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June 15, 2007

FEMA's Disastrous Response Forces New Orleans to Look for Foreign Aid

This really has to be the clearest indictment of the Bush administration's Homeland Security Department. Are Americans safer? Nearly two years after Hurricane Katrina hit, New Orleans is still being screwed by FEMA and the Bushies on payments to rebuild the city. Some think the city's last avenue of assistance may come in the form of direct foreign aid:

For months Nagin has complained bureaucracy is choking the flow of much-needed federal aid dollars to New Orleans - slowing the city's recovery. As of June 8, the city said it had received just over half of the $320 million FEMA has obligated for rebuilding city infrastructure and emergency response-related costs. The city has estimated its damage at far more than that - at least $1 billion. And that doesn't include other improvements - such as raised neighborhoods - meant to help build the stronger city promoted by Nagin and his recovery director.

Discussions with foreign representatives have been occurring off and on since the storm, but Smith said the city became re-engaged after a news report in April that millions of dollars in aid offered by foreign countries after Hurricane Katrina went unaccepted.

Why were the funds not accepted? Well, for one, offers of medical assistance came from Cuba. Secondly, the Bushies tried to corral foreign countries into giving the money to private entities created by the State Dept. These criminals just can't get it through their Iraq-blood-soaked brains that the richest country in the world ought to be able to take care of its own. What the hell is the Department of Homeland Security doing for New Orleans? Maybe we should ask Stinkin' Joe Lieberman, who chairs the committee overseeing the Homeland Security Department. Don't forget, he decided in January he's not going to hold the White House responsible for it's days-late response to the Katrina disaster. Way to go, Joe.

Ray Nagin and Mary Landrieu are now circumventing the White House's ineffectual private-funding plan and taking matters into their own hands. We need to wake up to the fact that the people of New Orleans are still suffering. But is it a good idea to go after aid from just anyone who's offering it?

Nagin said city officials are now trying to skirt the Bush administration and contact foreign governments directly "to see if we can get some of those dollars coming here."

Separately, Adam Sharp, a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said Landrieu is working with the government of Saudi Arabi on ways it can help restore New Orleans' City Park.

Update: CBS News reports that FEMA now says some people have wrongly collected $485 million in aid for the 2005 Gulf Coast hurricanes and the agency wants it's money back, pronto. A judge disagrees and says "not until you give people a better explanation of what they owe."

Oh, and those National Guard troops still fighting for our occupation over in Iraq? Gonna have a tough time being in two places at once and doing the work they were designed for here at home when this season's hurricane's hit.

Heckuva job, Bushwack-o. Heckuva job.

Posted by shoephone on June 15, 2007 at 01:21 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink


I didn't have a problem with needing foreign asistance right after Katrina happened. We all need a helping hand now and then. But to think that a major American city has to go begging to foreign countries for disaster assistance this long after the fact is humiliating.

Posted by: Cujo359 | Jun 15, 2007 3:26:33 PM

And what has changed since Katrina hit? I am from the area and have lived every moment since Katrina in the crisis of NOLA and the MS Gulf Coast and I have not seen ANYBODY get ANY aid. If disaster ever hits your home, let me tell you how it works. First it will take Congress 7 months to "allocate" (a lovely governmental word) the funds needed to help you. Then, because of the Stafford Act you will have to put up 10-15% up front and only re-embursed AFTER you have spent the money to repair the infrastructure. Now, if you have experienced a CATASTROPHIC disaster, you have no tax base to have any money to give. Then the government takes 21 months to FINALLY decide that they will waive the Stafford Act (as they have done immeditaely after every other disaster including 9-11 and Hurricane Andrew.) Since nothing has been done in all that time it makes it look like it is a local problem, not a national problem. But YOU will never go through a catastrophic disaster. Or will you? This is our government and it is BROKEN. Change must come because this is NOT the country I was brought up to love

Posted by: doctorj | Jun 15, 2007 5:13:11 PM

doctorj - I don't think Cujo was trying to excuse FEMA, which should have been paying out the money this entire period, but I'll let him speak for himself.

Since you are from the area, I would really like to know more of your first-hand experience. Last December and January I wrote some posts on the Katrina aftermath and corresponded a little bit with a couple of bloggers in the region (Bart's blog became a staple for me). I planned on going down there over the spring and then other obligations intervened. Any information you can offer would be welcomed.

Posted by: shoephone | Jun 15, 2007 5:38:22 PM

shoe, try as I might, I cannot think of a really good reason why the Gulf region is still in a shambles, why people still cannot move back to their homes, why there hasn't been more of an effort to make it easier to help people, not harder. It's shameful to think that a country of such vast resources cannot bring the area back.

Is foreign aid a good idea? Well, I suppose you could look at the huge investment foreign countries have made in US assets as a kind of foreign aid, because if those countries ever decide to pull the rug out, the collapse of the US economy will make the Depression look pretty good.

Just considering asking for foreign aid ought to be enough to shame our own government into getting it together, but I think the objection will not be made on that basis.

It isn't just that FEMA has failed, it is the same kind of thing we are seeing in Iraq, with private contractors being awarded no-bid contracts and raking in the cash, but not delivering the goods, and this is where Lieberman's committee could be doing some good - but it's looking the other way. The people of the Gulf ought to be camping outside Harry Reid's door and demanding that he appoint someone who will serve the people in an oversight capacity, instead of allowing Lieberman to continue to suck up to Bush.

There is no excuse. Not one.

Posted by: Anne | Jun 15, 2007 7:40:23 PM

doctorj, I think you need to re-read, carefully, what I wrote before assuming that I'm excusing FEMA or any other government agency back then. Nor am I saying we should assume we'll get help from foreign governments when we prepare for the next disaster, just in case someone wants to browbeat me over that issue. I _was_ saying that there are problems so big that no nation can handle the immediate aftermath on its own, and Katrina might have been one of them. There are disaster relief specialists all over the world who do things like dig people out of collapsed buildings and provide emergency medical aid. They go whereever they're needed. Sometimes they come to this country.

The shame is that, this long afterwards, people who need it still aren't getting aid from their own government.

Posted by: Cujo359 | Jun 15, 2007 9:55:05 PM

How can we ask the rest of the world to respect us and/or emmulate us if there is nothing to emmulate? Our govt is in place to take care of the peoples' business. Natural disasters in every form are as much a part of our existence as life, death & taxes and what continues to strike me is the gigantic effort on the part of private citizens, Americans who care and even a substantial amount of foreign countries to take care of Katrina victims but at best we see a disorganized, ineffective, lacking status quo from a govt which is willing but hogtied by its leaders. Katrina will not be the last and maybe not the most brutal catastrophe that will strike these shores, perhaps instead she was just the canary in the mine.

Posted by: mainsailset | Jun 16, 2007 8:01:53 AM

I am sorry if I jumped on you without reason. You have to understand who I have been dealing with for the last 21 months. Horrid "Americans" that freely want to turn their back on us as if we are not quite REAL Americans. I feel betrayed by my own country and many of its citizens. There are good things happening. How can we ever thank the thousands of volunteers that have come to help us from all over the world? ( Are these the real Americans or the conservatives online?) The problem is that this catastrophe was so gigantic that GOVERNMENT is the only entity with the ability to make a real difference, and government has turned their backs on the entire region. DO you ever hear how well Mississippi is doing? My mother lives a block from the beach in Pass Christian, MS. The town today consists of 6 trailers , broken shells of houses and empty slabs. Is this the Mississippi recovery that is so great? Both MS and LA have been hogtied by the Stafford Act. Now that it FINALLY has been repealed, progress will be seen.
You ask how we are doing. The non-flooded 20% of the city is up and running, booming even. It is in the 80% that flooded where progress in at a snail's pace. Some areas like Broadmoor and Mid-City are coming back pretty well, where neighborhoods more to the east (Gentilly, Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans East) are struggling. If you saw the city for the first time, you would be VERY upset, but being here and knowing where we came from, I see progress. That being said, both flooded and non flooded areas are left with very big problems to overcome. We are all vulnerable to future flooding because the issue of coastal erosion and cat 5 levees are being ignored by the federal government. Mental health is a big problem. Everyone is traumatized, whether they had loses or not. The medical communitiy has not been able to handle the responsibilities put on them when the government hospital system (Charity) was not re-opened. Crime has returned but the criminal justice system has not. Hours at stores are limited due to the lack of labor which makes daily living hard. New Orleanians love their city with a furosity not seen in much this country, but they are leaving broken hearted because the promised help has NEVER appeared and they just can't keep the hope for its appearance going anymore. This is the country we live in; one of lies, broken promises and limbo. The America I have thought existed my whole life isn't real. It is a sad, sad joke on me.

Posted by: doctorj | Jun 16, 2007 4:05:32 PM

Happy Father's Day from New Orleans

Posted by: doctorj | Jun 17, 2007 9:24:18 AM

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