Friday, September 30, 2005

My Neighbor's Flag after Rita.

The Onion's FEMA tips.

For example,
In a time of crisis brought on by a natural disaster, remember to focus on the task at hand—survival—and don't waste mental energy thinking about who did or didn't cut this or that funding for levee repairs.

Well, at least some real estate agents are doing well.

Before the hurricane, there were, on average, 257 homes bought each month.

Since Katrina, in September so far, 618 homes have been sold with dozens more pending -- about $132 million worth of activity, much higher than the $40 million a month average, Hebert said.

Cameron is Gone.

CAMERON -- Hurricane Rita left Cameron in so many pieces that it is hard to tell that a town ever stood here.

"The whole town, the whole area, is just gone, like it was erased off the map," Maj. John Frost, a member of the Louisiana National Guard, said while surveying the mess.

"Total devastation." Frost said. "You wouldn't believe it if you weren't here. Almost every house and everybody's building is gone to the slabs -- to the slabs."
New Orleans is, justly, the center of everyone's concern this hurricane season, so it's easy to overlook the smaller towns and villages that are suffering as well. Thankfully, there were no deaths in Cameron, as there were during Audry, but still, the cost is great.

Very Interesting Theory on the Delay Indictment

Delay already has a plea agreement. The argument is very persuasive.


A very nasty surprise.

BATON ROUGE, La., Sept. 28 - A few residents returning to their homes in this devastated region have found the bodies of their loved ones, even in houses that have been searched and marked, and the state emergency medical director warned Wednesday that more families could be in for a similar shock.

Operation Blue Roof or Operation Red Ink?

The government is paying contractors an average of $2,480 for less than two hours of work to cover each damaged roof — even though it's also giving them endless supplies of blue sheeting for free.
. . . . .
Steve Manser, president of Simon Roofing and Sheet Metal of Youngstown, Ohio, which was awarded an initial $10 million contract to begin "Operation Blue Roof" in New Orleans, acknowledged that the price his company is charging to install blue tarps could pay for shingling an entire roof.
Almost $2500 for tacking a sheet of plastic on a roof! There are guys in N.O. who would be happy to do it for a tenth that amount. How do I get a contract like that? I know, you gotta have friends in high places.

Back to Normal for Some in N.O.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- The sounds of power saws and wood chippers filled parts of New Orleans on Friday as the French Quarter and other neighborhoods that were spared the worst of Hurricane Katrina were officially reopened to residents, a month after the storm hit.
Along St. Charles Avenue, its famous streetcars still idled, Maury Strong and her husband were elated to return home and find they had electricity.
"I came back to air conditioning and CNN, so I'm happy. The fridge is on, the beer is cold," she said. "I've been sobbing back in California for two or three weeks. I thought it was going to be much worse."
Great news! But there's also some bad news.
THIBODAUX -- It’s likely that about 1.3 million Louisiana residents were displaced because of the devastation left behind by Hurricane Katrina, and it’s reasonable to assume that some are not returning.
Based on rough estimates and some "heroic assumptions," LSU economist Loren Scott said he believes about 125,000 people will not return.
And maybe even worse news.
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Louisiana is expected to lose $1 billion in tax dollars this year because of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, but that only is part of the budget deficit state government agencies are facing, financial analysts told lawmakers Friday.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Help fund the billboard.

This is, no kidding, how requests for assistance are considered.

Thanks to CapitolBuzz for this actual flow chart from the DoD.

Newsweek issues a correction.

The original version of this story incorrectly reported that Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco had been "hesitant to declare martial law or a state of emergency." In fact, Gov. Blanco declared a state of emergency Friday, Aug. 26, before Katrina hit the state.
Who were they listening to? The declaration was a matter of public record, and appeared on the internet almost immediately.

Who will rebuild if all the builders are gone?

This AP story indicates that perhaps thousands of contractors have been wiped out by Katrina. How do you rebuild if workers and contractors are scattered all over the country?
With hundreds or even thousands of builders wiped out by Katrina - their tools lost and workers scattered - homeowners looking to rebuild quickly are in for a shock.

The scope of home destruction is so sweeping that it will likely stretch rebuilding for years. It took more than a decade to reconstruct all the homes destroyed by Hurricane Andrew, after it hit Florida in 1992. Katrina destroyed 10 times as many homes as Andrew.

More on Gulf Coast Unemployment Benefits -- $5044 per year?

This situation is more than merely desperate. It's likely to be fatal to some.
Sept. 28—Displaced workers hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina live in the three states with the lowest average weekly unemployment insurance (UI) benefit levels in the nation. That means workers in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi are receiving an average UI benefit that is only half the poverty line for a family of four.

Workers who are not eligible for UI qualify for federal Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA)—but those benefits are set at half a state’s average weekly UI benefit, which would be less than $100 a week in all three states, according to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

“Louisiana’s (DUA) level of $97 per week is the equivalent of $5,044 a year. This provides income far below the poverty line even for a single individual, let alone for an unemployed worker trying to support a family,” according to the report, which notes that $97 a week is only 31 percent of the poverty line for a family of three.

Here's a link for people needing unemployment help.

Here's a link to ask congress to reinstate the prevailing wage law in those areas where the administration has rescinded the Davis-Bacon Act. Its more than shameful, it's barbaric that just at the time when workers need it most, their wages were cut by Bush's fiat.

Blanco adds up the costs: 375,000 jobless in Louisiana.

That's real people, and families. That's probably about a million people with no income in the family. In 2004 Louisiana's population was 4,496,334. That's 8% unemployment, way above the national average of 5.5%. A quarter of our people with no income? Louisiana is already a poor state. Its rich resources, timber and oil especially, are not its own. It has a typical extractive economy, with raw materials shipped elsewhere for others to reap the added value. We sacrifice our coastline for oil, and our forests are owned by multi-nationals. Workers involved in those industries are poorly paid, to begin with, and now they are out of work, perhaps for a very long time since nearly 41,000 businesses are not closed, many permanently. So, a message to the administration and congress: please, no boondoggles, no great projects to be run and staffed by DC bureaucrats or out-of-state businesses. All the skill and expertise and manpower to put this state back together is already here. Find ways to put our people to work.

P.S. You could start by helping us restore the wetlands destroyed by our nation's need for oil.

There's a grim joke in this picture.

Some of the Records of the Evacuees

Just think about the size of this job.

Inside the Dome

This is what the evacuees must see from their cots.

Donated Crutches and Walkers.

Tuesday waiting for the evacuees to return.

Tuesday: Cajundome awaits retrun of evacuees

The sign, drawn by a child evacuee from Katrina, says "Thank you, volunteers," as several volunteers get ready for a new group of evacuees from Rita.

Evacuees return after second evacuation.
Jennifer Davis, of Lake Charles, was at the arena Wednesday looking for financial assistance and a place to live.

She described a trip that took her, her husband and their 1-year-old son to northern Louisiana, where they spent a night outside on the grounds of a church that had no room inside for more evacuees.

They got into the church the next night but had to leave when power and water service was knocked out by Rita. When they made it to the town’s high school, the same thing happened, said Davis’ husband, Michael Guillory. They eventually made their way to nearby Opelousas, where they were staying with family.
She and others hold out hope for eventually regaining their lives outside shelters. "I thought I was on the path in Lafayette. But then to be moved from there to here, it was an uproar again."

West wants to find housing and a job in Lafayette.

"I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy. I can appreciate a homeless person now more than ever."

This may be the most chilling story out of New Orleans

Human Rights Watch reports that the sheriff's department in New Orleans left hundreds of inmates locked in a city jail as flood waters began to rise.
Were prisoners left to drown in the New Orleans parish jail? It seems that they were, and heads should roll if they were. People whose only offense may have been "drunk and disorderly" might have been condemned to death by inadequate planning,indifference and incompetance.

Chief Compass didn't quit. He was fired.

After announcing his retirement Tuesday, New Orleans Police Superintendent Eddie Compass told several high-ranking officers that he had been forced out by Mayor Ray Nagin, the officers said Wednesday.
Maybe Nagin is dysfunctional after all. The article says the two had a "heated confrontation."

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Blanco v. Brown. Oh, come on Kathleen, call him what he is -- a liar.

In a statement issued in advance of Wednesday's hearing, Blanco said she issued the evacuation order two days before the storm, and that it resulted in 1.3 million people leaving the city.

She accused Brown of uttering "falsehoods and misleading statements" under oath to Congress, and called that "shocking."
Well, I guess saying that he uttered falshoods under oath is good enough.

The White HOuse Blocks Aid to All Victims: Doesn't want to expand Medicaid to some.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- With Gulf Coast governors pressing for action, Senate Finance Committee members complained Wednesday that the Bush administration is blocking a bipartisan $9 billion health care package for hundreds of thousands of evacuees from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

"We've got people with needs today," Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco said. She was joined by Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Alabama Gov. Bob Riley, who testified via a teleconference hookup, in urging quick action on the legislation.
. . . . . . .
"We can work with everybody, including the administration, or against them, and I'm prepared to go either way," said Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss. "But I'm going to look after our people first."
Even Lott gets the message. Hey, George, here's another chicken coming home to roost. When Haley Barbour is on the other side of an issue, it's time for Bush to wake up and smell the "toxic gumbo." He's now officially a lame duck of the lamest kind.

Oil Companies more compassionate than FEMA?

2:24 p.m.
PORT ARTHUR, Texas (AP) — Residents of Port Arthur, Texas, say they know who to thank for help in the wake of Hurricane Rita — and it's not the federal government.

City leaders say local oil companies pitched in with badly needed food and supplies. They say the federal government just threw paperwork at them.

In fact, city officials say they couldn't have made it through those first few days after the storm if the oil companies hadn't helped.

Port Arthur's mayor says the next priorities are getting utilities — including water and sewer services — restored. Utility crews from as far away as Arizona and Pennsylvania have been trying to repair telephone and power lines.
Yes dear reader, it has come to this pass. Huey Long spins in his grave.

Jefferson v. Brown. Who has the facts?

Jefferson told Brown that Blanco's mandatory evacuation order went out on Sunday, Aug. 28, the same day that Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour ordered a mandatory evacuation of his state's coastal counties.

"They were made at about the same time," he said. "Are you saying that FEMA did everything right in Mississippi and Alabama and only Louisiana had problems."
What a liar. The FEMA plan for evacuation did not take the poor into account. There was plenty of time to get out, but no resources for the poor. Evacuation was complete by Sunday night. Except for the residents of the Ninth Ward. Get that straight, Brownie. Heckuva job, btw.

If you didn't get high winds, you get no help. Sorry about the flooding.

That's the word from WWLTV. If there were no hurricane winds, there will be no help from FEMA, even if there was a 9-foot flood surge in your backyard. We gottat admire the preparedness of these FEMA experts.

A Tale of Two Plans

OK, it's a trite headline, but the Rude Pundit has an excellent post on the subject (and the headline is mine). He demonstrates that the FEMA plan under Witt had clear objectives and time-lines. Under Allbaugh, the plan is designed to serve "customers" wit no clear objectives or deadlines.
So, to summarize here, the Strategic Goals of FEMA have shifted from definite measures of effectiveness in emergencies, including the responsibility to feed, hydrate, and shelter victims in the first couple of days after a disaster, to a business-speak that leaves weasel room for any screw-ups. To put it plainly, FEMA had been neutered by the Bush administration, dehumanized and made robotic. Is it any wonder how Michael Brown could sit there today with a straight face and claim he did his job?

MSNBC: Big BIG News-- Delay Indicted.

How many of the pundits said last year that Delay would never be indicted? I need to do some research on that, but I will guarantee that soon the pundits (like Brit Hume)at fox will begin claiming that he'll never be convicted. It's probably happening already.

See this attempt at whitewash by Brian Williams. From Media Matters

And this vote of support from the White House.
BUSH: And I appreciate the leadership of Congressman Tom DeLay in working on important issues that matter to the country.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Not only is Brown an Asshole, He's a Liar as well.

From Think Progress via Atrios, we learn that Brown perjured himself when he tried to smear Governor Blanco.

AP: Astounding! Texas getting the same FEBAR treatment

Port Arthur Mayor Oscar Ortiz, whose own home was destroyed by fire after the hurricane, said "we've had 101 promises" for aid, "but it's all bureaucracy." He and other officials gathered at a hotel-turned-command center, where a dirty American flag found among hurricane debris was hung on the wall.

John Owens, emergency management coordinator and deputy police chief in the town of 57,000, said pleas for state and federal relief were met with requests for paperwork.
This is precisely the same story as we heard over and over and over in Louisiana. FEMA is dysfunctional, not Louisiana, and not Texas. It's Bush cronyism at work.

Brown: both an unrepentant idiot AND an asshole.

"My biggest mistake was not recognizing by Saturday that Louisiana was dysfunctional"
CBS's video is an amazing display of Brown's arrogance. He's pretty good as faking outrage.

Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanco's response.

Update: A friend relays this comment from a doctor from Shreveport: "The idiot-- who doesn't know that Louisiana is dysfunctional?!"

CBS: N.O. police chief resigns.

5:34 p.m.
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Police Superintendent Eddie Compass resigned Tuesday after four turbulent weeks in which the police force was wracked by desertions and disorganization in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath.

"I served this department for 26 years and have taken it through some of the toughest times of its history. Every man in a leadership position must know when it's time to hand over the reins," Compass said at a news conference. "I'll be going on in another direction that God has for me."

Neither Compass nor Mayor Ray Nagin would say whether Compass was pressured to resign.
Maybe it's because he, like Nagin, peddled the atrocity stories about mayhem in the Superdome and Convention Center, stories that turned out to be pure bunk. But just what some folks wanted to hear. Digby at Hullaballoo has a great series of posts about how some people wanted to believe those stories about the "underprivileged" that Barbara Bush spoke so feelingly about.

Reuters: You DID expect this, didn't you?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - House Republicans on Wednesday will launch a rapid-fire assault against environmental protections on the pretext of helping the U.S. oil and gas industry recover from hurricane damage, environmental groups charge.
Thyese guys are really inventive when it comes to unleashing the Oil Industry. Not so good at hurricane recovery, though.

DKos: Late night Bush Hurricane jokes/

"Bush is keeping track of Hurricane Rita as it hits his home state of Texas. That's Bush's worst nightmare: an electric chair with no power."
--Jay Leno

"Hurricane Rita is supposed to make landfall in Texas, which is good for Barbara Bush because she can insult survivors closer to home."
--Bill Maher

"Yesterday President Bush made his fifth visit to the area that received the most damage from Hurricane Katrina. In other words, the White House."
--Conan O'Brien

"The president believes the government should be limited not in size, Jon, but in effectiveness. In terms of effectiveness, this is the most limited government we've ever had."
--Daily Show correspondent Rob Corddry

"Now here's some sad information coming out of Washington. According to reports, President Bush may be drinking again. And I thought, `Well, why not? He's got everybody else drinking.'"
--David Letterman

WSJ: Has the Nooner turned on Bush?

In his Katrina policy the president is telling Democrats, "You can't possibly outspend me. Go ahead, try. By the time this is over Dennis Kucinich will be crying uncle, Bernie Sanders will be screaming about pork."

That's what's behind Mr. Bush's huge, comforting and boondogglish plan to spend $200 billion or $100 billion or whatever--"whatever it takes"--on Katrina's aftermath. And, I suppose, tomorrow's hurricane aftermath.
Bush had lost his mojo for certain when Peggy Noonan disses him.

Did Bush break the law? Duh!

It appears based on this Congressional Research Report that Bush violated the 1976 National Emergencies Act in failing to follow proper procedures in suspending Davis-Bacon wage regulations. Dems at the Education and Workforce Committee are denouncing Bush for this illegal behavior.
Lafayette's congressman, Rep. Boustany, supports the President's action, saying that the elimination of Davis-Bacon will "ease the burden on state and local officials." We should note that Davis-Bacon does not apply to state or local officials, only to the Federal Government. Perhaps the media (ahem!) should ask for a clearification.

USA Today: No-bid contracts invite waste & fraud.

“Read about what has been spent in Iraq, and all you have to do is change the word ‘Iraq' to ‘Louisiana,' ” Schooner said. “We appear to have learned nothing.”
Very eloquent. What more is there to say? Same ol' same ol'.

FEMA procedure: 1. Where's Halliburton? 2. How much money do we have? 3. Give it to them.

High-flying Bush calls for energy conservation.

With fears mounting that high energy costs will crimp economic growth, President Bush called on Americans yesterday to conserve gasoline by driving less. He also issued a directive for all federal agencies to cut their own energy use and to encourage employees to use public transportation.
He could start by keeping Air Force One on the runway for a while.
The Air Force recently estimated that fuel costs on the presidential aircraft have risen past six-thousand-dollars an hour, up from just under four-thousand in the last budget year.

Advocate: Lucky Louisiana

Chemical plants in southwest Louisiana and east Texas escaped major damage from Hurricane Rita, although the storm did knock out electricity for many and further hampered natural gas deliveries, industry officials said Monday.

Advocate: A nice title for this operation

The federal government's "Operation Blue Roof," which temporarily patches storm-damaged roofs, has resumed after Hurricane Rita.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will provide the free temporary covering, typically blue plastic sheeting, only after property owners sign "right of entry" forms. The forms allow the corps to assess the damage and contractors to do the work.

At the Cajundome

I spent a good part of the day at the Cajundome today, where I had gone to work with a friend who was writing the story of the Cajundome's involvement in the rescue and recovery from Katrina and Rita. But I ended up helping with registering volunteers. Today was mostly spent in preparation for tomorrow when as many as 4000 evacuees are expected arrive. It's a gargantuan task, both in numbers and in size of the site. To walk from the Cajundome to the Convention Center, where a number of evacuees are already housed, and back takes about ten minutes, negotiating unfamiliar passageways and police checkpoints. That is, if you don't get interrupted by someone, volunteer, resident, or security who needs to ask you a question (and of course, I knew nothing.) And some of the volunteers needed to continuously shuttle back and forth; to get simple jobs done often requires that and more. (I imagine it was worse at the much bigger Astrodome or the Superdome.) Remarkably, everyone I saw had a great sense of humor and a great attitude. Apparently, a number of smaller bureaucratic units had formed in various parts of the complex, and there was some vying for resources. It seemed to be impossible to leave the building since so much seemed to need doing, and there was no way of knowing where your co-workers would be when you came back. Though I was sure I was doing some good, I spent the afternoon buried in the bowels of the Cajundome without seeing many evacuees. Because the main arena was empty and because I was working with someone with the Cajundome, I was permitted to take a few pictures, though not of the refugees. I'll try to put some of them up later. It's impossible to spend any time there without hoping or praying that things will turn out right for all those people.

Look who's pointing fingers -- thumbs actually.

WWL: Now can we please start the Blame Game?

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Former FEMA director Michael Brown said Monday he should have sought help faster from the Pentagon after Hurricane Katrina hit, and accused state and local officials of constant infighting during the crisis, according to congressional aides.
. . . . . . .
According to the memo, obtained by The Associated Press, Brown took several shots at Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. He said the two officials "sparred during the crisis and could not work together cooperatively."

Yeah, that's it. We wouldn't send in rescuers because those nasty local and state officials wouldn't "work together cooperatively." That's it. That's my story. And it's the TRUTH. Now more mexican food, a margarita, walk the dog, and aonther round of the Blame Game.

What a putz!

Some Dry Run, Governor Perry.

"We don't have to be right every time," he said. "It may not have hit this time, but it may next time."

That was partly a response to worries that the glaring hitches in the evacuation will make people ignore get-out orders next time.

"It's going to be a lot harder to get people to go. And that could cause a loss of life," said Amy Hong, who stayed in Houston with her husband and 6-week-old son and was none the worse for it.

She was upset that authorities have treated the evacuation as a sort of human experiment - a "fascinating" drill, as Perry put it.

"They called it a dry run," said Hong. "That's a lot of people to be practising with."

Darned right, Amy.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Mr. Bush: Save gas; don't get in the way. (CBS)

2:57 p.m.
(CBS) — Traveling back to the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast tomorrow, President Bush isn't taking a gas-guzzling car. Instead, he's flying in Air Force One. CBS News Radio White House correspondent Mark Knoller reports that Air Force One, a 747, uses 3,840 gallons of aviation fuel per hour.

Plus, the president plans to travel in motorcade when visiting the hurricane zone.

CBS: Incompetent Mike Brown hired back as consultant.

Sept. 26, 2005
6:44 p.m.
(CBS) — CBS News correspondent Gloria Borger reports that Michael Brown, who recently resigned as the head of the FEMA, has been rehired by the agency as a consultant to evaluate it's response following Hurricane Katrina.

CNN: Couvillion on FEMA

7:20 on CNN. Paula Zahn asks Sheriff Couvillion of Vermilion Parish a question. Couvillion answers, "I can't hear a word you're saying, but I have this statement to make. I wish FEMA would cut all this red tape and get some help to these people."

Nation: What are mercenaries doing in New Orleans?

"This vigilantism demonstrates the utter breakdown of the government," says Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights. "These private security forces have behaved brutally, with impunity, in Iraq. To have them now on the streets of New Orleans is frightening and possibly illegal."

Blackwater is not alone. As business leaders and government officials talk openly of changing the demographics of what was one of the most culturally vibrant of America's cities, mercenaries from companies like DynCorp, Intercon, American Security Group, Blackhawk, Wackenhut and an Israeli company called Instinctive Shooting International (ISI) are fanning out to guard private businesses and homes, as well as government projects and institutions. Within two weeks of the hurricane, the number of private security companies registered in Louisiana jumped from 185 to 235. Some, like Blackwater, are under federal contract. Others have been hired by the wealthy elite, like F. Patrick Quinn III, who brought in private security to guard his $3 million private estate and his luxury hotels, which are under consideration for a lucrative federal contract to house FEMA workers.

Times Picayune: Most of the stories about mayhem in New Orleans were bogus.

Following days of internationally reported killings, rapes and gang violence inside the Dome, the doctor from FEMA - Beron doesn't remember his name - came prepared for a grisly scene: He brought a refrigerated 18-wheeler and three doctors to process bodies.

"I've got a report of 200 bodies in the Dome," Beron recalls the doctor saying.

The real total was six, Beron said.

Of those, four died of natural causes, one overdosed and another jumped to his death in an apparent suicide, said Beron, who personally oversaw the turning over of bodies from a Dome freezer, where they lay atop melting bags of ice. State health department officials in charge of body recovery put the official death count at the Dome at 10, but Beron said the other four bodies were found in the street near the Dome, not inside it. Both sources said no one had been killed inside.

At the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, just four bodies were recovered, despites reports of corpses piled inside the building. Only one of the dead appeared to have been slain, said health and law enforcement officials.

That the nation's front-line emergency management believed the body count would resemble that of a bloody battle in a war is but one of scores of examples of myths about the Dome and the Convention Center treated as fact by evacuees, the media and even some of New Orleans' top officials, including the mayor and police superintendent. As the fog of warlike conditions in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath has cleared, the vast majority of reported atrocities committed by evacuees have turned out to be false, or at least unsupported by any evidence, according to key military, law enforcement, medical and civilian officials in positions to know.
"I think 99 percent of it is bulls---," said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Lachney, who played a key role in security and humanitarian work inside the Dome. "Don't get me wrong, bad things happened, but I didn't see any killing and raping and cutting of throats or anything. ... Ninety-nine percent of the people in the Dome were very well-behaved."

NYT: More no bid contracts for Bush's friends -- Katrina version.

More than 80 percent of the $1.5 billion in contracts signed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency alone were awarded without bidding or with limited competition, government records show, provoking concerns among auditors and government officials about the potential for favoritism or abuse.

Already, questions have been raised about the political connections of two major contractors - the Shaw Group and Kellogg, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton - that have been represented by the lobbyist Joe M. Allbaugh, President Bush's former campaign manager and a former leader of FEMA.

"When you do something like this, you do increase the vulnerability for fraud, plain waste, abuse and mismanagement," said Richard L. Skinner, the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security, who said 60 members of his staff were examining Hurricane Katrina contracts. "We are very apprehensive about what we are seeing."

Bills have come in for deals that apparently were clinched with a handshake, with no documentation to back them up, said Mr. Skinner, who declined to provide details.

"Most, if not all, of these people down there were trying to do the right thing," he said. "They were under a lot of pressure and they took a lot of shortcuts that may have resulted in a lot of waste."

Congress appropriated $62.3 billion in emergency financing after Hurricane Katrina struck. So far, a total of $15.8 billion has been allocated from a FEMA-managed disaster relief fund, of which $11.6 billion has been committed through contracts, direct aid to individuals or work performed by government agencies.

An examination of the contracts granted to date and interviews with state and federal officials raised concerns about some of the awards.

Some industry and government officials questioned the costs of the debris-removal contracts, saying the Army Corps of Engineers had allowed a rate that was too high. And Congressional investigators are looking into the $568 million awarded to AshBritt, a Pompano Beach, Fla., company that was a client of the former lobbying firm of Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi.

This blogging is HAAAARD!

If you don't have a DSL line.

Beaumont Enterprise: Four days later, still waiting for FEMA

However, after four days request for supplies have gone unmet.

Some supplies that were reportedly headed towards Kountze were rerouted to other areas.

Joe Blackmon, Hardin County Emergency Management Coordinator, worried about people's anxieties and frustrations of being without food and water for so long.

"People have promised things and haven't done nothin," Blackmon said.

About 3:30 AM Monday, the state of Texas Disaster District committee delivered 48,000 gallons of water to the city.

Caraway and emergency management officials were trying to figure out how they could get the supplies to designated drop spots throughout the county to make sure all citizens' needs are met. Hardin County is being bumped to the bottom of the supplies list.

Nothing has changed. FEMA is still criminally incompetant. One person I know, who worked in Indonesia after the tsunami, says that the reaction to Katrina was abysmal, mych worse than Indonesia, totally disorganized. E.g. doctors from the Mayo Clinic sitting idle, because they didn't have some FEMA paperwork. Now Texas is finding out that nothing has changed in FEMA. They're still ;more of a hindrance than a help in recovery efforts.

Below is and elaboration on the Enterprise story from Editor & Publisher:

In Beaumont, Texas, claims that federal relief agencies learned their lessons from Hurricane Katrina and are on the ball in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita are apparently ringing hollow. The Beaumont (Tex.) Enterprise reported tonight that disaster response coordinators in the area hard hit by Rita say they are seeing the same foot-dragging federal response this weekend witnessed two weeks ago in New Orleans and Mississippi.

Jefferson County Judge Carl Griffith and other local leaders, "haggard after days of almost non-stop work with little sleep, pleaded with the federal government to get itself in a higher gear," the paper said. Griffith said he wanted to return services to residents who remain but that "it seems like they can't figure out how to get it done."

"There's a drastic shortage of generators in Beaumont to provide emergency power," Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said. "There are generators at Ford Park, and FEMA is withholding their release. They want to finish their damage assessment."

Jefferson County officials had a plan to distribute Meals-Ready-to-Eat from local fire stations, the paper said. However, Griffith said the MREs, like the generators, were being withheld by FEMA.

"They won't let us have them," Griffith said. "They said we had to go through the state - which we already did - to get them. I'm going over there (to Ford Park) now to figure this out."

MSNBC: Tim Russert gets his clock cleaned by Aaron Broussard.

Listen, sir, somebody wants to nitpick a man's tragic loss of a mother because she was abandoned in a nursing home? Are you kidding? What kind of sick mind, what kind of black-hearted people want to nitpick a man's mother's death? They just buried Eva last week. I was there at the wake. Are you kidding me? That wasn't a box of Cheerios they buried last week. That was a man's mother whose story, if it is entirely broadcast, will be the epitome of abandonment. It will be the saddest tale you ever heard, a man who was responsible for safekeeping of a half a million people, mother's died in the next parish because she was abandoned there and he can't get to her and he tried to get to her through EOC. He tried to get through the sheriff's office. He tries every way he can to get there. Somebody wants to debate those things? My God, what sick-minded person wants to do that?

What kind of agenda is going on here? Mother Nature doesn't have a political party. Mother Nature can vote a person dead and Mother Nature can vote a community out of existence. But Mother Nature is not playing any political games here. Somebody better wake up. You want to come and live in this community and see the tragedy we're living in? Are you sitting there having your coffee, you're in a place where toilets flush and lights go on and everything's a dream and you pick up your paper and you want to battle ideology and political chess games? Man, get out of my face. Whoever wants to do that, get out of my face.

Tim Russert is a shameless hack for power and the status quo. He may have realized, however, that it's best not to tangle with an angry, eloquent Cajun who knows what he's talking about. I wish other Washington politicians would stand up to Russert the way Aaron Broussard did.

Newsweek: Any lessons?

And so what can Americans learn from this month of destruction and near destruction, of Category 3s and Category 4s, of slow presidential reflexes and presidential hyperactivity? The possible lessons go beyond natural disasters, as important as natural disasters and their many victims are. In an age in which terrorists have successfully struck the American homeland and hope to do so again, the 2005 hurricane season has made a seemingly boring quality of leadership sexy again: competence.

Is the media finally catching on? Are there some things more important than the personality contest that we've turned Presidential elections into?

Cameron takes another hit.

CAMERON PARISH, La., Sept. 25 -- Cameron Parish had 48 years to put Audrey behind it, 48 years to watch the really big hurricanes, the true monsters, go elsewhere. But Rita's rough assault on this wild, low-slung corner of southwestern Louisiana reminded people here about their vulnerability nearly half a century after Audrey killed 390 people, making it one of the 10 deadliest U.S. hurricanes.

Why so much help with Rita? And none for Katrina?

The response to Rita, however, suggests that the government had plenty of authority to respond to Katrina and that what was lacking during Katrina was an understanding of when to use that authority.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Blanco wants 'recovery corps'

Mike Hasten Louisiana Gannett News Service

BATON ROUGE - Gov. Kathleen Blanco wants to establish a "Louisiana Recovery Corps" to help hurricane evacuees cut through the bureaucratic red tape in filing for federal and other types of assistance.

Allen, the federal official in charge of the federal government's operations for both hurricanes, said he had not studied Blanco's proposal, but since it was not directed solely at FEMA, he would consider it.

The Daily Advertiser

Lafayette gets $8.2M for Katrina relief efforts

A week ago, city officials were expecting $10 M in reimbursement from FEMA for expenses the city incurred with housing evacuees at the Cajundome. The day before Rita hit the southwest coast of Louisiana, FEMA delivered a check for $8.2M to the city. That's a good start but FEMA still owes Lafayette $1.8M . . . a little more than pocket change!

The Daily Advertiser

Tracking the Damage

Interesting overview of damage sites

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Latest on Hurricane Rita

Heavy damages in Lake Charles. For regular updates, check here.

SW La bears the worst of Hurricane Rita's lashing rain, winds

(LAKE CHARLES, La.) -- Emergency workers in southwest uisiana expect to find death and devastation when the storm's strongest horizontal rain and wind squalls pass.Rescuers plan to head to homes of people who didn't flee and called Nine-One-One seeking help as the storm pounded southern Louisiana and flooded coastal areas.

The hurricane's eye came ashore around 2:30 this morning along the Louisiana-Texas line near the largely-empty oil refining towns of Lake Charles and Texas' Beaumont and Port Arthur.

The storm brought with it a 20-foot storm surge. Up to 25 inches of rain is expected. The National Hurricane Center in Miami has no information about conditions in Lake Charles at landfall, because the area's sensors went down several hours earlier.

Friday, September 23, 2005

3:00 in Lafayette

A light drizzle and some gusty winds, but no thurnderstorms have yet hit this part of the parish. The governor just held a news conference, it seems that there's better response from the feds and FEMA this time, but all that remains to be seen. The good news is that Rita is now a cat 3 storm.

Early afternoon in Houma

The best laid plans . . . well, squally weather has been the entertainment du jour. Early this morning as the rain bands started moving over Houma, gusts could get up to 25 mph. That's changed since a little before noon. The periods of time between the bands can hardly be detected so there is a constant rain that, at times, looks to be very intense. The gusts we are experiencing now are more in the 35-40 mph range. The local television channel HTV is reporting serious flooding down the bayou in the Montegut/Bourg area. There've experienced a couple of breeches in levees down there. Cocodrie (home of LUMSCOM) is flooded also.

Communication lines (land and cellular) are still problematic. I'd be curious to know if the telecommunication problem (which began early yesterday) is a carry-over from HRH Katrina and repairs associated with same or if there is another logical reason for such a lack prior to HRH Rita?

Some flooding in N.O

Just reported on WWL radio. Some of the levees in N.O. have been overtopped, and there is some flooding in the Ninth Ward. Predicting 3-5 inches of rain. Major problems if there is more. The overtopping is in places where the levee was repaired, not yet as high as the original levees.

Morning in Lafayette

It's still pretty calm here. Cloudy with some slight gusts of wind. We're expecting lots of wind this afternoon, in the 60-70mph range. That would give us the same sort of experience that we had from Lili. Right now I'm listening to WWL radio, with local tv in the other room. They are pointing out that Louisiana will take the brunt of the storm, especially the area around Lake Charles, which is Rita's target at the moment. Lake Charles will get the same sort of winds and rain that New Orleans got with Katrina. We've taken in the stuff that might fly around, and that's about all the preparations we can make.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Jams on I-10 east out of Houston

A friend travelling east out of houston left at 8:00 AM today. She had only reached Beaumont by 2:00 PM -- six hours for a drive that normally takes about 1.5. Ant no telephones working reliably -- neither cell nor land-lines in Lafayette. If Rita turns north for south central LA, it's going to be a hellacious mess.

Update: She's still on the way. Ran into terrible traffic near Beaumont, decided to try a more northerly route, wound up on LA 190, worse traffic there, dropped down from Elton to Jennings, found that traffic was moving briskly on I-10 at last report.

If ever there has to be an evacuation of Houston again, it will take regional coordination. Texas and Louisiana will need to work together to figure out a way to get traffic moving better through ideas like contraflow, pre-positioned gasoline, and whatnot.

Two cardinals covered up child abuse.

Published: September 21, 2005
PHILADELPHIA -- Leaders of the Philadelphia Archdiocese including two cardinals concealed sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests for four decades, a grand jury has found, but no criminal charges can be brought against the church or its clergy because of the limits of state law.

The grand jury, convened more than three years ago, issued a scathing report Wednesday that documents assaults by more than 60 priests. It also alleges a cover up by the late Cardinal John Krol, archbishop of Philadelphia from 1961-88, and his successor Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, who retired in 2003.

"To protect themselves from negative publicity or expensive lawsuits -- while keeping abusive priests active -- the cardinals and their aides hid the priests' crimes from parishioners, police and the general public," the report said.

This is exactly the pattern we saw in the Louisiana case of Gilbert Gauthe nearly 20 years ago. The church has learned nothing in 20 years.

How will we pay for Katrina? And Rita, I guess.

Raw Story has the Republican Study Group recommendations. Cut Medicare, Medicaid,Amtrack, high-speed rail, Federal retiree pensions, corporation for Publi9c Broadcasting, foreign aid for AIDS, school lunches, national service, clean coal & hydrogen fuel initiatives, farm subsidies, Close schools for military dependents. Not one military system, not one cut to military spending other than benefits to soldiers. PLUS, one huge, whopping error. The totals include $37.6 billion in cuts to "Attache Positions in the Foreign Agriculture Service." That number should be $37.6 million, as the text shows. However, the totals at the end of the document show that the billions are carried through. That's about 27% of the total savings --- just by conveniently moving the decimal a few places. Back to the old drawing board, Study Groupers!

The victims.

Dr. Louis Cataldie, medical incident commander for Louisiana, said the elderly appear to make up the bulk of the dead but that searchers also are finding more children.

Yahoo News/ AP

Rita is edging more toward Louisiana.

The forecast on BoatUS (which is really a NOAA graphic) shows Rita' predicted landfall heading directly toward Galveston Bay now. The cone of possibility now includes most of Louisiana.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Defective, poorly built or designed levees responsible for flooding.

But with the help of complex computer models and stark visual evidence, scientists and engineers at Louisiana State University's Hurricane Center have concluded that Katrina's surges did not come close to overtopping those barriers. That would make faulty design, inadequate construction or some combination of the two the likely cause of the breaching of the floodwalls along the 17th Street and London Avenue canals -- and the flooding of most of New Orleans.

Washington Post


Louisiana: 801 deaths
Mississippi: 219
Florida: 11
Alabama: 2
Georgia: 2
Total: 1,035

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Another FEMA FEBAR: sending ice to Gloucester, Mass.

Hundreds of thousands of pounds of ice meant for the Gulf Coast arrived yesterday not in storm-ravaged New Orleans or Mississippi but in Gloucester, where almost two dozen tractor-trailers spent the day parked on Rogers Street with their engines running.

Hundreds of truck drivers from Minnesota, Alabama, Georgia and even Massachusetts have been crisscrossing the country since the beginning of September, moving loads of ice from storage facility to storage facility and earning big bucks from the federal government to do little more than sit in their cabs and not unload their precious cargo.

Glouster (MA) Daily Times
via Huffington Post

Coleridge: "Fears in Solitude," 1798

We have drunk up, demure as at a grace,
Pollutions from the brimming cup of wealth ;
Contemptuous of all honourable rule,
Yet bartering freedom and the poor man's life
For gold, as at a market
! The sweet words
Of Christian promise, words that even yet
Might stem destruction, were they wisely preached,
Are muttered o'er by men, whose tones proclaim
How flat and wearisome they feel their trade :
Rank scoffers some, but most too indolent
To deem them falsehoods or to know their truth.
Oh ! blasphemous ! the Book of Life is made
A superstitious instrument, on which
We gabble o'er the oaths we mean to break
For all must swear--all and in every place,
College and wharf, council and justice-court ;
All, all must swear, the briber and the bribed,
Merchant and lawyer, senator and priest,
The rich, the poor, the old man and the young ;
All, all make up one scheme of perjury,
That faith doth reel ; the very name of God
Sounds like a juggler's charm

Coleridge's fears were not personal, they were fears for his country and what it had become.

Cafferty on CNN: "The public is not buying it any more."

Jack Cafferty on CNN lets loose with a big raspberry to Bush on the subject of the investigation of what went wrong with Kartina. Thanks to Crooks and Liars.

Chances are that N.O. will be safe to return to.

It doesn't appear that there will be any major, long-lasting chemical or biological contamination.

So far, though, results of the testing in New Orleans are encouraging, says Jerry Fenner, who's leading a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention team that is assessing the city's environmental health risks.

"All the data to date show there should not be any long-term health risks to the population," Fenner said late last week. While considerable concern has focused on germs lurking in New Orleans' sewage-contaminated floodwaters, they won't survive long once the water is pumped away. Times Picayune

In other New Orleans news, the Corps of Engineers is still working to shore up the levees that broke under Katrina, and have massive sandbags on hand to plug any remaining or new breaks in the levees.

And most of New Orleans is now dry. At least for the time being.

The corps estimates that about 2,700 acres of the city remain flooded, down from 27,000 acres immediately after the hurricane. The water is concentrated in three large pools, 2 to 4 feet deep — in East New Orleans, the northern section of the central city, and the 9th Ward — and should be gone within five days, Gapinski said.

And American Airlines and Southwest are planning a return of flights into the N.O. Armstrong Ariport.

Good news altogether. Now let's put some gris-gris on Hurricane Rita so she stays away from the Crescent City.

NO to be ground zero for right wing experiments.

The first indication that Bush would be experimenting in New Orleans with all the conservative programs he couldn't persuade Congress to pass was right after Hurricane Katrina, when he used emergency powers to make sure that workers in that city wouldn't get the "prevailing wage" under the Davis-Bacon act. Only Halliburton, apparently, will be allowed to profit from this windfall.
WASHINGTON, Sept 8 (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush issued an executive order on Thursday allowing federal contractors rebuilding in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to pay below the prevailing wage.
In a notice to Congress, Bush said the hurricane had caused "a national emergency" that permits him to take such action under the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act in ravaged areas of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.Reuters

Now Bush has found two more right-wing pet projects he'd like to try. The first is affirmative action. You'd think that the poor and minorities had been screwed enough by suspension of the prevailing wage rule, but Bush and his cronies are nothing if not ideologically pure. So for the time being it's ok to discriminate apparently.
The Labor Department has temporarily suspended government requirements that its contractors have an affirmative action plan addressing the employment of women, members of minorities, Vietnam veterans and the disabled if the companies are first-time government contractors working on reconstruction in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

While employment lawyers said it was not clear how strong an impact the exemption would have, the move comes as President Bush has tried to address the perception of unfairness in the government's response to the hurricane.NYTimes

And finally, Bush, again under the cover of an emergency gets to try out the conservative project to destroy the public school system, known as "school vouchers."
We can now envision the Federal government supporting religious school systems in New Orleans and throughout the Gulf Coast. It's a clear violation of the principle of separation of church and state, and it's bound to delight Bush's fundamentalist base.

Under President Bush's plan to cover most of the cost of educating students displaced by Hurricane Katrina, parents could enroll their children in a private or religious school this year at federal expense, even if they had gone to public schools back home, administration officials said yesterday.
Washington Post

Get ready New Orleans, you're going to be the petri dish for every right wing idea that's been rejected by Congress for the past 50 years. Right now, I wouldn't be surprised if Bush isn't seeking emergency power to overturn Roe v. Wade in the Gulf Coast. Remember when Bush said that dictatorship wouldn't be so bad "as long as I'm the dictator"?

Rita the hurricane reprise.

Here we go again.

Cajundome waiting for FEMA check.

Ten million dollars is needed to reimburse the Cajundome for its use as a Red Cross shelter, to cover routine operating expenses and to repair and refurbish the arena after Hurricane Katrina evacuees move out, Cajundome Director Greg Davis said Monday.

However, the Cajundome faces an immediate monetary need. The facility is spending $75,000 a day to serve as a shelter and has yet to receive a penny from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"We have used just about every nickel in our checking account," Davis said. "We need a FEMA check this week. We need it to make payroll Friday."

Davis said nearly 13,000 evacuees have filtered through the Cajundome since it opened as an evacuation shelter for Hurricane Katrina, which hit southeast Louisiana on Aug. 29. About 1,000 remain at the shelter, but at one point, 6,700 evacuees were housed there, he said.

Lafayette Daily Advertiser

Monday, September 19, 2005

Oil companies evacuate. Oil prices jump.

Energy companies – still struggling to restore oil and gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico after Hurricane Katrina – have begun shutting down operations and evacuating personnel in advance of Tropical Storm Rita.

Crude oil prices jumped 7 percent and natural gas prices closed 14 percent higher Monday in anticipation of further pinched oil and gas supplies.

Times Picayune

Brits' relief food to be burned.

We're burning perfectly good rations donated by Britain.
The Mirror

Whaddya know! Democrats show some moxie.

WASHINGTON -- Congressional Republicans signaled today that they have abandoned their plan to conduct a joint House-Senate probe of the government's response to Hurricane Katrina.

In announcing a joint probe this month, the Republican leadership had said it would be the most efficient way to investigate the administration's much-criticized initial response to the hurricane. But today, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) conceded that he could not overcome Democratic opposition to a joint investigation.

The Democratic leadership has refused to appoint members to a joint committee, citing the lack of equal representation of Democrats on the panel, and the lack of power to issue subpoenas that the majority opposed. Democrats also have insisted on an independent inquiry.

Democratic opposition has left Republicans little maneuvering room for mounting a credible probe. With the joint investigation apparently off the table, Republicans can only hope that Democrats will participate in each chamber's separate investigation. It was far from clear today that Democrats would do that.

LA Times

When will Democrats find their voice?

I read John Kerry's speech today, and I was impressed with the new fire in his words. He seems genuinely angry and ready to engage this administration on both Katrina and Iraq. It's good to see a prominent establishment Democrat take on the Bush administration with real energy, speaking directly, avoiding the usual accomodationist rhetoric we have heard for five years from Democrats apparently afraid of alienating anyone by telling the truth about our Naked Emperor.
But it's too late for Kerry. He should have given a speech like this during the debates, and told the American people how they had been sold, were still being sold, a bill of goods by this corporate/political complex that values Halliburton above the people it is sworn to protect.
And it's too late for another reason. It's mostly an indictment of the Bush administration for failures that everyone already knows about. Now that Bush's approval ratings are hovering in the high thirties, it's clear that he has failed. His presidency, as E. J. Dionne said last week, is over. And Kerry, or whoever the Democrats will nominate in 2008, will not run against Bush; that would be easy. He will run against a Republican who will promise a "new beginning" or a "clean slate," and he or she will be a "new face." The Republicans will find a new label for their version of the corporate state, will promise to finally, really build a New New Orleans (or a New Houston if Hurricane Rita becomes Katrina II). But it will be as much of a scam as Bush peddled. And they will probably win on that new slogan. Why? Because Republicans will shed Bush like an old sneaker. Because Republicans are aggressive and smart, not to say totally amoral politically. And because the Democrats always passively let the Republicans define them -- in the worst possible terms.
What is needed now is not more criticism of Bush from Democrats, but a criticism of the Republican ideology and re-statement of classic Democratic values: hard work should be rewarded, the least among us must be cared for, the environment must be protected, the power of corporations must be curbed, people must have trust in the democratic process, innovation, community, and fiscal responsibility. Capitalism, yes, with a human face. An insistence that Democrats and their programs have indeed worked in the past, and will work in the future. What's so hard about that?
Where is that voice in the US Senate? Perhaps Kerry will flesh out his positions with positive proposals for bringing home the troops from Iraq and reconstructing New Orleans. Until he, or some other Democrat does, all I hear is crickets from our side.

Left behind. The least of these.

If some of those who died in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina have been described as stubborn holdouts who ignored an order to evacuate, then these citizens of New Orleans defy that portrait: The 16 whose bodies were wrapped in white sheets in the chapel of Memorial Hospital. The 34 whose corpses were abandoned and floating in St. Rita's Nursing Home. The 15 whose bodies were stored in an operating room turned makeshift morgue at Methodist Hospital.

Tony Carnes/Christianity Today, via Associated Press

The bodies of 16 people were found on Sept. 5 in the chapel of Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans.

“The statement that you can judge a society by the way it treats elders and the vulnerable is a good way to look at our society.” Alice Hedt, National Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing Home Reform executive director

The count does not stop there. Of the dead collected so far in the New Orleans area, more than a quarter of them, or at least 154, are those of patients, mostly elderly, who died in hospitals or nursing homes, according to interviews with officials from 8 area hospitals and 26 nursing homes. By the scores, people without choice of whether to leave or stay perished in New Orleans, trapped in health care facilities and in many cases abandoned by their would-be government rescuers.

New York Times

Images of Katrina

worth 10,000 words.

Oh, no. THIS is the Quote of the Week

On Katrina: The only mistake we made with Katrina was not overriding the local government...

Karl Rove via Huffington Post

The ONLY mistake?

The Onion strikes again.

Halliburton Gets Contract To Pry Gold Fillings From New Orleans Corpses' Teeth

September 14, 2005 | Issue 41•37

HOUSTON—On Tuesday, Halliburton received a $110 million no-bid government contract to pry the gold fillings from the mouths of deceased disaster victims in the New Orleans-Gulf Coast area. "We are proud to serve the government in this time of crisis by recovering valuable resources from the wreckage of this deadly storm," said David J. Lesar, Halliburton's president. "The gold we recover from the human rubble of Katrina can be used to make fighter-jet electronics, supercomputer chips, inflation-proof A-grade investments, and luxury yachting watches."

The Onion

Quote of the Week

When asked by a reporter why he did not return from his vacation earlier than last Thursday, three days after the hurricane hit, the vice president replied: "I came back four days early."

Just breathtaking.

via John Aravosis

Rita strengthens; Louisiana now in cone

A strengthening Tropical Storm Rita is expected to threaten a large area of the Louisiana Gulf Coast with at least some winds and rain by Thursday, when it is forecast to reach Category 3 hurricane strength and be several hundred miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River.

At 11 a.m. Monday, the National Hurricane Center forecast that Rita could hit Galveston, Texas, on Saturday morning. But areas as far east as Bay St. Louis, including the entire New Orleans area, are within the forecast path error, and forecasters urged returning New Orleans, St. Bernard and Plaquemines parish residents to keep an ear tuned to weather forecasts, as Rita’s path could shift farther east over the next five days. Several computer models take the storm over Louisiana or as far east as Biloxi.

“Five days is a lot of forecast time we’re dealing with,” said Frank Revitte, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service’s Slidell office. “We’ll have to watch carefully over the next few days to see how large and how close it gets.”

The National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane warning for the southernmost part of the Florida Peninsula and the Florida Keys at 11 a.m., predicting that Rita would reach Category 1 strength before moving through the Florida Straits into the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Bush in trouble: Ratings fall after speech

BREAKING: Bush’s Ratings Drop After Speech

This just in from Rasmussen Reports:

Thirty-five percent (35%) of Americans now say that President Bush has done a good or excellent job responding to Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. That’s down from 39% before his speech from New Orleans.

The latest Rasmussen Reports survey shows that 41% give the President poor marks for handling the crisis, that’s up from 37% before the speech.

A disappointing debut for Compassionate Conservatism v2.0.

via Think Progress

Update: Rasmussen poll reinforced by Survey USA. They also find a drop after Bush's speech.

Gentilly update -- another first hand account

A friend, working with animal rescue in New Orleans these past few days, was in Gentilly yesterday. Two blocks over from the 5100 block of St. Roch Ave and one block from Franklin Ave there is little anyone could hope to save. These homes, built in the late 30s and early 40s were the urbanization New Orleans needed and now, attention needs to be directed to this area as we move into the reconstruction of the city.

Historic neighborhoods, such as Gentilly Terrace, home to early 20th Century craftsman bungalows and Colonial Revival homes, the picture is the one you've seen on TV: Homes remain trapped in a floodwater that reeks of sewage, with a slick of oil running atop the water's surface. It's hard to imagine them escaping a date with the bulldozer.

Three weeks and LAs death toll is set at 646

If you use the published numbers, it appears that the death toll is minimal. Does this mean that we can expect a refund when we return 24,000 of the 25,000 body bags FEMA ordered? Either the body bag order was "unnecessary spending" or some one is attempting to obfuscate the American public's ability to hear the truth. Ignorance is NOT bliss in this instance.

Aug. 30: Second levee breaks in New Orleans, flooding covers 80 percent of city. Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco says everyone still in New Orleans - 50,000 to 100,000 people - must be evacuated.

The destruction -- a first hand account

I got good news from a friend this morning that his house if virtually untouched by the hurricane. No damage visible inside or outside. But I also received this description of what's facing NO residents when they return from someone in Lakeside whose house was badly flooded. It's a real nightmare.

From my own personal observations yesterday on the ground in New Orleans: The water that needs to be pumped out of the LakeView area of New Orleans is a mixture of sewer and salt water plus gasoline, oil, etc.. The longer it stands, the less likely anything can be salvaged.

If you want to try to picture what my house is like and what those in LakeView will be like whenever the water is pumped out, look around your house. Picture everything from eye level down placed in a septic tank of human waste and salt water for over 2 weeks. Picture every drawer and every door frozen shut because water has swollen everything. Locks and hinges don't work. Drawers containing your important items must be broken open with a maul or sledge hammer. Picture furniture that it takes four men to carry tossed around your house like Styrofoam ice chests. Then think of 95 plus degree heat, the stench of an open sewer and the air so putrid that you cannot move around for more than a few minutes without stopping to catch one's breath.

Finally, picture all the devastation and then your insurance company tells you that they will not cover anything because the damage was caused by "rising water." Of course in my case, the rising water was a result of the negligence of man and man's corruption that resulted in substandard construction performed by man.


The same guys that messed up the initial response are now in charge of the reconstructions. That doesn't reassure me.

"We told these fellows that there was a killer hurricane heading right toward New Orleans," Leo Bosner, a 26-year FEMA employee and union leader told CNN. "We had done our job, but they didn't do theirs."( Watch video of the whistleblower)

Bosner's storm warning came early Saturday, three days before Hurricane Katrina came ashore in eastern Louisiana.

Rebuilding New Orleans will be complex and costly

Inquirer Real Estate Writer states there is little doubt that New Orleans will be rebuilt. But engineering and environmental experts nationwide are only beginning to calculate just how complicated the job might be.

Easier soil cleanup

That means all the soil on which New Orleans sits will not have to be removed and replaced. Still, he said, "that doesn't rule out that localized soil cleanups wouldn't have to be undertaken, especially in industrial areas where chemicals have leaked into the ground."

Such local testing will determine whether the soil has "actually crossed some threshold into being a health hazard," said Susan Kidwell, a geophysics professor at the University of Chicago. "If it is truly hazardous, then, like a lot of Superfund sites, they might simply choose to load the new sediment [left by the river] on top rather than remove the existing soil and replace it with clean stuff, since that would be prohibitively expensive."

Who's Who in the post-Katrina recovery

The usual suspects of big firms with Washington connections quickly landed $100 million no-bid contracts for emergency housing, according to The Wall Street Journal. Among the firms were Bechtel, Fluor and Shaw Group, which also signed a separate $100 million deal with the Army Corps of Engineers to help pump out New Orleans and provide other relief services. The contracts reportedly contained cost-plus provisions, meaning the contractors are guaranteed a profit. Halliburton Co.'s Kellogg, Brown & Root had a previous Pentagon contract to repair some Navy facilities.
(These are the folks who get to live on the cruise ships!) There's more here.

FEMA proposed timeline

I rec'd this info from a friend who works for FEMA. Let's see how close to reality this timeline ends up being?? But, if you want the journalistic version of this, maybe look here.

By Oct. 1, 2005: A new normalcy will begin. New Orleans will be almost entirely empty and the residents will be dispersed, so Lafayette, Baton Rouge and other places in the region will remain crowded. Planning will begin for reconstruction. The poor people will be in some sort of transitional housing, such as a tent city or cruise ships.
(we know now that the cruise ships are reserved for those company execs and employees who will be taking on the reconstruction of the city)
By Dec. 1, 2005: Some reconstruction will begin, especially on some levees.
By Jan. 1, 2006: People will be eating beignets at Cafe du Monde.
By March 1, 2006: Some areas will begin to open up, particularly the garden district and French Quarter, including some hotels. Many of the poor people will be in mobile home communities, where they will probably be allowed to stay longer than FEMA's usual 18-month limit.
By May 1, 2006: Antoine's, Gallatoire's and Commander's Palace will be open.
By Sept. 1, 2006: Much of the commercial activity will be functioning at a new normal. Downtown buildings will be in operation. The ports and casinos will reopen. Shreveport will be among the cities exhibiting a rebirth because of the Katrina diaspora.
By Sept. 1, 2007: The convention center and convention hotels will be open.
By Sept. 1, 2015: A new New Orleans will replace the old. Much of the character of the original city will be forever gone. And the city will be "gentrified," without much in the way of poor population. Some of its character will have been lost. Also, many middle class people will have moved on to other places.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

“Cut unnecessary spending?”

Katrina tax boost rejected

Web Posted: 09/17/2005 12:00 AM CDT

Terence Hunt
Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President Bush on Friday ruled out raising taxes to pay for Gulf Coast reconstruction, saying "unnecessary" government spending must be cut instead.

When and how was Congress allowed to get to the point of unnecessary spending? If the funds to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf coast are to come from cutting unnecessary spending, then we should consider going over all federal spending in an effort to determine what is unnecessary and perhaps with a thorough audit the truth may be discovered? Reports from February of this year indicated that "severe cuts" had already been made to the budget. . .

Bush Budget Cuts Target Environment, Social Programs
Wed., Feb. 9, 2005

WASHINGTON, DC, February 8, 2005 (ENS) – The federal budget plan proposed Monday by President George W. Bush calls for reduced spending on the environment, agriculture, education, low-income housing aid, and health care.

The $2.58 trillion spending plan cuts funding for 12 of 23 government agencies, with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) facing some of the larger cuts.

Bush told reporters Monday the budget is "lean" and follows the priorities of "winning the war on terror, protecting our homeland, growing our economy."

So where does this man imagine he will find "unnecessary spending" if he's already put together a lean budget?

Friday, September 16, 2005

Vitter's email. Sabotage?

I wrote Sen. David Vitter a note chastising him for his non-vote on the Independent Commission. Today I got back a strange reply. The email was composed of two or three jpgs with his letterhead and signature, one of which would not open, and an attachment. The attachment was an email dated 9/7/05, but it was not written by Vitter. It was an email from another constituent complaining that he could not find a FEMA presence in Baton Rouge. "Yet, it seems as though FEMA has deserted us." Accidents happen, but I hope that the recovery effort in N.O. is doing better than Senator Vitter's email system.

A Potemkin New Orleans

I am duty-bound to report the talk of the New Orleans warehouse district last night: there was rejoicing (well, there would have been without the curfew, but the few people I saw on the streets were excited) when the power came back on for blocks on end. Kevin Tibbles was positively jubilant on the live update edition of Nightly News that we fed to the West Coast. The mini-mart, long ago cleaned out by looters, was nonetheless bathed in light, including the empty, roped-off gas pumps. The motorcade route through the district was partially lit no more than 30 minutes before POTUS drove through. And yet last night, no more than an hour after the President departed, the lights went out. The entire area was plunged into total darkness again, to audible groans. It's enough to make some of the folks here who witnessed it... jump to certain conclusions.
Brian Williams at MSNBC

Bush proposals will split Republican party.

Despite those comments, many Republicans are increasingly edgy about the White House's push for a potentially open-ended recovery budget, worried that the president - in trying to regroup politically - was making expensive promises they would have to keep.

"We are not sure he knows what he is getting into," said one senior House Republican official who requested anonymity because of the potential consequences of publicly criticizing the administration.

NY Times

New Orleans Bowl may move to Lafayette

With the Superdome awaiting massive repairs and New Orleans projected to be cleaning up from Hurricane Katrina for months, the December bowl might move to Lafayette, La., said executive director Billy Ferrante of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation.

Houston Chronicle

Blanco: ex-FEMA Brown wrong wrong wrong.

BATON ROUGE - Gov. Kathleen Blanco sharply disputed criticism Thursday by the former chief of the Federal Emergency Management Agency that Blanco and her staff were incapable of mounting an effective response when the agency came to help with the unfolding disaster wrought by Hurricane Katrina.

"The simple fact is that we needed something as simple and basic as buses delivered in a timely fashion from FEMA in order to save lives. They didn't do that," Blanco said in a written statement rebutting comments made by former FEMA chief Michael Brown in an interview with The New York Times.

Last night's speech

The reaction on the cable channels was muted. What to make of this? Fineman said it wasn't much. Matthews was not much impressed. Scarborough said he sounded like Lyndon Johnson (which means some conservatives were unnerved by Bush's references to racism and large-sounding social programs). I have to agree with Scarborough, he was handing out a lot of candy.
This morning, Josh Marshall makes two good points.
1. Bush is calling for more federal authority when none is needed.
2. He's handing the reconstruction to Karl Rove, which means this will be a $200 billion patronage program. Remember, Homeland Security mostly did away with Civil Service protections.
There will be some very large watermelons for this administration to divide among its friends.

Talking Points Memo

Updaate: Washington Post agrees with Marshall.

NY Times columnist points out that it's a desperate attempt to salvage Bush's political fortunes.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The hell inside the Convention Center.

For five eternal-seeming days, as many as 20,000 people, most of them black, waited to be rescued, not just from the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina but from the nightmarish place where they had sought refuge.

During that time, the moon that hovered over the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center seemed closer than anyone who could provide those inside the center with any help.

On the fourth day, after TV had been filled with live reports from the center describing sexual assaults, robberies and gunfire, single mothers desperately seeking help for their children and fathers doing their best to protect them, the federal official charged with leading the hurricane response, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, responded to an interviewer's question by saying it was the first he had heard that people "don't have food and water in there."

"It was as if all of us were already pronounced dead," said Tony Cash, 25, who endured three nights of hunger, violence and darkness at the convention center. "As if somebody already had the body bags. Wasn't nobody coming to get us."

Washington POst You have to read it all to know what those 10,000 people had to suffer for five days.

Super-Computing Accountability Preventition Engine and Government Official Absolving Tool,

McClellan explained how lack of advance planning caused delays in the administration’s first response to the hurricane. “In those first hours, critical time was lost because we weren’t prepared to blame state and local officials. Indeed, precious minutes were wasted trying to find out who was mayor of New Orleans, information that should have been made available as soon as Katrina formed. It’s not like this wasn’t predicted. With these early missteps we lost the initiative, and we never fully recovered.”

Brilliant! from The Poor Man Institute

Please! No more toxic gumbo!

9/12/2005 6:50:38 PM

From PAUL MAHFOUZ: We've had enough, please, of "sleepy" and "toxic gumbo." Small communities on the Gulf Coast have never been sleepy and we're not going to be sleep any time soon. Not only are we not sleepy, but we love gumbo and you're destroying this magical food of the gods by overusing the phrase "toxic gumbo." Please retire the word "gumbo" from your vocabulary unless you're actually talking about the dish.

Letter to Romanesko

via Making Light

Be sure to read the comments at Making Light -- "septic jambalaya," "hellchowder," "salsa of doom."

The US, not just New Orleans, is the victim of this administration's incompetence.

"But it is the image of the U.S. that will be the most affected. When El Salvador has to offer troops to help restore order in New Orleans because U.S. troops were so scarce and so slow in arriving, Iran cannot be quaking in its boots about a possible U.S. invasion. When Sweden has its relief planes sitting on the tarmac in Sweden for a week because it cannot get an answer from the U.S. government as to whether to send them, they are not going to be reassured about the ability of the U.S. to handle more serious geopolitical matters. And when conservative U.S. television commentators talk of the U.S. looking like a Third World country, Third World countries may begin to think that maybe there is a grain of truth in the description."

Immanuel Wallerstein
via the inimitable James Wolcott.

Is your vote at risk?

In exclusive stunning admissions to The BRAD BLOG some 11 months after the 2004 Presidential Election, a "Diebold Insider" is now finally speaking out for the first time about the alarming security flaws within Diebold, Inc's electronic voting systems, software and machinery. The source is acknowledging that the company's "upper management" -- as well as "top government officials" -- were keenly aware of the "undocumented backdoor" in Diebold's main "GEM Central Tabulator" software well prior to the 2004 election. A branch of the Federal Government even posted a security warning on the Internet.

Pointing to a little-noticed "Cyber Security Alert" issued by the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the source inside Diebold -- who "for the time being" is requesting anonymity due to a continuing sensitive relationship with the company -- is charging that Diebold's technicians, including at least one of its lead programmers, knew about the security flaw and that the company instructed them to keep quiet about it.

"Diebold threatened violators with immediate dismissal," the insider, who we'll call DIEB-THROAT, explained recently to The BRAD BLOG via email. "In 2005, after one newly hired member of Diebold's technical staff pointed out the security flaw, he was criticized and isolated."

In phone interviews, DIEB-THROAT confirmed that the matters were well known within the company, but that a "culture of fear" had been developed to assure that employees, including technicians, vendors and programmers kept those issues to themselves.

The "Cyber Security Alert" from US-CERT was issued in late August of 2004 and is still available online via the US-CERT website. The alert warns that "A vulnerability exists due to an undocumented backdoor account, which could a [sic: allow] local or remote authenticated malicious user [sic: to] modify votes."

The alert, assessed to be of "MEDIUM" risk on the US-CERT security bulletin, goes on to add that there is "No workaround or patch available at time of publishing."

Read the rest at The Brad Blog

Attn: Lafayette Saints fans.

Edit Sig |

We have good news for saints fans! Our network, ABC, is going to allow KATC to broadcast Monday's game (9/19/2005) with the New York Giants, from start to finish.

That's right, contrary to what will happen across the nation, you won't have to turn to ESPN to catch the second part of the game. We'll have it all. From opening kickoff, to the final whistle.

Kickoff start at 6:30 PM, right here on KATC.

When the Saints home opener ends, we'll join the regularly scheduled game between the Cowboys and Redskins.

Ambitious plans for reconstruction.

12:10 P.M. - WASHINGTON (AP): Louisiana lawmakers in Washington have outlined a detailed reconstruction plan for southeast Louisiana that includes full coastal restoration and economic development incentives to brings jobs and people back to New Orleans.

Dubbed "Project Pelican," the plan was developed by all nine Republicans and Democrats in the House-Senate delegation. There's no cost estimate attached to the proposal and it did not address the issue of whether the reconstruction should be managed by existing federal agencies or by a new entity.

Senator Mary Landrieu says an overriding principle of the plan is that the reconstruction should be directed by Louisiana officials and carried out as much as possible by Louisiana businesses and workers.

The plan calls for $20 billion to speed up the repair and enhancement of New Orleans' levees; $14 billion to restore wetlands to reduce future damage from storm surges; and the dedication of a share of Gulf Coast oil revenues to long term coastal restoration and infrastructure redevelopment.

WWL Blog

Nagin sets schecule for return.

Mayor Ray Nagin announced the plans to get businesses and residents back into the city of New Orleans beginning this weekend.

The schedule for re-entry includes:

* Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 17 & 18 Business owners in Algiers, CBD, French Quarter and Uptown with ID and proof that they live or work in the area.

* Monday, Sept. 19 Algiers Residents with ID.

* Wednesday, Sept. 21 Residents in zip code 70115 Uptown with ID.

* Friday, Sept. 23 Residents in zip code 70118 Uptown with ID.

* Monday, Sept. 26 Residents in the French Quarter and the rest of the CBD with ID.


Most partisan man in Washington to be in charge of recovery

Republicans said Karl Rove, the White House deputy chief of staff and Mr. Bush's chief political adviser, was in charge of the reconstruction effort, which reaches across many agencies of government and includes the direct involvement of Alphonso R. Jackson, secretary of housing and urban development.

NY Times

We'll need strong oversight. And that's an understatement. BTW: When do we get the "Mission Accomplished" banner over the French Quarter?

LUS wins at PSC; Fiber to the home will happen!,

The state Public Service Commission unanimously approved rules Wednesday that govern the way Lafayette Utilities System must operate and account for its new telecommunications business -- rules that had the support of LUS and Lafayette officials.

PSC approval gives LUS a green light to proceed on building a fiber-optic network to each home and business in the city in order to provide phone, cable and high-speed Internet service.

In July, voters approved borrowing up to $125 million in bonds to fund the project. Earlier this month, the Lafayette City-Parish Council approved LUS to go forward with issuing the bonds.

LUS could have that money in hand by January -- barring delays caused by potential legal action.

The Baton Rouge Advocate
This is very good news. It will bring down rates for telephone, cable and internet, provide huge increases in bandwith capabilities, give Lafayette an edge in the expanding uses of internet services, and set a pattern for other cities to see information technology as a public utility. Telephone and cable companies can be expected to continue their fight against new competition.

If you live in New Orleans

The Times Picayune has a graphic showing what is still flooded, what was flooded but is now dry, and what was never flooded in New Orleans.

The Quarter to reopen Monday. Death count: 474

NEW ORLEANS — Although the cleanup will likely take months, Mayor Ray C. Nagin said the tourist-friendly French Quarter and central business district may reopen as early as Monday after the Environmental Protection Agency said the foul-smelling air in the city was not overly polluted.

Nagin said he expects about 180,000 people to return to the city within a week or two, when power and sewer systems are restored. Some retailers should be operating by then, as well as two hospitals.

Meanwhile, the Coast Guard and other rescue teams continued searching for bodies by boat and helicopter in areas that were still under several feet of water. A few homes in the area bore spray-painted marks indicating that bodies were inside.

The body count in Louisiana climbed to 474 on Wednesday, and it was expected to rise further as state and federal officials went about the tedious task of collecting bodies and identifying them through DNA tests. The total death toll in five states reached 710.


This seems like a big mistake, Kathleen.

FEMA, La. outsource Katrina body count to firm implicated in body-dumping scandals

Miriam Raftery

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has hired Kenyon International to set up a mobile morgue for handling bodies in Baton Rouge, Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina, RAW STORY has learned.

Kenyon is a subsidiary of Service Corporation International (SCI), a scandal-ridden Texas-based company operated by a friend of the Bush family. Recently, SCI subsidiaries have been implicated in illegally discarding and desecrating corpses.

Louisiana governor Katherine Blanco subsequently inked a contract with the firm after talks between FEMA and the firm broke down. Kenyon's original deal was secured by the Department of Homeland Security.

In other words, FEMA and then Blanco outsourced the body count from Hurricane Katrina -- which many believe the worst natural disaster in U.S. history -- to a firm whose parent company is known for its "experience" at hiding and dumping bodies.

Raw Story