Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Dearth of Leadership

Who blamed underlings for leadership failures? From the halls of Abu Ghraib to the recesses of the Vatican, leaders overlooked inexcusable behavior by their employees. In many cases, they were aware of the problem and simply transferred it elsewhere. It's fitting that George Bush and Pope Benedict XVI walk the long hall of shame together.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Obama Offers Psychoanalysis When Public Wants a Brew

Presidential hopeful Barack Obama tried to pull back the curtain and expose how the common citizen is manipulated by hot button issues to vote against their economic interest, but it backfired miserably. His comment, referring to people living in areas hit by job losses, went over like a lead balloon.

“[I]t’s not surprising, then, that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

The American public does not want to be psychoanalyzed by its Chief Executive. It wants to hang out with him, drinking beer in a backyard barbecue. That's how we selected our last President, before seeing fit to "stay the course".

Obama might have won the casual dining contest before his remark. How many people invite their therapist over for steaks and a Shiner Bock?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Real Reason Behind Cheney's Smile

While the "blogosphere" goes crazy over the image reflected in Vice President Dick Cheney's sunglasses, Shooter himself must continue chortling. The image clearly shows an arm, hand and fly rod. What most bloggers miss is the reason behind Dick's creepy smile. He's fantasizing over airboarding a rainbow trout. I can just picture it:

"Tell me where the big trout is? Under what rock is he hiding? You won't talk, pipsqueak? Maybe you will after spending time in a simulated asphyxiation. Alberto, ready the cedar plank! And stoke up the fire!"

Yet, the V.P.'s smile continues today for at least two reasons. One, the naked lady story takes attention away from rough riding Dick's leading the torture charge in the Bush White House. And two, it discredits non-mainstream media sources/commentary. Not long ago, Justice Chief Mukasey called bloggers terrorists. While the quality of bloggers varies dramatically, the blogosphere may be the only avenue for some people with unique backgrounds and knowledge. What needs to be done with them and their families? The Israelis have experience in such areas. Yes, there's much for Shooter to chuckle about...

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Open Sourcing Unscathed Fran

White House Homeland Security Adviser resigned earlier this year with no blemishes, at least according to the New York Times. Since then, she commented on intelligence improvements that allow agents to submit information in an open source format. While not on the government payroll, I offer this intelligence, garnered from public sources:

1) Fran was among the legion of White House senior staffers on vacation as Hurricane Katrina approached New Orleans. The storm struck Monday morning.

2) The first sign of Fran came two days later. Early Wednesday morning, Governor Blanco tried to call Bush. She was transferred around the White House for a while until she ended up on the phone with Fran Townsend, the president's Homeland Security adviser, who tried to reassure her but did not have many specifics. (Note: Fran had served as Chair of the Homeland Security Council for one year and three months when the storm struck.)

3) On Friday, four days after landfall, the denial and the frustration finally collided aboard Air Force One. Mayor Nagin, Governor Blanco, and Rep. Jindal gave the President their concerns in the starkest terms. Bush was not pleased.

4) Where's Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend? The LA Times reported:

After Katrina struck, she attended several meetings in Washington, then left on a previously scheduled trip for Saudi Arabia to work on joint counterterrorism projects. Bush urged Townsend to make the trip despite the crisis at home as a "signal to … the enemy" that the hurricane had not distracted his attention from terrorists, one aide said.

She jumped on a plane to Saudi Arabia. While the last patients were evacuated from dead New Orleans hospitals, Fran likely was in the air herself, on the way to deliver a letter on Katrina to King Abdullah. The flight from Washington, D.C. to Riyadh takes approximately 14 hours. Riyadh is 7 hours ahead of our nation's capital. That means Fran had to leave at least a day early to arrive jet lagged on September 5th, the day she delivered the letter.

Ironically, the Saudi's fought a local terror cell while Fran visited. This is from a September 6th news report:

The violence in Dammam flared as U.S. Homeland Security adviser Frances Townsend met King Abdullah and other top Saudi officials Monday in Riyadh. The deputy commander of the U.S. Central Command, Air Force Lt. Gen. Lance Smith, also met the Saudi deputy defense minister, Prince Khalid Bin Sultan.

5) After her return Mrs. Townsend was charged with doing a "robust" investigation. It ended up without the "ro". Fran's tome failed to mention Memorial Hospital patients who stewed in toxic gumbo for four days. The owner of LifeCare Hospitals, the facility with the largest patient death toll, warranted not one mention in her investigative report. Weeks before landfall, The Carlyle Group closed on its purchase of LifeCare. The private equity underwriter (PEU) must be grateful to Fran for her omission as they enter wrongful death, civil lawsuits.

Despite all this, Frances walked away from her Homeland Security position "unscathed" enough to be appointed to George Bush's Presidential Intelligence Oversight Board. What kind of intelligence does one need to omit the hospital with the highest number of patient deaths from an investigative report? Simply amazing...

Thursday, April 03, 2008

State of Federal Emergency Management

The Office of Inspector General for Homeland Security released a report evaluating current federal emergency management capabilities. While it stressed solid improvement in seven of nine categories, one area with only modest change should be quite concerning. It seems the feds haven't made much progress on evacuations.

Recall the tens of thousands of people stranded in a flooded New Orleans? Do you remember hospital staff posting signs pleading for rescue for their patients? And this was after drilling on the very scenario but a year earlier. Did they learn nothing from "Hurricane Pam"?

As someone who endured in a dead, river flooded 725 bed hospital in western Virginia and evacuated a 165 bed Texas Gulf Coast facility before then record Hurricane Gilbert, I'm quite keen on hospital patient evacuations, both pre and post landfall. This area got shorted after Hurricane Katrina, glosseed over in the White House Lessons Learned report, and isn't specifically address by federal emergency managers.

This leads me back to my suggested name change for FEMA., EMPHYSEMA. It stands for "Everyone Manage your own Personal Hell while Yelping loudly for the Selective Emergency Management Agency." It looks like that's the mantra for our next widespread disaster.

But here's the good news. Folks at EMPHYSEMA now how to self rescue.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Reactions to Creation of Human Animal Embryos

British scientists announced they'd created embryos containing human and animal material. Consider the possible reactions from God:

"I specifically said dominion, not creation. Son of a bitch, did they not hear me? Where's my smiting tool? Should I dial up an earthquake, throw in a tsunami, or unleash a super volcano?"

"Haven't they screwed things up enough?"

"That chaps my ass. Dang it, my asteroids are acting up again! Where did I put that tube of Freedhem?"

"It looks like my image will be changing soon."

A research team at Newcastle University announced it had successfully generated “admixed embryos” by adding human DNA to empty cow eggs. Their creation is allowed under a licence from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). The British scientists had a range of reactions at their discovery:

"It's alive!!!!!!"

"I want a human that can lick his own balls."

"How can I get nine lives?"

"If we build it, they will come. But can they reproduce?"

In Greek mythology, Centaurs (pictured above) came to represent the dark, unruly forces of nature. They were mostly pictured as drunk, rowdy followers of Dionysus. Strange days indeed, my furry, four legged, intoxicated human friends...

Sorry State of Turbo Spin

I understand the need for political and business leaders to frame things in the most positive light, but c'mon guys! On the political side, Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki described his military operation in Basra as a success. A military convoy rode into town as a show of force. His fight with followers of Muqtada al-Sadr was a tie until the renegade cleric ordered his fighters off the street. Without an opponent, P.M. Maliki's victory route is but a parade.

What's worse is Iraqi politicians went to Iran, the axis of evil, to broker the peace deal. Throughout the "bold act", American and British soldiers supported al-Maliki's stamping out his rival, at least enough to carry out and win those planned elections. The U.S. ended up looking heavy handed as usual, but who would've thought those crazy Persians could mediate an end to the fighting. I wonder if Nouri al-Maliki considered a large "Mission Accomplished" banner for the ride into Basra?

Things can be just as shameless in the business world. Boeing Corporation announced it would buy out Vought Aircraft Industries' stake in a joint venture to get production from that key supplier to the 787 back in line. Vought's major holder, 90% of the company, is The Carlyle Group, the politically connected private equity firm with a Pennsylvania Avenue address.

Carlye prides itself on its high level of managerial expertise and access to capital. Who better to own a key supplier to Boeing? Despite Vought's paying Carlyle $2.1 million a year for management services, their new joint venture had serious management problems, such that it became the bottleneck for Boeing's new Dreamliner. The 787's first delivery will come with at least an eight month delay. So what happened? Vought's CEO spoke to problems in the past.

Last October, CEO Elmer Doty acknowledged that Vought was the highest-risk supplier on the 787 industry team. At the time, Doty attributed Vought's struggles to an internal liquidity crisis in 2006 that prevented the company from ramping up investment in the 787 programme at a sufficient rate. Boeing had previously appointed vice-president Scott Strode to take over management responsibility for Vought's role in the 787 programme.

So the Carlyle sub had trouble accessing funds to ramp up production? Does that means they promised something to Boeing that they couldn't deliver? That doesn't sound like Carlyle's street cred, that of incredible operators. The private equity underwriter (PEU) failed to deliver and Boeing acted by taking control away from Vought and not the other partner, Alenia. How embarrassing! That's like taking your laundry back from the dry cleaners because they couldn't get your clothes clean. But Carlyle and Vought ran their spin cycle:

Vought spokeswoman Lynne Warne said “This was purely a financial transaction.”

Ms. Warne was virtually alone in this perspective. Industry experts attributed the purchase as a crisis intervention to revamp problems and not lengthen already concerning production delays.

CEO Elmer Doty spun through his Maxwell Smart Shoe Phone:

"This seamless transition of joint venture ownership will build upon the strong foundation already established within Global Aeronautica," he said. "Selling our interest has no impact on our adjacent facility, where the Vought 787 team remains focused on manufacturing composite fuselage sections for this incredible airplane.”

Would you believe "we're sorry we screwed up"? Nah, that's not Carlyle's style. Just ask those New Orleans LifeCare patients.