Wed-Oct 19 2005
New Orleanians often are slow to get to the point: in my youth it was not unusual for someone to call my mother, keep her on the phone for 20 minutes, hang up, then call back because she never got around to what the call was about in the first place. The point is never really the point. Conversation in New Orleans is not a tool but a pastime. New Orleans stories are given perhaps too much room to breathe; they go on and on so entertainingly that only later do you realize that there were things in them that made no sense.
At some moment, I realized that Haywood Hillyer's story made no sense. Why, really, had he stayed? The first time I asked him, he replied: "These other guys had children, so they felt it wasn't worth the risk. I didn't have children." This may have been true as far as it went, but it didn't really answer the question: childlessness is not a reason to risk your life. Just three months earlier, he married a lovely young woman who was reason enough to live. He wasn't by nature defiant, or belligerent. He was just different, in some hard-to-see but meaningful way.
The fourth time (in four days) that I put the same question to him - Yeah, but why did you stay? - Haywood stood and, with the air of a man ready to make his final statement, said: "O.K., I'll tell you why I stayed. But this it totally off the record."
"Fine, it's off the record."
"Totally off the record."
"O.K., totally off the record."
"There were these feral kittens under my house," he began, and off he went, explaining how these little kittens had come to depend upon him, how three of them now live with him but two still refuse to let him near them, even though he feeds them. There's a long story that he swore was interesting about how these cats got under his house in the first place, but the point was this: If he left, there would be no one in New Orleans to feed the cats.
Haywood Hillyer stayed and, for all anyone knew then, risked being skinned alive or worse to feed cats. And the cats didn't even like him.
Two days later, as he was pulling out of town, I explained to Haywood that he just had to let me put his story on the record. "It'll make me look like a wuss," he said. I convinced him that in view of the fact that his bravery exceeded that of the entire Police Department and possibly the Armed Forces of the United States, the last thing he would look like is a wuss.
"All right," he finally said, "but then you got to get the story exactly straight. There was one other reason I stayed. It wasn't as important as the cats. But it wouldn't be a true story unless you mentioned the other reason."
"What's the other reason?"
"It took my wife 12 hours to drive from New Orleans to Jackson on Sunday," he said. "She left Sunday at 1 p.m. and arrived in Jackson at 1 a.m."
"That's usually a two-and-a-half-hour drive."
"Right. So what?"
"You don't understand: I hate traffic."
Great article about life in New Orleans, pre- and
post-Katrina: Wading Toward Home
Sun-Oct 02 2005
Sun-Sep 25 2005
Al, Run In '08
"We are now told that this is not a time to point fingers, even as some of those saying, "Don't point fingers," are themselves pointing fingers at the victims of the tragedy, who did not -- many of whom could not -- evacuate the city of New Orleans, because they didn't have automobiles, and they did not have adequate public transportation.
Al Gore: A Moral Moment
We're told this is not a time to hold our national government accountable because there are more important matters that confront us. This is not an either/or choice. They are linked together. As our nation belatedly finds effective ways to help those who have been so hard hit by Hurricane Katrina, it is important that we learn the right lessons of what has happened, lest we are spoon-fed the wrong lessons from what happened. If we do not absorb the right lessons, we are, in the historian's phrase, doomed to repeat the mistakes that have already been made.
All of us know that our nation -- all of us, the United States of America -- failed the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast when this hurricane was approaching them, and when it struck. When the corpses of American citizens are floating in toxic floodwaters five days after a hurricane strikes, it is time not only to respond directly to the victims of the catastrophe but to hold the processes of our nation accountable, and the leaders of our nation accountable, for the failures that have taken place."
Via Follow Me Here
Sat-Sep 24 2005
"As Hurricane Katrina began pounding New Orleans, the sheriff's department abandoned hundreds of inmates imprisoned in the city?s jail, Human Rights Watch said today.
Inmates in Templeman III, one of several buildings in the Orleans Parish Prison compound, reported that as of Monday, August 29, there were no correctional officers in the building, which held more than 600 inmates. These inmates, including some who were locked in ground-floor cells, were not evacuated until Thursday, September 1, four days after flood waters in the jail had reached chest-level.
According to inmates interviewed by Human Rights Watch, they had no food or water from the inmates' last meal over the weekend of August 27-28 until they were evacuated on Thursday, September 1. By Monday, August 29, the generators had died, leaving them without lights and sealed in without air circulation. The toilets backed up, creating an unbearable stench.
"They left us to die there," Dan Bright, an Orleans Parish Prison inmate told Human Rights Watch at Rapides Parish Prison, where he was sent after the evacuation.
As the water began rising on the first floor, prisoners became anxious and then desperate. Some of the inmates were able to force open their cell doors, helped by inmates held in the common area. All of them, however, remained trapped in the locked facility.
"The water started rising, it was getting to here," said Earrand Kelly, an inmate from Templeman III, as he pointed at his neck. "We was calling down to the guys in the cells under us, talking to them every couple of minutes. They were crying, they were scared. The one that I was cool with, he was saying ?I'm scared. I feel like I'm about to drown.' He was crying."
Some inmates from Templeman III have said they saw bodies floating in the floodwaters as they were evacuated from the prison. A number of inmates told Human Rights Watch that they were not able to get everyone out from their cells.
Inmates broke jail windows to let air in. They also set fire to blankets and shirts and hung them out of the windows to let people know they were still in the facility. Apparently at least a dozen inmates jumped out of the windows.
"We started to see people in T3 hangin' shirts on fire out the windows," Brooke Moss, an Orleans Parish Prison officer told Human Rights Watch. "They were wavin' em. Then we saw them jumping out of the windows . . . Later on, we saw a sign, I think somebody wrote `help' on it."
As of yesterday, signs reading "Help Us," and "One Man Down," could still be seen hanging from a window in the third floor of Templeman III.
Several corrections officers told Human Rights Watch there was no evacuation plan for the prison, even though the facility had been evacuated during floods in the 1990s."
"You can trust us, we're with the government"
Prisoners Abandoned to Floodwaters
Via Boing Boing
Thu-Sep 15 2005
It Takes A Village To Flood A City
"The federal official with the power to mobilize a massive federal response to Hurricane Katrina was
Homeland Security Secretary
Michael Chertoff, not the former FEMA chief who was relieved of his duties and resigned earlier this week, federal documents reviewed by Knight Ridder show.
Even before the storm struck the Gulf Coast, Chertoff could have ordered federal agencies into action without any request from state or local officials.
Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Michael Brown had only limited authority to do so until about 36 hours after the storm hit, when Chertoff designated him as the "principal federal official" in charge of the storm.
As thousands of hurricane victims went without food, water and shelter in the days after Katrina's early morning Aug. 29 landfall, critics assailed Brown for being responsible for delays that might have cost hundreds of lives.
But Chertoff - not Brown - was in charge of managing the national response to a catastrophic disaster, according to the National Response Plan, the federal government's blueprint for how agencies will handle major natural disasters or terrorist incidents. An order issued by
President Bush in 2003 also assigned that responsibility to the homeland security director.
But according to a memo obtained by Knight Ridder, Chertoff didn't shift that power to Brown until late afternoon or evening on Aug. 30, about 36 hours after Katrina hit Louisiana and Mississippi. That same memo suggests that Chertoff may have been confused about his lead role in disaster response and that of his department.
White House and homeland security officials wouldn't explain why Chertoff waited some 36 hours to declare Katrina an incident of national significance and why he didn't immediately begin to direct the federal response from the moment on Aug. 27 when the
National Hurricane Center predicted that Katrina would strike the Gulf Coast with catastrophic force in 48 hours. Nor would they explain why Bush felt the need to appoint a separate task force.
Chertoff's hesitation and Bush's creation of a task force both appear to contradict the National Response Plan and previous presidential directives that specify what the secretary of homeland security is assigned to do without further presidential orders. The goal of the National Response Plan is to provide a streamlined framework for swiftly delivering federal assistance when a disaster - caused by terrorists or Mother Nature - is too big for local officials to handle.
The Department of Homeland Security has refused repeated requests to provide details about Chertoff's schedule and said it couldn't say specifically when the department requested assistance from the military. Knocke said a military liaison was working with FEMA, but said he didn't know his or her name or rank. FEMA officials said they wouldn't provide information about the liaison."
I like this, working up the line. So who's Chertoff's boss again?
Chertoff delayed federal response, memo shows
Wed-Sep 14 2005
"The official autopsies of the flawed response to the catastrophic storm have already begun in Washington, and may offer lessons for dealing with a terrorist attack or even another hurricane this season. But an initial examination of Hurricane Katrina's aftermath demonstrates the extent to which the federal government failed to fulfill the pledge it made after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to face domestic threats as a unified, seamless force.
NYT Katrina Failure Overview
Instead, the crisis in New Orleans deepened because of a virtual standoff between hesitant federal officials and besieged authorities in Louisiana, interviews with dozens of officials show.
Federal Emergency Management Agency officials expected the state and city to direct their own efforts and ask for help as needed. Leaders in Louisiana and New Orleans, though, were so overwhelmed by the scale of the storm that they were not only unable to manage the crisis, but they were not always exactly sure what they needed. While local officials assumed that Washington would provide rapid and considerable aid, federal officials, weighing legalities and logistics, proceeded at a deliberate pace.
FEMA appears to have underestimated the storm, despite an extraordinary warning from the National Hurricane Center that it could cause "human suffering incredible by modern standards." The agency dispatched only 7 of its 28 urban search and rescue teams to the area before the storm hit and sent no workers at all into New Orleans until after the hurricane passed on Monday, Aug. 29."
Sat-Sep 10 2005
"A few blocks from Mr. O'Dwyer, in an exclusive gated community known as Audubon Place, is the home of James Reiss, descendent of an old-line Uptown family. He fled Hurricane Katrina just before the storm and returned soon afterward by private helicopter. Mr. Reiss became wealthy as a supplier of electronic systems to shipbuilders, and he serves in Mayor Nagin's administration as chairman of the city's Regional Transit Authority. When New Orleans descended into a spiral of looting and anarchy, Mr. Reiss helicoptered in an Israeli security company to guard his Audubon Place house and those of his neighbors.
Rebuilding NOLA, Without Those Pesky Poor People
He says he has been in contact with about 40 other New Orleans business leaders since the storm. Tomorrow, he says, he and some of those leaders plan to be in Dallas, meeting with Mr. Nagin to begin mapping out a future for the city.
The power elite of New Orleans -- whether they are still in the city or have moved temporarily to enclaves such as Destin, Fla., and Vail, Colo. -- insist the remade city won't simply restore the old order. New Orleans before the flood was burdened by a teeming underclass, substandard schools and a high crime rate. The city has few corporate headquarters.
The new city must be something very different, Mr. Reiss says, with better services and fewer poor people. "Those who want to see this city rebuilt want to see it done in a completely different way: demographically, geographically and politically," he says. "I'm not just speaking for myself here. The way we've been living is not going to happen again, or we're out.""
Via robot wisdom weblog
Hey, At Least He's Consistent
"But it's so unfair, isn't it, to attack poor Dubya like this? Just a little misplaced? After all, Bush has always been the rich white man's president. He is the CEO president, the megacorporate businessman's friend, the thug of the religious right, a big reservoir-tipped condom for all energy magnates, protecting against the nasty STDs of humanitarianism and progress and social responsibility.
Morford: What Did You Expect?
He has always been merely an entirely selective figurehead, out of touch and eternally dumbfounded, a hand puppet of the neoconservative machine built and fluffed up and carefully placed for the very specific job of protecting their interests, no matter what. Repeat: No. Matter. What. Flood hurricane disaster war social breakdown economic collapse? Doesn't matter. Corporate interests über alles, baby. Protect the core, reassure the base, screw everyone else unless it begins to affect the poll numbers and then finger-point, deflect, prevaricate. All of a piece, really. Because Bush, he was never actually meant to, you know, lead.
So maybe it's time to stop with the savaging of poor Dubya. He is, after all, doing a simply beautiful job of kowtowing to his wealthiest supporters while slamming the poor and running the nation into a deep hole and creating the largest deficit in American history, all while his cronies in oil and industry and military supply and Big Energy gain immense and staggering wealth and pay less and less tax on it. This is what he was hired to do. This is why he is in office. Hell, the day after Katrina, Bush flew right by Louisiana and headed straight to San Diego to party with his Greatest Generation cronies. Reassure the masters, first and foremost, eh Shrub? Understood.
Is this not what we all expected? Can you reasonably say you thought it would be different? Just look. All major social services are being gutted. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is a joke, second in line only to the ungodly useless Homeland Security Department, which has become about as reassuring and trustworthy and humane an organization as a prison in Guantánamo.
Let's say it outright. The truest measure of any president, of any leader, is how well he takes care of his own people. And Bush, well, Bush has done a simply spectacular job of taking care of exactly his own people -- the wealthy, the corporate, the extreme religious right, his core base of supporters -- while happily and fiercely ignoring, restricting, condemning, destroying the rest. Are you educated or progressive or liberal or alternative-minded or sexually open or homosexual or anti-war? This means you. Are you dirt poor and belong to a minority and don't drive an SUV and contribute six figures per annum to the RNC and maybe live in a flooded swamp in the Louisiana bayou? This means you, squared. Sucker.
Here, then, is the new American motto, as reimagined by BushCo: Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, and we'll let them die in a filthy and decrepit storm-ravaged American football stadium while our president languishes on vacation and ponders his oil futures and fondly remembers his good ol' days of getting drunk at Mardi Gras before going AWOL from the military. God bless America."
"Sept. 7. 2004
Cheney told Republican supporters at a town hall meeting in Des Moines that they needed to make "the right choice" in the November 2 election.
"If we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we'll get hit again -- that we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States," Cheney said."
Veep Predicted Katrina
Yea, Go Prepare
"Statement by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 9, 2005
The effort to respond and recover from Hurricane Katrina is moving forward. We are preparing to move from the immediate emergency response phase to the next phase of operations. Importantly, we must have seamless interaction with military forces as we move forward with our critical work in New Orleans and the surrounding parishes. At the same time, we are still in hurricane season and need to be prepared to deal effectively with the possibility of future hurricanes and other disasters.
Therefore, I have directed Mike Brown to return to administering FEMA nationally, and I have appointed Vice Admiral Thad Allen of the Coast Guard as the Principal Federal Official (PFO) overseeing Hurricane Katrina response and recovery effort in the field. Joe Picciano will continue to be deputy PFO in Baton Rouge to support Admiral Allen's efforts."
Oh goody, Brownie is free to destroy another city.
Brown Moved From Field
Fri-Sep 09 2005
Thu-Sep 08 2005
I Don't Know What To Think
Utility Fog reader Zeus points out an incredible story. Note the date.
"Sunday, July 24 2005
You're On Your Own
City, state and federal emergency officials are preparing to give the poorest of New Orleans' poor a historically blunt message: In the event of a major hurricane, you're on your own.
In scripted appearances being recorded now, officials such as Mayor Ray Nagin, local Red Cross Executive Director Kay Wilkins and City Council President Oliver Thomas drive home the word that the city does not have the resources to move out of harm's way an estimated 134,000 people without transportation.
In the video, made by the anti-poverty agency Total Community Action, they urge those people to make arrangements now by finding their own ways to leave the city in the event of an evacuation.
"You're responsible for your safety, and you should be responsible for the person next to you," Wilkins said in an interview. "If you have some room to get that person out of town, the Red Cross will have a space for that person outside the area. We can help you.
"But we don't have the transportation.""
Via My Suddenly Useful Comments System
" At a news conference, Pelosi, D-Calif., said Bush's choice for head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency had "absolutely no credentials."
She related that she urged Bush at the White House on Tuesday to fire Brown.
"He said 'Why would I do that?'" Pelosi said.
"'I said because of all that went wrong, of all that didn't go right last week.' And he said 'What didn't go right?'"
"Oblivious, in denial, dangerous," she added."
But everything is going to be alright, because GWB himself is going lead an investigation
into Katrina relief failures.
"The government's disaster chief waited until hours after Hurricane Katrina had struck the Gulf Coast before asking his boss to send 1,000 Homeland Security employees to the region ? and gave them two days to arrive, according to internal documents.
"FEMA response and recovery operations are a top priority of the department and as we know, one of yours," Brown wrote Chertoff. He proposed sending 1,000 Homeland Security Department employees within 48 hours and 2,000 within seven days.
(Spokesman Russ) Knocke said the 48-hour period suggested for the Homeland employees was to ensure that they had adequate training. "They were training to help the life-savers," Knocke said."
Hey, I've got an idea. Why not train FEMA employees BEFORE THE DISASTER HAPPENS.
The Randi Rhodes Show
homepage has timeline links:
Very Brief Visual Timeline
More Detailed ThinkProgress Timeline
Very Detailed Wikipedia Timeline
Very Detailed Dkosopedia Timeline
Wed-Sep 07 2005
" As New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin pleaded on national television for firefighters - his own are exhausted after working around the clock for a week - a battalion of highly trained men and women sat idle Sunday in a muggy Sheraton Hotel conference room in Atlanta.
Many of the firefighters, assembled from Utah and throughout the United States by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, thought they were going to be deployed as emergency workers.
Instead, they have learned they are going to be community-relations officers for FEMA, shuffled throughout the Gulf Coast region to disseminate fliers and a phone number"
I almost missed the worst part. Wasting badly needed firefighters on community relations
is incompetence, but using them for a photo-op when they could be saving lives is criminal.
But as specific orders began arriving to the firefighters in Atlanta, a team of 50 Monday morning quickly was ushered onto a flight headed for Louisiana. The crew's first assignment: to stand beside President Bush as he tours devastated areas.
From My Comments/Katrina
"I am from New orleans and I know there were thousands of buses,at least one ferry (a block from the convention center and some tour boats also available to evacuate those people both before the storm and in many cases after the levee break. Those people were murdered..pure and simple."
Mon-Sep 05 2005
"This event is emblematic of Republican governance. It encompasses every fuck-up they've perpetrated since they took over the entire national governament --- failure to plan, embracing only the best case scenario, lagging response, ignoring the experts, slashing funds and endless, endless happy talk that we can SEE WITH OUR OWN EYES is bullshit. (They are already saying that nobody is reporting all the "good news.")
Katrina is all about politics
The fact that most of these refugees (a word that I can hardly believe I'm typing) are black and poor residents who were unable to leave and were therefore, left to die, is emblematic also.
No, this is all about politics. It is about a GOP era of massive tax breaks for very rich Americans, billion dollar a week elective wars that we are losing while more and more people fall into poverty and the infrastructure of this country crumbles around our ears.
This failed experiment in free-market magical thinking can be summed up entirely by pictures of dead elderly Americans on the streets of New Orleans."
"Other swimmers had to break through rooftops with their bare hands, prompting the Coast Guard to begin outfitting all of them with axes. Gerald Hoover, 39, of Perry, Fla., used one to break through a window so he could lift a 160-pound woman into a rescue basket. He and his crew, their helicopter hovering, then had to work in concert to carefully lift the 70-year-old between her building and a tree so that the basket would not smash into either.
That incident showed how many New Orleans residents have gone to extraordinary lengths to help the frail. Hoover and his team would never have found the woman without the help of a boy who had been swimming back and forth to her second-story apartment to provide her with food.
The sheer scope of the mission and its emotional toll is something the Coast Guard personnel say they will remember for the rest of their lives.
For Skarra, flying at night over the city of New Orleans presents an image as surreal as it is daunting. "Everyone is shining their flashlights," he said, "so as you're flying over, it's kind of like you see a sky full of sparkling stars. So which star do you pick?"
Somebody on Cable News said that the Coast Guard has made more
rescues in the last week than in the last 50 years.
Katrina/What Went Wrong
"Day after day of images showed exhausted families and their
crying children stepping around corpses while they begged: Where is the water?
Where are the buses? They seemed helpless, powerless, at the mercy of forces
far beyond their control. The lack of rapid response left people in the United
States, and all over the world, wondering how an American city could look like
Mogadishu or Port-au-Prince. The refugee crisis-a million people without
homes, jobs, schools-hardly fit George W. Bush's vision of the American Colossus.
New Orleans-The Lost City
What went wrong? Just about everything. How the system failed is a tangled
story, but the basic narrative is becoming clearer: hesitancy, bureaucratic
rivalries, failures of leadership from city hall to the White House and
epically bad luck combined to create a morass. In the early aftermath, fingers
pointed in all directions. The president was to blame; no, the looters. No,
the bureaucrats. No, the local politicians. It was FEMA's fault-unless it was the Department of Homeland Security's. Or the Pentagon's. Certainly the government failed, and the catastrophe exposed, for all the world to see, raw racial divisions."
Via robot wisdom weblog
Sidenote: Dr. Phil and Geraldo have leaped into action and camera range, so we
have that going for us.
Talking Points Memo
is all over Karl Rove's Katrina storyline. Those damn
facts seem to keep getting in the way of Bush leading us boldly into a glorious future.
"It's almost awe-inspiring to see the level of energy and coordination the Bush White House can bring to bear in a genuine crisis. Not hurricane Katrina, of course, but the political crisis they now find rising around them.
As we noted yesterday, the storyline and the outlines of the attack are now clear: pin the blame for the debacle on state and local authorities.
So, let's get all the facts out on the table now. And let's not be afraid to let them all fall where they may. There's no need to make saints of Gov. Blanco or Mayor Nagin. In such a storm of error as this, it would not surprise me if they made a number of them too. But the reason you have a federal government and particularly a FEMA in cases like this is that it is in the nature of local and state authorities to be at least partly overwhelmed in disasters of this magnitude."
Katrina/It CAN Get Worse
"BROOKLIN, Canada - Up to 12 more tropical storms are expected to follow Hurricane Katrina, the most destructive storm to ever strike the United States, and four may be major hurricanes, according to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The Endless Hurricane Season
Katrina, which made landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast Monday, has killed at least 110 people and left a million homeless. Preliminary damage estimates top 25 billion dollars. Refugee camps will be needed to house hundreds of thousands of people for weeks and months -- and perhaps longer, experts say. And it will be another week or two before the full extent of devastation is known.
Shockingly, there may be more storms to come. "This may well be one of the most active Atlantic hurricane seasons on record, and will be the ninth above-normal Atlantic hurricane season in the last 11 years," Brig. Gen. David L. Johnson, director of the NOAA National Weather Service, said in a statement.
NOAA forecasts a whopping 21 tropical storms -- double the norm -- before the end of hurricane season on Nov. 30. That means the U.S., Mexico and Caribbean region could still be pounded by another 10 to 12 storms, including a major hurricane on the scale of Katrina. Fortunately, not all of these will make landfall. "
Via robot wisdom weblog
- Michael Chertoff, our Director of Homeland Security, stated
today that the disaster along the Gulf Coast is "breathtaking in its
surprise" and that its occurrence was "not reasonably forseeable". (You
can listen to the second quote yourself.) He claimed outright that the hurricane and the levee breaches were two entirely separate and unrelated catastrophes,
and then used that to explain why we weren't prepared for the
aftermath. (In that recording snippet, he even panders a bit by
offhandedly stating that we weren't prepared for an atomic bomb,
either.) A few media outlets, CNN included,
immediately called him on the claim, but unfortunately it doesn't seem
like anyone did so during the interview. I really can't believe that
there are still excuses coming out of the mouths of cabinet-level
officials on this.
- Mike Brown, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has no prior disaster management experience and was forced to resign from his last job for "supervision failures".
Lifted wholesale from Q Daily News
Sun-Sep 04 2005
"(CNN) -- The director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Thursday those New Orleans residents who chose not to heed warnings to evacuate before Hurricane Katrina bear some responsibility for their fates.
Michael Brown also agreed with other public officials that the death toll in the city could reach into the thousands.
"Unfortunately, that's going to be attributable a lot to people who did not heed the advance warnings," Brown told CNN.
"I don't make judgments about why people chose not to leave but, you know, there was a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans," he said.
"Considering the dire circumstances that we have in New Orleans -- virtually a city that has been destroyed -- that things are going relatively well," Brown said.
Nevertheless, he said he could "empathize with those in miserable conditions."
Asked later on CNN how he could blame the victims, many of whom could not flee the storm because they had no transportation or were too frail to evacuate on their own, Brown said he was not blaming anyone.
"Now is not the time to be blaming," Brown said. "Now is the time to recognize that whether they chose to evacuate or chose not to evacuate, we have to help them.""
FEMA chief: Victims bear some responsibility
WASHINGTON (Reuters)-Two key U.S. senators said on Friday they will launch a bipartisan coverup of what they described as an "immense, but probably unavoidable failure" of the government response to Hurricane Katrina.
Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican who heads the Senate
Governmental Affairs Committee, and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the panel's
other top-ranking Republican, said they hope to shift as much blame as
possible to lower-ranking officials and career federal
employees-ideally at an obscure government agency that few Americans
have ever heard of.
"In keeping with recent congressional practice, we will try to
shield the president and the senior members of his administration from
directly responsibility for this fiasco, although a few token
resignations may be required this time around," the pair said in a
joint statement. "Our primary focus, however, will be on figuring out
how to throw billions of dollars in additional funding to the very same
agencies that failed so spectacularly this past week."
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist expressed his own support for
a cover up, saying it would follow in the "proud footsteps" of
Congress's refusal to hold anyone accountable for the failure to stop
the 9/11 attacks, the completely inadequate investigation into the Abu
Ghraib torture abuses, and the Senate Intelligence Committtee's
whitewash of administration efforts to cook the intelligence on weapons
of mass destruction in Iraq.
Speaker of the House Denny Hastert declined to comment on the
hurricane or the proposed Senate investigation, other than to make a
loud "BRRRRRRRR" sound while pushing a toy bulldozer across a map of
Via Making Light
Nothing To See Here
If I hear another Authority Figure/Talking Head say
"Now is not the time to start blaming people/play politics"
I'm going to be seriously tempted to head-butt my TV. Yes, why don't we wait
until later when Katina has dropped out of the news cycle and we're all
distracted by some new scandal-de-jour and celebrity divorce.
Sisyphus Shrugged's big bunch of Katrina links
Red Cross: "We're not being allowed into New Orleans".
Times-Picayune: 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
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
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
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
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
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
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."
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
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.