Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Breitbart.com writer Ken Klukowski has joined the White House’s Office of Management and Budget. The right-wing pundit and lawyer has a history of pushing anti-LGBTQ commentary, including telling readers there’s a “homosexual agenda” moving forward in the courts and falsely claiming that research proves that same-sex parents are bad for children.

Klukowski has worked for a variety of right-wing organizations, including Breitbart.com, the American Civil Rights Union, First Liberty Institute, Liberty University School of Law, and Family Research Council. As a lawyer, Klukowski has filed numerous briefs supporting right-wing causes. He joined the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) as a special counsel in late August. OMB, which is under the direction of Mick Mulvaney, “oversees the performance of federal agencies, and administers the federal budget.”

Klukowksi was previously the director of the Center for Religious Liberty at the Family Research Council. Family Research Council is an influential and extreme anti-LGBTQ group with high levels of access to the Trump-Pence administration. The organization has compared LGBTQ people to pedophiles and advocated for the discredited and harmful practice of conversion therapy. It also  states on its website: “Family Research Council believes that homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large, and can never be affirmed.”

Klukowski is also an ally of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), another of the most influential anti-LGBTQ groups in the country. Sarah Posner wrote in The Nation that “Klukowski has said that he attended ADF legal trainings, and he also authored a rosy profile of the organization for Breitbart in 2012, in which he lauded its ‘massive and growing impact in courtrooms across America.’” He joins numerous other ADF-allied lawyers who have held government positions; Media Matters has identifiedmore than 100 such allies who worked in Congress, federal agencies, state and federal courts, city and state governments, and local school boards in 2018.

As a commentator, Klukowski frequently warned against LGBTQ equality, claiming, for instance, that “the entire homosexual agenda is moving forward in federal court, where judges are disregarding the will of the American people.” He’s also attacked same-sex parenting, falsely claiming that research shows that having “two parents – one man and one woman” gives children the best chance to succeed.

Klukowski: “The entire homosexual agenda is moving forward in federal court, where judges are disregarding the will of the American people.” From a September 2010 op-ed in the Washington Examiner by Klukowski, h/t GLAAD:

The Perry and Log Cabin cases, taken with the recent Massachusetts federal decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (currently on appeal), paint a picture of astounding judicial activism.

The entire homosexual agenda is moving forward in federal court, where judges are disregarding the will of the American people, as expressed through the democratic process. Agenda-driven judges are doing this by declaring brand new constitutional rights not found anywhere in the words of the Constitution, mowing down every law that stands in their way.

Klukowski: “The fundamental institution of human civilization should be preserved as it has been known through the entirety of American history and Western civilization.” In an August 2010 op-ed he wrote for FoxNews.com with Family Research Center’s Kenneth Blackwell, Klukowski warned Republicans against accepting same-sex marriage, writing:

The GOP platform could not be more explicit: Marriage is the union of one man and one woman. The fundamental institution of human civilization should be preserved as it has been known through the entirety of American history and Western civilization. Supporters of same-sex marriage had the full opportunity to make their case to the party. They made it, and they lost.

Klukowski falsely argued that same-sex parents won’t give “children the best chance to become happy and successful.” In a 2011 Daily Caller op-ed written with Blackwell, Klukowski claimed that research proves that same-sex parents are inferior to opposite-sex parents. In reality, Cornell University’s Public Policy Research Portal wrote that there’s “an overwhelming scholarly consensus, based on over three decades of peer-reviewed research, that having a gay or lesbian parent does not harm children.”

The data contradicts [MSNBC host Chris Matthews’] televised encyclical.

Children thrive best in a household with a father and a mother. Not just two individuals who call themselves “parents” — and if both adults are of the same gender, it is biologically impossible for them to both be the natural parents — but a father and a mother.

Men and women are equal, but not interchangeable. The research — as exemplified by our colleague Dr. Pat Fagan in his new report — show that the economics are compelling: While there are exceptions to every social norm, men and women tend to bring different strengths to raising children. Firmness and gentleness. Physical security and emotional security. Challenges and comfort. Discipline and nurturing.

Many families do not have the benefit of both parents. Often the reasons behind this reality rightly tug on our heartstrings. And millions of single parents deserve lavish praise for their magnificent work at raising wonderful children, with inspiring personal success stories.

But the ideal remains. Two parents — one man and one woman — raising their children in a loving and supportive marriage gives children the best chance to become happy and successful.

Klukowski: “The social science is clear that children thrive best not just in the two-parent home but in a home with a biological father and biological mother.” Klukowski also repeated his false claim about same-sex parenting during a February 23, 2012, appearance on Fox Business’ Stossel (via Nexis):

JOHN STOSSEL (HOST): If the state approves marriages between heterosexuals people, why not gays?

KEN KLUKOWSKI: Well, the states are softening in that regard and every chance that the states have had to speak in that regard where the voters of the states 30 of them have adopted — have adopted constitutional amendments —

STOSSEL: It’s not the tyranny of the majority just because we have majority rule. Why can’t —

KLUKOWSKI: In this regard, the states are sovereign and the social science is clear that children thrive best not just in the two-parent home but in a home with a biological father and biological mother. People fall short of that all time but government has a vested interest in promoting the ideal even if we all fall short of it to one extent or another.

Klukowski criticized the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell because “in the military you are often forced into quarters so close that they’re sometimes nothing short of intimate.” Klukowski wrote in his book Resurgent: How Constitutional Conservatism Can Save America of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell:

A fantastic example of a failure of leadership is President Obama calling on Congress to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law (DADT). Ever since the founding of the Republic, homosexuals have not been able to serve openly in the military. Setting aside religious beliefs, moral convictions, and natural law, this still makes sense, given that in the military you are often forced into quarters so close that they’re sometimes nothing short of intimate, with no privacy or personal space whatsoever in an extremely stressful, emotional, and adrenaline-filled environment. As a sop to the gay rights community, when Democrats had control of both Congress and the White House, President Bill Clinton softened this policy to say that it was still illegal for gays to serve in the military, but that no one could ask you about it so you were okay as long as you didn’t tell anyone or get caught doing anything.

The military is no place for social engineering. No doubt many homosexuals can be trusted not to make sexual advances, just as many heterosexuals can likewise be trusted in close quarters. But we don’t allow men and women to bunk together, or deploy them alone together in a forward position with no privacy, even though we trust them to remain professional and adhere to standards of conduct. Homosexuals should not get any special treatment denied to heterosexuals.

Klukowski: “The media is as much in the tank for gay marriage as it is for every other major part of President Barack Obama’s agenda.” From a July 2013 Breitbart.com column criticizing PolitiFact’s reporting:

In case you just arrived from a different planet and didn’t yet know the media is as much in the tank for gay marriage as it is for every other major part of President Barack Obama’s agenda, you need only read Politifact’s recent post on Tony Perkins, where reporter Amy Sherman claims Perkins’s recent statements on how some wedding vendors are being forced to participate in same-sex marriages “under threat or even jail” are only “half true.”

In fact, Perkins’ claims are entirely true. For an organization that supposedly investigates facts (and incidentally is part of a solidly-liberal newspaper), to say Perkins’ claims are only half true is to post a story that is half fiction.

Reprinted with permission from TomDispatch

Think of it as a war system that's been coming home for years. The murder of George Floyd has finally shone a spotlight on the need to defund local police departments and find alternatives that provide more genuine safety and security. The same sort of spotlight needs soon to be shone on the American military machine and the wildly well-funded damage it's been doing for almost 19 years across the Greater Middle East and Africa.

Distorted funding priorities aren't the only driving force behind police violence against communities of color, but shifting such resources away from policing and to areas like jobs, education, housing, and restorative justice could be an important part of the solution. And any effort to boost spending on social programs should include massive cuts to the Pentagon's bloated budget. In short, it's time to defund our wars, both at home and abroad.


In most states and localities, spending on police and prisons outweighs what the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., once described as "programs of social uplift." The numbers are staggering. In some jurisdictions, police alone can account for up to 40 percent of local budgets, leaving little room for other priorities. In New York City, for instance, funding the police department's operations and compensation costs more than $10 billion yearly -- more, that is, than the federal government spends on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nationwide, more than $100 billion annually goes into policing.

Now, add to that another figure: what it costs to hold roughly two million (yes 2,000,000!) Americans in prisons and jails -- roughly $120 billion a year. Like policing, in other words, incarceration is big business in this country in 2020. After all, prison populations have grown by nearly 700 percent since 1972, driven in significant part by the "war on drugs," a so-called war that has disproportionately targeted people of color.

The Elephant in the Room: Pentagon Spending
In addition to the police and prisons, the other major source of American militarized spending is, of course, the Pentagon. That department, along with related activities like nuclear weapons funding at the Department of Energy, now gobbles up at least $750 billion per year. That's more than the military budgets of the next 10 countries combined.

Just as prisons and policing consume a startling proportion of state and local budgets, the Pentagon accounts for more than half of the federal government's discretionary budget and that includes most government functions other than Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. As Ashik Siddique of the National Priorities Project has noted, the Trump administration's latest budget proposal "prioritizes brute force and militarization over diplomatic and humanitarian solutions to pressing societal crises" in a particularly striking way. "Just about every non-militarized department funded by the discretionary budget," he adds, "is on the chopping block, including all those that focus on reducing poverty and meeting human needs like education, housing, labor, health, energy, and transportation."

Spending on the militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border and the deportation of immigrants through agencies like ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and Customs and Border Protection totals another $24 billion annually. That puts U.S. spending on police, prisons, and the Pentagon at nearly $1 trillion per year and that doesn't even include the soaring budgets of other parts of the American national security state like the Department of Homeland Security ($92 billion) and the Veterans Administration ($243 billion -- a cost of past wars). Back in May 2019, Mandy Smithberger of the Project on Government Oversight and I had already estimated that the full national security budget, including the Pentagon, was approximately $1.25 trillion a year and that estimate, of course, didn't even include the police and the prison system!

Another way of looking at the problem is to focus on just how much of the federal budget goes to the Pentagon and other militarized activities, including federal prisons, immigration enforcement, and veterans benefits. An analysis by the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies puts this figure at $887 billion, or more than 64 percent of the federal discretionary budget including public health, education, environmental protection, job training, energy development, housing, transportation, scientific research, and more.

Making the Connection: The 1033 Program
Ever since images of the police deploying armored vehicles against peaceful demonstrators in Ferguson, Missouri, hit the national airwaves in 2014, the Pentagon's program for supplying "surplus" military equipment to local police departments has been a news item. It's also gotten intermittent attention in Congress and the Executive Branch.

Since 1997, the Pentagon's 1033 Program, as it's called, has channeled to 8,000 separate law enforcement agencies more than $7.4 billion in surplus equipment, including Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles of the kind used on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, along with rifles, ammunition, grenade launchers, and night-vision devices. As Brian Barrett has pointed out at Wired, "Local law enforcement responding to even nonviolent protests has often looked more like the U.S. Armed Forces." Political scientist Ryan Welch co-authored a 2017 study suggesting, when it came to police departments equipped in such a fashion, "that officers with military hardware and mindsets will resort to violence more often and more quickly."

Under the circumstances and given who's providing the equipment, you won't be surprised to learn that the 1033 program also suffers from lax oversight. In 2017, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) created a fake law enforcement agency and was able to acquire $1.2 million worth of equipment through the program, including night-vision goggles and simulated M-16A2 rifles. The request was approved within a week of the GAO's application.

The Obama administration finally implemented some reforms in the wake of Ferguson, banning the transfer of tracked vehicles, grenade launchers, and weaponized aircraft, among other things, while requiring police departments to supply more detailed rationales describing their need for specific equipment. But such modest efforts -- and they proved modest indeed – were promptly chucked out when Donald Trump took office. And the Trump administration changes quickly had a discernible effect. In 2019, the 1033 program had one of its biggest years ever, with about 15,750 military items transferred to law enforcement, a figure exceeded only in 2012, in the Obama years, when 17,000 such items were distributed.

As noted, the mere possession of military equipment has been shown to stoke the ever stronger "warrior culture" that now characterizes so many police departments, as evidenced by the use of Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams armed with military weaponry for routine drug enforcement activities. It's hardly just SWAT teams, though. The weaponry and related items provided under the 1033 program are widely employed by ordinary police forces. NBC News, for instance, reported that armored vehicles were used at least 29 times in response to Black Lives Matter protests organized since the murder of George Floyd, including in major urban areas like Philadelphia and Cincinnati. NBC has also determined that more than 1,100 Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles have been distributed to local law enforcement agencies under the MRAP program, going to communities large and small, including Sanford, Maine, population 20,000, and Moundsville, West Virginia, population 8,400.

A report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has similarly documented the use of Pentagon-supplied equipment in no-knock home invasions, including driving up to people's houses in just such armored vehicles to launch the raids. The ACLU concluded that "the militarization of American policing is evident in the training that police officers receive, which encourages them to adopt a 'warrior' mentality and think of the people they are supposed to serve as enemies, as well as in the equipment they use, such as battering rams, flashbang grenades, and APCs [Armored Personnel Carriers]."

Who Benefits?
Companies in the military-industrial complex earn billions of dollars selling weapons, as well as building and operating prisons and detention facilities, and supplying the police, while theoretically dealing with problems with deep social and economic roots. Generally speaking, by the time they're done, those problems have only become deeper and more rooted. Take, for example, giant weapons contractors like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Raytheon that profit so splendidly from the sales of weapons systems to Saudi Arabia, weaponry that, in turn, has been used to kill tens of thousands of civilians in Yemen, destroy civilian infrastructure there, and block the provision of desperately needed humanitarian assistance. The result: more than 100,000 deaths in that country and millions more on the brink of famine and disease, including Covid-19.

Such major weapons firms have also been at the front of the line when it comes to benefiting from America's endless post-9/11 wars. The Costs of War Project at Brown University estimates that the United States has spent over $6.4 trillion on just some of those overseas conflicts since 2001. Hundreds of billions of those dollars ended up in the pockets of defense contractors, while problems in the U.S., left far less well funded, only grew.

And by the way, the Pentagon's regular budget, combined with direct spending on wars, also manages to provide huge benefits to such weapons makers. Almost half of the department's $750 billion budget goes to them. According to the Federal Procurement Data System's latest report on the top recipients of government contracts, the five largest U.S. arms makers alone -- Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, and General Dynamics -- split well over $100 billion in Pentagon awards among them in 2019. Meanwhile, those same five firms pay their CEOs a total of approximately $100 million per year, with hundreds of millions more going to other top executives and board members.

Meanwhile, in the Trump years, the militarization of the border has become a particularly lucrative business opportunity, with General Atomics, for instance, supplying ever more surveillance drones and General Dynamics supplying an ever more intricate and expensive remote sensor surveillance system. There are also millions to be made running privatized prisons and immigrant detention centers, filling the coffers of firms like CoreCivic and the GEO Group, which have secured record profits in recent years while garnering about half their revenues from those two sources.

Last but not least is the market for even more police equipment. Local forces benefit from grants from the Department of Homeland Security to purchase a wide range of items to supplement the Pentagon's 1033 program.

The True Bottom Line
Much has been written about America's failed post-9/11 wars, which have cost trillions of dollars in taxpayer treasure, hundreds of thousands of lives (American and otherwise), and physical and psychological injuries to hundreds of thousands more. They have also propped up sectarian and corrupt regimes that have actually made it easier for terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS to form and spread. Think of it as the ultimate boomerang effect, in which violence begets more violence, while allowing overseas terrorist organizations to thrive. As journalist Nick Turse has noted with respect to the militarization of U.S. Africa policy, the growth in American military operations on that continent has proceeded rather strikingly in conjunction with a proliferation of new terrorist groups. Put the best light on them and U.S. counterterror operations there have been ineffective. More likely, they have simply helped spawn further increases in terrorist activities in the region.

All of this has, in turn, been an ongoing disaster for underfunded domestic programs that would actually help ordinary Americans rather than squander their tax dollars on what passes for, but obviously isn't, "national defense." In the era of Covid-19, climate change, and an increased focus on longstanding structural racism and anti-black violence, a new approach to "security" is desperately needed, one that privileges not yet more bombs, guns, militarized police forces, and aircraft carriers but public health, environmental protection, and much-needed programs for quality jobs and education in underserved communities.

On the domestic front, particularly in communities of color, police are more often seen as an occupying force than a source of protection (and ever since the 1033 program was initiated, they've looked ever more like such a force as well). This has led to calls for defunding the police and seeking other means of providing public safety, including, minimally, not sending police to deal with petty drug offenses, domestic disputes, and problems caused by individuals with mental-health issues. Organizations like the Minneapolis-based Reclaim the Block have put forward proposals for crisis response by institutions other than the police and for community-based programs for resolving disputes and promoting restorative justice.

Shifting Priorities
Sharp reductions in spending on police, prisons, and the Pentagon could free up hundreds of billions of dollars for programs that might begin to fill the gap in spending on public investments in communities of color and elsewhere.

Organizations like the Movement for Black Lives and the Poor People's Campaign are already demanding these kinds of changes. In its moral budget, a comprehensive proposal for redirecting America's resources toward addressing poverty and away from war, racism, and ecological destruction, the Poor People's Campaign calls for a $350 billion annual cut in Pentagon spending -- almost half of current levels. Likewise, the platform of the Movement for Black Lives suggested a 50 percent reduction in Pentagon outlays. And a new youth anti-militarist movement, Dissenters, has called for defunding the armed forces as well as the police.

Ultimately, safety for all Americans will depend on more than just a shift of funding or a reduction in police armaments. After all, George Floyd and Eric Garner -- just two of the long list of black Americans to die at the hands of the police -- were killed not with high-tech weapons, but with a knee to the throat and a fatal chokehold. Shifting funds from the police to social services, dismantling police forces as they now exist, and creating new institutions to protect communities should be an essential part of any solution in the aftermath of Donald Trump's presidency. Similarly, investments in diplomacy, economic assistance, and cultural exchange would be needed in order to help rein in the American war machine which, of course, has been attended to in ways nothing else, from health care to schooling to infrastructure, has been in this century. When it comes to both the police and the Pentagon, the sooner change arrives the better off we'll all be. It's long past time to defund America's wars, both abroad and at home.


William D. Hartung, a TomDispatch regular, is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy and the author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex.

Copyright 2020 William D. Hartung