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« Michael Winship: Corruption Destroys Afghanistan | Main | Should Governments Raise Taxes During a Recession? »

Ask the Reporters: EXPOSÉ on BILL MOYERS JOURNAL

This week, BILL MOYERS JOURNAL collaborated with EXPOSÉ: AMERICA'S INVESTIGATIVE REPORTS to follow the story of a journalist, Eric Nalder from the SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER, as he reported on a whistleblower's account of abuse of military housing contracts.

We thank Eric Nalder of the SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER for taking time to answer your questions, which you can post below. We will post his response in a few weeks.


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Comments

I think that we should pull back are troops from the war in Afganistan.

Hi,

I just watched this piece online and I do have a couple of questions. I should also say that I have bid for and won government contracts in the past. In those situations -- none of which had to do with building or infrastructure -- the goverment had to award to the lowest bidder in most cases.

Was that true for the situation with American Eagle? Did they have the option to choose another bidder?

And does it make sense when Thompson says that her past financial difficulties should have no bearing on her ability to get a contract (ala prior bad acts?) Is there any way to vet for bad business practices under government contract law?

What do you see as the solution to this problem?

And a final question -- do military contracts function under different rules than say contracts for the Department of Interior, or Department of Education, etc.

Thanks

Subject: Ellison Hunt

The investment advice he gives below is generous and level-headed. Here is another reason Bill Moyers should include him on a broadcast panel of average Joes. And yet it is a shame that such benevolent minds as Ellison Hunt's are fixated upon the stock market and investment in a global capitalist "free market" economy. A better focus would be the reform and diversification of that unfair system which poisons ours ethics and our very perception of reality. Well, it takes all types, I guess. I would also enjoy seeing bret hughes, David Eddy and Natalie Rosen on that proverbial panel, Bill Moyers. Also, there was a postman in Kansas City, I forget his name, who also begged last year to be on the air. (see archives?)You need your own J-tube, Journalistas.

Subject: Ellison Hunt

The investment advice he gives below is generous and level-headed. Here is another reason Bill Moyers should include him on a broadcast panel of average Joes. And yet it is a shame that such benevolent minds as Ellison Hunt's are fixated upon the stock market and investment in a global capitalist "free market" economy. A better focus would be the reform and diversification of that unfair system which poisons ours ethics and our very perception of reality. Well, it takes all types, I guess. I would also enjoy seeing bret hughes, David Eddy and Natalie Rosen on that proverbial panel, Bill Moyers. Also, there was a postman in Kansas City, I forget his name, who also begged last year to be on the air. (see archives?)You need your own J-tube, Journalistas.

Subject: Ellison Hunt

The investment advice he gives below is generous and level-headed. Here is another reason Bill Moyers should include him on a broadcast panel of average Joes. And yet it is a shame that such benevolent minds as Ellison Hunt's are fixated upon the stock market and investment in a global capitalist "free market" economy. A better focus would be the reform and diversification of that unfair system which poisons ours ethics and our very perception of reality. Well, it takes all types, I guess. I would also enjoy seeing bret hughes, David Eddy and Natalie Rosen on that proverbial panel, Bill Moyers. Also, there was a postman in Kansas City, I forget his name, who also begged last year to be on the air. (see archives?)You need your own J-tube, Journalistas.

I searched for 30 minutes to find a weblog that my paper fits... I failed to do so.

I decided to put it under this question and hope for the best.

Volatility, Diversification, Holding Long 01/05/2009

I should tell you the Volatility recently seen in the Stock Market was a sign of the Hedge Funds trading and the market moving 800 points up or down over the time space of a week.

The small investor was sitting out and the hedge funds were feeding on each other. For the moment this has reversed as the market is now moving up or down in 100 to 200 point days. This is the small investor coming back in under the miss-conception it is now safe to do so.

It is not… two things make this so:

First, Hedge Funds and the like (mutual funds, pension funds, i.e. any big investors who have the ability to use computer hard ware and soft ware to trade and amounts of money in the Billions of dollars).

Second, Computer trading.

The small investor can not compete with computer trading. The hedge funds have enough money to move the market in the direction they want it to go on any given day.

There are two more “Abominations” that we must speak of:

One, “Diversification” One good stock is worth 10 bad stocks.

Two, “Hold Long Term” When you hold for the long term you give the Hedge Funds time to get out at the top and leave you holding the bag and the bag will be empty.

The small investor invested in single stocks and has no ideal at what point they will sell. The result is the stock moves a point or two or even less then a point.

The Hedge Funds invest in Industries and you will note all the major stocks in the industry rising or falling together and moving several points.

The Professionals on Wall Street who just took all our money and then got all our tax dollars see the little investors as “Suckers” and Diversification and Holding Long is what makes us just that… suckers or worst.

To make money in an “Unregulated Free Market” as a small investor you have to choose the stocks the Hedge Funds choose and sell them at the top just as the Hedge Funds do.

I saw the top in January of 2008 and tried to get everyone I knew out of the market. Many of my friends lost 75 to 80% of there investments (I do not say savings as their greed did not allow them to move from investing i.e. making money to savings that meant safe FDIC accounts that would have held their “PROFITS” safe!

There is always tomorrow and the Market studied well would provide opportunities to invest again. But, the Market is not a savings account and was never meant to be.

The Unregulated Free Market was meant to be a place where the professional hypes the dream to get rich and convinces the small investor that to be safe is to be diversified and to hole long! This gives insurance to the professional who knows he can get out with profits and the small investor will brag about how he is holding for the long term and doesn’t care if the market goes down. How stupid can intelligent people be?

The purpose of what I have said in the above paragraphs is this:

If you are going to invest in the Stock Market in the future you will have to find by investigative work, a good deal. I mean for example Platinum a precious metal that not only relates to inflation as gold does but is used in the Automotive and Computer Industries.

At present Platinum is down about 50% and may go lower. If watched, on a weekly bases, along with reading the WSJ for news on the Economy, it will be easy to buy in the bottom 20% of the cycle. They hold to the top 20% of the cycle and sell.

It is the selling by the small investor that is Untimely Important. If the small investor can stop worshiping the Wealthy and stop allowing Greed to Rule, then the 60% profit will be worth leaving the 20% on the table.

One does not have to be fully invested 100% of the time on every dollar one has. This is Greed.

The Federal Government and Wall Street and the Federal Reserve has for years sold the common citizen a Hours-of-Cards… two in fact!

The Real-estate Market always goes up………..
The Stock Market always goes up………

Both have fallen to a point that has caused Capitalism to fail and the financial system of this Country to fail!

If and when the leaders find their heads and decide to regulate markets and not let Banks, Insurance Companies, and Corporations get too big to fail? Maybe we can have a stable economy.

One can look for and find opportunities in the Market and make a profit, if one decides to be responsible to one’s own plan and stick with it and not be caught in the mob mentality of getting rich at any price.

Just remember the Professionals will lie to you and tell you the market will go up over time… nothing goes up over time, it goes up and down. The Professionals will tell you to diversify while they use computers to pick stocks and hold to sell at specific price. (This is diversify as opposed to specific.) The Professionals will always tell you the Market is headed up and stocks will do well. They do not give sell signals or say negative things about companies.

They will tell you to buy while they are selling the same stocks… my point is they will never tell you the truth.

Finally their motive is to get rich at your expense.

So, you think you want to invest in an Unregulated Free Market? Well boys and girls I hope you understand what you are up against. But as Master Po said, “what you do not know the doing will quickly teach you”.

I am,

Anonymous9

As the article noted, the lawsuit was dropped since the Navy negotiated their own settlement. Millions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted; corrupt companies have made millions (from taxpayers money) by fraudulent means; and the government has closed their eyes, turned their heads and let it happen. This is part of the problem that has led us to the economic disaster we currently face. Mr. Jack tried his best but he was only one against many. He received no reward because in the government's eyes, he did nothing to deserve one even though he was confident that he could make a difference and expose and stop a continuing problem. He did not get another job and struggles today the same as the rest of us. These incidents (nation-wide) with American Eagle Communities and their affiliates received quite a bit of media attention. Surprisingly the attention did not increase the interest in government officials to look further into the problem.

Debb (& Shaw): Our sensibility is that current possession is 9/10 of the law. Why is that? The basis is more cultural than legal and it is beginning to fade.

You have to question insane opulence. We have to despise it and take away its mystique. Say, how many houses can one family live in? Say, how many luxury cars can one person drive? How many media outlets or banks or sports franchises can one billionaire manage?

Then support employees who sit-in or seize industries. Support squatters who take the risk of occupying vacant bank-owned houses. (These buildings will rot like fruit without utilities and occupancy.) Start to believe that you and others can own and manage the workplace without wealthy investors. (Labor produces all value anyway.)

Remember, capitalism works until it gets above human scale. (I'd say about the size of a brew pub is the safe maximum.) Grocery co=ops have proven a good device for controlling food quality at affordable prices. (So that's about the level owner management should kick in.)

Devolving corporate charters and capping private wealth and holdings could save our planet. (Along with green technologies now quashed by corporatism.) The corporate charter and its culture promote selfishness and criminal irresponsibility. Competition from Co-operative and worker democracy needs to be encouraged and legally preferred.

Never for a moment would I contemplate seizure of a small entrepreneur's taxi fleet, bakery, shoe store and such. These are the economic jewels of our civic life. But too long feigned protection of these admirable entities has been used to shield great corporate and elite travesties. Imagine if your TV and radio outlets were locally owned and controlled, like NPR and PBS were intended to be.

A new landscape of diverse ownership and control could heal our democracy and end lobbyist rule. As Bill Moyers and other bloggers have stated:
"It is extremely difficult to become or remain extremely wealthy (or extremely poor) in a fair and just society." And I always remind you,"Respect labor, because it fashions your reality by the hour."

Shaw

You ask what we can do? WE - yes WE are the problem!

We need to get out of THEIR system! Stop giving them your support. Stop mass consuming and get active in your local community and in government. It's "We the People, By the People"....

If WE stop supporting big business and get involved locally, they cannot stay in business. Start by supporting your local business. Yes, you may pay more for a while, but in the long run we gain and have much more control. Think about it. Bank at your local bank or credit union only, not the big corporate giant. Shop at your local farmers market or invest in your local CSA (community support agriculture) program. Shop at the local butcher (probably has dairy also). Find your local brewery, go to the local bakery... Even big cities have small local business available. I would recommend you get out of the military, but that's probably one of the safest places to be economically right now, but get out as soon as you can. Trying to eliminate corruption and still be a part of it just doesn't work. Oh yeah, did I mention, cut up your credit cards. Pay off your mortgage, invest in something tangible like gold or silver and spend cash only.

And last but not least, continue your education and educate your friends.

It's "WE THE PEOPLE" and we must grow beyond this adolescents. Take your power back people! We together can do it!

In regard to the American Eagle scam with the US government, I would like to make you aware of another scam that has occurred at the Cradle of Naval Aviation, Pensacole, Florida. Balfour Beatty contracted to build base housing, a sub-contractor named CW Smith was hired along with his crew. My son was part of the crew, worked for a week on the buildings and was never paid. Sounds like American Eagle Communities. Does the Government contract with sleezy companies, alone?

In regard to the American Eagle scam with the US government, I would like to make you aware of another scam that has occurred at the Cradle of Naval Aviation, Pensacole, Florida. Balfour Beatty contracted to build base housing, a sub-contractor named CW Smith was hired along with his crew. My son was part of the crew, worked for a week on the buildings and was never paid. Sounds like American Eagle Communities. Does the Government contract with sleezy companies, alone?

I really don´t think that our so-called experts in the new administration would listen to Sarah Chayes. Or perhaps they will listen after millions or billions of dollars are spent in the endless cycles that is going on in Afhganistan.


“How do we take our ownership of our Country?”
“The root of all... urgent problems!”
Amend the Constitution to empower the people to “EXPRESS THEIR WILL”
on ALL ISSUES!

A story about continuing outrageous behavior on the part of the government. But to me the story seemed unfinished: what happened to John Jack? Did he find another job? Did he receive the reward he deserves as a whitleblower? He appears cheerful and confident in the program interviews, so one assumes things worked out all right for him, but it would be good to know for sure.

Outrageous. People should be put in prison for this.

It seems that all the people who posted are pretty much on the same sheet of music in regards to the imperialistic state of our government. The ruling class, only a few thousand people world wide own or control almost all of the world’s resources. It is not correct to ask how do “we the people” take our country back, for we have never had it. So I ask each one of you, how do we take ownership of our country? For me this is the root of all our most urgent problems. How do we show ourselves en masse in solidarity to voice our command? How?

This is an incredible story in that it never had to happen. I am a retired architect. Over my career I had some responsibility to observe (inspect) the progress of fairly large construction projects and report back to the client, some of whom were the federal government. It has been some years now and I have forgotten many details but here are some comments:
1. Did the military do any due diligence checking on American Eagle before awarding them a contract. (Was it required to award the lowest bidder?)
2. A performance or completion bond could have been required. In the event the first contractor defaults for some reason, the bonding company hires another contractor to finish the project.
3. Did an inspector representing the military periodically (from every day to at least once a month) walk the site, take photos, verify the progress and quality of the work, etc.?
4. Was the work being done according to the construction documents? (copper pipe rather than plastic, 5/8" drywall rather than 1/2", etc.)
5. Was the project on schedule, why not?
6. Did the contractor submit copies of expense receipts for the month, along with lien releases from sub-contractors (proving the subs were paid)?
7. Was a 10% retention held back from every progress payment? The contractor gets the retention after the architect issues a Certificate of Substantial Completion and all defects discovered by a final inspection are corrected.
That's about all that comes to mind at the moment.

jerry:
Are you kidding?
So you think the story is biased? Biased towards who?
I watched the same program, this company did not start working for the Military in 1996.

The bottom line is American Eagle committed fraud with our tax dollars.
The Bush administration has used outsourcing as a way of passing the buck.

The amount that has been wasted in Iraq in reconstruction is staggering. For eight years this government has destroyed every fabric of government. From the Justice department on down.

This story did not happen on Clinton's watch. It happened on Bush's.

American Eagle is a corrupt company and they should all go to jail for a very very long time.

The comments about the stimulus package that Obama is going to invoke is right. I hope that the Obama people are better at this than Bush was.

Some days I read the news papers and I just shake my head, we are a country that is going down a rabbit hole at a supersonic speed.

This story is just one more in a long line of BS that we have had to endure for the past 8 years.

I'm very pessimistic about our future and I think we are going to be more a third world country in years to come, and the painful thing is it's happening now and we don't even know it.

The American Eagle story reads like one you hear about from a banana republic, which is what we are becoming.

It will never stop until corporate capitalism ends. Spoils is the price we pay for empire. Let this be a warning to those who expect to have both a military career and a family. No wonder they need stop-loss to keep officers as indentured servants. No wonder it's just like the falling Roman Empire where a soldier's family and property were taken advantage of during his deployment. Expect Baboons to pick the low-hanging fruit.

The story on Military Housing didn't even touch the tip of the iceberg. The countless lies and empty promises from American Eagle since February 2005, when they took over our military housing in Seattle area. Living in Base housing, not all private housing companies that have contracts with the military are all bad. We lived in Louisiana and lived in privatized housing through Patrician Management and we had no problems with them. They built houses like they promised and built good quality homes. But since living in Washington when American Eagle took over we have had nothing but lies after lies after lies and poor service. There maintenance people would wait weeks and months to fix anything in the houses and these houses are very old and in very poor condition. While living at Naval Base Kitsap from Aug 2004 to Apr 2005, shortly after American Eagle taking over we received notices that we would have to move for the new housing development, by demolishing old and building new. In April we accepted Navy housing at Jackson park, in which the house in Jackson was still run by the Navy, but because we didn't move into another house run by American Eagle they took our housing allowance along with the Navy getting our housing allowance at the same time and our paycheck for that time was $50. We contacted American Eagle and received the runaround for days, finally after threatening to go to Navy Legal, american eagle deceided to send us a check 2 weeks later, there idea of overnight. We were not the only family that had that problem, every Navy family that moved out of American Eagle properties had the same issues. Roughly in the pacific northwest rounding out the housing allowance from E-1 thru E6, mind you this is a conservative amount that american eagle was receiving per house and this doesn't even count the E-7 and above, $1000 a month per household. Just in our little neighborhood here in Seattle, Fort Lawton, we have just 100 homes, but they have all the homes on Whidbey Island, Naval Base Kitsap, Keyport, Brier and Jim Creek. Here in Fort lawton, we had a Navy Exchange store and storage parking lot for RV's and extra vehicles and a playground for the kids, but American Eagle sold it to the city of Seattle in order to have money to build military houses in Marysville Washington. But as usual that was a lie too because as soon as Seattle bought the property thats when American Eagle sold everything to Forrest City Properties.
The housing they were suppose to build in Marysville Washington was all a lie, the property they purchased to build the homes on was deemed unsuitable to build homes because of no drainage access, which just means they bought swamp land because it was cheap. My husband is stationed in Everett, Washington and the only reason we even moved to Seattle instead of Everett was because American Eagle promised we would only be here for a year, then the new houses would be built in Marysville, Washington which is only about 6 to 10 miles away which is much better than the 34 miles we have to drive from Seattle. As every military memeber knows from enlisted to officer, they are held to a higher standard and held accountable for their actions and nonactions. I think that government contractors, government officials and military officials should be accountable for their actions in this matter. Please feel free to give your own oppinions, because thats what my husband fights for so everyone can give their own oppinions.

While our troops are fighting in foreign lands, their families are living in 50 yr old housing. This is outrageous. Also, why is Katherine Holder's wages not garnished for taxes and why is Wesley Snipes in prison for not paying his? So many wrongs in this story. Jack Jones should write to Rep Waxman to investigate.

I think the most moving part is where John Jack says at the end of this piece: "That is a lot of money to do the wrong thing. So what's in it, to do the right thing, when the wrong thing pays?"

Exactly! This is what we all, including Obama, have to deal with or nothing is going to change. We need to keep insisting our government adheres to the Rule of Law. It is obvious to any who pay attention that it goes on no matter who is in office.

Sounds like what Sarah Chayes (in one of the other excellent pieces in your show tonight) describes is going on in Afghanistan. Pay or you don't play. Corruption is our biggest enemy worldwide.

In this country we are distracted with gay marriage, abortion and flag pins, while we are being screwed out of everything we work for. Hopefully the emphasis Obama is putting on education may be one of our salvations. The stupid fools that keep falling for this bunk have to learn sometime – don’t they?

Another worthwhile show Bill - thank you again for a Friday night well spent!

I met with American Eagle for their Northwest project soon after they were initially awarded the contract by the Navy. While the people I was working with at their construction offices appeared sincere, it was obvious from the start that they could not perform the work they were contracted to do. Having been previously invovled in renovations for 100s of housing units directly for the Navy, I was appauled by the appearant mismanagement, intent not to provide what their winning proposal stated and bypassing good construction practices. I was always curious what oversight was required. Appearantly it was inadequate.

The part of the project I was involved in has, to my knowledge, never been completed. I guess I now know why (we met their contract requirements) and believe the intent never was to complete it.

This has got to stop. If the current bailouts have a similar lack of oversight (it sounds even worse) we are doomed to failure. Look at the Katrina and Iraq recovery, they are much worse than this. Now we think we can do massive public works projects to stimulate the economy? It is ripe for rampant abuses.

If we can learn from these past mistakes, reform the federal contracting system and get back to truly open contracts, transparancy, oversight, and utilization of reputable, small, local, businesses that are qualified and have a stake in the outcome we may survive the current downtrend and emerge as a stronger nation. If not, we will waste billions of dollars and further jeopordize our children's future.

Contact Obama, your senators and representatives to force them to take action or nothing will change.

The story on military housing is very disappointing for a professional like Bill Moyers. The story started by implicating the Bush administration but mentioned the law passed in 1996 that allowed contractors to manage military housing. It must be pointed out that Bush was not in office in 1996. This was Bill Clinton. And this law was passed by Congress. Additionally, the entire story was based on the "whisle blower", no mention of military contact or input to verify/clarify their side of the story. There is a significant amount of information missing that makes this story incomplete and misleading at best and potentially totally incorrect. This is really disappointing but not surprizing after watching the national media coverage of our last presidential election. .

Does it ever stop?
Does the incompetence and blatant thievery of corporate America ever stop?

Who is more anti-American the radical terrorist or these rubes hiding behind the flag stealing and cheating and getting fat while they ware flag pins and put plastic ribbons on their SUV's. Who is the real enemy here?

McPeak is, at the least, something of a paradox.

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