Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

A few things Democrats should stand for and stand up for now.

An independent commission to investigate the preparations for and response to hurricane Katrina at all levels of government. Anything else is just an elaborate cover-up.

An independent, time-limited, publicly-chartered corporation to oversee the reconstruction of the Katrina-devastated regions. Secrecy is an invitation to cronyism and public corruption. Only openness and transparency can prevent the theft and waste of public money on a massive scale.

We've spent the first half of this decade awash in a bath of ideological zeal and public corruption. Democrats say they're for reform, so be for reform. Competent, professional management; hiring and contracting on the basis of expertise and value; openness to public scrutiny at all levels.

We can't afford another CPA.

The 9/11 chairs on what Katrina means ...

"There was nobody in charge," observed Kean, who said the Bush administration should now require states to establish clear chains of command for disaster situations in exchange for federal security dollars.

"There have got to be clear lines of authority because if there isn't somebody in charge, it costs lives. It cost a lot of lives in New Orleans," he added.

Kean said the Department of Homeland Security, a sprawling bureaucracy set up after the 2001 attacks, failed to produce two mandated risk assessments to U.S. transportation and infrastructure including levees such as the ones that failed after Katrina, swamping New Orleans.

"One report was due April 1. The other was due in early summer. Neither report has been done," he said. Homeland Security officials were not immediately available to comment.

Kean and Hamilton both said communications problems occurred between New Orleans emergency crews because of congressional failure to give first-responders nationwide their own segment of the U.S. broadcasting band.

"It is a glaring error four years after 9/11. Still exists. Not resolved. There are bills pending in Congress but they're far from enactment," Hamilton said.

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This just seems amazingly misguided. And I don't understand why more is not being made of it.

Fully $50 billion of those recovery and reconstruction funds passed by Congress today are going to FEMA. FEMA is going to administer those funds. That is just friggin' crazy.

Even if FEMA were still a model government agency, as it was by most accounts in the 1990s, this would still be a really, really bad decision. As the title says, FEMA is an emergency management agency, not a reconstruction agency. It doesn't have the organizational structure or competence to run the economy of a significant chunk of the United States for the foreseeable future, which is what this amounts to.

In the ten "Principles of Reconstruction" he posted yesterday at TPMCafe, Reed Hundt had these as #6 and #7 ...

6. Don't confuse reconstruction with emergency relief. Whatever reforms are necessary at DHS, it is clear that DHS should have nothing to do with reconstruction because its mission is to protect the rest of America from the next calamities and to provide emergency relief when necessary.

7. Don't build a permanent reconstruction bureaucracy. Every reconstruction agency or authority should be managed by real managers, not political appointees, and should go out of business when the work is done.

Both of these are just right. And principle six applies to FEMA every bit as much as it does to DHS.

And all that of course would all apply if FEMA were a well-run agency. But obviously, it's not. It's currently run by a crew of political hacks. The agency itself -- if its recent performance is any example -- is in deep disarray. It's become thoroughly politicized. And there are already very credible claims that it has used its disaster relief funds to advance narrowly political agendas. And then add on top of that what we've seen this administration do with the contracting mess in Iraq. Contracting cronyism defines this administration. And we're giving $50 billion to one of its most cronyfied outposts.

This is a fiscal disaster waiting to happen, a truly terrible idea.

We've been following these reports of a growing number of restrictions on the press down in the disaster zone. And one of the reports that got this ball rolling was this one from yesterday from Bob Brigham, in which he wrote: "We are in Jefferson Parish, just outside of New Orleans. At the National Guard checkpoint, they are under orders to turn away all media. All of the reporters are turning they’re TV trucks around."

I talked to Bob a few minutes ago. And he said that there seemed to be a sea change in the treatment of reporters trying to get access to the city from yesterday to today. Today he reported that he and his colleagues were able to get through without any problem.

Something seems to have changed. And I would not be surprised if Brian Williams speaking out yesterday had something to do with it.

I'd be curious to know what may have happened behind the scenes over the last thirty-six hours. And I suspect it wasn't nothing.

The White House sought and received a provision in the new Katrina disaster relief supplemental "that would extend from $15,000 to $250,000 the purchasing limit for an individual transaction for federal employees with government-issued credit cards

From a reporter looking into the press restrictions story ...

i've followed your postings about alleged censorship re katrina coverage ... however, other than the williams post & yesterday's FEMA "order" re dead photos, i can't find other instances of officials impeding reporters as they cover aftermath .... i just checked with NBC, CNN and Fox News, and they all say they haven't heard anything about authorities interfering with reporters' work .... have you any new evidence? i'm interested in writing about this topic, if i can find enough evidence that authorities may have attempted to curb journalists ....

We're both looking for more info. If you have it, let us know.

AP: "A grand jury has indicted a political action committee formed by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and a Texas business group in connection with 2002 legislative campaign contributions."

I guess it's pretty much just piling on at this point. But FEMA Director Michael D. Brown turns out to be -- hard to believe -- an even bigger hack than we thought. According to this article (sub.req.), he basically gave up the practice of law fifteen years or so before he got the job as General Counsel of FEMA, despite saying on his bio that he'd practiced for twenty years.

(ed.note: This is an edited version of the original post.)