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Monday, September 12, 2005

'The Smeller is the Feller'

Remember when we were kids and someone would say..."Ewwww...who made that smell? That STINKS!" and some smart kid would jump in and say, ''The Smeller is the Feller!" or "He who smelt it, dealt it!" Recent media events remind me of these sayings.

Hurricane Katrina had hardly left the state of Louisiana and people were already pointing fingers and saying "Hey this's his fault!" As the storm dies down and the media does some serious researching, it turns out that in this case "The smeller really was the feller". It will be interesting to see how Blanco and Nagin fare in upcoming elections. I wonder if they will be wishing they had kept their mouths shut instead of drawing attention to their own 'odor' by pointing out the 'odor' existed.

Even our friends in Canada, often to jump on the Bush bashing wagon, have some that have used sense and research to ferret out the real culprits in this situation. See what he writes here.


At 9:44 PM, Anonymous D L Ennis said...

Great post linked to an excellent article.



At 9:51 PM, Blogger Melissa O. Markham said...

Hey D.L.,

Thanks! I am glad you enjoyed the article and the link. I figure a little humor can go a long way towards making life more interesting:)

Have a good one!

At 12:11 AM, Anonymous Aaron Mahler said...

It would be a great article if it told the whole story and didn't mostly consist of incomplete and misleading GOP talking points. Sorry to break it to you.

If you truly care about this issue and want to see a far more detailed account of the issues, please start here:

'Unacceptable': The Federal Response to Katrina

There are simply more things wrong with that Toronto Star article than I could ever even list in this comment box.

Another thing I'll direct you to right now, though, is a timeline being assembled that covers many of the issues including numerous links to the information to back up each assertion:

Hurricane Katrina Timeline

I specifically encourage you to look at the timeframe of 8/27 in that list and the series of requests (complete with PDF copies of the original signed requests) that were made to Bush. Also note his lack of appropriate and complete responses (such as disregarding the parishes in most danger).

Also, the article you cite in this post neglects to discuss any of the deeper issues (truly Constitutional issues) associated with signing over all control in a state to the federal government. It's tantamount to invasion and has many, many strings attached that go beyond the scope of anything our cable news talking heads are going to address.

This post could go on and on and on and, given time, I could probably eviscerate virtually every point the original author of the Star article tries to make. That, however, is also the advantage this administration always gets: the combination of a lazy, lopsided press and a populace that has a tendency to want the easier to swallow, overly-simplified version of events (and especially one that doesn't continually strengthen the evidence that the administration they voted for is, quite frankly, one of the most inept and corrupt in our entire history).

Many of you will flip out when I make that remark, but it's based on far, far more than this topic alone. Katrina is just the latest example of how inept leaders surrounded by unqualified cronies lead to disasters. Mike Brown is just ONE example of this and his resignation, frankly, means precisely squat. He should have never been there to start with and the buck for THAT decision stops with Bush.

I think it should also be noted that the administration is wasting no time whatsoever in handing out lucrative contracts related to this - namely to Halliburton (as usual). The irony here, too, is the involvement of Joe Allbaugh... Mike Brown's old college buddy, FEMA administrator and Halliburton lobbyist.

"At least two major corporate clients of lobbyist Joe Allbaugh, President Bush's former campaign manager and a former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, have already been tapped to start recovery work along the battered Gulf Coast."

Timelines and ineptitude aside, Bush's utterly tonedeaf response to this disaster ("Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job!") is just staggering. Does anyone realize that his visits (days late, of course) were simply photo-op grandstanding that did nothing but make things far worse? His presence the first Friday after the storm required - for security reasons - the grounding of all helicopters in the region for HOURS. These are the ones that were just starting to get off the ground in earnest to do rescues. He prances around for the cameras and more people suffer. Also, throw in the other little known story regarding over 1,000 firemen from other states who made their way to New Orleans under FEMA control to assist with rescues. Most of them were locked up in conference for a day being given sexual harassment training and instructions on handing out paperwork (not doing skilled rescues). Fifty of them, however, were hustled down there... to walk behind Bush for the cameras on his Monday visit. Want a link?

Frustrated: Fire crews to hand out fliers for FEMA

I think it is also very, very telling in the grand scheme of things that FEMA was lauded for its response to hurricanes in Florida in 2004. Yep... Florida - his brother's state and, yes, in 2004 - an election year. How good were they? Well, they wrote checks like there was no tomorrow to the degree that several dozen people were indicted for fraud and payouts went to cities over 120 miles from landfall.

"A six-month series of more than four dozen articles by Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reporters revealed more than $28 million in overpayments by FEMA following hurricane Frances in September 2004. According to the investigation, politics was behind the overpayment, although FEMA and the White House vigorously denied the charges."

"Homeland Security sources told the Post that after the hurricanes, Brown “and his allies [recommended] him to succeed Tom Ridge as Homeland Security secretary because of their claim that he helped deliver Florida to President Bush by efficiently responding to the Florida hurricanes.”

Did Bush cause this hurricane? No... of course not (global warming and land use arguments aside). Could he have stopped it? No. Could he have prevented so much loss of life? Absolutely... but those are not the priorites of this administration or, quite frankly, much of today's GOP. The money comes first and the people come later and what I find most horrifying right now is that they are banging the drum to turn this disaster into further justification for a continuation of the same failed policies:

The GOP Finds the Silver Lining in Death and Destruction

GWB is the worst president in American history. I hope more people wake up to this soon before it costs them their own lives or livelihoods. Trust me, if you're not feeling it already in some capacity... you will.

At 1:47 AM, Blogger B O B said...

Thanks for your comments DL and Aaron. I have read your thoughts completely and explored the links that you suggested Aaron. If you could would you relist the link appears broken.

Aaron, you make some very valid observations. And, as you pointed out some of the people appointed by Bush were done so on strictly terms of political payback.

From the beginning of the Bush administration, almost all of Bush's major political contributors have been awarded in one way or another.

Ambassadors was another form of reward that Bush also made through appointments.

Regrettably, this type of political appointment behavior has not been limited only to the Bush administration. It happens also when democrats are in power.

Was the hurricane mismanaged? Well as all the facts come out, and more will, it will be apparent that yes it was. Were some of those in charge inexperienced, and made bad if not terrible decisions? The answer is yes, again.

And yet another question, would their be wrong decisions, and terrible decisions no matter who was given the job of decision making? The answer would be undoubtedly again yes.

If you would compare Katrinia to a wartime enemy that assaulted the United States, and destroyed a section of the United States the size of Great Briton, several things would predictably develop.

And while we have never seen this in the United States on this scale, the disorganization would be predictable, the looting would be predictable, the untold suffering would be predictable, and the lack of an organized response would also be predictable. And we would never be able to meet the deadline of time against life, no matter who was in charge.

There is going to be a severe learning curve when all is analyzed. We can only hope when all is done, we will learn our lessons.

One lesson we could all keep in mind is all of us need to decide how we can be of service, because the effects of Katrinia are continuing and will continue for some time.

At 2:55 AM, Anonymous Aaron Mahler said...

Sorry about the CNN link - it's the only one I neglected to encapuslate in HTML tags and the blog appears to have eaten it as a result. Here it is properly:

Firms with White House ties get Katrina contracts

And, yes, I do agree that there is always a learning curve and I also agree the that the degree of devastation was massive and tragedy was going to result to some extent no matter what.

I will not, however, give this administration any slack whatsoever in not heeding warnings and for putting politics and money before the people. It's a constantly repeating pattern with this administration and has been since day one. Frankly, it's downright pathological if you look at its history covering issues from 9/11 to the environment to social security and, quite obviously, Iraq and the lies concerning WMD. I forget which version of the "reason" for being in Iraq we're even using this week since it's morphed so many times as the death toll mounts.

Katrina, however, just encapsulates a staggering number of bad decisions ranging from the overall increase of poverty in this nation since Bush took office (it has increased steadily every year since he took office) to political appointments being purely political to the biggest lie of them all: due to his supposed leadership, we're all supposed to be safer post-9/11. He pretty well destroyed that myth in the last two weeks.

And on the issue of appointments... yes, all administrations have done a lot of giving jobs to buddies. I beg to differ, however, on painting that with a broad brush. It certainly happens a lot for ambassadorships to backwaters and lower-level jobs where people get experience. But at the risk of inflaming the Clinton haters (this is a blog in Lynchburg afterall, so there are going to be plenty), I'll share this bit of information:

"... I went to Florida a few days after President Bush did to observe the damage from Hurricane Andrew. I had dealt with a lot of natural disasters as governor, including floods, droughts, and tornadoes, but I had never seen anything like this. I was surprised to hear complaints from both local officials and residents about how the Federal Emergency Management Agency was handling the aftermath of the hurricane. Traditionally, the job of FEMA director was given to a political supporter of the President who wanted some plum position but who had no experience with emergencies. I made a mental note to avoid that mistake if I won. Voters don't choose a President based on how he'll handle disasters, but if they're faced with one themselves, it quickly becomes the most important issue in their lives."

-Bill Clinton, My Life (p. 428)

He appointed James Lee Witt, the man credited with doing more for FEMA than any other director in its history. It was FEMA's golden era and Witt even testified before the Senate after the Bush administration took office to beg for their attention to the dire dismantling that this administration was conducting.

Reducing FEMA from a cabinet-level office to a semi-starved sub-entity within the grossly political Department of Homeland Security is inexcusable. FEMA should exist on its own and cooperate WITH the department. You can then add insult to injury as summarized here:

FEMA Spoils System Leaves Few Experts Managing Crisis Agency, By Michael Forsythe: Sept. 8 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency's upper ranks are mostly staffed with people who share two traits: loyalty to President George W. Bush and little or no background in emergency management.... The lack of experience among Brown's top lieutenants in responding to disasters was revealed by Hurricane Katrina, said Paul Light, a professor of organizational studies at New York University. It also marks a reversion to the days when the agency was treated as a turkey farm'' -- a place where political operatives could get high-level jobs -- after being led by professionals during the Clinton administration, he said.These guys kind of have a deer-in-the headlights look; they haven't been through this kind of thing and it shows,'' said Light, the founding director of the Center for Public Service at the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based research group. ``I'm afraid FEMA has gone backwards in time to the old era of a more traditional campaign-loyalty position.''

Yes, I too wish to be of service in the aftermath of Katrina. I will help in many ways. One of them, though, is making sure that the full story is being told and that it is not steamrolled by the most staggering political machine in history. I couldn't care less if Democrats and Republicans both get chewed up in the final analysis if they are proven to be at fault. But there is an unquestionable trail of bad and possibly even criminally negligent decisions in the story of this disaster and they are painted all over this administration in both incidental and direct ways. My tolerance for articles such as the one that started this comment thread is positively non-existant.

Some will definitely be offended by my tone. No apologies... I am always open to discussion, though, and will clearly accept any reasonable, supportable counter-arguments. The discussions we have here are likely to be far less of a charade than what I suspect we'll see playing out in the media and in the political halls of power.

And saying this needs to wait until later so we can focus on the recovery lacks logic. This is part of the recovery process and a critical part of making the next major incident less traumatic.

At 6:10 AM, Anonymous martha said...

There is a lot of blame to go around over this. I saw last night where Blanco called the White House numerous times before the storm and got the voice mail run-around and finally left messages.
Ther is NO denying that FEMA was unprepared,the state and local governments were overwhelmed, the people, hearty French Quarter souls or old, infirm and impoverished residents wouldn't, couldn't or refused to leave, AND Bush fiddled while New Orleans drowned. He and/or his 'handlers' didn't see the worry or problem in New Orleans. He is detached until someone shoves him into action. He then becomes 'COMPASSION MAN" turning the charm on like an actor then off again to flip the bird to someone he disagrees with. Remember when his father couldn't tell you the cost of a half gallon of milk? The Bush's are so rich and aloof they don't have to think about things like that. It's not racist, it's's ingrained in them. They are the Imperial Family in this country. The sooner they fall from grace the better!

At 6:34 AM, Blogger DAN said...

Wow. MOM really got you people talking, huh? Way to go MOM! I'm hearing some good, non-personalized (if highly emotional) commentary. It's always great to see a free citizenry try to communicate with each other.
As for me? I believe:
1) there is more than enough blame to go around for everyone. If you want to play with timelines, talking points, whatever, have fun with them.
2) I don't want the Feds ultimately responsible for controlling my city or state in an emergency, thank you very much. Whether Bush or the next guy (or their subordinates) respond this way or that should not be a critical issue -- FEMA is not a first responder, nor would I want them to be. No matter what the party. FEMA should make plans and write checks, not fly helicopters and drive tanks. Whether the plans work, or FEMA is responsive enough are good questions. Let's talk about them.
3) While I think it is fine to blame the executive branch for all the ills of the country and world, remember that the executive branch does not end with the president. As I recall, there is a mayor and governor involved. Sure, they may have been overwhelmed. But that happens.
4) I think it is important to decide whether you want to be angry or be productive. It's impossible to do both. An honest, open criticism and discussion of what happened can help immensely. A lunchroom food-fight cannot. If your point is that Bush is amazingly incompetent and the bane of civilization then perhaps you are over-reaching a little bit. Better to talk about specifics. Next time when your guy is president we can (and should) hold them to the same standards.
5) I don't think people understand the role the governors want the Feds to have in a disaster. They want local control, and federal support. As a history buff, I am not crazy about having armed federal troops taking over cities. For those of you wanting the "perfect" reponse, this is where (I think) your argument is headed. Count me out.
Finally, I am glad that there were not ten thousand people killed, as the mayor said, but hopefully only(!) hundreds. That there were not rapes, murders, and snipers as the press reported -- the police could find no evidence of this. There was not cholera, and there were not poor people eating dead bodies, as some have said. The time for the red-faced arm-waving is over, I think, and serious ego-free discussion to begin.
Great discussion, guys. Great comments too.

At 8:00 AM, Blogger Melissa O. Markham said...

I woke up this morning to find I had stirred up a hornet's nest. I am glad people are talking. As you point out Aaron, places like this are more likely to be places for honest discussion and reflection.

I found it interesting that you talk about the media being so supportive of Bush. I find one article pro-Bush for every 9 I find anti-Bush and his policies. Both at home and abroad.

I have looked at the sites you provided links to. There is a lot of information there and as you said, there is not enough space here to address each point.

One of the first things that struck me in Brasch's article was his saying this was the only the fourth hurricane that was this large to get this close to the American shore in more than a century of recording hurricanes. This is somewhat vague in that he doesn't explain if he is talking about the barometric pressure, the wind speed, the width of the hurricane. Also, while hurricanes have been noted for over 100 years, the technology to check wind speed hasn't been available that long. One of the greatest storms hit Galveston, Texas in 1900 where over 6,000 people died. Thank goodness that despite initial concerns, it looks like the loss of life from Hurricane Katrina will be nowhere near that. At any rate, my point is that the Galveston hurricane was a storm they have no idea how large it really was, what the winds were. And it is not the only storm in the early 1900s for that to be the case for. So when Brasch says this is only the fourth storm in the last 100 years to be this intense this close to shore, I am thinking...he doesn't have his facts right here, how can I trust anything else he has to say.

I submit that there has never been a disaster of this proportion in the United States with so much area affected, a total city submerged under water/toxic waste and so many people needing immediate assistance. When I think of 100,000 people that is more than live in Lynchburg. I cannot imagine the enormity of the task of moving that many people in good conditions, much less when you have to take them out a few at a time with helicopters.

Another point in Brasch's article was the fact that fires were left to burn and destroy homes and property. How was anyone supposed to control a fire in a flooded area. When fires destroyed much of San Francisco after the great earthquake, were people sitting around thinking...hey where are the firefighters...why can't we put the fires out? Or were they realizing the damage was so severe that the fires couldn't be dealt with?

Brasch's article says that Blanco requested federal assistance, other articles say that Bush called Blanco and asked her to get people out and she kept putting it off. This is a he says/she says event. Hopefully someone will have some credible documentation somewhere to back one position or the other. I know that I have seen scenes of buses sitting flooded in New Orleans. I have read that the New Orleans government passed a declaration that they were responsible for evacuating people who didn't have means or transportation, but in the end they failed in this and didn't do it. Blanco turned away relief designed for the Superdome because she didn't want more people showing up there.

There also seems to be counter viewpoints in what you say. On the one hand, you are upset that Bush didn't show up sooner, on the other hand it is discussed that by showing up on Friday, it caused problems due to rescue operations having to be stopped. On this I agree with the latter. I wish the President had stayed away longer so efforts could have concentrated on getting people out, not protecting his safety. You talk about the photo op grandstanding of President Bush, I wonder if you feel the same way about Sean Penn. I read reports that his boat was so loaded with photographers that people stood on shore jeering at him and asking where he planned to put people he was supposedly out there tryng to rescue.

In one of the articles (sorry, they are all running together in my head) it was mentioned that Bush immediately opened pipelines and tapped the oil reserve. That decision took days, though speculation began immediately that it would play out that way.

As to the CNN article, every administration in the history of the U.S has had friends in the commercial sector that have gotten government contracts. This is not news.

Again, as you said, this could go on and on. The articles you linked to had a lot of information and some things I didn't know and I want to do more research on. I am glad that you care enough about your country and what is going on to have an opinion and to state it. So many people are apathetic.

I am all for good discussion. Thanks for providing it!

At 8:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am with Aaron on this one, and from the latest approval numbers on the president, the country is with Aaron as well...

At 8:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What I dont understand is how the GOP can pass a budget that gives a peanut parade in Georgia and then not fix the levy's in NO.

When I was growing up it was the GOP that was the party of conservative fiscal policy, now they are the pary of conservative values and liberal spending that is just disgusting. I am proud to stand with the Dems now...

At 9:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

From the CNN/Gallup Poll:
More than half of respondents (57 percent) said that New Orleans residents' initial response was poor, while 39 percent said it was good.

When asked about the response "in the last few days," the results were almost reversed.

Fifty-eight percent of respondents said that Bush's response was good in recent days, while 40 percent said it was poor.

At 9:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Count me on on having the Federal government pay for new levvies. Do you know how many cities need massive work? How about San Francisco? Are we going to rebuild the whole city to withstand earthquakes? Or Seattle? Last I checked it sits at the base of a huge volcano.

Nope. Cities got their problems, states got theirs, and the national government has theirs. I don't want no peanut parade, but I sure as heck don't want to go a spending spree for every city in danger across the country either. In fact, a hundred peanut parades would probably be a lot cheaper.

At 9:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you miss my point, the government under bush is spending like mad and its digging a huge hole. It feels like the government under bush is just spending and not even worrying about it. Like most americans with a credit card, spend, spend, spend, and when the rainy day comes they are screwed.

Again it smacks of fiscal irresponsibility. Thats why I left the GOP party and will vote democrat.

Approval Numbers:

Approve 38 (42)
Disapprove 56 (51)

At 9:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it would be great if the Dems would run under a fiscal restraint policy. Since the budget has no chance of being balanced without cutting entitlements, can you tell me specifically which entitlements the Dems will cut to balance the budget? Discretionary spending, such as the war or the peanut parade, is a very small part of the national budget. If the Dems would announce, say, that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme that cannot work, that free health care would break the credit of the country, or that a progressive tax system punishes acheivers? Hey. Then I would vote for them. But while the Dems seem great at complaining, and lord know the Replubicans have given them a lot to complain about, they don't seem to have very many answers. A very sad state of affairs for an indpendent.

At 9:47 AM, Anonymous Aaron Mahler said...

I certainly appreciate the discussion that is starting to happen here on a local level. I'm afraid all the Anonymous monikers, though, are going to complicate the ability to maintain a thread in responses. Maybe future posters can at least fabricate a handle (if they wish to remain nameless) so the responses don't look all the same?

I've got a LOT to say in response to the two larger responses to my oroginal posts. It will take me a little while to give clearly worded answers, but I feel it is important to do so.

I will, however, offer a small comment to the posts on poll numbers I'm seeing here in the last few.

I think the 8:58 AM poster was referring to job approval ratings which happen to be a pretty significant milestone in Bush's sink to the bottom. Lots of buyer's remorse is evident in those numbers and he/she appears to have clarified that in the 9:23 AM response below.

The 9:01 AM responder was citing Katrina response polls and I take those with a major grain of salt no matter how they read. This is an unfolding, media-influenced storyline that is in the midst of a massive Rovian-assuault right now from a political perspective and those numbers are swaying to fit that arc. It's going to move around even more as time goes on.

The approval numbers, however, don't fit that timeline and represent not only the chaos of Katrina, but the mishandling of an economy, Iraq, gas prices, the job market, Social Security and a host of other issues. He's been steadily dropping for quite some time.

To touch on the Katrina numbers, though, I think it's important to look at another aspect. These numbers look like the last Newsweek poll, so I'm going to quote from their writing on the issue:

The president and the GOP's greatest hope may be, ironically, how deeply divided the nation remains, even after national tragedy. The president's Republican base, in particular, remains extremely loyal. For instance, 53 percent of Democrats say the federal government did a poor job in getting help to people in New Orleans after Katrina. But just 19 percent of Republicans feel that way. In fact, almost half of Republicans (48 percent) either believes the federal government did a good job (37 percent) or an excellent job (11 percent) helping those stuck in New Orleans.

Wow. Amazing how that works... lining up support right along the social and economic lines that characterize the impact of this disaster. I find this a pretty telling commentary on the concept of "compassionate conservatism"... but that battered phrase was nothing more than slick election marketing. The actions of this administration have never, ever lived up to that phrase and are staggeringly out of context with any of the "Christian" values so often thrown about in his words and speeches. That, however, is another topic that I'm not going to go into deeply in this thread. I'll gladly have that debate elsewhere and I have plenty of evidence to bring to bear on anyone who wishes to argue it.

I'll close this response with one other bit of information picked up by Newsweek that doesn't come through in the ever-popular, easy-to-glance-at columns of numbers:

Reflecting the tarnished view of the administration, only 38 percent of registered voters say they would vote for a Republican for Congress if the Congressional elections were held today, while 50 say they would vote for a Democrat.

Be sure to put that last remark in the context of the approval ratings and don't get overly Katrina-centric on it... though I doubt his actions of the past few weeks have done much to help that.

At 10:02 AM, Anonymous Aaron Mahler said...

9:32 AM Anonymous... yeah, I can sum a bit of that up for you right here:

$2.2 Trillion (yes, that's a "T") during war time:
Bush's latest tax cuts seal legacy

$286 billion transportation bill: Road Bill Reflects The Power Of Pork which is staggering when you read the breakdown

$14.5 billion energy bill: U.S. House approves $14.5 bln energy bill (Reuters)

$530 billion Medicare bill: How a Bad Bill Becomes Law - which was originally $400 billion

I'll just quote a section from another blog that sums up another chunk pretty well:

They Approved $54.4 billion for the Iraq War (enacted in April 2003) $70.6 billion (enacted November 2003) $21.5 billion (passed as part of regular appropriations for the Department of Defense for fiscal year 2005) $58 billion (enacted April 2005). Our war of choice is costing us $5.6 billion per month and that's just peachy.

By the way, on the Katrina issue:

The money Bush cut from the funds intended for the levies would have paid for a whopping nine hours of our war in Iraq


And, to add to my comments on GOP policy and "compassionate conservatism", allow me to offer this quote:

"We have to be there for the families and the communities, but we also have an obligation to the rest of the American people and to future generations," says Rep. Mike Pence (R-Indiana). "We're going to have to put a real sharp pencil to the budget, sharper than we have ever had to do before," says Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Illinois). "When figures start flowing up to $200 billion, I have concerns. $1 billion is a lot of money," says Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama).

Any talk of moving forward on the "death tax" (which is another great GOP political bit of PR using the word "death" in place of "estate" to give it that great, grim sound) in light of Katrina - both fiscally and socially speaking - is obscene. But that's where the GOP priorities exist. Keep in mind that this "death tax" only affects a tiny piece of a tiny percentage of our populous and has no appreciable effect on their lifestyle. It does, however, pump billions into the economy and often to charity. Instead it will just be passed on between generations to help firm of something our forefathers wished to avoid: establishment of dynasties.

George W. Bush - worst president in American history.

At 10:02 AM, Blogger DAN said...

Gosh. Conversation still seems kind of hot, eh? Good to see people discussing the hurricane and aftermaths, even if they slip into approval ratings, budget discussions, and the true meaning of compassion. It's still a good discussion.
I'm going to step out on a limb here and say that I think the Democrats have a good chance of gaining seats come the 2006 election. The Republicans have been given their chance, and clearly there is discontent in the electorate.
To take that chance, however, they are going to have to come to terms with reality. Running the same old class-warfare, republicans-are-evil campaign doesn't seem like a winning strategy to me. It just doesn't. Nobody wants to vote for negative hate-mongers.
I think the Democrats have a good opportunity to play "auditor" on how government works, much the same way the Replubicans critiqued the war effort in WWII -- not as haters, but as a party striving for something better for the rest of us.
I think when we argue in the extremes we lose a lot of good "stuff" in the middle. For instance, maybe we should make sure everyone who lost their home gets a new one, and at the same time, do NOT pay for building houses under sea level next to the ocean. It doesn't have to be entirely one way or the other.
Maybe the governor screwed up by wanting to keep control and being unable to make decisions. So fine -- but that doesn't necessarily mean the system is bad. These local officials get elected for some reason, and one would think they have the obligation and duty to make mistakes from time to time.
As for Bush, well? Who cares? I know I'm not voting for him again. If there is some larger point about the entire republican party I'd like to hear it. They spend too much. So? I'm with the anonymous poster: tell me how things would change under a different party. Then we can start talking concepts instead of demonizing people we don't like.
I read a good article in the Boston Globe this morning. I would challenge you-all to give it a read.
I'm all for continuing the discussion about ideas. If it's about people, and whether they are bad or good, then I'm not so sure that it would be anything but us all talking past one another. My opinion only.

At 10:21 AM, Anonymous Aaron Mahler said...


Great response. Truly. I find virtually no argument to make with any of your points.

And, yes, I whole-heartedly agree that the traditional playbook on GOP vs. Dem is a dead end. It disgusts me for sure, as do some of the weak responses from politically cowed Democrats.

I am a registered Democrat who wants to see change in his own party as well. It's happening. By comparison, though, the current GOP is positively rotten to the core and beginning to break down internally to some extent as well (though many are loathe to admit it). Democrats shouldn't rely on that, though, to turn things around or just sit by the wayside with the "give them enough rope to hang themselves" approach. If that even works, it'll take too long and much of the damage is nearly impossible to undo already.

There are good voices coming out, but understand that the stranglehold the GOP has right now on the halls of power and much of the media is positively staggering and very little discussion happens on the national stage that isn't derailed by petty politics and distortion. It's in the hands of citizens to have these discussions and then reward and punish politicians of both parties for carrying those ideals forward. But too many of us are sitting on our rears, wringing our hands or just saying "they are all corrupt" and letting the show just go on.

So if anyone wants to accuse me of that in writing many of the comments above, I'll give you a preemptive "bite me" in response. :) I'm doing quite a lot of work outside of sitting at a keyboard and writing. But one of the things that needs to happen right now is opening up the debates, offering alternatives to the voice of the lazy mainstream media and engaging real people at a local level in discussions that shake up ALL the participants (myself included).

I hope this debate continues in this thread. I still have plenty more to write.

At 10:46 AM, Blogger B O B said...

Thank you all for your comments. There seems to be a lot of vulcanization of opinions here. I would like to let you know that Lynchburg Freecycle, End Hunger now, mom, Lynchburg Virginia Blog and others are working on an event, for survivors of the hurricane. This effort has been growing to a size none of us expected. Some of the plans now appear to be firmly in place.

I have hesitated to comment on this until now, but we are soliciting help. Anyone who would like to be involved, in what is turning out to be a large project can contact either mom or I by email.

Moms email is on her profile, my is

Not sure if my profile email is working condition.

I would also like to invite all bloggers to help promote what is happening. I have not done something like this before, but it seems that we have found some good planners that have. For more details at this point we will show you how to get involved, by email, We currently have a core group that is working on this plan. If you would like to join this core group let me know. A tentative date has already been set.

So if some of you would like to turn your energies to this effort let us know. If you join our core group you can expect assignment of tasks. We may set this up as a pick and choose method.

Again thanks for all the comments, to me this could be more productive than an ongoing debate. We do all have opinions, but I invite you to action.

At 11:56 AM, Blogger Melissa O. Markham said...


Thanks for the link to the article in the Boston Globe. I am really enjoying reading the posts and the food for thought I am getting here.

I still reiterate my original claim which is that Nagin and Blanco have to answer for their negligence and perhaps in the beginning they shouldn't have been so busy pointing fingers at others to draw attention away from their own ineptititude. This is not to say other things couldn't have been done better at the federal level. It is not to say that some of the politicians/actors/etc aren't more interested in photo ops and setting up arguments for the next election.

But I am pointing out that in the days following, the leaders in LA were busy screaming when they could have been rolling up their sleeves and working. Not everyone is Rudy Guiliani, but I didn't hear him pointing fingers at anyone, he was too busy trying to get some stability in his city and taking care of the people there.

I continue to wonder about people yelling at FEMA. Are they angry that FEMA didn't rush in and start pulling people off of rooftops? As far as I can tell, that's not their job. Are they angry that FEMA couldn't get in and get food to the survivors quick enough? They could have done better, no doubt, but let's remember what a massive job that was with so many affected and so many unreachable. Not to mention Blanco turning relief away from the Superdome (which I have noticed no one has commented on).

There is certainly plenty here to discuss and we could go on forever. As Bob says, we are currently working with several other entities to put together a relief effort to raise money to help the Hurricane Survivors. If you want to be a part of that process, let us know.

At 11:58 AM, Blogger DAN said...

Bob makes a good point. As citizens we have a duty to debate, but as people we also have a duty to act. I'm going to see what I can do to help the cause. Now on with the discussion.
As to Aaron's point regarding corruption, I agree that the Republicans are showing quite a bit of pork-barrel politics -- much the same as with the Democrats when they had control of the purse for 40 years.
I do not think the Republicans have gotten as bad as the Democrats were, nor do I absolve the Democrats of having come completely clean. I still have a problem with Hillary walking into New York and taking a Senate seat. Something fishy is going on there.
I'm willing to listen, however, and I hope I'm willing to change my mind. I think that most people agree more than they disagree. It's funny, but both parties do NOT like this! They would rather have us throwing rocks at each other. It keeps us voting one way or the other. I hope I have a little more sense than that.
I do think that Aaron has a good point that whoever is in power has a tendency to abuse it. I remember the republicans running under term limits. Whatever happened to that idea? LOL!
I like to think of America as a big family. Not a family like the 'Waltons', more like 'Married With Children.' And like a family, when something goes wrong, not only do we pull together, but we spend a lot of time trashing each other and blowing off steam. That's probably a good thing -- better than guns in the streets, right? Not only do we like to help our neighbors out, we like to fuss about who got him into that trouble in the first place. We live in a great country. I know I'm glad to be living here.

At 12:46 AM, Anonymous Aaron Mahler said...

Just happened upon this tonight as I scanned the blogs prior to getting some sleep. I thought it would be especially interesting in the context of our discussion here today:

Blanco didn't goof on state of emergency

This is official documentation from the non-partisan Congressional report (PDF link).

An excerpt from Rep. Conyers press release citing this document:

"This report closes the book on the Bush Administration's attempts to evade accountability by shifting the blame to the Governor of Louisiana for the Administration's tragically sluggish response to Katrina. It confirms that the Governor did everything she could to secure relief for the people of Louisiana and the Bush Administration was caught napping at a critical time."

The details are pretty telling. Obviously the excerpt above has a more partisan tone considering it came from a press release, but the document itself is what I'm highlighting here.

At 7:05 AM, Blogger Melissa O. Markham said...


Thanks for the links. I didn't read through all 27 pages of the report, but I am a bit confused.

First of all, when did a congressional report ever get done in such a timely manner. So I click over to the report and find out it is not a report done by various Congressmen, but by an attorney whose name has been blacked out. An attorney who was responding to a very partisan Senator's request. Add to that the very far left leanings of the Daily Kos and the report doesn't seem very non-partisan to me.

Also, as I read the summary, it seems to me that the response has to do with what happened after the hurricane hit and the slow response of the Federal Gov't. I think most people are in agreement with the fact that didn't run as it should. However, it doesn't address the fact of why LA and New Orleans didn't get people out before hand who couldn't get out on their own. They didn't follow their own evacuation plan to get these people out of the way.

On another note, here are a couple of interesting overseas articles I read this morning. Thought readers might find interesting.

At 7:13 AM, Blogger DAN said...

Thanks. That was a good link. I must take some issue with the way the information was presented, however.
First, a congressman asks the CRS to issue a report on the legality of public actions around the governor's request for aid. Then he pulls out bullets and says she did everything right. Then Kos (not exactly CNN) says she has no blame.
It's like a game of telephone -- each time the message is repeated it loses something.
The question over whether the governor legally requested assistance is not in doubt, and this is the only thing addressed in the document. The question is: did she effectively handle the authority given to her? I, little me, saw spokespeople for the Red Cross and Salvation Army on National TV say they were ready and able to releive the Superdome but were held back by the LA State Police. Why? Because the state government did not want to encourage more people to stay in the city.
Now this may have been a good decision or a bad one. That's open to debate. The point is that once an assistance request is legally made (and it was) then the efforts are completely controlled by the local authorities, not the Feds.
Bush could have federalized the guard and completely took over -- if he believed there were an armed insurrection going on in the state. Not likely to happen. (We're reaching back to consequences from the American Civil War here.)
Most governments voluntarily turn control over to the Feds once a disaster happens and then coordinate. New Orleans and LA did not do this -- perhaps for partisan reasons? Perhaps out of incompetence? Of all the answers, I would want this one.
By not turning over control to the Feds, there were multiple layers of governments making conflicting decisions about what to do. As recently as a week ago, the mayor said publicly the cops would use force to evict people and the governor said no way.
In a situation like this, our plans for rescue and evacuation get all mucked up. It is my belief that when we game these things that we assume the Feds walk in and take over. Well guess what, that's not the way the law reads. And in a mixed environment like that, there is no clear chain of command anymore, therefore decisions like moving gasoline don't have anywhere to go. Hence all the OTHER stories that were wrongly (in my opinion) attributed to FEMA.
CRS is right -- governor made a legal request. But you can request and even get all the aide in the world: unless you know how to use what you get you can do more harm than good. Just my thoughts, for what they are worth.
I still think the most logical position is that governments at each level made plenty of mistakes, and that we should take this chance to learn for the next time. Because there always is a next time.

At 7:25 AM, Blogger DAN said...

Here is a interesting commentary on the current discussion.

At 8:29 AM, Anonymous Aaron Mahler said...

Dan and MOM,

I've just gotten moving this morning, so I've barely had time to scan the comments. I did, however, want to clarify the game of "telephone" a bit.

Yes, a Democratic Congressman presented this information and, as I indicated earlier, the press release itself will quite obviously have a more partisan tone to it considering it is information being offered, more or less, in defense of a colleague of the same party.

The lawyer's name is blacked out because that is pretty much standard procedure in publically redistributing a CRS (Congressional Research Service) report. The employees that do the work are shielded from the public political results of redistribution of their reports. This is because the CRS, a department of the non-political Library of Congress, does work - in a non-partisan manner - at the request of any members of Congress regardless of their party affiliation. An excerpt of their mission:

The Congressional Research Service (CRS), part of the Library of Congress, prepares its reports for the U.S. Congress. CRS products undergo review for accuracy and objectivity and contain nontechnical information that can be very useful to people interested in environmental policy. CRS does not itself provide these documents to the general public. Although CRS documents are prepared specifically for Congress and not widely distributed, their distribution is not protected by law or copyright. NCSE is committed to expanding, maintaining and updating its database of reports, making them available and searchable for the public.

Frankly, I appreciate seeing a request being sent to such a body for a pure, legal analysis of the questions at hand. Keep in mind that the Democrats and a number of Republicans have been calling for a completely independant investigation for well over a week now and the GOP-dominated Congress is doing everything they can to prevent it right now. There have been multiple refusals already to let such an entity be formed and the closest thing we've heard yet is Bush declaring that he would get to the bottom of it. That doesn't strike me as especially likely and I'd say the same of Dems if the tables were turned.

So, yes, I'll not argue at all that Conyers presentation of it is partisan, but it's the information itself that I wanted to pass along in the form of the report.

Picking it up on DailyKos is incidental. Obviously it's a blog I read very heavily... along with numerous others along the political spectrum. This just happens to be the place where the information was publically touted and I think that says something about the breadth of discussion that goes on there. The Kos presentation of this information includes this statement:

Hang the people responsible for this mess, be they Democrat, Republican, or whatever else. I don't care.

" they Democract, Republican, or whatever else. I don't care." I have to agree.

Just getting my day started and I want to read your previous comments in detail... I'm a bit backlogged but want to respond in full.

P.S. Please know in my responses that I've got a lot I still want to address including my appreciation to all of you (MOM, Bob and Dan in particular) for the responses you've made and especially the work you are doing to organize help for the Katrina victims. Most of my writing here is in the political sphere since we've got multiple threads of debate going. I've said before that I think political debate is healthy and absolutely imperative and is made all the healthier in light of both the polite way it's being conducted AND the realworld, non-political actions you're engaged in that are helping the victims of this tragedy. I'm helping in various areas and hope to get more involved in assisting your pursuits as well.

At 8:57 AM, Blogger Melissa O. Markham said...


If you send my your email address (send to I will send you an invite to the yahoo group we have set up so you can be in the loop for what we are trying to set up next month as a fundraiser for the survivors of Hurricane Katrina.

I have enjoyed your posts and Dan's posts and this whole thread thoroughly. I like good discussion and one that is polite. I don't want to have my head stuck in the sand and am more than willing to hear about other things. I think we tend to be creatures of habit and if we find a news source we like we stick to it more than any other and usually we like it because it tells us what we want to hear:)

When I first read your post and you said a Congressional non-partisan report, my thought was members of Congress. That's what threw me. I understand about CRS. And I am glad there is such an entity to help the Congressmen with research into legal issues.

I do wonder sometimes about these investigations that the Congress sets up. Sometimes I wonder if the money spent on them is worth it, but that is another topic for another time. I just hope that no matter what or who is to blame that the game of pointing fingers doesn't get in the way of recovery and assistance for the people in the Gulf Coast states. And I hope that we learn from our mistakes and that have improved reactions at all levels of government in the future.

At 5:05 PM, Anonymous Aaron Mahler said...

Another day, another bit of news... none of it shocking:

Senate Kills Bid for Katrina Commission

By LARA JAKES JORDAN Associated Press Writer

September 14,2005 | WASHINGTON -- Senate Republicans on Wednesday scuttled an attempt by Sen. Hillary Clinton to establish an independent, bipartisan panel patterned after the 9/11 Commission to investigate what went wrong with federal, state and local governments' response to Hurricane Katrina.

The New York Democrat's bid to establish the panel -- which would have also made recommendations on how to improve the government's disaster response apparatus -- failed to win the two-thirds majority needed to overcome procedural hurdles. Clinton got only 44 votes, all from Democrats and independent Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont. Fifty-four Republicans all voted no.

- Aaron

At 10:38 PM, Blogger DAN said...

Interesting post, Aaron. I think the stories and the votes are all posturing at this point. Republicans have done the math and they are not giving away the keys for an expensive fishing expedition. The Democrats are shooting the moon -- they'd like something like Ken Starr with an unlimited budget and timeline (election coming up, you know) Come another month or so things will be different. I think the Salon article pointed that out. This is fairly typical when groups negotiate. Interestingly enough, when the commission gets formed the Democrats will claim that the only reason the commission was formed was because of political pressure! And then the Republicans will claim that it's a political witch hunt. LOL! It's like a movie that you've already seen a dozen times. They might do a "Blue Ribbon" panel.
Honestly, I think the problem is too complex for groupthink to fix. If you have to have a unified command system to be effective and the law prevents that, then I really can't see how much progress ANY group is going to make. Draw a bunch of new boxes? Fire some scapegoats? It just doesn't seem to be an effective means to deal with a constitutional issue. Some party should shed some light here and put some solutions into their platform -- but I am not holding my breath.
I've really enjoyed the conversation as well. I've even posted a link on my blog about how good the discussion was.


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