Saturday, December 10, 2011

Barry's in-kind contribution




With just 10 words recently, President Barack Obama demonstrated to Americans how devastatingly out of touch he is.

"Over the last three years, we have made enormous progress," he proclaimed at a high-dollar campaign fundraiser in New York. Maybe his wealthy donors could be expected to believe that, but in Wisconsin we know better.

America's record poverty, high unemployment, soaring debt and growing sense of hopelessness are not the markers of "enormous progress." We are worse off since Obama took office, and he is either incapable or unwilling to admit it.

Americans deserve leaders who understand the crises we face - and know how to fix them. After all, how can we expect the president to solve any problem if he cannot grasp its magnitude?



Turning to the Defense Dept scandal over the Air Force dumping the remains of the fallen into a landfill, Charley Keyes and Barbara Starr (CNN) report:

Backtracking on initial information about how it handled the remains of American service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Air Force now says the cremated body parts of hundreds of the fallen were burned and dumped in the landfill.
Earlier, the Air Force said only a small number of body parts had been buried in a commercial landfill and claimed it would be impossible to make a final determination of how many remains were disposed of in that manner.

Yesterday Craig Whitlock and Mary Pat Flaherty (Washington Post) reported that the number of troops whose remains have been dumped is much greater than the Defense Dept has acknowledged, that the "partial remains of at least 274 American troops" have been dumped "in a Virginia landfill."

Jill Laster and Markeshia Ricks (Marine Corps News) report, "Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said he believes the service has found and fixed problems at Doer Port Mortuary and that a Defense Department panel will back up that belief." If that belief is backed up, that's disgusting. As Keyes and Starr report the Air Force's position is that they will apologize to any family . . . who objects. They are not contacting families and informing them of what happened. The families have to contact the Air Force. Who does the Air Force work for? Having already disrespected the fallen, they now can't even offer an apology. This is not accountability, this is not a sign of a government that works for the people. This is about bureaucrats who feels they shouldn't be bothered and that their mistakes are justifiable because they don't have to answer to anyone.

Mike Bowersock (Ohio's NBC 4i -- link has text and video) speaks with Iraq War veteran Daniel Hutchison who states, "I served in Iraq in 2006 and four of my really good friends were killed and it makes my blood boil to think they may be in a landfill right now. The argument can be made that it is difficult to try to identify all the pieces to bring it back home, but it's difficult to fight in a war."
The Defense Department is hardly a one scandal department. The Pentagon is coming under intense and deserved criticism for its refusal to initiate "a mental health program for National Guard soldiers." USA Today's Gregg Zororya reports on this latest government effort to save a penny by spitting on the National Guard. Zoroya quotes Senator Patty Murray who is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, "I was really surprised that the Departemtn of Defense decided to oppose this. It's just a no-brainer to make sure that this is out there for every Guard and Reserve member wherever they live." The Pentagon's own tracking demonstrates more National Guard service members have died from suicide in the last five years than have been died serving in Iraq or Afghanistan for any reason (other than suicide). At a time when the Pentagon has already used the National Guard in ways most didn't ever see happening, are they going to again refuse to give the Guards its due?
We don't have the time or space to go into all the times in the last years the Guard has been used to carry out military missions while being offered second-rate treatment in return, but we will note two things. First, this is from an NBC report former-US House Rep Martin Frost posted at his website:
When they came home from Iraq, 2,600 members of the Minnesota National Guard had been deployed longer than any other ground combat unit. The tour lasted 22 months and had been extended as part of President Bush's surge.
1st Lt. Jon Anderson said he never expected to come home to this: A government refusing to pay education benefits he says he should have earned under the GI bill.
"It's pretty much a slap in the face," Anderson said. "I think it was a scheme to save money, personally. I think it was a leadership failure by the senior Washington leadership... once again failing the soldiers."
Anderson's orders, and the orders of 1,161 other Minnesota guard members, were written for 729 days.
Had they been written for 730 days, just one day more, the soldiers would receive those benefits to pay for school.

So you've got what appears to be the Pentagon actively attempting to cheat Guard members. (Appears to be? I'm trying to be kind.) You've also got the Pentagon screwing them over when it comes to paying them. From Lisa Myers and NBC Nightly News' November 12, 2010 report:
Soldiers with the National Guard are already under the gun in Iraq and Afghanistan. But now a new government report claims that while the troops are fighting far from home, red tape is preventing many of them from being paid.
While National Guard soldiers fulfill their duty, risking their lives around the world, the Pentagon apparently is not living up to its obligation to pay them the right amount or on time. That's according to a new congressional report obtained by NBC News, which finds the Pentagon's pay process is such a mess it's having "a profound financial impact on individual soldiers and their families."
"This is well beyond anything I could ever imagine," said Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., "I would like to think if we send people off to war that we're not going to have them worry about whether their home is going to be taken because they can't pay their mortgage."
Those are just two examples. They both have to do with the Pentagon's problems paying the Guard for the work they're being asked to do. At a time when the Pentagon keeps insisting it's addressing the suicide issue, it's appalling that yet again they're trying to save a few pennies by short changing National Guard service members.

In other news of cheapness and crooked behavior, Ryan Abbott (Courthouse News Service) reports 28 firefighters are part of a class action lawsuit against "Wackenhut, KBR and Halliburton [who they allege] forced them to work around the clock in Afghanistan and Iraq but paid them for only half their time." Zoe Tillman (The BLT) quotes one of the attorneys representing the firefighters, Scott Bloch, stating, "This case is about very big government contractors making billions off of the back of firefighters and other people who work over there in Iraq and Afghanistan. They're going to make billions if they pay for work performed, but somehow that's not enough for them."
Lastly, the US Justice Dept notes a 20-month sentence for a US Army Corps of Engineers employee for bribery:
Friday, December 9, 2011
Former Army Corps of Engineers Employee Sentenced to 20 Months in Prison for Accepting Bribes from Iraqi Contractors

WASHINGTON - A former employee of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stationed in Baghdad, Iraq, was sentenced today in the Eastern District of Virginia to 20 months in prison for conspiring to receive bribes from Iraqi contractors involved in the U.S.-funded reconstruction efforts, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department's Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride for the Eastern District of Virginia and Assistant Director in Charge James W. McJunkin of the FBI's Washington Field Office.

Thomas Aram Manok, 51, of Chantilly, Va., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga. In addition to his prison term, Manok was sentenced to three years of supervised release. Judge Trenga ordered a forfeiture hearing to be held on Jan. 13, 2012. Manok pleaded guilty on Sept. 19, 2011.

Manok admitted to using his official position to conspire with Iraqi contractors to accept cash bribes in exchange for recommending that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approve contracts and other requests for payment submitted by the contractors to the U.S. government. According to court documents, in March and April 2010, Manok agreed to receive a $10,000 payment from one such contractor who had been involved in constructing a kindergarten and girls' school in the Abu Ghraib neighborhood of Baghdad and had sought Manok's influence in having requests for payment approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. According to court documents, Manok was to receive an additional bribe payment from the contractor once the contractor's claim had been approved. Manok also admitted that he intended to conceal the payments from authorities by transferring them, via associates, from Iraq to Armenia.

This case was investigated by the FBI's Washington Field Office, the Department of Defense Office of the Inspector General, the Army Criminal Investigation Command and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, as participants in the International Contract Corruption Task Force. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul J. Nathanson of the Eastern District of Virginia and Trial Attorney Mary Ann McCarthy of the Criminal Division's Fraud Section.

This prosecution is part of efforts underway by President Barack Obama's Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes. For more information about the task force visit:

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"The continued wounds"
"The continuing Air Force scandal"
"Fancy Dogs in the Kitchen"
"3 men, 3 women"
"Late night TV"
"Bird On A Wire"

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