Saturday, September 10, 2005


David Rossie is a an editorial writer/columnist for the Press and Sun Bulletin of Binghamton, NY, and if it weren't for "Common Dreams," which continues to pluck his excellent columns to republish on their site, I probably wouldn't know he exists.

I sure am glad I do. He's so much better than Kristof or Cohen, or so many of the other pseudo-liberals our great metropolitan papers have chosen to burden us with. Clear, uncompromising, liberal, with a great eye for what is worthy of ire, and on behalf of what values, Rossie speaks with both clarity and passion, two qualities our beloved republic has never been in greater need of.

This particular piece of writing is so fine, in part, because it points the way from comprehension of our present situation to the kind of action capable of changing it.
Remember the pictures. The bodies floating in the flood waters, the hunger-plagued children, the anguished mothers, the hopeless elderly, the heroic Coast Guard rescue teams. Remember them. Remember them as the city's slow recovery proceeds and the last presidential platitude has mercifully faded away.

Remember that this didn't happen in Haiti or Bangladesh or some other Third World backwater. It happened here. Remember why it happened and who allowed it to get as bad as it got. Remember it when the midterm elections come around a year from November. Keep all of it in mind, because those elections can be, must be, the first step toward reclaiming this once-proud nation's respectability.

The voters of this country made a tragic blunder in 2000 and they compounded it last year, and there is no forcing the genie back into the bottle. But the past does not have to be prologue. If the Democrats can somehow find a voice and an agenda, not to mention a spine, and recapture the House or Senate or both, they can at least slow if not halt the decline of this country toward a social level comparable to that of 17th century England.

The failure of FEMA and its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security, in bringing relief to the stranded inhabitants of New Orleans and the failure of our detached-from-reality president once again to respond to a crisis in a timely manner, were so glaring that even the tame media could not ignore it.

Bush's grandstanding moment with the bullhorn in 2001, and the fact that we had been attacked by external forces bought him 3½ years of slack. But Katrina offered no such theatrical opportunity. Instead, we had to settle for the frat boy telling us how much fun he had in New Orleans before he became an even more carefree president, and how much he was looking forward to sitting on Trent Lott's new front porch.
You can read the rest here.

David Rossie is a good reason for checking in at "Common Dreams" on a regular basis.

Michael Brown: Made To Order Punching Bag? 

Does it occur to anyone else that the refusal to fire Michael Brown has less to do with that vaunted Bush family loyality and more to do with a typical Rovian strategy, i.e., to provide an alternate target for those slings and arrows of outrageous, unearned misfortune being promulgated by the liberally-besotted MSM against the wholly innocent Bush administration?

Second question: If that is the case, should we be playing their game by continuing to pile on to the already overly cooked goose Michael Brown has become?

Just asking?

Any thoughts bloggers and commentators?

Third question, not necessarily related to the first two. Does anyone else think that Mr. Cheney looked diffrent in those pictures of him visiting the disaster areas? Did he looked bloated, as if he might be taking some sort of powerful medication, like steriods. I'm not trying to suggest anything other than that his absence might have been due to his on-going major health problems. Any medical personnel care to comment?

Katrina: Bush's performance problem 

Bush, the words:

"The federal government stands ready to work with state and local officials to secure New Orleans and the state of Louisiana," White House spokesman Dan Bartlett said. "The president will not let any form of bureaucracy get in the way of protecting the citizens of Louisiana."
(via WaPo)

Bush, the actions:

A German military plane carrying 15 tons of military rations for survivors of Hurricane Katrina was sent back by U.S. authorities, officials said Saturday.

The plane was turned away Thursday because it did not have the required authorization, a German government spokesman said.
(via AP)

Bush really is the anti-Teddy, isn't he?

Talk loudly, and carry a tiny dickM stick.



Remind me again what that stands for?

Nice work, Al 

Tennesesee's own Al Gore does some good:

Al Gore helped airlift some 270 Katrina evacuees on two private charters from New Orleans, acting at the urging of a doctor who saved the life of the former vice president's son.

On Sept. 1, three days after Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, Simon learned that Dr. David Kline, a neurosurgeon who operated on Gore's son, Albert, after a life-threatening auto accident in 1989, was trying to get in touch with Gore. Kline was stranded with patients at Charity Hospital in New Orleans.

"The situation was dire and becoming worse by the minute - food and water running out, no power, 4 feet of water surrounding the hospital and ... corpses outside," Simon wrote.

Gore responded immediately, telephoning Kline and agreeing to underwrite the $50,000 each for the two flights, although Larry Flax, founder of California Pizza Kitchens, later pledged to pay for one of them.

"None of the airlines involved required a contract or any written guarantee of payment before sending their planes and volunteer crews," Simon wrote of the American Airlines flights. "One official said if Gore promised to pay, that was good enough for them."
(via AP)

Nice to see how many members of the party of personal responsibility followed Al Gore's lead...

Oh, wait. That didn't happen?

Katrina: What has happened to the Krewes? 

If the New Orleans Krewes who run Mardi Gras are anything like the Philadelphia Mummers, they were vulnerable to Katrina. There will be clubhouses in which the costumes are stored, for example. (A sociologist would bury the beauty of the costumes and the relationships of the people under a dead phrase like "social capital," so let's not go there.)

Next year's Mardi Gras will be as good an indication of the civic health of the New New Orleans—if it's not run by the existing Krewes, are definitely not rich, and not Republican, not corporatist, then... Well, the terrorists will have won.

Readers, what's happened to the Krewes?

NOTE I've been Googling on Krewes, Katrina, Rex without result. Although Whole Foods has partnered with the Gumbo Krewe to bring $1 million in relief.

Katrina: Bush Orleans 

Last Sunday in the poor old, increasingly disintermediated Times, David Brooks shared his soft-core, treacly vision of a rebuilt New Orleans with us:

It has created as close to a blank slate as we get in human affairs, and given us a chance to rebuild a city that wasn't working. We need to be realistic about how much we can actually change human behavior, but it would be a double tragedy if we didn't take advantage of these unique circumstances to do something that could serve as a spur to antipoverty programs nationwide.
(via Times)

Let me have men about me who are fat...

Of course, Brooks is a winger shill, so his vision is very different from any vision that you, I, or most of the people of New Orleans would have. Republican Representative Baker brought Brook's gauzy dreams down to earth for us (though of course he did a Hastert, and quickly retracted his statement):

We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did."
(WSJ via Eric Umansky)

Translation: In the New New Orleans, there will be no poor people, and no black people! In fact, they're going to rebuild the French Quarter just like Disneyland: forced perspectives, and smaller scale. Only kidding!

But, praise the God of your choice, the Republican vision for the New New Orleans is coming true right now! We don't have to wait for it!

Yes, the mercenaries have arrived:

Reports are beginning to surface that New Orleans and environs are crawling with armed private commandos from Blackwater USA, the North Carolina-based security firm that has risen to prominence with its highly visible role in Iraq. The slide show at the top of this entry comes from their Web site.

A Georgia-based doctor and military veteran who blogs under the name Otter has been down in the disaster zone the last few days, and he has seen the private Blackwater security forces everywhere. He wrote yesterday from a police precinct house in New Orleans:

Blackwater Security is here--clean, well-equipped, and armed to the teeth.

The New York Times has seen them too:

No civilians in New Orleans will be allowed to carry pistols, shotguns or other firearms, said P. Edwin Compass III, the superintendent of police. "Only law enforcement are allowed to have weapons," he said.

But that order apparently does not apply to hundreds of security guards hired by businesses and some wealthy individuals to protect property. The guards, employees of private security companies like Blackwater, openly carry M-16's and other assault rifles. Mr. Compass said that he was aware of the private guards, but that the police had no plans to make them give up their weapons.

(More great work from the on-fire-lately Will Bunch Attytood, via Kos)

Bringing the war back home...

Gee, I wonder if the New, New Orleans is going to be rebuilt for the benefit of the poor, the black, the old, who had to flee; for the ordinary heroes who stayed and saved lives; for jazz, for gumbo, for the Krewes, for Commander's Palace—or for the benefit of the Republican rich fucks who fled, then hired armed guards, rushed back, and are busy seizing as much of the high ground as they can?

Hey, I've got an idea! A new city needs a new name. How about we honor the New New Orleans by naming it after the great man—the Great President—who made it all possible?

That's right—Bush Orleans!

Surely I can't be the first person to have this idea?

Katrina: What kind of camp is it like, boys? 

Tinfoil hat time, but I reread Délay's words this morning, and one word caught my eye:

[Not-yet-indicted] congressman [Délay] likened their stay to being at camp and asked, "Now tell me the truth boys, is this kind of fun?"
(via back)

Can you guess what the word was?


And I'm on not talking Susan Sontag here.

I've always thought that, even though we have plenty of football stadiums in this country, the Chilean experience—where the enemies of the regime were rounded up and held in soccer stadiums before being tortured, shot, or thrown for airplanes—could not be "happen here" because the sheer scale of this country would make the logistics very difficult.

So, I find some details about the Dome stories unsettling:

1. Concentration of marginalized people into sports arenas

2. Surrounding them with armed guards

3. Dedicated transport (not trains, as in Nazi Europe, but buses)

4. Use of "emergency powers" (next door to quasi-legal, arbitrary)

5. The cash cards (so botched) weren't electronic identity cards, or electronic ankle bracelets, but they'll figure that out next time.

Now, I'm not saying the motivation for the Domes was anything other than benign (though Bab's stone-cold comment on the "underprivileged" makes it very, very clear how marginalized the citizens in the domes were).

However, in some ways it's a blessing—not that this excuses the deaths and the loss—that the political hacks at FEMA were so feckless and clueless.

Because the techniques, the administrative and management skills required, to concentrate large numbers of marginalized people into, um, "camps" is the very last thing we would want Republicans to acquire. Because those skills, used for benevolent purposes this time, can be put to other purposes when the impulse is there—and if we take the Republicans at their word (see Orcinus), it will be. (This is yet another illustration of the "fight to the finish" concept; we may no longer be in "pendulum" mode.)

And please refer all comments containing the words "tinfoil hat" to The Department of No! They Would Never Do That!

NOTE In a way, this tinfoil hat scenario has an eerie parallel to Abu Ghraib. No matter our imperial sins in the past, and they are many, the techniques required to concentrate large numbers of captives in camps, and then to torture them, just aren't in the mainstream. "That's not what America is about." Because the chain of commmand hasn't yet had to write the manual on how to organize a torture camp, and so the perps screwed up. (O felix culpa!) The Stanford Effect (here) wasn't strong enough to suck the whole chain of command in, and the story got out. If history is allowed to judge Bush, as we all hope it is, I feel that destroying the very possibility of military honor by making the chain of command complicit in torture will be one of the gravest charges against him.

UPDATE Oh no (via Jesus's General)....

It didn't occur to me (though it should have) that Bush would use faith-based organizations to handle the logistics of filling the camps.... No matter how hard I try with these people, and I try very hard, I am never cynical or paranoid enough.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Delusional Republicans 

Put this one next to Bab's comment about Katrina "working very well" for the poor "underprivileged":

U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's visit to Reliant Park this morning offered him a glimpse of what it's like to be living in shelter.

While on the tour with top administration officials from Washington, including U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao and U.S. Treasury Secretary John W. Snow, DeLay stopped to chat with three young boys resting on cots.

The congressman likened their stay to being at camp and asked, "Now tell me the truth boys, is this kind of fun?"

They nodded yes, but looked perplexed.
(Houston Chronicle via Raw Story)

What a sick fuck.

I agree 100% Karen Hughes! 

It really looks like Karen's stepping out of her role as a Bush enabler and winning her independence:

"People are seeing things that no one likes to see," Hughes said. "We've seen criminals try to prey on vulnerable people in the midst of a tragedy, and that's horrible."
(via Cox News ServiceGainesville)

At last! A White House insider has the courage to admit how Bush and the Republicans abused the country's trust after 9/11!

This picture needs a caption! 

Iraq Clusterfuck: Gee, who's running the war? The mercenaries? 

Wait, don't answer that:

Iraqi troops were ordered to reopen Baghdad airport yesterday after a British security company halted commercial flights in a pay dispute, cutting one of the country's few outside links.

The government threatened a showdown with Global Strategies Group, saying the London-based firm overstepped its powers when private guards shut the airport at dawn.
(via Guardian)

But now the story gets even curiouser:

The London-based company said it was forced to suspend operations because the transport ministry, which owns the airport, had not paid it for seven months.

A similar dispute in June shut the facility for two days.

Global has about 550 security staff, mostly Nepalese, American, British and Iraqi, manning what is in effect a fortress with a runway, a sprawl of concrete, razor wire and checkpoints.

Shortly after dawn the company said it would maintain security but there would be no flights, nor passengers allowed entry, until bills were settled. Military flights which have their own runway and facilities continued unaffected.

"Global has been in constant negotiations with senior members of the Iraqi government, which is currently not paying the company," said a statement.

"Once payment has been made by the client, Global will resume its work and thus allow normal air operations to resume."

The mercenaries haven't been paid? B-but, we're spending billions over there. So, where did the money go?

Katrina: What's that quacking sound? 

WaPo's Bigfeet weigh in. Their conclusion:

But all Americans, Democrats and Republicans, ought to hope that the administration will right itself sufficiently to oversee an effective recovery. And that's not just for the sake of Katrina's survivors. For the president to be rendered a lame duck more than three years before he leaves office would not serve the country well, at home or abroad.
(via AP)

Really? Why?

Katrina: So, the debit card brainwave lasted all of two days 

Guess it didn't give Bush the PR bounce he wanted. So they axed it.

The nation's relief agency said Friday it will discontinue its program to distribute debit cards worth up to $2,000 to hurricane victims, two days after hastily announcing the novel plan to provide quick relief.
(via AP)

Oh well.

Is it coincidence that Brown gets demoted and this plan gets axed now that Cheney's back from his vacation?

Katrina: Things working very well for Brownie 

5:56 PM, Friday (these guys are so fucking predictable):

FEMA Director Brown Dumped
The administration dumped FEMA Director Michael Brown as commander of Hurricane Katrina relief operations Friday.
(via AP)

But wait! Brownie's not going to spend more time with his family, even though he did fake his resume (back)—he's still got his job!

The decision to order Brown back to Washington from Louisiana - he remains as director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency - marked the administration's latest attempt to assert leadership in the wake of the devastating storm and its aftermath, including the weakest public opinion polls of Bush's time in office.

So, wait a minute.

One day, Bush tells the nation Brownie's "doing a heckuva job," the next day, Brownie's out of a job.

I'm so confused! The only explanation I can think of is that Brownie's going back to DC to do an even better job!

Meanwhile, Brownie—surprise!—blames the press:

Asked if he was being made a scapegoat, Brown told The Associated Press after a long pause: "By the press, yes. By the president, no."

As for his plans, he said, "I'm going to go home and walk my dog and hug my wife, and maybe get a good Mexican meal and a stiff margarita and a full night's sleep.

"And then I'm going to go right back to FEMA and continue to do all I can to help these victims."

Aaaw. Shed a tear for Brownie—emergency management is hard work!

Hey, maybe Brownie could help the victims by airdropping Mexican meals and margaritas into the Astrodome!

Because That's What Friends Are For: Doormats 

Vancouver Sun, 9/8/05, p. A6:
The team was also singled out for praise Wednesday by United States Ambassador David Wilkins, who gave Canada top marks for helping victims of Hurricane Katrina.

"Many countries have offered help. Nobody more so than Canada. You are at the top of the list and for that, we will always by grateful," Wilkins told the Vancouver Board of Trade....

"In times like this you learn who your friends are, and Canada is a dear friend."

Vancouver Sun, same day, p. C1:
United States Ambassador David Wilkins told Vancouver business leaders Wednesday there will be no end to the softwood lumber dispute until Canada agrees to negotiate a settlement....

"Friends negotiate, they don't retaliate," he said....

Asked why the U.S. was not willing to follow the latest NAFTA ruling that delivered a clear win to Canada,... Wilkins said the NAFTA ruling was based on a 2002 duty determination that has since been rewritten.

"Since then it was superceded by a 2004 ruling and that's the ruling we operate under," he said. "The point is this: It never ends."
The United States: we make the rules. We just don't play by them.

Katrina: Top FEMA managers qualified at nothing but spin! 

Perfect. Just perfect. They're all PR people!

t's not really all that surprising that the officials who run FEMA are stressing that all-important emergency response function: the public relations campaign. As it turns out, that's all they really have experience at doing.

Michael Brown was made the director after he was asked to resign from the International Arabian Horse Association, and the other top officials at FEMA don't exactly have impressive résumés in emergency management either. The Chicago Tribune reported on Wednesday that neither the acting deputy director, Patrick Rhode, nor the acting deputy chief of staff, Brooks Altshuler, came to FEMA with any previous experience in disaster management. Ditto for Scott Morris, the third in command until May.

Mr. Altshuler and Mr. Rhode had worked in the White House's Office of National Advance Operations. Those are the people who decide where the president [sic] will stand on stage and which loyal supporters will be permitted into the audience - and how many firefighters will be diverted from rescue duty to surround the president as he patrols the New Orleans airport trying to look busy. Mr. Morris was a press handler with the Bush presidential campaign. Previously, he worked for the company that produced Bush campaign commercials.
(via Times)

So, no wonder when these guys got some firefighters, their first thought was to use them for a Bush photo op.

That was their job.

Unbelievable? All too believable?

NOTE And why the fuck is this fine reporting on the Times editorial page? WTF? Where's the newsroom on this? Too busy taking expense account lunches with sources who lie them (and us), or what? WTF?

Katrina: The shrill one 


Maybe I'm confused. Can someone tell me how else Bush can be held responsible and acountatable for the Katrina Clusterfuck other than through the political system? Because that's what "politicizing means." What other means would the Republicans suggest than "politicizing"? The power of prayer? Armed insurrection? Giant puppets? Help us out, here, Republicans! How would you hold our CEO President responsible and accountable for Katrina?

Finger pointing:

Ever read Zola's J'Accuse? Now that's fingerpointing. Until such time as we can develop a Vast Fingerpointing Machine that Zola's caliber, the Republicans and their shills should stop whining. They ain't seen nuthin' yet.

The Shrill One weighs in once again. After discussing the eerie and disturbing parallels between the two ginormous clusterfucks, Iraq and Katrina (back, he gets to the bottom line:

Why did the administration make the same mistakes twice? Because it paid no political price the first time.

Can the administration escape accountability again? Some of the tactics it has used to obscure its failure in Iraq won't be available this time. The reality of the catastrophe was right there on our TV's, although FEMA is now trying to prevent the media from showing pictures of the dead. And people who ask hard questions can't be accused of undermining the troops.

But the other factors that allowed the administration to evade responsibility for the mess in Iraq are still in place. The media will be tempted to revert to he-said-she-said stories rather than damning factual accounts. The effort to shift blame to state and local officials is under way. Smear campaigns against critics will start soon, if they haven't already. And raw political power will be used to block any independent investigation.

Will this be enough to let the administration get away with another failure? Let's hope not: if the administration isn't held accountable for what just happened, it will keep repeating its mistakes. Michael Brown and Michael Chertoff will receive presidential medals, and the next disaster will be even worse.
(via Paul Krugman in the Times)

History does repeat itself, doesn't it? First time as tragedy, second time as... Well, tragedy.

It really is a fight to the finish, isn't it?

"You're doin' a heckuva job, Brownie"—faking your resumé, that is 

Yep, it looks like Inerrant Boy is about to heave ol' Brownie over the side—resumé problems are always a prelude to, um, spending more time with the family:

WASHINGTON -- The official biography for Michael Brown, the beleaguered head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, contains a discrepancy about his background in emergency management, it was reported.

A 2001 press release on the White House Web site says that Brown worked for the city of Edmond, Okla., from 1975 to 1978 "overseeing emergency services divisions."

Brown's official biography on the FEMA Web site says that his background in state and local government also includes serving as "an assistant city manager with emergency services oversight" and as a city councilman.

But a former mayor of Edmond, Randel Shadid, told The Associated Press on Friday that Brown had been an assistant to the city manager. Shadid said Brown was never assistant city manager.

"I think there's a difference between the two positions," said Shadid. "I would think that is a discrepancy."

A 2001 press release on the White House Web site says that Brown worked for the city of Edmond, Okla., from 1975 to 1978 "overseeing emergency services divisions."

Brown's official biography on the FEMA Web site says that his background in state and local government also includes serving as "an assistant city manager with emergency services oversight" and as a city councilman.

But a former mayor of Edmond, Randel Shadid, told The Associated Press on Friday that Brown had been an assistant to the city manager. Shadid said Brown was never assistant city manager.

"I think there's a difference between the two positions," said Shadid. "I would think that is a discrepancy."
(via WaPo)

And Scott "Sucker MC" McClellan just gave "Brownie" the vote of confidence; always a prelude to dismissal:

McClellan said the White House's earlier statements that Brown retained the president's confidence remain true _ but he declined to state that confidence outright.

So, Brownie's committed the unforgivable sin: He made Bush look bad. Because otherwise, even through Katrina was a clusterfuck of ginormous proportions, Bush would have given Brownie the Medal of Freedom.

So, Brownnie's going to be the fall guy in the classic Bush strategery for evading accountability—Finger the underlings! Worked at Abu Ghraib!

Finger Pointing Crises: Ken Mehlman Is On The Case 

And the case he is on is the one about keeping as much information about what really happened in the Katrina catastrophe away from the American people.

Honest to God:

As reported in the Washington Post:
The Republican National Committee sent allies a list of "talking points," including: "It's disappointing that while President Bush has focused his administration's entire efforts towards saving lives and helping the victims of Katrina, there are those who are using this tragedy to score cheap political points." (Link)
We kid you not.

The question is not who is pointing fingers, it is who is pointing fingers where and at whom and for what purpose.

As we used a few or our own fingers to point out yesterday, there is no lack of finger-pointing on behalf of this administration.

I'd like to add an addendum to that post. Both the state of LA and the New Orleans authorities, from the Mayor on down, have much to answer for. Exactly what is the issue. And we have insufficient information as of now to know. I am unable to vindicate anyone's decision not to allow the Red Cross to come into the city, but to lay the responsibility on a particular state official is to overlook the fact, as acknowledged by the Red Cross itself, that it is unable to provide its own logistics to enter a flooded city, nor is it able to provide its own security on the ground.

There are questions to be asked of the Red Cross as well. They work with FEMA, why didn't they request help air-lifting in water and supplies?

There may well be acceptable answers to these questions and others: why was the security so bad; how much looting was actually going on; what can one make of this persuasive and horrifying description of how local law enforcement interacted with hurricane survivors within the city? (sorry, don't remember where I got the link; Buzzflash, perhaps)

One aspect of the whole mess that has gone relatively unremarked upon is the complete breakdown in the system of communications between local, state, and Federal officials and first responders on the ground. This was a key area identified as problematic for national security after 9/11. On the basis of what we've seen for the last two weeks, nothing, I repeat, nothing, nada, niente, rien, zero, zede, bupkus, has been done in the way of solving that self-same communication problem. I'll have more on this subject over he weekend.

Also, come back later, or on the weekend for a preview of one coming Corrente attraction we think will be of interest, or to put it another way, you better damn well have an interest in this subject if you have any interest in taking your country back from the government-hating dolts who are presenting running every branch of it.

Bu$hCo quick to respond to finger pointing crisis 

Anderson Cooper:
"All these politicians all this week are saying, 'Well, you know what? This is not the time to point fingers; this is not the time to, y'know, quibble about things.' Well, y'know what? When is the time? Because I'm happy to write it down in my engagement book and make an appointment. Because, to me, the time is now, when the world is watching." (source Daily Kos/Bill in Portland Maine)


Thursday, September 08, 2005

Can We Just Start Calling It 

"Hurricane Karma" yet?

After W 

New Orleans (AP) – With the destructive force of Hurricane W seemingly largely spent, a stunned America began this week to assess the damage and ask how it could possibly have happened in the first place.

Until it finally hit two weeks ago, W had been seen by most self-appointed experts mostly as an impressive, erratic, but generally harmless force, capable of inflicting apocalyptic damage on defenseless Third World countries, but not prone to do the same to the US.

That comforting illusion has now been shattered for all but the most blinkered souls.

With economic damages in the trillions of dollars and counting, and a cumulative death toll in the tens of thousands, it is now clear that W is the worst domestic disaster ever to strike the US. What makes it worse, say a legion of long-ignored critics, is that the destructive potential of Hurricane W was foreseeable years ago. They point to a long, increasingly destructive pattern of damage left by W everywhere it touched down, from its early years as a fluky offshoot of a larger Texan weather system, "El Pendejo," where it first appeared to stagger up and down the East Coast before drying out and gathering strength over Houston from a growing up draft of political hot air generated by a thousand point sources of toxic think tanks and noxious cable TV emissions. By the time W was done, dry oil wells and bankrupt companies formed a swath across the region. Still, W was written off as a local disturbance that would ultimately end up spending itself out in irrational baseball trades and pension fund scams.

Unbeknownst to those with intact defenses against infection from bovine fecal matter, however, these foul-smelling but seemingly innocuous phenomena were gradually eroding much of the country's skepticism and native common sense, which historically have buffered the country from periodic outbreaks of flummery and hogwash. Thus, when W finally struck in 2000, seizing Washington and quickly destroying its fiscal infrastructure, little natural protection remained.

What surprises so many now is how slow the country was to react even then. "It was like everyone had taken stupid pills," said one witness, who like others, tried in vain to get fellow countrymen to pay attention. Even after W had wound up contributing to the collapse of the World Trade Centers in New York, people refused to believe what was happening right before their eyes. Instead, many claimed that the real cause was "El Clenis," a rogue system thought to be behind countless, seemingly unrelated phenomena during the 1990s.

This was a fateful miscalculation. Misunderestimated by millions, W. was able to continue gathering strength from the very destruction he wreaked, whipping the atmosphere into a blinding combination of xenophobia, illusions of omnipotence, and astonishing short-sightedness that it then unleashed on the Middle East, destroying possibly forever what was once the cradle of civilization and bringing death and destruction to millions and plunging world energy markets into chaos. As a horrified world watched W stall over Iraq, it was thought that at least the worst was over, and that the US would dodge a bullet.

Why anyone thought that will be a question historians will ponder for generations.

Now, as people begin to dig out, the full extent of the damage is only just now coming into view. Gutted bureaucracies, empty coffers, blighted schools, and overstretched military forces, once hidden from view, now lie exposed, stretching as far as the eye can see. The long-neglected environment itself lies in ruins. The once-mighty dollar, already plunging as a result of W's four-year rampage, teeters on the brink.

Amidst the desolation, however, some bright spots shine forth. Rescuers report that a tiny elite have not just survived W., but seem to have thrived, through a combination of inherited wealth, tax shelters, and legalized looting. Even they, however, express doubts about the future of the country. When asked if they are staying to rebuild, one such survivor laughed. "If by 'rebuild', you mean 'cash in,' you bet. I'm long Halliburton for a cool $20 mil. Otherwise, are you nuts? It's off to the Caymans for us. But hey, thanks for all the tax cuts. They meant a lot."

[UPDATE:Sky TV picks up the story]:

Who Will Be the Stephen Hayes of the Katrina Catastrophe? 

We have the answer for you. Major Garrett.

No, he's not a military man, that's his actual name. He's a mainstream journo who always skewed a bit right, and today, openly so, as one of Fox News ace reporters. He's even written a book.

Stephen Hayes, you will remember, is one of those faux-journos hatched by various right-wing affrimative action programs. In his role as staff writer at The Weekly Standard, he wrote an article that purported to show that there were substantial ties between Al Quaeda and Saddam Hussein. It's title was "CASE CLOSED."

The story, highly detailed, in fact, tendentious to the point of being almost impossible to follow, was clearly based on a leak from the DOD, and within what seemed like only hours, most of the information carried in the story was denied by its institutional source, if not the specific leaker. We covered the initial dust-up here.

No problem that Hayes's closed case was immediately shown to be leaky, his book telling exactly the same story, "The Connection," was forthcoming on schedule, and Hayes has continued to push the story, as have other right-wing faux journos continued to pretend that its argument is founded on facts, in exactly the same way as both the President and Vice-President continue to talk as if Saddam Hussein has something to do with 9/11.

That's the falangist way; fashion a story, ignore all critiques of its logic and presented facts, and then constantly cite it in vicious attacks on what has already been established as historical fact, and anyone who dares to believe it..(See all major 20th century analyses of totalitarianism and propoganda from Orwell to Jacque Ellul.)

So, what was Major Garrett's big bombshell as reported yesterday, Sept 7, 2005 on Brit Hulme's Special Report?

Let Hugh Hewitt, on whose radio show Garrett made an appearance within minutes of appearing on Fox, tell you all about it, as reported on Radio Blogger, who provided this introduction to the transcript: (emphasis mine)
Explosive revelation by Fox News' Major Garrett.

On the Fox News Channel just a little while ago, Major Garrett, one of Fox's star reporters, and author of The Enduring Revolution, broke a very disturbing story for those on the left that want to play the blame game regarding the reaction to the Katrina.
Here's the gist of the bombshell:
HH: You just broke a pretty big story. I was watching up on the corner television in my studio, and it's headlined that the Red Cross was blocked from delivering supplies to the Superdome, Major Garrett. Tell us what you found out.

MG: Well, the Red Cross, Hugh, had pre-positioned a literal vanguard of trucks with water, food, blankets and hygiene items. They're not really big into medical response items, but those are the three biggies that we saw people at the New Orleans Superdome, and the convention center, needing most accutely. And all of us in America, I think, reasonably asked ourselves, geez. You know, I watch hurricanes all the time. And I see correspondents standing among rubble and refugees and evacuaees. But I always either see that Red Cross or Salvation Army truck nearby. Why don't I see that?

HH: And the answer is?

MG: The answer is the Louisiana Department of Homeland Security, that is the state agency responsible for that state's homeland security, told the Red Cross explicitly, you cannot come.

HH: Now Major Garrett, on what day did they block the delivery? Do you know specifically?

MG: I am told by the Red Cross, immediately after the storm passed.

HH: Okay, so that would be on Monday afternoon.

MG: That would have been Monday or Tuesday. The exact time, the hour, I don't have. But clearly, they had an evacuee situation at the Superdome, and of course, people gravitated to the convention center on an ad hoc basis. They sort of invented that as another place to go, because they couldn't stand the conditions at the Superdome.

HH: Any doubt in the Red Cross' mind that they were ready to go, but they were blocked?

MG: No. Absolutely none. They are absolutely unequivocal on that point.

HH: And are they eager to get this story out there, because they are chagrined by the coverage that's been emanating from New Orleans?

MG: I think they are. I mean, and look. Every agency that is in the private sector, Salvation Army, Red Cross, Feed The Children, all the ones we typically see are aggrieved by all the crap that's being thrown around about the response to this hurricane, because they work hand and glove with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. When FEMA is tarred and feathered, the Red Cross and the Salvation Army are tarred and feathered, because they work on a cooperative basis. They feel they are being sullied by this reaction.
And what here is new or newsworthy, you may be asking yourself? As far as I can tell, it's the fact that Major Garrett got an interview with someone in the higher echelons of the American Red Cross.

Did we not know that the Red Cross, as it always does, prepositioned supplies all over the hurricane's likely target areas? Did we not know that they were prevented from delivering them by a combination of the intensity of the on-going damage in New Orleans, which extended into the second day after Katrina had moved on, and the lack of a mode to deliver supplies to those trapped in a city largely underwater? So, what has Major Garrett added to this narrative. Presumably, it's the fingering of the state government of LA as the ones responsible for all the went wrong in New Orleans by the Red Cross itself.

If you find yourself a bit surprised that an organization like the Red Cross, which works closely with both local, state and federal officials, would take sides so decisively, you might want to read this explanation they offer on their own website to the frequently asked question of where they were during those first days after Katrina hit.
Hurricane Katrina: Why is the Red Cross not in New Orleans?

Acess to New Orleans is controlled by the National Guard and local authorities and while we are in constant contact with them, we simply cannot enter New Orleans against their orders.

The state Homeland Security Department had requested--and continues to request--that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city.

The Red Cross has been meeting the needs of thousands of New Orleans residents in some 90 shelters throughout the state of Louisiana and elsewhere since before landfall. All told, the Red Cross is today operating 149 shelters for almost 93,000 residents.

The Red Cross shares the nation’s anguish over the worsening situation inside the city. We will continue to work under the direction of the military, state and local authorities and to focus all our efforts on our lifesaving mission of feeding and sheltering.

The Red Cross does not conduct search and rescue operations. We are an organization of civilian volunteers and cannot get relief aid into any location until the local authorities say it is safe and provide us with security and access.

The original plan was to evacuate all the residents of New Orleans to safe places outside the city. With the hurricane bearing down, the city government decided to open a shelter of last resort in the Superdome downtown. We applaud this decision and believe it saved a significant number of lives.

As the remaining people are evacuated from New Orleans, the most appropriate role for the Red Cross is to provide a safe place for people to stay and to see that their emergency needs are met. We are fully staffed and equipped to handle these individuals once they are evacuated.
Let's do a little compare and contrast between this unexceptional explanation of the situation and what Garrett and Hewitt make of what those sources of Garrett's are supposed to have disclosed to him, (again, emphasis mine):
HH: (edit)Now Major Garrett, what about the Louisiana governor's office of Homeland Security. Have they responded to this charge by the Red Cross, which is a blockbuster charge?

MG: I have not been able to reach them yet. But, what they have said consistently is, and what they told the Red Cross, we don't want you to come in there, because we have evacuees that we want to get out. And if you come in, they're more likely to stay. So I want your listeners to follow me here. At the very moment that Ray Nagin, the Mayor of New Orleans was screaming where's the food, where's the water, it was over the overpass, and state officials were saying you can't come in.

HH: How long would it have taken to deliver those supplies, Major Garrett, into the Superdome and possibly the convention center?

MG: That is a more difficult question to answer than you might think. There were areas, obviously, as you approached the Superdome, that were difficult to get to, because of the flood waters. And as the Red Cross explained it to me, look. We don't have amphibious vehicles. We have trucks and ambulance type vehicles. In some cases, after the flood waters rose as high as they did, we would have needed, at minimal, the Louisiana National Guard to bring us in, or maybe something bigger and badder, from the Marines or Army-type vehicle. They're not sure about that. But remember, Hugh, we were transfixed, I know I was. I'm sure you were and your listeners were, by my colleague, Shep Smith, and others on that overpass.

HH: Right.

MG: ...saying, wait a minute. We drove here. It didn't take us anything to drive here.

HH: Right.

MG: Why can't people just come here?

HH: I also have to conclude from what you're telling me, Major Garrett, is that had they been allowed to deliver when they wanted to deliver, which is at least a little bit prior to the levee, or at least prior to the waters rising, the supplies would have been pre-positioned, and the relief...you know, the people in the Superdome, and possibly at the convention center, I want to come back to that, would have been spared the worst of their misery.

MG: They would have been spared the lack of food, water and hygiene. I don't think there's any doubt that they would not have been spared the indignity of having nor workable bathrooms in short order.
Here's a Red Cross official explaining just that point last Wednesday on Hardball:
MCCRUMMEN: Well, right now, people are in shelters. And we prefer hard structures like that that we can—that are easier to maintain than a tent city.


MCCRUMMEN: But I think the federal government and the Red Cross are working through some of those issues right now to ensure that people have safe places to stay.

MATTHEWS: Look at these people right now. We're just seeing this footage. It's depressing. Look at the age of some of these folk here. They're fragile to begin with.

What would—what would you like to be able to do in the next week, with the help that the money people give, to change that situation to a more hopeful situation?

MCCRUMMEN: We have got to ensure that those people that are vulnerable right now have safe places to stay, food to eat and life-sustaining things that the whole coordinated effort is trying to bring to them. That's what's most important right now.

MATTHEWS: Do you have helicopters?

MCCRUMMEN: Red Cross does not. But we rely on our partners to bring those to us when we need to get supplied in and out.

MATTHEWS: What's going on right now? If you want to give me—give me a visual picture right now of what the Red Cross is doing, now that you've got this $72 million pledged.

MCCRUMMEN: Right now—before the storms hit, we had things prepositioned all throughout this area, because we knew it was going to be bad. So, right now, we're moving that stuff and volunteer—disaster-trained volunteers into those affected areas to make sure that those people get what they need.


MATTHEWS: Tell me what you had ready to go.

MCCRUMMEN: We had millions of heater meals and cleanup kits and hygiene kits and the kinds of things that people are going to need just to survive for the next two, three days, until federal assistance can get there and until people can get through the bad infrastructure and get the things they need.
Granted, the discussion is less than pointed, given Matthews' chronic inability to conduct an interview with any entity more challenging than a mirror. Still, it's very clear that as of Wednesday, the Red Cross was kept from delivering needed supplies within New Orleans, and in particular to the Superdome and the Convention Center, by the lack of a means to do so, which would have to have been provided by either the state of LA or by the Federal government.

So, where's the story, where's the bombshell?

Oddly, as Hewitt and Garrett continue their colloquy, they seem to expose the threadbare nature of the story, except that they manage not to notice. (emphasis mine)
HH: Now Major Garrett, let's turn to the convention center, because this will be, in the aftermath...did the Red Cross have ready to go into the convention center the supplies that we're talking about as well?

MG: Sure. They could have gone to any location, provided that the water wasn't too high, and they got some assistance.

HH: Now, were they utterly dependent upon the Louisiana state officials to okay them?

MG: Yes.

HH: Because you know, they do work with FEMA. But is it your understanding that FEMA and the Red Cross and the other relief agencies must get tht state's okay to act?

MG: As the Red Cross told me, they said look. We are not state actors. We are not the Army. We are a private organziation. We work in cooperation with both FEMA and the state officials. But the state told us A) it's not safe, because the water is dangerous. And we're now learning how toxic the water is. B) there's a security situation, because they didn't have a handle on the violence on the ground. And C) and I think this is most importantly, they wanted to evacuate out. They didn't want people to stay.
And once again, can we ask, where is the story here, where the bombshell? No matter, if the substance makes no sense, Hewitt is on the case to push forward with this devastating indictment of everyone but Bush & co:
HH: Now off the record, will the Red Cross tell you what they think of Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin?

MG: No.

HH: Will they tell you what they think about FEMA director Brown?

MG: No.

HH: Will they tell you any...will they give any advice of how to make sure this doesn't happen again?

MG: Well, there is something, Hugh, that I think we have to be honest with ourselves about. New Orleans is a situation, because of its geography, utterly unique in America. We don't build cities in bowls, except there. This complicated the Red Cross efforts, and the FEMA efforts, from the start. In the mid-90's, the Red Cross opened a shelter in South Carolina that was eventually flooded. And there was a big controversy about that. After that, the Red Cross made a policy decision that it would never shelter, or seek to shelter, any evacuee from any hurricane, anywhere where flooding was likely to occur. High ground is where they were going to be, and where they were going to go. Well, that basically rules out all of New Orleans.

HH: Sure. Does the Red Cross, though, assist in evacuation, Major Garrett?

MG: Not under the state plan in Louisiana. And not very many other places, either, because again, the Red Cross is a responding private charity. It is not an evacuation charity. It does not assume, as you can well imagine, Hugh, the inevitable liability that would come with being in charge of evacuating.

HH: How senior are your sources at the Red Cross, Major Garrett?

MG: They're right next to Marty Evans, the president.

HH: So you have no doubt in your mind that they have...

MG: Oh, none. None. And I want to give credit to Bill O'Reilly, because he had Marty Evans on the O'Reilly Factor last night. And this is the first time Marty Evans said it. She said it on the O'Reilly Factor last night in a very sort of brief intro to her longer comments about dealing with the housing and other needs of the evacuees now. She said look. We were ready. We couldn't go in. They wouldn't let us in, and the interview continued. I developed it more fully today.

HH: And the 'they' are the Louisiana state officials?

MG: Right.

HH: Now any in the 'they'...is the New Orleans' mayor's staff involved as well? Or the New Orleans police department?

MG: Not that I'm aware of, because the decision was made and communicated to the Red Cross by the state department of Homeland Security and the state National Guard. Both of which report to the governor.

HH: Do they have any paper records of this communication?

MG: I did not ask that. It's a good question. I'll follow up with them.

HH: I sure would love to know that. And if you get it, send it to me. We'll put it up on the blog. Major Garrett, great story. Please keep us posted. Look forward to talking to you a lot in the next couple of weeks on this story. Thanks for breaking away from the Fox News Channel this afternoon.
Is it just me, or is it not so that either they're crazy, or we are. Or perhaps its a certain habit of mind.

Obviously none of what Garrett reported contradicts the main outlines of the story of who and what failed New Orleans. The local authorities continuously asked for Federal help because they didn't have the means to get what relief was there to the people who needed it. Blame enough to go around, but none of that speaks to the responsibility of the President and his administration.

That isn't stopping this bombshell from exploding all over the rightwing blogisphere. For a nice sampling you can take a look at The Corner here here,here,here, here,here,andhere

All comments that fill in more of the actual story as against this faux version of it are most welcome.

Shared Sacrifice 

A Republican signs his own death sentence:
Rep. Randy Cunningham, a California Republican who also serves on the House Appropriations Committee, told Reuters after the meeting that conservatives fretted about the huge relief costs with "more storms (gathering off the southern coast), the Iraq war and health care" costs that are rapidly escalating for the federal government.

Cunningham said that none of those Republicans suggested scaling back costly tax-cut proposals they have advanced for the past few years. Instead, he said they urged the Bush administration to look at ways to save on Gulf Coast reconstruction by waiving rules requiring union laborers for upcoming federal contracts.
(via Yahoo)

And, like wasabi with sushi, you really should savor this at the same time.


When Brown left the iaha four years ago, he was, among other things, a failed former lawyer--a man with a 20-year-old degree from a semi-accredited law school who hadn't attempted to practice law in a serious way in nearly 15 years and who had just been forced out of his job in the wake of charges of impropriety. At this point in his life, returning to his long-abandoned legal career would have been very difficult in the competitive Colorado legal market. Yet, within months of leaving the iaha, he was handed one of the top legal positions in the entire federal government: general counsel for a major federal agency. A year later, he was made its number-two official, and, a year after that, Bush appointed him director of fema.

It's bad enough when attorneys are named to government jobs for which their careers, no matter how distinguished, don't qualify them. But Brown wasn't a distinguished lawyer: He was hardly a lawyer at all. When he left the iaha, he was a 47-year-old with a very thin resumé and no job. Yet he was also what's known in the Mafia as a "connected guy." That such a person could end up in one of the federal government's most important positions tells you all you need to know about how the Bush administration works--or, rather, doesn't.
(via TNR -- registration required)

UPDATE It turns out that OCU School of Law did become a member of the AALS in 2003. However, at the time of Brown's hiring in 2001, it was not a member.

I have e-mailed the author, Paul Campos of CU School of Law, and informed him of this.

Can't we all just get along? (Well, no) 

This from alert reader Sonoma in comments:

I had long assumed there to be no such thing as a political finish fight in this country. That is, the hackneyed "pendulum" of democratic give-and-take would ulimately right the equally hackneyed "ship of state".

I never believed that, mind you, merely trusted that to be true.

That trust is gone, and for one reason.

By my lights, the country was Big Lied into waging war. I cannot fathom why those in congress have acquieced in that treason. I am stunned at their casual treachery to this country, to humanity. They lack the simple courage to speak a simple truth: there was no breakdown in intelligence gathering, the intelligence was cooked.

This is not the nation I once knew. Probably never was. I wish I could say I feel the wiser for that understanding, but I don't. Just disoriented, and deeply sad.

"Fight to the finish..."

It would be nice if some Beltway Dem, any Beltway Dem, would recognize what's going on and fight back—for the sake of the poor, the old, the black, the sick who died in New Orleans because of deliberate, considered decisions by the Republicans who will, quite shortly, begin to profit by the deaths. (Say, another reminder of Iraq, eh?)

So, what's the difference between Katrina and the Iraq war? 

Somebody else can make up the punchline for that one...

Because what I'm seeing is the similarities:

1. No accountability

2. No plannning

3. Missing equipment

4. Hiding the bodies

5. Muzzling the press

6. Political appointees running the show (FEMA/CPA)

7. Refusal to admit error

And if history is any guide:

7. Stifled investigations

8. Massive sole-source, no-bid contracts to Halliburton for the "rebuilding"

Did I miss anything?

Hey, since at last we've got a Godly man in the White House... 

... that would really make the Katrina Clusterfuck an act of God, right?

Oh, wait... A just and loving God wouldn't condemn thousands to die by drowning just because they were poor, black, sick, or old.


FEMA, Orphan Of The Storm 

Two bits on FEMA:

First, from Mike Froomkin, a link to a post titled "I just got back from a FEMA Detainment Camp" by an author named Valhall, purporting to describe an evacuee camp set up by FEMA at a Baptist youth camp called Falls Church. He posted it hoping someone could prove it to be faked, but as he noted, and I concur, the behavior of FEMA's agents in these last days makes it all the more likely to be credible. Take a look at the text and photos, and maybe do a little digging on your own. At face value, I'd say it's probably real.

And second, an illuminating interview held this morning on NPR station WHYY's Radio Times with former FEMA Deputy Director George Haddow, who held the position under Clinton. He explains clearly what FEMA's responsibility is (to coordinate federal, state and local emergency services and to take the lead in situations of overwhelming disasters like Katrina), how Katrina should have been handled, how similar situations had been handled by his agency in the past, how state and local governments had been starved of funds and consequently cut back on emergency preparedness, and much more. He minces no words in assigning blame "all the way to the top." The interview will be available in archives later this afternoon, if you want to hear it.
UPDATE: The interview is up.

Someone (Andrew Sullivan?) said it's too bad this isn't a parliamentary system so we can have a vote of confidence on Bush. But you know at least 38% would be happy to keep him right where he is.

Eulogy For The American Dream 

Josh Marshall has put up a really fine Katrina event timeline, and invites contributions/corrections. He also notes the information shutdown on NOLA being engineered by FEMA, and comes to this conclusion:
"Take a moment to note what's happening here: these are the marks of repressive government, which mixes inefficiency with authoritarianism. The crew that couldn't get key aid on the scene in time last week is coming in in force now. And one of the key missions appears to be cutting off public information about what's happening in the city.
This is a domestic, natural disaster. Absent specific cases where members of the press would interfere or get in the way of some particular clean up operation, or perhaps demolition work, there is simply no reason why credentialed members of the press should not be able to cover everything that is happening in that city.
Think about it."
Well, a certain core group of people in the country aren't thinking about it at all, and thanks to the news blackout underway, they probably won't have to. Editor & Publisher reveals this, from a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released yesterday:
"While 42% of respondents characterized Bush's response to the disaster as bad or terrible, 35% said it was good or great. Federal agencies got exactly the same marks. State and local officials fared only a little better--their response was described as bad or terrible by 35% and good or great by 37%.
Again, the views were strongly based on partisan leanings, with Republicans giving the president good grades on this issue by a 69% to 10% margin, while Democrats' views were precisely the opposite. But independents gave Bush a thumbs down by 47% to 29%.
Asked who was MOST responsible for the post-hurricane problems, 13% picked Bush, 18% said federal agencies, 25% selected state/local officials and 38% said no one was to blame.
Asked if top officials in federal agencies responsible for emergencies should be fired, 29% said yes, and 63% no. "
You read it right. "35% said it was good or great", and "38% said no one was to blame"! H.L. Mencken once said that no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people, and P.T. Barnum said there was a sucker was born every minute, but neither of them may have ever fully grasped the utter meanness, domestic xenophobia, and fear-and-hate-fueled cruelty that currently underlays the American character. I used to think such people were the minority.

I know, now, that they are exactly who America is.

Originally posted at IMCT.

I Want A Little Perspective, Said Sean 

From The Medium Lobster:
"More importantly, one must recognize that there are limits to what powers the federal government should exercise in a crisis. Yes, it is the right and duty of the president to override state drug policy, to determine who can or cannot marry, to indefinitely detain citizens without due process and to torture and kill prisoners as he sees fit, but disaster relief is a matter that should be left to the states. Yes, the images of the drowned, the diseased, and the desperately dying drove much of the country to outrage, but how much more outraged would America have been if FEMA had fed the Superdome refugees without the full oversight and authorization of the State of Louisiana? Had the president sent rescue helicopters to evacuate New Orleans the day the levees burst, he might have saved thousands of lives, but he would also have overstepped his authority - and if there's one thing George W. Bush refuses to countenance, it is abuse of power."
And don't forget that it is also the right and duty of the president to intervene in a family matter when a life support decision has to be made, though for the folks in NOLA who were hoping for some life support---not so much.

Let's see...the court ordered the Schiavo feeding tube removed on Friday, March 18. And on Monday, March 21, Bush signed the bill to allow a federal court to review the case. That's 3 days. And this is what he said at the signing:
"Those who live at the mercy of others deserve our special care and concern. It should be our goal as a nation to build a culture of life, where all Americans are valued, welcomed, and protected..."
Still working on that, are we George?

Oh, well. It's hard work, huh?

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

"But screw your courage to the sticking-place, and we'll not fail." 

Oh, wait. That's Rehnquist's coffin.

I thought it was the coffin of a soldier who died in Iraq.

Or possibly a citizen who died in New Orleans.


Katrina: Media lockdown 

Funny I'm not reading this on the front pages of Pravda on the Potomac or Izvestia on the Hudson. But then, it's so much more comfortable in the tank. It's warm and safe there:

We are in Jefferson Parish, just outside of New Orleans. At the National Guard checkpoint, they are under orders to turn away all media. All of the reporters are turning they’re TV trucks around.
(Operation Flashlight via Kos)

So, what could it be they don't want us to see?

UPDATE Well, maybe this:

In the downtown business district here, on a dry stretch of Union Street, past the Omni Bank automated teller machine, across from a parking garage offering "early bird" rates: a corpse. Its feet jut from a damp blue tarp. Its knees rise in rigor mortis.

Night came, then this morning, then noon, and another sun beat down on a dead son of the Crescent City.

That a corpse lies on Union Street may not shock; in the wake of last week's hurricane, there are surely hundreds, probably thousands. What is remarkable is that on a downtown street in a major American city, a corpse can decompose for days, like carrion, and that is acceptable.
(The maybe not, for once, in the tank Times which finally has someone on the scene.

A corpse by an ATM machine, eh?

Hope someone drags it away soon. I need to use my debit card...

Katrina: So, will $2000 stave off bankruptcy? 

I don't think so. If Bush and the Republicans had anything in mind than the Rovian two-fer of a cheap payoff to their victims and a quick fix for their PR problems, they'd rework the Bankruptcy Bill for the benefit of the citizens of New Orleans. (You too, Joe Biden D-MBNA):

Hurricane Katrina survivors whose finances are in shambles may not qualify for federal bankruptcy protection once a new law with tough eligibility restrictions takes effect Oct. 17.

And anyone who intends to file before the new standards take effect must overcome other Katrina complications such as injuries, being moved to out-of-state shelters, the loss of personal financial records and the closure of the five federal courthouses in hurricane-ravaged areas of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

The Consumer Federation of America and the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys want Congress to pass a one-year waiver of the new law's toughest provisions for victims whose financial problems were caused or aggravated by Katrina or other natural disasters.

The one-year period is important because most post-hurricane bankruptcy filings occur many months after the storm. "Reality starts sinking in," said Bradford Botes, a board member of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys. "People can't make house payments. People can't make car payments or they missed those payments for a three- or four-month period and that's when foreclosures and repossession actions are initiated."

Democrats in Congress are drafting the legislation. They hope for bipartisan backing, but it's unclear whether Republican members, who strongly supported the tougher bankruptcy legislation, will favor the measure.

(via AP)

And I'm sure Bush and the Republicans will extend the right hand of good fellowship to this bipartisan effort...

The Department of Changing the Subject: When Bush said, "Send cash money," He wasn't kidding, was he? 

Following up on Xan's post immediately below:

Dispossessed victims of Hurricane Katrina will receive debit cards good for $2,000 to spend on clothing and other immediate needs.

Michael Brown, the embattled director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said those eligible for the unprecedented debit cards would be permitted to use the money "for emergency supplies they need" such as clothing. "The concept is to get them some cash on hand which allows them, empowers them to make their own decisions about what do they need to have to repair their own lives," he said.
(via AP)

I guess Bush thinks money can win him respect....

Meanwhile, New Orleans has been sealed off from the press. I wonder why?

NOTE On the one hand, "empower them." On the other, "emergency supplies that they need." Anyone know of debit card technology that works only on clothing? (RIFDs?)

UPDATE Shut up and take the money, lady:

There are dead babies tied to poles and they're dragging us out and leaving the dead babies. That ain't right!" she screamed, waving her arms as she was directed onto a troop carrier truck.

Debit Cards? 

Business Week is reporting the following:
SEP. 7 12:56 P.M. ET The federal government plans to begin doling out debit cards worth $2,000 each to adult victims of Hurricane Katrina, The Associated Press has learned.

Homeland Security Department Secretary Michael Chertoff descibed the plan in a conference call with state officials Wednesday morning. The unprecedented cash card program initially will benefit stranded people who have been moved to major rescue centers such as the Houston Astrodome.

"They are going to start issuing debit cards, $2,000 per adult, today (Wednesday) at the Astrodome," said Kathy Walt, a spokeswoman for Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
It's an AP piece, sourced to "a state official who was on the call who requested anonymity because the program has not been officially announced."

Hmm. Money straight into the hands of the people who need it. No contractors, no Haliburton....of course no mention of what financial institution is going to be in charge of this or what their rakeoff...er, I mean "service charge" is liable to be. Allowing for such quibbles though, it seems like such a good idea that I can't believe anybody in the Bush administration came up with it.

Which means it's probably a trial balloon. Potential pitfalls, anyone?

UPDATE So why the hell didn't they try this with the Iraqis? Would have been a hell of a lot cheaper!—Lambert

Nutshell Time 

The one-paragraph, two-sentence definition of What's Wrong With These Idiots:

Words Speak Louder Than Actions

It's been the theme of the Bush administration all along. When your disaster relief agency is stacked with people whose former experience was doing campaign and PR work for Bush, it's no surprise that they define "disaster" as "stuff that makes George Bush look bad" and "disaster response" as "pictures of the preznit looking like he's doing stuff."
(sez Atrios of Eschaton)

Please Help 

Don't forget the many thousands displaced who are desperate to find their loved ones. Go here for more information, and please post that info on your blog if you have one. You'll never know whose life you may change by it.

Info on finding lost pets when I have it.

The Investigation President 

"Are we ready for the next major catastrophe?"--Morning Edition, 9/7/05.

Well, sure. They'll piss around with their thumbs up their asses (the tough go shopping, eh, Condi?) until a sufficient number of expendables are dead and dying that they can safely come in, survey the devastation they've allowed, and then blame "bureaucracy" and call out in high dudgeon for another "investigation."

Sam Rosenfeld at Tapped points up the shining paradigm of the Bush admin, and the ideology that underpins it:
"That’s the Bush approach in a nutshell -- make messes, then take credit for boldly tackling those messes. Exacerbate crises, and then expend maximum effort to reap the political rewards that are inherent to occupying the office to which the public instinctively turns in times of such crisis."
And just in case you thought it didn't have anything to do with deliberate genocide, Yglesias outlines the methodical destruction wrought by Bush on the nation's safety net, though his conclusion is rather lame: left and right should come together and compromise on a solution--give money to the poor AND deal with out-of-wedlock births. Please! Out-of-wedlock births have been steadily decreasing, while the gap between rich and poor has expanded steadily under Bush. Funny how the people who claim that throwing money at a problem never works are always the people who have enough money to throw at their own problems (like education for their kids.)

Money is for those who deserve it. The rest get after-the-fact, poseur "investigations".

UPDATE: Words fail me.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Katrina: Can't anyone here play this game? 

Katrina-whisperer Mike "Heck of a Job" Brown tells his employees that image is everything:

[Brown's memo on Aug. 29] told [FEMA] employees that among their duties, they would be expected to "convey a positive image of disaster operations to government officials, community organizations and the general public."
(via AP)

OK, finally we know what Brown's job was.

So now can't we fire him for not doing it?

Shit, shit, shit. Goddamit. 

Sorry for my absence. I am dismally bummed out about the demise of New Orleans. It was one of the favorite cities of my youth, as a budding young blues and jazz player wannabe and fan of Creole culture, and I have tried to make it back often since.

No more jazz in the park? No more Jazz and Heritage Festival? No more drinking and fishing and playing music along the levee and the streets? No more eating that fine, fine fiery food at the little dives along the lake, listening to Zydeco and drinking Dixie beers?

No more Mardi Gras? I’m not talking about the French Quarter. My favorite places were always the ones that are now drowned, my favorite crowd to hang out with the ones who are now dead or displaced, not the touristy joints (unless someone I had to see was gigging).

Shit, shit, shit. All gone. Because of an incompetent government.

And on Labor Day weekend, too, with the harvest starting to get in full swing. Let me tell you, aside from making plans to help with relief, it was a solemn day at the Union Hall. Even the picnic was no picnic.

Gotta get back to boots on the ground. Trying to raise money for the relief. Local public radio’s letting me on some. Trying to make sure this influences everyone’s ’06 voting plans. Hope everyone else is, too. Maybe New Orleans will rise again and we’ll run these smarmy scumsuckers out of office.

Katrina: OJ's going to find the real killer! 

No, no. Wrong headline. Sorry about that.

Bush is going to investigate Katrina!

"What I intend to do is to lead an investigation to find out what went right and what went wrong," Bush said.

"It's very important for us to understand the relationship between the federal government, the state government and the local government when it comes to a major catastrophe. And the reason it's important is, is that we still live in an unsettled world. We want to make sure that we can respond properly if there's a WMD attack or another major storm. And so I'm going to find out over time what went right and what went wrong," Bush said.
(via LA Times)

"Over time," eh? That's rich.

Who wants to bet that "over time" means after the 2008 elections? (Not 2006, mind you, 2008). After all, Jebbie might run, and it would be really bad if the treatment (Red) Florida got was compared to the treatment (Blue) New Orleans got. People might start asking awkward questions, wondering if any Bush could really be "President of all the people" ....

Katrina: Our delusional Preznit 

It all comes down to President Shit Magnet's character, doesn't it?

Later in Biloxi, Miss., Bush tried to comfort two stunned women wandering their neighborhood clutching Hefty bags, looking in vain for something to salvage from the rubble of their home. [Bush] kept insisting they could find help at a Salvation Army center down the street, even after another bystander had informed him it had been destroyed.
(via Ap)

That's Inerrant Boy in a "nut" shell, isn't it?

1. He's wrong.

2. Other people tell Him He's wrong, and give the evidence.

3. He insists He's right.

Didn't work in the Iraq Clusterfuck (except for the 2002 midterms, of course), and it isn't working in the Katrina Clusterfuck either.

National Weather Service: Science-driven agency, or target of opportunity? 

There's a wonderful post at Kos from a meteologist on how the effects of Katrina were absolutely predictable:

Everyone I know in meteorology understood that New Orleans was living on borrowed time. This scenario -- NOLA taking a direct hit from a major hurricane -- had been discussed ad infinitum in meteorology (and emergency management) circles for years as being one of the most (if not the most) deadly serious weather disasters America could ever face. Unfortunately, last weekend, New Orleans' time had run out.

We in the United States are lucky to be served by the most advanced government-run weather service on the globe

On the eve of Katrina's landfall, the professional forecasters at regional National Weather Service offices across the southeast and the agency's National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami gave dire warnings on what was sure to be a weather calamity that this county has not seen in over a century (since the Galveston, TX hurricane of 1900).

So, who wants to bet on how long it takes Bush to gut yet another science-driven agency?

And how wants to bet on how long it takes for Bush to blame "poor intelligence" from the NWS for the Katrina clusterfuck?

The Disaster Isn't Over; It Squats In The West Wing Still 

At uggabugga, Quiddity has a searing graphic timeline that puts the nail in the coffin Bushco slammed down on NOLA's undeserving poor.

Help For Katrina's Victims 

From the new site, Katrina Refugees United:
"If you are a victim of Hurricane Katrina, register with this site to let the world know how to contact you. You can give as much detail as you'd like. Then anyone visiting refugeesunited.org can quickly find out how you are doing.

If you are looking for a victim in the Gulf Coast region, you can search for your loved one's name and location. In the very near future, you will be able to post your questions to this site so that your query will be visible to anyone visiting refugeesunited.org.

This site is designed to be a central collection point for information on anyone impacted by Hurricane Katrina. Tell everyone about refugeesunited.org. We're here to help."
If you have a blog, please post this info and the link to the site. Help get the word out so these folks can find their friends and families. No central record-keeping of names has yet been created, and currently many people are scattered all over the country, some unable to remember their own names, who have been separated from the people who care for them. Spread the word.

UPDATE: The Other Sarah has more news for those trying to locate loved ones-- there's also a link for the displaced at the Red Cross website, here. You can choose to register in English, Spanish, or if you're like Lambert, in French. Thanks, TOSarah!

Monday, September 05, 2005

Karina: College kids in van do a DIY evacuation 

At some point—tinfoil hat time—you have to wonder if FEMA was incompetent, or something far worse:

DURHAM -- A trio of Duke University sophomores say they drove to New Orleans late last week, posed as journalists to slip inside the hurricane-soaked city twice, and evacuated seven people who weren't receiving help from authorities.

The group, led by South Carolina native Sonny Byrd, say they also managed to drive all the way to the New Orleans Convention Center, where they encountered scenes early Saturday evening that they say were disgraceful.

"We found it absolutely incredible that the authorities had no way to get there for four or five days, that they didn't go in and help these people, and we made it in a two-wheel-drive Hyundai," said Hans Buder, who made the trip with his roommate Byrd and another student, David Hankla.

Buder's account -- told by cell phone Sunday evening as the trio neared Montgomery, Ala., on their way home -- chronicled a three-day odyssey that began when the students, angered by the news reports they were seeing on CNN, loaded up their car with bottled water and headed for the Gulf coast to see if they could lend a hand.

"Anyone who knows that area, if you had a bus, it would take you no more than 20 minutes to drive in with a bus and get these people out," Buder said. "They sat there for four or five days with no food, no water, babies getting raped in the bathrooms, there were murders, nobody was doing anything for these people. And we just drove right in, really disgraceful. I don't want to get too fired up with the rhetoric, but some blame needs to be placed somewhere."

The first group included three women and a man. The students climbed into the front seats of the four-door Hyundai, and the evacuees filled the back seat. They left the city and headed back to Baton Rouge. There they deposited the man at the LSU medical center and took the women to dinner. The women later found shelter with relatives, and the students got about four hours' sleep inside the LSU chapel.
(via Durham Herald Sun)

It's almost as if a right-wing ideologue decided to create an object lesson that nobody should trust the government to help them... Never attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence, but still.

Katrina: Now the Republicans are shifting the blame to "red tape" 

Seems that even Rove's awesomely efficient disinformation apparatus isn't going to be able to shift the blame to the local (Democratic) officials in New Orleans. (I mean, how clumsy is it to claim that Louisiana didn't claim a state of emergency in time when 5 seconds on Google shows they did, and it's a matter of public record"? These guys must be badly rattled.)

So, now the blame is being shifted again—to that old Republican standby, "red tape." You see, government is still the enemy!

Sen. Trent Lott berated both the Federal Emergency Management Agency and his own state's emergency management, MEMA, for being mired in red tape at a time of urgent need given the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina.

Lott said he has been trying to get FEMA to send 20,000 trailers "sitting in Atlanta" to the Mississippi coast, and he urged President Bush during a meeting Monday to intervene. He said FEMA has refused to ship the trailers until contracts are secured.

Lott said he appreciated Bush's visit, but stressed to the president the need to cut through the bureaucracy.
(via CNN)

Well, sure. But it's hard to hold "bureauracy" and "red tape" accountable, isb't it? Isn't Lott being just a little vague on that good old Republican standby, personal accountability? Or doesn't Lott believe that anyone is really in charge?

UPDATE Actually, the responsibility issue could even get worse. MyDD astutely points out:

Bush/Rove waited until five days after the disaster to authorize the dispatch of troops. What were they doing for the previous five days? The US had troops and food into Bande Ache, Sumatra within two days of the Tsunami. Are we to believe that for the first five days, Bush/Rove were just out of commission? Or that after 5 days, they finally got smoked out themselves?

I would say that regardless, the federal takeover of New Orleans is just beginning to play out...

Kinda makes you wonder about all those stories about FEMA actually turning away help. It's not just isolated incidents, but a pattern. Why would they do that?

Katrina: Clinton: 100% of the people recognize "government's" failure 

Well, 99.99% do, except for the gang of spinning bitter enders in the West Wing:

ormer President Bill Clinton on Monday said the government "failed" the thousands of people who lived in coastal communities devastated by Hurricane Katrina, and said a federal investigation was warranted in due time.

"Our government failed those people in the beginning, and I take it now there is no dispute about it," Clinton told CNN. "One hundred percent of the people recognize that -- that it was a failure."

As with the 9/11 commission charged with looking at the events leading up to and after the September 11, 2001 attacks, Clinton suggested a bipartisan Katrina commission be formed. It would investigate what went wrong and determine "what is the best structure and what are the best personnel decisions" to make in emergency management, he said.
(via CNN)

Pass the popcorn!

NOTE I think it's super-tactful of Clinton not to mention who's in charge of all three branches of the federal government right now...

Katrina: How many dead babies for a Bush photo op? 

Thanks to alert reader Nick, via bloggy:

Three tons of food ready for delivery by air to refugees in St. Bernard Parish and on Algiers Point sat on the Crescent City Connection bridge Friday afternoon as air traffic was halted because of President Bush’s visit to New Orleans, officials said.

The provisions, secured by U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-Napoleonville, and state Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom, baked in the afternoon sun as Bush surveyed damage across southeast Louisiana five days after Katrina made landfall as a Category 4 storm, said Melancon’s chief of staff, Casey O’Shea.

“We had arrangements to airlift food by helicopter to these folks, and now the food is sitting in trucks because they won’t let helicopters fly,” O’Shea said Friday afternoon.

The food was expected to be in the hands of storm survivors after the president left the devastated region Friday night, he said.
(via Times)

Infants need formula maybe seven times a day.

Of course, we don't know that there was any formula "sitting in the trucks,""baking in the sun" for a whole day (though other Federal airlifted food has included formula)....

So we can't actually prove that Bush killed babies just for a photo op....

UPDATE And even if we could, I'm definitely NOT ANGRY about it.

The Magnificent Opportunity 

Surprise, it's not New Orleans!

Via Billmon, who is way too kind to him, we find David Broder sucking on the bones of the dead, cracking every last marrowy tidbit out of the political opportunity they afford for his hero:
"We cannot yet calculate the political fallout from Hurricane Katrina and its devastating human and economic consequences, but one thing seems certain: It makes the previous signs of political weakness for Bush, measured in record-low job approval ratings, instantly irrelevant and opens new opportunities for him to regain his standing with the public...for a president who believes that actions speak louder than words, this is an advantageous setting."
Yes, this is a magnificent opportunity for Bush to salvage his low ratings (isn't this the president who pays no attention to polls?), and Broder, who has been on the Bush team long lo these many years, says "Have at it!" He goes on to skewer the "fragmented" Congress, those puling, gutless punks, but notes that "...the president flew back from vacation to take command of the hurricane response..." Take command, did he? He didn't even know what the fuck time of day it was! He was led by the hand like the babyfied, spoiled brat he is, and told every step of the way how to respond. Hell, if he didn't have Karl Rove to pull his strings he'd likely still be back in Texas with his pud in his hand, beating off to fantasies of Cindy Sheehan.

In a new low, even for Broder, he write this with a straight face:
"The decline of oversight hearings on Capitol Hill reflects what many of the commentators called a loss of institutional pride in Congress. Majority Republicans see themselves first and foremost as members of the Bush team -- and do not want to make trouble by asking hard questions. Democrats find it more rewarding to raise campaign funds and cultivate their own constituencies."
conyersFunny how everyone forgets people like Henry Waxman and John Conyers, isn't it? Just this week I got this in my e-mail from John:
"First, I have asked the Federal Trade Commission to study price gouging in the gasoline market...

Second, as Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee, I plan to introduce legislation explicitly giving the federal government authority to pursue such price gouging actions -- price gouging is a national problem, and it warrants a national response...

Third, I am introducing a law to amend the Bankruptcy Code so that the most onerous provisions of the new law, scheduled to take effect October 17, do not inflict damage on the millions of victims of Hurricane Katrina and their families."
Yes, John Conyers, who everyone including Broder's colleague at the WaPo, Dana Milbank (hahahah, good one, Dana, you kill us) had such a good laugh at when the Bush-controlled Congress forced him to hold his inquiries into impeachment in some basement, and who tried to hold Bushco accountable for their deadly lies before the war. And Henry Waxman, who has fought the good fight against Bush on too many fronts to enumerate. But no one in the "grown-up press" pays any mind to these folks. No, people like Milbank laugh them off the radar, and then people like Broder cast aspersions at the entire political body because it's so easy to lie, lie, lie about it all and create the reality they want and because the whole country is so numb from bullshit that people have just stopped trying to winnow the wheat from the chaff.

They need to shut up and go down there. They need to shut up and do something worthwhile and useful for once in their pathetic, pampered lives. They need to stop talking about the political opportunities and take someone some food.

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