Trump put budget in a muddle with big military spending increase

“I don’t know how you take $54 billion out without wholesale taking out entire departments,” said Bill Hoagland, a longtime Republican budget aide in the Senate and now a senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center. “You need to control it in the area of the entitlement programs, which he’s taken off the table. It is a proposal, I dare say, that will be dead on arrival even with a Republican Congress.” Continue reading

Trump is continuing the trend of ever-increasing military spending

WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, he committed truth: He said it’s one of the largest military budget increases in history—about 10 percent, $54 billion, which, to put it in perspective, would be about what the United Kingdom spends—just the increase. That would be the seventh biggest military budget in the world. And, of course, we’re spending at historic levels, $600 billion a year, which is more than the peak of Reagan. The Obama years, we spent more than under George W. Bush. So the idea that there’s a gap in military spending is ludicrous. He hasn’t talked about tens of billion dollars in Pentagon waste. And, of course, he hasn’t said how he’s going use the military, other than rattling sabers about Iran, which, were they to go to war with Iran, as one person said, would be—make Iraq look like a walk in the park. So, I think the money is problematic, but also kind of the reckless possibilities of how they might use the military.
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Housing is a human right not a commodity

In Melbourne, Australia, one in five investor-owned units lie empty, the report says; in Kensington, London, a prime location for rich investors, numbers of vacant homes rose by 40% between 2013 and 2014 alone. “In such markets the value of housing is no longer based on its social use,” the report says. “The housing is as valuable whether it is vacant or occupied, lived in or devoid of life. Homes sit empty while homeless populations burgeon.” …

Farha, 48, by background a human rights lawyer and anti-poverty activist, calls for a “paradigm shift” whereby housing is “once again seen as a human right rather than a commodity”. It is clear, she suggests, that the UN’s sustainable development goal of ensuring adequate housing for all by 2030 is not only receding, but without regulatory intervention to re-establish the primacy of housing as a social good, laughably optimistic. Continue reading

Trump’s new budget is his war on public services

As The New York Times first reported, Trump’s newly confirmed budget director, former South Carolina congressman Mick Mulvaney, has assembled a “hit list” of agencies and programs to eliminate. Current candidates include the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities; Legal Services Corporation; and AmeriCorps. And Trump—no doubt egged on by Mike Pence—has pledged to cut the more than $500 million in funding to Planned Parenthood…

The proposed cuts have everything to do with right-wing ideology and nothing to do with fiscal responsibility. All of the programs slated for closing provide essential public services. All of the programs slated for closure, plus the proposed Planned Parenthood cuts, cost the federal government a combined total of about $3 billion per year. That grand totally amounts to one-half of one percent of, the current Pentagon budget, now runs at about $600 billion per year. And that’s before Trump’s pledge to throw an additional $1 trillion at that bloated department over the next ten years. Continue reading

Antitrust in the era of Amazon

This Note argues that the current framework in antitrust—specifically its pegging competition to “consumer welfare,” defined as short-term price effects—is unequipped to capture the architecture of market power in the modern economy. We cannot cognize the potential harms to competition posed by Amazon’s dominance if we measure competition primarily through price and output. Specifically, current doctrine underappreciates the risk of predatory pricing and how integration across distinct business lines may prove anticompetitive. These concerns are heightened in the context of online platforms for two reasons. First, the economics of platform markets create incentives for a company to pursue growth over profits, a strategy that investors have rewarded. Under these conditions, predatory pricing becomes highly rational—even as existing doctrine treats it as irrational and therefore implausible. Second, because online platforms serve as critical intermediaries, integrating across business lines positions these platforms to control the essential infrastructure on which their rivals depend. This dual role also enables a platform to exploit information collected on companies using its services to undermine them as competitors.

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$900 billion spent in Afghanistan

The most telling moment in the SASC hearing came when Nicholson remarked that plans were being developed to “find success” in Afghanistan within the next four years. That would mark a full twenty years of direct U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan. Since the first Central Intelligence Agency paramilitary teams entered Afghanistan in November 2001, 2,350 servicemembers have given their lives and almost $900 billion in taxpayers’ money has been spent. Meanwhile, the country is less politically stable and less secure from all forms of insurgent and criminal predation. No one can say how or when this largely forgotten war will end, but “finding success” certainly should begin with some realism, honesty, and a corresponding adjustment in U.S. expectations and objectives.

Being Honest About U.S. Military Strategy in Afghanistan Continue reading

America dropped 26,171 bombs in 2016

President Obama did reduce the number of US soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, but he dramatically expanded the air wars and the use of special operations forces around the globe. In 2016, US special operators could be found in 70% of the world’s nations, 138 countries – a staggering jump of 130% since the days of the Bush administration.

Looking back at President Obama’s legacy, the Council on Foreign Relation’s Micah Zenko added up the defense department’s data on airstrikes and made a startling revelation: in 2016 alone, the Obama administration dropped at least 26,171 bombs. This means that every day last year, the US military blasted combatants or civilians overseas with 72 bombs; that’s three bombs every hour, 24 hours a day. Continue reading

Thousands of US military’s stats on airstrikes have gone unreported

The American military has failed to publicly disclose potentially thousands of lethal airstrikes conducted over several years in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, a Military Times investigation has revealed. The enormous data gap raises serious doubts about transparency in reported progress against the Islamic State, al-Qaida and the Taliban, and calls into question the accuracy of other Defense Department disclosures documenting everything from costs to casualty counts.

In 2016 alone, U.S. combat aircraft conducted at least 456 airstrikes in Afghanistan that were not recorded as part of an open-source database maintained by the U.S. Air Force, information relied on by Congress, American allies, military analysts, academic researchers, the media and independent watchdog groups to assess each war’s expense, manpower requirements and human toll. Those airstrikes were carried out by attack helicopters and armed drones operated by the U.S. Army, metrics quietly excluded from otherwise comprehensive monthly summaries, published online for years, detailing American military activity in all three theaters. Continue reading

The Grave Threat of Outdated Nuclear Weapons Is Now Greater Than Ever

The Pentagon repeatedly denied that launch-on-warning was American policy, claiming that it was simply one of many options for the President to consider. A recent memoir, “Uncommon Cause,” written by General George Lee Butler, reveals that the Pentagon was not telling the truth. Butler was the head of the U.S. Strategic Command, responsible for all of America’s nuclear weapons, during the Administration of President George H. W. Bush.

According to Butler and Franklin Miller, a former director of strategic-forces policy at the Pentagon, launch-on-warning was an essential part of the Single Integrated Operational Plan (siop), the nation’s nuclear-war plan. Land-based missiles like the Minuteman III were aimed at some of the most important targets in the Soviet Union, including its anti-aircraft sites. If the Minuteman missiles were destroyed before liftoff, the siop would go awry, and American bombers might be shot down before reaching their targets. In order to prevail in a nuclear war, the siop had become dependent on getting Minuteman missiles off the ground immediately. Butler’s immersion in the details of the nuclear command-and-control system left him dismayed. “With the possible exception of the Soviet nuclear war plan, [the siop] was the single most absurd and irresponsible document I had ever reviewed in my life,” Butler concluded. “We escaped the Cold War without a nuclear holocaust by some combination of skill, luck, and divine intervention, and I suspect the latter in greatest proportion.” The siop called for the destruction of twelve thousand targets within the Soviet Union. Moscow would be struck by four hundred nuclear weapons; Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine, by about forty.

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Liberalism and Trumpism

By “liberalism” I mean what is considered under this term in the US. By “to blame” I mean “for the rise of Trump and  similar nationalist-populists”.

What are the arguments for seeing liberal triumphalism which began with the collapse of Communism in the 1990s as having produced the backlash we are witnessing today? I think they can be divided into three parts: economics, personal integrity, and ideology.
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F-35 will only cost $85 million?

Birkey repeats Lockheed Martinand Pentagon Joint Program Office claims that the F-35 will cost taxpayers only $85 million per copy by 2019.

This claim is as generous as it is deceptive. For one thing, that is just the estimated cost of an Air Force conventional take-off variant, the F-35A — the least expensive of the three variants. In addition, that cost figure is actually only an estimate, one that assumes everything will perfectly for the F-35 from here on out and that the Pentagon will buy more than it had planned.

When people say the F-35 will only cost $85 million, they are only talking about the price of the airframe and the engine. Proponents don’t include how much it will cost to fix design flaws found in testing — a not insubstantial amount of money.
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Pentagon buries evidence of $125 billion administrative waste

The Pentagon has buried an internal study that exposed $125 billion in administrative waste in its business operations amid fears Congress would use the findings as an excuse to slash the defense budget, according to interviews and confidential memos obtained by The Washington Post. …

The report, issued in January 2015, identified “a clear path” for the Defense Department to save $125 billion over five years. The plan would not have required layoffs of civil servants or reductions in military personnel. Instead, it would have streamlined the bureaucracy through attrition and early retirements, curtailed high-priced contractors and made better use of information technology. Continue reading

SIPRI: Top 100 arms sales for 2015 still are 37 per cent higher than those for 2002

Sales of the world’s 100 largest arms-producing and military services companies totalled $370.7 billion in 2015. Compared with 2014, this is a slight decline of 0.6 per cent. While this continues the downward trend in arms sales that began in 2011, it signals a significant slowdown in the pace of decline. However, despite the decrease, Top 100 arms sales for 2015 are 37 per cent higher than those for 2002, when SIPRI began reporting corporate arms sales.

Companies headquartered in the United States and Western Europe have
dominated the list of Top 100 arms-producing and military services companies
since 2002. And, true to form, this was the case for 2015: with sales reaching $305.4 billion, companies based in the USA and Western Europe accounted for 82.4 per cent of the Top 100 arms sales. Continue reading

Our complex economic, technical, political and social systems, eroded by energy-related and other biophysical constraints, are showings early signs of failure

Thought provoking.

Slow economic growth is not just an after-effect of the Great Recession but part of a deeper malaise that predates, and indeed may have helped cause, the financial crisis. A number of narratives have emerged in recent years to try to explain this global dearth of growth, such as the ‘debt overhang’ narrative, which states that growth is primarily hampered by an excessive indebtedness of economic agents, or various versions of the ‘secular stagnation’ narrative, which sees the cause of slow growth in a chronic shortfall of demand resulting from population ageing and the rise of income and wealth inequality, and/or in the diminishing returns of technological innovation. These various narratives probably all have some degree of validity. However, they tend to focus on developments that, even if they act as mutually reinforcing drags on growth, are in fact symptoms of the world’s economic predicament rather its deeper root causes.

Even more than from what most economists usually look at, i.e. constraints on capital and labour and on the productivity of their use, the slowdown of global economic growth since before the financial crisis might be resulting from factors that they typically ignore, i.e. constraints on the supply of energy and other biophysical resources that feed into the economic process and impact its functioning. In fact, the world’s capacity to create additional wealth is getting increasingly eroded by biophysical boundaries that over time tend to raise the acquisition costs, constrain the quantity and degrade the quality of the flows of energy and natural resources that can be delivered to the economic process, as well as by the constantly increasing costs of some of the economic process’ side effects (i.e. ‘negative externalities’ including environmental degradation and climate change), and the growing need to ‘internalise’ them into the price system. These biophysical constraints, as they increase, tend to weigh more and more on the economy’s productive capacity, thus eroding the potential for productivity and output growth.
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Trump’s exercise in fantasy budgeting

At one point, there were something like 1,000 installations in Iraq and Afghanistan alone, from bases large enough to be small American towns to tiny combat outposts.  In 2015, there were at least 800 significant U.S. bases in foreign countries (and more small camps and places where U.S. military equipment was pre-positioned for future use).  No great power, not even Britain at its imperial height, had ever had such a global military “footprint,” such an “empire of bases,” and yet in this country it was as if no one noticed, as if it were of no importance at all.


Let’s start with a baseline look at the Pentagon’s finances at this moment.  At $600 billion-plus per year, the government is already spending more money on the Pentagon than it did at the peak of the massive military buildup President Ronald Reagan initiated in the 1980s.  In fact, despite what you might imagine, the Obama administration has pumped more tax dollars into the military in its two terms than did George W. Bush. According to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, the U.S. currently spends four times what China does and 10 times what the Russians sink into their military. Continue reading

Trump’s Vision

You can look to the president-elect himself for a vision of what is to come. He has told you his plans all along, though most chose to downplay or deny them. You can even look back to before his candidacy, when in February 2014, he went on Fox News to defend Russia. Why a reality TV host was on Fox News defending Russia is its own story, but Listen to what Trump said already back in 2014.here is what he said about his desired outcome for the United States:

“You know what solves it? When the economy crashes, when the country goes to total hell and everything is a disaster. Then you’ll have a [chuckles], you know, you’ll have riots to go back to where we used to be when we were great.”
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Understanding Trump

Unconscious thought works by certain basic mechanisms. Trump uses them instinctively to turn people’s brains toward what he wants: Absolute authority, money, power, celebrity.

The mechanisms are:

1. Repetition. Words are neurally linked to the circuits that determine their meaning. The more a word is heard, the more the circuit is activated and the stronger it gets, and so the easier it is to fire again. Trump repeats. Win. Win, Win. We’re gonna win so much you’ll get tired of winning.

2. Framing: Crooked Hillary. Framing Hillary as purposely and knowingly committing crimes for her own benefit, which is what a crook does. Repeating makes many people unconsciously think of her that way, even though she has been found to have been honest and legal by thorough studies by the right-wing Bengazi committee (which found nothing) and the FBI (which found nothing to charge her with, except missing the mark ‘(C)’ in the body of 3 out of 110,000 emails). Yet the framing is working.
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Goodbye, American neoliberalism.

What is to be done? First we must try to tell the truth and a condition of truth is to allow suffering to speak. For 40 years, neoliberals lived in a world of denial and indifference to the suffering of poor and working people and obsessed with the spectacle of success. Second we must bear witness to justice. We must ground our truth-telling in a willingness to suffer and sacrifice as we resist domination. Third we must remember courageous exemplars like Martin Luther King Jr, who provide moral and spiritual inspiration as we build multiracial alliances to combat poverty and xenophobia, Wall Street crimes and war crimes, global warming and police abuse – and to protect precious rights and liberties. Continue reading

The problems of the handling of the Great Recession by Democrats

That’s how the party ended up with its most vulnerable members — centrist Blue Dogs in the South — hawking austerity during the worst mass unemployment crisis in 80 years. Almost all of them lost in 2010. That loss, in turn, paved the way for many of the other major problems Democrats are having. That was a census year, and huge Republican victories allowed them to control the subsequent redistricting process, in which they gerrymandered themselves a 7-point handicap in the House of Representatives and in many state legislatures.

That brings me to the foreclosure crisis, the handling of which was even worse. Instead of partially ameliorating it as with employment, the Obama administration helped it happen. As David Dayen writes in Chain of Title, the financial products underpinning the subprime mortgage boom were riddled with errors, and in order to be able to foreclose on people who had defaulted, they had to commit systematic document fraud. This epic crime spree gave the White House tremendous leverage to negotiate a settlement to keep people in their homes, but instead the administration co-opted a lawsuit from state attorneys general and turned it into a slap on the wrist that reinvigorated the foreclosure machine. There was also $75 billion in the Recovery Act to arrest foreclosures, but the administration’s effort at this, HAMP, was such a complete disaster that they only spent about 16 percent of the money and enabled thousands of foreclosures in the process.
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Hilary – Trump Vote Breakdown

First, the numbers. Despite Trump’s overt sexism and racism, he managed to win over many women and Latinos. White women, for example, voted for Trump over Clinton by a ten-point margin, according to CNN’s exit polling. Depending on which exit poll you believe, Trump may also have won anywhere from 19 percentto an astonishing 29 percent of the Latino vote, despite his virulently anti-Latino rhetoric. Clinton’s supposed bulwark among college-educated voters also failed: White college graduates backed Trump by a 4-point margin, including 45 percent of college-educated white women.
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