Pentagon paid for a report on wasted taxpayer dollar$ – It’s so bad they’re trying to hide it, now!


Click to enlargeDavid B. Gleason Photo

❝ In a bombshell article, The Washington Post reported that the Pentagon hired an outside consulting firm to identify ways to streamline its bureaucracy. It turns out the American military needs a lot of back-office support to keep running and that’s where most of the waste, fraud and abuse piles up.

The consultants did their job and identified $125 billion worth of unnecessary spending. The recommended plan called for some simple, common-sense changes such as making early retirement more attractive, streamlined information technology departments and cutting back on civilian contractors.

If the U.S. military made these changes, it could save more than a hundred billion in taxpayer dollars over five years…So…the suits at the Pentagon buried the report out of fear Congress would use it to cut the defense budget…

“We’re spending a lot more money than we thought,” reads the first line of the report.

No shit. But here’s the thing, for the people who spend their days watching the Pentagon for waste, fraud and abuse neither the report nor its suppression came as a surprise.

“This report confirms what anyone who’s paying attention already knows: there are a lot of opportunities to increase efficiency and effectiveness without increasing spending,”…Mandy Smithberger of the Project on Government Oversight…

She’s right. Budget hawks have long known that the Pentagon’s $600 billion plus annual budget is rotten to the core…

❝ The Pentagon’s property management division employs 192 thousand people, yet has no idea how much property it owns nor how much it’s worth. Existing best estimates say the U.S. military owns half a million properties on 30 million acres across the globe.

It’s worth — the Pentagon accountants think — around $800 billion total. Worse, as of a 2014 according to the Government Accountability Office, the property managers have literally no idea what’s going on in half those buildings.

The United States Department of Defense [sic] is the largest single employer on Earth. They pay little more than lip service to the kinds of efficiency many long-standing government agencies offer. When the Pentagon echos the Republican lying mantra of “jobs, jobs, jobs…” they mean jobs for themselves, their kin, their retirement, their individual and personal investments, commitments, to suppliers.

RTFA for a quick journey through the fiscal corruption of our military-industrial complex. Incidentally, you’ll find a link to the actual 77-page report inside the article. It’s been removed from any featured spot on any DOD website; but, it’s still up and alive.

America elected our own Berlusconi — Please don’t take decades to defeat Donald Trump!


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Five years ago, I warned about the risk of a Donald J. Trump presidency. Most people laughed. They thought it inconceivable.

I was not particularly prescient; I come from Italy, and I had already seen this movie, starring Silvio Berlusconi, who led the Italian government as prime minister for a total of nine years between 1994 and 2011. I knew how it could unfold.

Now that Mr. Trump has been elected president, the Berlusconi parallel could offer an important lesson in how to avoid transforming a razor-thin victory into a two-decade affair. If you think presidential term limits and Mr. Trump’s age could save the country from that fate, think again. His tenure could easily turn into a Trump dynasty.

Mr. Berlusconi was able to govern Italy for as long as he did mostly thanks to the incompetence of his opposition. It was so rabidly obsessed with his personality that any substantive political debate disappeared; it focused only on personal attacks, the effect of which was to increase Mr. Berlusconi’s popularity. His secret was an ability to set off a Pavlovian reaction among his leftist opponents, which engendered instantaneous sympathy in most moderate voters. Mr. Trump is no different.

We saw this dynamic during the presidential campaign. Hillary Clinton was so focused on explaining how bad Mr. Trump was that she too often didn’t promote her own ideas, to make the positive case for voting for her. The news media was so intent on ridiculing Mr. Trump’s behavior that it ended up providing him with free advertising.

Unfortunately, the dynamic has not ended with the election. Shortly after Mr. Trump gave his acceptance speech, protests sprang up all over America. What are these people protesting against? Whether we like it or not, Mr. Trump won legitimately. Denying that only feeds the perception that there are “legitimate” candidates and “illegitimate” ones, and a small elite decides which is which. If that’s true, elections are just a beauty contest among candidates blessed by the Guardian Council of clerics, just like in Iran…

These protests are also counterproductive. There will be plenty of reasons to complain during the Trump presidency, when really awful decisions are made. Why complain now, when no decision has been made? It delegitimizes the future protests and exposes the bias of the opposition…

The Italian experience provides a blueprint for how to defeat Mr. Trump. Only two men in Italy have won an electoral competition against Mr. Berlusconi: Romano Prodi and the current prime minister, Matteo Renzi (albeit only in a 2014 European election). Both of them treated Mr. Berlusconi as an ordinary opponent. They focused on the issues, not on his character. In different ways, both of them are seen as outsiders, not as members of what in Italy is defined as the political caste.

The Democratic Party should learn this lesson…an opposition focused on personality would crown Mr. Trump as the people’s leader of the fight against the Washington caste. It would also weaken the opposition voice on the issues, where it is important to conduct a battle of principles.

Luigi Zingales knows whereof he speaks not only about Italy; but, the GOUSA. From political economy to the economic effects of culture, his understanding is only exceeded by eloquence. Yup, one of my favorite economists even when I disagree.

Investigative journalist takes a trip through America’s opioid epidemic

The U.S. opioid epidemic left roughly 30,000 people dead in 2014 — with overdose deaths outnumbering fatalities from car accidents in 16 states.

In his book, “Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic,” Sam Quinones, a former reporter for the Los Angeles Times, traces the history of this epidemic, and the forces that fueled the crisis to grow, unnoticed and unabated for years.

❝ The story begins in the “ranchos” of one small Mexican community, continues at paid speaker training seminars in Boca Raton, Fla., and slowly unravels in places like Portsmouth, Ohio; Huntington, W.Va.; and Denver.

Quinones met with addicts and others who’ve witnessed the crisis up close. He spoke with scientists, physicians, marketing representatives, and former drug dealers. He spoke with MedPage Today (MPT) about his quest to answer the question — how did this epidemic happen?…

MPT: What surprised you the most when you spoke with healthcare professionals about the opioid epidemic?

Quinones: I guess how many of them actually bought the idea that you could prescribe [opioids] without any consequences. That was weird…but when you have forces of economics and law and culture and peer pressure all in play, things like this can happen…

MPT: What about the environment physicians were working in as the opioid epidemic began to grow?

Quinones: Being a doctor in certain areas is a withering, wearying job, because you are constantly confronted with people whose health is part of a much larger issue — lack of work , maybe a culture of poverty, poor diet, there’s a long list of things. People tend to look at these doctors like keys to life strategies; a linchpin to a survival strategy: ‘Get me workers comp.’ How do I get [supplemental security income]?’ The only way you can get that is with a doctor…

MPT: What responsibility do healthcare providers have for the opioid crisis, and how can they help to resolve it?

Quinones: I feel for doctors. They were in a very difficult place. If they didn’t give people these pills, then people might be in horrible pain, and if they did, they might risk addiction.

RTFA. There’s a lot more – covering a broader analysis. Maybe you should read Quinone’s book.

My central criticism of the epidemic reflects the use of doctors to perform means testing to satisfy conservative creeps in Congress. The concept of healthcare as a privilege, not a right, permeates our politics. It’s lousy economics. It’s lousy politics. Neither of which means much to the beancounters Americans keep electing and re-electing.

Sarah Palin needles Trump over crony capitalism in his Carrier deal


Some things are harder to swallow than a Big GulpFacebook

❝ Sarah Palin, the Republican party’s 2008 vice-presidential cax candidate, warned Donald Trump against “crony capitalism” in the wake of Thursday’s deal to use tax incentives to keep 800 jobs at a Carrier Corp. factory in Indianapolis from moving to Mexico.

“When government steps in arbitrarily with individual subsidies, favoring one business over others, it sets inconsistent, unfair, illogical precedent. Meanwhile, the invisible hand that best orchestrates a free people’s free enterprise system gets amputated. Then, special interests creep in and manipulate markets,” she wrote on the Young Conservatives website, posted Friday. “Republicans oppose this, remember? Instead, we support competition on a level playing field, remember? Because we know special interest crony capitalism is one big fail.”

❝ President-elect Donald Trump and Vice-President-elect Mike Pence, who is still the governor of Indiana, visited the Carrier factory Thursday after Indiana gave parent United Technologies $7 million worth of tax breaks over 10 years to keep the factory open. Several hundred jobs will still be eliminated…

“Cajole only chosen ones on Main St or Wall St and watch lines stretch from Washington to Alaska full of businesses threatening to bail unless taxpayers pony up,” she concluded. “The lines strangle competition and really, really, dispiritingly screw with workers’ lives.”

While Aunt Sarah rambles on with the usual Reagan rant about needing tax giveaways for all corporations – neither TeaPublicans like Palin nor the financial press seem to make anything of the fact that Trump is also a shareholder invested in UTX, United Technologies.

He’s giving himself the tax breaks, after all.

Climate Change in the Trumpocene Age

republican-concern

❝ In the year since the Paris climate agreement was concluded, the world’s efforts to limit global warming to 2º Celsius above pre-industrial levels seemed to gain momentum. Enough signatory countries took the necessary steps to formalize the agreement to ensure that it entered into force on November 4. Meanwhile, in October, the international community reached a separate aviation – related climate accord, which covers an area that the Paris agreement did not address; and agreed to amend the 1989 Montreal Protocol to phase out hydrofluorocarbons – a potent greenhouse gas.

But, following the United States’ presidential election, many observers fear that international efforts to combat climate change – such as the Paris accord and the Sustainable Development Goals…could be derailed. During his campaign, President-elect Donald Trump – who in 2012 took to Twitter to declare that climate change is a Chinese-created hoax – said that he would walk away from the Paris agreement. But, in a post-election interview with the New York Times, Trump said that he had an “open mind” about the Paris agreement, implying that he is now backing away from his previous statements.

❝ Given Trump’s belief that “unpredictability” is a virtue, no one can know for certain what he will do when he takes office in January…but, if Trump chooses to abandon the US government’s climate-related commitments, the rest of the world will have to find a way forward on its own…

Prospective solutions to the Trumpocene Age are useful, creative and probably necessary. Adding in his fellow Republican gangbangers brings additional intellectual dishonesty to his table.

❝ …bumptious unilateralism is a double-edge sword. As Stiglitz warns, if Trump does not pursue climate-friendly policies, other countries might “start imposing tariffs against US products made in ways that violate global climate-change rules.” And beyond the international community, “the market itself will be Trump’s biggest constraint,” says New York University economist Nouriel Roubini: “If he tries to pursue radical populist policies, the response will be swift and punishing: stocks will plummet, the dollar will fall, investors will flee to US Treasury bonds, gold prices will spike, and so forth.”…

❝ Similarly, even if Trump reneges on US commitments, and does not implement national policies to reduce emissions, such a move would kill the Paris agreement only if other countries decided to do the same, which is not likely to happen. For large emerging countries such as China and India, “the relatively rapid transition away from fossil fuels,” argues…John Mathews, “is driven not so much by concerns about climate change as by the economic benefits renewable energy sources are perceived as conveying.”

Thus, with China and India in the lead, the rest of the world will most likely continue to pursue carbon-emissions reductions, regardless of US participation, simply because it is profitable to do so. The US, meanwhile, will suffer more than the climate does if it does not move toward a green economy.

RTFA for a great deal more analysis, understanding and alternatives from Bo Lidegaard and more. Poisonally, I expect little sound economic sense within the framework of Trumponomics. Most is perfectly satisfactory to the Republican crew from Reaganites to Tea Party Trumpkins. They couldn’t care less about jobs, education or healthcare. They lie the nation they profess to love – dedicate all to the greed they love more than life.

Sydney, Australia, high schoolers cooked up $2 malaria pills

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Click link below to the article – and this video

❝ The “pharma bro” who increased the price of a life-saving medicine, Daraprim, by 5,000% has been rattled by a group of Australian school students who managed to make the same drug for $2 per pill.

❝ Former hedge fund manager Martin Shkreli last year bought Turing Pharmaceuticals and almost immediately increased the price of the drug – which has been off-patent since the 1970s – from US$13.50 to US$750 a tablet.

The drug is used to treat certain types of malaria as well as toxoplasmosis, a rare and life-threatening infection caused by the Toxoplasma parasite which particularly affects people with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV.

❝ To show how exorbitant Shkreli’s pricing of the drug was, a group of year 11 students aged 16 and 17 from Sydney Grammar aimed to recreate the drug molecule in their school laboratory under the guidance of Dr Alice Williamson and Associate Professor Matthew Todd from the Open Source Malaria consortium.

They succeeded, making the drug for a mere $2 a pill

❝ On Twitter Shkreli dismissed what the students achieved, saying “how is that showing anyone up? Almost any drug can be made at small scale for a low price”.

❝ Williamson told Guardian Australia showing how cheap and easy the drug was to produce was part of the point of the project, as it highlighted how unfair Shkreli’s pricing of the drug was…“I like to let the work speak for itself.”

The kids are all right. Shkrell is still a creep!

Thanks, Honeyman and many others