BRANDOLAND: Talking to God...For You!

Sunday, September 04, 2005

OUR KID

Happy Sunday. Lots of stuff today.

"Our Kid" is getting HAMMERED this morning.

No - dude has not "gone out" and broken his sobriety.

Dude is getting killed in press reports re: his activity in NoLa.

First, from the Times-Picayune:

Bush visit halts food delivery

Oops:
Three tons of food ready for delivery by air to refugees in St. Bernard Parish and on Algiers Point sat on the Crescent City Connection bridge Friday afternoon as air traffic was halted because of President Bush’s visit to New Orleans, officials said.

The provisions, secured by U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-Napoleonville, and state Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom, baked in the afternoon sun as Bush surveyed damage across southeast Louisiana five days after Katrina made landfall as a Category 4 storm, said Melancon’s chief of staff, Casey O’Shea.

“We had arrangements to airlift food by helicopter to these folks, and now the food is sitting in trucks because they won’t let helicopters fly,” O’Shea said Friday afternoon.
"This is not a time to get into any finger pointing."

Next, the latest statement from Sen. Mary Landrieu:
“But perhaps the greatest disappointment stands at the breached 17th Street levee.

Touring this critical site yesterday with the President, I saw what I believed to be a real and significant effort to get a handle on a major cause of this catastrophe.

Flying over this critical spot again this morning, less than 24 hours later, it became apparent that yesterday we witnessed a hastily prepared stage set for a PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO OPPORTUNITY; and the desperately needed resources we saw were this morning reduced to a single, lonely piece of equipment.

The good and decent people of southeast Louisiana and the Gulf Coast – black and white, rich and poor, young and old – deserve far better from their national government.
"This is not a time to get into any finger pointing."

Finally, the description of ANOTHER photo-op making the rounds on the net via Laura Rozen's blog:
I know there are security considerations but (Bush's) visit seemed extraordinarily hollow even by this administration's standard of ultra-stage managed events.

Dutch viewer Frank Tiggelaar writes:

"There was a striking dicrepancy between the CNN International report on the Bush visit to the New Orleans disaster zone, yesterday, and reports of the same event by German TV.

ZDF News reported that the president's visit was a completely staged event. Their crew witnessed how the open air FOOD DISTRIBUTION POINT Bush visited in front of the cameras was torn down immediately after the president and the herd of 'news people' had left and that others which were allegedly being set up were abandoned at the same time.

The people in the area were once again left to fend for themselves, said ZDF.
Hey now.

Wonder if they brought in those two "girls" - the ones Our Kid tried to comfort - from Burbank?

Craigslist: "CASTING FOR $$$!!! Are you a hot African American woman, 16-20? Make $$$ today!!! We need day players for an independent shoot..."

Right?

Judy Elkins Casting on Ventura. (That place still open, L.A. people?)

Moving on...

The simple headline from the UK's Guardian:

Black fury at Bush over rescue delay

Yikes.

You know something? I kinda feel bad for Our Kid.

I'm serious. Dude was not put in the WH to handle this kind of crisis.

He was put there to dismantle the New Deal, to privatize the federal government, to privatize Social Security, to deregulate, to bust the unions, to open up the Treasury for Bush family friends, cronies & corporations with BushCo agendas, to raise the price of gas/oil, to hand over control of the nation's energy supply to his corporate buddies, to realign the courts, and to start a couple of wars in the Middle East.

(You know, so "we" could build a pipeline across Afghanistan, stop the sale of cheap Iraqi oil to Germany, France and Russia, and make money on "reconstruction" after we leveled the region.)

But he was not put in the WH to handle this kind of crisis. This is not his raison d'etre.

So I feel bad for him.

(Pause.)

Kidding!

*

The horror continues:

Rapes, killings hit Katrina refugees in New Orleans

Chaos.
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - People left homeless by Hurricane Katrina told horrific stories of rape, murder and trigger happy guards in two New Orleans centers that were set up as shelters but became places of violence and terror.

*

Several residents of the impromptu shantytown recounted two horrific incidents where those charged with keeping people safe had killed them instead.

In one, a young man was run down and then shot by a New Orleans police officer, in another a man seeking help was gunned down by a National Guard soldier, witnesses said.

Police here refused to discuss or confirm either incident. National Guard spokesman Lt. Col Pete Schneider said "I have not heard any information of a weapon being discharged."

"They killed a man here last night," Steve Banka, 28, told Reuters. "A young lady was being raped and stabbed. And the sounds of her screaming got to this man and so he ran out into the street to get help from troops, to try to flag down a passing truck of them, and he jumped up on the truck's windshield and they shot him dead."

Wade Batiste, 48, recounted another tale of horror.

"Last night at 8 p.m. they shot a kid of just 16. He was just crossing the street. They ran him over, the New Orleans police did, and then they got out of the car and shot him in the head," Batiste said.

*

People trying to walk out are forced back at gunpoint - something troops said was for their own safety. "It's sad, but how far do you think they would get," one soldier said.

*

One National Guard soldier who asked not to be named for fear of punishment from his commanding officer said of the lack of medical attention at the center, "They (the Bush administration) care more about Iraq and Afghanistan than here."
Ouch.
The Louisiana National Guard soldier said, "We are doing the best we can with the resources we have, BUT ALMOST ALL OF OUR GUYS ARE IN IRAQ."

Across town at the Superdome, where as many as 38,000 refugees camped out until Wednesday night when evacuation buses first came, the 4,000 still there were corralled outside, hoping to get on four waiting buses with seats for only 200.

*

At the arena, too, there was much talk of bedlam after dark.

"We found a young girl raped and killed in the bathroom," one National Guard soldier told Reuters. "Then the crowd got the man and they beat him to death."
Good.

Sorry, but that's my reaction to that horrific story. I'm glad they beat the guy.

*

The right-wing blogs (Drudge, Powerline, Instapundit, et al) are really working overtime to deflect criticism from the Bushies - and turning it towards the "mainstream media," Ray Nagin (the mayor of New Orleans), and the governor of LA.

Some of their talking points?

The mayor didn't get people in school buses (even though those "buses" were underwater).

The people who stayed behind deserved what they got.

The mainstream media went nuts and "oversold" the chaos.

The Bushies were "on it" from the get go.

And the Bush-haters are using this tragedy to score politcal points.

Blah, blah, blah.

FYI.

*

Back to the privatization of FEMA.

Check out this blog: The dude is trying to connect the dots on the PRIVATIZATION of DISASTER MANAGEMENT in N.O.:
Remember my earlier point that disaster management in New Orleans had been privatised, the 'catastrophic hurricane disaster plan' having been handed over to Baton Rouge-based INNOVATIVE EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT last year? Watching this nightmare unfold, I've been wondering why no fucking one is asking what exactly IEM got paid for.

It's turning out to be very hard to find out, for rather startling reasons.

In my first post on this, I quoted their original press release:

"IEM, Inc., the Baton Rouge-based emergency management and homeland security consultant, will lead the development of a catastrophic hurricane disaster plan for Southeast Louisiana and the City of New Orleans under a more than half a million dollar contract with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Don't bother trying the link to that release on the original post. It doesn't work any more.
Of course not.

Everyone is covering their tracks.

$500,000.

Man: A good gig if you can get it.

*

MORE ON THE PRIVATIZATION OF FEMA - HERE.

Again, this article was written a year ago.
In 1993, President Clinton's new FEMA director, James Lee Witt, set the agency on a corrective course. Witt, who had served under then-Gov. Clinton as director of Arkansas emergency management, embarked on an ambitious campaign to bulk up the agency's natural disaster programs while staying prepared for "all hazards."

Witt's changes eventually REVERSED FEMA's reputation for being unfocused and ineffective. The agency garnered praise from both Democrats and Republicans for improving coordination with state and local emergency offices, and turning attention and resources to the benefits of disaster mitigation.

*

By the time the Bush administration entered office in January 2001, some 250 communities had signed up for Project Impact. FEMA seemed sturdy, having found its role and proved itself capable of fulfilling it. But in the field of emergency management, some things can change as quickly as the weather.

"Bush's FEMA"

From its first months in office, the Bush administration made it clear that emergency programs, like much of the federal government, were in for a major reorientation.

At FEMA, Bush appointed a close aide, JOE ALLBAUGH, to be the agency's new director. Allbaugh had served as then-Gov. Bush's CHIEF OF STAFF in TEXAS and as manager of his 2000 presidential campaign. Along with KARL ROVE and KAREN HUGHES, Allbaugh was known as one part of Bush's "iron triangle" of professional handlers.

In June, 16-year FEMA employee Pleasant Mann wrote members of Congress to warn of the agency's decay. "Over the past three-and-one-half years, FEMA has gone from being a model agency to being one where funds are being misspent, employee morale has fallen, and our nation's emergency management capability is being eroded," he wrote.

Some FEMA veterans complained that Allbaugh had little experience in managing disasters, and the new administration's early initiatives did little to settle their concerns. THE WHITE HOUSE QUICKLY LAUNCHED A GOVERNMENT WIDE EFFORT TO PRIVATIZE PUBLIC SERVICES, including key elements of disaster management.

Bush's first budget director, Mitch Daniels, spelled out the philosophy in remarks at an April 2001 conference: "The general idea -- that the business of government is not to provide services, but to make sure that they are provided -- seems self-evident to me," he said.
THIS IS KEY, PEOPLE - HARDCORE REPUBLICANISM 101:

"THE BUSINESS OF GOVERNMENT IS NOT TO PROVIDE SERVICES...BUT TO MAKE SURE THAT THEY ARE PROVIDED..."

BY PRIVATE BUSINESSES.

Whose primary function is to make a profit.

That kind of "government" is problematic when you get into areas that are...not profitable.

Capice?
In a May 15, 2001, appearance before a Senate appropriations subcommittee, Allbaugh signaled that the new, stripped-down approach would be applied at FEMA as well.

"Many are concerned that federal disaster assistance may have evolved into both an oversized entitlement program and a disincentive to effective state and local risk management," he said. "Expectations of when the federal government should be involved and the degree of involvement may have ballooned beyond what is an appropriate level."

As a result, says a disaster program administrator who insists on anonymity, "We have to compete for our jobs -- WE HAVE TO PROVE THAT WE CAN DO IT CHEAPER THAN A CONTRACTOR."

And when it comes to handling disasters, the FEMA employee stresses, cheaper is not necessarily better, and the new outsourcing requirements sometimes slow the agency's operations.

William Waugh, a disaster expert at Georgia State University who has written training programs for FEMA, warns that the rise of a "consultant culture" has not served emergency programs well. "It's part of a widespread problem of government contracting out capabilities," he says. "Pretty soon governments can't do things because they've given up those capabilities to the private sector. And private corporations don't necessarily maintain those capabilities."
BECAUSE THOSE CAPABILITIES AREN'T PROFITABLE.
The push for privatization wasn't the only change that raised red flags at FEMA. As a 2004 article in the Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management would later note, "Allbaugh brought about several internal, though questionably effective, reorganizations of FEMA. The Bush-Allbaugh FEMA diminished the Clinton administration's organizational emphasis on disaster mitigation."
So you've met Joe Allbaugh.

Enter Micahel Brown - Joe Allbaugh's COLLEGE ROOMMATE.

This info was posted on Talking Points Memo - via the Daily Kos:
Michael Brown is a lawyer and GOP party activist.

Before he came to FEMA in 2001, he had a full-time job overseeing horse-shows as the commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association. He started with them in 1991. But he was eventually fired because of what the Herald describes as "after a spate of lawsuits over alleged supervision failures." (The Kos diary has some more details.)

But the stars were shining on Brown because President Bush had just been elected. And he appointed his chief political fixer Joe Allbaugh to replace James Lee Witt as head of FEMA.

That was a good break for the recently-canned Brown, because, as we learn from the Herald, he and Allbaugh were college roommates. He hired Brown as his General Counsel at FEMA in February. And then, by the end of the year, he promoted him to Deputy Director.

Then, little more than a year later, Allbaugh left FEMA to set up NEW BRIDGE STRATEGIES, a consultancy TO CASH IN ON THE IRAQI CONTRACTS bonanza.
Once again...I'm feeling "anger" because I'm in the wrong business.

I spend my day thinking up cartoon characters. "Real men" are working their connections to start "private security companies."

I've memorized most of "Big Lebowksi," though. Got that going for me.
On Allbaugh's departure from FEMA, Brown became Director, in charge of federal domestic emergency management in the United States.

So, just to recap, Brown had no experience whatsoever in emergency management. He was fired from his last job for incompetence. He was hired because he was the new director's college roommate. And after the director -- who himself got the job because he was a political fixer for the president -- left, he became top dog. And President Bush said yesterday that he thinks Brown is "doing a helluva job".

Tens of billions of federal dollars are going to be spent on reconstruction, though the first allotment is only $10.5 billion. Does anybody think Bush administration has the competence or honesty to manage that money? Does anybody think it won't be handled with the efficiency, expertise and integrity of the Iraqi reconstruction?
Brown was simply brought in the over-see the dismantling of FEMA.

*

The Washington Post piles on with this story:

Destroying FEMA

And the Chicago Tribune:
But many suspected that FEMA's apparent problems in getting life-sustaining supplies to survivors and buses to evacuate them from New Orleans--delays even Bush called "not acceptable"--stemmed partly from changes at the agency during the Bush years. Experts have long warned that the moves would weaken the agency's ability to effectively respond to natural disasters.

FEMA's chief has been demoted from a near-Cabinet-level position; political appointees with little, if any, emergency-management experience have been placed in senior FEMA positions; and the small, 2,500-person agency was dropped into the midst of the 180,000-employee Homeland Security Department, which is more oriented to combating terrorism than natural disasters. All that has led to a brain drain as experienced but demoralized employees have left the agency, former and current FEMA staff members say.

The result is that an agency that got high marks during much of the 1990s for its effectiveness is being harshly criticized for seemingly mismanaging the response to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
That's a pro-Bush paper, people.

*

WHERE DOES IT END?

IT DOESN'T!!!

Venezuela convinced of US invasion

WHAT?!
Venezuela has uncovered plans for a US-led invasion and is preparing to defend the country against invading forces if necessary, President Hugo Chavez said in a report carried by the state-run news agency.

The Bolivarian News Agency reported that Chavez made the comments during an interview with CNN. It was unclear when the interview was to be aired.

"If it occurs to the United States to invade our country - Fidel Castro said it and I agree - a war will start here to last 100 years," Chavez was quoted as saying. "Not only this country would be burned up, but a good part of this continent; they shouldn't make any mistake about it, we are preparing to repel an invasion."

*

Venezuela is the world's FIFTH LARGEST OIL EXPORTER and a major supplier of fuel to the US.

"We discovered through intelligence work a military exercise that NATO has of an invasion against Venezuela, and we are preparing ourselves for that invasion," Chavez was quoted as saying.

He said the military exercise is known as PLAN BALBOA and includes rehearsing simultaneous assaults by air, sea and land at a military base in Spain, involving troops from the US and NATO countries. US officials in the past have said such training is meant to prepare troops for general scenarios but not for a specify military action.
Okay. He's lying.

We wouldn't call it "Plan Balboa."

We'd call it "Operation South American Freedom."
"It's known they have everything planned out to capture the oilfields of the west and the east, the south," Chavez was quoted as saying.

Chavez repeated his threat that if the government of US President George W Bush were to attempt an attack, his government would immediately cut off oil shipments to the US. For this reason, it's important there is an effort to improve relations, Chavez said, according to ABN.

"It isn't us who should take the first step; the aggressor is the one that should show it is capable of sending some signal," Chavez was quoted as saying.

"The signal we have sent is enough: express our willingness to recover diplomatic, political relations, at least to the normal level that existed not long ago with the government of president BILL CLINTON."

Tensions have grown in recent months between Chavez, who has emerged as a leading voice of the LATIN AMERICAN LEFT, and a US government that has expressed concern about his close ties to Castro and what Chavez's opponents call an authoritarian streak.

The former army paratroop commander accuses the US government of backing a shortlived coup against him in 2002, another claim that US officials have repeatedly denied. Chavez, who was first elected in 1998, is up for reelection next year, and polls suggest he is strongly favoured TO WIN.
"Operation American Neighbor Liberation."

"Operation Jungle Freedom?"

I don't know...

More later.

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