POVERTY

Former Senator John Edwards: ‘The government released new poverty statistics this week. The number of Americans living in poverty rose again last year. Thirteen million children – nearly one in every five – lives in poverty.’

☞ It is a great time to be rich and powerful in America. And there’s more good stuff to come. Even now, the Republican leadership is pressing to eliminate the estate tax.

NOT SO GREAT EVEN IF YOU’RE EMPLOYED

According to new government numbers last week, median wages have dropped by $1,700 since President Bush took office. And by refusing to adjust the minimum wage for inflation, our all-Republican government has allowed it to fall to just 32% of the average hourly wage, its lowest level in 56 years. Happy Labor Day.

RECONNECTING

Air America Radio has launched a way for disconnected people to find each other. Call 866-217-6255 and . . .

  • If you’ve been displaced by the storm, enter the phone number people normally call you at (even though it’s likely out of service).  Record a message.
  • If you’re looking for someone, dial their regular phone number (even though it’s likely out of service) and hear the message they’ve recorded.

“Obviously, for this to work,” Air America urges, “people need to know about it, so please forward the number to as many people as you can.”

COMMENTS

Greg Palast: The National Public Radio news anchor was so excited I thought she’d piss on herself: the President of the United had flown his plane down to 1700 feet to get a better look at the flood damage! And there was a photo of him taken looking out the window. He looked very serious and concerned. That was yesterday. Today he played golf. No kidding.

Andrew Sullivan: “The good news is – and it’s hard for some to see it now – that out of this chaos is going to come a fantastic Gulf Coast, like it was before. Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott’s house — he’s lost his entire house – there’s going to be a fantastic house. And I’m looking forward to sitting on the porch.’ (Laughter).” – president George W. Bush, today. Just think of that quote for a minute; and the laughter that followed. The poor and the black are dying, dead, drowned and desperate in New Orleans and elsewhere. But the president manages to talk about the future “fantastic” porch of a rich, powerful white man who only recently resigned his position because he regretted the failure of Strom Thurmond to hold back the tide of racial desegregation.

Laura RozenDutch viewer Frank Tiggelaar writes:  “There was a striking discrepancy between the CNN International report on the Bush visit to the New Orleans disaster zone, yesterday, and reports of the same event by German TV.  ZDF News reported that the president’s visit was a completely staged event.  Their crew witnessed how the open air food distribution point Bush visited in front of the cameras was torn down immediately after the president and the herd of ‘news people’ had left and that others which were allegedly being set up were abandoned at the same time. The people in the area were once again left to fend for themselves, said ZDF.” [UPDATE: THIS APPARENTLY IS FALSE. SEE SEPTEMBER 9 COLUMN FOR A LINK TO THE CORRECTION]

David Sirota: I wanted to pass on these stories about how much of the federal government’s tragic failures in the catastrophe were long ago the subject of serious concern in Congress. I remember these debates very well when I worked at the Appropriations Committee – Democrats repeatedly noted that serious budget cuts to critical Army Corps programs were coming AT THE VERY SAME TIME THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION WAS PUSHING TRILLIONS IN TAX CUTS. Former GOP Congressman/Army Corps Chief Mike Parker’s warnings in particular were very troubling back in 2002. Sadly, he was not only ignored by President Bush, but actually fired for having the guts to voice his concerns.  What we now see is very clear: there are serious, tragic and awful consequences that result from the Bush administration’s willingness to make tax cuts for the wealthy a priority over everything else – and its penchant for firing/silencing those who have the nerve to tell the truth.

Engineers’ Warnings and Pleas for Money Went Unheeded
Assistant Army Secretary Forced Out
White House Blistered Army Corps Chief In Memo Before Firing
Ex-Army Corps Officials Say Budget Cuts Imperiled Flood Mitigation Efforts
FEMA Head Forced to Resign From Last Job

CBS Meteorologist and nationally recognized hurricane expert Bryan Norcross:

Secretary Chertoff’s statement on MEET THE PRESS that he didn’t find out until Tuesday that the city was flooding – and that he was somehow guided by the newspapers that the worst had past – is absurd.  (Or, if true, frightening.)  I was on TV doing the Early Show all of Monday morning.  I reported that a  levee on the city’s east side had been breeched and some flooding was underway.  We got that information from the CBS station in New Orleans.

The 17th Street canal levee failed late Monday.  But what kind of national emergency department is  the Department of Homeland Security if the Secretary gets his information from the morning paper?  The fact is… none of the managers in DHS have emergency management experience.  They can’t visualize a disaster as emergency managers are trained to do.  James Lee Witt, the Director of FEMA in the Clinton Administration, has been speaking out about FEMA’s dismantling for some time.

☞ Few disagree FEMA was an unimpressive operation at best until the Clinton administration professionalized it.  The Republican leadership promptly abandoned that standard and has been letting it slip ever since.  You do not entrust millions of lives to a FEMA director who for nine years prior supervised a group of show-horse judges – and even had to resign under pressure from that.

But what of the city and state’s own responsibility in all this?

The lesson from hurricane Andrew in 1992, Norcross says, was clear – and known to emergency professionals:  “No local or state government can respond to a catastrophic natural disaster.  Only the military has the men, systems, and resources to descend on a city as soon as the wind stops blowing or the ground stops shaking to provide communications, security, and basic health services.  Without the military there is no command and control.  Without command and control there is only anarchy.”

Paul Sliwka (and others): “It’s amazing that the ruling party can mobilize itself for a girl named Terry but not one named Katrina.”

Bill Stosine: “If you want to know who the real incompetents are, there’s an easy way to tell.  They’ll be the ones Bush will be giving medals to over the next few months.”

Finally, an open letter to President Bush from the Times Picayune Sunday:

We heard you loud and clear Friday when you visited our devastated city and the Gulf Coast and said, “What is not working, we’re going to make it right.”

Please forgive us if we wait to see proof of your promise before believing you. But we have good reason for our skepticism.

Bienville built New Orleans where he built it for one main reason: It’s accessible. The city between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain was easy to reach in 1718.

How much easier it is to access in 2005 now that there are interstates and bridges, airports and helipads, cruise ships, barges, buses and diesel-powered trucks.

Despite the city’s multiple points of entry, our nation’s bureaucrats spent days after last week’s hurricane wringing their hands, lamenting the fact that they could neither rescue the city’s stranded victims nor bring them food, water and medical supplies.

Meanwhile there were journalists, including some who work for The Times-Picayune, going in and out of the city via the Crescent City Connection. On Thursday morning, that crew saw a caravan of 13 Wal-Mart tractor trailers headed into town to bring food, water and supplies to a dying city.

Television reporters were doing live reports from downtown New Orleans streets. Harry Connick Jr. brought in some aid Thursday, and his efforts were the focus of a “Today” show story Friday morning.

Yet, the people trained to protect our nation, the people whose job it is to quickly bring in aid were absent. Those who should have been deploying troops were singing a sad song about how our city was impossible to reach.

We’re angry, Mr. President, and we’ll be angry long after our beloved city and surrounding parishes have been pumped dry. Our people deserved rescuing. Many who could have been were not. That’s to the government’s shame.

Mayor Ray Nagin did the right thing Sunday when he allowed those with no other alternative to seek shelter from the storm inside the Louisiana Superdome. We still don’t know what the death toll is, but one thing is certain: Had the Superdome not been opened, the city’s death toll would have been higher. The toll may even have been exponentially higher.

It was clear to us by late morning Monday that many people inside the Superdome would not be returning home. It should have been clear to our government, Mr. President. So why weren’t they evacuated out of the city immediately? We learned seven years ago, when Hurricane Georges threatened, that the Dome isn’t suitable as a long-term shelter. So what did state and national officials think would happen to tens of thousands of people trapped inside with no air conditioning, overflowing toilets and dwindling amounts of food, water and other essentials?

State Rep. Karen Carter was right Friday when she said the city didn’t have but two urgent needs: “Buses! And gas!” Every official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency should be fired, Director Michael Brown especially.

In a nationally televised interview Thursday night, he said his agency hadn’t known until that day that thousands of storm victims were stranded at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. He gave another nationally televised interview the next morning and said, “We’ve provided food to the people at the Convention Center so that they’ve gotten at least one, if not two meals, every single day.”

Lies don’t get more bald-faced than that, Mr. President.

Yet, when you met with Mr. Brown Friday morning, you told him, “You’re doing a heck of a job.”

That’s unbelievable.

There were thousands of people at the Convention Center because the riverfront is high ground. The fact that so many people had reached there on foot is proof that rescue vehicles could have gotten there, too.

We, who are from New Orleans, are no less American than those who live on the Great Plains or along the Atlantic Seaboard. We’re no less important than those from the Pacific Northwest or Appalachia. Our people deserved to be rescued.

No expense should have been spared. No excuses should have been voiced. Especially not one as preposterous as the claim that New Orleans couldn’t be reached.

Mr. President, we sincerely hope you fulfill your promise to make our beloved communities work right once again.

When you do, we will be the first to applaud.

☞ If all this leaves you steamed, consider what happened after New Orleans was flooded in 1927.  Greg Palast’s column, snipped above, goes on to provide historical perspective that’s worth the click.  (I’m no historian.  If he’s got it all wrong, I know I can count on you to set the record straight.)

PS – The shelter link worked!  Charles and I have a young family of six coming to stay in a guest condo that goes largely unused.  They are hardly the most needy of the needy – but it’s a great feeling to be able to help, even a little.  We plan to make them Democrats by the time they leave.

 

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