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Designated Auditor: Ben Carson Discovers Secret $500 Billion! Not.

This past September a friend told me about a new ABC action series she’d started watching called “Designated Survivor” starring Jack Bauer. I mean, she didn’t say that it starred Jack Bauer, she said that it starred Kiefer Sutherland, but since I can never remember the character’s name from this new show it’s just easier for me to call him Jack Bauer.

In the first episode we find out that Jack has been serving as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and is an expert on a wide range of complex policy matters that most Americans can’t be bothered to understand because we’re way too busy blogging about television shows.

So anyway.

In the first episode some mysterious bad guys blow up our nation’s Capital, leaving our friend Jack the last man standing in the line of succession so he gets sworn in as the ding dang President of the United States! Pretty crazy, right?

The show had a decent premise and I half-heartedly kept up with it until the Christmas hiatus and by the time ABC finally put it back on the air I had completely lost interest UNTIL YESTERDAY MORNING when my friend Davy shared a link on Facebook declaring that Dr. Ben Carson (the new real-life Secretary of Housing and Urban Development) had just completed an audit of his cabinet department, and had uncovered a shocking $500 billion in errors!

That’s enough money to buy 35 new aircraft carriers or, on an annual basis, estimated to be more than enough to end world hunger.

If you’re anything like me you’d really like to know how Secretary Carson uncovered this deep dark financial secret so quickly after his appointment, but I was pretty sure that I shouldn’t click on the link that Davy had posted because I didn’t recognize the source.

Facebook has started warning us that we live in an age of ‘fake news’ and the number one way to spot fake news is to consider the source, and I sure as heck did not recognize the website called SacredConservativeTruthAgenda.org, nor did I recognize the one named RightWingJewsNews.net.

To be fair, a lot of my friends of all political stripes cite sources as dubious as Davy’s.

A quick scroll through my newsfeed reveals citations for “news sources” like EagleBloodJusticeShrike.net, LiberalPinkHoneyNews.org, RightWingJazzHands.biz, and FlagWavingTittyMommas.omg. In full disclosure I probably clicked on that last one a few dozen times just to make sure that it was fake news, but you get my point: a lot of these “sources” sound like they’re run by lone individuals sitting on a couch in their boxer shorts… yeah, I am.

So if not me, who can you trust these days?

Until these crazy ass fake websites start winning Pulitzers I’m going to stick with recognized newspapers like The Failing New York Times and The Floundering Washington Post.

For this story I checked with the presidentially sanctioned news source Fox News, and they haven’t posted anything about this story.

Even that short guy with the weird speech impediment over on Fox Business News hasn’t even been talking about this shocking story on his 9am morning show, and he knows everything. Just ask him! (Pompousness is the lowest form of wit, Stuart)

So listen, maybe we should just take a chance and trust ourselves.

With no reliable sources reporting on this missing $500 Billion I was faced with doing my own investigation, and you know what? You can too, because the audit has been posted to the public via the website of the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

This is a direct link to that PDF on the HUD website.

In case it goes away for some reason, here’s a direct link to the same file from this website (Click Here).

The first thing you’ll learn by reading page one is that HUD Secretary Ben Carson had nothing to do with this audit because it’s an annually required action that would have transpired regardless of who held the office as the rules state “In accordance with the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990” – not to mention that the audit was completed months before he assumed office.

Furthermore, if you continue reading the audit (as I have tried to do while sitting on the couch watching Star Trek: Enterprise on Netflix) you’ll see that five hundred billion dollars were never actually “missing” so much as poorly accounted for, according to the audit.

I don’t know if you’re as lazy as I am about balancing your home checkbook, but I am occasionally forced into running an audit of my account and inevitably end up scratching my head for half an hour because the ledger is out of whack by some peculiar amount. After a lot of muttering I finally discover that I’ve made a simple error, like counting a check twice. There was never any money missing, it just wasn’t accounted for properly (until it was all balanced out).

Now multiply my tiny accounting errors by several orders of magnitude and that’s what I understand is going on with HUD’s report. Their budget isn’t big enough to squirrel away $500 Billion, it’s just that they (apparently) suck at balancing their own books. If you’ll go and read the audit report for yourself (which I’d encourage, instead of believing my lazy perusal) you’ll likely see that the summary explains that money wasn’t missing, it was just counted wrong, or not counted at all, or modeled improperly, or whatever it is that they do to keep up with it.

HUD’s accounting ledgers are probably a far worse nightmare that you or I could possibly imagine.

As you read you’ll see that the audit report states that there were “material weaknesses” in the accounting of monies in which costs were estimated incorrectly. The audit found that there were non-compliance issues resulting in missed opportunities to collect tens of millions of dollars in debt. There are problems and unquestionably have been for years, because government can be terrible at scaling and often finds scope creep irresistible.

The lies that these fake news sources spread are galling, because my friends often believe the headlines they read because they often don’t take the time to actually follow stories back to their sources. They’re busy and probably as lazy as I am.  It’s easier to just believe what somebody else tells us, especially if it fits the comfortable narratives that we already believe.

But we don’t have to let this happen.

While the partisan websites are out there spreading misinformation, as in this case, about Ben Carson spearheading a shocking audit, there’s no question (at least in my mind) that HUD could naturally stand to see some pretty substantial streamlining if the audit revealed such troubling accounting procedures.

But I’m no Jack Bauer, and Secretary-Doctor Ben Carson was never the Designated Auditor – that job belongs to the Honorable David A. Montoya, the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

And for the record: neither of them is T’pol, the hot Vulcan officer from Star Trek: Enterprise who has to have lotion rubbed all over her body all the time, mostly because I keep playing that part of the episode over and over again as I try to make you go go away to do your own research.

You guys are seriously cutting into my Star Trek watching time.

Read a book.

Stop sharing junk stories that you didn’t research.

Scram.

– –

Edit: it’s been several days since I posted this article and I just had to come back and write that I feel embarrassed at having shared the photo of actress Jolene Blalock with her top off and kind of embarrassed that the producers felt it necessary to have her get naked from time to time during the show. It’s still sexy as heck, but the show could have stood on its own without it. The only thing that kept this series from wider acceptance was that it wasn’t run on a major network.

Skidmark

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I remember when the Marriott Marquis was still shiny and new, back in the 1980s. Somewhere in my stack of sketchbooks I have a little student study I made of the hotel while I was in the architecture program at Tech. In that write-up I compared the elevator cabs to blood cells pulsing through heart of the hotel, mostly because back then the elevators were painted bright red! Somewhere along the line an interiors person must have been paid good money to come in and inform hotel management that rocketship red was Continue reading

Dragon Hoarders

Dragon Hoarders

For those of you who’ve been reading me here (and elsewhere) you know that I’ve rather become a fan of science fiction conventions and the people who attend them. I love that there exists a safe harbor in this world for the myriad nerds and social misfits who communicate their innermost feelings via witty T-shirts and long rambling tirades regarding the inefficiency of Model 7 dilithium articulation frames. I celebrate the fact that there’s a place where nobody cares if you look (and often smell) funny… a place where sexy actresses are paid to Continue reading

Star Trek is This Generation’s… WHA??

Grand Hyperbole

Do you know what hyperbole is?
Do you know who Kirk Montgomery is?
Do you know what you get when you mix the two?

I just heard an advertisement for the new Star Trek movie in which Mr. Montgomery is quoted as saying that the new Star Trek is “this generation’s Star Wars”. ORLY? I thought it was supposed to be this generation’s STAR TREK!!!!

Cretin.

::sigh::

Following this new variation on logic I can only surmise that:

  • “House” must be this generation’s “Gone With The Wind”.
  • The new Will Ferrell remake of “Land of the Lost” must be this generation’s “French Connection”.
  • “Transformers 2” must certainly be this generation’s “Citizen Kane”
  • and who could deny that “Operation Runway” represents this generation’s “From Here to Eternity”??

Alls I know is that THIS generation have their heads up their collective asses and that Mr. Montgomery is leading the charge. Just like Humphrey Bogart in “Ironman 2”.

Now THERE was a classic.

Yu-Gi-Oh Versus Netflix? Message Reveived!

Yu-Gi-Oh versus Netflix

Oh Netflix, you sexy little minx, you conduit to all my guilty pleasures, you must be nearly as exhausted as I am… or maybe you kids started celebrating New Years a little early this year? All I know is that after 15 hours of slinging pixels I arrived home, ready to crank open a little bit of Yu-Gi-Oh style monster-dueling before hitting the sack and five seconds into the disc I realized that you didn’t sent me Volume 8 and 9 like I requested, you sent me Volumes 9 and 10, which might seem Continue reading

Text Messaging Intervention

Gargoyles of Notre Dame on Texting
Okay, okay, okay everybody. I get it. Seriously. I get it. It’s time for me to step up to the plate and admit that I have a problem. My phone sucks and I don’t know the rules of text messaging. But I’m not going down alone… you’re all equally to blame in this and if I’m taking the fall, I’m bringing all of you down with me.

Here’s the deal.

In 2003 I owned one of the hottest toys on the planet…. a sweet black and silver Sony Ericsson T-616 cellphone (part of their 610 series).

The Hi-Tech T-616

It had a real (albeit tiny) joystick, a sophisticated operating system and a full-color screen WAY bigger than any of my friends’ phones. This thing was so far ahead of the curve that only the dorkiest dorks in town owned one. Needless to say that no one in my circle of friends and work colleagues had a phone that could begin to match the things my phone could do.

I’m serious. This was a nifty bit of cellular overkill and I LOVED it.

The T-616 was a miniature computer. It had a camera and it used Bluetooth™ (the usefulness of which nobody seemed to comprehend regardless of how many hand gestures I used to explain the concept of controlling the refrigerator with my cellphone*). That little marvel could do SMS (simple text messages), MMS (styled text messages with images and video)… it was even capable of sending and receiving honest to goodness emails!!

This was back in 2003, people!!!
Back when Saddam was still in power, the Concorde was still in service, and New Hampshire’s Old Man of the Mountain wasn’t just on the quarter.

After playing around with the T-616 I was certain that “texting” would be my favorite feature, a certainty which lasted less than a month as that’s exactly how long it took me to realize that the rest of my friends’ phones were as useful as a duck on wheels and that frequent texting was as expensive as a trip to the Gold Room with a stripper, please, sir, don’t touch the boobs.

There I’d be, at a restaurant, on a date, waiting for the girl to return from the powder room. With a couple of glasses of wine in me and a mind for mischief I’d whip out my T-616 and type up a message to a couple of my friends and hit the “SEND” key.

The next day I would get an angry phone call or three.

Blisteringly livid Continue reading

Not an Artist? It Doesn’t Matter Anymore

Bauder College
Dear Bauder College,
Thank you for your interest in the field of Graphic Design. I found your newest television commercial, in which a representative for your school cheerfully proclaims “Not an artist? It doesn’t matter anymore!”, to be particularly exciting as it helped prove a point that I’ve long been trying to convey to my colleagues in the arts. The reason I’m writing this open letter to you is to express my happiness that you’ve had the guts to take a Post-Modern leadership position on what makes a person an artist. Thank you for stating unequivocally, as an institution of higher learning, that sophisticated graphics software has finally reached a state that eliminates the requirement that the operator have even a passing knowledge of Continue reading

EASY Solution for Adobe InDesign CS3 Booklet Problem

Adobe InDesign CS3Last week I finally got around to upgrading to Adobe CS3 and I love the new user interface and could go on and on about all the great improvements but unfortunately, it’s not all peaches and cream. During the production of InDesign CS3, it seems that a crucial 3rd-party plug-in called InBooklet SE was removed from the market because its maker had been purchased by Quark, Adobe’s key competitor in the document publishing market. Quark’s decision to discontinue the development of InBooklet SE was the business equivalent of kicking Adobe in the nuts.

But you came here for a way to fix your problem didn’t you?!

I’m going to give you a way to create a properly imposed PDF version of your InDesign document, without using anyone else’s plug-ins or scripts. It’s an entirely Adobe-based solution and while it doesn’t provide an editable InDesign imposition, it’s a very good solution that should benefit a good number of users. Are you ready? Continue reading

E”IT”GWDS

I care. I care a lot. About the Earth that is. You know, “The Planet” (differentiated in this discussion from “The Other Planets” by the omission of the adjective “Other”, just to be clear).

One of the specific aspects of The Planet that concerns me the most is its temperature. It keeps me up at night. No, really! It makes me wake up at 3:30am in pain and frustration…. mostly because I have a really nasty cold and can’t stop coughing because my room is too hot.

“Aha!” you cry, “then you belong to us, to our Society!”

“What society?” I stammer, unexpectedly caught in a first person narrative.

“Why, the Earth “Is Too” Getting Warmer Dammit Society,” you answer, hands on hips, caught between triumph and desperation.
Continue reading

The New Switchers

I’ve been a Mac fanboy since my college days in the late 1980’s, back when but a few of those gloriously graphical machines were sprinkled in labs around Georgia Tech. Many were the days that I circled the unobtainable Macintosh IIFX at Tech’s computer store, a machine unimaginable potential (40 megahertz processor!!). Of course I couldn’t afford a $12,000 computer then (or now!), but I did eventually join that miniscule minority of Mac users, none of whom would have guessed that ten years down the road we’d be entering into a “post-Platform”, Web 2.0 era, or that Windows users would eagerly become “Switchers”, migrating to the Macintosh because of their experience with a little thing called the iPod. But then, you already know that story. What you may not know is that there’s a new kind of Switcher on the scene: the Resista-Switcher. Continue reading