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ISSUE #107
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ArrowGreat Gaffes Through the Ages
A comprehensive list

ArrowWhy ask Why?
Five years after 9/11, the question remains unanswered
Matt Taibbi

ArrowExtreme History Makeover
Lynne Cheney and the rules of history
Christopher Famighetti

ArrowYour Tax Dollars at Work
In Washington, another tale of waste and fraud unpunished
Matt Taibbi

ArrowBaby Suri Hates You, Wants You Dead
Scott Brochert and Josh Righter

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Tom Reynolds, WNY’s human colostomy bag
Allan Uthman
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Obscure Racial Epithet

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Your Tax Dollars at Work
In Washington, another tale of waste and fraud unpunished
Matt Taibbi

There are small news stories, there are really small news stories, and then there is "Defense Institute Head Resigns," a little maggot of a news item that blipped into the "D" section of the Washington Post last Wednesday. Three-hundred-fifty-six words in all, about half the length of an AP NFL game account, and the Post was the only paper in the country that ran the story. So how important could it have been?

Actually, the Post item about the resignation of Dennis C. Blair from the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) spoke volumes about the utter insanity of the modern American media landscape. In a month when Katie Couric redefined the "scoop" as an advance glimpse of celebrity idiot-spawn Suri Cruise, and investigative journalism according to muckracking icon 60 Minutes meant sappy profiles of Howard Stern and Bill Romanowski, it made all the sense in the world that the denouement of a spectacular tale of massive government waste and fraud would go completely unnoticed by virtually the entire journalism community.

F-22 RaptorThe name of Dennis C. Blair became somewhat infamous on the Hill this summer when he became wrapped up in a minor controversy surrounding appropriations for the F-22 Raptor jet fighter. Blair, a former Navy admiral who once headed the U.S. Pacific Command, was until last week the president of the IDA, a federally funded nonprofit research center which provides the government with "independent" analyses of weapons programs and defense legislation.

Earlier this year, the IDA had been asked by the Pentagon to assess the viability and potential cost of a three-year, $60-plus billion Multi-Year Procurement (MYP) of F-22 jets. The details here are complicated, but in essence the MYP -- proposed as an amendment to the Senate's 2007 Defense Authorization bill by Georgia's Saxby Chambliss -- would lock the government into a bulk purchase of three years' worth of F-22s, instead of the traditional yearly individual purchases.

Blair's IDA did as ordered, ultimately issuing a report showing that the MYP, by allowing suppliers to sell to the government at reduced bulk rates, would save the government a quarter of a billion dollars. This contradicted the findings of both the Government Accountability Office and the Congressional Research Service, which blasted the procurement as an indefensibly stupid waste of money, but the IDA's "congressionally mandated independent study" (as Chambliss called it) was the one legislators chose to listen to.

Chambliss' amendment passed 70-28, with wide bipartisan support. Most all of the senators who voted for the bill, including Democrats like Joe Lieberman, Chuck Schumer and Daniel Inouye, had received generous campaign contributions from Lockheed Martin, the maker of the F-22, and from subcontractors like Pratt and Whitney.

Moreover, it subsequently came out that Blair himself sat on the board of EDO, a subcontractor on the F-22 project. EDO makes a missile launching system for the plane. Though such conflicts of interest are not barred by the Pentagon, Blair last week resigned voluntarily -- quietly, with only the Post noticing, at a time when Katie Couric was neatly innovating the network news concept by giving platform-impoverished radio jock Rush Limbaugh a guest slot on her news show. Blair's resignation was a de facto admission that a key study supporting one of the largest defense procurements in history was seriously compromised, even beyond the built-in conflict of interest inherent in a Congress heavily funded by defense contractors.

The ongoing bureaucratic drama surrounding procurement for this project is a kind of fairy tale for the system of legalized corruption in this country, in which taxpayer money is basically stolen and shot into space by an open conspiracy of legislators, defense contractors and Pentagon officials, colloquially known as the "Iron Triangle." The F-22 project is particularly offensive since its cost -- $65 billion -- mirrors very closely the $50 billion in "emergency" cuts to social programs Congress made last year, ostensibly to help pay for Katrina reconstruction.

Many of those post-Katrina cuts are just beginning to hit communities around the country now. The state of Texas, for instance, recently announced that it may have to lay off as many as 1,750 employees because of federal budget cuts for various social programs. I was in Congress last year when both the House and the Senate voted to slash funding for child support collection in response to the Katrina disaster; a year later, a state like Texas will be laying off as many as two-thirds of the employees in its child-support division.

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