Monday, September 26, 2005

Don't miss remarkable Dylan doc on PBS tonight.'No Direction': Scorsese Points The Way to Dylan Also see all the Dylan links and film reviews at the fan site, expecting rain.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Progressive repsonse, plans and critique of Katrina response.Katrina: Progressive Policy and Action Guide

Your tax dollars at work: one of the biggest thefts in history in Iraq. CNN.com - Minister: $1bn plundered in Iraq - Sep 19, 2005

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

It's not just Katrina: a legacy of waste and corruption at FEMA. Summary of the Sun-Sentinel story: "This report is the latest in a series by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel examining the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster assistance payments. The newspaper first revealed that FEMA paid $31 million in Miami-Dade County for Hurricane Frances, even though the Labor Day weekend storm made landfall 100 miles to the north. Subsequent reports detailed how FEMA inspectors receive little training; that the agency paid for funerals for deaths unrelated to the storm; and that some criminals were hired to inspect damage."


Sunday, September 18, 2005

Here's the latest on the Katrina contracting boondoogle.The Project On Government Oversight There's even legislation moving through Congress to waive all competition and oversight of disasater-related projects. As the Project on Government Oversight puts it in a legislative alert: "“Disaster Profiteering Act” Makes Its Debut, Seeks to Waive Taxpayer Protections & Competition on Government Contracts."

Iraq and Katrina: incompetence reigns.Poor Planning and Corruption Hobble Reconstruction of Iraq - New York Times Compare this with these two articles about the continuing failures by FEMA: "Lack of Cohesion Bedevils Recovery" and "FEMA, Slow to the Rescue, Now Stumbles in Aid Effort." As the Washington Post noted, "Three weeks after Hurricane Katrina struck, red tape and poor planning have left thousands of evacuees without basic services, according to local and state officials, public policy experts and survivors themselves."

Why the cavalry never came on time. KR Washington Bureau | 09/16/2005 | Key military help for victims of Hurricane Katrina was delayed

Here's a powerful if low-budget video -- spoken-word and music -- on New Orleans. I've seen performance poet Chris Chandler twice in the last two weeks with his musical partner David Roe, and if you check out his schedule at his website, you'll see he travels around the country -- and is especially active this month in Washington, D.C. because of the Sept. 24th protest. Check him out. 9th Ward New Orleans - Chris Chandler and David Roe

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Grapple in the Apple: Hitchens vs. Galloway. Whatever your views, the specatacle of two great orators going after each other was fantastic political theater. Don't miss it this Saturday at 9 p.m. on C-SPAN2 Book TV, or tape it. It's repeated at noon Sunday:
12:00 pm
George Galloway and Christopher Hitchens, Debate on the War in Iraq PM - Galloway, Hitchens reunite for 'Grapple in the Apple' Meanwhile, Salon goes after Hitchens' 10 justifications for the war. Here's a British exile's balanced and amused view of the events.

A progressive agenda for rebuilding the Gulf Coast and helping the poor in the wake of Katrina.CAFAction Center

FEMA to New Orelans: Drop Dead. From water supplies to food, FEMA turned back help. Here's the timeline for catastrophe from Salon.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Bill Maher makes a scathing case for Bush resigning. He gives a witty take on the theme of E. J. Dionne's equally damning article on the "End of the Bush Era." In case you missed it, here's what Maher said (and go here for the video clip, scroll down to the Maher picture):
And finally, New Rule: America must recall the president. That's what this country needs. A good, old-fashioned, California-style recall election! Complete with Gary Coleman, porno actresses and action film stars. And just like Schwarzenegger's predecessor here in California, George Bush is now so unpopular, he must defend his jog against...Russell Crowe. Because at this point, I want a leader who will throw a phone at somebody. In fact, let's have only phone throwers. Naomi Campbell can be the vice-president!

Now, I kid, but seriously, Mr. President, this job can't be fun for you anymore. There's no more money to spend. You used up all of that. You can't start another war because you also used up the army. And now, darn the luck, the rest of your term has become the Bush family nightmare: helping poor people. Yeah, listen to your mom. The cupboard's bare, the credit card's maxed out, and no one is speaking to you: mission accomplished! Now it's time to do what you've always done best: lose interest and walk away. Like you did with your military service. And the oil company. And the baseball team. It's time. Time to move on and try the next fantasy job. How about cowboy or spaceman?!

Now, I know what you're saying. You're saying that there's so many other things that you, as president, could involve yourself in...Please don't. I know, I know, there's a lot left to do. There's a war with Venezuela, and eliminating the sales tax on yachts. Turning the space program over to the church. And Social Security to Fannie Mae. Giving embryos the vote. But, sir, none of that is going to happen now.

Why? Because you govern like Billy Joel drives. You've performed so poorly I'm surprised you haven't given yourself a medal. You're a catastrophe that walks like a man. Herbert Hoover was a shitty president, but even he never conceded an entire metropolis to rising water and snakes. On your watch, we've lost almost all of our allies, the surplus, four airliners, two Trade Centers, a piece of the Pentagon and the City of New Orleans...Maybe you're just not lucky!

I'm not saying you don't love this country. I'm just wondering how much worse it could be if you were on the other side. So, yes, God does speak to you, and what he's saying is, "Take a hint."

Galloway vs. Hitchens: Live on the Web at 7 p.m. It will also air on Book-TV on CSPAN this weekend.Democracy Now!: radio and TV news

How Chertoff blew the Katrina response.The Left Coaster: The Smoking Gun: Memo Shows Chertoff Didn't Act For 36 Hours Even With Authority To Go Around State Officials

All the Katrina hypocrisy that's fit to print -- and spin. The Billmon website has the inside dope. Whiskey Bar: A Movable Feast

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Here's a provocative video on how the media is ignoring -- mostly -- the current social justice and peace movements. Something's In the Air But It's Not on the Airwaves It's deserve a look and listen, written by Chris Chandler:

Here's how he describes it:
I have spent the past 10 days producing this 8-minute film along with Karen Kilroy. "There's Something in the Air/But It's Not on the Airwaves" is a political spoken word piece about the media’s lack of coverage on the peace and global justice movement. The piece also includes excerpts of the music that was widely known during the 60's war protest era.

Sarah Rolan of Akron, Ohio is cast in the video and plays a part where she places a folded U.S. flag on the grave of a soldier killed in action. On Tuesday, shortly before we taped the scene, Sarah received news that her close friend, U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Daniel "Nate" Deyarmin, was killed in action on Monday. So I'm sure you can imagine, it is very intense.

The video was shot on location in Kent and Akron, Ohio. Many many thanks to the people of Kent for their help in making this video.

- chandler

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Newsweek gets tough.How Bush Blew It - Newsweek Hurricane Katrina Coverage - MSNBC.com If all that isn't enough for you, The Washington Post has the done the most complete, compelling post-mortem. Here's the opening section, with some chilling examples of screw-ups, from communication to goverment officials, especially at FEMA, avoid responsibility:

Walter Maestri had dreaded this call for a decade, ever since he took over emergency management for Jefferson Parish, a marshy collection of suburbs around New Orleans. It was Friday night, Aug. 26, and his friend Max Mayfield was on the line. Mayfield is the head of the National Hurricane Center, and he wasn't calling to chat.

"Walter," Mayfield said, "get ready."

"What do you mean?" Maestri asked, though he already knew the answer.

Hurricane Katrina had barreled into the Gulf of Mexico, and Mayfield's latest forecast had it smashing into New Orleans as a Category 4 or 5 storm Monday morning. Maestri already had 10,000 body bags in his parish, in case he ever got a call like this.
"This could be the one," Mayfield told him.

Maestri heard himself gasp: "Oh, my God."

In July 2004, Maestri had participated in an exercise called Hurricane Pam, a simulation of a Category 3 storm drowning New Orleans. Emergency planners had concluded that a real Pam would create a flood of unimaginable proportions, killing tens of thousands of people, wiping out hundreds of thousands of homes, shutting down southeast Louisiana for months.
The practice run for a New Orleans apocalypse had been commissioned by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the federal government's designated disaster shop. But the funding ran out and the doomsday scenario became just another prescient -- but buried -- government report. Now, practice was over.

And Pam's lessons had not been learned.

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

Compounding the natural catastrophe was a man-made one: the inability of the federal, state and local governments to work together in the face of a disaster long foretold.

In many cases, resources that were available were not used, whether Amtrak trains that could have taken evacuees to safety before the storm or the U.S. military's 82nd Airborne division, which spent days on standby waiting for orders that never came. Communications were so impossible the Army Corps of Engineers was unable to inform the rest of the government for crucial hours that levees in New Orleans had been breached...

But it was an infuriating time of challenge when government seemed unable to meet its basic compact with its citizens. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, an entirely new Department of Homeland Security had been created, charged with doing better the next time, whether the crisis was another terrorist attack or not. Its new plan for safeguarding the nation, unveiled just this year, clearly spelled out the need to take charge in assisting state and local governments sure to be "overwhelmed" by a cataclysmic event...

Instead, confusion reigned at every level of officialdom, according to dozens of interviews with participants in Louisiana, Mississippi and Washington. "No one had access. . . . No one had communication. . . . Nobody knew where the people were," recalled Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt, whose department did not declare the Gulf Coast a public health emergency until two days after the storm.

Despite pleas by Bush administration officials to refrain from "the blame game," mutual recriminations among officeholders began even before New Orleans's trapped residents had been rescued. The White House secretly debated federalizing authority in a city under the control of a Democratic mayor and governor, and critics in both parties assailed FEMA and raised questions about President Bush.

That Friday, as Maestri prepared for the Big One, he had known that his region's survival would depend on the federal response. After Hurricane Pam, FEMA officials had concluded that local authorities might be on their own for 48 or even 60 hours after a real storm, but they had assured Maestri that the cavalry would swoop in after that, and take care of the region's needs.

"Like a fool, I believed them," Maestri said last week.

Cronyism at work.Neigh to Cronies - New York Times As Dowd points out about decision-making in the White House, the President of the United States didn't know about the convention center human catastrophe until the Thursday after the hurricane. Drawing on another Times account, here's how Dowd puts it:

The breakdown in management and communications was so execrable that the president learned about the 25,000 desperate, trapped people at the New Orleans convention center not from Brownie, who didn't know himself, but from a wire story carried into the Oval Office by an aide on Thursday, 24 hours after the victims had been pleading and crying for help on every channel. (Maybe tomorrow the aide will come in with a wire story, "No W.M.D. in Iraq.")

"Getting truth on the ground in New Orleans was very difficult," a White House aide told The Times's Elisabeth Bumiller. Not if you had a TV.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Salon summarizes the case for federal failure with shocking new details. Salon.com News Why FEMA failed

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Newsweek has a strong overview of the disarray that led to delays in rescuing, helping and evacuating residents of New Orleans. But it's still a fundamentaly mystery: why wait a few days to help while thousands were dying and starving on camera?NEWSWEEK COVER: 'Pray for Us'

Monday, September 05, 2005

Take a break from New Orleans: check out my article on the rise and fall of sleazoid lobbyist Edward Von Kloberg.Shame is for Sissies

An in-depth look at all the different errors by many in government, including George Bush.The Lost City - Newsweek Hurricane Katrina Coverage - MSNBC.com

Sunday, September 04, 2005

What we've lost: Tom D'Antoni looks back in a touching rememberance of New Orleans and the life it had to offer.IN MY OPINION

How Washington turned away -- and FEMA blocked water deliveries, cut communications.Despite Warnings, Washington Failed to Fund Levee Projects - Yahoo! News Also, on Meet the Press, the tearful head of Jefferson Parish (which includes part of metropolitan New Orleans), Aaron Broussard, broke down and wept on national TV (see video link here, click arrow to clip #3) while describing the abandonment of New Orleans:

MR. RUSSERT: And we are back.

Jefferson Parish President Broussard, let me start with you. You just heard the director of Homeland Security's explanation of what has happened this last week. What is your reaction?

MR. AARON BROUSSARD: We have been abandoned by our own country. Hurricane Katrina will go down in history as one of the worst storms ever to hit an American coast, but the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina will go down as one of the worst abandonments of Americans on American soil ever in U.S. history. I am personally asking our bipartisan congressional delegation here in Louisiana to immediately begin congressional hearings to find out just what happened here. Why did it happen? Who needs to be fired? And believe me, they need to be fired right away, because we still have weeks to go in this tragedy. We have months to go. We have years to go. And whoever is at the top of this totem pole, that totem pole needs to be chain-sawed off and we've got to start with some new leadership.

It's not just Katrina that caused all these deaths in New Orleans here. Bureaucracy has committed murder here in the greater New Orleans area, and bureaucracy has to stand trial before Congress now. It's so obvious. FEMA needs more congressional funding. It needs more presidential support. It needs to be a Cabinet-level director. It needs to be an independent agency that will be able to fulfill its mission to work in partnership with state and local governments around America. FEMA needs to be empowered to do the things it was created to do. It needs to come somewhere, like New Orleans, with all of its force immediately, without red tape, without bureaucracy, act immediately with common sense and leadership, and save lives. Forget about the property. We can rebuild the property. It's got to be able to come in and save lives.

We need strong leadership at the top of America right now in order to accomplish this and to-- reconstructing FEMA.

MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Broussard, let me ask--I want to ask--should...

MR. BROUSSARD: You know, just some quick examples...

MR. RUSSERT: Hold on. Hold on, sir. Shouldn't the mayor of New Orleans and the governor of New Orleans bear some responsibility? Couldn't they have been much more forceful, much more effective and much more organized in evacuating the area?

MR. BROUSSARD: Sir, they were told like me, every single day, "The cavalry's coming," on a federal level, "The cavalry's coming, the cavalry's coming, the cavalry's coming." I have just begun to hear the hoofs of the cavalry. The cavalry's still not here yet, but I've begun to hear the hoofs, and we're almost a week out.

Let me give you just three quick examples. We had Wal-Mart deliver three trucks of water, trailer trucks of water. FEMA turned them back. They said we didn't need them. This was a week ago. FEMA--we had 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel on a Coast Guard vessel docked in my parish. The Coast Guard said, "Come get the fuel right away." When we got there with our trucks, they got a word. "FEMA says don't give you the fuel." Yesterday--yesterday--FEMA comes in and cuts all of our emergency communication lines. They cut them without notice. Our sheriff, Harry Lee, goes back in, he reconnects the line. He posts armed guards on our line and says, "No one is getting near these lines." Sheriff Harry Lee said that if America--American government would have responded like Wal-Mart has responded, we wouldn't be in this crisis.

But I want to thank Governor Blanco for all she's done and all her leadership. She sent in the National Guard. I just repaired a breach on my side of the 17th Street canal that the secretary didn't foresee, a 300-foot breach. I just completed it yesterday with convoys of National Guard and local parish workers and levee board people. It took us two and a half days working 24/7. I just closed it.

MR. RUSSERT: All right.

MR. BROUSSARD: I'm telling you most importantly I want to thank my public employees...

MR. RUSSERT: All right.

MR. BROUSSARD: ...that have worked 24/7. They're burned out, the doctors, the nurses. And I want to give you one last story and I'll shut up and let you tell me whatever you want to tell me. The guy who runs this building I'm in, emergency management, he's responsible for everything. His mother was trapped in St. Bernard nursing home and every day she called him and said, "Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?" [He starts crying.]And he said, "Yeah, Mama, somebody's coming to get you. Somebody's coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody's coming to get you on Friday." And she drowned Friday night. She drowned Friday night.

MR. RUSSERT: Mr. President...

MR. BROUSSARD: Nobody's coming to get us. Nobody's coming to get us. The secretary has promised. Everybody's promised. They've had press conferences. I'm sick of the press conferences. For God sakes, shut up and send us somebody.

MR. RUSSERT: Just take a pause, Mr. President. While you gather yourself in your very emotional times, I understand, let me go to Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi.

Chertoff: "exceptional response."
How out of touch is our federal leadership? Here's how much: DHS Secretary Chertoff talking to reporters on Thursday, Sept. 1:

Question: Do you think that FEMA should have had buses available for the evacuation at the time the evacuation order was first declared? And secondly, obviously here and now in retrospect, but did DHS and FEMA under estimate this and not have sufficient resources on the ground?

Secretary Chertoff: Actually, I think there was an extraordinary effort to put resources on the ground and pre-position them. As I said, the President declared states of emergency before the hurricane made landfall. So that enabled us not only to put large quantities of water and food and tarpaulins and generators in place, but it also allowed us to actually start flowing that out in advance. But then there comes a point where you're in the storm. And this has been a unique disaster in that we really had two disasters one after the other. We had the storm, but then before we could come in and begin the rescue effort and the evacuation effort and the effort to address people's needs, we had a second catastrophe. That was the levee breaking and the flood coming in.

That has been the principal problem getting the issue of evacuation addressed. We've had to contend with the fact that it's very difficult to move around. The flooding has also had an impact on the availability of buses. It's had an impact on the availability of gas and drivers. We've had to go out and augment what we already had to deal with this additional situation.

You know, in some ways every crisis, whether it be a natural catastrophe or a man-made catastrophe, illustrates the point that preparation is of the utmost importance, and yet even after perfect preparation, the beginning of the catastrophe immediately starts to change the facts on the ground and you have to adapt.

I think the genius of the people who are working here, the genius of the people of FEMA, the people in the National Guard, the people in the Coast Guard is, they have been marvelously adaptable. They have brought, for example, airlift capabilities and air rescue capabilities to bear in a way that I don't think we've ever seen in this country before. And so I think it is a source of tremendous pride to me to work with people who have pulled off this really exceptional response.

DHS Department of Homeland Security Press Conference With Officials from the Department of Homeland Security, Justice Department, Defense Department, the National Guard Bureau, U.S. Coast Guard and FEMA

Cronyism at work: No wonder the FEMA chief couldn't handle the New Orleans disaster.BostonHerald.com - Business News: Brown pushed from last job: Horse group: FEMA chief had to be `asked to resign'

Saturday, September 03, 2005

New Orleans to become "Little Somalia." After letting them starve and die and permitting thugs to run amok, the military has decided to kill some of them. Army Times - News - More News

Friday, September 02, 2005

Even some conservative papers are attacking the Bush administration's response.Editorials, Including Those at Conservative Papers, Rip Bush's Hurricane Response

"Stuff happens": Indifference to looting and chaos in New Orleans and Iraq. Notice any similarities? Paul Krugman has more about Bush's can't-do government. Looking back: CNN.com - Rumsfeld on looting in Iraq: 'Stuff happens' - Apr. 12, 2003

Singing for help: benefit concert for Katrina victims on NBC at 8 p.m. EST. But where was the government response so private charity wouldn't be so necessary? NBC to hold concert for Katrina victims - Concert for Hurricane Relief - MSNBC.com

The Bush administration is doing everything it can, it says -- dead bodies in hospital stairwells tell a different story. CNN.com - The�big disconnect on New Orleans - Sep 2, 2005

Here's a powerful summary of Bush administration inaction. After listing various budget cuts and the bureaucratic downsizing of FEMA, Kevin Drum, writes, "So: A crony with no relevant experience was installed as head of FEMA. Mitigation budgets for New Orleans were slashed even though it was known to be one of the top three risks in the country. FEMA was deliberately downsized as part of the Bush administration's conservative agenda to reduce the role of government. After DHS was created, FEMA's preparation and planning functions were taken away.

"Actions have consequences. No one could predict that a hurricane the size of Katrina would hit this year, but the slow federal response when it did happen was no accident. It was the result of four years of deliberate Republican policy and budget choices that favor ideology and partisan loyalty at the expense of operational competence. It's the Bush administration in a nutshell."

(Meanwhile, here's a conservative rebuttal to the liberals' alarms and critiques, making fun of critics of the Bush administration. Worth a look to know what the emerging conservative defense is shaping up to be. And here's the White House response to critics, as reported in the New York Times .)

Even so, Drum also points out the assorted federal leaders' comments that indicate the failure to realize what's happening on the ground:

"CLUELESS....Could the people in charge of managing the catastrophe in New Orleans possibly be more clueless?
George W. Bush, President of the United States, six days after repeated warnings from experts about the scope of damage expected from Hurricane Katrina: "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees."
Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Homeland Security, following widespread eyewitness reports of refugees living like animals at the Convention Center: "I have not heard a report of thousands of people in the Convention Center who don't have food and water."
Mike Brown, Director of FEMA, referring to people who were stuck in New Orleans largely because they were too poor to afford the means to leave: "...those who are stranded, who chose not to evacuate, who chose not to leave the city..."
Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the House of Representatives, providing needed reassurance to the newly homeless: "It makes no sense to spend billions of dollars to rebuild a city that's seven feet under sea level....It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed."

This is beyond belief. What's with these people?"

Meanwhile, New Orleans has descended into a cauldron of violence, death, rapes and desperation.

The Bush administration wouldn't spend $250 million to help upgrade levees, so now they're spending $10 billion on flood and hurricane relief. Now Bush realizes the flooded and hurricane-damaged areas need $10 billion in help. But could more have been done before to prevent the flooding? As Salon reports, "For each of these years, Congress, with the support of the Louisiana delegation, appropriated more money, but funding still came in far below the requirements. Work was delayed. Contractors worked without pay. Whole projects were put off. Local project managers complained that New Orleans was competing with the war in Iraq for funding. "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle Homeland Security and the war in Iraq," Walter Maestri, the emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, told the Times-Picayune in 2004. Of the $500 million requested for levees, pumping stations and new drainage canals between 2001 and 2005, only $249 million passed out of Congress. As recently as March, the Corps warned in a briefing memo that the funding shortfalls "will significantly increase the cost of the project, delay project completion and delay project benefits."

"If the Army Corps capabilities for the SELA program had been fully funded, there is no question that Jefferson Parish and New Orleans would be in a much better position to remove the water on the streets once the pumps start working," says Hunter Johnston, a lobbyist for Johnston and Associates who worked to secure the money.

It is too early to tell, however, whether the additional funding would have prevented the levee breaches and overruns that have flooded New Orleans. Scientists, journalists and public officials have been warning for decades that New Orleans could not withstand a Category 4 or 5 hurricane.
President Bush, meanwhile, told ABC's Diane Sawyer that no one could have anticipated the levees breaking.
Salon.com News Anatomy of an unnatural disaster

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Some grounds for hope: Fats Domino found alive, but his neighborhood is drowned in water while it's not known if his family made it to safety.Fats Domino Found in New Orleans - Yahoo! News

White House defends itself on flood control. I don't buy it: a close read shows that even the Army Corps officials trotted forward by the administration concede that flood control was hampered by the incomplete levee system. White House Backpedals on Flood Control - Yahoo! News

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