Friday, February 24, 2006

Caveat Emptor


Link and pic courtesy of WIIIAI.

Old is the new young...and screw the consumer is the new consumer regulation:

But safety regulators tucked into the proposed rule something vehicle makers have long desired: protection from future roof-crush lawsuits like the one [auto accident victim/quadriplegic] Parker filed.

The surprise move seeking legal protection for automakers is one in a series of recent steps by federal agencies to shield leading industries from state regulation and civil lawsuits on the grounds that they conflict with federal authority.

Some of these efforts are already facing court challenges. However, through arcane regulatory actions and legal opinions, the Bush administration is providing industries with an unprecedented degree of protection at the expense of an individual's right to sue and a state's right to regulate.

In other moves by the administration:

• The highway safety agency, a branch of the Department of Transportation, is backing auto industry efforts to stop California and other states from regulating tailpipe emissions they link to global warming. The agency said last summer that any such rule would be a backdoor attempt by states to encroach on federal authority to set mileage standards, and should be preempted.

• The Justice Department helped industry groups overturn a pollution-control rule in Southern California that would have required cleaner-running buses, garbage trucks and other fleet vehicles.

• The U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has repeatedly sided with national banks to fend off enforcement of consumer protection laws passed by California, New York and other states. The agency argued that it had sole authority to regulate national banks, preempting state restrictions.

• The Food and Drug Administration issued a legal opinion last month asserting that FDA-approved labels should give pharmaceutical firms broad immunity from most types of lawsuits. The agency previously had filed briefs seeking dismissal of various cases against drug companies and medical-device manufacturers.

...and endless war is the new peace.
Just Wondering

It's behind the curtain, but enough of Thomas Friedman's latest nonsense is available for analysis (and David Ignatius's op-ed is available to anyone with a WaPo free registration)...

Here's a question for Tom and Dave: would either of you be as open to the port management sale if the entity was owned by Hamas? What about Hizbollah? Or suppose it was owned by a group of former Saddam Ba'athist loyalists?

I just want to be sure that your position is consistent.
"But That Smell, that Gasoline Smell...Smelled Like...Victory"

Up is down in Bushworld

From Think Progress:

WOLF BLITZER: Terry, is Iraq falling apart right now?

TERRY JEFFERY: Well, I certainly hope not, Wolf. But I think actually these attacks on Shia shrines can be attributed to the potential success of the Bush strategy.

And hitting the iceberg was a potential success for The Titanic. You know, if only the media back then had focused on the GOOD news: they'd successfully completed some three quarters of the route without substantial mishap...
Port? Nah, I'm More of a Wild Turkey Guy, Myself

"So why worry?[smirk]"

From Suspect Device:

A United Arab Emirates government-owned company is poised to take over port terminal operations in 21 American ports, far more than the six widely reported.

The Bush administration has approved the takeover of British-owned Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co. to DP World, a deal set to go forward March 2 unless Congress intervenes.

P&O is the parent company of P&O Ports North America, which leases terminals for the import and export and loading and unloading and security of cargo in 21 ports, 11 on the East Coast, ranging from Portland, Maine to Miami, Florida, and 10 on the Gulf Coast, from Gulfport, Miss., to Corpus Christi, Texas, according to the company's Web site.
When Bubbles Burst, Walls Crumble, and Houses of Cards Come Tumbling Down

Sort of an eclectic post here--first, Rising Hegemon linked to a story focusing on a discovery by another blogger, Thad Anderson at Outraged Moderates. Anderson, via FOIA, obtained notes from a DOD meeting on 9/11 where Rumsfeld, displaying a bit of the banality of evil himself, was just itching to bomb Iraq, despite their lack of involvement. Smirk-Chimp and company sure did want their war...well, they sure did get it.

The fallout over port pro quo has raised enough hackles to make DPW announce their own delay in taking over management of the facilities...and, just speaking for myself, the circumstances certainly make the whole terror color code thing pretty much a joke...not that the weekly announcements during the 2004 election cycle weren't just so many nails in THAT particular coffin.

Moving on to other issues, I see FDL made the same point Oyster did a while back re: conception, in vitro fertilization, and nature, which is most definitely a relevant point in light of South Dakota's state legislature deciding to fire a few opening salvos along the lines of the Confederates attacking Fort Sumpter:

When John M. Opitz of the University of Utah testified before the President's council on Bioethics in 2003, he noted that between 60 and 80 percent of all naturally conceived embryos are simply flushed out in a woman's normal menstrual cycle in the first 7 days after fertilization, and that women never even know that conception has taken place.

(As a side note, at the same meeting, Harvard government professor Michael Sandel, also a member of the Bioethics council, noted that "If the embryo loss that accompanies natural procreation were the moral equivalent of infant death, then pregnancy would have to be regarded as a public health crisis of epidemic proportions: Alleviating natural embryo loss would be a more urgent moral cause than abortion, in vitro fertilization, and stem-cell research combined." Although I enjoy Dr. Sandel's sense of humor and appreciate the presence of a smartass on the Bioethics council, I really do, let's just chalk this one up to "God's will" for the moment and proceed with the question at hand.)

Now, I'm certain by most fundamentalist assessments that when I die, barring some sort of deathbed recant of the Lee Atwater variety, I am going to hell. (That last vote for John Kerry probably put me over the top.) But say by some fluke God has a soft spot for unrepentant preacher's kids who are good to their dogs, and I wind up in heaven. Is 60 to 80 percent of the population going to be filled out with people who never made it past dome stage blastula? I mean -- conversation is liable to be a bit thin, don't you think? What can you really say beyond "congratulations on winning the big swim?"

And, rounding out my first post of the day, here's another shining example of how Bushco's policies have about as much success in stopping terrorism as gasoline has on dousing flames:

Crude-oil futures jumped by more than $2 a barrel after an attack on a massive oil facility in Saudi Arabia rattled an oil market already jittery about supply disruptions in Nigeria and Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Saudi Arabia is the world's largest oil producer, with production of about 9.5 million barrels per day - an amount equal to about 11 percent of global consumption. The target of the attack, the Abqaiq oil complex in eastern Saudi Arabia, processes about two-thirds of the country's oil...

An Arab satellite television station reported that one pipeline at the Abqaiq oil complex in eastern Saudi Arabia was damaged by suicide bombers in two explosives-packed cars. The Saudi oil minister, however, said the attack did not affect operations or stop oil flow.

While terror attacks are not new to Saudi Arabia, oil analysts said this particular action was noteworthy because of how close the assailants came to a major oil facility.

Shrub, your pResidential legacy is clear: failure. Just like the rest of your life story.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

GOP Devo

Once again I should apologize for posting at a snail's pace--following up on yesterday, a large project kept me busy enough, which had the added effect of limiting my reading around the internets for the most part.

Hopefully tomorrow will be a little different. In the meantime, the photoshop chop-job/effort above was inspired by the little bit of internet browsing I WAS able to do while coming up with the post below...I ended up editing it out, but I couldn't get out of my head Smirk-Chimp's remarks last summer when he finally deigned to actually visit the Gulf Coast and see just what happened there while he yukked it up with John McCain and added a prop to his air-guitar fantasy:

I believe the town where I used to come from Houston, Texas, to enjoy myself — occasionally too much — will be that very same town...


And then I remembered that another GOP president, as a young man, visited The City that Care Forgot:

According to legend, Lincoln saw his first slave auction in New Orleans. Referring to the practice of slavery, he is thought to have said, "If I ever get a chance to hit that thing, I'll hit it hard."

Pretty much sums it up--a great president, who, as a young man visiting New Orleans, saw a tragic injustice--a slave auction--that profoundly affected him...a miserable failure of a president, who, as a young man visiting New Orleans, went to the strip clubs, probably threw up more than once near the intersection of Bourbon and Conti--or St. Louis--and thinks it's a great laugh line in the aftermath of a national disaster.

Shrub, you're no Abe Lincoln.
Shrub: Trust Me--Have I Ever Steered You Wrong?

I've blogged it and photoshopped it, but I'll say it again: Shrub's always reminded me--in the worst ways--of a stereotypical used car salesman (or, as my sister creatively put it, "used war salesman"). Maybe not quite as bright or quick, but willing to smirk his way through pretty much everything, as the latest headlines suggest re: Port quo Pro:

President Bush on Thursday defended his administration's decision to allow a company from an Arab country to operate six major U.S. ports, saying, "People don't need to worry about security."

"This deal wouldn't go forward if we were concerned about the security for the United States of America," Bush told reporters during a Cabinet meeting.

Aside from the poor choice of words, I was reminded of Bush's initial post 9/11 reaction, the "shop till you drop and travel to the moon" speech he offered for public consumption--while we now know, behind the curtain, cynicism and greed kicked into overdrive.

Well, that's not terribly surprising--after all, could anyone else besides Team Bush even CONSIDER taking something as horrific as 9/11 and making it tantamount to a badge of honor? Then again, they had the corporate media either nodding their collective heads in sort of a zombie-like ritual...or conveniently tossing things down the memory hole.

Unfortunately for Shrub, the memory hole might swallow up plenty of stuff, but, like the radiation surrounding its celestial counterpart, some traces remain just outside the event horizon...and, one can always hope that since Shrub and company--literally (the part about "company," that is)--are getting exposed for the greedy-bastard-lying-sacks-of-shit they are when it comes to matters of national security/importance, the otherwise zombie-press corps might decide to, oh, I don't know, take a critical look at the rest of their sorry-assed agenda.

For instance, take Iraq--please. Actually, in all seriousness, once again, things have turned dramatically for the worse, with over a hundred more people killed in the aftermath of the Askariya shrine bombing in Samarra (Riverbend has a new post up worth reading). Seven US soldiers were also killed in two separate IED attacks. Oh, and on the home front, I'm pretty sure--sadly--that this is still the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the soldiers they sent over there:

Army officials have recommended a court-martial for a Purple Heart recipient accused of stabbing his young wife 71 times with knives and a meat cleaver.

I don't doubt we'll see more of this sort of thing--or worse.

To paraphrase Orrin Hatch--nobody, that is, nobody with a brain--doubts that the administration response to Hurricane Katrina--and Hurrican Rita--was as lamebrained as their strategery for post war Iraq ("bring 'em on!"). Meanwhile, Team Bush continues to finance their way through it all by going in debt to...the People's Republic of China. Nice work.

Consider the things Shrub has botched: 9/11, capturing bin Laden, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Medicare drug plan, the economy, the response to the hurricanes, the constitutional system of checks and balances...and now they tell us to trust them with their decision on port management...

I'll trust them about as much as I trust Big Time with a firearm.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

But What Could POSSIBLY Go Wrong?

Based on what I've seen so far, it's pretty clear that the port deal is all about money and access--and scant regard for, ahem "personal responsibility" (see post below). Well...

Turns out--of course--that Monkeyboy-in-Chief had been distracted with bananas or bike rides or whatever the hell else they've tossed in his general direction...although he's been hooting/chattering/hurling rocks and sticks, and otherwise having a big old temper tantrum since it became clear "his" decision was about as popular as stepping in dog shit. Well, duh.

So, let's see: in a nutshell, the deal with Dubai is pretty much a quid pro quo: six of our ports for one of theirs. Guess they've got us--no pun intended--over a barrel. Nevermind that our "ally" UAE is sorta like our "ally" Pakistan is sorta like our "ally" Saudi Arabia, and nevermind Shrub's chest-thumping "you're either with us or 'gainst us" rhetoric, which, if nothing else, demonstrates pretty clearly that he DOES take his supporters for chumps: when the chips, um ships, are down, he's MORE than willing to be as "nuanced" as a freedom-fry lovin', red-state'ers worst nightmare of a Kerry administration. Shit, at this point, I wouldn't be surprised to see Smirk-Chimp break out in la langue francaise to defend "his" decision. And, who knows? The real cult of personality types might just break into a group "oui, oui," (though I'd be less surprised if the response was maybe a little more German).

As for them trotting out Rush Lamebone with his charges of "racism," all you have to do is consider the source (and here's hoping it's not too long before HE discovers what "personal responsibility" is all about).

This isn't racism, xenophopia, or anything of the sort. This is ultimately Team Bush lacking in rational judgement at a time when such judgement is sorely needed. Yet, we've seen, over and over again, the kind of behavior in the political arena that meshes perfectly with Big Time's behavior in Kenedy County: slipshod incompetence, arrogance, petulance, inattention--and anger about anyone daring to even question what is AT BEST questionable judgement, and potentially an open invite to lord knows what (like in Iraq, where I guess everyone's seen the latest news. You know, I'd love to take every last goddamned wingnut who barks out 'but they're better off now' and drop 'em down into the thick of things. If it's so fucking good, why aren't they dancing in Iraqi streets? Oh, and um, in case you haven't noticed, Team Bush's stupidity made a bad situation along the US Gulf Coast, oh, only about 50 times worse. Go figure).

As others noted today, bin Laden met at least once with members of the UAE royal family (who conveniently shielded him from a US attack in 1998), P&O's parent company is OWNED by the UAE government, the UAE government had cordial relations with the Taliban...but this is the kind of company Team Bush "can do business with."

Fanfuckingtastic. Cat Stevens & Robert Fisk can't enter the United States, Maher Arar gets told "tough shit about mistaking you for a terrorist", they've Guantanamo detainees languishing in captivity who they know haven't done a goddamned thing, but it'd be "embarrassing" to release them, they monitor telephone calls on a whim, not a warrant, back in 2004 the color code terror alert got bumped up to "Code Orange" pretty much whenever...but a country with KNOWN ties to 9/11 will be allowed to RUN major ports of entry...oh, and to top it all off, they STILL haven't come up with ANY plan for protecting or securing said ports, or inspecting offloaded cargo.

I mean, geez, you've gotta wonder: at home, does Shrub keep greasy rags in the garage, next to the rusty, leaky gas cans? Or is that all kept next to the house, under the eaves, covered with a sheet of visquine, but fully exposed to the afternoon sun? I wouldn't be surprised.
Whittington, You're With StupidH

This will likely be my last post regarding the Deadeye Dick and his hunting misadventure; however, it struck me last night (no pun intended) that Team Bush and Big Time might have slithered away, eel-like, one more time...

My reasoning is based on something I came across yesterday at FDL (since they don't archive individual stories, scroll down)--a set of recommendations for interacting with talk radio or any call in format. It made for good reading, particularly when the author emphasized "staying on point."

I don't know Big Time's ultimate motivation--it could've been blind, dumb luck, or maybe he was doing his best to turn quail shot shit into something resembling quail salad, but it's interesting that, in the end, the media focus was all about process and protocol, i.e., what should Dick have said and when should he have said it--and to whom? I'm guessing when that became "the story," Dick breathed a sigh of relief even bigger than when it finally became clear Harry Whittington was out of the woods.

Well, I suppose that kind of stuff--protocol and precedent--might be important to some...after all, he's the first sitting vice president to shoot a person since Aaron Burr...but you know what? I don't give a damn if he tells local journalists in Corpus Christi or calls Tweety Matthews's personal cell phone to deliver a double barreled scoop. The fact is he shat upon pretty much the core of the NRA agenda, namely, that "responsible" people can be trusted with firearms...well, that or...

Draw your own conclusions.

Oh, and I'm NOT anti-gun--far from it. In fact, I'm willing to concede most of the NRA agenda. To be honest, that's part give-and-take, i.e., they can have the 2nd Amendment, provided they offer it to me, along with ALL the others, including, but not limited to the 1st, 4th, 5th, 8th, 9th, etc. I also believe the firearm issue is basically a open Pandora's box anyway: trying to limit firearms in the US would be like trying to hold back the sea. And, last but not least, I actually DO believe the NRA has a point: a gun, handled properly, is no more inherently dangerous than plenty of other things like, oh, say, cars, chemicals, power tools, etc.

Which, when you think about it, IS the point of Dick's errant shot. Mr. Tough Guy/Big Time demonstrated--beyond the shadow of a doubt--that he's lacking in the kind of fundamental responsibility that goes with firearm ownership/use. By extension, we can similarly judge his abilities with OTHER matters requiring (no pun intended) SOBER JUDGEMENT. That's the point. Anything else is a distraction.

You know, the core NRA philosophy isn't much different from the "personal responsibility" credo chanted, mantra-like, by today's GOP--of course, given the Rovian tendencies of the latter (i.e., slime and divide) there's an implication that the opposition is AGAINST personal responsibility. Which is why Dick's gaffe is--or should be--significant: the GOP would either have to throw him under the bus or make a significant change in their core publicity (I'd say their core agenda, but in truth we know it's all bullshit to them anyway). In other words, a lose/lose scenario...unless they can distract and obfuscate.

And, lo and behold, the media came through, with their whining about access. And with Whittington NOT dying, or having further complications--for his family's sake, thank heavens--they've moved on to other shiny things.

But I think Dickey's shooting spree can and should be pointed to as a prime example of what lowlife,lying bastards populate the GOP these days. And, better still, you can use their own rhetoric against them. What part of "personal responsibility" is compatible with ANY of Big Time's actions a week-and-a-half ago? By extension, we can apply the same test to ANY actions undertaken by the cult of personality that is the GOP (more on that in a subsequent post).

Lastly, I believe the NRA should be pressured to use Big Time as a prime example of poor judgement--not to mention poor practice--in his use of guns. In fact, I think I'll be writing them pretty soon (especially considering, as I've noted either in posts or emails, that if this had been John Kerry or another Democrat considered by the NRA to be "soft" on guns, you can bet they'd be bleating about it for the next decade or so).
"Work" is the New Black

Busy morning here...should be free later on to post.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Three Years

I see leather is the traditional three year anniversary gift...hmm, with the latest Abu Ghraib photos, maybe they were moving a little too soon...but then again, blood and anger are actually being exchanged:

The Iraqi prime minister angrily denounced today growing American pressure to form an inclusive government, as a car bomb in a bustling market here killed at least 21 people and injured dozens more, most of them women and children. The attack was the deadliest one in nearly two months.

The longer view isn't looking any rosier better, either:

One month shy of three years into the Iraq war is a good time to take stock of the situation. Is the world better off today after U.S. and British forces invaded Iraq on March 19, 2003? Is Iraq better off? Are the United States any safer? Are its allies in Europe and elsewhere more secure?


The toll in human lives is a heavy one: more than 100,000 Iraqis killed according to a 2004 study by Lancet, the British medical journal. Other sources place the toll higher, at 250,000. However, more conservative estimates are provided by, an independent London-based non-profit volunteer organization. They offer two sets of numbers: a high of 32,041 and a low of 28,427. Either way, it's a lot of bodies.

And the Pentagon's tally of killed U.S. military personnel, as of Feb. 17, stands at 2,275 and 16,742 wounded. That's an average of 2.07 Americans killed and 15 wounded every day since the start of the war three years ago. What can we say has been accomplished in return?

Very little...

Democracy came knocking at Iraq's door which was edged ajar, but risks of civil war persist. But then so did terrorism come knocking, except it kicked the door wide open.

Judge what Daniel Jordan, an instructor at Ventura College, and Neil Wollman, a senior fellow at the Peace Studies Institute and a professor of psychology at Manchester College, Indiana, have to say in an article titled "Pandora's Box Opened in Iraq: Looking Backward, Forward, And Beyond." They give a good summary of what has gone wrong in Iraq during the last three years.

Poverty, they say, has risen by 20 percent. They cite a United Nations report indicating that childhood malnutrition has doubled. They quote a Minority Rights Group International report citing "Iraq as the country where minority rights are most under threat."

Frequent conversations with members of the Assyrian Christian community in Iraq confirm that minorities, such as the Assyrians and Turkmen, are being harassed and discriminated against.

As in all countries where violence persists, the brain drain of professionals emigrating in large numbers impacts the future of the nation. Kidnappings have become common currency -- where anyone with money is liable to be detained and exchanged for money. And that does not only apply to foreigners. Iraqis, too, are being kidnapped. Typically, this is a clear indication of rising unemployment, poverty and desperation in a country. Particularly in a country where large numbers of former soldiers have been demobilized.

"Iraq," say Jordan and Wollman, "is a deadly mess."

And this mess is affecting the rest of the world. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (London), the U.S. invasion of Iraq has benefited al-Qaida. Large numbers of recruits have joined up to fight the U.S. military presence in Iraq. "Iraq is now a breeding ground for terrorism," say Jordan and Wollman.

"The U.S. sponsored National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism counted 3,991 global terrorist attacks in 2005, up 51 percent from 2,639 in 2004," states the report, which goes on to say: "Ironically, a war intended to produce freedom has, according to Amnesty International, lead to an increase in worldwide human rights violations. Tyrants can legitimately argue that since the United States waged pre-emptive war, so can they."

Never has American foreign policy suffered as much as it does now. "Our reputation is at an all time low," states the paper. And rarely has hatred in the Arab/Islamic world been so vehemently directed at the United States.

Additionally, a number of scandals have tarnished the image of the United States. Images of prisoners tortured and abused at the infamous Abu Ghraib jail near Baghdad were so horrid and shocking that anyone who has seen them will forever remember them. And from the Guantanamo detention camps, from where no images were released, but stories of equal, if not greater nightmares, are beginning to emerge.

Anyone who dares to question authority is immediately labeled a terrorist, say Jordan and Wollman. As for the cost of the Iraq expedition, the two researchers place it around $2 trillion. To make it easier to understand what that translates to for the average taxpayer, it's about $6,800 dollars for every U.S. citizen.

Faced with an increase in global and local terrorism, high body counts and spiralling war costs can we, three years on, say that the Iraq War was worth it?

What a bargain...

And, updating my post below, Shrub's insisting on the Dubai deal, threatening to veto any measure holding up the agreement...which makes me wonder: is he hoping for another attack?

It'd be about the only thing that'd salvage his otherwise miserable failure of an administration...
Team Bush: Come on In!

Suspect Device and Firedoglake have more on the Bush decision last week allowing a UAE company to operate half a dozen American ports, including New Orleans. Among other things:

Two additional ports they'll have control over, in Corpus Christi and Beaumont, are major transshipment points for US military equipment heading to the Middle East


Two administration officials have business ties to the company.

Of course, this administration would NEVER let national security matters get in the way...of turning a fast buck.
Potemkin Research Institutes

In the down-is-up, war-is-peach Team Bush worldview--oh, and where insurance claim payouts are considered "relief aid"--we have yet another case of "I'm not surprised they'd resort to this:"

President Bush says he wants to diversify the nation's energy mix to end America's dependence on foreign oil, yet some critics are wary of his commitment and point to cutbacks at a government energy laboratory here.

Two weeks ago, 32 workers, including eight researchers, were laid off at the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden. The lab helps develop the very renewable energy technologies the president is promoting.

Then, over the weekend, just before Bush's planned visit to the lab on Tuesday, the government restored the jobs. His trip to the renewable energy laboratory is part of a two-day, three-state trip to promote the energy proposals he outlined in his State of the Union address.

At the direction of Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, $5 million was transferred to the Midwest Research Institute, the operating contractor for the lab, to get the workers back on the job, the Energy Department announced Monday.

Philip Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust, said the decision restores only $5 million of the $28 million budget shortfall at the lab that forced the layoffs.

"The $5 million stopped the bodies from going out the door, but it doesn't provide the money for the (renewable energy) programs," Clapp said...

Lab employee Tina Larney said that even though the jobs are being reinstated, she still questions the government's resolve in finding alternative energy sources.

"There is technology available now, there is the know-how now," Larney said. "What is lacking is leadership on the large scale at the national level."

The White House says Bush is providing that leadership. They say he wants to invest more in zero-emission, coal-fired plants, as well as support solar and wind research, promote cars that run on hydrogen, encourage more nuclear power plant construction and fund work to produce ethanol — not just from corn, but from wood chips and switch grass.

Critics of the Bush administration are skeptical of Bush's energy proposals.

Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., co-chairman of the House Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus, said the government has funded only one-third of the money the 2005 energy bill authorized for renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Clapp claims the president is promoting renewables because polls show his job approval numbers are being weighed down by Americans' concerns about high utility bills this winter and the cost of gasoline at the pump.

Leadership? Like in New Orleans, where in the aftermath of the flood, he first couldn't be bothered, then grudgingly showed recall his frat-boy days of hard partying? Or maybe it's like his "leadership" re: the war in Iraq...let's see, a veritable temper tantrum mixed and matched with lies about WMD, followed by "Mission Accomplished," "bring 'em on," Operation Enduring Clusterfuck, abandonment of any real efforts to rebuild...and thousands dead or maimed now that it's all about "saving face."

Just like the story above.

What a bunch of wankers. Evil, vicious wankers. But wankers nonetheless.

Monday, February 20, 2006

On Fraud and Waste

"Be with you in just a sec..."

Wetbankguide makes some excellent points about all the so-called "fraud and waste" in regards to claims for aid in the aftermath of, as he well puts it, "The Flood formerly known as Katrina:"

One member of the Congressional delegation this past weekend told the Times-Picayune he was concerned that that one third of claims for FEMA housing assistance were fraudulent.

A closer inspection finds that's not true, but truth doesn't matter in journalism anymore once an idea escapes into the daily news cycle. Most of what passes for cable "news" is actually a lot of moderately informed and highly opinionated people talking, and it carries about the same news value as a bunch of folks sitting in a bar talking.

A story that moved on the Associated Press wire Feb. 13 (published the 14th in most papers), included this:
The GAO report found that up to 900,000 of the 2.5 million applicants who received aid under the emergency cash assistance program, which included the debit cards, based their requests on duplicate or invalid Social Security numbers, or false addresses and names.

You mean some people tried to apply more than once after being given the FEMA runaround? How many of them were told to complete the questionnaire again by FEMA? As for fraudulent addresses, does that include people who couldn't even find other members of their family may have tried to apply for assistance from the same address? There are an awful lot of people in New Orleans driving around with "by their momma's" addresses on their drivers licenses, and nobody in Louisiana seems to think this constitutes fraud.

The actual amount of fraud is much smaller, according to the Washington Post version of this story:
Investigators said that so far they have learned that about 1,000 people who applied for aid used the Social Security numbers of dead people, 1,000 used numbers that were never issued, and tens of thousands used names, birthdates and Social Security numbers that did not match.

So, is it 900,000 or 2,000 fraudulent applications? How many of the tens of thousands cited actually gave data that didn't match up, or had their telephone applications munged up by FEMA, an agency widely noted of late for its incompetence and inefficiency?

This isn't fraud, certainly not on the scale people are suggesting. This is FEMA's own ineptitude, transferred to the victims.

I'm disappointed that the T-P let this one slide by unchallenged. The editorial board has been doing a bang-up job in setting the record straight. The paper needs to look into this one, because it has become a "meme", a bit of information just barely above gossip in the food chain that spreads via the Internet, talk radio and cable "news" networks and becomes accepted as fact.

Thanks for posting this, Mark.
Not Your Average Tinfoil-Hat Crackpot

"Werther" has a half dozen questions about 9/11 he'd like to see answered...and that Team Bush would love to simply ignore (thanks to the lapdog media, Team Bush is for the most part getting their way).

A quick list of his questions will hopefully send you over to the link:

1. Who is Osama bin Laden, and where did he come from?
2. When were Osama's last non-hostile links with the U.S. government?
3. How did the President of United States React to the August 6 2001 Presidential Daily Brief?
4. Who wrote the script for the rhetorical response to 9/11?
5. Why did the mysterious anthrax attacks come and go like a wraith?
6. Why did Osama bin Laden escape?

All of these are well worth considering in light of yet another news story today about the number one fugitive from American justice...oh, and in a small statement that speaks volumes, bin Laden likened the United States to...Saddam Hussein:

"The jihad (holy war) is ongoing, thank God, despite all the oppressive measures adopted by the U.S. Army and its agents (which has reached) a point where there is no difference between this criminality and Saddam's criminality."

In other words, he was saying "thanks for destroying an ideological enemy AND turning Iraq into recruitment central, dumbfucks."

Then again, what do we expect from Team Bush? I've noted before that 9/11 isn't a badge of honor, despite their wrapping it around them like a shawl; hell, in the aftermath of the attacks, I distinctly recall Big Time glowering about how it wasn't THEIR was Al Qaeda's. And the media nodded collectively and became stenographers.

Well, bullshit. No, I don't have any evidence of Team Bush complicity--and I'm not ready to don a tinfoil suit--but the fact is that THEY were supposed to be, in their words, "protecting the American people"--but they WEREN'T and DIDN'T.

It's one thing for a bank to get robbed--you blame the robber. But if the bank has hired guards who sleep on the job, don't bother with even checking the tape on the video surveillence, and can't be bothered with the robber, but instead obsess about personal matters...well, if THAT'S their strategery, I sure as hell won't be, no pun intended, banking on them.

Meet yer executive branch...
Mensch-Free: Certified Since 2001

Paul Krugman has some opinions of his own re: Team Bush and Taking Blame:

"Be a mensch," my parents told me. Literally, a mensch is a person. But by implication, a mensch is an upstanding person who takes responsibility for his actions.
The people now running America aren't mensches.

Dick Cheney isn't a mensch. There have been many attempts to turn the shooting of Harry Whittington into a political metaphor, but the most characteristic moment was the final act — the Moscow show-trial moment in which the victim of Mr. Cheney's recklessness apologized for getting shot. Remember, Mr. Cheney, more than anyone else, misled us into the Iraq war. Then, when neither links to Al Qaeda nor W.M.D. materialized, he shifted the blame to the very intelligence agencies he bullied into inflating the threat.

Donald Rumsfeld isn't a mensch. Before the Iraq war Mr. Rumsfeld muzzled commanders who warned that we were going in with too few troops, and sidelined State Department experts who warned that we needed a plan for the invasion's aftermath. But when the war went wrong, he began talking about "unknown unknowns" and going to war with "the army you have," ducking responsibility for the failures of leadership that have turned the war into a stunning victory — for Iran.

Michael Chertoff, the secretary of homeland security, isn't a mensch. Remember his excuse for failing to respond to the drowning of New Orleans? "I remember on Tuesday morning," he said on "Meet the Press," "picking up newspapers and I saw headlines, 'New Orleans Dodged the Bullet.' " There were no such headlines, at least in major newspapers, and we now know that he received — and ignored — many warnings about the unfolding disaster.

Michael Leavitt, the secretary of health and human services, isn't a mensch. He insists that the prescription drug plan's catastrophic start doesn't reflect poorly on his department, that "no logical person" would have expected "a transition happening that is so large without some problems." In fact, Medicare's 1966 startup went very smoothly. That didn't happen this time because his department ignored outside experts who warned, months in advance, about exactly the disaster that has taken place.

I could go on. Officials in this administration never take responsibility for their actions. When something goes wrong, it's always someone else's fault.

Was it always like this? I don't want to romanticize our political history, but I don't think so. Think of Dwight Eisenhower, who wrote a letter before D-Day accepting the blame if the landings failed. His modern equivalent would probably insist that the landings were a "catastrophic success," then try to lay the blame for their failure on the editorial page of The New York Times.

Where have all the mensches gone? The character of the administration reflects the character of the man at its head. President Bush is definitely not a mensch; his inability to admit mistakes or take responsibility for failure approaches the pathological. He surrounds himself with subordinates who share his aversion to facing unpleasant realities. And as long as his appointees remain personally loyal, he defends their performance, no matter how incompetent. After all, to do otherwise would be to admit that he made a mistake in choosing them. Last week he declared that Mr. Leavitt is doing, yes, "a heck of a job."

But how did such people attain power in the first place? Maybe it's the result of our infantilized media culture, in which politicians, like celebrities, are judged by the way they look, not the reality of their achievements. Mr. Bush isn't an effective leader, but he plays one on TV, and that's all that matters.

Whatever the reason for the woeful content of our leaders' character, it has horrifying consequences. You can't learn from mistakes if you won't admit making any mistakes, an observation that explains a lot about the policy disasters of recent years — the failed occupation of Iraq, the failed response to Katrina, the failed drug plan.

Above all, the anti-mensches now ruling America are destroying our moral standing. A recent National Journal report finds that we're continuing to hold many prisoners at Guantánamo even though the supposed evidence against them has been discredited. We're even holding at least eight prisoners who are no longer designated enemy combatants. Why? Well, releasing people you've imprisoned by mistake means admitting that you made a mistake. And that's something the people now running America never do.
J' um...Accuse, Sort Of

Won't be seeing this anytime soon...

From PGR, a link to In Defense of Finger Pointing by Michael Grunwald. However, even as Grunwald correctly notes "After a fiasco like Katrina, there's not much difference between fault-finding and fact-finding," his take on the GOP House investigation is somewhere between creampuff and kid gloves:

The new House report concluded that President Bush was quite a bit less than fully involved, a rare rebuke from the GOP Congress.

"A but less than fully involved?" Look at the picture above--and take another look at this

Aside from a little compulsive photoshopping on the top pic, both chronicle the actions of the United States president during a time of grave crisis--the worst storm to hit the Gulf Coast since Hurricane Camille, and, at one time, what was looking to be the worst storm to hit the United States since accurate records began being kept. Hell, even in the ABSENCE of--literally--a killer storm bearing down on the Gulf Coast, there's also the little matter of two wars being fought. Under the circumstances, it takes an awfully detached individual--if not an utter fool or imbecile--to demonstrate "leadership" by going on vacation...from his vacation, which is what Shrub was busily engaged in at the time.

Small wonder that this administration went out of the way to pin blame on Nagin and Blanco...then turns around and, finger wagging, haughtily declares, "Fingers mustn't be pointed."

Besides, as so many others continue to point out--Wetbankguide is just one I'll mention for the moment--the hurricane, as horrible as it was--would've infliced superficial wounds on NOLA if the levees, a FEDERAL construction project, hadn't failed. Which is all the more reason to wonder just what the hell was going on in Shrub's pea brain when he decided that gee-tar and birthday cake was more important than command and control. I mean, even a goddamned moron shouldn't have too much trouble with the following concept: a city that owes its existence to a considerable system of levees for flood control might have problems with flooding if 1) a massive storm hits it and/or 2) the levees fail. How fucking difficult to comprehend is that?

Back in the immediate aftermath, I noted that evacuation of a city the size of NOLA would require a hell of a lot more than school buses (the favorite finger pointing argument of the drunk-on-Kool-Aid wingnut crowd). Those in charge should also have staged heavy equipment as a hedge against the possibility of floodwall/levee failure--this could have been done without risking damage to said equipment (they could've been staged in Baton Rouge, for instance). It's apparent they didn't. Someone in a position to do so should ask, "Well, why the hell not?"

I think the answer is pretty evident when you look at the pictures above. Sure, it doesn't take many functioning brain cells to show some leadership and make preparations. But the assclown-in-chief is even more deficient than that...