When history repeats itself, it’s almost never by accident. When anything important cycles back to “the way things used to be,” it’s generally because the people who benefited from the old regime, or their descendants, forcibly turn back the clock.
Take Donald Trump’s advocacy for climate-killing, eminently replaceable fossil fuels. The only people who would benefit from a return to coal, to cite the worst example, are the folks who sell it. But those folks, and their cousins in oil and gas have convinced Trump to enact policies that could end time by moving it back on energy 60 years. You know, life before the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.
Labor relations of 100 years ago, when bosses bossed, workers cringed and unions were hardly known: that’s what many of the same philosopher-campaign funders of the far right have secured. They’ve bought an industrial status quo ante for themselves and their employees by anteing up billions in political and academic investments.
It is a hallmark of the Trump era that the people who “learned something from history,” are condemned to repeat it anyway, because their knowledge and their evidence can always be shouted down by the privately endowed.
President Dwight Eisenhower tried to warn us about the generals and CEOs of the military-industrial complex, who turn national defense into personal advancement and corporate profit. General Ike knew many of the Pentagon’s tricks that covered the tracks of bloated budgets and misbegotten missions in the 1950s.
In the 1970s and ‘80s, investigators like Chuck Spinney found, working inside the Pentagon, the same scams were back in business. They provoked a major congressional reform in 1990 called the Chief Financial Officers Act, which required all departments and agencies of the federal government to submit to annual audits.
30 years later, every branch of the federal government has complied with the C.F.O.A. rule, except one: the Defense Department, where history once again repeats itself in the form what our guest today, investigative reporter Dave Lindorff recently called in The Nation, “a gigantic, unconstitutional accounting fraud.”
How big and how bad is the fraud? Nobody knows, but what we do know is the Pentagon flunked the audit.
Not that they will have to worry about such a fiscal embarrassment ever again. New Trump-era rules say any government department with classified parts to their budget is free to hide or lie about them.
And you wonder why the chief watchdog for national security assets at the General Accounting Office told Lindorff the Pentagon budget is at “high risk” for “fraud, waste and abuse.”
Dave Lindorff is an American investigative reporter, a columnist for CounterPunch, and a contributor to Businessweek, The Nation, Extra! and Salon.com. His work was highlighted by Project Censored 2004, 2011 and 2012.
Born in 1949, Lindorff lives just outside Philadelphia.
Lindorff graduated from Wesleyan University in 1972 with a BA in Chinese language. He then received an MS in Journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 1975. A two-time Fulbright Scholar (Shanghai, 1991-2 and Taiwan, 2004), he was also a Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Economics and Business Journalism at Columbia University in 1978-79.
A former bureau chief covering Los Angeles County government for the Los Angeles Daily News, and a reporter-producer for PBS station KCET in Los Angeles, Lindorff was also a founder and editor of the weekly Los Angeles Vanguard newspaper, established in 1976, where he won the Grand Prize of the Los Angeles Press Club for his reporting. Lindorff also worked at the Minneapolis Tribune (now the Star Tribune), the Santa Monica Evening Outlook and the Middletown Press in Connecticut.
Lindorff is one of two nationally syndicated journalists along with Neil Swidey of the Boston Globe, who has repeatedly criticized “most American colleges and universities”  for refusing to provide official/sealed transcripts to former students “late in their payments” or “in default”, thereby ensuring those students cannot transfer to another school in the U.S. until the initial school is satisfied with its debt collection. Lindorff has called the practice “extortive”. Swidey has described it as hostage taking of transcripts and education (the majority of which has often been paid for by the former student).
He is the author of four books, the most recent being The Case for Impeachment: The Legal Argument for Removing President George W. Bush from Office, written with attorney Barbara Olshansky of the Center for Constitutional Rights. As well as Killing Time: An Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Lindorff has been active on journalistic issues and was a founder of the National Writers Union in 1983, serving for many years in leadership positions in that union. He was also active in the Hong Kong Journalists Assn. during his five years in Hong Kong, when he was a correspondent for Businessweek magazine.