Nel's New Day

December 23, 2019

‘Sacred Cow’ Military Eats Up Budget

Congress has passed its budget with $738 billion for the military. But defense costs are far more than that sum, despite lawmakers declaiming that the Pentagon is sadly underfunded. Nation has itemized the money in ten areas dedicated to national security expenses of 2019. The upcoming year will be more because the Pentagon’s base budget was only $544.5 billion when the article was written last May. The costs could be less because the Pentagon’s Defense Business Board reported that cutting unnecessary overhead—a bloated bureaucracy and shadow workforce of private contractors costing more than government employees—could save $25 billion a year. Instead, Congress approved a vanity “space force” for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) that will duplicate existing services.

Excessive spending: over 600,000 private contractors – cutting 15 percent of them would save $20 billion a year.

Cost overruns on major weapons programs such as the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent.

Routine overpayments for minor spare parts: for example, $8,000 for a helicopter fear worth less than $500.

Overpriced weapons systems the military can’t afford to operate: a $13 billion aircraft carrier, the $564 million for each of 200 nuclear bombers, and the $1.4 trillion for the lifetime of the F-35 combat aircraft that may never perform appropriately. 

Base Budget Total: $554.1 billion

The Pentagon is able to spend far more than this sum because it has the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account meant to pay for the War on Terror in the Middle East and Africa but used for anything the Pentagon wishes and is exempt from caps. In 2016, then Rep. Mick Mulvaney, not DDT’s acting chief of staff, nicknamed the OCO the “slush fund.” The OCO budget was about $174 billion. [The total is actually $738 billion so each running tally will be $10 billion higher than noted.]

War Budget Total: $173.8 billion

Running tally: $727.9 billion

The budget for nuclear warheads and naval nuclear reactors is tucked away in the Department of Energy.

Nuclear Budget Total: $24.8 billion

Running tally: $752.7 billion

This category with $9 billion for defense-related activities goes to agencies outside the Pentagon, primarily the FBI for homeland-security-related activities.

Defense-Related Activities-Budget Total: $9 billion

Running tally: $761.7 billion

The above five categories should have been capped at $630 billion, but the $761.7 [actually $771.6] billion is just a start. The frequent U.S. wars have created a generation of veterans, including over 2.7 million military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, many needing help with physical and mental war wounds—PTSD, exposure to toxic burns, traumatic brain injuries, etc. The VA budget of $216 billion may not be sufficient for necessary services.

Veterans Affairs Budget: $216 billion

Running tally: $977.7 billion

Created after 9/11 attacks, the Department of Homeland Security absorbed 22 existing government organizations and employs almost 250,000 million employees. These agencies include the Coast Guard, FEMA, Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Secret Service, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, and the Office of Intelligence and Analysis. Unfortunately, ICE spends more time on causing suffering among innocent people and defeating criminals and terrorists. DHS also gives military-grade equipment to local law-enforcement agencies.

Homeland Security Budget Total: $69.2 billion

Running tally: $1.0469 trillion

The intention of the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development is to use diplomacy for security instead of the U.S. declaring preemptive wars, but this fiscal area has lost one-third of its budget. Remaining is the $5.4 billion Foreign Military Financing program, the bulk of it going to Israel and Egypt.

International Affairs Budget Total: $51 billion

Running tally: $1.0979 trillion

Sixteen intelligence agencies assembled under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence have a budget of over $80 billion that is concealed under obscure line items in the Pentagon budget.

Intelligence Budget Total: $80 billion

Running tally: $1.0979 trillion

Of the over $500 billion in interest that the U.S. annually pays, about $156 billion can be attributed to Pentagon spending.

Defense Share of National Debt Total: $156.3 billion

Final tally: $1.2542 trillion

Anticipated tax revenue for 2020 is $3.64 trillion. Thus defense expenditures will be more than one-third of revenue and approximately $3,787 tax per person.

Even this information may not be accurate. On October 4, 2018, the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board (FASAB) issued new guidance, SFFAS 56, permitting government agencies to “modify” public financial statements and move expenditures from one line item to another. These agencies are also prevented from telling taxpayers if and when public financial statements have been altered. The government can keep two sets of books—one connected to reality and the other for the public.

Last year, the government issued a 132-page advisory report on reorganization to cut back government expenses: the Defense Department with $700+ billion received only 14 mentions. Fifteen departments, agencies and administrations that submitted plans to internally cutback and reorganize don’t include the DoD which is the only department that has never completed an audit despite congressional orders to complete one in the past two decades. Examples of the 14 “reforms” includes moving the Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works from DoD to the Transportation and Interior departments and moving background investigations for security clearances and employment from OPM to DoD.

Publicity has cut back a few expenditures. The Air Force paid $10,000 for toilet seats until Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) asked them about the cost. The DoD dropped the cost to $300. Yet costs rise when lawmakers want to make money for manufacturing constituents, for example when 103 House members requested 24 more F-35s in the 2019 budget than DDT wanted. They argued that the additional ones would lower the overall costs and ensure air dominance. The Pentagon had stopped deliveries of the F-35s because of production errors. A year later, the F-35 is still not quite right, fully mission capable only 26 percent of the time, according to the Project on Government Oversight.

In the same budget, Congress, concerned about 42 service members dying the summer before, offered 19 percent more funding for the F-35s and aircraft that was obsolete in Pentagon plans. The operations and maintenance budget, responsible for readiness, would be increased by only one percent. A report shows that 17 sailors died in two different ship accidents because of poor leadership and officers’ mistakes, something that new ships won’t solve.

Under DDT, the U.S. drops a bomb someplace every 12 minutes. And no one seems to notice. George W. Bush dropped 70,000 bombs in five countries, but the world was horrified about the 57 strikes in Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen—countries where the U.S. had neither war nor conflicts at that time. President Obama increased the total number to 100,000 and 563 strikes targeting those countries. Two percent of the deaths were on the “kill list,” targeted for “death-by-drone.” 

DDT’s dropped 44,096 bombs, 121 per day, during his first year. That’s one every 12 minutes, 24 hours a day and seven days a week. No vacations. Again, killing 98 percent non-targets. Over 80 percent of the dead are never identified, and the U.S. doesn’t know who they have killed. That total is almost 18 months old, and now the government hides the number of bombs it drops. And the U.S. spends over one-third of its tax revenue on the military.

December 14, 2019

DDT: Week 151 – More Bullying Buffoonery

Last week, the media focused on the impeachment inquiry and the release of a DOJ report about the creation of the FBI investigation into the connection between Russia and the 2016 presidential campaign of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Both DDT and his fixer AG Bill Barr contradicted, without evidence, the conclusion of the report from DOJ’s Inspector General Michael Horowitz that the FBI investigation did not show bias in starting the probe. Attorneys from the conservative Checks & Balances blasted Barr’s rejection of his own IG’s report, and another conservative attorney, referring to DDT as Barr’s “client,” said:

“The attorney general has returned to his playbook of distortion and obfuscation in a transparent effort to undermine the IG’s meticulous, fact-based conclusions.”

Barr blamed President Obama and the FBI, with no evidence, for trying to destroy U.S. democracy by spying on DDT’s associates. Ignoring the “lock her up” chants about Hillary Clinton, Barr said that people who want to send political rivals “to jail” are “poisoning the system.” He also ignored the anti-Hillary Clinton bias among FBI agents who sent anti-Clinton text messages and wanted to investigate DDT’s conspiracy theories about the Clinton Foundation. In 2018, Horowitz reported that former FBI Director James Comey reopened the probe into Clinton’s emails ten days before the election because he thought FBI agents might leak information. Anti-Clinton agents were not punished. Horowitz’s investigation of FBI leaks to DDT’s private lawyer Rudy Giuliani is ongoing.

Regarding his misrepresentations of the facts, Barr blamed the “irresponsible” media’s fault for “fanning” what he called “a bogus narrative.” He sees his job to ensure “that [the law enforcement and intelligence apparatus] doesn’t play an improper role in our political life.” In his crusade outside his job’s purview, Barr focuses on public perception and press reporting instead of legality. Barr is running a media campaign about the FBI that “if you go ahead and investigate foreign interference in our election, William Barr may come after you,” according to former DOJ spokesman Matthew Miller on Joy Reid’s MSNBC AM Joy

When Horowitz testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) falsely claimed that the FBI had stopped Russia’s attacks against Hillary Clinton before the 2016 election just by telling the campaign about Russia’s actions. Horowitz testified that neither Barr nor John Durham, the U.S. AG for Connecticut who Barr assigned to run a parallel investigation with Horowitz, “changed our findings” about no bias on the part of the FBI despite the 17 errors or omissions. The FBI did not put spies in DDT’s campaign, according to Horowitz’s testimony. When the IG declared that Russians interfered in the 2016 campaign, even Graham agreed.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) asked that Barr be investigated for his following the bidding of the president. Horowitz said that he takes the issue seriously, but he’s legally prevented from looking at the misconduct of DOJ lawyers, including the attorney general. “The law has to change, senator,” Horowitz said.”

DDT also attacked his own appointee, FBI Director Christopher Wray, for saying that DDT’s criticism betrayed his “own bias.” Lying about the IG report, DDT claimed that it “totally exonerates” him of allegations of collusion with Russia or obstruction of justice. He called the FBI “scum” and threatened to “get involved” with the DOJ, a constitutional danger for the independent agency. During this week’s Pennsylvania rally, DDT also told his security to be rougher on a protester and slurring more than usual through his rants, according to a Vox reporter.  

In March, the Supreme Court will hear DDT’s appeal about hiding his tax returns and other financial affairs from the House and a New York prosecutor. The ruling is due by June. No lower court has ruled that DDT has the right to hide these documents from investigations.

The Supreme Court may be kept busy hearing all DDT’s appeals. A federal judge has ruled against DDT’s request to delay a lawsuit against AG Bill Barr and Commerce Wilbur Ross who defied congressional subpoenas in their handling of the failed citizenship question for the 2020 census.

Two other federal judges, one in El Paso and the other in Northern California, stopped DDT’s paying for his wall with $3.6 billion in military funds. The decision is based on a GOP-generated law blocking President Obama. The president cannot “eliminate or reduce funding for any program, project, or activity as proposed in the President’s budget request” unless approved by Congress. Later, GOP congressional members added “increase” to “eliminate or reduce.”

At the urging of House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS), the Pentagon is looking into a $400 million contract for a segment of the southern border wall with a DDT-pushed company that doesn’t meet necessary standards. DDT had picked the company after seeing the owner, a GOP donor, on Fox network.

Glenn Fine, the Pentagon’s inspector general, opened a review three months ago to examine whether U.S. military deployment to the southern border is legal after 30 congressional members requested an investigation. The deployment may violate a law preventing active duty military troops from law enforcement duties inside the U.S. Since DDT started sending service members to the border in 2018, the number has sometimes exceeded 5,000.

DDT has again announced that he and China have a “phase one” trade deal. China called it a “win-win,” but no text has been released. DDT lowered tariffs—mostly on toys, cellphones and laptops—and China said it will buy the farm-products that they had already intended. The deal will also enhance intellectual property protections at China’s own pace and permit U.S. banks and credit card companies full access to China which China had wanted. No “phase two” was addressed. DDT will claim a win, but China isn’t altering its economy as DDT promised, won’t send jobs back to the U.S., and hasn’t committed to scale back subsidies that give China an advantage over the U.S.

The general announcement caused the markets to rapidly increase; the details given out on the next day ended up with an almost flat gain. Winners are farmers, bankers, and Apple. China won because President Xi Jinping stood his ground and DDT caved in. This week reflected the fifth time this year that DDT delayed or canceled tariffs, encouraging China to further drag out negotiations for more wins. DDT has a long way to go to match President Obama on agricultural exports to China. 

Last week, DDT announced tariffs on steel and aluminum from Brazil and Argentina; this week the administration announced that it hadn’t decided about these tariffs yet. Just another one of those orders that didn’t exist.

Customs and Border Protection officials not only refuse to vaccinate migrants in U.S facilities but also arrested doctors who tried to provide free vaccinations.

Amazon is accusing the Pentagon of obeying DDT’s orders by selecting Microsoft for a $10-billion cloud computing contract that has been called a crucial national security priority. Oracle and IBM are also challenging the contract. Amazon pointed out several reasons that Microsoft’s program is inferior to theirs. Defense Secretary Mark Esper waited two months to recuse himself from the procurement process because his son works for an initial bidder.  DDT’s ongoing feud with Amazon’s owner, Jeff Bezos, began with reporting by the Washington Post, also owned by Bezos. 

DDT supporters should be grateful that federal agencies ignored his some of his demands. Peter Bergen, in his new book Trump and his Generals: The Cost of Chaos, wrote that DDT wanted to move the 9.8 million people in Seoul because it was too close to the North Korean border. He insisted, “They have to move!” And he wasn’t joking. That was when he told his national security team that threats from Kim Jong-Un would be “met with fire and fury.” Months later, he demanded “an evacuation of American civilians from South Korea.” Warned that this action would signal war, DDT ordered, “Go do it!” The Pentagon ignored his orders to move Seoul and evacuate all Americans from South Korea, DDT forgot about it, and the United States hasn’t gone to war with North Korea—yet.

In the midst of 123 furious tweets in one day during the impeachment inquiry hearings, DDT found time to demand that 16-year-old Greta Thunberg “work on her Anger Management problem” after she was awarded Time’s “Person of the Year”:

“So ridiculous. Greta must work on her anger management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!”

Thunberg used DDT’s words for her Twitter bio. Time wrote that it chose Thunberg because she created “a global attitudinal shift” and “offered a moral clarion call.”

Even more vile, DDT’s fundraising campaign photoshopped DDT’s head on Thunberg’s body money with the caption, “When it comes to keeping his promises, there’s only one Person Of The Year.”

New jobs increased 266,000 in November with manufacturing comprising 54,000 of them, but 48,000 of those came at the end of GM’s strikes. Despite some wage increases in blue states raising minimum wages, rising costs of living in 2019 outpaced workers’ economic growth. Forty-four percent of U.S. workers earn low wages.

September 21, 2019

Pieces from DDT’s 139th Week

The media has been consumed for the past week about a potential exchange from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) of $250 military aid to Ukraine for an investigation into DDT’s possible opponent Joe Biden and the Middle East tension from attacks by unknown enemies on the Saudi Arabian oil fields. That wasn’t all.

DDT found a white man to sit around and watch him work, his criteria for a new national security adviser. According to the NYT, Robert O’Brien is known as “an affable, ingratiating personality that has earned him allies throughout the Trump administration, notably including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, both of whom supported his appointment.” NYT also described him as a pleasant John Bolton, because O’Brien’s similar ideology to his predecessor. Like many other people who DDT hires, he has few qualifications for the job other than his lavish praise for DDT. As “hostage negotiator,” O’Brien persuaded Sweden to release rapper A$AP Rocky from jail for a street brawl to improve DDT’s ratings among blacks. The former adviser for Mitt Romney, Scott Walker, and Ted Cruz—all losing their candidacies—now has the job to solve DDT-created disasters in Iran, China, North Korea, and Afghanistan. DDT clearly said that the new adviser won’t be making any decisions because DDT is in charge. Congress is considering a law requiring confirmation for this position that DDT can freely vacate and fill. Meanwhile Bolton is now speaking out against DDT’s policies.

This spring, DHS dumped a dozen high-level officials after he fired John Mitnick, the agency’s fifth general counsel. In his job, Mitnick supervised 2,500 lawyers at the agency, pushed back against policies putting the DHS in a legally dubious position, and stopped DDT from releasing migrants in sanctuary cities in retaliation for their laws.

Two vegan Democratic presidential candidates, Cory Booker and Tulsi Gabbard, are safe from DDT’s reduction of food safety inspectors in pork plants by 40 percent. USDA will use a small number of industry employees with no training for “inspection” and eliminate line speed limits, promoting less cleanliness in both prep and inspection. Peer reviews show that studies used as justification for faulty position that faster line speeds are safer, hidden from the public, are flawed, but the USDA moves ahead because of packing house requests despite 80,000 opposing comments from the public. Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, published over a century ago, describes the unsanitary conditions then and perhaps now. USDA’s IG is investigating the faulty data, lack of transparencies, and other rule irregularities.

In an effort to politically influence the U.S. Supreme Court, 53 Republican Senators signed a letter declaring that Democrats pose “a direct, immediate threat to the independence of the judiciary.” The proposed case has already been settled after New York City repealed a NRA-opposed statute almost a decade ago, proving that the lawsuit is only political. Republicans are still not happy after confirming 150 ultra-conservative judges and two Supreme Court justices, one of the positions blocked for almost a year so that a Republican president could nominate one.

Another Republican action is endangering the lives of U.S. military members, according to the Pentagon. DDT’s moved $3.6 billion to build a border fence through the National Emergencies Act from the military budget designated to solve life-threatening situations such as asbestos in living quarters for troops and their families and storage facilities for ammunition that aren’t fire-resistant or capable of handling explosions. The Pentagon reports that the loss of the funds hurts “military readiness” and damages national security. The lack of funding for a new boiler at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska could be force an evacuation and leave the base frozen and damaged. The main gate at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey is current subject to “hostile penetration … and an increased terrorist threat.” DDT unfunded plans “to deter Russian aggression,” according to an Air Force report. The National Guard training base at Camp Santiago, destroyed when Hurricane Maria went through Puerto Rico two years ago, won’t be rebuilt. Most congressional GOP members refused to stop DDT from taking the money from real military emergencies.

DDT found another black journalist to libel—this one is a woman. As one tweet commented, DDT’s vile comments just sold 50,000 of Joy Reid’s book, The Man Who Sold America: Trump and the Unraveling of the American Story, already on the NYT bestseller list, after he said she had no “talent” and no “’it’ factor.” Reid raised DDT’s fury by saying that he sounded like a “desperate man” at his Baltimore speech and he treated “the gathered Republicans to some smoking hot beauty tips” such as selecting energy inefficient lightbulbs to avoid orange-appearing skin.

Reid responded to DDT by listing a few of his impeachable actions–and that was before the revelation of his extorting Ukraine.  

Last week, highly respected Cokie Roberts died, and DDT tweeted his response:

“I never met her. She never treated me nicely.”

Daughter of prominent U.S. Louisiana representatives for over a half century, Roberts, “called one of the 50 greatest women in the history of broadcasting” by ABC, helped pave the way for women in broadcast journalism. About Roberts, noted legal affairs correspondent Nina Tottenberg wrote:

“To know Cokie was to see the personification of human decency…. She was always the voice of people with less power, and the voice of what is right.”

Showing less finesse at a reception at the recent G7 Summit, DDT looked for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi by calling out, “Where’s my favorite dictator?” DDT was greeted with silence. He has not condemned the human rights violations of el-Sisi after he took power through a 2013 military coup against former President Mohammed Morsi. DDT said that el-Sisi is “a good man, and he’s done a fantastic job in Egypt.” At least DDT is right about el-Sisi being a dictator.

In the path of hurricanes, the U.S. military court and prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, have cost over $6 billion to operate for almost 18 years; taxpayers are charged over $10 million each day to house 40 prisoners. Although almost 800 people have gone through the prison, only one person was convicted. So much torture has tainted evidence that no more prisoners can be convicted with an appeals processing costing a minimum of $1.5 billion during the next 10 to 15 years. If defendants are found not guilty, the government can imprison them indefinitely. The two men who proposed cost-saving measures were fired. With plans to keep the facilities open for another 25 years, the government will need to pay for geriatric care such as joint replacements. The oldest prisoner is now 71 years old.

Former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe, fired hours before his pension would go into effect in April 2018, is still in limbo because the DOJ has refused to tell him for ten days whether a grand jury indicted him for inappropriate media leaks about Hillary Clinton and her foundation. Charges against him require 12 of 23 jurors to agree for probably cause that he committed a crime. In his position, he can declassify anything he wishes so a jury will have trouble finding him guilty. He is accused of lying under oath, but that’s not a problem for Brett Kavanaugh in his confirmation hearings for Supreme Court justice. It’s been said that a grand jury can “indict a ham sandwich”; McCabe may be less guilty than that sandwich.

DDT wants to dump VP Mike Pence from the 2020 ballot because he doesn’t provide enough defense for DDT. Ivanka and Jared Kushner regularly threaten Pence to force him to follow orders, according to a White House official.

Even FLOTUS Melania Trump has become toxic. When she asked ten students from the United Nations International School (UNIS) in Manhattan to join at the New York Stock Exchange to ring the opening bell, parents don’t want their children photographed with her.

DDT consistently promises that he is bringing coal back, but in Wyoming two of the biggest U.S. mines have shut down.  

Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010, and Republicans spent seven years trying to repeal it. Democrats took the House in 2018 partly because people were afraid to lose their health care. House Republicans met in 2019 and made plans to repeal people’s health care as the 2020 election nears. That’s all the GOP has?

Attempts by DDT’s National Labor Relations Board to erase a rule making companies more responsible for temps, fast-food-franchise workers, and those who work indirectly for companies may be confounded for a second time because of conflicts of interest by the board—this time its use of temporary staffers. The board hired temporary lawyers and paralegals to review public comments on the rollback of the rule from a company that has a vested interest in the outcome, raising questions about the accuracy of their work.

Thanks to DDT’s trade war with China, the economic OECD, comprised of 36 countries, predicts a world recession. According to the conservative Bloomberg.com, the recession may have already started in some areas such as manufacturing  and farming since DDT started imposing tariffs. In 22 state, the number of people working in factories—members of DDT’s base—fell thus far this year as has truck delivery traffic.

September 7, 2019

More Investigations by and for DDT

Investigations into the abuses of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) using government funds for his own private piggy back does not end with the Pentagon supporting his Scottish Turnberry resort. VP Mike Pence added to DDT’s coffers during Pence’s European trip. While VP Mike Pence attended meetings in Dublin (Ireland), he stayed at DDT’s golf course, Doonbeg, requiring four extra flights in Air Force 2, four extra motorcade trips, and security. Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, said that the government “negotiated room rates” for DDT’s resort. DDT “suggested” (code for ordered) the stay at the golf course including Pence’s wife, sister, and mother. Pence’s chief of staff Marc Short said “suggested” and then denied he said it until the next day when he reversed the reversal, the same day that DDT said he did not “suggest” anything. Although Pence claims to be “personally paying all family expenses,” taxpayers covered expenses for staff, security, and transports for them.

Pence claimed that he wanted to stay close to his ancestral home, but the visit there was rather bleak. Only one couple finally showed up, a huge difference from the crowds in Ireland for President Obama. 

 

Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deer tried—and failed—to cover up for Pence’s homophobia:

 

“For all of you who still think our @VP is anti-gay, I point you to his and the @SecondLady’s schedule tomorrow where they will join Taoiseach @LeoVaradkar and his partner Dr. Matthew Barrett for lunch in Ireland.”

Pence also faced LGBTQ support for LGBTQ people at his next stop, Iceland, where he was greeted with row of rainbow flags from the technology company Advania across from his meeting with President Gudni Johannesson in the capital, Reykjavik. Johannesson and Iceland’s first lady, Eliza Reid, wore rainbow bracelets during the meeting.

Two House committees are investigating Pence’s stay at DDT’s golf resort and DDT’s suggestion that the 2020 G7 summit meet at his Doral resort in Miami. Representatives requested documents from DDT, Pence, and other officials about violations of the Emoluments Clause. The State Department enriched DDT by allowing seven foreign governments to rent luxury condos in New York’s Trump Tower in 2017 with no congressional consent from lawmakers as required by the constitution.

Pro-pollution DDT is is bad for businesses that cross him. The DOJ is accusing four automobile companies of antitrust violations because they plan to conform with California’s fuel efficiency standards. The EPA and Transportation Department also notified California that the deal “appears to be inconsistent with federal law.”

CEOs understand that DDT is causing them serious problems. In an August survey of CEOs, 62 percent said the trade war with its flipflops on tariffs is “highly detrimental” to outlook and strategy, and 72 percent believe that cutting interest rates won’t sustain the economic cycle. The 3.9 percent rate of investment DDT has fallen from President Obama’s 5.7 percent after the nation’s economy started to recover in 2010.

History shows that no one wins in a trade war. When President George W. Bush raised steel tariffs in 2002, the GDP declined by $30.4 million, and about 200,000 jobs disappeared, 13,000 in raw steel-making. The cost to taxpayers was $400,000 for every steel-industry job saved. The World Trade Organization also ruled that the Bush tariffs were illegal

With DDT, the U.S. trade deficit for the first half of 2019 is bigger than in the last two years.

Farmers may suffer more than businesses. Bob Kuylen, the vice president of the 50,000-member North Dakota Farmers Union, said that farmers “lost pretty much all of our markets since Trump took over” leaving farmers “land-rich and cash-poor.” He added that bonuses for his high-protein wheat crops have dropped 95 percent.

In more DDT corruption, the private company of DDT’s campaign manager Brad Parscale has received almost $1 million from a PAC supporting DDT and Pence. Law prohibits PACS from coordinating with candidates’ campaigns.

DDT may have defrauded the IRS by not paying taxes on a tax-avoidance $50-million dollar loan that he owes to one of his own companies. He says it’s a wash; IRS law states that a firm owed money and has no outstand debt is worth at least as much as it is owed.

To give DDT $3.6 billion for his wall, the Pentagon “deferred” 127 projects in 23 states, 19 countries, and three U.S. territories, including $400 million for military installations in Puerto Rico. Another $770 million of the money disappeared from projects in allied European nations to help deter a possible attack from Russia, and another one is for cybersecurity. The Pentagon plans to get Congress to replace the $3.6 billion for a wall that Congress voted down. Either the projects weren’t important in the first place, of the military thought they could blackmail Congress. 

Congressional members are losing status with their constituents because of the lost revenue after Pentagon projects were deferred. North Carolina is unhappy after losing $80 million dollars, and its GOP senator Thom Tillis voted to remove FEMA funds for detention centers. The biggest loser, Tillis is up for re-election next year. He’s also in trouble after DDT lied about signing an emergency declaration “at the request of Senator Thom Tillis.” Federal law allows only governors to make these requests, but DDT couldn’t bear to give a Democrat credit for anything.  

GOP Sen. Martha McSally, also up for re-election after being appointed last year, downplayed Arizona’s loss by saying the state loses only $30,000. Later she had to explain that the loss is $30 million. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) simply blamed the Democrats.

Seventy percent of residents in the 200-household living community for older adults, River Bend Resort and Golf Club in Brownsville (TX), found that DDT’s wall puts them on Mexico’s side of DDT’s 30-foot-tall barrier.

DDT wants to raise mortgage costs and the deficit by ending government control of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae that handle half the nation’s mortgages. Part of the strategy in stopping an even worse recession from the unraveling housing market in 2008 was to have government control of those companies. People are already struggling to find affordable homes, and the U.S. will lose revenue from the companies’ profits while Wall Street gets richer. After paying less than $200 billion to rescue Freddie and Fannie, the government received $300 billion in dividends from them. Neither company has capital to be sustainable for several years, and taxpayers would be forced to bail them out again in “exigent circumstances,” according to the 53-page proposal. Shares in the companies drastically fell last week.

DDT brought out his 85th mandate to destroy the planet by rolling back George W. Bush’s energy-efficient requirements for LED bulbs. Continued use of incandescent bulbs cost people more money. Eliminating inefficient bulbs nationwide would save electricity equivalent to the output from at least 25 large power plants, equivalent to powering all homes in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Since 2010, energy consumption in U.S. homes dropped by 6 percent.

Only three incumbent presidents—Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and George H.W. Bush—faced primary challengers, and all three lost the general elections for a second term. With GOP politicians planning to run against DDT, Republicans have a solution: cancel 2020 presidential primaries and caucuses, already almost done in four states. One of the states is South Carolina, where Mark Sanford is considering an intent to run against DDT. DDT is right about the rigging of the election—at least for the GOP.

More NRA scandals: Former NRA president Marion Hammer obtained loans of over $250,000 at an interest rate down to two percent from the NRA’s Florida affiliate where she is the only employee. This affiliate reported a $28,389 shortfall when it gave Hammer a $200,000 loan. Most of Unified Sportsmen of Florida gets almost all its budget from the NRA. The IRS can impose tax penalties if the organization benefits a private shareholder or person.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who incited people to defend themselves from immigrants before the El Paso shooting, cannot understand how the killer at Midland-Odessa last week could obtain a gun without a background check. The shooter bought the gun in a private sale which, under state law, has no background checks.

“The economy is great,” says DDT, but new jobs slowed in August to 130,000, 34,000 of them government jobs included 25,000 short-term positions for the 2020 U.S. census. Reductions of June and July jobs numbers by 20,000 brought the 2019 monthly average down to 143,000, 25 percent below the 192,000 in 2018. President Obama’s monthly job growth averages were 251,000 per month in 2014, 227,000 in 2015 and 193,000 in 2016. The stock market went up but only because of DDT’s promise of trade talks with China in October. U.S. business investment and growth in trade-sensitive sectors slumped after fewer foreign sales, rising costs of imported goods, and the uncertain global outlook. People’s views of the economy are partisan, but they’re all going down—and independents are much closer to those of Democrats than Republicans. And the election is less than 14 months away.

September 6, 2019

DDT: Week 137 – Alabama’s Hurricane, Pentagon’s Pandering

Almost 70 years ago, Herman Wouk wrote The Caine Mutiny, a fictionalized account of a mutiny on a U.S. destroyer-minesweeper during World War II. Worried about the potential loss of the ship during a storm, the executive officer takes command from Captain Queeg at the suggestion of the communications office who talks about Section 184 of the Navy regs. Citing Queeg’s incompetence, cowardice, and mental illness, the officer prevents the loss of the ship in a storm but is then tried by court martial. A highlight of the movie based on the book, featuring Humphrey Bogart as Queeg, is the scene in which Queeg breaks down under questioning about an episode regarding strawberries.

When Queeg shared a large tin of strawberries, a gift from another ship’s captain, with his officers, they were given one scoop while Queeg had two—like the scoops of ice cream that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) doles out. He gets two and everyone else gets one. That night, Queeg wants more strawberries and finds them missing. In a fury, he obsessively wakes his sailors and orders them to search throughout the ship for his strawberries before the out-of-control Queeg concocts the theory, never proved, that crewmen secretly copied keys to the icebox and obsessively forces more searching to locate them.

The Caine Mutiny led to the 25th Amendment  blocking one person such as the vice president to pronounce that a president is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Instead the majority of the Cabinet must initiate the process, and two-thirds of the Congress must also agree. For the past 960 days, however, Republican leaders have ignored DDT’s obsessive lying, incompetence, and inability to maintain control of himself.

On the day of his inauguration, DDT insisted that his crowd was bigger than the crowd for any president’s inauguration and insisted on photographs that proved his lie. Since then, he continued with his own out-of-control, incompetent, obsessive behavior with wild claims about his winning the popular vote because of voter fraud, claiming all news he didn’t like to be fake news, and creating far more fantasies to show that he is a god who can control nature. His statement about Hurricane Dorian damaging Alabama, however, hit a high point.   

David Lauter put DDT’s “strawberry” episode with his Alabama proclamation and obsession of proving himself right into three acts. DDT’s behavior entire focus on the hurricane was the non-existent problem in Alabama while Dorian devastated the Bahamas (sounds like Alabama?) and killed possibly hundreds of people, threatened Florida, damaged North Carolina, and heads to the Northeast coast.

Act I – The Gathering Storm

Sunday, September 1: DDT’s first tweet – “In addition to Florida—South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated.”

National Hurricane Center’s forecasts showed that any small chance of Dorian hitting the Gulf Coast disappeared at least a day earlier. Twenty minutes after DDT’s tweets, the National Weather Service’s Birmingham (AL) station tweeted to set the record straight and reassure Alabama residents that they were safe from a fearsome storm: “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian. We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane #Dorian will be felt across Alabama. The system will remain too far east.”

Christopher Vaccaro, a spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), wrote in an email, “The current forecast path of Dorian does not include Alabama.”

DDT repeated his personal warning to Alabama that afternoon in televised remarks from a Federal Emergency Management Agency briefing.  

Act 2 – The TV Hour

Monday, September 2: ABC correspondent Jon Karl noted Trump’s mistake and the weather service’s response: “He also misstated the storm’s possible trajectory [and the weather service] corrected the president.” Karl also commented that DDT canceled his scheduled trip to Poland, supposedly to monitor the hurricane, but played golf at his Virginia country club.

DDT doesn’t admit mistakes, claims he works hard, criticizes President Obama for playing golf, and obsessively watches television while saying that he pays little attention to TV. He called Karl a “lightweight reporter” on Twitter and made his usual slurs against the media: “It was in fact correct that Alabama could have received some ‘hurt.’ Always good to be prepared! But the Fake News is only interested in demeaning and belittling. Didn’t play my whole sentence or statement. Bad people!” 

Act 3 – Closing the Ring

Wednesday, September 4: Cable news reported on the story, and DDT performed in the Oval Office by displaying a NOAA weather map showing the August 29 forecast track, in white but added a black Sharpie line over a sliver of southern Alabama. DDT said, “That was the original chart. It could’ve — was going towards the Gulf.” Altering official government weather forecasts is illegal with the possibility of a prison term and fine as well as dangerous for people who believe him.    

Thursday, September 5: Rear Adm. Peter Brown, a Coast Guard flag officer and White House homeland security and counter-terrorism advisor, issued a 225-word statement carefully explaining that his briefings to DDT “included the possibility of tropical storm force winds in southeastern Alabama.”

Coda – Protecting DDT

Friday, September 6: NOAA reversed its earlier message about the forecast not including Alabama and disavowed the September 1 tweet from the National Weather Service that corrected DDT about the danger in Alabama from Dorian: “Birmingham National Weather Service’s Sunday morning tweet spoke in absolute terms that were inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time. From Wednesday, August 28, through Monday, September 2, the information provided by NOAA and the National Hurricane Center to President Trump and the wider public demonstrated that tropical-storm-force winds from Hurricane Dorian could impact Alabama.”

DDT, now feeling vindicated through the lies of a federal agency, tweeted: “The Fake News Media was fixated on the fact that I properly said, at the beginnings of Hurricane Dorian, that in addition to Florida & other states, Alabama may also be grazed or hit.”

James Spann, a meteorologist based in Alabama, wrote that the September 1 tweet from the National Weather Service in Birmingham that corrected DDT was “spot on and accurate.”

During all the crises of last week, including a Category 5 hurricane, DDT, fixated on his insistence of always being right, posted nine tweets and five maps about Alabama and the big storm to justify his mistake, ordered a White House official to release a 225-word statement defending his error that could endanger lives, and coerced NOAA into lying for him. He also called Fox correspondent John Roberts into his office to again lie about the hurricane hitting Alabama and “to hit back at Shepard Smith.”

On his show, Smith said

“Why would the president of the United States do this? He decries fake news that isn’t and disseminates fake news that is. Think China pays the tariffs. The wall is going up. Historic inauguration crowds. The Russia probe was a witch hunt. You need an ID to buy cereal. Noise from windmills causes cancer. It’s endless!”

DDT increasingly manipulates government agencies to enrich his personal businesses, costing taxpayers millions of dollars, for example refueling stops that an Air National Guard crew made last spring on a routine trip from the U.S. to Kuwait to deliver supplies. The stops at a small airport 20 miles from DDT’s Scottish Turnberry resort and 50 miles outside Glasgow (Scotland) cost much more than charges at a military base in the UK, such as nearby Lakenheath Air Base in England. The military spent $11 million on 629 fuel purchase orders at the airport since October 2017, and the airport paid for a five-person crew to stay at DDT’s golf resort along with free rounds of golf. One crew member said that their per diem allowance wasn’t enough to cover food and drinks.

In the past, the same plane refueled at U.S. air bases in Germany, Spain, Azores, and Italy. Never in Scotland. Since April, the Pentagon has stonewalled the House Oversight Committee’s investigation requesting information about the reason for the location of the stops en route to the Middle East and the transport plane’s return and refused to send any documents to the committee.

The reason for stops at Turnberry may be to keep the golf resort from going under: in 2017 the property lost $4.5 million, but revenue went up $3 million in 2018. The golf resort must keep the airport to be at all viable. The Scottish government bought the debt-ridden airport in 2013 for £1. In June, the Scottish government said it will sell the airport that continues to lose money. U.S. taxpayer money is vital for the airport: the authorization of U.S. payments to Prestwick worth £1.4m in the first three months of 2019 is equivalent to revenue from passenger services in 2017 and 2018.

Over two months ago, a Scottish newspaper reported that the U.S. Defense Department is set to sign a contract to continue refueling until fall 2024 with over 35 transactions a month and another £8m from 12.4 million gallons of aviation fuel, three million more than the existing arrangement. Taxpayer spending at both the airport and at DDT’s property may be conflicts of interest and violations of the Emoluments Clause. Even worse, such actions could be illegal activities on the part of the Pentagon that appears to pander to DDT’s desires and further make the U.S. look like a dictatorship.   

March 26, 2019

Nuclear Buildup – World Extermination

Filed under: War — trp2011 @ 11:19 PM
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Most people in the U.S. today don’t remember the drills in public schools in which young people were told to practice hiding under their desks in case of a nuclear attack. That practice may return—along with all those “active shooting” exercises that physically injure teachers—with Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) in the Oval Office. The Pentagon wants to spend $1.7 trillion to rebuild every piece of its nuclear arsenal, including some that were banned by the Russia-U.S. Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty until DDT dumped the agreement. Sort of like getting rid of agreements to help curb climate change, keep Iran from nuclearization, eliminate relationships with previous allies in NATO, etc. The Pentagon goal is also add far more terrifying ones after National “security” adviser John Bolton orchestrated the withdrawal from the INF and tries to scuttle the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia, up for renewal in 2021. Peace to hawkish Republicans and military leaders is comprised of gigantic stores of doomsday bombs and missiles that follow DDT’s philosophy of threats and intimidation.

Over a year ago, the Pentagon released its first official strategic policy since the April 2010 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). The role of nuclear weapons has transferred from reduction of nuclear weapons’ role to expansion and new “low-yield” munitions, intended to use against conventional forces. The new NPR claims that Russia and China have improved their nuclear powers although Russia reduced the number of its deployed nuclear warheads and China has made little upgrades to its relatively small stockpile. During the last decade, the Pentagon has spent $22 billion to upgrades.

The Pentagon’s plans “strategic” nuclear weapons aimed at other nuclear-armed countries in addition to the gravity bombs stored in Europe for air delivery against ground forces and installations. The goal is to obliterate countries if the Pentagon wishes. The result would be nuclear winter in which a cloud covers the sun for years or decades, finishing off human civilization. Robert Lamb’s description:

“Suddenly, the sky blazes with the radiance of a thousand suns. Millions of lives burn to ash and shadow. Finally, as nuclear firestorms incinerate cities and fo­rests, torrents of smoke ascend into the atmosphere to entomb the planet in billowing, black clouds of ash. The result is noontime darkness, plummeting temperatures. and the eventual death of life on planet Earth.”

The U.S. military follows the triad system: ground-based ICBMs, submarine-borne SLBMs, and long range bombers. If one fails, the others could still fight an enemy. Because submarines are the most effective, nuclear strategists have argued for eliminating one or two of the triad, but the Pentagon plans to keep the triad on the basis of faith, not practicality.

The New Start treaty blocked the U.S. strategic arsenal to the same level as Russia—a maximum of 700 deployed ICBMs, SLBMs, and nuclear-armed long-range bombers. The U.S. has 400 silo-based Minuteman III ICBMs, each carrying one warhead; 280 multiple-warhead Trident II D5 SLBMs carried aboard 12 Ohio-class submarines, each capable of firing 20 missiles; and 20 B-2 stealth bombers, each capable of carrying 16 gravity bombs, plus up to 46 B-52H bombers, each capable of delivering 20 nuclear-armed, air-launched cruise missiles.

In addition to replacing the entire arsenal, the Pentagon plans to get a large number of low-yield weapons—large enough to destroy Hoboken (NY) but not all of New York City—to oppose enemy combat formations, command centers, and other battlefield components. These are needed, according to the Pentagon, to keep DDT from starting with nuclear war. Russia would never swallow such garbage thinking, but the Pentagon thinks that these “smaller” weapons are more coercive.  Plans for these weapons include use against a cyberattack on U.S. command-and-control facilities and preemptive attacks on Russian and Chinese military assets. A March 13 announcement indicates flight-testing two such weapons in August if DDT has completed the withdrawal from INF.

The $1.7 trillion cost for these plans—designing, producing, deploying, and maintaining for 30 years—that doesn’t include overruns is over double the total military budget for one year. The U.S. already has more accurate and flexible weapons that the proposed ones, weapons more useful in early use for a crisis situation. The Pentagon plan is a dangerous shift in the nation’s nuclear strategy with a focus on nuclear weapons for threats and war. About nuclear weapons, DDT said, “Why are we making them [if we don’t use them]?” Humanitarian costs are far over these trillions of dollars, causing the UN to adopt a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in 2017 which bans the production, possession, deployment, and use of nuclear weapons. Nuclear-armed countries including the United States have not signed the Ban Treaty.

For decades, the Pentagon has had no audit to assess its spending, and the Iraq War has added the Overseas Contingency Operations account (OCO), a slush fund with tens of billions of dollars because it has no cap. The government uses this budget line to pay for projects not funded through the regular process. DDT may put $174 billion into this war budget for 2020, approximately the same as the peak for both Afghanistan and Iraq wars although current troop commitments are ten percent of the 200,000 members deployed to the two countries at the height of the conflict. The military knows that the Pentagon is the sacred cow—or the third rail—that no one dare touch, but it wastes at least $25 billion a year on excess overhead and another $24 billion with the use of 600,000 private contracts on jobs that could be done by civilian government personnel and not at all. Replacement of the overpriced, underperforming F-35 combat aircraft which may never be combat-ready could save another $2.4 billion in one year before billions of savings later. These savings are on top of cutting back the nuclear overkill to save hundreds of billions of dollars.

Ernest Moniz, President Obama’s former energy secretary and now CEO of the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), stated that “the risk of a nuclear weapon being used is now higher than at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis.” Of special concern is the corrosion of the Russia-U.S. arms agreement, ready to collapse with Bolton’s opposition to the New START treaty. In case of a cyberattack on command and control systems leading to a false attack warning, a president would have minutes to decide a response with limited information. The all-or-nothing denuclearization position toward North Korea, the U.S. has “miniscule” chances of success. The delivery of weapons doesn’t require missiles; a ship could bring them into a harbor. The number of nations with nuclear weapons could grow. About East Asia, Munoz said, “If some of [North Korea’s] neighbors lose confidence in our military backing for them, then there is a risk there as well.”

The past half century has seen a number of close calls in destroying the world. The most famous might be the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, but others were caused by the U.S. interpreting a moonrise in Greenland as a huge Soviet missile launch, a power outage, a solar flare, and computer errors.  Twelve years ago, six unprotected AGM-129 ACM cruise missiles, each loaded with a W80-1 variable yield nuclear warhead, were mistakenly moved from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana where they sat for nine hours until an observant supervisor notice the nuclear warheads.

In the 1950s, Daniel Ellsberg, known for revealing the Pentagon Papers in 1971, worked for the RAND corporation, a think tank providing research and analysis to the U.S. Armed Forces. While there, he had access to material about the U.S. nuclear policy, information along with later work for the Department of Defense and the White House that he finally revealed in his 2017 book, The Doomsday Machine. Despite the belief that only the president can authorize setting off nuclear weapons, he learned that President Eisenhower delegated this responsibility to senior regional commanders who passed it down the system to middle ranking officers. Codes were set at 000000, meaning anyone at higher levels of the Strategic Air Command could launch the arsenal. U.S. military chiefs talked about losses of 275 to 325 million along with the nuclear winter destroying most of the life on the planet. That’s how near the world is to extermination.

Schools of education might consider dusting off all those classes for prospective teachers in helping students hide under their desks.

 

August 20, 2015

Pentagon Loses Taxpayer Money, Wants More

More money for defense and less money for taxpayers—that’s what Republicans want. Hillary Clinton’s emails a horrible and deliberate defense disaster—that’s what Republicans want to prove. The Pentagon missing $8.5 trillion? No mention and probably no problem. This expenditure is more than China’s economic output last year. The Defense Department’s budget was $567 billion, but no one knows how much of that money is spent as intended. The Pentagon is the only federal agency that has failed to comply with a two-decade-old law requiring audits of all government departments.

An extensive investigation by Scot Paltrow reveals the way that the U.S. military failed to submit to an audit, flouted federal law, and concealed the loss of billions of dollars through waste and fraud. Employees for the U.S. Department of Defense were told to put input fake data, called “plugs,” to reconcile military books with those of the U.S. Treasury. Now the records are filled with missing, unidentified, and wrong numbers. The same thing happened at the operational level.

The Pentagon consistently ignores warnings about its accounting practices from oversight agencies. It fails “to keep track of its money—how much it has, how much it pays out, and how much is wasted or stolen,” according to Paltrow. “Widespread pay errors inflict financial hardship on soldiers and sap morale, [but] pay errors are only a small part of the sums that annually disappear into the vast bureaucracy that manages more than half of all annual government outlays approved by Congress.” Accounting errors lead to loss of soldiers’ wages from unfounded accusations that soldiers have been overpaid. Without their salary, soldiers are forced to get food from charity pantries.

The Pentagon continues to spend money of supplies it doesn’t need and stores other items that it doesn’t need because it doesn’t keep track of weapons, ammunition, etc. It has a backlog of more than $500 billion in unaudited contracts with outside vendors, but it doesn’t know how much of that money has been paid for real goods and services. The Navy can’t account for ships, submarines, and other physical assets even after the $1 billion it spent to upgrade record-keeping.

Most of the Pentagon’s incompatible accounting and business-management systems—maybe 2,200 or 5,000, depending on who’s counting—were built in the 1970s and use obsolete computer languages on old mainframes. Even if someone could search for data, much of it is corrupted and just plain wrong. The tens of billions of dollars used to upgrade technology failed, adding to the waste. In the meantime, military knowingly signs off on entries that it knows to be false. Corporate managers certifying false financial reports suffer criminal penalties; the Pentagon’s officials have none.

Every year, the Pentagon buys more of what it already has in excess, defined as a three-year supply. In 2008, for example, it had 15,000 parts in stock for the “vehicular control arm” of the Humvees, equal to a 14-year supply. From 2010 through 2012, it bought another 7,437 of them at considerably higher prices as demand dropped by almost half. Nobody knows if these have been stored in the right bins, which makes inventory impossible. Nothing has been done to track employee theft. The Pentagon ordered the Defense Department to have a labeling system, a directive that the DOD ignored.

Obsolete supplies aren’t monitored although the Army is trying to detonate some C4 plastic explosives made in 1979. Nothing has been done with runway flares from the 1940s and warheads for Sparrow missiles not fielded since the 1990s. Rocket-launch systems retired in the 1980s take up space. “Keeping all those useless bullets, explosives, missiles, rifles, rocket launchers and other munitions costs tens of millions of dollars a year,” Paltrow reported.

Despite all these issues, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said that a cut of $52 billion in 2014 was “too deep, too steep, and too abrupt.” His claim that “this is an irresponsible way to govern” sounds like the way that the Pentagon manages its finances. Hagel had no idea how much money the Pentagon had. In one office (Columbus, Ohio), duplicate entries across multiple ledgers led to mistakes for the Air Force in 2009, totally $1.59 trillion which included $538 billion for plugs—roughly eight times what the Air Force was allotted for that year.

Efforts to fix the problem have consistently failed. Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England established the Business Transformation Agency in 2006 to upgrade business operations and prepare the department for auditing. By 2009, the department had spent over $10 billion a year, but it didn’t stop business as usual. Defense Secretary Gates shut down the project in 2011.

How much of the $3 trillion spent on contracts for goods and services during the past ten years has been wasted in overpayments or never spent is not known. Bills are easily padded because detailed invoices are not required. The tremendous backlog to audit fulfillment of contracts came to 24,722 contracts worth $573.3 billion by the end of 2011. The Army’s backlog was 450,000 contracts in 2012. The Navy and Air Force don’t know what their backlogs are. To take care of the problem, the value at which a contract is automatically audited rose from $15 million to $250 million.

GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina is campaigning on making the U.S. Department of Education a “whole lot smaller.” As president, she would make the department “justify every single dollar every single year.” Nobody says that about the military. Fiorina also said that she doesn’t know what the Department of Education does. She could easily find the department’s reports and charts about its goals, the sources of its expenditures, and comparisons to previous year. It’s right here.

The Department of Education provides grants, including Pell grant funding; makes sure that states spend federal money as they should; keeps schools from gender discrimination per Title IX; and collects national education data. Without federal oversight, states won’t spend the Title I money as intended to effect education equality. The Department also checks on the for-profit college industry, i.e., fining Corinthian Colleges because it misrepresented job placement data.

Fiorina decried “complicated accreditation” for these for-profit colleges that she found to be “expensive.” These colleges, however, have higher student loan debt and poor completion rates because their accreditation rules are already too loose. HuffPo reported that accrediting boards frequently have executives from for-profit colleges, perhaps the reason that none of the five major companies had the accreditation revoked in the past ten years and fraudulent job placement data was ignored.

The budget for the Department of Education for this year is $68.8 billion, and the agency knows where its money goes because it’s the law. The Department of Defense’s budget is $567 billion—about 12 percent of the budget for the Department of Education—and the DOD has no idea where it goes because it flouts the law. Below is what $8.5 trillion dollars looks like in $100 bills. That’s what the Pentagon has been allotted during the past 20 years with no accountability.

trillions of dollars

Food stamp fraud may account for about $500 million (less than one cent per each dollar of the $82 billion), but the Pentagon has lost $8.5 trillion. That amount has cost each household approximately $70,000. In 2013, about 45.3 million people, including 14.7 million children, lived in poverty in the United States—14.5 percent of the population and the largest number in the 54 years that statistics have been kept. Almost one in five children live in poverty.

Lack of government support has driven tuition for higher education sky-high. The student debt is now at $1.2 trillion in the United States, and the costs will cripple the future for both young people and the economy. People will have to pay down this debt instead of buying houses and cars, shoring up the GDP.

Conservatives caused this inequality, but they are determined to deny help to any of these people. Yet they are willing to distribute over one-half trillion dollars every year to an agency that has no idea how the taxpayer money is spent. For conservatives, a steak or shellfish or shredded cheese is outrageously out-of-bounds for food stamp recipients, but 22,437 extra Humvee front ends are just fine. Billions of taxpayer dollars for failed business systems or excessive purchases of supplies or unfulfilled government contracts or unpaid soldiers or lack of audits that break the law are acceptable. Conservatives need to look at their priorities.

June 18, 2014

Domestic Terrorists, a Bigger Problem than Foreign Ones

Almost 13 years, 19 al-Qaeda extremists killed 2,977 people in the U.S., a tragedy that allowed George W. Bush to start two “military actions” costing us over one trillion dollars. Reasons beginning with a search for non-existent weapons of mass destruction evolved to an excuse of bringing democracy to the world—preferably countries with oil. In the past 11 years, the U.S. has caused 6,717 military deaths, 650,000 or more Iraqi civilian deaths, and at least 320,000 brain injuries.

Shortly before Bush left the presidency, he signed an agreement that required U.S. forces to withdraw from Iraq by December 31, 2011. President Obama complied with Bush’s agreement, but the Sunni insurgents that the U.S.-appointed Shia government replaced are returning.

So are the conservative war hawks in Congress. As violence in Iraq escalates and Sunnis take over parts of Iraq, the conservative rhetoric against the president and for another “military action” in Iraq ramps up. The chicken hawks in Congress are demanding that the U.S. military kill more Iraqis.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is outraged because we are losing all those non-existent “gains” that the U.S. made in Iraq. He was wrong when he said over ten years ago that winning would be easy and that Iraqis would greet the U.S. as liberators, and he’s wrong now when he said, “The fact is, we had the conflict won. The surge had succeeded. And then, the decision was made by the Obama administration to not have a residual force in Iraq.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) tried to cover for his buddy when he injected greater fear in his warnings. “The people that are moving into Iraq … have as part of their agenda … to hit our homeland.” What Graham ignores is that “our homeland” is already under attack. The attackers, however, are not foreign terrorists; they are domestic terrorists.

The definition of terrorism is violence against innocent civilians to advance a political cause. People in the United States are far more likely to be killed by right-wing Americans than foreign terrorists. Since 9/11, right-wing extremists (aka terrorists) have killed people at the Jewish Community Center in Kansas City, a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, a church in Kansas because a doctor performed abortions,  These acts were not simply one person deciding to murder another; the killers were tied to far right-wing groups.

In both the recent murders at the Jewish Community Center and the Boston Marathon bombing, three people were killed. One of these events produced hours and hours and hours of media attention, even on its anniversary; the other event received far less attention. A big difference is that the killer at the Jewish Center yelled “Heil Hitler” instead of “Allah Akbar.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) calculates that the United States has 939 far right-wing hate groups, including neo-Nazis, Klansmen, white nationalists, neo-Confederates, racist skinheads, and border vigilantes. This is 56 percent more than in 2000. SPLC stated:

“This surge has been fueled by anger and fear over the nation’s ailing economy, an influx of non-white immigrants, and the diminishing white majority, as symbolized by the election of the nation’s first African-American president…. The number of Patriot groups, including armed militias, skyrocketed following the election of President Obama in 2008 – rising 813 percent, from 149 groups in 2008 to an all-time high of 1,360 in 2012.”

The standoff at Cliven Bundy’s ranch because he didn’t want to pay his debts to the federal government is an indicator of domestic terrorism in the United States. Well-armed self-identified militia demanded that federal officials stand down and give up their guns. To prevent deaths, the federal officials complied. While conservatives refer to the people fighting the Iraqi government as insurgents, they use the term “patriots” to refer to the self-identified militia in Nevada and Utah. These armed “patriots” pointed weapons at federal officials, took armed control of local roads without challenge, and rode roughshod over federally-protected sacred Native American lands.

Five years ago, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a report about violent right-wing extremist groups that were recruiting military veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. Conservative columnists expressed outrage, and DHS retracted the report. They stopped examining non-Islamic terrorist threats—anti-abortion extremists, white supremacists, “sovereign citizens,” eco-terrorists, etc.

The myths that gun carriers are good people and that killings can be stopped by gun carriers were erased less than two weeks ago when members of the militia on Bundy’s ranch walked into a Las Vegas Walmart and killed two cops before killing another man. There have been claims that the couple was asked to leave because one of them was a felon, but he was still part of the group holding off the federal officials.

While the killer was at the Bundy ranch, he spoke to reporters:

“I feel sorry for any federal agents that want to come in here and try to push us around or something like that. I really don’t want violence toward them, but if they’re going to come bring violence to us, well if that’s the language they want to speak, we’ll learn it.”

Before he fired on the police officers, he reportedly yelled, “This is the start of a revolution.” After the murders, the couple draped the bodies with the Revolution-era “don’t treat on me” flag.

A few days before the murders, the Department of Justice announced a law enforcement group to investigate domestic terrorism. The Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee was formed after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 but disbanded after 9/11. Attorney General Eric Holder said it was to “return our focus to potential extremists here at home,” specifically those motivated by “causes from anti-government animus to racial prejudice.”

Conservatives are again in a snit about the committee. Pat Dollard said it was waging war on white men. Alex Jones claimed that the president is going after his political enemies. Glenn Beck thinks that “this regime” is terrified about attempts to “re-establish our constitutional government.”

Another Bundy-follower and self-proclaimed “sovereign citizen,” 60-year-old  Brent Douglas Cole, shot a BLM ranger and a California Highway Patrol officer last Saturday at a campground in California’s Nevada County. According to SPLC, “Sovereigns believe that they–not judges, juries, law enforcement or elected officials–get to decide which laws to obey and which to ignore, and they don’t think they should have to pay taxes.” Cole describes himself as “a statutory Attorney General of the United States.”

The “stand your ground” laws that allowed people to kill others and walk free has been superseded by an even more horrifying  NRA-promoted law in Indiana. In that state, anyone can kill police officers who might be overstepping authority. If a police officer trespasses on property, for example, that person can be shot and perhaps killed. The couple who killed the police officers in Las Vegas was from Indiana.

Graham is wrong about al-Qaeda hitting “our homeland.” People within the “homeland” are doing just fine at destroying it. Gun makers, gun sellers, gun show vendors, NRA execs and lobbyists, and open carry fanatics are terrifying members of Congress so that more people—including small children—will be killed and others will start to hide. The gunners succeeded in frightening people in Nevada and Utah, breaking laws with impunity and taking over governments.

The Pentagon has an ongoing series of studies to investigate large-scale civil unrest. The Minerva Research Initiative, started in 2008, is now studying only non-violent activists as part of a “social contagion.” A concern is that “problem-causers” in peaceful protests are “threatening the established balance of power and influence, and challenging law and order.” Part of the study also deals with how “to counteract grassroots movements.”

Instead of spending trillions of dollars to “fight terrorism abroad,” the country needs to fight homegrown terrorists who are taking over the United States. Instead of concentrating on non-violent activists, the Pentagon needs to look into domestic terrorists. We have a serious problem in “our homeland,” and it needs to be addressed.

May 10, 2012

House Republicans Waste Taxpayers’ Monday

The United States is poor, right? We want limited government instead of providing a safety net for the people who live in this nation, right? We’re badly in debt and need to cut back on the budget, right? That’s the view from the Republican side of Congress. So what are they doing?

This week the U.S. House of Representatives Defense Appropriations Subcommittee approved over $948 million in funding for Israel’s various anti-missile defense programs. That’s almost $1 billion. Over two-thirds of the money goes to the anti-missile initiative, Iron Dome, and the rest to the short-range David’s Sling ($149.7 million), and the current long-range Arrow anti-ballistic missile system and its successor the Arrow 3 ($119.3 million).  The $948 million is $169 million more than President Obama requested, an increase of almost 20 percent, and would bring military aid to Israel to over $4 billion.

Today 218 Republicans in the House voted to override steep cuts to the Pentagon’s budget mandated by last summer’s debt deal, adding $72 billion to the Pentagon budget and covering that funding with massive spending reductions to food stamps and other social programs. The Republicans say that these cuts would reduce the deficit by $243 billion which shows how badly the safety net will be damaged.

In addition, the House Armed Services Committee voted for a $642 billion defense bill that calls for construction of a missile defense site on the East Coast at a cost of $5 billion, restores aircraft and ships slated for early retirement, and ignores the Pentagon’s cost-saving request for another round of domestic base closings. The committee rejected the Pentagon’s call to mothball 18 Air Force Global Hawk drones, and it restored four Navy cruisers slated for early retirement in next year’s budget.

Republicans insisted that the East Coast site is necessary in case Iran or North Korea develops an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of attacking the East Coast. Since the mid-1980s, the Pentagon has spent nearly $150 billion on missile defense programs (some people say $274 billion) and envisions another $44 billion over the next five years. The problem with all their work is that they have consistently failed in successfully creating any way to shoot down ballistic missiles.

Scientists had endeavored to equip a 747 with a powerful laser system that could knock ballistic threats out of the sky, but the Missile Defense Agency officially announced last February that it would abandon the study, citing scientists’ failure in trials to ever shoot down a missile. During testing of the laser technology in 2010, scientists failed to demonstrate that the defense system was effective at knocking out ballistic technologies. The failed testing also cost the federal government more than $100,000 per hour.  Just last month, the nation’s test of a new ballistic technology failed and crashed in the Sea of South Korea. No matter—lawmakers want to keep going because the government has already spent its billions of dollars on the program.

Republicans refused to permit Democrats to submit their alternative plan as an amendment. That proposal would have cut $24 billion in farm subsidies, saved $5 billion by reforming the National Flood Insurance Program reform, and raised $84 billion by imposing a “Buffet Rule” tax on the wealthy and increasing taxes on the five biggest oil and gas companies. Notice that just the last recommendation would more than cover the $72 billion Republicans want for the Pentagon, despite the constant conservative cry that the “Buffet Rule” tax is useless because it doesn’t raise any money.

Even the Pentagon knows that the House Republicans are wrong. Hours after the Armed Services Committee added money for the East Coast missile defense site and aircraft that the Pentagon didn’t propose, Leon Panetta told Congress that their actions were jeopardizing national security. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also said that the committee’s addition of up to $5 billion for a new East Coast missile defense site is not needed.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the House budget would leave 1.8 million people without food stamps and take away money for vaccinations, prenatal care, and nursing homes for seniors. Hundreds of thousands of children would lose health insurance and school lunches.

President Obama’s budget plan includes job-creation initiatives for infrastructure, job-training, and innovation. The cost is offset by raising $1.5 trillion over 10 years from the wealthiest taxpayers and closing some corporate tax breaks, chiefly for oil and gas companies. He also proposed a higher tax on dividend income of the wealthiest taxpayers, which would raise about $206 billion over 10 years.

Last March, all except ten House Republicans passed a budget that cuts deeply into domestic spending, transforms the tax code (translate as more tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations), and transform (translates as beginning to eliminate) Medicare and Medicaid.

House Speaker John Boehner and presidential wannabe Mitt Romney continue to claim that they are interested only in the economy and jobs. Perhaps true because their approach destroys the economy and eliminates jobs. Add to that the concept of Congress trying to tell the military what to do, and this country could be in a world of hurt if the nation takes the wrong turn six months.

Oh yes, that jobs’ approach for the House? Last night, the House voted 245-171 to stop the Justice Department from using taxpayer funds to actively oppose the Defense of Marriage Act, preventing marriage equality, as part of Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations legislation. Of course, the House is spending its own money to fight court cases and protect DOMA. Sixteen Democrats voted with the GOP for the amendment, while seven Republicans opposed it. The conservatives are playing for the vote: although the Justice Department is no longer defending DOMA in court, the Obama administration is still enforcing it.

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