Chris's Rants

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Can we handle 3 more years?

Read this Knight-Ridder editorial -- Military higher-ups get to the bottom of abuse scandals:
Capt. Fishback added: 'Some argue that since our actions are not as horrifying as al-Qaeda's we should not be concerned. When did al-Qaeda become any type of standard by which we measure the morality of the United States?'

Nobody in his chain of command showed the slightest concern about what the captain reported and what he sought. Nobody showed any interest until Human Rights Watch revealed details of his case last week.

Then the Army got very interested. Orders went down to interrogate the captain and demand that he identify two sergeants who also witnessed some of the abuse. Once again, the powers-that-be were eager to get to the bottom of the issue. Find some enlisted men or non-coms and hang them out to dry.

Shame on them.


We've been treated to the spectacle of a Republican-controlled House and Senate abdicating their constitutional responsibility to conduct rigorous oversight of actions and failings of the executive branch of government. This has gone on for the four-plus years that George W. Bush has occupied the White House, and it looks as if we'll get more of the same for three more years and a bit.

There have been 17 separate investigations of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and other prisoner abuse scandals. All have gone straight to the bottom of every case. All have consistently claimed that no one higher up the chain of command, including the civilian leadership in the Pentagon, bears any responsibility for any of this.

Hogwash. BS. Nonsense.

If the lowest private fails, then others have failed in training, leading and directing that private. The chain runs from sergeant to lieutenant to captain to lieutenant colonel to colonel to one, two, three and four stars, on to the longest serving, most arrogant secretary of defense in our history, Donald H. Rumsfeld, and beyond him to the commander in chief, President Bush.

It's long past time for responsibility to begin flowing uphill in this administration. It's time for our leaders to take responsibility for what's being done in all our names and under our proud flag. It's time for Congress to do its job if the administration won't do its job.

The Teflon is wearing off this administration in a hurry. It's past time for an end to strutting, victory laps, crowing to the skies and boasting "Bring 'em on!" Now is the time to provide the leadership our troops deserve. Now is the time to state plainly and unequivocally that we are Americans, and we live by a rule of law that protects everyone, even the worst terrorist who ever fell into our hands. Maybe especially the worst terrorist who ever fell into our hands.
Now, the war criminals are persecuting the hero who had the cajones to call a spade a spade.

Rumsfeld should resign, immediately. Full stop. But, he won't, of course. Rummy, you're doing a heckovajob!


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DeLay Indicted

DeLay Indicted in Campaign Finance Probe:
WASHINGTON -- A Texas grand jury on Wednesday charged Rep. Tom DeLay and two political associates with conspiracy in a campaign finance scheme, forcing the House majority leader to temporarily relinquish his post.
Couldn't happen to a nicer guy. Too bad he has to step down as Majority Leader.

Of course, given his ties to Abramoff, and his ties to organized crime, this should not come as a surprise. My guess is that this is only the tip of the iceburg.

What a creep.


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Smile! You're on candid camera

Squid's in -- and now it's on film:
The size of a bus, with vast eyes and a querulous beak, Architeuthis has long nourished myth and literature, most memorably in Jules Vernes' '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,' in which a squid tried to engulf the submarine Nautilus with its suckered tentacles.
Neat! The thing that strikes me though is that the article does not include an image from the recent coup. Just an old stock photo of a dead squid.

Further, why did we have to wait a year to learn about this?

Update: this article includes some of the photos.


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Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Apparently, according to Michael Brown, former Director of FEMA (Federal Emergency Mismanagement Agency) who is currently testifying before Congress, Carly Fiorina is (or was) CEO of IBM, and IBM, not HP, had merged with Compaq.

News to me.

Doofus McFubar tried to use the "IBM/Compaq merger" as an analogy for the difficulties faced by FEMA when it was merged in with DHS.

It's hard work!


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Incompetent incoherence

President Discusses Hurricane Effects on Energy Supply:
Two other points I want to make is, one, we can all pitch in by using -- by being better conservers of energy. I mean, people just need to recognize that the storms have caused disruption and that if they're able to maybe not drive when they -- on a trip that's not essential, that would helpful. The federal government can help, and I've directed the federal agencies nationwide -- and here's some ways we can help. We can curtail nonessential travel. If it makes sense for the citizen out there to curtail nonessential travel, it darn sure makes sense for federal employees. We can encourage employees to carpool or use mass transit. And we can shift peak electricity use to off-peak hours. There's ways for the federal government to lead when it comes to conservation.
I'm sorry, but the man is simply incoherent.
It is clear that when you're dependent upon natural gas and/or hydrocarbons to fuel your economy and that supply gets disrupted, we need alternative sources of energy. And that's why I believe so strongly in nuclear power. And so we've got a chance, once again, to assess where we are as a country when it comes to energy and do something about it. And I look forward to working with Congress to do just that.
Bzzt! You had a chance doofus, but instead of addressing the energy issues facing the nation, you and Darth Cheney chose instead to line the pockets of your good ol' boys in the oil biz. It isn't as if the energy crisis facing the nation is new, it's been a gathering threat for years and yet BushCo chose to either ignore it or exacerbate it with its policies.


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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Doesn't he already have a job?

Political Wire: Romney Considered to Lead Katrina Recovery:
'As the White House gears up for the massive job of rebuilding hurricane-stricken areas, there's been talk of bringing in someone like' Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) 'to oversee the project. And CBS4 News has learned there may be more to that than just talk.'
Doesn't he already have a job? Further, doesn't this undermine the respective governors of Mississippi and Louisiana? Romney is, after all, their peer in that regard. I don't get the logic behind this. Shouldn't the reconstruction "czar" be someone who can give the job their complete attention? Jack Welsh? Colin Powell? Someone who doesn't already have a job?


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Sunday, September 18, 2005

Avast ye hearties

Arr! Ain't got much ter say ter ya matie, but bein' as it's Talk Like A Pirate Day today, figgered I needs ter hoist up a blog post wi' some pirate talk, jus' ter set the mood, as it were. Arr!

S'pose the intrestin' word this day be that ol' Cap'n Bubble Boy's polls are sinkin' faster'n a dead pirate's corpse on its watery journey down to Davey Jones' locker. Arr!


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Saturday, September 17, 2005

New Toy!

Ok, I couldn't resist... had to get myself a 4Gb iPod Nano.

It Rocks!

I won't really miss the extra 2Gb that my mini offered... The diminutive size makes up for the lost capacity, and besides... all the tunes are on my laptop which goes everywhere with me anyway. I'll find out soon enough whether I'll miss the extra 4 hours of play time.


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Let the SwiftBoating begin!

FEMA Employee Accuses Agency of Incompetence (emphasis mine):
Anderson Cooper 360 on CNN tonight was a wealth of information tonight, and the transcript is here. Not to slight all the other stories, including a great shouting match between Kenner city officials on tape accusing each other of incompetence and racism, the main story to me was the FEMA employee union president accusing those in charge of ignoring their own dire warnings and botching the relief efforts while the rank and file felt helpless:
They're all coming out of the woodwork now. This guy, Leo Bosner, was also on NPR's Morning Edition with much of the same. Bush won't hesitate to can this guy, the way he did with FEMA "heckovajob" Director Brown, although firing this guy could get messy since he's the Union president.

However, FEMA itself seems to be its own worst enemy. Nearly three weeks into the "exercise", as Cheney called it, FEMA still hasn't managed to extract its head from its ass:
The federal aid hot line mentioned by President Bush in his address to the nation on Thursday cannot handle the flood of calls, leaving thousands of people unable to get through for help, day after day.
I can't imagine that Ron Popeil would have aired an infomercial without having enough operators "standing by". All of Dubya's chickens have come home to roost, and they're crapping all over the place.

The FEMA clown show, highlighted in the NYT article linked above, is worse than just a flooded 800 number. Apparently, to get any help at all, you HAVE to call the 800 number, but in many of the affected areas, there is still no phone service. Maybe FEMA should revisit that decision.

FEMA also has trouble delivering ice. Seems that someone is playing a logistical shell game with hundreds of truckloads of ice that were prepositioned before the storm, but have since been redirected from city to city costing taxpayers substantial amounts of money.

In their zeal to stick it to the little guy and line the pockets of their good buddies at Halliburton and Bechtel, it seems that the BushCo clown show may have actually violated the law. I'm glad that the Dems, along with the MSM, seem to be rediscovering their spine.

So, while Bush may talk a good game, his minions can't execute worth a damn unless it is to attack someone for their patriotism. I suspect that we will continue to see the Rove smear machine in action, but there may be too many to deal with at one time which will dilute the message, as well as Rove's investigative capacity, and make the administration look even more like it's doing all the finger-pointing.


  • Chris, you seem bitter.

    I've found that knowing God helps me enjoy life more.

    thanks, Ben

    By Blogger bjenkins, at September 17, 2005 11:57 PM  

  • "his minions can't execute worth a damn unless it is to attack someone for their patriotism"

    At over 1900 US casualties in Iraq, I don't think the minions are good at the attack either.


    By Anonymous Ginny Ghezzo, at September 21, 2005 7:43 AM  

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Friday, September 16, 2005

Daily Nightly: A trick of the light?

Via TPM - Brian Williams:
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.
So, why is this not being reported on the Nightly News and elsewhere? It's bad enough that this potemkin president does these things... it is worse that the nation is not informed.

The same thing happened with the levee reconstruction... when Bush was in town for a photo-op, there was all manner of activity. The next day, all gone. When Bush was visiting Biloxi, there was a relief station set up and manned with all manner of relief workers. As soon as he left town for New Orleans... it was taken down.

The only thing that matters to the president and his administration is politics. Reality be damned. FEMA was not in disarray during the hurricanes that struck Florida just before the elections just last year. Quite the contrary, they were handing out handfuls of money to people who didn't even need it.

Bubble Boy did nothing about Katrina until it became painfully obvious that it was becoming a political problem for him. He just doesn't care unless it affects him.

Compassionate conservative my ass. Compassion requires empathy and this president has none.


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Thursday, September 15, 2005

Google fun

The Gadflyer: Fly Trap:
1. Go to the Google home page.
2. Type in 'failure'.
3. Click 'I'm feeling lucky.'
4. Bwa-ha-ha!


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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Raw Story -- Internal docs show feds 'bungled' Katrina response:
Attempts by officials at NIH to reach FEMA officials and send them briefing materials by email failed as the agency's server failed.

'I noticed that every email to a FEMA person bounced back this week. They need a better internet provider during disasters!!' one frustrated Department of Health official wrote to colleagues last Thursday.
Their mail server went down?!

It's way worse than that, though.


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Tuesday, September 13, 2005


The Poor Man:
Q: What’s George Bush’s position on Roe v. Wade?

A: He really doesn’t care how people get out of New Orleans.


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Was Kanye West Right?:
Sometimes the best place to find out what the White House is doing is, well, anywhere but the White House.

Case in point: Nikki Davis Maute writes in the Hattiesburg (Miss.) American: '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. . . .

'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.'
Fascinating... BushCo, and most importantly Dick Cheney, who was otherwise invisible in the immediate aftermath of Katrina and continuing on until late Thursday when his staff finally found him mansion-hunting in the exclusive suburbs of Baltimore, were right on top of things that mattered... to them. Get those pipelines pumping!

Makes you wonder. If they were so on-top of the situation that they would leave two voice-mail messages to order a pipeline back in service within 24 hours (at the expense of restoring power to two hospitals, no less), how it is that they were ostensibly so clueless when it came to the fact that tens of thousands of people were literally starving and dying of dehydration right before our eyes on national TV?

Why has no one else but Froomkin picked this up?

It is certainly indicative of the administration's priorities, and may point to even deeper problems.

Do I think that the president doesn't care about black people? No.

I think he takes an equal-opportunity dim view of anyone who makes less than a million a week.

Worst. President. Ever.


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Monday, September 12, 2005

The Emperor has no clothes!?

Dan Froomkin -- Now They Tell Us (emphasis mine):
Amid a slew of stories this weekend about the embattled presidency and the blundering government response to the drowning of New Orleans, some journalists who are long-time observers of the White House are suddenly sharing scathing observations about President Bush that may be new to many of their readers.

Is Bush the commanding, decisive, jovial president you've been hearing about for years in so much of the mainstream press?

Maybe not so much.

Judging from the blistering analyses in Time, Newsweek, and elsewhere these past few days, it turns out that Bush is in fact fidgety, cold and snappish in private. He yells at those who dare give him bad news and is therefore not surprisingly surrounded by an echo chamber of terrified sycophants. He is slow to comprehend concepts that don't emerge from his gut. He is uncomprehending of the speeches that he is given to read. And oh yes, one of his most significant legacies -- the immense post-Sept. 11 reorganization of the federal government which created the Homeland Security Department -- has failed a big test.

Maybe it's Bush's sinking poll numbers -- he is, after all, undeniably an unpopular president now. Maybe it's the way that the federal response to the flood has cut so deeply against Bush's most compelling claim to greatness: His resoluteness when it comes to protecting Americans.

But for whatever reason, critical observations and insights that for so long have been zealously guarded by mainstream journalists, and only doled out in teaspoons if at all, now seem to be flooding into the public sphere.

An emperor-has-no-clothes moment seems upon us.
Indeed, but has the press learned from their lesson? I hope so, but I doubt it.

The MSM has played Bush's cheerleader since 9/11. Yet, most of them have known full well all along that he isn't up to the task. He was the butt of every joke imaginable prior to 9/11, but because he rallied the country behind him during his bullhorn moment atop the rubble of the twin towers, they have given him a pass that he never deserved from the moment that he squandered that good will by abandoning the effort in Afghanistan, to track down UBL and the rest of his al Qaeda criminals, to engage in a war of spite (or for oil, or whatever reason which we still don't know) against Saddam and Iraq.

He is the Bubble Boy. A hand-puppet who hasn't the first clue what to do or say without his handlers whispering in his ear. When left to his own devices, as he was before he reassembled his vacationing staff to the WH, he will do and say exactly the wrong thing.

Someone who "feels things in his gut" and makes "good decisions" would have fired Mike Brown on the spot when he landed in Louisiana instead of slapping him on the behind and telling him what a "heckova job" he was doing. Yet, President Bubble Boy didn't even know that his embattled FEMA Director had resigned. Maybe the Preznit should get himself a cell phone or a Blackberry. Clearly, if he didn't know, then he didn't fire him which is what he should have done late last week.

Had "Bush's brain" been whispering in his ear through the non-existant box strapped between Dubya's shoulder blades during the debates, rather than lying in bed at home, zonked out on vicodin following his kidney stone surgery, he might have suggested that Bush say: "yes, I know, I asked for his resignation" to at least give the impression that he's on top of things.

Even Bush's talking points are out of date. Today, he trotted out the "New Orleans Dodged a Bullet" headline excuse... one that had been debunked last week when DHS Sec'y Chertoff used it. A) there were no such headlines, and B) the levees were breached early Monday as reported widely. Not only that, but Bush was briefed on the prospect that the levees would be overrun by the storm surge on Sunday by Max Mayfield.

None of this is news to anyone who has been paying attention.

While I am glad that the press have finally found their spine, it is a year too late to make a difference. They should have spoken up last year, when his campaign hacks were spewing lies and covering up his incompetence by gaming the debates. We have to suffer through three more years with these incompetetent criminals in office. I'm not confident that we'll survive his legacy.


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Get well soon, Dave!

Best wishes to Dave for a speedy recovery from his Recent Water Skiing Injury.

Aside: I think he should get some sort of award for longest word used in a posting by a fellow geek.


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Sunday, September 11, 2005


YADSTBFBAE (yet another disgruntled soon to be former Bush administration employee)

Cover-up: toxic waters 'will make New Orleans unsafe for a decade':
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."
I give this guy about one day before he's fired. Good for him, though, for putting the truth out there.


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How Bush Blew It - Newsweek

Newsweek -- How Bush Blew It (emphasis mine):
How this could be—how the president of the United States could have even less 'situational awareness,' as they say in the military, than the average American about the worst natural disaster in a century—is one of the more perplexing and troubling chapters in a story that, despite moments of heroism and acts of great generosity, ranks as a national disgrace.


He has boasted that he doesn't read the papers.


But it is not clear what President Bush does read or watch, aside from the occasional biography and an hour or two of ESPN here and there. Bush can be petulant about dissent; he equates disagreement with disloyalty. After five years in office, he is surrounded largely by people who agree with him. Bush can ask tough questions, but it's mostly a one-way street. Most presidents keep a devil's advocate around. Lyndon Johnson had George Ball on Vietnam; President Ronald Reagan and Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, grudgingly listened to the arguments of Budget Director Richard Darman, who told them what they didn't wish to hear: that they would have to raise taxes. When Hurricane Katrina struck, it appears there was no one to tell President Bush the plain truth: that the state and local governments had been overwhelmed, that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was not up to the job and that the military, the only institution with the resources to cope, couldn't act without a declaration from the president overriding all other authority.


Congressional investigations will take months to sort out who is to blame. A NEWSWEEK reconstruction of the government's response to the storm shows how Bush's leadership style and the bureaucratic culture combined to produce a disaster within a disaster.


At dusk, on the ninth floor of city hall, the mayor and the city council had their first encounter with the federal government. A man in a blue FEMA windbreaker arrived to brief them on his helicopter flyover of the city. He seemed unfamiliar with the city's geography, but he did have a sense of urgency. "Water as far as the eye can see," he said. It was worse than Hurricanes Andrew in 1992 and Camille in 1969. "I need to call Washington," he said. "Do you have a conference-call line?" According to an aide to the mayor, he seemed a little taken aback when the answer was no. Long neglected in the city budget, communications within the New Orleans city government were poor, and eventually almost nonexistent when the batteries on the few old satellite phones died. The FEMA man found a phone, but he had trouble reaching senior officials in Washington. When he finally got someone on the line, the city officials kept hearing him say, "You don't understand, you don't understand."


There are a number of steps Bush could have taken, short of a full-scale federal takeover, like ordering the military to take over the pitiful and (by now) largely broken emergency communications system throughout the region. But the president, who was in San Diego preparing to give a speech the next day on the war in Iraq, went to bed.


Early Wednesday morning, Blanco tried to call Bush. She was transferred around the White House for a while until she ended up on the phone with Fran Townsend, the president's Homeland Security adviser, who tried to reassure her but did not have many specifics. Hours later, Blanco called back and insisted on speaking to the president. When he came on the line, the governor recalled, "I just asked him for help, 'whatever you have'." She asked for 40,000 troops. "I just pulled a number out of the sky," she later told NEWSWEEK.


The one federal agency that is supposed to handle disasters—FEMA—was dysfunctional. On Wednesday morning, Senator Landrieu was standing outside the chaotic Superdome and asked to borrow a FEMA official's phone to call her office in Washington. "It didn't work," she told news-week. "I thought to myself, 'This isn't going to be pretty'."


Bad news rarely flows up in bureaucracies. For most of those first few days, Bush was hearing what a good job the Feds were doing. Bush likes "metrics," numbers to measure performance, so the bureaucrats gave him reassuring statistics. At a press availability on Wednesday, Bush duly rattled them off: there were 400 trucks transporting 5.4 million meals and 13.4 million liters of water along with 3.4 million pounds of ice. Yet it was obvious to anyone watching TV that New Orleans had turned into a Third World hellhole.

The denial and the frustration finally collided aboard Air Force One on Friday. As the president's plane sat on the tarmac at New Orleans airport, a confrontation occurred that was described by one participant as "as blunt as you can get without the Secret Service getting involved." Governor Blanco was there, along with various congressmen and senators and Mayor Nagin (who took advantage of the opportunity to take a shower aboard the plane). One by one, the lawmakers listed their grievances as Bush listened. Rep. Bobby Jindal, whose district encompasses New Orleans, told of a sheriff who had called FEMA for assistance. According to Jindal, the sheriff was told to e-mail his request, "and the guy was sitting in a district underwater and with no electricity," Jindal said, incredulously. "How does that make any sense?" Jindal later told NEWSWEEK that "almost everybody" around the conference table had a similar story about how the federal response "just wasn't working." With each tale, "the president just shook his head, as if he couldn't believe what he was hearing," says Jindal, a conservative Republican and Bush appointee who lost a close race to Blanco. Repeatedly, the president turned to his aides and said, "Fix it."


Late last week, Bush was, by some accounts, down and angry. But another Bush aide described the atmosphere inside the White House as "strangely surreal and almost detached." At one meeting described by this insider, officials were oddly self-congratulatory, perhaps in an effort to buck each other up. Life inside a bunker can be strange, especially in defeat.

Makes you wonder just WTF the president does know about anything. Iraq. The economy. The deleterious effects of his tax cuts. My guess is that he hasn't a clue how bad things are in Iraq, how the military has been stretched beyond its limits, how his policies have actually made things far worse than they were when he put them into action. He hasn't the first clue, and no one in the White House has the balls to tell him anything but happy news.

If the consequences weren't so deadly serious, it would be comical.


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How conveeeenient.

Jeralyn of TalkLeft writes:
A video tape threatening a terror attack on Los Angeles has been delivered to ABC News in Pakistan. The big question, as Suburban Guerilla asks, is it real?
As instapundit would so eloquently opine; heh, indeedy.

Here's the problem, Mr Preznit. You've used up all your chits. You've cried wolf too many times. At this point, too many people are skeptical of your fear mongering. Where once you had a significant majority of people who believed that you were "strong on terror", you now have but a scant plurality of brainwashed fools who actually believe Karl's propaganda.

You've played the terrorism card once too many times. To have a terror tape released (by the same clown who released a terror tape on the eve of the presidential election, no less) on the four year anniversary of 9/11, with your approval ratings in the tank is, in a word, predictable.


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From today's WaPo -- The Steady Buildup to a City's Chaos:
As the floodwaters recede and the dead are counted, what went wrong during a terrible week that would render a modern American metropolis of nearly half a million people uninhabitable and set off the largest exodus of people since the Civil War, is starting to become clear. Federal, state and local officials failed to heed forecasts of disaster from hurricane experts. Evacuation plans, never practical, were scrapped entirely for New Orleans's poorest and least able. And once floodwaters rose, as had been long predicted, the rescue teams, medical personnel and emergency power necessary to fight back were nowhere to be found.

Compounding the natural catastrophe was a man-made one: the inability of the federal, state and local governments to work together in the face of a disaster long foretold.
The thing that struck me most, in this otherwise decent report, is the lack of specificity as regards to exactly which "officials" to which certain of the missteps cited should be attributed. State? Local? Federal? Here's an example (emphasis mine):
Starting Wednesday, Amtrak offered to run a twice-a-day shuttle for as many as 600 evacuees from a rail yard west of New Orleans to Lafayette, La. The first run was not organized until Saturday. Officials then told Amtrak they would not require any more trains.
Was it FEMA? The WH? Nagin? Blanco? Seems to me that identifying the clueless moron who told Amtrak "thanks, but no thanks" would be important.

However, it seems clear that much of the culpability can be left at the feet of FEAM and the White House:
Anger was also rising at federal officials, who often seemed to be getting in the way. At Louis Armstrong International Airport, commercial airlines had been flying in supplies and taking out evacuees since Monday. But on Thursday, after FEMA took over the evacuation, aviation director Roy A. Williams complained that "we are packed with evacuees and the planes are not being loaded and there are gaps of two or three hours when no planes are arriving." Eventually, he started fielding "calls from airlines saying, 'Well, we are being told by FEMA that you don't need any planes.' And of course we need planes. I had thousands of people on the concourses."
From the NYT coverage -- Breakdowns Marked Path From Hurricane to Anarchy:
The official autopsies of the flawed response to the catastrophic storm have already begun in Washington, and may offer lessons for dealing with a terrorist attack or even another hurricane this season. But an initial examination of Hurricane Katrina's aftermath demonstrates the extent to which the federal government failed to fulfill the pledge it made after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to face domestic threats as a unified, seamless force.

Instead, the crisis in New Orleans deepened because of a virtual standoff between hesitant federal officials and besieged authorities in Louisiana, interviews with dozens of officials show.
This graph in the NYT coverage really caught my eye:
But Richard A. Falkenrath, a former homeland security adviser in the Bush White House, said the chief federal failure was not anticipating that the city and state would be so compromised. He said the response exposed "false advertising" about how the government has been transformed four years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"Frankly, I wasn't surprised that it went the way it did," Mr. Falkenrath said.
Oh, oh... Looks like we have YADFBAE (yet another disgruntled former Bush administration employee) on our hands.

I did note one discrepancy between the WaPo and NYT reporting. Here's what the WaPo had to say in its section on Tuesday, August 30:
Blanco ordered the Superdome evacuated, but Col. Jeff Smith, Louisiana's emergency preparedness chief, grew frustrated at FEMA's inability to send buses to move people out. "We'd call and say: 'Where are the buses?' " he recalled, shaking his head. "They have a tracking system and they'd say: 'We sent 349.' But we didn't see them."
Here's what the NYT reported:
Drivers Afraid

When the water rose, the state began scrambling to find buses. Officials pleaded with various parishes across the state for school buses. But by Tuesday, Aug. 30, as news reports of looting and violence appeared, local officials began resisting.

Governor Blanco said the bus drivers, many of them women, "got afraid to drive. So then we looked for somebody of authority to drive the school buses."

FEMA stepped in to assemble a fleet of buses, said Natalie Rule, an agency spokeswoman, only after a request from the state that she said did not come until Wednesday, Aug. 31. Greyhound Lines began sending buses into New Orleans within two hours of getting FEMA approval on Wednesday, said Anna Folmnsbee, a Greyhound spokeswoman. But the slow pace and reports of desperation and violence at the Superdome led to the governor's frustrated appeal in the state emergency center on Wednesday night.

She eventually signed an executive order that required parishes to turn over their buses, said Lt. Col. William J. Doran III, operations director for the state Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.
So, the NYT reports that FEMA wasn't asked for busses until Wednesday, and yet on Tuesday, someone from the Louisiana emergency management office was calling them asking where they were and FEMA reported that they had sent 348? Clearly, someone is not being forthcoming.

I guess I can understand why many of the state's usual school bus drivers (many of whom are stay-at-home moms who drive the local school bus as a part-time job) would be afraid, but isn't that why we have the National Guard? Was no one thinking about who would actually drive the busses?

Also, this line in the NYT article caught my eye:
"I've heard stories," Mr. Cartwright said. "Because rescuers didn't come, people were succumbing to the heat." Mr. Cartwright said some nursing home managers ignored the mayor's mandatory evacuation order, choosing to keep their frail patients in place and wait out the storm.
No surprise there. Nursing homes are notorious for their penny-pinching. My guess is that they were reluctant to shell out the $$$ to pay for the evacuation. Frankly, the owners who chose to refuse the mandatory evacuation order should lose their license to operate a home, at the very least. I'd like to see them brought up on criminal charges of manslaughter. They deserve a special place in hell for their miserly calousness.

From the L.A. Times coverage:
Put to Katrina's Test
# After 9/11, a master plan for disasters was drawn. It didn't weather the storm.

WASHINGTON — It was conceived as the solution to confusion and bureaucratic logjams that hampered responses to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks — a 426-page master plan to coordinate government agencies in a disaster.

When it was unveiled amid fanfare in January, the Department of Homeland Security's National Response Plan promised "vastly improved coordination among federal, state, local and tribal organizations to help save lives" from storms, floods, earthquakes or terrorist assaults.

Hurricane Katrina turned out to be its first real-world test — but the plan broke down soon after the monster winds blew in.

Its failures raise unsettling questions about the federal government's readiness to deal with future crippling disasters. An examination of how the plan was administered during the crucial early hours of this natural disaster reveal more confusion than coordination and repeated failures of leadership.

The plan on paper was not always apparent on the ground. Cooperation among government agencies faltered at almost every level, right up to the White House.


After the levees broke, governors from around the country pledged their National Guard troops for the relief mission, yet their efforts were occasionally ensnared in bureaucracy.

On Aug. 29, when Katrina hit, Richardson, the New Mexico governor, telephoned Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, and asked if there was anything his state could provide.

"She said, 'We need truck drivers and National Guard,' " Richardson recalled. He told her, "I'll get moving on it."

Richardson said he immediately authorized his Guard commander to send 200 troops to Louisiana. Then "red tape and paperwork" intervened, Richardson said. Instead of hours, it took four days.

"My National Guard commander … tried to get approval from the Guard bureau in Washington, and it wasn't until Thursday night that he got it," he said. "They kept saying they needed a definition of the mission in their orders. I said how about, 'Helping people.' I kept bumping into my National Guard commander and he kept saying, 'No, they haven't left yet.' "

A spokesman for the National Guard bureau in Washington declined to address Richardson's allegation. He said there are specific, formal procedures in place that governors have to follow to send National Guard troops to other states.

And Top Pentagon officials denied that the Iraq war had any impact on the ability of the National Guard to respond to the disaster.

"That's just flat wrong. Anyone who's saying that doesn't understand the situation," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said last week.

But when the hurricane hit, nearly 35% of Louisiana's Guard forces and 40% of Mississippi's were deployed in Iraq. Two brigades, Louisiana's 256th Infantry and Mississippi's 155th Armored, each contain hundreds of troops in what the military calls "combat support" roles — engineers, truck drivers, and logisticians — who specialize in the tasks used regularly in disaster relief.

As the situation worsened and local officials appeared incapable of organizing an effective response, senior officials gathered at the White House on Wednesday night, Aug. 31, to discuss the possibility of "federalizing" the relief effort, which would have given the Pentagon command over the National Guard troops in the affected states.

Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales suggested that Bush invoke the 1878 Insurrection Act, which gives the president the authority to use the military to maintain law and order in national emergencies, Pentagon sources said.

At that meeting and later sessions, Rumsfeld expressed misgivings about such a draconian measure, and argued that federalizing the National Guard would not speed up the flow of troops into the area.
Once again, Rumsfeld demonstrates his serial criminal incompetence. He should have been fired three years ago for failing to heed the advise of Gen. Shinseki and for not being prepared to secure the peace after the initial invasion of Iraq. He should have been fired a year and a half ago for the abuses at Abu Ghraib, Gitmo and Baghram. He should certainly be fired now for being a clueless idiot for his "expressed misgivings".

Further, it seems that once again Rummy is either a lying sack of horse crap or is completely out of touch with reality. Surely, his views continue to be contrary to those of his top commanders:
Also, although the Pentagon has insisted that troop deployments to Iraq did not stretch the National Guard too thin to respond quickly to Katrina, a top National Guard general appeared to contradict that. Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said deployments of thousands of Louisiana and Mississippi Guard troops hindered initial response.

"Had that brigade been at home and not in Iraq, their expertise and capabilities could have been brought to bear," Blum said in an Associated Press interview.
No shit, Sherlock.

The L.A. Times was most scathing in its assessment of the president's failure of responsibility (emphasis mine):
Ultimately, the National Response Plan says the president is in charge during a national emergency, but it leaves it up to the White House to decide how to fulfill that duty. "The president leads the nation in responding effectively and ensuring the necessary resources are applied quickly and efficiently," the plan says.

Bush has always prided himself on his leadership style, which he has described as akin to a corporate CEO: delegating maximum responsibility to subordinates, but demanding accountability for their performance.

Some officials have grumbled that White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr., a canny bureaucratic warrior, and chief political advisor Karl Rove, an assertive policy kibitzer, don't delegate enough.

In response to Hurricane Katrina, Bush and his aides left most of the management to FEMA, and stepped in to correct problems only after they had a full-blown political crisis on their hands.

When Katrina was heading to the Gulf Coast, most of the top White House staff was on vacation, taking advantage of the president's five-week stay at his ranch near Crawford, Texas, to get time off from their normally hectic jobs.

Card, a veteran crisis manager who managed the federal response to hurricanes for the president's father, was relaxing at his lakefront summer home in Maine.

Vice President Dick Cheney, who acted as the administration's top crisis manager on Sept. 11, 2001, was at his ranch in Wyoming.

Frances Townsend, the White House coordinator for homeland security, was vacationing, too. After Katrina struck, she attended several meetings in Washington, then left on a previously scheduled trip for Saudi Arabia to work on joint counterterrorism projects.

Bush urged Townsend to make the trip despite the crisis at home as a "signal to … the enemy" that the hurricane had not distracted his attention from terrorists, one aide said.

White House spokesmen declined to say who was in charge of preparing for the hurricane in Washington. They maintain that Bush and his aides can run the government just as well from their summer homes.
First of all, isn't pride one of the seven deadly sins? In fact, Bush's pride has never been substantiated; he has never once held anyone on his staff accountable for their incompetence or failure.

Secondly, Bush's overwhelming obsession with terrorism lead him to take his eye off the ball. The vague threat of "terrorism" pales in significance to the situation that was staring him in the face, but he is blinded by his obsession. Does this idiot really believe that "the terrorists" pay attention to which administration hack is sent to participate in some obscure "joint operations" in Saudi Arabia?

terrorism : Dubya :: Moby Dick : Captain Ahab

We all know the fate of the Pequod.

Be very afraid.


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Saturday, September 10, 2005

On your watch...

Bill Maher (link to video):
On your watch, we've lost almost all of our allies, the surplus, four airliners, two towers, a piece of the pentagon, and the city of New Orleans. Maybe you're just not lucky. I'm not saying you don't love this country, I'm just wondering how much worse it could be if you were on the other side. So yes, God does speak to you, and what he's saying is: "take a hint".
I'm not entirely convinced he isn't on the other side.


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I'm goin' down, down, down, down, down

Newsweek: Bush approval 38%, 57% have lost confidence in U.S. to deal with disaster (emphasis mine):
New York-President George W. Bush's approval ratings have fallen across the board in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and a seemingly flawed government response to the disaster, according to the latest Newsweek Poll. Bush's job-approval rating dropped to 38 percent, the lowest ever in the Newsweek Poll. Sixty-six percent of those polled say they are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time; just 28 percent are satisfied, another record low in the poll.

A 52-percent majority of Americans say they do not trust President Bush to make the right decisions during a domestic crisis, 45 percent do. The same number-52 percent-do not trust him to make the right decisions during an international crisis, again, 45 percent do. In addition, 57 percent of Americans say the slow response in New Orleans has caused them to lose confidence in the government to deal with another major natural disaster, 41 percent say it has not; 47 percent say it has made them lose confidence in government to prevent another 9/11-type attack; half (50%) say it has not, the poll shows.
Stay the course! Despite the fact that even before the election, there was a majority, that has now grown to nearly 2/3 of Americans, that feel that we are headed in the wrong direction... Dear Leader sez "stay the course". I for one hope that the trend that his poll numbers have been taking since he stole the election continues to "stay the course".

Still, there seem to be 7% that are fence-sitters who for some as yet unfathomable reason, despite all the evidence that bespeaks the contrary, think that Preznit Dipshit will make the right decisions in a crisis.

What are these people smoking? I'm not sure that Karl Rove believes he is capable of deciding what flavor ice cream he wants with his cake. The man is a clueless half-wit. When left to his own devices, he will do and/or say exactly the wrong thing.

"You're doing a heckova job, Brownie"

"We got a lot of rebuilding to do.... the good news is and it's hard for some to see it now but out of this chaos is going to come a fantastic gulf coast... out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house -- the guy lost his entire house -- there's going to be fantastic house. I look forward to sitting on the porch. Out of New Orleans is going to come that great city again."

"Don't buy gas if you don't need it."


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Go Cheney yourself

Go Cheney yourself:
Dr. Ben Marble, a young emergency room physician who plays in alternative rock bands and does art on the side, needs our help. Since he was the one who told Dick Cheney to 'go fuck yourself' on Sept. 8, that's the least we can do.

Marble is a complex guy, to say the least. Some of the lyrics he writes can be considered harsh by some – personally what I've heard is very much on target - but he has a softer side as an organizer of breast cancer fund-raisers, not to mention an ER doctor.

When he, like thousands of others, lost his home due to Hurricane Katrina last week, it was the single most traumatic week of his life. That led to his Sept. 8 confrontation with the man who best represents the worst of the most callous, heartless, shittiest administration in U.S. history.

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

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

Suddenly a long line of dark cars pulled up, and they honked at Marble to back up to let them through the barricade that supposedly no one could drive through. That only made Marble madder so he did what most of us would do – or at least consider doing.
Update: Michael Froomkin in discussion of the same story links back to a previous post that recounts an old joke.
"Of course it’s still true," I reassured the children. "I can go right up to the White House today and shout 'Truman is an idiot' and no one will do anything to me, either."


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Why do they let morons have columns?

John Tierney -- The Case for a Cover-Up:
At last there is a light in the darkness. Washington was slow to respond to Katrina's victims, but now Congress has finally sprung into action. It has bravely promised to investigate the situation.

Unfortunately, the members haven't figured out exactly how, because Democrats want it to be done by outsiders. They say the Republicans will turn it into a cover-up. But why does that bother the Democrats so much? Shouldn't members of both parties want to cover this up?
The NYT pays this guy to write for their op-ed page?!

What does it matter what the members of congress might want? They serve at the pleasure of the American people who elected them, and the American public wants answers, they want accountability, and they want the problems fixed ASAP. Apparently though, Tierney fails to recognize this fact.

The Republicans seem to think that it is more important to provide cover for Dear Leader's catatonia in the face of disaster (for the second time, no less) than it is to find out why after pouring billions of dollars into post-9/11 "preparedness", DHS and FEMA can't seem to be capable of extracating their heads from their respective asses or their feet from their mouths, much less coordinate disaster relief.

There's plenty of blame to go around at every level, of that you can be certain. However, what is equally clear is that under the present administration, FEMA went from world-class competence in its mission to mind-boggling incompetence in a period of five short years. Maybe we should look into why that is before it's too late.

Frankly, I don't trust either party to investigate itself. As Sen. Harry Reid said, that's like "letting a pitcher call his own balls and strikes".

Maybe it is time that we took a close look at just how f***ed up our government's priorities are, on both sides of the aisle and reassess just what our priorities should be.

Maybe it isn't such a good idea to be investing *cough* in defense against terrorism at some ridiculously lopsided ratio as compared with natural disasters which have a much higher probability and much more destructive capacity, as we have just witnessed.

Maybe it isn't such a good idea to have 40-50% of our National Guard forces fighting a senseless war in Iraq, to the point that it adversely affects both recruitment and their ability to respond effectively to problems here at home.

Maybe, just maybe, it would have made more sense to invest in shoring up the levees in New Orleans than to fund the construction of a bridge to nowhere in Alaska.


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Rick Santorum is an idiot

Some GOP Legislators Hit Jarring Notes in Addressing Katrina:
Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, Santorum was drawing a second round of fire, this time for saying the National Weather Service's forecasts and warnings about Katrina's path were 'not sufficient.' Democrats e-mailed audio links to a radio interview in which Santorum said that 'we need a robust National Weather Service' that focuses on severe weather predictions. 'Obviously the consequences are incredibly severe, as we've seen here in the last couple of weeks, if we don't get it right and don't properly prepare,' Santorum said.

In fact, many people think the Weather Service got the Katrina prediction exactly right. They include GOP Sen. Jim DeMint (S.C.), who chairs the Senate Commerce subcommittee on disaster prediction and prevention. He issued a statement headlined 'DeMint Gives National Weather Service 'A' Grade for Katrina Prediction.'

Santorum, long at odds with the federal agency, is pushing a bill that would require it to surrender some of its duties to private businesses, some of them located in his state. The National Weather Service Employees Organization said in a statement: 'We did our job well and everyone knows it. By falsely claiming that we got it wrong, Rick Santorum is continuing his misguided crusade against the National Weather Service.'

Santorum's office issued a statement yesterday repeating the concern that 'there are serious consequences' when the Weather Service falls short of 'getting it right.'
These creeps will do or say anything to protect Dear Leader from criticism. (Not to mention that Santorum has taken considerable campaign contributions from the very same private concerns, such as, that would benefit from the proposed legislation).

Here's the NOAA/NWS advisory from 10 am CDT Sunday, Aug 27 (emphasis mine):
11 AM EDT SUN AUG 28 2005


Of course, President Bush, Michael Chertoff and Michael Brown probably had no clue of the significance of that statement. Maybe, instead, the advisory should have read:
The code-word CAMILLE had the Gulf Coast politicians, and anyone with a clue crapping in their pants and reaching for their nitro-glycerine tablets. The fact that NOAA/NWS qualified that statement with "... ONLY LARGER" should have had every member of the Bush administration preparing for armageddon and rushing back to their command posts. Instead, they all remained on vacation, bicycling, buying Ferragamo shoes, shopping for mansions in Baltimore, fishing in Maine, or getting married in Greece... essentially, without a care in the world. This advisory alone should have given Cheney another coronary.

Then, the NOAA/NWS issued this advisory at 4 pm CDT that same day:
4 PM CDT SUN AUG 28 2005







So, what they're telling us here is that nearly every building within a swath of land 210 miles across and stretching upwards of 100 miles inland will be turned into so much kindling and that there will be severe damage 460 miles from the center. This wasn't an adequate warning?


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Thursday, September 08, 2005

Whoopsi Gras 9/7/05

Watch this Mark Fiori flash cartoon. <grin/>


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9/11 panel heads rue Katrina errors

9/11 panel heads rue Katrina errors (emphasis mine):
America's response to Hurricane Katrina was hamstrung by well-known system-wide problems that could have been fixed but went unattended and wound up costing lives, the two men who led an inquiry into the September 11, 2001, attacks said.

Former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean, the moderate Republican who led the independent panel known informally as the September 11 commission, and his Democratic vice-chairman Lee Hamilton said the response was undermined largely by a lack of command.

They also cited emergency communications problems and a failure to target resources at communities facing the greatest risk of natural or man-made disaster.

'The same mistakes made on 9/11 were made over again, in some cases worse,' Kean said. 'Those are system-wide failures that can be fixed and should have been fixed right away.'

Added Hamilton: 'I'm surprised, I'm disappointed and maybe even a little depressed that we did not do better four years after 9/11. It says we're still very vulnerable.'


Kean said the Department of Homeland Security, a sprawling bureaucracy set up after the 2001 attacks, failed to produce two mandated risk assessments to U.S. transportation and infrastructure including levees such as the ones that failed after Katrina, swamping New Orleans.

"One report was due April 1. The other was due in early summer. Neither report has been done," he said. Homeland Security officials were not immediately available to comment.

Kean and Hamilton both said communications problems occurred between New Orleans emergency crews because of congressional failure to give first-responders nationwide their own segment of the U.S. broadcasting band.

"It is a glaring error four years after 9/11. Still exists. Not resolved. There are bills pending in Congress but they're far from enactment," Hamilton said.
So, there you have it. BushCo has done nothing. The Rethuglican congress has done nothing. All that talk about being tough on terrorism, and making us safer has been nothing but Rove-inspired bullshit.

Feel safer yet?


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Beyond incompetence

Via Crooks and Liars comes this -- Bush orders FEMA to protect Upsidedownland:
Picking up on a thought bouncing around back at TMW after a Chris Floyd post, I thought I'd find out for myself exactly which Louisiana parishes were and were not included in George W. Bush's declaration of emergency effective August 26th, which you can also reach by clicking the map itself.

I checked the parish map against the White House's own press release, posted on their own site. I have tried to figure out how this is my own mistake, but I can't find it. And the results are frankly so bizarre I had to make the graphic in order to properly show you.

Welcome to upside-down-land: the areas at risk for Katrina were quite remarkably the areas not included in Bush's declaration of emergency.

What the hell?

Compare and contrast with the full and specific statewide list of parishes and the services they will receive issued after the storm hit.

Is this really what Bush authorized before the storm hit? Are they really that incompetent?
I am speechless. At first, I thought it might be a joke, a hoax. It is not. Check the WH press releases (linked above in the quote) for yourself.

So, I checked Gov. Blanco's declaration of a state of emergency. No mention of specific parishes. I also checked the governor's request to the president that he declare a state of emergency. No mention of specific parishes.

Did thousands of people die because of a $%#@! clerical error? Who the hell is responsible for omitting the very parishes that were most at risk according to every single alert issued by NOAA? How the hell did the very parishes at most risk of devastation get omitted from the president's declaration? Does this minor detail somehow explain why things went so fubar in New Orleans and the surrounding parishes along the coast?

Demand answers. Write your congress critters.


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Hurricane Katrina - Our Experiences

Two EMS conventioners describe their ordeal in New Orleans.

Hurricane Katrina - Our Experiences:
Two days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, the Walgreen's store at the corner of Royal and Iberville streets remained locked. The dairy display case was clearly visible through the widows. It was now 48 hours without electricity, running water, plumbing. The milk, yogurt, and cheeses were beginning to spoil in the 90-degree heat. The owners and managers had locked up the food, water, pampers, and prescriptions and fled the City. Outside Walgreen's windows, residents and tourists grew increasingly thirsty and hungry.

The much-promised federal, state and local aid never materialized and the windows at Walgreen's gave way to the looters. There was an alternative. The cops could have broken one small window and distributed the nuts, fruit juices, and bottle water in an organized and systematic manner. But they did not. Instead they spent hours playing cat and mouse, temporarily chasing away the looters.

We were finally airlifted out of New Orleans two days ago and arrived home yesterday (Saturday). We have yet to see any of the TV coverage or look at a newspaper. We are willing to guess that there were no video images or front-page pictures of European or affluent white tourists looting the Walgreen's in the French Quarter.

We also suspect the media will have been inundated with 'hero' images of the National Guard, the troops and the police struggling to help the 'victims' of the Hurricane. What you will not see, but what we witnessed,were the real heroes and sheroes of the hurricane relief effort: the working class of New

Orleans. The maintenance workers who used a fork lift to carry the sick and disabled. The engineers, who rigged, nurtured and kept the generators running. The electricians who improvised thick extension cords stretching over blocks to share the little electricity we had in order to free cars stuck on rooftop parking lots. Nurses who took over for mechanical ventilators and spent many hours on end manually forcing air into the lungs of unconscious patients to keep them alive. Doormen who rescued folks stuck in elevators. Refinery workers who broke into boat yards, 'stealing' boats to rescue their neighbors clinging to their roofs in flood waters. Mechanics who helped hot-wire any car that could be found to ferry people out of the City. And the food service workers who scoured the commercial kitchens improvising communal meals for hundreds of those stranded.


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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Accountability-free zone II

Operation Flashlight � No Accountability: Bush Locks Press Out of NOLA:
We are in Jefferson Parish, just outside of New Orleans. At the National Guard checkpoint, they are under orders to turn away all media. All of the reporters are turning they’re TV trucks around.

Things are so bad, Bush is now censoring all reporting from NOLA. The First Amendment sank with the city.
You want the truth? You can't handle the truth!

Bush is afraid of letting the country know of the enormity of the scope of the disaster. The nation has a right to know just how bad the situation is.

Get your virtual pens out and write your congress critters.


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The Talent Show: Agreed ROFLMAO!

I don't think that it constitutes "Breaking news" though. I've thought as much all along.


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Priorities II

Navy Pilots Who Rescued Victims Are Reprimanded - New York Times (emphasis mine):
PENSACOLA, Fla., Sept. 6 - Two Navy helicopter pilots and their crews returned from New Orleans on Aug. 30 expecting to be greeted as lifesavers after ferrying more than 100 hurricane victims to safety.

Instead, their superiors chided the pilots, Lt. David Shand and Lt. Matt Udkow, at a meeting the next morning for rescuing civilians when their assignment that day had been to deliver food and water to military installations along the Gulf Coast.

'I felt it was a great day because we resupplied the people we needed to and we rescued people, too,' Lieutenant Udkow said. But the air operations commander at Pensacola Naval Air Station 'reminded us that the logistical mission needed to be our area of focus.'


The next morning, though, the two crews were called to a meeting with Commander Holdener, who said he told them that while helping civilians was laudable, the lengthy rescue effort was an unacceptable diversion from their main mission of delivering supplies. With only two helicopters available at Pensacola to deliver supplies, the base did not have enough to allow pilots to go on prolonged search and rescue operations.

"We all want to be the guys who rescue people," Commander Holdener said. "But they were told we have other missions we have to do right now and that is not the priority."
I'm glad that the Commander has his priorities straight. The larger question looming in all of this is, why the hell were there only two helicopters? Haven't we been told repeatedly that the quagmire in Mess-o-potamia hadn't diminished our capacity to defend ourselves here at home? Why weren't more resources, such as helicopters and flight crews pre-positioned at the base?

See, normally, this would be considered going above and beyond the call of duty. After all, they did, according to the article, deliver the supplies as ordered in addition to rescuing 110 people at risk of losing their lives. These guys should be receiving medals, instead, they were grounded.


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Accountability-free zone

Delay points to local officials - Sep 7, 2005:
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The House majority leader late Tuesday tried to deflect criticism of the federal response to Hurricane Katrina by saying 'the emergency response system was set up to work from the bottom up,' then announced a short time later that House hearings examining that response had been canceled.
Someone should remind Mr. DeLay that this is not the time for blame-gaming and finger-pointing. I guess in his fantasy world, it only applies to blaming of, and finger-pointing at, federal officials.

Heaven forfend that we should have any accountability. Let's blame the federal cluster-f*** on the local yokels, despite the fact that the entire point of FEMA is to step in when the state and local resources are overwhelmed by events.

State and local governments recognized early on that they would be unable to deal with the disaster on their own and immediately asked for FEMA's assistance (Aug 28th). The FEMA clown-show responded with leaflet passing first responders, who had to first undergo brainwashing orientation for 8 hours 400 miles from the disaster zone instead of being immediately dispatched to help in the rescue and recovery efforts -- the job that they had been trained for and so desperately wanted to do. Some of those first responders were even diverted to serve as PR props for the Emperor with no clothes, because it is far more important that Dipshit look presidential than it is to actually save lives.

From the LA Times, we have this gem:
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff acknowledged in interviews Sunday that Washington was insufficiently prepared for the hurricane that laid waste to New Orleans and surrounding areas. But he defended its performance by arguing that the size of the storm was beyond anything his department could have anticipated and that primary responsibility for handling emergencies rested with state and local, not federal, officials.

"Before this happened, I said … we need to build a preparedness capacity going forward," Chertoff told NBC's "Meet the Press." He added that that was something "we have not yet succeeded in doing."

Under the law, Chertoff said, state and local officials must direct initial emergency operations. "The federal government comes in and supports those officials," he said.

Chertoff's remarks, which echoed earlier statements by President Bush, prompted withering rebukes both from former senior FEMA staffers and outside experts.

"They can't do that," former agency chief of staff Jane Bullock said of Bush administration efforts to shift responsibility away from Washington. "The moment the president declared a federal disaster, it became a federal responsibility…. The federal government took ownership over the response," she said. Bush declared a disaster in Louisiana and Mississippi when the storm hit a week ago.

"What's awe-inspiring here is how many federal officials didn't issue any orders," said Paul C. Light, an authority on government operations at New York University.

Evidence of confusion extended beyond FEMA and the Homeland Security Department on Sunday.

Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said that conditions in New Orleans and elsewhere could quickly escalate into a major public health crisis. But asked whether his agency had dispatched teams in advance of the storm and flooding, Leavitt answered, "No."
Welcome to the accountability-free zone.

Feel safer, yet? Think that these circus clowns are prepared for the Bird-flu? For the next hurricane? (We've only just now entered the height of the hurricane season, as one meteorologist put it; "in the fourth inning of a nine-inning game"). Think again. We are so screwed.

The only saving grace in all of this is that it has exposed these criminals and their morally bankrupt policies for what they are. No amount of PR is going to be able to gloss over the problems we face going forward, nor mask the incompetence and utter failure of the administration to protect us from disaster (whether man-made or natural). DHS is a sham. FEMA is a dumping ground for washed up political hacks. Everyone with two brain-cells to rub together has now seen behind the curtain and they are not happy with what they've seen.


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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Geographically challenged

Via Wonkette comes this CNN article:
A South Carolina health official said his colleagues scrambled Tuesday when FEMA gave only a half-hour notice to prepare for the arrival of a plane carrying as many as 180 evacuees to Charleston.

But the plane, instead, landed in Charleston, West Virginia, 400 miles away.
This ranks up there with Chertoff's assertion that "Louisiana is a city".

Fire these clueless $%^$! idiots, now!


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No time for finger pointing

Salt Lake Tribune:
ATLANTA - Not long after some 1,000 firefighters sat down for eight hours of training, the whispering began: 'What are we doing here?'
As New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin pleaded on national television for firefighters - his own are exhausted after working around the clock for a week - a battalion of highly trained men and women sat idle Sunday in a muggy Sheraton Hotel conference room in Atlanta.
No, what they were saying was what the f*** are we doing here?

As Josh Marshall says, "You can't make this shit up".

So, is this the sort of response that DHS will have for a terrorist attack? 8 hour training sessions to turn first responders into Bush propagandists so we can all learn how tough he is on terrorism?

I feel sooo much safer now.


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No words

Via TPM -- un-$%#@!-believable


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Feel safer?

Wonkette has posted the transcript of today's press gaggle with Scottie McTalkingPoint (emphasis mine):
Q Does the President really believe we could respond to a terrorist attack with any -- amount of weeks, months?

MR. McCLELLAN: We've actually done a lot of exercises, David, to prepare for possible attacks, but --

Q Do you think most Americans agree, based on --

MR. McCLELLAN: But the most important thing we've got to do is focus on --

Q You mean exercises for Hurricane Katrina.

MR. McCLELLAN: We've got to focus on prevention, and that's what we're doing by staying on the offensive.

Q Well, let's talk about it. Are you saying the President is -- are you saying that the President is confident that his administration is prepared to adequately, confidently secure the American people in the event of a terrorist attack of a level that we have not seen? And based on what does he have that confidence?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, and that's what he made clear earlier today, that obviously we want to look and learn lessons from a major catastrophe of this nature.

Q Yes, but you're telling us today there will be time for that somewhere down the road. Well, what if it happens tomorrow?

MR. McCLELLAN: We can engage in this blame-gaming going on and I think that's what you're getting --

Q No, no. That's a talking point, Scott, and I think most people who are watching this --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, that's a fact. I mean, some are wanting to engage in that, and we're going to remain focused --

Q I'm asking a direct question. Is he confident --

MR. McCLELLAN: We're going to remain focused on the people.

Q -- that he can secure the American people in the event of a major terrorist attack?

MR. McCLELLAN: We are securing the American people by staying on the offensive abroad and working to spread freedom and democracy in the Middle East.

Q That's a talking point. That's a talking point.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, that's a fact.

Go ahead.

Q No, it's not. And you think people who are watching this think that's -- from what does he derive that confidence, based on the response --

MR. McCLELLAN: David, I'm interested in the people in the region that have been affected and getting them help. We can sit here and engage in this back and forth --

Q The whole country is watching and wondering about some --

MR. McCLELLAN: The time for bickering and blame-gaming is later. The time for helping people in the region is now.

Q How soon can we look for the start of this investigation? I mean, are we talking about weeks, months? How far down the road --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the first thing we've got to do, Mike, is make sure that we're continuing to save lives and give people help that they need, that we're addressing the flooding issues in New Orleans. We are. There's a lot of progress made on the levees, and they're starting to pump water out of there now. We've got to make sure that we restore central services. We've got to continue the search and rescue missions. And we've got to make sure that the plans are in place for the long-term response that is going to be needed.

The long-term -- this is a long-term project that will be needed to help rebuild the flooded and shattered cities, places like Biloxi and New Orleans. And so that's where we're going to keep our focus.

Q So at what point in this --

MR. McCLELLAN: I mean, you're asking me to put a time frame on it. I don't think you can do that at this point. There will be a time to do that, and we will do so.
Hasn't Dubya heard the expression "the best offense is a good defense"? This administration thinks that by expending all its resources on the "offense" in Mess-o-potamia, that it's making us more secure?! That's kind of like the Indianapolis Colts -- they have a great offense lead by a great quarterback but have a mediocre defense. They can't prevent the other team from scoring touchdowns. It's a flawed strategy that has yet to win the games that count.

Feel safer?

Oh, BTW, I'm starting a pool based on when we will actually see this "investigation" launched by the White House. Based on Scottie's response to the press today, I'm picking Jan 21, 2009.


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I can't even think of headings anymore

Think Progress � Pentagon Response to Katrina Based on Nonexistent "Dodged a Bullet" Headline:
Pentagon Response to Katrina Based on Nonexistent “Dodged a Bullet” Headline

Joint Chiefs Chairman Richard Myers just wrapped up a live press conference with Sec. Rumsfeld on the Defense Department’s response to Katrina.

Myers repeated Michael Chertoff’s debunked claim that newpapers on Tuesday had said, "New Orleans Dodged a Bullet." But then he went a step further — Myers claimed that "most of the papers" carried that headline on Tuesday, and that the Defense Department’s response to Katrina was developed with "those words…in our minds"
How do these people sleep at night?

Maybe the General missed this post by Wonkette. Or, maybe the members of the Bush administration subscribe to the Fantasy Land Gazette?


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White House Briefing - Dealing with Political Disaster:
'Mr. McClellan also said Mr. Bush steered clear of New Orleans yesterday because he did not want to disrupt continuing relief efforts.'
You have got to be kidding me. They grounded all air traffic for his visit, halting recovery and relief efforts being conducted by helicopter.

Lying for this crowd is like breathing for everyone else. It's an autonomic function with the Bush administration. They simply cannot help themselves.

There's a reason that Bush never got within a mile of the people who his administration left stranded in New Orleans, why he hasn't visited the Astrodome in Houston or any of the other temporary shelters set up for the evacuees... he probably wouldn't escape with his life. Like the guy they kicked to death after he attempted rape on a pre-teen girl at the Convention Center, he wouldn't stand a chance.

He is a coward, plain and simple.


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Mrs. O'Leary's cow

In regards to this story, that Bush will oversee a probe into what went wrong in the response to hurricane Katrina, Billmon has this comment:
This is like Mrs. O'Leary's cow promising to lead an investigation of the Chicago Fire.

I guess the White House is worried the bipartisan Senate coverup won't cover up enough.
This makes me feel so much more confident in my government.


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I've run out of adjectives

This today from the New Orleans Times Picayune (emphasis mine):
Arkansas National Guardsman Mikel Brooks stepped through the food service entrance of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center Monday, flipped on the light at the end of his machine gun, and started pointing out bodies.

"Don't step in that blood - it's contaminated," he said. "That one with his arm sticking up in the air, he's an old man."
Then he shined the light on the smaller human figure under the white sheet next to the elderly man.

"That's a kid," he said. "There's another one in the freezer, a 7-year-old with her throat cut."

He moved on, walking quickly through the darkness, pulling his camouflage shirt to his face to screen out the overwhelming odor.
"There's an old woman," he said, pointing to a wheelchair covered by a sheet. "I escorted her in myself. And that old man got bludgeoned to death," he said of the body lying on the floor next to the wheelchair.

Brooks and several other Guardsmen said they had seen between 30 and 40 more bodies in the Convention Center's freezer. 'It's not on, but at least you can shut the door,' said fellow Guardsman Phillip Thompson.

The scene of rotting bodies inside the Convention Center reflected those in thousands of businesses, schools, homes and shelters across the metropolitan area. The official death count from Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana was 71 as of Monday evening, but that included only those bodies that had been brought to a make-shift morgue in St. Gabriel.

Nearly a full week after Hurricane Katrina, a rescue force the size of an invading army had not yet begun the task of retrieving the bodies Sunday. What's more, officials appeared to have no plan.

Daniel Martinez, a spokesman for FEMA working on Interstate 10 in eastern New Orleans, said plans for body recovery 'are not being released yet.'

Dozens of rescue workers questioned Monday said they knew of no protocol or collection points for bodies; none said they had retrieved even one of the many corpses seen floating in neighborhoods around the city as they searched for survivors.
I'm speechless. There are no words.

Apparently, when it really, really matters, Dubya can literally jump into action, interrupting his vacation to fly at a moments notice, in the middle of the night no less, to the White House from his "ranch" in Crawford, Tx.:
The case of Terri Schiavo raises complex issues. Yet in instances like this one, where there are serious questions and substantial doubts, our society, our laws, and our courts should have a presumption in favor of life. Those who live at the mercy of others deserve our special care and concern. It should be our goal as a nation to build a culture of life, where all Americans are valued, welcomed, and protected - and that culture of life must extend to individuals with disabilities.


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Faylur to cammewnicate part deux

Laura Rosen writes:
How in the world four years after 9/11 has this not be fixed? What did people really need last Monday and Tuesday? Information. That was what was so utterly third world seeming about the chaotic aftermath, the fact that DHS officials in Washington somehow had no idea what all of us were seeing at the Convention Center, as if it was happening in Sudan. It's genuinely startling to realize how bad things are four years after 9/11. What in the world has the Bush administration been doing for four years? Truly, what? Imagine after a terrorist attack -- when no one would have been evacuated -- how unprepared the government would be to respond. It's third world standards. What have they been spending all the money on? Who's supposed to be accountable if not the directors of FEMA and DHS?
You really should read the whole thing. I wrote about this last week. What was the Bush administration doing? They were catering to the corporate interests for NextTel and other communication corporations rather than addressing an issue of national security. Their actions should have consequences. It is simply inexcusable that four years after 9/11, we are no safer.

The Bush clown show ran for re-election as being supposedly tougher on terrorism. "Who will keep you safer?" they asked us. Clearly, it was all a pack of lies. A slick PR campaign that was utterly devoid of substance. We've spent billions on the new DHS and what have we gotten in return? Nothing that actually makes us safer.

The Gulf Coast was less safe, because it couldn't muster enough National Guard to secure the region because nearly half their available troops had been deployed in Iraq.

The Gulf Coast was less safe because the Bush administration de-emphasised FEMA's role in natural disaster recovery efforts.

The Gulf Coast was less safe because funds that could have been used to shore up the leveee system had been diverted to Bush's folly in Iraq.

Unless congress acts swiftly, many of the affected people in the Gulf Coast region who could previously have declared bankruptcy in the face of such a disaster, will be hounded into debtor's prison thanks to the recently approved Bankruptcy Reform bill, pressed through congress by the corporate interests of the financial industry, that makes it far more difficult for the average person to declare bankruptcy.

Do you feel safer, more secure, now?


  • Europe is adopting a continent-wide system; Tetra (search for tetra radio) to see the specs, as the single digital emergency-service radio across all the countries, a kind of "GSM for the police".

    Hopefully the US will follow suit, instead of copying the telecomms freeforall that means your mobile doesn't always work in different cities. Then when the canadian or UK governments offer help, there will be no reason to turn it down...

    By Anonymous SteveL, at September 06, 2005 11:57 AM  

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Sept. 1, 2005, 8:30PM

Halliburton hired for storm cleanup

The Navy has hired Houston-based Halliburton Co. to restore electric power, repair roofs and remove debris at three naval facilities in Mississippi damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

Halliburton subsidiary KBR will also perform damage assessments at other naval installations in New Orleans as soon as it is safe to do so.
I had seen this reported the other day and had thought about blogging about it at the time, but didn't because so much else was going on.

However, it just struck me now that for an administration that couldn't pull its head out of its ass long enough to notice that there were over 10,000 starving people in New Orleans just eight blocks from the Superdome, and that then took an additional 3 days to figure out how to get them water, food, security and transportation out of the shithole in which they were forced to survive, that they had no problem at all figuring out a way to funnel another half a billion dollars to Dick Cheney's good buddies at Halliburton within a mere three days after the storm subsided.

At least they have their priorities straight.


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The 'city' of Louisiana

Why is it that it seems that former sports casters are the best of TV's newspersons these days?

Keith Olbermann -- The 'city' of Louisiana:
SECAUCUS — Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff said it all, starting his news briefing Saturday afternoon: 'Louisiana is a city that is largely underwater...'

Well there's your problem right there.

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

The seeming definition of our time and our leaders had been their insistence on slashing federal budgets for projects that might’ve saved New Orleans. The seeming characterization of our government that it was on vacation when the city was lost, and could barely tear itself away from commemorating V.J. Day and watching Monty Python's Flying Circus, to at least pretend to get back to work. The seeming identification of these hapless bureaucrats: their pathetic use of the future tense in terms of relief they could’ve brought last Monday and Tuesday — like the President, whose statements have looked like they’re being transmitted to us by some kind of four-day tape-delay.

But no. The incompetence and the ludicrous prioritization will forever be symbolized by one gaffe by of the head of what is ironically called “The Department of Homeland Security”: “Louisiana is a city…”


For him, it is a shame — in all senses of the word. A few changes of pronouns in there, and he might not have looked so much like a 21st Century Marie Antoinette. All that was needed was just a quick "I'm not satisfied with my government's response." Instead of hiding behind phrases like "no one could have foreseen," had he only remembered Winston Churchill's quote from the 1930's. "The responsibility," of government, Churchill told the British Parliament "for the public safety is absolute and requires no mandate. It is in fact, the prime object for which governments come into existence."

In forgetting that, the current administration did not merely damage itself — it damaged our confidence in our ability to rely on whoever is in the White House.

As we emphasized to you here all last week, the realities of the region are such that New Orleans is going to be largely uninhabitable for a lot longer than anybody is yet willing to recognize. Lord knows when the last body will be found, or the last artifact of the levee break, dug up. Could be next March. Could be 2100. By then, in the muck and toxic mire of New Orleans, they may even find our government's credibility.

Somewhere, in the City of Louisiana.
Read the whole thing, and then watch him deliver his rant on his show.



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Monday, September 05, 2005

What he said

Via Andrew Sullivan -- The Irish Trojan's blog captures just about what I was feeling as I was watching it all unfold. "You have got to be kidding me!"
If the braintrust running this country really thought that "the water would drain away fairly quickly" after a direct hit on New Orleans from a major hurricane, then my God, our country is run by the most absolutely incompetent bunch of nitwits imaginable. The city is below sea level. Once it floods, there is nowhere for the water to "drain away" to! Everyone knows this!!!


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