Saturday, September 17, 2005

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R - Al.) Is Looking for a Few Rich Corpses

So he can save the estate tax repeal! You cannot make this sh*t up.

From Suburban Guerrilla:


They really are an inspiration, aren’t they? No matter what lemons life hands them, Republicans manage to make lemonade:

Federal troops aren’t the only ones looking for bodies on the Gulf Coast. On Sept. 9, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions called his old law professor Harold Apolinsky, co-author of Sessions’ legislation repealing the federal estate tax, which was encountering sudden resistance on the Hill. Sessions had an idea to revitalize their cause, which he left on Apolinsky’s voice mail: “[Arizona Sen.] Jon Kyl and I were talking about the estate tax. If we knew anybody that owned a business that lost life in the storm, that would be something we could push back with.”

If legislative ambulance chasing looks like a desperate measure, for the backers of repealing the estate tax, these are desperate times. Just three weeks ago, their long-sought goal of repeal seemed within reach, but Katrina dashed their hopes when Republican leaders put off an expected vote. After hearing from Sessions, Apolinsky, an estate tax lawyer who says his firm includes three multi-billionaires among its clients, mobilized the American Family Business Institute, a Washington-based group devoted to estate tax repeal. They reached out to members along the Gulf Coast to hunt for the dead.

It’s been hard. Only a tiny percentage of people are affected by the estate tax—in 2001 only 534 Alabamans were subject to it. And for Hill backers of repeal, that’s only part of the problem. Last year, the tax brought in $24.8 billion to the federal government. With Katrina’s cost soaring, estate tax opponents need to find a way to make up the potential lost income. For now, getting repeal back on the agenda may depend on Apolinsky and his team of estate-sniffing sleuths, who are searching Internet obituaries among other places. Has he found any victims of both the hurricane and the estate tax? “Not yet,” Apolinsky says. “But I’m still looking.”

Let's Stop Pretending: Roberts is a Far-Right Republican

Why haven't I blogged on John Roberts' confirmation hearings?

Because you know all you need to know about the guy is who he worked for.

Injustice Rehnquist, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Hogan & Hartson.

Ronald Reagan did not have a bunch of closet liberals or even libertarians sitting in his US Attorney's office sending out blizzards of compassionate memos.

He had hardcore right wing fanatics like John Roberts. John Roberts, to the right of Ted Olsen, Robert Bork and Strom Thurmond.

So, I gotta say, I knew who this guy was from the minute I read his resume. To pretend that he may undertake any confirmation or post-appointment conversion is a hollow and ultimately empty hope.

The corporate media keeps up the pretense that Roberts is a mystery:

From the Washington Post: E.J. Dionne: The Case For a 'No' Vote on Roberts

New York Times editorial: Too Much of a Mystery

Far Right's War on Women

From Brilliant at Breakfast:

The future for girls in George W. Bush's "culture of life"

[NY Times] When her newborn was found crying at the bottom of an air shaft earlier this week, the baby's teenage mother was charged with trying to kill the child.

But after the decaying body of a second infant was found in the same place, the authorities trying to unravel the gruesome story said it took an even more tragic turn: The teenager told them that her own father was the father of both babies....

Prosecutors said the girl would be tried in juvenile court on the murder charge because she was not 18 when the death took place. She was undergoing a psychiatric evaluation on Friday.

In adult court, the murder charge would carry a sentence of 30 years to life; Mr. Gregory said it would most likely be less for a conviction in juvenile court. The attempted murder charge carries a sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison.

The father was charged with aggravated sexual assault, endangering the welfare of a child and child abuse. If convicted, he could face 10 to 20 years in prison on the most serious charge. He was being held in the Hudson County Correctional Center.

[Brilliant at Breakfast] Here we have a girl who has borne not one but two children through being raped by her own father. She's lucky she wasn't 18, or she might never see the light of day again.

This is what "parental consent" laws mean in real life. We'd all like to believe that all families are normal, and that parents want what's best for their children. But then we have families like this one, in which a father impregnates his own daughter twice -- and now SHE's the one who has to pay. Note the difference in the potential sentences between the two crimes. Imagine the consequences to this girl of having an abortion, when her own father was perfectly OK with seeing her walking around carrying HIS baby.

I'm sorry, folks...I know what she did is wrong, but if sexual assault (and no matter what the circumstances were, it's assault) by her father isn't a mitigating circumstance, I don't know what is.

Gulf Coast Death Toll Update

So sad. From the Times Picayune:

Body count jumps in hard-hit areas
Flooding likely caught many by surprise
70-year-old man rescued from home

Tentative optimism that New Orleans' death toll from Hurricane Katrina might be far lower than first projected gave way to somber reality over 36 hours as search and rescue squads turned up bodies by the dozen in the hardest hit areas of the city.

By midafternoon Friday, the black triangles used to designate human remains were multiplying on an emergency command center map. Federal Emergency Management Agency rescue squad liaison Charles Hood said a spike in discoveries Friday started to take an emotional toll on rescue workers.

"Our squad members are getting access to trauma and grief counselors," Hood said. "It's becoming a very difficult task."

The state is in charge of releasing Katrina's official death total, which stood at 579 Friday night. Hood said the periodic reports from his seven 80-person squads indicate the casualty count is going to jump in the coming days, but declined to speculate on what the number would reach. One squad alone located and marked more than a dozen houses containing bodies Friday.

"Parts of the city have become a target-rich environment for human remains," Hood said. "We're just now getting into the areas that experienced the most rapid inundation."

Large chunks of the city, including parts of Gentilly, the Desire-Florida area and Upper 9th Ward, have revealed telltale signs that the two breaches of the London Avenue Canal led to a rapid rush of floodwaters that caught scores of residents off guard. The surprise factor was only worsened by the fact that the fast-rising water, more than 12 feet in spots, came well after the storm had passed.

"Those are areas where the people were probably asleep when the water rushed in," Hood said.

2,000 kids still separated from parents

In Louisiana, 2,560 children have been reported missing by parents or have reported themselves missing, and 691 of those have been reunited with family as of Friday at noon, according to Oname Thompson, communications coordinator of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

In Mississippi, 217 children were reported missing and 66 were recovered. In Alabama, 35 children were reported missing and three reunited.

The center is also keeping tracks of adults reported missing: 7,565 since Katrina; 1,016 of those reported missing have been found.

Corporate Media Returns

From LA Weekly:

Deadline Hollywood
They Shoot News Anchors, Don’t They?
Media moguls, not looters, killed Katrina’s truth tellers

If big media look like they’re propping up W’s presidency, they are. Because doing so is good for corporate coffers — in the form of government contracts, billion-dollar tax breaks, regulatory relaxations and security favors. At least that wily old codger Sumner Redstone, head of Viacom, parent company of CBS, has admitted what everyone already knows is true: that, while he personally may be a Democrat, “It happens that I vote for Viacom. Viacom is my life, and I do believe that a Republican administration is better for media companies than a Democratic one.”....

Given all of the above, it comes as no surprise that, as early as that first Saturday, certainly by Sunday, inevitably by Monday, and no later than Tuesday, the post-Katrina images and issues were heavily weighted once again toward the power brokers and the predictable. The angry black guys were gone, and the lying white guys were back, hogging all the TV airtime. So many congressional Republicans were lined up on air to denounce the “blame-Bush game” — all the while decrying the Louisiana Democrats-in-charge — that it could have been conga night at the Chevy Chase Country Club.

And the attitudes of some TV personalities did a dramatic 180.

At MSNBC, right-winger Joe Scarborough had looked genuinely disgusted for a few days by the death and destruction that went unrelieved around him in Biloxi, even daring to demand answers from Bush on down. But Scarborough was back to his left-baiting self in short order. Inside FNC’s studio, conservative crank Sean Hannity had been rendered somewhat speechless by the tragedy. Soon, he was back in full voice, barking at Shep Smith (who was still staking out that I-10 bridge and sympathizing with its thousands of refugees) to keep “perspective.” The Mississippi-bred Smith boomed back in his baritone, “This is perspective!”....

On MSNBC, Hardball’s hard-brained Chris Matthews chided viewers and guests alike not to talk about who’s to blame — unless it was Louisiana Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco or Mayor Nagin. Interesting how Barbour’s state was also dehydrated and starving, but nobody on TV news blamed him, since he just happens to be a former chairman of the Republican National Committee.....

Of course, no one could have anticipated that, to their immense credit, TV’s prettiest-boy anchors (CNN’s Anderson Cooper and FNC’s Shep Smith and NBC’s Brian Williams) would be boldly and tearfully relating horror whenever and wherever they found it, no matter if the fault lay with Mother Nature or President Dubya. But the real test of pathos vs. profit is still before us: whether the TV newscasters will spend the fresh reservoir of trust earned with the public to not only rattle Bush’s cage but also battle their own bosses. If not, it won’t be long before TV truth telling will be muzzled permanently.

You can see it happening every day on the TV. Tonight I watched Fox (a mistake, I know) and heard the host with a straight face say (paraphrasing) 'that kid that stole the bus and took 100 evacuees to the Superdome, that was a crime! He stole that bus!' (Story)

The MSM story now is the "recovery" of the Gulf Coast, and they're not going to let some inconvenient facts get in the way of the story the corporate puppeteers want told.

FEMA's Ice Capades

People on the Gulf coast are waiting in lines for hours for ice.

FEMA has trucks of ice sitting in parking lots around the country, or worse, driving from city to city, nowhere near the need.

FEMA is still FUBAR. Stop giving speeches, President Photo Op, and do something! Start with ice! Pretend it's wood! ("Need some wood?")

From skippy:

the ice escapades
time to put fema heads on

Friday, September 16, 2005

The Blame Game: Bush Administration Edition: It Was the Greens! It Was the Greens!

From Mississippi's Clarion-Ledger:

E-mail suggests government seeking to blame groups
Federal officials appear to be seeking proof to blame the flood of New Orleans on environmental groups, documents show.

The Clarion-Ledger has obtained a copy of an internal e-mail the U.S. Department of Justice sent out this week to various U.S. attorneys' offices: "Has your district defended any cases on behalf of the (U.S.) Army Corps of Engineers against claims brought by environmental groups seeking to block or otherwise impede the Corps work on the levees protecting New Orleans? If so, please describe the case and the outcome of the litigation."

The E-mail:

E-mail sent to various U.S. Attorney's offices:

SUBJECT: Have you had any cases involving the levees in New Orleans?

QUESTION: Has your district defended any cases on behalf of the Army Corps of Engineers against claims brought by environmental groups seeking to block or otherwise impede the Corps' work on the levees protecting New Orleans? If so, please describe the case and the outcome of the litigation.

District: __________
Contact: _________
Telephone: ________

As Jon Stewart said, "Little observation: When people don't want to play the blame game? They're to blame."

Bad News for the USMNT

FC Dallas' Johnson may miss rest of regular season

FC Dallas striker Eddie Johnson is out for at least four to six weeks with yet another stress fracture in his troublesome right foot, interim general manager John Alper said Thursday.....

The previous stress fracture was in his right foot. This one is different, Alper said, although it is in the same general area as the last one, near the big toe....

The latest injury could also jeopardize Johnson's place on the U.S. roster for next summer's World Cup.

Get well, GAM*, we're going to need you up front next year in Germany.

*We fans call him GAM, short for "Grown Ass Man", because in a U.S. Soccer interview, he was asked what video games he liked to play. He responded "I don't play video games, I'm a grown-ass man!"

From the Wall Street Journal: What This "Reconstruction" Is Really About

Hullaboo (Digby) publishes an article from yesterday's Wall Street Journal that lays out why the Republicans are willing to spend so much money in the Gulf states. They get to do their pet conservative projects, and skim like crazy off that $200 billion!

Boondoggle Part Deux

(The WSJ article) Some new measures are already taking shape. In the past week, the Bush administration has suspended some union-friendly rules that require federal contractors pay prevailing wages, moved to ease tariffs on Canadian lumber, and allowed more foreign sugar imports to calm rising sugar prices. Just yesterday, it waived some affirmative-action rules for employers with federal contracts in the Gulf region.

Now, Republicans are working on legislation that would limit victims' right to sue, offer vouchers for displaced school children, lift some environment restrictions on new refineries and create tax-advantaged enterprise zones to maximize private-sector participation in recovery and reconstruction. Yesterday, the House overwhelmingly passed a bill that would offer sweeping protection against lawsuits to any person or organization that helps Katrina victims without compensation.....

Many of the ideas under consideration have been pushed by the 40-member study group, which is circulating a list of "free-market solutions," including proposals to eliminate regulatory barriers to awarding federal funds to religious groups housing hurricane victims, waiving the estate tax for deaths in the storm-affected states; and making the entire region a "flat-tax free-enterprise zone."

[Digby]....[T]here is no relationship between what the Republicans say and what they do.

The model we should look at is the Coalition Provisional Government in Iraq. That too was going to be a bold and courageous experiment in laissez-faire wet-dream governance. Instead it was the biggest boondoggle in history with more than 8.8 billion dollars officially unaccounted for and undoubtedly tens of billions more wasted on fraud and corruption. Bush's base, by which I mean corporate America, did very, very well. They will undoubtedly do well in Boondoggle Part Two as well.

I cannot believe that any liberal in the country would take George W Bush's word about anything at this point, but apparently we all haven't learned our lesson yet. I'm not sure what it will take, to tell you the truth. But for those of you who believe he has somehow capitulated to liberal ideals, I would like to introduce you to a friend of mine from an African nation whose funds have been frozen ....

Our Weekly Visit with Dave Rossie

David Rossie: 'Katrina blew away Bush's facade'

....[A]nother national crisis was about to strike, revealing for all to see that the emperor not only has no clothes but also nothing for the clothes to hide. What Gertrude Stein said of Oakland, California, may be said as well of Bush: "There's no there there."

On Sept. 11, 2001, it was bewilderment followed by indecision followed by bluster. This time it was detachment followed by indifference followed by twaddle.

After learning of the disastrous state of affairs in New Orleans and Biloxi, Bush sprang into action. He flew off to Arizona for a chat with one of those invitation-only audiences of which he's so fond. Then on to San Diego the next day for another dog and pony show.

Eventually he got around to visiting the region, after reading a speech that was about as inspiring as a lodge hall treasurer's report. There he oozed compassion for Trent Lott's lost house and praised the monumentally inept and soon to depart FEMA boss Michael Brown. ("You're doin' a heck of a job, Brownie.")

There would be no defining moment this time for Rove and Hughes to spin into a lasting myth about a strong decisive leader, a myth the mass media swallowed whole. No weary firefighter to embrace atop a rubble heap in lower Manhattan. No bullhorn to shout into. And no Evil One to track down, smoke out and bring back dead or alive; an empty promise from an empty vessel.....

Talk is Cheap

New York Daily News:They scoff at Bush's promises

Knight-Ridder: One family in New Orleans views Bush speech with skepticism

Houston Chronicle: Evacuees react to president's message

Arizona Republic: President's words are met with skepticism at Coliseum

Washington Post: Nation Hears Bush With Skepticism, Hope

You've Always Had the Power, George

It is now clear that a challenge on this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces, the institution of our government most capable of massive logistical operations on a moment's notice.
George W. Bush, Speech to Nation, Sept. 14, 2005

Could we send President Photo Op off to see the wizard? The Wonderful Wizard of Oz? Maybe he'll meet a good witch like Glinda, who had some pretty good advice that might help out Hapless George.

"You've always had the power", the Good Witch told Dorothy.

Can you imagine if Glinda the Good Witch called President Eternal Vacation up on the phone:

Glinda: President Bush, the federal government is at your disposal. You have the power! You can order the National Guard in! You can send in the military! You can declare a national emergency!

You can declare war on a natural disaster just as easily as you can declare war on a foreign power! You don't even have to send Colin Powell to lie to the UN and the world first! You can just do it! Just do it!

You've always had the power! You're the President of the United States, the richest and most powerful country in the world! You can pick up the phone and make things happen!

Now, I know you seem to think that the "bureaucracy" has been holding you back, but THAT'S YOU! You are the bureaucracy! If you don't want to abide by the rules, just suspend them ! It's an emergency! It's OK! Nobody would even be mad!

And so what if they are? Are they going to sue you? I know you were hungover in most of those business school classes, but there's this thing called "sovereign immunity". The government is exempt from paying for its mistakes! You've always had the power, and there will be no repercussions!

Besides which, who's going to complain about you bending the rules to save people's lives? Not me! You've had no problem suspending the rules to screw the workers who will rebuild New Orleans! You've always had the power! You're the President!

Oh....I should be talking to Dick....or Karl. OK, let me give them a ring. Sorry to bother you. Enjoy that mountain bike ride! Follow the yellow brick road! And remember, you've always had the power!

OK, I'll tell it to the Big Dick.

President Photo Op Does It Again

I saw this on Talking Points Memo.

NBC Anchor Brian Williams blog:

Friday morning (power) line

I am duty-bound to report the talk of the New Orleans warehouse district last night: there was rejoicing (well, there would have been without the curfew, but the few people I saw on the streets were excited) when the power came back on for blocks on end....

And yet last night, no more than an hour after the President departed, the lights went out. The entire area was plunged into total darkness again, to audible groans. It's enough to make some of the folks here who witnessed it... jump to certain conclusions.

Power for photo ops, no power for storm victims. Good thing Karl Rove is running the recovery, he's right on top of the important things as usual.

We Need National Health Insurance Now

Rising Premiums Threaten Job-Based Health Coverage

Since 2000, premiums have gone up 73%, while wages have grown 15%, Kaiser researchers concluded.

September 15, 2005 News Roundup

[Iraq] Sliding Into Civil War

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's declaration of war "against Shias in all of Iraq" has reinforced fears that the country is sliding towards all-out civil war.

Latest Iraq Blast Targets Shiite Mosque

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - A suicide car bomber hit worshippers leaving a Shiite mosque in the town of Tuz Khormato shortly after midday prayers Friday, killing at least 10 people and wounding 21 others, police said.....

On Thursday, suicide bombers killed at least 31 people in three suicide attacks targeting Iraqi police. A day earlier, at least 167 people were killed and 570 wounded in more than a dozen bombings in Baghdad. The largest single toll resulted from a suicide bombing against day laborers in the largely Shiite Kazimiyah neighborhood in north Baghdad.

Katrina oil spills may be among worst on record

....more than 6.5 million gallons of crude oil had been spilt in at least seven major incidents. The previous worst spill in US waters was the 11m gallons in Alaskan waters from the Exxon Valdez in 1989.

Global warming 'past the point of no return'

A record loss of sea ice in the Arctic this summer has convinced scientists that the northern hemisphere may have crossed a critical threshold beyond which the climate may never recover. Scientists fear that the Arctic has now entered an irreversible phase of warming which will accelerate the loss of the polar sea ice that has helped to keep the climate stable for thousands of years.

They believe global warming is melting Arctic ice so rapidly that the region is beginning to absorb more heat from the sun, causing the ice to melt still further and so reinforcing a vicious cycle of melting and heating.

The greatest fear is that the Arctic has reached a "tipping point" beyond which nothing can reverse the continual loss of sea ice and with it the massive land glaciers of Greenland, which will raise sea levels dramatically.

In Charge of Rebuilding the Gulf: Traitor Karl?

So George Bush's great idea of his big speech is to put....Karl charge of the rebuilding effort?

Traitor Karl?

Isn't this like putting Helluva Job Brownie in charge of FEMA? When the rebuilding goes horribly wrong, is the MSM going to trot out Karl Rove's resume and tell us that all Karl ever did before he got this job was run campaigns for the Bushes?

How's it going to work when he gets indicted in a few months? Is he busy now giving every member of the grand jury a no-bid contract to rebuild something?

Desert Rat Democrat: And to think Carrot Top Was Available...

Josh Marshall (Talking Points Memo): the Gulf Coast reconstruction effort is going to be run as a patronage and political operation.
He's put his chief political operative in charge of running the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast.

Dan Froomkin, Washington Post: Who's in Charge? Karl Rove!

Even Howie "My Wife's a Republican Operative" Kurtz seems skeptical: Conservative War on Poverty? (first sentence: Well, the choreography was pretty impressive.)

What Happened at the Lafon Nursing Home?

From the San Antonio News Express:

Ken Rodriguez: New Orleans nursing home mystery: How did 14 residents die?

Dorothy and other residents were never evacuated from the Lafon Nursing Home of the Holy Family.

After the hurricane, some Lafon residents were bused to a nursing home in Houma, La. Others were airlifted to New Orleans International Airport and sent to hospitals.

Dorothy stayed behind. An unknown number of residents stayed, too. As rescue workers gathered the remains of at least 14 Lafon residents, the nursing home staff referred calls to a lawyer.

Relatives of the deceased want answers. One of Dorothy's daughters, Rosalind Chavis of San Antonio, fears the truth may be hard to find.

"I am suspicious," says Rosalind, 46. "They had time to evacuate my mom."

Louisiana authorities share Rosalind's concern. The state's attorney general has opened an investigation into Lafon.

Previous posts:

Lafon Nursing Home Update

There Are A Lot More Nursing Homes In New Orleans: Here's the Story of One.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Merlene Maten Freed

A little good news: The Guardian, UK: Jailed Deaconess, 73, Ordered Released

....hours after her plight was featured in an Associated Press story, a local judge ordered Maten freed Thursday.....

Here's a story from ABC News with a picture of Mrs. Maten. Are you surprised to learn she is black?

Jailed Deaconess, 73, Ordered Released
Elderly Church Leader in Prison Since Hurricane Katrina Ordered Released Following AP Story

Family and eyewitnesses insisted Maten was an innocent woman who had gone to her car to get some sausage to eat only to be mistakenly arrested by tired, frustrated white officers who couldn't catch younger looters at a nearby store.

Original Post: Will This Woman Rot In Jail While President Photo Op Gives Another Empty Speech Tonight?

Michael Chertoff: Bird-Brained Response

From Knight-Ridder:

As New Orleans flooded, Chertoff discussed avian flu in Atlanta

WASHINGTON - Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, the U.S. official with the power to order a massive federal response to Hurricane Katrina, flew to Atlanta for a previously scheduled briefing on avian flu on the morning after the storm swept ashore.

Chertoff's decision to fly to Georgia for a business-as-usual briefing even as residents in New Orleans fought for their lives in rising floodwaters raises new questions about how much top officials knew about what was happening on the Gulf Coast and how focused they were on the unfolding tragedy.

In fact, Chertoff didn't know for sure that New Orleans' life-preserving levees had failed until a full day had passed.

Not until Chertoff was returning from Atlanta on Aug. 30 did he begin writing the memo that declared Katrina "an incident of national significance" and put the full force of the federal government behind the relief and rescue efforts.

Critics charge that the delay in making the designation until about 36 hours after the storm may have been one reason why federal help was slow in coming and why no one seemed to be in charge in the disaster zone.

Another unqualified political hack.

You Can Skip Bush's Speech Tonight

From Rising Hegemon: Shorter George Bush

Dear Leader's Pending Super Duper "Strip-Malled Future of New Orleans" Speech Preview

Will This Woman Rot In Jail While President Photo Op Gives Another Empty Speech Tonight?

I saw this on skippy:

Deaconess, 73, Jailed for Alleged Looting

KENNER -- Merlene Maten undoubtedly stands out in the prison where she has been held since Hurricane Katrina. The 73-year-old church deaconess, never before in trouble with the law, now sleeps among hardened criminals. Her bail is a stiff $50,000. Her offense? Police say the grandmother from New Orleans took $63.50 in goods from a looted deli the day after Katrina struck.

Family and eyewitnesses have a different story. They say Maten is an innocent woman who had gone to her car to get some sausage to eat but was wrongly handcuffed by tired, frustrated officers who couldn't catch younger looters at a nearby store. Not even the deli owner wants her charged.

"There were people looting, but she wasn't one of them. Instead of chasing after people who were running, they grabbed the old lady was who walking," said Elois Short, Maten's daughter, who works in traffic enforcement for neighboring New Orleans police.

Short has enlisted the help of the AARP, the senior citizens lobby, the Federal Emergency Management Agency legal assistance office, made up of volunteer lawyers, and a private attorney to get her mother freed. But the task has been complicated.

Maten has been moved from a parish jail to a state prison an hour away. And the judge who set $50,000 bail by phone -- 100 times the maximum $500 fine under state law for minor thefts -- has not returned a week's worth of calls, her lawyer said.

"She has slipped through the cracks and the wheels of justice have stopped turning for Mrs. Maten," attorney Daniel Beckett Becnel III said.

The family has not been able to visit her during her two weeks of confinement and was allowed to talk to her by phone for only a few minutes. The state prison declined to let The Associated Press interview Maten by phone, demanding a written request.

Becnel, family members and witnesses said police snared Maten, a diabetic, in the parking lot of a hotel where she had fled the floodwaters that swamped her New Orleans home. She had paid for her room with a credit card and dutifully followed authorities' instructions to pack extra food, they said.

She was retrieving a piece of sausage from the cooler in her car and planned to grill it so she and her frail 80-year-old husband, Alfred, could eat, according to her defenders. The parking lot was almost a block from the looted store, they said.

"That woman was never, never in that store," said Naisha Williams, 23, a New Orleans bank security guard who said she witnessed the episode and is distantly related to Maten. "If they want to take it to court, I'm willing to get on the stand and tell them the police is wrong. She is totally innocent."

Police Capt. Steve Carraway said Wednesday that Maten was arrested in the checkout area of a small store next to police headquarters.

The arrest report is short and assigns the value of goods Maten is alleged to have taken at $63.50. The items are not identified.

"When officers arrived, the arrestee was observed leaving the scene with items from the store. The store window doors were observed smashed out, where entry to the store was made," police reported.

Williams, one of the witnesses, said Maten was physically unable to get inside the store -- even if she had wanted to.

"She is not capable of even looting it the way the store was at the time. You had to jump over a counter, and she is a diabetic and weak-muscled and wouldn't be able to get herself over it. And she couldn't afford to step on broken glass," Williams said.

Williams said she tried to explain that to police but was brushed off.

"They didn't want to hear it. They put handcuffs on her. They just said we were emotional. It was basically, `Just shut up,"' she said.

Maten's husband was left abandoned at the hotel, until family members picked him up. He is too upset to be interviewed, the family said.

Christine Bishop, the owner of the Check In Check Out deli, said that she was angry that looters had damaged her store, but that she would not want anyone charged with a crime if the person had simply tried to get food to survive. "Especially not a 70-year-old woman," Bishop said.

Short, Maten's daughter, did not witness the incident. She said her mother has led a law-abiding life. She is a deaconess at the Resurrection Mission Baptist Church and won an award for her decades of service at a hospital, Short said.

"Why would someone loot when they had a car with a refrigerator and had paid with a credit card at the hotel? The circumstances defy the theory of looting," said Becnel, Maten's lawyer.

Robin Peak, a legal analyst from AARP who assisted Maten's family, declined to discuss the case. She wrote colleagues an e-mail earlier this week about the elderly woman's plight. It was titled, "50K: The Price of Freedom in New Orleans."

Couldn't President Helluva Job do something useful for once & get this woman out of jail before he gives his foolish empty speech tonight? Send Halliburton? Dick Cheney? Couldn't he stop by himself? I saw that Hummer he & Blanco & Nagin were riding in the other day. Couldn't he just drive that over to Kenner?

Of course, he'd have to give a rat's ass. So that's not going to happen.

Update: Hours later, after the story was transmitted across the world on the AP wire, Merlene Maten Freed

The whole thing still pisses me off.

Top 10 Questions for Next FEMA Head

From Crooks & Liars:

David Letterman's Top Ten Questions For The Fema Director Application

10. "Are you able to convey a false sense of security?"

9. "What percentage of your resume is fabricated?"

8. "In a crisis, which state or local officials would you blame?"

7. "What are your plans after you resign?"

6. "Do you mind if the last guy left the office smelling like Arabian horses?"

5. "Which is most serious: A disaster, a catastrophe, or a dis-astrophe?"

4. "Does Robert Blake dating again count as an emergency?"

3. "Can the president easily add '-ie' to your last name to form a nickname?"

2. "Can you screw up bad enough to take the heat off the president's mistakes?"

1. "Michael Brown...Idiot or moron?"

Maybe Rick Wilking Has Just Had Enough

I googled the photographer who took the photo of Bush at the UN writing a note to Condoleeza Rice, saying: "I think I may need a bathroom break? Is this possible?..."

He was in New Orleans photographing the aftermath of Katrina.

Reuters Photojournalist Recounts Disaster in New Orleans

Speaking to E&P shortly after arriving at the Denver airport Friday afternoon, Wilking described New Orleans as one of the most horrific scenes he’s witnessed in his two-decade career.

daily kos has a funny post on What Really Happened at the U.N.

There Must Be an Independent Investigation

From the Huffington Post, via the Smirking Chimp:

Bob Cesca: 'George W. Bush investigates II: Beyond Superdome'

We're supposed to believe that Bush has accepted responsibility for the unnatural aspects of the disaster (on the federal side... where there were mistakes made... and there might not have been... sorta kinda... not really) but when it comes to being held accountable, can this group be trusted to run the investigatory show? To put it in terms all senators will understand: the steroid dealers are intending to investigate the Major League juicers.....

But let's wait and see what the White House and the Republicans come up with by way of a commission. My money is on the investigation taking place on Trent Lott's rebuilt front porch. The commissioners will be Lott, Cheney, and Sean Hannity, and the research materials will be nothing more than the tokens from an old Clue board game.

And if there's anything at all damning uncovered in this Republican-controlled "independent" commission, we won't see it until after the midterms -- kind of the same way the 9/11 Commission finally released its full report... yesterday.

One of the hallmarks of the Rove Regime is to postpone or delay all investigations into its reign of lies until sufficient time has elapsed to dull the nation's horror.

Remember Condoleeza's sing-songy rendition of the title of the August 6, 2001 briefing Bush received telling him Bin Laden was coming? "Bin Laden determined to strike inside US", she trilled. Imagine if we had learned of that document's existence in October of 2001, when Americans still cried every day thinking about September 11th.

Will we allow the Republicans to postpone the day of reckoning once again, so we can hear Ms. Rice's rendition of the National Weather Service's August 28th warning? La la la la, MOST OF THE AREA WILL BE UNINHABITABLE FOR WEEKS....WATER SHORTAGES WILL MAKE HUMAN SUFFERING INCREDIBLE BY MODERN STANDARDS, la la la la.

Americablog has provided the telephone numbers of the 54 Republican Senators who voted against the independent investigation. Call 'em and ask why.

ACTION ALERT: Call the US Senate - Ask GOP Senators why they hate America?

Might Want to Do Just a a Little Background Check

from rawstory:

Company Hired to Handle Katrina's Dead Has Tainted History

....The only problem -- Kenyon's parent company is Service Corporation International, a scandal-ridden, Texas-based company accused in a number of lawsuits for illegally discarding and desecrating corpses.

The state Department of Health and Hospitals says it was unaware of the company's legal troubles and was only doing what the governor had asked.

"We're going to do what the governor's office ask us to do," said DHH representative Bob Johannessen. "They wanted this firm to work here and we facilitated to have that contract signed."

When asked if the governor requested a background check on the company, Johannessen replied he didn't know.

Gonorrhea Lectim

From Needlenose:

Email humor making the rounds 9-13-05

Didn't I Already Watch This Story on TV?

'It Was as if All of Us Were Already Pronounced Dead'
Convention Center Left a Five-Day Legacy of Chaos and Violence

Oh yeah, I did. We all did.

Rats Flee Sinking FEMA

More FEMA bigs are bailing out


It's been two-and-a-half weeks since the hurricane struck. Could we put someone in charge who has a clue?

Help is on the way, but it's unclear where

More than 100 tractor-trailers packed with water, ice and other critical hurricane-relief supplies have been sitting at an Air Force base in Montgomery, Ala., for nearly a week while the federal government pays $600 a day for each truck.

The idle trucks, called up by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to deliver supplies, are just the latest example of the waste, bureaucratic errors and miscommunication that continue to foul Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

"When somebody gets paid 600 bucks to sit and not burn fuel, that's a pretty good profit margin," said Alabama Food Services President Buck Hamilton, who is being paid by FEMA for about six truckloads of ice.

His shipments waited at similar truck staging areas in Mississippi. "Would you like to get paid $600 a day to sit and do nothing?" he said. "It's hard to criticize."....

Other FEMA problems:

• A convoy of 100 trucks full of supplies spent a week traveling to Meridian, Miss., and Selma, Ala., before being sent to Memphis last Saturday night.

The city's emergency chief, Claude Talford, was roused around midnight to find out that the trucks were lining up on one of his city's main streets. He didn't know they were coming, and neither did state officials. "They just showed up on our doorstep," he said.

• In St. Louis, officials were asked by FEMA last week to prepare for up to 2,500 evacuees. After a small city was constructed in an airport hangar, FEMA called and said no evacuees were coming. The city has spent "hundreds of thousands of dollars," said Gary Christmann, chief of the city's emergency management department. "We considered that this was an outstanding drill."

• In Oregon, FEMA requests for assistance changed virtually daily. Holly Armstrong, spokeswoman for Gov. Ted Kulongoski, said FEMA called on Sept. 2 to request shelter in the Portland area for 1,000 evacuees. Officials scrambled, and Nike offered to donate clothes.

Two days later, FEMA said to "hold off." On Sept. 7, FEMA said 500 evacuees would show up Sept. 10. Then FEMA told the state no one was coming.

Throw Money at Halliburton

Thrown money at Halliburton seems to be the Bush Administration's answer to every question. Tonight Bush is going to announce a $200 billion program to rebuild the Gulf Coast. Well, duh, we need to rebuild, but between the tax cuts for millionaires, the repeal of the estate tax on multi-millionaires, the war in Iraq, the insane energy bill, where will the money come from?

Well, Bush has run every other organization he's been associated with into the ground, why am I surprised.

Bush to Request More Aid Funding
Analysts Warn of Spending's Impact

Go read TomDispatch on how Bush is turning New Orleans into the New Iraq:

Tomgram: The Reconstruction of New Oraq
Corporations of the Whirlwind
The Reconstruction of New Oraq

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Lafon Nursing Home Update

The Washington Post reports that the state is indeed investigating the many deaths at the LaFon Nursing Home:

As City Dries, Residents Plan Return

Louisiana state authorities said Wednesday that they are investigating the Lafon Nursing Home of the Holy Family in New Orleans, where a number of deaths have been reported. They may investigate as many as 18 nursing homes, authorities said.

Original Lafon Nursing Home post

Quick Hits

From Eschaton: Potty Break President Photo Op caught in the act by a Reuters photographer.

From Talking Points Memo: Part I and Part II, Michael Chertoff is an even bigger idiot than Michael Brown

Talking Points Memo was on a roll today: This story, about Dick Cheney ordering power restored to a pipeline on August 30th. Halliburton uber alles, you know.

And again TPM, the House member who has been criticized for using the National Guard to take him to his house in New Orleans? Bill Jefferson's house was raided by federal agents a month ago as part of a federal criminal investigation.

From dailykos: From Blitzer Today: Hiding the Bodies, Part 2 Will we ever hear the real death toll, or will it be covered up?

Party above people: Who's partisan? Bush called Gov. Barbour (R-Mi.) repeatedly after Katrina; Gov. Blanco (D-La.) had to chase him down.

From Kevin Drum, Gay Marriage We've had gay marriage for a year now in Massachusetts, and guess what? Nothing's changed, except for a few thousand people have gotten married and gotten hospital visitation rights, and inheritance rights, and health insurance, etc.

My last full Maureen Dowd link (she's going behind the NYTimes $50/year subscription wall next week): A Fatal Incuriosity

The Smirking Chimp: Even though a federal court has ruled the media may photograph the removal of the dead, the military are not allowing it: As bodies are recovered, reporters are told 'no photos, no stories'

Molly Ivins on Halliburton: The Graft Goes On

There Are A Lot More Nursing Homes In New Orleans: Here's the Story of One.

I've tracked the story of the Lafon Nursing Home of the Holy Family backwards after finding this story in the Winston-Salem Journal. There are dozens of nursing homes in New Orleans, and there will be more bodies found. Will the MSM cover all of them, or only the ones with particularly high body counts?

Many bodies of elderly discovered at hospital
Causes of more than 40 deaths are undetermined

The discovery at Memorial Medical Center was not the first where workers have recovered a group of bodies from a health-care facility.

Saturday, a recovery team found eight bodies inside Bethany Home, an assisted-living center near City Park. Yesterday, mortuary workers removed human remains from Lafon Nursing Home of the Holy Family, but authorities would not disclose the exact number of victims.

One side of the entrance to Lafon was spray-painted with the date "9-2" and the words "59 live" and "16 dead," while the other side was spray-painted with the date "9-9" and the notation "14 dead."

In the nursing home, the pale-brown water mark on the first floor was about 21/2 feet up the wall. On the second floor, spray-paint markings indicated where some bodies had been found: one under a hallway bulletin board, one in a community room, two beside an elevator.

Individual rooms were filled with personal belongings - pictures of friends, personal cards, flowers. In one room was a neatly folded copy of The Times-Picayune with the headline, "Katrina Takes Aim

This article in yesterday's Washington Post contains a photograph captioned Beds are strewn in the entryway of the Lafon Nursing Home of the Holy Family in New Orleans on Monday, Sept. 12, 2005. Earlier in the day, officials had removed an unspecified number of bodies from the facility, two weeks after Hurricane Katrina struck. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer) (Rick Bowmer - AP)

This article by AP yesterday contains another photograph by the same photographer, captioned: Photo caption: Two beds are seen in a residential room at the Lafon Nursing Home of the Holy Family in New Orleans on Monday, Sept. 12, 2005. Earlier in the day officials had removed an unspecified number of bodies from the facility, two weeks after Hurricane Katrina had struck. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Sept. 6th,

Robbin Navarre Richards on Sep 6 - 10:41pm
I'm in search of our Aunt, Helena Townsend. She was in the Lafon Nursing Home of Holy Family - 6900 Chef Menteur Hwy. New Orleans before the storm. We think she maybe in a shelter somewhere in Baton Rouge. I'm also looking for other relatives, Janice, Lester, Randy & Trina Meadoux. If you have any Info. please contact me at (714) 974-0907 or 1 800 828-6699 ext. 1146

Sept. 4, 2005 Miami Herald: S. Florida opens arms to evacuees

Friday night, the Rouzan family learned that a cousin, Lorraine Duvernay, 78, had died in the Lafon Nursing Home of the Holy Family in New Orleans.

She is in the nursing home's chapel in a body bag.

''And there is nothing you can do,'' Wanda Rouzan said, crying.
Sept. 3rd, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: First Person: Sister Sylvia, where are you?
A gentle, caring soul in New Orleans went missing in action

One of those people is Sister Sylvia Thibodeaux, head of the Sisters of the Holy Family in New Orleans, an order of African-American Catholic sisters. Sister Sylvia welcomed me and took me on a tour of the convent with its peeling paint, dormitory bathrooms and a chapel that was woefully inadequate for sisters who were now using walkers and wheelchairs.

She had immense challenges daily to maintain a deteriorating complex of buildings that included the huge convent where more than 50 sisters live, a sprawling 600-student girls' academy nearby, the 130-bed Lafon Nursing Home for elderly lay and religious women in need of skilled care; and, next door to the nursing home, the multistoried Delille Independent Living for the Elderly Poor apartment complex. The Holy Family sisters are frail and aging but as many members as could walk continued to work for little to no pay at educating elementary and high school students and caring for the handicapped, frail and elderly.

Sept. 2nd San Antonio News-Express: Ken Rodriguez: Help came for woman's grandmother, but was it too late?

On the east side of New Orleans, amid rising waters and sinking hope, more than 100 residents of Lafon Nursing Home were trapped on the second floor.

Without food and drinking water, they grew fatigued and weak. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, some perished, waiting to be rescued.

About 500 miles away in San Antonio, assistant city manager Jelynne Burley held her breath.

The grandmother who raised her, 100-year-old Rosalie Daste, is a Lafon Nursing Home resident.

Just before 5 p.m. Thursday, Burley learned that rescuers had arrived and evacuated 100 residents and caretakers. Was her grandmother among the living?

"I don't know," she said. "All I know is that some people didn't make it."....

Thursday afternoon, [Burley's] staff assistant retrieved the following message from

"My aunt is trapped at the Lafon Nursing Home of the Holy Family on 6900 Chef Menteur Highway. ... The people that own the nursing home have left and gone to Covington, La. They made no arrangements to get them out. The water is still rising and they have no idea if anyone is coming for them. Please help us to save my aunt and the residents."

Last updated Sept. 12th: AAHSA has collected relocation information for AAHSA members and other long-term care facilities that had to evacuate because of Hurricane Katrina.

Lafon Nursing Home of the Holy Family, New Orleans, La.
Relocated to Château Terrebonne Health Care Center,
Houma, La.
(985) 872-4553

Last updated Sept. 12th: From the Sisters of the Holy Family Website:

While we are not affiliated with the LaFon Nursing Home in New Orleans, LA, nor the Sisters of the Holy Family of New Orleans, we have obtained information from The Sisters of the Holy Family, SSF. They are now in Shreveport, LA. You may contact Sister Silvia Thibodeaux at 318-868-3880.

For information about the residents of LaFon Nursing Home, please contact Sister Augustine Mc Daniels, SSF at 409-842-2940.

August 31st,

My name is James Williams from Chicago and I'm trying to find any information on the Lafon nursing home of the Holy Family

Hello my name is James Williams, I am from Chicago illinois and I am looking for any information on the Lafon Nursing Home of the Holy Family. I have a grandmother and an Aunt that was there with my grandmother that we have had no contact at all my grandmother has a prostetic leg if that will help. (Grandmother Marie Jones & Aunt Jean-Marie Belonga

There are other families as well looking for the same nursing home because of loved ones, two Nuns to be exact. please your immediate response would be greatly appreciated.

Sept. 1st,

Lafon Nursing Facility

Lafon Latest - by geselm - 9/1/05 10:19 ET (

As of 9/1 10am EST according to LA Nursing Home Assoc, Lafon Nursing Facility of the Holy Family HAD NOT been evacuated. She said they were working on that now and to call back in 12 - 24 hours.

For Clarification there is no Mercy Hills retreat that I can find in Covington or any other place. Mary Hill Renewal Center at the 318 number DOES NOT have Lafon residents. They are not at Xavier Prep.

I am looking for my grandmother Rebecca Landix. I have at least 10 names that I will ask about in addition to my grandmother. Please contact me if you have any information.



I am looking for my mother Annie M. Harrison, Age 90, Airlifted from Lafon Sisters of the Holy Family Nursing Home (6900 Chef menteur Hwy,New Orleans LA). Contact me at; (321) 436-7206.

From bulletinblog: Hurricane Katrina

Obando Perez, Emelina

Lives at: Lafon Nursing Home, Sisters of the Holy Family, 6900 Chef Menteur Highway,
New Orleans, LA 70126.

Last told she was airlifted by Natl Guard to NO Intl Airport but there is no list & they say they are evacuating ppl out on buses, helicopters and planes. Don't know where she is. She only speaks SPANISH!

Please call Ivonne at 904-652-7241

August 31st, Catholic News Service:

Louisianans face long recovery from Katrina, New Orleans flooding

She said the retreat center in the diocese has taken in 36 Holy Family Sisters who had to evacuate their motherhouse in New Orleans, and the local Catholic high school had become a temporary shelter for the evacuated residents of a nursing home near Houma, about 60 miles southwest of New Orleans.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Just When You Thought It Couldn't Get Any Worse

From Democratic Veteran:

Disrespect for the Dead

Well, the 1600 Crew will always seek some way to let their cronies make a buck off you, or your corpse. Apparently the company that has extensive ties to the 1600 Crew, Service Corporation International, (SCI), is handling the bodies in Louisiana. SCI has an agreement through FEMA and the state of Louisiana, so you have to wonder what Kathleen Blanco is thinking, signing up with a company that has a track record of some not-so-savory practices.

In other words, FEMA and then Blanco outsourced the body count from Hurricane Katrina -- which many believe the worst natural disaster in U.S. history -- to a firm whose parent company is known for its "experience" at hiding and dumping bodies.

The Menorah Gardens cemetery chain, owned by SCI, desecrated vaults, removed hundreds of bodies from two cemeteries in Florida and dumped the gruesome remains in woods frequented by wild hogs, investigators discovered in 2001. In one case, a backhoe was used to crack open a vault, remove corpses and make room for more dead bodies.

SCI paid $100 million to settle a lawsuit filed by outraged family members of the deceased.

A secretary at the lawfirm that sued SCI over the Florida cemetery scandals gasped when informed that FEMA had outsourced handling of Katrina victims' bodies to an SCI subsidiary.

"Oh, good lord!" she said.

Read the whole thing. Sick money-hungry f*cks.

Web Bulletin Board for Persons Missing in Katrina

While researching another story, I came upon this blog:

Bulletin Blog: Hurricane Katrina
The Web's Bulletin Board for Reuniting Victims of Disasters

It makes you realize the enormity of the disaster when you see all the faces of the missing and the lost.

If Anyone Is Insulted by My Blog, I'm Sorry

President Photo Op made the following statement today:

"To the extent the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility."

Uh, President Eternal Vacation, the federal government's response was an unmitigated disaster. Go ahead, admit that and take responsibility.

This is just another dodge. You can't take responsibility for something you haven't yet admitted really happened.

Yet the once-again fully-supine MSM will report "Bush Takes Responsibility", over and over.

New York Times: Bush Takes Responsibility For Failures in Storm Response

Washington Post: Bush Takes Responsibility for Katrina Failures

USA Today: Bush takes responsibility for 'serious problems' in response

I curse thee, MSM. Journalism is dead. Long live the corporate media.

Another Joke

From Searching for a Better Way:

Joke Of The Day

President Bush was visiting a primary school and he visited one of the classes. They were in the middle of a discussion related to words and their meanings. The teacher asked the President if he would like to lead the discussion on the word "tragedy". So the illustrious leader asked the class for an example of a "tragedy".

One little boy stood up and offered: "If my best friend, who lives on a farm, is playing in the field and a tractor runs over him and kills him, that would be a tragedy."

"No," said Bush, "that would be an accident."

A little girl raised her hand: "If a school bus carrying 50 children drove over a cliff, killing everyone inside, that would be a tragedy."

"I'm afraid not," explained the president. "That's what we would call a great loss."

The room went silent. No other children volunteered. Bush searched the room. "Isn't there someone here who can give me an example of a tragedy?"

Finally at the back of the room a small boy (lil Johnny) raised his hand. In a quiet voice he said: "If Air Force One carrying you and Mrs. Bush was struck by a "friendly fire" missile and blown to smithereens, that would be a tragedy."

"Fantastic!" exclaimed Bush. "That's right. And can you tell me why that would be tragedy?"

"Well," says Lil Johnny, "It has to be a tragedy, because it sure as hell wouldn't be a great loss and it probably wouldn't be an accident either."

Hang Down Your Head, John Roberts

This is the opening line in the New York Review of Books article about Supreme Court Chief Justice Nominee John Roberts:

John Roberts: The Nominee

The most intriguing question about John Roberts is what led him as a young person whose success in life was virtually assured by family wealth and academic achievement to enlist in a political campaign designed to deny opportunities for success to those who lacked his advantages.

John F. Kennedy, Democrat:

For of those to whom much is given, much is required.

"Future Generations Will Condemn Us"

From the Washington Post:

Arctic Folly
By Jimmy Carter

If we are not wise enough to protect the Arctic refuge, future generations will condemn us for needlessly sacrificing the wilderness of their world to feed our profligate, short-term and shortsighted energy habit. The pathway to a better, more sustainable energy future does not wind through the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican.
H. L. Mencken

And We Used to Joke About Gerald Ford

President Bush, speaking to reporters while visiting an elementary school yesterday:

I can do more than one thing at one time.

Where is our Lyndon Johnson?

Johnson made wisecracks that the trouble with Ford was that "he used to play football without a helmet" and that he was "too stupid to walk and chew gum at the same time."

Bush makes Ford look like a genius.

Bush Visits New Orleans and Defends the Indefensible

45 Bodies Found In La. Hospital
Bush Visits New Orleans and Defends Federal Response; FEMA Chief Quits

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 12 -- The bodies of 45 patients left in a hasty evacuation were recovered from a New Orleans hospital, officials said Monday, as the city braced for the scenes left by the receding waters.....

Officials said the bodies found Sunday in the Memorial Medical Center were left there after a frantic evacuation, days after the storm passed and floodwaters began to rise. An official of the hospital owners said the patients died before the evacuation and their bodies were left in the facility.

But the discovery was certain to raise new questions about why so many city hospitals were not evacuated before the storm. Two medical professionals inside the Memorial Medical Center said conditions began to turn desperate shortly after the floodwaters cut off roads. The darkened corridors were jammed with families. Drinking water grew scarce. Medical supplies exhausted quickly; even IVs were being rationed, they said.

"Things looked like they were going downhill quickly," said Scot Sonnier, an oncologist there. He left before the evacuation, thinking other doctors were handling it, he said.....

....A spokesman for Tenent Healthcare Corp., which owns the hospital, told the AP that some of the people found Sunday had died before the storm, and the others died before the evacuation, which other officials said was done by boats.....

Bob Johannesen, a spokesman for the state Department of Health and Hospitals, said the bodies of 45 patients were recovered from the hospital Sunday, although Dave Goodson, an assistant administrator, said the toll was 57, according to the AP.

This hospital, Memorial Hospital, is run by Tenet Healthcare Corp. On September 3rd, almost a week after the storm, CNN reported the following:

....said Steve Campanini, spokesman for Tenet HealthCare, which operates it. Nurses have been flown in from other Tenet hospitals, and Tenet has launched its own private rescue flights, he said, aided by Coast Guard helicopters.

Five of Tenet's other hospitals have been evacuated, except for a doctor at Lindy Boggs Medical Center in New Orleans, who refuses to leave because staffers' pets are there, Campanini said.

On Thursday September 1, Tenet issued the following press release about the situation in their hurricane-affected hospitals:

At 317-bed Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans, private helicopters hired by Tenet, working in collaboration with federal agencies, have airlifted several dozen patients, while U.S. Coast Guard representatives ferried family members and others who took shelter in the hospital by boat to safety. More than 40 patients along with about 200 staff and others are still to be evacuated. The hospital has been without electricity, air-conditioning and water since Monday. At one point, more than 2,000 persons including 150 patients were stranded in the hospital.

On Tuesday August 30th the Dallas Business Journal reported:

The evacuations of 317-bed Memorial Medical Center and 187-bed Lindy Boggs Medical Center in New Orleans and 189-bed Gulf Coast Medical Center in Biloxi, Miss., were expected to be completed by the end of today because of rising water in the facilities.

9:40 a.m. update:

The New York Times has a better story on what really happened to the hospital over the course of the disastrous post-hurricane days:

Agonizing Days of Heat and Death in a Medical Island

"Faults of Leadership and Character"

From the New Yorker:


....Over five days last week, from the onset of the hurricane on the Gulf Coast on Monday morning to his belated visit to the region on Friday, Bush’s mettle was tested—and he failed in almost every respect.

Obviously, a hurricane is beyond human blame, and the political miscalculations that have come to light—the negligent planning, the delayed rescue and aid efforts, the thoroughly confused and uninspired political leadership—cannot all be laid at the feet of President Bush. But you could sense, watching him being interviewed by Diane Sawyer on ABC’s “Good Morning America”—defensive, confused, overwhelmed—that he knew that he had delivered a series of feeble, vague, almost flippant speeches in the early days of the crisis, and that the only way to prevent further political damage was to inoculate himself with the inevitable call for non-partisanship: “I hope people don’t play politics during this period of time.”

And yet, to a frightening degree, Bush’s faults of leadership and character were brought into high relief by the crisis. Suntanned and relaxed after a vacation so long that it would have shamed a French playboy, Bush reacted with fogged delinquency, as if he had been so lulled by his summer sojourn that he was not quite ready to acknowledge reality, let alone attempt to master it. His first view of the floods came, pitifully, theatrically, from the window of a low-flying Air Force One, and all the President could muster was, according to his press secretary, “It’s devastating. It’s got to be doubly devastating on the ground.” The moment demanded clarity of mind and rigorous governance, and yet he could not summon them. The performance skills Bush eventually mustered after September 11th—in his bullhorn speech at Ground Zero, in his first speech to Congress—eluded him. The whole conceit of his Presidency, that he was an instinctive chief executive backed by “grownups” like Dick Cheney and tactical wizards like Karl Rove, now seemed as water-logged as Biloxi and New Orleans. The mismanagement of the Katrina floods echoed the White House mismanagement—the cavalier posture, the wretched decisions, the self-delusions—in postwar Iraq.

Trying to Make President Photo Op Look "In The Loop"

From Suburban Guerilla:


Yesterday Bush was asked by a reporter about the resignation of Heckuva Job Brownie. His response:

“Maybe you know something I don’t know.”

Yet Brown said, in the press release announcing his departure:

"As I told the president, it is important that I leave now to avoid further distraction from the ongoing mission of FEMA,"

Maybe Heckuva Job Brownie was talking to President Cheney?

Now "Duct Tape Guy" is Doing a Helluva Job

From AmericaBlog:

Bush puts "duct tape" idiot in charge of FEMA

Guess who Bush just appointed as the acting head of FEMA? Yes, you guessed it. The idiot who caused the "duct tape" scare two years ago.

Yes, David Paulison, a top official in Homeland Security, has just been appointed by Bush as the acting new head of FEMA.

President George W. Bush on Monday named David Paulison, a top official in the Homeland Security Department, to replace Michael Brown on an acting basis as head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

This is the same David Paulison who gave us the infamous "duct tape" scare a little over two years ago.

Americans have apparently heeded the U.S. government's advice to prepare for terror attacks, emptying hardware store shelves of duct tape.

On Tuesday, less than 24 hours after U.S. Fire Administrator David Paulison described a list of useful items, stores in the greater Washington, D.C. area reported a surge in sales of plastic sheeting, duct tape, and other emergency items.

Great. So we've gone from Brownie (aka Drownie) to Duckie.

Is it impossible for Bush to appoint anyone competent to head any agency?

Monday, September 12, 2005

Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them

From Democratic Veteran:

A man died and went to heaven. As he stood in front of St. Peter at the Pearly Gates, he saw a huge wall of clocks behind him. He asked, "What are all those clocks?"

St. Peter answered, "Those are Lie-Clocks. Everyone on earth has a Lie-Clock. Every time you lie, the hands on your clock will move." "Oh," said the man, "whose clock is that?"

"That's Mother Teresa's. The hands have never moved, indicating that she never told a lie." "Incredible," said the man.

"And whose clock is that one?" St. Peter responded, "That's Abraham Lincoln's clock. The hands have moved twice, telling us that Abe told only two lies in his entire life."

"Where's President Bush's clock?" asked the man. "Bush's clock is in Jesus' office. He's using it as a ceiling fan."

And Now For Something Completely Different

Q: Who is the only player to captain two different teams to the Stanley Cup?

A: Mark Messier

Mess announced his retirement today.

I'll always remember Messier for a non-athletic moment. At the game to begin the 2001 season, shortly after 9/11, the family of FDNY Captain Ray Downey presented Messier with Downey's helmet. Messier put it on and skated around the ice, tears streaming down his face.

He played that way too, with his emotions in full view. Enjoy your retirement, Captain.

A Modest Proposal

An Anchor Who Reports Disaster News With a Heart on His Sleeve

His comments pushed right up to the line between tough questioning and confrontational advocacy journalism, but viewers responded.

Now that the New York Times has discovered that audiences respond to journalists who are actually experiencing the stories they cover, they should outsource Tom Friedman's job to someone in India. Then Tom can, without benefit of his 6 figure salary, tell us why the global economy is such a great deal for working Americans.

"They had to make unbearable decisions"

From Sydney, Australia's Daily Telegraph:

Patients put down
DOCTORS working in hurricane-ravaged New Orleans killed critically ill patients rather than leave them to die in agony as they evacuated.

They did this while George W. Bush, Michael Chertoff, and Michael Brown were congratulating themselves on a job well done.

Remember this as you watch Operation Photo Op swing into gear again today. Where was George while these people were dying? He was on vacation.

"Left to Starve, to Thirst, to Broil"

From a local paper, the Framingham Metrowest News:

Joe Bradley, a resident of Framingham: Truth shatters faith in government
Our aged, our children, our fellow citizens not fortunate enough to have evacuated the City of New Orleans prior to the storm along with the more fortunate, more upwardly mobile 80 percent of the city's residents, were left to starve, to thirst, to broil in the heat of New Orleans because they were the forgotten people.

If the Beverly Hills Hotel were overflowing with 20,000 wealthy people who had taken refuge from a natural disaster, I cannot believe that it would have taken three days for helicopters to start bringing in supplies of food and water. The response of our government would, I believe, have been immediate. I have finally come to realize what our country is all about. It is about class, wealth, and political power. The poor of New Orleans have no lobbyist on K Street representing their interests, so they were written off.

We are all criminally liable for those that died during those three days because of lack of supplies -- all of us who have ever voted, who have ever worked within the system, who have ever believed in our system. Yes, you and I.

I believed in our system, in our government, in our country until I was 53. Sort of a late bloomer, my belief in fantasy was finally overcome when I saw our brothers and sisters in New Orleans suffering and dying.

Faced with the truth, I want to believe in our system, in our government, in our country, but I can't.

Richard Reeves, columnist: The failure in New Orleans

The president himself, seeing the bloating bodies of his citizens abandoned by government in dark waters, immediately understood, so he said, that the problem was "bureaucracy." Sir, the problem was you and your ilk.

George W. Bush, a child of the anti-government, had heard and said for so long that government was the enemy, that government could not be trusted, he was unwilling or unable to use its power to save its citizens before it was too late. He is doing the same thing in Iraq, where he is unwilling to give young men and women wearing the government's uniforms on his orders the reinforcements and equipment they need to survive, much less prevail, in a war they cannot win.

The tragedies in New Orleans and Baghdad are both tragedies of stunted minds who do not believe in the capacity of the people of the nation organized as government. The stupidity of anti-government bias was dramatized a week after the waters came in biblical force. The pilots of two Navy helicopters were reprimanded for acting as if they were big brotherly government by rescuing more than a hundred people when their orders specified that their only mission was to deliver food and water to other military personnel.....

Government is about providing and enforcing law, about delivering order and security from the forces of hostile peoples and the powers of nature. Government is about offering fairness and justice and the right of appeal to the poorest and meekest of us. It owes us a living, which I would define as providing education, the blessings of public health, and rational management of land and water and the other natural resources of this rich place of ours.

Many of the dead people floating along the edges of the Gulf of Mexico right now are there because the people running the government hate government and, worse, do not understand the idea and obligations of government. We are a lesser people because of that -- and the whole world is watching.

Democrats: The Party of Empathy and Responsibility

From Alternet, a good article by George Lakoff, author of Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate:

The Post-Katrina Era

The moral of Katrina is mostly being missed. It is not just a failure of execution (William Kristol), or that bad things just happen (Laura Bush). It was not just indifference by the President, or a lack of accountability, or a failure of federal-state communication, or corrupt appointments in FEMA, or the cutting of budgets for fixing levees, or the inexcusable absence of the National Guard off in Iraq. It was all of these and more, but they are the effects, not the cause.

The cause was political through and through -- a matter of values and principles. The progressive-liberal values are America's values, and we need to go back to them. The heart of progressive-liberal values is simple: empathy (caring about and for people) and responsibility (acting responsibly on that empathy). These values translate into a simple principle: Use the common wealth for the common good to better all our lives. In short, promoting the common good is the central role of government.

The right-wing conservatives now in power have the opposite values and principles. Their main value is Rely on individual discipline and initiative. The central principle: Government has no useful role. The only common good is the sum of individual goods. It's the difference between We're all in this together and You're on your own, buddy. It's the difference between Every citizen is entitled to protection and You're only entitled to what you can afford. It's the difference between connection and separation. It is this difference in moral and political philosophy that lies behind the tragedy of Katrina.

A lack of empathy and responsibility accounts for Bush's indifference and the government's delay in response, as well as the failure to plan for the security of the most vulnerable: the poor, the infirm, the aged, the children.

Eliminating as much as possible of the role of government accounts for the demotion of FEMA from cabinet rank, for Michael Brown's view that FEMA was a federal entitlement program to be cut, for the budget cuts in levee repair, for placing more responsibility on state and local government than they could handle, for the failure to fully employ the military, and for the lax regulation of toxic waste dumps contributing to a "toxic stew."

This was not just incompetence (though there was plenty of it), not just a natural disaster (though nature played its part), not just Bush (though he is accountable). This is a failure of moral and political philosophy -- a deadly failure. That is the deep truth behind this human tragedy, humanly caused.

In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican.
H. L. Mencken

Poor, Poor Pitiful Drownie

From the Rocky Mountain News:

Black-and-blue Brown
Disaster point man has been beat up by jobs, friends say

WASHINGTON - As criticism of him grew this week, Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Mike Brown sent a candid e-mail to family and friends.

"I don't mind the negative press (well, actually, I do, but I try to ignore it) but it is really wearing out the family," Brown wrote. "No wonder people don't go into public service. This country is devouring itself, the 24-hour news cycle is numbing our ability to think for ourselves."

It's almost too obvious to point out that there a lot of families on the Gulf Coast who have been through a lot more than the 24-hour news cycle.

I wonder which one of his "family and friends" leaked this email to the media? Did they think they were doing Heckuva Job Brownie a favor?

Brown has been christened "Drownie" by blogtopia (yes! skippy invented that term!).

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Sometimes You Just Need to Laugh

25 Mind-Numbingly Stupid Quotes About Hurricane Katrina And Its Aftermath

Late-Night Jokes About the Botched Response to Hurricane Katrina

"While everybody else is busy setting up commissions and finding fault, through the president's leadership he'll end up building a billion dollar dam in Arkansas." --"Daily Show" correspondent Ed Helms
"Why would he build a dam in Arkansas?" --Jon Stewart
"His plan will be to fight the water there so we don't have to fight it here." --Ed Helms

"There's one big difference between George Bush and Marie Antoinette, and that is when Marie Antoinette said 'Let them eat cake,' they had cake." --Bill Maher

Adventures in George W. Bushspeak - Updated Frequently

"I can't wait to join you in the joy of welcoming neighbors back into neighborhoods, and small businesses up and running, and cutting those ribbons that somebody is creating new jobs." —George W. Bush, Poplarville, Miss., Sept. 5, 2005

Dark Political Humor

Subject: Roe v Wade

Q: What is George W. Bush's position on Roe vs. Wade?

A: He really doesn't care how people get out of New Orleans.

Tip o' the cap to Booman Tribune.

Operation Photo Op, George Bush, September 11th edition

Operation Photo Op on its third tour, but here's the reality on the ground:

President Makes His 3rd Visit to Gulf Coast
Local Officials Again Fault Federal Efforts

In Biloxi, Miss., local officials said FEMA has yet to set up a disaster relief center, leaving storm-shocked residents with little access to federal help.

I guess Brownie is still doin' that helluva job.

"The world is now a much more dangerous place"

From the Manchester Union Leader. Read the whole thing, it's a compelling summary:

Kurt S. Wolz:
We're no safer today

MY CONNECTION with 9/11 is personal. I am a pilot for American Airlines. In September of 2001, I had AA Flight 11 on my flying schedule. As you may recall, AA Flight 11 was the first airplane hijacked. It subsequently impacted the north tower of the World Trade Center. I lost a friend and fellow pilot, Capt. John Ogonowski, that day. I also knew purser Betty Ong and the rest of the cabin crew. I could have been the copilot who perished that day.

On the four-year anniversary of 9/11, I would like to give you my summation as to what progress our leaders have made in ridding the world of terrorism, and in "bringing to justice" the perpetrators of that horrendous terrorist attack on our homeland. And that is — no real progress. The world is now a much more dangerous place and Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida are still "alive and well.".....

All I can say is that I am tired of being lied to by an administration that has zero credibility. I am hoping that in 2006 Democrats win back control of Congress and open their first session with impeachment proceedings of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, because the Republicans refuse to do so.

Environmental Protection Agency Also Run By "Inept Political Hacks"

From skippy:

while our corporate media sleeps...

cover-up: toxic waters 'will make new orleans unsafe for a decade'

toxic chemicals in the new orleans flood waters will make the city unsafe for full human habitation for a decade, a us government official has told the independent on sunday. and, he added, the bush administration is covering up the danger. kaufman claimed the bush administration was playing down the need for a clean-up: the epa has not been included in the core white house group tackling the crisis. "its budget has been cut and inept political hacks have been put in key positions," mr kaufman said. - the independent

We must remember that Bush's EPA lied to the workers at Ground Zero about environmental hazards from the collapse of the World Trade Center, and that today thousands are sick as a result:

Updated 9/11 Report Examines Failure to Protect Citizens

"Thousands of workers and residents who have been exposed to 9/11-related contamination are now sick," said Joel Shufro, Executive Director, New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health. "Many of them might never have been exposed if federal officials had not downplayed the hazard in Lower Manhattan and the importance of wearing appropriate protective equipment at all times. Rescue and recovery workers in the Gulf Coast must not be subjected to the same lack of attention to their potential exposures. Until the post-Katrina air (and the water rescuers are wading in) is proven safe, it should be regarded as hazardous, so rescuers and others exposed should receive necessary training and wear appropriate respiratory protection and skin protection, if it is available. If either the training or the gear is not available, emergency officials should make a very high priority of obtaining it, while providing medical surveillance for workers engaged in the rescue and recovery."

The Emperor Has No Clothes

That's how I would have titled this Newsweek article:

How Bush Blew It
Bureaucratic timidity. Bad phone lines. And a failure of imagination. Why the government was so slow to respond to catastrophe.

How this could be—how the president of the United States could have even less "situational awareness," as they say in the military, than the average American about the worst natural disaster in a century[?]....

But it is not clear what President Bush does read or watch, aside from the occasional biography and an hour or two of ESPN here and there.....After five years in office, he is surrounded largely by people who agree with him. Bush can ask tough questions, but it's mostly a one-way street.

Boston Globe Finds Heroes: The Coast Guard

Chronology of errors: how a disaster spread

Amid all the chaos and confusion among would-be rescuers, however, at least one federal agency had planned ahead.

On the Sunday before Katrina hit, Jayhawk rescue helicopters from Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod took off, hugging the coast, on a hopscotch to the hurricane zone. Coast Guard commanders were not waiting to implement their disaster response plan. Jayhawks from locations along the Eastern Seaboard arrived in the gulf just behind the storm, well before the bulk of the National Guard, the Pentagon's Northern Command, or the Department of Homeland Security, the new agency created after Sept. 11 to oversee FEMA, the Coast Guard, and dozens of other agencies.

Indeed, while state, local, and other federal officials appeared not to fully comprehend the magnitude of the disaster at hand, the Coast Guard acted with the urgency the crisis demanded.

Admiral Robert Duncan, head of the Eighth District in New Orleans, dispersed cutters, helicopters, and other vessels ahead of the storm. He also requested additional forces from the commander of the Coast Guard's Eastern Area, in Norfolk, Va., which is responsible for everything east of the Mississippi, according to Coast Guard officials.

''We don't have to get approval to execute," said Richard J. Dein, a retired Coast Guard commander and a search-and-rescue specialist. ''The Coast Guard is organized by geography. All of those districts act autonomously. They each have a command and control center. What you had was a ready response network."

Lives were saved -- some 1,200, the Coast Guard estimated -- before FEMA's Brown arrived in Baton Rouge after the storm....

Maybe the Coast Guard is skeptical of the Bush Administration and their "plans" because of this one?

Coast Guard Fights to Retain War Role
'Slack-Jawed' Over Criticism From Rumsfeld, Service Cites Its Battle Capabilities

By John Mintz and Vernon Loeb
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, August 31, 2003; Page A07

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has all but decided to remove the U.S. Coast Guard from participation in future wars, a prospect that is devastating morale in the maritime service because of its pride at having taken part in most of the nation's armed conflicts over the past 200 years, defense sources said.

Washington Post Post Mortem

The Steady Buildup to a City's Chaos
Confusion Reigned At Every Level Of Government

No new ground broken in this one, really.

This time it's Mike Leavitt, Secretary of Health and Human Services, claiming that President Photo Op came back from vacation on Wednesday "with a 'sense of urgency in his tone'".

Bush, winging his way back from vacation, paused to swoop low over the prostrate city on Air Force One. Back in Washington, he convened a stunned Cabinet.

Bush came in with a "sense of urgency in his tone" after his aerial tour, recalled Mike Leavitt, the secretary of health and human services. "It was, 'Has anybody thought of that, who's doing this? I want you to do this and this and this.' "

Funny thing about how Bush is always so smart and resolute behind closed doors with his staffers, then goes on national TV and says "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees" and "Brownie, you're doin a heckuva job" in front of the rest of us.