Greetings and Salutations!

Welcome to the longest-running* yet least-read** blog on the internet! Here you'll find me writing about all the things that I write about, which strikes me, just now, as somewhat recursive. In any case, enjoy :)

* not true ** probably true

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%.)


Anonymous said...

I'm really sorry that this had to happen to the residents of New Orleans. It is indeed upsetting to know that funds have been taken out just so that someone can fulfil their personal agenda. I too hope that one day we can have better leaders, hopefully ones that will care for people and the environment.

expat@large said...

Wow! Those revelations are damning!

Could this tragedy be the much vaunted Rock Hudson Moment for Global Warming?

And how can something like a space project to send a manned mission to Mars be considered feasible when we can't even organize fresh food and clean water to the Superbowl, let alone to another planet.

The Screwy Skeptic said...

What I find surprising is the lack of immediate reaction from allies. It's not the tsunami, sure, but when you've got almost 20,000 people in a stadium (not to mention the rest of the area) with no available toilets and no water for the past 5 days, doesn't that merit some kind of reaction, any reaction at all?

Rooster Cashews said...

My own say on the subject:

I believe it should also be mentioned:

February 16, 2004, New Orleans CityBusiness article

The Corps' New Orleans district in 2003 spent about $409 million on construction contracts, dredging and maintenance for the state's waterways, real estate purchases, private sector design contracts and in-house expenditures, according to the Corps. That more than doubles the $200 million the district spent in 1991.

No one expected that weak spot to be on a canal that, if anything, had received more attention and shoring up than many other spots in the region. It did not have broad berms, but it did have strong concrete walls.
Shea Penland, director of the Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of New Orleans, said that was particularly surprising because the break was "along a section that was just upgraded."

"It did not have an earthen levee," Dr. Penland said. "It had a vertical concrete wall several feel thick."

The power of Category 5 hurricanes have been known since Galveston in 1900, and certainly snce Hurricane Camille in 1969. Given New Orleans' fairly unique situation, the result of a direct Cat-4 or -5 hit has always been presumed to carry the inevitable result of levee failure. If we want to play the blame-Bush game, we can also play the blame-Nixon, blame-Ford, blame-Carter, blame-Reagan, blame-Bush 41, and blame-Clinton game, especially after Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
February 17, 1995

(This was under Clinton's watch, wasn't it?)

An Army Corps of Engineers "hit list" of recommended budget cuts would eliminate new flood-control programs in some of the nation's most flood-prone spots - where recent disasters have left thousands homeless and cost the federal government millions in emergency aid.

The Clinton administration is holding back a Corps of Engineers report recommending that the $120 million project proceed. Unless that report is forwarded to the Office of Management and Budget, Congress cannot authorize money for the project, U.S. Rep. William Jefferson's office said Thursday.


Clinton administration officials argue that the flood-control efforts are local projects, not national, and should be paid for by local taxes.
It's always helpful to get facts straight, and get over the "It's Bush's fault" rhetoric. Place blame where it's due. That would be New Orleans and the Louisiana state government.
I will fault Bush on some issues (open border immigration or playing nice guy with Democratic leadership), but the flood incrimination doesn't even deserves attention.

AG said...

Erm. to reply the screwy skeptic :

america has alienated almost the rest of the world, mostly through the Bush administration's high handed ways. not to mention that the tsunami hit mostly developing countries while Kat hit America. supposedly the world's leading superpower. you'd think they'd be competent enough to rescue their own people.