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Friday, January 8, 2010

Damn, What Are We Paying For?

There is definite evidence that the money we spend on national security is often frittered away in the bowels of a gigantic bureaucracy over which we have no control. The recent attempt by some misguided Muslim to blow his balls and the side of a jet to kingdom come over Detroit is an excellent example. How much did it cost us to pay for the fools who missed the warning signs of that event and how much more will it continue to cost us? What kind of genius does it take to recognize that a Muslim flying alone, one way, with no luggage, and whose father had called two agencies about how radical his nutty son had become, IS A DANGER?

According to what I can discover, and it ain’t easy, there are in the neighborhood of 200,000 employees at Homeland Security. I did not find that on the website for the agency; one cannot find out stuff like how many people do you hire, what do they get paid, how much does the boss make, etc. on government websites (at least I can’t and I am a fair researcher.)

BUT here are some things I did find out: the Department of Homeland Security, according to their (our)website, has 16, count them, components including National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD), The Office of Policy(TOP), Office of Operations Coordination (OOC), and the Transportation Security Agency (TSA), plus 12 more departments. The NPPD has 6 components (their term) or branches; TOP has 7 components; the OOC looks to have 2 sectors, the TSA I cannot tell how many components it has, but the site claims “ Twenty Layers of Security” including Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR),and this agency of course is made up of inspectors and air marshals.

Here’s a challenge: go to the main site of Homeland Security,, and browse it. Does it seem like Homeland Security is interested more in PR than in delivering information (pay special attention to TSA), or is just grumpy old me making another naive observation. Does it appear that we are getting good value for the money spent on this multi-layered, ginormous bureaucracy? Browse the site like a L.L. Bean catalog and see if you can find what an item costs, what anyone earns.

Here’s a better challenge: download the 2009 budget of Homeland Security; it is only 3,574 pages long (you may NOT cheat and read the “budget brief”). Print it out, take it home for the weekend, and read it. Sure read it; you are a citizen and ought to know what your taxes are being spent for, and that is the only way to know if you are getting value for your dollar. Oh yes, quiz on Monday.

BTW1: Homeland Security got a 6.8 percent increase in its budget for 2010.
BTW2: Department of Defense lists 800,000 civilian employees.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Poems from Below

Under Cover
She rails under the musty quilt, thick with the odor of
Her frozen, swampy sweat , reaches quickly up
With her left hand, grabs deep into her disheveled hair,
And pulls her face down closer to her breasts, chin dug
Sharply into the spot between collar bones, a lovely choke hold.

With her empty right hand, she entwines her fingers high in
The moist fabric of her calico left sleeve and rents her gown,
Parting the sleeve at the shoulder with a satisfying rip.
Then, enraged in every cell, rising, sated finally with hate,
She hurls off her veil of suffocating safety and sits to face
The witch of a day.

Left Knee
I am to myself wondering, to what is, more or less,
The silky, glistening smile at the collision of her
Her left cheek and upper leg, if she notices
Just how delighted I am with the back
Of her left knee, that spot of freckles that makes
Me lust so to nibble, to lick, to tease it gently
From her skin onto my deserving tongue.

I hope not for she will know then
How acutely mad I am for more than
Her sex. It is her atoms, outer rings of electrons,
mingling with my own that I seek to be more than a
Sum, an evoking explosion of molten brainflesh,
Racing through the troughs of our dilated veins.

In desperation to escape myself and fracture away,
I try to touch the first molecule of that freckle with
The first molecule of my rigid tongue and ache
As I linger in near juxtaposition in a dream
Of adjacent. Do her atoms sense and respond?
Do her subatomics jostle mine and cause a mutual ripple?

Can my brain’s life, the swirls of my own
Energy, make its way into her womb and explore
About warm flesh seeking the mysterious
Inner anatomies, the sweet folds, the gentle
Rhythms that course about in that secret boggy
Bottom land, ripe and redolent of lives to be?

Always, I fail, here, to escape the penitentiary of my flesh.
My sad inadequacy lies wholly in misapprehensions of physics.

god no, she says into her pillow. My left knee?
rolling into a half turn, a slow arc exposing
the shadow of her left breast. My left knee? What’s
delightful about a knee especially the back?
i cannot see the back of my knees and feel
most lucky to get all the hair there when I shave.
so what does it matter? Stretching long and back to the pillow:
jeesh, you can be the weirdest at time.
could you just for once come to sleep and quit with all the body

Monday, January 4, 2010

Big Ol’ Goofy World (Thanks, John Prine for my Title)

Am I causing an epiphany for anyone out there when I say that living in the information age is a pretty cool deal but dadgum if it isn’t, at the same time, a good way to become aware of some really goofy stuff.

Goofy: take the poor old Russians who just had their vodka double in price overnight from 30 cents to 60 cents because their government thinks that the citizens are drinking too much. Hell, if I lived in Russia, I would want to be drunk, too. It amazes me that I can fend off drunkenness here, as screwed up as this place is. But
I bet the average Russian really gets it: the rich will not be affected in their drinking habits one bit because the extra 30 cents doesn’t matter. And the drunk-rate will most likely not slip much because it doesn’t take a whole lot of technology to make vodka in the bath tub, assuming of course that you got a place with a bathtub in it. I guess getting a Russian to give up his vodka is equivalent to getting a politician to give up his spin. Too bad the military is so strong inside Russia, or we might get to see a Vodka Rebellion.

More Goofier: take the poor old Kenyans who are suffering because the real estate in Nairobi is sky-high because the Somali pirates are free market capitalists and are investing the millions extorted from shipping and insurance companies in real estate and business ventures in Nairobi, Dubai, and Djibouti. It’s plenty goofy: do you root for the pirates who are using a natural resource to make a better life and to get out of Somalia which is constantly at some sort of war, or do you hate the pirates for driving up the costs of stuff and well just for being pirates? I am beating the real estate agents in the aforementioned country are pretty much rooting for the pirates. Hey, robber barons will pop up wherever to make a profit off whatever. But the way I see it in my good-old-goofy way is that there are three differences between the Somali entrepreneurs who have millions fall from the skies and the good old boys on Wall Street who have millions fall from the sky: the Somalis are black; they are poor; and on occasion Navy Seals hold them accountable. How nice it would be, huh, if the Navy Seals held the pirates of Wall Street accountable.

Most Goofiest: take that everyone who can type, including me, has been complaining about one dysfunction of government or another. Recently, I wrote about how in the worst and goofiest of times, someone in the state of Delaware (I still, after 6 weeks of searching, do not know who) decided that if I wanted a thirty day supply of non-generic medication I would have to pay an extra 40 bucks at my pharmacist to get it. OK to avoid a 40 buck surcharge, I can switch pharmacists, and I did already drop one prophylactic medication and will suffer the occasional consequences.

BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE: not more than three or four days after writing the pols and talking to Medco about the rate hike on drugs, I get my auto insurance’s semi-annual policy and notice that it has gone up higher than the ass on a giraffe. I’d religiously popped in and out of internet companies’ websites to see if Nationwide’s rates were comparable with others, and they were always within numbers where I would not want to change for a few bucks. So, I figure what the hay, I will email Delaware’s Insurance Commissioner to find out what gives.

Well, what gives was the commissioner’s granting Nationwide 14.6 percent in rate increases since May of 2008. And those increases are of course compounded. So, I write back and ask for an explanation of what data the commissioner uses to determine if a company gets a rate-increase or not. Of course, a bureaucrat gave me a mini-lecture on what it takes for a company to stay in business, but I did not complain. Instead, I asked for a record of increase-grants for other companies from May 2008 to November 2009 and for an explanation about what data companies provide when requesting a rate increase. Then, I get rejected because first, all the records are not in computers but in individual-files and second, the information provided by the insurance companies is PROPRIETARY and not available to the public. OK, I do get what proprietary means (I find all the skunking around and secrecy created by insurance companies under the shields of proprietary rights to be,well,skunky.) I email back: OK don’t give me the data on the insurance companies’ actuarial process just give me the increases which as far as I am concerned should be a public record.(1) I got an answer that I do have a case number (DOI Case# 91736) and that my questions were being moved on to yet another public servant for examination. (2)

Of course, I am emailing copies of my correspondences to my local pols because the Insurance Commissioner’s Office is, also. (3) So far, all that copying has got me advice, in the form of a “should-have,” to shop better and an unofficial remark that I am another one of those dudes that wants the government to do everything for me. But, what’s the commissioner for if she isn’t going to put a slow down on rates in the worst of economic times? And if I ever get the data and if it shows all the companies got rate increase, what good would have the gain been for shopping better? And who has oversight on the commissioner’s office? And I guess my local pols think it’s OK that the government handed out 14.6 percent rate increases, but it’s my entire fault because I did not shop rightly.

OK, that’s an assumption because I have not heard from the pols personally since writing to the commissioner way back on November 30 nor have I heard from the insurance commissioner since my questions were “forwarded” on December 17. I am going to be patient because of the holidays and because I know the gears and sprockets of government spin slowly regardless of the time of year.

1. Individual rate increases for all other companies are not in the computer as such. Each individual file must be gone through to review and find this information. Additionally, these files contain proprietary information and not available to the public.
Insurance is a business and has to solvent in order to pay claims and do business in Delaware. Rates are made in accordance with past claims and loss experience.
2. I will send your request to and Rates and Forms Department to see if they can answer your questions.
3. From: Myles Denise (DOI) []
Sent: Monday, November 30, 2009 11:40 AM
To: Crane Mitch G (DOI)
Cc: Venables Robert (LegHall); Lee Biff (LegHall); Wood Bonnie (LegHall); 'Greg Wood'
Subject: RE: Nationwide Premium Increase

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