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Brian Williams interviews George Bush

NBC's Brian Williams conducted a long interview with president Bush, and the section about Katrina has Bush:
- repeating his blame-taking for the weak federal response ("to the extent that the federal government was ineffective, I'm responsible")
- given the opportunity to blame Blanco, Nagin, or others, he said "we're beyond that"
- he was watching the TV reports from the Superdome...
- he "certainly hopes" that we won't lose New Orleans on his watch...
- Bush not only knows what the Ninth Ward is, he's familiar with the conspiracy theory about the government blowing up the levees...
- Bush has read about- or had someone tell him about - the blowing up of the levees that occured in the 20s...
And, there's this perhaps-not-entirely-accurate bit:

one of the things we've learned about the levees, Brian, is that they call the levees a certain category, but they weren't up to standards. And so we're now in the process of working with local folks to get the standards of the levees up to where they should have been prior to the storm and even better. And hopefully we'll have the capacity to announce that relatively quickly.

The levees and floodwalls might not have been designed correctly however.
Also:

I remember saying that, when I thanked those chopper drivers from the Coast Guard who performed brilliantly, they didn't lower those booms to pick up people saying, "What color skin do you have?" They said, "A fellow American's in jeopardy. And I'm going to do my best to rescue that person."

However, some far-lefties have speculated that shots fired at choppers were because they were being ignored because of triage.
Speaking about Brownie:

You know, Michael [Brown], resigned. And I, you know, I had worked with him during the four hurricanes that hit Florida. He got pretty good marks. And in this case, for whatever reason, the system overwhelmed the whole process. And Michael said, "I'm responsible." And he left.

FEMA still paying for 42,000 hotel rooms

People who sought refuge outside the 10 states that absorbed most of the evacuees from hurricanes Rita and Katrina may remain in hotels at the government's expense while their applications for rental assistance are processed, officials announced Saturday.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency continues to pay for an estimated 42,000 hotel rooms in 47 states and the District. In the 10 states that took in most of the homeless evacuees, FEMA recently pledged to continue paying their hotel bills until Jan. 7, after its previous Dec. 1 deadline was met with widespread criticism.
Outside the 10 states, however, about 2,000 families still faced a Dec. 15 hotel assistance cutoff. But FEMA said Saturday it will extend the hotel program to Jan. 7 for those evacuees who are eligible for cash aid but have yet to apply for or receive it...

Continued here.

FEMA going to court over housing deadline

From this:

Evacuees hoping to preserve a government program providing hotel rooms to those displaced by Hurricane Katrina have their day in court on Friday, when a federal judge hears an array of complaints against the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
In addition to hearing claims that Katrina victims face unfair and premature eviction from hotels, Judge Stanwood Duval will hear testimony and arguments that FEMA has wrongfully denied rental assistance to some evacuees.
"We plan on calling three victims, at least two of whom are about to be evicted from hotels," said Howard Godnick, an attorney for evacuees, who is seeking to make the lawsuit a class-action on behalf of all Katrina evacuees.
FEMA had set a Dec. 1 deadline for ending the hotel program but extended it to Dec. 15 after widespread criticism. In addition, 10 states -- Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Tennessee and Texas -- will be allowed to apply for extensions lasting until Jan. 7.
But, even after extensions, some could face homelessness if the hotel program ends, Godnick argues. FEMA officials contend that anyone properly registered with FEMA and eligible to receive fedral assistance will have the tools and the funding they need to get temporary housing.

Aug 31: Blanco stopped looking for buses

On Wednesday morning, Aug 31, Blanco's staff stopped trying to arrange schoolbuses for the evacuation. They believed that Fema was sending them buses. Not only that, they thought the military would use Chinook helicopters to airlift people out of the Superdome.
Then, when that didn't happen by the afternoon, Blanco started the search for buses again, and in the evening she issued an order allowing local school board buses to be comandeered.
This is from the recently released documents, but it's been discussed before. See Sep 19's "Blanco: where were the 500 FEMA-promised buses?"

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...

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.

List of Katrina contracts

You can download several PDFs here listing various rebuilding contracts awarded by the Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA, and dear old DoD. They also have tips on how to pay for all that reconstruction.

FEMA: No more hotel rooms after Dec. 1

FEMA has spent at least $250 million on hotel rooms for evacuees, and 53,000 families are still staying in rooms. They intend to stop paying for that on December 1.

Rep. Gary Smith's father, uncle get $108 million FEMA contract

Rep. Gary Smith's family owns a motorcycle shop near New Orleans, and they've received a contract for 6,400 housing trailers. The three contracts were no-bid and they're worth $108 million. And, the shop didn't get the license required to sell new trailers until after the first contract had been inked:

...Smith's uncle, Glen Smith, said he was able to secure the contracts because he has worked with the federal government for nearly four decades during disasters, removing debris, dredging rivers and providing mobile housing following Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
...Recreational vehicle dealers in Louisiana are angry, saying they've been shut out of what they call a sweetheart deal. One is threatening to sue the motorcycle shop's owners for violating the dealer's franchise rights to sell RVs.
...Louisiana lawmakers, meeting in special session, are debating a bill that could require state officials to inform the state ethics board when they or their family members profit from federal disaster-related contracts. An alternative version would limit reporting to just officials and their spouses...

"Supply Chain: How Wal-Mart Beat Feds to New Orleans"

Apparently the feds could learn from America's favorite retailer:

...Wal-Mart, for example, was able to move food, water, generators and other goods to areas hit by hurricanes Katrina and Rita following each storm because it has an emergency operations center that is staffed every day around the clock by decision-makers who have access to all of the company's systems.
Under normal circumstances, a six- to 10-person staff at the center responds to everyday emergencies, such as a fire in a store or a shooting outside one. When disasters such as hurricanes threaten, the staff is joined by senior representatives from each of the company's functional areas, says Jason Jackson, Wal-Mart's director of business continuity. The center is equipped with hurricane-tracking software, and on Aug. 24, days before Katrina made landfall, company managers were already planning their response.
The emergency response team works in a large, open room that is designed with efficient communication in mind. When a district manager calls from the field to tell the operations manager in the center that he needs 10 trucks of water, the operations manager can turn to the person manning the replenishment systems.
The replenishment manager then checks his supplies. "He says, 'I can get you eight [trucks] today and two tomorrow,'" says Jackson. "He then tells the logistics guy. This all takes place in a matter of seconds..."

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