Category Archives: Size of Government

National Endowment for the Arts gives $100k taxpayer money for video game featuring Black Female superhero

Feminists hate video games. The culture and structure of the industry makes it difficult for them to penetrate the way they penetrated the movie and television industries.

open quoteThe National Endowment for the Arts is funding a new interactive game from filmmaker and digital media artist Ayoka Chenzira, Ph.D. It’s called HERadventure, a science fiction-based, multimedia platform project intended to target women 18-25 with the aim of bringing awareness to social issues affecting women like depression, discrimination, or pollution. The star of the project is HER, a black female superhero from another planet.

Inside Spelman asks, “What would happen if the societal issues affecting women put other planets at risk?” The answer is HER, the superhero created by Chenzira. Spelman College was recently awarded a $100,000 grant from the NEA to pursue HERadventure and one of four nonprofit organizations to receive a grant for a gaming project.close quote (Read more)

Here’s the Ted talk given by the recipient of the $100k. It’s astoundingly unimpressive:

An Investation of Generals

open quoteThe reality, however, is that there are nearly 1,000 generals and admirals in the U.S. armed forces, and each has an entourage that would make a Hollywood star jealous.

According to 2010 Pentagon reports, there are 963 generals and admirals in the U.S. armed forces.close quote

open quoteFormer Defense Secretary Robert Gates appointed Arnold Punaro, a retired major general in the Marines, to head an independent review of the Pentagon’s budget. Here’s the caution he came up with: “We don’t want the Department of Defense to become a benefits agency that occasionally kills a terrorist.” [emphasis added]

So, just how good are these benefits? For the top brass, not bad at all. According to a Washington Post investigation, each top commander has his own C-40 jet, complete with beds on board. Many have chefs who deserve their own four-star restaurants. The generals’ personal staff include drivers, security guards, secretaries and people to shine their shoes and iron their uniforms. When traveling, they can be accompanied by police motorcades that stretch for blocks. When entertaining, string quartets are available at a snap of the fingers.

A New York Times analysis showed that simply the staff provided to top generals and admirals can top $1 million — per general. That’s not even including their own salaries — which are relatively modest due to congressional legislation — and the free housing, which has been described as “palatial.”close quote

open quoteU.S. ambassador to Nicaragua, wrote an Op-Ed in the Chicago Tribune explaining how the generals’ perks allow them to exist on a plain removed from ordinary people:

“Those with a star are military nobility, no doubt, and those with four are royalty. Flying in luxurious private jets, surrounded by a phalanx of fawning aides who do everything from preparing their meals to pressing their uniform trousers, they are among America’s most pampered professionals. Their orders are executed without challenge, their word is fiat. They live in a reality different from the rest of us.”

Frank Wuco, a retired U.S. Naval intelligence chief, agrees.

“With the senior guys and the flag officers, this is like the new royalty,” he said on his weekly radio show. “We treat them like kings and princes. These general officers in the military, at a certain point, become untouchable… In many cases, they get their own airplanes, their own helicopters. When they walk into a room, everybody comes to attention. In the case of some of them, people are very afraid to speak up or to disagree. Being separated from real life all the time in that way probably leaves them vulnerable (to lapses in moral judgement).”

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open quoteThe Pentagon, for example, runs a staggering 234 golf courses around the world, at a cost that is undisclosed.close quote

open quoteAccording to a Washington Post investigation, the DoD also spends $500 million annually on marching bands.close quote

open quoteSince they’re so used to the luxurious lifestyle, the vast majority of pension-reaping high-ranking officers head into the private defense industry.

According to William Hartung, a defense analyst at the Center for International Policy in Washington, D.C., about 70 percent of recently retired three- and four-star generals went straight to work for industry giants like Lockheed Martin.close quote (Read more)

Homeland Security is building a $4 billion 170-acre complex for 17,000 employees

Further proof that the fiscal cliff hysteria is sheer nonsense.

open quoteThe US Department of Homeland Security, despite budget cuts and construction delays, is planning to add 17,000 employees into its consolidated headquarters in southeast Washington. The department broke ground at their new headquarters in 2009 and was originally scheduled for completion in 2016. The new complex is now scheduled for completion in 2022.

The 4.5 million square-foot “federal mini-city for the Department of Homeland Security” on the site of the former infamous psychiatric St. Elizabeths Hospital and is the largest federal construction job since the pentagon was built in the 1940s. The construction of the project was originally expected to cost $3.4 billion but is now going to cost at least $4 billion and is expected to “create 16,000 direct construction jobs”.close quote (Read more)

Super-costly F-35s, a global wrecking ball

open quoteThere is a stark lesson in the escalating cost nightmare of the F-35 fighter jets that holds more ominous implications for Washington than even for Canada’s Harper government.

Quite simply, it is that allied Western nations are finding the once-vaunted high-tech American weaponry no longer politically affordable. Not in large numbers.

Canada’s grief over its share of the F-35 price tag — now estimated to be almost $46 billion over 42 years — has been shared by a half-dozen countries, including Britain, Australia, Italy and the Netherlands, which have been forced to either cut back on their orders or contemplate outright cancellation.

This political fallout is upending the whole global arms bazaar. Around the world, America’s big-ticket defence items are being increasingly challenged by cheaper products from Europe and now Asia as well.

More developing countries are shunning extravagant U.S. weaponry for the cheaper but quite-good-enough products of Russia, China, India, and South Korea.

India itself recently rejected a large F-35 purchase in favour of buying more Russian and, possibly, French fighters for its fleet.

. . . .

t is a problem that goes well beyond the F-35s.

American insistence on super-smart combat designs has pushed the price tag of one destroyer to $1.2 billion and a new submarine to twice that. Even Congress has started to gag at such numbers.

Ironically, it was Washington’s concern over rising foreign competition that led to the F-35 woes.

The Pentagon recklessly raced the Lockheed Martin F-35 into early production in 2007, even before it was flight tested, in an attempt to corner the market for the company’s new stealth technology.

As aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia told the New York Times, “there was this big desire to kill the competition.”
‘Acquisition malpractice’

Bypassing flight tests before production was extraordinarily risky and some officials inside the Pentagon warned it would end badly. But apparently higher-ups insisted that any kinks would be worked out in computer simulation.

The F-35 was originally to have been a relatively affordable mix of three different plane types. But it turned out to be a far more complex hybrid than imagined.

Start-up costs have already consumed $65 billion, and the whole mess was denounced as “acquisition malpractice” by the Pentagon’s new procurement chief, Frank Kendall, earlier this year.

The F-35s are now the most expensive weapons program in history, so over the top, in fact, that the Pentagon’s original hope to produce some 2,400 of these fighters, spread across nine nations, is fading fast.

The estimated unit price per plane has doubled from $69 million to $167 million today and some industry experts warn that only half that projected production run may be achievable. . . .close quote (Read more)

Seven of nation’s 10 most affluent counties are in Washington region

open quoteThe Washington region has emerged from the recession looking even more affluent compared with the rest of the country, boasting seven of the 10 counties with the highest household incomes in the nation, new census numbers show.

With a median household income surpassing $119,000, Loudoun County heads the list. Fairfax County, at nearly $106,000, is second. Both have held the same positions for several years running.close quote (Read more)

$9 Billion in ‘Stimulus’ for Solar, Wind Projects Made 910 Final Jobs — $9.8 Million Per Job

open quote(CNSNews.com) – The Obama administration distributed $9 billion in economic “stimulus” funds to solar and wind projects in 2009-11 that created, as the end result, 910 “direct” jobs — annual operation and maintenance positions — meaning that it cost about $9.8 million to establish each of those long-term jobs.

At the same time, those green energy projects also created, in the end, about 4,600 “indirect” jobs – positions indirectly supported by the annual operation and maintenance jobs — which means they cost about $1.9 million each ($9 billion divided by 4,600).close quote (Read more)

Taxpayers Fund $454,000 Pay for Collector Chasing Student Loans

open quoteJoshua Mandelman made $454,000 in a single year as a student-loan debt collector — more than twice the pay of the U.S. secretary of education.

His boss, Richard Boyle, chief executive officer of Educational Credit Management Corp., received $1.1 million in 2010, including commuting expenses from his ranch in New Mexico. Five other managers each took home more than $400,000. close quote (Read more)

California deficite nearly double its forecast

Wouldn’t it be great if we could tell government that they are incompetent and that they must be privatized “for the greater good.”

open quoteCalifornia’s budget deficit has swelled to a projected $16 billion — much larger than had been predicted just months ago — and will force severe cuts to schools and public safety if voters fail to approve tax increases in November, Gov. Jerry Brown said Saturday.

The Democratic governor said the shortfall grew from $9.2 billion in January in part because tax collections have not come in as high as expected and the economy isn’t growing as fast as hoped for. The deficit has also risen because lawsuits and federal requirements have blocked billions of dollars in state cuts.

“This means we will have to go much farther and make cuts far greater than I asked for at the beginning of the year,” Brown said in an online video. “But we can’t fill this hole with cuts alone without doing severe damage to our schools. That’s why I’m bypassing the gridlock and asking you, the people of California, to approve a plan that avoids cuts to schools and public safety.”close quote (Read more)

Paying for Carter’s postage, Bush’s bills, and Clinton’s rent

open quoteIn 2010, taxpayer-financed expenses included $15,000 for Jimmy Carter’s postage, $579,000 for Bill Clinton’s rent and a whopping $80,000 for George W. Bush’s phone bills. It adds up: All told, U.S. taxpayers were on the hook for more than $3 million of expenses for the four surviving former U.S. presidents.

They certainly don’t seem to need the money. These days being a former U.S. President is a lucrative business. After all, Bill Clinton raked in more than $10 million just in speaking fees last year. George W. Bush made even more: $15 million just for giving speeches.close quote (Read more)