dices_optical_illusionOne of the first things to go when people get morally outraged is their perspective. Not only do they frequently lose perspective, they also lose sight of bigger issues. A sense of outrage simply overwhelms one’s sense of perspective. The enraged heart overtakes the circumspect mind.

I’ve talked about The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) before when I brought up a defense contract maintained by the Federal Government with a company called ArmorGroup. This is the group that basically used Lord of the Flies-like hazing parties for their private security forces guarding embassies in places like Afghanistan. Whistle blowers, POGO, and government audits turned up a lot of fraud and abuse. There were even congressional hearings and questions, however, the contract was continued. Some press coverage reopened the issue earlier this year but the company basically was paid lots of federal dollars before any one took some real notice of it. Other mercenary-like groups–hired by our Defense Department–have had similar issues. Blackwater, while operating in Iraq, was said to be responsible for the deaths of innocent civilians and has been barred from doing business in the country by the Iraqi government. These are just some of the more egregious examples.

Then, there are the defense contractors building bombs and buildings. Remember the solider in Iraq was killed due to faulty wiring by KBR?

American electricians who worked for KBR, the Houston-based defense contractor that is responsible for maintaining American bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, said they repeatedly warned company managers and military officials about unsafe electrical work, which was often performed by poorly trained Iraqis and Afghans paid just a few dollars a day.

One electrician warned his KBR bosses in his 2005 letter of resignation that unsafe electrical work was “a disaster waiting to happen.” Another said he witnessed an American soldier in Afghanistan receiving a potentially lethal shock. A third provided e-mail messages and other documents showing that he had complained to KBR and the government that logs were created to make it appear that nonexistent electrical safety systems were properly functioning.

KBR itself told the Pentagon in early 2007 about unsafe electrical wiring at a base near the Baghdad airport, but no repairs were made. Less than a year later, a soldier was electrocuted in a shower there.

The process of seeking out contractor abuse is nothing new to this government or any other in this country. You may remember that during FDR’s campaign for the presidency, wife Eleanor rode around in car with a steaming teapot on the roof to remind folks of the Teapot Dome Scandal. Folks taking advantage of federal money go from the small fry to the country’s largest multinationals. Lincoln warned of it. So, did Eisenhower.

I remember during the Hurricane Katrina diaspora, many folks were said to use debit cards given to them as largess of the taxpayer on strippers, alcohol and guns. I can say that the money the U.S. government gave to me went to things like driving to Omaha, food, and pajamas. But people are stupid and then stupid things happen. But who do you focus upon? The one idiot the spent the money in the strip joint or the company of a friend of Jeb Bush that sold faulty pumps to the Corps of Engineers? You know the ones that would be necessary to get water out of the city should anything like Hurricane Katrina happen again? You remember Hurricane Katrina? People died? Incredibly costly damage? That sort of thing? I think there was more outrage over the few thousands of dollars they went to Houston strip joints than to any of the fraud that went on with the levee building, installation of the new pumps, and who knows what else will eventually be uncovered by the time these projects are audited by the GAO?

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Some Things are too Important to be left to the Market

Guys GONE WILD!!!! (Your tax dollars at work).

I always have to give this lecture near the beginning of my class when we talk about why some markets work well without government interference, and others, well, they require government interference. How would you feel, as an example, about letting our uranium supplies go to the highest bidder in a completely unregulated market? Does that strike you as a good idea? I can’t imagine any responsible American citizen arguing for that position. That’s a pretty unsubtle example but there are more. I’ve found any story that talks about farming out other stuff related to national security (rampant in the Rumsfeld Doctrine) usually puts me in a no-way frame of mine. Really, some things are just too important to be left to the profit motive.

So, here’s the three headlines and they all belong to stories concerning the State Department and the Pentagon. ABC news reports in a exclusive story that the Controversial Blackwater Security Firm Gets Iraq Contract Extended by State Dept;Company Banned From Operating by Iraqi Government Earlier This Year. I read that story right after I read this one in Politico entitled ‘Lord of the Flies’ in Kabul. I then went to the LA Times to skim U.S. to boost combat force in Afghanistan where I found the following lead paragraph.

Support units will be replaced by up to 14,000 ‘trigger-pullers,’ and noncombat posts will be contracted out, Defense officials say. The swap will allow the U.S. to keep its troop level unchanged.

Didn’t we replace Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush or did I miss something? What is going to get contracted out to the lowests0f bidder looking for high profits? What costs are they going to cut to provide something resembling “service”? What service will that be?

Let me just backtrack to that Lord of the Files article a moment.

About 10 percent of the 150 English-speaking guards employed at the embassy by ArmorGroup, a private security company headquartered in Britain and Florida, approached the Project on Government Oversight and described “a pervasive breakdown in the chain of command and guard force discipline and morale,” according a letter sent to Clinton by executive director Danielle Brian.

An e-mail from one of the guards described parties on days off, during which guards and their supervisors urinated on themselves and others and ate potato chips and drank vodka from the cracks of buttocks.

“You will see that they have a group of sexual predators, deviants, running rampant over there,” one guard, whose name was withheld, said in an e-mail to POGO, adding, “They are showing poor judgment.”

Pictures accompanying POGO’s letter corroborate at least some of the allegations. The e-mail and photographs were given to reporters by POGO.

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