Category Archives: Unspeakably Awful (Katrina)

They Really Really Don’t Care About New Orleans — US Accepts Repairs to Floodwalls Made of Used Newspaper

The tragedy of New Orleans continues.

4 Investigates: Floodwalls stuffed with newspaper?

the witness says two years ago, he saw the contractor filling the expansion joint or opening between the floodwalls with newspaper.

“The whole length of the wall was stuffed with newspaper.”

And when he confronted the contractor, the contractor blamed Washington for the substandard work.

“He basically told me when Congress sent down the money, it would be repaired the proper way.”

But during a recent trip to the area, two years later, it was apparent that didn't happen. Much of the newspaper had deteriorated or been eaten by bugs, but some still remained.

And, by the way, Congress had sent the money, and the contract called for a proper rubber joint. The Army Corps of Engineers, which is supposed to supervise the construction, says everything is just fine, nothing to see, move along now.

Does anyone in DC care about this stuff? Or have they just written New Orleans off?

How does an administration get away with presiding over the destruction of a major American city, botching the emergency rescue and then not fixing it afterwards? Sorry — silly question: they do it the same way they get away with a war of choice based on lies, torture, stealing an election, refusals to appear before Congress, signing statements that announce their plans to ignore the laws, and siphoning of several fortunes to their friends.


“Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?”

“A Republic, if you can keep it.”

ATTRIBUTION: The response is attributed to BENJAMIN FRANKLIN—at the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, when queried as he left Independence Hall on the final day of deliberation—in the notes of Dr. James McHenry, one of Maryland’s delegates to the Convention.


Still a Republic, or devolved to a revolving monarchy? The next few years may decide it.

Posted in Unspeakably Awful (Katrina) | 8 Comments

Bush Administration *Literally* Makes Americans Sick

The Gavel » Blog Archive » Oversight Hearing on “Toxic Trailers” in the Gulf Coast

Henry Waxman is having hearings about FEMA's provision of toxic trailers to Katerina victims.

Another FEMA official wrote, the office of general counsel has advised “We do not do testing, because it would imply FEMA's ownership of this issue.” Early in the process, due to the perseverance of a pregnant mother with a four month old child, FEMA did test one occupied trailer. The results showed that their trailer had formaldehyde levels 75 times higher than the maximum workplace exposure levels recommended by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The mother evacuated the trailer. FEMA then stopped testing other trailers.

They knew, and they knew they didn't want to know.

Much more, with videos, at The Gavel.

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Failing our Neighbors in St. Bernard Parish

The National Journal’s Jonathan Rauch has some compelling reporting about what’s doing in St. Bernard Parish, right next door to New Orleans — and the answer in Struggling To Survive is “not nearly enough”.

After that has thoroughly depressed you, visit the sidebar in which Jon argues that the root problem is largely bureaucratic:

Is St. Bernard Parish’s bureaucracy fatigue incurable, treatable with smarter bureaucracy, or susceptible only to fundamental reform? The answer is yes — partially — to all of the above.

So is this the administration’s fault? I’d say even if Jon is right that the statutory climate is unhelpful, there’s a lot more that could be done if the line officials were more empowered to get results — and felt that they would get in more trouble for doing nothing than for doing th wrong thing. And that would come only if they got the right sort of direction from the top.

But who remembers New Orleans nowadays?

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Plenty of Blame to Go Around (V)

Read Escapable Logic on a TV reporter’s insidious attempt to play the blame game by the old rules — which are now the wrong rules. It’s powerful stuff, with quotes from and links to many other worthies, notably David Weinberger’s facts as cudgels, which was probably the place I first saw this incident dissected.

Can it really be that sometimes a truth is greater than the facts on which it was said to rest? It’s very rare, but yes — so long as there are other relevant and supportive facts.

Ordinarily, of course, we rely on the facts to set us free from the chains of falsehood. For example, that hype about anarchy rape and murder in the Superdome? Dead bodies everywhere? Not.

Posted in Unspeakably Awful (Katrina) | 2 Comments

Plenty of Blame to Go Around (IV)

Some of the commentators on this blog have been repeating the GOP talking point that the Mayor of New Orleans didn’t order an evacuation until after GW Bush pleaded with him to do so. Not only is this false, but people pushing this line should beware the logical nutcracker of Daily Kos: Where Turd Blossom Goes, A Talking Point Blooms. It turns out that this talking point has a real sting in the tail:

Following the lie, however, we see that in order to even argue the point, you have to agree with a whole litany of other points:

  • That President Bush himself, as well as presumably his entire team, knew full well that Katrina was a devastating storm requiring mass evacuations in front of it, and one which would wreak catastrophic damage.
  • And yet President Bush, and the rest of his cabinet, remained on vacation while they knew that.
  • And yet FEMA was utterly unprepared, apparently, to offer assistance for it.
  • And yet Homeland Security did, apparently, nothing to ensure FEMA was prepared to offer assistance for it.
  • And yet in spite of apparently knowing the danger to New Orleans in specific, both the President and the administrator of FEMA were completely unaware that anyone had “foreseen” that the levees would fail — and apparently was only monitoring the levee condition via newspaper headlines.
  • And yet, in the days following the storm, the FEMA director insisted that he wasn’t even aware 15,000 evacuees had fled to the New Orleans convention center, a designated shelter area, until he was told by reporters.
  • And yet, FEMA continued to reject assistance and turn rescuers away during the most critical days after the storm.

So for the sake of argument, fine: let’s grant the central premise the White House was following the dangerous progress of Katrina well in advance, and urged evacuations. Let’s grant the premise that they were “ready” for this storm, according to the standards that Bush set for himself. On vacation. While receiving ceremonial guitars.

Does that make the now-universally-recognized-as-inadequate administration response better? Or spectacularly worse?

[Just to be clear: I am NOT saying that this settles the question of whether the evacuation was tardy (in hindsight it certainly seems to have been) or well-executed (it wasn’t), and most certainly not that it was well-planned. ]

Incidentally, the suggestion in some the comments that the feds had tons of resources ready to go just sitting there on hair trigger notice, waiting only for the incompetent local officials to request them before they would instantly pour in is also ludicrously at odds with reality as reported by any reputable news source with which I am familiar. But I look forward to the report of a fair and independent inquiry to sort truth from fiction.

Posted in Unspeakably Awful (Katrina) | 1 Comment

Spontaneous Generation Observed in Nature

Posted in Unspeakably Awful (Katrina) | 1 Comment

Stuff Which is True and Not at All Funny

Stuff which appears all true, and quite horrible:

  • Sickening Beyond Belief. Here’s just a small bit:
    In the midst of administering chest compressions to a dying woman several days after Hurricane Katrina struck, Dr. Mark N. Perlmutter was ordered to stop by a federal official because he wasn’t registered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

    “I begged him to let me continue,” said Perlmutter, who left his home and practice as an orthopedic surgeon in Pennsylvania to come to Louisiana and volunteer to care for hurricane victims. “People were dying, and I was the only doctor on the tarmac (at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport) where scores of nonresponsive patients lay on stretchers. Two patients died in front of me.

  • The follow-up posting detailing other examples of the deadly refusal of assistance.
  • Meanwhile FEMA still can’t get its act together.

PS. Here comes Tropical Storm Rita, soon to be Hurricane Rita. See the details via the University of Miami’s cool Google hack that plots hurricane track observations and predicted path. (Note that in this case the track is a little misleading, maybe, as it is quite possible the center will reform farther north during the next 36 hours. That is, right here. Although the real hurricane force may not grow until it hits the Gulf.)

Posted in Unspeakably Awful (Katrina) | 3 Comments