The Empire Crumbles
Dec 28, 2010 - The Road to Riches
Many years ago, I was upset that some Generals and Admirals earned legal kickbacks upon retirement. The "Boston Globe" is one of the very few newspapers in the USA that still pursues investigative reporting. It recently revealed that 85% of retired flag officers remain on the Pentagon teat on the business side of the game. The Navy even conducts seminars to help retiring officers find riches in the private sector based on their military contacts.
One of the biggest problems is that retired Generals remain good buddies with senior officers on active duty, including those who serve of General officer promotion boards. Active duty officers who are uncooperative and not "respectful" of retired Generals working for contractors may find themselves passed over, while those who help are promoted. For example, the new Marine Corps Commandant was sponsored by Boeing and Bell Helicopter because of his key effort at keeping the flawed V-22 in production.
Dec 26, 2010 - The Soaring Pentagon Budget
At one time, Congress would hold hearings on proposed increases in military spending. They wanted to see the new "threat assessment" that justified an increase. Over the past two decades, the Pentagon was given a free pass and its budget grows well past the inflation rate each year for no justifiable reason. Most Congressmen who demand fiscal responsibility and warn of national bankruptcy never even suggest freezing the growing military budget.
Our military budget has doubled to over a trillion dollars a year since 9-11, which includes over $300 billion in annual military spending outside the DoD. Has the terror threat doubled? Obama's team is spending 6% more this year (adjusted for inflation), than "warmonger" Bush ever did, and plans further increases in the coming years. You may have been misled by news stories that Secretary of Defense Gates is cutting the military budget. He wants to trim some small areas and redirect that money for more weaponry, while the overall budget continues to grow. It was good to read an editorial in the widely read but little respected "New York Times" that summarizes unrestrained U.S. military spending.
Dec 20, 2010 - Games Generals Play
The long awaited report on the April 2010 CV-22 crash in Afghanistan was finally released, four months late. The Generals disapproved of the first investigation, so they ordered a second. They weren't completely happy with that one either, but the media was probing so they released it. A three-star General who didn't participate overruled the findings, and the one-star who wrote the report was fired/retired. I disagree that the cause of the crash is uncertain. That CV-22 was too heavily loaded to hover land at the LZ. I may write yet another article, but here is one thought:In an article from the March 28, 2010 "Aviation Week", an Army Spec Ops Colonel dissed the CV-22 flown by his USAF co-workers in the press, saying the Army doesn't want them. Col. Clay Hutmacher said:
"above 4,000 ft., there's a significant [hovering] limitation on the V-22, Tiltrotor engineers concede that while the V-22 hovers well in many situations, the special twist and size of its proprotors leave it unable to carry as much useful load pound-for-pound as most helicopters hovering in similar conditions. I'm not disparaging the V-22, Hutmacher said. Hovering ability, however, is critical to the 160th, because at the end of the day, our mission is going to terminate in a hover."
One topic forbidden by our corporate media is violence on the U.S. side of the Mexican border. This Border Patrol agent was recently gunned down in Arizona, but no one seems to care. He wasn't just a wandering agent, but part of a para-military team trained and organized for combat. To its credit, Fox News is the only major media outlet that covers such border violence.
Its owner, billionaire Rupert Murdoch, supports open borders, so its strange that he allows his Fox News to report on border violence. I suppose since Fox News leads in the ratings and makes him lots of money, he allows some slack. Given that all other networks refuse to report on this topic that most Americans feel is harming the nation, covering the problems of border violence and mass illegal immigration is one reason Fox is the most highly rated network. Unfortunately, there are many simpletons, Bill O'Reily included, who do not understand that having the highest ratings does not mean its the most accurate news network, just the most profitable.
Dec 18, 2010 - The Gay Card
When you read that homosexuals can now serve in our military, keep in mind that this has been allowed for two decades. The only stipulation was that they had to "stay in the closet" and not discuss their perversion openly, just like heterosexuals with perversions. Despite heavy media coverage, it is uncertain what impact this will have, other than numerous lawsuits by some homosexuals in uniform who will play the "gay card" whenever they get into trouble. When some are denied promotion, or not selected for reenlistment, they will claim that it must because they are gay. Perhaps "affirmative action" goals will include homosexuals, so promotion boards are pressured to promote a quota.
Dec 13, 2010 - Organized Crime in Georgia
Sometimes I connect the dots and learn things ignored by the corporate media. Every Friday evening the FDIC releases the names of banks that it just ordered closed. I peruse the list out of curiosity to see what local banks may have died. Over time, I've noticed that a lot of banks were closed in the state of Georgia. That makes no sense since it was not one of the states hit worst by the real estate crash, like: Florida, Arizona, Nevada, and California. I just counted the current list and the state with most bank failures is Georgia, which has just 3.16% of the American population and ranks 9th in state population! Hard hit California has four times its population and fewer bank failures?
The Feds nor our corporate media seem interested in this obvious clue of massive criminal activity that cost taxpayers billions of dollars. I googled and see that only "Business Week" made a comment on this oddity, noting cases of obvious criminal abuse remain uninvestigated. Unfortunately, most of our tough investigative journalists have been retired and replaced by wealthy spokesmodels. Note that our most famous investigative program "60 Minutes" now reserves one of its three weekly slots for a celebrity interview. PBS "Frontline" remains the best, although its content has been watered down after if was somehow taken over the "New York Times" corporate syndicate.
Here is my question for the Feds and our media: How can the state of Georgia have the most bank failures when it ranks 9th in population and wasn't one of the states hardest hit by the real estate crash? I wonder if such observations may cause my demise. In the movie "The Pelican Brief" an obscure law school student writes paper on a theory about who killed two Supreme Court Justices. She soon finds herself in mortal danger. Perhaps one of my odd musing may cause well-dressed men to gun me down in an "apparent robbery attempt," while this website closes down for "content violations." Yet I ask again: Who illegally pocketed billions of dollars in federally backed loans from Georgia banks?
Dec 12, 2010 - News Unfit to Print
Senator Bernie Sanders is one of the good guys in Washington DC -- the only Congressman who doesn't belong to a political party. He recently led a short filibuster against the Republican/Obama plan to extend Bush's tax program that allows millionaires to pay a much lower tax rate than working Americans.
When the Federal Reserve refused to provide an accounting of the trillions of dollars in bank bailouts to Congress, Sanders inserted an amendment into legislation requiring them to disclose what they did. These are loans, yet they are interest free with no timetable to repay them. As a result, banks can never default and can invest this free cash in Treasury Bonds and collect a 2% profit. The Fed recently released details as required by Sanders' law, yet our corporate media declared this information unfit to print. The independent "Huffington Post" allowed Senator Sanders to explain why:
"We also learned that the Fed's multi-trillion bailout was not limited to Wall Street and big banks, but that some of the largest corporations in this country also received a very substantial bailout. Among those are General Electric, McDonald's, Caterpillar, Harley Davidson, Toyota and Verizon.
Perhaps most surprising is the huge sum that went to bail out foreign private banks and corporations including two European megabanks -- Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse -- which were the largest beneficiaries of the Fed's purchase of mortgage-backed securities."
I want the same deal so I can become a successful banker. Give me a $100 billion interest free loan so I can buy U.S. Treasury bonds at 2% and pocket $2 billion a year in profit, then I will pay back the original loan sometime in the future. Then I would praise America's free enterprise system, while demanding lower taxes on my $2 billion a year profit. If I don't get a tax break, I will refuse to invest that money to create jobs, and stick the $100 billion under my mattress at home.
Dec 7, 2010 - I Want to See Bill Clinton's Birth Certificate
I lived through eight years of the Clinton administration, but I just learned that he was born William Jefferson Blythe. His dad died before he was born, and he changed his surname to his step-dad's as a teenager. Future President Billy Blythe is pictured.
Dec 6, 2010 - Rational Thoughts on the Dream Act
Corporate America has been unable to rally support for a second amnesty for illegal aliens. As a result, it is attempting to implement exceptions to grant some illegals amnesty, thus encouraging more illegal immigration. They tried to emphasis the immorality of dividing families in order to halt thousands of deportations. The assumption is that since minor children of illegals are entitled to stay if they were born here, they cannot accompany their parents back home. That spin failed as most American saw through this ruse. If their parents want to abandon their children in the USA, there are lots of Americans who'd like to adopt them.
The current ploy is an old bill called the DREAM act, to grant amnesty to illegals who graduate from American high schools and attend college for two years or join our military. There is no requirement that these foreigners reimburse local communities for attending an American high school free of charge. The authors of this bill think that attending college is a sacrifice deserving a reward. In reality, American colleges and universities have limited enrollment. Every slot a foreigner takes denies a chance for an American citizen to attend, whose families paid taxes that allow these institutions to exist.
Allowing foreigners to join our military exploits ignorance of the general populace. Most assume that GIs are poorly paid and recruiting is difficult. In reality, citizens who join our military earn twice as much, enjoy an extremely generous pension plan, and the best fringe benefits in the nation. This is why our military turns away 75% of citizens who want to join. Competition is so keen that most citizens are deemed too stupid, too fat, too weak, too dangerous (because of a criminal conviction), or too dirty (from drug use). Joining the Air Force and even the Navy requires some college work. Ignorance of military service is common, and is displayed by those who think this nation must return to a military draft. They don't realize that our military refuses to enlist most citizens who want to join! The DREAM act would reward illegals with one of America's best jobs while bumping aside unemployed American citizens.
A better solution is to send these intelligent, American-educated foreigners back home (at taxpayer expense) to help fix problems in their native land. They can join their military or attend their colleges. Meanwhile, our nation's schools are crying for help as budgets dwindle. They claim more federal help is needed to properly educate citizens, and those who pretend to be citizens. The federal government should help by requiring all schools to use E-verify to screen those enrolling in school. This would reduce their student load, save money, and reduce classroom sizes. That is a DREAM act Americans would support -- using American money to educate Americans first so our citizens can attend college or pass tests to join our military.
Dec 5, 2010 - Extend Unemployment Benefits?
There is some support for extending unemployment benefits beyond the current record 99 weeks. That is a horrible idea, and everyone would agree if they thought about this. Unemployment benefits are paid by a levy on employers, but extended benefits are paid by taxpayers -- its welfare. Poor people need help, but not all unemployed are eligible, yet many wealthy unemployed get checks.
People who graduated from high school or college two years ago and can't find a job get nothing. People who quit to move elsewhere or because their job was too stressful get no help. Some devious employers who need to lay off workers don't want to pay higher unemployment taxes, so they harass workers, cut work hours, or cut salaries to encourage them to quit. Or they might use a minor incident as an excuse to fire workers, making them ineligible for unemployment checks.
There is no income test for unemployment benefits, so wealthy Wall Street bankers who made off with millions of dollars and then got laid off are collecting unemployment checks. And there are some unemployed whose spouse makes six figures, so they are uninterested in working since they get these welfare checks. Another issue is that unemployment benefits are calculated based on original pay levels, so a single person may receive twice as much of this "welfare" every week as someone with six kids.
However, most unemployed need help, and programs exist to help the truly poor. Rather than extending unemployment benefits, Congress should increase funding for food stamps and other welfare programs to help the growing number of poor. Congress should also make food stamps available to unemployed single people beyond the current three month limit. Meanwhile, providing welfare checks to the wealthy via extended unemployment benefits is wrong.
Dec 4, 2010 - Great Quote
"The men the American people admire most
extravagantly are the greatest liars; the men they detest most violently are
those who try to tell them the truth."
This is even more true today since television pundits dominate our political thought. Americans rarely discuss political issues with friends, family, or neighbors because anything not endorsed by our corporate media is politically incorrect. People you see on television were carefully chosen by the ultra-rich to fool the working class. They are so effective that most Americans become upset if they hear something to the contrary. For example, who promoted Glen Beck to television stardom? He's a college drop out with no track record as an entrepreneur, reporter, or politician, so who knighted him as a commentator? I doubt Beck believes all the trash he spews, but he learned that promoting the agenda of America's billionaires allows one to become wealthy and famous.
Dec 3, 2010 - Is Obama Playing Good Cop?
The Democrats have the Republicans cornered. The House passed an extension of the Bush tax cuts for those who make up to $250,000 a year, something the majority of Americans support. Republicans have promised to filibuster the bill in the Senate unless it includes those making more, something most Americans do not support. As I noted on Nov. 21, the Bush tax cuts for the rich means they only pay a 15% tax rate, while working class smucks must pay twice as much because they earn "wages."
Only in America can a political party advocate fiscal responsibility and tax cuts at the same time. The Republicans will enrage most Americans if they insist on keeping extra low taxes on the richest 2% of Americans. That would be a political disaster. However, they may succeed if Obama continues his betrayal of working class Americans. He may play the good cop in the good cop/bad cop game, and push his own party to back down and agree to a "temporary" extension for the rich, which will be extended again and again. Such backstabbing is why the Democrats lost support of many working class Americans in the last election. So let's see of Obama is "forced" to back down and do what his billionaire sponsors order. I doubt that he will he allow his Republican allies to commit political suicide.
And don't just blame Obama. As I've noted before, the filibuster is not part of the U.S. Constitution, its just a silly rule that Senate Democrats can change. They can declare that it often abused and eliminate it, so that majority rules and this critical bill passes. However, they like it to please their wealthy sponsors, since it allows them to vote in favor of something they know will be filibustered, then our media declares that a law failed because a minority of Senators objected. In reality, it's best for the nation if both parties fail so hyperinflation is delayed and Americans return to the normal tax rates that existed during the economic boom of the Clinton years.
Dec 2, 2010 - Thoughts on Wikileaks
While our corporate media devotes hundreds of hours to reporting on the latest Wikileaks leak, it's all shallow. There are key things they refuse to discuss. Charging wimpy, old Julian Assange with sexually assaulting two women at once is implausible, especially since he knows the CIA and others were looking for an excuse to lock him away, and the women waited six days to file a complaint! As for the latest leak, are we to assume this is the result of data theft by PFC Bradley Manning? Who is this guy and how did this E-2 gain so much access after just a year in uniform? Some quick Internet searches reveal that he is an open homosexual, something he admits on his Facebook page. I don't think that matters, but our media declared it unfit to print.
Of greater interest is that he moved from Wales to join the U.S. Army. He was a U.S. citizen because his American dad married his Welsh mom while stationed at a U.S. Navy intel station there. So his dad was an American spy of sorts, although he just tracked Soviet subs. This kid from Wales was given a top secret clearance, apparently with unlimited access to tens of thousands of classified materials. Given the ease at which someone can steal valuable intel with modern technology, like a DVD drive or flash drive, our military must change its hardware and the requirements to become an intel analyst.
I was surprised that our military has desktops with such devices, although I understand they are correcting that flaw. As I wrote in my book, a military should also ban top secret information from laptops. These are easily stolen or left behind, and may contain tens of thousands of documents. Enemy agents may break into a hotel room and copy its contents while its owner is at lunch or in the shower. I'm not sure about current policy, but the only secure policy for classified documents is for them to be encoded and zapped from one secure desktop to another, which have no connections for external drives or wireless devices.
The second step would make an "intel analyst" a "second tour" position, meaning it is filled by E-4s and above who reenlist after serving in another field -- like infantry. Such people have a track record and demonstrated a career commitment as they have four years in and are looking at the prospect of retirement in 16 more years. In contrast, most first term enlistees join to travel, find adventure, and earn college money. They are far more likely to take thrill seeking risks, like stealing stuff.
Bradley Manning is not mentioned by our government in conjunction with this second big Wikileaks dump. Perhaps Manning was a small player who stole some stuff, but is used to cover up a far larger security breach. Is there a more senior American with access to intel that is leaking this stuff? Or, has someone found a way to hack into "ultra secure" government computers? Or, is this Wikileaks a hoax by the CIA or the Israeli Mossad to manipulate public opinion by releasing selective and altered documents to Wikileaks? Note that none of the documents are really damaging to the U.S. government, although a good hoax requires a few zingers to assure credibility. Note that the latest Wiki batch shows that all of Iran's neighbors want the USA to attack Iran, something Israel and many important Americans want too. This has been emphasized by many news organizations, and Israeli propaganda outlets like "Fox News."
There is an excellent precedence for such a huge misinformation campaign -- the "Pentagon Papers". Retired USAF Col. Fletcher Prouty revealed that the "Pentagon Papers" were a planned CIA leak to shift blame for the failed war in Vietnam from the CIA to the Pentagon. The documents were real, but only certain documents were released. Prouty wrote the other reason for this "leak" was to upset the Nixon administration, which it was trying to destabilize in hopes of ousting Nixon. That President was upset that the CIA refused to provide him with requested documents concerning the Bay of Pigs and the JFK assassination. Nixon also angered the "Power Elite" by withdrawing American troops from their profitable business venture in Vietnam and improving relations with Red China. Nixon was ousted with the help of covert CIA agent Bob Woodward, working undercover as a reporter at the CIA co-founded "Washington Post". Gerald Ford became President, who just happened to be a member of the discredited Warren Commission that engineered the cover-up of the JFK assassination!
I'm not sure if the leaker of the "Pentagon Papers", career CIA agent Daniel Ellsberg, knew he was being used, but he was never prosecuted and allowed to retire and collect his CIA pension. Before becoming a leaker, Ellsberg (pictured) spent a few years in Vietnam working directly under the senior CIA spook there, Edward Lansdale, pictured in my Nov. 23 blog at the scene of the 1963 JFK coup in Dallas. Bradley Manning is a young, lowly soldier who will spend years in prison, yet Ellsberg was a senior official who knew the consequences of releasing thousands of pages of classified information. Yet he was never prosecuted AND allowed to retire and collect a government pension! No one on the American "left" questions this obvious red flag, and they celebrate Ellsberg as a hero. Ellsberg may be a great guy, but I wouldn't be surprised if he reports to the CIA in Langley regarding his insider contacts with today's anti-war movements.
Dec 1, 2010 - Bush is Crazy
Americans prefer to think their leaders do foolish things because they are bumbling simpletons, and not sinister madmen. Former President George Bush revealed his madness for war with Iran in his recent book, and no one seemed to notice except retired 27-year CIA officer Ray McGovern. He recently wrote:
"Why should George W. Bush have been “angry” to learn in late 2007 of the unanimous judgment of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies that Iran had stopped working on a nuclear weapon four years earlier? Seems to me he might have said “Hot Dog!” rather than curse under his breath."
Nov 30, 2010 - My Two Bits on Real Estate Speculators
There is some talk that the U.S. Government should assist homeowners who are "underwater", meaning their home loan is larger than its value. This is absurd. First, homeowners are the upper half of America's income level. It that fair to poorer Americans living in small apartments or small homes? Second, most of these homeowners made easy money from real estate these past two decades as home prices rose. Now that one of their speculative investments failed, should they get taxpayer help? They are not starving or homeless, they just made a bad investment.
Nov 29, 2010 - Gone Shopping
I finally got around to buying a new TV. The technology has changed rapidly. The three choices are Plasma, LCD, or LED. Salesmen may confuse you with complex terminology, but the newest type, LEDs, are brighter, more colorful, use less electricity, so cost 40% more. The other option is too spend $400 more for one with an internal computer that can link to the internet so your TV can act like a monster laptop for watching movies on-line.
Nov 28, 2010 - Republicans Who Denounce Free Enterprisers
Many successful American millionaires work in Hollywood. While most American industries have moved overseas, Hollywood still rules world entertainment, despite operating mostly from high-cost California with a well-paid, fully unionized workforce. Hollywood never needed a government bailout, and its products are one of America's leading exports. I think most of what they produce is garbage, but I feel the same about some other industries.
For some reason, most Republican leaders bash our Hollywood entrepreneurs as "leftists", which is ironic since few of these career politicians worked in the private sector. While they tout the brilliance of free enterprise, they live on the government dole and look forward to trading their political influence for personal gain.
One of Hollywood's most successful directors is Oliver Stone. He volunteered for combat infantry duty in Vietnam, where he was awarded the bronze star and two purple hearts. (pictured in the middle of his buddies) However, when he ran into Sarah Palin on a television production set, she refused to shake his hand, explaining in her book that Stone is a leftist.
Like most Americans, Palin doesn't know where "leftists" come from, or what they want, they just know from corporate TV that they are evil. A better explanation is that they are people who believe in the Bill of Rights, fairness, and helping the poor. One may disagree on political issues and economics, but pretending to be a patriotic American while refusing to shake hands with a war hero is bizarre. Palin never volunteered for military service, and earned her wealth on the government dole, or as a result of politics. So the next time you hear a politician denouncing America's successful free enterprisers in Hollywood, google their bio to see that most never earned a dime in the private sector, nor served in our military.
Nov 27, 2010 - Heavy Tanks are a Heavy Burden
The Marine Corps recently announced that it will deploy a company of 14 M-1A2 Abrams tanks to Afghanistan to provide mobile firepower to destroy Afghan militiamen. This will provide Marines with a new combat capability, but it's not a good idea.
The first problem is that all fuel in Afghanistan is trucked hundreds of miles along dangerous roads from Pakistan. Delivery costs are an estimated $400-$800 a gallon, for a tank that burns three gallons a mile. Costs don't matter to Generals, but supporting these 14 tanks will require at least 1000 more Marines. The crews are small, but the tank maintainers and supply teams number in the hundreds. They'll also need tank transport trucks to haul them long distances, a dozen more fuel trucks, and a couple of huge tank retrievers to recover broke down tanks, or those that tip over or get stuck. All these tank support people need food, water, electricity, and 24-hour protection, so hundreds more Marines are required.
How many more causalities will be suffered by the 1000 Marines deployed to support these tanks, which were deployed to reduce causalities? Keeping logistical supply lines open has already become the primary focus of American military effort, and will worsen when tanks arrive. Another problem is that massive tanks tear up roads and farmer fields, while all that heavy firepower is sure to kill more civilians than insurgents. Moreover, the mighty M-1 was designed to kill tanks, not to fight insurgents, although that can change with simple modifications, like those I described a decade ago.
The Afghan fighters will quickly adjust to these tanks. They will build some monster IEDs and eventually blow a tank off the road, just as Iraqis did several times. They also know that a simple RPG fired into its rear often destroys a mighty tank. The M-1 tank has outstanding armor, but it does have a well-known weak spot. This tank burns explosive jet fuel that is difficult to extinguish, unlike diesel used by most other tanks. A small explosion caused by an RPG or heavy machine gun hit in the engine compartment may rupture a fuel line near the ultra-hot gas turbine engine, so a minor hit can ignite a fuel fire. If the fire is not doused by mobile fire extinguishers within a minute, it quickly grows and devours the tank.
Yes, I know the M-1 has an automatic fire suppression system, but it's not powerful enough to extinguish most engine fires caused by ruptured fuel lines. The crews always escape, yet the fire engulfs and destroys the tank. This has occurred dozens of times in Iraq, and sometimes by accident during peacetime training. These losses are classified secret to hide embarrassments, yet the Afghans will celebrate when they slay a monster tank. And the final reason not to deploy these tanks and 1000 extra Marines to Afghanistan is -- the entire effort is pointless.
It's too bad the Marines have nothing lighter and more "expeditionary" as they like to say. A couple NATO allies have sent Leopard tanks to Afghanistan, yet these are almost half the weight of the huge M-1s and have fuel efficient diesel engines. The US Army's Bradley IFV would be much better with its 25mm chain gun. The M-1's 120mm gun has such a huge blast that it cannot fire with infantrymen 100 yards to its front or sides, lest they get a concussion. The Brad is less than half the weight of an M-1, yet still RPG and heavy machine gun proof to the front and sides. Its diesel engine gets six times better gas mileage and doesn't have that flash fire problem. It can also carry four grunts inside. However, Marine Generals would have to swallow their pride and admit they lack needed gear if they borrowed Brads from the Army, like they have with CH-47s helicopters for medium lift and H-60s for Medevacs.
Nov 25, 2010 - Combat No More
I explained on Oct 28th that the biggest lie of the year is that all combat operations in Iraq have ended. We still have at least five combat brigades in Iraq conducting combat operations. A recent official news release stated that a U.S. soldier "died of wounds sustained from enemy small arms fire Sunday during advisory operations in Northern Iraq." He wasn't in combat, he was just "advising" even though he spoke no Arabic. Here is the official daily tally of Americans killed in our perpetual wars. It mentions that soldier was in "the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division." Oops, they forgot to change "Combat Team" to "Advisory Team."
President Obama recently declared that victory would be achieved in Afghanistan by 2014 and all American "combat" troops would be gone. This means they will perform the same ruse they did last August when they deceived most Americans into thinking that fighting has ended in Iraq. They may use the same fake reporter, Richard Engel from NBC, for a live broadcast as he flies out with the last American troops leaving Afghanistan.
Allow me to repeat the facts yet again. The Taliban nor Osama Bin Laden were involved in the 9-11 attacks. It was organized by a wealthy Kuwaiti in the Philippines using Saudis who trained in Germany, who were upset by America's one-sided support for Israeli expansionism. That is from the official 9-11 report, which ignored major gaps in the official government tale of 9-11. For example they did not mention the third WTC tower collapse. Yes, the third one (the 47-story WTC-7), which was not hit by an airplane, located 100 meters from the two taller towers, yet it neatly collapsed just after everyone was evacuated. One of the few decent guys at Fox News, former state superior court judge Andrew Napolitano, recently announced that he doubts the official version. Of course that news is unfit for the "mainstream" corporate media, and I suspect Napolitano will be pushed out of Fox for heresy.
Keep in mind that "al Qaeda" is not a terrorist group, but a label given to any Arab nationalist who violently opposes Western dominance of the Middle East. Osama Bin Laden was appointed their official leader by the CIA, even though he has no influence or contact with various anti-Western groups branded "al Qaeda" by the Pentagon. There are far more potential terrorists in Lebanon, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Somalia, yet we have no troops in those nations. So why do we have 100,000 in Afghanistan?
Nov 24, 2010 - The Gathering Storm
The year 2011 will be a painful chapter in American history. Economic problems have been cushioned with stimulus spending, yet the American people, the financial markets, and Uncle Mao are demanding fiscal discipline. The economy has failed to bounce back, so the nation must prepare for a lower standard of living, which might decrease further.
The first blow comes on Nov 30th, when two million Americans lose their extended unemployment benefits, which they have been collecting for almost two years. Another two million Americans with extended benefits will see them expire by April 30th. As a result, millions more people will apply for food stamps, welfare payments (TNAF), and housing vouchers. Will a cost cutting Congress provide billions of dollars in new funds to cover this demand from America's growing poor? Either way, consumer spending will fall, resulting in more foreclosures, bankruptcies, crime, and homelessness.
One criticism of Obama's stimulus spending is that billions of dollars went directly to state and local governments to prevent layoffs of government employees, to include police, firefighters, and teachers. This temporary help made sense, but it appears the nation will not soon recover from this economic depression. Most Congressmen now agree that its time for state and local governments to bite the bullet and make deep cuts, in contrast to the trimming they done these past two years. This means your state, county, city, and school districts must slash their budgets between 5-20%, depending on local economic conditions.
As a result, an estimated half million government employees will lose their jobs in 2011 and join the ranks of the poor. And this will occur as millions of new American poor need help from local governments. As the four million unemployed without benefits and a half million government workers fall into poverty, they will spend far less money, causing a slump in business and the layoff of another million workers. Higher unemployment will not show in the official rate as statisticans continue to pencil whip figures to ignore millions of unemployed Americans by concluding they are "discouraged" and not making a serious effort to find work. Our federal government has no plan to cushion this second slump. Will street protests and riots break out?
Nov 23, 2010 - JFK
I finished Col. Fletcher Prouty's book about the JFK assassination, which I have covered in earlier blogs. He ends the book with a focus on the reasons Kennedy was killed, rather than minute details. Nevertheless, he summarizes the evidence that clearly shows JFK was killed by a professional hit team. He is not impressed by the killing itself, but by the power of those responsible to orchestrate an obvious cover-up and to intimidate everyone in the media and Congress into silence. Pictured is senior CIA officer Edward Lansdale in downtown Dallas just after Kennedy was shot. Lansdale was a advocate for a major American military role in the Vietnam, and became a key player in that war after President Johnson reversed Kennedy's withdrawal plan.
I've never studied the assassination closely, but Prouty mentions some lesser known bits. For example, the basic Secret Service protocol of ensuring all high rise windows remained closed, locked, and watched was ignored. He notes that Oswald had to fire through a large tree at his moving target. While that is possible, tracking the moving target through tree branches is nearly impossible. He notes that many foreign newspapers published stories with details on Oswald's life within an hour of his arrest. (Recall, this was before the Internet, so Oswald was clearly the patsy, as he publicly proclaimed after his arrest.) Also note they found Oswald in a movie theater after a policeman was shot. No one ever explained why Oswald shot the policeman.
Prouty notes that many reporters on the scene were World War II and Korean war vets, who all reported that Kennedy was killed by automatic gunfire. We are told that Oswald used an old, inaccurate, bolt action rifle that he bought through the mail. Prouty notes that better rifles could be purchased on the spot at the same price at any local gun store. He notes that multiple shots from different guns would sound like an automatic weapon. He also notes that authorities admit that one of Oswald's shots missed and hit a street curb, yet few people looked at a map to learn that curb was 100 yards from Kennedy's car.
Prouty proves that Kennedy had planned to pull all US troops out of Vietnam after the 1964 election, which upset powerful groups hoping to profit from a new major war. He also quotes Kennedy saying that he planned to break the CIA "into a thousand pieces" because it had become an unconstitutional group of rogue cowboys more loyal to international mega-corporations than the US Constitution. Prouty has passed away, yet no one doubts his background as a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel who served several years as the Pentagon's liaison to the CIA. He served in a key intel spot in the Pentagon, but had been dispatched on an odd escort trip to New Zealand a few days before Kennedy was killed, and retired six weeks later.
Nov 22, 2010 - Save Your Teeth
Allow me to digress to provide important health information that most Americans do not know. I once managed a dental office for 10 years. Most people lose their teeth from gum disease, not from tooth decay. The most common disease, gingivitis, is painless and slowly eats away at gums causing them to recede until the tooth falls out. If one waits until gums inflame and hurt or teeth become loose, it is often too late, or requires several painful and expensive visits to a periodontist.
Prevention is simple. Rinse your mouth FOR ONE MINUTE each day with Listerine. You don't need to stand in front of a mirror. Squish Listerine around for a minute while you shave, bathe, or do other tasks.
Nov 21, 2010 - The Right-Wing Media
One of the most laughable lines repeated in our corporate media is that American news is controlled by the "left-wing" or "liberals", as though the major networks are run by hippies living in California communes. Our media is controlled by billionaires to make money and keep us peasants confused. Every television "newsman" and "commentator" was not selected for honesty, they were knighted for two traits: total subservience to do what they are told, and acting ability to convince working class people they are telling the truth. The Internet is mostly beyond their control, which is why they demean any information posted on the Internet as flaky.
I noted an example of this on Oct 7th, when I explained that 95% of Americans would oppose extending the temporary Bush tax cuts if they were told what they were. In short, they allow millionaires to pay a 15% income tax rate while working class people pay 30-40%. You probably didn't realize this because the millionaires and billionaires who control our corporate media don't want you to know. I googled around and found an expose of this tax cut racket at an independent "Rolling Stone" Internet blog: Obscene Tax Break Survives Again. Citizens find that information shocking, but don't expect to see it on CNN, CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS, Fox, or even MSNBC. And note that the Democratic controlled Congress did not even address the "carried interest" tax dodge outrage.
And here is another example of news not fit to print, posted by the independent "flaky" Internet only website "The Huffington Post." A federal judge was caught banging a prostitute, buying and using cocaine, and giving away his government laptop. Did you see this interesting and sensational story on any of our "competitive" 24/7 corporate news networks? I doubt it, because such stories undermine faith in our legal system that is needed to keep the working class rabble under control.
Nov 20, 2010 - Ousting Congressman Waters
As I've blogged before, most members of Congress have been blackmailed by our secretive world rulers into silence. Some Congressmen refuse to play along, so they are ousted as an example to others. For example, Congressman Maxine Waters is a feisty lady who represents a poor area of California. (Congresswoman is not a proper English term.) She lambastes wasteful Pentagon spending and the CIA, although such news is limited to obscure Internet sites since the corporate media has been instructed to ignore her. A few years ago, she ruffled feathers by constantly stating the CIA was involved in the international drug trade.
Having read much about this topic, I agree with her, and so do the facts. Keep in mind that 99.9% of CIA employees know nothing about this involvement, but there are a few clandestine types who work with powerful groups with obvious ties to the drug trade. These secretive covert ops guys trade favors to achieve political goals. For example, when people in the Reagan administration tried to ignite an uprising against the popular socialist government of Nicaragua, Congress found out and prohibited funding. As a result, covert CIA agent "Mr. Cathey" aka Oliver North, raised money from Arab sheiks and by selling U.S. military weapons to Iran.
Arms were flown from the USA aboard CIA C-123s and airdropped over Nicaragua. As these aircraft refueled in Honduras and flew back to remote airfields in the USA, they hauled lots of cocaine. This was known to CIA operators, but the extent of their involvement and possible profiteering is unknown. It seems these flights cost Mr. Cathey no money to airdrop arms, in exchange for special military flight clearances to legally evade American counter-drug operations.
Back to our current day. Congressman Waters is under attack for obscure ethical violations for attempting to help channel a few million dollars in government bailout money to a small local bank, in which her husband had a financial interest. It doesn't matter that she tried to get a share of bailout money for all banks in her district, or that these banks legally deserved the money, or that all Congressmen were doing the same. She had no authority to approve anything, she just used her role as a congressional representative to ensure the Treasury Department provided the TARP funds that these small banks deserved by law.
She did nothing wrong, so why this odd ethics "probe" by a Democratic controlled Congress? Its because the political parties are just fronts, and secretive, powerful interests control Congress. Most Congressmen have cases of serious ethical conflicts, yet they "play ball" so their antics are ignored. "They" have been unable to find anything on Congressman Waters, so they pushed this laughable case forward to oust her, and the corporate media plays along to portray her as an evil person who must resign.
Nov 19, 2010 - Dirty Jobs Expose
I hope the people of Ohio watch one of my favorite TV shows "Dirty Jobs." It accidentally exposed a case of ridiculous waste by the Ohio state government. In this episode, the dirty job was to chase wild geese into nets to capture them, flip them over, and determine their sex. This involved use of a helicopter (@ $4000 an hour to operate) and a dozen Ohio Fish and Game state employees (@ $50,000 a year each) to round up nesting geese. I was appalled at the absurd waste of money as they sloshed around in the mud to "sex" the geese. And all this during an economic depression where citizens are told state services have been cut to the bone.
Nov 15, 2010 - Generals Surge into Afghanistan
Here is an interesting article about the 130 Generals that have set up shop in Afghanistan. The author says most spend their "combat tour" attending conferences with each other. I've also noticed that many press releases report "NATO casualties" to hide the fact that nearly all are American casualties.
Nov 14, 2010 - Defending an Outpost is Terrorism
One of the absurdities in our "war on terror" is labeling anyone who opposes American military invasions a "terrorist." The best example is that of Omar Khadr. His dad brought him to Afghanistan as a 15-year old to learn his roots and fight for Muslim justice back when Afghanistan was in a civil war. Soon after 9-11, he found himself trapped in a Taliban outpost and under attack by another Afghan group backed by American special forces. He was seriously wounded and captured, and then charged as a "terrorist" for helping defend the outpost.
He was abused as a prisoner and held in Gitmo for eight years until he "confessed" to terrorism. This kangaroo court case is embarrassing to the USA's reputation and endangers international justice since no one has ever charged an obvious combatant as a terrorist. Now American POWs can be abused and charged with terrorism, citing this case as precedent. This has received almost no coverage in the American press, but news stories are common abroad. Its unfortunate whenever an American serviceman is killed, but this is never an occasion to mock laws and justice, which will endanger American POWs in the future. I recall comments from an American POW who spent years in Vietnam's "Hanoi Hilton" prison. He said the Vietnamese didn't understand why mistreating POWs was inhumane because they just adopted the methods used by their French colonial masters, who built that prison in Hanoi.
Nov 8, 2010 - High Unemployment Hurts the Employed
Many selfish Americans have great jobs and feel no sympathy for America's unemployed. They should be worried for several reasons:
1) Unless we want millions more Americans begging on our streets, our nation must spend billions more dollars on food stamps and subsidized housing programs. This problem has been delayed with special multi-billion dollar extensions in unemployment benefits, but Congress is reluctant to continue. Perhaps the new Congress will refuse to fund an expansion of social programs for the poor with new taxes. Either way, employed Americans will suffer from higher taxes or unpleasant cities. Many cities now close parks at night to keep shanty towns from appearing.
2) If your children, siblings, or other relatives cannot find work, you will be asked to help them financially, or to provide a spare bedroom.
3) If fewer citizens are working, fewer are paying taxes. Citizens will be hit with a combination of higher taxes at all levels and fewer services.
4) Less tax revenue means that state and local governments are forced to reduce law enforcement and prison populations at a time when economic desperation drives more people into crime. With instant background checks easily available, it has become nearly impossible for released felons to find work. What will they do? Its not a good idea to ignore starving people when you have what they need.
5) Don't expect pay raises when your employer has a thick stack of applications from anxious replacements. Stories have emerged of companies laying off skilled workers and hiring equally qualified replacements at far less pay.
6) Since employers have anxious applicants calling everyday, don't expect sympathy for a second chance should you find yourself in trouble at work.
7) With millions more Americans lacking health insurance, emergency rooms are overwhelmed with people seeking free care for minor ailments that grew into emergencies. Employed/Insured Americans are not given priority.
8) Petty white collar crimes like mail theft, identity theft, credit card abuse, mail fraud, and fake insurance claims are rising, driving up costs and causing headaches for the employed.
9) Your home value will not rise until the number of people with good jobs begins to rise.
10) Local communities are looking for ways to collect more money, and raising traffic fines has become popular. Twice as many traffic tickets were issued in 2009 than 2007, with many police departments lowering their tolerance for speeding to just 5 mph over the speed limit.
In short, full employment is an important goal for a healthy society.
Nov 7, 2010 - Dirty Jobs
I love the TV show "Dirty Jobs" for two reasons. First, its very interesting and educational. Second, it shows there are millions of Americans who perform "dirty jobs" for low pay, which helps erase the myth promoted by millionaires that unemployed Americans are too lazy to perform hard work, so we must import millions of foreign workers, or must tolerate millions of illegal workers.
Nov 6, 2010 - School Reform
A simple solution to improving schools and reducing drug use and juvenile delinquency is becoming popular: 9-5 Schools. Releasing school children between 1-3pm is irresponsible. They should be held in "study halls" to do homework, unless they participate in extracurricular activities like sports or clubs. Many parents work, so their children are on their own after school for a few hours. Other parents are forced to spend money for after-school daycare to watch their kids until they finish work.
Schools should literally "baby sit" students in the afternoon, rather than cutting them loose to experiment with drugs or sex or crime. They could even allow them to use the playgrounds, but keep them off the streets until 5pm! Parents could pick up their children early if they desire, but most would be happy their children are safe until they get home from work. This would also encourage "welfare moms" to seek daytime work. They don't consider it now since they must watch their kids after school. Teenagers could go home early if they have a job.
Teachers would scream, but not all need to stay until 5pm. Teachers can still grade papers, surf the net, or do other paperwork while they watch the kids. One teacher can watch over 2-3 classrooms if they wish to rotate days so some can go home early or attend to other duties. It may be best to start each school day with an hour of "study time", since students are far more likely to complete homework or study for tests in the morning before classes. This "reform" costs no money, yet would have a serious impact.
Toss this idea at a local teacher for an interesting reaction. Everyone knows its a good idea, yet most teachers will complain if they must work until 5pm. Keep in mind that when teacher unions compare yearly pay with other professions, they don't mention that teachers get more paid days off than any other job. They get two months off in the Summer, two weeks for Christmas, a week for spring break, a dozen federal/state holidays, and taking off the entire week for Thanksgiving has become common.
Nov 5, 2010 - Why the Democrats Lost
The Democrats lost because they did nothing, and Barack Obama did nothing to rally them, and often blocked Congressional attempts at change. Their corporate sponsors kept them in check, so they blamed the Republicans for obstructing change, hiding behind the filibuster myth. (see Aug 3 blog) Despite thousands of hours of election coverage, our corporate media ignored the reasons the Democrats were ousted. It was not about high taxes or big government, its about business as usual. As a disappointed Jon Stewart boldly stated directly to President Obama on national TV last week: "We were hoping for more audacity.", mocking Obama's famous book about how to change the USA for the better: "The Audacity of Hope".
Keep in mind that the financial crisis began a year before Obama took office. It was President Bush who began the big bank bailout program and helped passed the first stimulus package. Voters were outraged that those responsible had earned massive bonuses, and their pay went mostly untouched after the government bailouts. Despite calls for locking up some bankers, clawing back bonuses, and breaking up big banks; Obama did nothing to punish those responsible.
After slamming the Bush administration's torture policy, Obama was firm that Gitmo would close within one year. His first day in office, he signed a presidential order to shut down the infamous prison within one year. Somehow, he was overruled by unknown powers. He slowly squirmed away from that simple promise. I can close Gitmo tomorrow. Just send a 747 there and fly all the detainees to a military prison in the USA. That is something Obama can do, but he pretends its "complicated", so complicated that he can't explain why.
Obama's major promise was to pull all U.S. troops out of Iraq within 14 months, something a majority of Americans wanted. He began saying some advisers and trainers would remain. That deadline was gradually extended as pressure mounted from voters to do what he promised. He could have honestly told the American people that more time was needed, but decided to orchestrate a propaganda campaign and called upon the Pentagon and its allies in the corporate media to fool citizens. Americans were told that all "combat" troops left Iraq last August, even though some 50,000 soldiers remain, including five combat brigades. (See my Oct 28 post if you thought all combat troops left Iraq.)
To make matters worse, Obama shocked everyone by tripling the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, even though no end game exists and no one thinks the current effort will succeed. Anger over growing military spending and an empire of foreign base were ignored. Military spending rose higher than Bush ever dared, while overseas military bases grew.
Fixing America's dysfunctional health care system was another issue Obama promised to address. However, Obama blocked proposals to simply expand America's cost efficient government sponsored plans, and allied himself with the insurance industry by expanding federal subsidies for private sector plans and requiring everyone to buy private health insurance.
Despite frequent promises to address job losses, little was done as "free trade" destroyed a few million more American manufacturing jobs. For example, last June Whirlpool fired 1100 factory workers in Indiana and moved their factory to Mexico. This was not because demand had slumped, but because wages are cheaper in Mexico, which profitable Whirlpool says it needs to remain "competitive".
Donald Trump is the only prominent American to criticize this job destruction, while the two main political parties ignore this vital issue and even conspire to expand free trade to Korea and Columbia. Meanwhile, Obama did little to remove the millions of legal and illegal foreign workers to free jobs for Americans. He even encouraged more illegal immigration by suggesting that for another amnesty for illegals is a good idea.
Hopefully, Obama will began to move to the center like his critics demand, but not from the left but from the right. If not, Obama is sure to lose in 2012. Ideally, he will follow LBJs lead and not run, or hopefully a real populist Democrat will challenge him. Otherwise, Americans will swing back to a Republican President in 2012, who will probably follow the destructive path of Obama-Bush-Clinton corporate political teams.
On the other hand, I think Obama's corporate allies want to ensure his reelection by grooming a sure Republican loser - Sarah Palin. The billionaires are spending millions of dollars to send her campaigning around the nation and pasting her face on their TV broadcasts. No one can explain how she ended up as McCain's VP candidate, even McCain can't recall. Palin has little political experience, her family is a mess, and she's not too bright, having attended four colleges over five years before graduating. When McCain selected her as his running mate, we learned the only foreign nation she had been to was Canada. Although she champions the private sector, she has almost no real work experience. There are hundreds of better Republican candidates, yet it is obvious that powerful people are promoting Palin, and they are likely Obama backers.
Nov 2, 2010 - Thoughts on ObamaCare
The health care reform controversy demonstrates this nation's dysfunctional political system. Few Americans know that government sponsored health care costs half as much as private sector and provides superior health care. Governments do not pay for advertising, generate profits, collect premiums and co-pays, or pay enormous bonuses to executives. The "socialist" type does not need a complex administrative system for eligibility verification, pre-approvals and claim processing. There are two basic government types: 1) Single payer, like Medicare (for the elderly), Medicaid (for the poor), and the Canadian system; or 2) Government run "socialist", like the Veterans Administration and the British System. Only the USA has a large, complex and ultra-expensive private sector system, which rates below average against the government sponsored systems found in all other modern nations.
The leading cause of personal bankruptcy in the USA are hospital costs, and most who file have health insurance! The 46 million uninsured Americans obtain free care in emergency rooms, whose hospitals survive by padding the bills of insured patients to offset their cost. Most of the cost for free care is shouldered by county hospitals, which does not bother our nation's billionaires since county governments don't tax their income. They fear that if the federal government covers the uninsured, it will be forced to raise taxes on their inheritances, and trust and dividend income, which is only 15% today. They mounted a huge advertising campaign to convince working Americans that medical care is not a civil right, government care is evil, and going without health care coverage is a freedom they should enjoy.
While "ObamaCare" provides some minor improvements, the major improvements are illusionary. Allow me to destroy the most popular "reform". The new law states that insurance companies must insure anyone who applies, even if they have serious "pre-existing" medical conditions. This provision could begin immediately, but is not required until 2014. If it's such a great idea, why the delay? Meanwhile, insurers began to raise rates in 2010, citing this future requirement.
Anyone familiar with the games played by insurers to deny reimbursements to their existing customers know the game to avoid insuring sickly outsiders will be outrageous. First, they will simply throw away applications from sickly people, as they often do today with insurance claims from those they already cover. If somehow caught, they can claim the application was unreadable or incomplete. People will attempt to send applications via certified mail, but the mailing address is a P.O. box, and no one will sign for it. If they send it to the insurer's street address found on the Internet, no one will sign for it there.
Complaints to the media, lawsuits, and Congressional pressure will force insurers to accept some sickly people, but not right away. It may take 2-3 months to "process" applications, especially if that person is in a hospital running up thousand dollar a day bills. They hope he will apply elsewhere, or die, or recover before they insure him. Otherwise, they can return the "incomplete" application several times to delay the coverage date. Finally, there are no cost controls, so an insurer may accept someone with cancer, yet set their monthly premium at $10,000. If they can't pay, they are not covered.
Why not, this is the for profit private sector? Insurers know that many people will not pay for monthly insurance, and keep an application for an expensive plan that pays for everything in their file. If their doctor tells them they have cancer or some other expensive ailment, they will e-mail or fax their application expecting instant approval. Is that fair to insurers?
There is no provision in the health care bill which establishes a government agency to record the date of health care applications, enforces instant approval, and regulates premiums. As a result, the future requirement to insure anyone who applies is an illusion. This game doesn't start until 2014, so it will be at least 2015 before complaints are so numerous that Congress announces the need for a new health care reform bill. By that time, Obama will be on his way out of office, and will pass the buck on this foreseeable loophole.
Oct 31, 2010 - American Child Soldiers
This recent article in the New York Times demonstrates more horrible reporting from that floundering propaganda rag, and hypocrisy in the Obama administration. The State Department announced that it will waive restrictions on economic aid to four poor nations that allow child soldiers. No once seems to care that the USA has hundreds of child soldiers in its ranks.
The Pentagon claims these 17-year old active duty soldiers don't count since they volunteered, and their mom said it was okay. These minors are not supposed to deploy overseas, but this rule is inadvertently ignored. The British Army admitted that at least 15 of their child soldiers were deployed to Iraq. Why pay for soldiers if they can't be used anyway? I addressed this many years ago: Ban American Child Soldiers Here is a segment: "American society thinks that a 17-year old is not mature enough to buy guns, ammo, cigarettes, alcohol, pornography, or to vote, yet he can join the Army and learn to kill people, and be killed."
Oct 29, 2010 - Military Corruption
MilitaryCorruption.com is an interesting website that posts info on military scandals. One might think our corporate media would cover some of their stories, since they claim people love sensational news. However, our corporate media is closely allied with the Pentagon and works to portray all U.S. servicemen as saints and heroes. In reality, GIs are normal people, some of whom do crazy and criminal things.
Oct 28, 2010 - NBC's Richard Engel is a Disgusting Liar
One of the most disgusting news events of this past decade occurred last August when our corporate media submitted to a White House propaganda campaign to convince Americans that all American combat troops left Iraq. Recall that Hillary Clinton would have become our President, but she refused to promise to pull American troops out of Iraq, something polls showed the majority of Americans wanted. Barak Obama promised a withdrawal in his first 14 months in office. This allowed Obama to gain supporters and beat Clinton.
During his first year in office, Democrats learned that Obama was really an actor, who didn't intend to do anything. He began to whittle away at his Iraq withdrawal promise, saying some advisers and trainers would remain. The 14 months was gradually extended as pressure mounted from voters to do what he promised. He could have honestly told the American people that more time was needed, but decided to orchestrate a propaganda campaign and called upon the Pentagon and its allies in the corporate media to fool citizens.
Americans were told that all "combat" troops left Iraq last August, even though some 50,000 soldiers remain, including five combat brigades. Most of the American media complied and reported these lies as facts. NBC News was the worst offender as it agreed to make the official Pentagon announcement -- live from the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border. NBC "reporter" Richard Engel had experience in Iraq and with the U.S. military and knew this was a ruse, yet he agreed to star in a Pentagon inspired propaganda clip. He rode along with the last American combat brigade leaving Iraq as it crossed the border into Kuwait. Engle spoke of the Iraq war in the past tense, as though it was all over.
Only AP News resisted pressure, and sent a message to its reporters that combat in Iraq was not over and they should not repeat such lies. The Pentagon was forced to leak some truth to assure soldiers in Iraq that they would still be paid extra combat pay and are eligible for combat related awards. American troops are still in combat in Iraq, still conducting "joint" raids, and still dying from combat action.
As part of this ruse, the Pentagon no longer releases news about troop deployments to Iraq. A quick Internet search turned up several local stories about American combat brigades deploying to Iraq after Americans were told they are no longer there. I tried to interest the corporate media to report on these deploying combat brigades, yet all refused. One said that since the entire brigade wouldn't engage in combat, it was not really a combat brigade. I asked him if that means our three combat brigades based in Germany are not really combat units since they are not engaged in combat.
Politicians and reporters are always quick to announce they "support the troops". However, none are willing to even acknowledge the continued deployment of thousands of American combat troops for another year of occupation duty in Iraq. To measure the effectiveness of this ruse, I asked a few neighbors if they thought U.S. troops should leave Iraq, and all said they had left already! They saw it on the news!
A quick Google search today turned up further proof, revealing that the 1st combat brigade of the 1st Infantry Division deployed to Iraq this month. The 2nd combat brigade of the 1st Infantry Division will deploy to Iraq in November. The 3rd combat brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division will deploy to Iraq in January 2011. The 2nd combat brigade from the 82nd Airborne Division will deploy to Iraq next Spring.
These combat brigades have been relabeled as "advise and assist" brigades, yet they are full combat brigades with combat equipment and undergo pre-deployment combat training. Five brigades deploying within six months implies there are more than five combat brigades in Iraq, and possibly more than 50,000 soldiers. We can't rely on our corporate media to uncover the truth since they pretend there are no combat troops in Iraq, despite the clear evidence. Will the deaths of these soldiers now be reported as "non-combat" deaths, due to local criminal violence or accidents, just like in Germany? If they can cover-up the presence of five combat brigades in Iraq from the American people, misclassifying a few combat deaths each month is easy.
Does this make me a conspiracy theorist? We are told there are no American combat troops in Iraq, yet one can read dozens of small local news stories about American combat brigades deploying to Iraq. Can I suggest that powerful people have conspired to deceive the American people about this? Be sure to watch that Richard Engel "news" clip at the bottom of that NBC "mission accomplished" report to see a smiling spokesmodel for the "Power Elite" happily deceiving the American people.
Oct 27, 2010 - Awaiting Pancho Villa's Return
As our Washington DC "beltway" establishment ignores the growing violence and drug cartel power in Mexico, allow me to predict another Pancho Villa event. A drug cartel warlord will become furious at something the U.S. Government does. As Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa did in 1916 Columbus, New Mexico, he will send a hundred gunman across the border and shoot up a town, killing a few dozen federal agents and innocent civilians. The Pentagon will acted shocked, with Generals saying: Who'd thought this might happen?
As I've blogged many times before, we need to put at least 10,000 soldiers back on border security duty. Be sure to rent my favorite border movie "Extreme Prejudice" with Nick Nolte. A newer border movie "Traffic" with Michael Douglas, is also great.
Oct 26, 2010 - The LIC Business Racket
I'm still reading Colonel Prouty's "JFK". Given our endless low intensity "conflicts" in Iraq and Afghanistan, let me quote a revealing segment from page 241 of this 1996 book:
" ...we must understand that it has become the objective of 'low intensity conflict' to continue the wasting of money, the pointless killing of defenseless people, and the consumption or attrition of costly war materiel to make way for the procurement of more. 'Low-intensity conflict' is a way in which the hundreds of billions of dollars of armaments produced each year can be used, destroyed, and wasted this year in order that more may be procured and used next year."
Oct 25, 2010 - How to Smack Down Mexican Drug Smugglers
I spent most of my life along the Mexican border, including two years at a Border Research Institute in Laredo, Texas. One thing I learned through observation and talking to people is that most illegal drugs are driven across border checkpoints risk free. Choosing which vehicles to send to detailed secondary inspection is up to the lowly Homeland Security guy at each booth. He asks for ID, runs the license plate, asks a few questions to measure nervousness, and allows around 95% to pass on without a detailed inspection. Since friends, relatives, or drug smugglers can call, text, or see who is in each booth, they can choose the line to their friendly inspector and avoid searches. Border officials also know the big political players in their border region, so they never search the mayor, police chief, fellow employees, senior officials, or their wives.
The guys in the Homeland Security booths can wave through whoever they want, so they are easy to corrupt since they can trade favors or collect cash for doing nothing. They just pretend not to notice the illegals crouched down in the back seat or the suitcases, which may have drugs. They cannot be caught, unless someone squeals on them. Even when that occurs, there is no hard evidence. Some may apply for such jobs with plans to become rich by waving through fellow gang members. This problem is widespread because few are caught every year. A lone, low ranking, corrupt official can allow dozens of vehicles with tons of drugs or dozens of illegals to pass through risk-free each day!
The solution is simple and costs almost nothing. Federal agents from outside the area should be tasked to supervise border inspections. Every few years, they would be assigned a 90-day duty at a border station, which would require a half dozen temps at each border crossing to provide coverage 24/7. They would often search Homeland Security personnel at booths for cell phones -- none allowed. They would choose who is at each booth, and move them around every hour. Its a good idea to install sun tarps so people in the Mexican side can't see who is in which booth.
The outside Fed would walk among cars waiting in line and can also choose vehicles to inspect. He would keep a keen eye out for cars that try to change lanes for no reason, especially after he shuffles the guys in the booths. The drug cartels now drive large shipments through daily at no risk, because they have a "friend" at the inspection booth. This would become risky because it would be difficult to determine which lane their friend is working, and he might be moved just before they pull up, and that annoying Fed wandering around may choose them for inspection. The Fed should wear a bullet proof vest and carry an M-16 because smugglers may open fire and flee when he doesn't allow them to choose their lane.
This would be a thankless task, because this outsider would be disliked by the local Homeland Security people. This is why he must be an outsider on temporary duty, outside the Homeland Security chain-of-command and not worried about becoming hated in the local community. Every border crossing is different, yet the impact of outside supervisors would be huge. These agents would face serious authority confrontations with a few border inspectors who are found with cell phones or senior officials who insist that certain vehicles cannot be searched.
This would be similar to the disruption drug smugglers encountered when aircrews were required to go through gate security checkpoints after 9-11. A lot of stewardesses and pilots were frequent drug mules, with a perfect cover and risk free transport method. If outside supervisors are used at border crossings, I'd guess the drug flow from Mexico would fall in half. This wouldn't solve the drug war, but would smack down the profits of the Mexican drug cartels, and those of some Homeland Security folks. Unfortunately, Homeland Security dislikes this idea because it implies that corruption exists, and no one wants outsiders telling them what to do.
Oct 23, 2010 - How the NBA Can Educate Millions
Only 68% of young Americans graduate from high school. In some major cities, less than half graduate. One simple solution involves the dreams of millions of teenagers to play professional sports. At one time, attending college was a prerequisite for professional basketball, yet nowadays some players needn't even finish high school. The NBA recently set a minimum contract age of 19. This ended a bizarre game of signing up promising high schoolers in hopes they might blossom into the next Lebron James.
There are millions of young inner city youths who dream of professional basketball. They spend their days on the court honing hoop skills. Most never graduate from high school because its boring and interferes with their goal of becoming an NBA star. Most NBA players graduate from high school and attend college for a while before going pro. Perhaps a dozen high school drop-outs make it to the NBA each year out of millions who spend years on neighborhood courts awaiting a chance. One day, these neighborhood hoopsters realize their dream is a fantasy, and life goes downhill thereafter. While a high school diploma is not essential, most workers need basic math and reading skills to earn a livable wage, and going back to school to get a GED at age 30 is embarrassing.
The NBA needs to replace the age 19 rule with a high school diploma rule. A job requirement to play in the NBA should be a high school diploma. NBA teams could not draft or sign people who have not obtained a high school diploma or GED. This may sound unimportant, but would send shockwaves through America's inner cities. Play on thousands of courts would stop as aspiring NBA hopefuls ponder their future.
Most would return to high school or enroll in local GED classes. Families and friends could heckle local flashy players about how they need to spend more time in school and doing homework if they really plan to go pro. Teachers and counselors would have a powerful tool to influence slackers: "You can't get into the NBA without a diploma!" The long-term effect on America would be enormous, and this costs the NBA nothing. This would also help solve the NBA's problem with immature teenage players, since future players must show the discipline to finish high school. Finally, NBA scouts would enjoy encouraging the thousands of young teens players they encounter by asking: "You look promising, but do you have a diploma?"
This rule would empower mothers and cops to harass high school drop-outs who spend all day playing hoops at the local park rather than attending school. If they pretend they are getting ready for NBA tryouts, people could say: "But you can't play in the NBA without a high school diploma!" This simple change would affect the lives of millions of young Americans for the better. After the NBA sets this standard, professional baseball and hockey should also adopt this rule.
Oct 22, 2010 - American Arms for Ho Chi Minh
I'm reading Col. Fletcher Prouty's great book, "JFK", which I will fully review when I finish. He writes that by the time Japan surrendered in 1945, the USA had amassed enough weapons, equipment, and supplies on the recently seized island of Okinawa to support a million man force to invade mainland Japan. Prouty was stationed on Okinawa and was shocked to learn that half of this stockpile was being shipped to Korea and the other half to Vietnam.
Was the Pentagon preparing for future conflicts, or preparing to ignite them? After Mao secured mainland China, it was argued that potential battles with huge Chinese or Russian armies in Asia would be foolhardy. President Truman was encouraged by some Congressmen and Generals to adopt a "Pacific Rim Defense" strategy, where the USA would contain communism by defending a string of island nations in the Western Pacific (Japan, Okinawa, Taiwan, Philippines, and Indonesia) using its superior air and sea power.
However, the Pentagon and its industrial allies insisted that South Korea must be defended, even though it had no strategic or resource value. Why did the USA decide to defend the desolate south Korean peninsula, led by a corrupt dictator? Were the Russian backed North Koreans tricked into invading the South, thinking the USA would not send forces to defend it? Was the pointless Korean war a plot to generate a half trillion dollars in war business? Those are interesting questions, yet public discussion is not allowed.
Was the Vietnam war a business venture as well? American OSS officers helped supply Vietminh guerillas to fight Japanese occupiers late in WW II. Ho Chi Minh admired the USA, our struggle for independence, and our constitution. (Pictured with a beard among American advisors in 1945.) He spoke excellent French, having lived in Paris for 30 years and fought for the French during WW I. He assumed the USA would support his dream of independence after World War II. His Vietminh controlled most of the nation by the end of 1945 since the French fled when Japan invaded.
The alleged purpose of this OSS training and arming of the Vietminh makes little sense. (The OSS became the CIA in 1947.) The U.S. military had bypassed Indochina a year prior. Its forces were fighting in the Philippines far to the north and closing in on mainland Japan. The few thousand Japanese garrison troops in Indochina were isolated and no threat to the main war effort. So why did the OSS devote considerable resources to arming and training revolutionaries in Vietnam?
Prouty notes the massive post-war American arms shipments allowed the Vietminh to build a formable army. Why was this done? A strong, independent, American allied Vietnam could help contain Mao's communist movement. However, Prouty believes this was a sinister mission by the secretive Military-Industrial complex to instigate another war. When French troops arrived to reclaim Vietnam, they encountered a large, well-equipped Vietminh army. They required billions of dollars in American military aid to combat the Vietminh. After the French failed, the CIA entered the fray with covert arms shipments and trainers for the weak French appointed puppet government of South Vietnam. The CIA slowly pulled the U.S. military into a war that produced a trillion dollars in war business for the Military-Industrial complex.
I googled to read more about this topic. Note that when government funded "historians" discuss history, acceptable views are called "facts", alternative views are called "theories", and unacceptable facts and theories are called "conspiracies". Some historians attack Prouty's claim by noting there is no documentation to support it. However, Prouty explains throughout his book that covert ops have no documentation, and if any proof accidentally appears in books or the media, it is covertly removed if possible, or its author is "discredited" with attacks by CIA allies, including official historians who live a comfortable life on the government dole.
I recall Stinnett's great 1999 book, which documented that President Roosevelt and his inner circle knew about the Japanese fleet heading toward Hawaii in late 1941, but didn't inform our Pacific fleet. After his book was published, several of the source documents that he cited from his detailed search of the National Archives were pulled from shelves and classified secret. Stinnett was a World War II American navy officer, a career reporter, and spent years researching this book, but note the reviews at that Amazon link, where the guardians of official history ridicule him.
Take note when the word "conspiracy" is used in the USA. Americans have been programmed to think that anyone who suggests a conspiracy is a nutcase. When you hear this word tossed at people by the corporate media or government historians, its because they've learned that discussing certain topics is not permitted, lest they get fired. Sane people know that government and corporate leaders conspire on a daily basis to keep the truth from the public. This does not mean they are all evil, but they are putting the best spin on events. Every American has the right to propose theories about our past. Whenever someone demeans a theory as a "conspiracy" it shows they are ignorantly parroting what they have been taught, or intentionally refuse to discuss the possible truth out of fear.
This is why you never read articles: Was the Korean war a mistake? or; Was the Vietnam war a mistake? Who benefited from them? Now in the modern era: Was the Iraq war a mistake? Was the Afghan war a mistake? Who benefits from them?
Oct 20, 2010 - Manipulating American Democracy
In my Jan 28 blog, I explain how the USA is a partial democracy because of a lack of proportional representation, and a corrupted two-party system. For example, California deserves 69 U.S. Senators to match the Senate representation by citizens of Wyoming. In my Oct 6 blog, I described how the populist third party movement in the USA was hijacked by America's billionaires and reduced to a one-issue "tea party" focused on tax cuts for the rich.
The recent Supreme Court decision that eliminated campaign funding limits makes it easier for America's billionaires to manipulate elections. They focus on smaller states with fewer voters where the impact of their advertising campaigns are more cost effective. This is why all close Senate races with obscure "tea party" candidates who rose out of nowhere are in the 35th largest state of Nevada, the 45th - Delaware, and the 47th -Alaska.
While the media enjoys poking fun at Christine O'Donnell's limited grasp of the U.S. Constitution, it has yet to focus on Nevadan Senate candidate Sharon Angle. She is a strong libertarian who wants to slash government by eliminating health care and educational programs. It turns out that Ms. Angle has relied on government checks and government funded health care her entire life. Her husband is a retired federal government employee, while Ms. Angle collected government checks as a school teacher and later as a state legislator. She has zero experience in the private sector, yet is convinced that it works perfectly.
Oct 19, 2010 - Printing Money
The "Asia Times" is a great, free new source. It publishes insightful columns about what's really happening behind our corporate news filter. This recent article highlights two big stories that you may have missed. Some of you may wonder how the US Government can continue to borrow more money each year without driving up interest rates. What few realize is that our government is lending money to itself. The Federal Reserve (a banking cartel) announced that it will buy up to a trillion dollars in U.S. Treasury bonds. It can do this by creating money out of thin air, or with keystrokes to be exact. This should eventually lead to hyperinflation, but its difficult to determine when that might happen.
The other story mentioned is how our banks have quickly returned to profitability after the 2008 plunge. They were allowed to borrow billions of dollars at zero interest from the Federal Reserve, supposedly to prevent their collapse and to stimulate business loans. However, most of this money was used to buy U.S. Treasury bonds that pay them 3% interest for the billions of dollars they borrowed from the Fed at 0% interest.
Oct 18, 2010 - Killer Goats
Rarely does oddball news catch my eye, but here is a story about a goat stalking and killing man in Washington state. In addition to other worries, I now must watch out for rogue goats.
Oct 17, 2010 - Sports Rant
American Football is not popular overseas or with most women because the rules are too damn complicated. If the NFL wants to make more money, it needs to eliminate several illogical rules. For example, an ineligible receiver makes no sense. Who cares if they are downfield, or if a lineman catches a pass? It would be fun to see a 340 lb tackle catch a pass and run.
Same with all the complications about who can line up where prior to the snap. Let any player line up where they want and let every player run around and catch passes. The game would become simpler, more creative, and more interesting. Eliminating game delaying "penalties" for these senseless technical violations would also speed up the game.
A bigger change would eliminate the "extra-point" BS. What's that all about? Score a touchdown, then move on to a kick-off to play the game. The game delaying extra-point silliness means wimpy soccer players from Europe are always the NFL's leading scorers.
Oct 14, 2010 - Don't Stop Foreclosures
One of the most idiotic ideas is that Obama must stop home foreclosures. Why, so some people can live in nice houses rent free while others live in cramped apartments and pay rent? There are cases of paperwork errors and fraud, but 99% of foreclosures happen because people aren't making payments. This is because they gambled on home prices rising forever and bought more than they can afford. Many made easy money in past years speculating on houses, but now they lost.
Most others lost jobs, but that is a job problem not a housing problem. They should move into a small apartment or with relatives, like other unemployed persons. I would require that banks offer people the option of renting their foreclosed home at market prices. The banks would benefit too. But if they can't afford renting, its time to move on. Another option is a federal program to buy a million modest foreclosed homes for a ten-year period and turn them over to local government housing authorities, which can incorporate them into their subsidized housing programs for low income people.
A new controversy has arisen in some areas because charities want to help the poor. They buy or rent large houses in nice suburban neighborhoods. They find poor families living in urban slums on government assistance. They sign up three of these families to pool their low-rent money and cram them into a nice three-bedroom home in an upscale suburb. The neighborhood and schools are great! They are happy, but most neighbors are furious that a dozen poor and usually minority people are slumming in their expensive hood, parking old cars along the street. They complain to their city council, but nothing is illegal.
On the plus side, this illustrates the problems of unemployment and poor education to those hiding in the suburbs, and improves local high school basketball teams. My favorite school/sports movie is "Coach Carter", which you must see. It steps on some toes by showing that many parents care more about high school sports than education.
Oct 13, 2010 - Was Churchill Worse than Hitler?
I just finished Pat Buchanan's new book: "Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War". Good read. All our official history is government propaganda. Sane people agree that America's entry into World War I was a horrible mistake. The war was a stalemate by 1916 and the cause of the war were ill thought alliances, so a truce would have resulted. Instead, American intervention encouraged two more years of senseless fighting that nearly destroyed the major European powers. As a result, the communists took power in Russia and the punitive Armistice was a disaster that resulted in World War II.
Buchanan asserts that World War II was a mistake as well. Hitler was a bad guy, but desired an empire to the East, and the evil Soviet Union was his target. He never wanted war with the West, and admired Great Britain. Buchanan exposes Winston Churchill as a crazed warmonger who destroyed the British Empire by pushing it into World War I and World War II. In 1938, Poland's dictator joined Germany and Hungary in gobbling up the post World War I British creation of Czechoslovakia. Hitler then courted Poland as an ally against Stalin.
But Poland's dictator was arrogant, insulted Hitler, and refused to discuss a Danzig rail corridor to East Prussia, which other nations thought a reasonable demand. After Hitler moved troops to threaten Poland, the British prime minister made a rash decision to declare Poland an ally. This made Poland's dictator confident so he refused any talks with Hitler, who invaded and crushed Poland. Hitler hoped that Britain and France were bluffing about war, and forbade anything but defensive combat on the French frontier, but changed his mind after Anglo-French aggressions. One can only guess how things may have turned out if the British had not foolishly promised to back Poland. Although World War II was "won", it killed tens of millions of people, destroyed much of Europe, and left half of Europe under communist tyranny.
Pat Buchanan deserves great credit for discussing the real history of the "Good War". This contrasts with Tom Brokaw's simplistic 1998 "The Greatest Generation", from which he pocketed millions of dollars for writing a propaganda tale that implies the greatest achievement of our nation is fighting wars. World War II combat veteran Paul Fussell wrote several honest (and unpopular) books about war. He noted that only one million Americans volunteered for World War II, mostly because they needed jobs during the economic depression. The other 11 million were drafted and spent the war disgruntled and scheming for a discharge. Only later did they recall their unselfish crusade for freedom.
Oct 12, 2010 - Permanent Unemployment
As I've blogged before, the biggest problem facing the USA is widespread unemployment, which is over 20% of the workforce. This excellent chart shows a rarely mentioned part of the problem -- population growth requires more jobs each month. While some 8.1 million jobs have been lost since 2008, another 3.4 million jobs were needed for our growing population. Maybe this doesn't affect you directly, but it affects some of your children, friends, neighbors, or relatives.
Every modern nation has a system of benefit payments for their unemployed, but the USA only has benefit payments for up to six months, which is often extended during recessions. Unemployment is considered temporary in the USA since new jobs are supposedly available. The USA has a traditional attitude that every healthy adult should work, and that free enterprise magically produces the needed jobs. However, technological advances, free trade, and outsourcing have destroyed that concept.
There are minimal welfare programs for families, but Congress has cut those benefits. Moreover, there are no programs for unemployed singles. Since applicants abound, employers can be choosy, making it impossible for the fat, old, or criminally tainted to find jobs. Despite his talk, Obama has no solution other than temporary stimulus programs. This is a complex issue, but if this nation wants to remain a modern and Christian place, it needs to help the millions of excess workers.
Most money for economic stimulus programs end up as corporate profits. A better choice are minimum wage make-work jobs, like the "New Deal" CCC programs during our last economic depression. Small welfare checks are an easy solution, but subject to abuse. This means higher taxes for those lucky people with jobs. If they are envious of those on "welfare", they are welcome to quit their job and join their ranks. Ironically, many of those who oppose higher taxes to help the unemployed already receive a government check every two weeks.
I often mention ending foreign work visa programs and cracking down on illegal foreign workers as a job creator. Another idea is to return Social Security to a retirement plan, rather than an entitlement at age 65. Until a few years ago, people who worked past age 65 lost a dollar in Social Security for every two dollars they earned through employment. That was unpopular and complex, but our nation cannot afford to pay Social Security "retirement" to people who continue to work past age 65 and earn substantial income (over $40,000 a year). For example, half our Congressmen pocket $140,000 a year from our government, yet also collect Social Security "retirement" checks. If well-paid elderly workers are upset they cannot collect retirement pay, they can retire so a younger unemployed person can work. This would save our nation billions of dollars a year, and open up a few million jobs for the unemployed as more elderly workers retire at age 65.
Oct 11, 2010 - Happy Columbus Day
This is our nation's strangest holiday. Columbus was an Italian who was hired by Spain to confirm rumors that land could be found by sailing westward -- his real last name was Colombo. He kept a diary where he called the peaceful people he encountered "people with God" or indios in Spanish. For unknown reasons, most Americans think he called them Indians because he thought he landed in India. These people had bronze spearheads, which they obtained from black traders, and called them the same word for spearheads in West Africa. This makes sense when you look at a map to see west Africa is close to Brazil.
America was discovered by Asian "Red" Indians who migrated across the Alaskan ice age land bridge some 20,000 years earlier. There is also ample evidence that Polynesians sailed across the South Pacific to Chile prior to Colombo. There is hard evidence that the Vikings settled in America 500 years before Colombo, with village ruins discovered as far south as Maine. There is other evidence Vikings may have sailed into Canada's Hudson Bay and explored as far south as Minnesota. There are also "Blond Eskimos", a Inuit group in Canada's remote northern region where blue eyes are common.
Historians are unable to explain an edict by the Pope just two years after Colombo discovered the Caribbean with detailed descriptions that awarded South America's Atlantic coast to Portugal, which became Brazil. It is thought the Portuguese had been exploring and trading across the Atlantic decades prior, but kept this knowledge as a trade secret. It is thought that the Spanish crown dispatched Colombo to confirm rumors, which he did in a violent manner. History is fascinating, but the world powers don't approve of peasants discussing reality. They prefer rote memorization: "In 1492 Christopher Columbus discovered America." So shut up and honor Christopher Columbus for his great accomplishment.
Oct 10, 2010 - Asian-American Golfer Tiger Woods
Our media insists that Tiger Woods is "African-American" or a black American. I'm not sure how to describe his ethnic background since the accurate English word -- Negro, is now considered offensive. Are white South Africans who immigrate here African-Americans?
Tiger Woods is 75% Asian, and the rest a mix of black and white. His dad is half Chinese and half black/white aka Negro. His mom is half Chinese and half Thai. So why does our media ignore the success of this Asian-American? BTW, his dad is a retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel, which explains why he had so much free time to take young Tiger to the golf course.
Oct 9, 2010 - Army Generals Defeat Progress
I've expanding my Overseas Base Closure List with: Vacate Two Army Bases in Germany Two large bases were scheduled to close in 2010 and new facilities were built in the USA to accommodate their soldiers, but Army Generals sabotaged this Bush-Rumsfeld era common sense plan.
Oct 8, 2010 - Better Off Without Military Housing
Based on reader comments on my Oct 4th blog, let me add that married Americans would still join our military even without a housing allowance, and they would be better off. When someone joins our military, they are gone from home most of their first two years. Basic training eats up 3 months, another 3 months for specialty training, then a transfer to a third base, then a one-year deployment overseas or aboard ship. Dragging a young teenage wife behind to several strange bases with no friends puts strain on everyone since the husband does not come home most nights. It is far better for her to remain among family and friends back home until her GI spouse finishes initial training and first deployment.
Oct 7, 2010 - The Ultra-Rich Pay a Lower Tax Rate
American billionaire Warren Buffet studied the Bush tax cuts a few years back and concluded that billionaires pay a much lower effective tax rate than their secretaries. This is because the rich created new categories for their income so that it doesn't count the same as income from working. Earnings from stock dividends are not counted as regular income, so only a 15% tax rate is imposed. Standard and Poor's recently reported this added $274 billion to the nation's fiscal deficit from 2003 to 2010.
Income from stock and real estate gains not counted as income either, but called "capital gains". That tax rate fell from 20% to 15%. Hedge fund managers who pay themselves millions of dollars a year found a loophole where they are not paid "income" but "carried interest" that is taxed at the 15% capital gains rate. None of these special low-tax categories must pay the 7.65% FICA tax due on wages. Higher wage working people derive some benefits from tax breaks for the rich, but they would pay a much lower tax overall with a "flat tax" that would force billionaires to pay their wage tax rate.
Meanwhile, the billionaire's media spokes-models are trying to push their rates down further. They claim our economy is stagnant because businessmen and investors fear that higher tax rates on the rich will weaken the economy. Some are even pushing for a zero tax on "capital gains." This is pure greed. I agree with Robert Reich that our economy is stagnant because of a lack of demand, which is why businesses are not expanding. Consumers have less money to spend and are less willing to incur debt -- our saving rate is rising! Business is not expanding because it has excess capacity, so tax cuts for corporations and the rich will just be pocketed. For example, dividend payments rose $5.7 billion in the second quarter because corporations are earning lots of money, but not investing due to stagnant demand.
I don't see a good short-term solution to our economic woes. Greed and bad decisions these past three decades have made the USA a poorer nation. The best jobs program is to stop issuing work visas that allow corporations to import foreign slaves. Requiring the use of the successful E-Verify system by all employers would create a couple million more jobs as illegal foreign workers are fired and return home. Closing dozens of outdated overseas military bases and redirecting that spending to the USA is also a great jobs program.
Oct 6, 2010 - A Short History of the Tea Party
Many Republicans were very unhappy with George W. Bush. These "Goldwater Republicans" oppose a large centralized government, mass immigration, deficit spending, bank bailouts, massive military spending, overseas wars, and an empire of military bases. The corporate media once demeaned them as "isolationists" and Pat Buchanan articulates their views. However, they have been duped into supporting efforts by America's billionaires to support their effort to reduce taxes.
American billionaires are worried about the nation's economic turmoil, for which they are largely responsible. Millions of unemployed Americans are demanding help while declining tax revenues have resulted in record deficits. They fear this troublesome democracy thing may increase social spending along with tax increases, which are scheduled to return higher levels. Note: the Bush tax cuts are supposed to be a temporary economic stimulus, and were not permanent because that would bankrupt the nation. This is one reason the federal fiscal deficit has soared these past few years.
To thwart a working class rebellion, the billionaires exploited dissent by organizing a loose coalition of local groups into what they had their media empire dub -- the Tea Party. They funded these groups and appointed their leaders to lasso working class people into supporting their goal -- lower taxes for the ultra-rich. The working class anger about other issues were brushed aside as they appointed ambitious spokesmen like Sarah Palin to keep their tea partiers on message. They offered Palin so much money that she resigned as Alaska's Governor.
The Tea Party is in turmoil as many quit after it ignored their key objections (mass immigration, bank bailouts, massive military spending, and foreign wars) because billionaires profit from those rackets. The billionaires are pressing hard retain the Bush tax cuts for the rich, which is bad for the working class. A key element is the elimination of all taxes on inherited wealth, which fell to zero this year. Once the Bush tax cuts expire on Dec. 31st, those who inherit money will have to pay tax on any amount over $2 million. Since this affects less than 0.5% of Americans, it will represent an impressive display of manipulation of the democratic process if the billionaires succeed in permanently eliminating any tax on all their inherited income -- which is most of their income. Bill Gates' kids can pocket billions of dollars tax free and live like kings, yet their cooks, gardeners, drivers, and maids will pay taxes on their income.
The Tea Party has become a mouthpiece for the ultra-rich, focused on tax cuts and eliminating government benefits for the poor. Their media spins the idea that Obama and the Democrats must vote to end the Bush tax cuts. They needn't do anything, the tax cuts will expire just as their Republican authors and President Bush intended. If they fail, our nation's billionaires may soon go into hiding until Jan. 1st, lest they die from an accident and their lucky heirs collect their estate tax free. However, most are returning to the traditional tax dodge for the ultra-rich -- life insurance. Millions are spent on "life insurance" investment accounts each year where the principle grows and then all is paid out tax-free upon their death.
Oct 5, 2010 - BP Corners Tax Evaders
A big problem with compensating Gulf Coast fishermen from the BP oil spill has emerged. The government wants fisherman to submit records of how much they made in the past. The fishermen say they haven't such records because most of their business is done in cash. However, they must have income tax records that show how much they made. Right?
It seems these fisherman have been reporting just part of their income to the taxman for decades. Will they now admit to tax evasion in order to claim proper compensation?
Oct 4, 2010 - Cutting Military Family Costs
After a decade of rapid growth, the Pentagon is looking at restraining costs. Reducing budget growth is called a cut in the Pentagon. Secretary of Defense Gates has often expressed concern about the soaring costs of family medical care, but offered no solutions, as I did several years ago: Married Teenage Warriors.
I propose limiting family housing benefits to E-4s and above, phased in with new enlistees. This would save billions of dollars a year because people with families would be less interested in joining, and few GIs would marry until they make E-4 after around two years of service. The current system offers teenage GIs a house should they marry. This encourages hasty marriages that result in stress and even suicides when young GIs deploy overseas for a year. However, much of the savings will be a significant reduction in family medical costs.
Oct 3, 2010 - No Protestants on the Supreme Court
I like to comment on interesting issues that never appear in our corporate media. Racial diversity is a major topic, but religious diversity is rarely mentioned. Our nation is 51% Protestant, 25% Catholic, 2% Mormon, 2% varied Christian sects, 2% Jewish, 1% Muslim, 2% others, and 15% of Americans identify themselves as non-religious or not affiliated. As of 1994, the Supreme Court had five Protestant justices, two Catholics, and two Jews. Over the years, retiring Protestant judges were replaced only with Catholics and Jews, so today the nine-member court consists of six Catholics and three Jews, without a single Protestant!
I doubt this is an evil conspiracy, but our media never mentions this, and with all the effort at diversity, one might think the Protestant majority should have at least one seat on the Supreme Court, or perhaps a proportional representation of five seats. One might think President Obama is more sensitive to diversity, yet he replaced the last two retiring Protestants with a Catholic and a Jew. One might think that national leaders realized: "Gee, this looks awkward." Apparently, the corporate media agrees, so they ignore the issue. I don't think this is a conspiracy since all were nominated by Protestant Presidents, but it's undemocratic.
Oct 2, 2010 - I Endorse SUPERAntiSpyware
A few years ago, "PC Magazine" gave SuperAntiSpyware high marks for removing tracking cookies and spyware (viruses). The basic edition can be downloaded for free. I have used it for years and it works great , so I don't understand why its still free. Most free anti-virus downloads do not allow free updates or require a payment after a free trial ends. This company charges a small fee if you want automatic updates and automatic scans. However, I just do a free manual update and scan once a week or whenever my computer acts funny.
I no longer read the great "PC Magazine" to keep up to speed with technology, because it's no longer a magazine. They went on-line two years ago and stopped their monthly print edition. I read news and info a couple hours a day on-line, but I like print magazines like the "Economist" for when I don't want to tote my laptop around. I can stick a magazine in my pocket and read it while I'm waiting somewhere. I can't do that with "PC Magazine" anymore, and why pay to read tech articles on line when there is lots of other stuff that is free?
Oct 1, 2010 - Did Space Aliens Veto Nuclear War?
People wonder why alien space travelers don't openly visit Earth. One explanation can be found if you wander through a remote jungle. Whenever you see a small ant hill, will you walk over, crouch down and say: "Hi, I'm a higher life form here to help you." Likewise, advanced life forms may have no interest in our primitive planet.
There are human scientists who study ant colonies. There may be alien scientists who study our ant hill called Earth. Perhaps they became alarmed after the USA dropped two atomic bombs on Japan. The nuclear arms race began and perhaps aliens worried that their ants might destroy Earth, ending their interesting research project. (Gotta keep the grant money coming!)
Note that most UFO incidents occurred after the nuclear arms race began in 1950s. This week, CBS News reported that several former U.S. Air Force personnel went on record describing how nuclear weapons became inoperative after nearby UFO sightings. In the 1980s, the U.S. Navy revealed that in the 1960s it learned that all of the nuclear missiles deployed on its submarines were defective and wouldn't detonate.
We have lived under the threat of nuclear war for over 60 years. There have been close calls, like the Cuban missile crisis. A dozen nations have nuclear weapons on alert, and none have ever been used, or launched accidentally, or launched by a crazed General. Have we just been lucky, or have space aliens intervened at critical times? Have they disabled the launch codes that world leaders carry? Have they visited world leaders and made death threats should they use nuclear weapons. This explains why our government lost interest in bomb shelters and civil defense drills in the 1960s. This also explains why hard-line Soviet Premiers and American Presidents reduced their stockpile of nuclear weapons with START treaties. Why waste money on nukes if ET won't let you use them?
Sep 30, 2010 - Give Obama Credit
Most commentators on television are Republicans or Democrats first, and Americans second. I often bash President Obama, but he did succeed in saving the auto industry. Senior managers were replaced, several car models were discontinued, hundreds of car dealerships closed, and part suppliers narrowed down. The auto industry okay for now, although I think they should have pressed unions harder for pay concessions.
This success has upset free marketeers, who believe that free enterprise works perfectly. If we followed their advice, most of our airlines would have failed without help after 9-11. GM would have failed and gone into bankruptcy, and maybe closed down. Operating complex, massive corporations is not like a restaurant. If a huge, sophisticated corporation like GM or Boeing collapses, it may take decades for a group of investors to gather the financing and expertise to start up a multi-billion dollar replacement. We can import more goods, but then we lose jobs and devalue our dollar.
On the other hand, our nation will not miss a failed investment bank. Few people know the real reason Lehman Brothers collapsed so suddenly. Lehman had adopted a "brilliant" finance plan over the years. As the cost of short-term debt became cheaper than long-term debt, Lehman stopped issuing long-term bonds and began using the complex "credit default swap" market to borrow money. This system was so efficient and fluid that Lehman's financing became a line-of-credit where debt was rolled over at the end of each business day. This saved millions of dollars year from higher interest long-term bonds.
When facts and rumors began to surface about which investment banks might fail during the 2008 financial crisis, Lehman was considered at risk. All financial institutions had troubles, so some ended Lehman's virtual line-of-credit by refusing to lend them money. Other institutions learned of this, so within days no one would play "credit default swap" with Lehman, so they had zero cash. With no cash they could not function, nor pay employees. There were a few frantic days where they pleaded with the Fed and other banks to loan them money, but all refused. Within a week, they were forced to announce bankruptcy. Lehman didn't even have money to make payroll. Employees were sent an e-mail that they were laid off and to box their stuff and go home immediately.
Note: My 2010 blog has become too long on one page, so I will break it up next year. Long pages are a problem when a search engine takes you to a very long page. Explorer and FireFox have a tool to search a page. Click the Edit button at the top of the page, and a small search box will appear that will highlight your search term on that page.
Sep 29, 2010 - The US is a Police State
That is the title of a recent article by Republican Paul Craig Roberts. The FBI recently raided the homes of several anti-war activists around the nation to learn if they communicate with foreign groups. If any swapped emails or donated money to someone on the FBI's lengthy and every changing secret list of groups "associated" with terrorists, they can jail these Americans for providing "material support" to terrorists. Note they didn't have hard evidence for arrests, they were just fishing for information while intimidating those who protest America's perpetual wars.
Our corporate media ignored this story, and most Americans don't care since this doesn't affect them directly. But as Roberts points out, the Obama administration is following the Bush lead that criminalizes anyone who protests government actions, because protesting is terrorism. Obama recently dismissed legal action by civil rights groups attempting to stop him from authorizing the killing of U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism, who have not been convicted or even indicted for crimes. Obama and his sponsors have declared such activity is secret, so no one can discuss if assassinating Americans is legal.
Recall the Jose Padilla case, where the Bush Administration arrested a U.S. born citizen in Chicago. They moved him to a military brig after a federal judge ordered him released from jail because the Department of Justice had refused to charge him with a crime after three months detention. They had no evidence, just suspicions since Padilla had converted to Islam, moved to Pakistan for a couple years, and returned home. They tortured him for years in a South Carolina military brig and found no connections. If you don't recall this case, its because our corporate media thought it unfit to print.
Sep 28, 2010 - Be Careful What You Say in Church
The repression of free speech in the USA became legal with the passage of a 1954 law that prohibited non-profits from engaging in political activities. That sounds reasonable, but the IRS defines churches and any local club as a "non-profit", and "political activities" as discussing elections or political issues. The problem is the vast difference between a non-profit business, like the National Football League, organized to minimize federal taxation, and a local church or club that subsists on donations.
If someone at your local Moose club or church makes political statements or endorses candidates, the IRS may shut your group down and seize all property. This happens several times a year in the USA, when the IRS concludes that a group has not been operating as an apolitical "non-profit" but is really a political group. It demands back taxes for all "earnings" that were donations from members. If not paid, the IRS seizes property (a clubhouse or even church) and padlocks the doors. This happens in the USA, but our media is rarely informed or refuses report the story.
The media may be forced to cover this issue since a group of ministers have challenged this law -- in their churches. Dozens of pastors agreed to openly violate the law by expressing political views from the pulpit. The IRS is watching and investigating. The law is vague because: Is condemning war a political speech? Is it illegal for a minister to proclaim that all Americans deserve health care? Most sermons have a political or social message, so when does this break the law? This is currently decided in secret by government employees at the IRS, who act upon political directions from the White House.
All Americans should agree that donations are not income and that churches and clubs should not restrict free speech. These organizations should not be required to obtain IRS permission to operate or to file tax forms, so long as no one is profiting from their efforts. Any salaries paid should be taxable, just like any job. Meanwhile, the IRS should not have the power to shut down churches and clubs because someone in the government disapproves of their free speech.
Sep 27, 2010 - More Admirals than Ships
An Admiral is one who commands a fleet of ships. Naval operations have become more complex with aircraft, yet how many Admirals does a modern Navy need? Our Navy has shrunk from almost 600 ships in the Reagan era to 288 deployable battle force ships today, even though the Navy's budget is now bigger (even adjusting for inflation.) The main reasons are that sailors earn twice as much and shipyards charge much more. Another reason is that we have even more Admirals than during the Reagan years. We have 350 Admirals for our 288 ships! Keep in mind that an Admiral does not command an individual ship, but a fleet of ships.
Admirals are expensive because each one has a personal aide, a secretary, and a driver. They prefer flying around in ultra-expensive military executive jets, rather than mixing with the rabble to fly commercial first class. Cutting the number of Admirals would save money, but Congress needs to ask why 49% of Navy ships are always deployed. There is no imminent threat of war. Admirals deploy ships because it's fun to play war games and visit ships at sea. Yet this high "optempo" burns up fuel and wears out ships and crews. Congress should cut funding for Navy "steaming days" to save our Navy from its Admirals, and cut the number of Admirals too.
Sep 26, 2010 - Bashing a Bill Maher
Bill Maher, who says he is a libertarian, hates America's unemployed poor. He is an advocate for illegal immigration, thinking is a type of freedom. Maher and many Republicans and Democrats say that illegal aliens need a "path to citizenship". Did the USA sign a treaty that permits any of five billion poor people in the world the right to immigrate to the USA? Of course not, since no other developed nation would sign such a treaty. A survey conducted in Mexico was published a year ago concerning Mexican views on immigration to the USA. Here are some highlights:1. A clear majority of people in Mexico, 56 percent, thought giving legal status to illegal immigrants in the United States would make it more likely that people they know would go to the United States illegally. Just 17 percent thought it would make Mexicans less likely to go illegally.
2. Of Mexicans with a member of their
immediate household in the United States, 65 percent said a legalization program
would make people they know more likely to go to America illegally.
This survey backs common sense, that a second amnesty for illegal aliens would encourage millions more Mexicans to cross the border to await a third amnesty. However, since it would take a year to accept and process the millions of applications for a second amnesty, millions more Mexicans would rush across and apply, claiming they were in the USA when the amnesty was passed. In addition, after illegals obtain visas they are eligible for food stamps and other welfare programs.
Bill Maher and the U.S. Congress must decide if they care about America's poor and unemployed more than poor foreigners. Who deserves American jobs and government assistance, U.S. citizens or foreigners who violated our laws by entering illegally? If Bill Maher and others want to help poor foreigners, they can join the Peace Corps or donate to charity.
Recently, Maher began a disgusting campaign to embarrass Republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell by playing 1999 video clips of her in high school saying odd things that teenagers say. If videotape was common way back when Maher was in high school, someone could find odd things he said. How is this relevant to her Senate run over 20 years later? This is just childish mudslinging by a moron -- Bill Maher. There are many legitimate ways to attack O'Donnell's campaign without mocking her by playing ancient tapes of her high school ramblings and then demand that she comment.
Maher is funny and often makes great points, but I was disgusted a few years ago when he dismissed concerns about Israel's ethnic cleansing of the West Bank with "get over it". Maher stated that ethnic cleansing has gone on for centuries, so everyone should accept it and the Palestinians are the problem because they refuse to move to other Arab nations (to make room for new Jewish immigrants from Europe). I googled and learned that his mother is Jewish, although he claims not to be religious.
I am not a mindless Hollywood basher. The people of Hollywood have built America's strongest industry that still dominates the world. They employ hundreds of thousands Americans in high paying jobs. Hollywood stars represent the American dream of making millions of dollars in America's free enterprise system without complaining about high taxes. So keep that in mind the next time a career Republican Senator who has lived his life on the government dole takes a shot at the "socialists" in Hollywood.
Sep 25, 2010 - Fake Controversy
I've been asked to comment on the proposed "mosque" at "ground zero". Everyone knows about it since we've been fed hours of mindless TV "news". If it were never reported, no one would care, and even those who live in that area wouldn't notice it. Note that it will not be "built" at "ground zero". Local Muslims bought a vacant, old Burlington Coat store two blocks from the World Trade Center site and want to use it as a club. How is that controversial?
If you are a good American who believes in freedom of speech and religion, and the U.S. Constitution, its none of your business if Muslims pray and chat in their private club. If you think otherwise, you've watched so much TV that your mind has turned to mush. There are many Americans who don't like Jewish synagogues in their neighborhood, or churches without a cross on top -- Latter Day Saints aka Mormons. The real story is what forces are behind this attempt to inflame hatred in the USA. Fred Reed provides the best explanation.
I hate 9-11 each year because the week is filled with pointless "remembrances" to distract everyone from real issues, like two ultra-expensive and pointless foreign wars of occupation. I really hate it when some TV head calls all those who died on 9-11 "heroes". Do those fools even know what the word means? There were many people who acted heroically that day, but 95% of those who died were just innocent victims of a terror attack. They did nothing, but just happened to be there. If the media wants to report something interesting, it should investigate why the third WTC skyscraper collapsed, because it wasn't hit by an airplane and the official explanation is not credible.
Sep 24, 2010 - Greedy Millionaire Farm Owners
Politically powerful and wealthy American "farmers" are fighting efforts to curb illegal immigration. I put farmers in quotes because few farm anymore, they are wealthy owners who hire managers. An average "farmer" inherited a multi-million dollar farm and earns a million dollars a year. They fear an end to their post-slavery system of using desperate, poor Mexican immigrants to harvest crops. Second generation Mexican-Americans are "uppity" and refuse to slave away in tough conditions for low pay, so farm owners rely on the continual influx of new, desperate foreign workers. If this is stopped, they would have to raise wages from $7 an hour to $12 an hour to attract enough American workers, thus cutting their annual profit down to $800,000 a year.
As a result, farm owners have begun a media campaign to show that Americans can't do farm labor. The corporate media plays along, and reporters never ask the legal farm workers if illegal immigration pushes down their wages. They've enlisted the support of corrupt officials from weak farm workers unions. I say corrupt because: What union official would advocate illegal immigration that increases the labor pool of unskilled workers, thus driving down wages for their union members?
I described the racket of importing legal foreign workers in my Sep. 17 blog. Here is a recent case of a multi-millionaire Beverly Hills farm owner who doesn't even want to pay Mexican migrants $7 an hour, so he imported slaves from Thailand (probably starving Burmese). You'll never see that story on CNN. Now our federal government will have to pay to fly them home, but will probably grant them visas instead so they can apply for unemployment and welfare since they can't find jobs with California's massive unemployment. The only reason this scam was possible is because the federal government issued these slaves H-2 visas, and continues to issue thousands of new H-2 work visas each day!.
Why is it nearly impossible to land a job as an autoworker in the USA? These guys work standing up all day performing menial tasks. No one really wants that work, so why aren't auto factories filled with illegal aliens? The answer is that workers formed strong unions to earn impressive wages (I think too much) so even college graduates are turned away if they seek this tiring, back-breaking work. If our farm workers also averaged $25 a hour plus $40 an hour in benefits, it would be hard to find a farm worker job too.
Most American farm owners are just like most Americans -- greedy! They don't pay their farm workers enough. Greedy owners claim that if they had to pay Americans to do that work based on supply and demand free market principles, the price of things like strawberries might rise 30%. So what? Taxpayers would come out ahead since unemployment would be reduced, as well as crime and welfare. This common sense is not permitted on America's corporate TV. Even the PBS Newshour is mostly corporate sponsored and controlled, and their highly-paid teleprompter readers know that objecting to content is grounds for termination. It's just a matter of time before our TV news shows move to India or China where then can staff their studios with very cheap workers, or maybe they will use H-2 visas and import foreign workers.
Sep 23, 2010 - Skyramp Accepted!
As long-time G2mil readers know, I once put considerable effort into what I consider the next leap forward in space exploration -- assisted launch. G2mil has an entire Skyramp section dedicated to this concept. I noticed the idea has become more accepted in the space community over the past decade, and now even NASA is considering the idea.
Unfortunately, they ignore the vastly superior method of inclined launch or tunnel launch, because that would require a mountain spaceport. They insist on horizontal assisted launch because they want the spaceport to remain in coastal Florida. I guess no one wants to move out West.
Sep 22, 2010 - Crackpot Economics
I tire of hearing all the mindless crackpot economics on television. One insane notion is that the economic stimulus failed to simulate the economy. Of course it did! If a government spends hundreds of billions of dollars more, it stimulates the economy. If Bill Gates moves to your small town and spends a billion dollars locally, the economy will boom. It is mindless to say the "stimulus didn't work".
One can argue that money was misspent, or that it drove down the value of the dollar and made all Americans poorer. One can argue that the short-term stimulus will cause greater damage in the long-term when that debt comes due. For example, if you snort cocaine, you will feel better and your body will be stimulated, but is that a good long term solution to your depression? Our economy is still in shambles, but it would be worse in the short-term without the economic stimulus.
Look at how government spending has benefited military personnel. They received an 84% pay increase from 2000 to 2009 even after adjusting for inflation (compared to 9% for the private sector). As a result, military communities are now among the wealthiest in the USA.
The other criticism is that most of the money has not been spent. That is because major projects take years to plan and complete, and money isn't spent until work is done. If taxpayers want outrage, they should focus on the billions of dollars spent occupying Iraq, Afghanistan, Japan, Korea, and Germany. That is government stimulus money that only helps foreigners. The GAO recently reported that if Army Generals succeed in stopping the Rumsfeld era plan to move two of the U.S. Army's four combat brigades from Europe to the USA, the Army must spend billions of dollars to rebuild aging facilities in Germany.
Sep 21, 2010 - Let's Hike to Iraq!
A reader sends:
One of the accounts of OIF (If I remember correctly it was in was Bob Woodward's "Plan of Attack", not sure though) describes how months before the invasion of Iraq a group of US intelligence operatives disguised as hikers crossed over the border into Kurdistan. Their backpacks stuffed with millions of dollars in $100 bills, since anything smaller would have been too bulky to carry. Their mission was to embed themselves in the Kurdish community and from that base to develop contacts to bribable military leaders or high-level officials. To ensure their safety, they began generously throwing money around.
Soon everybody in that town was swimming in dollars, and the currency was replaced, especially since the writing was on the wall that the days of Saddam's regime were numbered and any bills with his face might soon not be worth the paper. Until the tribal elders came complaining that all of a sudden anything in their village costs a hundred dollars and were begging for smaller bills. That funny episode stayed in my head, and when the arrest of the Iran-hikers made the news, who could not be immediately be reminded? 7Been reading G2MIL for years. Thanks for constantly providing food for thought.
Sep 20, 2010 - Let's Hike to Iran!
A great example of our government controlled corporate media is the story of three American "hikers" arrested inside Iran. It widely known that the U.S. government and Israel are hostile to the Iranian government, and have covert programs to spy on Iran and seek ways to destabilize its government. So when three young Americans are caught crossing the Iranian border in a remote area, everyone in the world suspects they are agents up to no good.
Outsiders don't travel to remote and dangerous Kurdistan to go "hiking". Quick internet research reveals that all three are Jewish. They don't have jobs, yet plenty of money to "hike" around the Middle East. They had recently hiked around Syria; recall that Israel bombed a remote building in Syria three years ago where nuclear research was alleged. Finally, a local Kurdish policeman told the world press that he questioned them, and when they said they wanted to hike the mountains along the Iranian border, he told them that was not allowed. He said the border was not marked and was patrolled by the Iranian army, and there are plenty of other nice mountains in Kurdistan that they could enjoy.
It seems they were possibly working for the CIA or Israeli Mossad, attempting to infiltrate Iran from a remote region. They have the ideal cover to perform foot reconnaissance of the region to identify Iranian border outposts and map routes that commandos could use. Perhaps they were challenged to do their part in demonizing Iran by walking into that nation to provoke an incident. Perhaps they were just crazy or insanely curious young people. Note that one of the group declined to take part on that "mission", which demonstrates they knew it was dangerous and needed someone to call for help should things go wrong. This may have been their tenth "hike" along the border area.
This background is not newsworthy in the USA. Hours are devoted to covering this story, but they are always described as innocent "hikers", as though thousands of Americans hike along the Iranian border every year -- its just like the Alps! No need to confuse the public by noting they are Jewish, had recently traveled to Israel and "hiked" around Syria, have never worked after graduating from college several years ago, or who funds their perpetual odd travels. No, they are just "hikers" dammit, held by evil Iran for doing nothing! Their anti-war backgrounds suggests they are unlikely spies, yet that is the cover the CIA develops for most agents.
Perhaps they are just danger seekers traveling about on Daddy's money. We don't know. We do know that ALL American media outlets have censored this story, and that Iran has cause to suspect them of espionage.
Sep 17, 2010 - Importing Foreign Workers
One issue never discussed in DC or our corporate media are the million work visas issued to foreigners each year. Many have heard of the H-1B visa for skilled workers, which allows corporations to import lower paid workers (mostly computer workers from India) and lay off Americans. Public anger led to a reduction in that program, yet 50,000 Americans workers are still replaced each year. However, there are a host of other "temporary" work visas issued to over a million foreigners each year. They can bring their spouses and children too, so the anchor baby issue arises. If they have just one child born in the USA, then they are eventually entitled to a permanent family visa.
This is where all those odd taxi drivers come from. An employer just pays a filing fee and claims that he is unable to find Americans for certain jobs, and a visa is issued for foreigners to work here. They recruit desperate, poor workers who slave away at low wages and long hours and can't quit or complain, lest they be deported. If Obama openly denounced this racket and pressed Congress to end it, his ratings would jump 20 points and a million new jobs would be "created" for Americans each year.
ABC News shined some light on this racket when it recently reported that a dozen imported Chinese stonemasons are helping build the Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington DC. Dr. King would be outraged that foreign coolies were hired to work on his statue while poor, unemployed Americans stood around and watched. That was not his dream.
Sep 16, 2010 - I'm Back
I finally downloaded this website on my new computer. It wasn't hard, but I had only done that once and couldn't remember how. I used the manual to remember, but downloading was blocked, I think because the web host site now uses a "proxy" server. I googled and found a work around. I earn no money from this blog so priority is low, but I like to rant.
Aug 15, 2010 - Off the Net
I need to transition to a new computer, which make take a few days, or weeks if I get busy and technical problems arise. Please stand-by.
Aug 14, 2010 - Cut the Marines
I agree with Secretary Gates that the Marine Corps is too large and has become a second land army. It's larger than the British Army! The Marine Commandant recently agreed, and proved his point by announcing the Corps will add two more tank companies. I have long list of things that should be done, but first off, put Marines back on Navy warships. The Marines refused to provide "naval infantrymen" to serve aboard Navy ships to combat pirates off Somalia. When sharpshooters were needed to rescue the crew of an American merchant ship, Navy SEALs were flown in.
Assign an infantry regiment on each coast the mission of shipboard security and operations by deploying small Marine detachments aboard ships in the size of companies, platoons, or squads. These would be assigned to aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, or merchant ships as needed. Others would deploy for six months to beef up security at certain embassies and naval stations, and quickly redeploy worldwide as needed.
The three battalion headquarters and three weapons companies in each regiment would be eliminated to shed overhead, while three more rifle companies are added. (Note that the fourth rifle company in each Marine Corps infantry battalion was eliminated two decades ago to free manpower for more headquarters personnel.) The regimental headquarters would become a garrison training and administrative unit for the 12 deployable rifle companies. Companies would be led by a Major with a beefed up headquarters to handle administration and supply. I detailed this in an article nine years ago: Global Marines.
Aug 12, 2010 - Buy and Bail
I just read about the latest real estate game. I blogged last year about "walking away" from homes that are worth much less than when they were purchased, even if the owner can afford payments. Banks usually don't purse them for losses, and this is not permitted in some states. The person gets a black mark on their credit report, but that falls off after seven years.
However, some people want to own a home for the tax write-offs and investment potential. They can buy another home, using potential rental income in their current home to help qualify for another mortgage. Then they bail out of their old home and walk away from the debt. For example, someone bought a $1,000,000 home in 2006 that is worth $650,000 today, yet they still owe $940,000 on it. Their solution is to buy an identical "million dollar home" for $650,000 with a $615,000 mortgage, move there, then "walk away" from the old home with the $940,000 mortgage debt.
Aug 9, 2010 - Men and Women ARE Different
I just learned that the index finger of women is longer than their ring finger, which is not the case with men. That trivia may be helpful if one has doubts about the odd looking "lady" in the room.
Aug 7, 2010 - Flood Afghanistan with Television
Some commentators argue that television has pacified the American people. There is so much to watch on TV that Americans haven't the time or interest in politics or rebellion. One of my ideas for winning COIN in Afghanistan is to flood the nation with television. Small satellite dishes can grab content from space and rebroadcast throughout Afghanistan. American soldiers could become popular distributing millions of televisions sets around the nation. Basic 20-inch flat color TVs can be purchased in bulk for less than $100 each, so a million of these would hardly be noticed in our annual war budget for Afghanistan.
Afghan TV would include a sports channel with their favorite -- soccer, as well as soap Operas, Hollywood movies, cartoons, Discovery, and useful shows like English language classes and educational shows like "This Old House." These would all be in English, which would encourage everyone to learn English, their new national language (see Jul 28 entry). That is a major benefit from this program to establish a nation of TV addicts.
A second benefit is goodwill. The USA spends billions of dollars attempting major infrastructure improvements. This is difficult in a warzone, takes years to complete, requires massive security, and costs billions. Flooding the nation with TV costs very little. While the Taliban insist that the Americans have only brought death and destruction, villagers would think, but they brought us TV! A third benefit is that pro-government educational (or propaganda) messages can be inserted between programs.
A fourth benefit is that most young Afghans would become "couch potatoes" and prefer to watch TV rather than seek excitement with a local revolutionary group. Taliban leaders would have trouble recruiting locals to spend hours building and burying IEDs because they prefer to stay at home and watch soccer or another "Terminator" movie or MTV or laugh at "Tom and Jerry" cartoons. As a result, the Taliban may begin to seize TVs from villagers, yet that would invoke great hatred from Afghans. Meanwhile, the arrival American GIs each week or month would be cause for celebration as they hand out some new TVs. However, even Taliban leaders would find themselves distracted from plotting attacks by the warm glow of TV.
Aug 5, 2010 - Obama's Hit List
The most outrageous news about the Obama administration has been mostly ignored. He has openly stated his right to execute American citizens without trial, specifically a American cleric in Yemen. Why not obtain a criminal indictment and issue an arrest warrant, since Yemen says its our ally in the war on terror? If that fails to yield results, he might be "accidentally" killed in an anti-terror strike. But what is the point of making a mockery of American rights and laws by publicly putting him on a hit list? Obama has no authority to whack U.S. citizens at will, which is why past U.S. President's kept their hit list secret. This case has become more obscene because the Feds refuse to allow the ACLU to challenge his death sentence in court by arguing that would be providing material support to a designated enemy combatant.
I find it bizarre that supposed left-wing "activists" follow corporate media directions and deploy to Arizona to express outrage about a minor state law that allows police to ask about someone's immigration status. Police can ask for your name, address, date of birth, SSN, if you use drugs, if you have been drinking, where you work, if you have been arrested, what are you doing -- just about anything. But asking foreigners if they are here legally is forbidden. The horror! Why not deploy to D.C. to protest Obama's personal hit list?
The other end of the nutcase spectrum can always be found at military.com Our military culture has been twisted to the point of nonsense, so most GIs proudly state they will give their life to protect American freedoms. However, reading the comments at that link shows mindless hatred of the ACLU for challenging Obama's claim of Mafia Don powers to "off" troublesome Americans. Most people don't understand that the ACLU does not think he is innocent, but that ALL Americans are entitled to a trial so the facts can be presented and debated, lest one day political opponents of the President find themselves gunned down.
Aug 3, 2010 - The Supermajority Wimps
The Democratic party must juggle the demands of its corporate sponsors with that of working class citizens. A key strategy is to claim that having a solid majority in both houses of Congress doesn't mean it can pass legislation because 60 "filibuster proof" votes are needed in the Senate. As I blogged before, this is complete BS. The filibuster is just a Senate rule that Democrats can change, and it seems several Democratic freshmen Senators agree and are trying to dismantle this artificial roadblock. Senior Democratic Senator Chris Dodd is trying to thwart their effort by arguing majority rule is a bad idea.
Aug 1, 2010 - Wow! Afghanistan is next to Iran
Before I continue with ideas to win COIN in Afghanistan, let me add that this is not the main reason we are there. A key objective of American foreign policy is to support Israel, no matter what it does. Muslim citizens object to the gradual ethnic cleansing of the West Bank, so we keep them repressed with corrupt pro-Western dictatorships. Iran is not under our control, and is therefore "evil". We haven't the military resources or political will to invade and occupy Iran, which has three times the population of Iraq. Bombing Iran is often discussed, but that will just irritate Iran and the world, and put our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan in great danger.
The best option is a complete economic embargo. If the USA can pressure or trade favors with Russia and China to approve a full embargo, it can justify a naval blockade. However, Iran will continue to use its backdoor through Pakistan. While Pakistan is supposedly an ally, the nation is run by Generals who do what they want to make money. The UN trade restrictions against Iran have allowed great smuggling profits. The Chinese funded a major expansion and modernization of the Pakistani port of Gwadar, next to Iran's border. This is in the remote province of Baluchistan, whose people speak their own language and dislike directions from distant Pakistani leaders. Anything can be shipped to the big Gwadar port and easily smuggled into Iran.
In addition, Pakistan has the nuclear weapons and missile expertise that Iran lacks. Finally, China has huge energy demands and may build pipelines to Iran -- plans have been approved but construction has yet to begin because of American objections. The only way to choke Iran is to shut its back door to Pakistan, with diplomacy, military threats, bribes, and special ops in pursuit of "terrorists". This may lead to a CIA inspired Baluch revolt and independence movement, which has happened before. American "peacekeepers" could dash across the border to support Baluch allies.
This explains why we are in Afghanistan with 100,000+ troops and why the surge is focused in the south. There are many more al Qaeda in Yemen, Saudi, Somalia, Sudan, and other terrorists in Lebanon, but we have almost no forces in these nations. We don't need 100,000 troops in Afghanistan to keep maybe 100 powerless al Qaeda leftovers in check. Our troops are there to shut Iran's back door, somehow. This explains why the recent surge of U.S. Marines into Afghanistan were not committed to a logical mission of increasing security around Kabul and its fragile ground supply line from Pakistan. The Marines are fighting in Helmand along the Pakistan border in the remote south after constructing a major airbase there. Also note that Congressmen Kucinich and others were ignored by the corporate media when they recently complained about American combat troops operating in Pakistan.
I realize this is a shock to those who rely on corporate American media for "news" or spin that comes out of the Pentagon. I didn't realize this possibility myself, until I read a few articles at the excellent Asia Times. Would Obama announce that we are sending 100,000 troops to invade Southern Pakistan so we can choke Iran into submission so that Israel can continue to expand without fear? Or might he throw out some BS about terrorists and freedom? Once again, none of the 9-11 hijackers were Taliban and none trained in Afghanistan. OBL didn't even know about the attack until after it happened. The hijackers were Saudis, the attack planned by a Kuwaiti with training in Germany in the USA. So why are all our "anti-terror" forces in a remote nation that poses no threat?
Jul 28, 2010 - Winning COIN
Counterinsurgency (COIN) has always interested me. I've thrown stones at the Pentagon in this blog for its fouled up COIN strategies, yet no one has offered me a million dollar contract to tell them how to win the war. As a result, I will provide this valuable advice at no charge. The overall strategy is very long-term, with a far smaller annual expenditures.
The first problem is that Afghanistan is made up of more than a dozen major ethnic groups that have no common language. A nation must have one language. A great example is Singapore, the most prosperous nation in Asia, with a higher standard of living than Japan. As the colonial English planned for its independence, it had to choose an official language to please the three main ethnic groups -- Malay, Chinese, and those from India. English was chosen as a compromise.
The two main languages in Afghanistan are Pashto and Dari (Farsi/Iranian). However, there are many odd dialects and millions of Afghans speak neither of these languages. In addition, none of these languages are common outside Afghanistan, which limits their access to information via the Internet or television. There is no regional language to adopt since all its neighbors speak varied non-international languages.
Therefore, the first step is to proclaim English as the national language of Afghanistan. All government communications will be in English, as well as all road signs and television news. All schools and universities will teach English and conduct classes in English. Some Afghan elders will object, because they know their obscure local language limits outside information to their people. However, English is the semi-official language of nearby Pakistan for the same reasons it should become the official language of Afghanistan.
This will eventually solve the major obstacle to developing Afghanistan. English will promote international trade, encourage tourism, allow Afghans access to Internet information, and allow foreign firms to build and operate factories. Afghans will be able to read manuals, books, newspapers, and speak with foreigners. This will greatly enhance cooperation with the U.S. military, while the U.S. military is eventually freed from the burden of paying for expensive translators with dubious skill levels. Afghans will also learn to love American movies and television. The best part is that establishing English as a national language will not cost much money, and finally provide a role for the thousands of American aid workers -- teaching English!
It will take a decade for this effort to yield results, yet it once it takes hold Afghanistan will rapidly catch up with the world. In addition, the ancient ethnic conflicts will subside once all Afghans can speak to each other and understand the outside world. Finally, traditional ties to cross-border tribes will weaken when Afghans can no longer speak with them. Afghans will see them as backward "foreigners."
Jul 26, 2010 - TMZ Punks
I have watched parts of that obnoxious TV show "TMZ" in which smug stalkers chase down celebrities and harass them. Many powerful Hollywood celebrities have been ambushed and embarrassed by these overgrown brats, whose rude behavior is glamorized by TMZ. These punks attempt to provoke irritated celebrities into saying something nasty or to threaten them, or maybe punch or knock them down. They encourage freelance teenagers to make "news" in the same way.
There is nothing wrong with reporting embarrassing news, but the street paparazzi ambushes and the obnoxious gotcha questions are rude, uncivilized, yet are promoted as "entertainment". This is the entertainment business, so why do Hollywood powerbrokers tolerate this show? It is owned by Warner Bros, so I don't understand why the Hollywood elite don't join forces and crush this show, by boycotting Warner Bros or some other method. They are worth billions of dollars, so why do they tolerate this minor show that profits from harassing them on the streets and lowering the civility of the nation at large?
Jul 25, 2010 - More Nuclear Energy is Bad
If anyone researches the future of nuclear energy, like I have, they realize that building new nuclear power plants is a horrible idea. It is not because nuclear energy is unsafe and disposing of nuclear waste is difficult, although those are issues. Half of the fuel used in American nuclear power plants comes from Russia. This is the result of a deal over a decade ago where the USA pays to dismantle old Soviet nuclear weapons, and gets the plutonium warheads, which are disassembled and reprocessed into usable nuclear fuel. This program ends in 2013, while China is building dozens of nuclear power plants that require fuel. As a result, there will be a major uranium shortage in the coming years, and mine production is not expanding. High-grade uranium deposits are limited and difficult to mine, so expanding production is not simple, and no effort is underway.
Another issue is the USA has recently decommissioned several nuclear power plants due to age, with a dozen more to follow in the coming decade. It would be far more cost effective to refurbish these old sites rather spending billions of dollars to decommission them while building new sites. These plants already have the land, containment domes, buildings, roads and electrical grid access. It would cost half as much and take half the time to rebuild these plants with new cores and computers and systems rather than building new plants from scratch.
These facts are not secret, but there are companies and political leaders seeking new nuclear power plants to make profits, and prefer to overlook to fuel problem. In addition, building new plants is very expensive and requires substantial federal subsidy funds, which should be spent refurbishing recently decommissioned plants, or those scheduled to close. Meanwhile, more dams for hydroelectric power is the best option, and to provide fresh water, recreation, and help control floods that destroy billions of dollars in real estate and farmland each year. Wind is also promising, but solar power is still too expensive.
Jul 20, 2010 - Will BP Pay?
British Petroleum has promised to pay all costs associated with its deepwater oil well disaster. Will Obama send them a bill for a couple of billion dollars in costs to the federal government for the Coast Guard assistance and the thousands of National Guard troops cleaning beaches?
Jul 19, 2010 - The Non-Existent Tea Party
It is interesting to watch our corporate media manage political opposition to its Republican/Democratic duopoly that controls the USA. Many Republicans dislike the leadership of their party and have formed small, local groups. The media has dubbed these groups the "Tea Party" and attempted to assign leaders, like Sarah Palin. The media will not mention the major gripe of these people. These conservatives oppose the massive military spending and foreign wars that are helping bankrupt the nation. Recently, the media decided to crush these opposition groups by continually implying they are racists. Of course there are some racists in their ranks, yet far more racists exist within the two major parties, and they are not all white.
Jul 17, 2010 - Perpetual War
I just finished reading "The Secret Team" (see Jul 11 entry). This is a must read for those who want to know who really runs the USA. Col. Prouty described how President Eisenhower's peace efforts threatened the Military-Congressional-Industrial complex. How the CIA sent a U-2 spy plane on an unscheduled and unauthorized mission over Russia just two weeks before a major peace summit that might end the Cold War. The U-2 was sabotaged by the CIA so it's engine quit and the pilot, Gary Francis Powers, survived along with his official military ID and other military papers that were never carried on other U-2 flights. The CIA didn't even tell the White House that the U-2 had crashed, so the USA strongly denied Soviet claims until Powers appeared on Soviet TV. Eisenhower was shocked and embarrassed, but decided to accept the blame rather than admit he lacked control over U.S. military assets. That ended his peace efforts as he left office soon after.
Col. Prouty revealed how the "Bay of Pigs" was a fouled up CIA operation that was never approved by any President. Eisenhower had approved some small ops, but blocked any major attempt to overthrow Castro. After President Kennedy came into office, the Bay of Pigs operation was underway as the CIA told the newly arriving Kennedy clan that it was an ongoing covert op approved by Ike. When it failed, Kennedy was blamed by the CIA, even though he nor his staff were fully briefed on the size and the complexities of that risky effort. I've always found it interesting that two large ships used to land forces at the Bay of Pigs belonged to George W. Bush's offshore oil company.
Col Prouty wrote that escalating the Vietnam conflict from a minor Cold War sideshow into a major military fight was an effort by some Army Generals and the CIA to maintain a large Army. The post World War II doctrine focused on nuclear war, so the Army began shrinking as major ground units were considered outdated. CIA ally General Maxwell Taylor discovered counterinsurgency was the Army' savior, and began pushing for a major American military operations in Vietnam. Kennedy not only opposed the effort, but planned to pull all U.S. military advisors out of Vietnam after his reelection and let the Vietnamese fight it out. Kennedy was killed, and President Johnson knew why, so he let the boys play their game over there. Note how COIN allowed the U.S. Army to remain mobilized after the end of the Cold war, with perpetual wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The CIA disliked President Nixon, as he was Ike's VP and one of those crazy peace lovers. The CIA knew the USA would have to leave Vietnam due to public outrage, so it leaked the "Pentagon Papers" to embarrass Nixon. Prouty notes those documents were carefully selected and edited to place the failure of the war on the U.S. military, rather than the CIA. He revealed that the leaker was a covert CIA agent, Daniel Ellsberg, which is why he was never prosecuted.
After Nixon pulled U.S. troops out of Vietnam, he upset many by improving relations with China and the Soviets. He also demanded files regarding the Kennedy assassination, but was only given a small summary. When he demanded more, he was told those were restricted "need to know" files, and Nixon didn't have clearance. A frustrated Nixon began to press the issue, so the CIA set him up for a scandal. Recall the "bungling" Watergate burglars were old CIA hands from the games in Cuba, and openly identified themselves as CIA employees after their arrest. Recall that Nixon never knew or approved of the Watergate break-in, yet was forced out of office, so his peace efforts died along with demands for information about the "Kennedy thing." Also, note that the newspaper that pursued the seemingly minor Watergate story with a secret "deep throat" source was the "Washington Post," which is an established CIA ally and propaganda arm.
Jul 14, 2010 - Arizona's Popular Law
According America's corporate media, Arizona passed a law allowing police officers to inquire if someone is legally in the USA because most Arizonans are racist. That is so absurd that a majority of Americans support the Arizona law. Does that make the majority of Americans racist, even though that same majority elected President Obama?
The basic problem is that the Border Patrol hasn't the resources to immediately respond when local police encounter people they suspect are illegal immigrants. Since the federal government has little interest in the problems caused by mass illegal immigration, local citizens are demanding their police protect them. One solution is to arrest suspected illegal immigrants and hold them until the Border Patrol comes by to pick them up, something it does almost daily to gather illegals arrested for other crimes. Here are four situations where local police could apply this law.
1. A street cop in Yuma sees a Mexican gang banger hanging around a street corner. He knows this for sure because he arrested the guy for dealing drugs two years ago. He knows the guy is illegal and was sentenced to one year in jail, and was deported afterwards. It seems the guy walked back across and is probably selling drugs for his gang. He wants to arrest this guy knowing the Border Patrol won't dispatch a unit to arrest him. Yet he has no cause, only "suspicions" this guy is illegal. Now he can arrest him with this new state law, and even drive him directly to the nearby Border Patrol detention station.
2. A sheriff on a highway south of Phoenix sees an old van at 1 am. It has lots of orange dirt, like a vehicle that has been driving off pavement, and is riding low to the ground because it is heavily loaded. He pulls it over to find two dozen Mexicans with backpacks crammed in the back, sweating from the heat and asking for water. The van driver claims he is just driving friends to Phoenix, but doesn't know their names. The frightened passengers don't speak English and have no ID. They claim they live in Phoenix, but don't know their address and don't recall their social security number. The Border Patrol can't respond for several hours, so should the sheriff send everyone on their way, or detain them on "suspicion" and keep them in jail until the Border Patrol picks them up later?
3. Local police have received several complaints about a group of men living in makeshift tents near the railroad tracks next to a nice subdivision. Trash is piling up and the area smells of camping fires. A nearby resident who speaks Spanish reports that he approached some when they were "dumpster diving" around the neighborhood, and is certain they are illegals. He and his neighbors think this group is responsible for the two recent burglaries in the neighborhood.
Several police officers show up at the crude camp to confront the group of men. Two try to run away but are chased down. None speak good English, none have ID, and none recall their social security number. They are nice guys who state they have green cards, but lost them, and can't recall their alien number. They can't afford an apartment because they can't get jobs. There is no Border Patrol station for a hundred miles, and the police know they won't respond to a complaint. Should the local police tell citizens they are powerless, or arrest the foreign campers on "suspicion" and transport them to a Border Patrol detention facility?
4. Arizona police arrest several people every week for DUI who have no driver's license. They claim they lost it and can't remember their social security number. Fingerprint checks turn up nothing, so the routine is to release them without bail until their court appearance. Police suspect they are illegal immigrants who gave them a fake name and will never show up for court, but had no cause to hold them. The new Arizona law allows a felony charge for illegal entry, so they can be held until a court date, and then picked up by the Border Patrol.
I have lived near the Mexican border for most of my life -- in San Antonio, Chula Vista, Laredo, and Las Vegas. I speak Spanish (and Mexican [an inside joke]) and many of my friends are of Mexican descent. We can pick out an illegal by the way they dress and even their accent. Most are "Sur" from Southern Mexico or from Central America. They are a different breed from the traditional "Nortenos" from along the border. Some are "Indios" who don't speak decent Spanish.
As part of its "racist" campaign to keep cheap labor flowing across the border, corporate America often displays wealthy, articulate, educated people with some Spanish blood on TV, and pretends they may be harassed in Arizona because of profiling. I saw the singer Shakira claim the law frightened her, and even faux Latin American, Governor Bill Richardson, agreed that he could be questioned about his status.
This spin is laughably absurd. It doesn't matter what you look like, if you have a valid state driver's license you are not suspect. If you "lost" your driver's license yet speak decent English and know your social security number and home address, you are not suspect. But if you are confronted by a policeman for sleeping in a park, drinking beer behind a 7-11, or loitering in front of Home Depot for two hours, and have no ID, speak limited English, and don't know your social security number or alien number, you may be questioned further. If a name/date of birth computer check turns up nothing, and you don't recall your home address, police will find that "suspicious" especially if you are with a group of men with the same lack of ID.
All this media hysteria is a corporate assault on the power of local people to use democracy to force change, and is now being spun as an excuse to push through a second illegal immigration amnesty disguised as "reform". It is laughable to watch these corporate spinmasters on TV insist they don't support another amnesty. Yet they say we must forgive the illegal issue and allow them to remain and work in the USA and provide them with a "pathway to citizenship", which would not be available to aspiring immigrants outside the USA. They claim this is the only choice, but reasonable action is blocked by "politics" and "racism." They make bizarre claims that deporting illegals is impossible, even though around 300,000 a year are already deported.
Meanwhile, corporate strongmen seek legal and business reasons to punish Arizona for resisting their control, and their chief enforcer, Barak Obama, has begun to act. He may be successful even though half of Democratic Congressmen oppose amnesty, because most Republicans quietly support "immigration reform". Bi-partisan legislation to slip through another amnesty that is strongly endorsed by our corporate media may succeed despite overwhelming public opposition.
Jul 12, 2010 - Musical Piracy
I don't feel sorry for popular singers who gripe about musical piracy. At one time, they had to travel and sing every night to make money. Vinyl records came along and allowed them to become multi-millionaires for singing a tune. CDs came along and made it even more profitable, and now the Internet allows them to sell their music at no real cost. However, the technological advances that made them rich now allows piracy, so they make much less. However, reproducing a song they once sung is no effort on their part, so they should quit griping and enjoy the fact that they can still make millions of dollars by crafting a snazzy jingle.
Jul 11, 2010 - The Real CIA
I am reading "The Secret Team" by Fletcher Prouty. This was first published in 1973 and was hard to find as thousands of copies disappeared from warehouses and publishers were intimidated from publishing again. It was finally reprinted in 2008 and provides great insight into how the CIA really operates. The author was a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel who served as a liaison officer between the Pentagon and the CIA from 1955 until 1963. The events he describes are dated, but are similar to the way the CIA operates today.
Col. Prouty continually emphasizes that the CIA was created to summarize intelligence from dozens of federal agencies, and was never intended for covert ops. However, the law allows it to perform missions when directed by the NSA. The NSA is supposed to be a council of senior executives of the executive branch, but they are short-term leaders who are too busy to oversee the CIA, so that is left to the NSA staff. However, the CIA has found ways to ensure that only covert ops advocates staff the NSA. If a political leader wants to place someone on the NSA staff that the CIA did not recommend (indirectly through its NSA staff minions) it finds problems granting them security clearances. Everyone has old secrets that the CIA can investigate for months until that person becomes tired or aggravated and withdraws himself from consideration.
Col. Prouty describes how the CIA is far larger and far more powerful than most people suspect. It has agents and stringers in every federal agency, including thousands in the U.S. military. These people provide "intelligence" directly to the CIA director and assist in other ways, in exchange for likely promotion to senior positions. If a file needs to be read, altered, or destroyed, they assist, unknown to their co-workers. He writes that the CIA rarely spies on average Americans because it is busy spying on everyone in Congress and all federal agencies. The CIA uses this network to manipulate investigations and reports to support its efforts.
The biggest advantage to this arrangement is that CIA friends provide the agency with equipment and logistical support. He writes the U.S. military provides vast support to the CIA "off the books" with the help of its covert agents. This is explains why the Pentagon is unable to account for billions of dollars in expenditures each year. Col. Prouty notes the CIA is sometimes successful at covert ops, but usually screws up large operations because of its fixation with secrecy. It fails to consult available experts and keeps information very compartmentalized, so components are unable to coordinate efforts. CIA agents seek glory and advancement, so they find national security threats everywhere they look. They engage in "fun and games" operations that often expand into major wars, resulting in huge foul-ups like the Bay of Pigs fiasco in Cuba, the Laos adventure, and many events during the Vietnam war. When covert operations run into trouble, the CIA is unable to request emergency help from American assets because key players in the White House and the Pentagon were never briefed or approved of the questionable action.
Many people accused President George W. Bush of "living in a bubble" where the information he received was carefully crafted by advisors. President Obama seems to act on this limited and skewed information because he and his staff are hostage to daily CIA briefings about what's going on in the world. This is a tradition as Col Prouty noted the CIA controls what information the President, his staff, and the NSA hear, under the guise of inside intelligence. He noted the CIA: "is in position to make the President and his principal advisors virtually its prisoners, in the sense that it has a legal claim to their valuable time. Day by day the CIA tells these men what it wants them to hear, what it thinks they should hear."
Jul 10, 2010 - Immigration Reform is Amnesty
A key goal of the billionaires who control the USA is to push through another amnesty to encourage more mass illegal immigration to the USA. They did this successfully in 1986 with President Reagan's promise that it would solve the illegal immigrant problem and that tighter border enforcement and employer sanctions would stop the flood. They lied, and another 20 million illegals have pushed across, driving down wages and overwhelming cities with poor, desperate economic refugees. Note that those who cross the USA border illegally are called "illegales" in Mexico, an accurate word that was adopted into English. They are not "undocumented." They are not animals, they have documents, just not the ones needed for legal entry and work in the USA.
Driving down wages is a key goal of corporate America, whose executives believe this is needed to remain profitable in face of "free trade" with slave labor nations, like China and India. This is clearly expressed by their official political organization, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. With unemployment at over 20%, their political position on this issue remains:
"Continue to push for comprehensive immigration reform that: increases security; has an earned pathway to legalization for undocumented workers already contributing to our economy, provided that they are law-abiding and prepared to embrace the obligations and values of our society; creates a carefully monitored guest or essential worker program to fill the growing gaps in America's workforce recognizing that, in some cases, permanent immigrants will be needed to fill these gaps; and refrains from unduly burdening employers with worker verification systems that are underfunded or unworkable."
They know that another "amnesty" is politically impossible, so they call it "reform" that allows amnesty. Since illegals have broken our laws, none are "law-abiding" and certainly don't deserve visas ahead the millions of foreigners who have properly applied, paid fees, taken physicals, and waited for years for their quota number. The Chamber of Commerce continues the absurd argument about a "gap" in America's workforce. Congressmen brag that the USA is the greatest nation on Earth with the best educational system, so why must we import millions of "skilled" workers? If the nation truly suffers a shortage of skilled workers, true patriots and progressives would demand training programs needed to produce skilled workers from our unemployed. If employers are unable to find workers for difficult low-paying jobs, they need to obey the law of supply and demand and offer higher wages.
Finally, the federal government recently developed a simple and accurate worker identification system called E-verify, but its use is voluntary. It simply checks if a Social Security number is valid and that it matches the last name and date of birth. Problems have been reported with the system. But the only problems are complaints from illegals who insist their bogus IDs are valid.
Let me propose a simple solution to many of America's problems. A national ID, which we already have, its called a passport. In Europe, you can't even get a hotel room without showing your passport. Just pass a law saying people must show their passport or alien "green" card, which the employer can verify with E-verify. They can use the Internet to check within seconds, so that is no real burden. Employers need to verify the identity of job applicants anyway, to prevent fraud and theft. Bush, Obama and most other corporate sponsored politicians oppose E-verify, claiming "it doesn't work" or "its a burden." They promise to discuss improving border security and employer compliance, but only if their main demand is enacted first -- amnesty.
Amnesty would result in another national disaster. First, it would require billions of dollars to process the 30 million applicants. Yes, 30 million, because the 20 million illegals here now have no passport with a entry date stamp, and they can't be interviewed in one day. Congress would have to allow at least two years to apply, so all deportations would halt, including anyone caught crossing the border who claims they live here and were just returning from a visit. Meanwhile, another 10 million illegals would surge into the USA within two years from everywhere to secure their visa. After each application is accepted, they are now here legally, so off to the welfare office to sign up for everything poor Americans deserve. Keep in mind that most illegals are children, non-working mothers, disabled, elderly or unemployed, and they need help! Millions more will pour across the border in the future knowing that a third amnesty is likely.
Employers would be thrilled that dozens more desperate foreigners show up every day seeking work, even for minimum wage. Who would another amnesty hurt most? The American worker, mostly the poor and especially minorities. Even upper middle class workers would be hurt because taxes must soar to accommodate the expansion of social services for this surge of foreign refugees. More schools, more roads, more hospitals, more police, and more jails. Most Americans agree amnesty is wrong, but many have been browbeaten by the corporate media into silence with one word -- racist. If you discuss these things, its not because you care about the USA or America's poor, its because you are a RACIST! So shut up and allow the flood of cheap labor to pour across our borders to drive down wages and maximize corporate profits. Just ask Lou Dobbs, who is married to a lady from Mexico, what happens to famous commentators who step out of line and openly oppose mass illegal immigration.
Jul 9, 2010 - Why Ban Offshore Drilling?
How can people be so brilliant to get jobs in the White House, yet make such foolish policy? For example, the Obama administration imposed a six-month ban on offshore drilling after BP's well blowup. This has been challenged in court as it has idled thousands of workers.
Why six months? What is the goal? Most every American would agree on a drilling ban for a few months until safety procedures have been reviewed and the blowout preventer technology examined. Use that rationale, not "six months". One problem is that occasional safety inspections by the Feds did not deter BP from cutting corners. Here is my simple solution -- require a full-time government safety inspector on the platform to ensure compliance. Make the drillers pay the inspector's salary of around $250 a day. Since they spend over $1 million a day to operate a drill ship or huge offshore deepwater platform, the cost is nothing. Inspectors can fly out on the rigs daily helo shuttle, and return the next day as a replacement arrives.
Perhaps you missed a key bit of news that only appeared a few times on CNN. One of the Transocean drill rig safety inspectors said on camera that the blowout preventer is inspected every week. It had been leaking fluid for several weeks prior to its failure. Each week they reported this and recommended that drilling stop so it could be pulled up and repaired. That would have delayed production for a couple of weeks and cost millions of dollars, so BP management ignored the problem.
Jul 6, 2010 - So Long USAA
I moved to Las Vegas a year ago and was shocked to see my USAA auto insurance rate rise from $450 for six months to $765. I called and they said Las Vegas had more elderly people and a high auto theft rate. Nevertheless, I have a perfect driving record and never submitted a claim to USAA in two decades. USAA was always touted as the best and cheapest auto insurance since membership is limited to veterans, it does not advertise, and has no local agents earning commissions.
I decided to shop around and went to a popular website that promised price comparisons. I punched in all my information. Their computer already knew what car I owned. I expected a simple on-line price comparison, but the session ended with a notice that agents would contact me with specific quotes. This trick upset me as I dealt with the surge of e-mails, letters, and phone calls.
Browsing through on-line surveys, I found the company with the highest customer satisfaction was Amica, followed by USAA and then State Farm. Amica wanted over $1000 for six months, while State Farm offered to provide the same coverage for $518, substantially lower than USAA's $765. I hate to change things, but that gap was too big to ignore. When my renewal arrived from USAA a few months later, the price was still $765, so I switched to State Farm. One might think the free market would ensure a tight range of prices, but I guess most people are too lazy to shop around.
Jul 5, 2010 - I Swear, He Confessed
Why must I read yet another story about policemen beating confessions out of suspects? In the most recent case, a Chicago police lieutenant spent years suffocating, shocking and beating confessions out of scores of suspects. In other cases, suspects are not allowed to sleep or eat until they break down and confess. The only time police need a confession is when they have no hard evidence that a person committed a crime. This happens hundreds of times a year in the USA.
Even the esteemed FBI gets dubious confessions. In one case, a hotel reported that someone had left a special hand-held radio used to monitor air traffic conversations in their safe. The FBI perused the hotel's guest list and found a suspicious Arab. After hours of questioning, the suspect confessed that it was his radio, which he was using to plan a terror attack. The press was notified that another terror attack had been thwarted due to great FBI work. A few days later, an airline pilot showed up at the hotel asking for the radio he had forgot and left in the hotel safe. The Arab was promptly released.
The simple solution is for Congress to pass a law stating that confessions are only valid if made in open court, and any documents or testimony that someone had confessed beforehand is inadmissible. Even videotaped confessions should not be allowed because those are easily edited and the mental state of the suspect is unknown. This eliminates another common game where police enlist the help of someone in their local jail to testify that a fellow inmate confessed to him, in exchange for a reduced sentence.
Prosecutors have obtained thousands of convictions for rape and murder with no evidence other than a "confession" to a police officer or jail inmate. Another tactic is threatening to arrest their wife, siblings, or adult children for "conspiracy" unless they confess. It was reported that Timothy McVeigh confessed to the 1993 Oklahoma City bombing only after the FBI threatened to arrest his sister and charge her with conspiracy.
John Grisham wrote an excellent (and depressing) book about a typical case in which an innocent man in Oklahoma was convicted for murder with no evidence other than claims that he confessed to a fellow jail inmate. He denied the confession in court and to everyone else, while the snitch was released after his charges were dropped. Most citizens don't understand that police and prosecutors are often under great pressure to solve a heinous crime and some will do most anything to convict a suspect based on flimsy or fabricated evidence. If the accused is an ex-convict, convincing a jury that this bad boy must be back at work is easy.
If a suspect wants to confess, that can be arranged for the next morning. A confession in court only requires ten minutes, and judges are happy to make room in their day's schedule to hear a confession. The judge asks the jail nurse if his check-up showed that person has been injured or drugged. The judge will inquire if the person understands what he is doing, and if he is on medications or under the influence of something. He will ask if he has been allowed to eat and sleep eight hours last night, and if he has been threatened or promised something in return for confessing. Then if he wants to confess, so be it. This is just and will eliminate police abuses and thousands of fraudulent convictions. It will also eliminate the frequent scandals and investigations involving police and prosecutorial misconduct that arise from backroom confessions.
Jul 4, 2010 - What Have the Romans Done for Us?
This classic Monty Python movie clip helps explain why the USA has so much trouble in Iraq and Afghanistan. No matter how much we spend, people just don't like foreign armies occupying their land.
Jul 3, 2010 - Credit Score Advice
If you ever run into financial problems and default on some bills, keep in mind that negative information must be removed from your credit report files seven years after the "last activity", except for bankruptcies, which remain for ten years. "Last activity" is normally the last payment.
Bill collectors rarely sue for just a few thousand dollars since it costs them too much money and the chance at collection is small, although they always threaten to sue. After a few months of trying to collect, bank and department stores write off the loss and sell the uncollected debt to specialized companies for a small fraction of the total. These companies are more aggressive with threatening letters and phone calls, and usually offer to "settle" the debt for a smaller amount, yet much more than they paid. If they are unsuccessful after a few years, they sell it to other companies for pennies per dollar, which try their hand for many years.
The important concept here is that if you recover from financial problems after a few years and begin paying again, your seven year clock restarts. The bad stain on your credit report will remain because the original lender already wrote off the debt as a loss. If you stop making payments a second time, debt collectors will become far more aggressive knowing that you are "collectable." Keep in mind that some backroom debt collection agencies don't even own the rights to your debt. Some guys just browse credit reports and target people with older debts and hope they send a check.
An honest man should pay his debts, but banks are not your friends and family. They loaned you money to make money, its just business. You cannot clear up your credit report by paying up old debts, despite what bill collectors promise. It will actually make things worse as your seven year clock will restart with each payment, and that "charge off" black mark remains. Finally, paying off old debt costs money! This advice may not help you, but you probably know a friend or relative who would benefit from this knowledge.
Jul 1, 2010 - Heathen Flag Worshipers
As all Americans know, saying the pledge of allegiance at school is mandatory, and most agree that it must be done -- religiously. If one reads the real history of the pledge, it was a federal campaign to instill loyalty to the state after most Americans refused to support America's entry into World War I. There was strong opposition from some Christian groups who noted the pledge is prayer to a false idol.
In 1954, the phrase "under God" was added in the pledge to quell dissent. Today, all American children stand, put their hand on their heart, and say a prayer to this colored cloth every morning. Some Americans now worship the flag as a religious figure, and become infuriated if it is burned or desecrated. I'm not saying its bad for good Christians to fly the flag, but don't treat it as religious idol.
Jun 26, 2010 - Thoughts on Afghanistan
The General McCrystal story is simple. It was obvious that his "surge" strategy only increased the violence and local opposition. Rather than resign, he found an excuse to get fired. Sane people realize that we can't "win" in a year or two, which requires building a new, modern society. This requires decades to develop a professional military, government, and political system through western style colleges. This doesn't require large military offensives, or sending small units out in vehicles on daily patrols to enrage locals and attract IEDs.
Draw the military down from 100,000 to 10,000 American troops, engaged in training and protecting a few large American military bases. They exist to build the Afghan military and support them when needed. As a result, they don't venture out looking for trouble, except as advisors to Afghan units. The main job for advisors is to ensure Afghan officers don't loot, transport drugs, charge taxes, or allow their enlisted to rape and pillage. Stop the counterproductive airstrikes and drone attacks. End talk of bringing all the troops home. This is not discussed because Generals want to fight "a war" and contractors love the fat support contracts.
Jun 19, 2010 - Plug the Hole!
I am no deepwater expert, but I don't understand why they haven't tried to literally plug the oil gushing out of the Gulf of Mexico. I realize that water pressure a mile below is huge, and that hot oil is spewing out at very high pressure, but there should be a simple way to plug it. Fabricate a long, solid-steel bolt the size of a large telephone pole. It should have a long needle nose. Lower the bolt/plug from a ship with a long cable. Use the submersible robots to guide the needle point of the bolt into the gushing well, then simply lower the four ton bolt into the gushing casing and allow its weight to cap the well.
The pressure may be so great that it doesn't shut off all the flow, and oil is likely to squirt out along its edges as the bolt bounces in the casing, yet this should plug most of the leak. Then more weight can be added to the top of the bolt until sheer gravity overcomes the oil pressure. This would cost very little to try and seems like it would work, or at least reduce the oil flow.
Jun 17, 2010 - Lakers?
Congrats to the Lakers for winning yet another basketball championship. I realized that I didn't know what a "laker" was. Checking the Internet, I learned this team was formed in the Great Lakes city of Detroit, Michigan, where ships on the lakes are called "lakers."
Here is my reform to greatly improve basketball. A big problem has evolved with "foul strategies" and intentional fouls to "make him go to the line". Rather than allow someone to score two easy points, foul them and make them shoot two from the free throw line. This distorts the game and causes much friction and occasional fights. The simple solution is to automatically credit a fouled shooter with two points, as is already done when goaltending occurs. This also speeds up the game.
Jun 15, 2010 - Drug War Stupidity
Here is a typical story that reflects the stupidity of our war on drug users. Las Vegas police kicked down the door of a small apartment at night looking for marijuana and somehow shot and killed a young, unarmed man in his bathroom when he made "furtive" movements. First, the city is near bankrupt and laying off employees, so where does the police department find the funds to send several $30 an hour cops to chase possible petty drug dealers? Why are they kicking down doors and pointing loaded pistols at night in an apartment where innocents live? Was there a nuclear bomb about to explode!
The media will focus on the senseless death that leaves his pregnant fiancé behind. Whatever one thinks about the legalities of marijuana use, I think everyone agrees police in a near bankrupt city shouldn't waste resources arresting "suspected" petty drug sellers by kicking down doors at night. They weren't even trying to pretend to buy drugs! Why not wait and arrest him walking down the street, or if he is seen selling drugs. Moreover, doesn't the city have better uses for these police resources? Now thousands of dollars will be spent on an investigation, even more from a probable lawsuit and settlement. All this because the police received a tip this guy had some weed in his apartment!
Jun 13, 2010 - A Bankrupt USA?
People have worried about a bankrupt USA for decades. I have tired of waiting for that day, but it seems closer as economist Doug Noland summarized:"In only 21 months (seven quarters), outstanding federal debt increased $3.274 trillion or, 48.9%, to $9.971 trillion. Over this period, federal debt growth has been running at an unprecedented rate of about 13% of gross domestic product (GDP). As a percentage of annual GDP, federal debt jumped from 46% to 68% in only seven quarters. Of course, the amount of outstanding debt is dwarfed by the federal government's massive contingent liabilities (ie future healthcare, social security,
Jun 12, 2010 - Scratch Two Carriers
As the Pentagon debates force structure cuts, the easy answer is to decommission two aircraft carriers. This ensures the Navy has funds for enough aircraft for the remaining nine carriers. The Navy has slowly reduced the number of aircraft on each carrier over the past two decades from around 55 to 40 as aircraft costs have quadrupled, and it is still facing a shortage. It could scratch the one based in Japan, easing relations there, and another in congested Norfolk VA where five are based.
This also ensures enough funds for the Navy P-8 program, which is key since long-range aircraft will dominate the oceans in future wars. Keep in mind our Navy has 12 other aircraft carriers (LHA/LHD) used by the Marines that are smaller, yet larger than the Navy's frontline aircraft carriers of WW II, and larger than any of the few foreign aircraft carriers. Aircraft carriers are useful for supporting regional operations, but they are huge vulnerable targets for submarines and long-range missiles in a serious war. This is why China has shown no interest in them. Fred Reed provides a brilliant, simple explanation of why aircraft carriers are obsolete for real naval warfare.
Jun 11, 2010 - Here's Your $85
I blog often about prison reform because its one of the nation's biggest problems and political leaders don't care. I was watching television last night about a maximum security prison in Indiana. It focused on one inmate who was being released after 20 years confinement. Here is Indiana's rehabilitation plan for him. They gave him $85 and drove him to a hotel where they had paid for his room for two weeks. That's it! He never showed up for his monthly probation meeting, so they issued a warrant for his arrest.
This is just nuts. Assuming he somehow found a job the very next day, he wouldn't be paid for over two weeks. He had no street clothes and maybe no ID. Where will he live in two weeks? How can he get a job with no address or telephone number? Who will stop him from blowing his $85 the first night on booze, drugs, or a prostitute?
This explains why the nation has an average recidivism rate (i.e. repeat offender) of 70%. This is not just inhumane, but unaffordable at a cost of around $20,000 a year per inmate. Every American I speak with agrees that rather than sending someone to prison for 20 years, 19 years would be better and use the $20,000 saved to ease inmates back into society. Place them in a neighborhood halfway house for a few months where they have a bed and food, and give them some street clothes. Halfway houses are used in some states, usually part of an old hotel or apartment complex where 20-40 ex-inmates live (like a small college dormitory) with 24-hour supervision. This also provides them with an address and phone number for job searching, and limits their opportunity to get drunk or high. Most inmates leave prison with a hostile view of society, but this shows them society is trying to help them fit back in.
Let them out to look for work for 4 hours a day, or 12 hours a day if they find a job. Once they have found a job and an apartment, they can leave the halfway house. Yes, many will run at their first chance, and many will still get into trouble. But if this cuts the recidivism rate down to 50%, the savings are huge and result in a lower crime rate. The problem is that senior people in the prison-industrial complex are the trusted experts on this issue, and most will not propose something that will slash their own budget. In addition, our corporate right-wing media attacks any political leader who suggests shorter prison sentences or spending money to help ex-inmates, even it if helps society too. At the very least, transfer them to a local county jail for their last few months, which provides food and shelter yet allows them out for 12 hours a day to look for work and housing. Luckily, Senator James Webb has shown an interest in this massive problem.
Jun 9, 2010 - Crime and Punishment
As I surf the news, odd things appear that the corporate press ignores. For example, "newsmen" thought it interesting that an unknown unemployed man living with his parents won the Democratic Senate nomination in South Carolina by doing nothing more than spending $10,400 for a filing fee. There is obvious fraud, but the national corporate media has mostly ignored the case. That was bizarre, but also the fact they he had been arrested for a felony and the case has not been settled.
A shocking issue is that his felony arrest was for showing obscene pictures to a college student. That is a felony? The police could arrest almost half the college men in South Carolina for that "crime". In contrast, on the other side of the globe a girl trying to sail around the world solo has disappeared - and she is just 16-years old! She did this with her parent's blessing, they must of provided the boat too! It's just not the dangers of the sea, but the oceans are full of poor sailors on small boats looking for fun. Her parents are more deserving of a felony arrest for child endangerment than the horny guy in South Carolina with thousands of dollars in unexplained pocket money.
Jun 7, 2010 - Thoughts on Sinking Ships
The media coverage of the sunk South Korean warship has been poor. First, the ship was north of DMZ just off the North Korean coast as part of an anti-submarine exercise. Nevertheless, it was a modern ship sunk by an old simple mini-sub. It must of been on high alert, yet the crew didn't even know what hit them! Yet another demonstration of how large warships will be wiped from the seas in any serious future war by submarines and aircraft launching long-range anti-ship missiles. Ironically, that Cheonan class ship is exactly what the U.S. Navy needs for its LCS program. It is half the size of our new LCSs, with three times the firepower at one-fifth the cost.
The attack was odd because North Korea gains nothing, so one must consider a "false flag" operation, as this article describes why the U.S. Navy may have sunk the ship. The vast majority of Japanese people want some American military bases closed, yet their government refuses to act, and now cites this new "North Korean threat" as the reason. Another possibility is that it was simply an accident where ship blew itself up, or perhaps an errant friendly torpedo. All we know for sure is that governments often lie after people die. Remember the USS Maine!
Jun 6, 2010 - Ban Audio Car Alarms
A simple way to improve the quality of life in America is to ban the sale of audio car alarms. There are a dozen systems to deter auto theft: hidden kill switches, silent pager alarms, lojack, strobe lights, PINs, electronic key ect. As a result, car thefts have fallen in half the past two decades, so there is no justification to annoy millions of Americans a day with malfunctioning audio car alarms.
People in hotels and apartment complexes are often awaken by beeping and honking of these systems. Banning would not eliminate them, as old systems exist and blackmarket systems may appear. However, states and cities can pass laws to cite cars whose illegal alarms have sounded, just like a parking ticket. This may seem like a nothing issue, but if the President announced legislation to ban these, people would rejoice. Our lives have been disturbed thousands of time by annoying alarms, especially when they malfunction and will not stop wailing. This is something simple that government can fix! Perhaps a state will start the trend with a ban, then others would quickly follow. There is already a movement in New York City.
Jun 3, 2010 - American Conspiracies
I just finished former Navy SEAL, wrestler, actor, and Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura's new book "American Conspiracies". Great book, great guy. He provides insight into media control and political correctness. Some of his direct experiences are of interest. Upon becoming Governor, he was introduced to the covert CIA agent working as a high-level official in his state government. He was told every state had one, and he could be prosecuted if he disclosed the agent's identity. This book covers several historical cover-ups, especially those about American political assassinations. I recommend the book, and its priced low too!
May 30, 2010 - Memorial Day is not Veterans Day
Memorial Day is a sad day where we remember those who died serving their country. It is a sad day, nothing to celebrate. However, it seems everyone thinks its a flag waving day to honor veterans.
May 25, 2010 - Who is Responsible for BPs Leak?
It is now obvious that our federal government can't do anything because it has no equipment or expertise to help. One can blame Obama, but it is also the fault of Congress and all past Presidents. The funny part is watching all the pro-offshore drilling Governors and Congressmen from the Gulf states dance around this disaster on television.
I am not a deepwater oil expert, but its seems all the real experts have proven inept at shutting down the leak. Oil is flowing from a big broken pipe. I would think that huge hydraulic jaws could be clamped on the pipe and simply squeeze it shut. This technology exists, firemen use something similar called the hydraulic-powered "jaws of life" to rip open things. Just scale that up 100 times into a vice and have those underwater robots place it on the pipe. I suspect others have thought of this, but building one might take months.
May 23, 2010 - Lottery Madness
I see the "powerball" lottery in one state will pay off $160 million. Maybe I don't understand gambling psyche, but I'd prefer that 160 people win $1 million each. Whenever I mention this to someone, they agree.
Governments love the lottery because it's a big source of income. For example, if a Californian wins $10 million, the state takes $1 million for income taxes while the Feds take almost $4 million. They win every time!
May 21, 2010 - California Stupidity
Here is a news story that shows how our nation is collapsing. California has warrants out for hundreds of thousands of people. Its prison system is at 200% capacity, forcing the governor to release some inmates early. The repeat offender rate is over 70%, and those released can't find jobs and are hostile to society due to their poor treatment in prison.
Many parolees have warrants outstanding for violating the conditions of their parole, usually not showing up for a monthly visit or failing a urine test. So the state sent them letters announcing an amnesty and a $200 reward if they would show up to clear their name. The State Department of Corrections even set up an amnesty website with information and an e-mail account to answer questions. Hundreds showed up, and were promptly arrested and sent back to prison! Their "crimes" couldn't have been serious since they showed up expecting amnesty. So much for saving the state money and helping ex-inmates transition back into society! Moreover, California inmates will never trust the state about anything, and more will fail to show up for their monthly visits since they fear arrest.
As I once noted in this blog, society would come out far ahead by paying an unemployment stipend to released inmates for a few months. This allows them time to find a home and job, and ensures they stay out of trouble and show up for the monthly parole meeting. In addition, it would show them society and its government wants to help them succeed. This would result in a decline in repeat offenders, since many turn to crime shortly after release just because they are hungry and homeless. Savings would be huge, even if the repeat offender rate fell just 10%. A $200 weekly stipend for three months costs $2400, while a year in prison costs the state at least $20,000.
May 11, 2010 - A Lesbian on the Supreme Court?
When I saw President Obama announce his Supreme Court nominee, Elena Kagan, his loud "gay" purple tie was hard to ignore. I noticed Ms. Kagan sports a short "lesbian butch" haircut, so I assumed this was Obama's bow to homosexual voters. I googled Kagan and learned she was never married, had no children, and apparently no male companions. I googled her name and lesbian, and saw that dozens of bloggers reached the same conclusion.
However, no one in the corporate media even mentioned the obvious. A blogger at CBS News suggested she may be homosexual, then CBS executives removed his comments. Like most Americans, it doesn't bother me if she is a lesbian, but it does bother me that speculation is not allowed in the corporate media, who fills the airwaves with trash and says that's what people want. And what's with Obama's gay tie? It does bother me that she grew up ultra rich, never worked a real job, and never served as a judge.
May 9, 2010 - Celebrity Rehab
The federal government has spent billions of dollars on illicit drug prevention programs, and most is wasted on silly campaigns like "just say no". However, Hollywood has crafted the world's greatest anti-drug campaign with a new TV series called "Celebrity Rehab". This involves celebrities who appear on television during counseling sessions about their drug problems. The sight of famous people looking ill, underweight, and babbling about their drug use will deter anyone from using drugs. In all cases, they began to use drugs for fun on certain occasions, but then it became a daily habit that destroyed their lives.
I was stunned that actors like Tom Sizemore agreed to show themselves in such poor light, but then I realized they probably hadn't worked for a few years and needed some income so they could buy more drugs. This program should be shown in schools and the best part is that it costs taxpayers nothing. Meanwhile, make your kids watch the show.
May 8, 2010 - Student Workers
As universities slash costs and student aid, they should return to a tradition where most students work on campus. For example, the local news reported that UNLV must make deep cuts, yet the university police department will remain untouched. Only 66 crimes were reported last year, yet the police department has 70 full-time employees. I'd guess that half those slots could be filled by students working for minimum wage, with perhaps course credit for those seeking a major in law enforcement. They wouldn't be armed, but then nearly all the crimes on campus involve car theft or car burglary. Students can man the dispatch center while those on duty in uniform can call for help should they encounter a potentially violent situation.
Imagine the savings if all the janitorial and landscaping slots were filled by students. Most clerical slots can be filled by students, which provides valuable work experience as well. In fact, universities should require that all students work part-time on campus during their first two years as part of character building, and cost savings.
May 6, 2010 - Stop Loss for Everyone?
Most financial advisors tell people to keep "stop loss" sell orders in place to cut their losses should the stock market crash. That seems reasonable, but today's 1000 point plunge in the Dow shows what can happen if everyone's stop loss orders execute. Bigger plunges may occur, especially since Wall Street hedge funds can manipulate stock prices with short-selling. If some funds secretly collude to dump on a stock, they just need to push it down 5% or so until everyone's stop loss orders kick in to send it down much further. Then they cash in, or buy the devalued stock.
If you are worried about a crash you can buy insurance in the form of an ultrashort EFT. If the market drops 50%, these should rise 100% in value, offsetting some of your losses. Gold stocks and Gold EFTs are supposed to offset crashes, yet they also crashed in 2008. Some suspect manipulation, but then many people and funds were forced to liquidate gold holdings to cover market losses. The current worry that Greece may go bankrupt seems minor, but then foreign banks and pension funds hold billions of dollars in Greek bonds? If those become worthless, what about other big spending/weak currency nations, like Portugal, Spain, and even the USA and UK?
May 5, 2010 - Blame Homeland Security
The USA has hundreds of oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico while the Coast Guard (part of Homeland Security) is responsible for coordinating spill containments. A deepwater oil well has ruptured while its fail safe cutoff system failed. Given the environment and danger of explosions, this is not a surprise. However, it seems the major oil companies had no serious contingency plan and the Coast Guard never forced them to prepare. BP has spent over two weeks building a massive funnel to capture most of the oil spouting from the ocean floor, and is unsure if it will work at that depth.
The scandal is why such a device wasn't built years ago and on standby for immediate deployment, and why has such a device been tested to see if it works? If the major oil companies cannot coordinate this, the Coast Guard should have the equipment and trained crews on standby to react. Congressmen and the media have ignored this question. Where are the pundits asking: "When this finally happened, their plan was to spend two weeks to build something to contain it! With the billions of extra dollars spent on "homeland security" since 9-11, this is an outrage!
Apr 30, 2010 - Oil Leak in the Gulf
A few years back, I researched the issue of ultra deepwater oil drilling for SRA. This began just a decade ago and differs greatly from traditional offshore drilling. The wells are over a mile underwater and attached to a huge floating platform on the surface with flexible hoses. The water pressure at that depth is so great that service is done by submersible robots while oil squirts out at high pressure, they don't even need to pump it up to the surface. For years, some have asked what would happen if the "fail safe" automatic shutoff systems fail. Capping a runaway well in the dark, murky depths seems impossible.
Well, that what's going on after a BP platform blew up and sank in the Gulf of Mexico, while the failsafe caps on three of its dozen wells failed. Hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil are shooting out each day, and there are no certain plans to stop that. This may continue for years until all the oil from those deposits is gone. It may become so bad that the U.S. Navy may explode underwater explosive-packed subs near each well in hopes of caving in the wells.
Apr 29, 2010 - Torture and Wall Street
A few years back, Congress acted shocked when the media reported that CIA agents and contractors had tortured dozens of prisoners, including two U.S. citizens. This was in direct violation of American and international law, yet the Bush administration refused to prosecute anyone. As a result, Congress held hearings and passed (another) law outlawing torture. Few congressmen demanded prosecution, and those were not covered by the corporate media.
This same circus strategy is in play today as Congress holds hearings about massive fraud on Wall Street. Congressmen act outraged that senior Wall Street bankers conspired to deceive and defraud investors. They promise to pass laws to "close loopholes" so this cannot happen again. However, there are no loopholes; it is illegal to conspire to defraud people, even if the specific actions taken are not illegal themselves. The problem is that the Obama administration has refused to prosecute these gangsters, mostly because they financed his presidential campaign.
For example, gangster Dick Fuld, former head of bankrupt Lehman brothers, hid massive losses using a legal accounting trick. At the end of each quarter, Lehman was required to determine the fair market value of its securities for public reporting. Lehman arranged to sell all of its worthless securities at face value to another firm on the last day of each quarter, which included an agreement to buy them all back the next day. Before Lehman crashed, this amounted to over $50 billion in losses hidden from investors and regulators.
While it is not illegal to conduct such transactions, why were they done? The only answer is to hide losses from investors. This was criminal intent to commit fraud. Federal prosecutors convict hundreds of small businessmen and executives at small hedge funds of conspiracy to commit fraud every year. However, big fish are apparently exempt from prosecution. Meanwhile, Congress and the corporate media conduct a charade of hearings where they expose outright fraud, then pretend it is not illegal.
Apr 28, 2010 - I'm Okay
My five-year old laptop crashed again, I don't know why, so I've been off the net for a few days while my wife harassed me about wasting time on this unprofitable hobby. I got the evil blue screen, which the original DOS CD couldn't repair even though chkdsk said the hard drive was okay.
I had to restart my laptop anew, and download G2mil from the web, so if something is not working let me know. This happened a year ago, so I bought a cheap, new one, but my wife was using it all the time so I went back to using my old one. Got lots of stuff to post soon.
Apr 12, 2010 - Stop Bashing Walmart
As America's largest corporation, some people enjoy bashing Walmart, and most American corporations love it. They don't want democracy to cut their profits with mandated benefits like health care, a higher minimum wage, and paid days off. (Few Americans know the USA is the only major industrial nation that doesn't require paid holidays.) Walmart is evil! Other corporations are saints.
Walmart doesn't pay any less than Target, and it pays more than the huge, profitable MacDonalds Corp., and its fellow slave-wage fast fooders. Walmart even provides health care to its employees. Walmart is not cheaper because it pays less wages, but because it cut out the middle men by setting up a system to order goods directly from factories and having them shipped directly to its own regional distribution warehouses. Proctor and Gamble factories receive daily reports of Walmart's previous day sales of their goods, so they produce efficiently.
"Consumer Reports" says that Walmart's sister company "Sams" and Costco are around 30% cheaper than Walmart. They save money by limiting selection, offering only large items, and using forklifts to stock their shelves. The next time you are in a grocery store, think about all the man hours required to unbox goods and stack each item neatly onto shelves. The other way they keep prices down is with an annual membership fee of around $50. This greatly reduces check fraud, shoplifting, and associated vandalism by keeping out teenagers, the poor and the homeless, and allows them to ban troublesome people.
Costco employees are paid several dollars an hour more than Walmart workers. This greatly reduces turnover and related recruiting and training costs, increases productivity, reduces employee theft, workplace accidents, and costly mistakes. Whenever I hear a small company owner complain about the poor work ethic of American workers, I ask how much he pays them, and its usually near minimum wage. In most cases, a business can save money by paying at least $10 an hour.
Apr 11, 2010 - CV-22 Crash Data
A recent "Aviation Week" article "The Need for Speed" quoted Col. Clay Hutmacher from the 160th Special Ops Aviation Regiment:
“Above 4,000 ft., there’s a significant [hovering] limitation on the V-22,” he said. Tiltrotor engineers concede that while the V-22 hovers well in many situations, the special twist and size of its “proprotors” leave it unable to carry as much useful load pound-for-pound as most helicopters hovering in similar conditions.
“I’m not disparaging the V-22,” Hutmacher said. Hovering ability, however, is critical to the 160th, because “at the end of the day, our mission is going to terminate in a hover.”
One CV-22 didn't terminate in a hover, and crashed 7 miles west of Qulat city, Afghanistan, which is listed at 5085 feet altitude, about the same as Denver CO. What does the pilots manual say? Some pilots and aviation experts have quietly expressed alarm that the manual includes old performance objectives in their charts rather than results from testing. If pilots use charts that exaggerate range and altitude performance, they may come up short and crash.
For example, some V-22 salesmen claim that V-22s can hover at 10,000 feet, although official stats have long showed a 7000 feet (HOGE) hover capability. NAVAIR and Boeing recently downgraded that to 5400 feet as V-22s were sent to Afghanistan. The actual figure varies depending on temperature and gross weight (payload and fuel.) Col. Hutmacher said HOGE is less than 4000 feet, yet if the mishap CV-22 pilots assumed it was safe to hover up to 5400 feet, that may have caused their fatal crash!
In comparison, the common Blackhawk helicopter has one-third the engine power and is a third smaller than the V-22, yet its big rotors allow it to lift the same payload vertically. This is because the V-22 has smaller, twisted "proprotors." While the V-22 is limited to landing at 5400 feet, (or perhaps 4000 feet) an Army Blackhawk crashed last year during a routine training operation in Colorado while attempting to land at 14,200 feet!
Apr 10, 2010 - CV-22 CrashHere is my uninformed knee-jerk analysis of Thursday's CV-22 crash. The pilot was very experienced. Since a pilot and flight engineer died while others survived, I suspect it hit nose first. I will guess at two causes.
1. The CV-22 was performing out of its very restricted flight envelope, trying to hover at mid-altitude with payload to perform a mission helicopters often do. It failed during a landing approach, rolled to one side and impacted nose first. Pilot error of course, but by a senior pilot called a "CV-22 evaluator" by the USAF.
2. The other possibility is an engine failure. The V-22 can fly with one engine out in the airplane mode only! If in the helo mode, it must convert to the airplane mode but needs several seconds and 2000 feet of altitude. If that is not an option, it makes a very hard crash landing since it can't autorotate.
Recall the USAF has still not released the summary of a Class A CV-22 mishap at Kirkland on Mar 2, 2009. Why? And would the timely release of that mishap report provided information to the crew of this CV-22 as how to avoid problems? And recall the recent USAF CSAR report that noted the V-22 cannot safely hover at over 4000 feet.
Apr 4, 2010 - The V-22 Disaster
Apr 2, 2010 - GAO Update of Weapons Programs
The GAO's newest Defense Acquisitions (pdf) assessments of the Pentagon's major programs is out. I see the Army's 155mm artillery round "Excalibur" is down to $68,000 a each. The V-22 total program cost is now $122 million each.
Mar 30, 2010 - TSA BS
Flight attendants are pressing for restrictions on carry-on luggage. They must battle those who bring large bags, but now people jam heavy stuff into carry-ons because of new baggage limits. I have done that. Some people bring their scuba tanks onboard. Flight attendants suffer injuries from moving heavy stuff, and its a danger to passengers. Flights are often delayed and tensions mount as pushy passengers board the aircraft with too much stuff.
The simple solution is to put the TSA agents at security checkpoints in charge of restricting bags that are too large or too heavy. They can weigh heavy bags and turn away large bags, sending people back to the check-in counters. Before TSA, some airports had a rectangular hole in a plastic barrier in front of the screening machine. If an item couldn't fit through, it was too large. It is much easier for TSA agents to turn away large bags than flight attendants helping people board an aircraft, and TSA agents don't care if people become upset.
The TSA dodged this simple solution in the past, saying they only do security. But safety is security! They are government employees, who are in position to deal with this issue, so why not? If a 70 lb bag drops on someone's head and kills them, that a security issue. This is something Obama could fix all by himself. Put TSA in charge of screening bags for excess weight and size, which would occur an hour before the flight rather than during boarding.
Mar 28, 2010 - Unemployed Means No Salary
One of the absurd things some Democrats discuss is the need to help the unemployed make mortgage payments. I agree that unemployed people need help, but owning a home is not a necessity. What about helping unemployed people pay rent? I think 100% of sane American agree that if you lose your job and can't afford your mortgage payments, you need to sell your home. A far better idea is for Congress to press banks to allow people to remain in their homes as renters after the bank forecloses and takes title. (Rent is usually much less than their mortgage payment.) Right now, banks instinctively kick people out and leave the home vacant. Collecting rent provides the bank with easy income, especially since banks are reluctant to put foreclosed homes on the market for now. If they can't pay the rent, then evict them.
Mar 27, 2010 - Stand By for the Health Care "Free Market"
The two political parties in Washington DC played good cop, bad cop in passing the new health care plan, which provides tens of millions of new customers to the private insures. Note that proposals to allow insurers to sell nationally was never seriously discussed, since that would increase competition. Insurers must register and meet legal requirements in each state they wish to operate.
This new plan looks good, but failed to address the underlying problem. Health care is a necessity, not a luxury, so it must be heavily regulated to ensure that "free markets" provide reasonable prices. Otherwise, the complexity of health care allows insurers to fix prices to ensure high profits and multi-million dollar executive salaries. Therefore, price increase must be approved by a governmental body, just like they are for your water, sewer, and electrical rates.
The health care plan imposes new burdens on health insurers to provide coverage to children of participants until age 26, eliminates lifetime benefit caps, requires them to accept all applicants, and prevents them from dropping coverage for the sick. While these are good ideas, it gives insurers the excuse they need for major rate increases. The health care plan will insure millions more Americans and ensure hospitals are reimbursed. In theory, this allows hospitals to reduce their fees. In reality, it provides an opportunity for major profit increases, followed by major bonuses for executives. As a result, "health care reform" allows more corporate profiteering and higher costs for all. When people complain, Obama will be blamed.
Mar 25, 2010 - Boring Baseball
Baseball has fallen from first place to a distant third as America's most popular sport. It is a slow sport with rare spurts of action. The popularity of baseball will continue to diminish unless rules are changed to speed up the game. Stealing bases is always exciting to watch, but rarely occurs because it is so difficult. The threat of stealing bases is always boring as the pitcher on the mound often spins and throws the ball to first base to keep a runner from leading off too much. They sometimes try this three times in a row while the crowd falls asleep.
There should be a penalty for failing, so I propose that if the pitcher on the mound throws to a base and the runner is safe, like he is 99% of the time, the runner walks to the next base. This will allow runners to lead off further and result in more base steals, while speeding up the game.
A second change is to eliminate the odd rule where base runners can't always run when the ball is hit. If a fly ball may be caught, they must wait for that to occur before they advance. Why? Baseball scoring is very minimal, so let them run when the ball is hit and scoring should double. I know that baseball is dominated by traditionalists, but they should try these rule changes for a few unofficial games to watch a faster and higher scoring game.
On a similar note, I recently read that only 10% of professional baseball players ever play in the majors. The leagues sign up anyone who looks good and pay them a basic working class salary to play in the minors for a couple of years, and then trade or drop them.
Mar 24, 2010 - Put Our Army BACK on the Border
The city of Juarez, Mexico (across the river from El Paso, Texas) now has the highest per capita murder rate in the world. The Juarez police recently learned that a drug gang had wiretapped their crime hotline, and many tipsters were murdered. As violence in Mexico spreads, it's time to put our soldiers back on the border. Protecting our southern border was the U.S. Army's primary mission prior to World War II. The Army should station at least 10,000 soldiers at U.S. military bases along the border to patrol the remote, dangerous areas used by smugglers, leaving the Border Patrol to guard urban areas and checkpoints. I provided details a few years ago: Defending America at the Border.
With a force of 540,000 active soldiers and some 300,000 civilians, no one can argue that this will strain the Army. We have 27,000 soldiers protecting South Korea's border, where they are no longer required, and 65,000 soldiers in West Germany to deter the Warsaw Pact. We are told that all our soldiers will be out of Iraq next year, so plenty of manpower is available. This requires no congressional authorization or funding. Does the Obama administration realize that posting 10,000 soldiers back on our borders will boost his poll numbers?
Mar 21, 2010 - SOCOM Leashed
The Special Operations Command was formed during the Reagan era because the National Security Council, i.e. all the President's men, was frustrated that employing military force in secret was nearly impossible. The U.S. Constitution requires Congressional approval of military actions. This is mostly ignored, but it has become customary to inform key members of Congress of secret military activities, mostly to acquire funding. However, the Reagan crowd found this politically restrictive when it wanted to defy Congressional mandates. A larger problem is that most senior Generals and Admirals are reluctant to break laws to please the President's staff.
As a result, the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) was formed, supposedly to bypass the Pentagon bureaucracy and traditionalist Generals. The result is a semi-rouge organization that frequently ignores international and American laws, as well as regional American commanders. This is a flagrant violation of the military principle of "unity of command".
This became a big issue in Afghanistan, where General Stanley McCrystal directed an end to nighttime home raids because frequent civilian deaths resulted in a public relations backlash. However, American special ops units were not under his command, and continued to accidentally slaughter several civilians each week during raids. This behavior is not unusual. Theater commanders have complained for decades that secret special ops occurred in their command areas and they were never informed. They were embarrassed to explain to foreign Generals and Presidents that they had no knowledge of incidents where local civilians were killed by American military personnel. Last week, General McCrystal, who has a SpecOps background himself, finally got command control of all American forces in Afghanistan. As I wrote a few years back, our military should: Eliminate SOCOM.
Mar 18, 2010 - Travel Secrets
I am often amazed by how much some people overpay for airline travel. The easiest way shop is to use any on-line travel website to search for what you want; Yahoo Travel is good. Check different days because rates vary depending on the day of the week and vacation periods. However, I feel uncomfortable using third party promoters, so I use their information and contact the airline directly. If you check the airlines own website, their fares are often much higher. If so, I call and tell them I see a specific flight on a specific date on Yahoo Travel and ask if I can buy it directly from them for the same price. They always say yes and their price is usually $25 cheaper since they are not paying Yahoo a commission. This may be unfair to Yahoo, but business is business.
Nowadays, be sure to ask about baggage allowances because most charge for a second piece of checked luggage, and some even charge for the first. Most will charge more for overweight bags (usually 50 lbs is max, but some allow 70 lbs for international, so weigh your bags at home before you leave. If you have too much, put heavier items in your carry-on bag.
Last year, I humped a 40 lb. carry-on bag on a trip home to avoid a $50 overweight charge. You can even yank stuff from your slightly overweight bag at check-in to place in your carry on, if you don't mind the annoyed look of people waiting behind you. You can also overdress, wearing a sweater and heavy jacket with books in pockets to board the airplane.
Mar 17, 2010 - Fake Reality
In case you haven't noticed, many TV "reality" shows are fake. The obnoxious "Cheaters" was exposed by several people. "Operation Repo" seems legit, but I noticed many repo confrontations were unnatural. I googled and learned the show now has a tiny disclaimer at the beginning that says "based on real events." Hollywood likes reality shows because they don't have to pay writers or big name actors.
Mar 15, 2010 - Eliminate the Bail Racket
As county governments scream that there is no place to cut their budget, I recall a news story from last year about eliminating bail for petty crimes. (Sorry, I can't recall the place.) Almost half the people in their county jail were accused of petty crimes like: drug possession, prostitution, driving with a suspended license, unpaid tickets, bounced checks, using stolen credit cards, drunk in public, shoplifting, ect. Bail was required, but these poor people failed to put up the $1000 or so to make bail, so they sat in jail for several weeks until their case was tried. Even people who could afford bail were held for several days until they could arrange bail through a friend or bail bondsmen.
Local citizens pressured the county to eliminate bail for petty crimes, unless that person was once a "bail jumper." Bail bondsmen screamed that it would destroy their business and hundreds of "criminals" would be back roaming the streets -- albeit just a few weeks sooner. The county agreed to try and found that 98% of the defendants showed up in court for their case. Apparently, people think that spending a few days in jail is better than a life on the lam, where they will be arrested again and face a more serious charge. It eliminated a lot of bail related court paperwork, allowed the accused to continue working, reduced the strain on family services, which often had to care for children of those in jail, and slashed the number of guests at the county jail.
Keep in mind that the accused are innocent until proven guilty. Also note that putting people in jail places them in contact with serious criminals, who provide them with ideas for bigger crimes or invitations to join gangs. A person in jail for a few weeks is usually fired from their job, so they can't even collect unemployment benefits when dumped back on the streets. If their rent went unpaid, they may be homeless too. However, if released until their court case and later sentenced to several days in jail, they had time to prepare their personal lives and make arrangements to miss work and care for their family. This also allows time to borrow money or sell assets to pay a fine and restitution to avoid jail.
If you attempt to eliminate bail for petty crimes in your area, beware of wealthy bail bondsmen who rub elbows with county officials and contribute cash to their political campaigns. Also note that some local jailers will fear losing their jobs. This is something that local churches can join forces to help enact. Finally, keep in mind that eliminating the bail racket will save you money and irritation if you or a friend or a family member is arrested.
Mar 14, 2010 - Tax the Dog
Americans are living beyond our means and the Chinese have tired of "the yellow man's burden". We need to cut government spending and increase taxation. The latter has become difficult in the USA because the billionaires who control our media have tried to teach all Americans that taxes are always bad. However, there are some targeted taxes that I think most Americans would reluctantly accept, especially if part of a plan to guarantee health coverage to all citizens.
Most people know about China's one child policy, but they also have a one pet policy, and it can't be a big pet! This seems reasonable given that nation's history of famine. Such a policy would be extreme in the USA, but pets are a luxury, although some argue they are essential for mental health. Nevertheless, a 20% VAT tax on pet foods is reasonable. VAT taxes are common in most countries. They are a sales tax that is collected from the manufacture or importer.
Americans spend around $50 billion a year on pet food, so this will produce some $10 billion dollars in new taxes. This doesn't seem like much, but the recent political fight about extending unemployment benefits and related health care premium subsidies was over its $10 billion annual cost. Most people would barely notice, except those rare neighborhood crazies that keep ten or more pets, in violation of local codes. If this is unaffordable, they may be forced to reduce their ten pets down to eight. A pet food VAT tax seems minor, but it's an example of the dozens of small changes this nation needs to survive.
Mar 13, 2010 - Failsafe Brakes
An interesting safety proposal emerged as the Toyota safety scandal unwinds. Despite all the advances in computer technology that allowed advances like anti-lock brakes, it seems automobile computers are not programmed to override the accelerator when the brake pedal is pressed. If both are pressed down at the same time due to driver confusion, something fallen to the floor, a jammed pedal, or a sensor or computer glitch, the car will accelerate because the engine is far more power than the brake system. It is amazing that computers are not programmed to ignore the accelerator input when the brake pedal is pressed. I am curious to see if the U.S. political system has become so corrupt that this simple idea is not mandated for new cars.
Mar 12, 2010 - Crazy Navy Captains
The Captain of the USS Wasp was relieved "for cause" in 2008. The "Navy Times" reported one reason was the Captain was collecting kickbacks from local shopkeepers, even though he makes around $150,000 a year. The Captain would often use the ships' loudspeaker system to recommend certain shops to his crew, and one time he invited a Persian rug merchant to display his goods on ship and insisted that his officers buy something. Last month, the Commander of the Charleston Naval Weapons station was arrested for soliciting prostitution. Its good to see an "old school" sailor not afraid of PC.
Read about a female Navy Captain that was recently relieved for abusing her crew. She was known as a crazy bitch by those who worked with her, yet continued to advance in the Navy. She demonstrates that something is seriously wrong with the Navy's evaluation and promotion system. This is nothing new to veterans who have seen incompetent and arrogant officers promoted along with good ones. For sensational military news, read about serious crimes at: MilitaryCorruption.com
Mar 10, 2010 - Sarah Palin
Corporate creation Sarah Palin is interesting. Few seem to like her, and she's nothing more than a recently resigned state governor. However, the corporate media has decided to cover her every move, except when she screws up. Palin is an outspoken opponent of government health care, yet she just told a Canadian audience that when she lived near their border: “We used to hustle over the border for health care we received in Canada. And I think now, isn't that ironic?”
Yes, it is ironic, and unbelievably stupid! It is probably a crime for foreigners to abuse the free Canadian health care system. It also shows her to be a hypocrite. Why did she mention that? Why isn't this on CNN? An even bigger mystery is why John McCain selected her as a running mate.
Mar 9, 2010 - Waste Not?
As some state governments go bankrupt, they need root out waste. State universities exist to train people to provide services to citizens, but have become a hobby shop in many cases. Do California universities need to offer paleontology courses and award college degrees to study dinosaurs? Our nation has far more PhDs in paleontology than it needs. Everyone agrees that California has too many lawyers, and most don't even practice law. So why not close down some state laws schools, perhaps the one at UC Irvine that recently opened for no sane reason.
"Ethnic Studies" are another group of programs where scrutiny is overdue. A few years ago, the "Daily Show" highlighted an example with hilarious sarcasm as "correspondent" Samantha Bee interviewed a UC Davis professor, who was concerned about the lack of Asian men in porno films, so he made his own: They So Horny.
Mar 8, 2010 - Rusty Staples
I just read an interesting account about Cold War spy craft. The USA and Britain learned to make perfect copies of Russian and East European documents for their agents to use. After a few months, all their agents began to get arrested. They thought they must have a high-level mole feeding the KGB names of their agents. After two years they had found no mole, but learned what happened. They used western stainless steel staples, while the Soviets used cheaper iron ones. They looked the same when new, but after a few months the iron ones caused telltale rust marks.
Mar 7, 2010 - High Federal Civilian Pay
My recent article on high military pay resulted in many comments. "USA Today" just published an article "Federal pay ahead of private industry", which indicates federal workers earn around $37,000 more each year than comparable civilians, when benefits are included. Federal employee unions reps state this is misleading since fed workers perform more difficult work and have more experience.
Mar 5, 2010 - The Health Care Funding Spin
If the federal government expands it massive programs to ensure all Americans are covered by a health insurance plan, this will cost billions of dollars a year. I don't like most of Obama's plan, yet let me clear up the corporate spin. This extra spending will not disappear, it will go to local doctors and hospitals who are now screwed by a federal law that requires them to provide emergency treatment, regardless of one's ability to pay. America has national health care, it's just a bizarre system where one goes to an emergency room and demands their free federally mandated care -- or we will sue!
In theory, Obama's plan would allow hospitals and doctors to charge everyone less, since they will not have to pad their bills to cover the expense of providing free care to the uninsured. Some may argue that repealing the emergency health care mandate is the solution, but then we'd become a Third World nation where sidewalks are full of disabled and dying beggars who can't work because of an old injury. That is not something true Christians would endorse, especially for children. Even economists agree that allowing workers to become disabled from moderate injuries, like a broken leg, is bad for everyone.
Fiscally responsible Congressmen rightly highlighted these unfunded costs, so Obama looked for savings. He got agreement from the hospitals/doctors lobbyists to accept lower reimbursements for Medicare and Medicaid in future years, since his plan would ensure they were now paid for treating everyone. Did the "deficit hawks" praise Obama for saving billions of dollars a year from two federal programs to help pay for his idea to insure everyone? Of course not, a new corporate campaign began to derail his plan with the truthful warning that Obama's plan would: Cut Medicare!
Mar 4, 2010 - Stretch the Hockey Goal
On Jan 9th, I wrote about how eliminating the goalie can make soccer twice more enjoyable. This could be done in ice hockey too, since scoring is also absurdly low. However, this would encourage unprotected players to fill the blocking role of the armored hockey goalie. After watching boring Olympic hockey games, I noticed that many puck scoring attempts were deflected by the goal posts. If the goal were wider, scoring would increase. So just make the goal net six feet wider and scoring would triple! This would make the game more exciting and interesting, but is not possible because it requires "change".
Mar 3, 2010 - Credit at Barnes and Noble
One month ago, I detailed my complaint about Barnes & Nobel. After ordering an item and receiving an e-mail confirmation, I noticed it was to be shipped to my old address. BN refused to do anything, even though the shipment was still in their warehouse. I never received the item, despite numerous e-mail complaints, yet they finally gave me the mailing address for their senior complaint gal. Yes, I had to write a snail letter.
She apologized and the sent me my small order. Afterwards, I did some on-line research and provided her with links showing that UPS allows shippers to void shipments and even change the address up until the time it delivered. I am shocked that huge, sophisticated BN didn't know or didn't care about that option. A customer service rep can fix such problems within a minute, even if is just an incorrect apartment number. They could even charge a small fee if warranted. For some reason, they don't bother, and probably lose thousands of customers a year who become irate when BN refuses to fix shipping address problems.
This reminded me of an insane problem I had last year with Chase Visa. I have used that card for years since I get 1% cash back. I changed my autopay to another bank, and checked back on-line two days after the due date to make sure it worked okay. I saw no payment, yet a $39 late payment fee AND a $39 returned check fee. I called and resolved the problem as we determined that I needed to include the four zeros in front of my account number for it to work.
Problem solved. NO! They refused to refund the $78 in fees, even though the problem was understandable and I had called them two days after the due date to resolve the problem. I had to argue my way upwards through two supervisors and state that I would cancel my card before they relented and waived the fees. BTW, most banks will waive one late fee a year for good customers, if you insist you mailed it on time, or claim it must be lost in the mail.
While the corporate media talks about greedy banks, no one in DC proposes simple reforms, like limiting late fees and returned check fees to a reasonable $5, or putting an interest rate cap of 18% back on credit cards. It was once unlawful for anyone to charge an interest rate greater than 18%, which was consider immoral "usury." A former bank accountant once admitted that late fees and bounced checks cost banks around 5 cents to resolve, so these fees are an extremely profitable multi-billion dollar racket.
Mar 2, 2010
My Jan. 6th entry addressed the misuse of the M-4 carbine as a squad infantry rifle. I was pleased to read that a graduate paper from a combat experienced Army Major reached the same conclusion. The army is now equipping its rifle squads with two 7.62mm M-14 rifles.
Mar 1, 2010 - The Health Care Debate
This is one of my areas of expertise, yet I won't bore you with the details. I'll just provide a short summary, and you can research the topic if you have doubts. The main problem is the USA spends twice as much for health care than any other modern industrialized nation, and it ranks below average in terms of health care quality. All wealthy nations provide health care for their citizens, except the USA. The two other most developed nations with no national health care system are Turkey and Mexico.
If the U.S. government adopted the government run or government managed (single payer) systems used by all other industrialized nations, it could provide health care to all citizens for the same cost it now spends to cover 40% of its citizens. Yes, around 40% of Americans are already covered by a myriad of government health care systems. Americans are told government run is horrible because that is "socialism", yet socialism works better to provide many services. Our military, police, fire departments, highways, schools, and airports are all "socialist" systems. We already have socialist health care in the form of calling 911 for an ambulance, followed by prompt government mandated health care at hospitals.
The problem is that America has an established system of powerful health care corporations that would be wiped out by a simple government system, so they spend heavily to legally bribe Congressmen in both parties to block reform. Note that even President Obama refuses to propose a government system, or to simply expand two of its efficient systems (Medicare and Medicaid). Half of the Democratic party (led by Obama) is in the pocket of the traditional private insurers racket, so nothing serious will change. However, they plan to enrich the private insurers with government subsides so more can afford their ultra-expensive product, while mandating that those who can must buy.
Note that despite all the fearmongering about the dangers of "socialized" medicine, Congressmen, who make four times more than the average American, never discuss eliminating their generous government funded health care system. They never complain about the socialist doctors at Bethesda Naval Hospital who provide them with free care.
In addition, America's media corporations make billions of dollars from private health care advertising, including those frequent commercials pushing prescription drug use, so they fear lost business. Finally, America's billionaires enjoy much lower taxation than in other nations, and they hate when working American use democracy to improve their lives. This may encourage them to seek higher taxes on inherited wealth, which are currently at zero, in order to improve society at large.
I'll get off my soapbox now, but a failed health care system is one of many factors destroying America. For example, the main problem American manufactures face in the global economy is that their foreign competitors have no employee health care costs. The number one cause of personal bankruptcy in the USA are hospital bills, and most of these people have private insurance, but cannot afford their co-pays. True patriots are pushing for single-payer, which they describe as "Medicare for all", yet they are drowned out by the lies told by corporate sponsored Congressmen and millionaire media personalities.
Feb 28, 2010 - Cockpit Video Recorders
With all the advances in video technology this past decade, most people are surprised to learn that accident investigators never have cockpit video of an aircraft incident. They could Just glue an Ipod on the ceiling and record the flight! This has been an issue for decades, with airline pilots unions blocking the idea. They make a weak case that families of dead pilots would be haunted by images of them about to die. Of course the FAA need only classify them as secret, but that solution is not discussed.
We all know that airline pilots are highly professional and well trained, yet we also know they have little to do on long flights as autopilot takes over. Since 9-11, they are locked in the cockpit so they can't roam around the airplane. One must assume they read, play with their iphone apps and laptop, or watch DVDs. There have been two recent cases of both pilots falling asleep. This explains part of the opposition, but then no one wants to be recorded at work. Bored pilots want to chat and complain about their wife, their bosses, and their taxes. They also want to tell dirty jokes and share stories of drinking and womanizing.
However, pilots should agree to a simple compromise. When the "fasten seat belt" light goes on, the recorders turn on. This happens during take-offs, landings, turbulent weather, and emergencies. Pilots are not playing around at those times, so they should have no objection to recording video. They control the "fasten seat belt" signs, so they would also control the cockpit recorder.
As part of a recording system, there should be a broadcast capability that pilots switch on during an emergency or hijacking. This would allow air traffic control towers within range to see exactly what is happening inside the cockpit so they may offer advice. Nearby airline pilots may rush to the tower and notice something the stressed flying pilots have overlooked.
Ideally, all the flight information now recorded on the airplane's "black (orange) box" is transmitted too. This is helpful and ensures preservation should the black box be damaged or unrecoverable. Boeing and Airbus maintain an emergency technical team ready 24/7 for telephone consults. A simple Internet link could provide them cockpit video during a crisis, along with flight data. In this manner, no one has to distract the busy pilots with questions about their instruments or flight conditions. This simple solution should prevent several accidents a year, so where is my consulting contract?
Feb 26, 2010 - Aviation Safety for Idiots
The FAA spends millions of dollars each year to evaluate expensive safety ideas. I'll give them one for free. Many airplanes are unintentionally camouflaged, making it difficult to see them in the air or ground. Those flown by United Airlines are some of the worst. (right) Add some fog or light rain and their aircraft disappear from view. Note the barely visible white airplane flying above, which would be invisible against clouds. Keep in mind that "runway incursions" on the ground are a serious problem as well.
The FAA should require that 80% of an airplane's skin be painted with high visibility "luminous" colors, which are already used by fire departments and highway workers. Fire departments moved from red to luminous yellow decades ago to reduce traffic accidents, but airlines failed to adopt this common sense idea. This would greatly improve aviation safety as most small aircraft rely only on visual identification. If phased in over a ten-year period, this would cost little since aircraft are repainted every few years. The other 20% of the skin is available for unique lettering, logos, or stripes, like the brightly colored Hertz airplane pictured.
This idea could be improved by assigning specific colors to different types of aircraft. This allows pilots easier identification because a small dot in the distance may be a huge, fast 747 or a slow, tiny Piper Cub. Perhaps slow single-engine props could be painted bright orange; slow helicopters - pink; faster multi-engine props - bright "lime" green; and very fast jet aircraft - bright yellow. This idea is simple to grasp, costs nothing to implement, yet would prevent several accidents a year.
Feb 25, 2010 - High Military Pay
I consolidated my three blog comments about the low military pay myth into one article, which can be read here: High Military Pay That short article is more valuable for recruiting and retention that billions of dollars in traditional advertising.
Feb 23, 2010 - Fire Fighter Unions Like Fires
As communities struggle with budget problems, I recall what Andrew Tobias wrote many years ago about the fire insurance racket. His research showed that most serious fires are deliberately set to collect insurance. If an old house or building needs replacement, just burn it! If a building owner can't find tenants, burn it! If a new parking lot is more valuable than an old abandoned warehouse, burn it! If an outdated factory cannot be sold and will soon close down, burn it! This saves demolition costs and funds the new project. If someone can't make his mortgage payment, a small kitchen fire results in an insurance payment that covers the mortgage payments for several months.
Television tries to convince us that brilliant fire investigators can prove this, but they rarely find hard evidence as people are not stupid to use accelerates like gasoline. A small trash fire started by a cigarette can grow into a large one if no one is home. One can just "forget" and leave something cooking on the stove when they go to work. Smoke damage to paint is worth a few thousand itself. Yes, it is suspicious that someone just bought a house that needed extensive repairs, and it burned to the ground. Yes, it is odd that crashing real estate prices meant an owner owed much more than a home was worth, but he broke even after a devastating fire. Yes, it is strange the burnt up restaurant was losing money and about to close. However, these "coincidences" are never enough to arrest someone.
His solution is to pass a law to prohibit cash payouts for fire insurance claims. Insurance reimbursements must be placed in escrow and only be used to pay licensed contractors to repair or recreate the exact same structure and equipment. This would also eliminate fires that destroy cars where the owner owes much more than its street value. If your car burns up, the insurance company buys you another one -- the exact same make, year, and model. He said this would reduce the number of fires in half. However, it would also cut the fire insurance business in half, along with sales commissions, and allow local fire departments, with politically powerful local unions, to be cut in half. Tobias said these forces have long blocked this common sense idea.
Feb 19, 2010 - Lost Battles of the Indian Wars
I recently stumbled upon some hidden American history. It seems 1000 American soldiers were wiped out in an 1791 battle in Ohio, in which an Indian force of the same size destroyed a quarter of the U.S. Army while the 1st American Regiment was wiped out. The loss of the "Battle of Wabash River" was blamed on Major General Arthur St. Clair, and became known as St. Clair's defeat. It seems Army officers didn't think Indians would attack such a large force, which exploited the Army's practice of "stacking arms" before marching to chow.
Feb 18, 2010 - Dissing Southerners and Red Indians
As part of my quest to educate others, let me address two hypocrite groups in the USA. There are millions of people from the American South who firmly believe the Civil War was an unjust invasion of their states by the Yankee army. That is a reasonable view, yet the same people also believe that service in the U.S. military today is noble and honorable. How is that rational, when the same Yankee army continues to invade and occupy other nations?
The same logic applies to American Indians who complain about how the Yankee army invaded their lands and destroyed their culture, then brag about their service in the Yankee army? You may note that I do not use the inaccurate term of "native American." I was born in the USA, so I am a native American. American Indians immigrated to the Americas from Asia, so "Asian-American" is a better term.
A 1995 U.S. Census survey of Indian tribes found that most preferred "American Indian." I recently noticed that some Asians and Europeans call them "Red Indians" and use "Brown Indians" for those from India. Note that Columbus did not think he landed in India. He called them "indios" roughly translated as "people of God" because they were so kind and peaceful.
Feb 17, 2010 - Rich Kid Olympics
I am overwhelmed by the number of new Winter Olympic sports that require ultra-expensive equipment and facilities, yet little athletic ability. How does anyone find the bobsled event interesting, one that requires millions of dollars to build a track? There is that silly shuffle board thing where "Olympians" polish ice furiously like clowns with a mop. It seems that millionaires have pressed for these obscure non-completive "sports" that require little athletic ability so their kids can become "Olympians." No wonder ratings are poor and cities lose millions of dollars hosting them.
Feb 16, 2010 - Carving Up California
If you follow the news in America's largest state, it has become dysfunctional. It needs a constitutional convention to undo all the nonsense that freezes political action. As I noted in my Jan. 28 entry, large states are not properly represented in the U.S. Senate since California would need 69 Senators for its population to have the save representation as the smallest state of Wyoming.
The obvious solution is to carve the state up. Ideally, you keep counties intact and avoid state lines through metropolitan areas. Fortunately, California has a perfect line to separate the ten counties of southern California, right between Tulare and Kern counties. Those are sparsely populated areas too.
Carving up the rest of the state is more complex. A majority of people in the northernmost counties are in favor of splitting off, although that area is sparsely populated. Probably the best idea is to spin off the 12 million people and nine counties of the San Francisco Bay metropolitan area, and add Santa Cruz too.
If split into three states, you could have the state of Southern California with ten counties and 16 million people, which would be the nation's fifth largest, bigger than Illinois. The state of Northern California with 8 million people and a capitol in Sacramento representing mostly rural counties. And the state of "Frisco" with the ten counties of the San Francisco Bay metropolitan area and a population of 13 million; the nation's sixth largest. The people would then have six Senators in Washington DC and more responsive and functional state governments.
As for the other big states, No. 2 Texas could shift the distant El Paso area to small New Mexico, and its northern panhandle to small Oklahoma. The people in these areas would be much closer to the state capitol and better represented, but Texas "nationalism" would stop this idea. However, most citizens of the No. 3 state of New York should agree with the logic of spinning off the 13 million person New York metropolitan area into a separate state.
Yes, I daydream too much.
Feb 14, 2010 - MLRS and Incompetent Generals
The MLRS is a large rocket system designed to strike targets the size of a football field, used to attack enemy units numbering in the thousands. Rockets are expected to hit within 100 meters of the target. They have no place in counterinsurgency, yet the artillery "community" insist that they get to play war in Iraq and now Afghanistan. This is absurd, as I noted in my G2Gems blog four years ago.
January 2006 - MLRS in Iraq Counterinsurgency Operation
This is a great example of how not to fight insurgents. The MLRS is designed to hit huge targets the size of a football field. This is not something to be used to fight a dozen insurgents. This weapons system should not even be in Iraq. Perhaps they are just wasting money for fun, instead of wasting lives.
Now we read that 12 Afghan civilians were killed yesterday when two MLRS rockets hit homes 300 meters away from the fighting. Army officers will explain that no one is to blame because the civilians were not targeted by the "coalition", while hatred toward Americans grow. These "area" weapons are a danger to our own troops as well. Hopefully, Mr. Gates will intervene and order Army Generals to send their missile artillerymen home. The Generals are hesitant, knowing that it will be "unfair" to career artillery officers who need a combat tour to remain competitive for promotion to senior ranks. As most American military officers know, career opportunities are more important than winning wars or saving lives.
That linked NY Times article about the big offensive in Afghanistan shows typical incompetence of Generals. They insist of big divisional operations so they can fight a war. They know that casualties must be avoided, so they announce their offensive days in advance to allow the enemy to flee. This allows them to easily secure their objectives, proclaim victory, hold press conferences, and write up valor awards for each other. Meanwhile, thousands of foreign Christian soldiers rumble through towns, kicking down doors, threatening everyone and shooting some. Then they drag local leaders to meetings where they explain they are there to help them.
Feb 12, 2010 - Trustees for the Homeless
In my Feb 7th blog I suggested that the European practice of paying unemployment benefits to all unemployed is one solution to perpetually high unemployment. While $600 a month is barely enough to survive, it may be used by drug addicts and alcoholics for their high, and they may continue to live on the streets, in shelters, or with relatives forever. This is already a problem today with those collecting monthly Veteran's Administration or Social Security disability (SSI) checks for mental health or physical problems.
The solution is to authorize a trustee in cases where a local judge finds someone incapable of managing their affairs. People collecting government checks with a drug or alcohol problem that end up in jail for petty crimes like vagrancy may lose direct control of their monthly check. A judge may order their monthly stipend sent to a relative, shelter, church, or other non-profit organization that agrees to provide them with food and shelter. This would humanely remove troubled people from the streets, while keeping party animals fearful of losing control of their monthly unemployment stipend should they cause trouble.
A small monthly unemployment stipend for newly released convicts would also reduce recidivism and related prison costs. After spending $30,000 a year to house prison inmates, most are dumped on the streets with no job, no shelter, and just a few dollars in pocket change, and then people act surprised when they are arrested for robbery or petty theft a few days later. In bankrupt California, 70% of inmates are returned to expensive prisons just of few months after release. It would be cheaper and more humane to pay them a small monthly stipend until they find a job, and provide an incentive not to violate parole.
Feb 10, 2010 - What's Wrong with High Military Pay?
Over the past three decades civilian private sector pay remained flat, while Congress routinely provided annual military pay raises higher than the inflation rate. In recent blog posts, I provided detailed data showing that military personnel now earn twice as much as comparable Americans. What wrong with that?
1) Every dollar spent on unneeded pay is a dollar that could have been spent to develop or procure new items of equipment; 2) Less pay allows for more manpower. If troops were paid the same as back in the Reagan years, our military could afford twice as many troops; 3) Meeting reenlistment goals are no problem today, but that increases stress as everyone must compete (and brown nose) to remain in the career force. One mistake or upset officer may end their career; 4) As the nation faces bankruptcy, it is unpatriotic to demand larger budgets to fund unnecessary pay raises.
This Pentagon reform is simple; freeze pay for a few years. Use some of the savings for more combat pay and for deployment pay. Also, Congress should scrutinize reenlistment bonuses, which have become a tradition even though most are unjustified. I recall a time when the Air Force was offering some officers a choice of severance pay to leave the service due to downsizing, or a bonus for remaining, which was a tradition for pilots.
Feb 9, 2010 - Buying Gold
Buying gold has become more popular as governments crank up their printing presses. This seems like a good investment, although central banks work hard to suppress its price by manipulating the futures market and with a criminal activity they call "gold leasing."
If you want to buy gold, do not listen to television charlatans like Glenn Beck who recommend companies that charge 30% more than the market price. Pull out a phone book and call local coin dealers and ask what gold coins they have for sale. The most common is the American Gold Eagle, which is made by the U.S. Government. Coin dealers charge only around $30-$50 per coin above the worldwide gold market price, which you can find at www.kitco.com Some states like California exempt coin transactions of more than $1000 from sales tax, because its an investment, although the IRS cannot track any gains. Ask your coin dealer for details on sales taxes.
They will only accept cash, and if you "transact" more than $10,000 in cash they must send a report to the Feds. If you "structure" your transactions with payments of over $3000 they are required to report this "suspicious" activity. So spread your buys in smaller amounts over time. If you want to sell, bring it back to the dealer and he will pay you the current market price.
So far as hiding gold, the federal government and certain companies have a database of bank safe deposit box owners in the USA, so they can find your stash if you face legal problems. Keep in mind that after the stock market crashed in the 1930s, the President closed the banks for two weeks and authorized them to sift through safety deposit box to seize gold, which had been declared illegal to own. So if there is a major economic crises, you should bury your gold somewhere, like next to a metal fence post so someone searching with metal detector cannot not find it.
Feb 7, 2010 - Why the Homeless Are Never Unemployed
Someone just told me that homeless persons are not included in unemployment stats. Why? Because they are homeless. The Labor Department employment survey data comes from visiting households to ask questions. No home, no visit. Most homeless do not live on the streets, but in barracks type shelters, in cars, and in tents at park campsites. The corporate media rarely covers the latter story; the problem state, national, and local park authorities have with permanent campers living in tents for months paying the $5 a day fee forever.
The reason I find employment stats interesting is because it has become America's biggest issue. Most people with jobs don't care, but a lack of jobs will affect their children and other relatives, who may be forced to live with them. The American population has grown from 280 million in 2000 to 308 million in 2010, while the nation has the same number of jobs! Only 58.4% of healthy Americans ages 16-64 are employed, a record low, a figure that excludes the uncountable homeless.
This is the result of greatly improved efficiency in manufacturing with the use of robotics, computer automation everywhere, and outsourcing overseas. Two solutions are already in use in Europe. One is a shorter workweek, so companies must hire more people, while workers earn less yet work fewer hours. The other is idea is to pay unemployment checks to all unemployed, for as long as they don't work. In the USA, this is limited to six months. A basic monthly check of $600 a month to provide food and keep them off the streets and out of jail, staying with relatives or sharing cheap apartments. While most Americans dislike the idea of providing welfare checks to healthy men, the money is minimal, and the envious are free to quit their job and join the "bums."
My partial solution is to stop issuing and renewing a million visas for foreign workers each year. With massive unemployment, how is this morally justified? Note that political leaders from the two corporate controlled parties never suggest this obvious solution. They'll have a jobs "summit" and discuss ways to spend more money, but the only talk of "immigration reform" is about an amnesty program to allow millions of foreigners who have broken American laws to work legally, while encouraging more mass illegal immigration to drive down wages further.
Feb 6, 2010 - More Fake Fed Stats
The headline is good news -- the unemployment rate fell sharply. Reading the fine print in an AP article, one can see George Orwell's thesis at work:
"The unemployment rate fell to its lowest level since August because a Labor Department survey of households found a sharp rise in the number of Americans with jobs. The survey found that 541,000 more Americans had jobs last month. But those gains resulted fromto the data. Without those adjustments, the data show fewer people had jobs last month."
That is an exact quote. Fewer people had jobs, yet the unemployment rate fell sharply because of data "adjustments." The reporter should do a story on that BS. At the very least, the headline that unemployment dropped is false. As Robert Fisk noted last year, most reporters are lazy and timid stenographers. They just retype news releases. See my previous comments for more on the fake unemployment rate.
Feb 5, 2010 - News Not Fit to Print
You may have missed the biggest news story of the year. It seems the Nigerian who tried to blow up Flight 253 was under FBI surveillance, AND a well-dressed American at the airport in Amsterdam intervened when the airline refused to issue the potential terrorist a boarding pass. He had the perfect terrorist profile: a Muslim name, Third World passport, traveling alone, paying cash for a one-way ticket, and no luggage, yet he wasn't scrutinized in sophisticated Amsterdam?
In testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee, Patrick F. Kennedy, an undersecretary for management at the State Department, said Abdulmutallab's visa wasn't taken away because intelligence officials asked his agency not to deny a visa to the suspected terrorist over concerns that a denial would've foiled a larger investigation into al Qaeda threats against the United States.
This was all spun as bumbling bureaucrats, but perhaps they knew he had a tiny inert explosive that just caught fire, which they might have secretly provided him. If he had made the explosive himself, surely he would have tested it beforehand. FYI, an explosive that small wouldn't have caused any real damage even it did explode in his pants. It would have hurt some people, but the airframe would remain undamaged.
The corporate media avoided this explosive story, which is no surprise. Instead, they helped the Pentagon point the finger at Yemen, noting that Abdulmtallab had visited there. However, he was wealthy and had visited many other nations. He once lived in London, so why didn't he attack there? All this at a key time for federal bureaucracies in the USA as they attempt to boost their budgets. Just today, an AP article appeared: Billions More for Counterterror.
Feb 4 , 2010 - Saving Lives
If one looks at the leading causes of preventable deaths in the USA this past decade, terrorism doesn't even make the top 20. Automobile accidents killed 43,000 Americans last year, and 17,000 of these involved collisions with other vehicles. The nation could reduce this by maybe 2000 deaths a year by adopting three simple ideas.
Brake lights are simple devices, but provide the same light glows if someone is tapping their brakes or pressing down hard for an emergency. It would be simple to mount a red strobe light that would activate whenever someone is braking hard to alert everyone behind them to brake hard as well.
The second idea came from my friend Howard Ruhlman. He said cars should have a green light on the rear that lights when the accelerator is pressed. During an emergency every second counts, and there is a second delay from the time a person moves their foot from the accelerator to the brake. With an accelerator light, driver's would normally see a green light indicating a cruising car, and instinctively learn that when a green light goes off they should stop accelerating and prepare to brake. This provides an extra second to react, and if a red strobe light goes off they know to brake hard and look to avoid a collision.
The green light is also helpful when people stop alongside a highway, but fail to engage their emergency flashers. Many fatal accidents are caused on dark or foggy roadways when the sleepy or drunk follow the taillights ahead. Some may notice the lack of a green light and avoid death. Finally, why not make flashers come on automatically whenever a car is put in park with its lights on? These changes are not rocket science and would cost almost nothing to require in new cars.
Feb 3, 2010 - Fraud at Barnes and Nobel
I always liked BN, but I've rarely encountered such
corporate arrogance. I updated my address on-line and ordered. They sent me a confirmation e-mail the next day, but the shipping address was my old one. It seems when you update it only changes your billing
address unless you click a small box that updates your shipping address too. I sent them an e-mail noting the error. They replied that they can't change the address, I must cancel and start
over, so I went on-line and canceled.
This reminds me of problems at Sears stores, which were losing money a couple years ago. A whiz kid determined they could save millions of dollars by halting store renovations. Sears suddenly began to turn a profit and he was applauded. Of course this caused long-term problems with sales, and Sears is likely to go out of business soon.
Feb 1, 2010 - Freeze Military Spending
Former Reagan administration official Larry Korb is one of the few bright bulbs in the beltway think tanks. His recent article "Spending Freeze Must Include Defense" makes a compelling case for freezing military spending. He writes: "In the last ten years, the baseline defense budget nearly doubled from $290 billion in FY2000 to $532 billion, an increase of $242 billion or 83 percent, or more than 8 percent a year. Even if one controls for inflation, the real growth amounts to nearly 50 percent, about 5 percent a year in real terms. By way of contrast, non-defense discretionary spending, which the administration proposes to freeze, has averaged only 5 percent annual growth, or 2 percent real growth during that same period."
Do we really need more money to fight terrorism each year than we spent to counter the Soviet Union? Why don't the true fiscal conservatives support freezing all spending, including defense? What about rolling back some of the 50% increase from the past ten years?
Jan 28, 2010 - Partial Democracy
I often refer to the USA as a partial democracy, since it lacks the multi-party parliamentary system of real democracies. For example, Ross Perot and his party got 19% of the popular vote when he ran for President, but was allowed zero representation in the nation's Congress. In a parliamentary system where 100 Senate seats are allocated according to the popular vote, his party could have chose 19 members to represent them in the Senate.
Another flaw in our system is that some states have become far larger than others. The most recent population estimates from the U.S. Census shows that 50 Senators from the 25 smallest states represent just 16% of the population. People from the smallest state of Wyoming with just 533,000 citizens are allowed two Senators, just like the largest state of California with 36,757,000. Californians would need 69 Senators to equal Wyoming's two Senators for true democratic representation.
This allows even more corruption in the election process because corporations and billionaires can influence elections in small states with smaller sums of money, per person. Therefore, Senators from small states are often targeted for removal by interests from outside the state. This is why Senator Harry Reid from the small state of Nevada is facing a difficult reelection.
Jan 26, 2010 - American Soldiers on Okinawa?
As part of my series on overseas bases that should close, here is my latest:
Close Torii Station - a U.S. Army base on Okinawa?
Jan 25, 2010 - Ultra High Officer Pay
My Jan. 17th entry contains details on how enlisted personnel earn 2-3 times more than comparable Americans. Using DoD's on-line pay calculator, we learn that a new lieutenant O-1 starts at $54,800 a year. The BLS collects data on pay for new college graduates. I could not find an average because it breaks data down by occupation. Several types of engineers start off at around $70,000, so pay for new officers seems reasonable. The BLS does provide the average pay data for college graduates, and its latest data is from the 3rd Quarter of 2009. This shows the median pay for American workers with a bachelor degree is $1020 a week, times 52 = $53,040 a year. This shows that an officer fresh out of college earns more than the average college graduate with years of seniority and experience.
Let's say the average college graduate works between ages 23 and 63, so a direct comparison for an average officer would be a 43-year old at 20 years of service who is an O-5 (Lt. Colonel or Navy Commander). With a wife and four kids he earns a massive $136,000 a year! That is more than twice as much as comparable Americans. The excuse is that officers have much more responsibly, but that is questionable. Officers in charge of units have limited roles, and since there is an officer for every five enlisted, most do not command anyone. Many officers are just students, co-pilots, aides, or rubber stamp paperwork and are nothing more than super clerks. The U.S. Army has trouble keeping captains because of the endless deployments, and a perception of low pay, but it has no problem keeping mid-grade officers.
Some officers have advanced degrees, but most were paid to obtain one. No company in the private sector pays employees to attend college for two years to obtain a Masters degree. Nevertheless, the BLS data shows the median pay for American workers with advanced degrees is $1309 a week, times 52 = $68,068 a year. So your average mid-career military officer earns twice as much! How is this justified? This explains why career officers love the military and fight to remain in the force. Keep in mind that these DoD pay figures do not included special pays and bonuses, which often adds thousands of dollars a year. It was once common for military pilots to leave after six years and join an airline. This is rare today since military officers now earn far more than airline pilots.
Congress seems unaware because a few years ago some greedy officers in the Pentagon produced a bogus study showing they were underpaid, so Congress authorized a special pay boost for mid-ranking officers. It seems they decided they are comparable to top lawyers at top law firms, rather than the average pay for Americans with advanced degrees. Also note that while most Americans have a retirement plan, nearly all are matching plans where employees must contribute half and the benefits are limited. People in the military never contribute one cent and have defined benefits that are never depleted. Since most retire at around 45 years of age, they earn retirement pay and heavily subsidized medical care for as long as they served in the military.
High military explains support for the recent law that allows servicemen to pass their VA college benefits along to their children. Why should enlisted leave the service and struggle through college on a small stipend only to graduate and earn less money? It is far better to reenlist so that after another four years they are an E-6 with eight years and pocket $63,000 a year, some $10,000 more than the average college graduate with decades of experience! Keep in mind that going to college also results in the loss of over $200,000 in pay during those four years.
High pay has also resulted in depression among disabled veterans. The VA pays an adequate disability rate for them to live comfortably, but it is far less than their generous active duty pay. Many are outraged that they are disabled by combat duty, then punished as doctors say they cannot remain on active duty so their income falls in half. This has led to confusion as injured vets awarded a minor disability rating attempt to reenlist after discovering private sector pay is less than half as much. The Army recently drew the line at 50% disability, meaning anyone with a disability rating of 50% or more is not allowed to reenlist.
Let's look at the pay disparity with an example of two brothers. One graduates from a four-year college, followed by two years of graduate school at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses and lost wages. He worked for 12 years and now earns the national average for his educational level of $68,068 annually. His brother joined the military, never took a college class and didn't work hard, so he is just an E-6 after 18 years in the military, yet he earns more than his hard working and highly educated brother who spent six unpaid years and over $100,000 to toil through six years of college. So what is wrong with high military pay? I'll address that next.
Jan 23, 2010 - The M1 Abrams Tank is not Invulnerable
The Incredible Hulk destroys a tank platoon in an impressive, humorous fight, in this youtube clip.
Jan 22, 2010 - America's Prison Problem
Hats off to Senator James Webb for his efforts to shine light on America's massive prison industry. The USA has more people in prison that any other nation, in total and per capita. More than China, Cuba, North Korea, Iran or any other "evil" nation. The USA has around ten times more of its population behind bars than Western European nations. This is uncivilized, counterproductive, and very expensive.
Here is a recent example of why from bankrupt California, where the state's prison guards union is the top "contributor" to state legislators. A practicing Los Angeles doctor with no criminal record became angry at rude adult bicyclists in his neighborhood and decided to teach two a lesson. He slammed on his brakes, causing two bicyclists to crash and suffer serious injury. That was wrong, so I'd give him 30 days in the local county jail, a $50,000 fine, and one day a week of community service treating the poor for free at the county hospital -- for five years. This also makes him libel for civil damages to compensate the bicyclists.
As is common, the "tough" prosecutor wanted the doctor locked up for eight years after convincing a jury to find him guilty of assault with a deadly weapon, battery with serious bodily injury, reckless driving and mayhem. The judge sentenced him to five years in state prison, with an inmate cost of $30,000 a year. Since the doctor lost his hospital job, the state also loses thousands of dollars in potential income taxes, and is unlikely to collect fines. Rather than my punishment scheme that collects $50,000 and free medical treatment for the poor, the state of California will lose ~$200,000 in prison costs and lost income taxes.
Citizens should also be angry at the expensive anti-drug and anti-vice stings run by local police that are sometimes shown on TV. A dozen $150,000 a year policemen (when retirement benefits are included) spend hours stalking a poor, unemployed local trying to make a few dollars in the free enterprise system selling recreational drugs. They proudly arrest someone and "take them off the streets", often using entrapment, which was prohibited until a decade ago. After a cost of thousands of dollars, the perp is released a few weeks later. What's the point! If someone is a neighborhood nuisance, local patrolmen can run them off with petty harassment, as is the traditional method. These expensive and pointless "task forces" are one reason so many cities face bankruptcy.
Jan 21, 2010 - The Gitmo Murders
Hard evidence has been published that indicates three Gitmo "detainees" were murdered. They did not choose suicide by the same method the exact same evening while in separate cells. A former Army sergeant assumed the Obama folks might be interested. He was wrong. The corporate media chose to ignore this story, even though senior officers were involved. I'm not sure if Obama knows he has been lied to by his trusted advisors, or doesn't care. I thought it was absurd when he claimed it would take a year to remove the detainees from Gitmo, yet he couldn't even accomplish that simple task.
Jan 20, 2010 - Letter from DhayneI have been reading your blog for over a year now, and I have found it an insightful and interesting read. I felt compelled to send an email re your blog article of January 6th 2010 on pop guns. I must say i could not agree more with your assessment. The United States Army (USA) is going through what like to call the "Israeli Syndrome". I feel the USA being practically caught with it proverbial pants down not being prepared for the asymmetrical warfare of the future (which after Somalia the writing was on the wall that the army needed a major overhaul) decided to compensate by wholly adopting operational doctrines of a force thought to be effective at such types of warfare , the Israeli Defence Force (IDF). The IDF some years ago adopted the M4 as a force wide standard rifle, however, this adoption was based on several peculiar circumstances.
The IDFs primary operational areas for several decades have been the Palestinian territories, which are heavily urbanized. The operational environment called for extensive CQB engagements, therefore a shortened weapon that could facilitate movement in confined spaces but still have "rifle" caliber round was necessary. The M4 fit all that criteria. Also in urbanized environments the chances of engaging targets beyond 300 metres is rare, and thus the extreme accuracy required for long distance engagement is not a necessity
The primary operational troops in the occupied territories were Paras and Special Ops who by their nature prefer the leisure of "traveling light" to facilitate rapid engagement of the enemy targets. Thus the prospects of carry a cumbersome long rifle was not attractive.
However, the USA seemed to have overlooked these factors before facilitating the adoption of the "pop guns". Well that being said considering the urban environment in Baghdad and other major Iraq cities i can understand a LIMITED adoption of the M4. Such as for Special Forces, MPs, and some Airborne units, but not force wide. The Unites States Marines understand this apparently, as you see Marines in Iraq with mostly the standard M16A2 rifles (with limited M4 ), with Marine Force Recon units having the M4s.
The adoption on the M4 for Afghanistan is baffling. The majority of Afghanistan is wide open spaces with most engagements occurring at 500 metres or more. I am often dismayed when I watch combat footage from Afghanistan and see soldiers engaging targets out to 500 metres or more , with an M4!!! Even a slightly above average rifleman with a M16A2 would have some trouble hitting a target (especially if its moving) at 500 metres. Its an absolute waste of ammunition. Engagements at such distances must be left to snipers (with long rifles), machine gunners, or mortars. It seems to me that the Army (and therefore the soldiers) don't understand ballistics and effective range capabilities of their weapons.
Even the IDF has started to see the light and has begun to adopt the TAVOR 21 bullpup as the IDF standard rifle. The bullpup design facilitates compactness of a carbine , with the full barrel length of a rifle. Unfortunately they stilled retained the 5.56mm as the rifle's caliber.
I look forward to more blog entries. Yours respectfully.
My reply: Another issue is body armor. We use body armor and helmets that stop a 7.62mm, so a 5.56mm is worse. Our snipers use mostly 7.62mm and aim at center body mass. If they shoot a soldier with body armor at 500+ meters, he will just run away.I've been arguing for the adoption of two .338 LM (8.6mm) rifles in each squad. On scoped, the other bullpup, not only for body armor, but for shooting through doors, walls, and cars. The Russians say the Chechen rebels now use body armor. If we encounter such and enemy, it will be easy to bring more .338s into the force.
I was thinking that a .338 machine gun would be great too, replacing both the medium and heavy machine guns in infantry units.
Jan 19, 2010 - Pepsi for the Poor
The USA is the world's fattest nation, which adds tens of billions of dollars in health care costs, not to mention lost productivity. There are proposals to tax soft drinks, which could be slapped on distributors. This sounds evil, but then beer and alcohol are taxed heavily because they pose a health hazard.
While that is debated, I'm sure nearly all Americans would support a ban on using food stamps to purchase soft drinks. They have little nutritional value, and obesity and poor nutrition is a problem for the uneducated poor. The purchase of candy with food stamps has long been prohibited, so why not soft drinks? Why should taxpayers support the purchase of unhealthy drinks? Beer is more nutritional than Pepsi, but we don't fund the purchase of beer.
I googled this idea and learned that the state of Maine attempted to ban the purchase of soft drinks with food stamps last year, only to be told that is not permitted by federal regs. One can imagine the political influence of the Coca-Cola and Pepsi corporations should Congress address this issue, even though over 90% of Americans would support it.
Jan 18, 2010 - Carrier Shore Support
As the huge aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson deploys to Haiti, I am reminded of their limited role providing assistance ashore, as was demonstrated after Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans. Two important assets that carriers can provide are fresh water and electricity, yet the Navy never bothered to develop the equipment to link carriers to shore. The Navy needs large kits to allow a carrier to hook up to shore based electrical grids, and huge hoses to pump fresh water ashore. Keep one kit ready in shipping containers in Norfolk and another in San Diego for instant embark on a carrier.
Ideally, a carrier would dock, but the hoses and electrical cables should allow the ship to hook up from up to a mile offshore if that is required. These would also prove very useful in major expeditionary operations where landing forces need a lot of water and power. Rather than having six aircraft carriers circling offshore ready for a very limited enemy air and sea threat, one carrier could dock to provide water, electricity and other support. Note that wars also cause major humanitarian crises in cities, especially if our Air Force knocks out the power stations that provide the electricity to sewer and water systems. An aircraft carrier's nuclear power plant can provide substantial water and electricity for several weeks until those systems are restored. Don't think of just Haiti, think of a major San Francisco earthquake!
Jan 17, 2010 - High Military Pay
One great myth in American society is that military personnel are lowly paid. That was true until the 1980s when a push to improve recruit quality boosted military pay each year at twice the inflation rate. The military was once known for low pay yet great retirement, but now has great pay as well. This fact is hidden from the public with absurd propaganda from military associations about the need to boost pay, and fear from senior officers that if Congress catches on, the days of big pay raises may end.
For example, inflation was flat last year and Social Security recipients received no increase for 2010. However, military personnel just got a 3.2% pay increase, while civilian wages fell 1.6% last year. Some Congressmen worry the USA is going bankrupt unless it cuts spending, so why the pay boost? First, its a form of vote buying. Second, federal civilian pay increases follow military pay increases. Congressional staffers and everyone inside the beltway benefits, so they profit from this deception.
I'll address this issue in the coming weeks. Let us first look at what the average 20-year old American earns. The latest data is from the third quarter of 2009, which shows Americans ages 16-24 average earn $429 a week, or times 52 = $22,308 a year. The DoD has a simple on-line pay calculator. The average age for a recruit is 19, so the typical pay for a 20-year old is E-2 = $37,637 a year. If he has a wife and two kids, its $41,021, nearly twice as much as he could make outside! And this does not include special pays and bonuses.
If someone joins the military rather than going to college, after four years they will be at least an E-4, and with a wife and two kids he'll make $48,180 a year! This more than college graduates and at least $14,000 more than the average salary of any other occupation in the USA, where most workers have decades of experience and seniority. Finally, it is very rare to find subsidized child care, free gyms, and tax free shopping in the civilian world.
It is true that many military people work more than 40 hours a week, yet so do many civilians. There are many servicemen who work less than 40 hours a week, and some work less than 20 if you discount the hours at "work" they spend surfing the web, exercising in the gym, getting a haircut, or playing softball. Military people receive 30 days paid vacation, enjoy 12 paid federal holidays, and several extra days off as part of "long weekends", unlimited sick leave, plus the common practice of going home soon after lunch on Fridays. In contrast, American workers average just 13 paid days off, and around 40% of Americans never get a paid day off and have no benefits such as health care.
Yes, many servicemen endure stressful occupation duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, which is why combat pay should be boosted. However, most career servicemen rarely spend time in combat zones, and they usually enjoy the adventure and the extra pay involved. I always did.
We'll look at officers next, but as a finale, look at the pay for career enlisted men. An E-7 with 20 years of service with a wife and four kids earns a whopping $78,221 a year! That much more than Americans with advanced college degrees, like an MBA. E-9s can make over $100,000 a year! Enlisted can retire after just 20 years of service without contributing a cent toward their generous retirement plan. If the U.S. military advertised these facts, recruiters would have lines outside their office.
Jan 9, 2010 - Get Rid of the Damn Goalie!
Having played some soccer and watching this dull game on television at times, I am amazed that it is the world's most popular game. Just a couple of points are scored during the entire game, and it's often decided by a single penalty kick. I like the idea that size doesn't matter, so everyone has an equal chance, but there is far too little scoring, which is why "futball" never caught on the USA.
I have a simple solution -- get rid of the damn goalie! One team works to get the ball downfield so someone can try a clean kick, but there is this oddball standing in front of the goal who reaches up and catches the ball. What's with that? Imagine if goal tending was not illegal in basketball, so a 7-foot guy could stand under the basket at all times and block good shots, even free throws.
Without a goalie in soccer, you'd have scoring like 24-22. Kicking off after each score would take too much time, so a quick inbounds kick from the sidelines is better. I realize foreigners would object, but if American soccer tried this it would be a huge improvement that may be adopted worldwide. Try it at a local game and everyone has more fun.
Jan 8, 2010 - Fake Unemployment Rates
I noted the fake unemployment rate before, but this month the stats were really pencil whipped. The number of new discouraged workers rose over the year by 929,000. These are unemployed Americans who say they want to work, but if they didn't apply for a job within the last week they are not counted in the "official" unemployment rate because they are "discouraged." The employment-participation rate fell to a 25-year low 64.6% from 64.9% as the labor force fell by 661,000 last month, the largest decline in nearly 15 years. This means that 35.4% of healthy Americans ages 16-65 are not working, for whatever reason.
"If these workers had been in the labor force unemployed, the unemployment rate would have risen to 10.4%," wrote Heidi Shierholz, a labor economist for the Economic Policy Institute. They were not, so the rate held firm at 10.0% even though 85,000 jobs were lost. This isn't a trick by Obama, both the ruling parties are worried about peasant unrest since the real unemployment rate exceeds 20%.
Jan 6, 2010 - Pop Guns?
I've been out of the loop for some time, but what the hell is this picture from Afghanistan? After decades of complaints that the M-16's 5.56mm round is too weak, and whilst better body armor proliferates, one expects to see the introduction of bigger guns with bigger bullets. Yet colonial duty in Iraq has led to the adoption of a "cool" garrison weapon, the M-4 carbine, as the basic infantry rifle. Effective range drops from 600 meters with the latest M-16A4 to 300 meters with the M-4, and less if they don't brace it in their shoulder. The shorter barrel means less accuracy and less penetrating power. I'm told the M-4 is easier for troops to handle from within HMMWVs, so it has become standard. No bayonet, and no using the rifle butt to "hit and roll" or to whack bad guys.
Jan 5, 2010 - Move to Metrics
One small reason the USA is falling behind in the world is a mindless adherence to the old and confusing English system of measurement. Even Australia has phased it out and England is mostly converted, leaving only the Americans with this backward system. This complicates trade and manufacturing and causes serious fatal accidents, like with aircraft fuel calculations or fitting millimeter bolts into quarter inch holes.
I wish President Obama would shine some light on this issue and push one small change at a time. For example, the nation can commit to centigrade by 2014. This is simple to understand (zero is freezing, 100 is boiling water) so a hot day is 30C. The federal government would only use centigrade by 2014, including the Weather service, while a few million dollars would be devoted to paid commercial advertisements to educate the public. Can't America do something this simple? After 2014, another "metric" can be selected for transition.
Jan 3, 2010 - Obama Lied about Iraq
People forget that President Obama pulled ahead of Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary only because she refused to commit to withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. Obama's current plan is that he "may" drawdown to 50,000 troops this year, "if" the security situation allows it. No one in the corporate media mentions this, although CATO recent summarized:
"Speaking of Iraq in February 2008, candidate Barack Obama said, “I opposed this war in 2002. I will bring this war to an end in 2009. It is time to bring our troops home.” The following month, under fire from Hillary Clinton, he reiterated, ”I was opposed to this war in 2002….I have been against it in 2002, 2003, 2004, 5, 6, 7, 8 and I will bring this war to an end in 2009. So don’t be confused.”
Indeed, in his famous “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow” speech on the night he clinched the Democratic nomination, he also proclaimed, “I am absolutely certain that generations from now we will be able to look back and tell our children that . . . this was the moment when we ended a war.”
Now he has doubled down on the war in Afghanistan and has promised to keep the war in Iraq going for another 19 months, after which we will have 50,000 American troops in Iraq for as far as the eye can see. If McCain had proposed this sort of minor tweaking of the Bush policy, I think we’d see antiwar rallies in 300 cities. Calling the antiwar movement!"
Jan 1, 2010 - We Never Lost a Battle in Vietnam?
In my ongoing effort to make crazy people crazier, I've compiled a list of 20 Lost Battles of the Vietnam War
Carlton Meyer editorG2mil@Gmail.com
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