Saturday, September 10, 2005

Return of the prodigal son?

Are we seeing signs of life in the media? Has the press finally realized that not only does the emperor have no clothes, but that this smirking moron has been walking around buck naked but for a pair of daddy's Texas boots for his entire adult life?

Anderson Cooper upbraids a senator and even repulsive Fox News toady Shepard Smith shows an ounce of humanity. Shall we then kill the fatted calf as the prodigal son has returned? The media is back, shall we dress them in the best robes and feast and dance because some highly-paid people finally decided to do the job for which they were highly paid?

Hmmm, not so fast. I am more like the loyal son bitter at his brother's failings having no consequences. He said "Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him."

OK, I don't really need a goat (well, I don't think I do, I will reserve judgment--Bob Marley and Aristotle liked goat!), and while I don't doubt that prostitutes were involved, I don't think we want to go there, but anyway, you get the point.

For five years we have seen the media ignore the record of this man while they overplayed every slip by Gore and Kerry. Judith Miller took White House feeds and wrote "1-2-3-4 I think we should go to war!" in what was once the esteemed New York Times. We see gay prostitutes featured at White House "press conferences" and reporters so giddy about being "embedded" that they don't notice why they are in bed.

OK, so a weak pulse from the media is a good thing, but we are still a long way away from the independent press we need. This is a solo home run when you're down 13-0 with two outs in the 9th. Show me what you can do when the game is on the line.

Goat, anyone?

He didn't really say that, did he?

Yes, he did. While touring an evacuation shelter, Rep. Tom Delay approached three boys on cots. He compared their plight of losing their homes, all of their possessions, the possible loss of family and friends and living with nothing hundreds of miles away from home to being at camp. He actually asked, "Now tell me the truth, boys, is this kind of fun?"


File that with "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job" and from Brownie himself, "I'm going to go home and walk my dog and hug my wife and, maybe get a good Mexican meal and a stiff margarita and a full night's sleep, and then I'm going to go right back to FEMA ...."

Who are these people???

The real danger

As if the destruction of the gulf coast and a nightmarish war in Iraq going from bad to worse wasn't enough, we have a little story tucked away in the back of the paper that should make you shudder:

Court allows ‘dirty bomb’ suspect to be held

The three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that the president has the authority to detain a U.S. citizen closely associated with al-Qaida.

This is frightening on several levels.

Initially, it is horrifying that a federal appeals panel unanimously held that the president gets to decide who is entitled to constitutional rights and who is not. Look, I'm not defending Jose Padilla. He is a low-level street thug who may well deserve to be locked away for years. However, this country is premised, at least in theory, on the idea that we afford full constitutional protections to even the most vile of miscreants among us. Bundy, Dahmer and Gacy were each read their rights, afforded counsel, tried by juries and afforded access to appeals and to all other aspects of due process. The notion that George W. Bush, by one stroke of a pen, can banish U.S. citizens to his own private gulag without rights or recourse is indeed a shocking affront to the constitution.

But it gets worse from there. Circuit Court Judge Michael Luttig is on W's short list for the Supreme Court vacancy.

Be afraid, be very very afraid.

Meanwhile, back in Frostbite Falls......

Professor Juan Cole of the University of Michigan reminds us that the Bush disaster area extends from the Gulf Coast to the Tigris-Euphrates Valley:

Saturday, September 10, 2005
Private Company Shuts down Baghdad International Airport, More violence in Baghdad

The steady drumbeat of mayhem continued again on Friday. One bomb in Baghdad killed 4 persons, including three policemen, and wounded 9. There were other assassinations and guerrilla violence elsewhere in the country and the university.

Al-Zaman: American forces, both infantry and armor moved further into the northern Turkmen city of Tal Afar. The city was completely surrounded. A local source says that 90 percent of the city's residents have fled. Those who remain have received commands by pamphlet to leave. Local health officials are alleging that 170 persons have been sickened by poison. Eyewitnesses speak of heavy US aerial bombardment of suspected guerrilla hideouts in the city.

Apparently northern Mosul is also out of control, and the Iraqi government is pledging to bring it back under government authority. There is some connection between that task and coordinating with the local authorities about the October 15 referendum. It is expected that the major Iraqi cities [in the northt] will reject he constitution in this referendum.

A national guard unit from Minnesota in Iraq speaks out about severe sleep deprivation, 60 men doing the work of 120, sand flies, and bitter disillusionment. Most of them seem likely to get out of the National Guard as soon as the Pentagon lifts the "stop-loss" (a.k.a. kidnapping) order that keeps them in past their sign-up period. The level of discontent must be enormous for them to speak to the press despite severe pressure within the military not to do so.

A private company has shut down Baghdad International Airport because it has not been paid for supplying security there. It maintains that the Iraqis cannot provide security to the required standards. As the Iraqis pointed out in response, surely the Iraqi government is sovereign over the airport!

Friday, September 09, 2005

Paging Bob Dole. Mr. Bob Dole, please pick up the white courtesy phone

Bob Dole, 1996: Where is the outrage in America? Where is the outrage in America? Where has the media gone in America? Where is the outrage in America? ……So where's the outrage? Where's the outrage? When--when will the voters start to focus? I think they've started about right now. They've started to focus. This is serious business. This is serious business--this is about the public trust. Remember the public trust? Well, they never understood the public trust. It was always a game with this White House. It was always a game. How far can you push the envelope? How much can you get away with? What can you do?

Still feel that way, Bob? If so, please pick up the white courtesy phone.

Bob, you should be outraged. Back in the mid-90s (the years, not your age) you worked yourself into a frenzy over the president's libido and a few files. How does Brownie make you feel, Bob? No fudge or walnuts with this Brownie, but rather a grossly unqualified man whose tenure at the top of a critical agency has cost lives and fortunes. You must be apoplectic by now.

It is remarkable that a man like Michael Brown came anywhere close to this level. First of all, this "lawyer" graduated from an unaccredited law school. Folks, as a graduate of an accredited law school, let me clue you in on our little secret. It isn't that hard to either get into or out of law school (I went to the University of Illinois, a very good law school, did well, the whole law review thing, and graduate school in history was far more difficult, and my wife's MBA work put law school to shame). Harvard, Yale, Chicago, Michigan, Berkeley, sure, that is a tough road but your average college graduate can easily be admitted into and graduate from America's accredited law schools.

There is one reason and one reason only for someone to go to an unaccredited law school. It's not money or hardship, as the overwhelming majority of the unaccredited institutions are private schools. It means one thing--you couldn't get in anywhere else. Think about that one for a second. The director of FEMA was not qualified for admission to an accredited law school.

And from there, after securing his unaccredited degree, Brownie begins a lifetime of failure that leads to our country entrusting him with the responsibility for its greatest natural disaster. He has an undistinguished career in practice, dismissed from one job after being described as "shallow" and then "asked to resign" from a HORSE SHOW ASSOCIATION amidst lawsuits and claims of mismanagement.

One would think that with a degree that doesn't even allow you to practice in most states and a resume replete with failure that Brownie might end up wearing a bad suit and hanging around traffic court. But Brownie is one of the lucky ones. His old college roomie just happened to be Joe Allbaugh, former FEMA head who left to work to re-"elect" President Chimpy (just to complete the evil circle, Joe is now a lobbyist for, ummm, I forget, what's the name of that company? Oh, I remember, HALLIBURTON!)

The lies on the resume become inconsequential at this point. Yes, he appears to have confused "Outstanding Professor" with "student" in terms of experience, and OK, "Assistant City Manager with Emergency Response Authority" is a little different than "an intern who assisted the city manager, usually getting the number of sugars right." What matters is that even if you take the resume with more padding than an offensive lineman at face value, it is still an embarrassment.

So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen, cronyism costing lives and billions. OK, cronyism is a fact of life, but cronyism gets you an ambassadorship to Luxembourg or simply some nice cash graft, not REAL responsibility. You get to be the U.S. representative to Bermuda, not someone with real work to do! You don't have five of the eight senior FEMA managers have no experience with EMERGENCIES!!

Bob, did you pick up the phone yet?

Are you outraged about the photo ops while people were dying? About the speech plugging the president's shameless war while ignoring the fact that a city was drowning? What about pulling firefighters away from rescue work to be props for your chimera of a president's photo ops as he hunted for a black person to hug?

I am reminded of George O'Leary, who lost a job in disgrace for a tiny fudge on his resume. His job--football coach. Last time I checked, if George wasn't qualified, Notre Dame might lose football games. No death, no destruction, no disaster, just a game, and he was summarily fired.

Oh never mind, Bob. Hang up the white courtesy phone.

All units, we have a report of a pants fire....

Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job!

How Reliable Is Brown's Resume?


When President Bush nominated Michael Brown to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in 2003, Brown's boss at the time, Joe Allbaugh, declared, "the President couldn't have chosen a better man to help...prepare and protect the nation." But how well was he prepared for the job? Since Hurricane Katrina, the FEMA director has come under heavy criticism for his performance and scrutiny of his background. Now, an investigation by TIME has found discrepancies in his online legal profile and official bio, including a description of Brown released by the White House at the time of his nomination in 2001 to the job as deputy chief of FEMA. (Brown became Director of FEMA, succeeding Allbaugh, in 2003.)

Before joining FEMA, his only previous stint in emergency management, according to his bio posted on FEMA's website, was "serving as an assistant city manager with emergency services oversight." The White House press release from 2001 stated that Brown worked for the city of Edmond, Okla., from 1975 to 1978 "overseeing the emergency services division." In fact, according to Claudia Deakins, head of public relations for the city of Edmond, Brown was an "assistant to the city manager" from 1977 to 1980, not a manager himself, and had no authority over other employees. "The assistant is more like an intern," she told TIME. "Department heads did not report to him." Brown did do a good job at his humble position, however, according to his boss. "Yes. Mike Brown worked for me. He was my administrative assistant. He was a student at Central State University," recalls former city manager Bill Dashner. "Mike used to handle a lot of details. Every now and again I'd ask him to write me a speech. He was very loyal. He was always on time. He always had on a suit and a starched white shirt."

In response, Nicol Andrews, deputy strategic director in FEMA's office of public affairs, insists that while Brown began as an intern, he became an "assistant city manager" with a distinguished record of service. "According to Mike Brown," she says, "a large portion [of the points raised by TIME] is very inaccurate."

Brown's lack of experience in emergency management isn't the only apparent bit of padding on his resume, which raises questions about how rigorously the White House vetted him before putting him in charge of FEMA. Under the "honors and awards" section of his profile at — which is information on the legal website provided by lawyers or their offices—he lists "Outstanding Political Science Professor, Central State University". However, Brown "wasn't a professor here, he was only a student here," says Charles Johnson, News Bureau Director in the University Relations office at the University of Central Oklahoma (formerly named Central State University). "He may have been an adjunct instructor," says Johnson, but that title is very different from that of "professor." Carl Reherman, a former political science professor at the University through the '70s and '80s, says that Brown "was not on the faculty." As for the honor of "Outstanding Political Science Professor," Johnson says, "I spoke with the department chair yesterday and he's not aware of it." Johnson could not confirm that Brown made the Dean's list or was an "Outstanding Political Science Senior," as is stated on his online profile.
Speaking for Brown, Andrews says that Brown has never claimed to be a political science professor, in spite of what his profile in FindLaw indicates. "He was named the outstanding political science senior at Central State, and was an adjunct professor at Oklahoma City School of Law."

Under the heading of "Professional Associations and Memberships" on FindLaw, Brown states that from 1983 to the present he has been director of the Oklahoma Christian Home, a nursing home in Edmond. But an administrator with the Home, told TIME that Brown is "not a person that anyone here is familiar with." She says there was a board of directors until a couple of years ago, but she couldn't find anyone who recalled him being on it. According to FEMA's Andrews, Brown said "he's never claimed to be the director of the home. He was on the board of directors, or governors of the nursing home." However, a veteran employee at the center since 1981 says Brown "was never director here, was never on the board of directors, was never executive director. He was never here in any capacity. I never heard his name mentioned here."

The FindLaw profile for Brown was amended on Thursday to remove a reference to his tenure at the International Arabian Horse Association, which has become a contested point.

Brown's FindLaw profile lists a wide range of areas of legal practice, from estate planning to family law to sports. However, one former colleague does not remember Brown's work as sterling. Stephen Jones, a prominent Oklahoma lawyer who was lead defense attorney on the Timothy McVeigh case, was Brown's boss for two-and-a-half years in the early '80s. "He did mainly transactional work, not litigation," says Jones. "There was a feeling that he was not serious and somewhat shallow." Jones says when his law firm split, Brown was one of two staffers who was let go.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Pay me now....

Remember the old Fram oil filter commercial, with the auto mechanic who says "You can pay me now, or pay me later?" The premise was, spend a couple of bucks now on preventive maintenance or pay thousands down the road in repairs.

I really wonder what that "now or later" difference will be in the aftermath of Katrina. Beyond the inestimable value of lives lost and destroyed, what will the final dollar value be? Look at the "pay me now" figure of flood prevention, levee maintenance and effective emergency management as compared to what will be the eventual staggering "pay me later" figure of cleaning up this nightmare.

To this administration, an ounce of prevention is a pound of missed opportunity or....penny wise, Bush foolish!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Death, Incompetence and Closure

Let's go to the dictionary, shall we?

Our first stop, our old friend, death. We see that death is defined as the act of dying or the termination of life. From there, flip through to "incompetent" and you find that this refers to someone "devoid of those qualities requisite for effective conduct or action."

We begin with death, and this story from Reuters. It seems that FEMA can't get a bus or a boat or a helicopter out when it should, but it can get out press releases. In this case, "press release" has a dual meaning, as it is a release not just for the press but directed TO the press.

The Reuters story stated that FEMA, "heavily criticized for its slow response to the devastation caused by the hurricane, rejected requests from journalists to accompany rescue boats as they went out to search for storm victims. An agency spokeswoman said space was needed on the rescue boats and that the recovery of the victims is being treated with dignity and the utmost respect. We have requested that no photographs of the deceased be made by the media, the spokeswoman said in an e-mailed response to a Reuters inquiry."

The federal government has requested that the media not cover perhaps the most significant aspect of this story. Death, remember from above, is the act of dying or the termination of life. In this instance, I think the former definition is more applicable. The termination of life sounds official, almost clinical. What happened in New Orleans was the act of dying, an act that was hideous, painful and all too frequent. Desperate people trapped in their homes as they were swallowed by the raging waters, parents who lost a gut-wrenching battle to hold on to their children and elderly men and women who simply could walk no more played out that final act.

The administration does not want us to hear their stories, though, they do not want us to see the images of the final chapter of this storm and their own foolishness and failings and the consequences for so many. It as if these lives actually were not ravaged and destroyed if they keep the horrific pictures from us (pssst...sound familiar?)

In our daily lives, when we mourn the deaths of those around us, we often view their remains. It is often said that this experience helps confirm the reality and finality of death and allows the sorrows of one to become the sorrows of all. We need to truly know on a very personal level what has happened, not in some distant country, but here in our midst. We need to get our head around it, to grasp its scope, and we need to allow the sorrows of one to become the sorrows of all.

But if we do that, if we understand the tragedy and grieve as a community, we cannot escape that other definition, the definition of incompetence. Remember that one, the one that reads "devoid of those qualities requisite for effective conduct or action?" These images would demand explanation and any explanation necessarily circles back to incompetence.

So to avoid that, the administration draws the curtain, and pretends the final act never occurred. No explanations are necessary, no closure provided and no dealing with those messy definitions. Turn your head, look away and disregard both death and incompetence. But I can't, I just can't....

Fashion Faux Pas

"And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this -- this is working very well for them."

Apparently someone forgot to remind Barbara Bush that it is gauche to wear white sheets after Labor Day.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Schmidlap's blog

Read this one.



Candidate Chimpy said that the media often "misunderestimated" him.

I have been wrong so many times about George W. Bush and the American electorate. I clearly have "misunderestimated" both the body politic and this politician.

In 2000, I was convinced that when he moved beyond southern state primaries onto a national stage that the country would realize there was no "there" there (with apologies to both Gertrude Stein and Oakland!) Well, when that didn't happen, I said, thankfully, there are still the debates, and.... that didn't work. Ah, but wait, I said, a vigilant, independent press will surely do their job to excuse the failings, foibles and frauds of this grotesque caricature of a candidate…hmm, no.

Even after the debacle of the 2000 election, the theft of Florida and a Supreme Court decision so flawed that they won’t even allow it to be cited as precedent, I once again misunderestimated the situation. I thought that OK, we were screwed, but how bad could it be? We’ll lose the protections of some EPA rules and see a couple of wackos named to the federal bench, but we’re a resilient country, we’ll get by.

How bad could it be, I wondered, how bad could it be. Oh Lord, did I misunderestimate.

First, he bungles the invasion of Afghanistan, as a legitimate attack on the Taliban becomes an abortive campaign to support the Northern Alliance and turn the country over to the opium lords. And then on top of that, we wage an unholy war in Iraq resulting from filial pride and neocon ambition that kills by the thousands and drains the treasury.

Surely, I thought, now the country will wake up to both demand an honest election and to turn out this incompetent administration. I had no illusions now about how bad things could be, I would not misunderestimate the president. But I did sorely misunderestimate the press and the American electorate.

But now, please, people, can you see this time? The president goes to parties and plays guitar while New Orleans drowns. FEMA is staffed by political hacks that have no idea what Federal, Emergency or Management mean, and all levels of the administration try to bob and weave and blame someone else. Can you see this time?

Tell me I haven’t misunderestimated you again.

Comment Piece in Today's Financial Times

Tragic costs of Bush’s Iraq obsession
By Michael Lind
Published: September 5 2005 21:17 Last updated: September 5 2005 21:17

Samuel Huntington has called it the Lippmann Gap, echoing the American journalist Walter Lippmann in 1943: “Foreign policy consists in bringing into balance, with a comfortable surplus of power in reserve, the nation’s commitments and the nation’s power.” The historian Paul Kennedy has another name for it: “Imperial overextension”. Whatever you call this dangerous disease, the symptoms are clear in the US.

In early 2001, shortly after President George W. Bush was inaugurated and before 9/11, the Federal Emergency Management Agency warned of the three most devastating disasters that could strike the US: a terrorist attack on New York City, a hurricane flooding New Orleans and a San Francisco earthquake. The Bush administration was focused on its priority: Iraq.

The first foreseen disaster took place on September 11 2001, when al-Qaeda flew hijacked jets into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The federal government was taken by surprise. New York City’s first responders were hampered by communications problems and poor planning for this long-predicted event. The Bush administration’s response to the mass murder committed by al-Qaeda was warped by the focus on Iraq. Many in Washington believe that the administration failed to send sufficient troops to Afghanistan because it was with-holding forces for the invasion of Iraq.

Day after day, the levees of Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans and the wetlands that protected the city were eroding. Mr Bush and his allies in the Republican-majority Congress have slashed federal spending for flood control in south-east Louisiana by half and funds for work at Lake Pontchartrain by almost two-thirds. From 2003, funds authorised for the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project were diverted to pay for the war in Iraq. Earlier this year, the US Army Corps of Engineers requested $27m (€21.6m) to repair the levees to protect them from hurricanes. Mr Bush sought to cut the amount to $3.9m and also proposed reducing spending to prevent flooding from $78m to $30m (the Republican Congress ultimately passed $5.7m and $36.5m, respectively). The New Orleans Times-Picayune published numerous articles warning that the war in Iraq was taking money away from hurricane protection on the Gulf coast.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, the insurgency metastasised. With US forces divided between the necessary war in Afghanistan and the war of choice in Iraq, and army recruitment numbers plunging, the Bush administration, in addition to hiring private contractors, was forced to mobilise National Guard reserves overseas. When Katrina struck, tens of thousands of National Guard soldiers were in Iraq, along with much of the equipment needed for disaster relief.

At the same time, America’s long border with Mexico has gone largely unprotected. Around a million illegal immigrants are apprehended each year, in addition to the estimated half a million who join the roughly 10m living in the US. A growing number of illegal immigrants apprehended at the border are from Middle Eastern countries including Egypt, Yemen, Iraq and Syria. President Bush’s justice department claims that suspected American terrorist Jose Padilla and an accomplice planned to enter the US through Mexico and blow up buildings in New York and other cities. Mohammed Junaid Babar, an alleged al-Qaeda agent linked with plots against London, has told US investigators of a plan to bring terrorists into the US from Mexico.

On December 17 2004, Mr Bush signed the National Intelligence Reform Act, which required the addition of 10,000 border patrol agents beginning in 2006. In his February 2005 budget, however, Mr Bush authorised funds for only 210 new border agents. Last month, the Democratic governors of Arizona and New Mexico asked for federal disaster relief to help deal with border chaos.

The horror in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast, and the chaos along the US-Mexican border, join anarchy in Afghanistan and Iraq as proof of the bankruptcy of the Bush doctrine. Mr Bush’s neoconservative strategists wanted a crusade for US hegemony in the Middle East and the world; as “national greatness conservatives,” some might have been willing to pay for it with higher taxes. But Mr Bush’s political base consists of conservatives and libertarians united by a crusade to cut taxes. The attempt to establish American global hegemony without paying for it was a disaster – actually, several disasters – waiting to happen.

If, early in 2001, the Bush administration had focused on al-Qaeda instead of Iraq, it might have responded to FEMA’s call to prepare New York for a big terrorist incident. If it had not divided US forces to fight two wars at once, Afghanistan might have been pacified while Saddam remained in power but contained. If Bush had not sacrificed border security to pay for the war in Iraq, the Mexican border might be under control. If Bush had not diverted so many National Guard units to Iraq, disaster relief following Hurricane Katrina would have been swifter and more effective. And if the war in Iraq had not caused the Bush administration to raid money for the New ­Orleans levees, this big port city might not be a corpse-filled cesspool.

Supporters of the war in Iraq predicted that the dominos would fall in the Middle East. Instead, the dominos are falling across America.

The writer is Whitehead Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation

Monday, September 05, 2005

A personal note to Susan Petrarca of Lemont, Illinois

Susan wrote a letter to the editor published in today's Chicago Tribune. She describes how her brother is likely to be deployed to the Middle East in October. She proceeds to rant that "if anything should happen to my brother, I'll blame the Cindy Sheehan contingent. And I'll be more than happy to tell her to her face." She then adds about how she is one of "those of us who support the struggle for a constitutional democracy in Iraq."

Pssst, Susan--that struggle is over. There is no "constitutional democracy" in Iraq. The Iraqi people didn't want it and George W. Bush certainly didn't care about it. Your brother will be supporting the establishment of a fundamentalist Islamic client state of Iran. I applaud his service and hope for his safety, but please know that the "anti-war" left cares far more about your brother and his comrades-in-arms than does your president.

As for dissent, nothing is more fundamentally American. I always think of a young man from Illinois by way of Kentucky and Indiana. While in Congress, he voted for a resolution that said that the war "was unnecessarily and unconstitutionally commenced by the president." He basically called the president a liar, stating that "the result of this examination was to make the impression that, taking for true all the president states as facts, he falls far short of proving his justification and that the president would have gone farther with his proof if it had not been for the small matter that the truth would not permit him." Finally, he even got a bit personal, saying that the president's speech calling for war sounded like "half-insane mumbling."

He says that the president kept changing his reasons for war, as he "first he takes up one, and in attempting to argue us into it he argues himself out of it, then seizes another and goes through the same process, and then, confused at being able to think of nothing new, he snatches up the old one again, which he has some time before cast off." Again, he takes to insulting the intellectual capacity of the president, as he describes how "his mind, taxed beyond its power, is running hither and thither, like some tortured creature on a burning surface, finding no position on which it can settle down and be at ease."

The young man is also concerned about how the president reacts to criticism and won't listen to his generals. He notes that the president fails to state when he "expects the war to terminate." Generals were "by this same president driven into disfavor, if not disgrace, for intimating that peace could not be conquered in less than three or four months...... the president gives us a long message, without showing us that as to the end he himself has even an imaginary conception."

He wraps up with one last insult, as he states that the president "knows not where he is, as he is a bewildered, confounded, and miserably perplexed man."

Downright un-American you say? Well, I wonder what ever became of that young man so critical of the president and war--that Abraham Lincoln fellow.

Life and Death in New Orleans

Let me begin by saying that despite my rather obvious political leanings, I take no joy from the failings of the administration. I wanted them to do well here, I wanted them to succeed, I wanted them to save New Orleans.

I hoped that a prepared and effective response would blunt nature's wrath for many reasons. The most basic of course was the fundamental human desire to avoid suffering and loss of life. The second was a fear, now realized, that the storm could produce an environmental catastrophe and severe economic disruption.

The third reason, though, was simple and essentially selfish. I love New Orleans and I did not want to see it washed away. I have only been there once, but the city is one of those uniquely American places that has a hold on even those who have never been there. Like New York, where we want to be a part of it, and San Francisco, where we leave our hearts, we always wanted to ride The City of New Orleans to this vibrant spot.

This city was in a way a "melting pot" before that term was generally applied to the country, but a truly unique pot it was. The various components, from all parts of Europe, Africa, the Caribbean and elsewhere, kept their unique identities while creating an urban culture like nowhere else. We know New Orleans from Mardi Gras and Anne Rice, from taking A Streetcar Named Desire, from football games to funerals both sad and joyous, from hearing Dixieland jazz and tasting gumbo and jambalaya. In a way, New Orleans felt like it belonged to all of us.

I remember walking down to Cafe DuMonde while the city that had been out too late the night before still slept. In this city of contrasts, around the corner from the garishness of Bourbon Street, you could find a tiny bookstore that would welcome you in to see and touch rare maps and manuscripts. Here a vibrant African-American culture emerged in the shadows of the slave market, and in St. Louis Cemetery #1, you could see the busy, urban city of the living rising above the whitewashed walls of the city of the dead. Now, so much of that is lost.

I do not expect the federal government to solve every problem and I realize that governments are made up of fallible human beings. Those human beings are charged with duties and responsibilities, and what we have seen in the last week is a gross dereliction of those duties that is criminal in its scope. At the head of the agency charged with emergency management, we have not a professional with emergency response experience but a political hack previously fired for mismanagement in heading up horse shows! And now, after failing to be both proactive and reactive, the administration chooses now to deflect criticism and blame others.

I had hoped for so much more.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Who is Mark Silva?

[Note: Mr. Silva did have different co-authors for each article, but he is the common thread]
And why does he have a job at a major newspaper (The Chicago Tribune) ? The man is a hack and a shameless shill for the Bush administration. How does he sleep at night?

I have already pointed out his earlier "journalistic" assessment of the president's "swift" and "personal" response to the crisis in the Gulf Coast. Here is the president's "swift" response:

While this was the scene on that very day in New Orleans:

On this morning's front page, Mark outdoes himself. He describes the president as a man "who honed his credentials as a manager of unimaginable crisis in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001."

Really, Mark? Crisis manager?

I seem to remember a dazed and baffled man looking lost among the school children while the mayor of New York showed what crisis management really meant. I remember a useless figurehead being flown about the country and hiding from view that day while America reeled, and finally, I recall a blinking, nervous, overgrown child overwhelmed by his accidental presidency. He stared into the camera that night with a face that so clearly said that this was the wrong man at the wrong time.

Hi Mark, I'd like to introduce you to Journalistic Integrity. Journalistic Integrity, this is Mark. I'm sure you two have never met before.