Friday, September 30, 2005

Friday Night Airplane Blogging

The Douglas SBD Dauntless was based on a Jack Northrup pre-war design. During the first half of the war, it was the mainstay dive bomber of the US Navy and Marine Corp aviation. The high point of its service life was undoubtedly the Battle of Midway, when dive bombers sank 4 Japanese carriers and inflicted irreperable damage on Japanese naval aviation. With a cruising speed of 185 mph, it was vulnerably slow to fast fighters and well handled AA fire. It was aable to take battle damage and still fly. And most important for its task, it was very steady in a dive. Of the almost 6000 built, the are 3 still flying today.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Show me the money.

CBS has a good roundup of Republican scandals currently on display.
DeLay's indictment comes on the heels of charges that top political aide Jim Ellis and veteran fundraiser John Colyandro illegally funneled $190,000 in corporate contributions to candidates for the Texas legislature in 2002 through the national Republican Party. "The indictment charges DeLay with conspiring with Ellis and Colyandro to violate the Texas Election Code by contributing corporate money to certain candidates for the Texas Legislature," said the statement from DA Ronnie Earle. "It describes a scheme whereby corporate, or 'soft,' money was sent to the Republican National Committee where it was exchanged for 'hard' money, or money raised from individuals, and sent to those candidates." The probe initially focused on violations of Texas election law but was recently broadened to include conspiracy charges. DeLay's modus operandi — the ruthless accumulation of money and favors to benefit corporate interests and far-right Republicans — may ultimately secure his demise. In essence, he got caught for doing business as usual.

The indictment sent a shock wave through the GOP establishment, which is already reeling from a swath of criminal and ethics investigations. Three individuals, eight corporations and two political action committees connected to DeLay have been indicted as a result of the probe. In addition, the government's top procurement official, David Safavian, was arrested in September for obstructing a criminal investigation into über-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a close DeLay ally. Abramoff himself is under criminal investigation for defrauding Indian tribes and was indicted for wire fraud in Florida in a separate case. Top White House aides, including Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, have been targeted by a special prosecutor investigating the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame. Representative Duke Cunningham announced he would not run for re-election after overselling his house for $700,000 to a military industry lobbyist; he too has been indicted. FDA chief Lester Crawford resigned unexpectedly after just two months on the job, possibly because of failure to report his wife's sizable pharmaceutical-industry holdings. And DeLay's Senate counterpart, Bill Frist, is battling possible insider-trading charges for dumping millions in HCA stock, a company founded by his father and run by his brother, weeks before it plunged in value. The U.S. Attorney in Manhattan and the Securities and Exchange Commission opened an investigation into Frist and HCA in September.
Stay tuned, more to follow.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Hack called them Perfumed Princes

But Machiavelli knew that Princes were a dangerous lot. The NY Times today has a story that we all knew would come out sooner or later.
An Army captain who reported new allegations of detainee abuse in Iraq said Tuesday that Army investigators seemed more concerned about tracking down young soldiers who reported misconduct than in following up the accusations and investigating whether higher-ranking officers knew of the abuses.

The officer, Capt. Ian Fishback, said investigators from the Criminal Investigation Command and the 18th Airborne Corps inspector general had pressed him to divulge the names of two sergeants from his former battalion who also gave accounts of abuse, which were made public in a report last Friday by the group Human Rights Watch.

Captain Fishback, speaking publicly on the matter for first time, said the investigators who have questioned him in the past 10 days seemed to be less interested in individuals he identified in his chain of command who allegedly committed the abuses.
The story also brings up an interesting response to his efforts to get his superior officers to respond to this problem.
Captain Fishback said his company commander cautioned him to "remember the honor of the unit is at stake."
Decent people know there is no 'honor' in protecting criminal behavior. And, in the end, it is not even good CYA.

Trix are for kids and health care is for rich folks.

From the AP via Yahoo:
With Gulf Coast governors pressing for action,
Senate Finance Committee members complained Wednesday that the Bush administration is blocking a bipartisan $9 billion health care package for hundreds of thousands of evacuees from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

"We've got people with needs today," Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco said. She was joined by Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Alabama Gov. Bob Riley, who testified via a teleconference hookup, in urging quick action on the legislation.

Sen. Charles Grassley (news, bio, voting record), R-Iowa, chairman of the committee, said four or five senators have been blocking action on the bill after the Bush administration raised objections to provisions that would extend Medicaid coverage to thousands upon thousands of adults who otherwise would be uninsured,including those whose applications have been rejected in Louisiana.
Can't let those poor folks have any freebies now.

How's your Hammer hanging?

From the AP:
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was indicted Wednesday by a Texas grand jury on a charge of conspiring to violate political fundraising laws, making him the highest-ranking member of Congress ever to face criminal indictment and forcing him to temporarily step aside from his GOP post.

DeLay said he had done nothing wrong and denounced the Democratic prosecutor who pursued the case as a "partisan fanatic." He said, "This is one of the weakest, most baseless indictments in American history. It's a sham."
Now don't you worry your pretty, little head Tommy. IOKIYAR.

PS. From Howard Dean:
"Today, the state of Texas is doing what the Republican-controlled federal government has failed repeatedly to do, which is hold Republicans in Washington accountable for their culture of corruption. This alleged illegal activity reaches to the highest levels of the Republican Party.

"With House Republican Leader Tom DeLay under criminal indictment, Senate Republican Leader Frist facing SEC and Department of Justice investigations, and White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove under investigation, the Republican leadership in Washington is now spending more time answering questions about ethical misconduct than doing the people's business."

“Tom DeLay is neither the beginning nor the end of the Washington Republicans' ethical problems. America can do better than leaders who use their power to promote their own personal interests instead of the interests of the American people who elected them. We simply must change the way business is done in Washington."
Pray that justice will prevail. I do so want to see "Toxic Tom" as someones prison bitch.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Tom Toles today

Monday, September 26, 2005

Bush is stranger than Fiction

From CBS News by way of the Raw Story:
CBS News correspondent Gloria Borger reports that Michael Brown, who recently resigned as the head of the FEMA, has been rehired by the agency as a consultant to evaluate it's response following Hurricane Katrina."
You just can't make this stuff up.

When you have guys like this in charge

From the Toronto Star
Many of the most prominent CEOs in the current administration aren't real business people at all, but faux CEOs who after a lifetime in politics cashed in on brief stints as trophy CEOs at Fortune 500 firms before returning to public life in George W. Bush's White House.

With few exceptions, those CEO stints — at Halliburton Co. (Dick Cheney), rail operator CSX Corp. (John Snow), and George "dry hole" Bush's string of oil-exploration flops in Texas — were not models of exemplary corporate stewardship.
You will see more stuff like this happening.
But for now, at least, the White House refuses to relinquish control of the biggest domestic reconstruction project in U.S. history, which will require the removal of enough debris across a six-state region to fill more than 600 football fields to a depth of 15 metres. Instead, as in Iraq, the administration has swung into action on behalf of Bush campaign donors, swiftly granting no-bid, cost-plus contracts in the Gulf Coast region to the usual suspects — Halliburton, Bechtel Corp., and Fluor Corp.

Halliburton and Bechtel are under federal investigation for alleged government over-billing on Iraqi reconstruction contracts.

Kenyon Worldwide Disaster Management, hired by FEMA to collect human remains in the Katrina-stricken region, is a subsidiary of funeral operator and longtime Bush contributor Service Corp. International (SCI). In Texas and Florida, SCI has settled class-action lawsuits alleging improper burial methods. (In one case, bodies were dug up and tossed in the woods so plots could be resold.)

Katrina subcontractor Goldstar EMS, a star-crossed ambulance provider, is being pursued for local tax arrears, is under federal investigation for suspected Medicaid fraud and is now operating in bankruptcy.

Another firm whose luck has changed for the better since Katrina is Bode Technology Group Inc., hired by FEMA to identify the bodies of storm victims. Bode was fired last month by Illinois state police over allegations of shoddy work
As some folks like to say, 'Good enough for government work'.

A moment of honesty from Al Greenspan

From the UK's Independent we get a refreshing bit of honest talk. While it is not directly from Als' lips, it does ring true.
Bitter disagreements over global economic policy broke out into the open yesterday as the French Finance Minister claimed that Alan Greenspan had admitted America had "lost control" of its budget while China warned the US to drop demands for radical economic policy changes.

In an extraordinary revelation after a meeting between Thierry Breton and Mr Greenspan, M. Breton told reporters: "'We have lost control,' that was his [Mr Greenspan's] expression.

"The US has lost control of their budget at a time when racking up deficits has been authorised without any control [from Congress]," M. Breton said.
While the Treasury folks tried to blame it on a translation problem, I suspect that M. Bretons english is better than Greenspans. And when the Chinese speak out, no matter how mildly, you know there is a problem.
Speaking at a meeting of the International Institute of Finance, Mr Zhou said people were right to worry about imbalances. "The US has always run a fiscal imbalance and current account imbalance but in the recent two years we see the magnitude of the deficits is historically high. People start to worry," he said.
Worry indeed!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Tom Toles today


With apologies to Colin Clive.

Wonder where your money went?

The WaPo has a breakdown of who makes what from a gallon of gas.
When the average price of a gallon of regular gasoline peaked at $3.07 recently, it was partly because the nation's refineries were getting an estimated 99 cents on each gallon sold. That was more than three times the amount they earned a year ago when regular unleaded was selling for $1.87.

The companies that pump oil from the ground swept in an additional 47 cents on each gallon, a 46 percent jump over the same period.

If motorists are the big losers in the spectacular run-up in gas prices, the companies that produce the oil and turn it into gasoline are the clear winners. By contrast, the truckers who transport gasoline, the companies that operate pipelines and the gas station owners have profited far less.
About the only part missing is how much of the profit sticks to senior executives who don't really do anything to deserve it..

Where do you go when no one else cares?

For Capt. Ian Fishback it was to Human Rights Watch. The LA Times has an article outling the progression of events on his path to the latest report an prisoner abuse in Iraq.
When Army Capt. Ian Fishback told his company and battalion commanders that soldiers were abusing Iraqi prisoners in violation of the Geneva Convention, he says, they told him those rules were easily skirted.

When he wrote a memo saying Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was wrong in telling Congress that the Army follows the Geneva dictates, his lieutenant colonel responded only: "I am aware of Fishback's concerns."

And when Fishback found himself in the same room as Secretary of the Army Francis J. Harvey at Ft. Benning, Ga., he again complained about prisoner abuse. He said Harvey told him that "corrective action was already taken."

At every turn, it seemed, the decorated young West Point graduate, the son of a Vietnam War veteran from Michigan's Upper Peninsula, whose wife is serving with the Army in Iraq, felt that the military had shut him out.

So he turned to those he knows best. He sought guidance from fellow infantry commanders and his West Point classmates, and learned that they agreed with him that abuse of prisoners was widespread and that officers weren't adequately trained in how to handle them.

Then, in a lengthy chronology obtained Saturday by The Times, recounting what he saw in Iraq and his numerous efforts to get the Army's attention, he wrote that "Harvey is wrong." He wrote that Army guidance was "too vague for officers to enforce American values." He concluded that violations of the Geneva Convention were "systematic, and the Army is misleading America."

This summer, after weighing the possible effects on his career, he stepped outside the Army's chain of command and telephoned the Human Rights Watch advocacy group. He later met with aides on the Senate Armed Services Committee. On Friday, he authorized them to make public his allegations, along with those of two sergeants, of widespread prisoner abuse they had witnessed when they served in Iraq in 2003 and 2004 as members of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division.
Needless to say, Rummy couldn't wait to get his hands on the good Capt.

Now, Our Dear Embattled Leader plans for disaster

From the AP:
Military officials told President Bush on Sunday that the U.S. needs a national plan to coordinate search and rescue efforts following natural disasters or terrorist attacks.
The article goes on to pitch the military control for this plan. This would make folks like Our Dear Embattled Leader and his minions happy because they would get to declare when it was an emergency. Think about that and be very afraid.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

ODEL begins his round of Rita photo-ops.

After being stymied by the sunshine in San Antonio, Our Dear Embattled Leader scurried off to the Northern Command in Colorado. There, amongst all the military and their hardware, he got a bunch of passable photos. Now with Rita on land and the worst of the storm over, he is in full photo-op mode.
President Bush hopscotched the country from one high-tech disaster command center to another Saturday, declaring himself satisfied with the government's response to the latest monster hurricane.

Seeking to project a take-charge role on Hurricane Rita, Bush tracked its assault on Texas and Louisiana from a situation room at the U.S. Northern Command headquarters in the Rocky Mountain foothills more than 1,000 miles away from the storm's landfall, and then flew to two towns in Texas central to the response.

Nearly six hours after Rita struck the coastline, Bush — surrounded by plasma screens and slide projections — got a detailed briefing on the federal plan to deal with the possibility of heavy flooding in eastern Texas and western Louisiana, additional spills from levees in and around New Orleans, and disruptions to U.S. energy supplies.
Hmm, hopscotch. Probably not as much fun as cutting brush. He did manage to sneak in one trenchent quote to go with the photos.
After an hourlong briefing, the president said: "It comforts me knowing that our federal government is well-organized and well-prepared to deal with Rita."
And why do we see this flurry of activity from a man who has no idea what he is being shown?
The last-minute scurrying to set up photo opportunities for Bush showed the White House in crisis-management mode. With his approval ratings lower than ever, he has suffered from the perception that both he and his administration responded too slowly to Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the Mississippi coast and southeastern Louisiana nearly a month ago.
Still, it's a shame they keep dragging him away from his good buddies Jack, Jim and Jose.

A quotable quote

"Bill Frist has this all upside down, he thought Terri Schiavo could see and his trust was blind."

From Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) in the Washington Post.

ODEL looking for a new schtick.

It seems that the public is no longer buying the "Cap't Thundermug" pose. Jim VandeHei and Peter Baker of the WaPo analyze the problems facing the White House as its core incompetencies are exposed to view.
A president who roamed across the national and world stages with an unshakable self-assurance that comforted Republicans and confounded critics since 2001 suddenly finds himself struggling to reclaim his swagger. Bush's standing with the public -- and within the Republican Party -- has been battered by a failed Social Security campaign, violence in Iraq, and most recently Hurricane Katrina. His approval ratings, 42 percent in the most recent Washington Post-ABC poll, have never been lower.

A president who normally thrives on tough talk and self-assurance finds himself at what aides privately describe as a low point in office, one that is changing the psychic and political aura of the White House, as well as its distinctive political approach.
Aides who never betrayed self-doubt now talk in private of failures selling the American people on the Iraq war, the president's Social Security plan and his response to Hurricane Katrina. The president who once told the United Nations it would drift into irrelevancy if it did not back the invasion of Iraq last week praised the world body and said the world works better "when we act together." A White House team that operated on its terms since 2000 is reaching to outside experts for answers like never before.
Is it possible that those who were never wrong before are now never right? We can only hope.
In a series of private conversations over the past few months, aides began second-guessing how they handled the Social Security debate, managed the public perception of the Iraq war and, most recently, the response to Katrina. The federal CIA leak investigation, which has forced Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove and others to testify before a grand jury, seemed to distract officials and left a general feeling of unease, two aides said. Aides were calling reporters to find out what was happening with Rove and the investigation. "Nobody knows what's going to happen with the probe," one senior aide said.

The result, say some Republicans, has been a president and White House team that has not been as effective, efficient and sure-footed running government as it was running for reelection. "The shift from campaigning to governing has perhaps not been as quick as everybody hoped," Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) said.
Still, all is not doom and gloom. The article does end on a humorous note.
McKinnon said if anything Bush thrives under the pressure. "I've never seen the president burdened by the presidency," he said. "He's built to deal with really big events. It's in his DNA."
Right next to the Jim Beam.

And on the lighter side

Golf has returned to Afghanistan. The Guardian gives us an article on the re-opening of the Kabul Golf Club.
The greens are oily brown, the fairways have been swept for mines and the owner is a retired warlord. A rusting Russian tank looks down on the first tee. Only the rough lives up to its name. Welcome to Kabul Golf Club, wryly described on its scorecard as "the best and only golf course in Afghanistan".

"Take cover!" was once a more appropriate warning than "fore!" on these fairways, which have been dragged haplessly into Afghanistan's various wars. After the Soviet invasion of 1979 soldiers dug a deep trench by the sixth hole and sunk a tank into the seventh. Shells whistled overhead as rival mujahideen factions settled bloody scores years later. In the 1990s the black-turbaned Taliban tortured the club professional.

But like a fighter who refuses to go down, Kabul Golf Club is open for business again. Yesterday it made a quirky addition to the achievements of post-war Afghanistan - it hosted its first charity golf classic. St Andrews it was not. A violent dust storm delayed play. Then 14 teams hacked their way across the yellowed, weed-strewn fairways, dodging herds of sheep.

The players - mostly diplomats, aid workers and businessmen - were handed an advisory sheet of "special techniques" for completing the nine holes. "Attack the course!" counselled the first tip. "Play aggressively. Don't even ask for a stroke index because this is Afghanistan and they're all tough."

The defiant attitude permeated the play in aid of Ashiana, a local orphanage. "I have no security clearance so I'm not supposed to be here," declared one United Nations worker with a chipper smile. "Screw that!"
Not exactly the hushed, manicured elegence of Augusta. I wonder if Tiger Woods could make par here?

The George giveth and the George taketh away.

Today in the NYT we get an article on a new report, prepared by the staff of the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.
Over the next 10 years, Americans will not receive nearly $750 billion in tax cuts sponsored by President Bush because the cuts will be offset by the alternative minimum tax, a new report by Congressional tax specialists shows.

The report, prepared by the staff of the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, said that from 2006 to 2015, Americans would pay as much as $1.1 trillion more under the alternative minimum tax, partly as a result of the Bush tax cuts.

The Bush tax cuts reduced the bill for millions of taxpayers to a level that will subject them to the alternative minimum tax instead of the standard tax rate. As a result, the report said, their tax savings would be reduced by a total of $739.2 billion over the 10 years.
Seems like Voodoo Economics is a Bush family favorite. And this point probably brings the biggest smirk to the face of Our Dear Embattled Leader.
Families with children, who own their homes will be hit hardest by the increased alternative tax.
Got to prepare the children for their lot in life.

Friday, September 23, 2005

It takes a Jersey boy to spot a Yellow TurdBlossom.

Sen Frank Lautenberg D-NJ sent the following letter to Our Dear Embattled Leader.
September 23, 2005

Honorable George W. Bush President The White House Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Bush:

The assignment of your Deputy Chief of Staff, Karl C. Rove, as the lead White House official for disaster coordination and recovery efforts raises troubling questions given his partisan political background.

As all know, Hurricane Rita is bearing down on the Gulf Coast even as the nation reels from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. It would be expected that Mr. Rove would be at his post "24/7" during this crisis.

However, as unlikely as it might seem, we have learned that Mr. Rove will be traveling to North Dakota to engage in political fundraising activities. When this fearsome hurricane makes landfall on Saturday, Mr. Rove will be delivering a political speech to the North Dakota Republican Party, and will be featured as a special guest at a fundraising dinner.

I respectfully urge you to remind Mr. Rove of his responsibilities as the coordinator of relief and recovery efforts, and direct him to keep his attention focused on this critical job. There will be plenty of time for fundraising, but for now, putting lives back together and rebuilding communities must take priority over building political war chests.


Frank R. Lautenberg

Local expert concerned about the future of Iraq

And since this particular local expert is the Saudi Foreign Minister with 30 years experience on the job, there is a good chance he knows whereof he speaks.
Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, said Thursday that he had been warning the Bush administration in recent days that Iraq was hurtling toward disintegration, a development that he said could drag the region into war.

"There is no dynamic now pulling the nation together," he said in a meeting with reporters at the Saudi Embassy here. "All the dynamics are pulling the country apart." He said he was so concerned that he was carrying this message "to everyone who will listen" in the Bush administration.

Prince Saud's statements, some of the most pessimistic public comments on Iraq by a Middle Eastern leader in recent months, were in stark contrast to the generally upbeat assessments that the White House and the Pentagon have been offering.
Sadly, it appears that Our Dear Embattled Leader won't listen to his Cousin Towlie either.

The SEC wants a look at Sen Frists stock trading skills.

From CNN today
Federal prosecutors and the Securities and Exchange Commission are looking into Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's sale of stock in HCA Inc. at a time when insiders at the hospital operating company were also selling off shares.

HCA, based in Nashville and founded by the Frist family, said Friday that it had received a subpoena from prosecutors for the Southern District of New York, asking for documents the company believes are related to Frist's stock sale.

David Becker, who was general counsel at the SEC from 2000 to 2002, noted that both Frist and HCA were being put under scrutiny.

In insider trading cases, "you connect the dots not by simply going from one dot to another but by starting at both dots and working toward the middle," Becker said. "The facts that are public don't come close to demonstrating wrongdoing. It's way too premature to have any judgment."

Frist spokeswoman Amy Call declined on Friday to comment about the timing of the sale, saying, "His only objective in selling the stock was to eliminate the appearance of a conflict of interest."
Ms. Call also noted that after several nights of observing the moon from his study at home, the senator has determined that "the moon is made of green cheese".

Friday Night Airplane Blogging

The Curtiss C-46 first flew as a commercial airliner a year before the US entered the war. The US Army Air Corps ordered a military transport version that joined the service in 1942. Larger than the better known C-47, its Pratt & Whitney R-2800-51 engines gave it higher altitude and better load carrying performance. It was the preferred aircraft "over the Hump" in Southeast Asia. It also provided inter-island transport in the Pacific and carried paratroops and pulled gliders in Europe. It was capable of towing two gliders at a time. Over 3000 were built and according to Warbird Alley over 50 are still in the air today.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

And the Bushoviks did so love their only military

That instead of rescinding tax cuts to the top 1% of Americas wealthy, they decided that the military "quality of life" programs could be cut back instead to pay for Katrina. Here is the Navy Times article on this new token of Republican love for the military.
• Service members would be offered cash if they are willing to accept reduced health care benefits for their families. “The less comprehensive plan would encourage individuals to be more cost-conscious when purchasing health care products by including deductibles, co-payments and a maximum annual out-of-pocket expenditure limit,” according to a written explanation provided by the study group. Reduced health care benefits could save $2.4 billion over 10 years.

• The three separate military exchange systems could be consolidated, saving up to $1.9 billion over 10 years, the study group says. The Army and Air Force share an exchange system, AAFES, while the Navy and Marine Corps have their own systems. “Consolidating … would eliminate inefficiencies from duplicative purchasing, different personnel departments, warehouse and inventory systems and management headquarters while retaining the current ability for service embers and their families to receive a wide selection of goods at a low price,” the statement says.

The Pentagon has studied the idea of exchange consolidation for years but has been unable to overcome bureaucratic obstacles and opposition from some service officials and industry groups. Several studies of the issue also have raised questions about how much money would be saved.

• The stateside system of elementary and secondary schools for military family members could be closed, saving $788 million over 10 years, the study says.

“This provision would phase out these domestic schools over time and shift these military children into the local public school systems,” the study group says.

The Pentagon also has been studying this idea, but has faced strong opposition from parents of children attending the schools because public schools are seen as offering lower-quality education.
Has anyone noticed that there was no complaint about money appropriated for Iraq, where so far almost $9 Billion disbursed by the CPA is unaccounted for? Where more than $1 Billion was stolen in a military procurement fraud. Where Halliburton has had questionable billings and cost overruns of almost $2 Billion. And where troops are still short of vital armor protection and other military necessities. Why do Katrina, and soon, Rita require us to rob Peter to pay Dick?

UPDATE:Sen. "Bill the Cat Killer" Frist, stock timer extrordinaire.

The WaPo has a good article on the Fristian Bargain.
Until the sale, Frist's holdings in HCA formed a significant source of his wealth. His political career was launched in part by a loan secured by the stock; in 1994, he valued his holdings at $13 million, and the following year he placed them in a blind trust. In 2000, he transferred the HCA stock into a new blind trust, a transaction that could have given him insight into its value.

Frist's signed financial disclosure statements indicate that the overall value of his blind trusts did not substantially change from 2003 to 2004. As one of the Senate's multimillionaires, Frist has other non-HCA-stock holdings outside of the trusts.

Several ethics experts and watchdogs said they found it odd that Frist could intervene to order such a sale when the HCA stock was ostensibly out of his reach in blind trusts. Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, said, "The notion that you have a blind trust but you can tell your trustee when to sell stock in it just doesn't make any sense. It means you have a seeing eye trust and not a blind trust. It's ridiculous."
Hmm, a "seeing eye trust", does that mean he can park his money in a handicap bank?

Bob Herbert is angry

And in todays pay-per-view column in the NY Times he lets it out.
Reality is caving in on a president who was held aloft for so long by a combination of ideological mumbo-jumbo, the public relations legerdemain of Karl Rove and the buoyant patriotism that followed the Sept. 11 attacks. The Bush people were never big on reality, so sooner or later they were bound to be blindsided by it.

Remember, there was already a war going on when Katrina came to call. I've always believed that war is a serious matter. But the president was on vacation. Dick Cheney was on vacation. And Condi Rice was here in New York taking in the sights and shopping for shoes. That Americans were fighting and dying on foreign soil was not enough to demand their full attention. They were busy having fun. So it's no wonder it took a good long while before they noticed that a whole section of America had been wiped out in a calamity of biblical proportions.

What Americans are finally catching onto is the utter incompetence of this crowd. And if we didn't know before, we're learning now, in the harshest possible ways, that incompetence has bitter consequences. The body count of Americans killed in Iraq has now passed 1,900, with many more deaths to come. But there's still no strategy, no plan. The White House hasn't the slightest clue about what to do. So the dying will continue.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Sen. "Bill the Cat Killer" Frist, stock timer extrordinaire.

With a sense of timing honed by months of senatorial combat, Sen. Bill managed to sell ALL of his, and his wife and childrens stock holdings in HCA, Inc., a company founded by his father and run by his brother. This was done out of a blind trust,just before a bad earnings report knocked the stock for a loop. No doubt it was just a lucky guess on his part. Read the Newsday story on it and decide for yourself.

Monday, September 19, 2005

FEMA does it again.

USA Today has an article on the selfless companies given no-bid contracts by FEMA, so far, for Katrina cleanup.
Two of the first companies that got emergency no-bid federal contracts for Hurricane Katrina recovery work have faced questions over past business practices, court and government records show.

A division of Fluor, a California firm awarded a housing contract worth up to $100 million, has paid millions of dollars to settle federal government lawsuits — including one that accused it of overbilling for 1989 hurricane cleanup work.

The Shaw Group, a Louisiana firm that won housing and engineering contracts worth up to $200 million, has disclosed that it is being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The firm is also a defendant in federal securities class-action cases.
FEMA spokesman Widomski said his agency had been unaware of both the SEC matter and the securities class-action lawsuits involving the Shaw Group.
Assuming the legal actions weren't among those at the convention center, we should be braced for a lot more of these disclosures with TurdBlossom in charge of Katrina relief.

The best US news reporting comes from the UK

And The Independent makes this point again. As this story illustrates, you can't be too vigilent around large sums of money.
One billion dollars has been plundered from Iraq's defence ministry in one of the largest thefts in history, The Independent can reveal, leaving the country's army to fight a savage insurgency with museum-piece weapons.

The money, intended to train and equip an Iraqi army capable of bringing security to a country shattered by the US-led invasion and prolonged rebellion, was instead siphoned abroad in cash and has disappeared.

"It is possibly one of the largest thefts in history," Ali Allawi, Iraq's Finance Minister, told The Independent.

"Huge amounts of money have disappeared. In return we got nothing but scraps of metal."
So, how does one go about stealing that much money?
Most of the money was supposedly spent buying arms from Poland and Pakistan. The contracts were peculiar in four ways. According to Mr Allawi, they were awarded without bidding, and were signed with a Baghdad-based company, and not directly with the foreign supplier. The money was paid up front, and, surprisingly for Iraq, it was paid at great speed out of the ministry's account with the Central Bank. Military equipment purchased in Poland included 28-year-old Soviet-made helicopters. The manufacturers said they should have been scrapped after 25 years of service. Armoured cars purchased by Iraq turned out to be so poorly made that even a bullet from an elderly AK-47 machine-gun could penetrate their armour. A shipment of the latest MP5 American machine-guns, at a cost of $3,500 (£1,900) each, consisted in reality of Egyptian copies worth only $200 a gun. Other armoured cars leaked so much oil that they had to be abandoned. A deal was struck to buy 7.62mm machine-gun bullets for 16 cents each, although they should have cost between 4 and 6 cents.
And that is not the only minitry that has been plundered.
Mr Allawi says a further $500m to $600m has allegedly disappeared from the electricity, transport, interior and other ministries. This helps to explain why the supply of electricity in Baghdad has been so poor since the fall of Saddam Hussein 29 months ago despite claims by the US and subsequent Iraqi governments that they are doing everything to improve power generation.
Somebody is living large and laughing easy.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Update on the emperors new clothes

For all of you gentle readers that are still admiring Our Dear Embattled Leaders fabulous raiment, I suggest you read Frank Richs' column in todays NYT.
The worst storm in our history proved perfect for exposing this president because in one big blast it illuminated all his failings: the rampant cronyism, the empty sloganeering of "compassionate conservatism," the lack of concern for the "underprivileged" his mother condescended to at the Astrodome, the reckless lack of planning for all government operations except tax cuts, the use of spin and photo-ops to camouflage failure and to substitute for action.
Good reading for the rest of us, too.

And I would also recommend this excellent column from Leonard Pitts Jr.
So I have a question for the Bush jihadists, that shrinking but stubborn minority that still thinks Gee Dubya walks on water and calls down rain. What's it going to take to make you folks stop sending me e-mails by the dozens railing at how the great and powerful Bush is being mistreated by that darned liberal media?

Take, for instance, Tom in Boynton Beach, Fla., who says criticism of Bush is a sop to the "America-hating extreme left wing." Or Darwin — I don't know where he's from — who says liberals are playing "the blame game." And on and on.

It is, of course, their standard defense, akin to a child sticking index fingers in her ears and shouting "Lalalalala, I can't hear you!" until you stop committing the sin of reason.
Heh! The sin of reason.

Even the 3 Stooges could have done better.

The Washington Post has a rundown of the continuing confusion in the disaster relief efforts. If nothing else, this great mess shows the need for an overarching Federal control of the effort.
"I don't see much evidence of overall planning and guidance," said Richard Murray, a public policy expert in Houston, which is hosting thousands of evacuees.

In an e-mail, Murray, who is director of the University of Houston's Center for Public Policy, wrote: "Couple a multi-state disaster of Katrina's magnitude, (including some of the poorer and less well-governed states in the union), add on a dysfunctional federal bureaucracy that had deteriorated in recent years, and a chief executive whose motto seemed to be, until yesterday, the buck stops there, and we get a helluva mess."
I do believe that P.J.O'Rourke said it best: "Republicans keep telling us that government doesn't work, and then they get elected and prove it."

Tom Toles today

American are watching what ODEL does, not what he says.

The latest Rasmussen poll shows this.
Bush Katrina Ratings Fall After Speech

September 18, 2005--Thirty-five percent (35%) of Americans now say that President Bush has done a good or excellent job responding to Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. That's down from 39% before his speech from New Orleans.

The latest Rasmussen Reports survey shows that 41% give the President poor marks for handling the crisis, that's up 37% before the speech.
And he is losing Republicans.
Following the speech, the President's rating for handling the Katrina crisis fell eight points among Republicans (from 71% good or excellent to 63%).
All this bodes well for the US.

And now the fun begins

From the AP we get this collection of brilliant ideas to pay for Katrina. As expected, those who have profited mightily from the efforts and services of the US government under real American presidents will NOT be asked to sacrifice anything to the rebuilding during the reign of Our Dear Embattled Leader.
Raising taxes or not making permanent the president's tax cuts is not the answer now, said Pence, head of the Republican Study Group, the spearhead group for the GOP's most conservative members.

"We simply cannot break the bank of the federal budget," Pence told ABC's "This Week."
The drug benefit program, set to begin Jan. 1, is expected to cost $40 billion a year. Last month President Bush signed a $286.4 billion highway bill that has been criticized for including about 6,000 projects added by lawmakers to benefit their districts and states.

Setting aside all of those additional highway projects and delaying the drug benefit by a year are expected to be among the proposals House Republicans are preparing for "Operation Offset" this week, Pence said.
Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said tax increases will not be a part of the recovery plan he intends to offer this week. Although cuts in spending and delays in spending already approved will not be in his proposal, Vitter said he is open to considering such actions.
Rebuilding one of Americas biggest and most important ports cities will be very expensive. The thought that "robbing Peter to pay Paul" will be adequate is patently absurd and deceitful; and totally in keeping with the Bushoviks way of governance. Bill Clinton speaks about what we must also avoid when Karl starts handing out no-bid contracts to his kind of people.
Former President Clinton said that Democrats should oppose policies that result in the government borrowing more money from other countries to pay for the costs of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, rebuilding the Gulf Coast and providing tax cuts to the wealthiest.

He said Democrats should make those policies an issue in next year's congressional elections.

"We depend on Japan, China, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, and Korea primarily to basically loan us money every day of the year," Clinton said. "I don't think it makes any sense. I think it's wrong."
But we all know that substituting IOU's for assets to subsidize tax cuts for the wealthy is ODEL's great fiscal plan.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The power of Mr Bells' invention

Thanks to Josh Marshall for linking to this followup.
White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove personally called the Texas secretary of state about a newspaper story quoting a staff lawyer about whether Mr. Rove was eligible to vote in the state.

The lawyer was subsequently fired.

Secretary of State Roger Williams said that he decided to dismiss the lawyer after talking with Mr. Rove but that the White House adviser didn't request that he do so.

"Absolutely not," said Mr. Williams, a longtime supporter of President Bush and a major GOP fundraiser.
And the moon is made of green cheese.

Canadians to get new way to deal with winter

From the Globe & Mail, we get this interesting story about why Canadians continue to be cheerful in the wintertime.
Better believe it. Shoppers Drug Mart, the country's largest drugstore chain, Wal-Mart Canada and a slew of other stores have entered into agreements to stock their shelves, coast to coast, with a new line of sex toys, discreetly called "sexual well-being products."

The move is especially surprising for Wal-Mart, which doesn't sell video games rated "adult-only" and recently removed a magazine from one of its stores after a customer complained that it was too sexual.
I was going to say this but the reporter beat me to it.
Sex toys and Wal-Mart?
Still there are some doubters.
"Canadians are progressive, but we have our limits," Mr. Silverburg said.

"I don't know if people will want to see dildos on the shelves beside the shampoo."
Wanna bet?

Remember the anthrax letters?

After 4 years of intense investigation, the hunt still goes on.
Four years after an unknown bioterrorist dropped letters containing a couple of teaspoons of powder in a mailbox in Princeton, N.J., what began as the largest criminal investigation in American history appears to be stalled, say scientists and former law enforcement officials who have spoken with investigators.

The failure to solve the case that the authorities call "Amerithrax" is a grave disappointment for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Postal Inspection Service, the investigative arm of the Postal Service. The letters were the first major bioterrorist attack in American history and killed five people, sickened 17 others, temporarily crippled mail service and forced the evacuation of federal buildings, including Senate offices and the Supreme Court.

"They've done everything they can possibly think of doing, and they're just not there yet," said Randall S. Murch of Virginia Tech, a former scientist at the bureau who led the use of laboratory tests to trace the origin of microbes used in crimes. "You have to understand that the pressure is enormous."

A former law enforcement official who keeps up with several investigators said, "From the people I've talked to, it's going nowhere." The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of sensitivity over leaks in the case, said some agents still formally assigned to the investigation were mostly working on other cases, because "there's nothing for them to do."
Move along, you looky-lou's, nothing to see here.

MoDo on ODEL

From the New York Times:
Of course, it's taken Junior only five years to learn how smart his old man was.

His father made the "mistake" of not conquering and occupying Iraq because he had the silly idea that Iraqis would resent it. His father made the "mistake" of raising taxes, not cutting them, and overly obsessing about the federal deficit. And his father made the "mistake" of hewing to the center, making his base mad and losing his bid for re-election.

Bush père did make a real mistake in responding slowly to Hurricane Andrew in 1992, but that blunder has been dwarfed by what the slothful son hath wrought. Because of his fatal tardiness, W. now has to literally promise the moon to fix New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast, driving up the federal deficit and embarking on the biggest spending bonanza and government public works program since F.D.R.

In his address from the French Quarter, the president sounded like such a spendthrift bleeding heart that he is terrifying the right more than his father ever did.

Read my lips: By the time all this is over, people will be saying that Poppy was the true conservative in the family.
ODEL never was a conservative. He was always a selfish, greedy little prick.

And while we look south, Iraq still beckons.

From the AP:
A suicide car bomb wrecked three vehicles in a U.S. convoy near Abu Ghraib prison Saturday, and insurgents fired seven mortar shells at the jail and used grenades to damage three armored vehicles in another American convoy in the area, Iraqi police said.

In Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, one man was killed and six wounded when a suicide bomber drove his car into an Iraqi army patrol.

-Police in Iskandariyah, south of Baghdad, said they arrested 13 people suspected of participating in Friday's assassination of the mayor and his four bodyguards.

-In Baghdad, police found the handcuffed corpses of three unidentified men dumped near the Omar Bin Abdul-Aziz mosque. Sunni community leaders have accused the Shiite-dominated security forces of operating death squads, but the Interior Ministry has denied this.

-Armed gunmen in western Baghdad attacked a convoy of four trucks carrying food for the U.S. military. Two Sudanese drivers were killed, police and hospital sources said.

-Police in Samarra, north of Baghdad, said they found the body of an Iraqi contractor who worked for the U.S. military. The man was handcuffed, blindfolded and shot in the head, police Capt. Laith Muhammed said.

-In Qaim, near the Syrian border, U.S. jets reportedly bombed two houses overnight, killing one civilian and injuring another. The area along the porous frontier has been the target of repeated airstrikes in recent weeks, with the U.S. military saying it is trying to close off a prime infiltration route for guerrillas and foreign fighters.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Our Dear Embattled Leader says "Read my lips"

No new taxes to rebuild the Gulf Coast, and Iraq of course. Instead, he will gut every non Halliburton related program to pay for it. And if that is not enough, he will continue to mortgage the future of this country to China and his friends the Saudis. After all, with the Rapture imminent, who needs to pay it back?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Bagdhad reminds us it has not gone away.

In a very bloody attack, the world is reminded that there are still plenty of people willing to kill anyone near enough.
More than a dozen highly coordinated bombings ripped through Baghdad on Wednesday, killing at least 160 people and wounding 570 in the capital's bloodiest day since the end of major combat. Many of the victims were day laborers lured by a suicide attacker posing as an employer.

Al-Qaida claimed responsibility for the attacks in the name of Sunni insurgents, saying it was a retaliation for the rout of militants at a base close to the Syrian border.
Our Dear Embattled leaders other great failure did not want us to forget that it was still there.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Our Dear Embattled Leader takes the blame for federal blunders

How bad must things be for the White House and Republicans for notoriously insensitive ODEL to take this step? Remember, both the WTC and the Iraqi War disasters have been treated like great victories by the Bushoviks.

Simon Schama, in yesterdays Guardian, sees a real difference in the circumstances of each of these disasters.
Slipstreaming behind the annual rituals of sorrow and reverence for 9/11, George W Bush has decreed that, five days later, on the 16th, there is to be a further day of solemnities on which the nation will pray for the unnumbered victims of Hurricane Katrina. Prayers (like vacations) are the default mode for this president who knows how to chuckle and bow the head in the midst of disaster but not, when it counts, how to govern or to command. If you feel the prickly heat of politics, summon a hymn to make it go away; make accountability seem a blasphemy.

Thus has George Bush become the Archbishop of Washington even as his aura as lord protector slides into the putrid black lagoon, bobbing with cadavers and slick with oil, that has swallowed New Orleans. No doubt the born-again president is himself sincere about invoking the Almighty. But you can hear the muttered advice in the White House: Mr President, we were in trouble after 9/11; the unfortunate episode of the schoolroom, My Little Goat and all that. But do what you did then; set yourself once more at the centre of the nation; go to the epicentre of the horror and embrace its heroes; make yourself the country's patriotic invigorator and all may yet be well.
Unless ODEL was speaking out of school, a real possibility, there must be a real sense of fear in the Bushoviks.

Addendum : "The President has done the obvious, only after it was clear he couldn’t get away with the inexcusable." - John Kerry on ODEL's remarks.

Monday, September 12, 2005

It's what you don't see that kills you.- Redux

From the NY Times Dan Barry gives us a detailed description of the water that is receding from the city and back into Lake Pontchartrain.
You cannot drink it, you cannot bathe in it, you can barely stand the smell of it. No child stands ankle-deep in it with plastic bucket. No preacher wades into it to baptize a sin-sullied flock.

What laps against this city's shores, and some of its homes, churches and stores, is not water but a kind of anti-water. Green-black more than blue-green, it evokes nothing of the cathartic promise that Bruce Springsteen often sings of, only destruction, disease and death.
The State Department of Environmental Quality has taken issue with descriptions of the water that have bloomed like algae: the "toxic soup," the "toxic stew." Darin K. Mann, a spokesman for the agency, said water testing by state and federal officials has so far not supported the word "toxic."

"It's more where you'd characterize it as a 'bacterial soup,' " Mr. Mann said, citing the elevated levels of E. coli. He added that "septic" might also suffice.

How about "horrible" - the word used by Jason Davis, the co-owner of an auto-body shop who now knows.


"It smells so bad out there when you stir it," Mr. Davis said.

When asked whether he had touched the water, he looked as though his Southern heritage had been called into question.

"Definitely not," he said, then added, "I saw a couple of dead rats, and if it's killing rats, it's bad."
Read it all, if you have a strong stomach.

"Brownie" finally does something right

FEMA's Famous Blot on the Landscape has resigned. After having some distance put between himself and Our Dear Embattled Leader. Sadly it was not soon enough for some.
From the elderly residents -- at least 31 -- who drowned in their nursing home to the hundreds stranded for days on a dock as the Mississippi lapped violently at the sides to the administrators of Chalmette Medical Center who flew away to safety and left 30 nurses abandoned on the roof surrounded by 10 feet of water, the people of St. Bernard Parish for much of the early, difficult days of the crisis were on their own without any state or federal assistance.

"We were surrounded by water and we was out of communications entirely," said Henry J. "Juniour" Rodriguez Jr., a jovial potbellied politico who's partial to snake skin belts, cowboy boots and a cane that he just might poke one with if they're not careful. "You want to talk about the cavalry riding to the rescue, the Canadian Mounties got here the second day. The feds, we didn't see those (S.O.B.'s) until the fifth or sixth day."
Or for these poor people.
The bodies of 45 patients have been found at a flooded-out hospital, a state health official said Monday amid otherwise encouraging signs large and small that New Orleans is climbing back two weeks after it was slammed by Hurricane Katrina.

The bodies were found Sunday at 317-bed Memorial Medical Center, which was abandoned more than a week ago after it was surrounded by floodwaters, said Bob Johannesen, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Hospitals.
His replacement appears to be experienced and capable. We expect him to be replaced after the 2006 election.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Michael Moore: To All My Fellow Americans Who Voted for George W. Bush

On this, the fourth anniversary of 9/11, I'm just curious, how does it feel?

How does it feel to know that the man you elected to lead us after we were attacked went ahead and put a guy in charge of FEMA whose main qualification was that he ran horse shows?

That's right. Horse shows.

I really want to know -- and I ask you this in all sincerity and with all due respect -- how do you feel about the utter contempt Mr. Bush has shown for your safety? C'mon, give me just a moment of honesty. Don't start ranting on about how this disaster in New Orleans was the fault of one of the poorest cities in America. Put aside your hatred of Democrats and liberals and anyone with the last name of Clinton. Just look me in the eye and tell me our President did the right thing after 9/11 by naming a horse show runner as the top man to protect us in case of an emergency or catastrophe.

I want you to put aside your self-affixed label of Republican/conservative/born-again/capitalist/ditto-head/right-winger and just talk to me as an American, on the common ground we both call America.

Are we safer now than before 9/11? When you learn that behind the horse show runner, the #2 and #3 men in charge of emergency preparedness have zero experience in emergency preparedness, do you think we are safer?

When you look at Michael Chertoff, the head of Homeland Security, a man with little experience in national security, do you feel secure?

When men who never served in the military and have never seen young men die in battle send our young people off to war, do you think they know how to conduct a war? Do they know what it means to have your legs blown off for a threat that was never there?

Do you really believe that turning over important government services to private corporations has resulted in better services for the people?

Why do you hate our federal government so much? You have voted for politicians for the past 25 years whose main goal has been to de-fund the federal government. Do you think that cutting federal programs like FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers has been good or bad for America? GOOD OR BAD?

With the nation's debt at an all-time high, do you think tax cuts for the rich are still a good idea? Will you give yours back so hundreds of thousands of homeless in New Orleans can have a home?

Do you believe in Jesus? Really? Didn't he say that we would be judged by how we treat the least among us? Hurricane Katrina came in and blew off the facade that we were a nation with liberty and justice for all. The wind howled and the water rose and what was revealed was that the poor in America shall be left to suffer and die while the President of the United States fiddles and tells them to eat cake.

That's not a joke. The day the hurricane hit and the levees broke, Mr. Bush, John McCain and their rich pals were stuffing themselves with cake. A full day after the levees broke (the same levees whose repair funding he had cut), Mr. Bush was playing a guitar some country singer gave him. All this while New Orleans sank under water.

It would take ANOTHER day before the President would do a flyover in his jumbo jet, peeking out the widow at the misery 2500 feet below him as he flew back to his second home in DC. It would then be TWO MORE DAYS before a trickle of federal aid and troops would arrive. This was no seven minutes in a sitting trance while children read "My Pet Goat" to him. This was FOUR DAYS of doing nothing other than saying "Brownie (FEMA director Michael Brown), you're doing a heck of a job!"

My Republican friends, does it bother you that we are the laughing stock of the world?

And on this sacred day of remembrance, do you think we honor or shame those who died on 9/11/01? If we learned nothing and find ourselves today every bit as vulnerable and unprepared as we were on that bright sunny morning, then did the 3,000 die in vain?

Our vulnerability is not just about dealing with terrorists or natural disasters. We are vulnerable and unsafe because we allow one in eight Americans to live in horrible poverty. We accept an education system where one in six children never graduate and most of those who do can't string a coherent sentence together. The middle class can't pay the mortgage or the hospital bills and 45 million have no health coverage whatsoever.

Are we safe? Do you really feel safe? You can only move so far out and build so many gated communities before the fruit of what you've sown will be crashing through your walls and demanding retribution. Do you really want to wait until that happens? Or is it your hope that if they are left alone long enough to soil themselves and shoot themselves and drown in the filth that fills the street that maybe the problem will somehow go away?

I know you know better. You gave the country and the world a man who wasn't up for the job and all he does is hire people who aren't up for the job. You did this to us, to the world, to the people of New Orleans. Please fix it. Bush is yours. And you know, for our peace and safety and security, this has to be fixed. What do you propose?

I have an idea, and it isn't a horse show.

Michael Moore

From Oliphant

My apologies for the small size, if you can't read it, the little guy in the lower right corner is saying, " Steadfast in his leadership". That's our ODEL!

Carl Hiaasen has a few thoughts on FEMA

From The Miami Herald:
As New Orleans slowly drains and the search for survivors continues, many are asking: Could President Bush possibly have picked anyone less qualified than Michael D. Brown to run the Federal Emergency Management Agency?

Sure, he could.

Courtney Love or Mike Tyson would have been worse choices, although both of them have more disaster experience than Brown.
Next Brown appeared on all the morning shows to brag about what a crackerjob job FEMA was doing in the disaster zone, a performance spoiled by the stunning admission that he wasn't aware of the 20,000 sick and miserable souls awaiting rescue at the New Orleans convention center. The whole nation had been watching that agonizing sight on TV for 24 hours, but somehow the man in charge of the relief effort missed it. Maybe there was a horse show on ESPN.

Under fire from Democrats and Republicans, Brown went on the defensive last week. He reminded critics that he joined FEMA in 2001, and said he worked his way up to the top position.
It must have been terribly hard work working his way up that one last rung of the ladder.
Like Allbaugh, Brown carried out the wishes of Bush and the leaders of Congress, who slashed FEMA's authority for the sake of making the federal government smaller.

It was so small that thousands of Americans along the Gulf Coast couldn't find it after the hurricane, and many died trying.

Al Qaeda is our golem.

Having helped create it, we carelessly ignored ( and unconsciously fostered) its development until September 11, 2001. Our response since then could be taken as a textbook case on how to grow and develop a terrorist organization. Mark Danner, in todays NYT magazine, has a comprehesive article detailing what has really happened in the last 4 years of ODEL's WOT.
Nearly two years ago, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, in a confidential memorandum, posed the central question about the war on terror: "Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?" The answer is clearly no. "We have taken a ball of quicksilver," says the counterinsurgency specialist John Arquilla, "and hit it with a hammer."

On this sad anniversary day Juan Cole gives us another view of Our Dear Embattled Leaders threadbare legacy.

It's what you don't see that kills you.

And, as usual, it takes a foreign newspaper to fully explain the awesome indifference of Our Dear Embattled Leader. The UK's Independent has the interview with Hugh Kaufman, an expert on toxic waste and responses to environmental disasters at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on what is in all that water doen the in "Cancer Alley".
Other US sources spelt out the extent of the danger from one of America's most polluted industrial areas, known locally as "Cancer Alley". The 66 chemical plants, refineries and petroleum storage depots churn out 600m lb of toxic waste each year. Other dangerous substances are in site storage tanks or at the port of New Orleans. No one knows how much pollution has escaped through damaged plants and leaking pipes into the "toxic gumbo" now drowning the city. Mr Kaufman says no one is trying to find out.

Few people are better qualified to judge the extent of the problem. Mr Kaufman, who has been with the EPA since it was founded 35 years ago, helped to set up its hazardous waste programme. After serving as chief investigator to the EPA's ombudsman, he is now senior policy analyst in its Office of Solid Wastes and Emergency Response. He said the clean-up needed to be "the most massive public works exercise ever done", adding: "It will take 10 years to get everything up and running and safe."

Mr Kaufman claimed the Bush administration was playing down the need for a clean-up: the EPA has not been included in the core White House group tackling the crisis. "Its budget has been cut and inept political hacks have been put in key positions," Mr Kaufman said. "All the money for emergency response has gone to buy guns and cowboys - which don't do anything when a hurricane hits. We were less prepared for this than we would have been on 10 September 2001."
If this were near Kennebunkport would we see a better response from ODEL?

Saturday, September 10, 2005

A picure is worth a 1,000 words

Easiest 2,000 words I ever posted.

What would you call him?

Some would call Our Dear Embattled Leader a "pistol ", some would call him a " son of a gun". And ODEL, in an effort to match peoples expectations, now has a 38% approval rating according to this Newsweek poll.
In Katrina’s wake, the president’s popularity and job-approval ratings have dropped across the board. Only 38 percent of Americans approve of the way Bush is doing his job overall, a record-low for this president in the NEWSWEEK poll. (Fifty-five percent of Americans disapprove of his overall job performance.) And only 28 percent of Americans say they are “satisfied with the way things are going” in the country, down from 36 percent in August and 46 percent in December, after the president’s re-election. This is another record low and two points below the satisfaction level recorded immediately after the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal came to light. Fully two-thirds of Americans are not satisfied with the direction of the country.
The more that America sees of the fruits of His Excellencys hard work, the lower that number will go.

Friday Night Airplane Blogging

The Boeing B-17 is probably the best known of all US bombers. It was first flown in 1935 and was continually upgraded through the war in response to German defensive efforts. It was originally flown with 7 .50 cal machine guns in its defensive armament but this was increased to 13 by wars end. This included the distinctive chin turret in the B-17G model, added to deal with deadly head-on attacks by German fighters. Of the 12,800+ built, less than a dozen are still flying.

A first for Our Dear Embattled Leader

The first person, in the 5 years of agony that ODEL has put this country through, to be fired for incompetence. True, he is still pulling down a federal paycheck, but now he is safely insulated from any responsibility. Can there be any clearer admission of total failure than this? Remember, ODEL has retained, rewarded, and even promoted the supremely incompetent likes of George Tenet, Don Rumsfeld, John Bolton and Condom Rice. Up to now the only folks removed from office were those who were caught, in public, doing their jobs well.

PS. Following Atrios' lead I checked out my regional FEMA director. He is a civil engineer who has been with the agency since its founding and has experience with a number of disasters, including the World Trade Center. That would probably explain why he is only " Acting " Regional Director.

Friday, September 02, 2005

As the world watches Our Dear Embattled Leader embattles on.

Reuters provides some commentary from people around the world.
"I am absolutely disgusted. After the tsunami our people, even the ones who lost everything, wanted to help the others who were suffering," said Sajeewa Chinthaka, 36, as he watched a cricket match in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

"Not a single tourist caught in the tsunami was mugged. Now with all this happening in the U.S. we can easily see where the civilized part of the world's population is."
"A modern metropolis sinking in water and into anarchy -- it is a really cruel spectacle for a champion of security like Bush," France's left-leaning Liberation newspaper said.

"(Al Qaeda leader Osama) bin Laden, nice and dry in his hideaway, must be killing himself laughing."
And ODEL had fireworks over the WWII Memorial tonight.

Tom Toles today

Krugman, to the point.

From the NYT today.
At a fundamental level, I'd argue, our current leaders just aren't serious about some of the essential functions of government. They like waging war, but they don't like providing security, rescuing those in need or spending on preventive measures. And they never, ever ask for shared sacrifice.

Yesterday Mr. Bush made an utterly fantastic claim: that nobody expected the breach of the levees. In fact, there had been repeated warnings about exactly that risk.

So America, once famous for its can-do attitude, now has a can't-do government that makes excuses instead of doing its job. And while it makes those excuses, Americans are dying.
And somehow all the promised relief shows up at the same time as Our Dear Embattled Leader.

Amazing how that happens.

Addendum: CNN has a compilation of official statements from noted estate planner and FEMA head Michael Brown offset by actual reports from the scene in New Orleans.

Friday Night Airplane Blogging

The Consolidated PBY, nicknamed the Catalina by the British, was approaching obsolesence when WWII broke out. The flying boat first flew in 1933 and the amphibious model (shown here) was developed in 1939. With the war, the demand for a long range amphibious patrol boat kept it off the scrap heap as 4000 were built in the US and Canada. Used for reconnaissance, sub hunting, night attacks at sea, transport and, to many a grateful pilot, rescue at sea, it saw duty around the world. One of its earliest feats was locating the Bismarck as it was seeking to make its escape from the British fleet. Its rugged design and great utility and adaptability saw it remain in service until the 1970's. Today about 40 remain flying.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Our Dear Embattled Leader impresses Chavez

Well, not really. From Reuters we get what Chavez really said.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a vocal critic of the U.S. government, on Wednesday called U.S. President George W. Bush a "cowboy" who had failed to manage the Hurricane Katrina disaster and evacuate victims.

"That government had no evacuation plan, it is incredible, the first power in the world that is so involved in Iraq ... and left its own population adrift," Chavez said in a cabinet meeting broadcast live on television.
"That man, the king of vacations ... the king of vacations in his ranch said nothing but, you have to flee, and didn't say how ... that cowboy, the cowboy mentality," said Chavez, chuckling in a reference to Bush without naming him directly.
We all know that ODEL always wanted to be a king.

If the New York Times can see it..

perhaps others can too. From todays editorial page.
Waiting for a Leader

George W. Bush gave one of the worst speeches of his life yesterday, especially given the level of national distress and the need for words of consolation and wisdom. In what seems to be a ritual in this administration, the president appeared a day later than he was needed. He then read an address of a quality more appropriate for an Arbor Day celebration: a long laundry list of pounds of ice, generators and blankets delivered to the stricken Gulf Coast. He advised the public that anybody who wanted to help should send cash, grinned, and promised that everything would work out in the end.

We will, of course, endure, and the city of New Orleans must come back. But looking at the pictures on television yesterday of a place abandoned to the forces of flood, fire and looting, it was hard not to wonder exactly how that is going to come to pass. Right now, hundreds of thousands of American refugees need our national concern and care. Thousands of people still need to be rescued from imminent peril. Public health threats must be controlled in New Orleans and throughout southern Mississippi. Drivers must be given confidence that gasoline will be available, and profiteering must be brought under control at a moment when television has been showing long lines at some pumps and spot prices approaching $4 a gallon have been reported.

Sacrifices may be necessary to make sure that all these things happen in an orderly, efficient way. But this administration has never been one to counsel sacrifice. And nothing about the president's demeanor yesterday - which seemed casual to the point of carelessness - suggested that he understood the depth of the current crisis.

While our attention must now be on the Gulf Coast's most immediate needs, the nation will soon ask why New Orleans's levees remained so inadequate. Publications from the local newspaper to National Geographic have fulminated about the bad state of flood protection in this beloved city, which is below sea level. Why were developers permitted to destroy wetlands and barrier islands that could have held back the hurricane's surge? Why was Congress, before it wandered off to vacation, engaged in slashing the budget for correcting some of the gaping holes in the area's flood protection?

It would be some comfort to think that, as Mr. Bush cheerily announced, America "will be a stronger place" for enduring this crisis. Complacency will no longer suffice, especially if experts are right in warning that global warming may increase the intensity of future hurricanes. But since this administration won't acknowledge that global warming exists, the chances of leadership seem minimal.

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