Pentagon ready to bioengineer insects for peaceful projects — that’s all [they say]


JasonOndreicka/iStock

❝ The Pentagon is studying whether insects can be enlisted to combat crop loss during agricultural emergencies…The bugs would carry genetically engineered viruses that could be deployed rapidly if critical crops such as corn or wheat became vulnerable to a drought, a natural blight or a sudden attack by a biological weapon.

❝ The concept envisions the viruses making genetic modifications that protect the plants immediately, during a single growing season…But some critics find the whole thing creepy.

A team of skeptical scientists and legal scholars published an article in the journal Science…arguing that the…program opens a “Pandora’s box” and involves technology that “may be widely perceived as an effort to develop biological agents for hostile purposes and their means of delivery”…”The DARPA program is easily weaponized”.

As a signatory to the multilateral Biological Weapons Convention we joined the most global of treaties banning biological weapons. I realize that doesn’t mean a whole boatload in the era of Trumplicans. Aside from the automatic antagonisms between the Pentagon and those scientists who have chosen a path to aid nations and human beings which doesn’t include offensive weapons — the BWC seems the best vehicle to require political and fiscal transparency on the question. This needn’t interfere with legitimate research and prototyping.

Of course, I worry about rogue governments ready to turn their backs on existing treaties and international agreements of ANY kind if they think it will advance their ideology and maybe line a few pockets along the way. So, yes, we have to keep on eye on where this Pentagon research leads. A fight that may be easier to construct after the coming mid-term election…and 2020.

Frankly, like many already concerned about dangerous if not apocalyptic abuses of CRISPR – I think folks need to spend more time worrying about what gets produced on an experimental basis in the garage of some populist nutter. This truly doesn’t cost as much as rocket science.

Pentagon censoring war news

❝ [We have] an increasingly adversarial relationship between Defense Secretary James Mattis’ Cabinet department and the reporters who cover it. Chief among the complaints, according to defense reporters who spoke to POLITICO, are declining access to Mattis and other military officials, as well as a sense that reporters are not receiving the information they need to keep the public informed about America’s military activities.

Mattis has not briefed reporters on-camera in the Pentagon since April, while his chief spokesperson, Dana White, has not done so since May.

❝ Kevin Baron, the executive editor of Defense One, said Trump’s simultaneous war on the press and hyperfocus on media have combined to fundamentally change interactions inside the Pentagon.

“It’s definitely like no time that I’ve ever seen, and this is my 10th year on the Pentagon beat,” he said. “We used to have the secretary of defense and the chairman of the joint chiefs side by side in briefing room at least once a month, and if we didn’t get once a month, we complained. We’re so far beyond the way things used to be, and it’s all because of Trump.”

“In the First Amendment the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.” Hugo Black, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, 1971.

Think it’s difficult to start a nuclear holocaust?

❝ Serving as a US Air Force launch control officer for intercontinental missiles in the early Seventies, First Lieutenant Bruce Blair figured out how to start a nuclear war and kill a few hundred million people…When he quit the Air Force in 1974, Blair was haunted by the power that had been within his grasp, andhe resolved to do something about it. But when he started lobbying his former superiors, he was met with indifference and even active hostility. “I got in a fair scrap with the Air Force over it,” he recalled. As Blair well knew, there was supposed to be a system already in place to prevent that type of unilateral launch. The civilian leadership in the Pentagon took comfort in this, not knowing that the Strategic Air Command, which then controlled the Air Force’s nuclear weapons, had quietly neutralized it…

❝ …The system the military designed was “structured to drive the president invariably toward a decision to launch under attack” if he or she believes there is “incontrovertible proof that warheads actually are on the way.” Ensuring that all missiles and bombers would be en route before any enemy missiles actually landed meant that most of the targets in the strategic nuclear war plan would be destroyed—thereby justifying the purchase and deployment of the massive force required to execute such a strike.

Interesting, scary, well-researched in-depth work of journalism. Take the time to read it. Please.

Most Americans, I am certain, haven’t the slightest clue about any of the information contained in the “unsafety procedures” actually in place to manage the largest nuclear arsenal in the world.

The Military-Industrial Complex is alive and well under Republican Control


GOP Sen. Jim Inhofe – “a new emphasis on defending America.”AP Photo

The Senate on Monday easily passed a $716 billion defense policy bill that aims to continue Republican-led efforts to build up the U.S. military but could set up a clash with defense hawks in the House over how best to do it.

The massive legislation would authorize more warships and fighter jets, more troops and the largest pay raise for them in nearly a decade, but in some cases it would still lag behind a House version passed in May and the Pentagon’s own designs.

Keep in mind taxpayer dollar$ already fund Pentagon featherbedding greater than the sum of the next seven countries’ spending. China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, France, United Kingdom, and Japan combined.

Of a total $716 billion, the legislation would authorize $617.6 billion for the Pentagon base budget and $68.5 billion in war spending in the Overseas Contingency Operations account. It would authorize another $21.6 billion for nuclear weapons programs under the Energy Department.

If the DOD’s budget remained the same among other things it would have been possible to have funded public college for every student in the US and had $12B left over. That’s not how our Congressional war pimps organize their priorities. Colleges and students don’t prioritize kickbacks in dollar$ and job$ and campaign funding to politicians. Democrats aren’t exempt from condemnation. Just that Republicans would rather spend more time in bed with the death and destruction business.

United States of Amnesia

❝ “The United States of Amnesia.” That’s what Gore Vidal once called us. We remember what we find it convenient to remember and forget everything else. That forgetfulness especially applies to the history of others. How could their past, way back when, have any meaning for us today? Well, it just might. Take the European conflagration of 1914 to 1918, for example…

❝…in Europe, a hundred years ago, war had become politically purposeless. Yet the leaders of the world’s principal powers — including, by 1917, U.S. president Woodrow Wilson — could conceive of no alternative but to try harder, even as the seat of Western civilization became a charnel house…

❝…similarities between the Great War as it unspooled and our own not-in-the-least-great war(s) deserve consideration. Today, as then, strategy — that is, the principled use of power to achieve the larger interests of the state — has ceased to exist. Indeed, war has become an excuse for ignoring the absence of strategy…

❝ Congressional midterm elections are just months away and another presidential election already looms. Who will be the political leader with the courage and presence of mind to declare, “Enough! Stop this madness!” Man or woman, straight or gay, black, brown or white, that person will deserve the nation’s gratitude and the support of the electorate.

Until that occurs, however, the American penchant for war will stretch on toward infinity. No doubt Saudi and Israeli leaders will cheer, Europeans who remember their Great War will scratch their heads in wonder, and the Chinese will laugh themselves silly. Meanwhile, issues of genuinely strategic importance — climate change offers one obvious example — will continue to be treated like an afterthought.

As for the gravy train, it will roll on.

RTFA. The military-industrial complex President Eisenhower warned of – lives better than a top-shelf Wall Street hedge fund manager. Politicians roll over easy-peasy – rotund from pockets stuffed with their share of the proceeds.

Recent Wars of the American Empire

This essay is the introduction to Tom Engelhardt’s new book, A Nation Unmade by War

❝ As I was putting the finishing touches on my new book, the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute published an estimate of the taxpayer dollars that will have gone into America’s war on terror from September 12, 2001, through fiscal year 2018. That figure: a cool $5.6 trillion including the future costs of caring for our war vets. On average, that’s at least $23,386 per taxpayer.

Keep in mind that such figures, however eye-popping, are only the dollar costs of our wars. They don’t, for instance, include the psychic costs to the Americans mangled in one way or another in those never-ending conflicts. They don’t include the costs to this country’s infrastructure, which has been crumbling while taxpayer dollars flow copiously and in a remarkably — in these years, almost uniquely — bipartisan fashion into what’s still laughably called “national security.”

❝ That’s not, of course, what would make most of us more secure, but what would make them — the denizens of the national security state — ever more secure in Washington and elsewhere. We’re talking about the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. nuclear complex and the rest of that state-within-a-state, including its many intelligence agencies and the warrior corporations that have, by now, been fused into that vast and vastly profitable interlocking structure.

Of course this rape of the national pocketbook – in the course of building a new imperial empire to replace the failed British model – is bipartisan in Congress and throughout our government. When did you expect political standards, history-based ethics, to replace the simple profit motive driving most American politicians?

Norway Donates US$250 Million to Protect Colombian Rainforests


Norwegian PM Erna Solberg and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos

❝ Colombia’s fight against illegal logging is being extended to 2025 as part of the nation’s pay-for results strategy, Norway’s prime minister announced after donating US$250 million to the project.

As part of the 2015 pact signed between Germany, the United Kingdom, Norway and Colombia, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg confirmed the cooperative battle to save Colombia’s rainforest would be extended by five years…

❝ Colombian Environment Minister Luis Gilberto Murillo said that within the next 12 years the government hopes to reduce deforestation to zero.

Norway’s donation represents the first alliance of climate and forest under the Paris Agreement. Prime Minister Solberg hopes the agreement will bring higher standards for inter-institutional collaboration in climate initiatives.

The Paris Agreement is just another one of those historically useful, politically constructive agreements, constructed by smart politicians in modern nations.

So, of course, our fake president withdrew the United States from all provisions of this agreement. And BTW, at minimum projected costs, a donation like this is less than 3 new F35s, the latest toy for our military..

Two of the costliest fighter jets in the world can’t talk to each other


Click to enlargewired.com

❝ With the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II, the U.S. has fielded two of the world’s most sophisticated, maneuverable and stealthy fighter jets. They both function as airborne shepherds of America’s flock of older combat aircraft, using their state-of-the-art systems to communicate threats and targets on the ground and in the air.

Unfortunately, they have a difficult time communicating with each other

❝ In a recent story on the situation, Air Force Magazine likened U.S. combat communications among the various aircraft to “a kind of Tower of Babel.” And the necessary modifications haven’t been fast in coming. “There’s a lot of improvements that could have been done and should have been done 15 years ago,” said David Rockwell, a senior defense electronics analyst with Teal Group. “The Air Force postponed a lot of things for [the] F-22.”

What’s another few billion$ parceled out to outfitters to the military-industrial complex? You can I can afford it. Or not. Congress and the Pentagon don’t care.