Iran Cracks Down on Oil Smuggling Out of Iran

Kevin Drum - Thu, 07/18/2019 - 11:39

Here’s the latest from the Persian Gulf:

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has seized a foreign tanker and 12 crew members accused of smuggling Iranian fuel, according to reports carried by Iranian state media Thursday….Quoting a Revolutionary Guard statement, the media reports said the tanker was caught transporting smuggled Iranian fuel to unspecified foreign customers. It was detained Sunday, the report said, after departing Iran’s Larak Island in the Strait of Hormuz, the strategic waterway through which a significant percentage of the world’s traded oil is transported.

Wait a second. I thought that Iran wanted to smuggle oil out of the country and it was the United States that wanted to stop it? Or is this not so much smuggling as it is just outright theft? And how is the UAE involved in this? Or are they? It’s getting hard to tell the players without a scorecard these days.

Categories: Politics

Over a year after judge's reunification order, 30 migrant kids are still languishing in U.S. custody

Daily Kos - Thu, 07/18/2019 - 11:34

More than a year after a judge’s reunification order, 30 children who were supposed to be returned to their families after being kidnapped by the Trump administration have remained in U.S. custody, a recent House Committee on Oversight and Reform report says, and at least 10 of those kids remain separated because their parents have already been deported. Family separation remains a crisis. 

The administration has continued to rip apart families since the judge’s order, under outrageous circumstances, even as kids ordered to be reunited remain without their parents, the report says. One of those kids, a 9-year-old Guatemalan boy, has been apart from his dad since May 2018, and as of May 2019 was being held at the Shiloh Treatment Center in Texas. This place has a history of forcibly injecting kids with powerful psychiatric drugs: A lawsuit last year alleged that “children were told they would not be released or see their parents unless they took medication and that they only were receiving vitamins.”

The boy’s dad was deported a year ago this month, the report says. “Records do not indicate what steps the administration has taken to reunify the father and the child, who is now nine years old.” Another Guatemalan child was also ripped from his dad in May 2018, and has remained in U.S. custody in Texas since his dad’s August 2018 deportation. “Again, the records produced to the Committee do not indicate what steps the administration has taken to reunify this family, and this boy is now 14 years old.”

The report reveals that the Trump administration kidnapped at least 18 babies and toddlers under the age of two—“including nine infants under the age of one”—from families and kept some separated for as long as six months. The youngest was just 4 months old, and was kept separated from his family for five months. “Now more than a year and a half old,” The New York Times reported last month, “the baby still can’t walk on his own, and has not spoken.”

From state-sanctioned kidnapping to baby jails to forcing families into homelessness, there is no modern presidency that has been as anti-child as the Trump administration, and the trauma inflicted on them will be for a lifetime—if it doesn’t kill them first. “Were parents or caregivers who brought their kids to me treating them like the migrant children being detained by the Trump administration,” pediatrician Daniel Summers recently wrote, “I would report them for further investigation.”

Families still need our help. Click here to donate any amount you can to one of the important grassroots organizations helping keep families together.

Categories: Politics

Pelosi, Mnuchin have 'top-line' two-year budget, debt ceiling agreement, if Trump doesn't blow it

Daily Kos - Thu, 07/18/2019 - 11:19

From France, where he's meeting with G-7 finance leaders, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday that he and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have reached a top-line agreement for a two-year deal on both spending levels and a debt limit extension. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, or his deputies, are apparently also on board.

"The good news is we've reached an agreement between the administration, the House and the Senate on top-line numbers for both year one and year two," Mnuchin said on CNCBC. "We're now discussing offsets as well as certain structural issues. And we’ve agreed as part of that deal there would be a long-term, two-year debt ceiling increase." He also left open the possibility of a stand-alone debt ceiling extension before Congress recesses for the August break, July 26 for the House and Aug. 2 for the Senate. Those top-line numbers haven't been leaked. Pelosi has pushed for increasing spending limits under the Budget Control Act by $356 billion over the next two years, in addition to flexibility for increases for overseas military spending, funding for 2020 census preparation, and veterans' care.

For her part, Pelosi just says talks have to wrap up by Friday night so that there's enough time to post legislative text for a floor vote next Thursday. "When we have an agreement we'll write it up, and we have to do all of that by Friday evening," Pelosi told reporters. "We're in a good place. We know what we need to do." Thus far, they've apparently set aside hot-button issues of abortion, the Hyde Amendment, and Trump's border war. Pelosi has insisted on new spending for veterans' services, and there is an apparent deal there.

The problem is going to be the House maniacs who have a powerful ally in Trump. While Mnuchin says they've got the negotiations in hand, some other senior White House official is anonymously undercutting that, saying, "The reality is, we have a way to go." Because no one ever knows what Trump will do. Senate Republicans are reportedly doing their bit by trying to jolly him along to support the agreement. Trump whisperer and No. 1 sycophant Lindsey Graham says he told him, "It's in everybody's interest after this recent [shutdown] debacle to show you can actually govern the country," while golfing with Trump last weekend. "I think he got that," he added. Ok, okay.

Categories: Politics

Samantha Bee: Trump's Racism In Review

Crooks and Liars - Thu, 07/18/2019 - 11:15

Yes there's a long history of Trump being racist, but who knew that the married Kellyanne Conway takes time off from being publicly humiliated by her husband's op-eds (or maybe it's just a show) to be a beard for her boss?

Samantha Bee knew.

SAMANTHA BEE: Of course, it wasn't long before spokes-golem Kellyanne Conway leapt to his defense by somehow sounding more racist than her boss.


BEE: Fun fact! That's also how she answers the phone.

Bee also slapped the all-but-four Republican House members for voting against the motion to censure the so-called president.

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Categories: Politics

Microsoft To Give Away Security Software To U.S. Election Offices

Crooks and Liars - Thu, 07/18/2019 - 11:00

It's important to note this software doesn't prevent attacks. It provides verification and can help detect attacks, and I'm a little wary if we can count on the makers of Windows to do that. Via NBC News:

ASPEN, Colo. — Microsoft on Wednesday announced that it would give away software designed to improve the security of American voting machines, even as the tech giant said it had tracked 781 cyberattacks by foreign adversaries targeting political organizations so far this election cycle.

The company said it was rolling out the free, open-source software product called ElectionGuard, which it said uses encryption to "enable a new era of secure, verifiable voting." The company is working with election machine vendors and local governments to deploy the system in a pilot program for the 2020 election.

The system uses an encrypted tracking code to allow a voter to verify that his or her vote has been recorded and has not been tampered with, Microsoft said in a blog post.

[...] Edward Perez, an election security expert with the independent Open Source Election Technology Institute, said Microsoft's move signals that voting systems, long a technology backwater, are finally receiving attention from the county's leading technical minds.

Categories: Politics

The Trump/GOP Healthcare Plan: Lie

Balloon Juice - Thu, 07/18/2019 - 10:59

Indefatigable CNN fact-checker Daniel Dale surfaced this big, fat whopper from last night’s racist hate rally. Warning: the CNN clip contains brief video of Trump speaking at the hate rally, so if you watch it, you’ll see the bloated, sweaty orange shitgibbon chopping the air with his hand as he lies about the nonexistent Republican healthcare plan for about 15 seconds:

Hasty transcript of Trump’s quote for those unwilling to subject themselves to the image:

“Patients with preexisting conditions are protected by Republicans much more so than protected by Democrats, who will never be able to pull it off.”

As Dale points out, Democrats already “pulled it off” with the ACA, which is the only reason preexisting conditions aren’t a thing now, and if the Trump administration gets its way, the ACA will be struck down entirely by the courts, which will not only cause millions to lose access to coverage via the exchanges but also leave every single American with private insurance to the tender mercies of the insurance companies on a whole host of provisions, including preexisting conditions.

A few months ago, Trump started making noises about GOP healthcare reform policies, which Republican electeds played down. That’s because even if Trump is dumb enough to believe his own lies about the nonexistent GOP healthcare plan (debatable), people like Mitch McConnell know releasing a plan would necessitate defending said plan in upcoming elections. But are they going to go into the 2020 election with absolutely nothing? Possibly!

Trump appointed a couple of GOP senators to look into the issue, naming Medicare fraudster Rick Scott as “point man.” But while Scott is definitely a crook, he’s not stupid, so he immediately threw that hot potato right back at the White House on one of the Sunday shows, saying “I look forward to, you know, to seeing what the president’s going to put out.” So did it fall through the cracks? Maybe Jared is working on it?

Anyhoo, regardless of what you think of the various Democratic Party primary candidates’ approaches to healthcare, at least they have policies to debate. The same is true of many other issues, like the phantom wall that Trump lied about last night too. It looks like all Trump will bring to the general election is more lies. Am I wrong in thinking it’ll be harder to pull off a all-lie-based campaign strategy as an incumbent? Maybe, but I ‘m going to choose optimism on this point.

Open thread!

Categories: Politics

Kirsten Gillibrand’s top priority in the Senate: Funding for 9/11 first responders

Daily Kos - Thu, 07/18/2019 - 10:42

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat from New York and 2020 hopeful, is running a staunch anti-Trump campaign. Since announcing her candidacy outside of Trump Tower in New York City, she’s gone on Fox News to slam its abortion coverage, talked about white privilege to white voters in Ohio, and advocated the abolition of ICE. Still, many people on both sides of the political aisle continue to label her a centrist.

“I would call BS on that,” Gillibrand told Daily Kos backstage at Netroots Nation. “I am someone who absolutely gets things done, but I never compromise on my progressive values.” 

Progressive values are the name of the game at Netroots, the biggest progressive conference in the country. Held this July in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, it saw activists, organizers, and politicians—including some of those who’ve thrown their hat in the ring for the Democratic presidential nomination—gathering to discuss their vision and plans for a better United States. Sen. Gillibrand sat down with Daily Kos to talk about her specific vision, and she didn’t mince words when it came to Mitch McConnell, standing up to her own party, and the importance of making reproductive health available to everyone—not just women. 

Her exclusive interview, part of our Making Progress series, is available below, along with transcript. 

Categories: Politics

Massive heat wave brings life-threatening temperatures across much of United States

Daily Kos - Thu, 07/18/2019 - 10:34

Unprecedented storms. Unprecedented fires. Unprecedented floods. And now it’s the season for unprecedented heat.

Earlier this year, it was Australia setting all-time heat records that brought power outages and saw wildlife literally dropping from the trees. Last month, Europe broiled under a heat wave that drove blazing dry air up from the Sahara and saw all-time temperature records, for any date, convincingly topped. Now it’s the United States’ turn to bake under a relentless heat wave.

On Thursday morning, more than 130 million Americans are under a heat watch or warning. Temperatures from the mid-90s to triple digits are being accompanied by humidity that is making the already miserable downright deadly—and it gets worse from here. The National Weather Service has forecast even higher temperatures on Friday and Saturday. Storms are expected to douse the heat in many locations on Sunday, but for other sites, the heat will continue unabated.

The National Weather Service states that over half of the contiguous states will see temperatures in excess of 95 degrees F in the next seven days. Legislators in Washington, D.C., are going to find it hard to throw a snowball across the Senate floor, as temperatures in the city could top 100 degrees. This wave is coming on dates that already carry top temperature records in many locations, and it may lack the local intensity to notch up many new records. However, the heat is extremely widespread. It can be expected to drive record demands for electricity and also to generate what could be record threats to human health.

The greatest health threat over the next few days is to infants and the elderly, both of whom have greater difficulty in regulating body temperature. Also at tremendous risk are workers, including many migrant workers, whose jobs require them to be outside in the heat for long hours. Many states are likely to see air temperatures reach or exceed 95 degrees during the next seven days, with 85% experiencing temperatures above 90 degrees during the same period.

The oppressive humidity, added to lingering moisture from Hurricane Barry, can be expected to drive the heat index to 110 degrees F or higher, and while skeptics may scoff that this is not “the real temperature,” it is a real measure of the threat the heat poses to humans left exposed or laboring in these conditions. Be careful. And be watchful for others, because the time between when someone begins to be affected by heat and when the situation becomes life-threatening can be measured in minutes.

Categories: Politics

Again: Trump didn't somehow turn Republicans meaner and dumber. They did that themselves.

Daily Kos - Thu, 07/18/2019 - 10:30

This, on the National Republican Congressional Committee's new shamelessness and crudity of message, is an awful lot of words from The New York Times and it still doesn't quite get to the meat of the matter. It's not that the NRCC is mimicking Trump's behavior, in their now-rampant name-calling, nickname-giving, lying, and universal "socialist" and/or "anti-Semite" labeling.

It's that this descent into abject propagandizing is being led from the very top. Republican congressional leader Kevin McCarthy, the slippery Capitol eel who spent Tuesday insisting that obvious racism wasn't racism and that Democrats were being terribly uncouth in saying so out loud, and NRCC chair Rep. Tom Emmer are the ones demanding it and orchestrating it. Names can be put to this strategy; it did not arrive from nowhere.

So what does this say about them, personally? It says that Trump or no Trump, this is the sort of people they are. This is the sort of person that the Republican Party, including the members cited in the story as being unhappy about the entire Republican apparatus being turned into a pie-throwing machine, puts in top positions.

And it predates Trump by several decades; Kevin McCarthy’s playbook is, if anything, the Newt Gingrich playbook dumbed down to a bare handful of grade-school taunts. It was Frank Luntz who helped Republicans craft a new party era in which words no longer meant what they meant, and of making the public believe that orange was now purple via focus-group-tested misdirections. It was Dennis Hastert who helped maneuver the party into a new post-9/11 era of simply lying to the American people outright, even over matters of war, and declaring that anyone who pointed out the truth was perhaps on the side of terrorism, or France. (He also pioneered other, ahem, new Republican trends.)

It's not quite right to say that Republicans are mimicking Trump's juvenile and aggressively dishonest rhetoric. That's unfair. Republicans worked very, very hard to invent juvenile and aggressively dishonest rhetoric, to weaponize it, to orchestrate it via a handful of preferred outlets; Trump mimicked them.

Categories: Politics

Musical Interlude

Balloon Juice - Thu, 07/18/2019 - 10:11

He tells a sad story, but the refrain is one to live by:

I’ve been binging Waits while I revise the current tome/albatross.  Something in the rhythm (and the tone) seems to drive the work at a good pace.

Got any songs that make you calm or content, even if a close listen to the lyrics paints a different story?

You may consider this a euphonic open thread.

Categories: Politics

Fox News Host Pins Ben Carson: 'What Does Go Back To Your Country Mean?'

Crooks and Liars - Thu, 07/18/2019 - 10:00
 'What Does Go Back To Your Country Mean?'

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson on Wednesday suggested that President Donald Trump was talking about unemployment when he told four U.S. congresswomen of color to “go back” to their countries.

In an interview on Fox News, host Sandra Smith asked Carson what Trump meant when he attacked Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar (MN), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), Ayanna Pressley (MA) and Rashida Tlaib (MI) on Twitter.

“Did you view the president’s tweets as racist?” Smith wondered.

“I have the advantage of knowing the president very well,” Carson replied. “And he’s not a racist. And his comments are not racist. But he loves the country very much and he has the feeling that those that represent the country should love it as well.”

Smith noted that three of the congresswomen were born in the U.S. and all four are U.S. citizens.

“The president suggested that they could go back to their countries,” Smith continued. “What did the president mean because he’s not taking back anything he said.”

“I think you can see what the president means by looking at his accomplishments,” Carson opined. “Under this president… you see low unemployment — record low for blacks, for Hispanics, for all the demographics of our nation.”

“I think we should pay a lot more attention to what [the president is] doing than what anybody is saying,” he added.

Categories: Politics

Trump solidifies racist attack on Rep. Ilhan Omar as rally crowd chants 'Send her back!'

Daily Kos - Thu, 07/18/2019 - 09:07

At a Wednesday night rally, Donald Trump made it clear that the theme of his 2020 campaign is overt racism. The focus on openly attacking people of color and setting loyalty tests that Trump himself would have failed a thousand times over was answered by loud and angry chants from his supporters, who added, “Send her back!” to the repertoire of hate-filled cries.

Trump has never made much effort to disguise the fact that the “great” in his campaign slogan actually meant “white,” but what has clearly changed this time around is that Trump no longer feels any need to hide that fact. Instead, he has put personal attacks on four women of color at the center of his campaign, equating whiteness with citizenship. Trump had only to mention Rep. Ilhan Omar for his followers to erupt in boos and screams of hate, and as he continued—lying about the congresswoman’s statements and distorting her record—the instantaneous call for exile that rose among his supporters was terrifying in its intensity and in the glee with which the rallygoers felt free to express racial hate. But it wasn’t surprising. Trump’s followers have been ready for him at every step.

The night showed that Trump 2020 is all of a piece. He has wrapped himself in the same themes that started with claiming that Mexicans were rapists and drug runners, and that Muslims were terrorists, and that refugees— like Rep. Omar—are a threat. And he and his ever ready followers have found a new chant that maximizes the racism while holding onto the misogyny of “Lock her up.” For Trump, the Squad is a perfect target: progressive women of color that he can hold up to his white audience as a threat to their privileged position.

That’s not the only way things are different than in 2016. Trump really has had some significant accomplishments since taking office. The concentration camps are in place. The declaration that the legislature has no power has been made. The appropriation of the justice system is complete.

Now it’s time for the naming of enemies. Who happen to be black, or brown, and women. Intelligent women with powerful voices who speak for millions. Women who really are a threat to what Trump is trying to do. And what he’s trying to do is obvious.

Categories: Politics

New Daily Kos/Civiqs poll finds enthusiasm gap that should worry Donald Trump

Daily Kos - Thu, 07/18/2019 - 09:00

The best antidote to hot takes about current events is hard data, and the July Daily Kos/Civiqs poll is here with your cure. This month’s survey of 1,543 registered voters was conducted online from July 13-15 and reveals that just 39% of Americans are “enthusiastic about voting to re-elect” Trump, while 45% are “enthusiastic about voting for a Democratic candidate” against Trump.

Additionally, this month’s survey found that 83% of Republicans support the way that the U.S. government is currently treating migrants attempting to cross the border, and 79% of Republicans support the way the government is treating children there.

Other issues surveyed include attitudes regarding government-run healthcare programs, QAnon, and Fox News and MSNBC viewership.

July’s research not only reveals the extent to which partisans are polarized around the topic of immigration, but it also reinforces the fact that frequent Fox News viewers are deeply disconnected from mainstream Americans when it comes to issues related to foreign policy and immigration. While only 45% of all Americans approve of Trump’s diplomatic relations with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, a whopping 91% of faithful Fox viewers approve. And while just 39% of Americans support the way the U.S. government is currently treating migrant children at the border, a horrifying 85% of frequent Fox watchers support this.

Civiqs is a survey research firm that conducts scientific public opinion polls on the internet through its nationally representative online survey panel. Results of Civiqs’ daily tracking polls can be found online at Civiqs.com.

Categories: Politics

2020 Strategy: Everyone Should Scorch Earth The Way Trump Does

Crooks and Liars - Thu, 07/18/2019 - 09:00

I didn't see this coming, though I probably should have:

Kellyanne Conway Snaps Back at Reporter: ‘What’s Your Ethnicity?’

When White House reporter Andrew Feinberg posed a question to Kellyanne Conway on Tuesday about the president’s racist tweets against the four congresswomenknown as the “Squad,” he found himself taken aback by her response.

Feinberg, a reporter for the website BeltwayBreakfast.com, asked the White House counselor which countries President Donald Trump was referring to when he suggested Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar—all U.S. citizens—should “go back” to where they came from.

Instead of answering that question, Conway asked him, “What’s your ethnicity?”

“Uh... why is that relevant?” Feinberg asked before Conway interrupted him to say, “Because I’m asking you a question.”

After Conway shares that her ancestors are from Ireland and Italy, the reporter said, “My ethnicity is not relevant to the question I’m asking you.”

read more

Categories: Politics

Mike's Blog Round Up

Crooks and Liars - Thu, 07/18/2019 - 08:01

'Morning, Crooks and Liars! As I write this, NBC is reporting that Donald Trump and Jeffrey Epstein had a much longer relationship than previously acknowledged. As grimy and gruesome as this story is, we must keep an eye on it: it has a YUGE potential to impact the 2020 Goat Rodeo.

Infidel753 looks into Jeffrey Epstein's web, and reminds us that we are only at the beginning.

Political Irony makes the case that—however it is that Epstein made his fortune—it is going to become a key part of this investigation.

Echidne of The Snakes compares and contrasts Epstein with another pedophile, R. Kelly.

Bonus Track: The Visual Thesaurus reviews the upcoming book, "Because Internet" and tells us a lot about how the 'net is changing the way we talk.

read more

Categories: Politics

Morning Digest: House Republican who lost a seat Trump easily won claims only she can win it back

Daily Kos - Thu, 07/18/2019 - 08:00

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Carolyn Fiddler, and Matt Booker, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.

Leading Off

NY-22: Former GOP Rep. Claudia Tenney spoke for the first time in months about her 2020 plans, and she not only said that she was still considering a rematch with freshman Democratic Rep. Anthony Brindisi in New York's 22nd District, she added that she was "leaning closer to running." Tenney, who lost the seat to Brindisi 51-49 last year, also said the NRCC encouraged her to run because "[t]hey know that I am the only one who can win it."

Campaign Action

That's a truly ludicrous thing for anyone to believe given what happened back in November. This upstate seat backed Donald Trump by a wide 55-39 margin, making it the Trumpiest seat that a House Republican managed to lose in 2018. In fact, of the 235 Democratic-held House seats in the nation, the only Trumpier one is Minnesota's 7th, which has been represented by Rep. Collin Peterson for decades. According to Bloomberg's Greg Giroux, Republican gubernatorial nominee Marc Molinaro also carried New York's 22nd by a wide 56-36 margin as Tenney was losing, so she managed to alienate quite a few conservative voters.

Indeed, Tenney had a knack for attracting plenty of bad headlines for herself during the campaign. In just one of many examples, she hurled hoary anti-Italian slurs at Brindisi last year by saying his father had represented "some of the worst criminals in our community" who were members of "organized crime"—in other words, mafia figures. In September she doubled down on line of attack, a very bad strategy in a seat where one in seven residents are of Italian descent, one of the higher rates in the country.

If Tenney runs, she'll need to get through a primary against Broome County District Attorney Steve Cornwell, who announced in early July at the start of the new fundraising quarter, before she can get another shot at Brindisi. A few other Republicans are running, but none of them looks particularly formidable right now. Perennial candidate George Phillips had just $54,000 to spend at the end of June, though that's still better than teacher Franklin Sager, who had exactly zero cents on-hand. Brindisi had $771,000 in the bank to defend this seat.

Categories: Politics

Trump Urges Rally Crowd Against Rep. Ilhan Omar With 'Send Her Back!' Chant

Crooks and Liars - Thu, 07/18/2019 - 08:00

It's so exhausting. The constant hate, the manipulation, the lust for violence he taps into. He's such a pig, and such a loser. Anyone who has to lie and cheat his way into power has the Big L permanently tattooed on his forehead.

Categories: Politics

Cheers and Jeers: Thursday

Daily Kos - Thu, 07/18/2019 - 07:50


"We'll return after these messages…"

The Emmy nominations were announced Tuesday, and among the categories is one for best commercial. Here are three of this year's impressive nominees, starting with Sandy Hook Promise's punch-to-the-gut Point of View:

x x YouTube Video


Nike's inspiring Dream Crazy, which drove the Trump cultists crazy because it has Colin Kaepernick in it:

x x YouTube Video


And Apple's impressive iPhone-centric Don’t Mess with Mother:

x x YouTube Video


We now return you to our regularly scheduled whatever-crazy-ass-stuff-is-going-on-this-morning morning already in progress.  Cheers and Jeers starts below the fold... [Swoosh!!] RIGHTNOW! [Gong!!]

Categories: Politics

Cartoon: Patriotic Americans send malcontent Trump back to where he's originally from

Daily Kos - Thu, 07/18/2019 - 07:50

YOU CAN join Tom the Dancing Bug's INNER HIVE! Be the first kid on your block to see each week's comic, get extra comics, sneak peeks, insider scoops, and lots of other stuff!  JOIN TODAY!

YOU MIGHT follow @RubenBolling on the Twitters and a Face Book.

Categories: Politics

Abbreviated pundit round-up: Eric Garner's killer roams free; Trump incites NC crowd

Daily Kos - Thu, 07/18/2019 - 07:30

Jessica T. Matthews at The New York Review of Books writes—America’s Indefensible Defense Budget:

A parable, to begin: in 2016, the 136 military bands maintained by the Department of Defense, employing more than 6,500 full-time professional musicians at an annual cost of about $500 million, caught the attention of budget-cutters worried about surging federal deficits. Immediately memos flew and lobbyists descended. The Government Accountability Office, laying the groundwork for another study or three, opined, “The military services have not developed objectives and measures to assess how their bands are addressing the bands’ missions, such as inspiring patriotism.” Supporters of the 369th Infantry Regiment band noted that it had introduced jazz to Europe during World War I. How could such a history be left behind? A blues band connected effectively with Russian soldiers in Bosnia in 1996, another proponent argued, proving that bands are, “if anything, an incredibly cost-effective supplement” to the Pentagon’s then $4.5 billion public affairs budget.

When the dust cleared, funding for the bands was not cut, because the political cost entailed in reducing the number of them by, say, half would have been enormous. The resulting $250 million in annual savings, on the other hand, while a significant sum for most government agencies, would have produced the almost unnoticeable difference of three one-hundredths of one percent in the Pentagon budget.

The sheer size of the military establishment and the habit of equating spending on it with patriotism make both sound management and serious oversight of defense expenditures rare. As a democracy, we are on an unusual and risky path. For several decades, we have maintained an extraordinarily high level of defense spending with the support of both political parties and virtually all of the public. The annual debate about the next year’s military spending, underway now on Capitol Hill, no longer probes where real cuts might be made (as opposed to cuts in previously planned growth) but only asks how big the increase should be. [...]

Categories: Politics