Archives For military

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It’s healthy to question expertise, but we need actual experts. The brilliance of the Fox News motto, “We report, you decide,” is that it encourages our vanity that we can know as much as anyone else, we can be experts, given a stream of carefully curated facts and opinion. MSNBC, which has a similar business/editorial model, is stuck with the less-empowering “Lean Forward.”

There are a number of ways forward for expertise in America. We can become increasingly mistrustful of scientists, doctors, professors, bureaucrats, bankers, and other experts in their fields; or we can find a better way to filter out the would-be experts spreading misinformation; or we can continue disregarding all experts who don’t confirm what we already believe. Perhaps we’ll all suffer because we didn’t heed our experts, or perhaps our experts will win back our trust.

SOURCE:  America doesn’t trust its experts anymore – The Week.

Experts are someone who has spent sometimes years studying a particular part of life. They have looked at it from many different angles and views. They have studied the background information that made this topic what it is.  There are also experts who bring us the goods and services that we so need in a modern society and some that we don’t need but insist on having. I spent thirty years becoming an expert in my field and would like to think that I contributed to society by my contributions.

But there are some who absolutely refuse to recognize expertise, especially in the areas that they think they know better. My wife, bless her soul, is one of those people who refuses to accept any validity to statistics. She thinks none of it is valid. Unfortunately there are those, who are usually Fox News viewers, who think their opinions are worth as much or more than those who have spent much time studying the subject.  There are just too many of us who think we know it all but in reality have much of it simply wrong.  We seem to cling to our prejudices instead of knowledge in too many areas of life. We need trust experts to help us understand things they we don’t have the time to spend to study them ourselves.  But then again there are some areas that where we need to rigorously question even the experts.

I find it unfathomable how many people think our military is the most trusted institution in America.  I kind of think this poll represented one portion of our population more than others. Trust in our institutions has been constantly decreasing for several decades in America and one of those institutions that is falling out of favor is organized religion. Forty years ago more than two-thirds of us had a total trust in it. Now that number has decreased by more than a third. Less than half of us have much trust in organized religion and that is tragic. A big part of that lack of trust is likely due to the political allegiances of so many in those institutions cling to.

 

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We just don’t seem to be able to know who to trust anymore??

Privatizing Prisons…

March 20, 2014

For-profit prisons have now become the norm throughout our country. We now leave it up to others to house those who we deem unfit for society. Some, especially fiscal conservatives, say that is a good thing.  After all doesn’t the private sector always do it better than the public one.  Doesn’t the drive for profit always mean a better way of doing it?

Here are some sobering statistics about this:

PrisonThe biggest private prison owner in America, The Corrections Corporation of America, has seen its profits increase by more than 500% in the past 20 years. Moreover, the business’ growth shows no sign of stopping, having already approached 48 states to take over government-run prisons. One way for-profit prisons to minimize costs is by skimping on provisions, including food. A psychiatrist who investigated a privately run prison in Mississippi found that the inmates were severely underfed and looked “almost emaciated.” During their incarceration, prisoners dropped anywhere from 10 to 60 pounds.

100% of all military helmets, ID tags, bullet-proof vests and canteens are created in federal prison systems through prison labor. Though prisoners are “generously” compensated cents per hour, it’s clear having this inexpensive, exploited labor force is critical to the military industrial complex.

States sign agreements with private prisons to guarantee that they will fill a certain number of beds in jail at any given point. The most common rate is 90%, though some prisons are able to snag a 100% promise from their local governments. Because of these contracts, the state is obligated to keep prisons almost full at all times or pay for the beds anyway, so the incentive is to incarcerate more people and for longer in order to fill the quota.

Violent crimes are down overall, so how does the United States keep prisons stocked instead? Amplifying the war on drugs: there are now 11 times as many people in jail for drug convictions than there were in 1980, constituting 50% of the prison population. Longer mandatory minimum sentences also keeps the inmates in longer. Most people incarcerated for drug charges are non-violent, have no prior record, and are addicts rather than major drug-traffickers.

The three largest for-profit prison corporations have spent more than $45 million on campaign donations and lobbyists to keep politicians on the side of privatized incarceration. In light of all of their ethical violations, it’s obvious that they have to offer some incentive for keeping their business legal.

SOURCE: For-Profit Prisons: 8 Statistics That Show the Problems | Care2 Causes.

I will let you decide whether all of the above is a good thing.  For those of you who think it is, let’s drop the other shoe.  Let’s privatize our armed forces. Think of all the money we could save. We could layoff soldiers during those few times when we are not at war with someone. We could sell off the Pentegon or at least give it a corporate name.  How about Halliburton World Headquarters?   I’ll bet we could make a bundle off of that place. I’m sure all the statistics above could easily be duplicated for our defense establishment as they are for our prison system.  What do you think???? PRIVATIZE is the name of the game isn’t it??

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is planning to cut the U.S. Army to its smallest force since before World War II and eliminate an entire class of Air Force attack jets, the New York Times reports. The moves are part of a new spending proposal that officials say is the first Pentagon budget to push the military off the war footing adopted after the terrorist attacks of 2001. The officials argue the military will be able to defeat any adversary, but would be too small for long foreign occupations. The plan will be released Monday.

SOURCE:  The Health-Law Rollout.

It is about time I had something to celebrate about the Obama presidency. We don’t need to spend forty times as much as any other country in the world. We don’t need to be the policemen of the world. Let’s share that burden before it bankrupts us.

Government Promises….

January 23, 2014

Top Democrats said they would revisit the cut, which raises $6 billion over 10 years, before it takes effect in two years. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash. — Ryan’s negotiating partner on the budget agreement — was grilled by Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., on whether she knew the cut could reduce by $80,000 the lifetime benefit of a soldier who retires in his or her early 40s.

“I would suggest the senator ask that question to Chairman Ryan,” Murray said. In a document defending the cut, Ryan’s staff called pensions to middle-aged military retirees “an exceptionally generous benefit, often providing 40 years of pension payment in return for 20 years of service” and noted that “most begin a second career after leaving the military.”

SOURCE: Bipartisan budget agreement nears final passage – Yahoo News.

I believe that one of the major fiscal problems with our current deficit stricken government is that they promise way too much to those who won’t collect on those promises until the person who voted for the bill is long gone from congress. Providing a lucrative 40 year pension for 20 years of service is definitely one of those things. This is way beyond what those of us who spent 30+ years in the private sector could ever hope to get.

I know that cutting benefits to anyone is onerous but it is especially so for our soldiers.  When this cut was announced there were an infinite number of criticisms shouted across FaceBook pages. They typically showed a severely injured soldier in uniform and then shouted “How can we cut benefits to someone who has given so much for their country!!” I certainly agree with those feeling but for these cuts that is certainly not the case. Disability benefits will continue for those maimed in our many wars but for the 97% of our soldiers who went through their service with no injuries, they will have to face the reality that our country just can’t afford the very lucrative pensions that many may have promised.

Of course lucrative public employee pension benefits go way beyond the military. There are many public employees who have been promised sizable future benefits for sacrificing some current pay. This certainly includes postal employees, police officers, and firemen as well as a many of others. We simply can’t afford to continue to dole out future lucrative programs that put the expenses onto future generations.

It is not often that I agree with Mr. Ryan but in this case I think he has it right.

Spl ForcesA handful of Democratic and Republican senators are considering a rewrite of 60 of the most consequential words to ever pass through Congress. The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), passed after the attacks of 11 September 2001, and provides the legal cornerstone for the so-called US “war on terror”. Only one brave Congress member opposed it. It allows the US government to wage war at anytime, any place and on anyone deemed a threat to national security – with remarkably little evidence needed.

via Authorization for Use of Military Force: a blank check for war without end | Michael Shank and Matt Southworth | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.

As my friends over at Friends Committee on National Legislations said

 “More than a decade later, Congress is still using legislation from just after 9/11 to justify troops and drone strikes around the world.

Unlike every other occurrence in our history, when World War II ended we did not drop back to a peace time military. Instead we chose to continue fund our war machine at near maximum levels and obviously since then we have been in almost endless wars. I wonder if there is a cause/effect there? We have lost a significant number of our kids to war in every generation since.  We are now fighting a “war” against terror and that by definition is not a country, State, or even a particular group but it is indeed an endless war.

One of the most disappointing things about President Obama is is radical turn from campaign rhetoric to his Oval Office stands when it comes to war making. He turned out to be very little difference from his predecessor in that regard.  It is only a small glimmer of hope to see him come out recently and admit that we maybe need to get more focused than just a war on the concept of terror. A terrorist is someone who does something to strike fear in someone.  You could say that is the  mantra for both political parties right now. They both want you to be fearful about almost everything in this world but particularly about electing someone from the other party. Shouldn’t our war on terror include those yahoos by electing someone from the Centrist Movement.

It is insane to see how we can year after year hand over a blank check to our war manufacturers while letting our infrastructure rust away. It is insane to me how we hand over a blank check and then deny some aid for food and shelter to the least of our citizens. An absurd example of that is the $1.7 trillion that is being budgeted for the latest super high-tech fighter plane that really has little or no purpose in today’s world. It is being spent mainly to appease our military/industrial base at least until our next war is declared.  This makes absolutely no sense to me.

Finally Some Sanity???

April 26, 2013

In his first major policy speech Wednesday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel signaled he will be taking a hard look at the way the Pentagon spends its money and at whether the US military needs quite so many officers….

That’s because too often the weapons systems that Pentagon officials buy “are vastly more expensive and technologically risky than what was promised or budgeted for.” And the hard truth is that the most pressing problems the world faces “do not necessarily lend themselves to being resolved by conventional military strength,” he said.

“Indeed the most destructive and horrific attack ever on the United States came not from fleets of ships, bombers, and armored divisions, but from 19 fanatical men wielding box cutters and one-way plane tickets.”

Source: Hagel invokes Eisenhower as he signals era of austerity at Pentagon (+video) – CSMonitor.com.

Maybe we will finally get at least a small dose of sanity in our Defense Department spending. For way too long this department of the federal government has been given carte blanche to spend whatever they want. There has literally been no accounting for the spending; even the department itself has no idea where the money goes!  This would not be so sad if it were not for the fact that the DOD amounts to half of our discretionary spending in this country. Far far more than any other country in the world.  Here we are reducing many social services while continuing to expand our spending on weapons systems that have long lost their usefulness.

I pray that secretary Hagel can get a little sanity back into this process. It was taking the two wars started by the Bush administration “off-the-books” that started the latest massive slide in our deficits.  We are spending millions, perhaps billions on drones (no body knows), while continuing to buy multimillion dollar planes that serve little purpose other than to enrich a particular representative’s electoral district. A fellow blogger friend who lives in Arizona mentions an aircraft graveyard there that contains thousands of mothballed planes. Maybe it is time to pull a few of them out and drop the billions being spent for new ones.

We could easily drop the defense department budgets in half and still maintain a military superiority fifty times greater than any other country. Lets get back to spending our tax dollars on our crumbling infrastructure and on our people instead of unneeded bombs and weapons of destruction. Lets finally bring some sanity back into this process….

But I’m just a simple guy so what do I know….