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Give Me That Old Time Government Concern

by Last Night in Little Rock

The biggest story of 2005 on CNN was Katrina and its aftermath, and this blog, as all the others, also exploded with stories about the government's gross mismanagement. "Brownie, you've done a heck of a job" became the catch-phrase for governmental cluelessness.

April 18th is the Centennial of the Great San Francisco Earthquake, and I've started reading up on it. Over the holidays, I read A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906 by Simon Winchester. This was my first installment on the subject.

What shocked me was that the government's response in 1906 was immediate and decisive, unlike 2005.

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Brown Rats Out DHS

by TChris

The Washington Post provides new information about Brownie's (heck of a) job at FEMA. It turns out that Michael Brown warned Homeland Security's Tom Ridge that Ridge's plans for FEMA would "shatter agency morale" and "break longstanding, effective and tested relationships with states and first responder stakeholders" while making a mockery of FEMA's motto: A Nation Prepared.

The inevitable result, he wrote, would be "an ineffective and uncoordinated response" to a terrorist attack or a natural disaster.

At least Brownie got that right. The explanation for FEMA's miserable response to Katrina reaches beyond Brown's legendary incompetence.

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Scapegoating Katrina: Sunday's NY Times

by Last Night in Little Rock

Tomorrow's NY Times has a significant article online tonight about the scapegoating of Hurricane Katrina: In Newly Released Documents, a View of the Storm After Katrina. It started as soon as the water leveled out in NOLA, and Bushinistas were already finding ways to blame everybody but themselves for the lack of preparation. No plan, except plan to shift blame. Worked with everything else to be thrown at Bush for the last five years, so why not then?

The gamesmanship and political posturing were, in a word, amazing. The greatest natural disaster in the history of the United States, maybe other than the 1906 San Francisco earthquake (see below), was a political tool or weapon in the hands of those who consider politics bloodsport without rules.

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End of the Hurricane Season in Key West

by Last Night in Little Rock

Key West: Time again for the annual NORML drug law seminar at the Pier House in Key West. This is the 22d.

Today is the end of the hurricane season, and there was, in Key West sytle, a ceremony for the burning of the hurricane warning flags at sunset, at the Pier House beach, and CNN even thought enough of it as a symbol of the end of a horrendous hurricane season to broadcast it live. Fitting for Key West, the mayor gave a tribute to the dead and displaced from hurricanes throughout the United States, and it was sounded on a conch shell by a man in a pirate costume.

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Gas Prices Drop: Big Oil Must be Sleeping

by Last Night in Little Rock

I-40 Exit 125 @ US65, Conway AR: Exxon, Mobil, Shell, and Phillips 66: $1.849, and they've been that low since Wednesday.

That's slightly more than half the $3.599 I paid over Labor Day weekend. Crude oil was $56.34 last week, down from a high of $70.85 August 30.

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ACLU Sues New Orleans Prison for Katrina Inmate Abuse

Via Halcyon at Daily Kos: The ACLU has sued a New Orleans parish prison for locking up 45 inmates without food or water during Katrina. The suit also alleges abuse by prison guards during this period.

Some prisoners claim that deputies forced them into their cells by shooting bean bags, macing and tasering them; once they were returned to their cells, some deputies handcuffed the cell doors to prevent them from escaping. As the locked cells began to flood, prisoners hung signs out of the broken windows for help, and others jumped into the water below. According to the testimonials, deputies and members of the Special Investigation Division shot at some of the prisoners who were attempting to escape the rising water inside the jail, and several prisoners report that they witnessed fellow prisoners getting shot in the back.

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Administration Stonewalls Katrina Investigation

by TChris

Even some Republicans are growing weary of the administration's efforts to stonewall any investigation that might shed light on its poor performance. Rep. Thomas Davis III leads a Congressional panel investigating the administration's response to Hurricane Katrina. On Sept. 30, the panel asked for "e-mail and other correspondence between officials in the White House and other agencies during the response to the hurricane, as well as agency documents dealing with specific preparations for and responses to Hurricane Katrina." A month would seem more than adequate to collect and produce that information, but the administration has stalled.

To his credit, Davis "threatened to issue subpoenas to compel administration officials to release the documents if they did not comply with the committee's request." The emails disclosed to date reveal that Michael Brown and his deputy director of public affairs at FEMA were more interested in Brown's dining plans and attire than the disaster at hand.

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Brown Dines While Katrina Victims Drown

by TChris

Even as Michael Brown plays the blame game, deflecting attention from his poor response to Hurricane Katrina, other FEMA officials are providing the Senate with honest information:

Marty Bahamonde, a FEMA regional director, told a Senate panel investigating the government's response to the disaster that he gave regular updates to people in contact with then-FEMA Director Michael Brown as early as Aug. 28, one day before Katrina made landfall.

In most cases, he was met with silence.

Brown's press secretary finally responded on Brown's behalf on Aug. 31, complaining via email that not enough time had been allocated for Brown to enjoy his dinner in Baton Rouge. At least we know that Brown's priorities are consistent with the president's: "It's important for me to go on with my life."

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Curfew Eased In New Orleans

by TChris

Eager to return to a happier lifestyle, some New Orleans residents are defying curfews. Bar owners in the French Quarter planned to disobey a midnight curfew until Mayor Nagin extended the curfew to 2 a.m.

Although some bars have been repopulated by prestorm regulars, most of [ Tropical Isle club owner Earl] Bernhardt's patrons are now "Red Cross workers, medical personnel and insurance adjusters who are working long hours" and don't show up until 11:30 p.m., Bernhardt said. The midnight curfew was killing his business, he said.

After New Orleans police administered a post-curfew beating, Nagin announced that the midnight curfew would be strictly enforced, perhaps to protect residents from the police.

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Lobbyists Advise Senate on Katrina Reconstruction

by TChris

One might hope that senators, trying to decide how best to allocate federal funds to rebuild the gulf coast, would consult with urban planners, environmentalists, public health officials, and other experts in relevant fields. Instead, most of the "consultants" advising the senators are lobbyists.

"I was basically shocked," said Ivor van Heerden, director of a hurricane public health research center at Louisiana State University. "What do lobbyists know about a plan for the reconstruction and restoration of Louisiana?"

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NOLA Chief Says Nagin Forced Him Out

by Last Night in Little Rock

NOLA.com reports today that NOPD Police Chief Ray Compass told friends and fellow officers immediately after announcing his retirement that Mayor Ray Nagin forced him out.

Two days ago, we reported here that the retirement would take place after a "transition period." The NOLA.com article makes it clear that Compass is out. CNN tonight had his replacement on tonight.

Under the headline: "Chief fired after heated confrontation / 'He had tears in his eyes. He didn't want to go.'"

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Looting in New Orleans

by TChris

Update: Recent video, via CNN, can be accessed here. Earlier video, via Crooks and Liars, can be accessed here.


In the aftermath of Katrina, some opportunists took advantage of chaos to enrich themselves by theft, while others, desperate to survive, took food and water and other supplies that enhanced their chances of staying alive. The media have done a less than spectacular job of sorting out the two groups.

Starting to come to light, however, is a group of opportunists who were charged with the duty of enforcing the law: members of the New Orleans police department.

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Were New Orleans Inmates Left to Drown?

by TChris

Human Rights Watch reports that the sheriff's department in New Orleans left hundreds of inmates locked in a city jail as flood waters began to rise.

Inmates in Templeman III, one of several buildings in the Orleans Parish Prison compound, reported that as of Monday, August 29, there were no correctional officers in the building, which held more than 600 inmates. These inmates, including some who were locked in ground-floor cells, were not evacuated until Thursday, September 1, four days after flood waters in the jail had reached chest-level.

More than 500 inmates are missing. Were any of them left to drown?

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FEMA's Response to Rita Criticized

by TChris

Did the Bush administration learn from its disaster management mistakes? Having botched its response to Hurricane Katrina, FEMA's work after Hurricane Rita should have been nearly flawless. Should have been.

Saying they were caught off-guard by the number of people in need, FEMA officials closed a relief center early on Wednesday after some of the hundreds of hurricane victims in line began fainting in triple-digit heat.

The midday closing of the Houston disaster relief center came as officials in areas hit hardest by Hurricane Rita criticized FEMA's response to the storm, with one calling for a commission to examine the emergency response.

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McClellen Urges Fuel Conservation, Bush's Seventh Trip to Gulf

by Last Night in Little Rock

TChris noted yesterday the White House's conservation message. In an incredible piece of irony, Presidential Press Secretary Scott McClellan urged Americans to save fuel by eliminating unnecessary trips during the President's seventh day trip to the Gulf Coast for a photo op as noted in today's NY Times. He noted that the Presidential motorcade had fewer vehicles in it, all for a trip of a few hundred feet to meet with local officials. That was an example of the White House conserving.

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