blog.Drewprops.com > Category Archives: Your Pal Drew

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.

Basil Eleby’s Fabulous Weaponized Love Seat (That Destroyed Atlanta)

Like most Atlantans I am fascinated by the story of Basil Eleby, a man whose life might have come and gone without leaving a mark in Atlanta’s history books if it were not for his (alleged) creation of a “couch bomb” following an (alleged) nip of crack cocaine. Most of us native Atlantans were not surprised that all it took to bring our hometown grinding to a halt was a piece of discarded furniture placed on top of a shopping cart and Continue reading

The Making of “You Wouldn’t Believe Our World”

Back in my college years the talk show Late Night with David Letterman was a delightfully subversive, highly imaginative way to end the day. The writers were whip smart and the bits they did would have become viral sensations if today’s socially networks had existed back then. The other night I was out having a few beers with a friend ten years my junior who had missed out on the imaginative era of David Letterman and I mentioned a mock commercial that I often think about, whose title eluded Continue reading

Getting Smart About Smoke Detectors

When is the last time you thought about your home’s smoke detectors? I typically change the batteries in our home’s smoke detectors around this time every year, usually on the same weekend when we “spring” our clocks forward an hour for Daylight Saving Time. Last March we lost my dad and all of my normal routines fell away for quite a long time, and so it came as no surprise a week ago when I discovered that my smoke detectors were a year past due for having their batteries replaced.

Like me, a lot of people lose track of their normal routines and some are unfortunate enough to experience a fire in their homes.  According to the National Fire Protection Agency: “In fires in which the smoke alarms were present but did not operate, almost half (46%) of the smoke alarms had missing or disconnected batteries.”

Keeping the batteries in your smoke detectors up to date cannot be stressed enough, but there’s one additional detail about these devices that I only Continue reading

AT&T U-verse Cancels Popular Showcase Channel

U-Verse Showcase Controversy

March has been really tough and tonight I thought that I would let my soul relax for a while by tuning into Channel 800 on our cable provider, AT&T U-Verse. Officially known as “U-Verse Showcase”, the channel featured gorgeous nature cinematography set to pleasant instrumentals – anything from herds of kangaroo sweeping majestically over whatever the heck it is the Aussies call “the plain”, to the painted American desert from dusk to dawn. Our family would sit watching it for an hour, mesmerized by the calming effect it gave us. Better yet, if you were paying for the HD package you could dial up Channel 1800 where you’d see the same videos, but in high definition (best seen on one of those enormous televisions, which we do not have). Now, if you haven’t noticed, I’m referring to these channels in the past tense because at the beginning of the March 2016, AT&T discontinued both  Continue reading

Chick-Fil-A Coleslaw Catastrophe

chickfila_000

On the way to lunch last Tuesday my friend Linda Simon made a passing reference to Chick-fil-a discontinuing their coleslaw, which seemed a rather odd thing to say since the very idea seemed preposterous. Since Linda is not generally known as a merry prankster I simply turned to her and shouted as loud as I could “WHAT DO YOU MEAN THEY’RE DISCONTINUING THEIR COLESLAW????”.

A few minutes later we were sitting at our local Continue reading

Atlanta Falcons Sphincter May Injure Necks

2015-atlanta-falcons-stadium_003

Every time I see one of the local news stations run the animation of the retractable roof on the new Falcons stadium I cringe because it’s not a terribly elegant solution. It’s somewhat ironic that the supporters of the new stadium have gone to such great efforts to label the current football stadium as “tired and ugly”, and then went and picked something with such a massively dark roof, penetrated by such a small oculus – it’s a modern rendition of the Pantheon, without the elegant Roman engineering.  When city leaders and football chiefs explain how the stadium will “let the sun shine in” you get the impression that the experience will be like sitting in the Continue reading

Growing Pains

ant-man-002

[See update at the end of this blog post] This past Sunday there was an Atlanta screening of the upcoming Marvel film Ant-Man, featuring comedic actor Paul Rudd in the lead role (YouTube clip).  I’m told that among the dignitaries in the audience was Georgia Governor Nathan Deal who, along with a number of our state legislators has been a major supporter of our state’s motion picture industry. Governor Deal has been especially outspoken about Georgia’s plans to continue growing its film industry, going so far as to Georgia Night in L.A. to thank studio executives who have shot in Georgia and to woo more who might consider filming here in the future.  It’s unlikely that anyone made a transcript of the Governor’s remarks to the gathered cast and crew of Ant-Man (because I haven’t heard them either), but I’ve been told that his Continue reading

Papercraft Walkie Talkie

Papercraft Walkie

Back in 2011 I wrote an article for Oz magazine’s digital issue called “Go For Jimmy!” about an invented character named “Jimmy”, who was the bane of one 1st AD and a favorite of another. For that issue I designed a papercraft walkie-talkie that you could cut out and fold together, using tabs and slots to hold things in place. I ran across the one that I had build the other day and decided that I should share the art with my friends in the business for those days when they get especially punchy. To make your own papercraft walkie you just need to know somebody in the production office who can print out the PDF onto stiff tabloid-size (11 inch by 17 inch) paper. BE SAFE!!!! Get a grownup like a producer or an art director to help you cut out all the pieces. For the best results you’ll need some white glue to keep the thing together. You can always find a link to my walkie talkie artwork in the “Art” section of my website and I hope to add Playsets 1 through 4 in the coming months. Yes, I started at 5 and am working my way out ;)

Click here for the direct link for downloading the PDF.

If you build one please be sure to post a photo to Twitter or Instagram and tag me @drewprops so I can see YOUR walkie in-action!!

Cabbagetown Movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” Deemed a Success!

Crazy Breakfast People

If you read my previous post about why I Hate Outdoor Movies you might recall that I was set to co-sponsor the June edition of the 2014 Cabbagetown Park Movie Series along with Lynn Lamousin of Kittyboy Creations and Hollis Gillespie of Shocking Real Life Learning Center this past Friday night. Despite the threat of rain we were informed that we’d drawn the biggest crowd of the season, thanks no doubt to the great people of Cabbagetown, our collective social networks and to a great plug by Suzanne Van Atten in the Atlanta Journal Constitution! We even had people showing up in costumes! This was the first time I’d ever seen the movie so I was suitably surprised by Mickey Rooney’s portrayal of a Japanese character – some portrayals just don’t age all that well!!