Saturday, September 24, 2005

Update

One good bit of personal news--got through to my sister on her cell phone, and she says that she and my mom are both ok. Neither house had any structural damage, nor is there any flooding (they're both just outside of town, and just south of Hwy 90).

Otherwise, you've probably seen this, but if you haven't, yet another great moment re: the leadership thing.

Local television switched over to college football (priorities, I guess), so I caught up with the antiwar rally on C-Span. I hope Team Bush decides our Gulf is more important than the Persian one.
Quick Update

Rain and wind off and on here, sometimes pretty heavy. I've got power, but there's been a few spikes/drops, so I'm periodically shutting my computer down to be safe.

I'm looking for news re: flooding to the west. Nothing yet besides a single report on local news. If I hear anything, I'll post.
A.M. Update

Here in BR, the wind and rain is significant, but the power is still on and there are fewer fallen branches or trees. Earlier, there was even a small break in the clouds--the sun's up there, but right now another outer band is passing through.
I heard a report on local news, though, about heavy flooding in Abbeville. Ouch. That means possible flooding in or around New Iberia.

I hope this isn't the case.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Martha Frist?

To break from Rita news for just a moment, America Blog has the details.
Tarpons

I guess South Cameron High School's mascot is still the Tarpons (weird...years ago I remember a HS football game, of all things, between my own school in New (S)Iberia and South Cameron)...tarpons are big fish...there's one at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago that, when I last went there, had been in the main tank for some 60 years. Fish like water.

I bring this up because I just saw a local report saying that Cameron Parish, which is extreme Southwest Louisiana, is expected to be 100 PERCENT underwater before this is all over. 100 percent.

A colleague of mine over at the State Land's Office has shown me photos demonstrating how drastic coastal erosion has been over the last twenty years or so. Rita looks like it might accellerate the process.
Audrey Redux

It looks like good news--well, sorta good news--for Texas--the latest I'm seeing suggests Rita will be landing on the Gret Stet side of the border. Radar shows the eye is about 60 miles south of Cameron Parish, and my own read of the track is that the storm's traveling more north than west. If this continues, the storm surge could travel up the Calcasieu Parish Shipping Channel...that's NOT good news for Lake Charles.

Local news is starting to look at this and predict a Cameron landfall...ouch.

One slightly good bit of news is that air pressure's rising around NOLA, i.e., the worst has passed there.

Over here, more rain, and steady winds.

Back later, assuming I have power.
Waiting and Watching

Here in BR we're in between showers, but outside my window looking due east skies are dark. I'm guessing the rain will start in the next few minutes. Otherwise, local news has a few reporters out around Lake Charles, (a hundred miles or so west of here) winds are picking up. Lake Chuck will get hit pretty hard, and they're already reporting fallen trees just north of the city.

Earlier today, my sister and I exchanged a few emails--she and my mom are riding the storm out in New Iberia (eighty miles southwest)--they went to a friend's house, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed. New Iberia will get strong winds and heavy rain, but as long as the storm keeps tracking to the west, it won't get the worst of it.

My own posting will be pretty light through the evening, unless I see/hear something. Still hoping the electricity will stay on.
Resource

For those who want to track the storm, here's a radar image based out of Lake Charles.

Over here, again, lots of rain, and some wind, but still not as bad as the last one--and, so far, thankfully, I've got electricity.
Bold Leadership

"We will make sure that my entourage does not get in the way of people doing their job."
Update

FWIW, it seems like we're getting more rain here in BR than we did for Katrina, at least in the areas of town where I travel. However, wind isn't much of a problem right now.

Just made it home after getting some supplies...a little bit of water, some food...the cat, who insisted on going outside this morning, came dashing up the stairs. He's doing what he loves best: eating.

More in a bit.
Outer Bands

For the record, BR is getting some wind and rain--nothing we can't handle, though.

Back in a bit. We've been sent home, and I'm hoping to stop by a grocery store for supplies on the way.
Compassionate Conservativism

Nero fiddled*.

Bush played guitar.

Rove...fundraises.


*No, he didn't actually fiddle, and unlike some (ahem), apparently played an active role in disaster recovery.
"Climate Loonies"

As Hurricane Rita causes yet another breach in the Industrial Canal levee even as it threatens to inundate large swaths of the Texas and Louisiana coastline, a British scientist cuts through the bullshit:

Super-powerful hurricanes now hitting the United States are the "smoking gun" of global warming, one of Britain's leading scientists believes.

The growing violence of storms such as Katrina, which wrecked New Orleans, and Rita, now threatening Texas, is very probably caused by climate change, said Sir John Lawton, chairman of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution. Hurricanes were getting more intense, just as computer models predicted they would, because of the rising temperature of the sea, he said. "The increased intensity of these kinds of extreme storms is very likely to be due to global warming."

In a series of outspoken comments - a thinly veiled attack on the Bush administration, Sir John hit out at neoconservatives in the US who still deny the reality of climate change.

Referring to the arrival of Hurricane Rita he said: "If this makes the climate loonies in the States realise we've got a problem, some good will come out of a truly awful situation." As he spoke, more than a million people were fleeing north away from the coast of Texas as Rita, one of the most intense storms on record, roared through the Gulf of Mexico. It will probably make landfall tonight or early tomorrow near Houston, America's fourth largest city and the centre of its oil industry. Highways leading inland from Houston were clogged with traffic for up to 100 miles north...

Asked about characterising them as "loonies", he said: "There are a group of people in various parts of the world ... who simply don't want to accept human activities can change climate and are changing the climate."

"I'd liken them to the people who denied that smoking causes lung cancer."

With his comments, Sir John becomes the third of the leaders of Britain's scientific establishment to attack the US over the Bush government's determination to cast doubt on global warming as a real phenomenon.

Sir John's comments follow and support recent research, much of it from America itself, showing that hurricanes are getting more violent and suggesting climate change is the cause.


What's a wingnut to do? "Sir John Lawton" is way too Anglo a name to characterize as "French."
Go to the Audiotape

NPR notes that Walter Maestri, emergency manager for Jefferson Parish, recorded a number of conference calls before and after Hurricane Katrina hit the region:

In tapes of the disaster planning meetings, emergency managers and civic officials evinced a growing concern with the strengthening hurricane's possible effects -- and after the storm made landfall, a growing frustration with the aid effort mounted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

As emergency preparations gave way to coordinated actions and pleas for equipment, the recorded calls depict an emergency command center in Baton Rouge that became a center of frenzied activity.

As late as Saturday morning -- 48 hours before the storm struck -- officials were debating how best to handle an evacuation. At one point, Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans brought up a troubling issue: If community leaders simultaneously told residents to leave, gridlock could result.

Throughout the weekend, local officials continued in their plans to open disaster shelters. In detailed plans drawn up several years ago, state and federal governments agreed on the need for a network of "special needs" shelters, with emergency generators that could power medical equipment. But in a series of phone calls, officials complained they couldn't find the generators they needed.

Dozens of key officials from state and federal agencies spoke with local counterparts like Walter Maestri, of Jefferson Parish, a large suburb of New Orleans hit hard by the storm surge and the flooding that followed.


Oh, and from Eschaton, here's a story that should put to rest any notion that somehow the private sector is "more efficient" than government...a notion that should be as dead as Ronald Reagan.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

. Hmmm

I guess this isn't how New Orleans wanted to finally be first in something vis-a-vis Houston:

Highways turned to parking lots.

Bus stations closing down, trapping people.

Some folks giving up and choosing to ride the storm out on their own.

Oh--I forget where I first saw this, but the Houston Chronicle set up their own, NOLA-like storm blog.

OK, enough irony. Let's sincerely hope the aftermath of Rita isn't another case of Houston following NOLA
"Osama Did It"

Having been unsuccessful in their attempts to pass the blame baton to, well, just about anyone--victims, local and state officials, Brownie, Bar, whoever--Team Bush has opted for yet another scapegoat...why am I not surprised?

You see, we look at the destruction caused by Katrina, and our hearts break. They're the kind of people who look at Katrina and wish they had caused it. We're in a war against these people. It's a war on terror. These are evil men who target the suffering. They killed 3,000 people on September the 11th, 2001. And they've continued to kill.

[shake head in disbelief]
Cruel Fate

From As'ad Abu Khalil, a heartwrenching story of a little boy in Iraq who apparently bears a resemblence to Shrubusto:

Usamah Nabil, an Iraqi boy who is 10-year old, lives in Baghdad, the capital, suffers from a problem that he has no control over. But it has become affixed to him against his will, and despite attempts to rid himself of it. But as things are this problem accompanies him wherever he goes. His problem is not health-related, or social or humanitarian, but it is a problem of his appearance which resembles that of the US president George W. Bush to a large degree. To the point where his parents and friends in the street or school have stopped calling him by his real name, but call him "Bush." Usamah Nabil says he is not responsible for this problem of his look, and "that it is the will of God...who can create 40 resemblances [an Arab saying]...My father tells me to not get sick of this resemblance. Truthfully, I hate the name of Bush for many reasons; it is not one of the Arab or Islamic names, and he has killed many children in Iraq. I have tried to distance myself from the resemblance at school, but I quickly found that students call me by the name "Bush," and now I am perplexed because this name has become a synonym for me, and I wish to get rid of it in any way possible." As for his father who owns a shop in one of the suqs of Baghdad, he says:" My son Usamah has sharp intelligence, and works distinctively well in the shop that I own. But his problem is his appearance which resembles that of...Bush, to the point where customers have stopped calling him by his name, and call him "Little Bush," which greatly displeases him, and sometimes he embarrasses me with some customers when he attacks them with strong words in response to that name....He has started hating school due to him being called by the name of Bush...But I try to convince him that Bush will be forgotten after a few years, and only a few will remember him, and then he will live with your real name, and real appearance.

Judge for yourself
Hurricane Party(er)

Sure, it's the National Enquirer, so use your own judgement (though Simbaud, who also posts about this, notes they never hired Judith Miller)...according to the supermarket tabloid, Dubya could just as easily be nicknamed Nipper:

Faced with the biggest crisis of his political life, President Bush has hit the bottle again, The National Enquirer can reveal.

Bush, who said he quit drinking the morning after his 40th birthday, has started boozing amid the Katrina catastrophe...

Bush is under the worst pressure of his two terms in office and his popularity is near an all-time low. The handling of the Katrina crisis and troop losses in Iraq have fueled public discontent and pushed Bush back to drink.

A Washington source said: "The sad fact is that he has been sneaking drinks for weeks now. Laura may have only just caught him — but the word is his drinking has been going on for a while in the capital. He's been in a pressure cooker for months.

"The war in Iraq, the loss of American lives, has deeply affected him. He takes every soldier's life personally. It has left him emotionally drained.

The result is he's taking drinks here and there, likely in private, to cope. "And now with the worst domestic crisis in his administration over Katrina, you pray his drinking doesn't go out of control."

Another source said: "I'm only surprised to hear that he hadn't taken a shot sooner. Before Katrina, he was at his wit's end. I've known him for years. He's been a good ol' Texas boy forever. George had a drinking problem for years that most professionals would say needed therapy. He doesn't believe in it [therapy], he never got it. He drank his way through his youth, through college and well into his thirties. Everyone's drinking around him."

Another source said: "A family member told me they fear George is 'falling apart.' The First Lady has been assigned the job of gatekeeper." Bush's history of drinking dates back to his youth. Speaking of his time as a young man in the National Guard, he has said: "One thing I remember, and I'm most proud of, is my drinking and partying. Those were the days my friends. Those were the good old days!"


This isn't the first rumor I've heard of George with a frontal lobotomy a bottle in front of him. If I remember right, sometime in the last year Needlenose ran a photo showing George sitting with a glass of suds--then there's the pretzel accident, which always struck me as odd--besides what goes with pretzels? That's right: beer.

And not that drinking bothers me: hell, I've been known to have a drink or six. But as I told the person who sent me the link, it's not the drinking, it's the hypocrisy--the whole "tough guy, nose candy salt of the earth, don't need no therapy, gimme a steak" crap.

The guy's a wuss. And, if this story's right, he's a drunken wuss.
From Behind the Curtain

A friend who shall remain nameless is offering me a glimpse behind the New York Times subscription wall--today I was lucky enough to get Bob Herbert's latest:

A USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll found for the first time that a majority of Americans do not see Mr. Bush as a strong and decisive leader. In an article in USA Today, Carroll Doherty of the nonpartisan Pew Research Center said of Mr. Bush: "He's lost ground among independents. He seems to be starting to lose ground among his own party. And he lost the Democrats a long time ago."

Reality is caving in on a president who was held aloft for so long by a combination of ideological mumbo-jumbo, the public relations legerdemain of Karl Rove and the buoyant patriotism that followed the Sept. 11 attacks. The Bush people were never big on reality, so sooner or later they were bound to be blindsided by it.
Remember, there was already a war going on when Katrina came to call. I've always believed that war is a serious matter. But the president was on vacation. Dick Cheney was on vacation. And Condi Rice was here in New York taking in the sights and shopping for shoes. That Americans were fighting and dying on foreign soil was not enough to demand their full attention. They were busy having fun. So it's no wonder it took a good long while before they noticed that a whole section of America had been wiped out in a calamity of biblical proportions.

What Americans are finally catching onto is the utter incompetence of this crowd. And if we didn't know before, we're learning now, in the harshest possible ways, that incompetence has bitter consequences. The body count of Americans killed in Iraq has now passed 1,900, with many more deaths to come. But there's still no strategy, no plan. The White House hasn't the slightest clue about what to do. So the dying will continue.

Mr. Bush's "Top Gun" moment aboard the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln was two and a half years ago. It was another example of the president in fantasyland. The war was a botch from the beginning. Mr. Bush never sent enough troops to get the job done, and he never provided enough armor to protect the troops that he did send. Thin-skinned, the president got rid of anyone who had the temerity to suggest he might be wrong about some of the decisions he was making.

Here at home, even loyal Republicans are beginning to bail out on Mr. Bush's fiendish willingness to shove the monumental costs of the federal government's operations - including his war, his tax cuts and his promised reconstruction of the Gulf Coast - onto the unsuspecting backs of generations still to come.

There is a general sense now that things are falling apart. The economy was already faltering before Katrina hit. Gasoline prices are starting to undermine the standard of living of some Americans, and a full-blown home-heating-oil crisis could erupt this winter. The administration's awful response to the agony of the Gulf Coast has left most Americans believing that we are not prepared to cope with a large terrorist attack. And Osama bin Laden is still at large.

This is what happens when voters choose a president because he seems like a nice guy, like someone who'd be fun at a barbecue or a ballgame. You'd never use that criterion when choosing a surgeon, or a pilot to fly your family across the country.

Mr. Bush will be at the helm of the ship of state for three more years, so we have no choice but to hang on. But the next time around, voters need to keep in mind that beyond the incessant yammering about left and right, big government and small, Democrats and Republicans, is a more immediate issue, and that's competence.


Indeed. The issue IS competence, just as it was last year (and, to fill my own sail for just a moment, that's exactly what I told candidate Kerry when he made a quick stop here in BR).

In these times, we need more than a Barbecue'er in Chief.
Blast From the Past

From Bad Attitudes.

In the week before Hurricane Katrina struck, the U.S. government was busy insisting on the deletion of a simple phrase from the general principles of the United Nations -- "Respect for Nature." History may now look on Katrina as the perfect storm that ended, once and for all, such anthropocentric arrogance.

Arrogant bastards.
Bumper to Bumper

A/K/A Putting all your transportation eggs in one basket...with predictable results:

Hundreds of thousands of people in Texas and Louisiana were loading up their cars and fleeing inland Thursday as Hurricane Rita menaced the Gulf Coast.

But many weren't getting very far.

Houston resident Tim Conklin told CNN that he had been in bumper-to-bumper traffic for 13 hours and had only gotten about 48 miles. He said the drive to Dallas, where his father-in-law lives, usually only takes about four hours.

On Highway 290, the main road between Houston and Austin, people were pushing their cars and minivans to save gas -- and were moving just as fast as the vehicles that were driving. Others were stopped on the side of the highway after breaking down or running out of gas.


I certainly hope these folks safely reach their destinations. However, when the storm season FINALLY ends, I hope the traffic conditions--roughly 4 mph on a major highway--will convince people to begin looking at alternatives to the private car, and integration of other modes of transit into a complete system both within cities and between cities.

If I had the choice of gridlock versus medium to high-speed rail, you can bet I'd take the latter.

And remember, bumper to bumper, while obviously worse today for residents of the Texas coast, is a relatively normal state of affairs during rush hour for most medium to large cities in this country (Baton Rouge, for instance, is notorious for its horrible traffic on a regular basis).

Take the train...

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

One More Time

At the risk of beating a dead horse here, I happened upon these three stories which hopefully will put to rest all the mythological musing about city and/or school buses and the ability to evacuate folks from NOLA. You'll see that they are well researched, and take reality into consideration, unlike the fantasies proffered by wingnuts who seem to think, in the event of a major disaster, buses take on the properties of magic carpets.

Have a look.
Federal Case, Part II

In case anyone hasn't noticed the extent to which Team Bush and the Munchkins managed to screw up in responding to Katrina--not merely dropping the ball, but then kicking it backwards some thiry yards--then take a look at this--thanks to Simbaud for posting the link.

More than fifty separate links outlining the "heckuva job" done by FEMA--and, by extension, DHS...and the executive branch.

As the saying goes, read 'em and weep.

For the sake of those along the Texas Gulf Coast, by the way, I'm sincerely hoping the disaster response is better, given that Rita is looking like Katrina's equally evil twin.
When Category 3 Doesn't Actually MEAN Category 3

Jeffrey at Library Chronicles found this post from the Pic blog which makes for interesting reading in light of the questions about how and why the floodwalls failed (see below):

Before the giant storm surge from Katrina, a Category 4 hurricane, washed away some levees and crashed through others, the Army Corps of Engineers had maintained that the levee system surrounding the New Orleans area could protect residents from a fast-moving Category 3 hurricane.

But that estimate is a piece of guesswork based on old data that experts say underestimates the risks in some spots...

...the flaws and differences in flood risk built into the current levee design will likely have to be addressed when the levee system is rebuilt and upgraded to defend against the major storms, something that President Bush promised in his speech in New Orleans last week.

"They really need to re-analyze how to rehabilitate the levees using a current risk-based analysis. That can be easily done, that's what needs to be done. They really have to take all the calculations and weave that into a new design," said Lee Butler, an engineering consultant and former corps computer analyst who found possible deficiencies in the corps' levee designs in a study he did for The Times-Picayune.

For that to happen, though, Congress would have to get involved. Corps project manager Al Naomi said that the current congressional mandate doesn't allow for such variations...

The corps isn't authorized to adjust for variations in the landscape that make severe hurricane flooding a more frequent occurrence in some areas. Building higher levees in those areas would conflict with the corps' legal mandate.

"I can't go above it by law," Naomi said. "That's what I am authorized to do. Anything above that means I have to spend money that Congress specifically authorizes for that purpose. Only then we can go build it. It's not simple."

Another problem for corps officials is accurately predicting the risks. Engineers use a combination of data from past flooding and computer modeling to make estimates. But because powerful storms are rare, it's hard to get accurate projections because there isn't much data.


I hope that last line--the part about powerful storms being "rare," isn't about to undergo an adjustment of its own.
Inner (Green) Eyeshade

Kevin Drum lets loose with some proposals of his own in light of speculative (repeat: SPECULATIVE) GOP belt tightening...well, perhaps that's being a little generous to the GOP, who, for all their hrummmphing about "small government," can't seem to keep their grubby little fingers out of the national cookie jar treasury.

Aside: Billmon takes the time to compare Tom "My Earmarks Are Pretty Important" DeLay with other notable politicians during times of national crisis. Good to see Tom has HIS priorities straight (I expect his final act as Majority Leader before his own special frogmarch will probably involve some massive diversion of dollars to Sugarland...who knows, maybe for a special federal prison...).

Anyway...Drum, without a whole lot of effort, manages to identify almost $800 billion dollars worth of spending that could conceivably be trimmed over ten years--some eight times what House GOP'ers managed to pony up. Makes you wonder just how conservative these people really are. Unless of course, they really mean "conservative for thee but not for me."
Not Cool

Thanks to warm Gulf waters, Hurricane Rita is now a major storm:

The 1:53 eye report from the hurricane hunters found a 920 mb pressure and flight level winds of 153 knots (176 mph). These numbers plus the satellite intensity estimates would ordinarily support upgrading Rita to a Category 5 hurricane, but NHC is being conservative, and calling Rita a strong Category 4 hurricane with 150 mph surface winds.

There are two hurricane hunter aircraft in Rita this afternoon. The NOAA hurricane hunters found a central pressure of 934 mb at 11:17 am, and the Air Force hurricane hunters found a central pressure of 923 mb at 1:02pm. This incredible drop of 11 mb in 105 minutes is the fastest pressure fall I can ever recall seeing in a hurricane, and exceeds the 10 mb drop in 100 minutes we saw in Hurricane Charley last year. With an eye diameter of 25 miles, an eyewall replacement cycle is not likely today, and Rita may intensify to a level close to Katrina's strongest point--902 mb.

________________________________________________________________________

SEP 21 2005 - 1:20PM CDT

The latest RECON reports confirm RITA is now a CATASTROPHIC CATEGORY 5 Hurricane.

Center Pressure is down to 920mb, and MAX Sustained winds of 153KTs at Flight level -- implying 155mph surface winds. with gusts to 175mph.


Thanks to Kathryn Cramer and All Spin Zone for the links.
Making a Federal Case Out of It

A week ago, Greg Peters made the point that the levees around NOLA didn't break--the FLOODWALLS did (there's a difference, and he explains)...actually, a small levee DID break along the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, causing flooding in NOLA East and St. Bernard Parish, but that doesn't detract from his point.

The reason I bring this up is because Democratic Underground points to this WaPo article acknowledging as much:

...researchers have strong evidence that Katrina's subsequent surge from the north was several feet shy of the height that would have been necessary to overtop the 17th Street and London Avenue floodwalls. It was the failures of those floodwalls that emptied the lake into the rest of the city, filling most of New Orleans like a soup bowl.

On a tour Tuesday, researchers showed numerous indications that Katrina's surge was not as tall as the lakefront's protections. They showed a "debris line" that indicates the top height of Katrina's waves was at least four feet below the crest of Lake Pontchartrain's levees. They also pointed out how the breached floodwalls near the lake showed no signs of overtopping -- no splattering of mud, no drip lines and no erosion at their bases. They contended that the pattern of destruction behind the breaches was consistent with a localized "pressure burst," rather than widespread overtopping.

The center has also completed a computerized "hindcast" of Katrina, which has confirmed the evidence before their eyes. Their model indicates that most of the surge around the lake and its nearby canals was less than 11 feet above sea level, and that none of it should have been greater than 13 feet. The Army Corps's flood-protection system for New Orleans was designed to handle surges of more than 14 feet above sea level.

"This should not have been a big deal for these floodwalls," said oceanographer G. Paul Kemp, a hurricane expert who runs LSU's Natural Systems Modeling Laboratory. "It should have been a modest challenge. There's no way this should have exceeded the capacity."

The center's researchers said it is too early to say whether the breaches were caused by poor design, faulty construction or some combination. But van Heerden said the floodwalls at issue -- massive concrete slabs mounted on steel sheet pilings -- looked more like the sound barriers found on major highways. He also suggested that the slabs should have been interlocked, and that the canals they were supposed to protect should have had floodgates to keep out water from the lake.

Former representative Bob Livingston (R-La.), who helped lead the charge for Corps projects in Louisiana when he chaired the House Appropriations Committee, noted that the earthen levees along Lake Pontchartrain had all held, while the concrete floodwalls had failed. He was especially concerned about the 17th Street barrier, saying it "shouldn't have broken."

"I don't know if it's bad construction or bad design, but whoever the contractor is has a problem," said Livingston, now a lobbyist on Capitol Hill.

Former senator J. Bennett Johnston (D-La.) said he remembers numerous briefings from Corps officials about the danger of a hurricane overtopping the New Orleans levees. But he said he never envisioned a scenario like this one. "This came as a surprise," he said.

The Corps has not identified the contractors who built the floodgates that failed; Paul Johnston said there will be a full investigation into the breaches.

Congress authorizes flood- control projects -- after receiving recommendations from the Corps -- and the Corps oversees their design and construction.

John M. Barry -- who criticized the Corps in "Rising Tide," a history of the Mississippi River flood of 1927 -- said that if Katrina did not exceed the design capacity of the New Orleans levees, the federal government may bear ultimate responsibility for this disaster. (my emphasis)

"If this is true, then the loss of life and the devastation in much of New Orleans is no more a natural disaster than a surgeon killing a patient by failing to suture an artery would be a natural death," Barry said. "And that surgeon would be culpable."


They say ignorance of the law is no excuse--I'll add that ignorance of the floodwall situation ("nobody expected the levees to fail") is no excuse either. Time to tell the fuck you boys to fuck off--starting with the biggest fuck you boy of all.
Bon Appetit

Minus the XBox stuff (don't do video games, so I can't offer thumbs up or down), The Editors have as good an analysis as any re: the Roberts hearings.
Priorities

Some GOP'ers have decided to draw the line when it comes to spending--and, as you've guessed the line is both color and black and white:

Congressional Republicans from across the ideological spectrum yesterday rejected the White House's open-wallet approach to rebuilding the Gulf Coast, a sign that the lockstep GOP discipline that George W. Bush has enjoyed for most of his presidency is eroding on Capitol Hill...

The pushback on Katrina aid, which the White House is also confronting among House Republicans, represents the loudest and most widespread dissent Bush has faced from his own party since it took full control of Congress in 2002. As polls show the president's approval numbers falling, there is growing concern among lawmakers that GOP margins in Congress could shrink next year, and even rank-and-file Republicans are complaining that Bush is shirking the difficult budget decisions that must accompany the rebuilding bonanza.

Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.) said he and other fiscal conservatives are feeling "genuine concern [which] could easily turn into frustration and anger."

Congressional Republicans are not arguing with Bush's pledge that the federal government will lead the Louisiana and Mississippi recovery. But they are insisting that the massive cost -- as much as $200 billion -- be paid for...

New Orleans also has emerged as the chief target of angst. "The question is do we really want to flood New Orleans with money," said Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.).

Kingston said he has detected a building hostility toward New Orleans among his constituents, based on reports that local officials mismanaged the crisis, along with federal dollars that had previously flowed the region's way. "What we are hearing from constituents is: 'Wait a minute, slow down on this,' " Kingston said.


Meanwhile, the amount of borrowed money flowing into Mesopotamia is rapidly approaching...$200 billion dollars. And I'm still waiting for someone, anyone, of the deficit-hawk persuasion to so much as raise an eyebrow over the missing $1 TRILLION dollars at the Pentagon.

No, those examples of waste, greed, corruption, and plain old-fashioned stupidity don't make it to the conservative radar screen. But putting federal dollars to work in a city that's predominantly black raises hackles.

Here's MY solution: take all the assclowns who think spending money hand over fist in the Middle East is just dandy--like a drunk on someone else's tab in the Quarter--and SEND them to Iraq. Let them experience first-hand their massive investment (on borrowed money) in the latest Islamic theocracy, which is what $200 billion plus gets you in the region these days. When they're ready to return, put them in New Orleans--not uptown, not in the Quarter or the Warehouse District, or even in Algiers--we'll put them near the 17th Street or Industrial Canal. THEN let them decide how much money to spend, and where.

I mean, goddamn, what a bunch of pig-fuckers (apologies to pigs). Selling out their own citizens while throwing money elsewhere. Sometimes, I really wish/hope there is an afterlife, because if there is, every last one of them will experience an eternity that makes NOLA, post-Katrina, look like paradise in comparison.
Morning Reading

These two posts are why I read Hullabaloo:

1)
Culture Kitchen has posted a letter from bloggers to the Judiciary Committee opposing the confirmation of John Roberts on the basis of certain rulings that make it clear he is hostile to Roe vs. Wade. I think it's perfectly obvious that he's going to vote to overturn and have, therefore, signed this letter.

I believe that a woman's right to choose gets to the very heart of what it means to be an autonomous, free human being. Control of one's own body is fundamental to individual liberty. If the church believes that abortion is morally wrong it should instruct its voluntary membership not to do it. Individuals must always be allowed to follow their own consciences. But there should be no legal coercion on such a personal matter...

...the right of the fetus is not the real issue --- the reasons a woman wants an abortion are the issue. This leads us to ask which particular circumstances are so difficult for a woman that she may be allowed to have an abortion. 80% or so of Americans think that rape or incest are such circumstances. But how about a failing, abusive marriage? A terminal illness? Five other children and no job? Being 43 years old and carrying a child with serious birth defects? Being a foolish 15 year old girl in love? Should we make exceptions for some of those? Any of them? Who decides? You? Me? John Roberts?

This isn't about murder and it isn't about the right of the fetus. It's clearly about controlling women's personal moral behavior. I don't think the government has any business doing that.


2)
The clueless Richard Cohen is predictably making the vapid cocktail party argument that Bush can't be a racist because some of his best cabinet members are black and because he thinks little black children are just adorable. Here's Cohen scolding those of us who suspect that all those black people down in Louisiana might be giving some red state Republicans the vapors:
We owe the poor our special consideration. We especially owe the black poor an appreciation of their plight and their dolorous history. But in general it was incompetence, not racism, that slowed the relief effort -- incompetence on the local and state levels, too, and incompetence on the part of black as well as white public officials. The search for racist scapegoats does the poor no good. This relief effort ought to start, above all, with some clear thinking.

How about simple minded bullshit? Apparently, one can't be racist and incompetent at the same time. Or racism is impossible if some of one's best friends are black and you are kind to little black children when you see them. And if some black people are incompetent then whites can't be racist. My goodness, just look at all the things that make it impossible for George W. Bush's administration to have even one racist bone in its collective body! You have to be out of your mind to think that George W. Bush isn't completely color blind...

It's guys like Richard Cohen, millionaire liberal beltway pundit who know the score. African Americans are the racists and it's the millionaire conservative Republicans who are being unfairly stereotyped. He knows this because he knows George Bush...

Pay no attention to the fact that the modern Republican Party remains in the clutches of a strong minority of racists --- potentially as large a faction as their conservative Christian base, which likely overlaps it. Bush may not personally be a racist, I have no way of knowing what's "in his heart." But he is quite well aware of the fact that all the racists in the country who voted, voted for him...

We know exactly what game they are playing by simply observing that in South Carolina, George Bush made a trek to the notoriously racist Bob Jones University to make sure that certain people understood that his happy talk about Condi and compassionate conservatism wasn't anything they had to worry about. They needed to make sure they stopped John McCain dead in his tracks and they did --- with a purely racist appeal that included some very nasty stuff about his having a black daughter. This is the line they walk. The majority in this country are no longer comfortable with overt racism and frowns upon those who embrace it openly. But it is completely absurd to think that it has been eradicated or that the leader of the Republican Party rejects it. He can't reject it, even if he wants to. Racists are a significant part of his constituency...

Richard Cohen does not want to believe that a nice well-educated baby boomer from a good family can be a racist. And when he sees that Bush can sit in the same room with the extremely well educated, accomplished Condi and Colin, he is assured that it is impossible for him to be one. But even if that were true, Richard Cohen needs to open his eyes and see that the Republican party's base contains a significant faction of racists who must be catered to by the well bred son of the white pompadoured lady, Barbara Bush. It's unpleasant. I understand that. But unless liberals at least learn to read the language these people are speaking we are never going to be able to combat it...

We will never get there as long as anyone on the planet thinks that the likes of Richard Cohen speak for the Democrats. As I've said before, guys like Cohen are what's killing us. Here is exhibit #567.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

"Undeclared Civil War"

As noted below, things aren't exactly going as planned in the New Iraq:

BAGHDAD — That pink-o, liberal workers’ rag DefenseNews (thanks to Robert for the link!), also known as a trade publication for defense contractors, published a depressing piece on Iraq calling the situation here an "undeclared civil war." I think it’s time we journalists faced up that this is, indeed the case...

The question is what is Washington going to do? They’re in a no-win situation, Jaafar says, neither able to withdraw nor able to maintain Iraq’s unity and establish a democratic Iraq as a model for neighboring countries. Attiyah believes the U.S. might choose to sacrifice Iraq’s unity for its own goals...

A dismembered Iraq with various militias fighting over the corpse on top of 20 percent of the world’s oil. It’s a nightmare scenario that looks more more likely by the day, and the current civil war is just a smolder compared to the inferno to come.


Well, it DOES speak to a certain consistency within the Bush administration: incompetent in domestic matters, incompetent in foreign policy as well.
Trends

Not that the "Fuck You Boys" will give a damn--hell, they'll probably get a kick out of this--but these stories don't bode well for the United States.

Short versions: Steve M. of No More Mister Nice Blog reports on a new hit song in Belgium called Down With America. And a DailyKos diarist relates the experience of a friend who was verbally and physically assaulted in Finland because of his United States nationality.

Big deal, you might say--who the fuck are Belgium and Finland? Puny little punk-assed countries that, if Michael Ledeen had his way, we might choose to "throw against the wall." Surely we're just too goddamned big to worry about the likes of them.

Actually--yes and no: Belgium and Finland ARE small countries that, by themselves, won't make or break us. However, if Iraq has taught the dodderhead pro-invasionists ANYTHING (and let's hope that group has actually learned the lesson), it's that bullying alone, regardless of how bad-assed your weapons might be, matters little when you can't garner a measure of support. This is even MORE important when it's a matter of civilization, and, to be more explicit, BUSINESS.

Like it or not, this country has, for a lot longer than most people realize, been tied into an extensive global economy. As such, we alienate the globe at our peril. It's not a question of who needs the other side more, because that's not how the global game works. But the US isn't the only game in town anymore.

Then there's the other aspect of these stories. For as long as I can remember, people around the world have generally drawn a distinction between citizens of the United States and the government of the United States. If that distinction is lost, then the average US traveler might have more to worry about than little Roma kids picking their pockets in Paris.

Like I said, the Fuck You Boys would probably get a kick out of these stories (that is, if they're able to read them). Of course, they aren't exactly the traveling kind, nor do they have much understanding of how the global economy works, even if they manage to scrape together enough cash to buy an Asian-made flat screen TV. But as people around the world tire of temper tantrums from the likes of George W. Bush (or his acolytes), they might find out an unpleasant fact: not a whole lot of stuff is actually made in America anymore--and the folks who DO make the stuff might just decide to sell it elsewhere.
Not to be Alarmist

But here's a significant reason why the latest storm to reach the Gulf should cause us concern. For those who don't feel like clicking on the link, it takes you to the National Oceanographic Data Center's Water Temperature Guide.

Water temps in the Gulf are still ranging from about two to as much as eight degrees above normal, depending on the location, i.e., to a storm, that's like an SUV owner finding gasoline for less than a dollar a gallon.

But hey, the Bush administration insists that "climate change" (their term for global warming) is just a theory. Well, we can certainly take their word on that--can't we?
Final Battle

Unfair Witness reports Edgar Hollingsworth, who barely survived the storm (and who would've been left for dead had FEMA directives been followed) didn't make it:

A 74-year-old survivor of Hurricane Katrina found trapped in a New Orleans home for about two weeks has died of complications related to dehydration and malnutrition, the California National Guard said.

Edgar Hollingsworth, an Army veteran of the Korean War, died Saturday at a hospital, four days after he was found Sept. 13 buried under rubble, said Air Force Capt. Brenda Hendrickson, spokeswoman for the California National Guard.

Hollingsworth was scheduled to be buried Tuesday with military honors at the Port Hudson National Cemetery, which is 10 miles north of Baton Rouge...

He died with his wife and daughter at his side, said Tracy Sayge, spokesman for the California National Guard.
Covering Chaos

Brian Thevenot's piece in The American Journalism Review is long, but worth looking at--it's a decent counterpart to NOLA Police Officer Dumas Carter's written account.

I'd cite particular sections, but that wouldn't do justice--there's no good summary. Just check out the entire article if you've got the time.
Call It What It Is

All you've got to do is check out headlines--recent and not-so-recent--to come to the inescapable conclusion that Team Bush can't be trusted to handle animal control, much less the $2.5 trillion dollar embodiment of "lone superpower."

Look at what we've got today, for instance: more than two years following "Mission Accomplished," nine more Americans were killed in Iraq, while down in Basra, it looks like the Brits are starting to use our playbook--with similar results. Yesterday I mentioned in passing the latest billion dollars gone missing from Operation Enduring Clusterfuck...oh, and recall, before Hurricane Katrina delivered AMPLE WARNING of its impending landfall, the big story was the new Iraqi constitution, which Riverbend analyzes...well, to the extent someone can analyze drafts of drafts. Short version: the Iranians will finally have a friendly government on their western border, courtesy of the Bush administration.

Well, what did you expect? How deluded do you have to be in order to believe nonsense about Iraqi "freedom" coming from the mouths of people who three years ago barely understood the difference between Sunni and Sh'ia Islam, much less anything about the complex internal dynamics of Iraq. Oh, but why worry about internal issues when you've got an election to win?

Meanwhile, down in Gitmo, they apparently got tired of all the lemon chicken being offered, prompting a change in diet to glucose solution via nasal tube. Can't wait for Duncan Hunter to show us how that works.

On the domestic side of the coin, David Safavian is the first of presumably a number of frog-marchers soon to emerge from the slag heap--prompting this from Billmon:

I could go on, but to tell you the truth, now that I've run down what everyone else has reported about Safavian and the the slime trail linking him to Davis, Norquist and Abramoff, I don't have anything original to add -- other than my deeply held suspicion that God has subcontracted the fashioning of reality to the spirits of Mark Twain and Franz Kafka, who are sitting around in heaven like a couple of coked up screenwriters, dreaming up ever more ridiculous characters and swapping increasingly absurd story lines.

No, wait, Twain says, I can top that . . .

Update 1:35 AM ET:

Kafka: Oh? Well what about zees, Herr Twain: What if zat verr├╝ckt president of yours tried to fill a critical homeland security post with a 36-year-old lawyer whose main credentials for ze job are zat she once worked for Ken Starr, and is der niece of Herr General Dick Myers?

Twain: OK, you got me there, Franz. Not even an idiot or a congressman -- I repeat myself -- would fall for a damnfool yarn like that. Not after Katrina. Now tell me the one about the fellow who turned into a cockroach again.


And if this isn't enough, you've got another storm moving into the Gulf--Jeezus H. Christos--and the master of the reconstruction, one Karl "I-will-soon-be-frogmarched-myself" Rove, has the following to offer us in a time of crisis:

Karl Rove, President Bush's top political advisor and deputy White House chief of staff, spoke at businessman Teddy Forstmann's annual off the record gathering in Aspen, Colorado this weekend. Here is what Rove had to say that the press wasn't allowed to report on.

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

On The Anti-War Movement: Cindy Sheehan is a clown. There is no real anti-war movement. No serious politician, with anything to do with anything, would show his face at an anti-war rally...

On Bush's Low Poll Numbers: We have not been good at explaining the success in Iraq. Polls go up and down and don't mean anything...

On Iraq: There has been a big difference in the region. Iraq will transform the Middle East...

On Judy Miller And Plamegate: Judy Miller is in jail for reasons I don't really understand...

On Joe Wilson: Joe Wilson and I attend the same church but Joe goes to the wacky mass...


It's all about competence--or the decided lack thereof, beginning at the top, going through the ranks, crossing into the legislative branch, and passed along for public consumption by a media that's evidently too stupid to watch movies, much less read books.

No, this isn't a matter of "big" versus "small" government, or even priorities, unless you agree with me that a major priority of the GOP is to loot the treasury and pass the money along to Halliburton and various lesser known sleazebags. It's a simple matter of the national government simply doing the job it's supposed to do.

Say what you want about Bill Clinton--and I for one didn't like him much at all (Full Disclosure: in '92, he got my 'lesser of three evils' vote, in '96, he didn't)...but despite his weasely, triangulation approach to the batshit insane conservative movement, he appointed competent individuals to important government positions. Example: James Lee Witt, FEMA director during the his administration. Mr. Witt had more to his resume that "horse judging."

Clinton also understands the long term ramifications of George W. Bush's credit card spending spree--in a way that the latter has neither knowledge of nor apparent interest in understanding. I'll guess the public likewise has little interest in following that--which is a shame, considering that it's their grandkids who will pay...no power to cool/heat their homes, and yearly remittances/tribute to China on a scale that Cyrus the Great would envy.

And the funniest/saddest thing: it was all by choice. From the paranoic rantings and ramblings about the smarm in our midst, to the ridiculous invasion of Iraq (and dropping the ball on Osama--who, when all is said and done, will likely be an inspiration to the eventual Islamic Republic of Iraq), to the spend-down of the Treasury...NONE of it was in the cards.

However--when you look, that sort of incompetence was written into the business and public record of one George W. Bush. Which explains why the "fuck you boys" are some of his biggest diehards. But how do you explain the rest of his 'base?'
Never Trust a Bush Appointee

As the dust settles--no pun intended--we're finding out more and more about the serial bunglers populating the federal government:

Hours after the hurricane hit Aug. 29, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced a plan to send 500 commercial buses into New Orleans to rescue thousands of people left stranded on highways, overpasses and in shelters, hospitals and homes.

On the day of the storm, or perhaps the day after, FEMA turned down the state's suggestion to use school buses because they are not air conditioned, Blanco said Friday in an interview.

Even after levees broke and residents were crowding the Louisiana Superdome, then-FEMA Director Mike Brown was bent on using his own buses to evacuate New Orleans, Blanco said...

The state had sent 68 school buses into the city on Monday.

Blanco took over more buses from Louisiana school systems and sent them in on Wednesday, two days after the storm. She tapped the National Guard to drive them. Each time the buses emptied an area, more people would appear, she said.

The buses took 15,728 people to safety, a Blanco aide said. But the state's fleet of school buses wasn't enough. On Wednesday, with the FEMA buses still not in sight, Blanco called the White House to talk to Bush and ended up speaking to Chief of Staff Andy Card.

"I said, 'Even if we had 500 buses, they've underestimated the magnitude of this situation, and I think I need 5,000 buses, not 500,'" Blanco recounted.

"'But, Andy, those 500 are not here,'" the governor said.

Card promised to get Blanco more buses.

Later Wednesday night, Blanco walked into the State Police Communications Center and asked if anyone knew anything about the buses.

An officer told her the buses were just entering the state.

"I said, 'Do you mean as in North Louisiana, which is another six hours from New Orleans?,'" Blanco recalled in the interview. "He said, 'Yes, m'am.'"

It was at that point, Blanco said, that she realized she had made a critical error.

"I assumed that FEMA had staged their buses in near proximity," she said. "I expected them to be out of the storm's way but accessible in one day's time."


It's one thing to be "anti" government, as Team Bush is in most of its rhetoric--minus, of course, their slavish devotion to dropping bombs on Iraq (more on THAT particular debacle later today). More and more, though, it's clear that the gang running the show in Washington is simply incabable of running even a modestly competent government.

The public deserves better.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Dirt Tracks and Dirtbags

The former in the title refers to this and this--the latest from the Pic blog suggests the downtown Live at Five concert series might be a good place for NOLA folk to learn about the Capital City's amenities...and yeah, maybe I'm a little harsh on BR sometimes, but it DOES have a dirt track (actually up in Baker).

To be honest, Live at Five really isn't all that bad--at least it's SOMETHING happening downtown, though the last five years or so have seen a slight uptick--not quite a scene yet, a la Lafayette and Jefferson Street, but it's trying.

As for "Dirtbag?" Link.
Lies and the Lying Liars...an Ongoing Series

Oh--first things first: with all I've been dealing with, I forgot to credit Scaramouche as my source for Katrina a la Bush.

Alternet has Eight Big Lies about Katrina, posted last week--I'll note in particular Lie Number 6--Chertoff falsely minimized federal government's role in Katrina response as subordinate to states:

According to DHS' December 2004 National Response Plan (.pdf) (NRP), "catastrophic events," such as what occurred in New Orleans, call for heightened and "proactive" federal involvement to manage the disaster. The response plan listed "guiding principles" to govern the response to these major events. The "Guiding Principles for Proactive Federal Response" (.pdf) make clear that, in these "catastrophic" cases, the federal government will operate independently to provide assistance, rather than simply supporting or cajoling state authorities:
The primary mission is to save lives; protect critical infrastructure, property, and the environment; contain the event; and preserve national security.

Standard procedures regarding requests for assistance may be expedited or, under extreme circumstances, suspended in the immediate aftermath of an event of catastrophic magnitude.

Identified Federal response resources will deploy and begin necessary operations as required to commence life-safety activities.

Notification and full coordination with States will occur, but the coordination process must not delay or impede the rapid deployment and use of critical resources. States are urged to notify and coordinate with local governments regarding a proactive Federal response.

State and local governments are encouraged to conduct collaborative planning with the Federal Government as a part of "steady-state" preparedness for catastrophic incidents."

The NRP also says that, when responding to a catastrophic incident, the federal government should start emergency operations even in the absence of clear assessment of the situation. "A detailed and credible common operating picture may not be achievable for 24 to 48 hours (or longer) after the incident," the NRP's "Catastrophic Annex" (.pdf) states. "As a result, response activities must begin without the benefit of a detailed or complete situation and critical needs assessment."

A Sept. 5 Los Angeles Times article quoted former FEMA chief of staff Jane Bullock saying that "[t]he moment the president declared a federal disaster [on Aug 29], it became a federal responsibility. ... The federal government took ownership over the response." Moreover, DHS' own website declares that DHS "will assume primary responsibility on March 1st [2005] for ensuring that emergency response professionals are prepared for any situation. This will entail providing a coordinated, comprehensive federal response to any large-scale crisis and mounting a swift and effective recovery effort."
Soup's On

Sort of like Memphis Soul Stew, but without the beat, here's Katrina a la Bush, at Recipe for Disaster:

Ingredients

1 - Great American City
1 - Category-4 Hurricane
1 - President on vacation
1 - Grover Norquist bathtub


Preparation--or not--for this dish here.
Restart

Apologies for taking the weekend off and the slow start here...I keep talking about "personal stuff," and yeah, there's still some of that (and it will likely keep me busy this afternoon as well)...

Anyway, spent this morning working and catching up--on the catching up side, despite obvious focus on the major crisis here, I caught this Juan Cole post--he received a letter describing the situation in Baghdad as "dire." Then there's the $1 billion dollar question, which follows up on the $8 billion dollar question from earlier this year--then you've got recent and even more recent carnage literally ripping the county to shreds...and ADD to this the stench of Iraqification potentially being as bad or worse as the odor emanating from NOLA, and I'd say Team Bush has a real mess on their hands.

Meanwhile, stateside things aren't looking all that much better: Jeffrey points us once again to Ashton O'Dwyer, who must be feeling emboldened by his declaration of sovereignty last week. O'Dwyer is letting his inner racist shine.

NOLA Metroblog has a good link to City Pages--a first hand account from a NOLA cop from the Convention Center during the days of chaos. Plenty of things weren't exactly done by the book, but things were done. Interesting reading.

On the other side of the coin, Steve M. at No More Mister Nice Blog makes several good points while ripping idiot John Tierney a new one:

Weren't we told back in 2000 that this was one good reason we should elect an M.B.A. president and a CEO vice president, rather than "career politicians" -- because they would bring old-fashioned common sense and hard-nosed business smarts to everything they do? With all its disdainers of government and admirers of cut-through-the-bullshit capitalism, shouldn't the Bush administration, by definition, have been able to just make things happen and get the job done?

And beyond that, remember that the Bushies were the folks who pored over every adverb and semicolon in the laws relating to torture and suspension of due process, looking for any loophole they could exploit in the treatment of terrorism suspects. Why didn't the Bushies apply a similar tireless diligence to the laws relating to relief? When they wanted to engage in waterboarding rather than rescuing people from water, the Bushies called on a phalanx of smart Federalist Society lawyers who could eloquently justify legally questionable impositions of pain and suffering; why couldn't the same lawyers do the same thing for the alleviation of pain and suffering?

I don't want hear that various things didn't happen because people at FEMA believed they didn't have permission to act; isn't the point of being in the Bush administration that Bush and his subordinates loudly insist that they have the right to do anything they want?


Finally, to round out the morning, my sister sent me this link to "Katrina: The Gathering" cards. Not having had a whole lot of experience with these kind of games, I can't comment on whether or not they look "like the real thing" (IIRC, Magic: The Gathering? or Illuminati? Something like that, I believe...). But nonetheless they're worth a look.

Oh--and I'm evidently in a debate over at Pawpaw's blog--I put up a question/challange in comments over at YRHT--Pawpaw replied at his site, which elicited another comment--and maybe another, I don't know (will get there as soon as thing slow down). The gist of my "argument" is that ONLY the feds could really have organized an effective evacuation, which I base primarily on costs ($4 billion, i.e. almost a quarter of the ENTIRE state budget, probably more than the entire NOLA budget...but barely a few HOURS worth of federal spending).

Anyway...alas, I'm still a little busy here, so I'll post this and be back in a bit.