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Carnival Cruise Lines Cashes in with FEMA

by Last Night in Little Rock

In FEMA's haste to play catch-up and provide housing in New Orleans, it contracted with Carnival Cruise Lines for three ships for six months, and did the deal overnight, as reported in today's Washington Post.

The problem with the deal with Carnival was a $236M no-bid contract that effectively paid Carnival twice the per person cost of a cruise, with full crew and entertainment, and the ships never leave port. Yet, the ships are only half occupied, so Carnival reaps even greater profits. Do the math: that's four times the cost of a cruise. Without a full crew, the profit is even greater.

Makes me wonder if anybody at Carnival was a big Republican supporter, or were they just incredibly lucky?

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On Being a Better 'Conserver'

by TChris

A president who jets to the gulf coast seven times in search of photo ops should expect to be lampooned when he urges Americans to be better “conservers” by avoiding unnecessary trips. President Bush has taken heat on Air America all day for promising that federal employees will avoid wasteful travel, all the while traveling on Air Force One for no useful purpose. Dan Froomkin joins the fun:

Bush, who is not known for his strict adherence to grammar when speaking extemporaneously, was unusually unquotable yesterday. Here's a topic Bush knows a lot about: Oil. But his remarks were full of fragment sentences, as well as small-bore statistics and industry lingo.

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NOLA Police Chief Retiring

by Last Night in Little Rock

CNN just reported that NOLA Police Supt. Eddie Compass is retiring as soon as a transition can be established. CNN.com reports today that 15% of the NOLA PD was AWOL, and Compass has determined that a special tribunal will be established to determine their fates.

Update: Wednesday's Times-Picayune and NY Times have the story.

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FEMA's Brown Before the House Defending Self and Agency

by Last Night in Little Rock

FEMA Spokesperson and former Director Michael Brown is presently before a House Committee, reading from a script about what a great job FEMA did and that the local officials simply bickered and couldn't get their act together.

The first questioner, however, is Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA). It is getting interesting. It is on CNN, MSNBC, and C-Span. FoxNews, however, isn't covering it.

Even the CNN talking heads aren't buying this dissembling and blame shifting.

Update: CNN reports that all but two Democrats are boycotting the hearing, thereby, in their estimation, depriving the Committee hearing of some counterpoint, apparently expecting the Republicans to throw softballs. One Representative from Mississippi who lost his house was working Brown over, and Brown wasn't answering questions very well. The NY Times has posted a story with a link to live video.

If this were a trial, the jury wouldn't be believing any of it. My opinion is that he wasn't well prepped, if it was possible in the first place.

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Mike Brown: He's Baaaack

Can you believe this? Raw Story reports that according to CBS News, FEMA has rehired the recently resigned Mike Brown..."as a consultant to evaluate the agency's response to the disaster!"

CBS's Katrina Blog reports:

6:44 p.m. (CBS) — CBS News correspondent Gloria Borger reports that Michael Brown, who recently resigned as the head of the FEMA, has been rehired by the agency as a consultant to evaluate it's response following Hurricane Katrina.

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Katrina No Bid Contracts Making DHS IG "Apprehensive"

by Last Night in Little Rock

Articles about no bid contracts from the Federal Emergency Mismanagement Agency are starting to pile up. Today's NY Times has "Many Contracts for Storm Work Raise Questions" quoting the Inspector General's Office of the Department of Homeland Insecurity.

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Texas Courts, Lawyers and Inmates Sent Packing

The legal, judicial and corrections systems in Texas have been put on hold - and in many cases, sent packing. Prisoners have been moved, courts have closed and extended deadlines, law firms have shut down.

Humor has not, however, been suspended:

At the Galveston County Courthouse, a prerecorded message says all county operations have stopped. For those planning on serving their sentences in the county jail this weekend, the prerecorded message warns: "Do not show up. You'll serve it later."

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A Republican Plan to Audit the Poor

by TChris

This would be funny if it weren't true. Joel Achenbach calls attention to a Republican proposal to find the money that will be needed to help Hurricane Katrina victims: audit the tax returns of poor people to make sure they qualify for the earned income tax credit. Why doesn't the GOP want to audit the rich, or close the myriad loopholes that allow corporations and the nation's wealthiest citizens to avoid tax liability?

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Bold Action: Another Empty Promise?

by TChris

Where is the bold action the president promised to help the poor who were displaced from their gulf coast homes?

[A] measure to make all the evacuees Medicaid-eligible for the next five months (with an option for the president to extend the time) is pending before the Senate in a bill sponsored by the leaders of both parties and the chairman and ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee.

But it appears that the Bush administration, rather than backing this simple and effective measure, is insisting on a slower, more cumbersome approach, requiring each state to negotiate its own waiver from the rules limiting eligibility for Medicaid benefits.

As David Broder observes, "when the president is saying all the right things about the problems of poverty highlighted by the plight of Hurricane Katrina victims, his administration is dragging its feet on practical steps to help meet their needs."

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Rita Open Thread

Here's an open thread on Hurricane Rita. Right now, it's headed either to Houston or New Orleans, according to the tv news. Mostly, the news stations are killing time, waiting for the main event, which may not happen until late Friday or Saturday. Since I have to get back to court, here's a place for you all to discuss it.

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Houston Chronicle Seeks Hurricane Rita Bloggers

The Houston Chronicle wants local hurricane bloggers:

Do you have a blog, live in the Houston-Galveston area and plan to ride the storm out? If so, we'd like your help with an experiment in citizen journalism. We're launching a blog this afternoon called Stormwatchers. We'd like volunteers in key parts of the area with experience blogging to tell us what they're seeing as the Hurricane Rita comes closer, makes landfall and moves on.

We're particularly interested in bloggers who live in the I-45 South corridor; in the Freeport/Angleton area; and the southwest area, including Katy.

More details at the link above. [Via Romanesko.]

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WSJ: GOP Using Katrina Relief to Advance Agenda

by Last Night in Little Rock

The Wall Street Journal reports today that the GOP is using its Katrina relief efforts to support the GOP agenda.

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Oil Profits

by TChris

An economics professor believes oil companies gouged consumers when gas prices soared in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Eight governors have asked the oil president to investigate his oily industry buddies:

"When the wholesale price of gas went up by 60 cents almost overnight, oil companies were obviously using the most devastating natural disaster in our nation's history to reap a windfall at the expense of American consumers," said the letter, which was initiated by Gov. James E. Doyle of Wisconsin and was signed by governors from Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington.

The governors would also like Congress to enact legislation requiring the oil companies to disgorge their excessive profits.

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GOP Proposes Cutting PBS to Finance Katrina Relief

by Last Night in Little Rock

The NY Times today has an article about what the Paleo-Cons in Congress want to cut to finance Katrina relief. But, instead of eliminating current pork barrel spending, like the $250M bridge in Alaska to serve 80 people, PBS is a target:

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Donated Food from UK for Katrina Victims Being Destroyed

by Last Night in Little Rock

UK citizens sent hundreds of tons of food to Katrina victims, but it languished in a warehouse, became unusable or was quarantined because it was from overseas, and was being transported to an FDA warehouse to be incinerated as reported here, written by a UK free lance writer.

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