A few days after the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Republican governor of Maryland, Spiro T. Agnew, strode into a conference room in downtown Baltimore. In the hours after King’s death, violence had broken out in the city; along with Washington and Chicago, it was soon occupied by the United States Army. In response, Agnew called together the black community on April 11 for “a frank and far-reaching discussion.”
It wasn’t a discussion. It was a trap. The governor tore into the crowd for standing by while rioters ransacked stores and set cars on fire. They claimed to speak for racial harmony, he boomed, but when the violence began, “You ran.”
Within minutes, most of the audience members had stormed out; at the door, they found a scrum of reporters, whom Agnew had tipped off. Within hours, Agnew’s confrontation was national news; within days, this once-obscure first-time governor was being assailed as a racist by the left and hailed as a rising star in the Republican Party. That summer, Richard Nixon picked him as his running mate.
.. Fifty years later, we remember Spiro Agnew, if at all, as a bumbling vice president who later pleaded no contest to tax evasion, resigned in disgrace and ended his career funneling military surplus to Saddam Hussein and Nicolae Ceausescu. But his rise during the spring of 1968 is instructive because suddenly it feels so familiar: a white Republican who claimed to speak against radicalism and for the forgotten man, but in fact ran on exacerbating racial animosity. Far from a bit player, Agnew marked a watershed moment in American history, when the Republican Party committed itself to the shift from being the party of Lincoln to the party of white racial backlash.
.. By the late 1960s, the Republicans were in a bind. Black voters, once loyal to the party, had fled to the Democrats, who had largely shed their Southern, racist faction in favor of civil rights liberalism. Racial conservatives in the South and working-class districts in the North were there for the picking, but aligning with outright racists like George Wallace was a dead end
.. The answer, party strategists realized, lay in the thorny questions raised by the civil rights revolution. It was easy for most whites to get behind ending Jim Crow in the South; it was harder for them to accept fair housing legislation or school busing, things that touched suburban
.. Opportunistic Republicans pounced.
.. Early on, Agnew positioned himself as a racial liberal — he won the governor’s office in 1966 by running to the left on civil rights against George P. Mahoney, a pro-segregation Democrat. But his mood soon turned. He became obsessed with black “agitators”; he had state law enforcement spy on civil rights activists
.. Like many conservatives in both parties, Agnew was convinced that the wave of rioting in the late 1960s wasn’t the expression of black frustration over urban unemployment, discrimination and police brutality, but was the result of a conspiracy by black leaders. “The looting and rioting which has engulfed our city during the past several days did not occur by chance,” he told his audience that day in Baltimore.
.. Nixon moved further to the right that spring and summer, abandoning his previous sympathy for urban blacks and adopting a fierce law-and-order stance.
.. Nixon’s campaign that fall was built on what would be called the Southern strategy, but as the historian Kevin Kruse has noted, it was really a suburban strategy.
.. he deployed a range of more subtle instruments — antibusing, anti-open housing — to appeal to the tens of millions of white suburbanites who imagined themselves to be racially innocent, yet quietly held many of the same prejudices about the “inner city” and “black radicals” that their parents had held about King and other civil rights activists.
.. Though he beat Hubert Humphrey by just 0.7 percentage points, Nixon dominated the suburbs
.. He heralded a new kind of virulent racial politics in America, one that pretends to moderation and equality but feeds on division and prejudice — one that, 50 years later, we are still unable to move beyond.
In fiscal year 2016, the Pentagon issued $304 billion in contract awards to corporations—nearly half of the department’s $600 billion-plus budget for that year.
the biggest beneficiaries by a country mile were
- Lockheed Martin ($36.2 billion),
- Boeing ($24.3 billion),
- Raytheon ($12.8 billion),
- General Dynamics ($12.7 billion), and
- Northrop Grumman ($10.7 billion).
Together, these five firms gobbled up nearly $100 billion of your tax dollars, about one-third of all the Pentagon’s contract awards in 2016.
Health care companies like
- Humana ($3.6 billion),
- UnitedHealth Group ($2.9 billion), and
- Health Net ($2.6 billion) cash in as well,
and they’re joined by, among others, pharmaceutical companies like
- McKesson ($2.7 billion) and
universities deeply involved in military-industrial complex research like
- MIT ($1 billion) and
- Johns Hopkins ($902 million).
.. The heads of the top five Pentagon contractors—Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman—made a cumulative $96 million last year.
These are companies that are significantly or, in the cases of Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, almost entirely dependent on government dollars.
.. Donald Trump initially spent a fair amount of tweeting energy bragging about how he was going to bring such contractors to heel on their pricing practices for weapons systems. In fact, he’s already turned out to be good news indeed for major contractors, most of whom have seen sharp upturns in revenues and profits
.. Trump has proven eager to lift restrictions on U.S. weapons sales abroad (and enlist State Department and Pentagon officials to spend more of their time shilling such weaponry).
.. The arms industry’s investment in lobbying is even more impressive. The defense sector has spent a total of more than $1 billion on that productive activity since 2009, employing anywhere from 700 to 1,000 lobbyists in any given year.
.. you’re talking about significantly more than one lobbyist per member of Congress, the majority of whom zipped through Washington’s famed “revolving door”; they moved, that is, from positions in Congress or the Pentagon to posts at weapons companies from which they could proselytize their former colleagues.
.. Two analysts from U.S. war colleges have estimated that about 300 deliverable nuclear warheads would be enough to dissuade any nation from attacking the United States with a nuclear weapon.
.. And note that the current trillion-dollar “modernization” program for the nuclear arsenal was initiated under President Barack Obama, a man who won the Nobel Prize for his urge to abolish all such weaponry.
.. In 2011, a study by economists from the University of Massachusetts made this blindingly clear. What they showed was that military spending is the worst way to create jobs. Putting the same money into any other area—from infrastructure to transportation to alternative energy to healthcare or education—creates up to twice as many jobs as military spending does.
.. Contractors aid and abet the process of investing in the Pentagon by routinely exaggerating the number of jobs their programs create.
.. the best jobs generated by Pentagon spending are the ones for well-heeled lobbyists and overpaid corporate executives.
.. So the next time someone suggests that the Pentagon needs yet more money for the troops, just remember that what they’re actually talking about are troops of overpaid defense contractors, not members of the armed forces.
Last October, satellite images captured the distinctive outlines of some powerful new weaponry at a Saudi runway used for military strikes in Yemen. Three Wing Loong drones had appeared, Chinese-made replicas of the U.S. Predator with a similar ability to stay aloft for hours carrying missiles and bombs... growing evidence that military drones exported by China have recently been deployed in conflicts in the Mideast and Africa by several countries, including U.S. allies that the U.S. blocked from buying American models... The U.S. has long refused to sell the most powerful U.S.-made drones to most countries, fearing they might fall into hostile hands, be used to suppress civil unrest or, in the Mideast, erode Israel’s military dominance... State companies are selling aircraft resembling General Atomics’s Predator and Reaper drones at a fraction of the cost to U.S. allies and partners, and to other buyers...Among the Pentagon’s concerns is that advanced drones could be used against American forces. In Syria, U.S. pilots have shot down two Iranian-made armed drones threatening members of the U.S.-led coalition... Chinese and Saudi officials agreed to jointly produce as many as 100 Rainbow drones in Saudi Arabia.. proved “on the battlefield,” hitting 300 targets in the previous year or so with Chinese laser-guided missiles... Beijing used to sell mainly low-tech arms to poorer countries; now it is marketing sophisticated items including stealth fighters, and targeting markets once dominated by Russia and the U.S... “China faces little competition for sale of such systems, as most countries that produce them are restricted in selling the technology” by international agreement.. The Pentagon estimates China could produce almost 42,000 aerial drones—sale value more than $10 billion—in the decade up to 2023... U.S. armed drones are still overwhelmingly considered the most capable, in part because the U.S. satellite infrastructure that controls them is superior. Israel has been the top military-drone exporter for years, according to SIPRI. But Israel has largely avoided selling them in its own Mideast neighborhood... A Wing Loong, meanwhile, costs about $1 million compared with about $5 million for its U.S.-made counterpart, the Predator, and about $15 million for a Reaper, whose Chinese competition is the CH-5... Chinese strike and surveillance drones have been used by Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. in the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen... A North Korean drone that crashed in South Korea in 2014 was Chinese-made..The CH-5 can in fact operate for up to 40 hours, its manufacturer says—about 50% longer than its American competition.
The Chinese government appears to be reserving its ire towards the United States for its response to a recent arms sale to Taiwan, keeping its commentary limited on new U.S. Treasury sanctions against the Bank of Dandong for its ties to North Korea.
The U.S. Treasury announced Thursday that evidence shows the Bank of Dandong “acts as a conduit for illicit North Korean financial activity,” including money laundering and, as such, would be banned from the U.S. financial system.