Like many of you, I've been glued to CNN lately -- with occasional flips over to Fox News, just to see what life is like in an alternate universe -- watching people struggle to recover from the brutal deathblow of Katrina.
Rescuers in Black Hawk helicopters struggle against time and the elements to find survivors in remote parts of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. Army engineers struggle to pump water out of the city of New Orleans. The Red Cross struggles to reunite families and hand out supplies to people who have needed them for over a week now. Hundreds of thousands of people struggle with the idea that they'll have to start their lives over again.
And the Bush administration struggles to move out of the line of fire.
One tactic: Have Daddy explain it all.
Monday night, Larry King interviewed George H.W. Bush about rescue efforts, and naturally, King asked about the anger being directed toward his son. "Mr. President, what do you make of all the criticism?"
"The criticism of what?" Bush replied.
Apparently, evasiveness is a family trait.
King clarified: "The federal government's response, the lateness... FEMA didn't react quickly enough … "
"I think anytime there's a crisis, people want to blame someone," pouted Bush, before going on to defend his boy. "To be very candid, Larry, I think some of the criticism has been grossly unfair, especially when they suggest the president doesn't care and all of that."
The above is from Duane Swierczynski's "What Criticism?" (Philadelphia City Paper). Liang e-mailed to note it. We're in our Thursday focus on Indymedia. This entry focuses on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Candice e-mails to note Brian Morton's "No Government Required: Year In and Year Out, They Tell You: Government is the Problem" (Baltimore City Paper):
Ronald Reagan used to joke about it. He’d say one of the biggest lies in the world is "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you." Americans for Tax Reform executive director Grover Norquist wants to shrink the federal government down to the size "where we can drown it in the bathtub." Government is the enemy.
A government that checks the meat that is sold so you don’t end up with trichinosis or E. coli, apparently it can't help you--no need for the Department of Agriculture. A government that approves the drugs you need to beat disease, to heal your child, to keep yourself alive, apparently it's of no use to you. No need for the Food and Drug Administration.
A government that monitors the markets to make sure that swindlers and cheats don't defraud the old, infirm, busy, or preoccupied--there's no need for it. So much for the Securities and Exchange Commission. A government that runs the systems that allows thousands of flights to take off and land safely every year, making air travel safer than driving--no need. Shut down the Federal Aviation Administration.
Government's always the problem, they say. Shutter the Internal Revenue Service; the rich will always manage to hide their money, so it's useless to try and tax them. Convenience is more important than fairness, multimillionaires like Steve Forbes say, once again trying to get you to pay his share of taxes for him as he pushes, yet again, his flat-tax plan. When asked if he won't do better than anyone else under a flat tax, Forbes demurs by saying he’ll "do OK either way."
What use to the wealthy, to the conservative, to the powerful is government? None, even when what may end up being the largest natural disaster in U.S. history lands on the shores of one of America’s poorer major cities?
While the rest of America was pouring out its heart while watching the devastation of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast of Alabama and Mississippi, the programmers at Fox News found the time to find an economist who argued that "the Founding Fathers never intended--Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution--never intended to provide one dollar of taxpayer dollars to pay for any disaster or anything that we might call charity." Fox found one Jack Chambless, an economics professor at Orlando, Fla.'s Valencia Community College--I'm guessing this is the network's way of thumbing their nose at those elitists in the Ivy League universities who might be, as Karl Rove puts it, "too educated"--to say that every time the federal government comes in after a disaster and fixes up the area the people "have no incentive to leave."
Ben e-mails to note Mark Jurkowitz's "Katrina rips Bush a new one" (The Boston Phoenix):
Hurricane Katrina did not simply destroy physical infrastructure, social fabric, and countless lives on America's Gulf Coast. It blew away the ground rules that had defined post-9/11 American politics and protected the most polarizing administration in recent history -- one that failed to articulate a coherent domestic agenda, tossed gasoline on the smoldering culture wars, and dragged the country into a divisive and very likely disastrous war in Iraq.
All the elements that George W. Bush and Karl Rove had exploited for political gain -- a timid and kowtowing mainstream media, a deafening silence about America’s growing underclass, the fear that criticizing the White House in the era of Al Qaeda was tantamount to treason, and Bush's can-do, cowboy image -- were shattered by the same winds and rains that savaged casinos in Biloxi and homes in Jefferson Parish.
What emerged from the rubble -- with the nation's collective psyche now a toxic stew of shock, shame, fear, and anger -- were the hard truths about our society's frightening inequities and our government's horrifying incompetence.
• Rapper Kanye West, appearing during a NBC concert/fundraiser, stared straight into the camera and declared that "George Bush doesn’t care about black people."
• Jefferson Parish president Aaron Broussard openly sobbed during a television interview in which he declared that the "bureaucracy has committed murder here in the Greater New Orleans area."
• A grim-faced Tim Russert, appearing barely to conceal his fury, opened a Meet the Press interview with Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff by demanding: "Are you, or anyone who reports to you, contemplating resignation?"
• Reporting from New Orleans, Fox News’s Geraldo Rivera stiff-armed bloviating Bill O'Reilly's efforts to shift responsibility away from the White House by declaring: "This is Dante's Inferno, Bill. There is no way to sugarcoat it. This is the worst thing I’ve seen in a civilized nation."
Stephen M. Mindich and Peter Kadzis' "America's Nero: Bush's Impeachable Offense" (The Providence Phoenix):
Disbelief. Horror. Outrage. Shame. Those are words, marks on paper. They are insufficient to capture the emotion and intellectual revulsion that arise from the national government’s incompetence and President Bush’s utter failure to take charge and lead in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the worst natural disaster ever to savage the nation, devastating the Gulf Coast and threatening to turn New Orleans, a historic and soulful city, into a 21st-century Pompeii. Nero at least fiddled while Rome burned. As Katrina roared, Bush vacationed.
Few presidents are tested as sorely as Bush even once, let alone twice. When terrorists simultaneously attacked the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon, Bush went into hiding. When the news first reached him of the New York attacks, he froze like a deer in oncoming headlights and continued reading to children in a Florida classroom. Commentators may praise his bravado days later when he appeared at Ground Zero and, bullhorn in hand, successfully rescued his compromised reputation. A nation in need of leadership and reassurance was forgiving and, in Hollywood fashion, rallied round. Today, the situation is different. No longer believing the lies and subsequent miscalculations that have mired us in the mind-numbing desolation called Iraq, Bush has no political capital with which to trade. Bush’s failure is America’s failure. We stand humbled before world opinion.
In the days after Katrina wore herself out, while television broadcasts continual scenes of death, devastation, and third-world deprivation, Bush’s smug and clueless disaster lieutenants, Homeland Insecurity czar Michael Chertoff and Emergency Mismanagement chief Michael Brown, denied there were problems -- let alone a crisis of unimaginable and terrifying proportions. The Republicans are fond of railing against Washington's pointy-headed bureaucrats. But this time the offenders were Bush men. And like their president, they proved to be cold, callous, and out-of-touch. A leader would have fired them. But Bush, who has no capacity for reappraising his own failures, and who fires people only for disloyalty, never for incompetence (hello, Donald Rumsfeld), let them stand. As long as they hold public positions, Chertoff and Brown will be the twin embodiments of a failure that can only be called inhumane.
Micah e-mails to note James Ridgeway's "Republicans, Mom Try to Bail Out Bush" (The Village Voice):
Starting with President Bush himself-and with his mother-Republicans are attempting to do damage control for the beleaguered administration.
Barbara Bush famously told the press those poor people fleeing Hurricane Katrina-the ones stranded on their rooftops and searching for loved ones and warehoused at the Superdome and the New Orleans Convention Center-are faring better at the Houston Astrodome than they were at home before the storm hit.
Bush, for his part, promised to open his own inquiry into what happened, and Republican leaders in Congress are opening at least two, perhaps more, inquiries of their own.
Most importantly, the Republican politicians are buoyed by polls that show almost three quarters of all Republicans support the president's handling of the disaster. They are accusing Louisiana's Democratic governor, Kathleen Blanco, of screwing up the federal response. And they are having fun playing Blanco off against New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who told CNN's "American Morning" Monday that he had met Blanco and Bush on Air Force One last Friday and urged the two to get together and do something. "I was ready to move," Nagin said. "The governor said she needed 24 hours to make a decision" to take over the Guard.
Lynda e-mails to note Joe Conason's "Bush Vows to Uncover The Truth About Katrina" (New York Observer):
George W. Bush now promises that he will uncover the truth about the government's lethally inadequate response to Hurricane Katrina. "What I intend to do," he told the White House press corps after his second hurried visit to the ruins of New Orleans, "is lead an investigation to find out what went right and what went wrong."
Finding out what went right won't take very long, and it's a task that the President can certainly accomplish in his own style. He has often demonstrated that he knows how to heap praise on himself, his administration and his appointees regardless of the merits.
Just the other day, he reassured one of his top employees: "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." That would of course be Michael Brown, the bumbling and unqualified director of the Federal Emergency Management Administration, who would have to be a prime suspect in any honest probe of the Katrina disaster.
Finding out what went wrong when Katrina struck--and why--is a complicated mission for which Mr. Bush seems poorly situated. Although his minions whisper that the fault lies with Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, who happens to be a Democrat, Mr. Bush has declared that he won't play "the blame game." That phrase may sound familiar, because it echoes the Republican reaction after the 9/11 attacks, when the President tried to resist popular demands for a truly independent investigation.
In retrospect, his reluctance to permit such prying is understandable. Consider how smoothly the 9/11 investigation might have proceeded if overseen by him. No public hearings, no testimony from Richard Clarke and Condoleezza Rice, and definitely no declassification of the Aug. 6, 2001, Presidential briefing on the impending threat from Al Qaeda. Instead of all that embarrassing stuff, the White House could have issued a brief and heavily redacted report deflecting responsibility onto the previous occupants.
Yet having asked Bill Clinton for help, Mr. Bush can't play the blame game with the former President. Besides, politicians of both parties have long acknowledged that Mr. Clinton rebuilt FEMA by naming the highly competent and qualified James Lee Witt to run the agency.
New Orleans Indymedia continues publishing and has numerous articles up at their site so please check out New Orleans Indymedia.
Meanwhile, as covered by Democracy Now!, a low-watt radio station can't get off the ground in Houston due to repeated interference and foot dragging on the part of "authorities." From Houston Indymedia, lizas' "KAMP Blocked by Incident Command!:"
Despite its far-reaching support network (including its three special-puropse FCC licenses), KAMP has been denied access to the Astrodome due to an official's refusal to provide electricity to the station. This dictate was handed down by RW Royal, Jr., Incident Commander of the JIC (Joint Information Committee). Our offers to run the station from battery power were declined.
From Democracy Now!:
County Officials Block Astrodome Radio Plan
And in an update on a story we covered on Democracy Now yesterday. Local county officials in Houston Texas are blocking plans for a low power FM radio station to be set up at the Astrodome to service hurricane survivors. The project had already been OK'd by the Federal Communications Commission.
And here's an excerpt from the previous report entitled "Radio Astrodome: Independent Media to Provide Critical Info for Displaced New Orleans Residents:"
AMY GOODMAN: Renee Felt, can you talk about reporting inside and about the setting up of radio, and what people are saying inside?
RENEE FELT: Inside, people are saying that they really want information about what's going on back at home. They lack that information. That's one thing that they're searching for. They're also, like Tish said, just seeking information about basic services, but as well, they want to learn how to sign up their kids for school. We have this week about 2,000 people signing up for classes. I think that they could also seek to use the radio station as a way to get out to loved ones where they are and perhaps the audio that's broadcast over the microradio station here could be archived and used by other community radio stations in the country for people to hear the voice of their loved ones and know how to contact them.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go for a moment to just one of the many people that you've recorded, Renee, talking about his experience in New Orleans.
NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: They just left us there to die. They didn't care about us at all. I've been out there seven days. Three days straight, I was helping get people out of houses and stuff. I had a boat, I was helping people, getting people out of their houses. Older people and children and stuff, you know? My boat sunk. Police rowed right pass me. There -- it was like nothing happened. Ain't nobody helping us. We were helping ourselves. They were talking about everybody looting. Hey, we had to do what we had to do to survive. Everybody was there. Just messed up. A lot of people lost their family members. Right now, I’m on my own. I don't know where none of my family is at. I'm out here by myself. I don't know where non of my family at.
AMY GOODMAN: One of the voices of people in the Houston Astrodome. There are a lot of people, Tish, a lot of the media is talking about how happy people are to be in the Astrodome right now. Renee, your sense of that, and also the most recent move to say that some -- I think it was what, 1,000 people, should leave to go to Galveston?
RENEE FELT: I think the original request was 2,000 people would go to Galveston, and what officials are trying to do here, they say, is lighten the load as people probably have heard, Governor Rick Perry, said that our large, very large state of Texas is apparently full to capacity and can take no more people. So, that's what the argument also is for the Astrodome. They want to make people more comfortable. Yesterday, officials with the Red Cross, offered to people an opportunity after they had been these flood victims to go shack up on cruise ships for an estimated six months in the Galveston area, another area that is subject to hurricanes, of course, in the Gulf Coast region. And what happened there is that people essentially refused to go. They were unable to get to buses filled up to leave. And it was interesting, the wording they used. They said that the elderly, people that generally would need a large support system around them, but would also basically be unable to really refuse to go they were saying that the elderly had first priority to get on these cruise ships. Also, the buses that have been out there and available for people to take to other parts of the country, Denver, Utah, Michigan, have been largely leaving with just 12 people on these 55-seat buses.
A hard hitting look at things on the ground in Bill Hackwell's "Eye Witness from the Hurricane" (San Francisco Bay Area Indymedia):
The following is an eyewitness report of the crisis in the area written on Sunday, September 4. Media reports on September 2 describe anarchy and general chaos as the climate in all of New Orleans.
The national media reports that hope, supplies and food were now being distributed in the area. However, once we arrived in the Algiers district of New Orleans after seven checkpoints, the reality shows otherwise.
While 80 percent of New Orleans was submerged in water, Algiers is one of the few districts that has been spared as it sits higher than most of the city. An historic district established in 1719, Algiers is on the west bank of the Mississippi river, across from the French Quarter. Probably 15% of the residents still remain behind, most of them determined to stay in their homes. The majority of homes are still intact, although many have suffered damage.
While their houses survived, the peoples' chance of survival seemed very bleak since there was no electricity or disbursement of food, water or other supplies.
"Imagine being in a city, poor, without any money and all of a sudden you are told to leave and you don't even have a bicycle," stated Malik Rahim, a community activist in the Algiers section of New Orleans. "90% of the people don't even have cars."
One woman told us it was not possible for her to evacuate. She said, "I can't leave. I don't have a car and I have nine children."
She and her husband are getting by with the help of several men in the community who are joining resources to provide for their neighbors.
The government claims that people can get water, but residents have to travel at least 17 miles to the nearest water and ice distribution center. Only one case of water is available per family. Countless people have no way to drive.
There is a huge military and police presence but none of it to provide services. All of them, north and south of the river, are stationed in front of private buildings and abandoned stores, protecting private property.
The goods they are driving in are for their own forces. Not one of them has delivered water to Algiers or gone to the houses to see if sick or elderly people need help. There is no door-to-door survey to see who was injured.
The overwhelming majority of people who have stayed in Algiers are Black but some are white. One white man in his late 50s in Algiers pointed across the street to a 10-acre grassy lot. It looks like a beautiful park. He said, "I had my daughter call FEMA. I told them I want to donate this land to the people in need. They could set up 100 tractor trailers with aid, they could set up tents. No one has ever called me back." He is clearly angry.
Sam e-mailed to note that. Hackwell contributes the photos and he and others with ANSWER wrote the report.
Laveda e-mails to note Michael T. Neuman's "Katrina's Power Shows It's Time to Take Global Warming Seriously" (Madison Indymedia):
Hurricane Katrina developed initially as a tropical depression in the southeastern Bahamas on August 23rd and strengthened into Tropical Storm Katrina the next day. As the storm moved southwest across the tip of the Florida peninsula, Katrina's winds decreased slightly before regaining hurricane strength in the Gulf of Mexico.
As it traveled over the warmer than usual waters of the Gulf of Mexico, it developed into a much stronger and larger storm, ultimately reaching "Category 5" strength before moving landward as a Category 4 hurricane and settling over southeastern Louisiana, Mississippi and parts of Alabama.
Katrina's had sustained winds during landfall of 140 mph and 902 mb minimum central pressure - the 4th lowest on record for an Atlantic storm - but its unusually large size, with widespread and heavy rain, that most likely led to the breaching of the levees that had protected New Orleans for so many years.
Hurricane Katrina brings a foretaste of environmental disasters to come, according to environmental author Bill McKibben. "Almost no one is addressing the much larger problems: the scandalous lack of planning that has kept us from even beginning to address climate change, and the sad fact that global warming means the future will be full of just this kind of horror", McKibben warns.
He continues: "we're emitting far more carbon than we were in 1988, when scientists issued their first prescient global-warming warnings. Even if, at that moment, we'd started doing all that we could to overhaul our energy economy, we'd probably still be stuck with the 1 degree Fahrenheit increase in global average temperature that's already driving our current disruptions. Now scientists predict that without truly dramatic change in the very near future, we're likely to see the planet's mercury rise 5 degrees before this century is out".
Worldwide temperature data clearly show globally averaged temperatures have been increasing sharply since the late 1970s.
The temperature data continues to be validated in real world conditions including thawing of the massive permafrost region, retreat of mountain glaciers, pole ward movement of seasonal snowlines, extended growing seasons, reductions in lake ice cover periods in winter and deadlier heat waves in summer (vice versa in Southern Hemisphere).
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