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Not just toilet lids Pentagon Money Pit: Unaccountable Army Spending of $6.5 Trillion and No DOD Audit for the Past Two Decades

By Dave Lindorff

 

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.

As Police Killings of Minorities Mount, Attacks on Police Like the One in Dallas, While Awful, Are Also Sadly Predictable

By Dave Lindorff

 

            The tragedy that is America has deepened with the news that several people on Thursday organized a military-style sniper attack targeting police in Dallas during a protest march and rally against police brutality and killings of black people in that city.

 

Documents: Fracked Gas Exports Central to Panama Canal Expansion

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

After nearly a decade of engineering work on the project, the Panama Canal's expansion opened for business on June 26. 

How IOGCC-Spawned Lawsuit Overturning BLM Fracking Regulations on Public Lands

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

In a ruling on the Obama Administration's proposed regulations of hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") on U.S. public lands, U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming Judge Scott Skavdahl — a President Obama appointee — struck down the rules as an illegal violation of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. 

 Photo Credit: WildEarth Guardians | Flickr

Documents: Before Rightward Rebrand, an MSNBC 'Lean Forward' to Promote Fracking

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Cable TV network MSNBC has made headlines in recent days for apparently moving away from its "Lean Foward" progressive brand, catering instead to a more center-to-right-leaning crowd. 

"People might start accusing us of leaning too far to the right," the station says in a new advertisement featuring MSNBC's conservative personalities — an array of Republican identities such as Michael Steele, Steve Schmidt and Ben Ginsberg. 

Emails: US Senator Turned Exxon Lobbyist Limits Access to Public University-Based Archives

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Emails and documents obtained from Oklahoma State University (OSU) under the state's open records law depict an arrangement in which former U.S. Sen. Don Nickles (R-OK) donated his U.S. Senate papers to OSU, a public university, but still maintains full control of the papers and who gets permission to view them. 

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Fox in Hen House: Online Auctions For Public Lands Oil and Gas Bids May Be Industry-Owned, Run

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

If the recent past serves as prologue, then online leasing of oil and gas on U.S. federal lands may resemble the proverbial fox guarding the hen house, with one eBay-like company in particular standing to profiteer from the industry's proposed e-bidding scheme.

Image Credit: Willis Nowell | Flickr

Documents: IOGCC-Spawned Loophole Creating Frackquake Crisis Faces Federal Lawsuit

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

On May 4, several environmental organizations filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), calling for an end to the regulatory exemption it carved out in the late 1980s for the oil and gas industry with regards to how it handles industrial waste.


Photo Credit: United States Geological Survey

Documents: How IOGCC Created Loophole Ushering in Frackquakes and Allowing Methane Leakage

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Earthquakes caused by injection of shale oil and gas production wastes — and methane leakage from shale gas pipelines — have proliferated in recent years, with both issues well-studied in the scientific literature and grabbing headlines in newspapers nationwide.

Introducing IOGCC: The Most Powerful Oil and Gas Lobby You’ve Never Heard Of

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC) is far from a household name, but a new investigation published by InsideClimate News' Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Lisa Song may have just put what is likely the most powerful oil and gas lobbying node you've never heard of on the map.

Image Credit: Google Maps

Something’s happening in the presidential race: Clinton’s Crumbling, Bernie’s Surging ‘Political Revolution’ is in the Air

By Dave Lindorff


            Philadelphia -- Something “YUGE” is happening in the Democratic presidential campaign, and perhaps in the broader American body politic. It’s hard to put your finger on it, but like that feeling of your neck hairs rising off your skin as a big thunderstorm approaches, you know it’s big and it’s coming.

Hillary Clinton backed the coup: Shine the Light of Truth on Poor Honduras

By John Grant

 

Since the coup, Honduras has become one of the most dangerous places in the world.

Lawmakers make Texas MDs offer substandard care: Texas Abortion Laws Pose Dangerous Implications for All of Medicine

By Jess Guh

 

Much like expensive red wines, many Facebook relationships, and Kanye West’s psychological state, the case of Texas House Bill No. 2 is complicated.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus Believes in War

Each year the Congressional Progressive Caucus releases a weaker and weaker budget proposal. This year they asked for input first. I sent them this and communicated with them about it, so I know they read it. An excerpt:

"Last year's Congressional Progressive Caucus budget proposed to cut military spending by, in my calculation, 1%. In fact, no statement from the Progressive Caucus even mentioned the existence of military spending; you had to hunt through the numbers to find the 1% cut. This was not the case in other recent years, when the CPC prominently proposed to end wars and cut particular weapons. With all due respect, how is this censoring of any mention of the military evidence of progressing, rather than regressing?"

I should clarify that when the Progressive Caucus prominently proposed serious cuts to militarism, George W. Bush was president, and that the CPC will no doubt discover a distaste for mass murder if Trump is inaugurated.

But what about now?

This year's initial press release and email from the CPC again pretends that the majority of the budget (which goes to militarism) just doesn't exist. Its slightly longer summary includes, near the bottom:

"Sustainable Defense: Promoting peace And Security

  • Modernizes our defense system to create sustainable Pentagon spending
  • Ends funding for unsustainable wars
  • Increases funding for diplomacy and strategic humanitarian aid
  • Adds robust funding for refugee resettlement programs"

That's (relative) progress. But what does it mean exactly? What does a budget pie chart look like? Does 50 to 60 percent still go into war preparations? The "full budget" tells us this:

"SUSTAINABLE DEFENSE: PROMOTING PEACE AND SECURITY

"Pentagon spending has doubled over the last decade at the expense of investments in working families. But as the war in Afghanistan draws to a close, we need a leaner, more agile force to combat realistic twenty-first century threats."

[Note that the latest plan is to keep the war on Afghanistan going for decades, and that the CPC has not lifted a finger to end it. So, if that war doesn't "draw to a close," do we still get the "leaner force"? And what does "agile" mean? And who gets killed in the "realistic" "agile" wars? The same war in Afghanistan was "drawing to a close" in identical language in last year's CPC budget.]

"The People's Budget responsibly [is there some other way?] ends operations in Afghanistan, brings our troops home, focuses Pentagon spending on modern security threats instead of Cold War - era weapons and contracts, and invests in a massive job creation program that will help workers transition into civilian jobs."

[In fact, Congress has to actually end that war, but it's right for a decent budget proposal to assume it's ended. However, what about the war in Iraq and Syria? The drone wars in several nations? The bases spreading like a virus across the globe? The U.S. role in the Saudi slaughter in Yemen? The new war in Libya? Why only end the one war that people are already pretending has "ended"? That said, transition to a peace economy is exactly the right idea, which is why it's a shame that, despite there supposedly being a progressive caucus, only three Congress members have signed onto this bill. And where are the numbers in this budget? How much is "massive"?]

"The People's Budget also increases investments in diplomacy, sustainable development, and humanitarian assistance to address the ongoing crises in Syria and Iraq. The Congressional Progressive Caucus does not support Pentagon cuts mandated by sequestration and believes there are more responsible savings achievable that will not harm service members and veterans."

[Whoa. If you have actually thought through the advantages to the so-called "service members" of the "massive" job creation program, what can you possibly mean by suggesting that cutting the military would "harm" them? Clearly, the CPC has not actually thought that through or given any moral reflection at all to its proposal to fund the most expensive military in the history of the earth in order to benefit its troops. This comes naturally to Congress members, of course, as they've been conditioned to think of military spending as justified by the jobs it provides in their districts. They should pause for a moment, though, and think about how they would explain that benefit to children whose parents were killed by a missile from a U.S. drone.]

"End Emergency War Funding Beginning in FY2017 – Our budget limits Overseas Contingency (OCO) funding to redeployment out of Afghanistan in FY2017 and zeroes out OCO thereafter, saving $761 billion compared to current law."

[This is clearly following the misleading practice of multiplying everything by 10 and then hiding in some footnote that all "savings" will be "over 10 years." So let's say this is actually $76.1 billion. That's still (relative) progress and a good beginning. Now, surely we'll hear about the serious cuts....]

"It is time to swiftly and safely end the war in Afghanistan and end the policy of funding endless war. An expedited withdrawal from Afghanistan would save billions. Further, the use of emergency funding via the OCO account masks the true impact of war spending and should be discontinued."

[True enough.]

"Reduce Base Pentagon Spending – We reduce baseline military spending to ensure Pentagon spending does not continue to contribute significantly to our fiscal burden, and establishes a responsible targeted approach towards a sustainable defense budget."

[Hey, pick your favorite reasons. But where did the numbers go, all of a sudden? How much do you reduce it?]

"The People's Budget would repeal the damaging across-the-board cuts and caps proposed by the Budget Control Act, while providing significant savings through the enactment of reforms, endorsed in bipartisan fiscal reform proposals. It redirects funding to priorities such as caring for our veterans, Congressional Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP), smart diplomacy, and environmental cleanup and climate change mitigation programs within the DOD Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan."

[This is where one has to start worrying. The numbers have disappeared. The cuts currently required by law are "damaging" (and too large?). The CPC wants people who are trained and armed to kill and destroy to work on programs that help us better survive climate change. Is the CPC aware that the military is our top creator of climate change, that significant military cuts would not just "mitigate" climate change but actually reduce it?]

"Adjusting to Pentagon Downsizing and Investing in Non-Defense Manufacturing – The People’s Budget increases investments in DOD's Office of Economic Adjustment to assist state and local governments to respond to major defense program shifts by helping communities adjust to defense contract losses.

"Fully funding initiatives like the DOT’s Federal Ship Financing Program and significantly increasing federal agency procurement of sustainable technology from communities impacted by Pentagon cuts will help provide a just transition for defense manufacturing workers and ensure that the U.S. manufacturing base remains vibrant."

[Great! How much is "fully"?]

"Modernizing our Defense Posture – Our budget achieves a smaller force structure with fewer personnel through attrition. A modern defense strategy must focus our armed forces on their strengths of crisis response, smart security, and deterrence. Our military needs to adapt to current threats and challenges, particularly cyberwarfare, nuclear proliferation, and combatting non-state actors. No savings are obtained by reducing military personnel wages or benefits, including TRICARE and pensions. The proportion of private contractor personnel would be significantly reduced and their work transitioned to civilian personnel, curbing needles "outsourcing" that creates excessive cost overruns. Additional reforms include the decommissioning of our Cold War-era nuclear weapons infrastructure, as outlined by the Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures (SANE) Act, and reducing procurement and research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E) spending by making smarter procurement choices."

Attrition? Do they, then, defund recruitment? They don't say. Cyberwarfare? Combatting non-state actors? Aren't these jobs for police? Not reducing personnel except through attrition, in order to not "harm" the personnel? Yet an investment in a "massive" non-military jobs program that none of the military personnel will have time to find employment in? The SANE Act does not, in fact, "decommission ... nuclear weapons infrastructure." It blocks the creation of certain types of insane new additions to the "nuclear weapons infrastructure," presumably allowing the existing "infrastructure" to phase out through the "attrition" of either being shut down as too old or killing us all.

"Audit the Pentagon – As the only federal agency that cannot be audited, the Pentagon loses tens of billions of dollars annually to waste, fraud, and abuse. It is past time to check the wasteful practices with little oversight that weaken our financial outlook and ultimately, our national security."

[Get it? When the Pentagon wastes money instead of buying more weapons, our national security is weakened. So, any money saved by eliminating the waste will have to go into more weapons. Putting it into education or housing would endanger us. Or are we willing to run that risk? In that case, if we know that the Pentagon wastes tens of billions, why not back at least a cut of $20 billion now?]

"Diplomacy and Development – The People's Budget increases investment in diplomacy and development to stabilize key regions of the world through supporting the United States' leadership in the United Nations, smart security, providing vital governance, development and humanitarian assistance, and increasing the tools to combat the horrors of drug and human trafficking and nuclear proliferation. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the number of people forcibly displaced throughout the world has reached the highest level ever recorded at a staggering 59.5 million people. The People's Budget recognizes this and provides robust funding for refugee resettlement programs. Our plan rebalances goals and risks to achieve a more effective mix of defense, diplomacy, and development aid. By adopting this new global security posture, investing in domestic priorities and creating a cost-effective military aligned with 21st century threats, the U.S. can achieve significant deficit reduction goals while simultaneously enhancing global security."

[Never mind what created the refugees! O.K., yes, this is needed, but where are the numbers?]

At the end of the CPC budget, just like last year's, are a few pages of actual numbers, where you can find, just like last year, a $6 billion, or roughly 1%, cut to the "base" spending of the Department of so-called Defense. You also find $104 billion investment in infrastructure, and $68 billion in additional job creation, plus $94 billion to make college, not free, but "affordable." There's no single-payer healthcare here, but the godforsaken "public option." There's also $1 billion for public financing of election campaigns.

The vast difference between the modest expenditures on public goods and the tiny military cuts is made up by taxing financial transactions, carbon, capital gains, etc. All such taxes are goods in and of themselves. But the sort of investment in transition to sustainable energy that we actually need, plus the restraint in murdering large numbers of people that those large numbers of people need, can only come from serious cuts to the military. The $76.1 billion cut to the slush fund is a good start. But much more serious cuts are needed to so-called Defense, to Energy, to so-called Homeland Security, to the CIA and NSA and so on. The habit of refusing to imagine serious change didn't begin with Hillary Clinton for President. It's deeply ingrained in Washington.

DNC defection: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s Surprise Endorsement Gives Sanders a Chance to Change the Whole Primary Game

By Dave Lindorff

 

            Just as the media, in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s landslide win in South Carolina’s Democratic primary Saturday, are predictably writing the obituary for Bernie Sanders’ upstart and uphill campaign for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) has handed him an opportunity to jolt the American people awake.

Supreme Court Junket King Scalia Dies While Vacationing with Wealthy Patrons at Private West Texas Getaway

By Dave Lindorff

 

            It’s appropriate that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died at a luxury resort while freeloading as the guest of thus far unidentified wealthy sponsors as one of  40 guests at a private quail-hunting vacation party.

 

He’s the best, but is he all we need?: The ‘Bern’ and the Internet

By Alfredo Lopez

 

Bernie Sanders' stunning success in the campaign for the Democratic Presidential nomination, highlighted by what is effectively a victory in the Iowa caucuses this past Monday, provokes serious thinking about what a Sanders presidency would look like.

What Does a Progressive Budget Look Like?

A Proposal from World Beyond War
David Swanson, Director
http://WorldBeyondWar.org

The Congressional Progressive Caucus has requested budget proposals from organizations and members of the public. Here is a friendly suggestion from World Beyond War.

Last year’s Congressional Progressive Caucus budget proposed to cut military spending by, in my calculation, 1%. In fact, no statement from the Progressive Caucus even mentioned the existence of military spending; you had to hunt through the numbers to find the 1% cut. This was not the case in other recent years, when the CPC prominently proposed to end wars and cut particular weapons. With all due respect, how is this censoring of any mention of the military evidence of progressing, rather than regressing?

Military spending is 53.71% of discretionary spending, according to the National Priorities Project. No other item adds up to even 7%. Whether a budget proposal is progressive, communist, fascist, conservative, or libertarian, how can it avoid mentioning this elephant in the room? Military spending, of course, produces the need for ongoing additional spending on debt, care for veterans, etc., so that total U.S. military spending is somewhere over twice the figure used by NPP.

Using the numbers of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which leaves out huge U.S. military expenses (which are of course in several departments of the government), U.S. military spending is as much as the next several nations’ combined — and most of those nations are close U.S. allies and major U.S. weapons industry customers. Because SIPRI almost certainly leaves out more U.S. spending than spending by other nations, in reality U.S. spending on militarism is probably the equivalent of a great many, if not all other, foreign nations combined.

In addition, U.S. military spending is extremely high by historical standards. Looking at the biggest piece of military spending, which is the budget of the Department of so-called Defense, that department’s annual “Green Book” makes clear that it has seen higher spending under President Barack Obama than ever before in history. Here are the numbers in constant 2016 dollars, thanks to Nicolas Davies:

Obama      FY2010-15      $663.4 billion per year
Bush Jr      FY2002-09*   $634.9    ”       ”      ”
Clinton       FY1994-2001  $418.0    ”       ”      ”
Bush Sr      FY1990-93     $513.4    ”       ”      ”
Reagan      FY1982-89     $565.0    ”       ”      ”
Carter         FY1978-81    $428.1     ”       ”      ”
Ford            FY1976-77    $406.7     ”      ”       ”
Nixon          FY1970-75    $441.7     ”      ”       ”
Johnson      FY1965-69    $527.3     ”      ”       ”
Kennedy     FY1962-64    $457.2     ”      ”       ”
Eisenhower FY1954-61    $416.3     ”      ”      ”
Truman       FY1948-53    $375.7     ”      ”      ”
*Excludes $80 billion supplemental added to FY2009 under Obama.

War Spending Drains an Economy:

It is common to think that, because many people have jobs in the war industry, spending on war and preparations for war benefits an economy. In reality, spending those same dollars on peaceful industries, on education, on infrastructure, or even on tax cuts for working people would produce more jobs and in most cases better paying jobs — with enough savings to help everyone make the transition from war work to peace work.

War Spending Increases Inequality:

Military spending diverts public funds into increasingly privatized industries through the least accountable public enterprise and one that is hugely profitable for the owners and directors of the corporations involved.

War Spending Is Unsustainable, As Is Exploitation it Facilitates:

While war impoverishes the war making nation, can it nonetheless enrich that nation more substantially by facilitating the exploitation of other nations? This is far from clear, and if it were, it would not be sustainable in light of the dangers created by war, the environmental destruction of war, and the economic drain of militarism.

The Money Is Needed Elsewhere:

Green energy and infrastructure would surpass their advocates’ wildest fantasies if some of the funds now invested in war were transferred there. Morally, they must be. As a matter of simple continued human existence, they must be, as they must be transferred to housing, education, infrastructure, and healthcare — at home and abroad.

It would cost about $30 billion per year to end starvation and hunger around the world. It would cost about $11 billion per year to provide the world with clean water. U.S. foreign aid right now is about $23 billion a year. Increasing it would have a number of interesting impacts, including the saving of a great many lives and the prevention of a tremendous amount of suffering. It would also, if one other factor were added, make the nation that did it the most beloved nation on earth. A recent poll of 65 nations found that the United States is far and away the most feared country, the country considered the largest threat to peace in the world. Were the United States responsible for providing schools and medicine and solar panels, the idea of anti-American terrorist groups would be as laughable as anti-Switzerland or anti-Canada terrorist groups, but only if one other factor were added — only if the funding came from where it really ought to come from — reductions in militarism.

Some U.S. states are setting up commissions to work on the transition from war to peace industries.

Popular opinion polls show huge support for cutting militarism and increasing spending in useful areas. In 2011 numerous polls found the top public solution to a budget “crisis” was to tax the super-rich, and the second most popular solution was to cut the military. This support increases dramatically when people find out how high military spending now is. Polls show that people have no idea. The Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland showed people the budget and then asked them about it. The results were very encouraging.

If a supposedly “progressive” caucus will not so much as tell people what the basic outlines of the budget look like, why produce a progressive budget? If you will tell people what the budget looks like, you really ought to follow through by proposing to change it.

We recommend eliminating nuclear weapons and working with the rest of the world to do the same globally. We recommend closing foreign bases, removing foreign and ocean-based weapons, and keeping U.S. troops within 200 miles of the United States. We recommend eliminating aircraft carriers, long-range missiles and other weapons that serve an offensive rather than a defensive purpose. We recommend eliminating secret “special” forces and weaponized drones that allow presidential killing sprees without Congressional oversight. This should, of course, be done through a program of conversion or transition that strategically retools and retrains to benefit U.S. and world workers, infrastructure, energy systems, the natural environment, and international relations.

We thank you for your consideration and encourage you to contact us for additional information.

Rethinking Bernie Sanders: Attacking Wall Street and the Corrupt US Political System Makes Sanders a Genuine Revolutionary

By Dave Lindorff

 

            I admit I’ve been slow to warm up to the idea of supporting Bernie Sanders. Maybe it’s because I publicly backed Barack Obama in 2008 and quickly came to rue that decision after he took office.

 

Emails: US Government Facilitated LNG Business Deals Before Terminals Got Required Federal Permits

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Emails and documents obtained by DeSmog reveal that the U.S. Department of Trade has actively promoted and facilitated  business deals for the liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry and export terminal owners, even before some of the terminals have the federal regulatory agency permits needed to open for business. 

Obama's Oily Christmas Gift: Faster Pipeline Approvals

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Just over a week before the U.S. signed the Paris climate agreement at the conclusion of the COP21 United Nations summit, President Barack Obama signed a bill into law with a provision that expedites permitting of oil and gas pipelines in the United States.

Big Oil Argued for U.S. Crude Exports to Fend Off Iran, But First Exporter Vitol Group Also Exported Iran's Oil

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The American Petroleum Institute (API) successfully lobbied for an end to the 40-year ban on exporting U.S.-produced crude oil in part by making a geopolitical argument: Iran and Russia have the ability to export their oil, so why not unleash America?

What winter?: No Denying It, Climate Change Is Happening Now

By Dave Lindorff

 

            The leaves came off the last trees -- a crabapple, a willow and a hardy Norway maple -- during the first week of December this year, surely the latest I can remember seeing leaves on trees since we moved to the Philadelphia area 18 years ago. But it’s not just that.

 

Meet the Lobbyists and Big Money Interests Pushing to End the Oil Exports Ban

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The ongoing push to lift the ban on exports of U.S.-produced crude oil appears to be coming to a close, with Congress agreeing to a budget deal with a provision to end the decades-old embargo

Speaking Events

David Swanson at St. Michael’s College, Colchester, VT, October 5, 2016.

David Swanson in Fairbanks, Alaska, October 22, 2016.

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