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Old 09-05-2005, 03:29 PM   #301
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http://katrinablog.msnbc.com/2005/09...tml#below-fold

Red Cross officials at the shelter at the Forrest County Multipurpose Building, home to approximately 1,100 refugees from the storm, declined to comment on the visit other than to confirm that FEMA officials had put in an appearance.

But sources familiar with the brief stopover say the FEMA officials made it clear they had no plans to open a claim center in or near Hattiesburg and instead instructed the staff to post flyers directing those who require disaster assistance to phone the FEMA hot line -- 1-800 621-3362 -- and to have documentation on hand. Alternately, claimants can file online at www.fema.gov.

The problem for those at the hurricane shelters in Hattiesburg without cellular phones is that they have limited or no phone access. And some of those are ill and in no condition to grab a shuttle bus downtown and stand in a payphone in the broiling sun to get the claim process rolling.

That, the sources say, guarantees that some of those most sorely affected by the storm will have to wait even longer for federal assistance.

"It was a big fat zero," one relief worker, speaking on condition of anonymity, said of the FEMA response to the situation in Hattiesburg.
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Old 09-05-2005, 09:01 PM   #302
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OpEd piece by Maureen Dowd 9/3/05 http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/03/op...=5070&emc=eta1

Op-Ed Columnist
United States of Shame
By MAUREEN DOWD
Published: September 3, 2005

Stuff happens.

And when you combine limited government with incompetent government, lethal stuff happens.

America is once more plunged into a snake pit of anarchy, death, looting, raping, marauding thugs, suffering innocents, a shattered infrastructure, a gutted police force, insufficient troop levels and criminally negligent government planning. But this time it's happening in America.

W. drove his budget-cutting Chevy to the levee, and it wasn't dry. Bye, bye, American lives. "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees," he told Diane Sawyer.

Shirt-sleeves rolled up, W. finally landed in Hell yesterday and chuckled about his wild boozing days in "the great city" of N'Awlins. He was clearly moved. "You know, I'm going to fly out of here in a minute," he said on the runway at the New Orleans International Airport, "but I want you to know that I'm not going to forget what I've seen." Out of the cameras' range, and avoided by W., was a convoy of thousands of sick and dying people, some sprawled on the floor or dumped on baggage carousels at a makeshift M*A*S*H unit inside the terminal.

Why does this self-styled "can do" president always lapse into such lame "who could have known?" excuses.

Who on earth could have known that Osama bin Laden wanted to attack us by flying planes into buildings? Any official who bothered to read the trellis of pre-9/11 intelligence briefs.

Who on earth could have known that an American invasion of Iraq would spawn a brutal insurgency, terrorist recruiting boom and possible civil war? Any official who bothered to read the C.I.A.'s prewar reports.

Who on earth could have known that New Orleans's sinking levees were at risk from a strong hurricane? Anybody who bothered to read the endless warnings over the years about the Big Easy's uneasy fishbowl.

In June 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, fretted to The Times-Picayune in New Orleans: "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us."

Not only was the money depleted by the Bush folly in Iraq; 30 percent of the National Guard and about half its equipment are in Iraq.

Ron Fournier of The Associated Press reported that the Army Corps of Engineers asked for $105 million for hurricane and flood programs in New Orleans last year. The White House carved it to about $40 million. But President Bush and Congress agreed to a $286.4 billion pork-filled highway bill with 6,000 pet projects, including a $231 million bridge for a small, uninhabited Alaskan island.

Just last year, Federal Emergency Management Agency officials practiced how they would respond to a fake hurricane that caused floods and stranded New Orleans residents. Imagine the feeble FEMA's response to Katrina if they had not prepared.

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

Was he sacked instantly? No, our tone-deaf president hailed him in Mobile, Ala., yesterday: "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

It would be one thing if President Bush and his inner circle - Dick Cheney was vacationing in Wyoming; Condi Rice was shoe shopping at Ferragamo's on Fifth Avenue and attended "Spamalot" before bloggers chased her back to Washington; and Andy Card was off in Maine - lacked empathy but could get the job done. But it is a chilling lack of empathy combined with a stunning lack of efficiency that could make this administration implode.

When the president and vice president rashly shook off our allies and our respect for international law to pursue a war built on lies, when they sanctioned torture, they shook the faith of the world in American ideals.

When they were deaf for so long to the horrific misery and cries for help of the victims in New Orleans - most of them poor and black, like those stuck at the back of the evacuation line yesterday while 700 guests and employees of the Hyatt Hotel were bused out first - they shook the faith of all Americans in American ideals. And made us ashamed.

Who are we if we can't take care of our own?

E-mail: liberties@nytimes.com
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Old 09-06-2005, 06:17 AM   #303
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Here's some more info about Mike Brown

Of course bottom line is, right now we need to try to put politics and blame aside and do all we can to help these people. There will be plenty of time for questions and blame later. And there definitely should be plenty of questions and people should be held accountable if it's justified.

Brown pushed from last job: Horse group: FEMA chief had to be `asked to resign'
By Brett Arends
Saturday, September 3, 2005

The federal official in charge of the bungled New Orleans rescue was fired from his last private-sector job overseeing horse shows.
And before joining the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a deputy director in 2001, GOP activist Mike Brown had no significant experience that would have qualified him for the position.
The Oklahoman got the job through an old college friend who at the time was heading up FEMA.
The agency, run by Brown since 2003, is now at the center of a growing fury over the handling of the New Orleans disaster.
``I look at FEMA and I shake my head,'' said a furious Gov. Mitt Romney yesterday, calling the response ``an embarrassment.''
President Bush, after touring the Big Easy, said he was ``not satisfied'' with the emergency response to Hurricane Katrina's devastation.
And U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch predicted there would be hearings on Capitol Hill over the mishandled operation.
Brown - formerly an estates and family lawyer - this week has has made several shocking public admissions, including interviews where he suggested FEMA was unaware of the misery and desperation of refugees stranded at the New Orleans convention center.
Before joining the Bush administration in 2001, Brown spent 11 years as the commissioner of judges and stewards for the International Arabian Horse Association, a breeders' and horse-show organization based in Colorado.
``We do disciplinary actions, certification of (show trial) judges. We hold classes to train people to become judges and stewards. And we keep records,'' explained a spokeswoman for the IAHA commissioner's office. ``This was his full-time job . . . for 11 years,'' she added.
Brown was forced out of the position after a spate of lawsuits over alleged supervision failures.
``He was asked to resign,'' Bill Pennington, president of the IAHA at the time, confirmed last night.
Soon after, Brown was invited to join the administration by his old Oklahoma college roommate Joseph Allbaugh, the previous head of FEMA until he quit in 2003 to work for the president's re-election campaign.
The White House last night defended Brown's appointment. A spokesman noted Brown served as FEMA deputy director and general counsel before taking the top job, and that he has now overseen the response to ``more than 164 declared disasters and emergencies,'' including last year's record-setting hurricane season.
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Old 09-06-2005, 06:41 AM   #304
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Fire this guy, Mr. President. We don't want to have to go through the consequences of his ineptness again. If he couldn't run a group of horse lovers why should he be in charge of disaster relielf?
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Old 09-06-2005, 07:17 AM   #305
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Why FEMA Was Missing in Action
Most of the agency's preparedness budget and focus are related to terrorism, not disasters.

By Peter G. Gosselin and Alan C. Miller, Times Staff Writers


WASHINGTON — While the federal government has spent much of the last quarter-century trimming the safety nets it provides Americans, it has dramatically expanded its promise of protection in one area — disaster.

Since the 1970s, Washington has emerged as the insurer of last resort against floods, fires, earthquakes and — after 2001 — terrorist attacks.

But the government's stumbling response to the storm that devastated the nation's Gulf Coast reveals that the federal agency singularly most responsible for making good on Washington's expanded promise has been hobbled by cutbacks and a bureaucratic downgrading.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency once speedily delivered food, water, shelter and medical care to disaster areas, and paid to quickly rebuild damaged roads and schools and get businesses and people back on their feet. Like a commercial insurance firm setting safety standards to prevent future problems, it also underwrote efforts to get cities and states to reduce risks ahead of time and plan for what they would do if calamity struck.

But in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, FEMA lost its Cabinet-level status as it was folded into the giant new Department of Homeland Security. And in recent years it has suffered budget cuts, the elimination or reduction of key programs and an exodus of experienced staffers.

The agency's core budget, which includes disaster preparedness and mitigation, has been cut each year since it was absorbed by the Homeland Security Department in 2003. Depending on what the final numbers end up being for next fiscal year, the cuts will have been between about 2% and 18%.

The agency's staff has been reduced by 500 positions to 4,735. Among the results, FEMA has had to cut one of its three emergency management teams, which are charged with overseeing relief efforts in a disaster. Where it once had "red," "white" and "blue" teams, it now has only red and white.

Three out of every four dollars the agency provides in local preparedness and first-responder grants go to terrorism-related activities, even though a recent Government Accountability Office report quotes local officials as saying what they really need is money to prepare for natural disasters and accidents.

"They've taken emergency management away from the emergency managers," complained Morrie Goodman, who was FEMA's chief spokesman during the Clinton administration. "These operations are being run by people who are amateurs at what they are doing."

Richard W. Krimm, a former senior FEMA official for several administrations, agreed. "It was a terrible mistake to take disaster response and recovery … and disaster preparedness and mitigation, and put them in Homeland Security," he said.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff acknowledged in interviews Sunday that Washington was insufficiently prepared for the hurricane that laid waste to New Orleans and surrounding areas. But he defended its performance by arguing that the size of the storm was beyond anything his department could have anticipated and that primary responsibility for handling emergencies rested with state and local, not federal, officials.

"Before this happened, I said … we need to build a preparedness capacity going forward," Chertoff told NBC's "Meet the Press." He added that that was something "we have not yet succeeded in doing."

Under the law, Chertoff said, state and local officials must direct initial emergency operations. "The federal government comes in and supports those officials," he said.

Chertoff's remarks, which echoed earlier statements by President Bush, prompted withering rebukes both from former senior FEMA staffers and outside experts.

"They can't do that," former agency chief of staff Jane Bullock said of Bush administration efforts to shift responsibility away from Washington. "The moment the president declared a federal disaster, it became a federal responsibility…. The federal government took ownership over the response," she said. Bush declared a disaster in Louisiana and Mississippi when the storm hit a week ago.

"What's awe-inspiring here is how many federal officials didn't issue any orders," said Paul C. Light, an authority on government operations at New York University.

Evidence of confusion extended beyond FEMA and the Homeland Security Department on Sunday.

Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said that conditions in New Orleans and elsewhere could quickly escalate into a major public health crisis. But asked whether his agency had dispatched teams in advance of the storm and flooding, Leavitt answered, "No."

"None of these teams were pre-positioned," he told CNN's "Late Edition." "We're having to organize them … as we go."

Such an ad hoc approach might not have surprised Americans until recent decades because the federal government was thought to have few responsibilities for disaster relief, and what duties it did have were mostly delegated to the American Red Cross.


"A century ago, no one would have expected a massive federal response. Most people viewed natural disasters mainly as things to be endured on their own or with the help of their neighbors and communities," said Harvard University economic historian David A. Moss, whose recent book, "When All Else Fails: Government as the Ultimate Risk Manager," traces Washington's expanding duties in protecting Americans from all sorts of risks.

In 1927, President Coolidge described the federal role in aiding victims of a devastating flood of the lower Mississippi River this way: "To direct the sympathy of our people to the sad plight of thousands of their fellow citizens, and to urge that generous contributions be promptly forthcoming."
But starting with the New Deal of the 1930s and with increasing vigor in recent decades, Washington sought to prevent disasters, both natural and man-made, and to partially compensate state and local governments, companies and even individuals when calamities did strike.

The government reacted to Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972 by providing victims with grants and low-cost loans. It responded to a flood of the upper Mississippi in 1993 by approving $6.3 billion in aid. Comparing the federal government's response in 1927 to its efforts in 1993, Moss concluded that Washington made up less than 4% of the estimated losses in the earlier flood, but more than 50% in the later one.

Within 10 days of the Sept. 11 attacks, Congress and Bush had OKd $40 billion in aid, including $15 billion in grants and loans for the staggering airline industry and $4.3 billion to compensate the families of victims.

"The federal government has dramatically increased its role in absorbing disaster losses after the fact," Moss said. "Until recently, many may have assumed we'd made similar strides in disaster prevention."

FEMA was created in 1979 in response to criticism about Washington's fragmented reaction to a series of disasters, including Hurricane Camille, which devastated the Mississippi coast 10 years earlier. The agency was rocked by scandal in the 1980s and turned in such a poor performance after Hurricane Andrew struck South Florida in 1992 that President George H.W. Bush is thought to have lost votes as a result.

But according to a variety of former officials and outside experts, the agency experienced a renaissance under President Clinton's director, James Lee Witt, speedily responding to the 1993 Mississippi flood, the 1994 Northridge earthquake and other disasters.

Witt's biggest change was to get FEMA to focus on reducing risks ahead of disasters and funding local prevention programs.

After the 1993 flood, for instance, Witt's agency bought homes and businesses nearest the water and moved their occupants to safer locations. The result in one Illinois town was that although more than 400 people applied for disaster aid after the flood, only 11 needed to apply two years later when the river again jumped its banks.

"He got communities to take practical steps like encouraging homeowners to bolt buildings to foundations in earthquake-prone areas and elevate living space in flood-prone ones," said Howard Kunreuther, co-director of the Wharton Risk Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

But with the change of administration in 2001, many of Witt's prevention programs were reduced or cut entirely. After Sept. 11, former FEMA officials and outside authorities said, Washington's attention turned to terrorism to the exclusion of almost anything else.

*

Times staff writer Judy Pasternak contributed to this report.
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Old 09-06-2005, 08:11 AM   #306
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Originally posted by verte76
Fire this guy, Mr. President. We don't want to have to go through the consequences of his ineptness again. If he couldn't run a group of horse lovers why should he be in charge of disaster relielf?
Firing the guy today would not be productive. I am sure there will be appropriate adjustments in personnel a few months from now.
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Old 09-06-2005, 08:16 AM   #307
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I am sure there will be appropriate adjustments in personnel a few months from now.
A few months from now, when hurricane season is over .




The "city" of Louisiana (Keith Olbermann)

Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff said it all, starting his news briefing Saturday afternoon: "Louisiana is a city that is largely underwater..."

Well there's your problem right there.

If ever a slip-of-the-tongue defined a government's response to a crisis, this was it.

The seeming definition of our time and our leaders had been their insistence on slashing federal budgets for projects that might’ve saved New Orleans. The seeming characterization of our government that it was on vacation when the city was lost, and could barely tear itself away from commemorating V.J. Day and watching Monty Python's Flying Circus, to at least pretend to get back to work. The seeming identification of these hapless bureaucrats: their pathetic use of the future tense in terms of relief they could’ve brought last Monday and Tuesday — like the President, whose statements have looked like they’re being transmitted to us by some kind of four-day tape-delay.

But no. The incompetence and the ludicrous prioritization will forever be symbolized by one gaffe by of the head of what is ironically called “The Department of Homeland Security”: “Louisiana is a city…”

Politician after politician — Republican and Democrat alike — has paraded before us, unwilling or unable to shut off the "I-Me" switch in their heads, condescendingly telling us about how moved they were or how devastated they were — congenitally incapable of telling the difference between the destruction of a city and the opening of a supermarket.

And as that sorry recital of self-absorption dragged on, I have resisted editorial comment. The focus needed to be on the efforts to save the stranded — even the internet's meager powers were correctly devoted to telling the stories of the twin disasters, natural... and government-made.

But now, at least, it is has stopped getting exponentially worse in Mississippi and Alabama and New Orleans and Louisiana (the state, not the city). And, having given our leaders what we know now is the week or so they need to get their act together, that period of editorial silence I mentioned, should come to an end.

No one is suggesting that mayors or governors in the afflicted areas, nor the federal government, should be able to stop hurricanes. Lord knows, no one is suggesting that we should ever prioritize levee improvement for a below-sea-level city, ahead of $454 million worth of trophy bridges for the politicians of Alaska.

But, nationally, these are leaders who won re-election last year largely by portraying their opponents as incapable of keeping the country safe. These are leaders who regularly pressure the news media in this country to report the reopening of a school or a power station in Iraq, and defies its citizens not to stand up and cheer. Yet they couldn't even keep one school or power station from being devastated by infrastructure collapse in New Orleans — even though the government had heard all the "chatter" from the scientists and city planners and hurricane centers and some group whose purposes the government couldn't quite discern... a group called The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

And most chillingly of all, this is the Law and Order and Terror government. It promised protection — or at least amelioration — against all threats: conventional, radiological, or biological.

It has just proved that it cannot save its citizens from a biological weapon called standing water.

Mr. Bush has now twice insisted that, "we are not satisfied," with the response to the manifold tragedies along the Gulf Coast. I wonder which "we" he thinks he's speaking for on this point. Perhaps it's the administration, although we still don't know where some of them are. Anybody seen the Vice President lately? The man whose message this time last year was, 'I'll Protect You, The Other Guy Will Let You Die'?

I don't know which 'we' Mr. Bush meant.

For many of this country's citizens, the mantra has been — as we were taught in Social Studies it should always be — whether or not I voted for this President — he is still my President. I suspect anybody who had to give him that benefit of the doubt stopped doing so last week. I suspect a lot of his supporters, looking ahead to '08, are wondering how they can distance themselves from the two words which will define his government — our government — "New Orleans."

For him, it is a shame — in all senses of the word. A few changes of pronouns in there, and he might not have looked so much like a 21st Century Marie Antoinette. All that was needed was just a quick "I'm not satisfied with my government's response." Instead of hiding behind phrases like "no one could have foreseen," had he only remembered Winston Churchill's quote from the 1930's. "The responsibility," of government, Churchill told the British Parliament "for the public safety is absolute and requires no mandate. It is in fact, the prime object for which governments come into existence."

In forgetting that, the current administration did not merely damage itself — it damaged our confidence in our ability to rely on whoever is in the White House.

As we emphasized to you here all last week, the realities of the region are such that New Orleans is going to be largely uninhabitable for a lot longer than anybody is yet willing to recognize. Lord knows when the last body will be found, or the last artifact of the levee break, dug up. Could be next March. Could be 2100. By then, in the muck and toxic mire of New Orleans, they may even find our government's credibility.

Somewhere, in the City of Louisiana.
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Old 09-06-2005, 08:21 AM   #308
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This is news. I think the media really stretching when a slip of the tongue becomes cannon fodder for yet another editorial.

But jump on the bandwagon!

We've devolved to a forum of extreme editorials with no user commentary or direction.
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Old 09-06-2005, 08:26 AM   #309
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Originally posted by nbcrusader
This is news. I think the media really stretching when a slip of the tongue becomes cannon fodder for yet another editorial.

But jump on the bandwagon!

We've devolved to a forum of extreme editorials with no user commentary or direction.

The slip of the tongue is not the point of the article. It's symbolic of the whole incompetence.

Oh, and here's my user commentary: Fix the mess that FEMA has become, because if it isn't fixed, this is going to happen again.
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Old 09-06-2005, 08:28 AM   #310
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Originally posted by nbcrusader
This is news. I think the media really stretching when a slip of the tongue becomes cannon fodder for yet another editorial.

But jump on the bandwagon!

We've devolved to a forum of extreme editorials with no user commentary or direction.

i'm a little confused.

what are you looking for? what kind of response would make you happy?

we've had a massive natural disaster, and everyone -- from the media to the victims to reporters on the ground to local governments to national politicians on both sides of the political spectrum -- has deemed the response another disaster. these are not crackpot editoralists in right or left wing magazines; these are not even liberal columnists like Maureen Dowd or right wing columnists like David Brooks. everyone is in agreement that the rescue and relief operation has been bungled.

yet, you seem to think that any criticism of the management and timing of the efforts -- not the efforts themselves -- is somehow crazy partisan politics.

would anything get better if everyone just shut up and marched in line?

if you'd like people to stop pointing fingers and blaming the federal government, would you likewise ask the Bush administration to stop blaming local governments?

if you're sick of celebrity photo ops like Sean Penn, are you equally sick of Bush's heavily stage managed photo ops?
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Old 09-06-2005, 09:16 AM   #311
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I'm not looking for a pleasing response, just one that frames discussion (like you have here).

Constructive analysis of relief efforts is very much needed. Chest thumping over "symbolic" slips of the tongue is far from constructive (that is directed at Olbermann, not kellyahern).

There is definitely a mix of partisian politics and constructive analysis. FYM has been a lighting rod for the former. I think we would all grow more with the later.
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Old 09-06-2005, 10:33 AM   #312
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Right; similar to how the local officials didn't head everyone without transportation out of NOLA on the schoolbuses.
Absolutely...the basic cost-benefit decisions were gambled and lost at all levels of government before and after the storm. That's why I say the web is complicated so no one, except perhaps a scapegoat or 2, will be held accountable for any of it.

Quote:
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If more people had evacuated prior to the hurricane making landfall and impacting NOLA, the need for COMFORT would not have been as imminent. Should COMFORT be deployed everytime a hurricane enters the Gulf
Of course not, but when a major US city is in the iminent path of a category 4+ and is under a mandatory evacuation since the flood walls can't cope with 3+ - HELL YES.

Btw, when was the last mandatory evacuation of NO? Anyone? 100% evacuation is impossible anyway. So what number left behind to apocalyptic conditions is acceptable? 1000? 10,000? 100,000?

Anyway, the point is...regardless of funding for wetlands restoration or for the Army Corps of Engineers to fix the damn walls or any other pre-Katrina hindsight bickering, the fact is that people were left behind and help COULD have and should have been there sooner but wasn't...due to very deliberate decisions.
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Old 09-06-2005, 11:30 AM   #313
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if you're sick of celebrity photo ops like Sean Penn, are you equally sick of Bush's heavily stage managed photo ops?
Which- by the way, at least three different times was he complict in the manslaughter of even more people as he commandeered critical resources for these staged photo-ops.

1. photo-op in front of a coast guard unit and helicopter
2. diverting resources for fixing the levees for a photo op near them
3. shutting down incoming aid trucks for security reasons for another photo-op
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Old 09-06-2005, 11:37 AM   #314
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i'm a little confused.

what are you looking for? what kind of response would make you happy?

we've had a massive natural disaster, and everyone -- from the media to the victims to reporters on the ground to local governments to national politicians on both sides of the political spectrum -- has deemed the response another disaster. these are not crackpot editoralists in right or left wing magazines; these are not even liberal columnists like Maureen Dowd or right wing columnists like David Brooks. everyone is in agreement that the rescue and relief operation has been bungled.

yet, you seem to think that any criticism of the management and timing of the efforts -- not the efforts themselves -- is somehow crazy partisan politics.

would anything get better if everyone just shut up and marched in line?

if you'd like people to stop pointing fingers and blaming the federal government, would you likewise ask the Bush administration to stop blaming local governments?

if you're sick of celebrity photo ops like Sean Penn, are you equally sick of Bush's heavily stage managed photo ops?

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Old 09-06-2005, 03:41 PM   #315
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http://thinkprogress.org/2005/09/06/fema-deputies/

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