Friday April 21, 2006
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I've just about had it with everyone. First of all we have these continuing stories of Members of Congress acting badly. Either they are guilty of outright bribery and corruption, or they acting in a way that is so close to the edge that they make the Duke Lacrosse team look like a Brownie troop selling Thin Mints in the garden center parking lot.
This thug Mollohan from West Virginia is typical - remember he's the guy who, on an annual salary of about $160 k managed to grow his net worth from about $100,000 to something on the order of $14 million in just five years - but he's certainly not alone.
And as much as the Democrats wish they could say it's all the Republicans; I wish I could say it's all the Democrats.
It's both. Not all, but both.
Members of Congress piously and piteously claim they are struggling public servants, but it is becoming clearer that way too many of them are using their public positions not to serve their constituents, but to enrich themselves and their friends.
Here's what I think they should do: The August recess is scheduled to begin on July 31 and last until September 5. Thirty-seven days.
Rather than taking trips to Paris or Rome, or spending nights in five star hotels in Hong Kong or Beijing they should each pledge to spend just four days - about 10 percent of their summer vacation - living with a military unit which has been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan in the past six months.
Not in Iraq or Afghanistan; that would be too hard. I mean live with the enlisted personnel of a unit which is back in the United States.
And they shouldn't live in VIP quarters. They should live in the barracks and eat in the mess halls and spend all day cleaning and repairing the aging equipment. And listen to the stories of young men and women who are truly serving their country.
And not getting rich along the way.
Just when you didn't think anyone could be scummier than Members of Congress taking bribes, comes the news that a US Government employee named Robert Stein who was stationed down in Hillah (near Babylon) was on the take from a man named Phillip Bloom who paid out $2 million in bribes to get nearly $9 million in Iraq reconstruction contracts.
Bloom, according to the Wall Street Journal's Yochi Dreazen, bribed Stein and others (including at least two Lt. Cols.) with "jewelry, first-class plane tickets, and sexual favors from women he employed at a villa in Baghdad."
The LA Times' Christian Miller adds "real estate lots, weapons, new SUVs, cigars, Breitling watches, and alcohol" to the list of goodies Bloom was handing out.
Stein had the authority to sign contracts up to $500,000. To escape detection, Bloom submitted multiple bids on phony letterheads and Stein awarded contracts in the amount of $498,900.
A Sergeant in the US military with six years of service will earn - before bonuses and allowances - some $26,500 per year. That is the equivalent of five Breitling watches.
Put another way, an E-5 would have to serve in Iraq for nearly 19 years to make as much as one of those phony contracts cost US taxpayers.
Between the two of them, Bloom and Stein are facing jail terms of up to 70 years. Here's where I think they should serve their time:
Now some good news. If you've been reading MULLINGS for the past week you know I've been asking you to considering sponsoring a group of young Marines who are running in two marathons to raise money for an outfit called the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund.
As of this writing, they have blown through the $19,000 mark on their way to a $30,000 goal.
That would buy a half dozen of those Breitling watches, but it will earn the thanks of all the Marines of Companies A, E, G, and H, Marine Security Guard Battalion.
On a the Secret Decoder Ring page today: A link to the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, a link to the LA Times coverage of the scandal; a link to the pay charts of US military personnel; one of those very popular vanity license plate Mullfotos and a Catchy Caption of the Day.
Copyright © 2006 Richard A. Galen
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