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“End Of A Traditional Marriage?”: Republicans And The Military No Longer BFF’s

Republicans are adept, as we know, at taking a piece of existing conventional wisdom, finding one (usually totally irrelevant) fact that seems to reinforce it, and spreading that talking point far and wide. Take defense. The piece of c.w. is that Republicans are pro-military and Democrats anti. Then they find a technically true but meaningless fact, like the assertion often made by Romney and Gingrich on the campaign trail that our Navy is at its smallest size since 18-something and of course this is all Obama’s fault because, naturally, he hates the Navy. The part they leave out, of course, is that the reduced fleet size and slower “build rate” are part of  the Navy’s own strategic plan.

Which brings us to the Law of the Sea Treaty, currently being held up in the Senate by a few Republicans. The United States is not yet party to this convention, but groundwork to join had been laid by leaders from both parties over a number of years. George W. Bush supported joining. Far richer than that, though, is the fact that the then governor of Alaska in 2007 said: “I want to put my administration on record in support of the convention as the predicate for asserting sovereign rights that will be of benefit to Alaska and the nation.” But that before she flowered, shall we say, into the creature she is today.

Now, of course, because Obama supports joining, the treaty is an assault on American sovereignty. Heather Hurlburt, a leading expert on military matters, writes that joining the convention “is supported by all the current Pentagon brass, six former Secretaries of Defense and Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, five former commandants of the Coast Guard, eight former Chiefs of Naval Operations.” I guess they’re all communists or at least Trilateralists.

The Hurlburt article I link to above is well-worth reading as she lays out five areas in which today’s conservatism is actively thwarting Pentagon planning and goals, from the aforementioned treaty to the jailing of terror suspects to the question of war with Iran and other matters. One of those is alternative energy, on which the story gets even weirder.

The Pentagon is the biggest user of fossil fuels in the world. Hurlburt refers to one estimate that every gallon of gas used in Afghanistan needs seven gallons to get it there. Reasonably, the Pentagon would like to reduce its bill. It has a green initiative. Uh-oh! Green? You know that’s trouble!

Here, read David Roberts of Grist, who explains how Republicans in Congress are trying to pass laws that would prevent the Pentagon from using less-expensive fuels, but force it to use more expensive fuels (coal-to-liquid technology). He concludes:

So, let’s pause and review. The Republican position on military fuel choices is as follows: Congressional restrictions are an “unacceptable precedent” when they prohibit dirtier fuels, but necessary when they prohibit cleaner fuels. Also, it is unacceptable for the military to pay more for cleaner fuels, but necessary for it to pay more for dirtier fuel.

Part of this is their debt to Big Dirty Energy, but most of it is just ideology. It’s just a party gone mad with opposition and hatred. Which isn’t exactly news, but bears repeating and repeating in all its guises and forms.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, May 24, 2012

May 27, 2012 Posted by | Dept of Defense | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Man Versus Wild–What Japan’s Disaster Can Teach Us About American Politics

The earthquake and potential nuclear catastrophe in Japan have brought home a set of questions that have haunted philosophers for hundreds of years—and have played an important role in American politics for over a century. They have to do with the relationship between humanity and nature—not nature as “the outdoors,” but as the obdurate bio-geo-physiochemical reality in which human beings and other animals dwell. To what extent does nature set limits on human possibilities? And to what extent can human beings overcome these limits?

The past million years or so provide much evidence that humanity can overcome natural limits, including the seasons, the alternation of night and day, infertile soil and swamps, gravity (think of airplanes), and infectious disease. But every once in a while, an earthquake, a hurricane, a volcanic eruption, the exhaustion of precious metals, a huge forest fire, or the spread of a mysterious disease can bring home the limits that nature sets on humanity. Politicians don’t debate issues in these terms, but that doesn’t mean that these questions aren’t stirring beneath their platitudes.

In the United States, concern about the limits of nature used to be primarily a Republican priority. Theodore Roosevelt, of course, made conservation a governmental concern. But Herbert Hoover, Dwight Eisenhower, and Richard Nixon also made their marks as conservationists—in Nixon’s case, as the president who presided over the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. Democrats, and liberal Democrats, were more associated with a kind of can-do/anything-is-possible Americanism that aimed for everything from going to the moon to eradicating poverty.

But the political parties and ideologies have reversed dramatically on these issues. Republicans and conservatives have become not just less concerned than Democrats and liberals about the limits that nature puts on humanity; they insist, for the most part, that these limits don’t exist. They are in denial—whether about the availability of petroleum or the danger of global warming; and their denial imperils not just America’s future, but that of the world.

The big switch between the parties happened in the early 1970s, in response to increasingly serious air and water pollution, and to the first of several energy crises that saw the demand for oil exceed the supply. One of the first prominent politicians to respond to these twin crises was California Governor Jerry Brown, who proclaimed an “era of limits.” Brown’s crusade for clean air and alternative energy was taken up by Jimmy Carter during his presidency, and by the environmental movements, which had been associated as much with Republicans as Democrats, but which became increasingly supportive of the Democratic Party, eventually endorsing and helping fund liberal Democratic candidates.

During the ‘70s, the key figure in transforming the Republican outlook on nature was Ronald Reagan. In his 1980 campaign, Reagan criticized Carter’s measures to limit energy consumption and to finance alternative fuel sources. He blamed rising oil prices entirely on the restrictions that Carter had placed on the market. He denied that a problem of pollution existed—“air pollution has been substantially controlled,” he declared during a campaign stop in Youngstown, Ohio.

Once in office, Reagan put a foe of conservation, James Watt, in charge of the Interior Department; a critic of environmental protection, Anne Gorsuch, at the Environmental Protection Agency; and he cut the research and development budget for alternative energy by 86 percent. Under Carter, the United States had become the world leader in alternative energy. By the time Reagan left office, the country was beginning to lag behind Western Europe and Japan. Reagan didn’t try to overcome the limits that nature was placing on economic growth; he wished them away.

Reagan’s successors have followed his lead. Their “solution” to the prospect of a global shortage in oil is “drill, baby drill.” Their solution to global warming is to deny that it exists and to kill off measures such as high-speed rail that might reduce pollution and oil use. As my colleague Jonathan Chait has noted, Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously rejected an amendment that said that “Congress accepts the scientific finding of the Environmental Protection Agency that ‘warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level.'”

The Republicans, it should be noted, didn’t just deny that human activities are contributing to global warming, but that global warming itself exists—a position that is completely outside the realm of scientific belief. It doesn’t qualify as argument, but as delusion.

Yet during the last year, we’ve seen two disasters that show the price humanity can pay for harboring illusions about the workings of nature. First was the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that occurred in early 2010. Yes, it occurred due to lax regulation from the Department of Interior and a rush to profit by BP and Halliburton. But the reason behind the failure of the Interior Department to regulate, and the failure of BP to heed the dangers of a spill, was a belief that nature would not exact revenge. It was a refusal to take the limits set by nature seriously.

The Japanese, of course, cannot be blamed for the calamity that has befallen them. Lacking domestic access to oil, they relied on nuclear power, and they built their reactors to withstand the largest earthquakes and tsunamis—though they didn’t count on both happening simultaneously. Yet what happened in Japan shows vividly that millions of years after humans began inhabiting the earth, nature is still a force to be reckoned with, and it still imposes limits on the decisions we make as a society. Will Republicans come to understand that? Or will they continue to believe that the only limits worth acknowledging are those that government puts on the bank accounts of their corporate sponsors?

By: John B. Judis, Senior Editor, The New Republic, March 16, 2011

March 17, 2011 Posted by | Climate Change, Disasters, Economy, Energy, Environment, Global Warming, Ideologues, Japan, Nuclear Power Plants, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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