Sunday, August 26, 2007

Rolling Stone :: The Great Iraq Swindle

The administration has consistantly turned any and every foreign or domestic disaster into a giveaway to his family's business partners. The result has been billions flowing unaccountably out of public coffers and into who knows what private hands.

How did this happen? The short answer is, because we have allowed it. Rolling Stone offers a little more exposition:

Operation Iraqi Freedom, it turns out, was never a war against Saddam ­Hussein's Iraq. It was an invasion of the federal budget, and no occupying force in history has ever been this efficient. George W. Bush's war in the Mesopotamian desert was an experiment of sorts, a crude first take at his vision of a fully privatized American government. In Iraq the lines between essential government services and for-profit enterprises have been blurred to the point of absurdity -- to the point where wounded soldiers have to pay retail prices for fresh underwear, where modern-day chattel are imported from the Third World at slave wages to peel the potatoes we once assigned to grunts in KP, where private companies are guaranteed huge profits no matter how badly they fuck things up.

Of course, these are the same people who ran Vietnam - which gives the President's recent gaffes concerning that conflict a certain extra resonance. Whatever else that particular military adventure might have been, it was also the most profitable scam of the previous century. Ask any good detective, and he'll tell you: always follow the money.

Terrorist Watch Lists: 'Excessive, Inaccurate, Ineffective'

Surprisingly, this is news to some people:

The numbers "suggest a staggeringly high rate of false positives with respect to the identification of supposed terrorists. This really confirms the long-standing fear that this list is inaccurate and ultimately ineffective as an anti-terror tool."

The administration needs to be introduced to the Base Rate Fallacy. Bruce Schneier has more to say on this subject.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Bush's Report Card Comes In

And things do not look good for his 'legacy'. The I-35 bridge in Minneapolis demonstrates it is built on a rotten foundation:

Dams (D+) Since 1998, the number of unsafe dams has risen by 33% to more than 3,500. ... $10.1 billion is needed over the next 12 years to address all critical non-federal dams--dams which pose a direct risk to human life should they fail.
Drinking Water (D-) America faces a shortfall of $11 billion annually to replace aging facilities and comply with safe drinking water regulations. Federal funding for drinking water in 2005 remained level at $850 million, less than 10% of the total national requirement.
Wastewater (D-) Aging wastewater management systems discharge billions of gallons of untreated sewage into U.S. surface waters each year. The EPA estimates that the nation must invest $390 billion over the next 20 years to replace existing systems and build new ones to meet increasing demands. Yet, in 2005, Congress cut funding for wastewater management for the first time in eight years. The Bush administration has proposed a further 33% reduction, to $730 million, for FY06.

There is no excuse whatsoever for the wealthiest country in the world to be unable to educate its children or get rid of its feces. Yet this is the pass that Norquist-esque "small government" types have brought us to. We are $1.6 trillion behind in needed infrastructure repairs and improvements. The President's passed $1.35 trillion in tax cuts since 2001, and is constantly pressing for more. Meanwhile, the illegal and counter-productive war in Iraq has siphoned off another $600 billion - at least, above-board. And in every legislature and a thousand odious 'think tanks', the 'drown it in a bathtub' set continue to push for more tax cuts that lead to further neglect. From Katrina on, every collapsed bridge and every wastewater overflow is another example of their vision of America.

Edit:A Minnesota State DOT report(.XLS) indicates that this bridge was slated for repairs in 2006, but those were deferred until 2007 for reasons of 'efficiency'. The bridge was last inspected in 2001; that inspection report can be viewed here(.PDF).