Monday, December 29, 2008

A Belated Happy Holidays & All That

Sporadic blogging ahead. I'm taking some time off for personal reasons.


Friday, December 26, 2008

Obstacles To Defense Spending Cuts

This post was amputated from "Did NY Times Op-Ed Force Pentagon's Hand?"

The first obstacle faced in cutting defense spending: Defense cuts equal job cuts.

The second, bigger obstacle is Congress. Natch. The NYT gets to the nub of the issue:

Congress will need to develop a lot more realism and restraint. Lobbyists pushing costly and unneeded weapons systems find ready allies in lawmakers looking to create or protect federally financed jobs in their districts. Big contractors like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and General Dynamics have become masters at spreading those jobs around to assemble broad Congressional voting blocs. Work on the F-22 has been parceled out to subcontractors in 44 states.
This is going to be one of the great tests of the Obama administration. Can our new president work with the Democratic Congressional majority and the Pentagon to see beyond the jobs military contractors provide on massively expensive, wasteful DOD projects and reign in runaway spending? Will our government be able to replace any defense industry jobs lost with comparable positions elsewhere? Is it possible to do so and win re-election?

The third obstacle is the defense industry itself.* If Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and General Dynamics are smart, they'd realize the best thing for our country and their business would be to finally face forward. These military-industrial giants would be wise to partner with the Obama administration and Congress to focus their efforts on developing new sustainable biofuels, alternative energy sources and creating a new national energy infrastructure. By so doing, new jobs would be created, energy problems could be solved and taxpayer dollars would be spent on ensuring our future rather than building outrageously expensive weapons designed to fight the wars of our past.

Until that time, as General Dynamics' "whopping $14 billion contract" to build super subs we don't need proves, it's business as usual.

*Note: Sloppy I know but somehow this sentence was clipped in the "amputation."

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

ACLU Needs Your Help

The two foundations that were the ACLU's biggest donors were cleaned out by the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme.

Donate to the ACLU here.


Rick Warren's Church Scrubs Anti-Gay Rhetoric From Website

Think Progess has the deets.


Did NYT Op-Ed Force Pentagon's Hand?

Yesterday, I blogged about a NY Times Op-Ed calling for billions of dollars in defense cuts through eliminating wasteful military programs inappropriate for 21st century warfare.

Among those programs on the Times' hit list:

Halt production of the Virginia class sub. Ten of these unneeded attack submarines — modeled on the cold-war-era Seawolf, whose mission was to counter Soviet attack and nuclear launch submarines — have already been built. The program is little more than a public works project to keep the Newport News, Va., and Groton, Conn., naval shipyards in business.
Good call but it looks like it comes too late. Per today's Boston Globe Political Intelligence blog:

The US Navy this afternoon is expected to award a whopping $14 billion contract to General Dynamics to build eight new attack submarines, providing a stable workload for at least the next decade at the company's Electric Boat shipyard in Groton, Conn., and a key manufacturing facility on Narragansset Bay in Quonset Point, R.I., according to several knowledgeable sources.

The contract for Virginia class submarines "guarantees work on the New England waterfront at least through 2019," said a company official who asked not to be identified before the official announcement from the Department of Defense, which is expected at 5 pm.

General Dynamics employs about 10,500 people between its shipyard in Groton and hull-fabrication plant in Rhode Island.

The timing of this multi-billion dollar sub deal is curious. It comes on the first business day after "How to Pay for a 21st-Century Military" is published. The Navy leaks the announcement of this $14 billion dollar contract award to General Dynamic at a time, three days before Christmas, in which it is likely to receive little scrutiny. More importantly, the contract is announced a month before Obama's inauguration.

The Bush administration certainly wasn't going to say no to General Dynamics at this late juncture. President-elect Obama couldn't block it if he wanted to. Once sworn-in, President Obama will be powerfully disinclined to cut 10000+ jobs. (Especially as they are all centered in one region). Not with the state of the US economy. No way. No how.

Which begs this question: Did NYT's call to halt Virginia class subs construction instead have the unintended consequence of ensuring the program's continuation?


**12/26/08: Edited for clarity forming a separate post here.

Monday, December 22, 2008

NYT Offers Defense Budget Tips. Shoots Self In Foot.

Although I'm no military expert, I am a keen student of military history. I follow US weapons program development pretty closely out of curiosity and because of their penchant for fraud and waste.

The NY Times editorial board lays out their plan to cut the US Defense budget. Their research comes off as shaky. NYT heralds the troubled, most expensive program ever as cost saving.

Kicking off their list:

End production of the Air Force’s F-22. The F-22 was designed to ensure victory in air-to-air dogfights with the kind of futuristic fighters that the Soviet Union did not last long enough to build. The Air Force should instead rely on its version of the new high-performance F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which comes into production in 2012 and like the F-22 uses stealth technology to elude enemy radar.

Until then, it can use upgraded versions of the F-16, which can outperform anything now flown by any potential foe. The F-35 will provide a still larger margin of superiority. The net annual savings: about $3 billion.
The NYT needs to check their facts and their math. The F-22 was a colossal mistake but the F-35 is neither a fix nor a bargain. Not even our allies are sold on the F-35. Sept. 14, 2008's Sydney Morning Herald called the "$151m Planes 'A Disaster'":
Fresh doubts have been thrown on Australia's most costly military project in history after aviation experts slammed the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as a "disaster" that lacks power and punch.

An article in Janes Defence Weekly last week said the F-35 was "overweight and underpowered", lacked manoeuvrability, could not carry enough bombs, was too delicate to withstand ground fire and was overpriced.

Sure doesn't sound like this plane is the answer. It's not just the F-35 performance that's in question, It's price is no bargain whatever the cost. And I do mean whatever the cost.

Earlier this year, the Pentagon touted a $1 billion drop (or about $400,000 per) on the price tag for the 2500 F-35s ordered for the Navy, Air Force & Marines. However, at the same time Bloomberg News noted GAO auditors had a vastly different read:

The cost of Lockheed Martin's Joint Strike Fighter, already the most expensive weapons program ever, is projected to increase as much as $38 billion, congressional auditors said yesterday.

That would bring the price of 2,458 F-35s to $337 billion, 45 percent more than estimated when the program began in October 2001.

"Midway through development, the program is over cost and behind schedule," Michael J. Sullivan, director of acquisition and sourcing management for the Government Accountability Office, told two panels of the House Armed Services Committee that oversee military spending.

Personally, I trust GAO accounting over the Pentagon's balance sheet every single time. Bloomberg continues:

The 12-year development of the fighter jet is entering its most challenging phase, including test flights, completing the software, finishing design of the three F-35 models and refining manufacturing processes at Lockheed and its subcontractors.

Sullivan said the Pentagon has identified billions of dollars in unfunded requirements, continued delays and "substantial" production inefficiency by Lockheed and engine-maker Pratt & Whitney that will increase costs.

At $337 billion, the Joint Strike Fighter's price would be more than twice that of the Pentagon's second-most expensive weapons program, the $160 billion Future Combat System.

As expensive and wasteful as the F-35 project has been over the past 12 years, we still don't really don't know how this turkey will fly. It wasn't until last month, on it's 69th test flight, that the F-35 finally flew supersonic -- for eight minutes. If Lockheed Martin is to be believed, this fighter won't be delivered until 2012.

Conceived over a decade ago, both the F-22 & the F-35 are ill-suited to 21st century warfare. Both programs should be scrapped. We should start over incorporating the best technology of the F-22 & the F-35 in a new design. As the Times pointed out, "upgraded" versions of the F-16 are plenty adequate for now.

Will Obama and the Pentagon have the courage to admit the F-22 & F-35 programs are a mistake and start over?


Somebody's Glad I'm Home

I'll Never Understand Bigotry, Pt. 1

I've mentioned elsewhere I do not understand bigotry. I never have. I don't think I ever will.

Borne of ignorance and nurtured by environment, bigotry grows beyond it's inherent ugliness. It's cowardice. It's irrational. It drives man to commit the most unspeakably evil acts. It's completely pointless.

Yet bigotry seems innate to humanity. Perhaps bigotry is something we were hard-wired for prior to walking upright as a mechanism to defend our turf and its resources against strangers' encroachment. Millions of years later it seems to serve that self-same purpose.

The Nation's Katrina's Hidden Race War is one crucial read -- a powerful story of racism, opportunism, murder and institutional apathy. Check this particularly chilling passage:

"It was great! It was like pheasant season in South Dakota. If it moved, you shot it." A native of Chicago, Janak also boasts of becoming a true Southerner, saying, "I am no longer a Yankee. I earned my wings." A white woman standing next to him adds, "He understands the N-word now." In this neighborhood, she continues, "we take care of our own."

Janak, who says he'd been armed with two .38s and a shotgun, brags about keeping the bloody shirt worn by a shooting victim as a trophy. When "looters" showed up in the neighborhood, "they left full of buckshot," he brags, adding, "You know what? Algiers Point is not a pussy community."
Katrina left Janak's exclusive almost entirely white New Orleans neighborhood of Algiers Point pretty much unscathed. Due to its intact ferry terminal and central location, the National Guard dubbed Algiers Point an "official evacuation site." Federal agencies dropped flood victims there to be herded onto buses to Texas. Unbeknownst to them, African-Americans who headed to the Point on foot risked being treated as "looters."
Some of the gunmen prowling Algiers Point were out to wage a race war, says one woman whose uncle and two cousins joined the cause. A former New Orleanian, this source spoke to me anonymously because she fears her relatives could be prosecuted for their crimes. "My uncle was very excited that it was a free-for-all--white against black--that he could participate in," says the woman. "For him, the opportunity to hunt black people was a joy."

"They didn't want any of the 'ghetto niggers' coming over" from the east side of the river, she says, adding that her relatives viewed African-Americans who wandered into Algiers Point as "fair game." One of her cousins, a young man in his 20s, sent an e-mail to her and several other family members describing his adventures with the militia. He had attached a photo in which he posed next to an African-American man who'd been fatally shot. The tone of the e-mail, she says, was "gleeful"--her cousin was happy that "they were shooting niggers."

I found Katrina's Hidden Race War so disturbing, so sickening and so alien it took me at least 10 tries to read it through. (Stories like these test my weakened resolve to not turn away from suffering). What is absolutelyfuckingmindblowing is to date only three gunshot deaths during Katrina and its entire aftermath investigated by the police involve shootings by NOPD: The Danziger Bridge incident and Danny Brumfield.

I don't think I'll ever truly understand bigotry. Except in those rare cases marked by extenuating circumstances (i.e. self-defense, euthanasia), I am unable to make sense of murder. That something so stupid and irrational as bigotry can "drive" someone to murder is way beyond my capacity to understand.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

They Said It. I Repeat It.

Via Raw Story:

"Just because I like pizza it doesn’t mean I should marry it. Biologically, I am predisposed to enjoy the immaculate melding of mozzarella cheese, red sauce and thick crust baked to tasty perfection.

"But that doesn’t mean I should enter into a lifelong commitment with Sicilian or plain, nor bed it down, nor bring children into the world and have them have to explain to their classmates why their mom’s crust is not a crisp as it once was.

"Does any child deserve to have their friends tossing Monday 2 for 1 coupons in his face? Not in my world they don’t. Yet, to say that I am against pizza-eaters or gays is absurd. Our Saddleback Church offer more weight-watchers meetings to overeaters than any other evangelical megachurch on the west coast."
-Pastor Rick Warren
on NBC's Dateline

Unbelievable. A completely lacking of respect. I'm guessing he thinks his ill-advised analogy to explain his anti-gay marriage stance is funny.

I'm not laughing.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

It's Not Just The "Gays" That Are Pissed About Rick Warren

LA Times: Obama's choice of Rick Warren to lead prayer dismays Hollywood liberals. I'm still waiting for the media to recognize plenty of people who are not gay and don't work Hollywood that are livid over this.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Delay. Obstruct. Delay.


It's the GOP mantra.


Rick Warren In Action

The Billerico Project has the fascinating details of how Rick Warren initially agreed to and then did everything he could to try to get out of a meeting with gay parents in That Weird Hug from Rick Warren." It's clear Rick Warren has no apparent interest in discourse or dialogue with the gay community. Warren had to be shamed into any form of "honoring" his commitment.

Hey, I'm all about spirituality of any kind. However, it makes me spit blood to see the hypocrisy of those who holler "Praise Jesus" and then divvy up their fellow human beings into groups that do and do not deserve respect, civil rights, Heaven...How is this Christian?

It's not. It can't be. It's a perversion of Jesus' teaching.

I know that my christening of these Evangelicals as "Jesus freaks" causes some to bristle. If Jesus came back today, he might find these folks freaks too.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

I Was Just Thinking...

Rod Blagojevich looks like he dropped out of a '90s amateur Hungarian porno movie.

He wouldn't have to change his first name either.

The moments before his inauguration is awfully early in his presidency for Barack Obama to be pandering to Jesus freaks who wanna deny GLBT civil rights.

You'd think our first African-American President would not be completely tone deaf on this one.

I still miss Joe Strummer terribly but worse so this month.

Likewise John Lennon.

"Happy Xmas (War Is Over)"? - Best. Christmas song. Ever.

Rahm Emmanuel is a badass.

John Stewart too -- ask Huckabee.

George Tenet is most decidely not.

What's with the Bush Administration's mad flurry to screw us all some more before he's kicked out the door? Hasn't he fucked us enough already?

The Red Sox really don't need Mark Teixiera next year.

The seven following years following that are another story altogether.

Dunno how I feel about Bill Clinton's donor list. If this is the way any of the money we've thrown at Blackwater winds up doing some good, it ain't all a bad thing.

The mainstream media is so fucked for thinking that Pastor Rick Warren is offensive solely to "gay groups."

Color million of us straight folks offended as well.

I always liked Coldplay better back when they were called Radiohead. Not so much now.

Now that we've learned Chrysler execs will still get paid while the plants shut down, I'd really like to see breakouts of total salaries for Chrysler's white collar workers versus the same for Chrysler's rank and file.

For tens of thousands of people across the Northeast to still be without power after more than a week is completely unacceptable.

At least our Republican Congress folks are predictable.

Elvis Costello has become mellow, even playful, as he's aged.

Dick Cheney has not.

Can we legalize pot already? Now that would boost the economy.

Go Franken go!

Rachel Maddow is on fire.

George Bush's recent address to the War College was downright strange and patently false. Why change now George, right?

**12/19/08: Updated with additional links where appropriate.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fun With Seizures

Stupid Brain!

I'm resuming my sometimes pithy, occasionally witty, frequently profane tirades & random ramblings for your dancing and dining pleasure. I first went up to Boston to give my mom a hand ten days ago. Something weird happened up there. Really weird.

You needn't have watched House, ER, Grey's Anatomy et al to know seizures are freaky. Well, they're really freaky for the seizee. Had a series of at least four seizures eleven days ago - that was, how shall I say, waytoofuckinginteresting for my tastes. This in spite of the 3 powerful seizure meds I'm more grateful than ever to be currently taking. Probably why I was conscious for most of my "experience." Thankfully, I was lying down at the time.

I've had innumerable seizures. Innumerable because when you have a seizure, it typically affects your memory. I wasn't even evaluated for seizures for the longest time because no one, including myself, had any idea that I was having them.

Except for the mildest imaginable seizure back in June (My crack neurologist told me that it an anomaly & not to worry about it), I've never been conscious during a seizure. I was barely conscious then. It woke me ever so briefly and I fell back asleep.

Didn't really suss out what had happened until later that day. The slightly bitten tip of my tongue clinched it. That and the feeling that I had been hit with a brick without the pain of actually being hit with a brick. That's what a mild seizure is all about.

I'm going in NYC's Beth Israel next month for a 24-hour neuro-monitoring.

The experiment continues.

*This is not my brain. This head is not nearly big enough and there's no way my eyes would ever look that weird. Ever. Unfortunately, my neurologist currently has my brain scans. Next time, eh?

For Both Of You Who Have Asked

Back up in Boston where my mother's eye surgery went well. Her modem blew up so no internet until now.

Good times.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Who's Gonna Buy You That Library Now, George?

Nice one, George. You've pissed off your so-called "evangelical base" by saying the Bible isn't meant to be taken literally and that evolution is just alright by You. The Jesus Freaks feel used and betrayed.

"It was all a lie!" they wail. "We were used!"

Big deal. Let them bawl. You're no longer any use to them. And with one foot out the door, it's not like You need them anymore either, right?


The jewel of Your historical fiction "legacy" project is the George W. Bush Presidential Library. Selection of wifey Laura's alma mater SMU as the site was done all cloak and dagger-like and shit; chock full of drama and controversy from the word go. Over objections from the "Faculty, Administrators, & Staff" of SMU's Theology School(!), You & Your backers (Karl Rove leading the charge) rammed that sucker through faster than You can say Bail-Out or FISA or The Patriot Act or Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002.

Good times.

Your everlasting monument to self-delusion is scheduled to break ground next year. Jamming Your -- OK, Dick's -- twisted agenda down Americans' throats as President proved remarkably easy. Standing on the verge of becoming the most unpopular ex-Presidents ever, you'll find raising the scratch for a temple to Yourself far harder. Should've thought of that before You put the tagger at a half-a-billion buckaroos.

$500,000,000. Maybe Poppy does have diamonds stashed in a Basel safety deposit box (it's possible -- he's an ex-CIA Director, ex-Carlyle Group "advisor" & Prescott Bush's son). This is one present Pop ain't gonna buy, Junior. Say for the moment we ignore the absolute fucking insult inherent in the construction of an ridiculously expensive edifice to Your egotism in the midst of a worldwide economic disaster that occurred on Your watch because of Your watch. Where are You going to come up with the K.A.S.H.?

Pop's out. Ordinary Americans? That's chump change, George. You're wicked unpopular and, not that You've noticed, times are hard. You're not gonna get dick from the Captains of Industry or Wall Street either. AIPAC and the like are far too mercenary. Plus they've already moved on. Hell, when even Adelson's strapped, You know You're screwed.

Jimmy Swaggart, newly minted Presidential Medal of Freedom owner Chuck Colson, James Dobson, Tony Perkins -- I confess to have a hard time remembering the ones who still haven't "gone gay" -- these people were the few left standing from which You could squeeze filthy legacy library lucre. Tit for tat turnabout what with all that faith-based initiatives tax-payer cash You spiffed them. You made the Jesus Freaks feel special. It's not like You gave that money to Jews or Muslims or liberal Christians.

You had to blow it. You always blow it. Speaking dismissively of The Bible, You've gone and pissed off the Evangelicals but good. Probably Karl's Mormons too. And "mainstream" Christians. Jesus Christ, George, how long's it gonna take You to get it through your thick skull that the "M" in "SMU" stands for Methodist?!?!

Look, churches depend on gifts too. People who have ever less to give don't take kindly to having their churches' donation plates dumped into a rich man's hole in the ground. The Jesus Freaks, Mormons and Methodists will not risk offending the faithful. They will not give you one red cent.

So, who's gonna buy you that library now, George?

Cross-posted at TPM Cafe.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

It's Like Christmas For Democrats

48 more days. It seems like it will never come.

In the meantime, enjoy the Branca-fied-postcore-alterna-metal-jazz stylings of NYC's own Helmet.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Where will this new blood be drawn from?

We've long known that President Obama (How I so love saying that!) will have to clean house. Luring expert help back to our government to replace Bush's uber-partisan political appointees is the great unexamined challenge Obama must face. Under Bush we've seen the size of our Federal government explode. To reign in this monster, we need smart, seasoned bodies and lots of them now.

To be sure the “replacement” pool has been discussed ad nauseam in the world of blogs and big media. But it's been almost exclusively in the context of, and much derided as, the President-elect's "defense" of (read: "excuse for") his "Clinton-retread" cabinet picks. With our society now so polarized (another thing we can thank Bush for) and the best folks all skedaddled, where do you suggest Obama find qualified experienced people, smart guys?

Plugging in the top of the Obama food chain is actually the easy part. It's the middle that keeps me awake at night. 8 years of Bush purges drove our best government officials to often better paying private sector gigs. In their place our Federal government is now riddled with partisan hacks. I call these ideologues AKA Bushies "embeds."

These "embeds" are the cogs on the wheels of our government. It's impossible for Obama to get rid of all of them or even a significant portion of them in the early stages of his administration. Even an almost imperceptible amount of collective foot-dragging on their parts could prove extremely damaging to Obama's efforts.

Perhaps Bush's horrendous stewardship of our country will have unintended benefits. Brilliant minds not previously drawn to public service could heed their country's call. It’s equally feasible our disastrous economy will draw a few geniuses into the relative security of Obama's administration.

In the meantime, we wait and we hope.


Bring Me The Heads Of The Jonas Brothers!

I just...can't...take it anymore.


Barack & Hillary's Excellent Adventure: The Quest Begins

Via C&L, Cernig previews the clean the slate at State game plan. Bonus points awarded for 2008's Best Use of Greek Mythology In a Political Analogy:

Following up on reports of Obama's intended Herculean cleaning of the Agean Stables at the Department of Defense, where the entire body of Bush-appointed deputies and under-whatevers are expected to be fired, the Washington Post now reports that the incoming Obama administration has told every single Bush political appointee as an ambassador that their services will no longer be required come January 20th.
That's a whole lot of new bodies. So much rides on how quickly these replacements can get up to speed and start undoing the damage Bush administration has caused.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

More McCaffrey

Back when I didn't have this shitty little blog, I went on a months-long McCaffrey comments tirade. Just for kicks, check my Firedoglake bit from March '07:

I’ve said it before, McCaffrey is wildly inconsistent. His views and evaluations of US progress in Iraq change weekly. He’s called the surge “a fool’s errand.” He’s praised the hard work of contractors: “Without that contractor effort, this war would have ground to a halt two years ago”. Now it’s “We need to support the U.S. leadership team in Iraq for this one last effort to succeed.”

McCaffrey is a seriously conflicted individual in every sense of the phrase. It’s not surprising that a decorated Viet Nam vet wants one last push towards victory. It’s well documented that many hawks of that war (ex-soldiers and current politicians) are adamant that we don’t “lose” this one.

McCaffrey is also an NBC military analyst. He needs to express some criticism of US military strategy in Iraq to maintain credibility. He also feels it’s his duty to support the war effort not just as a retired US general but also as a businessman. It wouldn’t be prudent for him to be too critical of the Pentagon.

McCaffery is on the board of: Dyncorp International (supplies security personnel and police trainers in Iraq and Afghanistan), McNeil Technologies ($4.6 billion dollar Army contract thru a joint deal with Dyncorp for Iraq translation and and interpretation services), HNTB Federal Services (military engineering contractor), and The Wornick Company (provides meals-ready-to-eat AKA MREs to the military).

McCaffrey’s making a serious chunk of change from this war while appearing to play both sides of the fence. Barry would take a hit in the wallet if the Iraq war ended any time soon.

From Raw Story, August '07:

Can NBC give a disclaimer on this guy already? I've been saying this for ages: Barry McCaffrey is on the board of The Wornick Company (supplier of MRE's to the military) and McNeil Technologies (supplier of Intelligence, Security, Language "services" to the Federal Government). McNeil & Wornick are both wholly owned by Veritas Capital -- a $1 billion+ private equity firm. Veritas also owns just a few military & Federal contractors you may or may not have heard of: Dyncorp, Trawick & Assoc., Aeroflex, Vangent, Athena Innovative Solutions and Continental Electronics.

In other words, it's clearly in the best interest of McCaffrey (not to mention his primary employer Veritas) to keep the fear level high. This continues increased spending and the support thereof in The Great War for Oil.
Gotta get ready for my town Democratic committee Festivus fete. More later -- sobriety permitting.


Monday, December 1, 2008

Barry McCaffrey Is Sooo Busted

In an era littered with scams of unprecedented number and scope, one standout, a real operator, has displayed extraordinary flair, dexterity and ability in gaming the military-industrial complex. He's literally done it in our faces yet he's flown under the radar.

Since NBC anointed Gen. Barry McCaffrey as their post-9-11 go-to war guy, his extra-curricular businesses have borne little scrutiny. (See McCaffrey Associates). It left McCaffrey free to parlay his unparalleled DOD contacts and his NBC top "military analyst" status into big bucks "consultant" and board member gigs with a slew of defense industry players.

For almost two years, I've tracked Gen. McCaffrey's brazen exploitation of his unique situation with a total disregard of his multiple, flagrant conflicts of interest. I'm talking the kind of conflicts that would have driven him out of any other business and wicked fast (O.K. maybe not the music business). McCaffrey's on my shit list. He's really burned my goat.*

In April, NYT's David Barstow exposed McCaffrey's fellow TV military commentators as Bush Administration propagandists. He touched on their collective conflicts of interest too. Now Barstow takes aim at the worst offender of all, Gen. Barry McCaffrey, in "One Man’s Military-Industrial-Media Complex":

In the spring of 2007 a tiny military contractor with a slender track record went shopping for a precious Beltway commodity.

The company, Defense Solutions, sought the services of a retired general with national stature, someone who could open doors at the highest levels of government and help it win a huge prize: the right to supply Iraq with thousands of armored vehicles.

Access like this does not come cheap, but it was an opportunity potentially worth billions in sales, and Defense Solutions soon found its man. The company signed Barry R. McCaffrey, a retired four-star Army general and military analyst for NBC News, to a consulting contract starting June 15, 2007.

Four days later the general swung into action. He sent a personal note and 15-page briefing packet to David H. Petraeus, the commanding general in Iraq, strongly recommending Defense Solutions and its offer to supply Iraq with 5,000 armored vehicles from Eastern Europe. “No other proposal is quicker, less costly, or more certain to succeed,” he said.

Thus, within days of hiring General McCaffrey, the Defense Solutions sales pitch was in the hands of the American commander with the greatest influence over Iraq’s expanding military.

“That’s what I pay him for,” Timothy D. Ringgold, chief executive of Defense Solutions, said in an interview.
I bet. What defense contractor large or small wouldn't want a 4-star wired to Commanding General, Multi-National Force - Iraq on their payroll? He's all over the tee-vee too. Bonus!

No one at Defense wants to fuck with McCaffrey. They're either former colleagues, served under his command and/or are acutely aware he's on NBC's various networks "analyzing" their military and their Iraq War. From his televised perch, this guy had the balls to bust Rumsfeld's balls.

This all would be bad, bad and more bad on it's own. McCaffrey wasn't nearly done. Oh, no no. He prostituted himself under oath in front of Congress:

...In his testimony to Congress, General McCaffrey criticized a Pentagon plan to supply Iraq with several hundred armored vehicles made in the United States by a competitor of Defense Solutions. He called the plan “not in the right ballpark” and urged Congress to instead equip Iraq with 5,000 armored vehicles.

“We’ve got Iraqi army battalions driving around in Toyota trucks,” he said, echoing an argument made to General Petraeus in the Defense Solutions briefing packet.
Yep, he stood before Congress under the guise of impartial expert just back from Iraq. McCaffrey made the most of it. He ripped a client's competitor and pushed for more military spending that would ultimately benefit all those who paid him.

So you think this can't get any worse, do you? Hell yeah. McCaffrey's not your garden-variety sleazy-war-profiteer/TV star. This fucking guy shapes US policy:
His influence is such that President Bush and Congressional leaders from both parties have invited him for war consultations. His access is such that, despite a contentious relationship with former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the Pentagon has arranged numerous trips to Iraq, Afghanistan and other hotspots solely for his benefit.

At the same time, General McCaffrey has immersed himself in businesses that have grown with the fight against terrorism.
That's just great. If you're like me, you're spitting blood right now. You're not? Maybe this'll do it. NBC, itself a military-industrial-media complex** charter member sees no problem with putting him on their combined networks nearly 1,000 times!
On NBC and in other public forums, General McCaffrey has consistently advocated wartime policies and spending priorities that are in line with his corporate interests. But those interests are not described to NBC’s viewers. He is held out as a dispassionate expert, not someone who helps companies win contracts related to the wars he discusses on television.
What the fucking fuck?!? During my decade's experience in major market broadcast management, I insisted on disclaimers for stuff insanely stupid more trivial. No problemo, senor sez NBC. We'll pretend this never happened. As the all-powerful NBC, we decide what and where the lines are:
The president of NBC News, Steve Capus, said in an interview that General McCaffrey was a man of honor and achievement who would never let business obligations color his analysis for NBC. He described General McCaffrey as an “independent voice” who had courageously challenged Mr. Rumsfeld, adding, “There’s no open microphone that begins with the Pentagon and ends with him going out over our airwaves.”

General McCaffrey is not required to abide by NBC’s formal conflict-of-interest rules, Mr. Capus said, because he is a consultant, not a news employee. Nor is he required to disclose his business interests periodically. But Mr. Capus said that the network had conversations with its military analysts about the need to avoid even the appearance of a conflict, and that General McCaffrey had been “incredibly forthcoming” about his ties to military contractors.
For years defense industry star Barry McCaffrey has bounced footloose between the very highest levels of civilian government, our military and a Big Three television network. None have the least bit of interest in or a requirement for a disclosure of The General's extensive business ties.

For fuck's sake. When you rub it on down to the nub, we're the ones who pay all their salaries and keep all their lights on.

They just don't think we need to know.


*A stoned friend of mine coined this malaproptic(!?!) mashup of "burns me up" and "gets my goat" years ago. It was funny then. It's still funny now. In the case of McCaffrey, the visual perfectly encapsulates my feelings.

**The military-industrial-media complex is a Eisenhower could not have forseen. FAIR's 2005 look at The Military-Industrial-Media Complex has more.

Catching Up Is Hard To Do

Having limited computer access for a week made me realize how odd it is that I get the vast majority of my news from three sources: the internet, The Daily Show and Keith Olbermann. It was weird with them all basically off last week. Not bad weird. Just weird.

Now if I can only get Firefox to work properly again.