Will a New Congress End War Profiteering without End?

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This past few weeks has been full of news about the US military, the most prominent tale, the resignation of General “Mad Dog” Mattis as Trump’s Defense Secretary. Much was made of his role as the last standing general (the Generals Flynn, McMaster, and Kelly already dumped by Trump by then). Often called an “intellectual,” Mad Dog’s regard for military tradition and restraint, for allies and diplomacy, butted heads with Trump’s even madder one-man genius.

 When Trump wanted a big and pricey military parade, Mattis advised against it, and so, we’re told, did he hold the line against other ill-advised moves. The general’s last straw was possibly a tweet about Syria, or maybe Trump’s order for US troops to rush to the Mexican border just before an election to defend us from an invasion of desperate refugees, mostly women and children.

 But a couple of related stories are worth bigger headlines and get less play, possibly because so much corporate money is at stake in DoD’s unthinkably huge contracts. The US Constitution calls for regular audits to ensure that money authorized by Congress is spent the intended way. Other agencies have met audit standards set by experts—except for the biggest discretionary expense in our national budget, the DoD.

 In its most recent issue, The Nation’s Dave Lindorff highlighted the DoD’s inability to complete its single long-called-for audit, and continued funding, despite a missing $21 trillion of taxpayer dollars from 1998-2015, a number five times larger than our government spends for everything each year. Regular laundering of money in changed accounts via what’s called “plugs,” apparently makes funds impossible to track, despite nonsensical numbers giving away the chicanery at work. One now retired supervisor of audits who worked for the DoD’s Inspector General’s office told Lindorff, “All those proposed budgets we’ve been presenting to you are a bunch of garbage.” It’s nice he can be frank, now that he’s got a pension.

 Increased budget requests based on fraudulent numbers belie a shrinking number of troops. The 15,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, for instance, are about 2.8 percent of deployment during Vietnam, and clues about grunt pay levels surround our military bases with pawn shops, repo car lots, and PayDay loan sharks. So where is our money going? And why does Congress continue to allocate growing budget numbers at DoD discretion, without demanding accountability?

 A TruthDig op-ed by Major Danny Sjurnsen of the US Army and a former West Point history instructor, draws attention to another nagging little detail—like whether or not those trillions of our tax dollars expended are even legal. Sjurnsen, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan points out that military action requires what is called an AUMF, or Congressional authorization for the use of military force. American soldiers are actively bombing, killing and dying in at least seven nations right now, but are doing so under two expired AUMFs. The first is a 2001 authorization issued by Congress after the 9/11 attacks by Al Qaeda, and the second, issued in 2003, for what Sjurnsen calls “the tragic and comic invasion…to remove Saddam Hussein.”

You need only see the new movie Vice to understand what he means about our current shooting wars, in Syria, Libya, Niger, Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, none rightly authorized by Congress, but all apparently a cash cow.

This Holiday, Help Yourself to Some Hope for a Change!

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who surprised all the old Dems by getting elected in the first place, is now shaking up Congressional hallowed halls by presenting a Green New Deal. Today, Axios, HuffPo and Earther are all talking about a survey just taken that shows a wide bipartisan range of people reporting positive feelings about this. Sounds good!

 However, media guys point out, few people know that much about it. Well, that’s because what she’s proposed is a select committee to hold hearings, to listen to experts, and to draw up a huge plan. The goal? To move quickly with a 10-year action plan, begun Jan. 1, 2020, to lead the world with green technology, and decarbonize.  

Holy smokes. That’s ambitious. It’s a lot like Canada’s recent move toward the Great Leap Manifesto, led by Naomi Klein!

Such a Green New Deal will need an inspiring and confident leader in the White House to bring it about, someone good at cooperation and collaboration, and with a vision. Someone who wants to wage economic life, not economic war. Sounds womanly, yes? Probably we’ll need new leaders in the Senate too, with some of those same emergency collaborative urges.

One of the things we most love about Alexandria’s plan is its double emphasis. She sees that this would not only address dangerous climate disruption, but also spread wider prosperity. She intends for it to “mitigate deeply entrenched racial, regional, and gender-based inequalities in income and wealth.” This means ensuring that “federal and other investment will be equitably distributed….” And she insists the historically impoverished, marginalized, and deindustrialized communities be included. 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is already at work, jumping into Washington’s swamp with real ideas!

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is already at work, jumping into Washington’s swamp with real ideas!

How long since you’ve heard an inclusive, smiling vision like this one? So here’s the first step: Make sure the select committee is well populated by women, and the men who love and listen to us, not the men who abuse us!  Then, let women write and call their representatives to get behind the most exciting leader we’ve seen in a long time!

 

For the Men Who Love Us

Courtney Wild, now 31, was 14 years old when Palm Beach hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein first recruited her to his child sex ring. She’s one of dozens of, victims betrayed by Alex Acosta, then US Prosecutor, now Labor Secretary. Before the story by Julie K. Brown at  The Miami Herald  broke Nov. 28, 2018, Acosta was in the running for Sessions’ job as US Attorney General, Photo by Emily Michot. .

Courtney Wild, now 31, was 14 years old when Palm Beach hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein first recruited her to his child sex ring. She’s one of dozens of, victims betrayed by Alex Acosta, then US Prosecutor, now Labor Secretary. Before the story by Julie K. Brown at The Miami Herald broke Nov. 28, 2018, Acosta was in the running for Sessions’ job as US Attorney General, Photo by Emily Michot. .

If I were a guy, about now I’d be feeling pretty awful.  You’ve maybe seen your mom or daughter or sister all upset and crying, or mad as hell about the Kavanagh hearings. Maybe you’ve laughed at Matt Damon’s portrayal of him on Saturday Night Live, feeling uncomfortable, remembering times you’d seen guys like him in action, not the least bit sorry for acting like an ass.

Those guys, never sorry as a point of religious practice, like Roger Stone, brag about their philosophy. Never apologize. Never reflect. Lie if you need to, and keep on lying if you have to. You can see Stone say so in this film, Get Me Roger Stone. He openly credits his mentor, Roy Cohn, who was Joseph McCarthy’s right hand man, and also Donald Trump’s guru.

Their priesthood promises that if you’re strong enough, trouble goes away. You’ll outlast all those crybaby complainers, and win. Be sure to call them crybabies, because name-calling hurts and scares pussies. That’s what Alphas call men who reflect or apologize. Winners have to use these mean methods; you’ve been told in a million ways.

And too often assholes do win in exclusively male-constructed, male-populated, and male-governed institutions, which our most powerful institutions have been, in fact, until pretty recently. Until women began to be journalists and lawyers and professors and politicians, shaking things up.

For instance, if you’re a Beta male, and you probably are, because “Nice Guys Finish Last,” you may be as appalled as your girlfriends are by this week’s story of Florida federal prosecutor Alexander Acosta’s immunity deal with a girl sex-trade dealer, a.k.a. hedge fun manager Jeffrey Epstein. The Miami Herald’s pictures of those fresh-scrubbed faces speak of innocence, or naiveté. For them, $200 was a big deal, and he did say he only wanted a massage. Haven’t we heard that one before?

Palm Beach Epstein had money to spend on whatever was needed to protect his bad habits, and so did his rich customers, all wealthy men with similar bullying instincts. That made him a winner, even when caught: got his own suite in a jail for a year, though he didn’t have to stay there, and his clever immunity deal also ended an FBI investigation into Epstein’s out-of-state sex buddies. Acosta the prosecutor won too: he was rewarded by a Trump cabinet position, now Secretary of Labor.

You mean “labor” as in girly “massages?” Sure, why not.

 The mainstream media doesn’t often encourage men (or women) to think complicated thoughts, which usually come with feelings. But this story breaks the norm. I’ll bet you’ve asked some questions in your deep male voice:  What the hell were these men thinking, or feeling?  What awful spirit moves these guys we’ve so often rewarded?

Like a girl, I’ll respond with more questions, wanting more to be joined with you in conversation, than to argue in battle. What would happen if the men who control enough money to buy whomever they want to screw—employees, investors, suckers who pay taxes, the naïve, the snowflake crybabies—had a change in heart. Or were maybe put in jail?

More men, even conservative men, might join their moms, sisters, and girlfriends then—oh, and the founding fathers—to openly call for an end to a corrupt money power, and its fake masculinity coupled with cruelty. Did I mention that high five between Putin and MBS? Have you ever read the Bible story about Judith and Holofernes?

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“Judith and Holofernes” by baroque painter Artemesia Gentileschi, who was raped as a girl by an old friend of her famous painter father. She dared take her assailant to court in the early 1600s, testifying under duress, but he got away with it. It inspired her art.

News You May Have Missed - October 2018

WOMEN+

John Tully for The New York Times

John Tully for The New York Times

Women Don’t Think Alike. Why Do We Think They Do?
But women don’t automatically ally with other women, as Senator Susan Collins’s vote to confirm Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court demonstrated. Sisterhood doesn’t override partisanship or deeply held moral views. Victims of sexual harassment didn’t all believe Christine Blasey Ford. Women don’t act as one.”

Meteorologist wore her 1-year-old baby on her back during live Weathercast
This one is fun! A mom made international news after wearing her baby to work in support of International Babywearing Week 2018. Employers, take note!

Black Female Lawmaker in Vermont Resigns After Racial Harassment
Kia Morris served as the Bennington Representative to the Vermont Vermont House of Representatives. In August 2018, she ended her re-election bid because of “what she described as a years long campaign of racially motivated harassment and threats”.

Economy+

Putting the family in economics
An academic read from Canada about the growing field of Family Economics.
”Family economics explores how families juggle financial and time trade-offs, and how their choices lead to outcomes related to such things as fertility, work, migration, raising children, spending government grants, and the health and welfare of subsequent generations.”

It's time to speak about the economic cost of sexual assault
I recently did a straw poll of the women in my life and realized that I know more survivors of sexual assault than I do mothers…” If that doesn’t make you want to read this article, we’re not sure what will.

Homelessness in New York Public Schools Is at a Record High: 114,659 Students
New York City has one of the highest populations of homeless students in the United States. It’s estimated that 1 in 10 students in New York will sleep at shelters or at the home of a friend of relative because they are homeless.

We are better than this, aren’t we?

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Nutty gun violence before elections feels un-American to me, but then sometimes I wonder. Am I just old-fashioned?? I’m stunned and disgusted by the overall tone of Presidential responses to old-white-guy fans with pipe bombs and AR-15s, but I can’t say I’m happy with our media’s obsession with his tweets either.

Yes, the press is NOT the enemy of the people, and some of “the people” is all journalists are, as easily murdered as politicians or you and me. Still I have noticed that CNN’s voice for their ads on upcoming coverage of mid-term elections does sound like the same scary guy who dared us to watch Hulk Hogan wrestle, or Evil Knievel jump trucks in Las Vegas. Really?

About now I’d like to hear more from the Sisters of Mercy, the Universalist Church choir, and from sensible lesbians and mothers and witches tired to death of all this schmuckery. They’re pro-active; they’d say: Finish your dinner. Take a nap. Play some ball with the kids. Grow up. It’s your turn to take out the trash.

Be a mensch, in other words, which only means: try to be a good human being. Help your brother. Help your sister. Love your neighbor. Yeah, the same one that irritates you. The one who votes the wrong way, and watches the wrong media. The one who mocks snowflakes. Suck helium, and then tell me, tough guy—and joke all you want. Laughter keeps you breathing.

 But if he endangers you, if he’s talking smack and threatening anyone, then that’s time to call in the cops. If they don’t believe you, or endanger you instead, which clearly does happen, then call on your neighbors, the ones you have loved. The ones who love you. They’re out there, the only ones who can possibly make a difference. I hope you have helped them all get registered to vote! 

—Rickey Gard Diamond, 10.29.18

You, Me & the Babbitt of Our Time

Waging the economy as war brings externalities more awful than any profits. We can wage life! It doesn’t have to be this way.

Waging the economy as war brings externalities more awful than any profits. We can wage life! It doesn’t have to be this way.

Sometimes events mirror a nation’s character so clearly it is hard to look closer. Repulsion happened last week when a journalist went through a government door to get his marriage license. His fiancé waited outside, but he never reappeared.  We heard about the horrors inside because Mr. Koshoggi wrote for The Washington Post, not for a paper in his native Saudi Arabia.

More repulsive and revealing than the still open question of the Saudi Prince ordering his critic’s slaughter is our own government’s fake sympathy, held up in an ugly reflection. In the 1920s Sinclair Lewis wrote in cold satire about America’s Babbitt, an ad salesman who justified the soul’s sellout. Now Babbitt is resurrected in Mr. Trump, our  Salesman-in-Chief, who says:  We’d only “punish ourselves” if we interfered with the many US jobs that $110 billion in weapons manufacture for the Prince would create.

As with most things our Babbit says, there’s some question about the size of that sales number —but there’s no denying that “we the people” have long won jobs that lost other people their lives. No other country comes as close to depending on guns for its livelihood as we do. In his first proposed budget, Mr. Trump cut domestic spending, but he increased the military budget by 10 percent, points out Louis Uchitelle in a 2017 report in the NYT. Much of the capital that backs our manufacturing jobs comes from our public funds, he reminds us.

First, cities and states pour public money into tax breaks and other enticements to bring a factory in. Yet for every nine auto-fenders (or other non-lethals like shoes, clothing, or furniture), our factories put out one rifle barreI. It isn’t just the National Rifle Association’s corruption that makes weapons so profitable. About 10 percent of our manufactured products go to our Dept. of Defense, its purchases a dependable cash cow for corporations.

 The military industrial complex that President Eisenhower first warned us about continues to be “good for the economy,” depending on how you define good. Since the Cold War, the US outstripped other countries with our weapons exports and sales amounts, selling to 100 different countries. It’s no coincidence that top weapons’ exporters, the US, Russia, China, France and Germany are all “permanent members” of the most powerful group in the United Nations: the UN Security Council. As such, the US and they have veto powers over other rotating national members—and also a damning conflict of interest.

 

Ten Countries export 90 percent of global weapons sales, according to SIPRI, and its latest study find heavy weaons systems sales at their highest level since the Cold War in 1991. The five countries who dominate the UN Security Council sell 74 percent, but the US leads all.

Ten Countries export 90 percent of global weapons sales, according to SIPRI, and its latest study find heavy weaons systems sales at their highest level since the Cold War in 1991. The five countries who dominate the UN Security Council sell 74 percent, but the US leads all.

In the chart above, based on the latest report from SIPRI (The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute), the five biggest exporter nations account for 74 percent of sales—but none comes close to the US. The five biggest weapons manufacturers are based in the US, says Business Insider, listing them in order: Lockheed Martin Corporation, Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman.

Another report from Irina Ivanova with CBSN’s Moneywatch says our nation sold a total of $55.6 billion of weapons worldwide in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 — up 33 percent from the previous fiscal year, and a near record. Who is our biggest customer? Who else but the Saudis?  In 2017, the U.S. cleared some $18 billion in new Saudi arms deals. Like our Babbitt, the Princes of the world use the press for glossy ads, but murder truth.