fail in the free market.

Talk Nation Radio: Charles Komanoff: We Need a Carbon Tax

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-charles-komanoff-we-need-a-carbon-tax

Charles Komanoff is an activist, economist and policy-analyst. He directs the Carbon Tax Center and develops traffic-pricing modeling tools for the Nurture Nature Foundation. His work includes books (Power Plant Cost Escalation, Killed By Automobile, The Bicycle Blueprint), computer models, scholarly articles, and journalism. He discusses the need for a carbon tax. See http://carbontax.org

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://davidswanson.org/talknationradio

Three Images the World Needed

Employees of the U.S. government refer to people they murder as "bugsplat." They pretend that the men, women, and children they are killing with drones are just bugs, because they just look like little fuzzy creatures on a computer screen. Thank goodness for the artists who have put a giant portrait of a child in a field for the drone murderers to see and think about.  Maybe the rest of us could think about it, and do more than think about it, too.

In Davidson, North Carolina, among many other places in the world, wealthy people ignore the suffering of the poor right nearby them as well as thousands of miles away. A fraction of what the U.S. government spends killing people with drones could end starvation in the world, and many certainly seem not to care. A fraction of what someone spends in a shopping mall could make a real difference in the life of someone sleeping on a bench, but most people provide no help.

But in an odd irony, many people in North Carolina, among many other places in the world, cling to ancient magical beliefs that just happen to include worshiping a man who was poor and who recommended caring for the poor. A sculpture of a homeless Jesus, a man you're supposed to worship because he has nail marks on his metallic feet, has got some people wondering whether they should find a little decency and compassion for those homeless people on benches who are made of flesh and blood.

CIA Director John Brennan, aka Obama's Cheney, was dispatched to Ukraine, where the U.S. had already spent $5 billion stirring up trouble. Ukrainian troops were immediately sent to attack protesters in eastern cities. Brennan may have had drones in his head. Drones have been known to crash, but never to stop and have a beer with the enemy.  Drones often blow up the "wrong people," but they don't invite people to climb on board and share a laugh.  When unarmed Ukrainians confronted tanks, many soldiers joined the people. How Brennan thought Ukrainians could be sent to kill Ukrainians seems a mystery after the images of human decency have taken over.  How Christians think the poor and homeless, the hungry and ill-clothed can be blamed for their own inability to satiate their greed seems baffling when faced with the homeless Jesus.  How drone "pilots" can sit and take part in the world's worst real-life Milgram experiment ought to horrify anyone who stops and thinks -- and nothing can make people stop and think the way a great work of art can. A picture is worth a million words, and a few lives let's hope.

War Is Good for Us, Dumb New Book Claims

Ian Morris has stuck his dog's ear in his mouth, snapped a selfie, and proclaimed "Man Bites Dog." His new book War: What Is It Good For? Conflict and Progress of Civilization from Primates to Robots is intended to prove that war is good for children and other living things.  It actually proves that defenders of war are growing desperate for arguments.

Morris maintains that the only way to make peace is to make large societies, and the only way to make large societies is through war. Ultimately, he believes, the only way to protect peace is through a single global policeman.  Once you've made peace, he believes, prosperity follows.  And from that prosperity flows happiness.  Therefore, war creates happiness.  But the one thing you must never stop engaging in if you hope to have peace, prosperity, and joy is -- you guessed it -- war.

This thesis becomes an excuse for hundreds of pages of a sort of Monty Python history of the technologies of war, not to mention the evolution of chimpanzees, and various even less relevant excursions.  These pages are packed with bad history and guesswork, and I'm greatly tempted to get caught up in the details.  But none of it has much impact on the book's conclusions.  All of Morris's history, accurate and otherwise, is put to mythological use.  He's telling a simplistic story about where safety and happiness originated, and advocating highly destructive misery-inducing behavior as a result.

When small, medium, and large societies have been and are peaceful, Morris ignores them.  There are lots of ways to define peaceful, but none of them put the leading war maker at the top, and none of them place at the top only nations that could be imagined to fall under a Pax Americana. 

When societies have been enlarged peacefully, as in the formation of the European Union, Morris applauds (he thinks the E.U. earned its peace prize, and no doubt all the more so for its extensive war making as deputy globocop) but he just skips over the fact that war wasn't used in the E.U.'s formation.  (He avoids the United Nations entirely.) 

When the globocop brings death and destruction and disorder to Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, or Yemen, Morris sticks his fingers in his ears and hums.  "Interstate wars" he informs us (like most of his other claims, without any footnotes) have "almost disappeared."  Well isn't that great news?!  (Morris grotesquely minimizes Iraqi deaths from the recent [nonexistent?] war, and of course supplies no footnote.)

In a culture that has long waged wars, it has been possible to say that wars bring courage, wars bring heroism, wars bring slaves, wars bring cultural exchange. One could have asserted at various points that wars were the only way to a great many ends, not just large societies that reduce small-scale murders.  Barely a century ago William James was worried there was no way to build character without war, and defenders of war were advertising it as good for its participants in a much more direct way than Morris has been reduced to.  Has war been the means of building empires and nations? Sure, but that neither means that empires are the only way to peace, nor that war was the only nation-building tool available, nor that we must keep waging wars in an age in which we aren't forming empires or nations any longer.  That ancient pyramids may have been built by slaves hardly makes slavery the best or only way to preserve the pyramids.

Tying something good, such as ending slavery in the United States, to a war, such as the U.S. Civil War, doesn't make war the only way to end slavery.  In fact, most nations that ended slavery did so without a war.  Much less is continuing to wage wars the only possible way (or even a useful way at all) to hold off the restoration of slavery or to complete its eradication.  And, by the way, a great many societies that Morris credits with making progress through war also had slavery, monarchy, women-as-property, environmental destruction, and worship of religions now defunct.  Were those institutions also necessary for peace and prosperity, or are they irrelevant to it, or did we overcome some of them through peaceful means?  Morris, at one point, acknowledges that slavery (not just war) generated European wealth, later crediting the industrial revolution as well -- the godfather of which, in his mind, was no doubt peace created by war.  (What did you expect, the Spanish Inquisition?)

The tools of nonviolence that have achieved so much in the past century are never encountered in Morris' book, so no comparison with war is offered.  Nonviolent revolutions have tended to dismember empires or alter the leadership of a nation that remains the same size, so Morris must not view them as useful tools, even when they produce more free and prosperous societies.  But it's not clear Morris can recognize those when he sees them.  Morris claims that in the past 30 years "we" (he seems to mean in the United States, but could mean the world, it's not totally clear) have become "safer and richer than ever." 

Morris brags about U.S. murder rates falling, and yet dozens of nations from every continent have lower murder rates than the U.S.  Nor do larger nations tend to have lower murder rates than smaller nations.  Morris holds up Denmark as a model, but never looks at Denmark's society, its distribution of wealth, its social supports.  Morris claims the whole world is growing more equal in wealth. 

Back here in reality, historians of the Middle Ages say that our age has the greater disparities -- disparities that are growing within the United States in particular, but globally as well.  Oxfam reports that the richest 85 people in the world have more money than the poorest 3.5 billion.  That is the peace that Morris swears is not a wasteland.  The United States ranks third in average wealth but 27th in median wealth.  Yet, somehow Morris believes the United States can lead the way to "Denmark" and that Denmark itself can only be Denmark because of how many people the United States kills in "productive wars" (even though they have "almost disappeared").  Morris writes these scraps of wisdom from Silicon Valley, where he says he sees nothing but wealth, yet where people with nowhere to sleep but in a car may soon be banned from doing so.

We're also safer, Morris thinks, because he sees no climate emergency worth worrying about.  He's quite openly in favor of wars for oil, yet never notices oil's effects until the end of the book when he takes a moment to brush such concerns aside. 

We're also safer, Morris tells us, because there are no longer enough nukes in the world to kill us all.  Has he never heard of nuclear famine?  Does he not understand the growing risks of proliferating nuclear weapons and energy?  Two nations have thousands of nukes ready to launch in an instant, every one of them many times more powerful than the two nuclear bombs dropped thus far; and one of those nations is prodding the other one with a stick in Ukraine, resulting in more, not less, violence in the beneficiary of such expansionism.  Meanwhile the officials overseeing U.S. nukes keep getting caught cheating on tests or shipping nukes across the country unguarded, and generally view nuclear weapons oversight as the lowest most dead-end career track.  This makes us safer?

Morris hypes lies about Iran pursuing nuclear weapons.  He opens the book with a tale of a near nuclear holocaust (one of many he could have chosen). And yet, somehow disarmament isn't on the agenda, at least not with the priority given to maintaining or increasing war spending.  Not to worry, he assures us, "missile defense" actually works, or might someday, so that'll protect us -- although he parenthetically admits it won't.  The point is it's warlike, and war is good, because war spreads peace.  That's the role the U.S. must play for the good of all: policeman of the world.  Morris, while clearly a huge fan of Barack Obama, believes that all recent U.S. presidents should have a Nobel Peace Prize.  Never does Morris comment on the fact that the rest of the world sees the United States as the greatest threat to world peace.

Morris admits that the United States is encircling China with weapons, but he describes in sinister tones China's response of building weaponry that will only serve a function near China's own shores, not as defensive or unimperialistic, but at "asymmetrical" -- and we all know what that means: unfair!  China might make it hard for the globocop to wage war on and around China.  This Morris sees as the looming danger.  The solution, he thinks, is for the United States to keep its militaristic edge (never mind that its military makes China's look like a child's toy).  More drone killing is not only good but also (and this sort of nonsense always makes you wonder why its advocate bothers advocating) inevitable.  Of course, the United States won't start a war against China, says Morris, because launching wars hurts a nation's reputation so severely.  (You can see how badly the U.S. reputation has suffered in Morris' eyes following its latest string of wars.) 

And yet, what lies on the horizon, almost inevitably, Morris contends, is World War III.

There's nothing you can do about it.  Don't bother working for peace, Morris says.  But a solution may arrive nonetheless.  If we can go on dumping our money into wars for just one more century, or maybe more, proliferating weapons, destroying the environment, losing our liberties in the model land of the free, then -- if we're really lucky -- the computer programmers of Silicon Valley will save us, or some of us, or something, by . . . wait for it . . . hooking us up to computers so that our minds all meld together. 

Morris may be more confident than I that the result of this computerized rapture will be worldwide empathy rather than revulsion.  But then, he's had longer to get used to living with the way he thinks.

The Loss of John Judge Hits Hard

Our society has lost a great activist today with the death of John Judge.  No one spoke more clearly, strongly, and informedly on political power, militarism, and activism for positive change.  While John lived nextdoor to Dennis Kucinich -- and with one of the best views and one of the best collections of political books and documents -- in Washington, D.C., it was as staff person for Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney that he advanced numerous causes of peace and justice and accountability for the powerful on Capitol Hill.  On impeaching Bush and Cheney he was there first.  John's expertise reached back into history and across continents.  From the Kennedy assassination to conscientious objection to how-a-bill-becomes-a-law, he was a person to turn to for information and wisdom who was never anything but helpful, friendly, cheerful, and energetic.  He could describe the hiring of Nazis in Operation Paperclip and the creation of the Cold War and then suggest that perhaps the Nazis actually won World War II.  He could explain the creation of standing armies in such a manner that you knew without a doubt that either our society was insane or you were.  He could get you thinking and get you active.  And always with complete humility and good will.  He will be missed.

I just opened this small selection of videos of John all at once, and it wasn't enough:

The Climate Is Invading the Earth!

If an alien invader with a face were attacking the earth, the difficulties that governments have getting populations to support wars on other humans would be multiplied a thousand fold.  The most common response to officials calling some petty foreign despot "a new Hitler" would shift from "yeah, right" to "who cares?" The people of the world would unite in common defense against the hostile alien.

If only it had a face.  And what's a face anyway?  Doctors can create faces now.  You'd still love your loved ones if they lost their faces.  And I hear there's a movie in which a guy falls in love with his faceless computer.

The point is that there is an alien invader attacking the earth.  Its name is climate change.  And Uncle Sam wants YOU to fight it, as does Uncle Boris and Aunt Hannah and Cousin Juan and Brother Feng.  The whole family is in agreement on this one, and we are a family now all of a sudden.

Climate change breathes fire on our land and roasts it, killing crops, drying up water supplies, breeding dangerous diseases and infestations.  Climate change circles over the oceans and blows tidal waves toward our coasts.  It melts the icebergs in its evil claws and sinks our beach resorts beneath the sea.

How do we fight back?  We organize quickly, as only humans can.  We grab the $2 trillion that we spend on wars among ourselves each year, plus a few trillion more from some multi-billionaires who suddenly realize they don't have another planet to spend it on.  We start coating the rooftops with solar panels, aimed right at the face of the monster.  We put up windmills that will turn his nasty breath against himself. 

And we hit him where it really hurts, we cut off his supplies with crippling sanctions: we stop buying and making and consuming and discarding such incredible piles of crap every day.  Consumerism becomes rapidly understood as planetary treason, support for the Evil One.  We put a stop to its worst excesses and begin reining it in systematically -- working together as we never have before.

Ah, but the dark lord of the heat is subtle.  He has cells of loyalists among us.  They push fossil fuels on us and tell us comforting lies.  No longer!  We will drag them before the House UnEarthly Activities Committee.  "Are you now or have you ever been a promoter of oil, gas, or coal consumption?"  They'll crumble under the pressure.

Imagine how we could unite for this battle, what wits and courage and self-sacrifice we could put into it, what inspiring acts of bravery, what stunning creations of intellect!

Ah, but climate change is not a person, so forget the whole thing.  Did you ever notice what a funny grin Vladimir Putin has?  It's beginning to get on my nerves.

Talk Nation Radio: Winslow Myers on Living Beyond War

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-winslow-myers-on-living-beyond-war

Winslow Myers is an artist and activist who lives in mid-Coast Maine. For ten years he coordinated events and activities for Beyond War in central Massachusetts and led many seminars on personal and social change. Later he served on the board of Beyond War while it was based in Portland OR. He has written over a hundred opinion-editorial pieces on the subject of the prevention of war and building a world beyond war, some of which have seen print in national newspapers like the Christian Science Monitor, the San Jose Mercury News, and the San Francisco Chronicle, and all of which have been published online. He is the author of Living Beyond War: A Citizen’s Guide. He serves on the Advisory Board of the War Prevention Initiative, and is active in WorldBeyondWar.org.  His website is WinslowMyers.com.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://davidswanson.org/talknationradio

Rumsfeld Film Screening in Norfolk VA

Wednesday, April 30 at 7:15pm at Naro Cinema
THE UNKNOWN KNOWN Academy Award winning director Errol Morris (The Fog of War) offers a portrait of Donald Rumsfeld, one of the key architects of the Iraq War, and a larger-than-life character who provoked equal levels of fury and adulation from the American public. (103 mins)
 
"The film is a cat-and-mouse game in which each player thinks he's the cat, making it both thrilling and disconcerting to watch. It is also a nature documentary about behavior at the very top of the imperial food chain and a detective story about the search for a mystery that is hidden in plain sight." - A.O. Scott, The New York Times
 
Post-Film Speaker and discussion:
David Swanson is an author, speaker, radio host, and activist. His books include War No More: The Case for Abolition, Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency, and When The World Outlawed War. He is founder of the organization and movement http://worldbeyondwar.org
 
For more info visit http://www.narocinema.com
 
Sign up and share here! http://bit.ly/1txI1zE