Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Donated relief turned away;
Halliburton wins clean-up contract

WASHINGTON, D.C.--If anyone had any doubt of the deep corruption and criminality of the Bush administration, your blogstress suggests that the reader consider this series of news stories in combination:

Red Cross Turned Away from New Orleans

FEMA turns back water trucks, diesel fuel; cuts emergency communications lines, says Jefferson Parish president

Halliburton gets Katrina contract, hires former FEMA director

Houston Finds Business Boon After Katrina

Brown pushed from last job: Horse group: FEMA chief had to be `asked to resign'

Via Evan Derkacz at AlterNet’s blogs, we learn of the American Red Cross being turned away from the devastated birthplace of jazz, a city awash in bodies, water-borne disease and stranded people still clinging to life. Here, direct from the Red Cross’s own Web site, we find this under the headline, Hurricane Katrina: Why is the Red Cross not in New Orleans?

* Access to New Orleans is controlled by the National Guard and local authorities and while we are in constant contact with them, we simply cannot enter New Orleans against their orders.

* The state Homeland Security Department had requested--and continues to request--that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city.

On this weekend’s "Meet the Press," Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard offered breathtaking testimony of betrayal by the federal government:

We had Wal-Mart deliver three trucks of water, trailer trucks of water. FEMA turned them back. They said we didn't need them. This was a week ago. FEMA--we had 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel on a Coast Guard vessel docked in my parish. The Coast Guard said, "Come get the fuel right away." When we got there with our trucks, they got a word. "FEMA says don't give you the fuel."

Yesterday--yesterday--FEMA comes in and cuts all of our emergency communication lines. They cut them without notice. Our sheriff, Harry Lee, goes back in, he reconnects the line. He posts armed guards on our line and says, "No one is getting near these lines." Sheriff Harry Lee said that if America--American government would have responded like Wal-Mart has responded, we wouldn't be in this crisis.

Broussard then offered a simple recipe for the future: restore FEMA to the status and efficiency it enjoyed under the Clinton administration and then-FEMA Director James Lee Witt. Oh, yeah, and get the priorities straight: lives over property. Broussard asserted:

Bureaucracy has committed murder here in the greater New Orleans area, and bureaucracy has to stand trial before Congress now. It's so obvious. FEMA needs more congressional funding. It needs more presidential support. It needs to be a Cabinet-level director...Forget about the property. We can rebuild the property. It's got to be able to come in and save lives.

As several bloggers have reminded us, the demise of FEMA under the Bush administration is a screaming example of the agenda advocated by Bush-booster Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform. A famous quote of Norquist’s has taken on enhanced meaning as television viewers hear countless references to New Orleans as a “bathtub”:

“My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”

As FEMA officials and the National Guard turn away relief supplies and medical help from New Orleans, Halliburton, not long ago the charge of CEO Dick Cheney, has won itself a contract to repair naval installations damaged by Katrina. How long ya wanna bet that they’ll soon be racking up civic contracts for gasoline line repair and the like?

From Halliburton Watch* comes this:

In March, the former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is tasked with responding to hurricane disasters, became a lobbyist for KBR [Kellogg, Brown & Root, a Halliburton subsidiary]. Joe Allbaugh was director of FEMA during the first two years of the Bush administration.

Today, FEMA is widely criticized for its slow response to the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Allbaugh managed Bush's campaign for Texas governor in 1994, served as Gov. Bush's chief of staff and was the national campaign manager for the Bush campaign in 2000. Along with Karen Hughes and Karl Rove, Allbaugh was one of Bush's closest advisers.

Allbaugh is also the guy who hired the current FEMA director, Michael Brown, an apparently hapless manager who, unlike Clinton’s FEMA guy, James Lee Witt, has no emergency management experience. Kudos to Brett Arends of the Boston Herald, who brought into public view the ignominious circumstances by which Brown became available to take his first position at FEMA:

The federal official in charge of the bungled New Orleans rescue was fired from his last private-sector job overseeing horse shows.

And before joining the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a deputy director in 2001, GOP activist Mike Brown had no significant experience that would have qualified him for the position.

The Oklahoman got the job through an old college friend who at the time was heading up FEMA.

Finally, we learn that that president’s pals in Houston are already rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of a boon set to come their way, thanks to the demise of the crescent city. Especially delicious is the context, given in this piece by Simon Romero of the New York Times (with reporting by Damon Darlin and Maureen Balleza), for Houston’s current travails, thanks to a little operation called Enron, one of the major funders of George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential election:

A surge of business activity in Houston this time around might lift the fortunes of a city that is still struggling to recover from the collapse of Enron and two decades of job cuts in the energy industry, which has shrunk as production of oil in Texas and the United States has declined.

"I always hate to talk about positives in a situation like this, but this is certainly a growth business over the next 6 to 12 months," said Geoffrey M. Hertel, Tetra [Technology]’s chief executive. By Friday, Tetra had been able to send an 800-ton barge it owns, the Arapaho, to the gulf to be used for platform repairs, Mr. Hertel said.

Looks like Vice President Dick Cheney (a CEO hereafter to be known, as in the tradition of CEO Trump, as "the Dick") is going to have to buy his buddies a big ol’ set of carpet bags.

NOTE: HalliburtonWatch.org is a project of Essential Information, a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization, and the Center for Corporate Policy, a nonprofit, non-partisan organization working to stop corporate threats to democracy.

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