Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Want to help people, Red Cross NOT the way to go
As of last week, the American Red Cross reported that it had raised $826 million in private funds for Hurricane Katrina victims. The Chronicle of Philanthropy has the total figure at more than $1.2 billion for all relief groups reporting. So the Red Cross received about 70% of all giving.
This skewed giving to Red Cross would be justified if the organization had to pay the cost of the 300,000 people it has sheltered. But FEMA and the affected states are reimbursing the Red Cross under preexisting contracts for emergency shelter and other disaster services. The existence of these contracts is no secret to anyone but the American public.
The national Red Cross reports it spent $111 million last year on fundraising alone...donate blood (which it resells to the tune of more than $1.5 billion annually, part of its $3 billion in income).
After 9/11, the Red Cross collected more than $1 billion, a record in philanthropic fundraising after a disaster.
When New York Atty. Gen. Eliot Spitzer asked for documentation of 9/11 expenditures, the Red Cross' response was that it is federally chartered and not answerable to state government regulators. The clamor rose...resulted in the resignation of the organization's president...and the appointment of ex-Sen. George Mitchell to oversee its 9/11 fund and help clean up its image. Funds were then pushed out the door — including millions to New York limo drivers who said they lost income after 9/11, and to upscale residents of lower Manhattan to help pay their utility bills...
The Red Cross expects to raise more than $2 billion before Hurricane Katrina-related giving subsides. If it takes care of 300,000 people, that's $7,000 per victim. I doubt each victim under Red Cross care will see more than a doughnut, an interview with a social worker and a short-term voucher for a cheap motel, with a few miscellaneous items such as clothes and cooking pots thrown in.
Americans ought to give a much larger share of their generous charity to community foundations, grass-roots nonprofit groups based in the affected communities and a large number of international "brand name" relief agencies with decades of expertise in rebuilding communities after disasters.
The above excerpt is from an opinion piece by Richard M. Walden, who is president and CEO of Operation USA, a 26-year-old international disaster relief agency based in Los Angeles. Website: www.opusa.org.
US Soldiers trade Death Photos for Porn
The Army is investigating complaints that soldiers posted photographs of Iraqi corpses on an Internet site in exchange for access to pornographic images on the site, officials said Tuesday.
An Islamic civil rights group said it wrote to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld objecting to the practice, which it said may violate international laws of war, and urging the Pentagon to bring it to an end.
"This disgusting trade in human misery is an insult to all those who have served in our nation's military," Arsalan Iftikhar, legal director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said in his letter to Rumsfeld.
Bryan Whitman, a spokesman for Rumsfeld, said the Pentagon had recently become aware of Internet postings and is looking into it.
"Obviously, it is an unacceptable practice," Whitman said.
An Army spokesman, Col. Joseph Curtin, said the Criminal Investigation Division recently began investigating the matter on behalf of Lt. Gen. John Vines, commander of the Multinational Corps in Iraq.
Another Army spokesman, Paul Boyce, said later that the preliminary criminal inquiry determined, based on available evidence, that felony charges could not be pursued. But the matter, including the possibility of disciplinary action, was being handled in coordination with other military services, he said.
Many of the photos depict dismembered Iraqi corpses and body parts. Some also were submitted by soldiers in Afghanistan.
Just two examples (WARNING: VERY GRAPHIC AND DISTURBING)
Warning This is Some Hardcore Shit - Not For The Squeamish
Here is the link to the forum in question (while it is still up?)
John Aravosis at AmericaBlog has been on this story like stink and flies on dead bodies. Here are his articles, in order:
- US soldiers allegedly trading pictures of dead Iraqis & Afghanis for porn
- Pentagon is aware of death-for-porn site and basically doesn't care
- The Hotline reports on military's new Do-It-Yourself Abu Ghraib scandal
- Great background on the military porn-for-death-photos scandal
- AP breaks military porn-for-death-photos scandal
- US Army has ALREADY concluded that they won't press charges against soldiers based on the death-photos-for-porn scandal. Gee that was fast.
- BREAKING: Army cancels probe of "war dead for porn" scandal
Need FEMA help? Live like a Caveman.
In the hard-hit refinery towns of Port Arthur and Beaumont, crews struggled to cross debris-clogged streets to deliver generators and water to people stranded by Rita. They predicted it could be a month before power is restored, and said water and sewer systems could not function until more generators arrived.
Red tape was also blamed for the delays.
Port Arthur Mayor Oscar Ortiz, whose own home was destroyed by fire after the hurricane, said "we've had 101 promises" for aid, "but it's all bureaucracy."...
John Owens, emergency management coordinator and deputy police chief in the town of 57,000, said pleas for state and federal relief were met with requests for paperwork.
"We have been living like cavemen, sleeping in cars, doing bodily functions outside," he said.
"There's always going to be those discombobulations, but the fact is, everyone is doing everything possible to restore power back to this area," [Texas Gov. Rick] Perry said.
Friday, September 23, 2005
Witness the effects of Bush's drinking
Once there, you can click and drag Dear Leader to help him. If you want to help him.
Thursday, September 22, 2005
More Trouble for Bush from Sheehan
According to White House sources, President Bush is bracing for intensified criticism following Monday's report that the body of Tyler Sheehan, son of outspoken anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, was recovered from the receding floodwaters in New Orleans...
Before Sheehan moved to New Orleans, he was a struggling coho-salmon fisherman in Oregon's Klamath Basin. However, when the Bush Administration relaxed federal protection of the endangered fish, Sheehan's catch became contaminated with mercury. He gave up fishing and moved to Oakland, CA, where he opened a free clinic, which lost its federal funding in 2002 for giving out oral contraceptives to poor women...
Sheehan was last seen Sept. 4, hours after he and his levee crew sustained injuries while attempting to shore up storm-weakened levee pilings. According to sources, contaminated water laced with slicks of petroleum from a recently deregulated, poorly fortified refinery ignited, causing third-degree burns among the workers. Survivors recall seeing Tyler, badly injured and without the life jacket and medical kit denied him by recent budget cuts, digging survivors out of the wreckage...
And what does Mrs Sheehan say of this lose?
Cindy Sheehan was unavailable for comment, as she was busy trying to contact her lone surviving son Teddy, a meteorologist studying global warming with the International Geophysical Foundation in Antarctica, who is believed to be marooned on a 45-square-mile chunk of the shrinking Ross Ice Shelf that broke off Tuesday morning.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Bush hitting the bottle, again
Faced with the biggest crisis of his political life, President Bush has hit the bottle again, The National Enquirer can reveal...
Family sources have told how the 59-year-old president was caught by First Lady Laura downing a shot of booze at their family ranch in Crawford, Texas, when he learned of the hurricane disaster.
His worried wife yelled at him: "Stop, George."...
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 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...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."
Another source said: "A family member told me they fear George is 'falling apart.'" 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!"
Dr. Justin Frank, a Washington D.C. psychiatrist and author of Bush On The Couch: Inside The Mind Of The President, told The National Enquirer: "I think it's a concern that Bush disappears during times of stress. He spends so much time on his ranch. It's very frightening."
I'm sorry, but I can not resist rumor-mongering on this one. It is like the two posts from Capital Hill Blue. Just fun to see the rumors start flying...
[Update] John Aravosis links to I Believe the National Enquirer, Why don't you? over at Slate which discusses the true reliability of said journal. Turns out, the National Enquirer, along with People, have "a human army of fact-checkers and editors labor[ing] over it every week, making it as accurate as the phone book." A bit of history from Slate:
Almost three decades ago, the National Enquirer abandoned the traditional supermarket tabloid formula of UFOs, bizarre sex, séances, gross-outs, Loch Ness-ish monsters, cooked-up stories, and celebrity gossip for a new formula mostly devoted to celebrities. Striving for the kind of journalistic accuracy that repels libel suits, the tabloid paid many of its sources and scrupulously reported and fact-checked its pieces about Cher, Liz and Dick, Jackie O., Liza, Henry Kissinger, Burt and Loni, and the original Charlie's Angels.
By the time of the 1994 Nicole Brown Simpson-Ron Goldman murders, the Enquirer truth machine had become so good that reporter David Margolick was toasting it in the New York Times for scooping the competition—and applauding it for spiking many of the false stories that appeared in mainstream media.
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Top White House Katrina Personal Arrested
[F]or a White House so desperate to build public confidence in its ability to respond to the Gulf Coast disaster, it doesn't exactly help that the man who up until Friday was overseeing contracting policy for the multi-billion dollar [Katrina] relief effort has now been charged with lying and obstructing a criminal investigation.
"The complaint, filed by the FBI, alleges that David H. Safavian, 38, a White House procurement official involved until last week in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, made repeated false statements to government officials and investigators about a golf trip with Abramoff to Scotland in 2002."
"His wife, Jennifer Safavian, is chief counsel for oversight and investigations on the House Government Reform Committee, which is responsible for overseeing government procurement and is, among other things, expected to conduct the Congressional investigation into missteps after Hurricane Katrina."
Just recently, Safavian was the administration's point man when it came to one of the controversial measures in the White House's recent $51.8 billion supplemental aid request: The boosting from $15,000 to $250,000 of the upper limit for purchases made with government-issued credit cards. Critics said the change will allow card holders to circumvent important measures to curb fraud and cronyism.
Sunday, September 18, 2005
Bush gives New Orleans speech, drops in the polls
Thirty-five percent (35%) of Americans now say that President Bush has done a good or excellent job responding to Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. That's down from 39% before his speech from New Orleans.Which is to say, Bush gets a 4% drop by giving his "how do I button my shirt" speech.
|Bush Response to Katrina||Sep 12-13||Sep 16-17||Change|
The best part is all the damage is to his base support:
Following the speech, the President's rating for handling the Katrina crisis fell eight points among Republicans (from 71% good or excellent to 63%). The President also draws good or excellent marks from 11% of Democrats and 31% of those not affiliated with either major political party.
Friday, September 16, 2005
Bush takes responsibility, seeks to blame environmentists
Federal officials appear to be seeking proof to blame the flood of New Orleans on environmental groups, documents show.
The Clarion-Ledger has obtained a copy of an internal e-mail the U.S. Department of Justice sent out this week to various U.S. attorneys' offices: "Has your district defended any cases on behalf of the (U.S.) Army Corps of Engineers against claims brought by environmental groups seeking to block or otherwise impede the Corps work on the levees protecting New Orleans? If so, please describe the case and the outcome of the litigation."
Cynthia Magnuson, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, said Thursday she couldn't comment "because it's an internal e-mail."
Shown a copy of the e-mail, David Bookbinder, senior attorney for Sierra Club, remarked, "Why are they (Bush administration officials) trying to smear us like this?"
The Sierra Club and other environmental groups had nothing to do with the flooding that resulted from Hurricane Katrina that killed hundreds, he said. "It's unfortunate that the Bush administration is trying to shift the blame to environmental groups. It doesn't surprise me at all."
Potemkin on the Bayou
I am duty-bound to report the talk of the New Orleans warehouse district last night: there was rejoicing (well, there would have been without the curfew, but the few people I saw on the streets were excited) when the power came back on for blocks on end. Kevin Tibbles was positively jubilant on the live update edition of Nightly News that we fed to the West Coast. The mini-mart, long ago cleaned out by looters, was nonetheless bathed in light, including the empty, roped-off gas pumps. The motorcade route through the district was partially lit no more than 30 minutes before POTUS drove through. And yet last night, no more than an hour after the President departed, the lights went out. The entire area was plunged into total darkness again, to audible groans. It's enough to make some of the folks here who witnessed it... jump to certain conclusions.
(The guy can not even button his shirt correctly)
Potemkin villages were, purportedly, fake settlements erected at the direction of Russian minister Grigori Aleksandrovich Potemkin to fool Empress Catherine II during her visit to Crimea in 1787. Conventional wisdom has it that Potemkin, who led the Crimean military campaign, had hollow facades of villages constructed along the desolate banks of the Dnieper river in order to impress the monarch and her travel party with the value of her new conquests, thus enhancing his standing in the empress's eyes.
FEMA to truckers with water: no paperwork so go away
EMA halted tractor trailers hauling water to a supply staging area in Alexandria, Louisiana, The New York Times quoted William Vines, former mayor of Fort Smith, Arkansas, as saying. "FEMA would not let the trucks unload," he told the newspaper. "The drivers were stuck for several days on the side of the road" because, he said, they did not have a "tasker number." He added, "What in the world is a tasker number? I have no idea. It's just paperwork and it's ridiculous."
FEMA turns away sheriffs while New Orleans descents into anarchy
Steve Simpson, sheriff of Loudoun County, Virginia, sent 22 deputies equipped with food and water to last seven days. Their 14-car caravan, including four all-terrain vehicles, was on the road just three hours when they were told to turn back. The reason, Simpson told CNN: A Louisiana state police official told them not to come. " I said, "What if we just show up?' He says, 'You probably won't get in.'" Simpson said he later learned a dispute over whether state or federal authorities would command the law enforcement effort was being ironed out that night. But no one ever got back to him with the all-clear.
FEMA gives Doctors mops while people die
Dr. Bong Mui and his staff, evacuated with 300 patients after three hellish days at Chalmette Medical Center, arrived at the New Orleans airport, and were amazed to see hundreds of sick people. They offered to help. But, the doctor told CNN, FEMA officials said they were worried about legal liability. "They told us that, you know, you could help us by mopping the floor." And so they mopped, while people died around them. "I started crying," he recalled. "We felt like we could help, and were not allowed to do anything."(Video at CNN)
That has got to be criminal, even if the FEMA folks are federal workers. If you can get indicted for leaving old people to die in a nursing home, shouldn't there be indictments for those that keep doctors away from injured people dying.
Thursday, September 15, 2005
Condi: Bush needs to pee
(mouse over for enhanced version)
Caption: U.S. President George W. Bush writes a note to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during a Security Council meeting at the 2005 World Summit and 60th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York September 14, 2005. World leaders are exploring ways to revitalize the United Nations at a summit on Wednesday but their blueprint falls short of Secretary-General Kofi Annan's vision of freedom from want, persecution and war. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
This is a real Reuters photo. Here is the link to their site. And here.
More on this from Gelf Magazine, Bush's Bathroom Break: The Photographer Speaks:
Rick Wilking left New Orleans a few days ago, after spending almost a week documenting the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He came to New York to document the 9/11 anniversary and to cover the UN World Summit. While the photographs he took in New Orleans are more powerful images, it is a silly note from the president to Condoleezza Rice that he captured that has garnered the most attention.(More at the article, including examples of his images from New Orleans.)
“I think I May Need A Bathroom break? Is this possible”
Yes, the note is real. And yes, the president really wrote it. “It was shot at a pretty good distance,” Wilking tells Gelf. “I had no idea what was on the paper.” Until, that is, the editors at Reuters enlarged it. “I was just as surprised as you,” Wilking says.
Perhaps one reason Wilking is not afraid is that he just underwent one of the more Hellish weeks in American history. In his account of his time in New Orleans for Reuters, Wilking describes the scenes of death and violence that he encountered in the days after the hurricane but before the National Guard restored order. “It was bordering on total anarchy,” says Wilking. “The bad guys were taking advantage. They sensed blood in the water,” he adds, saying that the scene reminded him of covering the war in Haiti.
What REALLY happened at the U.N. (A photo montage)
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
NOAA/NWS knew of levee breach morning of Monday 29th
WGUS54 KLIX 291316
BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
FLASH FLOOD WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE NEW ORLEANS LA
814 AM CDT MON AUG 29 2005
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN NEW ORLEANS HAS ISSUED A
* FLASH FLOOD WARNING FOR...
ORLEANS PARISH IN SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA
THIS INCLUDES THE CITIES OF...NEW ORLEANS
ST. BERNARD PARISH IN SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA
THIS INCLUDES THE CITY OF CHALMETTE
* UNTIL 215 PM CDT
* A LEVEE BREACH OCCURRED ALONG THE INDUSTRIAL CANAL AT TENNESSE
STREET. 3 TO 8 FEET OF WATER IS EXPECTED DUE TO THE BREACH.
* LOCATIONS IN THE WARNING INCLUDE BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO ARABI AND
9TH WARD OF NEW ORLEANS.
DO NOT DRIVE YOUR VEHICLE INTO AREAS WHERE THE WATER COVERS THE
ROADWAY. THE WATER DEPTH MAY BE TOO GREAT TO ALLOW YOUR CAR TO CROSS
SAFELY. VEHICLES CAUGHT IN RISING WATER SHOULD BE ABANDONED QUICKLY.
MOVE TO HIGHER GROUND.
A FLASH FLOOD WARNING MEANS THAT FLOODING IS IMMINENT OR OCCURRING.
IF YOU ARE IN THE WARNING AREA MOVE TO HIGHER GROUND IMMEDIATELY.
RESIDENTS LIVING ALONG STREAMS AND CREEKS SHOULD TAKE IMMEDIATE
PRECAUTIONS TO PROTECT LIFE AND PROPERTY. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CROSS
SWIFTLY FLOWING WATERS OR WATERS OF UNKNOWN DEPTH BY FOOT OR BY
In short, the Federal Government, in the form of NOAA/NWS, knew about at least one breached levee and flooding Monday morning. Before the worst of Hurricane Katrina (not Corrina) had come ashore . That FEMA and Bush didn't know is their problem.
Monday, September 12, 2005
Q: What is Bush's position on Roe vs. Wade?
A: He really doesn't care how people get out of New Orleans.
Saturday, September 10, 2005
Neo-Griot New Orleans Project
We will go to the shelters and far-flung communities where significant numbers of exiled New Orleanians are now residing. We will collect their stories — not simply their memories of escaping our flooded city, but also a social profile of who they are, what their day to day lives were, what were their hopes and dreams, their challenges and struggles.
Too often when major historic events take place, those who are live at the margins of the mainstream are ignored. We know what the presidents and generals did, we know what the business leaders and major cultural figures thought, but do we know anything about the poor, the disenfranchised, the people of the Dome, the overpass, as well as those who left the city on Sunday and as of Tuesday night had no city to return to?
During the Great Depression the WPA collected the stories of people who had experienced slavery. Today we will collect the stories of people who survived a defining moment in American and World History.
We are neo-griots. Griot refers to the traditional West African historians/story-tellers/musicians. Neo refers to digital technology. Our goal is to write, to record, to photograph and video the stories of survival, and to share these stories with the world via the internet.
The project will be led by Kalama ya Salaam, a New Orleans native, internationally recognized as a cultural historian and creative writer. Among his many accomplishments, he was the Executive Director of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation from 1983 to 1987, and was serving as the co-director of Students at the Center, a creative writing program in the New Orleans public schools. Salaam taught writing and digital video. As the editor of the Black Collegian magazine (1970 - 1983) Salaam published over a hundred interviews. He was also a member of the Free Southern Theatre, which toured the deep south. For the last ten years, Salaam has been leading the Neo-Griot Workshop, a weekly gathering of New Orleans writers of color.
Friday, September 09, 2005
From those that survived New Orleans
You will never know what happened in that city during the flood. We saw people climbing to the attics of the houses, and then the water rose to where the whole house was under water. I'm sure those people never made it out. They died in their houses. I saw women with three-day-old babies in the Superdome, in the pitch black all night. With people shooting and dying. All you see in TV is the looters. But people were breaking into stores to get food. No one knew when help was coming. It was days, and we thought they had forgotten about us. There were old people, sick people. They should have sent in the army right away, but no one did anything. You will never hear the real story of what happened in those days.
Friday, August 26
Saturday, August 27
Sunday, August 28
Monday, August 29
Tuesday, August 30
Wednesday, August 31
Thursday, September 1
Friday, September 2
Saturday, September 3
War on Weather
Editors starting to call for Bush resign
The disastrous federal response to Katrina exposes a record of incompetence, misjudgment and ideological blinders that should lead to serious doubts that the Bush administration should be allowed to continue in office.
When taxpayers have raised, borrowed and spent $40 billion to $50 billion a year for the past four years for homeland security but the officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency cannot find their own hands in broad daylight for four days while New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast swelter, drown and die, it is time for them to go.
When President Bush stays on vacation and attends social functions for two days in the face of disaster before finally understanding that people are starving, crying out and dying, it is time for him to go.
When FEMA officials cannot figure out that there are thousands stranded at the New Orleans convention center - where people died and were starving - and fussed ineffectively about the same problems in the Superdome, they should be fired, not praised, as the president praised FEMA Director Michael Brown in New Orleans last week.
When repeated studies of New Orleans make it clear that tens of thousands of people would be unable to evacuate the city in case of a flood, lacking both money and transportation, but FEMA makes no effort before the storm to commandeer buses and move them to safety, it is time for someone to be given his walking papers.
When the president of the United States points the finger away from the lame response of his administration to Katrina and tries to finger local officials in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, La., as the culprits, he betrays the unwillingness of this administration to speak truth and hold itself accountable. As in the case of the miserable execution of policy in Iraq, Mr. Bush and Karl Rove always have some excuse for failure other than their own misjudgments.
We have a president who is apparently ill-informed, lackadaisical and narrow-minded, surrounded by oil baron cronies, religious fundamentalist crazies and right-wing extremists and ideologues. He has appointed officials who give incompetence new meaning, who replace the positive role of government with expensive baloney.
One with Grover Norquist, they were determined to shrink Washington until it was "small enough to drown in a bathtub." Katrina has stripped the veil from this mean-spirited strategy, exposing the greed, mindlessness and sheer profiteering behind it.
It is time to hold them accountable - this ugly, troglodyte crowd of Capital Beltway insiders, rich lawyers, ideologues, incompetents and their strap-hangers should be tarred, feathered and ridden gracefully and mindfully out of Washington and returned to their caves, clubs in hand.
George Bush Doesn't Care About Black People
Thursday, September 08, 2005
Bush: Worst Disaster to hit the U.S.
"I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees."
From ABC News:
The next day [Sunday, Aug 28], President Bush listened in on a FEMA conference call during which [National Hurricane Center Director] Mayfield warned of a storm surge of more than 20 feet of water rolling over levees.
"FEMA is not going to hesitate at all in this storm," [FEMA Director Michael "Brownie"] Brown said. "We are not going to sit back and make this a bureaucratic process. We are going to move fast, we are going to move quickly and we are going to do whatever it takes to help disaster victims."
FEMA Insiders Uncertain About Preparedness
Bureaucracy, Budget Cuts Said to Contribute to Slow Response
In a post-9/11 era, some say, the government let preparedness for natural disasters take a backseat to terrorism.
FEMA was an independent agency, answering directly to the president, until it was folded into the Department of Homeland Security two years ago.
However, the latest government figures show that 75 cents out of every $1 spent on emergency preparedness goes to anti-terrorism programs. Well before Katrina, FEMA insiders were sounding the alarm.
"All of us were just shaking our heads and saying, 'This isn't going to be enough, and the director has to know this isn't going to be enough.' But nothing more seemed to be happening," said Leo Bosner, president of the FEMA Headquarters Employees Union.
Bosner has been with FEMA since it began 26 years ago. He says the agency has been systematically dismantled since it became part of the massive Department of Homeland Security.
"One of the big differences I see," said Bosner, "besides taking away our staff and our budget and our training, is that Homeland Security now, in my view, slows down the process."
The union warned Congress in a detailed letter about FEMA's decline a year ago. State emergency managers also warned Capitol Hill and Homeland Security just weeks ago that DHS was too focused on one thing -- terrorism.
"We've had almost zero support for a natural disaster and an all-hazards approach," said Eric Holdeman, director of the King County Office of Emergency Management in Washington State. "It's been terrorism only."
The Department of Homeland Security insists FEMA has been enhanced by being part of a large department with vast resources, but critics say that was not evident in the response to this disaster.
More stories from inside New Orleans
When offered a bottle of water, Kenyatta Porter didn’t even want to look at it. "Gatorade, something, I don’t want any water," she said.
Porter spent many days looking at water — the water from Hurricane Katrina that flooded her home chest deep; water that quickly turned into a pool of chemicals, oil and bodies. "I saw a 7-day-old baby floating in the water," Porter said. "In the past seven days, we’ve been through pure hell,"
Bell and Porter were in their east New Orleans homes when Katrina hit. After the flooding, they were stuck in their homes for three days before being rescued and taken to the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
But a safe haven was nowhere to be found, and instead, many people at the convention center turned into predators. "They killed children; they slit little girls’ throats," Porter said.
Bell expressed frustration with President George Bush about what she described as a much-delayed response from the federal government. "You’re sending people away (to other countries), and you can’t even take care of your own goddamned country," Bell said.
Cedric Jones, 17, isn’t as upset with Bush. Instead, he blames those who refused to let the entire story out to the public. "Bush doesn’t know what’s going on until somebody tells him," Jones said.
For three days, Jones sat on the roof of his house, with no food or water.
He flagged helicopters from the rooftop, but they all passed him by. Jones hitched a ride with a stranger and headed to New Orleans, where he was stopped by police, loaded up in the back of a U-Haul and taken to the convention center.
At least he had the bare necessities back in Slidell. He would have preferred staying on the roof — even after an encounter with a bear. "I went from being a computer geek to a warrior the next day," Jones said.
Once he arrived at the convention center, Jones found bodies, people urinating on the carpet, and others vomiting from the smell.
Jones’ only sustenance was from items looted from stores. "If it weren’t for the people looting, we wouldn’t be alive today," he said.
But many never made it out alive. Jones said one casualty included a man who attempted to stop a rape at the convention center. When the man approached an officer to alert him of the crime, the officer turned around and shot the person reporting the crime, Jones said. "It felt like we were in Iraq or something. (Police) told us, ‘You leave, you get shot.’ We had no choice but to live in that condition."
The convention center was too packed for Willie Rollins, who was taken by National Guard troops to the Harrah’s Casino in downtown New Orleans after several days on the I-10 bypass near the Superdome.
Rollins picked up his best friend, Ernest Bienemy, and headed to the bypass, where other New Orleanians were left stranded. The two friends helped float a group of children to the bypass, and passed a number of dead bodies.
The corpses became so commonplace that — after a while — it was no longer a shock to see them floating in the polluted waters.
Now, he’s seeking the whereabouts of his wife, Yolanda Duncan Rollins, and any of his 14 children.
He never wants to go back to New Orleans to live.
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
Tales from inside the Astrodome
10:57 Raw transcript of comments by NOLA evacuee Clara Barthelemy: "The 17th street levee was bombed by the Army Corps of Engineers to save the more valuable real estate in the city… to keep the French Quarter protected, the ninth ward was sacrificed… people are afraid to speak out… everyone who was near there heard the bombings… they bombed seven times. That's why they didn't fix the levees… 20 feet of water. Gators. People dying in water. They let the parishes go, not the city center. Tourist trap was saved over human life. A six year old girl was raped in here.. 9 year old boy killed. A man in the shower beaten. No hot food. No help for elderly."
Another evacuee: "Over 20 rapes per night happening inside this place. They bring in national guard for media purposes. Bush wants us to stay here to raise his ratings. Some workers are stealing the good stuff, like shoes."
11:16: Rough transcript of comments by NOLA evacuee, male: "We are treated like prisoners here. Placed under mandatory curfew. We are citizens!"
11:22 Now I'm speaking to someone else, another woman, who says some people report having witnessed "bomb sounds," believe 17th street levee and others were blown up to manage water flow and protect more valuable portions of real estate.
Evacuee Dianne Stafford: "They blew the levee to save the city…" Saying a barge broke the levee. She is from St. Bernard Parish. "More expensive places were saved at the expense of the neighborhoods that aren't as valuable… Rebuilding Bourbon Street matters more to the government… that's what mattered to Governor Blanco…"
11:36 I'm speaking to a man who's been wearing the exact same pair of 2XL stretch pants since the storm hit. Some clothing is available for evacuees, but he is a large man and can't find anything available to fit his body. He's a diabetic but has good medical care. This so depressing. Its so hard to not cry when you hear this shit. The very large and very old have little help.
11:59 CNN have no problem getting in. Nobody's stopping them from accessing the floor, but other credentialed press who already have press badges are being stopped.
12:09 Evacuees I'm talking to are all telling me about rapes, murders, beatings which are taking place inside the Astrodome.
12:24 Man I'm speaking to, Danny Smith, says he cannot get housing because he has a felony. Aid workers found him a house but he is a felon, so they turned him away. FEMA has agreed to pay for his apartment, but he cannot get one. "Everyone has a felony here," he says. He thinks that people are going to riot
12:29 Evacuee Irvin Skinner: We have a curfew. We're being kept inside after 11pm. Forced to stay inside. They threw guns on everyone. Said 'come inside or your out of here'. Shoved guns, pointed them at adults. I'm a grown man, I have rights. This is an instituion to us, it's like a jail. I'm a middle class man with a home being trated like a criminal because I'm black. If we were white, we wouldn't have this problem."
"We are not here by choice."
13:03 Harris County will not allow any radio station inside without a FEMA form even if operator has FCC permission. Austin Airwaves says trying to get form now, been waiting 2.5 days. No radio station inside the dome until that form is filled out.
Before you dismiss all these reports as wild rumors, remember that reports of deaths and violence inside the New Orleans Superdome and Convention Center were dismissed as "rumor" in early days by authorities before reporters proved them to be true.
US Gov't: No Pics of the Dead
Forced to defend what some critics consider its slow response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said on Tuesday it does not want the news media to take photographs of the dead as they are recovered from New Orleans.
"We have requested that no photographs of the deceased be made by the media," the spokeswoman told Reuters via e-mail.
On Wednesday, journalist groups protested the move.
"It's impossible for me to imagine how you report a story whose subject is death without allowing the public to see images of the subject of the story," Larry Siems of the PEN American Center told Reuters.
New Orleans' evacutees fenced-in in Denver
If I didn't know better, I'd have thought I was peering through the fence at a concentration camp.
The signs on the buildings say "Community College of Aurora," though for now they're serving as an impromptu Camp Katrina. About 160 hurricane survivors are being housed in the dorms, surrounded by fences, roadblocks, security guards and enough armed police officers to invade Grenada.
There's a credentials unit to process every visitor, an intake unit to provide identification tags and a bag of clothes to every evacuee, several Salvation Army food stations, portable toilets, shuttle buses, a green army-tent chapel with church services three times a day and a communications team to keep reporters as far away from actual news as possible.
It probably was easier for a reporter to get inside Gitmo on Tuesday than to penetrate the force field around Lowry.
But survivors occasionally breached the lockdown and came to the fence to tell their stories, each one astonishing.
All day Tuesday, people arrived at the Lowry site. A truck from Mountain Man Nut and Fruit Co. pulled in to deliver supplies. Volunteers came to offer counseling and help finding housing, furniture and clothing for evacuees.
Kathy Arford, who owns a small remodeling company, Kateri Homes, arrived offering two jobs at $10 an hour.
"I need help," she said, "and I can teach people how to do the work."
The only problem was she couldn't get near the survivors.
"I've spent two hours trying to find somebody who'll listen to me," she said.
She wants to give a couple of desperate people a chance at a new life. She just needs to get through the fence.
Monday, September 05, 2005
Olbermann is pissed about Fed response to Katrina
Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff said it all, starting his news briefing Saturday afternoon: "Louisiana is a city that is largely underwater..."
Well there's your problem right there.
If ever a slip-of-the-tongue defined a government's response to a crisis, this was it.
The seeming definition of our time and our leaders had been their insistence on slashing federal budgets for projects that might’ve saved New Orleans. The seeming characterization of our government that it was on vacation when the city was lost, and could barely tear itself away from commemorating V.J. Day and watching Monty Python's Flying Circus, to at least pretend to get back to work. The seeming identification of these hapless bureaucrats: their pathetic use of the future tense in terms of relief they could’ve brought last Monday and Tuesday — like the President, whose statements have looked like they’re being transmitted to us by some kind of four-day tape-delay.
But no. The incompetence and the ludicrous prioritization will forever be symbolized by one gaffe by of the head of what is ironically called “The Department of Homeland Security”: “Louisiana is a city…”
Politician after politician — Republican and Democrat alike — has paraded before us, unwilling or unable to shut off the "I-Me" switch in their heads, condescendingly telling us about how moved they were or how devastated they were — congenitally incapable of telling the difference between the destruction of a city and the opening of a supermarket.
And as that sorry recital of self-absorption dragged on, I have resisted editorial comment. The focus needed to be on the efforts to save the stranded — even the internet's meager powers were correctly devoted to telling the stories of the twin disasters, natural... and government-made.
But now, at least, it is has stopped getting exponentially worse in Mississippi and Alabama and New Orleans and Louisiana (the state, not the city). And, having given our leaders what we know now is the week or so they need to get their act together, that period of editorial silence I mentioned, should come to an end.
No one is suggesting that mayors or governors in the afflicted areas, nor the federal government, should be able to stop hurricanes. Lord knows, no one is suggesting that we should ever prioritize levee improvement for a below-sea-level city, ahead of $454 million worth of trophy bridges for the politicians of Alaska.
But, nationally, these are leaders who won re-election last year largely by portraying their opponents as incapable of keeping the country safe. These are leaders who regularly pressure the news media in this country to report the reopening of a school or a power station in Iraq, and defies its citizens not to stand up and cheer. Yet they couldn't even keep one school or power station from being devastated by infrastructure collapse in New Orleans — even though the government had heard all the "chatter" from the scientists and city planners and hurricane centers and some group whose purposes the government couldn't quite discern... a group called The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
And most chillingly of all, this is the Law and Order and Terror government. It promised protection — or at least amelioration — against all threats: conventional, radiological, or biological.
It has just proved that it cannot save its citizens from a biological weapon called standing water.
Mr. Bush has now twice insisted that, "we are not satisfied," with the response to the manifold tragedies along the Gulf Coast. I wonder which "we" he thinks he's speaking for on this point. Perhaps it's the administration, although we still don't know where some of them are. Anybody seen the Vice President lately? The man whose message this time last year was, 'I'll Protect You, The Other Guy Will Let You Die'?
I don't know which 'we' Mr. Bush meant.
For many of this country's citizens, the mantra has been — as we were taught in Social Studies it should always be — whether or not I voted for this President — he is still my President. I suspect anybody who had to give him that benefit of the doubt stopped doing so last week. I suspect a lot of his supporters, looking ahead to '08, are wondering how they can distance themselves from the two words which will define his government — our government — "New Orleans."
For him, it is a shame — in all senses of the word. A few changes of pronouns in there, and he might not have looked so much like a 21st Century Marie Antoinette. All that was needed was just a quick "I'm not satisfied with my government's response." Instead of hiding behind phrases like "no one could have foreseen," had he only remembered Winston Churchill's quote from the 1930's. "The responsibility," of government, Churchill told the British Parliament "for the public safety is absolute and requires no mandate. It is in fact, the prime object for which governments come into existence."
In forgetting that, the current administration did not merely damage itself — it damaged our confidence in our ability to rely on whoever is in the White House.
As we emphasized to you here all last week, the realities of the region are such that New Orleans is going to be largely uninhabitable for a lot longer than anybody is yet willing to recognize. Lord knows when the last body will be found, or the last artifact of the levee break, dug up. Could be next March. Could be 2100. By then, in the muck and toxic mire of New Orleans, they may even find our government's credibility.
Somewhere, in the City of Louisiana.
Video availible here: http://media.putfile.com/OlbermannSwings
Sunday, September 04, 2005
Survivor story from New Orleans
I don't want to engage in arguments for or against Mayor Nagin. There was ineptitude enough all the way around. The NOPD served absolutely no purpose, the Superdome was a nightmare and the Morial Center was damned lucky to avoid a full blown riot by Thurs. at approx. 10 am. The La. State Police were guarding imaginary lines and putting on shows worthy of the Wehrmacht, the State Wildlife Rangers and others literally were riding around in circles with their boats on trailers all day Wed. (which really wasn't wet) and a National Guard Lt. admitted to me when they arrived at the Morial Center on Wed. at 2 pm that they didn't have the foggiest idea as to what they were to do.
I know this because I was there until late Thurs and saw this crap first hand. I saw the babies literally dying in the streets, bodies being dumped in the dumpsters outside the Morial Center, and was amazed by our finding 6-7 foot tall stacks of cases of all kinds of water, juices and pop when the bodies began to stink.
Nagin's anger was understandable because at the time in Louisiana EVERY OTHER state and most fed leaders were breaking their arms patting themselves on the back and COMPLETELY CLUELESS as to what was going on on the streets. They were happily claiming victory over a natural disaster that they percieved as the worst in Am. History --- really, some of them seemed gleeful in their "resolve"???? It was easy to show the rioters and to dismiss them as subhuman, but I was in a smaller crowd of sixty that looted the hell out of a food court, food stored in the Center and a drugstore so we could feed ourselves and get medicine. Even alot of the "clowns" were actually stealing stacks of children's clothes, food and ice and offering them to anyone who needed them. When a cop first saw me with 2 cases of water and a am-fm walkman he called me "pathethic" and dismissed me as every other looting a-hole.
I nearly exploded, but telling a jerk to go DOPE himself would not have done me or my teeth much good in the long run.
Maybe later I will write more, but right now I haven't been able to really sleep since last Sat. night/Sun. morning. I will leave you all with this, the situation was far worse than TV shows, I was a part of a group estimated to be between 7 & 30,000 at various points that the powers that weren't didn't claim to know existed even though, a) a captain in the NOPD and Sgt. in the La State Troopers first told me about it on Tues., b) that was sitting next to the HQ of a number of Guard units and NO Harbor Police, c) a place where a lot of the evacuees were taken by the assorted police forces for rescue, and d) a place that received no food or water until the media alerted the public (Thurs. at 5:30 pm). --- oh yeah, which also was in the direct original path of the "rescue" buses headed for the Superdome.
How I got stuck there is amazing, but I have one helluva bone to pick with American Airlines -- and I will leave it at that... I have personally seen too many dead bodies, had to steal and think about stealing more shit than you can imagine, and am so fucking tired that it hurts to sit here.
Please call someone to express outrage. My small group of tourists and displaced families with the most well behaved kids called no less than five national consulates and were nearly overrun in an almost riot because it a bad situation that nearly proved deadly, and were copies of dozens of similar groups, some of which may still be there.
Good night all.
For the back story, see this DailyKos diary.
Saturday, September 03, 2005
FEMA rejects Chicago's offer of assistance
A visibly angry Mayor Daley said the city had offered emergency, medical and technical help to the federal government as early as Sunday to assist people in the areas stricken by Hurricane Katrina, but as of Friday, the only things the feds said they wanted was a single tank truck.
That truck, which the Federal Emergency Management Agency requested to support an Illinois-based medical team, was en route Friday.
Daley said the city offered 36 members of the firefighters' technical rescue teams, eight emergency medical technicians, search-and-rescue equipment, more than 100 police officers as well as police vehicles and two boats, 29 clinical and 117 non-clinical health workers, a mobile clinic and eight trained personnel, 140 Streets and Sanitation workers and 29 trucks, plus other supplies. City personnel are willing to operate self-sufficiently and would not depend on local authorities for food, water, shelter and other supplies, he said.
Friday, September 02, 2005
New Orleans has been cleansed of sin
Rev. Bill Shanks, pastor of New Covenant Fellowship of New Orleans, also sees God's mercy in the aftermath of Katrina. Shanks says the hurricane has wiped out much of the rampant sin common to the city.
“New Orleans now is abortion free. New Orleans now is Mardi Gras free. New Orleans now is free of Southern Decadence and the sodomites, the witchcraft workers, false religion -- it's free of all of those things now. God simply, I believe, in His mercy purged all of that stuff out of there -- and now we're going to start over again.
"We don't want a Supreme Court that is going to say it's all right to kill little boys and girls, ... it's all right to take prayer out of schools, and it's all right to legalize sodomy, opening the door for same-sex marriage and all of that.”
Shanks heeded warnings to evacuate New Orleans, and is currently staying with friends in the Jackson, Mississippi, area.