Wednesday, August 31, 2005
So Gov Fletcher has pardoned everyone in his administration who might have broken any laws. His administration was accused of putting poliltical cronies into civil service jobs. (Associated Press)
Army Chief of Staff Gen Peter Schoomaker says soldiers may be inadvertantly giving away sensitive information to the enemy. He's particularly worried about photos soldiers post from combat zones that may give away weapon vulnerabilities as well as tactics, techniques and procedures. (FWC.com)
Monday, August 29, 2005
Right now, it ranks behind only World War II, Vietnam, and Korea in terms of cost -- in dollars, not blood. It could overtake the cost of the Korean War before long.
Adjusted for inflation...and priced in 2005 dollars, here's the way military spending breaks down over different conflicts:
- WWII: $3,114,300,000
- Vietnam: $531,500,000
- Korea: $361,200,000
- Iraq/Afghanistan: $252,000,000
- WWI: $209,000,000
- Gulf War: $81,800,000
So far, that comes to $850 in military and reconstruction costs for every man, woman, and child in the US. Harvard University's Linda Bilmes estimates the cost could rise to $4,745 per American -- if the war drags on another five years. She includes costs like veteran benefits and interest on the national debt. (Christian Science Monitor) [Click on CSM Graphic to go to article]
The current record holder is 1989's Hurricane Andrew which did $15.5 billion in insured damage.
The Associated Press has a list of the 15 costliest Hurricanes (and one tropical storm) in US history. It's list takes into account more than just the insured losses. (CNN)
Native son, Rep Don Young (R-AK) -- who brought home near record amounts of pork in the Highway Bill -- is in line to take over the Homeland Security Committee. That has watchdog groups worried that he'll divert homeland defense dollars to Alaska -- the same way he did with road money.
In the Highway Bill, Rep Young was able to send nearly $1 billion to his home state -- including more than a quarter-billion for a bridge to an island with only 50 people living on it. He also got another bridge renamed "Don Young's Way" -- and got the Highway Bill itself named after his wife.
Homeland Security money has already been a funnel for pork barrel spending and waste.
Critics call it pure pork.
"There's a lot of money in this bill, but bar none we consider the documentary the most egregious provision because it has absolutely nothing to do with alleviating the traffic problems in this nation." -- Keith Ashdown, Vice President of Policy, Taxpayers for Common Sense, quoted in the Anchorage Daily News
The $3 million of your money will go to an Emmy-winning, Oscar-nominated New York-based film company. It's cut a few engineering documentaries.
The producer is Ken Mandel. He has an engineering background and was impressed with engineering projects 18 years ago when he visited Alaska. Obviously, private sector backers weren't nearly as impressed -- seeing little profit potential for a wonkish work of film.
But Rep Don Young (R-AK) came to the rescue, with government cash for the idea -- after Mr Mandel hired a lobbyist to pitch the idea: Think The English Patient meets utter boredom!
Think of it this way: You, as a taxpayer, are now a movie investor. Have your people call Rep Young's people. (Anchorage Daily News)
Friday, August 26, 2005
Ben Albright is an Iraq War vet who's not getting money promised for his tuition this year. He says the military has diverted his incentive money he contracted for -- to paying for the war he just got home from:
"You see my country is involved in this little scuffle you may or may not have heard about over in Iraq. It seems, in this scuffle, that in addition to not having a plan to win it, they also didn't have a plan to pay for it. Now in an effort to save money and apply it to the cost of the war, the government has seen fit to cut tuition assistance for the rest of the fiscal year for everyone."
"That means soldiers like myself who now want to use the 'benefits' provided by the Army, after having been to Iraq, can now no longer do so. "Earlier this week, I told you about the Marine in Texas who lost his residency status -- and the cheaper tuition that includes -- because he spent two years serving in Iraq.
As Rudyard Kipling wrote more than a century ago:
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"Some things never change. (benallbright.blogspot.com) [HT: BlogTemps.com][Photo Credit: Army National Guard]
But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;
An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool -- you bet that Tommy sees!
The word comes in a detailed article looking at the timeline of the case, behind the scenes politics, and the bigger issues surrounding the leak. (LAT)
An Associated Press-Ipsos Poll found 9-in-10 Americans support the rights of people to voice thier oppostion to the war in public demonstrations. (AP via ABC)
Sources tell the Times the Inspector General report blasts Mr Tenent for failing to carry out a strategic plan against al Qaeda. It points out he wrote a 1998 memo to intelligence agencies stating "we are at war" with the terrorist group -- but no plan was ever put together in the following three years before the attack.
Dozens of other individuals are specifically named in the report -- which will likely remain secret for years. The report reccomends "accountability boards" to deal out punishment to employees still at the CIA for their failures. (NYT)
The report found that whites and minorities were stopped at roughly the same rate. But that blacks and hispanics were a lot more likely to have their car searched or be subjected to force after the stop.
That's when the head of the agency that did the study ran into trouble. Lawrence Greenfield was director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics. He started getting calls and visits from Justice Department bigwigs who told him to delet or water down any reference to racial or ethnic disparities.
Director Greenfield refused and published the report -- unaltered -- online.
Now he's been demoted. (Morningstar.com)
Thursday, August 25, 2005
Those cool sounding, Tom Clancey-esque names the Pentagon choses for our wars these days sound cool for a reason -- they're marketing gimmicks designed to win public support for a war.
They inspire and motivate people like a good movie title might lure a viewer in even if the reviews were all negative.
Now, at Arlington National Cemetary, those operation names are being carved on the gravestones of troops killed in the latest wars. That wasn't common in past fights. Usually, it just includes some basic information.
Families are supposed to have final say on what goes on the tombstones -- but that hasn't been happening lately. A lot of families are upset at what appears like an effort to turn their kins' grave marker into a billboard.
At this writing, 193 of the nearly 2,000 troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq are buried at Arlington National Cemetary. (WashPost)
Its a small island with only about 500 people on it in the middle of Lake Michigan. But, because of ferry service (right), it falls under the same laws as big ports like New York City or San Francisco.
The Washington Post's David Broder took his annual summer getaway there -- and found taxpayers were forced to spend $127,000 on a fence around the ferry landing to protect against terrorists.
It's part of a "one-size-fits-all" Maritime Security Act Congress passed that requires the same kind of security in Beaver Island -- population 500 -- as in New York City. (WashPost)
Anti-war protestors have followed the President as he defends his war plans this week. But the speeches have been to carefully screened crowds loyal to the President -- and supportive of his Iraq War effort.
Speaking in Idaho, The President singled out Tammy Pruett (above left) in the crowd. She's the mother of four sons currently deployed to Iraq. Her husband and a fifth son returned from Iraq last year.
No random chance she was there. The White House carefully choreographed the moment -- going so far as to give a heads up days or weeks ago to CNN. It's a story any TV producer would jump on immediately. But one that takes a long time to put together.
But within moments of the speech ending, CNN had profiles of the sons up and on the air -- even though they're scattered among different units across Iraq.
That's political theatre for you. (WashPost/CNN) [Photo Credit: White House photo by Paul Morse]
"Not an originalist, a strict constructionist or practitioner of stare decisis?"
The LAT runs a mini glossary. Clip it and keep by your TV dedicated to C-SPAN2. (LAT)
Click Supreme Court Image for Judge John G. Roberts Confirmation Information & Links
The burning was a "flag retirement" ceremony by the Boy Scouts.
Loudoun County School Board Chairman John A. Andrews II bought the flag. He'd planned to give it to a school named after Chris Newton and D.C. Lee -- passengers who died on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon.
But 9/11 families were outraged that a possible 9/11 artifact was auctioned.
So Mr Andrews figured the best thing to do was to give the flag an honorable retirement. The flag and the controversey both went up in smoke. (WashPost)
The BRAC Commission is supposed to save money.
But here's the math from the Pentagon: Closing Walter Reed could save $301 million over 20 years. Renovating and expanding Bethesda Naval to meet modern medical requirements would cost $989 million.
This explains why smart bombs sometimes miss their target.
By the way, the new hospital will be renamed Walter Reed. (WashPost) [Photo Credit: NIH]
But what the President pays -- or has you pay -- for his gasoline is a state secret. The White House refuses to release copies of the bills you pay for moving him around the country and around the world.
Take Air Force One -- the 747 version, he uses a lot of smaller planes, too. Back in 2004, it cost $3,974 an hour to operate the 747. Now, with higher gas prices, it's $6,029 an hour.
And so far this year, President Bush has made 73 trips. That includes a 60-day, 60-city tour to tout his Social Security reform plan -- which withered on the vine. Over his presidency, he's visited 46 countries -- some multiple times. Not bad for a guy who'd never been outside the US until he was elected President. The only states he's not visited are Rhode Island and Vermont.
The President's Caddy limo has extra weight from armor, so milage is a bit lower than the 18 city, 24 highway the stock production model gets. It'd cost $47 to fill up the 18-gallon tank on the non-armored version.
Back in 1998, Senate Republicans took President Clinton to task for setting travel records. They pointed out these stats at the time:
- Foreign trips by a U.S. president: 32 -- to 78 countries
- Days abroad: 154
- Rate of foreign travel: 27 days per year
(AP) [Photo Credit: US Air Force, US Secret Service]
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
CIA Director Porter Goss delivered the report personally to Congress Tuesday. The contents have not been made public. It could be months or years before a declassified version is available. The IG's report on the 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion was not declassified until 1998.
But the findings highlight specific failings and points fingers to specific individuals.
It was a large home in a well-to-do part of the city. And things looked promising. American flags fluttered around the yard in support of the troops. The kid's mom was wearing an American flag t-shirt when she met the Marine. And she declared, "I support you."
But the flags and lip service were all the support Mom wanted to give. She stopped the Marine dead in his tracks when he said he was there to talk about recruiting her son.
"Military service isn't for our son. It isn't for our kind of people." --Unidentfied Suburban Mother, quoted in the Post-Gazette
Military sociologists are calling this sort of thing "patriotism lite." It's part of a disconnect where civilians see the military as a different class, that civilians shouldn't have to sacrifice for a war effort, and that service members are paid to do a job -- so do it and don't complain.
Obviously, this doesn't go down well with service members.
Terry Neal of the Washington Post takes up the issue of the affluent and military service. He looks at exit polls and finds the affluent were the most likely to support President Bush in the last election.
Mr Neal also finds that the affluent are the least likely to enlist.
He cites a couple of researchers. Robert Cushing -- a retired professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin -- tracked American deaths in Iraq by where the dead troops came from in the US. He found a disproportionate number of the war dead were whites from small, poor, rural areas.
But it isn't the very poor who are sacrificing. They're also left out.
David R. Segal -- director of the Center for Research on Military Organizations at the University of Maryland -- studied that trend before the Iraq War. He found that the very poor are excluded from military service because of criminal records or insufficient education.
Meanwhile, recruiters have relied on incentives -- cash, training, and education -- to lure new recruits. Kids from more affluent families don't need those things and are less likely to join.
And Army records themselves bear out both observations. They find that the affluent and very poor are under-represented in the Army.
But both are eligible to slap a yellow ribbon magnet on their cars. (Pittsburg Post-Gazette/WashPost)
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
First, Rep Rick Boucher (D-VA) turned around and asked Congress for $400,000.
Then Sen John Warner (R-VA) decided $1 million would be even better.
Politics is the art of compromise. And Congress compromised by adding the two numbers together -- for a total of $1.4 million.
That's going to be one mighty fine railroad station in Bristol. Just too bad there's no train service there. (Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune)
Thing is, the project is not for Arkansas (right) -- it's for Alaska. Honest mistake -- made by Sen John McCain (R-AZ), tons of newspapers, and even this website. I stand corrected.
Lots of people confuse those two letter abbreviations. So let's go over them: AK = Alaska; AR = Arkansas, and AZ = Arizona. (Arkansas News Bureau)
"[T]he insiders say Rove hasn't backed away from his powerful role as one of President Bush's most valued advisers. He has been active, for example, in winning passage of the recently enacted transportation and energy bills..."He's now at work on the administration's plans for next year which include Social Security overhaul and tax reform.
The energy and transportation bills only included $38 billion in pork projects. Gotta wonder how Congress will tinker with Social Security and tax plans. (US News)
But the Pentagon says they can find no evidence that Atta was in fact IDed before the attacks the following year.
Rep Curt Weldon (R-PA) and Able Danger member Lt Col Anthony Shaffer claim the unit had a chart with Mohamed Atta's name and links to al Qaeda operatives nearly a year before the attacks. Lt Col Schaffer says the Pentagon blocked Able Danger from sharing the information with the FBI three times in 2000 and 2001.
Navy Captain Scott Phillpott also told the Presidential 9/11 Commission investigating the September 11 attacks in July of last year that he remembered seeing Atta's name on an Able Danger chart in the spring of 2000.
But no one can produce the chart. And the Pentagon says they can't find it either.
"What we have found are mostly sort of general reference to terrorist cells that people were generally aware of....
"But nothing that would seem to corroborate specifically what Congressman Weldon and Lieutenant Colonel Shaffer recall, although as you know they don't have what they said they saw. That makes it a little more difficult."
--Larry DiRita, Pentagon SpokesmanLt Col Shaffer has also said that the 9/11 Commission was given less than 5% of Able Danger's findings for their investigation last year. (AFP via Yahoo!)
Monday, August 22, 2005
He finds it ironic that White House adviser Karl Rove's favorite President was Richard Nixon -- andhow trivial matters are behind both men's White House woes.
Mr Pauken looks at how an obscure law may finally catch up with Mr Rove and the political tactics he honed as a College Republican working for President Nixon. (Houston Chronicle)
Congressmen often argue that pork is money spent someone else's district or state.
That's not always the case.
Chris Edwards of the Liberterian Cato Institute writes in an op-ed for the Pittsburg Post Gazette that there are some things Congress just shouldn't be paying for. He cites examples in the 2005 budget:
- $350,000 for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland
- $218,000 for a seafood plant in Oregon
- $250,000 for an Alaska statehood celebration
- $250,000 for sidewalk repairs in Boca Raton, Florida
- $1.4 million for upgrades to Ted Stevens Airport in Alaska
- $100,000 to Rochester, New York for a film festival
Take a look at California. About $3.4 billion of the $23 billion California got in the Highway Bill is for "earmarks." Those are specific projects instead of money for the general highway fund in the state.
Little old Bakersfield gets more money per person than San Francisco. That's thanks to Rep Bill Thomas (R-FL) who represents Bakersfield -- and has 14 terms of clout on Capitol Hill.
Here are some of the places the money went:
- $989 per person for Kern County, Bakersfield area
- $422 per person in San Francisco
- $99 per person in Los Angeles County
It helps to have connections. (Press-Democrat)
Here's how the marina go your money:
- Marina manager J.T. Wick and political consultant Jim Harberson went to Congress to ask for the money. Mr Harberson, by the way, is a former Sonoma County supervisor.
- They got some help from Santa Rosa lawyer Doug Bosco. He used to be a Congressman -- so he knows how the game's played on the Hill.
- So they were able to get a private audience with Rep Don Young (R-AK), Chairman of the House Transportation Committee.
Wick speculated that Young may have liked their idea because Alaska relies on ferries and because theirs was the only ferry presentation in a long line of presentations involving highway projects.
Oh, and there's a big ferry building industry in Alaska.
There you have it, do-it-yourself plans to get your own $20 million for a project local governments say are bad ideas. (Press-Democrat)
Thursday, August 18, 2005
The University says he spent too much time outside the state -- serving two tours of duty in Iraq.
That means his tuition shoots up from $500 to $2,600. (FOXNews)
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
Al Hurra has studios in the DC area. It broadcasts in Arabic to Middle East and South Asian countries. It's in the same part of the federal government as Voice of America.
The report says Al Hurra will air documentaries and news programs including "Panorama" -- the investigative reporting program that's been the BBC's flagship news magazine for 50 years. (DCRTV.com)
It's a sorry sign of the times when a deficit of $331 billion - roughly $1,100 and change in new debt for every man, woman and child in the country - is hailed as good news.
A deficit of $330-some billion is nothing to celebrate, for obvious reasons. What we borrow - more accurately, what is borrowed in our name - we have to pay back. We have to pay interest on the amount. And those dollars are dollars that could otherwise be going to track down terrorists, to pay for education, to pay for health care, you name it.
Something to think about, when the 50 people on that tiny Alaskan island drive across their quarter-billion dollar bridge or when anyone else uses their pork produced benefits. (Times-Citizen)
The Census Bureau's latest rankings of US households falls this way:
- Single Adults: 27 million
- Married with kids: 24.5 million
- Married with no kids: 20 million
Lawmen nabbed a Pakistani plotting to attack Jewish targets and military bases in California this September 11. Two other American-born prison inmates are in solitary for their part in recruiting a jihad against targets in California.
Authorities arrested Hammad Riaz Samara earlier this month.
The plot was put together in New Folsom Prison near Sacramento. Lawmen say an Oakland gang member and his cell mate recruited 13 other inmates for the attacks. The plot fell apart after the arrest of one of the conspirators -- Levar Washington -- for a series of gas station robberies. Police found a list of National Guard targets, along with plans for attacking the Israeli consulate and some synagogues in Mr Washington's home. (Express India)
Lt Col Anthony Shaffer was part of the team called "Able Danger." He tells FOX News and the New York Times the Commission recieved less than 5% of the information they gathered on Mohamed Atta and three other 9/11 hijackers in 2000.
Lt Col Shaffer says lawyers with the Special Operations Command in the Pentagon blocked three attempts to meet with the FBI -- all at the last minute. The meetings were set up in 2000 and 2001.
Around the time President Bush declared major combat operations in Iraq over, the Washington Post reported in April 2003, that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was responsible for:
"pushing the Special Operations Command from the sideshow niche it long has occupied to center stage in the 'global war on terrorism' and other U.S. military operations. After the Iraq war, which featured one of the biggest missions ever for Special Operations forces, that command 'is going to be the flavor of the month,' said one defense official." -- Washington Post, Sunday, April 20, 2003
It may leave a bad taste in a lot of people's mouths after the Able Danger revelations.
The 9/11 Commission left out any mention of Able Danger in their report. The three(USAToday) [Click on image to order the 9/11 Commission Report from Amazon.com]
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
"Beyond past revelations that the diocese quietly moved pedophile priests from parish to parish, The Blade investigation shows that at least once a decade - and often more - priests suspected of rape and molestation have been allowed by local authorities to escape the law."The investigation goes back 50 years. The sex abuse scandal has been rocking the Catholic Church in America for years. The Blade states in its investigation that the role civil authorities played in keeping it quiet has been overlooked.
Former diocese spokesman Jim Richards told the Blade that church leaders knew "who to call" to hush up allegations of abuse. (Toledo Blade)
- $953 million total spending in 42 states
- $48 million increase in spending over 2003
- 47,000 special interest groups lobbied statehouses
- 38,000 lobbyists hired for the job
- $130,000 per state legislator spent by lobbyists on average
Larry Northern of Waco is accused of driving over white crosses bearing the names of US service members killed in the Iraq War. The crosses were placed there by protestors joining Cindy Sheehan. She's the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq. Ms Sheehan's been camped outside the President's ranch demanding for more than a week to meet with President Bush. (MSNBC)
So what does Lt Gov Mitch Landrieu (D-LA) (right) do? Spend $1 million of state money fixing up his office and apartment.
The Lt Governor now has an apartment close to his office. Lt Gov Landrieu spent $419,000 whipping it into shape and another $536,000 remodeling his office. The money went for things like a decorative glass partition in his reception area. There was also a $10,000 interior decorating fee. (The New Orleans Channel) [Photo Courtesy of the Lousianna Lt Governor's Office]
If you adjust for inflation, the average price for a gallon of gasoline in 1981 would be $2.94 in today's dollars. After an 18-cent jump in prices over the past week -- the average gasoline price in the US was $2.55 a gallon Wednesday.
The price of oil in "real dollars" is nowhere near the record. Back in 1981, oil hit $40 a barrel. Adjust for inflation and that'd be $94 a barrel today. It's only at the mid-60 range. (InflationData.com)
Monday, August 15, 2005
"If she did win, I'd do whatever she asked."
I imagine that's probably been the rule since Monica-gate. (PoliticalWire.com)
The former Secretary of State was one of the architects of America's Vietnam policy. Appearing on CNN, Mr Kissinger said he has "a very uneasy feeling" about similarities.
He says the Vietnam War divided Americans. That made it impossible for the US government to ultimately achieve it's goals in Vietnam. Mr Kissinger sees the same divisions shaping up in the Iraq War.
And the White House now plans on ratcheting back it's expectations for what it can achieve in Iraq. (CNN)
Afterall, we all need ice picks to break up those huge blocks of airline ice for our in flight drinks.
But it makes you wonder if the government is taking seriously Robin bin Hood and his Sherwood Forest Liberation Front. (AP)
Marines are swapping the SUVs for donkeys. The pack animals keep parts of the country resupplied. About 30 of the critters carry food and water to Marines operating in mountains crawling with Taliban and al Qaeda fighters. The Marines say the donkeys are safer than driving trucks up booby trapped roads or flying in supplies where helicopters become sitting ducks. And with the high price of driving or flying, the Marines brag they're saving taxpayers money. (RedNova)
Sunday, August 14, 2005
"The United States no longer expects to see a model new democracy, a self-supporting oil industry or a society in which the majority of people are free from serious security or economic challenges, U.S. officials say." (WashPost)
Friday, August 12, 2005
The US has been spending and extra $900,000 a day since raising the terror alert to "Orange" for transit systems right after the London bombings.
The estimate comes from the American Public Transportation Association. (NPR)