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December 29, 2007

The End of the World

Being the tech-challenged one, I'm just going to have to link to this funny and frightening (mostly funny though)  video that comes by way of Darkblack, over at SteveAudio's place.

Steve's mom wonders aloud, "But can you dance to it?"

Posted by shoephone on December 29, 2007 at 01:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

December 21, 2007

Dinsmore Confirms Just How Good it is For Citizens That He's No Longer Port CEO

Mic Dinsmore made a public statement about the auditor's report of his rank corruption as Port CEO, in which he proves once again that Denial Is a River In Egypt and that he is still the same fraud we always knew he was. Yawn.

"I have no doubt that there is nothing of substance in anything that has been alluded to," Dinsmore said in an interview. "Let the process show what I just said to be true."

Dinsmore, who led the port during the period auditors examined, had no comment on the report's finding that he and port Aviation Director Mark Reis broke state law when they negotiated at a steakhouse with a TTI Construction principal a $125 million third-runway embankment contract, instead of putting the matter through the public process, as required.

On Friday, Port Commission President John Creighton seemed to broaden the inquiry Yoshitani described, saying the port had plans to "hire an outside investigator to look at direct cases of fraud and misappropriation."

"Outside investigator"? Oops, not looking too good for Dinsmore. But he's so practiced at avoiding responsibility, he'll probably start blaming Yoshitani and the commisioners (all except commisioner Pat Davis, his BFF) when he gets hauled into court for mismanaging public funds, fraud and other clever crimes.

I'm hoping that P.I. reporter Kristin Millares Young interviews Pat Davis for her opinion, especially since the big (cough) "severance package" he received with her help and then had to return, won't be available for paying his future attorneys' fees.

Update: The Seattle Times has another angle to the audit -- the evasive behavior of Port managers during the audit process.

Auditors said Port staff stonewalled them by delaying or blocking access to information, and in some cases altered records before turning them over. When auditors pointed out poor record-keeping and no-bid contracts that violated Port policies or state law, Port managers continued to defend their actions, Jones said.

"No organization was so purposely blind to their own deficiencies as I found the Port of Seattle to be," said Jones, who founded her consulting company in 2000.

One of the prime examples of the Port's attitude, according to the audit, was the refusal of 13 Port managers to sign statements sought by auditors. The statements were meant to confirm that information provided by the Port was accurate.

"The fact that so many people refused to cooperate is sort of a red flag," said Cotton, chairman of Cotton & Co., a Virginia-based auditing and accounting firm.

Yeah, sort of. The statements -- also referred to as "representations" -- are characterized by audit consultants Jones and Cotton as being commonplace in performance audits. But, instead of cooperating, the Port managers fled to the legal department where general counsel Craig Watson told them to refuse to sign on the basis that the statements were "overly broad and ambiguous." Somehow, I don't think the nasty habit of altering records and then refusing to attest to the veracity of those records presents much ambiguity for either auditors or citizens, but, hey, maybe that's just me.

This funny business with the records reminds me of how, when Dinsmore and Davis came under scrutiny for his "severance package", suddenly... outta the blue ... documents supporting their side of the story showed up in Dinsmore's files... documents no one else ever knew existed... documents I surmised had been written up that same week, not a year earlier as some of the printed dates suggested...

Who says the holidays make for a slow news week?

Posted by shoephone on December 21, 2007 at 10:37 PM in Policy, Washington Culture | Permalink | Comments (4)

"Charley Wilson's War"

See this movie!  The book, written by George Crile, has stayed with me since I read it shortly after it came out in 2003.   It is an amazing story of how three individuals working together, under a president whose philosophy supported them, managed to get the U.S. entangled in a covert war.  The trailer for the movie gives me hope that it will do this story proud.  The early reviews are very good - a funny, political movie, directed by Mike Nichols and written by Aaron Sorkin.

One Congressman, one wealthy right-wing socialite, and a grizzled old CIA operative saw a way to help a plucky group of Afghani cowboy-like characters oust the Soviets from Afghanistan and deliberately weaken them.  It worked.  They were able to destabilize the Soviet Union, contributing mightily to its break-up.   

The CIA provided money and weapons that enabled the mujahideen to defeat the Soviet Union and the Communist government it was supporting in a humiliating fashion.  It also strengthened the role of the warlords who have ruled Afghanistan ever since.  The war helped provide a fertile ground that attracted and nurtured radical Islamists and Arabs from all over the Middle East - people like Osama bin Laden of Saudi Arabia and Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri of Eqypt and Abdullah Azzam, born in Palestine.    With the defeat of the puppet Communist government of Babrak Karmal, conditions were set to enable the Taliban and al Queda to sweep across Afghanistan into positions of power and influence in Afghanistan and dismantle centuries of culture (as they are again set to do, BTW). 

We pretty much forgot all about Afghanistan until 9/11.  Those who feel they can interfere with impunity in the affairs of other countries tend to be careless.

But, forget for a moment about the subsequent destabilization of Afghanistan and Pakistan, 9/11, and the travesty of the Iraq War.  We get to see that show in technicolor in the main theatre.  Look for a while at the play going on in the much smaller, less frequented, theatre around the corner.   

The juxtaposition of this movie coming out with Putin's being named "Man of the Year", both this week, tickles my political funny-bone.  In a black kind of way.  From the moment I read the book, I was struck with how the Soviet leaders must be waiting patiently to strike back at the U. S. in retaliation for that humiliation.  At first, all looked great.  President Reagan was able to take credit for taking down the "evil empire".   But other nations have a greater sense of history. 

I have to think that former KGB agent and current President of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Putin is one of those.  Why should Russia help us in Iran, with the price of oil, or in any other way, when we played such a part in the humiliation of the loss in Afghanistan and the subsequent break-up of a superpower?  I don't think that we've seen the end of our karma for what Charley Wilson and his little gang of war promoters were able to accomplish in the 80's in Afghanistan.

I suspect that historians will look back and make this connection even if we don't now. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on December 21, 2007 at 09:55 AM in Media, National and International Politics | Permalink | Comments (2)

December 20, 2007

State Auditor Finds Malfeasance and Financial Waste at the Port of Seattle

Brian Sonntag's blistering report on the Port of Seattle is out and the results... well, let's just say, they're not pretty. From the P.I.:

The report describes a Port staff that constantly left money on the table to be taken by its contractors, whose original contracts often ballooned without a public bidding process. Whether by failing to recoup $80,000 when the work it was to pay for was cancelled, or giving over $106,000 because of a clogged system for processing change orders, the Port allowed the companies it was contracting with to take charge -- or take advantage of the Port's inability to do so.

The Port doctored contractor invoices to pay a contractor for work that exceeded the commission's authorization, breaking the law in the process. Even when the contract was initially awarded in accordance with the law, the Port would sometimes then pile on more work without bidding: One contract grew from $950,000 in 1993 to more than $30 million without competition.

Port management hid much of this from commissioners, who Sonntag said gave away the farm when they passed a resolution in 1994 that delegated contract oversight to management, which proceeded to abuse that power by concealing how procurement for a $32.7 million third runway contract violated applicable laws. The commission was also left out of the loop on the information that resolution did require they be given, such as contract administration and bid irregularities.

(emphasis mine)

I suspect more than a few citizens are going to wonder about those laws that were broken and the people breaking them. Paging "Accountability"... please p