Never Send a Contractor to do a Soldier’s Job

September 27, 2006

Nearly one year ago today, the Washington Post had this to say about the state of the Iraqi armed forces “rebuilt” by the current regime under the direction of Donald Rumsfeld:

The number of Iraqi army battalions that can fight insurgents without U.S. and coalition help has dropped from three to one, top U.S. generals told Congress yesterday, adding that the security situation in Iraq is too uncertain to predict large-scale American troop withdrawals anytime soon.

With that kind of negative press a year ago, why hasn’t the situation improved? Why has it gotten worse instead of better? Because of the fact that Donald Rumsfeld, with the blessing of the republican Congressional majority, is using Iraq as a cash cow for the only real constituency they care about – private military contractors.

Oh, how the worm has turned! Originally hailed for “training Iraqi soldiers, providing security, and – oh! – so much more,” they’re now another line-item embarassment in multi-billion dollar stop-gap funding bills that the “liberal media” is giving the shrub yet another free pass on.

Why is this an op-ed piece in last month’s Boston Globe instead of front-page news?

While Army privates died overseas earning $25,000 a year, David Brooks, the disgraced former CEO of body-armor maker DHB, made $192 million in stock sales in 2004. He staged a reported $10 million bat mitzvah for his daughter. The 2005 pay package for Halliburton CEO David Lesar, head of the firm that most symbolizes the occupation’s waste, overcharges, and ghost charges on no-bid contracts, was $26 million, according to the report’s analysis of federal Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

Who’d have thunk it, what with the pro-military party of fiscal responsiblity in power? You know, the ones who haven’t held a single oversight committee meeting since this farce in the Gulf began.

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Republican Congress Feasts at Taxpayer Trough, Keeps Scraps for Themselves

June 22, 2006

For the ninth time in as many years, the GOP-dominated Congress kept Democratic-sponsored legislation intended to raise the minimum wage from coming onto the floor for fear it might pass.

The Republican-controlled Senate smothered a proposed election-year increase in the minimum wage Wednesday, rejecting Democratic claims that it was past time to boost the $5.15 hourly pay floor that has been in effect for nearly a decade.

The 52-46 vote was eight short of the 60 needed for approval under budget rules and came one day after House Republican leaders made clear they do not intend to allow a vote on the issue, fearing it might pass.

Meanwhile, the people who brought you the Contract on with America have raised their own salaries to the tune of $30,000, or twice what is considered to be the poverty line for a family of three.

What else do you expect from a party whose never-earned-a-dollar-in-his-life leader thinks that a single mother working three jobs to support her family is "fantastic" and a "uniquely American thing?"


U.S.: China Not Manipulating Currency Like They’re Not Manipulating U.S. Policy

May 10, 2006

You might recall that I referenced an article from Asia Times Online that sheds some light on the nature of Sino-American economic relations and their influence on the the exercise of First Amendment rights in this country. Stephen McArthur at Orwell's Grave has done some terrific follow-up work, blogging about the dangers of China's unchecked economic growth generally to the U.S. economy and following-up on the Asia Times story in particular.

Call me paranoid, but I don't think the Chinese are going to limit themselves to trying to sway our Taiwan policy by using our $1.5B dollar-a-day debt habit against us. The fact is, China owns roughly half of the total U.S. foreign debt – a staggering $1.1 trillion dollars as of January, 2005. It's not hyperbole to say that God only knows what that figure is today; remember that in the smirking chimp's world $9B constitutes an accounting error.

What's the source of my unbridled pessimism about China and how it will wield its financial hammer against the United States of America? This article.

Apparently the United States has concluded that China, in defiance of all logic, is not manipulating its currency to increase its already enormous human capital advantage over U.S. manufacturers. As recently as last month Asia Times Online quoted Standard Chartered Bank senior economist Stephen Green as follows:

"It's true that China is manipulating its currency, but it's also true it's manipulating it in order to appreciate against the dollar. If it was following the basket [currencies such as the dollar, euro and yen used as a reference point] in recent weeks, it would actually be depreciating against the dollar," Green said.

The article goes on to explain:

When China initially revalued its currency upward last July, it committed itself to valuing the yuan against a basket of currencies. However, since the composition of the basket was never precisely defined, at least publicly, it is extremely difficult for outsiders to assess whether China is actually following the policy or not.

Note the timing: that article ran on March 31, 2006 – just ten days after Chinese dictator Hu Jintau visited the leaker-in-chief in Washington, D.C. to talk trade, and ten days before the GAO "concluded" that China is allowing market forces to determine the value of its currency. The reason that the latest currency report to Congress could state that China doesn't technically meet the legal definition of a currency manipulator is because the law forbids depreciating currency. In short, China dodged the "currency manipulator" label because they manipulated their currency!

Why is this a bad thing? Because it allows the persistence of the status quo in Sino-American relations:

  • The Iraq fiasco will continue to be financed with what amounts to loans from China, keeping the already sheep-like American electorate from realizing the true cost of the war effort.
  • China's ability to influence U.S. foreign and domestic policy by holding our debt over our collective heads will continue to grow in proportion to the amount of U.S. debt they hold.
  • It takes some of the steam out of the Schumer-Graham import tarrifs bill, providing political cover to free-traders in both parties while depriving the progressive base of the democratic party a potent issue to rally around.
  • It provides a foreign policy figleaf for the smirk to wear.
  • It does nothing to stem the loss of manufacturing jobs in the United States, which is not only an economic issue, but a true national security issue as well.

You can put lipstick on a pig and it will still look just like Barbara Bush; you can call a Communist dictatorship that treats its citizens like cattle and makes bellicose threats about nuking Los Angeles a "strategic competitor" and it's still a bellicose Communist dictatorship.