Friday, December 8, 2006

Sparks Of Insanity By Vinny "Bond" Marini Thursday, December 07, 2006

THE COUCH was trying to figure out what to write about for Friday. And my brain just was not cooperating.

As we moved around the Bloggosphere we noticed on one of my stops a posting from months ago...properly marked.

That prompted me to say... hummmmmmm

Looking around to see where the sound was coming from and realized we were alone was embarassing, but no one knows but me.

There are many new visitors here now, so
THE COUCH decided to take a search through some of our early posts and bring out an oldie, but one we particularly enjoyed writing...

We don't go political often.. but we did for this...

Hope you don't mind...especially those who already sat on
THE COUCH for this one previously...(thanks for the idea Bud!)
Back then THE COUCH put the title in the Blogger Title Area and was not adding music, so...

We present from June 22, 2006 ..................


Now, it doesn't take much for me to become upset...but it takes a lot to make me burn with disgust...

FEMA handed out credit cards to those poor people who were impacted by Hurricanes Katrina & Rita. These cards were earmarked for housing and other necessities. Millions sent in aid and went to help to ease the suffering of these people. Billions of dollars were pledged to bring assistance and to help with the rebuilding.
  • an all-inclusive, one-week Caribbean vacation in the Punta Cana resort in the Dominican Republic.
  • five season tickets to New Orleans Saints professional football games.
  • adult erotica products in Houston and "Girls Gone Wild" videos in Santa Monica, Calif.
  • Dom Perignon champagne and other alcoholic beverages in San Antonio.
  • a divorce lawyer's services in Houston
These are just some of the items a Congressional audit revealed were bought with the credit cards. As a matter of fact, $1.4 billion on items that were not classified as housing or necessities.

In another instance, FEMA paid an individual $2,358 in rental assistance, while at the same time paying about $8,000 for the same person to stay 70 nights at more than $100 per night in a Hawaii hotel. A hotel in Hawaii???

FEMA also could not establish that 750 debit cards worth $1.5 million even went to Katrina victims, the auditors said. This one really ticks me off.

"Our forensic audit and investigative work showed that improper and potentially fraudulent payments occurred mainly because FEMA did not validate the identity of the registrant, the physical location of the damaged address, and ownership and occupancy of all registrants at the time of registration," GAO officials said.

FEMA paid millions of dollars to more than 1,000 registrants who used names and Social Security numbers belonging to state and federal prisoners for expedited housing assistance. The inmates were in Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Florida.

FEMA made about $5.3 million in payments to registrants who provided a post office box as their damaged residence, including one who got $2,748 for listing an Alabama post office box as the damaged property.

One person used 13 different Social Security numbers (including their own) to collect over $139,000 in payments and all the checks went to ONE ADDRESS. Who the hell is watching the cash register here folks?

Another classless dreg used a damaged property address located in a New Orleans cemetery. This person has never lived in New Orleans and FEMA sent the check to their West Virginia address..the address they had been living at for the past five years.

FEMA, of course, is saying these figures and information are not accurate. They say they have identified 1,500 cases of potential fraud, estimated at $16.5 million. The GAO says it is 95% confident those figures are closer to $600 million to $1.4 billion.

What I say is that every single one of these people needs to be hunted down and found. When we do find them, they need to have their bank accounts emptied of every penny. Then they need to be placed on work details and sent into the hurricane ravaged area and work to make up for all the money they embezzled. $20.00/hour, until you repay every single penny of the money you stole from us all. I totally agree with Representative Michael McCaul, who is chair of the House Homeland Securities investigations subcommittee who stated "This is an insult to the victims of Katrina."

The real tragedy here is what has happened to an organization that was truly on it's way to being a shining star in our government. FEMA was born in 1979 as a result of combining a number of agencies that had been functioning independently and without coordination to protect the country in times of natural disasters and nuclear holocaust. In the early years FEMA grew and things fell into place as it developed responses to large-scale disasters and setting in place "continuity of government" contingencies.

Many local town, city and state governments began following their example, converting their civil defense programs to disaster programs and setting up programs to conserve resources by producing plans that were meant to cover many different types of situations.

In 1993, President Clinton named James Lee Witt as head of FEMA, responding to the devastation of Hurricane Andrew in Florida. Witt was the first real professional emergency manager to run the agency and he was determined to run the organization like a well-oiled machine. Witt reoriented FEMA from civil defense preparations to a focus on natural disaster preparedness and disaster mitigation. In an effort to reduce the repeated loss of property and lives every time a disaster struck, he started a disaster mitigation effort called "Project Impact." FEMA was elevated to a Cabinet-level agency, in recognition of its important responsibilities coordinating efforts across departmental and governmental lines.

Witt fought for more and more government funding, and did wonders with the $20 million they were receiving at it's height. One of the best examples of the impact the program had was in protecting people at the time of the Nisqually earthquake on Feb. 28, 2001 in the Seattle, Washington area. Homes had been retrofitted for earthquakes and schools were protected from high-impact structural hazards. Those involved with "Project Impact" thought it ironic that the day of that quake was also the day that the then-new President, George W. Bush, chose to announce that "Project Impact" would be discontinued.

The management team at FEMA was replaced by cronies...people with little or no disaster response background. Joe Allbaugh was named the head of FEMA. His credentials? Well he was G.W. Bush's Chief of Staff when he was Governor of Texas and his national campaign manager during the 2000 elections...OH YEAH baby! Just the right credentials to run an agency like FEMA. Allbaugh immediately downsized the agency and shifted the focus from disaster response to terrorism response. Projects were abandoned and the agency seems to have become a good resting place for those owed favors by the administration. Upon leaving FEMA in 2002 Allbaugh formed a company called New Bridge Strategies, a consulting firm advising companies looking for reconstruction contracts in Iraq, AFTER the upcoming invasion occurred!

His first hire at FEMA? His long-time friend, Michael Brown as general council...yes, THAT Michael Brown. The man in charge of FEMA when Katrina hit.

Now, FEMA is being absorbed by the Department of Homeland Security and is losing all of it's abilities to make a contribution in the event of another disaster.

Makes you feel nice and safe, doesn't it kids?!?!?!?

I am still calling on all of you to help stop Malaria in Africa: - SEND YOUR $10.00
As a sports nut, nets means so many things.. in this case, it means LIFE.
If enough people do this, we can wipe malaria off the map. What does $10 do? It buys special netting to be used over the beds of children. Nets coated with insecticide costs between $4 and $6, so with shipping, you get to $10.
I know, you are saying..sure I send in $10 and $9 goes to administration costs and $1 to a net. WRONG!
Seems Ted Turner donated $1 BILLION to create the U.N. Foundation, which covers all overhead. Andrea Gay, the U.N. Foundations Director of Children's Health says "every cent goes to buy nets."

To use some of Rick Reilly's column in Sports Illustrated: "If you are a coach. parent. player, gym teacher or even just a fan who likes watching balls fly into nets, send $20. You saved a life, take the rest of the day off.
You ever have a net in your driveway, front lawn or on your head at McDonald's, send $20. You ever imagined Angelina Jolie in fishnets, send $20."

The address is: Then just look for the big SI's Nothing But Net logo (or call 202.887.9040) and donate $20.

Keep that spark of insanity kids...It helps keep you an individual.

Marketing message... Remember to show support to the sponsors by clicking the links at the top of the page. (It also earns me some dough)!!

St. J - P.B.U.A.B.W.A.B

Thanks for sitting on THE COUCH, hope you enjoyed your stay.

Remember .. Nets For Malaria - - find the big SI's Nothing But Net logo ... Or call 202.887.9040. Every cent goes to buying nets to place over the beds of children in Africa to stomp out Malaria. PLEASE HELP.

Keep that spark of insanity kids...It helps keep you an individual.

19 Of Your Sparks

  1. That's the problem with government. Then they ask you for more taxes, I honestly don't know what's a bigger disaster Katrina or the actually getting help to the Katrina victims. Many people still haven't gotten the help they needed while others have abused the system. It's truly ashame.

    Thanks for bringing this out to the open again.

  2. Liz Hill Says:
  3. Sugar--just like the airlines -you need "flight sickness" bags for this kind of stuff. It makes me nuts to think of the waste and how much good we could do instead. But you are right to keep 'beating the drum'.

  4. TopChamp Says:
  5. What's FEMA actually stand for (on way to work or I'd look it up myself).

  6. Unknown Says:
  7. The horror!

  8. Piacere Says:
  9. Missed this the first time around - glad you reposted. Don't even go there with me on the feds, especially those agencies that say "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you." I have dealt with FEMA way too many times in the past (we call them Federal Eejits and Moronic A**holes). Just got thru with a 2 1/2 day inspection with a federal agency (think nukes), and they sucked the life right out of me. Last night was the first decent night's sleep I got all week. I feel SO much better knowing that we have them to "watch out" for us, don't you???? (Ok - rant off)

    Have a great weekend!


  10. Anndi Says:
  11. It was a wonderful read the first time..and it still is. This is a topic that shouldn't be forgotten.
    Thank you for bringing it back to mind.
    Old is new again.

  12. Twyla Says:
  13. Great post. It was the first time reading it for me. It's sad how totally unprepared FEMA was for Katrina and for the after effects. It makes me wonder what would happen if a disaster happened here in Canada, and how prepared our government is. I'm also enraged by all the people who took advantage of the victims. I don't know how they can live with their conscience...maybe they don't have one.

  14. Unknown Says:
  15. Great post. It was my first time reading it - very informative... and shocking! Taking advantage of a disaster? UGH!

  16. DIANA: When we went looking for a rerun post, this is the one we had in mind. Honestly, the true disaster is the dismantling of an organization(FEMA), that was headed in the right direction...

    TURN: My little drum won't do a lot of good, we need to have someone with knowledge at FEMA and NOT have it part of Homeland Security...

    TC: FEMA is the Federal Emergency management Agency. When you get home, click on the link found in the first mention of it above...

    BUSY: It truly is.

    PIA: OK, did you deal with them when Mr. Witt was running it and it was doing what it should? If so, how badly did they fall when "DUB" took office and stripped them of thier brains?

    ANNDI: TY... This is the kind of thing that gets under THE COUCHS Uphostery.

    TWYLA: TY, glad you enjoyed it. And they do not have consciences...or souls.

    SANNI: People like yu that i did this for...see THE COUCHS has a serious side.

  17. Anonymous Says:
  18. Thanks for resurrecting this old post. I remember hearing about a lot of this, and how outraged I felt.

    Growing up in CA, I remember FEMA as a strong organization that was quickly on the scene during earthquake and fire disasters.

    The collapse of FEMA is unconscionable.

  19. Well written post, Bond. Don't get me started on Katrina. I was home sick the for week starting the day before she hit. I watched CNN round the clock and I can't even begin to tell you how furious that made me.

    If you have not seen When The Levees Broke you should really try to get a hold of it.

  20. TRAVIS: unconscionable and we can only hope that in 2008, the American people remember these things and choose wisely. It appears they are learning.

    STARRLIGHT: TYvm. I have seen the Spike lee produced "When the Levees Broke" on HBO and it is a must see. To examine haow lives were just forgotten about. And how these people are still not bak in their homes.

  21. I was so angry watching first the coverage as it happened and the "Levees" that I was literally speechless. For me to be so pissed I can't verbally rant, is scary to those who know me :P

  22. tiggerprr Says:
  23. So sad. And a commentary on the current folks in office for sure.

  24. I should get a card. Then I will buy a REAL radio station. Nah. That's not at all unique. Tape Radio is my safe haven...

    Great post!


  25. Unknown Says:
  26. I always felt THE COUCH to be a serious place - this post has not been the first hint =)

    Have a great weekend, my friend!


    P.S.: Please call Robin Williams in order to make an appointment. Lil Sanni has prepared about a ton of choco chip cookies today!

    And if you recieved a comment like this one a few minutes ago, I apologize. It seems Blogger does not want me to comment on anything today. I get one error message after another =(

  27. Coco Says:
  28. Saddens and angers me as much this time as it did the first time.

  29. TopChamp Says:
  30. Hello - Thanks for the info! It was only the actual name that I meant anyway - had worked out that it was a government thing to do with emergencies.

    Always doing things too fast at the moment though - should have found link before.

    Have a great weekend!

  31. Fred Says:
  32. Bureaucracy is the fourth branch of government. It is the biggest, and most unresponsive.

    When I cover the subject in my AP class, I cite FEMA as a prime example of waste and inefficiency in government.


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