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Member since: Wed Mar 16, 2005, 11:12 AM
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F-35 reports could be Christmas nightmare for government


Defence Minister Peter MacKay sits in a model of the jet the day the government announced the planned purchase. An independent audit expected to report soaring costs for the fighter jet project is due this week.

F-35 reports could be Christmas nightmare for government
By Leslie MacKinnon, CBC News
Posted: Dec 12, 2012 4:56 AM ET

Christmas break can't come soon enough for the government, as it braces for up to three reports about the costs for the F-35 fighter jet before the House rises.

Expected as early as today is the accounting firm KPMG's independent audit, which is reported to tally the total costs of the F-35 procurement project to anywhere from $40 billion to $46 billion, a figure almost three times the cost the government touted while shooting down anyone who disagreed, including its own parliamentary budget officer. Kevin Page estimated the cost was closer to $30 billion.

Although the KPMG report uses a longer life-cycle estimate for the jets (36 years) than the government did (20 years), the significantly higher cost will likely bring on a firestorm of outrage from opposition benches. That is, if it's possible to ratchet up any further the outrage that emanated from the NDP and the Liberals Tuesday, as opposition members flung back at the government seemingly every claim it ever made made about the F-35s.

To the government, it might have seemed like being confronted with their own ghosts of Christmas past, as the opposition chided them for underestimating the cost, for warning that if the F-35 project was cancelled taxpayers would be out a billion dollars, and for speculating that without the F-35s lives could possibly be lost.
Posted by unhappycamper | Wed Dec 12, 2012, 09:53 AM (0 replies)

Vast sums of aid continue to be stolen in Afghanistan


Vast sums of aid continue to be stolen in Afghanistan
By Dan Murphy, Staff writer / December 11, 2012

In the summer of 2010, the US decided to do something about the enormous sucking sound being generated by the bulk cash shipments funneling through Afghanistan's Kabul airport and on to Dubai, Zurich, and London – every point of the compass, really.

With Afghanistan's two principal cash crops being opium and slicing chunks off the top of international aid, there were no prizes for guessing where the tens of billions of dollars transferred from Afghanistan since the US-led war began in 2002 came from, or how the luxury villas of so many Afghan officials in the United Arab Emirates had been paid for.

So, the US embassy in Kabul created a "bulk cash flow action plan" and the Karzai government said it was on board. The results since? Well, around $4.5 billion flowed out of Afghanistan in 2011, according to the Congressional Research Service, the vast majority of it unmonitored and unregistered. That's about 22 percent of gross domestic product, an astonishing amount of capital flight.

How is the plan doing this year? About the same as last year, according to a report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a US government auditor, released today.
Posted by unhappycamper | Wed Dec 12, 2012, 09:38 AM (1 replies)

Panetta: Obama weighing US presence in Afghanistan


Panetta: Obama weighing US presence in Afghanistan
By ROBERT BURNS — The Associated Press
Published: December 11, 2012 Updated 7 hours ago

ALI AL-SALEM AIR BASE, Kuwait — U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Wednesday that President Barack Obama will decide in the next few weeks how many U.S. troops will stay in Afghanistan after the combat mission ends in December 2014.

Panetta did not reveal what options Obama is considering, but officials have said he may settle on a figure between 6,000 and 10,000. There currently are about 66,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

The post-2014 mission is expected to focus on counterterrorism and advising Afghan security forces.

Panetta spoke Wednesday to about 100 U.S. service members inside an aircraft hangar at this desert base west of Kuwait City. He thanked them for their service and emphasized that the U.S. is winding down its involvement in lengthy wars.
Posted by unhappycamper | Wed Dec 12, 2012, 09:24 AM (0 replies)

Twinkie CEO Admits Company Took Employees Pensions and Put It Toward Executive Pay


Twinkie CEO Admits Company Took Employees Pensions and Put It Toward Executive Pay
AlterNet / By Thom Hartmann
December 11, 2012 |

Twinkie-maker Hostess continues to screw over its workers. The company is in the process of complete liquidation and 18,000 unionized workers are set to lose their jobs. More troubling – they could lose their pensions.

According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, Hostess’ CEO, Gregory Rayburn, essentially admitted that his company stole employee pension money and put it toward CEO and senior executive pay (aka “operations”). While this isn't technically illegal, it's another sleazy theft by Hostess executives - who've paid themselves handsomely while running their company into the ground. Just last month, a judge agreed to let Hostess executives suck another $1.8 million out of the bankrupt company to pay bonuses to CEOs.

If there's no way to recover the money for the Hostess pension plans for workers, then we the taxpayers - through the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. - will have to foot the bill to make sure workers get the retirement money they paid in.

Hostess shows us clearly what Bain-style predatory capitalism is all about: big bucks for the very few rich executives, layoffs and poverty for the workers and their communities.
Posted by unhappycamper | Wed Dec 12, 2012, 09:10 AM (43 replies)

8 Absurd Ways the Military Wastes Our Money


8 Absurd Ways the Military Wastes Our Money
AlterNet / By Laura Gottesdiener


1. A whole battalion of generals? The titles “general” or “admiral” sound like they belong to pretty exclusive posts, fit only for the best of the best. This flashy title makes it pretty easy to say, "so what if a few of our military geniuses get the royal treatment--particularly if they are the sole commanders of the most powerful military in human history." The reality, however, is that there nearly 1,000 generals and admirals in the U.S. armed forces, and each has an entourage that would make a Hollywood star jealous.


2. The generals’ flotillas. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates appointed Arnold Punaro, a retired major general in the Marines, to head an independent review of the Pentagon’s budget. Here’s the caution he came up with: “We don’t want the Department of Defense to become a benefits agency that occasionally kills a terrorist.”


3. Scandals. Despite the seemingly limitless perks of being a general, there is a limit to the military’s (taxpayer-funded) generosity. That's led some senior officers to engage in a little creative accounting. This summer the (formerly) four-star general William “Kip” Ward was caught using military money to pay for a Bermuda vacation and using military cars and drivers to take his wife on shopping and spa excursions. He traveled with up to 13 staff members, even on non-work trips, billing the State Department for their hotel and travel costs, as well as his family’s stays at luxury hotels.


4. Warped sense of reality. After the Petraeus scandal, the million-dollar question was: Did the general who essentially built the world’s most invasive surveillance apparatus really think he could get away with carrying on a secret affair without anyone knowing? Former Secretary of State Gates has floated at least one theory at a press conference in Chicago: “There is something about a sense of entitlement and having great power that skews people’s judgement.”
Posted by unhappycamper | Wed Dec 12, 2012, 09:06 AM (4 replies)

Bradley Manning: pre-trial hearing ends as case goes to military judge


Manning has been accused of 'aiding the enemy' by passing hundreds of thousands of confidential US documents to WikiLeaks.

Bradley Manning: pre-trial hearing ends as case goes to military judge
Ed Pilkington in New York
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 11 December 2012 13.21 EST

The epic courtroom battle between the WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning and the US government over his alleged pre-trial punishment has drawn to a close, with the soldier's lawyer accusing the military of treating him like a zoo animal and the prosecution countering that in its view he was entitled to have just seven days removed from any eventual sentence.

The two-week hearing at Fort Meade, Maryland, lasted far longer than intended and turned into a dramatic spectacle in which Manning effectively turned his court-martial on its head and put the US military on trial. In his closing argument, the soldier's main civilian lawyer, David Coombs, said that the most amazing element of his nine-month solitary confinement under suicide-prevention restrictions at the marine brig in Quantico, Virginia, was that his spirit had remained unbroken.

"Being watched or viewed almost as a zoo animal for that period of time has to weigh on somebody's psyche," Coombs told the court.

Over 10 days of intense legal proceedings, lasting for up to eight hours every day, a clear picture emerged within the courtroom of how Manning, 24, had been trapped in a Kafkaesque paradox. Whatever he did – or didn't do – was taken by his military captors as proof of his suicidal tendencies.
Posted by unhappycamper | Wed Dec 12, 2012, 08:25 AM (2 replies)

Corporate Colonization of the Left Message Has to Stop


Corporate Colonization of the Left Message Has to Stop
By Bruce K. Gagnon
OpEdNews Op Eds 12/11/2012

The Minneapolis, Minnesota city council passed a version of the Bring Our War $$ Home resolution last week. St. Paul (MN) has already passed a similar resolution, and Duluth (MN) and Des Moines (IA) are expected to follow with similar statements. Many other cities across the nation, including Portland, Maine, have passed these same kind of resolutions. It is becoming clear that people want to connect the dots between endless war spending and fiscal crisis at home.

But still some groups around the country who claim they want to save social programs refuse to make the connections to military spending. It is my opinion, and the opinion of many other grassroots leaders around the nation, that some NGO's refuse to include the military budget in their public articulation because the weapons industry unions and the Democrats don't want these links to be made. Just today one of my friends called an organizer in Maine and asked why their union sponsored protest event that was calling for tax increases on the rich was not also making the connection to the bloated Pentagon budget. The organizer told my friend that it is because of the "defense industry" unions in our state. They won't allow the links to be made.

All across the country NGO's that get funding from foundations, or from wealthy individuals, that are linked to the Democrats are often not allowed to go near certain issues like the Pentagon budget, single-payer health care, Israel-Palestine, climate change and more. In recent years some so-called "progressive" foundations have been telling peace groups that they can't use the word "disarmament" any longer. Instead they have to use "arms control" because the Democrats don't want the grassroots clamoring for real disarmament. This "occupation" of the left's issue positions and public articulation is a form of corporate colonization of the progressive movement. This must end or we will never build an effective movement for change in this country and around the world.

I expect to see this whole "issue control" situation come to a head during this coming year. With climate change and austerity budgets staring us in the face the independent left cannot cower in the face of these mainstream Democrat party operatives that serve as leaders of local non-profit groups but in essence have become "gate keepers" for the oligarchy as they help reduce our public discourse to the lowest common denominator that does not ultimately challenge the system.

Posted by unhappycamper | Wed Dec 12, 2012, 08:08 AM (1 replies)

Picking Up a $170 Billion Tab: How US Taxpayers Are Paying the Pentagon to Occupy the Planet


Picking Up a $170 Billion Tab: How US Taxpayers Are Paying the Pentagon to Occupy the Planet
Tuesday, 11 December 2012 10:25 By David Vine, TomDispatch | News Analysis


We were standing in front of a massive 145-acre construction site for a “little America” rising in Vicenza, an architecturally renowned Italian city and UNESCO world heritage site near Venice. This was Dal Molin, the new military base the U.S. Army has been readying for the relocation of as many as 2,000 soldiers from Germany in 2013.

Since 1955, Vicenza has also been home to another major U.S. base, Camp Ederle. They’re among the more than 1,000 bases the United States uses to ring the globe (with about 4,000 more in the 50 states and Washington, D.C.). This complex of military installations, unprecedented in history, has been a major, if little noticed, aspect of U.S. power since World War II.

During the Cold War, such bases became the foundation for a “forward strategy” meant to surround the Soviet Union and push U.S. military power as close to its borders as possible. These days, despite the absence of a superpower rival, the Pentagon has been intent on dotting the globe with scores of relatively small “lily pad” bases, while continuing to build and maintain some large bases like Dal Molin.


How much does the United States spend each year occupying the planet with its bases and troops? How much does it spend on its global presence? Forced by Congress to account for its spending overseas, the Pentagon has put that figure at $22.1 billion a year. It turns out that even a conservative estimate of the true costs of garrisoning the globe comes to an annual total of about $170 billion. In fact, it may be considerably higher. Since the onset of “the Global War on Terror” in 2001, the total cost for our garrisoning policies, for our presence abroad, has probably reached $1.8 trillion to $2.1 trillion.
Posted by unhappycamper | Wed Dec 12, 2012, 07:57 AM (2 replies)

Public Buses Across Country Quietly Adding Microphones to Record Passenger Conversations


Public Buses Across Country Quietly Adding Microphones to Record Passenger Conversations
By Kim Zetter

Transit authorities in cities across the country are quietly installing microphone-enabled surveillance systems on public buses that would give them the ability to record and store private conversations, according to documents obtained by a news outlet.

The systems are being installed in San Francisco, Baltimore, and other cities with funding from the Department of Homeland Security in some cases, according to the Daily, which obtained copies of contracts, procurement requests, specs and other documents.

The use of the equipment raises serious questions about eavesdropping without a warrant, particularly since recordings of passengers could be obtained and used by law enforcement agencies.

It also raises questions about security, since the IP audio-video systems can be accessed remotely via a built-in web server (.pdf), and can be combined with GPS data to track the movement of buses and passengers throughout the city.
Posted by unhappycamper | Wed Dec 12, 2012, 07:44 AM (34 replies)

More Bad News for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter?


The F-35: the future of Air Force, Marine and Navy aviation

More Bad News for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter?
By Nick Schwellenbach
Dec. 11, 2012

Back in March, we broke the news that the Pentagon’s oversight office was taking a gander at the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, estimated to cost potentially $1.5 trillion to develop, buy and operate over several decades (the Pentagon is so desperate to bring down the estimated cost to operate the plane they’re even hiring contractors to work on that problem!). The plane is the future of Air Force, Marine and Navy aviation, who plan to buy close to 2,500 of them: it’s the lone fighter in the pipeline.

The auditors’ report — on F-35 quality assurance management (essentially how they identify and prevent problems) – isn’t out yet, but some of their findings were contained in a one-paragraph summary in a report to Congress that came out this week. Turns out they found some problems:

In February 2012, DoD IG initiated the F-35 AS9100 Quality Management System assessment to review conformity to specified quality management system(s), contractual quality clauses, and internal quality processes and procedures for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. As of September 2012, more than 190 findings were identified and four notices of concern sent to the F-35 Program Office. All findings were accepted and will be addressed and implemented to the maximum practicable extent.

While it’s not good news that problems were found, we don’t know how serious they are. Whatever the case, it’s good that the Defense Department inspector general is taking a look at this mammoth and important program.



F-35's benefits to Canadian industry questioned
The Canadian Press
Posted: Dec 10, 2012 5:23 PM ET

Amid the avalanche of figures, statistics, estimates and soothing political assurances coming this week on the Conservative government's troubled stealth fighter program, one report will warn about the lagging benefit for Canada's aerospace sector.

And it could prove more damaging in the long run than the bruising debate about the eye-popping cost of the multi-role fighter, say some experts.

"What we're talking about here is pork," said Winslow Wheeler, a U.S. aviation expert and long-standing critic of the F-35.

"The government has been promising the world, but that's going to be very different than what's in hand."



Tories closely tracked F-35 coverage
By Lee Berthiaume, Postmedia News December 11, 2012 7:12 AM

Opposition parties pressed the Conservative government to come clean on the F-35 Monday even as internal documents emerged showing National Defence has been going all-out to track media coverage of the stealth fighter program.

This included categorizing news articles and blogs according to tone, following experts who were critical of the stealth fighter, and even looking for a contractor to track all mentions of the F-35 on social media sites such as Twitter.

The documents provide a glimpse into the extent to which public perception has figured into the government's handling of the jet program, whose future is in the air following reports auditing firm KPMG put the cost at more than $40 billion.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper remained tight-lipped in the House of Commons on Monday about his plans for the F-35 following reports last week that plans to sole-source the project had been killed as a result of the new cost estimate.
Posted by unhappycamper | Tue Dec 11, 2012, 10:55 AM (2 replies)
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