Monthly Archives: May 2007

Louisiana National Guard lacks enough equipment for major event

louisian ng truck

The Times Picayune reports that “the Louisiana National Guard has all the troops it needs
for hurricane season, but many of its high-water trucks remain
in Iraq”

Twenty months after its depleted ranks of soldiers and
airmen were pressed into service for Hurricanes Katrina and
Rita, the Louisiana National Guard still lacks hundreds of
military troop trucks that can handle high water as it faces
a new storm season that begins Friday.

“We’re below 50 percent for authorized
equipment, and that includes everything,” said Lt. Col.
Pete Schneider, Louisiana Guard spokesman. “And we
continue to receive new equipment that comes off the
line.”

The array of equipment includes everything from trucks to
wrenches.

“Do I have enough for a major event?” Schneider
said of the vehicles. “No. For a smaller event, yes,
we’re good.”

SNIP

As for equipment, states are getting items as fast as
they are produced and the Army distributes them, Schneider
said. He estimated Louisiana is lacking 200 to 300 vehicles.

Protectin’ Thu Homeland

Jesus EffingChrist On A Bun

The Bush administration said Tuesday it will fight to keep meatpackers from testing all their animals for mad cow disease.

The Agriculture Department tests less than 1 percent of slaughtered cows for the disease, which can be fatal to humans who eat tainted beef. But Kansas-based Creekstone Farms Premium Beef wants to test all of its cows.

Larger meat companies feared that move because, if Creekstone tested its meat and advertised it as safe, they might have to perform the expensive test, too.

A federal judge ruled in March that such tests must be allowed. The ruling was to take effect June 1, but the Agriculture Department said Tuesday it would appeal — effectively delaying the testing until the court challenge plays out.

Imperceptibly More Peaceful Than Iran

Shocking.

The United States and Iran finished in a virtual dead heat, and way down the list, in a magazine’s assessment of the peacefulness of 121 countries.

The United States placed 96th and Iran came in 97th on the global index released Wednesday by researchers at the Economist magazine.

[snip]

Norway was rated at the country most at peace, followed by New Zealand, Denmark, Ireland and Japan. Iraq was in last place, with Sudan and Israel just above.

About 24 indicators were used, including wars fought in the last five years, arms sales, prison populations and incidence of crime.

The No-Growth Economy

Chimpy has us slouching towards recession.

The economy nearly stalled in the first quarter with growth slowing to a pace of just 0.6 percent. That was the worst three-month showing in over four years.

The new reading on the gross domestic product, released by the Commerce Department Thursday, showed that economic growth in the January-through-March quarter was much weaker. Government statisticians slashed by more than half their first estimate of a 1.3 percent growth rate for the quarter.

[snip]

The economy’s 0.6 percent growth rate in the opening quarter of this year marked a big loss of momentum from the 2.5 percent pace logged in the final quarter of last year.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke doesn’t believe the economy will slide into recession this year, nor do Bush administration officials. But ex Fed chief Alan Greenspan has put the odds at one in three.

The first-quarter’s performance was the weakest since the final quarter of 2002, when the economy recovering from a recession. At that time, GDP eked out a 0.2 percent growth rate. Economists were predicting the first-quarter performance this year would be downgraded, but not as much as it did. They were calling for a 0.8 percent growth rate pace.

Hat-tip to the lovely and talented Atta J. Turk.

Columnwhoring: Bully Edition

First, a short memo.

To: The Idiots Who Send Me Hate Mail
Re: Your Last Message

For the love of the God in whom your message claims you believe, if you want to speculate about the dates and times of the deaths of Supreme Court justices, don’t put your actual return address on the letter.

However, I do have to thank you for scrawling your communiqué onto an actual hard copy of my column. I was wondering how the photo turned out.

Now to this week’s installment:

Bullies don’t bully to make sure you act a certain way. They don’t bully to make you wear different clothes or get a new haircut or even, really, to get your toys or your lunch money. They don’t bully to improve you. They’re not altruistic like that.

Bullies bully because that’s what bullies do. It’s not about you.

You’re incidental. If it wasn’t you, it would be some other kid, some other political party, that they’d pick on. The worst mistake you can make with a bully is to try to make him happy, not just because it’s demeaning to you, but because it’s beside the point.

That’s what Democrats should have learned sometime in the past seven years. Republicans bullied war heroes John Kerry, Tammy Duckworth and Max Cleland, they made conservative representative John Murtha out to be some kind of screaming pinko, they characterized millions of anti-war Americans as the “leftist fringe” prior to the war. Democrats should have learned, from watching it happen to their candidates over and over and over again, that it’s not about what they do or say.

It’s about power — and ridicule — and needing to hear people laugh at someone else’s expense.

It was the worst mistake Democrats could have made, to assume Republicans were bullying them in order to get them to craft a certain bill or vote a certain way. You can’t make a bully happy, no matter how many platitudes you mouth or how many supporters and constituents you betray. No matter how much you change to please a bully, the bully won’t be pleased. The bully will still be a bully, because that’s what the bully is.

A.

Confronting Corruption

NOLA blogger Schroeder from People Get Ready confronts Dollar Bill Jefferson in the grocery check out line about that 90K in the freezer.

For real…he did.

Marry Me, Journalism Edition

Because, dude, seriously:

Newspapers started out with enormous advantages going into the digital age (remember “content is King”?) and have squandered it while others innovated. To take even one small example: there isn’t a single newspaper that has figured out a really usable way online to find out what’s going on tonight without lots of clicks and searching. So dozens of upstart online companies are finding a big audience. What a missed opportunity.

How many newspapers have reconfigured their staffing to reflect the new hybrid print/online reality? Why are high-paid editors and reporters uploading jpegs and podcasts when digital assistants ought to be doing the mechanical tasks? Fast-moving web companies have learned to move with audiences and make those audiences part of a community. Newspapers, for the most part, hold on to rigid models and jump on new tools (everybody blog now!) without understanding how those tools can be used.

If I was pointing fingers, I’d aim squarely at the business managers who are so locked into the old ways of doing things that they don’t even understand what the new issues are, let alone solutions to them. Journalists are being failed by those whose job it is to figure out the business side, and now journalists are paying the price for that lack of vision. Like somehow cheapening the product and giving readers less is going to attract more customers.

Newspaper execs expense their summer party drinks and then want reporters to take days without pay in order for the paper to break even. So long as we keep talking about Google, and how the Internet is ruining everything, we’ll never have time to examine the waste, fraud, general bullshit and egregious squandering of the public trust that are actually hurting journalism.

I was just having this conversation over the weekend with Mike, and we both came to the conclusion that if you don’t know your audience, can’t reach it effectively, won’t put the money into the things that actually would make a newspaper work for you, ie marketing and distribution, it’s downright criminal to put the blame on things like “changing tastes” (I mean, BZUH?) and the Interwebs.

And I’m really starting to think so many supposed industry critics and consultants and higher-ups at the corporate ownership level of the press talk about such things is that they’re counting on their employees not to know enough about the way the Internets really work to be able to stand up and say, with full confidence, “Excuse me sir but that’s complete and utter horseshit, and the only reason our paper’s in the tank is because you didn’t care enough to make it better.

Also, this is generally related to what is quickly becoming the major theme of my meatspace life, and that is the critical distinction between what you feel like doing, and what can be done. Because Jesus and Mary, do we ever hamstring ourselves in advance in the world, deciding ahead of time what’s achievable and figuring out exactly how much vacation time that leaves us with to slack the fuck off.

Which is a fancy way, really, of saying what this guy said, which is sack up, already, and quit whining.

A.

Just because kitty blogging

Honestly where do these things go to?

IMG_0428

Willie B loves the glitter balls and little furry mice…

IMG_0417

But I can not find about a dozen of them. I have no idea where he puts them. Hope he isn’t eating them

Your President Speaks!

Today, in Glynco, Georgia, on immigration reform.

Oops!

Please be seated — unless, of course, you don’t have a chair.

The Joke That Died

I don’t know whether you realize this, or not, but the government originally planned to open this center inside the Capital Beltway. No one looks very sad that they didn’t open it inside the Capital Beltway.

The Front Lines Of Protecting

A lot of our fellow citizens probably don’t know what goes on here, but this is a center full of smart, capable instructors who are helping to train men and women who’ve volunteered to serve our country on the front lines of protecting the homeland.

There Is A Lot Of Decent Souls

And it gives me great confidence when I meet you to tell the American people there’s a lot of decent souls doing everything they can to provide security for the American people.

Workin’ The Border — I Hear That’s What Katherine Harris Is Doing These Days

I appreciate the folks at FLETC that I met that are working the border and helping train people to secure this border of ours.

Some Of My Best Friends… Part I

I want to introduce Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez — I appreciate you coming, Mr. Secretary. Carlos wasn’t born here, see. He was born in another country — Cuba. And now he sits in the Cabinet of the President of the United States.

Some Of My Best Friends… Part II

With us, as well, is Senator Mel Martinez. He wasn’t born in America. He’s a Senator from Florida. He was born in Cuba.

I’m ALittle Lotta Bit Country

What a wonderful country it is, where people can come to live in a country based upon liberty, and realize the great blessings of our country.

We Are A Place Of Law

Will we be a welcoming place, a place of law, that renews our spirit by giving people a chance to succeed?

Drain Bamage

One commitment to the American people that we’re serious about helping you do your job is to spend more money on the job.

Damn, That’s Good Blow

One of the problems we had prior to the administration addressing the problem was we had what was called — what happened was called catch and release. You had your Border Patrol working hard, finding somebody trying to sneak into our country illegally, they’d catch him, and then they say, well, you know, look, you need to come back for your hearing; we’re going to let you out, but come back for your hearing.

Our Country Is A Rule Of Law

In other words, part of making sure our country is a rule of law, we’ve got to have people enforce the law.

There Is A Lot

There’s a — a lot of employers need a legal way to fill jobs that Americans simply aren’t doing. There’s a lot of jobs here in Georgia that require people from — that are willing to do the work that Americans aren’t doing.

How It Works

To receive the visa, illegal workers must admit they violated the law and pay a meaningful penalty, pass a strict background check, hold a job, maintain a clean record, and eventually earn English — learn English. That’s how it works.

An Opportunity To Not Hide

In other words, if somebody says, fine, I’ll take my Z visa, I’m out of the shadows now, I’ve got an opportunity to not hide in America.

There Is More Hurdles

I’ll pay the penalties necessary so I can stay here — that’s what it says — but if you want to be a citizen, there’s more hurdles.

Safe At Base Home

If you want to be a citizen, you pay a fine, you touch base home to apply for a green card, and then you take your place behind those who have played by the rules and have been waiting in line, patiently, to become a citizen.

There Is A Lot Of Emotions

This reform is complex. There’s a lot of emotions around this issue.

Your President Speaks!

Today, at the White House.

Paul [Wolfowitz] is a man of character and integrity. Under his leadership, the World Bank increased its support for the world’s poorest countries to a record $9.5 billion in 2006. Half of this money goes to sub-Saharan Africa. It’s hope to some of the poorest folks.

Another Disappointing Month

Looks like we’re headed for another disappointing new jobs report on Friday. Remember, kiddies, we need to create 150,000 new jobs each month to keep up with growth in the workforce. The consensus forecast is that 145,000 were created in May and Automatic Data Processing Inc. is sayingthat only 97,000 non-governmental jobs were created.

An employment indicator published by payrolls giant Automatic Data Processing Inc. and consultancy Macroeconomic Advisers reported an increase of 97,000 in private jobs in May.

That compares with the expected 145,000 increase in total jobs that economists called for in a Dow Jones Newswires survey earlier this week. The Labor Department publishes the more definitive May nonfarm payrolls report on Friday morning.

The ADP-Macroeconomic Advisers estimate doesn’t include jobs growth in the government sector. In April, there was a 25,000 increase in the number of government jobs out of a total increase of 88,000.

Support Them Troops!

Morale in Iraq is hideous.

A recently released Pentagon mental health study of troops in Iraq found 45 percent of junior enlisted Army soldiers rated their unit’s morale as low or very low. Twenty percent of soldiers and 15 percent of Marines were found to have a mental health problem, defined as anxiety, depression or acute stress.

[snip]

Events that made them feel “intense fear, helplessness or horror,” were described by nearly 40 percent.

Reported anonymously in the publicly released version of the study, the events included:

  • “My sergeant’s leg getting blown off.”
  • “A huge … bomb blew my friend’s head off like 50 meters from me.”
  • “Doing raids on houses with bad intel.”
  • “Working to clean out body parts from a blown up tank.”
  • “Convoy stopped in dangerous areas due to incompetent commanders.”
  • “A Bradley (tank) blew up. We got two guys out, three were still inside. I was the medic.”

[snip]

The report also found:

  • Fifty-six percent of soldiers were highly concerned about the long tours.
  • Eleven percent of those deployed for the first time had a mental health problem, compared to 27 percent of those on repeat tours.
  • Among soldiers exposed to a low level of combat, 11 percent had a mental health problem; it was 30 percent among those who saw a high level of combat.

Today on Athenae’s Obsession with the Freepi

It’s an immigration meltdown:

bush has decided that we (the base) no longer matter.


I called the White House and told the message taker that I was deeply insulted that the President felt that I, a person who voted for him twice, didn’t want to do what’s right for America.

I told them he was the one that wasn’t doing the right thing for America by not repelling this invasion and giving amnesty to 20 million people who shouldn’t be here.


I never thought I’d say this about a speech by the CIC; but where’s the BARF alert.


Amnesty for 12-20+million illegals is about the last thing going that GW can use as his legacy.

The WoT sort of went south.
The War in Iraq sort of went south.
GW even had to call in a special War Czar for those.

The big Social Security push at the start of his 2nd term quickly foundered.

There isn’t much left except what he can push to further the one-world global vision of GHWB – Amnesty for illegals, NAU, SPP, TransHighway.

Next year, both parties will be too busy with primaries and conventions and the general election to do much business, so GW needs to finalize his legacy this year.

And Amnesty for Illegals is all he’s got.


The best part comes later in the thread, when a commenter tells the guy who thinks the base no longer matters to Bush that it never really did.

Between this and the Giuliani purge, Free Republic is becoming the bright spot in my daily reading.

A.

Hot DeLay on Newt Action!

Personally, I find it hard to believe that anyone would willingly commit adultery with either of these two men.

Earlier this year, [Tom DeLay] published a memoir called “No Retreat, No Surrender” (his spokeswoman says that he was not stealing from Bruce Springsteen, and that the phrase has been used many times throughout history, including by the Spartans and as the title of a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie), in which he claimed that as a young congressman he would on occasion drink ten to twelve Martinis at a time. In this period, he earned the nickname Hot Tub Tom. Then he found Jesus and, he said, stopped sinning. In the book, he freely confesses to committing adultery. “I had put my needs first,” he told me. “I was on the throne, not God. I had pushed God from His throne.”

In the book, DeLay criticizes Gingrich for, among other things, conducting an affair with a Capitol Hill employee during the 1998 impeachment trial of Bill Clinton. (The woman later became Gingrich’s third wife.) “Yes, I don’t think that Newt could set a high moral standard, a high moral tone, during that moment,” DeLay said. “You can’t do that if you’re keeping secrets about your own adulterous affairs.” He added that the impeachment trial was another of his “proudest moments.” The difference between his own adultery and Gingrich’s, he said, “is that I was no longer committing adultery by that time, the impeachment trial. There’s a big difference.” He added, “Also, I had returned to Christ and repented my sins by that time.”

Scout’s Obsession with the GAO: New Orleans Pump Contract Edition

The GAO has released its report on the NOLA pump contract. They concluded the Army Corps of Engineers “utilized several tools to expedite and streamline the acquisition process” and “had a valid reason for each of the iterative decisions it made at each stage of the procurement process.”

The cumulative effect of these decisions resulted in one supplier—Moving Water Industries Corporation—being in the strongest competitive position to receive the contract for the pumping systems.

In other words they conclude no rigging. However there were troubling conclusions in the report. The GAO looked at the issue of testing of the pumps and noted…

The Corps and MWI lacked a comprehensive testing plan designed to identify and resolve problems before shipment

•Because of schedule and performance concerns, factory testing parameters changed several times, for example the Corps discontinued some tests and added others

•Limited provisions for field testing were included in the contract—with no criteria for desired end result or success of test

Some better than none…

Nevertheless, the pumping systems were installed as planned because the Corps believed that it was better to have some pumping capacity along the drainage canals during the 2006 hurricane season rather than none.

The report also looked at what the Corps plans to do to increase pumping capacity for the 2007 hurricane season. Of course these are plans and projections. There are 3 interesting graphs of the pumping capacity trends at 3 NOLA canals on pages 33, 34 and 35 of the pdf.

This conclusion is most troubling

However, total planned temporary and portable pumping capacity will not meet the Sewerage and Water Board’s drainage needs to keep the city from flooding during a hurricane when the canal gates are closed for 2 reasons:

•Weaknesses in some canal walls will continue to restrict the amount of water that can be pumped into the canals from the city to about 69% of their maximum capacity

•Even if these restrictions were eased or lifted, the Corps would have pumping capacity equal to about 82% of the maximum canal capacity

For further critique on the NOLA pumps go read Matt at Fix the Pumps. Added: As Matt points out this is not the final version of the GAO report.

Hated Around The World

Heckuva job, Chimpy!

[Miss Universe Contestant] Miss USA Rachel Smith, who slipped and fell to the floor during the evening gown competition and was jeered by the Mexican audience during the interview phase, was the contest’s fourth runner-up.

[snip]

Smith was booed during her interview and several audience members chanted “Mexico! Mexico!” until she spoke in Spanish, saying “Buenas noches Mexico. Muchas gracias!” which earned her applause.

Incompetence

Scout sent me this over the weekend:

“He’s looking at this stuff, and he says, ‘I’ve heard of you. I heard of you.’

“He says, ‘Is it really true that you really know the Arabs this well, and that you speak Arabic this well? Is that really true? Is that really true?’

“And I said, ‘Yeah, that’s really true.’

“That’s too bad,” Feith said.

The problem a lot of people have with describing the Bush administration’s flunkies as incompetent is that it implies letting them off the hook, like mentally impaired children. As if we’re saying, poor dears, they were just too dumb to know better, and if only they’d been less stupid, or read more books, or something. But there’s a reason I use the word for people like Feith, and it’s because it places the blame where it belongs. Higher than Feith, higher than Wolfowitz, higher than anyone with whom the buck logically stops.

I say incompetent because that’s really what this is about: People just not doing their jobs. And their motivations, be they evil by design or just doomed by perpetual blundering, don’t really matter all that much. What matters is that the person tasked with supervising them all, the President of the United States, didn’t do his job, reign in the nutjobs, deal with people who might have disagreed with him on some other issue but were good at their work, take the risk that differing viewpoints wouldn’t kill him dead, and get better people in the places where better people were required.

HIS motivations matter tremendously. It matters tremendously that our next president is capable, as I say in the Feith book, of saying to someone presenting what is supposedly “slam dunk” information, “Hey, I don’t think that sounds right, tell me something else. Get me in here somebody who disagrees with this guy. Before I take us to war I want to know everything.” Instead of a guy who demanded to be told only things that reinforced his pre-conceived ideas, which is not coincidentally the rap on Feith himself. Instead of a guy who did not have the foreign policy experience nor the mental flexibility to accept that maybe what he imagined while playing with his GI Joes just wasn’t humanly possible.

It matters tremendously that our next president is capable of both the humility to admit the limits of his or her knowledge but also possessed of enough of said knowledge to parse the information coming from people like Feith and say, “This is bullshit. You’re fired. Bring me somebody who knows what he’s doing.”

A.

For ‘Em Before He Was Ag’in’ ‘Em

In regards to today’s attrocious Supreme Court decision regarding employment discrimination Scott Lemieux writes:

The effect of Sandra Day O’Connor being replaced by Alito is particularly stark in this case. O’Connor–who was offered only secretarial jobs after graduating third from her Stanford Law class–had a good record on gender discrimination, while Altio’s record on both gender issues and civil rights claims more broadly is atrocious.

May I point out it was not the Sainted Sandra Day O’Connor (or her seat) who flip-flopped on this issue, but rather it was renowned 1970s pornography aficianado Clarence Thomas.

Justice Clarence Thomas, who once led the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sided with Goodyear.

Five years ago, Thomas joined his liberal colleagues in a 5-4 decision that made it easier for victims to complain about long-term job discrimination or harassment when shabby treatment was extended over a period of months or years.

Five short years is all it took to change Thomas’ mind. So much for precedent.

An Entirely Random Question

When did grills become the size of SUVs?

And WHY?

A.

Once And For All — Suck It, Wingers

Something that anyone with a passing relationship to logic knew years ago.

An unclassified summary of outed CIA officer Valerie Plame’s employment history at the spy agency, disclosed for the first time today in a court filing by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, indicates that Plame was “covert” when her name became public in July 2003.

The summary is part of an attachment to Fitzgerald’s memorandum to the court supporting his recommendation that I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Cheney’s former top aide, spend 2-1/2 to 3 years in prison for obstructing the CIA leak investigation.

[snip]

The unclassified summary of Plame’s employment with the CIA at the time that syndicated columnist Robert Novak published her name on July 14, 2003 says, “Ms. Wilson was a covert CIA employee for who the CIA was taking affirmative measures to conceal her intelligence relationship to the United States.”

Plame worked as an operations officer in the Directorate of Operations and was assigned to the Counterproliferation Division (CPD) in January 2002 at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

The employment history indicates that while she was assigned to CPD, Plame, “engaged in temporary duty travel overseas on official business.” The report says, “she traveled at least seven times to more than ten times.” When overseas Plame traveled undercover, “sometimes in true name and sometimes in alias — but always using cover — whether official or non-official (NOC) — with no ostensible relationship to the CIA.”