"FEMA fumbles": Charleston WV or Charleston SC?

CNN reports that a planeload of evacuees were delivered to Charleston, West Virginia.
Just one problem: officials in Charleston, South Carolina were told by FEMA that the plane was headed for them, and they had made all the necessary preparations:

A call seeking comment from FEMA was not immediately returned.
"We called in all the available resources," said Dr. John Simkovich, director of public health for the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.
"They responded within 30 minutes, which is phenomenal, to meet the needs of the citizens coming in from Louisiana," he said.

Note also the first sentence of the article:

Add geography to the growing list of FEMA fumbles.

"Offers of Aid Immediate, but U.S. Approval Delayed for Days"


Offers of foreign aid worth tens of millions of dollars -- including a Swedish water purification system, a German cellular telephone network and two Canadian rescue ships -- have been delayed for days awaiting review by backlogged federal agencies, according to European diplomats and information collected by the State Department.
Since Hurricane Katrina, more than 90 countries and international organizations offered to assist in recovery efforts for the flood-stricken region, but nearly all endeavors remained mired yesterday in bureaucratic entanglements, in most cases, at the Federal Emergency Management Agency...
..."There has been that common thought that because [offers of aid] are not tapped immediately, they're not prudently used," [FEMA spokeswoman Natalie Rule] said. "We are pulling everything into a centralized database. We are trying not to suck everything in all at once, whether we need it or not..."
...In an open letter released yesterday, though, Ambassador John Bruton, head of the Delegation of the European Commission to the United States, wrote:
"Perhaps one of those lessons will be that rugged individualism is not always enough in such a crisis, particularly if an individual does not have the material and psychological means to escape the fury of a hurricane in time..."

FEMA's "internment camps"

We're all familiar with FEMA's awesome powers and their concentration camps.
Now, thanks to this post, we have a look inside one of those camps:

I'm extremely depressed to report that things seem to only be getting sadder concerning the people so devastatingly affected by Katrina last week. Two car loads of us headed over to Falls Creek, a youth camp for Southern Baptist churches in Oklahoma that agreed to have its facilities used to house Louisiana refugees. I'm afraid the camp is not going to be used as the kind people of the churches who own the cabins believe it was going to be used.
Jesse Jackson was right when he said "refugees" was not the appropriate word for the poor souls dislocated due to Katrina. But he was wrong about why it is not appropriate. It's not appropriate because they are detainees, not refugees...

While there are problems with the article's credibility, there are a large number of photos. Apparently FEMA has leased the whole facility for five months. Also, whether the refugees are "detainees" or whether they're allowed to leave - but if they leave might not be able to get back in - is an open question. Obviously, plucking people from a housing project and putting them in a rural setting could cause problems for the current residents, so some of these precautions are absolutely necessary. Despite that, expect JacksonSharptonEtAl to start on this soon.
The DUmmies discuss this and other topics here. Their thinking seems to fall into four areas:
- They're locating Gulf Coasters to non-Gulf Coast communities, breaking up families and communities, etc...
- This is a plan to disperse Democratic voters out of state... (Apparently the Rethuglicans are dumb enough to botch Katrina aid, but smart enough to think that up...)
- Texas took in the most refugees so they can get federal money, little of which will trickle down to the victims. Utah is the same...

Blanco orders schoolbuses: on Sep. 2

The following Executive Order (PDF file) is dated Sep 1:

...WHEREAS, there is an immediate need for mass transportation to move citizens to shelters and other safe locations from disaster areas; and
WHEREAS, given the current exigent circumstances, buses are the most reasonable and practical mode of mass transportation to move our citizens to safety;
NOW THEREFORE I, KATHLEEN BABINEAUX BLANCO, Governor of the state of Louisiana... do hereby order and direct as follows:
SECTION 1: Each Superintendent of Education for each school district in Louisiana that remains substantially operational following the passage of Hurricane Katrina shall contact the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness... and provide an inventory of school buses and bus drivers in their district;
SECTION 2: As determined by the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, such buses shall be made available to be used as necessary for the mass transportation of Hurricane Katrina evacuees, accompanying law enforcement personnel, and necessary supplies to and from areas of concern to areas of safety;
SECTION 3: The Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness is hereby authorized to commandeer and utilize such buses for such purposes;...

UPDATE: The original post said this was ordered on Sep. 1. The actual date this was signed was Sep. 2.

Orleans Parish School Board on the schoolbuses: June 9, 2005

During a meeting of the Orleans Parish School Board on June 9, 2005, the topic of using schoolbuses to evacuate the city was discussed. The PDF file appears to be unavailable, but the cache is here. The raw minutes dealing with the buses is below.

Ms. Bartholomew: President Sanders indicated that he wanted this on the agenda because of the Hurricane season. Last year when schools needed to be closed, department heads were unclear because a lot of our school records are still in paper format and not in electronic format. So they didn't know the proper procedure to follow with maintaining records. In addition, President Sanders also indicated that the City would like us to work with them. If a hurricane should come to the City in order to save the school buses, those assets, the City had asked if we would loan the school buses to be utilized for those persons in New Orleans. A lot of the citizens of New Orleans do not have transportation and have no way of evacuating from the City if a hurricane should come this way. He had been talking with Dr. Kevin Stephens from the Health Department because the Red Cross said that they would not commit to opening any shelters in the City of New Orleans if a hurricane comes this way. It would be all for naught. They wanted to utilize school buses in order to transport those persons out of the City. I believe that the City had agreed to indemnify and hold harmless the School Board if any of those persons got hurt on the buses because that was one of my concerns. But after speaking with Ms. Bowers, who had spoken with certain persons at the City as well, they indicated they would release us of any liability. He wanted the Board to be aware of what the City is doing with hurricane preparedness and I guess initiate the proceeding for the Administration to start taking steps now before we get on the door steps of a hurricane. How are we going to preserve students records? If you cannot come back to the City, the children will need those records to go into new schools in other States or other Parishes. She is here now; he can speak to it.
Mr. Sanders: I first noticed that this current policy, 3651R, a 16 page policy, looks like it was drafted in July 1989. I don't know if it has been reviewed since 1989 but it probably could withstand review on that sake along. It has a lot of titles in here in terms of people in positions and I wonder if those same titles and positions are still operable. The larger issue is not with the records and that is a major issue. The children are even more important in terms of making sure they are safe. We know many of our children and families don't have transportation and even though it is a City responsibility to plan for emergencies and hurricane preparedness, we need to look at working even more cooperatively or seeking a more cooperative relationship with the City on behalf of the students that we serve. I did talk with Dr. Kevin Stephens in the Health Department of the City. It is our interest to get buses and other vehicles that we may own out of the City in the event it is being evacuated. So those buses should not be empty. It was also his suggestion and call that they should be filled with families and children that may need a ride out of City and may perhaps designate certain high schools in different neighborhoods as staging grounds for families to go to should the need arise for an evacuation. The City is working on arrangements with different Civic Centers in Houma and depending on where the hurricane is coming from, where we need to go. They are making arrangements with institutions in those areas such as Baton Rouge, Mississippi, or Hammond to wait out the hurricane. I just wanted to bring that to your attention. In the last two years we had evacuations and with this season it is predicted to be another big one. With last year's storm, Mr. Jerome Smith over in the Treme' area said there were a lot kids who were just stuck there. They were going to break into or were willing to get in one of our schools in order to be safe. We completely understand. I informed him that a school would not have been a good place to be if a hurricane did come. Only about four or five of our schools would really withstand a category three or higher hurricane. Using our schools as shelters is really not an option. Getting out of the City is the best option. We need to find ways to facilitate that for the kids we serve. Even though it is not our primary responsibility, as such, we need to facilitate those relationships.
Mrs. Landrieu: I just wanted to remind you that if we are going to include buses, which are not part of this plan, then we need to include the personnel and communication with personnel.
Ms. Bowers: We have been meeting with City entities about the hurricane preparedness and we have talked to them about our buses. We still have not defined how many they want. They have agreed to indemnify the School Board for using the buses. They said if our bus drivers volunteer then they will make arrangements to take the families of the bus drivers and offer them secure places. They are talking about having City Officers on buses also. There is a good bit of planning that is underway. Benita Cochran and the head of transportation and the head of Security have been participating in these meetings, too. We are trying to stay on top it. This does need review. Ms. Cochran is reviewing the Facilities plan.
Mrs. Landrieu: Ms. Bowers, please also include in here fuel preparations.
Ms. Bowers: Okay.
Mr. Sanders: Is there a committee within our school system that will revise the policy? For this month's meeting, will we be able to have a revised policy?
Ms. Bowers: Yes.
Mrs. Anderson: I acceptably agree that human life is first but the data is important. Who do we ask? Do we ask the Superintendent to ask IT to look at the issue of preserving data and is that being looked at already?
Dr. Watson: Not to the extent that it probably should. All of our SASE and student data is within the Technology so that is safe. But some of the written documents in the schools, the older documents, need to be protected. But all grades, all enrollment, all health records are completely being taken care of by the Technology Department. We do have things like books and other things that would be perishable in the schools. We do our best to make them safe in the event of a hurricane. I do want to assure you that the School District has worked with the City and worked with other entities within the community over the years when we are facing a hurricane. But we have always volunteered the use of our buses to evacuate citizens.
Mrs. Cade: I know that this policy is a little out dated. As the Chair of the Policy Committee, I will be getting with my Policy Committee, so that we can go through it and update it. Even in it's present state, I would like to request that the Administration go over with your staff. All staff personnel should become knowledgeable of what the policy and procedures are.
Dr. Watson: We will.
[...discussions relating to cash flow not specific to the buses...]

Top three at FEMA: "Bush cronies"

WASHINGTON - The three top jobs at the Federal Emergency Management Agency under President Bush went to political cronies with no apparent experience coping with catastrophes, the Daily News has learned...
...FEMA's No. 2 man, deputy director and chief of staff Patrick Rhode, was an advance man for the Bush-Cheney campaign and White House. He also did short stints at the Commerce Department and Small Business Administration.
Rhode's biography posted on FEMA's Web site doesn't indicate he has any real experience in emergency response.
In addition, the agency's former third-ranking official, deputy chief of staff Scott Morris, was a PR expert who worked for Maverick Media, the Texas outfit that produced TV and radio spots for the Bush-Cheney campaign. In June, Morris moved to Florida to become FEMA's long-term recovery director...
...FEMA also is hampered by several midlevel and regional director's jobs currently held by acting directors...
...Government sources blame Bush's first FEMA director, Joe Allbaugh, with turning FEMA into a patronage shop...

And, from "Top FEMA officials have scant experience in disaster management":

The department's No. 3 official, acting deputy chief of staff Brooks Altshuler, also does not have emergency management experience, according to FEMA spokeswoman Natalie Rule...
Rhode and Altshuler both worked in the White House's Office of National Advance Operations, which arranges the president's travel and scripts his appearances.
The credentials of top FEMA managers stand in contrast to the backgrounds of leaders of the agency during the Clinton administration.
Clinton-era FEMA Director James Lee Witt headed the Arkansas office of emergency services before he was tapped by Clinton in 1993 to run the federal disaster relief agency.
Witt's top aides in 2000, Lynn Canton and Michael Armstrong, both ran regional FEMA offices for at least three years before assuming senior positions with the agency in Washington.

Why are New Orleans cop cars parked in Houston?

"A number" of New Orleans cop cars have been seen in Houston lately, "several" of them stored in Houston Police Department parking lots, the Chronicle reports.
Exactly how they got there remains shrouded in mystery as well as perhaps cowardice and corruption, although the last two can't be confirmed. HPD was told not to arrest the drivers.
Yes, but why are the cars there?

"That was the only mode of transportation," [Lt. Robert Manzo, an HPD spokesman] said. New Orleans police officials "are not interested in pursuing any charges against (the drivers.)"

I'm sure each of those police cars was loaded with refugees.
However, for the other side of the story, see "A Home for the Brave" about some NOPD cops who stayed behind.

Some Katrina photos

There's a compilation here. They all appear to be hotlinked from Yahoo News, but I guess it's better than their slideshow feature, eh?


"Ineptitude leads to death"

Yesterday, Errol Louis in the NYDN was one of the first of the anti-Michael Brown wave:

...Behind the tears, you could hear that Nagin and Broussard know full well what outsiders are only beginning to understand: They are part of a system of government that is broken at all levels, rife with cronyism and corruption and their inevitable consequence, incompetence.
Federal investigators are probing corruption in the administration of former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial. A man named Glenn Haydel, who is Morial's uncle, is currently facing federal embezzlement charges for allegedly steering $550,000 from the New Orleans public transport system, the Regional Transit Authority, to his own management company - and putting $350,000 of that sum into a personal bank account.
Nagin, a political outsider elected as a reformer, has demonstrated significant limitations as a crisis manager. But he needed and deserved a smooth-running, fully funded public transport and it seems likely that chiselers and crooks in government denied it to him.
The rot extends to the federal level, where much of the nationally televised incompetence and confusion in the gulf region can be traced to the disastrous patronage hire of Michael Brown as director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Brown, utterly unqualified for the job, spent the last decade running a trade association of horse breeders...

"Significant limitations" indeed.

Allbaugh's Rathergate, TANG connection

It all fits together! According to this not-exactly-credible report:

Among his many acts of service, Allbaugh was reportedly the man dispatched to clean out Bush's Texas National Guard file prior to the 2000 presidential campaign.

It does, however, have this useful but unconfirmed bit of information:

In March 2003, the Bush administration degraded matters further by demoting FEMA from a Cabinet-level agency to a division of the freshly spawned Department of Homeland Security. The merger involved a nonsensical split in the government's disaster-response duties: FEMA would remain in charge of disaster response efforts on the ground, but DHS was placed in charge of disaster-response planning.


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