Saturday, September 10, 2005

Put an Admiral in Charge...

Watching a WWL local report of a news conference with Thad Allen and Aaron Broussard, I saw the latter note that the former made a novel suggestion: take advantage of United States' Navy and Coast Guard resources, and bring these resources to the area via the Mississippi River. Um...two things here--yes, I'm glad they decided on this course of action, with all the damage and whatnot to the roads, the secondary airport, and so on... but why did it take this long? New Orleans is a RIVER city. It's a DEEP WATER port.

Meanwhile, Mike Brown is feeling victimized--boo fucking hoo. Let him tell his sob story to someone who's lost everything.
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

OpEdNews has an interesting report on Dr. Ben Marble, the man who hoisted Dick Cheney up on his own petard earlier in the week:

Dr. Ben Marble, a young emergency room physician...was the one who told Dick Cheney to "go fuck yourself" on Sept. 8th...

As Marble explains, he was driving to his destroyed house Sept. 8 in Gulfport, Ms., when military police refused to allow him to cross a barricade that was about 200 feet from his home. They forced him to drive an extra 20 minutes and spend even more on gasoline.

"Thanks to Dubya Gump and Mr. Cheney, gas is really expensive and extremely hard to get anywhere Katrina has destroyed," Marble wrote. "So needless to say, I was extremely aggravated that they wouldn't let me pass."

Suddenly a long line of dark cars pulled up, and they honked at Marble to back up to let them through the barricade that supposedly no one could drive through. That only made Marble madder so he did what most of us would do – or at least consider doing.

"I waved a middle finger at the caravan," Marble wrote.

After driving the extra 20 minutes and filming video of destruction along the way, he made it to his home. Marble overheard a neighbor say that Cheney was down the street talking to people. That's when he got the idea to go meet Dr. Evil himself.

"I am no fan of Mr. Cheney because of several reasons," Marble wrote. "For those who don't know, Mr. Cheney is infamous for telling Senator [Pat] Leahy 'go fu** yourself' on the Senate floor. Also, I am not happy about the fact that thousands have died due to the slow action of FEMA, not to even mention the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time, i.e. Iraq."

So Marble, who was wearing an old Mr. T "I Pity Da Fool" t-shirt since he was sifting through the wreckage, asked a couple of police officers if he and a friend could walk down to Cheney. They told him Cheney was "looking forward” to talking to “the locals.”

"So we grabbed my Canon digital rebel and my Sony videocamera and started walking down the street," Marble wrote. "And then right in front of the destroyed tennis court I used to play on Dick Cheney was giving a pep rally, talking to the press. The Secret Service guys patted us down and waved the wands over us, and then let us pass."

As he stood about 10 feet away from Cheney and his friend and some camera operators from CNN and other media filmed the scene, Marble suddenly yelled, "Go fuck yourself, Mr. Cheney! Go fuck yourself, you asshole!"

Hey, at least Marble was polite. After all, he referred to Cheney as “Mr. Cheney.”

"I had no intention of harming anyone but merely wanted to echo Mr. Cheney's infamous words back at him," Marble wrote. "At that moment, I noticed the Secret Service guys with a panic-stricken look on their faces, like they were about to tackle me, so I calmly walked away back to my former house."

His friend videotaped a little bit longer and then came back to Marble’s house. As they were salvaging a few things from Marble's home, two military police waving M-16's showed up and said they were looking for someone who fit Marble's description who had cursed at Cheney.

"I told them I was probably the person they were looking for, and so they put me in handcuffs and 'detained' me for about 20 minutes or so," Marble wrote. "My right thumb went numb because the cuffs were on so tight, but they were fairly courteous and eventually released me after getting all my contact info. They said I had NOT broken any laws so I was free to go."

The article says Marble has a video of the incident up for sale on Ebay--but the link now goes to an "invalid item" page. Hmmmm...
"Storm Profiteering"

WIIIAI coins the term to describe Bush's suspending of the Davis-Bacon Act. Even a disaster of epic proportions--and a response so lame it could have been better coordinated by Mr. Magoo--can't shame them.
Add One More

Let's see...crass partisanship, lack of ethics, potential violations of law...add moral and intellectual bankruptcy to appropriate descriptions of Tom DeLay.

Watertiger sums it up nicely.

The odds of Mr. DeLay seeing a jail cell are small, but if he WAS convicted and sentenced to the clink, I doubt he'd look at it as "camp." And unlike those kids, he'd still have something to go home to.

How on earth could someone be so callous?
Another Dick

Henceforth, I will ONLY refer the representative of my district (note I didn't say "my" representative, because he most certainly doesn't represent me) as DICK Baker. Here's why.
Compassionate Conservatives

Bushes Sr. and Jr. return to NOLA...Jr. wanted to personally pull something from the waters--hat tip to Bad Attitudes for posting the photo.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Jeffrey Nails It

As per my previous post, well, I don't hold a candle.

On a brighter note, I just saw Joss Stone on the telethon...god, what a drag it is getting old...
Sovereign Territory

Earlier today, someone at work showed me two CNN streaming videos featuring Uptown lawyer Ashton O'Dwyer, also noted here. Dressed in pink shorts--nothing else--and sporting a few items of military gear, O'Dwyer has been "holding out" in his highly exclusive neighborhood, and vows to stay on.

It's hard to feel sorry for someone who's roughing it with two generators, what looks like plenty of gasoline, and, according to other reports, firearms out the wazoo. But his latest--declaring his palatial home "sovereign territory"...well, I'll put it this way: that NOLA has at least one rich, white lawyer from an exclusive community going to this extreme--complete with a "national flag"--doesn't surprise me at all.

However, before I show any sympathy with Mr. O'Dwyer, I'll note the above article also features one James Reiss, noted by Billmon here and here. Notice what he--and others--are saying.

Still...only in NOLA...
Picture of the Day Last Five Years

Courtesy of The Editors, and, oddly, Sky News (I think)...Is that your Freudian Slip showing?

It's not Race, It'!

(satire alert) In light of stories like this one chronicling the work of individuals like Gretna Police Chief Arthur Lawson--and earlier observations of what constitutes "looting" versus what constitutes "foraging,"...well, I thought I'd do a geographic analysis, based on the data available above...and my less than thorough knowledge of the city itself...

Maybe those who are from the area can provide their own, detailed analysis, based on their superior knowledge...I'm open to updates as they come in...

Storeyville LOOTS
9th Ward LOOTS
Warehouse District years ago, probably LOOTED, but I think these days it FORAGES
Garden District FORAGES
Old Metairie FORAGES
Bywater Tricky--I think it depends on the street
French Quarter LOOTS, but they call it FORAGING

Please feel free to add additions/corrections. As noted, I'm not an expert...just a well behaved semi-tourist (or so I'd like to think).
Tofufish? Ugh.

The seafood industry of Louisiana took a staggering hit from the least $1.1 billion dollars (and counting):

Hurricane Katrina’s ravaging winds and tidal urges have dealt at least a $1.1 billion blow to the state’s seafood industry, based on preliminary reports released Friday by the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

John Roussel, the department’s assistant secretary of fisheries, said that the losses would represent about a 40 percent drop in the value of the state’s commercial and recreational retail harvest, based on 2003 sales levels of $2.85 billion.

Because it takes oysters two years to rejuvenate, the hit to that crop is expected to be about $300 million this year and next, he said. Most of the oyster production occurs in the waters off St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes which were devastated.

"takes oysters two years..." I'll have to defer to YRHT on that one.

OK, enough kidding--because this is no joke.

Roussel said the loss estimates to the other seafood crops for the next year looks like this: shrimp losses, $539 million; crab losses, $81 million; saltwater fish, $79 million; menhaden, $93 million; and freshwater fish $1.2 million.

“These projections are subject to adjustments as air and water surveys are made over the next several months, Roussel said. The estimates are based on seafood production in Orleans, Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Tammany and lower Lafourche parishes.

As the nation’s second largest producer of seafood – second to Alaska – Louisiana produces 35 percent of the nation’s oysters and about 30 percent of its blue crabs.

You've got damage to industry infrastructure and to the natural areas that produce such abundance. Recreational fishing also took a heavy hit--and this doesn't begin to account for any toxins or contaminants that make it into the water.

Gulf War III

Amid all the big stories coming out--from Michael Brown's resume of last resort, to Billmon's eulogy, to the horrific task that now thing I couldn't get out of my head was watching the city gradually take on all the aspects of being under occupation. The military presence is now massive, people are being "non"-forcibly relocated in searches eerily reminiscent of...last night on Nightline Russel Honore used the term "shocked and awed" in describing the devastation--and then there was the looting or foraging, depending on who was doing the looting or foraging...

So, New Orleans is now sort of a substitute fusion of Baghdad and Fallujah...and the rebuild, if it actually happens (as opposed to being just another financial grab bag) should be interesting to watch: Team Bush truly has GOT to make something happen in NOLA, and happen quick--because if they can't, how on earth--or, more appropriately, how in hell--can they possibly fix the rather large mess on the other side of the planet.

Now, there are some differences between the destruction in Iraq and that along the Gulf Coast, to be sure: in the former, Bush was itching for action (remember the "Saddam and his sons must ride out of Dodge in 48 hours speech") the latter, he couldn't be disturbed...But it's hard not to look at some eerie parallels...for example, the whole 48 hours stuff...Bush, like Saddam, had 48 hours to act...but chose to do nothing (well, actually he chose to take a vacation from his vacation). "Mission Accomplished," meet "Dodged a Bullet." Fake turkey in Baghdad/Fake aid station in New Orleans--and so on.

However, they might stand a real chance in New Orleans: they've managed to clear out most of the city, they don't have an insurgency more or less constantly harrassing convoys (no, I'm not denying that some criminals shot at police/guard...however, I don't think THAT is comparable to the experience in Iraq), etc. etc. etc. There's the added benefit of not needing translators (despite the highly distinctive New Orleans accents)--and, finally, while the city IS distinctive to the extent I've referred to it as "its own universe," the truth is that at least certain American values (including many stuffed away in closets elsewhere) are also NOLA other words, a genuine recovery/rebuild might work, provided it's not of the Disneyland variety...

Of course, there are a LOT of loud voices these days describing just how we should proceed--and my opinion is, if those voices continue to dominate the debate, we'll have yet another comparison to the disaster overseas that's apt. My own opinion, for what it's worth, is that New Orleans itself should be the overriding authority--who better than those who live(d) there?

However, when I realize who will actually run the show--Team Bush--I get a sinking feeling, no pun intended. Their track record isn't exactly that of a winning horse (which might be the one thing Mike Brown DOES know anything about). In their own, crude way, they've managed to engage in either foraging or looting (take your pick) of a massive chunk of the Federal Treasury--but, like Sollozzo once said, "blood is a big expense." And they haven't yet shown any talent for creative effort, or inclination towards even long term investments/solutions.

In fact, the only thing they seem to know a good bit about is (the ever more absurd) photo-opping...the latest involving Dick Cheney--and we all know what transpired. There's talk of a "Katrina Czar," although the word coming out is that she/he has to be more of a provincial grand duke, lest the dauphin get red-faced with anger and experience a rise in blood pressure. No, I don't have a good feeling about his one, unfortunately, even if the conditions on the ground are less overtly violent. And, while there are no IED's or DU in the area, the ground is still a toxic and septic hazard...which, if you think about it...

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Calling Them Rats is an Rats

Believe it or not, eleven GOP sleazebags representatives voted AGAINST the $51 billion dollar aid package for those affected by the storm.

And, of course, Tom DeLay is barking up a storm (I almost typed "strom" by a writers-mistake equivalent of a Freudian slip) about how wonderful the disaster response was. Easy for him to say.

Here's the list of, um, less-than-rats:

Rep. Joe Barton - TX
Jeff Flake - AZ
Virginia Foxx - NC
Scott Garrett - NJ
John Hostettler - IN
Steve King - IA
Butch Otter - ID
Ron Paul - TX
James Sensenbrenner - WI
Tom Tancredo - CO
Lynn Westmoreland - GA

Something tells me they're far more generous with our tax dollars when the issue is...Iraq.
More Goodwill

I thought of titling this post Ain't too Proud to Beg, but while I think we might all agree it's ironic that the United States is receiving aid from Mexico the fact is that survivors can use all the help they can get--and it's certainly appreciated:

A Mexican army convoy of nearly 200 people crossed the border into the United States on Thursday to bring aid to victims of Hurricane Katrina, becoming the first Mexican military unit to operate on U.S. soil since 1846.

Mexico's first disaster aid mission to the United States was greeted at the border by dignitaries from both countries.

The unarmed soldiers, physicians, nurses and dentists aboard the convoy wore green uniforms with yellow armbands that said "Humanitarian Aid" in Spanish.

Daniel Hernandez Joseph, the Mexican consul in Laredo, said the cooperation was understandable since the United States has helped Mexico following natural disasters, including the Mexico City's earthquake in 1985.

"We know what it is like to be on the other side of this, because of that we are saying thank you by responding in kind," he said.

The convoy includes two mobile kitchens that can feed 7,000 people a day, three flatbed trucks carrying mobile water treatment plants and 15 trailers of bottled water, blankets and applesauce.

The Mexican government already was planning another 12-vehicle aid convoy for this week. It has sent a Mexican navy ship toward the Mississippi coast with rescue vehicles and helicopters.

Aside: a good friend of mine survived the '85 quake--he'd just arrived in Mexico City from El Salvador...

Anyway, it'd be nice if this gesture of goodwill makes us more appreciative of those who live on the other side of our southern be honest, I don't hold out TOO much hope for that--particularly in light of reports like the one I linked to below--but you never know.

Gracias, Mexicanos.
First Hand Account

From Billmon--once again he's required reading...but for a BIG GIANT DOSE OF ON THE GROUND REALITY in the midst of the post-storm chaos--and, at times, shockingly obscene order, you won't do much better than this.

Sorry to write movie-barker cliches, but you'll laugh, cry, cheer--and shake your head more than a few times.

Looks like some things have turned a corner here, personal business-wise (for the better, fortunately). I'll go into details at a later time.

CNN has a story about St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes--they're mostly destroyed. Eight days later, any relief efforts have been FEebleMA.

The title above refers to this:

As relief efforts sputtered in the days after the storm, Verlyn Davis Jr., an out-of-work electrician, took charge. He transformed his parents' bar and seafood restaurant, Lehrmann's, into a shelter where he dispatches people to clear roads, hook up generators and help in the disaster relief process.

About 20 people have been staying there these days. On a boarded-up window out front is a blue spray-painted sign: "ABOUT TIME BUSH!"

"The governor and the president let thousands of people die and they let them die on their roofs and they let them die in the water," said Davis, 45. "We got left. They didn't care."

Help has begun to pour in -- the sound of the military helicopters overhead interrupts the silence. Search teams in boats pound on rooftops. They shout, "Anybody home?" But they know the answer.

"New Orleans took a beating," said Jason Stage, a 47-year-old maintenance worker staying at Lehrmann's. "But St. Bernard Parish and Plaquemines was ground zero."

Still working on a personal matter, so sorry again for the slow updates.

What did Cheney say about his tete-a-tete with Pat Lehay last year? Something "I speak very frankly" (actually I think it was Lynne who said that--but Dick concurred)...

Cheney got a taste of his own medicine in Mississippi today.

Link via AmericaBlog. Crooks and Liars has streaming video.

Something important came up (personal business), and it's taking my entire morning. I'll be back this afternoon.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Village Idiots

Young man, there's no need to feel down.

I said, young man, pick yourself off the ground

I said, young man, 'cause you're in a new town
There's no need to be unhappy.

It's fun to stay at the White House, I say

It's fun to stay at the White House I say

They have everything for you men to enjoy,

You can hang out with all the boys ...

It's fun to stay at the White House I say
It's fun to stay at the White House I say...

Talking Points Memo has a storm timeline. Inaction in action.
More FEMA-ups

Back to checking out the local news on the cable subcarrier--listening now to a reporter from NOLA who called FEMA to inquire about promises of $2000(?) in recovery funds per family...the FEMA person told him to "contact the local media." Go figure.
Just the Facts

From DailyKos, another item to raise one's bloodpressure--Larry Johnson chronicles a call he made to MSNBC:

While watching the MSNBC program, CONNECTED, COAST TO COAST with Ron Reagan, a man from the Evergreen Foundation was on air spinning the myth that the President had to "beg" the Governor of Louisiana to take action. Having been on this show several times I called one of the bookers, Susan Durrwatcher, to alert her to the fact that this man was misrepresenting what happened. I offered Susan the following objective, documented facts (see timeline below). Susan thanked me for my "opinion" and said "we just have a different perspective". Stunned, I asked her by what standard of journalism that an objective fact was mere opinion? I asked her to simply look at the documents and correct the record. She declined. I asked her to remove me from the MSNBC list of contacts. I'm sure MSNBC won't miss me and I am certain I will have a happy life without having to subject myself to their unprofessional approach to journalism.

The Bush White House is furiously spinning to lay the blame on the Governor and Mayor of Louisiana. My position is that I think both the Governor and the Mayor can be faulted on a variety of fronts. I do not absolve them of their responsibility to properly and fully implement their own emergency response plans. However, the Governor followed the appropriate protocol and, in accordance with the National Response Plan (NRP), asked the President in accordance with the Stafford Act, to declare a State of Emergency.

Go here to see the timeline itself.
Flying Pigs, Part III

It's gonna be a weird ride home from work with all those winged porcines up in the sky. Andrew Sullivan (hat tip to Attaturk for the link):

An alert emailer writes the following:
"Plain and simple: President Bush signed Gov. Blanco's request to declare a state of emergency in Louisiana on 8/27. Within the text of that declaration the Gov. declares:
Pursuant to 44 CFR § 206.35, I have determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State and affected local governments, and that supplementary Federal assistance is necessary to save lives, protect property, public health, and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a disaster.
The Stafford Act is the legal stipulator in that declaration. Under The Stafford Act:

In any major disaster, the President may--

# direct any Federal agency, with or without reimbursement, to utilize its authorities and the resources granted to it under Federal law (including personnel, equipment, supplies, facilities, and managerial, technical, and advisory services) in support of State and local assistance efforts.

When President Bush signed that declaration on 8/27 he accepted a responsibility to the citizens of Louisiana. Who has the greater resources, Gov. Blanco, or President Bush? Why is Gov. Blanco held to a higher standard of competence than President Bush, when they each had the same responsibility?"

The only problem here is the formulation: "accepting responsibility." This is something this president has a great deal of trouble doing.
Be Brief(ed)

"Wish we could just get this overwith and fly out to California. They told me I could play the preznital guitar."

Double credit to TPM and Needlenose:

MIAMI - About an hour after Hurricane Katrina made landfall, forecasters at the National Hurricane Center were running on adrenaline and sugar. Few had slept much in recent days, if at all.

Director Max Mayfield's eyes were puffy, his voice slightly cracked from giving interviews to media outlets around the world.

"I don't even know what day it is," said Mayfield.

Mayfield and the team of forecasters in Miami had just achieved the near-impossible.

At 11 p.m. Friday, more than two days before Katrina reached land, the hurricane specialists said the hurricane would make landfall in the bayous of Louisiana, east of New Orleans. They pinpointed a town called Buras as the most likely place it would strike.

They were off by 18 miles. In the business of hurricane prediction, that's laser-beam accuracy.

"A superb forecast," Mayfield said.

It was not something to celebrate; any happiness gave way to melancholy.

"I hate to be bragging about that when there are people killed," he said...

On Saturday night, Mayfield was so worried about Hurricane Katrina that he called the governors of Louisiana and Mississippi and the mayor of New Orleans. On Sunday, he even talked about the force of Katrina during a video conference call to President Bush at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

"I just wanted to be able to go to sleep that night knowing that I did all I could do," Mayfield said.

Doing all he can do? Or just singing the blues?

More re: Flying Pigs

Tom Friedman manages to make sense:

And then there are the president's standard lines: "It's not the government's money; it's your money," and, "One of the last things that we need to do to this economy is to take money out of your pocket and fuel government." Maybe Mr. Bush will now also tell us: "It's not the government's hurricane - it's your hurricane."

An administration whose tax policy has been dominated by the toweringly selfish Grover Norquist - who has been quoted as saying: "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub" - doesn't have the instincts for this moment. Mr. Norquist is the only person about whom I would say this: I hope he owns property around the New Orleans levee that was never properly finished because of a lack of tax dollars. I hope his basement got flooded. And I hope that he was busy drowning government in his bathtub when the levee broke and that he had to wait for a U.S. Army helicopter to get out of town.

The Bush team has engaged in a tax giveaway since 9/11 that has had one underlying assumption: There will never be another rainy day. Just spend money. You knew that sooner or later there would be a rainy day, but Karl Rove has assumed it wouldn't happen on Mr. Bush's watch - that someone else would have to clean it up. Well, it did happen on his watch.

Besides ripping away the roofs of New Orleans, Katrina ripped away the argument that we can cut taxes, properly educate our kids, compete with India and China, succeed in Iraq, keep improving the U.S. infrastructure, and take care of a catastrophic emergency - without putting ourselves totally into the debt of Beijing.

So many of the things the Bush team has ignored or distorted under the guise of fighting Osama were exposed by Katrina: its refusal to impose a gasoline tax after 9/11, which would have begun to shift our economy much sooner to more fuel-efficient cars, helped raise money for a rainy day and eased our dependence on the world's worst regimes for energy; its refusal to develop some form of national health care to cover the 40 million uninsured; and its insistence on cutting more taxes, even when that has contributed to incomplete levees and too small an Army to deal with Katrina, Osama and Saddam at the same time.

As my Democratic entrepreneur friend Joel Hyatt once remarked, the Bush team's philosophy since 9/11 has been: "We're at war. Let's party."
Funny, I Didn't See any Flying Pigs Today

Another busy day here--for all sort of reasons--but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that not only did I find myself agreeing with Ken--well, mostly agreeing with him--but another writer from that side of the aisle, Jeff Crouere, has an article that's very good and worth reading (Shout out to Oyster for the link)...

Back in a bit...need to handle some things over here.
"Let's Roll!"

Billmon's latest two posts: The Potemkin President Part II and Dead or Alive are as good a summation of the sorry state of affairs on the national level as anything. Goddamn, no pun intended, but a whole new circle of hell will have to be built (Halliburton, are you listening?) when this is all said and done.

Watching Bush parade around with those poor firefighters forced to tag along as props has me envisioning a sick, demented version of the Village People--only in this case it's the Village Idiot who evidently is so clueless, so braindead, that he can't find it within himself to simply override the PR department, and LET THOSE INDIVIDUALS DO THE JOB THEY'RE TRAINED TO DO! Unbelievable.

I may think Shrubusto is an arrogant fuck-slime, but I'll admit he holds the'd think that, just once, he could consider the absurdity, the utter absurdity, and make the right decision.
More Disaster Response

Tom DeLay can't put it more clearly--he'll place politics above lives every time:

The House majority leader late Tuesday tried to deflect criticism of the federal response to Hurricane Katrina by saying "the emergency response system was set up to work from the bottom up," then announced a short time later that House hearings examining that response had been canceled.

Oh, Satan is going to have fun with you, Mr. DeLay--just you wait.
Bush: "It Has Been Brought To My Attention That There Was Recently a Bad Storm"

Jeffrey links to the latest Onion.
Operation Stumblebum

Dowd gets it mostly right in her latest:

As the water recedes, more and more decaying bodies will testify to the callous and stumblebum administration response to Katrina's rout of 90,000 square miles of the South.

The Bush administration bungled the Iraq occupation, arrogantly throwing away State Department occupation plans and C.I.A. insurgency warnings. But the human toll of those mistakes has not been as viscerally evident because the White House pulled a curtain over the bodies: the president has avoided the funerals of soldiers, and the Pentagon has censored the coffins of the dead coming home and never acknowledges the number of Iraqi civilians killed.

But this time, the bodies of those who might have been saved between Monday and Friday, when the president failed to rush the necessary resources to a disaster that his own general describes as "biblical," or even send in the 82nd Airborne, are floating up in front of our eyes.

New Orleans's literary lore and tourist lure was its fascination with the dead and undead, its lavish annual Halloween party, its famous above-ground cemeteries, its love of vampires and voodoo and zombies. But now that the city is decimated, reeking with unnecessary death and destruction, the restless spirits of New Orleans will haunt the White House.

The administration's foreign policy is entirely constructed around American self-love - the idea that the U.S. is superior, that we are the model everyone looks up to, that everyone in the world wants what we have.

But when people around the world look at Iraq, they don't see freedom. They see chaos and sectarian hatred. And when they look at New Orleans, they see glaring incompetence and racial injustice, where the rich white people were saved and the poor black people were left to die hideous deaths. They see some conservatives blaming the poor for not saving themselves. So much for W.'s "culture of life."

The president won re-election because he said that the war in Iraq and the Homeland Security Department would make us safer. Hogwash.

But she made one mistake: bodies might be "floating up in front of our eyes," but unless you're wading through the toxic soup, you won't be seeing them:

The U.S. agency leading Hurricane Katrina rescue efforts said Tuesday that it does not want the news media to photograph the dead as they are recovered.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, heavily criticized for its slow response to the devastation caused by the hurricane, rejected journalists' requests to accompany rescue boats searching for storm victims.

I guess all that remains now is to transport the bodies to Dover the middle of the night.

I thought I'd do some quick math in light of several things--this WaPo article, Ian's first-person accounts of individuals he's met at the Cajundome, the obvious distinction between rich and poor so graphically displayed in the various news reports--and the insistance by some folks that the problem re: those who didn't evacuate is with bureaucracy, state government, local entities--or, in the mind of someone who must be the dumbest Senator, at least east of the Mississippi, themselves.

My understanding is that 80 percent of the region heeded warnings, which left an estimated 100,000 individuals to face the storm. Of those, some 20 thousand chose to seek shelter at the Superdome and perhaps an equal number at the Convention Center...ok, let's say half that number--conservatively, 30 thousand people.

Assuming a capacity of roughly 50 people per bus, that's 600 buses. Double capacity--say, disallow ANY luggage (no clothes, no personal hygiene items, NOTHING) you can double capacity...300 buses.

According to this cached document, the ENTIRE New Orleans fleet was, as of 2001 (the latest I could find), just over 400 buses total. Basically, just enough to more or less get those out who CHOSE to go to an evacuation location--AND you must assume that ALL buses were in working condition, or at least capable of transit to, say, Baton Rouge.

Add in perhaps 200 school buses or so (and, while I don't know about NOLA, per se, most school bus drivers in the Gret Stet are independent contractors who own their own bus, i.e., the logistics to centrally organize them would be immense)...well, that makes a BARE minimum to evacuate all who were ADMITTED to best, perhaps you could cram in more individuals...but, again, try to imagine the logistics of adding even 400 buses to total traffic leaving the city, and I think all but the most delusional would realize that it's an impossible task, even IF the city could somehow have managed to organize basically 48 hours...

Oh, and when do you cease normal routes? 48 hours prior to landfall was still a workday for some--and they take buses to and from work. Who will drive the buses? Will they be paid for their work? Will the drivers be allowed to account for their own families? Will the evacuation proceed from a central point, or will buses pick up people along a route? Who will be allowed to ride the bus? Locals only--or tourists? Just wondering.

And can anyone imagine the consequences of adding even 400 buses to the nightmare traffic scenario that ensued in the actual evacuation?

On the other side of the coin, I noted late last week that Amtrak offered to run special trains out of NOLA when it became apparent a catastrophic storm was poised to hit the city...again, doing some quick math and equally quick research, I see that a basic coach will carry 84 people--let's say, for argument's sake, you could add another 60 or so in an emergency--that's 250 cars. Amtraks entire fleet of passenger coaches is 760 and presumably most of those are NOT in a position to be quickly moved to the area...not that I'm saying an Amtrak evacuation shouldn't have been tried, but I'll surmise that, at best, MAYBE a hundred or so cars could've been pulled into service--if we were lucky. That still leaves you WAY short.

And, while I alluded to this above, I'll say it a little more clearly: who has the kind of money to PAY for this sort of massive undertaking. New Orleans itself? Don't make me laugh. The State of Louisiana? No way (well, one way--MAYBE if the feds cut a decent deal on offshore oil royalties, AND if that money was dedicated to an effort...such a dedication, in hindsight, seems logical enough, but in the pre-Katrina real world, it's not like the Gret Stet doesn't have other problems that might have been prioritized--and then factor in the corruption). Private business? Ha.

That leaves...the federal government. But considering that the government won't adequately fund measures like levee maintenance, well...and, in the end, I just don't think ANY administration since 1965 (the last time a big one truly inundated NOLA) really gave a good goddamn (and that includes the 12 years of Democratic administrations...but also the 32 years of GOP'ers in the top seat).

Finally, there was always the possibilty that NOLA would've been spared--that didn't happen, but suppose the city had been lucky (Jeffrey had a post this past week describing the dread pre-Ivan, which veered eastward at the last possible moment). To use a term common in the private sector, the actuarials just wouldn't add up.

Which is why private business can't and won't do the and State are unable...leaving the federal government as last resort. But, the feds these days have no interest whatsoever in providing that level of service, because of myriad factors: interest in war overseas, interest in tax cuts for the rich, interest in pushing federal dollars to corporate donors...they've pretty much given up on the whole "General Welfare" thing...unless the General is Electric, or Dynamic (or Halliburton).

Because of this refusal to provide such a service, the government has (with probably a good bit of savings) instead turned to PR...for the most part. To be fair, other parts of the government at least issued warnings.

The last two links being well, the truly damning evidence--along with all the evidence that, well, I'm too tired to link to right now, but which we all know: that the federal government was, with almost NO exception, ON VACATION even as it became apparent that this was to be a MASSIVE storm. It wasn't a bolt out of the blue, but there for all to see...if they chose to see.

They didn't.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


According to local news, the Islamic Society of Milwaukee made a substantial donation to the relief effort. I think they mentioned $30,000, but I'm not sure.

Note: local television has returned to network programming. I caught this news on a quick scan of the cable subcarrier. They were interviewing a representative from the organization who traveled down here to help. I'd like to offer a heartfelt thanks to those folks--and I'll note for the record that, the first time I actually had time and money to visit a foreign country (now ten years ago), it was to an "officially" Islamic nation--Morocco. Now, Morocco is as different from, say, Saudi Arabia as New Orleans is from Amarillo, but still I remember the absolute hospitality extended to me by these folks who are also "of the book," as it were--even those with little or nothing went out of their way to share.

Thanks again, y'all. And I hope have a wonderful and pleasant experience here in the Gret Stet.
What's Next? "Thought it was Just a Flesh Wound?"

Yet another from AmericaBlog, a visual renunciation of Dick Myers's statement re: thinking New Orleans had "dodged a bullet."
More FE(eble)MA

From TalkingPointsMemo, a link to the Salt Lake City Tribune:

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.

On Monday, some firefighters stuck in the staging area at the Sheraton peeled off their FEMA-issued shirts and stuffed them in backpacks, saying they refuse to represent the federal agency.

Federal officials are unapologetic...

The firefighters, several of whom are from Utah, were told to bring backpacks, sleeping bags, first-aid kits and Meals Ready to Eat. They were told to prepare for "austere conditions." Many of them came with awkward fire gear and expected to wade in floodwaters, sift through rubble and save lives.

"They've got people here who are search-and-rescue certified, paramedics, haz-mat certified," said a Texas firefighter. "We're sitting in here having a sexual-harassment class while there are still [victims] in Louisiana who haven't been contacted yet."

The firefighter, who has encouraged his superiors back home not to send any more volunteers for now, declined to give his name because FEMA has warned them not to talk to reporters...

While FEMA's community-relations job may be an important one - displaced hurricane victims need basic services and a variety of resources - it may be a job best suited for someone else, say firefighters assembled at the Sheraton...

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.

" suited for someone else." No...shit. I can think of a lot of people more suited to that kind of work--like EVERY GODDAMN HACK POLITICAL APPOINTEE. I mean, WTF? You've got personnel trained in rescue and recovery and...

It's just too fucking surreal.

But here's the icing on the cake--the last paragraph:

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.

Fucking Fuckity Fuck.
FEMA=Felons, Election hacks, Morons, Assholes

"Brownie"'s bad enough, but to give you an idea of the level of dingbat at the top of the FEMA slag heap, here's something Oyster came across:

Top FEMA Deputies Make Brown Look Qualified
If Bush were to fire FEMA director Mike Brown the agency would be run by the Chief of Staff and the Deputy Chief of Staff. (See the FEMA organizational chart).

The Chief of Staff is a guy named Patrick Rhode. He planned events for President Bush’s campaign. Rhode has no emergency management experience whatsoever. From Rhode’s official bio:
His first position with the Bush Administration was as special assistant to the President and deputy director of National Advance Operations, a position he assumed in January 2001. Previously, Mr. Rhode served as deputy director of National Advance Operations for the George W. Bush Presidential Campaign, in Austin, Texas
The Deputy Chief of Staff is Scott Morris. He was a press flak for Bush’s presidential campaign. Previously, he worked for the company that produced Bush’s campaign commercials. He also has no emergency management experience. From Morris’s official bio:
Mr. Morris was also the marketing director for the world’s leading provider of e-business applications software in California, and worked for Maverick Media in Austin, Texas as a media strategist for the George W. Bush for President primary campaign and the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign.

These guys make Brown look qualified. And that’s no small feat.

Meanwhile, a close friend of my who's originally from Livingston Parish (east of Baton Rouge) sent me the text of an article that appears here (however, it's behind a free-registration page):

Livingston Parish has been struggling to provide assistance to thousands of evacuees staying in shelters and motels or living with local families and doing it mostly with local resources, Parish President Mike Grimmer said.

"FEMA is a four-letter word around here," said Parish President Mike Grimmer, who was hoping to meet with a FEMA representative Tuesday for the first time since Hurricane Katrina hit more than a week ago.

Update: Sorry--I'm trying to balance about twenty different things right now--I meant to add that Livingston is about as Red State as it gets in Louisiana (my friend, however, is a wonderful person and has strong resistance to such things). When LIVINGSTON is slamming the administration, it should make Messrs. Rove, Cheney, and Bartlett shudder.
What a Difference a Year--And Two Thirds More Electoral Votes--Makes

Another Salon piece--if you don't have an account, there's an ad you have to watch--but this one is very much worth reading.

Billmon points to it, and it follows up on his own observations re: the unusually different federal responses to hurricanes in 2004 and 2005.

Oh, and I'd like to cite a couple more AmericaBlog posts: Aravosis links to this Herald Sun article detailing the activities of three students from Duke University who, on their own volition, made it down to New Orleans...and, using a two wheel drive Hyundai, rescued people on Magazine Street. That reminds me: last night one of the local reporters talked about how after each sweltering day at the I-10/Causeway staging area, he went back to LaPlace (an outer suburb) where some 50-60 buses were parked...sitting...waiting...not on the road.

Another link (subscription only) to The San Jose Mercury News, apparently has this horrible news: 22 people were found dead--they'd tied themselves together to a rope, hoping to collectively stay safe from the floodwaters. They didn't make it.

I'm (sadly) certain this won't be the only horrible news we're about to see.

Is Attaturk implying that he's got the inside story on the possible replacement of Mike Brown at FEMA?

Well, it's a more qualified candiate, that's for sure.
War on Weather

Because you're either with us...or you're with the wind and rain. Tom Tomorrow has the details in Salon.

Also available without having to view an ad at Working For Change.
Pay Now...or Pay Later

Another from AmericaBlog, this Financial Times letter (subscription only to view it on their site) identifies the problem quite clearly. Short version: contempt of government, a central GOP tenet, results in...piss poor government, particularly when a crisis hits. And the crisis in New Orleans--AND the north shore, and in Mississippi, AND in Alabama--is enormous.

Aside from the literally incalculable loss of life, the fact is that successive governments, be they Standard Operating GOP, or Clintonian GOP lite, chose to ignore dire warnings, and instead play dice with the region.

Projects to maintain and improve levees were/are enormously expensive, yes. But that's literally pennies on the dollar compared to what we're facing now.

And, I'd like to note, as per a few posts below re: the latest spin point coming from the twin giants of evil Rove and Bartlett, and so prodigiously memorized by hacks like Bobby Jindal: name a SINGE private entity with the ability to either pay before the fact, that is, fund projects that were, in TRAGIC hindsight, so obviously needed (AND which were identified as such at the time) OR pay the now staggering costs of recovery.

Again, now IS the time to discuss these matters--in fact, it's probably THE best time to do so: it would get those NOT qualified in the immediate business of rescue and recovery off the backs of those who are.

Bigger blogs have already chronicled this in part or whole, but for the benefit of those who haven't yet seen it, here's the opening few lines:

Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff said it all, starting his news briefing Saturday afternoon: "Louisiana is a city that is largely underwater..."

Well there's your problem right there.

If ever a slip-of-the-tongue defined a government's response to a crisis, this was it.

Here's the rest.
Imeldaleezza Rice

AmericaBlog has Questions for Condi.

1. What was Rice's exact itinerary during the worst natural disaster in our nation's history? What time did she leave for her New York City vacation? It was late Monday or Tuesday -- after the levees broke and the disaster spiraled out of control. But it would be nice to know exactly what horrors were going on when she decided it was time for a break.

2. Did Rice enjoy "Spamalot?" Tickets normally cost $100.00 but they're very hard to snag. How much did her tickets cost? When Rice responds that the question is inappropriate at a time like this, ask her why GOING TO THE SHOW IN THE FIRST PLACE wasn't inappropriate at a time like this?

3. What else did Rice do on Wednesday while New Orleans was sinking into chaos?

4. How much did the shoes Rice bought at Ferragamo on Fifth Avenue cost exactly? Can we see them? Reports say the pair of shoes cost in the thousands. Was she really accosted by a woman who berated Rice for being on vacation during the worst natural disaster in our country's history? How did that make Rice feel? Does Rice realize that while she was spending an obscene amount on shoes that Americans were digging deep into their pockets to donate money to the Red Cross and wondering how else they could help? Does she realize what a terrible contrast that is?

More questions here.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Or When You Show One a Card Trick


Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation: "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."
The Wrath of God Descended


To the dozens of right-wingers who say that we brought it on ourselves; to the countless conservative Christians who believe Katrina was their god's attempt to cleans New Orleans of sodomites; please note:

The French Quarter was spared. The Faubourg Marigny was spared. The Bywater was spared. Most of Uptown was spared. These are the neighborhoods that we, the fags, dykes, and trannies of New Orleans, call home--not Lakeview, not Lake Vista, not the Lower Ninth Ward, not New Orleans East, not Arabi, not Chalmette. If god or Allah or Yahweh or whoever has it out for anyone, it would seem to be working families, immigrants (New Orleans East is home to one of the largest Vietnamese communities in the world), and the poor.

So the way I see it, either the hurricane was a random act of natural violence, or your god has really lousy aim.
Please Don't Shoot Barbara Bush

Because that would be too kind. I'm thinking proper handling of Babs was nicely expressed by Billmon a couple of days ago: put her in a chain gang and stick her on the levee repair crew. Or dump her in a 9th Ward attic for a few days--without food or water:

NEW YORK Accompanying her husband, former President George H.W.Bush, on a tour of hurricane relief centers in Houston, Barbara Bush said today, referring to the poor who had lost everything back home and evacuated, "This is working very well for them."...

The former First Lady's remarks were aired this evening on National Public Radio's "Marketplace" program.

In a segment at the top of the show on the surge of evacuees to the Texas city, Barbara Bush said: "Almost everyone I’ve talked to says we're going to move to Houston."

Then she added: "What I’m hearing is they all want to stay in Texas. 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 (she chuckles slightly) is working very well for them."

Like I said, please don't shoot her. The public stockade would be plenty sufficient--and all the rotten fruit and vegetables in the city's refrigerators would make excellent items to throw at her.
Team Bush's Quick Response to the Disaster

No, no, no, not THAT disaster...we're talking about what REALLY matters to them: poll numbers.

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...

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...

One Republican with knowledge of the effort said that Mr. Rove had told administration officials not to respond to Democratic attacks on Mr. Bush's handling of the hurricane in the belief that the president was in a weak moment and that the administration should not appear to be seen now as being blatantly political. As with others in the party, this Republican would discuss the deliberations only on condition of anonymity because of keen White House sensitivity about how the administration and its strategy would be perceived.

In a reflection of what has long been a hallmark of Mr. Rove's tough political style, the administration is also working to shift the blame away from the White House and toward officials of New Orleans and Louisiana who, as it happens, are Democrats.

"The way that emergency operations act under the law is the responsibility and the power, the authority, to order an evacuation rests with state and local officials," Mr. Chertoff said in his television interview. "The federal government comes in and supports those officials."

That line of argument was echoed throughout the day, in harsher language, by Republicans reflecting the White House line.

Operation Shift the Blame is fully staffed and funded--my guess is that they've probably been adequately provisioned as well--plenty of food and water, a place to stay, and so on.

Of course, that doesn't mean they aren't prone to dumb mistakes--claiming Gov. Blanco either forgot or didn't fill out the right forms--which was a lie--or Chertoff managing to contradict himself in sucessive sentences, or coming across as such a dumb fuck that Ted Koppel apparently had to ask him what he was watching on television (missed that one--if I had to guess, I'd go with "The Three Stooges")...

The Times article also notes an administration defending itself with the "vacation excuse" (TalkingPointsMemo mentioned this)--but I get the feeling that will quickly be tossed aside: "I'm so sorry, but you know how hot it gets in Washington every August" won't exactly get a sympathetic nod from someone who may have spent the last week 1) in a sweltering attic, 2) on a roof, 3) the Dome, 4) the Convention Center, or 5) along I-10 at Causeway, etc. etc.

And I just saw Bobby Jindal, truly a cross between a hack and a clown, spew the third major administration spin point: all that red tape in the bureaucracy really hurt the private relief efforts. Next thing you know, he'll argue that the profit motive should be applied to who lives and dies. Asshole.

This afternoon on NPR Daniel Schoor, in comments, got a LOT closer to the truth when he noted that the recovery effort is pretty much...what you can expect when "amateurs" are put in charge. Duh.

And, as the Times notes in conclusion, this was quickly discerned by the administration. So, they put the A-Team in charge:

These officials said that Mr. Bush and his political aides rapidly changed course in what they acknowledged was a belated realization of the situation's political ramifications. As is common when this White House confronts a serious problem, management was quickly taken over by Mr. Rove and a group of associates including Mr. Bartlett. Neither man responded to requests for comment.

White House advisers said that Mr. Bush expressed alarm after his return to Washington from the Gulf Coast.

Because, after all, a crisis is a least when it involves a POLITICAL disaster of epic proportions.
A Report From the Cajundome

I mentioned this below from Ian, but I couldn't read the post myself due to computer monitor issues. Since I had to come into work anyway, I finally got a chance to read all of it...definitely do so if you've got the time:

Many of the people I checked in had identification cards instead of driver's licenses, bringing to light their probable dependence on public transportation and effective contingency plans. Several of them voiced to me their anger over resources and warning systems that could have been used in their areas but weren't. They also expressed surprise and extreme gratitude that the Cajundome was stocked with every possible amenity, in refreshing contrast to the heat, hunger and disease of the sewage-laden Superdome...

For more than an hour, a woman who had lost everything except her husband poured out her feelings to me. Most of the things she said reflected what others there had said, that they were at a genuine loss as to how the government could have dropped the ball. They weren't vindictive (or making it a political issue), but they were more than a little angry and upset that FEMA and the National Guard, among many others, failed to address the issue as early as they should have. Her greatest concern was that she had no clue as to the whereabouts of her 25-year-old daughter. It reminded me of earlier that night, when a young man had come up to the registration table asking if we knew of a phone number he could call to recover his father's body, in the likely event that he was dead. The woman asked why there was currently very little attempt to enter the check-in cards into a master database so that people in shelters all over the affected area could do a better job of matching estranged families. I said I had no idea, but hoped it was ongoing...

One smiling man asked me if we had Raisin Bran, which we didn't have in our line. He replied that he was okay with his Corn Flakes, because after spending four days last week with water up to his shoulders and nothing to eat or drink, this was a feast. He said he was "blessed," which was a word I heard a lot that day. I drove away that morning feeling really good, not due to any self-gratification but because even in the worst situations, the good people at the Dome held hope for the future...
Ian and Oyster

Ian McGibboney is volunteering at the CajunDome--please check out his posts, which make for intense, compelling reading. Your Right Hand Thief remembers an earlier post of his about modular housing which preserves the essential character of the Crescent City.

Um, unfortunately, my computer monitor is starting to act up...oh well. I'm heading over to work for a little bit anyway, and will put in a few additional posts there.
What Murph Says

This is the failure of way more than one person, but it is a failure that goes all the way to the top.

Well worth reading.

I'm watching Marine 1 fly away from the OEP as I type. Sorry for the slow updates--Labor Day and all...also put in extra hours at work yesterday, and wanted to rest just a bit.

The open letter from the Pic is getting national attention.

Also on CNN, this story noting that the administration needs to put up or shut up.

Earlier I saw footage from Jefferson Parish--long lines of cars in the early morning rain--skies are clear now, but radio reports emphasized the devastation and "stench of death."

Krugman gives the administration an "F:"

Experts say that the first 72 hours after a natural disaster are the crucial window during which prompt action can save many lives. Yet action after Katrina was anything but prompt. 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?

Bob Herbert writes: Bush to New Orleans: Drop Dead.

Just heard on local television that emergency agencies are still getting 911 calls from people trapped. Others are sticking it out despite flood waters that are still at least chest high in some areas.

Just heard that traffic was surprisingly light on Airline Highway and I-10 going to Jefferson--one man said things got heavy around Burnside, but he was able to take River Road.

I'm going to catch up over here, and be back in a bit.
Another Must Read

The Potemkin President from Billmon.
Fist, Meet Wall, Part II

I hope this doesn't sound frivolous--but if it does, well, damnit, so be it. Guilty as charged. Yes, so many people have lost so much--loved ones, friends, family, or everything they owned in the storm. So many people are sick, suffering, and DYING, if not in New Orleans itself, then in strange cities, warehoused wherever there's space--after being ignored...Humans treated as so much cargo. Like animals.

And I'm writing a post about...animals.

NPR, the Pic blog (I think), and the WWL blog (reasonably sure) all ran stories about a particular child who was forced to abandon his pet as he boarded an evacuation bus today. The boy cried so hard he vomited.

That's not the only story I've seen about people being forced to abandon their pets. But I think this particular instance really stood out for me. It's a pretty safe bet this kid isn't exactly what you'd call a fortunate son--like a certain clown that carts his own canine on Air Force One. You know, I'll bet he didn't have so much as two nickels to rub together most of the time...but he did have one thing: a dog. You know, "man's best friend." I'll bet that kid and his dog were inseparable, in a way that only kids and dogs can be. And I KNOW that kid and his dog stuck together, through and through, for five days in the hell-on-earth in post-storm New Orleans, in that special way anyone who's ever had a dog or cat, or any variety of "little one" can relate to:

In one example reported last week by The Associated Press, a police officer took a dog from one little boy waiting to get on a bus in New Orleans. "Snowball! Snowball!" the boy cried until he vomited. The policeman told a reporter he didn't know what would happen to the dog.

At the hospital, a doctor euthanized some animals at the request of their owners, who feared they would be abandoned and starve to death. He set up a small gas chamber out of a plastic-wrapped dog kennel.

And yeah, call me sentimental, but that either makes me want to cry or slam my fist so hard into the wall that it's not even funny. (Full disclosure: yes, I'm a pet owner--a cat).

And yes, pets are small concern compared to the ocean of human suffering--Aaron Broussard's statement this morning is riveted in my brain right now--but this otherwise brush-off story of a little boy, who, in his formative years, has probably borne more pain--and demonstrated more strength--than the entire goddamn gang of criminals not even pretending to govern in the public interest--struck a chord in me. Tonight, he's probably in a shelter somewhere, in an emotional state beyond grief. His best friend is gone forever, thanks to the laziness, the utter disdain, and the callous lack of concern displayed by those running the show.

He won't even get an apology.


Sunday, September 04, 2005

Back to Work

Called into work for something--light to no posting for a while.

Just wanted to note for the record that the two local television stations with news departments (ABC and CBS affiliates) are running a clip of Aaron Broussard's statement on MTP this morning--however, it's highly edited, and focuses on his dramatic account of the death of his building manager's mother. The clip uses Broussard saying "beauracracy committed murder," but omits the particular statements about FEMA, or more general statements about government leadership--as well as specific praise for Gov. Blanco.

I'll also take back my comment about Russert patronizing. Broussard was clearly shook up--badly--and Timbo's tone sounds compassionate.
"Those Who Chose Not to Evacuate"

Arthur Silber directs us to this Wapo article which chronicles the stories of some people who couldn't get out of the city:

"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." Her name is Dorth Dunbar; she was trying to get some rest after days of peril.

Dunbar estimated his annual income to be about $20,000, which comes from doing graphic design work when he can get it. Before the storm, when he and his wife estimated how much money they needed to flee the city, he was saddened by the reality that he could not come up with anywhere near the several thousand dollars he might need for a rental car and airfare....

The two smooth-faced boys on the floor, sitting on their backpacks, looked more energetic than most. Corey Wise, 17, and Jermaine Wise, 18, were once residents of New Orleans's 17th Ward.

"Our family was already in a financially depressive situation before the hurricane," Jermaine said.

He calculated where the family -- their mother, Marie, is divorced -- stood financially before the wind, water and destruction.

"We had $300 between us," he said, nodding toward his brother. "Mom had about $225 worth of savings. That was our emergency savings for anything. And that was a blessing."

Their home was in a New Orleans neighborhood called Holly Grove.

"A lot of drugs and violence in our neighborhood," Corey said.

"It's hard to just get up and go when you don't have anything," Jermaine said. "Besides, everything we know is in New Orleans."...

A 47-year-old grandmother was rocking a grandchild.

"These people look at us and wonder why we stayed behind," said Carmita Stephens. "Well, would they leave their grandparents and children behind? Look around and say, 'See you later'?" She gave a roll of the eyes behind the raised voice.

"We had one vehicle. A truck. I wanted my family to be together. They all couldn't fit in the truck. We had to decide on leaving family members -- or staying."

She shifted the grandchild in her arms. "I'm living paycheck to paycheck. My mother passed away this year. I was helping take care of her. My real job was as a private-duty caregiver. I had one patient. He died two weeks after my mother passed, on May 6." She calculated that the family made a little more than $2,500 a month -- but that included help from her son Jamel's job. "He's missing now," she added. "So is Eric Stephens, my husband."

They were soon to be Texas-bound. "And I don't even like Texas," she said...

"I got $3.00 on me now," said John West, 39, formerly a resident of the Sixth Ward here. "I'm serious."

He said he has never had a savings account in his life. "I make $340 a month," he said. "I stay with my mother. I give her about $150 of that. His income is from a disability check. His hands got badly burned in a 1993 fire. "I lost a little nephew, but I saved two kids," he said.

West said he has never owned a credit card -- not even before the fire. He said he figures $500 was the most money he could have come up with on such short notice, with the hurricane bearing down...

There were a few lucky souls yesterday sitting at the Shoney's restaurant on State Highway 30 in Gonzales. Karen Lavalais, 37, and a friend, Patricia Jones, 39, and various relatives.

"I only work part time at a janitorial service," Jones said. "I make $6.00 an hour. If I didn't have my mama, I'd be one of those victims still trapped in New Orleans."

She works 17 hours a week.

"I had $80 when I got out of New Orleans," Jones said. "And I wouldn't have had that if payday hadn't been that Friday. Eighty dollars with two children."

Lavalais, who formerly lived in the 10th Ward, said that when the hurricane struck she had a total of $94 in the bank, which constituted her life savings.

"And I couldn't even get to that," she said. "So thank goodness I had some gas in my car."

As Silber notes, these aren't folks on the dole--they all have jobs (technically, John West has a disability pension; however, if "badly burned" hands doesn't qualify for relief, then what does?). This underscores a point I've not been alone in making--that the political establishment simply does not comprehend the day-to-day reality for large numbers of people being governed. Remember, it was FEMA director Michael Brown who announced the talking point that's the title of this post.

I doubt Michael Brown has EVER been in a position where he's say, down to a bit of loose change with with payday some 72 hours off. George W. Bush most certainly never has. If Imeldaleezza Rice was, she's evidently forgotten. They simply don't have the slightest clue.

Which probably explains why FEMA didn't bother to take up Amtrak's offer.
Did You Find a Fourth?

Jeffrey found this combination history lesson/analysis from Greg Palast:

The National Public Radio news anchor was so excited I thought she'd piss on herself: the President of the United States had flown his plane down to 1700 feet to get a better look at the flood damage! And there was a photo of our Commander-in-Chief taken looking out the window. He looked very serious and concerned.

That was yesterday. Today he played golf. No kidding.

I'm sure the people of New Orleans would have liked to show their appreciation for the official Presidential photo-strafing, but their surface-to-air missiles were wet.

There is nothing new under the sun. In 1927, a Republican President had his photo taken as the Mississippi rolled over New Orleans. Calvin Coolidge, "a little fat man with a notebook in his hand," promised to rebuild the state. He didn't. Instead, he left to play golf with Ken Lay or the Ken Lay railroad baron equivalent of his day.

Oh, and tag-team partners Rummy and Dick are in NOLA for yet another photo-op. Why am I getting a sinking feeling?
This Explains Things

Dependable Renegade: Our crack rapid response team
Now's NOT the Time to Discuss?...

How difficult IS it to, say, make a SINGLE phone call? Because I guarantee that's ALL it would've taken. America Blog cites The 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 Bataan rode out the storm and then followed it toward shore, awaiting relief orders. Helicopter pilots flying from its deck were some of the first to begin plucking stranded New Orleans residents.

But now the Bataan's hospital facilities, including six operating rooms and beds for 600 patients, are empty. A good share of its 1,200 sailors could also go ashore to help with the relief effort, but they haven't been asked. The Bataan has been in the stricken region the longest of any military unit, but federal authorities have yet to fully utilize the ship.

Captain ready, waiting

"Could we do more?" said Capt. Nora Tyson, commander of the Bataan. "Sure. I've got sailors who could be on the beach plucking through garbage or distributing water and food and stuff. But I can't force myself on people....

"I figured we would be a big help in New Orleans. We've got electricity, and the police could have charged up their radios. We've got water, toilets. We've got food."

One call--one fucking phone call from the so-called president...Call whoever it takes--the JCS, the US Navy, who-the-fuck ever, and pass along the order. How difficult could that be?

Apparently way too difficult for this administration, which only knows how to stage photo-ops. From Frank Rich:

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.

After dispatching Katrina with a few sentences of sanctimonious boilerplate ("our hearts and prayers are with our fellow citizens"), he turned to his more important task. The war in Iraq is World War II. George W. Bush is F.D.R. And anyone who refuses to stay his course is soft on terrorism and guilty of a pre-9/11 "mind-set of isolation and retreat." Yet even as Mr. Bush promised "victory" (a word used nine times in this speech on Tuesday), he was standing at the totemic scene of his failure. It was along this same San Diego coastline that he declared "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln more than two years ago. For this return engagement, The Washington Post reported, the president's stage managers made sure he was positioned so that another hulking aircraft carrier nearby would stay off-camera, lest anyone be reminded of that premature end of "major combat operations."

There's the midst of the US Navy, and he can't think to put a US NAVY SHIP on the relief effort...goddamn him.

Though history is supposed to occur first as tragedy, then as farce, even at this early stage we can see that tragedy is being repeated once more as tragedy. From the president's administration's inattention to threats before 9/11 to his disappearing act on the day itself to the reckless blundering in the ill-planned war of choice that was 9/11's bastard offspring, Katrina is déjà vu with a vengeance.

The president's declaration that "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees" has instantly achieved the notoriety of Condoleezza Rice's "I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center." The administration's complete obliviousness to the possibilities for energy failures, food and water deprivation, and civil disorder in a major city under siege needs only the Donald Rumsfeld punch line of "Stuff happens" for a coup de grâce. How about shared sacrifice, so that this time we might get the job done right? After Mr. Bush's visit on "Good Morning America" on Thursday, Diane Sawyer reported on a postinterview conversation in which he said, "There won't have to be tax increases."...

On Thursday morning, the president told Diane Sawyer that he hoped "people don't play politics during this period of time." Presumably that means that the photos of him wistfully surveying the Katrina damage from Air Force One won't be sold to campaign donors as the equivalent 9/11 photos were. Maybe he'll even call off the right-wing attack machine so it won't Swift-boat the Katrina survivors who emerge to ask tough questions as it has Cindy Sheehan and those New Jersey widows who had the gall to demand a formal 9/11 inquiry.

But a president who flew from Crawford to Washington in a heartbeat to intervene in the medical case of a single patient, Terri Schiavo, has no business lecturing anyone about playing politics with tragedy. Eventually we're going to have to examine the administration's behavior before, during and after this storm as closely as its history before, during and after 9/11. We're going to have to ask if troops and matériel of all kinds could have arrived faster without the drain of national resources into a quagmire. We're going to have to ask why it took almost two days of people being without food, shelter and water for Mr. Bush to get back to Washington.

Another Classy Individual

Warrick Dunn is working on getting as many pro football players as he can to make donations of at least $5,000 for hurricane relief (Kaare Johnson of WWL is reporting by phone from the city).
Complete Aaron Broussard Transcript

MR. RUSSERT: And we are back.

Jefferson Parish President Broussard, let me start with you. You just heard the director of Homeland Security's explanation of what has happened this last week. What is your reaction?

MR. AARON BROUSSARD: We have been abandoned by our own country. Hurricane Katrina will go down in history as one of the worst storms ever to hit an American coast, but the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina will go down as one of the worst abandonments of Americans on American soil ever in U.S. history. I am personally asking our bipartisan congressional delegation here in Louisiana to immediately begin congressional hearings to find out just what happened here. Why did it happen? Who needs to be fired? And believe me, they need to be fired right away, because we still have weeks to go in this tragedy. We have months to go. We have years to go. And whoever is at the top of this totem pole, that totem pole needs to be chain-sawed off and we've got to start with some new leadership.

It's not just Katrina that caused all these deaths in New Orleans here. Bureaucracy has committed murder here in the greater New Orleans area, and bureaucracy has to stand trial before Congress now. It's so obvious. FEMA needs more congressional funding. It needs more presidential support. It needs to be a Cabinet-level director. It needs to be an independent agency that will be able to fulfill its mission to work in partnership with state and local governments around America. FEMA needs to be empowered to do the things it was created to do. It needs to come somewhere, like New Orleans, with all of its force immediately, without red tape, without bureaucracy, act immediately with common sense and leadership, and save lives. Forget about the property. We can rebuild the property. It's got to be able to come in and save lives.

We need strong leadership at the top of America right now in order to accomplish this and to-- reconstructing FEMA.

MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Broussard, let me ask--I want to ask--should...

MR. BROUSSARD: You know, just some quick examples...

MR. RUSSERT: Hold on. Hold on, sir. Shouldn't the mayor of New Orleans and the governor of New Orleans bear some responsibility? Couldn't they have been much more forceful, much more effective and much more organized in evacuating the area?

MR. BROUSSARD: Sir, they were told like me, every single day, "The cavalry's coming," on a federal level, "The cavalry's coming, the cavalry's coming, the cavalry's coming." I have just begun to hear the hoofs of the cavalry. The cavalry's still not here yet, but I've begun to hear the hoofs, and we're almost a week out.

Let me give you just three quick examples. We had Wal-Mart deliver three trucks of water, trailer trucks of water. FEMA turned them back. They said we didn't need them. This was a week ago. FEMA--we had 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel on a Coast Guard vessel docked in my parish. The Coast Guard said, "Come get the fuel right away." When we got there with our trucks, they got a word. "FEMA says don't give you the fuel." Yesterday--yesterday--FEMA comes in and cuts all of our emergency communication lines. They cut them without notice. Our sheriff, Harry Lee, goes back in, he reconnects the line. He posts armed guards on our line and says, "No one is getting near these lines." Sheriff Harry Lee said that if America--American government would have responded like Wal-Mart has responded, we wouldn't be in this crisis.

But I want to thank Governor Blanco for all she's done and all her leadership. She sent in the National Guard. I just repaired a breach on my side of the 17th Street canal that the secretary didn't foresee, a 300-foot breach. I just completed it yesterday with convoys of National Guard and local parish workers and levee board people. It took us two and a half days working 24/7. I just closed it.

MR. RUSSERT: All right.

MR. BROUSSARD: I'm telling you most importantly I want to thank my public employees...

MR. RUSSERT: All right.

MR. BROUSSARD: ...that have worked 24/7. They're burned out, the doctors, the nurses. And I want to give you one last story and I'll shut up and let you tell me whatever you want to tell me. The guy who runs this building I'm in, emergency management, he's responsible for everything. His mother was trapped in St. Bernard nursing home and every day she called him and said, "Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?" And he said, "Yeah, Mama, somebody's coming to get you. Somebody's coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody's coming to get you on Friday." And she drowned Friday night. She drowned Friday night.

MR. RUSSERT: Mr. President...

MR. BROUSSARD: Nobody's coming to get us. Nobody's coming to get us. The secretary has promised. Everybody's promised. They've had press conferences. I'm sick of the press conferences. For God sakes, shut up and send us somebody.

MR. RUSSERT: Just take a pause, Mr. President. While you gather yourself in your very emotional times, I understand, let me go to Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi.

In the end, Russert can't help but be patronizing...

Here's the complete program transcript.
Da Paper Takes a Different View

I'm fucking sick and tired of having to listen to goddamn morons like Cokie Roberts, and it looks like the Pic is too (here's the main page)--Atrios also lets us know that Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard is at the end of his rope as well...unfuckingbelievable.

Read Billmon's last two posts again. Think about Grover Norquist's insistence that the Senate must handle the "real" business, namely, the repeal of the estate tax (I wish Grover's mom had strangled HIM in the bathtub back in the day). If you've got the time, take a look at the Special Pic Report (see below) that's so eerily on the mark.

Hearing this administration--and their media hacks--tell us "now's not the time for politics" while they're engaged in NOTHING BUT POLITICS makes me want to hurl. Listening to brain-dead pundits, whose attention spans can measured in nanoseconds, bark and bray about how "this couldn't be foreseen" or "recovery takes time" in light of documented evidence showing decidedly different reactions last year--when the election was at stake--should make the entire country howl. When comparisons to the tsunami disaster show how utterly wanting our government's response has been--well, if that doesn't demonstrate the complete disdain the political structure has for its own citizens, I don't know what does.

...and now I see that Imeldaleezza Rice is getting in on the photo-opping, too. Bitch.
Chronicle of a Disaster Foretold

For those who HAVEN'T seen this yet, note that it's from 2002--and it relies on studies from even earlier.

But what do you expect from a cabal of "C" level students who never bothered to do their homework.

Meanwhile, Cokie Roberts, on This Week, is...just...plain...awful. Howell Raines looks good in comparison.

From Daily Kos:

This would be funny if we weren't talking about real suffering. From [a] CNN video of Bush in Biloxi. Bush is talking to two sobbing African-American women who have lost their house, and a white guy:

Bush to women: "There's a Salvation Army center that I want to, that I'll tell you where it is, and they'll get you some help. I'm sorry.... They'll help you.....

Woman 1: "I came here looking for clothes..."

Bush: "They'll get you some clothes, at the Salvation Army center..."

Woman 1: "We don't have anything..."

Bush: "I understand.... Do you know where the center is, that I'm talking to you about?"

Guy with shades: "There's no center there, sir, it's a truck."

Bush: "There's trucks?"

Guy: "There's a school, a school about two miles away....."

Bush: "But isn't there a Salvation center down there?"

Guy: "No that's wiped out...."

Bush: "A temporary center? "

Guy: "No sir they've got a truck there, for food."

Bush: "That's what I'm saying, for food and water."

Bush turns to the sister who's been saying how she needs clothes.

Bush to sister: "You need food and water."

Good god...
I've wondered why the Vacationer-in-Chief has so much trouble standing up straight--it's gotta be the skull: