Category Archives: Government waste

Debuting at #1

This Alternet article, Rachel Maddow: How America’s Security-Industrial Complex Went Insane is an excerpt from Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power, Maddow’s new book that will debut at #1 on the New York Times best seller list.

Here’s a little taste of it:

It’s not just the small-potatoes post-9/11 Homeland spending that feels a little off mission. It’s the big-ticket stuff too. Nobody ever made an argument to the American people, for instance, that the thing we ought to do in Afghanistan, the way we ought to stick it to Osama bin Laden, the way to dispense American tax dollars to maximize American aims in that faraway country, would be to build a brand-new neighborhood in that country’s capital city full of rococo narco-chic McMansions and apartment/office buildings with giant sculptures of eagles on their roofs and stoned guards lounging on the sidewalks, wearing bandoliers and plastic boots. No one ever made the case that this is what America ought to build in response to 9/11. But that is what we built. An average outlay of almost $5 billion a month over ten years (and counting) has created a twisted war economy in Kabul. Afghanistan is still one of the four poorest countries on earth; but now it’s one of the four poorest countries on earth with a neighborhood in its capital city that looks like New Jersey in the 1930s and ’40s, when Newark mobsters built garish mansions and dotted the grounds with lawn jockeys and hand-painted neo-neoclassic marble statues.

The New York Times, Janet Maslin, published one of many good reviews, How War Came Home to Stay:

A book by the host of a political talk show is often an ancillary product or marketing tool. But “Drift,” by Rachel Maddow, whose show is on MSNBC, is much more. It is an argument — a sustained, lucid case in which points are made logically and backed by evidence and reason. What’s more, it follows one main idea through nearly a half-century. The subtitle, “The Unmooring of American Military Power,” explains exactly what “Drift” is about.

Sounds like a good read. 275 pages, Crown Publishers, $25.

The Tea Partys war on mass transit – Dream City –

We’re seeing the same thing at the state level here in Virginia where another factor is at play, the Tea Party’s war against unionized labor so often associated with mass transit.

“Defunding transit is how you smack down urbanites, environmentalists, and people of color, all in one fell swoop. It’s how you telegraph a disdain for all things European. It’s how you show solidarity with swing-state suburbanites who don’t understand why their taxes are going toward subways they don’t even use. And it’s how you subtly reassure your base that you’re not concerned about the very poor.”

via The Tea Partys war on mass transit – Dream City –

New Video: Wasting Billions of Taxpayer Dollars on Government Contractors

“So how about those overpaid government workers? We should probably just can the whole unionized lot of them and contract out their jobs to the lean-n-mean private sector. That’d save the taxpayers some serious dough, wouldn’t it? Maybe not. There’s a reason that private contractors are called Beltway Bandits, after all.”

Kevin Drum, Mother Jones.

via New Video: Wasting Billions of Taxpayer Dollars on Government Contractors.

Friday Grab Bag

“…the military is pursuing a new strategy….” Pentagon discloses largest-ever cyber theft:
“Does the administration agree? Or does it have a different plan?”
How to Shave a Bundle Off the Deficit: Spend Less on Nukes


Kevin Drum at MotherJones thinks having the debt ceiling is “goofy”.
“Why wasn’t it repealed long ago by a majority party tired of the opposition using it to score political points?”
Remind me again why we have a debt ceiling:


Here’s a February DailyKos on means testing that still works today. Our less than creative options have been downsized and consolidated – which always reminds me of my bedtime way back when. “Which book for tonight … this one or that one?”

The case against means testing Social Security:
Means testing is expensive and it’s not the agreement we had when we paid for the policy. Integrity counts. I personally would like to try a voluntary “patriotic” opt-out for those in the upper echelon thoughtful enough to refuse social security because -they -don’t -need -it. Wouldn’t a list of their names be telling? That’ll never happen ….
Ralph Waldo Emerson ~

We are students of words: we are shut up in schools, and colleges, and recitation-rooms, for ten or fifteen years, and come out at last with a bag of wind, a memory of words, and do not know a thing.

Think about it. Once they start, our kids are in public school about 16,380 hours (P – 12). That only leaves 5.72 years out of 13 for them to experience life awake and not in school before they graduate. Ouch.
540 hrs – preK public school 1 yr
16,380 hrs -180 days in public school per year @7hr k-12
33,215 hrs – sleep @7hrs x 13 yrs
=50135 hrs or 2,089 days or … 5.72 years


Here’s my favorite video about teaching. Toshiro Kanamori is teaching a class. REALLY teaching a class.


And finally this one. Have a nice weekend.

speech: A Historic Filibuster on Corporate Greed and the Decline of Our Middle Class
by Bernie Sanders
art: “Morning In America”, June 18, 2011
artist:  Ligorano/Reese

music: composer/violinist Michael Galasso


Controlling U.S. Military Aggression – 3 Opinions

Randolph Bourne

…Once the State has begun to function, and a large class finds its interest and its expression of power in maintaining the State, this ruling class may compel obedience from any uninterested minority. The State thus becomes an instrument by which the power of the whole herd is wielded for the benefit of a class. The rulers soon learn to capitalize the reverence which the State produces in the majority, and turn it into a general resistance towards a lessening of their privileges. The sanctity of the State becomes identified with the sanctity of the ruling class and the latter are permitted to remain in power under the impression that in obeying and serving them, we are obeying and serving society, the nation, the great collectivity of all of us….
In practically no other contests has the electorate had for all practical purposes a choice except between two candidates, identical as far as their political role would be as representatives of the significant classes in the State. Campaigns … where one of the parties is captured by an element which seeks a real transference of power from the significant to the less significant classes, split the party, and sporadic third party attacks merely throw the scale one way or the other between the big parties, or, if threatening enough, produce a virtual coalition against them. ~Randolph Bourne

Bourne is a favorite of mine, who in many respects could be snatched right out of 1918 and pick up where he left off without breaking stride. He died before finishing his work on The State, excerpted as “War is the Health of the State“. A misuse of forceps at birth and spinal tuberculosis left Randolph Bourne deformed, stunted, gnarled and hunched, but his work is straight up and still standing. This writing was used to define a chapter in Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, a good portion of which is read here by Zinn and Matt Damon.

In The Founders’ Wisdom, an army officer with three tours of active duty in Iraq, also writes with an understanding of the American people’s need to be involved in military decisions. Lt. Col. Paul Yingling’s opinion in the Armed Forces Journal recommends a return to America’s home-grown system of checks and balances, which, as a child of the ’60s left me feeling somewhat validated. If we have to send our children out to kill our neighbors’ children, if that’s our only problem solving option, then in fairness and an effort to curb the State’s lack of civility, let everyone’s children be sent to sacrifice life, limb and sanity. If that responsibility is shared by those who Bourne referred to as “the significant classes”, perhaps the war stories ballyhooed in America would be more often about their short duration or diplomatic avoidance altogether.

The dangers of military service are born solely by volunteers, a disproportionate number of whom come from working and middle-class families. The wealthiest and most privileged members of American society are all but absent from the ranks of the U.S. military.

I was a little disappointed that he didn’t address the impact that conscription might have on the DOD’s obvious wasteful spending and bloated budget, but he more than makes up for it by quoting and drawing from military history, pointing a strong finger at congress and others who have failed us, and by standing up to recommend that we consider an ill framed, unpopular and often misunderstood option: reinstating the draft.

Update: The Armed Forces Journal linked above has a new firewall. Sign up to read from the archives, or try this NYT piece about Lt. Col. Paul Yingling and The Founders’ Wisdom.

On Wednesday, David Sirota offered a third opinion, Why People Become Chickenhawks, on the people’s involvement in US military aggression. Based on a recently released study, it seems that those who have not served in active military duty nor fear they will be sent, tend to be more gung-ho about sending American lambs to slaughter.

Shielded from any personal risk of injury or death, the chickenhawk is thus permitted to wrap himself in an American flag and goose step his way through television studios as the alleged personification of patriotic bravery.

No doubt, the antiwar voices who have recently argued for the reinstatement of a draft will find fuel in this Berkeley/Columbia report. They argue that viscerally connecting the entire nation to the blood-and-guts consequences of war will make the nation less reflexively supportive of war — and the new data substantively supports that assertion. That’s why in the midst of (at least) three U.S. military occupations, this report is almost sure to be ignored by our chickenhawk-dominated political class — because it too explicitly exposes the selfish, self-centered and abhorrent roots of the chickenhawk ethos that now plays such an integral role in perpetuating a state of Endless War.

That’s it. Consider three worthwhile opinions from both sides of the aisle and from days of old to last Wednesday. Reading between the lines, all three say the same thing – the American people need to assume a bigger role in controlling U.S. military aggression. We need to be engaged in policy decisions effectively enough to ensure our own representation.

White House launching new ‘Campaign to Cut Waste’ – The Federal Eye – The Washington Post

White House launching new ‘Campaign to Cut Waste’ – The Federal Eye – The Washington Post.

Mr. President, we’re all for cutting waste, but I’d rather my tax dollars went to a website that tracks desert tortoises, than to tax cuts for the rich, pointless defense spending increases, farm subsidies for big-agro companies like Cargill and ADM and federal kick backs to oil companies to the tune of tens of billions of dollars a year.