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Henry Waxman: are we overpaying Carnival Cruise Lines?

We in California are usually sorry for inflicting Rep. Henry Waxman on the rest of the country, but sometimes he does something OK. Like, trying to find out whether FEMA is overpaying Carnival Cruise Lines for use of three of their ships.
Lawmaker Wants Review of Cruise Ship Deal

In a letter, Rep. Henry Waxman of California asked Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to release documents indicating how the price was calculated. Waxman said he had Carnival documents from 2002 showing the company normally earns revenue of $150 million over six months...
Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., also have called for investigations into whether the contract price, which amounts to roughly $1,275 a week per passenger if the three ships were at full capacity, is too high.
Carnival officials have defended the deal, saying the company will not make extra profit because the $236 million price covers the revenue it would normally receive for up to 120,000 passengers it could book.
But Waxman, the top Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee, said the 2002 financial data shows that taxpayers are paying Carnival "significantly more under the federal contract than the ships earned on their own."
He noted that the 2002 figure of $150 million in revenue includes sales for liquor and onshore excursions as well as maintenance costs for pools, bars and casinos, which aren't needed for hurricane evacuees and thus shouldn't be charged...


Cynthia McKinney accuses administration of negligent homicide

Here, in all its "liberal" glory, is a question that Cynthia "Jihad" McKinney asked of Michael Chertoff:

"If the Nursing Home owners were charged with negligent homicide, why weren't you all charged?"

Chertoff defends actions

From Homeland security secretary defends actions:

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff defended his actions before and after Hurricane Katrina, telling lawmakers Wednesday he relied on Federal Emergency Management Agency experts with decades of experience in hurricane response.
"I'm not a hurricane expert," Chertoff said several times in responding to criticisms from members of a special House panel set up to investigate the dismal federal response to Katrina, which killed more than 1,200 people, flooded New Orleans and forced the evacuation of hundreds of thousands.
...Lawmakers grilled Chertoff about why he stayed home Saturday before Katrina made landfall on Monday, why he made a previously scheduled trip to Atlanta on Tuesday, and why he didn't act more decisively to speed up the federal response.
Chertoff said he relied on former FEMA Director Michael Brown as the "battlefield commander" and focused his efforts on making sure FEMA had all the resources it needed. He said he stayed in telephone contact with the office while at home and during the trip to Atlanta.
"I don't think there was a lack of a sense of urgency," he said.
...[Former FEMA head Michael] Brown blamed state and local officials in Louisiana for the slow response to Katrina when he testified before the committee last month. Chertoff disagreed.
"From my own experience, I don't endorse those views," he said.
After the levees broke in New Orleans, Chertoff said he became increasingly frustrated with the federal response and decided by the end of the first week to replace Brown with Coast Guard Vice Admiral Thad Allen. A week later, he relieved Brown of his duties and ordered him back to Washington.
...The investigation is being conducted by a special committee appointed by House GOP leaders. Democratic leaders, insisting on an independent investigation, have refused to cooperate in what they contend is a too-soft probe of the Bush administration by GOP lawmakers.
Several Democratic congressmen from the affected areas have attended the hearings and questioned witnesses. They were joined Wednesday by Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Georgia, who blasted what she called a lack of leadership in the Bush administration's response to Katrina.
Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-Texas, objected when McKinney asked Chertoff why he should not be charged with negligent homicide because of the federal response.
When questions "are over the top and not constructive, I don't believe the secretary should waste his time by answering," Bonilla said.
Chertoff did answer, however, declaring the President Bush "was deeply and personally engaged in the process from before the hurricane; I was deeply and personally involved in the process from before the hurricane."
Earlier, Chertoff told the committee that FEMA was overwhelmed by Katrina and must be retooled to improve preparation and response to natural disasters.
"There are many things that did not work well with the response," Chertoff said, adding later, "We are not where we need to be as a nation in the area of preparedness."
Chertoff said Katrina demonstrated that FEMA's system for moving supplies into disaster areas is not adequate and that communications systems must be made to work even in the worst disasters. He said the agency also must learn how to identify issues and target resources when state and local officials are overwhelmed by a storm.

DHS: Katrina not a "catastrophic event"

Your eyes might feel slimy after reading this report, but this bit needs some research:

On August 30, Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff labeled Katrina "an incident of national significance." In doing so, he set into action the National Response Plan (NRP). Secrecy News, published by the Federation of American Scientists, points out that in a little-noticed maneuver, Chertoff did not designate the hurricane as a "catastrophic event," a special sub-category of emergency situation that entails the expedited deployment of emergency response capabilities. On September 8, Chris Strohm of Government Executive Daily Briefing asked if Chertoff had exercised his catastrophic-incident authority in response to Hurricane Katrina. DHS spokesman Russ Knocke told the reporter that "it was too early to make a determination." FEMA officials continued to dodge the question last week. After repeated phone calls, one FEMA official, who refused to give her name, told the Voice that on August 31 the Department of Homeland Security declared Katrina "an incident of national significance." Asked if the storm ever had been declared a catastrophic event, the woman replied, "Homeland Security did not." In another conversation, Barbara Ellis of FEMA public affairs said, "Katrina rose to the level of 'incident of national significance.' " Asked if it was ever declared a catastrophic event, she repeated that the storm was an "incident of national significance."
In short, the government made sure it would not invoke laws setting into motion an expensive federal response. Instead, the feds blamed Blanco for the slipshod handling of the affair, explaining that they were prohibited by law from acting as a first responder.

Someone needs to explain the exact difference between the two designations and give examples of how they impacted the response. And, there's the possibility that under some new rule or other they're the same or can be made to be the same.

Michael Brown of FEMA 9/27 Congressional Testimony transcript, news links

Former head of FEMA Michael Brown testified before Congress today. He spoke and was questioned for several hours, and the massive transcript is here and here in PDF form.
From the AP:

Former FEMA director Michael Brown blamed others for most government failures in responding to Hurricane Katrina on Tuesday, especially Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. He aggressively defended his own role.
Brown also said that in the days before the storm, he expressed his concerns that "this is going to be a bad one" in phone conversations and e-mails with President Bush, White House chief of staff Andy Card and deputy chief of staff Joe Hagin.
And he blamed the Department of Homeland Security _ the parent agency for the Federal Emergency Management Agency _ for not acquiring better equipment ahead of the storm.
His efforts to shift blame drew sharp criticism from Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike.
"I'm happy you left," said Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn. "That kind of look in the lights like a deer tells me you weren't capable of doing that job."
Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., told Brown: "The disconnect was, people thought there was some federal expertise out there. There wasn't. Not from you."
... "My biggest mistake was not recognizing by Saturday that Louisiana was dysfunctional," two days before the storm hit, Brown said...
... "I've overseen over 150 presidentially declared disasters. I know what I'm doing, and I think I do a pretty darn good job of it," he said...
... Rep. William Jefferson, D-La. told Brown: "I find it absolutely stunning that this hearing would start out with you, Mr. Brown, laying the blame for FEMA's failings at the feet of the governor of Louisiana and the Mayor of New Orleans."
In a testy exchange, Shays compared Brown's performance unfavorably with that of former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
"So I guess you want me to be the superhero, to step in there and take everyone out of New Orleans," Brown said.
"What I wanted you to do is do your job and coordinate," Shays retorted.
"I'm happy to be called not a Rudy Giuliani ... a scapegoat ... if it means that FEMA ... is going to be able to be reborn," Brown said.
Criticized by Shays for failing to get better equipment to make communication easier among emergency agencies, Brown blamed those above him.
"We put that money in our budget request and it was removed by the Department of Homeland Security" he said.
Brown said he was "just tired and misspoke" when a television interviewer appeared to be the first to tell him there were desperate residents at the New Orleans Convention Center.
Brown said he learned a day earlier that people were flocking there.
He blamed "a hysteric media" for what he said were unfounded reports of rapes and murders. He characterized blunt-spoken Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, the military coordinator for the disaster, as "a bull in the China closet, God love him."
And he said Americans themselves must play a more active role in preparing for natural disasters _ and not expect more from the government than it can deliver.
Republican Rep. Kay Granger of Texas told Brown: "I don't know how you can sleep at night. You lost the battle."
Brown in his opening statement cited "specific mistakes" in dealing with the storm, and listed just two.
One, he said, was not having more media briefings.
As to the other, he said: "I very strongly personally regret that I was unable to persuade Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin to sit down, get over their differences, and work together. I just couldn't pull that off."
Both Blanco and Nagin are Democrats.
In Baton Rouge, La., Blanco's press secretary, Denise Bottcher, responded: "Mike Brown wasn't engaged then, and he surely isn't now. He should have been watching CNN instead of the Disney Channel," Bottcher said...

Another AP report has these bits from the transcript:

"FEMA is a coordinating agency, we are not a law enforcement agency," he said.
"It is inherently impractical, totally impractical, for the federal government to respond to every disaster of whatever size in every community across the country," Brown said.
"It breaks my heart to think about the disasters we respond to as FEMA and to think about the disasters that we also don't respond to," he added.

Brown also mentions a hitherto unknown site:

Ironically, it started with an organization called, that on some blog published a false, and, frankly, in my opinion, defamatory statement that the media just continued to repeat over and over.

They might have been the first site to discuss Brown's resume, and they respond to this news in typical leftie fashion:

That said, listening to Brown's testimony, I think he's saying something very important… something that speaks to the broader ideology of the Bush administration. He's not just blaming the state and local authorities for the chaos in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina… he keeps repeating that various rescue and relief operations are not and should not be the responsibility of the federal government.
In response, I would just like to point out that the whole purpose of having a Federal Emergency Management Agency is to deal with regional events that are so catastrophic that state and local agencies are unable to respond. If we can't expect that from our federal government, I wonder what purpose the Union serves?

Chertoff, Brown, who was in charge

From this:

Chertoff worked from home the day [Leo Bosner, a "26-year FEMA employee and union leader"] first warned of the hurricane's catastrophic potential for New Orleans, CNN's Tom Foreman reported. Chertoff also has been criticized for writing a memo the day after Katrina struck, delegating authority to Brown and deferring to the White House rather than taking charge.
Chertoff has not commented, but a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security said he was in touch with Brown the weekend Katrina approached New Orleans.
The homeland security spokesperson also defended the memo, saying it merely put in writing procedures already in place. But the national disaster plan states that Homeland Security is in charge of the response to disasters like Katrina.

"A disturbing view from inside FEMA": An odd CNN, FEMA, Blanco loop

This CNN report has a lot of filler, but it does link to a segment on a "whistleblower". But, it also ends up being CNN reporting on someone who apparently used CNN as a source for remarks by Blanco, which are then re-reported by CNN:

"We told these fellows that there was a killer hurricane heading right toward New Orleans," Leo Bosner, a 26-year FEMA employee and union leader told CNN. "We had done our job, but they didn't do theirs."
Bosner's storm warning came early Saturday, three days before Hurricane Katrina came ashore in eastern Louisiana.
"New Orleans is of particular concern because much of that city lies below sea level," he warned in his daily alert to Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff, then-FEMA chief Michael Brown and other Bush administration officials.
"If the hurricane winds blow from a certain direction, there are dire predictions of what may happen in the city," it said.

Those quotes appear to have originated with Gov. Kathleen Blanco, and not Bosner. I don't know if this National Situation Update: Saturday, August 27, 2005 is what that's refering to, but it attributes those last two quotes to Blanco, and it cites "Various media sources" as its sources.
Those quotes appear to have first appeared in CNN's Aug. 26 article "Forecasters: Katrina to aim for Mississippi, Louisiana":

In anticipation of a possible landfall, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco declared states of emergency Friday.
Blanco said "very well-coordinated evacuations" were planned that will be enacted "if there's a direct threat."
New Orleans is of particular concern because much of that city lies below sea level.
"It's always a huge concern, because there's a very large lake, Lake Pontchartrain, that sits next to New Orleans, and if the hurricane winds blow from a certain direction there are dire predictions of what may happen in that city," Blanco said.

What an odd loop! There's a possibility she was quoting Bosner, or CNN got its attributions wrong. Let's ask them and find out.
And, from Sep 11's "FEMA Weathers Storm From Critics":

So what happened as Katrina approached? On the Saturday morning two days before the hurricane struck, FEMA's watch commanders issued a warning.
"We put a situation report out at 5:30 a.m. saying a catastrophic hurricane is headed straight, dead-center for New Orleans and Brown and Chertoff and these people did nothing," Leo Bosner says.

"Early warnings raised doubt on Bush disaster plans"

WASHINGTON, Sept 17 (Reuters) - In the months before Hurricane Katrina, President George W. Bush sought to cut a key program to help local governments raise their preparedness, and state officials warned of a "total lack of focus" on natural disasters by his homeland-security chief, documents show...
...In July, the National Emergency Management Association wrote lawmakers expressing "grave" concern that still-pending changes proposed by Chertoff would undercut the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
"Our primary concern relates to the total lack of focus on natural-hazards preparedness," David Liebersbach, the association's president, said in the July 27 letter to Sens. Susan Collins, a Republican, and Joseph Lieberman, a Democrat, the leaders of a key Senate committee overseeing the agency...
...[In February, a month after the National Response Plan was created], however, Bush's fiscal 2006 budget proposed a 6 percent cut in funding for Emergency Management Performance Grants, from the $180 million appropriated by Congress in 2005 to $170 million in 2006.
State and local officials protested what they saw as White House cuts targeting the very program that would help them meet Bush's new disaster-preparedness goals.
"The grants are the lifeblood for local programs and, in some cases, it's the difference between having a program in a county and not," said Dewayne West, the director of Emergency Services for Johnston County, North Carolina, and president of the International Association of Emergency Managers...

Experts: Bush already has enough military powers, he just failed to use them

The article "Key military help for victims of Hurricane Katrina was delayed" says that Bush already had enough military powers to do what was necessary, he - and Michael Chertoff - simply failed to act quickly enough. The military has taken part in past disasters, and that's allowed as long as they don't perform police activities.

..."If the 1st Cav and 82nd Airborne had gotten there on time, I think we would have saved some lives," said Gen. Julius Becton Jr., who was the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency under President Reagan from 1985 to 1989. "We recognized we had to get people out, and they had helicopters to do that."
...Between 1992 and 1996, the Pentagon provided support in 18 disasters and developed five training manuals on how to work with FEMA and civilians in natural disasters...
... Several emergency response experts, however, questioned whether Bush and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff understood how much authority they had to tap all the resources of the federal government - including those of the Department of Defense.
"To say I've suddenly discovered the military needs to be involved is like saying wheels should be round instead of square," said Michael Greenberger, a law professor and the director of the University of Maryland's Center for Health and Homeland Security...
..."Everything he did and everything he has said strongly suggests that [the National Response Plan] was never read," Greenberger said of Chertoff...
... Former FEMA Director James Lee Witt, who served under President Clinton, believes that the Bush administration is mistaken if it thinks there are impediments to using the military for non-policing help in a disaster.
"When we were there and FEMA was intact, the military was a resource to us," said Witt. "We pulled them in very quickly. I don't know what rule he (Bush) talked about. ... We used military assets a lot."
Jamie Gorelick, the deputy attorney general during the Clinton administration who also was a member of the commission that investigated the Sept. 11 terror attacks, said clear legal guidelines have been in place for using the military on U.S. soil since at least 1996, when the Justice Department was planning for the Olympic Games in Atlanta.
"It's not like people hadn't thought about this," Gorelick said. "This is not new. We've had riots. We've had floods. We've had the loss of police control over communities.
"I'm puzzled as to what happened here," she said...
... "I see no impediment in law or in policy to getting them there," [ Scott Silliman, a former judge advocate general who's now the executive director of Duke University Law School's Center for Law, Ethics and National Security] said. "We could have sent in helicopters. We could have sent in forces to do search and rescue and to provide humanitarian aid. Everything but law enforcement."
... "They're trying to say that greater federal authority would have made a difference," said George Haddow, a former FEMA deputy chief of staff and the co-author of a textbook on emergency management. "The reality is that the feds are the ones that screwed up in the first place. It's not about authority. It's about leadership. ... They've got all the authority already."

Other parts of this article were covered in "Levee break, military response timeline".

Levee break, military response timeline

Piecing together the unconfirmed timeline presented in "Key military help for victims of Hurricane Katrina was delayed" we get:

- Aug 29: landfall; "levee breaches" occur
Aug 29 3:22:00 PM - Navy says USS Bataan is standing by.
- Aug 30: Michael Chertoff goes to Atlanta for a "previously scheduled briefing on avian flu"
- Aug 30: "[Chertoff] aides also concede that Washington officials were unable to confirm that the levees in New Orleans had failed until midday on Aug. 30. The breaches were first discovered in Louisiana some 32 hours earlier."
- Aug 31: CNN mentions Bataan in passing.
- Aug 31: "President Bush went on national television to announce a massive federal rescue and relief effort"
- But orders to move didn't reach key active military units for another three days. (Sep. 2?)
Once they received them, it took just eight hours for 3,600 troops from the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., to be on the ground in Louisiana and Mississippi with vital search-and-rescue helicopters. Another 2,500 soon followed from the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas.

Then, from "Military May Play Bigger Relief Role":

[Sep. 3:] The active-duty elements that Bush did send to Louisiana and Mississippi included some Army and Marine Corps helicopters and their crews, plus Navy ships. The main federal ground forces, led by troops of the 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, N.C., arrived late Saturday, five days after Katrina struck.

And, from Sep. 4 comes "Navy ship nearby underused" about the Bataan.


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