The greed of profiteers know no bounds. Rather than just limit themselves to raking in the millions (and in some cases, billions) on death, destruction and misery in Iraq and Afghanistan, some of the same companies are doing the same thing right here at home and elsewhere in the world. Here are a few news bits that have come up in recent weeks.
Guess who’s collected on the Hurricane Katrina mess and will continue to do so in the future —
The four giant construction firms that received controversial no-bid contracts to house Hurricane Katrina evacuees last September will be earning up to $250 million apiece to do similar work after future disasters, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said yesterday. Unlike the Katrina deals, the contracts announced yesterday were awarded after a bidding process. But most of them went to the same four firms: Bechtel Corp., CH2M Hill Cos., Fluor Corp. and Shaw Group Inc. Two new consortia of companies were also chosen for a share of the work. Together, the six winners will receive up to $1.5 billion for hauling and installing temporary trailers to house evacuees during future emergencies. [links added]
Five days ago, the San Francisco Business Times reported, Bechtel received a FEMA contract worth $250 million. The Washington Business Journal added that the contract is for two years. (On a related note, FEMA contracts to house Katrina victims has "ballooned from $400 million to $3.4 billion," reported the Washington Post on August 9.)
If you have been watching cable news, Iraq has become an after thought in light of the Israeli-Lebanon crisis. (Afghanistan, yeah, we’re still there, too, is nowhere to be seen.) But keeping focus on Iraq, Jeremy Scahill, writing for The Nation, has a great piece on the dirty dealings of the private security profiteer, Blackwater USA.
As I noted last week, proponents of a privatized military say outsourcing the war machine is cheaper. A government audit says…
… that Blackwater included profit in its overhead and its total costs, which would result "not only in a duplication of profit but a pyramiding of profit since in effect Blackwater is applying profit to profit." The audit also found that the company tried to inflate its profits by representing different Blackwater divisions as wholly separate companies.
Saving money by getting rid of more faster. Sounds like what has become of "conservative" spending in recent years.
Fashion Faux Pas
From the Raleigh Chronicle, check out the latest fashion that is all the rage in Paris:
PARIS — According to an account from a reader who recently visited Paris, the secretive Blackwater security firm and private armed force now has invaded the boutiques of fashion-conscious Paris.
Blackwater gear? I have a feeling that the people who buy would buy this crap are the same who buy the Factor gear. Might as well buy a t-shirt that says "Jackass." The message is the same.
KBR Pay to Play?
In Nigeria — no, no, I am not asking you to transfer a million dollars for me — Halliburton subsidiary, Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) is under investigation "whether a subsidiary used payments to secure contracts at a gas plant in Nigeria." No, U.S. officials are not taking a harder line against Vice President Dick Cheney’s former (current?) employer. It is British officials undertaking the probe. [ed. note: You know, like how it was the British who foiled the recent terror plot, not Bush and his illegal domestic surveillance program. Thanks, Glenn.]
More from Reuters, as reported on August 8:
The SFO declined to confirm it was investigating KBR but said in an email: "The SFO is investigating allegations of illegal payments made to secure contracts in Nigeria. Searches were carried out in conjunction with City of London Police on 20 July 2006. The investigation continues." […] Halliburton said in a regulatory filing in March it had reason to believe that payments may have been made to Nigerian officials in relation to work on a liquefied natural gas terminal in Nigeria. Halliburton said potential consequences of a criminal indictment arising out of these matters could include it being barred from U.S. government contracts. During 2005, KBR and its affiliates had revenue of approximately $6.6 billion from government contracts. The allegations relate to activities that started in 1995 or earlier. [emphasis added]
God, I hope it was in 1995. [ed. note, 4:28pm: August 11, 1995 article in the Wall Street Journal: "US energy-services giant Halliburton Co appoints former US Defense Sec Dick Cheney chairman, president and chief executive officer to succeed 12-year veteran Tom Cruikshank." The activities mentioned in the Reuters article were most likely sooner than that.]