Review: The Internet in the Middle East

5 Star, Asymmetric, Cyber, Hacking, Odd War, Censorship & Denial of Access, Civil Society, Country/Regional, Democracy, Information Society, Information Technology
Amazon Page
Amazon Page

Deborah Wheeler

5.0 out of 5 stars Surprising and therefore valuable, February 11, 2015

This is a solid piece of work that might normally have been a 4 but it surprised me just enough to warrant taking it to a 4. I love unconventional wisdom and seeing solid proof that conventional wisdom — in this case, “The Internet changes everything for the better” questioned.

I read this book on the same flight as I read Richard Wolff's Occupy the Economy: Challenging Capitalism (City Lights Open Media) and this is the second reason I will place the book at five: while the Internet does NOT change everything for the better, especially in the case of women and youth in Kuwait, it IS “occupied,” is does blur the line between the user and the producer, and it does offer a model for new forms of social and economic organization. In a strange way I could not have anticipated, these two books complement each other.

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Winslow Wheeler: Pentagon’s budget realities mandate new Defense team

Corruption, Government, Idiocy, Ineptitude, Military
Winslow Wheeler
Winslow Wheeler

The tired old ideas in SecDef Hagel's first defense budget make clear that he needs new thinking from his DOD team, or a new team.

Pentagon's budget realities mandate new Defense team

By Winslow T. Wheeler – 04/16/13 07:25 PM ET

President Obama's budget for the Department of Defense for 2014 is a strange document. As if to justify its disconnect from reality, someone in the administration advertised it to the press as basic to Obama's overall negotiations with Republicans. If true, that does not augur well for needed change in the Pentagon.

What the Defense budget request really shows is that there is no new thinking in the Pentagon for putting defense spending on a constructive path. There is not even anything that promises a departure from the last-minute, hysterical decision making we observed in the denouement of the 2013 defense budget process.

As submitted, the new Defense plan simply wishes away the statutory reality of sequestration, and to pretend to save money, it trots out only tired old ideas.

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Winslow Wheeler: AF-IQ – $4 to $6 Trillion Cost — All Predictable

Corruption, Government, Military
Winslow Wheeler
Winslow Wheeler

Below find excerpts of Harvard Professor Linda Bilmes latest analysis of the costs of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Note that the costs are now estimated to lay somewhere between $4 trillion and $6 trillion.

Find this important study at the Harvard website:

Bilmes, Linda J. “The Financial Legacy of Iraq and Afghanistan: How Wartime Spending Decisions Will Constrain Future National Security Budgets.” HKS Faculty Research Working Paper Series RWP13-006, March 2013.

N.B. The final sentence: “In short, there will be no peace dividend, and the legacy of Iraq and Afghanistan wars will be costs that persist for decades.”

It's not going to be a “peace dividend;” it is going to be a decades long and gigantic expense–in addition to the moral tragedy.

The excerpts from her cogent, well written text explain how she got to her conclusion.  (The relevant page numbers are noted in parentheses.)


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C-SPAN Hour on The Pentagon Labyrinth

Budgets & Funding, Corruption, Cultural Intelligence, Government, Military, Movies

The Pentagon Labyrinth on C-SPAN

Mar 11, 2011

Stewart R. Mott Charitable Trust | Mott House

Three former, high-level Pentagon insiders take a critical look at how the Defense Department operates and where the money it receives goes. The three- Thomas Christie, Franklin Spinney and Pierre Sprey – are contributors to the book, The Pentagon Labyrinth. Danielle Brian, executive director .. Read More

Three former, high-level Pentagon insiders take a critical look at how the Defense Department operates and where the money it receives goes. The three- Thomas Christie, Franklin Spinney and Pierre Sprey – are contributors to the book, The Pentagon Labyrinth. Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), acts as moderator for the discussion.

Watch Video: 1 hour, 2 minutes

See Also + Pierre Sprey's “Seven Rules”:

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Journal: Politics of Fear–Spending on National Insecurity

10 Security, Analysis, Budgets & Funding, Collective Intelligence, Military, Peace Intelligence, Reform, Threats
Chuck Spinney

Answer: It all depends on what you think should be included, but once this is clear — this spending will be be exempt from any cutbacks needed to reduce the deficit.

The Table prepared by Winslow Wheeler, Director, Straus Military Reform Project within the Center for Defense Information.


Winslow Wheeler, Straus Military Reform Project.

Review: Wastrels of Defense–How Congress Sabotages U.S. Security

4 Star, Congress (Failure, Reform), Corruption, Military & Pentagon Power

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

4.0 out of 5 stars Helpful Reading, More Opinion than Research,

February 12, 2005
Winslow T. Wheeler
Edit of 10 Oct 08 to add comment pointing to author's really excellent and detailed summary of what is wrong with Pentagon today (including budget data), and more links.

Edit of 20 Dec 07 to add links.

What the author does in this book is focus on the failings of Congress. What the author does not do is provide a more documented analysis of why and how Congress has become disconnected from the people it is supposed to represent, or why the Executive does not balance Congress when the latter abuse their powers. The “balance of power” is in fact a “balance of pork privileges,” and it is this inability, as the author describes it, to focus on all the facts, in an objective way, in order to make the best application of the taxpayer dollar, that cripples Congress (and the Executive).

I've given the author four stars because I disagree with those who would demean his motives. What I read here is consistent with the other books I have read–and my own experience talking to generally witless under-educated staff (because I am not important enough to get to the few who are “top notch”). When the author open his book by pointing out that ***all*** watchdog or balancing elements–the media, the think tanks–have failed to hold Congress accountable, I must agree with him.

The most interesting “thread” within the book has to do with information–what information gets where, who sees it, what do they do with it. At the end, the author concludes, most Members are not doing their homework, and most staffs are too busy focused on inserting partisan advantage and localized pork to actually serve the people of the United States in an effective manner.

The book is unusual in being focused on national security and defense, where the author spent his entire career, and what jumped out at me is that Congress has no grand strategy–Congress, like the Executive, is fragmented into stovepipes and is not able to make thoughtful trade-offs at the big picture level between Diplomacy Information Military Economic (DIME) instruments of national power.

The author is severely critical, and rightly so, I believe, in lambasting the Members for abdicating their Constitutional power to declare war. On page 221 he says that it is clear that Members consider their re-election prospects more important than the need to stand tall and oppose a war they do not support.

The author ends by proposing 12 steps for Congressional reform, among the most important of which is exposure of the truth to the public: no more Congressional Record “revisions,” no more secret back-room meetings, no more fake camera shots showing Senators speaking to an empty room; no more lightweight partisan staff shuttling to jobs in the Executive they are supposed to help oversee; no more stone-walling of the press; and no more lobbyists with direct access–only constituents. These are all common sense suggestions that are helpful to the public interest.

The author's last two sentences of the book are most helpful of all: “There is really only one thing that will force members of Congress to perform as best as they are able. That is for the public to have the information to distinguish the good from the bad and the phonies from the sincere.”

Public information in the public interest…this is the key.

See also, published since then:
Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It
The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track (Institutions of American Democracy)
Breach of Trust: How Washington Turns Outsiders Into Insiders

New Links 10 Oct 08:
The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism
The Fifty-Year Wound: How America's Cold War Victory Has Shaped Our World
The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (The American Empire Project)
War is a Racket: The Antiwar Classic by America's Most Decorated Soldier
Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency

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