Small nations have learned from the Tet Offensive — while the White House hasn’t

❝ The attacks erupted before dawn on Jan. 30, 1968 and escalated to new levels of ferocity the next day. It turned out that tens of thousands of communist soldiers had begun a coordinated series of surprise attacks on more than 100 cities and U.S. bases in South Vietnam, taking the Americans and their local allies by surprise on the lunar new year of Tet.

North Vietnamese Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap had planned the offensive to break the will of the United States and South Vietnam and end a long stalemate in the struggle by the North to reunite with the South under communist rule. And while Giap’s forces were eventually pushed back with huge losses, he did accomplish his wider objective of undermining American and South Vietnamese confidence in the war effort…

❝ The attacks erupted before dawn on Jan. 30, 1968 and escalated to new levels of ferocity the next day. It turned out that tens of thousands of communist soldiers had begun a coordinated series of surprise attacks on more than 100 cities and U.S. bases in South Vietnam, taking the Americans and their local allies by surprise on the lunar new year of Tet.

The lessons of Tet still resonate. “Tet shaped the world within which we live today: In an era when Americans still don’t fully trust government officials to tell them the truth about situations overseas, and don’t have confidence that leaders, for all their bluster, will do the right thing,” writes Princeton historian Julian Zelizer in the current issue of The Atlantic. “Tet is an important reminder that for liberals and conservatives sometimes a little distrust is a good thing. Particularly at a time when we have a president who traffics heavily in falsehoods, Tet showed that blind confidence in leaders can easily lead down dangerous paths.”

Say it again, Julian. Trust in a pathological liar isn’t likely to turn out well.

New Movie, “Hostiles” — Profound Respect for Native Culture

Scott Cooper’s Hostiles, Starring Wes Studi, Rosamund Pike and Christian Bale is a flawless portrayal of an unflinching, vicious and unforgiving America in 1892.

❝ In countless movie reviews, many of you have undoubtedly heard the term “sitting on the edge of my seat,” to describe a movie that might be cutting edge, causing tension, or even outrage. In this movie Hostiles, I was literally watching this movie, sitting on the edge of my seat, the entire time…

I felt outrage at the reality, laughed at the humanity and grieved for the brutal truth that existed in the world of 1892. I didn’t expect this from this movie as I went into it waiting for the same stale stereotypes often portrayed in westerns or civil war films … Soldiers hate Indians, Indians hate the soldiers. Settlers fear the Indians, everybody tries to kill each other, the end.

Read this whole review by Vincent Schilling. Useful commentary as well as incentive to see the film. Which I shall.

Throw Away The Key — Found Guilty for 96 Million Robocalls

A Miami man accused of flooding consumers with 96 million phone calls touting fake travel deals faces a record proposed $120 million fine from federal regulators, who said he operated the worst robocall spoofing effort they had seen.

Adrian Abramovich tried to trick consumers into answering and listening to his advertising messages, the Federal Communications Commission said in a news release Thursday. The pace of calls works out to an average of more than 1 million per day…

Calls appeared to come from local numbers, but those who answered were prompted to “Press 1” to hear about vacation deals, according to the FCC. If they did, consumers were connected to call centers not affiliated with companies mentioned in messages, such as Expedia Inc., TripAdvisor Inc., Marriott International Inc. and Hilton Worldwide Holdings…

Consumers who did “press 1″…ultimately connected Americans to call centers in Mexico that usually attempted to fleece innocent consumers out of their hard-earned money by promising too-good-to-be-true vacation deals,” Adam Medros, a senior vice president at TripAdvisor, said in an emailed statement. The company said it worked closely with the FCC to investigate after its customers called to complain.

Like the headline says, THROW AWAY THE KEY – after you take back all the money he stole plus penalties.

How Much Are We To Spend For Trump’s Wall — Instead Of Schools, Healthcare, Safe Water?


David McNew/Getty Images

❝ During the campaign, President Donald Trump promised to build a wall across the southern border some 1,000 miles long. The number of miles the president currently has money for: seven.

United States Customs and Border Protection officials delivered the startling news…at a conference in San Antonio for businesses eager to win contracts for beefing up security along the border.

❝ Although estimates to build the wall soar past $20 billion, the agency has so far managed to scrape together only about $20 million, according to its top contracting official. The rest of the cash will have to come from Congress, which so far has proven reluctant to foot the bill.

That amount of cash would not go very far to build a real wall — existing fence along the border costs roughly $2.8 million per mile.

Instead, the agency plans to spend the money on eight model walls, planning, engineering, and early-stage land acquisition…

So, the money will either come out of taxpayers’ pockets directly – or the usual way favored by Congressional conservatives, e.g. rip it from budgets already dedicated to education, healthcare, etc. You know. Stuff that benefits ordinary people. Not corporate elites.

❝ The contracts for the prototype walls — some made of concrete, some made of other materials, all to be “aesthetically pleasing” per Trump’s wishes for a beautiful wall — will be announced later this summer…

Like most of everything Trump owes obedient voters, True Believers in our nation unwinding time back to some 19th Century myth – it ain’t going to happen. It will cost exponentially more than promised. It will take money stolen from healthcare, decent roads, education, a poison-free environment. Nothing the Republican Party has cared about in decades. Everything this generation and those to follow will require if America is to keep from falling backwards compared to the rest of the developed and developing world.

Feds join suit against UnitedHealth Group for overcharging Medicare million$

❝ The U.S. Justice Department has joined a whistleblower lawsuit against UnitedHealth Group Inc that claims the country’s largest health insurer and its units and affiliates overcharged Medicare hundreds of millions of dollars, a law firm representing the whistleblower said on Thursday…

❝ The lawsuit, filed in 2011 and unsealed on Thursday, alleges UnitedHealth Group overcharged Medicare by claiming the federal health insurance program’s members nationwide were sicker than they were, according to the law firm Constantine Cannon LLP.

The Justice Department has also joined in allegations against WellMed Medical Management Inc, a Texas-based healthcare company UnitedHealth bought in 2011…plus several more affiliates who say they can’t imagine why they’re accused of being co-conspirators.

❝ The lawsuit by whistleblower Benjamin Poehling, a former UnitedHealth executive, has been kept under seal in federal court in Los Angeles while the Justice Department investigated the claims for the past five years.

The wheels of justice in America grind exceedingly slow in those rare circumstances when they’re set upon corporate theft and fraud.

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.

Paul Ryan’s tax plan ends up giving 100% of Its benefits to the top 1%

File this one under “too good to check.” Max Ehrenfreund passes along the latest analysis of Paul Ryan’s tax proposal from the Tax Policy Center and notes that by 2025 it gets a wee bit lopsided:

blog_republican_tax_plan_one_decade

This is like a parody of Republican tax proposals. In its first year, the top 1 percent start off getting a mere 76 percent of the benefit….Within ten years they get nearly 100 percent of the benefit. Ryan and the congressional Republicans manage this by giving the poor and middle class nothing and actually taking money away from the upper middle class. The only people who benefit are the rich and the really rich.

As for the really, really rich, the top 0.1 percent get an average tax break of $1.4 million, while the rest of us get about $3 trillion in extra federal debt and no long-term change in economic growth. What a deal.

More craptastic politics from the least productive hacks in Washington, DC. I honestly think Ryan trots his spreadsheet out with a new set of lies every couple of years just so Congressional Republlicans can say, “look, we have a proposal!” – even though it’s about as useful as a new crutch to someone who just had his legs amputated.