As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, September 09, 2005

Bye Bye Brownie

Off the Katrina beat.

But oddly, still the head of FEMA. The head of the main agency managing federal emergencies gets sent home from the nation's largest federal emergency, and yet is still head of the agency.

That make sense to you?


Thursday, September 08, 2005

Sunday in the Park with Rummy

It's insane that American taxpayers are paying for a DoD gloryosky event in the midst of everything that's going on, but in case you wanted to know where the money's going, read this WaPo piece:

Organizers of the Pentagon's 9/11 memorial Freedom Walk on Sunday are taking extraordinary measures to control participation in the march and concert, with the route fenced off and lined with police and the event closed to anyone who does not register online by 4:30 p.m. today.

The march, sponsored by the Department of Defense, will wend its way from the Pentagon to the Mall along a route that has not been specified but will be lined with four-foot-high snow fencing to keep it closed and "sterile," said Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense.

Does this sound like fun to anybody? Marching behind a four-foot-high fence, under Fort Knox-like levels of scrutiny?

The U.S. Park Police will have its entire Washington force of several hundred on duty and along the route, on foot, horseback and motorcycles and monitoring from above by helicopter. Officers are prepared to arrest anyone who joins the march or concert without a credential and refuses to leave, said Park Police Chief Dwight E. Pettiford.

These E-Ring guys sure know how to party, don't they?

By the way, the article says Rumsfeld will be there, that the media will not be allowed on the march route, and that a permit has been approved for protestors. Anybody participating in that? The Pentagon expects between 3,000-10,000 people, which sounds like a pretty big spread to me. They don't have a clue who's coming out for this nonsense. Maybe the turnout will be so low because, I don't know, it sounds like walking prisoners through an exercise yard?

By the way, the word "freedom" is in the name of this walk. My question is: how many freedoms does the "Freedom Walk" limit? Freedom of the press, freedom of movement, freedom of assembly...


How Now Brownie?

Not only is FEMA director Mike Brown (or, if you prefer, Brownie) inexperienced, incompetent and in over his head, he's apparently also one of those, um, what do you call it?

How Reliable Is Brown's Resume?

An investigation by TIME has found discrepancies in his online legal profile and official bio, including a description of Brown released by the White House at the time of his nomination in 2001 to the job as deputy chief of FEMA.

Before joining FEMA, his only previous stint in emergency management, according to his bio posted on FEMA's website, was "serving as an assistant city manager with emergency services oversight." The White House press release from 2001 stated that Brown worked for the city of Edmond, Okla., from 1975 to 1978 "overseeing the emergency services division." In fact, according to Claudia Deakins, head of public relations for the city of Edmond, Brown was an "assistant to the city manager" from 1977 to 1980, not a manager himself, and had no authority over other employees. "The assistant is more like an intern," she told TIME. "Department heads did not report to him."

So what's worse, a President engaging in oral sex with an intern or a President entrusting a federal agency to an intern?

And it seems like nearly all of Brownie's legitimate work experience is up for scrutiny:

Under the "honors and awards" section of his profile at — which is information on the legal website provided by lawyers or their offices—he lists "Outstanding Political Science Professor, Central State University". However, Brown "wasn't a professor here, he was only a student here," says Charles Johnson, News Bureau Director in the University Relations office at the University of Central Oklahoma (formerly named Central State University).

Johnson could not confirm that Brown made the Dean's list or was an "Outstanding Political Science Senior," as is stated on his online profile.

Under the heading of "Professional Associations and Memberships" on FindLaw, Brown states that from 1983 to the present he has been director of the Oklahoma Christian Home, a nursing home in Edmond. But an administrator with the Home, told TIME that Brown is "not a person that anyone here is familiar with." She says there was a board of directors until a couple of years ago, but she couldn't find anyone who recalled him being on it. According to FEMA's Andrews, Brown said "he's never claimed to be the director of the home. He was on the board of directors, or governors of the nursing home." However, a veteran employee at the center since 1981 says Brown "was never director here, was never on the board of directors, was never executive director. He was never here in any capacity. I never heard his name mentioned here."

Brown's FindLaw profile lists a wide range of areas of legal practice, from estate planning to family law to sports. However, one former colleague does not remember Brown's work as sterling. Stephen Jones, a prominent Oklahoma lawyer who was lead defense attorney on the Timothy McVeigh case, was Brown's boss for two-and-a-half years in the early '80s. "He did mainly transactional work, not litigation," says Jones. "There was a feeling that he was not serious and somewhat shallow." Jones says when his law firm split, Brown was one of two staffers who was let go.

Also, we know that the bulk of his working life, at the International Arabian Horse Association, wasn't on his resume at all before Katrina.

Here's a guy that knew he was about to do something so righteously wrong, that he tried to cover up for it BEFORE it happened. It's simply unacceptable that this is the guy overseeing national disasters.

Of course, running FEMA in the age of Homeland Security is playing with a stacked deck, anyway. FEMA lifers are starting to talk about it:

"All of us were just shaking our heads and saying, 'This isn't going to be enough, and the director has to know this isn't going to be enough.' But nothing more seemed to be happening," said Leo Bosner, president of the FEMA Headquarters Employees Union.

Bosner has been with FEMA since it began 26 years ago. He says the agency has been systematically dismantled since it became part of the massive Department of Homeland Security.

"One of the big differences I see," said Bosner, "besides taking away our staff and our budget and our training, is that Homeland Security now, in my view, slows down the process."

The union warned Congress in a detailed letter about FEMA's decline a year ago. State emergency managers also warned Capitol Hill and Homeland Security just weeks ago that DHS was too focused on one thing — terrorism.

The thing to do seems to be breaking out FEMA from DHS, fully funding it, making it a cabinet-level office the way Clinton did, and starting over with experienced personnel. Of course, Brownie's doing a great job, so there's little chance of that happening.

UPDATE: If this is true, it sounds like FEMA's setting up the survivors in nice, comfy jails. Go read the story.


Thank Goodness for the Price Gougers!

I've resisted posting about this nonsensical John Stossel piece, because I get so furious every time I even think about him. But this one is so ridiculous, so ghoulish, it has to be commented upon:

Politicians and the media are furious about price increases in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. They want gas stations and water sellers punished.

If you want to score points cracking down on mean, greedy profiteers, pushing anti-"gouging" rules is a very good thing.

But if you're one of the people the law "protects" from "price gouging," you won't fare as well.

Consider this scenario: You are thirsty — worried that your baby is going to become dehydrated. You find a store that's open, and the storeowner thinks it's immoral to take advantage of your distress, so he won't charge you a dime more than he charged last week. But you can't buy water from him. It's sold out.

You continue on your quest, and finally find that dreaded monster, the price gouger. He offers a bottle of water that cost $1 last week at an "outrageous" price — say $20. You pay it to survive the disaster.

You resent the price gouger. But if he hadn't demanded $20, he'd have been out of water. It was the price gouger's "exploitation" that saved your child.

It saved her because people look out for their own interests. Before you got to the water seller, other people did. At $1 a bottle, they stocked up. At $20 a bottle, they bought more cautiously. By charging $20, the price gouger makes sure his water goes to those who really need it.

Of course, the storm-ravaged residents of New Orleans can simply go to their emergency "giant pile of $20s" they left in the Superdome for safe keeping. And by only giving their money to the price-gougers, the survivors make sure their cash only goes to the businessmen that really need it.

I love "at $20 a bottle, the bought more cautiously." It's not, "at $20 a bottle, they didn't buy and their child died of dehydration." Does this guy inhabit some distant planet where everyone has endless means in every scenario? Maybe, if he belongs to a country club.

A commenter at tbogg's joint mentioned this: "So if I have my hand over Stossel's mouth and nose, and agree to give him air for $20 a minute, I am a great businessman? Cool!"



Practical Solutions

I saw Instapundit try to go beyond finger-pointing and offer some practical solutions that would come out of Hurricane Katrina. I didn't agree with all of his points; maybe I didn't agree with any of them. But I think it's a fair place to go. Of course there ought to be a series of lessons learned here.

1) Don't let our cities sink: Perfesser Reynolds' first comment was "Don't build cities below sea level," ignorant to the fact that New Orleans wasn't always that way. In this case the levees were the problem, stopping the Mississippi from depositing silt in the city and surrounding areas. When rebuilding commences, it must be done hand-in-hand with preserving the coastal wetlands that allow barrier islands to form, protecting the city. In addition, global warming is rising sea levels one to three feet every year around the world. Given how many people live in close proximity to coastlines (for example, um, me), we need to do whatever we can right now to counteract that. This kind of environmental protection is now undeniably vital to our national security, and it should have just as large a priority as any other national security initiative.

2) Pork-barrelling must go: When $252 million dollars goes to a bridge in Alaska that connects 50 people to the mainland, and the New Orleans area remains consistently underfunded, something is deadly wrong. It'll probably take an entirely new Congress to weed out pork; this one seems addicted to it. But it's taking a toll on the public.

3) Hire professionals: FEMA (which should be its own agency, not under DHS) should not be a dumping ground for political favorites, the way it was at the time of this crisis. The top three at FEMA are the 2000 campaign chairman's college roommate, a 2000 election campaign official, and a guy who used to plan Presidential trips. The public who pays these salaries demands competency in these crucial positions, not cronies. This goes for state and local appointees as well, who are probably more accountable.

4) A New Deal for New Orleans: The best way to get New Orleans back to work is to put its own citizens in the roles of its reconstruction, or at least to give them the opportunity. Handing this rebuilding project over to the usual suspects like Halliburton would be simply counter-productive. This disaster uncovered the underbelly of poverty that exists in most American cities. By investing in local reconstruction and giving the urban poor there a stake in their own community, it will engender the kind of wealth creation and urban renewal so long sought after. Public/private partnerships should be undertaken to bring this about.

Those are a few. Getting a flashlight and a few canned goods is also nice, but in a case like this, who knows where they'd be once the storm passed through? Obviously every city is going to have to take a long look at their own disaster preparedness plans, in addition to the states and the feds. A real bipartisan investigation would be nice, unlike the current one pitched yesterday, which the Senate Minority Leader's office hadn't heard about until after it was announced. The "blame game," the junior-high phrase bandied about the White House, is actually called accountability, and whenever you see a group have such contempt for it, you should shudder. If we get accountability in the aftermath, we may begin to actually learn something from this national nightmare.


Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Parents Television Council's (Imagined) Response to Katrina

Dear Sirs and Madams:

In the aftermath of the terrible tragedy and devastation in the Gulf Coast region wrought by Hurricane Katrina, Americans of all stripes have sought to assign blame.  Whether it's the lack of following the National Response Plan, the ingoring of decades of warnings about the levees, the generally slow federal response, or the turning back of emergency services by FEMA, we have seen the angry, loony left attempt to exploit this tragedy to their own personal Bush-hating ends.  Well, it's time to look at the real culprit for this natural disaster.

It's time to blame Hollywood.

Movies like "Twister" and "The Day After Tomorrow," and television shows like "The World's Scariest Tornadoes," do you know what they do?  They teach young, impressionable weather patterns how to unleash their destructive capabilities.  This should simply not be allowed in America.  After all, they are the public's airwaves.  They should not be used to desensitize the wind to violence.

A lot of crazy, eyes-bulging pinko liberals would undoubtedly respond to this by saying, "If you don't like it, change the channel."  But think about the children.  The light showers.  The mild breezes.  The 30% chance of sleet.  THEY DON'T KNOW IT'S A MOVIE!

In light of this fact, I am announcing the Parents Television Council's "Protect the Weather" campaign, designed to end production of all TV programming and theatrical releases that don't feature either Jesus or Hillary Duff.  It's the right thing to do in the wake of this tragedy.

Furthermore, the PTC is demanding that all news coverage of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath be immediately stopped, and no more footage of the devastation be shown.  My God, do you want to embolden the other hurricanes out there?  Do you want to teach tropical storms that they can be famous, if they only gain more wind speed and strike land while the President is on vacation?  

At the very least, Congress must pass laws rating various programming of hurricane devastation for content.  For example, The Weather Channel should be immediately blocked in households with children under 17.

Do not expect that the PTC will stop its campaign to end all the vile and disgusting natural disaster programming that infests our airwaves.  Our supporters are out there right now transcribing this speech and sending it to the FCC.  We demand responsibility and justice!  Thank you.

The Parents Television Council



My state legislature has approved same-sex marriage.

Now it goes to the governor, and after years and years, nay decades, of Republicans decrying "judicial activism," Mr. Schwarzenegger positively demands it:

A spokeswoman for Mr. Schwarzenegger, Margita Thompson, said after the vote that the governor believed that the issue of same-sex marriage should be settled by the courts, not legislators, but she did not indicate whether that meant he would veto the legislation. The bill did not pass with enough votes to override a veto.

"The governor will uphold whatever the court decides," Ms. Thompson said.

Shorter Arnold: "Legislators should make laws, except in cases where I have to sign a bill allowing queers to marry, in which case the courts should make laws."

UPDATE: It's officially vetoed.


Operation Blackout

The media whitewash has begun:

The U.S. government agency leading the rescue efforts after Hurricane Katrina said on Tuesday it does not want the news media to take photographs of the dead as they are recovered from the flooded New Orleans area.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, heavily criticized for its slow response to the devastation caused by the hurricane, rejected requests from journalists to accompany rescue boats as they went out to search for storm victims.

An agency spokeswoman said space was needed on the rescue boats and that "the recovery of the victims is being treated with dignity and the utmost respect."

These are the guys who prevented the media from photographing the caskets coming back from Iraq. This is part of their normal response plan: hide the bodies, hide the evidence, put on a happy face.

And it doesn't stop with the cameras, looks like they flat-out want the media out of there:

We are in Jefferson Parish, just outside of New Orleans. At the National Guard checkpoint, they are under orders to turn away all media. All of the reporters are turning they're TV trucks around. Things are so bad, Bush is now censoring all reporting from NOLA. The First Amendment sank with the city.

With the military now in charge, I suppose it's no surprise that the media is seen as the enemy; that's standard psy-ops, to control the flow of communication. The PR offensive, however, is crass and disgusting, given the lack of an enemy on the ground, and the surfeit of American bodies lying in the filthy water.



First of all, Bush was briefed about the hurricane two days before it hit:

On Saturday night, Mayfield was so worried about Hurricane Katrina that he called the governors of Louisiana and Mississippi and the mayor of New Orleans. On Sunday, he even talked about the force of Katrina during a video conference call to President Bush at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

"I just wanted to be able to go to sleep that night knowing that I did all I could do," Mayfield said.

He reacted to this news by speaking to seniors about Medicare in Arizona, eating cake with John McCain on his birthday, and playing guitar with a country singer. When finally roused to the disaster happening in his own country, he rounded up the usual suspects and sent them down there... er, to walk behind him:

As New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin pleaded on national television for firefighters - his own are exhausted after working around the clock for a week - a battalion of highly trained men and women sat idle Sunday in a muggy Sheraton Hotel conference room in Atlanta.

Many of the firefighters, assembled from Utah and throughout the United States by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, thought they were going to be deployed as emergency workers.

Instead, they have learned they are going to be community-relations officers for FEMA, shuffled throughout the Gulf Coast region to disseminate fliers and a phone number: 1-800-621-FEMA...

Firefighters say they want to brave the heat, the debris-littered roads, the poisonous cottonmouth snakes and fire ants and travel into pockets of Louisiana where many people have yet to receive emergency aid.

But as specific orders began arriving to the firefighters in Atlanta, a team of 50 Monday morning quickly was ushered onto a flight headed for Louisiana. The crew's first assignment: to stand beside President Bush as he tours devastated areas.

So while thousands were continuing to die in the Crescent City and its environs, trained professional firefighters were being used as props to rescue a lagging President's public image.

These sick fucks.

(by the way, both of these stories are in Think Progress' excellent Katrina timeline.


This is How Rumors Get Started

Though the media has been exemplary in this hurricane crisis, they are predisposed to hype whatever danger may lurk in New Orleans as far bigger than it really is. This piece in Reason magazine shows that the reports of the dangerous black looters may be exaggerated:

All along Hurricane Katrina's Evacuation Belt, in cities from Houston to Baton Rouge to Leesville, Louisiana, the exact same rumors are spreading faster than red ants at a picnic. The refugees from the United States' worst-ever natural disaster, it is repeatedly said, are bringing with them the worst of New Orleans' now-notorious lawlessness: looting, armed carjacking, and even the rape of children.

"By Thursday," the Chicago Tribune's Howard Witt reported, "local TV and radio stations in Baton Rouge...were breezily passing along reports of cars being hijacked at gunpoint by New Orleans refugees, riots breaking out in the shelters set up in Baton Rouge to house the displaced, and guns and knives being seized."

The only problem—none of the reports were true. "The police, for example, confiscated a single knife from a refugee in one Baton Rouge shelter," Witt reported. "There were no riots in Baton Rouge. There were no armed hordes." Yet the panic was enough for Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden to impose a curfew on the city's largest shelter, and to warn darkly about "New Orleans thugs."

Sadly, I reported a child rape in the Superdome without the proper amount of skepticism. It may have been untrue:

"We don't have any substantiated rapes," New Orleans Police superintendent Edwin Compass said yesterday, according to the Guardian. "We will investigate if the individuals come forward." The British paper further pointed out that, "While many claim they happened, no witnesses, survivors or survivors' relatives have come forward. Nor has the source for the story of the murdered babies, or indeed their bodies, been found. And while the floor of the convention centre toilets were indeed covered in excrement, the Guardian found no corpses."

This is a communication issue, of course, a massive version of "whisper down the lane" in the place of adequate phone service. And these reports have real-world implications:

And it's entirely possible that, like the chimeric Baton Rouge hordes, exaggerations about New Orleans' criminality affected policy, mostly by delaying rescue operations and the provision of aid. Relief efforts ground to a halt last week after reports circulated of looters shooting at helicopters, yet none of the hundreds of articles I read on the subject contained a single first-hand confirmation from a pilot or eyewitness. The suspension-triggering attack—on a military Chinook attempting to evacuate refugees from the Superdome—was contested by Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Laura Brown, who told ABC News, "We're controlling every single aircraft in that airspace and none of them reported being fired on." What's more, when asked about the attacks, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff replied: "I haven't actually received a confirmed report of someone firing on a helicopter."

Some would leap to the belief that this confirms an attitude of racism, but since most of the people on the ground were black, and that's where the reports were coming from, it's really more of an indication of the human nature to believe the worst in people. We all have to look before we leap here, and I was just as guilty, albeit briefly. I was willing to believe that, in the absence of law enforcement, there would be a certain anarchy. It's questionable exactly how anarchic it was. I've read reports that the armed "thugs" in the Superdome were maintaining order and rationing food and water to the most needy and ill. I've read that the National Guard, expecting urban warfare, were only met with despair.

I'm sure this won't stop a certain element in this society who want desperately to believe that black people simply have a tendency toward violence. This quote, from Steve Sailer, is sadly reminiscent of a portion of the population:

What you won’t hear, except from me, is that "Let the good times roll" is an especially risky message for African-Americans. The plain fact is that they tend to possess poorer native judgment than members of better-educated groups. Thus they need stricter moral guidance from society.

It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, that you believe these stories because you want to believe them, because they confirm your worldview. Once you dig down into the depths of such thinking, the ugly racism comes to light.


Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Enough Already

Conservative response to what they call "the blame game" has been to point the finger right back at the Democratic Mayor of New Orleans and the Democratic governor of Louisiana (oddly, they've resisted such tactics against the Republican power structure of Mississippi, even though that ultra-left wing liberal Trent Lott is admitting that mistakes were made down there). It's an interesting tactic: claiming that federal response was OK because the state response wasn't. It's hardly a statement of personal repsonsibility, a classic instance of passing the buck. If the commander-in-chief can't wade through the bureaucracy and come up with a sound crisis management plan, he isn't fit enough to lead in these troubled times.

We know that his underlings aren't. Look at this horrible decision:

The government's disaster chief waited until hours after Hurricane Katrina had already struck the Gulf Coast before asking his boss to dispatch 1,000 Homeland Security employees to the region — and gave them two days to arrive, according to internal documents.

Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, sought the approval from Homeland Security Secretary Mike Chertoff roughly five hours after Katrina made landfall on Aug. 29. Brown said that among duties of these employees was to "convey a positive image" about the government's response for victims.

Yes, when you're in a danger zone trying to rescue tens of thousands of refugees, "conveying a positive image" should be right at the top of the list.

And wait, there's more:

The same day Brown wrote Chertoff, Brown also urged local fire and rescue departments outside Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi not to send trucks or emergency workers into disaster areas without an explicit request for help from state or local governments. Brown said it was vital to coordinate fire and rescue efforts.

Meanwhile, the airline industry said the government's request for help evacuating storm victims didn't come until late Thursday afternoon. The president of the Air Transport Association, James May, said the Homeland Security Department called then to ask if the group could participate in an airlift for refugees.

So enough already. The federal response was pathetic. Blaming the locals and the state doesn't answer the question. Desperate times call for take-charge measures. The Feds just didn't do it.

The New Orleans city budget was 40 to 50 million dollars in the red in 2002. This runs parallel to many cities over the past several years. Why are they so strapped for cash? Because the federal government is draining the states, who in turn find the money for their projects from the cities. From Medicare to NCLB to every other domestic policy of this Administration, the attitude is to spend away and stick the states with the bill. You want to ask way the state and localities might be unprepared in the event of a natural disaster? They're strapped for cash! They have no resources! Unlike the federal government, who preferred to sit back and watch New Orleans sink.


I Hate Being Sick

Sorry folks, out of commission again today. Instead of reading me, give to the Red Cross! What's the matter with you?


Monday, September 05, 2005

Sick as a Dog

Hence the lack of posting today. I think there are a few other blogs on the Internet you can check out.

Must sleep.


"I don't think now is the time to play politics..."

Except when it's Republicans doing the politics-playing:

Under the command of President Bush's two senior political advisers, the White House rolled out a plan this weekend to contain the political damage from the administration's response to Hurricane Katrina.

It orchestrated visits by cabinet members to the region, leading up to an extraordinary return visit by Mr. Bush planned for Monday, directed administration officials not to respond to attacks from Democrats on the relief efforts, and sought to move the blame for the slow response to Louisiana state officials, according to Republicans familiar with the White House plan.

The effort is being directed by Mr. Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove, and his communications director, Dan Bartlett. It began late last week after Congressional Republicans called White House officials to register alarm about what they saw as a feeble response by Mr. Bush to the hurricane, according to Republican Congressional aides.

In many ways, the unfolding public relations campaign reflects the style Mr. Rove has brought to the political campaigns he has run for Mr. Bush. For example, administration officials who went on television on Sunday were instructed to avoid getting drawn into exchanges about the problems of the past week, and to turn the discussion to what the government is doing now.

It's all politics with these people.

By the way, the effort to "contain the political damage" (not the damage in lives, mind you, but the political damage) included lying to the Washington Post and Newsweek, claiming that Gov. Blanco of Louisiana never declared a state of emergency when she did three days before landfall. I'm sure there will be a lot of accountability for that.


Sunday, September 04, 2005

Model of Efficiency

Apparently tip-top, fully developed, modern societies like Cuba know how to get their shit together better than we do:

Last September, a Category 5 hurricane battered the small island of Cuba with 160-mile-per-hour winds. More than 1.5 million Cubans were evacuated to higher ground ahead of the storm. Although the hurricane destroyed 20,000 houses, no one died.

What is Cuban President Fidel Castro's secret? According to Dr. Nelson Valdes, a sociology professor at the University of New Mexico, and specialist in Latin America, "the whole civil defense is embedded in the community to begin with. People know ahead of time where they are to go."

"Cuba's leaders go on TV and take charge," said Valdes. Contrast this with George W. Bush's reaction to Hurricane Katrina. The day after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, Bush was playing golf. He waited three days to make a TV appearance and five days before visiting the disaster site. In a scathing editorial on Thursday, the New York Times said, "nothing about the president's demeanor yesterday - which seemed casual to the point of carelessness - suggested that he understood the depth of the current crisis."

"Merely sticking people in a stadium is unthinkable" in Cuba, Valdes said. "Shelters all have medical personnel, from the neighborhood. They have family doctors in Cuba, who evacuate together with the neighborhood, and already know, for example, who needs insulin."

They also evacuate animals and veterinarians, TV sets and refrigerators, "so that people aren't reluctant to leave because people might steal their stuff," Valdes observed.

Horribly poor countries who can't even manage to keep the lights on know what to do when the wind picks up. Shame on us.

This "finger-pointing" extends long and wide, but ultimately has to stop with the federal government. I mean, considering that the President authorized the state of emergency in Louisiana A WEEK AGO THURSDAY, I'd say this whole "the local and state forces didn't authorize us' line of BS is just that. Come on, that wouldn't fool a fool.


Stunning Hour of Bobblehead Television

Tim Russert, the dean of Beltway conventional wisdom, lit into Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff like I've never seen before this morning. When your first question is "Are you contemplating resignation," you don't really have anywhere else to go. Chertoff spun and spun, but to no avail. Russert wouldn't have any of it. He assailed Bush and DHS for everything we've seen the reality-based community saying for days (the DHS statement on the website that they have primary repsonsibility, the Times-Picayune series of articles, etc). He also allowed Chertoff to hang himself, when he claimed that "When we looked at the papers Tuesday morning, they said "New Orleans dodged a bullet." By Monday night the levees were breaking. He's basing the government's pathetically slow response on the fact that they read hours-old newspapers for breaking coverage? What is this, 1796?

Then he gives voice to Aaron Broussard, the President of Jefferson Parish, whose heart-wrenching story brought me to tears. Think Progress has a transcript:

RUSSERT: You just heard the director of homeland security’s explanation of what has happened this last week. What is your reaction?

BROUSSARD: We have been abandoned by our own country. Hurricane Katrina will go down in history as one of the worst storms ever to hit an American coast. But the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina will go down as one of the worst abandonments of Americans on American soil ever in U.S. history. … Whoever is at the top of this totem pole, that totem pole needs to be chainsawed off and we’ve got to start with some new leadership. It’s not just Katrina that caused all these deaths in New Orleans here. Bureaucracy has committed murder here in the greater New Orleans area and bureaucracy has to stand trial before Congress now...

Three quick examples. We had Wal-Mart deliver three trucks of water. FEMA turned them back. They said we didn’t need them. This was a week ago. FEMA, we had 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel on a Coast Guard vessel docked in my parish. When we got there with our trucks, FEMA says don’t give you the fuel. Yesterday — yesterday — FEMA comes in and cuts all of our emergency communication lines. They cut them without notice. Our sheriff, Harry Lee, goes back in, he reconnects the line. He posts armed guards and said no one is getting near these lines…

I want to give you one last story and I’ll shut up and let you tell me whatever you want to tell me. The guy who runs this building I’m in, Emergency Management, he’s responsible for everything. His mother was trapped in St. Bernard nursing home and every day she called him and said, “Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?” and he said, “Yeah, Mama, somebody’s coming to get you.” Somebody’s coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Friday… and she drowned Friday night. She drowned Friday night! [Sobbing] Nobody’s coming to get us. Nobody’s coming to get us. The Secretary has promised. Everybody’s promised. They’ve had press conferences. I’m sick of the press conferences. For god’s sakes, just shut up and send us somebody.

He broke down crying. Seek out this video, it's powerful.

Mississippi Gov. and former RNC Chair Haley Barbour (who I swear looked like he bronzed before the show) then came on, as a counterpoint(?), and repeated the out-of-touch Administration spin verbatim, looking like an empty suit. Many have intimated that Mississippi, with its Republican power structure, fared better than Louisiana because of politics. I don't buy that. Mississippi's in just as bad shape. It's just that 1) they didn't have a flood of the magnitude of NOLA, 2) the population centers hit were smaller, and 3) their Republican power structure has adeptly covered up for the failure.

Then, in the Meet the Press roundtable, Russert has on two guys who wrote articles and books predicting this failure. Former NOLA Mayor Marc Morial explained that the request for Coastal Wetlands Protection has foundered in the Senate for 3 years, and pointed out the absurdity of Hastert's "bulldoze" remarks.

Tim spent about a minute and a half on Chief Justice William Rehnquist's death, at the top, and seemed like he wanted to get it over with. By contrast, Cokie and Will were chuckling about the Court on Stephanopolous, which made me sick. (Although there was a great bit on George's show where he went up in a chopper with Mary Landrieu, and she showed the one lonely crane trying futilely to fix the levee breach. Incidentally, there were more cranes there on Friday, when the President flew over the area for a staged photo op.)

Russert was a champion today. He even ended the show with a request for help. I cried twice during it. That was the best hour of Sunday bobbleheads I've ever seen.