by Greg Method
You know, when I first decided to do these seasonal ...without Bush columns after the election, I was thinking that I would be able to cover some of the more-general topics that I didn't have time to go over during 2004. I never meant for these new columns to be "updates" based on whatever Bush-related events had happened in the past three months. I really thought even Bush would have been bright enough to hire people to tell him "Don't do anything stupid for a while" after he somehow narrowly convinced the slimmest majority of Ohioans ever that he is competent, efficient, and smart, despite a lack of evidence of such. I really thought I was going to spend 2005 talking about such evergreen subjects as education, affirmation action, and corruption.
But nooooo! Bush has to keep doing shit. And not just little shit, either. He has to go all out and do major history-making shit, shit that will affect us for at least the next generation. I can barely keep up with all this shit.
Hey, here's an idea! Let's nominate a guy nobody's ever heard of, a guy with a questionable background and an inexplicably classified resume, to sit on the highest court in the country! What's that you say? The chief justice has finally died? No problem, because we have just the person in mind to replace him...the very same guy nobody's ever heard of with a questionable background and an inexplicably classified resume! Surely the guy that we still don't know is qualified for one spot is perfect for the top spot, right?
And hey, let's get another woman on that most supreme of courts, shall we? How about we nominate a gal with absolutely no judicial experience? Sure, critics will scoff, but it's a tradition to have at least one justice who has never judged before, right? And even better, let's nominate someone with personal and financial ties to the administration; someone who's so smart that she actually idolizes Bush as a genius! What could possibly go wrong?
Better yet, let's ignore a woman who has spent the last several months traveling across the country to call Bush out for a confrontation. Sure, support for both Bush and the war are at an all-time low, and a sit-down with a grieving mother with a valid point would only boost public opinion, but why bother? All it will do is give comfort to the enemy...um, somehow. I guess.
I could go on and on, but you see what I'm getting at. Bush wasted no time to just give the whole country the middle finger. He suckered a bunch of scaredy-cats into voting for him and then simply whipped it out, masturbating in full view of the public who was dumb enough to put him there. Is it egotism? Arrogance? Ignorance? I don't know.
And before I move on, I'm sure a couple of folks out there are no doubt bothered by what I just said, about Bush supporters being dumb or having been suckered. Sorry, but it's the truth. By definition you cannot be intelligent or educated if you ever supported George W. Bush. I didn't say you were dumb if you're a Republican, just if you support Bush. By being pro-Bush, you are telling everyone: "Hello, I am a moron. I do not know how to read and I only watch one cable channel. I can't tell the difference between what's best for my country and what's best for my political party, and anyone who disagrees with me must hate our troops and my magnetic car ribbon." I'm sorry to have to be so blunt, but if you haven't wised up in five years then you're simply asking for it. There's no such thing as a bright Bush supporter, period.
Now then, here we are. Almost an entire year has gone by since Bush was actually elected to the White House (for once). Anyone else feeling better? Anyone else feeling safer? Anyone else getting more money? Anyone else completely satisfied? Anyone else still not picking up the sarcasm here?
It's been a year, and we're still in the shithouse. Republicans have controlled both the White House and Congress for three years now, right? Sooo, when are things supposed to be getting better? I mean, wasn't that their big selling point in 2002 and 2004, that they can effectively manage the country? That they can pull us out of this bottomless pit we're in? That somehow they were going to make just the right business deals to make all of our lives better and more prosperous?
My question is who really bought that shit anyway??
Bush, and Republican, failure hadn't been more evident to the mindless sheep in this country until the month of September, when the city of New Orleans suddenly became the city of Atlantis.
How did things get so bad so quickly?
Well, like with everything else in the Bush administration, it all started when some large public concern conflicted with Bush's financial interests. In this case it's the most obvious, GLOBAL WARMING. Whenever asked about this very real environmental problem, Bush always says that more studying needs to be done and that he needs to examine every bit of research before he plans to do something about it (sure enough, the Commerce Department once told Congress to not expect a national global warming strategy until around 2007!).
Well, Bush has no doubt had someone already study the issue for him, because if someone was to learn about global warming they would see that its primary cause are the large emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, much of which is produced by the oil and coal industries around the world. Oil and coal have been very good to Bush since he was a C student, as the majority of both his personal finances and campaign funds have come from the two industries.
So, shortly after his inauguration, he not only cited a faulty report to indicate that regulating CO2 emissions would be too costly, but he also lied that the decades-old Clean Air Act didn't include CO2 in its list of pollutants! Meanwhile, ExxonMobil would apply pressure to oust government-employed scientists who singled out the United States' 25 percent contribution to the world's CO2 pollution, or it would fund administration "think tanks" on environmental study and policy. And most damaging, Bush would refuse to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty written to set guidelines and caps on greenhouse gas emissions; a treaty already signed and ratified by the world's eight other largest industrialized nations.
According to the Boston Globe, "To allow the climate to stabilize requires humanity to cut its use of coal and oil by 70 percent. That, of course, threatens the survival of one of the largest commercial enterprises in history."
What's a Bush to do?
Global warming not only causes sea levels to rise, but in the case of the Gulf of Mexico, the increased heat will intensify any passing storm, large or small. Hurricane Katrina simply fed off the Gulf's higher temperature.
Around the world, political and environmental leaders expressed their concerns about America's lack of action on global warming and what it means.
Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf said, "It is quite clear that the world's climate is changing and we should take note. The hurricane catastrophe in the United States should be a wake-up call for all of us." Gerda Hasselfeldt, a German candidate for environment minister, agreed, "The U.S. must be more involved." Most of Europe, it must be noted, had supported the Kyoto Protocol.
Germany's acting environment minister, Juergen Trittin, echoed Gerda's thought. "The increasing frequency of these natural events can only be explained through global warming which is caused by people," he said. "The Bush government rejects international climate protection goals by insisting that imposing them would negatively impact the American economy... The American president is closing his eyes to the economic and human costs his land and the world economy are suffering under natural catastrophes like Katrina and because of neglected environmental policies."
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. wrote that Katrina was "giving our nation a glimpse of the climate chaos we are bequeathing our children," while none other than Greenpeace said that the hurricane was a "wake-up call about the dangers of continued global fossil fuel dependency."
And it's certainly not as if everyone didn't know the storm was coming, and its potential damage to a city that's already below the sea level. But what became of those WARNINGS? According to the Department of Defense, on August 26, before Katrina even hit the area, the governors of both Louisiana and Mississippi were asking the government for "additional assistance." Coordinating offices were fortunately set up in four states soon after.
The cautioning and pleas for help continued that weekend, some even going all the way to the top spot. According to the St. Petersburg Times, on August 28 National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield "was so worried about Hurricane Katrina...he even talked about the force of Katrina during a video conference call to President Bush at his ranch in Crawford, Texas."
"I just wanted to be able to go to sleep that night knowing that I did all I could do," Mayfield said in the article.
In the New York Times, it was said that "Mr. Bush, or at least his top aides, were informed early and repeatedly by the top federal official at the scene that state and local authorities were overwhelmed and that the overall response was going badly."
And according to New Orleans's Times-Picayune, on August 28 "National Hurricane Center Meteorologist Chris Lauer said Katrina was still on track to hit the New Orleans area as a devastating Category 5 hurricane as its eye comes ashore." The paper was already predicting by the twenty-ninth that "levees in the New Orleans area likely will be topped."
Let's see, Bush's top officials give him plenty of warning about trouble with enough time to actually do something about it, yet he doesn't. Gee, when did he ever do that before?
I don't think it needs to be said that Bush and his administration really, really don't like people giving them advice or suggestions, especially when it comes to ways to help people in a possible emergency. Could it be ego, as if to say "How dare y'all suggest that we don't know what we're doin'!"? Is it an overreliance on religion, believing that God will do the dirty work of helping the peasants so they won't have to?
Whatever the subconscious reason is, it's clear that Bush and anyone ever connected with him have a severe AVERSION TO SCIENCE. How many scientists has the administration "asked to retire" for suggesting changes to our environmental policy? How many pro-coal dickheads have been put into the EPA?
As far as they're concerned, Max Mayfield? Chris Lauer? Eggheads! "They have the gall t' say that they're gonna predict Mother Nature? They don't got no faith, dag nabbit!" If you're going to explain either the causes or paths of severe storms to George W. Bush, you're simply wasting your time. You'd have better luck telling him that frogs were about to rain down on the Bronx. Face it, the man is retarded.
Hurricane Katrina brushed past the New Orleans area in the wee hours of the morning on August 29, while Bush was in the middle of vacationing and obsessively touring "red states" to respond to Cindy Sheehan's anti-war charges without facing her directly. The problems started almost immediately, with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin telling The Today Show that he's "gotten reports this morning that there's already water coming over some of the levee systems." Later in the morning, as the Times-Picayune would report, a "large section of the vital 17th Street Canal levee, where it connects to the brand new 'hurricane proof' Old Hammond Highway bridge" gave way "in Bucktown after Katrina's fiercest winds were well north... The breach sent a churning sea of water from Lake Pontchartrain coursing across Lakeview and into Mid-City, Carrollton, Gentilly, City Park, and neighborhoods farther south and east." Before long, most of New Orleans was screwed.
Of course, the massive amount of flooding could have been prevented if the LEVEES had been stable. For years the federal government had been operating the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Hurricane Protection Project, which according to its web site "is designed to protect residents between Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River levee from surges in Lake Pontchartrain driven by storms up to the Standard Project Hurricane." Ideally the project is a sort of complete levee overhaul to the New Orleans area. Existing levees are to be strengthened or rebuilt, while new ones are to be added elsewhere if necessary.
This is quite a massive project, one that won't see final completion until 2015 and will cost about $738 million, $528 million of which will come direct from the government. However, for fiscal year 2004, the Corps were sorely underfunded. They had requested $11 million for that year's work. Bush gave them the shaft by only approving a $3 million budget, which Congress thankfully upped to $5.5 million. For fiscal year 2005, the Corps needed to both play catch-up and continue on with that year's slate of projects, so they sent a $22.5 million request to the White House. Bush again fiddled with their budget by allocating just $3.9 million, which Congress again increased to $5.5 million. The Corps responded that the amount "was insufficient to fund new construction contracts," adding that because of the lack of funds "seven new contracts are being delayed."
Gee, I wonder why there's no money to give to the Corps? Surely it wasn't a jerk-off tax cut to the rich and an unjust war that had swallowed all of our money, right?
Most recently, for fiscal year 2006, which began October 1, Bush again lowballed the Corps with an insulting $3 million. At the time of the proposal, this past May, levee work in Orleans Parish was about 90 percent complete, while work in Jefferson Parish was 70 percent complete, and work in St. Charles Parish was only 60 percent complete.
Responding to the offer, the Corps' web site explained, "We could spend $20 million if the funds were provided. These funds are necessary to maintain the project schedule and to meet our contractual and local sponsor commitments... In Orleans Parish, two major pump stations are threatened by hurricane storm surges. Major contracts need to be awarded to provide fronting protection for them. Also, several levees have settled and need to be raised to provide the design protection. The current funding shortfalls in fiscal year 2005 and fiscal year 2006 will prevent the Corps from addressing these pressing needs."
Such budget-cutting shouldn't be a surprise to those who work on Louisiana's flood control projects. For fiscal year 2002, the Southeast Louisiana Flood Control Program requested $80 million for the year's construction and design projects, yet Bush only offered a paltry $52 million. The Senate was finally able to increase that to $62 million, which was still well below what was needed.
"Coincidentally," most of Bush's budget cuts have been as a direct result to the sham of a war in Iraq. In April 2004 the Times-Picayune reported that an engineer who had directed the Louisiana Coastal Area Ecosystem Restoration Study, which examined how to develop the neighboring coastal wetlands to be used to take the brunt of hurricane storm surges, was sent to Iraq "to oversee the restoration of the 'Garden of Eden' wetlands at the mouth of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers," a restoration that Bush had allocated $100 million of the 2005 budget for.
Just two months later in the paper, Walter Maestri, Jefferson Parish's emergency management chief, summed up the situation: "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq... Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished..."
Just after Hurricane Katrina had passed, this sentiment was echoed in a Salon.com column by former Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal, who wrote, "By 2003 the federal funding for the flood control project essentially dried up as it was drained into the Iraq war. In 2004, the Bush administration cut funding requested by the New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for holding back the waters of Lake Pontchartrain by more than 80 percent. Additional cuts at the beginning of this year...forced the New Orleans district of the Corps to impose a hiring freeze."
Despite all this--the budget-cutting, the lowballing, the project crippling--Bush still had the nerve to tell Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America on September 1, "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." I'm sure the people whose funding you cut anticipated it, you jerk-off.
And where was the man whose actions had a direct effect on the amount of damage New Orleans received? Well, he was VACATIONING.
You see, this hurricane came at a really inappropriate time. Bush was taking yet another month-long vacation at his seemingly unproductive ranch in Crawford, Texas. But since grieving mother and anti-war hero Cindy Sheehan was outside the ranch making him slightly uncomfortable (and we all know that we simply cannot have a member of that family feel uncomfortable, right?), Bush decided to embark on a sort of "working vacation tour" of a few nigh-inconsequential red states in an attempt to defend his curious and single-minded agenda. George W. Bush, multitasker extraordinaire.
In the early morning of August 29, as water was already spilling over the 17th Street Canal levee shortly before breaking through it entirely, Bush arrived at the Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, Arizona to celebrate Sen. John McCain's birthday. Believe it or not, despite the wealth of photos from the gathering, accounts vary as to what happened, even down to what time of day it took place. One report indicated that Bush was there to present a birthday cake to McCain, yet pictures clearly indicate that McCain and the cake were already on the ground waiting for Georgie as he exited the plane with his mail order bri--err, I mean Laura. The two old men chatted and laughed with each other as they posed with the cake, complete with a disgusting image of Bush suckling some stray frosting off his thumb.
If I may pause for a second, I just wanted to say how depressing it is that many Bush fans love the photo of him licking himself, with one blogger indicating that it's supposedly touching because it shows how "normal" and natural he is, doing something that many of us would supposedly do in the same circumstance. Uh, no, I use a napkin, or at least would lick it off my thumb when the international press wasn't right in my face. Frankly, and I can't stress this enough, I don't want an "average guy" president, because most "average guys" are complete fuck-ups...you know, like the rest of us! I don't want a president that needs a bib at a birthday party like a toddler!
Anyway, Bush stayed in the state and continued his "Mothers are Wrong to Mourn Tour" later that morning by stopping at the Pueblo El Mirage RV Resort and Country Club in El Mirage to promote Medicare to people who would soon no longer need it, paired of course with the obligatory photo-op of shaking hands with numerous troops who could have been put to use helping out on the Gulf Coast. Meanwhile, the power went out at New Orleans's Superdome, where more than 10,000 storm evacuees had been sent. Backup generators were able to restore some of the lighting, albeit only faintly, but the stadium was completely without air conditioning.
Bush went on to California that afternoon, appearing at the James L. Brulte Senior Center in Rancho Cucamonga to again push Medicare and his oppressive prescription drug program. It should be noted that in all of his public appearances during the day his mentions of Katrina and its victims, should he actually bring up the topic, were usually brief and generic.
Now, what he did talk about in Rancho Cucamonga was how his C-student education was better than that of the PhD he put in charge of his drug program (remember, he hates them there eggheads), how to keep them foreigners from sneaking across the border, and of course his need to mock a woman's grandchildren and great-grandchildren for not helping to financially support her.
As New Orleans quickly descended into one of the levels of hell, Bush decided to stay in California as his vacation continued, ignoring yet another request by Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco for emergency federal assistance (maybe he would have acted more quickly if he was told that in the middle of the flood, a brain-dead woman was being taken off life support?). He spent the better part of the day on August 30 around San Diego, first showing up at the U.S. Naval Air Station in the town of Coronado to give a speech commemorating V-J Day...a speech which quickly turned into a thinly veiled albeit forced comparison between World War II and Iraq War II, and thereby comparing himself with President Roosevelt. I actually want to help Bush with this, because I can think of a really easy comparison he can use: Roosevelt was our greatest president, while Bush....
As the morning progressed, Bush capped off the event by meeting with redneck country singer Mark Wills, who presented him with a customized acoustic guitar (just what this clown needed: a cowboy accessory). Approximately twenty-four hours after the 17th Street Canal levee had been breached, after 80 percent of New Orleans had already been submerged, and while the city was already under panic and despair, Bush smirked and chuckled as he plucked the strings of the guitar like a caveman discovering musical tones for the first time.
Finally, at 1:30 that afternoon, after the cake and the guitar-playing and the pro-war speeches and the anti-mother initiatives, Bush did the unthinkable! He actually announced plans to cut short his vacation...by one day.
Bush soon returned to the womb-like confines of his Crawford ranch to pack up and get a good night's sleep (hey, he's earned it) before taking to the air on August 31. Air Force One would kinda sorta fly over the New Orleans area while en route to Washington, and Bush got a good look at the devastation...or, at least as good of a look as one can get from peeking out of the corner of a side window 2,000 feet up in seclusion. Man of the people, indeed.
As the death toll climbed and citizens were pleading for help, Bush continued HIDING for two whole days once he returned to Washington. Outside of asking President Clinton and the real President Bush to head up some sort of vague relief effort and then addressing the nation with what the New York Times referred to as "one of the worst speeches of his life," September 1 was relatively low-stress for Bush. That's good. You should always ease your way back into work after a five-week vacation.
You know you're a lousy leader when even Laura Bush has beaten you to a disaster site...and she looks like she has trouble getting off the short bus! Here you have a woman so dumb she actually thought these were victims of Hurricane Corrina! (Now, Whoopi has made some bad movies, but come on....) On September 2, Laura arrived not in New Orleans but rather Lafayette, Louisiana (it's all the same, right?) for a series of photo-ops with black women at a shelter, having an expression in each image that can only be described as a cross between apathy and contempt...can't imagine why. No doubt she bathed vigorously afterward, though.
Meanwhile, Junior finally toured the hurricane devastation...in Biloxi. With his sleeves rolled up and his clip-on tie put away, George looked less like a concerned president than he did a wandering city council candidate, searching desperately for that one good "bullhorn in the rubble" picture before he moves on. Lord knows he tried, as he immediately wrapped his arms around black people as exhausted firemen and a tattered American flag were conveniently placed behind him, seemingly at all times. This was followed by a ridiculous display of him greeting people as they received bagged lunches at a makeshift relief camp, one that reportedly closed up soon after he, and the cameras, had departed.
In these appearances there was just something "off" about them. For such "casual" interaction with victims and relief workers, why did Bush wait four days after the hurricane had come and gone to personally survey the damage? It seemed insincere. It seemed phony. It seemed staged.
Even while "on the ground" to see the devastation first-hand, Bush was still too scared to walk the streets of New Orleans, where people were still suffering and screaming for the moron's blood. So, Bush visited the city via helicopter. Brave leader, eh?
Hey, why would Bush need to have been more hands-on from the get-go anyway? After all, he had competent people running things for him, right? That's what FEMA and the National Guard are for, right??
Let's take these next points one at a time. Ever since he first wormed his way into the Oval Office, Bush hasn't really been known to be fair or intelligent. This is perhaps no more clearly evident than with whom Bush selects for key areas of the federal government. They're either out-of-work Republicans who had lost elections to dead people, unstable madmen who have displayed contempt for the United Nations, or just plain old Dick Cheney. Regardless, Bush likes to put CRONIES into positions that they're really not qualified for.
General Counsel for the Department of Homeland Security? How about Cheney's son-in-law, Philip J. Perry? Attorney General? U.S. Supreme Court? Let's get Bush's lawyers. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia? Where's that lawyer who helped Bush beat the rap from the SEC back in 1990? New president of Afghanistan? Bush has a liaison over at Unocal. Lawyer to represent the Saudi Royals that had been sued by families of September 11 victims? There's always Bush's business partner from Carlyle. Shit, when Bush was first running in 2000, Dick Cheney was originally put in charge of a sort of "task force" to find just the right candidate for vice president (or rather, the "right" candidate)...and he ends up selecting himself! Is there anyone in that whole bloody administration who didn't get the job because they were either friends of Bush's daddy or were related to other employees??
There's even some severe cronyism among people who themselves are Bush's cronies. Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator? Scott McClellan has an older brother. Immigration and Customs Director? There's that White House assistant who previously helped Ken Starr dig up dirt on Clinton. Head of EPA and Health and Human Services Secretary? That guy who invested in Johnson and Johnson and is against child welfare programs. Head of the Presidential Advisory Commission on HIV and AIDS? Some evangelical redneck from Bob Jones University who referred to AIDS as the "gay plague" and homosexuality as a "deathstyle." FDA Commissioner? That veterinarian affiliated with what has been nicknamed the "Christian Taliban." Chairman for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting? What about that chick who headed up Radio Free Iraq and gave the GOP $319,250. Anything else left to fill? Well, Karen Hughes still doesn't have anything to do on Tuesdays....
But recently it seems that there has been no one more dangerous display of cronyism than at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA. Officially spun off as its own agency in 1979 by President Carter and then elevated as a part of the Cabinet in 1993 by President Clinton, FEMA's goal has been to...well, to respond to big freakin' emergencies and disasters. Some of its first assignments included handling the toxic waste that was dumped into Niagara Falls' Love Canal and responding to the infamous partial core meltdown at Three Mile Island. As you can see, it's a pretty important agency. Well, take a wild guess who smeared their shit all over it following September 11?
In early 2003 Bush absorbed FEMA into his newly created Department of Homeland Security (has anyone ever taken a real good look at the seal for that place?!?), a Cabinet department originally headed up by former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, who just happened to also have been one of Bush's closest advisors during the 2000 election. Interesting, eh? FEMA was already under the direction of former...um, guy Joe Allbaugh. Most likely to be played by David Morse in the film version, Allbaugh looks like every corrupt big-city cop that's ever graced the local news. His qualifications for being put in charge of federal emergency management included a degree in political science from Oklahoma State University, acting as Bush's chief of staff when the dickhead was governor of Texas, serving as national campaign manager for Bush in 2000, and being known as one of Bush's most trusted aides, on par with Karl Rove and the aforementioned harpy Karen Hughes. Sure enough, those three had formed the unholy alliance known as Bush's "Iron Triangle." You can't make this shit up.
Allbaugh left FEMA in December 2002 and immediately set up the consulting firm New Bridge Strategies, a secretive division of Barbour, Griffith, and Rogers, one of Washington's biggest GOP lobbying firms. And the first project for Allbaugh's new firm? Why, fielding and securing offers for reconstruction in Iraq! Now, why would someone with very close ties to Bush suddenly leave a secure federal position and, without any experience at it, start acting as an agent to look for potential offers for rebuilding a country that we wouldn't even attack for another three months? Why would this person think that this would be a lucrative new career to start? Hmmm?
Anyway, I'm straying. Almost immediately after Allbaugh had left FEMA, Bush promoted his deputy director, one Michael Brown. Brown's qualifications for running FEMA included unsuccessfully running for Congress in Oklahoma in 1988 and...um, being Joe Allbaugh's childhood friend and later college pal. Yeah, that same Joe Allbaugh. Remember what I said about cronyism by association?
Prior to joining FEMA, Brown had a career not unlike many slightly wealthy law students in middle America. In addition to being only barely competent as a lawyer and a teacher, he was also a glorified intern to the city manager of Edmond, Oklahoma, followed by brief stints in the town's city council and the Oklahoma Legislature. Perhaps his most prominent position was as chairman of the board for the Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority (a position he may or may not have actually held; one among many he has claimed in fact), where he stayed until 1988.
Then came those darn horses. From 1989 to 2001 (sweet Jesus!), Brown served as Judges and Stewards Commissioner for the International Arabian Horse Association (IAHA), which was a full-service breed association that "seeks to meet the breeding, competitive, and recreational interests of all Arabian horse owners." Uh...huh. And I'm a wacko for campaigning to get Weird Al into the Rock Hall.
Brown was forced to retire from his sweet post after numerous lawsuits were filed against IAHA. You see, Brown had gone on the warpath to find out which IAHA members were using artificial enhancements on their horses (like what? A fifth leg?). For some reason, many members took offense to this and sued both the organization and Brown himself, with a number of them accusing him of favoritism. To make a very long, boring story short, Brown began raising funds for IAHA's defense, while also at the same time privately gathering funds for his own personal defense. No money for IAHA's defense fund was ever received, so naturally the board of directors were quite pissed. Brown soon "voluntarily" resigned.
This was the man Bush felt could effectively handle national disasters.
I guess I wouldn't have really minded such a jerk-off at FEMA if he actually displayed some level of competence. This is FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. That means that if something big, bad, and ugly happens to one of the cities in the country, they're on the job...and they have to get it right the first time.
But nooo, Brown only dragged his feet for three days after Governor Blanco declared a state of emergency for Louisiana before he requested the Department of Homeland Security to send a pitiful one thousand employees to the region. Two days after that, he claimed to have been surprised at the size of the storm, even though he was clearly warned about the potential problems back on August 28, nor was he or even Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff aware of the mass suffering and dire conditions throughout New Orleans (Ted Koppel famously asked, "Don't you guys watch television?"). Brown also claimed that nobody was able to enter the New Orleans area due to the flooding...um, except of course for most of the press and any civilian who risked their life to come help, that is. It wasn't even until September 1 that Brown learned of the victims stranded at the hellish New Orleans Convention Center, where for days reports were trickling out detailing near-barbaric activities going on.
Just a day later, Bush had the nerve to say "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." Um...at what?!? Then again, considering this is a man who last year campaigned on "four more years" of failure, clearly he has a weighted barometer when it comes to quality of work.
So anyway, Brown is now out after he again "voluntarily" resigned (what is it about Bush's people stepping aside right when things get a little too hot under the collar for them?). Right now, however, other guys in top spots at FEMA aren't looking too good, either. FEMA's chief of staff is Patrick Rhode, who also has had no emergency management experience but instead has worked for Bush's election campaigns. Its deputy chief of staff is Scott Morris, who...um, also worked for Bush's campaigns, usually handling press and media matters such as campaign commercials.
Again, this is FEMA, a once-respected and vital agency that Bush has essentially stuffed with pals and A/V assistants. Does it feel comforting to know that if your town gets hit by an earthquake, or a terrorist attack, then your safety will be in the hands of the shit who developed Bush's PR persona? Jesus H. Christ, these aren't flippin' ambassador posts for countries nobody's ever heard of...this is the national crisis center! And gee, when would the United States ever find themselves in a crisis? "Mr. President, we're under attack."/"Hold on, I wanna hear how this story ends first."
And don't think I was going to bring up cronyism and corruption without mentioning the "H word." Remember our good friend Joe Allbaugh? Well, almost as soon as the initial Katrina warnings and pleas for help were issued, Joe started doing what he had done best lately, fielding reconstruction contracts, only this time for the soon-to-be-devastated states of the Gulf Coast. Just days after the storm had passed, three major contracts were signed. The Shaw Group received two separate $100 million federal contracts, including one from FEMA for housing construction and management. Surely just coincidentally, Joe Allbaugh had recently been employed by Shaw as a business management consultant and lobbyist. According to Salon.com, Patti Giglio, Allbaugh's spokeswoman, said that Allbaugh had nothing to do with this deal, adding that "he is not in the government contracting business." Suuure he isn't.
Another contract that Allbaugh "had nothing to do with," but was announced at the very same time, was a $30 million contract awarded to Kellogg, Brown, and Root to rebuild Navy bases in Louisiana and Mississippi. Kellogg, Brown, and Root just happens to be a subsidiary to none other than Halliburton, the company Dick Cheney headed up as chief executive officer from 1995 to 2000, right before he was "selected" to ride the Republican presidential ticket alongside Georgie. Cheney continues to receive an annual income from the company, such as the $194,852 he claimed on this year's tax filings.
Both Shaw and Halliburton were already enjoying lucrative (as in the billions) contracts to help rebuild Iraq.
Earlier this year, American University's presidential scholar Allan Lichtman said that appointing buddies and surrounding a president with simpering "yes" men "can lead to colossal lapses in judgment." It's scary how accurately that statement has come true.
Thank goodness that despite all this corruption and incompetence, we at least have our TROOPS to count on, right? Um...right? Right?!?
Unfortunately, a lot of the folks in the military who would have been there to help Katrina victims were...um, occupied elsewhere. You see, this is one of the key jobs of the National Guard, to provide military assistance in times of national despair and crisis...heck, they answer to the states' governors for cryin' out loud. They're our local line of national defense, so to speak.
More than three thousand members of Louisiana's National Guard 256th Brigade were over in Iraq when Hurricane Katrina left their state in ruins, as were the brigade's high-water tanks and generators. Hey, who would need them back at home anyway?
Comparatively, over 3,500 troops of Mississippi's 155th Brigade Combat Team are serving in Karbala and Najaf, while nearly 2,200 members from the Alabama Guard are overseas. These are the same troops who continue to be held in Iraq indefinitely, almost as hostages by the government.
Bush claims to have sent over twelve thousand active-duty forces and almost 22,000 National Guardsmen to help the Gulf region, yet evidence and reports of such optimistic numbers are nonexistent. The troops that are being assembled and sent to the South are being pooled from as many as forty states, which means, if Bush's numbers are accurate, each state can only spare about 850 of its troops to aid in the relief effort. Gee, what could all the rest be doing? One figure indicates that about 40 percent of all U.S. troops in Iraq are from the Guard or Reserves.
And you know, even with all this laziness and inaction and ignoring of warnings and squandering of troops, I can't help but think that this all would have been different if these were white people in trouble instead.
Yeah, it's that elephant in the room, RACE. I don't think it's rude or unfair to suggest that Bush might have a bit of a prejudice, especially considering all that's happened. By attacking Iraq in retaliation for September 11, Bush already showed that he can't tell Arabs apart, so why is believing him to be a racist all that farfetched?
The fact remains that at the time of the hurricane, over 67 percent of New Orleans's population was African-American, while 28 percent of the city lived below the poverty line. It should also be noted that in last November's election, 78 percent of Orleans Parish voted for Sen. John Kerry as opposed to the meager 22 percent that voted for Bush.
I'm not suggesting that Bush would deliberately penalize a city for its culture, financial status, and politics (okay, maybe I am a little), but clearly New Orleans's poor, black Democrats had nothing to offer Bush, so why would Bush offer anything in return?
I stress "culture" as opposed to just "race" because it really is such a different world down there. There's a freer sense of religion there than perhaps any other city in America (voodoo, anyone?). Every year Mardis Gras shows the world just how uninhibited and carefree we can be, particularly with our female friends. And hey, let's be honest, the town is ripe with the lovable, beautiful French. What self-respecting Republican Texas oilman would possibly bring himself to rush to their aid as they're screaming bloody murder?
And no, it's not unfair to suggest that George W. Bush is a prick. He is. He's a slimy, manipulative, mentally unbalanced prick. Pricks don't help poor families standing in pools of someone else's urine and entrails. Pricks only look out for themselves...and their cronies.
When told that people are stranded on rooftops and are wondering where help is, people who aren't pricks do more than just "understand people wanting things to have happened yesterday." They do more than just "understand the anxiety of people on the ground." They instead do everything in their power to make things happen, because they know that the people there need more than just understanding. Pricks, on the other hand, simply feel that offering cold, empty understanding is enough. Pricks don't understand that not everybody can climb into an SUV and drive off to freedom when facing death and destruction. Pricks "can't imagine what it is like to be waving a sign saying 'come and get me now.'" A person who isn't a prick can imagine doing that, and it isn't a good feeling at all.
Thankfully, I'm not the only one who feels that Bush is a prick, as on October 13 an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found Bush's national approval rating to be an embarrassing 39 percent, his absolute lowest ever (a separate October 18 CNN/Gallup poll echoed this result). Even more eye-popping was his approval rating among African-Americans, a laughable 2 percent. Pricks always get what's coming to them.
Interestingly, in the middle of all this chaos, Bush did what many thought he simply didn't have in him. He claimed to take full responsibility for the failures of the government during this crisis. It's perhaps the first time in his life that he accepted responsibility for something he screwed up.
So he accepts full responsibility. Okay, but what does that mean exactly? Is he going to be paying for the clean-up out of his own pocket?
Surely he has enough to spare, right? Figures vary as far as what Bush is worth, but the official numbers hover between $21 million and $26 million (and I have a real hard time believing such a low estimate). More than enough to go around, eh? Even he couldn't possibly have spent all that money the bin Ladens gave him when he worked for Carlyle. Sheesh, the front yard of the Crawford ranch alone could give enough space for evacuee families to set up makeshift shanty housing until they get back on their feet.
What does accepting full responsibility mean if one doesn't make a sacrifice? The way I understand it, a person who accepts responsibility for a disaster must then face a couple of consequences. There's no such thing as idle responsibility, is there?
It's just interesting that everyone in Congress and elsewhere is scrambling to come up with ways to pay for the relief efforts, yet nobody has dared to suggest that the big oilman with his Fortress of Solitude give up anything to those who have lost everything.
Oh no, he's not a prick!
In the end, I go back to that first thing I mentioned, global warming. In regard to the Kyoto Protocol, Bob Brown, the leader of Australia's Greens party, the opposition party, had this to say: "It demonstrates the massive economic, as well as environmental and social penalties, of George Bush's policies."
It's amazing how that quote could be plugged word for word into current events. It's almost as if the man is a failure at everything, isn't it?
And to think, all this because of a hurricane. A hurricane. An expected, predictable, trackable event. Imagine for a moment if this had instead been a terrorist attack.
Unlikely, you say? Why? Al-Qaeda is certainly technologically capable to view or download video footage of the annual Mardis Gras orgy--err, I mean, celebration. And aren't our free-wheelin' drunken ways and bead-wearing topless women part of the devil-may-care American lifestyle that we're always told is why terrorists hate us so much? Unless of course that's all just bullshit and they really hate us for either religious or financial reasons, but hey, if Bush supporters want to believe that it's our intangible freedom that enrages the Middle East so much, then they have to accept the whole argument. You never hear anyone in the administration say, "They hate us for our freedom, except for this one reason, this event, and this holiday. They're cool with all that."
So it's not entirely farfetched to think that New Orleans could be a terrorist target. Hell, it makes about as much sense as thinking Walt Disney World could be one. So let's pretend that Al-Qaeda once again caught us with our pants down and flew planes and blimps and cows into the Big Easy. Would the response still be the same? Would numerous citizens still be stranded? Would Bush still go into hiding until anyone wielding a pipe had been shipped out of the area? Or, even worse, would that become the new "symbol" of America and patriotism, the new city we have to keep in our hearts, the new disaster to recall whenever any Republican needs a little cheer from the crowd, the setting of the new "Bush with a bullhorn" image?
What Hurricane Katrina proved is that four years after the worst terrorist attack in our nation's history, we're still not ready to handle any large-scale disaster. And if we're not, then why is Bush still in the White House? Wasn't that his big promise to us all? "I can protect ya." Hasn't that been his administration and campaign's raison d'etre since September 11, that nobody else can help America out of a jam but him? Isn't that what turned many intelligent, once-educated people from both major parties into paranoid, thumb-sucking bobbleheads? By offering false promises and hopes, he turned us into a nation of Linuses from Peanuts: we've got our security blanket, so now we can sleep sitting up.
And this was just from a flood resulting from a hurricane. Imagine the destruction if the hurricane itself had annihilated New Orleans. Or, like I said, imagine if it was instead a terrorist attack. Or what if it didn't happen to only the thirty-fifth largest city in the country? What if it had happened to Portland or Houston or Los Angeles...or even New York again?
And that's where we are a year after the election, an election I'm sure many in the middle and on the right wish they could redo. We aren't any safer, we are even more paranoid, we have no more money, we are losing troops at a depressing rate over nothing, and when push comes to shove, we are as unprepared to handle any major problem as we were on that seemingly uneventful early morning in September 2001.
When, when will we stop rewarding our leaders for gross incompetence and instead start firing them for it?
I guess if the hurricane did anything good, it proved an old saying: when it rains, it pours.
Quote of the Month
"Almost everyone I've talked to says, 'We're going to move to Houston.' What I'm hearing is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this--this (chuckle) is working very well for them."
Barbara Bush on the hurricane evacuees
Link of the Month
Bush's Disastrous Response: A Timeline
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