Nel's New Day

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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