Placebo Ballots: Stealing California From Bernie Using an Old GOP Vote-Snatching Trick_ _ _ _ _ _ _
Breaking: Hillary Clinton to be Indicted on Federal Racketeering Charges [?]
Posted on May 31, 2016
We discuss the ominous new trends linked to the fact that no ‘Mr Smiths’ have gone to Washington in decades. With corruption paying so well, monopolies and big box store businesses overrun the previously job-producing regions of America. In the second half Max interviews Professor Robert McChesney about the media’s role in the US election so far – from $3 billion in free air time for Donald Trump to refusing to cover Bernie Sanders until late in the game. They also discuss ‘the defining moment’ as robots begin to replace more and more jobs and how this relates to the voters choosing Trump.
Is Bernie serious?
Are the thousands of Bernie Sisters (and Brothers)?
Why not? It seems like supporting Bernie might be their last chance to stop the on-rushing 21st-century Wehrmacht.
Bernie has changed the rules of the game. He and his supporters refuse to step aside, and they will use even-handedness to both Israelis and Palestinians as a new marker to define the Democratic Party. What kind of Jew does that? How can Bernie betray his own people? And how can left-wing Jews like Rabbi Michael Lerner say that Bernie Sanders and his balanced approach would even help heal the State of Israel?
Worse, Bernie and his bunch are playing the same game across the board._______________
Breaking up the biggest banks.
A $15 federal minimum wage.
Universal health care.
Taxing Wall Street to pay for tuition-free college education.
And all the other ideas he is pushing. Either Bernie’s people get words they want in the platform, or they will use the fight to win further converts within the party and beyond.
Doesn’t Bernie remember that she and Bill redefined the Democratic Party? That the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), Will Marshall’s hauntingly named Progressive Policy Institute, and mega-banker Robert Rubin, of Goldman-Sachs and later Citigroup, helped them make the party more pro-Wall Street, more pro-corporate, and more “free market?” Bill drew a line in the sand when he declared an end to the era of big government, welfare as we know it, and the long-standing regulation of Wall Street embodied in the Glass-Steagall Act and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
How do Bernie and his people truly think they can undo all that? Do they expect party officials to turn their backs on all the campaign contributions, not to mention high-paying jobs as lobbyists and corporate honchos? Do those who feel the Bern really see the Democratic Party returning to the down-at-the-heel days of FDR and the New Deal?
What effing idealists! Why couldn’t they just go away? Or join the Greens? Or become independents?
In Hillary’s book, anyone who wants to get anything done has to come to grips with the reality of Big Money, as she did when she joined Walmart’s board of directors, as Bill did as governor of Arkansas and even more as president, and as Barack Obama did when he accepted the backing of Rubin and Goldman-Sachs in 2008.
Surely Bernie can see that. Yet, even as he carries his presidential campaign all the way to the convention floor, his people are already laying the groundwork for a permanent progressive movement, hoping to use his growing popularity - and his unbelievably successful fund-raising email list - to create their own people’s agenda, expand their Berniecrat base, and elect a “Brand New Congress” for the mid-term elections in 2018. Who the hell do these people think they are? Are they trying to create a left-wing Tea Party that will purge those they see as DINOS, Democrats In Name Only?
Bernie himself is already raising money to defeat some of the party’s leading lights, people like Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Shultz, the party chairman who has done everything she could to help Hillary prevail. He’s even pushing for the party to throw Deb under the bus before the convention, which party leaders may have to do to prevent an embarrassing protest against her on national television.
But most worrying of all is the possibility that Bernie will use his speech at the convention to take leadership of the campaign against Donald Trump. If Trump wins, Hillary will be to blame. If Hillary wins, Bernie will take the credit. What a galling turnabout for Hillary that would be, especially after all her efforts - and those of her friends - to discredit Sanders and his highly independent supporters.
(A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he is researching a new book, "Big Money and the Corporate State: How Global Banks, Corporations, and Speculators Rule and How to Nonviolently Break Their Hold.")
Hillary can't be guilty of anything so easy to ferret out.
She's a long-game player.
Just like Obama.
Seventeen-dimensional chess stars.
From our ace reporter at Sardonicky:
When ABC's Jonathan Karl suggested on the TV program "This Week" that Clinton had possibly broken the law by not only installing a private email server in her basement, but subsequently stonewalling the investigation (half of her emails were erased and her staff was ordered to keep quiet about it) -- Feinstein blew up.
"Whoa, wait a second," she protested. "I don't believe she was trying to hide anything. I've known Hillary for a quarter of a century. Let me tell you what I do think, I think this is a woman who wants a little bit of a private life. She wants to be able to communicate with husband, with daughter, with friends, and not have somebody looking over her shoulder into her emails."
Public life is such a bitch. Clinton apparently was forced against her will into her cushy Secretary of State job by a conniving President Obama, who knows how to keep his friends close and his friends like Hillary even closer. He knew, or he should have known, that Hillary was breaking the law by using a private server.
He knew or he should have known that her family foundation was profiting big-time through her stint at State. He knew or he should have known, to name just one influence-peddling example, about the big Saudi donation to her private organization in the immediate wake of his administration's multibillion-dollar arms sale to the Saudis. He could have easily staged an early intervention in the privacy of the Oval Office.
But for whatever reason, he preferred not to.
Much has been written about Obama's preference for "the long game." And revenge is always a dish best served cold.
Perhaps he sees himself as operating above the fray by allowing his one-time opponent to clinch the nomination as his successor and then simply sitting back to watch her hang herself by the rope of her own personality traits. Perhaps I'm totally mistaken. Psychoanalysis is always best left to the experts, after all.
But it's a fact that Obama has been carefully obtuse in his "defense" of his former nemesis.
“I’ve got to be careful because, as you know, there have been investigations, there are hearings,” he told a TV interviewer last month before the IG report's release. “Congress is looking at this, and I haven’t been sorting through each and every aspect of this. Here’s what I know: Hillary Clinton was an outstanding secretary of state. She would never intentionally put America in any kind of jeopardy.”
That's pretty damning with faint praise.The subtext is that as idiotic as Hillary's actions might seem, her heart is in the right place. Obama doesn't really think she's a criminal. She's more like that hapless Cincinnati mother who unintentionally let her mischievous little boy slip through a zoo enclosure this past weekend. It was Mom's intention to give her kid a fun day at the park and look what happened.
But since the only harm came to a gorilla, and the child himself was not critically injured, it doesn't rise to a felonious level. If the parents are held legally accountable, it will be due to a Twittered outpouring of public demand as well as their social status. Only the little people are regularly held liable for carelessness, bad judgment and ineptitude. It's the American way. So far anyway, Hillary appears unlikely to be held liable for her own breach of duty.
Maybe Obama and Clinton's defenders and apologists would be singing a different tune if her email setup had resulted in the demise of a beloved animal. Americans love to be outraged by the deaths of caged or tame wildlife like Harambe the Gorilla and Cecil the Lion and Marius the Giraffe.
It is so much harder to wrap our heads around atrocities like 700 refugees - including many young children - drowning in the Mediterranean during the same weekend as the gorilla dying at the zoo. This collateral human damage of war and violence was instigated by, among other pathocrats, none other than Hillary Clinton herself.
No public outrage = no public accountability. There is definitely no petition with half a million American signatures on it, demanding justice and sanctuary for those fleeing Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia.
But back to Hillary and the email stonewalling saga. It is a fact that she has always clung to an almost paranoid secrecy about even the most mundane aspects of her life, such as White House travel personnel records and land deals gone bad, which in the end signified absolutely nothing much. Her need for secrecy is her Achilles heel. And Obama can certainly relate, presiding as he has over the most secretive administration in history and instigating his own Orwellian directive for government employees to spy on one another's lunchtime reading materials and marital issues.
We must not fault Hillary Clinton for wanting a private life. Does she even, deep down inside, really want the presidency?
Her pal Dianne Feinstein speaks truth to power. Since Hillary Clinton is indeed "a woman who wants a little bit of a private life" without the press and the public constantly looking over her shoulder, we should give her an out. We should allow her to gracefully suspend her presidential campaign while there's still time.
Let's give Hillary exactly what she, and we, deserve. And to be really incisive and compassionate, let's hold a retirement party for Dianne while we're at it. Both of them seem in dire need of a break.
"Personality traits" or lack of judgment?
And how about that dastardly Donald threat?
Considering some historical information about the "hero of our time," Reagan, gives us some pretty deep insight into exactly what's going on in those determined circles. From Frank Rich:
Craig Shirley, a longtime Republican political consultant and Reagan acolyte, has written authoritative books on the presidential campaigns of 1976 and 1980 that serve as correctives to the sentimental revisionist history that would have us believe that Reagan was cheered on as a conquering hero by GOP elites during his long climb to national power. To hear the right’s triumphalism of recent years, you’d think that only smug Democrats were appalled by Reagan while Republicans quickly recognized that their party, decimated by Richard Nixon and Watergate, had found its savior.
Grassroots Republicans, whom Reagan had been courting for years with speeches, radio addresses, and opinion pieces beneath the mainstream media’s radar, were indeed in his camp. But aside from a lone operative (John Sears), Shirley wrote, “the other major GOP players — especially Easterners and moderates — thought Reagan was a certified yahoo.” By his death in 2004, “they would profess their love and devotion to Reagan and claim they were there from the beginning in 1974, which was a load of horse manure.” Even after his election in 1980, Shirley adds, “Reagan was never much loved” by his own party’s leaders. After GOP setbacks in the 1982 midterms, “a Republican National Committee functionary taped a piece of paper to her door announcing the sign-up for the 1984 Bush for President campaign.”
Shirley’s memories are corroborated by reportage contemporaneous with Reagan’s last two presidential runs. (There was also an abortive run in 1968.) A poll in 1976 found that 90 percent of Republican state chairmen judged Reagan guilty of “simplistic approaches,” with “no depth in federal government administration” and “no experience in foreign affairs.” It was little different in January 1980, when a U.S. News and World Report survey of 475 national and state Republican chairmen found they preferred George H.W. Bush to Reagan. One state chairman presumably spoke for many when he told the magazine that Reagan’s intellect was “thinner than spit on a slate rock.”
As Rick Perlstein writes in The Invisible Bridge, the third and latest volume of his epic chronicle of the rise of the conservative movement, both Nixon and Ford dismissed Reagan as a lightweight. Barry Goldwater endorsed Ford over Reagan in 1976 despite the fact that Reagan’s legendary speech on behalf of Goldwater’s presidential campaign in October 1964, “A Time for Choosing,” was the biggest boost that his kamikaze candidacy received. Only a single Republican senator, Paul Laxalt of Nevada, signed on to Reagan’s presidential quest from the start, a solitary role that has been played in the Trump campaign by Jeff Sessions of Alabama.
What put off Reagan’s fellow Republicans will sound very familiar. He proposed an economic program — 30 percent tax cuts, increased military spending, a balanced budget — whose math was voodoo and then some. He prided himself on not being “a part of the Washington Establishment” and mocked Capitol Hill’s “buddy system” and its collusion with “the forces that have brought us our problems — the Congress, the bureaucracy, the lobbyists, big business, and big labor.” He kept a light campaign schedule, regarded debates as optional, wouldn’t sit still to read briefing books, and often either improvised his speeches or worked off index cards that contained anecdotes and statistics gleaned from Reader’s Digest and the right-wing journal Human Events — sources hardly more elevated or reliable than the television talk shows and tabloids that feed Trump’s erroneous and incendiary pronouncements.
Like Trump but unlike most of his (and Trump’s) political rivals, Reagan was accessible to the press and public. His spontaneity in give-and-takes with reporters and voters played well but also gave him plenty of space to disgorge fantasies and factual errors so prolific and often outrageous that he single-handedly made the word "gaffe" a permanent fixture in America’s political vernacular. He confused Pakistan with Afghanistan. He claimed that trees contributed 93 percent of the atmosphere’s nitrous oxide and that pollution in America was “substantially under control” even as his hometown of Los Angeles was suffocating in smog. He said that the “finest oil geologists in the world” had found that there were more oil reserves in Alaska than Saudi Arabia. He said the federal government spent $3 for each dollar it distributed in welfare benefits, when the actual amount was 12 cents.
He also mythologized his own personal history in proto-Trump style. As Garry Wills has pointed out, Reagan referred to himself as one of “the soldiers who came back” when speaking plaintively of his return to civilian life after World War II — even though he had come back only from Culver City, where his wartime duty was making Air Force films at the old Hal Roach Studio.
Once in office, he told the Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir that he had filmed the liberated Nazi death camps, when in reality he had not seen them, let alone (as he claimed) squirreled away a reel of film as an antidote to potential Holocaust deniers. For his part, Trump has purported that his enrollment at the New York Military Academy, a prep school, amounted to Vietnam-era military service, and has borne historical witness to the urban legend of “thousands and thousands” of Muslims in Jersey City celebrating the 9/11 attacks. Even when these ruses are exposed, Trump follows the Reagan template of doubling down on mistakes rather than conceding them.
Nor was Reagan a consistent conservative. He deviated from party orthodoxy to both the left and the right. He had been by his own account a “near hopeless hemophilic liberal” for much of his adult life, having campaigned for Truman in 1948 and for Helen Gahagan Douglas in her senatorial race against Nixon in California in 1950. He didn’t switch his registration to Republican until he was 51. As California governor, he signed one of America’s strongest gun-control laws and its most liberal abortion law (both in 1967).
His vocal opposition helped kill California’s 1978 Briggs Initiative, which would have banned openly gay teachers at public schools. As a 1980 presidential candidate, he flip-flopped to endorse bailouts for both New York City and the Chrysler Corporation. Reagan may be revered now as a free-trade absolutist in contrast to Trump, but in that winning campaign he called for halting the “deluge” of Japanese car imports raining down on Detroit. “If Japan keeps on doing everything that it’s doing, what they’re doing, obviously, there’s going to be what you call protectionism,” he said.
Republican leaders blasted Reagan as a trigger-happy warmonger. Much as Trump now threatens to downsize NATO and start a trade war with China, so Reagan attacked Ford, the sitting Republican president he ran against in the 1976 primary, and Henry Kissinger for their pursuit of the bipartisan policies of détente and Chinese engagement. The sole benefit of détente, Reagan said, was to give America “the right to sell Pepsi-Cola in Siberia.”
For good measure, he stoked an international dispute by vowing to upend a treaty ceding American control over the Panama Canal. “We bought it, we paid for it, it’s ours, and we’re going to keep it!” he bellowed with an America First truculence reminiscent of Trump’s calls for our allies to foot the bill for American military protection. Even his own party’s hawks, like William F. Buckley Jr. and his pal John Wayne, protested. Goldwater, of all people, inveighed against Reagan’s “gross factual errors” and warned he might “take rash action” and “needlessly lead this country into open military conflict.”
Trump’s signature cause of immigration was not a hot-button issue during Reagan’s campaigns. In the White House, he signed a bill granting “amnesty” (Reagan used the now politically incorrect word) to 1.7 million undocumented immigrants. But if Reagan was free of Trump’s bigoted nativism, he had his own racially tinged strategy for wooing disaffected white working-class Americans fearful that liberals in government were bestowing favors on freeloading, lawbreaking minorities at their expense.
Taking a leaf from George Wallace’s populist campaigns, Reagan scapegoated “welfare chiselers” like the nameless “strapping young buck” he claimed used food stamps to buy steak. His favorite villain was a Chicago “welfare queen” who, in his telling, “had 80 names, 30 addresses, and 12 Social Security cards, and is collecting veterans’ benefits on four nonexistent deceased husbands” to loot the American taxpayer of over $150,000 of “tax-free cash income” a year. Never mind that she was actually charged with using four aliases and had netted $8,000: Reagan continued to hammer in this hyperbolic parable with a vengeance that rivals Trump’s insistence that Mexico will pay for a wall to fend off Hispanic rapists.
The Republican elites of Reagan’s day were as blindsided by him as their counterparts have been by Trump. Though Reagan came close to toppling the incumbent president at the contested Kansas City convention in 1976, the Ford forces didn’t realize they could lose until the devil was at the door. A “President Ford Committee” campaign statement had maintained that Reagan could “not defeat any candidate the Democrats put up” because his “constituency is much too narrow, even within the Republican party” and because he lacked “the critical national and international experience that President Ford has gained through 25 years of public service.”
In Ford’s memoirs, written after he lost the election to Jimmy Carter, he wrote that he hadn’t taken the Reagan threat seriously because he “didn’t take Reagan seriously.” Reagan, he said, had a “penchant for offering simplistic solutions to hideously complex problems” and a stubborn insistence that he was “always right in every argument.” Even so, a Ford-campaign memo had correctly identified one ominous sign during primary season: a rising turnout of Reagan voters who were “not loyal Republicans or Democrats” and were “alienated from both parties because neither takes a sympathetic view toward their issues.” To these voters, the disdain Reagan drew from the GOP elites was a badge of honor. During the primary campaign, Times columnist William Safire reported with astonishment that Kissinger’s speeches championing Ford and attacking Reagan were helping Reagan, not Ford — a precursor of how attacks by Trump’s Establishment adversaries have backfired 40 years later.
Much of the press was slow to catch up, too. A typical liberal-Establishment take on Reagan could be found in Harper’s, which called him Ronald Duck, “the Candidate from Disneyland.” That he had come to be deemed “a serious candidate for president,” the magazine intoned, was “a shame and embarrassment for the country.” But some reporters who tracked Reagan on the campaign trail sensed that many voters didn’t care if he came from Hollywood, if his policies didn’t add up, if his facts were bogus, or if he was condescended to by Republican leaders or pundits. As Elizabeth Drew of The New Yorker observed in 1976, his appeal “has to do not with competence at governing but with the emotion he evokes.” As she put it, “Reagan lets people get out their anger and frustration, their feeling of being misunderstood and mishandled by those who have run our government, their impatience with taxes and with the poor and the weak, their impulse to deal with the world’s troublemakers by employing the stratagem of a punch in the nose.”
May 28, 2016
It's not just that its books don't add up. The Department of Defense is actively disguising how it spends its funds
William D. Hartung, TomDispatch.com
Now you see it, now you don’t. Think of it as the Department of Defense’s version of the street con game, three-card monte, or maybe simply as the Pentagon shuffle. In any case, the Pentagon’s budget is as close to a work of art as you’re likely to find in the U.S. government — if, that is, by work of art you mean scam.
The United States is on track to spend more than $600 billion on the military this year — more, that is, than was spent at the height of President Ronald Reagan’s Cold War military buildup, and more than the military budgets of at least the next seven nations in the world combined. And keep in mind that that’s just a partial total. As an analysis by the Straus Military Reform Project has shown, if we count related activities like homeland security, veterans’ affairs, nuclear warhead production at the Department of Energy, military aid to other countries, and interest on the military-related national debt, that figure reaches a cool $1 trillion.
The more that’s spent on “defense,” however, the less the Pentagon wants us to know about how those mountains of money are actually being used. As the only major federal agency that can’t pass an audit, the Department of Defense (DoD) is the poster child for irresponsible budgeting.
It’s not just that its books don’t add up, however. The DoD is taking active measures to disguise how it is spending the hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars it receives every year — from using the separate “war budget” as a slush fund to pay for pet projects that have nothing to do with fighting wars to keeping the cost of its new nuclear bomber a secret. Add in dozens of other secret projects hidden in the department’s budget and the Pentagon’s poorly documented military aid programs, and it’s clear that the DoD believes it has something to hide.
Don’t for a moment imagine that the Pentagon’s growing list of secret programs and evasive budgetary maneuvers is accidental or simply a matter of sloppy bookkeeping. Much of it is remarkably purposeful. By keeping us in the dark about how it spends our money, the Pentagon has made it virtually impossible for anyone to hold it accountable for just about anything. An entrenched bureaucracy is determined not to provide information that might be used to bring its sprawling budget — and so the institution itself — under control. That’s why budgetary deception has become such a standard operating procedure at the Department of Defense.
The audit problem is a case in point. The Pentagon along with all other major federal agencies was first required to make its books auditable in the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990. More than 25 years later, there is no evidence to suggest that the Pentagon will ever be able to pass an audit. In fact, the one limited instance in which success seemed to be within reach — an audit of a portion of the books of a single service, the Marine Corps — turned out, upon closer inspection, to be a case study in bureaucratic resistance.
In April 2014, when it appeared that the Corps had come back with a clean audit, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was so elated that he held a special ceremony in the “Hall of Heroes” at the Pentagon. “It might seem a bit unusual to be in the Hall of Heroes to honor a bookkeeping accomplishment,” he acknowledged, “but damn, this is an accomplishment.”
In March 2015, however, that “accomplishment” vanished into thin air. The Pentagon’s Office of Inspector General (OIG), which had overseen the work of Grant Thornton, the private firm that conducted the audit, denied that it had been successful (allegedly in response to “new information”). In fact, in late 2013, as Reuters reported, auditors at the OIG had argued for months against green-lighting Grant Thornton’s work, believing that it was full of obvious holes. They were, however, overruled by the deputy inspector general for auditing, who had what Reuters described as a “longstanding professional relationship” with the Grant Thornton executive supervising the audit.
The Pentagon and the firm deny that there was any conflict of interest, but the bottom line is clear enough: there was far more interest in promoting the idea that the Marine Corps could pass an audit than in seeing it actually do so, even if inconvenient facts had to be swept under the rug. This sort of behavior is hardly surprising once you consider all the benefits from an undisturbed status quo that accrue to Pentagon bureaucrats and cash-hungry contractors.
Without a reliable paper trail, there is no systematic way to track waste, fraud, and abuse in Pentagon contracting, or even to figure out how many contractors the Pentagon employs, though a conservative estimate puts the number at well over 600,000. The result is easy money with minimal accountability.
How to Arm the Planet
In recent years, keeping tabs on how the Pentagon spends its money has grown even more difficult thanks to the “war budget” — known in Pentagonese as the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account — which has become a nearly bottomless pit for items that have nothing to do with fighting wars. The use of the OCO as a slush fund began in earnest in the early years of the Bush administration’s war in Iraq and has continued ever since. It’s hard to put a precise number on how much money has been slipped into that budget or taken out of it to pay for pet projects of every sort in the last decade-plus, but the total is certainly more than $100 billion and counting.
The Pentagon’s routine use of the war budget as a way to fund whatever it wants has set an example for a Congress that’s seldom seen a military project it wasn’t eager to pay for. Only recently, for instance, the House Armed Services Committee chair, Texas Republican Congressman Mac Thornberry,proposed taking $18 billion from the war budget to cover items like an extra 11 F-35 combat aircraft and 14 F-18 fighter-bombers that the Pentagon hadn’t even asked for.
This was great news for Lockheed Martin, which needs a shot in the arm for its troubled F-35 program, already slated to be the most expensive weapons system in history, and for Boeing, which has been lobbying aggressively to keep its F-18 production line open in the face of declining orders from the Navy. But it’s bad news for the troops because, as the Project on Government Oversight has demonstrated, the money used to pay for the unneeded planes will come at the expense of training and maintenance funds.
This is, by the way, the height of hypocrisy at a time when the House Armed Services Committee is routinely sending out hysterical missives about the country’s supposed lack of military readiness. The money to adequately train military personnel and keep their equipment running is, in fact, there. Members of Congress like Thornberry would just have to stop raiding the operations budget to pay for big ticket weapons systems, while turning a blind eye to wasteful spending in other parts of the Pentagon budget.
Thornberry’s gambit may not carry the day, since both President Obama and Senate Armed Services Committee chair John McCain oppose it. But as long as a separate war budget exists, the temptation to stuff it with unnecessary programs will persist as well.
Of course, that war budget is just part of the problem. The Pentagon has so many budding programs tucked away in so many different lines of its budget that even its officials have a hard time keeping track of what’s actually going on. As for the rest of us, we’re essentially in the dark.
Consider, for instance, the proliferation of military aid programs. The Security Assistance Monitor, a nonprofit that tracks such programs, has identified more than two dozen of them worth about $10 billion annually. Combine them with similar programs tucked away in the State Department’s budget, and the U.S. is contributing to the arming and training of security forces in 180 countries. (To put that mind-boggling total in perspective, there are at most 196 countries on the planet.) Who could possibly keep track of such programs, no less what effect they may be having on the countries and militaries involved, or on the complex politics of, and conflicts in, various regions?
Best suggestion: don’t even think about it (which is exactly what the Pentagon and the military-industrial complex want you to do). And no need for Congress to do so either. After all, as Lora Lumpe and Jeremy Ravinsky of the Open Society Foundations noted earlier this year, the Pentagon is the only government agency providing foreign assistance that does not even have to submit to Congress an annual budget justification for what it does. As a result, they write, “the public does not know how much the DoD is spending in a given country and why.”
Slush Funds Galore
If smokescreens and evasive maneuvers aren’t enough to hide the Pentagon’s actual priorities from the taxpaying public, there’s always secrecy. The Secrecy Project at the Federation of American Scientists recently put the size of the intelligence portion of the national security state’s “black budget“ — its secret spending on everything from spying to developing high-tech weaponry — at more than $70 billion. That figure includes a wide variety of activities carried out through the CIA, the NSA, and other members of the intelligence community, but $16.8 billion of it was requested directly by the Department of Defense. And that $70 billion is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to secret spending programs, since billions more in secret financing for the development and acquisition of new weapons systems has been squirreled away elsewhere.
The largest recent project to have its total costs shrouded in secrecy is the B-21, the Air Force’s new nuclear bomber. Air Force officials claim that they need to keep the cost secret lest potential enemies “connect the dots” and learn too much about the plane’s key characteristics. In a letter to Senator McCain, an advocate of making the cost of the plane public, Ronald Walden of the Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office claimed that there was “a strong correlation between the cost of an air vehicle and its total weight.” This, he suggested, might make it “decisively easier” for potential opponents to guess its range and payload.
If such assessments sound ludicrous, it’s because they are. As the histories of other major Pentagon acquisition programs have shown, the price of a system tells you just that — its price — and nothing more. Otherwise, with its classic cost overruns, the F-35 would have a range beyond compare, possibly to Mars and back. Of course, the real rationale for keeping the full cost estimate for the B-21 secret is to avoid bad publicity. Budget analyst Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and International Studies suggests that it’s an attempt to avoid “sticker shock” for a program that he estimates could cost more than $100 billion to develop and purchase.
The bomber, in turn, is just part of a planned $1 trillion splurge over the next three decades on a new generation of bombers, ballistic missile submarines, and ground-based nuclear missiles, part of an updating of the vast U.S. nuclear arsenal. And keep this in mind: that trillion dollars is simply an initial estimate before the usual Pentagon cost overruns even begin to come into play. Financially, the nuclear plan is going to hit taxpayer wallets particularly hard in the mid-2020s when a number of wildly expensive non-nuclear systems like the F-35 combat aircraft will also be hitting peak production.
Under the circumstances, it doesn’t take a genius to know that there’s only one way to avoid the budgetary equivalent of a 30-car pile up: increase the Pentagon’s already ample finances yet again. Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Brian McKeon was referring to the costs of building new nuclear delivery vehicles when he said that the administration was “wondering how the heck we’re going to pay for it, and probably thanking our lucky stars we won’t be here to answer the question.” Of course, the rest of us will be stuck holding the bag when all those programs cloaked in secrecy suddenly come out of hiding and the bills come fully due.
At this point, you may not be shocked to learn that, in response to McKeon’s uncomfortable question, the Pentagon has come up with yet another budgetary gimmick. It’s known as the “National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund,” or as Taxpayers for Common Sense more accurately labels it, “the Navy’s submarine slush fund.” The idea — a longstanding darling of the submarine lobby (and yes, Virginia, there is a submarine lobby in Washington) — is to set up a separate slush fund outside the Navy’s normal shipbuilding budget. That’s where the money for the new ballistic missile submarine program, currently slated to cost $139 billion for 12 subs, would go.
Establishing such a new slush fund would, in turn, finesse any direct budgetary competition between the submarine program and the new surface ships the Navy also wants, and so avoid a political battle that might end up substantially reducing the number of vessels the Navy is hoping to buy over the next 30 years. Naturally, the money for the submarine fund will have to come from somewhere, either one of the other military services or that operations and maintenance budget so regularly raided to help pay for expensive weapons programs.
Not to be outmaneuvered, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James has now asked Congress to set up a “strategic deterrence fund” to pay for its two newest nuclear delivery vehicles, the planned bomber and a long-range nuclear-armed ballistic missile. In theory, this would take pressure off other major Air Force projects like the F-35, but as with the submarine fund, it only adds up if a future president and a future Congress can be persuaded to jack up the Pentagon budget to make room for these and other weapons systems.
In the end, however the specifics work out, any “fund” for such weaponry will be just another case of smoke and mirrors, a way of kicking the nuclear funding crisis down the road in hopes of fatter budgets to come. Why make choices now when the Pentagon and the military services can bet on blackmailing a future Trump or Clinton administration and a future Congress into ponying up the extra billions of dollars needed to make their latest ill-conceived plans add up?
If your head is spinning after this brief tour of the Pentagon’s budget labyrinth, it should be. That’s just what the Pentagon wants its painfully complicated budget practices to do: leave Congress, any administration, and the public too confused and exhausted to actually hold it accountable for how our tax dollars are being spent. So far, they’re getting away with it.
More William D. Hartung.
Where are the Mr/Ms. Smith's (who are dying to go to D.C. to straighten out that mess)?
Alan Greenspan is not a Mr. Smith.
Posted on May 31, 2016
by Jeff Berwick
It seems barely a day passes now without some big name person warning of imminent collapse. The latest is Alan Greenspan._ _ _ _ _ _ _
In an interview on Thursday he told Fox News that Venezuela is now under martial law and that “America is next.” He said that what was happening in Venezuela was inevitably going to take place in the US.
I agree with this. In fact, we said this exact thing just last week with our article, “Venezuela Descends Into Chaos… Europe and US Next.” Funny enough, a few brainwashed sheeple said we were crazy for saying it. Now Greenspan has said the same thing… is he crazy? Actually, don’t answer that.
But while we agree with Greenspan that crisis is coming to the US, that’s where our agreement ends. We say it is coming to the US because the conditions in the US are not that much different than Venezuela – and the globalist plan is to turn the entire world into Venezuela.
Greenspan, on the other hand, is already trying to divert attention from the real cause of Venezuela’s problems: the government and central banking.
Instead, he explained that the reason the US would end up like Venezuela involved a “global problem of a shortage of productivity growth.” It is this lack of productive growth that creates and expands an economic crisis, he claimed.
This is Greenspeak at its finest. The problems in Venezuela aren’t due to an extreme socialist government and a Keynesian money-printing central bank, according to him… no, the problem is just that things aren’t growing fast enough!
Well, to an extent that is true. Things aren’t growing at all in Venezuela. In fact they are imploding at a rate I’ve never personally witnessed before. But that isn’t the root cause of the problem. The reason why Venezuela’s economy isn’t growing is BECAUSE of the government and the central bank!
Of course, you’ll never hear a central bankster admit that. The problem is never them. It’s always some obtuse economic buzzphrase like a “lack of productivity growth.”
Greenspan continued by downplaying the role of central banking and government in the Venezuela disaster. He then focused on the Federal Reserve and continued his lying. He said what the Fed did now was less important than what the markets did. While more money was available, actual production was not. Too many older people and too few resources. That was the problem.
This is how Greenspan is explaining the expanding crisis of debt, socialism and price inflation. It is coming from lack of productivity.
Additionally, older workers prefer to be recipients of “social benefits” and this also has a negative impact on productivity, he claimed. He warned that if the US, for instance, could not move productivity up from around two percent, social benefits and other obligations start to become impossible to fund.
So, once again, the problem isn’t that the government created a Ponzi scheme we call Socialist InSecurity. The problem is that the markets aren’t creating enough wealth to fund said Ponzi scheme.
And that necessary growth is impossible. Between central bank monetary manipulation, managed trade, regulatory demands and currency debasement, modern Western economies are barely functioning at all. Only the largest multinationals can manage to survive competitively in such an environment, and many of them are not exactly thriving. Even Coca Cola has had to pull out of Venezuela and now Lufthansa has cut flights to the country.
Greenspan wants to blame the West’s industrial slump on a lack of productivity and “growth.” This is propaganda, and he knows it is. And if he doesn’t know it then he’s swallowed too much Keynesian Kool-Aid. Go home Greenspan, you’re drunk.
The main cause of ruin over time is central bank money debasement – not some mysterious missing “growth.” And government generally makes things worse via regulations, taxation and debt.
Greenspan should know this. He’s not a stupid man.
But Greenspan is part of the central banking clique. He does what he’s told to do. And he is obviously supposed to make sure that people do not blame central banking, regulations and other government activities for the perma-depression that is now taking place in Venezuela, Latin America, Asia, China and the West.
There is, in fact, worse to come, as we have often pointed out. This year, Jubilee 2016, is a “building year” for world government. The EU for instance is creating a pan-European army and is also “giving” all European residents tax ID numbers. And China is adding the yuan to the International Monetary Fund’s SDR currency basket on October 1st, just the day before the Jubilee Year ends on October 2nd.
Things are not going to get any better in 2016, only worse. The idea is obviously to create convulsive economic chaos that will help usher in a new economic order. In the meantime, Greenspan is supposed to distract your attention.
I went to Venezuela recently as you probably know and predicted just what Greenspan is talking about. But unlike Greenspan, I blamed the problems that Venezuela is having on an oppressive government and destructive central bank policies. That’s obvious to anyone who looks at Venezuela without an agenda. But Greenspan and his crowd have an agenda. They want globalism, and they want it soon. And they will mislead, cheat and destroy to get what they want.
I’m proud to say that The Dollar Vigilante, along with some other alternative financial publications, stands in their way.
We’ve now had George Soros, Carl Icahn, Stanley Druckenmiller, Jim Rogers, the IMF and the World Bank warn that we are on the verge of a crisis of biblical proportions. Greenspan even said that what is happening in Venezuela, complete with martial law, will come to the US. At what point do you start to listen and begin to protect yourself?
Originally appeared at The Dollar Vigilante
May 28, 2016
Less than three months before Lenca leader Berta Cáceres was brutally assassinated, the social arm of Desarollos Energeticos SA (DESA)– the Honduran company leading the Agua Zarca dam project Cáceres was campaigning against–signed a contract with USAID implementing partner Fintrac, a Washington DC based development contracting firm.
The DESA representative who was present for the public signing of the USAID agreement was none other than Sergio Rodríguez, the company’s Social Investment Manager, who is now accused of Cáceres’ assassination along with another former DESA employee and individuals with military ties. The arrests also included Douglas Geovanny Bustillo, a retired military officer and the former head of DESA’s security detail. The trial against the accused murderers began on Monday.
COPINH’s Powerful Political and Economic Enemies in Rio Blanco
As one of the strongest and most recognized indigenous organizations in Honduras, the Council of Indigenous and Popular Organizations of Honduras, or COPINH, have challenged powerful economic and political forces while working to protect the environment and conserve the Lenca culture.
The Agua Zarca dam project is illustrative of DESA’s business dealings and of what COPINH is up against. DESA is owned by the Atala family, one of the most powerful families in Honduras. In fact, the dam project allegedly received funding from the largest bank in Honduras–Ficohsa, headed up by Camilo Atala. Although it has been recently under attack for its possible complicity with Cáceres’ assassination, it has a dark past including allegations of money laundering.
DESA also benefitted from military connections and support. In a newly released interview with Cáceres from 2013, Berta outlines these connections; the owner, David Castillo, is a West Point graduate and an expert in military intelligence. Moreover, Douglas Geovanny Bustillo who was the former head of security for DESA and a former military lieutenant is now being accused of planning Cáceres’ assassination. Military and police backing was also evident in the variety and quantity of armed forces during protests against the project that includes an elite US funded and vetted unit called Los Tigres, although they focus on combating gang violence and drug trafficking.
From one of my favorite fellow bloggers we learn even more exceedingly pertinent history:
Lee Chatfield is a Freshman Republican representing a district in Michigan that includes my low income county, Chippewa, along with some of the richest counties in the state. His heart, he says, is with God, so naturally he ran as a Tea Party candidate. He works with the Republican majority to undermine crucial social programs in our beleaguered state because, I don't know--tough love, boot straps, nanny state, the poor don't need it, the rich do, sin, punishment, retribution, all of the above.
He's young, good looking, clean-cut, has four small kids, a beautiful family, a nice life. He doesn't look mean or judgmental or even clueless. But he's a Republican in a state where meanness and intolerance are expected from his kind, so from what I know, he's toeing the mark, following the line, giving it all he's got to ignore the plight of the people he represents, justifying instead the GOP/Koch/ALEC/Mackinac Center assaults on the poor and the disenfranchised.
But something happened that should, by all rights, make him reconsider the need to go on the attack against innocent people whose backgrounds he couldn't possibly understand: Last week his wife became the victim of a potential blackmailer.
On Friday, Lee announced on Facebook that his wife, Stephanie, had a secret that was about to be exposed. When she was in high school she had an abortion. She went to a party, she doesn't know what happened, she became pregnant and she panicked. She had an abortion and she's regretted it ever since.
I'm not here to judge Lee Chatfield's wife. This is her own personal business and she deserves the right to keep it quiet. But it's out in the open now and she and her husband handled it as well as could be expected. In the statement included on Chatfield's Facebook page, his wife Stephanie talked about the shame she felt and still feels. She talked about how her faith helped her through it. She talked about her pro-life stance and how it has made her more empathetic toward women who might find themselves in her shoes but who now need the kind of guidance that would keep them from having to abort their own babies. She asked for understanding.
What she didn't talk about was the fact that her husband is a hard-headed proponent of killing off Planned Parenthood.
How's that for understanding?