Saturday, February 06, 2010

Cue The Wrong Buzzer

This piece at Media Matters sums up more of my frustration over some liberal press-bashing.
I'm getting the feeling that if Tea Party conventioneers told the Times' Kate Zernike that the world was flat she'd run with it.

Uh, what was that?
As noted earlier, she referenced Tea Party organizers who claimed "millions" had marched at Tea Party protests within the last year; a figure that appers to be fabricated.

Now in a follow-up piece, Zernike writes
Susan and Gil Harper from Cushing, Me. — she a lawyer who telecommutes to New York, he a furniture maker — said they had limited their political involvement to voting. But Mr. Harper said the bank bailout outraged them, and pushed him to his first Tea Party rally.

By Christmas, he told his wife that what he wanted was a ticket to the Tea Party Convention. When she gave it to him, she said she would go along, but only incognito, wearing a hat and sunglasses.

“Because of Nancy Pelosi calling people who believe in the Tea Party movement Nazis,” she explained. “My grandfather’s family, as Polish Jews, escaped Nazism. To call us Nazis is an abomination.”

Fact: Nancy Pelosi never called Tea Party supporters "Nazis." Period. But the Times quotes a conservative making that slanderous claim. The Times treats the outlandish allegation as fact.

No. It treated that outlandish allegation as an attributed quote.

What, exactly, is wrong here? The doofus isn't the woman from the Times, who, after all, is only doing her job. It's pretty clear the doofus is this woman from Maine who believes that Nancy Pelosi has spies who are going to arrest all the Jewish Nazis at the Tea Party convention.

What else is this woman supposed to do? Attribute the quote by adding, "said the insane woman from Maine who apparently has no idea she has bought a bunch of bull"?

I'm honestly foozled here.

Well-Intentioned Idiocy

The report of American "missionaries" attempting to take Haitian "orphans" back to the US - including sneaking them across the Dominican border - is just another example of people believing that "doing the right thing" trumps laws, both national and international, as well as common sense.

While I believe these folks had their heart in the right place, it might have been nice if they had decided to go through the proper hoops and loops of Haitian and American law before deciding, on their own, to just "rescue" these children. A point against them, I think, is the pretty-clear understanding they had that they were doing something illegal.

As the story moves on, my guess is it will become a focal point of conflict between hard-core fundamentalists and other right-wing Christians who will defend them, and the anti-religious folks who will see this as yet another mark against Christians. In the process, the facts of the story will become lost, and the real people involved, American and Haitian, will disappear entirely.

It is for this last reason I hope this is my only comment on this particular bit of news. They were, most assuredly, doing what they thought was "right". They were doing it badly, with the full knowledge that it was also quite illegal. Doing good is not a defense, so my guess is the Haitian courts will not be open to hearing it as a defense.

The worst part, for me, is no one will come out of this a winner. Not the Americans, who may end up in serious legal trouble in Haiti; not the Haitian children, who were stolen from their homes and families without their consent, and still face the prospect of having to live through the long recovery in an impoverished country; and not the churches and their allies who are seeking to help the Haitian people and will now be regarded with suspicion by all parties because of the thoughtless dumbness of a few claiming to act in the name of God.


On January 5, I received a call that my father was hospitalized. It was quite serious. I left the next morning and spent three days helping out my Mom, being with my siblings, and making sure my father would make it. When I returned home, I went through two migraines, got a nice boil on my tush from sitting for 24 of 120 hours (two twelve-hour travel days), and then I passed a kidney stone.

The next Friday, our whole household went through a weekend of GI virus. We spent more time in our bathrooms than any group should.

Our beloved 15-year-old cat died, suddenly, without warning, one evening.

Last night, our older daughter, Moriah, was diagnosed with pneumonia, along with a probable torn intercostal muscle, causing a sharp pain in her left shoulder.

Right now, I am trying to fight off (a) depression, (b) a mild persecution complex, and (c) the thought that what lies around the corner will be just as crappy as what has recently happened. Along with a pretty busy schedule at home, these have combined to keep me from blogging as much as I usually do, and with enthusiasm.

Friday, February 05, 2010

In Which I Register My Frustrations

So there I was yesterday, going back and forth a bit with someone on Facebook, calling David Horowitz a nihilist, when it occurred to me that I was confessing, in a way, my dissatisfaction with the current state of "liberal blogs". First of all, I hate that second word. I rarely use it, even when I talk about the stuff I do. What's more, I don't think of a lot of different sites as "blogs" - The Huffington Post? Crooks and Liars? Nah . . . - but rather just various facets of new media. More important, however, than whether or not this or that website qualifies as a "blog", was the question of who is or is not "liberal". In the context of the discussion, Glenn Greenwald's name came up, and the people with whom I was having this brief little back-and-forth agreed that calling him "liberal" is wrong. He is a kind of left-leaning libertarian.

Then, of course, I had to add my two cents. I took it a step further. I also dropped digby's name, adding it to my own personal list of those whom I don't believe are really "liberal". I offered my opinion (to which there was no specific reply, so I don't know how my interlocutors felt about this particular observation) that they aren't really "liberal". I said that I felt that they were just critics, pure and simple. Far too often they wrote as if they occupied some perch high above it all - I referenced Hegel's remark on some other philosopher that he wrote from an "angel's" point of view - and were able, without any effort at all, to pronounce a pox on all houses because they had nothing invested in current issue debates, public discourse, and the like.

One of those with whom I was writing back and forth made the remark that liberals, unlike conservatives, base their politics on "thought"; the latter are rooted (in this person's view) in emotion, which makes dealing with them far more difficult. I disagree 100% with this particular point-of-view, but he at least offered as evidence the thought that far too many liberals believe (despite all the evidence to the contrary) that there exists some one single piece of evidence that, if generally known and accepted, will make conservatives (and probably the rest of America) smack their collective foreheads and exclaim, "Golly, you're right! We all need to listen to these liberals after all!"

This last observation is the source of part of my frustration with self-described "liberals" and their websites. You peruse the above-mentioned folks, or Crooks and Liars, or Think Progress, or The Daily Howler, you can see this dynamic at work. One site, Media Matters for America, is entirely predicated on the idea that, providing the various ways mainstream media obfuscate, occasionally lie, and (in the case of right-wing blabbermouths on AM radio) are even quite scary, we shall shun them and their nefarious ways for sources of information that are more thorough, more honest, more based in reality (please note, I use this final phrase with irony).

For all their earnest, indeed tireless, efforts, however, FOXNews is still on the air, Rush Limbaugh still does five days a week, and conservatives (who at least have the advantage, as minorities usually do, of having someone to unite against) seem quite determined to act, well, as conservatives.

What's more, the constant invocation of their perspective, their failures, their constant untruths (and, one should add, the way those various rhetorical crimes end up manipulating hapless, spineless Democratic politicians) leads one to believe that they might not be paying attention. It is easy enough, as too often happens, to call out a public figure for hypocrisy. They haven't noticed, I believe, that it is not only easy, but old and tired. Furthermore, it doesn't work. The constant barrage of, "I know you are but what am I?" garbage ends up as mere bitchiness more than anything else after a while. If these folks were paying attention, they might notice that they aren't moving the conversation forward, they aren't changing habits of reportage or commentary, and they might just be losing some folks (like me) along the way.

The biggest pet peeve I have isn't the repetition of, "Boy, look how much the right-wing is lying today!" It is the aggrieved tone, the implication of the old phrase (one doesn't read it too often these days, but a couple years ago or so it was quite in vogue) "the reality-based community", as if we liberals have the skeleton to "reality" that our political opponents do not. Now, it is quite true - before anyone slobbers over their stuttered, "But. . . but . . ." I will come clean right up front - that I often make observations on how odd this or that statement or position by some right-wing individual is; I make the case (usually) that my own perspective comes from the not-exactly controversial position that the specific statement at issue has no basis in fact, is quite often poorly reasoned, or perhaps the source has a history of being in error, or have certain biases I find troubling. I hope, however, that I have not crossed the line from specific observations on this or that particular case to a kind of general tone that boils down to this following: "I'm so right and the rest of the world is so wrong, and yet no one seems to care; apparently the rest of the world is crazy or stupid or both."

The tone of aggrieved, earnest pleading - no one seems to understand that these folks are right and the rest of the world is just wrong wrong wrong! - is the main reason I have stopped reading Noam Chomsky. I will defend his voluminous works on the merits, both factual and ideological, to any and all comers. But, for myself, I have wearied of the beleaguered tone he has adopted in recent years.

Alleged "liberal bloggers" far too often in recent days and months have started adopting this idea. What's more, the barrage of reports on the various "failures" of the mainstream media - and some of them, indeed, are failures, not just ideological quirks - leads me to believe that, underneath the celebration of "alternate media" one read about not long past (like when I started perusing the internet, almost four years ago now), what really motivates far too many of these folks is a desire to pierce the mainstream bubble of noise and get their mugs on television, their words spread across a larger platform than the internet. Rather than setting up a kind of alternate network of reporting and commentary, it seems that what is really going on is a concerted effort to become the newest face of teevee or voice in print. One detects more than a little envy at the thought that someone as quite obviously ridiculous as David Brooks or borderline sociopathic as Bill Kristol pull down huge salaries as commentators, while these folks, tirelessly typing away in the quiet of their homes, are so much better at commentary, so much more insightful, so much more right.


So, I've stopped reading digby, whom I used to read pretty religiously. Ditto, Glenn Greenwald (and his pose has passed the tiresome stage and reached the annoying; "I'm right, everyone else is wrong!" only works for so long before it pisses off pretty much everyone). Crooks and Liars and Think Progress should drop the whole, "Look at the hypocrite-of-the-day and how the media ignore is and us in the process!" crap. Yes, Bill O'Reilly is quite awful, and might actually be a borderline personality. He isn't going to lose his job for all that. Even someone as odd (and occasionally creepy) as Chris Matthews will continue to be a media force, no matter how often his errors and occasional flights in to la-la land are pointed out.

There is still the possibility that the internet will provide a platform for developing alternative, virtual communities united around a common vision for the country, providing information and commentary that differs from the mainstream. At this point, however, the entire self-described (and too often erroneously so) political-social-cultural left on the internet is sinking in to irrelevance precisely because they have foregone the celebration of their own possibilities and expend too much effort celebrating their own alleged merits and pleading their own purity.

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to vent.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Hometown Dumb

When I was a child, my hometown of Waverly, NY had three elementary schools, Lincoln Street, Ithaca Street, and Elm Street (although Elm Street school actually served as a kind of lower middle school, having 4th, 5th, and 6th grades exclusively). The school district offices were housed in an old school building, Mary Muldoon, the former high school (my father graduated from that school in 1939). At some point when I was in high school - I don't remember exactly when - the school district decided that, enrollments shrinking with the end of the Baby Boom, they wanted to consolidate the elementary schools and economize in other ways. They sold both Muldoon and and Ithaca Street schools. Muldoon was sold, over a period of years, to everyone from the county (it housed Village branch offices of a variety of county and state services), to various private owners who used it as office space (although they kept the gym in the basement; I remember playing pick-up basketball games there a few times). Ithaca Street became, first, a kind of nursing home ("extended care facility" I think it was called), then the offices of an independent laboratory, I don't know what all else.

Now, the Village wants to buy Ithaca Street School to house the Village offices because the building currently used in the business district doesn't work very well. Muldoon, which has sat empty for more years than it was actually in service by various owners, including the school district, is now owned by some developers who wish to turn it into . . . you guessed it, senior housing (they received approval from the zoning board for a special use permit).

The reason I've titled this post "dumb" is two-fold. When Ithaca Street was sold, my father was frustrated because, as I recall him saying at the time, either the school district or the Village would want the building back at some point. Sure enough, they are having to buy the building back, and have to spend quite a bit of taxpayer money to bring it up to code in the process (they applied for state and federal money to help out and were denied).

On the Muldoon school business there is a bit of hilarity in the linked article that kind of points out the absurdity of renovating the building for use.
The only concerns presented were from Pennsylvania Avenue neighbor Wendy Lougher, who asked about the property’s sagging wood fence and about plans for dealing with the wildlife that currently reside in the vacant building.(italics added)

When the current residents of a building are "wildlife", you know there are issues.

What makes this "dumb" is the property, which sits just east of the center of the village, includes a small park, complete with a bandshell. When I was a kid, the Village would make a little ice rink for kids to skate there; I don't know how long ago they stopped doing that, probably for reasons of liability, but that piece of land is now Village owned; with the arrival of a "senior residence", will the park go the way of the ice rink? In fact, I have to wonder about keeping the building in place all these years, vacant, a hotel for raccoons and opossums. The property could have been sold years ago, the building torn down and the entire thing made park space - trees planted, playground equipment, maybe that ice rink in winter, summer concerts in the bandshell - but, instead, the whole rigmarole of zoning board meetings, waiting on the new owners to get public monies for their renovation efforts (that's another point at issue; the current owners have applied for assistance for the renovation, and I have to wonder how far forward this is going to move if that money isn't forthcoming).

It's really kind of stupid.

Of course, local politics in most communities, large and small, is chock full of short-term thinking like this, infinite complications, and the always-fun waiting game for budgetary help from various state and federal agencies. That doesn't make it any less aggravating.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Untangling Pretzel Logic

I have been thinking, for several days, how I would approach this article from American Thinker. Do I write a shorter? Do I attempt to address it point-by-point? Do I just laugh at how absurd it is? Do I point out numerous, glaring, factual errors, straw arguments, and failures of analysis?

I kept trying and I realized that the piece is such a complete mash-up that I couldn't do it justice. It's garbage. My guess, which is all I have, is that the book under review by Thomas Sowell, is most likely equally bad (a highly educated scholar at an elite University writes a book in which he castigates highly educated elites for offering their talents to the commonweal; that, at the very least, is what I got from the review; that much cognitive dissonance would give me a migraine for a week).

Rather than put my brain through the torture, I have just decided to point out that this kind of utterly horrid business is praised by many on the right. Consider the name of the website, after all. This is what passes for "thoughtful conservatism" these days.

An object lesson in truly crazy.

Voting With My Butt

Today is primary day in Illinois. I am registering my frustration by not voting.

The Democratic candidates for governor include our well-intentioned but ineffectual current Blago-replacement, Pat Quinn, and a couple also-rans who have been waiting in the wings for a while. The Republicans feature two suburban moderates and two right-wing nut-jobs, one of whom will be the likely candidate. None of those seeking the office, I believe, have what it takes to do the job that needs to be done, which includes reigning in the state legislature, and paying our state bills (they have been in arrears for a while).

I may actually sit out the general election in the fall, too, depending upon who the parties decide are their standard bearers. I have been unhappy with state politics in Illinois since I moved here; I voted against Blagojevich in the primary in 2002, and voted a third-party candidate in both general elections when he ran. I feel I at least have the satisfaction of not voting for someone I knew, even then, would be a disaster for the state. Being right, however, is little comfort, considering the sorry state of party politics in my chosen state of residence. My Congressman is a Republican who is so anonymous even when the House was run by a Republican from his state, he didn't get a committee chair. My current state representative, Ron Waite, is stepping down to run for judge, and is so stupid, he actually had a campaign brochure with an "endorsement" that contained a glaring grammatical error on the cover. It's actually kind of funny.

I am depressed with our current status quo, politics-wise, in the state. Sadly, with the Republicans in thrall to kooks and crazies, and the Chicago pretty much in charge of the Democrats, I'm not what one would call hopeful.

Should the primary voters surprise me, though, I might change my mind. At the very least, sending Ron Waite in to retirement would be nice.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Defense Details

One of the details emerging from the QDR is the decision by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to replace the beleaguered F-22 Raptor fighter program with the so-called Joint Strike Force F-35. The advantage to this is the F-35 was specifically designed to be able to take off from and land on an aircraft carrier.

Like most major Defense Department projects, however, the F-35 has been plagued by delays and cost overruns. One of the reasons for canceling the F-22 was the plane cost quite a bit more than was originally estimated. Unfortunately, so has the F-35 program. It seems Gates understands this and has now done something about it.
See this guy? Marine Corps Maj. Gen. David Heinz? He’s the program manager for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a program plagued by cost overruns. Robert Gates, the secretary of defense, just fired him.

One reporter called it a “bombshell” in a still-ongoing press briefing. But Gates canceled the Air Force’s F-22 fighter jet in favor of making the JSF the replacement jet, as, among other reasons, it’s operable across both the Navy and the Air Force. But defense reformers have pointed to the JSF’s ballooning costs as similarly problematic. Gates just said that the program’s coming under fiscal control. But he said he couldn’t put the program back in order “without people being held accountable.”

While this is a good sign, reigning in costs will be accomplished by more than just firing the guy in charge of the program. Resetting the entire procurement process for this particular plane might not be a bad idea. The idea of a JSF fighter is long in coming - duplication of programs is part of the problem with the DoD - and reducing the competition among the services would go a long way toward reducing costs.

It's a good first step, and Gates needs to be applauded for making it.

Music For Your Monday

I do not, nor am I advocating, drug use. Yet, I find it more than fascinating that some of our greatest musicians have been, not to put too fine a point on it, pot heads. Leaving aside folks like Jerry Garcia and contemporary artists like Snoop Dogg, the use of marijuana has been part and parcel of American music for well over a century. Its slightly hallucinogenic effects, the way it seems to expand the perception of time, certainly offers to users the opportunity, within themselves, to explore various musical ideas with a sense of freedom they might not otherwise have.

The singular genius of Louis Armstrong was aided, in no small part, by his daily use of marijuana. Arrested for possession in Hollywood in the early 1930's, he was bailed out and fled to Europe where he toured for quite a while as his manager (a fringe member of organized crime) and attorneys sorted the issue out. Armstrong thanked his manager by dumping him for another with even closer connections to the mob, and in the process pissing off one of the great sociopaths of the underworld, Dutch Schultz (way to go, Louis). Here is one of his signature recordings, with the Hot 5's, "West End Blues":

One of the more famous consumers of cannabis is Willie Nelson. Growing it on his ranch, being quite open and honest about his use, Nelson is another of those singular American voices, transcending the limitations of his genre. Here he is with Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, and Kris Kristofferson looking on as he plays "Funny How Time Slips Away".

Around the time the next song was released, Paul and Linda McCartney were busted in Japan for possession. What's funny is they were completely unphased by it. Comparing their marijuana intake to their vegetarian lifestyle, they saw absolutely nothing wrong with it (which, I suppose, would fit with a couple who, like the others here, used it on an almost daily basis). While not as interesting a songwriter as George Harrison, or as provocative as John Lennon, McCartney's output has been quite strong (although perhaps not warranting nearly $1000 for a concert ticket!). Also, with Wings, he gave former Moody Blues guitarist Denny Lane a second chance. This kind of pop fluff is what McCartney is best known for, "Silly Love Songs":

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Defense Spending And The Proposed Spending Freeze (UPDATE)

On FOXNews today, Indiana Senator Evan Bayh complained about the horrid "left-wing blogs" who are attacking the Obama Administration's proposed spending freeze. As it was outlined, at least so far, the freeze itself would be limited to what is usually referred to as "non-defense discretionary spending". So-called entitlements - which really aren't entitlements so much as they are long-term obligations - aren't to be touched. Yet again, however, neither is spending for the Department of Defense (although it is reported that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insists that Defense spending should be on the table).

Tomorrow, the Department of Defense (DoD) releases the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), which the DoD website calls "a legislatively-mandated review of Department of Defense strategy and priorities." In the preview of QDR, the DoD reports that, along with ending some programs and focusing on developing new technologies and expanding existing ones to deal with future threats, there will also be a focus on the troops and their families. This last is good news, considering that giving military families more money was like pulling teeth during the allegedly "military-friendly" Bush years and Republican control of Congress.

Yet, should one consider a budget more than merely "spending money", but a way to understand priorities and even underlying assumptions, the preamble to last year's budget offers a glimpse in to the thinking behind current military spending. These assumption remain, in essence, unchanged from nearly two-generations of Cold War notions of American military dominance.

For example, the United States currently maintains 10 aircraft carriers and their attendant battle groups. Carriers are platforms for projecting American power outward, in effect extending the borders of the United States to whatever point on the globe they occupy (there are actually eleven carriers in service, but one is only for training purposes). These extremely vulnerable ships - they have a fleet of ships around them including cruisers, destroyers, and submarines not only as offensive platforms, but to protect them as well - while in many ways the pride of the American fleet, are a two-generation-old idea of naval superiority and power projection that look impressive, but create multiple problems. Indeed, the whole question of the need for a Navy is rarely asked; after all, countries have always had navies as an expression of national pride and power.

Behind all of this sits the idea of American military supremacy as a necessary concomitant of American political dominance. Yet, as this handy-dandy website shows (the figures are for FY 2009, but my guess is the incremental change is probably negligible), of total global military spending, the United States alone accounts for nearly half.

Think about that.

There are roughly 220 nation-states in the world (give or take the occasional failed state). Among those include potential adversaries like Iran and China; our allies in the European Union, Australasia, and South America; and potential battle-ground areas such as Pakistan. Even as Iran and China and Russia, even Venezuela, are touted as potential military rivals, one should consider the simple fact that, in 2009, the United States budgeted $711,000,000,000 for the military. China budgeted $122,000,000,000. In other words, for every dollar China spent on their military (including their enormous standing army), the United States spent six. Iran, considered as part of the larger group of Middle Eastern and North African states, accounted for 5% of global military spending. That is to say, it was a fractional part of a fractional part of total global military spending.

What makes these staggering figures even more astounding is the following consideration from the Center for Defense Information (a think tank dedicated to military reform, created by former military personnel):
The articles that newspapers all over the country publish today will be filled with [military spending] numbers to the first decimal point; they will seem precise. Few of them will be accurate; many will be incomplete, some will be both. Worse, few of us will be able to tell what numbers are too high, which are too low, and which are so riddled with gimmicks to make them lose real meaning.

Looked at another way yet, consider this:
Commenting on the earlier data, Chris Hellman, noted that when adjusted for inflation the request for 2007 together with that needed for nuclear weapons the 2007 spending request exceeds the average amount spent by the Pentagon during the Cold War, for a military that is one-third smaller than it was just over a decade ago.

So . . .

Even though the United States currently has American troops in harms way in two regional theaters (the Middle East and South Asia), it seems to me that there is no reason whatsoever that the assumptions behind the defense budget need to be addressed in a fundamental way. Not only for reasons of budgetary sanity, but to reset our entire set of national priorities. Even if we cut our defense spending to 78% of its current dollar amount*, the United States would still account for nearly 40% of global military spending, which would still be twice the amount of the next-largest military-spender - our combined European allies, who account for about 20% of global military spending. We would still maintain overwhelming global military superiority (including such outmoded weapons platforms as aircraft carriers, strategic bombers, and ICBMs). We would also be unable to face, in any kind of strategically or even tactically coherent fashion, the current threats from non-state actors (precisely because these aren't exactly military, or completely military, threats).

UPDATE: Here is the QDR in .pdf format. Under the heading, "America's Global Role" (as if such a thing were unquestionable), this just jumped out at me:
America's interests and role in the world require armed forces with unmatched capabilities and a willingness on the part of the nation to employ them in defense of our interests and the common good. The United States remains the only nation able to project and sustain large-scale operations over extended distances.

While I have not had time to examine the review in detail, based just on this little snippet, it seems there is little "review" of the far-more fundamental question of the place of military spending within the larger question of the decline of American power and influence, and how a more chastened American nation relates to the rest of the world.

On the other hand, Matt Yglesias reports that, as far as China is concerned, the QDR strikes a realistic, even chastened, tone (at least compared to, say, neocons who continue to insist they are the next big threat to our global interests):
China’s growing presence and influence in regional and global economic and security affairs is one of the most consequential aspects of the evolving strategic landscape in the Asia-Pacific region and globally. In particular, China’s military has begin to develop new roles, missions, and capabilities in support of its growing regional and global interests, which could enable it to play a more substantial and constructive role in international affairs. The United States welcomes a strong, prosperous, and successful China that plays a greater global role. The United States welcomes the positive benefits that can accrue from greater cooperation. However, lack of transparency and the nature of China’s military development and decision-making process raise legitimate questions about its future conduct and intentions within Asia and beyond. Our relationship with China must therefore be multidimensional and undergirded by a process of enhancing confidence and reducing mistrust in a manner that reinforces mutual interest. The United States and China should sustain open channels of communication to discuss disagreements in ordert o manage and ultimately reduce the risks of conflict that are inherent in any relationshop as broad and complex as that shared by these two nations.

Translation - there is no earthly reason to consider the Chinese a potential strategic adversary, and we have a host of resources to keep our relations with the Chinese on a non-threatening level. In other words, the folks at DoD are much more sanguine about the prospects for our relations with the Chinese. That's a good sign, I suppose.

*I fixed this. My math was stupid, and I realized it sometime last night. Cutting the overall dollar amount to reflect a 10% cut in proportion to total global military expenditures would not be a 10% cut in the expenditures. That's an elementary mistake. It took me longer to find a calculator than to fix this. Sorry.

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