Continuing my unhealthy obsession with Sean Penn, it looks like he just can't manage to keep his mouth shut long enough to maintain his aura only moderate idiocy: now he's accusing President Bush and the federal government of "criminal negligence" for their handling of the aftermath of the disaster.

Oscar-winning Hollywood actor Sean Penn, who has been assisting rescue efforts in New Orleans, said the US government did not "seem to be inclined to help".

"We were pulling drowning people out of the water, it's the ultimate distress and human suffering ... dead bodies," he told GMTV.

Penn said he had spent nine hours on Monday searching the water for people and during all that time he saw just three boats carrying US officials.

More like he spent nine hours with his personal photographer bailing out his boat with a plastic cup, but why quibble about the details?

"There are people that are dying right now and I mean babies and old people and everybody in between - they're dying. There are people dying and (the US government are) not putting the boats in the water, I think that's criminal negligence. I don't think anybody ever anticipated the criminal negligence of the Bush administration in this situation."

But alas, Mr. Penn is ignorant of the actual definition of criminal negligence.

A gross deviation from the standard of care expected of a reasonable person that is manifest in a failure to protect others from a risk (as of death) deriving from one's conduct and that renders one criminally liable.

So, the federal government's handling of the disaster could only be criminally negligent if Mr. Penn is arguing that President Bush created the hurricane but then failed to operate it in a safe manner.

While Mr. Penn the disaster recovery expert and psychic is handing out blame, maybe he should read up on how poorly local officials have performed, particularly New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin. I'm not arguing that the feds have handled the disaster flawlessly, but all the preparatory work, including an actual evacuation of the city, was the responsibility of the state and local authorities.

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