Saturday, September 10, 2005

We Are the Front Lines

Librarians are the vanguard against tyranny. And I am sure that this fact flummoxes our illiterate president:
Federal Judge Janet Hall ruled today that the FBI lift a gag order that prevented librarians who received FBI demands for records from speaking out about the Patriot Act. The decision has been stayed until September 20, pending appeal.

This is the second time that the American Civil Liberties Union has challenged the National Security Letter (NSL) provision of the act. In the first round, courts ruled the entire provision unconstitutional.

"The [National Security Letter] statute has the practical effect of silencing those who have the most intimate knowledge of the statute's effect and a strong interest in advocating against the federal government's broad investigative powers," wrote Judge Hall.


Friday, September 09, 2005

DeLay: Still an Idiot

From Raw Story:

A report on the Houston Chronicle blog claims that House Majority Leader Tom DeLay asked Hurricane Katrina evacuees if their current situation was "kind of fun."

While on the tour with top administration officials from Washington, including U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao and U.S. Treasury Secretary John W. Snow, DeLay stopped to chat with three young boys resting on cots.

The congressman likened their stay to being at camp and asked, "Now tell me the truth boys, is this kind of fun?"

Yeah, real fun. Like camp. And Abu Ghraib was just like frat hazing.



Here's an e-mail I received yesterday. Do it now!

As many of you are seeking additional information on ways to help the victims of Katrina, I wanted to share this one.

The City of Austin is looking for volunteers to assist the victims in using computers effectively at the Convention Center. If you are interested, here is a link for additional information.


Birthday Cat!

Tista showered me with gifts a few weeks back on my birthday, with some help, admittedly, from Miriam.


Evil Personified

A new level of hell is under construction, just for Arthur Lawson. He's the police chief of Gretna, which is just across the Mississippi River from the French Quarter. As the waters rose in New Orleans, policemen there directed a group of about 800 people to walk across the bridge to Gretna.

And then:

As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions. As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of our conversation with the police commander and of the commander's assurances. The sheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move.

We questioned why we couldn't cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the 6-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their City.

Surely, having seen the tremendous death and destruction that resulted from this hurricane, Lawson must feel crushing guilt. No?
In an interview with UPI, Gretna Police Chief Arthur Lawson confirmed that his department shut down the bridge to pedestrians: "If we had opened the bridge, our city would have looked like New Orleans does now: looted, burned and pillaged."

Found via Atrios.


FEMA: Too Busy

The victim of Hurricane Katrina put up the sign after she called four times for FEMA's assistance and was always prompted to leave a message.


The Goddamned America Way

Disgusting, frightening, and depressing. But it's small wonder that people living in the disposable society that is America don't really understand the value of preserving one of the most historically significant cities on this continent.

Count me in on the side of the (hopefully extremely vocal) minority:
More than half the people in this country say the flooded areas of New Orleans lying below sea level should be abandoned and rebuilt on higher ground.

An AP-Ipsos poll found that 54 percent of Americans want the vast sections of New Orleans that were flooded by Hurricane Katrina moved to a safer location. About 80 percent of the city was flooded at the height of the disaster. The city, home to about 484,000 people, sits six feet below sea level on average.

The skepticism about restoring New Orleans below sea level comes as the public mood has darkened after one of the nation's worst natural disasters. Those most likely to say that low-lying areas of New Orleans should not be rebuilt are whites over 45 years of age and Republican women.

"There's a lot of history, but the fact remains that it remains below sea level," said Kate Rehfus, a Republican from Fort Thomas, Ky., who loves New Orleans for its blues, beignets and Cafe Du Monde coffee. "It wouldn't be the same by any means, but if it could be done, that would be best. This would never happen again."
More than four in 10 of the Americans polled said they want the city rebuilt where it is and the levees strengthened.

Some New Orleans residents were angry about any suggestion that their beloved city should not be rebuilt as it is.

"How many of those people have been to New Orleans?" said Alec Phoenix, a New Orleans resident who is currently in Los Angeles. "To say the city should be abandoned because it's below sea level is an irresponsible statement."

Irresponsible, definitely. And let me add, perfectly American in its crass arrogance. Tens of thousands of people are unable to enter their homes, and are living in makeshift shelters, and people are openly discussing whether these very homes should be utterly razed? These people are shameless.



Once again, the Bush administration is waging war on language. This Washington Post article on the distasteful "America Supports You Freedom March" (and what the hell does that torturous phrase even mean?) is quite hilarious, especially if certain key words are highlighted. (Most of the highlighting was done by reader dirk gently):
Organizers of the Pentagon's 9/11 memorial Freedom Walk on Sunday are taking extraordinary measures to control participation in the march and concert, with the route fenced off and lined with police and the event closed to anyone who does not register online by 4:30 p.m. today.
Officers are prepared to arrest anyone who joins the march or concert without a credential and refuses to leave.
[Park Police Chief] Pettiford said officers would patrol to keep interlopers out because the Pentagon restricted the event in its permit application. "That is what their permit called for, so we have those fences to keep the public out."
One restricted group will be the media, whose members will not be allowed to walk along the march route. Reporters and cameras are restricted to three enclosed areas along the route but are not permitted to walk alongside participants walking from the Pentagon.


Gramsci: Descendant of Panthers


Rare Harmonic Convergence of Cats


So Much for Rebuilding

So, New Orleans is to be rebuilt by workers paid less than the legal minimum wage; meanwhile, the rebuilding of Iraq is flat broke:
The United States will halt construction work on some water and power plants in Iraq because it is running out of money for projects, officials said yesterday.

Security costs have cut into the funds available to complete some major infrastructure projects that were started under the $18.4 billion U.S. plan to rebuild Iraq. As a result, the United States has had to pare back some projects to only those deemed essential by the Iraqi government.

While no overall figures are yet available, one contractor has stopped work on six of eight water-treatment plants it was assigned.

Let's face it. This administration is bankrupt in every sense: fiscally, morally, ideologically.


Class Warfare

Just lovely. President Bush wants to rebuild New Orleans on the cheap:
President Bush issued an executive order Thursday allowing federal contractors rebuilding in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to pay below the prevailing wage.

In a notice to Congress, Bush said the hurricane had caused "a national emergency" that permits him to take such action under the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act in ravaged areas of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Bush's action came as the federal government moved to provide billions of dollars in aid, and drew rebukes from two of organized labor's biggest friends in Congress, Rep. George Miller of California and Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, both Democrats.

"The administration is using the devastation of Hurricane Katrina to cut the wages of people desperately trying to rebuild their lives and their communities," Miller said.
The Davis-Bacon law requires federal contractors to pay workers at least the prevailing wages in the area where the work is conducted. It applies to federally funded construction projects such as highways and bridges.

Bush's executive order suspends the requirements of the Davis-Bacon law for designated areas hit by the storm.


Thursday, September 08, 2005

Spreading Lies > Saving Lives

In a move even more insane and callous than usual, the Bush administration chooses to send firefighters in to hand out flyers, rather than to rescue human beings:
In a document that went out from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the agency asked for firefighters with very specific skills and who were capable of working in austere conditions. When they got to a center in Atlanta, they found out their jobs would be public relations.

"Our job was to advertise a phone number for FEMA," said Portage Assistant Fire Chief Bill Lundy. "We were going to be given shirts and hats with a phone number on it and flyers, and sent to shelters, and we were going to pass out flyers."

Lundy and Calhoun said they don't want to bash FEMA or its mission, Rogers reported. They said they only want to help, and that there were plenty of other firefighters in the room who felt the same way.

"There was almost a fight," said Portage Assistant Fire Chief Joe Calhoun. "There was probably 700 firefighters sitting in the room getting this training, and it dawned on them what we were going to be doing. And then it got bad from there."

Lundy and Calhoun's first task was an eight-hour course on sexual harassment and equal opportunity employment procedures, Rogers reported. Neither firefighter would be involved in technical rescues of trapped people or any of their other specialties.

"We're trained in tactical medicine," Lundy said. "We weren't being used for that. We were being used to hand out flyers."



How can he be spouting this utter nonsense while there are still people dying out there?

Oh, I forgot. It's Tom DeLay:
It’s easy to be a Monday morning quarterback, but you should have been in that control room where those people were making life and death decisions, people that stayed up and got no sleep and very little food for five to six days straight trying to make the right decisions to save people. What happens when we come up here? They point the finger. You didn’t make the right decision here. You didn’t take care of my aides there. You didn’t do this. You didn’t do that. The point is if you look at the big picture, it’s a phenomenal accomplishment by everybody involved. It’s unbelievable. I am constantly struck by where we are today just a little over a week from the worst catastrophe that this country has seen.


The Nightmare Grows

The more we learn, the worse it is:
Even as crews in New Orleans try to find and count the corpses that are decaying in the 90-degree heat, reports of the extent of the tragedy are starting to emerge.

A Louisiana congressman says more than 100 people died at a warehouse along a New Orleans dock. Congressman Charlie Melancon (muh-LAWN'-suhn) says they died as they waited for rescuers to take them to safety.

And a state lawmaker says 30 people died at a flooded-out nursing home just outside New Orleans. Nita Hutter says the staff had left the residents behind in their beds. A rescue that was supposed to take place never materialized.

This administration abandoned these people. Bush's lackadaisical policies regarding the levees in general and this hurricane in particular are directly responsible for this wholesale slaughter.


Still Fighting WWII

Yes. I have no doubt at all that taking this city will end the chaos that plagues Iraq:
The United States is considering an all-out military attack in the coming weeks against the town of Tal Afar in northern Iraq, which it sees as a stronghold of rebellion, a U.S. general said on Thursday.


Thank Goodness

Let's hope all the rest of them do the same:
The risk that Tropical Storm Ophelia will enter the Gulf of Mexico and threaten the U.S. oil and natural gas rigs over the next several days declined as the storm continues to sit off the east coast of Florida.


Welcome to the Third World

The United Nations debunks the self-image of the United States:
Parts of the United States are as poor as the third world, according to a shocking United Nations report on global inequality.

Claims that the New Orleans floods have laid bare a growing racial and economic divide in the US have, until now, been rejected by the American political establishment as emotional rhetoric.

But yesterday's UN report provides statistical proof that for many - well beyond those affected by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina - the great American Dream is an ongoing nightmare.
The annual Human Development Report normally concerns itself with the third world, but the 2005 edition scrutinises inequalities in health provision inside the US as part of a survey of how inequality worldwide is retarding the eradication of poverty.

It reveals that the infant mortality rate has been rising in the US for the past five years - and is now the same as Malaysia. America's black children are twice as likely as whites to die before their first birthday.
And, in unusually outspoken language, it accuses the US of having "an overdeveloped military strategy and an under-developed strategy for human security".

"There is an urgent need to develop a collective security framework that goes beyond military responses to terrorism," it continues.

"Poverty and social breakdown are core components of the global security threat."


Cruella Bush

It's been posted various places around the blogosphere, and even played on The Daily Show, but I'll go ahead and post on it because it reveals the truth about Republican thinking:
On the heels of the president's "What, me worry?" response to the death, destruction and dislocation that followed upon Hurricane Katrina comes the news of his mother's Labor Day visit with hurricane evacuees at the Astrodome in Houston.

Commenting on the facilities that have been set up for the evacuees -- cots crammed side-by-side in a huge stadium where the lights never go out and the sound of sobbing children never completely ceases -- former First Lady Barbara Bush concluded that the poor people of New Orleans had lucked out.

"Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this, this is working very well for them," Mrs. Bush told American Public Media's "Marketplace" program, before returning to her multi-million dollar Houston home.

On the tape of the interview, Mrs. Bush chuckles audibly as she observes just how great things are going for families that are separated from loved ones, people who have been forced to abandon their homes and the only community where they have ever lived, and parents who are explaining to children that their pets, their toys and in some cases their friends may be lost forever. Perhaps the former first lady was amusing herself with the notion that evacuees without bread could eat cake.

So, that's where Bush gets his truly profound sense of sympathy, his tremendous compassion:
The president has also come under fire for paying tribute to ravaged New Orleans as a place he used to visit years ago "to enjoy myself -- occasionally too much," an apparent reference to the days before he quit drinking.

In an effort to raise the spirits of the hundreds of thousands who have lost their homes, Bush promised to rebuild devastated areas better than they were before, but at one point focused on the home of a powerful lawmaker.

"Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house -- he's lost his entire house -- there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch," he said on a tour of the region Friday, drawing nervous laughter.

Some Republicans winced, including one disbelieving congressional aide who told AFP: "Lott? He's focusing on Lott? Surrounded by poor people, he talks about a sitting senator?"


Pat Robertson Is Still an Ass

The GOP just cannot stop saying idiotic, inhumane things about Katrina and New Orleans:
While the rest of us are still shell-shocked over the mass casualties of Katrina, Pat Robertson says John Roberts can "be thankful that a tragedy has brought him some good."

Thankful? (Because America won't want any "inflamed rhetoric" at the hearings, the televangelist says.) Not the most sensitive comment I can imagine, with more than half of New Orleans inundated with disease-laden water and an untold number of bodies still to be pulled out.


The Cruelty of Homophobia

This sort of thing happens every day. Imagine if you were in Diane Marini's position. How would you feel?
Marilyn Maneely died Wednesday without ever realizing her lifelong dream of being able to legally marry her partner Diane Marini.

The southern New Jersey couple had been together for 13 years. Maneely (shown on the right, with partner Diane Marini) died of ALS - also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.

"As each day passes that couples in New Jersey and across the country can't marry, more couples face hardships and loss without the benefits that come through marriage," said David Buckel, Marriage Project Director and lead attorney in Lambda Legal's case seeking marriage for same-sex couples in New Jersey.

"In fact, just today Diane tried to carry out Marilyn's wishes to donate her body for research---but the hospital refused to let Diane sign the form because they were not married. To have her relationship disrespected on the day Marilyn died is tragic and a painful reminder of the second class status of same-sex couples in New Jersey."


So Much for Arnold

For some reason, people have actually believed that Arnold is "culturally liberal" even though he identifies as a Republican.

So much for that particular delusion:
California's largest LGBT civil rights group is accusing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of selling out gays and lesbians for the support of conservative special interest groups.

Schwarzenegger announced Wednesday night that he will veto legislation allowing same-sex couples to marry.


Bush: Bad for Your Health

Once more I am reminded of the anguished shrieks of the right wing when Clinton got a haircut, supposedly delaying other flights at the airport. Of course, no flights were actually delayed, but since when has truth mattered to the wingers?

Bush, however, is guilty of something worse than a few flight delays:
The Naval Medical Center in San Diego's Balboa Park was shut down to accommodate a visit by President George W. Bush Aug. 30, RAW STORY has learned, forcing patients to cancel chemotherapy treatments and hundreds of scheduled patient visits.

"The pharmacy is closed. The emergency room is closed. Even chemotherapy patients will not be allowed on base," the daughter of one patient told RAW STORY shortly before the President's arrival. "My mother is a patient...She was contacted and told that her appointment had been canceled and would be rescheduled later…All civilian personnel and patients will not be allowed on base."


Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Please, No

I know, I know. It'll raise lots of money for the vast crowds of people displaced by Katrina, but still, my stomach turns at the very thought:
Michael Jackson is writing a song for the hurricane Katrina victims, and has invited other artists to sing with him in this upcoming single.

Pop icon Michael Jackson, 47, has written a song for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. His spokeswoman Raymone Bain said on Tuesday that he hopes to record the song with other top artists and release it as a charity single.

Jackson, who previously raised more than $60 million for African famine relief with a campaign built around his anthem "We Are the World," was moved by the images of destruction that he saw on television, publicist Raymone Bain said.


Please, Democrats, Figure It Out This Time!

The moment is here. This catastrophe rests squarely on Bush's narrow shoulders. You have to hammer away at this. Bush golfed and played guitar while Americans were drowning by the hundreds and thousands.

Don't waste another chance because you are afraid of some Rovean trick. You have nothing to lose but your spinelessness.

Good for Reid and especially Pelosi in recognizing this:
In a letter to the Senate's Homeland Security Committee chairwoman, Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, pressed for a wide-ranging investigation and answers to several questions, including: ''How much time did the president spend dealing with this emerging crisis while he was on vacation? Did the fact that he was outside of Washington, D.C., have any effect on the federal government's response?''

At a news conference, Pelosi, D-Calif., said Bush's choice for head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency had ''absolutely no credentials.''

She related that she had urged Bush at the White House on Tuesday to fire Michael Brown. ''He said 'Why would I do that?''' Pelosi said.

'''I said because of all that went wrong, of all that didn't go right last week.' And he said 'What didn't go right?'''

''Oblivious, in denial, dangerous,'' she added.


In Honor of All Those Who Refused to Abandon Their Pets in New Orleans


A Novel Urban Renewal Technique

Queer eye for the straight city:
Saying that a vibrant gay neighborhood is key to a revitalized Liverpool a group of city councilors has presented plans to create a gay village in the heart of the city.
The councilors, mainly from the city center, say gays have money and spend it. In Manchester the LGBT community contributes millions to the local economy. Manchester Pride is a key destination attracting hundreds of gays from around the world.

But, Liverpool without a gay community focal point does not have a Pride celebration and has a reputation is being one of the least gay friendly places to live in the UK.


Another Step Forward in California

California is now the first state to pass gay-marriage legislation. So, now it's up to Arnold:
Second time a charm. The California Assembly passed legislation Tuesday night to allow same-sex couples to marry.

Gay and lesbian couples crowded into the legislature early this morning to see the historic vote. It was put off twice during the day when backers did not think they had enough votes. Finally, late Tuesday evening, when it looked as though it could pass the measure was put forward.

The bill passed by the slimmest of margins - one vote. But, it made California the first state in the nation to have a same-sex marriage law passed by the legislature. In Massachusetts, where gay marriage has been legal for more than a year, the decision was made by the courts.
Following the vote, Margita Thompson, Schwarzenegger's press secretary, would not say whether Schwarzenegger would sign the gay-marriage bill, noting that he supports the state's current domestic partnership law.


It Takes More Than a Hurricane to Knock Some Sense Into...

Thomas Friedman:
On the day after 9/11, I was in Jerusalem and was interviewed by Israeli TV. The reporter asked me, "Do you think the Bush administration is up to responding to this attack?" As best I can recall, I answered: "Absolutely. One thing I can assure you about these guys is that they know how to pull the trigger."

Um, sure. But they tend to skip the "ready" and "aim" steps.
Well, if 9/11 is one bookend of the Bush administration, Katrina may be the other. If 9/11 put the wind at President Bush's back, Katrina's put the wind in his face. If the Bush-Cheney team seemed to be the right guys to deal with Osama, they seem exactly the wrong guys to deal with Katrina - and all the rot and misplaced priorities it's exposed here at home.

These are people so much better at inflicting pain than feeling it, so much better at taking things apart than putting them together, so much better at defending "intelligent design" as a theology than practicing it as a policy.

Newsflash: To many of us, they never seemed to be the right guys to deal with Osama.
An administration whose tax policy has been dominated by the toweringly selfish Grover Norquist - who has been quoted as saying: "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub" - doesn't have the instincts for this moment. Mr. Norquist is the only person about whom I would say this: I hope he owns property around the New Orleans levee that was never properly finished because of a lack of tax dollars. I hope his basement got flooded.

Friedman, Friedman, Friedman. Think before you type, please. You wish he had a basement? In New Orleans?
As my Democratic entrepreneur friend Joel Hyatt once remarked, the Bush team's philosophy since 9/11 has been: "We're at war. Let's party."

Well, the party is over. If Mr. Bush learns the lessons of Katrina, he has a chance to replace his 9/11 mandate with something new and relevant. If that happens, Katrina will have destroyed New Orleans, but helped to restore America. If Mr. Bush goes back to his politics as usual, he'll be thwarted at every turn. Katrina will have destroyed a city and a presidency.

Don't hold your breath, there, Friedman.

On second thought, do.


Righteous Indignation

Miriam has written a raw, blistering essay on all the tragedies, failures, and instances of intentional negligence that together make up the catastrophe known as "Hurricane Katrina." Reading it really got to me, personally, as she includes snippets of my life in New Orleans, but if you can read it and remain calm, you should check yourself for a pulse.

Read the whole thing here.


Oh, For God's Sake

I don't know if this report is true or not, but if it is, someone deserves to burn in hell:
A group of female hurricane survivors were told to show their breasts if they wanted to be rescued, a British holidaymaker has revealed.

Ged Scott watched as American rescuers turned their boat around and sped off when the the women refused.
The account was just another example of the horror stories emerging from the hurricane disaster zone.

Mr Scott, 36, of Liverpool, was with his wife and seven-year-old daughter in the Ramada Hotel when the flood waters started rising.

At one point, there were a load of girls on the roof of the hotel saying 'Can you help us?' and the policemen said 'Show us what you've got' and made signs for them to lift their T-shirts," he told the Liverpool Evening Echo.

"When the girls refused, they said `Fine' and motored off down the road in their boat."


Bush Still Lying About People Dying

This is like some sort of bizarre reverse McCarthyism. Rather than making up numbers to make others look bad, as McCarthy did, Bush is just making up numbers to make himself look good.

One more instance of his callowness:
In an effort to show the world that it's finally on top of the catastrophe unleashed by Hurricane Katrina more than a week ago, the Bush administration is producing a seemingly impressive battery of statistics.

Since Friday, as criticism has mounted against the administration for its perceived failure to act sooner, officials have sought to tangibly catalog crucial results, such as "lives saved," "people assisted" and "citizens evacuated."

But a closer look at the administration's claims shows some of the most important numbers seem to contradict each other, including assertions made as recently as Tuesday afternoon about the number of people rescued from life-threatening situations.
By Sunday, the total number of those evacuated was listed by DHS as 35,000.

On Monday, however, the agency abruptly stopped listing those figures in its daily updates.

Knocke offered two explanations. First, he said the number of evacuees had likely declined since Sunday because many people had already been sent to safer ground.

But he also said the agency stopped issuing the number of those evacuated because "it's extraordinarily difficult to provide a precise number." And he said the agency only wanted to issue numbers that it could "back up" with certainty.

That didn't stop Myers, the chairman of joint chiefs, from saying at his news conference Tuesday that the military had evacuated "more than 75,000 people" so far - a huge increase from the last homeland security update of 35,000 on Sunday.

Other numbers first listed by the administration as key statistics also have disappeared from the daily reports.


Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Drowning the Beast

Ruth Conniff gets it exactly right in her analysis of the right-wing's anti-government stance and the events set in motion by Katrina:
For years now, Republicans and rightwingers have been selling the notion that taxes are bad, and cuts in government services are good.

Now comes the deluge in New Orleans, and the Bush Administration's appalling inability to save thousands of Americans from the horror that has unfolded there. The pictures and news reports are unbelievable--people waiting, starving and dehydrated, fending off the looters, the thugs and rapists who preyed on children in a convention center and a famous football stadium that became death traps.

The elderly slumped on baggage carousels at the airport--some dead, some dying. The contrast between the enormous wealth of our country, with its massive stadiums and transportation infrastructure, and the desperate human suffering, the collapse of civilization and humanity in New Orleans, makes a shocking picture.

Is this the vision of America the anti-government ideologues have in mind? The wealthy buy their way out of trouble when disaster strikes, and the poor, the elderly, the weak are left in the direst of circumstances?

If Americans woke up to see our country looking like the most afflicted of Third World nations, it's no accident that it happened on the watch of an Administration that has determinedly cut spending on social services and infrastructure. The Bush Administration denied the Army Corps of Engineers request for $105 million for hurricane and flood protection for New Orleans last year--cutting it down to about 40 percent, leaving the levees that burst unfinished, because they didn't want to spend the money to get the job done. And this same Administration is now set to try to make its tax cuts for the wealthiest citizens permanent, even as New Orleans drowns and Baghdad burns.

In the 1980s they started using the phrase "starve the beast" to describe a deliberate effort to drive up deficits through tax cuts, so that the government can no longer afford to maintain many federal programs. The goal, inGrover Norquist's memorable phrase, is to "get the federal government down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub."

Or, if not a bathtub, at least Lake George. Bastards.


Water, Water Everywhere

With all the misery inflicted by Katrina, it's nice to come across some good news involving water:
The sands of Mars, which hold the biggest dunes in the solar system, could contain up to 50% snow and ice, a US scientist told the British Association festival of science meeting in Dublin yesterday.
"This is important because sand dunes occur pretty much everywhere on Mars," said Mary Bourke, of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson. "If you are looking for a source of water for future landers, for example, I am advocating that you march up to your nearest sand dune. Perhaps you'll be lucky enough to find a reservoir of very useful volatiles to produce fuels and help the survival of humans on that planet."


Did Katrina Give Us Our Press Back?

Gabriel Chwallek believes it may have:
"For God's sake, are you blind?," a woman shouts at the head of the federal emergency management agency (FEMA), Michael Brown.

"You're patting each other on the back, while people here are dying."

The woman is not a victim of Hurricane Katrina. She is a reporter with US television network MSNBC who is so affected by the misery she has witnessed she can hold back no longer.
Never before, say some observers, have US reporters been so emotionally involved in a story to the point of being enraged.

They are not just telling a story, they have become part of it.
The usually stoic ABC television presenter Ted Koeppel lashed out at FEMA head Brown in a interview, when he could not give any details on the number of refugees waiting to be rescued from the Convention Centre.

"Don't you people ever look at television?," the veteran presenter raged.

"Don't you ever hear the radio? We've been reporting on the crisis at the Convention Centre for a lot longer than just today."
Another CNN reporter interrupted senator Mary Landrieu during an interview in which she was praising congress for passing an emergency aid package.

"Excuse me senator, I'm sorry for interrupting. I haven't heard anything about that, because I was busy these past four days seeing dead people on the street.

"And when I hear how one politician congratulating the others...Yesterday there was a corpse on the street which had been eaten by rats because it had been there for 48 hours."


About Time, Bush!

This popular sentiment is seen here on a boarded-up seafood restaurant in Chalmette.


FEMA Hating

Everything you need to stay angry can be found at Fema Failures.


New Yorker Editor Points Out the Emperor's Lack of Wardrobe

Scathing, and absolutely correct:
Obviously, a hurricane is beyond human blame, and the political miscalculations that have come to light—the negligent planning, the delayed rescue and aid efforts, the thoroughly confused and uninspired political leadership—cannot all be laid at the feet of President Bush. But you could sense, watching him being interviewed by Diane Sawyer on ABC’s “Good Morning America”—defensive, confused, overwhelmed—that he knew that he had delivered a series of feeble, vague, almost flippant speeches in the early days of the crisis, and that the only way to prevent further political damage was to inoculate himself with the inevitable call for non-partisanship: “I hope people don’t play politics during this period of time.”

And yet, to a frightening degree, Bush’s faults of leadership and character were brought into high relief by the crisis. Suntanned and relaxed after a vacation so long that it would have shamed a French playboy, Bush reacted with fogged delinquency, as if he had been so lulled by his summer sojourn that he was not quite ready to acknowledge reality, let alone attempt to master it.
The mismanagement of the Katrina floods echoed the White House mismanagement—the cavalier posture, the wretched decisions, the self-delusions—in postwar Iraq.
The President’s incuriosity, his prideful insistence on being an underbriefed “gut player,” is not looking so charming right now, either, if it ever did. In the ABC interview, he said, “I don’t think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees.” Even the most cursory review shows that there have been comprehensive and chilling warnings of a potential calamity on the Gulf Coast for years. The most telling, but hardly the only, example was a five-part series in 2002 by John McQuaid and Mark Schleifstein in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, a newspaper that heroically kept publishing on the Internet last week. After evaluating the city’s structural deficiencies, the Times-Picayune reporters concluded that a catastrophe was “a matter of when, not if.” The same paper said last year, “For the first time in 37 years, federal budget cuts have all but stopped major work on the New Orleans area’s east bank hurricane levees, a complex network of concrete walls, metal gates and giant earthen berms that won’t be finished for at least another decade.” A Category 4 or 5 hurricane would be a catastrophe: “Soon the geographical ‘bowl’ of the Crescent City would fill up with the waters of the lake, leaving those unable to evacuate with little option but to cluster on rooftops—terrain they would have to share with hungry rats, fire ants, nutria, snakes, and perhaps alligators. The water itself would become a festering stew of sewage, gasoline, refinery chemicals, and debris.” And that describes much of the Gulf Coast today.


If Only FEMA Had Hyundais...

Then perhaps the evacuation would have been easier:
A trio of Duke University sophomores say they drove to New Orleans late last week, posed as journalists to slip inside the hurricane-soaked city twice, and evacuated seven people who weren't receiving help from authorities.

The group, led by South Carolina native Sonny Byrd, say they also managed to drive all the way to the New Orleans Convention Center, where they encountered scenes early Saturday evening that they say were disgraceful.

"We found it absolutely incredible that the authorities had no way to get there for four or five days, that they didn't go in and help these people, and we made it in a two-wheel-drive Hyundai," said Hans Buder, who made the trip with his roommate Byrd and another student, David Hankla.
"Anyone who knows that area, if you had a bus, it would take you no more than 20 minutes to drive in with a bus and get these people out," Buder said. "They sat there for four or five days with no food, no water, babies getting raped in the bathrooms, there were murders, nobody was doing anything for these people. And we just drove right in, really disgraceful. I don't want to get too fired up with the rhetoric, but some blame needs to be placed somewhere."


Monday, September 05, 2005

Deadly Lesson

Krugman spells it out in his latest column. Considering the antipathy that the Republicans feel toward any governmental action, we should hardly be surprised that the government was less than effective in the aftermath of Katrina:
Each day since Katrina brings more evidence of the lethal ineptitude of federal officials. I'm not letting state and local officials off the hook, but federal officials had access to resources that could have made all the difference, but were never mobilized.

Here's one of many examples: The Chicago Tribune reports that the U.S.S. Bataan, equipped with six operating rooms, hundreds of hospital beds and the ability to produce 100,000 gallons of fresh water a day, has been sitting off the Gulf Coast since last Monday - without patients.

Experts say that the first 72 hours after a natural disaster are the crucial window during which prompt action can save many lives. Yet action after Katrina was anything but prompt. Newsweek reports that a "strange paralysis" set in among Bush administration officials, who debated lines of authority while thousands died.
The administration has always tried to treat 9/11 purely as a lesson about good versus evil. But disasters must be coped with, even if they aren't caused by evildoers. Now we have another deadly lesson in why we need an effective government, and why dedicated public servants deserve our respect. Will we listen?


Sunday, September 04, 2005

Funny How the Same People Always Win

Halliburton, e. g.:
The US Navy asked Halliburton to repair naval facilities damaged by Hurricane Katrina, the Houston Chronicle reported today. The work was assigned to Halliburton's KBR subsidiary under the Navy's $500 million CONCAP contract awarded to KBR in 2001 and renewed in 2004. The repairs will take place in Louisiana and Mississippi.


This Horror Was Planned

You want to see what class warfare is about? Just look to New Orleans:
A July 24, 2005 article in the New Orleans Times Picayune (not available online) reveals just how unprepared officials were for a hurricane, especially as it affected the city's poor, RAW STORY has learned. The first sentence alone reveals how little support the city expected to have for the poor in the event of a disaster, saying, "City, state and federal emergency officials are preparing to give the poorest of New Orleans' poor a historically blunt message: In the event of a major hurricane, you're on your own."


Food vs. Photo Op

Guess which wins:
Three tons of food ready for delivery by air to refugees in St. Bernard Parish and on Algiers Point sat on the Crescent City Connection bridge Friday afternoon as air traffic was halted because of President Bush’s visit to New Orleans, officials said.

The provisions, secured by U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-Napoleonville, and state Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom, baked in the afternoon sun as Bush surveyed damage across southeast Louisiana five days after Katrina made landfall as a Category 4 storm, said Melancon’s chief of staff, Casey O’Shea.

“We had arrangements to airlift food by helicopter to these folks, and now the food is sitting in trucks because they won’t let helicopters fly,” O’Shea said Friday afternoon.


Landrieu As Appalled As She Needs to Be

Good for her:
Sen. Landrieu was on This Week and brought George on a helicopter tour of her the damage...

Landrieu: "If one person criticises them or says one more thing including the President of the US, he will be hearing from me. One more word about it after this show airs and I might likely punch him, literally"

She burst into tears as she looked at a single crane working to help repair the levees...

Landrieu..."The President could have funded it, he cut it out of the budget. Is that the most pitiful sight you have ever seen in your life?-One little crane."


Tinpot Dictator Has a Tin Ear

Just a bit ago, I saw a report that Bush is promising that the New Orleans refugees will be receiving a "tidal wave of goodwill."

Bush, you need either to shut up or fire your entire speechwriting staff.

Can you imagine a worse metaphor for this situation?


Charity Gap

The messages to the British are rather mixed.

Reported in The Telegraph:
An urgent appeal to help fund the Hurricane Katrina relief effort has been launched as a charity pleaded with Britons to pledge money.

The British Red Cross hopes to help aid workers in America continue work to provide meals and shelter to the thousands made homeless as a result of the devastation.

It has already sent 10 disaster experts to the region to assist with efforts to tend to the injured and needy, but now needs funds to continue the work.

Sir Nicholas Young, chief executive of the British Red Cross, said: "Katrina devastated an area the size of Great Britain.
"Lives have been shattered and livelihoods lost. We are doing all that we can to help our sister organisation the American Red Cross meet people's immediate needs.

"We have already sent logisticians to help co-ordinate the Red Cross relief effort. Now we are asking the British public to help people who are unable to help themselves by giving to our appeal.

America's message to Britons who happened to be in New Orleans:
British families trapped in New Orleans last night claimed that US authorities had refused to evacuate them as Hurricane Katrina approached the city.

Although assistance was offered to US residents, British nationals were told they would have to fend for themselves. According to those who remain stranded in the stricken city, police had visited hotels and guest houses on the eve of the hurricane offering to evacuate Americans, but not Britons.

The order meant UK holidaymakers without cars were left helpless in the face of the hurricane. Some have been trapped in hotels and guest houses since the hurricane struck at 7am local time last Monday.

One family from Liverpool, trapped in a flooded section of the city, told relatives yesterday of their bewilderment when they realised US citizens would be offered preferential treatment.

Gerrard Scott, 35, spoke to his brother Peter from the Ramada Hotel in New Orleans where he has been stranded without assistance with wife, Sandra, 38, and seven-year-old son Ronan for the past six days. 'Those that didn't fit their criteria were told to help themselves. The police said they were evacuating Americans, and took away the majority.

'The British who were left all thought the police would come back, but nobody has. They have just been left,' said Peter Scott last night. Among the 30 or so people still inside the Ramada Hotel is a woman recovering from breast cancer who had been confined to a hotel room by herself because of fears over her immune system.

Last night Peter Scott described how the family survived by locking themselves inside a tiny windowless bathroom on the fifth floor of the Ramada. 'They were lucky that it was a substantial hotel and that they were quite high up,' said Scott.


New Orleans: Combat Zone, Little Somalia

Considering the widespread awareness of the racism involved both in the way this disaster played out and in the way it has been reported, the general might have chosen his words a bit more carefully:
Combat operations are underway on the streets “to take this city back” in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

“This place is going to look like Little Somalia,” Brig. Gen. Gary Jones, commander of the Louisiana National Guard’s Joint Task Force told Army Times Friday as hundreds of armed troops under his charge prepared to launch a massive citywide security mission from a staging area outside the Louisiana Superdome. “We’re going to go out and take this city back. This will be a combat operation to get this city under control.”



Atrios reports the words of Jefferston Parish President Aaron Broussard:
Sir, they were told like me. Every single day. The cavalry is coming. On the federal level. The cavalry is coming. The cavalry is coming. The cavalry is coming. I have just begun to hear the hooves of the cavalry. The cavalry is still not here yet, but I have begun to hear the hooves and were almost a week out. Three quick examples.

We had Wal-mart deliver three trucks of water. Trailer trucks of water. Fema turned them back, said we didn't need them. This was a week go. We had 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel on a coast guard vessel docked in my parish. The coast guard said come get the fuel right way. When we got there with our trucks, they got a word, FEMA says don't give you the fuel. Yesterday, yesterday, fema comes in and cuts all our emergency communications lines. They cut them without notice. Our sheriff, Harry Lee, goes back in. he reconnects the line. He posts armed guards said no one is getting near these lines.


Katrina and Critical Thinking

Miriam has posted an essay on race, class, and Katrina over at No Aura.

Read it here.