Monthly Archives: January 2007

What you should know about that $110 Billion for Katrina recovery…

Oyster links to an excellent article by Chris Cooper who co-authored “Disaster: Hurricane Katrina and the Failure of Homeland Security.” Cooper spoke at the Rising Tide Conference and I highly recommend his book. I also recommend reading all of this article as there is so much there. For example, Cooper addresses the fallacy of that $110 Billion. Recently Bush cited the amount to defend not mentioning Katrina in the SOTU

Well, I gave a speech that I thought was necessary to give. On the
other hand, I had been talking a lot about Katrina and about the fact
that I worked with the Congress to get about $110 billion sent down to
both Mississippi and Louisiana to help them on their reconstruction
efforts.

Bush has talked a lot about Katrina? When? Where? I am having difficulty finding anything he has said on the subject since the one year anniversary photo op. As for the $110 Billion, read Cooper…

According to the White House, the federal government
has provided $110 billion for the Gulf Coast region. But nowhere near
that amount of actual cash has been made available. The total is spread
over five states and covers damage done by three separate storms. Some
of it consists of loans. A chunk comes from government insurance
payouts that ultimately derived from premiums paid by homeowners
themselves.

Of $42 billion given to the Federal Emergency
Management Agency, the agency has spent only $25 billion, federal
records show. Most of that went to temporary housing, debris removal
and emergency operations in the early days of the disaster. It has
spent more than $4 billion on administrative costs.

Louisiana says the Army Corps of Engineers has spent
only about $1.3 billion of the $5.8 billion it received to repair the
levees in and around New Orleans. Only about $1.7 billion of the $17
billion received by the Department of Housing and Urban Development has
made its way to the streets, the agency says.

In New Orleans, officials say they have received only
about 14% of the estimated $900 million in reconstruction money they
estimate is needed to fix the ruined city. “We have lots of meetings,”
says Cynthia Sylvain-Lear, the city’s liaison with FEMA.

The state and federal anti-corruption regulations offer a glimpse as to why reconstruction efforts are going so slowly.

The White House has kept in force a set of rules known
as the Stafford Act. Under its guidance, rebuilding funds must be
accompanied by a 10% match from local governments, on the theory that
localities won’t misspend if their money is also on the line.
Similarly, FEMA will cover only 75% of a project’s cost until the job
is complete.

The requirement has delayed projects while cash-strapped towns in two of the U.S.’s poorest states try to rustle up financing.

da po’ boy has more…$110 Billion Reason to Bang My Head

Rendition for the Renditoneers

Following in the footsteps of their Italian counterparts, German prosecutors pursue CIA agents involved in Chimpy’s “extraordinary rendition” kidnapping/torture schemes.

Prosecutors in the southern German city of Munich today obtained warrants for 13 CIA agents they say were involved in the kidnapping of a German citizen, Khaled el Masri.

Christian Schmidt-Sommerfeld, the Munich prosecutor, said the warrants had been issued by a local court this week.

The Bush administration has resisted any suggestion that it might allow the extradition of American agents.

Attempted Vehicular Homicide

Via ThinkProgress we bring you this Newsweek piece on Chimpy’s latest hilarious prank.

“I would suggest moving back,” Bush said as he climbed into the cab of a massive D-10 tractor. “I’m about to crank this sucker up.” As the engine roared to life, White House staffers tried to steer the press corps to safety, but when the tractor lurched forward, they too were forced to scramble for safety.”Get out of the way!” a news photographer yelled. “I think he might run us over!” said another. White House aides tried to herd the reporters the right way without getting run over themselves. Even the Secret Service got involved, as one agent began yelling at reporters to get clear of the tractor. Watching the chaos below, Bush looked out the tractor’s window and laughed, steering the massive machine into the spot where most of the press corps had been positioned. The episode lasted about a minute, and Bush was still laughing when he pulled to a stop.

Wolfowitz

This couldn’t come as a surprise…

Wolfowitz_toe_1

(AP Photo/Nadir Alp/Anatolia)

Given this 20 second gross out…

With A Cane That He Twirled ‘Round His Diamond Ring Finger

Every now and then I check out the White House’s Current News page to keep up with what they’re up to. It’s a good place to find the latest signing statements and the like.

This announcement caught my eye today.

President Bush Names Amy Zantzinger as White House Social Secretary

President George W. Bush announced today that Amy Swartz Zantzinger has been named Special Assistant to the President and White House Social Secretary.

[snip]

She is married to Richard Zantzinger and they have two children.

Richard Zantzinger, Richard Zantzinger… why does that name ring a bell?

Oh, yeah, Richard Zantzinger was the prominent Washington, DC, real estate investor and Maryland politico who fathered William Zantzinger, the 24-year-old socialite who drunkenly caned Hattie Carroll, immortalized in Bob Dylan’s The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll.

I wonder if the new White House Social Secretary’s spouse is related to William Zantzinger of those changing times?

Today On Holden’s Obsession With The Gaggle

Just a quickie gaggle as Chimpy heads to New York.

Pony sounds none too confident about the Iranian link to the attack on US forces that the Pentagon lied about last week.

Q On a different subject, how confident are you that Iran was behind the agents that killed those five soldiers in Karbala?

MR. SNOW: I’m not getting into that sort of speculation. I’d send you off to the Department of Defense for any readout they’re going to give. But let me just reiterate what the President said — we’re going to do force protection and people who are trying to kill our troops or to try to destabilize the democracy, we will respond to forcefully and appropriately.

Success!

Spocko and his readers/writers/e-mailers kicking some major ass.

I won’t bitch at Mr. A for spending too much money at Borders Books this month.

A.

On the one hand

Democratic leaders have agreed on a spending bill which contains No earmarks.Details Here. One detail involves the Army Corps of Engineers…

By declaring a one-time moratorium on earmarks, the Democratic leaders
are granting the Bush administration more leeway in spending. The Army
Corps of Engineers construction budget, for instance, typically
outlines funding for specific projects. But under the no-earmarks
pledge, Obey and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) decided that Congress cannot spell out spending, so they
opted to give a lump sum of $2.3 billion to the Army Corps — about $38
million less than it received in 2006 — and to allow the agency to
decide which projects deserve the money.

This will be an interesting year. ACE has been a pork barrel favorite of Congress for years. So no earmarks on the one hand is good news in that it gets their grubby hands away from projects.

On the other hand though is Bush. Not good.

Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves

Well, mostly thieves.

The U.S. government wasted tens of millions of dollars in Iraq reconstruction aid, including scores of unaccounted-for weapons and a never-used camp for housing police trainers with an Olympic-size swimming pool, investigators say.

The quarterly audit by Stuart Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, is the latest to paint a grim picture of waste, fraud and frustration in an Iraq war and reconstruction effort that has cost taxpayers more than $300 billion and left the region near civil war.

[snip]

The audit comes as President Bush is pressing Congress to approve $1.2 billion in new reconstruction aid as part of his broader plan to stabilize Iraq by sending 21,500 more U.S. troops to Baghdad and Anbar province.

[snip]

According to the report, the State Department paid $43.8 million to contractor DynCorp International for the residential camp for police training personnel outside of Baghdad’s Adnan Palace grounds that has stood empty for months. About $4.2 million of the money was improperly spent on 20 VIP trailers and an Olympic-size pool, all ordered by the Iraqi Ministry of Interior but never authorized by the U.S.

U.S. officials spent another $36.4 million for weapons such as armored vehicles, body armor and communications equipment that can’t be accounted for. DynCorp also may have prematurely billed $18 million in other potentially unjustified costs, the report said.

[snip]

Bowen, whose office was nearly eliminated last month by administration-friendly Republicans in Congress, called spending waste in Iraq a continuing problem. Corruption is high among Iraqi officials, while U.S. contract management remains somewhat weak.

[snip]

Bowen’s office opened 27 new criminal probes in the last quarter, bringing the total number of active cases to 78. Twenty-three are awaiting prosecutorial action by the Justice Department, most of them centering on charges of bribery and kickbacks.

New Rehabilitation Center Opens in San Antonio

I’m really glad our government is making an effort to rehabilitate the men and women who have given so much for their country, but I can’t help but think how unnecessary this war is and how poorly it has been executed. What a horrifying waste.

AP Photo/Eric Gay

A $50 million high-tech rehabilitation center opened its doors Monday, designed to serve the growing number of U.S. troops who return from war as amputees or with severe burns.

The privately funded Center for the Intrepid includes a rock-climbing wall, a wave pool and a virtual-reality computer system. About 3,200 people attended a dedication ceremony, including Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), both 2008 presidential hopefuls.

Of the roughly 20,000 U.S. forces injured since the start of the Iraq war, more than 500 have lost a limb — many in roadside bombings.

AP Photo/Eric Gay

Scout’s Obsession with the GAO: Why plan here for what’s over there

The GAO released a report titled “Actions Needed to Identify National
Guard Domestic Equipment Requirements and Readiness”
in which we learn
that planning to use the National Guard domestically in large-scale terrorist events
and natural disasters is lacking as well as the National Guard’s
equipment readiness for such domestic events.

Here is what the GAO said regarding planning…

 The Homeland Security Council has developed 15 catastrophic

 scenarios to guide federal and state governments in planning their

 response activities.While DOD is responsible for equipping the Guard

 for its federal missions and states plan for the National Guard’€™s

 activities within their borders, neither is comprehensively planning

 for the Guard’€’s role in responding to events like the national

 planning scenarios that may involve more than one state and be

 federally funded.Such planning has not been completed primarily

 because there is no formal mechanism for facilitating planning for

 the Guard’€™s role in large-scale events.

That’s reassuring.

The GAO recommended that the the National Guard Bureau’€™s charter and its
civil support regulations be revised to define its role in facilitating
state planning for multistate events.

However the DoD did not concur
claiming the function already exists in the Charter and that it is
inappropriate for the Chief of the NG Bureau to “coordinate directly
with other Federal agencies” as that is the responsibility of the
Secretary of Defense and Combatant Commanders.

So much for planning.

And related to that is the readiness issue given
if you don’t know what you need well you go to the disaster with what ya
got.

As regards the NG’s readiness the GAO reported…

 DOD does not routinely measure or report to Congress the equipment

 readiness of nondeployed National Guard forces for domestic

 missions.DOD’€™s legacy readiness reporting system and its annual

 National Guard equipping report to Congress address warfighting

 readiness but do not address the Guard’€™s domestic missions.

On average, states and territories had about 50 percent of their
authorized inventory
of dual-use equipment available for domestic
missions. (dual use=authorized for warfighting missions but could be
highly useful in responding to domestic events). The map below shows the
percentage for each state and territory. Note that Washington D.C. is
one of the lowest at 35.6%
gao map 3

(for larger image go to page 31 of Pdf linked above)

The GAO recommended…

 

Your President Speaks!

Today, in Peoria, where they apparently have the entrepreneurial spirit.

One, the business sector, small business sector of the heartland is strong. And it’s really strong because of the low taxes. But it’s also strong because of the entrepreneurial spirit is strong.

Your President Speaks!

This time he’s in East Peoria, Illinois, at a Caterpillar Plant.

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Drunkdeded

I was at the Sterling Brothers — Sterling Family Restaurant today — Sterling Brothers? — Sterling Family, yes, run by two brothers.

Let Me Finish!

Before I do, I want to thank Congressman Ray LaHood. He’s been bugging me ever since I got elected President — (applause) — I didn’t tell you what he’s bugging me about. He’s bugging me to come to Peoria.

You’ll Need A Translator

I want to spend some time explaining that to the American people why competition is important.

Has Got Product

Caterpillar has great workers because it has got good training programs. Caterpillar can employ new people because it makes good product that people want.

What Trade Is

Trade is an important subject here at Caterpillar, and the reason why is because a lot of the product you make here, you sell to somebody else, sell overseas to another country. That’s trade.

I Think I Know

I think it would be — I know it would be a mistake for Caterpillar workers to do that. I think it would be — I know it’s a bad mistake for the country to lose our confidence and not compete.

Behind The Numbers Is People

Now, in order to export something, somebody has to make it. In other words, when I talk about numbers, behind the numbers is people who are providing the service and/or making the product.

It’s Sure Is

These are new eras and it’s exciting times.

A “We Got” Avalanche

In order to compete, we got to have an education system that makes sure all children from all walks of life have skills necessary to fill the jobs of the 21st century; we got to be confident and open up markets so that our companies that produce products, goods and services that people want are able to sell them overseas; we got to have a tax code that keeps taxes low on the people who are working for a living; we got to have a health care system that is patient-centered, not government-centered; and we got to make sure that we don’t lose our confidence.

Here It Comes

Shit meets fan.

US Army Investigating New Torture Allegations

Alleged Former Abu Ghraib Guard Discussed Gang Rape in YouTube Video

Today On Holden’s Obsession With The Gaggle

Today’sgaggle opens with Pony Blow doing his best to belittle this weekend’s peace march.

Helen.

Q What did the President think of the march on Washington?

MR. SNOW: I don’t think he really thought a lot about it. It’s nice to see Jane Fonda in front of the camera again. There are a number of people who were here making statements, and that’s perfectly appropriate. This is a vigorous democracy.

Q You said something earlier this morning, though. Would you like to repeat that?

MR. SNOW: It’s simply that there were predictions of a larger audience than showed up for the protest.

Q And you really counted heads?

MR. SNOW: No. Did you? Did you see 100,000?

Q Don’t you think we had a good turnout?

MR. SNOW: Honestly, I didn’t go there, Helen, so I’m not going to characterize.

Q How do you make a statement like that?

MR. SNOW: Well, because it’s pretty clear from the press accounts that nobody attached six figures to the number who appeared.

“Slow Failure” = “Success”

Q I want to ask you about the mixed messages that NPR pointed out during an interview with the President — that the Vice President has been quoted as saying there’s a lot of success in Iraq; the President has said there’s not been enough success in Iraq, and that he doesn’t approve of what’s going on, either. How do you explain this disconnect and the kind of —

MR. SNOW: I see it less a disconnect as two different ways of looking at it.

[snip]

Q But when the President says that his Vice President is a glass half full kind of guy, might that be more charitable than others would allow, and they might think, no, when the Vice President talks about things going so swimmingly, that he’s out of touch with what’s going on?

MR. SNOW: You mean others are more critical of the Vice President than the President may be?

Q Yes.

MR. SNOW: Well, the Vice President does have a lot of critics.

Q Well, right, but the point is that, whether these are Republican critics or Democratic critics, the idea to — when the President says he’s a glass half full kind of guy, he’s not being a little bit charitable, I guess?

MR. SNOW: No, I don’t think so. Again, I think there are two ways you look at it. You can take a look at what happens — it’s important — everybody says, we support the troops, and everybody praises the troops. Well, then acknowledge what they do. And when they do have conflicts in the field, they do succeed.

[snip]

Q But to follow this, are the President and the Vice President — can we characterize them as being on the same page with their read on Iraq?

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q And the Vice President’s comments reflect the administration’s thinking?

MR. SNOW: Both the President and the Vice President — again, you can take a look at this in two ways, Jim. If you take a look in terms of specific military engagements, you can point to successes.

War Crimes? Na Gonna Go There

Q Is the President concerned that Israel may have used U.S. cluster bombs in South Lebanon, according to preliminary findings of the State Department?

MR. SNOW: What we’re doing is — I would encourage you to call the State Department about that. That’s in their bailiwick, and they’ll have a better answer for you.

Let’s Just Say The White House Toilets Are Full Of Bricks

Q How closely is the President following the Libby trial?

MR. SNOW: Not that closely really. I know there’s this perception that we’re all sitting around buzzing about it, but we really aren’t.

Q Well, I mean, you’ve got Rove and Bartlett both subpoenaed, and you’ve got the Vice President testifying. I would think there would be some interest in the White House.

MR. SNOW: Yes, but it’s just — look, it is what it is, it’s an ongoing trial, and we’re not going to comment on it further.

Q What is the President’s response to seeing the White House portrayed as being at war with itself?

MR. SNOW: Well, again, as I said, as tempting as it is to jump into that, we’re not commenting.

Your Daily Les Newsflash: Kinsolving Is Still A Tool

Q Thank you, Tony. Two questions. To the President’s knowledge, has the United States Senate ever before voted to confirm appointment of a combat commanding general, like General Petraeus, and then voted to condemn the mission that he will lead in what would be an astounding hypocrisy?

MR. SNOW: Well, I am not — I don’t think that the people who are discussing resolutions would characterize them in that manner, and nothing has been passed yet.

Q No, of course not, because they’re engaged in the hypocrisy. But isn’t it hypocrisy?

MR. SNOW: Well, thank you — thank you for the editorial comment. Let’s go to question number two.

Q The Hill newspaper on Capitol Hill reports that Jane Fonda’s fellow anti-war protesters were allowed to spray paint on part of the west front steps of the U.S. Capitol building on Saturday after U.S. Capitol Police were ordered by Chief Phillip Morse to fall back, after which 300 protestors spray painted, “Our Capitol building and you can’t stop us.”

And my question, does the executive branch believe the legislative branch should have allowed this treatment of the Capitol building of the United States?

MR. SNOW: Well, Les, what you’re doing is — I would encourage you, or all others interested, to call the Capitol Police and find out how this came to pass. I just — I can’t answer it.

Q Yes, one wonders what does the President — he must have an opinion of this? Doesn’t he? (Laughter.)

War Crimes

Don’t hold your breath waiting for the Bush Assministration to do anything about the war crimes that the State Department says Israel committed in Lebanon this past summer.

Israel likely misused American-made cluster bombs in civilian areas of Lebanon during the war against Hezbollah last summer, the State Department said Monday.

Spokesman Sean McCormack said a preliminary report has been sent to Congress on a U.S. investigation of the issue. He did not provide details of the investigation.

The United Nations said last summer that unexploded cluster bombs — anti-personnel weapons that spray bomblets over a wide area — litter homes, gardens and highways in south Lebanon.

When Israel purchases cluster bombs and other lethal equipment from the United States, it must agree in writing to restrictions on their use.

[snip]

The U.N. Mine Action Coordination Center has said that it is not illegal to use the cluster bombs against soldiers or enemy fighters, but the Geneva Conventions bar their use in civilian areas.

Relief organizations and the U.N. mine office have reported finding evidence that Israel used three types of U.S.-made cluster bombs during the 34-day war with Hezbollah militants, during which both sides fired rockets into populated areas.

The U.N. mine office said in a report that it had found hundreds of bomblets of the types made by the United States among unexploded ordnance recovered in nearly 250 locations in southern Lebanon.

[snip]

The Reagan administration imposed a six-year ban on cluster-weapon sales to Israel in 1982, after a congressional investigation found misuse of the weapon during Israel’s war that year with Lebanon.