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“Are Can’t Be Serious?” Awards

Dispatches From The Edge

Conn Hallinan

Jan 15, 2021

Each year Foreign Policy In Focus columnist Conn Hallinan gives awards to individuals, companies and governments that make reading the news a daily adventure. These are the awards for the past year

The Golden Lemon Award goes to Lockheed Martin for its F-35 fifth generation stealth fighter, at $1.5 trillion the most expensive weapons system in history. The plane currently has 883 “design flaws,” including nine “category 1” flaws. The latter “may cause death, severe injury, or severe occupational illness” to pilots and “major damage” to weapons systems and combat readiness ( which sounds like those TV ads for drugs that may or may not treat your disease, but could also kill your first born and turn you into a ferret).

But the company got right to work on those flaws, not by fixing them, mind you, but by reclassifying them as less serious. As for the rest of the problems, Lockheed Martin says it will fix them if it gets paid more.The company currently receives $2 billion a year to keep some 400 F-35s flying, a cost of $50 million a plane. It costs $28,455 an hour to fly an F-35.

  US aircraft are following industrialist Norman Augustine’s prediction that war plane costs increase by a factor of 10 every decade. He predicted that by 2054 the Pentagon will be able to buy just one fighter plane

The Silver Lemon goes to the U.S. Navy for moth-balling four of its Littoral Combat ships after less than two decades in service. All 10 Littoral ships apparently have a “fundamentally flawed” propulsion system. The ships cost over $600 million apiece. There are plans to build six more.

 The Navy plans to build 82 ships overall in the next six years at a cost of $147 billion, including–at $940 million apiece– 20 frigates to replace the Littoral Combat ships.

The Bronze Lemon to the U.S. Army for spending $24 billion to replace its aging, 27-ton Bradley Fighting Vehicle with—ah, nothing? Not that it didn’t spend all that money. First there was the M2, but its armor was too thin. Then it built the Future Combat System, but it was too big and also had inadequate armor. Then they built the Ground Combat Vehicle, which was a monster and weighed three times more than the Bradleys.Solution? Keep the old Bradleys.

The ET Award to the new U.S. Space Force for the design of its  uniforms: jungle foliage. As George Takei (Helmsmen Hikaru Sulu from “Star Trek”) commented, “Unclear why there is a need for camouflage in space.”

The Golden COVID-19 Award to Solange Vierira,Brazil’s Superintendence of Private Insurance in President Jair Bolsonaro’ rightwing government. According to former Health Ministry official and epidemiologist Julio Croda, when told that older people were more likely to die from the virus, Vierira told him that “it’s good that deaths are concentrated among the old. That will improve our economic performance as it will reduce our pension deficit.” The virus has killed over 184,000 Brazilians as of December.

The Silver COVID goes to US Commerce Secretary Wilber Ross, who told Fox News that the virus has a silver lining: “I think it will help accelerate the return of jobs to North America. “ Unemployment in the US passed 20 million this past summer. The virus also has killed more than 335,000 Americans.

The Bronze COVID goes to the Italian medical supply company, Intersurgical, which threatened to sue a 3-D printer startup for producing the company’s ventilator valve during last spring’s COVID emergency in northern Italy. Intersurgical, which charges $11,000 for each valve, had been unable to meet the needs of hospitals overrun with desperately sick patients. So Alessandro Ramaioli and Christian Francassi of Isinnova, a 3-D printer company, reverse engineered the part because Intersurgical refused to release the design specifications. The 3-D  supplied valves cost $1 apiece. 

Now Intersurgical is threatening to sue the two Isinnova men for patent violation. The virus has killed over 97,000 Italians as of December.

The Revolving Door Award goes to former Marine Corps General, Joseph Dunford, who oversaw the testing of Lockheed Martin’s troubled F-35 fighter. According to the tests, the plane “could not demonstrate that the …F-35B is operationally effective or suitable for use in any kind of limited combat operation,” and if the plane encountered enemies it should “avoid threat engagement” (translation: run for your life). The test also found that pilots under 165 pounds had a 25 percent chance of death, and an almost certainty of serious neck injuries, if they ejected from the plane.

But Dunford said he had “full confidence” in the F-35 (generals don’t fly them). A little over four months after Dunford retired as head of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, he was appointed to the Lockheed Martin Board of Directors.

He has lots of company. After retiring, Admiral William Crowe joined General Dynamics, Gen. John Shalikashvili joined Boeing, Gen. Richard Myers joined Northrop Grumman, and current Defense Secretary nominee, retired Gen. Lloyd Austin, is on the board of Raytheon, one of the prime contractors for the new Space Force. 

The Culture Sensitivity Award to the Trump Administration for appointing Darren Beattie to the Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad that oversees the conservation of Holocaust sites in Europe. Beattie has appeared on a panel with Peter Brimelow from VDare, a anti-immigrant site that the Southern Poverty Law Center calls a “hate website.” The Trump White House also put out a statement on Holocaust Remberance Day that never mention the word “Jewish.”

Co-winner is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for appointing former general Effi Eitam to head the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum. Eitam, a West Bank settler, refers to Palestinians as a “cancer” and advocates expelling them from the Occupied Territories. “We cannot be with all these Arabs,” he says, arguing that the army could  “expel the population there overnight.” He also calls for ousting all Palestinians from the parliament.

Honorable mention goes to the White House for unleashing Border Patrol Agents, Arizona state troopers and State Department of Public Safety officers on O’odham tribal members who were protesting the border wall that divides up their lands. Tribe members were tear gassed and struck with rubber bullets, and a number of children were arrested. The day was Oct. 12, Indigenous People’s Day.

The Blind Justice Award goes to the conservative Greek government for charging a 25-year old Afghan man with killing his six-year old child, who drowned when a refugee-filled boat  overturned. Adriana Tidona of Amnesty International said the charge was “just one more way to discourage” asylum seekers and could violate the Geneva Conventions on the protection of refugees. 

Runner up in this category is Egypt’s National Election Authority, which was angered by the low turnout of voters in the first round of the Senate elections this past August. Voting in Egypt is a requirement. But Egypt is in the middle of the pandemic and an economic crisis. Many of the polling places were also located away from residential areas, making it difficult for voters to get to them. Only a little over 14 percent of Egypt’s 64 million voters made it to the polls. The Commission’s response? Charge 54 million people with violating the election law, which carries a fine of 500 Egyptian pounds (about $31).

The Mati Hari Award to the rightwing Indian government of Narendra Modi for breaking up a highly sophisticated Pakistani spy ring. The agent–a pigeon painted pink and wearing a ring with a number on it– was turned over to the police, who are continuing their investigation. The official story is that locals saw the pigeon fly over the border and seized it, but suspicion is that it was an inside job: a stool pigeon.

There are also people and organizations that do their best to make the world a better place to live in. Here are a few:

Hallel Rabin, an 19-year old Israeli conscientious objector who has served three jail sentences for refusing to serve in the Occupied Territories. “People in power institute a policy of occupation and oppression of an entire nation,” she said, “I will not take part in a system that is based on inequality and fear.”

Melati and Isabel Wijsen, 19 and 17 respectively, who lobbied successfully to ban all throw away plastics in Indonesia. After China, Indonesia is the second largest source of marine pollution. The sisters have also taken on climate change.”Us kids may be only 26 percent of the world’s population, but we are 100 percent of the future,” said Isabel.

The Irish, who raised over $3 million to purchase water, food and medical supplies for the Hopi Reservation and the Navajo Nation. Both tribes have been hard hit by COVID-19. The money was payback. In 1847 the Choctaw Nation sent $170 to Irish families caught up in the 1845-49 potato famine that killed more than a million people, and forced more than a million others to emigrate. The Choctaw were the first tribe to be forcibly relocated to Oklahoma in 1831, the so-called “Trail of Tears,” in which thousands died of disease and starvation.  When tribal members heard about the famine they raised money and sent it to the Quakers to be distributed. 

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Are You Serious ? Awards for 2018

“Are You Serious?” Awards 2018

Dispatches From The Edge

Jan 1, 2019

 

 

Each year Dispatches From The Edge gives awards to individuals, companies and governments that makes reading the news a daily adventure. Here are the awards for 2018

 

The Golden Sprocket Wrench Award to Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest arms manufacturer, for its F-22 Raptor Stealth fighter, a fifth-generation interceptor said to be the best in the world. That is when it works, which is not often. When Hurricane Michael swept through Florida this fall, 17 Raptors—$339 million apiece—were destroyed or badly damaged. How come the Air Force didn’t fly those F-22s out of harm’s way? Because the Raptor is a “hanger queen”— loves the machine shop. Less than 50 percent of the F-22 fleet is functional at any given moment. The planes couldn’t fly, so they got trashed at a cost to taxpayers of around $5 billion.

 

Lockheed Martin also gets an Oak Leaf Cluster for its F-35 Lightning II fighter, at $1.5 trillion the most expensive weapon system in U.S. history. Some 200 F-35s are not considered “combat capable,” and may never be, because the Pentagon would rather buy new planes than fix the ones it has. That may cost taxpayers $40 billion.

 

The F-22s and F-35s also have problems with their oxygen systems, but no one can figure out why.

 

However, both planes did get into combat. According to Vice Admiral Scott Stearney, the F-35 achieved “tactical supremacy” over the Taliban (which doesn’t have an air force). The F-22, the most sophisticated stealth fighter in the world, took on Afghan drug dealers.

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As for Lockheed Martin, the company was just awarded an extra $7 billion for F-22 “sustainment.”

 

 

The Golden Parenting Award to the U.S. State Department for trying to water down a resolution by the UN’s World Health Assembly encouraging breast feeding over infant formula. A Lancet study found that universal breast-feeding would prevent 800,000 infant deaths a year, decrease ear infections by 50 percent and gastrointestinal disease by 64 percent. It lowers the risk for Type 1 diabetes, two kinds of leukemia, sudden infant death syndrome and asthma. It also makes for healthier mothers.

 

In contrast, infant formula—a $70 billion industry dominated by a few American and European companies—is expensive and not nearly as healthy for children as breast milk.

 

When Ecuador tried to introduce the breast-feeding resolution, the U.S. threatened it with aid cuts and trade barriers. Several other Latin American countries were also threatened and quickly withdrew their names from a list of endorsers. Finally, Russia stepped in and introduced the resolution. The measure finally passed, but the U.S. successfully lobbied to remove language urging the World Health Organization to challenge “inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children.”

 

So apparently the White House is fine with silicon in breasts, just not milk.

 

The Golden Cuisine Award to Ron Colburn, president of the U.S. Border Patrol Foundation, who told Fox & Friends that the tear gas used on migrants at the U.S. border was not harmful, because pepper spray was a “natural” product that “you could actually put on your nachos and eat it.”

 

The Marie Antoinette Award has two winners this year:

 

* Nikki Haley, retiring U.S. Ambassador to the UN, who blasted Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) for supporting the UN’s Special Rapporteur report on poverty in the US that found tens of millions of Americans suffer “massive levels of deprivation.” In a letter to Sanders, Haley said it was “patently ridiculous” for the UN to even look at poverty in the US, because it is “the wealthiest and freest country in the world.”

 

In a response, Sanders pointed out that while this country is indeed the wealthiest in the world, it is also one of the most unequal. “Some 40 million people still live in poverty, more than 30 million have no health insurance, over half of older workers have no retirement savings, 140 million Americans are struggling to pay for basic living expenses, 40 percent of Americans cannot afford a $400 emergency, and millions of Americans are leaving school deeply in debt.”

 

* US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, who expressed surprise that the people attending the World Economic Forum in the resort town of Davos, Switzerland were considered elite. “I didn’t realize it was the global elite.”

 

Basic membership in the Forum costs more than $70,000, and getting to the event by helicopter or car is expensive, as are accommodations. There also numerous glittering parties hosted by celebrities like Bono and Leonardo DiCaprio. But those parties can have a sharp edge: one had attendees crawl on their hands and knees to feel what is like to flee an army.

 

The Golden Matthew 19:14 Award (“Suffer the little children”) to Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen for threatening to seize the children of poor people if parents commit crimes or fail to teach children “Danish values.” The parliament has designated 25 “ghetto” areas—Denmark’s term—which Muslim immigrants are crowded into. Families living in “ghettos” must send their children—starting at age 1—to schools for 25 hours a week where they are taught about Christmas, Easter and the Danish language. Failure to do so can result in a welfare cutoff. Proposals are also being considered to double prison sentences for anyone from a “ghetto” convicted of a crime, and a four year prison sentence for parents who send their children back to their home countries to learn about their cultures. The neo-fascist People’s Party, part of the governing coalition, proposed forcing all “ghetto” children to wear electronic ankle bracelets and be confined to their homes after 8 PM. The measure was tabled.

 

Runners up are:

 

* The British Home Office, which, according to a report by the House of Lords, is using children for undercover operations against drug dealers, terrorists and criminal gangs. “We are concerned that enabling a young person to participate in covert activity for an extended period of time may expose them to increased risk in their mental and physical welfare” the Lord’s report concluded.

 

* The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for placing Dr. Ruth Etzel, head of Children’s Health Protection, on administrative leave and derailing programs aimed at reducing children’s exposure to lead, pesticides, mercury and smog. Etzel was pressing to tighten up regulations because children are more sensitive to pollutants than adults. A leader in children’s environmental health for more than 30 years, Etzel was asked for her badge, cell phone and keys and put on administrative leave.

 

The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight Award to arms maker Raytheon (with a tip of the hat to contributors Northup Grumman and Lockheed Martin) for its Patriot anti-missile that has downed exactly one missile in 28 years of use (and that was a clunky old Scud). An analysis of the missile interceptor system by Jeffrey Lewis of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, Ca., concluded that Patriot is “a lemon.” Writing in Foreign Policy, Lewis says, “I am deeply skeptical that Patriot has ever intercepted a long-range ballistic missile in combat.” But it sure sells well. Saudi Arabia forked over $5.4 billion for Patriots in 2015, Romania $4 billion in 2017, Poland $4.5 billion in 2018, and Turkey $3.5 billion this year.

 

The Golden “Say What?” Award has three winners:

*The US Department of Defense for cutting a deal in the Yemen civil war to allow al-Qaeda members—the organization that brought us the Sept.11 attacks—to join with the Saudis and United Arab Emirates (UAE) in their fight against the Houthis. According to Associated Press, while the Saudis claim that their forces are driving al-Qaeda out of cities, in fact, the terrorist organization’s members were allowed to leave with their weapons and looted cash. US drones gave them free passage. Why, you may ask? Because the Houthis are supported by Iran.

 

* Saudi Arabia and the UAE for bankrolling a series of racist and Islamaphobic attacks on newly elected Muslim Congress members Ilhan Omar (D-Minn) and Rashid Tlaib (D-Mi) because the Gulf monarchy accuses both of being members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Neither is, but both are critical of the absolute monarchs of the Persian Gulf and are opposed to the Saudi-instigated war in Yemen.

 

* Israel, for selling weapons to the racist and anti-Semitic Azov Battalion in the Ukraine. On its YouTube channel, members of the militia showed off Israeli Tavor rifles, the primary weapon of the Israeli Special Forces. The Tavor is produced under license by the Israel Weapons Industries. The unit’s commander and Ukraine’s Interior Minister, Arsen Avakov, met with Israel’s Interior Minister Aryeh Deri last year to discuss “fruitful cooperation.” Azov’s founder, Anriy Biletsky, now a Ukrainian parliament member, says his mission is “to restore the honor of the white race,” and lead “a crusade against the Semite-led untermenschen.”

 

The Blue Meanie Award to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for blocking medical supplies to North Korea. Drugs to fight malaria and tuberculosis have been held up, as have surgical equipment and soy milk for child care centers and orphanages. According to the UN, sanctions “are not intended to have adverse humanitarian consequences for the civilian population” of North Korea. The US position has come in for criticism by Sweden, France, Britain, Canada, and the International Red Cross.

 

The Little Bo Peep Award to the Pentagon for its recent audit indicating that some $21 trillion (yes, that is a “t”) is unaccounted for. Sharing this honor is the U.S. Air Force for losing a box of grenades, which apparently fell off a Humvee in North Dakota. The Air Forces says the weapons won’t go off without a special launcher. Right. What can possibly go wrong with grenades?

 

In Memory of Dr. Victor Sidel, a founding member of the Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Nobel Prize winning International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. Sidel, along with Dr. Barry S. Levy, wrote several important books including “War and Public Health,” and “Social Justice and Public Health.” In 1986 he was arrested, along with astronomer Carl Sagan, at the Mercury, Nevada nuclear test site. He once said, “The cost of one-half day of world arms spending could pay for the full immunization of all the children of the world against the common infectious diseases.”

 

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