Haley Barbour niece-in-law gets million dollar contract

The affirmative action-supporting NYT reports in "Governor's Relative Is Big Contract Winner":

Rosemary Barbour happens to be married to a nephew of Mississippi's governor, Haley Barbour. Since the Reagan administration, when Mrs. Barbour worked as a White House volunteer as a college student, she has been active in the Republican Party.
She also happens to be one of the biggest Mississippi-based winners of federal contracts for Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts.
To some contract watchdogs, this could be an example of how the federal government responsibly reached out to give a piece of the billions of dollars in federal hurricane-recovery work to a small Mississippi-based company owned by a Latina. Mrs. Barbour, 39, who was born in Guatemala but now lives in Jackson, Miss., is certified by the United States Small Business Administration as a disadvantaged small-business owner.
But the $6.4 million in contracts received by her company, Alcatec L.L.C., have also elicited questions about possible favoritism.
Federal records show that the company has won at least 10 separate contracts from the Federal Emergency Management Agency or the General Services Administration to install and maintain showers for relief workers and evacuees, to deliver tents, and to provide laundry equipment. The most valuable were awarded in September and October without competitive bidding, the records show.
According to a review of federal contracts awarded since Hurricane Katrina, her company ranks seventh in total contracts out of 88 Mississippi-based concerns that have received deals worth $100,000 or more...

Community activists charge racism before Congress, but...

Five black New Orleans evacuees testified before Congress, and four of them said the underlying reason why the rescue wasn't as good as would have been expected was racism. Their testimony has received minutes on the nightly news shows, which took their testimony at face value.
However, note that one, a former federal worker, didn't blame racism. And, consider this:

...Leah Hodges, a community activist, recalled trying to help a group of stranded senior citizens. The military took them to an evacuation point on a highway where they spent the night, awakening to a "bunch of hard red necks scowling and growling at us in military uniforms ... pointing guns at us and treating us worse than prisoners of war," she said.

Now, not all community activists are bad, but then again most people who adopt that moniker tend to be a bit left and some of them hold rather unconventional opinions. And, when complaining about racism and expecting to be taken seriously, one might want to avoid using racial slurs.

Hodges described waiting in the burning sun in conditions she likened to a concentration camp. Rep. Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican, asked her to stop making that comparison.
"I'm going to call it what it is. If I put a dress on a pig, a pig is still a pig," she responded heatedly.
Miller countered, "Not a single person was marched into a gas chamber and killed."

And, another one of those who testified, Dyan French ("Mama D"), claims the levees were dynamited.

Karl Rove wanted Blanco to federalize the New Orleans evacuation

Shortly after noon on Wednesday, Aug 31, Karl Rove used Senator David Vitter to convey a message to governor Kathleen Blanco: she should announce that she's voluntarily turned control of the evacuation of New Orleans over to the feds, and she should:

explore legal options to impose martial law "or as close as we can get," Vitter quoted Rove as saying, according to handwritten notes by Terry Ryder, Blanco's executive counsel.

For the next three days, the White House tried to get Blanco to do what they wanted, except:

Blanco rejected the administration's terms, 10 minutes before Bush was to announce them in a Rose Garden news conference, the governor's aides said.

As others speculated at the time, Blanco had no clue on how to deal with the legalities of this:

Blanco's top aides relied on ad hoc tutorials from the National Guard about who would be in charge and how to call in federal help. But in the inevitable confusion of fast-moving events, partisan differences and federal/state divisions prevented top leaders from cooperating.
A Blanco aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the people around Bush were trying to maneuver the governor into an unnecessary change intended to make Bush look decisive.
"It was an overwhelming natural disaster. The federal government has an agency that exists for purposes of coming to the rescue of localities in a natural disaster, and that organization did not live up to what it was designed for or promised to," the aide said. Referring to Bush aides, he said, "It was time to recover from the fiasco, and take a win wherever you could, legitimate or not."
Vitter, in an interview, disagreed but acknowledged the clash.
"In my opinion, they [Blanco aides] were hypersensitive. . . . They seemed to feel there was some power play, which I don't think there was," he said. "The fact that it was [Rove] -- might that have fueled the governor's hypersensitivity? It may have, I don't know."

More in "Documents Highlight Bush-Blanco Standoff".

"Rowboat Federalism: The Politics of U.S. Disaster Relief"

You socialists are in for a special treat, as the proudly socialist rag Monthly Review offers this from a professor of political science at Seminole Community College. It's an extra special treat because Part 2 is here.


Nagin pleads with residents to return

The AP offers "New Orleans Mayor Asks Residents to Return", which reports on Nagin visiting Atlanta to plead with residents to return. It includes this quote from a former resident:

"There is nowhere to buy food or get gas. It's chaotic... Bringing us back to living in poverty is not a new beginning. How can a city that's broke help New Orleans rebuild?"

And, it also includes this bit that, were the races reversed, would be considered racist. But, since they aren't, it's not racist, no, not at all:

Betty Gaynor says she is leaving Atlanta _ for Houston, not New Orleans. The 65-year-old chastised Nagin, who is from her neighborhood in the 6th Ward, for allowing Mardi Gras to be held this coming February.
"Why would he have Carnival? Carnival is mostly for the white folks," she muttered.

Under liberal rules, that's a perfectly acceptable thing to say.

Levee breach, flooding timeline: who knew what when?

Monday 8/29, early morning: hurricane strikes
Monday 8/29, later that morning: Fox might have broadcast news of the break(s)
Monday 8/29, early afternoon: breaches reported to NO authorities [1]
Monday 8/29, 6pm : confirmed in a summary distributed by the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness [1]
Monday 8/29, "later in the day" : Blanco finds out [1]
Tuesday 8/30, midnight to 1am: CNN broadcasts a live report on the breach(s) [2]
Tuesday 8/30, late morning: DHS head Michael Chertoff finds out about the issue [1]
[2]: two blog reports: here and here
[1]: "News of levee breach hit D.C. late":

Federal and state emergency officials knew by early evening on the day that Hurricane Katrina made landfall that New Orleans' levees had ruptured and that much of the city was inundated with water, documents turned over to congressional investigators by Gov. Kathleen Blanco's administration show.
But that critical information did not make it up the chain of command to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security until more than 15 hours later, a delay that some Louisiana officials believe compromised the effort to rescue people stranded by floodwaters.
The breach of the 17th Street Canal levee, which was reported to New Orleans authorities early on the afternoon of Aug. 29, was confirmed by the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness in a 6 p.m. summary distributed to state and federal emergency officials in Baton Rouge.
"No power, 911 system down, EOC (emergency operations center) on emergency power and cell phones," the summary said. "Entire city flooded, except French Quarter/West Bank/Business district."
Farther down, in bold type, the summary report notes three breaches in the New Orleans area, including the 17th Street Canal...
FEMA Director Michael Brown, who was in Baton Rouge that day, would have had access to the summary, as did other state and federal officials.
Mark Smith, a spokesman for the state Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said it would have been clear to anyone who had read the summary what was happening in New Orleans. "Her (Blanco's) staff and our staff and the FEMA staff on site . . . all know the implications of any levee in Louisiana going down," Smith said.
But Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff did not find out about the flooding until late Tuesday morning. Russ Knocke, a spokesman for Chertoff, said he doesn't know why the information wasn't conveyed sooner.
"I can't speak for Michael Brown. I can't tell you what happened with that information when . . . it was presented to Mike," Knocke said. "I can just tell you that from our part in Washington, D.C. . . . it was an extraordinarily frustrating period because we simply lacked visibility. That was a result of inadequate information from the field."
Knocke declined to speculate on whether the federal response would have been quicker had Chertoff understood the gravity of the situation sooner. "That's like asking someone to go back and play armchair quarterback," he said...

Cold weather camping advice from Gulf Coast News

GulfCoastNews.com offers "Cold Weather Advice For Campers" for those who are still staying - or will soon stay - in tents.
As it says, avoid cotton at all costs: when it gets wet it loses almost all of its insulating properties. Another tip they don't mention is to wear a hat, especially a knit ski cap and/or balaclava. And, if possible, get a quality sleeping bag or at least something rated as low as possible. Then, wear additional clothing inside the bag as necessary, without overheating.

Louisiana Dems: "regrouping" or trying to rig elections?

Perhaps it's both. Secretary of State Al Ater says that Feb. 4's New Orleans election cannot be held because of destroyed voting machines, scattered commisioners, and the like. However, delaying the elections to Sep. 2006 will also give LA time to get back all those constituents, most of whom are - quite coincidentally I'm sure - Democrats.

...FEMA has also changed its mind about helping the state contact displaced voters. Instead, Attorney General Charles Foti got ahold of FEMA's list of names and addresses, and now the state will send out a letter to evacuees. The draft of the letter lets evacuees know exactly what their voting rights are, but it also directs them to have their mail forwarded through the postal service, which will make their whereabouts known and fair game for political parties and candidates.
Ater admits it will only take a few months to solve election problems in New Orleans, but he's given up to nine months for the Orleans election to be set. This gives more time for evacuees to move home and for the state to track those who don't. Shortly after Katrina, political consultant Roy Fletcher predicted democrats would do this.
"The Ninth Ward elected Kathleen Blanco, the Ninth Ward elected Mary Landrieu, the Ninth Ward has elected a lot of statewide elected officials who are democrats," said Fletcher.
But Ater has distanced himself from the democratic party, announcing on Wednesday that he won't run for Secretary of State. As for republicans, the state party director, Ellen Davis, says the sooner we have elections, the better.

Comments on the rigged aspects here.

Sen. Mary Landrieu's in-your-face approach

The LAT offers "Image Problem Is Costing Louisiana" about how not too many DC politicians want to go out of their way for LA because of LA's reputation and because of Sen. Mary Landrieu's "in-your-face approach":

After battling in Congress for months to get more federal money for their hurricane-ravaged state, some Louisiana officials have come to believe they are up against something more than concerns about the budget deficit or conflicting visions of reconstruction.
Maybe, they speculate, their colleagues just don't trust them.
Maybe they are right...

When asked about past and current corruption in their state, LA officials play a mean game of tu quoque, bringing up Tom Delay, Bill Frist, and Jack Abramoff. But:

But some lawmakers say the Louisiana delegation has only itself to blame for the mounting tension over the federal government's obligations for rebuilding Louisiana.
They single out Sen. Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.), who has made angry speeches on the Senate floor and kept the chamber in session overnight in October, holding up other legislation, as she pressed her colleagues for more aid. Some Republicans say her tone, which they describe as "shrill," has alienated her colleagues and undercut her efforts.
Privately, lawmakers unfavorably compare Landrieu's in-your-face approach to that of the senators from the other heavily Katrina-damaged state, Mississippi. Republicans Thad Cochran and Trent Lott have gotten high marks for working quietly behind the scenes to steer resources to their constituents.
Some Louisiana officials, however, contend the key difference between their state and Mississippi is political. Mississippi is a heavily Republican state, and its GOP governor, Haley Barbour, has close ties to the White House. Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco is a Democrat, and the wrecked city of New Orleans is a Democratic stronghold...

For her part:

Sen. Landrieu said she did not believe that her actions, or those of anyone else in the state's congressional delegation, were to blame for what she saw as the federal government's failure to respond to Louisiana's needs.
"I'm not sure it was ever the intention of this administration to really help," she said. "I would say that really it's a pattern of this administration to promise a lot and deliver very little - to pretend like you care, but when it comes down to really putting your money where your mouth is, it doesn't happen."
Months after the hurricane, many survivors still are living in hotels and other temporary shelters, and many remain financially devastated.
"I'm ready to start a revolution," said former Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.). "This is an absolute outrage. Here we are in Month 4 of a terrible, terrible tragedy, and other than hotel rooms and meals-ready-to-eat and some reconstruction, we haven't gotten squat."

And, Louisiana Recovery Authority Vice Chairman Walter Isaacson says LA isn't asking for $250 billion any more. It's now a more miserly $50 billion.

Louisiana releases 100,000 pages of Katrina documents

On Friday Dec 2, LA began the release of 100,000 pages of internal documents on Katrina. These were released to Congress, but so far they are not publicly available on the web. To gain access you must file a public records request with the state, as described here. I've emailed such a request, but since this is not the controllable MSM they might just press delete. Blanco has an overview of the document dump here.
Coverage from:
NYT: "In Newly Released Documents, a View of the Storm After Katrina"
NOLA: "Blanco, Bush bickered over Guard, state says"
WaPo: "Blanco Releases Katrina Records"
AP (also here)
HuffPost comments.


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