Ex-FEMA head tries to evade accountability

Brown was given a rough ride by the Republican hearing this week. Eager to find a scapegoat to take the fall for Bush, the Republicans have found their goat.Having screwed up his responsibilities as Head of FEMA, Brown made the task of the Republicans to finger a scapegoat exceedingly easy. Here's the account by the Washington Post:

With 12 Republicans and no Democrats on the dais when the hearing opened, Brown started by blaming the media and Louisiana's Democratic officials. "I do believe there are a couple of specific mistakes that I made," he said. "I failed initially to set up a series of regular briefings to the media," he lamented. And his "biggest mistake," he said, "was not recognizing . . . that Louisiana was dysfunctional."

"I do not want to make this partisan," he said, proceeding to do just that, "so I can't help it that Alabama and Mississippi are governed by Republican governors and Louisiana is governed by a Democratic governor."

Pointing his finger, pounding the table, Brown veered from his prepared testimony to insist: "I get it" and "I know what it's all about," and "I know what I am doing" and "I do a pretty darn good job." This display produced gasps and chuckles in the gallery.

Brown did nothing to win over his questioners. Rep. William J. Jefferson (D-La.) had to repeat a question because Brown was reading his BlackBerry. Shays had to repeat one because Brown was engrossed in his notes. When Shays pressed him about his performance, a petulant Brown complained: "So I guess you want me to be this superhero."

One hour and 36 minutes passed before Brown acknowledged that "FEMA has a logistics problem." Gradually, Brown's admissions grew more damaging.

Money for "catastrophic planning" for a New Orleans hurricane "was removed by the Department of Homeland Security," he said. Brown said he should have asked for President Bush's help earlier, and should have urged the military to come in sooner. He said it was a mistake that FEMA had no contingency contract for recovering dead bodies.

Rep. Henry Bonilla (R-Tex.) elicited the biggest confession. "One of my frustrations over the past three years has been the emaciation of FEMA," Brown told him. Speaking of dwindling funds and a "brain drain," Brown said he struggled just "to keep that place together" and asserted that he "predicted privately for several years that we were going to reach this point."

As the questioning progressed, Brown turned his fury on the administration. "I probably should have just resigned my post earlier and gone public with some of these things," he told Granger.

Yesterday, he might have been better off to keep some things private -- as when Jefferson complained about the lack of ice in New Orleans and Brown replied: "I think it's wrong for the federal government to be in the ice business, providing ice so I can keep my beer and Diet Coke cool."

Taylor, incredulous, asked, "How about the need to keep bodies from rotting in the sun?"

Jefferson added: "One of the major reasons that old people just suffered and died is because there was no ice."

Brown, losing control, demanded four times that Taylor not "lecture" him.

But the lecturing continued -- in a way even Pelosi would have approved. "I have come to the conclusion that this administration values loyalty more than anything else," Shays said, "more than competence or, frankly, more than the truth. And you have reinforced that view. . . . I'm left with the feeling [that] the administration feels they have to protect you."

"Well," Brown answered, "you should come over here and sit in this chair and see how protected you feel."

Lobbies Line Up For Relief Riches

The pigs are lining up at the trough to be fed.With Congress dangling as much as $200 billion in hurricane-related aid, lobbyists for oil companies, airlines, manufacturers and others are clamoring to get their share.

According to the Washington Post:

"It's been all Katrina all the time, and now it's Rita, too," said J. Steven Hart, chairman of Williams & Jensen PLLC, a top lobbying firm in the capital. "Except for the Supreme Court, hurricane recovery is what Congress will be up to so we have no choice but to adapt."

Lawmakers are receptive to many of these requests, congressional aides said. For example, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-Tex.) is moving legislation this week, much of it recommended by lobbyists, that would waive regulations to help oil companies build new refineries. The reason: the hurricanes drew attention to the nation's dependence on a small row of Gulf coast refineries.

The oil lobbyists, like so many others, are using the storms as an excuse to win long-sought legislation, even when their plans relate only tangentially to the hurricanes.

Earlier this week groups as diverse as the American Institute of Architects and the American Petroleum Institute were freshening their requests for tax breaks and other favors. The architects changed "Katrina" to "hurricane disaster" in their pitch.

The troubled airline industry has been particularly active on the hurricane front. Delta Air Lines Inc. and Northwest Airlines Corp. are trying to include relief from their pension obligations in hurricane legislation this year. The firms have been pressing for the change since the spring, before the hurricane season, but are telling lawmakers that the fuel price hikes in the wake of Katrina have made the aid more necessary.

"Katrina adds an urgency," said Benet J. Wilson, a Delta spokeswoman said. But so far the proposal remains stalled.

The Air Transport Association, the airlines' trade group, is seeking a national change in response to the regional devastation. It wants Congress to waive for a year the 4.3 cent-per-gallon tax on jet fuel, a plan that would cost $600 million. "Katrina exacerbated an already untenable situation with respect to the price of oil on our industry," said James C. May, president of the association.

"I am quite confident there will be many who make that charge -- that we are self serving," May said. "But I am equally confident that the impact that Katrina had on this industry is real."

Insurers have been using Katrina as an argument for approving their long-held top priority, an extension of the Terrorism Reinsurance Act (TRIA), which provides for the government to pay a portion of the damage caused by a foreign terrorist attack over certain thresholds. To illustrate the tie between the hurricane and the legislative effort, Carl M. Parks, senior vice president of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, has coined the term "KA-TRIA."

Farmers, even those outside the disaster zone, are begging for hurricane cash. "It is important to remember that the economic impact of Hurricane Katrina is harming much more of U.S. agriculture than producers in those three states," Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau, wrote to legislators. "As the Senate and House Appropriations Committees prepare to address this natural disaster, we urge you to include emergency disaster assistance for farmers and ranchers."

The nation's for-profit hospitals are trying to persuade Congress to carve an exception into a decades-old law specifying that only nonprofit institutions qualify for grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to rebuild critical facilities after a natural calamity. "Storms do not damage hospitals based on their ownership status," said Richard Coorsh, spokesman for the Federation of American Hospitals, which represents investor-owned hospitals.

The change for hospitals would not apply only to those damaged by Katrina. Coorsh said the group would like Congress to grant for-profit hospitals permanent access to FEMA funds wherever a natural disaster occurs. The federation sought the same change, unsuccessfully, following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Other industries have been careful to focus their proposals on the people and businesses of the Gulf Coast. The Travel Business Roundtable, a coalition of chief executives of hotel, restaurant and other travel-related companies, is campaigning for a host of grant, tax-cut and loan relief proposals, all specific to the storm-affected region and time limited. "We're not going to be irresponsible," said Charles L. Merin, the roundtable's chief Washington representative.

Nonetheless, the list, if fully enacted, would be very expensive -- several billion dollars.

Lobbyist Anne C. Canfield, like almost everyone else on K Street, is also angling for hurricane assistance. In an e-mail to her clients in the mortgage business two weeks ago, Canfield noted that with so much money flowing, "Why not have some of those funds be used to actually help the mortgage industry and its consumers?" Her suggestion: Make every waterlogged homeowner in the Gulf Coast region eligible to receive federal flood insurance payments of up to $250,000, even if they had never bothered to buy the coverage. Bush officials aren't happy with the plan.

Not all of the lobbying is in search of benefits. Some of it is defensive, trying to fend off changes that are also related to the hurricanes such as potential tax increases. The oil industry is reminding lawmakers that price controls aren't a good idea. A highway-building trade association is asking lawmakers not to reduce gasoline taxes as a way to help consumers. The reason: Lower gas tax revenues might squeeze the federal trust funds that are used to build roads and bridges.

Lobbyists have submitted so many suggestions that lawmakers "will have to be more vigilant and take a hard line," said John Scofield, spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee.

Nonetheless, they likely will get much of what they want. "The climate is very favorable to further spending and further tax cuts, especially for Katrina, and Hurricane Rita will only increase that tendency," said Gregory R. Valliere, chief strategist of Stanford Washington Research Group. "Neither party wants to be seen as uncaring."

A lot of lobbyists' pleas dressed in hurricane clothing are for things that Congress has rejected for years. John M. Engler, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, has called for the opening of oil and gas drilling on the ocean's Outer Continental Shelf as a way to increase the availability of energy. Why now? Because Katrina is a reminder of how fragile the country's energy infrastructure is, he said.

The proposal in the past was dismissed as environmentally risky, and it still faces an uphill climb. But now Jack N. Gerard, president of the American Chemistry Council, sees hope for it. "The unfortunate tragedy in New Orleans," he said, "has sharpened the focus on our unfinished business."

Hope for baldies as mouse grows fur

Jay and Jeff you can take hope from this one.

The British Telegraph reports that bald mice have been made furry again by introducing a gene, marking another step towards developing the long-sought cure for baldness.

The genetically bald mice had the growth of follicles restored by implanting a gene responsible for a protein called Hairless, so named because it makes mice bald when faulty.

In humans and mice with mutations in the Hairless gene, hair growth is initially normal, but once hair is shed, it does not grow back. The mechanisms of how Hairless controls the follicle regeneration cycle are not well understood.

Dr Catherine Thompson and colleagues at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore found that the Hairless protein is normally present in progenitor cells that play a critical role during the rest and early regrowth phases of hair follicles.


Will digital photography lead to new "dark age"?

Canadian Press has an interesting article on how today's popularity of digital photography may lead to new "dark age". While our parents kept volumes of photo albums, today's kids may not be so fortunate.Some experts fear that although we're taking more photos than ever those memories may be trapped in cyberspace never captured on physical paper or collected in one source for future generations to view.

According to the experts interviewed by the CP:

Memories are being filed away on our computers and saved to CDs which don't have nearly the longevity of old fashioned negatives and photo paper. Many archivists believe the cutting-edge technology we use today to access these treasured memories won't be around years from now.

"It's a fact - we will not be able to get at that stuff," said Mark Federman, chief strategist and professor with the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto.

"The research that I'm doing now, that exists on a computer that may be backed up onto a server, that may ultimately find its way onto a CD or a DVD storage device - none of those will exist 50 years from now," he said.

Centuries from now, historians might even be calling our time "a type of dark age," Federman adds.

"Compared to earlier generations, very little of our cultural history is being recorded so that it will actually exist into the future," he said, pointing to centuries-old oil paintings that help tell the stories of our forefathers.

"Unless we take our digital media and put it forward (in a traceable way) then the people in the future will have no record of us in the way that physical records have come forward to us . . . what that essentially means is that we're forgotten."


As Bush fiddled America loses superpower status

PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS has an excellent article on how America is Running Out of Time on counterpunch. His basic thesis is that Bush focused so much on a pointless war in Iraq that he lost sight of what needed to be done at home. Indeed, worse than that, he diverted funds from essential domestic programs to fund the Iraq war. At the same time he has plunged the U.S. into debt it cannot sustain.

As Roberts puts it:

George W. Bush will go down in history as the president who fiddled while America lost its superpower status.

Bush used deceit and hysteria to lead America into a war that is bleeding the US economically, militarily, and diplomatically. The war is being fought with hundreds of billions of dollars borrowed from foreigners. The war is bleeding the military of troops and commitments. The war has ended the US claim to moral leadership and exposed the US as a reckless and aggressive power.

Focused on a concocted "war on terrorism," the Bush administration diverted money from the New Orleans levees to Iraq, with the consequence that the US now has a $100 billion rebuild bill on top of the war bill.

The US is so short of troops that neoconservatives are advocating the use of foreign mercenaries paid with US citizenship.

US efforts to isolate Iran have been blocked by Russia and China, nuclear powers that Bush cannot bully.

The Iraqi war has three beneficiaries: (1) al Qaeda, (2) Iran and (3) US war industries and Bush-Cheney cronies who receive no-bid contracts.

Everyone else is a loser

Faking the Katrina Inquiry

NYT editorial today is right on the mark when it concludes that the whitewash of the government's ineffectual response to Katrina is well underway. The Republicans in Congress are "investigating". Meanwhile Bush has asked his domestic security adviser to investigate the government's response. Don't hold your breath waiting for the startling revelations of ineptitude and mismanagement! They've gotten a reprieve because they got people out of Galveston and Texas before Rita hit and Rita's impact was less than forecast.Bush and his cronies shouldn't be allowed to get away with this but they probably well unless the American people keep up the pressure for a proper investgation.

Here's how the NYT sees it:

As the nation reels from Rita's devastation along the Gulf Coast, any hope for a thorough investigation of government's gross mismanagement of Katrina is quietly ebbing away behind the political levees of Washington. The White House and Republican-controlled Congress, resisting popular support for an independent, nonpartisan commission, remain determined to run self-serving, bogus investigations.

President Bush has designated his domestic security adviser to deliver the supposedly no-holds-barred investigation he promised after his early embarrassment over Katrina. In a similar retreat, Congressional Republican leaders' ballyhooed promise for a special two-house select committee to fathom government's failures has already been scrapped. Democrats are understandably demanding equal membership and subpoena power - if not a 9/11-type independent commission - for such a task. But the House majority refuses to yield its edge in dominating this politically explosive issue. And the Senate goes its own way, advancing some helpful but totally inadequate ideas for post-hurricane oversight by an inspector general and a reconstruction financial officer.

The public should not be misled by the spectacle tomorrow when Michael Brown, the disgraced and departed director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will most likely be pilloried in an appearance before a Republican-heavy House committee. Scapegoating Mr. Brown is not enough. Lawmakers should be looking at wider mismanagement. The case of David Safavian, the White House's top federal procurement official, comes to mind. He was already enmeshed in the lucrative Gulf Coast rebuilding plans when he had to resign abruptly to face arrest on charges of obstructing justice in a deepening investigation into lobbyist corruption in Washington.

It's obvious that any honest inquiry into how the nation was caught unprepared must list administration cronyism as a topic of investigation as much as Katrina's timeline. Mr. Safavian was a G.O.P. loyalist and veteran lobbyist appointed to run the entire government's purchasing policy, apparently on the basis of patronage influence, not professional credentials.

There is no way to whitewash a hurricane; a government dominated by one party should be disqualified from investigating itself. Just as President Bush repeatedly fought the creation of the 9/11 commission until public pressure forced him to yield, so should the public now demand that the administration and Congress get real about Katrina.


President Struggles to Regain His Pre-Hurricane Swagger

The Washington Post reports that Bush is struggling to regain his pre-hurricane swagger:

A president who roamed across the national and world stages with an unshakable self-assurance that comforted Republicans and confounded critics since 2001 suddenly finds himself struggling to reclaim his swagger. Bush's standing with the public -- and within the Republican Party -- has been battered by a failed Social Security campaign, violence in Iraq, and most recently Hurricane Katrina. His approval ratings, 42 percent in the most recent Washington Post-ABC poll, have never been lower.

A president who normally thrives on tough talk and self-assurance finds himself at what aides privately describe as a low point in office, one that is changing the psychic and political aura of the White House, as well as its distinctive political approach.

Don Surber comments that Bush does seem off his game. Boredom? The war? Karl Rove's kidney stones? Or as the National Enquirer reported, booze?
Faced with the biggest crisis of his political life, President Bush has hit the bottle again, The National Enquirer can reveal.

Bush, who said he quit drinking the morning after his 40th birthday, has started boozing amid the Katrina catastrophe.

For more on this story, see


Housing those displaced by Katrina being bungled

The Washington Post and other media today reported on how housing those displaced by Katrina is rife with delays and bureacratic snafus. Apparently FEMA is trying to house evacuees in newly-created trailer parks which have been described as new "ghettos of despair". Interesting and revealing was the story out of Louisiana about parishes that were refusing to accept the evacuees. One parish in question was 90% white and the evacuees 90% black. The world looks on in wonder and amazement. Just how did this country get to be a world superpower? For full story go toHousingthedisplaced

Surveys of evacuees in Houston shows those left behind are among the least self-sufficient: About two-thirds do not have bank accounts, credit cards or insurance; most had family incomes of less than $20,000, and half have children younger than 18.

With trailers proving a less than ideal solution, FEMA officials are lining up 18,000 units in hotels, motels, cruise ships, closed military bases and rental units.

FEMA initially ordered 125,000 trailers that it planned to deploy as close as possible to affected cities, following a playbook the agency relied on after four Florida hurricanes and its New Orleans exercise last year. In the days after Katrina hit, FEMA officials claimed to have 6,000 FEMA-owned trailers in Louisiana, hoped to install 30,000 homes every two weeks and planned vast campuses of as many as 15,000 units, according to various media reports.

Testifying to Congress last week, David Roberson, speaking for the Manufactured Housing Institute, noted production capacity limits and said that the industry built 130,000 homes in all of 2004.

Another critical choke point is the shortage of land served by utilities. FEMA teams have examined 600 proposed sites, but "only about 33 had the infrastructure in place," said FEMA area housing commander Ron Sherman.

Contractors also cite paperwork problems. Roberson said as of Sept. 15, FEMA had pushed through contracts for only 10,000 homes, while orders for 18,000 were pending for days.

Jim McIntyre, FEMA's chief housing spokesman, said 350 to 500 trailers are being delivered a day. "The magnitude of contracts is causing some delays, but all are going through as quickly as possible. No one is holding up funding," McIntyre said. As of Thursday, FEMA had about 3,100 trailers in Louisiana and 7,000 in Mississippi and Alabama, he said, of which 1,134 were occupied.

But in Baton Rouge and Washington, some state and federal officials say FEMA's reliance on trailers is increasingly unpopular at all levels of government and in both political parties. Some are alarmed at reports that FEMA trailer cities in Florida have regressed into "ghettos of despair," in Newt Gingrich's words, with high rates of poverty, crime and social strain.

Several Louisiana parish leaders have balked at relaxing zoning or other standards to permit settlements, noting that most local governments are already poor, have limited infrastructure and suffered Katrina damage.


How the Republicans have Turned a Natural Disaster into a Man-Made Catastrophe

There's an excellent article by Jason Leopold on GOP Fiscal Policy and Katrina at

According to Leopold:

Republicans like to brag that, as a political party, they are more fiscally responsible than their Democratic counterparts. Well, thanks to President Bush's four years in office that theory can now take up residence in the urban legend department.

If anything, Bush's tenure as president proves that the Republican tax cuts (which everyone knows truly benefits the wealthiest one percent), drastically slashing funds in the federal budget for much needed improvements to the country's aging infrastructure (a perfect example being the outdated power grid), and trying to get away with launching wars on the cheap, have cost taxpayers and their unborn grandchildren more money than anyone could have ever imagined.

Simply put, since he became president, Bush has not invested the funds to fix the cracks in the country's façade, despite repeated warnings from experts and intense lobbying efforts by state officials that ignoring the problem will make it worse in the long run. Instead, the president pumped tens of billions of dollars into an unnecessary war that, when it became evident that attaining victory was tougher than the war planners imagined, required tens of billions of dollars more just to continue the fighting.

Only when devastation and catastrophe struck the nation did the federal government cough up the funds, but by then there wasn't much of choice and as such a $1 billion restoration project before a devastating hurricane touched down in the Gulf Coast has turned into a $200 billion reconstruction effort and has now saddled taxpayers with economic woes that no tax cut can relieve.

MPs take aim at Services Canada

In an interesting article in the Ottawa Citizen Pete O'Neill reports on the reaction of some MPs to the new Services Canada. Earlier I had predicted that this was another disaster in the making. Many MPs seem to think so too. Interesting is the focus on Flumian and her previous experience at the gun registry. John Williams states that an agency like this needs a first-class administrator and expresses doubt that Flumian meets that criterion. If he's in any doubt he should talk to some senior people in DFO about her performance as ADM during Bruce Rawson's tenure as Deputy there in the early 1990s. "First class administrator" is not the first phrase he will hear. PMO's attempts to defend the appointment are pathetic and bear no relation to reality. Here's the article:

'One-stop-shop' federal agency draws MPs' fire
Opposition warns that Service Canada will be another 'ineffectual bureaucracy'

Peter O'Neil
The Vancouver Sun

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Service Canada, a new "one- stop" federal agency aimed at improving service to Canadians while saving taxpayers $2.5 billion, is being viewed with deep skepticism by MPs across the political spectrum.

And some say it is a bad omen that the bureaucrat leading the three-year initiative is the former chief executive officer of the $1-billion gun registry, which was supposed to have cost just $2 million when it was launched a decade ago.

Service Canada, created in the 2005 federal budget, delivers dozens of federal programs and services offered by 12 departments. Canadians obtain a variety of services -- from employment insurance cheques to travel information --by dialing 1-800-O Canada or going on-line at www.servicecanada.gc.ca .

The initiative, headed by tough-talking Maryantonett Flumian of gun registry fame, will cost $500 million to implement as it expands over three years. The goal, in addition to reducing the frustration of Canadians trying to get through to the massive federal bureaucracy, is to provide net savings of $2.5 billion by streamlining services and cutting the workforce.

But MPs question the projections and fear there could be a repeat of the gun registry.

"Here it comes, folks -- another ineffective bureaucracy," said Conservative MP Randy White, an occasional member of the House of Commons government operations committee that will look into the Service Canada initiative. "And if it's as bad as the gun registry then we should all beware."

Liberal Diane Marleau, a member of the House of Commons operations committee, said she doesn't believe the government can somehow streamline into an efficient "single window" operation the $60 billion in services provided by hundreds of federal programs.

"I am somewhat skeptical and at times very skeptical," Ms. Marleau said. "I worry that it's more centralized services ... and, frankly, less service for the regions."

The NDP's Pat Martin is also doubtful. "This single-window stuff looks good on paper," he said. "I'm always suspect when they talk about reduction of red tape. What they really mean is reduction of services."

Public service experts and former senior bureaucrats say the initiative will be enormously complex, require major information technology improvements, and need the co-operation of entrenched bureaucratic "silos" headed by mandarins reluctant to cede turf.

Conservative MP John Williams, chairman of the public accounts committee that called Ms. Flumian and other gun registry officials to testify at the committee in 2003, said it's fair to raise questions about her background with the gun registry.

"What we're looking for here is a first-class administrator," said Mr. Williams. "She has not demonstrated that she has first-class administration skills."

Ms. Flumian, who declined a request for an interview yesterday, defended her performance at the gun registry while appearing before Mr. Williams' committee in 2003.

She told MPs the Canada Firearms Centre faced challenges but that her efforts led to "substantial results."

Her main goal, she said, was to improve the dismal compliance rate since the registry, enormously unpopular among many rural gun-owners, began operations in 1998.

She boosted the budget, hired more staff, simplified the application forms, ran advertisements, and the efforts was "ultimately a success" by bringing in 1.3 million applications in "just a few months."

But there was a heavy pricetag. The centre's budget during the 2000-2001 fiscal year soared to $200 million, by far the highest in the agency's history.

A senior official in Prime Minister Martin's office said Ms. Flumian is the right person for the job.

"Flumian is a fixer and that's what's needed here. She wasn't responsible for the mess at the gun registry," he said.

"To the contrary, she had the courage and integrity to speak honestly about the challenges the registry was facing and which others had refused to face up to. Honest and effective managers are what we're looking for in government."

© The Ottawa Citizen 2005


Bush in deep trouble (finally)

The Canadian press reported tonight that public pressure is growing for Bush to curtail Iraq war after Katrina disaster.While Bush claims he can still fight war in Iraq and pay the bill for Katrina, a new Gallup poll Wednesday reported a record high in the percentage of Americans favouring a reduction of U.S. troops in Iraq, with 63 per cent saying some or all of them should come home. Public approval of Bush's handling of Iraq tumbled eight points in just the last week, to 32 per cent.And 54 per cent of Americans chose less spending on Iraq over other means of paying for Katrina, including increasing the deficit, cutting domestic programs or raising taxes. It looks like the chickens may come home to roost for Georgie.Meanwhile fissures are emerging in the Republican Party on how to pay for Katrina (see next post). Stay tuned.

According to CP:

WASHINGTON (CP) - President George W. Bush says he can wage war in Iraq and still pay most of the huge bill for rebuilding the hurricane-lashed Gulf Coast. Most Americans don't agree with him. And for the first time, Bush is facing a serious revolt in his own party over how to pay for hurricane relief.

Republicans already edgy about the estimated $200-billion US price tag to clean up after Katrina were bracing for more damage by week's end as hurricane Rita hurtled toward Texas and the battered Louisiana coast.

For now, they're split on whether to cut domestic programs or add billions more to the whopping $333-billion U.S. deficit, options that Americans clearly aren't favouring in opinion polls.

And with congressional elections looming next year, analysts say legislators are increasingly feeling the heat from voters who tell pollsters the Iraq war was a mistake and Bush is spending too much there.

If the tide of public opinion doesn't budge, Bush may not be able to withstand an abrupt change in priorities, said Charles Cushman, a politics professor at George Washington University.

"His supporters in Congress could abandon him if he's not going to be able to help them get re-elected," he said.

"There will be tremendous pressure to declare victory no matter what's going on in Iraq and go home."

An Iraq backlash from Katrina was evident in other recent polls, including an Associated Press-Ipsos survey this week in which two-thirds said Bush was spending too much on the war.

As well, a recent New York Times survey suggested more than eight in 10 Americans are concerned about the $5 billion US spent each month in Iraq, with support for the war falling to an all-time low.

Still, only 26 per cent said they expected U.S. troops to be withdrawn within two years.

"Technically, it is possible for the administration to continue to wage war in Iraq and launch huge domestic efforts," said Will Dobson, managing editor of Foreign Policy magazine.

"The question is whether either can be done to the expectations of the public," he said. "And now Bush is in complete damage control mode."

The president's record low approval ratings after the bungled response to Katrina didn't improve following a nationally televised speech last week where he promised to fund one of the world's largest reconstruction efforts.

In a recent editorial, Richard Haas, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said the aftermath of Katrina will "inevitably" increase political pressure on Bush to reduce his involvement in Iraq and spend more to rebuild or improve the country's capacity to deal with future disasters.

Republican fissures emerge over how to pay for Katrina

Fissures are beginning to appear in the Republican Party over how to pay for the costs of the Katrina rescue/reconstruction effort.Will those fissures rupture after Rita has done her damage?According to the Washington Post:

Congressional Republicans from across the ideological spectrum yesterday rejected the White House's open-wallet approach to rebuilding the Gulf Coast, a sign that the lockstep GOP discipline that George W. Bush has enjoyed for most of his presidency is eroding on Capitol Hill.

Trying to allay mounting concerns, White House budget director Joshua B. Bolten met with Republican senators for an hour after their regular Tuesday lunch. Senators emerged to say they were annoyed by the lack of concrete ideas for paying the Hurricane Katrina bill.

"Very entertaining," Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said sarcastically as he left the session. "I haven't heard any specifics from the administration."

"At least give us some idea" of how to cover the cost, said Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), who is facing reelection in 2006. "We owe that to the American taxpayer."

The pushback on Katrina aid, which the White House is also confronting among House Republicans, represents the loudest and most widespread dissent Bush has faced from his own party since it took full control of Congress in 2002. As polls show the president's approval numbers falling, there is growing concern among lawmakers that GOP margins in Congress could shrink next year, and even rank-and-file Republicans are complaining that Bush is shirking the difficult budget decisions that must accompany the rebuilding bonanza.

Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.) said he and other fiscal conservatives are feeling "genuine concern [which] could easily turn into frustration and anger."

Congressional Republicans are not arguing with Bush's pledge that the federal government will lead the Louisiana and Mississippi recovery. But they are insisting that the massive cost -- as much as $200 billion -- be paid for. Conservatives are calling for spending cuts to existing programs, a few GOP moderates are entertaining the possibility of a tax increase, and many in the middle want to freeze Bush tax cuts that have yet to take effect.


PM describes ADSCAM "unacceptable aberration"

Prime Minister Martin in a speech to senior civil servants today described the ADSCAM ripoffs as "unacceptable aberrations." I thought he set up the Gomery Commission to determine what happened and to make sure it didn't happen again. Whatever happened to not prejudging the results of the Gomery Inquiry? Didn't the PM get on bended knee last spring and plead with the nation not to rush to judgment before Gomery had reported. How does he know that it's just an aberrration and not something systemic? Has he himself disregarded his plea and rushed to judgment before the facts are in? Have the recent polls gone to his head? To read more go to the PM's speech

Impending collapse of the American empire??

Bill Bonner of The Daily Reckoning continues to savage the American empire and sees portents of its impending collapse. He poses the question: Where will the money to fund the Katrina response come from? He proclaims: "the American empire has the distinction of being the most incompetent empire that ever existed. It conquers, but it cannot bring itself to collect tribute from its vassal states. Instead, it spends money in a vain effort to turn them into images of itself - capitalistic democracies." EDIT Thanks to Jaybird for the following link which provides an excellent article on this topic by

According to the Daily Reckoning:

We will spend "whatever it takes," said George W. Bush of the New Orleans
dry-out campaign. But where would 'whatever it takes' come from? The
federal deficit hit a record of $412 billion last year. Republicanoes were
delighted to report that the deficit was to fall this year to $331 billion,
but along comes a rainy day and the nation is now spending another $2
billion per day it doesn't have to help clean up the mess.

It is an ill wind that blows no one good. There is no doubt that the storm
was bad for the citizens of the Big Easy and American households generally;
as well as the federal budget, the U.S. dollar and the American economy.
But it is good for the empire. Now we have another 'front' at home, and
another reason to spend money.

Fish gotta swim...
Birds gotta fly...

If you can figure out the nature of the thing itself, you can figure out
what it will do.

Financial bubbles, and teenaged drunk driving are self-correcting. They go
on for a while. And then they run into a tree...so do empires.

What we think we're watching - and here we refer to the very big picture -
is the natural correction of the American empire. Nature abhors a vacuum,
but she detests a monopoly. Only one empire was still standing after the
collapse of the Soviet Union. The U.S. pax dollarium filled the vacuum
created by the end of the Cold War with a monopoly: The world's only super-
power, spending more on its military than all the rest of the world

As empires expand, the costs of administration and policing expand, too.
Soon, there are troops and bureaucrats strung out like Christmas lights.
Even healthy empires eventually have trouble paying the electric bill. But
the American empire has the distinction of being the most incompetent
empire that ever existed. It conquers, but it cannot bring itself to
collect tribute from its vassal states. Instead, it spends money in a vain
effort to turn them into images of itself - capitalistic democracies.

The United States ran out of money a long time ago. Its citizens took up
the 'white man's burden' from the British, but never saw the need for self-
sacrifice to carry it. They save no money. While the Chinese save up to 40%
of GDP, savings rates in the homeland are near 1%. Having no ready money of
its own - America's imperial economy has come to depend on the kindness of
strangers in strange places, who are willing to lend it money. Curiously,
the imperialists borrow from China, a communist country, to pay for their
wars to make the world safe for democracy.

What Americans need is a recession; it would cool their desire for spending
and debt. But what the imperial economy needs is another reason to spend
more, and go further into debt. A new campaign! A new war! More
bread...more circuses!

Kerry, Edwards Slam Bush Over Response to Hurricane

Kerry and Edwards pulled no punches in slamming Bush yesterday for the administration's inept handling of the Hurricane Katrina response.Both asserted that Bush continues to back policies that support the privileged over the working poor.According to the Washington Post:

According to a text of Kerry's speech made available in Washington, he said Katrina had provided an "accountability moment" for the administration.

"This is about the broader pattern of incompetence and negligence that Katrina exposed and beyond that a truly systemic effort to distort and disable the people's government and devote it to the interests of the privileged and the powerful," he said.

Kerry also charged that the administration is pursuing politics as usual in its prescription for rebuilding. "The plan they're designing for the Gulf Coast turns the region into a vast laboratory for right-wing ideological experiments," he said, citing private-school vouchers, subsidies to business and other proposals.

Edwards called for a restoration of community. "The administration may think every American is an island," he said. "But Americans know that Katrina's victims shouldn't have been out there on their own and that no American should be out there on their own."

Edwards used the metaphor of the flooded levees in New Orleans to describe what he called society's inadequate efforts to bolster the poor. Although he called for many new programs to help, he also said everyone, from parents and clergy to those most in need, must accept the responsibility to speak hard truths about behavior -- particularly out-of-wedlock pregnancies -- that condemn many to perpetual poverty.


Tons of British aid donated to help Hurricane Katrina victims to be BURNED by Americans

British cuisine has had a poor reputation for centuries but this story takes the cake.The UK paper The Mirror reported(Sept 19th) that tons of British aid donated to help Hurricane Katrina victims will be BURNED by the Americans. You think I'm kidding? Read the story below.Apparently the food, which cost British taxpayers millions, is sitting idle in a huge warehouse after the Food and Drug Agency recalled it when it had already left to be distributed. And what is the food?
NATO ration packs, the same as those eaten by British and American troops in Iraq. It's enough to make you weep.

19 September 2005
Tons of British aid donated to help Hurricane Katrina victims to be BURNED by Americans
From Ryan Parry, US Correspondent in New York
HUNDREDS of tons of British food aid shipped to America for starving Hurricane Katrina survivors is to be burned.

US red tape is stopping it from reaching hungry evacuees.
Instead tons of the badly needed Nato ration packs, the same as those eaten by British troops in Iraq, has been condemned as unfit for human consumption.
And unless the bureaucratic mess is cleared up soon it could be sent for incineration.

One British aid worker last night called the move "sickening senselessness" and said furious colleagues were "spitting blood".

The food, which cost British taxpayers millions, is sitting idle in a huge warehouse after the Food and Drug Agency recalled it when it had already left to be distributed.

Scores of lorries headed back to a warehouse in Little Rock, Arkansas, to dump it at an FDA incineration plant.

The Ministry of Defence in London said last night that 400,000 operational ration packs had been shipped to the US.

But officials blamed the US Department of Agriculture, which impounded the shipment under regulations relating to the import and export of meat.

The aid worker, who would not be named, said: "This is the most appalling act of sickening senselessness while people starve.

"The FDA has recalled aid from Britain because it has been condemned as unfit for human consumption, despite the fact that these are Nato approved rations of exactly the same type fed to British soldiers in Iraq.

"Under Nato, American soldiers are also entitled to eat such rations, yet the starving of the American South will see them go up in smoke because of FDA red tape madness."

The worker added: "There will be a cloud of smoke above Little Rock soon - of burned food, of anger and of shame that the world's richest nation couldn't organise a p**s up in a brewery and lets Americans starve while they arrogantly observe petty regulations.

"Everyone is revolted by the chaotic shambles the US is making of this crisis. Guys from Unicef are walking around spitting blood.

"This is utter madness. People have worked their socks off to get food into the region.

"It is perfectly good Nato approved food of the type British servicemen have. Yet the FDA are saying that because there is a meat content and it has come from Britain it must be destroyed.

"If they are trying to argue there is a BSE reason then that is ludicrously out of date. There is more BSE in the States than there ever was in Britain and UK meat has been safe for years."

The Ministry of Defence said: "We understand there was a glitch and these packs have been impounded by the US Department of Agriculture under regulations relating to the import and export of meat.

"The situation is changing all the time and at our last meeting on Friday we were told progress was being made in relation to the release of these packs. The Americans certainly haven't indicated to us that there are any more problems and they haven't asked us to take them back."

Food from Spain and Italy is also being held because it fails to meet US standards and has been judged unfit for human consumption.

And Israeli relief agencies are furious that thousands of gallons of pear juice are to be destroyed because it has been judged unfit.

The FDA said: "We did inspect some MREs (meals ready to eat) on September 13. They are the only MREs we looked at. There were 70 huge pallets of vegetarian MREs.

"They were from a foreign nation. We inspected them and then released them for distribution."

Local officials bypass FEMA and get creative

The Washington Post has a story about, among other things, a mayor in Mississippi who breaks the law to get supplies to people who need it in the aftermath of Katrina.For details see:

Stepensons blog


Simian's blog

Manning proposes a school to train right-wingers

Preston Manning is at it again. Despairing of the Conservatives taking power anytime soon and looking at the ultraright think tanks in the U.S., he's proposing an initiative to train right-wing activists on how to run campaigns and wrest power from the liberals. Given today's polls showing Martin's Libs at 40% (majority territory)it looks like his school has its work cut out for it.
Manning proposes a school of right
Tools to fight liberalism

Tom Blackwell
National Post

Monday, September 19, 2005

CREDIT: Ted Rhodes, CanWest News Service
(PRESTON) MANNING: a Canadian first.

A novel institute that hopes to give Canadian conservatives a much-needed electoral jolt -- with concepts that include a graduate school for right-wing political operatives -- started to take shape over the weekend.

The Manning Centre for Building Democracy will try to break the tightening Liberal grip on federal power by channelling practical advice, training and ideas to politicians, Preston Manning, its founder, said yesterday.

A blue-chip crowd of conservatives at an inaugural, three-day conference bandied about a range of ideas. They include a sort of MBA to train political organizers and scholarships to help conservative youth attend journalism school, then go on to influence media that conservatives perceive to be liberal-dominated.

The centre also plans to encourage more training for activists at all levels of the political process, improve links to academia and bring together conservatives more often to discuss strategy and policies.

Such practical-minded organizations have become relatively common in the U.S., but this would be a first in Canada, said Mr. Manning, the founder of the Reform and Canadian Alliance parties that are now part of the new Conservative Party of Canada.

The centre aims to help better communicate conservative values -- many of which are appealing to Canadians, although they're not winning elections.

"They're not finding expression in policies that people can identify with to the extent that conservatives would like. They're not being communicated and applied in certain situations," he said. "The problem is more translating them into public policy and political results. That's what we'd like to help do."

Mr. Manning has set up the organization at a dire time for the Conservative party itself. After four straight Liberal election victories federally, the newly amalgamated party made some gains earlier this year, thanks mainly to the Gomery commission's revelations about the Quebec sponsorship scandal.

But the Liberals have since rebounded, taking a strong lead in most polls again.

There are some within the Conservative party questioning Stephen Harper's continued leadership.

The conference drew politicians like Mike Harris, the former Ontario premier, and backroom activists like John Laschinger.

The centre would not be another political party, but help build an "infrastructure" for existing Conservative parties federally and provincially, Mr. Manning said.

It is a long-term plan, which may not bring concrete results for years, said Susan Elliott, a veteran Tory organizer and spokeswoman for the centre.

"We're on a 20-year horizon here," she said. "We're not at all talking about the next election, or the one after that."

Much of the conference discussion was about the centre helping provide training for politicians and organizers. That could range from weekend courses for poll captains to a graduate program in political administration at a co-operative university.

Nine such master's programs exist already in the United States, Mr. Manning said.

There was also discussion at the conference about tackling major institutions, such as universities and the media, that seem to have a liberal bent.

Strategies could include funding conservative intellectuals to write journal papers and books, or offering scholarships in fields such as journalism to conservative youth, said Ms. Elliott.

Similar organizations, such as the American Enterprise and Cato institutes, have been powerful forces in U.S. politics, said Nelson Wiseman, a University of Toronto political scientist.

"Think-tanks were pivotal in catapulting the right in America into a position of dominance," he said. "That intellectual energy used to be on the left until about 20 years ago."

But Prof. Wiseman argued that Canadian politics is more left-leaning. When the Conservatives win federal elections here, it is usually not so much a vote in favour of their ideas, but against something else, such as a Liberal government that has been in power too long, he maintains.

Prof. Wiseman said he also worries about the effect of further professionalizing the political process.

"It turns the conduct of elections and political activity into a science and in some respects, that debases it," he said. "It says that what counts here is the packaging, not the content."

© National Post 2005

Liberals at 40 per cent

Harper sure blew it last spring by not pulling the plug when the revelations were coming fast and furious at the Gomery Commission. But then one George Bush is more than enough on this continent.

Liberals at 40 per cent in recent poll
Compared with 24 per cent for Tories

Donald Mckenzie
Canadian Press

Monday, September 19, 2005

Paul Martin, September 17 2005. (CP/Victoria Times Colonist-Darren Stone)

MONTREAL -- The federal Liberals had the support of 40 per cent of respondents in a new poll - virtually the same level of backing they received in rolling to their majority government in 2000.

The Leger Marketing survey, conducted Sept. 6-11, pegged Conservative support at 24 per cent, while the NDP stood at 15 per cent and the Bloc Quebecois at 13 per cent.

The numbers were reached after distribution of the 20 per cent of respondents who were undecided.

Some observers said the results are another sign that Prime Minister Paul Martin's Liberals have bounced back from the sponsorship scandal, which had them plunging in the polls earlier this year as the Gomery commission heard allegations of widespread financial corruption within the party's Quebec wing.

"It shows that even though they (the Liberals) went through hard times last spring, it seems that they're slowly coming out of it," said Anne-Marie Marois, Leger Marketing's research director.

Marois said the poll revealed strong growth for the Liberals in Western Canada, including a jump of 16 percentage points in Alberta in two months and an increase of 14 percentage points in British Columbia.

In Ontario, the Liberals outstripped the Conservatives by a 46-27 margin, while the Bloc Quebecois continued its dominance in Quebec, leading the Grits by a 55-34 score.

The poll of 1,500 respondents is considered accurate within 2.6 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, meaning Liberal support could be as high as 42.6 per cent or as low as 37.4 per cent.

The margins of error for the regional breakdowns are bigger.

The Liberals formed a minority government in June 2004 with 36.7 per cent support, compared with the 29.6 per cent for the Conservatives.

In the November 2000 election, the Liberals romped to their third consecutive majority with 40.8 per cent, while the Canadian Alliance and the Conservatives totalled 37.7 per cent.

Martin has promised to call an election within 30 days of Justice John Gomery tabling his final report, which he now says will occur next Feb. 1.

While Martin could be sorely tempted to call a snap election this fall if Liberal support continued to grow, both Marois and political scientist Francois-Pierre Gingras believe that would backfire on the prime minister because of his repeated promises to wait for Gomery's final recommendations.

"I think there's a risk there and it would be much safer to live with another few months of the purgatory of a minority government to try to reap the benefits of some popular legislation this fall," said Gingras, who works at the University of Ottawa.

Marois agreed.

"He (Martin) is better off waiting and trying to increase satisfaction and then they can go because to go now into an election would mean he would not respect his promise.

"And as long as he waits at least until the Gomery report is out and as long as the Conservatives still have Stephen Harper leading the party, his chances can only improve."

Both observers said they believe Gomery's final report would have a negative effect on the Liberals only if he points the finger directly at Martin, who has said he was not aware of any financial skulduggery in the sponsorship program when he was finance minister in the '90s.

While the poll had the Liberals way out in the lead in popular support, 53 per cent of respondents expressed dissatisfaction with Martin's government, compared with 40 per cent who were satisfied.

The highest dissatisfaction levels were in Quebec (72 per cent) and Alberta (57 per cent).

But another positive for Martin is that dissatisfaction in seat-rich Ontario dropped nine percentage points to 45 per cent since the beginning of the summer.

Gingras said the Conservatives and the NDP have to find the right issues to regain the momentum they had earlier this year.

"There's only so much mileage you can make on the sponsorship scandal."

The poll results might put more pressure on Harper, whose leadership has recently been challenged by some Tories. A Leger survey in April had the Conservatives at 34 per cent.

(For more information, consult www.legermarketing.com)

© The Canadian Press 2005


Katrina has unmasked Bush

Frank Rich's column today is such an accurate dissection of Bush's response to this home-grown disaster. He sums it up thus:"It's up to Democrats, though they show scant signs of realizing it, to step into the vacuum and propose an alternative to a fiscally disastrous conservatism that prizes pork over compassion. If the era of Great Society big government is over, the era of big government for special interests is proving a fiasco. Especially when it's presided over by a self-styled C.E.O. with a consistent three-decade record of running private and public enterprises alike into a ditch."

What more can you add except to criticize the Times for putting its columnists on Premium access only starting tomorrow.


September 18, 2005
Message: I Care About the Black Folks
ONCE Toto parts the curtain, the Wizard of Oz can never be the wizard again. He is forever Professor Marvel, blowhard and snake-oil salesman. Hurricane Katrina, which is likely to endure in the American psyche as long as L. Frank Baum's mythic tornado, has similarly unmasked George W. Bush.

The worst storm in our history proved perfect for exposing this president because in one big blast it illuminated all his failings: the rampant cronyism, the empty sloganeering of "compassionate conservatism," the lack of concern for the "underprivileged" his mother condescended to at the Astrodome, the reckless lack of planning for all government operations except tax cuts, the use of spin and photo-ops to camouflage failure and to substitute for action.

In the chaos unleashed by Katrina, these plot strands coalesced into a single tragic epic played out in real time on television. The narrative is just too powerful to be undone now by the administration's desperate recycling of its greatest hits: a return Sunshine Boys tour by the surrogate empathizers Clinton and Bush I, another round of prayers at the Washington National Cathedral, another ludicrously overhyped prime-time address flecked with speechwriters' "poetry" and framed by a picturesque backdrop. Reruns never eclipse a riveting new show.

Nor can the president's acceptance of "responsibility" for the disaster dislodge what came before. Mr. Bush didn't cough up his modified-limited mea culpa until he'd seen his whole administration flash before his eyes. His admission that some of the buck may stop with him (about a dime's worth, in Truman dollars) came two weeks after the levees burst and five years after he promised to usher in a new post-Clinton "culture of responsibility." It came only after the plan to heap all the blame on the indeed blameworthy local Democrats failed to lift Mr. Bush's own record-low poll numbers. It came only after America's highest-rated TV news anchor, Brian Williams, started talking about Katrina the way Walter Cronkite once did about Vietnam.

Taking responsibility, as opposed to paying lip service to doing so, is not in this administration's gene pool. It was particularly shameful that Laura Bush was sent among the storm's dispossessed to try to scapegoat the news media for her husband's ineptitude. When she complained of seeing "a lot of the same footage over and over that isn't necessarily representative of what really happened," the first lady sounded just like Donald Rumsfeld shirking responsibility for the looting of Baghdad. The defense secretary, too, griped about seeing the same picture "over and over" on television (a looter with a vase) to hide the reality that the Pentagon had no plan to secure Iraq, a catastrophic failure being paid for in Iraqi and American blood to this day.

This White House doesn't hate all pictures, of course. It loves those by Karl Rove's Imagineers, from the spectacularly lighted Statue of Liberty backdrop of Mr. Bush's first 9/11 anniversary speech to his "Top Gun" stunt to Thursday's laughably stagy stride across the lawn to his lectern in Jackson Square. (Message: I am a leader, not that vacationing slacker who first surveyed the hurricane damage from my presidential jet.)

The most odious image-mongering, however, has been Mr. Bush's repeated deployment of African-Americans as dress extras to advertise his "compassion." In 2000, the Republican convention filled the stage with break dancers and gospel singers, trying to dispel the memory of Mr. Bush's craven appearance at Bob Jones University when it forbade interracial dating. (The few blacks in the convention hall itself were positioned near celebrities so they'd show up in TV shots.) In 2004, the Bush-Cheney campaign Web site had a page titled "Compassion" devoted mainly to photos of the president with black people, Colin Powell included.

Some of these poses are re-enacted in the "Hurricane Relief" photo gallery currently on display on the White House Web site. But this time the old magic isn't working. The "compassion" photos are outweighed by the cinéma vérité of poor people screaming for their lives. The government effort to keep body recovery efforts in New Orleans as invisible as the coffins from Iraq was abandoned when challenged in court by CNN.

But even now the administration's priority of image over substance is embedded like a cancer in the Katrina relief process. Brazenly enough, Mr. Rove has been officially put in charge of the reconstruction effort. The two top deputies at FEMA remaining after Michael Brown's departure, one of them a former local TV newsman, are not disaster relief specialists but experts in P.R., which they'd practiced as advance men for various Bush campaigns. Thus The Salt Lake Tribune discovered a week after the hurricane that some 1,000 firefighters from Utah and elsewhere were sent not to the Gulf Coast but to Atlanta, to be trained as "community relations officers for FEMA" rather than used as emergency workers to rescue the dying in New Orleans. When 50 of them were finally dispatched to Louisiana, the paper reported, their first assignment was "to stand beside President Bush" as he toured devastated areas.

The cashiering of "Brownie," whom Mr. Bush now purports to know as little as he did "Kenny Boy," changes nothing. The Knight Ridder newspapers found last week that it was the homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff, not Mr. Brown, who had the greater authority to order federal agencies into service without any request from state or local officials. Mr. Chertoff waited a crucial, unexplained 36 hours before declaring Katrina an "incident of national significance," the trigger needed for federal action. Like Mr. Brown, he was oblivious to the humanitarian disaster unfolding in the convention center, confessing his ignorance of conditions there to NPR on the same day that the FEMA chief famously did so to Ted Koppel. Yet Mr. Bush's "culture of responsibility" does not hold Mr. Chertoff accountable. Quite the contrary: on Thursday the president charged Homeland Security with reviewing "emergency plans in every major city in America." Mr. Chertoff will surely do a heck of a job.

WHEN there's money on the line, cronies always come first in this White House, no matter how great the human suffering. After Katrina, the FEMA Web site directing charitable contributions prominently listed Operation Blessing, a Pat Robertson kitty that, according to I.R.S. documents obtained by ABC News, has given more than half of its yearly cash donations to Mr. Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network. If FEMA is that cavalier about charitable donations, imagine what it's doing with the $62 billion (so far) of taxpayers' money sent its way for Katrina relief. Actually, you don't have to imagine: we already know some of it was immediately siphoned into no-bid contracts with a major Republican donor, the Fluor Corporation, as well as with a client of the consultant Joe Allbaugh, the Bush 2000 campaign manager who ran FEMA for this White House until Brownie, Mr. Allbaugh's college roommate, was installed in his place.

It was back in 2000 that Mr. Bush, in a debate with Al Gore, bragged about his gubernatorial prowess "on the front line of catastrophic situations," specifically citing a Texas flood, and paid the Clinton administration a rare compliment for putting a professional as effective as James Lee Witt in charge of FEMA. Exactly why Mr. Bush would staff that same agency months later with political hacks is one of many questions that must be answered by the independent investigation he and the Congressional majority are trying every which way to avoid. With or without a 9/11-style commission, the answers will come out. There are too many Americans who are angry and too many reporters who are on the case. (NBC and CNN are both opening full-time bureaus in New Orleans.) You know the world has changed when the widely despised news media have a far higher approval rating (77 percent) than the president (46 percent), as measured last week in a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll.

Like his father before him, Mr. Bush has squandered the huge store of political capital he won in a war. His Thursday-night invocation of "armies of compassion" will prove as worthless as the "thousand points of light" that the first President Bush bestowed upon the poor from on high in New Orleans (at the Superdome, during the 1988 G.O.P. convention). It will be up to other Republicans in Washington to cut through the empty words and image-mongering to demand effective action from Mr. Bush on the Gulf Coast and in Iraq, if only because their own political lives are at stake. It's up to Democrats, though they show scant signs of realizing it, to step into the vacuum and propose an alternative to a fiscally disastrous conservatism that prizes pork over compassion. If the era of Great Society big government is over, the era of big government for special interests is proving a fiasco. Especially when it's presided over by a self-styled C.E.O. with a consistent three-decade record of running private and public enterprises alike into a ditch.

What comes next? Having turned the page on Mr. Bush, the country hungers for a vision that is something other than either liberal boilerplate or Rovian stagecraft. At this point, merely plain old competence, integrity and heart might do.

New Orleans Unsafe, FEMA Official Says

The confusion and lack of coordination re the post-Katrina response continues. Yesterday I posted that Large numbers of people would be able to reurn to parts of New Orleans in the next few days, based on a statement by Mayor Nagin. Today the washington post reoprts that the new head honcho at FEMA says that New Orleans remains unsafe. Water, sewage and electrical systems are unable to "meet the basic needs of the businesses and residents who return," Allen said in a statement. He urged people "to use extreme caution if they return and to consider delaying their return until safer and more livable conditions are established."

So what are the folks to do? Who do they listen to? Obviously Bush's grand reconstruction initiative still has a few holes in it. Not to mention that he refuses to rescind the tax cuts to the rich to fund the $200 billion plus this is going to cost.

Business Owners Trickle Back in
New Orleans Unsafe, FEMA Official Says

By Ceci Connolly and Manuel Roig-Franzia
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, September 18, 2005; A01

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 17 -- Business owners trickled into New Orleans on Saturday, poking through glass shards and musty offices as the head of the federal relief effort warned in the strongest terms yet that the city is still unsafe for the 180,000 people being invited to return this week by Mayor C. Ray Nagin.

The dire assessment by Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen, appointed by President Bush to oversee the Federal Emergency Management Agency's recovery program, places him at odds with a mayor under increasing pressure from the business community to demonstrate New Orleans is on the mend.

"The return of the general population to the city of New Orleans is problematic," Allen, the Coast Guard's chief of staff, said in an interview. The mayor announced on Thursday a phased-in return beginning this weekend with businesses followed soon by three neighborhoods with minimal damage.

Water, sewage and electrical systems are unable to "meet the basic needs of the businesses and residents who return," Allen said in a statement. He urged people "to use extreme caution if they return and to consider delaying their return until safer and more livable conditions are established."

In St. Bernard Parish, officials allowed small groups to return Saturday to retrieve belongings, though many left empty-handed. Authorities estimated that more than half of the 25,000 houses in the parish are damaged beyond repair. "They talk about rebuilding all these homes, but there's no way," said George Ansardi, a general contractor, outside his destroyed house.

Allen is concerned about myriad unresolved health, safety and environmental dangers that could worsen as thousands descend on a city where entire neighborhoods are uninhabitable and cleanup crews have donned masks, rubber gloves and white body suits to protect themselves.

"You need to address these issues and reduce risks before the general population can be let back into the city," he said.

Although Allen acknowledged that the decision to reopen the city ultimately lies with the mayor, he plans to meet with Nagin on Monday to discuss his fears directly. Nagin was visiting his family Saturday in their relocated home in Dallas. In a briefing Friday, his homeland security director and the city attorney acknowledged the poor conditions and lack of basic services, and warned that people entered New Orleans at their own risk.

Allen's unusual decision to openly challenge Nagin's plan to allow thousands of people to return to New Orleans was reminiscent of the early political squabbling of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. Even now, as the crisis approaches the three-week mark, state and federal leaders often hold simultaneous, dueling news conferences in Baton Rouge, and some have said they are not in contact with Nagin and do not even know the phone numbers of the mayor or his top aides.

On the first day business owners were officially allowed to return, the anticipated mass traffic jams and checkpoint quagmires never materialized. After vowing to conduct detailed checks -- requiring documentation proving that people who returned to the city owned business -- New Orleans seemed to forget its resolve. Many entrances to the city were left unguarded, and cars breezed along streets that still lack working traffic signals. At some checkpoints, the arriving business owners were better informed than the troops guarding the entrances.

Sean Wallace, a mixed-media artist, encountered a stupefied guard on his way in from northwest of the city. "He asked me, 'Why are you coming in?' " Wallace said. "It was the first he'd heard about businesses being let back in."

Wallace, his artist's eye attuned to light and color, encountered a deflating scene of trees stripped raw and piled branches. "New Orleans was always my favorite city to return to -- no matter where you go, New Orleans is always greener and lusher," he said. "There's too much sunlight hitting the ground; everything is brown."

As clipboard-toting insurance adjusters stepped over debris, Salvation Army volunteers distributed sandwiches, bottles of water, and franks and beans. New mattresses arrived at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Canal Street, and Robby Crain hauled crates of spoiled food out of his Subway sandwich shop on Royal Street.

With horrifying images of the hurricane aftermath beamed around the world, Nagin acknowledged Thursday that he was getting pressure to move more quickly. He ebulliently announced a plan to let as many as 180,000 people in within a week, saying, "We're bringing New Orleans back. It's a good day in New Orleans. The sun is shining."

Stepping up the timetable played well in the French Quarter, where jeweler Franco Valobora said, "As I've been telling the mayor, New Orleans is a dying patient, and we need to give it a boost to the heart and the heart is here in the French Quarter."

Tiring of outsiders, some New Orleanians spoke confidently about celebrating Mardi Gras here next February and said it was time for out-of-town rescue workers and politicians to leave and let residents take over.

"The day the president came, I couldn't get contractors in," said Wayne Cox, assistant superintendent of engineering services for Pan American Real Estate. "We've got gaping holes in the roof, but nobody can get through because Mr. Bush wanted to come."

Old-time New Orleans meshed Saturday with the modern, wrecked New Orleans on the quiet boulevards and spooky streets that people encountered on their return. Philip Collier -- brave or, perhaps, foolish -- climbed into an elevator and ascended three floors in the Factor's Row Building, where Edgar Degas painted his American masterpiece "The Cotton Exchange." Collier, a graphic designer whose big, bold images grace posters for the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, was in search of something irreplaceable: the family photo albums he had stashed in office storage space. "I love this city," Collier said. "It's totally heartbreaking."

Like many entrepreneurs here, Collier is employing a good bit of creativity to survive. He plans to operate his business through cell phone and Internet connections with designers living in Covington and Avery Island.

Collier will also take care of unfinished business. A book he compiled before the storm was supposed to have been published Aug. 29, the day Katrina hit, and his editors are more eager than ever to see it print. The title: "Missing New Orleans."

© 2005 The Washington Post Company


Why do people blog?

clickz.com reports on a survey of why people blog. The conclusion is that for most it is a form of personal journal. Apparently nearly half of bloggers post personal accounts and journals rather than news, politics and gossip. Well, this blog falls in the commentary on news and politics category. You won't many personal secrets revealed here except for my views on people and events in the news,politics etc:)


Blogging for the Soul, Not the Bottom Line
By Enid Burns
September 16, 2005

Blogging is unquestionably a medium for personal journaling. According to America Online, nearly half of bloggers post personal accounts and journals rather than news, politics and gossip. The Blog Trends Survey was conducted by Digital Marketing Services, Inc. for AOL.

As many as half of respondents say they write a blog because it serves as a form of self-therapy. Further, one third of bloggers write about self-help and self-esteem topics. Thirty-one percent either blog or read blogs in times of need or high anxiety, while only five percent prefer to seek help from a counselor or mental health professional. The only thing more popular than blogs in times of need is seeking advice from family and friends.

The blogging population who do so for personal journaling is no surprise to AOL Community senor programming manager Joe Loong. "Knowing how I blog personally when I'm not on the clock, and how my friends blog," Loong told ClickZ Stats. "The vast majority of us are blogging about what's going on in our lives."

While there are numerous high-profile blogs that report on news and current events, only 16 percent of bloggers do so to pursue journalistic aims, 12 percent blog to break news or advance news and gossip, and eight percent blog to "expose political information".

A majority, 66 percent, don't feel pressure to update their blogs frequently, yet 65 percent pay attention to how often other bloggers post new entries to their blogs. In the casual blogging network, only 13 percent of bloggers become disappointed to learn other people's blogs attract more readers or responses.

"We know that bloggers are writing primarily for themselves," said Loong. "People don't really feel pressured to do a lot of updates."

The survey was conducted by Opinion Palace, an online research site operated by Digital Marketing Services, Inc.. A sampling of 600 respondents took part in the survey between July 17 to 22, 2005. To qualify, respondents had to be over 18 and write one or more blogs. AOL says respondents were not limited to bloggers using AOL and AIM blogs.

Alberta. won't share energy windfall, saysKlein

Will someone please take Ralph Klein out to the woodshed and give him a good whack on his derriere? Is he Premier of Alberta, a Canadian province, or President of the Republic of Alberta? I suppose he'll soon be repeating the phrase: "Let the eastern bastards freeze." There's no hope that our weak PM Martin is going to stand up to Klein or any other provincial premier. It looks like the federation is slowly being dismantled. Give us a new federal leader who will stand up for the Canada we once knew and loved.

Alta. won't share energy windfall: Klein

Canadian Press

September 16, 2005

Alberta Premier Ralph Klein.

CALGARY -- Alberta Premier Ralph Klein says the rest of Canada can forget about getting an extra slice of the province's energy windfall.

"It's not in the cards," Klein told reporters Friday after a poll suggested Canadians outside the oil-rich province want to share the wealth being generated by soaring energy prices.

"When you have money, everyone wants some, including the rest of Canada," he said, adding that the current situation is no different than when Alberta was booming in 1980.

"The rest of Canada was saying the same thing: 'Give me, give me, give me,"' said the premier. "Then the price of oil went down and the rest of Canada was wringing their hands in glee saying, 'You deserved it."'

Klein said Alberta already sends billions of dollars to Ottawa that is distributed to the rest of the country through equalization payments. That's about $2,400 for every man, woman and child in the province.

He noted the rest of Canada didn't send economic aid to Alberta when the oil boom collapsed and Alberta was thrown into economic turmoil.

Klein said he's already received $10 billion in funding requests -- far more than even the most optimistic economic forecast is predicting for the current year's surplus.

© Canadian Press 2005

How much will Canadians pay for Supreme Court ruling on Medicare

The Canadian Press reports on a conference where academics are discussing the impact of the Supreme Court decision on medicare.Morris Barer of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research said the decision will undermine universal medicare, forcing people to pay for quality care. The views reported are scary. Has the Supreme Court gone beyond its mandate? Has it opened the door for private companies to pluck dollars from the well-to-do while the less well off are left to queue up for the public system? What we need is good quality one-tier healthcare. How do we get there? The politicians certainly don't seem to doing much to help. A year ago Martin promised he was fixing health care for a generation by giving the provinces more money but he didn't secure a set of standards and accountablity.

Cdns. will 'pay' for court medicare ruling

Dennis Bueckert
Canadian Press

Saturday, September 17, 2005

TORONTO -- Canadians will "pay, and pay, and pay" for an uninformed and irresponsible Supreme Court of Canada ruling that cleared the way for private health insurance in Quebec, a major academic conference heard Friday.

The ruling ignored research on the impact of private insurance in a public health-care system, Morris Barer of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research told the conference. Barer was one of several leading researchers who said the decision will undermine universal medicare, forcing people to pay for quality care.

He compared claims about the wonders of private health insurance are like zombies - impossible to kill even though disproven by research. He called the four judges who wrote the majority decision "servants of the zombie masters."

The Chaouilli decision, named after the Quebec doctor who initiated the case, struck down Quebec's ban on private insurance, saying it contradicted the provincial charter of rights.

The judges "showed no evidence that they understood the implications of opening up Canada to private insurance for core services in a world increasingly dominated by voracious international trade agreements," he said.

The argument is that once core medical services are opened to domestic corporations, the rules of NAFTA and other free-trade agreements will force them to be opened to foreign corporations.

"This is a one-way street," said Barer, founding director of the Centre for Health Services and Policy Research at the University of British Columbia. "It's likely to be practically and financially impossible to reverse direction once one starts down this road. In this, the majority (of judges) were, in my view, simply irresponsible.

"But they will not be held accountable for their errors in judgment. It's the rest of us who will pay, and pay and pay."

He added: "One of the most unsettling aspects of this judgment was the selective use, misuse and ignorance of researchers' evidence."

Roy Romanow, a former Saskatchewan premier who headed the 2002 royal commission on health care, said the Chaouilli decision runs counter to public opinion and expands judicial activism to a troubling level.

"The court basically said that the prohibition of private health insurance enacted by a democratically elected provincial government was bad public policy. This remarkable level of judicial activism troubles even many who are sympathetic to the end result."

He cited a June 2005 Statistics Canada report that said more than 80 per cent of Canadians are satisfied with the quality of care they receive.

In an interview, Romanow said he hopes politicians will respond vigorously to defend medicare, but so far there has been little more than silence.

Although the Chaouilli decision was based on the Quebec Charter of Rights, Romanow believes it also applies, by implication, to the Canadian Charter of Rights, which he helped negotiate during the 1980s.

But the drafters of the charter never intended it to protect economic claims such as the right to buy private insurance, he told the conference, sponsored by the University of Toronto Faculty of Law.

Stanley Hartt, who served as chief of staff to former prime minister Brian Mulroney and supervised extensive budget-cutting during that time, called himself "one of the zombie masters."

Hartt said politicians have been sleep-walking toward the Chaouilli decision for 20 years, and still have an opportunity to fix the health system by dealing with wait lists. If they don't, he said, medicare will be lost.

"In other words, if you can't deliver the goods, stop pretending that you can. Get out of the way. You can't say, 'We have a system, it's a wonderful system, it's the best on the face of the Earth, we will never have two-tier health care,' and the Supreme Court tells you people are dying on waiting lists. There's a disconnect there of some kind."

Allan Hutchinson, associate dean at Osgoode Hall Law School, said the Charter of Rights has become a political weapon used to benefit vested interests.

"The Supreme Court is not suggesting that as a matter of politics maybe we should revisit health care. They're suggesting that as a matter of constitutional law, the interest of private and affluent individuals should be given precedence in this debate."

The conference attracted such strong interest it had to be moved from the university campus to the Toronto Convention Centre. Three other conferences on the Chaouilli case are said to be in the works before the end of the year.

© The Canadian Press 2005

New Orleans reopening for business?

The Canadian Press reported today that the French Quarter and some other sections of New Orleans will reopen for business in a few days. A few short days ago who would have thought it? Mayor Nagin said that the move could bring back more than 180,000 of the city's original half-million residents. And this before the real reconstruction begins. Hard to believe. But then the French Quarter and some other sections were dry after the hurricane. It's interesting to see that they are getting some of the infrastructure up and running so quickly. I don't think I'll be planning to vacation there anytime soon though.

Saturday » September 17 » 2005

Mayor Nagin: French Quarter to reopen

Cain Burdeau
Canadian Press

September 17, 2005

"The city of New Orleans . . . will start to breathe again," a beaming Mayor Ray Nagin said. "We will have life. We will have commerce. We will have people getting into their normal modes of operations and the normal rhythm of the city.". (AP Photo/Cliff Schiappa)

NEW ORLEANS -- In a few days, residents will begin moving back into this city one postal code at a time, speeding the revival of the economy in places like the French Quarter - the bawdy enclave that suffered relatively minor damage in the hurricane but is still without electricity.

Mayor Ray Nagin announced plans Thursday to reopen some of New Orleans' most vibrant and least flood-ravaged neighbourhoods over the next week and a half, including the French Quarter. The move could bring back more than 180,000 of the city's original half-million residents.

"The city of New Orleans . . . will start to breathe again," Nagin said. "We will have life. We will have commerce. We will have people getting into their normal modes of operations and the normal rhythm of the city."

The announcement came as President George W. Bush proposed a sweeping plan for the federal government to pick up most of the costs of rebuilding New Orleans and the rest of the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast - estimated at $200 billion or more.

"There is no way to imagine America without New Orleans, and this great city will rise again," the president said from the French Quarter's Jackson Square.

Nagin said the "re-population" of the city would start Monday in Algiers, a Creole-influenced neighbourhood across the Mississippi River from the French Quarter. The city's Uptown section, which includes the Garden District's leafy streets and antebellum mansions, will reopen in stages next Wednesday and Friday.

The French Quarter will follow on Sept. 26.

The designated neighbourhoods have 70 per cent to 90 per cent of their electricity restored, as well as water for flushing toilets and firefighting, if not for drinking. The sewer system works, trash removal is running and at least two hospitals will be able to provide emergency care, authorities said.

The plan to reopen came a day after government tests showed that New Orleans' putrid air was safe to breathe, even if the receding floodwaters that still cover half the city remain dangerous from sewage and industrial chemicals.

Nagin said electricity would be restored to the French Quarter after the area is checked several times to make sure a fire won't break out from flipping the switch.

Business owners have been anxiously awaiting the return of electricity, which will bring back the glowing neon signs of the strip clubs and bars on Bourbon Street.

"If we get power, we can bring the dancers in and start working," said Javier Rosado, who's been helping clean the Big Daddy's strip club so it can reopen.

Even though business won't be like it was before the storm, Rosado said, the opportunity to make money still exists in the near-desolate city. "The soldiers keep passing by and asking when we'll open," he said. "I'm sure we'll make money."

Across five Gulf Coast states, the death toll from Katrina climbed Thursday to 794, led by 558 in Louisiana.

While the areas set to be reopened were never part of the 80 per cent of New Orleans under water, they still suffered from the failure of services that left them prey to the looting that gripped this city after hurricane Katrina hit on Aug. 29.

Katrina did not leave the Quarter entirely untouched - magnolia trees were uprooted, awnings were shredded and looters broke into some stores - but the old city centre often looks worse after Mardi Gras festivities.

Nagin also said Thursday that the city's convention centre, which became a symbol of the city's despair when thousands of refugees were stranded there for days after the hurricane, will now become a hub of the rebuilding effort. Three major retailers will set up there to sell lumber, food and other supplies.

Security will be tight in the reopened neighbourhoods. Nagin said a dusk-to-dawn curfew will be enforced, and residents and business owners will be required to show ID to get back in.

If the initial resettlement goes smoothly, Nagin said residents in other areas will slowly be brought back to join in what he called perhaps the biggest urban reconstruction project in U.S. history.

Nagin asked mayors across the country to start counting displaced New Orleanians so the city knows where they are and can communicate with them about reconstruction.

However, a poll in Friday's Washington Post found that fewer than half of all hurricane survivors from New Orleans who evacuated to Houston shelters plan to return home, while two-thirds of those who want to move somewhere new expect to settle permanently in the Houston area.

Despite the good news from the mayor, large sections of New Orleans remained accessible only by boat, and corpses could still be seen out in the open. In flooded streets near the University of New Orleans campus, two bodies were seen floating face down, and the decomposed corpse of a woman was sprawled on a church step, her cane lying beside her.

© The Canadian Press 2005


Bush labeled 'a--hole' in Google bomb filmstrip

A song and video critical of the president, his Cabinet and high-profile conservatives such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter appear as the sole result in Google searches when the words "a-- hole" with a space between the words are put into Google's engine, and the "I'm feeling lucky" button is punched.

Try it.

Will the Katrina reconstruction effort turn into a fiasco?

In an excellent column in today's New York Times, Paul Krugman raises some penetrating questions about how the post-Katrina reconstruction effort will unfold.He forsees a debacle as Bush and his cronies attempt to rebuild New Orleans using conservative right-wing economic approaches. Based on what we've seen in Iraq and the ineffectual response to Katrina, there's little reason to question Krugman's central thesis. As he says, Bush is no FDR, regrettably.

September 16, 2005
Not the New Deal
Now it begins: America's biggest relief and recovery program since the New Deal. And the omens aren't good.

It's a given that the Bush administration, which tried to turn Iraq into a laboratory for conservative economic policies, will try the same thing on the Gulf Coast. The Heritage Foundation, which has surely been helping Karl Rove develop the administration's recovery plan, has already published a manifesto on post-Katrina policy. It calls for waivers on environmental rules, the elimination of capital gains taxes and the private ownership of public school buildings in the disaster areas. And if any of the people killed by Katrina, most of them poor, had a net worth of more than $1.5 million, Heritage wants to exempt their heirs from the estate tax.

Still, even conservatives admit that deregulation, tax cuts and privatization won't be enough. Recovery will require a lot of federal spending. And aside from the effect on the deficit - we're about to see the spectacle of tax cuts in the face of both a war and a huge reconstruction effort - this raises another question: how can discretionary government spending take place on that scale without creating equally large-scale corruption?

It's possible to spend large sums honestly, as Franklin D. Roosevelt demonstrated in the 1930's. F.D.R. presided over a huge expansion of federal spending, including a lot of discretionary spending by the Works Progress Administration. Yet the image of public relief, widely regarded as corrupt before the New Deal, actually improved markedly.

How did that happen? The answer is that the New Deal made almost a fetish out of policing its own programs against potential corruption. In particular, F.D.R. created a powerful "division of progress investigation" to look into complaints of malfeasance in the W.P.A. That division proved so effective that a later Congressional investigation couldn't find a single serious irregularity it had missed.

This commitment to honest government wasn't a sign of Roosevelt's personal virtue; it reflected a political imperative. F.D.R.'s mission in office was to show that government activism works. To maintain that mission's credibility, he needed to keep his administration's record clean.

But George W. Bush isn't F.D.R. Indeed, in crucial respects he's the anti-F.D.R.

President Bush subscribes to a political philosophy that opposes government activism - that's why he has tried to downsize and privatize programs wherever he can. (He still hopes to privatize Social Security, F.D.R.'s biggest legacy.) So even his policy failures don't bother his strongest supporters: many conservatives view the inept response to Katrina as a vindication of their lack of faith in government, rather than as a reason to reconsider their faith in Mr. Bush.

And to date the Bush administration, which has no stake in showing that good government is possible, has been averse to investigating itself. On the contrary, it has consistently stonewalled corruption investigations and punished its own investigators if they try to do their jobs.

That's why Mr. Bush's promise last night that he will have "a team of inspectors general reviewing all expenditures" rings hollow. Whoever these inspectors general are, they'll be mindful of the fate of Bunnatine Greenhouse, a highly regarded auditor at the Army Corps of Engineers who suddenly got poor performance reviews after she raised questions about Halliburton's contracts in Iraq. She was demoted late last month.

Turning the funds over to state and local governments isn't the answer, either. F.D.R. actually made a point of taking control away from local politicians; then as now, patronage played a big role in local politics.

And our sympathy for the people of Mississippi and Louisiana shouldn't blind us to the realities of their states' political cultures. Last year the newsletter Corporate Crime Reporter ranked the states according to the number of federal public-corruption convictions per capita. Mississippi came in first, and Louisiana came in third.

Is there any way Mr. Bush could ensure an honest recovery program? Yes - he could insulate decisions about reconstruction spending from politics by placing them in the hands of an autonomous agency headed by a political independent, or, if no such person can be found, a Democrat (as a sign of good faith).

He didn't do that last night, and probably won't. There's every reason to believe the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast, like the failed reconstruction of Iraq, will be deeply marred by cronyism and corruption.

E-mail: krugman@nytimes.com

Response to Katrina dims Canadians' view of U.S.

Jane Taber reports in the Globe and Mail that the disturbing images of the aftermath of hurricane Katrina that exposed poverty and race issues have negatively affected the way some Canadians view the United States, according to a new Strategic Counsel poll.( Are you surprised by this? Not me. Indeed I would have been surprised if the results had been otherwise.)

At least one-third of Canadians, or 33 per cent of those polled, said their impressions of U.S. society have changed as a result of the Bush government's response to the New Orleans flooding.

And 85 per cent of those respondents say their impression has "worsened."

"They saw the underbelly of America that is traditionally hidden," said The Strategic Counsel's Allan Gregg. "An underbelly that is not only rife with poverty, that is so very much along race lines."

Mr. Gregg's findings for The Globe and Mail/CTV poll are based on telephone interviews of 1,000 Canadians. The poll was conducted between Sept. 7 and 13.

The poll also finds that a majority of Canadians, or 54 per cent, believe the Paul Martin government's response to a disaster similar to the one on the U.S. Gulf Coast would have been better than that of the Bush administration to hurricane Katrina.

"What it shows is that, for whatever doubts Canadians have about the efficacy about their own government, they believe certainly that in contrast to Americans, that we would do at least as good if not a better job than they did," he said.

And that is not the only issue on which the countries differ. Mr. Gregg says that despite the tragic events of 9/11 Canadians have not grown closer to their U.S. neighbours.

"Although, what we've seen really since Sept. 11, against all the conventional wisdom, is far from a greater bond in the sense of commonness, is a growing sense of differentness," he said.

"Overwhelmingly, Canadians believe that we view the world differently if not in opposite terms than Americans. So there is a little bit of sabre-rattling out there that we haven't seen historically, a truculence on the part of Canadians vis-à-vis America that probably isn't reflected in our business or political leadership in this country."