The bad weather over America

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Headlines of the moment:

“Police Questioning Allowed To the Point of Coercion” (Linda Greenhouse, Supreme Court Roundup, the New York Times,)

“Trust in the Military Heightens Among Baby Boomers’ Children” (Robin Toner, the New York Times,)

Yes, as Boston Globe columnist James Carroll so eloquently puts it, the weather has indeed changed over America, “a nation so adrift that it dares not look twice at its real condition.”

Why has that weather changed? I offer (as exhibit A) a powerful column by Paul Krugman of the Times, reminding us that our leaders are not “conservatives” but radicals, “who want to do away with the social and economic system we have, and the fiscal crisis they are concocting may give them the excuse they need.” In this sense, as possibly in Iraq, they may welcome the economic and social mess they’re causing for where it drives us — in Iraq, to further “regime changes” and the attempted remaking of the Middle East; at home to, as the economist James K. Galbraith suggested recently in Newsday (my exhibit B), the full-scale dismantlement of the social safety net, and so the completion of the truncated Reagan revolution of the 1980s. As Galbraith makes clear, our new weather system has blown in from Texas.

But the weather’s not bad everywhere as it happens. I was remembering recently that when I lived in San Francisco’s Mission District years ago and that city’s famed fog rolled in, there would often be a break right over our block and the sun would still stream through. That’s the case today for the military-industrial complex, whose largest companies are again on a buying spree gobbling up the small firms in the forefront of the development of high-tech warfare and the digital battlefield. As Renae Merle reports in the Washington Post, they proudly claim that they are in the process of transforming themselves from weapons makers to “systems integrators.” In a portrait of one of the giants, Lockheed Martin, the invaluable Arms Trade Research Center suggests other ways in which such firms are becoming systems integrators — they are helping integrate foreign policy, war, and domestic politics into a system that keeps their businesses humming day and night. It’s not only the Matrix that’s reloading. Tom

The bad weather over America
By James Carroll
The Boston Globe
May 27, 2003

May 27, 2003

When will the bad weather end? Why the distance between what is and what ought to be? Where are Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction? If he was such a threat, why did his army perform so poorly? Does it matter where he is? If the war in Iraq was not about oil, why does the United States insist on its indefinite control? If the war was, instead, about democracy, why are the Iraqi people, including Saddam’s proven enemies, excluded from authority? Is Iraq to be like Afghanistan, where warlords rule and heroin thrives? Are there more suicide-bombers now than ever? Has the American war on terrorism advanced safety? How did relations between the United States and its European allies become so fragile? Will history recognize the 21st century Anglo-American combine as a mere continuation of the 19th century British Empire?….

To read more Carroll click here

Stating the Obvious
By Paul Krugman
The New York Times
May 27, 2003

The lunatics are now in charge of the asylum.” So wrote the normally staid Financial Times, traditionally the voice of solid British business opinion, when surveying last week’s tax bill. Indeed, the legislation is doubly absurd: the gimmicks used to make an $800-billion-plus tax cut carry an official price tag of only $320 billion are a joke, yet the cost without the gimmicks is so large that the nation can’t possibly afford it while keeping its other promises.

But then maybe that’s the point. The Financial Times suggests that “more extreme Republicans” actually want a fiscal train wreck: “Proposing to slash federal spending, particularly on social programs, is a tricky electoral proposition, but a fiscal crisis offers the tantalizing prospect of forcing such cuts through the back door.”

To read more Krugman click here

Bush Tax Cuts Will Do a Number on Us
By James K. Galbraith
May 23, 2003

It isn’t about the economy. It isn’t about meeting the needs of the country. It certainly isn’t about managing the federal fisc. No. The new tax cut is about cutting taxes on the rich. Texas-style.

Here in Texas, mother state to George W. Bush, we don’t pay state income tax. Our public services (“Mississippi with roads”) are financed through sales and property taxes. For the rich, these are very minor burdens.

Bush’s new law will give a taste of Texas taxation to the whole country. Tax on dividends will go down to nothing – supposedly for only a few years, but that’s a joke. Tax on capital gains will drop to 15 percent. The top rate on the income tax comes down to 35 percent. Add to this the in-progress reduction of the estate tax, and the pattern is clear. It will be great to be American – if you are very rich.

James K. Galbraith is a professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin and a senior scholar at the Levy Economics Institute.

To read more Galbraith click here

Defense Firms Consolidate As War Goes High-Tech
By Renae Merle
The Washington Post
May 27, 2003

The nation’s leading defense contractors are gobbling up small technology firms in a consolidation binge driven by the Pentagon’s demand that future military conflicts be dominated by high-tech warfare.

The buying spree is contributing to a fundamental change in the structure of the defense industry as the top players move away from their roles as mere weapons makers and increasingly cast themselves as “systems integrators” that produce high-tech networks for the battlefield. In the past three years, contractors have swept up about 180 small tech firms, mostly in Northern Virginia, a 25 percent increase from the previous three-year span.

In one recent high-profile case, General Dynamics Corp., which makes M1 tanks, bought Herndon-based Creative Technology Inc., which designs computer networks that transmit classified information.

To read more Merle click here

Lockheed Martin: Mega-merchant of Death
The Arms Trade Research Center

Lockheed Martin is the world’s largest weapons contractor. The company
received $17 billion in contracts from the Pentagon in fiscal year 2002,
plus almost $2 billion for nuclear weapons design work from the
Department of Energy. In the lead up to the war in Iraq, the company
boasted a 36% jump in profits, with a 15% increase in military aircraft
sales alone.

Lockheed Martin’s significant global presence stems from its role as
the world’s largest arms exporting company. Its most lucrative export
item is the F-16 combat aircraft, with more than 3,000 sold overseas
since the mid-1970s. The company also makes the Hellfire missile,
“bunker buster” munitions and the massive C-130 transport plane.

In late 2001, the company won what has been touted as “the largest
defense contract in history,” a $19 billion development contract for the
$200 billion Joint Strike Fighter program. Plans call for producing
variants of the JSF for the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marines, as well
as for the Navy and Air Force of the United Kingdom. Other countries
that have been discussed as potential customers for this “world
aircraft” are Germany, Turkey, and Israel.

Lockheed Martin’s Weapons at War

Lockheed Martin’s F-117 stealth attack fighters were part of the
opening salvo of “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” bombing “leadership targets”
in Baghdad.

The company’s Paveway II bomb, which is guided to its target by a
sensor, saw its first widespread use in this war. Versions of the
Paveway are built by both Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, which spent $15
million to gain certification to begin making its version of the bombs.
The two companies received a $280 million order in mid-March to produce
hundreds more of the weapons.

Lockheed Martin also makes a version of the Patriot missile, known as
the PAC-3, designed to destroy incoming missiles by ramming into them.
In early March, the Army granted Lockheed Martin a $100 million contract
for 212 PAC-3 for use in Iraq. Later the same month, the Air Force
announced it was ramping up production of the $91 million per copy
missile, with a plan to increase production to 20 missiles per month in

Lockheed Martin is also positioning itself to reap the benefit of
increased spending on “homeland security.” James Wright, Vice President
for Strategic Development, explains their hope that homeland security is
a “long term effort and although [military] budgets will rise and fall,
the budget for homeland security issues will rise overtime.” A large
modernization contract with the Coast Guard has morphed into a major
effort for port, aviation and border security, securing the company a
place in homeland security contracts for years to come.

Influence Peddling and War Making: Lockheed Martin’s Political

Lockheed Martin played a “behind the scenes” role in developing support
for the Bush administration’s war in Iraq. In 2002 the Coalition for the
Liberation of Iraq was formed with the explicit support of the Bush
administration. Former Lockheed Martin vice-president Bruce Jackson
chairs the group, and he is joined by numerous other VIPS like former
Secretary of State George Shultz and Senator John McCain. The group’s
worked to promote Bush’s plan for war in Iraq.

Bruce Jackson’s influence extends even further. In February 2003, the
White House was feeling anti-war pressure from France, Germany and other
members of what they derided as “Old Europe.” A letter signed by 10
Central and Eastern European nations positioning themselves as the “New
Europe,” strongly supported Washington’s war in Iraq, creating a spilt
in Europe, that helped the Bush administration make a stronger case for
war. Bruce Jackson, who has been working with the so-called Vilnius 10
since 2000 as they seek NATO membership, initiated and helped draft that

Jackson, who also runs the Project on Transitional Democracies, is a
long-time supporter and active proponent of North Atlantic Treaty
Organization (NATO) expansion to include former Soviets states. In that
capacity, he has helped open up a whole new market to Lockheed Martin’s
combat aircraft and weapons systems. And in January 2003, Jackson’s work
began to pay off as his former company and Poland signed a $3.5 billion
contract for 48 F-16 fighter planes (which Poland will purchase with
$3.8 billion in loans from the U.S.).

Lockheed Martin is the “leader of the PACs” — Political Action
Committees — among U.S. weapons manufacturing firms. According to data
assembled by the Center for Responsive Politics, the company made over
$10.6 million in campaign contributions to candidates and party
committees from 1990 to 2000, including $3.4 million in donations in the
run-up to the year 2000 elections. The company’s giving is steady now,
with more than $2.2 million in donations in 2002.

Lockheed Martin Fund Facts

Lockheed Martin gets $105 from each U.S. Taxpayer and $228 from each
U.S. household to support their weapons building endeavors. The
company’s effective 2002 tax rate was 7.7% compared to an average
individual tax rate of 21-33%.

Lockheed Martin CEO Vance Coffman made $25,497,434 in 2002, or $98,000
PER DAY while the average Army private risking his or her life in Iraq
is paid just $19,585- just above the national poverty rate.

Sources For More Info:

Center for Responsive Politics site at www.opensecrets.org
Lockheed Martin at www.lmco.com.
The Arms Trade Revealed at www.fas.org/asmp.

To read the full send-out from which this piece was taken click here