Sunday, September 04, 2005

Katrina Encours et Toujours VI

1) Nagin articulates what we all feel:

2) A satellite photo:


Positive Stories Must Get OutName:
Robert LeBlanc
Home: 9858769172
Subject: My Hurricane Story -- The Positive StoriesMust Get OutStory:

Please help me to get this story out. We needto get the truth out and these people helped.Jeff Rau, a family and now personal friend to whom Iwill forever be linked, and I were volunteering with aboat and pulling people out of the water on Wednesday.I have a first-hand experience of what we encountered.In my opinion, everything that is going on in themedia is a complete bastardization of what is reallyhappening. The result is that good people are dyingand losing family members. I have my own set ofopinions about welfare and people working to improvethier own lot instead of looking for handouts, butwhat is occurring now is well beyond those borders.These people need help and need to get out. We cansort out all of the social and political issues later,but human beings with any sense of compassion wouldagree that the travesty that is going on here in NewOrleans needs to end and people's lives need to besaved and families need to be put back together.

Now.I will tell you that I would probably disagree withmost of the people that still need to be saved onpolitical, social, and cultural values. However, itmust be noted that these people love thier friends andfamilies like I do, desire to live like I do, and carefor their respective communities (I was even amazed atthe site of seemingly young and poor black peoplecaring for sickly and seemingly well-to-do whitepeople and tourists still needing evacuation from NewOrleans' downtown area) the same way I care for mine.Eight people in particular who stood out during ourrescue and whose stories deserve to be told:

1.) We were in motor boats all day ferrying peopleback and forth approximately a mile and a half eachway (from Carrolton down Airline Hwy to the Causewayoverpass). Early in the day, we witnessed a black manin a boat with no motor paddling with a piece oflumber. He rescued people in the boat and paddled themto safety (a mile and a half). He then, amidst all ofthe boats with motors, turned around and paddled backout across the mile and a half stretch to do his partin getting more people out. He refused to give up oroccupy any of the motored boat resources because hedid not want to slow us down in our efforts. I saw himat about 5:00 p.m., paddling away from the rescuepoint back out into the neighborhoods with about ahalf mile until he got to the neighborhood, just twohours before nightfall. I am sure that his trip tookat least an hour and a half each trip, and he wasgoing back to get more people knowing that he'd runout of daylight. He did all of this wit! h a t!wo-by-four.

2.) One of the groups that we rescued were 50 peoplestanding on the bridge that crosses over Airline Hwyjust before getting to Carrolton Ave going towarddowntown. Most of these people had been there, with nofood, water, or anyplace to go since Monday morning(we got to them Wed afternoon) and surrounded by 10feet of water all around them. There was one guy whohad been there since the beginning, organizing peopleand helping more people to get to the bridge safely asmore water rose on Wednesday morning. He did not leavethe bridge until everyone got off safely, evendeferring to people who had gotten to the bridge Weda.m. and, although inconvenienced by loss of power andweather damage, did have the luxury of some food andsome water as late as Tuesday evening. This guy waitedon the bridge until dusk, and was one of the lastboats out that night. He could have easily not made itout that night and been stranded on the bridge alone.

3.) The third story may be the most compelling. I willnot mince words. This was in a really roughneighborhood and we came across five seeminglyunsavory characters. One had scars from what seemed tobe gunshot wounds. We found these guys at a two-storyrecreational complex, one of the only two-storybuildings in the neighborhood. They broke into thecenter and tried to rustle as many people as possiblefrom the neighborhood into the center. These guysstayed outside in the center all day, getting everyoneout of the rec center onto boats. We approached themat approximately 6:30 p.m., obviously one of the lasttrips of the day, and they sent us further into theneighborhood to get more people out of homes and offrooftops instead of getting on themselves. This at therisk of their not getting out and having to stay inthe water for an undetermined (you have to understandthe uncertainly that all of the people in theseaccounts faced without having any info on the resc! ueef!forts, how far or deep the flooding was, or where togo if they want to swim or walk out) amount of time.These five guys were on the last boat out of theneighborhood at sundown. They were incrediblygrateful, mentioned numerous times 'God is going tobless y'all for this'. When we got them to the dock,they offered us an Allen Iverson jersey off of one oftheir backs as a gesture of gratitude, which wasliterally probably the most valuable possession amongthem all. Obviously, we declined, but I remaintremendously impacted by this gesture.I don't know what to do with all of this, but I thinkwe need to get this story out. Some of what is beingportrayed among the media is happening and isterrible, but it is among a very small group ofpeople, not the majority. They make it seem like NewOrleans has somehow taken the atmosphere of the mobsin Mogadishu portrayed in the book and movie "BlackHawk Down," which is making volunteers (including us)more hesitant and rescue attempts more difficult. As aresult, people are dying. My family has beenvolunteering at the shelters here in Houma and cancount on one hand the number of people among thousandswho have not said "Thank You." or "God Bless You."

Their lives shattered and families torn apart,gracious just to have us serve them beans and rice.If anything, these eight people's stories deserve tobe told, so that people across the world will knowwhat they really did in the midst of this devastation.So that it will not be assumed that they were lootinghospitals, they were shooting at helicopters. It mustbe known that they, like many other people that weencountered, sacrificed themselves during all of thisto help other people in more dire straits than theirown.It is also important to know that this account iscoming from someone who is politically conservative,believes in capitalism and free enterprise, and istraditionally against many of the opinions and stancesof activists like Michael Moore and other liberals onmost of the hot-topic political issues of the day.

Believe me, I am not the political activist. Thistranscends politics. This is about humanity andhelping mankind. We need to get these people out. Savetheir lives. We can sort out all of the political andsocial issues later. People need to know the truth ofwhat is going on at the ground level so that they knowthat New Orleans and the people stranded there are,despite being panicked and desperate, gracious peopleand they deserve the chance to live. They need all ofour help, as well.This is an accurate account of things. Jeffery Rauwould probably tell the same exact stories.Regards,Robert LeBlanc985.876.9172spacer

5) They (we?) wuz warned:

Der Spiegel, Germany
August 31, 2005
By Sidney Blumenthal

In 2001, FEMA warned that a hurricane striking NewOrleans was one of the three most likely disasters inthe U.S. But the Bush administration cut New Orleansflood control funding by 44 percent to pay for theIraq war.Biblical in its uncontrolled rage and scope,Hurricane Katrina has left millions of Americans toscavenge for food and shelter and hundreds tothousands reportedly dead. With its main leveebroken, the evacuated city of New Orleans has becomepart of the Gulf of Mexico. But the damage wrought bythe hurricane may not entirely be the result of anact of nature.

A year ago the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposedto study how New Orleans could be protected from acatastrophic hurricane, but the Bush administrationordered that the research not be undertaken. After aflood killed six people in 1995, Congress created theSoutheast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, inwhich the Corps of Engineers strengthened andrenovated levees and pumping stations. In early 2001,the FederalEmergency Management Agency issued a report statingthat a hurricane striking New Orleans was one of thethree most likely disasters in the U.S., including aterrorist attack on New York City. But by 2003 thefederal funding for the flood control projectessentially dried up as it was drained into the Iraqwar. In 2004, the Bush administration cut fundingrequested by the New Orleans district of the U.S.Army Corps of Engineers for holding back the watersof Lake Pontchartrain by more than 80 percent.

Additional cuts at the beginning of this year (for atotal reduction in funding of 44.2 percent since2001) forced the New Orleans district of the Corps toimpose a hiring freeze. The Senate had debated addingfunds for fixing New Orleans' levees, but it was toolate.The New Orleans Times-Picayune, which before thehurricane published a series on the federal fundingproblem, and whose presses are nowunderwater, reported online: "No one can say theydidn't see it coming ... Now in the wake of one ofthe worst storms ever, serious questions are beingasked about the lack of preparation."The Bush administration's policy of turning overwetlands to developers almost certainly alsocontributed to the heightened level of the stormsurge. In 1990, a federal task force began restoringlost wetlands surrounding New Orleans. Every twomiles of wetland between the Crescent City and theGulf reduces a surge by half a foot. Bush hadpromised "no net loss" of wetlands, a policy launchedby his father's administration and bolstered byPresident Clinton. But he reversed his approach in2003, unleashing the developers. The Army Corps ofEngineers and theEnvironmental Protection Agency then announced theycould no longer protect wetlands unless they weresomehow related to interstate commerce.In response to this potential crisis, four leadingenvironmental groups conducted a joint expert study,concluding in 2004 that without wetlands protectionNew Orleans could be devastated by an ordinary, muchless a Category 4 or 5, hurricane. "There's no way todescribe how mindless a policy that is when it comesto wetlands protection," said one of the report'sauthors. The chairman of the White House's Council onEnvironmental Quality dismissed the study as "highlyquestionable," and boasted, "Everybody loves whatwe're doing.""My administration's climate change policy will bescience based," President Bush declared in June 2001.

But in 2002, when the Environmental Protection Agencysubmitted a study on global warming to the UnitedNations reflecting its expert research, Bush deridedit as "a report put out by a bureaucracy," andexcised the climate change assessment from theagency's annual report. The next year, when the EPAissued its first comprehensive "Report on theEnvironment," stating, "Climate change has globalconsequences for human health and the environment,"the White House simply demanded removal of the lineand all similar conclusions. At the G-8 meeting inScotland this year, Bush successfully stymied anycommon action on global warming. Scientists,meanwhile, have continued to accumulate impressivedata on the rising temperature of the oceans, whichhas produced more severe hurricanes.In February 2004, 60 of the nation's leadingscientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, warned in astatement, "Restoring Scientific Integrity inPolicymaking": "Successful application of science hasplayed a large part in the policies that have madethe United States of America the world's mostpowerful nation and its citizens increasinglyprosperous and healthy ... Indeed, this principle haslong been adhered to by presidents andadministrations of both parties in forming andimplementing policies. The administration of GeorgeW. Bush has, however, disregarded this principle ...The distortion of scientific knowledge for partisanpolitical ends must cease." Bush completely ignoredthis statement.In the two weeks preceding the storm in the Gulf, thetrumping of science by ideology and expertise byspecial interests accelerated. The Federal DrugAdministration announced that it was postponing saleof themorning-after contraceptive pill, despiteoverwhelming scientific evidence of its safety andits approval by the FDA's scientific advisory board.

The United Nations special envoy for HIV/AIDS inAfrica accused the Bush administration ofresponsibility for a condom shortage in Uganda -- theresult of the administration's evangelical Christianagenda of"abstinence." When the chief of the Bureau of JusticeStatistics in the Justice Department was ordered bythe White House to delete its study thatAfrican-Americans and other minorities are subject toracial profiling in police traffic stops and herefused to buckle under, he was forced out of hisjob. When the Army Corps of Engineers' chiefcontracting oversight analyst objected to a $7billion no-bid contract awarded for work in Iraq toHalliburton (the firm at which Vice President Cheneywas formerly CEO), she was demoted despite hersuperior professional ratings. At the National ParkService, a former Cheney aide, a political appointeelackingprofessional background, drew up a plan to overturnpast environmental practices and prohibit any mentionof evolution while allowing sale of religiousmaterials through the Park Service.

On the day the levees burst in New Orleans, Bushdelivered a speech in Colorado comparing the Iraq warto World War II and himself to Franklin D. Roosevelt:"And he knew that the best way to bring peace andstability to the region was by bringing freedom toJapan." Bush had boarded his very own "StreetcarNamed Desire."Sidney Blumenthal, a former assistant and senioradvisor to President Clinton and the author of "TheClinton Wars," is writing a column for Salon and theGuardian of London.

4) South drowns, Rice soaks in N.Y.
(NY Daily News,9/2/05)

Did New Yorkers chase Condoleezza Rice back toWashington yesterday? Like President Bush, the Secretary of State has beenon vacation during the Hurricane Katrina crisis, withRice enjoying her downtime in New York Wednesday andyesterday. The cabinet member's responsibilities areusually international, but her timing contributed tothe "fiddling while Rome burns" impression given byher boss during the disaster, which may have claimedthousands of lives. On Wednesday night, Secretary Rice was booed by someaudience members at "Spamalot!," the Monty Pythonmusical at the Shubert, when the lights went up afterthe performance. Yesterday, Rice went shopping at Ferragamo on FifthAve. According to the Web site, the50-year-old bought "several thousand dollars' worth ofshoes" at the pricey leather-goods boutique. A fellow shopper shouted, "How dare you shop for shoeswhile thousands are dying and homeless!" - presumablyreferring to Louisiana and Mississippi. The woman expressing her First Amendment rights waspromptly removed from the store. A Ferragamo storemanager confirmed to us that Rice did shop thereyesterday, but refused to answer questions aboutwhether the protester was removed, and whether by hisown security or the Secret Service. At the State Department's daily briefing yesterdaymorning, before the New York incident, spokesman SeanMcCormack responded to a journalist who asked whetherRice was involved with hurricane relief efforts bysaying, "She's in contact with the department asappropriate." He made no mention that his boss had anyplans to leave New York. But yesterday afternoon, Rice had done just that.Department spokeswoman Joanne Moore told us: "Thesecretary is back in Washington, and she is beingbriefed on the situation." Moore did not know whetherCondi had planned a longer stay here.

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