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June 2, 2006

How they calculated the DHS anti-terrorism allocations
Posted by Teresa at 10:31 AM * 66 comments

Let us speak further of yesterday’s post about the bizarre Dept. of Homeland Security reallocation of funds, whereby NYC and DC have had their funding slashed, and places like Omaha, Montana, and Kentucky have made out like bandits.

Now, Michael Chertoff, head of DHS and the guy who should have taken the bullet for the Katrina fiasco, said that anti-terrorism funds were going to be apportioned on a risk-based basis. He lied. As an administrator, he’s completely useless. The Bush appointee who actually oversaw this latest apportionment fiasco is one Tracy Henke. Tapped has been hot on the trail of that story and I can’t improve on their coverage, so go have a look. These are all short posts:
You’ll Never Take Omaha! Our Twilight Zone Government
Bush Appointee Located
Henke DHS Controversy Not a First
Even Lieberman Was Hinky on Henke
But How Many Toilets Are There?
Now, you may be wondering how Henke and her sub-minions came up with those brainless funding allocations. One of our readers, who signs perself “Red,” has had a look at the numbers (they’re linked from my previous post) and figured it out. By all means go and read Red’s explanation in full. Meanwhile, here’s the meat of it:

All they’ve bothered to do is count up the total number of ‘assets’. There’s no differentiation at all. A neighborhood Post Office in Staten Island is weighted the same as Mt. Sinai hospital. Any of 4,000 ‘Commercial Assets’ is as heavy a loss to the country as Chase Manhattan. There are two nuclear plants listed, but any of 111 other energy facilities is just as much in need of protection.

I don’t even begin to know what to make of this. Is it deliberate? Assigning the same value to every post office, medical facility, and electrical plant in the country is certainly one way of seeing to it that that the pork dollars flow to to those who need them least. On the other hand, if they were going to try and cheat, you’d think they’d have at least bothered to hire someone who knows the rules of the game. More than anything else, this looks like the work of another “Heckuva Job” Brown, who not only doesn’t know or care how to do his job, but hasn’t bothered to discover that there are other people out there who do.

Good work, Red. Thanks for the off-the-cuff illumination.

Like Red says, this is a case where an important piece of work was turned over to someone (that is, Terry Henke) who has no idea what she’s doing, and on top of that doesn’t know that she doesn’t know what she’s doing. Henke’s deeply flawed work was then passed on up the line, which suggests that the people responsible for oversight in her department are either just as incompetent as she is, or aren’t bothering to do their jobs. (Clark Kent Ervin, DHS’s first Inspector General, would say yes to both.)

This generates two questions with potentially scary answers.

First, on what basis was Terry Henke hired in the first place? If DHS didn’t hire her to do the job she ostensbly holds, what did they hire her to do?

Second, how many other Bush-era appointees are as incompetent as Chertoff, Brown, and Henke, and how much damage are they doing even as we speak?

Addendum:

Majikthise has totted up some of the protection-worthy distinguished heritage sites that NYC doesn’t have any of. Go look. It’s a fine list. (And thank you, Stephen Frug, for pointing it out.)

Comments on How they calculated the DHS anti-terrorism allocations:
#1 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 11:02 AM:

Well, the sign of a good leader is that they hire people smarter than them. Bush is doing that. The only problem is that he sets the initial bar so low that just about any primate is smarter than him.

#2 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 11:13 AM:

As far as one-to-one equivalency: The loss of the twin towers took out as much office space as would the loss of every single office building in Atlanta. Yet there are lots of office buildings in Atlanta, and there were only two towers ... so Atlanta would have clearly been higher on the list and more in need of protection.

#3 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 11:31 AM:

I hate to sound like a nutbar conspiracy theorist, but how off-the-wall is it to wonder if the clowns in charge might not want another terrorist attack right before midterm elections?

Via Susie Madrak, who points out that just last week a DHS report described New York's rail terminals and commuter rail lines as at the top of terrorists hit lists.

#4 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 11:35 AM:

Lis Riba:
I hate to sound like a nutbar conspiracy theorist

'Nutbar conspiracist' would take more than that, imo. Personally, I'm getting to where I wouldn't put it past the $%^&*s in DC to stage one, just so they can use it for campaigning.

#5 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 11:35 AM:

I read all the Prospect links. Does the US have a surplus of stupid people? And how is it they're the ones getting put into bureaucratic positions where they can do harm?

That one of the ninkompoops, Henke, demonstrated some prior knuckleheadedness doctoring a report that showed racial bias in police traffic stops, flags her as willing to lie for her government, so Bush and co may have tapped her for her demonstrated disregard for teh facts. They could then use her to redistribute the money from the people who need it to the people who will vote for their buddies in the 2006 elections.

Then again, she could just be moron who doesn't know squat about what she's doing, and a non-value-weighted census of building structures may have seemed to her like a good idea.

#6 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 11:55 AM:

Greg, the Bush People have put stupid appointees in at all levels of government. Look at FEMA. Bush used it as a branch of his PR machine for his last campaign. That's the main basis on which people were appointed to it. Also, that's where many of the operatives who messed with the 2000 Florida vote recounts were rewarded with jobs. Rendering FEMA incompetent meant a Katrina-style disaster could have happened anywhere in the country, no matter how that area voted.

The Clintons and Gore were policy wonks. Bush and his crew are pirates and racketeers.

#7 ::: Cynthia Wood ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 12:03 PM:

There's always a surplus of stupid people. After all, how many do we need?

Actually Bush seems to be finding the very best stupid people - those with intelligence that they either fail to use, or use to deliberately ignore or obfuscate real world facts. Nobody does stupid like the intelligent fuckups.

#8 ::: Jesse ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 12:10 PM:

Does the US have a surplus of stupid people?

Oh yes. Doesn't everyone?

Unfortunately, the current administration seems to consider stupidity (of the right sort) as a personal asset.

#9 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 12:35 PM:

This isn't just a matter of stupidity. As Red observed, this is a case where an important piece of work was turned over to someone who has no idea what she's doing; who in fact doesn't know enough to know that she has no idea what she's doing. Her deeply flawed work was then passed on without comment, which suggests that the people responsible for oversight are either equally incompetent, or simply aren't doing their jobs.

This generates two questions with potentially terrifying answers.

First, on what basis was Terry Henke hired in the first place? If they weren't hiring her to do the job she ostensbly holds, what were they hiring her to do?

Second, how many other Bush-era appointees are as incompetent as Chertoff, Brown, and Henke, and how much damage are they doing?

#10 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 12:41 PM:

Think I'll move that one forward a layer.

#11 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 12:43 PM:

How many other Bush-era appointees are as incompetent as Chertoff, Brown, and Henke, and how much damage are they doing?

Lots and tremendous.
The next Democrat to get into the White House will have to do a thorough house-cleaning at all levels.

Given the number of competents who were driven out by the ideologues in charge (whether fired or leaving out of frustration), were I the next in charge, I'd try to lure as many of them back as I could, because we could use their expertise.

#12 ::: Karen Funk Blocher ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 12:53 PM:

I have to get this out of my head so I can restuff it with numbers I get paid for:

New York, New York!
It's an icon-free town.
No strategic value can ever be found.
We don't much care if it falls to the ground.
New York New York:
Not a pork barrel town!

With the possible exception of DC, I can't imagine a more iconic, more strategic US city.

#13 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 01:08 PM:

Greg London, here's one mechanism:

When you're hiring help on same basis other than competence -- say, because they're confederates of your in some kind of scam -- they're unlikely to be all that competent at their ostensible jobs. But of course they don't get fired, because they're there for a different reason.

Working with evil cronies drives competent people half crazy. Those that don't retreat into fear or indifference will wind up either quitting in disgust and frustration, or being fired because they won't stop asking why the department keeps making bad decisions, and why obviously incompetent employees are being kept on and promoted.

#14 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 01:09 PM:

Without New York, what would George Bush do for a backdrop when he's posing as an anti-terrorist?

#15 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 01:09 PM:

an important piece of work was turned over to someone who has no idea what she's doing; who in fact doesn't know enough to know that she has no idea what she's doing.

If someone offered me the job of figuring out how to split this money up, I wouldn't accept it simply on the grounds that I'm not an expert in that field and I know I"m not the guy to be making that billion dollar decision. There's a special level of stupidy reserved for those poeple like Henke who don't know what they're doing, but think they do. But then, this administration seems to be built on a unique combination of ignorance and arrogance.

#16 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 01:15 PM:

When you're hiring help on same basis other than competence -- say, because they're confederates of your in some kind of scam --

The level of psychological reorganization needed for a lawful good character to accept this on an organizational level is a little too much to handle.

Doctor Crane isn't in right now, but if you leave your name and a brief message, he'll get back to you as soon as he can.

#17 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 01:18 PM:

Without New York, what would George Bush do for a backdrop when he's posing as an anti-terrorist?

That's probably the point. Bush's entire re-election campaign was based on his standing on a pile of rubble in NYC. If NYC is reduced to rubble in its entirety, think of how big a mound he'll have to stand on as he announces....

I'm not going to finish that sentence, because any possible finish scares the !@#$% out of me.

#18 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 01:27 PM:

By the way, Lindsay Beyerstein aka Majikthise excerpted a great list of some crucial parts of our American heritage that did get increased coverage:

Alexandria, Indiana: The World's Largest Ball of Paint ($12 million)
Niland, California: Salvation Mountain ($16 million)
Alamo Heights, Texas: Barney Smith's Toilet Seat Art Museum ($10 million)
Dedham, Massachusetts: The Museum of Bad Art ($31 million)
Key West, Florida: The Chicken Store ($7.5 million)
Alliance, Nebraska: Carhenge ($25 million)
And Soap Lake, Washington: The Giant Lava Lamp ($143 million)

#19 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 01:55 PM:

Majikthise's list seems a bit disingenuous, as it implies that the individual locations are getting the stated amount of funding. The numbers are (apparently) totals for the entire states (or maybe metro areas -- hard to tell) where those attractions are located, and the funding formula took into account a lot more things than national monuments and icons. You can see that on the NYC page reproduced at ABC. It shows NYC with over 6,000 "assets" of all sorts.

Using Majik's method, one might just as easily say something like

New York City, New York: Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum ($125 million)

(Of course, due to a terrible bureaucratic injustice, the Ripley's Museum isn't a national icon, assuming it even still exists.)

#20 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 02:08 PM:

Schmuck is a tyrannical fascist sociopathic religious fanatic monster dictator.

The list/litany of his vilenesses includes but is not limited to:

- abrogating the Constitution and Bill of Rights
- refusing to prohibit torture of "detainees"
- announcing he could disobey any law that Congress passed if he felt like it, that legislation was not binding on him to comply with anything he feels like not complying with
- circumlocution of terms, Milosevic with "ethnic cleansing" had nothing on Schmuck--terms like "detainees" instead of prisoners, "enemy combatants" instead of enemy troops, "faith-based initiative" instead of "promoting Christian evangelizing with taxpayer money handed to organizations which limit their employment to members of their own and affiliated sects,"
- paying for biased partisan political views held by the Monster and his buddies with federal money, by hiring journalists to write propaganda and plant it masquerading as researched non-partisan articles pretending to ethical reportin.. this in some ways goes beyond the old Soviet disinformation models, they didn't pay private citizens to plant stories in the US press and TV pushing the party line. Pravda and that other publication (can't remember the name of it) were official publications of the Soviet government, not allegedly independent commercial periodicals.
- interfering with elections. Schmuck New Hampshire political operative just got of out jail for election tampering, he orchestrated what in effect was a denial of service attack to the Democratic Party in New Hampshire on election day, preventing the Democrats from calling people to arrange to remind them to vote and arranging rides for them to get to the polls, by "jamming the phone lines" -- orchestrating Republican operatives to keep calling the phone numbers used by the Democratic Party which the Democrats were trying to call out on to Democrats to get the vote out. The appartchik was at least daily incontact with White House staff up to and on the day of the election. And now that the appartchik is out of jail, he is back doing the SAME JOB for the Republicraps that he had when he tampered with the election... and then of course there's Katherine Harris, there are all those people in FLorida who were silently kicked off the voting rolls and not allowed back on without weeks (long after the election) of effort petitioning in the process imposed on -criminals- to petition to have their voting eligbility reinstated, there's Diebold and Vote Fraud in Ohio... systematic across the board election tampering
-there are all the gag orders, ranging from mentioning birth control to gag ordering any and all NOAA scientists from talking about salmon and particularly the effect they expect on Pacific Northwest salmon from Schmuck diverting the water from the rivers and streams for the use of corporate greed beneficiaries, and the gag order on climate scientists,
- there's the situation of the Mine Safety administration and the dismantling on inspection and existence and enforcement of safety standards, leading to an drastic increase in lethalith of their work to miners and dropping of fines of e.g. Sago Mine's owner despite extensive lists of violations
- lying to the US public
- firing intelligence analysts who don't make the data fit the conclusions Schmuck wants
- blowing up all attempts by anyone to get Schnuck to pay any attention to the Al Qaeda threat, until far too late--month after month after month of he wasn't willing to -allow- anyone to even stand up in front of him talking about the threat and the gravity of it
- appointing people at the FBI who created an atmosphere which -squashed- agents' requests to investigate Middle Easterns who were taking flight training on jumbo jets but weren;t' interested in learning how to -land- the planes.... at least two agents not in contact with one another in different cities requested permission to investigate and at least one of them requested a warrant to impound and examine the contents of one such suspicious Middle Easterner's computer, and management -refused-. Now WHY were those requests -sequelched-?
- throwing out lawsuits by whistleblower, after firing the whistleblowers
- social policies that make health care least available to those who need it the most, and having policies which by making decent healthcare less available, promote transmission of public health menace diseases, breed greater drug-resistance into diseases which twenty years ago there were drugs that worked against that don't anymore (people who can't afford more than a few pills which relieve the synmptoms but don't kill the disease off, and instead spread a new drug-resistant strain of the disease... Russian Jail TB, anyone?)
- a blame the victim mentality that people who lose their jobs, whose health breakdowns, obviously DESERVED to have those things happen to them or the bad things wouldn't have happened -- evangelical neo-Calvinist-at-its-worst religious ideology imposed on the nation, regardless of creed of the populace
- appointing people whose qualification are being Schmuck buddies, and have nothing to do with any expertise/;competence in the position the person has been appointed to. The last time patronage was this abused was Andrew Jackson's term in the White House...
- corruption at a level that makes Teapot Dome look like a $0.02 cent theft.
- human rights abuses and supporting regimes and warlords which make Torquemada look like a humanitarian

ETC.

#21 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 02:17 PM:

When you're hiring help on same basis other than competence -- say, because they're confederates of your in some kind of scam --

I've worked in publishing, too.

#22 ::: Chryss ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 02:33 PM:

Dedham, Massachusetts: The Museum of Bad Art ($31 million)

I'd actually pay out of pocket money to save this. But I am known to have problems and I will never (thank Dog in Kennel) be elected.

#23 ::: Duncan Clark ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 03:21 PM:

Jeez, just when the stupefaction starts to wear off, the DHS responds:

City Has Itself to Blame for Terror Cuts, U.S. Says

Nicely framed, NY Times! Somehow, in the GWOT, it's come to U.S. vs. NYC.

But hey, let's give the DHS the benefit of the doubt here. Say its charges are substantive: maybe New York City's counterterrorism proposals really did deserve "poor grades," and thus failed to merit funding.

Maybe this is the case - I don't know.

Some niggling concerns:

1. Can we trust the DHS analysts' expertise? Well let's see, has the administration ever hired on a "basis other than competence"?

2. Are the funds possibly being distributed "for political reasons," as Bloomberg put it? (According to Bloomberg, "...in many of the places where they got money but arguably there's no threat there are close elections either at the Senate level or the House level.") Hmm, "political reasons": W's m.o., no?

3. Then there's this totally excellent point, wherein the DHS tips its hand: "Federal officials said yesterday that the city... had also mishandled the application itself, failing to file it electronically as required, instead faxing its request to Washington."

See, apparently, there is a person who imagines that this somehow constitutes a "Gotcha!" so valid it bears mentioning to the NY Times. Also, this person - assumedly an adult - fills a position of consequence in the GWOT. Good to know.

Anyway, the city has proof that it actually did submit a proper application, with a #2 pencil and everything, so there.

#24 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 03:27 PM:

Stupid and incompetent are not the same--there are a lot of stupid competent people, and a lot of smart incompetent ones--competence is a metric against accomplishing tasks, performing duties, getting things done that work well and go well, quality, etc.

"Stupid" deals with someone's intellectual capacity and employment of that capacity.

A fieldhand picking lettuce might not be university professor cognition-grade, but if the fieldhand is an efficient and effective worker, getting the picking done quickly and safely and not damaging the merchandise, etc., the person is competent at lettuce picking. A university professor who tries to pick lettuce and does it slow, damages the produce while trying to cut the head off, drops the head in the dirt, etc., and is slow at it, is not competent (at picking lettuce).

It's not a sin or a crime to be "stupid." It can be infuriating to someone whose brain works faster cognitively to have to deal with someone who intellectually is slow on the uptake, but there are lots of people who are decent, hardworking, competent people who aren't intellectually brilliant, and who do excellent work.

Schn=muck's regime, however, appoints people to do work in position who lack one or more of such things as experience, talent, interest, clues, etc., in the work and "knowledge domain" they've been appointed to--that is, there is gross incompetence, malfeasance, negligence, etc., involved in the appointment process, that puts people into position on what looks like a basis of "this a person whom we wish to provide an income to in response to the person doing us favors/supporting us/being our friend. What sort of open positions are there with the appropriate salary level and appropriately impressive job title, that we can appoint this person to fill?"

Talent, work experience, professional achievement and background, etc., seem to be information that are nearly completely dispensed with as consideration and qualification. The qualifications are almost purely cronyism and putting loyalists into any open position...

#25 ::: Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 03:41 PM:

I find the argument that a series of terrorist strikes throughout the heartland would be more terrifying than an attack on a major icon to be unconvincing. New York City, to some extent, belongs to all of us. When they hit the World Trade Centers, and the Pentagon, almost everyone in the country felt like they'd taken one in the gut. The horrible difference in the skyline of The City was like looking into a gaping void of terror. On the other hand, Oklahoma City was horrible in the same way that a serial murderer is horrible. It's scary, it's disgusting, but if you don't live in the vicinity, it doesn't have the visceral punch that the World Trade Center bombings did.

The US is too big for a terrorist group to create the fear that "it could happen here, next." Imagine twenty-five well-coordinated hits across the country. If they spread them out, and only hit one state per, which would be a silly waste of time, that's still only half of the states, and too many of them will be smallish, far away-ish places. Des Moines? Mall of America? Boise? Geez. Even with helpful media hype and an unprecedented level of organization from a terrorist group, the "it could happen here" worry won't be increased over bringing down then Empire State Building or the Golden Gate Bridge. Witchita simply doesn't cause a nation-wide feeling of desolation. The coordination is scary, but it's not the heart-punch that losing the Washington Monument would be. It's a logical fear based on an assessment of the skill of the terrorists. But terror is about emotion, not logic. As a nation, we "live" in those monuments, so the "it could happen to me" feeling is created by destroying one of them. As a nation, we don't "live" in Witchita or Boise or Des Moines. It's a great tragedy, but it's still a local tragedy.

#26 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 03:47 PM:

Stupid and incompetent are not the same .... (snip)

Hm, I think I get what you mean. And what I take away from that is that, basically, calling the folks at Homeland Security stupid is insulting to stupid people.

sigh. I just need enough food, water, electricity, and maybe an internet connection so I can go into hermit mode till 2008. Probably in a bomb shelter.

#27 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 03:58 PM:

Hm, I think I get what you mean. And what I take away from that is that, basically, calling the folks at Homeland Security stupid is insulting to stupid people.

Yes, and worse--there are lots of decent hardworking honest people in the USA who are a huge part of what makes civilization work.

Schmuck and his buddies, though, are dishonest, lying, vicious, generous-to-cronies-and-niggardly-to-all-others, exploitive, corrupt monsters, masquerading as "compassionate" and caring and concerned.

They're an affront to decency, integrity, and honesty. They're the worst sort of parasites, vampires of spirit and resources, destroyers of all that doesn't directly provide them with gratification.

#28 ::: corpuscle ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 04:01 PM:

Lydy Nickerson: (quoted out of order) New York City, to some extent, belongs to all of us.

I think you are right. I think NYC "means America" in some sense in the hearts of good and decent people. I think in the dark hearts of these people in the Federal Government who are supposed to be helping us protect ourselves, I think NYC is something to be used for their own cynical purposes.

(continued): I find the argument that a series of terrorist strikes throughout the heartland would be more terrifying than an attack on a major icon to be unconvincing.

I do too. We all know it's coming and we all know these idiots in charge of giving NYC the money to protect itself are going to let it happen. I tell you, it begins to feel hopeless after a while.

#29 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 04:13 PM:

Lydy, maybe you're right that the average citizen wouldn't consider the Oklahoma City bombing as heart-wrenching as 9/11.

But I'm a Federal employee. And the Federal building my credit union is in is a twin to the one in Oklahoma City. (They were built about the same time, using the same set of architect's plans.)

We had no 'Net access in 1995 and no TV set in the office so I didn't see the damage until I got home that evening. When I did, I found myself wondering if all the Federal buildings built on that plan were potential targets.

At that time I was sure it was the same bunch that had hit the WTC in 1993. I was very surprised when it came out that McVeigh/Nichols et al were arrested.

Each time we've been attacked, whether from the inside or outside, Federal employees have died. And on 9/11 when I first heard about the WTC and the Pentagon, I was sure Atlanta and Chicago were next...

#30 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 05:01 PM:

If you're a New Yorker who's not livid about this yet read this. You will be.

I am ready to punch someone.

#31 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 05:24 PM:

I'm still confused -- how is it possible, even simply counting "assets", to count more in Tulsa than NYC? If every post office is equal, NYC still has more post offices than other cities. If every bank is equal, ditto.

The incompetence explanation doesn't hold up. This is outright malice.

#32 ::: Jonah ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 06:13 PM:

Here is a link to the New York Times article that doesn't require registration.

#33 ::: Trent ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 06:25 PM:

Omaha--rather SAC Air Force base--used to be an important military base.

They explained it this way on NPR--whether or not that helps:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5448320

Chertoff made it sound like that the amount allocated to NYC was inflated last year, which is reflected in this year's decrease. NYC was their first priority, so it received funds first. Other places increased because they had been low priority.

I am not Chertoff, however. I don't know if he made the right decision. I'm not looking to argue, but point out what you may or may not have heard yet.

#34 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 06:31 PM:

When I first saw that assessment, I thought it some kind of "security through obscurity" plot. New York? Nothing to blow up here, move along...

[/sarcasm]

#35 ::: Leigh Butler ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 06:36 PM:

At the risk of Teresa's displeasure: while I do think the method of allocation is absurd, Henke an incompetent, and New York absolutely chock full of landmarks and monuments... I can't help but be glad that Los Angeles got at least a slightly larger cut this year.

L.A. may not have quite the je ne sais quoi of New York (and I'm certain it doesn't to New Yorkers), but it surely contains landmarks and institutions which are, in their own way, just as iconic and part-of-the-American-tapestry, and just as deserving of protection.

Hollywood and its status as the symbolic heart of American entertainment aside, Los Angeles is the manufacturing center of the U.S. (being the headquarters for, among others, Northrop Grumman, the 3rd largest aerospace/defense contractor in the world), contains the Los Angeles/Long Beach port (the busiest port in North America and one of the most important in the world), and has a population almost equal to that of New York. (Oh, and DaveL: Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum is alive and well on Hollywood Blvd.)

And yet, it received less than half of the funds New York did under the old distribution.

So, yes, slashing New York's cut in favor of Omaha is very dumb. But I don't necessarily agree that the previous allocation was entirely fair either.

#36 ::: Red ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 06:50 PM:

Googling on some of the terms from the ABC pdf turned up some documents that suggest at least some of the people involved have made an effort to do a professional analysis. The definition of 'Asset Risk' that they claim to be using, "Threat times Vulnerability times Consequences", is an oddball set of terms but a reasonable way to perform the calculation.

Unfortunately, I still can't see any way they can be honestly be performing that calculation and coming up with the judgment that the city's 'Postal and Shipping' resources face a larger terror risk, by a factor of almost 200, than its entire banking industry. The only hint I've found is in the callout in the bottom of the HSGP white paper. "Many geographic asset types outlined above have specific thresholds that trigger the inclusion of related data in the risk analysis model." Maybe the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge were dropped from the tally because an analyst made the determination that the product of threat, vulnerability, and consequence was too low? I don't see how a reasonable person could reach that conclusion, but at least there's an assertion that someone, somewhere, examined the right factors. The truth of that assertion remains in some doubt, if only because of the obvious disconnect from the results they've published. If anyone can find a copy of the Risk Analysis for Fiscal Year 2006 Homeland Security Grants technical paper, which claims to have more details, would you please make it public?

What really floors me now, though, was the very proud statement that the DHS Introduces Risk-based Formula for Urban Areas Security Initiative Grants. For 2006. If these are the results from their best new efforts to include a robust risk model, just what exactly were they basing their decisions on last year?

#37 ::: Rich ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 06:55 PM:

Hi Leigh,

And yet, [L.A.] received less than half of the funds New York did under the old distribution.

Yeah, well...

How many documented or completed terroristic threats have occurred in L.A.?

Just last week, we convicted some loser who wanted to blow up a very busy subway station under Macy's Herald Square. Then there was the spaz who wanted to cut the cables on the Brooklyn Bridge, and the guys who were caught trying to blow up the Lincoln Tunnel.

These are all *post* 9/11. Unfair?

This is not to say that it can't happen anywhere else, but it does seem to keep happening here.

#38 ::: Froborr ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 07:05 PM:

Hmm, do D.C. and NYC have anything in common? Why, they're both bright, deep blue! What a coincidence.

#39 ::: Leigh Butler ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 07:47 PM:

How many documented or completed terroristic threats have occurred in L.A.?

Um, hi.

Not to mention this, which while initially considered a hate crime, was eventually classified by the FBI as a terrorist act, and is therefore one of the few terrorist attacks to have been actually carried out on U.S. soil since 9/11.

Then there's the fact that al-Qaeda and others have been periodically trying to blow up LAX since the seventies.

Clearly, L.A. is snug as a bug in a rug.

#40 ::: Chris Holdredge (Red) ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 08:45 PM:

You know what? I think I need to apologize for my previous comment in this thread. I was trying too hard to be fair-minded. I was wrong. I don't care how many plausible-sounding press releases they put out. It's simply not possible that they honestly performed the procedure they claim and still managed to rank the fergodsake National Capitol as one of the twelve least threatened targets out of this list

And how did they defend their decision? "Homeland Security officials said the District had far fewer potential targets than the larger jurisdictions" Not less consequential. Not less threatened, or better defended. Just fewer. Add one to the list for the Pentagon, one for Doctors Memorial Hospital. Of course Florida needs more assistance by that standard.

Someone's taught them to talk a good game, but these results just can't come out of the process HomeSec claims to have used. Unless someone can come up with extraordinary proof to the contrary, there's no reason to believe that this form is anything other than what it looks like; the least useful, least honest possible answer for the question they were asked. I shouldn't have allowed myself to think for a instant that they were capable of anything else.

#41 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 08:57 PM:

Someone needs to put together a "Chertoff National Monument Sites" tourism video where Chertoff goes through all the great and important places in teh US, like the biggest ball of twine, and other such nonsense. And wrap up by listing some of the places not considered important.

OK, the word "incompetent" isn't quite strong enough here. And calling him a moron might insult other morons. Grrr.

#42 ::: TheSquire ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 09:57 PM:

I believe this is applicable:

"Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishible from malice."

#43 ::: Rebecca ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 10:01 PM:

TNH: Without New York, what would George Bush do for a backdrop when he's posing as an anti-terrorist?

He could try Atlanta. They seem to have terrorist-free waterfronts.

The Bush Administration--protecting the U.S. people with pretty much sheer luck, since 2000.

#44 ::: G. Jules ::: (view all by) ::: June 02, 2006, 11:25 PM:

DaveL: The Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum is still alive and well in St. Augustine, FL.

#45 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 02:07 AM:

In the "dark humor" department...

For decades there's been a bitter feminist joke to the effect that "women won't really have equality until a woman can be just as incompetent as a man holding a similar position."

We're getting there.

#46 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 03:00 AM:

Yargh. This isn't even anything new. Herostratus set fire to the Temple of Diana to gain fame, or at least infamy, and he was just some random nut. You want to cause a lot of people to take notice, you take out an internationally famous monument, preferably a site of pilgrimage. No one's going to pay attention to you if you just set fire to an olive grove and torch a falafel stand.

New York has more monuments than any of the other states, even after the loss of the WTC. It was awful when the Oklahoma city bombing took place, but no one has paperweights or snow globes showing what the building looked like. Likewise when Harvey's Wagon Wheel Casino in Reno was blown up--thankfully without loss of life, but with criminal intent--back whenever it was. It was hardly an icon so nobody much cares.

I've never even been to NYC and I can still give you descriptions of parts of it from books and movies.

#47 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 06:31 AM:

So it's suggested that NYC got money first, and now other places are getting the resources to catch up?

Obviously, the details need checking, but it's not outright ridiculous. After all, NYC lost its primary Emergency Control Centre in 9/11.

Trouble is, it sort of assumes that these grants are made for capital costs, rather than the running costs. and we're also told there isn't the money to keep some of these things going.

#48 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 10:21 AM:

Kevin, whenever you repeat that guy's name, you know, the one who burned the temple of Diana, he wins.

Gah. When I think of all the things that have been lost to history that were more worth preserving than his useless name!

As for promotion of incompetents, just sometimes, when you bring in an outside who knows nothing about what they're supposed to be doing you get wonderful results because they look at the problem from a new angle. This obviously didn't happen this time -- and it does presuppose a desire to learn about the problem. But there have been historical cases where a person coming from a different direction has got through "We do it this way because we do it this way" bureaucratic thinking and achieved something. Churchill and MacArthur are the two most obvious twentieth-century examples.

#49 ::: Daniel Klein ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 10:45 AM:

I'd like to see a source for that list over on Majikthise. For what it's worth: the "Giant Lava Lamp" hasn't even been built yet. This list sounds very, VERY made up.

#50 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 11:12 AM:

DaveL: The Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum is still alive and well in St. Augustine, FL.

Wasn't there one in Times Square up through at least the mid-80s? Or was my youth even more misspent than I thought?

#51 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 12:38 PM:

It turns out that the Ripley Museum thing is a franchise that owns, in the US alone, 17 "Ripley's Believe-It-Or-Not Museums" (probably TM) and a number of other attractions.

How is anyone to decide which is/are the most important/worthy?

#52 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2006, 12:39 PM:

Jo -- what kind of track record did Churchill and MacArthur have before they were "brought in from outside"? The people complained of (here and in other threads) often have a history of incompetence and/or lying. And where do you count MacArthur as an outsider? He was born, bred, and educated in the military, so putting him in charge of West Point (if that's what you're thinking of) was not exactly radical, even if he didn't come up their hierarchy.

#53 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 07:50 PM:

James Macdonald: I feel constrained to point out that Atlanta is home to two major icons of American power, the CNN Center and the Coca-Cola world headquarters. The former is only a mile from my office.

#54 ::: Mary Aileen Buss ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 08:36 PM:

Atlanta also has the Centers for Disease Control.

#55 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2006, 09:36 PM:

Mary Aileen Buss: True!

#56 ::: breeamal ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 03:06 AM:

In regards to "It could happen here!" I was, very briefly, dating a guy last year who tried to convince me that Boardman, Ohio (my hometown) was a terrorist target, and he was very worried.

Now, I worked in the Twin Towers and was very lucky on 9/11 - moving back to Ohio two years ago gives me a view of both the NYC and flyover state mindset.

I looked at him and asked, "So, what kind of bragging right do you thing a terrorist gets for blowing up the Walmart in Boardman, OH? Do you think that gets you a full allotment of virgins on the other side?"

We broke up soon after.

#57 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 04:18 AM:

Churchill certainly wasn't an outsider in any obvious sense. He'd held such posts as Home Secretary and First Lord of the Admiralty, in times of terrorism and war. And then he came back to the Admiralty in 1939.

But Jo wasn't talking about outsiders as such. She was talking about people who could take an alternative view of a problem, based on hard-won experience, and drive an answer through against the inertia of the system.

Consider the 6th June 1944. D-Day. An assault on a fortified, hostile, shore by 8 divisions, transported by sea and air, with more to follow. By then, there was a lot of recent experience, in North Africa and Sicily and Italy, and there had been the agonising experiment of Dieppe.

But Churchill, more than anything, remembered Gallipoli. How much of D-Day was down to his ideas doesn't really matter: he didn't want to repeat that futility, and he took up the ideas and pushed, hard. 79th Armoured Division, the Mulberry Harbours, the aggression and daring of all the assault divisions, not just the Airborne and Commando forces; they're all at heart responses to the failures of Gallipoli.

And Omaha Beach was a lot like some of the beaches at Gallipoli...

#58 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 04:47 AM:
Jo -- what kind of track record did Churchill and MacArthur have before they were "brought in from outside"? The people complained of (here and in other threads) often have a history of incompetence and/or lying.

In the case of Churchill, he had a history of incompetence and lying. And Churchill wasn't an outsider in any real sense of the word; his ancestor was the Duke of Marlborough, he was serving as the First Lord of the Admiralty at the time, and he'd been in goverment, on and off, for some thirty years by then. (He was an outsider from the Tory perspective, and in that role he was a great success.)

#59 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 04:52 AM:

So that is a cross post ;)

The Americans didn't think Churchill had learned from Gallipoli; one official, talking about the invasion of Italy in WWII, said that

The architect of Gallipoli is still coach, and he hasn't seemed to have learned much.

(paraphrased, I don't have the book here.)

As part of an explanation for his reticence in comitting Americans to Italy.

#60 ::: Dan S. ::: (view all by) ::: June 05, 2006, 11:11 PM:

"Like Red says, this is a case where an important piece of work was turned over to someone (that is, Terry Henke) who has no idea what she's doing, and on top of that doesn't know that she doesn't know what she's doing."

The definition of incompetence, at least according to Dunning and Kruger's work:

"In a series of studies, Kruger and Dunning tested their theory of incompetence. They found that subjects who scored in the lowest quartile on tests of logic, English grammar and humor were also the most likely to ``grossly overestimate'' how well they had performed.

Unlike unskilled counterparts, the most able subjects in the study, Kruger and Dunning found, were likely to underestimate their competence. . . . When high-scoring subjects were asked to ``grade'' the grammar tests of their peers, however, they quickly revised their evaluations of their own performance. In contrast, the self-assessments of those who scored badly themselves were unaffected by the experience of grading others; some subjects even further inflated their estimates of their own abilities."

I suppose it's possible - if the rot goes deep enough - that it may not be obvious to those involved that unqualified/incompetent people being hired for political reasons are in fact less capable than well-qualified others. Sure, we're rewarding them with this position, but how hard could it be?

Probably not, though.

#61 ::: Jon Baker ::: (view all by) ::: June 07, 2006, 12:00 AM:

Paula & others:

(really this goes on the Friday thread "How much Bush & Co. don't care...", but the topic seems to be continuing here)

In the aggregate, the states will get back less than they pay in to the Federal budget, because the Federal government spends a lot of its money on national (not local) functions: the military, Social Security and other entitlements to individuals, debt service, disaster relief.

As for figuring how much the States "get back", that has to be pretty complicated: not only are there direct subsidies, there are Federal subsidies of State budgets, which then get passed on to localities. And do we count Federal payments to individuals within a locality? Do we count Federal support of military and government installations within a given locality as part of what the locality "gets back" from the Federal Government? It's a lot of tough questions, that call for a lot of research and decisionmaking and subjective interpretation. So if lawmaker 1 says "we get so many cents on the dollar", and lawmaker 2 says "we only get N-X cents on the dollar", it may not be disingenuous, it may be a difference of interpretation.

OTOH, some things are just obvious, e.g. suburbanites getting more money back to pay for their transit. Or why does the LIRR or Metro-North only have to make 40-50% of its budget from ticket sales, while the NYC subway and buses have to make 90%? Those suburbanites are richer than city-dwellers, let them pay more of their real costs.

And Steve B: you talk of NY paying more into the system because it has more density of high-income people. It also has a high density of low-income people. Most New Yorkers don't live in $2,000,000 condos on Park Avenue. And it costs a lot to live in even middle-class areas. For 1100 square feet, half of a house, a 3 BR apartment, I pay close to $2000 including heat and water. Per month. In, say, Toledo (to name a small midwestern city where an old friend went to law school), a nice 3-BR apartment is apparently $500-800, a 3-BR house is around $900-1000 (looking at Craigslist). And we pay income taxes to the City as well as the State.

However, there is also the big difference between cities and rural areas: Business. New Yorkers pay relatively low property taxes because businesses pay for the lion's share of local tax revenue. And that's where the big difference in federal tax revenue will be: in the business taxes.

You've got to look at the big picture. Yes, it's terrible that Federal subsidies to smaller towns are reduced; the subsidies to big cities are reduced too, and that's more due to immense spending increases (the War, the other War (rememeber Afghanistan?), hurricane damage, pocket lining, debt service) combined with continuing tax cuts. There's less money to go around. And that's what's to blame for your reduced subsidies. Not that the Cities Are Taking More, but that the pie is smaller.

And there's one place to lay the blame for that, at the feet of He Who Started An Unnecssary War While Cutting Taxes: Bush XLIII.

#62 ::: P J Evans sees comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2006, 10:58 PM:

apparently linking to places you don't want to go.

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Somehow, I don't think we have any interests in villas. Word salad spam here.

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spam

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What appears to be linky spam.

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