Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Wasted government money, wasted 'scoops'

In March of last year, the Justice Dept announced: "A captain in the United States Marine Corps was charged today with conspiring with his wife to skim approximately $1.75 million from government contracts awarded under the Iraqi First Program while he was acting as a Marine Corps contracting officer's representative in Iraq. Eric Schmidt, 39, of Murietta, California, who is assigned to the First Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, was charged this morning with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and filing a false tax return that concealed the illicit income from the Internal Revenue Service. Capt. Schmidt's wife, Janet Schmidt, 39, also of Murietta, also was charged today with the same two felony counts. According to the criminal information filed this morning, Capt. Schmidt used his position in the contracting process to steer contracts to his favored Iraqi contractor, the Al-Methwad Company. The contracts were often awarded under the Iraqi First Program, which was designed to award certain contracts to Iraqi vendors to assist with Iraqi economic expansion and entrepreneurship. Once Al-Methwad had been awarded the contract, Janet Schmidt found United States-based vendors to provide the goods purportedly to be furnished by Al-Methwad under the terms of the contract. Janet Schmidt purchased the goods using money provided by Al-Methwad, often purchasing far fewer or inferior products than those required by the contract. She then arranged for the goods to be delivered to the United States Marines in Iraq. Once the shipment arrived in Iraq, Capt. Schmidt falsely certified that both the number and type of goods required by the contract had been provided by Al-Methwad Company to the Marines. Armed with the false certification, representatives from Al-Methwad Company sought and received payment from the United States."

Tony Perry (Los Angeles Times) reports ERic Schmidt received a six year sentence to a federal prison and that Janet Schmidt will be sentenced in March. The amount of money they were convicted of stealing? $1.69 million. And what does the government have? "propereties in Big Bear and Murrieta" which are not worth what they were in 2008, "two automobiles and $40,000 in cash" and, no, that's not the same as the $1.69 million the couple made off with, $1.69 million of tax payer money. Nothing in the case, in fact, argues well for the claims that US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey made last week about a system being in place to prevent theft of tax payer dollars from the money he would love to see allocated to Iraq. Dan Whitcomb (Reuters) quotes Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen stating, "The Schmidts defrauded U.S. taxpayers, cheated the Iraqi people and betrayed the trust placed in them. They will now pay a price for their criminal wrongdoing."

In news of other failures, Mark Benjamin, Barbara Slavin and The Center for Public Integrity think they've done something with their b.s. story on 'ghost soldiers.' Let's all play along for a moment and see if we can spot the problem:

The Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command should have been the vanguard of those efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, helping to restore electricity, building water systems and spreading good will.
But for most of Rumsfeld’s tenure, the command lacked the soldiers, training and equipment to do the job successfully, and disguised its weaknesses by keeping "ghosts" on its books, internal Army memos show.

What's wrong? Any sentence starting with "The Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command should have been the vanguard" is going to be wrong. Key phrase: "Psychological Operations." It's cute the way Benjamin and Slavin want to ignore that aspect of the story and act as if it was a brigade of construction workers. When they want to get honest, we might take them seriously, until then they're just two reporters who lost their outlets and are now on the hustle and take. And you can mash that up and roll it out any way you want, it still won't produce "integrity." Nor will dropping off the "Psychological Operations Command" aspect of the title although Pat Milton (CBS News) tries to make a go at that. For those who don't know, Benjmain's a FAIR pet. Any other week and he'd be a shoe-in for a CounterSpin segment due to this 'report' -- he may still be. If he does end up CounterSpin in the near future, pay very close attention to see whether they get to the realities that the Center for Public Integrity avoided. Chances are, they won't. Though the CounterSpinner will find a way to yet again present Benjamin as heroic.

The following community sites updated last night:

Lastly, David Swanson wonders "Why Did the President Cross the Road?" (War Is A Crime) and answers:

To kneel before the corporate throne of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. And here's what he had to say there on Monday.

President Obama again stressed that he wanted to freeze non-war/military spending well into the next president's tenure:

"That's why I've proposed that we freeze annual domestic spending for the next five years. Understand what this means. This would reduce the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade, and bring this spending -- domestic discretionary spending -- down to the lowest share of our economy since Eisenhower was president. That was a long time ago."

President Obama again pretended that Social Security is breaking a budget that it is not in any way a part of, and that Social Security is in trouble. (In reality the damage he did to it a few months back could be repaired and more by simply requiring people with large incomes to pay in at the same rate as people with small ones):

"Because the driving force on our deficits are entitlements spending. And that's going to require both parties to work together, because those are some tough problems that we're going to have to solve. And I am eager to work with both parties and with the Chamber to take additional steps across the budget to put our nation on a sounder fiscal footing."

Which branch of the government is the Chamber exactly? I need one of those Constitutional refreshers that Congress attaches to bills now. And how can the Chamber support, i.e. destroy, Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid if it is not a branch of government?

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thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends