Thursday, September 29, 2005

About Brownie

A Brownie is best when not cooked thoroughly because then it (he) looks like the pile of shit it (he) really is.


A Brownie crumbles under pressure.


When a Brownie sees a flood of water coming toward him, he just closes the oven door, whimpers and hides. And then pours himself a stiff drink.


When a Brownie bursts into wimpy crumbly pieces upon being picked up and examined, it cries out, "well what did you EXPECT me to do??"


Brownie does indeed try to lay all the blame on Blondie and Blackie. But Brownie got cooked with too much oil and is rather transparent.


Brownie didn't follow the recipe. Brownie was supposed to rise to the occasion within 72 hours of a the oven being turned on (i.e., a state of emergency declaration), but Brownie apparantly never read the damn cookbook.


Brownie wants to play with more soldiers in the future. It needs big guns to hide behind... those starving thirsty people paddling through the kitchen looking for food and water look SKEERY!


But Brownie is cooked. Burned. Done. No more horsies to play with. No more big men with guns to hide behind. No more Dubya slapping him on the back saying "you're a good man, Mikey Brown!" Just him and his tall, stiff, drink.


If only Brownie hadn't turned away those truckloads of cool drinks and hot firemen and everyone else who offered to save lives just to be rebuffed by Brownie, who likes the nice comfortable buffer of bureaucratic blockades, not dealing with the annoyances of thousands of people dying under his watch and pesky volunteers who keep calling him offering to help. Whew. Thank god THAT's over.


Poor Brownie. Too bad his predecessor didn't warn him that things aren't as simple as when they were college roommates, that sometimes big hurricanes DO happen and Brownies can't just sit around growing stale.


But that's the way the cookie crumbles. Everyone gets their just desserts in the end.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Rita: Worse Than Katrina??

Man. While I've been buried in my article publication stuff, finally tearing myself away from Katrina news, Rita's been brewing, and she's bad.

The THIRD WORST hurricane in history, this news report says, a Category Five, and headed straight for the Katrina evacuees (and possibly even what remains of New Orleans' levees??)

I don't know what to say. It's beyond unfair and cruel and horrid that those who have already faced Katrina have to go through this all over again.

Let's hope to god that our government can quickly figure out how to NOT repeat the mistakes it made with Katrina.

We know it's coming. Shit better be happening NOW to help people evacuate, to get FEMA down there and ready to respond pronto, and if Bush can't communicate with his own Texas homeboys to respond to this one better than he did to Katrina...

... god. I just can't imagine having to evacuate all over again. I'd already be suffering post traumatic stress disorder from Katrina if I were on the Gulf Coast, and Rita sure isn't gonna make life any easier.

I'm so sorry, neighbors down south. Get outta there, be safe, and all I can think of to say is that at least hurricane season will be over soon.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

More On Why Roberts Is No Scalia... And Might Actually Rule For Same-Sex Marriage.

Really, this should be read in conjunction with the last post, where Roberts advocates a broad reading of "liberty" that accomodates the changes in times, contrary to Scalia's approach.

Another huge chunk of my (last) article is on how the courts are split between reading tradition narrowly or broadly. Only if a liberty is supported by tradition, everyone agrees, should it be protected by the Constitution. The split has been that some have read that to mean if particular PRACTICES are traditionally unpopular, they aren't protected. Which is how the Supreme Court rationalized upholding sodomy bans in Bowers v. Hardwick, narrowly describing the issue in the case as whether there is a "fundamental right to homosexual sodomy." But in 2003 the Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas admitted they'd gotten it wrong in Bowers because the tradition you look at isn't the particular practice, but the broader principle: i.e., the constitutional tradition of protecting individual autonomy and privacy in our most intimate life choices. THAT is the issue and relevant tradition... not a fundamental right to homosexual sodomy and the tradition of sodomy, but a fundamental right to liberty in our private and intimate life choices, and a constituitonal tradition of protecting such autonomy in our private lives.

Broad versus narrow reading. Following me?

So this next excerpt from the Roberts hearing I think is HUGE in its implications. First of all, Biden gave Roberts the open door not to even go there, saying he didn't expect him to answer. Roberts, after all, dodged a lot of other questions, refusing to take issue with decisions of the sitting court.

But Roberts went there anyway.

And where did he go? First of all, he very openly criticized Scalia's approach of reading tradition (and, consequently "liberty") too narrowly. And then... HE brought it up. Equal marriage rights. Without even being prompted. He brought up, of all cases, Loving v. Virginia, the case that struck down interracial marriage bans, the very case being cited over and over again by gay rights groups in their efforts to strike down same-sex marriage bans.

The dialogue around that issue goes like this.

Conservatives: same-sex marriage bans shouldn't be struck down, because same-sex marriage has never been allowed. There's no fundamental right to same sex marriage because there's no established tradition of same-sex marriage. (while, forty years ago, they argued that there's no fundamental right to interracial marriage because tradition looks down on interracial marriage).

Liberals: same-sex marriage bans should be struck down because there's a fundamental right to marry and a constitutional tradition of the government letting people make such intimate life choices free of government interference. The broader traditions of equality, liberty, and the fundamental right to marry trump narrow traditions of prejudice against certain groups. And to say that same-sex marriage should be banned because it's ALWAYS been banned is circular (just like, Roberts notes below, it was circular logic to defend interracial marriage bans cause that's just the way it was too).

Now, I'm NOT saying that Roberts is a liberal. I AM saying that, voluntarily, of his own accord, he used EXACTLY that example of why, in his view, tradition should be given a broad, not a narrow reading.

At the very least, I'm encouraged that he reads substantive due process, privacy rights, liberty, and originalism much differently than Scalia, and isn't afraid to say so. But more than that, this is someone who actually COULD rule for same-sex marriage.

I know, I know.

I'm just sayin'.

Judge for yourself:
_____________________________________

BIDEN: Here's the point I want to make: I asked -- and I'm sure you're not going to answer it . . .
You and I both know how you determine history and tradition determines outcomes. In that case, as you'll recall, there was a question of whether or not the natural father -- you could prove by a blood test and DNA that he was the natural father of a child he wanted to see that happened to be born to a woman that was living with her married husband. So the child was illegitimate.
So in determining whether or not there are any visitation rights, there's a famous footnote there. . .
The court said -- Scalia said in footnote six, "Look, you go back and look at the specific historical precedent." Short-circuiting it, "Have bastards ever been protected in the law?" And Brennan (ph) said, "No, no, that's not what you go back; you go back and look at fatherhood. Was fatherhood ever something that's part of the traditions and part of the embraced notions of what we hold dear? Is that worthy of protection?"
Now, Scalia said, "No, no, no, no. I looked up the record: Bastards have never been protected in English common law. Therefore, there's nothing going on here."
And by the way, "You should never go back," he says, "and look at the general proposition has fatherhood achieved a status of consequence? No, it's have bastards achieved it?"
So, Judge, how do you -- I'm not asking you on any case. How do you -- do you look at the narrowest reading of whether or not such an asserted right has ever been protected? Or do you look at it more broadly? What is the methodology you use?

ROBERTS: I mean, I think you're quite right that, that is quite often the critical question in these cases -- the degree of generality at which you define what the tradition, the history and the practice you are looking at.
The example I think that I've always found easiest to grasp was Loving against Virginia. Do you look at the history of miscegenation statutes or do you look at the history of marriage?

BIDEN: Thirty-three seconds left: Do you agree with O'Connor then?


ROBERTS: Thank you.
The point is that, again, the court has precedents on precisely that question, about how you should phrase the level of generality.
And you look at...

BIDEN: But which precedent do you agree with? There are competing precedents.

ROBERTS: Well, you do not look at the level of generality that is the issue that's being challenged.
So, for example, in Loving v. Virginia, if the challenge is -- it seems to me, this is what the court's precedents say: If the challenge is to miscegenation statutes, that's not the level of generality, because you're going to answer -- it's completely certain.

BIDEN: But that's specific, Judge. The generality was the right to marry. That's the generality.

ROBERTS: Well, that's what I'm saying. The dispute is, do you look at it at that level of specificity or broader?
And I'm saying you do not look at it at the narrowest level of generality, which is the statute that's being challenged because, obviously, that's completely circular. You're saying there is, obviously, that statute that's part of the history.
So you look at it at a broader level of generality.

Roberts Confirmation Hearing: He's No Scalia

Other than the obvious threat he poses to abortion rights (but arguably less of a threat than Rehnquist posed)... I'm REALLY starting to like this guy much more than I expected to.

Here's my favorite part of today's testimony from John Roberts, on originalism. Roberts seems to recognize that originalism means embracing expansive civil rights and liberties for all people, no matter how traditionally unpopular they may have been, because the constitution's drafters KNEW that times change, that laws and constiutitonal interpretations must change to keep up with the times, and that's a GOOD thing. It's etched on the ceiling of the Jefferson Memorial, for pete's sake.

__________


SPECTER: . . . Dissenting in Poe v. Ullman, Justice John Marshall Harlan made one of the famous statements on this issue, saying that the -- commenting on liberty, the quote, "The traditions from which it is developed," quote, "that tradition is a living thing."


And my question to you is: Do you regard the evolution of various interpretations on liberty as a living thing as Justice Harlan did and as Justice Rehnquist appeared to on the Miranda issue?


ROBERTS: Well, I think the framers, when they used broad language like "liberty," like "due process," like "unreasonable" with respect to search and seizures, they were crafting a document that they intended to apply in a meaningful way down the ages.


As they said in the preamble, it was designed to secure the blessings of liberty for their posterity.


They intended it to apply to changing conditions. And I think that, in that sense, it is a concept that is alive in the sense that it applies -- and they intended it to apply, in a particular way, but they intended it to apply -- down through the ages.


SPECTER: Well, when you talk about intent, I think that's a pretty tough interpretation. When the equal protection clause was passed by the Senate in 1868, the Senate galleries were segregated: blacks on one side, whites on the other. So that couldn't have been their intent.


And the interpretation which occurs later really is captured by Justice Cardozo in the case of Palko v. Connecticut, a case which impressed me enormously back in the law school days.


When talking about the constitutional evolution, he referred to it as expressing values which are, quote, "the very essence of a scheme of ordered liberty," close quote, quote, "principles of justice so rooted in the traditions and conscience of our people as to be ranked as fundamental."


Would you agree with the Cardozo statement of jurisprudence which I just quoted?


ROBERTS: Well, the general approach of recognizing the values that inform the interpretation of the Constitution -- it applies to modern times. But, just to take the example that you gave of the equal protection clause, the framers chose broad terms, a broad applicability, and they state a broad principle.


And the fact that it may have been inconsistent with their practice may have meant that they were adopting a broad principle that was inconsistent with their practice, and their practices would have to change -- as they did -- with respect to segregation in the Senate galleries, with respect to segregation in other areas.


But when they adopt broad terms and broad principles, we should hold them to their word and imply them consistent with those terms and those principles.


And that means, when they've adopted principles like liberty, that doesn't get a crabbed or narrow construction. It is a broad principle that should be applied consistent with their intent, which was to adopt a broad principle.


ROBERTS: I depart from some views of original intent in the sense that those folks, some people view it as meaning just the conditions at that time, just the particular problem. I think you need to look at the words they use, and if the words adopt a broader principle, it applies more broadly.

______________________________________

And here are my favorite passages from yesterday's testimony.


ROBERTS: Youngstown's a very important case in a number of respects; not least the fact that the opinion that everyone looks to, the Jackson opinion, was by Justice Jackson who was, of course, FDR's attorney general and certainly a proponent of expansive executive powers...


LEAHY: You've also said he was one of the justices you admire the most.


ROBERTS: He is, for a number of reasons. And what's significant about that aspect of his career is here's someone whose job it was to promote and defend an expansive view of executive powers as attorney general, which he did very effectively. And then as he went on the court, as you can tell from his decision in Youngstown, he took an entirely different view of a lot of issues; in one famous case even disagreeing with one of his own prior opinions. He wrote a long opinion about how he can't believe he once held those views. I think it's very important...


LEAHY: Are you sending us a message?


ROBERTS: Well, I'm just saying... (LAUGHTER)


_____________________________


I got embarrassingly excited by his answer on the right to privacy, which I just added to my last set of article edits(which might make me the only person submitting an article to law journals this round with a hot off the press Roberts testimony analysis. woo.). I really want to take him at his word.


Here he is on the right to privacy:

______________________________



SPECTER: This was a 1981 memo to Attorney General Smith, December 11th, 1981. You were referring to a lecture which Solicitor General Griswold had given six years earlier and you wrote, quote, that, Solicitor General Griswold devotes a section to the so-called right to privacy; acquiring, as we have -- that such an amorphous arguing, as we have, that such an amorphous right was not to be found in the Constitution. Do you believe today that the right to privacy does exist in the Constitution?


ROBERTS: Senator, I do. The right to privacy is protected under the Constitution in various ways. It's protected by the Fourth Amendment which provides that the right of people to be secure in their persons, houses, effects and papers is protected. It's protected under the First Amendment dealing with prohibition on establishment of a religion and guarantee of free exercise. It protects privacy in matters of conscience. It was protected by the framers in areas that were of particular concern to them. It may not seem so significant today: the Third Amendment, protecting their homes against the quartering of troops. And in addition, the court has -- it was a series of decisions going back 80 years -- has recognized that personal privacy is a component of the liberty protected by the due process clause. The court has explained that the liberty protected is not limited to freedom from physical restraint and that it's protected not simply procedurally, but as a substantive matter as well. And those decisions have sketched out, over a period of 80 years, certain aspects of privacy that are protected as part of the liberty in the due process clause under the Constitution.


SPECTER: So that the views that you expressed back in 1981, raising an issue about amorphous and so-called, would not be the views you'd express today?


ROBERTS: Those views reflected the dean's speech. If you read his speech, he's quite skeptical of that right. I knew the attorney general was. And I was transmitting the dean's speech to the attorney general, but my views today are as I've just stated them.

Friday, September 09, 2005

I Know How The Other Katrina Victims On The Gulf Coast Feel (sort of)

I don't *really* know exactly how it feels to be a victim of Katrina right now, one of those on the Gulf Coast that the eye of the hurricane actually HIT (unlike New Orleans, which has gotten most of the news coverage). I don't *really* know what it's like to lose 90% of your town, as residents of Biloxi have, to suffer through one of the fiercest hurricanes our country has ever seen, drowning in feet of water while the coastline by your doorstep becomes indiscernable through the flooding in your town.

But I *do* know that when victims of Katrina throughout the Gulf Coast region express frustration that all the coverage of this disaster seems focused on New Orleans and they feel like no one is aware of what they, too, have gone through... I'm incredibly empathetic.


Because that's kind of how I felt after 9/11, living D.C.


The rest of the nation seemed glued to New York City, oblivious to what those of us in D.C., also attacked by terrorists that day, went through. Like New Orleans last week, New York City after all bore the brunt of casualties, and consequently, news coverage. So even though the eye of the storm hit us as well on 9/11 in an incredibly horrific way, as the eye of the storm hit hundreds of thousands of people outside New Orleans last week... the rest of the nation didn't quite seem to get it.


They didn't SEE the image I saw of the massive cloud of smoke, as tall as a skyscraper, rising from the Pentagon in the immediate aftermath of the attack. They didn't experience the terror of seeing our nation's biggest symbol of strength brought to its knees. Some even doubted a plane even HIT the Pentagon, since they, unlike my friends who did witness that horrible moment, didn't see it with their own eyes. They didn't hear the news reports flooding across our local airwaves that our whole city was under attack, that more planes were headed for the White House and Capitol, that the Mall was on fire, that buildings were being bombed (most such reports not being true, but after seeing the unbelievable happening right across the Potomac from my office, I believed every warning I heard that day). They didn't experience the terror of living in the Nation's capitol when it WAS confirmed that another hijacked plane was coming right for us. They didn't see the images of tankers rolling into town and setting up shop on every business district street corner. They didn't experience the terror of being told that there would be NO more planes flying through the air... and then waking up in the middle of the night to the terrifying noise of plane jets SO CLOSE they sounded they were about to crash into you, convinced it was more terrorist strikes heading right for you. They didn't see the hundreds of thousands of people trapped in downtown D.C., unable to get to their suburban homes twenty miles away other than walking, slowly, painfully, for hours (though they did see many images of people walking home through Manhattan and across the Brooklyn Bridge).


What most people experienced that horrible week was not images from D.C., not anything coming close to capturing what we went through, but only the images of the World Trade Center being hit and collapsing. Over. and over. and over. Again.


I wept at those images too... the number of deaths that day and the MANNER in which people died... was the worst thing I'd ever seen. And yet what I and everyone trapped in D.C. went through was beyond horrific as well. The Pentagon burning, our nation's Capital under attack *with us in it*... it's indescribable.


But not many people in D.C. cried out, "hey! What about us? We were attacked too... we experienced something incredibly horrible and terror-striking as well"... we just bit our tongues and grieved for the New York victims along with the rest of the nation and were *glad* that no one quite understood what had happened in D.C. Because if everyone HAD shared our terror that day and understood exactly what it felt like to be in Washington D.C. on 9/11... the terrorists truly would have won.


I never wrote about these feelings at the time, other than just describing what I went through and getting upset at the occasional note that shrugged off my descriptions of D.C. on 9/11 as hysteria.

But I never actually *resented* the lack of coverage of D.C., as opposed to New York, that the World Trade Centers came to be THE image of that terrible day's destruction, the burning Pentagon and vulnerable Capital far from sight. I just noticed it... and wondered... if anyone else in the country could really truly *get* it, what we went through that week in D.C.


So, yes, I hear you, victims of Katrina who were fortunate NOT to be in New Orleans but may not have any other blessings to count right now. I empathize with your frustration.


Now that our roles have reversed, and I have been admittedly New Orleans obsessed, believe me, New Orleans may be the clearest image of Katrina's destruction, and those of us grappling for words and truths right now in dealing with this go to the most obvious visual to try to attach our thoughts and emotions to.


But yes, yes, yes... the eye didn't even HIT New Orleans, and not many of us are talking about those it DID hit, and the incredible amount of death and destruction you, too have faced.


I hear you. And the nation may not be good at expressing it... but we ARE unified in our biggest condolences and hopes that you can get through this stronger than ever.


We could be less myopic and shortsighted, it's true. We don't always get each other, understand what others are going through, or even have the energy, courage or conscience, to try some of the time. But the incredible outpouring of support, evidenced by a half BILLION dollar in private donations to the Red Cross in a week's time... that's for you too.


But try to get used to New Orleans always being synonymous with Katrina from hereon out. Just as the World Trade Centers and New York are synonymous with 9/11. It doesn't minimize your experiences... it's just the language America speaks. Doesn't mean they don't care. No, they don't completely get it. But the world is mourning for you and your losses too. It is.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

On Dick Cheney's Encounters With Expletives

So Dick Cheney decided to finally pay a visit to the storm-ravaged Gulf Coast. When he got there, he was confronted by an evacuee who was apparantly (one could infer from the below dialogue) not so pleased with his Vice President's decision to stay on vacation in Wyoming through the first four days of people dying by the masses in Katrina's aftermath.

Said the evacuee to Dick Cheney: "go fuck yourself."

Asked by MSNBC (which covered the "fuck yourself" expletive in more detail in the tv coverage than the linked-to print article) for a reaction to the evacuee's "fuck yourself" sentiments, Cheney responded, “First time I’ve heard it.”

Oh yeah?

Seems to me I remember him being quite familiar with such expletives.

What was it...

....ohhhh, right! Last June.

Remember? Back in the day? Senator Leahy was questioning how Halliburton was managing to get so many no-bid contracts in Iraq and right there, on the Floor of the United States Senate, Dick lost his cool and exploded at Leahy telling him to GO FUCK HIMSELF?

Right, Dick, first time you've heard the phrase "Go fuck yourself"...

... oh, you mean first time you've heard it used against YOU? By a hurricane evacuee, no less? Yeah, that's gotta feel good.

Ain't karma a gas.

"An unmitigated, total fucking disaster"

More fun reading here.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Katrina Timeline

I was going to try to put a timeline together to clear up the confusion around the past week's events, but I'm really glad thinkprogress.org beat me to the punch, since that would have been a massively time-consuming project that I can't afford to take on right now.

Go here for thinkprogress.org's comprehensive timeline of the past week's events, showing in detail what steps locals and feds did and didn't take, complete with links to said events.

Stepping Back: Blame And Implications

Republicans seem to be titling the outcry against the pathetic federal response to Katrina as an unfair blamegame, accusing those who have attacked the federal government's response as engaging in partisan fingerpointing, and, in turn trying to blame the inefficient government response on local and state officials (i.e., Democrats), perpetuating the blame game.

The Republican spin has been that local government is supposed to lead disaster efforts, not the feds. Rove got the Washington Post to print a false statement that Governor Blanco never declared the state of emergency that was required to get federal relief efforts on the ground. But that lie was exposed by the Post in a correction item within hours -- Blanco issued the state of emergency in PLENTY of time to trigger the federal response which never happened in a meaningful way.


A more serious and honest critique of the local response has been that evactuation efforts could have been better... that it's primarily the local government's fault that 200,000 people were left behind in New Orleans.


I'll grant them that. The evacuation could have gone a lot better.


That said, Nagin succeeded in evacuating 80 percent of his city... 800,000 people. Has an evacuation of that magnitude EVER occurred in an American city before??? I don't think so. He should absolultely get credit for the evacuation being as successful as it was.


A 100% evacuation would have been the first EVER, perhaps of ANY city in the world, under such circumstances. Blaming the deaths of the past week on his failure to accomplish what had never been accomplished before is a bit unfair.


Yes, I wish they had more closely followed their own evacuation plan... but such a 100% total evacuation had NEVER been executed before in an American city. Should we keep striving for total evacuation for catastrophes in the future? Absolutely.


But to make sure it happens in the future, it's not unreasonable to ask the federal government to step in and help with the evacuation efforts as well. Future plans should make sure that that IS appropriate. If we have FIVE DAYS' WARNING from hurricane centers that a CATASTROPHIC hurricane is going to hit and state of emergency declarations issued days ahead, that DOES give the federal government time to step in, fly, boat, or drive extra bodies in to help drive those busses and otherwise help with the evacuation effort. It should have happened.


Hopefully, in the future, it will happen.


But in the meantime, 80% of the city got out safely, and that's pretty impressive.


Now the difference between the issue of evacuation (which locals are being blamed for) and what came after (which people are starting to understand was largely a FEMA-led disaster of incompetence) is this:


there are so, so many potential disasters (especially of the terrorist attack type, tornados, etc.) where we will not HAVE days' and days' of warnings to allow for a 100% evacuation, let alone 80%.


What WILL occur with EVERY disaster, however, is an IMMEDIATE need to get emergency relief supplies to people who are trapped, injured, or dying.


THAT is a more regular occurrence, something this nation faces multiple times a year, something that is the essential NATURE of FEMA's job, or should be. If Federal Emergency Management means anything, it should mean being prepared to efficiently and quickly respond to disasters and catastrophes as soon as we know they are going to happen.


So, keeping score, at first the Bush administration response, when trying to disown responsibility for lack of meaningful federal assistance in the Katrina relief effort, was "no one could have predicted this."


Which has been refuted over and over again. For years, scientists and New Orleans officials alike had warned that EXACTLY this could happen if a hurricane of this strength hit New Orleans. catagory 4 or 5 hurricane hit New Orleans.


So then the Bush administration and their friends have finally settled on a talking point to avoid having the buck stop with the feds: it was the locals' fault for not more fully evacuating New Orleans... no one could have predicted that 20% of the city's population would be stranded.


Which is JUST as nonsensical. In ANY disaster, people are going to be left behind (and in this case, an amazing 80% got the hell out). Don't tell me you expect a huge city to be fully evacuated before a catastrophic disaster... it's never happened before, did you REALLY expect it to happen this time?


The question is HOW DO WE TRY TO SAVE THE LIVES OF THOSE LEFT BEHIND??


So, getting away from blame here, the real issue is the IMPLICATIONS of what went wrong.


WHAT HAPPENED IN NEW ORLEANS SHOULD NEVER, EVER HAPPEN AGAIN IN THIS COUNTRY.


Everyone understands that. The outcry last week from those of us who were horrified to see that dying people were being left stranded to die without resources from the federal government for four days was not politically driven, but rather driven by the urgency of getting the government's attention to wake up before it was too late... to get down there and fucking save lives. NOW!


This week, the tone is starting to shift. With pretty much everyone evacuated and federal relief finally having arrived (though the FEMA fiascos continue), the tone of questioning the federal government's response now is much more about making sure it NEVER HAPPENS AGAIN.


These are completely valid questions, and those accusing those of us questioning the government's response as being led by politics are missing the point.


I'm willing to concede that there was a breakdown at every level of the government, that though 100% evacuation would have been great, and 80% evacuation is pretty damn impressive, there are still more things the locals could have done to get the evactuation rate up even more.


I also think every Democrat in office who stripped Louisiana's flood prevention program of its funding is just as responsible and culpable for that part of the Katrina disaster as every Republican who voted the same.


At the end of the day, what I'm trying to say here, is that it's NOT ABOUT BLAME. It's about making sure it NEVER happens again.


PUT together a national plan that streamlines the communication between locals and feds and has them working TOGETHER to try to accomplish 100% evacuation where catastrophes are known about enough in advance that such things are possible.


REALIZE that most catastrophes will NOT give us that kind of advance notice, and that Homeland Security needs to make sure our homelands are protected and that relief efforts can start pouring in AS SOON AS a catastrophe hits... not four and five days later.


We've had FOUR years to do this since 2001, and it's not like catastrophes didn't exist before then. When Bush restructured FEMA after 2001, the presumption was going to be that our disaster response on a national level would be MORE efficient and potent and life-saving than ever... and the past week does throw all of that into question.


Do I want the FEMA director to be fired? Absolutely. Do I want to ensure that from now on, Bush isn't going to appoint unqualified, inexperienced people to such critical positions in the future, when our collective lives are in their hands, and American lives should be valued above nepotism? You bet.


But I wish to god that none of this had happened. No matter where the chips fall and who is to blame, the real issue last week was screaming for lives... and the issue now is making sure this never happens again.


For such outcries to be shrugged off as unfair partisanship is not just disingenuous... it is life-threateningly dangerous. Do not, America, do NOT, start making excuses to protect your favorite politicians at the risk of allowing the government to walk away from this WITHOUT FIXING THE PROBLEM.


This didn't come out as clearly as I wanted it to, but it's as good as I can get.


This will not be the last disaster to hit our country. I don't care what political party controls the national or the affected state the next time... I want them to fucking SAVE LIVES the best they can, and I will be upset if they don't. Corpses and hurricanes and floods and catastropic loss marred by bureuacratic incompetence knows no political party. But if one party controls the federal government, damn straight the members of that party are responsible for the failure of the federal government to saves the lives of our people on such a massive level last week.


And now, with Bush himself -- the commander-in-chief who STAYED ON VACATION as thousands were drowning to death in New Orleans through the first half of last week, the president who appointed his close political buddies with no experience handling disasters (other than political ones) to head FEMA -- leading the investigation into what went wrong...


... well, I fear that this WILL happen again. With no accountability, no owned responsibility by the federal government, with spin and saving political skin apparantly being prioritized above saving human lives in the past week...


... we may be doomed to see history repeat itself over. and over. and over. again.


The blame assigned is incidental. The implications for all of us are huge.


Do your homelands feel more secure today than four years ago? THAT is the question.

_________________________

Coming back to add something here. Just finished reading the New York Times, and it seems that they're pretty much on the same page as I here. Snippets from today's editorial on the so-called "blame game":
______________


"With the size and difficulty of the task of rescuing and rebuilding New Orleans and other Gulf Coast areas still unfolding, it seemed early to talk about investigating how this predicted cataclysm had been allowed to occur and why the government's response was so slow and inept. Until yesterday, that is, when President Bush blithely announced at a photo-op cabinet meeting that he, personally, was going to "find out what went right and what went wrong." We can't imagine a worse idea.

"No administration could credibly investigate such an immense failure on its own watch. And we have learned through bitter experience - the Abu Ghraib nightmare is just one example - that when this administration begins an internal investigation, it means a whitewash in which no one important is held accountable and no real change occurs.

"Mr. Bush signaled yesterday that we are in for more of the same when he sneered and said, "One of the things that people want us to do here is to play a blame game." This is not a game. It is critical to know what "things went wrong," as Mr. Bush put it. But we also need to know which officials failed - not to humiliate them, but to replace them with competent people.

"It's obvious, for instance, that Michael Brown has met the expectations of those who warned that he would be a terrible director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. This is no time to be engaging in a wholesale change of leadership, but in Mr. Brown's case there seems to be precious little leadership to lose. He should be replaced with someone who can do the huge job that remains to be done.

"But the questions go way beyond Mr. Brown - starting with why federal officials ignored predictions of a disastrous flood in New Orleans - and the answers can come only from an independent commission. We agree with the Senate minority leader, Harry Reid, Senator Hillary Clinton and others who say that such a panel should follow the successful formula of the 9/11 commission: bipartisan leadership and members chosen by the White House and both parties in Congress on the basis of real expertise. It should have subpoena power and a staff expert enough to find answers and offer remedies.

"Mrs. Clinton has also proposed pulling FEMA out of the Homeland Security Department and restoring its cabinet-level status. That is premature. . .

"Before throwing the system into chaos again, an investigation should determine whether the problem lies in the structure or in execution. Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal showed how the Bush administration had systematically stripped power and money from FEMA, which had been painfully rebuilt under President Bill Clinton but had long been a target of Republican "small government" ideologues. The Journal said state officials had been warning Washington - as recently as July 27 - that the homeland secretary, Michael Chertoff, was planning further disastrous cuts. . .

". . . disasters like this are not a city or a state issue. They concern the entire nation and demand a national response - certainly a better one than the White House comments that "tremendous progress" had been made in Louisiana. We're used to that dismissive formula when questions are raised about Iraq. Americans deserve better about a disaster of this magnitude in their own country."

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Like Mother, Like Son

In an interview with American Public Media's "Marketplace" program, Barbara Bush shed some light on where her son got his immense compassion for the poor from.

On a tour of hurricane relief sites, surrounded by sobbing children and families who had lost everything, Barbara, with all the tact and compassion of a rusty nail, said,

"And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this--this (she chuckles slightly) is working very well for them."

(The chuckle was picked up on by Editor and Publisher magazine in their transcript of the interview... and confirmable through below link to the audio clip).

No, I'm not making this shit up. She really said it. You can hear it from her own chuckling lips on the Marketplace audio clip.

Before her comment about how very well things are working out for the po folk who just lost everything, she actually also said,

"What I'm hearing, which is sorta SCARY, is that they all wanna stay in Texas!"

Oh yes, she did.

(Redistrict THAT, Tom DeLay.)

How To Get FEMA To Help You: The FEMA-Halliburton-Rove Connection Revealed

EVACUEES: HOW TO (NOT) GET HELP FROM FEMA

What the hell IS FEMA thinking?

That's what one reporter asks, who has documented the process by which FEMA is "helping" evacuees.

First, they announced that evacuees should simply call their 1-800 number or go online to find out how to file a claim.

Red Cross relief workers at shelters are boggled, since, they explain, most hurricane victims and evacuees in the Gulf Coast region do not have ACCESS to phones or the internet.

But it gets worse. What happens when you actually call the number?

They take your name and address and MAIL THE CLAIM FORM TO YOUR HOME ADDRESS. Only then can you fill out an application for help.

Which makes a whole lotta sense, if you think about it. The MSNBC reporter thought about it long and hard and concluded that the FEMA procedure creates an impassible, impossible Catch-22 for hurricane victims. Even if they CAN make the call to request a FEMA application, he explains,

"Since the evacuee is in a shelter, mail service has been suspended in many of the hardest hit areas and some of the homes are likely still under water, it seems clear that those claim forms won’t be mailed back any time soon."

I'm starting to think that what FEMA really stands for it "Federal Emergency Myopic Atrocities?"

________________

THE FEMA-HALLIBURTON-ROVE CONNECTION

Course, while it's all but impossible for the victims of Katrina to get help from the federal government, what they don't understand is that, if they'd bothered to schmooze with the people who MATTERED, working for Bush's campaign, buddying up with Karl Rove, and kissing the Cheney Halliburon butt, why, they wouldn't have to fill out an application at all! Tens of millions dollars would just be thrown at them. Silly wabbits.

You see, also in this morning's news, Halliburton once again is the proud recipient of a multi-million dollar contract with the federal government, this time making big bucks off the rebuilding efforts in the Gulf Coast. No surprise there.

What WAS a surprise to me was learning of a pretty interesting twist on the usual Halliburton nepotism.

Halliburton got THIS particular multimillion dollar contract thanks to the man who was the FEMA director George W. Bush *originally* appointed. Serving as FEMA director for the first two years of the Bush administration, Joe Allbaugh now works as a LOBBYIST for Halliburton's subsidiary company that just scored the big Gulf Coast contract.

Huh! Imagine that.

But how did this man get to be director of FEMA in the first place?'

Seems George W. Bush is developing quite a track record of appointing people to the most important job in our country in dealing with federal emergencies who have NO EXPERIENCE doing so... unless you count working on Bush's campaigns and political team (side-by-side with Karl Rove) as working on a disaster.

Allbaugh's cv, as the website Halliburtonwatch reports:

""Allbaugh managed Bush's campaign for Texas governor in 1994, served as Gov. Bush's chief of staff and was the national campaign manager for the Bush campaign in 2000. Along with Karen Hughes and Karl Rove, Allbaugh was one of Bush's closest advisers.

""This is a perfect example of someone cashing in on a cozy political relationship," said Scott Amey, general counsel at the Project on Government Oversight, a Washington watchdog group. "Allbaugh's former placement as a senior government official and his new lobbying position with [Halliburton subsidiary] KBR strengthens the company's already tight ties to the administration, and I hope that contractor accountability is not lost as a result.""

Monday, September 05, 2005

Get The Shit OUT. (Personal Ponderings...)

No news, no links in this post. Other than the links between connecting thoughts (and dots) whirling around in my head. Just my personal reflections and connections.

_____________

Personal reflections on bureaucracy.

Bureaucracy and common sense need NOT be antithetical.


Once upon a time, I worked for one of the largest legal organizations in the country.


After 9/11, I served on a task force to help our office come up with an Emergency Plan to deal with future emergencies.


Lawyers that we were, the plan was filled with rules and details and what have you.


It looked something like this.


"In case of tornado watch, follow steps A-Z as outline below.

In case of tornado warning, follow steps A-Z as outlined below.

In case of fire alarm, follow steps A-Z as outlined below.

In case of hurricane warning, follow steps A-Z as outlined below.

In case of bomb threat, follow steps A-Z as outlined below.

In ALL circumstances, whether described herein or not, if you feel that your life and/or the lives of your co-workers are in danger, do whatever you feel you have to to protect yourself and your co-workers. Just GET THE SHIT OUT of the building and use your common sense."


We were lawyers, keep in mind. An organization of a massive number of some of the brightest lawyers in country. Obsessed with crossing Ts and dotting Is in most circumstances. Paranoid about liability if we didn't spell everything out and cover our asses JUST SO. But we also had a fucking CLUE after 9/11, that you don't just sit around and wait for paperwork to be filled out and task forces to be convened. You GET THE SHIT OUT. Period.


Now, that GET THE SHIT OUT/common sense clause... I wonder if it even exists in all of the rules and guidelines governing FEMA (and every other bureaucracy involved in this mess who has turned away supplies, thwarted recovery efforts, and blamed it on a lack of proper paperwork).


Most likely not. And why shouldn't it?


As a legal eagle in my own right, I see NO reason why there shouldn't be some kind of GET THE SHIT OUT common sense clause allowing for red tape to be ignored in cases if rapidly evolving emergencies, dying bodies crying out for help, etc.


You don't have to do away with FEMA... just re-fund them (and the levees too, while you're at it) and add some fucking COMMON SENSE to their training and regulations.


__________________________


Personal reflections on race and animalism.

Another snippet of connecting with my own past experience.


I was at Woodstock II. Surrounded by mostly middle to upper class white kids.


It was awful. They ran out of food and water the first day, the porta-potties were parked on a hill, overflowed, and when the rain came, we all had to wade through a lake of human sewage and sleep in it if we were unlucky enough to have our tents parked in that part of the camp. The camp was overcrowded, surrounded by a huge fence, and there were only a couple of ways out. People tried to get out but couldn't... it took hours for me to get through a line to what I was told was the exit, but by the time I got there, the exit was blocked. I was stuck there another night in hell.


Out of hunger and desperation and the misery of circumstances, people started turning into animals. Violence broke out all over the place. I was constantly on vigilence for stampedes.


In the middle of the night someone pissed on my tent with me in it.


I had my clothes hung out to dry, all of them ruined by the human sewage flood, leaving me naked under my tent, and in the middle of the night one of the camp guards shone a flashlight at my naked body, held the light there, and just started laughing.


I screamed. And screamed. And didn't stop screaming for maybe ten minutes.


I didn't feel human. I wasn't treated like a human being, and I didn't feel human.


Neither did the violent animals surrounding me.


All of which is to say that what I went through is not the LEAST bit comparable in degree to what the victims of Katrina went through. BUT. Even that much lesser degree of catastrophe drove (rich white) people over the edge and turned them into animals.


So think about that when you hear people condemning the looters, and yes, even the violence in New Orleans, with tinges of unspoken racism in their condemnation.


Remember that it's not a race thing.


It's human nature. Drive people to the brink of desperation, treat them like animals, deny them basic necessities of life -- food, drink, shelter, bathrooms -- and then don't blame them when civilization breaks down.


I got the shit OUT the next day.


I don't even want to talk about the health problems I had as a result of Woodstock II.


But I did want to talk about what I went through.


I saw no love, no concern for others, no compassion at Woodstock II, from the animalistic (white rich) kids surrounding me and trampling each other left and right. No pockets of people pulling together, trying to help each other. It was truly every person on their own, every person next to them a potential enemy.


There was a LOT of good that happened in New Orleans this week among the people who were left there looking to each other for help when the government failed to help them, survivors reaching out to each other, helping each other stay survivors. The stories are coming out and they're beautiful. I didn't see that at Woodstock II. At all. Animalism and brutality seemed to be the rule there, not the exception. In New Orleans, the heros vastly outnumbered the brutes.


So many lessons to be learned...

Trent Lott Joins Outcry Against FEMA: Cut The (Crap) Red Tape NOW.

CNN reports that Trent Lott (who was recently paid a visit by Bush, who promised to build Lott's house back up real soon so they could swing on that grand ole porch together again like back in the day) has joined the outcry against FEMA's incompetent bureaucratic refusal to help victims of the hurricane in the way they need.

According to the CNN story,

"Sen. Trent Lott berated both the Federal Emergency Management Agency and his own state's emergency management, MEMA, for being mired in red tape at a time of urgent need given the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina.

"Lott said he has been trying to get FEMA to send 20,000 trailers "sitting in Atlanta" to the Mississippi coast, and he urged President Bush during a meeting Monday to intervene. He said FEMA has refused to ship the trailers until contracts are secured. . . .

""Mississippians are homeless, hungry and hurting."

"Similar stories of governmental red tape have been reported elsewhere, including a case of 100 surgeons and paramedics hindered from caring for hurricane victims in rural Mississippi. (Full story)

"This is an emergency situation without peer, like nothing our generation has ever encountered," Lott said. "If suffering people along the Gulf Coast, from Mobile to New Orleans, are going to recover as soon as possible, we'll need an unprecedented public and private effort that can't be hampered by a process geared toward much lesser disasters."


As to Bush's promises to Trent that they'd be a swinging on that big ole porch again some, that he'd rebuild that house of Trent's that Katrina clobbered,

"Lott said he appreciated Bush's visit, but stressed to the president the need to cut through the bureaucracy."

To Trent, this shit clearly ain't partisan. It's personal. It's repugnant. And it's pissing him off.

This may be the only time in history Trent Lott and I ever agree about anything.

It's been a strange, strange week.

_________________

In more personal news (speaking of personal), my Mom is taking in an evacuee. She's got a big house, and an even bigger heart, and Red Cross is playing matchmaker with her (and my stepdad and their house) and a hurricane victim. So far all she knows is his name.

I'm so proud of her.

A Great Time For A Vacation

So what WERE Bush and Cheney doing in those first few days of the hurricane and its aftermath, as thousands of people started dying for lack of federal assistance?

Lots of reporters (of both the professional and blogger ilk) are noting the inappropriateness of the fact that Bush, Cheney, and even Condi Rice all enjoyed inappropriate vacations for inordinate amounts of time throughout this past week from hell as people were dying.

As americablog describes it, as people were dying and begging their country to save them, this weekend,

"George Bush stayed on vacation. He didn't get back to work. When the worst natural disaster in our nation's history attacked us, George Bush STAYED ON VACATION. Why did the federal government stumble so badly on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday? Because on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday, George Bush stayed on vacation in Crawford, Texas. On Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday and Friday, vice president Dick Cheney STAYED ON VACATION in Jackson, Wyoming. On Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday, Sec. of State Condi Rice WENT ON VACATION in New York City and went to a splashy Broadway musical and bought obscenely expensive shoes. She went shopping.




(Photo also courtesy of americablog)

Evacuees: Let People Know You're Safe

CNN has put together a "safe list" to help notify people who might be worried about you that you are ok (and, if you care to add it, what town you ended up in, how to reach you, etc.).

The site is here.

Ack. So is MSNBC.

And probably Fox News, and nola.com, and other sites as well.

Boy, we're good at this centralized, coordination thing, aren't we?

Oh well, better to be multiple-y safe than sorry?

Landrieu Threatens To Punch Bush (+ How To Help Those Still Stranded In N.O.)

Today's Washington Post reports that Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu (the same Senator whose Congressional Record comments from 2003 I posted earlier, begging her colleagues and the Bush administration not to defund the flood prevention and levee protection programs in Louisiana, to no avail), furious at Bush's insufficient response to the Katrina disaster and to his blame-shifting, exlaimed,

"Would the president please stop taking photo-ops, and please come and see what I'm trying to show him?" and then she actually threatened to PUNCH Bush or anyone else trying to put the blame for the federal government's ineffective response to Katrina on local officials.


The Post also notes (probably smarting from being deceived by Rove into printing a lie yesterday):


"As president, Bush typically has been loath to admit mistakes, and this situation is no different.


"A senior White House aide said there was no reason for Bush to return to Washington to deal with the disaster before Wednesday, though he was told of the gravity of the situation in briefings late into the night on Monday. Bush cut short his working vacation at his ranch near Crawford, Tex., but spent Tuesday night there. The aide said Bush wanted to allow his Cabinet and staff time to get back to Washington and in place to brief him.


"Democrats say Bush would have been better positioned to demand a speedier response if he were in Washington, or at least to offer Americans a symbolic show of his involvement by cutting short his time away from the White House.


"One reason for the slow White House response, said a Republican who has been in contact with several officials, is that so many high-level officials and aides were on vacation. Vice President Cheney, for instance, was in Wyoming and did not return unil Thursday, and Nicolle Devenish, the president's top communications adviser, is getting married in Greece with a number of mid-level aides in attendance.


"Bush's first speech to the nation has been widely criticized as unemotional and too bureaucratic in tone. In subsequent appearances, Bush seemed at times tentative and distracted -- and not always sure of the message he wanted to leave. On Friday, Bush said he was "looking forward to my trip" to see the storm wreckage only to say "I am not looking forward to this trip" when he landed. The senior aide said Bush wanted to accomplish one major goal with those initial speeches -- underscore "the enormity of the problem" and the government's plan to respond accordingly. Critics say he failed to reassure a distraught nation. . ."

_______________________


In other news today, two dozen queerfolk trapped in New Orleans went on with their annual gay pride Southern Decadence celebration on Bourbon Street, much to dismay of many rightwing bigots who have blamed gays (and abortionists) for Katrina, which they call God's wrath, hit just in time to stop Southern Decadence. But Decadence went on. God bless.


Also, with no formal estimate of the death toll (but it's looking like 10,000... or more...), rescue teams are saying that people are still stranded and dying in their homes and they can't get to them all.


The Coast Guard is collecting names of people who are stranded and doing its best to get to them:


http://homeport.uscg.mil.

Times-Picayune Letter To The President: "We're Angry, Mr. President."

The Times-Picayune of New Orleans printed this editorial today, blasting Bush and the federal government for their lack of assistance to hurricane victims this week, and calling on Bush to fire FEMA officials (as re-printed on cnn website):

An open letter to the President
Dear Mr. President:

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.

Refuting The "Blame The Locals, Not Feds" Spin (Smells Like Rove Spirit)

Oh, how predictable, you're blaming Rove now, I can hear the conservatives sighing as I paste this entry.

Yep, it's pretty sad how predictable some of this is getting, isn't it? How predictable that when you see a "senior white house official," unnamed, engaging in lie-filled finger pointing and blame-shifting to try to save his party's butt, that the Democrats might actually smell a (Rove) rat and protest?

Hey, maybe that senior white house official was actually Bush himself, or Cheney. I'd happily eat my words if that came out. But I'm jumping ahead of myself.

______________________________________

I'd wager almost any amount of money that the unnamed "senior Bush official" who lied to the Washington Post yesterday and got them to PRINT his lie that Governor Blanco hadn't declared a state of emergency was Karl Rove. Can there be any doubt??

He certainly has a track record of slimy, politically motivated (and at times blatantly untrue) leaks to the media, being criminally investigated for it by his own administration as I write this. He's been visibly standing by Bush's side whispering into his ear throughout the aftermath of Katrina. Of COURSE it was his idea to create the now-repeated-ad-nauseum-spin shifting the blame for the federal government's inexcusable lack of action in saving lives this week to the (Democratic) Louisiana state and local officials. The FEMA lie that they weren't authorized to release twenty million dollars of relief supplies to Louisiana because, they say, Blanco didn't ask for it (but a state of emergency declaration IS asking for FEMA supplies. That's the way the rules are written) smells like Rove too.


The disaster response may not have been coordinated in any meaningful way, but the Rove-orchestrated spin machine is as oiled and effective as ever.


All over the place, now, I hear Bush defenders on message, a frightening collective robot chanting "Don't forget! The feds weren't authorized to take action to help victims til the locals authorized them to, and the locals never did!"


Please, when you hear that, RESPOND with the TRUTH. Don't let this spin go unrefuted.


Three days before the hurricane hit, the Mississippi and Louisiana governors DID issues state of emergency declarations. That is ALL that was required legally for FEMA to be authorized to get on the ground immediately and start helping. FEMA (aka Dept of Homeland Security aka Bush administration aka Rove) cannot pin this on Louisiana. Not without blatantly lying, anyway. They sat on twenty million dollars' worth of emergency relief supplies (see past "Lies" post). Reports are also flowing in that FEMA has turned away more millions' of dollars of support offered by Wal-Mart, the City of Chicago, so many others I've lost track of, whose truckloads of water and relief supplies were TURNED AWAY by FEMA without explanation. As today's New York Times reports,

""We wanted soldiers, helicopters, food and water," said Denise Bottcher, press secretary for Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco of Louisiana. "They wanted to negotiate an organizational chart." . . .

"Far from deferring to state or local officials, FEMA asserted its authority and made things worse, Mr. Broussard complained on "Meet the Press."

"When Wal-Mart sent three trailer trucks loaded with water, FEMA officials turned them away, he said. Agency workers prevented the Coast Guard from delivering 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel, and on Saturday they cut the parish's emergency communications line, leading the sheriff to restore it and post armed guards to protect it from FEMA, Mr. Broussard said. . ."


By the vast majority of accounts, FEMA has been slow to act in the respects that matter, but quick to turn AWAY offers to help pouring in from across the country. They cannnot blame Blanco or Nagin or other local officials (who have been begging for FEMA's help from the start) for it.

As delicious as "off-the-record" tips may be to reporters, they really need to start being more careful about such tips from certain *cough* "anonymous" *coughrovecough* senior white house officials. You'd think they'd be tired of being Charlie Brown to Lucy's football-yanking tactics. Or maybe the Washington Post really has deteriorated that much over the years... a sad thought, since they've always been one of my favorite newspapers.

Chief Justice Roberts

I wake up to the news that John Roberts has been nominated to be the next Chief Justice. I breathe a sigh of relief.

Here, finally, is my take on how the timing of Rehnquist's death does not threaten the future of the Supreme Court, but (as loathe as I am to say that *anyone's* death is a silver lining) actually provides a silver lining.


As I've written before (in my other blog), I was pretty worried when O'Connor announced her retirement *before* Rehnquist. The thing is, O'Connor's announcement contained the addendum that she would NOT retire UNTIL her replacement were confirmed.


Assuming that Roberts is now considered to be Rehnquist's replacement, not O'Connor's, that means that Democrats opposing an extremist nominee, should Bush appoint one to replace her, have the luxury of time to do so.


If it were Rehnquist's retirement that Bush were rushing to fill before the Court reconvenes in a month, the Democrats wouldn't have the time they need to thoroughly investigate the record of the next Supreme Court nominee and, if necessary, to filibuster.


While Roberts may be opposed to abortion rights, pretty much anyone named by Bush will be. On the other hand, Roberts' record reveals him to be NOT a Scalia-type "originalist" (a misnomer, I think, of Scalia's judicial philosophy, which ignores the original intent of the constitution's drafters to allow for an evolving constitution that reserves unenumerated rights primarily to the individual - see the 9th Amendment + Federalist Papers + many historical accounts of Madison and Hamilton's dialogue on the purpose of the 9th Amendment). He is smart, temperate and well-respected, his judicial philosophy DOES appear to have evolved over the years, and I have a pet theory that he really *could* embrace the Court's recent liberty affirming individual rights cases that protect equal rights of citizens regardless of sexual orientation.


What I'm saying is that, though I am worried about the future of abortion rights, I would be under ANY Supreme Court Justice named by Bush. With Roberts as the presumptive C.J. nominee,


- We will NOT, thank god, have to stomach the thought of "Chief Justice Scalia" and have such a beast running our highest court in the land til he dies;


- We WILL have a 9 member court ready for action when the Supreme Court re-convenes, most likely with O'Connor delaying her retirement til her replacement is confirmed;


- If Bush tries to name an extremist whackjob to replace O'Connor now, the Democrats will have the time they need to defend our Supreme Court against such a nomination, which time they would NOT have had had Rehnquist not (as diplomatically as ever) passed away before O'Connor's retirement was final;


- Even with the threat to abortion rights, we are NOT one vote closer to it being overturned, now that Roberts is replacing Rehnquist, not O'Connor. Rehnquist was as conservative on civil and constitutional rights as you can get (in a different way than Scalia, but actually more consistent in result- almost always ruling against the individual victim in cases involving federal constitutional violations of fundamental rights & equality). Replacing him with another conservative only maintains the status quo (and Roberts is arguably LESS conservative... he served as a consultant to HELP gay rights groups win their first Supreme Court victory, after all). If Roberts - who once wrote that Roe should be overturned (as has Rehnquist) - were to replace O'Connor, on the other hand, who has voted NOT to overturn Roe... THAT would have represented a dramatic shift bringing us one vote closer to Roe's demise.


That's why I'm breathing a sigh of relief.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

We Have Met The Enemy...

... and it is us.

Another heartbreaking account... watch it all the way through.

Bush And FEMA LIE To Cover Up Culpability

Yes, they LIED. There's no other way to say it.

Under FEMA rules, once a governor declares a state of emergency, FEMA is authorized to come in and start saving lives.

But FEMA and the Bush administration are both LYING, saying that Louisiana Governor Blanco never declared a state of emergency , and that, consequently, twenty million dollars of stockpiled FEMA supplies that could have saved lives were never released to Louisiana.

LIE EXPOSED: Governor Blanco most certainly DID issue a state of emergency declaration on August 26, as soon as she saw that Katrina was growing in strength and was about to hit Louisiana. Bush confirmed the state of emergency the same day, which should have (under FEMA rules, linked to above) triggered the release of the TWENTY MILLION DOLLARS OF EMERGENCY RELIEF SUPPLIES that has been sitting untapped in FEMA warehouses. But the twenty million dollars of lifesaving equipment never came because, the FEMA/Department of Homeland Security spinners say with a sigh, it's so sad, but Governor Blanco just never asked for it...

Lies, lies, lies... resulting in thousands of lives lost.

This is genocide.

Oh, Wait. It's The Fault Of Gays And Abortionists!

It was just a matter of time before someone came out and blamed Katrina on sinful people like me. It was God's wrath and wretched sinful people like me deserve to be wiped off the earth. Riiiiight.
___________

New Orleans Residents: God's Mercy Evident in Katrina's Wake

By Jody Brown and Allie Martin

September 2, 2005


(AgapePress) - Two Christian leaders in New Orleans are testifying to God's mercy in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. One suggests that the death toll could have been much higher had it not been for God's mercy -- and the other that God may have used the hurricane to purge wickedness from the city.


Chuck Kelley is president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, with facilities located near the southern banks of Lake Pontchartrain and in Chalmette, east of the city. Baptist Press reports that Kelley now finds himself homeless and with only a few personal belongings following Hurricane Katrina's devastating blow to the New Orleans area. But the seminary leader says he is able to discern God's hand in the situation.


"Imagine what would have happened if [New Orleans] had taken a direct hit," he tells BP. "The levee did not break until after the storm was clear and the winds had died down and the rescue workers were able to get out." Had the levee given way during the hurricane, he says, "untold thousands of people" would have been killed.


"It's a terrible tragedy," Kelley says of the devastation in and around New Orleans, "and we still don't know the scope of it -- but the evidences of God's mercy are there. We rejoice in the fact that He has got the whole world in His hands, including the city of New Orleans and [the seminary]."


Kelley's faith, despite his personal situation, remains steadfast. He explains to Baptist Press that he is confident of God's provision. "When we get to the end of this story," he says, "the last paragraph is going to be a testimony to the greatness and glory of our God, who is able to do all things well, and able to provide every need."


Rev. Bill Shanks, pastor of New Covenant Fellowship of New Orleans, also sees God's mercy in the aftermath of Katrina -- but in a different way. Shanks says the hurricane has wiped out much of the rampant sin common to the city.


The pastor explains that for years he has warned people that unless Christians in New Orleans took a strong stand against such things as local abortion clinics, the yearly Mardi Gras celebrations, and the annual event known as "Southern Decadence" -- an annual six-day "gay pride" event scheduled to be hosted by the city this week -- God's judgment would be felt.


“New Orleans now is abortion free. New Orleans now is Mardi Gras free. New Orleans now is free of Southern Decadence and the sodomites, the witchcraft workers, false religion -- it's free of all of those things now," Shanks says. "God simply, I believe, in His mercy purged all of that stuff out of there -- and now we're going to start over again."


The New Orleans pastor is adamant. Christians, he says, need to confront sin. "It's time for us to stand up against wickedness so that God won't have to deal with that wickedness," he says.


Believers, he says, are God's "authorized representatives on the face of the Earth" and should say they "don't want unrighteous men in office," for example. In addition, he says Christians should not hesitate to voice their opinions about such things as abortion, prayer, and homosexual marriage. "We don't want a Supreme Court that is going to say it's all right to kill little boys and girls, ... it's all right to take prayer out of schools, and it's all right to legalize sodomy, opening the door for same-sex marriage and all of that.”


Shanks heeded warnings to evacuate New Orleans, and is currently staying with friends in the Jackson, Mississippi, area.


© 2005 AgapePress all rights reserved

FEMA And Such

Last year, when I first moved to town, I dated a man who works for FEMA. Our relationship didn't work out in part because of the instability of his life; he moves every six months, setting up command centers for wherever the disaster du jour is.

I wish we were still on speaking terms. I'd love to see what's going on with him, if he's down south, and get his take on what the hell went on with the FEMA breakdown, and what his take is on the current spin by Republicans that any failure on FEMA and the federal government's part is that of the locals, who didn't micromanage them and tell them what to do every step of the way.


I have a feeling he'd respond (if he responded honestly, and not with pre-ordained spin to cover his and his organization's butts) that they were simply overwhelmed.


I remember him describing to me that his job followed pretty much the same path with every disaster. A disaster would hit, a state of emergency would be declared, he'd be given his marching orders, and then he'd have a week to set up the command center. And THEN relief would start being provided to the victims of the disaster.


Katrina, quite simply, didn't allow for that kind of leisurely pace this time.


But the Bush defenders keep spinning their inadaquate response as the fault of Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin, who, they say, didn't issue appropriate marching orders.


I'm in the midst of a debate on Ann Althouse's blog on this point. A law professor closely followed by legal eagles across the country, she posted the Washington Post article containing the Bush administration's lies about Governor Blanco not ordering a state of emergency. I created this blog (having lost the password and name to my old one) for the express purpose of responding to her post and the conservatives who were quickly repeating the lie, and posted a link in her comment space to the governor's state of emergency declaration, trying to undo the damage of the original Bush administration lie (that no such declaration existed) being posted.


Now, the conservatives are spinning, it's the local governments fault for not telling the National Guard that they SHOULD drop food and water to dying people.


Since when is the National Guard impotent to make food drops for dying people if the Governor hasn't ordered them specifically, step-by-step, to do so, telling them how to do their job and effectively micromanaging them? Is that *really* her job? I want to see evidence of that. I've asked for any source to their claim that once the National Guard was on the ground (at the governor's request), they only had the power to just sit there, and not do air drops, until the governor told them to. (and I'm not convinced the governor did not ask for that either... Mayor Nagin certainly did).


No sources or support for that piece of spin have been provided.


It's not about a blame game. It's about a city that was just wiped out, a death toll that will far exceed that of 9/11, and that fact that if THIS is how our government responds to disasters... WE ARE ALL FUCKED. This could happen to ANY city, ANY day. The next time, it could be a middle-class white suburb left to die a slow death while the federal government sits bureaucratically by, not rescuing people from a biological attack or who knows what else, and then blaming local authorities for their own inaction.


Even most conservatives seem to concede that there is SOME point to federal taxes -- the basic protection of human lives from our government through basic national defense, infrastructure support, and response to national disasters. Are those who are so busy defending the Bush administration right now so blinded by their partisanship that they are willing to redefine our government in such a way that our federal tax dollars shouldn't go to the most basic protections of our citizens' lives anymore? Do they REALLY believe what they're saying here?


If so, we should all be very very frightened (in addition to angry and in mourning, which many people still don't seem to be, whether it's out of denial, callousness, or just having better mental health survival instincts than I).


I think Democrats and Republicans can probably agree at this point that the bumbling bureaucracy of federal agencies is out of hand and life-threatening. Republicans have been saying it all along, and Democrats are now joining in the chorus after Katrina.


We don't have the luxury of time anymore to sit around and convene task forces and restructure agencies and come up with master plans that FOUR YEARS AFTER 9/11 are still being drafted (see this disturbing article about a Homeland Security Memo that was going through their office's emails with a DRAFT PLAN for disaster reponse... a draft that they were just starting to finalize after four years of work... a draft that was circulated even as Katrina's destruction was in full force... why did it take four years to churn out a DRAFT? Why is there no real plan or structure in place NOW? How could the Bush administration effectively dismantle FEMA without the new backup structure already in place? Do we think natural disasters and terrorists are just going to sit around and WAIT for us to get our shit together and finalize our bureaucratic plans of response before hitting us?)


Not good.

Beyond Horrific (But PLEASE Watch It. Important).

just watch this. Nothing else matters.

It's difficult to watch, but critically important. Specially if you have ANY lingering doubts about the shooters, looters, and those who "chose" to stay behind in New Orleans and maybe deserved what they got...

From The Record...

Though it's common knowledge by now, I first wrote this several days ago. I'm cross-posting some of my posts from a different blog. While everyone now knows about Bush's cuts to the levee construction, below is additional information you may not have yet seen, including a heartwrenching snippet from the Congressional Record, Landrieu begging her colleagues for help with the levees a couple of years ago, not to defund the hurricane protection program.

_____________________________

Louisiana Senators have been begging their fellow members of Congress the past couple of years to restore funding to keeping the levees in good shape. Congress has consistently refused to. And the Bush administration backed record CUTS to funding the Army Corps of Engineers' work this year, when such funding was critical for protecting the levees.

A horrifying article to read today, knowing what we know, one recent (but pre-dating Katrina) news story reads in part, "In fiscal year 2006, the New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is bracing for a record $71.2 million reduction in federal funding.It would be the largest single-year funding loss ever for the New Orleans district, Corps officials said. I've been here over 30 years and I've never seen this level of reduction, said Al Naomi, project manager for the New Orleans district. I think part of the problem is it's not so much the reduction, it's the drastic reduction in one fiscal year. It's the immediacy of the reduction that I think is the hardest thing to adapt to. There is an economic ripple effect, too. The cuts mean major hurricane and flood protection projects will not be awarded to local engineering firms. Also, a study to determine ways to protect the region from a Category 5 hurricane has been shelved for now. . . Landrieu said the Bush administration is not making Corps of Engineers funding a priority. . . One of the hardest-hit areas of the New Orleans district's budget is the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, which was created after the May 1995 flood to improve drainage in Jefferson, Orleans and St. Tammany parishes. SELA's budget is being drained from $36.5 million awarded in 2005 to $10.4 million suggested for 2006 by the House of Representatives and the president.").


Now we are seeing the real cost of their actions.


And from the 2003 Congressional Record (this has been going on for years!):

Congressional Record

7/10/03


Senate



Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, as we are still working on the amendment, I hesitate to call it up at this point. I want to talk for a moment about why this amendment is so important. I think what the Senator from Alaska is doing is extremely important, and I commend the administration for putting forth a bill that really helps to address some very serious problems in our Nation because the emergency accounts are depleted.

There are many emergencies occurring in our Nation, from fires to tornadoes. People's lives and homes are at risk. If the Federal Government doesn't act and do it quickly and appropriately, tremendous hardships and difficulties can result. So I am 100 percent supportive, and so are the people in my State, just as is every State that suffers from natural disasters.

I am having a difficult time understanding why there is some hesitation_and the chairman has been very cooperative_to fund or to ask for money to fund the emergency fund_not a nonemergency fund, but an emergency fund that is completely empty. There is no money left in this account. It is a very important account not just for Louisiana, but for Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, California, and for all the States in the Union. It is the only account in the Federal Government that allows the Corps of Engineers to fix the levees when they are damaged in anticipation of a great storm that might come, and to prevent the loss of property damage. So we can save money in the bill by providing a little bit of maintenance on these levees. This account is empty.

I am asking for whatever the chairman and the Members of the Senate think we can afford_whether it is $20 million, $30 million, $40 million_to get us through the end of the year so we are prepared when the storms come. And they will come, hurricanes will come.

We just had a pretty tough storm last weekend. There is one out in the gulf as we speak. If I had time, I could put up a chart that shows where it is. There will be storms, and it is predicted to be a very difficult season. We hope and pray and prepare. But the account that helps us to prepare is empty. There is not a dime in this account. Let me repeat. The account that helps the Corps of Engineers prepare levee systems for the whole country_not just Louisiana_is empty.

We are getting ready to pass a bill to protect us from emergencies. Yet this account is empty. I am asking the Senate to not pass this bill without putting some money into this account so that we can build up the levees in anticipation of storms_not after a storm has come through and wreaked hundreds of millions of dollars of damage, but before the storm hits, to be able to repair the levees that have been weakened by rain or by storms that are not hurricanes, tropical storms, or storms that don't rate to be a hurricane, and to prepare the levees to prevent the taxpayers from having to pick up a bigger tab. -->

That is why I want to spend a few minutes talking about this issue and asking the Senate for its attention. If we can find $25 million to help fund disasters that occur because of dead trees, I think we can find at least half of that money somewhere to preserve the levy system in the country that protects billions and billions of dollars of infrastructure everywhere, not just in Louisiana.

As the chairman and staff are considering what to do, I hope we can find a certain amount of money to make sure we get through the end of the fiscal year or get through a period where on another bill, perhaps energy and water appropriations, we can add some money.

Whether $10 million or $20 million is enough, I do not know. Perhaps the Corps of Engineers which is engaged in this debate can give us some idea, based on weather predictions and patterns, determine what amount will be enough to help us.

This is a huge issue for Louisiana, and it is a big issue for all the States. My people are afraid. They are frightened. The phone has been ringing off the hook because of the storm from last week. When I called the Corps of Engineers, which I typically do after a storm, and said, Could you please send some crews to help us with the levees, the people are very frightened, they said to me: Senator, there is no more money. We would love to send the crews, but there is no money in the account.

I said: Do not worry about it; there is a bill coming through the Senate for this exact purpose_only to find out maybe the bill is not for this purpose. That is why I am going to offer this amendment in a few minutes, sometime tonight, and hopefully we can get it resolved.

The Senator from Nevada, because he is the ranking member on the Energy and Water Development Subcommittee which funds the Corps of Engineers, knows how important this particular fund is for the regular maintenance of a levee system, not after the Governor calls it a disaster. This is for maintaining the levees before the storms hit to prevent damage, to minimize damage, and save people's lives and property.

There are other accounts that kick in once something is declared an emergency. That is not what I am talking about. There is no money in the account right now as we speak to prevent and repair the levee.

The Senator from Alabama on the floor. I know he is going to speak on another subject. But there is no money to repair levees in Alabama, which is a coastal State, or any State. The account is zeroed out.

I yield the floor and reserve the right to offer my amendment later tonight. -->

An Urgent Cry For Help

Looks like the media's getting tired of doing its job too and now THEY are dropping the ball along with everyone else. Well, the mainstream media may have decided it's vacation time, all over, everything's fine now, covering dying people is soooo yesterday, but as for me, I'm not going to stop covering this shit until They (too many to be listed) stop ignoring people who are dying and begging for help to no avail.

(as posted at on Indicter's blog, live from New Orleans.... The Interdictor blog has received lots of notice and attention, the blog of a techie who has stayed with at his internet company office through the hurricane aftermath to keep New Orleans as net-connected as possible, blogging every few hours about developments in New Orleans as he witnesses them. Hopefully his posting this will make a difference).

__________________________________


**Email received by [interdictor]**


URGENT ASSISTANCE NEEDED.


First of all, many thanks to the kind and courageous folks currently staffing Outpost Crystal. Their compassion and honesty are unparalleled.


I am writing this to describe a horrific situation in NOLA that few are aware of, and those who are aware are doing little or nothing. As many of you have likely observed, the national media outlets are suggesting that hurricane relief is finally leading to vast improvements with each hour that passes. Food and water are being delivered, power restored, levees repaired, water drainage plans developed, and those still living successfully evacuated. Many are reporting that the final areas are being checked for survivors, as well as those who have passed at the hands of Katrina (and more often, neglect).


Unfortunately, this is not the case.


As demonstrated on nola.com's blog section, many individuals know the exact locations and WORKING telephone numbers of family members, most of whom are elderly, sickly, starving, and in serious need of medical attention. When able to get through on emergency telephone numbers, a feat not to be taken lightly, they are dismissed or told that dispatch would be sent immediately, yet no one has come, even though calls have been placed for days. Many do not require full evacuation, but basic medical attention and/or supplies. Many are completely immobile, and unable to access the limited relief sites or food drops.


I spoke to one such individual, Ms. Lee Livermore, who was still trapped in her home earlier this evening (around 6:00pm EST). Her nephew, living in Michigan, explained to me that she is diabetic, has difficulty moving, and he has been in contact with the coast guard, emergency services, and even the governor's office, yet nothing is being done. Stranded on a 3rd floor apartment, with little food, no sweets, and low blood sugar, her outlook is not promising.


This is just one case out of hundreds, probably thousands. Incredibly, much of this information is available through nola.com, a resource many of the media are utilizing, yet remains unreported. The television broadcasts refer to none of this, simply stressing the importance of financial contributions, encouraging National Guard membership for potential volunteers, and emphasizing the positive direction the situation is headed.


For more information on these people who are stranded and requiring

immediate assistance, please visit

http://www.nola.com/weblogs/nola/index.ssf?/mtlogs/nola_nolaview/archives/2005_09.html

Note: specific contact information and locations ARE provided


Some of these people, primarily those in high profile areas, such as universities and hospitals, have since been rescued. Others, however, are being ignored, even though their situation and status is easily discernable and their telephone contacts are reliable and consistent. Addresses are always provided, as is contact information for family and friends. After speaking with stranded individuals and their family members, the severity of the situation is obvious, yet rescue workers are overwhelmed or dismissive, often a combination of the two, with each call placed. We are being bombarded with images of the care and rescue of healthy, able-bodied people, yet so many of those who need our attention most are completely helpless.


After having little success using the emergency numbers provided by a variety of organizations and websites, I called CNN to explain the distress that these individuals are in. I was told that they have a department compiling information of those who need assistance, and that the office would be open on TUESDAY, after the Labor Day holiday so the best course of action is to leave a voicemail. Understandably outraged, I called MSNBC, where the woman I spoke with was also shocked. She told me they have a voicemail box that was checked every 15 minutes, and my information could be left there. It was, not surprisingly, full, and I was disconnected, as has occurred on every subsequent call.


I encourage anyone in a position to help to do everything they can to assure that those whose locations are known, especially those requiring medical attention, be assisted IMMEDIATELY, with other search and rescue operations taking a lesser priority. Just because these people are less visible and indoors, some perhaps in dry areas, should not exempt them from the care and attention being relegated to others.


I also ask that those who are able complain about the policies of the major media networks, both in collecting information on those in need, as well as the reporting of improvements, when many are STILL ALIVE, but will starve and die of their conditions in the very near future.


I understand that the extremely limited resources need to be conserved and delivered where most needed. As it is easy to ascertain the condition and whereabouts of many of these people, through a mere phone call, something that rescue agencies and certainly the media have access to, it seems beyond remiss that their perilous situations be ignored.


If anyone has additional questions, information, or advice, please do

not hesitate to contact me.


Brittany Turner

631-258-4604

brittaful@aol.com

Saugerties, NY


Emergency numbers are available to any who need them by visiting

http://www.wwltv.com/