Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 10, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

FLOODING IN NEW ORLEANS....Last night the New York Times was trumpeting an email that "proved" the White House knew all about the levee breaks in New Orleans on Monday, August 29, but I found the evidence pretty unconvincing. The email doesn't actually mention the levees at all and its tone isn't exactly a call to arms. "FYI" is not a term I usually use when I want people to leap out of bed and start calling up the National Guard.

Today, however, former FEMA director Michael Brown is testifying before Congress, and he's saying pretty specifically that he knew about the levee breaches on Monday morning and informed the White House about it on multiple occasions that day:

The storm hit New Orleans and the Gulf coast on the morning of Monday, Aug. 29. Mr. Brown said he first learned of the levee breaches from a FEMA official in New Orleans, Marty Bahamonde, who sent a report Monday morning at about 10 a.m. to report severe flooding, up to the second floor of houses in many parts of the city.

Mr. Brown, who at the time was in Baton Rouge, said he alerted FEMA headquarters, asking them to contact Mr. Bahamonde directly to confirm the information.

"I also put in a call" to White House staffers, Mr. Brown said. He said that he spoke at least twice that day to Joe Hagen, a deputy White House chief of staff, and said that he might have also spoken to Andrew Card, the White House Chief of Staff.

Is Brown telling the truth? Or trying to cover his own ass? Hard to say. But if FEMA really did know about the levee breaks on Monday morning, how is it that the only document we've seen so far from that day written a full 12 hours after FEMA knew about the breaks doesn't mention them at all? There's not much question that George Bush took his vacation more seriously than he did the Hurricane Katrina crisis, but there's not much evidence that FEMA was taking it very seriously either. Stay tuned.

Kevin Drum 12:04 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (107)

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Comments

Come on Kevin! How much proof do you need?

Say the I word. It's easy if you try.

Posted by: lib on February 10, 2006 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

I agree! Bush is to blame for not managing the state of Louisiana and the city of NO.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on February 10, 2006 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

Any bets on whether Ray Nagin's ploy to bus poor black people into NO to save his political hide will work or not?

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on February 10, 2006 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

It will be interesting to see what sort of full-blown Karl Rove smear job Brownie gets for this. I expect Rove will have half the country convinced he's a child molester by the end of next week.

Posted by: Ugh on February 10, 2006 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

If it came from someone in the Bush Administration, you can bet your life it is true!

Posted by: Gore/Obama '08 on February 10, 2006 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

"He" being Brownie, not Rove (though one can hope).

Posted by: Ugh on February 10, 2006 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

You're placing way too much weight on the acronym "FYI", which was probably employed just by habit. Yeah, it's not going to set anyone's hair on fire by itself, but if anybody's at the other end, they're supposed to be reading the CONTENT of the email, which is that the situation appears to be far worse than people were thinking, and that there was "extensive flooding".

What do you need? Fire alarms and animated icons to get people in charge of this very type of situation to pay attention? "Extensive flooding" and stranded people and fires don't do the trick?

Posted by: frankly0 on February 10, 2006 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

Sweet Jeebus, Kevin -- it is just a bunch of black people. Not like a brain-dead white woman in his brother's state! Now THAT is worth cutting short his vacation!

And Freedom Fighter is right -- no need to worry about the deaths of (black) Americans. It isn't like this has any bearing on the U.S., or response to terrorists, or anything.

Heck of a job, FF! Now back to your Cheetos for Freedom!

Posted by: Gore/Obama '08 on February 10, 2006 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

It's not good for Bush, but I agree, Kevin, it's hardly a smoking gun either.

Posted by: Mr Furious on February 10, 2006 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with FF. Anyone care to sign up with my new organization? It's called BARBCITS (Burn All Remaining Black Churches in the South).

Posted by: Wonderin on February 10, 2006 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

It will be interesting to see what sort of full-blown Karl Rove smear job Brownie gets for this. I expect Rove will have half the country convinced he's a child molester by the end of next week. Posted by: Ugh

Nah. He'll just claim he's trial lawyer.

Posted by: Jeff II on February 10, 2006 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

Dude, Kevin, you're giving Bush the benefit of the doubt? Your commenters are going to eat you alive.

Come on! Give them some red meat; they're getting restless.

Posted by: Frank J. on February 10, 2006 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

You're placing way too much weight on the acronym "FYI", which was probably employed just by habit.

Yeah, I use it all the time on emails, often for quite important developments. I use it to mean "you should have this information because you'll need to act on it."

And if you read the email itself it says "extensive flooding" -- what, that's not enough to get concerned about? Would it help if he'd written it IN ALL CAPS WITH A LOT OF EXCLAMATION MARKS!!!!!!!?

Posted by: Stefan on February 10, 2006 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

The liberal blogosphere is inhabitted by wusses.

If such damning information was available about the Democrats, some heads would have already rolled.

But the liberals want more proof!

Posted by: nut on February 10, 2006 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

Would it help if he'd written it IN ALL CAPS WITH A LOT OF EXCLAMATION MARKS!!!!!!!?

If only they had hired Patton!

They put the wrong hack on the job.

Posted by: frankly0 on February 10, 2006 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't Kevin being a bit too picky about phrasing? The email doesn't mention Levees, however, putting 2 & 2 together:"extensive flooding" + the known facts about the importance of levees to new orleans would seem to be clear enough to me

Posted by: Aidan on February 10, 2006 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

Several thousand people die on 9/11, and BushCo uses that to turn the US into the USSR.

Several thousand people (?) die in NO, and tens of thousands displaced, and the Wingers make jokes.

Posted by: Gore/Obama '08 on February 10, 2006 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

So, the options here are "Bush appointed a total incompetent to FEMA who bungled everything" or "the Bush White House ignored dire warnings from FEMA and bungled everything themselves".

Which of these makes Bush look good?

Posted by: cmdicely on February 10, 2006 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

What's most interesting is that in separate developments this week, various Bush loyalists are finally pointing the finger at higher-ups. The seamless web of fealty is tearing apart as ass-saving begins in earnest. Pass the popcorn.

Posted by: shortstop on February 10, 2006 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

According to the NYT the "FYI" blackberry message was from someone a little out of the loop.

Some guy named Bahamonde telephoned DC with a firsthand report several hours earlier and the first "unconfirmed" report that FEMA received was 12 hours earlier. Maybe the White House was waiting for confirmation from someone they could trust, someone unrelated to the former dictator of Spain, someone like Brit Hume.

Posted by: B on February 10, 2006 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

Quick, check the kerning!

Posted by: Rob on February 10, 2006 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK


Kevin, you're missing the other usage of FYI.

It's "FYI in case tomorrow's sit[uation] rep[ort]s seem more severe."

Extensive flooding, stranded people, "a number of fires" (love that phrase)...

It's all just a heads-up to the white house PR team, so they would know not to schedule Bush's guitar lessons for when the situation suddenly got out of control.

He certainly wasn't expecting anyone from the politics-first white house to act in any executive manner, that's for sure.

Posted by: theo on February 10, 2006 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, I use it all the time on emails, often for quite important developments.

Yes. When I read an email from some people entitled "FYI", I gulp.

Posted by: frankly0 on February 10, 2006 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

FF, that you aren't morally offended by Bush's prancing around on a stage at a photo-op while NOLA drowned but are instead throwing a tantrum over the fact that you dislike Nagin indicates to me that your bluster is mostly fact. Or that you're morally crippled. I guess the question is why you hate New Orleans, a city full of your own fellow citizens.

Posted by: Constantine on February 10, 2006 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

Note to executive branch employees:

A message that said "quick CYA" would have been immediately forwarded to the people in the political wing of the White House that actually make the decisions.

Posted by: B on February 10, 2006 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

Pathetic liberal witch-hunt attempt. Can anyone ripping on Bush here actually say what he did wrong with regard to Katrina? It seems to me Nagin and the LA Governor are mostly to blame, as they had the most direct control over government response.

It is possible that underfunding the levee system can be laid at Bush's feet, but that also falls on Clinton as well. And again, the levees are regional, why didn't the state and local government find money for them either.

It seems to me like a general failure of government.

Posted by: Tom on February 10, 2006 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

Also, FF, you were so quick to jump in on this thread, but you're nowhere to be found on the George Deustch thread. You're going to get poor Deutschie twist in the wind like that?

Posted by: Constantine on February 10, 2006 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

I was painting my living room Monday morning with the television on in the background when the reports of damage started coming in. By 2PM that day I'd called my wife and parents and said, "We just lost an entire American city."

Perhaps I should have phoned the White House.

Dang my short-sightedness!

Posted by: Windhorse on February 10, 2006 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

Come on! Give them some red meat; they're getting restless.

Frank J, you are the cannibal commenter here, who wants your brother to send you a human being's head from Iraq. Your stomach is restless to digest more human blood.

Posted by: Hostile on February 10, 2006 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

If so, why was Bush saying that Friday that the levees broke on Tuesday?

That seemed weird at the time, now it seems even weirder.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on February 10, 2006 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps FYI has lost it's punch.

Maybe new ones could be employed.

SKI - SortaKindaImportant
NEAY - Not Exactly A Yawner
RFI - Really Fuckin' Important
PPP - Panic Panic Panic
RLH - Run Like Hell
IOH - I'm Outa Here

Posted by: stupid git on February 10, 2006 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin -- The content says it pretty clearly -- there is flood, fire -- that there is a problem in NO. But lets face it Bush and his cronies do not believe in government -- government is problem not a solution. THey turned FEMA into a dumping ground for hacks like it was under Bush the First. It seems when Clinton was in office FEMA was able to respond to a number of disasters and that since it is now run by hacks it cat no its job.

Posted by: Bob on February 10, 2006 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

Quick, decisive action. Clear, detailed memory.

Who would expect anything less from the head of a national disaster preparedness consulting firm like 'Michael D. Brown LLC' -?

Posted by: wishIwuz2 on February 10, 2006 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

What Bob just said. Spot on.

Posted by: Not bob on February 10, 2006 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

Of course Brownie was not taking it seriously enough. But he says he called Crawford and spoke to Dep. Chief of Staff Hagen Monday evening. Do you seriously contend that Hagen did not inform Bush before he lied and said "no one knew the levees broke.?"

Remember, his staff put together a DVD to show him what was happening. They probably realized that mere words did not register with bush.

Posted by: Newton Minnow on February 10, 2006 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

A message that said "quick CYA" would have been immediately forwarded to the people in the political wing of the White House that actually make the decisions.

Hee. But exactly.

Posted by: shortstop on February 10, 2006 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK


last 2-sentences from the most recent a.p. story:


The New York Times reports an e-mail account of a levee breach from a FEMA official on the scene was relayed to the White House soon after -- yet the next day, the president was still feeling ``relieved'' that New Orleans had ``dodged a bullet.''

McClellan denounces that report as an ``irresponsible'' attempt to rewrite history.

Posted by: thisspaceavailable on February 10, 2006 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

jeez kids, your crack squads are getting ready to take down Bush yet again, what is this the 146th scandal that no one gives two shits about? oh no, they knew (or as libs like to write it) THEY KNEW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! man if they knew the levies were breached they could have done something to ah, um, lets see, make sure they didn't? yuse folks is pure comedy

Posted by: w on February 10, 2006 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

Can anyone ripping on Bush here actually say what he did wrong with regard to Katrina?

Um, he ignored this???

DEVASTATING DAMAGE EXPECTED HURRICANE KATRINA

A MOST POWERFUL HURRICANE WITH UNPRECEDENTED STRENGTH...RIVALING THE INTENSITY OF HURRICANE CAMILLE OF 1969.

MOST OF THE AREA WILL BE UNINHABITABLE FOR WEEKS...PERHAPS LONGER. AT LEAST ONE HALF OF WELL CONSTRUCTED HOMES WILL HAVE ROOF AND WALL FAILURE. ALL GABLED ROOFS WILL FAIL...LEAVING THOSE HOMES SEVERELY DAMAGED OR DESTROYED.

THE MAJORITY OF INDUSTRIAL BUILDINGS WILL BECOME NON FUNCTIONAL. PARTIAL TO COMPLETE WALL AND ROOF FAILURE IS EXPECTED. ALL WOOD FRAMED LOW RISING APARTMENT BUILDINGS WILL BE DESTROYED. CONCRETE BLOCK LOW RISE APARTMENTS WILL SUSTAIN MAJOR DAMAGE...INCLUDING SOME WALL AND ROOF FAILURE.

HIGH RISE OFFICE AND APARTMENT BUILDINGS WILL SWAY DANGEROUSLY...A FEW TO THE POINT OF TOTAL OLLAPSE. ALL WINDOWS WILL BLOW OUT.

AIRBORNE DEBRIS WILL BE WIDESPREAD...AND MAY INCLUDE HEAVY ITEMS SUCH AS HOUSEHOLD APPLIANCES AND EVEN LIGHT VEHICLES. SPORT UTILITY VEHICLES AND LIGHT TRUCKS WILL BE MOVED. THE BLOWN DEBRIS WILL CREATE ADDITIONAL DESTRUCTION. PERSONS...PETS...AND LIVESTOCK EXPOSED TO THE WINDS WILL FACE CERTAIN DEATH IF STRUCK.

POWER OUTAGES WILL LAST FOR WEEKS...AS MOST POWER POLES WILL BE DOWN AND TRANSFORMERS DESTROYED. WATER SHORTAGES WILL MAKE HUMAN SUFFERING INCREDIBLE BY MODERN STANDARDS.

THE VAST MAJORITY OF NATIVE TREES WILL BE SNAPPED OR UPROOTED. ONLY THE HEARTIEST WILL REMAIN STANDING...BUT BE TOTALLY DEFOLIATED. FEW CROPS WILL REMAIN. LIVESTOCK LEFT EXPOSED TO THE WINDS WILL BE KILLED.

AN INLAND HURRICANE WIND WARNING IS ISSUED WHEN SUSTAINED WINDS NEAR HURRICANE FORCE...OR FREQUENT GUSTS AT OR ABOVE HURRICANE FORCE...ARE CERTAIN WITHIN THE NEXT 12 TO 24 HOURS.

ONCE TROPICAL STORM AND HURRICANE FORCE WINDS ONSET...DO NOT VENTURE OUTSIDE!

Wait, let me guess: the Federal Government should only get involved in local issues when somehone has formed a legal co-op regulated by the state to grow medical marijuana.

Posted by: Windhorse on February 10, 2006 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

Seriously, WTF. Is someone blackmailing Kevin Drum or something? Cause if a memo says "The situation is more serious than reports indicated" and then says theres flooding and fires everywhere... well, how the fuck did that shit happen? If the situation is what they claim, why was this information pertinent? And seriously, they only cared to say something because they were worried that reporters would ask tougher questions tomorrow.

|Kevin Drum doesn't have morals, he has a pocket book. What's good for his pocket book is good for his conscience. If you haven't figured out by now, let me tell you. Kevin Drum will side with upper class republicans before he'd diegn to talk to a middle or lower class democrat.

Posted by: SoulLight on February 10, 2006 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

I've been listening to the hearing this AM on C-span. I find Brown quite convincing in his argument about notifying the WH on Monday by phone and alerting them to the catastrophe that was unfolding. Brown points to structural problems evolving from placing FEMA within DHS.
He said that if a terrorist had blown up a levee
in NO the DHS would have responded much more vigorously. Brown's reception by the committee was warm and many, both R's & D's, stated that they felt he had been made a scapegoat for the fed's belated and inadequate response. I think I agree with this consensus.

Posted by: nepeta on February 10, 2006 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

*It is possible that underfunding the levee system can be laid at Bush's feet, but that also falls on Clinton as well... It seems to me like a general failure of government.*

Tom, the broken levees were the disaster. The response to that disaster is where the general failure of government, most notably FEMA, lies.

I give blame to Nagin and Blancho as well, but even their best efforts would not have been able to deal with the full scope of this flood. They needed the federal resources of FEMA.

Posted by: wishIwuz2 on February 10, 2006 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

How does one get a job with this crowd? Must be quite cushy to work in an environment where you can fuck up as much as you want, even if people's lives are at stake, and there is no consequence whatsoever for your mistakes no matter how egregious.

Posted by: lib on February 10, 2006 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

jeez kids, your crack squads are getting ready to take down Bush yet again, what is this the 146th scandal that no one gives two shits about?

Yeah, no one cares about any of the revelation of Bush Administration incompetence, corruption, criminality, and abuses. That's why this is happening.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 10, 2006 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK


Several thousand people (?) die in NO, and tens of thousands displaced, and the Wingers make jokes.

Yeah, but it's not like many white people were involved-so who cares?

Posted by: bobyk on February 10, 2006 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, Kevin, the NYT story makes clear that there is no dipute that the WH was informed:

"White House officials have confirmed to Congressional investigators that the report of the levee break arrived there at midnight, and Trent Duffy, the White House spokesman, acknowledged as much in an interview this week, though he said it was surrounded with conflicting reports."

Posted by: Newton Minnow on February 10, 2006 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

McClellan denounces that report as an ``irresponsible'' attempt to rewrite history.

Well, I guess if you consider whatever the White House says first to be "writing history", revealing the uncomfortable truth later is a form of "rewriting history".

I don't see the "irresponsible" part, though.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 10, 2006 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

To Windhorse:

What was Bush to do in response to the NWS bulletin you kindly reprinted here? I think the majority of the American people don't fault him for failing to stop a hurricane. And it seems like most people don't care that he underfunded the levee system, since we're about to do it again and no one cares.

If anything, perhaps it would be possible to fault Bush for the rescue efforts following the flooding . You would think that the Federal government could have gotten boats and helicopters or something ready to get people out faster. But I'll be honest and say I don't if that was impossible for some reason, or if they did do that and it just didn't help much.

Posted by: Tom on February 10, 2006 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with Kevin, this is no big deal.

Posted by: coffeequeen on February 10, 2006 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

*How does one get a job with this crowd?*

Easy, lib. Worship the boss.

Posted by: wishIwuz2 on February 10, 2006 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin Drum-you are an idiot.

ITS WORSE NEWS IF THE WHITE DIDNT KNOW ON MONDAY!

Levee breaks are hard to keep secret! The level of incompetence and stupidity necessary to honestly say they didn't know until Tuesday would be akin to not hear about September 11 until September 12.

Posted by: Martin Morgan on February 10, 2006 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

The start of the 2006 hurricane season is about five months away. I'll predict that it will be worse than the 2005 hurricane season, with multiple Katrina-sized monster hurricanes slamming into the Gulf region, and that nothing will have been done by then to improve the levees or otherwise protect New Orleans, and this time New Orleans will be completely destroyed and everyone will be forced to acknowledge that there is no possibility of rebuilding it.

Other major cities in the region (e.g. Houston, Miami) will be at least as devastated as New Orleans was in 2005, and the USA will have to face up to essentially writing off as permanently uninhabitable an entire region of the country.

And that's only the beginning of what anthropogenic global warming has in store for us in the coming decades. Just wait for the 10-year mega-drought that wipes out most of America's agricultural regions, and the ensuing food shortages, and the killer heat waves that kill tens of thousands of Americans as has already happened in Europe.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on February 10, 2006 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

Windhorse, I'm sure some administration officials saw that Katrina note and said to themselves, "Hmmm...Mother Nature is doing some urban renewal for us, relocating so many of those pesky Negroes through an act of Providence. Here's to a more white, more Republican Louisiana!"

Posted by: Vincent on February 10, 2006 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

You guys should not be hard on Kevin. Living myself in San Diego, I can testify that the eternally beautiful days of Southern California make it very hard to be a liberal or even political.

Posted by: lib on February 10, 2006 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, I think the Bush administration really needs a special acronym to get the proper attention for emails.

The very highest level might be MAPAN:

May Affect Presidential Approval Numbers

Posted by: frankly0 on February 10, 2006 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

*I think the majority of the American people don't fault him for failing to stop a hurricane.*

That was the Limbaugh spin. Rush was aghast that liberals would blame Bush for allowing a hurricane to cross our borders. Sold pretty well.

*If anything, perhaps it would be possible to fault Bush for the rescue efforts following the flooding.*

..which is really the only point people were trying to make. It did spin off into criticism of stocking federal agencies with cronies, tho.

Posted by: wishIwuz2 on February 10, 2006 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

FF & Tom:

Disasters of the magnitude of NOLA is the province of FEMA. FEMA worked well enough when a President took it seriously enough to appoint competant people to run the place.

The problem is that Bush didn't take it seriously, and it became a dumping ground for cronies and hacks (just like his father before him).

If FEMA had worked the way it did when a President who cared enough to appoint people to make it work, then your complaints about Nagin (a former member of the GOP) and Blanco might have some validiy.

BUT that is not the case. Bush is running the Federal Government, Bush's appointees fucked up, Bush gets the blame. QED. As a greater President than Bush will ever be, said "The buck stops here."

For you to deny the obvious is ludicrous.

I've said it before, I'll say it again:

The GOP doesn't like government, they don't believe in government and as a consequence, they don't govern very well.

Posted by: molly bloom on February 10, 2006 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

Since people posting here seem to want a scandal, how about, instead of parsing the meaning of "FYI" in e-mail, Kevin writes about the current state of the levee system? Will it be ready by June? I've read it is being built to withstand a Katrina-like storm, but that was a Cat-3 (not 5) and not a direct hit. Is that true? Investigating that at least is a meaningful endeavor, involving the fate of a city, or at least what is left of it.

And in no way should such a discussion be considered an indictment of the Bush administration. Underfunding the levees again will be a failure at all levels of government. If the USA decides it doesn't want to pay for levees, at least be honest about that. Nagin's call to repopulate NO is beyond irresponsible.

Posted by: Tom on February 10, 2006 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

Nepata,

Oh, yes, poor Mikey feels as though he has been abandoned. I, also, have been watching C-Span - He comes across as a mediocrity who truly believes that he is intelligent. If only FEMA had not been under DHS - a major mistake by the administration - but it would not have mattered one iota if FEMA had been separate - He would still have mismanaged the operation.

He talked about his direct chats with Twiggie - Why the hell did he not bend the King's ear about the problems?

All he is doing is taking the criticism directed at DSH, Chertoff and FEMA and hiding under the cover of "I agree" - They were the problem, not I.
This guy was hand picked by bullet head who spent his time as head of FEMA getting crew cuts and trying to find out whether any endangered bird feathers were in the headdress on Witt's office wall. Allbaugh gutted FEMA, named Brownie as his successor, and Brown did nothing to change anything Allbaugh had placed in action.

The man is a loon.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on February 10, 2006 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

What was Bush to do in response to the NWS bulletin you kindly reprinted here?

Tom,

The responsibility lies with Bush. He was forewarned that an entire city might be wiped out -- and went stumping instead. He should have personally overseen massive preparations to provide emergency services after the storm. Shouldn't a president care if an American city is about to be destroyed?

Also, he was briefed numerous times since 2001 that that one of the three most likely catastrophes to hit the country would be a levee break in New Orleans. He was told that hundreds of helicopters would be needed to rescue people as roads would not be passable and that tent cities would be immediately needed to house them.

And in response to all this warning? He stayed on vacation.

In resonse to the warnings for 9/11? He stayed on vacation.

If he were a responsible and a competent executive and not all about politically-motivated tax and budget cuts he would have overseen an expensive rebuild of the levees, but I agree that the blame for that can be spread over many years to many, many people.

I see that molly bloom said what I wanted to say but said it better.

Posted by: Windhorse on February 10, 2006 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

Some background information:

- Brian Besanceney, author of the email, is the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at the Department of Homeland Security

Recipients of the email:

- Cynthia Bergman is an EPA spokeswoman
- Jeff Karonis is the Director of Incident Communications for DHS Public Affairs
- William R. "Russ" Knocke is a DHS spokesman
- Chad Boudreaux is Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy at DHS
- Ashley Cannati is Counselor to the Deputy Secretary, Office of the Secretary, United States Department of Homeland Security

Based on the names in the email, but not for the reasons (no mention of levee breaches, lack of urgency) he listed, I sort of agree with Kevin. The email doesn't seem to prove direct White House knowledge, only that the issue was well-communicated within FEMA and DHS.

Posted by: grape_crush on February 10, 2006 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

Secular Animist,

You forgot the melting of Antarctica and Greenland and how we will all be extras in a really bad Costner movie.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on February 10, 2006 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

Since people posting here seem to want a scandal

I think people here want accountability.

Posted by: Windhorse on February 10, 2006 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

"Kevin Drum will side with upper class republicans before he'd diegn to talk to a middle or lower class democrat."

naturally the paranoid/conspiracy/end of the world libs won't glean any insight from their own comments and will just keep on keeping on. please do though, there's an election coming up again/

Posted by: w on February 10, 2006 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

If anything, perhaps it would be possible to fault Bush for the rescue efforts following the flooding .

What do you mean, "if anything"? That's the main point of what we're saying. That's exactly our point.

You would think that the Federal government could have gotten boats and helicopters or something ready to get people out faster.

Yes, you really would have, considering that they'd gotten word that an entire American city was being destroyed.

But I'll be honest and say I don't if that was impossible for some reason,

It wasn't.

or if they did do that and it just didn't help much.

They didn't. They didn't do a damn thing until several days later, and only because they'd been shamed into it. By then, though, it was too little, too late.

Posted by: Stefan on February 10, 2006 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

Since people posting here seem to want a scandal, how about, instead of parsing the meaning of "FYI" in e-mail, Kevin writes about the current state of the levee system?

That all sounds so wonderfully high minded, Tom, except for one big elephant in the room that your fine sentiments seem to be incapable of recognizing: neither the levee system nor just about anything else under the purview of our federal government is going to get better until we toss the current set of cronies, incompetents, and, to repeat myself, Republicans out of office. If you don't realize this, what's the point of even talking to you?

And the point of demonstrating the callous indifference of the Bush administration in Katrina is precisely to bring about the one good thing that will change everything, and the absence of which will change nothing: removing Republican idiots and scoundrels from any position of authority.

Posted by: frankly0 on February 10, 2006 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

Ok. Lets so one senior figure can get Bush to call out the national guard without involving the local governor

Aren't you then asking him to use the 'imperial presidency' and override law. This is exactly what you are busting him for on wiretaps.

Liberals. Never consistent. Always attacking people and not advancing a solution.

Posted by: Mca on February 10, 2006 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

Since people posting here seem to want a scandal,...

That's an improvement over, 'How Rude! they are dissing our great leader'. I guess.

Posted by: nut on February 10, 2006 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

really bad Costner movie

No need to be redundant.

Posted by: shortstop on February 10, 2006 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

frankly0,

You'll be waiting a long, long time if you want America to vote a Democrat government into power. In any case, saying that nothing can be done till the government changes sets up a false choice. It is possible for you to work to change the US government (and if you care so much, I hope your activism isn't limited to posting on message boards, becuase it rings hollow if that is your only contribution), and for pressure to brought for the levees to be adequately rebuilt (if that is the choice of the people).

In any case, I consider making the same planning mistakes in levees (if that is what's happening) and telling people it's OK to head home to NOLA
something worth bringing to light. It would be a bipartisan failure of goverment, like it or not. Fixing the levees can happen on anyone's watch, but it won't happen if no cares, and no one will care if they don't know what is happening.

Posted by: Tom on February 10, 2006 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

"The email doesn't seem to prove direct White House knowledge, only that the issue was well-communicated within FEMA and DHS."

The white house admits it knew:


"White House officials have confirmed to Congressional investigators that the report of the levee break arrived there at midnight, and Trent Duffy, the White House spokesman, acknowledged as much in an interview this week, though he said it was surrounded with conflicting reports."

Why is Kevin inventing a dispute that does not exist?

Posted by: Newton Minnow on February 10, 2006 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

"Ok. Lets so one senior figure can get Bush to call out the national guard without involving the local governor. Aren't you then asking him to use the 'imperial presidency' and override law. This is exactly what you are busting him for on wiretaps."

Wrong again. If Bush was advancing an imperial presidency ideal with regard to saving American cities in danger of imminent destruction, I dont think too many people would complain, but he doesnt, he only advances it to spy in violation of clear law. After 9/11, with people talking about the risk of dirty bomb attacks, chemical plant attacks, etc., no one in their wildest stupidity imagined that the Federal government's position is "you're on your own." They expected that planning had been done for immediate Federal intervention TO PROTECT OUR CITIES FROM DESTRUCTION. That this was not planned for or executed shocked the living breath out of just about everyone I know. And the government knew a whole year before Katrina, when they war gamed this whole disaster, that NO was not going to be able to handle this on their own, and nothing was done about it. My God, they war gamed this disaster and STILL screwed it up. How can you defend this?

Posted by: Jammer on February 10, 2006 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

Come on, shortstop, they are not all bad, and even the bad ones have some gradation of badness to them- however small the range might be.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on February 10, 2006 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

The start of the 2006 hurricane season is about five months away. I'll predict that it will be worse than the 2005 hurricane season, with multiple Katrina-sized monster hurricanes slamming into the Gulf region, and that nothing will have been done by then to improve the levees or otherwise protect New Orleans, and this time New Orleans will be completely destroyed and everyone will be forced to acknowledge that there is no possibility of rebuilding it.

Well, I'm not prepared to go so far out on a limb predicting hurricanes as you do (although the conditions certainly seem to be ripe for another bad season), but your comment about levee improvements is a slam-dunk winner when Bush's proposed budget cuts funding for the Corps of Engineers by 11.2%. Nice timing, that.

Posted by: rod on February 10, 2006 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

frankly0 has it right. What's the point of advancing "solutions" that won't be implemented. We are ruled by a clique of ideologues who believe that government can't do anything right. They are in a position to prove their point by staffing government with incompetents and starving it of the resources it needs to accomplish anything. Meanwhile, the rich and powerful who don't need to depend on government services grab as much as they can now so that when everything hits the fan they will come out on top. God help us!

Posted by: wvmcl on February 10, 2006 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

Shortstop,

The Upside of Anger was, In My Unreliable Opinion, quite good.

Nepata,

Under the felony murder rule, the get away driver in a bungled robbery that produced a killing, is just as liable as the trigger man and the other robbers.

Brownie, as the get away driver, is trying to blame Baby Face Nelson, Skeleton Man and the crew for the screwups. "I didn't shoot the sheriff and I was having car problems; that's why I was still at the curb."

Posted by: thethirdPaul on February 10, 2006 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

You'll be waiting a long, long time if you want America to vote a Democrat [sic] government into power.

Yeah, you have to go all the way back to 1992, 1996 and 2000 to see when that happened the last time. The poor Democrats have only won 3 of the last 4 last presidential elections, alack alas.

By the way, the surefire mark of the wingnut is using "Democrat" as an adjective not a noun. It's "Democratic". Just as, similarly, there is no Republic Party.

Posted by: Stefan on February 10, 2006 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

This report from MSNBC is relevant:

"New timeline

The timeline released ahead of the hearings showed that the earliest official report of a New Orleans levee breach came at 8:30 a.m. on Aug. 29, just a few hours after Hurricane Katrina roared ashore. Word of the possible breach surfaced at the White House less than three hours later, at 11:13 a.m."

It seems to suggest that the White House got news of a breach well in advance of the FYI message reproduced above. Have any documents been put online to back this "new timeline" up?

Posted by: C. Schuyler on February 10, 2006 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

shortstop on February 10, 2006 at 1:25 PM:

No need to be redundant.

Funny you should mention Costner in a Dubya-related thread... Dubya's favorite movie? Field of Dreams...Actually, I thought he'd be more of The Postman type.

From a funny mock list of Dubya's favorite movies:

Pearl Harbor (Vista Series Director's Cut) DVD

He found this film disturbing, and he wants to show it in high schools across the country, letting students know that we are not safe and that this CAN actually happen someday.

All the President's Men DVD

This is his favorite Halloween movie, as it scares the sh*t out of him.

Posted by: grape_crush on February 10, 2006 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

"neither the levee system nor just about anything else under the purview of our federal government is going to get better until we toss the current set of cronies, incompetents, and, to repeat myself, Republicans out of office. If you don't realize this, what's the point of even talking to you?"

I'm thinking that it probbbbably took more than the last 4 or 5 years of wear and tear to put those levee systems in their current condition. That being said, they should have been rebuilt a long time ago and you can't really play Monday-Morning Quarterback because anyone easily could say that Clinton or the first Bush should have taken care of it before it reached the point it did.

A minor point, but none of us can cast blame for the levee systems not being updated unless they cast blame on the past 10-20 years of elected officials related to this issue.

Posted by: Hmmmm on February 10, 2006 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

"You forgot the melting of Antarctica and Greenland and how we will all be extras in a really bad Costner movie."

That's funny, I just read a couple of days ago a scientist claiming we will be going into a period of global cooling or a mini ice age in the next 20-50 years.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on February 10, 2006 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

You'll be waiting a long, long time if you want America to vote a Democrat government into power.

Three years isn't a long time. Hell, five years ago the American people voted a Democratic government into power, it's just that a hack Supreme Court didn't agree.

Tom, face it, you haven't the slightest clue what's going on, nor do you care. Government solutions? FEMA was a government solution to deal exactly with crises like Katrina. Under Clinton, it surely would have as it did in other emergencies.

Yes, Congress' underfunding of the levees may well be the bi-partisan scandal you need so desperately so that you don't have to fucking think, but the acutal application of government services the act of governing through a crisis is exactly and precisely laid at the feet of the Bush Administration. Blanco asked for such support from the start, declared a state of emergency and appealed to FEMA, as was her responsibility. Nagin was awful, but only a real asshole would think that New Orleans would have the disaster resources that the federal government should have.

But don't worry, there are enough blithe idiots like yourself out there who simply don't give a shit. Your boy will slide on this too, just as he has on every other catastrophic decision he's made over the past five years. Your idol worship, however, is chilling.

Posted by: n.o.t.l.f. on February 10, 2006 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

WWUS74 KLIX 281550
NPWLIX

URGENT - WEATHER MESSAGE
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE NEW ORLEANS LA
1011 AM CDT SUN AUG 28 2005

...DEVASTATING DAMAGE EXPECTED...

.HURRICANE KATRINA...A MOST POWERFUL HURRICANE WITH UNPRECEDENTED STRENGTH...RIVALING THE INTENSITY OF HURRICANE CAMILLE OF 1969.

MOST OF THE AREA WILL BE UNINHABITABLE FOR WEEKS...PERHAPS LONGER. AT LEAST ONE HALF OF WELL CONSTRUCTED HOMES WILL HAVE ROOF AND WALL FAILURE. ALL GABLED ROOFS WILL FAIL...LEAVING THOSE HOMES SEVERELY DAMAGED OR DESTROYED.

THE MAJORITY OF INDUSTRIAL BUILDINGS WILL BECOME NON FUNCTIONAL. PARTIAL TO COMPLETE WALL AND ROOF FAILURE IS EXPECTED. ALL WOOD FRAMED LOW RISING APARTMENT BUILDINGS WILL BE DESTROYED. CONCRETE BLOCK LOW RISE APARTMENTS WILL SUSTAIN MAJOR DAMAGE...INCLUDING SOME WALL AND ROOF FAILURE.

HIGH RISE OFFICE AND APARTMENT BUILDINGS WILL SWAY DANGEROUSLY...A FEW TO THE POINT OF TOTAL COLLAPSE. ALL WINDOWS WILL BLOW OUT.

AIRBORNE DEBRIS WILL BE WIDESPREAD...AND MAY INCLUDE HEAVY ITEMS SUCH AS HOUSEHOLD APPLIANCES AND EVEN LIGHT VEHICLES. SPORT UTILITY VEHICLES AND LIGHT TRUCKS WILL BE MOVED. THE BLOWN DEBRIS WILL CREATE ADDITIONAL DESTRUCTION. PERSONS...PETS...AND LIVESTOCK EXPOSED TO THE WINDS WILL FACE CERTAIN DEATH IF STRUCK.

POWER OUTAGES WILL LAST FOR WEEKS...AS MOST POWER POLES WILL BE DOWN AND TRANSFORMERS DESTROYED. WATER SHORTAGES WILL MAKE HUMAN SUFFERING INCREDIBLE BY MODERN STANDARDS.

Posted by: FYI on February 10, 2006 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

Okay.

One more time for those of ya'll who have not been paying attention.

Ray Nagin was a Republican until the day before he registered for the mayoral campaign.

He was elected by Uptown with backing from powerful real estate developers, including a possibly mob connected guy from Biloxi, a Bush Pioneer, who held fund raisers for Nagin in his lakeside mansion in Kenner.

Most black New Orleanians voted for his opponent, Chief of Police Eddie Pennington.

And that the previous governor of LA for 8 years was none other than Foster (R) who spent his two terms carving out a $18M a year sweetheart deal for the state to pay Benson to keep the 'Aints in town, building them a state of the art training facility, and striking down the requirement for motorcycle helmets.

Posted by: CFShep on February 10, 2006 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

Levees, hell. I keep wondering why Bush repeatedly said that he saw the news report of the plane flying into Tower 1 before going into read My Pet Goat.

I think this is proof that there's been the biggest interdimensional cross rip since the Tunguska blast of 1909! We live in different universes. The Republican president of our trolls is actually an accomplished, compassionate man. The one in our world is a fiendish, low-life, scum-sucking, gangster pus bucket.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on February 10, 2006 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

Newton Minnow on February 10, 2006 at 1:33 PM:

The white house admits it knew...

No disputing what you've cited; it's just that this email doesn't seem to be the smoking gun that proves it.

Why is Kevin inventing a dispute that does not exist?

Actually, it's more of a rip on the NY Times for emphasizing this particular email...

What Kev is forgetting, however, is that the White House was ultimately reponsible for reducing FEMA from a cabinet-level organization to a DHS backwater and staffing it with inexperienced people...He's allowing the White House and FEMA to be viewed as completely separate entities, thereby giving the Bush administration an easy out from taking responsibility for the poor Federal response to Katrina.

Posted by: grape_crush on February 10, 2006 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

I'm getting somewhat confused after reading the above comments... The included email was sent at 9:27pm on Aug 29th, so wouldn't it likely not have been picked up until the following (Tuesday) morning?

But if the Industrial Canal levee was breached at 8:15am, why did this reported email go out that late in the day? with the underlying assumption that the writer knew that the recipients would not have known about the levee breach??

Confusing...

Posted by: pencarrow on February 10, 2006 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

"Also, FF, you were so quick to jump in on this thread, but you're nowhere to be found on the George Deustch thread. You're going to get poor Deutschie twist in the wind like that?"

Why do you think I would want to defend journalist major who lied on his resume? The only question I cared to ask on that thread went unanswered. Perhaps I should ask again: since when did the Big Bang theory become fact?

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on February 10, 2006 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

"If FEMA had worked the way it did when a President who cared enough to appoint people to make it work, then your complaints about Nagin (a former member of the GOP) and Blanco might have some validiy."

No, you got that backwards. Had Nagin and Blanco done everything they could, then blaming Bush would have had more validity than your current argument that it is Bush's responsibility to take care of local issues.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on February 10, 2006 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

That's right, a national emergency is declared, and it's a "local issue".

Oh, and in case you haven't noticed, I'm a blithering idiot.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on February 10, 2006 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

The Hurrcane made landfall at dawn on Monday.

BUSH REMAINED ON VACATION UNTIL WEDNESDAY.

What more do you need to know?

Totally inexcusable. period.

Posted by: Mitch on February 10, 2006 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

Third Paul,

Well, I'm easily impressed I guess. I thought that Brown made important points that were well-received by members of the committee (except for idiot Norm Coleman). If I were head of FEMA I would hardly appreciate the head of DHS, through whom all rescue efforts were to be routed, to take off for a conference on avian flu and the President to take off on a political gig right after a monster hurricane had decimated a major US city. I've heard of delegating responsibility, but that's insane. The blame for not planning 'in advance' (like years) and appropriating funds for levee reconstruction, evacuation plans and workable shelters can be spread widely across the government.

Posted by: nepeta on February 10, 2006 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

Here's a timeline previously posted by Kevin that seems quite more to the point than the current blog:

Kevin's Timeline

Posted by: nepeta on February 10, 2006 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK

nepeta - my cursor isn't registering "Kevin's Timeline" as a link. Care to try again?

Posted by: RT on February 10, 2006 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

Corrected link, I hope:

Kevin's Timeline

Posted by: nepeta on February 10, 2006 at 5:56 PM | PERMALINK

People need to remember there were two different canals whose floodwalls broke: there was the Industrial Canal on the east side of New Orleans, and there was the 17th Street Canal, on the west side.

Everyone following the news on Monday, August 29, knew about the Industrial Canal breach - but breaches on the east side of that canal would flood places like the Lower Ninth Ward, and also the far northeast part of Orleans Parish, but would NOT cause flooding in the main part of Orleans Parish, between the two major canals.

Breaches of the east wall of the 17th Street Canal, or of the west wall of the Industrial Canal, could (and did) do so. (Ditto the smaller canals in between the two.)

So the real question is, when did FEMA become aware of the 17th Street Canal breach, and when did they pass on that news to the appropriate people at DHS and the White House? And same question for breaches of the west wall of the Industrial Canal, if such breaches occured?

That's when Katrina went from flooding limited areas of a city, to putting most of the city under water. And those breaches are why we're still wondering if New Orleans is going to recover, and doing surveys to try to figure out whether more than ten or twenty thousand people have moved back to the flooded parts of New Orleans where 350,000 people lived before Katrina.

So specificity is important here when asking questions about the levees and floodwalls. Which canal, and in the case of the Industrial Canal, which side. Answers that aren't specific won't tell you much about what happened that day.

Posted by: RT on February 10, 2006 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

The key to understanding this is to remember that the Bushies were refusing to declare a Federal emergency until Gov Landreiu (close enough) requested that a state of marital law be imposed- and she was refusing to request martial law.

Note for trolls- yes, I am aware that the State of Louisiana had already declared an emergency. And I am aware that the Feds had declared the parishes outside of New Orleans to be an emergency and a disaster area.

In normal times this would qualify as one of the most cold-blooded cases of blackmail we've ever seen, but in the Bush years it just is overwhelmed by the next monstrous crime.

Posted by: serial catowner on February 10, 2006 at 7:06 PM | PERMALINK

What is particularly perverse about that is, under the Insurrection Act, if disorder obstructs the execution of any federal law (including that relating to emergency relief operations in a national disaster area, for instance) the President has complete discretionary authority to mobilize the militia (including, e.g., the National Guard) use it as necessary to restore and maintain the necessary order.

So it wasn't a legal prerequisite to anything the President could have felt was necessary to the response, it was purely an effort by the White House not to be (seen as) responsible for the declaration which the White House wanted.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 10, 2006 at 7:38 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, and in case you haven't noticed, I'm a blithering idiot.

Don't be so hard on yourself. What you lack in insight, you make up for with vanity.

Posted by: Irony Man on February 10, 2006 at 8:45 PM | PERMALINK

nepeta,

Lou Dobbs had a segment about the Three Tenors - Brown, Libby and Abramhoff "singing" in Washington and turning on their handlers.

Brown made some cutting points, but his playing the "victim" was laughable - It was like watching a crime film where there was no code of honor between thieves and the defendant kept telling the court, that he wasn't going to take the fall alone. Fully expected Brown to keep silent and fall on his sword.

In the French Revolution, the Committee turned on each other - It is good to see the bloodletting begin in Washington.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on February 10, 2006 at 10:26 PM | PERMALINK

FEMA is definitely to blame for the Katrina Disaster. Not because of theyre reaction to the incident, which by way was severely incompetent, but it was the fact that did nothing ahead of time to stop or at least control the disaster. For years people have been saying if a major hurricane hits New Orleans the levees would break and New Orleans would be covered by more water than the city of Atlantis. Hell, I even remember watching a special on PBS about 7 years ago that predicted that New Orleans would become a soup bowl when the levees would break. There were a number of experts who predicted this would happen but apparently FEMA wasnt intelligent enough to higher any of these experts. Why didnt FEMA provide transportation for the people who lived in the area who could not get out as soon as the hurricane was predicted to hit New Orleans? Because we all know that FEMA had close to a week to arrange ways to get at least a good number of people out of there but instead FEMA decided that it was not a threat and then sat on there asses and watched all this happen. Thats why FEMA and Mike Brown should bear most of the blame because of their stupidity and laziness. Oh, and dont get me wrong because Bush is to blame too because he was the one who hid from the situation and the media on his ranch in Texas. So much for a fearless leader.

Posted by: The Flan Man on February 11, 2006 at 2:34 AM | PERMALINK

The key to understanding this is to remember that the Bushies were refusing to declare a Federal emergency until Gov Landreiu (close enough) requested that a state of marital law be imposed- and she was refusing to request martial law.

You're wrong about this. Bush declared the southeastern parishes of Louisiana, including Orleans, a Federal disaster area on Sunday morning before Katrina hit. That is when FEMA response actions should have kicked into high gear and the 72 hour clock (the time period before FEMA aid is supposed to reach the impacted areas) should have started. There are plenty of military bases just outside the storm zone where FEMA could have staged and been ready to flood the area with aid as soon as the storm passed. For some reason they chose not to do so.

As for when Federal Agencies knew about the breaches in the canals and which canals, here are the facts. During the storm, the Corps of Engineers and FEMA were receiving unconfirmed of reports of heavy flooding and breaches. By 8:30 am they had received credible eyewitness reports from first responders of breaches in the 17th Street and Industrial Canals. By 11:00 am the Corps Commander was able to take a helicopter up and fly over the canals and personally saw all five breaches (1 in the 17th Street and 2 each in the London Ave and Industrial Canals) and knew that the second worst possible eventuality had happened. (The worst would have been if the eye of the storm had passed about 80 miles further west in which case the storm surge would have overtopped the lake levees completely flooding the city in a matter of minutes and killing anyone who wasn't 15 feet or more above sea level.)

So fairly high level people in the Federal Government knew about the breaches from personal observation and knew it was going to be very bad--that there was nothing to stop the city from flooding to the level of Lake Ponchartrain, about 5 feet above sea level-- not later than noon on Monday.

I could care less about who sent emails to whom or what those emails said or didn't say. George W. Bush is the fucking president of the United States. The worst hurricane in recent memory had just hit the Gulf Coast close to New Orleans. Everyone knew that New Orleans was especially susceptible to hurricane damage. As President, it was George Bush's duty to find out what the fuck was going on, not sit at his ranch passively watching Barney chase armidilloes.

How Kevin can continue to excuse George Bush's gross incompetence is just beyond me.

One last point about who is responsible for the levees. The levees do not sit in isolation at the mouth of the Mississippi. They are part of a system of flood and navigation control levees, locks, damns and lakes designed by the Corps of Engineers that encompasses the largest river system in the entire world (The Mississippi/Missouri/Ohio basin drains a land area larger than the Amazon) and stretch from the Rockies to the Appalachain Mountains almost to the Canadian border.

New Orleans' current vulnerabilty to hurricanes is the direct result of 80 years of Federal flood control policy. For a stark example of this, pull out a map of Louisiana and look at New Orleans. You will notice that north of New Orleans is Lake Ponchartrain. Slightly east and south of New Orleans is what appears to just be a bay of the Gulf of Mexico that is strangely labelled Lake Bourgne. 80 years ago Lake Bourgne was actually a lake and the wetlands that seperated it from the Gulf of Mexico protected New Orleans from the storm surges in Lake Ponchartrain that threaten to swamp the city in a hurricane. Flood control on the Mississippi and other Federal poicies, including logging and oil exploration in the swamps, destroyed this natural barrier. So the mitigating the flooding in New Orleans is not only the responsibilty of the Federal government, it was caused, in large part, by the policies and actions of the Federal government, and not just by the construction of the levees on the canals that failed, but along the entire Mississippi River system.

Posted by: Freder Frederson on February 11, 2006 at 9:10 AM | PERMALINK

Freder:

Great post and good information. As usual, Kevin Drum looks for conciliatory language, when none is warranted.

Katrina was another in a litany of failures by George W. Bush. The man simply does not know how to govern. Full stop. All this niggling about who sent what e-mail when is horseshit.

Bush failed to act and act decisively, when an American city was being devastated. I don't want to debate what an e-mail said or meant when the reptile in the White House failed to do his job!

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on February 11, 2006 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

The short answer to why didn't FEMA do absolutely everything is because a conservative administration really does expect state and local authorities to man the fort for a little while and then to sort out what they really need the most.

Hmm, why didn't FEMA anticipate the need for more buses? Well, why didn't New Orleans and Lousiana do something to protect the 1,500 buses they had in the area if (1) they knew months in advance the levies were inadequate and (2) they knew days in advance where Katrina was headed, which was at them. Hundreds of school and transit buses were left parked on low ground where they were ruined, as were garbage and essential maintenance trucks. Many, maybe even most, private corporations managed to get their mobile assets moved out of harm's way.

Should the Bush administration have anticipated better how colossally incompetent state and local efforts would be? The Bushies chose to emphasize the terrorist dangers to America and to presume that natural disasters could wait a few more days until the locals at least started to cope with their own problems. That's why I would have done had I been in charge, and that's what I would still do. If Democrats don't like it, they should clean up those state and municipal governments they do control and show us all how they are ahead of the curve on disaster readiness.

Instead, all we get is the tired old second guessing, like, "Well, we would never have invaded Iraq because it was no threat at all to us, don't you know, but had we invaded, don't you know, we would have done absolutely everything just sooo much better."

I do have to admit that Clinton did a fair job of bombing the Yugo factory into submission and eliminating the threat to the American way of life that former Yugoslavia was posing to us.

Posted by: Michael L. Cook on February 12, 2006 at 12:42 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: 4321123 on February 12, 2006 at 5:48 AM | PERMALINK

The Bushies chose to emphasize the terrorist dangers to America and to presume that natural disasters could wait a few more days until the locals at least started to cope with their own problems.

Emergency response is emergency response. Tell me, exactly how the situation on the ground would have been one bit different, except for even less time to prepare, if terrorists, rather than a storm, had blown a hole in the levees? Would FEMA have suddenly displayed a level of competence that was, and continues to be, so woefully lacking in the Katrina response. I guess that President Bush would have at least got off his sorry butt and paid attention to what was going on.

Posted by: Freder Frederson on February 12, 2006 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: zoJSVrGqju on February 14, 2006 at 3:35 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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