Military & Security

Cruz on Military Spending is Big Government

Daily Kos: Sen. Ted Cruz has “talked about giving our nation’s bloated war budget a big boost if he becomes president. As if spending more than the next 14 countries combined isn’t enough.”

“His proposal to increase the Pentagon’s budget … to 4.1 percent of gross domestic product during his first two years in office would raise the 2017 fiscal year budget to $738 billion, a 26 percent increase from what President Obama has proposed. That compares with the peak war budget of $699 billion in 2011.”

“Cruz doesn’t want to raise taxes to accomplish this—golly, no. Rather, he wants to pay for it by dumping the Internal Revenue Service and four Cabinet-level departments: Education, Housing and Urban Development, Energy, and Commerce.”

“Fifty-four percent of federal discretionary spending now flows to the military. But that’s only so when a narrow view is taken regarding what comprises military spending. The overall Veterans Affairs budget including benefits and health care adds another 7 percent in discretionary spending. There is also national security spending for international FBI activities, Selective Service, the National Defense Stockpile, and other miscellaneous defense-related activities that add another 4 percent. An additional 5 percent goes to Homeland Security functions that are not part of the Department of Defense or Department of Energy. So federal discretionary spending that actually goes for national security purposes is 70 percent.”

No Improvement in Doomsday Clock

Eco Watch: “With ‘utter dismay,’ the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced Tuesday that the symbolic Doomsday Clock will hold at three minutes to midnight—at the ‘brink’ of man-made apocalypse—because world leaders have failed to take the necessary steps to protect citizens from the grave threats of nuclear war and runaway climate change.”


“The decision not to move the hands of the Doomsday Clock ‘is not good news,’ it continues, ‘but an expression of dismay that world leaders continue to fail to focus their efforts and the world’s attention on reducing the extreme danger posed by nuclear weapons and climate change. When we call these dangers existential, that is exactly what we mean: They threaten the very existence of civilization and therefore should be the first order of business for leaders who care about their constituents and their countries.’”

“Since the clock was first introduced in 1947, the hands have moved 22 times. As Rachel Bronson, executive director and publisher of the Bulletin, explained, the clock represents a ‘summary view of leading experts deeply engaged in the existential issues of our time.’”

States That Have Surrendered to ISIS

Daily Kos: “Recent polls show that not only are Republicans unhappy with Obama’s handling of Daesh … but so are Democrats. The extreme paranoia exhibited by American politicians, pundits, and terrorism ‘experts’ is so overblown as to be ludicrous … Americans are safer today from outside threats than we have been in a long time, maybe ever. The Daesh threat to Americans is miniscule, and the data prove it.”

“But, but, ISIS is in the news all the time, aren’t they killing lots of Americans? Shouldn’t we be really afraid? Well, actually, no. In 2013, all domestic and international terrorists killed exactly 16 Americans. Three died in the Boston Marathon bombing, the rest died in overseas attacks. Sixteen Americans. So if you live in the U.S.A., your odds of being killed by a terrorist were (and are still) one in 20 million (16 deaths out of 330 million Americans). And if you didn’t leave the country, your chances improved to one in 110 million.”

As the CDC mortality tables show, “more people died from TV and appliance tip-overs (based on 2011 data) than from terrorism. Twenty times more people died from appendicitis than from terrorist attacks. Four times as many Americans died from machinery-related carbon monoxide poisoning. And during the same 12-month period, for every single terrorist fatality, more than 200 people STARVED TO DEATH in America.”


What Do You Call White Guys With Guns?

Christopher Ingraham: “A bunch of heavily-armed white guys walk into a federal building, declare that they’re in charge of the place and say they plan to stick around indefinitely. What do you call them, exactly?”

“In the interest of clarity, here’s how 15 major media outlets are referring to the group as of Monday morning. To keep the tally manageable, I’m counting only the first reference to the Oregon group in either the headline or body of the main story on the standoff on the organizations’ websites.”

“Of the 15 outlets I surveyed, six are describing the group as either “armed activists” or “armed protesters.” That includes The Washington Post, along with all three major cable networks and two network news outlets.”

Despite ‘War on Cops,’ 2015 Was One of the Safest Years for Cops

Vox: “For much of 2015, Fox News and the New York Post decried a “war on cops,” specifically blaming the Black Lives Matter movement — and its criticisms of excessive use of force by cops — for enabling a wave of violence against police officers in the US.”

“Yet with the year over, it looks like 2015 was one of the safest years to be a police officer in America. Since 1960, only 2013 had fewer on-duty police officer deaths than 2015.”

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“The Officer Down Memorial Page, which tracks police officer deaths, estimated 129 police officers died in the line of duty in 2015, down 3 percent from 2014. This continued the long-term trend downward, based on the organization’s statistics going back decades.”

“The single biggest cause of death in 2015 was gunfire. Out of 129 deaths, 39 were gun homicides and two were accidental shootings. But deadly shootings were down from 2014, when 49 cops died to gunfire.”

For the First Time, Guns Kill More Americans Than Cars

Vox: “Cars are no longer deadlier than guns in America. For the first time in modern history, the age-adjusted death rate for both guns and car crashes is identical: 10.3 deaths per 100,000 people.”

“The data, previously reported by the Center for American Progress and Christopher Ingraham at the Washington Post, doesn’t show that gun violence is on the rise. Over the past decade or so, gun homicides dropped while gun suicides rose, keeping the rate of gun deaths flat. Instead, the real story is in the dramatic drop in car-related deaths — a trend that continued through 2014, in large part thanks to policy changes meant to make roads and cars safer.”

“Gun violence has been treated much less seriously by lawmakers. Although tough-on-crime laws and mass incarceration policies were in part a response to violent crime, the research shows such measures only partly contributed to the crime drop of the past couple of decades. States and the federal government have passed some gun control measures and looked into a Gun detection System… but many of the measures are riddled with loopholes, considerably weaker than those in other developed countries with lower levels of crime, or were relaxed or allowed to lapse over the decades, such as the assault weapons ban.”

GOP Candidates’ Solution to Terrorism: Big Government

Tim Fernholz in Quartz: “The Republican presidential candidates debating on CNN tonight (Dec. 15) fit right in with the trailer for Michael Bay’s Benghazi techno-thriller that all too briefly interrupted their squabbles: They were stoked for big, explosive government to take over and blow voters’ fears away.”

“Following the San Bernardino attacks, the candidates were happy to leverage fears of terror plots to promote their White House aspirations … But the natural tension between the ostensible party of small government and the apparatus of a massive national security state underlined the challenge of building a broad coalition in the fractured Republican electorate.”

“Senator Rand Paul, the night’s designated libertarian conscience, made the case against bulk surveillance and various Trump policies that appear unconstitutional on their face, but his was a rare voice of dissent against a tide of conservatives arguing that the US government should expand its surveillance capabilities at home and its war-making efforts abroad.”

Economy Bumped for Terrorism as Americans’ Top Concern

Gallup: “After the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, Americans are now more likely to name terrorism as the top issue facing the U.S. than to name any other issue — including those that have typically topped the list recently, such as the economy and the government. About one in six Americans, 16%, now identify terrorism as the most important U.S. problem, up from just 3% in early November.”

Recent Trends in "Most Important" U.S. Problems

“This is the highest percentage of Americans to mention terrorism in a decade, although it is still lower than the 46% measured after 9/11. Before 2001, terrorism barely registered as the most important problem facing the country.”

“In the past, mentions of terrorism as the most important U.S. problem have quickly fallen after a major incident. But two major attacks in short succession, at a time when concern about terrorism was already elevated given the threat of the Islamic State, have Americans on edge.”

Putting Gun Deaths In Perspective

Margot Sanger-Katz points out how rare gun homicides are in other developed countries.

“Here, where the right to bear arms is cherished by much of the population, gun homicides are a significant public health concern. For men 15 to 29, they are the third-leading cause of death, after accidents and suicides. In other high-income countries, gun homicides are unusual events. The recent Paris attacks killed 130 people, which is nearly as many as die from gun homicides in all of France in a typical year. But even if France had a mass shooting as deadly as the Paris attacks every month, its annual rate of gun homicide death would be lower than that in the United States.”

“The accompanying table shows the mortality rates for gun homicides in a variety of countries, along with a correspondingly likely cause of death in the United States.”

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America’s Map of Mass Shootings

Philip Bump uses data from, to show that “mass shootings — defined as incidents in which four or more people are shot — have happened hundreds of times over the last several years … Only once have seven days passed without a mass shooting and only once have eight days passed. Those are the longest spans — the latter happening in April of this year. Several times, six days have passed.”

Bump includes an update to his map showing the locations of the year’s mass shootings. Below: All of the shootings through Dec. 2 (as of 1 p.m. Pacific/4 p.m. Eastern).

“There have been incidents that meet the ShootingTracker standard in 46 states and in D.C. Florida, Illinois and California have had the most incidents. In each state, there have been at least 22 shooting incidents in which four or more people were shot.”

Who Takes More? Law Enforcement or Burglars?

Christopher Ingraham: “Here’s an interesting factoid about contemporary policing: In 2014, for the first time ever, law enforcement officers took more property from American citizens than burglars did. Martin Armstrong pointed this out at his blog, Armstrong Economics, last week.”

“Officers can take cash and property from people without convicting or even charging them with a crime — yes, really! — through the highly controversial practice known as civil asset forfeiture. Last year, according to the Institute for Justice, the Treasury and Justice departments deposited more than $5 billion into their respective asset forfeiture funds. That same year, the FBI reports that burglary losses topped out at $3.5 billion.”

“Boil down all the numbers and caveats above and you arrive at a simple fact: In the United States, in 2014, more cash and property transferred hands via civil asset forfeiture than via burglary. The total value of asset forfeitures was more than one-third of the total value of property stolen by criminals in 2014. That represents something of a sea change in the way police do business — and it’s prompting plenty of scrutiny of the practice.”