Archive for May 4th, 2008

What Obama And Hillary Should Have Said

See, this is why I wanted the Democratic candidates to ask Howard Dean for pointers before they offered themselves up to be interviewed on Fox News:

WALLACE: The left wing of your party is in a snit over all these Democrats appearing on Fox. In fact, the head of MoveOn.org had this to say about Democrats on Fox. “It legitimizes a right wing network that is going to use that credibility to smear them in the general election.” He and the head of the Daily Kos are using words about you guys showing up here as weak, idiotic, stupid. How do you respond to the left wing?

DEAN: What I’d say is this: we stayed off Fox for a long time because your news department is, in fact, biased. But, Chris, you haven’t been. You’ve always been tough, but I always thought fair and I still think that’s true. And we need to communicate with people who are going to vote in the Democratic Party. Hundreds of thousands of Republicans have turned their back on their own party to vote in the Democratic primaries in the last six months. We owe it to our — to all the American people to reach out to those folks. This is not about Fox News. That’s not why I’m here today. I’m out because I want to talk to your viewers directly about why this election is important and what we can offer the American people.

WALLACE: Let me ask you, and obviously it’s always about the millions of people who watch these shows. Looking back, do you think it was a mistake for the Democratic Party to boycott Fox debates and all the other programs during the last year and thereby boycott getting your message out to the millions of people who watch?

DEAN: No, I think it was the right thing to do, because there are some things in the news department that have really been shockingly biased and I think that’s wrong and I just say so right up front. It is important also for us — we shouldn’t punish the viewers of Fox by staying away. Now those viewers have had an opportunity to look at the debates on other channels, now they’re going to have an opportunity viewing on this channel and I think that’s fair.

But wait, there’s more:

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said Sunday that Republicans are using “hate and divisiveness” to win elections.

Dean argued that the use of Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) former pastor Jeremiah Wright in GOP ads in local races is “race baiting.”

“When you start bringing up things that have nothing to do with the candidate and nothing to do with the issues, that’s race baiting,” Dean said on Fox News Sunday in response to a question whether the Wright issue and his ties to Obama hurt Democrats down ticket.

“There’s a lot of difference between the Republicans and the Democrats on issues, but the biggest issue of all is we don’t use this kind of stuff. We never have used this kind of stuff, and we’re not going to start now,” said the DNC chairman. “America is more important than the Republican Party, and that’s the lesson that the voters are about to teach the Republicans.”

Awesome.  Why can’t all the Democrats say stuff like that?

(He did let Chris Wallace off a little too easy, but he called Fox News and the GOP out for what they are, which is the most important thing.)

2 comments May 4th, 2008 at 08:00pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Clinton,Democrats,Elections,Media,Politics,Republicans

Unaccountable Contractors

Yet another great example of how much the Bush administration cares about our troops:

The Pentagon has provided $30 billion in contracts to KBR during the Iraq War.  Apparently that’s just the Basic Troop Support Package, however, because it’s not enough money to keep the contractor from electrocuting a dozen troops in showers and elsewhere throughout Iraq and Afghanistan.

(…)

The accidental deaths and close calls, which are being investigated by Congress and the Defense Department’s inspector general, raise new questions about the oversight of contractors in the war zone, where unjustified killings by security guards, shoddy reconstruction projects and fraud involving military supplies have spurred previous inquiries.American electricians who worked for KBR, the Houston-based defense contractor that is responsible for maintaining American bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, said they repeatedly warned company managers and military officials about unsafe electrical work, which was often performed by poorly trained Iraqis and Afghans paid just a few dollars a day.

One electrician warned his KBR bosses in his 2005 letter of resignation that unsafe electrical work was “a disaster waiting to happen.” Another said he witnessed an American soldier in Afghanistan receiving a potentially lethal shock. A third provided e-mail messages and other documents showing that he had complained to KBR and the government that logs were created to make it appear that nonexistent electrical safety systems were properly functioning.

(…)

One former KBR electrician was quite frank about what’s going on:

And Mr. Bliss, who saw a soldier standing next to him in Qalat, Afghanistan, receive a severe shock from an electrical box that was not supposed to be charged, said his KBR bosses mocked him for raising safety issues. They were “not giving the Army what it needed,” he said, “and not giving the soldiers what they deserved.”

I understand that accidents happen in combat zones.  I know that nothing ever runs perfectly under these conditions.  But that’s not what bothers me.  What bothers me is the fact that taxpayers are funding these clowns to the tune of $30 billion and counting.  And they’re not capable of producing work remotely close to what the government could do for itself in terms of quality and speed.

And then there’s this:

In March 2005, one of the Pentagon’s most trusted contractors – Virginia-based MPRI, founded by retired senior military leaders – won a $400 million contract to train police in Iraq and other hotspots. Two months later, MPRI set up a company in Bermuda to which it subcontracted much of the work.

It was not the first time that MPRI executives had used a shell company in an offshore tax haven to perform government-funded work. A year earlier, MPRI headed a joint venture that won a $1.6 billion contract to provide US peacekeeping forces in Kosovo and elsewhere. Three months later, MPRI set up a company in the Cayman Islands to do the work.

Like MPRI’s Bermuda subsidiary, the Cayman Islands company appears to have no phone number, website, or staff of its own there.

Rick Kiernan, an MPRI spokesman, declined to explain why the company created the two offshore entities and stressed that MPRI operates in “total adherence or compliance with the current law.”

But tax lawyers say that MPRI appears to be avoiding the payment of roughly $4 million dollars a year in Social Security and Medicare taxes for the police-training contract alone and is sidestepping scrutiny by hiring workers through offshore entities based outside the jurisdiction of the Internal Revenue Service.

“The employer is trying to take itself out of the audit reach of the IRS,” said California-based tax lawyer James R. Urquhart III.

(…)

MPRI’s use of offshore shell companies has received little notice from the agencies that pay for their services. State Department officials say that their contractors have a right to subcontract work, even to their own wholly-owned subsidiaries set up in offshore tax havens.

“A contractor generally has the right to retain and terminate subcontractors as it deems necessary,” a State Department official said in an e-mail response to a Globe inquiry.

The US Army, for its part, also has declined to condemn the practice.

“We know that it is a practice that goes on,” said Jeffrey Parsons, director of contracting for the Army Materiel Command. “I would not say anyone encourages it, but there are no rules or pratices that would prohibit it. I think that is why Congress is weighing in.”

I can’t imagine what it would take for one of these companies to lose a government contract, much less face criminal sanctions.

Stories like these really drive home the relationship between the government and the contractors: The contractors aren’t paid to deliver services, they’re paid for being loyal and connected Republicans, so it doesn’t matter whether they deliver on their contracts (or manage to not kill anyone), or whether they pay their fair share of taxes.  It’s nothing more than cronyism at the corporation level.

(h/t dakine)

May 4th, 2008 at 03:01pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Corruption/Cronyism,Iraq,Republicans,Wankers,War


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