Friday, September 30, 2005

More compare and contrast

FEMA's evacuee housing plans fall short
After Hurricane Katrina left hundreds of thousands of people homeless, the Federal Emergency Management Agency signed contracts for more than $2 billion in temporary housing, including more than 125,000 trailers and mobile homes. But just 109 Louisiana families are living in those units.

A month after the disaster, the federal government's temporary housing effort is stumbling.

The inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security said Wednesday that FEMA is freezing many orders for trailers, although the agency disputes that.
In a week, Navy Seabees build temporary housing for 74 families
With a pneumatic hammer that can spit a nail into plywood in a microsecond, Seabee Builder Jason Speck and a couple of his buddies can install a floor in a 32-foot-long cabin in no time at all.

"That one took 10 minutes," Speck, of Chamberlain, S.D., said one afternoon this week. "We can go a lot faster if they keep enough material coming to us."

The cabin will house one of 74 families that will become part of a village that 26 U.S. Navy Seabees are building in a former public park in Pass Christian.


In the village taking shape, each family will live in a 32-by-16-foot cabinlike unit raised about three feet off the ground on wood pilings. The cabins have wooden floors and walls and insulated plastic roofs supported by a lumber framework. They can be heated or air-conditioned. Each has a front and back door and stairs leading to hastily constructed streets.

A bank has set up an office in a recreational vehicle across the street. A school bus is expected to show up Monday to take children to three area schools that have reopened. Another team of Seabees is finishing two large storage buildings for showers and laundry services.

The three communities, when completed, will house about 200 families that will be encouraged to stay as long as it takes to arrange for permanent homes, Rafferty said.

No such units are scheduled for construction in Louisiana, said Navy Master Chief Matthew Cabral. "We haven't been asked," he said.

Navy Chief Troy Emery of Norfolk, Va., said the crew can build quickly because the sections of each housing unit are prefabricated at a nearby Seabee base in Long Beach and need only be fastened in place.

"The motivation for these guys is all around," said Emery, 39, whose wife grew up in Long Beach. "Just look at these wrecked homes. They want to work hard. They're happy to do it."
Note to FEMA: You can contact the Seabees here or call 757-462-7992.

FYI - when it says "click here", it means move the mouse so the cursor is on the word "here" and click.

And you'll have to dial a "1" before dialing that phone number.

Oh, and "FYI" means "For Your Information".

I'm in the wrong business

Fixing roofs on Gulf Coast proves costly for taxpayers
Across the hurricane ravaged Gulf Coast, thousands upon thousands of blue tarps are being nailed to wind-damaged roofs, a visible sign of government assistance.

The blue sheeting — a godsend to residents whose homes are threatened by rain — is rapidly becoming the largest roofing project in the nation's history.

It isn't coming cheap.

Knight Ridder has found that a lack of oversight, generous contracting deals and poor planning mean that government agencies are shelling out as much as 10 times what the temporary fix would normally cost.

The government is paying contractors an average of $2,480 for less than two hours of work to cover each damaged roof — even though it's also giving them endless supplies of blue sheeting for free.


n normal circumstances, Lowery said, his company would charge $300 to tarp a 2000-square-foot roof in Austin. For that same size job, the government is paying $2,980 to $3,500, or about 10 times as much, plus additional administrative fees that can't be readily calculated.
We had our roof entirely re-shingled several years ago, plus venting in the soffits for about $1700.00.

I must contact the local community college and sign up for Plastic Tarp 101.


At this rate, there won't be any troops left to support.
Army in Worst Recruiting Slump in Decades

The Army has not published official figures yet, but it apparently finished the 12-month counting period that ends Friday with about 73,000 recruits. Its goal was 80,000. A gap of 7,000 enlistees would be the largest -- in absolute number as well as in percentage terms -- since 1979, according to Army records.

The Army National Guard and the Army Reserve, which are smaller than the regular Army, had even worse results.

Decline in Iraqi Troops' Readiness Cited

The number of Iraqi army battalions that can fight insurgents without U.S. and coalition help has dropped from three to one, top U.S. generals told Congress yesterday, adding that the security situation in Iraq is too uncertain to predict large-scale American troop withdrawals anytime soon.


Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Ballad of Tom DeLay

(sung to the tune of “The Ballad of Jed Clampett”

(with apologies to Flatt & Scruggs)

Come and listen to my story ‘bout a man named Tom
Poor exterminator, couldn’t get the job done
Wasting his time settin’ off the bug bombs
So they said, “Hey, Tom! Join the war in Vietnam!”
(Shucks, he said...No room for me...Damned coloreds.)

The next thing you know, ol’ Tom’s in D.C.
Scoopin’ up the money, twistin’ arms with glee
His brain began a-twitchin’ and he hatched an evil plan
I wanna make the state of Texas more Republican!
(Execute libruls...Guns for white folk...Tax the poor.)

Tom grabbed a state map with the colors red and blue
The blue faded into red, the districts he re-drew.
“That’s the way God tells me Texas oughta be!”
So he called a few tycoons and scooped up the money.
(EPA regulations?...No problem...That’ll be a thousand bucks)

The money went to TRMPAC, a fund supposed to be
For Republicans in Texas to win majority
But the money went astray, now Tom is in a whirl
Spewing out the venom at the D.A., Ronnie Earle.
(Vicious partisan attack dog...It’s the Democrat’s fault...Did I mention vicious partisan attack dog?)

Well, now Tom’s determined to save his own skin
The penalty for conspiracy is two years in the pen.
So what if he is dragging down the whole dang GOP
As long as he stays out of jail he’ll gladly cop a plea.
(The Democrats made me do it...They do it, too, and I’m gonna start namin’ names...Get me Karl Rove...Whaddya mean he’s unavailable?)


Wednesday, September 28, 2005

House majority leader's position in jeopardy.

kar-ma - n - The total effect of a person's actions and conduct during the successive phases of the person's existence, regarded as determining the person's destiny.

As always, Juanita has the best thoughts on Tom DeLay:
By the way, remember Tom's plan to party-down at the Republican National Convention with cruise ships in New York Harbor? Well, we might be in luck --- here's some we paid for but aren't using. I mean, we could party in his honor. I'll bring the chips if you'll bring the dip. No, on second thought, leave Tom at home.
On third thought, lets' just send Tom to prison.


Scottie McClellan -
"We'll also be sending out notices to staff about -- reminding them to turn off lights and printers and copiers and computers when they leave the office."
My folks used to holler stuff like that at me, too, usually followed by "WHAT, WHERE YOU BORN IN A BARN?"

I'm impressed; I didn't know the White House printers and lights and copiers and computers ran on oil.

In the meantime, Dubya practices fuel conservation:
Bush's gas-guzzling motorcade was whizzing all over town yesterday -- and today he flies off in his fuel-gulping 747 for his seventh trip to the Gulf Coast since Katrina struck a month ago.


Mark Silva of the Chicago Tribune was yesterday's pool reporter, and he faithfully tracked Bush's fuel consumption.

"For the day's procession to the Energy Department to assess the nation's energy resources: Two armored limousines, three stretch utility vans, six black SUVs and a partridge-like medical truck.

"But no stop-and-go fuel consumption here: A very fast motorcade blew through all traffic lights south and across the Tidal Basin, then east on Independence to the east side entrance of the great cement-walled hall of Energy."
The rest of us should avoid unnecessary driving so Bush doesn't have to.


Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Presidentially declared disaster
''I've overseen over 150 presidentially declared disasters. I know what I'm doing, and I think I do a pretty darn good job of it,'' he said.
Becuz my preznit sed so?

Wow, I thought - Brownie was appointed in 2003 and we've had over 150 presidentially declared disasters in this country since then?

Technically, I suppose so - IF you count jurisdications where a disaster took place.

Since January 2003 -

* Feb. 2003 Winter Storms/Flooding; 39 jurisdictions declared
* Sept. 2003 Hurricane Isabel (winds, flooding); 100 jurisdictions declared
* Nov. 2003 Flood; Southwestern Virginia; 6 jurisdictions declared
* May 2004 Flood; Southwestern Virginia; 3 jurisdictions declared
* Sept. 2004 Flood; Central Virginia; 12 jurisdictions declared
* Oct. 2004 Flood; Southwestern Virginia; 10 jurisdictions declared

That doesn't include the year 2005, nor do I have the time or energy to look up every one of them; however, for the most part the main FEMA activity for each of these disasters seems to have been providing a toll-free telephone number or referring victims to the USDA Office of Rural Development website.

Is Brown STILL padding his resume'?

As to Isabel related winds and flooding - which makes up 100 out of the "over 150" jurisdictions, the Virginian-Pilot has a few choice words -
When Hurricane Isabel wrecked Hampton Roads in 2003, the Federal Emergency Management Agency was far slower than it should have been, poorly coordinated and ill-prepared. It eventually did some good at a time when we most needed it, but the cities provided the emergency response that mattered.

Back in 2003, FEMA’s slow-going here was sharply criticized by struggling cities and desperate citizens. But nobody died in Hampton Roads because FEMA couldn’t get its act together.

Isabel wasn’t a Hurricane Katrina, by any means. But FEMA isn’t itself, either.

The hurricane that devastated the Gulf Coast last week shows that the transformation of FEMA’s leadership from bumbling bureaucracy to dangerous incompetent is substantially complete.
If Brown's idea of "what he was doing" was drowning FEMA in the neo-con bathtub, he is certainly correct in saying "I think I do a pretty darn good job of it".


FEMA Plans to Reimburse Faith Groups for Aid
After weeks of prodding by Republican lawmakers and the American Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said yesterday that it will use taxpayer money to reimburse churches and other religious organizations that have opened their doors to provide shelter, food and supplies to survivors of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

For churches, synagogues and mosques that have taken in hurricane survivors, FEMA's decision presents a quandary. Some said they were eager to get the money and had begun tallying their costs, from electric bills to worn carpets. Others said they probably would not apply for the funds, fearing donations would dry up if the public came to believe they were receiving government handouts.
Isn't it odd that Republican lawmakers, who urge permanent repeal of the estate tax so that wealthy individuals might be more inclined to charitable giving aren't worried about charitable giving to faith-based groups?

Perhaps the Rev. Robert E. Reccord, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board says it best -
"Volunteer labor is just that: volunteer. We would never ask the government to pay for it."
I just don't get this; is it me, or have Republican lawmakers, the Red Cross and FEMA totally misunderstood the nature of America's faith community?

The Quaker meeting I belong to has built or repaired hundreds of homes in impoverished and Mother Nature damaged areas. We've never asked to be reimbursed by local, state, or federal government and I am certain would never accept reimbursement.

It's just something we do.

It will be interesting to see which faith-based groups form a line for FEMA money.

In my mind, at least, it will separate the true faith groups from the scavengers.


Monday, September 26, 2005

Lots of kids left behind

Several states are asking their schools to take a day or two off to conserve fuel.

Isn't that special?

Let's take a look at the announcement for Georgia schools:
Georgia Gov. Sonny Purdue has requested that all public schools in the state declare “early snow days” Monday and Tuesday to save energy in the face of a fuel shortage caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Beverly L.Hall announced that APS will comply with the governor’s request, and that all APS schools will be closed on Monday and Tuesday, and school-related activities will be cancelled for these days. Additionally, the Central Office will be closed.

Please note that athletic activities scheduled for this weekend will take place as previously scheduled. Classes will resume on Wednesday, September 28, and the Central Office will re-open.
Note that last paragraph.

"Athletic activities scheduled for this weekend will take place as previously scheduled".

Start your engines, sports fans, and take off by the thousands for those away games. Sit idling in line as you wait for a parking spot, then drive all the way back home.

I guess it's too much to ask the schools to reschedule their sports schedules and leave the schools open for book-larnin'?

The everyday citizen athlete

I admit to being a bit of a sports freak.

I wouldn’t stay on my feet very long in a trivia contest, but I do like to keep up with who’s on top, who’s on the bottom, who’s injured, and who’s indicted.

So, early in the morning or late at night I occasionally flip on ESPN to find out about all of the above.

Instead of sports news, I very often find a poker game.

I know I’m a hopeless old fogey and way out of the pop-cultural mainstream, but would someone please tell me, exactly, what it is about poker that makes it a sport?

I’ve played many a hand of poker myself and enjoy an occasional game, though I normally end up losing my shirt (literally and figuratively). I never once in my life thought of myself as a ‘athlete’ while playing - more like a person throwing my money down the toilet.

How does a ‘poker athlete’ train? Besides learning the basics of the game? I suppose some acting lessons might help; they sure would help someone like me who can’t hide her glee when dealt a good hand.

That “bluffing ability”, so prized by the big poker hotshots, is exactly the same quality you find in a flinty-eyed octogenarian bargaining for a cracked vase at a yard sale.

But for the ultimate heresy, I’ll also ask – “How is NASCAR a sport?”

(Ducking various thrown objects)

I understand a driver needs good reflexes, the ability to handle stress, and a pretty good dose of endurance. However, any of those qualities can be put to the test by anyone who drives on an interstate highway. I’ve frankly always considered auto racing as more a test of engineering skills than a sport.

I know a fellow who builds engines for one of the more famous racing teams. He works in what is essentially a state-of-the-art laboratory; clean as a whistle like my house never is, with every technological advance. It’s guys like him (and others like him) who win the races, but you’ll never see them being doused with champagne or kissed by the purty gals. Or making the big mega-bucks.

If a driver really wants a test of his/her reflexes, ability to handle stress, and endurance, let them loose on an interstate during a hurricane evacuation. I doubt if any of those drivers fleeing Houston thought of themselves as ‘athletes’, especially when they tried to make a pit stop and there was no bathroom, food, or fuel available.

I’d like to see that – a NASCAR race where the driver slips smartly into pit row, and nobody is home.

Speaking of bathrooms, how do all those finely-tuned poker and driver athletes handle the “call of nature”?

The same way you or I do, if we’re smart – they go before they leave home.

Or they wet their pants.

Perhaps we should all take a cue from ESPN and consider our everyday activities as exciting and glorious sports.

How about “Ninety-Nine Cent Ground Beef Agility Trials”? “Job Interview Jitter Handling”? “Rush Hour Reflex Test and Temper-Holding?” “Stomach Flu Clean-up Derby?”

Just don’t expect to see them in the Olympics (or on ESPN) any time soon.

And don’t expect the big bucks, either.


Sunday, September 25, 2005

Homeland health security

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, medical personnel set up triage units throughout the affected areas and shelters to screen for health problems, but often the victims couldn't give a coherent medical history.
Last week, Dr. Joseph Mirro of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis was reconstructing complicated chemotherapies for 80 evacuated children with cancer. Their treatments are precisely timed -- they can't be just started over. He tracked down some oncologists who fled flooded New Orleans with treatment records, but relied heavily on parents' recall and own notes of their children's treatments.


One bright exception is that even though the New Orleans VA Medical Center flooded, electronic medical records for 50,000 patients of that hospital and surrounding veterans' outpatient clinics survived.

On September 1, three days after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, a Veterans Affairs Department computer specialist was airlifted from New Orleans carrying backup tapes of all the records, which by the next night had been re-entered into computers in Houston.

"Every single thing on that computer was saved," said Charlie Gephart, records chief for the South-Central VA Healthcare Network.

Moreover, evacuees could access some records even at the height of the disaster, Gephart said. His office put patient prescriptions and other data tracked at a separate location onto a secure Web site as an interim solution.
The federal government hopes to provide most Americans computerized medical records within 10 years. During those ten years, it's a safe bet there will be more disasters, man-made and natural, necessitating quick access to accurate medical information.
Harris Interactive research (PDF) shows only relatively small minorities of American physicians are using electronic records or prescribing, and the United States lags behind other English speaking countries in this regard. A survey of physicians conducted for the Harvard School of Public Health and the Commonwealth Fund’s International Health Care Symposium in 2000, found that the use of electronic systems is much more advanced in Britain, New Zealand and Australia than in the United States. The data for Canadian usage were also low, similar to those in the U.S. The biggest differences between countries, by far, were in the use of electronic systems by primary care physicians rather than by specialists.
I should note quickly that any electronic records database should never be outsourced to the private sector, especially not to companies which have played fast and loose with credit information.

Not only has the lack of electronic records caused serious delays in delivering medical care, but Katrina has also highlighted the plight of those who are uninsured or have lost insurance purchased through their employment.
...the federal government is relaxing Medicaid rules in an effort to spread medical coverage to low-income people who fled the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, officials announced Friday.

The move is designed to cut red tape in the program's application process and make it easier for some of the estimated 1 million Katrina evacuees to get government health insurance.

The federal government shares the cost of Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program with states, though individual states run both programs. The mass evacuations that followed Katrina last week threw the system into some disarray as beneficiaries and their families fled to many other states.
If this country ever decides to join the rest of the industrialized world and institute universal health coverage, these disaster-related diasporas and sudden unemployment losses won’t pose a problem for our health care system. Knowing that their medical information is available to any doctor providing treatment and not worrying about paying for it provides real homeland security - not just for those who are devastated by a catastrophe, but for everyone.


Saturday, September 24, 2005

Saving the pets and encouraging evacuation

It's early days yet and the worst may be coming in some areas; however, it seems Rita preparation has gone better than Katrina. There are still some notable lessons to be learned, of course, but much of the evacuation success has to be due to some people being allowed to take their pets.
Hoping to avoid the catastrophe that hit New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina, the mayor of Galveston has devlared that her residents may take their pets along on the evacuation buses if the animals are in cages.

"We found that so many people didn't want to leave New Orleans because they didn't want to leave their pets behind," said Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas.
Smart lady. I would have to be confronted with an imminent and excruciating death before I'd abandon my "babies".

One organization helping to care for the evacuated pets is Best Friends Animal Society. Along with other animal rights groups, they have been providing food and shelter for many abandoned or displaced animals.

Congress has recognized the problem -
Congressmen Tom Lantos (D-CA) and Christopher Shays (R-CT) introduced legislation to ensure that in any future disaster, federal officials will not separate people from their household pets and service animals such as seeing-eye dogs The Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act requires local and state emergency preparedness authorities to include in their evacuation plans how they will accommodate household pets or service animals in case of a disaster. Local and state authorities must submit these plans in order to qualify for grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"The grassroots animal welfare groups in Texas are hard at work," said (Hurricane Relief Director Paul Berry), "and I'm here to find out how our disaster relief team can support their efforts. We have a lot of knowledgeable volunteers who are ready to pitch in."

Berry also will coordinate Best Friends efforts with the other national animal welfare groups that have been working in the Hurricane Katrina disaster zone.
People are a lot more likely to flee for their lives if they can take their loved ones - human or animal - along with them.


Friday, September 23, 2005

God's final word on the subject

The Columbia Christians For LIfe made a bit of weird news lately by proclaiming -
"Satellite picture of Hurricane Katrina at NOAA.com looks like a 6-week unborn human child as it comes ashore the Gulf Coast, vicinity states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida at 12:32 PM, Monday, August 29, 2005"
Well.... Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvelously: for I will work a work in your days which ye will not believe, though it be told you. (Habakkuk 1:5)

The Collective Sigh Oceanographic Institute has issued a statement as follows:
Satellite picture of Hurricane Rita looks like a diaphragm as it comes ashore the Gulf Cost, vicinity states of Louisiana and Texas at 11:45 PM GMT on September 23, 2005.

Posted by Picasa

Has the Lord spoken, or what?


Katrina has brought so much stress, destruction, displacement, and sorrow - now Rita threatens.

I needed something peaceful to gaze upon -

Autumn in Colorada, photo by Judy Giberson


Thursday, September 22, 2005

Bush Waives Saudi Trafficking Sanctions

Laura Bush, November 17, 2001 -
Afghan women know, through hard experience, what the rest of the world is discovering: The brutal oppression of women is a central goal of the terrorists.
Seems like she forgot to tell George.
September 21, 2005 - President Bush decided Wednesday to waive any financial sanctions on Saudi Arabia, Washington's closest Arab ally in the war on terrorism, for failing to do enough to stop the modern-day slave trade in prostitutes, child sex workers and forced laborers.


In addition to Saudi Arabia, Ecuador and Kuwait — another U.S. ally in the Middle East — were given a complete pass on any sanctions, (State Department spokeswoman Darla Jordan) said. Despite periodic differences, oil-rich Saudi Arabia and the United States have a tight alliance built on economic and military cooperation.
Ah, the sweet siren song of economic and military cooperation!

Global warming

As we struggle with the devastation caused by Katrina and await the onslaught of Rita, it's a good time to review the words of General Wesley Clark:
In my view, global warming's impact on climate change will impact human populations in three ways: displacement, disaster and political tensions.

First, warmer temperatures thin arctic ice sheets, raising sea levels. Higher water levels will dislocate 100 million people currently living in coastal areas.

Disasters will come with warming sea temperatures and changes in salinity levels which lead to stronger and more frequent hurricanes which means storms such as Rita and Katrina, more tornadoes, and extensive droughts. Furthermore, these massive storms could strike not just the Gulf Coast, but the Pacific Coast as well, causing vast destruction. Shifts in precipitation patterns will impact agricultural capacities and complicate access to drinking water.

Dislocation and disaster will force people and nations to compete for land, food, and water. Although these effects will not imperil American security per se, many other nations will be forced into a state of strife while coping with these changes, causing tension between countries and providing a destabilizing force in the world stretching to the limits treaties, traditions, and relationships between and among nations.
Drowning what's left of federal government in a bathtub isn't the answer, neither is showering businesses with tax incentives or turning vast areas of the country into a conservative petrie dish.

Along with a new New Deal, we must work to elect leaders who take global warming seriously, and don't turn up their nose at the conclusions of every respected scientist in the world.

Rita threatens

With a Category 5 hurricane bearing down on the Texas coast, there's good news and bad news for Texans.

Good news - George W. Bush is no longer your governor.

Bad news - George W. Bush is president of the United States.

Good news - Uncle Karl has no doubt threatened the life of any FEMA employee caught slacking off or not hyper-organized.

Bad news - You are about to become part of Gee Dub's "Gulf Opportunity Zone", that great neo-con lab experiment. Watch out for a blizzard of tax credits, vouchers, lower wages, homesteaders, and the like. And be prepared for multiple photo op visits from 'favorite son'.

When FEMA, the Red Cross, and any other relief groups who feel the need to improve their image finish with Texas, perhaps they'll mosey eastward and spread the leftovers with those they missed earlier in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Ya'll stay safe and dry.

The light of God surrounds you; the love of God enfolds you; the power of God protects you; the presence of God watches over you; wherever you are, God is. - James Dillet Freeman


Wednesday, September 21, 2005


If you look inside the 9/26/2005 print edition of TIME magazine, you'll find a selection letters from readers.

Responding to TIME's coverage of the Katrina catastrope, Suzann Soliday of Fresno, California writes:
How dare anyone blame the president for this disaster. The left-wingers have criticized the Bush Administration constantly. How can anyone - politician or member of the news media - not support our government? The critics have gone too far. We must work together, and those who can't must stay out of the way. I am tired of the divide in this country.
You see, Ms. Soliday, it's not JUST the Katrina disaster, but a whole trail of destruction all over the world. And it's not JUST St. George, but the whole host of incompetent, deluded advisors who give the poor boy incredibly bad advice.

We left-wingers are simply following the stellar example set by the right-wingers during the Clinton administration; strike early and often. And we actually have reality-based, valid reasons.

As Bill Maher said of our Fearless Leader, "On your watch, we've lost almost all of our allies, the surplus, four airliners, two Trade Centers, a piece of the Pentagon and the City of New Orleans".

Opposing the Bush administration isn't hard at all, Ms. Soliday. In fact, we left-wingers are quite pleased to be divided from you and the rest of the sheep cheerleading for President Catastrophe.


Monday, September 19, 2005

Crossed up Red Cross?

Here's my question about the Red Cross:

Over here, you have water, food, money, clothing, and medicine.

Over there, you have a bunch of people who are dying of thirst, hunger, illnesses, and are destitute.

Why would you let some FEMA twerp keep you from delivering the much-needed aid?

I understand the Red Cross has to operate within the law and according to regulations. But if you're a relief organization and you're prevented from completing your mission - why aren't you screaming to high heaven about it?

The Red Cross does good work; I'm not demanding my money back. But if they want any more of it, they've got to stop operating as an arm of the incompetent FEMA.

Almost missed it

It's International Talk Like A Pirate Day, and I'm celebrating not by talking, but just by looking

I admit it; I have a crush on Johnny Depp. Ah, if I were ten years younger....

Stop laughing.


This minute.

I mean it.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

To the barricades

Take a look at what's happening at Wind Creek State Park.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The blame game is necessary

From the NYT -
Federal officials are often unable to give local governments permission to proceed with fundamental tasks to get their towns running again.
I know our Fearless Leaders have told us this isn't the time for playing the blame game or pointing fingers or in any way dissing Republican incompetence, but excuse me....why the hell not?

Why are federal officials unable to give permission to local governments for basic rebuilding?

Are they mute?

Are they useless?

Are they stupid?

You KNOW what is happening...the experienced, qualified people in the lower rungs who would like to keep their jobs are required to receive permission from their superior, who is required to receive the okay from THEIR superiors, and somewhere there's a very inferior superior that doesn't need to be in any sort of position of authority.

THAT'S the guy or gal we want fired immediately and replaced with someone qualified for the job; preferably someone from the ranks who is left over from the James Lee Witt regime and remembers what FEMA's mission is supposed to be.

In the meantime, the very same Poor Planning and Corruption Hobble Reconstruction of Iraq

No wonder Bush sneered at "nation building" during his 2000 campaign. The ignorant do tend to sneer at things that are way over their heads.


Friday, September 16, 2005

Accountability is for girlie-men

Before the NYTimes goes under the "TimeSelect" subscription-only Cone of Silence, you must read Krugman's Not the New Deal. Quotable quotes -indeed, prophecies - abound.


Were you inspired by Our Preznit's words last night? Since I can't bear to watch him, I read the transcript later.

I am inspired and confident that not only will Karl Rove make Michael Brown look like a genius, he will make Haliburton look like a frugal non-profit.


Just as the Republicans used the remains of the twin towers as a rallying point for the Global Struggle Against Violent Non-Christian Extremism, so will Katrina become the boogey-man for the 2006 and 2008 elections. We will be urged not to 'change horses in midstream' and 'stay the course' in the great Rove-led reconstruction of New Orleans and the Gulf coast.

Take that to the bank.


Thursday, September 15, 2005


A lot of criticism has been directed at the eleven House members who voted against the (total) $62 million Katrina relief bill.

There may be some of those eleven who are pond-scum and just don't want to see money spent on poor black people, but there is at least one voted "no" for good reason.

Virginia Foxx (R-NC) -
Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-5th, drew criticism after she was one of just 11 House members to vote against the emergency aid. The bill, she said, lacked accountability measures for how the money would be spent.

"I want to know that there are safeguards and that there won't be abuses, and I have to do what I think is the right thing to do," she said.

The emergency-appropriations bill for Katrina, less than three pages long, contained no specific guidelines for how the money was to be spent.
Maybe she also doesn't want to spend money on poor black people, but she's right - there's no accountability.

We might as well make out the check to BushCo and say "have fun, boys".


Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Exactly right

Houston hits the nail on the head.

So - Bush, DHS, and FEMA thought they could continue with business as usual because New Orleans dodged a bullet?

Mississippi sure as hell didn't dodge any bullets, and everybody and his brother knew it even before the storm hit New Orleans or the levees were breached.

So much for that excuse.

The Catastrophe President

On November 4, 2000, Saturday Night Live presented a "glimpse of the future" under the presidency of George W. Bush.

Dubya (Will Ferrell) is seen hiding under the Oval Office desk, but he is finally coaxed out to sheepishly address the nation with - "Sorry about that war", and "I broke the Hoover Dam".

Turns out that was nothing like reality.

From Bill Maher's note to Dubya -
On your watch, we've lost almost all of our allies, the surplus, four airliners, two Trade Centers, a piece of the Pentagon and the City of New Orleans...Maybe you're just not lucky!
Those living anywhere in the vicinity or down-river of the Hoover Dam may want to take note.


Tuesday, September 13, 2005

My kingdom for a camera!

If the kid hadn't taken my camera off to college with her - and if I had the foresight to have it with me - I would have the most glorious picture to post.

As I drove home from work today, I followed an old red Bronco. It's most distinguishing characteristic was the spare tire mounted on the back.

Let me tell you - this spare tire was worse than useless. It was flat as a pancake, had totally rusted rims, and about a foot of tread hanging off one side.

I felt this guy must have a lot of faith in his four good tires - what if he hit a piece of metal or glass in the road?

And then I saw it....the little circular sticker on the bumber - "W-04".

Please feel free to make your snarkiest analogy.


Monday, September 12, 2005

I have a dream...

(Shamelessly stolen from Buck at Bad Attitudes)
Don't let the door hit you on the way out

Embattled FEMA Director Mike Brown Resigns

...and while you're at it, hold the door open for a few more to make an exit.

Management style

Monday morning is not my best time for tracking down links; however, somewhere** in all the post-Katrina "what went wrong" coverage, I read that when Bush was (finally) confronted with the bad news he turned to a subordinate and said "Fix it".

After which he went about keeping his life in "balance", getting regular naps, exercise, whatever; trusting that his underlings would take care of any problems.

This, we are told, is his "management style", which has worked just fine for him all his life.

When he didn't want to be be drafted during the Vietnam era, someone "fixed it" through family ties and political influence.

When he wanted out of the Air National Guard, someone stepped in again to "fix it".

The little problems with DUI? Fixed.

When he didn't have a job, someone with those family ties always came to the rescue and "fixed it".

Unsuccessful at running a business? No problem - fixed.

Over a year ago, the Washington Post looked at the management style in reference to Abu Ghraib:
President Bush has long prided himself for focusing on big goals rather than on niggling details and delegating significant responsibility to his aides. But his belated attention to the brutality at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison has revealed vulnerabilities in a management style that had brought him personal and political success.

Bush's aides say the graphic images documenting the abuse of detainees took him by surprise. But as they tell it, the president and his staff received many clues over the past year that there might be a problem -- for example, periodic reports from the International Committee of the Red Cross -- and did nothing because they had been assured the Pentagon was on the case.
It seems the same thing happened with the response to the Katrina aftermath.

I 'bolded' the passage in the above WaPo piece, because I've been thinking about this hand-off, don't-bother-me-with-details, "fix it" management approach.

It only works when the actual "fixers" are competent.

My hot water heater sprung a leak several days ago, and I had a choice of several 'management styles' during this mini-crisis.

Being reasonably intelligent and knowledgeable of the way life works and the assets available to me, I did NOT turn to my Chihuahuas and say "fix it".

I know these little buggers; they aren't qualified or capable to do much besides eat, sleep, beg for a belly-rub, and wag their silly little tails.

George Bush, accustomed to a lifetime of capable, willing "fixers" wouldn't know that his underlings - especially those a bit down the food chain - were capable of just wagging their tails.

He would assume that simply because he gave the order, "Fix it", all would work out just fine for him and he wouldn't miss his nap.

What a grand way to go through life, with cheerful assurance that all your problems can be resolved with two little words! And if your "fixers" fail you...it's not your fault - YOU gave the order, didn't you?


**Update: Found it. Last page of Newsweek's magnificently titled "How Bush Blew It" -
With each tale, "the president just shook his head, as if he couldn't believe what he was hearing," says Jindal, a conservative Republican and Bush appointee who lost a close race to Blanco. Repeatedly, the president turned to his aides and said, "Fix it."
The incident took place on Air Force One on Friday, Sept. 2nd, five days after Katrina made landfall.


Friday, September 09, 2005

Katrina report card

***New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin: F

Not only did New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin use vulgar language on the airwaves, but he failed to sh$t selfless, heroic bus drivers when they were crucially needed to drive evacuees away from the drowning city.

***Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco: A

Gov. Blanco's refusal to allow a federal takeover of the Louisiana National Guard prevented another fiasco on the federal level and forestalled Bush from being fitted for his Supreme Commander of the National Guard suit. Gov. Blanco's foresight in this regard is to be commended, as the spectacle of this President parading around in a military uniform has been deemed to be hazardous to the national consciousness.

***Michael Brown: A

In an administration where political ties are valued above any sort of reasonable experience for the job, who can argue with Michael Brown's creative and imaginative resume'?

***The Bush family: A+

George W. Bush also receives an 'A' for his brilliant assessment, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job". While Mr. Bush has received much criticism for the remark, it should be noted that "heck of a job" in Bush family parlance refers to one's ability to maintain rigid loyalty to the Bush family, assure money flows into their treasure chests, and don't bother them with the details.

Laura Bush referred to Katrina as "Corrina", which unfortunately failed to divert the media's attention from the hurricane to the evils of the movie "Corrina, Corrina", a 1994 Clinton-era debacle extolling race-mingling. The First Lady had the foresight to "hedge her bets" by being photographed hugging lots of black children. For her brilliant political sense - A+

Barbara Bush receives a double super-dooper A-plus for brilliantly articulating the Republican agenda in so few words.


Thursday, September 08, 2005

Thanks to jaywillie at Kos. Pass it around.
Go f*ck yourself, Mr. Cheney

Hopefully, someone will have the video up soon.

Cheney is blathering about how wonderful things are going in Mississippi - you can barely hear a man holler twice "Go f*ck yourself, Mr. Cheney!".

A reporter asks "Are you getting a lot of that, Mr. Vice President?"

And the Big Dick responds "It's the first time I've heard it...must be a friend of John, uh....nevermind..."

(Big laughs all around)

I suppose he hasn't heard it since the last time he said it himself.

Besides, I'm sure the heckler was just one of those people who were disadvantaged anyway and this will all work out very well for him.

Update - Ask and ye shall receive. Video here.


The Coast Guard plucks FEMA director Michael Brown's sorry ass from the stink.

Coast Guard's Chief of Staff To Assist FEMA Head Brown

As if the Coast Guard didn't have enough to do -
With Michael D. Brown, the embattled public face of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, taking harsh criticism for the slow federal response to Hurricane Katrina, the secretary of homeland security this week assigned a top Coast Guard official to help bail him out.

Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen, the Coast Guard's chief of staff, was assigned on Monday to be Brown's deputy and to take over operational control of the search-and-rescue and recovery efforts along the Gulf Coast. The unprecedented task of coordinating the massive effort was handed off to a leader and expert who was described by colleagues as unflappable, engaging and intensely organized.
One has to wonder how different things would be today if "Brownie" flapped less, engaged more, and displayed an iota of organization.

Spare a moment of pity, if you will, for Vice Admiral Thad W. Allen; possibly the highest paid babysitter in the country.


Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Christian hurricane relief

Looking for a "donate to" hurricane relief button on Agape's Christian News website....


Scrolling down....

AHA! Donate to....click...

New website opens.....

Donald Wildmon's American Family Association!


Scrolling down....

Still scrolling....


There's a scriptural reference for this:

Gospel of John, chapter eleven, verse thirty-five -

Jesus wept.


Stinky, toxic water is being pumped out of New Orleans into Lake Pontchartrain and at the same time somewhat-icky-yet-non-toxic water is being pumped from my leaking hot water heater into my bathtub.

Given the alternative, I'm lucky.


Think Progress has a timeline, but here is another in chart form with comparison (by date) of local and federal actions, beginning in 2001.


Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Katrina opens new career path

Looking at the resumes of FEMA's top three guys, I realize a whole new life awaits me.

I had a benign brain tumor removed when I was a little tyke; obviously, by Bush administration standards, this qualifies me as a brain surgeon.

Or if I change my voter registration to Republican, I can probably snag the Surgeon General's job.

Spineless and shameless

I've loved seeing some of the usual Bush-butt-kissing media finally, FINALLY, calling the B.S. when they hear it.

But not all journalists are created equal:
Geraldo Rivera arrives in a Fox News truck. An elderly woman with blond hair grips his elbow. She's wearing thick dark glasses and a pink shirt. He carries her small white dog in his arms. He's wearing thigh-high waders unzipped to below his knees. We shake hands. "Her relative called one of our stations," Geraldo tells me, explaining how that call went to another station, and then another, and finally to him.

The woman had been stranded in her home for six days. Geraldo picked up the woman and her dog and brought them here. The woman looks frail on his arm, though not as bad perhaps as a lady collapsed on a chair nearby, unable to move. Or a woman in a wheelchair being lifted from the truck, carrying her prosthetic leg on her lap.

"That's the second time he brought her here," one of the doctors tells me, nodding toward Geraldo.


"They did two takes. Geraldo made that poor woman walk from the Fox News van to the heliport twice. Both times carrying her dog."

"Are you serious?" I ask. He says he is.


One of the comments at a Faux News forum:
“I have evacuated from Gulfport, MS. I am still in contact via text messaging with survivors on the coast. The handling of this tragedy by our government is atrocious at best. The food and water are still not there! If we never have another Republican leader, it will be too soon! And for those people who say that all of the survivors in New Orleans should have evacuated, I have news for you, I have evacuated from many hurricanes and every time I pack to go it cost me approximately $1,000.” — Tonja (Gulfport, MS)
I don't know about you, but that's out of my price range.

Official says feds warned of storm's potential
Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center, said yesterday that officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Department of Homeland Security — including FEMA Director Mike Brown and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff — listened in on electronic briefings given by his staff before Hurricane Katrina slammed Louisiana and Mississippi and were advised of the storm's potential deadly effects.
What Mr. Mayfield and others forget is that this administration has shown a contempt for science from day one.

The next time they need to give disaster warnings, it would be better to have Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell deliver the bad news.

Didn't get the memo

Cut the red tape, Lott says
Sen. Trent Lott berated both the Federal Emergency Management Agency and his own state's emergency management, MEMA, for being mired in red tape at a time of urgent need given the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina.

Lott said he has been trying to get FEMA to send 20,000 trailers "sitting in Atlanta" to the Mississippi coast, and he urged President Bush during a meeting Monday to intervene. He said FEMA has refused to ship the trailers until contracts are secured.
Now, now, Sen. Lott - there will plenty of time for the blame game later!


Needs no comment from me.

I've been mulling over the charges of 'racism' in the lack of preparedness to Katrina and the outrageously slow response to the crisis. Being white, paycheck-to-paycheck clinging to middle class, and semi-educated, I'm not always the first to pick up on the more subtle forms of racism.

But 'racism' is just too narrow. Nobody was prevented from evacuating before the storm because of their race, nor were they refused rescue or evacuation. Yes, I have heard of some isolated incidences that are deplorable but there has been no wholesale discrimination based on the color of one's skin.

What there has been is the pervasive scourge of society so well expressed by Barbara Bush -
"And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them."
They were underprivileged anyway.

If this isn't an expanded form of racism, I don't know what is.

I truly do not believe it was the color of skin that cost so many lives, but the determined blindness of so many to the plight of the poor - white, black, or plaid.

How ignorant is it to believe people would rather be driven from their homes, no matter how poor, to save their most precious possessions - their lives and the lives of their families?

How arrogant is it to think people would prefer being displaced from their jobs, no matter how paltry the wages, and sheltered by charities?

How contemptuous is it to think people preferred to wade or swim through stinking waters to the fetid SuperDome than hopping in their private vehicles and driving upstate to a hotel where they could live comfortably on their accumulated cash or one of several credit cards?

All the politicians from George Bush on down who slapped each other on the back and congratulated each other on what great work they were doing while people starved and drowned are guilty of the same attitude.

In effect, they said to the evacuees - "What are you complaining about? Now that you are totally destitute we will give you some crumbs from the bounty on our tables".

Our philanthropists and corporations and private citizens will pour out their dollars, congratulating themselves for their generosity and adding up the deductions from their taxes.

Until society and government have the will to pour those dollars into health care, education, and jobs with living wages, the poor will soon fade into the background.

Until the next catastrophe strikes....and it will.


Monday, September 05, 2005

Katrina and mid-term elections

I'm not sure I agree with everything in this BBC piece - Viewpoint: Has Katrina saved US media?, as the capacity of the media to suck up to the Bush administration never fails to amaze me.

But there's one interesting paragraph at the end -
Tens of thousands of voters whose lives have been so devastated will cast their mid-term ballots in Texas next year - the president's adopted home state.
Now, THAT could be really interesting.


Read Bryan's account of his small community's experience with FEMA, and keep that phrase small community in mind.

You'll soon understand why New Orleans is such a mess, and how FEMA has wasted your tax dollars.


Sunday, September 04, 2005

According to Hyatt Regency General Manager Michael Smith, guests and employees who had operable cars were evacuated and cleared to drive to points north via caravan, and the remainder were evacuated via bus. No guests were suffering from major injury or illness at the time of evacuation, Smith said.


A convoy of food and supplies provided by Hyatt hotels in Atlanta and Houston arrived at Hyatt Regency New Orleans on Wednesday of this week.
If Hyatt could do it, why couldn't FEMA?

I'll have to hand it to conservatives who say private enterprises can do it better than the federal government - in this case, they were right. Dead right. Especially when the federal agency is FEMA.

Private enterprise can do it, the military can do it, but we pay taxes expecting the hopelessly incompetent FEMA and Homeland Security to respond in a timely matter.

There are professional, experienced people in these agencies who have passed the test in flying colors before; it must be killing them to hear all the justifiable criticism.


One of the most overused sentences in the English language these days is "there will be time for blame later".


Time has already run out for the citizens of the Gulf Coast, and those calling for a later time for blame are complicit. The time for blame - and fixing what went wrong - is now, before another natural disaster or terrorist attack occurs.


Saturday, September 03, 2005

Rebuilding New Orleans

We've got to do it, regardless of what slimy politicians say might say. New Orleans is crucial to our economy, among other things.

Just in case the criminally incompetent folks in the Bush administration are interested, there is a blueprint for rebuilding - the Civilian Conservation Corps.

With an army of workers sheltered, fed, and willing to work you can clean and rebuild while allowing them their dignity and a small paycheck.

(Just don't tell the Bushies the idea came from a Democratic president)

Another bit of good news (if true)

From TPM -
I'm getting unconfirmed reports that Louisiana Gov. Blanco is now announcing that she's hired James Lee Witt as state reconstruction czar. Apparently, she beat the feds to him.
Very, very smart. More valuable than one hundred Haliburtons.

Update True!

A bit of good news

Fort McClellan Approved To House Hurricane Victims
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved a plan to use dormitories at a former military base in Anniston to house about 1,000 of Hurricane Katrina's evacuees.

Gov. Bob Riley said locating Fort McClellan as a long-term housing unit was part of the state's effort, dubbed "Operation Golden Rule," to find suitable housing for hurricane victims from Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

Riley said the Fort McClellan dorms could house 10,000 evacuees.

Other possible housing options include a former Navy base in Mobile, motels and trailer facilities at state parks, and abandoned mental health hospitals in Decatur, Eufala and Mobile.
About time.

While we're at it, let me disagree slightly with the folks who talk about how crucial it is to get the refugee children back in school immediately.

I know full well how important it is to quickly establish a stable routine for a child, but what would it hurt to cancel school for a week across the area?

The people still stranded in New Orleans could use the bus transport. And for the moment, getting food, shelter, water, and medical help for these kids is the top priority.

That "John Wayne dude"

Lieutenant General Russel L. Honore
General Honore is a native of Lakeland, Louisiana. He was commissioned a Second Lieutenant of Infantry and awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in Vocational Agriculture upon graduation from Southern University and A&M College in 1971. He holds a Master of Arts in Human Resources from Troy State University as well as an Honorary Doctorate in Public Administration from Southern University and A&M College.
Sounds like the right man in the right place at the right time with a low tolerance for BS.

But don't tell anyone; if he outshines Our Preznit or any of his chosen accolytes, he may be in line for early retirement.

Arms wide open

Many states are making their facilities available to Katrina victims, and local charities are bearing the brunt. Most of these organizations will take donations of food, supplies, or cash.

The Houston Food Bank

San Antonio Food Bank

Food Bank of Northwest Louisiana

Alabama Food Bank Association

Bay Area Food Bank (Mississippi)

Memphis Food Bank

A host of efforts in the Panhandle of Florida

There are plenty of others; you can google as well as I can.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Noah's Wish in action
As of 3 p.m. EST today, Noah’s Wish, a not-for-profit organization that exclusively deals with rescuing and sheltering animals in disasters reported that 68 dogs, 24 cats, 7 birds and 1 baby squirrel had been rescued and were being housed in a temporary animal shelter. The shelter was set up in a warehouse located at 1325 Bayou Lane in Slidell, Louisiana. Noah’s Wish is working with Slidell Animal Control Director Damian Anti to coordinate the rescue of hundreds of abandoned and stranded pets in the city of Slidell. Located directly north of Lake Ponchatrain, Slidell was devastated by Katrina.

"This morning we found a chihuahua sitting in a kitchen sink," said Terri Crisp, Founder and Director of Noah’s Wish. "The waters in the house rose so high, the poor little guy got swept into the sink, where he remained when the waters receded." The chihuahua was taken to the temporary animal shelter where he was checked by a veterinarian and provided food, water and a much-needed warm bed. All animals coming into the shelter will be tracked and Noah’s Wish hopes to be able to reunite owners with their four-legged family members.
Link to donate is over on the right, or just click here.

Repub. congress swings into action to aid Katrina victims

Despite Katrina, Frist Will Call Vote on Estate Tax Repeal
Senate Finance Committee members were informed this morning that Sen. Bill Frist will move forward with a vote to permanently repeal the estate tax next week, likely on Tuesday, ThinkProgress has learned.

"Honey, thanks to the Republican congress, we can take that cruise!"

"Thanks to the Republican congress, now I won't have to pay inheritance taxes on her estate!

"Thanks to the Republican congress, we can now afford that bus trip to Houston!"

FEMA 'Surprised' by Lawlessness
The head of the federal disaster relief agency said Friday it's "heartbreaking and very, very frustrating" to witness the virtual anarchy in hurricane-ravaged New Orleans (search ) and defended the Bush administration's response.
I can't think why they're so surprised; no lesser a light than Donald Rumsfeld could have explained:
"The task we've got ahead of us now is an awkward one ... It's untidy. And freedom's untidy. And free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. They're also free to live their lives and do wonderful things. And that's what's going to happen here," Rumsfeld said.


Rumsfeld said in the United States there has been looting and riots and they eventually come under control.

"Think what's happened in our cities when we've had riots and problems and looting. Stuff happens!"
Happy days are just around the corner at the end of the tunnel!

Sure, it's hot - but a lot of brush has been cleared

I love the idea -
As the authorities shuffle hurricane refugees from the Superdome in New Orleans to the Astrodome in Houston and other venues scattered around Texas, ordinary people from all across America are posting offers on the Web to let people stay with them. As Salon reader Sandy Harbanuk of Juneau, Alaska, reminds us, we know of a guy from Crawford who has 1,600 acres of land and a 10,000-square-foot vacation estate he's not using just now. We wonder if he's going to post a note on craigslist offering to take some "good folks" in.


This is probably making the rounds, but just in case you haven't received it, I'm posting it below. We may want to re-think donating to the Red Cross and give instead to the United Methodist Committee on Relief or Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief. According to this relief worker, the Red Cross is tied up in red tape, and the faith-based folks are cutting through the B.S.


This is from a friend who lives in central LA, and has volunteered as relief worker. She lives a very small town, but they have taken on hundreds of refugees. It's long, but if you want to get an idea of how people in the surrounding area & victims themselves are feeling; it's a good read....

My thanks to all of you who have sent words of encouragement... PRAYERS.... (really need those big time) and thanks too for the additional offers for assistance. I wasn't going to bother y'all with another email from here - but apparently some of you sharing them (which is fine) (there are lots of desperate people needing to be heard in general terms.) Since y'all are fielding questions on our behalf I'll take a stab at answering the ones you have sent to me. But remember please that my experience is just one voice in a very remote rural area. You have a better idea than I do, likely as not, what is going on statewide. I don't get all that much outside news here.

The state of Louisiana is in one of two worlds.

There is the situation that y'all are seeing on TV.

And then there is the support situation in the rest of the state. That is mainly those of us coping with the refugees... POST-hurricane alley.

The photos you see on TV are accurate judging from all of the eye witness accounts of new arrivals. For once it seems the media is NOT sensationalizing the story. It is every bit as horrible as you think it is.....and some of the stories we have been hearing (again - from eye witnesses - not from the rumor mill) will haunt you forever - so I am not going to share them. What you are already seeing will last you a lifetime.

The anger and outrage you see is not limited to New Orleans. The entire state (both worlds) are experiencing it. It is very, very difficult for us to comprehend why we are unable to get assistance. We understand YOU ARE SENDING IT.....but we are having trouble receiving it which is a puzzle in our advanced society

In my area...there is SOME relief present - but it has come slowly and it has been VERY frustrating to access it.

In addressing the delays in getting it here - eh....WE are NOT under water. We have a perfectly clear and dry interstate running into our area from Arkansas as well as Texas....we have an international airport twenty miles from here that lands military planes all the time....cargo planes....we are having difficulty understanding why the aid can't come in here....we are the center of the state. Barksdale Air Force Base is in this state. We are mystified by the hold ups. For New Orleans and for ourselves.

As I shared with you last night - our specific refugee camp is doing fine......we are sharing what we have (the refugees and the few local families in our remote area).....we are NOT fine because the stuff you are sending got here. Our own self reliance and willingness to share has gotten us to this point - NOT because any agency has offered assistance or because the government is helping us.

We just don't understand.

We don't' understand why it took the Congress a week to get to D.C. (they will get there by NEXT MONDAY??????) to pass a bill to help us ???? We don't get that. If you want to help us - ask your elected official where they were between at the point they knew a Category 5 hurricane was FOR SURE going to hit New Orleans (last Sunday).....between that day - and NEXT Monday (eight days later???) - where have they been?????

Please ask when they come back after a senate "fact finding mission".....or as they convene yet another expensive "commission" or committee investigation.....or hop over here to ladle a spoonful of food at a real clean and sanitized shelter - before the TV camera - in a week or two - ask them where they were yesterday - on August 31st????? We would sort of appreciate it if they would answer that for you. That might help the next citizens in harm's way.

There will be LOTS of opportunities for photo ops....People will be suffering for a long, long time.

We don't understand why two nights ago the officials in charge put out a request for any and all type of boats to evacuate people from New Orleans. Boaters responded by the hundreds. Every person in our area including refugees answered the call. OVER 200 boats showed up to help. When they arrived they were told only twenty would be allowed to go and assist. We don't get that. People are dying. The Cajun boys in boats from around here grew up on the backwaters and bayous. They can drive the rivers and channels at night with ease. Why would we not send them in there. Their flat-bottom boats and airboats would have done some good as far as we can tell. They know the water ways here better than the highways. They are damn good shots, they are used to allegators.....and they have grit.....They are skilled in this area....more so than anyone unfamilar with these water ways. Why weren't they given a chance???

Central Louisiana organize a bus carvan two nights ago - on our own - to go and get people out of New Orleans...and they were turned back. TODAY the ordered our schools closed here and ordered every bus to come and help out. We didn't need to be ordered - we tried to do it a full day ahead of the order.

The coordination of efforts and resouces is non-existent as best we can tell. The citizens in general seem more effective (or at the very least AS effective) as the alleged professionals with all the technology and machinery.

We know you are sending help to us - but they won't let the help we have mustered GIT ER DONE. And while we wait for the outside world to arrive - and the rule pushers to sanction our efforts ....people are dying.

Thank you for being frustrated with us. Thank you for your outpouring and compassion. Thank you for making noise. We know we are not alone. And we take extreme comfort in that fact. We can give generously and completely cuz we know help IS on the way.

Until then the puzzles will continue I expect.

We don't' understand why the Red Cross is refusing to feed refugees housed in homes all up and down the state. We are told they must be IN the shelter to have hand outs from the Red Cross - and yet the shelters are full - they can't HANDLE the people. So hundreds of citizens are taking them in - and assistance is being denied to those not in the shelters. The reason given for this - at least at our Red Cross office - is because "regular citizens" might try and take food they are not entitled to - so they can only feed those who are in their shelters.

OTHER agencies (not the Red Cross) are addressing that by simply asking to see an ID verifying that the refugee is from a devastated area. The address alone is proof they are from areas that no longer exist. And even after it has been discussed with the Red Cross (that this person can prove they are from a hard hit area) - still the Red Cross will not give them food.

The Central Louisiana Food Bank is - tomorrow - opening the doors for my group....finally (it will be five days after the fact).....finally they will get their first bit of help from an institution (as opposed to individuals).

So if you are going to give money - I recommend giving it to agencies who are actually getting the supplies to the needy. Some of the churches have decided to help by opening their own kitchens as the rules and regulations are simply not working in this particular disaster. It might have worked in the past but not this time. Give the money to your local church. They will get it to us.

If it helps you - in this area the Methodists and Baptists have definitely waived all the nonsense and cut throughout the red tape and they are feeding people. Period. All that money raised from concerts and such didn't feed them tonight. But lots of upstanding United States citizens did. I didn't witness it with my own eyes but I have heard the Salvation Army is getting food distributed and they are not worrying about requiring paperwork to get it. They are feeding hungry people. Period. Relief workers - whomever. And I say thank you to them for that.

It frustrates me a bit that for some reason the Red Cross - who is getting MOST OF THE MEDIA COVERAGE seems the least responsive for those of us in the out laying areas. Which is not for one moment to say they are not going good things - I am sure they are - but they can't seem to cover it all. So I would like the agencies filling in the cracks to get recognized too. The Red Cross is a private agency - I think it would be okay to spread the wealth a bit.

It is more complex than what I am saying in this note. I understand that. But what I am sharing with you the frustration of relief workers and refugees.

Refugees are asking me how they can get money. I have no answers.
They HAVE money. But can't access it. And when they cannot get food from the relief centers - they need to buy it. (Well not in our area - we have it covered) but in most areas they are spending their own money to get food.

Example: one refugee has money in Chase Manhattan. We have a branch office not too far away so we contact them and they cannot release funds to this person. Why? Because the refugee's branch office no longer exists and they cannot verify his funds????

There is a woman here who needs baby formula - and she is a welfare mom - who..in the process of evacuation lost her identification - so the social workers says they cannot help her. Interestingly enough a private citizen did help her.

A reasonable person can perhaps cope with all this on a normal day - but if you have lost everything you own...you have not eaten..the baby is sick....you have walked (or sometimes dog paddled) and waited days to get to civilization and hours in a line in the heat - it is simply more than you can process at that point.

The campers we are assisting in are in a National Park. They are being charged fifteen or twenty dollars (depending on which site they selected) a day to camp there. The government is telling the public that all federal resources are being provided to our state - and yet the victims are being charged to camp on federal land.......and we don't understand that.

We don't understand why the park rangers took a sprinkler away from the kids today. It was a few minutes of fun for the kids and a wee bit of relief from the heat...we dont' understand how that was an enforceable rule today. The explanation? The water is for human consumption - not for recreation.

We understand that is the rule in NORMAL times but - why oh why - can't the folks in the government just get the finger out of the dike and allow common sense to prevail.

Some refugees (I am told) (it happened before I arrived at camp to sort things out) ...anyway....they ran out of money and were told to pay or leave by the ranger. A federal employee. They were safe and well fed while they were here - but we feel as helpless as y'all feel when these types of idiotic bureaucratic situations arise. And they do - all day long.

It would seem after all the hurricanes last year in Fla.......the FEMA teams would have figured out how to mobilize a bit faster....the politicians could do more than photo ops........We sort of wonder if they spent even one hour in the Super Dome ...if that wouldn't have just been enough get them moving to help us a bit faster. I am reasonably sure 100 people would have been happy to exit in order to give them seat.

And so - it goes.

Amid the frustration the other news you have not heard are the scenes that don't warrant the media spotlight. Like the woman I met tonight that came home in a towel tonight (I verified the story with her daughter).....she took the clothes off her back to give them to newly arriving refugees from New Orleans.

Or the bone weary nurse I saw at Wendy's tonight .....propped up against the wall waiting for a salad. Soooo tired.....and she ended up leaving without it.....cuz more people were arriving at our hospital from New Orleans.....it is not unlike of the all nighter scenes from the M.A.S.H television show. But this nonstop support is real.

One of "my" families left our camp today. Before leaving I watched them.....divide up the few belongings they had - giving them to the remaining refugees. It was difficult to watch.

These people simply could not tolerate the heat and bugs...and decided to head north in hopes along the way - someone will take them in. I think you will when they get there.

Leaving the grocery store a few minutes before midnight tonight - we ran into other relief workers - all of us ramping up for tomorrow. Like us they are untrained and unprepared. Just trying whatever they can think of to help.

It was a good meeting. None of us planned it...but it helped. We found ourselves sharing tips for dealing with the emotional duress of the new arrivals who are about to go thru the roller coaster of churn now that survival is assured. We were all surprised as we stood there- that we all cried a bit - none of us had let ourselves do that up to that point.

There we were - strangers and yet not at all strangers. Black and white.....and not one ounce of a color barrier. We exchanged phone numbers.....tips for where to get medicine - who still had baby formula and diapers.....how to by pass the idiotic rules.....and we a pledge to share any excess between our shelters.

And so it goes.

Pounds of frustration.
Tons of hope.

We know you want to help.

We (the shelters) can buy food...,if they have the resources to do so. All of the stores are open and stocked. We can buy batteries and flashlights and such (but don't worry - if you sent them down here - they will be used before spending money) - the truckloads of stuff will all be used.

However the priorities of the day are shifting depending on the transient nature of the population. One day you have lots of children to entertain....then some leave and the new arrivals are mostly elderly with a different sent of needs.

As I indicated in my last email - I caution you to donate your money wisely. Many groups are here. Many of the lesser known groups are not getting mentioned but they too are invaluable. LIke the Diabetes association who has actually been driving insulin to the shelters (again not waiting for the paper shuffle to end.....)

There have been folks in the area getting the word out they have medicine for Aids patients. Lots of agencies. If you already have a church or favorite charity...chances are good they are (or will soon) send help our way. It isn't splashy - but it is effective.

In closing - since such a situation could occur in your area too (natural disasters are everywhere).....I suggest you get an emergency bag in order including copies of all of your medicines, insurances, identification cards and copies of your very favorite photos.

One thing I hear over and over again is the regrets of not having saved family photos.

Sorry if this is too long. But it helped me wind down to have chat with the outside world tonight.

Thanks for thinking of us......and loving us with such compassion. I truly wish we NEVER have to return the favor.

Bush arrives in Mobile, Alabama

The CNN cameras are riveted on that big 747 and the helicopter that will take Bush on his photo op.

So far, no sign of bottled water, medical supplies, loaves of bread, or any other relief supplies to distribute where it's needed.

Are they planning on cramming refugees into that big 747 to get them out of the area? I doubt it.

What a waste.


Thursday, September 01, 2005

Venezuela offers fuel, food to hurricane-hit US
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez offered to send food and fuel to the United States after the powerful Hurricane Katrina pummeled the US south, ravaging US crude production.

The leftist leader, a frequent critic of the United States and a target himself of US disapproval, said Venezuela could send aid workers with drinking water, food and fuel to US communities hit by the hurricane.

"We place at the disposition of the people of the United States in the event of shortages -- we have drinking water, food, we can provide fuel," Chavez told reporters.
I can't imagine the Bush administration ever admitting they need help with anything or made any sort of mistake, so I imagine the chances of Katrina victims getting any Venezuelan aid would be pretty remote.

But if I were the mayor of Nawlins, I'd look straight into the first CNN camera available and appeal to the international community for help.

You can't shame the Bush administration into anything, but maybe you could embarrass them into getting their act together.

Bush warns: No gouging
"I think there ought to be zero tolerance of people breaking the law during an emergency such as this, whether it be looting, or price-gouging at the gasoline pump or taking advantage of charitable giving, or insurance fraud," Bush said in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America."
Sounds a little odd coming from Gouging-R-Us, doesn't it?

In the meantime, our local gas station - traditionally cheaper than those closer to town and the interstate highway - has been building up a rainy-day nest egg.

The cheap(er) stuff rose fifty-cents per gallon overnight from Monday to Tuesday, and rose another thirty-cents per gallon this morning. We're up to $3.29 for the low octane stuff that I use.

Normally, I zip around these country roads at around 45 mph. I spent my trip to and from work today figuring out how far I can go without putting my foot on the gas pedal and practicing coasting to a stop.

Next step, I suppose, will be saving up for a moped. Or figuring out how long it would take to walk, and what measures I should take to avoid being hit by traffic.


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