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An upcoming Charlottesville conference highlights the importance of whistleblowers when addressing the corruption present in military contracting
YOU MAY have heard something about a budget crisis in Washington this summer. Were you aware that in the midst of it the House of Representatives passed a military spending bill larger than ever before?
U.S. military spending across numerous departments has increased dramatically during the past decade and now makes up about half of federal discretionary spending. Yet the Defense Department has not been fully audited in 20 years, and as of 2001 it could not account for $2.3 trillion out of the $10 trillion or so it had been given during that time. More recently, President Obama has been waging his “days, not weeks” war in Libya for months without a dime appropriated by Congress, relying instead on the loose change lying around at the Pentagon.
The United States could reduce its military spending by at least 80 percent and still be the world’s top military spender. If the purpose of all this profligacy were truly defensive, wouldn’t a military merely as large as any other country’s do the job? When little cuts around the edges were forced into the discussion, wouldn’t the top priorities for elimination be unpopular wars, foreign bases, nuclear weapons and space weapons rather than health care for veterans? If something shameful were not motivating our self-destructive imperial overreach, wouldn’t the wonders of market competition be given a chance, instead of the current practice of handing out cost-plus contracts to cronies for jobs they are never expected to complete?
Alan Grayson says "This is a textbook for a college-level course on what it means to be a thinking, feeling American. I recommend it to everyone with a head and heart."
He's talking about this book: http://planamerica.org It's called "Fix America! How Each of Us Can Help All of Us."
I'm proud to have contributed two chapters to it, but even gladder to have read it. What a wealth of information and inspiration. This is a collection of the best recent blogging from the perspective of some truly progressive editors looking for guidance in how we should be thinking, talking, strategizing, and organizing. Contributors include friends of mine, authors I knew I'd benefit from, and others relatively new to me.
They include: Robert Abston, Linda Beale, Beth Becker, Denis Campbell, Cory Doctorow, Barry Eisler, Al Franken, Joshua Holland, Karoli Kuns, George Lakoff, Jon Nichols, Matt Osborne, Ralph Paine, Lee Papa, Robert Pollin, Kenneth Quinnell, Jennie Rigg, Coleen Rowley, Linda Salter, Richard Spisak Jr., The Punk Patriot, Joan Walsh, and Cassandra Vert.
Cassandra Vert edited the book along with Abston and Spisak, and Vert contributed the greatest number of chapters, each of them extremely informative and inspiring. True to the name Cassandra, Vert predicts the future. But she predicts multiple possible futures, depending on what actions we choose to take. I'm hoping that this Cassandra is listened to.
A coalition of community organizers, peace activists, left, liberal, progressive groupsand supporting organizations are calling on volunteers to join them October 6, 2011, for an "occupation" of Freedom Plaza in Washington D.C.
U.S.author, blogger, and activist David Swanson says the event is being organized to take over Freedom Plaza to "nonviolently resist what our government is doing."
Swanson told Press TV's U.S. Desk on Monday that "we are going to occupy Freedom Plaza in the middle of Washington D.C., the name of which is very similar of course to Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, and from there we are going to expand to shut down offices, buildings, streets, hallways, to nonviolently, strictly nonviolently resist what our government is doing."
This was forwarded to me by a trusted friend from another trusted friend who spoke with someone whose neighbor's daughter works at North Anna, the nuclear plant in Virginia, not far from last week's earthquake.
No, that's not three confirmed sources, but I am writing a book, working jobs, and organizing a conference. Take the following for what it's worth, and please do the reporting.
"During the quake the administration building buckled. White steam began pouring our of the stacks. There is chaos at the power station. __________ said that two NY Times reporters are investigating - ________ and ____________. He wants to get a Geiger counter and take readings near the plant. He also said that when they were first building the plant some W & M professors told them it was not safe to build it on the fault. I will let you know what else I hear."
Our current wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, and Somalia, and our smaller military operations in over 100 other countries are part of what President Eisenhower warned of 50 years ago in speaking of the Military Industrial Complex. We spend over half our federal budget on the military. We could cut it by 85% and still have the world's largest. No nation has tried anything like this before, and it's not clear we can survive it. We're shortchanging everything else to fund wars and overseas bases that make us less safe. There's a crisis in our towns, but in the midst of a phony budget crisis in Washington, the House passed the largest military budget ever. It's time for us to rein in the military insustrial complex after 50 years. If you go to MIC50 dot org you can sign up for a conference in Charlottesville that will host over 20 prominent speakers from around the country. MIC50 dot org. That's M I C five zero dot org. See you there. Peace.
While the evidence suggests that President Obama is not terribly bright and has just benefited from succeeding a downright moron, and while voluminous evidence to which I am privileged suggests that my 9-year-old niece Hallie is extremely intelligent, consider just this one way in which Hallie would make a wiser president than Barack.
Infants live in the moment, and toddlers can't plan much beyond the next day or so, but as we grow we become able to consider longer periods of time. Obama seems able to manage consideration of the next funding cycle, for example. Hallie seems to do considerably better than that:
"August 28, 2011
"President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
"Dear President Obama,
"Shrinking government" in American political discourse has, for decades now, meant the following. We enlarge the government's budget through taxation and penalties on working people and through borrowing and printing money. We not only tax the wealthy and corporations less, but we massively subsidize them with public funds. We move away from taxes and fees meant to limit the damage greed can do to the world, and we defund regulation of and law enforcement against the oligarchy. We transfer an ever greater share of the budget to the military. We expand the domestic and international surveillance-police states while merging the two. This, again, we call "shrinking government."
If Snoopy had ever pointed out to Charlie Brown that Lucy was just going to yank the football away again at the last second, Charlie would have only heard barking.
I hope all the good people chattering away about how cutting Social Security would be political suicide, and therefore won't happen, can hear more than barking in the following.
In the best case scenario, and least likely outcome, the Super Congress will fail to produce a plan or to pass one through the actual Congress. In that case, the backup disaster plan will kick in and deem itself passed automatically. Those who had voted against setting up this deal will claim innocence. The others will claim that their only other choice had been Armageddon.
The Military Industrial Complex at 50 is adding speakers and participants.
The lowest rate for registering ends September 1st, so register now:
Robert Naiman is Policy Director at Just Foreign Policy. Mr. Naiman edits the Just Foreign Policy daily news summary and writes on U.S. foreign policy at Huffington Post. Naiman has worked as a policy analyst and researcher at the Center for Economic and Policy Research and Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch. He has masters degrees in economics and mathematics from the University of Illinois and has studied and worked in the Middle East.
Dave Norris is the Mayor of Charlottesville. He was the Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Central Blue Ridge until June 2011. Norris has been employed as Executive Director of PACEM, the Associate Director of Madison House, the Interim Director of PHAR (the Public Housing Association of Residents, and the former Chairman of the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority Board of Commissioners.
David Swanson, author of War is a Lie, discusses “The Military Industrial Complex at 50” national conference in Charlottesville, VA from September 16-18; the paltry defense spending cuts decried by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta as a “doomsday mechanism” that will endanger national security; how Swanson helped turn former Congressman Bill Delahunt against the wars; and Paul Krugman’s half-serious plan to boost the economy by preparing for an alien invasion.
MP3 here. (12:54)
David Swanson is Co-Founder of WarIsACrime.org (formerly After Downing Street), creator of ProsecuteBushCheney.org, Washington Director of Democrats.com and a board member of Progressive Democrats of America, the Backbone Campaign, Voters for Peace and the Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution. He was the press secretary for Dennis Kucinich’s 2004 presidential campaign, media coordinator for the International Labor Communications Association, and worked three years as communications coordinator for ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.
Leon Panetta, who holds the position that we used to more usefully call "Secretary of War," makes a weak case. Panetta considers $350 billion over 10 years, or $35 billion per year, to be serious cuts to the national security budget. But consider the budger from which that is to be cut. It includes, each year, about $545 billion for the "base" military budget, at least $200 billion extra each year for wars (Panetta uses Afghanistan and Libya as reasons not to cut spending, and Congress has never yet appropriated a dime for Libya), $71 billion for "Homeland" security, $19 billion for nuclear weapons, $8 billion for a miscellaneous Pentagon slush fund, $53 billion (that we know of) for spying and secret operations agencies, $129 billion for veterans, $18 billion for military "aid" and other foreign affairs, $68 billion for pensions, $185 billion for debt interest, and additional major budgets for the State Department and U.S.A.I.D. (Panetta has also cited the State Dept. as a concern.)
In other words, we're talking about subtracting $35 billion from well over a trillion. That's a cut of less than 3.5 percent.
China spends about $114 billion per year on its military. No other nation spends anything remotely close to that. Let's generously assume there are enough hidden costs in China's budget to double it to $228 billion. And let's assume that we must spend twice as much as they do, because . . . well, just because we're we and they're they. Now we're at $456 billion. How do we get from there to Panetta describing a U.S. security budget of $965 billion as the lowest we can safely go, and a budget of $950 billion as "doomsday"? Is the danger here really and truly to the people of this country? Or is it the threat to the profits of the weapons makers that has Panetta panicking? Does that motivation also explain the Pentagon's desire to cut benefits to troops rather than weaponry?
Former National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-Terrorism Richard Clarke suggests that former CIA Director George Tenet blocked the sharing of information within the government on two members of al Qaeda in the United States, information that Clarke believes could have prevented 911. The CIA admits it knew about the two future hijackers but claims the Director was not informed.
"In early 2000, a number of more junior personnel (including FBI agents on detail to CIA) did see travel information on individuals who later became hijackers but the significance of the data was not adequately recognized at the time."
By David Swanson with Shepherd Johnson
The U.S. military is a permanent and pervasive presence in Virginia. Were the state of Virginia to ban participation in wars of aggression, weapons sales to brutal dictatorships, and the manufacture of aggressive and illegal weapons, the Military Industrial Complex would be obliged to help itself to many billions of public dollars just to cover the cost of moving operations to the other 49 states or abroad.
The Pentagon and all of its surrounding weapons corporation headquarters are in Virginia. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff lives in Quarters Six at Fort Myer in Arlington. The Army and Air Force chiefs of staff live on "Generals Row," also in Fort Myer.
Norfolk is home to the world's largest naval base. NATO is there too. And through this month, so is the United States Joint Forces Command.
Bunnatine (Bunny) H. Greenhouse is a former procurement executive and chief contracting officer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In 2004-2005 she revealed waste and fraud in secret no-bid contracts for Halliburton in Iraq. She was demoted and marginalized in retribution. In 2011 a U.S. District Court awarded her $970,000 in restitution.
Greenhouse will be speaking in Charlottesville with over 20 other speakers on the Military Industrial Complex at 50. To attend, you need to register here: http://MIC50.org
Time Magazine broke the Bunny Greenhouse story in 2004: PDF, followed by CBS, the Guardian, NPR, NBC, AP, and everyone else. Here's a transcript of one of Greenhouse's presentations testifying before Congress. Here's Greenhouse's recent appearance on Democracy Now!
Greenhouse is back in the news because she has finally been awarded compensation, and she believes the corruption she came into conflict with is alive and well. "My story is in the news," she told me last week, "but there are many good people who are leaving the government because somebody cannot tolerate their honesty and their desire to see things done right. I know at some point we are going to get this military-civil relationship right. It may not be in my lifetime, but sometime I know we are."
Maybe this conference can be the start of that: http://MIC50.org
As if to emphasize the problem Greenhouse points to, today's Charlottesville Daily Progress carries a front-page AP aticle reporting that the 12 members to which Congress has been reduced for the Super Congress that will determine budgetary priorities for years to come consists of senators and representatives from the states with the biggest military contractors: Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics Corp., Raytheon Co., and Boeing Co.
If you have any doubt where that will lead if left to its own devices, or if you know darn well what such a committee is designed to do and you want to change the course we're on, you need to be a part of this conference. Reserve your spot: http://MIC50.org
"A nation that continues year after year to spend more on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death." --Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Two blocks from my house in a nondescript little building on the edge of our residential neighborhood is an office with a small sign reading "DVBIC of Charlottesville" which turns out to mean "Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center."
Now, I'm in favor of caring for people with brain injuries. Heck, I wish we had universal comprehensive health coverage like other countries do. But it disturbs me how difficult it is in this country to get any distance away from the military. It's almost certainly closer to you than your relatives' homes.
The Satan Sandwich budget deal seems to have been left lying on the table in some television green rooms. Dylan Ratigan has begun cursing both political parties, even while still fantasizing about the President saving us. Keith Olbermann and Al Gore want a Tahrir Square in Washington, even while ignoring the actual preparations for it that are going on. Cornel West and Tavis Smiley, who are part of those preparations, were permitted onto CNN momentarily -- only to be informed that they should calm down about the wealth gap since poor people "even have refrigerators!" (The refrigerators are empty, but they look good in the kitchen!)
"Obama’s high command has even studied President Bush’s 2004 takedown of Sen. John F. Kerry, a senior campaign adviser told POLITICO, for clues on how a president with middling approval ratings can defeat a challenger."
A Conference on Moving Money from the Military to Human Needs -- http://micat50cville.org
Reserve your spot to attend this conference now! The fees increase after September 1st: Register.
Over 20 speakers will lead the discussion, planning, and organizing. Speakers will include retired Army Colonel Ann Wright, author Bruce Levine, retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and former Pentagon desk officer Karen Kwiatkowski, author Robert Jensen, international affairs analyst Helena Cobban, retired CIA officer Ray McGovern, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space Bruce Gagnon, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee Shahid Buttar, author and West Point graduate Paul Chappell, and many more. See additional speakers and agenda.
In Charlottesville, as around the country, increasingly the best place to look for a job is in the military-weapons-logistics-spying-reconstruction industry. There were 161 military contractors in Charlottesville taking in $919,914,918 through 2,737 contracts from the federal government between 2000 to 2010. And the trend is ever upward, the budget "crisis" notwithstanding.
This flood of money creates jobs less efficiently than investment in most other industries or even tax cuts. We are putting over half of every dollar of federal income tax and borrowing into the military. We could cut this by 85% and still be the top-spending nation in the world militarily. Meanwhile we are failing to invest in infrastructure, green energy, education, housing, jobs, and care for our young, old, and ill. The current trend will ruin us economically, as well as in terms of civil liberties, representative government, environmental destruction, social cohesion, hostile blowback, and weapons proliferation. Reining in the MIC has become a matter of survival.
We can and must turn this around!
Reserve your spot to attend this conference now! The fees increase after September 1st: Register.
The low registration fees (just $30 or $15 for students) are made possible by sponsorships and donations from those who are able.
Offer a guestroom in your Charlottesville home for one of our speakers or another participant from out of town.
Coming from out of town?
WHEN: September 16-18, 2011
- Friday, September 16, 2011, at the Haven, 112 W Market Street, Charlottesville, Va. Map.
- Saturday and Sunday, September 17 and 18, 2011, at The Dickinson Fine and Performing Arts Center at Piedmont Virginia Community College, 501 County Road 338, Charlottesville, Va. 22902-7589. Map.
Listen on Monday 7-8 a.m. PT: http://kpfk.org
Democratic Congressman Bob Filner: Why after 10 yrs of fighting for the progressive agenda in Congress is he leaving to run for Mayor of San Diego?
Author David Swanson: What chilling cuts can we expect from in the Debt Ceiling Deal? Is a major depression inevitable? Is the movement to challenge Obama in the Primary gaining momentum?
Jeff Norman Exec Dir of Veteran Project describes the shut out of homeless vets from their own facility by the Veteran’s Administration. Is that facility being privatized?
KPFK 90.7 FM in LA; 98.7 Santa Barbara; 93.7 San Diego;
99.5 China Beach
Airs Mondays from 7AM to 8AM.
To pod cast or download the broadcast use this link:
Each show is on line for three months.
On August 6, 1945, President Harry S Truman announced: "Sixteen hours ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima, an important Japanese Army base. That bomb had more power than 20,000 tons of T.N.T. It had more than two thousand times the blast power of the British 'Grand Slam' which is the largest bomb ever yet used in the history of warfare."
When Truman lied to America that Hiroshima was a military base rather than a city full of civilians, people no doubt wanted to believe him. Who would want the shame of belonging to the nation that commits a whole new kind of atrocity? (Will naming lower Manhattan "ground zero" erase the guilt?) And when we learned the truth, we wanted and still want desperately to believe that war is peace, that violence is salvation, that our government dropped nuclear bombs in order to save lives, or at least to save American lives.