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The Military-Industrial Marx Brothers

3:50 pm in Uncategorized by JP Sottile

The great Lisa Derrick of La Figa likes to say that “nomenclature is destiny.”

That adage proved true once again, this time in the strange case of the four “best-paid” Congressional beneficiaries of the defense industry’s impressive political slush fund.

According to a recent article in AlterNet, four of the six largest recipients of Military-Industrial campaign donations are:

1. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA): $566,100 in 2012 cycle defense sector donations.

2. CW “Bill” Young (R-FL): $229,760 in 2012 cycle defense sector donations.

3. Charles Albert “Dutch” Ruppersberger III (D-MD): $229,550 in 2012 cycle defense sector donations.

4. Morris “Mo” Brooks (R-AL): $202,020 in 2012 cycle defense sector donations.

Seriously.

First of all, they all have nicknames. What are the odds? Is it a requirement to join the club…like a frat house initiation?

Secondly, all those nicknames  “add up” to a boatload of cash.

Finally, they all sit in key positions on the key committees and subcommittees that reallocate taxpayers’ dollars into the hands of defense contractors.

Yup, nomenclature is destiny:

Because the defense industry generously passes out the bucks to “Buck.”

“Bill” never met an authorization he didn’t like, nor has he refused those stacks of bills offered in exchange for his reliable compliance.

Dutch is one guy who never has to “go dutch” when it comes to financing his reelection.

And Mo gets mo’ and mo’ money with each passing election cycle.

Hello, America! Meet the sweethearts of the Military-Industrial Complex: Buck, Bill, Dutch & Mo!

These are the biggest, shiniest stars in the Empire’s greatest hit: Duck and Cover Soup!

It is currently opening in new “theaters” around the globe: in Niger, Mali and the Persian Gulf.

These are “limited engagements,” but rest assured that Duck and Cover Soup will open in more theaters, even if it doesn’t turn out to be a big hit in current screenings.

Of course, like any blockbuster franchise…future sequels are already in development. Sure, they keep remaking the same movie. Just like Hollywood, the Empire’s producers don’t really have any original ideas.

Alas, this is no laughing matter. America is more and more like a Marx Brothers’ movie every day.

The plot is absurd. Like Freedonia, our country is broke. But unlike the original Duck Soup, this current cast of characters ain’t very funny.

Frankly, we’d all be a lot better off with Groucho, Harpo, Chico &  Zeppo.

At least we could laugh all the way to The End.

(the Newsvandal)

Military-Industrial Complexities

11:17 am in Uncategorized by JP Sottile

The Great Sequester Hoo-Hah is upon us!

A quick rundown of stories I collected today reads like a dipstick plunged into the perpetual engine of wealth reallocation, which is exactly what the defense budget is, has been and will be so long as the Two-Party collaboration drapes its political fortunes with the flag.

>>There’s gold in them-thar overruns!

The F-35 anti-radar jet is seven years behind schedule. Project cost: $395.7 billion
http://www.bloomberg.com/slideshow/2013-02-19/ten-giant-weapons-in-the-pentagon-s-shrinking-budget.html

Ships Leaking $37 Billion Reflect Eisenhower’s Warning
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-02-21/ships-leaking-37-billion-reflect-eisenhower-s-warning.html

>>Watchdogs bark and then nibble.

Lockheed agrees to $19.5 mln class-action accord: court papers
http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/20/lockheed-settlement-idUSL1N0BK56D20130220

>>Don’t worry. Be happy (and modernized)!

Lockheed awarded F-22 modernization contract worth up to $6.9 bln
http://in.reuters.com/article/2013/02/20/lockheed-f-idINL1N0BKDA820130220

>>No, really. We are running out of money.

Pentagon informs Congress of plans to furlough 800K civilian workers
http://thehill.com/blogs/defcon-hill/operations/283981-pentagon-tells-congress-it-will-furlough-800k-civilian-workforce

U.S. Army Pressures Congress With State-by-State Effects of Sequestration
http://www.defensenews.com/article/20130221/DEFREG02/302210007/U-S-Army-Pressures-Congress-State-by-State-Effects-Sequestration

>>Who wants to play a game of Chicken-Hawk?

Defense-Cut Hypocrisy Makes GOP Converge With Democrats
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-02-20/defense-cut-hypocrisy-makes-gop-converge-with-democrats.html

Meet 6 Politicians Getting Rich from America’s Endless Wars
http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/meet-6-politicians-getting-rich-americas-endless-wars

>>Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

If No Deal is Struck, Four-in-Ten Say Let the Sequester Happen 
http://www.people-press.org/2013/02/21/if-no-deal-is-struck-four-in-ten-say-let-the-sequester-happen/

by The Newsvandal

The Bogus “Drop” in Defense Spending

11:24 am in Uncategorized by JP Sottile

Jets in formation

Any turbulence in defense spending is merely a temporary dip.

This media spin on the “drop” in defense spending is bogus. And it reveals how most “reporters” don’t look beyond the press release they are handed.

Except for the irrepressible Brad Plumer, who wrote this in the WonkBlog:

Was this big plunge in defense spending unusual? Yes and no. To a certain extent, it’s part of a pattern: Defense spending often rises in the third quarter of a year and drops in the fourth quarter.

and

There’s a reason for this pattern. The fiscal year ends in September, and government agencies typically try to spend all the money Congress allotted them for that year by then — otherwise, they fear, they’ll get a smaller budget next time around.

and, from the great Larry Korb:

“In the Pentagon, you have to use it or lose it by the end of the fiscal year in September,” said Lawrence Korb, a former assistant secretary of defense now at the Center for American Progress, in a recent interview.

So, this will be spun as a reason to avoid the sequester and to make sure the economy doesn’t head back into severe recession…but it is really just a matter of accounting and a the pre-fiscal year spending spree that happens annually.

The annual fluctuation was sharper than usual, but don’t expect any real shift away from this post-WWII addiction to military Keynesianism. The Military-Industrial Complex is one of the most effective wealth reallocation systems ever devised, and this blip is just that…a blip.

Read the rest of this entry →

The Other NRA

6:50 pm in Uncategorized by JP Sottile

Children are dying.

They are caught in the crossfire between profits and an unassailable national identity, and their numbers only seem to increase with each passing news cycle.

This carnage continues because a well-entrenched interest group refuses to relent, forever unwilling to cede their ideology or their profits. And the perpetual machinery of their power thrives on the artful conflation of one with the other.

But this is not the NRA.

The most powerful “gun lobby” in America is the MIC—the Military-Industrial Complex.

This is not some faceless, shadowy cadre of conspirators. No, those who charge “conspiracy theory” only show their ignorance. In fact, just like the NRA, the MIC is publicly disclosed and highly visible. In touting the accomplishments of the “Top 100” members of the MIC, Defense News wrote:

“The U. S. defense community encompasses the best America has to offer: leadership, innovation, technology and vision. It’s a combination that has helped ensure the U.S. has fielded the best-trained, best-equipped military force in the world for nearly a century.”

There is your leading gun lobby, America.

Note the “best equipped” part of that “journalistic” paean. This translates into trillions upon trillions of dollars spent on guns and weapons and bombs and bullets since the end of World War II.

Meanwhile, little-known massacres pile up overseas, even as they shock and awe us here at home. And while the Bushmaster is debated, the drone and the cluster-bomb and missile fly under the radar and through the budgetary process.

But the fix is in, anyway.

Unlike the NRA, the MIC isn’t limited to just spending money on lobbyists and advertisements and voting guides. Their influence peddlers pass unabated through the ever-revolving door between government and industry. They actually place their people in positions of power and then, in turn, they employ those Congressional aides, policymakers and former generals when they leave “public service” to cash in on their insider status.

The people who plot and plan and execute the wars can easily become the lobbyists who sell weapons of war to their friends and colleagues in Congress, the Pentagon and to regimes around the world. It is a perfectly closed system.

Even the all-powerful NRA cannot boast of such a “total influence,” one that is economic, political and, yes, even spiritual. Nor can it mount the sort of defense that the defense industry can, will and has whenever the idea of cutting the MIC’s budget is simply broached.

While the NRA clings to the 2ND Amendment in the face of one senseless massacre after another, the MIC churns on forcefully and relentlessly despite one senseless war after another.

Big money on Vietnam. On Iraq. And on and on in Afghanistan, despite Osama bin Laden’s death.

The Cold War was the gift that kept on giving, but the Soviets simply couldn’t match America’s appetite for destruction. Enemies like that are hard to come by. Luckily for the MIC, an amorphous and ill-defined specter of terrorism stemmed the budgetary bleeding of that all-to-fleeting moment we called “the peace dividend.”

Finally, there were, and still are, dozens of “shadow wars” around the world, with the MIC funding and arming a motley crew of proxies and dictators and “freedom fighters.”

The world is awash in American arms and ordinance. Sometimes they end up in the hands of both friends and foes. Sometimes they end up in the hands of both sides of the same battle. They can be used to crack down. Or by death squads. And the use of children to fight doesn’t seem to be a problem.

And neither does killing them.

So, as we glare sharply at the NRA and question the availability of guns here at home, perhaps it is time we finally address the fundamental hypocrisy at the heart of it all. This nation has been run by a much more powerful gun lobby for the last sixty years, and many have paid the price for a culture of violence spread the world over by the Military-Industrial Complex.

NOTE: this was originally published on my Newsvandal blog