Stealing the ’08 Election: Rove and Reconstruction After Katrina

Evidence has come to light over the past month that the so-called “incompetence” of the Federal response to Katrina is anything but. It has been a calculated effort led by Karl Rove to turn Louisiana from a Democratic state into a Republican state by destroying New Orleans, but it may backfire.

Two weeks ago the WaPo reported that roughly a quarter of a million people are suing the Federal government for damages, claiming that the Army Corps of Engineers screwed up the building of the levees, dams, in fact the whole New Orleans water delivery system.

Ever since the floodwaters receded, the idea that the U.S. government was to blame for the Katrina catastrophe has possessed and angered its victims.

A legion of lawn signs, posted in front of many wrecked homes, wagged a finger at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency responsible for the flood works: “Hold the Corps accountable!”

Turns out it was more than mere talk. After a massive deadline filing rush recently that is still being sorted through, the United States is facing legal claims from more than 250,000 people here demanding compensation because, they allege, the Corps negligently designed the waterworks that permeate the city.

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[O]fficials said the damage claimed against the Corps exceeds $278 billion, an amount that dwarfs even the estimated $125 billion that the federal government has put up for Gulf Coast hurricane recovery.

Win or lose, the volume of claims is a measure of the prevalent sense in this city that the United States created the disaster and that, worse, it has failed to make up for it in disaster aid.

“This was the largest catastrophe in the history of the United States, and people want justice,” said Joseph M. Bruno, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys handling the case in federal court.

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Privatization Leads to Fraud, Mismanagement, and Employee Abuse at Wackenhut

The three words that best describe the private security business these days are “racism”, “corruption”, and “profits”. Wackenhut, the largest private security provider to the Federal govt and the military outside of Iraq, would appear to be awash in all three.

Wackenhut, which has ties to the GOP and the Bush Administration that go almost as deep as Halliburton’s, is currently under investigation:

  • in Alaska by the GAO for “inadequate training and incomplete background checks that led to employment of officers with criminal records”, “poor” record-keeping that included falsified training records, and a near-total lack of any kind of monitoring or oversight on the program, as well as for illegally obtaining security contracts that were supposed to go to minority businesses;
  • in Miami (scroll to bottom) by Dade County for fraud – overbilling, billing for services not provided, falsifying records of guards’ hours, and violations of labor laws for working guards in some cases 20 hrs/day, 7 days/week;
  • by the Homeland Security Committee for “problems at Wackenhut-guarded facilities nationwide that lead to high employee turnover, low morale and ineffective security” at US nuclear sites;
  • by the House Govt Reform Committee “to examine charges of racism, discrimination and poor performance;
  • at a Tennessee Army ammunition plant where inspectors found holes in the perimeter fences, and where “two teenage runaways were found wandering around the 6,000-acre property after getting dangerously close to explosives” after the number of guards had been cut “in response to higher gas prices”;
  • by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for security violations “at Wackenhut-guarded Three Mile Island, Seabrook Station, St. Lucie, and Turkey Point nuclear power plants”;
  • and by the Dept of Energy for “shorting the protective force on combat training; excessive overtime; caught cheating during one security drill and involved in a near-friendly fire incident in another” at its Y-12 (Oak Ridge) nuclear weapons plant.

And that’s only a partial list of domestic investigations.

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Foreign Aid Money for Katrina Relief Rejected or Unused

On Sunday, the Washington Post reported that $$$hundreds of millions of $$$ in hurricane relief after Katrina has gone unused.

Allies offered $854 million in cash and in oil that was to be sold for cash. But only $40 million has been used so far for disaster victims or reconstruction, according to U.S. officials and contractors. Most of the aid went uncollected, including $400 million worth of oil. Some offers were withdrawn or redirected to private groups such as the Red Cross. The rest has been delayed by red tape and bureaucratic limits on how it can be spent.

In addition, valuable supplies and services — such as cellphone systems, medicine and cruise ships — were delayed or declined because the government could not handle them. In some cases, supplies were wasted.

“Could not handle them” my ass. As we’ve shown time and again, the Bush Administration had no desire to “handle them”, no desire in fact to do anything that would help the refugees or bring them home. Tens (hundreds?) of thousands of Katrina refugees still languish in FEMA trailer parks from Louisiana to Texas to Arkansas, reconstruction of the poorer neighborhoods is all but at a standstill while HUD refuses to either spend appropriated money or release it to be spent by Gulf state govts and Bush refuses to sign the waiver that would let those state govts do it themselves, and now we find out that not only did the Bushies turn down help offered by Europe, but the help they deigned to accept has been rotting away in banks and warehouses while the Administration claims it “can’t afford” any more aid.

We have proved over and over again that this inaction on the part of the Bush Admin is deliberate. It can’t be an accident, an oversight, a mistake, or incompetence. It has to be policy. There is no other rational explanation.

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Welfare and Medicaid Cuts Raise Infant Mortality Rate

Conservatives kill babies.

Not with their own hands, of course. They don’t strangle them in their cribs. They let their anti-life policies do it for them.

For decades but especially for the last 12 years, the very same conservatives who scream that the removal of an unformed scut of cells in a womb is murder have been systematically depriving real life pregnant women who will be carrying to term of luxuries like food and adequate medical care because they’re “too expensive”.

At the Federal level, Medicaid and welfare have been consistently cut every year conservatives have ruled the roost in order to trim taxes to the nub for the rich, hand over $$$billions$$$ in corporate welfare to their masters campaign contributors, and prosecute a war nobody wanted on behalf of neoconservative imperialists too dumb to know enough to come in out of the rain. In primarily liberal Democratic states, some of that safety net has been replaced but in the predominantly-conservative Southern states, it hasn’t and the results are coming in. They’re not pretty, but then nothing much in conservative-run America is these days.

The policies of so-called “pro-life” conservatives are raising infant mortality rates in the South to the such a point that Third World countries have lower rates than parts of the US. Are we proud yet?

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WaPo Slams Bush for Holding Up Katrina Funds

Fred Hiatt, WaPo editorial writer, must be reading this blog.

LOUISIANA IS in a bind. Nineteen months after hurricanes Katrina and Rita decimated its economy, slashed its tax base and hobbled its workforce, the state is struggling to get back on its feet. Every dollar of redevelopment money is vital. That’s why there have been consistent calls on President Bush to waive the 10 percent local match requirement on projects using money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. And just as consistently, he has refused. Why is this 10 percent match, which local governments have to pay upfront, so important? Let us explain.

When disaster strikes, FEMA stands ready with financial aid. The agency is absolutely right to demand that states share in the expense of cleanup and recovery. Under circumstances deemed “extraordinary” and with damage assessments above $110 per capita, FEMA can shrink that burden from the customary 25 percent to 10 percent. But the president has the authority to waive even that requirement in the event of major catastrophes. Mr. Bush did this for New York after the horrific Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks (damage: $390 per capita).

Although Fred seems to have allowed his sense of humanity and justice to over-ride his usually-reliable loyalty to Bush for this one time, he still can’t bring himself to admit that Junior also waived the requirement for Florida after Hurricane Andrew when his brother Jeb was Gov.

Come on, Freddie. As long as you’re out on a rare truth-limb anyway, you might just as well tell it all.

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Bush Deliberately Stalling Katrina Money

A year-and-a-half after Katrina hundreds of thousands of ex-New Orleans and Gulf Coast residents are stuck in FEMA trailer parks from Alabama to Arkansas, dumped there and forgotten by the Bush Administration. The Emperor got his photo op, made his empty promises, and promptly forgot both the promises and the people he made them to. I realize that eight fired US Attorneys is important and that the scandals are coming thicker and faster than anybody can keep up with them now that the Republics can’t use the Congress to give him cover, but why isn’t somebody – just one person, I don’t care who, asking about the unconscionable abandonment of Katrina survivors?

New Orleans is still mostly a wasteland, and the hardest-hit towns along the Gulf Coast aren’t much better off. Yet, despite a recent dust-up on the House floor over the mess in Mississippi that got some attention, not one reporter questioned Bush at his press conference about the plight of the Gulf Coast or the difference between the flood of money he promised and the trickle he delivered.

Not one.

The supposed “pork” in the supplemental Bush is threatening to veto includes $1.6B for Gulf Coast relief – a significant number (though not nearly sufficient) compared to the mere millions allowed to filter through his cost-cutting net, most of which wound up in the pockets of politically-connected Bush Buddies. Meanwhile, public works are stymied.

Nineteen months after the storm sent nine feet of water through it, [St. Bernard Parish Fire Station No. 6] remains unusable. One wall is missing; the ceiling has fallen in; a uniform still on its hanger lies crumpled amid the dried mud and tumbled furniture.

None of St. Bernard Parish’s 10 fire houses have been rebuilt, even though local officials estimate that 26,000 people have returned to the area, just east of New Orleans. In fact, across southern Louisiana and Mississippi, many school buildings remain closed, public water systems leak, roads crumble and libraries molder. Local governments cannot afford to fix them, and billions of dollars in recovery assistance promised by the federal government have only started to trickle to the region.

(Photo by Cheryl Gerber/NYT)

Why, given the amounts (some $5Bil) even the Republic Congress allocated in the immediate aftermath? Because the Bush Administration is using a bureaucratic technicality to prevent relief money from being released.

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After Katrina: Why Isn’t HUD Building Housing?

Katrina + 10 months

(Video from truthout.com)

An editorial in today’s NYT finally does what, so far as I know, no newspaper has done since Katrina hit New Orleans: connect a few dots in the aftermath.

The Bush administration’s mishandling of the Hurricane Katrina housing crisis has often looked like an attempt to discourage survivors from applying for help. The House has taken an important step toward reversing this policy with a bill that would require the Department of Housing and Urban Development to issue tens of thousands of new housing vouchers under the Section 8 program, which allows low-income families to seek homes in the private real estate market.

Many of these families would have long since found permanent homes and settled into new lives had the Bush administration brought HUD — which was created to deal with these kinds of situations — into the picture at the very start. But Hurricane Katrina arrived just as the administration had made up its mind to cripple HUD and the successful Section 8 program, partly as a way of offsetting tax cuts for the wealthy.

The administration instead rigged up a confusing and inflexible housing program and put the Federal Emergency Management Agency in charge. FEMA frustrated landlords and Katrina’s victims alike. Last year, one federal judge likened the convoluted application process — which too often led vulnerable families to lose aid without knowing why or having reasonable recourse to appeal — to something out of a horror story by Kafka.

With thousands of families scheduled to lose their temporary aid by September, the Senate should move quickly to pass this much-needed legislation. Hurricane Katrina’s victims should not have to keep paying the price for the administration’s misplaced animosity toward low-income housing.

It doesn’t go far enough, of course. It has become painfully clear in the year-and-a-half since Katrina that the Bush Administration sees the new New Orleans largely as a predominantly white corporate theme park. It has scattered hundreds of thousands of homeless black Orleanians to the four winds and targeted Federal money to reconstruction efforts downtown and to upscale white neighborhoods. The touchy racist aspect of the BA’s response is apparently not something the NYT is yet prepared to deal with.

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