April 15, 2008 archive

Four at Four

  1. More privatization success for the Bush administration! The Washington Post reports Private debt collectors cost IRS more than they raise.

    The Internal Revenue Service expects to lose more than $37 million by using private debt collectors to pursue tax scofflaws through a program… Since 2006, the agency has used three companies to go after a $1 billion slice of the nation’s unpaid taxes. Despite aggressive collection tactics, the companies have rounded up only $49 million, little more than half of what it has cost the IRS to implement the program. The debt collectors have pocketed commissions of up to 24 percent.

    Now, as Americans file their 2007 taxes, Democratic leaders want to end the effort…

    After years of lobbying by the private collection industry, the Republican-controlled Congress created the program in 2004

    Three firms were awarded contracts: Pioneer Credit Recovery, based in the western New York district represented by Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds (R), who supported the program and recently announced his retirement; the CBE Group of Waterloo, Iowa, the home state of Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R), who helped create the program; and Linebarger Goggan Blair and Sampson, a law firm based in Texas, home to President Bush.

    The price to buy Congress is so incredibly cheap. Since 2001, Bush and Congress combined have done more harm to the United States than any terrorist group or foreign agents.

  2. Condé Nast Portfolio reports on The Pentagon’s $1 Trillion Problem “The defense department has spent billions to fix its antiquated financial systems. So why does the Pentagon still have no idea where its money goes?” (Hat tip Wired’s Danger Room.)

    Since 2004, the Pentagon has spent roughly $16 billion annually to maintain and modernize the military’s business systems, but most are as unreliable as ever-even as the surge in defense spending is creating more room for error. The basic defense budget for 2007 was $439.3 billion, up 48 percent from 2001, excluding the vast additional sums appropriated for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to federal regulators and current and former Pentagon officials, the accounting process is so obsolete and error prone that it’s virtually impossible to tell where much of this money ends up. While the department’s brass has made a few patchwork improvements, billions are still unaccounted for. The problem is so deeply rooted that, 18 years after Congress required major federal agencies to be audited, the Pentagon still can’t be…

    For the first three quarters of 2007, $1.1 trillion in Army accounting entries hadn’t been properly reviewed and substantiated, according to the Department of Defense’s inspector general. In 2006, $258.2 billion of recorded withdrawals and payments from the Army’s main account were unsupported. It’s as if the Army had submitted multibillion-dollar expense reports without any receipts.

    Preoccupied with protecting their turf, the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines continue to maintain separate, increasingly outdated systems that can’t talk to each other, trace disbursements, or detect overbilling by contractors. At the Indianapolis facility, as at the Defense Department’s four other main U.S. centers for financial operations, accounting programs under the same roof can’t share information without extensive jury-rigging, as though contracts, payments, and accounting had nothing to do with one another…

    Nevertheless, the four military services still can’t be audited


Four at Four continues below the fold with more cheery news of the decline of America, including the bottomless plummet of the economy, more evidence the “surge” is really working, and is Ariana Huffington really helping the left? Plus the Idiot of the Day.

Disgusted: The Media as Accesories to Torture and War

“The most effectual engines for [pacifying a nation] are the public papers… [A despotic] government always [keeps] a kind of standing army of newswriters who, without any regard to truth or to what should be like truth, [invent] and put into the papers whatever might serve the ministers. This suffices with the mass of the people who have no means of distinguishing the false from the true paragraphs of a newspaper.” –Thomas Jefferson

A Free Press is one of the foundations of a free country. But as with all freedom, it comes with responsibility. The press, the media, in America has not just abrogated that responsibility, they have thrown it on the ground and urinated on it. With very few exceptions, they have become more of a public relations arm of the government than the absolutely vital component of democracy it is their duty to be. The Fourth Estate, they were once called, in effect the fourth branch of government itself, the keepers of truth, the arbiters of honesty, the last resort against corruption. A great objective equalizer, the conscience of the nation.

Journalism was once a sacred and noble trust. Newsrooms were once sacrosanct chapels of Truth. Now they are an industry. Now they are little more than pimps for fast food…and fascism.

I am thoroughly appalled and disgusted that the President of the United States of America admits publicly to approving an entire network….a entire segment of OUR government paid for with our taxes….to torturing, raping, and killing often innocent HUMAN BEINGS…..human beings no different than you, or your children or your parents (regardless of their place of birth) …and todays media treat it as just anther ‘product’ for their ‘industry.’ They have the power to emphasize and pound this home to the American People, the power to serve justice and the Truth ….but… They. Do. Not.

As with the Democrats in Congress, the Free Press has failed America. Tragically so. To the point of betrayal. I condemn them from the bottom of my heart.

I urge all of us in the Blogosphere to do so daily as part of our regime of taking back our failed society. Failed by the President, Failed by Congress, Failed by the Judiciary, and Failed by our Free Press. Take it back, We the People. Take it back. It is up to us, now, that sacred trust of Freedom. We are all that is left of the Dream of Democracy.


But hey! Let’s look on the bright side! At least the Fourth Estate is not actively cheerleading for torture as they did for the invasion of Iraq.

How pissed off are you, anyway?

We know you’re plenty pissed off about the war.

Pissed off enough to write about it and comment on it, and to resort to some pretty rough language to describe how you feel.

Five years.  Thousands of Americans and perhaps a million Iraqis dead.  Four million refugees.  Trillions of dollars wasted. Government spying.  Torture.  Lies.  Coverups.

It’s enough to piss anyone off.

But are you pissed off enough to do something?

American Indians, Hollywood, and Stereotypes

Racism is based on ignorance and is passed down generationally.  One racist adult caretaker may infect a few children with their racism; however, one racist film or television show would infect many more and more deeply ingrain any racism that already was in existence in my opinion. Examples such as in the following video have contributed to anti – Indian sentiments in the popular American culture in the relevant generations who viewed such films.

Crossposted at Native American Netroots

If Elected, Obama will Review (and prosecute if justified) Bush Admin Officials for Criminal Acts

This is good.  In answer to a question from Will Bunch on TPM, Barack Obama states that the rule of law is more important than bipartisanship and bringing people together.

What I would want to do is to have my Justice Department and my Attorney General immediately review the information that’s already there and to find out are there inquiries that need to be pursued.

As Obama tends to do, he qualified his statements a lot and provided verbal support for not acting in a partisan manner.  But the bottom line is:  

If crimes have been committed, they should be investigated.

The rule of law matters in a democracy.  I am glad that Barack Obama says he will uphold the rule of law.  

I think a basic principle of our Constitution is nobody above the law

Most Pathetic Headline I Can Remember

Pope Says Church Will Not Allow Pedophile Priests

Talk about infallible!

Republic’s Patron Saint McSame to offer more of the Same

Well, Saint McSame has some good news and some bad news for Americans.  I would love to do a “first the good news and then the bad news” sort of diary, but with McSame, it is all bad news for those of us that pay attention to current events once again.

From CNN:

An end to earmarks, a gas-tax holiday, government-backed mortgages — they’re all part of GOP Sen. John McCain’s “big and ambitious” plan to revive a flailing economy, a top aide said Tuesday.

OK.  Big and ambitious usually means someone is making money, and that someone isn’t you or me.  Hmmmmmmm.  Could it be Corporations again?  You make the call.

The senator from Arizona is proposing an income tax system that offers two basic rates and a “generous standard deduction,” according to his prepared remarks. McCain is proposing letting Americans choose between the new system and the present one.

“Americans do not resent paying their rightful share of taxes — what they do resent is being subjected to thousands of pages of needless and often irrational rules and demands” from the Internal Revenue Service, he will say. “We are going to create a new and simpler tax system — and give the American people a choice.”

The presidential candidate also will call for doubling the federal income tax for dependents, from $3,500 to $7,000.

Obama’s Position on WH Torture Actions

I read this, and though I’ve been self-defensively cynical about politicians’ promises, I have the (cautious) “audacity” to “hope” that there may be a sea change coming.  Yes, we’ve all been disappointed by politicians in the past, and currently.  Pelosi, Reid, and Conyers haven’t delivered on their pre-election rhetoric.  I just wanted to share the fact that one of the Presidential candidates was asked the question about holding the WH accountable, and here’s his answer:

Will Bunch asked Obama:  If he’s elected, what would his Administration do about the allegations of criminal activities by the Bush White House:   Obama Would Ask his AG to “Immediately Review” Potential Crimes in the Bush White House:

There’s more:

Myths about torture by the Bush administration

Recent revelations that torture was approved, applauded, and enjoyed by senior Bush administration officials have caused quite a stir. Bush now freely admits that he “approved” of the CIA torturing a few “high value” terrorism suspects in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. All those assertions that the United States does not torture were knowingly false. While lying to Congress, the American people, and the world community might get another president in trouble, even impeached, war crimes appear to be much more acceptable in post-9/11 America. The mea culpa simply forces the administration and its supporters to create a new mythology of torture.  

Something Else Bush Stole From Us

Today, the sad news has broken: there will not be democracy, or freedom from despotism in Zimbabwe.  

The call by Zimbabwe’s political opposition for people nationwide to stay away from work began to take effect on Tuesday, but it did not succeed in shutting down the capital, Harare.

Election officials, citing voting irregularities, have refused to release the outcome of the contest, between Zimbabwe’s autocratic president, Robert G. Mugabe, who has ruled for 28 years, and the MDC candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai.

The High Court Monday rejected an opposition demand that it force Zimbabwe’s electoral commission to publish the results, prompting the opposition to go ahead with the strike.

The opposition, which analysts say does not have a strong track record of organizing large public protests, decided against calling on its followers to take to the streets.

Police have banned all public rallies. And in recent days, opposition leaders have said in interviews they believe Mr. Mugabe’s government is looking for reasons to crack down and declare a state of emergency that would allow him to rule by decree.  They hoped a stay-away would enable them to avoid violent confrontations with the police and the army.

Meditation on the Dalai Lama, King and Compassion

Lost in the daily headlines surrounding the events in China, Tibet and the Olympic Games is the Dalai Lama’s message of compassion. He has been in Seattle these past few days to speak about this message at the Seeds of Compassion conference.

This local broadcast gives a flavor of the goals of the conference:

Pony Party, Tax Day

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