The Golden Platform

A FOCUS ON THE FORCES CHANGING OUR WORLD

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Empires Then and Now

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Great empires, such as the Roman and British, were extractive. The empires succeeded, because the value of the resources and wealth extracted from conquered lands exceeded the value of conquest and governance. The reason Rome did not extend its empire further east into Germany was not the military prowess of the Germanic tribes but Rome’s calculation that the cost of conquest exceeded the value of extractable resources.

The Roman empire failed, because Romans exhausted manpower and resources in civil wars fighting amongst themselves for power. The British empire failed, because the British exhausted themselves fighting Germany in two world wars.

In his book, The Rule of Empires (2010), Timothy H. Parsons replaces the myth of the civilizing empire with the truth of the extractive empire. He describes the successes of the Romans, the Umayyad Caliphate, the Spanish in Peru, Napoleon in Italy, and the British in India and Kenya in extracting resources. To lower the cost of governing Kenya, the British instigated tribal consciousness and invented tribal customs that worked to British advantage.

Parsons does not examine the American empire, but in his introduction to the book he wonders whether America’s empire is really an empire as the Americans don’t seem to get any extractive benefits from it. After eight years of war and attempted occupation of Iraq, all Washington has for its efforts is several trillion dollars of additional debt and no Iraqi oil. After ten years of trillion dollar struggle against the Taliban in Afghanistan, Washington has nothing to show for it except possibly some part of the drug trade that can be used to fund covert CIA operations.

America’s wars are very expensive. Bush and Obama have doubled the national debt, and the American people have no benefits from it. No riches, no bread and circuses flow to Americans from Washington’s wars. So what is it all about?

The answer is that Washington’s empire extracts resources from the American people for the benefit of the few powerful interest groups that rule America. The military-security complex, Wall Street, agri-business and the Israel Lobby use the government to extract resources from Americans to serve their profits and power. The US Constitution has been extracted in the interests of the Security State, and Americans’ incomes have been redirected to the pockets of the 1 percent. That is how the American Empire functions.

The New Empire is different. It happens without achieving conquest. The American military did not conquer Iraq and has been forced out politically by the puppet government that Washington established. There is no victory in Afghanistan, and after a decade the American military does not control the country.

In the New Empire success at war no longer matters. The extraction takes place by being at war. Huge sums of American taxpayers’ money have flowed into the American armaments industries and huge amounts of power into Homeland Security. The American empire works by stripping Americans of wealth and liberty.

This is why the wars cannot end, or if one does end another starts. Remember when Obama came into office and was asked what the US mission was in Afghanistan? He replied that he did not know what the mission was and that the mission needed to be defined.

Obama never defined the mission. He renewed the Afghan war without telling us its purpose. Obama cannot tell Americans that the purpose of the war is to build the power and profit of the military/security complex at the expense of American citizens.

This truth doesn’t mean that the objects of American military aggression have escaped without cost. Large numbers of Muslims have been bombed and murdered and their economies and infrastructure ruined, but not in order to extract resources from them.

It is ironic that under the New Empire the citizens of the empire are extracted of their wealth and liberty in order to extract lives from the targeted foreign populations. Just like the bombed and murdered Muslims, the American people are victims of the American empire.

Filed under Commentary Empire Roman British American USA Britain Rome Imperialism CIA Iraq Afghanistan Washington DC DHS

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Is the US student debt bubble about to burst?

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The cost of higher education in the US has been referred to as the ball and chain that follows many Americans to the grave.

Debt from student loans has exceeded an estimated $1tn in the US for the first time, surpassing credit card debt.

And more and more recent graduates are having difficulty finding jobs to help them pay off their loans. It is a burden that some economists say is threatening any economic recovery in the US.

And it is not just having an impact on young people: Americans of 60 years of age and older still owe more than $30bn in student loans. Consumer advocates say that debt collectors go as far as seizing their social security cheques.

The cost of college education, which is six times more expensive today than it was 30 years ago, is only expected to rise.

Raeann Roca, a former student straddled with tens of thousands of dollars of debt, says: “We were always told that if you don’t go to college, you’re not going to make any money, you’re not going to live the American dream.”

Her university course cost more than $30,000 a year and to pay for it she did what her college advised and took out student loans.

When she graduated she had $70,000 in student debt. She has already paid off $14,000 but the terms of her loans mean that five years after her graduation, she still owes just over $106,000 for her education.

It has been suggested that all this debt will crimp the lifestyles of students so much once they are in the workplace that they will not be able to afford homes, cars and holidays - further damaging the limping US economy. In other words, there is a bubble of student debt that is about to burst.

So what led to the rising cost of higher education and what does it mean for the struggling US economy?

Joining Inside Story Americas with Shihab Rattansi to discuss this are: Alan Collinge, the founder of StudentLoanJustice.org and the author of The Student Loan Scam; Pat Garofalo, the economic policy editor for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress; and Victor Sanchez, the president of the United States Student Association.

"At this point with where the US economy is … student loan debt is going to cause us a lot of problems in getting the kind of growth that we need, getting the kind of sustained growth, because the people that we are counting on to drive that growth - to spend money, to go out and form new households, to buy products and buy cars and start their own families - are instead going to be at home not doing those things because all their money is going towards paying off their student loans."

Pat Garofalo from the Center for American Progress

Filed under News Student Loans Bubble Crisis Financial American students college university USA Debt

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Tacocopter Aims To Deliver Tacos Using Unmanned Drone Helicopters

by Jason Gilbert

Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane!

It’s an unmanned drone helicopter shooting a taco from space down at you and your colleagues during lunchtime!

The Internet is going wild for Tacocopter, perhaps the next great startup out of Silicon Valley, which boasts a business plan that combines four of the most prominent touchstones of modern America: tacos, helicopters, robots and laziness.

Indeed, the concept behind Tacocopter is very simple, and very American: You order tacos on your smartphone and also beam in your GPS location information. Your order — and your location — are transmitted to an unmanned drone helicopter (grounded, near the kitchen where the tacos are made), and the tacocopter is then sent out with your food to find you and deliver your tacos to wherever you’re standing.

You pay online, so the tacos are simply dropped off at your feet by the drone helicopter, which then flies back to the restaurant to pick up its next order.

Brilliant, right? You’re probably ready to order a sackful of fish tacos to be delivered to you by a semi-autonomous flying robot as we speak!

Well, put down your smartphones, because here comes some bad news: The launch of Tacocopter — which is totally real, by the way, despite some doubters, and has been around since July 2011 — is being blocked by the U.S. government.

HuffPost spoke with Star Simpson, one of Tacocopter’s three cofounders (along withDustin Boyer and Scott Torborg), who said that one of the main obstacles to getting Tacocopter off the ground (sorry) is, indeed, the government. Alert the Tea Party (or, perhaps, the Taco Party?):

"Current U.S. FAA regulations prevent … using UAVs [Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, like drones] for commercial purposes at the moment," Simpson said over Gchat. "Honestly I think it’s not totally unreasonable to regulate something as potentially dangerous as having flying robots slinging tacos over people’s heads … [O]n the other hand, it’s a little bit ironic that that’s the case in a country where you can be killed by drone with no judicial review."

Simpson told HuffPost that because of the FAA’s regulations — as well as other minor problems, like navigating the treacherous terrain of an urban environment, keeping the food warm, finding a city map precise enough to avoid crashes 100 percent of the time, avoiding birds, balconies and telephone wires, delivering food to people indoors, delivering food to the right person, dealing with greedy humans who would just steal the Tacocopter as soon as it got to them, etc. — the Tacocopter website exists more as a conversation starter about the future of food delivery (and delivery in general), as well as about the commercial uses of unmanned vehicles, than an actual startup plan or business.

But that’s just for now, as Simpson seems convinced that the potential benefits of Tacocopter and the idea behind unmanned delivery of physical goods, outweigh the barriers:

Read more …

Filed under American FAA News Quadcopter UAV US Government Unmanned Aerial Vehicles delivery drones food smartphone taco tacocopter tech technology LOL

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