White House released some of the figures from
the budget request for $87 billion for Iraq the
other day, and there are some pretty interesting
numbers in it.
example, $20.3 billion is for the reconstruction
of Iraq. The rest, presumably, is to provide targets
for Iraqis who are, for some reason, displeased
that their country is crawling with foreign invaders.
billion to rebuild a country doesn't sound like
much. Iraq has about as many people as Texas,
and Texas spends more than that every year on
the state budget. And this is a state that believes
"the Government ain't got no business spending
no money on nobody, no how, no way." I think they
even have that on their state flag or something.
labor is cheap in Iraq, as are many materials.
Oil is incredibly cheap, running roughly twenty-five
cents a gallon, a price I haven't seen since independent
gas stations had price wars back in the 60s. So
one might expect that a lot of infrastructure
rebuilding would be taking place, especially the
stuff we blew all to hell while invading their
fact, nearly $700 million is going toward rebuilding
civic sewer systems, which are sort of nonexistent.
Seems that only 6% of homes have sewer service
among the major cities. The admin is hoping that
with that $700 million, they can get that number
all the way up to ...
Eleven percent. Why anyone thinks it's worth spending
$700 million to bring sewer lines to just another
5% of the Iraqi population is a bit perplexing.
US wants to spend $153 million to construct 50
landfills, and buy 40 garbage trucks at $50,000
each. $165 million is earmarked for civil aviation,
including getting the two main airports, which
we bombed, reopened. $150 million goes to border
guards, because neither the Americans nor the
Iraqis quite trust Iran. The railroad system gets
$303 million, which is more than what the GOP
wants to spend on Amtrak. $150 million for a new
children's hospital in Basra. $240 million for
road and bridge construction. The admin wants
to train 9,000 Iraqis in "market- oriented computer
skills," which presumably means taking telephone
orders for US companies that want to outsource
to take advantage of cheap labor. Or maybe the
GOP will put their fundraising phone banks there
after the Indians decide the work isn't worth
the lousy pay.
of the stuff on the list seems fairly sensible,
and if anything, the problem is that more money
is needed. But there are a couple of items that
are really strange.
US wants to spend $400 million to INCREASE the
capacity of the Iraqi prison system. Currently
at 23,700, this money would add room for 4,000
more prisoners at a mere $10,000 per prisoner.
Why America thinks it will be imprisoning more
people than Saddam did makes for some intriguing
put it in perspective, that $400 million is more
than the US wants to spend on highways, railroads,
hospitals, or education. Granted, anyone from
Texas wouldn't see anything strange about that,
but for the rest of the world, it's a weird set
weirder is the witness protection program the
admin wants to set up. They've allocated $100
million to relocate 100 snitches and their families.
That works out to one million dollars per snitch,
which leaves you wondering if they're relocating
them to MARS or someplace as easy to get to. Harry
Potter only THINKS he knows what a Golden Snitch
is. By way of comparison, the Bee reports that
domestically, the US shells out an average of
$3,263 per snitch (and family) for the domestic
witness protection program. One has to assume
that Iraq produces a much higher quality of snitch
than one finds in the American Mafia, or in corporate
will cost $13 million to inflict zip codes and
area codes on the Iraqi people. If that doesn't
win their hearts and minds, nothing will.
are blowing $100 million to get 500 experts to
investigate "crimes against humanity." At $200,000
per expert, we should expect to see some pretty
gaudy crimes. No word on whether they will be
investigating the defunct Saddam regime, or the
of all is $100 million earmarked to construct
3,528 homes in seven communities. Each community
would have roads, schools, a place of worship
(hopefully a mosque and not a Baptist church),
a supermarket, and a clinic. Sounds like the deal
of a century. It works out to $28,344.67 per home,
which is probably not unusual in Iraq, but getting
all the rest of it tossed in for free sounds incredibly
course, that probably doesn't include sewage.
That would probably save money.
Congress is skeptical about some of those items.
$50,000 for a garbage truck really upset them,
I'm told. Their brother Luigi can get you one
slightly used for less than that.
American equivalent of Iraq, of course, is California,
and here we had that recall election. You may
have seen it mentioned at one point or another.
Like the budget for Iraq, it had a lot of numbers
that made sense, and some that were just plain
Sacramento Bee ran exit polls, and there were
some interesting results. Support for recall decreased
with educational status. Nearly a quarter of Arnie's
vote came from Democrats. One in four Democrats
voted for the recall. One in eight Republicans
voted against it. Arnie's support climbed with
family income, while Bustamante's dropped. Green
Party candidate Peter Camejo got most of his support
from families making $15,000 a year or less. Nearly
half of voters reported problems voting. Most
were minor. Only 42% of Arnie's supporters considered
positions on the issues to be more important than
"leadership qualities." 19% of voters who thought
the recall was a colossal waste of money voted
for it anyway, while 6% of those who thought it
was really worthwhile voted against it.
some people, it just didn't matter if they thought
their candidate was worth a damn or not. Ten percent
of the people voting for the recall approved of
the job Davis was doing. Four percent of Arnie
voters disapproved of the man they voted for,
and eleven percent of Bustamante voters similarly
held their noses. McClintock voters were the most
rational about this, with only one percent of
his support coming from people who disapproved
course, we had a situation where Republicans enthusiastically
supported a candidate who is pro-choice, pro-gun
control, pro-gay rights and who has a tawdry sexual
history. And the right wing is enthusiastically
hailing an election in which a measure to conceal
racial preferences in hiring and admissions was
defeated by nearly a 2 to 1 margin.
answer to all this is straightforward enough:
we send Arnie to Baghdad to build sewers.
didn't you think of that?
October 13, 2003