Friday, September 16, 2005

Josh Marshall Fortune Cookie

Last night, President Bush said:

"It is now clear that a challenge on this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces."

Josh Marshall, producer of the gold-standard of liberal blogs, Talking Points Memo, responded to that scary thought with this outstanding gem:

"You don't repair disorganized or incompetent government by granting it more power. You fix it by making it more organized and more competent. If conservatism can't grasp that point, what is it good for?"

There is genuine fraticide going down with the GOP. From Delay saying there is no more fat to cut, to Lott saying, “You are a fiscal conservative until you get hit by a natural disaster." And the NYTimes quotes GOP Senator Tom Coburn, "I don't believe that everything that should happen in Louisiana should be paid for by the rest of the country. I believe there are certain responsibilities that are due the people of Louisiana."

Out of Katrina, we may well get the political makeovers that are long overdue. The Democratic Party may finally find its voice. And fiscal conservatism and accountability may overtake the cronyism that infects both parties but which has totally debilitated the Republican Party.

What say you RINO's?

A Visit from the SoCal Pundit

Kevin Korenthal, Los Angelos city chairman of the Bush/Cheney 2004 campaign, and owner/operator of the SoCal Pundit (which offers "conservative news and views from Southern California") has taken issue with my post below on the blameworthiness of Louisina Governor Blanco.

Kevin writes:

"Too bad this report looking only at what Blanco did leading up to Katrina hitting landfall. You guys should study these HIGHLY PARTISAN investigations that Mr. Conyers has become famous for launching before you pretend to know what the findings represent. If you are interested in a more candid examination of the report, click here."

The more candid examination was Kevin's. And because Kevin's a conservative, he's more"candid" than either me or the Congressional Research Service which performed the investigation at Congressman Conyer's behest.

Kevin concludes:

"Let’s assume for a second that everything in this report is true and correct. In this cheesy attempt to stall off a real investigation, Conyers succeeded in identifying only that, prior to the hurricane, the Gov. of Louisiana called a state of emergency as per the law. This of course is not, as Conyer’s (sic) claims, the extent of Gov. Blanco’s duties as they relate to what happened after the hurricane hit land. It proves only that she completed the only task that would have been necessary if this had been a straight hurricane w/out the subsequent flooding.
Nice try Conyer’s (sic) but no cigar."

OK. A couple of things.

(1) Are you suggesting, Kevin, that Congressman Conyers doesn't want a real, INDEPENDENT investigation? Because, brother, I gotta tell you, ALL us lefties want one, bad. We want another 9/11 style investigation in the worst way, because the verdict is a done deal. If Evan Thomas's piece in Newsweek is even close, if Knight-Ridder is close to the mark on Chertoff, then we're coming close to negligent homicide for the Bush Administration.

(2) "It proves only that she completed the only task that would have been necessary if this had been a straight hurricane w/out the subsequent flooding." Is that opposed to a queer hurricane? Seriously, once the request has been made for federal assistance, once a State of Emergency has been declared by the Governor, the whole ball of wax sits in the hands of the federal government, per a law signed last year, which went into effect March 1, 2005. Quoting straight from the Dept. of Homeland Security website:

Preparing America
In the event of a terrorist attack, natural disaster or other large-scale emergency, the Department of Homeland Security will assume primary responsibility on March 1st for ensuring that emergency response professionals are prepared for any situation. This will entail providing a coordinated, comprehensive federal response to any large-scale crisis and mounting a swift and effective recovery effort.

Bush's response? From the White House website: (8/27)

"White House declares impending disaster area and orders DHS and FEMA to prepare "to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures"

You'll notice that there's no caveat in neither the DHS edict nor the disaster declaration that flooding isn't included. Neither DHS nor FEMA were expected to behave like Allstate and say "Well madam, the policy only covers hurricane damage and not flood damage, so those folks in the Convention Center and Superdome are SOL."

And Kevin, are you seriously suggesting that there was an intelligent soul on the planet that didn't expect catastrophic flooding from a Category 5 hurricane aimed straight at New Orleans? Did that have to be spelled out in any event?

One more piece of the timeline and we'll call this response done. Take a look at the parishes the White House declared as disaster areas (hat tip: Bob Harris):

The further the parish was from the potential area of disaster, the more likely it made W's list of declared disaster areas.

Bring that independent commission on, baby!

And Kevin, come back anytime.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

President Cartman "Takes Responsibility"

Popularity ratings in freefall, the White House spin team decided to kinda go for broke and apply the Mea Culpa Tourniquet yesterday, providing the President with this script:

"Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government," Bush said at joint White House news conference with the president of Iraq.
"To the extent the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility," Bush said."

Such heartfelt, soul-searching words reminded me of a far more entertaining faux apology, from a faux Christian to a wronged African American.....

"I'm sorrrrry, Token"

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Necessary & Timely Baby!

Conyers Releases Non-Partisan Congressional Research Service Report on Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina: Report Confirms that Louisiana Took Necessary and Timely Steps.

9/13/2005 2:52:00 PM


WASHINGTON, Sept. 13 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Pursuant to a September 7 request by Representative John Conyers to review the law and legal accountability relating to Federal action in response to Hurricane Katrina, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) issued a report today about whether the Governor of Louisiana took the necessary and timely steps needed to secure disaster relief from the federal government. The report unequivocally concludes that she did. (FUCK YOU Karl!!)

Congressman Conyers issued the following statement:

"This report closes the book on the Bush Administration's attempts to evade accountability by shifting the blame to the Governor of Louisiana for the Administration's tragically sluggish response to Katrina. It confirms that the Governor did everything she could to secure relief for the people of Louisiana and the Bush Administration was caught napping at a critical time."
In addition to finding that " would appear that the Governor did take the steps necessary to request emergency and major disaster declarations for the State of Louisiana in anticipation of Hurricane Katrina. (p.11)" The report found that:

-- All necessary conditions for federal relief were met on August 28. Pursuant to Section 502 of the Stafford Act, "(t)he declaration of an emergency by the President makes Federal emergency assistance available," and the President made such a declaration on August 28. The public record indicates that several additional days passed before such assistance was actually made available to the State;

-- The Governor must make a timely request for such assistance, which meets the requirements of federal law. The report states that "(e)xcept to the extent that an emergency involves primarily Federal interests, both declarations of major disaster and declarations of emergency must be triggered by a request to the President from the Governor of the affected state";

-- The Governor did indeed make such a request, which was both timely and in compliance with federal law. The report finds that "Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco requested by letter dated August 27, 2005...that the President declare an emergency for the State of Louisiana due to Hurricane Katrina for the time period from August 26, 2005 and continuing pursuant to (applicable Federal statute)" and "Governor Blanco's August 27, 2005 request for an emergency declaration also included her determination...that 'the incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State and affected local governments and that supplementary Federal assistance is necessary to save lives, protect property, public health, and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of disaster."

Monday, September 12, 2005

Magic Bullets & Big Whoppers

Yesterday, September 12, the President did what all razor-sharp 3rd graders do when caught telling an unmitigated whopper -- offer up an even bigger whooper to in a desperate attempt to cover the first one, usually eliciting a hearty chuckle from the adults in earshot.

Consider the first whopper, here in all its glory and context, three days after Katrina hit:

Bush: "Well, I fully understand people wanting things to have happened yesterday. I mean, I understand the anxiety of people on the ground. I can imagine -- I just can't imagine what it is like to be waving a sign saying 'come and get me now'. So there is frustration. But I want people to know there is a lot of help coming.
"I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees. They did anticipate a serious storm. But these levees got breached. And as a result, much of New Orleans is flooded. And now we are having to deal with it and will."

The comment received widespread, legitimate derision. It bespoke of the President's generally disengaged posture and attitude. The comment was part of the continuing narrative that he is an unabashed "save-ass" -- nothing, nothing is ever his fault. The self-described CEO President did what the worst American CEOs have done, and get away with: pass the buck, lying through their privileged teeth in the process while retaining their golden parachutes and outrageous bonuses. Bush learned well as exemplified by his ├╝berpatron "Kenny-Boy" Lay of the Enron debacle.

But absolutely no one bought Bush's most recent lie. It was so blatant, so over-the-top, even by the subterranean standards of national politics, the lie was unforgivable. People were dead because of the failure of the levees which had been foreseen for years. News that the Army Corps of Engineers concluded that even if Bush budget cuts hadn't been made and the levees had been strengthened, they still would not have provided a guarantee of protection from storm surge and intense winds, yielded lousy political cover, as the pictures of the disaster were a mainstay for over a week. The lie and the floating bodies remained. And they constituted a big part of the stench of a presidency that is increasingly seen as a failure in the wake of his lies about Social Security and his more consequential lies about how well everything is going in Iraq.

So the lie had to be covered-up. And so when the President faced the press Monday morning he did his dance:

THE PRESIDENT:...And so when I come into a briefing, I don't tell them what to do. They tell me the facts on the ground, and my question to them is, do you have what you need.

Q Did they misinform you when you said that no one anticipated the breach of the levees?

THE PRESIDENT: No, what I was referring to is this. When that storm came by, a lot of people said we dodged a bullet. When that storm came through at first, people said, whew. There was a sense of relaxation, and that's what I was referring to. And I, myself, thought we had dodged a bullet. You know why? Because I was listening to people, probably over the airways, say, the bullet has been dodged. And that was what I was referring to.Of course, there were plans in case the levee had been breached. There was a sense of relaxation in the moment, a critical moment. And thank you for giving me a chance to clarify that."

New Orleans natives in a state of relaxation Monday, August 29th

But that can't be what he was "referring to." Again, his earlier lie: "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees. They did anticipate a serious storm. "

So, "they" anticipated a storm. That, of course, meant that they thought a storm was coming. BEFORE the storm hit, experts thought Katrina would hit New Orleans. When he says that he meant, that nobody "anticipated the breach of the levees", he, of course, meant those same experts during the same moment in time -- BEFORE the storm hit. But now he wants us to believe he meant no one anticipated the breach AFTER landfall, after the levees had successfully dodged the magic category 4 bullet. And he wants us to believe that everyone was breathing a collective sigh of relief right after landfall, that the worst has passed. Citations Mr. President? Where are the tapes of meteorolgists broadcasting "all is well" over the "airways" in the hours right after landfall?

We all know better. For a lie to work, at the very least, it has to describe the possible. And the cover-up lie demands we believe the impossible.

We all became meteorological experts as we were glued to Katrina's progress. We learned that the moment which the most vulnerable levees would be under the greatest stress would indeed be AFTER landfall. It would be as Katrina moved slightly to the north and to the east of Lake Ponchetrain. It would be when Katrina's category 4 winds would be slamming water and wind into the lake levees in a 12 o'clock to 9 o'clock, counterclockwise, north-to-south motion. And that is indeed when they failed.

But now the President wants the American people to believe that his comment was referring to the brief moment in time AFTER the storm hit yet still BEFORE the levees failed. And while we can concede that there indeed was a moment that did indeed exist AFTER landfall and yet BEFORE the failure of the levees, there was no discernible moment in the timeline that had people breathing the sigh of relief he now attempts to insinuate to cover his own pathetic and culpable ass.

The President wants us to believe that he was quite attuned to the situation, as he kept abreast of the latest developments listening to the "airways." When was he listening? Who could have been telling him what?

Consider the President's schedule during the fateful day:

"President Bush hits the road to promote prescription-drug plan. His first stop is Arizona, where he eats birthday cake with Senator John McCain and talks to senior citizens in Phoenix at a golf resort. In late afternoon, there are early reports of broken levees. The National Weather Service reported that a levee broke on the Industrial Canal near the St. Bernard-Orleans parish line. President Bush travels to Southern California to talk to more seniors about changes to Medicare. He also plays golf. He spends the evening in San Diego to prepare for a Tuesday speech commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the end of World War Two."

The first levees actually failed BEFORE NOON on Monday though the news might not have been on the "airways" yet - but one might expect that the President might be better informed than those who only rely on mere "airways". Did the President interrupt his schedule, did he do anything to reflect that the long-predicted apocalypse had occurred? No. He played golf.

And then he lied three days later to Diane Sawyer about what was "expected" to provide cover and political absolution for his insularity during the crucial early hours, and for his now-unseemly budget cuts of the vital levees. Two weeks later, after the political shitstorm of the 21st century, he lied about the lie.

And he kept on lying....

Q Mr. President, where were you when you realized the severity of the storm?

THE PRESIDENT: I was -- I knew that a big storm was coming on Monday, so I spoke to the country on Monday* morning about it. I said, there's a big storm coming. I had pre-signed emergency declarations in anticipation of a big storm coming.

Q Mr. President --

THE PRESIDENT: -- which is, by the way, extraordinary. Most emergencies the President signs after the storm has hit. It's a rare occasion for the President to anticipate the severity of a storm and sign the documentation prior to the storm hitting. So, in other words, we anticipated a serious storm coming. But as the man's question said, basically implied, wasn't there a moment where everybody said, well, gosh, we dodged the bullet, and yet the bullet hadn't been dodged."

So, we get the "dodge the bullet" lie repeated as if that would enhance that insane statement's credibility. But most outrageous insult to our collective intelligence and patience is delivered as the President chides us about not being appreciative enough of his stellar management.

We, the mere peons of the American electorate, are to be in awe of the man's prescience, a character trait of which he is so clearly bereft: "It's a rare occasion for the President to anticipate the severity of a storm and sign the documentation prior to the storm hitting."

What's rare is a President to have the gall to demand we kiss his ass after such a colossal fuck-up.

The contempt this President has for his fellow Americans is gross, historic, and irredeemable.

Do-It-Yourself Rescue Kits

In keeping with the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) mania that has swept the country the past years, Fafblog has put together three truly outstanding DIY projects for self-rescue, including the helicopter blueprints above, a make-your-own-national-guardsman, and a make-your-own-levee kit. Go see them for yourself and get on down to your local Hobby Shack before the next natural disaster hits your town.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Why They Couldn't Get Out -- The Edmund Pettus Bridge Part II

Forty years ago, civil rights protestors in a peaceful march from Selma to Montgomery, were attacked a mere six blocks into their march at the now historical, Edmund Pettus Bridge. They were attacked with billy clubs and tear gas by 600 local law enforcement officers because they wanted the right to vote. The televised pictures of the incident scandalized the entire nation and pushed LBJ into getting the Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed. Legislation which allowed the federal goverment to ensure that the voting rights of African Americans in the south, trampled upon since 1876 (the end of Reconstruction), would finally be respected and guaranteed. As a sidenote, the Bush Administration maintains that it is an open question as to whether the Voting Rights Act should be renewed, in much the same way Ronald Reagan did before the Congressional Democrats won renewal in the early 1980s.

Last week, there was another bridge for mostly black people to cross in the South. And the immediate stakes were higher -- the issue wasn't voting but survival. I had asked my sister who follows the news closely, "Why didn't they just walk out, why didn't they just leave the Superdome on foot rather than waiting for buses?" We've heard that the National Guard was holding people in. And now I read this sickening account where the police chief of Gretna, Louisiana blocked hurricane victims from entering his city over the bridge from the demolished New Orleans:

"As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions. As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of our conversation with the police commander and of the commander's assurances. The sheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move. We questioned why we couldn't cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the 6-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their City. "

"In an interview with UPI, Gretna Police Chief Arthur Lawson confirmed that his department shut down the bridge to pedestrians: "If we had opened the bridge, our city would have looked like New Orleans does now: looted, burned and pillaged." "

This is George Bush's and his fellow compassionate conservative's "Christian Nation."

On the last day, Jesus will say to those on His right hand, "Come, enter the Kingdom. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was sick and you visited me." Then Jesus will turn to those on His left hand and say, "Depart from me because I was hungry and you did not feed me, I was thirsty and you did not give me to drink, I was sick and you did not visit me." These will ask Him, "When did we see You hungry, or thirsty or sick and did not come to Your help?" And Jesus will answer them, "Whatever you neglected to do unto one of these least of these, you neglected to do unto Me!"

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Blame Game

The Bushies and their kin are bleating this week that we should all avoid the "blame game" when it comes to assigning who screwed up the most when it came to disaster relief.

The Bushies only want accountability and assignment of culpability when it comes to the peons. Teachers must be held accountable, enlisted soldiers shall be court-martialed.

But if you screw up royally, you're a Bush loyalist, and you're closer to the top of the food chain than the bottom -- then you get rewarded, promoted, and festooned with medals. Everyone else gets the firing squad.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Thank God for Billmon and the BBC

The rightwing blogosphere is falling all over itself today with three essential explanations as to what went wrong last week.

(1) Blacks and women can't ask for help properly. At least the ones who haven't hung around tough white guys and learned how.

(2) Tough white guys kick ass. They would have had that shit in the Superdome and Convention Center straight. Amuse yourself by reading Chris Whittle's white spittle on tribes. Especially amusing is how sharp and tough he thinks Rumsfeld is. Is there a self-help group somewhere for insecure white males? Or could we have a fund for blowjobs or reacharounds or something? Read the comments -- these guys gotta shoot something or their day is wasted and/or the enemy encroaches further.

(3) FEMA is incredibly competent. But the black guys and women didn't ask FEMA the right way at the right time.

And thank God for Billmon and the BBC. Birds-eye and historical coverage which you can't find anywhere else.

To support George W. Bush is to support a guy who thinks:
(1) "The jury is out" on the matter of evolution.
(2) An embryo is a person
(3) The Voting Rights Act doesn't need to be renewed (but, of course, he's not racist)
(4) Global Warming needs more study
(5) The creation of a twin-state and ally of Iran in the form of Shiite Iraq was the reason to go to war in 2003.
(6) No Child Left Behind can work without the money he promised the program.
(7) It's OK to torture people.
(8) Playing golf and the guitar the day after a category 4 hurricane hits New Orleans is the best use of his time, demonstrating stellar leadership and concern for potential and actual victims.
(9) That the American people, and especially the people of New Orleans will buy the lie: "I don’t think anyone anticipated breach of the levees."

Why the Bushies Hate PBS

"Yer doin' a GREAT job Brownie."

Boy, I can see why the Bushies hate PBS, and especially that communist Bill Moyers with his ultra-communist PBS NOW.

From the September 2, 2002 broadcast: (more here)

DANIEL ZWERDLING: The American Red Cross lists the worst natural disasters that might strike America. They worry about earthquakes in California, and tropical storms in Florida. But they say the biggest catastrophe could be a hurricane hitting New Orleans.
WALTER MAESTRI: It's going to look like a massive shipwreck. There's going to be-- there's going to be, you know-- everything that that the water has carried in is going to be there. Alligators, moccasins, you know every kind of rodent that you could think of.
All of your sewage treatment plants are under water. And of course the material is flowing free in the community. Disease becomes a distinct possibility now. The petrochemicals that are produced all up and down the Mississippi River --much of that has floated into this bowl. I mean this has become, you know, the biggest toxic waste dump in the world now. Is the city of New Orleans because of what has happened.
DANIEL ZWERDLING: Do you think that the President of the United States and Congress understand that people like you and the scientists studying this think the city of New Orleans could very possibly disappear?
WALTER MAESTRI: I think they know that, I think that they've been told that. I don't know that anybody, though, psychologically, you know has come to grips with that as-- as a-- a potential real situation. Just like none of us could possibly come to grips with the loss of the World Trade Center. And it's still hard for me to envision that it's gone. You know and it's impossible for someone like me to think that the French Quarter of New Orleans could be gone.

Bush: "I don’t think anyone anticipated breach of the levees …Now we’re having to deal with it, and will." has a nice rundown here.

Friday, September 02, 2005

The Baghdadization of New Orleans Part V

Well, I guess Rove broke the meeting with his attorneys long enough to tell His Majesty that he was appearing too disconnected from the plight of the serfs. I watched some of this pitiful performance this morning. Lots of nodding. The governors all tried to see which one could get his tongue the deepest up W's ass, while W nodded vigorously.

He didn't ask a single question. Not a goddamn one.

Jack Kennedy would have asked one tough, penetrating, pertinent question after another. So would Harry Truman, so would Ike and Nixon. LBJ would have called a special session of Congress BEFORE the storm hit -- it would have been a cold day in hell before he passed up a chance to save the day on camera.

But if you live in a bubble, if you have absolutely no imagination, if you have a freakish tendency to giggle and snicker every time the issue of death comes up, then this is what we get.

People who are starving, dehydrating, being shot at and getting a good case of typhoid could give two shits whether pseudo-macho man is "proud of the Coast Guard." Is THAT the issue, whether the efforts of the Coast Guard are in question, whether the Coast Guard is getting enough strokes?

James Buchanan, Warren G. Harding, U. S. Grant -- get out of the way -- there is no longer any doubt: WORST PRESIDENT EVER.

The Baghdadization of New Orleans Part IV

Tim Russert says:

"But the fact is that, when there was now evacuation and no pre-positioning of supplies within the city, that led to the current situation.President George W. Bush said the other day that no one expected the levees to break.Well, with all respect, study after study, including FEMA's own tabletop exercises last year, all included the breaking or the giving of the levees. Everyone who had studied the issue knew that with a Category 3, 4 or 5 storm, that was a very strong likelihood."

You got it, Tim. It's just like the State Department telling the Pentagon and W that all hell was gonna break loose in Baghdad after Sadaam was toppled. But you don't have to think about the future, you don't have to pre-position, if it isn't you, your kin, your class, your color, your religion at risk --- fuck all those people.

I wonder if the reaction would have been different if Jenna and Barbara were stranded in a flooding attic or in the Convention Center being raped. Of course, if we see the lack of love extended to his niece by his brother Jeb, he might say fuck them as well.

The Baghdadization of New Orleans Part III

From the NYTimes:

"Col. Terry Ebbert, director of homeland security for New Orleans, concurred and he was particularly pungent in his criticism. Asserting that the whole recovery operation had been "carried on the backs of the little guys for four goddamn days," he said "the rest of the goddamn nation can't get us any resources for security."

That's an eeire echo. He continues:

"We are like little birds with our mouths open and you don't have to be very smart to know where to drop the worm," Colonel Ebbert said. "It's criminal within the confines of the United States that within one hour of the hurricane they weren't force-feeding us. It's like FEMA has never been to a hurricane." FEMA is the Federal Emergency Management Agency."

Why does the President Hate Our Relief Workers? The Baghdadization of New Orleans Part II

I can't believe it. President Bush doesn't support the relief efforts nor our relief workers!!

"President Bush, facing blistering criticism for his administration's response to Hurricane Katrina, said Friday "the results are not acceptable"

I'm sure he'll start criticizing the war and our troops in Iraq any day now, given the similiar lack of success reported by the Iraqi people.


The Baghdadization of New Orleans Part I

One statistic I want to see is this: yes, "only" about 33% of the southeastern Nat. Guard is in the other shithole, but, (1) how much of their EQUIPMENT did they leave behind -- are there any big trucks, boats, etc? (2) How many of the men they left behind have field capabilities -- how many of the men who are stateside have the physical capacity to genuinely assist -- how many can only drive a desk (and that job is important too -- logistics). As I was watching CNN late last night with my Dad, the newsflash was that several of the buses which had just shown up from the Superdome to the new Astrodome WERE BEING DIVERTED TO BUMFUCK -- and more buses were on the way.

In a related note, Rummy was quoted as saying: "OK, this whole looting thing has been blown totally out of proportion. You see a black guy carrying bread in waist-deep water. And then they show it again, and again, and again. We know it's the same guy with the same bread -- how many black guys do they have in New Orleans, and how many loaves of bread? We need to get serious. The important thing is that these people will now live in a democracy."