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What Didn’t Happen in 2014: The Paranoia Year in Review

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So how’s 2015 so far?

Outside playing on your hoverboard while Dad brings in the family helicopter? Mom inside serving up a hearty meal, all in pill form? Planning a trip to the Lunar Grand Hyatt? Enjoying a life free from all disease, war and hunger, courtesy of the alien overlord world government?

Good, good.

With 2015 underway, let’s take a quick look back at the highlights of government paranoia from 2014.

America’s War of Terror requires all of us (do your part!) to maintain a high state of fear while at the same time trusting our government to keep us safe. This means we need to be spoon-fed a constant stream of faux threats to Der Homeland to justify, whatever, without any of the threats coming true so we are pleased with what we are giving up in return for this faux security.
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Blowback on the Saudi Border – Senior General Killed

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Anyone reading the New York Times report of a minor skirmish on the Saudi-Iraqi border on 5th January, 2015, would probably have shrugged and moved on. What with ISIS controlling roughly one third of Iraq and Syria and Shiite Houthi rebels overrunning about 70% of Yemen, Middle East watchers surely had more pressing violence to concern them than “a confrontation that left three guards and all the assailants dead”? [1] But then reports leaked out of the Kingdom that put the border clash in a very different light.[2]

Contrary to the New York Times which relied on the official spokesman of the Saudi Interior Ministry, not only had two of the assailants escaped, their Saudi victims included the general commanding the country’s northern zone. Brigadier-General Oud Alad al Balawi was not normally posted at the border crossing nor would chance infiltrators have had reason to expect to find such a senior officer there. Why were armed men with suicide vests able to get close to the Saudi general?
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Total National Security Spending Is Much Greater than the Pentagon’s Base Budget

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In a recent publication of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, “Defense Spending Extends Beyond the Pentagon’s Budget,” Veronique de Rugy presents a valuable compilation of data for fiscal year 2013, showing how much of the government’s national security spending appears not in the base budget of the Department of Defense, but elsewhere in the government’s budget. This point is important because in debates about Pentagon funding, those who favor giving the Pentagon more money generally rest their arguments on references to the amount appropriated for the Pentagon’s base budget alone, ignoring the substantial amounts that appear under other rubrics in the government’s overall budget.

De Rugy shows that for fiscal year 2013, the Pentagon’s base budget alone amounted to only 68 percent of the grand total for all national security spending. In her accounting, the grand total also includes amounts spent primarily by the departments of Defense (for war, budgeted separately from the base budget), Energy (for nuclear weapons programs), State, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, and the Treasury (for a portion of the military retirement budget). By excluding these huge amounts of funding ($358 billion), the drain on the nation’s financial resources is greatly understated and hence the debate badly distorted.
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Ten New Year’s Resolutions for Congress

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Since New Year’s is traditionally a time for resolutions, and since the new Congress convenes this week, I thought I would suggest some New Year’s resolutions for Congress:

1) Bring the troops home — Congress should take the first, and most important, step toward ending our hyper-interventionist foreign policy by bringing our troops home and closing all overseas military facilities. The American people can no longer afford to bear the cost of empire.
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Without 'Qualified Immunity,' Would Cops Be So Quick to Kill?

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The story had a familiar beginning, but took an unexpected detour en route to an unanticipated conclusion.

Dante Price, a young black man, was trying to visit his girlfriend and infant son at the Summit Square apartment complex in Dayton, Ohio. Price was confronted by two uniformed, armed officers who told him he had been banned from the property as a trespasser.

As the encounter grew heated, the officers drew their guns and ordered Price from his car. After the driver refused to comply, one of the officers contacted the Dayton PD to request backup; on the recording, his partner can be heard screaming at Price, “Get out of the car,now!” Instead of exiting his vehicle and prostrating himself at the feet of the officers, Price hit the gas and attempted to flee.

The officers unloaded seventeen shots at Price, three of which struck him. The 25-year-old plowed his Cadillac into a parked car. He was dead before the paramedics arrived.

“We got a guy trying to assault us with his vehicle,” one of the officers reported to Dayton PD headquarters immediately after the shooting. “We had to fire at him. He charged us.”
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A Radical Question About the CIA in the Mainstream Press

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Several days ago, the New York Times, which of course epitomizes the mainstream press in America, asked a question that ordinarily would be found mainly on libertarian websites like that of The Future of Freedom Foundation. In the Room for Debate section of the Times’ Opinion Pages, the Times asked: “Do We Need the C.I.A.?” 

In the introduction to the debate, the Times pointed out:
Since Senator Daniel Patrick Moynahan introduced bills in 1991 and 1995 to abolish the Central Intelligence Agency and transfer its powers to the State Department, many have continued to share his concerns about the agency’s competence and performance. The Senate intelligence committee’s report on the use of torture is the latest example of the agency’s controversies.
The Times concludes its introduction with this remarkable question:
Would the security needs of the United States be better served if the C.I.A. were dismantled?
That is a remarkable development. When was the last time you read that question being asked by anyone in the mainstream press? Wouldn’t we ordinarily see the question posed in the following manner: “Is It Time to Reform the CIA?”
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The Victory of ‘Perception Management’

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To understand how the American people find themselves trapped in today’s Orwellian dystopia of endless warfare against an ever-shifting collection of “evil” enemies, you have to think back to the Vietnam War and the shock to the ruling elite caused by an unprecedented popular uprising against that war.

While on the surface Official Washington pretended that the mass protests didn’t change policy, a panicky reality existed behind the scenes, a recognition that a major investment in domestic propaganda would be needed to ensure that future imperial adventures would have the public’s eager support or at least its confused acquiescence.

This commitment to what the insiders called “perception management” began in earnest with the Reagan administration in the 1980s but it would come to be the accepted practice of all subsequent administrations, including the present one of President Barack Obama.

In that sense, propaganda in pursuit of foreign policy goals would trump the democratic ideal of an informed electorate. The point would be not to honestly inform the American people about events around the world but to manage their perceptions by ramping up fear in some cases and defusing outrage in others – depending on the US government’s needs.
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America: Australia's Dangerous Ally

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It is time for Australia to end its strategic dependence on the United States. The relationship with America, which has long been regarded as beneficial, has now become dangerous to Australia’s future. We have effectively ceded to America the ability to decide when Australia goes to war. Even if America were the most perfect and benign power, this posture would still be incompatible with the integrity of Australia as a sovereign nation. It entails not simply deference but submission to Washington, an intolerable state of affairs for a country whose power and prosperity are increasing and whose national interests dictate that it enjoy amicable, not hostile, relations with its neighbors, including China.

As painful as a reassessment of relations may be for intellectual and policy elites, there are four principal reasons why one is long overdue. 

First, despite much blather about a supposed unanimity of national purpose, the truth is that the United States and Australia have substantially different values systems. The idea of American exceptionalism is contrary to Australia’s sense of egalitarianism. 

Second, we have seen the United States act in an arbitrary, imprudent and capricious fashion. It has made a number of ill-advised and ill-informed decisions concerning Eastern Europe, Russia and the Middle East.
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Why is it Illegal to Buy Food From Your Neighbors?

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Virginians who try to sell homemade food from their kitchens are feeling the heat from state and local inspectors.

“I have to turn down my neighbors when they ask if they can buy pesto I make from my own basil plants,” says Bernadette Barber, a farmer in Lancaster, Va.

And this isn’t just a rural phenomenon.

In Arlington, government inspectors shut down a home-based soup maker, even though no customer complaints had been registered. Others have encountered similar fates, stripping them of needed income.
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The Real Meaning of the 1914 Christmas Truce

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One hundred years ago last week, on Christmas Eve, 1914, German and British soldiers emerged from the horrors of World War One trench warfare to greet each other, exchange food and gifts, and to wish each other a Merry Christmas. What we remember now as the “Christmas Truce” began with soldiers singing Christmas carols together from in the trenches. Eventually the two sides climbed out of the trenches and met in person. In the course of this two day truce, which lasted until December 26, 1914, the two sides also exchanged prisoners, buried their dead, and even played soccer with each other.
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