Singing the Bite Me Song


Current Affairs


November 26, 2005

GOP Rep. Ron Paul on a future martial law nightmare: The US policed by international mercenaries?

What an interesting sector that this voice is heard from. Rep. Paul is a conservative (perhaps an isolationist) who is pushing to pull the U.S. out of the U.N., which is not a position I support, but I find his point of view below very interesting, especially in the manner Blackwater Securities, Hallibuton, Chilean troops, etc. have been used in Iraq, not as U.N. Peacekeepers, but in the hire of the United States. Blackwater etc. were also seen patrolling with submachine guns without question in New Orleans.

I found this at PrisonPlanet.com.

Congressman Ron Paul Reiterates Danger Of Foreign Troops Being Used For Martial Law

Paul Joseph Watson & Alex Jones | November 24 2005    

Republican Congressman Ron Paul recently appeared on nationally syndicated radio and again reiterated his deep concern that foreign troops are mobilizing outside and inside America to be used as assets in a martial law takeover by the Bush administration.

"It's a horrible precedent and it's all part of the NAFTA scheme and globalization and world government," Paul told the Alex Jones Show.    

"Obviously they shouldn't be permitted. What I'd like to see is that we don't have our troops in foreign countries and if we needed a national guard that they were back here at home, that's the bigger problem. Then if there were foreign troops on our soil maybe our state officials could deal with that with their own national guard."

Paul elaborated on his fear that after  the next crisis the government, in line with their own public statements, will use military assets to police Americans on a regular basis.

"They're putting their back up against the wall and saying, if need be we're going to have martial law."

"We've heard all these statements by the President, by the administration, why they need more militarism at the federal government to keep people in check so nobody knows how this  will turn out but I do know that the only thing we can do about it is try  to alert the American people to what's going on so they can be prepared."

Paul offered his take on why the government seemed to be acting in a deranged and reckless manner on every issue.

"It's almost like they're going overboard  that they lose their rationality and that's part of the reason why they usually fail too is they get overly bold and I think our government is overly  bold thinking they are invincible and they feel invincible with their finances. Our government controls the reserve currency of the world, they literally  have the ability to print gold."

[...]

November 26, 2005 at 01:42 PM in Current Affairs, Democracy, Favorite Links, News to Note, Privacy & Free Speech, War/Terrorism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 25, 2005

Where are those indictments?!

Am I the only one who's getting antsy for Patrick Fitzgerald to shit or get off the pot?

A radio talk show host on Air America (I forget which one, Al Franken?) is calling that much-anticipated day "Fitzmas," because some of us will see the indictments as Christmas come early.

Meanwhile, the plot thickens as the investigation gets closer to Vice President Cheney, which is not unprecedented. Can you say "Spiro Agnew?" Back before the press had Richard Nixon to kick around, Agnew had been the Grade A poster child for ignominy.

Link: CNN.com - White House sidesteps questions about Cheney - Oct 25, 2005.

White House sidesteps questions about Cheney


NYT: Vice president told top aide CIA officer's identity

Tuesday, October 25, 2005; Posted: 2:00 p.m. EDT (18:00 GMT)

NEW YORK (AP) -- The White House on Tuesday sidestepped questions about whether Vice President Dick Cheney passed on to his top aide the identity of a CIA officer central to a federal grand jury probe.

Notes in the hands of a federal prosecutor suggest that Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, first heard of the CIA officer from Cheney himself, The New York Times reported in Tuesday's editions.

[...]

The Times said notes of a previously undisclosed June 12, 2003, conversation between Libby and Cheney appear to differ from Libby's grand jury testimony that he first heard of Valerie Plame from journalists.

"This is a question relating to an ongoing investigation and we're not having any further comment on the investigation while it's ongoing," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said.

[...]

The New York Times identified its sources in the story as lawyers involved in the case.

Libby at center of inquiry

Libby has emerged at the center of Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's criminal investigation in recent weeks because of the Cheney aide's conversations about Plame with Times reporter Judith Miller.

Miller said Libby spoke to her about Plame and her husband, Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson, on three occasions -- although not necessarily by name and without indicating he knew she was undercover.

Libby's notes show that Cheney knew Plame worked at the CIA more than a month before her identity was publicly exposed by columnist Robert Novak.

At the time of the Cheney-Libby conversation, Wilson had been referred to -- but not by name -- in the Times and on the morning of June 12, 2003 on the front page of The Washington Post.

The Times reported that Libby's notes indicate Cheney got his information about Wilson from then-CIA Director George Tenet, but said there was no indication he knew her name.

The notes also contain no suggestion that Cheney or Libby knew at the time of their conversation of Plame's undercover status or that her identity was classified, the paper said.

Disclosing the identify of a covert CIA agent can be a crime, but only if the person who discloses it knows the agent is classified as working undercover.

Charges against Cheney unlikely

The Times quoted lawyers involved in the case as saying they had no indication Fitzgerald was considering charging Cheney with a crime.

But the paper said any efforts by Libby to steer investigators away from his conversation with Cheney might be viewed by a prosecutor as attempt to impede the inquiry, which could be a crime.

[...]

October 25, 2005 at 04:46 PM in Current Affairs, Democracy, Favorite Links, Politics, Singing the Bite Me Song, War/Terrorism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 04, 2005

As DeLay goes down, don't forget about K Street

This Observer column is a good reminder of the House Delay Built in the odious world of DC Lobby firms, a plot not only to deliberately subvert democracy and the democratic processes, but also an overt attempt to insure that one party would remain in power in perpetuity, through corruption and cronyism, and with K Street and beyond (and it wasn't going to stop at K Street) BLACKLISTING.

Here's the part that boggles one's mind, however. The K Street Project wasn't blacklisting some minority in need of protection against lynch mobs and discrimination. IT WAS BLACKLISTING DEMOCRATS FROM THE INSIDER NEO-GILDED AGE BEING BUILT EXCLUSIVELY FOR THE SUPER-RICH.

What I'm saying is, in some ways, the K Street Project wasn't as much political as it was a form of social engineering for a particular class, the money class. It was an attempt to bully and coerce those of the moneyed class to goosestep, or else.

How peculiar, eh? Hitler's unique brand of fascism was populist. DeLay's fascism looks like it only applies to some faint "aristocratic" genetic remnant of Hitler's elite SS breeding program. A "Red Scare" for the rich, only the epithet isn't "Commie," it's "Democrat."

Link: The Observer | Comment | Something stinks in America.

Comment

Something stinks in America

As a leading Republican prepares to face corruption charges, the fallout will be felt as far afield as Westminster

Will Hutton
Sunday October 2, 2005
The Observer

The most important political event last week for Britain did not take place at the Labour party conference in Brighton, but in Travis County, Texas. District Attorney Ronnie Earle charged the second most powerful man in the United States, Tom DeLay, with criminal conspiracy. DeLay resigned as the majority leader of the Republicans in the House of Representatives while he fights the case, a stunning political setback.

[...]

The story begins in the murky world of campaign finance and the grey area of quasi-corruption, kickbacks and personal favours that now define the American political system. American politicians need ever more cash to fight their political campaigns and gerrymander their constituencies, so creating the political truth that incumbents rarely lose. US corporations are the consistent suppliers of the necessary dollars and Republican politicians increasingly are the principal beneficiaries. Complicated rules exist to try to ensure the relationship between companies and politicians is as much at arm's length as possible; the charge against DeLay is that he drove a coach and horses through the rules.

If DeLay were another Republican politician or even a typical majority leader of the House, the political world could shrug its shoulders. Somebody got caught, but little will change. But DeLay is very different. He is the Republican paymaster, one of the authors of the K Street Project and the driving force behind a vicious, organised demonisation and attempted marginalisation of Democrats that for sheer, unabashed political animus is unlike anything else witnessed in an advanced democracy. Politicians fight their political foes by fair means or foul, but trying to exterminate them is new territory. [emphasis mine]

The K Street Project is little known outside the Washington beltway and its effectiveness as a political stratagem is only possible because of the unique importance of campaign finance to American politics. DeLay, together with Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and some conservative activists, notably the ubiquitous Grover Norquist who runs the anti-state, anti-tax lobby group 'Americans for Tax Reform', conceived the notion 10 years ago that they should use the Republican majority in the House as a lever to ensure that the lobbyists, law firms and trade associations that inhabit Washington's K Street, heart of the industry, should only employ Republicans or sympathisers. To be a Democrat was to bear the mark of Cain; K Street was to be a Democrat-free zone.

This, if it could be pulled off, would have multiple pay-backs. Special-interest groups and companies have always greased the palms of American law-makers and because of lack of party discipline, they have had to grease Democrat and Republican palms alike to get the legislation they wanted. DeLay's ambition was to construct such a disciplined Republican party that lobbyists would not need Democrats, and so create an inside track in which the only greased palms from legislators to lobbyists would be Republican.

Lobbyists, law firms and trade associations should be told not to employ Democrats, so progressively excluding them from access to the lucrative channels of campaign finance. Democrats would become both poorer and politically diminished at a stroke and the Republicans would become richer and politically hegemonic.

Key vocabulary word there, hegemonic. Where's Fighting Bob LaFollette when you need him? Where's Paul Wellstone?

It has worked. The most influential Washington lobbyist is Barbour, Griffiths and Rogers; it employs not a single Democrat. Last year, in a classic operation, House Republicans let the Motion Picture Association of America (the film industry lobby group) know that appointing a Democrat, Dan Glickman, as its head would mean $1.5 billion of tax relief for the film industry was now in peril. Glickman staffed up the MPAA with Republicans, but the threat remains. In 2003, the Republican National Committee could claim that 33 of the top 36 top-level K Street positions were in Republican hands. Today, it's even closer to a clean sweep.

Corporations get their rewards. The oil and gas industry now gives 80 per cent of its campaign cash to Republicans (20 years ago, the split was roughly 50-50), and influence on this year's energy bill was a classic sting. American petrol can now contain a suspected carcinogen; operators of US natural-gas wells can contaminate water aquifers to improve the yields from the wells; the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is open to oil exploration - concessions all created by DeLay's inside track. And to provide ideological juice, there's a bevy of think-tanks, paid for from the same web of contributions, cranking out the justification that the 'state' and 'regulation' are everywhere and always wrong.

[...]

In Congress, moderate Republicans don't want guilt by association and companies value their reputation. The K Street Project stinks, along with all those associated with it. So far, the US media have been supine. DeLay's tentacles, and those of Karl Rove, Bush's top political adviser, have cowed media owners into the same compliance; if they want favours, best advance the Republican cause like Murdoch's Fox News. American newsrooms are fearful places.

But DeLay's indictment breaks back the dam. US politics moves in cycles. Once it was Republicans who were going to clean up corrupt Democrat Washington; now Democrats can champion the same cause. Nor can the media afford to be on the side of the Old Corruption; it's bad for business. The wheel is turning, an important moment both sides of the Atlantic.

October 4, 2005 at 11:24 PM in Best Essays, Current Affairs, Democracy, Favorite Links, News to Note, Politics, Rhetoric, Singing the Bite Me Song | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 02, 2005

How could inept FEMA mismanage TONS of ice?

I have to think hard about this story. Still processing. It seems too bizarre to be just sheer incompetence. It is like there was a method to the mismanagement, you know? Like someone was either trying DELIBERATELY to fuck up massively (why? The political fallout has been devastating for the Bush administration, but the only people who would even THINK of deliberately fucking up something this big are Bushies. Lefty hearts would bleed to death at the suffering in New Orleans before they'd ever entertain a deliberate fiasco for crass political gain, and besides, Lefties don't control anything right now, so how would they pull it off?)

So, should we entertain the notion of deliberate sabotage of the Bush administration from WITHIN the Bush administration? I'm sure there are party-line goose-steppers who remain massively pissed off at the iron fists of the big bosses. But again, how would such a person or group of people ever find themselves in such a key choke point of power? The FEMA incompetents were deep political loyaltists. Sure, Texas may have invented a unique double-double cross, going back to the Kennedy administration, but such an idea seems oddly misplaced here.

So what does that leave? Mere incompetence? That would seem the only explanation, but that's what bugs me about it. It seems too easy for a fuck-up on such a grand scale, like an orchestra of errors, not a mere marching band arrangement.

Which leads me to entertain an idea that is utterly absurd. You have to WORK HARD to fuck up this badly, see? There isn't any logic in sending ice in the WRONG DIRECTION with a straight face, especially not that much of it. And they claimed people didn't need the ice because they'd dispersed, but we all saw people suffering from heat exhaustion, suffering in the heat. Who was the ice being kept for, freezers of meat held by BUSINESSES ONLY? (I get it, perhaps CORPORATIONS are the only "individuals" whose suffering meant anything in the aftermath of Katrina. PEOPLE didn't need ice. All they'd do is melt it trying to get cool. What a waste.)

I keep circling and circling around this idea, the one I don't want to believe, don't even want to consider. What if it wasn't incompetence at all? In this story below, it talks about how a lot of the ice was being held for the next disaster, and ended up in Texas.

Why is it I keep returning to this idea that the FEMA incompetence and withheld aid was higher in districts that voted blue in the elections, while aid was held in reserve and speedily delivered to districts that voted red? I can't prove this, of course. And so long as it looks like sheer incompetence, masquerades as sheer incompetence, no one can prove it. The so-called "fog of war" obscured stories of FEMA turning aid workers and trucks back, of telling people from distant states not to come, that they weren't needed.

What kind of thinking would even consider that there would be political gain from this kind of patronage payoff/punishment system coming home to roost in a humanitarian disaster? Because at the end of the day, my gut belief is that this had less to do with the Katrina victims being African American and poor and more to do with the fact that the place they lived voted the wrong way according to the party in power (of course, a big reason the area may have voted the wrong way may be because they are African American and poor).

If the Bush administration or the Republican Party ever gets another black vote, I will be awfully surprised. That's why I'm so puzzled. The party was making an effort to "court" African American voters in the last election. Or had they given up? Was that just a front, something to throw around for show while old Dixiecrats in pointy white hats were working hard in smoke-filled back rooms with other rich GOP fat cats and power-broker "Pioneers" divvying up real estate for the new GOP feudal aristocracy the GOP planned to permanently put in place by never having another free national election?

Maybe the incompetent fuck-up was a patronage gamble, an ill-informed underestimation of the scale of the humanitarian fallout, as if the plotters of this plan WERE incompetent, but with an incompetence built from the arrogance of power, secure in the idea that no one would ever question the patronage code system with which they wielded it and if anyone did, their manipulative control of the media would bury such an idea before it ever reached "real" public opinion polls.

And instead, they stumbled into the wake of the stunning images and reporting from New Orleans and actually encountered a news event they couldn't manipulate.

So now they ruse is actually an attempt to make it look like an incompetent fuck-up by people who don't know their heads from their asses, as opposed to what it really may be, an deliberate fuck-up to play political games with FEMA aid as was done in Florida, a deliberate fuck-up that collapsed in on itself because the arrogance of the players led them to be too insulated to understand that the event had gotten too big to "manage." That, in itself is incompetence, but not FEMA mismanagement incompetence. That's incompetent political "handling" of the faked FEMA mismanagement incompetence. Two different things, see?

Hey, it's just a theory.

Link: Stumbling Storm-Aid Effort Put Tons of Ice on Trips to Nowhere - New York Times.

October 2, 2005

Stumbling Storm-Aid Effort Put Tons of Ice on Trips to Nowhere

By SCOTT SHANE and ERIC LIPTON

WASHINGTON, Oct. 1 - When the definitive story of the confrontation between Hurricane Katrina and the United States government is finally told, one long and tragicomic chapter will have to be reserved for the odyssey of the ice.

Ninety-one thousand tons of ice cubes, that is, intended to cool food, medicine and sweltering victims of the storm. It would cost taxpayers more than $100 million, and most of it would never be delivered.

The somewhat befuddled heroes of the tale will be truckers like Mark Kostinec, who was dropping a load of beef in Canton, Ohio, on Sept. 2 when his dispatcher called with an urgent government job: Pick up 20 tons of ice in Greenville, Pa., and take it to Carthage, Mo., a staging area for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Mr. Kostinec, 40, a driver for Universe Truck Lines of Omaha, was happy to help with the crisis. But at Carthage, instead of unloading, he was told to take his 2,000 bags of ice on to Montgomery, Ala.

After a day and a half in Montgomery, he was sent to Camp Shelby, in Mississippi. From there, on Sept. 8, he was waved onward to Selma, Ala. And after two days in Selma he was redirected to Emporia, Va., along with scores of other frustrated drivers who had been following similarly circuitous routes.

At Emporia, Mr. Kostinec sat for an entire week, his trailer burning fuel around the clock to keep the ice frozen, as FEMA officials studied whether supplies originally purchased for Hurricane Katrina might be used for Hurricane Ophelia. But in the end only 3 of about 150 ice trucks were sent to North Carolina, he said. So on Sept. 17, Mr. Kostinec headed to Fremont, Neb., where he unloaded his ice into a government-rented storage freezer the next day.

"I dragged that ice around for 4,100 miles, and it never got used," Mr. Kostinec said. A former mortgage broker and Enron computer technician, he had learned to roll with the punches, and he was pleased to earn $4,500 for the trip, double his usual paycheck. He was perplexed, however, by the government's apparent bungling.

"They didn't seem to know how much ice they were buying and how much they were using," he said. "All the truckers said the money was good. But we were upset about not being able to help."

[...]

At a hearing on Wednesday, Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, expressed astonishment that many truckloads of ice had ended up in storage 1,600 miles from the Hurricane Katrina damage zone in her state, apparently because the storage contractor, AmeriCold Logistics, had run out of space farther south.

"The American taxpayers, and especially the Katrina victims, cannot endure this kind of wasteful spending," Ms. Collins said.

Asked about trips like Mr. Kostinec's, Nicol Andrews, a FEMA spokeswoman, said: "He was put on call for a need and the need was not realized, so he went home. Any reasonable person recognizes the fact that it makes sense to prepare for the worst, hope for the best and place your resources where they may be needed."

Unlike an ordinary hurricane, which may leave a large population in still-habitable housing but without power for days or weeks, Hurricane Katrina destroyed neighborhoods and led to unprecedented evacuation, Ms. Andrews said.

"The population we ordered the ice for had been dispersed," she said, "which is good, because they are out of harm's way."

[...]

Not all of the ice delivery trips, by an estimated 4,000 drivers, ended in frustration. Mike Snyder, a truck driver from Berwick, Pa., took an excruciating journey that started in Allentown, Pa., on Sept. 16 and did not end until two weeks later, on Friday morning, when he arrived in Tarkington Prairie, Tex.

The electricity was out in the small community. When Mr. Snyder pulled up in front of a local church and unloaded his ice, residents were overjoyed to see him. "I felt like I did a lot of good," he said.

Truck drivers who pinballed around the country felt differently.

Having almost lost his Florida home to a hurricane last year, Jeff Henderson was eager to help when he heard that FEMA needed truckers to carry ice. He drove at his own expense to Wisconsin to collect a 20-ton load and delivered it to the Carthage staging area.

Then he, too, was sent across the South: Meridian, Miss.; Selma; and finally Memphis, where he waited five days and then delivered his ice to storage.

"I can't understand what happened," Mr. Henderson said. "The government's the only customer that plays around like that."

Mike Hohnstein, a dispatcher in Omaha, sent a truckload out of Dubuque, Iowa, to Meridian. From there, the driver was sent to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, to Columbia, S.C., and finally to Cumberland, Md., where he bought a lawn chair and waited for six days.

Finally, 10 days after he started, the driver was told to take the ice to storage in Bettendorf, Iowa, Mr. Hohnstein said. The truck had traveled 3,282 miles, but not a cube of ice had reached a hurricane victim.

"Well," Mr. Hohnstein said, "the driver got to see the country."

[...]

October 2, 2005 at 12:28 AM in Current Affairs, Favorite Links, News to Note, Rhetoric, Singing the Bite Me Song | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 29, 2005

I'm not allowed to read this, but I think "Find the Brownie" is a great game

The New York Times has seen fit to take its own columnists out of circulation, a move of such peculiar logic that the columnists themselves must be dumbstruck at the 16 people each day who are actually paying just to read their words.

My bet is that they will become virtually invisible in the link-currency of the Internet within two weeks, and [PREDICTION ALERT] the Times will suspend the ridiculous policy due to its utter stupidity by Halloween. I pick Halloween not because I really think it will take that long for the company to realize the depths of its blunder, but because I think pride on business/shareholder/management side will force the editorial folks to suffer the humiliation long enough for some bean-counters to make doubly sure they won't be vindicated on a cold day in hell. As if anyone else has any doubt.

Meanwhile, I have no intention of paying retail. Nor will I ever give those bogus newspaper personal info-harvesting machines masquerading as "free registration" ANY honest personal information. I just LOVE messing with data, and those papers are selling that aggregate bogus info to spam marketers and making probably five whole cents on each registration. I hope that helps them sleep better.

So do I even want to give Paul Krugman credit for the "Find the Brownie" meme? To be more accurate, it appears he cribbed it from Monty Python's "Spot the Loony."

Still, as a viral idea, unbound from the absurdities of TimesSelect firewalls, the enterprise has legs. I can see some future web site, totally devoted to an expanding roll call of embedded "Brownies" unearthed in Bush administration political appointments.

No offense to the Girl Scouts of America, but a "Brownie" is named for Michael Brown, the criminally incompetent director of FEMA who clearly owes his appointment, along with those in several of the positions under him, to political patronage.

Krugman and many others believe that the ranks of the Bush administration are filled with many "Brownies." It remains to be seen if the actual "Brownie Count" approximates the notorious Chicago machine politics under the first Mayor Daley, or other exemplars from the era known for its "boss politics." Or perhaps the count will reach the levels of the righteous "fascists" as the movement was taking off in Europe, the people like Franco and Mussolini who had the gall to champion the corruption of crony capitalism. Now that would be something to be proud of, eh?

I must be feeling my oats today because Tom DeLay was indicted today. Ooh, I was doing the Snoopy dance, yes indeedy.

Krugman, this will probably be the last time I quote you, until after Halloween or so. Don't get too cold in that icebox, OK? Watch the DVD of "The Invisible Man" over and over again, if it makes you feel better.

Link: Star-Telegram | 09/28/2005 | Folks, we've got games for the whole family.

Posted on Wed, Sep. 28, 2005

Folks, we've got games for the whole family

By Paul Krugman
The New York UN-Timely Times

For the politically curious seeking entertainment, I'd like to propose two new trivia games: "Find the Brownie" and "Two Degrees of Jack Abramoff."

The objective in Find the Brownie is to find an obscure but important government job held by someone whose only apparent qualifications for that job are political loyalty and personal connections. It's inspired by President Bush's praise, four days after Katrina hit, for the hapless Michael Brown, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency: "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." I guess it depends on the meaning of the word heck.

There are a lot of Brownies. As Time magazine puts it in its latest issue, "Bush has gone further than most presidents to put political stalwarts in some of the most important government jobs you've never heard of." Time offers a couple of fresh examples, such as the former editor of a Wall Street medical-industry newsletter who now holds a crucial position at the Food and Drug Administration.

[...]

OK, enough joking.

The point of my games -- which are actually research programs for enterprising journalists -- is that all the scandals now surfacing are linked. Something is rotten in the state of the U.S. government. And the lesson of Hurricane Katrina is that a culture of cronyism and corruption can have lethal consequences.

September 29, 2005 at 02:02 AM in Best Essays, Current Affairs, Democracy, Favorite Links, Games, Intellectual Property, Media & Journalism, News to Note, Politics, Singing the Bite Me Song | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 20, 2005

Is message-massage failing for the Bush Administration?

Frank Rich seems to think so. Some well-turned phrases below, observations worth keeping, unflinchingly so.

Link: Message: I Care About the Black Folks - New York Times.

September 18, 2005

Message: I Care About the Black Folks

By FRANK RICH

ONCE Toto parts the curtain, the Wizard of Oz can never be the wizard again. He is forever Professor Marvel, blowhard and snake-oil salesman. Hurricane Katrina, which is likely to endure in the American psyche as long as L. Frank Baum's mythic tornado, has similarly unmasked George W. Bush.

The worst storm in our history proved perfect for exposing this president because in one big blast it illuminated all his failings: the rampant cronyism, the empty sloganeering of "compassionate conservatism," the lack of concern for the "underprivileged" his mother condescended to at the Astrodome, the reckless lack of planning for all government operations except tax cuts, the use of spin and photo-ops to camouflage failure and to substitute for action.

In the chaos unleashed by Katrina, these plot strands coalesced into a single tragic epic played out in real time on television. The narrative is just too powerful to be undone now by the administration's desperate recycling of its greatest hits: a return Sunshine Boys tour by the surrogate empathizers Clinton and Bush I, another round of prayers at the Washington National Cathedral, another ludicrously overhyped prime-time address flecked with speechwriters' "poetry" and framed by a picturesque backdrop. Reruns never eclipse a riveting new show.

[...]

Taking responsibility, as opposed to paying lip service to doing so, is not in this administration's gene pool. It was particularly shameful that Laura Bush was sent among the storm's dispossessed to try to scapegoat the news media for her husband's ineptitude. When she complained of seeing "a lot of the same footage over and over that isn't necessarily representative of what really happened," the first lady sounded just like Donald Rumsfeld shirking responsibility for the looting of Baghdad. The defense secretary, too, griped about seeing the same picture "over and over" on television (a looter with a vase) to hide the reality that the Pentagon had no plan to secure Iraq, a catastrophic failure being paid for in Iraqi and American blood to this day.

This White House doesn't hate all pictures, of course. It loves those by Karl Rove's Imagineers, from the spectacularly lighted Statue of Liberty backdrop of Mr. Bush's first 9/11 anniversary speech to his "Top Gun" stunt to Thursday's laughably stagy stride across the lawn to his lectern in Jackson Square. (Message: I am a leader, not that vacationing slacker who first surveyed the hurricane damage from my presidential jet.)

[...]

It was back in 2000 that Mr. Bush, in a debate with Al Gore, bragged about his gubernatorial prowess "on the front line of catastrophic situations," specifically citing a Texas flood, and paid the Clinton administration a rare compliment for putting a professional as effective as James Lee Witt in charge of FEMA. Exactly why Mr. Bush would staff that same agency months later with political hacks is one of many questions that must be answered by the independent investigation he and the Congressional majority are trying every which way to avoid. With or without a 9/11-style commission, the answers will come out. There are too many Americans who are angry and too many reporters who are on the case. (NBC and CNN are both opening full-time bureaus in New Orleans.) You know the world has changed when the widely despised news media have a far higher approval rating (77 percent) than the president (46 percent), as measured last week in a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll.

[...]

It will be up to other Republicans in Washington to cut through the empty words and image-mongering to demand effective action from Mr. Bush on the Gulf Coast and in Iraq, if only because their own political lives are at stake. It's up to Democrats, though they show scant signs of realizing it, to step into the vacuum and propose an alternative to a fiscally disastrous conservatism that prizes pork over compassion. If the era of Great Society big government is over, the era of big government for special interests is proving a fiasco. Especially when it's presided over by a self-styled C.E.O. with a consistent three-decade record of running private and public enterprises alike into a ditch.

What comes next? Having turned the page on Mr. Bush, the country hungers for a vision that is something other than either liberal boilerplate or Rovian stagecraft. At this point, merely plain old competence, integrity and heart might do.

September 20, 2005 at 09:26 PM in Current Affairs, Democracy, Favorite Links, Politics, Rhetoric, Singing the Bite Me Song | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 16, 2005

Knight Ridder: Chertoff delayed federal response, memo shows

Link: KRT Wire | 09/13/2005 | Chertoff delayed federal response, memo shows.

Editor & Publisher is already calling this story a "major scoop" for Knight Ridder.

It's pretty incredible, but I'd been wondering how the snafu got so fu'ed without Chertoff being a pretty major contributor. He said too many inane things during press conferences to make me think he had any sense of what was going on in New Orleans.

Posted on Tue, Sep. 13, 2005

Chertoff delayed federal response, memo shows

BY JONATHAN S. LANDAY, ALISON YOUNG AND SHANNON MCCAFFREY

Knight Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON - (KRT) - The federal official with the power to mobilize a massive federal response to Hurricane Katrina was Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, not the former FEMA chief who was relieved of his duties and resigned earlier this week, federal documents reviewed by Knight Ridder show.

Even before the storm struck the Gulf Coast, Chertoff could have ordered federal agencies into action without any request from state or local officials. Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Michael Brown had only limited authority to do so until about 36 hours after the storm hit, when Chertoff designated him as the "principal federal official" in charge of the storm.

[...]

But Chertoff - not Brown - was in charge of managing the national response to a catastrophic disaster, according to the National Response Plan, the federal government's blueprint for how agencies will handle major natural disasters or terrorist incidents. An order issued by President Bush in 2003 also assigned that responsibility to the homeland security director.

But according to a memo obtained by Knight Ridder, Chertoff didn't shift that power to Brown until late afternoon or evening on Aug. 30, about 36 hours after Katrina hit Louisiana and Mississippi. That same memo suggests that Chertoff may have been confused about his lead role in disaster response and that of his department.

"As you know, the President has established the `White House Task Force on Hurricane Katrina Response.' He will meet with us tomorrow to launch this effort. The Department of Homeland Security, along with other Departments, will be part of the task force and will assist the Administration with its response to Hurricane Katrina," Chertoff said in the memo to the secretaries of defense, health and human services and other key federal agencies.

On the day that Chertoff wrote the memo, Bush was in San Diego presiding over a ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.

[...]

And air jamming on a gift guitar, so light-hearted and gay was he while people in New Orleans were dying.

White House and homeland security officials wouldn't explain why Chertoff waited some 36 hours to declare Katrina an incident of national significance and why he didn't immediately begin to direct the federal response from the moment on Aug. 27 when the National Hurricane Center predicted that Katrina would strike the Gulf Coast with catastrophic force in 48 hours. Nor would they explain why Bush felt the need to appoint a separate task force.

Chertoff's hesitation and Bush's creation of a task force both appear to contradict the National Response Plan and previous presidential directives that specify what the secretary of homeland security is assigned to do without further presidential orders. The goal of the National Response Plan is to provide a streamlined framework for swiftly delivering federal assistance when a disaster - caused by terrorists or Mother Nature - is too big for local officials to handle.

Dana Perino, a White House spokeswoman, referred most inquiries about the memo and Chertoff's actions to the Department of Homeland Security.

"There will be an after-action report" on the government's response to Hurricane Katrina, Perino said. She added that "Chertoff had the authority to invoke the Incident of National Significance, and he did it on Tuesday."

[...]

The Department of Homeland Security has refused repeated requests to provide details about Chertoff's schedule and said it couldn't say specifically when the department requested assistance from the military. Knocke said a military liaison was working with FEMA, but said he didn't know his or her name or rank. FEMA officials said they wouldn't provide information about the liaison.

[...]

A former FEMA director under President Reagan expressed shock by the inaction that Chertoff's memo suggested. It showed that Chertoff "does not have a full appreciation for what the country is faced with - nor does anyone who waits that long," said Gen. Julius Becton Jr., who was FEMA director from 1985-1989.

"Anytime you have a delay in taking action, there's a potential for losing lives," Becton told Knight Ridder. "I have no idea how many lives we're talking about. ... I don't understand why, except that they were inefficient."

Chertoff's Aug. 30 memo came on the heels of a memo from Brown, written several hours after Katrina made landfall, showing that the FEMA director was waiting for Chertoff's permission to get help from others within the massive department. In that memo, first obtained by the Associated Press last week, Brown requested Chertoff's "assistance to make available DHS employees willing to deploy as soon as possible." It asked for another 1,000 homeland security workers within two days and 2,000 within a week.

[...]

According to the National Response Plan, which was unveiled in January by Chertoff's predecessor, Tom Ridge, the secretary of homeland security is supposed to declare an Incident of National Significance when a catastrophic event occurs.

[...]

Mike Byrne, a former senior homeland security official under Ridge who worked on the plan, said he doesn't think the new National Response Plan caused the confusion that plagued the early response to Katrina.

Something else went wrong, he suspects. The new National Response Plan isn't all that different from the previous plan, called the Federal Response Plan.

"Our history of responding to major disasters has been one where we've done it well," Byrne said. "We need to figure out why this one didn't go as well as the others did. It's shocking to me."

Chertoff's Aug. 30 memo is posted at www.krwashington.com

To read the National Response Plan, go to: http://www.dhs.gov/interweb/assetlibrary/NRP_FullText.pdf

September 16, 2005 at 01:47 AM in Current Affairs, Favorite Links, Media & Journalism, News to Note, Politics, Rhetoric, Singing the Bite Me Song | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 14, 2005

How Bush Blew It: Don't let this Newsweek story slip under the radar

How the Katrina "timeline" looked from inside the West Wing, from the anonymous aides' points of view.

Some great lines in here. I'm loathe to take anything out, but the best bits are in bold.

Link: How Bush Blew It   - Newsweek: International Editions - MSNBC.com.

How Bush Blew It

After-Action Report: Bureaucratic timidity. Bad phone lines. And a failure of imagination. Why the government was so slow to respond to catastrophe.

By Evan Thomas
Newsweek

Sept. 19, 2005 issue - It's a standing joke among the president's top aides: who gets to deliver the bad news? Warm and hearty in public, Bush can be cold and snappish in private, and aides sometimes cringe before the displeasure of the president of the United States, or, as he is known in West Wing jargon, POTUS. The bad news on this early morning, Tuesday, Aug. 30, some 24 hours after Hurricane Katrina had ripped through New Orleans, was that the president would have to cut short his five-week vacation by a couple of days and return to Washington. The president's chief of staff, Andrew Card; his deputy chief of staff, Joe Hagin; his counselor, Dan Bartlett, and his spokesman, Scott McClellan, held a conference call to discuss the question of the president's early return and the delicate task of telling him. Hagin, it was decided, as senior aide on the ground, would do the deed.

In other words, he drew the short stick.

The president did not growl this time. He had already decided to return to Washington and hold a meeting of his top advisers on the following day, Wednesday. This would give them a day to get back from their vacations and their staffs to work up some ideas about what to do in the aftermath of the storm. President Bush knew the storm and its consequences had been bad; but he didn't quite realize how bad.

In my book, that kind of ignorance when you hold the kind of responsibility that comes with his office, is simply criminal. It seems clear that when Bush goes on vacation, he doesn't read briefings about "Bin Laden Determined to Strike the U.S." or even eyeball the Weather Channel as if he were a true steward of his nation. "Steward" would be the one word that, as president, will never be applied to George W. Bush. It would mean care-taking and watchfulness, the watchfulness of an earnest baby-sitter, if not a parent, not just a petulant bureaucrat who is mostly wholely concerned, when concerns are allowed to penetrate the indifferent sons of the rich and powerful, with covering his own ass. This kind of unconcern in a president should be an impeachable offense, if utter incompetence counts as such a thing.

The reality, say several aides who did not wish to be quoted because it might displease the president, did not really sink in until Thursday night. Some White House staffers were watching the evening news and thought the president needed to see the horrific reports coming out of New Orleans. Counselor Bartlett made up a DVD of the newscasts so Bush could see them in their entirety as he flew down to the Gulf Coast the next morning on Air Force One.

How this could be—how the president of the United States could have even less "situational awareness," as they say in the military, than the average American about the worst natural disaster in a century—is one of the more perplexing and troubling chapters in a story that, despite moments of heroism and acts of great generosity, ranks as a national disgrace.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

[...]

But it is not clear what President Bush does read or watch, aside from the occasional biography and an hour or two of ESPN here and there.

Where I come from that would be called having your head permanently stuck up your ass. Of course, many of us have been suspecting Bush was this out of it for many years now. What a contrast to the high-level policy wonk hyper-awareness of President Clinton, eh?

Bush can be petulant about dissent; he equates disagreement with disloyalty. After five years in office, he is surrounded largely by people who agree with him. Bush can ask tough questions, but it's mostly a one-way street.

[...]

When Hurricane Katrina struck, it appears there was no one to tell President Bush the plain truth: that the state and local governments had been overwhelmed, that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was not up to the job and that the military, the only institution with the resources to cope, couldn't act without a declaration from the president overriding all other authority.

[...]

The failure of the government's response to Hurricane Katrina worked like a power blackout. Problems cascaded and compounded; each mistake made the next mistake worse. The foe in this battle was a monster; Katrina flattened the Gulf Coast with the strength of a vengeful god. But human beings, beginning with the elected officials of the City of New Orleans, failed to anticipate and react in time.

Congressional investigations will take months to sort out who is to blame. A NEWSWEEK reconstruction of the government's response to the storm shows how Bush's leadership style and the bureaucratic culture combined to produce a disaster within a disaster.

Ray Nagin, the mayor of New Orleans, didn't want to evacuate. New Orleanians have a fatalistic streak; their joyful, jazz-blowing street funeral processions are legendary. After many near misses over the years since Hurricane Betsy flooded 20 percent of the city in 1965, longtime residents prefer to stay put. Nagin's eye had long been on commerce, not catastrophe. A former executive at Cox Communications, he had come to office in 2002 to clear out the allegedly corrupt old guard and bring new business to the city, which has not prospered with New South metropolises like Atlanta. During Nagin's mayoral campaign, the promises were about jobs, not stronger floodwalls and levees.

But on Saturday night, as Katrina bore down on New Orleans, Nagin talked to Max Mayfield, head of the National Hurricane Center. "Max Mayfield has scared me to death," Nagin told City Councilwoman Cynthia Morrell early Sunday morning. "If you're scared, I'm scared," responded Morrell, and the mandatory order went out to evacuate the city—about a day later than for most other cities and counties along the Gulf Coast.

As Katrina howled outside Monday morning and the windows of the Hyatt Hotel, where the mayor had set up his command post, began popping out, Nagin and his staff lay on the floor. Then came eerie silence. Morrell decided to go look at her district, including nearby Gentilly. Outside, Canal Street was dry. "Phew," Morrell told her driver, "that was close." But then, from the elevated highway, she began seeing neighborhoods under eight to 15 feet of water. "Holy God," she thought to herself. Then she spotted her first dead body.

At dusk, on the ninth floor of city hall, the mayor and the city council had their first encounter with the federal government. A man in a blue FEMA windbreaker arrived to brief them on his helicopter flyover of the city. He seemed unfamiliar with the city's geography, but he did have a sense of urgency. "Water as far as the eye can see," he said. It was worse than Hurricanes Andrew in 1992 and Camille in 1969. "I need to call Washington," he said. "Do you have a conference-call line?" According to an aide to the mayor, he seemed a little taken aback when the answer was no. Long neglected in the city budget, communications within the New Orleans city government were poor, and eventually almost nonexistent when the batteries on the few old satellite phones died. The FEMA man found a phone, but he had trouble reaching senior officials in Washington. When he finally got someone on the line, the city officials kept hearing him say, "You don't understand, you don't understand."

Around New Orleans, three levees had overtopped or were broken. The city was doomed. There was no way the water could be stopped. But, incredibly, the seriousness of the situation did not really register, not only in Washington, but at the state emergency command post upriver in Baton Rouge.

This part strains my credulity, since most of these people had direct contact with the drill on the fake "Hurricane Pam" the year before. From the hurricane experts I've seen on TV, the most standout issue that surely made even the top paragraph of the executive summary of that report would be "devasting flooding in New Orleans once levees are breached, with massive loss of life." That much seems abundantly clear.

[...]

Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, a motherly but steely figure known by the nickname Queen Bee, knew that she needed help. But she wasn't quite sure what. At about 8 p.m., she spoke to Bush. "Mr. President," she said, "we need your help. We need everything you've got."

Bush, the governor later recalled, was reassuring. But the conversation was all a little vague. Blanco did not specifically ask for a massive intervention by the active-duty military. "She wouldn't know the 82nd Airborne from the Harlem Boys' Choir," said an official in the governor's office, who did not wish to be identified talking about his boss's conversations with the president. There are a number of steps Bush could have taken, short of a full-scale federal takeover, like ordering the military to take over the pitiful and (by now) largely broken emergency communications system throughout the region. But the president, who was in San Diego preparing to give a speech the next day on the war in Iraq, went to bed.

Mind the president's uncomplicated beauty rest now. The blissful sleep of the criminally clueless.

By the predawn hours, most state and federal officials finally realized that the 17th Street Canal levee had been breached, and that the city was in serious trouble. Bush was told at 5 a.m. Pacific Coast time and immediately decided to cut his vacation short. To his senior advisers, living in the insular presidential bubble, the mere act of lopping off a couple of presidential vacation days counts as a major event. They could see pitfalls in sending Bush to New Orleans immediately. His presence would create a security nightmare and get in the way of the relief effort. Bush blithely proceeded with the rest of his schedule for the day, accepting a gift guitar at one event and pretending to riff like Tom Cruise in "Risky Business."

That didn't stop them from sending the president into an active disaster zone in Florida last year. I heard plenty of complaints then about the presidential entourage disrupting relief efforts, making it harder for folks to get bottled water, having to route all the way around the security zone. And, my memory is bad, but I think that happened within TWO DAYS of the big hurricane hitting last year near Punta Gorda. But then, in that part of Florida, there were votes on the line.

Bush might not have appeared so carefree if he had been able to see the fearful faces on some young police officers—the ones who actually showed up for roll call at the New Orleans Second District police headquarters that morning. The radio was reporting water nine feet deep at the corner of Napoleon and St. Charles streets. The looting and occasional shooting had begun. At 2 o'clock on the morning of the storm, only 82 of 120 cops had obeyed a summons to report for duty. Now the numbers were dwindling; within a day, only 28 or 30 officers would be left to save the stranded and fight the looters, recalled a sad and exhausted Capt. Eddie Hosli, speaking to a NEWSWEEK reporter last week.

[...]

At emergency headquarters in Baton Rouge, confusion raged. Though more than 100,000 of its residents had no way to get out of the city on their own, New Orleans had no real evacuation plan, save to tell people to go to the Superdome and wait for buses. On Tuesday, the state was rounding up buses; no, FEMA was; no, FEMA's buses would take too long to get there... and so on. On Tuesday afternoon, Governor Blanco took her second trip to the Superdome and was shocked by the rising tide of desperation there. There didn't seem to be nearly enough buses, boats or helicopters.

Early Wednesday morning, Blanco tried to call Bush. She was transferred around the White House for a while until she ended up on the phone with Fran Townsend, the president's Homeland Security adviser, who tried to reassure her but did not have many specifics.

What, did she interrupt a game of presidential shuffleboard? What big "situation" in the White House was upstaging a desperate phone call from the region of the country that should have been Priority One? We know the Iraq War has never been Priority One, because the people supposedly running it blythely took a five-week vacation and couldn't really be interupted to have their head in anything else. I mean, he interrupted his vacation for the disaster, so wouldn't the folks in the White House, um, you know, been giving full attention to the disaster?

Hours later, Blanco called back and insisted on speaking to the president. When he came on the line, the governor recalled, "I just asked him for help, 'whatever you have'." She asked for 40,000 troops. "I just pulled a number out of the sky," she later told NEWSWEEK.

The Pentagon was not sitting idly. By Tuesday morning (and even before the storm) the military was moving supplies, ships, boats, helicopters and troops toward the Gulf Coast. But, ironically, the scale of the effort slowed it. TV viewers had difficulty understanding why TV crews seemed to move in and out of New Orleans while the military was nowhere to be seen. But a TV crew is five people in an RV. Before the military can send in convoys of trucks, it has to clear broken and flooded highways. The military took over the shattered New Orleans airport for emergency airlifts, but special teams of Air Force operators had to be sent in to make it ready. By the week after the storm, the military had mobilized some 70,000 troops and hundreds of helicopters—but it took at least two days and usually four and five to get them into the disaster area. Looters and well-armed gangs, like TV crews, moved faster.

Funny thing about Chinooks and Blackhawks and such, choppers that just fly up and then they show up. Mobilization? People were dying and someone was worried about whether they all took off at the same time?! Whether the boots were shined? Hell, dribble the Chinooks and Hueys out, if it gets the fucking job done. The National Guard, if it were actually present and equipped in Louisiana and Mississippi would surely have done that, since they were only missing a "third" of their people who were in Iraq. If that was the case, however, why were ANY numbers of National Guard so MIA all week, until that Friday? My guess is that the third of them that were in Iraq had all the transport equipment there with them. I'm wondering if every state's equipment stores are similarly non-existent.

I am also concerned that for all the media sites publishing "timelines," there aren't any researching side-by-side timelines with Hurricane Ivan, not because they were comparable storms, but didn't that FEMA response occur AFTER FEMA was absorbed into Homeland Security? I want to see an Ivan timeline, and a Charley timeline, and a Frances timeline...

In the inner councils of the Bush administration, there was some talk of gingerly pushing aside the overwhelmed "first responders," the state and local emergency forces, and sending in active-duty troops. But under an 1868 law, federal troops are not allowed to get involved in local law enforcement. The president, it's true, could have invoked the Insurrections Act, the so-called Riot Act. But Rumsfeld's aides say the secretary of Defense was leery of sending in 19-year-old soldiers trained to shoot people in combat to play policemen in an American city, and he believed that National Guardsmen trained as MPs were on the way.

Hmmm, I wonder where they were, and why Rummy didn't know where they were. And why would the federal troops have to "push aside" the state and local relief efforts? In a disaster with all hands on deck, wouldn't more hands be better? What's with all this "we're helping now so you aren't allowed to help" bullshit? The people who snuck in with aid and the firefighters who found a way around the FEMA assholes who were turning back truckloads and aid offers from other states were the folks who actually saved lives. Can we charge those FEMA assholes with murder like they did the nursing home administrators who didn't evacuate and forced those infirm people to die horrible deaths? Why the hell were minor FEMA bureaucrats turning aid back, anyway? It seems so absurd, but it's well-documented. Were the offers coming from people who for some reason didn't have embedded chips under their skin saying they'd already been to the Homeland Security proctologist and were certified not to be harboring terrorist implements up their asses?

If you ask me, those FEMA bureaucrats turning back the aid trucks and rejecting offers from others states WERE TERRORISTS. They were terrorizing the people of New Orleans.

If I were being a real paranoiac, I might say that it appears that FEMA was blockading the city from anything getting in, what in military terms would be called a "siege," in order to manipulate a response from either the governor or the mayor in some kind of extended "turf war." I mean, sure, everyone is crying "incompetence" when it comes to FEMA's non-response, but I seriously wonder if we aren't seeing more method in the FEMA madness that suggests competence, but with goals at cross-purposes with the relief efforts. Was New Orleans being held hostage by a federal agency trying to establish a jurisdictional precedent that would normally be unheard of? Is there any reason why FEMA can't support overwhelmed state and local disaster coordinators who actually know the maps and such, KNOW where the shelters ARE, without having to utterly take over and fuck up royally? When did the disaster response become more about a FEMA power grab and less about helping people?

The one federal agency that is supposed to handle disasters—FEMA—was dysfunctional. On Wednesday morning, Senator Landrieu was standing outside the chaotic Superdome and asked to borrow a FEMA official's phone to call her office in Washington. "It didn't work," she told Newsweek. "I thought to myself, 'This isn't going to be pretty'." Once a kind of petty-cash drawer for congressmen to quickly hand out aid after floods and storms, FEMA had improved in the 1990s in the Clinton administration. But it became a victim of the Iron Law of Unintended Consequences. After 9/11 raised the profile of disaster response, FEMA was folded into the sprawling Department of Homeland Security and effectively weakened. FEMA's boss, Bush's close friend Joe Allbaugh, quit when he lost his cabinet seat. (Now a consultant, Allbaugh was down on the Gulf Coast last week looking for contracts for his private clients.) Allbaugh replaced himself with his college buddy Mike Brown, whose last private-sector job (omitted from his official resume) had been supervising horse-show judges for the International Arabian Horse Association. After praising Brown ("Brownie, you're doing a heck of job"), Bush last week removed him from honchoing the Katrina relief operation. He was replaced by Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad Allen. The Coast Guard was one agency that performed well, rescuing thousands.

I'm glad to hear that the facts about the Coast Guard back up my perceptions as an observer. In all the awfulness, the Coast Guard was, in my mind, both tireless and heroic, and they impressed the hell out of me even without the media telling me what johnny-on-the-spots they were.

Bad news rarely flows up in bureaucracies. For most of those first few days, Bush was hearing what a good job the Feds were doing. Bush likes "metrics," numbers to measure performance, so the bureaucrats gave him reassuring statistics. At a press availability on Wednesday, Bush duly rattled them off: there were 400 trucks transporting 5.4 million meals and 13.4 million liters of water along with 3.4 million pounds of ice. Yet it was obvious to anyone watching TV that New Orleans had turned into a Third World hellhole.

I can't remember where I heard it, but the rumor running around is that some FEMA people are complaining that they were forced to stop doing important things, urgent things, in order to drop everything and run down those fucking statistics for the clueless president to spout off at a press conference.

The denial and the frustration finally collided aboard Air Force One on Friday. As the president's plane sat on the tarmac at New Orleans airport, a confrontation occurred that was described by one participant as "as blunt as you can get without the Secret Service getting involved."

I think this means folks got all up in each other's faces with hard words, nearly coming to blows. Is that how you read it?

Governor Blanco was there, along with various congressmen and senators and Mayor Nagin (who took advantage of the opportunity to take a shower aboard the plane). One by one, the lawmakers listed their grievances as Bush listened. Rep. Bobby Jindal, whose district encompasses New Orleans, told of a sheriff who had called FEMA for assistance. According to Jindal, the sheriff was told to e-mail his request, "and the guy was sitting in a district underwater and with no electricity," Jindal said, incredulously. "How does that make any sense?" Jindal later told NEWSWEEK that "almost everybody" around the conference table had a similar story about how the federal response "just wasn't working." With each tale, "the president just shook his head, as if he couldn't believe what he was hearing," says Jindal, a conservative Republican and Bush appointee who lost a close race to Blanco. Repeatedly, the president turned to his aides and said, "Fix it."

Wow, what a take-charge guy. He has no connection with what must be done TO "fix it," but he can strut around demanding results all day long like a detached banty rooster. Generally, I thought the qualifications of a leader meant seeing that stuff got done when the folks further down the chain of command needed more help or intervention, rather than barking the command back DOWN the faltering chain of command. People went up the org chart to try to find where the buck stopped, where they could get some real help, and when they got to Bush, he just turned around and passed the buck right back down.

According to Sen. David Vitter, a Republican ally of Bush's, the meeting came to a head when Mayor Nagin blew up during a fraught discussion of "who's in charge?" Nagin slammed his hand down on the table and told Bush, "We just need to cut through this and do what it takes to have a more-controlled command structure. If that means federalizing it, let's do it."

A debate over "federalizing" the National Guard had been rattling in Washington for the previous three days. Normally, the Guard is under the control of the state governor, but the Feds can take over—if the governor asks them to. Nagin suggested that Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, the Pentagon's on-scene commander, be put in charge. According to Senator Vitter, Bush turned to Governor Blanco and said, "Well, what do you think of that, Governor?" Blanco told Bush, "I'd rather talk to you about that privately." To which Nagin responded, "Well, why don't you do that now?"

The meeting broke up. Bush and Blanco disappeared to talk. More than a week later, there was still no agreement. Blanco didn't want to give up her authority, and Bush didn't press. Jindal suggested that Bush appoint Colin Powell as a kind of relief czar, and Bush replied, "I'll take that into consideration." Bush does not like to fire people. He told Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to go down to Louisiana and sort out the various problems. A day later FEMA's Brown was on his way back to Washington.

Another day of people dying because "Bush doesn't like to fire people"? The governor had asked the feds to step in the Saturday before the hurricane hit, but it isn't like they pre-deployed more than seven FEMA teams, and a small number of National Guard troops that were never visible on any video reports I saw. I saw Coast Guard, city police, and lots of people all by themselves, while firefighters were sitting in Atlanta getting sexual harrassment training because they had advance homeland security background checks. See, because its more important to have a background check than to get help for people who are dying.

Late last week, Bush was, by some accounts, down and angry. But another Bush aide described the atmosphere inside the White House as "strangely surreal and almost detached."

What happened, did the "reality-based universe" trump the spinners? Oh, that must have been a sad day at the White House, the utter failure to control spin and manufacture reality into some constructed image. I doubt anyone was sad at the tragedy in New Orleans. They could have been sad about that days earlier, and actually done something about it.

At one meeting described by this insider, officials were oddly self-congratulatory, perhaps in an effort to buck each other up. Life inside a bunker can be strange, especially in defeat.

Sorry Newsweek, but I'm not buying your bizarre ending to this story. Yes, it most certainly was a defeat. And maybe they still aren't monitoring the nation as real stewards in there, and instead sit in silence in the bunker. But I'm more inclined to believe if there were any self-congratulations to be had, any high-fives to be given out (I'm thinking of those goofy scenes in the TV show "The West Wing") it would be because they actually were looking forward to some future scheme or planned victory, perhaps knowing something about Supreme Court Chief Justice nominee John Roberts we don't. I don't know why else there could be glee at this time on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Unless they are so cold toward the tragedy, they don't feel it, and instead just feel happy they survived it. But then you must compare what the White House handlers survived to what the people of New Orleans survived. I don't see the surviors of New Orleans being self congratulatory that they made it.

September 14, 2005 at 01:54 AM in Best Essays, Current Affairs, Favorite Links, Media & Journalism, News to Note, Politics, Rhetoric, Singing the Bite Me Song, Television, War/Terrorism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 10, 2005

Maureen Dowd helps eviscerate "Brownie"

Not that help was needed, but it's always fun to pile on the incompetent boob, especially when the White House spinners still refuse to acknowledge what an incompetent boob he is, just like the fellow who appointed him.

One of the great joys in my life is hearing that Bush sound bite "Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job" getting as much repetitive airplay as the Dean scream.

I do wish more people had enough historical context to draw the direct link between political cronyism and power-brokering with corporations and the stated philosophies of fascism back in its day. It's like deja vu all over again, you know?

Link: Neigh to Cronies - New York Times.

Here are some choice bits:

Op-Ed Columnist

Neigh to Cronies

By MAUREEN DOWD Published: September 10, 2005 WASHINGTON

I understand that politicians are wont to put cronies and cupcakes on the payroll.

I just wish they'd stop putting them on the Homeland Security payroll.

[...]

At least Bill Clinton knew not to stash his sweeties in jobs concerned with keeping the nation safe. Gennifer Flowers said that Mr. Clinton got her a $17,500 job in Arkansas in the state unemployment agency, though she was ranked ninth out of 11 applicants tested. And Monica Lewinsky's thong expertise led her to a job as an assistant to the Pentagon press officer.

Gov. James McGreevey of New Jersey had to resign last year after acknowledging that he had elevated his patronage peccadillo, an Israeli poet named Golan Cipel, to be his special assistant on homeland security without even a background check or American citizenship. Mr. Cipel, however, was vastly qualified for his job compared with Michael Brown, who didn't know the difference between a tropical depression and an anxiety attack when President Bush charged him with life-and-death decisions.

W. trusted Brownie simply because he was a friend of a friend. He was a college buddy of Joe Allbaugh, who worked as W.'s chief of staff when he was Texas governor and as his 2000 presidential campaign manager.

It sounds more like a Vince Vaughn-Owen Wilson flick than the story of a man who was to be responsible for the fate of the Republic during the biggest natural disaster in our history. Brownie was a failed former lawyer with a degree from a semiaccredited law school, as The New Republic put it, when he moved to Colorado in 1991 to judge horse judges for the Arabian Horse Association.

He was put out to pasture under pressure in 2001, leaving him free to join his pal Mr. Allbaugh at an eviscerated FEMA. Mr. Allbaugh decided to leave the top job at FEMA and become a lobbyist with clients like Halliburton when the agency was reorganized under Homeland Security, stripping it of authority. Why not, Mr. Allbaugh thought, just pass this obscure sinecure to his homeboy?

Time magazine reported that Brownie's official bio described his only stint in emergency management as "assistant city manager" in Edmond, Okla. But a city official told Time that the FEMA chief had been "an assistant to the city manager," which was "more like an intern."

[...]

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

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

[...]

FEMA was a disaster waiting to happen, the minute a disaster struck. As The Washington Post reported Friday, five of the eight top FEMA officials were simply Bush loyalists and political operatives who "came to their posts with virtually no experience in handling disasters."

While many see the hideous rescue failures as disaster apartheid, Barbara Bush and other Republicans have tried to look on the bright side for the victims. The Wall Street Journal reported that Representative Richard Baker of Baton Rouge was overheard telling lobbyists: "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did."

[...]

September 10, 2005 at 12:51 PM in Best Essays, Current Affairs, Democracy, Favorite Links, News to Note, Politics, Singing the Bite Me Song, Television | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 08, 2005

I'm just gonna keep repeating this...

"Why did it happen? Who needs to be fired?"

-Aaron Broussard, president of Jefferson Parish, south of New Orleans
 
This quotation should be printed on T-shirts and bumper stickers and spread all over the U.S.

More than that, I just had another brainstorm. As the absurdities of spin continue, as the anger builds, where's the powderkeg? I'm feeling A LOT of ANGER.

All the spin in the world couldn't stop a major second act to the Civil Rights Movement. Tell me, how much anger is out there? Let's channel it into effective non-violent protests and demonstrations. Let's show solidarity with the survivors and the dead on the Gulf Coast, the New Orleans diaspora.

At the very least, let's print lots of T-Shirts and bumper stickers.

Miasma

September 8, 2005 at 08:35 PM in Best Essays, Current Affairs, Democracy, Favorite Links, News to Note, Politics, Singing the Bite Me Song | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack