Saturday, September 10, 2005

Instead of telling Bush or Cheney to go "F" themselves, why not tell them they're doing a "helluva job"?
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"The most important issue in their lives" 

Since I'm cribbing other bloggers today, I just have to cite some recent quotes posted at the Eschaton:

"... I went to Florida a few days after President Bush did to observe the damage from Hurricane Andrew. I had dealt with a lot of natural disasters as governor, including floods, droughts, and tornadoes, but I had never seen anything like this. I was surprised to hear complaints from both local officials and residents about how the Federal Emergency Management Agency was handling the aftermath of the hurricane. Traditionally, the job of FEMA director was given to a political supporter of the President who wanted some plum position but who had no experience with emergencies. I made a mental note to avoid that mistake if I won. Voters don't choose a President based on how he'll handle disasters, but if they're faced with one themselves, it quickly becomes the most important issue in their lives." Bill Clinton, My Life (p. 428)

Then this one from a conservative:


It would be very wrong, I believe, to let the ignominious Michael Brown be the scapegoat for FEMA's sins. Check out this front-pager from the WaPo. Turns out that a raft of FEMA's top leaders have little or no emergency management experience, but are instead politically well connected to the GOP and the White House. This is a scandal, a real scandal. How is it possible that four years after 9/11, the president treats a federal agency vital to homeland security as a patronage prize? The main reason I've been a Bush supporter all along is I trusted him (note past tense) on national security -- which, in the age of mass terrorism, means homeland security too. Call me naive, but it's a real blow to learn that political hacks have been running FEMA, of all agencies of the federal government! What if al-Qaeda had blown the New Orleans levees? How much worse would the crony-led FEMA's response have been? Would conservatives stand for any of this for one second if a Democrat were president? If this is what Republican government means, God help the poor GOP Congressmen up for re-election in 2006.

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It's "fun" to be displaced while the Lord does some tidying up 

Two views from our profoundly "in-touch" House o' Reps (via Crooks and Liars):

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

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

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

They nodded yes, but looked perplexed.

2. Rep. Baker of Baton Rouge is overheard telling lobbyists: "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did."

Baker explains later he didn't intend flippancy but has long wanted to improve low-income housing.
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Friday, September 09, 2005

Gretna sheriffs prevented N.O. Katrina victims from using the CCC bridge to walk out of town to safety 

Atrios points to this despicable story:

As the situation grew steadily worse in New Orleans last week, you might have wondered why people didn't just leave on foot. The Louisiana Superdome is less than two miles from a bridge that leads over the Mississippi River out of the city.

The answer: Any crowd that tried to do so was met by suburban police, some of whom fired guns to disperse the group and seized their water.
In an interview with UPI, Gretna Police Chief Arthur Lawson confirmed that his department shut down the bridge to pedestrians: "If we had opened the bridge, our city would have looked like New Orleans does now: looted, burned and pillaged."

Not that it matters now, but does this inhuman bigot even have jurisdiction over the Crescent City Connection?

Many who get tingly every time Bush says "Freedom's on the March", won't give a damn about this story.

More at Billmon and Digby.
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"That's why we need, in the future, a single, strong leader with the power to override the normal process restrictions and get things done." -- Rep. Bobby Jindal

YRHT notes that yesterday was the 70th anniversary of Da Kingfish's assassination.
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Can we invest portions of our $2000 debit cards in Shaw Group stock?

It has risen about 50% since Aug 29th. (Democratic party ties or not, if Shaw morphs into some sort of wasteful Louisiana "Cajunburton", I will be all over them.)

P.S. Just for the record, I don't have a card. My family's immediate needs are taken care of.

P.P.S. However, you really can "dress for less" at Ross! Even after my income statement improves a bit, I'll be returning for the name-brand bargains. Who cares if some of the clothes are labeled "slightly imperfect"? Hell, so am I!
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No snark (yet), I just wanted to preserve these quotes for future reference.

Sen Mary Landrieu:

WASHINGTON (AP)-- In flooded New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, the federal government failed to meet its greatest responsibility -- protecting the lives of Americans -- and "someone has to be accountable," Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said Thursday.

"Let me be the first to take any blame," the Louisiana Democrat told a hushed Senate chamber on her first day back from the devastated Gulf Coast.
"I'm probably not going to be joining many boycotts because my job is one job," she said. "It is to give an eyewitness account of what I saw, to explain the devastation and to get money directly into the hands of people on the ground in Louisiana and Mississippi."

Landrieu joined her Republican colleague, Sen. David Vitter, on Wednesday in calling for a bipartisan response to the disaster. But she led Senate Democrats on Thursday in proposing a broader aid package than the one Bush proposed. It that would largely bypass FEMA and provide relief funds directly to disaster victims.
But she said the federal government, by consistently underfunding flood control projects in Louisiana, "gambled that the predictions of countless experts" that the levies would break in a major hurricane wouldn't come true.

The government, she said, "rolled the dice and Louisiana lost."

Landrieu said there's no way to know if a fully funded flood control program would have saved New Orleans, but "we would have at least had a fighting chance."

Rep Bobby Jindal:

Spending my days on the ground in Louisiana last week, I did not see much television. But I understand that some media let the violent and destructive acts of a few overshadow the many acts of compassion and heroism.

Contrary to the pictures you may have seen, the vast majority of New Orleanians did not take to the street with weapons-- far more risked their own safety to help neighbors and strangers.

When first responders said they needed more flat boats to pick people out of the water, they were overwhelmed by the line of volunteers. When people at a shelter in Baton Rouge announced they needed drinks, within hours they were flooded with more Gatorade than they could possibly use.

Churches throughout Louisiana opened their doors to take in evacuees. Individuals organized a network to open their homes to strangers, using phone trees and the Internet to link up those in need with those who care. Evacuation centers are flooded with volunteers and supplies.

Many rescue and relief workers, themselves victims of Katrina, have not left their posts for days. Health-care staffers have hand-ventilated patients. Law enforcement officials braved high waters and violence. People from all over the nation are contacting me, especially people in areas recently devastated by their own tragedies, to offer assistance.

The first responders, in combination with our military forces, saved 9,500-plus lives, assisted 102,800 people, and evacuated 22,000 refugees. More then 9.9 million Meals Ready to Eat and 6.6 million gallons of water were distributed. As I write this column, 1,200 buses are in transit taking refugees to shelters across the country.

In coming days, there will be many more such stories, both tragic and heroic. There will be stunning examples of depravity, in which lives were needlessly lost and permanently damaged. But there will be inspiring examples of individuals who sacrificed all so that others might live.

There will also be situations in the future when people will rely on massive government support and help. We'll have to do better delivering it.
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Thursday, September 08, 2005

The World is Meshugaas 

The Jerusalem Post has a story on various "religious" reactions to Katrina. First, here's Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, "the leading spiritual mentor of Sephardi Jewry":

"He [Bush] brought about the expulsion [from Gaza], now he has his own expulsion," said Yosef.

"There was a tsunami and there were horrible natural disasters. It's all a result of too little Torah study. Where there is Torah, the world has sustenance.

"Over there [Louisiana] is where black people live. Do blacks learn Torah?" asked Yosef rhetorically. "'All right,' said God, 'let's bring a tsunami and drown them.' Hundreds of thousands are homeless, tens of thousands are dead. All that because there is no God there."

After that morsel of wisdom, the article quotes a Fundagelical pastor who (predictably) blames the gays. But then, at the very end of the piece, you'll never guess who chimes in:

In contrast, the Iraqi faction of al-Qaida headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi praised the coming of Katrina for being "the start of the collapse" of the US, according to the Kuwaiti paper al-Bawaba.

"Congratulations to the Islamic nation, to our sheikh Osama bin Laden and to sheikh Ayman Zawahiri [bin Laden's deputy] for the destruction of America, which is at the forefront of evil. It is the start of its collapse." According to them, Katrina was sent by God to torment the American empire.

Americans are getting killed nation-building in Iraq, while OBL and #2 are in Waziristan, celebrating the deaths of thousands of "evil" New Orleanians (among others).

Please, sir, try to understand that this War on Terror will be a "long, hard slog".

(Big H/T to Hairy Fish Nuts and to the AP for the photo.)

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Restaurant Report 

Ruth's Chris moving its HQ to Orlando.

Frank Brigtsen is reportedly moving to Shreveport.

The Brennan matriarchs instructed the family to rebuild.

Update: Galatoire's to temporarily relocate in Baton Rouge?!
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Three Sided 

Dead Pelican's Chad Rogers: "So shut up about the feds! We should thank God that FEMA came when they did..."

Daily Show's John Stewart: "SHUT...UP! No! This is inarguably-- inarguably-- a failure of leadership from the top of the federal government."

Greg Peters of Suspect Device: "Me, I don't have any problem with the blame game, since there's so much blame piling up at the dropoff points that it's going to take forever to get it all distributed to those who are still struggling along without adequate blame. Jeez, if I still had a weekly cartoon, I'd use that as a topic."

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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

"Fairy Dust" 

I'm sure Greg Peters has forgotten more about disaster modelling and management than I'll ever know, so here's an extensive quote from a riveting Suspect Device post about a simulated hurricane catastrophe which should be mandatory reading for everyone. (Yes, I know I've labeled several links as "must reads" recently, but this one is at the top of the list. Please read it all. And check back for his follow-ups.)

The Federal Emergency Management Agency promised the moon and the stars. They promised to have 1,000,000 bottles of water per day coming into affected areas within 48 hours. They promised massive prestaging with water, ice, medical supplies and generators. Anything that was needed, they would have either in place as the storm hit or ready to move in immediately after. All it would take is a phone call from local officials to the state, who would then call FEMA, and it would be done. There were contracts-in-place with major vendors across the country and restaging areas were already determined ...

The organizers of the exercise -- particularly the former commender of LOHSEP, Col. Michael Brown (not that one) -- insisted that the plans contain no "fairy dust": no magical leaps of supply chains or providers: if you said you would need 500 semis for your part of the plan, you had to specify where the 500 semis were coming from. Everyone tried to keep the fairy dust to a minimum, and they did so, for the most part, despite having big plans: LSU, Southern, Southeastern and other campuses dismissed for the semester and turned into giant triage centers/tent cities; acres of temporary housing built on government-owned land; C-130 transport planes ferrying evacuees to relatives in other states, and so on. Bold plans, but doable, with cooperation. A comprehensive plan was beginning to emerge.

Except that it didn't. A followup conference, to iron out difficulties in some of the individual plans and to formalize presentation of the final package, scheduled for either late '04 or early '05 -- I can't remember and can find no mention of the followup event on the web -- was cancelled at the last minute, due to lack of funding (which agency called the cancellation, I'm not sure, although the lack of funds would take it all back to FEMA, in the end).

So: Louisiana did have a hurricane plan, but was devising a new one, to be based on recommendation from the people who would actually be doing the work. The need to evacuate people from impact areas, including those without transportation or the means to obtain it, was discussed, despite media assertions to the contrary. The possibility of levee overflow was discussed (levee breaching may have been discussed at some point, but I was in the dewatering room, and I never heard it mentioned. A rescue and evacuation plan, including sheltering, was reasonably firm. There were and are officials in Louisiana, including New Orleans Emergency Management, who know the limitations of current planning and who have been trying to come up with a better solution.

The problem is FEMA, and by extension the Department of Homeland Security, which gobbled FEMA up in 2003. FEMA promised more than they could deliver. They cut off deeper, perhaps more meaningful discussion and planning by handing out empty promises. The plans that were made -- which were not given any sort of stamp of authority -- were never distributed or otherwise made available to those who most needed stable guidance; they vanished into the maw of FEMA and LOSHEP (probably when Col. Brown was removed from his command due to financial "irregularities" -- the project was tainted after that). Adoption of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) would have made most of the plans moot anyway -- FEMA's adherence to the untried NIMS is a primary reason for the chaos and ineptitude surrounding their relief efforts.

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Must read 

Michael at 2millionth web log wrote an excellent post titled "Evacuations/Numbers". He makes several points in regards to buses and trains that should be kept in mind when viewing the infamous aerial photos of all those flooded New Orleans schoolbuses.
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A Beautiful Mind 

"Almost everyone I've talked to says we're going to move to Houston," Barbara Bush told NPR. "What I'm hearing is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this-- this is working very well for them."

I love her use of the word "anyway" there.

My privileged family is in Florida right now, but we're not going to stay. We will move back and rebuild in New Orleans. Like Blake says, "New Orleans 2.0"!

Oh, and you can bet your bottom dollar that there will be a Mardis Gras this year-- no matter what some reverends are saying. (Robert had the best response.)
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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

My frequent whipping post of late, Jeff Crouere, writes a must-read column titled "Bush, Federal Government Failed New Orleans". I agree with it about as completely as I disagreed with his other efforts-- and that is saying something.


In recent days, defenders of the Bush administration have been trying to shift blame to Democrats like Governor Kathleen Blanco, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard. But, in the view of this conservative Republican, all three of these individuals have acted admirably and have been working literally 24 hours a day since well before the hurricane hit.
On his desk at the White House, President Harry Truman had a sign that read "The buck stops here." In a similar vein, President Bush should accept responsibility for these deadly foul-ups and fire the officials who failed. Due to this catastrophe, heads should roll because of the utter ineptitude. Finally, President Bush should take a leadership role to make sure this great city is rebuilt. He needs to embark on a national initiative to recreate New Orleans and make it a top national priority. Hopefully, guilt caused by neglect of this great city will motivate Congress and federal government officials to join in the rebuilding process. Otherwise, an already obscene catastrophe will be magnified even more.

Read it all. Conservative New Orleanian Jeff Crouere deserves credit for writing this.
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Ill Communication 

I proudly present the "FEMA for Kidz Rap". Check it:

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

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

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

How different might things be if New Orleans' urban youth had internalized those tight, informative rhymes? Listen to it here.

I swear, the average French Quarter Maitre d' has more emergency management experience than these guys.

(Via the sixthdoctor.)
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Monday, September 05, 2005

Quick Affordable Modular Housing 

I think Nurhan Gokturk's idea (which I profiled last year) may represent one of the quickest and best ways to rebuild many neighborhoods in New Orleans.

What do you think?
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Achtung, baby 

In addition to getting Chad's attention at the Dead Pelican, I learned that my pre-hurricane post received a mention in this BBC article. The BBC found it over at Humid City, where I had cross-posted it. Several of my compatriots at the New Orleans Metblogs are also featured in the piece.

The BBC says I wrote with "grim prescience" and describes my photo of my Broadmoor neighborhood as "idyllic".

Many thanks also to Liberal Oasis, which has featured this YRHT post in their "blogwire" section for several days now.
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Sunday, September 04, 2005

I will refuse! 

After blasting Gov. Blanco for telling the media to basically "shut up", the Dead Pelican's Chad E. Rogers has the gall to tell critics of the fed's disaster response to (you guessed it)... "Shut Up".

Chad rants:

The fact remains that most of those who stayed behind were too poor to leave. The horrific poverty level in New Orleans is a clear result of decades of STATE AND LOCAL CORRUPTION!!!!!! So shut up about the feds! We should thank God that FEMA came when they did, or what little remains of New Orleans would be burning to the ground.


My reply to this instruction is: I REFUSE TO SHUT UP, SIR!

I mean, I think it's really nifty you got your internet access back and all, but my entire home is flooded in a witch's brew of liquid death-- and yet, I'm one of the LUCKY ones!! So, who are YOU to lecture ME on what I can and can't talk about regarding this disaster!?!

There is plenty of blame to go around here, Mr. Rogers, and I'll be violated by an Arabian horse dingus before I take your advice and "thank God" for lying incompetents like Michael Brown.

Update: Chad Rogers has changed the title of his rant from "SHUT UP ABOUT THE FEDS!!!!!!!!!!!" to "ELECTED OFFICIALS: SHUT UP ABOUT THE FEDS!!!!!!!!!!!"
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"Heck of an editorial" 

The New Orleans Times-Picayune:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That's unbelievable.

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

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

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

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

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

The only flaw in the editorial is the T-P's claim that Bush's approval of Michael "Horse Whisperer" Brown is "unbelievable". It's not unbelievable at all. After seeing this administration's approval of Tenet, Bremer, Rumsfeld... etc.. I would say it's eminently believable. Predictable, even.

Da Paper has earned oyster's lifetime subscription with their commentary. And should Bush fulfill his promise, I'll be applauding too. The chances of that, though, are between slim and none.

And Slim "chose" to evacuate.
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