Our mistakes will cost ya

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Whenever it is suggested that the defense budget be trimmed, those who oppose that immediately go for the heart strings and ask how anyone can turn their backs on the troops.

In light of the troops’ and veterans’ benefits and programs that have been cut or were never allowed to come into being, this is, honestly, merely a distraction.

Cutting the defense budget is very often not about the troops, but more often about cutting the money given so freely to the military-industrial complex, those who make the weapons, some of which are totally unneeded, like tanks and planes that will be obsolete by the time they are finally ready.

Here’s an example.

The F-35 jet fighter that has so many problems it likely will just not be used has, so far, created a bill of $160 billion in spite of technical problems. The total cost of these planes has come in at $1.5 trillion over the four-decade life of the program because of this.

According to Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, the officer in control of the F-35 program ,
“Long gone is the time when we’re going to pay for mistake after mistake after mistake.”

Yet he claims that the planes are necessary to keep pace with the technology being developed by U.S. rivals Russia and China.

“I don’t see any scenario where we are walking back away from this program. We’re going to buy a lot of these airplanes,” said Bogdan.

Last year 2,400 planes cost $400 billion, so the  thinking  seems to be that since we spent that much so far, how can we stop the program now?

We have to rectify the mistake by spending more money on it.

I taught in a school once where the district had spent $200,000 on a program that was demonstrably not working, but I was directed to keep using it because the district had paid so much for it, and it would be a waste of money to not use it.

It was  waste of money and student time to keep using it. It would have to be offset later in their education, probably with a more expensive program.

I am not unfamiliar with this mind set.

We are supposedly stuck with continuing to buy more planes at a higher cost because we had already wasted money.

A request by the Department of Defense in 2015 calls for two of the Navy’s version of the plane, six of the Marines’, and 26 of the Air Force’s model.

In 2013 the Inspector General of the Department of Defense found 719 total problems that remained to be resolved, and of these, many were quality control issues by Lockheed Martin like the failure to make sure subcontractor’s work was acceptable; safety requirements not being met; and failure to check subcontractor’s work, and this caused the cost of the program to go from $382 billion to $1.5 trillion.

So the weapons contractor fails in its obligations, but the American taxpayer has to pay for their shortcomings.

Not a bad deal at all.

Instead of being penalized for their mistakes, Lockheed-Martin gets more money.

“Producing quality products is a top priority for the F-35 program, and Lockheed Martin and its suppliers strive every day to deliver the best aircraft possible to our customers,” Lockheed said in a statement at the time. “When discoveries occur, we take decisive and thorough action to correct the situation. Our commitment is to deliver the F-35’s world class Fifth Generation fighter capabilities to the warfighter on time and within budget.”

However, the contract for these planes is signed and sealed, so there is no incentive to deliver a state of the art plane in working order in a decent amount of time.

In the meantime as school lunch programs are cut along with other food assistance programs for children, which include the children of military personnel, the $1.5 trillion dollars being spent on jet fighters could pay for the federal school lunch program for about 125 years.

What hath Koch wrought?

Frank

As Patrick O’Connor wrote in his Wall Street Journal article on Charles Koch:
“In 2003, Mr. Koch convened about a dozen like-minded conservatives in Chicago with the goal of becoming more overtly political. Those efforts took hold early in Barack Obama’s presidency amid voter unease with the bank bailout signed by President George W. Bush and with the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Groups financed by the Kochs and their alliance spent more than $400 million in 2012…In that year’s presidential election, Americans for Prosperity and two other Koch-financed groups spent a total of more than $50 million on television ads”.

This gave rise to the Tea Party, whose members were led to believe it was a pure grassroots movement when in fact it is a centralized movement mobilized by the two groups, Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Works, financed by the Kochs, and which was actually begun in 1984 as the Koch brothers’ Citizens for a Sound Economy.

With their creation of the Tea Party’s first national website , the Kochs wanted to advance “free-market, small-government ideals”, but they lost control of the movement as it slid into craziness and an anti-government frenzy under the influence of xenophobes, theocrats, and extreme nationalists with just a soupcon of racism.

The result, after some initial obstructionism in Washington that the Kochs thought controllable, was a political climate in which it’s nearly impossible to govern.

Charles and David Koch planned to invest $750 million on the 2016 elections, and look what is going on in the party they support.

According to Charles Koch “It’s mainly about personalities and ‘your mother sucked rotten eggs”.

Obviously being one of a few interested parties contributing dark money, the Kochs would like to see things go in a way that is to their advantage, but this will not produce that.

Koch is now complaining about the very political conditions that were created by his and his brother’s self-serving approach to governance.

How ’bout that.

They steal for religion

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Remember when Hobby Lobby took its case against having to pay for contraception in the Affordable Care Act to the U.S. Supreme Court claiming its objections were based on the owners’ strongly held religious beliefs?

It would appear those strongly held religious beliefs are ones of convenience as opposed consistency, and are only applicable if they are applied to other people.

Like those who condemn Gay people while enjoying working on the Sabbath and eating shrimp, it would appear the owners of Hobby Lobby are also a little selective.

The Hobby Lobby family is building a Bible Museum two blocks from the mall in Washington D.C., and it is planned to house the owner’s collection of Bibles, some artifacts loaned by the Israeli government, and what appear to be stolen artifacts from Iraq.

For the past four years the Green family has been under investigation for “the illicit importation of cultural heritage from Iraq”, an investigation that began when a shipment of 200-300 clay tablets was seized by U.S. customs agents in 2011 en route from Israel to Oklahoma City, where the Greens live and where their Hobby Lobby company has its home base.

It’s also the capitol of the state recently in the news because a Federal Court agreed with the ACLU that having a large monument to the 10 Commandments on state property violated the separation of church and state. However, the directive to remove the graven image was delayed as the religiously conservative governor, Attorney General, and assorted legislators claimed that the 10 Commandment are the basis of the laws of the United Sates even though only three of them, murder, stealing, and lying under certain circumstances are in our laws.

The Bible museum’s president, Cary Summers, confirmed that the tablets were seized and they were part of a federal investigation.

Hobby Lobby CEO Steve Green said his family’s antiquities collection, which includes about 40,000 artifacts, may include items that the family unwittingly acquired through illicit means.

“Is it possible that we have some illicit [artifacts]? That’s possible,” he said.

As far as the museum being in the heart of our secular government, according to Steve Green,
“I think seeing the biblical foundations of our nation — for our legislators to see that, that a lot of that was biblically based, that we have religious freedoms today, which are a biblical concept, it can’t hurt being (two blocks from the National Mall).”

Meanwhile, it would appear that the person most concerned about the Biblical basis of the country simply brushed away that section in the Bible that speaks against stealing.

And, it would appear that the Greens also tip-toe around the Biblical prohibition against lying as the director of the museum and Mr. Green claim there is no investigation, just a slow  bureaucracy dragging its feet in clearing their shipment in spite of the tablets which are inscribed in the cuneiform script of Assyria and Babylonia having been labeled as “hand-crafted clay tiles” on their FedEx shipping labels and said to have only a value of about $300 each, neither of which indicates they are part of the cultural heritage of Iraq.

So in spite of the museum being based on the Bible as a means of teaching the world about the importance of it, part of that upon which the claim is based are stolen artifacts from a foreign country that not only was unaware that they were stolen, but may not want their cultural history taken from them.

But, hey, its about religion, so a violation of religion is okay.

Senate chooses not to play with Ted Cruz much anymore

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When you speak against your fellow senators, especially if they are in your own party, it might not end up well for you.

This recently happened to Ted Cruz.

Ted Cruz made an attempt to stop Mitch McConnell’s efforts to fund the government without attacking Planned Parenthood.

Cruz had called for a “sufficient second” that would have allowed him a roll call vote.

The roll call vote would have listed which senators voted for or against funding planned parenthood, and Cruz could have used this information in his presidential campaign, not only against members of the Democratic Party, but his own.

His colleagues chose not to give him that information for him to use.

When he went for a voice vote, only Utah’s Mike Lee supported him.

Both these types of votes are procedural courtesies, but Cruz was denied them first when he called McConnell a liar this past summer, and then just at the end of this past September.

Predictably, having lost what he could use as a weapon against his opponents and as a plus for himself, Cruz threw a hissy fit:

“What does denying a second mean? Denying a recorded vote. Why is that important?” Cruz asked. “When you are breaking the commitment you’ve made to the men and women who elected you, the most painful thing in the world is accountability.
One of the ways you avoid accountability is you somehow are somewhere else doing something really, really important instead of actually showing up to the battle.”

This last bit seems a little odd when the record for his first 2 1/2 years in the senate shows that while Senator Cruz was preparing for his presidential bid and running to any conservative venue that would allow him to speak, he attended only 17 of 50 public Armed Services Committee hearings; 4 of the 12 Judiciary Committee hearings during the previous 113th Congress; and 3 of the 25 full-committee hearings during the 113th Congress.

He also missed 21 of 135 roll call votes during January, February, and March of 2015, and was not present for such votes on aid for Israel, student loans, and human trafficking earning the fifth-worst record among current senators when measured over the course of their careers.

The Senate GOP seems to have grown tired of his grandstanding and pushing proposals that may make him look good to unthinking conservatives but which he knows McConnell and other Republicans will never back.

 

 

Ben Carson fires God

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Originally Ben Carson, chosen by God, did not think he needed any secret service protection. God, after all, would not let harm come to his anointed, would He?

When he was asked about his qualifying for secret service protection, Carson said that he does not “feel the need for it.” His belief in God is protection enough.

But he also feels that in light of how truthful he is, he might need the earthly protection as it is logical to have it.
“I recognize that someone like me who is very truthful and who really doesn’t subscribe to all the traditional power scriptures is probably gonna be a target”, he admitted.

Of course the protection being forced on him and his reluctantly accepting it, contradicts that, according to DHS Assistant Secretary (Acting) for Public Affairs Todd Breasseale,
“The Department of Homeland Security has now received official requests for Secret Service protection from both the Carson and Trump campaigns and has taken them under review pursuant to the statutorily required process”.

Since he claims that his campaign made the request, and as he is presently a private citizen, Carson has the option to turn the protection down.

So far security has cost Carson’s campaign only $2,097.50 for personnel service and equipment under security expenses, but if it were taxpayer funded, it would cost his campaign nothing in the future.

Now, it is not unusual for candidates to ask for, and receive, protection from the Secret Service before a party’s presidential nominee is chosen, and there will be those who will correctly point out that President Barack Obama got protection in May 2007, 18 months before he was elected, but President Obama did not fire God before getting it.

From what I understand, God works pro bono, but we taxpayers will foot the secret service bill.

Would this early use of taxpayer funded Secret Service protection constitute relying on public assistance rather than one’s own boot straps?

And from whom was God first, and now the secret service, supposed to protect him?

In his own words,
“I’d prefer not to talk about security issues but I have recognized — and people have been telling me for many, many months — that I’m in great danger, because I challenge the secular progressive movement to the very core. You know, they see me as an existential threat but I also believe in the good Lord and we take reasonable precautions.”

However, according to the Department of Justice the biggest threats of shooting, individual and mass, usually come from right wing extremists, not those on the left, the “secular progressives”. It’s a lot more likely that some KKK or neo-Nazi will want to try and threaten Carson more than anyone who is on the left in this country.

But playing the victim might get him more support, as truth is nothing more than an inconvenience.

Here’s why there will be no Cost of Living increase in 2016 for those on Social Security.

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You have been robbed.

There was a state a number of years ago that entered a financial agreement with some of its employees. However well intentioned this might have been, the state did not have the money to meet its new commitment.

Without consulting the teachers, the legislature decided to take money “temporarily” from the state’s teacher retirement account, an account that teachers paid into through payroll deductions, making it their money, claiming they would pay the loan back based on projected tax revenues.

However, when those revenues came in, the legislators looked on it as extra money, a bonus if you will, that they could spend on favored projects.

For decades the loan from the teacher retirement account went unpaid, and after a number of years the state announced that the teacher retirement account was heading toward insolvency.

Had they paid the loan back, not only would the account have had its principle, but over the years it would have accrued compounded interest as well.

It was becoming insolvent solely because the state did not repay its obligation.

The solution was to alter the retirement formula so that instead of having a teacher’s age and years of teaching equal 80, it was revised so that age and experience had to equal 90.

When politicians invented a crisis in education so as to solve a problem of their own invention and imagination, thereby getting re-elected, they began to claim that one of the failures in the system was the number of old teachers who, obviously, were not as energetic, enthusiastic, and creative as younger ones could be. They looked for ways to drive the older teachers out at a lower retirement rate so as to protect the retirement system that was still waiting for the loan to be paid back.

The state in effect not only stole from the teachers whose payroll deductions had paid into the retirement account, but then sought to further steal from them by forcing many to take a retirement at a lower rate of pay that kept the money they deserved in the account to accrue interest for the younger teachers.

Teachers were punished, and continue to be, not for anything they did, but for what was done to them.

Ronald Reagan warned the American people that Social Security was in deep financial trouble. On April 20, 1983, he signed a bill to deal with this

He claimed at the signing that                                                                             “This bill demonstrates for all time our nation’s ironclad commitment to social security. It assures the elderly that America will always keep the promises made in troubled times a half a century ago. It assures those who are still working that they, too, have a pact with the future. From this day forward, they have our pledge that they will get their fair share of benefits when they retire.
Today, all of us can look each other square in the eye and say, ‘We kept our promises.'”

Then on another occasion he said,

“We promised that we would protect the financial integrity of social security. We have. We promised that we would protect beneficiaries against any loss in current benefits. We have. And we promised to attend to the needs of those still working, not only those Americans nearing retirement but young people just entering the labor force. And we’ve done that, too.”

However, the Social Security Amendments of 1983 allowed for Social Security funds, paid from the paychecks of working Americans to support them in their old age while not having that money in their pockets while they worked, to be used to pay for wars, tax cuts and other government programs.

Just as with the teacher retirement swindle that was supposed to be repaid with future revenue, even though the payroll tax hike of 1983 generated a total of $2.7 trillion in surplus Social Security revenue that should have gone into the Social Security account, something that would have helped the baby boomers and kept the account solvent, the money was used to, among other things, offset revenue loss due to corporate tax breaks and the payroll tax cuts that established Reagan as a great hero of the people.

He gave with one very visible hand while pick-pocketing the workers with the other, well hidden one.

Yes, money was stolen from the American worker because supply-side economics was not working like Reagan had promised.

He began his assault on Social Security with a lie:
“As you know, the Social Security System is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy…in the decades ahead its unfunded obligations could run well into the trillions. Unless we in government are willing to act, a sword of Damocles will soon hang over the welfare of millions of our citizens”.

It was not teetering on any edge. It was sound.

Reagan proffered a pre-planned excuse for the 1983 National Commission on Social Security Reform.

By the end of Reagan’s presidency, any increased revenue that was supposed to go into Social Security was actually gone, having been spent on general government operations.

By 2010, when the baby boomers began to retire in large numbers as was predicted as the reason to shore up the Social Security account, but simply brought in money spent on other things, the United States had to borrow $49 billion from China.

Had the $2.7 trillion that would have been there been left in the Social Security account, first as principle and additionally as interest on it, this foreign debt would not have been necessary.

In 2000, when Al Gore talked about a “Social Security Lockbox” he became the butt of jokes.

George W Bush even stated on May 15, 2000,

“Social Security is the single most successful program in government history…For years, politicians have dipped into the trust fund to pay for more spending. And I will stop it.

After he was “elected”, Bush insisted that

“To make sure the retirement savings of America’s seniors are not diverted in any other program, my budget protects all $2.6 trillion of the Social Security surplus for Social Security, and for Social Security alone”,         and,                                                                                                                                   “We’re going to keep the promise of Social Security and keep the government from raiding the Social Security surplus.”

But, during his presidency he spent every cent of the Social Security surplus revenue on big tax cuts for the rich and wars.

Bush spent a total of $1.37 trillion of Social Security surplus, $192.2 billion of it in his last year alone.

That was our money that we put aside for our old age and counted on interest to augment.

Interestingly, he used the missing Social Security funds that were bringing the program to insolvency because he had raided the account as the reason the country needed to accept his plan for privatization.

Just like that state I mentioned earlier should have paid back the money taken from teachers, and Reagan worshippers should have put misused money back into the Social Security account, along with the interest that would have been accrued over the years, the money  and interest lost through Bush’s theft should have been replaced. That way there would be no Social Security funding problem for at least the next 25 years.

And that is why there will be no COLA increase in 2016.

They already spent our money, the money we paid in and were counting on.

You are you. I am me. I’m better

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Paul Ryan wanted to be the vice-president which is a full time, 24/7/365 job.

No weekends off.

Now he wants to be Speaker of the House, but with stipulations that all Republicans must agree to.

One of them is a little tough to take since he has opposed family leave for the American worker. Pop that baby out and get back to work. And since fathers don’t have babies, why should they get time off to be with one?

He will only accept the position provided the GOP House members understand

“I cannot and will not give up my family time.”

Meanwhile, some of his budget proposals have sought to eliminate child care subsidies which makes child care difficult for parents who need someone to watch their kids while they go to work. Because of the cost of child care, poor parents can face a tough choice between continuing to work or staying home.

And then he speaks against low income people who may stay home rather than getting a job. Perhaps they just should not have kids, even though, according to the GOP, children are gifts from God no matter the conditions under which they are conceived, including rape.

He voted against 2009-H310 that would have given federal employees four weeks paid paternity leave.

He also voted against President Obama’s attempt to adopt paid parental leave in both the public and private sectors.

But, when it comes to him personally, Ryan is concerned that

“This is a job where you are expected to be on the road about a hundred days a year. Our kids are 10, 12 and 13, and I’m not going to do that. I cannot and will not give up my family time.”

And then, in an attempt to identify with the average American worker, many of whom have multiple jobs, he also stipulated,

“Hey look, I’m here four days a week as it is. I’m not going to spend the other three days a week running around America.”

Because the majority of the American workers have a four day work week, multiple vacations, and family time while making a salary of up to $170,000 per annum.

right?

A man of the people.