Saturday, January 01, 2005

Thai a yellow ribbon

So GWBush is sending Colin Powell and First Brother Jeb Bush to Asia to check out the tsunami disaster there.


Powell's credentials at this point seem to be his frequent flier miles. Lord knows his diplomatic efforts the last couple of years have been less than optimal.

Jeb's credentials, however, are a little more curious. According the Saint Petersburg Times:

The governor was chosen by his brother, President Bush, because of his experience with the four hurricanes that caused extensive damage to Florida in 2004. He will serve as co-chairman of a U.S. delegation with Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Thing is, he has no standing as a representative of the US. None. Zero. Yes, he's a governor, but that's not a Federal office. So why was he chosen? Consider this: HE'S GOING TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT IN '08. That's it, that's his portfolio. It's a blatant and clear political maneuver to raise his profile to the electorate here in the US of A.

In a reality-based world, the correct person to send would be, you know, the person who was best qualified to cope with disasters. I know, how about the head of FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency? That would seem to be a really qualified person, wouldn't it?

Well, in this administration, I guess not. We had Joe Allbaugh for a while, but he had some problems:

In case you are wondering how Joe Allbaugh came to be FEMA Director, we need to briefly review his past credentials. He has been a very busy critter indeed. Prior to his appointment as Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, he served as Chief of Staff to then-Governor Bush. He was the point person for nine presidential disaster declarations and more than 20 state level emergencies. He also happened to serve as National Campaign Manager for the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign, with the responsibility and oversight for all related activities. He had a lot of experience having already served as Campaign Manager for Bush's first run for governor of Texas and also worked on the Reagan-Bush campaign in 1984. Allbaugh is obviously well-connected and quoted as saying, "There isn't anything more important than protecting Governor Bush and the first lady. I'm the heavy in the literal sense of the word."

So why in the world did Allbaugh resign? Here's where it starts to get interesting, tangled, and quite disturbing. Judge for yourself and I will reserve my comments until the end. The Austin Chronicle broke new ground about Bush's involvement in an influence-buying scandal regarding SCI, Service Corporation International, the world's largest cemetery company based in Houston. Reporter Robert Bryce said, "Bush got $35,000 in contributions from SCI. It appears Bush then helped them thwart an investigation by the Texas Funeral Commission. The former director of the Commission, Eliza May, was pressured by Bush's Chief of Staff and Campaign Manager Joe Allbaugh. She has filed a whistle-blower lawsuit." May said she was fired after resisting pressure from the governor's staff to end her investigation, which resulted in a $445,000 fine against the company for a range of offences including using unlicensed embalmers.
One could offer the opinion that his best qualification was to deal with emergencies in campaign and funeral home issues. I guess that counts.

But now we have Michael Brown, who has much better credentials:

It's impossible to make any sense of the payouts because, citing privacy laws, FEMA does not identify aid applicants, or recipients, and refuses to provide a breakdown of claims beyond the aggregated dispersals to counties. Reps. Clay Shaw, R-Fort Lauderdale, and Mark Foley, R-West Palm Beach, are properly outraged by the numbers and also FEMA's stonewalling. Rep. Shaw told FEMA Director Michael Brown that he was "disgusted" about how the agency was doing its business. Rep. Foley wonders why "a county that should have been able to go it alone needs FEMA assistance." Both want FEMA to open its records and show them individual claims, and they are promising action if they're not satisfied.

Making the records public would deter abuses and enhance confidence in the agency's ability to distribute relief money fairly. Mr. Brown insists that accusations of misappropriation are "just flat wrong," yet he offers nothing but assurance to make his case. He says the agency will review Miami-Dade's claims, but that promise doesn't go far enough. Taxpayers have the right to know where their money is going, and Congress needs a breakdown of the distribution to perform its oversight role.

So I guess it all makes sense now. Neither the former nor current director of FEMA has any experience with, you know, real life threatening emergencies, so that makes Jeb the guy.

Perhaps he can draw upon brother Neil's experience in Thailand:

During a divorce deposition on March 4, 2003, Neil detailed financial relationships with firms in Taiwan and China and admitted to having had sex on several occasions with unidentified women who simply came to his hotel door in Thailand and Hong Kong, according to the UPI on Nov 26, 2003.

Lets skip past the sex talk that's been covered in other articles in this series and go to the area of the transcript that deals with Neil's contract with one Grace Semiconductor Manufacturing. With no background whatsoever in semiconductors, Neil entered into a 5-year consultant contract, with an annual retainer of $400,000 in stock, with this company.
Busy guy, Neil.

Well, with Jeb and Neil involved with Thailand, the poor Thai folks will not only need to bury their dead, but check their wallets. Perhaps the 15, no 35, no 350 million dollars will help. They certainly don't need any lessons in morality from us.