May 28, 2013 archive

Waste, Fraud, and Abuse

Isn’t it nice to know that your Headstart and Cancer Care money is going to projects like this-

Navy Ship Can’t Meet Mission, Internal U.S. Report Finds

By Tony Capaccio, Bloomberg News

May 6, 2013 9:49 PM ET

“The LCS (Littoral Combat Ship) program today is one of our very best programs,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus told the House Armed Services Committee on April 16. “It’s coming in under budget. It’s coming in on schedule. And it’s coming in with capabilities that we have to have.”

The Navy has 20 vessels under contract out of a planned fleet of 52. Construction costs have doubled to $440 million per ship from an original goal of $220 million.

Key to the Littoral Combat Ship’s success is fulfilling its planned capability of switching within 96 hours the vessel’s weapons modules for missions, such as finding mines, conducting anti-submarine operations and waging surface warfare.

The confidential report found, though, that the 96-hour goal doesn’t represent the entire process of switching weapons modules. The clock only starts when the module and everything ready to support it are dockside, the report said.

One wargame demonstrated that “getting all of the right people and equipment on station to conduct the exchange could take several weeks,” according to the report, and that process “removed LCS from the tactical fight.”

The Perez report also highlights the vessel’s limited combat capability. The Navy has acknowledged that the vessels are being built to the service’s lowest level of survivability, a Pentagon-approved decision that sought to balance cost and performance.

The ship “is not expected to be survivable in that it is not expected to maintain mission capability after taking a significant hit in a hostile combat environment,” Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s chief weapons tester, said in a January report.

Even in its surface warfare role, when all armaments are working as intended, the vessel “is only capable of neutralizing” small, fast-attack boats and it “remains vulnerable to ships” with anti-ship cruise missiles that can travel more than five miles (8 kilometers), according to the Perez report. Iran has 67 such vessels, according to a chart in the report.

Because they couldn’t make up their mind this new ship is being sourced from two different vendors, negating any cost saving from standardization.  Remind you of anything?  Why yes, the two engine controversy from the F-35, another boondoggle brought to you by our friendly arms merchants at Lockheed; so it’s no surprise to learn that they’re one of the 2 prime vendors with an all Aluminum trimaran which just dissolves in salt water.

But what I’d like to focus on is that 5 mile range.  You’d get better results stationing a couple of guys with Stingers on a tanker deck.  In Harpoon (favorite game ever) we had a word for ships like that-


Dasvidania Rodina,” (traditional salute as Russian ships begin their attack runs).

The first time my brother saved my life.

One of the reasons I enjoy The Stars Hollow Gazette & Docudharma is because I like their take on current events.  I’m always finding something new that I hadn’t seen or heard before.  I’m always finding something to forward to friends and talk with people about. But there are days I just can’t deal with.  The news, the state of the country, the hypocrisy of our elected leaders, it’s all just too much.  Those days when the only new news is the same old bad news.

I suspect it’s the same for folks like ek & TheMomCat. On some of those days I’ll find an article like  this here, a funny story about life in Connecticut, and I’ll laugh and escape for a bit.  For me anyway, a story like that IS a community service.

So that inspired me. And as long as ek is going all James Thurber Garrison Keillor, well… I thought I’d add some.

This is the story of the first time my brother saved my life. The first time I can remember anyway. There were probably other saves but I’m not very good with that time period between the venetian blinds that I remember clearly from the hospital room where I was born, and when I was about age three.  If I had to guess, in this story I was somewhere between three-and-a-half and five.

On This Day In History May 28

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on image to enlarge

May 28 is the 148th day of the year (149th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 217 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1961, the British newspaper The London Observer publishes British lawyer Peter Benenson’s article “The Forgotten Prisoners” on its front page, launching the Appeal for Amnesty 1961–a campaign calling for the release of all people imprisoned in various parts of the world because of the peaceful expression of their beliefs.

Benenson was inspired to write the appeal after reading an article about two Portuguese students who were jailed after raising their glasses in a toast to freedom in a public restaurant. At the time, Portugal was a dictatorship ruled by Antonio de Oliveira Salazar. Outraged, Benenson penned the Observer article making the case for the students’ release and urging readers to write letters of protest to the Portuguese government. The article also drew attention to the variety of human rights violations taking place around the world, and coined the term “prisoners of conscience” to describe “any person who is physically restrained (by imprisonment or otherwise) from expressing…any opinion which he honestly holds and does not advocate or condone personal violence.”

“The Forgotten Prisoners” was soon reprinted in newspapers across the globe, and Berenson’s amnesty campaign received hundreds of offers of support. In July, delegates from Belgium, the United Kingdom, France, the United States, Germany, Ireland and Switzerland met to begin “a permanent international movement in defense of freedom of opinion and religion.” The following year, this movement would officially become the human rights organization Amnesty International.

Born in London as Peter James Henry Solomon to a Jewish family, the only son of Harold Solomon and Flora Benenson, Peter Benenson adopted his mother’s maiden name later in life. His army officer father died when Benenson was aged nine from a long-term injury, and he was tutored privately by W. H. Auden before going to Eton. At the age of sixteen he helped to establish a relief fund with other schoolboys for children orphaned by the Spanish Civil War. He took his mother’s maiden name of Benenson as a tribute to his grandfather, the Russian gold tycoon Grigori Benenson, following his grandfather’s death.

He enrolled for study at Balliol College, Oxford but World War II interrupted his education. From 1941 to 1945, Benenson worked at Bletchley Park, the British codebreaking centre, in the “Testery”, a section tasked with breaking German teleprinter ciphers. It was at this time when he met his first wife, Margaret Anderson. After demobilisation in 1946, Benenson began practising as a barrister before joining the Labour Party and standing unsuccessfully for election. He was one of a group of British lawyers who founded JUSTICE in 1957, the UK-based human rights and law reform organisation. In 1958 he fell ill and moved to Italy in order to convalesce. In the same year he converted to the Roman Catholic Church.

In 1961 Benenson was shocked and angered by a newspaper report of two Portuguese students from Coimbra sentenced to seven years in prison for raising their glasses in a toast to freedom during the autocratic regime of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar – the Estado Novo. In 1961, Portugal was the last remaining European colonial power in Africa, ruled by the authoritarian Estado Novo regime. Anti-regime conspiracies were vigorously repressed by the Portuguese state police and deemed anti-Portuguese. He wrote to David Astor, editor of The Observer. On 28 May, Benenson’s article, entitled “The Forgotten Prisoners,” was published. The letter asked readers to write letters showing support for the students. To co-ordinate such letter-writing campaigns, Amnesty International was founded in Luxembourg in July at a meeting of Benenson and six other men. The response was so overwhelming that within a year groups of letter-writers had formed in more than a dozen countries.

Initially appointed general secretary of AI, Benenson stood down in 1964 owing to ill health. By 1966, the Amnesty International faced an internal crisis and Benenson alleged that the organization he founded was being infiltrated by British intelligence. The advisory position of president of the International Executive was then created for him. In 1966, he began to make allegations of improper conduct against other members of the executive. An inquiry was set up which reported at Elsinore in Denmark in 1967. The allegations were rejected and Benenson resigned from AI.

While never again active in the organization, Benenson was later personally reconciled with other executives, including Sean MacBride. He died of pneumonia on 25 February 2005 at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, aged 83.


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Obama’s Neoconservative World

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

While much of the media was praising President Barack Obama’s speech on counter-terrorism and closing the military detention center at Guantanamo, others were hearing a reconfirmation of the neoconservative the war on terror, especially an expansion of the drone program and targeted assassinations:

But Obama’s speech appeared to expand those who are targeted in drone strikes and other undisclosed “lethal actions” in apparent anticipation of an overhaul of the 2001 congressional resolution authorizing the use of force against al Qaida and allied groups that supported the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

In every previous speech, interview and congressional testimony, Obama and his top aides have said that drone strikes are restricted to killing confirmed “senior operational leaders of al Qaida and associated forces” plotting imminent violent attacks against the United States.

But Obama dropped that wording Thursday, making no reference at all to senior operational leaders. While saying that the United States is at war with al Qaida and its associated forces, he used a variety of descriptions of potential targets, from “those who want to kill us” and “terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat” to “all potential terrorist targets.”

According to the above article from McClatchy, in a fact sheet that was distributed by the White House, targeted killings would continue outside “areas of active hostilities,” and could be used against “a senior operational leader of a terrorist organization or the forces that organization is using or intends to use to conduct terrorist attacks.” If the president’s intent was to quell the criticism of  charges by some legal scholars and civil and human rights groups, he fell more than a little flat, he outright failed.

During a panel discussion on MSNBC’s Up with Steve Kornacki, Buzz Feed corespondent Michael Hastings harshly shredded Pres. Obama speech sating that the president has bought into the Bush administration’s neoconservative world view:

“If you compare this speech to the speech he gave in Cairo, in 2009 or his Nobel Prize speech, you see almost a total rejection of the civil rights tradition that President Obama supposedly came out of… and just an embrace of total militarism,” Hastings said.

“That speech to me was essentially agreeing with President Bush and Vice President Cheney that we’re in this neo-conservative paradigm, that we’re at war with a jihadist threat that actually is not a nuisance but the most important threat we’re facing today,” Hastings continued.

The discussion continued on the ramifications of drone strikes on national security and US image with host Steve Kotnacki, Michael Hastings, Omar Farahstaff attorney in the Guantanamo Global Justice Initiative; Perry Bacon, Jr., msnbc contributor; and Kiron Skinner, professor, Carnegie Mellon University.

In response to the president’s speech, the Miami Herald Editorial Board took him to task over the abuse of the power of his office and the need for congress to rein in the president during wartime:

The president attempted to strike a balance between the need to use force against persistent threats and the obligation to overhaul the structures put in place to respond to 9/11 – from the use of drones to the creation of the prison at Guantánamo Bay.

It’s about time. In the 12 years since the attack on the Twin Towers, presidential authority has expanded dramatically in response to the threat, but that does not mean it should be that way forever. It offends the constitutional foundation of American democracy for any chief executive to wield permanent, unchecked authority to order drone strikes anywhere in the world beyond our borders against anyone deemed a suitable target – including Americans – and past time to impose effective limits on such power. [..]

But the speech left many questions unanswered. The 16-page policy guideline the president approved prior to the speech remains classified. And despite all the talk about transparency, the administration is still withholding from Congress legal opinions governing targeted killings.

Despite the build up from the White House fed talking points to the news media, the president’s speech did little to reassure the public that he shifting away from perpetual war with no boarders.

Around the Blogosphere

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

 photo Winter_solstice.gifThe main purpose our blogging is to communicate our ideas, opinions, and stories both fact and fiction. The best part about the the blogs is information that we might not find in our local news, even if we read it online. Sharing that information is important, especially if it educates, sparks conversation and new ideas. We have all found places that are our favorites that we read everyday, not everyone’s are the same. The Internet is a vast place. Unlike Punting the Pundits which focuses on opinion pieces mostly from the mainstream media and the larger news web sites, “Around the Blogosphere” will focus more on the medium to smaller blogs and articles written by some of the anonymous and not so anonymous writers and links to some of the smaller pieces that don’t make it to “Pundits” by Krugman, Baker, etc.

We encourage you to share your finds with us. It is important that we all stay as well informed as we can.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

This is an Open Thread.  

It seems most everyone had better things to do on this Memorial Day than hang out on the Internet. It was a bright, warm sunshiny day here in Stars Hollow and now has cooled a bit and you’ll need a sweater for your evening stroll.

There were a few amusements, however, over at Yves Smith‘s place, naked capitalism she had this picture in her Links of a large bovine warming himself on the hood of a BMW.

Cow on a BMW photo Mail-Attachment_zps0fa606ca.jpg

Maybe he’s in upper New York State where Whiteface Mountain ski resort had three feet of snow for the kick off the first weekend of Summer.

The tengrain at Dependable Renegaded had this video that most likely expresses the mood of many of our readers:

and watertiger gives a us book review from the Ohmiholymotherofchrist category:

Fires of Siberia (pdf), a [Michele] Bachmann-inspired romance novel, tells the tale of a red state presidential candidate who crashes in Siberia during a trip to improve (or invent) her foreign policy credentials, and must make her way back to civilization with the help of a dashing stranger named-wait for it-Steadman Bass.

And last but not least, our pal at Esquire’s Political Blog, Charles P. Pierce has the latest news in the saga of Rob Ford, the “crazy mayor of Toronto, Canada:

A senior member of Rob Ford’s office was interviewed by police last week about a tip linking a video allegedly showing the mayor smoking illicit drugs to a recent Toronto homicide, two separate sources have confirmed. [..]

he informant in the mayor’s office purported to know the address and unit number where the video was being held. They went on to say that the video originally belonged to an individual who may have been killed for its potentially valuable contents, according to a source. The video clip was allegedly offered for sale to the Star and Gawker by men involved in the drug trade, according to reports in both outlets. Gawker is trying to raise $200,000 for the video through an online campaign. Both media reports were accompanied by a photo, provided by the men selling the video, that allegedly shows Mr. Ford standing with a man believed to be Anthony Smith, a 21-year-old man gunned down in downtown Toronto in March.

and some words of wisdom for now and future politicians:

Pro Tips for rising young pols:a)  bad form to smoke crack; b) very bad form to be videotaped smoking crack; c) extraordinarily bad form to be videotaped smoking crack next to a guy who subsequently gets iced on a downtown street. I am going to post this now before Rob Ford hijacks an airliner and demands to be flown to a Singapore brothel.

No, folks, we do not make this stuff up. We just bring you the news.

Reborn? More Like Invasion of the Country Snatchers: by James Hepburn

Originally posted by James Hepburn here, and reposted with express permission.

And now re-posted from Voices on the Square– ek hornbeck

Am I the only one who saw the America "being reborn" diary and it immediately conjured up images from some scifi dystopian movie you probably only saw the trailer for? Like, "It Lives II – The Rebirth"

Well, if it didn't, it should have. Let me summarize that diary's main points:

1. America was never all that – there was no heyday.

2. Shit has sucked before and so it will again.

3. Not falling apart – being reborn, into what nobody knows.

4. But it's not that bad because 3D Printers can print solar panels.

5. We're in a great revolution, shift, change – reborn into what even the powerful don't know.

6. Now is the time to steer the direction of history, these are not end times, but interesting times – "Homosexual couples can get married in America. A Black man is President. We are world leaders in a reduction of CO2 emissions."

7 The world is changing, but the powerful will "push back."

8. They will appear insurmountable, until they aren't.

This evoked cries of Yay! from many commenters extolling the virtues of optimism. 'Things aren't as bad as that. And thank you for being positive for a change.'

One commenter even asked what hole all these pessimists crawled out of. "Progressives are supposed to be about progress. Leave the "we-can't" stuff to the other guys," he said.

I have long suspected that some on this site exist in some kind of shell, and when news or information that threatens or challenges their views gets posted, or even makes it to the Rec'd List, they simply ignore it.

And I will say now, I don't blame them. Reality is depressing. Who wants to sit around thinking about how earth is in its 6th mass extinction event, or how, at the current rate, the Amazon Rainforest will be wiped out before the end of the century greatly amplifying and feedbacking the effects of climate change, or how climate change is, according to a report (PDF) sponsored by the World Bank, moving us toward conditions that could be accurately likened to an apocalypse, or how the world is running out of fresh water and our aquifers are drying up,or how, as we speak, the Fukushima reactor in Japan is leaking untold amounts of radioactive water into the Pacific ocean, or how Obama and BP's solution to the Gulf oil spill actually made it much worse, or how the real unemployment rate is actually worse and continues to get worser still, or how the same economic "policies" that have devastated Detroit and other formerly industrial cities will be devastating your city soon enough, or how our schools have become pipelines to prisons, or how our corporate produced foods have become poisonous, etc etc etc.

I get it. This shit, like, totally harshes your buzz. So it's easy to turn away – especially when a lot of it is happening somewhere else or doesn't quite effect you personally yet (except for the tornadoes, hurricanes, droughts, floods, snowpocalypses, epidemics of strange illnesses and other more normal ones like childhood asthma, health care bankruptcy, getting fired from your job, etc etc etc). So as long as we ignore all the things that are wrong, things look pretty fucking good.  As one commenter in said diary said, compared to 2nd world countries, "We're in pretty good shape."

A lot of it depends on one's perspective. My inlaws paid about 1.5 mil. for their house. It's in a gated neighborhood with water sprinklers that keep the vast acres of grass green, even in some winter months. Things look super from there. No crime. Best public schools in the state. Roads perfectly paved.

It helps to put things in perspective. I guess.

Anyway, as for the "Reborn" diary, I just want to make a couple of corrections.

It is true, there was never a heyday when all was well in America. But utopian perfection has never defined what made up the US's heyday. Trajectory does.

1930s-1970s: That was America's heyday. Not because there weren't serious wrongs during that period. But because things were getting better. We were on a progressive trajectory, established by progressives. That trajectory began to change in the early 70s. Not because of some unknowable, great global shift revolution that is "all around us."

It began to change because a few assholes figured out how to rig the system and then went about doing it. It's not a mystery. And it's not a secret. They got together with all their right wing, billionaire buddies and coordinated a campaign to change the trajectory of this country.

Their plan was pretty simple. Work together and form big lobbying groups. Buy the government. Buy up all the mass media and get it away from all those bleeding hearted liberals. And impose their pro business agenda on every major university.

It ain't rocket science.

Muskegon Critic says that America isn't falling apart. He's right. It is being disassembled, piece by piece. The shifts that are occurring aren't a result of an inevitable force. We are not being swept up in some mystical wind of change.

We are simply under attack. And it's an attack that has been ongoing for decades.

The agenda of our attackers is also quite simple, once you get past the distractions. Their agenda is to transform America from the great society vision encapsulated in the New Deal, with a high paid labor class, widespread advanced education, the expectation of a strong social safety net, and tight government controls on big businesses to prevent the exploitation of workers, the pollution of the environment, and ensurance that those who benefit most from our society pay the most to maintain it.

In place of this, they want basically the opposite. They want apeasant labor class to exploit, to weaken government by corrupting andsabotaging our democratic institutions, unfettered access to our naturalresources which, in any sane society would be consider our commonwealth, and no social safety net.

What big business figured out is that they need lots of poor people.The poorer a country is, the more corruptible it is, the moreexploitable it is, the easier it is to pillage.

The kind of society that the New Deal began to create, was unacceptable to the  corrupt parasites of the ruling class. Suddenly you had this emerging labor class, middle class, and academic class that was uber-educated, pretty well informed, and getting smart enough to demand a more just, more equal, and better managed society. Some people call it the 60s. But it wasn't just a trend or an era. And it wasn't limited to hippies or university intellectuals. They were just the cutting edge of something entirely new: the ascendency of a new class in world history. An educated, empowered, financially secure, and politically activated lower class.

The world had really never seen that before, nowhere near on this scale. And all those smart people who used to be too insecure to complain, too ignorant to know what to complain about, and to alienated by the political process to act anyway, were now becoming a big problem. They had expectations of fairness, and the political power, through unions etc, to, to leverage those expectations. They were getting too uppity to be sent off to die in Parasite wars. And they were demanding that the environment be protected. Something had to change.

When all the big business, right wing assholes came together around the Powell Memo, they weren't just acting to advance their business interests. They knew they needed to transform the American public. We needed to become a lot more like a 3rd world country.

That's what's changed. No great tides, or winds or the inevitable replacing of the old with the new. Just some assholes, who own TV networks, radio stations, newspapers, universities, think tanks and countless other little organizations, all designed to make people think what they want us to.

Nothing mysterious about the changes that have transformed our economy either. Over the last 40 years, and in response to New Deal labor laws, and then new environmental regulations passed by LBJ and Nixon, big American businesses basically said fuck America, we'll go to Indonesia, and pollute the fuck out of wherever we want. And labor will be 3 cents on the dollar.

And they and their lobbyists over at the CFR bought up our two parties and, while we were enjoying the sex revolution and Meathead on TV, then quietly began the process of dismantling the entire manufacturing sector of the country. Incredibly, most liberals still don't comprehend what happened there. But that's a huge part of what has changed. The US is now suffering varying degrees of Detroit. And it's going to keep getting worse.

Now is the time to shape history. But unless you have at least some grasp of what that change is, and who's causing it, and how they're causing it, you don't have a chance in hell of changing it.

Yes, America's being reborn alright. But you won't want to see what it's being reborn into. For those of us who have been paying attention, the end result of this re-birthing is no mystery at all. It's exactly what we've seen in other countries, where neoliberalism has been allowed to run unchecked.

And it's not pretty. Liberals generally decry notions of American exceptionalism. But we have our own brand. The "it can't happen here" brand. Are we really so different than the people in Columbia or Chile, where leftists and labor leaders are hunted and murdered?

Is the mass surveillance apparatus, much of which is controlled not by the big brother state, but by private corporations, really immune from abuse by those who wish to defeat American labor and progressive politicians?

Is it really so hard to comprehend why allowing phone calls to recorded and stored by a nameless, faceless, security apparatus is a threat to not just your privacy, but to democracy itself?

Is the trajectory of our country towards increased concentration of wealth and power in the hands of fewer and fewer people, towards greater and greater poverty, towards poorer and poorer education, towards even more manipulation of public perception by corporate mass media, and the threat that poises for all of us, not obvious? Even to those who enjoy good paying jobs?

America has never been perfect. Not even close. But there was a time when its trajectory through history was in alignment with its promise.

Its trajectory now is toward the unthinkable. Unthinkable power, through of technology of weapons and surveillance, combined with an unthinkable absence of democratic governance or accountability.

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