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"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." Theodore Roosevelt


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Saturday, September 10, 2005

Recall George



Bill Maher is as brilliant and hilarious as ever... Enjoy (video).

Brownie's Plight

File this under: Who Gives A Shit.
Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown sent a candid e-mail to family and friends this week as he was becoming the center of criticism of the handling of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. "I don't mind the negative press (well, actually, I do, but I try to ignore it) but it is really wearing out the family," Brown wrote. "No wonder people don't go into public service. This country is devouring itself, the 24-hour news cycle is numbing our ability to think for ourselves," the Rocky Mountain News reported Saturday. [...] "It's horrible," said Mary Ann Karns, an Oklahoma lawyer who once worked with Brown in the Edmond, Okla., city government and got the e-mail addressed. "He does not deserve this as a human being."
While thousands suffered and died due to his incompetence, Brownie cries foul for a barrage of criticism. Ah, the Aristocrats... Boo-fucking-hoo.

August 26, 2005

While the White House surrogates continue to pin the slow response on the local officials... The evidence speaks to the contrary.
GOVERNOR BLANCO DECLARES STATE OF EMERGENCY

BATON ROUGE, LA--Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco today issued Proclamation No. 48 KBB 2005, declaring a state of emergency for the state Louisiana as Hurricane Katrina poses an imminent threat, carrying severe storms, high winds, and torrential rain that may cause flooding and damage to private property and public facilities, and threaten the safety and security of the citizens of the state of Louisiana The state of emergency extends from Friday, August 26, 2005, through Sunday, September 25, 2005, unless terminated sooner.

The full text of Proclamation No. 48 KBB 2005 is as follows:

WHEREAS, the Louisiana Homeland Security and Emergency Assistance and Disaster Act, R.S. 29:721, et seq., confers upon the governor of the state of Louisiana emergency powers to deal with emergencies and disasters, including those caused by fire, flood, earthquake or other natural or man-made causes, in order to ensure that preparations of this state will be adequate to deal with such emergencies or disasters and to preserve the lives and property of the citizens of the state of Louisiana;

WHEREAS, when the governor finds a disaster or emergency has occurred, or the threat thereof is imminent, R.S. 29:724(B)(1) empowers her to declare the state of disaster or emergency by executive order or proclamation, or both; and

WHEREAS, On August 26, 2005, Hurricane Katrina poses an imminent threat to the state of Louisiana, carrying severe storms, high winds, and torrential rain that may cause flooding and damage to private property and public facilities, and threaten the safety and security of the citizens of Louisiana;

NOW THEREFORE I, KATHLEEN BABINEAUX BLANCO,
Governor of the state of Louisiana, by virtue of the authority vested by the Constitution and laws of the state of Louisiana, do hereby order and direct as follows:

SECTION 1: Pursuant to the Louisiana Homeland Security and Emergency Assistance and Disaster Act, R.S. 29:721, et seq., a state of emergency is declared to exist in the state of Louisiana as Hurricane Katrina poses an imminent threat, carrying severe storms, high winds, and torrential rain that may cause flooding and damage to private property and public facilities, and threaten the safety and security of the citizens of the state of Louisiana;

SECTION 2: The state of Louisiana's emergency response and recovery program is activated under the command of the director of the state office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness to prepare for and provide emergency support services and/or to minimize the effects of the storm's damage.

SECTION 3: The state of emergency extends from Friday, August 26, 2005, through Sunday, September 25, 2005, unless terminated sooner.

Decisions, Decisions

Some good...
I went to Florida a few days after President Bush did to observe the damage from Hurricane Andrew. I had dealt with a lot of natural disasters as governor, including floods, droughts, and tornadoes, but I had never seen anything like this. I was surprised to hear complaints from both local officials and residents about how the Federal Emergency Management Agency was handling the aftermath of the hurricane. Traditionally, the job of FEMA director was given to a political supporter of the President who wanted some plum position but who had no experience with emergencies. I made a mental note to avoid that mistake if I won. Voters don't chose a President based on how he'll handle disasters, but if they're faced with one themselves, it quickly becomes the most important issue in their lives.
Some not so good...
The federal official in charge of the bungled New Orleans rescue was fired from his last private-sector job overseeing horse shows. And before joining the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a deputy director in 2001, GOP activist Mike Brown had no significant experience that would have qualified him for the position.
Mike Brown has been relieved of duty, but should the criticism end there? Who is ultimately accountable for having such an underqualified official in a position responsible for the safety of so many? Yes, Brownie is gone, but the buck doesn't stop there.

Orwell's Observations

The constraints of freedom...
Organizers of the Pentagon's 9/11 memorial Freedom Walk on Sunday are taking extraordinary measures to control participation in the march and concert, with the route fenced off and lined with police and the event closed to anyone who does not register online by 4:30 p.m. today. The march, sponsored by the Department of Defense, will wend its way from the Pentagon to the Mall along a route that has not been specified but will be lined with four-foot-high snow fencing to keep it closed and "sterile," said Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense. The US Park Police will have its entire Washington force of several hundred on duty and along the route, on foot, horseback and motorcycles and monitoring from above by helicopter. Officers are prepared to arrest anyone who joins the march or concert without a credential and refuses to leave, said Park Police Chief Dwight E. Pettiford. The event, the America Supports You Freedom Walk, is billed as a memorial to victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks and a show of support for those serving in the military, topped off with a concert by country singer Clint Black, known for his pro-troops anthem, "Iraq and Roll." Organizers said they expect 3,000 to 10,000 participants.
Yes, freedom is on the march, for the those who pass the registration vetting... For those who can enter the police enforced barricaded area. Freedom indeed. And war is peace.

Write Your Own Caption

New Orleans



Mark Childress:
For outsiders New Orleans was a place to party and eat food that is way too rich. For the folks who live there it's more complicated - it's home. Eighty-five percent of them were born there, and they're not going anywhere permanently, so forget this idea they're going to move the city somewhere else. It's not going to happen. New Orleans is the opposite of America, and we must hold onto places that are the opposite of us. New Orleans is not fast or energetic or efficient, not a go-get-'em Calvinist well-ordered city. It's slow, lazy, sleepy, sweaty, hot, wet, lazy and exotic.
Ann Rice:
I know that New Orleans will win its fight in the end. I was born in the city and lived there for many years. It shaped who and what I am. Never have I experienced a place where people knew more about love, about family, about loyalty and about getting along than the people of New Orleans. It is perhaps their very gentleness that gives them their endurance. They will rebuild as they have after storms of the past; and they will stay in New Orleans because it is where they have always lived, where their mothers and their fathers lived, where their churches were built by their ancestors, where their family graves carry names that go back 200 years. They will stay in New Orleans where they can enjoy a sweetness of family life that other communities lost long ago.
Andrew Schwartz:
It is hard to imagine that there will be music streaming forth from the Crescent City again anytime soon. It may not be possible to rebuild New Orleans the way it was, or even at all. But if the musicians of New Orleans have anything to say about it, and they will, bets are that a joyful noise will ultimately cut right through the muck. New Orleans musicians have been a source of great civic pride and entertainment for the city and the world. The city is the New Orleans musicians' muse, the place where they could perform in historic clubs any night of the week. Without the city, the rich musical traditions that first coalesced in Congo Square are in jeopardy of disappearing forever. Let's hope that one day the indomitable citizens of New Orleans and their musical community can return and start parading once again through dry streets.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Leading by Example

Thank you Mr. Gore.
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. Gore criticized the Bush administration's slow response to Katrina in a speech Friday in San Francisco, but refused to be interviewed about the mercy missions he financed and flew on Sept. 3 and 4. However, Dr. Anderson Spickard, who is Gore's personal physician and accompanied him on the flights, said: "Gore told me he wanted to do this because like all of us he wanted to seize the opportunity to do what one guy can do, given the assets that he has."
Thanks to Mastrick for the tip, who offered this perspective:
So here's the tale of two wealthy Nashvillians, both of whom live in the affluent Belle Meade section of town. Al Gore helps hurricane victims, but refuses to talk about his efforts, or have his picture taken. Bill Frist cuts funding for New Orleans levee and pump improvements that were part of legislation passed in 1996. Nashville, like all other cities has both good and evil...

Corporate Welfare

Via cheap wages...

Proclamation by the President: To Suspend Subchapter IV of Chapter 31 of Title 40, United States Code, Within a Limited Geographic Area in Response to the National Emergency Caused by Hurricane Katrina

A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America

1. Section 3142(a) of title 40, United States Code, provides that "every contract in excess of $2,000, to which the Federal Government or the District of Columbia is a party, for construction, alteration, or repair, including painting and decorating, of public buildings and public works of the Government or the District of Columbia that are located in a State or the District of Columbia and which requires or involves the employment of mechanics or laborers shall contain a provision stating the minimum wages to be paid various classes or laborers and mechanics."

2. Section 3142(b) of title 40, United States Code, provides that such "minimum wages shall be based on the wages the Secretary of Labor determines to be prevailing for the corresponding classes of laborers and mechanics employed on projects of a character similar to the contract work in the civil subdivision of the State in which the work is to be performed . . ."

That's right, Mr. President just suspended minimum wage to protect the interest of the insurance companies. Wow. That was quick. What a guy.

Thanks to Laura Flanders for the tip.

Chickenhawkette

Referring to Kyra Phillips, John Aravosis asks: Who is that idiot woman on CNN?



From the Naval Operational Medicine Institute:
NOMI Detachment Central hosted CNN Anchor and Correspondent Kyra Phillips aboard NAS Pensacola from 17-19 December as she participated in two days of aviation survival training. The survival training was in preparation for an upcoming S-3B Viking flight aboard the USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) currently operating in the Arabian Sea. [...] Ms. Phillips is no stranger to naval aviation or survival training having participated in naval aviation survival training once before prior to flying in an F/A-18D with TOPGUN. During her recent survival training aboard NAS Pensacola, Ms. Phillips was introduced to LT Scott Kartvedt, Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron opposing solo this past year. Ms. Phillips may get to continue her association with naval aviation via the "Blue Angels" in the future.
And from her bio on CNN:
In 2002, Phillips became the first female journalist to fly in an F-14 air-to-air combat training mission over the Persian Gulf. For a full month Phillips produced exclusive reports on the U.S. Navy's reconnaissance missions from the P-3 aircraft and maritime interdiction operations from the USS Paul Hamilton. For the first time ever, television audiences got a look inside the training of Naval Special Warfare, the Navy's Special Operations Command. Phillips also observed Navy SEALS and Special Warfare Combatant Crewman training for a possible conflict with Iraq. Phillips has extensive police, SWAT and weapons training. She also has reported on and participated in specialized aviation training with the Navy's elite TOPGUN School.
Now, I may be naive, but I would think a journalist would have to be pretty tight with the Pentagon to have that kind of privilege. Fair and balanced reporting? Sounds like a conflict of interest to me.

Plastic Dog Tags

The perfect symbolism of the Administration's support for our troops...



And they are being handed out to the attendants of Sunday's Pentagon sponsored Freedom Walk. I thought this event was all about honoring the victims of 9-11? More details at the Liberal Avenger.

Bye Bye Brownie

The AP reports:
Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown is being removed from his role managing Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, The Associated Press has learned. Brown is being sent back to Washington from Baton Rouge, where he was the primary official overseeing the federal government's response to the disaster, according to two federal officials who declined to be identified before the announcement. [...] Brown will be replaced by Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad w. Allen, who was overseeing New Orleans relief and rescue efforts. [...] On Thursday, questions were raised about whether he padded his resume to highlight his previous emergency management background. Less than an hour before Brown's removal came to light, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Brown had not resigned and the president had not asked for his resignation. McClellan did not directly answer a question about whether the president had full confidence in Brown.
Spin and denial right to the end, but Hell, it's a start.

Thanks to H for the tip.

Donald Rumsfeld’s 9/11 Folly

By Michael I. Niman. I Raq and Roll right into Fascism...
Earlier [last] month, when Internet news reports quoted Donald Rumsfeld announcing that the Defense Department would use public funds to organize a pro-war rally on the fourth anniversary of the September 11 th attacks, many people assumed this to be an urban myth. It couldn't be true. Rumsfeld's supposed quest to defile the memory of 9/11 victims by pimping their tragic deaths to support an unrelated war represents a new low – even for the unabashed arrogance of the Bush administration. "Bad taste" is an understatement. This is like bringing home a hooker on your wedding anniversary. But lo and behold, this story is for real.

The upcoming September 11 th "Freedom March" from the Pentagon to the National Mall represents the military's latest foray into the domestic propaganda business. In what The New York Times terms "an ill-considered attempt to link the Iraq War to the terrorist attacks of 2001," the march will be both a "memorial" for the September 11 th victims, and a support our troops pep rally, for the ill-named "War on Terror."

Triumph of the Will

The Freedom March, as described by its Pentagon organizers, promises to be pure unadulterated militaristic jingoism. If they're successful in drawing a crowd, it would be a classic example of the type of pageantry that has historically been the hallmark of fascist societies – the type of mass display chronicled, for example, in Leni Riefenstahl's classic 1934 Nazi propaganda film, Triumph of the Will.

Toward this end, government agencies are encouraging their employees to march in the Pentagon event. On August 19 th, for example, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, in a move reminiscent of Soviet-era May Day marches, "urged" all employees of the Veterans Administration to attend the Freedom Walk. This is much the same mechanism that assured Saddam of huge crowds to line the routes of his gross military parades. Such official pageantry is a staple of Kim Jong Il's North Korea. We've seen this in Enver Hoxha's Albania, Slobodan Milošević's Serbia, Mussolini's Italy, Franco's Spain and Deng Xiaoping's China. It's nothing new. The Roman Empire pioneered using mass spectacle as a propaganda device to project the power of the state.

Lockheed and Disney

Rumsfeld and Bush, in attempting to organize their little mass spectacle, are just following a well-worn path. Only this time there's a new twist. Government by corporations needs a corporate sponsor. Hence, September 11 th's Freedom Walk will be sponsored by Lockheed Martin – the defense contractor that makes all those nifty smart bombs that are vaporizing billions of our tax dollars, not to mention "liberated" Iraqi cities like Fallujah. And it's sponsored by Subway – they're the ones who make all those submarine sandwiches that we will no longer be eating. And it's sponsored by various Washington DC area radio and TV stations, including the local Disney/ABC affiliate – they're the people who will be bringing us "fair and balanced" news reports about the Freedom Walk. They're also the same people who unquestioningly echoed the Bush administration's false assertions of Iraq having weapons of mass destruction and being connected to the 9/11 attacks.

The venerable Washington Post was also lined up to sponsor the Freedom Walk until the leadership committee of it's union, the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild Local 32035, unanimously condemned the decision, pointing out that "Post news employees are subject to disciplinary action for participating in political activities…" For the newspaper itself to co-sponsor an event that, according to Editor and Publisher, has drawn fire for its alleged "pro-war tilt" reeks of hypocrisy and undermines the credibility of the newspaper. The union argued that if the Post really wants to honor America's troops, they should give their employees a day off on Veterans Day. The Post heeded one of the union's two requests, and cancelled their sponsorship of Rumsfeld's march.

The Pentagon spinmeisters are still holding steady, arguing that the Freedom Walk is not a pro-war political demonstration, and it's not meant to link the Iraq War to the 9/11 attacks – it's just a dual purpose event, memorializing the victims of 9/11 while celebrating America's fighting forces.

I Raq and Roll

The keynote performer headlining Freedom Walk's rally on the National Mall will be Country Music performer Clint Black, who recently hit the charts with radio giant Clear Channel Inc. blasting his hit single "I Raq and Roll" across the nation. Black's song opens with a body slam against the peace movement, with the first line bellowing, "You can take your signs in protest against America taking stands. The stands America's taken are the reason that you can." This tired logic has the Vietnamese peasants and not the Nixon administration as threatening our freedoms in the 1960s and 70s. The Vietnamese won, and today they make Nike sneakers while John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzalez continue in the Nixonian tradition of undermining our civil liberties.

Deeper into I Raq and Roll, Black comes out of the closet wearing a brown shirt, crooning "I Raq, I rack'em up and I roll. I'm back and I'm a high tech G.I. Joe." This G.I. Joe goes on to warn the Iraqis – the people who, according to last month's official narrative, we liberated – "There's no price too high for freedom, so be careful where you tread." Hmmm? Black even acknowledges Freedom Walk sponsor Lockheed Martin's products in his song, singing "It might be a smart bomb – they find stupid people too…" And of course he also acknowledges that good old fashion killing staple as well, crooning on, "and I've got that good old fashioned lead… so be careful where you tread."

If you show up at Freedom Walk expecting a solemn memorial for the victims of the 9/11 attacks you'll be more than disappointed – you'll be absolutely sickened at this celebration of killing. And in all likelihood, if you show any signs of disgust, you'll be barred from the march the same way people with protest messages on their bumpers or lapels have been barred from all of George W. Bush's public speaking events. In order to participate in the Freedom March events, people will have to line up and register with the Department of Defense. How's that for an Orwellian twist on freedom? And if the registrant is between the ages of 14 and 35, no doubt they'll be getting an invitation from the military to participate in more marches – as cannon fodder.

Taking out the Garbage

What's the matter? Fascism isn't for you. Perhaps you have a weak stomach? Freedom Walk headliner Clint Black ends his hit song with a message just for you: "Now you can come along or you can stay behind or you can get out of the way, but our troops take out the garbage for the good old U.S.A. I rock, I rack'em up and I roll in the U.S.A. I rock, I rack'em up and I roll. I'm talking about the U.S.A."

Let me say the work again. Fascism. F-A-S-C-I-S-M. It's more than an illegal war and a corrupt criminal administration that we're facing. It's more than corporate pillage and ecocide. The Bush administration represents an attack on the very freedoms that military veterans and civil rights activists alike have died to protect. The Pentagon's detestable pageantry will only serve to expose the Bush administration for what it is while deepening the wounds in a nation that, according to polls, is more and more uncertain about who was ultimately responsible for the events of 9/11.
Please note, this piece was written August 25th, days before the Administration's failure to urgently respond to those struggling for survival in the wake of Katrina's destruction... I wonder how much stronger Mr. Niman's feelings of contempt are now?

Nero's America

Where we celebrate failure, in the midst of another...



Hell, the show must go on! Freedom's on the march baby!

George W. Bush Still Rocks! Stop Criticizing!

By Mark Morford.

The rich man's CEO president is executing his job requirements perfectly...

Everyone is slamming poor Dubya. Everyone is saying, oh my God, he's more inept than we ever imagined, he has no idea what's really going on, he's oblivious and in denial and he pretty much let all those poor black people die in filth and misery, and he basically ignored the massive Katrina disaster for days before finally being pressured into cutting his umpteenth vacation short and actually taking action.

This is what they're saying. Kanye West was right, Bush doesn't care about black people, or the poor, or anything that doesn't directly serve his handlers' agenda or flatter his monochromatic ego or anything that isn't spelled out for him in nice simplistic pie charts and reassuring matronly tones.

And lo, the darts are slinging in from around the world, according to SF Gate's own World Views column: "Maddening incompetence ... reminiscent of a drought-stricken African state," says Britain's Daily Mail. "Can't get it together," says a major paper in Italy. "A plethora of grim tales of disaster," says the Scotsman. "Superpower or Third World?" asks the Spanish daily Noticias de Álava. Why did BushCo fail its first great national-security test since Sept. 11, despite having two days' advance notice of Katrina's wrath? asks Le Monde. And on it goes, the world's powers looking on in one part shock and one part disgust and all parts repugnance for Bush's rampant ineptitude and America's apparent inability to take care of its own.

But it's so unfair, isn't it, to attack poor Dubya like this? Just a little misplaced? After all, Bush has always been the rich white man's president. He is the CEO president, the megacorporate businessman's friend, the thug of the religious right, a big reservoir-tipped condom for all energy magnates, protecting against the nasty STDs of humanitarianism and progress and social responsibility.

He has always been merely an entirely selective figurehead, out of touch and eternally dumbfounded, a hand puppet of the neoconservative machine built and fluffed up and carefully placed for the very specific job of protecting their interests, no matter what. Repeat: No. Matter. What. Flood hurricane disaster war social breakdown economic collapse? Doesn't matter. Corporate interests über alles, baby. Protect the core, reassure the base, screw everyone else unless it begins to affect the poll numbers and then finger-point, deflect, prevaricate. All of a piece, really. Because Bush, he was never actually meant to, you know, lead.

So maybe it's time to stop with the savaging of poor Dubya. He is, after all, doing a simply beautiful job of kowtowing to his wealthiest supporters while slamming the poor and running the nation into a deep hole and creating the largest deficit in American history, all while his cronies in oil and industry and military supply and Big Energy gain immense and staggering wealth and pay less and less tax on it. This is what he was hired to do. This is why he is in office. Hell, the day after Katrina, Bush flew right by Louisiana and headed straight to San Diego to party with his Greatest Generation cronies. Reassure the masters, first and foremost, eh Shrub?

Understood. Is this not what we all expected? Can you reasonably say you thought it would be different? Just look. All major social services are being gutted. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is a joke, second in line only to the ungodly useless Homeland Security Department, which has become about as reassuring and trustworthy and humane an organization as a prison in Guantánamo.

The Associated Press reported that the Army Corps of Engineers asked for $105 million for hurricane and flood programs in New Orleans just last year. The White House hacked that down to about $40 million, even as it passed the most bloated and nauseatingly pork-filled $12.3 billion energy bill in recent history, one that guaranteed we'd be sucking at the tit of foreign oil and kneeling before Bush's pals in Big Energy for decades to come, even as more and more teenagers die in Iraq for Bush's inept and failed war. Yay politics.

Why didn't National Guardsmen from Louisiana and Mississippi march into New Orleans immediately after Katrina exited to take charge and keep the peace? Why, because most of them are serving in that same violent and brutally costly war in Iraq, silly. Fully 30 percent of the guard is stuck over there, along with 50 percent of their equipment. Yay Vietnam 2.0.

Why did FEMA chief Michael Brown wait hours after Katrina struck to timidly plead with his parent company, Homeland Security, for some backup, not to actually get their hands dirty but rather to help "convey a positive image" about the government's response to the victims? Why, because he's an incompetent lackey Bush appointee who was fired from his former job as head of something called the International Arabian Horse Association. Yay pathetic nepotism.

Just look. Senate majority leader Sen. Bill Frist, icon of hollow self-righteousness and the energy magnate's friend, has already leveraged the Katrina nightmare to argue for more drilling in Alaska, much in the way BushCo whored Sept. 11 to cram the Patriot Act down the nation's throat and make fear and xenophobia a national pastime. And let's not forget trusty profit-sucking sidekick Halliburton, which has already scored a sweet deal to help repair Katrina damage, thanks to the fact that the former director of FEMA is now a Halliburton lobbyist. Ah, war and death and tragedy. They are just so goddamn profitable, right, Dubya?

And then, the kicker. Then you read that Bush has actually ordered an official probe into the botched Katrina relief efforts, a formal federal investigation into what went wrong, which is a bit like a shark ordering an investigation into what happened to all the fish. Unless this probe starts and ends in the White House, unless it hangs Bush himself up by his monkey ears and dangles him over a river of toxic Louisiana sewage, it's merely useless and insulting and more than a little sad.

Let's say it outright. The truest measure of any president, of any leader, is how well he takes care of his own people. And Bush, well, Bush has done a simply spectacular job of taking care of exactly his own people -- the wealthy, the corporate, the extreme religious right, his core base of supporters -- while happily and fiercely ignoring, restricting, condemning, destroying the rest. Are you educated or progressive or liberal or alternative-minded or sexually open or homosexual or anti-war? This means you. Are you dirt poor and belong to a minority and don't drive an SUV and contribute six figures per annum to the RNC and maybe live in a flooded swamp in the Louisiana bayou? This means you, squared. Sucker.

Here, then, is the new American motto, as reimagined by BushCo: Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, and we'll let them die in a filthy and decrepit storm-ravaged American football stadium while our president languishes on vacation and ponders his oil futures and fondly remembers his good ol' days of getting drunk at Mardi Gras before going AWOL from the military. God bless America.

Brilliant as ever.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Grilled McClellan



Here's a fresh serving (video).

The Pelosi Smackdown



Kyra attempts to spin for the White House, and Pelosi has nothing of it (video).

Congress Must Demand Answers

Why did the Federal Emergency Management Agency...
not accept Amtrak's help in evacuations?

turn away experienced firefighters?

turn back Wal-Mart supply trucks?

prevent the Coast Guard from delivering diesel fuel?

ban the Red Cross from delivering food?

bar morticians from entering New Orleans?

block a 500-boat citizen flotilla from delivering aid?

fail to utilize a Navy ship with 600-bed hospital on board?

allow the city of Chicago to send just one truck?

turn away generators?

state "First Responders Urged Not To Respond"?
One disastrous decision after another... Why?

Not My America

NBC's Brian Williams reports:
An interesting dynamic is taking shape in this city, not altogether positive: after days of rampant lawlessness (making for what I think most would agree was an impossible job for the New Orleans Police Department during those first few crucial days of rising water, pitch-black nights and looting of stores) the city has now reached a near-saturation level of military and law enforcement. In the areas we visited, the red berets of the 82nd Airborne are visible on just about every block. National Guard soldiers are ubiquitous. At one fire scene, I counted law enforcement personnel (who I presume were on hand to guarantee the safety of the firefighters) from four separate jurisdictions, as far away as Connecticut and Illinois. And tempers are getting hot. While we were attempting to take pictures of the National Guard (a unit from Oklahoma) taking up positions outside a Brooks Brothers on the edge of the Quarter, the sergeant ordered us to the other side of the boulevard. The short version is: there won't be any pictures of this particular group of Guard soldiers on our newscast tonight. Rules (or I suspect in this case an order on a whim) like those do not HELP the palpable feeling that this area is somehow separate from the United States.
And from Operation Flashlight (Operation who? "On August 30, 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the southern shores of the United States. Our goal is to shed light on what is happening in the South, and help people connect directly with those most in need."):
We got in. We’re getting on a military convoy now. Heading into the City with the Governor and 82nd Airborne. 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. Things are so bad, Bush is now censoring all reporting from NOLA. The First Amendment sank with the city.
People, regardless of what you see on your TV, this is happening.

Louisiana 1927



By Randy Newman.
What has happened down here is the wind have changed
Clouds roll in from the north and it started to rain
Rained real hard and rained for a real long time
Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline

The river rose all day
The river rose all night
Some people got lost in the flood
Some people got away alright
The river have busted through cleard down to Plaquemines
Six feet of water in the streets of Evangelne

Louisiana, Louisiana
They're tyrin' to wash us away
They're tryin' to wash us away
Louisiana, Louisiana
They're tryin' to wash us away
They're tryin' to wash us away

President Coolidge came down in a railroad train
With a little fat man with a note-pad in his hand
The President say, "Little fat man isn't it a shame
What the river has done To this poor crackers land."
How prophetic.

Essential Reading Roundup

Margaret Carlson:
One reason for the dismal federal performance is Bush's disdain for government. To him, it's bloated and for chumps who can't provide for themselves — with some exceptions. Bush signed spending bills filled with pork, finding $454 million for his Alaskan Republicans to build two bridges to nowhere in Alaska but not for the levees everyone but him knew were cracking. His administration intervenes but only when there are a lot of cameras and potential political gain, such as in the Terri Schiavo case, when Bush rushed back from his ranch in March to do so. And saying "it's your money, not the government's," he cut taxes for the wealthy, which means less money for boring projects like disaster relief. If Bush cared about governing, he would have never appointed Michael Brown, the failed director of a trade association that ran horse shows, to run FEMA, which the president folded into the Homeland Security Department. That agency has little to show for itself other than an ineffective color chart and long lines at the airport as arthritic old ladies remove their shoes.
Arianna Huffington:
Here's one for the Hypocrisy Hall of Fame: At the same time the administration is putting Karl Rove's "pin-the-blame-on-the-locals" plan into effect, President Bush told reporters gathered at a cabinet meeting today, "I think that one of the things that people want us to do here is play a blame game. We've got to solve problems. We're problem solvers. There will be ample time for people to figure out what went right and what went wrong. What I'm interested in is helping save lives." How noble. A week and thousands of lives too late... but noble. He makes it sound as if anyone interested in trying to figure out what went so horribly wrong in the aftermath of Katrina is somehow impeding the recovery. As if we can't help the victims and analyze the debacle at the same time. As if any time spent by reporters ferreting out the truth -- and by Congress overseeing -- would otherwise be spent tossing sandbags on the levee, disinfecting the Superdome, or driving evacuees to Houston. As if those seeking answers will have blood on their hands.
William Rivers Pitt:
The Katrina disaster in a nutshell: A storm that had been listed for years as #3 on America's list of "Worst Possible Things That Could Happen" arrives in New Orleans to find levees unprepared because massive budget cuts stripped away any ability to repair and augment them. The storm finds FEMA, the national agency tasked to deal with the aftermath of natural disasters, run by Bush friend Michael Brown, a guy who got fired from his last job representing the rights of Arabian horse owners. The storm finds a goodly chunk of the Louisiana National Guard sitting in a desert 7,000 miles away with their high-water Humvees parked beside them. The storm finds that our institutional decades-old unwillingness to address poverty issues left tens of thousands of people unable to get out of the way of the ram.
Robert Scheer:
Instead of the much-celebrated American can-do machine that promises to bring freedom and prosperity to less fortunate people abroad, we have seen a callous official incompetence that puts even Third World rulers to shame. The well-reported litany of mistakes by the Bush administration in failing to prevent and respond to Katrina's destruction grew longer with each hour's grim revelation from the streets of an apocalyptic New Orleans. [...] None of this is an oversight, or simple incompetence. It is the result of a campaign by most Republicans and too many Democrats to systematically vilify the role of government in American life. Manipulative politicians have convinced lower- and middle-class whites that their own economic pains were caused by "quasi-socialist" government policies that aid only poor brown and black people - even as corporate profits and CEO salaries soared.

Meanwhile in Iraq

News you may have missed...

Iraq Coalition Casualty Count

Talks on Iraq constitution seek to fine-tune language

Explosion, fire on Iraq-Turkey oil pipeline-guard

US Military won't increase forces in Iraq

Iraq's Kurdish Leader Issues Broadside Against Arab Countries

Iraq's New Constitution Divides Turkmen

Politics Breaks Out In Iraq

Iraq sets October 15 for constitution referendum

Annan shoulders Iraq oil-for-food rap

Iraq Army is handed control of holy city

US hands Najaf to Iraq forces

Iraq's president says Hussein has confessed

Iraq's parliament ends talks on constitution

Iraq town in Zarqawi hands

Pulling US troops out of Iraq forum topic; petitions given out

Looters

The New York Times reports:
The Missouri attorney general, Jay Nixon, filed a lawsuit this afternoon against InternetDonations.org, the hub for a constellation of Web sites erected over the last several days purporting to collect donations for victims of Hurricane Katrina. Also named in the lawsuit, Mr. Nixon said, is the apparent operator of the donation sites, Frank Weltner, a St. Louis resident and radio talk show personality with ties to neo-Nazi organizations and the notorious Web site JewWatch.com. [...] The Missouri lawsuit seeks to freeze the assets of Internet Donations Inc., a nonprofit entity registered with the Missouri secretary of state's office by Mr. Weltner on Sept. 2, and to shut down the dozen or so Web sites with names like KatrinaFamilies.com, Katrina-Donations.com and NewOrleansCharities.com. [...] The Web sites, which use similar imagery and slight variations on the same crude design, all point back to InternetDonations.org, which advises visitors interested in donating to the Red Cross, Salvation Army or other relief organizations, that "we can collect it for you in an easy one-stop location."
What's really sad, as disgusting as this is... It's not even remotely shocking.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A Video Timeline



Via Countdown with Keith Olbermann (video).

Horrific

Boing Boing reports...

Toxic Soup



Here's the latest...

CBC:
Tests of the water that has flooded the streets of New Orleans are likely to shows traces of everything imaginable. "Go home and identify all the chemicals in your house. It's a very long list," said Ivor van Heerden, an expert studying the public health impact of hurricanes. "And that's just in a home. Imagine what's in an industrial plant," he said. "Or a sewage plant." That mix could contain gasoline, diesel, anti-freeze, bleach, human waste, acids, alcohols and any number of other substances, and must be washed out of homes, factories, refineries, hospitals and other buildings. And the longer the water sits, the greater the chance gasoline and chemical tanks could rupture and add to the mess.
Reuters:
Three people have died from bacterial infections in Gulf states after Hurricane Katrina, and tests confirm that the water flooding New Orleans is a stew of sewage-borne bacteria, federal officials said on Wednesday. A fourth person in the Gulf region is suspected to be infected with Vibrio vulnificus, a common marine bacteria, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Julie Gerberding told reporters, citing reports from state health officials in Mississippi and Texas. [...] Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson said all the tests of waters in flooded residential areas of New Orleans exceeded by at least 10 times the safe levels of E. coli and other so-called coliform bacteria, found in the human gut and used as an indicator of sewage contamination. They also have high levels of lead.
Christian Science Monitor:
For now, some environmental regulations are being waived in order to address immediate problems. The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality issued the naval base in Chalmette a variance so it could burn debris, mostly food that spoiled after losing power. The US Environmental Protection Agency has waived the need for Clean Water Act permits to allow the pumping of polluted water out of New Orleans into Lake Pontchartrain. US Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt has declared a public health emergency in five states: Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. There's no telling when wastewater treatment and other sanitary facilities will become functional. More than 500 sewage plants were damaged or destroyed in Louisiana, including 25 major ones.
NPR:
What about the risks to wildlife and the environment? The water being pumped out of New Orleans is going into Lake Ponchartrain. Because of the raw sewage and other biological material in it, it will be very heavy in nutrients. Scientists say this likely will cause fish kills, because that water will lack the oxygen that fish and other creatures need to survive. But state officials say they hope that over time, the lake will be able to cure itself, and then fish and other wildlife will be restored.
This laxed approach to pumping toxic sludge into our rivers, lakes, and oceans, is alarming to say the least. There has got to be a better solution. Any ideas?

Media Ban in New Orleans

Ordered by FEMA...
When U.S. officials asked the media not to take pictures of those killed by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, they were censoring a key part of the disaster story, free speech watchdogs said on Wednesday. The move by the Federal Emergency Management Agency is in line with the Bush administration's ban on images of flag-draped U.S. military coffins returning from the Iraq war, media monitors said in separate telephone interviews. [...] But on Tuesday, FEMA refused to take reporters and photographers along on boats seeking victims in flooded areas, saying they would take up valuable space need in the recovery effort and asked them not to take pictures of the dead.
Like I've said before, it's getting a wee bit creepy in bayou.

Thanks for the tip Bridger.

Just Shoot Me

The AP reports:

At a news conference, Pelosi, D-Calif., said Bush's choice for head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency had "absolutely no credentials."

She related that she had urged Bush at the White House on Tuesday to fire Michael Brown.

"He said 'Why would I do that?'" Pelosi said.

"'I said because of all that went wrong, of all that didn't go right last week.' And he said 'What didn't go right?'"

"Oblivious, in denial, dangerous," she added.

And MSNBC reports:
A Washington Post-ABC News poll taken last Friday illustrates the point vividly. Just 17 percent of Democrats said they approved of the way Bush was handling the Katrina crisis while 74 percent of Republicans said they approved. About two in three Republicans rated the federal government's response as good or excellent, while two in three Democrats rated it not so good or poor.

The Shame Game

From The Nation:
As Republicans desperately cry out of one corner of their mouths to stop the blame game, they have been blaming everyone but themselves since this catastrophe. Let's look at their ever-evolving buck-passing strategies.

Blame the Victims: Both FEMA's Michael Brown and Homeland Security's Michael Chertoff, the Mutt and Jeff of this calamity, have blamed careless, destitute New Orleaners for not evacuating. "Those who got out are fine," Chertoff told NBC's Tim Russert. FEMA sought to excuse its delays in entering the city by blaming the looters.

Blame the Locals: In a stroke of political luck, both the New Orleans mayor and Louisiana's Governor are Democrats. As the New York Times reported, Karl Rove's PR strategy is to shift the blame to the state and city officials. All Sunday, White House officials and Fox News played this card. Expect more of this line of attack.

Blame the City: In perhaps the most bizarre excuse, Chertoff pointed the finger the city of New Orleans itself, saying, "It is a soup bowl. People have talked for years about whether it makes sense to have a city like that."

Blame the Media: Last week, Brown blamed media coverage for the perception that New Orleans had descended into lawlessness. "I actually think security is darn good.... It seems to me that every time a bad person wants to cause a problem, there's somebody with a camera to stick in their face."
Move along, nothing to see here.

Breaking News from Ireland...



Thanks to Mark S, for the literal screenshot.

The Katrina Timeline

Compare and contrast: The watered down version from CNN; and the more thorough, pull no punches, version from Think Progress.

Priority One



The Salt Lake Tribune reports:
Not long after some 1,000 firefighters sat down for eight hours of training, the whispering began: "What are we doing here?" As New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin pleaded on national television for firefighters - his own are exhausted after working around the clock for a week - a battalion of highly trained men and women sat idle Sunday in a muggy Sheraton Hotel conference room in Atlanta. Many of the firefighters, assembled from Utah and throughout the United States by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, thought they were going to be deployed as emergency workers. Instead, they have learned they are going to be community-relations officers for FEMA, shuffled throughout the Gulf Coast region to disseminate fliers and a phone number: 1-800-621-FEMA.

[...]

Firefighters say they want to brave the heat, the debris-littered roads, the poisonous cottonmouth snakes and fire ants and travel into pockets of Louisiana where many people have yet to receive emergency aid. But as specific orders began arriving to the firefighters in Atlanta, a team of 50 Monday morning quickly was ushered onto a flight headed for Louisiana. The crew's first assignment: to stand beside President Bush as he tours devastated areas.
From Daily Kos:
Bush's use of firefighters as human props doesn't win the "most fucked up" prize because it was the most costly for the nation -- the Iraq War wins hands down. It doesn't win because it caused the most deaths, or damaged the reputation of the U.S. the most, or harmed national security by outing undercover CIA agents. In the greater scheme of things, this may seem as small fry compared to the long stream of serious failures in this White House.

It's the most fucked up because it is easily the most crassly political act ever taken by this administration. Bush is so thoroughly a PR vessel that he can't even tour a disaster zone without his human backdrop. He's been a PR marionette for so long -- clear brush for the cameras! -- that he's become thoroughly incapable of keeping it real. God forbid he try to connect with people, get a better understanding of their efforts to cope with real disaster. That's not worth his time. Nope, it's got to be turned into a frickin' Bush campaign commercial. Everything is political. Everything.
And the AP reports:
The government's disaster chief waited until hours after Hurricane Katrina had already struck the Gulf Coast before asking his boss to dispatch 1,000 Homeland Security employees to the region - and gave them two days to arrive, according to internal documents. Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, sought the approval from Homeland Security Secretary Mike Chertoff roughly five hours after Katrina made landfall on Aug. 29. Brown said that among duties of these employees was to "convey a positive image" about the government's response for victims.
The message from the Bush Administration is clear: When crisis hits, priority one is saving face, not lives.

Barbara Bush: It's Good Enough for the Poor

From The Nation:
Finally, we have discovered the roots of George W. Bush's "compassionate conservatism."

On the heels of the president's "What, me worry?" response to the death, destruction and dislocation that followed upon Hurricane Katrina comes the news of his mother's Labor Day visit with hurricane evacuees at the Astrodome in Houston.

Commenting on the facilities that have been set up for the evacuees -- cots crammed side-by-side in a huge stadium where the lights never go out and the sound of sobbing children never completely ceases -- former First Lady Barbara Bush concluded that the poor people of New Orleans had lucked out.

"Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this, this is working very well for them," Mrs. Bush told American Public Media's "Marketplace" program, before returning to her multi-million dollar Houston home.

On the tape of the interview, Mrs. Bush chuckles audibly as she observes just how great things are going for families that are separated from loved ones, people who have been forced to abandon their homes and the only community where they have ever lived, and parents who are explaining to children that their pets, their toys and in some cases their friends may be lost forever. Perhaps the former first lady was amusing herself with the notion that evacuees without bread could eat cake.

At the very least, she was expressing a measure of empathy commensurate with that evidenced by her son during his fly-ins for disaster-zone photo opportunities.

On Friday, when even Republican lawmakers were giving the federal government an "F" for its response to the crisis, President Bush heaped praise on embattled Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Michael Brown. As thousands of victims of the hurricane continued to plead for food, water, shelter, medical care and a way out of the nightmare to which federal neglect had consigned them, Brown cheerily announced that "people are getting the help they need."

Barbara Bush's son put his arm around the addled FEMA functionary and declared, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." Like mother, like son. Even when a hurricane hits, the apple does not fall far from the tree.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Playing Hookie

Condi, Dick, George, and Donald too...
[August 30, 2005] - Baseball Hall of Famer Dave Winfield wasn't the only VIP who joined Padres President John Moores in the owner's box last night at Petco Park. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, here to join President Bush at the North Island Naval Air Station today, took in the game, too.
The Executive Branch's top leaders were all "hanging loose" during the biggest natural disaster of our nation's history. All of them... Un-fucking-believable.

Beyond Comprehension

The Shelbyville Times-Gazette reports:
"DMort is telling us to expect up to 40,000 bodies," Dan Buckner said, quoting officials with the Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team, a volunteer arm of Homeland Security. [...] The 40,000 estimate does "not include the number of disinterred remains that have been displaced from ... mausoleums," Buckner told the Times-Gazette Monday.

Donkeys, Where Are You?



Isn't it time you step up to the plate?

John, we really don't expect much of anything from you anymore... Hell, you conceded in Ohio last November in less than 24 hours. So really, any semblance of leadership or public dissent for our President, who has failed us so miserably, can only help your ambitions. Trust me, you really having nothing to lose.

Howard, your absence in the last week has been a big disappointment. We do expect more from you. What happen to that fire you had back in the day. What happened to the visceral energy to right, what is so wrong? What happened to that fire? Ever since you moved up in The Establishment, it seems you have left behind everything we admired and respected of you.

Hillary, the word on the street is that you're the front-runner for 2008. Well, if you really want to be President, wouldn't this be the perfect time to show the American people what kind of leadership you're capable of?

And of course, it doesn't stop there... Democrats where are you?

The Absurd and Unchallenged

Iraq is spiraling out of control. New Orleans is literally under water, with an estimate of at least 10,000 of it's residents dead. And this is George's top priority at the moment...

The Senate will begin confirmation hearings next Monday for John Roberts to be the Supreme Court's chief justice, one week after President Bush selected him to replace the late William H. Rehnquist as the 17th leader of the nation's highest court. Bush urged senators to confirm Roberts before the court session resumes Oct. 3 and said he was considering many candidates for filling a second vacancy. "The list is wide open," Bush said. [...] Senate leaders made the hearings announcement Tuesday as Rehnquist's body lay in repose across the street at the Supreme Court. Roberts, a former Rehnquist clerk, helped carry the flag-draped casket into the building for public viewing.
One incompetent dogmatic decision after another: Iraq is getting worse; New Orleans is all but wiped off the map, the lucky residents are scattered, homeless, shells of their former selves, the unlucky, left to die. Suffering, death, carnage... And priority one for George is getting his under-qualified conservative friend to the position of Chief Justice. Is there nobody in a position of power who will stand up to these absurdities?

Not Bureaucracy, Not Red Tape

But this...



"Bureaucracy is not going to stand in the way of getting the job done for the people. What I intend to do is lead an investigation to find out what went right and what went wrong. We still live in an unsettled world. We want to make sure we can respond properly if there is a WMD attack or another major storm. One of the things people want us to do here is play the blame game. We got to solve problems. There will be ample time to figure out what went right and what went wrong." - George Bush, after a meeting at the White House with his Cabinet on storm recovery efforts.

Betrayal

Apparently, Dick had better things to do than deal with the tragedy unfolding in New Orleans...
This Eastern Shore retreat town is used to famous people. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld owns a weekend estate here. Vince Vaughn dropped in recently when filming a movie nearby. And now, maybe the most famous resident so far: Vice President Dick Cheney. That's according to rumor, anyhow, with St. Michaels abuzz that the nation's second-in-charge may buy a $2.9 million waterfront home not far from Rumsfeld's home. The purchase couldn't officially be confirmed, but according to locals sitting down to breakfast recently at the Carpenter Street saloon and restaurant, Cheney's as good as moving in. "I'd heard it was going to close either [today] or Wednesday of this week," said Carroll Hurley, a funeral home owner.
Let's recap, shall we? As the people of New Orleans, and surrounding areas were struggling for their lives: our President was in Arizona, attempting to build support for his Social Security plan, then off to California, to promote support for the Iraq War, followed by a guitar lesson with country singer Mark Wills; our Secretary of State attended a Broadway show, bought thousand dollar heels, and played tennis with Monica Seles; and now we find out, our Vice President was shopping for new beachfront property in Maryland. This is leadership? Why were they not manning their post as a crisis horrified the nation? Why? Mere words simply cannot do justice to the utter disgust and contempt I have for these people, who have so callously betrayed our nation in a time of need. I am simply appalled.

Still Missing

Has anyone seen this man?



Where is the Vice President in this time of national tragedy?

The Time Is Now

The following is a reader contribution...

It is time for Congress, specifically House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Senate President Bill Frist to explain to the American people why Congress cut funding to levee improvements and other hurricane protection measures in southeast Louisiana.

Despite messaging by Bush Administration officials to the contrary, America has known for years that the New Orleans "bowl effect" was a disaster waiting to happen. In fact, after the flooding of 1995 Congress enacted a law called The Southeast Louisiana Project, which earmarked funding for such things as levee improvements and pumps.

According to the US Army Corps of Engineers' report entitled "Comprehensive Hurricane Protection Plan for Southeast Louisiana" some $734 million was dedicated to the Lake Ponchartrain and vicinity area along the northern border of New Orleans alone. Construction on these projects began in 1998 and $550.9M was spent until the end of 2000.

However, during the years of 2001 to 2004 combined only 23.6 million dollars were spent on flood control improvements in northern New Orleans.

In the Army Corps of Engineers' Project Fact Sheet dated 1/26/05 the army stated that funding for 2004 was "not sufficient to support all on-going contracts," and that exhaustion of funding for that year occurred in February of 2004.

It further went on to state that the funds that were made available for FYE 2005 were "just adequate" to cover existing contracts, leaving some fourteen other improvement contracts unfunded.

It has been roughly nine years since Congress enacted SELA and still the work is largely not done. The first levee breach happened at the 17th St. Outflow Canal, which was a site of recently completed work. Nonetheless, reinforcement and seating work had not been completed and the levee gave way when the force of the water became too great.

The bottom line is that Congress did its job in 1996 but the funds were never made available to complete the work in a timely manner.

As rescue work continues it is time that Congress begin to hold elected officials accountable for the loss of life in New Orleans. Rebuilding New Orleans and its economy must become America's greatest priority and the investigations of those who caused this disaster by their actions (or lack thereof) should begin now, not later.

Mark S
Nashville, TN

The Aristocrats



Defend their boy (video).

Monday, September 05, 2005

Olbermann Swings



And hits it out of the park (video).

FEMA WTF?

Why did the Federal Emergency Management Agency...
not accept Amtrak's help in evacuations?

turn away experienced firefighters?

turn back Wal-Mart supply trucks?

prevent the Coast Guard from delivering diesel fuel?

ban the Red Cross from delivering food?

bar morticians from entering New Orleans?

block a 500-boat citizen flotilla from delivering aid?

fail to utilize a Navy ship with 600-bed hospital on board?

allow the city of Chicago to send just one truck?

turn away generators?

state "First Responders Urged Not To Respond"?
One disastrous decision after another... Why?

Hat tip to David NYC.

Essential Reading Roundup

Paul Krugman:
Newsweek reports that a "strange paralysis" set in among Bush administration officials, who debated lines of authority while thousands died. What caused that paralysis? President Bush certainly failed his test. After 9/11, all the country really needed from him was a speech. This time it needed action - and he didn't deliver. But the federal government's lethal ineptitude wasn't just a consequence of Mr. Bush's personal inadequacy; it was a consequence of ideological hostility to the very idea of using government to serve the public good. For 25 years the right has been denigrating the public sector, telling us that government is always the problem, not the solution. Why should we be surprised that when we needed a government solution, it wasn't forthcoming?
Newsweek:
What went wrong? Just about everything. How the system failed is a tangled story, but the basic narrative is becoming clearer: hesitancy, bureaucratic rivalries, failures of leadership from city hall to the White House and epically bad luck combined to create a morass. In the early aftermath, fingers pointed in all directions. The president was to blame; no, the looters. No, the bureaucrats. No, the local politicians. It was FEMA's fault—unless it was the Department of Homeland Security's. Or the Pentagon's. Certainly the government failed, and the catastrophe exposed, for all the world to see, raw racial divisions.
Frank Rich:
As the levees cracked open and ushered hell into New Orleans on Tuesday, President Bush once again chose to fly away from Washington, not toward it, while disaster struck. We can all enumerate the many differences between a natural catastrophe and a terrorist attack. But character doesn't change: it is immutable, and it is destiny. As always, the president's first priority, the one that sped him from Crawford toward California, was saving himself: he had to combat the flood of record-low poll numbers that was as uncontrollable as the surging of Lake Pontchartrain. It was time, therefore, for another disingenuous pep talk, in which he would exploit the cataclysm that defined his first term, 9/11, even at the price of failing to recognize the emerging fiasco likely to engulf Term 2.
The Rude Pundit:
And now that the President has been injected with the mad array of chemicals that are needed to jump start his brain like the coughing, oil-leaking lawnmower motor that it is, he declares that "The results [of the relief effort] are not acceptable." And that's great, but they were also unacceptable on Tuesday, when Bush was making one of his worthless piece of shit speeches about how mighty a battle the Iraq War is, just like World War II or some such nonsense. But the Bush adminstration has broken the basic social contract in New Orleans, the one that goes all the way back to Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, the one that says we adhere to laws because you agree to protect us, and thus the city and its citizens have returned to the state of nature, which is to survive, motherfuckers, just survive. Bush is visiting the affected areas as this is written. You can bet he's gonna hug some negro, maybe two, maybe he'll feed a negro child. It's the way of black people in New Orleans, you know, to always be the props and the set dressing to make the white people feel powerful.
Time Magazine:
It isn't easy picking George Bush's worst moment last week. Was it his first go at addressing the crisis Wednesday, when he came across as cool to the point of uncaring? Was it when he said that he didn't "think anybody expected" the New Orleans levees to give way, though that very possibility had been forecast for years? Was it when he arrived in Mobile, Ala., a full four days after the storm made landfall, and praised his hapless Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) director, Michael D. Brown, whose disaster credentials seemed to consist of once being the commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association? "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job," said the President. Or was it that odd moment when he promised to rebuild Mississippi Senator Trent Lott's house, a gesture that must have sounded astonishingly tone-deaf to the homeless black citizens still trapped in the postapocalyptic water world of New Orleans. "Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house, he's lost his entire house," cracked Bush, "there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch."
As usual, these are hightlights, if you have the time read the rest.

Thrown Under the Bridge

FEMA's Mike Brown appears to be the first; conservative pundit, Michelle Malkin leads the charge... MEMO TO BUSH: FIRE MICHAEL BROWN.

The Aristocrats and the Apologists



Two Points (video)...

1) Note the demeanor of: George and Laura Bush, Michael Chertoff, and Kathleen Blanco. Are these the expressions you would expect of those partly responsible for the deaths of thousands, and countless more?

2) Note the press, who continually attempt to turn this tragedy into partisan politics, instead of utter incompetence. Note how they continue to defend the Administration, failure after disastrous failure.

FEMA for Kids

Not swift aid, but PR:
Disaster . . . It can happen anywhere,
But we've got a few tips, so you can be prepared
For floods, tornadoes, or even a 'quake,
You've got to be ready - so your heart don't break.

Disaster prep is your responsibility
And mitigation is important to our agency.

People helping people is what we do
And FEMA is there to help see you through
When disaster strikes, we are at our best
But we're ready all the time, 'cause disasters don't rest.
Hat tip to Crooks and Liars.

Woof



Face the Nation's Bob Schieffer:
Finally, a personal thought. We have come through what may have been one of the worst weeks in America's history, a week in which government at every level failed the people it was created to serve. There is no purpose for government except to improve the lives of its citizens.

Yet as scenes of horror that seemed to be coming from some Third World country flashed before us, official Washington was like a dog watching television. It saw the lights and images, but did not seem to comprehend their meaning or see any link to reality.

As the floodwaters rose, local officials in New Orleans ordered the city evacuated. They might as well have told their citizens to fly to the moon. How do you evacuate when you don't have a car? No hint of intelligent design in any of this. This was just survival of the richest.

By midweek a parade of Washington officials rushed before the cameras to urge patience. What good is patience to a mother who can't find food and water for a dehydrated child?

Washington was coming out of an August vacation stupor and seemed unable to refocus on business or even think straight. Why else would Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert question aloud whether New Orleans should even be rebuilt? And when he was unable to get to Washington in time to vote on emergency aid funds, Hastert had an excuse only Washington could understand: He had to attend a fund-raiser back home.

Since 9/11, Washington has spent years and untold billions reorganizing the government to deal with crises brought on by possible terrorist attacks. If this is the result, we had better start over.

Apathy No More

If there is anything positive to come out of this tragedy... Let us hope the horrific images of last week forever sear in our mind's eye the America that many of us have left behind...

Katrina did not create this racist image of African-Americans - it has simply laid bare its ahistorical bigotry, and in so doing exposed the lie of equal opportunity in the US. A basic understanding of human nature suggests everyone in New Orleans wanted to survive and escape. A basic understanding of American economics and history shows that, despite all the rhetoric, wealth - not hard work or personal sacrifice - is the most decisive factor in who succeeds. [...] The fact that the vast majority of those who remained in town were black was not an accident. Katrina did not go out of its way to affect black people. It destroyed almost everything in its path. But the poor were disproportionately affected because they were least able to escape its path and to endure its wrath. They are more likely to have bad housing and less likely to have cars. Many had to work until the last moment and few have the money to pay for a hotel out of town.

And how prevalent is this impoverishment?
The nation's poverty rate rose to 12.7 percent of the population last year, the fourth consecutive annual increase, the Census Bureau said Tuesday. [...] Overall, there were 37 million people living in poverty, up 1.1 million people from 2003. [...] The last decline in overall poverty was in 2000, when 31.1 million people lived under the threshold — 11.3 percent of the population. Since then, the poverty rate has increased steadily from 11.7 percent in 2001, when the economy slipped into recession, to 12.5 percent in 2003.
Let this be a wake up call. We must reach out to our brethren on the Gulf Coast, and in our own communities. We must reach out to our brethren in this time of crisis, and beyond. We must never forget the lives that have been lost due to willful neglect. We must cast our vote only for those who share this concern for the less fortunate. We must have apathy no more for our poor.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Flood Control

The White House steps up efforts to avoid further damage...
Under the command of President Bush's two senior political advisers, the White House rolled out a plan this weekend to contain the political damage from the administration's response to Hurricane Katrina. It orchestrated visits by cabinet members to the region, leading up to an extraordinary return visit by Mr. Bush planned for Monday, directed administration officials not to respond to attacks from Democrats on the relief efforts, and sought to move the blame for the slow response to Louisiana state officials, according to Republicans familiar with the White House plan.

The effort is being directed by Mr. Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove, and his communications director, Dan Bartlett. It began late last week after Congressional Republicans called White House officials to register alarm about what they saw as a feeble response by Mr. Bush to the hurricane, according to Republican Congressional aides. As a result, Americans watching television coverage of the disaster this weekend began to see, amid the destruction and suffering, some of the most prominent members of the administration - Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Donald H. Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense; and Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state - touring storm-damaged communities.
Astonishing. Their utter lack of shame, never ceases to amaze me.

More Pork



For Halliburton...
Facing extensive damage by Hurricane Katrina to naval installations in Mississippi, the Navy turned immediately to the Halliburton Company's KBR subsidiary for tasks like restoring electricity, repairing roofs and clearing debris at bases that are urgently needed for response efforts. [...] The Naval Facilities Engineering Command turned to Halliburton after the hurricane under terms of a five-year contract worth up to $500 million, renewed in 2004 after competitive bidding, that calls on the company to provide immediate services on demand after natural disasters, in humanitarian crises or in military conflicts.

Surprise, surprise... The rescue efforts are not even complete, and Dick Cheney's "former" company has a $500 million contract. Conflict of interest?

Warning, After Warning, After Warning



From the local officials...
Our Louisiana legislature this month passed a constitutional amendment requiring any new offshore oil and gas revenue to be put in a trust fund dedicated to coastal erosion. Louisiana has made a commitment. Now, it's time for the President to step up to the plate and support funding to prevent the untold damage to the ecology, economy and potential loss of life in large numbers. With the National Hurricane Center predicting another active hurricane season, PACE President Aaron Broussard said he fears that it is going to take a major storm and significant loss of life before the nation acts responsibly.
George, it's all on public record: The levees were in dire straits, and you cut the funding that would have been used to rebuild them... You're either lying or you're neglectfully uninformed, either way you must go.

Hat tip to Tim H.

Capitalist

Un-Fucking-Believable:
WE ASK THAT ALL PAYMENTS BE SENT TO US, AS YOU WOULD NORMALLY DO, TO THE FOLLOWING ADDRESS:

STANDARD MORTGAGE CORPORATION
P.O. BOX 53426
NEW ORLEANS , LA 70153-3426

WITH THE GRACE OF GOD AND THE SUPPORT OF OUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY, WE WILL ALL GET THROUGH THIS UNBELIEVABLE ORDEAL.
UPDATE: Standard Mortgage appears to have taken the site down. Here's the cached page from Google.

Hat tip to Blah 3

Essential Reading Roundup

Chicago Tribune:
While federal and state emergency planners scramble to get more military relief to Gulf Coast communities stricken by Hurricane Katrina, a massive naval goodwill station has been cruising offshore, underused and waiting for a larger role in the effort. The USS Bataan, a 844-foot ship designed to dispatch Marines in amphibious assaults, has helicopters, doctors, hospital beds, food and water. It also can make its own water, up to 100,000 gallons a day. And it just happened to be in the Gulf of Mexico when Katrina came roaring ashore.
The Independent:
A 10-year plan to strengthen levees after a 1965 hurricane was never completed. But the skimping has worsened since President Bush's election, particularly after 11 September. Federal spending on flood control in south-east Louisiana has been cut by almost half since 2001, from $69m (£34.5m) per year to $36.5m. Funds for work at Lake Pontchartrain, the source of the flooding, have fallen by nearly two-thirds over three years, from $14.25m to $5.7m. As a result, work on New Orleans' east bank hurricane levees stopped last summer for the first time in 37 years
LA Times:
As a result, when the immediate crisis eases and inquiries into what went wrong begin, there is likely to be responsibility and blame enough for almost every institution in Washington, including the White House, Congress, the Army Corps of Engineers and a host of other federal agencies. For example, Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, the Corps commander, conceded Friday that the government had known the New Orleans levees could never withstand a hurricane higher than a Category 3. Corps officials shuddered, he said, when they realized that Katrina was barreling down on the Gulf Coast with the vastly greater destructive force of a Category 5 — the strongest type of hurricane. Washington, he said, had rolled the dice.
Washington Post:
To those who wonder why so many stayed behind when push came to water's mighty shove here, those who were trapped have a simple explanation: Their nickels and dimes and dollar bills simply didn't add up to stage a quick evacuation mission. "Me and my wife, we were living paycheck to paycheck, like most everybody else in New Orleans," Eric Dunbar, 54, said Saturday. He was standing on wobbly, thin legs in the bowels of the semi-darkened Louis Armstrong Airport, where he had been delivered with many others after having been plucked by rescuers from a roadway. He offered a mini-tutorial in the economic reality of his life. "I don't own a car. Me and my wife, we travel by bus, public transportation. The most money I ever have on me is $400. And that goes to pay the rent. And that $400 is between me and my wife."
Washington Post:
Despite four years and tens of billions of dollars spent preparing for the worst, the federal government was not ready when it came at daybreak on Monday, according to interviews with more than a dozen current and former senior officials and outside experts. Among the flaws they cited: Failure to take the storm seriously before it hit and trigger the government's highest level of response. Rebuffed offers of aid from the military, states and cities. An unfinished new plan meant to guide disaster response. And a slow bureaucracy that waited until late Tuesday to declare the catastrophe "an incident of national significance," the new federal term meant to set off the broadest possible relief effort.
These are only highlights, if you have the time go back and read the articles in their entirety.

Hat tip to America Blog.

An Open Letter to the President

From the Times-Picayune of New Orleans...
Dear Mr. President:

We heard you loud and clear Friday when you visited our devastated city and the Gulf Coast and said, "What is not working, we’re going to make it right."

Please forgive us if we wait to see proof of your promise before believing you. But we have good reason for our skepticism.

Bienville built New Orleans where he built it for one main reason: It’s accessible. The city between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain was easy to reach in 1718.

How much easier it is to access in 2005 now that there are interstates and bridges, airports and helipads, cruise ships, barges, buses and diesel-powered trucks.

Despite the city’s multiple points of entry, our nation’s bureaucrats spent days after last week’s hurricane wringing their hands, lamenting the fact that they could neither rescue the city’s stranded victims nor bring them food, water and medical supplies.

Meanwhile there were journalists, including some who work for The Times-Picayune, going in and out of the city via the Crescent City Connection. On Thursday morning, that crew saw a caravan of 13 Wal-Mart tractor trailers headed into town to bring food, water and supplies to a dying city.

Television reporters were doing live reports from downtown New Orleans streets. Harry Connick Jr. brought in some aid Thursday, and his efforts were the focus of a "Today" show story Friday morning.

Yet, the people trained to protect our nation, the people whose job it is to quickly bring in aid were absent. Those who should have been deploying troops were singing a sad song about how our city was impossible to reach.

We’re angry, Mr. President, and we’ll be angry long after our beloved city and surrounding parishes have been pumped dry. Our people deserved rescuing. Many who could have been were not. That’s to the government’s shame.

Mayor Ray Nagin did the right thing Sunday when he allowed those with no other alternative to seek shelter from the storm inside the Louisiana Superdome. We still don’t know what the death toll is, but one thing is certain: Had the Superdome not been opened, the city’s death toll would have been higher. The toll may even have been exponentially higher.

It was clear to us by late morning Monday that many people inside the Superdome would not be returning home. It should have been clear to our government, Mr. President. So why weren’t they evacuated out of the city immediately? We learned seven years ago, when Hurricane Georges threatened, that the Dome isn’t suitable as a long-term shelter. So what did state and national officials think would happen to tens of thousands of people trapped inside with no air conditioning, overflowing toilets and dwindling amounts of food, water and other essentials?

State Rep. Karen Carter was right Friday when she said the city didn’t have but two urgent needs: "Buses! And gas!" Every official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency should be fired, Director Michael Brown especially.

In a nationally televised interview Thursday night, he said his agency hadn’t known until that day that thousands of storm victims were stranded at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. He gave another nationally televised interview the next morning and said, "We’ve provided food to the people at the Convention Center so that they’ve gotten at least one, if not two meals, every single day."

Lies don’t get more bald-faced than that, Mr. President.

Yet, when you met with Mr. Brown Friday morning, you told him, "You’re doing a heck of a job."

That’s unbelievable.

There were thousands of people at the Convention Center because the riverfront is high ground. The fact that so many people had reached there on foot is proof that rescue vehicles could have gotten there, too.

We, who are from New Orleans, are no less American than those who live on the Great Plains or along the Atlantic Seaboard. We’re no less important than those from the Pacific Northwest or Appalachia. Our people deserved to be rescued.

No expense should have been spared. No excuses should have been voiced. Especially not one as preposterous as the claim that New Orleans couldn’t be reached.

Mr. President, we sincerely hope you fulfill your promise to make our beloved communities work right once again.

When you do, we will be the first to applaud.

Another News Conference



Don't these people: Mike Brown, Michael Chertoff, General Russel Honore, and Donald Rumsfeld, have something MORE important to do than give ANOTHER news conference (video)?

"I'm sick of the press conferences. For God sakes, shut up and send us somebody." - Aaron Broussard, September 4th 2005 on Meet the Press

George Meet George

Governor Bush speaks of responsibility during a time of a natural disaster, in the Presidential Debates of 2000:
You know, as governor, one of the things you have to deal with is catastrophe. I can remember the fires that swept Parker County, Texas. I remember the floods that swept our state. I remember going down to Del Rio, Texas. I have to pay the administration a compliment. James Lee Witt of FEMA has done a really good job of working with governors during times of crisis. But that's the time when you're tested not only -- it's the time to test your metal, a time to test your heart when you see people whose lives have been turned upside down. It broke my heart to go to the flood scene in Del Rio where a fellow and his family got completely uprooted. The only thing I knew was to got aid as quickly as possible with state and federal help, and to put my arms around the man and his family and cry with them. That's what governors do. They are often on the front line of catastrophic situations.
President Bush, what happened? Why didn't you have the same sense of urgency as Governor Bush?

Hat tip to America Blog.







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