Thursday, September 29, 2005

It's always someone elses fault

I was just listening to some of the latest Republican spin defending Tom Delay. I have long thought it's mighty convenient that every Republican problem is always someone else's fault and that the people bringing the story to light are just plain bad people. But, lately it's reached the realm of the absurd. It's so absurd I don't think anyone but the party sheep buy it anymore. Americans just aren't that stupid. The dog ate my homework only goes so far. Billy down the street broke Mrs. Smith's window I swear. It's gotten to the point that Republicans sound like 5 year olds who dropped a glass of milk in the Kitchen.

The latest spin is that the prosecutor bringing charges against Tom Delay is playing politics and is a rabid democrat. I am willing to wait for a trial to determine the truth. But, for now the spin sounds an awful lot like, "the teachers out to get me Mom, I swear, the teacher hates me".

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Iraqi Civil War, What's really at risk

Many believe this has already happened. But, let's talk about it for a minute anyway. Imagine Iraq splits into 3 autonomous governments. Kurds in the north, Sunni in the center, and Shiite in the south. Let's forget for a minute that Iraq's oil reserves are in the north and the south, but not in the center.

Ok, now we have our picture painted...what does it mean. Turkey borders Iraq to the north and would border our new Kurdish state. However, the Kurds in Turkey have been fighting for self rule for years, and the Turks have been vehemently apposed to a Kurdish state in Iraq. The threat to Turkey is that their own Kurds would demand independence or try to join with the new Kurdish state. At the very minimum Turkey would engage in a cold war to undermine the Kurds. More likely Turkey will invade and destroy the fledgling country.

Now let's look at the Shiites. Their natural ally is Iran. Iran may be considered the big winner in the Iraq war. To be sure Iranian influence in the Middle East is on the rise. Happily for them the United States has removed Sadaam, the Iranian's biggest enemy. The Shiite's in the South are already, and will continue to be, allied with Iran. The combination will be a more powerful Iran then we see now.

In the midst of all this we have the Sunnis. The Sunnis are leading the insurgency and will transition into civil war without skipping a beat. In fact the Sunnis already see their struggle as a civil war. So the Sunnis are and will fight the new Iranian client state and the other Sunni countries in the area will be forced into the conflict. Namely Saudi Arabia and others will have to support the Sunnis in order to counter the rise of Iran.

At the very least we will end up with a regional conflict. At the worst a world war. The disintegration of Iraq will mark the decline of American power, the rise of Iran, and the possibility of a global struggle over oil and power in the Middle East.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Bush administration facing serious trouble

Just take a quick look at the following news stories:

Aide Was Reticent on Lobbying for Foreign Clients

David H. Safavian, the Bush administration official arrested Monday, initially failed to disclose lobbying work he had done for several controversial foreign clients when he went before a Senate panel last year to be confirmedas chief of the White House's federal procurement office.

David Sagavian was arrested just after resigning his position as "chief of the White House's federal procurement office". He was in charge of billions of dollars.

Country is hurtling towards disintegration, Saudis warn

The Saudi government yesterday warned that Iraq is hurtling towards disintegration and that an election planned for December is unlikely to make any difference. The government said it was delivering this bleak assessment to both the US and British administrationsas a matter of urgency.

Things are not going well.

New Accounts of Torture by U.S. Troops

U.S. Army troops subjected Iraqi detainees to severe beatings and other torture at a base in central Iraq from 2003 through 2004, often under orders or with the approval of superior officers, according to accounts from soldiers released by Human Rights Watch today. The new report, "Leadership Failure: Firsthand Accounts of Torture of Iraqi Detainees by the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division," provides soldiers' accounts of abuses against detainees committed by troops of the 82nd Airborne stationed at ForwardOperating Base Mercury (FOB Mercury), near Fallujah.

Ok, these guys went to aids of Senators McCain and Warner and came forward with their testimony. McCain has been working to reign in the administration and conduct investigations
into torture accusations. So far Majority leader Frist has shelved those attempts:

McCain pushes for detainee amendment

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is threatening to attach an amendment to the defense appropriations bill defining acceptable treatment of military detainees if the defense authorization bill, to which it is currently attached, is not voted on this fall. “I hate to do this,” said McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Airland Subcommittee. When Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) shelved the defense authorization bill before the August recess, the treatment of detainees was one of two contentious issues.

Now Majority leader Frist is in trouble of his own.

Frist Knew About Blind Trust Investments

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., was updated several times about his investments in blind trusts during 2002, the last time two weeks before he publicly denied any knowledge of what was in the accounts, documents show.

The updates included stock transactions involving HCA Inc., the hospital operating company founded by Frist's family.

All this spells real trouble for the Bush administration.

North Korea Update

Several days after my last post it became clear that North Korea would humble the Bush administration even further. They demanded a cold water nuclear reactor or they would pull out of the deal.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Bush Caves On North Korea

Give them everything they want and maybe we can get one more problem out of the news.

Non-aggression pact. No problem.
Normalized relations. No problem.
Energy, food, money. No problem.

Bush caved in to North Korean demands to make this problem go away. Never mind he gave them all the things he promised he would not give. Never mind he is going to recognize one of the most infamous and repressive regimes in world history.

Bush is a jelly fish now. More dangerous then ever before.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Everythings Bigger in Texas. You should have guessed it Bubba

Right now there are thousands of Bush voters counting on their fingers. "Darnit Lulu that damn Clinton was a better Republican then this here Bush feller".

Big Spending Republicans

It's supposed to be an oxymoron. More likely a herd of morons. Their herd mentality has brought us the biggest Government in our history, with the biggest budget in our history, and the biggest budget deficit in our history. Good job Douche Bags.

I'm a liberal and It's to much spending even for me.

I don't have kids, so I'm glad you all are putting yours in hock for me.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Kurt Vonnegut's list of Liberal crap he doesn't want to hear anymore

Vonnegut has always been a hero of mine. I read Slaughterhouse Five in high school and then pretty much soaked up everything the man wrote after that. Including some books that may or may not have been written by him. (

So when Kurt Vonnegut is on the Daily Show, you can bet I am going to watch.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Michael Savage: Ayn Rand was a socialist

I just heard him say about 5 minutes ago, "Ayn Rand was a socialist".

Has Savage given up trying to talk to real conservatives all together? Is he just feeding off the bottom?

How can anyone let alone a conservative mistake Ayn Rand for a socialist?

It's a good thing for him his listeners can't or don't read.

Sean Hannity Has No Stones

Ok, so I listened to pig boys radio show yesterday (13th, Sept). He made fun of Howard Dean, ran the scream clip, and accused democrats of being bad. What's new right.

Well, I find out today that Howard Dean was on Hannity and Colmes last night. But, Sean didn't talk to him (see transcript below). Only Alan Colmes spoke with Dean. Now, I don't know if it was part of the deal, or if Sean chickened out. But, I know and you know that Sean Hannity runs that show and Alan Colmes is just window dressing. So...why didn't Sean talk to Dean?

He's a coward. Hannity knows good and well that Dean will speak the truth. Sean couldn't let the truth compete with his lies, so he didn't even try.

Transcript courtesy of

Howard: Well, the situation obviously has been awful for the people of Louisiana and Mississippi and Alabama. You know, one thing Bill Clinton did really well was to have a strong Federal Emergency Management Agency. And the Bush administration just went back to turning it into a dumping ground for people who evidently didn't have anything else to do. And it's really too bad, because now people have paid for that with their lives.

Alan: The president did say "I take personal responsibility".

Howard: Well, I think that's one thing. But there's a lot of people dead and a lot of people without their homes. Those people needed help, on time. They didn't need help and somebody to take responsibility two weeks after the fact.

Alan: Is it the governor's responsibility--as you divide the responsibility--

Howard: Here's how it works. I had seven or nine of these--I can't remember--when I was governor. Of course nothing to this extent. The way it works is the governor takes over the National Guard responsibilities first and then asks for help from FEMA--especially when it's something of this sort. There was a big squabble over who was going to have control. The thing that's so disturbing is that the Congressional Research Service, which is totally nonpartisan, came out today and said that Governor Blanco did everything she could. Which means, obviously, that they thought the real screw-ups were at the federal level. And they were. I mean, FEMA used to be incompetent when George Bush's father was in there. Clinton really cleaned them up and put James Lee Witt in charge--who was by far the best FEMA director of any administration and now the president's messed it up again. It's unfair to American citizens, because people need their help when they need their help.

Alan: We had Bill Frist on our show last night and we played for him what you had said about him prioritizing getting rid of the death tax (sic)--750 billion dollars--and you said it's a moral choice how do we spend that money, if we have that amount of money to spend. And he said it's really not a choice. That we're putting all of this money into reconstruction and so he kind of pooh-poohed the idea that there *is* a moral choice to be made.

Howard: Well, there are three things you can do. You can run the biggest deficits in the history of the country which we're doing right now, you can rebuild New Orleans, you can get rid of the estate tax. Now, the Republicans, including Senator Frist, chose to get rid of the estate tax, and evidently they say they're going to rebuild New Orleans. Which means we're going to have twice as high a deficit. When is this going to stop? These people are completely irreponsible financially. We need to balance the budget *some day* in this country. And to spend 750 billion dollars giving a tax break to 20,000 American families, as opposed to the rest of the 280 million of them, I think is morally *wrong*. We *did* have moral choices to make--we've made the wrong choices again and again and again, and we're paying for this very dearly. Moral choices *not* just in terms of favoring getting rid of the estate tax over dealing with the deficit, but moral choices in terms of downgrading FEMA, not putting the money into levee reconstruction--this is the wrong moral choice.

Alan: You've said that President Bush doesn't care about all of the American people, and you've said something similar about Judge Roberts--that he may love the law but doesn't necessarily love the American people. Do you ever have a concern about rhetoric that you may put out like that, that may be more divisive than uniting?

Howard: I think it's true. I think it's time somebody told the truth. The president said he was a uniter, and turned out to be the most divisive president probably in our history, except perhaps before the Civil War. This is a divisive president, and he got there by not telling the truth. The truth is that there are a lot of people who it turns out, through no fault of their own, really got hammered in this, and they didn't get any help from the federal government. There are a lot of women, for example, who couldn't participate in sports. My wife didn't have equal access to sports; my daughter did. Judge Roberts wants to undo that according to his writings. I think that those things that I say are true, and therefore they need to be said. You can't fix something if you're not willing to point your finger at it.

Alan: Barack Obama the other day talked about active racism versus a kind of passive, more innocent kind of negligence. Are they both equally racism and equally reprehensible?

Howard: I think, Alan, you have a mixture of both. I do *not* think President Bush is a racist. I know him personally, and I've never heard him say anything like that. And I don't think he's a homophobe either. But the effect of what he does, does hurt poor people disproporionately, and poor people are members of minority communities. The effect of what he does, does harm gay people disproportionately. So, the argument I would make with both the president and John Roberts is, they may not be overtly racist, but their actions contribute to harm for vulnerable people. And that includes women, it includes members of minority groups including Hispanics and African Americans. It includes anybody that doesn't look like them, and I think that's a problem.

Alan: Today, though, he did talk about the Civil Rights Act and of course how he believes in the 1965 act, and he talked about the right to privacy, and he did amend some of the things he had written back in 1981, and seemed to say the kind of things you would think Democrats would want to hear, stare decisis, the idea of established law as applied to Roe vs. Wade. Is that enough to say, "Look, maybe we should really look at this person--that he *might* be the appropriate judge?"

Howard: Alan, I didn't hear any *answers* today. I heard a lot of legal mumbo jumbo and a lot of dancing around... He is an *accomplished* attorney, there's no question about that. The question is, does he have the interests of the American people in his heart. Let me tell you what I mean by that. This is a guy who is very bright, and nobody can argue with that. This is a guy who's accomplished. But if you don't have compassion, then how can you really be a leader of the American people.

Alan: Do you believe that he's a racist?

Howard: No. I don't think there's any evidence of him being an overt racist but I think that his decisions have had the effect of harming, disproportionately, women, African Americans, and Hispanics.
While I was still working on this transcript, listener wrote in the comments:

(I think your television WAS ritually purified by having the abominable hour end with Howard.)

True that. Howard's truth-telling can have an amazing detoxifying effect.
UPDATE: Thank you, jc, for providing the link to the Congressional Research Service Report (PDF)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Wall Street Journal: Internal docs show feds 'bungled' Katrina response

Paper: Internal docs show feds 'bungled' Katrina response


As the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency stepped down yesterday, government documents surfaced showing that vital resources, such as buses and environmental health specialists, weren't deployed to the Gulf region for several days, even after federal officials seized control of Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, the (paid-restricted) WALL STREET JOURNAL reports Tuesday. Excerpts follow.

Separately, internal documents and emails from FEMA and other government agencies dating back to Aug. 31 and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal show the extent to which the federal government bungled its response to the hurricane. The documents highlight serious deficiencies in the Department of Homeland Security's National Response Plan, a post-Sept. 11 playbook on how to deal with catastrophic events. Mr. Chertoff activated the National Response Plan last Tuesday by declaring the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina an "Incident of National Significance."

In one instance, federal environmental health specialists, who were charged with protecting both rescue workers and evacuees, weren't called in by the Department of Homeland Security until Sunday -- 12 days after the Occupational Safety & Health Administration announced it had teams from various agencies standing by ready to assist. Even now, with mounting evidence of environmental problems, the deployment is being held up by continuing interagency wrangling, according to officials at the National Institutes of Health, which also is involved in the effort.

In addition, FEMA's official requests, known as tasking assignments and used by the agency to demand help from other government agencies, show that it first asked the Department of Transportation to look for buses to help evacuate the more than 20,000 people who had taken refuge at the Superdome in New Orleans at 1:45 a.m. on Aug. 31. At the time, it only asked for 455 buses and 300 ambulances for the enormous task. Almost 18 hours later, it canceled the request for the ambulances because it turned out, as one FEMA employee put it, "the DOT doesn't do ambulances."

FEMA ended up modifying the number of buses it thought it needed to get the job done, until it settled on a final request of 1,355 buses at 8:05 p.m. on Sept. 3. The buses, though, trickled into New Orleans, with only a dozen or so arriving on the first day.

The part of the plan that authorizes OSHA's role as coordinator and allows it to mobilize experts from other agencies such as NIH wasn't activated by FEMA until shortly before 5 p.m. Sunday. The delay came despite repeated efforts by the agencies to mobilize.

Attempts by officials at NIH to reach FEMA officials and send them briefing materials by email failed as the agency's server failed.

"I noticed that every email to a FEMA person bounced back this week. They need a better internet provider during disasters!!" one frustrated Department of Health official wrote to colleagues last Thursday.


RAW STORY has also learned that the Journal has adopted a legal policy in which they now assert they have "reviewed" internal documents rather than "obtaining" them to protect the paper from government litigation.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Katrina destroys right wing fantasy

"This is a conservative country".

You've all heard it on Hannity and Rush. The claim of the decade, "the majority of Americans are conservative", "America is a conservative country".

Ah...I hate to break it to you righties, but you're wrong. Hurricane Katrina has proven what many of us already knew. Everyone, even many conservatives looked to the government to help. Almost the entire country expected a better Federal response and were shocked it didn't materialize. Now in a backpedaling effort the majority conservative government has passed a $62 billion aid package. That's $62 billion more then we have folks. We are currently in deficit spending.

Conservativism is dead, it's been dead, and only fantasy can resurrect it.

People look to the government to solve problems. Americans expect our government to actively and agressively make our lives better. That expectation is Liberalism. Clearly this is not a conservative country. Clearly the majority of Americans expect and demand the US government solve problems.

This is the biggest wake up call for Democrats since the Great Depression. We must make the best of it.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

First hand account of Katrina suffering

Hurricane Katrina - Our Experiences

Two days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, the Walgreen's store at the corner of Royal and Iberville streets remained locked. The dairy display case was clearly visible through the widows. It was now 48 hours without electricity, running water, plumbing. The milk, yogurt, and cheeses were beginning to spoil in the 90-degree heat. The owners and managers had locked up the food, water, pampers, and prescriptions and fled the City. Outside Walgreen's windows, residents and tourists grew increasingly thirsty and hungry.

The much-promised federal, state and local aid never materialized and the windows at Walgreen's gave way to the looters. There was an alternative. The cops could have broken one small window and distributed the nuts, fruit juices, and bottle water in an organized and systematic manner. But they did not. Instead they spent hours playing cat and mouse, temporarily chasing away the looters.

We were finally airlifted out of New Orleans two days ago and arrived home yesterday (Saturday). We have yet to see any of the TV coverage or look at a newspaper. We are willing to guess that there were no video images or front-page pictures of European or affluent white tourists looting the Walgreen's in the French Quarter.

We also suspect the media will have been inundated with "hero" images of the National Guard, the troops and the police struggling to help the "victims" of the Hurricane. What you will not see, but what we witnessed,were the real heroes and sheroes of the hurricane relief effort: the working class of New

Orleans. The maintenance workers who used a fork lift to carry the sick and disabled. The engineers, who rigged, nurtured and kept the generators running. The electricians who improvised thick extension cords stretching over blocks to share the little electricity we had in order to free cars stuck on rooftop parking lots. Nurses who took over for mechanical ventilators and spent many hours on end manually forcing air into the lungs of unconscious patients to keep them alive. Doormen who rescued folks stuck in elevators. Refinery workers who broke into boat yards, "stealing" boats to rescue their neighbors clinging to their roofs in flood waters. Mechanics who helped hot-wire any car that could be found to ferry people out of the City. And the food service workers who scoured the commercial kitchens improvising communal meals for hundreds of those stranded.

Most of these workers had lost their homes, and had not heard from members of their families, yet they stayed and provided the only infrastructure for the 20% of New Orleans that was not under water.

On Day 2, there were approximately 500 of us left in the hotels in the French Quarter. We were a mix of foreign tourists, conference attendees like ourselves, and locals who had checked into hotels for safety and shelter from Katrina. Some of us had cell phone contact with family and friends outside of

New Orleans. We were repeatedly told that all sorts of resources including the National Guard and scores of buses were pouring in to the City. The buses and the other resources must have been invisible because none of us had seen them.

We decided we had to save ourselves. So we pooled our money and came up with $25,000 to have ten buses come and take us out of the City. Those who did not have the requisite $45.00 for a ticket were subsidized by those who did have extra money. We waited for 48 hours for the buses, spending the last 12 hours standing outside, sharing the limited water, food, and clothes we had. We created a priority boarding area for the sick, elderly and new born babies. We waited late into the night for the "imminent" arrival of the buses. The buses never arrived. We later learned that the minute the arrived to the City limits, they were commandeered by the military.

By day 4 our hotels had run out of fuel and water. Sanitation was dangerously abysmal. As the desperation and despair increased, street crime as well as water levels began to rise. The hotels turned us out and locked their doors, telling us that the "officials" told us to report to the convention center to wait for more buses. As we entered the center of the City, we finally encountered the National Guard. The Guards told us we would not be allowed into the Superdome as the City's primary shelter had descended into a humanitarian and health hellhole. The guards further told us that the City's only other shelter, the Convention Center, was also descending into chaos and squalor and that the police were not allowing anyone else in. Quite naturally, we asked, "If we can't go to the only 2 shelters in the City, what was our alternative?" The guards told us that that was our problem, and no they did not have extra water to give to us. This would be the start of our numerous encounters with callous and hostile "law enforcement".

We walked to the police command center at Harrah's on Canal Street and were told the same thing, that we were on our own, and no they did not have water to give us. We now numbered several hundred. We held a mass meeting to decide a course of action. We agreed to camp outside the police command post. We would be plainly visible to the media and would constitute a highly visible embarrassment to the City officials. The police told us that we could not stay. Regardless, we began to settle in and set up camp. In short order, the police commander came across the street to address our group. He told us he had a solution: we should walk to the Pontchartrain Expressway and cross the greater New Orleans Bridge where the police had buses lined up to take us out of the City. The crowed cheered and began to move. We called everyone back and explained to the commander that there had been lots of misinformation and wrong information and was he sure that there were buses waiting for us. The commander turned to the crowd and stated emphatically, "I swear to you that the buses are there."

We organized ourselves and the 200 of us set off for the bridge with great excitement and hope. As we marched pasted the convention center, many locals saw our determined and optimistic group and asked where we were headed. We told them about the great news. Families immediately grabbed their few belongings and quickly our numbers doubled and then doubled again. Babies in strollers now joined us, people using crutches, elderly clasping walkers and others people in wheelchairs. We marched the 2-3 miles to the freeway and up the steep incline to the Bridge. It now began to pour down rain, but it did not dampen our enthusiasm.

As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions. As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of our conversation with the police commander and of the commander's assurances. The sheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move.

We questioned why we couldn't cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the 6-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their City. These were code words for if you are poor and black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River and you were not getting out of New Orleans.

Our small group retreated back down Highway 90 to seek shelter from the rain under an overpass. We debated our options and in the end decided to build an encampment in the middle of the Ponchartrain Expressway on the center divide, between the O'Keefe and Tchoupitoulas exits. We reasoned we would be visible to everyone, we would have some security being on an elevated freeway and we could wait and watch for the arrival of the yet to be seen buses.

All day long, we saw other families, individuals and groups make the same trip up the incline in an attempt to cross the bridge, only to be turned away. Some chased away with gunfire, others simply told no, others to be verbally berated and humiliated. Thousands of New Orleaners were prevented and prohibited from self-evacuating the City on foot. Meanwhile, the only two City shelters sank further into squalor and disrepair. The only way across the bridge was by vehicle. We saw workers stealing trucks, buses, moving vans, semi-trucks and any car that could be hotwired. All were packed with people trying to escape the misery New Orleans had become.

Our little encampment began to blossom. Someone stole a water delivery truck and brought it up to us. Let's hear it for looting! A mile or so down the freeway, an army truck lost a couple of pallets of C-rations on a tight turn. We ferried the food back to our camp in shopping carts. Now secure with the two necessities, food and water; cooperation, community, and creativity flowered. We organized a clean up and hung garbage bags from the rebar poles. We made beds from wood pallets and cardboard. We designated a storm drain as the bathroom and the kids built an elaborate enclosure for privacy out of plastic, broken umbrellas, and other scraps. We even organized a food recycling system where individuals could swap out parts of C-rations (applesauce for babies and candies for kids!).

This was a process we saw repeatedly in the aftermath of Katrina. When individuals had to fight to find food or water, it meant looking out for yourself only. You had to do whatever it took to find water for your kids or food for your parents. When these basic needs were met, people began to look out for each other, working together and constructing a community.

If the relief organizations had saturated the City with food and water in the first 2 or 3 days, the desperation, the frustration and the ugliness would not have set in.

Flush with the necessities, we offered food and water to passing families and individuals. Many decided to stay and join us. Our encampment grew to 80 or 90 people.

From a woman with a battery powered radio we learned that the media was talking about us. Up in full view on the freeway, every relief and news organizations saw us on their way into the City. Officials were being asked what they were going to do about all those families living up on the freeway? The officials responded they were going to take care of us. Some of us got a sinking feeling. "Taking care of us" had an ominous tone to it.

Unfortunately, our sinking feeling (along with the sinking City) was correct. Just as dusk set in, a Gretna Sheriff showed up, jumped out of his patrol vehicle, aimed his gun at our faces, screaming, "Get off the fucking freeway". A helicopter arrived and used the wind from its blades to blow away our flimsy structures. As we retreated, the sheriff loaded up his truck with our food and water.

Once again, at gunpoint, we were forced off the freeway. All the law enforcement agencies appeared threatened when we congregated or congealed into groups of 20 or more. In every congregation of "victims" they saw "mob" or "riot". We felt safety in numbers. Our "we must stay together" was impossible because the agencies would force us into small atomized groups.

In the pandemonium of having our camp raided and destroyed, we scattered once again. Reduced to a small group of 8 people, in the dark, we sought refuge in an abandoned school bus, under the freeway on Cilo Street. We were hiding from possible criminal elements but equally and definitely, we were hiding from the police and sheriffs with their martial law, curfew and shoot-to-kill policies.

The next days, our group of 8 walked most of the day, made contact with New Orleans Fire Department and were eventually airlifted out by an urban search and rescue team. We were dropped off near the airport and managed to catch a ride with the National Guard. The two young guardsmen apologized for the limited response of the Louisiana guards. They explained that a large section of their unit was in Iraq and that meant they were shorthanded and were unable to complete all the tasks they were assigned.

We arrived at the airport on the day a massive airlift had begun. The airport had become another Superdome. We 8 were caught in a press of humanity as flights were delayed for several hours while George Bush landed briefly at the airport for a photo op. After being evacuated on a coast guard cargo plane, we arrived in San Antonio, Texas.

There the humiliation and dehumanization of the official relief effort continued. We were placed on buses and driven to a large field where we were forced to sit for hours and hours. Some of the buses did not have air-conditioners. In the dark, hundreds if us were forced to share two filthy overflowing porta-potties. Those who managed to make it out with any possessions (often a few belongings in tattered plastic bags) we were subjected to two different dog-sniffing searches.

Most of us had not eaten all day because our C-rations had been confiscated at the airport because the rations set off the metal detectors. Yet, no food had been provided to the men, women, children, elderly, disabled as they sat for hours waiting to be "medically screened" to make sure we were not carrying any communicable diseases.

This official treatment was in sharp contrast to the warm, heart-felt reception given to us by the ordinary Texans. We saw one airline worker give her shoes to someone who was barefoot. Strangers on the street offered us money and toiletries with words of welcome. Throughout, the official relief effort was callous, inept, and racist.

There was more suffering than need be.

Lives were lost that did not need to be lost.

Sep 6, 2005, 11:59
By Parmedics Larry Bradsahw and Lorrie Beth Slonsky

Saturday, September 03, 2005

The Department of Homeland Security has primary responsibility

This is from the Department of Homeland Security website:

Preparing America

In the event of a terrorist attack, natural disaster or other large-scale emergency, the Department of Homeland Security will assume primary responsibility on March 1st for ensuring that emergency response professionals are prepared for any situation. This will entail providing a coordinated, comprehensive federal response to any large-scale crisis and mounting a swift and effective recovery effort. The new Department will also prioritize the important issue of citizen preparedness. Educating America's families on how best to prepare their homes for a disaster and tips for citizens on how to respond in a crisis will be given special attention at DHS.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Did New Orleans Catastrophe Have to Happen? "No one can say they didn't see it coming"

Did New Orleans Catastrophe Have to Happen? 'Times-Picayune' Had Repeatedly Raised Federal Spending Issues

Even though Hurricane Katrina has moved well north of the city, the waters may still keep rising in New Orleans. That's because Lake Pontchartrain continues to pour through a two-block-long break in the main levee, near the city's 17th Street Canal. With much of the Crescent City some 10 feet below sea level, the rising tide may not stop until it's level with the massive lake.

New Orleans had long known it was highly vulnerable to flooding and a direct hit from a hurricane. In fact, the federal government has been working with state and local officials in the region since the late 1960s on major hurricane and flood relief efforts. When flooding from a massive rainstorm in May 1995 killed six people, Congress authorized the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, or SELA.

Over the next 10 years, the Army Corps of Engineers, tasked with carrying out SELA, spent $430 million on shoring up levees and building pumping stations, with $50 million in local aid. But at least $250 million in crucial projects remained, even as hurricane activity in the Atlantic Basin increased dramatically and the levees surrounding New Orleans continued to subside.

Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a trickle. The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming at the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars.

Newhouse News Service, in an article posted late Tuesday night at The Times-Picayune Web site, reported: "No one can say they didn't see it coming. ... Now in the wake of one of the worst storms ever, serious questions are being asked about the lack of preparation."