From the New York Times.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Bush administration must immediately resume housing payments for thousands of people displaced by Hurricane Katrina, a federal judge said Wednesday, heaping more criticism on the government's handling of the 2005 disaster.

U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon's ruling sharply criticized the Federal Emergency Management Agency for illegally cutting housing funding and subjecting storm victims to a convoluted application process he called ''Kafkaesque.''

It is the second court victory for Katrina victims this week. A federal judge in Louisiana said Monday that many homeowners might be entitled to more insurance money for flood damage.

In the Washington case, Leon said FEMA mishandled the transition from a short-term housing program to a longer-term program this spring and summer.

FEMA, which was criticized in the wake of the storm for responding too slowly, defended itself in a statement released Wednesday night. FEMA said it sent letters outlining the program changes, explaining why some people were ineligible and describing the appeal process.

Leon, however, said those letters contained only program codes and agency jargon and didn't explain anything. Some evacuees got multiple letters with conflicting information, he said, leaving families unable to understand why their aid was being cut.

Until FEMA explains itself and allows victims to appeal, Leon said the government must keep making housing payments.

''It is unfortunate, if not incredible, that FEMA and its counsel could not devise a sufficient notice system to spare these beleaguered evacuees the added burden of federal litigation to vindicate their constitutional rights,'' Leon wrote.

And so...

May. 1st, 2006 09:21 pm
What we may look down upon as a 3rd world nation...does for American what apparently we cannot do for ourselves:

The nation of Qatar plans to announce today roughly $60 million in grants to benefit the victims of Hurricane Katrina, including $17.5 million to Xavier University of Louisiana, the only historically black Catholic university in the United States.

Other beneficiaries are Tulane University, Children's Hospital in New Orleans, Habitat for Humanity, Louisiana State University and the March of Dimes.

Nasser Bin Hamad M. al-Khalifa, Qatar's ambassador to the United States, said the remainder of the $100 million his country had pledged would be assigned in the coming months.


Full article here.


There's a lesson here if we want to continue to call ourselves the greatest nation on earth.
aamusedinatx: (glove)
Then one morning four days into the storm, something happened that melted the fear and eased the tension. Four young people on bicycles showed up in Algiers, knocking on doors and asking if anyone needed medical attention. Asked if they were from the Red Cross or the Federal Emergency Management Agency, neither of which had yet made an appearance in Algiers, the medics said no, they were just volunteers who had come without authorization. They offered first aid, took blood pressure, tested for diabetes, and inquired about symptoms of anxiety, depression and disease. “It was just about the noblest thing I’ve ever witnessed in my life,” recalls Malik Rahim, a lifelong Algiers resident, local housing activist and former Black Panther Party member who helped arrange space for the medical workers in a local mosque. ”It was the street medics who really stopped this city from exploding into a race war, because they were white and were serving the black community at a time when blacks were fed up. Those are the real heroes of this thing.”
and continue to live through it. This is no surprise:

02-12) 15:45 PST WASHINGTON (AP) --

Unheeded warnings, poor planning and apathy in recognizing the scope of Hurricane Katrina's destruction led to the slow emergency response from the White House down to local parishes, a House investigation concludes.

The 600-page report by a special Republican-dominated House inquiry into one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history concluded that late state and local evacuation orders exacerbated an untrained and inexperienced force of federal emergency responders.

It also said President Bush received poor and incomplete counsel about the crisis unfolding in the Gulf Coast.

Overall, the House report said, the federal government's response to Katrina was marked by "fecklessness, flailing and organizational paralysis."


Full article here.
Notes allege "FEMA is not a response agency for disasters"

Notes from a meeting, released yesterday by a union representative for federal emergency workers, say that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told employees that changes planned after Katrina were "partially a perception ploy to make outsiders feel like we've actually made changes for the better."

Lee Bosner, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents FEMA workers, says he obtained the typed notes from an unnamed FEMA official. A spokesman for Chertoff denied that the Homeland Security secretary had made any such remarks. According to Bosner's source, the remarks were made in the past week. Chertoff is also alleged to have said that FEMA is not a response agency for disasters; "we essentially should be only doing recovery."

The plan, according to the notes, is for a Coast Guard admiral to be placed in a number of major cities, and that person would handle disaster response.

Bearing in mind that we do not have proof of the veracity of the notes, it is nevertheless becoming increasingly difficult to trust Chertoff with regard to FEMA, let alone other matters. It was Chertoff, who, during the midst of the New Orleans crisis, said he was unaware that people were dying in the Superdome. It was Chertoff who saw fit to allow former FEMA director Michael Brown to do nothing while people on the Gulf Coast drowned, went hungry and thirsty, and had no medical care.

There is no doubt that one of the this administration's objectives has been to weaken FEMA, and there is no reason to believe it is now sincere about strengthening it again.
I had no idea...but now I do and I'm glad.

With its marble front desk counter and waterfront location, Oakland's Jack London Inn typically caters to corporate visitors.

For the past month, however, the 105-room Jack London has housed more survivors of Hurricane Katrina -- at least 40 families -- than any other Bay Area hotel. It has become so good at connecting those who want to give with those in need that American Red Cross officials, who are struggling to assist 1,700 Katrina families in the region, will go there this week to reach out.

"They've taken a lot of extra steps there to make it a community," said Kevin Kellenberger, director of disaster services for the Bay Area chapter of the Red Cross.

The motivation for the extra effort at the Jack London is personal: The 1991 Oakland hills fire destroyed the Hiller Highlands home that general manager Bill Harris' family rented. His family lived with friends in the East Bay for several weeks.

"I just try to remember what we needed then, what we could have used," Harris said. "When you're in that situation, everything you do is so much more difficult. It's overwhelming."

That's why there's a room at the Jack London devoted to afternoon day care for children and another to stock donated items. Harris writes a weekly newsletter for Katrina survivors to point out available services. Hot lunches are brought in three times a week, courtesy of St. Vincent de Paul, and Harris has arranged for visits from officials from the Oakland Housing Authority and the Oakland Unified School District.

He's distributed movie passes to the 20 children staying there ("It was kind of a self-preservation thing," he jokes) and bus passes to their parents looking for work.

Still, it's a challenge connecting the good intentions of the community to his guests, many of whom are shell-shocked at the horror they escaped.

When he coordinated a shopping trip at an Oakland church donation drop-off site for his guests, only a few showed up. So he hounded them to make wish lists. Within a few days, he received 20 such lists, like this from a woman named Talia:

"Catching the bus with four children, one in a stroller, is very frustrating especially when you can't afford the high fare. So if there's a willing soul to provide my children and I with reliable transportation, it will be a blessing and really appreciated."

A note from the Stevens family started by thanking "you all for your support and kindness."

"We are in need of a few items, like a refrigerator so I can keep my babies' milk and juice cold, also their fruit fresh," the note said. "We all need jackets because it's much cooler."

The Red Cross shares Harris' worry that the evacuees aren't connecting with the help that's available to them. So this morning, Harris is offering guests a new hook: A local radio station is giving $200 cash to the hotel's Katrina survivors, and officials with the Red Cross and government agencies will be standing by afterward to talk to guests about their other needs.

The Jack London Inn's largesse has cost it financially, even though the Red Cross reimburses the room rates of the Gulf Coast guests. Last month, Harris turned aside 20 conventioneers with reservations. He paid for their stay at a nearby hotel.

"Not only was he there right from the beginning, but he has gone the extra mile, always asking what he could do," said Sacha Kawaichi, a Red Cross volunteer who has helped coordinate housing for Gulf Coast residents at 65 Bay Area motels and hotels. "It isn't that the other hotels weren't always helpful, but Bill was exceptional.

"There are some hotels that you are a little more hesitant to contact because of, well, you know, the snooty factor," Kawaichi said.

Some of the survivors are frustrated all the same, complaining that they're allowed to browse among donated items at the Jack London only once a week and that another room, designated as a kitchen with two donated microwave ovens, is often closed.

"It's like looking at a refrigerator that's locked," said Nolan Watson, a cook in New Orleans who is part of an extended family of five adults and 11 children staying at the hotel.

Several guests say they don't receive the weekly newsletters. Others don't hear until too late that newly donated items have arrived, some of which come without warning to the hotel.

As the hotel's reputation has grown among community groups and churches, it has attracted donors such as Elena Cunha, who drove from Redwood City on Monday and dropped off four garbage bags full of diapers and never-worn men's clothing. "I heard there's a lot of people staying here, so I figured they'd need these things," said the dental assistant.

Richard Miles, a mechanic who lived just outside New Orleans, said that if a fellow Gulf Coaster hadn't knocked on his door Sunday afternoon, he wouldn't have heard about still-in-the-box shoes and pants that were available for survivors.

"I got some for my kids," said Miles, "but after a while, when people weren't coming, the lady (who donated the items) packed up her stuff and left."

Harris said the hotel's staff doesn't have the time to monitor the donation room constantly. When he allowed guests to go through items unsupervised, "it took eight hours of staff time to clean up the room," he said.

"In a community this big," he said, "there are always going to be some people who don't get the message or who have different views about what's going on."

Other guests have nothing but praise for the hotel.

"The staff has been great help, been tremendously caring," said Jimmie Spears, who was a freight hauler at the Port of New Orleans before Katrina sent him and four family members to Northern California.

Like many survivors, Spears is tired of stuffing his family's possessions into four drawers at a hotel in a strange city, and wants nothing more than to get a job.

"This situation sucks, but it's not on the people here," Spears said. "It's just that we've been here almost a month now, packed into these rooms. It's hard."

E-mail Joe Garofoli at jgarofoli@sfchronicle.com.
aamusedinatx: (welllies)
are we suprised that the foundation is already set for corruption and crony-ism?

More than 80 percent of the $1.5 billion in contracts signed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency alone were awarded without bidding or with limited competition, government records show, provoking concerns among auditors and government officials about the potential for favoritism or abuse.

Already, questions have been raised about the political connections of two major contractors - the Shaw Group and Kellogg, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton - that have been represented by the lobbyist Joe M. Allbaugh, President Bush's former campaign manager and a former leader of FEMA.

"When you do something like this, you do increase the vulnerability for fraud, plain waste, abuse and mismanagement," said Richard L. Skinner, the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security, who said 60 members of his staff were examining Hurricane Katrina contracts. "We are very apprehensive about what we are seeing."

Bills have come in for deals that apparently were clinched with a handshake, with no documentation to back them up, said Mr. Skinner, who declined to provide details.

"Most, if not all, of these people down there were trying to do the right thing," he said. "They were under a lot of pressure and they took a lot of shortcuts that may have resulted in a lot of waste."
Concrete flood walls that were supposed to protect New Orleans were not overwhelmed by high waters during Hurricane Katrina as federal officials have claimed, but ruptured because they were structurally flawed, according to Louisiana scientists.

From the mud splattered on buildings still standing near to the flood walls and the results of a computer simulation of the storm - known as a “hindcast” - a team from the Hurricane Center at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge claims it has pieced together how the walls, mounted on small earthen levees, must have broken.

“Either there was a design problem or a construction problem,” says Paul Kemp, an oceanographer at the centre. “They were not supposed to break.”


This from the New Scientist

Pass it On

Sep. 22nd, 2005 09:13 am
Administration Screw-Ups? Let Me Count The Ways...

"Brownie is to Katrina what Paul Bremer is to peace in Iraq, what George Tenet is to slam-dunk intelligence, what Paul Wolfowitz is to parades paved with flowers in Baghdad, what Dick Cheney is to visionary energy policy, what Donald Rumsfeld is to basic war planning, what Tom DeLay is to ethics and what George Bush is to 'Mission Accomplished' and 'Wanted Dead or Alive.'"

—John Kerry, Sept. 19, 2005


You can click here and email it to friends (and enemies :) )
Maureen Dowd is now, as of Monday, behind the screen of the new Times Select service. I'm on a 14 day free trial. I'm undecided if I'll keep it, just for one columnist, but, I shall see.

September 21, 2005
Message: I Can't
By MAUREEN DOWD

WASHINGTON

The president won't be happy until he dons a yellow slicker and actually takes the place of Anderson Cooper, violently blown about by Rita as he talks into a camera lens lashed with water, hanging onto a mailbox as he's hit by a flying pig in a squall, sucked up by a waterspout in the eye of the storm over the Dry Tortugas.

Then maybe he'll go back to the White House and do his job instead of running down to the Gulf Coast for silly disaster-ops every other day.

There's nothing more pathetic than watching someone who's out of touch feign being in touch. On his fifth sodden pilgrimage of penitence to the devastation he took so long to comprehend, W. desperately tried to show concern. He said he had spent some "quality time" at a Chevron plant in Pascagoula and nattered about trash removal, infrastructure assessment teams and the "can-do spirit."

"We look forward to hearing your vision so we can more better do our job," he said at a briefing in Gulfport, Miss., urging local officials to "think bold," while they still need to think mold.

Mr. Bush should stop posing in shirtsleeves and get back to the Oval Office. He has more hacks and cronies he's trying to put into important jobs, and he needs to ride herd on that.

The announcement that a veterinarian, Norris Alderson, who has no experience on women's health issues, would head the F.D.A.'s Office of Women's Health ran into so much flak from appalled women that the F.D.A. may have already reneged on it. No morning-after pill, thanks to the antediluvian administration, but there may be hope for a morning-after horse pill.

Mr. Bush made a frownie over Brownie, but didn't learn much. He's once more trying to appoint a nothingburger to a position of real consequence in homeland security. The choice of Julie Myers, a 36-year-old lawyer with virtually no immigration, customs or law enforcement experience, to head the roiling Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency with its $4 billion budget and 22,000 staffers, has caused some alarm, according to The Washington Post.

Ms. Myers's main credentials seem to be that she worked briefly for the semidisgraced homeland security director, Michael Chertoff, when he was at the Justice Department. She just married Mr. Chertoff's chief of staff, John Wood, and she's the niece of Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

As a former associate for Ken Starr, the young woman does have impeachment experience, in case the forensic war on terrorism requires the analysis of stains on dresses.

Julie makes Brownie look like Giuliani. I'll sleep better tonight, knowing that when she gets back from her honeymoon, Julie will be patrolling the frontier.

As if the Veterinarian and the Niece were not bad enough, there was also the Accused. David Safavian, the White House procurement official involved in Katrina relief efforts, was arrested on Monday, accused by the F.B.I. of lying and obstructing a criminal investigation into the seamy case of "Casino Jack" Abramoff, the Republican operative who has broken new ground in giving lobbying a bad name. Democrats say the fact that Mr. Safavian's wife is a top lawyer for the Republican congressman who's leading the whitewash of the White House blundering on Katrina does not give them confidence.

Just as he has stonewalled other inquiries, Mr. Bush is trying to paper over his Katrina mistakes by appointing his homeland security adviser, Frances Townsend, to investigate how the feds fumbled the response.

Mr. Bush's "Who's Your Daddy?" bravura - blowing off the world on global warming and the allies on the Iraq invasion - has been slapped back by Mother Nature, which refuses to be fooled by spin.

When Donald Rumsfeld came out yesterday to castigate the gloom-and-doomers and talk about the inroads American forces had made against terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq, he could not so easily recast reality.

In Afghanistan, the U.S.'s handpicked puppet president is still battling warlords and a revivified Taliban, and the export of poppies for the heroin trade is once more thriving.

Iraq is worse, with more than 1,900 American troops killed. Five more died yesterday, as well as four security men connected to the U.S. embassy office in Mosul, all to fashion a theocratic-leaning regime aligned with Iran. In Basra, two journalists who have done work for The Times have been killed in the last two months.

The more the president echoes his dad's "Message: I care," the more the world hears "Message: I can't."
This from Michael Moore (my boss and I are both on his newsletter--have been for years).

My Landlady is on her way down there with a tent, sleeping bag, food and more, to help humans and animals alike (she works as a dog walker/pet sitter and foster mom for two rescue agencies here in the bay--that's how I got my dork doggie).

From: "Michael Moore" <maillist@michaelmoore.com>
Date: September 13, 2005 11:30:56 PM PDT
Subject: We've Raised a Half-Million Dollars and Sent Over 50 Tons of Food and Water
Reply-To: maillist@michaelmoore.com


Friends,

Last week I closed my New York production office and sent my staff down to New Orleans to set up our own relief effort. I asked all of you to help me by sending food, materials and cash to the emergency relief center we helped set up on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain with the Veterans for Peace. We did this when the government was doing nothing and the Red Cross was still trying to get it together. Every day, every minute was critical. People were dying, poor people, black people, left like so much trash in the street. I wanted to find a way to get aid in there immediately.

I hooked up with the Vietnam veterans and Iraqi war vets (Veterans for Peace) who were organizing a guerilla, grass-roots relief effort. They were the same group that had set up Cindy Sheehan's camp in Crawford and now they had moved Camp Casey to Louisiana.

I have good news and horrible news to report. First, your response to my appeal letter was overwhelming. Within a few days, a half-million dollars was sent in through my website to fund our relief effort. This money was immediately used to buy generators, food, water, a mobile medical van, tents, satellite phones, etc.

Others of you began shipping supplies to our encampment. People in communities all over the country started organizing truck caravans to us in Louisiana. Twenty-two trucks from southern California alone have already arrived. A semi-truck from Chicago delivered ten tons of food. A group of friends in New Jersey got two 24 foot trucks, got their community to load them up with goods, and arrived in Covington tonight. Fifteen iMacs are inbound from California. One man gave us his pick-up truck and another donated truck is en route from Houston.

Your response to my appeal has been nothing short of miraculous. And it has saved many, many lives.

A number of you decided to just get in your cars and drive to our camp to volunteer to help. We now have had 150 volunteers here doing the work that needs to be done. Last night they unloaded twenty tons of food from a tractor trailer in under two hours. Each day more volunteers arrive. Everyone is sleeping on the ground or in tents. It is a remarkable sight. Thank you, all of you, for responding. I will never forget this outpouring of generosity to those forgotten by our own government.

My staff and the vets spend their 18-hour days delivering food and water throughout the city of New Orleans and the surrounding areas. What they have seen is appalling. I have asked them to post their daily diaries on my website (www.michaelmoore.com) along with accompanying photos and video so you can learn what is really going on. What the media is showing you is NOT the whole story. It is much, much worse and there is still little being done to bring help to those who need it.

Our group has visited many outlying towns and villages in Mississippi and Louisiana, places the Red Cross and FEMA haven't visited in over a week. Often our volunteers are the first relief any of these people have seen. They have no food, water or electricity. People die every day. There are no TV cameras recording this. They have started to report the spin and PR put out by the White House, the happy news that often isn't true ("Everyone gets 2,000 dollars!").

The truth is that there are dead bodies everywhere and no one is picking them up. My crew reports that in most areas there is no FEMA presence, and very little Red Cross. It's been over two weeks since the hurricane and there is simply not much being done. At this point, would you call this situation incompetence or a purposeful refusal to get real help down there?

That's why we decided not to wait. And we are so grateful to all of you who have joined us. The Veterans for Peace and my staff aren't leaving (and that's why we are hoping those of you who can't get to Covington will make it to the Veterans for Peace co-sponsored anti-war demonstration in DC on September 24: www.unitedforpeace.org.)

If you want to help, here's what we need in Covington right now:

Cleaning Supplies (glass cleaner, bleach, disinfectant, etc.)
Aspirin and other basic over the counter drugs.
Bottled Water
Canned Goods
Hygiene Supplies
Baby Supplies - Baby Food Formula, diapers #4, #5, Wipes, Pedialyte
Sterile Gloves
Batteries - All kinds, from AA to watch and hearing aid batteries.
Volunteers with trucks and cars
Self contained kitchens with generators, utensils, workers

Consider sending supplies in reusable containers. List the contents on the outside of the package so the folks in the warehouse can easily sort the items.

Clothes are not needed. If you go, keep in mind that you MUST be self-sufficient. Bring a tent and a sleeping bag. People are driving to Covington from across the country and often have extra room in their cars for you or for an extra box of supplies. For more information, go to the Veterans for Peace message board: www.vfproadtrips.org/katrina/.

Send supplies via UPS to:
Veterans for Peace
Omni Storage
74145 Hwy. 25
Covington LA

Thanks again for funding and supporting our relief efforts. It has been a bright spot in this otherwise shameful month.

Yours,
Michael Moore
mike@michaelmoore.com
www.michaelmoore.com


Last week I posted an article from the SF Chronicle in which San Francisco was told they would not receive refugees from the Gulf States because it was too far from their homes and refugees had refused to come this far west.

Now, however, we are hearing many stories of victims flow into camps across the United States as far away as Boston, or up in Maine...which is no farther than San Francisco is...and most of them had no idea where they were headed when they sat on the plane.

This article, in the UK Guardian, talks about a camp now set up in a National Guard training camp outside of Salt Lake City, UT.

A snippet:


Of Utah's 2.3 million population, just 0.8% classified themselves as African-American in the 2003 census. In Salt Lake City, that figure rises to nearly 2%.

Almost all of the evacuees who arrived in Utah were African-American. Mr Smiley, a Caucasian, was one of the very few exceptions milling around the camp. Like many refugees around the world, the evacuees from New Orleans will be highly visible in their new home. But unlike most refugees, they have remained inside their own country.

Add to that New Orleans's reputation as an easy living, hard drinking, party town and contrast it with Salt Lake City's fame as the home of Mormon morals, the town where drunkenness is illegal, and you have the recipe for at best confusion, and at worst, discord.

While Utah may be an unlikely destination for the homeless residents of New Orleans, for most of them it was also an unintentional destination.

"When we got on the plane they said, 'Welcome aboard, we are now flying to Lake Salt City'," said James Jernigan, an evacuee sitting in the sunshine at the camp. "I said, 'What? We're going the wrong way. I want to get off.' They said, 'No, you can't get off.'"
This Associated Press article was posted in the New York Times which requires a free registration.

September 12, 2005
Newsview: Katrina May Change View of Gov't
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Filed at 6:50 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The fatally slow response to Hurricane Katrina unleashed a wave of anger that could transform people's expectations of government, the qualities they seek in political leaders and their views of America's class and racial divides.

It's a huge opportunity that neither party seems poised to exploit.

''This could be a moment that changes the political dialogue of the country,'' said Robert Putnam, the Harvard political scientist whose book, ''Bowling Alone,'' argued that Americans are participating less and less in civic life.

Nowhere is the public's apathy more apparent than in government and politics. From the late-1950s, when three-fourths of Americans said they trusted government most of the time, the public's confidence in their political system has collapsed.

Six of 10 Americans said they trusted government during the Vietnam War. It fell to three of 10 after Watergate, and just two of 10 during the early 1990s economic recession. The Sept. 11 strikes led to a spike in confidence levels that lasted six months.

In June 2005, a Gallup poll revealed that just 30 percent of respondents said they trusted government most of the time.

And then came Katrina.
Read more )
------

EDITOR'S NOTE -- AP Political Writer Ron Fournier has covered national politics for The Associated Press since 1993.
(09-12) 12:04 PDT NEW ORLEANS, (AP) --

President Bush denied Monday there was any racial component to people being left behind after Hurricane Katrina, despite suggestions from some critics that the response would have been quicker if so many of the victims hadn't been poor and black.

"The storm didn't discriminate and neither will the recovery effort," Bush said. "The rescue efforts were comprehensive. The recovery will be comprehensive."


Similar articles to this one appear all over the news today.


This may come as as surprise to some of you but...I think that:

1. That is the best sound bite quote from Shrub in 7 years.

2. I believe him.

WHAT?!!

Hear me out. The response to Katrina, or lack thereof, throughout the Gulf States, not just New Orleans, is not due to a racial bias...it is due to an economic one. It is our National problem that the have-nots, which increase by leaps and bounds as our economic gap continues to widen, is dominated by one race, however, it is not exclusively Black Americans who reside in that lower tier of economically marginalized society of America.

Hello...

I do too, for one thing.

For another thing the fact that we do not take into account the severely limited resources and means of those folks as pie-in-the-sky city/state/federal planners create scenarios and draft unrealistic evacuation plans is a situation that has needed addressing for generations.

Read the history of the dustbowl devastation of the 1930s, or of the floods all over this country in the past century and the TVA project in Tennessee and Ohio valleys. The marginalized will always be further marginalized in natural and man-made crises where geography, land ownership, and homesteading is involved.

Playing the race card is all too easy in this case. ECONOMICS is the issue, Race is a factor...to me there's a big difference.

But that's just me.
From Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle.

As San Franciscans prepare to celebrate the centennial of the city's triumph over the great earthquake and fire of 1906, we are reminded by events in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina of the darker side to such cataclysms.

When San Francisco Mayor Eugene Schmitz made his way down Market Street on April 18, 1906, on the morning of the disaster, he observed saloons in full swing and evidence that looting had already taken place. He ordered that all alcohol sales be suspended.

Army Gen. Frederick Funston, realizing that the disaster was beyond the ability of city officials to deal with, immediately -- and on his own initiative -- ordered 2,000 troops from the Presidio into the city to maintain order. Mayor Schmitz issued a written proclamation later that day declaring that looters should be shot on sight.
read more )
But if the lawlessness that followed the earthquake and fire is illustrative of how people act when the social fabric is torn, the citizens of New Orleans might benefit from the presence of such men today.

(09-09) 15:55 PDT WASHINGTON (AP) --

The federal government's relief agency said Friday it will discontinue its program to distribute debit cards worth up to $2,000 to hurricane victims, two days after hastily announcing the novel plan to provide quick relief.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it will scrap the program once officials finish distributing cards this weekend at shelters in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, where many of the evacuees were moved. No cards will be issued to victims in other states.

Hurricane victims at other locations will have to apply for expedited aid through the agency's traditional route — filling out information on FEMA's Web site to receive direct bank deposits, FEMA spokeswoman Natalie Rule said.

"We tried it as an innovative way to get aid to evacuee populations in Texas. We decided it would be more expeditious with direct deposits," she said, citing the large staffing operation that would be required to replicate the Texas operation in other states.

Under fire for its initial response to the hurricane, FEMA Director Michael Brown had announced the debit card program as a way to quickly get up to $2,000 to the neediest families and empower them "to make their own decisions about what do they need to have to start rebuilding their lives."

He did not describe the program as applying only to Texas, which has accepted the largest number of evacuees and is the home state of President Bush.

From the outset, there was confusion about how to get the cards and who would be eligible.

On Thursday, thousands of people lined up at the Astrodome in Houston following reports that the first FEMA cards would be distributed that day. Red Cross cards were distributed, but those seeking the government cards were told they would have to return the next day.

On Friday, Ed Conley, a FEMA spokesman in Houston, said evacuees were receiving the cards at a rate of about 500 an hour, many of whom had filled out the proper documentation and applications through FEMA's Web site.

Applicants were being asked to provide Social Security numbers as well as the address of their damaged homes, for verification against aerial photographs of devastated areas.

A FEMA spokeswoman had said Friday there were enough cards to cover the families of the estimated 7,000 people registered at three shelters in the Astrodome complex.

</blockquote
Contrary to what folks might wish for.
(09-09)
11:24 PDT WASHINGTON (AP) --

Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown is being relieved of his command of the Bush administration's Hurricane Katrina onsite relief efforts, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced Friday.

He will be replaced by Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen, who was overseeing New Orleans relief and rescue efforts, Chertoff said.

Earlier, Brown confirmed the switch. Asked if he was being made a scapegoat for a federal relief effort that has drawn widespread and sharp criticism, Brown told The Associated Press after a long pause: "By the press, yes. By the president, No."

"Michael Brown has done everything he possibly could to coordinate the federal response to this unprecedented challenge," Chertoff told reporters in Baton Rouge, La. Chertoff sidestepped a question on whether the move was the first step toward Brown's leaving FEMA.

But a source close to Brown, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the FEMA director had been considering leaving after the hurricane season ended in November and that Friday's action virtually assures his departure.

Brown has been under fire because of the administration's slow response to the magnitude of the hurricane. On Thursday, questions were raised about whether he padded his resume to exaggerate his previous emergency management background.

Less than an hour before Brown's removal came to light, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Brown had not resigned and the president had not asked for his resignation.

Chertoff suggested the shift came as the Gulf Coast efforts were entering "a new phase of the recovery operation." He said Brown would return to Washington to oversee the government's response to other potential disasters.

"I appreciate his work, as does everybody here," Chertoff said.

"I'm anxious to get back to D.C. to correct all the inaccuracies and lies that are being said," Brown said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

Asked if the move was a demotion, Brown said: "No. No. I'm still the director of FEMA."

He said Chertoff made the decision to move him out of Louisiana. It was not his own decision, Brown said.

"I'm going to go home and walk my dog and hug my wife and, maybe get a good Mexican meal and a stiff margarita and a full night's sleep. And then I'm going to go right back to FEMA and continue to do all I can to help these victims," Brown said. "This story's not about me. This story's about the worst disaster of the history of our country that stretched every government to its limit and now we have to help these victims."

a jaw dropping, first-hand account of a FEMA controlled camp in Oklahoma for Hurricane refugees.
Congress' top two Democrats furiously criticized the administration's response to Hurricane Katrina on Wednesday, with Sen. Harry Reid demanding to know whether President Bush's Texas vacation impeded relief efforts and Rep. Nancy Pelosi assailing the chief executive as "oblivious, in denial."


Full article here
Shameless Award I
-
Wednesday, September 7, 2005

IT'S NO secret that Hurricane Katrina has upended Washington politics, rightfully making relief efforts the top priority. So re-labeling old ideas as a part of disaster recovery is the new political game.

The first, though not last, Shameless Award in putting the hurricane to other uses goes to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. He's tapping the oil refineries shut down by Katrina and higher pump prices to advocate for drilling in Alaska's Arctic edge.

Never mind that these supplies are seven to 10 years away. Never mind that the reserves may amount to only 4 percent of this nation's energy needs. Never mind that conservation and higher highway fuel economy are better answers to oil dependence than invading a wildlife refuge.

Katrina's wind and waves did shut down refineries and drilling platforms, though this gas supply line is slowly coming back. The answer to this country's fragile energy infrastructure isn't opening up the pristine backcountry to derricks and pipes.

Frist's argument, daft as it is, is designed to repackage and sell a bad idea. Unfortunately, the Arctic drilling plan has advanced further than it should. It's jammed in a federal spending bill that, under parliamentary ground rules, can't be taken out or filibustered as can other Senate bills.

Washington's new atmosphere should lead Congress to rethink spending priorities in the wake of Katrina. If that happens, drilling in the Arctic should be tossed out.

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