Archives For military

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….

Banner -Off The Top

budgetI know the current version of the Republican party is supposed to be all about fiscal austerity but I have trouble actually seeing them live out that concept. When it comes to the safety net and so-called “entitlement” issues they scream about needing to cut back or at least for total accountability. But when it comes to the bloated military expenses, homeland security and tax breaks for the rich they appear to throw that concept out the window. Of course that means that their austerity programs, if they are implemented as they suggest, will end up being done on the backs of the poor as almost everything else is “off the table”.

We spend more than the other 96% of the world combines on our supposed security. Our military budgets eat up so much of our prosperity as to force future looking programs off the stove.  Education, our R&D forces, and our colleges suffer as a result of our insistence that to be safe we must spend so much on our war machine. In fact we throw so much money into the military that they don’t even bother to try to determine if it is going to the best place. For that matter they really don’t even try to categorize where it is even spent.  But that doesn’t seem to phase the Republican senators and congressmen in Washington. They continue to demand more and more of our precious resource for this bloated machine.

For that reason I have little confidence that my budgeted minded friends are really serious about budgets but are really more concerned in reducing or even eliminating the very function of government or at least making sure that 47% don’t get things they supposedly haven’t earned.  If they were really serious about our current deficits they would be looking at  our war machine first not last.  When you throw trillions of dollars into a black hole you dictate that much of it will be spent unwisely or even fraudulently.  They demand total accountability for agencies supporting our safety net and nothing for our industrial/ military complex. How strange is that???

Leaving No Troops???

January 15, 2013

Banner -In The News

Source: President Obama, Hamid Karzai: US Combat Operations in Afghanistan to End in Spring – ABC News.

War MachineRoughly 66,000 U.S. troops are serving in Afghanistan. The military has proposed keeping several thousand troops in the country after 2014 as advisers, trainers and logistical support for Afghan forces; the White House has said it remains open to pulling out all troops entirely.

Leaving no troops behind when we finally exit Afghanistan?  That would be a first for us.  We currently have troops stationed in about seventy-five percent of the world’s countries.  It wouldn’t be so bad to just leave some temporarily behind but when their tour is complete we send someone in to replace them for years and  years to come. We have had thousands of troops in Germany and Korea for my entire lifetime.

If I were a small country I don’t think I would want some other country’s soldiers constantly among us.  What would we U.S. citizens say if President Obama suddenly announced that he was allowing  50,000 German soldiers to be permanently stationed in Texas.  I think there would be an uproar almost as loud as trying to take a Texan’s assault rifle away from him!! Continue Reading…

Falling Behind ….. Again

December 3, 2012

Source: Survey: U.S. global competitiveness falls again – USATODAY.com.

The United States’ ability to compete on the global stage has fallen for the fourth year running as confidence in the country’s politicians continues to decline. The finding is from an annual survey from the World Economic Forum (WEF).

Of the top 10 nations, the Netherlands and Germany have moved ahead of the U.S. The U.S.’ ranking dropped two places to seventh this year, the WEF says.

It is sad to see that the U.S. is falling behind in yet another metric. Our manufacturing base is quickly dwindling. Almost everything we buy now comes from outside our shores.  Our healthcare cost us more than any other country and still we die younger than many. Our military eats us so Continue Reading…

via Due Diligence: Where the candidates differ on foreign policy – CBS News.

The president wants the military to focus more on nontraditional threats like al Qaeda, and no longer wants the United States to serve as the world’s policeman. He noted on Monday that America spends more on the military than the next ten countries combined – which you only say if you think America is carrying too large a burden.

It can be difficult to tease out differences between the candidates on specific issues. But when it comes to the larger, overarching philosophy, there is a clear difference: Romney wants to spend more money to expand America’s traditional military role in the world, while the president wants to transition to a new era in which America plays a fundamentally different role. And that philosophical chasm is more important than the lack of difference on many individual issues. Continue Reading…

There You Go Again….

September 21, 2012

via Romney Reframes Donor Remarks to Refocus on Economic Issues – Businessweek.

Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown, who is running for re-election in a close race against Democrat Elizabeth Warren, a former Harvard University professor, told The Hill newspaper: “That’s not the way I view the world. As someone who grew up in tough circumstances, I know that being on public assistance is not a spot that anyone wants to be in.”

While Romney said he was talking about people who don’t pay income taxes, his comments about Americans who feel “entitled” to government help prompted some Republicans to say that they might alienate veterans as well.

Richard Armitage, former deputy Secretary of State under Republican President George W. Bush and a former Defense Department official, said the remarks showed “that Mr. Romney doesn’t know what this country looks like, and he has no idea how government works.” Continue Reading…