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The National Security State Doesn't Really Care About Your Security

This system cares about something, but it sure doesn't care about you.

Let me explain.

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., took to the cable news networks this past weekend to scare people into funding the national security state.

“The threat level has never been more diverse than it is today,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN’s Candy Crowley on "State of the Union." ...“There are more groups than ever and there is huge malevolence out there,” Feinstein said.

Typical of this kind of discussion within the comfortable confines of Beltway serious-talk, Crowley, Rodgers and Feinstein discuss this "malevolence" like you would talk about today's weather: something that happens to you, something to which you must react, something on which your decisions are based but on which your actions have no influence.

There are four critical points to make about this kind of discussion of the "threat level" from terrorism:

  1. It serves to elevate the threat out of context of other threats we face.
  2. It fails to reckon with the outcomes of spending vast resources on policies sold to us as the proper response to the threat of terrorism.
  3. It does so for a purpose: to shore up funding for a federal program.
  4. Because 1-3 are true, this kind of fear-mongering warps the priorities of our federal budget compared to the true magnitudes of various threats we face.
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All These Worlds Are Yours--Maybe.

This month, we learned that our galaxy alone contains billions of potentially habitable planets: one in five sun-like stars are thought to hold them in their orbital systems. This is a discovery so fraught with implications that it borders on theological. So here's a question for you: how much is a discovery like that worth to you?

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) budget for 2013 was about $16.8 billion (.pdf), or 0.5 percent of the total federal budget. If the federal budget were a one dollar bill, the NASA budget would be half of a penny. The total amount spent over NASA's history--since 1958--equals about $513 billion before adjusting for inflation. The planned 2014 budget for NASA is the smallest since 1986.

For comparison, the United States spent more than NASA's total funding over its entire history just last year on the Defense Department.

After a decade of war, it's understandable that Americans are turning inward, but I think if you asked Americans what they wanted their tax dollars spent on, many if not most would want to reach for the stars before reaching for the gun.

The simple fact is that we cannot stay here. There are too many of us, multiplying too quickly, consuming resources and fouling our environment. A single rock falling from the sky could be the end of us; a burp of gamma radiation from a nearby black hole could sterilize our home. If we stay here, and only here, we will die. Maybe not soon, but certainly someday, and probably sooner than we think. Plus, adventure calls.

Two EVE Reviews: "The Burning Life" and Rubicon Trailer

My latest video game obsession is EVE Online, the science-fiction massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) by Crowd Control Productions (CCP). EVE is a sandbox, meaning the game environment is open. If you can survive the other players, you can go wherever you want, train any skill you want, fly whatever ship you want, pursue whatever career you want. The vast majority of the "story" of the game is provided by the struggles among groups of players fighting for the virtual resources and real estate. EVE is also notoriously cutthroat: CCP generally allows any behavior that does not involve an illicit exploit of the game program. If you want to scam someone out of their wallet or worm your way into a player faction and destroy it from within, have fun.

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Lovely Advertising From Your Neighborhood Arms Dealer

It really is nice to see a torpedo marketed like a Nike jacket. 

Lockheed Gets Rich; The Poor Get Hungry

Lockheed Martin just reaped another $422,063,723 in government contracts for the loot pinata that is the F-35 program. 

Context: Congress may try to cut Food Stamps (SNAP) to try to "balance the budget," i.e., make up for our lack of willingness to adequately tax the super-rich to provide public structures. 

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