The Sheeple Rationale

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IT’S ONLY OUR MONEY

The Pentagon Money Pit

By Dave Lindorff/ Counterpunch/ August 11, 2016

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What if the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services were to report that $6.5 billion in spending by that federal agency was unaccounted for and untraceable? You can imagine the headlines, right? What if it was $65 billion? The headlines would be as big as for the first moon landing or for troops landing on Omaha Beach in World War II.

But how about a report by the Pentagon’s Office of Inspector General saying that the US Army had $6.5 trillion in unaccountable expenditures for which there is simply no paper trail? That is 6,500 billion dollars! Have you heard about that? Probably not. That damning report was issued back on July 26 — two whole weeks ago — but as of today it has not even been reported anywhere in the corporate media.

It’s not that it’s secret information, or hard to come by. The report is available online at the Department of Defense’s OIG website. And as it states:

The Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Financial Management & Comptroller) (OASA[FM&C]) and the Defense Finance and Accounting Service Indianapolis (DFAS Indianapolis) did not adequately support $2.8 trillion in third quarter journal voucher (JV) adjustments and $6.5 trillion in yearend JV adjustments made to AGF data during FY 2015 financial statement compilation.2 The unsupported JV adjustments occurred because OASA(FM&C) and DFAS Indianapolis did not prioritize correcting the system deficiencies that caused errors resulting in JV adjustments, and did not provide sufficient guidance for supporting system‑generated adjustments.

In addition, DFAS Indianapolis did not document or support why the Defense Departmental Reporting System‑Budgetary (DDRS-B), a budgetary reporting system, removed at least 16,513 of 1.3 million records during third quarter FY 2015. This occurred because DFAS Indianapolis did not have detailed documentation describing the DDRS-B import process or have accurate or complete system reports.

As a result, the data used to prepare the FY 2015 AGF third quarter and yearend financial statements were unreliable and lacked an adequate audit trail. Furthermore, DoD and Army managers could not rely on the data in their accounting systems when making management and resource decisions.

This dense bureaucrateze doesn’t mean that $6.5 trillion has been stolen, or that this is money in addition to the $600 billion that the Pentagon spent in fiscal 2015. It means that for years — and $6.5 trillion represents at about 15 years’ worth of US military spending — the Department of Defense (sic) has not been tracking or recording or auditing all of the taxpayer money allocated by Congress — what it was spent on, how well it was spent, or where the money actually ended up. There are enough opportunities here for corruption, bribery, secret funding of “black ops” and illegal activities, and or course for simple waste to march a very large army, navy and air force through. And by the way, things aren’t any better at the Navy, Air Force and Marines.

Incredibly, no mainstream reporter or editor in the US has seen this as a story worth reporting to the American public.

Just to give a sense of the scale of this outrage, consider that total federal discretionary spending in FY 2015 was just over $1.1 trillion. That includes everything from education ($70 billion), housing and community development ($63 billion), Medicare and health ($66 billion), veterans’ benefits ($65 billion), energy ($39 billion), transportation ($26 billion) and international affairs ($41 billion), and of course that $600 billion for the military.

All the other agencies that are responsible for those other outlays, like the Dept. of Education, the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, etc., have been required by Congress since 1996 to file reports on annual audits of their budgets. The Pentagon was subject to that same act of Congress too, but for 20 years and running it has failed to do so. It has simply stonewalled, and so far has gotten away with it.

Nobody in Congress seems to care about this contempt of Congress. Neither of the two mainstream political candidates for president, Republican Donald Trump nor Democrat Hillary Clinton, seems to care either. Neither one has mentioned this epic scandal.

According to the OIG’s report, this problem actually goes back a generation, to 1991, five years before Congress even passed the law requiring all federal agencies to operate using federal accounting standards and to conduct annual audits, when the Government Accountability Office found “unsupported aadjustments” were being made to the military’s financial statements during an audit of FY 1991 Army financial statements. Fully 17 years later, the Army, in its FY 2008 statement of Assurance on Internal Controls, said that the “weakness” found in 1991 “would be corrected by the end of FY 2011,” an outrageous decade later. But the OIG report goes on to say:

However, the FY 2015 Statement of Assurance on Internal Controls indicated this material weakness remained uncorrected and may not be corrected until third quarter 2017.

Such a lackadaisical attitude on the part of the Pentagon, Congress and the media towards such a massive accounting failure involving trillions of dollars is simply mind-boggling, and yet there is nobody in Congress jumping up and down in the well of the House or or at Armed Services Committee hearings demanding answers and heads. No president or presidential candidate is denouncing this atrocity.

Aside from the political question of how much the US should actually be spending on the military — and clearly, spending almost as much as the rest of the world combined on war and war preparedness is not justifiable — how can anyone, of any political persuasion, accept the idea of spending such staggering sums of money without insisting on any accountability?

Consider that politicians of both major political parties are demanding accountability for every penny spent on welfare, including demanding that recipients of welfare prove that they are trying to find work. Ditto for people receiving unemployment compensation. Consider the amount of money and time spent on testing students in public schools in a vain effort to make teachers accountable for student “performance.” And yet the military doesn’t have to account for any of its trillions of dollars of spending on manpower and weapons — even though Congress fully a generation ago passed a law requiring such accountability.

Phone and email requests to the DOD press office for the Office of Inspector General asking for comment went unanswered.

Mandy Smithberger, director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), says, “Accounting at the Department of Defense is a disaster, but nobody is screaming about it because you have a lot of people in Congress who believe in more military spending, so they don’t really challenge military spending.” She adds, “You won’t see anything change unless Congress cuts the Pentagon budget in order to get results, and they’re not going to do that.”

She might have added that the reporters and editors and publishers of the corporate media also support military spending, so the media are not reporting on this scandal either, meaning that the public remains in the dark and unconcerned about it. Sure, the media will report on a $600 air force toilet seat and the public will be appropriately outraged, but there is no word about an untracable $6.5 trillion in Army spending and no public outrage…except perhaps among those who read alternative publications like this one.

Enough! I don’t want to hear another complaint about government spending on welfare, education, environment, health care subsidies, immigrant benefits or whatever, until the Pentagon has to report on, account for and audit every dollar that it is spending on war.

No more free ride for the military.

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Shocking new report: Bombing people causes people to hate you

 

Now there is a new report that examines this strange trend.

Our new article, forthcoming in the journal Terrorism and Political Violence,  examines the coalition’s use of violence to suppress insurgency during the Iraq War. We found that excess reliance on military force can produce counterintuitive results.

  Counterintuitive? You mean like, they throw bullets at us instead of flowers?

Using data from the Iraq War Logs, we analyzed the numbers to see whether killing insurgents had any influence on the incidence of insurgent attacks. We constructed a weekly data set across 103 districts in Iraq from 2004 to 2009. The data counted how many insurgents coalition forces killed each week in each district, through all types of military engagement (including direct and indirect fire incidents, bombings or any other form of engagement where a member of the coalition was present to record the incident). We then analyzed whether the number of insurgents killed in a given week had an impact on the number of insurgent attacks against coalition forces in future weeks. The answer is yes — but it turns out that rather than reducing the insugency’s  capabilities, killing fighters actually encouraged more attacks against the coalition.
   When coalition forces employed extreme violence — killing relatively large numbers of insurgents — they were able to moderate the rate of increase in insurgent attacks, but not reduce it. In other words, military force alone was not successful at decreasing violence in Iraq. Here are four reasons why.

Shocking! Killing lots of people does not create peace on Earth!   But every Hollywood movie based on a video game I’ve ever seen has an entirely different message (i.e. you kill all the bad guys to win the game). Could all those movies be wrong?   Almost every presidential candidate echoes the message of those Hollywood movies as well. Surely they can’t all be wrong!

  So what reasons does this report give for such bizarre conclusions?

1) Military force often means collateral damage.

  It seems that classifying dead civilians as insurgents/terrorists may work with the American audience, but it doesn’t work so well with the locals.   What’s more, blowing up their homes and infrastructure doesn’t makes them love you either.

2) Civilians are likely to blame outsiders for violence, not the Islamic State.

  Funny how the locals are more likely to blame people from the other side of the planet that drop bombs from 30,000 feet, rather than people they can actually see and talk to.

3) Attacking insurgents may actually strengthen their ranks.

Killing insurgent fighters is a sure way to encourage retaliation. If a group can signal strength through retaliatory attacks despite receiving heavy casualties, then local populations are more likely to view that group as strong. Some populations would see backing a strong group as the best way to protect their own interests.

There’s also something else the report didn’t note: insurgents are people to (believe it or not), and people tend to have families and friends who may resent you killing them.

4) A stronger insurgency is likely to result in more attacks on coalition forces.

  So if we can’t bomb our way to peace, what can we do? So far the answer is to bomb even more. It’s a message that sells with both Democrats and Republicans.

 Now assuming that more bombs aren’t the answer (and that MUCH more bombs aren’t the answer either), what could be the answer? Well, someone might have an idea.

We have a military plan to defeat the Islamic State – and, as initial gains in Fallujah last week demonstrated, it’s going well in many respects – but we have yet to articulate a political plan to ensure Iraq’s long-term stability.
   Sometimes it’s impossible to tell whether it’s 2007 or 2016. The battle plans I hear from our commanders in Iraq today are the same ones I heard at the beginning of the surge, down to the same cities and tribal alliances. My question is: How will this time be different? The silence is deafening.

Oh yeah. The politics. Diplomacy. Long-term thinking rather than short-term explosions.   All stuff that Americans had long ago sh*t-canned as signs of weakness. Maybe instead of just spending billions on contracting out our military, maybe we can spend a few bucks contracting out our diplomacy too? Because obviously no one in Washington is interested in talking anymore.

Carl von Clausewitz taught us nearly 200 years ago that “War is a mere continuation of politics by other means.” We have to have a political endgame, or the sacrifices our troops continue to make will be in vain. It’s not the military’s job to develop that political plan – that’s where the administration comes in – but it’s painfully clear there isn’t one. Without a long-term political strategy, we can expect to send young Americans back to Iraq every time Iraqi politics fall apart, a new terrorist group sweeps in and we find ourselves required to clean up the mess.
   Fixing Iraqi politics is difficult, but I’d much prefer having a heavy, long-term diplomatic presence than losing more lives refighting battles we already won.

  The good news is that we are getting very good at invading the Middle East. It’ll come in useful again very soon.

Posted in foreign policy, government, Iraq war, Middle East, military, politics, Terrorism, war, War on Terror | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

HOW THE CORPORATE MEDIA HAS FAILED US

By Arlen Grossman

Published at OpEd News June 30, 2016

(This is an expanded version of the prior posting)

Traditionally, the new media has an obligation to inform and serve the public. For a long time now, the media has fallen short in these responsibilities. There are at least two critical areas in which the corporate media is neglecting to warn the American public about impending disasters:

 
(1) Despite the media pounding out a constant barrage of news about unprecedented climate catastrophes: tornados, flooding, heat waves, wildfires, etc., they seldom connect these increasing occurrences with global warming, despite repeated warnings from scientists. Perhaps it might stifle American business interests. Thus, these weather disasters proliferate and our government does little to rectify the cause of them. Until we do, the devastation will only get worse: more land will be destroyed, more people will suffer, homes will be demolished, and lives will be lost.

(2) Despite increased incidences of terrorist attacks on the West, and heightened fear about such from the public, the media fails to connect increasing American and Western military involvement in Muslim countries around the world with the rise of terrorism. It should be obvious by now: the more killing we do over there, the more killing they do over here. But we seem to prefer military solutions. That we could reduce the hatred and anger of Muslim civilians, as well as slow the recruitment of terrorists, by lessening our war-making in their part of the world is a solution the news media prefers to ignore. Perhaps it would not be in their interests, or those of the military and our corporate war industries. So the unending cycle of violence continues.

 
We are not being served well by a media that is supposed to inform and serve us. The consequences of that neglect will harm all of us.

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THE FAILURE OF THE CORPORATE MEDIA

by Arlen Grossman

There are at least two ways in which the corporate media is neglecting to warn the American public about impending disasters:

1) Despite a constant barrage of unprecedented climate catastrophes: tornados, flooding, heat waves, wildfires, etc., the media seldom connects these occurrences with global warming. Thus, these weather disasters proliferate, the public fails to understand the causes, and our government does little to solve the climate change problem.

2) Despite increased incidences of terrorist attacks on the west, and heightened fear about such from the public, the media fails to connect increasing American and Western military involvement in Muslim countries around the world with the rise of terrorism.That we could reduce the hatred and anger of Muslims by lessening our war-making in their part of the world is a lesson lost on the news media. So the unending cycle of violence continues.

We are not being served well by a media that is supposed to inform and serve us. In fact, we are being served very poorly.

 

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We’re Not in Kansas Anymore…Thank Goodness!

Here’s What’s the Matter with Kansas…

 

 

The verdict is in, and it’s time for conservatives to face the cold hard facts.

Right-wing trickle-down Reaganomics doesn’t work.

It doesn’t work internationally, it doesn’t work nationally, and it doesn’t work at the state level.

And we know this is true thanks in part to Kansas Governor Sam Brownback’s 2010 decision to turn his state into a “real live experiment” in Reaganism and the religion of trickle-down economics.

Quickly after taking office, Brownback and the Tea-party controlled legislature passed massive tax breaks for the state’s one-percent, repealed all income taxes for more than 100,000 businesses, tightened welfare requirements making life harder for the working poor and poor children, privatized the delivery of Medicaid so his corporate buddies could have a bigger slice of the state action, cut $200 million from the education budget, eliminated four state agencies and laid off 2,000 government employees.

In 2013, after he signed the largest tax cut in Kansas history with the help of legislators backed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), he told the Wall Street Journal, “My focus is to create a red-state model that allows the Republican ticket to say, ‘See, we have a different way, and it works.'”

And in 2016, six years after Brownback took office and started shaping Kansas into the “red-state model”, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone in their right mind, Republican or Democrat, who would say that the economy in Kansas “works”.

Back when Brownback initiated the plan, conservative economists like Arthur Laffer predicted a massive boom in the state, and the CATO-inspired Kansas Policy Instituteprojected that his tax cuts would create $323 million in new local revenues by the year 2018.

In reality, during the first year of Brownback’s budget, the state lost $ 688 million and job growth shrank to 1.1 percent, below the national average.

And it didn’t get better. In following years, job growth dropped to one-tenth of one percent, and personal income growth slowed from 6.1 percent to 3.6 percent.

According to the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy, the poorest one-fifth of households in Kansas, households that make less than $23,000 a year, saw their average taxes go up about $200 a year, while the richest 1 percent are saving an average of $25,000 a year.

That means that under Sam Brownback’s “red state model”, the richest 1% in Kansas are SAVING $2000 more in TAXES than the bottom fifth of households EARN in a year in INCOME.

As a direct result of this stupidity, now one health insurance CEO is taking his company across the border to Missouri, just to get away from the insanity, and the cruelty, of Brownback’s so-called “red state model”.

Jeff Blackwood, the president and CEO of Pathfinder Health Innovations, recently published a blog post called “Kansas Isn’t Home Anymore” announcing that Pathfinder’s headquarters will be moving from Kansas to Missouri.

In the post, Blackwood points out that Republican Kansas Governor Brownback has worked as an ultraconservative tool of the Koch Brothers and ALEC to make Kansas into “a test center of “trickle down” economics” where “the burdens for the shortfalls rest on the shoulders of those who can least afford it, children and the developmentally disabled.”.

He points out that “One of Brownback’s first actions was to close the [city of] Lawrence’s office for Kansas Social & Rehabilitation Services,” which provided services for low-income children and the developmentally disabled.

That cut was supposed to save $400,000 per year, but Blackwood points out that Brownback chose to pursue “a personal vendetta at the expense of the disabled” when he then proceeded to squander over $400,000 on lawyers and auditors to attack the Kansas Bioscience Authority.

Beyond that, Blackwood notes that when Brownback privatized Medicaid (which is what Paul Ryan wants to do with Medicare nationwide) the results were even more disastrous for the state.

Blackwood personally saw the impacts as the President and CEO of a private health insurance company, and he points out that the cuts to Kansas’s Medicaid program led to significant delays in eligibility, an inexplicable loss of coverage, an increase in caseloads, and struggles for providers to get paid.

Blackwood ends his lengthy post saying that: “I can’t, in good conscience, continue to give our tax money to a government that actively works against the needs of its citizens; a state that is systematically targeting the citizens most in need, denying them critical care, and reducing their cost of life as if they’re simply a tax burden that should be ignored.”.

A stagnant economy, failing job growth, falling personal income, massive budget shortfalls, loss of healthcare coverage, significant delays in healthcare services, and CEOs who take up stakes and move their businesses across the border: these are the results of Brownback’s experiment in rabid “free-market” anti-American-government trickle-down economics.

What’s happening in Kansas is no exception though.

ALEC is pushing this broken and cruel “red-state model” of Reaganomics in every state across the country, and they’ve successfully implemented it to varying degrees in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Florida, Texas, Arizona, West Virginia, and the list unfortunately goes on.

There is a proven alternative to the “red state model,” though, because California has been running what might be called a “blue state” experiment since 2012 when voters increased the state’s top income tax rate to 13.3 percent, the highest in the nation. In 2014, two years after that tax hike went into effect, California’s economy grew by 3.1 percent.

One year later it grew by 4.1 percent, tying with Oregon for the fastest state growth of the year, and resulting in a budget surplus of nearly $900 million.

Of course, conservatives who pretend to understand economics, like Arthur Laffer, predicted a disastrous slowdown in growth in California, and they were as wrong about tax hikes California as they were wrong about tax cuts Kansas.

There’s a simple lesson here: assume the opposite of whatever Arthur Laffer and his Reagan leftovers predict.

Brownback’s experiment has proven that conservative anti-American-government “trickle-down economics” doesn’t benefit anyone except for the super-rich and large corporations, and it undoubtedly and unnecessarily hurts the poorest and sickest Americans.

If we genuinely want to help low-income Americans, if we want to promote small businesses, if we really want to see our states grow, we need lawmakers across the country to reject the failed ALEC-backed “red state model” and to follow the proven model of raising taxes on the billionaire class and investing in the state economy.

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Causes of Terrorism

For about the last fifteen years (and even before), the United States has traveled halfway across the globe relentlessly bombing numerous Middle East countries, killing Muslim combatants and civilians by the thousands, if not millions. And we wonder why Muslim extremists might want to hurt Americans. You think there might be a connection?

Bombing-Syria

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My California Primary Night Favorite Dream

The future as I’d like to envision it…….

Donald Trump continues to self-destruct –as he surely will–and takes down the Republican Party with him. Hillary Clinton and Vice-President Bernie Sanders win the presidential election over Trump and VP Ted Cruz in a landslide, giving the Administration a clear mandate. Trump’s defeat so demoralizes the GOP that the Democrats are able to win back both houses of Congress and a large number of state legislatures and governor races.

Amazingly, some of this might actually come true!

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P.S. Hillary’s first Supreme Court nomination: Barack H. Obama.

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USA! USA!

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Why Trump May Win

By Robert Reich/ RobertReich.org/ May 22, 2016

A new Washington Post/ABC News poll released Sunday finds Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in a statistical tie, with Trump leading Clinton 46 percent to 44 percent among registered voters. That’s an 11 percent swing against Clinton since March.

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, also released Sunday, shows Clinton at 46 percent to Trump’s 43 percent. Previously she led 50 percent to 39 percent.

Polls this far before an election don’t tell us much. But in this case they do raise a serious question.

Since he cinched the Republican nomination two weeks ago, Trump has been the object of even more unfavorable press than he was before – about his treatment of women, his propensity to lie, his bizarre policy proposals.

Before this came months of news coverage of his bigotry, megalomania, narcissism, xenophobia, refusals to condemn violence at his rallies, refusals to distance himself from white supremacists, and more lies.

 

Cartoonist Gary Varvel: Pied piper Donald Trump

Donald Trump hasn’t spent very much money in his presidential campaign but he has dominated the media coverage.

So how can Trump be pulling even with Hillary Clinton?

Throughout the Republican primaries, pundits and pollsters repeatedly told us he’d peaked, that his most recent outrageous statement was his downfall, that he was viewed as so unlikeable he didn’t stand a chance of getting the nomination.

But in my travels around the country I’ve found many who support him precisely because of the qualities he’s being criticized for having.

A Latina-American from Laredo, Texas, tells me she and most of her friends are for Trump because he wants to keep Mexicans out. She thinks too many Mexicans have come here illegally, making it harder for those here legally.

A union member from Pittsburgh says he’s for Trump because he’ll be tough on American companies shipping jobs abroad, tough with the Chinese, tough with Muslims.

A small businessman in Cincinnati tells me he’s for Trump because “Trump’s not a politician. He’ll give them hell in Washington.”

Political analysts have underestimated Trump from the jump because they’ve been looking through the rear-view mirror of politics as it used to be.

Trump’s rise suggests a new kind of politics. You might call it anti-politics.

The old politics pitted right against left, with presidential aspirants moving toward the center once they cinched the nomination.

Anti-politics pits Washington insiders, corporate executives, bankers, and media moguls against a growing number of people who think the game is rigged against them. There’s no center, only hostility and suspicion.

Americans who feel like they’re being screwed are attracted to an authoritarian bully – a strongman who will kick ass. The former reality TV star who repeatedly told contestants they were “fired!” appears tough and confrontational enough to take on powerful vested interests.

That most Americans don’t particularly like Trump is irrelevant. As one Midwesterner told me a few weeks ago, “He may be a jerk, but he’s our jerk.”

By the same token, in this era of anti-politics, any candidate who appears to be the political establishment is at a strong disadvantage. This may be Hillary Clinton’s biggest handicap.

The old politics featured carefully crafted speeches and policy proposals calculated to appeal to particular constituencies. In this sense, Mrs. Clinton’s proposals and speeches are almost flawless.  

But in the new era of anti-politics Americans are skeptical of well-crafted speeches and detailed policy proposals. They prefer authenticity. They want their candidates unscripted and unfiltered.

A mid-level executive in Salt Lake City told me he didn’t agree with Trump on everything but supported him because “the guy is the real thing. He says what he believes, and you know where he stands.”

In the old politics, political parties, labor unions and business groups, and the press mediated between individual candidates and the public –explaining a candidate’s positions, endorsing candidates, organizing and mobilizing voters.

In this era of anti-politics, it’s possible for anyone with enough ego, money, and audacity – in other words, Donald Trump – to do it all himself: declaring himself a candidate; communicating with and mobilizing voters directly through Twitter and other social media; and getting free advertising in mainstream media by being outrageous, politically incorrect, and snide. Official endorsements are irrelevant.

Donald Trump has perfected the art of anti-politics at a time when the public detests politics. Which is why so many experts in how politics used to be played have continuously underestimated his chances.

And why Trump’s demagoguery – channeling the prejudices and fears of Americans who have been losing ground – makes him the most dangerous nominee of a major political party in American history.

 

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