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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Shame on me!

A short while back we met Duke Cunningham's most recent crony, Brent Wilkes. His place got hit in one of the more recent federal law enforcement raids tied to the Duke investigation.

With all those signs, I should have known there was a boat ("14.5-foot, 170-horsepower fiberglass boat") for Duke somewhere in the mix. The San Diego Union-Tribune has the story.

The Post has another article this morning about the very real concerns over whether FEMA can manage administering more than $50 billion of federal relief, recovery and reconstruction contracts. We're going to rue the day on this one. Even if FEMA were a perfectly managed agency and existed in a clean administration, it is simply not an agency that is set up to handle money on this scale -- certainly not in a case like this which will involve rebuilding a substantial section of the country. And of course, it's not a well-run agency at the moment. And this administration is defined by cronyism and insider deals.

I just saw news over the wires that President Bush will address the nation tonight Thursday at 9 PM from Louisiana.

Democrats should be speaking with one voice on this one: accountability, an independent commission to investigate what went wrong and no insider deals with taxpayer money.

Anyone out there got any more interesting info about the fundraiser Tom DeLay's ARMPAC held at Jack Abramoff's skybox at the MCI Center on December 14th, 2001? Basketball game, Wizards Knicks. Put together by Warren RoBold, the guy Ronnie Earle indicted down in Texas.

Far as I know, this one's never been publicly disclosed.

Certainly comes after that big falling out between DeLay and Abramoff.

"U.S. Fire Administrator David Paulison said in the first 48 to 72 hours of an emergency, many Americans will likely to have to look after themselves." CNN, Feb. 10, 2003.

Maybe he was trying to give those folks in NOLA a heads up?

Solid Waste & Recycling magazine isn't one of the sites we usually link to. But they seem to have some news relevant to recent events ...

Overlooked in many news reports about the unfolding storm disaster in the southern United States, especially in the City of New Orleans, in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, is a potentially dramatic pollution issue related to a toxic landfill that sits under the flood waters right in the city's downtown, according to map overlays of the flooded area. The situation could exacerbate the already dire threat to human health and the environment from the flood waters.

The Agriculture Street Landfill (ASL) is situated on a 95-acre site in New Orleans, Orleans Parish, Louisiana. The ASL is a federally registered Superfund site, and is on the National Priorities List of highly contaminated sites requiring cleanup and containment. A few years ago the site, which sits underneath and beside houses and a school, was fenced and covered with clean soil. However, three feet or more of flood waters could potentially cause the landfill's toxic contents – the result of decades of municipal and industrial waste dumping – to leach out.


Thanks to TPM Reader BD for <$NoAd$> the tip.

Okay, NBC says David Paulison, Administrator of the US Fire Administration, is the new FEMA Chief.

Clearly, since they're under the gun, they're not going to pick a totally unqualified flunky. Here's what appears to be the relevant part of his bio from his government website ...

Before joining FEMA, Mr. Paulison, who has 30 years of fire/rescue services experience, was chief of the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department. In that position, he oversaw 1,900 personnel with a $200 million operating budget and a $70 million capital budget. He also oversaw the Dade County Emergency Management office.

He began his career as a rescue firefighter and rose through the ranks of rescue lieutenant commander, district chief of operations, division chief, assistant chief and then deputy director for administration before becoming the Miami-Dade Fire Chief. He is a certified paramedic and, as fire chief, oversaw the Miami-Dade Urban Search and Rescue Task Force. His emergency management experience includes Hurricane Andrew and the crash of ValuJet Flight 592. He is also past president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs.


Of course, he's probably a known <$NoAd$> quantity since he's from Bush-East, Miami-Dade.

Okay, so Michael Brown's hold on the FEMA sachemship is now officially over. The funny thing is -- though I guess maybe not to him -- is that he really was planning on leaving his FEMA post before his whole racket blew up in his face and he was forced to resign in disgrace.

See this snippet blow from the Post from August 1st of this year.

Even more telling, though, note his apparent attempt to 'pull an Allbaugh' by handing the gig off to his manifestly unqualified deputy Patrick Rhode, one-time advance man for the Bush-Cheney campaign ...

Michael D. Brown , who runs the Federal Emergency Management Agency at the Department of Homeland Security, sent around a memo a couple of weeks ago saying "effective immediately," his chief of staff, Patrick Rhode , was the acting deputy director. This caused some head-scratching, because there is no official deputy director position at FEMA, because there is no official director. The last person to hold such a post was Brown, before FEMA got folded into DHS. (Brown is now officially DHS undersecretary for emergency preparedness and response.)

A recent strategic review called for naming a deputy director, but Congress hasn't approved that plan and agencies don't usually go ahead without congressional blessing. Even more curious, it's not clear whether DHS or the White House, which approves such personnel moves, had signed off on Brown's move. FEMA says its general counsel approved the action.

Brown is widely expected to be leaving soon, and there has been some FEMA speculation that this is his way of trying to pave the way for a successor. Rhode had been associate administrator of the Small Business Administration.


Brownie <$NoAd$>...

As a number of you will now have noticed, we've done another update of our Katrina Timeline. We're now getting down to a more and more detailed and granular chronology of what happened and when, including links to various public documents and declarations that are available on the web.

As mentioned earlier, this is a collaborative project. We're relying on readers to find key points and events in the narrative and send them into us.

We get them, confirm them, then add them to the list in our next update.

Remember, always send a link which confirms the fact in question. Also, we're putting a big emphasis on chronology and specific, concrete factual information. A generalized failure to do something isn't something we can do much stuff with. We need specificity. And just when did it happen? When on a given day? If you see an item on our list that we haven't found a specific time for, let us know that too.

We've even set up a new email address just for timeline emails: timeline@talkingpointsmemo.com.

President Bush answering <$NoAd$> questions this morning about Katrina ...

QUESTION: Sir, what do you make of some of the comments that have been made by quite a number of people that there was a racial component to some of the people that were left behind and left without help?

PRESIDENT BUSH: My attitude is this: The storm didn't discriminate, and neither will the recovery effort. When those Coast Guard choppers, many of whom were first on the scene, were pulling people off roofs, they didn't check the color of a person's skin. They wanted to save lives.

I can assure people from the -- and I know from the state and local level, as well, that this recovery is going to be comprehensive. The rescue efforts were comprehensive, and the recovery will be comprehensive.

QUESTION: Mr. President, does the federal government need the authority to come in earlier, or even in advance of a storm that threatening?

PRESIDENT BUSH: I think that's one of the interesting issues that Congress needs to take a look at. And it's really important that as we take a step back and learn lessons, that we are in a position to adequately answer the question, are we prepared for major catastrophes, that the system is such that we're able to work closely together and that --

QUESTION: Do you recommend that Congress consider allowing the federal government to act more quickly?

PRESIDENT BUSH: I think it's very important for Congress to take a good, close look at what went on, what didn't go on, and come up with a series of recommendations. And my attitude is, is that we need to learn everything we possibly can; we need to make sure that this country is knitted up as well as it can be, in order to deal with significant problems and disasters. Meantime, we've got to keep moving forward.

And I know there's been a lot of second-guessing. I can assure you I'm not interested in that. What I'm interested in is solving problems. And there will be time to take a step back and to take a sober look at what went right and what didn't go right. There's a lot of information floating around that will be analyzed in an objective way, and that's important. And it's important for the people of this country to understand that all of us want to learn lessons. If there were to be a biological attack of some kind, we've got to make sure we understand the lessons learned to be able to deal with catastrophe.

QUESTION: Will what is needed to get this area back on its feet have any impact on the timing of troop withdrawals in Iraq?

PRESIDENT BUSH: In Iraq?

QUESTION: Yes.

PRESIDENT BUSH: We've got plenty of troops to do both. Let me just -- let me just talk about that again. I've answered this question before, and you can speak to General Honore if you care to. He's the military man on the ground. It is preposterous to claim that the engagement in Iraq meant there wasn't enough troops here, just pure and simple.

Do you care to comment on that?

GENERAL HONORE: Well, we have about 90,000 members of the Reserve and National Guard deployed, of a total force of approximately 400,000. So 90,000 are deployed. We've got the capability. We're here, we're demonstrating in deed every day. We're performing the mission with the great support of the National Guard from multiple states. The response is here. The troops are getting the job done under the conditions that you see here today, and they're making America proud that we have that capability.

We have capability. We're applying it -- air, land and sea -- our federal forces in support of the Governors of Louisiana and Mississippi under the direction of the Adjutant General. The system is working. We've got the capability, and we're looking forward to get the job done and get the job completed, until the Governors tell us otherwise.

PRESIDENT BUSH: The troop levels in Iraq will be decided by commanders on the ground. One, we're going to -- our mission is to defeat the terrorists, is to win. Secondly, the strategy is, as Iraqis stand up, we will stand down. And so, to answer your question about the decisions made on the ground in Iraq, they will be made based upon the ability of the Iraqis to take the fight. And more and more Iraqi units are getting more and more qualified.

There's still a lot of work to be done there. Obviously, we're going to make sure we have a troop presence to help this political process go forward. There's an election -- the ratification of the constitution -- election will be coming up, and, of course, there will be elections this -- later on this year. And we will have the troop levels necessary to make sure those elections go forward.

After all, the enemy wants to stop democracy. See, that's what they want to do. They want to kill enough people so that

-- in the hopes that democracy won't go forward. They tried that prior to -- more than eight million Iraqis voting. They were unable to stop Iraqis from voting, because people want to be free. Deep in everybody's soul, regardless of your religion or where you live, is a desire to be free. And they can't stop it. And what we're going to do is help -- and they can't stop democracy from moving. And so what we're going to do is help make sure those elections are accessible to the Iraqi people.

QUESTION: Mr. President, there is a belief that we've been hearing for two weeks now on the ground that FEMA let the people here on the ground down. And perhaps, in turn, if you look at the evidence of what it's done to your popularity, FEMA let you down. Do you think that your management style of sort of relying on the advice that you got in this particular scenario let you down? And do you think that plays at all ...

PRESIDENT BUSH: Look, there will be plenty of time to play the blame game. That's what you're trying to do.

QUESTION: No, I'm trying to ...

PRESIDENT BUSH: You're trying to say somebody is at fault. Look -- and I want to know. I want to know exactly what went on and how it went on. And we'll continually assess inside my administration. I sent Mike Chertoff down here to make an assessment of how best to do the job. He made a decision; I accepted his decision. But we're moving on. We're going to solve these problems. And there will be ample time for people to look back and see the facts.

Now, as far as my own personal popularity goes, I don't make decisions based upon polls. I hope the American people appreciate that. You can't make difficult decisions if you have to take a poll. That's been my style ever since I've been the President. And, of course, I rely upon good people. Of course, you got to as the President of the United States. You set the space, you set the strategy, you hold people to account. But yeah, I'm relying upon good people. That's why Admiral Allen is here. He's good man. He can do the job. That's why General Honore is here. And so when I come into a briefing, I don't tell them what to do. They tell me the facts on the ground, and my question to them is, do you have what you need.

QUESTION: Did they misinform you when you said that no one anticipated the breach of the levees?

PRESIDENT BUSH: No, what I was referring to is this. When that storm came by, a lot of people said we dodged a bullet. When that storm came through at first, people said, whew. There was a sense of relaxation, and that's what I was referring to. And I, myself, thought we had dodged a bullet. You know why? Because I was listening to people, probably over the airways, say, the bullet has been dodged. And that was what I was referring to.

Of course, there were plans in case the levee had been breached. There was a sense of relaxation in the moment, a critical moment. And thank you for giving me a chance to clarify that.

QUESTION: Mr. President, where were you when you realized the severity of the storm?

PRESIDENT BUSH: I was -- I knew that a big storm was coming on Monday, so I spoke to the country on Monday* morning about it. I said, there's a big storm coming. I had pre-signed emergency declarations in anticipation of a big storm coming.

QUESTION: Mr. President ...

PRESIDENT BUSH: -- which is, by the way, extraordinary. Most emergencies the President signs after the storm has hit. It's a rare occasion for the President to anticipate the severity of a storm and sign the documentation prior to the storm hitting. So, in other words, we anticipated a serious storm coming. But as the man's question said, basically implied, wasn't there a moment where everybody said, well, gosh, we dodged the bullet, and yet the bullet hadn't been dodged.

QUESTION: Mr. President ...

PRESIDENT BUSH: Last question ...

QUESTION: This is two weeks in. You must have developed a clear image at this point of one critical thing that failed, one thing that went wrong in the first five days.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Oh, I think there will be plenty of time to analyze, particularly the structure of the relationship between government levels. But, again, there's -- what I think Congress needs to do -- I know Congress needs to do -- and we're doing this internally, as well -- is to take a sober look at the decision-making that went on.

And what I want the people of this state and the state of Mississippi to understand is that we're moving forward with relief plans. And we're going to move forward with reconstruction plans, and we're going to do so in a coordinated way. And it's very important for the folks of New Orleans to understand that, at least as far as I'm concerned, this great city has got ample talent and ample genius to set the strategy and set the vision. And our role at the federal government is

-- obviously, within the law -- is to help them realize that vision. And that's what I wanted to assure the Mayor.

Thank you all.


More soon.

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