Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Retired USAF Col. replies to the Washington Post - CAFR in the forefront:

Mr. Fletcher...Referring to your article in yesterday's Wash. Post, 10/12/10 -  "Report warns of coming wave of municipal pension shortfalls".  I noted that you claim that some cities and towns have a collective unfunded liablity of around 540 Billion's and the States an even greater amount--3 Trillions..
Now I do not see these deficit numbers reflected in the combined Comprehensive Annual FInancial Reports (C.A.F.R) of these cities, nor do the 50 State CAFR's show such a deficit.  Thus, I wondered if you had researched the CAFR's of each of these municipalities and states to see just what amounts were reflected in their retirement accounts and in other, special and unique accounts that each of these localities and political entities CAFR does reveal.
Perhaps you are not familiar with what these Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports were designed to do, or what are their principal functions, however, the amounts of funds in each of these accounts, many quite similar in their structure, are massive and yet, the public is not that aware of them. Although newspaper editors and a few other sites do get them mailed copies, it appears that there is a bit of collusion between the managers of the CAFR's and the Media to retain them in-house and cloak their contents. I cannot recall in reading your paper, any reference to them.
Consider, for example, in the state of Virginia, its CAFR account holding the "State Employee's Retirement Fund" had in it,  35.6 Billion dollars two years ago...What these amounts are today need a bit of investigation, but that is but one example of how massive are, or were these funds; funds never applied to a political entities budgetary needs, and all, invested in questionable financial instruments.... probably junk bonds and derivatives. Invested by appointed "trustee's" often retired Judges.
But quasi-legal accounts that only get scrutiny from in-house appointees and a few select elected officials such as chairmen of the several financial committees of each political entity. It is the secret slush fund handled by a few elected officials who shunt income coming into a particular political organization into a CAFR account, income usually coming in from off budget sources, port fees, fines, licensing,etc  and other unique sources of income to the state or city that collectively over the years, amount to huge sums.
I believe that the total of all Virginia's CAFR accounts amounted to over 56 billion at that same time.   In seeking to get answers to what is carried on these quasi-secret accounts, stone-walling from the VA Senate's members and its Finance Committee and its membership was common. I have a copy of letter from the VA Senate's Financial Chairman that would confirm the intent to cloud this issue.
What is needed is a complete exposure of the CAFR system and how it developed over the years and why and how it has been shrouded in mystery, cloaked and disguised to avoid public scrutiny. A review of its history shows that it began way back in 1930's when Rockefeller and company funded several organizations co-located at the "1313 House," accociated with the University of it was known...many of the first participants were active Bolsheviks whose purposes then were quite antithetical to the sovereigny of this nation...that is, until Hitler moved against Russia and they changed sides.
It was there in Chicago that the idea of Regionalism and the division of the nation into 9 geographic regions(See NY Times 21 April 1935) was first concocted, and out of this came spin-off organizations purportedly designed to help elected officials in Counties and State legislatures to "do their job," so to speak.   The Association of County Governments, the Association of State Legislatures and a number of other created organizations with but one purpose, to steer and guide elected officials and appointees in the "right" direction....that is, to the Left. 
Suggest geting a copy of a publication called "The Book of the States" Vol.1, 1935 published by The Council of State Government and The American Legislators Association..Drexel Ave & 58th St. Chicago, IL...and  locate a copy of a speech by retiring Colorado Governor Ralph L.Carr as published in the Wash. Post, Sunday 10 January 1943..a warning of coming events as regards the dictatorship of regionalism..And a letter published in the National Federation of Women's Republican Clubs, 1 Nov.1952 by Mary Mundt, wife of the late Senator Karl Mundt of S.D. -Both working undercover in the 1930's..   (Copies of all are available)
While the promotion of Regionalism was but one of the goals of this 1313 House crowd, another was the creation and formation of the financial takeover scheme called the "Comprehensive Annual Financial Report", a system of accounting that amounted to double bookkeeping that could hide or otherwise cloak funds coming into a political entity and shunt these funds into special accounts managed internally by privy politicians...This system was the main product of an organization that may still exist, a company or organization called, "Metro", which was forced, along with the other created  "political aid groups";  the various "Associations" created at the 1313 House, to relocate after the FBI raided them..Moving to the security and obscurity of Kentucky, they remained in place until Roosevelt of other Federal politician gave them the nod to relocate to Washington D.C....Although, Metro remained out of sight in KY..where it is likely still in being.
I suggest that you look up the CAFR accounts that are published on line by those who worked to expose these financial schemes that in reality, defraud the citizens and remove accountability from public scrutiny..Further, I suggest getting in touch with Walter Burien, a former NJ Citizen who has worked over the past 10-15 years to reveal to the public, just what the CAFR really is and what it does to budgets of political organizations..

There is a site that offers help in guiding a researcher into this issue, with a CAFR Review Guide but I suggest making contact with Walter Burien at his own site   Otherwise, type in  and read the several references therein..
I suspect that the CAFR's have kept Wall Street afloat for decades...further, when the "investments" made by these political entities are analyzed, it would appear that "governments" are the single largest combined stockholders in America's corporate world..thus enabling these entitities to make demands on the corporate leadership far beyond what they are politically capable of doing.. Such revelations would certainly shock the nation of publicized and awaken them to what has been done with money that should have been applied to budgetary needs...
J. Richard Niemela
Col. USAF (Ret)
1776 Wainwright Dr.
Reston, VA.20190

Friday, October 15, 2010

Stupid people

The Teabaggers have certainly brewed up some interesting candidates for next month’s elections, and have proven their ability to manipulate and infiltrate the GOP.
From candidates who consider Social Security a ponzi scheme and consider eliminating the federal reserve, to those who want to ban “evil” black football jerseys and mock autistic children.  Who would’ve thought that the famous (infamous?) Republican quote uttered by Tricky Dick “I am not a crook” would be replaced with “I am not a witch”  by a candidate who would’ve become a Hare Krishna, but couldn’t give up meatballs?
Or that Ronnie Regan’s callous attitude toward homosexuals during the early days of the AIDS epidemic would be topped – thirty years later – by an openly adulterous NY gubernatorial candidate who states that gays are dysfunctional in the same casual way he’d order a donut in a deli. Reagan’s desire to see ketchup classified as a vegetable in school lunch programs seems rational  in comparison to alleged collegiate kidnapper Rand Paul’s hope to eliminate the Department of Education altogether. Maybe he was just stoned.  Again.
And no amount of military drag, or flight-suit-n-giant-codpiece ensemble donned by Dim Son during his eight year misadventure could equal a supposedly serious Congressional contender who enjoys dressing up like a Nazi.  No, seriously.  A Nazi SS officer, specifically.
Do you ever wake up and wonder where the hell you are?  How you fell down this particular rabbit hole?
Appropos for Halloween, this current crop of candidates are eerily similar to the characters on The Addams Family TV show: Some are creepy and kooky, some are spooky and ooky, but the truly terrifying aspect is that they are all imminently electable.   And as a result, their freaky philosophies are just a Tetley teabag away from being translated into law.  That makes them deadly dangerous.
So, when you find yourself laughing at the latest admittedly hysterical political ad by Christine The Good Witch, or shaking you head at the outrageous homophobia of Carl “Love Child” Paladino, bear in mind that -  comical they may be – they are far from harmless.
Remember the last time an amiable dunce/good ol’ boy assumed political office . . . two wars, tens of thousand dead, trillions of debt later . . . . be afraid, be very afraid

Monday, October 11, 2010

Support measure 74

Dominic Simpson photoDominic Simpson photo
Paltalk News Network Contributor
Medical marijuana has been legal in Oregon since 1998.
It is a far from perfect state run system. Measure 74 on Oregon’s November ballot seeks to streamline the process.
How does it work now?
There is a registry run by the public health division of the Oregon Department of Human Services. Patents must first obtain an Attending Physicians Statement confirming a qualifying debilitating illness, pay a $100 fee with an application, receive a card and buy from a state licensed grower who is limited in the number of plants they may produce.
How many take advantage of this program?
The Oregon Medical Marijuana Program known as OMMP provides the following data: 36,380 patients and 18,676 caregivers currently hold cards, 3,444 Oregon licensed physicians have signed applications. There are 1,584 Oregon licensed physicians with current OMMP patients, and 23,693 new patient applications have been received July 1, 2009 through June 30, 2010.
Measure 74 on Oregon’s November ballot wants to tweak the system a bit. Instead of leaving patients on their own to find a grower, supporters seek to allow the Oregon Health Authority to institute and regulate a supply system for medical marijuana distribution. There would be licensed, non profit dispensaries similar to pharmacies supplied by growers who would be able to produce more marijuana plants now allowed under the law, be subjected to additional criminal records checks and quality control in packaging. There would be prohibitions on those convicted of crimes and felonies, along with age limitations, zoning restrictions, and inspections.
Cash strapped Oregon would also benefit from $20 million dollars in medical marijuana tax revenue in the first year alone Measure 74 authors argue. Licensing fees will be an additional income source for the state. Dispensing clinics and suppliers would have to obtain a license and pay fees – $1,000 for producers, $2,000 for clinics. Measure 74 also provides research dollars for sciences exploring the benefits of medical marijuana supporters claim the big drug companies are ignoring.
The Oregon Voter’s Pamphlet shows Measure 74 supporters including a former Portland mayor, a former state Supreme Court justice, a former U.S. Attorney for the district, physicians and nurses. The pamphlet lists two opposing arguments. Other naysayers include law enforcement officers who call medical marijuana a “fraud” and Measure 74 “confusing.”
Will Oregon voters vote yes on Measure 74? It may very well depend on participation by younger voters. College campuses statewide are being targeted in voter registration drives. It is also interesting to note that Oregon has only mail-in elections. Ballots are due back to county election offices by November 2nd. There are drop boxes at many locations for procrastinators unable to meet the mail-in deadline. This mail-in system works very well. Results are rapid. The exceptions are small towns counting by hand.
California, another state with medical marijuana laws on the books is attempting to take matters a step further, voting on whether to outright legalize marijuana in their November 2nd election. Proposition 19 would legalize and regulate it similar to alcohol, providing tax dollars for the California’s empty state coffers. At the same time, lack of solid scientific research on the health effects of marijuana use remain murky.
Experts on both sides are able to cite scientific evidence supporting their positions.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

But why should anyone want to cut the U.S. military budget?

The August 9 announcement by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates of cost-containment measures at the Defense Department should not obscure two underlying facts.  First, as he conceded, these proposed economies will not result in cutting the overall Pentagon budget, which is slated for expansion.  And, second, as a Washington Post article reported, "defense officials characterized them as a political preemptive strike to fend off growing sentiment elsewhere in Washington to tackle the federal government's soaring deficits by making deep cuts in military spending."

But why should anyone want to cut the U.S. military budget?

One reason is that—with $549 billion requested for basic military expenditures and another $159 billion requested for U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—the record $708 billion military spending called for by the Obama administration for fiscal 2011 will be nearly equivalent to the military spending of all other nations in the world combined. When it comes to military appropriations, the U.S. government already spends about seven times as much as China, thirteen times as much as Russia, and seventy-three times as much as Iran.

Is this really necessary?  During the Cold War, the United States confronted far more dangerous and numerous military adversaries, including the Soviet Union.  And the U.S. government certainly possessed an enormous and devastating military arsenal, as well as the armed forces that used it.  But in those years, U.S. military spending accounted for only 26 percent of the world total.  Today, as U.S. Congressman Barney Frank has observed, "we have fewer enemies and we're spending more money." / Where does this vast outlay of U.S. tax dollars—the greatest military appropriations in U.S. history—go?  One place is to overseas U.S. military bases.  According to Chalmers Johnson, a political scientist and former CIA consultant, as much as $250 billion per year is used to maintain some 865 U.S. military facilities in more than forty countries and overseas U.S. territories.

The money also goes to fund vast legions of private military contractors.  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?

Admittedly, there are other reasons for America's failure to use its substantial wealth to provide adequate care for its own people.  Some Americans, driven by mean-spiritedness or greed, resent the very idea of sharing with others.  Furthermore, years of tax cuts for the wealthy have diminished public revenues.

Even so, it is hard to deny that there is a heavy price being paid for making military power the nation's top priority.  With more than half of U.S. government discretionary spending going to feed the Pentagon, we should not be surprised that—in America, at least—it is no longer considered feasible to use public resources to feed the hungry, heal the sick, or house the homeless.

We would do well to recall an observation by one of the great prophets of our time, Martin Luther King, Jr.:  "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."

Dr. Wittner is Professor of History at the State University of New York/Albany. His latest book is Confronting the Bomb: A Short History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement (Stanford University Press).

Saturday, October 9, 2010