Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Sunday, April 22, 2012 2:23 pm

Ratf*cking for the new millennium

Filed under: Evil,Journalism — Lex @ 2:23 pm
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This is at once one of the most sinister and one of the most puerile things I’ve ever seen anyone do:

A USA TODAY reporter and editor investigating Pentagon propaganda contractors have themselves been subjected to a propaganda campaign of sorts, waged on the Internet through a series of bogus websites.

Fake Twitter and Facebook accounts have been created in their names, along with a Wikipedia entry and dozens of message board postings and blog comments. Websites were registered in their names.

The timeline of the activity tracks USA TODAY’s reporting on the military’s “information operations” program, which spent hundreds of millions of dollars on marketing campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan — campaigns that have been criticized even within the Pentagon as ineffective and poorly monitored. …

If the websites were created using federal funds, it could violate federal law prohibiting the production of propaganda for domestic consumption.

“We’re not aware of any participation in such activities, nor would it be acceptable,” said Lt. Col. James Gregory, a Pentagon spokesman.

Note the alacrity with which the Pentagon promised to get to the bottom of this. Oh. Wait.

 

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Friday, May 28, 2010 8:38 pm

Two cheers for Tom Coburn

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 8:38 pm
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The frequently jackassish senator from Oklahoma actually has a decent suggestion: auditing the Pentagon:

Without an accurate grasp at the start of a spending program as to its most likely cost, schedule, and performance, how can decision makers understand the future consequences of their actions? Today, an ethic continues to predominate in the Pentagon that consistently paints an inaccurate picture – one that is biased in the same, unrealistic and ultimately unaffordable direction. The errors are not random: actual costs always turn out to be much higher than, sometimes even multiples of, early estimates. The reason is simple; the Pentagon doesn’t know how it spends its money. In a strict financial accountability sense, it doesn’t even know if the money is spent. This incomprehensible condition has been documented in hundreds of reports over three decades from both the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Department’s own Inspector General (DOD IG).

He’s right. We should audit the Pentagon, we should ensure we’re spending only what we need to and not losing money to waste, fraud or abuse.

But even if we did all that, we’d still have a military budget we can’t afford. Even bigger steps are needed, starting with getting us out of Iraq and Afghanistan and continuing with a sober, complex, rational analysis of our legitimate defense needs and an understanding of our role and limits as a world power. Every great world power in history has succumbed to imperial overstretch, and we’re doing it right now. Continuing to spend more on our military than the rest of the world combined is not sustainable. We’ve got to cut. A lot. Soon.

Saturday, May 8, 2010 8:43 pm

Good luck with that

Defense Secretary Robert Gates takes on the military*:

Before making claims of requirements not being met or alleged “gaps” – in ships, tactical fighters, personnel, or anything else – we need to evaluate the criteria upon which requirements are based and the wider real world context. For example, should we really be up in arms over a temporary projected shortfall of about 100 Navy and Marine strike fighters relative to the number of carrier wings, when America’s military possesses more than 3,200 tactical combat aircraft of all kinds? Does the number of warships we have and are building really put America at risk when the U.S. battle fleet is larger than the next 13 navies combined, 11 of which belong to allies and partners? Is it a dire threat that by 2020 the United States will have only 20 times more advanced stealth fighters than China?

These are the kinds of questions Eisenhower asked as commander-in-chief. They are the kinds of questions I believe he would ask today. And they are the kinds of question that we must all – civilian, military, in government and out – be willing to ask and answer in order to have a balanced military portfolio geared to real world requirements and a defense budget that is fiscally and politically sustainable over time.

*And by the military, he, and I, mean Congress.

These are, indeed, the kinds of questions Eisenhower asked as commander-in-chief. These are NOT the kinds of questions that are being asked as the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction commission begins its discussions, it is reasonable to assume, although it is hard to know for sure because all the promised openness is going on behind closed doors.

Saturday, October 10, 2009 2:59 pm

Freedom isn’t free. So how much of it do you want, and will that be cash, check or credit card?

Lots of people like to say that. dday, bless him/her, decides to examine the real-world ramifications:

“Warmongers have had the great luxury in this country of never having to justify their costs. Not just the human costs, but the real financial costs to constant military buildup. The usual retort is that you can’t put a price on human lives. If that was the case, there would be no requirement for budget neutrality in health care reform, something that could save as many as 45,000 lives annually – the people who die from a lack of health insurance.”

The fact of the matter is that we’ve put a price on human lives, and even freedom, for a long time in a variety of contexts. Car companies weighed the costs of improving safety features in cars against the cost of payments to survivors of those who died because of their lack. Hell, even in World War II, the government weighed the economics, not just the military benefits, of making the P-51 its first-line fighter in the European theatre, a subplot touched upon, among other places, in Len Deighton’s best-selling novel “Goodbye, Mickey Mouse.”

National defense is essential. But not every step we take today to defend the nation is essential (and, on the flip, we’re probably omitting some steps that ARE essential — and wouldn’t it be ironic if we were doing so in part because of cost)? Each step, each option can and must be subjected to a rigorous cost-benefit analysis, in isolation and in context. The phrase “wars of choice” isn’t an oxymoron.

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