So it's been exactly four weeks to the day since it was reported that Presidential Medal of Freedom winner L. Paul Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority lost $9 billion
in taxpayer dollars.
Does anybody care?
Freedom medal winner L. Paul certainly don't:
This reports ``assumes that Western-style budgeting and accounting procedures could be immediately and fully implemented in the midst of a war,'' Bremer said.
What the fuck, L. Paul? We can't expect "western-style budgeting and accounting procedures" now? Are we in fucking Deadwood here?
On second thought, better not answer that.
"No law at all in Deadwood...is that true?"
Why this matters on the flip.
To reiterate the timeline:
On January 30, 2005, exactly four weeks ago today, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq released a report that concluded that the Coalition Provisional Authority, under the direction of United States Presidential of Freedom winner, L. Paul Bremer, lost $9 billion due to "inefficiences and bad management."
One day later, Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH), the Ranking Member on the House Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations, demanded a broad investigation of the $9 billion in missing reconstruction funds in Iraq, including a criminal investigation and Congressional hearings.
Exactly one week later, three weeks ago today, President Bush unveiled his $2.5 trillion budget, which proposes to eliminate dozens of domestic programs, including many that directly affect the poor, the weak and the infirmed.
Just as a point of order, kiddies, let's see just what possible programs that the Compassionate Conservative Chimp in Chief proposes to cut that could be fully funded if his Medal of Freedom winner had implemented some of those "Western style" accounting practices:
"I wouldn't trust a man who wouldn't try to steal a little." --Al Swearengen, proprietor of The Gem Saloon, Deadwood.
Some of the potential casualities of the "untidiness" that is the Folly in Iraq:
-- $1.8 billion unfunded monies for community block grants;
-- Cut $4.3 billion in 48 educational programs, including $2.2 billion for high school programs, mostly state grants for vocational education;
-- Cut $440 million in Safe and Drug-Free School grants;
-- Cut $500 million in education technology state grants;
-- Cut $225 million for the Even Start literacy program;
-- Cut $280 million for Upward Bound programs for inner-city youths;
-- Cut $150 million talent research program;
-- Cut $100 million in grants for land and water conservation;
-- Cut $94 million in grants for the Healthy Communities Access Program and phase out rural health grants;
--Cut a $143 million program for the removal of severely distressed housing;
That's a tidy sum of just over $8 billion. Leaving the Chimp a tidy $800 million to play with.
Meanwhile, hot on the trail of grifting in Deadwood, errr, Bagdad:
Exactly two weeks after the inspector general's report, the Democratic Policy Committee (DPC) held An Oversight Hearing on Waste, Fraud and Abuse in U.S. Government Contracting in Iraq (transcript here). Although all were invited, not a single Republican Senator chose to attend.
It's really too bad they didn't because, if they had, they really would have thought they'd been dropped into Deadwood. (I'm telling you, I caught some of this hearing live on CSPAN and they need a motto: "It's not TV, it's CSPAN." Crazy shit. Guys talking about playing indoor football with $100,000 bricks of Ben Franklins. Paying "ghost employees." I'm not making this up.
Here's a telling exchange between whistleblower Franklin Willis, who served in Baghdad as the Senior Aviation Official for the Coalition Provisional Authority under Freedom Medal winner L. Paul, and Senator Byran Dorgan:
Dorgan: But I wanted to start -- Mr. Willis, in your testimony that I had read, you talked about the issue of people being paid cash in bags and a substantial amount of that kind of thing going on. (snip) I think you described it as, kind of, a Wild West approach where somebody is to bring a bag and they get money in the bag, cash in the bag.
Mr. Willis: Yes, that was a rumor. I don't have personal knowledge. There had to be a lot of money there, whatever the sum was, because when we had to pay the second payment to Custer Battles of $2 million, an Air Force captain went down, got the money and brought it up. I've submitted to the committee a picture of that payment, in fact. Let me give you...
Sen. Dorgan: The captain went and got $2 million in cash?
Mr. Willis: Yes. $100 bills in plastic wrap. We played football with the plastic wrapped bricks for a little while. There is picture evidence of that particular transaction.
Uh, excuse me? The captain went and got $2 million in cash? And you played football with it? I don't even think Al Swearagen has stones this big. Well maybe:
Swearengen: "Don't count on him to be loyal. And no fucking paperwork."
Nuttall: "I don't even know if he can write."
Yeah, but can he get a job for the CPA?
Here's another nice exchange. This time between Dorgan, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and Willis:
Sen. Dorgan: The photograph that you reference is up here on a chart. It shows -- I believe that's the way money was transferred there.
(Note: The picture showed a pile of money on a table with three smiling Americans behind it, including the author.)
Is that correct? It sounds to me your description of passing money around to three, four different places in order to get it to somebody who that it's owed is kind of like passing an ice cube around. You know, by the time the person at the end of the line gets the ice cube, it's a radically different ice cube. Much smaller, I might suggest.
Well, let me call on my colleague Senator Reid.
Sen. Reid: What is the setting of that picture behind us?
Mr. Willis: That's the office of the advisers' group to the Ministry of Transportation. That's actually my desk right behind me. I'm the person in the middle there.
Sen. Reid: What is the --
Mr. Willis: We're in the palace ...
Sen. Reid: What are you doing with the money?
Mr. Willis: CPA headquarters. There was a payment due to Custer Battles of $2 million on July 31, 2003. And so we brought the money up, called in Mike Battles and said, "Bring a bag."
Sen. Reid: You know, I'm from Nevada and in years past there's been criticism about the cash involved in some of the old Nevada operations. I mean that's baby stuff compared to what we see even in this picture. How much money do you think we see right there in that picture?
Mr. Willis: Well I know exactly how much money that is. That's $2 million in $100,000
plastic-wrapped bricks. My right hand is holding $100,000 in that picture.
Reid had to leave early. But here was his final statement and you could feel the rage burning in his words. You could see it in his eyes:
Mr. Reid: I want to just say, Senator Dorgan, thank you very, very much for holding this hearing. I mean, the sad part about this -- we shouldn't be holding this hearing. This should be done by committees having jurisdiction to do oversight of these government operations. This is a scandal. I don't know -- you know, this is only the tip of the iceberg. This is absolutely unbelievable. I mean, I can't imagine that our government is allowing something like this to happen. We're talking about billions of dollars -- billions of dollars.
So we have a billion dollar scandal on our hands that republicans don't want to investigate, hell, they don't even want to hear about it. Meanwhile, Even Start literacy and Upward Bound, gutted!
"I'm declaring myself conductor of this meeting as I have the bribe sheet." -- Swearengen
If you're with me thus far, here's a final goodie from the DPC meeting. This time it's Rep. Henry Waxman and Willis:
Rep. Waxman: Let me ask you about a specific example. Iraqi Airways had 2,400 employees in late 2003, but hadn't been operational for some time. Isn't that right?
Mr. Willis: That's correct.
Rep. Waxman: And has the airline been fully operational, how many individuals could
reasonably have been employed?
Mr. Willis: Three hundred, 400 maximum.
Rep. Waxman: Yet the provisional authority -- here you have an airline that's not even
operating, the provisional authority wanted to make sure the employees are paid and they
paid the salaries of 2,400 people, regardless of whether these employees were actually
working. Do you know if the 2,400 employees were actually real people?
Mr. Willis: I presume that some of them are ghost employees... (snip)
People, one of the problems we have with chasing these corrupt fuckers is we almost end up with "scandal overload." Every day I think we're finally seeing THE scandal. The outrage. And you know what? Gone in the next news cycle.
I think we need to hammer the point home to voters everywhere that while their school programs and environmental protections and worker protections are being gutted in the interest of balancing the budget, the recent recipient of the Presidental Medal of Freedom and his ex-BOSS could care less where $9 billion of taxpayer dollars went! Damn, if we can't attack the rethugs in their pocketbooks, what chance to we have?
"Here's my counter-offer to your counter-offer: go fuck yourself." --Al Swearengen
Is this Deadwood or the Senate floor on picture day?
Am I living in Bizarro World?