Wednesday, February 18, 2009

No One Will Confuse Barak Obama with Ronald Regan

Weapons Work Ignored in Stimulus
Weapons development funds weren't a part of the $787 billion stimulus package the president signed this week, but some say boosting defense spending and innovation could create jobs and help the ailing economy bounce back.

A series of short videos released on YouTube recently showed the U.S. Army's vision of the military to come with infantrymen maneuvering robots, electronics and guided missiles that moved at lightning speed with James Bond coolness.

Called the Future Combat System, the short videos show the many moving parts of the modern military using state-of-the-art equipment to fight a common foe. But despite the cheers at the end of each presentation, the FCS program may not have a happy ending.

While the stimulus bill President Obama signed into law on Tuesday includes $10 billion to upgrade military barracks, hospitals, clinics and child-care centers, it doesn't add a single dollar for weapons development. And some observers think that's a mistake.

A stimulus in defense spending, they say, would be a victory not only for American servicemen and women -- but for the nation's economy, as well.

The Lockheed Corporation, linking defense spending to immediate economic stimulus, says 95,000 Americans' jobs across the country depend on the Defense Department buying more of its F-22 Raptors.

Click here for photos of weapons of the future.

"This is shovel-ready," said Larry Lawson, executive vice president and general manager of the F/A-22 Raptor program. "Our point is, this preserves jobs, and it is immediate. You don't have to develop anything."

But a new administration means new priorities, and the Defense Department is now reviewing future purchases.

The F-22 has Mach speed capabilities, but speed comes at a price. Each F-22 costs $350 million -- a sum that could make the fighter jet a target for budget-cutters.

"It does not make sense to cut defense procurement and eliminate high-paying, middle-class union jobs, in order to fund other government programs to create jobs. That's just plain stupid," said James Carafano, military affairs expert for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

"We really haven't significantly increased the core defense budget," Carafano added. "Most additional money has gone for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a result, the military still has not fully recovered from the 'procurement holiday' of the Clinton years... and we've used up a lot of equipment since then."

"The world becomes a more, not a less troubled place, in tough economic times," said Carafano. "It is not a good time to cut the defense budget."

But some observers say defense budgets have been fraught with overspending and poor oversight for years.

"Last year, [defense contractors] got 127 of the F-22s," said Larry Korbs, a former Navy flight instructor and author of "Building a Military for the 21st Century."

He said conservatives and defense contractors are playing politics with the Obama administration.

"Under Bush," Korbs said, "defense spending went up 40 percent from 2001 to 2008 in real dollars," he said. "There is no defense spending cut."

"The last eight years have been a defense spending Mardi Gras," said Collin Clark, editor of DODD Buzz and the Pentagon correspondent for

"I wouldn't say there was a lot of wasteful spending," he said. "Waste is a loaded term, these are complicated systems. Contractors will just be given a smaller margin of error now."

Defense officials planned the modernization of the military during the money-flush years of the Bush administration. Among the projects that they say would boost the nation's defense capabilities -- and conceivably stimulate the economy through the jobs created to build them -- are:

-- The Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV), an all-terrain, multi-purpose robot platform that is already used by Explosives Ordinance Disposal units to handle IEDs. The Army has bigger plans for the durable little robots -- if more can be built.

-- Micro Air Vehicles (MAVs), remote-controlled "robo-bugs" that the Air Force says could be deployed for a variety of purposes, including close reconnaissance. These small, sophisticated devices -- as little as six inches long -- can achieve a variety of disguises through "collapsible wings" and "sliding skins."

-- More air drones, which work around the clock and can sense human targets through voice and face-recognition. They can quickly send back real-time footage and aggressively attack their targets.

-- Quick Kill, an active protective system designed to destroy enemy weapons and literally deflect incoming projectiles, like a rocket propelled grenade. This high-tech "hit avoidance" shield may crack under budgetary constraints, a concern for Raytheon, the 72,000-employee aerospace and defense company in Waltham, Mass., that produces it.

Whether these programs will stay on course in a time of economic hardship remains to be seen.

"Cutting any major modernization program is just cutting into muscle and bone. The excuse that 'we don't need this' or 'this is a Cold War' system is just smoke and mirrors," Carafano said.

But absent any future funds, Future Combat Systems will remain a concept for YouTube. The Army has pulled down its FCS Web site.
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I Wonder if Michelle Obama Is Proud of This?

Holder Calls U.S. 'Nation of Cowards'

WASHINGTON -- Eric Holder, the nation's first black attorney general, said Wednesday the United States was "a nation of cowards" on matters of race, with most Americans avoiding candid discussions of racial issues.

In a speech to Justice Department employees marking Black History Month, Holder said the workplace is largely integrated but Americans still self-segregate on the weekends and in their private lives.

"Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and I believe continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards," Holder said.

Race issues continue to be a topic of political discussion, but "we, as average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race."

Holder's speech echoed President Barack Obama's landmark address last year on race relations during the hotly contested Democratic primaries, when the then-candidate urged the nation to break "a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years" and bemoaned the "chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races." Obama delivered the speech to try to distance himself from the angry rhetoric of his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Holder cited that speech by Obama as part of the motivation for his words Wednesday, saying Americans need to overcome an ingrained inhibition against talking about race.

"If we're going to ever make progress, we're going to have to have the guts, we have to have the determination, to be honest with each other. It also means we have to be able to accept criticism where that is justified," Holder told reporters after the speech.

Holder urged people of all races to use Black History Month as a chance for honest discussion of racial matters, including issues of health care, education and economic disparities.

Race, Holder said, "is an issue we have never been at ease with and, given our nation's history, this is in some ways understandable... If we are to make progress in this area, we must feel comfortable enough with one another and tolerant enough of each other to have frank conversations about the racial matters that continue to divide us."

In a country founded by slave owners, race has bedeviled the nation throughout its history, with blacks denied the right to vote just a few decades ago. Obama's triumph last November as well as the nomination of Holder stand as historic achievements of two black Americans.

Holder told hundreds of Justice Department employees gathered for the event that they have a special responsibility to advance racial understanding.

Even when people mix at the workplace or afterwork social events, Holder argued, many Americans in their free time are still segregated inside what he called "race-protected cocoons."

"Saturdays and Sundays, America in the year 2009 does not in some ways differ significantly from the country that existed almost 50 years ago. This is truly sad," said Holder.

Andrew Grant-Thomas, Deputy Director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University, praised Holder's general message but said the wording of the speech may alienate some.

"He's right on the substance, but that's probably not the most politic way of saying it. I'm certain there are people who will hear him and say, 'That's obnoxious,"' he said, adding that what was missing from Holder's speech were specific examples of what painful subjects need to be addressed.

Hilary Shelton, vice president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, called the speech "constructively provocative."

"Nobody wants to be considered a coward. We've learned to get along by exclusion and silence. We need to talk about it. People need to feel comfortable saying the wrong things," said Shelton.

Holder is headed to Guantanamo Bay early next week to inspect the terrorist detention facility there. Obama has assigned Holder to lead a special task force aimed at closing the site within a year.

Holder's Justice Department will have to decide which suspects to bring to U.S. courts for trial, which to prosecute through the military justice system, and which to send back to their home countries.
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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Psst? Mr. President, Tell Timmy that the "Hell, I don't know if this is true either" look is no way to turn an economy around...

Today's Rapier Essay in Pictures:
Has Anyone Noticed that Treasury Secretary Geithner is the LEAST Confident Looking Man Ever Appointed to a High Post in Washington?


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Monday, February 16, 2009

Venezuela or USA? Getting Hard to Tell

Mandate for Socialism

CARACAS, Venezuela — President Hugo Chavez says a referendum victory that removed limits on his re-election is a mandate to intensify his socialist agenda for decades to come. Opponents warn of an impending dictatorship.

Both sides had called the outcome of Sunday's vote key to the future of this South American country, split down the middle between those who worship the president for redistributing Venezuela's oil riches and those who see him as a power-hungry autocrat.

"Those who voted "yes" today voted for socialism, for revolution," Chavez thundered to thousands of ecstatic supporters jamming the streets around the presidential palace. Fireworks lit up the Caracas skyline, and one man walked though the crowd carrying a painting of Chavez that read: "Forever."

Josefa Dugarte stared at the crowd from the stoop of her apartment building with look of dismay.

"These people don't realize what they have done," she muttered.

With 94 percent of the vote counted, official results showed the amendment passing 54 percent to 46 percent, an irreversible trend, and opposition leaders accepted the results. Tibisay Lucena, president of National Electoral Council, said turnout was 67 percent.

The constitutional overhaul allows all public officials to run for re-election as many times as they want, removing barriers to a Chavez candidacy in the next presidential elections in 2012 and beyond.
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