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Pity the Nation: War Spending Is Bankrupting America

The Free Press WV

“Pity the nation whose people are sheep

And whose shepherds mislead them

Pity the nation whose leaders are liars

Whose sages are silenced

And whose bigots haunt the airwaves

Pity the nation that raises not its voice

Except to praise conquerors

And acclaim the bully as hero

And aims to rule the world

By force and by torture…

Pity the nation oh pity the people

who allow their rights to erode

and their freedoms to be washed away…”

—Lawrence Ferlinghetti, poet

War spending is bankrupting America.

Our nation is being preyed upon by a military industrial complex that is propped up by war profiteers, corrupt politicians and foreign governments.

America has so much to offer—creativity, ingenuity, vast natural resources, a rich heritage, a beautifully diverse populace, a freedom foundation unrivaled anywhere in the world, and opportunities galore—and yet our birthright is being sold out from under us so that power-hungry politicians, greedy military contractors, and bloodthirsty war hawks can make a hefty profit at our expense.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that your hard-earned tax dollars are being used for national security and urgent military needs.

It’s all a ruse.

You know what happens to tax dollars that are left over at the end of the government’s fiscal year? Government agencies—including the Department of Defense—go on a “use it or lose it” spending spree so they can justify asking for money in the next fiscal year.

We’re not talking chump change, either.

We’re talking $97 billion worth of wasteful spending.

According to an investigative report by Open the Government, among the items purchased during the last month of the fiscal year when government agencies go all out to get rid of these “use it or lose it” funds: Wexford Leather club chair ($9,241), china tableware ($53,004), alcohol ($308,994), golf carts ($673,471), musical equipment including pianos, tubas, and trombones ($1.7 million), lobster tail and crab ($4.6 million), iPhones and iPads ($7.7 million), and workout and recreation equipment ($9.8 million).

So much for draining the swamp.

Anyone who suggests that the military needs more money is either criminally clueless or equally corrupt, because the military isn’t suffering from lack of funding—it’s suffering from lack of proper oversight.

Where President Trump fits into that scenario, you decide.

Trump may turn out to be, as policy analyst Stan Collender warned, “the biggest deficit- and debt-increasing president of all time.”

Rest assured, however, that if Trump gets his way—to the tune of a $4.7 trillion budget that digs the nation deeper in debt to foreign creditors, adds $750 billion for the military budget, and doubles the debt growth that Trump once promised to erase—the war profiteers (and foreign banks who “own” our debt) will be raking in a fortune while America goes belly up.

This is basic math, and the numbers just don’t add up.

As it now stands, the U.S. government is operating in the negative on every front: it’s spending far more than what it makes (and takes from the American taxpayers) and it is borrowing heavily (from foreign governments and Social Security) to keep the government operating and keep funding its endless wars abroad.

Certainly, nothing about the way the government budgets its funds puts America’s needs first.

The nation’s educational system is pathetic (young people are learning nothing about their freedoms or their government). The infrastructure is antiquated and growing more outdated by the day. The health system is overpriced and inaccessible to those who need it most. The supposedly robust economy is belied by the daily reports of businesses shuttering storefronts and declaring bankruptcy. And our so-called representative government is a sham.

If this is a formula for making America great again, it’s not working.

The White House wants taxpayers to accept that the only way to reduce the nation’s ballooning deficit is by cutting “entitlement” programs such as Social Security and Medicare, yet the glaring economic truth is that at the end of the day, it’s the military industrial complex—and not the sick, the elderly or the poor—that is pushing America towards bankruptcy.

We have become a debtor nation, and the government is sinking us deeper into debt with every passing day that it allows the military industrial complex to call the shots.

Simply put, the government cannot afford to maintain its over-extended military empire.

Money is the new 800-pound gorilla,” remarked a senior administration official involved in Afghanistan. “It shifts the debate from ‘Is the strategy working?’ to ‘Can we afford this?’ And when you view it that way, the scope of the mission that we have now is far, far less defensible.” Or as one commentator noted, “Foreclosing the future of our country should not be confused with defending it.”

To be clear, the U.S government’s defense spending is about one thing and one thing only: establishing and maintaining a global military empire.

Although the U.S. constitutes only 5% of the world’s population, America boasts almost 50% of the world’s total military expenditure, spending more on the military than the next 19 biggest spending nations combined.

In fact, the Pentagon spends more on war than all 50 states combined spend on health, education, welfare, and safety.

The American military-industrial complex has erected an empire unsurpassed in history in its breadth and scope, one dedicated to conducting perpetual warfare throughout the earth.

Since 2001, the U.S. government has spent more than $4.7 trillion waging its endless wars.

Having been co-opted by greedy defense contractors, corrupt politicians and incompetent government officials, America’s expanding military empire is bleeding the country dry at a rate of more than $32 million per hour.

In fact, the U.S. government has spent more money every five seconds in Iraq than the average American earns in a year.

Then there’s the cost of maintaining and staffing the 1000-plus U.S. military bases spread around the world and policing the globe with 1.3 million U.S. troops stationed in 177 countries (over 70% of the countries worldwide).

Future wars and military exercises waged around the globe are expected to push the total bill upwards of $12 trillion by 2053.

The U.S. government is spending money it doesn’t have on a military empire it can’t afford.

As investigative journalist Uri Friedman puts it, for more than 15 years now, the United States has been fighting terrorism with a credit card, “essentially bankrolling the wars with debt, in the form of purchases of U.S. Treasury bonds by U.S.-based entities like pension funds and state and local governments, and by countries like China and Japan.”

War is not cheap, but it becomes outrageously costly when you factor in government incompetence, fraud, and greedy contractors.

As The Nation reports:

For decades, the DoD’s leaders and accountants have been perpetrating a gigantic, unconstitutional accounting fraud, deliberately cooking the books to mislead the Congress and drive the DoD’s budgets ever higher, regardless of military necessity. DoD has literally been making up numbers in its annual financial reports to Congress—representing trillions of dollars’ worth of seemingly nonexistent transactions—knowing that Congress would rely on those misleading reports when deciding how much money to give the DoD the following year.

For example, a leading accounting firm concluded that one of the Pentagon’s largest agencies “can’t account for hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of spending.”

Unfortunately, the outlook isn’t much better for the spending that can be tracked.

A government audit found that defense contractor Boeing has been massively overcharging taxpayers for mundane parts, resulting in tens of millions of dollars in overspending. As the report noted, the American taxpayer paid:

$71 for a metal pin that should cost just 4 cents; $644.75 for a small gear smaller than a dime that sells for $12.51: more than a 5,100 percent increase in price. $1,678.61 for another tiny part, also smaller than a dime, that could have been bought within DoD for $7.71: a 21,000 percent increase. $71.01 for a straight, thin metal pin that DoD had on hand, unused by the tens of thousands, for 4 cents: an increase of over 177,000 percent.

That price gouging has become an accepted form of corruption within the American military empire is a sad statement on how little control “we the people” have over our runaway government.

Mind you, this isn’t just corrupt behavior. It’s deadly, downright immoral behavior.

The U.S. government is not making the world any safer. It’s making the world more dangerous. It is estimated that the U.S. military drops a bomb somewhere in the world every 12 minutes. Since 9/11, the United States government has directly contributed to the deaths of around 500,000. Every one of those deaths was paid for with taxpayer funds.

The U.S. government is not making America any safer. It’s exposing American citizens to alarming levels of blowback, a CIA term referring to the unintended consequences of the U.S. government’s international activities. Chalmers Johnson, a former CIA consultant, repeatedly warned that America’s use of its military to gain power over the global economy would result in devastating blowback.

Those who call the shots in the government—those who push the military industrial complex’s agenda—those who make a killing by embroiling the U.S. in foreign wars—have not heeded Johnson’s warning.

The U.S. government is not making American citizens any safer. The repercussions of America’s military empire have been deadly, not only for those innocent men, women and children killed by drone strikes abroad but also those here in the United States.

The 9/11 attacks were blowback. The Boston Marathon Bombing was blowback. The attempted Times Square bomber was blowback. The Fort Hood shooter, a major in the U.S. Army, was blowback.

The transformation of America into a battlefield is blowback.

All of this carnage is being carried out with the full support of the American people, or at least with the proxy that is our taxpayer dollars.

The government is destabilizing the economy, destroying the national infrastructure through neglect and a lack of resources, and turning taxpayer dollars into blood money with its endless wars, drone strikes and mounting death tolls.

As Martin Luther King Jr. recognized, under a military empire, war and its profiteering will always take precedence over the people’s basic human needs.

Similarly, President Dwight Eisenhower warned us not to let the profit-driven war machine endanger our liberties or democratic processes.

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. […] Is there no other way the world may live?”

We failed to heed Eisenhower’s warning.

The illicit merger of the armaments industry and the government that Eisenhower warned against has come to represent perhaps the greatest threat to the nation today.

It’s not sustainable, of course.

Eventually, inevitably, military empires fall and fail by spreading themselves too thin and spending themselves to death.

It happened in Rome. It’s happening again.

The America empire is already breaking down.

We’re already witnessing a breakdown of society on virtually every front, and the government is ready.

For years now, the government has worked with the military to prepare for widespread civil unrest brought about by “economic collapse, loss of functioning political and legal order, purposeful domestic resistance or insurgency, pervasive public health emergencies, and catastrophic natural and human disasters.”

For years now, the government has been warning against the dangers of domestic terrorism, erecting surveillance systems to monitor its own citizens, creating classification systems to label any viewpoints that challenge the status quo as extremist, and training law enforcement agencies to equate anyone possessing anti-government views as a domestic terrorist.

We’re approaching critical mass.

As long as “we the people” continue to allow the government to wage its costly, meaningless, endless wars abroad, the American homeland will continue to suffer: our roads will crumble, our bridges will fail, our schools will fall into disrepair, our drinking water will become undrinkable, our communities will destabilize, our economy will tank, crime will rise, and our freedoms will suffer.

So who will save us?

As I make clear in my book, Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we’d better start saving ourselves: one by one, neighbor to neighbor, through grassroots endeavors, by pushing back against the police state where it most counts—in our communities first and foremost, and by holding fast to what binds us together and not allowing politics and other manufactured nonrealities to tear us apart.

Start today. Start now. Do your part.

Literally and figuratively, the buck starts and stops with “we the people.”

~~  John W. Whitehead ~~

Trump’s bulls__t bull’s-eye

The Free Press WV

Whatever one might think about Donald Trump’s claim to be a “stable genius,” his rambling and seemingly unfocused rant of a speech to an enthusiastic throng of CPAC attendees on Saturday demonstrated the kind of demagoguery at which he has become adept—and included a chilling shot across the bow of the smoldering political debate dividing this country. What Trump did was raise the ante in a very dangerous way, and in so doing reinforce the concern Michael Cohen expressed last Wednesday in public testimony before Congress, a concern that has been on my mind for a couple of years now but gets very limited attention in the mainstream media or on guardedly progressive cable networks like MSNBC.

Addressing the House Oversight Committee on Feb. 27, Cohen said in a closing statement, “I fear that if he loses the election in 2020, there will never be a peaceful transition of power.” Coming from a longtime Trump “enforcer,” lightly regarded for his political or intellectual gravitas, the warning was both surprising and sobering.

Trump had already raised the stakes last month when he declared a national emergency over border wall funding, ignoring the wishes of Congress and making an unprecedented grab for executive power that many thought threatened the checks and balances written into the Constitution by the founding fathers. But on Saturday his rhetoric seemed to launch a new phase of escalation and make Cohen’s concerns even more ominous.

Speaking about the Mueller investigation and the broadening inquiries in the newly Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, Trump hurled words like “lunatic,” “sick” and “dirty,” and characterized Democrats’ efforts as a no-holds-barred assault on his presidency: “They’re trying to take you out with bullshit, OK? With bullshit.”

Unprecedented, unpresidential, debasing and vulgar are only some of the adjectives that would be appropriate to describe the president’s language. But looked at another way, the invective was unerringly on target—a bulls__t bull’s-eye, if you will. To an adoring base that has elevated Trump to the status of a cult leader (chosen by God, some say), he accomplished several things at once. Not only did he extend his defiance of politically correct behavior and language, he coined a new rallying cry, to be echoed when Mueller’s report is issued, or when Democrats reveal the findings of their investigations, or the Justice Department’s Southern District of New York builds criminal cases against him.

Trump or his inner circle was involved in collusion with Russia? Bullshit, they’ll shout. Trump obstructed justice, violated campaign finance laws, committed bank fraud, insurance fraud, witness tampering, violations of the emoluments clause? Bullshit, they’ll scream. Impeach the president? Bullshit.

But with Congress gridlocked and successful impeachment unlikely, the 2020 election still seems like the best shot we’ll have at derailing Trump’s authoritarian juggernaut, and that’s where my fear and Cohen’s warning converge: If he wins, it’s all over for democracy in this country, but even if he loses, who among us can really see Trump going quietly? Even in 2016, prepared to lose to Hillary, he was all ready to cry fraud and contest the election. Not only will he almost certainly do so after a loss in 2020, but he is steering his base toward mass violence to protest the “deep state” conspiracy, “voter fraud” from minorities and a diabolical “coup” to drive him from office. Should he get away with the trumped-up border emergency, an allegedly rigged election will surely be his next excuse for a national emergency. If it’s not just a witch-hunt but a “bullshit” assault designed to take out the greatest president ever, a Democratic victory at the polls may be nearly as dangerous as a loss.

This country never fully got over the Civil War (on a cultural level, if not a geographic one) and may be headed for another iteration. With his bullshit bull’s-eye, a narcissistic rich kid from Queens may just have fired the first round.

Steve Klinger is a veteran community journalist and college English instructor based in southern New Mexico. Frequently skeptical about the capacity of the written word to inspire activism, he also writes songs, hoping to add the power of music to his topical lyrics.

Jeanette Riffle: Swinging Bridge Experiences

The Free Press WV

At one time, there were a lot of those old bridges around. There are still a few. My husband remembers falling through one down the road from us, across the creek from where Dee Cottrell now lives. He was a teenager at the time and was going across the creek to hunt. The bridge was getting old and not being maintained.  After he got his groundhog and was on his way back home, he fell through a board and hit the bank.  It’s a good thing that he fell where he did because there wasn’t enough water in the creek at the time. The creek was low, and he would have gotten hurt had he fallen to the creek. I remember a time when me, my brothers, and some cousins, had to watch out for a missing board of the swinging bridge across the creek at our Stewart grandparents farm. We had sneaked off and went over to the old abandoned Fitzpatrick house. We got spooked in there by noises and “flew the cat hole!”  All the little boys ran ahead of my older girl cousin and me.  By the time we got there, those boys had that bridge swaying so bad, that we had to get down on our knees and crawl across and then get up at the other end and step across the missing board, to the bank. I never went across again but I heard of some cousins from Michigan who ventured over there and one of the boys fell through and he swam to the bank and pulled himself up out of the water.

I was reading about some comical experiences that other people have had with swinging bridges. One woman said she saw a cow go across one. Now, that must have been something! A cow is clumsy. Another person said he liked to ride his bike across when he was a teenager. Still others said they were always afraid of those bridges and didn’t dare try and cross one.

Until next time, dress for the weather and stay healthy. We have had a wintry mix this weekend and then today, it got up to 75 degrees and was nice except for the March wind blowing. It was roaring up in the hilltops and would dip down in the valley now and then. Hopefully, it dried up some mud from all the rain.

God bless and keep you in His care!

Re-inhabiting planet earth

The Free Press WV

“I believe that for a moment I thought the explosion might set fire to the atmosphere and thus finish the Earth, even though I knew that this was not possible.”

These words of Manhattan Project physicist Emilio Segre, quoted by Richard Rhodes in his book The Making of the Atomic Bomb, refer to the Trinity blast on July 16, 1945, at Alamogordo, N.M., the first atomic explosion in history and, so it appears, a turning point for all life on this planet.

The atmosphere didn’t catch fire at 5:30 that morning, but Segre’s words remain relevant, sort of like radioactive fallout. They encapsulate what may be history’s ultimate moment of human arrogance: the belief in a sense of separateness from and superiority to nature so thorough that we have, with our monstrous intelligence, the ability and therefore the right to play Bad God and make the whole planet go poof.

Turns out the Trinity test set into motion something even more profound than the nuclear era. The bomb didn’t just “defeat” Japan and define the Cold War, with its suicidal nuclear arms race. It is also, at least symbolically, marks the beginning of what has come to be known as the Anthropocene: an era of profound climate and “Earth system” destabilization caused by human activity and therefore, like it or not, establishing humans as co-equal participants in activity of the natural world.

There’s more to this “co-equal” status than nuclear weapons, of course. They may be the tip of our arrogance, but we’ve been exploiting and rearranging the planet for nearly 12,000 years, since the beginning of the era we are now leaving, the Holocene, an era of climate stability in which human civilization and all written history emerged. From the development of agriculture to the industrial revolution – the plundering of the Earth for oil and coal, the spewing of infinitesimal plastic nurdles across the planet, the creation of continent-sized trash mounds afloat in the oceans, the replacement of biodiversity with monoculture, the poisoning of the air and water and, yes, nuclear testing and the spread of radioactive fallout – humanity, or at least a small portion of it, has exercised an intelligence with a serious moral void.

And now the chickens are coming home to roost. Or as David Korten put it: “Humans might be the first species to knowingly choose self-extinction.”

What’s crucial about all this goes well beyond the dangers of climate change and the need for techno-fixes to our socioeconomic structures. History professor Julia Adeney Thomas puts it this way: “The Anthropocene’s interrelated systematicity presents not a problem, but a multidimensional predicament. A problem might be solved, often with a single technological tool produced by experts in a single field, but a predicament presents a challenging condition requiring resources and ideas of many kinds. We don’t solve predicaments; instead, we navigate through them.”

She adds: “. . . the hardest challenges will be about how to alter our political and economic systems.”
These aren’t just technical problems for “experts” to solve while the rest of look on (or go shopping). What’s emerging from all this for me is that humanity has to evolve for its own survival, and evolution is going to take all of us – or at least all of us who can think beyond the structures of thought in which we grew up, in which we came of age. The first premise for navigating the Anthropocene may be this: We’re all in it together.

Simple as this sounds, the implications of such a statement, if it is true, begin mushrooming into unfathomable complexity, especially when “all” refers not simply to all 7.4 billion human beings out there but all of life: the biosphere, the planet. We have to rethink who we are in a way that has, quite likely, never before happened.

“In the Anthropocene the old simplicities are gone,” writes Mark Garavan. “We are no longer human subjects acting upon an objective nature ‘outside’ us. Nature and human are now bound together. Free nature is over. Free humanity is over. They are relics of the Holocene. In our new age, Earth and Human are entangled irrevocably together. Welcome to the era of Earth-bound responsibility! The assumptions, the myths, the illusions of the Holocene no longer apply.”

And any institution founded on such myths and illusions – that the planet is ours to exploit, that some people matter more than others, that national borders are real, that dehumanizing and killing one another (a little activity called war) keeps us safe, that money equals God – cannot and will not survive the Anthropocene, and the “solutions” that emerge from such institutions, e.g., solving the climate crisis, are rooted in failure. “The challenge,” says Garavan, “is to re-think and re-inhabit our planet.”
That is to say, we have to start over.

And I think that’s what’s happening. New values are percolating. So are old values – the values human beings once embraced as they claimed the right to occupy Planet Earth. These values include interdependence and cooperation, and profound reverence for the planet. Rupert Ross, in his book Returning to the Teachings, points out, for instance: “The Lakotah had no language for insulting other orders of existence: “pest . . . waste . . . weed.”

Indigenous understanding is not “primitive.” It includes cooperation and compassion in its grasp of how things work, of what it means to live within the circle of life. The indigenous peoples of the planet have remained its protectors.

As Jade Begay and Ay?e Gürsöz point out at EcoWatch: “Even the seemingly groundbreaking Paris agreement neither includes human rights in its text nor acknowledges Indigenous rights — even though lands and waters stewarded by Indigenous communities make up 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity. What we need is for climate policy and the overall climate movement to address problems of inequality, because climate change is just as much a social issue as it is an environmental issue.”

In other words, biodiversity and social diversity are both precious. Knowing this means re-inhabiting the planet, not setting it on fire.

Robert Koehler, is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor. His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound is available.

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