TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2005
AUSTIN, Texas -- The Big Whew blew over Texas, leaving
Port Arthur underwater and whole lot of stress across
the state. It is highly stressful to be in a car with
two adults, three children, the dog and the cat for a
12-to-20 hour trip from Houston to Austin, Dallas or
San Antonio. It is also stressful to have two adults,
three children, their dog and their cat move into your
1,200-square-foot house with you, especially if your
sister-in-law thinks anyone who criticizes George W.
Bush is a tool of Satan.
Stress-sensitive groups like Alcoholics Anonymous
were doing land-office business in Texas this weekend,
while bartenders served up the KatrinaRita. Austin, of
course, was also having a music festival and offering
free yoga and aromatherapy sessions to hurricane
refugees. Austin musicians have adopted New Orleans
musicians en masse: You're practically no one if you
haven't got a Neville in your guest room.
The refugees trade tales of heroism and generosity,
along with reports of the bad and the ugly. That's
human nature, but there's nothing forgivable about
organized government corruption.
I'm sorry, there are no exceptions: The first
commandment of governing is Thou Shalt Not Steal the
People's Money. Ronald Reagan came into office in 1980
on the mantra that he would rid the nation of Waste,
Fraud and Abuse. He proceeded to raise the national
deficit by $2 trillion with tax cuts and spending on
the military in the face of a collapsing Soviet Union.
This led to the peppy military procurement scandals of
the late '80s and early '90s -- the $435 hammer and
the $640 toilet seat.
When Newt Gingrich and Co. took power in 1994, they
promised many "reforms" and spent millions of dollars
on hearings and investigations -- the endless
prosecution of Henry Cisneros may actually be a
stronger case in point than the impeachment of Bill
Clinton. Despite these splendid efforts, they never
could find the Waste, Fraud and Abuse they claimed
were the hallmarks of government. But this Bush
administration has given us Waste, Fraud and Abuse
The waste of money in Iraq is already into the
billions, and the lack of accountability is fed by a
Republican Congress that refuses to seriously
investigate anything done by the Republican
administration. The sums being overtly wasted are
already staggering, and because there is no
accountability, we can expect that situation not only
to continue, but deteriorate.
With billions being allocated to clean up after
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, you can already smell the
corruption -- fat contracts awarded without
competitive bidding. The New York Times reports, "More
than 80 percent of the $1.5 billion in contracts
signed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency
alone were awarded without bidding or with limited
competition, government records show, provoking
concerns among auditors and government officials about
the potential for favoritism or abuse."
"Provoking concerns," eh? Good old Times, eternally
blah -- why doesn't it ever run a screaming headline
that says, "You're getting ripped off!" "They are
Stealing Your Money to Pay Off Their Political Pals!"
The trouble with journalism in this country is that
it's too damn polite.
Look, this is rank, nasty business -- corruption,
cronyism and competence (the lack thereof) are the
issues here. And as we have so recently and so
painfully been reminded, when government is run by
corrupt, incompetent cronies, real people pay a real
price. There is nothing abstract about swollen bodies
floating in flooded streets or dozens of old people
dead in nursing homes.
Frankly, it's just a mercy most of Houston didn't
drown in a giant traffic jam last week. Already, the
corporate vultures are moving in -- contracts are
arranged through people like Joe Allbaugh, the former
FEMA director who brought in his old buddy Michael
("Heckuva job, Brownie") Brown to run the agency.
This pattern is not just one rotten agency: The
arrest last week of David Safavian, the Bushie who
oversaw contracts for the Office of Management and
Budget, ties into a whole nest of cronyism. Safavian's
friend and former lobbying partner is Jack Abramoff,
who in turn is big buddies with Texas Rep. Tom DeLay.
The corporate clout in this administration is
mirrored everywhere, with the same pattern of crony
contracts. Allbaugh didn't just start getting
contracts for politically connected firms after
Katrina. He's been in Iraq, where he has a flourishing
lobbying business precisely to help corporations get
Already, Homeland Security is flooding what's left
of New Orleans with mercenaries from the same private
security contractors flourishing in Iraq. The Nation
reports companies like DynCorp, Intercon Security,
American Security Group, Blackwater, Wackenhut and an
Israeli company called Instinctive Shooting
International are all in New Orleans.
"Some, like Blackwater, are under federal contract.
Others have been hired by the wealthy elite, like F.
Patrick Quinn III, who brought in private security to
guard his $3 million private estate and his luxury
hotels, which are under consideration for a lucrative
federal contract to house FEMA workers."
Baghdad on the Bayou for real. (Molly Ivins)
Yahoo! Mail - PC Magazine Editors' Choice 2005
The Beginning of the End.
5 years ago