Friday, September 23, 2005

Outsourcing Incompetence?

Chicago Tribune | Offer of buses fell between the cracks:

"Though it was well-known that New Orleans, much of it below sea level, would flood in a major hurricane, Landstar, the Jacksonville company that held a federal contract that at the time was worth up to $100 million annually for disaster transportation, did not ask its subcontractor, Carey Limousine, to order buses until the early hours of Aug. 30, roughly 18 hours after the storm hit, according to Sally Snead, a Carey senior vice president who headed the bus roundup.

Landstar inquired about the availability of buses on Sunday, Aug. 28, and earlier Monday, but placed no orders, Snead said.

She said Landstar turned to her company for buses Sunday after learning from Carey's Internet site that it had a meetings and events division that touted its ability to move large groups of people. 'They really found us on the Web site,' Snead said.

A Landstar spokeswoman declined comment on how the company responded to the hurricane."

Wow! No wonder Janet and I sometimes struggle to make ends meet. Incompetence is so much more profitable! Did Dubya learn that at Yale?

They Have Hurricanes Here?

Texas awaits Rita catastrophe, New Orleans floods - Yahoo! News:

"In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Dan Hitchings of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said: 'The waters in the industrial canal had risen very rapidly ... far above what was ever predicted or anticipated in the area.'

He said workers had patched the levee with sandbags, crushed stone and compacted soil.

'Looking back, we should have put another foot on it,' he said. 'Looking back, you say, gosh, I wish we had done a little more.'"

Emphasis mine!

Blogging Rocks The News

Rita Pushes Blogs, Rich Maps to Forefront - Yahoo! News:

"One of the benefits to blogs is that they tend to be more personal, they tend to provide more the emotional feel of an event,' said Dwight Silverman, the Chronicle's interactive journalism editor. 'In traditional reporting you put on your poker face and do your writing. ... It's not supposed to be the writer's emotions."

I've noticed blogs being attributed or referenced more and more often on the broadcast news as well. Looks like blogging is really taking over -- what, I'm not sure. People are using words again. They're speaking out, making waves, hanging out (sometiimes, way out). Everybody can publish. Does that mean we'll be heard? Let's find out together, shall we?

Big State, Big Problems, No Exit

Best-Laid Plans Weren't Enough in Texas - Yahoo! News:

"Brian Wolshon, a professor of civil engineering at Louisiana State University, said Texas officials 'will probably see there were things they could have done better.'

But he added: 'It's not economically or environmentally feasible to build enough roads to evacuate a city the size of Houston in a short time and with no congestion. It's just not going to happen.'"

Well, no, not if you do it with cars. Too bad we don't have a good rail system or something called mass transit. I seem to remember something like that once existed, but then automobiles and gas stations were invented, and all that other stuff just disappeared.

Bushies Score Hat Trick; Film At Eleven.

Daily Kos: State of the Nation

"The trifecta is complete. The Republican leadership in the Senate, House and White House are ALL officially under investigation."

It's like when Tyco, Worldcom and Enron were all falling apart under the SEC investigations. Too bad John Roberts is beyond reach, or Scalia. Hey, what if we find out they were involved in some shenanigans; can a Supreme Court Justice be indicted? Or is it like the Pope? Now, what if he...?

The Other Side Of The Pond

BBC NEWS | UK | UK Politics | Ex-Blair envoy gives Iraq warning:
Ex-Blair envoy gives Iraq warning

The UK and US may have to abandon Iraq if central government breaks down and the country is engulfed by chaos, Tony Blair's former special envoy has said.

Sir Jeremy Greenstock said a pullout from Iraq might be needed if the US and UK had no 'reasonable prospect of holding it together'.

But he said he did not think this had happened yet.

His words follow violent incidents in Basra after the Army rescued two SAS soldiers seized by Iraqi police.

Earlier, Tory leader Michael Howard called for a new strategy to combat insurgency in Iraq.

But he said pulling UK troops out of Iraq could be disastrous and make the country a centre for world terrorism.

In stark contrast, Sir Jeremy said there would be little alternative if it became clear that there was no 'reasonable prospect' of holding the country together."

I feel like I'm in some kind of '70s flashback.

No way out: Many poor stuck in Houston

No way out: Many poor stuck in Houston -- Page 1 --

The title says it all. Even people who have vehicles and money didn't get very far.

Why is the Gulf Coast, which apparently has a large part of the industrial base of the country, also the leader when it comes to poverty? Could it be because that IS where the industrial complex rules so much? Is it because of religious fundamentalism holding sway? Racism? What happened here? We may owe the re-awakening of social consciousness to the storms of 2005, at a great cost to the victims of American aristocracy. That's assuming that there really is some sort of re-awakening going on here. If not, then I can't see any hope for this nation traveling a path any different from that of ancient Rome or any other empire, for that is what we have become.

Fire on Bus Carrying Evacuees Kills 24 - Yahoo! News

Fire on Bus Carrying Evacuees Kills 24 - Yahoo! News:
"WILMER, Texas - A bus carrying elderly evacuees from Hurricane Rita caught fire and was rocked by explosions early Friday on a gridlocked highway near Dallas, killing as many as 24 people, authorities said."

Rita expected to flood Port Arthur - Yahoo! News

Rita expected to flood Port Arthur - Yahoo! News:
"Speaking as the first winds of the massive storm were felt along the Gulf of Mexico coast, Jack Colley, the director of the Texas Division of Emergency Management, told reporters an estimated 5.2 million Texans would be affected, 6,000 homes would be destroyed and 16,000 people made homeless."

Rita breaches levee in N. Orleans: official - Yahoo! News

Rita breaches levee in N. Orleans: official - Yahoo! News:
"The water was waist-high in New Orleans' vulnerable ninth ward and rising fast, according to local CBS affiliate WWL-TV.

The ward was the city's hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina just three weeks ago, with most homes reduced to piles of rubble, cars strewn about and relatively few buildings left completely intact.

Most residents of the ward had been evacuated in the aftermath of Katrina, and those remaining were being taken out on Friday, CNN said.

'We have discovered an overtopping on the industrial canal,' Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Mitch Frazier told local radio.

Water began seeping through the repaired section on Thursday but officials said they did not expect flooding on such a scale so soon."

Thursday, September 22, 2005 National Doppler Image National Doppler Image

Deja vu all over again. Remember how last year it seemed like the hurricanes had targeted mid-Florida? Looks like they are aiming at a different target this year. God help the Gulf Coast.

The Plot Sickens

Faulty Levees - New York Times:
"The official explanation for the collapse of some of the flood walls protecting New Orleans has been that Hurricane Katrina simply overwhelmed the system. But reports yesterday in both The Washington Post and The New York Times suggested that Katrina might not have been as powerful as advertised and that the real culprit was the system itself - flood walls so poorly constructed that they were easily breached.

This points a finger at either the Army Corps of Engineers, which oversaw the design and construction of the flood walls, or Congress, which appears to have underfinanced the projects, or both."

So what else is new? Things weren't built according to spec? Materials were substandard? Sounds like a normal contract job in the good ol' USA. Does anyone care about quality any more? How would you like to be an astronaut in this crazy time and place?

A New Deadly, Contagious Dog Flu Virus Is Detected in 7 States - New York Times

A New Deadly, Contagious Dog Flu Virus Is Detected in 7 States - New York Times:
"A new, highly contagious and sometimes deadly canine flu is spreading in kennels and at dog tracks around the country, veterinarians said yesterday.

The virus, which scientists say mutated from an influenza strain that affects horses, has killed racing greyhounds in seven states and has been found in shelters and pet shops in many places, including the New York suburbs, though the extent of its spread is unknown.

Dr. Cynda Crawford, an immunologist at the University of Florida's College of Veterinary Medicine who is studying the virus, said that it spread most easily where dogs were housed together but that it could also be passed on the street, in dog runs or even by a human transferring it from one dog to another. Kennel workers have carried the virus home with them, she said.


She added that because dogs had no natural immunity to the virus, virtually every animal exposed would be infected. About 80 percent of dogs that are infected with the virus will develop symptoms, Dr. Crawford said. She added that the symptoms were often mistaken for "kennel cough," a common canine illness that is caused by the bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria.

Both diseases can cause coughing and gagging for up to three weeks, but dogs with canine flu may spike fevers as high as 106 degrees and have runny noses. A few will develop pneumonia, and some of those cases will be fatal. Antibiotics and fluid cut the pneumonia fatality rate, Dr. Crawford said."

We're scheduled to bring Cosmo to the vet's this Saturday. I hope this isn't as widespread as the article makes it seem. Think we'll call ahead, just to be safe.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Well, Duh!

Dems. Say Arrest Of White House Budget Official Demonstrates Need For Independent Katrina Investigation… | The Huffington Post: "Dems. Say Arrest Of White House Budget Official Demonstrates Need For Independent Katrina Investigation…

New York Times | Philip Shenon, Anne E. Kornblut | Posted September 21, 2005 05:20 PM

Congressional Democrats said on Tuesday that the arrest of a former senior White House budget official involved in organizing the federal response to Hurricane Katrina demonstrated the need for an independent investigation of the government's reaction to the disaster, especially since the official is married to a leading Republican Congressional aide.

The official, David H. Safavian, 38, a lawyer who was chief of procurement policy in the Office of Management and Budget until he resigned on Friday, was arrested Monday on charges of lying to federal investigators about his relationship with Jack Abramoff, a Washington lobbyist at the center of a corruption investigation at the Justice Department."

So Glad Combat Ops Are "Over"

A Look at U.S. Military Deaths in Iraq - Yahoo! News

As of Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2005, at least 1,907 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. At least 1,484 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers. The figures include five military civilians.

The AP count is the same as the Defense Department's tally, last updated at 10 a.m. EDT Wednesday.

The British military has reported 96 deaths; Italy, 26; Ukraine, 18; Poland, 17; Bulgaria, 13; Spain, 11; Slovakia, three; El Salvador, Estonia, Thailand and the Netherlands, two each; and Denmark, Hungary, Kazakhstan and Latvia one death each.

Since May 1, 2003, when President Bush declared that major combat operations in Iraq had ended, 1,768 U.S. military members have died, according to AP's count. That includes at least 1,375 deaths resulting from hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

Since the start of U.S. military operations in Iraq, 14,641 U.S. service members have been wounded, according to a Defense Department tally Wednesday.

It's not just the numbers. A high percentage of those 14,641 wounded are extreme injuries due to explosions, meaning amputations and neurological trauma. And these figures don't include the "private contractors" that are used extensively thoughout the theater, let alone the civilian losses by Iraq itself. This is quickly becoming the highest costing military action taken on by the US since, well, since Vietnam. Unless someone draws the line arbitrarily and declares "victory," as was done in southeast asia, it will surpass that as well. And to what end? So what if Saddam is no longer running the show, will anything have really changed? For the better?    

Is This What We're Fighting To Protect?

Iraqis in Basra Slam 'British Aggression' - Yahoo! News

Iraqi National Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie, a Shiite politician who has criticized the British raid as "a violation of Iraqi sovereignty," acknowledged that one problem coalition forces face is that insurgents have joined the ranks of security forces.

"Iraqi security forces in general, police in particular, in many parts of Iraq, I have to admit, have been penetrated by some of the insurgents, some of the terrorists as well," he said in an interview with the BBC on Tuesday night.

Officials in Basra, speaking on condition of anonymity because they feared for their lives, said at least 60 percent of the police force there is made up of Shiite militiamen from one of three groups: the Mahdi Army; the Badr Brigade, the armed wing of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq; and Hezbollah in Iraq, a small group based in the southern marshlands.

How can we build a stable government on a platform of 60% insurgency in the security forces alone? Is Iran our next Cambodia?

If the reports are correct, I'm glad the Brits had the guts to go in and get their people out of trouble, though I have to wonder what they were up to wearing civilian clothes; probably trying to get information concerning the infiltration of securtiy forces by radical/foreign insurgents. Would that be irony?

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Albany, N.Y.: - Print Story

Albany, N.Y.: - Print Story: "Report alleges FEMA fraud
Newspaper investigation reveals millions of dollars in aid given to areas with little or no damage

First published: Sunday, September 18, 2005

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The federal government's mishandling of the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe is only the latest bungling in a national disaster response system that for years has been fraught with waste and fraud.

A South Florida Sun-Sentinel investigation has found that the Federal Emergency Management Agency in five years poured at least $330 million into communities that were spared the devastating effects of fires, hurricanes, floods and tornadoes.

In the country's poorest, inner city neighborhoods, disaster assistance is considered an entitlement. Taxpayer money meant to help victims recover from catastrophes instead has gone to thousands of people who suffered little or no damage, including:

$5.2 million to Los Angeles-area residents for the 2003 wildfires that burned more than 25 miles away.

$168.5 million to Detroit residents for a 2000 rainstorm that the then-mayor doesn't even remember.

$21.6 million in clothing losses alone to Cleveland residents for a 2003 storm that brought less than an inch-and-a-half of rain.

The Sun-Sentinel first exposed fraud and waste in federal disaster aid in Florida last year, when FEMA distributed $31 million in Hurricane Frances relief to Miami-Dade County residents who experienced no hurricane conditions.

The newspaper examined 20 of the 313 disasters declared by FEMA from 1999 through 2004, selecting cities where the agency's inspectors said they had encountered large-scale fraud. Of the $1.2 billion FEMA paid in those disasters, 27 percent went to areas where official reports showed only minor damage or none at all, the Sun-Sentinel found.

'It's so disturbing'"

It's Good To Have Friends In High Places

The Raw Story | FEMA, La. outsource Katrina body count to firm implicated in body-dumping scandals

Kenyon is a subsidiary of Service Corporation International (SCI), a scandal-ridden Texas-based company operated by a friend of the Bush family. Recently, SCI subsidiaries have been implicated in illegally discarding and desecrating corpses.

Louisiana governor Katherine Blanco subsequently inked a contract with the firm after talks between FEMA and the firm broke down. Kenyon's original deal was secured by the Department of Homeland Security.

In other words, FEMA and then Blanco outsourced the body count from Hurricane Katrina -- which many believe the worst natural disaster in U.S. history -- to a firm whose parent company is known for its "experience" at hiding and dumping bodies.

Still believe?


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