Wednesday, September 07, 2005

More Incompetency Or Unrescue Efforts

In late August the White House had this to say about the hurricane Katrina:

The President today declared an emergency exists in the State of Louisiana and ordered Federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts in the parishes located in the path of Hurricane Katrina beginning on August 26, 2005, and continuing.

The President's action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives, protect property and public health and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in the parishes of Allen, Avoyelles, Beauregard, Bienville, Bossier, Caddo, Caldwell, Claiborne, Catahoula, Concordia, De Soto, East Baton Rouge, East Carroll, East Feliciana, Evangeline, Franklin, Grant, Jackson, LaSalle, Lincoln, Livingston, Madison, Morehouse, Natchitoches, Pointe Coupee, Ouachita, Rapides, Red River, Richland, Sabine, St. Helena, St. Landry, Tensas, Union, Vernon, Webster, West Carroll, West Feliciana, and Winn.

Good, huh? Except that the list of parishes doesn't include the ones that were really hit by Katrina, the coastal ones, you know. If you don't believe me look for Jefferson Parish in that list or check out this map of Louisiana:

Props for the White House report to easy rider on Eschaton threads.
Added: It seems that this is not necessarily incompetency. There is a separate statement for the omitted parishes a few days later. But it is still odd that the safer parishes are covered in the first notice. Thanks for dave in Rubber Hose's comments for the link.

A Gallup On Public Opinions About The Unrescue Operation

It tells us that 42% of the respondents think Bush has done a "terrible" or a "bad" job, while 35% think that his response was "good" or "great". Some of the latter group would have voted Nero the Best Emperor Ever.

And 63% of the respondents think that nobody should be fired for this fiasco. These are much nicer people than yours truly. I'd love to see practically everybody fired, starting with Georgie Porgie. But then I'm a vicious goddess and I also follow the news. Most Americans are kindly people and are fairly oblivious about currrent events.

It could also be that the respondents don't want to assign blame when the country is still suffering greatly. Sadly, this is likely to lead to more suffering in the future. The time for some new brooms is right now.

In California

a bill that would allow same-sex marriage has passed in the California Assembly. But the battle is not over with this victory:

Opponents of gay marriage aim to place a measure on next year's ballot that would amend the state Constitution to include a ban.

The opposition of same-sex marriage has a bunch of arguments which fall, one after the other, like a house of cards, when they are responded to. This makes no difference at all. It just leads to a new round of presenting the same arguments which then again can be refuted. This makes me believe that the real reason so many oppose same-sex marriage is one of those hidden subconscious things. Nothing can be said that would affect the underlying premise of those scared of all change, even when the change has no direct impact on their own lives.

But the California decision must be included in the category of good news. It is the beginning (not counting Masssachusetts's legal decision to the same effect) of many similar decisions, albeit probably only after some decades have passed.

The Real Katrina Timeline

Courtesy of Think Progress. This is good to read, because the wingnut spin consists of an altered timeline; one in which the local and state authorities do nothing and valiant George finally steps in. The real timeline begins like this:


GULF COAST STATES REQUEST TROOP ASSISTANCE FROM PENTAGON: At a 9/1 press conference, Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, commander, Joint Task Force Katrina, said that the Gulf States began the process of requesting additional forces on Friday, 8/26. [DOD]
Saturday, August 27

Read the whole timeline at the link. It's well worth your time.

Understanding FEMA

This Salon article is quite thought-provoking in explaining how FEMA was destroyed:

Indeed, the White House's new response to the political disaster prompted by Katrina -- one in which officials are attempting to blame authorities in Louisiana, rather than in Washington, for the slow aid -- underscores the Bush philosophy. According to Haddow, instead of working with local officials to try to minimize the impacts of an impending storm, the White House has decided its best strategy is to keep its distance from people on the ground. That way if anything goes wrong, the White House can "attack, attack, attack."

We began to see some of these attacks over the weekend. Sunday's Washington Post cited an anonymous Bush administration official who explained that one reason that the federal government didn't intervene more quickly in Louisiana was because Kathleen Blanco, the state's Democratic governor, failed to declare a state of emergency there, a necessary step for federal help to flow. An article in Newsweek repeats the same claim.

But there's a problem with the White House's excuse: It's patently false. As Josh Marshall points out, Blanco declared a state of emergency on Aug. 26 -- a day before Bush declared a federal emergency in Louisiana. (You can see Blanco's official declaration in PDF format here; the Washington Post has corrected its article.) On Aug. 28 -- the day before Katrina made landfall -- Blanco followed her declaration with an official letter (PDF) to Bush that requested all manner of emergency supplies her state would need for the aftermath.

Haddow says that these requests should have been enough -- more than enough -- to prompt a full-scale federal response. Under the Clinton administration's FEMA, with Witt as the head, a storm of Katrina's magnitude would have prompted federal and state officials to actually meet in order to coordinate their response. "You were all working together to anticipate needs," Haddow says. "You're all sitting in the same room when the things happened -- the Midwest flood, the Northridge quake, the Oklahoma City bombing and all the disasters we responded to. We were in the same room together and nobody had to point fingers."

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Some More Unrescue News

You might be glad to learn that contractors interested in post-disaster jobs don't have to worry about open bidding:

The vast majority of emergency contracts are being awarded outside of the centralized posting system that is normally required. Indeed, on its home page, FedBizOpps states, "Due to the immediacy of emergency opportunities, it is unlikely that opportunities dealing with the hurricanes will be advertised through the FedBizOpps system."

Understandable, perhaps. But which firms will be informed about these opportunities? And what prices will be set? Who monitors this? Anyone?

Then there is the internal FEMA memo which according to Josh Marshall shows that:

Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, sought the approval from Homeland Security Secretary Mike Chertoff roughly five hours after Katrina made landfall on Aug. 29. Brown said that among duties of these employees was to "convey a positive image" about the government's response for victims. Before then, FEMA had positioned smaller rescue and communications teams across the Gulf Coast. But officials acknowledged Tuesday the first department-wide appeal for help came only as the storm raged."

Michael Brown isn't the only FEMA director without any relevant work experience. It turns out that his number three is equally inexperienced:

Before joining FEMA in 2001, Brown, a protege of longtime Bush aide Joseph Allbaugh, was commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association and had virtually no experience in disaster management.

An official biography of Brown's top aide, acting deputy director Patrick Rhode, doesn't list any disaster relief experience.

The department's No. 3 official, acting deputy chief of staff Brooks Altshuler, also does not have emergency management experience, according to FEMA spokeswoman Natalie Rule.

Scott Morris, who had been the agency's third in command until May, also lacked a background in disaster preparedness, according to his official FEMA biography.

Business Boom After Katrina

Yes, my title is sick, but I feel sick. The one business that will be doing well is the mortuary business:

A co-owner of Shelbyville-based Gowen-Smith Chapel has been deployed to Gulfport, Miss., to help with recovery since Hurricane Katrina, and his business partner here has described the grim task there.

"DMort is telling us to expect up to 40,000 bodies," Dan Buckner said, quoting officials with the Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team, a volunteer arm of Homeland Security.

From Aladdinslamp on Eschaton threads.

Some Good News

From Talk Left:

In the chaos that was Causeway Boulevard, this group of refugees stood out: a 6-year-old boy walking down the road, holding a 5-month-old, surrounded by five toddlers who followed him around as if he were their leader.

They were holding hands. Three of the children were about 2 years old, and one was wearing only diapers. A 3-year-old girl, who wore colorful barrettes on the ends of her braids, had her 14-month-old brother in tow. The 6-year-old spoke for all of them, and he told rescuers his name was Deamonte Love.

Maybe he could be the next head of FEMA?
Props to w00t on the Eschaton threads.

The Deep Question of the Day

Why does Michael Brown, the ex-commissioner of the International Arabian Horses Association, still have the job of running FEMA?

The White House is rejecting calls to fire the nation's top disaster chief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Critics are questioning whether Michael Brown is qualified to head up the Federal Emergency Management Agency -- which is being blamed for a slow federal response to the storm.
White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan says "enormous progress" has been made since the storm hit eight days ago.

The Blame Game Begins

Kos has the e-mail that has been circulating this morning, with the wingnut plan set out clearly. The blame is going to be put on bureaucracy (which somehow miraculously has nothing to do with Bush), the local and state authorities in Louisiana (because they are Democrats), on political correctness (???) and the socialist (!!!) government of New Orleans. The heroes are going to be FEMA and our fearless leader. Sorry, I have no brown vomit bags.

Kos also points out that all right-wing talk shows had the script this morning. Shows some mighty hierarchical authority. Too bad it wasn't rolled out to fight Katrina.

Disrespectful to the President?

I just received this in an e-mail. It argues that the Fox network turned down a political ad as disrespectful to the president:

Today, Brian Ellner, a former School Board President and candidate for Manhattan Borough President, responded to Fox network's decision to ban his campaign commercial.

Although Fox refuses to submit a formal defense of its censorship, network representatives have informed the Ellner campaign that the ad was rejected because Fox views it as disrespectful to the president. All other networks have accepted the ad.

"Fox claims that this ad is disrespectful to the President. What is truly disrespectful to Manhattan voters is to deny them the chance to hear a serious message from a candidate for public office," Ellner said. "This is censorship and it's un-American."

The commercial can be viewed at Manhattan voters will still have the opportunity to see it on other networks as well as many cable channels. Ellner's media buy of nearly $300,000 is by far the largest in the race for Borough President.

The ad received national praise when it was released last week as the first political television spot in America in which a gay candidate appears with his or her partner. In the 48 hours following its release, the Ellner campaign received a flood of contributions from across the nation.

Ellner, a former President of the District 2 School Board in Manhattan, has dedicated his career as an attorney to standing up for equal rights and civil rights. As Borough President, he will be Manhattan's most forceful advocate for progressive values like affordable housing, neighborhood preservation and real education reform. He will also fight for marriage equality, stem cell research and to protect a woman's fundamental right to choose.

The Heretik has a picture which certainly would qualify as disrespectful:

To Marie Antoinette at least.

The Bright Side of Life After A Hurricane

From New York Times:

HOUSTON, Sept. 5 - Perhaps no city in the United States is in a better spot than Houston to turn Katrina's tragedy into opportunity. And businesses here are already scrambling to profit in the hurricane's aftermath.

Oil services companies based here are racing to carry out repairs to damaged offshore platforms in the Gulf of Mexico; the promise of plenty of work to do sent shares in two large companies, Halliburton and Baker Hughes, soaring to 52-week highs last week. The Port of Houston is preparing for an increase in traffic as shippers divert cargoes away from the damaged ports of Pascagoula, Miss., and New Orleans.

Owners of office space here are witnessing a surge in leasing as New Orleans companies, including that city's oldest bank, scramble to set up new headquarters in Houston, helping to shore up its sagging property market. With brio that might make an ambulance-chaser proud, one company, National Realty Investments, is offering special financing deals "for hurricane survivors only," with no down payments and discounted closing costs.

All this, of course, is capitalism at work, moving quickly to get resources to where they are needed most. And those who move fastest are likely to do best.

Meanwhile, even small businesses and cheap hotels are benefiting from the population surge, which could total up to 250,000 people. Some hardware stores have sold out their entire supply of gasoline cans and generators to people preparing for an eventual return to the devastated region.

"It feels like the only things left in south Louisiana are snakes and alligators," said John E. Olson, co-manager of Houston Energy Partners, a hedge fund that operates out of a skyscraper downtown. "Houston is positioned for a boom."

Long known for its commercial fervor, Houston is the largest city in the South and has a metropolitan population of more than four million. It has one of the nation's busiest ports and remains unrivaled as a center for the American energy industry.

Halliburton, for instance, moved its headquarters to Houston from Dallas in 2003, joining dozens of companies based here that provide services for oil and natural gas producers.

Halliburton differs from many oil services companies in that it also does significant business with the federal government. The company, which has contracts in Iraq, has a contract with the Navy that has already kept it busy after Hurricane Katrina. The company's KBR unit was doing repairs and cleanup at three naval facilities in Mississippi last week.

Halliburton was also planning to go to New Orleans to start repairs at other naval facilities as soon as it was considered safe to do so, Cathy Mann, a spokeswoman, said.

(Bolds mine.)

Those Halliburton boys must have been born covered in Teflon. Nothing sticks to them. Doesn't matter how they have performed in Iraq, for example. The sun always shines on them. So does the federal government.

Monday, September 05, 2005


His latest blog entry is well worth reading, though you may not want to do so if your anger quotient has been exceeded.

The Culture of Affluence

Via Eschaton, I learned about this little interview with Barbara Bush, the mother of our fearless leader:

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 (she chuckles slightly)--this is working very well for them."

The silver-foot-in-the-mouth disease appears to be herited.

I don't usually blog about the family members of politicians, because they are private individuals, not politicians, and it seems wrong to me to expose them to the harsh limelight of my viper tongue (what an idiom!). But I'm going to make an exception this time. Barbara Bush is such a good example of the consequences of "the culture of affluence", that dire disease that makes its members phlegmatic, smug and self-satisfied, despite the fact that they know nothing about how the rest of humanity lives.

Perhaps for her everything about life is money. Else how to interpret her assumption that individuals who have been forcibly separated from their family, their friends and the place they called home should be happy because now they are somewhere like a football arena? After all, their houses could never have been that big! And food is just being carried to their cots!

It is funny, for someone who suffers from the "culture of affluence" syndrome. Too bad that we can't help Barbara. We don't have the resources for that.

Roberts Nominated for Chief Justice

That was quick, quicker than Bush's response to the hurricane. Let us be thankful for small mercies.

Why so quick? Could it be because:

Getting a new chief justice of Bush's choosing in place quickly also avoids the scenario of having liberal Justice John Paul Stevens making the decisions about whom to assign cases to and making other decisions that could influence court deliberations. As the court's senior justice, Stevens would take over Rehnquist's administrative duties until a new chief is confirmed.


And Even More on the Unrescue Effort

From Washington Monthly:

NORTHCOM AND KATRINA....Last time I checked, naval officers aren't in the habit of criticizing their commander in chief no matter how many punches they have to absorb in the process. It appears, however, that Lt. Commander Sean Kelly, a Pentagon spokesman for Northern Command, didn't get the memo. Asked why Northcom hadn't reponded to Hurricane Katrina more quickly, he accidentally told the truth:

Northcom started planning before the storm even hit....We had the USS Bataan sailing almost behind the hurricane so once the hurricane made landfall, its search and rescue helicopters could be available almost immediately So, we had things ready.

The only caveat is: we have to wait until the president authorizes us to do so. The laws of the United States say that the military can't just act in this fashion; we have to wait for the president to give us permission.

For your information.

On Race And Disasters

New Orleans is a predominantly black city and most of the poor who stayed behind are black. So are most of the armed looters we see on television. This has opened a crack for the old (but always present though suppressed) discussion on race. The wingnuts are getting more and more courageous in offering the explanation that it's the race of the sufferers that is the problem, not their poverty or the ineptitude of the rescue effort:

Many conservative thinkers espouse a race-neutral analysis. Racism doesn't cause poverty, they say, poverty is the result of a pattern of dependency that has set in among poor blacks.

In New Orleans, "you are dealing with the permanently poor -- people who don't have jobs, are not used to getting up and organizing themselves and getting things done and for whom sitting and waiting is a way of life," says Linda Chavez, president of the Center for Equal Opportunity and a former head of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.

"This is a natural disaster that is exacerbated by the problems of the underclass. The chief cause of poverty today among blacks is no longer racism. It is the breakdown of the traditional family."

John McWhorter, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, cautions against the use of the "nasty, circular, unprovable" argument of race because "this is a matter of the incompetence of the American infrastructure. It's not a matter of somebody in Washington deciding we don't need to rush [to New Orleans] because they're all poor jungle bunnies anyway."

Indeed, there are poor people who just sit and wait. There are even rich people who just sit and wait, for their trust funds to mature, say. And there is a lot of crime among the poor, although there is crime among the rich, too, though then it is named "white collar crime" and punished less often and less heavily. Lack of education goes with lack of money, and lack of education makes it a lot harder to make informed decisions about anything.

A long time ago I read our favorite crackpot, Charles Murray, pontificate on the topic of poverty. He argued that anyone who is poor could at least keep his or her family clean and reading Shakespeare. This is one of the Victorian arguments about poverty, the idea that the poor could otherwise be like us, the wealthy, if they only tried. That they don't try shows that they are not like us and probably deserve to be poor.

Murray's argument is a naive one as anyone who has ever been without food for a while knows. Lack of food tends to do things to the body and the mind which cause fatigue, and fatigue causes frayed nerves and bad decisions. And more fatigue. Anyone who has worked two jobs at the same time knows that keeping the house clean isn't going to happen, that reading Shakespeare is not very likely. Energy is limited in its total amount, and the more of it we need for mere survival the less of it remains for all the little niceties of life that Murray so values.

So New Orleans isn't about how blacks are somehow intrinsically different from whites or how the poor somehow are causing their own poverty and violence. But New Orleans definitely is about race, about our inability to provide adequate education and opportunities for all children, about our segregated neighborhoods, about lack of will which feeds back to racial perceptions.

I happen to believe that there is something like "a culture of poverty", just as there is something like a "culture of unearned wealth". Neither is wholly pretty, but both have their purposes: to help a person survive in the environment in which he or she is stranded. But these cultures are not some independent thing sprouting from the genetic memories of their participants; they are a consequence of the societal arrangements and they can be influenced. In France, it is the Muslims who have "a culture of poverty" because it is the Muslims who are the underclass, the recent immigrants, the ones who stand out in their difference. In other countries these cultures are sometimes attached to people of the same race and religion as the rest of the society, but they are set apart by the poverty of the group itself. In short, "a culture of poverty" is not an explanation for what we see. For that we need to dig deeper.

But it isn't necessary to dig very deep to find the "culture of racism" (my term) that permeates so much of the discussion of the conservative right. It is nowadays expressed in careful terms, with nary a whiff of actual racist terms, but it is still offered as an excuse, an explanation that will allow the majority to continue ignoring the plight of the minorities. Because anything that is intractable or caused by something in the minorities cannot be affected by the rest of us. Which allows us to keep our money and our gated communities and so on. And our neat and clean consciences.

Time Running Out

So reports CNN:

Time is running out for thousands of people awaiting rescue six days after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, rescuers say.

Officials say they do not have the manpower, the resources or enough time to save everyone.

"My guys are coming back and telling me, 'Sir, I went into a house, and there are three elderly people in their beds, and they're gasping, and they're dying,' " Coast Guard Capt. Bruce Jones said.

"And we got calls today, 'We need you ... to go to a place in St. Bernard Parish. It's a hospice, ... and there are 10 dead and there are 10 dying.' But those people were probably alive yesterday or the day before."

Though pilots, rescue crew members and maintenance workers are red-eyed and exhausted, they're refusing to rest, CNN's Karl Penhaul reported.

For every person plucked from the flood, there are hundreds still waiting, rescuers say. (Watch a report on rescue efforts -- 3:10)

"There's simply not enough resources," Jones said.

"It's an awful feeling to know you've not got everybody in time," rescue swimmer Chris Monville said. "You're trying to get everybody out. But in these temperatures the weak and the sick expire first, and it tears at your heart."

Monville said he has rescued 126 people in a single day.

This is terrible if true. What about employing volunteers who have the necessary skills? What about asking foreign nations for their teams trained in similar rescues? Are we really this short of personnel that we are going to let people die? Where are all the skilled rescue teams?

The Real Rescue Effort

This will cover how to rescue George Bush's skin. The plan seems to be as follows:

1. Rewind the machines so as to make Bush look like he cares. Send him back to Louisiana on Monday, even if that stops all real rescue efforts for the duration.

2. Blame Louisiana governor Blanco for the ineptitude. She's a Democrat and a woman, so this is an excellent strategy. Find out later if she had any blame to share, actually.

3. Don't talk about the past. Talk about what is happening right now: "Look! All those military people are going into New Orleans! Isn't that wonderful!"

Or in slightly different words:

Mr. Bush is to return to Louisiana and Mississippi on Monday; his first visit, on Friday, left some Republicans cringing, in part because the president had little contact with residents left homeless.

Republicans said the administration's effort to stanch the damage had been helped by the fact that convoys of troops and supplies had begun to arrive by the time the administration officials turned up. All of those developments were covered closely on television.

In many ways, the unfolding public relations campaign reflects the style Mr. Rove has brought to the political campaigns he has run for Mr. Bush. For example, administration officials who went on television on Sunday were instructed to avoid getting drawn into exchanges about the problems of the past week, and to turn the discussion to what the government is doing now.

"We will have time to go back and do an after-action report, but the time right now is to look at what the enormous tasks ahead are," Michael Chertoff, the secretary of Homeland Security, said on "Meet the Press" on NBC.

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.

This rescue will be run very competently. You will see. But it shouldn't work, because the hurricane of incompetence is still totally uncontained in Washington, D.C..

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Passing the Buck

It has started. The White House is blaming the state and local authorities for the mess. The Washington Post reports this:

Behind the scenes, a power struggle emerged, as federal officials tried to wrest authority from Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D). Shortly before midnight Friday, the Bush administration sent her a proposed legal memorandum asking her to request a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans, a source within the state's emergency operations center said Saturday.

The administration sought unified control over all local police and state National Guard units reporting to the governor. Louisiana officials rejected the request after talks throughout the night, concerned that such a move would be comparable to a federal declaration of martial law. Some officials in the state suspected a political motive behind the request. "Quite frankly, if they'd been able to pull off taking it away from the locals, they then could have blamed everything on the locals," said the source, who does not have the authority to speak publicly.

A senior administration official said that Bush has clear legal authority to federalize National Guard units to quell civil disturbances under the Insurrection Act and will continue to try to unify the chains of command that are split among the president, the Louisiana governor and the New Orleans mayor.

Louisiana did not reach out to a multi-state mutual aid compact for assistance until Wednesday, three state and federal officials said. As of Saturday, Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency, the senior Bush official said.

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

Then, at the top of this article the Post has added a little correction which states this:

Correction to This Article
A Sept. 4 article on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina incorrectly said that Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D) had not declared a state of emergency. She declared an emergency on Aug. 26.

She also accepted help from other states last Monday:

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson offered Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco help from his state's National Guard on Sunday, the day before Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana. Blanco accepted, but paperwork needed to get the troops en route didn't come from Washington until late Thursday.

And she asked for federal help before the hurricane hit.

I don't know how Blanco's performance should be evaluated, but this whole thing is clearly an attempt to make her the scapegoat of all that has gone wrong, including the mistakes of the FEMA. This is just wrong, even if it is sweet to the ears of the wingnuts who dislike women in power and root for them to fail. In this particular case there are plenty of good ole boys failing.
Thanks to bg in the comments for the WaPo link.


We need those, too. I just went out and had a sundae which I created myself. Here's the recipe: one scoop of chocolate ice-cream, one slurp of chocolate sauce, as many M&Ms as fit into the bowl. Eat with a spoon or your tongue.

It was good.

My Labrador retriever no longer dances on three legs. All the four are functional now and tomorrow she will be allowed off-leash for the first time in ten days. She has most likely gained a pound or two as I didn't have the heart to cut back her food as much as her exercize has been cut, but as she's hell on wheels, usually, she will probably lose them tomorrow in the chase for her George Bush chewtoy or the many tennis balls she finds in the park. About once a month I re-seed the park with twenty or so tennis balls, and then Hank goes back to collecting them. Doesn't cost anything, either, as they were never my tennis balls to begin with.

And one day, soon, I will even clean the house. Right now I only clean those bits that keep staring at me with blameful eyes, but once some peace returns to the blogosphere I will be out there with a blowtorch and a pressure washer and the Snakepit Inc. will shine again. Who am I kidding here? But it sounds good.

Deaths On A Bridge In New Orleans

From the Associated Press, apparently the New Orleans police shot at eight people carrying guns on the Danziger bridge, killing five or six of them.

There is a rumor that these people were contractors, but I have so far been unable to verify or falsify the rumor.

Update: It seems that the people shot at were not contractors, but those who had shot at the contractors:

As authorities struggled to keep order, police shot and killed at least five people Sunday after gunmen opened fire on a group of contractors traveling across a bridge on their way to make repairs, Deputy Police Chief W.J. Riley said.

Fourteen contractors were traveling across the Danziger Bridge under police escort when they came under fire, said John Hall, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers. None of the contractors was killed, Hall said.

The bridge spans a canal connecting Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River.
No other details, including whether any of the gunmen were killed, were immediately available.

Body Count

Will we get one? And when will we get it? Will it be done objectively?

This administration has made me into the goddess of the paranoid, and I am now fearing that we will never know how many died because of Katrina and the ineptitude that followed and preceded her monsterous passing through Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

But we have to demand an objective count. It is important to know what the price has been.

News About The Unrescue Effort

Today's Meet the Press was full of them. Here is the president of Jefferson parish:

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.

Britain is offering us help for the victims of Katrina. And we? What are we doing? Here's the answer:

British families trapped in New Orleans last night claimed that US authorities had refused to evacuate them as Hurricane Katrina approached the city.

Although assistance was offered to US residents, British nationals were told they would have to fend for themselves. According to those who remain stranded in the stricken city, police had visited hotels and guest houses on the eve of the hurricane offering to evacuate Americans, but not Britons.

And then there is the story of the eighteen-year old who took a bus in New Orleans and filled it with evacuees. He then drove the bus to Texas and thus saved about a hundred people. What is he getting for his efforts? Supposedly he is in prison, waiting a court visit:

Eighteen-year-old Jabbor Gibson jumped aboard the bus as it sat abandoned on a street in New Orleans and took control.

"I just took the bus and drove all the way hours straight,' Gibson admitted. "I hadn't ever drove a bus."

The teen packed it full of complete strangers and drove to Houston. He beat thousands of evacuees slated to arrive there.

"It's better than being in New Orleans," said fellow passenger Albert McClaud, "we want to be somewhere where we're safe."

During a long and impatient delay, children popped their heads out of bus windows and mothers clutched their babies.

One 8-day-old infant spent the first days of his life surrounded by chaos. He's one of the many who are homeless and hungry.

Authorities eventually allowed the renegade passengers inside the dome.

But the 18-year-old who ensured their safety could find himself in a world of trouble for stealing the school bus.

"I dont care if I get blamed for it ," Gibson said, "as long as I saved my people."

Well, it seems like you will be blamed for it, Jabbor.

Everything points out to an effort to keep order and to keep property safe. Human lives (and animal lives) are worthless, troubling, something that shouldn't be mentioned at all. A bus is more important than one hundred, mostly black and poor lives. But a bus doesn't have a soul, can't suffer, doesn't feel pain. It's worth some money, though, and these people appear to be worth nothing.

What has been missing from the powers-that-be in FEMA and the federal government in general is empathy. I see not one speck of it anywhere.

Chief Justice Rehnquist Died

According to Los Angeles Times:

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist died Saturday evening at his home in suburban Virginia, said Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg.

A statement from the spokeswoman said he was surrounded by his three children when he died in Arlington.

"The Chief Justice battled thyroid cancer since being diagnosed last October and continued to perform his dues on the court until a precipitous decline in his health the last couple of days," she said.

Rehnquist was appointed to the Supreme Court as an associate justice in 1971 by President Nixon and took his seat on Jan. 7, 1982. He was elevated to chief justice by President Reagan in 1986.

His death ends a remarkable 33-year Supreme Court career during which Rehnquist oversaw the court's conservative shift, presided over an impeachment trial and helped decide a presidential election.

The death President Bush his second court opening within pour months and sets up what's expected to be an even more bruising Senate confirmation battle than that of John Roberts.

I don't know what to say. This will be a most interesting fall season, I guess. Possibly also the beginning of the imperial era of the United States. Nothing good will come out of this, that is certain. The Vichy Democrats are not going to be of any help, either.

Saturday, September 03, 2005


(This post is safe to skip unless you enjoy rants, for rant I shall.)

Sri Lanka is offering aid to the survivors of hurricane Katrina. At least twenty other countries are offering aid to these survivors, including Cuba and Venezuela. Other American states have been offering aid, pleading, begging, praying to be allowed to offer aid. Nearly three hundred million dollars have been sent to the American Red Cross by ordinary people of all types.

Nobody knows how many have drowned in the filthy waters of Katrina's wake, how many have died of thirst, of hunger, of the absence of someone who knows how to help. Nobody knows how many have died of gunshot wounds, how many have been raped, how many have just been too tired to stand on tiptoe in their hot attics, in water up to their necks, hoping for aid.

Nobody knows who gave the orders that keeps aid agencies outside New Orleans, though we know that the reason for these orders is in Order itself: the god of rigidity, ranking and property. Let's not spread food and water around freely; people might not leave and others might come back. Chaos. That keeping order will result in neatly ordered tiers of corpses seems like a small price to pay.

Let's not let anyone out of the city on their own, either. That way lies chaos. Decide on a few collecting points and have people gather there for the purpose of being picked up by buses. But where are the collecting points, does anyone know? Do those know who are standing in the heat without water or food? Does the woman with untreated diabetes know? Or the old man in his attic? Or the family with all those crying children? At least there are collecting points, neatly marked in the planning files. So there is Order.

I'm a stupid goddess. The god of Order knows that help must be under control, under one capable director. Otherwise chaos results. It is good to ban aid from entering the ravaged city, good to ban pedestrians from leaving, good to ban other states or countries from helping, because we need one leader, one pyramid of operations, one voice telling us what to do.

And do we hear this voice? What is it telling the suffering people of New Orleans and Louisiana? Is it whispering? Why can't I hear anything? Something?

Wait a minute! I do hear something! Excuses and accusations, lots of spin. Masterful spin! Yes, someone is in charge who knows how to spin. What a relief. If only those pictures from the city would leave my retinas, if those voices of survivors, reporters and doctors in the stinking wrecks of hospitals would be silenced, if I could somehow stop finding more and more evidence of callous, uncaring, unthinking, unplanning greed and cowardice, then I could sleep.

Sleep in my clean bed, in my safe room, far away from those who can't sleep or don't have beds. Sleep like an innocent, like a corpse, like the members of this administration. Sleep like the city of New Orleans will, for months, if not for years. Sleep.

The Unrescue Effort

A harsh title, but it is deserved for those who have kept the aid agencies out of New Orleans, and for those who caused this delay:

Several states ready and willing to send National Guard troops to the rescue in hurricane-ravaged New Orleans didn't get the go-ahead until days after the storm struck - a delay nearly certain to be investigated by Congress.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson offered Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco help from his state's National Guard on Sunday, the day before Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana. Blanco accepted, but paperwork needed to get the troops en route didn't come from Washington until late Thursday

And for those who didn't activate the CRAF provision earlier:

In addition to Guard help, the federal government could have activated, but did not, a major air support plan under a pre-existing contract with airlines. The program, called Civilian Reserve Air Fleet, lets the government quickly put private cargo and passenger planes into service.

The CRAF provision has been activated twice, once for the Persian Gulf War and again for the Iraq war.

The actual rescue is getting better, finally, and I am very happy to read about that. Now, how many days did it take? Let me think, the storm struck on Monday...

Why Is Red Cross Not in New Orleans?

This is their answer. Read and weep:

Hurricane Katrina: Why is the Red Cross not in New Orleans?

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

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

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

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

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

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

* As the remaining people are evacuated from New Orleans, the most appropriate role for the Red Cross is to provide a safe place for people to stay and to see that their emergency needs are met. We are fully staffed and equipped to handle these individuals once they are evacuated.

Nice and logical. Too bad that the dead and the dying are inside New Orleans, and that most of us have been giving our money to an organization that has been frozen out.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Read This

CNN has an article which compares what officials say about the aftermath of Katrina to what journalists and other eyewitnesses actually on the site say. The disconnect is enormous. Granted, eyewitnesses can fail to see the totality of a disaster, but in this case the sum of all the eyewitness accounts does not make the totality of "things-under-control" that we fear from officials.

Physicians in hospitals are desperate for help, for example. Any disaster-control plan worth its salt would start with hospitals and other places where the truly helpless will be found.

From Representative Louise Slaughter

This is what her office sent me:

Washington, DC - Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Rules, issues the following statement in response to the lack of accountability and poor response in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by the devastating destruction of Hurricane Katrina. I hope everyone will take a moment to lend their support to the recovery effort by making a donation to the American Red Cross.

Our brothers and sisters in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama need our help right now and it is incumbent upon each of us, as Americans, to reach out to them.

But make no mistake, the shock and grief we feel right now is giving way to anger. The Federal Government's woefully inadequate response to this disaster has been stunning.

We found out this week that we have no real, effective emergency preparedness in America. And it borders on criminal that our government could allow people to go without food and water for five days after a disaster of this magnitude, right here on American soil.

The lack of an adequate, swift response to this emergency should not be covered up with political grand standing and slaps on the back. This failure must not be swept under the rug.

Today, Congress will pass a $10.5 billion dollar emergency supplemental appropriation for Hurricane Katrina relief, which I will support. But this is simply not enough.

Over the last four years, the Bush Administration repeatedly cut funding which would have upgraded and improved the levees that protected New Orleans.

The American people must demand accountability for the lack of prevention and slow response to this disaster and Congress must work to ensure that these events are not ever repeated."

Friday Dog Blogging

Hank and her karate dog

This may be frivolous, but I need it today.


Why are they not happening in adequate numbers in New Orleans? I understand that snipers are shooting at the planes but is that the only reason? Don't we have enough planes to remove the patients and the staff from hospitals in the area? If there is an inadequate number of military planes, what about requisitioning private airline planes? As far as I can see this was done in 2003 for Iraq purposes.

Today's Irony

September is the National Preparedness Month:

National Preparedness Month is a nationwide coordinated effort held each September to encourage Americans to take simple steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses and schools. National Preparedness Month 2005 is being co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the American Red Cross.

You Always Learn Something!

Attytood gives us this little lesson, via Eschaton:

We heard this on CNN (on satellite radio) last night while we were driving home and almost ran off the road. It was an exchange between anchor Aaron Brown and Jamie McIntyre, CNN's senior Pentagon correspondent, about the military seeking to explain it's slow response to Katrina:

MCINTYRE: And as to your question about political, I talked to a lot of people at the Pentagon today who were very frustrated about the fact that the perception was being created that the military didn't move fast enough. And they did it somewhat as political. They thought that part of the motivation was the critics of the administration to make the president look bad.

And they seemed to question the motives of some of our reporters who were out there and hearing these stories from the victims about why they had so much sympathy for the victims, and not as much sympathy for the challenges that the government met in meeting this challenge.

And I have to say thinking about that, it doesn't really seem all that unusual that you would tend to understand the plight of the victims a little more than the bureaucrats in Washington.

Jesus wept on hearing that one. I kicked the garage door in, again. When you show me the bureaucrat who has not had food or water for five days, who is living in a congested sports arena or on the street, among feces and corpses, who is watching infants and the elderly die and hearing gunshots in the distance, then I will have as much understanding for the bureaucrats as I have for the plight of the victims.

This has been the most fucking demonstration of incompetency I have ever observed in my life. What are the qualifications of the Bush appointed head of FEMA? Is it true that he used to be an estate lawyer?

Do you feel that the government can cope with a major terrorist attack after watching the events of the last five days unfold? Gah.
Added: This must be the best demonstration of what is wrong with the new media fashion of deciding that neutrality from the media requires giving each viewpoint equal weight, as in the idea that "Opinions on the Shape of the Earth Vary", as if there are no objective criteria to decide on anything. I thought that relativism was something extreme lefties are accused of? It doesn't take a long discussion to decide that job stresses of the bureaucrats are not equal causes for concern with people quite possibly dying from the effects of hurricane, lawlessness and government ineptitude.

Katrina 5

Things are still bad:

Lt. Gen. Steven Blum of the National Guard said 7,000 National Guardsmen arriving in Louisiana on Friday would be dedicated to restoring order in New Orleans. He said half of them had just returned from assignments overseas and are ``highly proficient in the use of lethal force.'' He pledged to ``put down'' the violence ``in a quick and efficient manner.''

``But they are coming here to save Louisiana citizens. The only thing we are attacking is the effects of this hurricane,'' he said. Blum said that a huge airlift of supplies was landing Friday and that it signaled ``the cavalry is and will continue to arrive.''

As he left the White House for his visit to the devastated area, Bush said 600 newly arrived military police officers would be sent to the convention center to secure the site so that food and medicine could get there.

City officials have accused the government - namely the Federal Emergency Management Agency - of being slow to recognize the magnitude of the tragedy and slow to send help.

``Get off your asses and let's do something,'' Mayor Ray Nagin told WWL-AM Thursday night in a rambling interview in which he cursed, yelled and ultimately burst into tears. At one point he said: ``Excuse my French - everybody in America - but I am pissed.''

Across the city, law and order broke down. Police officers turned in their badges. Rescuers, law officers and helicopter were shot at by storm victims. Fistfights and fires broke out Thursday at the hot and stinking Superdome as thousands of people waited in misery to board buses for the Houston Astrodome. Corpses lay out in the open in wheelchairs and in bedsheets. The looting continued.

Nagin's Interview

The mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, gave a real radio interview. If you haven't listened to it yet, you can do so here.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Katrina 4

A man covers the body of a man who died Thursday outside the Convention Center in New Orleans

And this is what people saw:

"There are multiple people dying at the convention center," Lawrence said. "There was an old woman, dead in a wheelchair with a blanket draped over her, pushed up against a wall. Horrible, horrible conditions.

"We saw a man who went into a seizure, literally dying right in front of us."

In a statement Thursday, Nagin said that "the convention center is unsanitary and unsafe and we are running out of supplies for (15,000 to 20,000) people."

He said the city would allow people to march up the Crescent City Connection to the Westbank Expressway in an effort to find help.

People were "being forced to live like animals," Lawrence said, surrounded by piles of trash and feces.

He said thousands of people were just laying in the ground outside the building -- many old, or sick, or caring for infants and small children.

And this is what people saw:

Doctors said there is lots of water in Charity Hospital's hallways. There's poor electricity and poor resources.

They are trying to move their patients down to Tulane's hospital.

The doctors were frightened for their lives. There was no police presence except for the private armed guards. There was no U.S. military presence. They were very concerned about this.

This is shocking as a doctor. As a human being, it's unbelievable.

Right now, I'm sitting at this airstrip in Baton Rouge waiting for a helicopter that is coming to evacuate infants. But they are indefinitely delayed because they think it is too dangerous to go in there and land a helicopter and bring these infants to Houston.

I've been in Iraq and Sri Lanka. It is remarkable that this is happening at hospitals here where patients are trying to be evacuated.

For where to donate, check Katrina 3.


This morning, about 7:05 am Eastern time, George Bush was interviewed by Diane Sawyers on ABC's Good Morning America. This is what he said:

"I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees."

Mm. Here is a quote from an article originally published on June 8, 2004 in the Times-Picayune:

For the first time in 37 years, federal budget cuts have all but stopped major work on the New Orleans area's east bank hurricane levees, a complex network of concrete walls, metal gates and giant earthen berms that won't be finished for at least another decade.

"I guess people look around and think there's a complete system in place, that we're just out here trying to put icing on the cake," said Mervin Morehiser, who manages the "Lake Pontchartrain and vicinity" levee project for the Army Corps of Engineers. "And we aren't saying that the sky is falling, but people should know that this is a work in progress, and there's more important work yet to do before there is a complete system in place."


"I can't tell you exactly what that could mean this hurricane season if we get a major storm," Naomi said. "It would depend on the path and speed of the storm, the angle that it hits us.

"But I can tell you that we would be better off if the levees were raised, . . . and I think it's important and only fair that those people who live behind the levee know the status of these projects."


The Bush administration's proposed fiscal 2005 budget includes only $3.9 million for the east bank hurricane project. Congress likely will increase that amount, although last year it bumped up the administration's $3 million proposal only to $5.5 million.

"I needed $11 million this year, and I got $5.5 million," Naomi said. "I need $22.5 million next year to do everything that needs doing, and the first $4.5 million of that will go to pay four contractors who couldn't get paid this year."

And here is an excerpt from May of this year:

In the event of a slow-moving Category 4 or Category 5 hurricane (with winds up to or exceeding 155 miles per hour), it's possible that only those crow's nests would remain above the water level. Such a storm, plowing over the lake, could generate a 20-foot surge that would easily overwhelm the levees of New Orleans, which only protect against a hybrid Category 2 or Category 3 storm (with winds up to about 110 miles per hour and a storm surge up to 12 feet). Soon the geographical "bowl" of the Crescent City would fill up with the waters of the lake, leaving those unable to evacuate with little option but to cluster on rooftops -- terrain they would have to share with hungry rats, fire ants, nutria, snakes, and perhaps alligators. The water itself would become a festering stew of sewage, gasoline, refinery chemicals, and debris.

I guess it all depends on what one means by "nobody" and "breach" and so on.

Read This

The New York Times is finally finding its courage.