Nota Bene #118: VOTE!

“I am not fit for this office and should never have been here.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #115: RIP No. 32

“If you’re really pro-life, do me a favor—don’t lock arms and block medical clinics. If you’re so pro-life, lock arms and block cemeteries.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #107: Zzzzzzzzzzzzz

“I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #100: Il Planetario di Figaro

Wow, 100 issues of Nota Bene! Props to Russ for helping me for a while with this nifty little S&R feature. Never mind all that now, let’s get on with this issue. “What splendid buildings our architects would be able to execute if only they could finally be less obedient to gravity!” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #99: Heed the Peace Gnome

“You just pick up a chord, go twang, and you’ve got music.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #97: toDwI'ma' qoS yItIvqu'!

“To be truly free, and truly to appreciate its freedom, a society must be literate.” Continue reading

Nota Bene #94: Bear Vs. Ninja

“Overture, curtain, lights Continue reading

Faced with nuclear attack, why not surrender and live to fight another day?

deproliferatorThe Deproliferator

Conventional thinking holds that deterrence has kept us safe. If, that is, you don’t mind a little brinkmanship like Berlin in 1961 and the Cuban Missile crisis. The history of the Cold War was also sprinkled with accidents such as the 1966 Palomares, Spain crash of a B-52 bearing four hydrogen bombs.

Nor has the Cold War’s thaw elicited the same sigh of relief from the disarmament community as from the public at large. One state or another always seems to be looking for an excuse to develop nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, non-state actors, such as al-Qaeda or Chechen rebels, make no bones whatsoever about their nuclear avarice. Continue reading

From the people who brought you the echo chamber: a call to give back

By J. Pratt Vulpes

Imagine a world where children are raised to become agents of change throughout their work and lives, not docile employees, consumers, and followers.  One in which corporate personhood has been displaced, and human needs and the environment take precedence over the unlimited quest to maximize profits.  A world where every citizen feels confident speaking out and organizing to advance a shared vision of justice.

Imagine that, in this world, health care for all prevails, with no place for insurance company intermediaries or pharmaceutical ad campaigns.  Elections are publicly funded and verifiable, and politicians are responsive to the people, not to corporate lobbyists and wealthy donors.  Openness is prized, and intellectual property restrictions, proprietary software, and closed ways of doing business have fallen from favor.

Imagine people no longer stirred by religious leaders to restrict the role of women, reject science, and hate or invade their neighbors.  People boldly charting their own courses in life according to their values and sense of authenticity, rather than following standard routes laid down by others.  People living without fear of scarcity or distrust of difference, confident that together their diverse abilities are ample to meet all their needs.

For ten decades, the industry I now have the privilege of representing has worked tenaciously to protect you from this nightmare scenario.  Continue reading

Darth Vader meets Mel Brooks

400risk_gameOur illustrious leadership is haggling over the super-sized bailout like it was the end of the world.  My god, do you know how much money we’re talking about?  Actually, i do.  It’s roughly equal to what the Department of Defense spends every year.  And for those kind of duckets we get our ass kicked by guys wearing dress shoes without socks.  To make matters worse, we’re going stone broke in the process of losing to pick-up teams.  We can call ourselves the Harlem Globetrotters all day long but that don’t make it so.  I have no use for the American Empire, but if an Empire it shall be does it have to be such a half-assed failure of an empire?

Continue reading

Politicians play general, generals play politics (part 5)

In the conclusion of our series on Jeff Huber, columnist at Militar.com and author of a new novel, Bathtub Admirals, we asked him more questions on foreign policy.

In a New York Times article, “Look Who’s Tough on Iran Now,” on June 1, William Broad explains that the International Atomic Agency, which had heretofore viewed Iran’s credibility on its nuclear program as a glass half full, now sees it as not just a glass half-empty, but one rapidly draining. Continue reading

Politicians play general, generals play politics (part 4)

Our discussion with Military.com columnist Jeff Huber, author of a new novel, Bathtub Admirals, continues.

How did you score a column on Military.com?

It was easy, to rob an expression from Inspector Clouseau. All I had to do was enlist. Milcom’s editor Ward Carroll and I were contemporaries. Ward was a Tomcat back-seater and no, before you ask, he’s not Buzz Rucci from Bathtub Admirals. I never met Ward while we were on active duty. Continue reading

Politicians play general, generals play politics (part 3)

We engage Military.com columnist Jeff Huber in a wide-ranging discussion that begins with his new novel, Bathtub Admirals.

Pitch Bathtub Admirals to prospective readers as if you were trying to interest an agent in representing you.

In the background we see the bizarro world version of historic events: the Cold War, the Tailhook scandal and so on. In some of the promo material I describe the book as a “satire of America’s rise to global dominance,” and at one level it illustrates how the military-centric U.S. policies led to the mess we’re in now, although I cut the book off on the week before 9/11. Continue reading

Triumph and tragedy: LIFE and the Space Race

Part five in a series.

LIFE’s portrayal of the space race represented, in most respects, a logical extension of its war coverage. Many of the space program’s early goals were military in nature, and as in World War II, technology was once again both demon and messiah, depending on whether it was theirs or ours.

. . .Sputnik proved that there were great military, as well as scientific, advances in the U.S.S.R. Getting their heavy satellite up meant that Russia had developed a more powerful rocket than any the U.S. had yet fired and substantial Soviet claims of success with an intercontinental missile. Putting Sputnik into a precise orbit meant Russia had solved important problems of guidance necessary to aim its missiles at U.S. targets. The satellite could also be the forerunner of a system of observation posts which would watch the U.S. unhindered and with deadly accuracy (10/21/57, 24). Continue reading

Presenting our latest Scrogue: Randall Forsberg, champion of reason and sanity

forsberg2.jpg “Nuclear war must be the most carefully avoided topic of general significance in the contemporary world. . . . almost everyone seems to feel adequately informed by reading one book about nuclear war.” Paul Brians, chronicler of nuclear culture

At one time we ducked the topic out of stark, raving fear. Whether Russia or the US started it, we were all going to be blown up. But today we tune out because we believe that the Cold War is over and that civilization is safe from total annihilation.

What’s more, we’d like to keep it that way. Which may explain why, according to a recent Zogby poll, more than half of us support a strike against Iran to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons.

But it will take more than that to keep us safe. In truth, the United States and Russia still keep one-third of their strategic arsenals on launch-ready alert. Also, the US plans to franchise Star Wars (the Strategic Defense Initiative) to Poland and the Czech Republic as if it were just another latte hut. Continue reading

World War III under way; America hasn't noticed?

“Corporate America ought to be darned worried. If you are a major corporation with very sensitive technology, you have been targeted. Somebody is spying on you right now.” Todd Davis, FBI supervisor in Sacramento

There’s been a great deal of debate lately about spying – FISA and domestic spying issues, for example – and now the news that Blackwater is augmenting its army, navy and air force with its own CIA. While I’m routinely bemused by the conclusions we seem to reach (we’re about to approve a new Attorney General who doesn’t think waterboarding is torture, remember), I do welcome these kinds of discussions. The world of information and intelligence has been changing dramatically for years and our policy deliberations haven’t kept pace. It’s critical to think about what we know, how we know it, what we do with it, and the implications of not knowing it, because despite the fact that they’ve been awfully cavalier about the Constitution, our conservative friends are generally right in noting that there are bad guys in the world. In the end, the question really boils down to how can we best deal with the bogeys without becoming bad guys ourselves.

There’s one area that we aren’t talking about, though, and it’s a topic we ought to be very concerned with: corporate espionage. Continue reading

First-strike capability doesn’t just describe Hillary’s debate style

hillary.jpgThe recent Clinton-Obama exchange over nuclear weapons was much scrutinized, especially by the right. ABC News reported it thusly:

“Regarding terrorist targets in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region, Obama told The Associated Press Thursday: ‘I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance.’ He then added: ‘Involving civilians.’ Seeming to think twice about his response, Obama then said, ‘Let me scratch that. There’s been no discussion of nuclear weapons. That’s not on the table.'”

As Chris Bowers of Open Left explained, “It should not be news that someone is opposed to pre-emptively nuking a country in order to ‘fight terrorism.’ It should be as normal as the sun rising. It should only be news when someone supports, or even considers, that position.” Continue reading

Russia’s sabre rattling exposes the rust on the blade

One should never forget that dictatorships are inherently inefficient. Russia, now one of the world’s largest oil and gas suppliers, has made a great deal of cash out of the energy run. Most of that has been siphoned off by cronies, apparatchiks, corruption, and outright inefficiency.

When Russia declared a few days ago that they were planning to take the opportunity to extend the might of the Russian military out towards the North Pole many were concerned that they would lay claim to the oil and gas reserves currently held in international waters. They sent an ice-breaker and one of their nuclear subs to explore the Lomonosov Ridge which they claim extends from Murmansk under the pole. If they could prove it they may have a claim to the area.

However, those plans have sprung a leak. Continue reading