The legitimate complaints against Bush regarding the response to Hurricane Katrina

Discussion in 'Politics' started by hapaboy, Sep 2, 2005.

  1. In Katrina's wake, Louisiana politicians and other critics have complained about paltry funding for the Army Corps in general and Louisiana projects in particular. But over the five years of President Bush's administration, Louisiana has received far more money for Corps civil works projects than any other state, about $1.9 billion; California was a distant second with less than $1.4 billion, even though its population is more than seven times as large.

    Much of that Louisiana money was spent to try to keep low-lying New Orleans dry. But hundreds of millions of dollars have gone to unrelated water projects demanded by the state's congressional delegation and approved by the Corps, often after economic analyses that turned out to be inaccurate. Despite a series of independent investigations criticizing Army Corps construction projects as wasteful pork-barrel spending, Louisiana's representatives have kept bringing home the bacon. . . .

    Pam Dashiell, president of the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association, remembers holding a protest against the lock four years ago -- right where the levee broke Aug. 30. Now she's holed up with her family in a St. Louis hotel, and her neighborhood is underwater. "Our politicians never cared half as much about protecting us as they cared about pork," Dashiell said.
    Washington Post via Instapundit

    Damn! The truth hurts.
    #141     Sep 8, 2005
  2. By Kelly Brewington
    Sun National Staff
    Originally published September 7, 2005
    NEW ORLEANS - When their homes began to sink in Katrina's floodwaters, elders in the quarter here known as Uptown gathered their neighbors to seek refuge at the Samuel J. Green Charter School, the local toughs included.

    But when the thugs started vandalizing the place - wielding guns and breaking into vending machines - Vance Anthion put them out, literally tossing them into the fetid waters. Anthion stayed awake at night after that, protecting the inhabitants of the school from looters or worse.

    "They know me," he said. "If a man come up in here, we take care of him."

    In the week after Katrina pummeled the Gulf Coast, Anthion and others created a society that defied the local gangs, the National Guard and even the flood.

    Inside the school, it was quiet, cool and clean. They converted a classroom into a dining room and, when a reporter arrived Monday, were serving a lunch of spicy red beans and rice. A table nearby overflowed with supplies: canned spaghetti, paper towels, water and Gatorade, salt, hot sauce, pepper.

    At its peak last Wednesday, 40 people called the second and third floors home. The bottom floor was under water. Most of those taking up residence at the school were family, friends and neighbors of the poor, forgotten niches of this community.

    As the days passed, most chose to be evacuated by the Coast Guard who, they said, came every day to help ferry out the elderly and sick, and to leave water, food and clean clothes for whose who preferred to stay.

    By Monday, just 10 diehards remained at the school.

    Disillusioned, maybe. Disoriented, perhaps. Determined, without question.

    In the week after Katrina devoured the Gulf Coast they ate, slept and bathed here, aided by the Coast Guard supplies. Men slept on the third floor, women on the second, using blankets and cots they brought from home.

    It all worked out according to the plan of Allen Smith, 55, a Persian Gulf war veteran known to the group as "Sarge." Before Katrina pummeled the area, he advised neighbors to seek shelter in the school.

    Sarge said he knew the school he had once attended would be safe and at least the third floor would remain dry. That's what happened when Hurricane Betsy devastated New Orleans in 1965. Sarge, who was 15 at the time, joined his family and about 200 other people who used the school for shelter.

    "I just took the idea from them," said Sarge. "And it worked."

    So as Katrina made its approach on New Orleans, they gathered blankets and canned food, bleach and cleaning supplies, a radio and a good supply of batteries, and began moving their stash to the school. They decided to rely on the building's supply of paper towels and toilet paper.

    In the days after the storm, the Samuel J. Green school also served as their base for helping others in the neighborhood.

    They waded through filthy water to bring elderly homebound neighbors bowls of soup, bread and drinks. They helped the old and the sick to the school rooftop, so the Coast Guard could pluck them to safety by helicopter - 18 people in all.

    All the while, they listened to radio reports of the calamity at the Superdome and the Convention Center. They heard that evacuees were dying and left to rot. There were reports of looting, gunshots, rapes, and no food or water. "There was no way we were going down there, to be treated like that," said Sarge.

    Life at the school seemed far more civilized.

    Clad in a white apron and plastic gloves, Greg Avery, a 53-year-old photographer on normal days, scooped hot beans onto a plate. Sierra Smith, an 8-year-old boasting a head of perfectly combed ponytails, handed them out to her neighbors with a smile.

    She had been Avery's helper all week - between card games of Old Maid and Crazy Eights with her grandmother.
    #142     Sep 8, 2005
  3. By Kelly Brewington
    Sun National Staff
    Originally published September 7, 2005
    << Previous
    She arrived at the school with her mother, grandmother and grandfather. Her mother was airlifted earlier in the week, to find lost relatives. Sierra could have gone with her, but she wanted to stay with her grandmother and the community of exiles in the school.

    "I eat food, I play games, I have fun here and I have people to take care of me," she said. "I get to pick out my own clothes and I take a bath every day, with some water and baby wipes and lotion and powder."

    She pays special attention to her neighbor Anthion, 57, a 6-foot-5, weathered Vietnam veteran, whom she calls "survivor."

    He might be known as the enforcer, but he is also a broken man.

    "Don't ask him about his wife," Sierra warned, "or he'll start crying."

    When the storm hit last week, he carried his wife, Angela Gwinn, 49, to a nearby vacant laundromat. Anthion, his wife and son Glen Gwinn, 34, climbed to the roof seeking higher ground. Hours passed, and no helicopters came to their rescue.

    A neighbor on a nearby roof said he heard people were being rescued from St. Charles Avenue, so they all waded to the tony section of Uptown that remained dry while the poor neighborhoods all around it flooded.

    Hours later a rescue convoy arrived. Anthion loaded his wife on the truck. But when he tried to jump in, a guard told him only women and children were being evacuated.

    "They took my wife and made me stand there looking like a punk," Anthion said, his voice rising with anger. "It's my job to take care of my wife."

    He paused.

    "I don't know where my wife is," Anthion starts. "We've been together 29 years and ... " then he walks out of the room and lets out a cry.

    "I told you," said Sierra.

    All those in the group have been separated from their families.

    Sarge sent his mother, brother and children to live with relatives in Houston before the storm hit. But he remained to protect their homes and to feed J.J., their Labrador-German shepherd mix.

    "People ask us why didn't we leave, well, somebody has to stay here and protect our homes from vandals," he said. "This neighborhood is rough. There's also a lot of elderly people who need to be taken care of."

    He's proud of the way they communicated with the Coast Guard to evacuate the elderly and sick.

    "Eventually, I'd know when it was time for us to leave," said Sarge. "The Coast Guard said, 'When it's time to go, we will come and get you.'"

    But by midafternoon Monday, other authorities decided that time was now.

    A group of armed officers entered the school, demanding that everyone leave. The group included a couple of sheriff's deputies from New Mexico wielding M-16s, New Orleans police officers and some volunteers.

    The scene quickly turned chaotic.

    "They coming, they cussin', they got guns," Sierra whimpered, alerting a reporter. The authorities search the school, demanding everyone round up their possessions.

    "You have to leave now," an officer yelled at no one in particular. "I can't believe you had this child in here like this. Let's go."

    The group was allowed a few minutes to grab their belongings before boarding a motor boat.

    When Anthion began to explain how the group had sustained elderly people in the community, the officer yelled: "Shut up. I don't want to hear you talking [expletive] no more." In the boat, authorities recorded each person's name, offered cold water and everyone relaxed a bit. "It's going to get better than this," said one officer. "We appreciate what you've done. But you can't live like that."

    The boat took the temporary residents of Samuel J. Green school several blocks away to a waiting amphibious truck.

    Anthion grumbled. Sierra, now calm, began chatting with a National Guard soldier, telling him she would like to be in the Army when she grows up. Sarge was upset.

    "The thing about this here is they are embarrassed," Sarge said. "They all know we did a better job than [the shelters] did. We took care of ourselves. We survived."

    After a brief ride, they arrived on dry land and transferred to white vans. A police officer said they were going to the Convention Center and later would be bused to Texas. Another officer promised to return to tend to the rest of the neighbors and to J.J., the dog left behind.

    Sarge vowed to return to rebuild his community. "Hey, look," he said, getting everyone's attention. "No matter what, we stay together."
    #143     Sep 8, 2005
  4. Howard Dean's Constructive Solution: Even Killing Field

    9/8/2005, 4:31 pm

    While Senator Clinton has proposed a commission to determine just how racist the hurricane and Government have been, Howard Dean seeks to cut out the middleman. "We don't need a commission to know that this is really about race," chairman of the Democratic Party said in a speech to the National Baptist Convention of America, one of the nation's largest black church groups. "Natural disasters never kill this many white people. Well, if the natural disasters don't want to play fair, we will."

    Tired of hearing that the Democrats are a party of baseless finger-pointing without constructive solutions, the former presidential candidate Howard Dean offered an undeniably constructive solution in his Wednesday speech in Miami, Fla. "I suppose rescue operations do serve a purpose, but they do not address the main question of what to do about the racial makeup of the dead. We owe the answer to the victims, to the world at large, and to our children who will judge us by how we treat the old, the young, and the poor."

    Dr. Dean then put on his Doctor's cap and sketched equations on a board:

    "The first step is to calculate how many are dead, and the racial makeup of the dead. As a sample problem, lets say 8000 people of color died (excluding people from India, of course) and 2000 white people died, and let's further assume a one-to-one value for people of color and whites (although people of color may be valued above whites in the final formula):

    8000 POC - 2000 M = 6000 POC
    (where POC = people of color and M = miscellaneous)

    "Obviously there is an inequality of 6000 people of color. To rectify the situation, all those whites who evacuated submerged homes must be returned to those homes and drowned immediately," Dr. Dean said.

    "Since skin color played a deadly role in who survived and who did not, the solution to this must be as ugly as the truth itself. We must do it if we want to replace bureaucracy and entitlement with hope and opportunity for our constituents. So instead of considering estate tax breaks, I say the Senate should start busing the whites back to New Orleans!"

    While the proposal may seem radical, several authorities agree that this is the only option. Jesse Jackson stated, "We all mourn loss of life, especially when it is racially uneven. The sacrifice of 6,000 whiteys would lessen the blow immensely, I think."

    Democratic Mayor Nagin of New Orleans has been furiously mobilizing buses for a "Busing in" program to return the 6000 hapless whites to their rightful place in the murky depths. "It's a dirty job, but I've never shunned my responsibilities as a Democratic mayor and this would be a bad time to break away from that tradition."

    Direct quotes:

    Dr. Dean: "To rectify the situation, all those whites who evacuated submerged homes must be returned to those homes and drowned immediately."

    Jesse Jackson: "We all mourn loss of life, especially when it is racially uneven. The sacrifice of 6,000 whiteys would lessen the blow immensely, I think."

    Rep. Nancy Pelosi: The outpouring of donations to the Red Cross and religious relief organizations, offers of housing for those displaced, and other relief efforts are nothing but a partisan smoke screen created by the Republicans to cover up their racist attitudes towards the victims."

    Ray Nagin: "It's a dirty job, but I've never shunned my duties as a Democratic mayor."

    Democratic Governor Blanco of Louisiana: "We have a moral responsibility to not ignore the damage that our inaction or indecisiveness in this issue may cause to the nation's self-image."
    #144     Sep 8, 2005
  5. How about reading the very recent reports of how the LA/N.O.'s levee funding and projects by the Army Corp Of Engineers was BLOCKED over the last few years by several environmental groups that sued the A.C.O.E's. I was also just about to read again the new reports of how LA received much more funding under the Bush administration {for flood control/water/levee projects} then the previous administration --- and how the state used all the funds for pork barrel projects that did not do anything to help the potential flooding issues for N.O.'s

    Washington Post has some of the stories and also I see Brit Hume from Fox News is reporting this tonight also ---- {check out the Brit Hume "Grapevine" video link from the front page Fox News 24/7 section}
    #145     Sep 9, 2005
  6. September 9, 2005
    Political Issues Snarled Plans for Troop Aid

    WASHINGTON, Sept. 8 - As New Orleans descended into chaos last week and Louisiana's governor asked for 40,000 soldiers, President Bush's senior advisers debated whether the president should speed the arrival of active-duty troops by seizing control of the hurricane relief mission from the governor.

    For reasons of practicality and politics, officials at the Justice Department and the Pentagon, and then at the White House, decided not to urge Mr. Bush to take command of the effort. Instead, the Washington officials decided to rely on the growing number of National Guard personnel flowing into Louisiana, who were under Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco's control.

    The debate began after officials realized that Hurricane Katrina had exposed a critical flaw in the national disaster response plans created after the Sept. 11 attacks. According to the administration's senior domestic security officials, the plan failed to recognize that local police, fire and medical personnel might be incapacitated.

    As criticism of the response to Hurricane Katrina has mounted, one of the most pointed questions has been why more troops were not available more quickly to restore order and offer aid. Interviews with officials in Washington and Louisiana show that as the situation grew worse, they were wrangling with questions of federal/state authority, weighing the realities of military logistics and perhaps talking past each other in the crisis.

    To seize control of the mission, Mr. Bush would have had to invoke the Insurrection Act, which allows the president in times of unrest to command active-duty forces into the states to perform law enforcement duties. But decision makers in Washington felt certain that Ms. Blanco would have resisted surrendering control, as Bush administration officials believe would have been required to deploy active-duty combat forces before law and order had been re-established.

    While combat troops can conduct relief missions without the legal authority of the Insurrection Act, Pentagon and military officials say that no active-duty forces could have been sent into the chaos of New Orleans on Wednesday or Thursday without confronting law-and-order challenges.

    But just as important to the administration were worries about the message that would have been sent by a president ousting a Southern governor of another party from command of her National Guard, according to administration, Pentagon and Justice Department officials.

    "Can you imagine how it would have been perceived if a president of the United States of one party had pre-emptively taken from the female governor of another party the command and control of her forces, unless the security situation made it completely clear that she was unable to effectively execute her command authority and that lawlessness was the inevitable result?" asked one senior administration official, who spoke anonymously because the talks were confidential.

    Officials in Louisiana agree that the governor would not have given up control over National Guard troops in her state as would have been required to send large numbers of active-duty soldiers into the area. But they also say they were desperate and would have welcomed assistance by active-duty soldiers.

    "I need everything you have got," Ms. Blanco said she told Mr. Bush last Monday, after the storm hit.

    In an interview, she acknowledged that she did not specify what sorts of soldiers. "Nobody told me that I had to request that," Ms. Blanco said. "I thought that I had requested everything they had. We were living in a war zone by then."

    By Wednesday, she had asked for 40,000 soldiers.

    In the discussions in Washington, also at issue was whether active-duty troops could respond faster and in larger numbers than the Guard.

    By last Wednesday, Pentagon officials said even the 82nd Airborne, which has a brigade on standby to move out within 18 hours, could not arrive any faster than 7,000 National Guard troops, which are specially trained and equipped for civilian law enforcement duties.

    In the end, the flow of thousands of National Guard soldiers, especially military police, was accelerated from other states.

    "I was there. I saw what needed to be done," Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said in an interview. "They were the fastest, best-capable, most appropriate force to get there in the time allowed. And that's what it's all about."

    But one senior Army officer expressed puzzlement that active-duty troops were not summoned sooner, saying 82nd Airborne troops were ready to move out from Fort Bragg, N.C., on Sunday, the day before the hurricane hit.
    #146     Sep 9, 2005
  7. Continued:

    The call never came, administration officials said, in part because military officials believed Guard troops would get to the stricken region faster and because administration civilians worried that there could be political fallout if federal troops were forced to shoot looters.

    Louisiana officials were furious that there was not more of a show of force, in terms of relief supplies and troops, from the federal government in the middle of last week. As the water was rising in New Orleans, the governor repeatedly questioned whether Washington had started its promised surge of federal resources.

    "We needed equipment," Ms. Blanco said in an interview. "Helicopters. We got isolated."

    Aides to Ms. Blanco said she was prepared to accept the deployment of active-duty military officials in her state. But she and other state officials balked at giving up control of the Guard as Justice Department officials said would have been required by the Insurrection Act if those combat troops were to be sent in before order was restored.

    In a separate discussion last weekend, the governor also rejected a more modest proposal for a hybrid command structure in which both the Guard and active-duty troops would be under the command of an active-duty, three-star general - but only after he had been sworn into the Louisiana National Guard.

    Lt. Gen. James T. Conway, director of operations for the military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the Pentagon in August streamlined a rigid, decades-old system of deployment orders to allow the military's Northern Command to dispatch liaisons to work with local officials before an approaching hurricane.

    The Pentagon is reviewing events from the time Hurricane Katrina reached full strength and bore down on New Orleans and five days later when Mr. Bush ordered 7,200 active-duty soldiers and marines to the scene.

    After the hurricane passed New Orleans and the levees broke, flooding the city, it became increasingly evident that disaster-response efforts were badly bogged down.

    Justice Department lawyers, who were receiving harrowing reports from the area, considered whether active-duty military units could be brought into relief operations even if state authorities gave their consent - or even if they refused.

    The issue of federalizing the response was one of several legal issues considered in a flurry of meetings at the Justice Department, the White House and other agencies, administration officials said.

    Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales urged Justice Department lawyers to interpret the federal law creatively to help local authorities, those officials said. For example, federal prosecutors prepared to expand their enforcement of some criminal statutes like anti-carjacking laws that can be prosecuted by either state or federal authorities.

    On the issue of whether the military could be deployed without the invitation of state officials, the Office of Legal Counsel, the unit within the Justice Department that provides legal advice to federal agencies, concluded that the federal government had authority to move in even over the objection of local officials.

    This act was last invoked in 1992 for the Los Angeles riots, but at the request of Gov. Pete Wilson of California, and has not been invoked over a governor's objections since the civil rights era - and before that, to the time of the Civil War, administration officials said. Bush administration, Pentagon and senior military officials warned that such an extreme measure would have serious legal and political implications.

    Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has said deployment of National Guard soldiers to Iraq, including a brigade from Louisiana, did not affect the relief mission, but Ms. Blanco disagreed.

    "Over the last year, we have had about 5,000 out, at one time," she said. "They are on active duty, serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. That certainly is a factor."

    By Friday, National Guard reinforcements had arrived, and a truck convoy of 1,000 Guard soldiers brought relief supplies - and order - to the convention center area.

    Officials from the Department of Homeland Security say the experience with Hurricane Katrina has demonstrated flaws in the nation's plans to handle disaster.

    "This event has exposed, perhaps ultimately to our benefit, a deficiency in terms of replacing first responders who tragically may be the first casualties," Paul McHale, the assistant secretary of defense for domestic security, said.

    Michael Chertoff, the secretary of homeland security, has suggested that active-duty troops be trained and equipped to intervene if front-line emergency personnel are stricken. But the Pentagon's leadership remains unconvinced that this plan is sound, suggesting instead that the national emergency response plans be revised to draw reinforcements initially from civilian police, firefighters, medical personnel and hazardous-waste experts in other states not affected by a disaster.

    The federal government rewrote its national emergency response plan after the Sept. 11 attacks, but it relied on local officials to manage any crisis in its opening days. But Hurricane Katrina overwhelmed local "first responders," including civilian police and the National Guard.

    At a news conference on Saturday, Mr. Chertoff said, "The unusual set of challenges of conducting a massive evacuation in the context of a still dangerous flood requires us to basically break the traditional model and create a new model, one for what you might call kind of an ultra-catastrophe.""

    Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker reported from Washington for this article, and Eric Lipton from Baton Rouge, La. David Johnston contributed reporting.
    #147     Sep 9, 2005
    Leaders Lacking Disaster Experience
    'Brain Drain' At Agency Cited

    By Spencer S. Hsu
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Friday, September 9, 2005; A01

    Five of eight top Federal Emergency Management Agency officials came to their posts with virtually no experience in handling disasters and now lead an agency whose ranks of seasoned crisis managers have thinned dramatically since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

    FEMA's top three leaders -- Director Michael D. Brown, Chief of Staff Patrick J. Rhode and Deputy Chief of Staff Brooks D. Altshuler -- arrived with ties to President Bush's 2000 campaign or to the White House advance operation, according to the agency. Two other senior operational jobs are filled by a former Republican lieutenant governor of Nebraska and a U.S. Chamber of Commerce official who was once a political operative.

    Meanwhile, veterans such as U.S. hurricane specialist Eric Tolbert and World Trade Center disaster managers Laurence W. Zensinger and Bruce P. Baughman -- who led FEMA's offices of response, recovery and preparedness, respectively -- have left since 2003, taking jobs as consultants or state emergency managers, according to current and former officials.

    Because of the turnover, three of the five FEMA chiefs for natural-disaster-related operations and nine of 10 regional directors are working in an acting capacity, agency officials said.

    Patronage appointments to the crisis-response agency are nothing new to Washington administrations. But inexperience in FEMA's top ranks is emerging as a key concern of local, state and federal leaders as investigators begin to sift through what the government has admitted was a bungled response to Hurricane Katrina.

    "FEMA requires strong leadership and experience because state and local governments rely on them," said Trina Sheets, executive director of the National Emergency Management Association. "When you don't have trained, qualified people in those positions, the program suffers as a whole."

    Last week's greatest foe was, of course, a storm of such magnitude that it "overwhelmed" all levels of government, according to Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). And several top FEMA officials are well-regarded by state and private counterparts in disaster preparedness and response.

    They include Edward G. Buikema, acting director of response since February, and Kenneth O. Burris, acting chief of operations, a career firefighter and former Marietta, Ga., fire chief.

    But scorching criticism has been aimed at FEMA, and it starts at the top with Brown, who has admitted to errors in responding to Hurricane Katrina and the flooding in New Orleans. The Oklahoma native, 50, was hired to the agency after a rocky tenure as commissioner of a horse sporting group by former FEMA director Joe M. Allbaugh, the 2000 Bush campaign manager and a college friend of Brown's.

    Rhode, Brown's chief of staff, is a former television reporter who came to Washington as advance deputy director for Bush's Austin-based 2000 campaign and then the White House. He joined FEMA in April 2003 after stints at the Commerce Department and the U.S. Small Business Administration.

    Altshuler is a former presidential advance man. His predecessor, Scott Morris, was a media strategist for Bush with the Austin firm Maverick Media.

    David I. Maurstad, who stepped down as Nebraska lieutenant governor in 2001 to join FEMA, has served as acting director for risk reduction and federal insurance administrator since June 2004. Daniel A. Craig, a onetime political fundraiser and campaign adviser, came to FEMA in 2001 from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, where he directed the eastern regional office, after working as a lobbyist for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

    Department of Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said Brown has managed more than 160 natural disasters as FEMA general counsel and deputy director since 2001, "hands-on experience [that] cannot be understated. Other leadership at FEMA brings particular skill sets -- policy management leadership, for example."

    The agency has a deep bench of career professionals, said FEMA spokeswoman Nicol Andrews, including two dozen senior field coordinators and Gil Jamieson, director of the National Incident Management System. "Simply because folks who have left the agency have a disagreement with how it's being run doesn't necessarily indicate that there is a lack of experience leading it," she said.

    Andrews said the "acting" designation for regional officials is a designation that signifies that they are FEMA civil servants -- not political appointees.

    Touring the wrecked Gulf Coast with Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff yesterday, Vice President Cheney also defended FEMA leaders, saying, "We're always trying to strike the right balance" between political appointees and "career professionals that fill the jobs underneath them."

    But experts inside and out of government said a "brain drain" of experienced disaster hands throughout the agency, hastened in part by the appointment of leaders without backgrounds in emergency management, has weakened the agency's ability to respond to natural disasters. Some security experts and congressional critics say the exodus was fueled by a bureaucratic reshuffling in Washington in 2003, when FEMA was stripped of its independent Cabinet-level status and folded into the Department of Homeland Security.

    Emergency preparedness has atrophied as a result, some analysts said, extending from Washington to localities.

    FEMA "has gone downhill within the department, drained of resources and leadership," said I.M. "Mac" Destler, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy. "The crippling of FEMA was one important reason why it failed."

    Richard A. Andrews, former emergency services director for the state of California and a member of the president's Homeland Security Advisory Council, said state and local failures were critical in the Katrina response, but competence, funding and political will in Washington were also lacking.

    "I do not think fundamentally this is an organizational issue," Andrews said. "You need people in there who have both experience and the confidence of the president, who are able to fight and articulate what FEMA's mission and role is, and who understand how emergency management works."

    The agency's troubles are no secret. The Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit group that promotes careers in federal government, ranked FEMA last of 28 agencies studied in 2003.

    In its list of best places to work in the government, a 2004 survey by the American Federation of Government Employees found that of 84 career FEMA professionals who responded, only 10 people ranked agency leaders excellent or good.

    An additional 28 said the leadership was fair and 33 called it poor.

    More than 50 said they would move to another agency if they could remain at the same pay grade, and 67 ranked the agency as poorer since its merger into the Department of Homeland Security.
    #148     Sep 9, 2005
  9. September 7, 2005
    Haunted by Hesitation


    It took a while, but the president finally figured out a response to the destruction of New Orleans.

    Later this week (no point rushing things) W. is dispatching Dick Cheney to the rancid lake that was a romantic city. The vice president has at long last lumbered back from a Wyoming vacation, and, reportedly, from shopping for a $2.9 million waterfront estate in St. Michael's, a retreat in the Chesapeake Bay where Rummy has a weekend home, where "Wedding Crashers" was filmed and where rich lobbyists hunt.

    Maybe Mr. Cheney is going down to New Orleans to hunt looters. Or to make sure that Halliburton's lucrative contract to rebuild the city is watertight. Or maybe, since former Senator John Breaux of Louisiana described the shattered parish as "Baghdad under water," the vice president plans to take his pal Ahmad Chalabi along for a consultation on destroying minority rights.

    The water that breached the New Orleans levees and left a million people homeless and jobless has also breached the White House defenses. Reality has come flooding in. Since 9/11, the Bush administration has been remarkably successful at blowing off "the reality-based community," as it derisively calls the press.

    But now, when W., Mr. Cheney, Laura, Rummy, Gen. Richard Myers, Michael Chertoff and the rest of the gang tell us everything's under control, our cities are safe, stay the course - who believes them?

    This time we can actually see the bodies.

    As the water recedes, more and more decaying bodies will testify to the callous and stumblebum administration response to Katrina's rout of 90,000 square miles of the South.

    The Bush administration bungled the Iraq occupation, arrogantly throwing away State Department occupation plans and C.I.A. insurgency warnings. But the human toll of those mistakes has not been as viscerally evident because the White House pulled a curtain over the bodies: the president has avoided the funerals of soldiers, and the Pentagon has censored the coffins of the dead coming home and never acknowledges the number of Iraqi civilians killed.

    But this time, the bodies of those who might have been saved between Monday and Friday, when the president failed to rush the necessary resources to a disaster that his own general describes as "biblical," or even send in the 82nd Airborne, are floating up in front of our eyes.

    New Orleans's literary lore and tourist lure was its fascination with the dead and undead, its lavish annual Halloween party, its famous above-ground cemeteries, its love of vampires and voodoo and zombies. But now that the city is decimated, reeking with unnecessary death and destruction, the restless spirits of New Orleans will haunt the White House.

    The administration's foreign policy is entirely constructed around American self-love - the idea that the U.S. is superior, that we are the model everyone looks up to, that everyone in the world wants what we have.

    But when people around the world look at Iraq, they don't see freedom. They see chaos and sectarian hatred. And when they look at New Orleans, they see glaring incompetence and racial injustice, where the rich white people were saved and the poor black people were left to die hideous deaths. They see some conservatives blaming the poor for not saving themselves. So much for W.'s "culture of life."

    The president won re-election because he said that the war in Iraq and the Homeland Security Department would make us safer. Hogwash.

    W.'s 2004 convention was staged like "The Magnificent Seven" with the Republicans' swaggering tough guys - from Rudy Giuliani to Arnold Schwarzenegger to John McCain - riding in to save an embattled town.

    These were the steely-eyed gunslingers we needed to protect us, they said, not those sissified girlie-men Democrats. But now it turns out that W. can't save the town, not even from hurricane damage that everyone has been predicting for years, much less from unpredictable terrorists.

    His campaigns presented the arc of his life story as that of a man who stumbled around until he was 40, then found himself and developed a laserlike focus.

    But now that the people of New Orleans need an ark, we have to question the president's arc. He's stumbling in Iraq and he's stumbling on Katrina.

    Let's play the blame game: the man who benefited more than anyone in history from safety nets set up by family did not bother to provide one for those who lost their families.
    #149     Sep 9, 2005
  10. Mvic


    Boy is she behind the curve on this one, he isn't stumbling in either case. He has fallen and can't get up and no lifealert for the American people available until 2006/8.
    #150     Sep 9, 2005