Friday, September 09, 2005
Bush Hides New Orleans Dead; Just as he hides the Dead in Iraq.
Journalist Groups Protest FEMA Ban on Photos of Dead
Editor & Publisher
NEW YORK - Forced to defend what some critics consider its slow response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said on Tuesday it does not want the news media to take photographs of the dead as they are recovered from New Orleans.
FEMA, which is leading the rescue efforts, rejected requests from journalists to accompany rescue boats as they went out to search for storm victims, Reuters reported.
A FEMA spokeswoman told the wire service that space was needed on the rescue boats and assured Reuters that "the recovery of the victims is being treated with dignity and the utmost respect."
"We have requested that no photographs of the deceased be made by the media," the spokeswoman told Reuters via e-mail.
On Wednesday, journalist groups protested the move.
"It's impossible for me to imagine how you report a story whose subject is death without allowing the public to see images of the subject of the story," Larry Siems of the PEN American Center told Reuters.
Rebecca Daugherty of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press said: "The notion that, when there's very little information from FEMA, that they would even spend the time to be concerned about whether the reporting effort is up to its standards of taste is simply mind-boggling. You cannot report on the disaster and give the public a realistic idea of how horrible it is if you don't see that there are bodies as well."
FEMA's policy of excluding media from recovery expeditions in New Orleans is "an invitation to chaos," Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, a part of Columbia University's journalism school, told Reuters.
"This is about managing images and not public taste or human dignity," Rosenstiel said. He said FEMA's refusal to take journalists along on recovery missions meant that media workers would go on their own.
Rosenstiel also noted that U.S. media, especially U.S. television outlets, are generally reluctant to show corpses.
"By and large, American television is the most sanitized television in the world," he said. "They are less likely to show bodies, they are less likely to show graphic images of the dead than any television in the world."
There is also a question of what the American PEN Center's Siems called "international equity," noting that American news outlets cover stories around the world showing the effects of natural disasters and wars in graphic detail.
But Mark Tapscott, a former editor at the Washington Times newspaper who now deals with media issues at the Heritage Foundation, said the FEMA decision did not amount to censorship. (Editor's Note: The Heritage Foundation is a Right Wing Think Tank full of hacks.)
"Let's not make a common decency issue into a censorship issue," Tapscott told Reuters. "Nobody wants to wake up in the morning and see their dead uncle on the front page. That's just common decency."
Editor's Note: Tapscott is full of crap. Censorship is govenment telling the Free Press what not to publish. This from the same asshole who tells us that the "Marketplace" should determine everything, unless it's damaging to the Bush Administration. The media could easily hide actual identities when publishing pictures. The truth is that the Bush Administration is in Damage Control mode, and they know that actual evidence of death will hurt their beloved furer Bushie.
In case you right wingers forgot: Congress shall make no law
respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press
; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
And you wonder why we call you Nazi's.
Affirmative Action for Republicans: No Experience Necessary, Political Loyalty Only Requirement for Top Government Jobs.
Report: FEMA chief’s bio overstates experience
City that hired him says he was ‘more like an intern,’ Time reports
Updated: 8:32 a.m. ET Sept. 9, 2005
WASHINGTON - Top U.S. disaster official Michael Brown, under fire over the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, cited prior emergency-management experience in an official biography but his duties were “more like an intern,” Time magazine reported.
Brown's biography on the Federal Emergency Management Agency Web site says he had once served as an "assistant city manager with emergency services oversight," and a White House news release in 2001 said Brown had worked for the city of Edmond, Okla., in the 1970s "overseeing the emergency-services division."
However, a city spokeswoman told the magazine Brown had actually worked as "an assistant to the city manager."
"The assistant is more like an intern," Claudia Deakins told the magazine. "Department heads did not report to him." Time posted the article on its Web site late on Thursday.FEMA responds
In response to the Time report, FEMA issued a statement that took issue with elements related to an unofficial biography, and described his job in Edmond as "assistant to the city manager."
Brown "remains focused on helping Americans through the worst natural disaster in history," FEMA said.
Brown, a lawyer, was appointed as FEMA's general counsel in 2001 and became head of the agency in 2003. The work in Edmond is the only previous disaster-related experience cited in the biographies. Brown served as commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association before taking the FEMA job.
U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat, had cited Brown's Edmond experience as "particularly useful" for FEMA during a hearing in 2002.
Critics, including some Republicans, have blasted Brown for delays and missteps in the federal government's response to Katrina's deadly and devastating assault on the Gulf Coast last week. Some have demanded his ouster.
Bush last week gave Brown a word of support, saying "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."
This week, Bush put the U.S. Coast Guard's chief of staff in charge of the federal recovery effort in New Orleans and gave Vice President Dick Cheney the job of cutting through bureaucratic delays.Other FEMA officials
The Washington Post reported on Friday that five of eight top FEMA officials had come to their jobs with virtually no experience in handling disasters. The agency's top three leaders, including Brown, had ties to Bush's 2000 presidential campaign or the White House advance operation.
Former Edmond city manager Bill Dashner recalled for Time that Brown had worked for him as an administrative assistant while attending Central State University.
"Mike used to handle a lot of details. Every now and again I'd ask him to write me a speech. He was very loyal. He was always on time. He always had on a suit and a starched white shirt," Dashner told Time.
Edmond's population is about 70,000.
Editor's Note: No wonder Republicans think government doesn't work.
Thursday, September 08, 2005
I couldn't have said it better myself.
Mexico sends first-ever aid convoy to U.S.
Food, supplies, doctors come north in gesture fraught with symbolism, irony
The Associated Press
Updated: 12:51 p.m. ET Sept. 8, 2005
LAREDO, Texas - A Mexican army convoy crossed into the United States on Thursday to bring aid to hurricane victims, becoming the first Mexican military unit to operate on U.S. soil since 1846.
The 45-vehicle convoy was carrying water treatment plants and mobile kitchens to San Antonio, where the soldiers apparently planned to feed and provide other help for evacuees from the New Orleans area.
The first green trucks, with Mexican flags attached to the sides, crossed the international bridge at Laredo at about 8:15 a.m.
The Mexican government was already planning another 12-vehicle aid convoy for this week. It has sent a Mexican navy ship toward the Mississippi coast with rescue vehicles and helicopters.
Radio talk shows and newspapers in Mexico buzzed with excitement over news that this country, long on the receiving end of U.S. disaster relief, was sending a hurricane aid convoy north.
The mayor of New Orleans has said thousands may have died from Hurricane Katrina, which struck the U.S. Gulf of Mexico coast Aug. 29. Hundreds of thousands have been displaced.
‘High symbolic content’
Mexico has sent disaster relief aid missions to other Latin American nations, but not to the United States. In 1846, Mexican troops briefly advanced just north of the Rio Grande in Texas, which had then recently joined the United States.
Mexico, however, did not then recognize the Rio Grande as the U.S. border. The two countries quickly became mired in the Mexican-American War, which led to the loss of half of Mexico's territory in 1848.
The convoy has “a very high symbolic content,” said Javier Oliva, a political scientist at Mexico’s National Autonomous University. “This is a very sensitive subject, for historic and political reasons.”
Large Mexican flags were taped to many of the 35 olive-green Mexican Army trucks and tractor trailers as they rumbled northward toward the border Wednesday.
The convoy includes two mobile kitchens that can feed 7,000 people a day, three flatbed trucks carrying mobile water-treatment plants and 15 trailers of bottled water, blankets and applesauce. The 195 Mexicans taking part include military engineers, doctors and nurses.
“This is the first time that the United States has accepted a military mission from Mexico” for such work, said Javier Ibarrola, a newspaper columnist who covers military affairs in Mexico.
The relief mission was controversial for some Mexican lawmakers, who said the president should have sought Senate approval before sending troops abroad. But the administration of President Vicente Fox said no such approval was needed for aid missions. But it nevertheless later asked permission and the Senate approved it.
Enough. It's Over.
Thu Sep 8th, 2005 at 10:35:22 PDT
"The bottom line is that despite the fact the president was strapped with two governors who bungled this crisis badly, in the end it is the president who sends in the National Guard and FEMA relief. The president's suggestion that the size of this storm caught all by surprise just doesn't get it. His administration was 48 hours late sending in the National Guard and poor Americans got raped and killed because of those mistakes."
-- Joe Scarborough, MSNBC
When Joe Scarborough and ultraconservative Family Research Council head Tony Perkins are on television discussing the government's failed response to the Katrina disaster... when Tucker Carlson is wading through storm waters with a dazed expression but an odd, new fire in his eyes... when Michelle Malkin takes time out from thoroughly out-frothing has-been Ann Coulter in order to call for FEMA head Michael Brown to be fired... I'm sorry, but the administration spin is spun. It's over. I'm not saying well-funded hacks won't be back with another angle tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day, but when even partisans like that are calling you out, your spin isn't so much "tough" as just pathetic and an embarrassment to your country. For once in Bush's sheltered, spoonfed existence, he needs to put Karl Rove and the political machine of his government in a corner for a few days, and get around to doing some actual governing.
Everybody recognizes the delayed and ineffectual Katrina response as a massive failure of government. Everybody, sans a very few straggling and lonely pundits and bloggers for whom Bush will never, ever topple from his gilded pedestal. (And while those selected pundits are oft-used for their pure circus value, it's not like they had any broad credibility to start out with -- a hack is a hack.)
Do the state and local authorities share some blame? I'm sure they do, and we need to find out. But now-gutted FEMA and Homeland Security, which apparently have become nothing more than dumping ground for Bush-Cheney campaign hacks needing paychecks, managed to bungle the national response so utterly that, for several critical days, it simply was non-existent. Yes, even in Republican-run Mississippi. Yes, even in the Louisiana parishes that were not flooded by the New Orleans levee breaks.
And yes, the President and his administration has now tried to bluster and blame-game their way through that horrific response, once they figured out the deaths were costing them polling points, proving once again that for this White House, image trumps actual government every day of the week. Tom DeLay has yanked his noose around the ostensible Republican "leadership" to warn against investigation, proving once again that there is literally no number of American deaths -- even when worst fears put the numbers in the tens of thousands -- which Tom DeLay finds important enough to act upon.
The administration said it was keeping us safe from terrorist attacks, or at least had a plan for responding to them; turns out, it can't even respond to disasters that have been broadly foreseen, and which come with days of prior warning. We need to find what's wrong, and fix it. Immediately.
That's only a "partisan" issue if you truly care about your party more than your country.
Which, as it turns out, some people do. And they're sticking out like sore thumbs right now.
Only in Bushworld: Navy Pilots Who Rescued Victims Are Reprimanded
September 7, 2005
By DAVID S. CLOUD -- NEW YORK TIMES
PENSACOLA, Fla., Sept. 6 - Two Navy helicopter pilots and their crews returned from New Orleans on Aug. 30 expecting to be greeted as lifesavers after ferrying more than 100 hurricane victims to safety.
Instead, their superiors chided the pilots, Lt. David Shand and Lt. Matt Udkow, at a meeting the next morning for rescuing civilians when their assignment that day had been to deliver food and water to military installations along the Gulf Coast.
"I felt it was a great day because we resupplied the people we needed to and we rescued people, too," Lieutenant Udkow said. But the air operations commander at Pensacola Naval Air Station "reminded us that the logistical mission needed to be our area of focus."
The episode illustrates how the rescue effort in the days immediately after Hurricane Katrina had to compete with the military's other, more mundane logistical needs.
Only in recent days, after the federal response to the disaster has come to be seen as inadequate, have large numbers of troops and dozens of helicopters, trucks and other equipment been poured into to the effort. Early on, the military rescue operations were smaller, often depending on the initiative of individuals like Lieutenants Shand and Udkow.
The two lieutenants were each piloting a Navy H-3 helicopter - a type often used in rescue operations as well as transport and other missions - on that Tuesday afternoon, delivering emergency food, water and other supplies to Stennis Space Center, a federal facility near the Mississippi coast. The storm had cut off electricity and water to the center, and the two helicopters were supposed to drop their loads and return to Pensacola, their home base, said Cmdr. Michael Holdener, Pensacola's air operations chief.
"Their orders were to go and deliver water and parts and to come back," Commander Holdener said.
But as the two helicopters were heading back home, the crews picked up a radio transmission from the Coast Guard saying helicopters were needed near the University of New Orleans to help with rescue efforts, the two pilots said.
Out of range for direct radio communication with Pensacola, more than 100 miles to the east, the pilots said, they decided to respond and turned their helicopters around, diverting from their mission without getting permission from their home base. Within minutes, they were over New Orleans.
"We're not technically a search-and-rescue unit, but we're trained to do search and rescue," said Lieutenant Shand, a 17-year Navy veteran.
Flying over Biloxi and Gulfport and other areas of Mississippi, they could see rescue personnel on the ground, Lieutenant Udkow said, but he noticed that there were few rescue units around the flooded city of New Orleans, on the ground or in the air. "It was shocking," he said.
Seeing people on the roofs of houses waving to him, Lieutenant Udkow headed in their direction. Hovering over power lines, his crew dropped a basket to pick up two residents at a time. He took them to Lakefront Airport, where local emergency medical teams had established a makeshift medical center.
Meanwhile, Lieutenant Shand landed his helicopter on the roof of an apartment building, where more than a dozen people were marooned. Women and children were loaded first aboard the helicopter and ferried to the airport, he said.
Returning to pick up the rest, the crew learned that two blind residents had not been able to climb up through the attic to the roof and were still in the building. Two crew members entered the darkened building to find the men, and led them to the roof and into the helicopter, Lieutenant Shand said.
Recalling the rescues in an interview, he became so emotional that he had to stop and compose himself. At one point, he said, he executed a tricky landing at a highway overpass, where more than 35 people were marooned.
Lieutenant Udkow said that he saw few other rescue helicopters in New Orleans that day. The toughest part, he said, was seeing so many people imploring him to pick them up and having to leave some.
"I would be looking at a family of two on one roof and maybe a family of six on another roof, and I would have to make a decision who to rescue," he said. "It wasn't easy."
While refueling at a Coast Guard landing pad in early evening, Lieutenant Udkow said, he called Pensacola and received permission to continue rescues that evening. According to the pilots and other military officials, they rescued 110 people.
The next morning, though, the two crews were called to a meeting with Commander Holdener, who said he told them that while helping civilians was laudable, the lengthy rescue effort was an unacceptable diversion from their main mission of delivering supplies. With only two helicopters available at Pensacola to deliver supplies
, the base did not have enough to allow pilots to go on prolonged search and rescue operations. (Editor's Note: Why did they have only two helicopters available? IRAQ? AFGHANISTAN? Blank out...)
"We all want to be the guys who rescue people," Commander Holdener said. "But they were told we have other missions we have to do right now and that is not the priority."
The order to halt civilian relief efforts angered some helicopter crews. Lieutenant Udkow, who associates say was especially vocal about voicing his disagreement to superiors, was taken out of the squadron's flying rotation temporarily and assigned to oversee a temporary kennel established at Pensacola to hold pets of service members evacuated from the hurricane-damaged areas, two members of the unit said. Lieutenant Udkow denied that he had complained and said he did not view the kennel assignment as punishment.
Dozens of military aircraft are now conducting search and rescue missions over the affected areas. But privately some members of the Pensacola unit say the base's two available transport helicopters should have been allowed to do more to help civilian victims in the days after the storm hit, when large numbers of military helicopters had not reached the affected areas.
In protest, some members of the unit have stopped wearing a search and rescue patch on their sleeves that reads, "So Others May Live."
Republican Strategy: Make FEMA look bad so that they can PROVE the inefficiency of "Big Government."
Frustrated: Fire crews to hand out fliers for FEMA
By Lisa Rosetta
The Salt Lake Tribune
ATLANTA - Not long after some 1,000 firefighters sat down for eight hours of training, the whispering began: "What are we doing here?"
As New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin pleaded on national television for firefighters - his own are exhausted after working around the clock for a week - a battalion of highly trained men and women sat idle Sunday in a muggy Sheraton Hotel conference room in Atlanta.
Many of the firefighters, assembled from Utah and throughout the United States by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, thought they were going to be deployed as emergency workers.
Instead, they have learned they are going to be community-relations officers for FEMA, shuffled throughout the Gulf Coast region to disseminate fliers and a phone number: 1-800-621-FEMA.
On Monday, some firefighters stuck in the staging area at the Sheraton peeled off their FEMA-issued shirts and stuffed them in backpacks, saying they refuse to represent the federal agency.
Federal officials are unapologetic.
"I would go back and ask the firefighter to revisit his commitment to FEMA, to firefighting and to the citizens of this country," said FEMA spokeswoman Mary Hudak.
The firefighters - or at least the fire chiefs who assigned them to come to Atlanta - knew what the assignment would be, Hudak said.
"The initial call to action very specifically says we're looking for two-person fire teams to do community relations," she said. "So if there is a breakdown [in communication], it was likely in their own departments."
One fire chief from Texas agreed that the call was clear to work as community-relations officers. But he wonders why the 1,400 firefighters FEMA attracted to Atlanta aren't being put to better use. He also questioned why the U.S. Department of Homeland Security - of which FEMA is a part - has not responded better to the disaster.
The firefighters, several of whom are from Utah, were told to bring backpacks, sleeping bags, first-aid kits and Meals Ready to Eat. They were told to prepare for "austere conditions." Many of them came with awkward fire gear and expected to wade in floodwaters, sift through rubble and save lives.
"They've got people here who are search-and-rescue certified, paramedics, haz-mat certified," said a Texas firefighter. "We're sitting in here having a sexual-harassment class while there are still [victims] in Louisiana who haven't been contacted yet."
The firefighter, who has encouraged his superiors back home not to send any more volunteers for now, declined to give his name because FEMA has warned them not to talk to reporters.
On Monday, two firefighters from South Jordan and two from Layton headed for San Antonio to help hurricane evacuees there. Four firefighters from Roy awaited their marching orders, crossing their fingers that they would get to do rescue and recovery work, rather than paperwork.
"A lot of people are bickering because there are rumors they'll just be handing out fliers," said Roy firefighter Logan Layne, adding that his squad hopes to be in the thick of the action. "But we'll do anything. We'll do whatever they need us to do."
While FEMA's community-relations job may be an important one - displaced hurricane victims need basic services and a variety of resources - it may be a job best suited for someone else, say firefighters assembled at the Sheraton.
"It's a misallocation of resources. Completely," said the Texas firefighter.
"It's just an under-utilization of very talented people," said South Salt Lake Fire Chief Steve Foote, who sent a team of firefighters to Atlanta. "I was hoping once they saw the level of people . . . they would shift gears a little bit."
Foote said his crews would be better used doing the jobs they are trained to do.
But Louis H. Botta, a coordinating officer for FEMA, said sending out firefighters on community relations makes sense. They already have had background checks and meet the qualifications to be sworn as a federal employee. They have medical training that will prove invaluable as they come across hurricane victims in the field.
A firefighter from California said he feels ill prepared to even carry out the job FEMA has assigned him. In the field, Hurricane Katrina victims will approach him with questions about everything from insurance claims to financial assistance.
"My only answer to them is, '1-800-621-FEMA,' " he said. "I'm not used to not being in the know."
Roy Fire Chief Jon Ritchie said his crews would be a "little frustrated" if they were assigned to hand out phone numbers at an evacuee center in Texas rather than find and treat victims of the disaster.
Also of concern to some of the firefighters is the cost borne by their municipalities in the wake of their absence. Cities are picking up the tab to fill the firefighters' vacancies while they work 30 days for the federal government.
"There are all of these guys with all of this training and we're sending them out to hand out a phone number," an Oregon firefighter said. "They [the hurricane victims] are screaming for help and this day [of FEMA training] was a waste."
Firefighters say they want to brave the heat, the debris-littered roads, the poisonous cottonmouth snakes and fire ants and travel into pockets of Louisiana where many people have yet to receive emergency aid.
But as specific orders began arriving to the firefighters in Atlanta, a team of 50 Monday morning quickly was ushered onto a flight headed for Louisiana. The crew's first assignment: to stand beside President Bush as he tours devastated areas.
Editor's Note: Remember, FEMA didn't have all this trouble last year when 4 hurricanes in two months devastated Florida. Of course this was two months before the election.
We Know What You Did This Summer
September 7, 2005
By Nancy Greggs from Democratic Underground
In this past week of tragedy, anguish and death, Bush & Co. couldn't care less about the people who were living in hell. Well, that's no surprise to most of us. Been there, seen that. Just like they don't care about the soldiers they've sent to die in Iraq, or the innocent civilians there who have had their country turned upside down to the point of civil war. Just like they don't care about the millions of Americans they've forced into poverty, the people who have lost their jobs due to their policies.
So tell us something we didn't already know.
But this week, there was a more than obvious difference to their indifference. In a definite departure from the norm, they didn't even bother to fake it.
They didn't start the week off with photo-ops of the president hopping onto Air Force One, wearing that well-rehearsed look of concern on his face, winging his way back to Washington to "‘take charge." There were no press conferences held by Condi, or Dick, or Rummy, within hours of the disaster, assuring the citizenry that they were on the job.
No, this week there was something else in the photo-op line-up. Bush strumming a guitar with a country singer, Condi taking in a Broadway musical comedy, good ol' boy Georgie sharing a birthday cake with McCain; photographs of people enjoying themselves while American citizens, the ones they've sworn so often to protect from any catastrophe, went without food, without water, without help – without hope.
And make no mistake about it. This was not the usual paparazzi fare, taken from behind a garbage can in an alley somewhere, the subjects unknowingly caught in the act. No, these were frame-worthy photographs of our dear president, the kind you'd have autographed and send to your Grandma, to be hung with reverence and respect in the front parlour. Too bad Grandma will never appreciate the gesture. You see, she was left to die, slumped in a wheelchair full of her own excrement, waiting for help that, for her and thousands of others, never came.
One might think that some kind of contagious form of stupidity had spread through the Administration and its minions, some form of temporary amnesia that caused them to forget the PR angle, forget the political fallout, forget the impact these photographs would have on Americans across the nation, and on people around the world.
But I, for one, am not buying the stupidity-cum-amnesia theory. These people are too smart. These are the folks who managed to smear a decorated war hero while convincing American voters that a bumbling draft-dodger was the obvious choice for commander-in-chief. They're the folks that came up with a never-ending list of reasons-du-jour for going into Iraq. These are the professional Rapunzels who, given a minute's notice, can spin even the filthiest straw into gold.
I don't doubt for a second that there were advisors, albeit of a lesser class than Cabinet members and others of the inner circle, who stated the obvious: "Mr. President, playing the guitar and laughing, while people in Mississippi are dying, might not sit too well with the public," or, "Ms. Rice, maybe you should shop for shoes another time." Maybe even a PR-savvy underling who saw an opportunity to undo those plummeting poll numbers: "Mr. President, people might forget this whole Cindy Sheehan thing if they see you in Louisiana, with your sleeves rolled up, acting like you give a shit."
And you can also picture, without too much effort, the seasoned professional spinmeisters assuring the naïve and uninitiated that everything was under control, reminding them that there are dozens of people who they could blame after-the-fact, like the local authorities, the military – hell, even the victims themselves.
Why this lack of concern about how the antics of the past seven days would play in the press? It's a complex question with a simple answer: Because this administration is now arrogant enough to believe that no matter what they do, no matter how crassly they act, no matter how inhumane their demeanour, the American public will conveniently forget, or, out of unquestioned loyalty, will silently and deliberately look the other way.
Even after the outrage of ordinary, caring citizens drove Bush to the disaster site and Condi back to Washington, they still couldn't be bothered to play their parts with even a modicum of propriety. Bush stood literally feet away from sick and dying evacuees, and joked about his youthful escapades in NOLA back in the day. Condi arrived at a rescue centre, dressed in her designer suit – white, of course, in dramatic contrast to the people surrounding her, who had just spent a week living in filth and squalor – smilingly grasping the hand of a wheelchair-bound survivor, holding her pose for several seconds as the photographers did their work, ever mindful of how bad she can look in one of those fuzzy, out-of-focus shots.
Well, here's the scoop, Mr. Vacation Boy, Ms. Spamalot, Mr. Gone Fishin' VP: America noticed.
America watched closely as you smiled into the camera, as closely as they watched people dying of dehydration and lack of food. America watched, dumbfounded, as you partied and shopped for footwear, as you posed for the TV cameras and congratulated yourselves on a job well done. America watched as their fellow citizens begged for a drop of water for a dying neighbour, or a mouthful of food for a hungry child.
And for once, God be praised, even your own didn't look the other way. Even the media, who have ignored your posturing for too long, turned the spotlight on your utter indifference. Even your most loyal network cheerleaders publicly shook their heads in disgust.
In the weeks and months to come, as the bodies of the people you let die are slowly retrieved and properly laid to rest, we'll hear your excuses, we'll watch your finger-pointing, we'll listen to your well-practiced speeches about how grief-stricken you are.
But there are those photographs. Your own inhumanity, captured forever in photographic splendour, etched forever on the minds and hearts of all Americans, a Kodak moment that all the spinmeisters in the world will never, ever be able to undo.
Macabre Reminder: The Corpse on Union Street
September 8, 2005
By DAN BARRY -- NEW YORK TIMES
NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 7 - In the downtown business district here, on a dry stretch of Union Street, past the Omni Bank automated teller machine, across from a parking garage offering "early bird" rates: a corpse. Its feet jut from a damp blue tarp. Its knees rise in rigor mortis.
Six National Guardsmen walked up to it on Tuesday afternoon and two blessed themselves with the sign of the cross. One soldier took a parting snapshot like some visiting conventioneer, and they walked away. New Orleans, September 2005.
Hours passed, the dusk of curfew crept, the body remained. A Louisiana state trooper around the corner knew all about it: murder victim, bludgeoned, one of several in that area. The police marked it with traffic cones maybe four days ago, he said, and then he joked that if you wanted to kill someone here, this was a good time.
Night came, then this morning, then noon, and another sun beat down on a dead son of the Crescent City.
That a corpse lies on Union Street may not shock; in the wake of last week's hurricane, there are surely hundreds, probably thousands. What is remarkable is that on a downtown street in a major American city, a corpse can decompose for days, like carrion, and that is acceptable.
Welcome to New Orleans in the post-apocalypse, half baked and half deluged: pestilent, eerie, unnaturally quiet.
Scraggly residents emerge from waterlogged wood to say strange things, and then return into the rot. Cars drive the wrong way on the Interstate and no one cares. Fires burn, dogs scavenge, and old signs from les bons temps have been replaced with hand-scrawled threats that looters will be shot dead.
The incomprehensible has become so routine here that it tends to lull you into acceptance. On Sunday, for example, several soldiers on Jefferson Highway had guns aimed at the heads of several prostrate men suspected of breaking into an electronics store.
A car pulled right up to this tense scene and the driver leaned out his window to ask a soldier a question: "Hey, how do you get to the interstate?"
Maybe the slow acquiescence to the ghastly here - not in Baghdad, not in Rwanda, here - is rooted in the intensive news coverage of the hurricane's aftermath: floating bodies and obliterated towns equal old news. Maybe the concerns of the living far outweigh the dignity of a corpse on Union Street. Or maybe the nation is numb with post-traumatic shock.
Wandering New Orleans this week, away from news conferences and search-and-rescue squads, has granted haunting glimpses of the past, present and future, with the rare comfort found in, say, the white sheet that flaps, not in surrender but as a vow, at the corner of Poydras Street and St. Charles Avenue.
"We Shall Survive," it says, as though wishing past the battalions of bulldozers that will one day come to knock down water-corrupted neighborhoods and rearrange the Louisiana mud for the infrastructure of an altogether different New Orleans.
Here, then, the New Orleans of today, where open fire hydrants gush the last thing needed on these streets; where one of the many gag-inducing smells - that of rancid meat - is better than MapQuest in pinpointing the presence of a market; and where images of irony beg to be noticed.
The Mardi Gras beads imbedded in mud by a soldier's boot print. The "take-away" signs outside restaurants taken away. The corner kiosk shouting the Aug. 28 headline of New Orleans's Times-Picayune: "Katrina Takes Aim."
Rush hour in downtown now means pickups carrying gun-carrying men in sunglasses, S.U.V.'s loaded with out-of-town reporters hungry for action, and the occasional tank. About the only ones commuting by bus are dull-eyed suspects shuffling two-by-two from the bus-and-train terminal, which is now a makeshift jail.
Maybe some of them had helped to kick in the portal to the Williams Super Market in the once-desirable Garden District. And who could blame them if all they wanted was food in those first desperate days? The interlopers took the water, beer, cigarettes and snack food. They did not take the wine or the New Orleans postcards.
On the other side of downtown across Canal Street in the French Quarter, the most raucous and most unreal of American avenues is now little more than an empty alley with balconies.
The absence of sweetly blown jazz, of someone cooing "ma chère," of men sporting convention nametags and emitting forced guffaws - the absence of us - assaults the senses more than any smell.
Past the famous Cafe du Monde, where a slight breeze twirls the overhead fans for no one, past the statue of Joan of Arc gleaming gold, a man emerges from nothing on Royal Street. He is asked, "Where's St. Bernard Avenue?"
"Where's the ice?" he asks in return, eyes narrowed in menace. "Where's the ice? St. Bernard's is that way, but where's the ice?"
In Bywater and the surrounding neighborhoods, the severely damaged streets bear the names of saints who could not protect them. Whatever nature spared, human nature stepped up to provide a kind of democracy in destruction.
At the Whitney National Bank on St. Claude Avenue, diamond-like bits of glass spill from the crushed door, offering a view of the complementary coffee table. A large woman named Phoebe Au - "Pronounced 'Awe,' " she says - materializes to report that men had smashed it in with a truck. She fades into the neighborhood's broken brick, and a thin woman named Toni Miller materializes to correct the record.
"They used sledgehammers," she said.
Farther down St. Claude Avenue, where tanks rumble past a smoldering building, the roads are cluttered with vandalized city buses. The city parked them on the riverbank for the hurricane, after which some hoods took them for fare-free joy rides through lawless streets, and then discarded them.
On Clouet Street, where a days-old fire continues to burn where a warehouse once stood, a man on a bicycle wheels up through the smoke to introduce himself as Strangebone. The nights without power or water have been tough, especially since the police took away the gun he was carrying - "They beat me and threatened to kill me," he says - but there are benefits to this new world.
"You're able to see the stars," he says. "It's wonderful."
Today, law enforcement troops began lending muscle to Mayor C. Ray Nagin's vow to evacuate by force any residents too attached to their pieces of the toxic metropolis. They searched the streets for the likes of Strangebone, and that woman whose name sounds like Awe.
Meanwhile, back downtown, the shadows of another evening crept like spilled black water over someone's corpse.
California Legislators Approve Same-sex Marriage
By Joe Dignan and John Pomfret
The Washington Post
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The California Assembly voted yesterday to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry, making the state's Legislature the first in the nation to specifically approve same-sex marriages and handing a political hot potato to an already beleaguered Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
After a vehement floor debate in which legislators quoted the Pledge of Allegiance and accused each other of abusing moral principles, the Assembly voted 41-35 to pass the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, which recasts the definition of marriage as between "two persons," not between a man and a woman. The state Senate passed the bill last week.
"There are moments in the history of any movement when the corner is turned," said Geoff Kors, the executive director of Equality California, a gay-rights group. "This is it. This is the tipping point."
Advocates of the bill argued it fit into California's sense of itself as a trendsetter for the country.
In 1948, the California Supreme Court became the first state court to strike down a law prohibiting interracial marriage. And California in 1976 was among the first states to repeal sodomy statutes.
The bill's supporters compared the legislation to earlier civil-rights campaigns, including efforts to eradicate slavery and give women the right to vote.
"Do what we know is in our hearts," said the bill's sponsor, San Francisco Democrat Mark Leno. "Make sure all California families will have the same protection under the law."
But opponents, including Republican conservatives, have argued that the law must be stopped in the nation's most populous state because it constitutes an assault on the sanctity of the family.
"Marriage should be between a man and a woman, end of story. Next issue," insisted Republican Assemblyman Dennis Mountjoy. "It's not about civil rights or personal rights, it's about acceptance. They want to be accepted as normal. They are not normal."
Opponents repeatedly cited the public's vote five years ago to approve Proposition 22, an initiative put on the ballot by gay-marriage opponents to keep California from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states or countries.
"History will record that you betrayed your constituents and their moral and ethical values," said Republican Assemblyman Jay La Suer.
Yesterday's vote amounted to more difficult news for Schwarzenegger, the Republican actor-turned-politician who roared into Sacramento in a recall election in 2003 promising fundamental change.
Schwarzenegger, who has taken on teachers, nurses and other state workers, has seen his popularity lag in recent months. A Field Poll of registered voters this month put the governor's approval rating at 36 percent, an all-time low.
If he vetoes the bill, Schwarzenegger will retain the support of his GOP base, which he will need in a special election he has called for November. But he could alienate many Democrats who voted for him and whose backing he still covets.
In the special election, Schwarzenegger is asking voters to grant him more budget-cutting power, to block gerrymandering by placing legislative redistricting in the hands of retired judges and to make public schoolteachers work five years instead of two before they win tenure.
"This puts Schwarzenegger on the hot seat," said Bruce Cain, professor of political science at University of California, Berkeley, who predicted the governor would veto the bill. "I think it's a slam-dunk that he's going to have to veto the bill and hope that the anger in the gay community doesn't spill over into other groups."
Other political strategists said yesterday's vote would force Schwarzenegger to parse his own personal mix of fiscal conservatism and liberal social views.
As a former Hollywood star, he hails from a milieu where gay men and women occupy key positions, and he has spoken glowingly about his friendships with people of all sexual orientations.
"I think the governor's going to be in a difficult position, because during the campaign his positions were ambiguous on the issue," said Arnold Steinberg, a political strategist generally for Republicans.
Schwarzenegger supports domestic partnerships but opposes same-sex marriage, a spokesman said.
The Legislature's move goes further than other states, such as Vermont and Connecticut, which have passed legislation allowing more strictly defined "civil unions."
And it differs from Massachusetts, the only state to grant full marriage rights to same-sex couples, because the Massachusetts' regulations were passed by order of the state's courts, which ruled a ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.
California is already one of the most gay-friendly states in the nation. Its domestic-partnership legislation grants same-sex couples most of the benefits of married couples except a few, such as the right to jointly file income-tax returns, the right to bring a foreign partner into the United States and the right to pass on Social Security benefits to a spouse.
More than 30,000 same-sex couples are registered in California as domestic partners.
Information about Proposition 22 and some lawmakers' comments were provided by The Associated Press.
In Other News
Chief Justice of the United States William Rehnquist joins the 40th President of the United States Ronald W. Reagan side by side in hell along with Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Thomas Jefferson, and Christopher Columbus.
IMPEACH BUSH AND CHERTOFF
House Democrats should and have a duty to file articles of impeachment against President Bush and Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff (whose department controls FEMA) because they allowed FEMA Director Michael "Brownie" Brown
- To run an agency even though he had no prior experience or expertise that qualified him (i.e. emergency management and disaster preparation)
- He allowed hundreds if not thousands to die from dehydration and heat exhaustion
- He failed to respond to Mayor Ray Nagin's call for federal assistance
- He denied knowing that people were dying at the Convention Center in New Orleans
Republicans say this is not the time for pointing the finger. This is exactly the time to point the finger because they hope that Americans forget how inept the Bush Administration has been in handling the worst natural disaster in American history and the worst federal management of a natural disaster in American history. The Constitution says that the House can impeach a President and other civil officers (i.e. Cabinet members) for high crimes and misdemeanors. Republicans believed that President Clinton's lying about sex met the constitutional requirements for impeachment. If that is the case, the Bush and Chertoff should be impeached unanimously in the House and convicted and removed from office unanimously in the Senate.
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
A Tribute: A Giant of a Man Died This Weekend. A man who had a profound impact on America for more than 40 Years.
Bob Denver, whose television roles as Gilligan, the wacky first mate in "Gilligan's Island," and Maynard G. Krebs, the beatnik with a bongo in "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis," were first hits, then cult classics, died on Friday in Winston-Salem, N.C. He was 70. He will be missed.
In other News, that Bastard William H. Rhenquist died on September 3, 2005. He won’t be missed.
Rehnquist went to Washington, D.C. to work as a law clerk for Justice Robert H. Jackson during the court's 1951–1952 terms. There, he wrote a memorandum arguing against school desegregation while the court was considering the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case. Rehnquist later claimed that the memo was meant to reflect Jackson's views and not his own.
Rehnquist’s memo, entitled “A Random Thought on the Segregation Cases,” defended the separate-but-equal doctrine embodied in the 1896 Supreme Court case of Plessy v. Ferguson. Rehnquist concluded that Plessy “was right and should be reaffirmed.”
(Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896) was a United States Supreme Court decision approving racial segregation in public facilities, and ruling that states could prohibit the use of public facilities by Blacks
When questioned about the memos by the Senate Judiciary Committee in both 1971 and 1986, Rehnquist blamed his defense of segregation on the late Justice Jackson, stating – under oath
– that his memo was meant to reflect the views of Justice Jackson. But Justice Jackson voted in Brown, along with a unanimous Court, to strike down school segregation.
According to historian Mark Tushnet, Justice Jackson’s longtime legal secretary called Rehnquist’s Senate testimony an attempt to “smear the reputation of a great justice.” Rehnquist later admitted to defending Plessy in arguments with fellow law clerks. He did not acknowledge that he committed perjury in front of the Judiciary Committee to get his Supreme Court job.
Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz has alleged that while at Stanford, Rehnquist engaged in publicly bigoted acts (such as goose-stepping and making the "Heil Hitler" salute in front of Jewish student dormitories).
Rehnquist also created a unique robe for himself as Chief Justice in 1994. It has four golden bars on each sleeve. In the past, Chief Justices had not dressed differently from any of the Associate Justices. Rehnquist's robe was modeled after a robe he had seen in a production of Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta Iolanthe. The costume that inspired Chief Justice Rehnquist, an acknowledged Gilbert and Sullivan fan, is worn by the Lord Chancellor.Only on Fox News…
. “Rehnquist, whose brand of conservatism pushed the court to the center…” These guys really are one bigfoot story away from the Weekly World News.
Lake George: Did Death in New Orleans happen because the citizens are mostly Democrats? Or because they are mostly Black?
True to form, the president’s hatchet man, Karl Rove, began executing a public relations effort over the weekend to shift blame for the administration’s failures in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina onto hard-pressed state and local officials in New Orleans and Louisiana. Although the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had been granted full authority to coordinate relief efforts and assistance prior to the disastrous hurricane, administration officials failed to effectively use their authority to provide swift and comprehensive relief efforts when it mattered most.
In a reflection of what has long been a hallmark of Mr. Rove's tough political style, the administration is also working to shift the blame away from the White House and toward officials of New Orleans and Louisiana who, as it happens, are Democrats.
"The way that emergency operations act under the law is the responsibility and the power, the authority, to order an evacuation rests with state and local officials," Mr. Chertoff said in his television interview. "The federal government comes in and supports those officials."
That line of argument was echoed throughout the day, in harsher language, by Republicans reflecting the White House line.
However, this line of argument contradicts the Administrations assertions prior to the Hurricane:
* The Bush administration took full responsibility for coordinating the rescue and relief efforts days before Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. The White House effort to shift the blame for the response to Katrina contradicts their public statements before the storm hit. An August 27 declaration on the White House website "authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts" The order specifies that "FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion
, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency." Jane Bullock, former FEMA chief of staff, said "The moment the president declared a federal disaster, it became a federal responsibility…The federal government took ownership over the response.
* Despite this clear authority, administration officials failed to properly execute their duties to protect and assist citizens in New Orleans and other areas. As levees broke, flood waters rose, and thousands of people became stranded in unsafe and unsanitary conditions, Bush administration officials were bickering about lines of authority and bureaucratic red tape. Although there were clear ways to get people out of New Orleans and provide medical and relief support for those left behind, DHS and FEMA failed in their basic duty to aid and assist victims of the hurricane.
* In a further slap to the face, President Bush and Karl Rove are trying to shift the blame for their own incompetence and negligence during this crisis. Bush and Rove are trying to claim now that state officials in Louisiana were "slow to call for outside help." The reality is that Louisiana state officials reached out to the federal government for assistance before the storm hit but got little in return. On August 27, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco sent a detailed letter to President Bush requesting assistance because "this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State and affected local governments, and that supplementary Federal assistance is necessary to save lives, protect property, public health, and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a disaster."
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
Hurricane Katrina-Our Experiences
Hurricane Katrina-Our Experiences
Larry Bradshaw, Lorrie Beth Slonsky
Two days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, the Walgreen's store at the corner of Royal and Iberville streets remained locked. The dairy display case was clearly visible through the widows. It was now 48 hours without electricity, running water, plumbing. The milk, yogurt, and cheeses were beginning to spoil in the 90-degree heat. The owners and managers had locked up the food, water, pampers, and prescriptions and fled the City. Outside Walgreen's windows, residents and tourists grew increasingly thirsty and hungry.
The much-promised federal, state and local aid never materialized and the windows at Walgreen's gave way to the looters. There was an alternative. The cops could have broken one small window and distributed the nuts, fruit juices, and bottle water in an organized and systematic manner. But they did not. Instead they spent hours playing cat and mouse, temporarily chasing away the looters.
We were finally airlifted out of New Orleans two days ago and arrived home yesterday (Saturday). We have yet to see any of the TV coverage or look at a newspaper. We are willing to guess that there were no video images or front-page pictures of European or affluent white tourists looting the Walgreen's in the French Quarter.
We also suspect the media will have been inundated with "hero" images of the National Guard, the troops and the police struggling to help the "victims" of the Hurricane. What you will not see, but what we witnessed,were the real heroes and sheroes of the hurricane relief effort: the working class of New Orleans. The maintenance workers who used a fork lift to carry the sick and disabled. The engineers, who rigged, nurtured and kept the generators running. The electricians who improvised thick extension cords stretching over blocks to share the little electricity we had in order to free cars stuck on rooftop parking lots. Nurses who took over for mechanical ventilators and spent many hours on end manually forcing air into the lungs of unconscious patients to keep them alive. Doormen who rescued folks stuck in elevators. Refinery workers who broke into boat yards, "stealing" boats to rescue their neighbors clinging to their roofs in flood waters. Mechanics who helped hot-wire any car that could be found to ferry people out of the City. And the food service workers who scoured the commercial kitchens improvising communal meals for hundreds of those stranded.
Most of these workers had lost their homes, and had not heard from members of their families, yet they stayed and provided the only infrastructure for the 20% of New Orleans that was not under water.
On Day 2, there were approximately 500 of us left in the hotels in the French Quarter. We were a mix of foreign tourists, conference attendees like ourselves, and locals who had checked into hotels for safety and shelter from Katrina. Some of us had cell phone contact with family and friends outside of New Orleans. We were repeatedly told that all sorts of resources including the National Guard and scores of buses were pouring in to the City. The buses and the other resources must have been invisible because none of us had seen them.
We decided we had to save ourselves. So we pooled our money and came up with $25,000 to have ten buses come and take us out of the City. Those who did not have the requisite $45.00 for a ticket were subsidized by those who did have extra money. We waited for 48 hours for the buses, spending the last 12 hours standing outside, sharing the limited water, food, and clothes we had. We created a priority boarding area for the sick, elderly and new born babies. We waited late into the night for the "imminent" arrival of the buses. The buses never arrived. We later learned that the minute the arrived to the City limits, they were commandeered by the military.
By day 4 our hotels had run out of fuel and water. Sanitation was dangerously abysmal. As the desperation and despair increased, street crime as well as water levels began to rise. The hotels turned us out and locked their doors, telling us that the "officials" told us to report to the convention center to wait for more buses. As we entered the center of the City, we finally encountered the National Guard. The Guards told us we would not be allowed into the Superdome as the City's primary shelter had descended into a humanitarian and health hellhole. The guards further told us that the City's only other shelter, the Convention Center, was also descending into chaos and squalor and that the police were not allowing anyone else in. Quite naturally, we asked, "If we can't go to the only 2 shelters in the City, what was our alternative?" The guards told us that that was our problem, and no they did not have extra water to give to us. This would be the start of our numerous encounters with callous and hostile "law enforcement".
We walked to the police command center at Harrah's on Canal Street and were told the same thing, that we were on our own, and no they did not have water to give us. We now numbered several hundred. We held a mass meeting to decide a course of action. We agreed to camp outside the police command post. We would be plainly visible to the media and would constitute a highly visible embarrassment to the City officials. The police told us that we could not stay. Regardless, we began to settle in and set up camp. In short order, the police commander came across the street to address our group. He told us he had a solution: we should walk to the Pontchartrain Expressway and cross the greater New Orleans Bridge where the police had buses lined up to take us out of the City. The crowed cheered and began to move. We called everyone back and explained to the commander that there had been lots of misinformation and wrong information and was he sure that there were buses waiting for us. The commander turned to the crowd and stated emphatically, "I swear to you that the buses are there."
We organized ourselves and the 200 of us set off for the bridge with great excitement and hope. As we marched pasted the convention center, many locals saw our determined and optimistic group and asked where we were headed. We told them about the great news. Families immediately grabbed their few belongings and quickly our numbers doubled and then doubled again. Babies in strollers now joined us, people using crutches, elderly clasping walkers and others people in wheelchairs. We marched the 2-3 miles to the freeway and up the steep incline to the Bridge. It now began to pour down rain, but it did not dampen our enthusiasm.
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. These were code words for if you are poor and black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River and you were not getting out of New Orleans.
Our small group retreated back down Highway 90 to seek shelter from the rain under an overpass. We debated our options and in the end decided to build an encampment in the middle of the Ponchartrain Expressway on the center divide, between the O'Keefe and Tchoupitoulas exits. We reasoned we would be visible to everyone, we would have some security being on an elevated freeway and we could wait and watch for the arrival of the yet to be seen buses.
All day long, we saw other families, individuals and groups make the same trip up the incline in an attempt to cross the bridge, only to be turned away. Some chased away with gunfire, others simply told no, others to be verbally berated and humiliated. Thousands of New Orleaners were prevented and prohibited from self-evacuating the City on foot. Meanwhile, the only two City shelters sank further into squalor and disrepair. The only way across the bridge was by vehicle. We saw workers stealing trucks, buses, moving vans, semi-trucks and any car that could be hotwired. All were packed with people trying to escape the misery New Orleans had become.
Our little encampment began to blossom. Someone stole a water delivery truck and brought it up to us. Let's hear it for looting! A mile or so down the freeway, an army truck lost a couple of pallets of C-rations on a tight turn. We ferried the food back to our camp in shopping carts. Now secure with the two necessities, food and water; cooperation, community, and creativity flowered. We organized a clean up and hung garbage bags from the rebar poles. We made beds from wood pallets and cardboard. We designated a storm drain as the bathroom and the kids built an elaborate enclosure for privacy out of plastic, broken umbrellas, and other scraps. We even organized a food recycling system where individuals could swap out parts of C-rations (applesauce for babies and candies for kids!).
This was a process we saw repeatedly in the aftermath of Katrina. When individuals had to fight to find food or water, it meant looking out for yourself only. You had to do whatever it took to find water for your kids or food for your parents. When these basic needs were met, people began to look out for each other, working together and constructing a community.
If the relief organizations had saturated the City with food and water in the first 2 or 3 days, the desperation, the frustration and the ugliness would not have set in.
Flush with the necessities, we offered food and water to passing families and individuals. Many decided to stay and join us. Our encampment grew to 80 or 90 people.
From a woman with a battery powered radio we learned that the media was talking about us. Up in full view on the freeway, every relief and news organizations saw us on their way into the City. Officials were being asked what they were going to do about all those families living up on the freeway? The officials responded they were going to take care of us. Some of us got a sinking feeling. "Taking care of us" had an ominous tone to it.
Unfortunately, our sinking feeling (along with the sinking City) was correct. Just as dusk set in, a Gretna Sheriff showed up, jumped out of his patrol vehicle, aimed his gun at our faces, screaming, "Get off the fucking freeway". A helicopter arrived and used the wind from its blades to blow away our flimsy structures. As we retreated, the sheriff loaded up his truck with our food and water.
Once again, at gunpoint, we were forced off the freeway. All the law enforcement agencies appeared threatened when we congregated or congealed into groups of 20 or more. In every congregation of "victims" they saw "mob" or "riot". We felt safety in numbers. Our "we must stay together" was impossible because the agencies would force us into small atomized groups.
In the pandemonium of having our camp raided and destroyed, we scattered once again. Reduced to a small group of 8 people, in the dark, we sought refuge in an abandoned school bus, under the freeway on Cilo Street. We were hiding from possible criminal elements but equally and definitely, we were hiding from the police and sheriffs with their martial law, curfew and shoot-to-kill policies.
The next days, our group of 8 walked most of the day, made contact with New Orleans Fire Department and were eventually airlifted out by an urban search and rescue team. We were dropped off near the airport and managed to catch a ride with the National Guard. The two young guardsmen apologized for the limited response of the Louisiana guards. They explained that a large section of their unit was in Iraq and that meant they were shorthanded and were unable to complete all the tasks they were assigned.
We arrived at the airport on the day a massive airlift had begun. The airport had become another Superdome. We 8 were caught in a press of humanity as flights were delayed for several hours while George Bush landed briefly at the airport for a photo op. After being evacuated on a coast guard cargo plane, we arrived in San Antonio, Texas.
There the humiliation and dehumanization of the official relief effort continued. We were placed on buses and driven to a large field where we were forced to sit for hours and hours. Some of the buses did not have air-conditioners. In the dark, hundreds if us were forced to share two filthy overflowing porta-potties. Those who managed to make it out with any possessions (often a few belongings in tattered plastic bags) we were subjected to two different dog-sniffing searches.
Most of us had not eaten all day because our C-rations had been confiscated at the airport because the rations set off the metal detectors. Yet, no food had been provided to the men, women, children, elderly, disabled as they sat for hours waiting to be "medically screened" to make sure we were not carrying any communicable diseases.
This official treatment was in sharp contrast to the warm, heart-felt reception given to us by the ordinary Texans. We saw one airline worker give her shoes to someone who was barefoot. Strangers on the street offered us money and toiletries with words of welcome. Throughout, the official relief effort was callous, inept, and racist. There was more suffering than need be. Lives were lost that did not need to be lost.
Only In Bushworld: With People Dying; The Rich Get Richer.
At one point Friday, the evacuation was interrupted briefly when school buses pulled up so some 700 guests and employees from the Hyatt Hotel could move to the head of the evacuation line — much to the amazement of those who had been crammed in the Superdome since last Sunday.
“How does this work? They (are) clean, they are dry, they get out ahead of us?” exclaimed Howard Blue, 22, who tried to get in their line. The National Guard blocked him as other guardsmen helped the well-dressed guests with their luggage.
The 700 had been trapped in the hotel, near the Superdome, but conditions were considerably cleaner, even without running water, than the unsanitary crush inside the dome.
Somebody should find out who made this decision and why.
Bush: chilling lack of empathy, stunning inefficiency
By MAUREEN DOWD
And when you combine limited government with incompetent government, lethal stuff happens.
America is once more plunged into a snake pit of anarchy, death, looting, raping, marauding thugs, suffering innocents, a shattered infrastructure, a gutted police force, insufficient troop levels and criminally negligent government planning. But this time it's happening in America.
W. drove his budget-cutting Chevy to the levee, and it wasn't dry. Bye, bye, American lives. "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees," he told Diane Sawyer.
Shirt-sleeves rolled up, W. finally landed in Hell on Friday and chuckled about his wild boozing days in "the great city" of N'Awlins. He was clearly moved. "You know, I'm going to fly out of here in a minute," he said on the runway at the New Orleans International Airport, "but I want you to know that I'm not going to forget what I've seen." Out of the cameras' range, and avoided by W., was a convoy of thousands of sick and dying people, some sprawled on the floor or dumped on baggage carousels at a makeshift MASH unit inside the terminal.
Why does this self-styled "can do" president always lapse into such lame "who could have known?" excuses.
Who on Earth could have known that Osama bin Laden wanted to attack us by flying planes into buildings? Any official who bothered to read the trellis of pre-9/11 intelligence briefs.
Who on Earth could have known that an American invasion of Iraq would spawn a brutal insurgency, terrorist recruiting boom and possible civil war? Any official who bothered to read the CIA's prewar reports.
Who on Earth could have known that New Orleans' sinking levees were at risk from a strong hurricane? Anybody who bothered to read the endless warnings over the years about the Big Easy's uneasy fishbowl.
In June 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, fretted to The Times-Picayune in New Orleans: "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us."
Not only was the money depleted by the Bush folly in Iraq; 30 percent of the National Guard and about half its equipment are in Iraq.
Ron Fournier of The Associated Press reported that the Army Corps of Engineers asked for $105 million for hurricane and flood programs in New Orleans last year. The White House carved it to about $40 million. But President Bush and Congress agreed to a $286.4 billion pork-filled highway bill with 6,000 pet projects, including a $231 million bridge for a small, uninhabited Alaskan island.
Just last year, Federal Emergency Management Agency officials practiced how they would respond to a fake hurricane that caused floods and stranded New Orleans residents. Imagine the feeble FEMA's response to Katrina if they had not prepared.
Michael Brown, the blithering idiot in charge of FEMA — a job he trained for by running something called the International Arabian Horse Association — admitted he didn't know until Thursday that there were 15,000 desperate, dehydrated, hungry, angry, dying victims of Katrina in the New Orleans Convention Center.
Was he sacked instantly? No, our tone-deaf president hailed him in Mobile, Ala., on Friday: "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."
It would be one thing if President Bush and his inner circle — Dick Cheney was vacationing in Wyoming; Condi Rice was shoe shopping at Ferragamo's on Fifth Avenue and attended Spamalot before bloggers chased her back to Washington; and Andy Card was off in Maine — lacked empathy but could get the job done. But it is a chilling lack of empathy combined with a stunning lack of efficiency that could make this administration implode.
When the president and vice president rashly shook off our allies and our respect for international law to pursue a war built on lies, when they sanctioned torture, they shook the faith of the world in American ideals.
When they were deaf for so long to the horrific misery and cries for help of the victims in New Orleans — most of them poor and black, like those stuck at the back of the evacuation line Friday while 700 guests and employees of the Hyatt Hotel were bused out first — they shook the faith of all Americans in American ideals. And made us ashamed.
Who are we if we can't take care of our own?
Dowd, based in Washington, D.C., is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the New York Times.
When it comes to managing political crises (as opposed to national ones), the Bush White House has earned a reputation as masters of damage control. And rightly so -- let’s see you get reelected after Abu Ghraib, the “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US” memo, no WMD, no bin Laden (dead or alive), and “Mission (Most Definitely Not) Accomplished”.
Well, according to the New York Times, Rove, Bartlett and the damage control boys are at it again, rolling out a plan to hang the post-Katrina debacle around the necks of Louisiana state and local officials… and, in the process, erase the image of a crassly incompetent administration too busy vacationing to worry about the dying in New Orleans.
Hence, today’s Presidential Visit, Take Two. Can’t you just see Rove yelling “Cut!”, hopping out of his director’s chair, pulling Bush aside, and whispering in his ear: “Okay, Mr. President, this isn’t “Armageddon” meets “The Wedding Crashers”. So this time 86 the stories about how you used to party in New Orleans, and, for heaven's sake, do not focus on the suffering of Trent Lott. And no more hugging only freshly-showered black people who look like Halle Berry -- this time you gotta get a little closer to the living-in-their-own-feces crowd.
Look, as much as I despise the way they go about it, I get it: trying to save face by deflecting blame and sliming your enemies may be ugly but it’s straight out of the Rove playbook and has proven highly effective.
What I don’t understand is why the media continue to be star players on the Bush damage control team.
Take the way that both the Washington Post and Newsweek obediently, and ineptly, passed on -- and thus gave credence to -- the Bush party line that Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s hesitancy to declare a state of emergency had prevented the feds from responding to the crisis more rapidly.
The Post, citing an anonymous “senior Bush official”, reported on Sunday that, as of Saturday, Sept. 3, Blanco “still had not declared a state of emergency”… when, in fact, the declaration had been made on Friday, August 26 -- over 2 days BEFORE Katrina made landfall in Louisiana. This claim was so demonstrably false that the paper was forced to issue a correction just hours after the original story appeared.
So here are a couple of questions: 1) Had everyone in the WaPo fact checking department gone out of town for the Labor Day weekend? I mean, c’mon, the announcement of a state of emergency isn’t exactly the kind of thing government officials tend to keep a secret. 2) Why were the Post reporters so willing to blindly accept the words of an administration official who obviously had a partisan agenda -- and to grant this official anonymity?
Weren’t they familiar with the Post’s policy on using anonymous sources, which states: “Sources often insist that we agree not to name them in the newspaper before they agree to talk with us. We must be reluctant to grant their wish. When we use an unnamed source, we are asking our readers to take an extra step to trust the credibility of the information we are providing. We must be certain in our own minds that the benefit to readers is worth the cost in credibility. …Nevertheless, granting anonymity to a source should not be done casually or automatically.” Here it was clearly done both casually and automatically.
The Post’s policy continues: “We prefer at least two sources for factual information in Post stories that depends on confidential informants, and those sources should be independent of each other.” Oops. They could have saved themselves a lot of grief if the second source they never got for this story had been a staffer for Gov. Blanco… or, if the price of a phone call was too much, the state of Louisiana website where the truth about the state of emergency declaration was a click away [pdf].
Especially since the Post instructs its reporters: “When sources have axes to grind, we should let our readers know what their interest is” and “We do not promise sources that we will refrain from additional reporting or efforts to verify the information they may give us”. You mean like checking to see if the line of bull they are feeding you is, y’know, a line of bull?
If anything, Newsweek’s effort to assist the Bush damage control effort was even more egregious. While claiming that “Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Barbineaux Blanco seemed uncertain and sluggish, hesitant to declare martial law or a state of emergency, which would have opened the door to more Pentagon help” the magazine didn’t even bother to cite a “senior Bush official”, choosing instead to report Blanco’s alleged failings as fact. Wonder where they got that “fact”? You think it might have been from the same “senior Bush official” that snookered the Post? Josh Marshall wonders…
The unquestioning regurgitation of administration spin through the use of anonymous sources is the fault line of modern American journalism. You’d think that after all we’ve seen -- from the horrific reporting on WMD to Judy Miller and Plamegate (to say nothing of all the endless navel-gazing media panel discussions analyzing the issue) -- these guys would finally get a clue and stop making the Journalism 101 mistake of granting anonymity to administration sources using them to smear their opponents.
The Washington Post corrected its article. Now it should take the next step and reveal who the source of that provably false chunk of slime was. And Newsweek should do the same.
It’s time for the media to get back to doing their job and stop being the principal weapon in Team Bush’s damage control arsenal.
Barbara Bush: "And so many of the people in the arena here, you
know, were underprivileged anyway, so this--this (she
chuckles slightly) is working very well for them."
What a fucking clueless bitch!!!
from editor & publisher:
Barbara Bush: Things Working Out 'Very Well' for Poor Evacuees from New Orleans By E&P Staff Published: September 05, 2005 7:25 PM ET updated 8:00 PM NEW YORK Accompanying her husband, former President George
H.W.Bush, on a tour of hurricane relief centers in
Houston, Barbara Bush said today, referring to the
poor who had lost everything back home and evacuated, "This is working very well for them."
The former First Lady's remarks were aired this
evening on American Public Media's "Marketplace"
She was part of a group in Houston today at the
Astrodome that included her husband and former
President Bill Clinton, who were chosen by her son,
the current president, to head fundraising efforts for
the recovery. Sen. Hilary Clinton and Sen. Barack
Obama were also present.
In a segment at the top of the show on the surge of
evacuees to the Texas city, Barbara Bush said: "Almost
everyone I’ve talked to says we're going to move to
Then she added: "What I’m hearing which is sort of
scary is they all want to stay in Texas. 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 (she
chuckles slightly) is working very well for them."
hear audio here: Crooks & Liars
Bush Administration Quick Response to Hurricane Katrina: A PR Campaign.
While the Bush Administration tries to find a way to “spin” the disaster of Hurricane Katrina….. people are dying. Bush toured the area on Friday, after flying over in Air Force One Earlier in the Week. Karl Rove's newPR campaign grows daily. I really wish these people spent as much time helping people as they do trying to cover their own asses. I'll say it again, I really don't know how they sleep at night.
September 4, 2005As White House Anxiety Grows, Bush Tries to Quell Political Crisis
By ELISABETH BUMILLER
and ADAM NAGOURNEY
WASHINGTON, Sept. 3 - Faced with one of the worst political crises of his administration, President Bush abruptly overhauled his September schedule on Saturday as the White House scrambled to gain control of a situation that Republicans said threatened to undermine Mr. Bush's second-term agenda and the party's long-term ambitions.
In a sign of the mounting anxiety at the White House, Mr. Bush made a rare Saturday appearance in the Rose Garden before live television cameras to announce that he was dispatching additional active-duty troops to the Gulf Coast. He struck a more somber tone than he had at times on Friday during a daylong tour of the disaster region, when he had joked at the airport in New Orleans about the fun he had had in his younger days in Houston. His demeanor on Saturday was similar to that of his most somber speeches after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"The magnitude of responding to a crisis over a disaster area that is larger than the size of Great Britain has created tremendous problems that have strained state and local capabilities," said Mr. Bush, slightly exaggerating the stricken land area. "The result is that many of our citizens simply are not getting the help they need, especially in New Orleans. And that is unacceptable."
The president was flanked by his high military and emergency command: Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
As Mr. Bush spoke, Vice President Dick Cheney and Karl Rove, the president's senior political adviser, listened on the sidelines, as did Dan Bartlett, the counselor to the president and Mr. Bush's overseer of communications strategy. Their presence underscored how seriously the White House is reacting to the political crisis it faces. (Editor's Note: However, Cheney did find time this weekend to go mansion shopping, but who's counting.)
"Where our response is not working, we'll make it right," Mr. Bush said, as Mr. Bartlett, with a script in his hand, followed closely.
His speech came as analysts and some Republicans warned that the White House's response to the crisis in New Orleans, which has been widely seen as slow and ineffectual, could further undermine Mr. Bush's authority at a time when he was already under fire, endangering his Congressional agenda.
Mr. Chertoff said Saturday: "Not an hour goes by that we do not spend a lot of time thinking about the people who are actively suffering. The United States, as the president has said, is going to move heaven and earth to rescue, feed, shelter" victims of the storm.
The White House said Mr. Bush would return to Louisiana and Mississippi on Monday, scrapping his plans for a Labor Day address in Maryland. The rest of Mr. Bush's schedule next week was in flux.
The White House also postponed a major visit to Washington next week by President Hu Jintao of China. In a statement issued on Saturday, the White House said both Mr. Hu and Mr. Bush had agreed that "in the present circumstances, it was best not to have" the meeting, which would have demanded much of the president's attention over the next days on growing difficulties between the United States and China over trade frictions, North Korea's nuclear program and China's military buildup.
The last-minute overhaul of the president's plans reflected what analysts and some Republicans said was a long-term threat to Mr. Bush's presidency created by the perception that the White House had failed to respond to the crisis. Several said the political fallout over the hurricane could complicate a second-term agenda that includes major changes to Social Security, the tax code and the immigration system.
"This is very much going to divert the agenda," said Tom Rath, a New Hampshire Republican with ties to the White House. "Some of this is momentary. I think the Bush capital will be rapidly replenished if they begin to respond here."
Donald P. Green, a professor of political science at Yale University, said: "The possibility for very serious damage to the administration exists. The unmistakable conclusion one would draw from this was this was a massive administration failure."
And Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, urged Mr. Bush to quickly propose a rebuilding plan for New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast, arguing that an ambitious gesture could restore his power in Congress.
"If it's done right, it adds energy to the rest of his agenda," Mr. Gingrich said. "If it's done wrong, it swamps the rest of his agenda."
The silence of many prominent Democrats reflects their conclusion that the president is on treacherous political ground and that attacking him would permit the White House to dismiss the criticism as partisan politics-as-usual, a senior Democratic aide said.
Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, disputed the notion that Mr. Bush's long-term political viability was endangered and said Saturday that he was confident the administration would be able to push ahead successfully with its second-term agenda. "There are a number of priorities, and we will address all of them," he said. (Scott McClellan, Mr. Credibility.)
For all the enormity of the destruction and the lingering uncertainty about how many years it will take to "rebuild the great city of New Orleans," as Mr. Bush said in his remarks on Saturday, some Republicans suggested that the impact could prove fleeting in this age of fast-moving events, and that Mr. Bush's visit to the region on Friday had helped some in addressing concerns about his response.
"Next Tuesday the Roberts hearings start, and that's going to occupy a significant part of the daily coverage," said Richard N. Bond, a former Republican chairman, referring to the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Judge John G. Roberts Jr.
But others said the damage could prove enduring, and they warned that the inevitable battery of official investigations into what went wrong could further erode support for the war in Iraq if it turned out that the deployment of National Guard units to Iraq had contributed to the slow response. They said any thought that memories of New Orleans will fade would be checked by gas prices that spiked as Louisiana refineries shut down, particularly given that there was already evidence that rising gas prices were hurting Mr. Bush's political standing.
Beyond that, some Republicans said the perception among some blacks that the White House had been slow to respond because so many victims were poor and African-American undercut what had been one of the primary initiatives of the new Republican chairman, Ken Mehlman: making an explicit appeal for support among black voters, a constituency that has traditionally been overwhelmingly Democratic.
"Given the racial component of this, and given the current political environment, there certainly seems to be a high level of risk to this story," said a Republican Party official, who, citing the concern among party officials about the criticism, would only discuss the question on the condition of not being identified.
But Mr. Bush, reflecting concern within the White House about the president's standing among blacks, notably said in his radio address that "we have a responsibility to our brothers and sisters all along the Gulf Coast, and we will not rest until we get this right and the job is done." (Editor's Note: How this reflects Bush's 'concern' for blacks... is beyond me. Are they trying to say that because Bush used the words brothers and sisters he must be referring to Blacks? I feel like I'm taking crazy pills.)
Both Republicans and Democrats noted that the reaction to the crisis has been nothing like what happened after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when both parties joined in a bipartisan show of unity in the face of a clear and identifiable outside threat.
Hurricane Katrina struck at a time, they said, when Mr. Bush was already in a weakened state, with his approval rating in many national polls at the lowest level of his presidency and his political capital in Washington diminishing.
The shifting dynamics on Capitol Hill was clear as Congress returned to Washington to allocate billions of dollars for the relief effort. Congressional leaders suggested that the White House needed to reconsider its legislative agenda. "This is not going to help Social Security," said Representative Rahm Emanuel, Democrat of Illinois. "And it was already on its last legs."
Representative Roy Blunt of Missouri, the Republican whip, said it would be a mistake to abandon efforts to reduce the estate tax, arguing that was precisely what the economy needed to grow. But he said he thought the White House might reconsider what it wanted this fall.
"I think the administration needs to be thinking about what their agenda is for the fall," he said. "And I'm sure there will be some re-evaluation."
Richard W. Stevenson contributed reporting for this article.In addition:
11:15 AM ET. In a remarkable TV moment this morning, Tim Russert on Meet the Press talked with Aaron Broussard, president of hard-hit Jefferson Parish, immediately after Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff defended the federal response to the tragedy. An angry Broussard called for the firing of top officials responsible for the poor response, saying "the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina will go down as one of the worst abandonments of Americans on American soil ever in U.S. history."
But his appearance ended with the man in tears and even Russert barely able to keep it together, when Broussard said:
"The guy who runs this building I’m in, Emergency Management, he’s responsible for everything. His mother was trapped in St. Bernard nursing home and every day she called him and said, 'Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?' and he said, 'Yeah, Mama, somebody’s coming to get you.' Somebody’s coming to get you on Tuesday. [Broussard begins sobbing.] Somebody’s coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Friday...and she drowned Friday night!
"She drowned Friday night! [Sobbing] Nobody’s coming to get us! Nobody’s coming to get us."
Broussard also recounted:
"We had Wal-Mart deliver three trucks of water, trailer trucks of water. FEMA turned them back. They said we didn't need them. This was a week ago. FEMA--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 away.' 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 of our emergency communication lines. They cut them without notice. Our sheriff, Harry Lee, goes back in, he reconnects the line. He posts armed guards on our line and says, 'No one is getting near these lines.'"
Tim Rutten writes in the Los Angeles Times that "the tragedy that this week destroyed a vibrant metropolitan area that was home to 1.4 million people and the city proper that was a national cultural treasure was not simply imagined but foreseen with a prescience that now seems eerily precise. . .
"Three years ago, New Orleans' leading local newspaper, the Times-Picayune, National Public Radio's signature nightly news program, 'All Things Considered,' and the New York Times each methodically and compellingly reported that the very existence of south Louisiana's leading city was at risk and hundreds of thousands of lives imperiled by exactly the sequence of events that occurred this week. All three news organizations also made clear that the danger was growing because of a series of public policy decisions and failure to allocate government funds to alleviate the danger.
Monday, September 05, 2005
Full disclosure: I am not a Christian. Irrespective of my faith or lack thereof, however, I consider some of the declarations attributed to Jesus Christ among the wisest ever uttered.
"By their fruits shall ye know them."
"For I was hungry, and ye gave me no meat:
I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
I was a stranger, and ye took me not in:
naked, and ye clothed me not:
sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
Then shall they also answer him, saying,
Lord, when saw we thee hungry, or thirsty,
or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison,
and did not minister unto thee?
Then shall he answer them, saying,
Verily I say unto you,
ye did it not to me."
This is an irrefutable fact: the vast, VAST majority of elected politicians in this country call themselves Christians. Especially, it seems, the Republicans, and their putative leaders: George W. Bush, Tom DeLay, Bill Frist.
Crossposted at My Left Wing
"Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me."
"Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.' This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: 'Love others as well as you love yourself.' These two commandments are pegs; everything in God's law and the Prophets hangs from them."
These self-declared "Christians" are LIARS. Their platitudes and photo opportunities and exclamations of concern for the poor, the suffering, the displaced and the disenfranchised are LIES. Judge them not by their words, but by their actions. By their ACTIONS, they expose themselves as hypocrites, thieves and LIARS.
It is NOT ENOUGH to come upon the scene of devastation and bemoan the loss of life and property. The legislation, policies and deregulation that Republicans have espoused and worked toward installing in this country are the foundation of disasters like the aftermath of Katrina. THEY and their political philosophies are the reason there are so many poor people in this country, that there were so many people doomed in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
But the beauty of it, in their shrewd and mendacious view, is that very few of their constituents can recognise the bald-faced truth: it is the racism of centuries, the decades of greed enabled by political actions and the depraved indifference to the laws of their purported Saviour that brought us to this place and time.
What we face, in the Republicans of today, is a huge group of people who are either so blinded by their insular, privileged existence or so venal in their depraved indifference to the common good that they have spent their lives actively contradicting virtually every dictum of Jesus Christ. These Republicans are LIARS when they claim to be Christians, whether or not they know it.
The charitable view is that they are terribly ignorant and so gone astray that they know not what they do. More likely, I fear, is that they know exactly what they have done and are doing - and they DO. NOT. CARE. They pay lip service to Christianity because it is the fastest route toward legitimacy in this country as a politician. But if they actually believe in Jesus Christ and his teachings, it is inconceivable that they should so consistently behave as they do.
Each piece of legislation, each reprehensible act of eradicating protection of the vulnerable and constructing easier paths for their "own kind" - that is to say, the wealthy, the corporate, the invulnerable, the privileged - fairly reeks of hypocrisy and sin, in the lexicon of Christianity - and mere human decency.
The wealthy and privileged of the world - and that includes most of the powerful Republicans in this country - either never learned or have forgotten a simple truth:
But for the grace of god, there go I.
In other, less ecclesiastical words, it is sheer LUCK that one is born into wealth, privilege and power. Sheer fucking LUCK that one zygote landed into a rich white family in Philadelphia and another in a poor black family in New Orleans. And for the vast majority of the wealthy and the privileged and the powerful, any claim of entitlement solely by virtue of birth is as absurd as taking credit for one's physical beauty. It was CHANCE that brought you to your existence and not that of a baby born with AIDS in a war-torn refugee camp in Somalia.
And if you believe, as many wealthy, powerful people seem to believe, that GOD put you where you are, that GOD determined that your human existence should be one of privilege and virtual invulnerability to the trials and tribulations of most others' experience of human existence, then you are REQUIRED, by your own declared religious beliefs, to remember this fact:
But for the grace of GOD, there go I.
For the most part, if you're living in America and you're rich and healthy, it was mostly about CHANCE - or, if you like, God's grace. You CHANCED to be born American, white, healthy, intelligent, with good parents.
By CHANCE or God's grace, you are someone who has managed not to be gravely injured in a car accident or natural disaster and then dependent on the largesse of the state and individual charity for your survival.
By CHANCE or God's grace, you are nurtured in your chosen field, given the right opportunities to succeed, advanced in the right company and not laid off or outsourced.
By CHANCE or God's grace, you have healthy children whose medical needs (let alone education) do not bankrupt you.
By CHANCE or God's grace, you were not born poor and black in Louisiana, Mississippi or Alabama.
It's ALL luck. There are millions of people who, through no fault of their own, live in poverty, disease, unemployment and a myriad of other desperate circumstances who, through no fault of their own, they have no way to pull themselves up out of by their "bootstraps." Millions of people, in fact, who don't have BOOTS.
THESE PEOPLE ARE OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN THE EYES OF THE GOD IN WHICH MOST REPUBLICANS CLAIM TO BELIEVE.
"Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.' This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: 'Love others as well as you love yourself.' These two commandments are pegs; everything in God's law and the Prophets hangs from them."
"By their fruits shall ye know them"
Ah, yes. We judge the actions, not the words. We see these Republicans standing before America, claiming to be Christians, claiming to believe the teachings of Jesus Christ.
And we also see them doing everything in their considerable power to subvert the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Christians, my ASS, you hypocritical, appalling, despicable, criminal LIARS.
As for George's war -- "THOU SHALT NOT KILL."
As for George's love of the death penalty -- "Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also."
As for the reprehensible Republican vilification of gays: "LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR AS THYSELF."
I could go on, but I am developing a migraine contemplating the UNCONSCIONABLE HYPOCRISY espoused in virtually every tenet of the Republican, right wing, "conservative," so-called "Christian" mindset in REPUBLICAN AMERICA.
SHAME ON YOU, REPUBLICANS.
You may now return to the business of stealing from the poor and giving to the rich. I see you have on your schedule the permanent repeal of the Estate Tax; wouldn't want to slow you down in your seemingly inexorable march toward a welfare state, a return to feudalism. Might want to take a look at gutting Social Security and Medicare, while you're at it; hell, you have all the power - might as well make use of it, right? What's the point of being rich and powerful if you can't use it to get MORE rich and powerful?