Saturday, October 23, 2010

WAR PROFITEER MARCH in GREENWICH CT


A War Profiteer March will be held in Greenwich CT on Saturday Oct. 23, starting at 12:30 pm at the US Post Office at Greenwich Avenue and Arch Streets, passing through the downtown and then to the home of Steven R. Loranger, Chairman, President and CEO of ITT Corp. ITT is one of the top ten US military contractors and maker of bomb and missile release systems for drones of the type being used in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The 11 New York and Connecticut peace groups organizing the march will point out that Mr. Loranger, who was paid $14 million in 2009, has lobbied, through the Aerospace Industries Association, for continued funding for the wars in Afghanistan/Pakistan and Iraq. They will call on him to begin lobbying to halt these wars and a halt to all war funding except what is needed to immediately return all US military and private armed forces to the United States.

The marchers will also point out that since 2001, federal tax payers in New York and Connecticut have provided a total of $126 billion for the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars with $880 million of that coming from Greenwich, $1 billion from Stamford and $7 billion from Westchester County NY.

"We will be taking our message to the home of Mr. Loranger," said Nick Mottern, an organizer of the march, "to emphasize that war is coming daily to the homes of Afghanis, Pakistanis and Iraqis, that Mr. Loranger's style of living is related to profiting from these wars and that he and his military contractor colleagues have powerful voices in war decisions, perhaps equal to those of members of Congress, if not greater."

The marchers will note that ITT spent $2.5 million lobbying Congress in 2009 and 2010, to date, and it has distributed $223,000 to House and Senate candidates in the 2010 elections.

The march is endorsed by: WESPAC Foundation, NoWarWeschester, Code Pink Westchester, Peace Action New York, World Can’t Wait, Peace Action Greenwich/Stamford, Middle East Crisis Committee (CT), Concerned Families of Westchester, Rockland Coalition for Peace and Justice, Orange County (NY) Democratic Alliance and Women in Black Westchester.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

How Much Is Enough?

America's Runaway Military Spending
Excerpt from an article on ZNet by Lawrence S. Wittner:

... A recent Pentagon report estimated that the Defense Department relies on 766,000 contractors at an annual cost of about $155 billion, and this figure does not include private intelligence organizations. A Washington Post study, which included all categories, estimated that the Defense Department employs 1.2 million private contractors.


Of course, enormously expensive air and naval weapons systems—often accompanied by huge cost over-runs—account for a substantial portion of the Pentagon's budget. But exactly who are these high tech, Cold War weapons to be used against? Certainly they have little value in a world threatened by terrorism. As Congressman Frank has remarked: "I don't think any terrorist has ever been shot by a nuclear submarine."


Furthermore, when bemoaning budget deficits, Americans should not forget the enormous price the United States has paid for its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the highly-respected National Priorities Project, their cost, so far, amounts to $1.06 trillion. (For those readers who are unaccustomed to dealing with a trillion dollar budget, that's $1,060,000,000,000.)


When calculating the benefits and losses of these kinds of expenditures, we should also include the opportunities forgone through military spending. How many times have government officials told us that there is not enough money available for health care, for schools, for parks, for the arts, for public broadcasting, for unemployment insurance, for law enforcement, and for maintenance of America's highway, bridge, and rail infrastructure? ...

Friday, July 30, 2010

Obama Seeks to Expand US Arms Exports

Published on Thursday, July 29, 2010 by the McClatchy Newspapers

by Maggie Bridgeman

WASHINGTON - The United States is currently the world biggest weapons supplier - holding 30 per cent of the market - but the Obama administration has begun modifying export control regulations in hopes of enlarging the U.S. market share, according to U.S. officials. ...

Read the full article

Monday, June 21, 2010

Protesters Arrested at Nuke-Parts Plant in Kansas City

by Jane Stoever and Ann Suellentrop

from Common Dreams

The National Nuclear Security Administration's Kansas City Plant, managed by Honeywell to help make nuclear weapons, became the scene of civil disobedience for the first time June 18. Four people were arrested when they blocked the employees' entrance to the plant, while about 35 supporters blocked the plant's front driveway.

Crosses were planted along the highway and chalk bodies colored the sidewalks. A huge sheet-turned-banner told the story of death and destruction related to the plant. More than a dozen vehicles from NNSA, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Kansas City Police came to the scene, and a police helicopter hovered overhead.

"We want to shut down the plant and clean up the contamination," protester Jane Stoever explained to a guard for the NNSA. "And we want to stop them from repeating the same mistakes by building a new plant." The plant makes and procures 85 percent of the contents of U.S. nuclear warheads, including the firing sets, aiming devices and casings that carry fissile materials. ...

"The new bomb plant will make millions of dollars for a few, get the workers sick, pollute the land and build weapons of mass destruction; meanwhile, our school are crumbling and being closed," said Ann Suellentrop of Kansas City, Kan., nurse and lead organizer for opposition to the current and new Kansas City Plant. "You can't build nuclear weapons and not get sick."

Several federal agencies are now investigating contaminants at the current plant. The local NBC affiliate lists about 350 persons who have reported serious illnesses from working at the plant, plus about 30 persons whose families say they died from illnesses caused by toxins at the plant. ...

Full article

Friday, May 21, 2010

Is the Pentagon Finally Overmatched?

by Christopher Hellman
excerpted from TomDispatch

... with the current economic situation bringing suffering, foreclosure, and unemployment to millions, and concerns about spiraling deficits as well as a staggering national debt, the first faint signs of a possible mood change in Washington on the issue of the Pentagon budget are appearing. Military spending may, in fact, finally be edging its way into an increasingly fierce budget debate. This could prove a rare window of opportunity, unmatched since the moment the discussion of a “peace dividend” faded into the woodwork bare years after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.

... virtually every major weapons program currently under development or in production -- including the Navy’s centerpiece for the next three decades, the Littoral Combat Ship, and the Air Force’s $325 billon Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program, the largest Pentagon weapons program ever -- is significantly over budget and behind schedule.

A March 2009 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that total acquisition costs for the Pentagon’s 96 major weapons programs had grown by 25% over their lifetime. In addition, 42% of them had experienced cost growth of more than 25%. The GAO also found that such programs were increasingly behind schedule delivering weapons that were ready for use in combat. On average, the program delay for a major weapons system was 22 months in 2008, up from 18 months in 2003.

In making the case that constrained Pentagon budgets wouldn’t mean an erosion of U.S. military dominance to a roomful of the Navy’s staunchest supporters, [War Secretary Robert] Gates offered some startling figures about the U.S. Navy/Marine Corps "overmatch" on the battlefield (the extent to which our military forces and capabilities exceed those of other nations). It gives a vivid sense of what massive military overspending has meant in practice.

Here are some of the facts Gates offered, quoted directly from his remarks:

* The U.S. operates 11 large [aircraft] carriers, all nuclear powered. In terms of size and striking power, no other country has even one comparable ship.

* The U.S. Navy has 10 large-deck amphibious ships that can operate as sea bases for helicopters and vertical-takeoff jets. No other navy has more than three, and all of those navies belong to our allies or friends. Our Navy can carry twice as many aircraft at sea as all the rest of the world combined.

* The U.S. has 57 nuclear-powered attack and cruise missile submarines -- again, more than the rest of the world combined.

* Seventy-nine Aegis-equipped combatants carry roughly 8,000 vertical-launch missile cells. In terms of total missile firepower, the U.S. arguably outmatches the next 20 largest navies.

* All told, the displacement of the U.S. battle fleet -- a proxy for overall fleet capabilities -- exceeds, by one recent estimate, at least the next 13 navies combined, of which 11 are our allies or partners.

* And, at 202,000 strong, the Marine Corps is the largest military force of its kind in the world and exceeds the size of most world armies.

... The mere fact that even Defense Department officials are beginning to discuss fewer dollars for the Pentagon ... offers an opportunity for Americans intent on reining in rampant military spending. It is a chance that has been a long time coming, is finally on the national agenda, and, if missed, might be an even longer time in coming again.

Read the full article

Monday, April 12, 2010

Small-City Mayor Takes on the Pentagon -- War Spending Should Be Spent on Americans, Not on Killing Afghans

From AlterNet:

We don't just have a revenue problem in this country -- we have a values and priorities problem.

Matt Ryan, the mayor of Binghamton, New York, is sick and tired of watching people in local communities “squabble over crumbs,” as he puts it, while so much local money pours into the Pentagon’s coffers and into America’s wars. He’s so sick and tired of it, in fact, that, urged on by local residents, he’s decided to do something about it. He’s planning to be the first mayor in the United States to decorate the fa├žade of City Hall with a large, digital “cost of war” counter, funded entirely by private contributions.

That counter will offer a constantly changing estimate of the total price Binghamton’s taxpayers have been paying for our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since October 2001. By September 30, 2010, the city’s “war tax” will reach $138.6 million -- or even more if, as expected, Congress passes an Obama administration request for supplemental funds to cover the president’s “surge” in Afghanistan. Mayor Ryan wants, he says, to put the counter “where everyone can see it, so that my constituents are urged to have a much-needed conversation.”

In doing so, he’s joining a growing chorus of mayors, including Chicago's Richard Daley and Boston's Thomas Menino, who are ever more insistently drawing attention to what Ryan calls the country’s “skewed national priorities,” especially the local impact of military and war spending. With more than three years left in his current term, Ryan has decided to pull out all the stops to reach his neighbors and constituents, all 47,000 of them, especially the near quarter of the city’s inhabitants who currently live below the poverty line and the 9% who are officially unemployed.

A Hard Hit Rust-Belt City

Like so many post-industrial rust-belt communities, Binghamton was hard hit by the financial meltdown of 2008 and the Great Recession that followed, though it faired better than a number of similar cities, in part because Ryan, his administration, and the Binghamton City Council are a smart and scrappy crew. No doubt that’s why he earned the New York State Conference of Mayors Public Administration and Management award two years running.

These days, however, even the smartest and scrappiest of mayors still has to face grim reality. In July 2009, as the city began developing the 2010 budget, Ryan projected a $7 million shortfall. Contributing factors included a likely $700,000 decline in sales tax revenue, ever rising healthcare costs, increased pension contributions to replace funds lost in the market during the collapse of 2008-09, and a $500,000 drop in the return on the city's investment portfolio.

With worse times ahead, thanks in part to the projected end of federal stimulus money and a city drained dry of reserves, Ryan has had to face a classically unpalatable choice: raise city sales taxes from 7% to an unheard of 24% or cut city jobs. He chose jobs, as have the vast majority of mayors and governors across the country, eliminating 39 of them. In the process, he sought greater program efficiencies and wrestled with ways to increase city revenues while cutting ever closer to Binghamton’s proverbial bone.

It was in the context of this kind of local pain that Ryan was stunned to discover just how much of Binghamton’s taxes were going to the military and to our distant wars, and how little was coming back to Binghamton in the form of aid and services. “When I first saw the cost of war numbers and made the connections,” Ryan remarks, “I had to wonder if we're ever going to get our priorities straight as a nation. It's like we're facing an attack on government. As a mayor, I can see so clearly what increased federal spending could do for the people of my city.”

Ryan's message doesn't resonate with all of his constituents -- some have walked out on his public appearances -- but he's used to controversy and convinced that Americans had better get their heads straight soon. “People are hurting so bad,” he insists, “that, like it or not, we're all going to have to look at things seriously if we want our situation to change.”

Heads should swivel, he thinks, when faced with the $138.6 million Binghamton’s taxpayers are out of pocket since 2001 for the Iraq and Afghan wars. And that’s not even counting the city's share of the supplemental funds Congress will undoubtedly agree to this spring to cover the Afghan “surge” or the city's portion of the basic Pentagon budget for the same period.

For a small city with an annual budget of $81.1 million, $138.6 million would be a hefty sum, even in non-recessionary times. For the same amount of money, Ryan could fund the Binghamton city library for the next 60 years, or pay for a four-year education for 95% of the incoming freshman class at the State University of New York at Binghamton, or offer four years of quality health coverage for everyone in Binghamton 19 or younger, or secure renewable electricity for every home in the city for the next 11 years. If he was feeling really flush, he could fully fund one-third of New York State's Head Start slots for one year.

For the same sum, Ryan could also authorize a $2,900 tax refund for every woman, man, and child in Binghamton or pay the salaries of all of Binghamton's hard-hit public school teachers and staff for about two years.

For $138.6 million, Mayor Ryan could hire 2,765 public safety officers for a year, or simply refund the 12 police positions cut in the latest budget contraction and guarantee those salaries for the next 230 years. Ridiculous? These days, no one is laughing in Binghamton or other cities like it.

A Community Starved by War

As tax day looms on April 15th, Ryan increasingly thinks about where Binghamton’s tax dollars will be heading and dreams about a government system that would have the potential to raise and spend tax revenue in the service of social benefits like affordable healthcare.

He’s disturbed by how Binghamton’s tax dollars will be distributed and what they will -- and won't -- buy for his city. Consider, for instance, where the 2009 taxes paid by a median income Binghamton household actually went. That year, such a household's income hovered around $30,000 annually, while its members paid approximately $738 in federal income taxes.

According to the tax-day analysis of the National Priorities Project (NPP), an overwhelming 218 of those dollars went to pay for military expenditures and interest on military-related debt (generated, in part, by current war spending). The next highest amount -- $137 -- went to healthcare, including Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children's Health Insurance Program.

In 2009, $67, nearly 10 cents on every tax dollar, went to an aggregated category of spending NPP has titled “government,” tripling it in a single year, largely thanks to the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), otherwise known as the bank bailout, whose cost every community in America has had to shoulder. Fifty-eight dollars (8.5 cents on every income-tax dollar) went to increased unemployment insurance payments and job-training initiatives, also a rise from the previous year.

Not surprisingly, the $15 that went to elementary, secondary, higher, and vocational education in 2009 represented a drop from 2008, a loss of a penny on every tax dollar. There’s no way, of course, that Mayor Ryan's dream of free, quality education from kindergarten to college is likely to happen on but 2% of every individual federal income tax dollar. Nor will we usher in the green techno-revolution that he and President Obama both support, by spending 2.5 cents on every dollar for the combined categories of the environment, energy, and science, and another 1.3 cents of every dollar on transportation.

“It's a double whammy," Ryan says. "We have a revenue problem and a values and priorities problem in this nation.”

Some desperate city leaders have suggested that the Mayor cut workers' pensions to help close the city’s budget gap. Matt Ryan doesn't see that as a solution to anything. “I have secretaries making $25,000 or $30,000. I'm not about to cut their net, such as it is. We have to think long haul. We have to look at fundamental changes if we're going to make it as a country. We should all be talking about this -- all the time.”

A construction crew will soon arrive to install Binghamton's “cost of war” counter which will overlook the city's busiest intersection and spur conversation around tax day. During the three minutes local motorists wait at the nearby traffic light, they can join Mayor Ryan in waving good-bye to $100. And Binghamton as a whole can grapple with spending $49,650 in war costs every day of 2010.

Jo Comerford is the executive director of the National Priorities Project. Previously, she served as director of programs at the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and directed the American Friends Service Committee's justice and peace-related community organizing efforts in western Massachusetts

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Cut the Pentagon, Not Real Security

From FCNL:

According to some analysts, President Obama's budget will increase military spending by a lot. Over the next 7 years, the United States would spend $5 trillion dollars on the military. Meanwhile, the president wants to freeze "non-security related" spending at current levels for the next three years. This doesn't add up. Real security won't come from more military spending.

Ask your members of Congress to reject the president's proposal to increase Pentagon spending. Ask them to find ways to reduce the military budget so that the government has money to spend to provide real security for people in the United States.

Take action.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

America’s Global Weapons Monopoly: Don’t Call It “the Global Arms Trade”

By Frida Berrigan
Published by Tom Dispatch

On the relatively rare occasions when the media turns its attention to U.S. weapons sales abroad and shines its not-so-bright spotlight on the latest set of facts and figures, it invariably speaks of “the global arms trade.”

Let’s consider that label for a moment, word by word:

*It is global, since there are few places on the planet that lie beyond the reach of the weapons industry.

*Arms sounds so old-fashioned and anodyne when what we’re talking about is advanced technology designed to kill and maim.

*And trade suggests a give and take among many parties when, if we’re looking at the figures for that “trade” in a clear-eyed way, there is really just one seller and so many buyers.

How about updating it this way: “the global weapons monopoly.”

In 2008, according to an authoritative report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS), $55.2 billion in weapons deals were concluded worldwide. Of that total, the United States was responsible for $37.8 billion in weapons sales agreements, or 68.4% of the total “trade.” Some of these agreements were long-term ones and did not result in 2008 deliveries of weapons systems, but these latest figures are a good gauge of the global appetite for weapons. It doesn’t take a PhD in economics to recognize that, when one nation accounts for nearly 70% of weapons sales, the term “global arms trade” doesn’t quite cut it.

Consider the “competition” and reality comes into focus. Take a guess on which country is the number two weapons exporter on the planet: China? Russia? No, Italy, with a relatively paltry $3.7 billion in agreements with other countries or just 9% of the U.S. market share. Russia, that former Cold War superpower in the “trade,” was close behind Italy, with only $3.5 billion in arms agreements.

U.S. weapons manufacturers have come a long way, baby, since those Cold War days when the United States really did have a major competitor. For instance, the Congressional Research Service’s data for 1990, the last year of the Soviet Union’s existence, shows global weapons sales totaling $32.7 billion, with the United States accounting for $12.1 billion of that or 37% of the market. For its part, the Soviet Union was responsible for a competitive $10.7 billion in deals inked that year. France, China, and the United Kingdom accounted for most of the rest.

Since then, the global appetite for weapons has only grown more voracious, while the number of purveyors has shrunk to the point where the Pentagon could hang out a sign: “We arm the world.” No kidding, it’s true.

Cambodia ($304,000), Comoros ($895,000), Colombia ($256 million), Guinea ($200,000), Greece ($225 million), Great Britain ($1.1 billion), the Philippines ($72.9 million), Poland ($79.8 million), and Peru ($16.4 million) all buy U.S. arms, as does almost every country not in that list. U.S. weapons, and only U.S. weapons, are coveted by presidents and prime ministers, generals and strongmen.

From the Pentagon’s own data (which differs from that in the CRS report), here are the top ten nations which made Foreign Military Sales agreements with the Pentagon, and so with U.S. weapons makers, in 2008:

Saudi Arabia $6.06 billion

Iraq $2.50 billion

Morocco $2.41 billion

Egypt $2.31 billion

Israel $1.32 billion

Australia $1.13 billion

South Korea $1.12 billion

Great Britain $1.10 billion

India $1 billion

Japan $840 million

That’s more than $17 billion in weapons right there. Some of these countries are consistently eager buyers, and some are not. Morocco, for example, is only in that top-ten list because it was green-lighted to buy 24 of Lockheed Martin’s F-16 fighter planes at $360 million (or so) for each aircraft, an expensive one-shot deal. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia (which inked $14.71 billion in weapons agreements between 2001 and 2008), Egypt ($13.25 billion) and Israel ($11.27 billion) are such regular customers that they should have the equivalent of one of those “buy 10, get the 11th free” punch cards doled out by your favorite coffee shop.

To sum up, the U.S. has a virtual global monopoly on exporting tools of force and destruction. Call it market saturation. Call it anything you like, just not the “global arms trade.”

Getting Even More Competitive?

It used to be that the United States exported goods, products, and machinery of all sorts in prodigious quantities: cars and trucks, steel and computers, and high-tech gizmos. But those days are largely over.

The Obama administration now wants to launch a green manufacturing revolution in the U.S., and in February, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced a new “National Export Initiative” with the aim of doubling American exports, a move he said would support the creation of two million new jobs. The U.S. could, of course, lose the renewable-energy race to China and that new exports program may never get off the ground. In one area, however, the U.S. is manufacturing products that are distinctly wanted -- things that go boom in the night -- and there the Pentagon is working hard to increase market share.

Don’t for a second think that the American global monopoly on weapons sales is accidental or unintentional. The constant and lucrative growth of this market for U.S. weapons makers has been ensured by shrewd strategic planning. Washington is constantly thinking of new and inventive ways to flog its deadly wares throughout the world. ...

Read the full article

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Daily Freeman: West Hurley's 2 hazardous waste sites are both arms manufacturers

Daily Freeman January 6, 2010

Study lists likely sites for water

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

By WILLIAM J. KEMBLE
Correspondent

A REPORT to the Hurley Conservation Advisory Council tonight will recommend potential sites for new water sources to supply the hamlets of West Hurley and Glenford.

The council’s 7 p.m. meeting at the West Hurley Firehouse on Wall Street will focus on the report by consultant Steven Winkley of the New York Rural Water Association.

Among the report’s findings is the susceptibility of properties in West Hurley to contamination due to the underground flow of water from at least 20 locations where state Department of Environmental Conservation pollution response cases remain active.

“A number of petroleum spills have been investigated in the area by the NYSDEC Spill Response Unit,” Winkley wrote. “Many of these spills were found to not be of serious concern and their cases were closed. However, some of these spills were investigated further and cleanup activities were undertaken. Some of these spills have not been closed in the area ... (and) are either still being investigated or have not met cleanup standards.”

Other potential sources of contamination include abandoned petroleum bulk storage facilities and waste chemicals that pose problems despite longstanding state and federal cleanup efforts.

“Two hazardous waste sites are mapped in the West Hurley area,” Winkley wrote. “One is the so-called Rotron-Woodstock site located just to the north in the town of Woodstock. A groundwater extraction and treatment system and soil-vapor extraction system were installed here and continue to operate.”

The second hazardous waste site, the Numrich Arms Gun Parts Corp. off Williams Lane, was once listed as a Superfund site in the 1990s, Winkley wrote. “It is no longer on the current Superfund list and is now listed as a (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) waste handler.”

The report recommends seven sites that should be tested as potential sites for municipal water. However, the report noted three of the locations are on properties owned by the Onteora school district and should be reviewed for potential contamination.

“Data indicated two underground petroleum storage tanks exist on the school property: a 10,000-gallon fuel oil tank installed in 1990 and a 2,000-gallon fuel oil tank installed in 1987,” Winkley wrote. “Locations of these tanks should be documented as part of an environmental assessment.”

Another potential source of contamination on the school district property is an underground wastewater disposal field.

“A spill of petroleum was reported in 2000 at 76 Cedar St.,” Winkley wrote. “This property is less than 500 feet from the (West Hurley Elementary) school. The spill impacted groundwater and the case remains open as of the writing of this report.”