Tags: Sequestration

Unity, Nice While It Lasted


Sentiments like this one were destined to end at some point after this crisis…



… but it’s striking that the press felt the need to goad Congress into turning the attack in Boston into a partisan cudgel.

At his weekly Capitol briefing Tuesday, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said the explosions in Boston demonstrates “why having the ability to dress security concerns is important,” and thus provides more evidence that sequestration should be turned off.

As the rest of the report lays out, the reporter set the stage for Hoyer by asking, “whether Monday’s attack makes the argument for addressing sequestration,” and to his credit, Hoyer said he doubted sequestration was hindering or influencing the response to the attack. 

Hoyer added, “I doubt that [sequestration's] having any impact presently — and the reason for that, this is a priority item and I’m sure they’re shifting what resources are necessary. Even if they’re shorter resources than they otherwise would’ve had, I’m sure they’re putting all the resources necessary on this effort. Certainly at the federal level — I think the President’s made that pretty clear.”

Tags: Steny Hoyer , Sequestration , Boston Marathon Bombing

Obama’s $1 Million Flight to Denver for a Gun-Control Speech


The Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt features the “I Told You So” Coalition on Obamacare, some thoughts on whether conservative policies can alleviate the agony of traffic-ridden commutes, what our next ambassador to Japan can expect, and . . .

Obama’s $1 Million Trip to Colorado to Talk About Gun Control

Today President Obama  travels to Colorado to “meet with law enforcement and community leaders to discuss the gun control package signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper.”

That’s a three hour flight, right?

At  $179,750 per hour, that comes out to $1,078,500 in costs for Air Force One for the trip.

That’s just about the cost of public tours of the White House for one year.

“On the road again . . . Just can’t wait to get on the road again . . .”

Eh, you knew I was kidding . . . Obama’s not just flying across the country to give a predictable speech on gun control; he’s also traveling out to San Francisco for a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraiser, and he’ll stay overnight. (Yes, our president is already preparing fundraising for November 2014 midterm elections.) So the cost of the flights for today and tomorrow is really closer to $1.4 million.

Boy, that sequestration demands a lot of sacrifices from all of us, doesn’t it?

Tags: Barack Obama , Gun Control , Sequestration

The Mystery of the Sequestration Signs at Miami Airport


From the Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Morning Jolt reader Dexter flew through Miami recently and encountered this sign:


For a short furlough of a covered employee, the law (5 U.S.C. 7513) gives a covered employee the following rights:

At least 30 calendar days advance written notice by the agency stating the specific reasons for the proposed action. (Typically, the reasons for the action would involve a lack of work or funds.) The 30 calendar day period begins upon an employee’s receipt of the written notice. Therefore, agencies should plan accordingly to allow time for mailing the notice when hand-delivery is not possible.

As you know, it has been 19 days since the sequestration was announced.

So either someone broke the law and furloughed Customs and Border Protection employees without thirty days notice, or this sign is pre-emptive. Of course, the sign is in past tense, “staffing has been reduced.”

Gee, what else happened at Miami airports last month?

“The lines were not going to get better, they were going to get worse, “said Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, “and that prediction came true.” The congresswoman toured local airports Monday to witness the delays firsthand. She called the situation “unacceptable.”

While he toured the airport with Napolitano and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, [Democratic Rep. Joe] Garcia noted that half of the 72 booths at the international-passenger checkpoint were unstaffed on Wednesday.

Giant delays, and signs blaming sequestration furloughs that haven’t taken effect yet, one month after the chair of the Democratic National Committee comes to tour and declare the situation unacceptable? What an amazingly convenient sequence of events.

UPDATE: For a comparison to elsewhere in the government, a reader familiar with the Department of Defense tells me, “First furlough notices for DoD are due this Thursday – so it will be another 30 days from then…late April.”

Tags: Debbie Wasserman Schultz , Joe Garcia , Sequestration

Tough Coverage of the White House Tour Cancellation


I think this ABC News report from Jonathan Karl, on the White House declaring it can no longer give public tours because of sequester cuts, did not go as the president and his allies would hope:

Diane Sawyer: “People have been e-mailing us, asking, ‘Really? Is that the only way to cut the budget?’”

Jonathan Karl does the math and concludes that ending the tours saves $18,000 per week, out of about a $1.6 billion Secret Service budget. (Does a uniformed Secret Service agent really cost only $30 per hour? Strikes me as a bargain!) The cost of the tours annually, then, is $936,000.

That’s just under the cost of a 2010 state dinner given at the White House for the president of Mexico.

Karl notes that Obama took a 20-car motorcade to travel the six blocks to last night’s restaurant meal.

Tags: Barack Obama , Sequestration , White House

Pre-Sequestration, an Extra $15 Million in Pakistan Aid


On February 21, with sequestration looming, the U.S. Agency for International Development expanded a contract with Deloitte Consulting for an extra $15 million, to $37 million, to support “the implementation by the government of Pakistan of recent important and very welcome trade liberalizations policies” and “implementation of additional activities to support regional trade and transit between India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Central Asian Republics.”

Glad we got that in under the deadline!

In the above image from AFP/Getty, cheerful Pakistanis express their gratitude for the latest addition to the $20 billion or so in aid from the United States to their government.

Tags: Pakistan , Sequestration

Meet Napolitano’s ‘Low Risk’ Released Illegal Immigrant


This morning, Homeland Security Janet Napolitano says that the several hundred illegal immigrants who were released from detention centers last week were, “very low-level, low-risk detainees.”

Boy, we better hope so.

The first illegal immigrant profiled by New York Times in its coverage of the releases… stretches the definition of “very low risk”:

Among those released in the past week was Anthony Orlando Williams, 52, a Jamaican immigrant who spent nearly three years in a detention center in Georgia.

“I’m good, man,” he said. “I’m free.”Mr. Williams, in a telephone interview from Stone Mountain, Ga., said he became an illegal immigrant when he overstayed a visa in 1991. He was detained in 2010 by a sheriff’s deputy in Gwinnett County, Ga., when it was discovered that he had violated probation for a conviction in 2005 of simple assault, simple battery and child abuse, charges that sprung from a domestic dispute with his wife at the time. He was transferred to ICE custody and has been fighting a deportation order with the help of Families for Freedom, an immigrant support group in New York.

Mr. Williams was released last Friday. “That was a long, long, long run,” he said of his detention, adding that he has an appointment this Friday at an immigration office in Atlanta at which he expects to receive the terms of his supervised release — “a list of things I have to abide by.”

If convictions for “simple assault, simple battery and child abuse” make you “low-risk,” what do you have to do for Janet Napolitano to consider you “high-risk”?

Tags: Illegal Immigration , Janet Napolitano , Sequestration

Release the Illegals, But Keep the Zombie Simulations & Steven Seagal


The very first dollars the federal government stopped spending in the face of sequestration were the $16,400 to $164,000 per day it spends detaining “several hundred” illegal immigrants.

I suppose you could say not informing local and state law enforcement was a cost-saving measure, too. Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery tells Arizona reporters that “we don’t know what the criteria was to determine who was safe to release… we don’t know why they were detained in the first place, or the crimes they may have committed.”

The editors of the Arizona Republic reassuringly inform us, “These may all be non-violent offenders, but no one knows. We simply have no way to measure how much, if at all, our communities have been made less safe.”

The Immigrations and Customs Enforcement is part of the Department of Homeland Security under Secretary Janet Napolitano. Say, how have they been spending their money lately?

Columbus, Ohio recently purchased an “underwater robot” using a $98,000 UASI grant. Known also as a “remotely operated underwater vehicle,” the robot is mounted with a video camera providing full-color display to a vehicle on shore. Officials on the Columbus City Council went so far as to declare the purchase an “emergency,” not because of security needs, but because of “federal grant deadlines.”

If the money was not spent quickly, it would have been lost. The Columbus dive team, however, is responsible only for underwater search and recovery missions – not for rescue missions that may happen during a terror attack.

One of the team’s higher profile missions in recent years was the recovery of a $2 million “sunken treasure” in the Scioto River.

Apparently the only requirement to justify a purchase of an underwater robot with federal taxpayer funds is… a body of water.

In Keene, New Hampshire residents revolted against the town’s plan to acquire a BearCat, developing their own motto – “thanks, but no tanks.” Residents viewed the vehicle as an unnecessary purchase even though it is being paid for though a DHS grant worth $285,933. Although the town has had just two murders in the past 15 years, Keene Police Captain Brian Costa argued that “when this grant opportunity came up, it made a whole bunch of geographic sense,” since none of the five armored vehicles already in the state are not located in southwestern New Hampshire where Keene is located. He further stated that the vehicle would have been useful during the 2005 floods where the police department lost a cruiser.

The grant application for the BearCat cited the 2004 Pumpkin Festival and the 2007 Red Sox Riots, when the Red Sox won the World Series as examples of incidents when the BearCat could be used. The Pumpkin Festival is an annual event with 70,000 visitors, many who come to Keene in hopes of breaking the world record of lighting the most Jack’o’Lanterns.

And we all know how unruly and dangerous the Keene Pumpkin Festival can get.

One notable training-related event that was deemed an allowable expense by DHS was the HALO Counter-Terrorism Summit 2012. Held at the Paradise Point Resort & Spa on an island outside San Diego, the 5-day summit was deemed an allowable expense by DHS, permitting first responders to use grant funds for the $1,000 entrance fee. Event organizers described the location for the training event as an island paradise: “the exotic beauty and lush grandeur of this unique island setting that creates a perfect backdrop for the HALO Counter-Terrorism Summit. This luxury resort features over 460 guestrooms, five pools, three fantastic restaurants overlooking the bay, a world-class spa and state-of-the-art fitness center. Paradise awaits…”

The marquee event over the summit, however, was its highly-promoted “zombie apocalypse” demonstration. Strategic Operations, a tactical training firm, was hired to put on a “zombie-driven show” designed to simulate a real-life terrorism event. The firm performed two shows on Halloween, which featured 40 actors dressed as zombies getting gunned down by a military tactical unit. Conference attendees were invited to watch the shows as part of their education in emergency response training. Barker explained that, “the idea is to challenge authorities as they respond to extreme medical situations where people become crazed and violent, creating widespread fear and disorder.”

Finally, some wise research on the part of the federal government. So, can bullets stop a zombie or not?

A review of Arizona’s UASI grant awards shows that several police departments and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office used UASI grants to purchase armored vehicles.

In 2011, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office used two armored vehicles and a SWAT team to conduct a raid of the residence of a man suspected to be involved in cockfighting. The actor Steven Seagal, who was then filming his television show ‘Lawman,” participated in the raid and rode in one of the armored vehicles.

Simulated zombie attacks and Steven Seagal. Your tax dollars at work!

Tags: ICE , Illegal Immigration , Janet Napolitano , Pork , Sequestration

The White House Sent Out ‘More than a Few’ ‘You’ll Regret’ Warnings


The Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt features Arne Duncan getting caught lying, what the Right should expect from Chris Christie, and then these dramatic developments:

Will the White House Regret Telling Woodward & Others They’ll Regret Public Disagreement?

This will be a story worth watching: The White House vs. Bob Woodward. I’ll let David Jackson of USA Today summarize:

It’s Bob Woodward versus the White House.

The bestselling author and Washington Post reporter is protesting White House pushback over his criticism of how President Obama and aides are handling the sequester issue.

“It was said very clearly, you will regret doing this,” Woodward told CNN, citing an e-mail he received from “a senior person” at the White House.

“I mean, it makes me very uncomfortable to have the White House telling reporters, you’re going to regret doing something that you believe in,” Woodward said.

In a statement, the White House said that “of course no threat was intended. As Mr. Woodward noted, the email from the aide was sent to apologize for voices being raised in their previous conversation. The note suggested that Mr. Woodward would regret the observation he made regarding the sequester because that observation was inaccurate, nothing more. And Mr. Woodward responded to this aide’s email in a friendly manner.”

All we can say is: We know more than a few reporters have received similar e-mails from White House officials. Yelling has also been known to happen.

“More than a few reporters have received similar e-mails from White House officials.” So Obama staffers regularly tell reporters “they’ll regret” writing stories detrimental to the president, and we’re only hearing of this now?

Apparently the Easiest Government Program to Cut: Jailing Illegal Immigrants

Well, dang:

The Associated Press has learned that the Homeland Security Department official in charge of the agency’s immigration enforcement and removal operations has resigned after hundreds of illegal immigrants were released from jails because of government spending cuts.

In an email obtained Wednesday by the AP, Gary Mead told coworkers that he was leaving U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the end of April. Mead is the head of enforcement and removal operations at ICE.

Mead had told co-workers of his resignation in the email sent Tuesday, hours after U.S. officials had confirmed that a few hundred illegal immigrants facing deportation had been released from immigration jails due to budget cuts.

For what it’s worth, an ICE spokesperson is insisting this is perfectly normal; he “announced several weeks ago to ICE senior leadership that he planned to retire after 40 years.” Uh-huh.

Permit me to quote the suddenly not-linkable Allahpundit of…

So, even though releasing the detainees very conveniently served Obama’s goal of increasing the pants-wetting over sequester cuts while also very conveniently making the amnesty fans in his base happy, this was just Gary Mead going rogue without any direction from the White House. And Obama’s so mad about it that Mead has to clear out his desk immediately two months from now. Let me gently suggest that in the unlikely event Mead really did order this on his own, perhaps he was just acting in the spirit of his boss, who not so subtly suggested a few days ago that if a deal wasn’t reached on cuts ASAP then border security might have to go bye-bye for awhile.

Dana Perino isn’t buying this story, either: “Strains credulity to think that ice releases thousands of illegals and no one there ran it up the food chain. Not even a ‘heads up’? Hmmm.”

In case you had missed it, the very first place the federal government has decided to save money was the $164 per day it spends on jailing illegal immigrants. Our government’s priorities in action, my fellow citizens!

 Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have released “several hundred” immigrants from deportation centers across the country, saying the move is an effort to cut costs ahead of budget cuts due to hit later this week.  Announcing the news Tuesday, ICE officials said that the immigrants were released under supervision and continue to face deportation. After reviewing hundreds of cases, those released were considered low-risk and “noncriminal,” officials said. The releases took place over the last week and were an effort “to ensure detention levels stay within ICE’s current budget,” said ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christiansen, citing uncertainty caused by a budget standoff in Washington. “All of these individuals remain in removal proceedings. Priority for detention remains on serious criminal offenders and other individuals who pose a significant threat to public safety,” she said.

Of course, you may have noticed… sequestration hasn’t taken effect yet.  Apparently government policies have prequels now.

If you’re calling ‘horsepuckey’ – or, you know, some other variation of that term – on this decision, you’re not alone:

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said she’s appalled to hear that the Department of Homeland Security has begun releasing hundreds of illegal immigrants from custody.

It’s the first of potentially thousands of immigrants to soon be freed before mandatory federal budget cuts go into effect.

The Obama administration has been issuing dire warnings about the impact of the sequestration.

Brewer is a Republican. She calls the releases granted before Friday’s deadline for sequestration cuts “pure political posturing.”

Brewer says “this represents a return to exactly the kind of catch-and-release procedures that have long made a mockery of our country’s immigration system.”

‘Hey, don’t look at us, we just work here,’ insists the White House.

The White House said Wednesday that it played no part in the decision to release hundreds of undocumented immigrants from detention centers, but a Texas Republican congressman is demanding answers.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said the decision was made by Immigration and Customs Enforcement “without any input from the White House.”

He said ICE made the decision “as a result of fiscal uncertainty” over automatic spending cuts that are to take effect March 1 if Congress and President Obama do not reach a deal on a federal budget. Obama wants to raise taxes on the wealthy as part of the deal; Republicans are opposed.

On Wednesday, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul sent a letter to ICE Director John Morton demanding the total number of people released, where they were released from and the specific reason why each of them was deemed releasable.

“This decision reflects the lack of resource prioritization within the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement and is indicative of the department’s weak stance on national security,” McCaul wrote in his letter.

Hey, look at the bright side, we’ve just cut spending by at least $16,400!

Tags: Barack Obama , Bob Woodward , Illegal Immigration , Sequestration

The Pentagon Budget: Beef Jerky, Trekkie Conventions, and $17,000 Drip Pans


President Obama heads off to Newport News today, to stand in front of a shipbuilding facility and once again argue that within a couple of days the economy will collapse and the government will cease being able to meet basic duties… unless we eliminate some tax deductions on the rich, because it’s been nearly two months since we’ve raised taxes on the rich.

Mr. President, let’s take a look at how the Pentagon has chosen to spend money recently, expenditures that have left them with no cushion for the cuts for sequestration. Senator Tom Coburn is kind enough to keep an eye on these sorts of things.

For example, the Office of Naval Research’s  Foreign Comparative Testing (FCT) program has spent more than $1.5 million to develop a new kind of beef jerky. Really.

With $21,000 from the Pentagon, the 100-Year Starship  organization hosted a September symposium for interstellar discussion.  “Former Trekkies Levar Burton and Nichelle Nichols made special appearances. The latter headlined an ‘intergalactic gala celebration.’ Attendees needed to wear ‘starship cocktail attire.’”

Yes, while I’m sure the ideas discussed at the convention were fascinating, your tax dollars basically sponsored a Star Trek convention.

Outside of the Coburn report, we can find that the Pentagon is spending $17,000 for every drip pan used on a Black Hawk helicopter:

Thanks to a powerful Kentucky congressman who has steered tens of millions of federal dollars to his district, the Army has bought about $6.5 million worth of the “leakproof” drip pans in the last three years to catch transmission fluid on Black Hawk helicopters. And it might want more from the Kentucky company that makes the pans, even though a similar pan from another company costs a small fraction of the price: about $2,500.

Our friends at Citizens Against Government Waste point out that the fiscal 2012 appropriations for the Defense Department includes $239 million for cancer research, including studies on breast cancer, $5.1 million for autism research,  and $3.2 million for bone marrow failure disease research. Research for cures for diseases is a wonderful thing, but one wonders why the Department of Defense is funding it, because the Labor/HHS appropriations bill already set aside $5.1 billion for the National Cancer Institute, $69.1 million for research on autism and $23.4 million for research on bone marrow disease .

Finally, about the shipbuilding itself, Coburn’s staff finds that the Navy is contracting to two different two different companies to build their new Littoral Combat Ships. Now, wiser defense minds than me may argue that there is a national security benefit to having two different companies building two different kinds of ships designed for the same mission, with “unique weapons systems and internal components and will require separate crew training, construction oversight, parts, and maintenance infrastructure throughout the life of the ships.” Perhaps our foes may find out a vulnerability in one that they won’t find in the other. But this approach has a cost, which is roughly $148 million more than building the same ship with one contractor for the four ships under construction. If the U.S. government purchases all 20, the cost will run up to $740 million.

But remember, if sequestration takes effect, the Department of Defense will have absolutely no choice but to have 800,000 civilian employees working only four days a week and to delay the deployment of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman. Really, it’s the only options they have, there’s no other place in the budget they could cut spending.

Tags: Barack Obama , Department of Defense , Sequestration

Cut the Lego Purchases First, Mr. President.


Here, let me help you with the sequestration, Mr. President.

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood is lamenting that his department will need to make drastic cuts that will immediately impact air traffic controllers and airport security lines. A quick perusal of Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn’s last annual Waste Report showcases a bunch of grant programs that could be cut or eliminated immediately to generate significant savings.

Let’s start at the Federal Highway Administration, and eliminate the National Scenic Byways Program entirely. Forever.

You’re asking, “the what?”

The National Scenic Byways Program (NSBP) is authorized by 23 U.S.C. § 162, and has been reauthorized and continued through March 31, 2012. The NSBP recognizes roads having outstanding scenic, historic, cultural, natural, recreational, and archaeological qualities. NSBP funding supports projects that manage and protect these intrinsic qualities, interpret these qualities for visitors, and improve visitor facilities along byways.

In fiscal 2012, roughly $20,600,000 were available for grants.

How does that money get spent?

Thirty-thousand Lego pieces, paid for with a $3,700 National Scenic Byways grant, are being assembled to build a miniature replica of a historic downtown street in Martinsburg, West Virginia.The 18-footlong display will depict Queen Street as it likely appeared in the 1920s and ‘30s.1020 It is expected to be a permanent exhibit at the “for the kids, by George” Children’s Museum, which will showcase George Washington’s “adventures in the Eastern Panhandle” of West Virginia. The museum is primarily funded with a $290,000 National Scenic Byways grant awarded by the Federal Highway Administration.

Buy your own damn Legos.

Then there’s the National Historic Covered Bridge Preservation program, which spent $9,762,116 in fiscal 2012. Of that amount, $650,000 was used to repair the Stevenson Road Covered Bridge in Greene County, Ohio, a bridge that is not actually connected to any roads or train tracks.

It’s time to stop providing federal grants for non-essential projects:

St. Louis is receiving more than $35 million in federal funds for “an old-fashioned style trolley system” that will run on a 2.2-mile line from the Missouri History Museum to the University City Library. The federal funds for the project include a $25 million Federal Transit Administration Urban Circulator grant, a $3.5 million New Markets Tax Credit, and $7.1 million in other federal transportation grants.

States and localities can’t come to Washington with the endless “crumbling roads and bridges” cry and then turn around and spend money on cute old-fashioned trolley systems.

Somehow $145,000 in U.S. Department of Transportation funds are being used for a sculpture garden in the town of Waterloo, Iowa, dedicated to former resident Lou Henry Hoover, the wife of 31st U.S. President Herbert Hoover.

Sculptures aren’t transportation. They don’t move.

It’s ridiculous for LaHood to complain about being asked to cut roughly 1.3 percent of his budget ($1 billion; the Obama administration requested $74 billion in its last budget request) when his department is funding nonsense like this.

Oh, and does the U.S. Department of Transportation really need a separate Undersecretary for Policy and an Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy?

Or did they really need to spend $2,810,246 sponsoring conferences last year?

Tags: Government Waste , Legos , Ray LaHood , Sequestration

Obama’s Expensive Trip to Decry Spending Cuts


So, just to clarify, Obama will travel to Newport News, Virginia tomorrow to decry the spending cuts required by the sequestration that he signed into law.

He will presumably take Air Force One, which costs roughly $180,000 per hour to operate, to give a speech. That speech will make the same argument he made last week at the White House, with at least one first responder feeling like a “potted plant” behind him.

Oh, and President Obama has not met any congressional leaders face-to-face to discuss avoiding sequestration yet.

President Obama really, really, really wants to avoid sequestration, he tells us… yet he refuses to do what would be required to avoid it: make some concessions and hash out a better deal with congressional leaders.

Tags: Air Force One , Barack Obama , Sequestration

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