Archive for September, 2005

Broussard Spokesperson: ‘Meet the Press’ Story About Rodrigue’s Mother Based on ‘A Misunderstanding’

Monday, September 19th, 2005

Valued reader trg34221 forwarded this MSNBC article via the comments on an earlier item: An emotional moment and a misunderstanding.

Since the broadcast of the interview, which elevated Broussard to national prominence, a number of bloggers have questioned the validity of Broussard’s story.

Subsequent reporting identified the man whom Broussard was referring to in the Meet the Press interview as Thomas Rodrigue, the Jefferson Parish emergency services director. Contacted on Friday by MSNBC.com, Rodrigue acknowledged that his 92-year-old mother and more than 30 other people died in the St. Rita nursing home. They had not been evacuated and the flood waters overtook the residence.

The chronology of the phone calls described by Broussard came under particular scrutiny by bloggers.

Rodrigue said he didn’t see or hear Broussard’s comments on Meet the Press. When told of the sequence of phone calls that Broussard described on Meet the Press, Rodrigue said “No, no, that’s not true.”

“I can’t tell you what he said that day, why he was confused, I’m assuming he was under a tremendous amount of pressure,” Rodrigue told MSNBC. “I contacted the nursing home two days before the storm [on Aug. 27th] and again on the 28th of August,” Rodrigue said. “At the same time I talked to the nursing home I also talked to the emergency manager for St. Bernard Parish,” Rodrigue said, “to encourage that nursing home to evacuate like they were supposed to and they didn’t until it was too late.”

Broussard must have been confused “because I was calling, not my mother calling me, I was calling her,” Rodrigue said. Further, Rodrigue says he never made any calls after Monday, the day he figures his mother died, based on conversations he’s had with another person who had a family member perish inside St. Rita’s. Officials believe that the residents of St. Rita’s died on Monday, Aug. 29, not on Friday, Sept. 2, as Broussard had suggested.

Broussard could not be reached for comment Friday, but Jackie Bauer, a spokeswoman for Broussard who was present during the Meet the Press interview, said “it was a misunderstanding.”

Late on Friday, Bauer told MSNBC.com: “I was there when he (Broussard) was doing that, when he was saying that, I think he was meaning that he was calling, he was calling and trying to talk to Tommy and telling him ‘don’t worry,’ trying to console Tommy, ‘don’t worry, we’ll get her out, don’t worry we’ll get her out.’”

When asked how Broussard could have gotten the details of his mother’s story so wrong, Rodrigue said, Broussard “was emotional, absolutely and he was from the time that he found out that, you know, that my mother had died and I was here doing what I’m required to do for the citizens for Jefferson Parish.”

So, there you have it. The only real question remaining at this point is whether Broussard acted innocently, getting “confused” about the chronology in the stress of everything that was happening, or whether he in fact knew what he was doing, and chose to alter the story to bolster his case about the slowness of the federal response.

I’m not sure there’s any way to answer that at this point. It probably comes down to your personal level of cynicism as applied to politicians generally, and to local (Democrat) government officials in Louisiana specfically. For myself, being fairly cynical, I think he probably was intentionally lying. It’s not a slam-dunk, but for me it leans pretty heavily in that direction.

As my final comment on the whole thing, I wanted to mention something I noticed about the way the controversy got covered in blogland. I was one of a whole bunch of people who linked to the Broussard MTP appearance as soon as video of it became available on the web (on Sunday, September 4). I’m not aware of anyone else who raised the question of his credibility as early as I did (on Monday, September 5, in Was Broussard telling the truth?), though maybe I missed somebody in Rightyland, since I tend not to pay too much attention to them. Certainly plenty of those folks have chimed in since then about having doubted him from the beginning.

I pointed out the discrepancies between the media accounts and Broussard’s version of events on Thursday, September 8 (in Blame game), basing that on the news accounts posted in comments by the same trg34221 who contributed the MSNBC link I’m pointing to above. (Who is this person of mystery, anyway? Does he/she have a weblog?)

On September 10 I posted another item (More detail on Tom Rodrigue’s mother), again linking to a news item supplied by trg34221.

On September 14, righty weblogger John of wuzzadem posted an item about the story: Bumped: Another Katrina Myth: Aaron Broussard’s “Emotional” Appearance on MTP. John linked to the same news articles linked to in my pieces of September 8 and September 10. Interestingly, the same stuff I’d been posting about for almost a week, attracting relatively little notice in terms of inbound links, became an overnight sensation once John posted about it; he received oodles of inbound links in the following days, including one from high-profile wingnut Michelle Malkin.

I don’t begrudge him the traffic, and I appreciate that he did link to me in his original item. The actual way he cited me rankles just a teency bit, though: “To their credit, even Lies.com issued a correction after initially reporting on Broussard’s accusations…”

Sigh. I guess it’s human nature for a righty to frame my coverage of the story that way. See, from my perspective, this is the sort of thing that should make a self-styled conservative sit up and take notice: I didn’t have to make a big deal about Broussard. But I saw an example of what appeared to be a politician lying, and I pointed it out and followed up on it, despite the fact that the politician in question was making a political point (that the feds screwed up the Katrina response) that I agree with.

See, that’s called “being objective.” It’s the sort of thing that the mainstream media does (or at least did, historically) all the time. Sadly, it’s a form of behavior that is increasingly rare these days.

I fall short of that standard a lot (obviously). But I’m doing my best to live up to it. As I described in the manifesto, I take this issue pretty seriously. I wish more people did.

Quick Updates x 3: Bush Potty Note, Gretna Bridge Cops, the St. Rita’s Deaths

Monday, September 19th, 2005

No time for proper obsessive discussion, but here are a few links that offer additional detail on stories I’ve linked to recently:

  • Reuters says Bush photo not ‘malicious,’ reports wide interest at home and abroad – More about the photo of Bush’s handwritten note at the UN asking Condoleeza Rice what she thought about his need to go to the bathroom. Just so you know, I’m not claiming any sort of cosmic significance for this story. It’s just… one of those quirky little things that strikes me as kind of funny.
  • After blocking the bridge, Gretna circles the wagons – So, the majority-white residents of Gretna, LA, the community just over the Mississippi from the New Orleans Convention Center, whose police chief protected the evacuated town by refusing to let Convention Center refugees evacuate the city on foot, heartily approve of the chief’s actions. Or at least, the Gretna city council has passed a resolution supporting the chief’s decision.
  • The horror at St. Rita’s – More detail on what happened at St. Rita’s nursing home, where Tom Rodrigue’s mother was among the 34 residents who drowned on Monday, August 29.

Darwin Has A Posse

Sunday, September 18th, 2005

If you’ve been living under a rock the last few weeks (or the Astrodome perhaps), you may not have heard that the issue of “Intelligent design” is going to court next week. Today I saw one of the most interesting and rational commentaries on the subject to date, from a Presbyterian Pastor whose encouraging his parish to attend a class titled: “Evolution for Christians“.

I agree that science and religion answer very different kinds of questions, so I worry about the doors of science classrooms being opened to intelligent design … I would be very upset if the biology teachers at Robinson Secondary School, where my children are students, departed from the mechanics of mitosis and began to bring their Mormon or Methodist or Muslim beliefs into discussions of why God chose to create cells.

I also really like the comments from a psychology professor in his parish…

“intelligent design theorists don’t scientifically establish divine creation at all — they merely try to represent scientific problems as evidence of scientific inadequacy.” They assume, for instance, that since the human eye is marvelously complex, and since scientists cannot map a complete evolutionary path for it, then it must be a product of an intelligent designer. But the eye actually shows many signs of having evolved, including a number of defects that no intelligent designer would ever include — light receptors in the back of the eye, for example, behind blood vessels that obstruct the view. “Accusing a God of [designing] such a thing seems rather insulting, actually,”

Darwin Has a Posse Sticker

And while we’re on the subject of Evolution, those who are interested should acquire some Charles Darwin Has A Posse stickers and plaster them all over God’s big blue bowling ball. There’s no better time then now.

Bush’s Katrina Speech

Friday, September 16th, 2005

I didn’t watch. Assuming some of you did, I’d be interested in your take on what Bush said in New Orleans last night.

David Kusnet in The New Republic Online offers grudging admiration: Damage control.

And not exactly speech-related, but Joshua Micah Marshall has some reconstruction-related links and forbodings here: This worries me.

BAGnewsNotes on Bush’s Potty Note

Friday, September 16th, 2005

You’ve doubtless seen it already, but you haven’t really plumbed the depths of that bathroom-break note Bush wrote to Condoleeza Rice at the UN until you’ve read the BAGnewsNotes deconstruction of it: Bush’s UN-doing.

Al Gore (Still) Lives on My Street

Friday, September 16th, 2005

Continuing his legacy of being able, by virtue of his non-presence in the White House, to actually tell the truth about how screwed up the country is, Al Gore gave a great speech to the Sierra Club back on September 9: Al Gore Speech 9/9/05.

In related Gore news, you should read this account by Greg Simon of Gore’s involvement in an airlift of stranded patients from the New Orleans airport in the wake of Katrina: Al Gore leads Charity Hospital airlift. Especially interesting to me are the accounts of the FEMA people (among others) making herculean efforts, doing absolutely everything in their power — to stop the airlift from happening.

The impression I get is that the people running the federal response to Katrina were plodding paper-pushers who viewed every offer of help as a potential pain the ass that would keep them at their desks past quitting time. They were like that sergeant presiding over the ammunition boxes in Zulu Dawn, making the runners line up and wait their turns as he dispensed boxes one by one, proceeding carefully and methodically while the camp was being overrun.

If you haven’t heard it before (or even if you have), this would be a great time to go listen to Al Gore by Monkey Bowl. The song was mentioned in that David Remnick piece about Gore that ran in the New Yorker last year (The wilderness campaign). Monkey Bowl, it turns out, is the brainchild of Bob Something, who is actually Robert Ellis Orrall, who is likewise described in the New Yorker piece, and whose album Plastic Three Fifty can be bought at the website of his independent Infinity Cat label.

Knight Ridder: Chertoff’s Errors Worse Than Brown’s

Friday, September 16th, 2005

From the hard-working journalists at Knight Ridder: Chertoff delayed federal response, memo shows.

Also, Mike Brown did some talking to the New York Times the other day. I’m not sure how credible his version of events is, but here it is, for what it’s worth: Ex-FEMA director tells of frustration and chaos.

Khalid Jarrar’s Incarceration

Friday, September 16th, 2005

Don’t miss this firsthand account of the kind of human rights improvements we’re achieving in Iraq. From Khalid Jarrar’s Tell Me a Secret weblog: I found myself…

More Details on the St. Rita’s Drownings

Friday, September 16th, 2005

Here are some items with some additional infromation about the tragic drownings at the St. Rita’s nursing home. From the Chicago Tribune: Nursing home gambled; residents paid the price. And from the LA Times: Haven turned to horror.

I’m still waiting for the mainstream media to connect the dots on this story with Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard’s tearful (and apparently fictional) account on Meet the Press of Tom Rodrigue’s phonecalls to his momma. If you missed my earlier obsessing about this, Broussard described phonecalls between Rodrigue and his mother on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. But Rodrigue’s mother apparently died on Monday. See Was Broussard telling the truth? and More detail on Tom Rodrigue’s mother.

Daring Fireball on the iTunes 5 Announcement

Friday, September 16th, 2005

I think you need to be a Mac geek to get the humor, but I thought this was pretty funny: The iTunes 5 announcement from the perspective of an anthropomorphized brushed metal user interface theme.

Pentagon Advances Plans to Nuke Mecca

Friday, September 16th, 2005

Remember when the Bush administration lashed out spastically at Iraq in a supposed response to the 9/11 attacks? Donald Rumsfeld, you’ll remember, started bringing up the Iraq option in the early hours after 9/11, because Iraq had all the “good targets,” while Afghanistan didn’t have any. It took a while, but eventually he got his way.

So I’m sure you’ll be comforted to know that the same strategic geniuses who brought you that disaster are laying the groundwork for an even bigger one. From the Washington Post’s Walter Pincus: Pentagon revises nuclear strike plan.

The Pentagon has drafted a revised doctrine for the use of nuclear weapons that envisions commanders requesting presidential approval to use them to preempt an attack by a nation or a terrorist group using weapons of mass destruction. The draft also includes the option of using nuclear arms to destroy known enemy stockpiles of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.

The document, written by the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs staff but not yet finally approved by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, would update rules and procedures governing use of nuclear weapons to reflect a preemption strategy first announced by the Bush White House in December 2002. The strategy was outlined in more detail at the time in classified national security directives.

A nuclear strike seems really, really unlikely to deter al Qaeda. But having squandered our available supply of blood and treasure in Iraq in a hitherto-vain attempt to neutralize Saddam’s WMD build a stable, democratic, pro-US government erect an Islamic theocracy that at least doesn’t serve as a failed-state breeding ground for anti-US terror, what is the Bush team going to do the next time it decides that some nasty government is developing weapons of mass destruction in defiance of our wishes?

That’s right. We’re going to nuke them. Note that this has some very big advantages over invading and occupying: It’s cheap. It doesn’t require significant manpower, or a longterm commitment. And it renders the underlying justification more or less immune to falsifiability: Yup, there were WMD there; we’re sure of it. We had solid intelligence. It was a slam dunk. And you’d be seeing evidence of those WMD today, except that their vaporized, irradiated atoms are currently intermingled with those of the former inhabitants of the area, and are drifting through the upper atmosphere.

If the US were to do such a thing, it would pretty much hand al Qaeda the larger strategic victory bin Laden has been dreaming of for years.

Way to go, guys.

Update: See also this interesting item from Jonathon Schwarz at A Tiny Revolution: Let’s all chip in to buy these guys a thesaurus.

Padilla Appeals Panel: Constitution? What Constitution?

Friday, September 16th, 2005

Ruling a week ago today, a three-judge panel from the 4th Circuit of the US Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that Bush can hold Jose Padilla in a Navy brig forever, if he chooses to, without charging him with a crime: US can confine citizens without charges, court rules.

Legal experts said the debate is likely to reach the Supreme Court. Andrew Patel, an attorney for Padilla, said he might appeal directly to the Supreme Court or first ask the entire 4th Circuit to review the decision. “We’re very disappointed,” he said.

The ruling limits the president’s power to detain Padilla to the duration of hostilities against al Qaeda, but the Bush administration has said that war could go on indefinitely.

This is the nightmare that results from allowing the people who crafted the metaphorical “War on Terror” to treat the metaphor as reality. More time has now elapsed since 9/11 than the total time it took for us to go from Pearl Harbor to the Japanese surrender.

We are not fighting a war against al Qaeda. We are dealing (not particularly effectively) with a criminal terrorist conspiracy designed to survive in the face of our best efforts to eradicate it. Even if we’re lucky enough to eventually get a president capable of mounting such efforts, al Qaeda will exist, in all likelihood, for the rest of our lifetimes. Suspending the Constitution for the duration of the “war” is in fact equivalent to saying the Constitution no longer operates, period.

US Iraq War Deaths for August

Thursday, September 15th, 2005

My apologies; I neglected to update my graph of US military deaths in Iraq for the month of August (until now). Deaths were up in August, to 85. Only three previous months during the war have been higher, although five other months have come close. As always, I’m comparing the military casualties to those from the Vietnam war at a similar point in each war’s political lifetime (which many have charged is inherently misleading; see disclaimer below).

The data come from the advanced search tool at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund site, and from Lunaville’s page on Iraq coalition casualties. The figures are for the number of US dead per month, without regard to whether the deaths were combat-related.

The first graph shows the first 30 months of each war. (Click on any image for a larger version.)

Next, the same chart, with the Vietnam numbers extended out to cover the first four years of the war:

Finally, the chart that gives the US death toll for the entire Vietnam war:

Disclaimer: I’m aware that we have more troops in-theater in Iraq than we had during the corresponding parts of the Vietnam War graph. Vietnam didn’t get numbers of US troops comparable to the number currently in Iraq until some three and a half years after the starting point of the Vietnam graphs above. The starting point for the Vietnam graphs is the death that was identified (years later) by Lyndon Johnson as being the first of the war.

These graphs do not address the relative lethality of the two conflicts on a per-soldier basis. I was just curious how the “death profile” of the two wars compared, and how those deaths played out in terms of their political impact inside the US. You are free to draw your own conclusions.

Froomkin on the Bush Bubble

Tuesday, September 13th, 2005

The lead section of Dan Froomkin’s Washington Post column from yesterday is all about George Bush’s dysfunctional management style, its roots in his twisted personal psychology, and the media’s emerging willlingness to talk about it. So to me it was basically like catnip to a cat. Anyway: Now they tell us.

“Bush’s bubble has grown more hermetic in the second term, they say, with fewer people willing or able to bring him bad news — or tell him when he’s wrong. Bush has never been adroit about this. A youngish aide who is a Bush favorite described the perils of correcting the boss. ‘The first time I told him he was wrong, he started yelling at me,’ the aide recalled about a session during the first term. ‘Then I showed him where he was wrong, and he said, “All right. I understand. Good job.” He patted me on the shoulder. I went and had dry heaves in the bathroom.’ . . .

Mayor Ray’s Amazing Vanishing Responsibility

Monday, September 12th, 2005

As I’ve tried to explain in the comments section of some of the recent Katrina postings, this event had a ripple effect across every level of US Government in exposing the incompetence, confusion, communication failures, and logistical nightmares that occur when a high-level disaster strikes a major city and a large geographical region. Truthfully, the specter of this nightmare scenario has likely haunted the dreams of every New Orleans Mayor for generations. Each Mayor passing it on to the next, like a game of russian roulette. However, once the resonsibility is in the current Mayor’s hands, he is obligated to provide the best safeguard for the people during an emergency, regardless of how it may have been done in the past. In the last 25 years or so, our ability to track hurricanes and predict their path and strength has been greatly improved. And so has our ability to prepare for the arrival of such storms. Every section of the country that is prone to such weather has some kind of emergency plan in place for use. Most community leaders review, audit and/or rehearse it regularly. This article gives a telling critique of what seemed starkly different about how the local and State leadership in Mississippi and Louisiana viewed its emergency plans and the basic requirements to make it work. New Orleans, because of its density of population, location below sea level and its volume of people with limited options for transportation, has an even bigger obligation to its citizens to have a reasonable, coordinated, thorough and rehearsed procedure that gives everyone a fair opportunity, at minimum, to be moved out of harm’s way and to a more secure area.

The delays, confusion and neglect of procedure within the Mayor’s office and in its dealings with the Governor’s staff (which had their own issues of bureaucratic paralysis), cost precious hours within the compressed timeframe of an impending disaster. The results were thousands of the most vulnerable of the City’s population either stuck in facilities that were never intended for use other than a last resort simply for riding out the hurricane itself, or forced to try to survive in homes destined for destruction and flooding.

Which left the Federal sector with the uneviable task of trying to understand what was needed, where it was needed and then dealing with the logistics of gathering and dispersing all those assets to their proper places. The mistakes made early on at the local/State levels rippled through to affect the reaction and response of these Federal agencies (which aren’t exactly nimble by nature), which were likely further crippled by the exposed ineptness of their own organizations. My point is that these initial failures created situations that greatly affected the way decisions were made and actions were taken all the way down the line.

But the Mayor Nagin is having nothing to do with accepting any real blame in any of this:

MAYOR NAGIN: You know, I’m sure I could have done a lot of things much better, but I will tell you this, Tim: I was there. I was among the people in the Superdome. I knew what was going on every minute. I did not have air conditioning nor shower facilities. I made decisions based upon facts and not what I thought was going to happen. So history will judge me based upon those actions. But I will tell you something: I think I did everything possible known to any mayor in the country as it relates to saving lives. And I think as this continues to unfold, history will say that we did some things to save thousands and thousands of lives. Now, could we have done things better? Absolutely.

MR. RUSSERT: What’s the biggest mistake you made?

MAYOR NAGIN: My biggest mistake is having a fundamental assumption that in the state of Louisiana, with an $18 billion budget, in the country of the United States that can move whole fleets of aircraft carriers across the globe in 24 hours, that my fundamental assumption was get as many people to safety as possible, and that the cavalry would be coming within two to three days, and they didn’t come.

MR. RUSSERT: Many people point, Mr. Mayor, that on Friday before the hurricane, President Bush declared an impending disaster. And The Houston Chronicle wrote it this way. “[Mayor Nagin's] mandatory evacuation order was issued 20 hours before the storm struck the Louisiana coast, less than half the time researchers determined would be needed to get everyone out. City officials had 550 municipal buses and hundreds of additional school buses at their disposal but made no plans to use them to get people out of New Orleans before the storm, said Chester Wilmot, a civil engineering professor at Louisiana State University and an expert in transportation planning, who helped the city put together its evacuation plan.” And we’ve all see this photograph of these submerged school buses. Why did you not declare, order, a mandatory evacuation on Friday, when the president declared an emergency, and have utilized those buses to get people out?

MAYOR NAGIN: You know, Tim, that’s one of the things that will be debated. There has never been a catastrophe in the history of New Orleans like this. There has never been any Category 5 storm of this magnitude that has hit New Orleans directly. We did the things that we thought were best based upon the information that we had. Sure, here was lots of buses out there. But guess what? You can’t find drivers that would stay behind with a Category 5 hurricane, you know, pending down on New Orleans. We barely got enough drivers to move people on Sunday, or Saturday and Sunday, to move them to the Superdome. We barely had enough drivers for that. So sure, we had the assets, but the drivers just weren’t available.

MR. RUSSERT: But, Mr. Mayor, if you read the city of New Orleans’ comprehensive emergency plan — and I’ve read it and I’ll show it to you and our viewers–it says very clearly, “Conduct of an actual evacuation will be the responsibility of the mayor of New Orleans. The city of New Orleans will utilize all available resources to quickly and safely evacuate threatened areas. Special arrangements will be made to evacuate persons unable to transport themselves or who require specific life-saving assistance. Additional personnel will be recruited to assist in evacuation procedure as needed. Approximately 100,000 citizens of New Orleans do not have means of personal transportation.”

It was your responsibility. Where was the planning? Where was the preparation? Where was the execution?

MAYOR NAGIN: The planning was always in getting people to higher ground, getting them to safety. That’s what we meant by evacuation. Get them out of their homes, which–most people are under sea level. Get them to a higher ground and then depending upon our state and federal officials to move them out of harm’s way after the storm has hit.

MR. RUSSERT: But in July of this year, one month before the hurricane, you cut a public service announcement which said, in effect, “You are on your own.” And you have said repeatedly that you never thought an evacuation plan would work. Which is true: whether you would exercise your obligation and duty as mayor or that–and evacuate people, or you believe people were on their own?

MAYOR NAGIN: Well, Tim, you know, we basically wove this incredible tightrope as it is. We were in a position of trying to encourage as many people as possible to leave because we weren’t comfortable that we had the resources to move them out of our city. Keep in mind: normal evacuations, we get about 60 percent of the people out of the city of New Orleans. This time we got 80 percent out. We encouraged people to buddy up, churches to take senior citizens and move them to safety, and a lot of them did. And then we would deal with the remaining people that couldn’t or wouldn’t leave and try and get them to higher ground until safety came.

Did you get all of that. He vaguely admits to being able to do better, but when asked his biggest mistake, it was in depending on the Federal Government! When asked why no buses were used to move those with no transportation out of the most vulnerable areas, as per his own Plan, the answer is that we wouldn’t have drivers available! Oh okay, well we’ll just put an intention of having a way to move our poor or special needs population out of harm’s way to make them feel good and to fulfill our legal obligations of documentation, but we have no intent to actually follow through with it. Can you say “disregard of duty”?

And when asked what happened to the expectation of following the City’s Evacuation Plan, the Mayor just reiterates what the intention of the Evacuation was! …..Um yeah, we know the intent, why wasn’t it followed?

Then, when asked which viewpoint he took regarding evacuating people, based upon statements he made, he admitted he was responsible for moving those who couldn’t leave earlier, out of harm’s way.

Exactly Mayor, exactly.

Now, could he move everyone out? Realistically, no. Limitation of time, certain attrition of drivers (even in the best executed Plan), and simple stubborness or ignorance of those remaining, would cause that result. But that’s tens of thousands of people moved, who were instead left to their fates.

As I’ve said before, there will be many people and actions at fault, both before and after the hurricane and the subsequent flooding. No level of government will be unscathed. But those with myopic “all about Bush” tunnel vision are missing the scope of this bungled preparation and response.

And let me make this a little longer, with a side note. Does anyone who actually thinks seriously about issues and wants to truly advance race relations in this Country still even bother to listen to Rev. Jesse Jackson anymore?

Here’s a snippet of a interview he had on FOX recently (yes, yes, I know, just focus for me please…):

JACKSON: To make a mayor the fall guy, I think, is a misstatement. You had a five-day warning about the storm coming Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday by the meteorologists. And emergency preparedness was not even prepared for the emergency.
So that was no massive plan for rescue and for relocation and for relief and family reunification and reconstruction. That’s bigger than a given mayor.

And then this…..

JACKSON: Wait a minute. Mayors do not fix levees. That’s what the Corps of Engineers do.
HANNITY: Mayors are supposed to have used buses and evacuate people, and this mayor didn’t do it.
JACKSON: But he had no place to relocate them. That becomes a state function.
HANNITY: You leave them in the wake of a hurricane because you don’t know the exact location of where the bus is going to go? I’d get them the heck out of town. Get them out of the way.
JACKSON: And land them where? There must be some reception.
HANNITY: Dry land, away from the hurricane.
JACKSON: But then you have to be received on dry land. You have to have a rescue operation, but you must also have a relocation plan.

Now, beyond Jesse’s misstatements about the City’s Plan and some just plain confusing sentences, does anyone really believe that he would have gone out of his way to make such excuses for a emergency Plan’s failures if the New Orleans administration was white? Seriously, a white administration and an affected population that was largely poor and black? Please! He would have held the administration to their Plan by THE LETTER. Shouting “racism” the whole way.

Now, contrast this with another Black Leader (and Reverend):

“Mayor Nagin has blamed everyone else except himself,” said the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, founder and president of the Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny.
“The mayor failed in his duty to evacuate and protect the people of New Orleans. … The truth is, black people died not because of President Bush or racism, they died because of their unhealthy dependence on the government and the incompetence of Mayor Ray Nagin and Governor Kathleen Blanco,”

And there you have it. One person who reflexively parrots his one-note song for any and all occasions. And one person who acknowledges that injustice and incompetence comes in all colors.

Schwarz: 9/11 Was an Enormous Opportunity

Monday, September 12th, 2005

Here’s a powerful piece from Jonathon Schwarz of A Tiny Revoluion: Today is the fourth anniversary of an enormous opportunity.

Thomas: How Bush Blew It

Sunday, September 11th, 2005

From Newsweek’s Evan Thomas: How Bush blew it.

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

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

This is the same paradox that was exposed, on a smaller scale, a few months back when a small Cessna inadvertantly flew over the White House, causing a panicked evacuation. Bush was out riding his bike at the time, and it came out afterward that even though his Secret Service detail was informed about what was going on, no one bothered to tell Bush until 40 minutes later, after people figured out that it wasn’t actually a terrorist attack and the all-clear had been sounded.

As I commented at the time, Bush is pretty much the last person people want to have in the loop during a fast-breaking crisis. The reality of his presidency is that he isn’t in charge in the classic Martin Sheen on The West Wing, Harrison Ford in Air Force One sort of sense. He’s not actually a forceful, quick-thinking leader; he just plays one on TV.

Well, that works fine as long as he has underlings who can do the fast thinking and decision-making in a crisis. As anyone who’s been paying attention should know by now, that’s normally Dick Cheney’s job. But Cheney was out of town, unavailable, and tragically, the top ranks of the executive branch have been systematically purged of intelligent, forceful, independent-minded people capable of acting quickly in a crisis.

George Bush doesn’t like those kinds of people. My personal take on this, from my perspective as a dyed-in-the-wool Bush hater and armchair pseudo-psychologist, is that their competence is a direct challenge to his oh-so-fragile ego, his ever-lurking sense of inadequacy, the bruised inner child he carries from his time growing up in the shadow of a cruel dominatrix of a mother and a distant, over-achieving father.

Put simply, Bush doesn’t value competence. He values loyalty. And the result is that he has surrounded himself with loyal incompetents. (With one exception: his political operation. His image-crafting team is second to none. It’s the one compromise he’s had to make in order to achieve and maintain the position of power his ego needs.)

Anyway, loyal incompetents aren’t much use when the shit is hitting the fan, as we’ve all been seeing over the last few weeks. The government Bush has crafted is basically dysfunctional, and Katrina exposed it as such.

Katrina: What Went Wrong?

Sunday, September 11th, 2005

There are those who believe that if the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times all put out big analysis articles on the aftermath of a hurricane on the same day, and all three of them agree, in large part, as to what went wrong and who was responsible for it, that just means that liberal media bias is at work again.

I am not one of those people.

Sure, there are biases that all reporters and their editors bring to their jobs. But unlike many of the so-called “news organizations” that are shameless advocates for one position or another, the three major US daily newspapers mentioned above embody a culture that to a greater or lesser degree strives for objectivity and accuracy.

Anyway, I think they’ve got the early version of this story pretty well covered. See Kevin Drum’s brief item linking to all three: FEMA’s failures.

Drum summarizes:

As these stories make clear, there’s blame to go around. But as they also make clear, FEMA’s failures were extensive and systemic, and much of its feeble response was due to poor planning, poor execution, a lack of leadership from George Bush, and the inexperience of Bush appointee Mike Brown, who found himself in over his head when the worst happened.

Ashley Nelson: They Betrayed Us. They Left Us There to Die.

Sunday, September 11th, 2005

This American Life is one of my favorite things on radio. If you’ve listened to any of my podcasts, you know that I desperately want to sound like a This American Life episode.

Anyway, whether you’re already a fan of the show or not, you owe it to yourself to listen to yesterday’s broadcast. Norm of Onegoodmove has the audio: After the flood.

It features lengthy interviews with two of the people in that group led by the two San Francisco paramedics, who got kicked out of their hotel several days after the hurricane, and ended up on a surreal odyssey of flooded New Orleans, culminating with their being driven back by sherrifs firing guns over their heads when they attempted to walk out over a freeway bridge.

The program also features a heart-wrenching interview with 18-year-old Ashley Nelson, who lived in a New Orleans housing project, and who survived the aftermath of the hurricane at a relative’s house in a New Orleans suburb. As when I was listening to Aaron Broussard talking about Tom Rodrigue’s momma on Meet the Press, I was moved to tears, but this time I have no doubts about the honesty of the voice I was hearing.

An excerpt:

TAL: How scared were you?

AN: I thought I was gonna die. I mean, I look at it like this now: 9/11 was bad, because it was terrorists. You know, it’s no surprise people hate the United States. It’s no big surprise.

I mean, but New Orleans was worse. Because it was our own goverment who betrayed us. They betrayed us. They betrayed us. Like, they left us there to die.

And then you hear George Bush telling the FEMA man, “You doing a good job.” What do you mean by that? What do you mean by that? Because I mean, people are dying there. So you telling him, he’s doing a good job, what you’re saying, like, that’s good that people are dying?

I never understood that. And I really wish I can meet him, to ask him, what do you mean by that, he’s doing a good job?

Photo Gallery of Katrina and Its Aftermath

Saturday, September 10th, 2005

Via BoingBoing, via Salon, via some dude named Alvaro, a photographic record of what it was like to be in New Orleans for Katrina, and what came after. It takes a while to click through the icky webapp that is kodakgallery.com, but after taking the time to go through the photos and read the captions, I feel like I have a better understanding of what happened there than I did before. Anyway: 5 days with Katrina.