Friday, September 30, 2005

from the "just cause it's foreign doesn't mean it's good" dept.

It's the second full day of the film fest. Yesterday was hell getting to the first movie. The rain. The parking. The world conspiring against me.

Today I left earlier -- took the Seabus downtown. And then Skytrain to near the first theatre (about 8 blocks).

Film #1: New World -- absolutely blew. It sucked. Complete let down. It was supposed to be this visually stunning piece on Eastern Europe, including many of the places I visited this spring. But it was boring, trying to spin old news clips on history with modern day people. Most of the subjects were boring, and poorly shot. Editing was clunky. And this film was from the Austrian Film Commission. Sheesh. The only part I liked was one scene where we meet a Ukranian trolley driver and her family. Shot in the winter, it reminded me of Winnipeg. Other than that -- it sucked!

Off to see film #2. Review will come tonight.


Thursday, September 29, 2005

from the "the new phonebook is here" dept.

Roadtrip Across Albania is in the Straight. Hit your local newsstand for the real copy... or if you're thousands of miles away, here's the electronic version (no pictures in online version)

It's film fest day! Full report to come!


Wednesday, September 28, 2005

from the "film fun fest" dept.

The VIFF has kicked off.

Randy and I took in a trade show seminar about feature documentary production and distribution. Met the CEO of ThinkFilm. And some other very interesting people. It was also very motivational.

Tonight I watched Dekalogue 2 and 3... love ! Also cancelled Expressvu, though the account had been on hold for 7 months. I have little use for cable or satellite tv. I am addicted to my XM radio. And where I am house sitting, there is no cable. And it's great!

Thursday is but 8 minutes away. The first trifecta of films at the VIFF. And the Albania article appears, of course. The link to come in the morning for those of you who are beyond the paper version.

The rain has started.

I guess summer is officially over now. Not that that's a bad thing. I like the rain. And the coolness. But it is a nother sign that time marches on. Hard to believe it is almost October.

Work is really drying up. Just a few days here and there booked in October. It will make going to Poland hard, but it needs to be done, I reckon. That final decision will be made very very soon.

And with that, I best get to bed... want to have lots of brain power for the films tomorrow... including "A Day in the Life of North Korea." WOO HOO!


from the "this is not easy" dept.

Today's frustrations (and continuing ones):

This has more to do with housesitting, and the problems are of my making.

1. Coffee: I like fresh ground good stuff. But I cannot find a grinder here, so I use the blender. Finally figured out how to make a grind that is not too fine.

Next: brewing -- have to do it manually. The bowdum (sp?) leaves too much ground coffee in the brew for my liking. So I have finally figured out a new process. Bought some filters, stuck 'em in a small funnel, and drip water through that into the bowdum. Works, but is slow. And there is no way to keep the coffee warm. And there is no nuker. Wah!

2. Ironing: For the life of me I cannot find the iron. Found the ironing board, but not the iron. So I have been trying to dewrinkle with various methods that all suck. So I borrowed an iron which threatened to burst into flame and left a residue on my good pants. ARGH! I think I will go buy an iron that works!!

That's it for the bitching. Off to a Film Festival seminar on documentaries. Should be fun!

Also, have a new version of the story agreement -- hopefully get it to the family this week. And then we'll be done!

No word on Poland. Still waiting to win/find/borrow $2000 to pay for the trip.

And the Albania piece appears in the paper tomorrow... link to follow.



Tuesday, September 27, 2005

from the "wheezer" dept.

Today was a jim-dandy of a day off.

First, I snoozed in until the construction woke me around 9. However, I worked nights last night and didn't bag until 2, so that's hardly a slacker's sleep-in!

I spent the morning catching up on this and that. And then, tired of being inside, I hopped into the chariot and headed up to Porteau Cove, on the Sea-to-Sky highway. I was armed with camera, and pictures will be posted. But not for a while as I have reached my limit at Flickr. I could upload to my personal space, but that is a big pain in the ass.

Perhaps a second Flickr site might be the answer.

I zipped back to the city late in the afternoon to meet up with Ted Shredd... we headed to Deep Cove to hike to the lookoff. Haven't been there in a while. My lungs were certainly aware of that fact.

Then back home for a big feed of chicken stir fry... and next: some Polish film (The Dekalog)...

Tomorrow Randy and I are off to the Vancouver Film Festival -- not to see a movie (that's Thursday)... but rather to take in a film trade forum on documentary producing.

I've got 3 movies scheduled for Thur and Fri each. And then back to the working grind on the weekend. So, really, today was the only free day to just let the wind carry me.

And it was nice.


Monday, September 26, 2005

Sunday, September 25, 2005

from the "left toast" dept.

This morning it dawned on me how West Coast I have become.


- Free-trade organically grown Guatemalan coffee (made with a coffee press) with organic goat milk

- Free-range organic scramble with salsa, hot sauce and veggie-ground "beef"

- V8 and fresh pineapple cut from an actual pineapple (that was fun!)


- More pineapple

- Green smoothie with nettle!

And this was made at home, not in some esoteric cafe. What happened?!



Saturday, September 24, 2005

from the "attack of the 40 foot Doug" dept.

It is very weird to see yourself on the silver screen. And boo at yourself. Ha!

This was the experience on Saturday as Tomato Lake was screened for all those who were in it -- pretty much the entire staff of CTV Vancouver.

It was fun, and kudos to Steve McConnell for having the balls/commitment to follow through.

The film was good too!


Friday, September 23, 2005

from the "keen on kino" dept.

Ah, Film Festival Time... just booked more tickets. Here's the agenda so far:

Thursday Sept 29:

12:30 Scenes of Musical Life in Stalinist Russia AND A Day in the Life of North Korea (Cinematheque) [Communism! Yeah!]
3:00 Working Man's Death (Cinematheque) [ Ukranian mines!]
7:15 - Protocols of Zion (Granville) [ The 100 year old lie ]

Friday Sept 30:

10:00am New World (Cinematheque) [ Choo-choo across Eastern Europe -- drool! ]
2:00 The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Granville) [ Dante's Hell is the Romanian medical system ]
7:00 Omagh (Granville) [ Who knew what, when? ]

And on Sunday October 9:

12:30 a/k/a Tommy Chong
4:oo Measures to Better the World
9:30 Fateless

Grab a guide or hit the VIFF.ORG website to see what these are all about!


from the "in this corner" dept.

The gloves are finally off. is running an ad (just saw it on CNN) that takes direct aim at the failures of the current administration to get it.

And as more of the Gulf Coast is about to be destroyed -- the timing couldn't be better. It's too bad that this isn't election year.



Thursday, September 22, 2005

from the "eight ball" dept.

Today, Sept. 22, marks the 8th anniversary of the launch of Vancouver Television, now known as CTV Vancouver. It also marks 8 years and one week since I moved to Vancouver.


And weird to think I am still working there, occasionally. And to think how many people I know know and call friends from the 8 year journey.


I finally wrapped up the Albania article for the Georgia Straight. The first final version was something like 3400 words. They wanted 1200. The FINAL final version was 1250. It was tough. And the edit process with the paper is still to come.

I'll either post the article here or wait 7 days and post a link to the Straight. I will also see if I can make a PDF of the paper so you can see the layout.

Up next: Randy and Ted are coming over tonight for a brief photo safari before we preview a project Randy has been working on. No details allowed.

Tomorrow is a day off, however in the evening there is a going away party for one of the staffers at CTV. Could be ugly.

And Saturday is my acting premiere. Could really be ugly.

And with that...


from the "chicken little" dept.

George Bush is an asshole. Really.

America has just gone through Hurricane Katrina. And now Hurricane Rita is about to kick the Gulf Coast when it's already down.

And CNN is telling me that George is going to take to the airwaves to talk about the War on Terror. War on Terror?!

Can you say diverting attention?

But it won't work, Geo. You screwed up during Katrina... and if those scenes are repeated again, you'll have to answer for it. And there won't be a Brownie to take the fall this time.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

from the "no photos!" dept.

After spending much of the day writing and a doing a million other delay-enducing tasks, I decided to split from the 1st and Lonsdale abode and walk to the North Vancouver waterfront -- Lonsdale Quay.

The sun was setting over Stanley Park as the lights of downtown Vancouver began to twinkle. Wow. This is one of the most amazing places on earth. Eight years here (this week!) and I am still blown way by the beauty.

The whisps of cloud looked like brushstrokes on a blue canvas. A knot of clouds on the horizon obscured the final moments of the sun's departure, but the rays created a gold ribbon around the cloud. Stunning. And just to rachet up the Canadian Content a tad, several gaggles of honking geese flew overhead in their distinctive V formation.

And me without my camera! Won't make that mistake tomorrow. However, saves the day!


from the "but you promised!" dept.

Karma is a beautiful thing. Word just came to me from the South Vancouver homefront that the decision has been reached by the Residential Tenancies Board in regards to my battle to get my damage deposit back from my Deep Cove landlord.

The story this far: buddy promised to give it back. Then didn't citing damage to the suite by NEW tenants. I cried foul -- and went to RTO. They told me I could be entitled to DOUBLE + costs. We both faced a mediator last week. And today:

I have been awarded a $1250 judgement by the RTO.

Does this mean I suddenly have money to cover my airfare to Poland? No. It means that I have to see if the landlord will pay up. But there is no strict enforcement order. If he refuses, as I expect he will, I have to take him to small claims court. Or we may come to an outside agreement regarding this. We'll see.

But if I have to go to court, I will. And see the effects of Karma in a courtroom setting.

At the end of the day, you got to keep your promises!


from the "queer here" dept.

Last month I was housesitting for Don and Linda near 2nd and Quebec. One day, whilst strolling the neighbourhood I found a number of defaced posters for the Queer Film Festival. I snapped some pictures, edited them together in a little quicktime, and have posted it for your consideration. If your name is Herm, don't blame me.


The video will take a few minutes to load, and will play in Quicktime, if you have it installed. If not, get it! Old versions will show the pictures without fancy dissolves. Upgrade, you!


from the "write you bastard, write" dept.

I am now living in North Vancouver, at the corner of First and Lonsdale. I am living here on-and-off for the next 3 weeks or so. My friends Sheryl and Stephen have gone to the Big Apple for the joys that city offers. And I am here, looking after their space.

Today is writing day. My long-delayed "Roadtip Across Albania" piece is due tomorrow. It's pretty much sketched out, I just need to edit it. And I have the whole day to work on it.

There's a fair amount of construction, bus traffic, and folks trundling off to work on the other side of the windows (the curse continues!) so I may head back to SOMA for the lions share of the writing. The XM Radio works here, so I'm able to groove to all kinds of music. Can't say enough about XM. Love it to bits.

An email this morning advised me that fellow travellers Mike and Charlotte have posted the latest story of their SE Asia tour. Great text and pictures are HERE.

Yesterday, Randy and I met with Jon Festinger, our lawyer on the documentary project. We're dotting the i's and crossing the t's of the story rights agreement. I expect that to be finally put to bed this week.

We're still considering whether or not to head to Poland and Germany on a research trip next month. I would fly to either Berlin or Copenhagen and then rent a car and drive to Poland to follow some leads and visit Auschwitz. Then I would drive to Nordhausen, Germany to visit the place where the Nazi's built their rockets.

We have no development money yet -- so this trip would be paid out-of-pocket. Probably $2000-2500. That's a lot. But the trip is very important. And the focus of our story, Christa, may join us overseas as well. Great opportunity. And, once development is secured, the money would be refunded.

The only worry is that the CBC lock-out drags on... and the CTV work is drying up. Not unexpected: this is always a slow time of year as summer holidays are now just memories and Visa bills -- and the Christmas season has not yet started.

I've managed to sock a bit of coin away, and I have some more coming from various sources. But it would be nice if an angel floated by and cast a couple grand or 60,000 airmiles my way! You don't ask, you don't get.

This is too comfortable! The sun is beating in on my face, I'm drinking a cup of my secret stash of Guatemalan coffee, Elvis Costello is on the XM, and Barky and Yappy are miles away. Aaaah. How the hell am I going to motivate myself to write?

Oh yeah, money!


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

from the "sub-division" dept.

I've decided to start a new blog dedicated to my images and the rambles for each. Two examples are here on Roadspill (scroll down)... but they really don't fit here.

Introducing: Imagespill.

Also, this blog entry bears reading.

Content to come...


from the "second billing" dept.

Originally uploaded by

Saturday, September 17, 2005


Originally uploaded by

I am as useful as a spray painted image. As the years go by I prove to the world that I am a fraud. The most important man in the world is the least effective. I let my countrymen die at home and abroad -- and still they love me. But I am a lame duck, and soon my terrible reign of war and ineffectiveness will be over. History will be the judge.

Friday, September 16, 2005

from the "less than 1000 words" dept.

Originally uploaded by

In earlier times it was a place of refuge, of joy, perhaps a wedding. A spot on the road from here to there. Surrounding it, a town. A place where people called this brief stop on a highway home. Then came war. And the people are no more. The land teems with mines. The hotel stands waiting for guests who will never come.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

from the "a point in time" dept.

Brent and Roh have left Vancouver. We had a fab dinner last night at Brent's sister's & her fella's place. Planked salmon, thai salad, and a Belini AND Margarita machine that was ever flowing.

B & R had a good visit, I think. I certainly had a good visit with them. It was great visiting old haunts like Berts and the always fantastic Caffe Barney. It was almost like 5 years ago, except for the extra flab and grey hairs. I won't say whose.

TV news continues its flow of sadness from New Orleans. Nice to see Bush accept some responsibility. Although too little, too late.

Larry King had New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin on tonight. He's great. He's like Rudi was after 9-11. And Larry didn't ask him to sing.

Tomorrow is Bush. That will be very interesting. And Clinton follows on Friday.

The doc project moves forward slowly. We're still working on the story rights and dealing with lawyers.

Thursday is Residential Tenancy Day: My previous landload stiffed me on my damage deposit, and we have a hearing tomorrow. I had to send copies of the documents to him and his wife. Each registered. He picked up. She did not.

I hope he fails to show tomorrow, as it will result in an automatic award for me. And it's not just the damage deposit -- it's double because he failed to pay it back.

My evidence is a string of emails. Who knows what will happen. Even if I win, enforcement could be an issue. I may have to go to small claims court. But, at the end of the day, it's an education -- and I might get some dough out of it.

Changes are afoot at the house. I will be housesitting in North Vancouver for a month, beginning next week. And I think I will start looking for a place to call MY home. The old neighbourhood (12/Granville) is expensive. So it may be back to the Drive for the third time.

We'll see...

Monday, September 12, 2005

from the "more Maher" dept.

The following is from Bill Maher's Real Time show on HBO:

Mr. President, this job can't be fun for you any more. There's no more money to spend--you used up all of that.

You can't start another war because you used up the army. And now, darn the luck, the rest of your term has become the Bush family nightmare: helping poor people.

Listen to your Mom. The cupboard's bare, the credit cards maxed out. No one's speaking to you. Mission accomplished.

"Now it's time to do what you've always done best: lose interest and walk away. Like you did with your military service and the oil company and the baseball team. It's time. Time to move on and try the next fantasy job. How about cowboy or space man?

Now I know what you're saying: there's so many other things that you as President could involve yourself in. Please don't.

I know, I know. There's a lot left to do. There's a war with Venezuela. Eliminating the sales tax on yachts. Turning the space program over to the church. And Social Security to Fannie Mae. Giving embryos the vote.

"But, Sir, none of that is going to happen now. Why? Because you govern like Billy Joel drives.

You've performed so poorly I'm surprised that you haven't given yourself a medal.

You're a catastrophe that walks like a man. Herbert Hoover was a ****ty president, but even he never conceded an entire city to rising water and snakes.

"On your watch, we've lost almost all of our allies, the surplus, four airliners, two trade centers, a piece of the Pentagon and the City of New Orleans. Maybe you're just not lucky. I'm not saying you don't love this country. I'm just wondering how much worse it could be if you were on the other side.

"So, yes, God does speak to you. What he is saying is: 'Take a hint.' "

Sunday, September 11, 2005

from the "moore from Michael" dept.

To All My Fellow Americans Who Voted for George W. Bush:

On this, the fourth anniversary of 9/11, I'm just curious, how does it feel?

How does it feel to know that the man you elected to lead us after we were attacked went ahead and put a guy in charge of FEMA whose main qualification was that he ran horse shows?

That's right. Horse shows.

I really want to know -- and I ask you this in all sincerity and with all due respect -- how do you feel about the utter contempt Mr. Bush has shown for your safety? C'mon, give me just a moment of honesty. Don't start ranting on about how this disaster in New Orleans was the fault of one of the poorest cities in America. Put aside your hatred of Democrats and liberals and anyone with the last name of Clinton. Just look me in the eye and tell me our President did the right thing after 9/11 by naming a horse show runner as the top man to protect us in case of an emergency or catastrophe.

I want you to put aside your self-affixed label of Republican/conservative/born-again/capitalist/ditto-head/right-winger and just talk to me as an American, on the common ground we both call America.

Are we safer now than before 9/11? When you learn that behind the horse show runner, the #2 and #3 men in charge of emergency preparedness have zero experience in emergency preparedness, do you think we are safer?

When you look at Michael Chertoff, the head of Homeland Security, a man with little experience in national security, do you feel secure?

When men who never served in the military and have never seen young men die in battle send our young people off to war, do you think they know how to conduct a war? Do they know what it means to have your legs blown off for a threat that was never there?

Do you really believe that turning over important government services to private corporations has resulted in better services for the people?

Why do you hate our federal government so much? You have voted for politicians for the past 25 years whose main goal has been to de-fund the federal government. Do you think that cutting federal programs like FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers has been good or bad for America? GOOD OR BAD?

With the nation's debt at an all-time high, do you think tax cuts for the rich are still a good idea? Will you give yours back so hundreds of thousands of homeless in New Orleans can have a home?

Do you believe in Jesus? Really? Didn't he say that we would be judged by how we treat the least among us? Hurricane Katrina came in and blew off the facade that we were a nation with liberty and justice for all. The wind howled and the water rose and what was revealed was that the poor in America shall be left to suffer and die while the President of the United States fiddles and tells them to eat cake.

That's not a joke. The day the hurricane hit and the levees broke, Mr. Bush, John McCain and their rich pals were stuffing themselves with cake. A full day after the levees broke (the same levees whose repair funding he had cut), Mr. Bush was playing a guitar some country singer gave him. All this while New Orleans sank under water.

It would take ANOTHER day before the President would do a flyover in his jumbo jet, peeking out the widow at the misery 2500 feet below him as he flew back to his second home in DC. It would then be TWO MORE DAYS before a trickle of federal aid and troops would arrive. This was no seven minutes in a sitting trance while children read "My Pet Goat" to him. This was FOUR DAYS of doing nothing other than saying "Brownie (FEMA director Michael Brown), you're doing a heck of a job!"

My Republican friends, does it bother you that we are the laughing stock of the world?

And on this sacred day of remembrance, do you think we honor or shame those who died on 9/11/01? If we learned nothing and find ourselves today every bit as vulnerable and unprepared as we were on that bright sunny morning, then did the 3,000 die in vain?

Our vulnerability is not just about dealing with terrorists or natural disasters. We are vulnerable and unsafe because we allow one in eight Americans to live in horrible poverty. We accept an education system where one in six children never graduate and most of those who do can't string a coherent sentence together. The middle class can't pay the mortgage or the hospital bills and 45 million have no health coverage whatsoever.

Are we safe? Do you really feel safe? You can only move so far out and build so many gated communities before the fruit of what you've sown will be crashing through your walls and demanding retribution. Do you really want to wait until that happens? Or is it your hope that if they are left alone long enough to soil themselves and shoot themselves and drown in the filth that fills the street that maybe the problem will somehow go away?

I know you know better. You gave the country and the world a man who wasn't up for the job and all he does is hire people who aren't up for the job. You did this to us, to the world, to the people of New Orleans. Please fix it. Bush is yours. And you know, for our peace and safety and security, this has to be fixed. What do you propose?

I have an idea, and it isn't a horse show.

Michael Moore

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Night out with pals from Global, CKVU, CTV + Brent and Roh? Priceless.

Value of writing with a blinding headache? Worthless.


Friday, September 09, 2005

from the "pointed points" dept.

Brent and Roh are here, so I've been off galavanting with them... which has left less time to hit the ol' blog. However, some highlights of the last few days:

I continue to watch Katrina coverage with disbelief. I cannot believe that such a disaser and lack of response could happen here. And I hope that's not wishful thinking.

Seen the pictures from the New Orleans Convention Centre? Nice...

I felt like barfing this morning (Fri) when I saw Bush speaking about the appointment of a new minister of propaganda to win the hearts and minds of the middle east. He has basically set up a public relations agency to counter the bad opinion the rest of the world has of US foreign policy. Nice timing. How about helping the people of your own country instead of speading "liberty"?

Other things:

Monday (Sept 5) marked the 17th anniversary of the launch of MITV (now Global) in Halifax. I feel old. Sept 22 will mark 8 years of working in Vancouver. I really feel old.

Randy and I have the story rights agreement back from the family that is the focus of the documentary project. We'll discuss the changes today, then fire the document to our lawyer for his approval. And then the signing should take place next week. Once this is done, we can move forward.

There is already talk of heading to Poland and Germany in October. That could be wishful thinking, however, it makes sense to get there before winter. And the prices aren't as bad as you might think.

Randy will be in France for MIPCOM, a TV marketing convention -- so we would meet somewhere there. My thinking is Berlin -- and then renting a car to head into Poland and Auschwitz. And then back to central Germany. We'll see.

Back to Katrina: nice to see that the head of FEMA has misrepresented his background. And, in fact, he has no emergency management experience. And not just Michael Brown. Heck, the entire FEMA management team is filled with people who got there via political favours -- and have no experience. Here's what the Washinton Post says:

Leaders Lacking Disaster Experience
'Brain Drain' At Agency Cited

By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 9, 2005; A01

Five of eight top Federal Emergency Management Agency officials came to their posts with virtually no experience in handling disasters and now lead an agency whose ranks of seasoned crisis managers have thinned dramatically since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

FEMA's top three leaders -- Director Michael D. Brown, Chief of Staff Patrick J. Rhode and Deputy Chief of Staff Brooks D. Altshuler -- arrived with ties to President Bush's 2000 campaign or to the White House advance operation, according to the agency. Two other senior operational jobs are filled by a former Republican lieutenant governor of Nebraska and a U.S. Chamber of Commerce official who was once a political operative.

Meanwhile, veterans such as U.S. hurricane specialist Eric Tolbert and World Trade Center disaster managers Laurence W. Zensinger and Bruce P. Baughman -- who led FEMA's offices of response, recovery and preparedness, respectively -- have left since 2003, taking jobs as consultants or state emergency managers, according to current and former officials.

Because of the turnover, three of the five FEMA chiefs for natural-disaster-related operations and nine of 10 regional directors are working in an acting capacity, agency officials said.

Patronage appointments to the crisis-response agency are nothing new to Washington administrations. But inexperience in FEMA's top ranks is emerging as a key concern of local, state and federal leaders as investigators begin to sift through what the government has admitted was a bungled response to Hurricane Katrina.

"FEMA requires strong leadership and experience because state and local governments rely on them," said Trina Sheets, executive director of the National Emergency Management Association. "When you don't have trained, qualified people in those positions, the program suffers as a whole."

Last week's greatest foe was, of course, a storm of such magnitude that it "overwhelmed" all levels of government, according to Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). And several top FEMA officials are well-regarded by state and private counterparts in disaster preparedness and response.

They include Edward G. Buikema, acting director of response since February, and Kenneth O. Burris, acting chief of operations, a career firefighter and former Marietta, Ga., fire chief.

But scorching criticism has been aimed at FEMA, and it starts at the top with Brown, who has admitted to errors in responding to Hurricane Katrina and the flooding in New Orleans. The Oklahoma native, 50, was hired to the agency after a rocky tenure as commissioner of a horse sporting group by former FEMA director Joe M. Allbaugh, the 2000 Bush campaign manager and a college friend of Brown's.

Rhode, Brown's chief of staff, is a former television reporter who came to Washington as advance deputy director for Bush's Austin-based 2000 campaign and then the White House. He joined FEMA in April 2003 after stints at the Commerce Department and the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Altshuler is a former presidential advance man. His predecessor, Scott Morris, was a media strategist for Bush with the Austin firm Maverick Media.

David I. Maurstad, who stepped down as Nebraska lieutenant governor in 2001 to join FEMA, has served as acting director for risk reduction and federal insurance administrator since June 2004. Daniel A. Craig, a onetime political fundraiser and campaign adviser, came to FEMA in 2001 from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, where he directed the eastern regional office, after working as a lobbyist for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

Department of Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said Brown has managed more than 160 natural disasters as FEMA general counsel and deputy director since 2001, "hands-on experience [that] cannot be understated. Other leadership at FEMA brings particular skill sets -- policy management leadership, for example."

The agency has a deep bench of career professionals, said FEMA spokeswoman Nicol Andrews, including two dozen senior field coordinators and Gil Jamieson, director of the National Incident Management System. "Simply because folks who have left the agency have a disagreement with how it's being run doesn't necessarily indicate that there is a lack of experience leading it," she said.

Andrews said the "acting" designation for regional officials is a designation that signifies that they are FEMA civil servants -- not political appointees.

Touring the wrecked Gulf Coast with Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff yesterday, Vice President Cheney also defended FEMA leaders, saying, "We're always trying to strike the right balance" between political appointees and "career professionals that fill the jobs underneath them."

But experts inside and out of government said a "brain drain" of experienced disaster hands throughout the agency, hastened in part by the appointment of leaders without backgrounds in emergency management, has weakened the agency's ability to respond to natural disasters. Some security experts and congressional critics say the exodus was fueled by a bureaucratic reshuffling in Washington in 2003, when FEMA was stripped of its independent Cabinet-level status and folded into the Department of Homeland Security.

Emergency preparedness has atrophied as a result, some analysts said, extending from Washington to localities.

FEMA "has gone downhill within the department, drained of resources and leadership," said I.M. "Mac" Destler, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy. "The crippling of FEMA was one important reason why it failed."

Richard A. Andrews, former emergency services director for the state of California and a member of the president's Homeland Security Advisory Council, said state and local failures were critical in the Katrina response, but competence, funding and political will in Washington were also lacking.

"I do not think fundamentally this is an organizational issue," Andrews said. "You need people in there who have both experience and the confidence of the president, who are able to fight and articulate what FEMA's mission and role is, and who understand how emergency management works."

The agency's troubles are no secret. The Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit group that promotes careers in federal government, ranked FEMA last of 28 agencies studied in 2003.

In its list of best places to work in the government, a 2004 survey by the American Federation of Government Employees found that of 84 career FEMA professionals who responded, only 10 people ranked agency leaders excellent or good.

An additional 28 said the leadership was fair and 33 called it poor.

More than 50 said they would move to another agency if they could remain at the same pay grade, and 67 ranked the agency as poorer since its merger into the Department of Homeland Security.

--- And so it goes...

Monday, September 05, 2005

from the "they came from away"dept.

After a day as the "hurricane guy" at CTV today, I am not going to write or think about it this evening. More in the days to come.

At the same time as the disaster was happening, Janis was visiting from Oakville, Ont. We had a good time blasting around the lower mainland on Thursday (Deep Cove, Horseshoe Bay) and a big night out (Locus, odd Main St. haunts) Friday. Then it was off to Abbotsford for JJ... and after that. Methinks I have to get to Toronto/ one of these days.

Brent and Roh are visiting from Belize. They're here for about 10 days. It looks like a C's baseball game tomorrow (Tue) -- and then all sorts of stuff as I have Wed-Fri off. Well, sort of. I also have an article to write. Back to the newsroom on the weekend.

That's the update!


Sunday, September 04, 2005

from the "help" dept.


from the "a thousand words" dept.

Sept. 3: Tanisha Blevin, 5, holds the hand of Nita LaGarde, 105, as they leave the Convention Center in New Orleans. (courtesy FOX news)

from the "try and watch this" dept.

President of Jefferson Parish, Aaron Broussard, says he still doesn't have the resources needed to save the lives in his Parish.

At the end of this interview on Meet the Press, Broussard tells a heart wrenching story of a co-worker's mother that was trapped in a nursing home. She called four days in a row for help but help never came. Broussard breaks into tears as he explains that the Calvary never came and she died by drowning.


from the "stop the presses" dept.

An editorial in the Sunday September 4th New Orleans The Times-Picayune:

An open letter to the President

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.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

from the "point the finger" dept.

"The truth was simple and apparent to all. If journalists were there with cameras beaming the suffering live across America, where were the officers and troops?"

Read this excellent BBC Article:

New Orleans crisis shames Americans
By Matt Wells
BBC News, Los Angeles

At the end of an unforgettable week, one broadcaster on Friday bitterly encapsulated the sense of burning shame and anger that many American citizens are feeling.

The only difference between the chaos of New Orleans and a Third World disaster operation, he said, was that a foreign dictator would have responded better.

It has been a profoundly shocking experience for many across this vast country who, for the large part, believe the home-spun myth about the invulnerability of the American Dream.

The party in power in Washington is always happy to convey the impression of 50 states moving forward together in social and economic harmony towards a bigger and better America.

That is what presidential campaigning is all about.

But what the devastating consequences of Katrina have shown - along with the response to it - is that for too long now, the fabric of this complex and overstretched country, especially in states like Louisiana and Mississippi, has been neglected and ignored.

Borrowed time

The fitting metaphors relating to the New Orleans debacle are almost too numerous to mention.

First there was an extraordinary complacency, mixed together with what seemed like over-reaction, before the storm.

A genuinely heroic mayor orders a total evacuation of the city the day before Katrina arrives, knowing that for decades now, New Orleans has been living on borrowed time.

The National Guard and federal emergency personnel stay tucked up at home.

The havoc of Katrina had been predicted countless times on a local and federal level - even to the point where it was acknowledged that tens of thousands of the poorest residents would not be able to leave the city in advance.

No official plan was ever put in place for them.

Abandoned to the elements

The famous levees that were breached could have been strengthened and raised at what now seems like a trifling cost of a few billion dollars.

The Bush administration, together with Congress, cut the budgets for flood protection and army engineers, while local politicians failed to generate any enthusiasm for local tax increases.

New Orleans partied-on just hoping for the best, abandoned by anyone in national authority who could have put the money into really protecting the city.

Meanwhile, the poorest were similarly abandoned, as the horrifying images and stories from the Superdome and Convention Center prove.

The truth was simple and apparent to all. If journalists were there with cameras beaming the suffering live across America, where were the officers and troops?

The neglect that meant it took five days to get water, food, and medical care to thousands of mainly orderly African-American citizens desperately sheltering in huge downtown buildings of their native city, has been going on historically, for as long as the inadequate levees have been there.

Divided city

I should make a confession at this point: I have been to New Orleans on assignment three times in as many years, and I was smitten by the Big Easy, with its unique charms and temperament.

But behind the elegant intoxicants of the French Quarter, it was clearly a city grotesquely divided on several levels. It has twice the national average poverty rate.

The government approach to such deprivation looked more like thoughtless containment than anything else.

The nightly shootings and drugs-related homicides of recent years pointed to a small but vicious culture of largely black-on-black crime that everyone knew existed, but no-one seemed to have any real answers for.

Again, no-one wanted to pick up the bill or deal with the realities of race relations in the 21st Century.

Too often in the so-called "New South", they still look positively 19th Century.

"Shoot the looters" is good rhetoric, but no lasting solution.

Uneasy paradox

It is astonishing to me that so many Americans seem shocked by the existence of such concentrated poverty and social neglect in their own country.

In the workout room of the condo where I am currently staying in the affluent LA neighbourhood of Santa Monica, an executive and his personal trainer ignored the anguished television reports blaring above their heads on Friday evening.

Either they did not care, or it was somehow too painful to discuss.

When President Bush told "Good Morning America" on Thursday morning that nobody could have "anticipated" the breach of the New Orleans levees, it pointed to not only a remote leader in denial, but a whole political class.

The uneasy paradox which so many live with in this country - of being first-and-foremost rugged individuals, out to plunder what they can and paying as little tax as they can get away with, while at the same time believing that America is a robust, model society - has reached a crisis point this week.

Will there be real investment, or just more buck-passing between federal agencies and states?

The country has to choose whether it wants to rebuild the levees and destroyed communities, with no expense spared for the future - or once again brush off that responsibility, and blame the other guy.


Friday, September 02, 2005

from the "Ray Nagin for President" dept.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin spoke to WWL radio in New Orleans about the federal response to his beleagured city. It is an amazingly frank portrait of the screw-up courtesy Bush and Co.

Listen here.

If you are short of time, listen to the last 45 seconds.

from the "don't mess with me" dept.

from the "my point, exactly" dept.

Bits and bites:

The head of the New Orleans emergency operations, Terry Ebbert, has questioned when reinforcements will actually reach the increasingly lawless city.

"This is a national disgrace. Fema has been here three days, yet there is no command and control," Mr Ebbert said.

"We can send massive amounts of aid to tsunami victims, but we can't bail out the city of New Orleans."

One man, George Turner, who was still waiting to be evacuated, summed up much of the anger felt by the refugees.

"Why is it that the most powerful country on the face of the Earth takes so long to help so many sick and so many elderly people?" he asked.

"Why? That's all I want to ask President Bush."

And John Rhinehart, the administrator of a New Orleans hospital without power and water, said: "I'm beginning to wonder if the government is more concerned about the looting than people who are dying in these hospitals."

There is widespread agreement among commentators that somewhere there has been a breakdown in the system.

The Biloxi Sun Herald in Mississippi asked: "Why hasn't every able-bodied member of the armed forces in south Mississippi been pressed into service?"

And on Friday the Washington Post wrote: "Though experts had long predicted that the city, which sits below sea level and is surrounded by water, would face unprecedented devastation after an immense hurricane, they said problems were worsened by a late evacuation order and insufficient emergency shelter for as many as 100,000 people."

And then there's this idiot who can't see the forest for the trees:

And my response:

"I can't believe you blame the rest of the world for the American leadership's inability to be able to take care of its own.

Shame on you. Shame on your leaders.

It's a sad statement on a once great country that has lost its way.

And who pays? The poor of New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast.

Home of the free, my ass."

from the "hurrican't" dept.

I sit here, looking at the pictures from New Orleans shocked. How can it be 5 days after the hurricane, and the US Government cannot even drop food to the people who are DYING in that city. Unbelievable.

The one pictures that sums it up is this:

New Orleans, LA, Aug 31, 2005. America, the home of the brave... the land of freedom and democracy, the richest country on the planet... allowing its citizens to die like dogs. Shame.

And Michael Moore hits the nail on the head with this:

Friday, September 2nd, 2005

Dear Mr. Bush:

Any idea where all our helicopters are? It's Day 5 of Hurricane Katrina and thousands remain stranded in New Orleans and need to be airlifted. Where on earth could you have misplaced all our military choppers? Do you need help finding them? I once lost my car in a Sears parking lot. Man, was that a drag.

Also, any idea where all our national guard soldiers are? We could really use them right now for the type of thing they signed up to do like helping with national disasters. How come they weren't there to begin with?

Last Thursday I was in south Florida and sat outside while the eye of Hurricane Katrina passed over my head. It was only a Category 1 then but it was pretty nasty. Eleven people died and, as of today, there were still homes without power. That night the weatherman said this storm was on its way to New Orleans. That was Thursday! Did anybody tell you? I know you didn't want to interrupt your vacation and I know how you don't like to get bad news. Plus, you had fundraisers to go to and mothers of dead soldiers to ignore and smear. You sure showed her!

I especially like how, the day after the hurricane, instead of flying to Louisiana, you flew to San Diego to party with your business peeps. Don't let people criticize you for this -- after all, the hurricane was over and what the heck could you do, put your finger in the dike?

And don't listen to those who, in the coming days, will reveal how you specifically reduced the Army Corps of Engineers' budget for New Orleans this summer for the third year in a row. You just tell them that even if you hadn't cut the money to fix those levees, there weren't going to be any Army engineers to fix them anyway because you had a much more important construction job for them -- BUILDING DEMOCRACY IN IRAQ!

On Day 3, when you finally left your vacation home, I have to say I was moved by how you had your Air Force One pilot descend from the clouds as you flew over New Orleans so you could catch a quick look of the disaster. Hey, I know you couldn't stop and grab a bullhorn and stand on some rubble and act like a commander in chief. Been there done that.

There will be those who will try to politicize this tragedy and try to use it against you. Just have your people keep pointing that out. Respond to nothing. Even those pesky scientists who predicted this would happen because the water in the Gulf of Mexico is getting hotter and hotter making a storm like this inevitable. Ignore them and all their global warming Chicken Littles. There is nothing unusual about a hurricane that was so wide it would be like having one F-4 tornado that stretched from New York to Cleveland.

No, Mr. Bush, you just stay the course. It's not your fault that 30 percent of New Orleans lives in poverty or that tens of thousands had no transportation to get out of town. C'mon, they're black! I mean, it's not like this happened to Kennebunkport. Can you imagine leaving white people on their roofs for five days? Don't make me laugh! Race has nothing -- NOTHING -- to do with this!

You hang in there, Mr. Bush. Just try to find a few of our Army helicopters and send them there. Pretend the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast are near Tikrit.


Michael Moore

P.S. That annoying mother, Cindy Sheehan, is no longer at your ranch. She and dozens of other relatives of the Iraqi War dead are now driving across the country, stopping in many cities along the way. Maybe you can catch up with them before they get to DC on September 21st.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

from the "WTF" dept.

Ok, I don't get it.

The USA is the most powerful and richest nation on earth. And several days after the hurricane, most people are without help. Note that the people are poor and black.

So what gives?

Could it be all the National Guardsmen and Military folks are over in Iraq and Afghanistan?

There better be some hard questions for Bush and Co. after this. There is no excuse for people to be dying from lack of food, water and medical care in America in 2005.