Friday, September 16, 2005


I thought a bit about this last night (link to TPM, via The Editors), because both Shrub, in his speech, and Richard Clarke, on Nightline, not only made the same point--put the military in control--but because they did so without any hesitation or concern...AND without considering the necessity of such an action:

Then there's the president's great line from the speech: "It is now clear that a challenge on this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces."

No, it's not. Actually, every actual fact that's surfaced in the last two weeks points to just the opposite conclusion. There was no lack of federal authority to handle the situation. There was faulty organization, poor coordination and incompetence.

Show me the instance where the federal government was prevented from doing anything that needed to be done because it lacked the requisite authority.

This is like what we were talking about a few days ago. This is how repressive governments operate -- mixing inefficiency with authoritarian tendencies.

You don't repair disorganized or incompetent government by granting it more power. You fix it by making it more organized and more competent. If conservatism can't grasp that point, what is it good for?

As for the military, same difference. The Army clearly has an important role to play in major domestic disasters. And they've been playing it in this case. But what broader role was required exactly?

As I've been saying, repressive governments mix adminsitrative clumsiness and inefficiency with authoritarian tendencies. That's almost always the pattern. The direction the president wants to go in is one in which, in emergencies, the federal government will have trouble moving water into or enabling transportation out of the disaster zone but will be well-equipped to declare martial law on a moment's notice.

Another pack of lies. Right in front of everyone.

Dense...yet Feather-Brained

Shrub insists the government can pay for hurricane reconstruction costs...and "other priorities" without raising taxes. I dunno--maybe it'll be done with smoke and mirrors.

Oh--and to change the subject slightly, WIIIAI wieghs in on Bush's 23 minute speech last night--my own attempt at satire is below, and I also noticed during the address itself that Shrubelroy seemed as if he wanted to wrap it up even earlier. Quite a departure from his post 9/11 "boy we can blow stuff up" form.

Back to the reconstruction: now it's Krugman's last free op-ed, and he uses it to express profound skepticism as to the reconstruction effort (and compares the modern age of greed to the New Deal, an age of need--and, yes, greed, too, but greed severely tempered by strict policing...more on that below). Um, yes. Recent history has left us with not merely a guide, but a clear set of blueprints in the form of Iraqi reconstruction, and it ain't pretty. To be fair, any "insurgency" in NOLA will likely be limited to Uptowners like Ashton O'Dwyer as opposed to the scary looters running rampant in the imaginations of Bill O'Reilly--and something tells me folks like O'Dwyer will be left alone. But you've got to wonder.

Billmon's latest also shows a healthy skepticism towards assurances that the federal dole will be meted out fairly. Inspectors general in the age of Bush are, according to his sources, are largely political insiders as opposed to career civil servants...kind of like how FEMA was run, or not run, as the case may be.

FDR ran a clean New Deal, according to Krugman, at least in part due to political considerations: corruption in public works programs would reflect badly upon his administration. Well, call him a cynic, but he got what he wanted. Bush, too, is a cynic, but a cynic on the opposite side of the fence: HIS idea of "good" government is one that steers dollars into the coffers of his cronies and political donors...or his own pocket, at least indirectly (the stadium deal/taxpayer giveaway increased the value of his sports team holdings considerably--which, by the way, is the ONLY positive accomplishment Bush can point to in his entire adult life).

So, we'll see what happens. Yesterday I predicted the efficacy of the reconstruction effort will be in inverse proportion to the number of no-bid, cost-plus contracts Halliburton snags, and I'll stick to that. I'll also use their share price as a marker--to paraphrase Team Bush's mantra on another issue: as Halliburton's price goes up, the reconstruction effort falls down.
Oil and Water Might Not Mix...

But there's a lot of both, and god knows what else, still in and around NOLA. Jeffrey posted a link to this article:

Hurricane Katrina is rapidly becoming the worst environmental calamity in U.S. history, with oil spills rivaling the Exxon Valdez, hundreds of toxic sites still uncontrolled, and waterborne poisons soaking 160,000 homes.

New Orleans' flooded neighborhoods are awash with dangerous levels of bacteria and lead, and with lower but still potentially harmful amounts of mercury, pesticides and other chemicals. Much will wind up in the soil as the water drains, or in Lake Pontchartrain, hammering its already battered ecosystem.

The total does not count the gasoline from gas stations and the more than 300,000 flooded cars, which was likely to add another 1 million to 2 million gallons. Nor does it count the oil from hundreds of smaller or undiscovered spills. Altogether, 396 calls had come in to the Coast Guard's national oil-spill hotline by Wednesday afternoon.

More than three-quarters of the oil from the Katrina spills had not been recovered by Wednesday, the Coast Guard said.

The magnitude of the oil spills came into focus with word that laboratories trying to test sediment from newly drained areas were having a problem: There was so much petroleum in the dirt that they couldn't test for anything else.

The Exxon Valdez became the benchmark for U.S. oil spills by leaking North Slope crude into Alaska's cold isolation. This time, the danger includes untreated sewage, cancer-causing compounds, nameless black gunk from rail yards, chemicals used to kill plants or insects, substances that are poisonous even in the tiniest amounts, and decomposing remains.

Combined with the Agricultrural Street Landfill, we're talking about serious toxic soup.

And, if/when they do clean this up, where will it go?

Finally, given the water levels around not only NOLA, but also points south, how will this affect the fishing industry? Already, the infrastructure was literally blown out of the water--if/when they can rebuild, will there be any fish to catch?

Something tells me fish that live in sludge aren't exactly what you want to serve for dinner.
"Let There Be Light...ok, He's Gone--Shut it Down"


From Brian Williams' blog ...

I am duty-bound to report the talk of the New Orleans warehouse district last night: there was rejoicing (well, there would have been without the curfew, but the few people I saw on the streets were excited) when the power came back on for blocks on end. Kevin Tibbles was positively jubilant on the live update edition of Nightly News that we fed to the West Coast. The mini-mart, long ago cleaned out by looters, was nonetheless bathed in light, including the empty, roped-off gas pumps. The motorcade route through the district was partially lit no more than 30 minutes before POTUS drove through. And yet last night, no more than an hour after the President departed, the lights went out. The entire area was plunged into total darkness again, to audible groans. It's enough to make some of the folks here who witnessed it... jump to certain conclusions.
Capt. Shrub's Address to the GOP Titanic

Good evening. I'm speaking to you from the icy North Atlantic--nearly empty, mostly, if not all water...except for the icebergs...all the way to Greenland and Newfund...Newfound...Canada.

Nobody expected icebergs in the North Atlantic. Nobody expected the bulkheads to fail.

When we realized the scope and magnitude of the disaster, we took immediate steps--identification of Scapegoats, rearrangement of deck chairs...even a call to the band for tasteful, appropriate music.

Lieutenant Blanco and Petty Officer Nagin make excellent targets for blame, and I look forward to First Officer Rove's efforts in this regard in the upcoming off-year elections. However, to the extent that I can deny it once the media cycle is over, I take, um, responsi...responsib...I made a mistake.

This time of sorrow and outrage has also been marked by acts of kindness that make all of us proud. In one lifeboat, a first-class passenger took in 15 people from steerage...Second Officer Mike Chertoff and his boy steward Brownie just informed me steerage is actually below the water line. Heckuva job, guys.

We're getting blankets by the dozen to those who need them. Faith-based programs are providing prayer, and the federal government will be
letting contracts by the billions of dollars. Vice President Cheney himself has taken a personal interest in the allocation of contracts.

We will rebuild the Titanic, whatever the cost--and this time, there will be no steerage section below the water line. Thank you all, god bless, and GOD BLESS THE GOP.
NOLA Eyewitness

Schroeder takes us on his trip back to Algiers and NOLA.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Two More Tools

Thanks to Kathryn Cramer. The first is the New Orleans Flood Map, posted below (you've probably seen it elsewhere--I was late getting to it)--it now has an address interface. The second also uses an address interface, but has the added advantage of before and after flyover pics from a more oblique angle.
Money Trees

First, sorry for such slow posting today--more personal stuff, and work, have cut into my time.

However, I've now seen some of the preliminaries to tonight's Jackson Square speech (I guess it's fitting that the dauphin address us there--maybe he can also spray on some silver or copper paint and do a frozen man act).
UPDATE: In comments, Murph suggests he carry a sign: "Will Dance for Money."
And Billmon is right: the era of big government, far from being over, has roared back to life with a vengence.

Shrub, according to this article (hat tip to Jeffrey), won't mention a price. I assume the reason is that, when all is said and done, any decent effort to rebuild (i.e., nation, or at least region-building) will by necessity make The Great Society seem almost miserly in comparison. Reasonable estimates of the cost come to Iraq-like numbers--$200 billion dollars or more, which can't sit well with small-government affecionados...although the same haven't done much eye-batting with the costs in Mesopotamia thus far.'s pretty obvious to most sentient beings that the effort will have to be massive.

Which perhaps explains the lack of complaint by erstwhile small-government types who've realized, or at least become comfortable with, the idea that government need not be small when THEY'RE on the receiving end of chow doled from the federal chuck wagon. After all, it's hard to imagine any source of wealth in this country that DIDN'T begin, or thrive, with large subsidies from the gubmit.

So, despite the lack of numbers in tonight's media event (with the media conspicuous by their absence--evidently we're going to see a solo act, although I expect in the wings there will be security out the wazoo)--this speech, IF it's even modestly successful--not a given--will be as much a call to the gravy train (minus numbers) as anything. Harry Reid has already gone on record (no permanent link available--scroll down) with his concerns about this. He also noted the GOP's LACK of cooperation in setting up an independent commission to determine what went wrong with the disaster response.

And consider that it's now Karl Rove who's "in charge" of the "reconstruction effort." That alone makes me wince--shouldn't someone just a little less overtly political be in the catbird seat? The last thing this country needs for $200 billion dollars is fat contractors (paying less than the prevailing wage) constructing Potemkin Parishes for the benefit of a media I still don't fully trust.

Perhaps, though, the reconstruction effort will do one thing: wake people up to the idea that, like it or not, government, particularly at the federal level, has a role to play in the lives and welfare of the citizenry. And, while I doubt the gang running the show will see things this way, the fact is that a good bit of the reconstruction effort can be financed without additional tax burdens on the poor and middle class. Yep, that's right: rich people and corporations can--and should--accept that they may have to hold off on purchasing even more luxury items, or preferred shares of their favorite stock, and consider an investment far more worthy--their country. No, it won't pay six-figure dividends. But what price can you put on national stability...or, for that matter, a vital economic engine like the port, which, as so many have noted (so many times) helps supply, among other things, the gasoline to run their Hummers?

Over the next few months we'll get a clearer idea of just how the reconstruction effort is going--my own theory is that the success of the effort will be in inverse proportion to the number of contracts Halliburton gets their grubby fingers on. And the success of "the mission" will be critical: if it fails, well...I'd prefer not to really think about that, given that I've never considered 50 gallon drums of various petroleum distillates to be all that aesthetically pleasing.
No Sugar Coating

Juan Cole posts something he received from David Langness, who's spent the last week or so in NOLA and along the Gulf Coast. It's quite good, although, to be honest, more than a little pessimistic. Still, it's worth a look.
Forced Busing

Oyster has a post up with an "article" he notes--and demonstrates--was cobbled together and falsely attributed to the Pic. Smells like swiftboating, if you ask me.

Of particular interest is, once again, the bus question. The linked "article" claims "the city has enough school and transit buses to evacuate 12,000 citizens per fleet run," which is NOT from the Pic, but from an Opinion Journal piece written by Bob Williams, who's expertise on storms and New Orleans is derived from...his stint as a state legislator in Washington (the state, not DC or the parish--that's right, the northwestern state. Geez).

For the record, "12,000" appears to be pulled out of thin air. They can't even do decent research.

Michael of Musing's Musings has a good comment, pointing out that with contraflow in effect, multiple "fleet runs" were an impossibility. He notes the logistical difficulty of finding "x" number of qualified drivers (who presumably don't have families of their own to evacuate). Also consider that some city buses were already in use bringing people to the Superdome.

I expect we'll continue to see nonsense of this type for some time--sort of the last defense of true acolytes, who continue to guzzle the Kool-Aid while refusing to believe their own lyin' eyes. Fortunately, the rest of the public is getting tired of the clown show that's been claiming since 9/11 they know how to protect us--which we now know is utter bullshit.
It's a Sign!

Actually, it's three signs, courtesy of Attaturk. But not three wise men (apologies to the innocent civilian caught in the pic...I don't mean you, sir).

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

No Mo' MoDo

I guess this is Dowd's last op-ed before Times Select--at least she finished strong:

W. has said he prefers to get his information straight up from aides, rather than filtered through newspapers or newscasts. But he surrounds himself with weak sisters who don't have the nerve to break bad news to him, or ideologues with agendas that require warping reality or chuckleheaded cronies like Brownie.

The president should stop haunting New Orleans, looking for that bullhorn moment. It's too late.

Too late, indeed, despite one last chance, Hail-Mary from NOLA tomorrow. I wonder how many times he'll use "unprecedented" when he really means "unprepared." ...?
No Joke

I really thought this was just a photoshop tweak--apparently it isn't.

Closer look.

Incompetent...or incontinent? Both.

A friend of a friend writes about her own experience in NOLA--and departure--following the storm. It's definitely worth looking at.
Memo to Dennis Hastert

In case you need a reminder to make sure your brain is in gear prior to opening your piehole:

1:55 P.M. - COLUMBIA, IL (AP): Glen Mueller's unfolding corn harvest is fraught with quandaries far larger than the machinery that dwarfs him on his land outside of Columbia, Illinois, near Saint Louis.

Last year's record yields are a faded memory, replaced by crops thinned by months of drought. With better crops elsewhere in the Corn Belt, he's facing low market prices.

And now he's worried about whether fallout from Hurricane Katrina will push up the cost or lead to delays in getting crops to export terminals.

His luck may well depend on efforts to clear the wreckage of Katrina, which damaged key shipping hubs at New Orleans and snarled barge traffic already slowed by low Mississippi River levels.

The bottleneck is squeezing farmers' ability to get their grain downriver and on to foreign markets.
(my italics)

Molly Ivins reminds us that we were warned:

Some of you may have heard me observe a time or two -- going back to when George W. was still governor of Texas -- that the trouble with the guy is that while he is good at politics, he stinks at governance. It bores him, he's not interested, he thinks government is bad to begin with and everything would be done better if it were contracted out to corporations.

We can now safely assert that W. has stacked much of the federal government with people like himself. And what you get when you put people in charge of government who don't believe in government and who are not interested in running it well is ... what happened after Hurricane Katrina.

Many a time in the past six years I have bit my tongue so I wouldn't annoy people with the always obnoxious observation, "I told you so." But, dammit it all to hell, I did tell you, and I've been telling you since 1994, and I am so sick of this man and everything he represents -- all the sleazy, smug, self-righteous graft and corruption and "Christian" moralizing and cynicism and tax cuts for all his smug, rich buddies.

Next time I tell you someone from Texas should not be president of the United States, please pay attention.
Other Priorities

Maybe the reason why Big Dick was so conspicuously absent from the Gulf Coast in the storm's immediate aftermath had to do with a lack of hospital facilities:

Shortly after Hurricane Katrina roared through South Mississippi knocking out electricity and communication systems, the White House ordered power restored to a pipeline that sends fuel to the Northeast.

That order - to restart two power substations in Collins that serve Colonial Pipeline Co. - delayed efforts by at least 24 hours to restore power to two rural hospitals and a number of water systems in the Pine Belt.

And how would he know about this?

Dan Jordan, manager of Southern Pines Electric Power Association, said Vice President Dick Cheney's office called and left voice mails twice shortly after the storm struck, saying the Collins substations needed power restored immediately.

Jordan dated the first call the night of Aug. 30 and the second call the morning of Aug. 31. Southern Pines supplies electricity to the substation that powers the Colonial pipeline.
Scrooge--Before the Ghosts' Visits

"Lost Everything? Ho-humbug..."

James Sensenbrenner, according to Air America Radio, the richest committee chair in Congress (Kimberly Clark heir--referred to as a "paper" manufacturer--I've heard Sensenbrenner gets quite angry when people research what sort of paper Kimberly Clark manufactures)--anyway, Jimbo, already infamous for his cry-baby shutting down of a hearing about (the no, it's not)Patriot Act, and who tried to meddle in a judge's sentencing decision, and who was one of eleven reps to vote AGAINST aid to victims of Hurricane Katrina--geez, he's really pushing for asshole of the year, eh?--well, if that's not enough, he's decided that, no, there will be no hearing to look into amending the hideous bankruptcy bill passed this summer:

The chairman of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee said on Tuesday he had no intention of reopening a sweeping bankruptcy law passed by Congress earlier this year, despite proposals to exempt Hurricane Katrina victims from some of its provisions...

He said he would not hold a hearing in his committee on a bill by the panel's ranking Democrat, Michigan Rep. John Conyers, and 31 other Democrats who want to exempt Hurricane Katrina victims from parts of the new bankruptcy law. A chairman's decision not to hold a hearing usually prevents a House bill form advancing.

Congress last spring passed the new bankruptcy law, which makes it harder for heavily indebted Americans to wipe out their obligations. It goes into effect on Oct. 17.

How kind.

One of the articles above, by the way, summarizes Mr. Sensenbrenner's wealth, which was inherited:

In May, working with economic disclosure information that members of Congress file publicly, USA Today reported Sensenbrenner's net worth at $9.3 million...

Sensenbrenner's disclosures show he owns a home in Virginia worth $964,000, a condo in Menomonee Falls valued at $109,000, and a majority interest in a residence in Chenequa that he listed at $524,000...

Sensenbrenner is reported to own a $4,000 boat and four automobiles...

Sensenbrenner owns shares of stock in major U.S. companies that are worth millions of dollars, including $803,000 in the securities of the Kimberly-Clark Corp, a multinational paper products company which counts Sensenbrenner's great-grandfather as a founder.

The dividends paid by the K-C shares, and those by another $1.97 million worth of stock in Merck & Co., the pharmaceutical manufacturer, were valued between $30,000 and $100,000...

USA Today even reported that Sensenbrenner has a stamp collection he values at $70,000.

Sensenbrenner's Congressional salary is $158,100 annually.

Let's hope next year he becomes a displaced, um, I was going to say worker, but I think wanker is more fitting.
At Last

The same day Little Lord Shrubelroy finally admitted that his hand was in the cookie jar that the buck kinda, sorta, to "the extent that the federal government was responsible," stops, oh, somewhere in the executive branch...the 'nuts--with Jake Tapper's help, of all people--shouted "WAAAIIIIT!!!" SCAPEGOAT found a, um, scapegoat:

Congressman William Jefferson.

In wingnut eyes, he looks "just like OJ--of course they know."

Jefferson, to be fair, did a REALLY stupid thing: according to the report, on September 2nd, while "touring" his Uptown neighborhood in a military vehicle to "inspect damage," he had the driver pull over to his house in order to retrieve personal items: three suitcases, a laptop computer, and a box about 2 to 2 1/2 feet square.

This is dumb for two reasons: first, the congressman is under investigation in an unrelated matter, and items were seized from his home during a raid last month. Second, the city is under armed guard. Citizens attempting to do the same would almost certainly be detained/arrested. Pulling a stunt like this is crass, pure and simple.

But the way Tapper reported on this would make you think the Congressman is Carlos Marcello...when the reality is that Jefferson's actions, as dumb as they are, amount to spitting on the sidewalk.

That didn't stop ABC from prominently portraying the congressman--and John "Fading into Senatorial Insignificance" Kerry--visiting shelters here in the Gret Stet... then you've got his very name--William Jefferson--to light a fire under 'nut feet...two out of three, if you think about it.

And, finally, as noted above, Congressman Jefferson is being investigated, which already puts him on the defensive.

To be honest, I don't know much about William Jefferson. He ran for governor a few years back (and was beaten badly), he tends to vote conservative (IIRC, he voted in favor of the appalling bankruptcy bill), and, given what I DO know about Louisiana politics, I can't believe his hands are all that clean. I wouldn't describe him as "charasmatic" at all. Competent? Perhaps...again, I just don't know, and Jefferson doesn't get a lot of press up here in BR.

In other words, he'll make a perfect scapegoat...or at least a scapegoat of the moment--for wingnuttia to latch on to. If nothing else, Jefferson provides a diverson while the administration desperately tries to get back "on message"...because slamming folks IS the message. And, to be fair, retrieving personal items in the way he did WAS dumb. Even Ray Nagin--asked to comment by Koppel following the report--could only say he hoped there was an explanation.

Here's my explanation: Jefferson did a dumb thing. What's that got to do with the abject failure on the part of the federal government to respond to the disaster?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


Kathryn Cramer chronicles some of the horror stories people report as to their FEMA experiences. Ugh.

Don't forget her main Katrina page, which has all sorts of other fascinating stuff--like the fact that she evidently was aware of the flood wall breaks before the director of Homeland Security:

You knew that already, but I can't quite wrap my head around the fact that the timestamp on my first blog entry about the levee breaches is Tuesday, August 30, 2005 at 11:30 AM. It's like a story out of the Onion: A Westchester housewife is on task before the director of Homeland Security even knows that there's a problem. Surreal.

The NY Times carries an article about NOLA artists:

...when most of his neighbors fled, Mr. Cook stayed on, not wanting to abandon his 83-year-old neighbor, who refused to leave her cat. Surviving on water from a neighbor's pool, he spent his days making art from junk he picked up in the street and taking photographs of the destruction so that someday, he said, people will be able to experience Katrina through the eyes of an artist.

"We were the only two left on the block," Mr. Cook recalled. "It was like living in 'The Twilight Zone.' Every day you learned new ways to adapt. Looters were selling batteries for $10 apiece. It wasn't until I heard gunfire in the middle of the night and saw the light from a helicopter shine in my window that I knew it was time to leave. My dad, my brother, my sister, they all lost their homes."

Mr. Cook, who eventually made his way to Tyler, Tex., saw more of Katrina than most of New Orleans's small but passionate community of artists, who have scattered around the country, most either moving in with friends or staying in hotels. This close-knit group keeps in touch, however, mostly by e-mail messages, which have proved more reliable than cellphones. And since they have not been allowed back into New Orleans, most have heard only rumors about the condition of their homes, their studios and their art.

"We're a strong, nurturing community," Willie Birch, a 66-year-old painter, said in a telephone interview from an apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, which he kept when he moved back home to New Orleans in 1993 after winning a Guggenheim Fellowship. "We'll continue to survive."

But many artists' works may not have fared so well.

John T. Scott, a local sculptor who drove to Houston at 3:30 a.m. the day Katrina hit, thinks he has lost his house and his studio. "I have a two-story studio, but if there was six feet of water, who knows," he said.

A major retrospective of Mr. Scott's work at the New Orleans Museum of Art ended on July 10, and at least one-third of the 199 pieces in the show were at his studio at the time of the hurricane. The rest, he said, were at the gallery of his dealer, Arthur Roger, which suffered no significant damage. Miraculously, neither did his eight public-art works that dot the city, including a large, kinetic steel piece on the river. "It has survived five or six hurricanes already," Mr. Scott said. "And it still looks the way it did when I made it."

Many in the New Orleans art community are worried about ArtEgg Studios, a building on South Broad Street that houses art as well as artists' and conservators' studios. It is about a mile from the Superdome in an industrial section of the city. In the 1950's, the 50,000-square-foot building was the largest storage center for food produce in the South. Locals know its three-story sign - "Everybody Loves a Good Egg."

Esther R. Dyer, who has owned ArtEgg Studios since 2001, said she learned last week that a portion of the roof had blown off. "The biggest problem is water coming in and soaking the artworks," Ms. Dyer said from her apartment in New York. Since she can't get into the building, she hasn't seen the damage firsthand and is relying on reports from a cabinetmaker and a technology manager who stayed on to guard the building after Katrina hit.

Arthur Roger, a New Orleans native who has run a gallery there for 28 years, said that his gallery was fine but that he was worried about vandalism. "Most of us feel that art is not a target for looting," he said. "But we all have big glass front windows." Mr. Roger has moved to Baton Rouge, La., where he said he hoped to set up a temporary gallery. "The art community is looking for direction," he said. "We are not going to be defeated." Mr. Roger and many artists say Katrina will inevitably change the nature of the art that will be made in the future.

"The imagery has to change; it's inevitable," Mr. Birch said. "I was always interested in the street life, the poor and what is at the root of that lifestyle. Now my concern is that New Orleans will become a middle-class city."
"[Mr. pRresident]--You're No Jack Kennedy"

The latest spin--"I take get off my lawn!"
"All Last Night, Sat on the Floodwall and Cried"

Greg Peters of Suspect Device explains the difference between the levees (which didn't break) and floodwalls (which did). Greg also says he'll be trying to go national with his cartoon--I wish him the best. Suspect Device was one of the main reasons to pick up a Gambit back when there was a BR version.

YRHT provided the link. Stop there, and check out a well written essay that appeared in a Daytona Beach area newspaper.
Big Picture

NY Times Science section:

The top image [sic] shows the state's southeastern region on Aug. 9. The bottom image was made on Sept. 4, after storm clouds cleared. The images, their colors artificially adjusted, show vegetated areas in bright green; flooded areas are darker.

It remains to be seen how Louisiana's wetlands will survive the storm. Scientists are only beginning to discern damage inflicted on them from high winds and waves, and from the presence of so much floodwater for so many days.

Much of the water is contaminated by spills from oil and gas installations and from vehicles trapped in the storm. Wetlands can cleanse water of pollutants up to a point, but even they can be overwhelmed.

According to the United States Geological Survey, Louisiana has lost an average of 34 square miles of wetland a year since the 1930's as efforts to control the Mississippi River kept its muddy waters out of the marshes, depriving them of needed infusions of sediment.

Uh Oh

From TPM, a link to Solid Waste Magazine online:

Overlooked in many news reports about the unfolding storm disaster in the southern United States, especially in the City of New Orleans, in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, is a potentially dramatic pollution issue related to a toxic landfill that sits under the flood waters right in the city's downtown, according to map overlays of the flooded area. The situation could exacerbate the already dire threat to human health and the environment from the flood waters.

The Agriculture Street Landfill (ASL) is situated on a 95-acre site in New Orleans, Orleans Parish, Louisiana. The ASL is a federally registered Superfund site, and is on the National Priorities List of highly contaminated sites requiring cleanup and containment. A few years ago the site, which sits underneath and beside houses and a school, was fenced and covered with clean soil. However, three feet or more of flood waters could potentially cause the landfill's toxic contents – the result of decades of municipal and industrial waste dumping – to leach out.

Houses and buildings that were constructed in later years directly atop parts of the landfill. Residents report unusual cancers and health problems and have lobbied for years to be relocated away from the old contaminated site, which contains not only municipal garbage, but buried industrial wastes such as what would be produced by service stations and dry cleaners, manufacturers or burning. The site was routinely sprayed with DDT in the 1940s and 50s and, in 1962, 300,000 cubic yards of excess fill were removed from ASL because of ongoing subsurface fires. (The site was nicknamed "Dante's Inferno" because of the fires.)

The ASL can be thought of a sort of Love Canal for New Orleans -– and now it sits under water.

The ASL site is three miles south of Lake Pontchartrain and about 2.5 north-northeast of the city's central business district (roughly halfway between the old French Quarter and the shore of Lake Pontchartrain).

Disturbingly, the site is also very close to the Industrial Canal Levee, a section of which collapsed and allowed flood waters to pour in, almost directly in the direction of the ASL site.

The interactive map indicates maximum water depths of roughly 8-9 feet, and present depth at 3-5 feet. The article identifies the area near Higgins St. as the approximate location of the landfill (use Google Maps to search for Higgins St.--then you can eyeball the same location on the interactive).

That's not good.

Monday, September 12, 2005

SFX: Head Repeatedly Banging Against Wall

Just reading this is painful.
White House Admits "Fallability"

From The Editors:

WASHNGTON (Reuters) - In a rare admission of fallibilty from an administration reluctant to admit error, the White House today publicly admitted that its response to hurricane Katrina was "not timely", and promised a more "pro-active" response to future crises...

McClellan explained how lack of advance planning caused delays in the administration’s first response to the hurricane. "In those first hours, critical time was lost because we weren’t prepared to blame state and local officials. Indeed, precious minutes were wasted trying to find out who was mayor of New Orleans, information that should have been made available as soon as Katrina formed. It’s not like this wasn’t predicted. With these early missteps we lost the initiative, and we never fully recovered."

McClellan revealed that the White House would be teaming with NSA scientists to create a massive computer database of lesser officials around the country who could be blamed in the event of an emergency. From governors and mayors on down to local police chiefs and EMTs, the Super-Computing Accountability Preventition Engine and Government Official Absolving Tool, or SCAPEGOAT, would create a cross-referenced list of patsies nanoseconds after detecting bad press. This would be the first step of a massive government reorganization, which would see FEMA dissolved, and it, along with the rest of the government, folded into a new department called FEMMA, the Federal Emergency Media Management Agency, to be headed by Karl Rove. FEMMA would employ a full-time staff of thousands of firemen, soldiers, fighter pilots, astronauts, and other heroic figures for the President to pose with in case of emergency, as well as a state-of-the-art Hollywood soundstage where the President could comfort stunt-victims in an endless array of convincing and topical disaster milieux. This would enable the President to perform all his critical photo-op duties without having to risk the unflattering moments that often plague real scenes of human suffering.

Questioned about the potential disruption of services that would accompany such a wholescale restructuring of the government, McClellan claimed that these changes were simply "clarifications of existing conditions", and that most people who had worked in the Bush White House would notice no change in their responsibilities. As for the costs, McClellan agreed that they would be substantial, but necessary.

"America is a great nation,” he said. “And a great nation deserves great excuses."
You've Probably Seen This

But in case you haven't, this is an interactive map, using Google's interface. It will give you maximum and present estimates of flood waters in the NOLA region. Click on any spot, and the data (with a disclaimer) will appear.

Others probably pointed to it over the weekend, but at home my computer is showing its age--I tend to limit any multimedia at the house.
But There's Booze in the Blender

Mike Brown gets his pitcher of margaritas after all.

Hullabaloo analyzes this Time article (alas, behind the subscription wall)--it purports to reveal the GOP bounceback strategery, a three-point play:

1) Spend money like it grows on trees.
2) Don't look back, i.e., wax pious about how there shouldn't be a blame game, while doing everything they can to affix blame firmly on...the Democrats(and, by extension, the Democratic voter base). And
3) Shore up their own base.

Time doesn't mention a crucial aspect of point three, but Digby does, and it's not pretty.

Short version: Let their inner "Southern Strategy" out of the bag with a vengence.

Take a look at the post, as well as the one above it...unfortunately, testy remarks from the dauphin aside, I'm thinking we'll be seeing a LOT of blame the victim emanating from the GOP slime machine.
DU Top Ten

Especially look at Idiot Number 2, FEMA--there's a list of articles that collectively would make for high comedy...if they weren't utter tragedy. What didn't go right? Take a look.

DU also directs us to this cartoon. Yep, that's about right.
A New Century Demands a New Level of Accountability

Maybe this is what they mean by "local control."

"How Many FEMA's?"

And how many Bernie Kerik's? Paul Krugman asks:

But what we really should be asking is whether FEMA's decline and fall is unique, or part of a larger pattern. What other government functions have been crippled by politicization, cronyism and/or the departure of experienced professionals? How many FEMA's are there?

Unfortunately, it's easy to find other agencies suffering from some version of the FEMA syndrome.

The first example won't surprise you: the Environmental Protection Agency, which has a key role to play in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath, but which has seen a major exodus of experienced officials over the past few years. In particular, senior officials have left in protest over what they say is the Bush administration's unwillingness to enforce environmental law.

Yesterday The Independent, the British newspaper, published an interview about the environmental aftermath of Katrina with Hugh Kaufman, a senior policy analyst in the agency's Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, whom one suspects is planning to join the exodus. "The budget has been cut," he said, "and inept political hacks have been put in key positions." That sounds familiar, and given what we've learned over the last two weeks there's no reason to doubt that characterization - or to disregard his warning of an environmental cover-up in progress.

What about the Food and Drug Administration? Serious questions have been raised about the agency's coziness with drug companies, and the agency's top official in charge of women's health issues resigned over the delay in approving Plan B, the morning-after pill, accusing the agency's head of overruling the professional staff on political grounds...

You could say that these are all cases in which the Bush administration hasn't worried about degrading the quality of a government agency because it doesn't really believe in the agency's mission. But you can't say that about my other two examples.

Even a conservative government needs an effective Treasury Department. Yet Treasury, which had high prestige and morale during the Clinton years, has fallen from grace.

The public symbol of that fall is the fact that John Snow, who was obviously picked for his loyalty rather than his qualifications, is still Treasury secretary. Less obvious to the public is the hollowing out of the department's expertise. Many experienced staff members have left since 2000, and a number of key positions are either empty or filled only on an acting basis. "There is no policy," an economist who was leaving the department after 22 years told The Washington Post, back in 2002. "If there are no pipes, why do you need a plumber?" So the best and brightest have been leaving.

And finally, what about the department of Homeland Security itself? FEMA was neglected, some people say, because it was folded into a large agency that was focused on terrorist threats, not natural disasters. But what, exactly, is the department doing to protect us from terrorists?

In 2004 Reuters reported a "steady exodus" of counterterrorism officials, who believed that the war in Iraq had taken precedence over the real terrorist threat. Why, then, should we believe that Homeland Security is being well run?

I guess the short version could be: We are ALL New Orleans.
Bush Frets

Ian has the captions to go with the picture.
Numb and Number

Murph and Scaramouche both have the link to 25 Mind Numbingly Stupid Quotes About Hurricane Katrina and Its Aftermath. My sister also sent the list to me by email. Stupid, indeed.

With DeLay and Babs, though, I think you begin to see the real issue with these folks--they're not merely stupid, but also have utter contempt for the poor...along with a bit of fear, perhaps, and, just as important, zero understanding. My guess is that neither Barbara Bush nor Tom DeLay has spoken to an honest-to-god poor person in a LONG time, which explains their awkward phraseology (and "awkward phraseology" is being awfully diplomatic). They're as insulated, and as isolated, from vast numbers of citizens as the Russian royal family was (maybe even more so--after all, the Romanovs had Rasputin hanging around).

Barbara Bush and Tom DeLay, though, are merely the most obvious--or oblivious, as it were. You can bet they aren't alone among that crowd.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Slow Boil

The Independent UK cites Hugh Kaufman:

Toxic chemicals in the New Orleans flood waters will make the city unsafe for full human habitation for a decade, a US government official has told The Independent on Sunday. And, he added, the Bush administration is covering up the danger.

In an exclusive interview, Hugh Kaufman, an expert on toxic waste and responses to environmental disasters at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said the way the polluted water was being pumped out was increasing the danger to health.

The pollution was far worse than had been admitted, he said, because his agency was failing to take enough samples and was refusing to make public the results of those it had analysed. "Inept political hacks" running the clean-up will imperil the health of low-income migrant workers by getting them to do the work...

Mr Kaufman claimed the Bush administration was playing down the need for a clean-up: the EPA has not been included in the core White House group tackling the crisis. "Its budget has been cut and inept political hacks have been put in key positions," Mr Kaufman said. "All the money for emergency response has gone to buy guns and cowboys - which don't do anything when a hurricane hits. We were less prepared for this than we would have been on 10 September 2001."

Chronicle of a Failure

Just read it...nothing more needs to be said.

Spent the morning watching some local updates and part of the Stephanoupolis show--missed Thad Allen, but caught Barak Obama, and he was, quite honestly, disappointing. The "roundtable" was more of a right wing, with the inevitable blaming of local and state officials...Newt Gingrich made mention of "2,000 buses under water," which got me thinking. Lucky enough, the Pic blog sets the record straight--even if it shows that some displaced New Orleanians are very different from others.

Nagin just bought a house in Dallas...must be nice to have that kind of cash lying around.

However, he also refuted Gingrich's assertion re: city buses:

Federal officials have faulted Nagin's administration for not marshaling its Regional Transit Authority buses and those of the School Board to start ferrying the tens of thousands of evacuees stranded at the Superdome and the Convention Center out of town.

Nagin said perhaps some of the criticism is fair. But he said there were various logistical hurdles that made it hard to use that equipment, and the buses would have hardly created a dent in the size of the crowds anyway.

"It's up for analysis," he said. "But we didn't have enough buses. I don't control the school buses, and the RTA buses as far as I know were positioned high and dry. But 80 percent of the city was not high and dry. Where would we have staged them? And who was going to drive them even if we commandeered them? If I'd have marshaled 50 RTA buses, and a few school buses, it still wouldn't have been nearly enough. We didn't get food, water and ice in this place, and that's way above the local level.

"Our plan was always to use the buses to evacuate to the Dome as a shelter of last resort, and from there, rely on state and federal resources."

And, coincidently, Ray and I were on the same page as to another issue--he pointed out that the entire State budget for Louisiana is $18 billion dollars--not an insignificant sum--but one that pales in comparison to federal resources...doing some quick math, that's less than one day's worth of total federal spending, or about three weeks worth of, say, total military spending (less if you include supplementals). NOLA resources will be less still.

It's also been reported that Gov. Blanco couldn't reach Bush by phone the day the storm hit, and was reduced to leaving a plea for help with a "low-level advisor."

In the end, I think there will be plenty of blame for officials at all levels--for instance, consider that the storm WASN'T a direct hit...and, good god, can anyone imagine what would've happened HAD it been? Forget about "vertical evacuation," the "shelter of last resort," etc.--a direct hit from the hurricane and we wouldn't be talking about months or years of rebuilding--because there would be nothing left to rebuild.

But the fact remains that the federal government was and is the only entity capable of the sort of effort needed to deal with a disaster of this sort--and, the fact is that this administration has predicated its entire raison d'etre on its ability to "protect" the assertion that's proven horribly wrong. While there might be differences between, say, a terrorist attack, and a natural disaster, those differences merely amplify the failure. Memos entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside US" aside, and the ridiculous defense from people like Condoleezza Rice, the hurricane was PREDICTED--time, place, level of destruction--and without trying to sound maudlin, this was an ultimate real-time, real-life scenario to test the "security" administration. In the end, they've been reduced to playing the blame game themselves. Hardly the sort of thing anyone would point to as an example of effectiveness, resiliance, steadfastness, or any of the other attributes asserted by this administration come election time.

And as more revelations continue to trickle out--about the parking of Bush cronies at FEMA, for instance--it will be impossible to defend the wholesale looting of government resources that's been a hallmark of this administration. Even the wingnut panel on the Stephanoupolis show engaged in much clearing of throats and hrummphing about the difference between "big" government and "effective" government--which hopefully made Grover Norquist choke on his Pop-Tart. Government, like it or not, is here to stay (duh--even an amateur with little economic background like myself can recognize this)--and since it IS here, it might as well be put to work for ALL Americans...not just those think their campaign contributions amount to ownership.