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Pentagon can’t account for $6.5 trillion

by Dan Burns on August 26, 2016 · 0 comments

DF-ST-87-06962 	The Pentagon, headquarters of the Department of Defense.  DoD photo by Master Sgt. Ken Hammond, U.S. Air Force.Earlier this year I did some blogging about military spending. It was from an uncomplimentary perspective, but that doesn’t mean that I foresaw this.

A Department of Defense inspector general’s report released (in July) offered a jaw-dropping insight into just how bad the military’s auditing system is.
The Defense Finance and Accounting Service, the behemoth Indianapolis-based agency that provides finance and accounting services for the Pentagon’s civilian and military members, could not provide adequate documentation for $6.5 trillion worth of year-end adjustments to Army general fund transactions and data.
The DFAS has the sole responsibility for paying all DOD military and personnel, retirees and annuitants, along with Pentagon contractors and vendors. The agency is also in charge of electronic government initiatives, including within the Executive Office of the President, the Department of Energy and the Departing of Veterans Affairs.
There’s nothing in the new IG’s report to suggest that anyone has misplaced or absconded with large sums of money. Rather, the agency has done an incompetent job of providing written authorization for every one of their transactions – so-called “journal vouchers” that provide serial numbers, transaction dates and the amount of the expenditure.
(Fiscal Times)

Here’s the report. I think it also well worth noting here that more than half of the Pentagon budget goes to for-profit contractors.


In every aspect of life, we should demand evidence and think critically.


That was never more true than when assessing the political tabloid stories that sometimes recirculate in locations where the editors should know better.


The Daily Mail, one source of theMelania Trump/ high end hooker /escort story (among others, but notably the one source that has not retracted the story to date) has been threatened with legal action over their reporting of the story by the magazine Suzy that Melania Trump was a pricey prostitute / high end sex worker / escort.   Importantly, the Daily Mail made no conclusions and only reported the story and in fact used language calling the veracity of the story into question.  Even so, Trump threatened suit as is his norm.  Most other websites which carried the story and which are far smaller operations than the Daily Mail, pulled their stories down for fear of suit.  This is a pattern for Trump and a VERY chilling event as it calls into question what Trump might do to the concept of a free press but that’s a different story.


In a related story, dug up by equally sleazy and frequently fact-challenged bigot spigot ‘Red State’, they advance the claim that Donald Trump appears to have licensed his valuable Trump name to an escort service.  Except that as uncovered by the WaPo, NO, Trump never licensed his name or in any way was part of the Trump escort business, now operating under another name after they were hassled over it by the real Trump.



Citizen activism on PolyMet sulfide mining

by Dan Burns on August 25, 2016 · 0 comments

sulfideThis is a very good idea.

A group of Duluth citizens is asking for evidence-based hearings before state regulators decide whether to approve the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine.
The so-called “contested case hearing” would take place before an administrative law judge with evidence, testimony and cross-examination.
The judge would then issue a recommendation to the Department of Natural Resources, before the DNR commissioner decides whether to grant PolyMet its Permit to Mine.
“As Duluthians we have significant concerns about the PolyMet proposal and its likely impacts on our watershed,” said Duluth resident John Dobertstein, “And believe the DNR and citizens of this state should hear all evidence before making a decision.”

The article goes on to note that PolyMet has begun applying for permits. The most likely scenario at this time seems to be that they will get those and then sit on things until there is evidence of a sustained recovery in copper and nickel prices. Which are still down, down, down.


Minnesota’s former Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz has stated that 90% of the youth in the Juvenile Justice system have passed through Child Protective Services and that “The difference between that poor child and a felon is about eight years”.  


Marion Wright Edelman calls this the pipeline to prison & from this volunteer CASA guardian ad Litems perspective it is absolutely true.   No other industrialized nation treats its children and juveniles so harshly.


The simple truths below now define our communities and our nation – share them with your legislators (really – if you don’t share this with them they may never know).


Charging juveniles as adults


Privatized Detention Centers (why judges sometimes go to jail)


Ten Cents An Hour (now that’s a minimum wage)


Never Vote Again (stay away)


King Pin Laws


Women In Prison (shackled while giving birth?)


The Face of 12 Year Olds In Jail


Prozac, Children, Juveniles & the Criminal Justice System
Is This A Racial Issue (Minneapolis arrested 44% of its Adult Black Men in 2001)
Juvenile in prison rates internationally


mn_capitol(Unlike in past cycles, at times I will be writing about more than one race in a single post. Because if things keep going as they are, and they probably will, there are so very many pickup opportunities for the DFL, this time. Heck, with Trump, and the state of the national GOP in general and the MN GOP in particular, arguably no, or at least almost no, Republican seat in this state is really safe.)
– In 15A, DFLer Kent Lestrud is a middle school teacher in Princeton. He’s emphasizing education issues, but is also very good across the board.

Tough race? At R+7, you bet. But DFLer Gail Kulick won in 2008, and Joe Walsh nearly did in 2012. And more people than ever in these parts (I live in 15A) think it’s time for a change. Rep. Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton) is a Reagan-era conservative, cognitively rigid to an extreme, who it is widely acknowledged has done little for our district. Lestrud has been aggressively pointing that out.

– SD 15 is an open seat. Our candidate is Chilah Brown. There’s positive precedent here, too, as Lisa Fobbe won in 2008.


desertThis article is about a month old, but certainly nothing has changed. Plenty can change, though, if the DFL controls the legislature by comfortable margins, beginning next year. If you know what I’m saying.

Officials in Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration say Minnesota should look at strengthening its renewable energy law. The state is on track to meet a requirement of 25 percent renewable electricity generation by 2025. But that has not been enough to help reach another state goal: a major reduction in the greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change.
Republicans and Democrats came together in 2007 to act on climate change. The Minnesota Legislature passed goals that — at the time — were among the most ambitious in the country, and then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed them into law.
The Next Generation Energy Act set goals of a 15 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2015, 30 percent by 2025 and an 80 percent reduction by 2050.
But the state missed its 2015 target and is not on track to meet the other goals. Lt. Gov. Tina Smith said that has to change.
“We not only want to be making progress on this, I think Minnesota wants to be leading on this issue again, and we have lost that leadership,” she said.

July 2016 was the hottest month on record. Here’s a lot more about all that.


It’s Inevitable (police shootings)

by Mike Tikkanen on August 23, 2016 · 0 comments

People smarter than me have clearly explained the underlying institutional dysfunctions that ensure the next (inevitable) police shootings.


Dallas Police Chief David Brown accurately stated that law enforcement has become the safety system in schools, a primary community mental health service provider, and of course the armed responder to a growing number of society’s violent problems.


Recently, Minnesota sheriffs from Hennepin, Ramsey and Washington Counties wrote a half page Star Tribune article threatening to sue the State for failing to provide timely mental health services to people locked up in their jail cells. This failure has turned law enforcement into a provider of mental health services to a large and growing population of often dangerous people.


MN Law enforcement officers killed 12 people in 2015 and each year are dealing with more unstable people and potentially dangerous encounters with the wrong training needed to slow this racially unbalanced social dysfunction.


Our public health issue of mental health and the violence and dangers it presents will never be dealt with effectively by Law Enforcement (or teachers, or social workers or other untrained service providers). Sheriffs, police and police chiefs talk about dealing with this growing number of unpredictable, mentally unstable people (and even whole families).   They know that the center cannot hold and that when the weak link breaks bad things happen.



Boo!  Were you scared?

It is impossible to tighten down the spigot of bigotry that daily spews hatred and disinformation to the willfully ignorant right wing of the political spectrum.  It’s not apparently that the conservative side of the political spectrum CAN’T fact check, the problem is that they don’t want to know facts or truth.  They want to be lied to as regards their hateful and inaccurate world view.  They LIKE hating other people, and they rigorously resist facts getting in the way of their evil and unjustified prejudice.  It is the only explanation for their persistent behavior both individually and as a demographic.


The weekend news has a couple of nuggets, well, more disgusting turds.


Let’s debunk them now, before they get a further chance to circulate.  They include an attack on Hillary Clinton by way of going after her long time aide, Huma Abedin.  Then there are a couple of especially stinky, steaming turds, where Crazy eyes Michele Bachmann is touted as one of Donald  Trump’s FOREIGN POLICY AFFAIRS advisers, AND religious advisers, helping Trump to exploit the fundie-fools that comprise the religious right.


The poo is organized into two separate but equally steaming, stinking piles.  One is that Huma Abedin worked for a radical Muslim Journal.  She did not. She worked for the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, a very prestigious academic publication based in London, associated with educational institutions like Oxford.  The JMMA is a publication that has no taint or hint of radicalism.  Here is the page for the editorial board, who set the policy for the JMMA, many of whom are not themselves even Muslim, and all of whom are highly regarded and accomplished individuals, the type the right likes to call ‘elites’, ‘intellectuals’, and ‘experts’, because they actually know the field in depth and breadth.  They have also demonstrated decades of adhering to the highest professional standards and ethics.  Conservatives hate that; they demonstrate repeatedly they prefer the opposite (hence the careers of Bachmann and now Trump).



Let Me Show You the Money

by Mike Tikkanen on August 22, 2016 · 0 comments

mararishi guatemala thanksgivingI once owned a junkyard that recycled cars so I’m pretty good with managing maintenance, money, expenses and greasy auto parts.


Later I became a volunteer Hennepin County guardian ad Litem – which I recommend highly for anyone interested in a more complete perspective of one’s own self and community and a better understanding of people and economics.  In my CASA guardian ad Litem tenure, I helped to remove about 50 children from their birth homes.


I now see how taking care of broken children is economically a lot like taking care of trucks and crushing equipment at the junkyard.


When I tended to the damaged parts of my equipment, everything ran better, there were fewer injuries and no major catastrophes.


Remember when we saw the compassionate conservative indifference of Paul Ryan showing up at a soup kitchen for a photo op showing him helping? Except, he wasn’t helping; he was exploiting the very real pain of poverty for his own self-promotion.

From CBS news:

The head of a charity in northeastern Ohio where Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan and his family were photographed cleaning dishes over the weekend said Monday that Ryan was not authorized to be on the premises and “did nothing” while there.

Brian J. Antal, president of the Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society in Youngstown, told the Washington Post that the Romney campaign had not asked to make the Saturday visit to the soup kitchen. He said that he runs an apolitical faith-based organization which has bylaws barring it from hosting political candidates, and that the visit jeopardized donations from private individuals.

“They showed up there and they did not have permission,” he said. “They got one of the volunteers to open up the doors.” Antag added that Ryan and his family “did nothing” while on the premises.

“He just came in here to get his picture taken at the dining hall,” he said.

To elaborate on just how staged the exploitative and manipulative Ryan/Romney non-event was, a parallel to the later Trump event in Louisiana, demonstrating a pattern of conservatives and natural disasters:

The Vinidicator, in Youngstown, reports that according to Juanita Sherba, the coordinator who gave Ryan permission to come to the soup kitchen, Ryan did wash dirty dishes while he was there. The newspaper reports that Ryan’s staff asked volunteers “to leave some pots and pans unwashed so the VP nominee and his family could do something when he arrived.”
“We had to save dishes,” she said. “We would have gone home by the time he arrived. We didn’t need him to do the dishes. It was getting late, and I said that we were closing in five minutes. I waited longer than that, and he finally arrived.”

Sherba expressed regret that she had allowed the visit to take place.

“It was the phoniest piece of baloney I’ve ever been associated with,” she said. “In hindsight, I would have never let him in the door.”

We are seeing that again from the right with the performance of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump showing up in Louisiana in spite of the expressed request of the Governor that he not do so.


What did he do? Trump passed along a few boxes of playdough for about a minute.  Then he left.  Where he went to after his little exploitive photo op was here in Minnesota, hitting up people here to fund that campaign he keeps claiming is self-funded.  Yeah. That campaign. The one where he insists he won’t lie, and then immediately lies like a cheap rug in the next sentence or two.


Here is Trump in similar inaction, dragging along Mike Pence his Veep candidate. THIS is the level of help, the level of incompetence, that the nation can expect in the event of a national tragedy. Trump would be like Dubya, and like Ryan / Romney, only WORSE.