Senator Coburn’s Government Waste List – The new phone book’s here!

Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn has come up with his latest Waste Book listing many of the wonderful, bizarre spending projects our federal government funds. The preface points out that since the last budget was passed on April 29, 2009, our government has spent $11.2 trillion and added more than $4.8 trillion to the national debt which is now over $16 Trillion.

One of the first takeaways is that the NFL, and many other sports leagues are classified as non-profits, costing the economy approximately $91 Million/year in tax revenue. Roger Goodell and Jerry Jones have the best of all possible worlds; rapacious ticket prices; stadiums financed by local government; and no taxes on the partnerships that are the major sports leagues. I guess we should have pity on the poor NHL owners, but the PGA is right in there as well. There’s nothing quite like subsidizing professional golfers.

Burger King, KFC, Godfather’s Pizza, and McDonald’s all accept food stamps and while cities and school districts are waging war on soft drinks, over $2 billion in Food Stamp money was spent on these products last year. In Seattle, Starbuck’s is a popular food stamp item.

Parque Alegria, a series of 10 minute telenovelas being broadcast on Spanish language stations at a cost of $3-8 Million, including time buys, instructs viewers on how much healthier the Food Stamp program is, weaning them from El Pollo Loco to Burger King, I guess.

An unused airport in the Senator’s home state comes in for over $750,000 in subsidies over tha past few years. Morroccan pottery classes for $27 Million, Alex! Yep, we funded a series of useless classes in Morocco, where they have a ceramics tradition dating back over 1,000 years. There is also funding for NASA to develop pizza on Mars.

In another project called “Look! Squirrel!”  San Diego State University and UC Davis have developed a robotic squirrel that  “will help perform public outreach, mentor students, and develop the next generation of robot animals.”

For the 1%, the government is also funding marketing programs for American caviar producers.In Alaska, $3.3 Million was spent subsidizing a ferry to nowhere in Alaska. This is not the ferry the bridge to nowhere was supposed to replace.

Senator Coburn also points out that it now costs us $0.02 to produce a penny. And we’re supposed to believe that the Health Care Bill will bring costs down? And yes, there is a program funded by the NSF to test gaydar.

Pepsi got $1.6 million to build a yogurt factory in New York. USC in Los Angeles got $40K to develop a Henry David Thoreau video game. Apparently the user simply contemplates the screen for months at a time. The Army spent $1.5 million last year to develop combat ready beef jerky.

The GSA, that hard partying junketeering fun-loving crowd, spent $24 Million on trophies and awards. Everyone gets a trophy at the GSA!

The list goes on, but during this hard-fought election season, some light reading helps break the tension.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Following the breadcrumbs on the Libyan cover up

Last night, Vice President Joe Biden was adamant that the responsibility for the Libyan fiasco and subsequent deception lays everywhere but the White House.

First the Director of National Intelligence’s office misinformed them, and then the State Department didn’t have the answers and then the FBI was sent in 2 weeks after the incident to try to apply some sort of Jedi forensics on a “crime scene” that had been completely compromised.

Let’s look at the facts:

On late Tuesday night, September 11 (mid afternoon Washington time) the Ambassador was kidnapped and found dead at a Benghazi hospital early Wednesday morning, September 12.

The New York Times in their article on the event on September 12, a few hours after the attack raised the specter of Islamic militants armed with RPG’s and anti-aircraft missiles. According to the article:

“American and European officials said that while many details about the attack remained unclear, the assailants seemed organized, well-trained and heavily armed, and they appeared to have at least some level of advance planning.”

On  September 12 our president and Secretary of State stated unequivocally that it was a spontaneous riot triggered by an obscure film no one had heard of until September 11. Our UN Ambassador Susan Rice, not the Secretary of State, went on a number of talk shows that weekend and was quoted in all of the mainstream media delivering the Administrations version of events.

On September 14, the Libyan government had 4 men in custody. On September 19, the president of Libya in an interview with Al Jazeera, Libyan president President Mohamed al-Magarief stated that the attacked was planned well in advance and that Al Qaeda was responsible.

On September 24, the President appeared on “The View” instead of attending the U.N. General Assembly or perhaps even working to find the facts of the case, and once again stated that our government was still investigating the case.

The Daily Beast released the story which truly upset the apple cart first on September 26, which was when the coverup started morphing.

On October 3, Reuters reported that the Administration knew within hours that the attack was tied to militants, and that the CIA had this information.

“Officials familiar with them said they contained evidence that members of a militant faction, Ansar al-Sharia, as well as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, were involved in the assaults.

So our president expects us to believe that 2 days before the facts went public and a week after the president of Libya identified the attackers he still knew nothing about the true nature of the assassination. There is such a thing as plausible deniability. This is implausibly deniable.

U.N. Ambassador Rice has an interesting position. She is a direct report to both the Secretary of State and the President. This month’s Foreign Policy Magazine has a fascinating article on Ms. Rice and informs us that she has placed her relationship with the president well ahead of that with Secretary Clinton. So whose version was she reporting? Has anyone asked her? Who wrote the version reported? Who was the author of the deception?

The House Committee investigating the attack established yesterday that the Department of State failed to protect Ambassador Stevens adequately. So what next?

As they said back in 1973; “What did the President know and when did he know it?” I would add to that, “why did he lie to us, and what did he hope to gain?”

 

 

 

A Disengaged President

There has been a strange turn in the last few weeks as we have learned more about what gos on in the White House and the political and personal isolation the President has created. In Bob Woodward’s latest book, “The Price of Politics”, the Woodward describes a president antagonistic to his opponents to a toxic degree and who has distanced himself even from his own party leadership. Woodwards describes a “monumental communications gap” between the President and House Majority Leader John Boehner at the critical moment in the 2010 budget negotiations.

Then, the New York Times ran an article regarding the President’s response to the Arab Spring in which he is described as having distanced himself from Arab and Middle eastern rulers and leaders, engaging them through intermediaries and minimal direct contact. This is especially strange in view of his attempt to engage the Islamic world when he spoke at Tahrir Square in Cairo in 2009.

That he did not consult with any of those leaders prior to pulling the rug out from under Hosni Mubarak on February 11, 2011 sent our relations in the Gulf into the freezer.

We were told early on in the Obama Administration that the President had surrounded himself with a highly loyal cadre, and at the same time we have seen an unprecedented number of czars reporting directly to the President and subverting the normal communications channels.

His complete disengagement with the loyal opposition in Congress is also an established fact. But when you are not talking to your own people, that becomes a real problem. This includes his various and sundry Cabinet members and advisers as well. His truancy at national security meetings is legendary.

Last night in the first debate we once again saw a disengaged president. He was ill prepared, disjointed, and quite obviously off of his game. Prior to the debate, the party spinners were out in force reducing expectations, but it is generally agreed that the first debate was a disaster for the President.

The President is more comfortable, it seems, campaigning and schmoozing. Neither requires real engagement and speaking to worshipful audiences roaring their approval is a great salve to the ego.

The country has at different times had a number of presidents who have for reasons of health been unable to completely fulfill their obligations. Wilson after his stroke and Ronald Reagan in the latter half of his second term come to mind. At a critical time in his administration, Wilson was unable to campaign for his greatest program, the League of Nations and for a less onerous treaty with Germany after World War I.

But President Obama is a man in the full flower of life at an age when his achievements could have been herculean. Instead as Mr. Romney pointed out last night he instead placed all of his prestige and wasted his political capital on a highly unpopular health care bill that was one of the most imperfect pieces of legislation in our history.

The one thing a president has is access to the most remarkable set of advisers and data in the history of our planet. And yet with all of these tools at his disposal, he has made a conscious decision to be remote and to go it alone.

Mr. Obama himself argued for the Lincolnian “team of rivals” when he formed his own cabinet and yet has done more end runs around his Cabinet than any of his predecessors.

The Presidency is the loneliest job in the world. It all comes down to one man’s decision. But to isolate oneself as the President has done is to create an echo chamber where decisions are made in a vacuum. As this is a very dangerous thing. Consensus and consent are critical to any major decision, and while the President’s party has marched in lockstep, very little has been accomplished because of the polarization that originates at the top.

It’s not just about policy. It is also about the ability to do the job effectively, and in this, the president has failed.

The Best Post Debate Quotes

“Did the president send out his body double tonight?”  – Time Magazine

“Mitt Romney came in with a chainsaw. ” – James Carville

“If Romney keeps this up…Obama is going to vote for him!” – Michael Moore re-tweet

“This is what happens when u pick John Kerry as your debate coach.” – Michael Moore

“Romney was able to ‘out-Obama’ Obama. On the connection piece, on the authenticity piece, on the being able to tell the story.” – Van Jones

“This is a rolling calamity for Obama. He’s boring, abstract, and less human-seeming than Romney!” – Andrew Sullivan

“He choked. He lost. He may even have lost the election tonight.” – Andrew Sullivan

“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Obama looks like he DOES need a teleprompter.” – Bill Maher

“When I got onto the stage, I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney,”  – Barack Obama

“When you go to 5,000 feet and you only have a few hours to adjust — I don’t know, maybe”… – Al Gore

“But here’s the great news for Republicans: We have a candidate who is going to do extraordinarily well on Wednesday night, the first time he has the opportunity to stand on the same stage as the President of the United States.” – Chris Christie – September 30

“The debate was a wipeout.” – Chris Christie – October 3

“Where did the favourite go?” – Le Figaro

“I don’t think anyone has spoken to him like that in four years. He lost, It was a surprise to us all.”
– David Gergen
“Obama could barely look at Mitt Romney” – Gloria Berger
“Last night, I watched Barack Obama morph into Adlai Stevenson, I had the particular advantage of seeing the debate in a bar in my fair state of Ohio, at a “watch party” organized by the local Democratic Party.  I heard two to three faint cheers during the debate and then silence and private conversations as the hour and half proceeded. Obama lost most of that local audience that he should have energized.” – Kevin Mattson
“We have our knives out! We go after the people and the facts! What was [Obama] doing tonight — he went in there disarmed!” – Chris Matthews
“I personally do not know who won this debate.” This means . . . yeah, Mitt won. He beat the hell out of Obama.” – Rachel Maddow
“OK, so Obama did a terrible job in the debate, and Romney did well” – Paul Krugman

Obama “created a problem for himself on Social Security tonight. He agrees with Mitt Romney.” “I was absolutely stunned tonight.” – Ed Schultz

“Obama came across like a man who would rather have been watching basketball on TV at the White House or even authorizing new drone attacks.” – Der Spiegel

Propaganda 101 – The Tight Focus Media

A few years ago I attended a function for a controversial political figure who was being targeted by Latino rights groups for his hard-line stance on immigration rights. I wanted to hear what this boogeyman said and make up my own mind about him.

When I got there in addition to the crowd attending the event, the driveway of the hotel was jammed with television trucks from all of the major Los Angeles television stations as well as a large number of national Spanish language stations.

Few of them were covering the event inside. Rather they were focused on a small crowd of perhaps 20 protesters outside. It was a symbiotic relationship. The media were there for the protesters. The protesters were there for the media. 20 news crews were broadcasting this protest into the living rooms of millions of Spanish-speaking families along with the 11:00 o’clock news on every major English language channel in Los Angeles.

By the look on the screen when I got home that night, one would have thought there were hundreds of outraged protesters. In fact, it was only when the klieg lights came on that it was anything but a very casual affair. The protesters joked and smoked with the news crews and reporters, and then went home before the event ended. They had made their point and sent their message to the masses.

Yesterday morning, it was reported that MSNBC had altered another video of a Romney/Ryan rally showing the Republican candidates in an unfavorable light.This is the second time the network has been caught.

On September 22, the major media including the networks, the Wall Street Journal, and other outlets reported a crowd on 18,000, Obama’s largest yet, in Milwaukee. Unfortunately, the BMO Harris Pavilion where it took place seats only 5,000, and video images taken by attendees showed large swathes of empty seats. The video from the major media naturally was tight focus.

It’s an old trick from the 60’s. Visual media feeds off of motion and noise. It’s the shiny object theory. It is also a pack of lies.

This morning, the ombudsman for the Washington Post challenged the paper to recognize its left-wing bias and a recent Pew poll found that only 46 percent of the population feels that the news coverage of the candidates by the media is fair.

When the Obama administration tried to enlist the National Endowment for the Arts to develop a media campaign to promote the President’s health care bill, it was not the mainstream media but alternative media that blew the whistle on a clear violation of the law.

Camera phones and iPads are challenging the received narrative. Breitbart, the bete noir of the Left repeatedly caught the farce on video, shutting down ACORN and “exposing” the Anthony Weiner sexting scandal. It wasn’t that the major media had no interest in these stories. They didn’t fit the political narrative, so they said nothing. Same thing with the John Edwards scandal. It was the National Enquirer that broke the story. A major presidential candidate was cheating on his dying wife and engineered a criminal coverup, and the media knew and said nothing.

The decisions on what to report, and what not to report, and how it is framed are made by a handful of editors and executives, almost all of whom have cast aside any measure of objectivity.

But when there is a clear pattern of propagandizing for one side or the other, a Rubicon of our freedoms has been crossed. A fair and impartial press is vital to our democracy. The media themselves claimed that people sitting at home in their pajamas were creating a false narrative but today, it is those same citizen journalists who have been catching the media in their lies.

There is a growing cry against this propaganda machine but sometimes it is hard to find since the machine is intent on self-preservation. But when 46% of the audience no longer believes what it reads in the paper or sees on TV, the death knell has rung.

Punch Sulzburger died yesterday. He was an iconic figure to many in the East Coast media posse. But he and his successors failed to realize that by catering to a left-wing audience they lost 50% of their subscribers in a nation that is relatively moderate.

The propaganda machine is self imploding while it blames free content and 100 other causes other than its own alienation of its audience. Propaganda works when it is government subsidized but not in a capitalist economy.

We may differ on our ideas, but we cannot afford to differ on the facts.

Obama’s Imperial Presidency

Much was made back in the days of Richard Nixon of his aggregation of power to the White House. His was the first “Imperial Presidency” according to the intelligentsia at the time and Arthur Schlesinger made it official.Nixon was said to be assuming the powers of a dictator or king: the power to declare war; the power of the purse; and the power of immunity from legislative oversight.

Much has been made of the assumption of power by the executive branch since. Most recently George Bush was accused of this after 9/11 when the Patriot Act was passed by Congress. Opponents of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq used the term repeatedly despite Congressional approval and U.N. Resolutions. Helen Thomas was relentless in her criticism equating the imprisonment of Jose Padilla, a Taliwannaban, to the gulags of Soviet Russia and the internment camps of World War II. Ms. Thomas implicated the Supreme Court as well, who approved Bush’s measures when challenged by an activist Leftist bar.

And today, we have a president who has arrogated more power to his agencies and the White House than any in history, and the media and the Leftist bar are utterly silent.

Consider the use of Executive Orders:

Theodore Roosevelt      3

Others to FDR              None

FDR                              11 through the Great Depression & World War II

Truman                          5

Eisenhower                   2

Kennedy                        4

Johnson                        4

Nixon                             1

Ford                              3

Carter                           3

Reagan                        5

G.H.W. Bush               3

Clinton                        15

G.W. Bush                 62

Obama                     135

Consider that Obama created an unprecedented separate bureaucracy from his Cabinet level agencies and departments run by “czars” for banking, the auto crisis, Afghanistan, AIDS, the Border, Climate, Domestic Violence, Drugs, Green Jobs, Guantanamo and on and on. These czars are nominally accountable to the various departments but decision-making power rests with them and in the White House. Obama has emasculated the  structure of our government, and yet no one has said a word.

A number of the agencies and departments, including and especially the EPA, the FDA, The Department of Agriculture, and the department of Homeland Security have arrogated powers never legislated to themselves such as climate change, industry regulation, and even transportation safety.

When the White House began to use the National Endowment for the Arts as a propaganda tool for his health care bill, enough scorn and criticism was rained down to quickly snuff what was an almost Orwellian use of governmental power.

Much more serious was the president’s decision to go to war in Libya. Executive Order 13566 declared Libya an extraordinary threat to the United States despite no act of war and in coordination with the United Nations Resolution 1973 which called for the protection of the Libyan people. Congress was informed, not consulted.

The law is, ever more, what the President says it is. As as expressed by Lewis Carroll so well,  “When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

And this is the root of the issue. At a time when there are bitter divides and when the policy battles are fought in the courts there has been no middle path. The aggregation of power in the Presidency has become fundamentally un-Constitutional no matter which party is in power.

The aftermath of 9/11 saw an accelerated use of executive power during an asymmetrical war with no rules. To institutionalize those powers permanently will be a final blow to the division of powers between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches.

America’s Epic Fail in the Middle East

Today the president addressed the United Nations General Assembly, apologizing for a film no one saw and condemning the wave of violence across the Middle East without somehow addressing the anger and tribalism that is the root cause.

He spoke forcefully for human rights and against the tyranny of censorship. The response was positive, but we are still left with a policy in tatters. Instability reigns and the clouds of war ebb and flow with every day’s news. First Syria. Then Iran. Then Libya. And in the background always Afghanistan/Pakistan.

Mohammed Morsi has accumulated even more power than his predecessor, Mubarak, in the name of democracy, but we know not what his intentions are. We have gone from being close allies with Egypt to some amorphous, ill-defined relationship not through actions of state but through poorly worded presidential news bites using ill-advised language.

In Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, our country’s word has lost meaning because of a disengaged, unilateral policy towards the Arab Spring that ignored the advice and counsel of our allies. Today’s New York Times reports that the president has failed to build the relationships necessary to diplomacy, staying disengaged and aloof. His personal style has actually hurt our ability to influence events. This is not a good sign.

The Israeli – Palestinian situation has effectively become a sideshow. We ignore both sides even as the crisis with Iran escalates.

This afternoon, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will speak to the General Assembly. At home he is deeply unpopular but still holds power because of his close alliance with the extremist faction. He is actively supporting the Bashar Assad regime in Syria not only with armaments but with troops as well. Iran has been fomenting unrest in Bahrain, the Gaza Strip and beyond.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban and their allies are simply counting the days until the departure of Western forces now while making life ever more difficult. They are reminding both our government and the Afghan people that they will be back once we are gone. In the background, the Pakistani government has all but declared war against western interests.

And yet this should never have happened. From 1979 onwards, the protector of the Ummah has been the United States. When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, it was the Reagan government that organized support for the mujaheddin.

In 1983, 241 United States Marines were killed in a terrorist attack in Beiruit, Lebanon while trying to help establish peace during that civil war. 58 French paratroopers were killed that day as well. All of them peacekeepers.

In 1990 when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, it was the 82nd Airborne who were first on the scene in Desert Shield, protecting the Holy Places from the aggressor. Saddam’s goal was the domination of the richest oil patch in the world. he would have used this as a tool not only against the West, but against any opponent of his Baathist regime, which was virtually every other nation in the region.

Over 700,000 U.S. troops were involved in the Gulf War and 394 were killed. We went home afterwards except for some forces tasked to ensure that there were no further incursions.   After Desert Storm, the United States led the way in establishing the no-fly zones, which protected the Kurds in the Iraqi north.

It has conveniently been forgotten that Saddam Hussein had used weapons of mass destruction three times. The first in massive attacks reminiscent of World War I in his war against the Iranians; secondly against Israeli targets in the Gulf War; and lastly, against the Kurds in Northern Iraq. Twice he used nerve gas against his coreligionists.

In 1992 when war broke out in the former Yugoslavia, the United States once again supported a Muslim government in Bosnia. The Dayton Accords led to an independent Bosnia. American aircraft dropped food and supplies while “black” C-130’s dropped weapons.

At the same time, U.S. forces arrived in Somalia on a humanitarian mission (Operation Restore Hope)  to end a man-made famine caused by civil war between tribal militias. 43 Americans were killed and 143 wounded.

In Kosovo, U.S. troops once against guaranteed the peace. Just this week, Kosovo became the newest member of the international community of nations.

After the 9/11 attacks, U.S. forces in cooperation with the Northern Alliance expelled the Taliban from power in Afghanistan. The Taliban regime was among the most barbaric in history, brutalizing the Afghan people. We were greeted as liberators at the time.

In 2003, U.S. forces finally deposed Saddam Hussein with resistance collapsing within 30 days. We were once again greeted as liberators by most of the country. But then a vicious combination of jihad, civil war, and gangsterism was allowed to arise. There were no civil institutions, just as in Afghanistan. There was no reconstruction plan.

And as a result, 4,487 Americans have died to date in Iraq, the vast majority seeking simply to keep the peace. Close to $1 trillion has been spent. To achieve what?

The Maliki government is a corrupt alliance of Shiite interests, both secular and religious that is like its predecessor more concerned with looting the country’s resources than building civil society. The oppression of minorities continues and government leadership has aligned itself with Iran. In the north and other parts of the country a de facto sovereigntism has taken the place of a national government. The Kurdish regions are by most metrics independent in all but name.

In Iraq, the United States was recognized by almost all parties as the honest broker holding the divergent special interests both accountable and together. Behind the scenes and despite public pronouncements to the contrary, Iraqi politicians from all sides begged that the US remain as that balancing force. But our own politics, our leadership’s disengagement, and the desire simply to exit as soon as possible overruled the common sense answer.

One thing we have learned beyond doubt is the personal disengagement of the President. When General McKiernan begged for additional troops in Afghanistan he was fired. When General McChrystal requested the same, the administration waited for over 90 days to respond. Today’s New York Times describes the president’s disengagement with leaders in the region.

To a dangerous extent the president has isolated himself from events. To then misrepresent facts on the ground for political purposes such as the root cause of the assassination of Ambassador Stevens and blame an obscure video for the past two weeks of violence avoids and abets the complete failure of our government, not only in this administration, to deliver an effective message in the light of the facts.

We have fought more time for the basic rights of Muslims than for any other religion or people. We have gone to the aid of Muslims more times than for any other people. Even when supporting regimes that have been oppressive, we have acted in the interests of peace and the personal safety of the individual. The problem does not lie with the United States. It lies with the extremists. It lies with those who stay silent in response to the extremists.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. There is an unsteady awakening in the Middle East. The old leaders have been overthrown. But now what? Can the institutions of justice and human rights survive conservative Islam? What of the Copts in Egypt and the Jews of Baghdad and the Christians of Syria? What of the rights of women?

The United States has done its best to come to the aid of Muslim peoples. Trillions of dollars and cemeteries full of American and other foreign bodies have been filled trying to protect and preserve Muslims. There is nothing to apologize for.

But in the balance, 30 years of policy has been a failure. The Wahabbists were allowed to propagate their philosophy just as the Deobandists have done so. The result was Al Q’uaeda and fanatic violence in Pakistan.

The president’s lecture of the extremists this morning is symptomatic of our epic misunderstanding of the politics and psychology of the Ummah. The Koran was frozen in context in the 1200’s. Any reformation or reinterpretation is punishable by death.

This is a massive barrier to progress. But to deny that the rage is against the “other” is to deny what has been proven time and again.The state of conflict between Shiite and Sunni should be a clue to the underlying issues.

But all of the Arabists and all of the experts seek to define the issues through a Western prism and this is perhaps our greatest failure. Western understanding of the Middle East can go only so far and no further. The facts are pretty clear.

We tried to change the game in Iraq and Afghanistan and failed. We tried to stay ahead of the curve in Egypt and Libya, and we have failed.

We tried to simply keep coreligionists from killing each other and we failed. We protected Muslims from oppression and we failed.

We are destined to fail because we are not considered a source for the positive in any light. We are simply infidels to the majority, who have no say in their affairs. Our blood and our treasure and our good intentions have bought us little politically because we are both outsiders and have been disengaged.

Our presidents have hit the reset button so many times in the Middle East that it is broken. Politically and militarily we have spent the last four years disengaging ourselves. This will have had deeply negative consequences in the long term, but with few options now there is little we can do. We have backed ourselves into a corner.