Saturday, October 29, 2005

Republican Party is Imploding

We are seeing the Republican establishment start to implode around their girth.

Christine Todd Whitman, former Governor turned first term cabinet member for the Bush administration wrote a book entitled "It's My Party, Too: The Battle for the Heart of the GOP and the Future of America" which gave us an inside look at the hijacking of the Republican party by right wing extremists.

They are "drunk with power." They have been in complete control of the three branches of government for the last 5 years. The country, the world in fact, pulled together after 9/11 and rightfully so, but this President and his party chiefs have squandered that sentiment.

The President campaigned on bringing integrity and morality back to the white house. I ask you, has he? His administration is currently being investigated for leaking an Undercover CIA agents identity, however the prosecutor is looking much deeper, as early reports show. It seems clear to most that the indictment of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby is only the first as Fitzpatrick claimed the investigation is "on going". This leaking of Valerie Plame's identity to Judy Miller, Bob Novak and Matt Cooper in a clear attempt at Political "pay back" to Ambassador Wilson, after his accusations (which the Bush Administration finally admitted that Wilson's claims were true, after all) of the administrations attempt to lie to the American People and take us into war, has now grown to the point where special council Patrick Fitzgerald is reported to be investigating even the reasons why we went to war.

You know, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, President Kennedy sent former Sec. Of State Dean Acheson to Europe to build support. Acheson explained the situation to French President de Gaulle offering to show him the highly classified satellite photos as proof. De Gaulle waved him away, saying "The word of the President of the United States is good enough for me." - No longer is this true.

  • The Administration is under investigation not only for who leaked the name of Valerie Plame, but to the larger question of why the administration was engaged in an attempted to destroy Ambassador Wilson all the while not able to back up their own claims - a staple of the Karl Rove Play book.

  • Bill Frist - Senate majority leader is under investigation for possible insider trading that makes the Martha Stewart situation look amateurish.

  • Tom Delay is being investigated for illegal campaign finance issues - taking a play from the Rove Handbook (actually it would seem the most popular play) Delay tries to attack the District Attorney again not even denying that he did "launder campaign money".

  • Close to home - Senator Vitter is being looked at for receiving illegal contributions from Jack Abramoff

  • Congressman Boustany refuses to give back the Tens of THOUSANDS of dollars that Tom Delay gave him in his campaign, obviously thinking that he earned that money - after all his first vote in Congress was to basically do away with the Ethics Committee then investigating Tom Delay.

The republican party is drunk with power and almost completely corrupt. They are currently slashing funding to Medicaid, Medicare, Head Start, Education and many other programs saying that they have to reduce the budget after Katrina and Rita. However, they refuse to remove the over $70 BILLION dollars of NEW TAX CUTS that this budget includes for the RICHEST 1% of America. That is right, less than 100 residents in Lafayette will receive anything from this while THOUSANDS of kids and our seniors right here in Lafayette will feel the brunt of this administration's "tightening of the budget".

In fact, just yesterday a house committee voted completely along party lines to slash funding for Food Stamps. This will result in over 40,000 children losing their school lunch program. Is this what Jesus would do?

More on the Budget shortly... but where do I begin?

Friday, October 28, 2005

The Aftermath of Katrina: Republicans Gawk Over Potential Political Gains From Katrina

Original posted and written for Blog for America

Louisiana Republicans happily note that Hurricane Katrina has provided them an opportunity to win top elective offices – notably the mayorship of New Orleans and the Governorship of Louisina -- their party has rarely held since Reconstruction.

The Mayorship of New Orleans

The Mayorship of New Orleans has only been held once by a Republican. However, next year, this could change.

Peggy Wilson, a Republican and former New Orleans City Council president, has started is raising money for a potential bid to unseat New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin, a Democrat, in February. She anaylses:

"I think the numbers show a small window of opportunity for a Republican candidate to win."

The Governorship of Louisiana

At least two republicans are eyeing the Governor’s mansion, home to only two Republicans since the Civil War.

Congressman Bobby Jindal, who narrowly lostthe governor's race two years ago and who has support of the socially centrist Republicans in charge of the state party, and Senator David Vitter, who has a strong conservative network which allowed him to become the first Republican from Louisiana since Reconstruction to win a seat in the US Senate, are both said to be eyeing the governorship. David Vitter recently commented that the Democratic state officials' efforts after the hurricane that it is easy for him to "look like a giant in a land of pygmies."

Leading Louisianan Republican stategist, Jeff Crouere, has called Governor Blano “ a gone pecan," saying that “Republicans see a real opportunity to change the whole dynamics of the city," and thus state.

Democrats can’t give up on Louisina—Republicans aren’t and it’s too important.

Monday, October 24, 2005

A Sad Aftermath of Katrina: Destruction Amplified By Human Error

Originally written for and posted at Blog for America

Three Independent Investigation into New Orleans’ hurricane protection system reveals a human role in all three of the major floodwall failures that left 100,000 homes underwater and Louisiana's approximately 1,000 hurricane deaths. The evidence presented implicates design flaws in the failures of two floodwalls near Lake Pontchartrain, designed and built by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to aid their mission of protecting the city from hurricanes, which collapsed when weakened soils beneath them became saturated and began to slide. The findings suggest that the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, also built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, helped amplify and intensify Katrina's initial surge, contributing to a third floodwall collapse on the east side of town.
The independent investigators believe the floodwalls themselves were the problem in the cases of the 17th Street and London Avenue canals, the two canals near Lake Pontchartrain. The floodwalls were built on bad soil. As early as the 1980’s, trouble was detected 20 feet below the when soil tests revealed a thick layer of peat--spongy, organic soil that is soft and highly compressible when dry but very weak when saturated with water. Nothing was done then. And in 1994, a now-defunct a New Orleans firm involved in levee construction claimed that floodwall sections were failing to line up properly because of unstable soils in court documents. An administrative law judge dismissed the complaint on technical grounds without specifically addressing the allegations about weak soils.
The Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, a larger dirt-moving project than the Panama Canal created in the 1960’s, acts as a navigation shortcut to the Port of New Orleans and important to the large port industry lobby. It’s potentially negative impact was know prior to Hurricane Katrina. Three months before Katrina, Hassan Mashriqui, a storm surge expert at LSU's Hurricane Center, told a room of emergency managers that the outlet was a "critical and fundamental flaw" in the Corps' hurricane defenses, a "Trojan Horse" that could amplify storm surges 20 to 40 percent as the outlet amounted to a funnel that would accelerate and enlarge any storm surges headed for the city's levees. Using a supercomputer model after Katrina, Mashriqui concluded:
"Without MRGO [Mississippi River Gulf Outlet], the flooding would have been much less…The levees might have overtopped, but they wouldn't have been washed away."

When a federal agency, like the US Army Corp of Engineers, is responsible for ensuring the citizenries protection from natural disasters, it is vital that they don’t create non-natural disasters.

Friday, October 21, 2005

A Sad Aftermath of Katrina: Death in streets took a back seat to dinner

Originally Posted At and Written For Blog For America

A Chronicle of FEMA’s Internal Interactions on the Evening of Aug. 31, 2005 (2 days Post-Katrina)

Marty Bahamonde, New England FEMA regional director and FEMA’s only body in the Superdown, e-mailed Michael Brown, then FEMA director and point person in Baton Rouge, to tell him that thousands of evacuees were gathering in the streets with no food or water and that "estimates are many will die within hours." He continues, "Sir, I know that you know the situation is past critical…The sooner we can get the medical patients out, the sooner we can get them out."

Micheal Brown’s press secretary, Sharon Worthy, emailed her colleagues

“He [Micheal Brown]needs much more that 20 or 30 minutes [to eat dinner]. Restaurants are getting busy. We now have traffic to encounter to get to and from a location of his choise, followed by wait service from the restaurant staff, eating, etc. Thank you."

Bahamonde messaged a co-worker

”OH MY GOD!!!!!!! I just ate an MRE [military rations] and crapped in the hallway of the Superdome along with 30,000 other close friends so I understand her concern about busy restaurants."

This chronicle demonstrates why my disgust does not have appropriate words. I can only support the sentiment expressed by Bahamonde in an email on September 3rd.
”The leadership from top down in our agency is unprepared and out of touch. ... I am horrified at some of the cluelessness and self concern that persists”

Thursday, October 20, 2005

A Sad Aftermath of Katrina: The Demographics of Return

Originally Written for and Posted at Blog for America

“Class, Color May Guide Repopulation of New Orleans” reads the headline of a front-page Washington Post article.

The Post presents evidence of the revival of two of the worst hit neighborhoods in New Orleans—Lakeview and the Lower Ninth Ward. The destruction was similar. The demographics were not.

New Orleans’ newspaper, the Times-Picayune, deemed Lakeview, decimated, using the headline "Homes Are Sludge Pits With Little to Salvage.” The similar destruction of the Lower Ninth Ward has been broadcast across America. These neighborhoods both saw Katrina’s horrific wrath.

However, the demographics of Lakeview and the Lower Ninth Ward are markedly different. Lakeview is 94 percent white; the Lower Ninth Ward is 98 percent black. 49 percent of Lakeview’s residents have a college degree; only 6 percent of the residents of the Lower Ninth Ward have a college degree. In Lakeview, 66 percent of children go to private school and in the Lower Ninth Ward, more than 33 percent of residents live in poverty.

Lakeview is now seeing signs of revival. The water is on and the smell of bleach, which kills mold, is strong. The thwack of crowbars and the whine of chain saws fill the air. Insurance adjusters have begun making rounds and the residents are home.

The Lower Ninth Ward still sits mostly empty as residents must leave by dusk and planners have raised the possibility of turning it into a flood-plain park.

This evidence logically leads to the Post’s headline, “Class, Color May Guide Repopulation of New Orleans” and the fear that New Orleans will be “whiter, richer and more homogeneous.” These are facts that I intuitively know—one that corresponds to the racial tensions and segregation present in pre-Katrina New Orleans and one that I’ve seen exaggerated by the anti-poor people policies of the current Republican administration. However, the documentation of this scenario in 2005 as an almost fait accompli by one of America’s largest and most national newspapers is, in a word, sad.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Vitter shows TRUE colors in Lafayette

Freshman Senator David Vitter, on a visit to Lafayette last week, made some incredibly revealing comments about his personal views. Both he and Rep. Charles Boustany have tried to have it both ways, and it is about time we call them on this.

The Baton Rouge Advocate reports:

He was speaking at a Lafayette Parish Republican Executive Committee luncheon when state party Treasurer Charlie Buckels congratulated Vitter on the work he has done on behalf of the state in the wake of the storms.

Vitter thanked Buckels, but said he had been similarly congratulated recently and had said that considering the efforts of state officials, "it's easy to look like a giant in a land of pygmies."

Another audience member, who identified herself as a New Orleans evacuee, asked Vitter if Gov. Kathleen Blanco is "doing anything."

Vitter initially replied that the question was a little broad, but went on to say "If you give me a recall petition, I'll sign it," though he did not name Blanco as the target of the recall.

Later in the same article they report:

In regard to the area where he was speaking, Vitter said Lafayette has become a new crossroads for the state, referring to Lafayette's role as a shelter for refugees from southeast and southwest Louisiana, as well as a staging ground for relief efforts.

"Unfortunately, it's the crossroads where Katrina meets Rita," he said. "I always knew I was against same-sex unions."

Natural disasters are no laughing matter. David Vitter should immediately apologize to the people of Louisiana and Governor Blanco for his insensitive, ill-timed and inappropriate remarks.

The people of Louisiana must take precedence over political games and poor attempts at humor as we work to rebuild our state in the wake of two devastating hurricanes. David Vitter’s racially insensitive and politically charged remarks only hinder our state’s progress and demonstrate how out of touch he is with the plight of so many Louisianians.

If David Vitter wants to do something constructive for the people of our state, he should write and champion legislation that will allow loan forgiveness for our state’s overburdened local governments instead of writing and delivering tasteless jokes.

David Vitter has offered no solutions, and after openly criticizing the Federal Government during and after Katrina, blaming them for the short comings and letting Louisiana Down, NOW he tries to change his story to be in lock step with his party. But this shouldn't surprise us, this is not the first and regretfully not the last time David Vitter puts his party ahead of Louisiana.

Perhaps we should all ask him why he thinks that Louisiana should have to repay FEMA for the money they are giving us after all, he didn't make New York repay their funding. Perhaps it is because New York City and New York State have Republicans in charge?

Monday, October 17, 2005

Bush to Coast: 'Let 'em Eat Photo Ops!'

The Los Angeles Times reports today that President George "Blinkie" Bush, contrary to his bold pronouncements, has gone into to go slow mode when it comes to hurricane recovery efforts across the northern Gulf of Mexico.

Here are the opening paragraphs:
WASHINGTON — Almost two months after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast and a month after promising in a nationally televised speech to help rebuild the region "quickly," President Bush has settled on a cautious, piecemeal approach that even many members of his own party fear will stall reconstruction and sow economic disarray.

Bush has made highly publicized trips to Louisiana and Mississippi on average of once a week since the storm, but the administration has yet to introduce legislation for two of the three proposals the president highlighted during his September speech from New Orleans.
With his approval ratings down in the 30's, with his inner circle under criminal investigation, with his Congressional leadership under indictment and/or investigation, with his nominee for a Supreme Court vacancy on the verge of being laughed off the national stage, Mr. Mission Accomplished finds himself at the mercy of the anti-regular folk wing of his own party. Apparently, even Bush finds this repugnant!

The result is something approaching paralysis, with some Republicans fearing impending chaos. Hell, even Richard Baker gets it:
But by wiping out whole communities, Katrina created problems that even some Republicans argue cannot be handled by individuals and market mechanisms alone.

"Where once you had an operating society, now there's nothing — no firetruck, no school, no grocery store to buy a loaf of bread," said Rep. Richard H. Baker (R-La.).

Such devastation creates a sort of chicken-and-egg problem, Baker said. "The question is, Who goes first?" If firefighters and police officers return to their communities first, they will have no equipment or food. If car dealers and retailers are the first, they will have no protection.

By offering tax breaks and encouraging local leaders to come up with rebuilding proposals, the White House implicitly hopes Gulf Coast residents solve the riddle themselves.

But Baker thinks that's unlikely.
Baker has made one of a number of proposals for significant federal leadership in the rebuilding effort. Senators Edward Kennedy (D-Mass) and Judd Gregg (R-NH) have made a bi-partisan proposal along similar lines.

Still, the rabid Republican ideologues are calling for Bush to make the Gulf Coast from Houston to Pensacola a social engineering lab where they can test their pet theories. In the meanwhile, recovery lags, businesses die, communities splinter and lives remain shattered.

As in immediate aftermath of Katrina and Rita, the Gulf Coast is being victimized by a failure of leadership at the federal level. This time, the blame cannot be placed on some ill-prepared and overwhelmed crony; instead, it falls on an ill-prepared and overwhelmed president.

But, standby for another Bush photo-op on the Gulf Coast this week! Those, at least, are flowing freely.

Friday, October 14, 2005

George Will Declares Bush, DeLay (Boustany?), et al Faux Cons!

George Will's credentials as a conservative need no defending: a fan of Goldwater, Thatcher and Reagan, he's paler than Casper, probably hasn't done a lick of manual labor in his life, wears bow-ties and likes baseball for gosh sakes!

So, his current column in Newsweek magazine is an eye-opener.

This George W. says President George W., bug-killin' Tom DeLay, and Republicans in the House and Senate are NOT conservatives! He then marshals a column's worth of facts to back his argument.

Here's one:
For a few conservatives, the accumulation of discontents may have begun building toward today's critical mass in December 2001 with the No Child Left Behind law, which intruded the federal government deeply into the state and local responsibility of education, grades K through 12.
Then, there's this:
Agriculture subsidies increased 40 percent while farm income was doubling. Conservatives concerned about promiscuous uses of government were appalled when congressional Republicans waded into the Terri Schiavo tragedy. Then came the conjunction of the transportation bill and Katrina. The transportation bill's cost, honestly calculated, exceeded the threshold that the president had said would trigger his first veto. (He is the first president in 176 years to serve a full term without vetoing anything. His father cast 44 vetoes. Ronald Reagan's eight-year total was 78.) In 1987 Reagan vetoed a transportation bill because it contained 152 earmarks — pork — costing $1.4 billion. The bill President Bush signed contained 6,371, costing $24 billion. The total cost of the bill — $286 billion — is more, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than the combined costs of the Marshall Plan and the interstate highway system.
Interestingly, Mr. Will gets right to the heart of the matter of the problem: lobbyist money that has corrupted Republicanism and ripped away its facade of conservatism:
DeLay's troubles, and his party's, may multiply with coming revelations about the seamy career of uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff. He is emblematic of DeLay's faux conservatism — K Street conservatism. That is Republican power in the service of lobbyists who, in their K Street habitat, are in the service of rent seekers — interests eager to bend public power for their private advantage.

Since 2000 the number of registered lobbyists in Washington has more than doubled, from 16,342 to 34,785. They have not been attracted to the seat of government, like flies to honey, for the purpose of limiting government.
Isn't this bending of "public power for their private advantage" what Bush, DeLay, Abramoff are all about?

These are Charlie Boustany's benefactors and political mentors. Will he renounce the corruption that has paved his path to a seat in Congress?

Unless and until Congressman Boustany does so in a public and demonstrable way (like giving back the money that came from PACs influenced and/or controlled by DeLay and Abramoff), we are left to believe that the Congressman approves of the corruption that is at the heart of his party's control of the House of Representatives, the Senate and the White House.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Ralph Reed's Work for Abramoff's 7th District Clients Creates Trouble in Georgia

Remember Ralph Reed? Sure you do!

He was the young guy that Pat Robertson hired to run the Christian Coalition. The two have since officially parted ways. Reed went into the political consulting and lobbying business (along with a stint as Chairman of Georgia's Republican Party).

He's currently running for Lieutenant Governor of Georgia, obviously viewing it as a stepping stone to bigger and better things down the road.

But, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution (owned by Cox Enterprises!) reports that some of the work Mr. Reed performed on behalf of Indian-scammin' lobbyist Jack Abramoff's gambling clients (including Louisiana-based, casino-owning Indian tribes) is troubling some of the GOP faithful in Georgia. Here's the what the paper is reporting today:
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently disclosed Reed's work with Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff in helping to defeat a 2000 congressional effort to restrict Internet gambling.

Reed, who has denounced gambling, already has been tied to Abramoff in several enterprises involving Indian tribes with casinos, now under investigation by two U.S. Senate committees.
Then there's this bit:
In June, documents generated by the U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee showed that anti-gambling campaigns Reed helped conduct in Alabama, Louisiana and Texas were financed by Indian tribes with casinos out to protect their businesses. All were clients of Abramoff.
Senator John McCain is directing the Senate investigation of Abramoff's dealings with the Indian tribes.

The relevance here is that one of those clients of Abramoff's was the Coushatta Indian Tribe that operates the casino and resort in Kinder, which happens to be in the 7th Congressional District.

Can anyone recall a single instance where 7th District Congressman Charles Boustany has uttered a word about this scandal which is at least partially based in his district. Could his silence have something to do with the money his 2004 campaign received from PACs that got money from Abramoff?

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Did Boustany Get DeLay $$$ from Blunt?

The Associated Press carried a very interesting story on Wednesday about the fund raising habits of ethically-challenged former GOP House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

Here's the lead paragraph:
WASHINGTON - Tom DeLay deliberately raised more money than he needed to throw parties at the 2000 presidential convention, then diverted some of the excess to longtime ally Roy Blunt through a series of donations that benefited both men's causes.
The article describes a "financial carousel" that involved DeLay and his (temporary?) successor as House Majority Leader Roy Blunt and other nefarious characters like Indian-Scammin' "lobbyist" Jack Abramoff — that's right, the guy who ripped off the Coushatta Indians of Kinder (located inside Boustany's 7th Congressional District).

One aspect of the carousel is that money from DeLay would make its way into a PAC operated by Blunt that operated under the name "Rely On Your Beliefs Fund" — get it, "ROY B Fund"?

Well, it turns out that our own 7th District Republican Congressman Charles Boustany was the beneficiary of money from Rely On Your Beliefs to the tune of $15,000. You can see the details here. Look under "Charles Boustany Jr. For Congress" contributions. The contributions are listed alphabetically, so you'll pass the $15,000 from DeLay's "Americans for a Republican Majority" before you get to the three entries for Blunt's "Rely On Your Beliefs."

So, theoretically, Boustany could have received as much as $30,000 from DeLay.

Earlier this week, sent out emails to their supporters in the 7th District urging them to call Boustany's office and demand that the rookie Congressman return the money he got from Tom DeLay.

No public response from Boustany yet. But, this looks like it could get to be a pretty expensive proposition for Boustany to give back ALL the tainted money he got from DeLay and company.

Monday, October 03, 2005

On Truth, News Accuracy, and Real Consequences

The subhead to the Los Angeles Times story "Katrina Takes a Toll on Truth, News Accuracy"
is: "Rumors supplanted accurate information and media magnified the problem. Rapes, violence and estimates of the dead were wrong."

That's pretty much the whole story of the Los Angeles Times story--and the essence of others of the same ilk. Both the New York Times and CNN carried less and more frantic stories about looting and unbridaled violence that in retrospect are being shown to be inaccurate. Quiet, reports are admitting this. But the innaccuracy is not the whole story; not nearly. The most heartbreaking aspect is the way this mistake further slowed an already criminally bureaucratic response.

The ultimate source of all this mild media self-examination is, as you might expect, the New Orlean's Times Picayune which at the height of the hysteria added to the frenzy but had the courage to recognize how wrong they'd been when the facts (and common sense) started to kick in. They published a story: "
Rumors of deaths greatly exaggerated" that started the reexamination. Their story documents in the greatest detail the rumors that were circulated as fact, the semi-hysterical tone of reporters --and, even more unfortunately--public officials, and the way those claims were later disproved or retracted.

You've heard about the Superdome and the unbridled murder and violence there? So has everyone else in the country. Here are the facts as the T-P discovered them:

After five days managing near-riots, medical horrors and unspeakable living conditions inside the Superdome, Louisiana National Guard Col. Thomas Beron prepared to hand over the dead to representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Following days of internationally reported killings, rapes and gang violence inside the Dome, the doctor from FEMA - Beron doesn't remember his name - came prepared for a grisly scene: He brought a refrigerated 18-wheeler and three doctors to process bodies.

"I've got a report of 200 bodies in the Dome," Beron recalls the doctor saying.

The real total was six, Beron said.

Of those, four died of natural causes, one overdosed and another jumped to his death in an apparent suicide, said Beron, who personally oversaw the turning over of bodies from a Dome freezer, where they lay atop melting bags of ice. State health department officials in charge of body recovery put the official death count at the Dome at 10, but Beron said the other four bodies were found in the street near the Dome, not inside it. Both sources said no one had been killed inside.
Conditions inside the dome were inhuman; but the human's behavior, apparently, was not. And that is something that most of America will never know.

From the Los Angeles Times (free registration):
"It doesn't take anything to start a rumor around here," Louisiana National Guard 2nd Lt. Lance Cagnolatti said at the height of the Superdome relief effort. "There's 20,000 people in here. Think when you were in high school. You whisper something in someone's ear. By the end of the day, everyone in school knows the rumor — and the rumor isn't the same thing it was when you started it."

Follow-up reporting has discredited reports of a 7-year-old being raped and murdered at the Superdome, roving bands of armed gang members attacking the helpless, and dozens of bod
ies being shoved into a freezer at the Convention Center.

Hyperbolic reporting spread through much of the media.

Fox News, a day before the major evacuation of the Superdome began, issued an "alert" as talk show host Alan Colmes reiterated reports of "robberies, rapes, carjackings, riots and murder. Violent gangs are roaming the streets at night, hidden by the cover of darkness."
Enough, the point is well established: the media happily reported fiction as fact, with only the few noting the majority of the "exciting" news they reported was rumor or that the first person accounts they repeated were not substantiated in the way that normal reporting would be by hard facts from police, coroner's reports, or multiple sources. Bad reporting. But that's not the end of the story; or it shouldn't be. Why was there such bad reporting? Most accounts, following the Times-Picayune's suggestion indict poor communications. That's too easy, I think. In my judgment, racism and ethnic regionalism played by far the larger role.

Here's the real reason we saw these stories: People report as fact rumors that they find believeable. They hesitate and fact check if a story seems unlikely. What is revealed in the media frenzy is that America "Doesn't like Black people." Or, at least, that reports of animality (and I heard that word used explicity on CNN) is credible when it refers to poor, urban, blacks. In all honesty, for most of this country, that extends to all southerners. Violent, gun-prone, and motivated by ideas of honor and community that seem at best old-fashioned and at worst dangerous, southern black and whites are seen as two sides of the same problematic coin by many of our countrymen. It is easy to believe we are violent, corrupt, and driven by twisted motives.

These false reports of violence were reported as fact because they were easy to believe; because they confirmed what the reporters and their editors already knew about what was likely to go on "down there."

I don't expect the media's self-examination to go there. Blaming communication failures for reporters acting on the too-easy assumption that "those people" were acting badly is an explaination which will not challenge their self-image.

It is one thing, and a bitter pill, to recognize that outsiders are willing to think poorly of us. But there are some even more difficult home truths to be dealt with by all Louisianians: We were willing to believe it of ourselves. People in the Dome were willing to believe it was happening somewhere else in the dome. Local officials were willing to believe and repeat the stories. And almost all of us reading the stories were--even if we initially resisted--willing to believe it when reptition dug in and officials seemed to confirm the stories. We are way too willing to believe that our fellows would act worse than we believe that we ourselves would. We ought to take a long, hard look inward.

The New York Times article covers part of the deeper story: that the questionably-motivated inaccuracies affected the rescue missions; that critical supplies and critical human help was kept out of the city on the strength of stories that the New York Times charatably called rumors. Some examples:

A team of paramedics was barred from entering Slidell, across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans, for nearly 10 hours based on a state trooper's report that a mob of armed, marauding people had commandeered boats. It turned out to be two men escaping from their flooded streets, said Farol Champlin, a paramedic with the Acadian Ambulance Company.

Faced with reports that 400 to 500 armed looters were advancing on the town of Westwego, two police officers quit on the spot. The looters never appeared, said the Westwego police chief, Dwayne Munch.

"Rumors could tear down an entire army," Chief Munch said.

During six days when the Superdome was used as a shelter, the head of the New Orleans Police Department's sex crimes unit, Lt. David Benelli, said he and his officers lived inside the dome and ran down every rumor of rape or atrocity. In the end, they made two arrests for attempted sexual assault, and concluded that the other attacks had not happened.

For military officials, who flew rescue missions around the city, the reports that people were shooting at helicopters turned out to be mistaken. "We investigated one incident and it turned out to have been shooting on the ground, not at the helicopter," said Maj. Mike Young of the Air Force.

Other reports (2) have the military hesitant to enter in force because it did not want to be in the position of "policing" and posssibly shooting civilians. It's hard to think it a coincidence that when a Louisiana native who was less likely to believe the worst of his people, General Honore, was put in charge that he both tamped down on the fear among his soldiers, demanding that they and local police cease patrolling with arms at the ready and that things started moving quickly at the same time.

It's an old lesson: Fear Kills. Most often by fostering inaction.

And fear made credible by prejudice was responsible for too much of New Orlean's misery.

UPDATE 10/6/05:

The Washington Post has a story on this issue that is now headling the connection between misinformation and the criminally slow response to New Orlean's needs: "News of Pandemonium May Have Slowed Aid." There is no "may" about; that fear lead officials to turn back needed aid is abundantly documented.

The story focuses on the media story, poor journalism, communications failures, and the way that New Orleans' officials seemingly confirmed the stories. The actions of officials was truly irresponsible. But my very definite recollection is that the stories appeared in the media first. --The media did not merely repeat what officials said. The reverse is rather more likely.

Tying the misinformation to the human misery it increased is a good first start. I still await a any sense that this story was too easily believed of "those people" my media reporters. This story, in fact, rather astonishingly trots out the idea that "the last 40 years" have made "The public" "accustomed to riotous behavior from black people in lower-class neighborhoods." I am not sure the accusation is true of the public. But what this formulation ostentatiously avoids is the clear truth that is true of our national reporting cadre. And that is, or should be, professionally unacceptabe. Any reasonable fact-checking at the time would have kept this crud off the air.

Here is what people need to hear, and what the nation should have heard at the time:

Maj. Bush of the Louisiana National Guard said he is glad the record is being corrected.

"I certainly saw fights, but I saw worse fights at a Cubs game in Chicago," he said. "The people never turned into these animals. They have been cheated out of being thought of as these tough people who looked out for each other. We had more babies born [in the Superdome] than we had deaths."

Non-Ethics Challenged Republicans Return DeLay's Money; Charlie Boustany Keeps His

In the wake of last week's indictment of Rep. Tom DeLay (who had to step down from his post as House Majority Leader) and in the face of other legal challenges for the former Texas bug exterminator, Republicans who still cling to their party's shattered image as a reform party are sending money DeLay and his PAC(s) gave their campaigns back. Or, as in the case of Missouri Republican Congressman Kenny Hulshof, given (nearly) the equivalent amount to charity.

Charlie Boustany has, thus far, kept the $15,000 that DeLay's Americans for a Republican Majority PAC gave his 2004 campaign.

No recipient's remorse in the Boustany camp — yet.