The U.S. Forest Service is in trouble:
· “Due to an intense fire season, the Forest Service is now staggering under a more than a quarter-billion dollar deficit, causing it to begin jettisoning core programs. …At the same time, the Forest Service law enforcement program is hobbled by more than 200 vacant positions, leaving only one officer to cover each 300,000 acres of National Forest and 750,000 annual visitors.
(Quotes are from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), 12/4/07, unless noted)
Tree-hugging environmentalists probably think this would be a good time to allot more money to the Forest Service, but the Bush Administration has a better idea:
· “In late September 2007, the Forest Service purchased 700 weapons and ‘related accessories’ from Aardvark Tactical, Inc. of Azusa, California, a subsidiary of Taser International, at a cost to taxpayers of $600,001.52… This represents enough to equip every single Forest Service special agent and law enforcement officer with an Electronic Control system [Taser] at a cost of $857 apiece.”
Nobody knows exactly why the Forest Service needs so many Tasers, because there was no written justification for the purchase (other than saying they wanted them); but I expect things will really be jumping at the next big Rainbow Gathering.
· In addition to the cost of training its entire law enforcement staff, the Forest Service may be assuming significant financial liability for injuries and deaths. In October, Amnesty International released a study estimating that 290 civilians have died from police use of Tasers since 2001.
The Tasers are now in storage because the Forest Service has not yet developed a training course for their use.
· “There must have been a fire sale on Tasers, otherwise why would an agency buy 700 of them without a program, protocol or need?”-- PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch
I haven’t priced a Taser X26 Electronic Control System lately, but I doubt that $857 is a fire sale price. Call me suspicious, but I don't think it has anything to do with need. It has more to do with who is buying and who is selling (The Forest Service stated that TASER International, Inc. was the only manufacturer that could deliver a product that fit their needs--whatever they are.)
I realize that it takes a lot of Tasers to run a police state, but the Bush Administration has gone on a real Taser-buying binge.
· ”We have seen a continual marked increase in TASER technology purchases at the federal level following our initial U.S. military approval of a five-year indefinite delivery indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract. We are proud that law enforcement within the Departments of Defense, Justice, Homeland Security, Interior, and Agriculture are now relying on TASER devices to protect life.”--Tom Smith, Chairman and Founder of TASER international, press release, 9/19/07
This five-year indefinite delivery indefinite quantity contract reminds me too much of the no-bid cost-plus contracts that the Bush Administration is so fond of giving to most-favored companies. I would call my representative and demand a Congressional investigation, but what’s the use? These excessive no-bid Taser purchases are chump-change in the great screwing of America.
Every time I start to think that Idaho’s Republican Senator Larry Craig has crept quietly back into the closet, he comes up with something new. Now, Craig is appealing the district court judge’s decision which blocked his attempt to withdraw the guilty plea he made after his arrest for soliciting gay sex from an undercover officer in a Minneapolis airport.
Craig’s attorneys are now arguing that since Minnesota’s disorderly conduct law “requires that the conduct at issue have a tendency to alarm or anger ‘others”’, Craig’s actions could not be considered a crime because only one other person was involved…and that person couldn’t have been offended by Craig’s foot tapping and hand swiping, because “he invited it.”…and, besides, Senator Craig’s conduct didn’t rise to the level of being “offensive, obscene, abusive, boisterous or noisy.”