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Bush Cohorts Profiteering at all levels

Reported by Chrish - September 8, 2005

As Donna reported yesterday, inept FEMA director Mike Brown told a reporter on Studio B that the removal of bodies from New Orleans was being handled by a company called "Kenyon". Kenyon International bills itself as "Worldwide Disaster Management." How convenient for GWBush to have a disaster management company that enriches his friends and supporters to clean up after him as he spreads disasters worldwide.

Kenyon is a wholly owned subsidiary of SCI Corp., "the largest provider of funeral, cremation, and cemetery services in North America." SCI Corp is owned by major Bush contributor and friend Robert Waltrip, who was at the center of the scandal known as "Funeralgate".

Current FEMA Director Michael Brown was initially appointed to the position of FEMA General Counsel by his chum, former FEMA Director Joe Allbaugh, who was GWBush's Chief of Staff when Bush was governor of Texas. Allbaugh, in turn, was appointed head of FEMA by Bush after the 2000 campaign, of which Allbaugh was Campaign Manager. Along with Karen Hughes and Karl Rove, Allbaugh was part of the Iron Triangle.

According to Jon Elliston's must-read A Disaster Waiting To Happen, published 9/28/04, Bush's

White House quickly launched a government-wide effort to privatize public services, including key elements of disaster management. Bush's first budget director, Mitch Daniels, spelled out the philosophy in remarks at an April 2001 conference: "The general idea -- that the business of government is not to provide services, but to make sure that they are provided -- seems self-evident to me," he said.

In a May 15, 2001, appearance before a Senate appropriations subcommittee, Allbaugh signaled that the new, stripped-down approach would be applied at FEMA as well. "Many are concerned that federal disaster assistance may have evolved into both an oversized entitlement program and a disincentive to effective state and local risk management," he said. "Expectations of when the federal government should be involved and the degree of involvement may have ballooned beyond what is an appropriate level."

As a result, says a disaster program administrator who insists on anonymity, "We have to compete for our jobs -- we have to prove that we can do it cheaper than a contractor." And when it comes to handling disasters, the FEMA employee stresses, cheaper is not necessarily better, and the new outsourcing requirements sometimes slow the agency's operations.

William Waugh, a disaster expert at Georgia State University who has written training programs for FEMA, warns that the rise of a "consultant culture" has not served emergency programs well. "It's part of a widespread problem of government contracting out capabilities," he says. "Pretty soon governments can't do things because they've given up those capabilities to the private sector. And private corporations don't necessarily maintain those capabilities."

" At the same time, Allbaugh gave off contradictory signals on the value of mitigation (the measures taken in advance to minimize the damage caused by natural disasters), on one occasion chastising a community for doing too little to prepare in advance for disaster. In April 2001, he caused a stir when he asked Iowans, then in the midst of massive flood recovery efforts, "How many times will the American taxpayer have to step in and take care of this flooding, which could be easily prevented by building levees and dikes?"

A month later, the Washington Post reported that the Bush administration's moves against mitigation programs were causing worries in disaster-prone states. "Statehouse critics of the proposed cuts contend that in the long run they would cost the government more because many communities will be unable to afford preventative measures and as a result will require more relief money when disasters strike," the newspaper noted. "

Kenyon was in NYC for clean-up after the attack on the World Trade Center, and they're in Iraq cleaning up mass graves. Now they're in NOLA cleaning up after Bush's shrunken and incompetent FEMA. One could wonder if the "no hurry" attitude exhibited by Michael Brown in getting help to the victims ensured a bigger, longer contract for them.

Bush's old chums and cronies, placed in positions of enormous responsibility and trust, have reduced a critically important American agency to a channel through which they can funnel lucrative contracts to other old friends. This is a scandal and a disgrace and the parties involved, all the way to the top, should be removed immediately.

Addendum 9/11/05. Further documentation of the usual suspects being awarded your tax dollars: Reuters reports on Halliburton's KBR, Bechtel, and the Shaw Group benefiting from tbeir close personal connections. Can you spell VRWC?

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