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Posts Tagged ‘boondoggle’

Smile! TSA has yet another boondoggle to make traveling more painful

Posted by M. C. on December 10, 2022

But what harm could there be in permitting TSA to scrutinize people’s faces? TSA already spent a billion dollars on behavior detection officers who furtively circulated in airports to detect travelers who were sweating, hand-wringing, yawning, staring too intently, or avoiding eye contact. The inspector general said the program was a complete waste of money and never caught any terrorists.

https://nypost.com/2022/12/08/smile-tsa-has-yet-another-boondoggle-to-make-traveling-more-painful/

By 

James Bovard

Why would any law-abiding American balk at permitting the feds to vacuum up his biometric data at the airport? The Transportation Security Administration is running a pilot program in which travelers stand in photo kiosks that compare their faces with a federal database of photos from passport applications, driver’s licenses, and other sources. TSA promises its new airport regime, which could vastly expand next year, will respect Americans’ privacy.

If you believe that, I can sell you a bridge in Brooklyn really cheap.

TSA has long been one of the most intrusive and inept federal agencies. For 20 years, every TSA boondoggle has been shielded by a bodyguard of bureaucratic lies.

“Trust us” is the TSA mantra for the new program. “TSA hasn’t actually released hard data about how often its system falsely identifies people, through incorrect positive or negative matches,” the Washington Post notes. TSA will be relying on photo-identification systems that have a misidentification error rate up to 100 times higher for blacks and Hispanics.

Some view TSA as being the most intrusive federal agency as it has been in service for over 20 years.
Some view TSA as being the most intrusive federal agency as it has been in service for over 20 years.
A TSA agent loads passengers baggage in to a bomb detection X-ray unit.
“TSA hasn’t actually released hard data about how often its system falsely identifies people, through incorrect positive or negative matches,” according to the Washington Post.

TSA has had plenty of profiling debacles, including targeting black males with backward baseball caps in Boston. At Newark Liberty Airport, TSA agents fabricated false charges against Hispanics to boost the program’s arrest numbers.

The TSA scanning system could be a big step toward a Chinese-style “social credit” system that could restrict travel by people the government doesn’t like. Actually, TSA has already been caught doing that. In 2018, the New York Times exposed a secret watchlist for anyone TSA labels “publicly notorious.” TSA critics to the end of the line — forever?

See the rest here

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The Pentagon fails its fifth audit in a row – Responsible Statecraft

Posted by M. C. on November 26, 2022

Written by
Connor Echols

The Pentagon fails its fifth audit in a row

If the Defense Department can’t get its books straight, how can it be trusted with a budget of more than $800 billion per year?

“I would not say that we flunked,” said DoD Comptroller Mike McCord, although his office did note that the Pentagon only managed to account for 39 percent of its $3.5 trillion in assets.

https://responsiblestatecraft.org/2022/11/22/why-cant-the-dod-get-its-financial-house-in-order/

Last week, the Department of Defense revealed that it had failed its fifth consecutive audit. 

“I would not say that we flunked,” said DoD Comptroller Mike McCord, although his office did note that the Pentagon only managed to account for 39 percent of its $3.5 trillion in assets. “The process is important for us to do, and it is making us get better. It is not making us get better as fast as we want.”

The news came as no surprise to Pentagon watchers. After all, the U.S. military has the distinction of being the only U.S. government agency to have never passed a comprehensive audit.

But what did raise some eyebrows was the fact that DoD made almost no progress in this year’s bookkeeping: Of the 27 areas investigated, only seven earned a clean bill of financial health, which McCord described as “basically the same picture as last year.”

Given this accounting disaster, it should come as no surprise that the Pentagon has a habit of bad financial math. This is especially true when it comes to estimating the cost of weapons programs.

The Pentagon’s most famous recent boondoggle is the F-35 program, which has gone over its original budget by $165 billion to date. But examples of overruns abound: As Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Jack Reed (D-RI) wrote in 2020, the lead vessel for every one of the Navy’s last eight combatant ships came in at least 10 percent over budget, leading to more than $8 billion in additional costs.

And another major overrun is poised to happen soon, according to a recent report from the Congressional Budget Office. 

See the rest here

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Is Washington’s Dangerous Ukraine Boondoggle Starting to Unravel?

Posted by M. C. on November 25, 2022

https://rumble.com/v1wqovq-is-washingtons-dangerous-ukraine-boondoggle-starting-to-unravel.html

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The Syria Boondoggle: Who’s Ready to Die in Vain? – Antiwar.com Original

Posted by M. C. on September 22, 2020

Finally, take a breath and remember the trivial scale of what this latest reinforcement is actually immediately responding to. No shots were fired in a side-swiping road rage incident on Syria’s Mad Max-like roads. As a result, seven American troops – who shouldn’t have been in the damn country in the first place – were treated for concussion-like symptoms and have already returned to duty.

https://original.antiwar.com/?p=2012340985

Mark my words: an American soldier will soon die for next to nothing in Syria. Here’s a mission that takes all the absurdity of America’s post-9/11 wars of choice to their logical conclusion. As such, this muddled and aimless operation must stand forever tall in the pantheon of U.S. foreign policy folly – right up there with the three Seminole Wars (1817-18, 1835-42, 1855-58, 1,608 dead troops); Nicaraguan “Banana Wars” (1910, 1912-25, 1927-33, 159 dead); the Russian Civil War’s “Siberia” intervention (1918-20, 424 dead); “Desert One” botched Iran hostage rescue (1980, 8 dead); Beirut “peacekeeping” (1982-84, 265 dead); the Grenada invasion (1983, 19 dead); and Somalia (1992-94, 43 dead). So, in Trump’s defense – and that of the Washington crowd that’s repeatedly pressured him to stay the Syria course – his latest folly is in good company.

Of course, US service-members have already died in Syria – about ten so far. Not that many Americans much noticed. When the last soldier died in a “very unfortunate mishap,” General Kenneth P. Ekman, deputy commander of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve (the ongoing mission in Iraq and Syria) assured reporters that there were “no indications that any Russian activity existed in the area” or that the patrol was “anything other than a normal patrol.” Have no fear though, since Ekman added that the deceased was “important to the mission.”

Well now, amidst a whole range of post-Russiagate alarmism, an Afghan “bounty” scandal that wasn’t, and in response to the (gasp!) Russian “ramming” of an American party three weeks ago, Washington is sending in reinforcements to buck up that US military non-mission in Syria. This ought to up the odds of another service-member dying for nothing, or, if we’re really lucky – kick off an unnecessary shooting war with the world’s only other nuclear superpower. Either way, we’ll largely have the Trump-obsessed Democrats and hawkish establishment Republicans to blame.

So what sort of cavalry is inbound to save the day and – per the New York Times headline – “counter the Russians” in Syria? You guessed it: just enough to get a handful of Americans killed and/or spark a foolish fight, but far too few to change the combat calculus on the ground. Wait for it now. The Pentagon just added about 100 troops – some mechanized infantry, Sentinel radar and an increased the frequency of fighter jet patrols – to the existent 500 or so soldiers in Syria. Striking!

Well, what will they do there exactly? Demonstrate “US resolve to defend Coalition forces in the [Eastern Syria Security Area], and to ensure that they are able to continue their Defeat-ISIS mission without interference,” according to the lifeless email language of US Central Command spokesman Navy Captain Bill Urban. But wait – I thought this essential infusion of troops was meant to counter the nefarious Russians. No, no, Uncle Sam only sends its armed peacemakers 6,000 miles from home to defend themselves, God, country, and worldwide freedom, naturally. After all, Urban added, “The United States does not seek conflict with any other nation in Syria, but will defend Coalition forces if necessary.” That’s refreshing.

This much is increasingly, if disturbingly, clear: the folks reporting, advising, and crafting strategy for Syria, haven’t the faintest idea about what’s really going on there. Seriously, it’s no longer mandatory for pundits, politicians, or policymakers to know any things about Syria in order to tell us what to think, and decide what to do in our name.

The cycle of farce goes something like this: partisan self-styled “experts” gin up an ostensible interest in a far-flung land; then send in some troops, who enter a confusing complexity that looks nothing like they’d been briefed; a few get killed; their bodies are flown in the night to that ubiquitous Dover, Delaware airbase; then, either no one notices nor remembers why they’d been deployed in the first place, or chickenhawk pundits and politicians wave their flag-draped coffins to blame Russia, Iran, or whichever “enemy” favor-of-the-moment will win them partisan points. Rinse and repeat – devastated mothers and spouses from forgotten corners of America be damned!

So back to that inevitably future dead American soldier(s). Let us review just what he or she will die for exactly when his or her vehicle accidentally rolls over, aircraft crashes, patrol is bombed, or a futile firefight goes south. Well there’s always the ISIS-defeat sub-mission (disingenuously billed as Inherent Resolve’s inherent resolution raison d’être) – but the caliphate is kaput and the pervading presence of America’s infidel crusaders only justifies the jihadis lingering terror campaign. Then there’s the mission that speaks Trump’s language – protecting the corrupt and illegal concessions of Delta Crescent Energy. In other words staying on in Syria, “only for the oil” – according to the president. Of course, it’s not much oil – only an anemic 24,000 barrels per day – something like 1/500th the daily output of Saudi Arabia. So that by itself won’t do.

Enter the establishment favorite mission not-so-secretly proffered by foreign policy insiders in-the-know: “Stay in Syria to Counter Iran” (a Republican congressman in The Hill); for “as long as Iranian troops are outside Iranian borders” (former National-Security Adviser John Bolton); lest we “hand northern Syria to Turkey” as a “gift to Russia, Iran, and ISIS” (per former Syria special envoy, Brett McGurk, in CNBC); otherwise, “Russia Is Pleased to Fill an American Void” (New York Times).

All of which amounts to what a rare astute Atlantic headline diagnosed as “America’s Indefinite Endgame in Syria.” And that’s just what this madness is – an indefinite, intractable intervention without any positive prospects or exit strategy to speak of. In other words, par for the strategically senseless post-9/11 American course.

You know, I remember all the right-wing (and alarmist, if not altogether inaccurate) pejorative pronouncements about a “feckless” President Barack Obama. Yet what if not feckless should we call a current commander-in-chief who’s repeatedly – and ironically – allowed himself to be bullied into maintaining multiple Mideast missions he’s persistently promised to end? I thought The Donald was supposed to be a tough guy, a truth-teller, a system-shaker, and altogether above the swamp-like establishment fray. That was all bunk – as oughta been obvious from Jump Street.

No, President Trump’s foreign policy is at best a vaguely transactional web of ignorance, insecurity and cognitive dissonance. Heck, this new deployment came on the same day the man declared that American troops “are out of Syria,” except to guard oil fields – “Other than that, we are out of Syria.” Plus, none of Trump’s meager troop and equipment infusions have a chance in hell of deranged Democrats made mad by the smell of impending electoral blood.

It’s too very late for all that. No, the opposition-in-waiting has already seized on the vehicle-ramming-episode to reemphasize Trump’s supposed failure to challenge Moscow’s meddling, over-hyped electoral interference, and unproven bounty program in Afghanistan (evidence for this “searched for” but as yet unseen, per, you know, Gen. Frank McKenzie, US military commander of the entire Middle East).

In fact, Trump’s current Syria reinforcement comes three full weeks after his November opponent Joe Biden rebuked him in a Pennsylvania speech for failing to publicly address the Russia-“altercation” in Syria: “Did you hear the president say a single word? Did he lift one finger?” Yet now that The Donald has acquiesced to lifting about 100 (sets of ten) extra troop fingers in the region, don’t expect any applause, retractions, or rebuke-relief from his opponents in both wings of the hawkish duopoly. And whatever you do, don’t expect anything approaching victory, meaningful improvement, or even marginal alteration of the facts on the Syrian ground as a result of a few additional armored vehicles, radars, and combat aircraft sorties. The mission remains a quixotic quagmire – as all asinine adventures must.

All the while, in reading the key mainstream media headlines and obligatory politician soundbites on this latest Syria reinforcement, I’ve yet to hear tell of one salient, if inconvenient, fact: the Russians, unlike Uncle Sam’s usurpers, were invited to Syria. Now, I don’t think for a second that the host, Assad, is a do-gooder, or that Putin patronized the party out of the kindness of his heart. Still, General McKenzie’s word choice for his Russia-blaming last week felt strangely obtuse, yet uncritically accepted by his New York Times interviewers. “They [Russian troops] were in an area they were not supposed to be,” he said. “They were not in an area that they had received permission to go to. And their actions were frankly reckless at the tactical level.” Says who? Permission from whom? – one might ask, in a country with a truly independent and oppositional free press.

Oh, and here’s another tidbit to ruminate over: the Assad regime’s Moscow/Tehran-assisted de facto victory in the Syrian Civil War is hardly a setback for “core US interests.” Rather, it amounts to little more than the pre-2011 status quo. Assad’s relationships with Russia and Iran are decades old, and the Washington never had much influence or interest in Damascus anyway. The original (purported) mission in Syria is now obsolete.

The Islamic State’s physical caliphate is history, and none of the players in Syria’s conflict cornucopia would countenance its reprise – not Assad, Putin, Khameini, nor the Kurds; heck, probably not even Turkey’s Erdogan. Postwar Syria is a broken mess, a less serviceable ally for Moscow or Tehran, and a Levantine land full of risks and without detectable reward. So, let’s keep our troops out of needless harm’s way, and let the “bad boys” have the place.

Finally, take a breath and remember the trivial scale of what this latest reinforcement is actually immediately responding to. No shots were fired in a side-swiping road rage incident on Syria’s Mad Max-like roads. As a result, seven American troops – who shouldn’t have been in the damn country in the first place – were treated for concussion-like symptoms and have already returned to duty.

Per McKenzie, again: “What saved the situation was the very good judgment of small unit US Army commanders on the ground…I’m just glad I got those kind of people out there making decisions.” Well, ole Kenneth now has 100 more good people of sound judgment to order around in this meaningless maelstrom.

Some are bound to get killed. Thanks Obama Donald!

Danny Sjursen is a retired US Army officer, contributing editor at Antiwar.com, senior fellow at the Center for International Policy (CIP), and director of the soon-to-launch Eisenhower Media Network (EMN). His work has appeared in the NY Times, LA Times, The Nation, Huff Post, The Hill, Salon, The American Conservative, Mother Jones, ScheerPost and Tom Dispatch, among other publications. He served combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and later taught history at West Point. He is the author of a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghostriders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge and Patriotic Dissent: America in the Age of Endless War. Along with fellow vet Chris “Henri” Henriksen, he co-hosts the podcast “Fortress on a Hill.” Follow him on Twitter @SkepticalVet and on his website for media requests and past publications.

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