Friday, September 02, 2005
Nero fiddled while Rome burned
They aren’t singing ‘Bye bye Miss American Pie’ down in the Big Easy. They’re not driving their Chevy to the levee either, because the streets are under seven feet of water and the levee is not only not dry, it’s gone. 70% of the city is underwater. The dead are lying in the streets. Alligators and poisonous snakes are everywhere. Refugees are stranded without food or water. Some people are looting televisions, others are ‘looting’ diapers, bottled water, medicine, food. There are two ways to describe the aid that has come New Orleans’ way so far: Slow and none. There are dozens of ways to describe what’s happening to the city itself: ruin, chaos, anarchy, disaster…
This is suffering on an epic scale. Scenes from New Orleans would not be out of place next to scenes from the tsunami disaster. An old man, dead, surrounded by wailing, hungry children. Rapes, beatings, fires, tens of thousands of refugees waiting for days without food or water or adequate shelter. They’re still waiting, most of them, and dying, far too many.
The bitter truth is, none of this needed to happen.
The bitter truth is, President Bush took the funding from the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, or SELA, and applied it to his war in Iraq. On June 8, 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; told the Times-Picayune:
"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."
The bitter truth is President Bush gutted FEMA, the nation’s premier emergency response organization, in favor of Homeland Security (because, presumably, emergencies other than terror attacks don’t kill people anymore). And so there STILL isn't a command center set up, four days later. New Orleans Police don't have food or water.
Hurricane Katrina has also reignited the global warming debate—though why there should still be a debate, I have no idea. President Bush’s own scientists have acknowledged it is real. Global warming means violent weather. Just ask New Orleans. President Bush refused to sign the Kyoto treaty, whose goal is reducing greenhouse emissions. More greenhouse gases, more crazy weather.
Gasoline prices have skyrocketed as refineries along the Gulf Coast and oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico have shut down. This is bad for the economy, but actually good for Bush’s cronies in the oil industry. As oil and gas prices rise, so do their profits.
And the Religious Right? That bulwark of Republican sentiment? Here’s what one group had to say about the disaster:
'...a Philadelphia-based outfit called Repent America. In it, Repent America director Michael Marcavage explains: "Although the loss of lives is deeply saddening, this act of God destroyed a wicked city. From 'Girls Gone Wild' to 'Southern Decadence,' New Orleans was a city that had its doors wide open to the public celebration of sin. May it never be the same."'
And on, and on. This hurricane should be renamed Hurricane George. And what did the President do while the largest city in Louisiana was being wiped off the map? He was on a month-long vacation. Well, it was a working vacation. He made a speech in San Diego, trying to bolster support for the war in Iraq. And he played the geetar.
Inept, greedy, irresponsible…
Please, God, let there be as little loss of life as is possible, and let this be a wake-up call to American voters. Let this be how Republicans lose the South and thus the rest of the country that I still love.
(Many thanks to Gumbopages for supplying 80% of the fuel for my current rage against Dubya, and Michael Moore for the other 20%.)