Friday 18th of January 2019

we ate the donuts...

pumping budgets
The Pentagon failed its audit amid a $21 trillion scandal (yes, trillion) - by Lee Camp
New York Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was ruthlessly attacked recently, and I feel a bit responsible. I might have accidentally tainted her Twitter feed with truth serum.

But that sounds weird - so let me back up.

A few months ago, I covered the story of the $21 trillion that has gone unaccounted for at the Pentagon. That’s right—trillion with a T—an amount of money you can’t possibly come to terms with, so stop trying. Seriously, stop. It’s like trying to comprehend the age of the earth.

(The earth is 4.5 billion years old. To put that into context, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says we have 11 years left to completely change our ways or climate change will make the earth uninhabitable. If you were to take the age of the earth and lay it out on the span of a calendar year, this means we would have less than a millisecond left on Dec. 31 to utterly change our ways or all is lost.)

Anyway, the $21 trillion includes $6.5 trillion unaccounted for at the Pentagon in 2015 ALONE. When I covered all this a few months ago, very few people were talking about it. David Degraw investigated it for his website (which has since been destroyed by hackers), and Mark Skidmore, the economist who discovered the unaccounted adjustments, co-authored a single Forbes article on the subject. And by “discovered,” I don’t mean that Skidmore found a dusty shoebox in Donald Rumsfeld’s desk underneath the standard pile of baby skeletons. I mean that he took a minute to look at the Defense Department’s own inspector general’s report. So really he just bothered to look at the thing that was designed for the public to look at.

Anyway, my column on this topic went viral, as did the Forbes article, each garnering hundreds of thousands of views. Yet despite all that, still not a word from Congress, and not a word from the hacks at your mainstream media outlets. But then again, getting important news about the corruption of our military-industrial complex from the mainstream media would be like getting a philosophy lesson from a strip-club dancer (in that it would be most unexpected, and it’s not really why you’re there).

But just a few weeks ago, something significant happened. It took place in a quiet news dump during a Pentagon press conference that TRULY began like this:

DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE PATRICK SHANAHAN: So you guys know why I came down here today?

REPORTER: To see if we ate the donuts?

Yes, Pentagon press conferences apparently begin in much the same manner as a “Three Stooges” sketch. (Unfortunately the subsequent bonks on the head usually involve Tomahawk missiles.)

During that wacky press conference, the deputy secretary of defense casually mentioned halfway through that the Pentagon had failed its first-ever audit. This is the first time the Pentagon has ever been audited, even though it has been legally required to do so since the early 1990s. Don’t you wish you could put off your tax returns for 20 years? (I once put them off for two years, but it wasn’t a conscious decision. It was simply the period of my life when I discovered that Netflix had every episode of “The West Wing.”)

After Shanahan dropped this bombshell, here was what followed:

REPORTER: What part did the Pentagon fail in the audit?

SHANAHAN: How about I give you, like, the technical version of that - there are a considerable number of areas where we kind of had a pass, then there’s some other ones where they went through and they said we went into your inventory system and we didn’t find these things; therefore that’s a finding, so you don’t have a clean assessment. So - and - in a lot of these audits, it’s the type of finding that matters.

Yes, the Pentagon’s official response to why it failed its audit is a word salad after it has gone through an industrial-grade militarized Slap Chop. It’s the type of response you get when a fraud has been filtered through a cover-up, then filtered through a publicist, then filtered through a public official who probably doesn’t know that much to begin with.

It’s the corrupt feeding the blind feeding the stupid feeding the disingenuous.

And yet even THAT didn’t get much press coverage. As far as I can tell, The New York Times didn’t report on the audit failure until two weeks later, and even that column contained this caveat: “But audits are hard work; most defense officials aren’t business experts; and to some, bookkeeping and other management operations just aren’t a priority in wartime, which since Sept. 11, 2001, has been a permanent state.”

In the Times’ defense, there are different genres of reporting, and in this case, journalists were working in the genre of “sh*t reporting.” So should we really be surprised? If they want to learn what real reporting looks like on this same topic, they can read The Nation’s investigative exposé.

That article stated: “For decades, the DoD’s leaders and accountants have been perpetrating a gigantic, unconstitutional accounting fraud, deliberately cooking the books to mislead the Congress and drive the DoD’s budgets ever higher. … DoD has literally been making up numbers in its annual financial reports to Congress—representing trillions of dollars’ worth of seemingly nonexistent transactions … according to government records and interviews with current and former DoD officials, congressional sources, and independent experts.”

It doesn’t get much clearer than that. (The following page in the magazine was simply an image of a hand dropping a mic.)

So here’s how this fraud works: Every year, the Pentagon tells Congress how much money it needs. It submits the financial reports from the year before, filled to the brim with heaping, steaming bullsh*t. Trillions of gallons of bullsh*t, called “adjustments.” Those adjustments cover up the fact that it didn’t necessarily spend all the money the year before.

However, instead of returning such unspent funds to the US Treasury, as the law requires, the Pentagon sometimes launders and shifts such moneys to other parts of the DoD’s budget,” The Nation’s Dave Lindorff wrote.

And this is no mistake. This is straight-up fraud. How do you know when something is fraud? Well, one way is when the paper trail is covered up, as Lindorff noted: “Indeed, more than 16,000 records that might reveal either the source or the destination of some of that $6.5 trillion had been “removed,” the inspector general’s office reported.”

Sixteen thousand records! By my calculations, such a cover-up would require multiple shredder operators working in shifts, only stopping once every five hours to use the bathroom and briefly giggle at their villainy.

One congressional staffer [said] … “We don’t know how the Pentagon’s money is being spent. … We don’t know how much of that funding gets spent on the intended programs, what things actually cost, whether payments are going to the proper accounts. If this kind of stuff were happening in the private sector, people would be fired and prosecuted.”

Here’s more analysis from The Nation:

“The Pentagon’s accounting fraud diverts many billions of dollars that could be devoted to other national needs: health care, education, job creation, climate action, infrastructure modernization, and more. Indeed, the Pentagon’s accounting fraud amounts to theft on a grand scale—theft not only from America’s taxpayers, but also from the nation’s well-being and its future.”

But apparently, disappearing at least 16,000 documents wasn’t enough. Somebody might still connect the dots. So the Pentagon took the next step:

“The most recent report for the DOD on the OIG website … summarizes unsupported adjustments for fiscal year 2017. However, this document differs from all previous reports in that all the numbers relating to the unsupported adjustments were redacted. That is, all the relevant information was blacked out.”

Right after The Nation article came out, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted about it—basically saying that these unaccounted trillions at the Pentagon could help pay for “Medicare for all.”

Clearly things are ramping up. People are finding out about the $21 trillion, and that means it is now time for the true hacks - the military-industrial complex defenders - to jump in and chastise anyone who dares speak out about this fraud. Enter Vox - which, if you’re unfamiliar, is a cross between HuffPost and an NPR tote bag filled with rotting raccoon carcasses.

Vox ran an article titled, The $21 trillion accounting error that can’t pay for Medicare-for-all, explained.” You know how to tell for sure that you’re a nitwit spraying idiocy like a Super Soaker? When you find yourself saying the phrase “$21 trillion accounting ERROR.“

Error?! Yeah, and Timothy McVeigh just had a faulty carburetor.

Vox “journalist” Matthew Yglesias tried to push this idiotic justification: “The Pentagon’s accounting errors are genuinely enormous, but they’re also just accounting errors—they don’t represent actual money that can be spent on something else.”

Sorry, but no. These are not “accounting errors.” It’s impossible to have trillions of dollars of “accounting errors.” Since I have now saturated my keyboard with my anger-saliva, I’ll let Laurence Kotlikoff at Forbes answer this: “Let’s recall that this is not simply a matter of boring accounting. Trillions in unaccounted outlays, if that’s what’s involved here, is trillions of our tax dollars being spent without our knowledge. If that’s the case, we’re talking about the biggest government financial deception in the history of the country.”

Long story short, this $21 trillion story is starting to gain traction. People can finally see the truth. And right now, it is the corporate media puppets who are trying to make sure you think,It’s just a few accounting errors. Pay no mind to the fact that it amounts to the largest theft ever perpetrated against the American people.”

 

 

This column was originally published by Truthdig and is based on a monologue Camp wrote and performed on his TV show “Redacted Tonight.”


Lee Camp is an American stand-up comedian, writer, actor, and activist. Dubbed by Salon as the “John Oliver of Russia Today”, Camp is the host of RT America’s first comedy news show Redacted Tonight, which tackles the news agenda with a healthy dose of humor and satire. Lee’s writing credits are vast, having written for The Onion, Comedy Central and Huffington Post, as well as the acclaimed essay collections Moment of Clarity and Neither Sophisticated Nor Intelligent. Lee’s stand-up comedy has also been featured on Comedy Central,  ABC’s Good Morning America, Showtime’s The Green Room with Paul Provenza, Al-Jazeera, BBC’s Newsnight, E!, MTV, and Spike TV.

mattis loved it there...

“The contemptuous words about the president attributed to me in Woodward’s book were never uttered by me or in my presence,” he said in a statement. “While I generally enjoy reading fiction, this is a uniquely Washington brand of literature, and his anonymous sources do not lend credibility.”

Back at the Pentagon, Mr Mattis told reporters: “I wouldn’t take it seriously at all. Of course I don’t think about leaving, I love it here.”

14 October 2018


Read more:

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/trump-jim-...

 

See also: 

http://www.yourdemocracy.net.au/drupal/node/34432

 

The pentagon has a lot of "black ops" which are designed to "control" the planet... Like supplying the Saudis with free refuelling (until found out) and giving better-than-acknowledged weapons to Ukraine. 21 trillion of unaccounted cash? Chicken feed... And these missing 21 trillion could be used to pay the veterans some hush moneys so they don't live in the streets and kill themselves. But there must be some more pressing adventures that shall remain secret...

 

And in regard to Mattis now leaving Trump "in the lurch", one can see that Trump is doing what he wants and some people don't see the importance of what Trump does. Not even Trump himself. One could smell the "you're fired!" coming on... Trump is having the time of his life....

making defence spending crazier… but.

When he’s right, he’s right. Look, I’ve been critical of this president too many times to count, but – unlike most mainstream media pundits – I’m willing to give credit when it’s due. Last week, in a surprise morning tweet, President Trump called U.S. defense spending, which topped out at a record $716 billion this year, "crazy." Furthermore, he even hinted at talks with America’s two main military rivals, President Xi of China, and President Putin of Russia to stave off what Trump referred to as "a major and uncontrollable arms race." Of course, we woke up this morning to the news that Trump seems – unsurprisingly – to have reversed course again, with administration officials stating that Trump will instead boost the Pentagon budget to $750 billion. 

Still, it’s worth reflecting on Trump’s initial announcement. After all, I had to read the original Trump tweet twice. Was the candidate who promised to bomb "the shit out of" ISIS and to "bring back" waterboarding torture and a "whole lot worse" turning dove? Well, not exactly, but Trump was talking sense. And it’s not the first time he’s done so. Remember that candidate Trump regularly declared the 2003 invasion of Iraq "the single worst decision ever made." Couldn’t have put it better myself. Then, just before disappointingly announcing a troop increase in Afghanistan, Trump admitted his initial "instinct" was to "pull out." Right again.

It seems that one of the only things holding Trump back from ushering in real change in America’s militarized foreign policy are his rather more mainstream advisors and bipartisan congressional war-hawks. Over and over again, media, especially conventional center-left "liberal" media, assures us that these folks – the Jim Mattis, H.R. McMaster, and John Kellys of the world – are the "adults in the room," far more "responsible" than loose cannon Trump. And you know what, yea, that may occasionally been true. But on foreign policy these retired generals and their Republican and Democratic supporters on the Hill have been wrong at every turn over the last 17 years. 

They, the "adults" in the Beltway crowd, have for two decades sold the American people the snake oil of increased military intervention, counterinsurgency dogma, and armed nation-building, achieving nothing more than destabilization of the entire Greater Middle East and the worst humanitarian catastrophes since World War II. They insist on ever-expanding military budgets – a lovely kickback to the American arms industry – and assure the public that they need "just a little more time" to win a "victory" of sorts in the perpetual wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is long past time for some fresh thinking on military policy in the Middle East and common sense caps on runaway defense spending. And, if such good sense has to come from a man like Trump, then, well, so be it. Let’s give him a chance.

Military spending truly is out of control in the United States, and it has been ever since the end of the Second World War. At least during the Cold War (1946-91) there was some, albeit exaggerated, justification for high defense budgets. Nonetheless, except for a brief dip during President Bill Clinton’s first term, military spending never slowed down. And, after 9/11, such outlays ran straight off-the-rails. But it wasn’t necessary. Terrorism isn’t, and never was, an existential threat, or a danger on anywhere near the scale of a potential Cold War nuclear exchange with the Soviets. On the contrary, most of the post-9/11 spending and the concurrent on-the-ground military interventions in the Muslim world have been nothing but counterproductive.

And it’s all so needless. In 2017, US defense spending was equal to that of the next seven countries combined. Furthermore, five of those seven big spenders – Saudi Arabia, India, France, Britain, and Japan – are friendly US "partners." So let’s not pretend that modest cuts to this bloated budget will pose some colossal threat to American homeland security. What all that spending and fighting and killing and dying has done is fill the coffers of a domestic arms industry that is one of the last remnants of America’s once vibrant manufacturing industry. Those billions of dollars found their way into CEO’s pockets, the campaign nest eggs of compliant Democratic and Republican legislators, and the bloated salaries of revolving-door second jobs for retired military generals.

 

Read more:

https://original.antiwar.com/danny_sjursen/2018/12/10/go-with-your-gut-m...

dear the donald letter...

Dear Mr President:

I have been privileged to serve as our country’s 26th Secretary of Defense which has allowed me to serve alongside our men and women of the Department in defense of our citizens and our ideals.

I am proud of the progress that has been made over the past two years on some of the key goals articulated in our National Defense Strategy: putting the Department on a more sound budgetary footing, improving readiness and lethality in our forces, and reforming the Department’s business practices for greater performance. Our troops continue to provide the capabilities needed to prevail in conflict and sustain strong US global influence.

One core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships. While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies. Like you, I have said from the beginning that the armed forces of the United States should not be the policeman of the world. Instead, we must use all tools of American power to provide for the common defense, including providing effective leadership to our alliances. 29 democracies demonstrated that strength in their commitment to fighting alongside us following the 9-11 attack on America. The Defeat-ISIS coalition of 74 nations is further proof.

Similarly, I believe we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours. It is clear that China and Russia, for example, want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors, America and our allies. That is why we must use all the tools of American power to provide for the common defense.

My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues. We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances.

Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position. The end date for my tenure is February 28, 2019, a date that should allow sufficient time for a successor to be nominated and confirmed as well as to make sure the Department’s interests are properly articulated and protected at upcoming events to include Congressional posture hearings and the NATO Defense Ministerial meeting in February. Further, that a full transition to a new Secretary of Defense occurs well in advance of the transition of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in September in order to ensure stability within the Department.

I pledge my full effort to a smooth transition that ensures the needs and interests of the 2.15 million Service Members and 732,079 civilians receive undistracted attention of the Department at all times so that they can fulfill their critical, round-the-clock mission to protect the American people.

I very much appreciate this opportunity to serve the nation and our men and women in uniform.

James Mattis

 

read more:http://www.voltairenet.org/article204441.html

On all account of what Mattis has previously said, he is proudly resigning (to avoid being "fired" tomorrow, which woud be quite embrassing). 
Read from top.

 

addendum...

the 21 trillion black hole at the top of this column is not verified yet. Still awaiting the final figure that would most likely be around one trillion or about 100 billion per year for the last ten years. But the funny article is just that: funny.

flying pork...

 

by Winslow T. Wheeler

 

...

The new pork system is deceptive and complex. It took all of my 31 years of experience on Capitol Hill to fully unravel it, with the help of some excellent research from two outstanding watchdog groups, Taxpayers for Common Sense and the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

...

The under the table incentives

On the other hand, Visclosky was no shrinking violet when it came to accepting campaign contributions from the corporations benefiting from the legislation’s earmarks. OpenSecrets.org, a project of the Center for Responsive Politics that documents federal campaign contributions, shows that for his 2018 reelection campaign, Visclosky accepted $347,933 from defense-related donors, $59,800 of it from Lockheed. The $347,933 constituted 27 percent of Visclosky’s total campaign contributions, reported as of November 2018. For these and other efforts, Visclosky is getting a promotion: with the Democrats taking over the House next year, he is slated to be defense subcommittee chairman.

Chairwoman Granger accepted $397,560 from defense aerospace and electronics donors, constituting 17 percent of her larger total of $2,371,044 in reported contributions. Granger’s contributions from Lockheed were more than twice Visclosky’s: $136,360

The Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member, Senator Durbin, does not run for reelection until 2020. The OpenSecrets.org data on his last election in 2014 show that Durbin accepted $236,549 from defense aerospace donors, making him the Senate’s top beneficiary of such donations at the time. Adding other defense contribution categories, he took in $455,799

Senator Shelby’s total reported defense-related contributions for his reelection in 2016, before he became defense subcommittee chairman, were $334,800. Commensurate with his elevation to chairman in 2018, he received $1,048,000, nearly tripling his defense-related total, and he is four years away from his next campaign in 2022. 

Granger, Durbin, and the others will resent any implication that their actions are influenced by the generosity of Lockheed or other defense contractors, lobbyists, and PACs. Indeed, campaign finance laws, as written by Congress, make it hard to conclude that contributions illegally influence congressional decision-making, and a recent Supreme Court ruling makes it even more difficult.

The bottom line

All this adds up to a Pentagon budget process in Congress that is: 

  • Dishonest: The bill and its authors proclaim it is free of earmarks, but it has 679 of them costing $19.3 billion according to research from an independent group.
  • Deceptive: The bill’s authors, with huge support from the rest of Congress, proclaim their dedication to better pay for the troops and military readiness, and yet cut those very accounts by almost $8 billion. The reductions are arbitrary and vague, and are used to offset those 679 earmarks. The senators and representatives circumvent their own rules on earmarks by fuzzing up sponsors, recipients, and locations, making the entire process opaque.
  • Hypocritical: Imagine the gall of nine Republicans and one Democrat with their bill to profess earmarks gone and making sure they don’t “come back.” There is nothing new about members of Congress posing as pork reformers and actually being pork enablers; however, these 10 assume an unprecedented level of cluelessness among the press; in some but not all corners, they were right to do so.
  • Mercenary: $19.3 billion in earmarks makes rich material for senators and representatives to advertise themselves, with considerable exaggeration, as successful porkers for their states and districts. They also accept hundreds of thousands of dollars from the contractors, lobbyists, and PACs that benefit from the millions, if not billions, of dollars that the Pentagon never requested.

All this is not illegal, but according to common English, it is venal.  

Winslow T. Wheeler worked in the U.S. Senate for Republican and Democratic senators and in the Government Accountability Office on national security issues for 31 years. After he left the Senate in 2002, he ran the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information, which moved to the Project on Government Oversight in 2012. He retired in 2016.

 

Read more:

https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/those-porky-pentagon-ea...

 

Quite funny are the figures such as $236,549 of contribution to senators or congresspersons... These of course come in small packages with an elegant "purpose" attached to them, including airline tickets — and add to the final tally.