United States News Digest
Federal Disaster Relief Fund Falls Below $500 Million
Sept. 10 (EIRNS)Yesterday, the Obama Administration finally put in a formal request for more money for FEMA's Disaster Relief Fund (DRF), after 18 months of neglect during which the nation was hit with more snow and ice, flooding, tornadoes, and wildfires than has been seen by anyone in living memory. The request is for a paltry $500 million for the remainder of FY2011, which ends Sept. 30, and another $4.6 billion for FY2012, on top of the $1.8 billion that the Administration asked for last February. Given the intensity of extreme weather events just this year, that amount of money won't even begin to address this year's needs, much less that backlog of unfinished disaster recovery projects stretching back to 2005.
As a result of the Administration's malign neglect, the DRF fell to a balance of $484 million, as of Sept. 9, with more than $200 million worth of projects put on hold as a result of the low balance.
It's still an open question as to how the DRF money will move through the Congress, however. The Senate Appropriations Committee, last week, passed a FY2012 Homeland Security appropriations bill that includes $6 billion for the DRF; and on Sept. 7, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) vowed to pass a stand-alone emergency supplemental appropriation. Last July, the House Appropriations Committee passed its bill with an extra $1 billion for the DRF for FY2011, which was taken from other parts of the budget.
A spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor told Politico yesterday that the $500 million that the administration asked for FY2011 will still have to be offset. It now appears likely that neither the Senate nor the House bill will be passed before the end of the fiscal year, and so Cantor signaled earlier this week that a continuing resolution will be brought to the floor to keep the government operating after Oct. 1.
FBI Raids Obama Crony "Green Energy" Firm
Sept. 9 (EIRNS)"The future is here," declared President Obama in a May 2010 visit to the Solyndra solar-panel factory in Silicon Valley. But now, Obama's future may be linked to that of Solyndra, in the wake of a Sept. 8 FBI raid on Solyndra's offices, and also on the homes of three top Solyndra executives.
Solyndra, once touted by Obama as a model for his Administration's drive for "clean energy" investments, collapsed in bankruptcy last week, and is now reportedly under investigation by the FBI and the Department of Energy in connection with its obtaining of $535 million in federal loan guarantees. Additionally, a Congressional committee is investigating whether the White House improperly interfered with the Solyndra deal, according to the Wall Street Journal and other news sources.
Oklahoma oilman George Kaiser, a major Obama fundraiser and "bundler," was a leading backer of the company, and was also a frequent visitor to the Obama White House.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee is looking at the White House role in approving the DOE loan guarantee; committee Republicans say they've found evidence that White House officials were monitoring Solyndra's status in the loan application process. The committee will hold a hearing on Solyndra Sept. 14.
In 2009, DOE put Solyndra's application on a fast track for approval, and announced the award with great fanfare. The generous terms of the government loan included the lowest interest of all the green projects benefitting from Energy Department help. As part of the deal, the DOE agreed that if the company went bust, private investors could recoup their losses before the government.
"The FBI raid further underscores that Solyndra was a bad bet from the beginning and put taxpayers at unnecessary risk," said Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), leaders of the House Energy Committee. "President Obama's signature green jobs program went from a darling of the administration, to bankruptcy, to now the subject of an FBI raid, in a matter of days."
Energy Committee Democrats also have some questions. "Less than two months ago, Mr. [Brian] Harrison [Solyndra's CEO] met with us and other Committee members to assure us that Solyndra was in a strong financial position and in no danger of failing," Reps. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) wrote to the Republicans leading the investigation. "These assurances appear to contrast starkly with his company's decision to file for bankruptcy last week." Previously, DeGette and Waxman had voted against subpoenas to the White House budget office for records on the loan, but now, they are pressing to question Harrison, who has been called to testify next week.
The U.S. Postal Service Goes "Hollywood"
Sept. 9 (EIRNS)The U.S. Postal Service, which faces bankruptcy and mass layoffs, seems to be worried that its stressed-out workers may "go postal." A new video about work-place violence is making the rounds to every postal facility across the country. An armed Postal Inspector personally shows the video and then discusses it with the workers.
The point of the video is that with the economy tanking, and their jobs on the line, postal workers, who may already have a spouse or other family member who has recently lost a job, may go over the edge.
However, instead of relieving the economic stress, by fighting for a real solution, i.e., Glass-Steagall, the Post Service urges employees to spy on their fellow workers! The union solution is different: they have called demonstrations in front of Congressional district offices for Sept. 27, in favor of a bill that would let the USPS stay afloat by using money currently earmarked for pension funds.
ACLU: Obama Has Changed Virtually Nothing
Sept. 7 (EIRNS)On the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attack, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) issued a report surveying the severe erosion of civil liberties under both Bush and now under Obama entitled: A Call to Courage: Reclaiming Our Liberties Ten Years After 9/11. Here are some of the ACLU's most pointed assessments of what President Obama has done with regard to these matters:
"Ten years ago, we could not have imagined our country would engage in systematic policies of torture and targeted killing, extraordinary rendition and warrantless wiretaps, military commissions and indefinite detention, political surveillance and religious discrimination. Not only were these policies completely at odds with our values, but by engaging in them, we strained relations with our allies, handed a propaganda tool to our enemies, undermined the trust of communities whose cooperation is essential in the fight against terrorism, and diverted scarce law enforcement resources. Some of these policies have been stopped. Torture and extraordinary rendition are no longer officially condoned. But most other policiesindefinite detention, targeted killing, trial by military commissions, warrantless surveillance, and racial profilingremain core elements of our national security strategy today."
Americans Tell Pollsters: They Don't Want Obama
Sept. 6 (EIRNS)Two new polls agree on one thing: The public is ready for Obama to be dumped. Last week, Obama set a new low mark for popularity, as a poll conducted by NBC News/Wall Street Journal showed that 51% of Americans disapproved of the way Obama is doing his job, while only 45% said they approved. Today, an ABC/Washington Post poll showed Obama's approval had fallen yet again, with 53% now saying they disapproved of Nero's job performance while only 43% approved of it. A mere 19% believe the country is "headed in the right direction," the lowest number ever under Obama.
Bad as they are, his numbers are eclipsed by those of Congress. The NBC poll found that a whopping 82% of Americans said they disapprove of the way Congress is doing its job, again the highest dissatisfaction number ever recorded. Just 13% approve of Congress's job performance, nearly matching the lows lawmakers encountered in the fall of 2008, at the end of the Bush Administration, and just after the collapse of the U.S. financial sector. More specifically, Republicans in Congress face their lowest approval numbers since Fall of 2008, when Democrats won big in that November's election. 68% of Americans disapprove of GOP members of Congress, and only 28% approve their actions.