Tuesday, March 22, 2016

March, 2016, By The Numbers, Part 1: Gitmo Disconnect, Wasting Money In Mexico, FOIA Stonewalling and More

On a periodic basis we do some posts that fall under the theme of “by the numbers.” Rather than trust what the American political tells us about reality, we like to examine the real numbers and the real reality in the world to understand what is actually going on. Relying on politicians, and their cohorts in the media, to tell us what is reality is always a sucker bet. They have their own agendas and goals, usually centering around their needs and self-enrichment. So we need to look at the reality of the numbers to determine what is really going on.

Previous analyses of “by the numbers” can be accessed by entering the phrase in the search box above. This is the third and final post this month where we look at the numbers to truly find out how good, not likely, or bad, most likely, the American political class is doing in managing our tax dollars, protecting our freedoms, and resolving major issues that affect all of us. 

1) The Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) was passed several decades ago and was one of the few good pieces of legislation passed over those decades. The law requires the Federal government bureaucracy to make a thorough, good faith search of Federal records whenever a private citizen or organizations submits a formal FOIA request. 

Those records would then be presented to the whoever requested the records, assuming that those records do not contain personal information or threaten national security. This is a checkpoint on runaway government to protect the rights of citizens and ensure that government entities and workers are complying with existing laws.

Fast forward ahead to present time and recall that President Obama promised the country that he would operate “the most transparent” Presidential administration ever. Great promise, we, the citizens, would be able to easily see what hanky panky was going on within the Federal government because the head of the Federal government, Obama, promised that we would be able to see everything going on.

But alas, like most, if not all, Obama promises, this one was also a lie. According to the Associated Press:

  • In 2015, the Obama administration set a record for the number of times that Federal employees claimed they could not find the records that journalists, citizens, and others requested via the FOIA.
  • In more than one out of six requests, the government searchers said nothing could be found that related to the FOIA request.
  • This translates to 129,825 times that the Feds said nothing, not a single page or record in the entire Federal bureaucracy, existed related to the search requested.
  • The results across different Federal agencies were quite different and disturbing: the FBI could not find any records 39% of the time, the EPA office that covers New York and New Jersey could not find anything an amazing 58% of the time, and the U.U. Customs and Border Protection could not fulfill requests 34% of the time.

The obvious conclusion is that the government is hiding a lot of stuff. Defenders of the Obama administration could counter that assumption by claiming that 1) there are a lot more requests so that the number of empty searches would go up as a result of more searches being requested or 2) the latest searches are looking for stuff that really does not exist.

However, the following paragraph from the Associated Press report destroys those two rebuttal points [my emphasis added]:

In some high-profile instances, usually after news organizations filed expensive federal lawsuits, the Obama administration found tens of thousands of pages after it previously said it couldn't find any. The website Gawker sued the State Department last year after it said it couldn't find any emails that Philippe Reines, an aide to Hillary Clinton and former deputy assistant secretary of state, had sent to journalists. After the lawsuit, the agency said it found 90,000 documents about correspondence between Reines and reporters.

This is called stonewalling, it is illegal under the FOIA legislation and is typical of the corruption within this administration.

2) As we have reported many times in this blog, the city of Chicago has some of the toughest, most restrictive gun laws in this country. And yet, the southern part of Chicago is so violent that it gives the whole city the distinction of being one of the most violent cities in the country and the world. Consider the latest tally of violence from Chicago as reported by AWR Hawkins, writing for the Breitbart website:

  • Between Thursday morning and 6:29 the following Friday morning of a recent week, about 24 hours, 21 people in Chicago were shot, one was stabbed and one died.
  • The one person who died died as a result of a gun shot, an incident that also saw two people wounded.
  • There were 8 separate shooting incidents within that 24 hour period.
  • On March 9, Breitbart also reported that 21 people in Chicago had been shot including two who died inside of a 20 hour window of time.
  • The Chicago Tribune reported on February 22, 2016 that the Chicago homicide rate was up about 100% over the same time period in 2015.
This violence happens in Chicago even though the city has a violence tax that raises the price of every gun and bullet sold at retail in the city, it limits the number of gun stores and the locations of those stores, and the New York Times says that Chicago handgun restrictions allow Chicago politicians to “get as close as they could get legally to a ban without a ban.”

The numbers do not lie, tougher gun control laws do not reduce violent crime. If they did, Chicago would not be what it is today from a homicide and assault perspective. Maybe another approach to violent crime is in order, the numbers prove the current approach does not work.

3) The lead laden water coming out of the water pipes of homes in Flint, Michigan has been national news for the past couple of months. As most people know, having lead leach into tap water can cause a number of serious health conditions including brain damage. It is a serious condition.

While Flint has gotten all of the publicity about bad pipes, a recent USAToday article pointed out that Flint is just one of thousands of water systems throughout the country that have problems with lead in the water. Their investigation found that an amazing 2,000 or so water systems in the country were tested and showed that their pipes were carrying lead contaminated water.

These water systems and their lead contaminated water is serving 6 million Americans and 350 of those water systems provide water to schools and daycare centers. A Maine elementary school’s water system had lead levels 42 times higher than the EPA limit. A Pennsylvania school’s water was 14 times higher than allowed under EPA guidelines. A New York state school’s water had so much lead that it was pushing the bounds of being classified as “hazardous waste.”

Part of a central function of government should be to protect the safety and well being of citizens that fund that government via taxation. As with everything else that the American political class touches, this is just another example where American taxpayers have paid trillions of dollars in taxes and have been stuck with not only a $19 TRILLION national debt by today’s politicians but we have nothing to show for our tax dollars in return: our bridges are crumbling, our roads are falling apart and we now know that our water systems might be poisoning us, water systems managed by and neglected by the politicians in this country today.

4) And while across the country, Americans are being served by substandard safety processes by their water systems, Washington politicians continue to waste money on themselves while infrastructure needs like clean water go wanting. Consider the cost of a recent ONE DAY trip Vice President Joe Biden made to Mexico City, according to reporting by Elizabeth Harrington of the Washington Free Beacon:

  • Just the cost of the hotel accommodations for the Vice President’s trip was over $500,000. Did I mention this was a ONE DAY trip?
  • Biden and his entourage stayed at the luxury International Presidente Hotel.
  • The trip entailed the American taxpayer paying for 260 rooms and meeting areas with a total hotel tab of $538,528.65. Did I mention that this was a ONE DAY trip?
  • This comes out to an average cost of over $2,000 per room.
  • The State Department tried to justify the outrageous expense due to last minute changes to the itineraries, which was the fault of, you guessed it, the State Department. How many last minute changes to the itineraries could there have been, it was a ONE DAY trip?
  • The hotel where Biden’s entourage stayed is described as a "luxury hotel tower with sweeping city views," the hotel has "world class" rain showers, blackout blinds, spa treatment availability, steam bathing facilities, massages, body scrubs, body wraps, foot reflexology, manicures, and waxing, in other words, this is not a Red Roof Inn.
  • As the article points out, this was just for the hotel rooms. It does not include transportation, security, and other costs for a ONE DAY meeting.
The numbers show a pathetic waste of taxpayer money and so many unanswered questions: why so many people for a one day trip, was this one day trip really necessary, why such a high cost, why couldn’t some people stay at the U.S. Embassy compound to save money, and most importantly, what did this ONE DAY meeting accomplish? According to the article, it probably accomplished nothing since no one from either government claimed it accomplished anything. Pathetic.

5) So how has the economy treated African-Americans over seven years into the first African-American Presidency. According to an article from the Seattle Times that was summarized in the March 11, 2016 issue of The Week magazine, while the U3 unemployment rate for white Americans is 4.3%, the U3 unemployment rate for African-Americans is more than double, 8.8%

In fact, the state with the lowest African-American unemployment rate, Virginia, where it is 6.7%, is equal to the state with the highest white unemployment rate, West Virginia. So much for “hope and change” changing the economic plight of the African-American community, nowhere in the numbers is that true.

6) According to a recent YouGov poll, as reported in the March 11, 2016 issue of The Week magazine, 56% of Americans want the terrorist prison at Guantanamo to stay open, 26% want to see it closed, and 18% remain unsure. Just another example where many people in Washington, especially the President, continue to be out of touch with what Americans want and value.

Another set of numbers that show how the American political class has failed the American public. Ignoring our priorities on terrorists, failed economic programs especially for African-Americans, wasting our tax money on Mexican luxury hotels, not protecting us from lead laden water, etc. More bad numbers tomorrow.

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