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HURRICANE KATRINA: Indexed Quotations etc. | September 5, 2005

Scope | FEMA | Security | Flood Prevention | Political/Economic Fallout



Researched by Douglas Drenkow, "Progressive Thinking"

"Only three of the New Orleans zoo's 1,400 animals died in the wrath of Hurricane Katrina. The famous Audubon Zoo has the good fortune of being located on some of the city's highest ground, but it also had an efficient disaster plan for the animals." -- Los Angeles Times

"Considering the dire circumstances that we have in New Orleans, virtually a city that has been destroyed, things are going relatively well." -- FEMA Director Michael Brown (Thursday, the worst day)

"...as scenes of horror that seemed to be coming from some Third World country flashed before us, official Washington was like a dog watching television. It saw the lights and images, but did not seem to comprehend their meaning or see any link to reality...This was just survival of the richest." -- Bob Shieffer

"America is once more plunged into a snake pit of anarchy, death, looting, raping, marauding thugs, suffering innocents, a shattered infrastructure, a gutted police force, insufficient troop levels, and criminally negligent government planning. But this time it's happening in America." -- Maureen Dowd

"They're treating us like crap. They have us living like not even pigs." -- Tina Wilson, survivor of the Superdome

"It's worse than being in prison in there. They don't have nothing for me." -- Cleo Wilson, 86, heart-patient, survivor of the Superdome

"'They're treating people like prisoners in there,' said Shelton Alexander as he left the Dome for the thigh-high waters of Poydras Street. 'It's so hot in there, and people are s--ting on the floors.'" -- The Times-Picayune


"People became increasingly frustrated at the slow pace of rescue and evacuation efforts a full three days after Katrina tore up the US Gulf Coast...

"'We want help,'' people chanted at the city convention centre, where thousands of evacuees were told to seek shelter only to find woefully inadequate supplies of food or water."

-- Reuters, as reported in "The Age" (Melbourne, Australia)


"Four days after Hurricane Katrina devastated much of the northern Gulf Coast, tired and angry people stranded at the convention center in New Orleans welcomed a supply convoy carrying food, water, and medicine with cheers and tears of joy...

"The president said he is 'satisfied' with the federal government's response to the Katrina disaster, although there is not 'enough security in New Orleans, yet.'"

-- CNN (Friday, Sept. 2, 2005)


"Who are we if we can't take care of our own?" -- Maureen Dowd

"We are not sewage." -- Doug Drenkow

"At the increasingly unsanitary convention center, crowds swelled to about 25,000 and desperate refugees clamored for food, water and attention while dead bodies, slumped in wheelchairs or wrapped in sheets, lay in their midst." -- New York Times

"It was chaos [in the convention center]. There was nobody there, nobody in charge. And there was nobody giving even water. The children, you should see them, they're all just in tears. There are sick people. We saw... people who are dying in front of you." -- CNN Producer Kim Segal

"Some people there [in the convention center] have not eaten or drunk water for three or four days, which is inexcusable. We need additional troops, food, water; and we need personnel, law enforcement. This has turned into a situation where the city is being run by thugs." -- Joseph W. Matthews, the director of the city's Office of Emergency Preparedness

"...[the recovery operation has been] carried on the backs of the little guys for four goddamn days...the rest of the goddamn nation can't get us any resources for security. We are like little birds with our mouths open and you don't have to be very smart to know where to drop the worm. It's criminal within the confines of the United States that within one hour of the hurricane they weren't force-feeding us. It's like FEMA has never been to a hurricane." -- Col. Terry Ebbert, director of homeland security for New Orleans

"We're just a bunch of rats." -- Earle Young, 31, a cook who stood waiting in a throng of perhaps 10,000 outside the Superdome

"...the evacuations of the hospitals...are going very well." -- Michael Brown, Head of FEMA

...while at the same time...

"It's gruesome. I guess that is the best word for it. If you think about a hospital, for example, the morgue is in the basement, and the basement is completely flooded. So you can just imagine the scene down there. But when patients die in the hospital, there is no place to put them, so they're in the stairwells. It is one of the most unbelievable situations I've seen as a doctor, certainly as a journalist as well. There is no electricity. There is no water. There's over 200 patients still here remaining." -- CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta

...and also...

"We still have 200 patients in this hospital, many of them needing care that they just can't get. The conditions are such that it's very dangerous for the patients. Just about all the patients in our services had fevers. Our toilets are overflowing. They are filled with stool and urine. And the smell, if you can imagine, is so bad, you know, many of us had gagging and some people even threw up. It's pretty rough." -- Dr. Matthew Bellew, Charity Hospital

"The Next Few Days Are Critical" -- American Red Cross television commercial

"The results are not acceptable." -- President George W. Bush

"It looks dysfunctional to me right now." -- Rep. Diane Watson (D-Calif.)

"I think it puts into question all of the Homeland Security and Northern Command planning for the last four years, because if we can't respond faster than this to an event we saw coming across the Gulf for days, then why do we think we're prepared to respond to a nuclear or biological attack?" -- Newt Gingrich

"They don't have a clue what's going on down here." -- New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin

"This plan was no plan." -- A New Orleans cop

"...they're thinking small, man...people are dying and they're dying by the hundreds...There is nothing happening. And they're feeding the public a line of bull and they're spinning, and people are dying down here...Now get off your asses and do something, and let's fix the biggest goddamn crisis in the history of this country." -- New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin

"This is a national emergency. This is a national disgrace. FEMA has been here three days, yet there is no command and control." -- Terry Ebbert, head of homeland security in New Orleans, mirroring sentiments expressed on the "CBS Evening News" by a FEMA official in Biloxi, Mississippi

"The president's declaration that 'I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees' has instantly achieved the notoriety of Condoleezza Rice's 'I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center.'" -- Frank Rich

"...a replay of the sinking of the Titanic. New Orleans's first-class passengers made it safely into lifeboats; for those in steerage, it was a horrifying spectacle of every man, woman and child for himself." -- Frank Rich

"...Michael Chertoff, the homeland security secretary, was so oblivious to those on the lower decks that on Thursday he applauded the federal response to the still rampaging nightmare as 'really exceptional.' He told NPR that he had 'not heard a report of thousands of people in the convention center who don't have food and water' -- even though every television viewer in the country had been hearing of those 25,000 stranded refugees for at least a day." -- Frank Rich

"The unmistakable conclusion one would draw from this was this was a massive administration failure." -- Donald P. Green, professor of political science at Yale University

"So America, once famous for its can-do attitude, now has a can't-do government that makes excuses instead of doing its job. And while it makes those excuses, Americans are dying." -- Paul Krugman

"In 2004, Mr. Brown led FEMA's thousands of dedicated disaster workers during the most active hurricane season in over 100 years, as FEMA delivered aid more quickly and more efficiently than ever before." -- Official White House Biography of Michael D. Brown, Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response

"Michael Brown, the blithering idiot in charge of FEMA -- a job he trained for by running something called the International Arabian Horse Association -- admitted he didn't know until Thursday that there were 15,000 desperate, dehydrated, hungry, angry, dying victims of Katrina in the New Orleans Convention Center." -- Maureen Dowd

"...things are going relatively well." -- Michael Brown, Head of FEMA, Thursday night, the same day as...

"This is a desperate SOS." -- New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin

"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." -- Boston Herald

"In January of 2001, George W. Bush appointed Texas crony Joe Allbaugh to head FEMA, despite the fact that Allbaugh had exactly zero experience in disaster management. By April of 2001, the Bush administration announced that much of FEMA's work would be privatized and downsized. Allbaugh that month described FEMA as, 'an oversized entitlement program.'" -- William Rivers Pitt

"The raw cronyism of that appointment showed the contempt the administration felt for the agency; one can only imagine the effects on staff morale. That contempt...reflects a general hostility to the role of government as a force for good. And Americans living along the Gulf Coast have now reaped the consequences of that hostility." -- Paul Krugman


"...in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, FEMA lost its Cabinet-level status as it was folded into the giant new Department of Homeland Security. And in recent years it has suffered budget cuts, the elimination or reduction of key programs and an exodus of experienced staffers.

"The agency's core budget, which includes disaster preparedness and mitigation, has been cut each year since it was absorbed by the Homeland Security Department in 2003. Depending on what the final numbers end up being for next fiscal year, the cuts will have been between about 2% and 18%.

"The agency's staff has been reduced by 500 positions to 4,735. Among the results, FEMA has had to cut one of its three emergency management teams, which are charged with overseeing relief efforts in a disaster...

"Three out of every four dollars the agency provides in local preparedness and first-responder grants go to terrorism-related activities, even though a recent Government Accountability Office report quotes local officials as saying what they really need is money to prepare for natural disasters and accidents.

"'They've taken emergency management away from the emergency managers,' complained Morrie Goodman, who was FEMA's chief spokesman during the Clinton administration. 'These operations are being run by people who are amateurs at what they are doing.'"

-- Los Angeles Times


"You knew that the levies were vulnerable, you knew New Orleans had a population of at least 100,000 with no way to travel or evacuate, you knew that those were the people most vulnerable to a flood. Why didn't you send busses and flatbed trucks to get those people out of there before the storm hit? Why didn't you do it after the storm hit? Why have you STILL not done anything to get them out even as you see what is happening?" -- Ted Koppel interviewing Michael Brown, Director of FEMA, who replied...

"Well Ted, I don't know why the City and the State didn't have a plan
for evacuation..."

"No sir! I asked why YOU didn't do it. You are the Federal Emergency Management Agency, YOU knew the danger, YOU had the responsibility, why DIDN'T you send the busses and the flatbed trucks?! Why have you still not done it to this moment?!"

"Ted, we did all those things."




"I am extremely concerned that the ability of our nation to prepare for and respond to disasters has been sharply eroded. I hear from emergency managers, local and state leaders, and first responders nearly every day that the FEMA they knew and worked well with has now disappeared." -- James Lee Witt (who won bipartisan praise for his leadership of the agency during the Clinton years) during a Congressional hearing in 2004


"FEMA -- downsized, redirected, budget-slashed, and incompetently led -- has thus far failed utterly to cope with the scope of the catastrophe." -- William Rivers Pitt

"Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." -- President George W. Bush to FEMA Director Michael Brown

"We're in our fifth day and adequate help to quell the situation has not arrived yet." -- Edwin P. Compass III, New Orleans police superintendent

"Katrina was churning in the Gulf of Mexico and on a path to make landfall anywhere from the Florida Panhandle to Louisiana as early as Monday, possibly as a Category 4 storm." -- CBS News (Friday, Aug. 26, 2005)

"Katrina was a Category 3 storm Saturday with 115 mph sustained wind and higher gusts, and it had appeared to be turning toward the Lousiana-Mississippi coastline. Forecasters said it will likely gain strength over the warm water of the Gulf of Mexico." -- CBS News (Saturday, Aug. 27, 2005)

"...'funding dried up' for follow-up to the 2004 Hurricane...exercise, cutting off work on plans to shelter thousands of survivors...little attention was paid to moving out New Orleans's 'low-mobility' population -- the elderly, the infirm, and the poor without cars or other means of fleeing the city, about 100,000 people. At disaster planning meetings...'the answer was often silence.'" -- New York Times

"They [the National Guard] are invisible. We have no idea where they are. We hear bits and pieces that the National Guard is around, but where? We have not seen them. We have not seen FEMA officials. We have seen no one." -- Phyllis Petrich, tourist stranded at the Ritz-Carlton (Thursday)

"It is not a function of more people, but how many people can you move on the road system that exists now in Louisiana and in Mississippi. How many people can you put through that funnel that a storm has taken four lane highways and turned them into goat trails?" -- Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum, the head of the National Guard Bureau

"Did they not have a contingency for a disaster of this magnitude?" -- John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org

"FEMA has known this for 20 years. Hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent, in studies, training and contingency plans, scenarios, all of that." -- Martha Madden, Louisiana secretary of environmental quality from 1987-1988

"Americans who had been humbled by failures in Iraq saw that the authorities could not quickly cope with a natural disaster at home." -- New York Times Editorial

"Thousands drowned in the murky brew that was soon contaminated by sewage and industrial waste. Thousands more who survived the flood later perished from dehydration and disease as they waited to be rescued." -- National Geographic Magazine October, 2004, in an eerily prescient hypothetical worst-case scenario

"This may well be one of the most active Atlantic hurricane seasons on record." -- NOAA director David Johnson, earlier this year

"Katrina is the 11th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, which began June 1. That's seven more than typically has [sic] formed by now in the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico..." -- CBS News (Saturday, Aug. 27, 2005)

"Meteorologists think a decade-long trend of active Atlantic hurricane seasons will continue this summer...During the 2004 season four hurricanes battered Florida in the space of about six weeks, and another hurricane lashed North Carolina's Outer Banks. The 45 billion dollars (U.S.) in damages done by these storms makes the 2004 season the most expensive on record. And that figure doesn't include millions of dollars in lost income for businesses forced to close because of the hurricanes." -- National Geographic News (June 1, 2005)

"The strongest hurricanes in the present climate may be upstaged by even more intense hurricanes over the next century as the earth's climate is warmed by increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Although we cannot say at present whether more or fewer hurricane will occur in the future with global warming, the hurricanes that do occur near the end of the 21st century are expected to be stronger and have significantly more intense rainfall than under present day climate conditions." -- The Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory of NOAA


"When Wal-Mart sent three trailer trucks loaded with water, FEMA officials turned them away...Agency workers prevented the Coast Guard from delivering 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel, and on Saturday they cut the parish's emergency communications line, leading the sheriff to restore it and post armed guards to protect it from FEMA, Mr. [Aaron] Broussard [president of Jefferson Parish] said." -- New York Times

"We wanted soldiers, helicopters, food and water. They wanted to negotiate an organizational chart." -- Denise Bottcher, press secretary for Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco of Louisiana

"Ms. Bottcher was one of several officials yesterday who said she believed FEMA had interfered with the delivery of aid, including offers from the mayor of Chicago, Richard M. Daley, and the governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson." -- New York Times


"Yesterday, I was hoping President Bush would come away from his tour of the regional devastation triggered by Hurricane Katrina with a new understanding for the magnitude of the suffering and for the abject failures of the current Federal Emergency Management Agency. 24 hours later, the President has yet to answer my call for a cabinet-level official to lead our efforts. Meanwhile, FEMA, now a shell of what it once was, continues to be overwhelmed by the task at hand.

"I understand that the U.S. Forest Service had water-tanker aircraft available to help douse the fires raging on our riverfront, but FEMA has yet to accept the aid. When Amtrak offered trains to evacuate significant numbers of victims -- far more efficiently than buses -- FEMA again dragged its feet. Offers of medicine, communications equipment, and other desperately needed items continue to flow in, only to be ignored by the agency.

"But perhaps the greatest disappointment stands at the breached 17th Street levee. Touring this critical site yesterday with the President, I saw what I believed to be a real and significant effort to get a handle on a major cause of this catastrophe. Flying over this critical spot again this morning, less than 24 hours later, it became apparent that yesterday we witnessed a hastily prepared stage set for a Presidential photo opportunity; and the desperately needed resources we saw were this morning reduced to a single, lonely piece of equipment." -- US Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana), one of The Group of 14 senators key to "the nuclear option" in the upcoming Supreme Court nominations


An Open Letter to the President, from The Times-Picayune

"Dear Mr. President:

"We heard you loud and clear Friday when you visited our devastated city and the Gulf Coast and said, 'What is not working, we're going to make it right.'

"Please forgive us if we wait to see proof of your promise before believing you. But we have good reason for our skepticism.

"Bienville built New Orleans where he built it for one main reason: It's accessible. The city between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain was easy to reach in 1718.

"How much easier it is to access in 2005 now that there are interstates and bridges, airports and helipads, cruise ships, barges, buses and diesel-powered trucks.

"Despite the city's multiple points of entry, our nation's bureaucrats spent days after last week's hurricane wringing their hands, lamenting the fact that they could neither rescue the city's stranded victims nor bring them food, water and medical supplies.

"Meanwhile there were journalists, including some who work for The Times-Picayune, going in and out of the city via the Crescent City Connection. On Thursday morning, that crew saw a caravan of 13 Wal-Mart tractor trailers headed into town to bring food, water and supplies to a dying city.

"Television reporters were doing live reports from downtown New Orleans streets. Harry Connick Jr. brought in some aid Thursday, and his efforts were the focus of a 'Today' show story Friday morning.

"Yet, the people trained to protect our nation, the people whose job it is to quickly bring in aid were absent. Those who should have been deploying troops were singing a sad song about how our city was impossible to reach.

"We're angry, Mr. President, and we'll be angry long after our beloved city and surrounding parishes have been pumped dry. Our people deserved rescuing. Many who could have been were not. That's to the government's shame.

"Mayor Ray Nagin did the right thing Sunday when he allowed those with no other alternative to seek shelter from the storm inside the Louisiana Superdome. We still don't know what the death toll is, but one thing is certain: Had the Superdome not been opened, the city's death toll would have been higher. The toll may even have been exponentially higher.

"It was clear to us by late morning Monday that many people inside the Superdome would not be returning home. It should have been clear to our government, Mr. President. So why weren't they evacuated out of the city immediately? We learned seven years ago, when Hurricane Georges threatened, that the Dome isn't suitable as a long-term shelter. So what did state and national officials think would happen to tens of thousands of people trapped inside with no air conditioning, overflowing toilets and dwindling amounts of food, water and other essentials?

"State Rep. Karen Carter was right Friday when she said the city didn't have but two urgent needs: 'Buses! And gas!' Every official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency should be fired, Director Michael Brown especially.

"In a nationally televised interview Thursday night, he said his agency hadn't known until that day that thousands of storm victims were stranded at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. He gave another nationally televised interview the next morning and said, 'We've provided food to the people at the Convention Center so that they've gotten at least one, if not two meals, every single day.'

"Lies don't get more bald-faced than that, Mr. President.

"Yet, when you met with Mr. Brown Friday morning, you told him, 'You're doing a heck of a job.'

"That's unbelievable.

"There were thousands of people at the Convention Center because the riverfront is high ground. The fact that so many people had reached there on foot is proof that rescue vehicles could have gotten there, too.

"We, who are from New Orleans, are no less American than those who live on the Great Plains or along the Atlantic Seaboard. We're no less important than those from the Pacific Northwest or Appalachia. Our people deserved to be rescued.

"No expense should have been spared. No excuses should have been voiced. Especially not one as preposterous as the claim that New Orleans couldn't be reached.

"Mr. President, we sincerely hope you fulfill your promise to make our beloved communities work right once again.

"When you do, we will be the first to applaud."


"In a reflection of what has long been a hallmark of Mr. Rove's tough political style, the administration is also working to shift the blame away from the White House and toward officials of New Orleans and Louisiana who, as it happens, are Democrats.

"'The way that emergency operations act under the law is the responsibility and the power, the authority, to order an evacuation rests with state and local officials,'" Mr. Chertoff said in his television interview. 'The federal government comes in and supports those officials.'"

-- New York Times


"'They can't do that,' former agency chief of staff Jane Bullock said of Bush administration efforts to shift responsibility away from Washington. 'The moment the president declared a federal disaster, it became a federal responsibility….The federal government took ownership over the response,' she said. Bush declared a disaster in Louisiana and Mississippi when the storm hit a week ago." -- Los Angeles Times

Scope | FEMA | Security | Flood Prevention | Political/Economic Fallout

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