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Saturday, September 03, 2005

Bush's FEMA Freaks

Under the highly-qualified Clinton appointee James Lee Witt, FEMA became a model for government efficiency. From 1995:
How FEMA transformed itself from what many considered to be the worst federal agency (no small distinction) to among the best is the most dramatic success story of the federal government in recent years. Not only does it provide further evidence that the government can work, it offers a blueprint for what it takes: strong leadership, energetic oversight, and, most importantly, a total reevaluation of its mission.


Virtually overnight, the agency has developed a new reputation for quickness and efficiency. Gone are the bureaucratic swamps that the old FEMA had made its hallmark. It is telling that when state disaster officials talk about FEMA's response time, they no longer speak in days or weeks, but in hours. They speak of phone calls, not of forms dropped in the mail.
And the FEMA story under GWB? Well, let's consider Bush's first FEMA appointee, Joe Allbaugh, who got the job after managing Bush's 2000 campaign. From July of 2001:
Bush has not completely modeled his response after Clinton, who almost never missed an opportunity to show up on the scene of a disaster to express support and sympathy.

In stark contrast to Clinton, Bush has remained largely in the background, leaving public appearances to Allbaugh, a no-nonsense administrator whose gruff style has ruffled feathers and provoked negative headlines.

Allbaugh, who declined a request for an interview, angered residents of Davenport, Iowa, when he lectured them for not building a flood wall when the Mississippi River flooded their town earlier this year.

Last week, the FEMA director also came under fire for taking a $340,000 flight to Miami and Puerto Rico on a sophisticated aircraft designed solely for national emergencies.

A spokesman said Allbaugh acknowledged he should not have taken the flight but that the director's staffers misled him.
Now Knight-Ridder profiles the homicidally incompetent current FEMA poobah Michael D. Brown:
From failed Republican congressional candidate to ousted "czar" of an Arabian horse association, there was little in Michael D. Brown's background to prepare him for the fury of Hurricane Katrina.


"He's done a hell of a job, because I'm not aware of any Arabian horses being killed in this storm," said Kate Hale, former Miami-Dade emergency management chief. "The world that this man operated in and the focus of this work does not in any way translate to this. He does not have the experience."


"I wouldn't have regarded his position in the horse industry as a platform to where he is now," said Tom Connelly, a former association president.

Brown's ticket to FEMA was Joe Allbaugh, President Bush's 2000 campaign manager and an old friend of Brown's in Oklahoma. When Bush ran for president in 2000, Brown was ending a rocky tenure at the horse association.

Brown told several association officials that if Bush were elected, he'd be in line for a good job.
In addition to hearing how we are all heartless bastards for politicizing THEIR disaster mismanagement, I am sure we will soon be hearing about how this was All Bill Clinton's fault.

Update: I was wrong. High gas prices are now Hillary's fault for not voting for ANWR. Wrong Clinton.


FEMA: The Swing State Project

So with their funding slashed to pay for George's War, what exactly did FEMA choose to do with the money it had?

Well, in 2003, they gave it to Jeb, of course:
FEMA has been under scrutiny since the Sun-Sentinel first reported in October that the agency was awarding millions of dollars in disaster funds to residents of Miami-Dade County, even though the county did not experience hurricane conditions. At Nelson's urging, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is investigating. Earlier this month, 14 Miami-Dade residents who received assistance were indicted on fraud charges.

As of March 16, FEMA had given $31 million to 12,891 applicants in Miami-Dade for damage claimed from Frances.


Even state officials were surprised at how quickly money flowed to Florida.
Just prior to an election year? Go on.
FEMA officials, the governor and the White House have steadfastly denied suggestions that politics played a role in the distribution of hurricane aid in Florida.

"The men and women at FEMA don't give a patooey about who the president is or who the governor is," FEMA Director Michael D. Brown told the newspaper's editorial board in October. "Whenever people say stuff like that … we're just offended by that because that's just not how we operate."
Can we have a chorus of "the President can do what he wants with the money at his discretion?" That's always a timeless classic from the Chapstick and kneepads set.

(Hat tip to Old Fashioned Patriot)


"Brownie, You're Doing a Heck of a Job"

FEMA is now a dumping ground for political hacks with zero imagination. To this day, it's the Army saving lives and FEMA is missing in action. The military could have used the resources they use around the world, that Americans pay for, to save Americans. But no one in FEMA had enough sense to ask about air drops, pathfinders, Special Tactics Teams or anything which could have sent immediate aid. Instead, they start and stop their bus evacuation, letting disease fester and leaving the question of racial indifference hang in the air.
Maureen Dowd:
Shirt-sleeves rolled up, W. finally landed in Hell yesterday and chuckled about his wild boozing days in "the great city" of N'Awlins. He was clearly moved. "You know, I'm going to fly out of here in a minute," he said on the runway at the New Orleans International Airport, "but I want you to know that I'm not going to forget what I've seen." Out of the cameras' range, and avoided by W., was a convoy of thousands of sick and dying people, some sprawled on the floor or dumped on baggage carousels at a makeshift M*A*S*H unit inside the terminal.


Michael Brown, the blithering idiot in charge of FEMA - a job he trained for by running something called the International Arabian Horse Association - admitted he didn't know until Thursday that there were 15,000 desperate, dehydrated, hungry, angry, dying victims of Katrina in the New Orleans Convention Center.

Was he sacked instantly? No, our tone-deaf president hailed him in Mobile, Ala., yesterday: "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."
The Iraqi insurgency is in its last throes. The economy is booming. Anybody who leaks a CIA agent's identity will be fired. Add another piece of White House rhetoric that doesn't match the public's view of reality: Help is on the way, Gulf Coast.

As New Orleans descended into anarchy, top Bush administration officials congratulated each other for jobs well done and spoke of water, food and troops pouring into the ravaged city. Television pictures told a different story.
Two key U.S. senators said on Friday they will launch a bipartisan coverup of what they described as an "immense, but probably unavoidable failure" of the government response to Hurricane Katrina.


Speaker of the House Denny Hastert declined to comment on the hurricane or the proposed Senate investigation, other than to make a loud "BRRRRRRRR" sound while pushing a toy bulldozer across a map of New Orleans.
And god help us, the fog cleared briefly and even Bobo Brooks had a moment of clarity:
I think it is a huge reaction we are about to see. I mean, first of all, they violated the social fabric, which is in the moments of crisis you take care of the poor first. That didn't happen; it's like leaving wounded on the battlefield.
Meanwhile, over at the NRO, they're eating the lead-based paint off the walls again. James S. Robbins says, "It is hard to understand what more should, or realistically could have been done up to this point."

The knee-jerk Bush apologists really have their work cut out for them these days, don't they?

Get to it, you bastards.


"Met by Despair, Not Violence"

The LA Times profiles members of the Louisiana Army National Guard, the first convoy sent out to impose martial law in New Orleans as they arrive at the Convention Center on Friday:
"Sixteen in the clip!" one Guardsman shouted, a common refrain used to indicate that rifles are fully loaded.

But when they arrived, they did not find marauding mobs. They did not come under fire. They found people who had lost everything in the storm and, since then, their dignity.


No one came at them but a nurse. She was wearing a T-shirt that read "I love New Orleans." She ran down a broken escalator, then held her hands in the air when she saw the guns.

"We have sick kids up here!" she shouted. "We have dehydrated kids! One kid with sickle cell!"

Another storm victim, Cory Williams, 50, a respiratory therapist spending his third day at the convention center, greeted the troops as they came up the stairs.

He had ridden out the storm at his 9th Ward house. On Tuesday morning, when the flooding began in earnest, 6 feet of water came inside in five minutes, he said. He tried to stay on top of a car in the garage but the water continued to rise, so he made a run for it, dragging several neighbors out behind him on an inflatable raft as he swam, then waded, through the water.

He made it several miles west, toward downtown and higher ground, then watched police stop at gunpoint a Ryder van that had been hot-wired by thieves. The officers told the men inside that they had to stop looting and must try to get people out of the neighborhoods, that people were dying.

"Believe it or not, those dudes got the message," Williams said.

The thieves began ferrying people out of the devastated neighborhoods to the east. The police had deputized looters.

"They had to," Williams said. "There was no other way to get people out."

The thieves dropped him off at the convention center, where he stayed until the troops arrived.


People at the convention center had received a single deposit of food and water, dropped from a helicopter, since Katrina's strike. The drop caused a riot; Williams, an Army veteran, said he feared the people clambering onto the pallet of food as it neared the ground were going to pull the helicopter into the parking lot. The craft never returned.

Children slept on laps and on the ground. There was an elderly emphysema patient. A diabetic. The boy suffering from sickle cell anemia, his eyes puffy and his skin yellowish-brown.

The troops arrived Friday, ready for anything.

"You've got to do something," said the nurse in the New Orleans T-shirt.

"We'll get you some help as soon as some people get here," Lt. James Magee said as the troops arrived. "OK?"

Inside, human waste covered the floor. An elderly woman tumbled out of her wheelchair and landed on the ground. Her housedress was soiled. A man had poured fruit punch into an industrial-size bottle of floor cleaner and was drinking it with a straw.

"If you kept a dog in an environment like this, they would arrest you for animal cruelty," said Cindy Davis, 39, the nurse, who had been separated from her group while caring for a patient and stranded at the convention center three days ago. "It's like a cesspool."

Frankie Estes, 80, said she was glad to finally see the troops. It was a glimmer of hope. Friday night marked her fifth night sleeping on the sidewalk in front of the center.

"I haven't had food or water for three days," she said. "I didn't know if I was going to make it."
They were airlifting food and water to tsunami victims within two days. Can we please hear the one again about how that wasn't possible here because the safety of the troops couldn't be guaranteed because people were shooting at them?

The entire BushCo. push has been to blame the victims for the government's inability to help. The Depends Media has been complicit every step of the way in excusing the government for refusing aid and painting the poor of New Orleans as somehow deserving of their fate. Of all the lies they've ever tried to foist off on a credulous American public, this may be the worst.

Bill Richardson offered the services of the Arizona New Mexico National Guard on Sunday before the hurricane hit. BushCo. didn't approve the paperwork until Thursday.

FEMA Asshole in Chief Michael Brown claimed that FEMA didn't even know about the convention center situation until Thursday. Says he learned about it on the news. Hell the poodles learned about it on the news. Kobe should be running fucking FEMA, at least he'd care.

Am I starting to sound like Nancy Grace?


Friday, September 02, 2005

Oh They Owe Him Something, All Right

The Power Tools defend Preznit Guitarzan:
So what prompted the order that prevented Hurricane Katrina from being a natural disaster of unprecedented magnitude?
The mayor called the order unprecedented and said anyone who could leave the city should.

Gov. Kathleen Blanco, standing beside the mayor at a news conference, said President Bush called and personally appealed for a mandatory evacuation for the low-lying city, which is prone to flooding.
The City of New Orleans and its residents owe the President a profound debt of gratitude.
So let me get this straight. Knowing that a hurricane of unprecedented strength was on its way, President Bush took extreme steps to make sure that all the white, middle-class people with access to personal transportation got away to safety, and did not lift a finger to help the 28% of the population (primarily African Americans) who live there in poverty and had no such recourse?

That's not a defense, guys. That's genocide.

Oh and for those who think Kathleen Blanco was just sitting around scratching her ass before the hurricane hit and the federal government wasn't obliged to do anything until she asked -- she asked (PDF). On the 28th.

Next talking point, please.


You Really Have to Work At Being That Ignorant

OK, but what exactly did FEMA and DHS do wrong that they should have done better? So far, I haven't heard any meaningful explanation of what the criticisms are.
Okay, I'll start. Here's your FEMA in action:
USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) was slated to leave its Baltimore port today to provide critically needed medical capabilities and hospital beds to the region. Initially, some 270 medical personnel, most of them from the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., will operate the ship's medical treatment facility, Military Sealift Command officials said.
Today? Today? They've known that Katrina was going to hit since last Saturday. Thousands of people are dead or dying, yet the hospital ship has been sitting idle in the Baltimore harbor all week, and was only dispatched TODAY (another hospital ship sits idle in San Diego -- it's scheduled to leave for NO on Sept. 7th, don't ask me why).

And what is the DHS doing during all of this? Why, keeping the Red Cross OUT of NOLA:
Homeland Security (her term, not mine) told the Red Cross DO NOT enter New Orleans and says this still now. And why, you may ask? Not Security. Not worker safety. Not lack of access. It was because people would be drawn to the Red Cross food and they wouldn't want to go to be evacuated. So I asked: "The people starving and dying at the convention center yesterday couldn't get Red Cross food and water because they would be drawn to the food at the convention center, where they were, and not want to be evacuated from the convention center where no evacuations were going on or planned and all the while they are dying".


Could it be they were saving the convention center rescue until Bush's visit today? It certainly seems like it. Doesn't it?
Yeah, that's DHA and FEMA in action.

You'd think the Power Tools would eventually get tired about never, ever being right about anything and give up.

Intrepid little fuckers, aren't they.

Update: For the sceptics, from the Red Cross's own site:
The state Homeland Security Department had requested--and continues to request--that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city.
Lovely. Just lovely.


For the Love of Cheney

New Orleans can breathe a sigh of relief. George is in the thick of it now, doing what he does best -- no, not snorting coke and falling off his bike. These are serious times, don't be flippant.

I'm talking about handing out money to Halliburton:
The Navy has hired Houston-based Halliburton Co. to restore electric power, repair roofs and remove debris at three naval facilities in Mississippi damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

Halliburton subsidiary KBR will also perform damage assessments at other naval installations in New Orleans as soon as it is safe to do so.

KBR was assigned the work under a "construction capabilities" contract awarded in 2004 after a competitive bidding process. The company is not involved in the Army Corps of Engineers' effort to repair New Orleans' levees.
Would that be the same Halliburton who had to pay back $27.4 million it overcharged the Pentagon last year? Who nonetheless got "award fees" for "very good work" in 2004 to the tune of $70 million? The very same Halliburton that Bunnatine Greenhouse was demoted for criticizing?

I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that, given the time frame, it was another no-bid contract for Halliburton, exactly the kind of favoritism Bunnatine Greenhouse was calling out in the first place.

No news here.

(Via AmericaBlog)


While President Poses With Otherwise Useless Helicopter in Background

Mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, on the radio this morning:
Ray Nagin: You just tell him we had an incredible crisis here, and that his flying over in Air Force One does not do it justice. And that I have been all around this city, and I am very frustrated because we are not able to marshall resources, and we're outmanned in just about every respect.

You know the reason why the looters got out of control? Because we had most of our resources saving people, thousands of people, that were stuck in attics, man... old ladies... when you pull off the doggone ventilator vent, and you look down there, and they're standing there in water up to their fricking neck...!

And they don't have a clue what's going on down there. They flew down here one time, two days after the doggone event was over, with TV cameras, AP reporters, all kinds of goddamn -- excuse my French, everybody in America, but I am pissed.


Garland Robinette: You and I must be in the minority, because apparently there's a section of our citizenry out there that thinks because of a law that says the federal government can't come in unless requested by the proper people, that everything that's been going on to this point has been as good as it can possibly be.

RN: Really?

GR:  I know you don't feel that way.

RN: Well... did the tsunami victims request?  Did they go through a formal process to request?  Did Iraq -- did the Iraqi people request that we go in there?  Did they ask us to go in there?

What is more important? I tell ya man, I'm probably going to be in a whole bunch of trouble, I'm probably going to be in so much trouble it ain't even funny.  You probably won't even want to deal with me after this interview is over.

GR: You and I will be in the funny place together.

RN: But -- we authorized $8 billion to go to Iraq, lickety-quick.  After 9/11, we gave the president unprecedented powers -- lickety-quick -- to take care of New York and other places.  Now you mean to tell me that a place where most of the oil is coming through... a place that is so unique, when you mention New Orleans anywhere around the world, everybody's eyes light up... you mean to tell me that a place where you probably have thousands people that have died, and thousands more that are dying every day, that we can't figure out a way to authorize the resources that we need? Come on, man.
Right Wing Talking Point #10574: No help is going to Katrina because nobody submitted the right forms.

Now I get it. Please disregard all previous rage. My mistake.

Well, let's bring Halliburton in and pay 'em billions. They seem to have a talent for cutting through bureaucracy.

Might have to wait 'til Dick Cheney is back from vacation, though.


Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Skippy Challenge

Skippy is challenging bloggers to donate $100.01 to the Red Cross (or the hurricane-related cause of your choice).

Me & the poodles accepted the challenge and per Wonkette we gave to The Humane Society:
In response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, The HSUS has launched a massive relief effort to rescue animals and assist their caregivers in the disaster areas. Our highly trained Disaster Animal Response Teams are now in Mississippi and Texas coordinating a multi-state animal rescue and recovery effort. Our Disaster Response Unit, and other rescue vehicles affiliated with our teams, are in Mississippi.
If BushCo. is treating the humans like animals, imagine how the animals are being treated.

Nice to see all the conservative bloggers taking time off from excoriating criminal negro looters to come out in force and raise funds for hurricane relief, though. They fucking should. But anyone who helped that criminally useless pig get elected has blood on their hands that all the guilt money in the world won't wash off.

Maybe if they spent a little time urging Preznit Endless Summer to actually -- oh, I don't know -- do his fucking job -- something might actually get done?

Oh, I forgot, that's not the government's job, compassionate conservatism, thousand points of light, blah blah blah harumph.

Translation: Fuck the poor.

Sorry, not feeling very funny tonight.

A leader would have been burning up the phone wires getting help for these folks. The Corporal of the Guard of the 443rd Mess Kit Repair Battalion could do better than the Chimp-in-Chief.

It ain't rocket science, folks. Load up a goddam old CH-46 Sea Knight from some reserve squadron in Podunk with water, fly it over the thirsty people and kick it the fuck out. Hell, George, put on your fancy flight suit, load up that big blue motherfucker that we paid for and let you fly around in, fill it with bottled water, fly low (we know the best pilots in the world can do that 'cuz they did it yesterday), tie your ass to a stanchion, sit on the deck, open the door, and you do the kickout. Just once, earn your fuckin' money. Maybe if you're feeling extra compassionate, throw in a few sandwiches.
It's a righteous rant everyone should read.

Update: Brian Linse was arguing tonight that the abject failure to help the poor urban blacks of New Orleans is an absolutely deliberate effort to get them out of the city permanently, and sent me this link. Curious to know your thoughts in the comments.


Lake George

That's what it's being called now by those dealing with the disaster.

It is beyond my comprehension how these people are still there without food and water, without medical attention, without any way to escape, and the failure of leadership is utter, complete and staggering. These people are breaking into stores to get food to save their lives and the lives of their children. They did what they were told. Their only crime was being too poor to heed Michael "I Could Not Be More Incompetent If I Tried" Chertoff's call to get out of town on their own steam when the government could've actually mobilized to help them. Well congratulations, America, we've got a pathologically indifferent dry drunk at the helm who has "zero tolerance" for such people.

For anyone who thinks now is not the time to lapse into negative politics, I'm sorry, but I'm invoking Wolcott:
Look at 9/11. There were tough questions about the breakdown of communications at Ground Zero, the lateness in scrambling fighter jets once the hijacked planes were heading toward NY and DC, Bush's strange behavior on that day, etc., and in the aftermath those questions were considered inappropriate, "divisive." We needed to grieve first, heal; and then the tough questions could be raised.

But they weren't. As months passed, the focus was on overthrowing the Taliban and avenging 9/11, and tough questions were taken off the table as the drumbeat was about the Nation Moving Forward. The media fell into zombie lockstep behind the invigorated Bush agenda. It took the 9/11 widows and esp the "Jersey Girls" to push and shame the Congress, the media, and the administration into launching a proper investigation, otherwise it would have all slid into the memory hole apart from the iconic images of the smoking towers before their collapse.

No, this is the time for politics, none better, because I can tell you just from being out of NY a few days that a lot of people in this country are shocked and sobered by New Orleans, but they're also worried and pissed off. They're making the connection between the money, manpower, and resources expended in Iraq and how raggedy-ass the rescue effort has been in the Gulf. If you don't say it now when people's nerves are raw and they're paying full attention, it'll be too late once the waters receded and the media-emoting "healing process" begins.
"Polite" people kept their mouths shut after 9/11, let the bastard walk away like it was some kind of personal triumph and wound up -- here.

Not again.


NOLA v. Iraq – Qui es Muy FUBAR?

My cousin Larry, the rapidly radicalizing Red State senior citizen, is reading Dahr Jamail now. He sends me this:
There is a reason why a relatively recent Army survey found that 54% of all soldiers in Iraq reported either “low” or “very low” morale.

There is also a reason why, again according to the Army, that 30% of all soldiers returning from Iraq develop mental health problems 3-4 months after their return.

And there is a reason why soldiers like Nicolas Prubyla come home and join organizations like Iraq Veterans Against the War.

“Up until five days ago, I had large amounts of blood in my stool,” he told me recently, “I’ve felt tired all the time, I have had loss of hair…loss of the feeling in my right arm…I’m battling this stuff.”

What he is battling is exposure to uranium munitions in Iraq. He is battling radiation sickness as the result of the most recent nuclear war waged by the United States of America. There is a reason why over 11,000 veterans from the ’91 Gulf War are dead today, and over 250,000 others are on medical disability. That reason (hundreds and hundreds of tons of uranium munitions dropped on Iraq) is the same thing Prubyla is battling today.

“As the years go on this is going to effect a hell of a lot more people than we think…radioactive dust and the clouds of smoke and dust from firing the DU [depleted uranium] is getting to us now,” he said, “And I know I’m not the only person in my unit-my boss got diagnosed with cancer, one of my other buddies who is 23 years-old is getting rashes….every time I do more research on DU-I’m seeing that I have all the side effects.”

Prubyla has realized what more and more veterans understand…that the powers that be in our military plutocracy (also known as the US government) could care less for their well being. One of the shadow members of the current plutocracy who is also an exalted neo-conservative, Henry Kissinger, has referred to military men as “dumb, stupid animals to be used” as pawns for foreign policy.
George Bush managed to fly back in the middle of the night to “save” Terri Schaivo, but he couldn’t be bothered to come off vacation for two days to deal with Katrina. You can bet he sure as shit isn’t going to care about the men and women coming back from Iraq who will just keep dying and dying for their country.

Exactly how much more “compassionate conservatism” are we going to be able to handle?

(As a side note, it would just ice my fucking cake if Patrick Fitzgerald managed to snare that evil old prick Kissinger for rubber stamping all Conrad Black's crooked deals as a member of the Hollinger board. Say yer prayers.)


Life Outside the Superdome

Just moments ago at the Ferragamo on 5th Avenue, Condoleeza Rice was seen spending several thousands of dollars on some nice, new shoes (we’ve confirmed this, so her new heels will surely get coverage from the WaPo’s Robin Givhan). A fellow shopper, unable to fathom the absurdity of Rice’s timing, went up to the Secretary and reportedly shouted, “How dare you shop for shoes while thousands are dying and homeless!” Never one to have her fashion choices questioned, Rice had security PHYSICALLY REMOVE the woman.

Angry Lady, whoever you are, we love you. You are a true American.
Really, is there anything wrong with the world that a half-dozen pairs of $500 shoes and a little martial law can't cure? I can't imagine what.


My Mom Sent Me to Harvard Business School and All I Got Was This Nasty Coke Habit

Alan Greenspan has been able to keep the housing bubble expanding by maintaining interest rates at such a low level for so long largely because inflation has been in check. But due to the disruptions in oil as a result of Katrina and the ensuing hike in prices that will soon make their way into transportation costs of just about everything, as well as the billions that will soon be pouring into the economy to repair the damage, inflationary pressures are starting to mount.

Says Jerome a Paris:
Altogether, the extent of the damage is not fully known, but is likely to be major, and may appear in the most unexpected places. The economic impact of the total devastation of a whole region is unknown; the impact of higher oil and gasoline prices, and later of power prices, on US consumption will be significant and could trigger the long feared bursting of the housing bubble.
Bush's economic planning is no more skilled than his disaster management planning. We could all be ankle-deep in it soon as the Fed is forced to raise interest rates to counter inflation, and the housing market (which is responsible for the creation of 43% of all new jobs since Bush took office) suddenly deflates.

Meanwhile, Preznit Never Responsible announced on GMA that "I have zero tolerance for looters." Never let it be said that he passed up an opportunity to shit on the poor, the desperate and the dying.

Look for FEMA to start passing out cake.


Wednesday, August 31, 2005

I'd Like to Publicly Admit I Was Wrong

When Tsunami waves hit Asia late last year and George W. Bush did nothing for two days before pledging a paltry $10 million in disaster relief, I accused him of not giving a flying fuck about the suffering of poor foreigners on the other side of the world.

After three days of golf, staged Medicare events and other random acts of mind-boggling indifference to the disaster whose death toll is still untold (although the WaPo now says it could be in the thousands), I have to say I was wrong. George W. Bush does not give a flying fuck about the suffering of anyone. Ever. Period.

There. It was hard, but I feel better now.

Update:: Well fuck me silly. The NYT and I actually agree on something:
Sacrifices may be necessary to make sure that all these things happen in an orderly, efficient way. But this administration has never been one to counsel sacrifice. And nothing about the president's demeanor yesterday - which seemed casual to the point of carelessness - suggested that he understood the depth of the current crisis.
We always wondered how egregious his pathalogical callousness would have to get before it became patently obvious to even the blind and willfully ignorant. Now we know.


From the "Oh Please Tell Me He Did Not Just Say That" Department

Senator John W. Warner, chairman of the Armed Services Committee wants some answers, and he wants 'em fast. Toward that end, he says he intends to summon Donald Rumsfeld for a quicky hearing when Congress returns next week:
"The level of concern is, I think, gradually rising," Mr. Warner said in an interview on Friday. "Our nation has given so much to the Iraqi people, and what are they giving us in return?"
Oooh, I know that one! Pick me, pick me!

How about $8 billion dollars for starters?

But that probably won't stop us from going all noblesse oblige on them and suggesting they give some more.

We're big like that.


Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Rome Burns, Nero Fiddles

Via Steve Soto:
Even with a robust economy that was adding jobs last year, the number of Americans who fell into poverty rose to 37 million — up 1.1 million from 2003 — according to Census Bureau figures released Tuesday.

It marks the fourth straight increase in the government's annual poverty measure.

The Census Bureau also said household income remained flat, and that the number of people without health insurance edged up by about 800,000 to 45.8 million people.

"I was surprised," said Sheldon Danziger, co-director of the National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan. "I thought things would have turned around by now."
Surprised? How can you be surprised? Let's see, four years, five minus four...2000...the guy who was in office the last time poverty didn't rise...that would be...Bill Clinton! The appropriate expression is absofuckinglutely predictable. Who exactly couldn't see that this would be the logical result of an administration whose idea of a good time is rolling the homeless for pocket change?

Probably those poor sad bastards whose lips went all trembly over that smoking gun/mushroom cloud bullshit. We of the instinctive eyeball roll were a) somewhat less than surprised and b) absolutely right.

But hey, I've seen Fox News, I know the pro bloviators tour always accuse the left of only focusing on the negative, so how about some good news for a change?

Turns out the ratio of the average CEO-to-worker pay is up from 301-to-1 in 2003 to 431-to-1 in 2004! WOOO HOOO!!!

Welcome to My Pet Goat, Part II.


Monday, August 29, 2005

Mr. Fitzgerald and the NeoCons

I went to an independent book publishing panel last night with TBogg and afterwards in between virgin jello shots with Jay Brida I was moaning about the slow news cycle. TBogg just sort of shrugged and said that as someone whose stock in trade is making fun of dumb things said by people on the right, he never suffers from a dearth of inspiration.

It was then that I realized the ailment I am suffering from. That the Americablog bunch are suffering from. That Mark Kleiman is suffering from.

We're all waiting with bated breath for Patrick J. Fitzgerald's next move.

I know it's the dog days of summer. And as Mark notes, Fitzgerald doesn't have a "stable of tame reporters" to leak to in order to keep the Plame story in the headlines like Ken Starr did, nor would we want him to. And while I can't speak for Mark or John, there's just so long you can sit around in your bra and track shorts, feeding baby peeled organic carrots to the poodles before you start to get antsy, know what I mean?

I know you do. You're right there with me in all my Hanro of Switzerland pain.

Well I have learned to content myself with knowing that no matter how anxious I become, it is nothing compared to the slow, turning spit that Richard Perle roasts on. And why Perle, you ask? Why not Rove or Libby or Miller or Bolton or any of the other in the cast of morally bankrupt characters in and around the 1600 crew?

Because as far as we know, if Patrick Fitzgerald indicts him, Perle is the only one who will have to ask: in what case?

It's well known that Perle could be one of the faces that turns up in the Axis of Arrogance deck of L'Affair Plame. As a key neocon Iraq war architect, Chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board, PNAC stooge and cheerleader for Ahmed Chalabi, Perle's name has never been far from the list of suspects. As Alexander Cockburn noted:
We could conjecture that when Fitzgerald interviewed White House political adviser Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, one or the other, or both, had said that they learned Plame was married to Wilson and in the CIA from Miller, who -- again this is surmised -- might well have learned this from one of her other sources, whether Richard Perle or Ahmed Chalabi or someone else in the intelligence world.
But in his day job as US Attorney in Chicago, Fitzgerald has also recently indicted key employees of world-class neocon chiseler and media baron Conrad Black, former owner of the Chicago Sun-Times and employer of Robert Novak, for the alleged looting of Hollinger International, the Chicago-based media company Black once owned:
An internal investigation by the company, led by former U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission Chairman Richard Breeden, found that Mr. Black and his top lieutenants directed more than $400 million out of the company through self-dealing and excessive compensation that Mr. Breeden termed a “corporate kleptocracy.”

Many of those transactions were approved by the company’s board, a star-studded group that included luminaries such as former Illinois Gov. James R. Thompson and former Defense Policy chairman Richard Perle.
Part of the money diverted from Hollinger included a $2.5 million investment in Perle's Trireme Partners, which was attempting to do technology-related homeland security and defense business while Perle was on the Defense Policy Board (can you say "conflict of interest?")

The SEC has already let Perle know they're after him for his role in the Hollinger affair, having served him with a Wells notice, "a formal warning that the agency's enforcement staff has determined that evidence of wrongdoing is sufficient to bring a civil lawsuit."

He he he. Perle must be shitting sandpaper-coated bricks. Bush might wave a flag around feebly, call him a patriot and pardon him for criminal charges in the Plame case, but let's see him pardon Perle for ripping off stockholders to the tune $400 large. If he does that, he might as well pardon Ken Lay and throw a wake for the Republicans in 2008.

It's illustrative to watch how Fitzgerald is operating in the Hollinger case. As former prosecutor Reddhead already pointed out, Fitzgerald's first move in Plame will probably be to start issuing small, peripheral indictments to induce people to talk or flip as he makes his way up to the top of the pyramid, where by all accounts he likes to aim. Although Conrad Black has yet to be indicted, Fitzgerald's indictments against former Chicago Sun-Times publisher David Radler have softened him up quite a bit and he is now cooperating. Most expect Black to be on the top of the hit list.

But the good news for me in all of this is Fitzgerald gets it. He sees into the ugly, greedy, oozing heart of the neocon kleptocracy, its mafia-like structure and the all-too-cozy overlap between the war party and the profiteers, and it pisses him off. "Shareholders in public companies have a right to expect that their monies will be managed properly by officers and directors and that the officers and directors won't steal it," he said.

Fitzgerald has also been busy indicting henchmen of the cravenly corrupt Daley administration, proving along the way that a) he is non-partisan in his pursuit and just as willing to throw a beating to crooked Democrats, and b) he is, as he was once described, Elliot Ness with a sense of humor.

When former Chicago city employee John "Quarters" Boyle was sentenced recently for extorting bribes in the city's Hired Truck Program, he bragged about refusing to cooperate with prosecutors against others.

"He's obviously proud that he's not cooperating, and he can be proud in prison," said Fitzgerald, who then went on to subpoena Boyle to testify before a grand jury, and let the judge know he was granting Boyle immunity from further prosecution -- which prevents him from invoking the 5th.

Bottom line, this guy Does Not Fuck Around. Despite the fact the New York Times manages to dredge up some marginal Europeans who are paying about half-attention to come to Judith Miller's defense, she shouldn't be getting visions of ankle bracelets any time soon.

Like any good man, Patrick Fitzgerald knows how to take his time. And us breathless girls will just have to wait.


Cue the Hypocrites

Wow. The hubris of all those Venezuelans, sitting on all that Venezuelan oil like they own it:
President Hugo Chavez said Sunday that his government may ask the United States to extradite U.S. religious broadcaster Pat Robertson to Venezuela for suggesting American agents should kill him.

Earlier Sunday, Rev. Jesse Jackson offered support for Chavez, saying the televangelist's call for the Venezuelan leader's assassination was a criminal act.

The U.S. civil rights leader, who is on a four-day visit to Venezuela, called Robertson's statements "immoral" and "illegal." He urged U.S. authorities to take action, and said the U.S. government must choose "diplomacy over any threats of sabotage or isolation or assassination."

Sunday, speaking to foreign delegations attending a meeting of the Organization of American States in Caracas, Chavez said Venezuela will "exercise legal action in the United States" against Robertson.
Should be interesting to see what the response of the National Lampoon's Crawford Vacation bunch will be -- after all, wasn't it Saddaam's threat to assassinate his father one of Preznit Hole Smoker's motivating factors in marching over Iraq like it was a large piece of dog offal?

Oh well, historical consistency really hasn't bothered them much in the past, I don't suppose it will now


Hell: They Cheney Years

From the NYT:
A top Army contracting official who criticized a large, noncompetitive contract with the Halliburton Company for work in Iraq was demoted Saturday for what the Army called poor job performance.

The official, Bunnatine H. Greenhouse, has worked in military procurement for 20 years and for the past several years had been the chief overseer of contracts at the Army Corps of Engineers, the agency that has managed much of the reconstruction work in Iraq.

The demotion removes her from the elite Senior Executive Service and reassigns her to a lesser job in the corps' civil works division.


Known as a stickler for the rules on competition, Ms. Greenhouse initially received stellar performance ratings, Mr. Kohn said. But her reviews became negative at roughly the time she began objecting to decisions she saw as improperly favoring Kellogg Brown & Root, he said. Often she hand-wrote her concerns on the contract documents, a practice that corps leaders called unprofessional and confusing.

In October 2004, General Strock, citing two consecutive performance reviews that called Ms. Greenhouse an uncooperative manager, informed her that she would be demoted.
What a waste. If she'd only developed a talent for lying, ass-kissing, abject failure and shameless dissembling, she could've been -- oh, I don't know -- Secretary of State?

How she managed to get herself demoted right before a major natural disaster is ready to strike and assure that her story will get buried in the news cycle is anyone's guess.