JM informs me that St. Louis radio host Mark Reardon has been relaying the lies that the administration has been telling about Capitol clean-up after the protests. The original Dept of Administration estimate of $6.5-$7.5 million was met with incredulity by just about everyone including the rather honorable local TV news reporters (I was quite worried that one of the newsreaders was going to corpse when she read it out first, having apparently been given no warning). Of course, the very purpose of the nonsense was to give people like Reardon a figure to peddle, and that propaganda effect has been brilliant. The official figure was revised down, within a day, to $347,000. What’s that, 5% of the original? One might hope that the person who gave the first figure got a good dressing down, but I suspect such hopes would be in vain. This article in the Isthmus airs the beliefs of current and former DOA workers that DOA statistics are being developed in response to pressure from the administration. And, in fact, it may be that there was no damage at all (except, manifestly, to the lawns, which have to need reseeding, surely):

On March 3, the agency’s top lawyer claimed that protesters caused $7.5 million in damage to the Capitol, mostly to marble from the tape holding on signs and banners. Hastings notes that this claim was “flashed across the country” before being revised downward the next day to as little as $347,000.
On Monday, March 7, after the signs were all removed, DOA spokeswoman Carla Vigue said the agency was bringing in an “outside expert [to] determine the amount and nature of the work that will be needed to be done to bring the marble to its prior condition.” On March 9, she said “it may be several days” before this information is in hand.
Now, well more than several days later, no further information has been provided. “Still working on it,” said Vigue on Tuesday.

Jacob Arndt has a pretty good idea how much damage to the marble was actually caused: None at all. Arndt owns Northwestern Masonry and Stone, a Lake Mills-based company that he says “does consultation work and has contracts with the state of Wisconsin.” He toured the Capitol early this month with a DOA staffer, inspecting the various types of stone: Kasota-Mankato, Wausau red granite, Dakota red granite, verde jade. “I looked at each of these types of stones,” says Arndt. His conclusion: The painter’s tape used to affix signs left “little or no residue” anywhere. The worst problem he saw was some residue where media had taped cords to the floor, but even this was easily removed with simple cleaning agents. “There’s no damage to the stone,” says Arndt, who has been back in the building several times since, verifying this finding. He says the DOA official who showed him around agrees even the lower cost estimate is “completely ridiculous and politically inspired.”

Yemen

by John Quiggin on March 21, 2011

Dramatic events in Libya have overshadowed the murder, by government snipers, of unarmed demonstrators in Yemen on Friday. This crime is as bad as any of those for which Gaddafi has been condemned, but has so far not produced a comparable response from the US and other Western governments. To be fair, there was a similarly cautious response to the initial reports of government repression in Libya and Egypt, so it’s a bit early to be convicting Obama and others of hypocrisy on this.

However, with government ministers resigning or being sacked, and a state of emergency announced, the familiar script seems to be playing out a bit faster. The Saleh regime clearly can’t survive without at least tacit support from the US, so it’s time for Obama to announce the withdrawal of that support, and tell Saleh to leave in the same terms as with Gaddafi.

On the face of it, there should be no problem for the US Administration here. Saleh has been a useful ally, but far less important than Mubarak, whom they dumped without too much concern. The big problem is that after Yemen comes Bahrain. With the Saudis having sent troops to suppress the revolt there, a democratic revolution in Bahrain will threaten their regime as well.

Update 22 March Leading army commanders have resigned, and the collapse of the regime appears inevitable. I’ve seen some off the record comments attributed to senior Administration officials confirming this, but so far nothing on the record beyond calls for restraint and progress towards democracy. I’d say Obama has probably missed the bus on this one, which makes it more likely that he will stick with the regime in Bahrain, where it will be much harder to avoid taking sides. End update