Later On

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A thought about veterans

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Peter Coy wrote this in his newsletter from the NY Times but I couldn’t find the column until today. His column (no paywall) begins:

With each passing Veterans Day, there are fewer veterans in America for other Americans to thank. The number of living Americans who had served in the military fell to 16.5 million last year from 26.4 million in 2000, according to the Census Bureau. This shrinkage is good in one important respect — it’s a sign that the United States, while not fully at peace, has needed fewer troops in recent decades than in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. The current number of active-duty troops, at 1.4 million, is little more than a tenth of the peak of 12.1 million in 1945.

But it’s a problem, too. The military still needs troops in this dangerous world, and recruiting suffers when there are fewer veterans to serve as role models and storytellers. “The grandpas, uncles, aunts who served just have an extraordinary influence,” Thomas Spoehr, a retired Army lieutenant general who is the director of the Center for National Defense at the Heritage Foundation, told me this week. “You may not think it’s a big deal, but it plants a seed in young people. It helps with recruiting.”

This Veterans Day I want to write about why young people do and don’t join the all-volunteer armed forces and what the services can do to reach their recruitment goals. As The Times reported this year, the recruiting deficit “is on pace to be worse than any since just after the Vietnam War. It threatens to throw a wrench into the military’s machinery, leaving critical jobs unfilled and some platoons with too few people to function.”

People join the armed forces to defend their country, to share esprit de corps, to continue a family tradition, to see the world, to learn a trade or to land a stable job with reasonable pay and generous benefits. Those who don’t join the armed forces might fear getting hurt or killed, or dislike the military, or think they have better career options in civilian life.

New research published in this month’s issue of The Quarterly Journal of Economics could help young people and their families decide whether the military, or at least the Army, is right for them. (The article is behind a paywall; an earlier draft that’s nearly identical is here.) The researchers found that race matters: In the long run, while enlisting in the Army is roughly neutral for white people economically, it is significantly positive for Black people. “Army Service in the All-Volunteer Era,” as the study is titled, finds that Black people who enlist earn $5,500 to $15,000 more per year 11 to 19 years after applying than otherwise similar Black people who don’t enlist, while white service members “do not experience significant changes.” Enlisting also boosts homeownership and marriage rates for Black people.

A possible explanation for the racial differential is that Black applicants tend to have worse alternative opportunities. For example, the research shows they tend to come from families with lower incomes and from counties with worse economic conditions than white applicants, so they have more to gain from military experience. Citing previous studies, they say it may be that Army service provides Black soldiers with human capital, access to networks and “credentialing effects that diminish racial discrimination.”

For the overall applicant pool, moving beyond pay, Army service increases disability compensation by around $3,000 per year, mostly for partial disability payments available only to veterans, but it’s impossible to know how much of that is because they’re more disabled versus better compensated for their disabilities. Army service has a small to insignificant effect on full disability and no effect on mortality 11 to 19 years out, the study finds. Homeless veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder are the sad exception, not the rule.

That’s good news, because it undermines the narrative that serving in the military is outright bad for people economically, physically and mentally.

The five economists who wrote the paper include . . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2022 at 11:55 am

U.S. Government Quietly Declassifies Post-9/11 Interview With Bush and Cheney

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Jeremy Scahill reports in The Intercept:

ON WEDNESDAY, AS the eyes of the U.S. public were focused on Tuesday’s midterm election results, a U.S. government panel quietly released a newly declassified summary of an Oval Office joint interview conducted with President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney about the September 11 attacks. The interview, carried out by members of the 9/11 Commission, was not recorded and the summary document constitutes the only known official record of the meeting. The meeting took place on April 29, 2004.

“The President and Vice President were seated in chairs in front of the fireplace. The President’s demeanor throughout was relaxed. He answered questions without notes,” according to the document drafted by the commission’s Executive Director Philip Zelikow. “The portrait of Washington was over the fireplace, which was flanked by busts of Lincoln and Churchill. Paintings of southwestern landscapes are on the wall. It was a beautiful spring day.” The document, whose declassification was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, is not an official transcript but is described as “a memorandum for the record.” It was authorized for release by the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel.

One of the most striking aspects of the declassified document is the apparent absence of even a glimmer of self-awareness by Bush about the significance of the death and destruction he was unleashing with his global war. The interview took place just as a massive insurgency was erupting in Iraq against a U.S. occupation that would kill thousands of U.S. soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians. While the document is a rough transcript and summary, Bush comes off as almost childishly simplistic in his insights and analysis. The lack of any sensitive information contained within the document should spur questions as to why it took more than 18 years to be made public.

The declassified document does not contain any groundbreaking revelations, but it does offer some new texture to the internal events immediately following the attacks. That morning, after the first plane had hit the World Trade Center, Bush was reading “The Pet Goat” with second grade students at Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota County, Florida. Bush told the commissioners that he had seen the first plane hit but thought it was an accident. “He recalled that he and others thought the building had been hit by a twin engine plane. He remembered thinking, what a terrible pilot.” Soon after the second plane hit the south tower of the World Trade Center at 9:03 a.m., chief of staff Andy Card approached Bush as he sat listening to the students reciting more passages from “The Pet Goat” and informed him that it appeared the U.S. was under attack.

The commissioners asked the commander-in-chief why he continued to sit in the classroom. “He was trying to absorb the news. He remembered a child, or someone, reading. He remembered watching the press pool and noticing them . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 November 2022 at 4:37 pm

An armored Camaro and a special forces officer kept civilians alive in war-torn Bosnia

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Brendon McAleer reports in Hagerty:

Imagine that it’s 1993 in Yugoslavia. Night falls, and the indiscriminate shelling of a brutal civil war echoes in the distance. Amidst the remnants of battle, a flat black shape emerges from the shadows, tires crunching over rubble as it navigates a cratered road. It’s low, menacing, armored, and rumbling with V-8 thunder. The War Camaro is here to help.

Nearly four years of fighting in what is today Bosnia-Herzegovina claimed an estimated 100,000+ casualties. As in so many civil wars, the civilian population during the Bosnian War bore the brunt of the suffering. However, from 1992–1995 a Danish Special Forces officer named Helge Meyer drove his Camaro into the eye of combat. Unarmed, he brought humanitarian aid to the people who needed it most.

Meyer’s car is a 1979 Chevrolet Camaro, a second-gen F-body with the 5.7-liter V-8. In factory trim, this car was hardly the high point of Camaro performance through the ages. Its 350-cubic-inch V-8 produced at best 170 hp, and it had a 0–60 time of around eight seconds. This particular example, however, is anything but factory-spec. The floors and rear are reinforced with sheet steel, there are Kevlar inserts slotted inside the doors, and twin spare wheels and fire-extinguishing equipment are part of the build-out. U.S. Air Force specialists, working in their off-hours, removed all interior lighting, including those for the radio, and fitted a military-grade GPS. The forward headlights are augmented by infrared lights, and the driver carries IR goggles and a body heat detector. Tires are foam-filled to ward off ordinary flats or, at least, allow the Camaro to escape safely and swap in a spare later.

Escape was preferable, because for all his military equipment, the driver of this Camaro carried no firearm. Meyer kept with him a standard combat knife but effectively ventured unarmed into one of the bloodiest struggles of the modern era. And for all its Mad Max appearance, this ’79 Camaro is still just a car. A coating of water-based infrared paint and a bit of extra power under the hood is no replacement for a proper military-spec transport. There’s a good reason the Army uses Humvees to get around and not black-painted, armored Camaros running nitrous.

As a former special forces officer he was hardly lacking in courage, and Meyer’s exploits still defy belief. As improbable as it may seem, Meyer and his Camaro successfully avoided injury or capture over years of running supplies for civilian aid. A man of faith, Meyer credits his guardian angels for watching over him as he bravely navigated roadblocks and slinked away in the night to resupply.

“I bought the Camaro from . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

24 October 2022 at 10:58 am

Posted in Daily life, Military

How NATO Solves Its Abandonment Problem

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This video nicely explains some of the mechanisms that keep international agreements in place.

Written by Leisureguy

19 October 2022 at 10:02 am

Biden’s National Security Strategy

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Heather Cox Richardson has a useful take on Biden’s National Security Strategy (NSS). She writes:

At Thursday’s meeting of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, as Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) showed that former president Trump both recognized that he had lost the election and intended to leave the White House, he noted that on November 11, just four days after Democrat Joe Biden had been declared the winner of the 2020 election, Trump had abruptly ordered U.S. troops to leave Somalia and Afghanistan by January 15.

Indeed, according to an Axios investigation by Jonathan Swan and Zachary Basu last May, two days before that order, on November 9, 2020, John McEntee, Trump’s hand-picked director of the Presidential Personnel Office, told retired Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor that Trump wanted him to “Get us out of Afghanistan. Get us out of Iraq and Syria. Complete the withdrawal from Germany. Get us out of Africa.” When Macgregor, who was brought on to the administration on November 11, said he didn’t think that was possible, McEntee told him to “do as much as you can.”

Kinzinger’s point was that Trump clearly knew he was leaving office because he was deliberately trying to create chaos for his successor. When he abruptly pulled the U.S. out of northern Syria in October 2019, he abandoned our Kurdish allies, forcing more than 160,000 Syrians from their homes and making them victims of extraordinary violence. The Pentagon considered Trump’s November 11 instructions “a rogue order,” since they had not gone through any of the appropriate channels, and disregarded them.

The release of the Biden administration’s annual National Security Strategy (NSS) on Wednesday, October 12, 2022, highlights just how big a catastrophe we dodged.

Just as Trump’s abrupt withdrawal from Syria left a vacuum for Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian president Vladimir Putin, and as Trump’s planned but not executed withdrawal of troops from Germany would have hamstrung the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) so it could not have countered Putin’s Russia, so would the abrupt disengagement of the U.S. around the world have created a giant vacuum for authoritarian countries to fill.

Biden’s National Security Strategy reiterates his belief that we are in a global struggle between democracy and rising autocracy and that the world is at an inflection point that will determine “the security and prosperity of the American people for generations to come.”

The document makes a strong call for American leadership to defend democracy and to reinforce the rules-based international system on which the world has depended since World War II. This system is now under attack as Russia has claimed the right to invade a neighboring country and redraw its boundaries by force, and as authoritarian governments seek to control global trade and power by withholding key resources—like energy—from other nations.

The NSS promises that . . .

Continue reading.

Later in the post:

. . . the last several months have indicated that autocracies have their own problems. The PRC has doubled down on a zero-Covid policy that has hurt its economy and sparked internal protest. Tomorrow, the Communist Party will begin its 20th National Congress (congresses are held every five years). It is expected that President Xi Jinping will win a third term to consolidate his grip on power just as the U.S has unveiled strict controls on selling semiconductors and chip-making equipment to China, restrictions that appear to be an attempt to kneecap Chinese advances in artificial intelligence and military capabilities.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has proved disastrous for Putin. As supplies and soldiers have drained into Ukraine, Russia’s control of the lands around it has faltered, while his recent mobilization of the Russian population to fight in Ukraine has created extraordinary unrest at home. Putin is pressing Belarus’s president, Aleksandr Lukashenko, to join the war, but Lukashenko appears hesitant, likely suspecting that joining the disastrous war will mean his own political end.

For its part, Iran is facing internal protests sparked by the murder of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, known to her family by her Kurdish name Zhina, in the custody of “morality police” for violating the country’s dress code. Saudi Arabia is not necessarily as strong as it has appeared lately, either. When its leaders recently sided with Russia by pushing OPEC+ to cut oil production and thus support gas prices, other OPEC+ countries told the U.S. that the Saudis had pressured them to do so. Saudi Arabia has suddenly offered Ukraine $400 million in humanitarian aid, evidently trying to regain the goodwill of Europe and the U.S., since it imports almost all of its weapons from that bloc.  . .

Written by Leisureguy

16 October 2022 at 6:25 am

List of common misconceptions

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Written by Leisureguy

16 October 2022 at 5:55 am

Pathos and Panic: Russians Are Mobilized for an Undeclared War

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A person in Russia who understandably does not want their name used has written a very interesting article in Mother Jones. One point of interest: the trade-off in supportive and effective personal relationships is that no political discussions may occur. The article begins:

Editor’s note: This essay is anonymous in order to protect the writer from potential reprisals.

Russia is not at war, despite what you may have heard. Despite the mobilization of reservists, the stories and images of destruction and death, despite the refugees fleeing. Russia is not at war, as Dmitry Peskov, press secretary of the Kremlin stressed in a recent interview. Instead, it is conducting a special military operation “to fulfill certain goals in Ukraine.” Reservists have had to be mobilized for this special military operation, half a year since it began, because “we have been de facto confronted…with the NATO block and all its logistics capabilities.”

Referring to the Special Military Operation as war is still illegal in Russia, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. It also happens to be illegal to cross into the territory of a neighboring sovereign nation, armed, without a declaration of war. But while people do call the special military operation a war in casual conversations, they rarely question this operation’s legality: not even as men receive their mobilization notices, board buses, and head to the front.

But perhaps those who were mobilized will never cross international borders. By the time they reach the occupied territories, those territories will no longer be foreign—at least in the eyes of Russian law. For there is not only a mobilization drive at hand but also a referendum. People in the occupied territories have been asked to vote on whether to join Russia. Armed soldiers have gone door-to-door with ballot boxes. And on September 30, 2022, Putin welcomed the annexation of four Ukrainian regions as the “will of millions of people.”

Voting makes annexation look democratic.

Meanwhile, in Russia, mobilization has hit closer to home. And it comes with little ideological backing. In St. Petersburg, local newspaper headlines focus on pressing everyday questions: Who will be mobilized? Will the Finnish border close? What will the city budget look like in 2023? Or else they touch on polite distractions: news of the occasional train accident, or tips about how to lose weight. None of it would excite someone to go kill and die on the front lines.

The military draft is a two-step process. First, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

6 October 2022 at 6:24 pm

She’s a Doctor. He Was a Limo Driver. They Pitched a $30 Million Arms Deal.

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The world has become very strange. Justin Scheck reports in the NY Times (no paywall):

EUREKA, Mo. — After falling out with his partner at a limousine company in the St. Louis suburbs, Martin Zlatev recently sought a lucrative new business opportunity: selling $30 million worth of rockets, grenade launchers and ammunition to the Ukrainian military.

Mr. Zlatev and his new business partner, a local osteopath, took their first crack at international arms dealing. Contract documents and other records obtained by The New York Times show that the deal relied on layers of middlemen and transit across seven countries. And it exists in a legal gray area, designed to skirt the arms-export rules of other countries.

“Time is of the essence,” the pair recently wrote to Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense. They outlined a plan to sell American, Bulgarian and Bosnian arms to Ukraine.

Since the Russian invasion in February, the Biden administration has quietly fast-tracked hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of private arms sales to Ukraine, slashing a weekslong approval process to a matter of hours. In just the first four months of the year — the latest data available — the State Department authorized more than $300 million in private deals to Ukraine, government documents show. The department authorized less than $15 million worth of such sales to Ukraine during all of the 2021 fiscal year.

That has helped open another stream of weapons to the Ukrainian battlefront, but it has also enticed new players like Mr. Zlatev and his partner, Heather Gjorgjievski, into a shadowy market. Weapons sold through private brokers are far more likely to end up on the black market and resurface in the hands of American adversaries, according to government advisers and academics who study the trade. Recent experience in Afghanistan and Syria shows that, without strict tracing policies, weapons can end up with terrorist groups or hostile military forces.

These private arms sales are a pittance compared to the more than $17.5 billion worth of machine guns, anti-tank missiles and other security aid the White House has sent to Ukraine. But those deals have stringent tracking requirements to help ensure the weapons go to their intended recipients. Private sales come with less oversight. The sellers, the buyers and the weapons are all kept out of the public eye.

“It’s the Wild West,” said Olga Torres, a lawyer who represents arms exporters and serves on the federal Defense Trade Advisory Group. “We are seeing a lot of people who were previously not involved in arms sales getting involved now because they see the opportunity.”

In recent months, Ms. Torres said, she has consulted with a Texas nonprofit that tried to send weapons to Ukraine without realizing it needed U.S. permission, and a broker who wanted to sell Indian weapons to Ukraine but illegally claim they were American. (She said she did not ultimately represent the broker.)

Just as it has cut the approval time for deals to under a day, the State Department has also accelerated the registration process for new arms dealers. . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

6 October 2022 at 4:10 pm

Good Twitter account for news of the war in Ukraine

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Chuck Pfarrer’s Twitter account has up-to-date news and interesting opinions on the way in Ukraine. Sample:

Written by Leisureguy

5 October 2022 at 12:29 pm

Israeli Forces Deliberately Killed Palestinian American Journalist, Report Shows

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Israel too often disproportionately reacts to provocations — for example, by murdering a journalist who reports on the problems Palestinians face. Alice Speri reports in the Intercept:

Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed by Israeli forces in May while reporting from the occupied West Bank city of Jenin, was deliberately and repeatedly targeted, along with her colleagues, despite being clearly identified as a member of the press, a new report released Tuesday concludes.

The report, a collaboration between Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq and the U.K.-based research agency Forensic Architecture, confirms the findings of half a dozen earlier independent reviews of the incident, including by the United Nations, which have found that Israeli forces were responsible for Abu Akleh’s killing, with the U.N. noting that the bullet that killed her was “well aimed.” But the new report, which includes a detailed digital reconstruction of the incident based on previously unseen footage recorded by Al Jazeera staff at the scene, in addition to witness testimony, open-source video, and a drone survey of the area, offers the most conclusive account yet of what transpired that day.

The report directly contradicts the final conclusions of a review by Israeli authorities issued earlier this month, in which officials conceded there was a “high possibility” that Abu Akleh was “accidentally hit by [Israel Defense Forces] gunfire.” In that report, Israeli officials claimed that the IDF soldiers were firing toward “suspects identified as armed Palestinian gunmen, during an exchange of fire in which life-risking, widespread and indiscriminate shots were fired toward IDF soldiers.”

But the new reconstruction clearly shows that there were neither armed gunmen nor shots fired in the minutes leading up to Abu Akleh’s killing. Instead, the reconstruction shows that Abu Akleh’s and her colleagues’ “PRESS” insignia was clearly visible from the position of the IDF shooter; that the shooter had a “clear line of fire,” indicating “precise aim”; and that the firing continued as the journalists sought shelter. After Abu Akleh was hit, a civilian attempting to provide aid to her was fired upon each time he tried to approach her.

“This is literally the last nail in the coffin of what the army is arguing,” the Forensic Architecture researcher in charge of the investigation, who asked not to be named because of fear for their safety when working in the region, told The Intercept.

“We can prove conclusively that there was no one — zero persons — in between the occupation forces and Shireen,” they added. “There were no bullets, in sound or visually, so it’s not that the army was responding to anything. We can also show using visibility analysis that we’ve done in our model, that the shooting only happened when they were within the visible range of the army, which means that it was fully intentional.”

The IDF did not immediately respond to questions about how the new evidence contradicts its claims.  . . .

Continue reading.

Once again, we see an organization and a military deliberately trying to cover up a bad thing (in this case, the unprovoked murder of a journalist).

See also:

Written by Leisureguy

23 September 2022 at 3:45 pm

‘These Kids Are Dying’ — Inside the Overdose Crisis Sweeping Fort Bragg

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Why is it that so many organizations — corporations, banks, schools, Boy Scouts, the Catholic church, the Evangelical churches, the Southern Baptists, the army, police departments, and so many more — decide that when bad things happen within the organization, those things must be hidden and kept secret. I suppose the basic reason is fear. It doesn’t seem to have anything to do with shame but rather a perversion of pride — that if people don’t learn about the bad, the organization can still stand proud (and not have to change anything, change always being the enemy when an organization’s ideal is static). At any rate, here we have yet another of myriad examples of the US military doing all it can to hide its failures. As I often observe, the military places a high value on honor, but what they mean by “honor” differs a lot from what most understand the word to mean. In the military, “honor” involves not acting honorably so much as concealing dishonorable actions.

Seth Harp reports in Rolling Stone:

RACHEAL BOWMAN, A single mother from Aberdeen, Maryland, was finishing up her shift as a postal worker the afternoon of June 11, 2021, when she got a worrisome call from her son’s girlfriend. Her son, Matthew Disney, a 20-year-old soldier stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, wasn’t answering his phone. Neither his girlfriend nor his mom nor his little sisters could reach him. “It was very unlike him,” Bowman says. “Matthew’s sister has been incredibly ill her whole life” with a rare intestinal disorder. “When she calls, he answers.”

Her son was the child she never had to worry about, Bowman tells Rolling Stone. As a boy, he was well-behaved and supportive of his mom, who had been through a nasty divorce and struggled financially. He was “upbeat and passionate” about baseball, football, and video games. And for as long as she could remember, he’d had it in his head to join the military. “He had the very strong belief that if you were able-bodied, you should serve your country,” Bowman says. “Whether you like your president or not. He could tell you all about other countries where it was mandatory.”

The Fort Bragg Murders
She Asked the Army to Investigate a Rape Trial. They Fired Her
Delta Force’s Dirty Secret

Disney considered all the service branches, and decided on the U.S. Army. He enlisted after high school, trained as a radar operator and, in March 2020, was assigned to an airborne artillery regiment at Fort Bragg. He had done nine parachute jumps, and the last time he spoke to his mom, he was excited to do his 10th. But that Friday in June, he had the day off. “Hours were going by and he was not responding to any of us,” Bowman says. “This was extremely out of character.”

Bowman and her daughters called up some of Disney’s friends, fellow soldiers at Fort Bragg, and they alerted the fire guard on duty, she says, who located surveillance footage of Disney and another radarman, Spc. Joshua Diamond, entering the barracks at 11 the night before. But when they knocked on Diamond’s locked door, no one answered. Neither the fire guard nor the military police would open Diamond’s door by force, because 24 hours hadn’t elapsed, meaning he and Disney couldn’t be considered missing persons. “Even though there were family members saying something is wrong,” Bowman says, “they would not open the locked door.”

Bowman was frantic. She contacted a family friend in Maryland, a colonel in the Army, and he made some calls that evidently spurred the military police into action. They called Bowman and asked her permission to track her son’s phone. “And then it was crickets,” she says. “Everything went silent. The second I gave my permission to ping his phone, the MPs wouldn’t talk to us.”

The Army follows a strict procedure for notifying the next of kin of casualties, and always sends a uniformed officer to deliver the bad news in person. But around midnight, Disney’s sister received an anonymous call. Bowman was standing on the front porch. “I just heard her scream,” she says. “And I went inside, and she was on the kitchen floor with Matt’s girlfriend, screaming ‘This isn’t fucking funny. Who the fuck are you? What kind of sick joke is this?’”

The caller would only tell them that Disney was “no longer alive.” Bowman placed phone call after desperate phone call and, at two in the morning, got through to her son’s battalion commander. He confirmed that Disney had been found in Diamond’s room, lifeless. “I’m so sorry,” she remembers him saying. “He was a good kid.” But he wouldn’t tell her what had happened, only that Disney “didn’t do anything to hurt himself.”

On top of the shock and grief of learning that her only son was dead, Bowman was confused. If it wasn’t suicide, then what had happened to Matthew? All she could think was that the other soldier, Diamond, must have done something to harm him.

That was not the case. In fact, Diamond was dead, too. His body had been found slumped over Disney’s on the floor, almost as if in an embrace. And many Fort Bragg soldiers have died recently under similar circumstances — quietly, in their barracks, in their bunks, in a parked car, or somewhere off-post, from no outwardly apparent cause. According to a set of casualty reports obtained by Rolling Stone through the Freedom of Information Act, at least 14 — and as many as 30 — Fort Bragg soldiers have died in this way since the start of 2020. Yet there has been no acknowledgment from the Army or reporting in the national press on any aspect of this phenomenon, nor word one from any member of Congress. Only the families of the victims have been informed — discreetly, and in private.

Disney’s memorial service was in July. “We were getting ready to go into the chapel,” Bowman says, and Maj. Gen. Chris Donahue, the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, came into the room and personally informed her that the results of a toxicology report were in. The cause of death was acute fentanyl intoxication.

Donahue, who has since been promoted to lieutenant general, did not respond to a request for comment sent to Fort Bragg. But Rolling Stone obtained Disney’s Defense Department Form 1300, a “report of casualty,” which essentially functions as a military death certificate. It confirms that he died accidentally from an overdose of fentanyl.

That only compounded Bowman’s confusion. “My son was not a drug user,” she insists. Under no circumstances would he have wittingly ingested fentanyl. Addiction ran in the fa mily, and  Disney’s little sister had endured dozens of surgeries, and periodically relied on or had to withdraw from opioids, so he was well aware of the risks they entailed. “Fentanyl, ketamine, Narcan, laudanum, Percocet, morphine,” Bowman says. “These are drugs that we talked about on a very regular basis.”

However, one conversation she never had with her kids was about counterfeit pills. Military investigators informed her that Disney had ingested an imitation Percocet, a prescription painkiller. “I had never in my life heard of a fake Percocet that looked legit from a pharmacy,” she says, “until my son took one and it killed him.”

A STAGGERING TOTAL of 109 soldiers assigned to Fort Bragg, active and reserve, lost their lives in 2020 and 2021, casualty reports obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show. Only four of the deaths occurred in overseas combat operations. All the rest took place stateside. Fewer than 20 were from natural causes. All the rest were preventable. This is a seemingly unprecedented wave of fatalities on a modern U.S. military installation.

Forty-one Fort Bragg soldiers took their own lives in 2020 and 2021, making suicide the leading cause of death. A spokesman for the Army, Matthew Leonard, confirmed that no other base has ever recorded a higher two-year suicide toll. There were also a shocking number of incidents of soldier-on-soldier violence. Since mid-2020, 11 Fort Bragg soldiers have been murdered or charged with murder, including one murder-suicide. Five Fort Bragg soldiers were shot to death, and one was beheaded. Rolling Stone has previously reported on the rash of violent crime at Fort Bragg and investigated several of the unsolved murders. The newly obtained documents shed light on another kind of killer stalking soldiers and go a long way toward explaining the record-setting death toll.

Fourteen of the casualty reports state explicitly that the soldier died from a drug overdose. Eleven of these identify fentanyl as the fatal agent. In five other cases, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

23 September 2022 at 3:15 pm

Oath Keepers members list includes hundreds of law enforcement officers, politicians, military members

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The US has an extremely serious political infection that has metastasized into politics, school boards, local government, law enforcement, and the military. This is a strongly resistant infection with many defenses, such as bad faith arguments and actions, dismissal of facts and research, and demonization of different points of view, with a predilection toward calls for violence (threats against librarians, teachers, school board members, and government officials from local, county, and state offices to Congress and the Executive Branch. January 6 saw an eruption into actual violence, with explicit threats to kill the Vice President and the Speaker of the House.

Alanna Durkin Richer and Michael Kunzelman report at CBS News:

The names of hundreds of U.S. law enforcement officers, elected officials and military members appear on the leaked membership rolls of a far-right extremist group that’s accused of playing a key role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, according to a report released Wednesday.

The Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism pored over more than 38,000 names on leaked Oath Keepers membership lists and identified more than 370 people it believes currently work in law enforcement agencies – including as police chiefs and sheriffs – and more than 100 people who are currently members of the military.

It also identified more than 80 people who were running for or served in public office as of early August. The membership information was compiled into a database published by the transparency collective Distributed Denial of Secrets.

The data raises fresh concerns about the presence of extremists in law enforcement and the military who are tasked with enforcing laws and protecting the U.S. It’s especially problematic for public servants to be associated with extremists at a time when lies about the 2020 election are fueling threats of violence against lawmakers and institutions.

“Even for those who claimed to have left the organization when it began to employ more aggressive tactics in 2014, it is important to remember that the Oath Keepers have espoused extremism since their founding, and this fact was not enough to deter these individuals from signing up,” the report says.

Appearing in the Oath Keepers’ database doesn’t prove that a person was ever an active member of the group or shares its ideology. Some people on the list contacted by The Associated Press said they were briefly members years ago and are no longer affiliated with the group. Some said they were never dues-paying members.

“Their views are far too extreme for me,” said Shawn Mobley, sheriff of Otero County, Colorado. Mobley told the AP in an email that he distanced himself from the Oath Keepers years ago over concerns about its involvement in the standoff against the federal government at the Bundy Ranch in Bunkerville, Nevada, among other things.

The Oath Keepers, founded in 2009 by Stewart Rhodes, is a loosely organized conspiracy theory-fueled group that recruits current and former military, police and first responders. It asks its members to vow to defend the Constitution “against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” promotes the belief that the federal government is out to strip citizens of their civil liberties and paints its followers as defenders against tyranny.

More than two dozen people associated with the Oath Keepers – including Rhodes – have been charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack. Rhodes and four other Oath Keeper members or associates are heading to trial this month on seditious conspiracy charges for what prosecutors have described as a weekslong plot to keep then-President Donald Trump in power. Rhodes and the other Oath Keepers say they are innocent and that there was no plan to attack the Capitol.

The Oath Keepers has grown quickly along with the wider anti-government movement and used the tools of the internet to spread their message during Barack Obama’s presidency, said Rachel Carroll Rivas, interim deputy director of research with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project. But since Jan. 6 and Rhodes’ arrest, the group has struggled to keep members, she said.

That’s partly because Oath Keepers had been . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

7 September 2022 at 10:12 am

Student Debt Relief Is Undermining the Military’s Predatory Recruiting Practices

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Jordan Uhl writes in Jacobin:

Amid a brutal year for military recruiting, conservative war hawks are openly fretting that President Joe Biden’s announcement last week of a onetime means-tested student debt cancellation will undercut the military’s ability to prey on desperate young Americans.

“Student loan forgiveness undermines one of our military’s greatest recruitment tools at a time of dangerously low enlistments,” Representative Jim Banks (R-IN) tweeted shortly after the announcement.

In the six years since Banks first ran for Congress, he has taken more than $400,000 from defense contractors, weapons manufacturers, and other major players in the military-industrial complex. Corporate political action committees for Raytheon, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, L3Harris Technologies, and Ultra Electronics have each donated tens of thousands of dollars to Banks, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) data analyzed by OpenSecrets. He now sits on the House Armed Services Committee, which oversees the Department of Defense and United States military.

Members of the committee have already collectively received more than $3.4 million from defense contractors and weapons manufacturers this election cycle.

Banks’s admission highlights the way the student debt crisis has been exploited by the military-industrial complex. By saying the quiet part out loud, Banks is finally speaking the truth about how military recruiters use the GI Bill — the 1944 law that awards a robust benefits package to veterans — as a remedy for the cost of higher education to convince young people to enlist.

“To have members of Congress openly imply that the answer to this is to actually exacerbate hardship for poor and working-class youth is, actually, the best thing for young Americans to see,” Mike Prysner, an antiwar veteran and activist, told the Lever. “It proves their reasons for not joining are totally valid. Why allow yourself to be chewed up and spit out in service of a system that cares so little for you and your well being?”

Biden’s initiative will cancel up to $10,000 of federal student loan debt for people who make under $125,000 annually, plus an additional $10,000 for these borrowers who received a Pell Grant in college. The program is estimated to eliminate roughly $300 billion in total debt, reducing the outstanding student debt nationwide from $1.7 trillion to $1.4 trillion.

According to the College Board’s 2021 Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid report, the average cost for annual tuition and fees at public four-year colleges has risen from $4,160 to $10,740 since the early 1990s — a 158 percent increase. At private institutions, . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

2 September 2022 at 7:09 pm

Russia is not doing well at all

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As the video points out, it would be foolish to trust Putin’s statements (and statements from the government he controls) regarding how well the Russian economy is doing under the sanctions. Interesting video, worth watching. The official picture is a Potemkin-village view of the Russian economy and GDP. 

Written by Leisureguy

28 August 2022 at 1:02 pm

Russia’s spies misread Ukraine and misled Kremlin as war loomed

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Greg Miller and Catherine Belton have a very interesting report (gift link, no paywall) in the Washinton Post. It begins:

KYIV, Ukraine — In the final days before the invasion of Ukraine, Russia’s security service began sending cryptic instructions to informants in Kyiv. Pack up and get out of the capital, the Kremlin collaborators were told, but leave behind the keys to your homes.

The directions came from senior officers in a unit of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) with a prosaic name — the Department of Operational Information — but an ominous assignment: ensure the decapitation of the Ukrainian government and oversee the installation of a pro-Russian regime.

The messages were a measure of the confidence in that audacious plan. So certain were FSB operatives that they would soon control the levers of power in Kyiv, according to Ukrainian and Western security officials, that they spent the waning days before the war arranging safe houses or accommodations in informants’ apartments and other locations for the planned influx of personnel.

“Have a successful trip!” one FSB officer told another who was being sent to oversee the expected occupation, according to intercepted communications. There is no indication that the recipient ever made it to the capital, as the FSB’s plans collapsed amid the retreat of Russian forces in the early months of the war.

The communications exposing these preparations are part of a larger trove of sensitive materials obtained by Ukrainian and other security services and reviewed by The Washington Post. They offer rare insight into the activities of the FSB — a sprawling service that bears enormous responsibility for the failed Russian war plan and the hubris that propelled it.

An agency whose domain includes internal security in Russia as well as espionage in the former Soviet states, the FSB has spent decades spying on Ukraine, attempting to co-opt its institutions, paying off officials and working to impede any perceived drift toward the West. No aspect of the FSB’s intelligence mission outside Russia was more important than burrowing into all levels of Ukrainian society.

And yet, the agency failed to incapacitate Ukraine’s government, foment any semblance of a pro-Russian groundswell or interrupt President Volodymyr Zelensky’s hold on power. Its analysts either did not fathom how forcefully Ukraine would respond, Ukrainian and Western officials said, or did understand but couldn’t or wouldn’t convey such sober assessments to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The humiliations of Russia’s military have largely overshadowed the failures of the FSB and other intelligence agencies. But in some ways, these have been even more incomprehensible and consequential, officials said, underpinning nearly every Kremlin war decision.

“The Russians were wrong by a mile,” said a senior U.S. official with regular access to classified intelligence on Russia and its security services. “They set up an entire war effort to seize strategic objectives that were beyond their means,” the official said. “Russia’s mistake was really fundamental and strategic.”

Ukraine’s security services have . . .

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall)

Later in the article:

The FSB did not respond to requests for comment.


Written by Leisureguy

19 August 2022 at 2:43 pm

Behind Enemy Lines, Ukrainians Tell Russians ‘You Are Never Safe’

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Andrew E. Kramer has an interesting report (gift link, no paywall) in the NY Times. The report begins:

They sneak down darkened alleys to set explosives. They identify Russian targets for Ukrainian artillery and long-range rockets provided by the United States. They blow up rail lines and assassinate officials they consider collaborators with the Russians.

Slipping back and forth across the front lines, the guerrilla fighters are known in Ukraine as partisans, and in recent weeks they have taken an ever more prominent role in the war, rattling Russian forces by helping deliver humiliating blows in occupied areas they thought were safe.

Increasingly, Ukraine is taking the fight against Russian forces into Russian-controlled areas, whether with elite military units, like the one credited on Tuesday with a huge explosion at a Russian ammunition depot in the occupied Crimean Peninsula, or an underground network of the guerrillas.

Last week, Ukrainian officials said, the partisans had a hand in a successful strike on a Russian air base, also in Crimea, which Moscow annexed eight years ago. It destroyed eight fighter jets.

“The goal is to show the occupiers that they are not at home, that they should not settle in, that they should not sleep comfortably,” said one guerrilla fighter, who spoke on condition that, for security reasons, he only be identified by his code name, Svarog, after a pagan Slavic god of fire.

In recent days the Ukrainian military made Svarog and several other of the operatives available for interviews in person or online, hoping to highlight the partisans’ widening threat to Russian forces and signal to Western donors that Ukraine is successfully rallying local resources in the war, now nearly six months old. A senior Ukrainian military official familiar with the program also described the workings of the resistance.

Their accounts of attacks could not be verified completely but aligned with reports in the Ukrainian media and with descriptions from Ukrainians who had recently fled Russian-occupied areas.

Svarog and I met over lemonade and cheese pastries at a Georgian restaurant in Zaporizhzhia, a city under Ukrainian control about 65 miles north of the occupied town of Melitopol.

He spoke with intimate knowledge of partisan activities, providing a rare glimpse into one of the most hidden aspects of the war.

The Ukrainian military began training partisans in the months before the invasion, as Russia massed troops near the borders. The effort has paid off in recent weeks as . . .

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2022 at 2:19 pm

Road to war: U.S. struggled to convince allies, and Zelensky, of risk of invasion

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I don’t believe that Donald Trump as President was even capable of the kind of leadership President Biden has shown in responding to Russian’s invasion of Ukraine. I understand that Trump would not want to lead our allies; my point is that, even if he did want to, he is incapable of doing it.

Shane Harris, Karen DeYoung, Isabelle Khurshudyan, Ashley Parker, and Liz Sly have a remarkable report (gift link, no paywall) in the Washington Post. The report begins:

On a sunny October morning, the nation’s top intelligence, military, and diplomatic leaders filed into the Oval Office for an urgent meeting with President Biden. They arrived bearing a highly classified intelligence analysis, compiled from newly obtained satellite images, intercepted communications, and human sources, that amounted to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war plans for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

For months, Biden administration officials had watched warily as Putin massed tens of thousands of troops and lined up tanks and missiles along Ukraine’s borders. As summer waned, Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, had focused on the increasing volume of intelligence related to Russia and Ukraine. He had set up the Oval Office meeting after his own thinking had gone from uncertainty about Russia’s intentions, to concern he was being too skeptical about the prospects of military action, to alarm.

The session was one of several meetings that officials had about Ukraine that autumn — sometimes gathering in smaller groups — but was notable for the detailed intelligence picture that was presented. Biden and Vice President Harris took their places in armchairs before the fireplace, while Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, joined the directors of national intelligence and the CIA on sofas around the coffee table.

Tasked by Sullivan with putting together a comprehensive overview of Russia’s intentions, they told Biden that the intelligence on Putin’s operational plans, added to ongoing deployments along the border with Ukraine, showed that all the pieces were now in place for a massive assault.

The U.S. intelligence community had penetrated multiple points of Russia’s political leadership, spying apparatus and military, from senior levels to the front lines, according to U.S. officials.

Much more radical than Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and instigation of a separatist movement in eastern Ukraine, Putin’s war plans envisioned a takeover of most of the country.

Using mounted maps on easels in front of the Resolute Desk, Milley showed Russian troop positions and the Ukrainian terrain they intended to conquer. It was a plan of staggering audacity, one that could pose a direct threat to NATO’s eastern flank, or even destroy the post-World War II security architecture of Europe.

As he absorbed the briefing, Biden, who had taken office promising to keep the country out of new wars, was determined that Putin must either be deterred or confronted, and that the United States must not act alone. Yet NATO was far from unified on how to deal with Moscow, and U.S. credibility was weak. After a disastrous occupation of Iraq, the chaos that followed the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, and four years of President Donald Trump seeking to undermine the alliance, it was far from certain that Biden could effectively lead a Western response to an expansionist Russia.

Ukraine was a troubled former Soviet republic with a history of corruption, and the U.S. and allied answer to earlier Russian aggression there had been uncertain and divided. When the invasion came, the Ukrainians would need significant new weaponry to defend themselves. Too little could guarantee a Russian victory. But too much might provoke a direct NATO conflict with nuclear-armed Russia.

This account, in previously unreported detail, shines new light on the uphill climb to restore U.S. credibility, the attempt to balance secrecy around intelligence with the need to persuade others of its truth, and the challenge of determining how the world’s most powerful military alliance would help a less-than-perfect democracy on Russia’s border defy an attack without NATO firing a shot.

The first in a series of articles examining the road to war and the military campaign in Ukraine, it is drawn from in-depth interviews with more than three dozen senior U.S., Ukrainian, European and NATO officials about a global crisis whose end is yet to be determined. Some spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence and internal deliberations.

The Kremlin did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

As Milley laid out the array of forces on that October morning, he and the others summed up Putin’s intentions. “We assess that they plan to conduct a significant strategic attack on Ukraine from multiple directions simultaneously,” Milley told the president. “Their version of ‘shock and awe.’ ”

According to the intelligence, the Russians would . . .

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall) This is a gripping account.

Written by Leisureguy

16 August 2022 at 6:12 pm

Twice Accused of Sexual Assault, He Was Let Go by Army Commanders. He Attacked Again.

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Vianna Davila, Lexi Churchill, and Ren Larson have an excellent (though infuriating) report in ProPublica that begins:

Christian Alvarado began to type as he sat alone in an interrogation room at Fort Bliss, a sprawling Army post in El Paso, Texas. He’d spent most of the previous seven hours hooked up to a polygraph, answering a military investigator’s questions about an allegation that he’d sexually assaulted a fellow soldier.

His story had changed several times during the interview in late July 2020. The investigator told Alvarado he’d already failed two polygraph tests, then left the room so that the young soldier could type up his account in a sworn statement. With his fingers on the keyboard, Alvarado began describing the night in December 2019 that he spent in the barracks with a female soldier he’d met that day.

“She was drunk and so was I,” Alvarado, an Army private first class, typed on the investigator’s computer. “We had sex, but she passed out.”

He wrote that he’d lied about the encounter being consensual in previous interviews with investigators because he wanted to protect his Army career.

When Alvarado was done with his written admission, the military investigator walked back in the room. He asked Alvarado why he continued to have sex with the woman after she passed out. “I was in the moment,” the 20-year-old soldier replied.

The investigator then asked Alvarado about another allegation against him. An Army chaplain’s assistant had accused him of sexually assaulting her in May 2020 after a house party. Sex with her was “wrong due to how intoxicated she was,” Alvarado said, but he would not agree to a sworn statement about the second allegation because it would just be “icing on the cake.”

Alvarado told the investigator that he’d had sex with 42 women in the past four years, about a quarter of whom were intoxicated at the time. His sexual experiences had become boring and they blurred together, he said, to the point that he struggled to remember specific details about his partners.

At the end of the daylong interrogation, Alvarado’s commanders didn’t place him in detention or under any restrictions beyond the orders he had already received to stay at least 100 feet away from the two women who had accused him of assault, according to records. He was free to leave.

A month later, he sexually assaulted another woman.

Had Alvarado’s case been handled by civilians and not the military, his written admission could have been enough evidence to quickly issue an arrest warrant, according to two lawyers who previously worked for the El Paso County district attorney’s office.

“I would have felt comfortable charging at that point,” said Penny Hamilton, who led the Rape and Child Abuse Unit at the district attorney’s office and later served as an El Paso County magistrate judge. “When you have the offender admitting the sexual act took place and you have the offender admitting that the alleged victim couldn’t have consented because she was passed out, then you have the elements” of a criminal charge.

In Texas’ civilian system, a person charged with sexual assault goes before a magistrate judge, who’d set a bail amount that experts said could easily be in the tens of thousands of dollars. Civilian magistrates and judges use bail to ensure suspects show up at trial. Suspects are released only if they can pay the bond.

The military justice system has no bail. Many decisions about who should be detained for serious crimes before trial are made not by judges but by commanders, who are not required to be trained lawyers.

Recent congressional reforms changed the system, which has long drawn criticism for the extensive discretion commanders wield. While the revisions stripped some of their authority, commanders continue to control various aspects of the judicial process, including deciding whether service members accused of crimes should be detained while awaiting trial, a process called pretrial confinement.

A ProPublica and Texas Tribune investigation into how commanders in the Army, the nation’s largest military branch, use pretrial confinement revealed a system that treats soldiers unevenly and draws little outside scrutiny. Over the coming months, ProPublica and the Tribune will explore how military justice operates, often in vastly different ways than the civilian system.

The news organizations obtained data from the Army on nearly 8,400 courts-martial over the past decade under the Freedom of Information Act. The resulting analysis, the first-of-its-kind, showed that soldiers accused of sexual assault are less than half as likely to be placed in pretrial confinement than those accused of offenses like drug use and distribution, disobeying an officer or burglary.

The analysis showed that, on average, soldiers had to face at least eight counts of sexual offenses before they were placed in pretrial confinement as often as soldiers charged with drug or burglary crimes.

That disparity has grown in the past five years. The rate of pretrial confinement more than doubled in cases involving drug offenses, larceny and disobeying a superior commissioned officer, but it remained roughly the same for sexual assault cases like Alvarado’s, the analysis found.

For instance, the Army opted against pretrial confinement for a staff sergeant who was accused of raping the wife of a soldier in his command at Fort Bliss, while at another post a 19-year-old Texas woman was placed in detention for more than three months for using drugs and mouthing off to commanders.

“Justice that’s arbitrary is not justice,” Col. Don Christensen, a former chief prosecutor for the Air Force, said. “It shouldn’t come down to the whims of a particular commander.”

Army officials defended the system. They said  . . ..

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

9 August 2022 at 4:02 pm

Nancy Pelosi, China and the Slow Decline of the U.S. Military

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Matt Stoller writes in BIG:

As military tensions flare between the U.S. and China over Taiwan, it’s easy to put all eyes on Nancy Pelosi and her visit to the island. Symbolism matters deeply in international relations, and this event is setting the direction for how Chinese and U.S. leaders will relate to one another. But six weeks ago, an obscure military bureaucrat named Cameron Holt offered another, equally important signal about this relationship. Holt is the head of acquisitions for the Air Force, which means he oversees the buying of everything from drones to nuclear missiles. And in a fascinating and spicy speech, he said that if the U.S. doesn’t get better at buying weapons, America will lose in a future conflict to China. “It’s simply math,” he argued.

The reason is that China is better at procurement. China is getting weapons “five to six times” more rapidly than the United States. “In purchasing power parity,” he said, “they spend about one dollar to our 20 dollars to get to the same capability.” This problem is directly related to market power in the U.S. Holt went over the business strategy of U.S. defense contractors, noting their goal is to lowball contracts but keep control of intellectual property. Then, he said, they create vendor lock-in, and raise prices later. In other words, they underprice upfront so they can eventually exploit pricing power over the Pentagon. Chinese acquisition strategies are more efficient and less brittle, which means over time their military will overtake ours.

Nothing Holt said is a surprise. Everyone knows how screwed up U.S. procurement is, the warnings come in almost daily. For instance, the U.S. can’t replace its stocks of Javelins and Stinger missiles sent to Ukraine, it’s going to take years to restart some of the assembly lines. Raytheon and Lockheed are having supply chain issues, and are unable to deliver weapons despite strong orders. We can’t even make the chips for weapons systems like the B-2 bomber, because semiconductor firms are shutting down the fabs that made the old parts. One could argue these are anomalies, unusual situations, but war is the ultimate moment of supply chain disruption, so that’s cold comfort.

To put the problem simply, we spend massively on weapons and get too little for it. Why? Just like health care or most other bloated sectors, it’s the prices, stupid. We consolidated economic power in the hands of a few dominant defense contractors and financiers, and they have become slothful and expensive. Fortunately, since it’s a problem caused by policy, it’s also a problem that can be solved by policy. And there are useful legislative attempts to do so.

Let’s start with how the U.S. organizes its defense thinking around procurement and economics. Traditional American strategy was laid out after the Revolutionary War, when U.S. policymakers recognized that to be an independent nation required domestic manufacturing and shipping capacity to reduce dependency on foreign actors, which through much of the 19th century was Great Britain. The idea we should be able to supply ourselves with industrial goods that could be repurposed for weaponry was key to every U.S. war, both then and since. For instance, in World War II, the U.S. became the ‘arsenal of democracy’ largely by transforming its peacetime industrial capacity to focus on industrial-scale warfare. Instead of cars, Ford factories churned out tanks and aircraft. Similarly, the Cold War aerospace industry in the form of Boeing and regulated airlines such as Pan Am served both civilian and military purposes.

Until the early 1990s, this basic strategy held; retain an industrial base for security purposes, so as to be able to produce lots of cheap interoperable machines and weapons if necessary. Public control over the defense part of this base occurred through competition; during World War II, there were more than a dozen prime contractors for every major weapons system. So if one entity screwed up or under-invested, military officers could procure elsewhere.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, U.S. strategists changed this successful model of governance. The national security world and Wall Street, whose relationship had always been somewhat tense, became more aligned in their vision of how to project U.S. power. They coalesced around . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

3 August 2022 at 11:41 am

When the dog catches the car: Republicans successes bring backlash

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Heather Cox Richardson writes:

Today, voters in Kansas overwhelmingly rejected an amendment to their state constitution that would have stripped it of protections for abortion rights. With 86% of the vote in, 62% of voters supported abortion protections; 37% wanted them gone. That spread is astonishing. Kansas voters had backed Trump in 2020; Republicans had arranged for the referendum to fall on the day of a primary, which traditionally attracts higher percentages of hard-line Republicans; and they had written the question so that a “yes” vote would remove abortion protections and a “no” would leave them in place. Then, today, a political action committee sent out texts that lied about which vote was which.

Still, voters turned out to protect abortion rights in such unexpectedly high numbers it suggests a sea change.

It appears the dog has caught the car, as so many of us noted when the Supreme Court handed down the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision on June 24. Since 1972, even before the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, Republican politicians have attracted the votes of evangelicals and traditionalists who didn’t like the idea of women’s rights by promising to end abortion. But abortion rights have always had strong support. So politicians said they were “pro-life” without ever really intending to overturn Roe v. Wade. The Dobbs decision explicitly did just that and has opened the door to draconian laws that outlaw abortion with no exceptions, promptly showing us the horror of a pregnant 10-year-old and hospitals refusing abortion care during miscarriages. Today, in the privacy of the voting booth, voters did exactly as Republican politicians feared they would if Roe were overturned.

But this moment increasingly feels like it’s about more than abortion rights, crucial though they are. The loss of our constitutional rights at the hands of a radical extremist minority has pushed the majority to demonstrate that we care about the rights and freedoms that were articulated—however imperfectly they were carried out—in the Declaration of Independence.

We care about a lot of things that have been thin on the ground for a while.

We care about justice:

Today, the Senate passed the PACT Act in exactly the same form it had last week, when Republicans claimed they could no longer support the bill they had previously passed because Democrats had snuck a “slush fund” into a bill providing medical care for veterans exposed to burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, the bill was unchanged, and Republicans’ refusal to repass the bill from the House seemed an act of spite after Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced an agreement on a bill to lower the cost of certain prescription drugs, invest in measures to combat climate change, raise taxes on corporations and the very wealthy, and reduce the deficit. Since their vote to kill the measure, the outcry around the country, led by veterans and veterans’ advocate Jon Stewart, has been extraordinary. The vote on the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022 tonight was 86 to 11 as Republicans scrambled to fix their mistake.

In an ongoing attempt to repair a past injustice, executive director of the Family Reunification Task Force Michelle Brané says it has reunified 400 children with their parents after their separation by the Trump administration at the southern border. Because the former administration did not keep records of the children or where they were sent, reunifying the families has been difficult, and as many as 1000 children out of the original 5000 who fell under this policy remain separated from their parents. [This is fucking shocking. – LG]

And we care about equality before the law:

Today, Katherine Faulders, John Santucci, and Alexander Mallin of ABC News reported that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 August 2022 at 7:58 am

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