Government Accountability Office

Congressman Suggests Obama ‘Signaled’ To Terrorists That It Was Okay To Capture Foley

Trent Franks

Rep. Trent Franks’ (R-AZ) | Screenshot

“Franks is just throwing red meat to his base of Obama-haters. This has nothing to do with logic, sense, or critical thinking skills.” ~ Comment section of TP

Think Progress

On Friday, a Republican congressman implied that the Obama administration’s decision to swap five Taliban officials for the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl without notifying Congress in May emboldened terrorist organizations and may have contributed to the beheading of journalist James Foley.

Rep. Trent Franks’ (R-AZ) comments, delivered on Fox News, come a day after the Government Accountability Office concluded that Obama violated the law when he failed to give Congress 30 days notice that he had secured Bergdahl’s release in exchange for the transfer of prisoners from Guantanamo Bay.

“[T]o somehow signal to terrorists that all they have to do to bring America to its knees is to kidnap one of our own, and hold them for ransom, it is a signal to the whole jihadist world, to go out and do it again and it is extremely dangerous,” Franks said, responding to the report. He added, “I don’t want to say anything politically to exacerbate the tragedy with the James Foley but I’m afraid James Foley is an example of that in his family and friends are feeling the tragedy more than anybody else could possibly imagine.” Foley, who had gone missing more than a year before Bergdahl was released, was beheaded by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) earlier this week.

The Pentagon defended the transfer on Thursday, insisting the prisoner swap to recover Bergdahl was conducted lawfully after consultations with the Justice Department.

“The administration had a fleeting opportunity to protect the life of a U.S. service member held captive and in danger for almost five years,” said Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary. The Defense Department insists that the prisoner exchange was authorized under a section of the law that “allows transfers of Guantanamo prisoners if actions are being taken to reduce the risk that they will re-engage in hostile activity.” Under the terms of the agreement, the Taliban prisoners will remain in to Qatari custody for at least a year.

ISIS had demanded $100 million for Foley’s release but the United States refused, citing a longstanding policy of not negotiation with terrorists. This policy is what makes Frank’s comments all the more confused, as the Berghdal swap was the transfer of military prisoners, while Foley was a civilian hostage kidnapped while reporting in Syria. Earlier this week, the administration disclosed that it had launched a secret mission to attempt to rescue Foley and other American hostages, but they had been moved to another location.

Since August 8, the military has carried out at least 90 airstrikes against the organization and may soon expand its operations. During a press conference on Thursday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey characterized the ISIS threat as greater than anything America has faced in the past and admitted that the nation must do more to contain it. “We’re looking at all options,” Hagel said. Earlier this week, President Obama vowed that the United States “will continue to do what we must do to protect our people.” “We will be vigilant and we will be relentless,” he said.

But Franks rejected this policy on Friday. “I’m afraid we sent the message to the terrorists, again, that this president will vacillate and not do what is necessary in times of crisis,” he said. “It just brings a smell of fear to their nostrils and they are, are supercharged in this terrorist mindset and it is something that we have to get ahold of as a people.”

 

Once again, Washington fails

Here we go again with yet another GOP “manufactured crisis“…

The Week

Surprise! With the sequester, our lawmakers have once again manufactured a totally unnecessary and very harmful crisis

Well isn’t this familiar. Once again, our feckless politicians have pushed the nation to the brink over a problem that they created but can’t solve. Pick your cliché: We’re about to go over a cliff. The sky is falling. The ax will drop. And guess what? An even bigger crisis — a possible government shutdown — awaits at the end of March. In Washington, the good times just keep on coming.

I’m guessing that by now you know what the sequester is. If not: The federal government is about to begin cutting $1.2 trillion in spending, divided among defense and domestic programs. That sounds like a lot, but it’s spread over a decade. It amounts to about two pennies on the dollar.

There are a few good things to say about the sequester, but there seem to be more bad ones. On the plus side: Spending cuts might prevent another downgrade of the federal government’s long-term credit rating. Major rating agencies like S&P and Moody’s have warned of another ratings cut, which would further tarnish America’s financial reputation. Also: Cutting two cents out of every dollar is, sequester advocates say, hardly disastrous. The federal government is bloated and redundant. A few quick examples to illustrate this point:

* There are 15 agencies overseeing food-safety laws

* There are more than 20 different programs to help the homeless

* There are 44 overlapping employment and job training programs

These findings were part of a 345-page report in 2011 by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that identified “81 areas for consolidation” among overlapping agencies and programs. The report says “reducing or eliminating duplication, overlap or fragmentation” could potentially save “tens of billions of dollars” annually and help agencies provide “more efficient and effective services.”

Continue reading here…

Shaking Up CNN

Mario Piperni channeled my thoughts on CNN’s programming and the media in general.

More on CNN’s  problems can be found here.

Mario Piperni

CNN doesn’t need a shake up in their leadership, they need a shake up in their programming.

I’m tired of all the partisan hacks — including John King and Wolf Blizter. About the only show CNN has that’s worth watching is GPS. State of the Union is better with Candy than John King, but it’s just another forum for the political hacks to spread more BS.

Here’s some free advice CNN.

How about educating the public on the facts contained in the bills and the consequences of them by the non-partisan wonks who can report facts not lies and spin.  Instead of having the politicos smearing them with their ideological spin, how about interviewing those who study the bills for their impact from, say, the Congressional Research Service — you know those really smart folks who write up the reports that apparently many members of Congress don’t bother to read?  Or someone from the Government Accountability Office, or some non-partisan think tanks that actually understand the impact a bill will have?

Let’s go behind the scenes and expose the back room deals and fund-raising meet-ups with the lobbyists!  Let’s raise some questions about the abuse of power, whether it be by Democrats or Republicans.

If we want D.C. to be cleaned up, then we need the media to get out of bed with the political class and start doing some real reporting. Who cares what the pols have to say — when it’s spin, CYA, or out and out lies? I’m tired of it — I love Rachel cause she goes after all of them with real facts and she takes on Democrats and Republicans.  She’d spend more time on the Democrats, if the GOP didn’t give her so much fodder.

If you want me to tune back in, ditch the pundits, commentators, politicos and start dishing out the truth and nothing but the unvarnished truth. We’ll never straighten out the mess we’re in, until we can agree on the facts and demand solutions.

Example — instead of all the spin about the health care bill, they should have brought in people who study the problems. There was a great white paper The Cost Of Lack Of Health Insurance by the College of American Physicians and by  who wrote The Cost Conundrum in the New Yorker. No one ever asked them a single question to explain the problems and discuss solutions.

The media is pathetic. Cronkite would cry.  And to my shortened post on this over at HuffPo, one response was “Murrow would puke.”

The American public is craving honesty in D.C. — how about setting a new trend CNN?

Think Progress: Morning Briefing: May 8, 2012

Think Progress

The CIA thwarted an attempt by Al Qaeda to blow up a commercial airplane heading for the United States, according to the National Security Council. CIA agents uncovered the plot, which was supposed to coincide with the first anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death on May 1.

President Obama has given Congress a “to do list” for the rest of the year, urging job creation proposals and help for families who need to refinance their mortgages.

Democratic legislation that would prevent federal student loan interest rates from doubling by eliminating some corporate tax breaks hits the Senate floor today. Republicans, who want to extend the lower interest rate by pulling money from a preventative care fund under the health reform law, have promised to block the White House-backed bill.

In a late-night email to supporters last night, Rick Santorum endorsed Mitt Romney. While Santorum’s tone was tepid, he said Republicans should rally around the presumptive nominee,writing, “We both agree that President Obama must be defeated.”

At an event in Ohio yesterday, Mitt Romney was confronted by a voter “over $1.5 million in foreign tax credits” he received since 2000. Romney dodged, claiming to be “not familiar with that.” The crowd booed.

American taxpayers could make a profit of more than $15.1 billion from the government bailout of insurer AIG, according to a report from Government Accountability Office.

Major liberal donors are preparing to give up to $100 million to independent groups to help Democrats this fall, but instead of pouring the money into Super PACs, the donors are focusing on grass roots organizing, voter registration, and Democratic turnout efforts.

Three “pink slime” plants are closing following uproar over the ammonia-treated meat trimmings they produce. Production was suspended at the plants after a petition asking that they take pink slime out of schools went viral, but now the plants are set to close permanently at the end of the month.

And finally: DC has always been home to major scandals, and now a company will offer a walking tour of city to show you where they all went down. The two-and-a-half hour Scandal Walking Tour, which costs $15, promises to show you the strip club where a congressman held a press conference and teach you which politico shot his wife’s lover and got away with it.

Christie’s problems worsen in New Jersey

Well, Governor Chris Christie tried to paint himself as a no-holds barred tough guy for the sake of his state.   It turns out that he didn’t make New Jersey a priority in some of his decisions…

Rachel Maddow

April is proving to be an unusually unkind month for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R).

First, Newark’s Star-Ledger ran a lengthy, detailed report documenting the extent to which the governor’s legislative proposals, executive orders, and agency rules were written, at times word for word, by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a shadowy far-right group that seeks to impose a conservative agenda in state legislatures.

Then, the New York Times helped shine a light on Christie’s corporate welfare practices, in which the governor is handing out lucrative tax credits to preferred in-state corporations.

Today’s revelations, meanwhile, may be the most damaging to date.

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey exaggerated when he declared that unforeseen costs to the state were forcing him to cancel the new train tunnel planned to relieve congested routes across the Hudson River, according to a long-awaited report by independent Congressional investigators.

The report by the Government Accountability Office, to be released this week, found that while Mr. Christie said that state transportation officials had revised cost estimates for the tunnel to at least $11 billion and potentially more than $14 billion, the range of estimates had in fact remained unchanged in the two years before he announced in 2010 that he was shutting down the project. And state transportation officials, the report says, had said the cost would be no more than $10 billion.

Mr. Christie also misstated New Jersey’s share of the costs: he said the state would pay 70 percent of the project; the report found that New Jersey was paying 14.4 percent. And while the governor said that an agreement with the federal government would require the state to pay all cost overruns, the report found that there was no final agreement, and that the federal government had made several offers to share those costs.

Even at the time, Christie’s decision on this project in 2010 was hard to understand. Conservatives, who’ve become increasingly hostile towards American infrastructure improvements, cheered the move, but from a substantive perspective, the governor’s decision was fairly characterized as “destructive and incredibly foolish.”

But this new report casts that decision in an even more damaging light. The Government Accountability Office is a non-partisan research/audit arm of Congress, and it’s reporting this week that Christie’s rationale for his strange decision wasn’t even true. It was a mistake to scrap a major public works project during a weak economy; it was a bigger mistake to explain the move with dishonest claims.

Also note, this didn’t just hurt New Jersey — the project was intended to alleviate congestion between Boston and Washington, D.C.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who requested the GAO investigation, said in a statement this morning, “This was the most important transportation project of our time. [The ARC Tunnel project] was critical to the future of New Jersey’s economy and it took years to plan, but Gov. Christie wiped it out with a campaign of public deception.”

Repealing ‘Obamacare’ Would Explode Debt, Says Government Auditor

Repealing ‘Obamacare’ Would Explode Debt, Says Government Auditor

I just wonder how the GOP in Congress can be so myopic when it comes to the Affordable Care Act and its overall capacity to insure millions of Americans?  In an effort to make Barack Obama a “one-term president” they seem to not care about the debt and what repealing the ACA would do to it.

TPMDC

A new report by an independent government auditor concludes that implementing President Obama’s health care law as intended will make a significant dent in the long-term debt forecast.

The report comes as Supreme Court justices weigh striking some of “Obamacare’s” central provisions — and perhaps the law in its entirety — and as the Republican Party remains committed to repealing the law if it seizes control of government in November.

“[I]f the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is implemented as intended it would have a major effect on the [fiscal] gap but would not eliminate it,” the Government Accountability Office wrote in a Monday report — a conclusion in line with its own past research and similar research conducted by other government and non-government analysts.

GAO doesn’t isolate PPACA’s stand-alone contribution to long-term budget consolidation. But it does conclude that if key cost-control measures in the law, and other automatic cuts to Medicare spending baked into current law, are ignored, or overridden by Congress, the implications for the national debt are vast.

If “Obamacare” is implemented as intended, and other measures, such as automatic payment cuts to Medicare physicians, take effect, “spending on Medicare and Medicaid grows from 5 percent of GDP in 2010 to over 7 percent by 2030.”

By contrast, if Congress overrides those provisions, “[s]pending on health care grows much more rapidly under this more pessimistic set of assumptions,” according to the report. “Absent changes to these programs, spending on Medicare and Medicaid under the Alternative simulation grows to over 8 percent of GDP by 2030.”

Congress has consistently passed temporary legislation to prevent Medicare doctors from experiencing a pay cut baked into current law. But the current patch expires on Jan. 1 — along with the Bush tax cuts and the payroll tax holiday — just as other automatic cuts to Medicare are set to take effect as a penalty for the Super Committee’s failure to pass deficit-cutting legislation.

The confluence of these fiscal triggers suggests lawmakers will be forced to act quickly after the election to put the country’s budget on a more sustainable path. But if Republicans win big in November and move ahead with their plan to repeal the health care law, they’ll only make matters worse.

Politico’s: The Week In One-Liners

The week’s top 10 quotes in American politics: 

“I used Michele Bachmann as my methadone.” – Washington Post writer Dana Milbank, explaining how he managed to avoid writing about Sarah Palin for all of February. 

“I’m more famous than Obama!” – Charlie Sheen, as quoted by his estranged wife in a court declaration as she sought a restraining order. 

“That’s tough talk from someone who is being bossed around by a bunch of freshmen.” – A spokesman for Sen. Harry Reid, keeping a war of words going with Rep. John Boehner. 

“The melting forks are finally gone.” – A Boehner spokesman, expressing glee at the Republican majority’s scrapping of biodegradable utensils in House cafeterias. 

“Jesus will be the manager of the Red Sox before the budget … is ever balanced again.” – Radio host Don Imus, offering a prediction to Sen. John Kerry. 

“He’s doing well.” – Former first lady Nancy Reagan, assessing President Barack Obama’s performance thus far. 

“Read the report that comes out tomorrow from the GAO that looked at the government that we put in the last debt-limit extension – makes us all look like jackasses.” – Sen. Tom Coburn, issuing a warning about a new Government Accountability Office report on overlap and duplication in programs and agencies. 

“It’s good to allow [states] to work out their own problems rather than a one-size-fits-all federal government stupid, dumbass program.” - Sen. Orrin Hatch, issuing his critique of Obama’s health care bill. 

“The White House is pretty f—-ing cool, but it ain’t Charlie Sheen’s house.” – Sugar Ray lead singer Mark McGrath, comparing houses while performing in Washington this week. 

“You’re freakin’ A right I do!” – Former White House adviser David Axelrod, answering whether he missed the fake @MayorEmanuel account.

Fear Pays: Chertoff, Ex-Security Officials Slammed For Cashing In On Government Experience

This comes as no surprise.  Yet, Chertoff claims that he made no profit from advocating for the current scanner systems now used by the TSA.

Huffington Post

After last month’s plot to send bombs from Yemen to the United States aboard a cargo plane, former U.S. Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff’s whiskerless visage was ubiquitous on cable news. Solemnly warning that the nation needed stronger security procedures, Chertoff patiently repeated his talking points on ABC News’s “World News Tonight”, “Fox and Friends”, CNBC’s “Squawk Box” and Bloomberg TV.

Almost unmentioned in these appearances: Chertoff has a lot to gain financially if some of these measures are adopted. Between his private consulting firm, The Chertoff Group, and seats on the boards of giant defense and security firms, he sits at the heart of the giant security nexus created in the wake of 9/11, in effect creating a shadow homeland security agency. Chertoff launched his firm just days after President Barack Obama took office, eventually recruiting at least 11 top officials from the Department of Homeland Security, as well as former CIA director General Michael Hayden and other top military brass and security officials.

(Chertoff’s predecessor at DHS, Tom Ridge, has also parlayed his experience into a lucrative career. Since 2005, he has served on the board of Savi Technology, the primary technology provider for the Pentagon’s wireless cargo-monitoring network, and he has served as a senior advisor to TechRadium, Inc., a Texas-based security technology company.)

Chertoff’s clients have prospered in the last two years, largely through lucrative government contracts, and The Chertoff Group’s assistance in navigating the complex federal procurement bureaucracy is in high demand. One example involves the company at the heart of the recent uproar over intrusive airport security procedures — Rapiscan, which makes the so-called body scanners. Back in 2005, Chertoff was promoting the technology and Homeland Security placed the government’s first order, buying five Rapiscan scanners.

After the arrest of the underwear bomber last Christmas, Chertoff hit the airwaves and wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post advocating the full-body scanning systems without disclosing that Rapiscan Systems was a client of his firm. The aborted terror plot prompted the Transportation Security Agency to order 300 machines from Rapiscan. Yet last spring, the Government Accountability Office reported that, “It remains unclear whether [the scanners] would have been able to detect the weapon” used in the aborted bombing attempt. And according to a recent report by DHS’s Inspector General, the training of airport screeners is rushed and poorly supervised. 

Continue reading here…

Last week, two Republican congressmen took to the floor of the House to blast Chertoff and condemn the TSA’s security procedures. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) introduced legislation against the scanning equipment.

“Michael Chertoff!” Paul exclaimed on the House floor, as shown in the video below. “I mean, here’s the guy who was the head of the TSA, selling the equipment. And the equipment’s questionable. We don’t even know if it works, and it may well be dangerous to our health.”

The pertinent segment starts around 4:30:

Last Wednesday, Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) claimed that Chertoff gave interviews touting the scanners while “getting paid” to sell them. “There is no evidence these new body scanners make us more secure. But there is evidence that former Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff made money hawking these full body scanners.”