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This just in; govern…

This just in; govern…
This just in; government aid wasted! Film at 11.

Among the many superlatives associated with Hurricane Katrina can now be added this one: it produced one of the most extraordinary displays of scams, schemes and stupefying bureaucratic bungles in modern history, costing taxpayers up to $2 billion.

While the staggering dollar amount is indeed news, the idea that big government produces big waste shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. I wonder how the percentage of waste compares to the private charities that responded.

Government cannot react quickly and efficiently, and the bigger it is the worse it gets. This was not news to those trying to respond.

Such an outcome was feared soon after Congress passed the initial hurricane relief package, as officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross acknowledged that their systems were overwhelmed and tried to create new ones on the fly.

“We did, in fact, put into place never-before-used and untested processes,” Donna M. Dannels, acting deputy director of recovery at FEMA, told a House panel this month. “Clearly, because they were untested, they were more subject to error and fraud.”

Unfortunately, the public has come to expect government to act on a moment’s notice and turn on a dime. Somehow, they’ve been sold on the idea that it’s government’s job to solve all our problems, and that they’ll do so with the utmost efficiency. (Gee, wonder who’s been selling that bill of goods. Note that the only legislators expressing outrage are Republicans. The Times couldn’t find any Democrats to speak out against wasteful spending?)

How inefficiently? Way out of proportion.

Officials in Washington say they recognized that a certain amount of fraud or improper payments is inevitable in any major disaster, as the government’s mission is to rapidly distribute emergency aid. They typically send out excessive payments that represent 1 percent to 3 percent of the relief distributed, money they then ask people to give back.

What was not understood until now was just how large these numbers could become.

The estimate of up to $2 billion in fraud and waste represents nearly 11 percent of the $19 billion spent by FEMA on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita as of mid-June, or about 6 percent of total money that has been obligated.

And that’s just the fraud they could find. They’re just getting started.

To date, Mr. Dugas said, federal prosecutors have filed hurricane-related criminal charges against 335 individuals. That represents a record number of indictments from a single hurricane season, Justice Department officials said. Separately, Red Cross officials say they are investigating 7,100 cases of possible fraud.

Congressional investigators, meanwhile, have referred another 7,000 cases of possible fraud to prosecutors, including more than 1,000 prison inmates who collected more than $12 million in federal aid, much of it in the form of rental assistance.

Investigators also turned up one individual who had received 26 federal disaster relief payments totaling $139,000, using 13 Social Security numbers, all based on claims of damages for bogus addresses.

Thousands more people may be charged before the five-year statute of limitations on most of these crimes expires, investigators said.

Your tax dollars at work. Your charity dollars are, however, working a lot harder. Unfortunately, the idea that the government is this unending source of cash when disaster strikes, and the taxes levied in pursuit of that utopia, mean less for private charities and more for the layers of federal bureaucrats, the overhead of which isn’t in this accounting of fraud and abuse.

(Cross-posted at Stones Cry Out and Blogger News Network. Comments welcome.)

A wonderful story of…

A wonderful story of…
A wonderful story of healing and forgiveness.

Sir John Hawkins was a buccaneering Elizabethan seaman and adventurer, who helped his cousin Sir Francis Drake beat the Spanish Armada. And he was also one of the pioneers of the slave trade, becoming the first person to buy slaves in west Africa and sell them to Spanish landowners in the Caribbean.

Now his descendent, Andrew Hawkins, a youth worker from Cornwall, has delivered an extraordinary personal but public apology for his ancestors’ involvement in the trade, kneeling in chains in front of 25,000 Africans in a stadium in Banjul, the capital of the Gambia.

Mr Hawkins, 37, from Liskeard, said yesterday: “I apologised on behalf of my family. I apologised for the adults and children taken. I recognise that it’s a small, simple act to say sorry – but it was a handful of people who started the slave trade and the ripples of their actions caused evil throughout the continent of Africa.

After he had spoken, the Vice-President of Gambia, Isatou Njie Saidy, came forward to accept the apology and symbolically remove the chains.

What a powerful image that would have been to witness.

For whites who’s ancestors did not own slaves or came here after slavery was abolished, an apology can still be meaningful. When our church was partnering with a nearby black church for a number of events, one of the things we did was have a meeting on reconciliation. Asking forgiveness for those who came before us, chronologically if sometimes not genealogically, and giving that forgiveness by those who, in most cases, do come from bloodlines that include slaves, was a powerful time. It wasn’t just a matter of getting a good feeling from doing the “right thing”. More importantly it helped both sides to lay aside any buried resentment for the other, any hints of racism that we may not have known of or acknowledged. Again, many of the whites did not have slave-owners in their pasts–me included–but it was a time to acknowledge the hurt cause by, and express sorrow and regret for, the sins of our race. Some of the black participants acknowledged resentment they had had towards whites in the past, asked for forgiveness, and received it. The walls were crumbling.

How much more powerful to hear the confession and the request for forgiveness of a man who’s ancestors began the African slave trade to the Europeans. And the symbolism of the Vice President of Gambia removing his chains; chains not just symbolic of the slaves’ chains, but of the chains that bind us when we hold grudges and don’t offer forgiveness, even when unasked for.

Some are asking that money be given to those here who are descendants of slaves as reparations for what was done to their ancestors. Well, that may help things temporarily, but money never really solves the long-term problem. Nothing will repair what ails our country or our wold more than a changing of the hearts.

An update to the sto…

An update to the sto…
An update to the story about the movie given a PG rating due to religious elements.

In the last week alone, the Motion Picture Assn. of America, which oversees the rating board, has been swamped with more than 15,000 e-mails arguing that “Facing the Giants” deserves a more family-friendly G rating. The complaints — the number of which may be 10 times the previous record for reaction to a ratings decision — say the movie is being unfairly targeted for its religious themes.

The filmmakers say they were told that those themes had prompted the PG rating. MPAA officials deny that was the reason.

Across the Internet and on talk radio, religious groups and conservative commentators have seized on the rating flap as evidence that Hollywood is anti-Christian. And the third-ranking House Republican has written to MPAA Chief Executive Dan Glickman demanding answers.

“This incident raises the disquieting possibility that MPAA considers exposure to Christian themes more dangerous for children than exposure to gratuitous sex and mindless violence,” said Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).

The MPAA is denying they based the rating on the religious content.

Joan Graves, chairwoman of the MPAA’s rating board, said Tuesday that the decision had nothing to do with Christianity but was based on football violence as well as the inclusion of mature topics such as depression and infertility.

In a rare interview granted in an attempt to defuse what she calls a controversy born of miscommunication, Graves said that although infertility and depression are involved in the coach’s “crisis of faith,” the religious story line itself did not raise a red flag.

“If we see somebody on the screen practicing their faith and indicating they have a faith, that’s not something we PG,” Graves said, adding that the board’s goal is simply to alert parents to content in movies that they should research.

But the filmmakers stand by their original story.

A spokeswoman for the filmmakers, however, said they had expected a PG rating because of the infertility subject matter, but that’s not the reason they were given.

“When we asked what the reason for the PG was, we were told it was the religious content,” said Julie Fairchild, the spokeswoman. She added that the rating board representatives they spoke with “didn’t even mention the infertility.”

On the upside, some think the rating will be a draw for some demographics.

Ironically, some Christian groups believe the PG rating — not to mention the publicity — will attract more teenagers, who typically shun G-rated films.

“I think that a G for a lot of teenagers is the kiss of death,” said Bob Waliszewski, a media specialist with Focus on the Family, a Christian group.

Waliszewski screened “Facing the Giants” and contends the PG rating isn’t warranted. But, he said, “it’s a case where unfairness will probably be a blessing in disguise.”

Welcome, folks comin…

Welcome, folks comin…
Welcome, folks coming here from Al Gore’s “Climate Crisis” blog. I see that my post below about global warming on Mars and Jupiter has been (probably automatically) picked up on his “Conversations about Global Warming” sidebar. Don’t forget the one further down. And click here for a list of all my posts that mention global warming, including one that notes that the globe used to be so warm that the Vikings farmed wheat on the cost of Greenland, even before SUVs. If that was possible today, how many folks would consider it nigh unto the end of the world?

Hint: It wasn’t.

As Kim Jong Il appea…

As Kim Jong Il appea…
As Kim Jong Il appears prepared to launch a missile, ostensibly as a test, the Pentagon says it’s ready.

The United States has moved its ground-based interceptor missile defense system from test mode to operational amid concerns over an expected North Korean missile launch, a U.S. defense official said on Tuesday.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed a Washington Times report that the Pentagon has activated the system, which has been in the developmental stage for years.

“It’s good to be ready,” the official said.

Well, depends on what you mean by “ready”. There have been some encouraging tests, but very few of them. Then again, this is just one missile, which should make things a little bit easier to be “ready” for.

Still, if North Korea had a nuclear payload on this missile, what should we do about it? Even if it’s just a dud, but this test moves them forward technologically towards a Taepodong-3, which could hit all of the continental US, what should we be doing? Or should be sitting back and just watching it?

The doctrine of pre-emption, those who are for it and those who are against it, faces a big test right now. Even though the Taepodong-2 that is being fueled could hit Alaska, Hawaii and parts of California, I don’t really think this is going to be aimed at any of those places. And yet, it has the capability. We have a few options available to us:

Destroy it on the ground: We could launch a strike against the missile even before it launches. Robbing them of the entire test would ensure they got nothing out of it.

This comes with a potentially big PR hit, most likely, ironically, from Jimmy Carter who trusted the North Koreans enough to bribe them with food so they wouldn’t build the nukes they say they now have.

Intercept it in the air: As the anonymous source suggests, the Pentagon is “ready” to do this if need be.

On the upside, if it works it would potentially demoralize the North Korean military and push out any potential aggression on their part until perhaps they felt they could deal with interception. On the downside, it may tip our defensive hand to those taking notes. Also on the downside, the intercept may fail, which would be more of a blow to us than if the missile were allowed to just land in the ocean.

Do nothing: We could just watch it, and hope it isn’t an attack. The North Koreans get valuable data to advance their own weapons program.

If it does hit something, I imagine the Left would be outraged at Kim for a while, until Cynthia McKinney suggested that Bush knew it was an attack all along, and John Murtha suggests leaving South Korea. If it doesn’t hit anything, it it’s truly a test, then it simply hastens the day when North Korea can put out a threat that covers 50 states instead of just 2.

It goes without saying that I’m glad I’m not the President. Not only is this an issue of national security, but it will be made a political football by his opposition when politics should be the last thing on their minds. As I said, I’m not fearful that this is anything more than just a test firing. But at the same time, it’s a step–a big step–down a road. Which direction that step is depends on decisions made in the next 72 hours or so.

(Cross-posted on Stones Cry Out, Blogger News Network and Redstate. Comments welcome.)

Global Warming Updat…

Global Warming Updat…
Global Warming Update: Ice caps are shrinking, and bigger storms than ever are rocking the planet. Should I blame greenhouse gasses, SUVs or not approving the Kyoto Protocol? Before you answer, understand that I’m talking about ice caps on Mars and storms on Jupiter. Rusty Humphries has the details.

The Presbyterian Chu…

The Presbyterian Chu…
The Presbyterian Church USA is having an identity crisis on multiple fronts. First there’s the question of homosexual clergy.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), severely split over homosexuality, would maintain its ban on gay clergy but allow some leeway in enforcing it under a proposal headed to a national assembly vote on Tuesday.

A key committee, which divided 30-28, proposed keeping on the books a church law mandating that lay officeholders as well as all clergy restrict sexual activity to heterosexual marriage.

But another bill would give local congregations and regional “presbyteries” leeway on whether to require that rule in all cases.

A committee minority plans to propose an alternate to that proposal. Ten conservative Presbyterian groups have warned jointly that approval of what they call “local option” would “promote schism by permitting the disregard of clear standards of Scripture.”

Facing seemingly endless acrimony on gays and other issues, a special task force spent four years pondering how the denomination could remain united. Its report to this assembly included the compromise plan to keep the sexual law intact but allow local flexibility in applying it.

Liberal caucuses protest that this will leave injustice in place. Conservatives call it an illicit means for the national assembly to rewrite church law.

Second, there’s the issue of male vs neutral wording.

Another bill that could prompt intense debate would encourage gender- neutral worship language for the divine Trinity _ for instance “Mother, Child and Womb” _ alongside the traditional “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

(I guess here, the identity crisis is a question of God’s identity. How would the Spirit be a “Womb”, exactly?)

Third is the issue of financially supporting Israel.

The delegates also will consider a proposal to soften the 2004 assembly’s decision to selectively pull Presbyterian investments from corporations involved with Israel.

I don’t think that we as Christians are required to support every single action taken by the political rulers of Israel. Heck, I don’t think Jews should. But divesting money from Israeli companies or companies that do business there seems rather counter- or non-productive, regarding either how the government acts or regarding the special place Israel holds in the Christian faith.

The thought is that the PCUSA may split over these issues.

UPDATE: Solomonia has more information on the divestment policy, including accounts of the recent discussions.

(Cross-posted at Stones Cry Out. Comments welcome.)

You don’t see this o…

You don’t see this o…
You don’t see this often enough in the mainstream media, so here’s some exposure for this issue from a non-mainstream source. The Canada Free Press reports that Al Gore’s new movie, and the claims it makes, actually have some critics. I know, you wouldn’t think there were many of them at all, but it ain’t necessarily so.

“Scientists have an independent obligation to respect and present the truth as they see it,” Al Gore sensibly asserts in his film “An Inconvenient Truth”, showing at Cumberland 4 Cinemas in Toronto since Jun 2. With that outlook in mind, what do world climate experts actually think about the science of his movie?

Professor Bob Carter of the Marine Geophysical Laboratory at James Cook University, in Australia gives what, for many Canadians, is a surprising assessment: “Gore’s circumstantial arguments are so weak that they are pathetic. It is simply incredible that they, and his film, are commanding public attention.”

The obvious question comes to mind, given how global warming critics are covered (when they are):

But surely Carter is merely part of what most people regard as a tiny cadre of “climate change skeptics” who disagree with the “vast majority of scientists” Gore cites?

The answer is intriguing, and not one you’ll hear from reporters who have their minds made up.

No; Carter is one of hundreds of highly qualified non-governmental, non-industry, non-lobby group climate experts who contest the hypothesis that human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) are causing significant global climate change. “Climate experts” is the operative term here. Why? Because what Gore’s “majority of scientists” think is immaterial when only a very small fraction of them actually work in the climate field.

I think that the “non-governmental, non-industry, non-lobby” phrase is particularly noteworthy. So many people sounding alarms are being paid to say what they’re saying, or have a vested interest in having man-made global warming become a subject of official policy by the government and grants from universities.

Even among that fraction, many focus their studies on the impacts of climate change; biologists, for example, who study everything from insects to polar bears to poison ivy. “While many are highly skilled researchers, they generally do not have special knowledge about the causes of global climate change,” explains former University of Winnipeg climatology professor Dr. Tim Ball. “They usually can tell us only about the effects of changes in the local environment where they conduct their studies.”

This is highly valuable knowledge, but doesn’t make them climate change cause experts, only climate impact experts.

So we have a smaller fraction.

But it becomes smaller still. Among experts who actually examine the causes of change on a global scale, many concentrate their research on designing and enhancing computer models of hypothetical futures. “These models have been consistently wrong in all their scenarios,” asserts Ball. “Since modelers concede computer outputs are not “predictions” but are in fact merely scenarios, they are negligent in letting policy-makers and the public think they are actually making forecasts.”

The article goes on to show example after example of claims made by by the global warming crowd in general, or Gore’s movie in particular, debunked by fellows who work in the fields that they’re critiquing. Very little of this ever gets on the morning, evening or late night news, but it’s worth knowing about.

In April sixty of the world’s leading experts in the field asked Prime Minister Harper to order a thorough public review of the science of climate change, something that has never happened in Canada. Considering what’s at stake – either the end of civilization, if you believe Gore, or a waste of billions of dollars, if you believe his opponents – it seems like a reasonable request.

You’d think that, but the Left and the media have made up their mind. Dissent will not be tolerated (or reported).

(Cross-posted at Stones Cry Out. Comments welcome.)

A Blue Fitzmas for t…

A Blue Fitzmas for t…
A Blue Fitzmas for the blue staters.

Top White House aide Karl Rove has been told by prosecutors he won’t be charged with any crimes in the investigation into the leak of a CIA officer’s identity, his lawyer said Tuesday, lifting a heavy burden from one of President Bush’s most trusted advisers.

Attorney Robert Luskin said that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald informed him of the decision on Monday, ending months of speculation about the fate of Rove, the architect of Bush’s 2004 re-election now focused on stopping Democrats from capturing the House or Senate in this November’s elections.

Sorry, Joe Wilson. No frog march for you.

And so, for you folks upset at the current revelations, I bring you…

“Blue Fitzmas” (To the tune of “Blue Christmas”)

I’ll have a blue Fitzmas without you.
I’ll be so blue blogging about you.
Karl Rove off scot free.
All we got was Libby.
There’ll be no frog march
For “outing” Valerie

And when there’s no mugshot for printing.
When Dems go home ranting and raving,
You’ll be doing all right,
In your big House of White,
But I’ll have a blue, blue Fitzmas.

From today’s headlin…

From today’s headlin…
From today’s headlines:

If Democrats win back control of the U.S. House of Representatives in November, U.S. Rep. Jim Moran said he would use his position in the majority to help funnel more funds to his Northern Virginia district.

Moran, D-8th, told those attending the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s annual Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner on June 9 that while he in theory might oppose the fiscal irresponsibility of “earmarks” – funneling money to projects in a member of Congress’s district – he understands the value they have to constituents.

“When I become chairman [of a House appropriations subcommittee], I’m going to earmark the s— out of it,” Moran buoyantly told a crowd of 450 attending the event.

From the 19th century:

“The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money” — Alexis de Tocqueville

But you can only use it as a bribe if the “bribee” is willing to take it. Until we stop asking our politicians to bribe us with our own money, they’ll keep doing it.

UPDATE: And speaking of bribing, here’s a story about private individuals getting in on the act.

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