Martin Democrats To Help Victims of Hurricane Katrina
OTHER WAYS TO HELP: If you would like to donate and/or volunteer to help victims of Hurricane Katrina, the
Federal Emergency Management Agency has suggested a list of
charities you should contact.
Friday, Aug. 26: Gov. Kathleen Blanco declares a state of emergency in Louisiana and requests troop assistance.
Saturday, Aug. 27: Gov. Blanco asks for federal state of emergency. A federal emergency is declared giving federal officials the authority to get involved.
Sunday, Aug. 28: Mayor Ray Nagin orders mandatory evacuation of New Orleans. President Bush warned of Levee failure by National Hurricane Center. National Weather Service predicts area will be "uninhabitable" after Hurricane arrives. First reports of water toppling over the levee appear in local paper.
Monday, Aug. 29: Levee breaches and New Orleans begins to fill with water, Bush travels to Arizona and California to discuss Medicare. FEMA chief finally responds to federal emergency, dispatching employees but giving them two days to arrive on site.
Tuesday, Aug. 30: Mass looting reported, security shortage cited in New Orleans. Pentagon says that local authorities have adequate National Guard units to handle hurricane needs despite governor's earlier request. Bush returns to Crawford for final day of vacation. TV coverage is around-the-clock Hurricane news.
Wednesday, Aug. 31: Tens of thousands trapped in New Orleans including at Convention Center and Superdome in "medieval" conditions. President Bush finally returns to Washington to establish a task force to coordinate federal response. Local authorities run out of food and water supplies.
Thursday, Sept. 1: New Orleans descends into anarchy. New Orleans Mayor issues a "Desperate SOS" to federal government. Bush claims nobody predicted the breach of the levees despite multiple warnings and his earlier briefing.
Friday, Sept. 2: Karl Rove begins Bush administration campaign to blame state and local officialsódespite their repeated requests for help. Bush stages a photo-opódiverting Coast Guard helicopters and crew to act as backdrop for cameras. Levee repair work orchestrated for president's visit and White House press corps.
Saturday, Sept. 3: Bush blames state and local officials. Senior administration official (possibly Rove) caught in a lie claiming Gov. Blanco had not declared a state of emergency or asked for help.
Monday, Sept. 5: New Orleans officials begin to collect their dead.
Adapted from: Katrina Timeline
Bush Asks Not
Speaking to a nation that was in the midst of confronting
monumental challenges such as poverty and war, President John F. Kennedy said
in his 1961 inaugural address, "My fellow Americans: ask not what your
country can do for you -- ask
what you can do for your country ... ask of us here the same high standards
of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you." Speaking from the Rose
Garden to a nation that is simultaneously fighting a war and dealing with
perhaps the greatest
natural disaster in U.S. history, President George W. Bush failed to issue
any such call for sacrifice. The New York Times writes in an editorial,
"Sacrifices may be necessary to make sure that all these things happen in
an orderly, efficient way. But this
administration has never been one to counsel sacrifice."
BUSH COULD SACRIFICE TAX CUTS FOR THE WEALTHY: Marshall Loeb, editor
of Money and Fortune magazines, writes, "The
President could show that he, too, is prepared to sacrifice for Katrina's
victims, perhaps by rolling back some of his planned tax cuts. The nation
can ill afford to pay for a war, tax reductions and this disaster recovery at
the same time." But Bush has given no indications he will back off his
ideological agenda of more
tax cuts which primarily
benefit the wealthy. Pete Peterson, former secretary of Commerce under
Nixon, wrote, "After 9/11, [the administration] faced a choice between tax
cuts and getting serious about the extensive measures needed to protect this
nation against further terrorist attacks. They chose tax cuts."
And again, as the Iraq
war commenced, Bush faced a similar choice. But catering to the arguments of
conservative ideologues like Tom DeLay, who argued, "Nothing is more
important in the face of a war than cutting taxes," Bush again failed
to call for sacrifice and instead chose tax cuts. Despite the devastating
economic impact of Katrina, conservatives are already positioning
themselves for a vote next Tuesday on the next priority item: repealing
the estate tax -- a tax paid by the wealthiest one percent of
Americans who inherit at least $1.5 million.
BUSH COULD CALL FOR CONSERVATION: The president of American Petroleum
Institute, Red Cavaney, said, "The impact of this devastating storm on oil
and natural gas operations will be significant and protracted.... Let us
is not an easy thing." His solution?
"Right now would be a good time for everybody to sort of ramp up your
energy conservation," Cavaney said, even offering energy-saving tips which
could help increase fuel efficiency. AAA
is also urging motorists to drive less and conserve fuel. President Bush
had an opportunity yesterday to publicly elevate the need for energy
conservation, but failed to make the call for sacrifice. Bush implored citizens
this storm has disrupted the capacity to make gasoline and distribute gasoline"
but offered no suggestions as to how Americans should cope with the crisis.
He should take his cue from Gov. Mike Easley of North
Carolina, who said recently, "I am asking all North
Carolinians to conserve gas."
IF YOU ASK, THEY WILL RESPOND: Shortly after the attacks of 9/11, Sen. John McCain complained, "After 9/11, people
wanted to serve and they were told to go shopping or get on an airplane....
That's not the answer they wanted to hear. This is an opportunity to
serve." Americans have demonstrated time and again that, in the face of
tragedy, they will respond with true compassion. Already, the Red Cross has announced
that it has collected $21 million in donations for the victims of Katrina,
figure comparable to the response for tsunami victims following the devastation
in Asia earlier this year." "The outpouring of support has been
amazing," said Kara Bunte, a spokeswoman for the Red Cross. "People
are now starting to see the images on TV and want to help." Americans
also responded with amazing compassion in the two months following 9/11,
providing approximately 1.6 million blood
donations and contributing over $1.3 million to charities and relief agencies.
Americans can and will do more to sacrifice; they simply need a president who
QUESTIONS OF PREPAREDNESS: Hurricane Katrina will likely be the worst natural disaster
in our nation's history. If indeed thousands have perished, as New Orleans
Mayor Ray Nagin predicted yesterday, it will also be the deadliest natural
disaster in the United States in at least a century, since the 1906 San Francisco
earthquake. And as one Louisiana paper put it, "No
one can say they didn't see it coming." There have been "decades
of repeated warnings about a breach of levees or failure of drainage
systems that protect New Orleans
from the Mississippi River and Lake
Pontchartrain." It's "inappropriate to 'blame' anyone
for a natural disaster," the Washington Post rightly observes.
"But given how frequently the impact of this one was predicted, and given
the scale of the economic and human catastrophe that has resulted, it
is certainly fair to ask questions about disaster preparations."
Below, a few of those questions:
WHERE WERE THE PLANS FOR EMERGENCY DISASTER RELIEF?: The response to
Hurricane Katrina "is exposing
serious failures by government leaders and crisis planners before Katrina's
arrival and flawed execution by relief agencies as the disaster unfolded,"
the Wall Street Journal reports this morning. Communication failures have been
widespread, local officials "found they lacked
critical equipment and materials to use in repairs if levees breached,"
and even "basic emergency management" has been lacking. For
instance, former FEMA chief James Lee Witt told reporters yesterday that
"in the 1990s, in planning for a New Orleans
nightmare scenario, the federal government figured it would pre-deploy
nearby ships with pumps to remove water from the below-sea-level city and
have hospital ships nearby." Now federal officials say a hospital ship won't leave its
port in Baltimore until tomorrow, and isn't expected to arrive for seven
days. "These things need to be planned and prepared for; it just doesn't
look like it was," Witt said. Other reporters offered a chilling,
first-hand perspective: "[A] striking feature of the situation there
was the scant presence of civil authority. We did see police controlling some
intersections but we saw no military authority and no Red Cross or other health
authority. It did not appear that any disaster center had been established by
the authorities to communicate with the public. There appeared to be very
little, if any, response yet to the enormous challenge of housing, feeding
and supporting a devastated population."
WHY WAS GULFCOAST DISASTER PREPARATION SUCH A LOW PRIORITY?: The
planning failures were not limited to the short-term emergency response. As
Louisiana Rep. Bobby Jindal (R), one of three members of Congress whose homes
were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, said yesterday: "If we had been
investing resources in restoring our coast, it wouldn't have prevented the
storm but the barrier islands would have absorbed some of the tidal
surge." Unfortunately, the resources were not invested -- either in
coastal restoration or the levees -- despite years of pleas. On June 8, 2004, the emergency management
chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, complained about a lack of funding for the levees, a long stretch of which had
sunk by four feet: "It appears that the money has been moved in the
president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq,
and I suppose that's the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees
can't be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that
this is a security issue for us." The money never came through, and last
year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers "essentially
stopped major work" on the levee system that has now been breached.
"It was the first such stoppage in 37 years." Additionally, federal
flood control spending for southeastern Louisiana was "chopped from $69
million in 2001 to $36.5 million in 2005," Knight-Ridder reports, even
as "federal hurricane protection for the Lake Pontchartrain vicinity in
the Army Corps of Engineers' budget dropped from $14.25 million in 2002 to $5.7
million this year." The cuts were strenuously opposed by Louisiana
representatives, who "urged Congress earlier this year to dedicate a
stream of federal money to Louisiana's
coast, only to be opposed
by the White House."
WHY WERE FEMA'S PREPAREDNESS MISSIONS DISMANTLED?:
"The advent of the Bush administration in January 2001 signaled the
beginning of the end for FEMA," one expert writes. In particular, the
White House targeted the agency's "mitigation" programs -- "the
measures taken in advance to minimize the damage caused by natural
disasters" -- which emergency specialists consider "a crucial part of the
strategy to save lives and cut recovery costs." Shortly after coming
into office, "key federal disaster mitigation programs, developed over
many years, [were] slashed and tossed
aside." FEMA's Project Impact, "a model mitigation program
created by the Clinton administration," was canceled outright by the
Bush administration on February 28, 2001 -- ironically, the very
same day of the 6.8 magnitude Nisqually earthquake in Washington state,
which provided one of the "best examples of the impact the program
had" in protecting people. Indeed, FEMA employees were officially
"directed not to become involved in disaster preparedness functions, since
a new directorate (yet to be established) will have that mission."
WHY WERE INEXPERIENCED POLITICAL APPOINTEES PICKED TO HEAD FEMA?:
Since taking office, President Bush "has appointed, in
succession, his 2000
campaign manager and an Oklahoma
lawyer whose only emergency management experience prior to joining FEMA was
as an assistant city manager." According to one
emergency expert, these officials "showed little interest in its work or
in the missions pursued by the departed [former FEMA chief James Lee
Witt]," who led emergency management in Arkansas and
"reoriented FEMA from civil defense preparations to a focus on natural
disaster preparedness and disaster mitigation." Indeed, Washington
Monthly editor Daniel Franklin yesterday noted, "The difficulties of
coordination seem to indicate we've
returned to the bad old days where the FEMA administrator position is given
away on the basis of political favor, rather than hard experience."
VALUES -- HASTERT SUGGESTED NOT REBUILDING NEW ORLEANS:
Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert said yesterday that it made no sense to spend billions of dollars to
rebuild New Orleans. "It
looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed," said Hastert.
Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco responded, "To kick us when we're down and
destroy hope, when hope is the only thing we have left, is absolutely
unthinkable for a leader in his position." Hastert later attempted to
clarify his remarks, saying
he was not advocating the city "be abandoned or relocated" and
that his "sincere concern" was with how the city would be rebuilt.
Hastert's clarification did not include an apology.
ADMINISTRATION -- FEMA REFUSES TO ALLOW FLORIDA
AIRBOATS TO HELP WITH RESCUE AND RECOVERY EFFORTS: FEMA Director Michael Brown has acknowledged the agency's inadequate response to the hurricane recovery efforts. Floridians
want to help by volunteering 500 airboat pilots to help rescue hurricane victims and transport relief workers. But FEMA won't let them in. Robert Dummett, state coordinator of the Florida Airboat Association, said, "We cannot get deployed to save our behinds"
because FEMA will not authorize them to enter New Orleans. Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) thinks providing airboats to the region is "a perfect solution to the
chaos and difficulty getting people out of their flooded homes." James Brown, a manager of 14 airboats, said, "We're willing to go, we're able to
go, but it's all up to FEMA."
INCOMPETENT RESPONSE: Disaster experts and Louisiana government officials charged
the administration "failed to plan for a serious levee breech and the federal response to Hurricane Katrina was slow". The San Francisco Chronicle writes, "Disturbing images of thousands of Americans dehydrated, hungry and unable to escape an uninhabitable city are prompting angry questions about whether the richest nation in the world is doing everything it can to respond to New Orleans' disaster." CNN commentator Jack Cafferty emotionally disparaged the federal response: "No one -- no one -- says the federal government is doing a good job in handling one of the most atrocious and embarrassing and far-reaching and calamitous things that has come along in this country in my lifetime." The lack of straight answers regarding the administration's preparedness in the past, present, and future has only given rise to increasing public concern that that the federal government is not and has not been doing enough to help Katrina victims.
LOCAL OFFICIALS SEE NO COMMAND OR CONTROL: Local government officials in the
disaster region are telling the story of an inadequate federal response to the
hurricane recovery effort. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said federal officials "don't have a clue what's going on down here." Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco said federal assistance has been problematic. "We would have wanted massive numbers of helicopters on Day One," Blanco said, while also calling for more troops. "This is a national disgrace. FEMA has been here three days, yet there is no command and control," said Terry Ebbert, head of New Orleans's emergency operations. "We're just a bunch of rats.
That's how they've been treating us." Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) noted he was
calling the White House, pleading for more resources.†"The state resources were
being overwhelmed, and we
needed direct federal assistance, command and control, and security -- all
three of which are lacking." Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) said there was a
failure think about a "holistic
approach to the evacuation effort." "Help,
help, help," came the plea from New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. "This is a
DISARRAY: The response from the Bush administration has been an array of
dizzying signals about its priorities and concern. FEMA Director Michael Brown,
responding to the "horrible,
horrible conditions" in the New Orleans Convention Center, said, "the
federal government did not even know about the convention center people until
today."†Secretary†Chertoff, when asked about the victims in the convention
center, said, "I
have not heard a report of people in the convention center who don't have
food and water." In an interview with CNN, Chertoff offered little compassion
for people who died or were trapped in cities due to the flooding. "Some people
chose not to obey that [mandatory evacuation] order. That was a mistake on their
part." In Florida, Gov.
Jeb Bush and other state officials criticized FEMA's decision to deny
federal assistance to hurricane victims in that state.
CONCERNS OVER LEVEE
FUNDING: The Washington Post reported that federal budget cuts last year
major work on New Orleans east bank hurricane levees for the first time in 37
years." The problem resulted because the Bush administration "requested
less money for programs to guard against catastrophic storms in New
Orleans." President Bush has declared that†no one "anticipated the breech of the
levees," but a former FEMA official said earlier this year, "New
Orleans was the No.1 disaster we were talking about." Disaster experts and
frustrated officials "said a crucial
shortcoming may have been the failure to predict that the levees keeping
Lake Pontchartrain out of the city would be breached, not just overflow." Lt.
Gen. Carl Strock, commander of the Army Corps of Engineers, defended the
administration by suggesting full funding would not have prevented the levee
breech, but he admitted that had the flood control project been finished, "we
could more efficiently move the water out of the system because it's a big
drainage project."†Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), ranking member of the Senate Budget
Committee, said, "There
was a failure by [Bush] to meet the responsibility here.... Somebody needs
to say it."
Waiting for a Leader
From: NY Times Published: September 1, 2005
George W. Bush gave one of the worst speeches of his life yesterday, especially given the level of national distress and the need for words of consolation and wisdom. In what seems to be a ritual in this administration, the president appeared a day later than he was needed. He then read an address of a quality more appropriate for an Arbor Day celebration: a long laundry list of pounds of ice, generators and blankets delivered to the stricken Gulf Coast. He advised the public that anybody who wanted to help should send cash, grinned, and promised that everything would work out in the end.
We will, of course, endure, and the city of New Orleans must come back. But looking at the pictures on television yesterday of a place abandoned to the forces of flood, fire and looting, it was hard not to wonder exactly how that is going to come to pass. Right now, hundreds of thousands of American refugees need our national concern and care. Thousands of people still need to be rescued from imminent peril. Public health threats must be controlled in New Orleans and throughout southern Mississippi. Drivers must be given confidence that gasoline will be available, and profiteering must be brought under control at a moment when television has been showing long lines at some pumps and spot prices approaching $4 a gallon have been reported.
Sacrifices may be necessary to make sure that all these things happen in an orderly, efficient way. But this administration has never been one to counsel sacrifice. And 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.
While our attention must now be on the Gulf Coast's most immediate needs, the nation will soon ask why New Orleans's levees remained so inadequate. Publications from the local newspaper to National Geographic have fulminated about the bad state of flood protection in this beloved city, which is below sea level. Why were developers permitted to destroy wetlands and barrier islands that could have held back the hurricane's surge? Why was Congress, before it wandered off to vacation, engaged in slashing the budget for correcting some of the gaping holes in the area's flood protection?
It would be some comfort to think that, as Mr. Bush cheerily announced, America "will be a stronger place" for enduring this crisis. Complacency will no longer suffice, especially if experts are right in warning that global warming may increase the intensity of future hurricanes. But since this administration won't acknowledge that global warming exists, the chances of leadership seem minimal.
It's Your Failure, Too, Mr. Bush
By Eugene Robinson
Tuesday, September 6, 2005; Page A25
BATON ROUGE -- After a tragically incompetent beginning, the effort to give urgent care to the multitudes from New Orleans whose homes and livelihoods have been obliterated is finally in high gear. The problem now is that nobody knows where it's headed.
At the top, things are still hopeless. Federal, local and state officials who perform for the cameras here at the Louisiana State Police complex, headquarters for the relief effort, still spend an unconscionable amount of time debating who's in charge. Is the president the ultimate authority, or is it Blanco, Nagin, Chertoff, Brown or the generals? The answer seems to vary from hour to hour, depending on who's holding court in the hot, stuffy briefing room or outside on the portico, where visiting luminaries get mobbed by microphones.
Fortunately, the finger-pointing follies don't matter much on the ground and in the water. Military, police and civilian relief units did what had to be done and emptied the New Orleans basin of Hurricane Katrina's bereft survivors. They are being fed, sheltered and clothed. They can't be described as alive and well, but they're alive.
Hundreds of thousands of evacuees are scattered around Louisiana and neighboring states in a sudden diaspora, and no one seems to have any idea what to do with them next. The evacuees bristle at the word "refugees," which makes them sound as if they don't belong in this country. But whatever you call them, they won't be able to go back home -- and won't have a home to go back to -- for months or even years.
Baton Rouge, perhaps the best example, has swollen like the Mississippi River in an epic flood. The people here have been generous and good-natured to a fault. Down by the river, at the convention center, the Red Cross is housing about 5,000 evacuees; another big shelter is being opened across town, and smaller shelters are being organized every day, many by local churches. It's impossible to count the families who have opened their homes to relatives, friends or needy strangers.
Every city and town in Louisiana that wasn't blasted by the hurricane is full of evacuees. Then there are the tens of thousands in Texas and the multitudes scattered across neighboring states. Their host communities have the best of intentions, but many won't be able to stand the added drain on resources indefinitely. Where will these people go? Why wasn't there a plan?
That's when I start my finger-pointing, because a few days in and around this ground zero have convinced me that there are two things the federal government failed to do, and that for these failures there's ultimately no one to blame but the president.
First, an administration that since Sept. 11, 2001, has told us a major terrorist strike is inevitable should have had in place a well-elaborated plan for evacuating a major American city. Even if there wasn't a specific plan for New Orleans -- although it was clear that a breach of the city's levees was one of the likeliest natural catastrophes -- there should have been a generic plan. George W. Bush told us time and again that our cities were threatened. Shouldn't he have ordered up a plan to get people out?
Second, someone should have thought about what to do with hundreds of thousands of evacuees, both in the days after a disaster and in the long term. As people flooded out of New Orleans, it was officials at the state and local level who rose to the challenge, making it up as they went along. Bring a bunch of people to the Astrodome. We have a vacant hotel that we can use. Send a hundred or so down to our church and we'll do the best we can.
Tent cities aren't a happy option, but neither is haphazard improvisation. Is the problem the Bush administration's ideological fervor for small government? Does the White House really believe that primary responsibility should fall on volunteers, church groups and individuals? Or is it just stunning incompetence and lack of foresight?
At the big shelter here in Baton Rouge on Sunday, some student volunteers from Louisiana State University took a group of children outside to get some air. The kids were using sheets of cardboard as sleds and surfboards, zooming down the grassy levee next to the Mississippi River and then scampering back uphill for another ride. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and the scene warmed your heart. But those college students are going to have to go back to their classes, and then how will those kids from New Orleans spend their days?
Real consequences of what governments do and do not do about their responsibilities
By Molly Ivans
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 1, 2005
AUSTIN, Texas -- Like many of you who love New Orleans, I find myself taking short mental walks there today, turning a familiar corner, glimpsing a favorite scene, square or vista. And worrying about the beloved friends and the city, and how they are now.
To use a fine Southern word, it's tacky to start playing the blame game before the dead are even counted. It is not too soon, however, to make a point that needs to be hammered home again and again, and that is that government policies have real consequences in people's lives.
This is not "just politics" or blaming for political advantage. This is about the real consequences of what governments do and do not do about their responsibilities. And about who winds up paying the price for those policies.
This is a column for everyone in the path of Hurricane Katrina who ever said, "I'm sorry, I'm just not interested in politics," or, "There's nothing I can do about it," or, "Eh, they're all crooks anyway."
Nothing to do with me, nothing to do with my life, nothing I can do about any of it. Look around you this morning. I suppose the NRA would argue, "Government policies don't kill people, hurricanes kill people." Actually, hurricanes plus government policies kill people.
One of the main reasons New Orleans is so vulnerable to hurricanes is the gradual disappearance of the wetlands on the Gulf Coast that once stood as a natural buffer between the city and storms coming in from the water. The disappearance of those wetlands does not have the name of a political party or a particular administration attached to it. No one wants to play, "The Democrats did it," or, "It's all Reagan's fault." Many environmentalists will tell you more than a century's interference with the natural flow of the Mississippi is the root cause of the problem, cutting off the movement of alluvial soil to the river's great delta.
But in addition to long-range conseq uences of long-term policies like letting the Corps of Engineers try to build a better river than God, there are real short-term consequences, as well. It is a fact that the Clinton administration set some tough policies on wetlands, and it is a fact that the Bush administration repealed those policies -- ordering federal agencies to stop protecting as many as 20 million acres of wetlands.
Last year, four environmental groups cooperated on a joint report showing the Bush administration's policies had allowed developers to drain thousands of acres of wetlands.
Does this mean we should blame Bush for the fact that New Orleans is underwater? No, but it means we can blame Bush when a Class 3 or Class 2 hurricane puts New Orleans under. At this point, it is a matter of making a bad situation worse, of failing to observe the First Rule of Holes (when you're in one, stop digging).
Had a storm the size of Katrina just had the grace to hold off for a while, it's quite likely no one would even remember what the Bush administration did two months ago. The national press corps has the attention span of a gnat, and trying to get anyone in Washington to remember longer than a year ago is like asking them what happened in Iznik, Turkey, in A.D. 325.
Just plain political bad luck that, in June, Bush took his little ax and chopped $71.2 million from the budget of the New Orleans Corps of Engineers, a 44 percent reduction. As was reported in New Orleans CityBusiness at the time, that meant "major hurricane and flood projects will not be awarded to local engineering firms. Also, a study to determine ways to protect the region from a Category 5 hurricane has been shelved for now."
The commander of the Corps' New Orleans district also immediately instituted a hiring freeze and cancelled the annual Corps picnic.
Our friends at the Center for American Progress note the Office of Technology Assessment used to produce forward-thinking plans such as "Floods: A National Policy Concern " and "A Framework for Flood Hazards Management." Unfortunately, the office was targeted by Newt Gingrich and the Republican right, and gutted years ago.
In fact, there is now a government-wide movement away from basing policy on science, expertise and professionalism, and in favor of choices based on ideology. If you're wondering what the ideological position on flood management might be, look at the pictures of New Orleans -- it seems to consist of gutting the programs that do anything.
Unfortunately, the war in Iraq is directly related to the devastation left by the hurricane. About 35 percent of Louisiana's National Guard is now serving in Iraq, where four out of every 10 soldiers are guardsmen. Recruiting for the Guard is also down significantly because people are afraid of being sent to Iraq if they join, leaving the Guard even more short-handed.
The Louisiana National Guard also notes that dozens of its high-water vehicles, humvees, refuelers and generators have also been sent abroad. (I hate to be picky, but why do they need high-water vehicles in Iraq?)
This, in turn, goes back to the original policy decision to go into Iraq without enough soldiers and the subsequent failure to admit that mistake and to rectify it by instituting a draft.
The levees of New Orleans, two of which are now broken and flooding the city, were also victims of Iraq war spending. Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, said on June 8, 2004, "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq."
This, friends, is why we need to pay attention to government policies, not political personalities, and to know whereon we vote. It is about our lives.
To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2005 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
United States of Shame
Published: September 3, 2005
And when you combine limited government with incompetent government, lethal stuff happens.
America is once more plunged into a snake pit of anarchy, death, looting, raping, marauding thugs, suffering innocents, a shattered infrastructure, a gutted police force, insufficient troop levels and criminally negligent government planning. But this time it's happening in America.
W. drove his budget-cutting Chevy to the levee, and it wasn't dry. Bye, bye, American lives. "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees," he told Diane Sawyer.
Shirt-sleeves rolled up, W. finally landed in Hell yesterday and chuckled about his wild boozing days in "the great city" of N'Awlins. He was clearly moved. "You know, I'm going to fly out of here in a minute," he said on the runway at the New Orleans International Airport, "but I want you to know that I'm not going to forget what I've seen." Out of the cameras' range, and avoided by W., was a convoy of thousands of sick and dying people, some sprawled on the floor or dumped on baggage carousels at a makeshift M*A*S*H unit inside the terminal.
Why does this self-styled "can do" president always lapse into such lame "who could have known?" excuses.
Who on earth could have known that Osama bin Laden wanted to attack us by flying planes into buildings? Any official who bothered to read the trellis of pre-9/11 intelligence briefs.
Who on earth could have known that an American invasion of Iraq would spawn a brutal insurgency, terrorist recruiting boom and possible civil war? Any official who bothered to read the C.I.A.'s prewar reports.
Who on earth could have known that New Orleans's sinking levees were at risk from a strong hurricane? Anybody who bothered to read the endless warnings over the years about the Big Easy's uneasy fishbowl.
In June 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, fretted to The Times-Picayune in New Orleans: "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us."
Not only was the money depleted by the Bush folly in Iraq; 30 percent of the National Guard and about half its equipment are in Iraq.
Ron Fournier of The Associated Press reported that the Army Corps of Engineers asked for $105 million for hurricane and flood programs in New Orleans last year. The White House carved it to about $40 million. But President Bush and Congress agreed to a $286.4 billion pork-filled highway bill with 6,000 pet projects, including a $231 million bridge for a small, uninhabited Alaskan island.
Just last year, Federal Emergency Management Agency officials practiced how they would respond to a fake hurricane that caused floods and stranded New Orleans residents. Imagine the feeble FEMA's response to Katrina if they had not prepared.
Michael Brown, the blithering idiot in charge of FEMA - a job he trained for by running something called the International Arabian Horse Association - admitted he didn't know until Thursday that there were 15,000 desperate, dehydrated, hungry, angry, dying victims of Katrina in the New Orleans Convention Center.
Was he sacked instantly? No, our tone-deaf president hailed him in Mobile, Ala., yesterday: "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."
It would be one thing if President Bush and his inner circle - Dick Cheney was vacationing in Wyoming; Condi Rice was shoe shopping at Ferragamo's on Fifth Avenue and attended "Spamalot" before bloggers chased her back to Washington; and Andy Card was off in Maine - lacked empathy but could get the job done. But it is a chilling lack of empathy combined with a stunning lack of efficiency that could make this administration implode.
When the president and vice president rashly shook off our allies and our respect for international law to pursue a war built on lies, when they sanctioned torture, they shook the faith of the world in American ideals.
When they were deaf for so long to the horrific misery and cries for help of the victims in New Orleans - most of them poor and black, like those stuck at the back of the evacuation line yesterday while 700 guests and employees of the Hyatt Hotel were bused out first - they shook the faith of all Americans in American ideals. And made us ashamed.
Who are we if we can't take care of our own?
House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) Tries Damage Control After Remarks Hit a Nerve
From: The Peoples Republic of Seabrook
Leave it to the Republican Speaker of the House, someone who should be finding ways to get help to people in need along the Gulf Coast, to pour salt in the wounds. At a time when people in New Orleans and elsewhere need sympathy and assistance, Dennis Hastert wondered out loud if we shouldn't just bulldoze the city.
THIS is Compassionate Conservatism?
Granted, much of what Hastert said was taken out of context. Given the nature of frayed nerves in the region, though, why would he even raise this issue when he did?
Yep, nuthin' like kickin' a bunch of poor Democrats when they're down, eh? The next thing you know, he'll be saying that none of this would have happened if they'd just voted Republican...
Beside, if they weren't poor, they never would have been in this situation to begin with, right?'
House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert began his day yesterday explaining that he really does not want to see New Orleans bulldozed, and he ended it defending his absence from the Capitol when Congress approved a $10.5 billion hurricane aid package.
Hastert was still reeling from reaction to his comments earlier this week about the storm-ravaged city. "It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed," he said in an interview with the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. Asked whether it made sense to spend billions of dollars rebuilding a city that lies below sea level, he told the paper, "I don't know. That doesn't make sense to me."
Hastert later issued a statement saying he was not "advocating that the city be abandoned or relocated." But Louisiana Democrats were incensed. Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco demanded an apology. "To kick us when we're down and destroy hope, when hope is the only thing we have left," she said, "is absolutely unthinkable for a leader in his position."
Did anyone suggest bulldozing San Francisco after the 1989 earthquakes? Or Miami-Dade County after Hurricane Andrew? While there are some legitimate common sense questions that can and probably should be asked about rebuilding a city below sea level, there is a time and a place for those questions. The time is NOT immediately after the worst natural disaster in our nation's history when nerves and wounds, both psychological and physical, are still raw.
Of course, even when Hastert tried to make nice, he screwed it up.
Hastert again tried to smooth things over. Shortly after a small number of House members unanimously approved the $10.5 billion relief plan at about 1 p.m., he issued a statement saying, "Our prayers and sympathies continue to be with the victims of Hurricane Katrina. In times like these, it is more important than ever for Americans to stand united in helping our fellow citizens."
But there was one problem: Hastert was not in Washington, and his top lieutenants had to oversee the vote. He was in Indiana attending a colleague's fundraiser, staff members said, and he later attended an antique car auction.
By 4 p.m., Hastert had reached the Capitol, eager to explain his tardiness and to try again to show his solidarity with Katrina's victims. The Indiana fundraiser, he told reporters, had been on his schedule "for a long, long time."
And if Katrina had just consulted his scheduler....So much for "Compassionate Conservatism", eh?
What really caught my attention was former President Bill Clinton's reaction to Hastert's insensitivity:
In Syracuse, N.Y., former president Bill Clinton was discussing New Orleans's dilemma when someone described the speaker's comments. Had they been in the same place when the remarks were made, Clinton said, "I'm afraid I would have assaulted him."
Is there ANY doubt that Clinton should still be President?
BACK TO TOP