Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Middle East Yet Again

I am not intentionally ignoring the nearly 800 pilgrims who just died in Baghdad while doing their pilgrimage. However, I've been obsessed with Katrina in New Orleans (hell, that's MY house, after all), and I've been distracted from Iraq temporarily. The pilgrims' loss is obviously massive, and it deserves a lot of attention, but I have nothing special on it at the moment. Instead, I have previous postings on Iraq that have sat on the shelf while I was obsessing about Katrina:
1) Top priority for activists, this from an anonymous friend. The first part is to a link by Reuters about their person taken by US forces:
"I wanted to bring something to your attention in hopes that it might generate enough noise to make a difference. I'm attaching a link below to a story on reuters calling for release of cameraman shot in baghdad (almost certainly by US snipers) and then taken away by u.s. troops. A driver/soundman with whom we worked, Walid Khalid, was with him and was shot to death. u.s. military is offering little explanation or justification but implying that one or both of them was up to something. Another cameraman, from Ramadi -- who replaced a guy also shot to death, again very probably by u.s. troops -- is also being held incommunicado in abu ghraib. rsf, cpj and others have gotten involved, but perhaps mentioning it along with a pentagon number or email address could help make it enough of a hassle to do something for them:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20050829/ts_nm/iraq_reuters_dc;_ylt=AmJu4luvtOH1BuBc9z58AUFZ.3QA;_ylu=X3oDMTBiMW04NW9mBHNlYwMlJVRPUCUl
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20050831/ts_nm/iraq_reuters_dc;_ylt=AkJo8erK8MaOwXPJvmmmxxdZ.3QA;_ylu=X3oDMTBiMW04NW9mBHNlYwMlJVRPUCUl
This is another quote by the fellow trying to help the guy get out:
"The one guy has been freed, thankfully; the Ramadicameraman's detention extended for up to six monthsbefore a hearing, still incommunicado. Unbelievable.the kangaroo court which rules on such things is saidto have deemed him a threat to iraq."
If you want to get involved in helping out these journalists (who are friends of a close friend of mine), then here is your contact point:
Defense Department operators (703) 545-6700.http://www.pentagon.mil/faq/comment.html
Here is a quote, which shows how US democracy really works:
"I don't have any illusions about anyone listening, but hope there is a possibility of making it noisy enough that the military will find justifying their imprisonment more trouble than it's worth."
2) "please also see this link for the state of things as of wednesday afternoon":
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20050831/ts_nm/iraq_reuters_dc;_ylt=AkJo8erK8MaOwXPJvmmmxxdZ.3QA;_ylu=X3oDMTBiMW04NW9mBHNlYwMlJVRPUCUl

3) Here is a post explaining democracy, as it stands currently in Iraq:
Iraq parl't absentees thwart vote on absenteeismMon Aug 29, 2005 11:33 AM BST
By Michael Georgy
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's parliament proposed a law on Monday to sack members of the National Assembly who repeatedly failed to turn up for work -- but the decision was put on hold because too many were absent to hold a vote.
The chamber voted 74 in favour and 71 against the legislation, but deputy speaker Hussein al-Shahristani decided to put proceedings on hold because those opposed said the absentees had a right to vote.
It was not clear why the remaining members of the 275-member parliament had missed work.
"We are in a national assembly and we have to obey its rules," said an assembly member.
Iraq's parliament is portrayed by Iraqi officials and their American supporters as a symbol of democracy after decades of iron-fisted rule under Saddam Hussein.
It meets for long hours locked in heated debates on everything from foreign relations to wheat purchases in a conference hall where birthday parties were once held for Saddam.
Just before arguments on absentee members erupted many issues were discussed, including compensation for victims of relentless suicide bombings and shootings that prompted the construction of blast walls around their building complex.
Parliament sessions are televised live to show Iraqis their new leaders are focussing on the country's problems, including power and water shortages and rampant crime.
But poor attendance in the chamber has raised questions over parliament members, who offcials say are paid much higher salaries than average Iraqis.
The issue came to a head in a heated session one day after politicians wrangled for weeks on a new constitution and handed it to parliament.
"Brothers, to cause panic in this session do you think that the Iraqi people will accept to find the national assembly in this state," asked Shahristani, a former nuclear scientist jailed by Saddam.
When one of the members of parliament called for a vote recount, Shahristani yelled back.
"You can't impose your point of view on the others," he said.
But one member reminded the parliament that they now live in a democracy.
"Doubting is the right of any member in the National Assembly because we don't have computers to count the votes so we have to rely on people."

4) Is Iraq more expensive than Vietnam even was?:
The Iraq Quagmire: The Mounting Costs of War and theCase for Bringing Home the Troops
A Study by the Institute for Policy Studies andForeign Policy In Focus
By Phyllis Bennis and Erik Leaverand the IPS Iraq TaskForce
August 31, 2005
Full report with citations (.pdf document)
Key Findings
Highlights
* Costs to the United States * Costs to Iraq * Costs to the World
KEY FINDINGS
“The Iraq Quagmire” is the most comprehensiveaccounting of the mounting costs and consequences ofthe Iraq War on the United States, Iraq, and theworld. Among its major findings are stark figures thatquantify the continuing of costs since the Iraqielections, a period that the Bush administrationclaimed would be characterized by a reduction in thehuman and economic costs.
Vietnam Echoes
* According to current estimates, the cost of theIraq War could exceed $700 billion. In currentdollars, the Vietnam War cost U.S. taxpayers $600billion. * Operations costs in Iraq are estimated at $5.6billion per month in 2005. By comparison, the averagecost of U.S. operations in Vietnam over the eight-yearwar was $5.1 billion per month, adjusting forinflation. * Staying in Iraq and Afghanistan at currentlevels would nearly double the projected federalbudget deficit over the next decade. * Since 2001, the U.S. has deployed more than 1million troops to Iraq and Afghanistan. * Broken down per person in the United States, thecost so far is $727, making the Iraq War the mostexpensive military effort in the last 60 years. * The number of journalists killed reporting theIraq War (66) has exceeded the number of journalistskilled reporting on the Vietnam War (63).
A New Kind of Quagmire
* More than 210,000 of the National Guard’s330,000 soldiers have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. * Guard mobilizations average 460 days. * Nearly a third of active-duty troops, 341,000men and women, have served two or more overseas tours.
Cost to Iraq
* The U.S. controls 106 military bases acrossIraq. Congress has budgeted $236 million for permanentbase construction in FY2005. * At least 23,589 to 26,705 Iraqi civilians havebeen killed. * On average 155 members of the Iraqi securityforces have died every month since the January 2005elections, up from an average of 65 before they wereheld. * Suicide attack rates rose to 50 per month in thefirst five months of 2005, up from 20 per month in2003 and 48 in 2004. * Iraq’s resistance forces remain at 16,000-40,000even with the U.S. coalition killing or capturing1,600 resistance members per month.
And the World’s Less Safe
* The State Department reported that the number of“significant” terrorist attacks reached a record 655in 2004, up from 175 in 2003. * The Iraq War has weakened the UN’s authority andcredibility.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE IRAQ QUAGMIRE
I. Costs to the United States
A. Human Costs to the U.S. and Allies
U.S. Military Deaths: Between the start of waron March 19, 2003 and August 22, 2005 2,060 coalitionforces have been killed, including 1,866 U.S. militarypersonnel.
Over 14,065 U.S. troops have been wounded,13,523 (96 percent) since May 1, 2003.
Contractor Deaths: There have been 255civilian contractor deaths since the “end of majorcombat” on May 1, 2003, including 91 identified asAmericans.
Journalist Deaths: Sixty-six internationalmedia workers have been killed in Iraq as of August28, 2005. U.S. forces are responsible for at leasteleven deaths, including employees from ABC, CNN,Reuters, BBC, ITN, Arab TV stations al-Arabiya andal-Jazeera and Spanish station Telecinco.
B. Security Costs
Terrorist Recruitment and Action: The StateDepartment found that the number of “significant”international terrorist attacks in 2004 reached 655,three times the previous record of 175 in 2003.Terrorist incidents in Iraq also increased by a factorof nine—from 22 attacks in 2003 to 198 in 2004.
Overstretch of Military: Since 2001, the U.S.military has deployed more than 1 million troops forthe wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with 341,000 ornearly a third, serving two or more overseas tours. InAugust 2005 Army recruitment remained at 11 percentbehind its yearly goal. The Reserve stands at 20percent behind its goals and the Army National Guardis 23 percent short of its goals.
Security Costs Due to Loss of FirstResponders: Roughly 48,000 members of the NationalGuard and Reserve are currently serving in Iraq—makingup nearly 35 percent of the total U.S. forces there.Their deployment puts a particularly heavy burden ontheir home communities because many are “firstresponders,” including police officers, firefighters,and emergency medical personnel. For example, 44percent of the country’s police forces have lostofficers to Iraq. In some states, the absence of somany Guard troops has raised concerns about theability to handle fires and other natural disasters.
Use of Private Military Contractors: TheDepartment of Defense estimates that there are atleast 60 private security providers with perhaps asmany as 25,000 employees.
Of the 44 incidents of abuse that have beendocumented at Abu Ghraib prison,16 have been tied toprivate contractors. While numerous soldiers have beencourtmartialed for their roles in the scandal, nocontractor has been brought up on charges.
C. Economic Costs
The Bill So Far: Congress has already approvedfour spending bills for Iraq with funds totaling$204.4 billion and is in the process of approving a“bridge fund” for $45.3 billion to cover operationsuntil another supplemental spending package can bepassed, most likely slated for Spring 2006. Brokendown per person in the United States, the cost so faris $727, making the Iraq War the most expensivemilitary effort in the last 60 years.
Long-term Impact on U.S. Economy: In August2005, the Congressional Budget Office estimated thatthe cost of continuing the wars in Iraq andAfghanistan at current levels would nearly double theprojected federal budget deficit over the next tenyears. According to current estimates, during thattime the cost of the Iraq War could exceed $700billion.
Economic Impact on Military Families: Sincethe beginning of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,more than 210,000 of the National Guard’s 330,000soldiers have been called up, with an averagemobilization of 460 days. Government studies show thatabout half of all reservists and Guard members reporta loss of income when they go on active duty—typicallymore than $4,000 a year. About 30,000 small businessowners alone have been called to service and areespecially likely to fall victim to the adverseeconomic effects of military deployment.
D. Social Costs
U.S. Budget and Social Programs: TheAdministration’s FY 2006 budget, which does notinclude any funding for the Iraq War, takes a hardline with domestic spending— slashing or eliminatingmore than 150 federal programs. The $204.4 billionappropriated thus far for the war in Iraq could havepurchased any of the following desperately neededservices in our country: 46,458,805 uninsured peoplereceiving health care or 3,545,016 elementary schoolteachers or 27,093,473 Head Start places for childrenor 1,841,833 affordable housing units or 24,072 newelementary schools or 39,665,748 scholarships foruniversity students or 3,204,265 port containerinspectors.
Social Costs to the Military/Troop Morale: Asof May 2005, stop-loss orders are affecting 14,082soldiers—almost 10 percent of the entire forcesserving in Iraq with no end date set for the use ofthese orders. Long deployments and high levels ofsoldier’s stress extend to family life. In 2004, 3,325Army officer’s marriages ended in divorce—up 78percent from 2003, the year of the Iraq invasion andmore than 3.5 times the number in 2000.
Costs to Veteran Health Care: The VeteransAffairs department projected that 23,553 veteranswould return from Iraq and Afghanistan in 2005 andseek medical care. But in June 2005, the VA Secretary,Jim Nicholson, revised this number to 103,000. Themiscalculation has led to a shortfall of $273 millionin the VA budget for 2005 and may result in a loss of$2.6 billion in 2006.
Mental Health Costs: In July 2005 the Army’ssurgeon general reported that 30 percent of U.S.troops have developed stress-related mental healthproblems three to four months after coming home fromthe Iraq War. Because about 1 million American troopshave served so far in the conflicts in Iraq andAfghanistan some experts predict that the numbereventually requiring mental health treatment couldexceed 100,000.
II. Costs to Iraq
A. Human Costs to Iraqis
Iraqi Civilian Deaths: As of August 22, 2005,between 23,589 and 26,705 civilians have been killedas a direct result of the U.S. invasion and ensuingoccupation of Iraq. But the actual death toll may bemuch higher. The British medical journal, The Lancet,reported in October 2004 that Iraq suffered 98,000“excess deaths” from March 2003 to September 2004.
Iraqi Civilians Wounded: The Project onDefense Alternatives estimates the number of woundedbetween 100,000 and 120,000.
Iraqi Police and Security Forces Killed: IraqCoalition Casualty Count reports that 2,945 Iraqimilitary and police forces have been killed since thewar started while other reports estimate up to 6,000have been killed. Up until December 2004, the monthlydeath figure was 65 but in 2005 the average has been155 and the death toll reached a high of 304 in July2005.
B. Security Costs
Failure to Train Security Forces: In June 2004the State Department reported that 145,317 Iraqitroops were trained but one year later, StateDepartment reports only note an additional 35,000security forces were added to the ranks. The readinessof these troops cannot be ascertained. A March 2005GAO report noted that “the departments of State andDefense no longer report on the extent to which Iraqisecurity forces are equipped with their requiredweapons, vehicles, communications equipment, and bodyarmor.”
Rise in the Resistance: Despite 40,000-50,000deaths and arrests, the resistance continues tothrive. The number of resistance fighters in Iraqincreased from 5,000 in November 2003 to “no more than20,000” in July 2005 and Iraq’s national intelligenceservice director estimates there are more than 200,000sympathizers. Resistance attacks have risen 23 percentin the last four months. The rise in suicide attackshas skyrocketed. In 2003 there were 20, in 2004 therewere 48 and in the first five months of 2005 therehave been more than 50.
Rise in Crime: Baghdad’s central morguecounted 8,035 deaths by unnatural causes in 2004, upfrom 6,012 in 2003 and 1,800 before the war in 2002.2005 is turning out to be even deadlier with theBaghdad morgue reporting 1,100 in July 2005.
C. Economic Costs
Unemployment: Unemployment figures today rangefrom 20 percent to 60 percent. By comparison, duringthe Great Depression, U.S. unemployment peaked at 25percent. Up to 60 percent of Iraqis depend on foodhandouts and the average income has dropped from$3,000 in the 1980s to $800 in 2004.
Corporate War Profiteering: Most of Iraq’sreconstruction has been contracted out to U.S.companies, rather than experienced Iraqi firms. U.S.auditors and the media have documented numerous casesof fraud, waste, and incompetence. The most egregiousproblems are attributed to Halliburton which has beenawarded more than $10 billion in contracts. Pentagonauditors found that Halliburton failed to accountadequately for $1.8 billion in charges for feeding andhousing troops.
Iraq’s Oil Economy: Iraq’s oil productionremains stalled at levels lower than before the U.S.invasion. In 2003, Iraq’s oil production dropped to1.33 million barrels per day, down from 2.04 millionone year earlier. In July 2005, oil productionremained below pre-war levels. Iraq continues toimport half its gasoline and thousands of tons ofheating fuel, cooking gas and other refined products.
D. Social Costs
Electricity: By late July 2004, Iraq exceededits pre-war electricity levels, providing nearly 5,000megawatts of electricity across the country but sincethat date, levels have failed to improve; the averageproduction in July 2005 was 4,446 megawatts
Health: A joint Iraqi-United Nations reportreleased in May 2005 found that “the estimated numberof persons living with a chronic health problemdirectly caused by war is 223,000 ... in the ongoingwar, more children, elderly, and women have beendisabled than in previous wars.”
Environment: During the war, water and sewagesystems were destroyed, thousands of bombs weredropped leaving unexploded ordnance (UXO) strewnacross the country, and the fragile desert ecosystemwas damaged by tanks and U.S. temporary militaryoutposts. Post-war looting further contributed to thedamage. Three thousand nuclear compound storagebarrels were looted and 5,000 barrels of chemicalswere spilt, burned, or stolen. It is estimated thatmore than 12 million mines and UXO units are stillpresent.
E. Human Rights Costs
Despite problems at U.S. detention centers,the use of arbitrary arrests continues.
The average prisoner level in June 2005 was10,783, up from 7,837 at the time of the January 2005elections, and double that of the June 2004 level of5,335. The U.S. is expanding three existing facilitiesand opening a fourth, at a cost of $50 million withthe goal of being able to detain 16,000 long-termprisoners. Illustrating the problems caused bywidespread sweeps of arrests without cause, reviewprocesses indicate that six out of every 10 Iraqisarrested are released without charges.
F. Sovereignty Costs
Economic and Political Sovereignty: Despitethe January elections, the country has severelylimited political and economic independence. Thetransitional government has limited ability to reversethe 100 orders by former CPA head Paul Bremer that,among other things, allow for the privatization ofIraq’s state-owned enterprises and prohibitpreferences for domestic firms in bidding onreconstruction work.
Military Sovereignty: Currently, the U.S.operates out of approximately 106 locations across thecountry. In May 2005, plans for concentrating U.S.troops into four massive bases positionedgeographically in the North, South, East and West werereported and the most recent spending bill in Congressfor the Iraq War contained $236 million for buildingpermanent facilities.
III. Costs to the World
A. Human Costs
While Americans make up the vast majority ofmilitary and contractor personnel in Iraq, otherU.S.-allied “coalition” troops from the U.K., Italy,Poland and other countries have suffered 194 warcasualties in Iraq. The focus on Iraq has divertedinternational resources and attention away fromhumanitarian crises such as in Sudan.
B. Disabling International Law
The unilateral U.S. decision to go to war inIraq violated the United Nations Charter, setting adangerous precedent for other countries to seize anyopportunity to respond militarily to claimed threats,whether real or contrived, that must be “preempted.”
The U.S. military has also violated the GenevaConvention, making it more likely that in the future,other nations will ignore these protections in theirtreatment of civilian populations and detainees.
C. Undermining the United Nations
The efforts of the Bush administration to gainUN acceptance of an Iraqi government that was notelected but rather installed by occupying forcesundermines the entire notion of national sovereigntyas the basis for the UN Charter.
D. Enforcing Coalitions
Faced with opposition in the UN SecurityCouncil, the U.S. government attempted to create theillusion of multilateral support for the war bypressuring other governments to join a so-called“Coalition of the Willing.” This not only circumventedUN authority, but also undermined democracy in manycoalition countries, where public opposition to thewar was as high as 90 percent. As of the middle ofJuly 2005, only 26 countries of the original 45members of the “Coalition of the Willing” had eventoken forces in Iraq, in addition to the UnitedStates.
E. Costs to the Global Economy
The $204.4 billion spent by the U.S.government on the war could have cut world hunger inhalf and covered HIV/AIDS medicine, childhoodimmunization and clean water and sanitation needs ofthe developing world for almost three years.
F. Undermining Global Security and Disarmament
The U.S.-led war and occupation havegalvanized international terrorist organizations,placing people not only in Iraq but around the worldat greater risk of attack.
Global Increase in Military Spending: In 2002world military spending was $795 billion. With theskyrocketing costs of the war in Iraq, worldwidemilitary spending soared to an estimated $956 billionin 2003 and in 2004, the figure spiked again to $1.035trillion.
G. Global Environmental Costs
U.S.-fired depleted uranium weapons havecontributed to pollution of Iraq’s land and water,with inevitable spillover effects in other countries.The heavily polluted Tigris River, for example, flowsthrough Iraq, Iran and Kuwait.
H. Human Rights
The Justice Department memo assuring the WhiteHouse that torture was legal stands in stark violationof the International Convention Against Torture (ofwhich the United States is a signatory). This,combined with the widely publicized mistreatment ofIraqi prisoners by U.S. military and intelligenceofficials, gave new license for torture andmistreatment by governments around the world.

5) Here's another op-ed about NPT:
Comment
Bush is the real threat
Tony Benn(Minister in very many British labor governments -Salil)
Wednesday August 31, 2005The Guardian
Now that the US president has announced that he hasnot ruled out an attack on Iran, if it does not abandon its nuclear programme, the Middle East faces a crisis that could dwarf even the dangers arising from the war in Iraq. Even a conventional weapon fired at a nuclear research centre - whether or not a bomb was being made there - would almost certainly release radioactivity into the atmosphere, withconsequences seen worldwide as a mini-Hiroshima.
We would be told that it had been done to uphold theprinciples of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) - an argument that does not stand up to a moment's examination.
The moral and legal basis of the NPT convention, whichthe International Atomic Energy Agency is there to uphold, was based on the agreement of non-nuclear nations not to acquire nuclear weapons if nuclear powers undertook not to extend nuclear arsenals and negotiate to secure their abolition.
Since then, the Americans have launched a programmethat would allow them to use nuclear weapons in space, nuclear bunker-busting bombs are being developed, and depleted uranium has been used in Iraq - all of which are clear breaches of the NPT.
Israel, which has a massive nuclear weapons programme, is accepted as a close ally of the US, which still arms and funds it.
Even those who are opposed, as I am, to nuclearweapons in every country including Iran, North Korea, Britain and the US, accept that nuclear power for electricity generation need not necessarily lead to the acquisition of the bomb.
Indeed, many years ago, when the shah - who had beenput on the throne by the US - was in power in Iran, enormous pressure was put on me, as secretary of state for energy, to agree to sell nuclear power stations to him. That pressure came from the AtomicEnergy Authority, in conjunction with Westinghouse, who were anxious to promote their own design of reactor.
It is easy to understand why president Bush might seethe bombing of Iran as a way to regain some of the political credibility he has lost as a result of the growing hostility in America to the Iraq war due to the heavy casualties suffered by US forces there .
It is inconceivable that the White House can becontemplating an invasion of Iran, and what must be intended is a US airstrike, or airstrikes, on Iranian nuclear installations, comparable to Israel's bombing of Iraq in 1981. Israel has publicly hinted that it might do the same again to prevent Iran developing nuclear nuclear weapons.
Such an attack, whether by the US or Israel, would bein breach of the UN Charter, as was the invasion of Iraq. But neither Bush, Sharon nor Blair would take any notice of that.
Some influential Americans appear to be convinced thatthe US will attack Iran. Whether they are right or not, the build-up to a new war is taking exactly the same form as it did in 2002.
First, we are being told that Iran poses a military threat, because it may be developing nuclear weapons. We are assured that the President is hoping that diplomacy might succeed through the Europeannegotiations which have been in progress for some months.
This is just what we were told when Hans Blix was inBaghdad talking to Saddam on behalf of the UN, but we now know, from a Downing Street memorandum leaked some months ago, that the decision to invade had been taken long before that.
That may be the position now, and I fear that if a USattack does take place, the prime minister will give it his full support. And one of his reasons for doing so will be the same as in Iraq: namely the fear that, if he alienates Bush, Britain's so-called ndependent deterrent might be taken away. For, as I also learnedwhen I was energy secretary, Britain is entirely dependent on the US for the supply of our Trident warheads and associated technology. They cannot even be targeted unless the US switches on its globalsatellite system.
Therefore Britain could be assisting America to commitan act of aggression under the UN Charter, which could risk a major nuclear disaster, and doing so supposedly to prevent nuclear proliferation, with the real motive of making it possible for us tocontinue to break the NPT in alliance with America.
The irony is that we might be told that Britain mustsupport Bush, yet again, because of the threat of weapons of mass destruction, thus allowing him to kill even more innocent civilians.
· Tony Benn will be talking about War; Religion andpolitics; and Democracy, at the Shaw Theatre in London on September 7, 8 and 9
Tony@tbenn.fsnet.co.uk
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005
5) Noah Feldman's take on this some sort of constitution:
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/30/opinion/30feldman.html?ei=5040&en=4aeb8c9a7b8b5fb7&ex=11&oref=login

6) Uncle Sam trying to bribe its way through the quagmire:
http://www.focus-fen.net/index.php?catid=138&newsid=71234&ch=0&datte=2005-08-30

7) Here's a little tidbit, ironic to say the least:
Standard Form 86 - Questionnaire for NationalSecurity Positions is printed by Unicor Federal Prison Industries, Inc. in Leavenworth, Kansas

8) A little op-ed by Monbiot, on the models for democracy:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1558962,00.html
How to stop civil war
Nicaragua and South Africa, not the US, should be theinspiration for the people framing Iraq's constitution
George MonbiotTuesday August 30, 2005The Guardian
Between the idea and the reality falls the shadow ofoccupation. Whatever the parliamentarians in Iraq doto try to prevent total meltdown, their efforts arecompromised by the fact that their power grows fromthe barrel of someone else's gun. When George Bushpicked up the phone last week to urge the negotiatorsto sign the constitution, he reminded Iraqis thattheir representatives - though elected - remain theadministrators of his protectorate. While US andBritish troops stay in Iraq, no government there canmake an undisputed claim to legitimacy. Nothing can beresolved in that country until our armies leave.This is by no means the only problem confronting thepeople who drafted Iraq's constitution. The refusal bythe Shias and the Kurds to make serious compromises onfederalism, which threatens to deprive the central,Sunni-dominated areas of oil revenues, leaves theSunnis with little choice but to reject the agreementin October's referendum. The result could be civilwar.
Can anything be done? It might be too late. But itseems to me that the transitional assembly has onelast throw of the dice. This is to abandon theconstitution it has signed, and Bush's self-servingtimetable, and start again with a different democraticdesign.
The problem with the way the constitution was producedis the problem afflicting almost all the world'sdemocratic processes. The deliberations were back tofront. First the members of the constitutionalcommittee, shut inside the green zone, argue overevery dot and comma; then they present the whole thing(25 pages in English translation) to the people for ayes or no answer. The question and the answer aremeaningless.
All politically conscious people, having particularinterests and knowing that perfection in politics isimpossible, will, on reading a complex document likethis, see that it is good in some places and bad inothers. They might recognise some articles as beingbad for them but good for society as a whole; theymight recognise others as being good or bad for almosteveryone. What then does yes or no mean?
Let me be more precise. How, for example, could anyoneagree with both these statements, from articles 2 and19 respectively? "Islam is the official religion ofthe state and is a basic source of legislation: no lawcan be passed that contradicts the undisputed rules ofIslam." (In other words, the supreme authority in lawis God.) "The judiciary is independent, with no powerabove it other than the law."
Or both these, from articles 14 and 148? "Iraqis areequal before the law without discrimination because ofsex, ethnicity, nationality, origin, colour, religion,sect, belief, opinion or social or economic status";"Members of the presidential council must ... haveleft the dissolved party [the Ba'ath] at least 10years before its fall if they were members in it."
Faced with such contradictions, no thoughtful electorcan wholly endorse or reject this document. Of course,this impossible choice is what we would haveconfronted (but at 10 times the length and a hundredtimes the complexity) had we been asked to vote on theEuropean constitution. The yes or no question put tous would have been just as stupid, and just as just asstupefying. It treats us like idiots and - because wecannot refine our responses - reduces us to idiots.But while it would have merely enhanced our sense ofalienation from the European project, for the Iraqisthe meaninglessness of the question could be a matterof life and death. If there is not a widespread senseof public ownership of the country's politicalprocesses, and a widespread sense that politicaldifferences can be meaningfully resolved by democraticmeans, this empowers those who seek to resolve themotherwise.
Last week George Bush, echoed on these pages by BillClinton's former intelligence adviser Philip Bobbitt,compared the drafting process in Baghdad to theconstruction of the American constitution. If theybelieve that the comparison commends itself to thepeople of Iraq, they are plainly even more out oftouch than I thought. But it should also be obviousthat we now live in more sceptical times. When the USconstitution was drafted, representative democracy wasa radical and thrilling idea. Now it is an object ofsuspicion and even contempt, as people all over theworld recognise that it allows us to change themanagement but not the firm. And one of the factorsthat have done most to engender public scepticism isthe meaninglessness of the only questions we are everasked. I read Labour's manifesto before the lastelection and found good and bad in it. But whether Ivoted for or against, I had no means to explain what Iliked and what I didn't.
Does it require much imagination to see the linkbetween our choice of meaningless absolutes and theManichean worldview our leaders have evolved? We mustdecide at elections whether they are right or wrong -about everything. Should we then be surprised whenthey start talking about good and evil, friend andfoe, being with them or against them?
Almost two years ago Troy Davis, ademocracy-engineering consultant, pointed out that ifa constitutional process in Iraq was to engender trustand national commitment, it had to "promote a cultureof democratic debate". Like Professor Vivian Hart, ofthe University of Sussex, he argued that it shoulddraw on the experiences of Nicaragua in 1986, where100,000 people took part in townhall meetingsreviewing the draft constitution, and of South Africa,where the public made 2 million submissions to thedrafting process. In both cases, the sense of publicownership this fostered accelerated the process ofreconciliation. Not only is your own voice heard inthese public discussions, but you must also hearothers. Hearing them, you are confronted with the needfor compromise.
But when negotiations are confined to the green zone'sblack box, the Iraqis have no sense that the processbelongs to them. Because they are not asked toparticipate, they are not asked to understand whereother people's interests lie and how they might beaccommodated. And when the whole thing goes belly up,it will be someone else's responsibility. If Iraqfalls apart over the next couple of years, it wouldnot be unfair, among other factors, to blame the factthat Davis and Hart were ignored. For the people whodesigned Iraq's democratic processes, history stoppedin 1787.
Deliberative democracy is not a panacea. You can havefake participatory processes just as you can have fakerepresentative ones. But it is hard to see whyrepresentation cannot be tempered by participation.Why should we be forbidden to choose policies, ratherthan just parties or entire texts? Can we not betrusted? If not, then what is the point of elections?The age of purely representative democracy is surelyover. It is time the people had their say.
www.monbiot.com

Katrina Encours et Toujours IV

Here's yet another posting on Katrina's aftermath. Minimal editorializing on my part this time, but I have a lot of interesting accounts to post below:

1) This is an eyewitness account of Katrina's aftermath by an anonymous friend who stayed through the storm at the Monteleone Hotel in downtown New Orleans, and then drove out of town on the 3rd day:

As many of the recipients of this e-mail know, C and I decided to ride out the storm at the Monteleone. We stayed on the 9th floor in a room with no windows. The Monteleone weathered the storm quite well, but the windows in the roof fitness center were blown out. We were set to leave on the day after the storm until we found out that the parking garage uses an electric elevator to move the cars. Needless to say, we have a car parked on the upper floors of the Monteleone until further notice. Having no way to get out and with a fairly enjoyable situation, we walked around town and took pictures (I hope to upload the pictures this evening when I get access to a high speed connection this evening).

At that point it was a typical post hurricane day. The Alpine bar on Chartres was open and serving drinks by candle light. We got bored and decided to walk through the Marigny and Bywater to F's house to see how it faired. There were a lot of tree limbs down and some damage in that area, but very few building failures. The first few streets next to the levee are high and dry. F's house was undamaged with the exception of the back gate that blew down. With the help of F's neighbor E, we got the gate nailed back into place. At this point it was getting close to evening, and we quickly made our way back to town with the optimistic feeling that power might be restored quickly and that we could leave in our own car which has a full tank of gas.

The next morning brought a complete change. The water began to rise and people began to do a little "shopping" on Canal Street. We realized that it might be a problem when a NOPD officer walked past a group of young shoppers and jokingly asked, "Do you have a size 12?" The closest thing we say to any enforcement action against looters occurred when two NOPD officers grabbed a couple of preteen shoppers and slapped the shit out of them before sending them on their way. When we realized that many of the shoppers were staying with us for free in the Monteleone as friends and family of staff, my wife decided that it was time to get out (and thank God she did).

We noticed on our previous trip to Bywater that F had left his truck at his house. Due to the vagaries of cellphones we got a message relayed to F through C's brother in Florida. Through D, we found out that there were keys in F's house, so we started walking to do a little "shopping" of our own. When we reached F's the water had risen somewhat, but D Street for several blocks toward St. Claude continued to be high and dry. It will take several more feet of water in Bywater before F's house will have water in the street out front, much less in the house. After liberating F's extra keys and nailing a board across the broken window. We went back to the Monteleone and packed up.

We then made our way across the Crescent City Connection to my parents' house on the Westbank. Other than a lot of tree limbs down, the westbank of Orleans Parish faired very well. None of the houses owned by the three Westbank members of the family suffered any damage other than a few missing shingles. We made camp at my parents house for the night. I had a pure redneck moment sitting on my parents' front porch drinking a still cold beer from my parent's rapidly warming fridge and holding a loaded shotgun in case any shoppers were about in their neighborhood. Fortunately, they must still be too busy with the Wal-Mart and the grocery stores to bother with houses.

After a hot, sleepless night, we barricaded the doors, emptied the fringe and headed out town. Despite that asshole Aaron Broussard's pronouncement that we would be shot on sight if we entered Jefferson Parish, we decided to chance a trip to Metairie to check on the little blue house on Johnson St. Passing through the westbank of Jefferson we saw the typical trees down and occasional bit of significant damage, but everything was dry and I did not see the type of catastrophic damage that was being discussed in the media.

I was even more perplexed when we were allowed to cross the Huey P. Long into Elmwood and the road was high and dry (for those who don't know, if two kids spill their cokes as the leave the Palace Theatre, Elmwood floods). We then made out way to Johnson St. dodging downed trees to discover that no only was the blue house standing, it was high and dry (the street had barely flooded), the only damage was some missing shingles (my recommendation is to buy John Mansville stock or stock in your favorite shingle manufacturer). A

fter packing a few items including the pistol that would have brought significant comfort on our walks if I had not stupidly left it at home, we talked to our neighbors across the street who had returned and were keeping an eye on the neighborhood (the had a generator to make the stay more pleasant). I also spoke with my next door neighbor who said there had been gunshots in the neighborhood the night before. It turns out that two roving bands of vigilantes happened upon each other during the night and each mistook the other group for shoppers and decided to shoot first and ask questions later. I guess shoppers a treated a little differently in Jefferson.

Feeling that my house was in good hands and fearing the odd stray bullet, we took off down Airline. Once again, I was surprised at the lack of catastrophic damage. The streets are dry. Some dodging and backtracking is required to get around downed trees, but except for an unfortunate few that we saw, people will be greeted by a cleanup job instead of a major repairs.

A truly stirring site was the hundreds of boats on trailers being driven along Airline from not only the local area but also all around the state and even out of state in response to Harry Lee's call for help in the form of boats. These were ordinary guys rushing to help in any way they could. I guess that's what makes me so mad hearing that complete asshole Broussard spin his gloom and doom. He claims he won't let us back in because of the downed trees and it will take his precious Jefferson Parish crews weeks to clear all the streets. Guess what Aaron, the people of this city do not need to wait for the government to fix every single problem. We can help fix the problems with our city.

For example, when I got to Johnson Street, my block had already been cleaned up by the guys across the street. I'm sure they would have cleared more except that they didn't want to make it easy for the shoppers. I did the same thing in the area in front of my parents' so the house would look like someone might be there. I could have easily cleaned the entire street if not for fear of easing the path for possible shoppers. They keep telling us that business won't be able to open for months and only with help from the government. I guess some forgot to tell that to Mike Serio who was feeding police officers in his restaurant on St. Charles in the CBD after the storm. I'm sure many more like him will do the same as soon as it is safe.

I was happy beyond words to see so many houses of my friends and family still standing and seeing so much of the greater New Orleans area not touched by catastrophe while tempered with heartbreak for my friends who I know lost everything. I guess I learned one thing through this ordeal is to take heart if you love New Orleans. While the pictures of the flooding and looting make great television, there is a large section of town that has not been touched by flood and the people that will rebuild are not the ones looking for free shoes but the ones volunteering their boats and cleaning up their own damn street. Let's hope that many of the shoppers get forcefully evacuated to the Astrodome, new shoes and all.

If I can do anything for anyone, please let me know. Know that all of you are in my thoughts especially those who I know suffered the full force of the storm and the aftermath. We are in Baton Rouge for now with a FEMA provided hotel room secured by my parents. C and I may take a trip or two around the country before it is convenient to go back home. Lastly, F thank you for the use of the truck and the ticket out of Thunderdome.




2) Here's your connection between global warming andKatrina, posted on Friday afternoon. When a friend sent it to me at the time, I noted it but didn't think too much of it yet. Now it seems ominous (if the link doesn't work, ask me and I'll send it as an attachment):

"this is kinda intersting - 'specially if your down inFla.

I posted the map that showed the warm watercirculation in the Gulf of Mexico last year and warnedabout Hurricane Ivan. Now we have Hurricane Katrinaslip-sliding into the Gulf. As a category 1 hurricane,Florida residents did not take it very seriously. Mycondolences to the families of the 4 people killed inFlorida. The news media let you down by not warning ofthe danger. Seems they were too focused on spin, spin,spin, too bad.

Well, here is my warning, once again that the GulfCoast will get struck by a nasty hurricane. Postedbelow, a satellite map of the new warm water loopcurrent and eddy now in the Gulf of Mexico. Iguarantee that this will make Hurricane Katrina acategory 3, that?s right --- Katrina will be upgradedfrom category 1 to at least a category 3. It wouldn?teven surprise me that it could go as high as acategory 5, but I have been out to this current andcategory 3 seems the most likely. This will surprisemost of the weather forecasters on TV, because likemost things they have no clue as to what they read offof the Teleprompter means.

Here?s the map, if I lived in New Orleans, I would beleaving soon?.

Best to all along the Gulf Coast, move out ofKatrina's path and pray.

[Due to technical difficulties, I can't post it, but it's a map of Gulf temperatures prior to Katrina's arrival in the Gulf last week]



3) Well, now at least we know who to blame for Katrina! Apparently it was Southern Decadence's fault all along. I've seen these folks protest at Mardi Gras, and watched New Orleans' finest protect them from a drunken lynching by the fine citizens of the Quarter. I'm with the fine citizens on this one:
http://www.365gay.com/newscon05/08/083105nola.htm

Gays 'Responsible' For New Orleans Devastation Group Claims by Fidel Ortega 365Gay.com Miami Bureau
Posted: August 31, 2005 3:00 pm ET

(New Orleans, Louisiana) An evangelical Christian group that regularly demonstrates at LGBT events is blaming gays for hurricane Katrina.

Repent America says that God "destroyed" New Orleans because of Southern Decadence, the gay festival that was to have taken place in the city over the Labor Day weekend.

"Southern Decadence" has a history of filling the French Quarters section of the city with drunken homosexuals engaging in sex acts in the public streets and bars" Repent America director Michael Marcavage said in a statement Wednesday.

"Although the loss of lives is deeply saddening, this act of God destroyed a wicked city." Marcavage said. "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."

"Let us pray for those ravaged by this disaster. However, we must not forget that the citizens of New Orleans tolerated and welcomed the wickedness in their city for so long," Marcavage said.

"May this act of God cause us all to think about what we tolerate in our city limits, and bring us trembling before the throne of Almighty God," Marcavage concluded.

As 365Gay.com reported on Tuesday, organizers for Southern Decadence have cancelled the event and are promising full ticket refunds. (story)

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said Wednesday that hundreds are known dead and the death toll will reach into the thousands. Some estimates, CNN reported, indicate the final death toll in New Orleans alone may top 100,000.

Water levels eased off slightly on Wednesday, but most of the city remains submerged and it is believed it could be months before the city is inhabitable.

Repent America most recently demonstrated at the Philadelphia Phillies tribute to gay fans earlier this month. (story)

Last year 10 members of Repent America marched to an area near the front of a stage at Philadelphia's Outfest and began to yell Biblical passages.

Police attempted to get the protestors to move to to an area on the edge of the Outfest site. Instead they went deeper into the gay crowd. Using a bullhorn they condemned homosexuality. They then got into an argument with a group of Pink Angels, who screamed back.

It was at that point police intervened.

Four members of Repent America, including Marcavage, were charged with ethnic intimidation, criminal conspiracy and inciting to riot. The charges carry sentences up to 47 years behind bars. But, in court, a judge dismissed the charges saying the protestors were in a public park and police had violated the group's First Amendment right to free speech. (story)

Marcavage has been arrested, detained or cited by police around the country since founding Repent America in 2002, including at a demonstration against same-sex marriages in San Francisco.



4) This message is a reaction to what I said earlier about FEMA and OSHA bulldozing entire neighborhoods to "redevelop" New Orleans, in this case concerning a Houston suburb after a tropical storm flooding:


"FEMA the bulldozer...that is exactly what happened to my parents' neighborhood. It is now not even a green space but awaiting redevelopment. Lack of zoning... ok, Houston is known for it's erratic expansion, residential next to commercial. My dad was part of the Flood Control project back in the 70s, spoke in the US House in support of a bill for the expansion of bayous and the increase of retention ponds. Now after more than 20 years and the bulldozing of Arbor Oaks, the corps of engineers has finally built those retention ponds!
Beware of FEMA! I do mourn the loss of NO! When's the dirge?"

Carole Woodall

5) New Orleans flood damage map, courtesy of NYT:

http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html/national/2005_HURRICANEKATRINA_GRAPHIC/index.html



6) This link is to both of Chris Wiseman's BBC interviews, namely the first and third interviews on the screen. Chris did well, give them a listen:

http://www.podcastingnews.com/details/downloads.bbc.co.uk/rmhttp/downloadtrial/radio4/today/rss.xml/view.htm



7) Check http://www.wonkette.com/ for the difference between "looting" and "finding"...



8) Dailykos.com posting concerning federal policies and their connection with this natural disaster:

DEAR MR. PRESIDENT . . .By Rena RF

Dear Mr. President,

Like most Americans, I am watching the horror unfold in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Also like many Americans, I have felt a deep and strong pull to respond in any small way that I can. For me, it has been through fundraising and through getting the word out as to how people, good American people, can respond and lend even a small hand in helping deal with such a great tragedy.

The tragedy itself, though, says a great deal not only about the generous spirit of Americans but about you on two critical levels. The first would be on a leadership level, and the second would be on a human level.
They say that the measure of a great leader is gauged not by how he handles the 90 percent of events that are anticipated and expected, but by how he responds to the 10 percent that is utterly unforeseeable. Hurricane Katrina would fall into that rare, unforeseeable category - and your actions before, during, and now after this event are very telling of your leadership.

The devastation that continues to unfold and worsen in the hurricane's aftermath put me in mind of other disasters, man-made and otherwise. Most specifically, the specter of 9/11 came before me very clearly. The relief that poured in to New York City and northern Virginia following that tragic day were unprecedented. Events seemed to overwhelm reality and relief was poured into the areas affected. People knew where they could go for help. The infrastructure was in place to accommodate even the unforeseen. Frankly, I consider it nothing short of a miracle that things worked the way they did on 9/11. We were very lucky in that regard.
The relief coordination around Katrina has been abysmal. People don't know where to go. They don't know what to do. They have no information. No one can seem to agree on how to handle staunching the flow of water into New Orleans. The military is scrambling to assemble its assets effectively to provide the most basic of medical and sustenance needs. Don't mistake my tone - I have the greatest respect for the individuals who are risking their lives and safety to save the lives and secure the well being of survivors - but they are fighting an uphill battle because the coordination is simply criminal. The lives that will be saved in the coming days will be saved through the sheer power of human compassion carried by the individuals on the scene. The lives that could have been saved, yet will be lost, will be the price of terrible coordination. I lay that responsibility squarely at your feet.

Let me extrapolate somewhat and tell you that Katrina could have been any domestic disaster. The levees of New Orleans could have been compromised by a terrorist attack. A coordinated terrorist attack could have gone off in the Gulf region, yielding devastation on par with what Katrina wrought. Refineries and chemical plants in the region could have been attacked through terrorist methods. The list of possibilities is endless.
So I ask you - how is it that, in post-9/11 America, we are failing so completely to render aid and comfort? How is it that today, this last day of August 2005, nearly four years after 9/11, we have no cohesive plan to deal with the region's refugees, the potentially one million American citizens without work or a home or basic care? That speaks directly to your leadership, sir, and it doesn't speak well for it at all.

The decisions that you have made in your capacity as President and leader of the United States of America have real human costs and implications. The decision to go to war in Iraq has directly affected the response to this disaster in overt and subtle ways. The deployment of Guardsmen in Iraq has left the affected states with fewer resources at a time when they need them the most. The decision to go to war in Iraq and the lack of planning to deal with the aftermath of the war has directly affected the stability of oil prices, which in turn affects every American. A disaster such as Katrina further strains a system that, through bad policy, is already too volatile to accommodate additional trauma. The decision to institute tax cuts at a time when we, as a nation, should be planning for the worst-case scenarios of unexpected events has left cities and states and regions without the resources they need to effectively plan for and respond to disasters of any variety.

A certain component of the disaster caused by Hurricane Katrina was unavoidable. But there is also a component that better leadership and some degree of forward-thinking would have prevented. Those deaths and tragedies should be laid at the foot of your short-sightedness and bad leadership. You should have to look at it. Perhaps it will be a reminder and you will act to prevent such things in the future.

I told you that I thought that this disaster said something about you on two levels and the second one is on a personal level. Your voice has been remarkably absent as the horror in the Gulf region has unfolded. Press clippings have shown you going about your planned events. You have given lip service to the devastation at certain points, but your actions speak louder than any words you can utter. A human response to this would have been to curtail matters of personal policy (stumping for support for the war in Iraq; the ghastly comparison of World War II with the war in Iraq; your baffling decision to do a photo opportunity with the Presidential guitar) and show an appropriate amount of respect for the lives being lost even as you plucked the strings.

Average Americans like me - who work for a living every day in this country - who don't have the luxury of a month-long vacation - took what little free time and disposable income we have and sprung into action. We raised money. We spread the word. We assembled information on what was needed and by whom and the best way to get it there. We felt - we watched our televisions and we cried at the tragedy we saw before us. Our response was so quintessentially human that your lack of it makes me wonder if we belong to the same human race.

So I'll leave you with this. A word image. You're in the dark, Mr. President. You can feel something pressing against the crown of your head - it's the roof of your attic. You're in water up to your neck. The water is filthy - you're surrounded by it - it's stiflingly hot in the little airspace you occupy. You're hungry and have nothing to eat. You're thirsty, dangerously dehydrated but you can't drink the very thing which may claim your life. Below you is everything you had. All your possessions - underwater. You don't know where your wife and children are and if they survived. You pray, Mr. President. Every time you hear what sounds like a boat or a helicopter you pray that someone will sense that you are under that roof needing help. You're too weak and too constrained by the space you occupy to signal for help. You have to wait, and as you wait, the water rises. If you're lucky, someone will find you. If you aren't, you'll die that slow, horrifying and frightening death.

Alone.

Feel like playing us a tune now?

Respectfully, Rena RF



9) This is off of the Daily Kos website -- and it shows why you should think Bush when you think Katrina:
www.dailykos.com

Category 4 Hurricane Determined To Strike U.S. by Hunter Wed Aug 31st, 2005 at 17:58:43 PDT
By now almost everyone has seen this; if you haven't, you need to read it in full. Will Bunch, via Editor & Publisher:

Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA [Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project] dropped to a trickle. The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming at the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars.

Newhouse News Service, in an article posted late Tuesday night at The Times-Picayune Web site, reported: "No one can say they didn't see it coming. ... Now in the wake of one of the worst storms ever, serious questions are being asked about the lack of preparation."

In early 2004, as the cost of the conflict in Iraq soared, President Bush proposed spending less than 20 percent of what the Corps said was needed for Lake Pontchartrain, according to a Feb. 16, 2004, article, in New Orleans CityBusiness.

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."
Also that June, with the 2004 hurricane season starting, the Corps' project manager Al Naomi went before a local agency, the East Jefferson Levee Authority, and essentially begged for $2 million for urgent work that Washington was now unable to pay for. From the June 18, 2004 Times-Picayune:

"The system is in great shape, but the levees are sinking. Everything is sinking, and if we don't get the money fast enough to raise them, then we can't stay ahead of the settlement," he said. "The problem that we have isn't that the levee is low, but that the federal funds have dried up so that we can't raise them."

The panel authorized that money, and on July 1, 2004, it had to pony up another $250,000 when it learned that stretches of the levee in Metairie had sunk by four feet. The agency had to pay for the work with higher property taxes. The levee board noted in October 2004 that the feds were also now not paying for a hoped-for $15 million project to better shore up the banks of Lake Pontchartrain.

The 2004 hurricane season was the worst in decades. In spite of that, the federal government came back this spring with the steepest reduction in hurricane and flood-control funding for New Orleans in history. Because of the proposed cuts, the Corps office there imposed a hiring freeze. Officials said that money targeted for the SELA project -- $10.4 million, down from $36.5 million -- was not enough to start any new jobs.

(Sidney Blumenthal fleshes out a few other aspects of the history in this Salon piece, including Bush-administration-cancelled wetlands restoration and protections in the area that were designed to mitigate such disasters by providing buffer zones for storm surge and flooding.)

A lot of people are going to huff and bluster about making this disaster a political issue. Put bluntly, however, what government does and does not choose to spend money on for the essential safety of its citizens is a political issue, and a very basic one at that. The administration willfully reduced the budget for the protective levees around New Orleans to a level where even maintaining the current levee height was impossible, in order to shift that Corps money into Iraq. I'd say that's a political big deal.

Pouring guns and gold into Iraq while ignoring basic aspects of America's own domestic safety was a risk that the Bush administration was willing to take. Now the neo-cons of the administration and their tubthumping supporters have a vivid demonstration of why pumping money into Iraq combined with deficit-causing tax cuts combined with cutting basic domestic safety programs has results a bit more sanguinary than the careful spreadsheets of either Karl Rove or Grover Norquist might convey.

After 9/11, the administration was eager to put Bush at the top of the "pile", a cheap show of determination in the aftermath of disaster. Somehow, I don't think Bush standing atop one of these shattered levees and speaking through a bullhorn to the citizens of New Orleans would have the same effect right now.



10) Here's a Guardian article on New Orleans:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,1560333,00.html

Thousands feared lost in US storm

· New Orleans to be abandoned
· Threat of looting and disease

Julian Borger in New Orleans and Duncan CampbellThursday September 1, 2005The Guardian
The death toll from Hurricane Katrina could rise into the thousands in New Orleans alone, the city authorities believe, in what President Bush described as "one of the worst national disasters in our nation's history."...

Katrina Encours et Toujours III


This is another entire posting devoted to Katrina's after effects. It's getting uglier and uglier, and New Orleans appears to be finished for now. While one mustn't ignore the nearly 800 Iraqis who died today in the bridge stampede, that and other Middle East issues are to await another posting.

One thing that scares me about the future of New Orleans is that FEMA and OSHA have gained a reputation in other disasters for single-handedly bulldozing property in order to pave the way for rebuilding and relocation. They're considered extremely high-handed and imperious, and I'm worried that they will simply declare entire neighborhoods "uninhabitable" and bulldoze them, paving the way for "re-development," which would reduce New Orleans to a ranch-style carbon copy of the rest of America -- combine that with the recent Supreme Court decision on eminent domain for commercial viability, and it seems like a likely enough scenario. Such an outcome would be a fate worse than death for a city with the (now waterlogged) beauty of New Orleans. Although it's not a priority YET, I hope soon enough that there's a campaign to prevent FEMA and OSHA from doing such violence to our great city.

If you are a New Orleanian reader and you haven't checked with me yet, please tell me whether or not you're allright -- especially all you Ninth Ward folks who might've stuck it out. My apologies if you get multiple copies of this posting, but I'm sending it to a bunch of common lists:

Cheers,Nabil


1) An abbreviated version of last night's posting made it to Juan Cole's blog:
www.juancole.com



2) This is a link to a BBC interviewe made by one of our New Orleans friends, Chris Wiseman:
Got interviewed night before last. Then again today after the storm. Here's the first interview. Will forward the other soon, which features a shameless promotion for our fair city:

http://www.podcastingnews.com/details/downloads.bbc.co.uk/rmhttp/downloadtrial/radio4/today/rss.xml/view.htm



3) Here's a disaster slideshow. Check out #13 especially:

http://www.wwltv.com/sharedcontent/breakingnews/slideshow/083005_dmnkatrina/1.html



4) Here's a posting by another one of our New Orleans friends, Ben Rosow:

Whew!! We’re really exhausted. Haven’t thought about it but I’m just realizing it tonight.
My company is headquartered in Austin and I had a Solidworks 2006 rollout presentation scheduled for today in San Antonio, so I figured that we could lay around in Memphis for a week or we could go to Austin I could do some work before I crashed and burned.

The drive out of NOLA, which started at 5:00 AM Sunday morning, was insanely hampered by the typically incompetent implementation of Contra Flow on I-10 going west. They opened up the eastbound lanes for west bound travel. Sounds good right? Then they put a one lane bottleneck to get to the contra flow lanes. Hmm… Finally, to top it all off, they required that the normal west bound lanes all be diverted north to I-55 and Mississippi. If you wanted to stay on the normal westbound lanes, NO DICE. You had to go north. Madness. Two lanes to Mississippi and ONE LANE to Baton Rouge. Officials being interviewed on emergency radio were wringing their hands, saying, “Too many people want to go west. PLEASE GO NORTH.” Hey folks, that’s where it made sense to go.

We complied and went north with the intention of turning west soon after getting out of town, maybe US 190, state route 16 or…No, the contra flow on I-55 wouldn’t let us exit until…we had to go all the way north to Jackson Mississippi before turning left on I-20 to Shreveport. Then we spent 6 exhausting hours on an otherwise charming Texas two lane (hwy 79) through rolling meadows and verdant ranches. Got into the AmeriSuites Airport hotel (rm 318 thru Wednesday, maybe longer) at about 9:30 PM Sunday evening, 17 hours after we left and just as the gail force winds were being felt in New Orleans.

It had been our intention to drop some valuable possessions off at my office which is on the 2nd floor of a beefy uptown office building. But time did not permit. At the last minute before we left, Nancy and I each decided to leave certain things behind that we could not reasonably fit into our Rodeo with four cats in carriers. To wit, I took not one guitar or saxophone. Nancy took nothing of personal value except for some family photos. We DID bring our important papers.

The cats were wonderful throughout the ride. After some medium level complaining for the 1st hour or two, they settled down for the entire trip and were as good as gold. We think they trust that as long as they are with us, things will be OK. What a fine brood of felines. After we got to our room they were extremely lovey, and they all want a piece of us for themselves.
So yesterday, I went in to work after lunch. We spent the morning doing what all good Americans do when things look really desperate: We went shopping. And Austin doesn’t disappoint. You could drop a fortune here saving money all the while. Needed to get a nightgown for Nancy, some cat supplies, some FOOD to eat. The nightgown is really cute, lilac and mint green flowers on white. The catz love the scratcher (the hotel is pet friendly for a price).

At work I prepared for my Solidworks 2006 software rollout, part Powerpoint presentation, part pizza lunch, and part ice cream social for engineer nerds. I have to demonstrate all the new Solidworks features for the 2006 version which was just released. It takes an hour. I was barely ready to do this because I had planned to use my weekend to review all the picks and clicks. Ah the best laid plans of mice and Ben. So I reviewed my stuff in the car all the way down to San Antonio today and somehow pulled it off. Even my boss liked it. As soon as I was done (at about 5:00 PM), I went to find a corner and I started crying…FINALLY. If New Orleans is no longer going to be there as we know it, I’m really going to miss it. What a special place and what a special bunch of friends we have made there.

I miss my guitar and my horns. I had just bought a new guitar amp off of ebay and it has been in transit since last Thursday. I may never see it. I had also just brought two guitars and a fabulous amp in to Todd’s music in Metarie to sell on consignment and secure a beautiful Gibson ES 135 that plays like a dream. Maybe Todd and his friends had a madcap evening before they evacuated trying to bring his stock to safety, but where would he bring it? None of us quite grasped the scope of what was happening.

I tell you all these personal things because I figure that I’m fairly typical and that those of you who are also evacuated are going through similar things. Fortunately, I have my computer with me. I can still do some design work for my buddy Steve and maybe finish a sample of modeling for my dentist.

For now Nancy and I are turning over the meaning of this event. Maybe this whole thing happened because Blue Fondue (our little jump blues band) finally got a gig at a really nice place, the Fairmont Hotel downtown. We were supposed to play there this coming Friday and Saturday and maybe (my fatalistic side says) this was God’s way of keeping it from happening. Kind of a Sirens of Titan premise where the whole purpose of the planet earth and our solar system was to get a little piece of metal (a repair part) to a spaceman from a faraway planet who was stranded for 800 million years on Neptune.

So, where are we going to live for the short term? Where will we hole up for the next few months? Do we try to rebuild in New Orleans? Will there be any economic base here? Will FEMA simply shut down large tracts of New Orleans? Will any companies want to relocate here? My boss thinks that New Orleans is too economically important to let die. He and others at work think that there will be tons of FEMA and other monies flowing into the area. For now we live the simple life of those without possessions. I’ll write more tomorrow because there is a lot more to write.

Ben Rosow, Application Engineer
M LC CAD Systems
1215 Prytania St, Suite 208
New Orleans, La. 70130
866-364-3652



5) This is really tragic. The news goes from bad to worse:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,1280,-5245577,00.html

Governor: Everyone Must Leave New Orleans
Wednesday August 31, 2005 3:01 PM

AP Photo LADP216
By BRETT MARTEL
Associated Press Writer

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The governor of Louisiana sayseveryone needs to leave New Orleans due to floodingfrom Hurricane Katrina. ``We've sent buses in. We willbe either loading them by boat, helicopter, anythingthat is necessary,'' Gov. Kathleen Blanco said. Armyengineers struggled without success to plug NewOrleans' breached levees with giant sandbags, and thegovernor said Wednesday the situation was worseningand there was no choice but to abandon the floodedcity.

``The challenge is an engineering nightmare,'' Gov.Kathleen Blanco said on ABC's ``Good MorningAmerica.'' ``The National Guard has been droppingsandbags into it, but it's like dropping it into ablack hole.''

As the waters continued to rise in New Orleans, fourNavy ships raced toward the Gulf Coast with drinkingwater and other emergency supplies, and Red Crossworkers from across the country converged on thedevastated region. The Red Cross reported it had about40,000 people in 200 shelters across the area in oneof the biggest urban disasters the nation has everseen.
The death toll from Hurricane Katrina reached at least110 in Mississippi alone, while Louisiana put asidethe counting of the dead to concentrate on rescuingthe living, many of whom were still trapped onrooftops and in attics.

A full day after the Big Easy thought it had escapedKatrina's full fury, two levees broke and spilledwater into the streets on Tuesday, swamping anestimated 80 percent of the bowl-shaped,below-sea-level city, inundating miles and miles ofhomes and rendering much of New Orleans uninhabitablefor weeks or months.

``We are looking at 12 to 16 weeks before people cancome in,'' Mayor Ray Nagin said on ABC's ``GoodMorning America, ``and the other issue that'sconcerning me is have dead bodies in the water. Atsome point in time the dead bodies are going to startto create a serious disease issue.''
Blanco said she wanted the Superdome - which hadbecome a shelter of last resort for about 20,000people - evacuated within two days, along with othergathering points for storm refugees. The situationinside the dank and sweltering Superdome was becomingdesperate: The water was rising, the air conditioningwas out, toilets were broken, and tempers were rising.

At the same time, sections of Interstate 10, the onlymajor freeway leading into New Orleans from the east,lay shattered, dozens of huge slabs of concretefloating in the floodwaters. I-10 is the only routefor commercial trucking across southern Louisiana.

The sweltering city of 480,000 people - an estimated80 percent of whom obeyed orders to evacuate asKatrina closed in over the weekend - also had nodrinkable water, the electricity could be out forweeks, and looters were ransacking stores around town.

``The logistical problems are impossible and we haveto evacuate people in shelters,'' the governor said.``It's becoming untenable. There's no power. It'sgetting more difficult to get food and water suppliesin, just basic essentials.''

She gave no details on exactly where the refugeeswould be taken. But in Houston, Rusty Cornelius, acounty emergency official, said at least 25,000 ofthem would travel in a bus convoy to Houston startingWednesday and would be sheltered at the 40-year-oldAstrodome, which is no longer used for professionalsporting events.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency wasconsidering putting people on cruise ships, in tentcities, mobile home parks, and so-called floatingdormitories - boats the agency uses to house its ownemployees.

To repair one of the levees holding back LakePontchartrain, officials late Tuesday dropped3,000-pound sandbags from helicopters and hauleddozens of 15-foot concrete barriers into the breach.Maj. Gen. Don Riley of the U.S. Army Corps ofEngineers said officials also had a more audaciousplan: finding a barge to plug the 500-foot hole.

Riley said it could take close to a month to get thewater out of the city. If the water rises a few feethigher, it could also wipe out the water system forthe whole city, said New Orleans' homeland securitychief, Terry Ebbert.

A helicopter view of the devastation over Louisianaand Mississippi revealed people standing on blackrooftops, baking in the sunshine while waiting forrescue boats.

``I can only imagine that this is what Hiroshimalooked like 60 years ago,'' said Mississippi Gov.Haley Barbour after touring the destruction by airTuesday.

All day long, rescuers in boats and helicoptersplucked bedraggled flood refugees from rooftops andattics. Louisiana Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu said 3,000people have been rescued by boat and air, some placedshivering and wet into helicopter baskets. They werebrought by the truckload into shelters, some inwheelchairs and some carrying babies, with stories ofsurvival and of those who didn't make it.

``Oh my God, it was hell,'' said Kioka Williams, whohad to hack through the ceiling of the beauty shopwhere she worked as floodwaters rose in New Orleans'low-lying Ninth Ward. ``We were screaming, hollering,flashing lights. It was complete chaos.''

Looting broke out in some New Orleans neighborhoods,prompting authorities to send more than 70 additionalofficers and an armed personnel carrier into the city.One police officer was shot in the head by a looterbut was expected to recover, authorities said.

A giant new Wal-Mart in New Orleans was looted, andthe entire gun collection was taken, TheTimes-Picayune newspaper reported. ``There are gangsof armed men in the city moving around the city,''said Ebbert, the city's homeland security chief. Also,looters tried to break into Children's Hospital, thegovernor's office said.

On New Orleans' Canal Street, dozens of looters rippedopen the steel gates on clothing and jewelry storesand grabbed merchandise. In Biloxi, Miss., peoplepicked through casino slot machines for coins andransacked other businesses. In some cases, the lootingtook place in full view of police and NationalGuardsmen.

Blanco acknowledged that looting was a severe problembut said that officials had to focus on survivors.``We don't like looters one bit, but first andforemost is search and rescue,'' she said.
Officials said it was simply too early to estimate adeath toll. One Mississippi county alone said it hadsuffered at least 100 deaths, and officials are``very, very worried that this is going to go a lothigher,'' said Joe Spraggins, civil defense directorfor Harrison County, home to Biloxi and Gulfport. Inneighboring Jackson County, officials said at least 10deaths were blamed on the storm.

Several of the dead in Harrison County were from abeachfront apartment building that collapsed under a25-foot wall of water as Hurricane Katrina slammed theGulf Coast with 145-mph winds Monday. Louisianaofficials said many were feared dead there, too,making Katrina one of the most punishing storms to hitthe United States in decades.
Blanco asked residents to spend Wednesday in prayer.

``That would be the best thing to calm our spirits andthank our Lord that we are survivors,'' she said.``Slowly, gradually, we will recover; we will survive;we will rebuild.''

Across Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, more than 1million residents remained without electricity, somewithout clean drinking water. Officials said it couldbe weeks, if not months, before most evacuees will beable to return.

Emergency medical teams from across the country weresent into the region and President Bush cut short hisTexas vacation Tuesday to return to Washington tofocus on the storm damage.
Also, the Bush administration decided to release crudeoil from federal petroleum reserves to help refinerswhose supply was disrupted by Katrina. Theannouncement helped push oil prices lower.

Katrina, which was downgraded to a tropicaldepression, packed winds around 30 mph as it movedthrough the Ohio Valley early Wednesday, with thepotential to dump 8 inches of rain and spin off deadlytornadoes.

The remnants of Katrina spawned bands of storms andtornadoes across Georgia that caused at least twodeaths, multiple injuries and leveled dozens ofbuildings. A tornado damaged 13 homes near Marshall,Va.



6) Awful story:

http://www.nola.com/newslogs/breakingtp/index.ssf?/mtlogs/nola_Times-Picayune/archives/2005_08.html#075441

Floating the city's dead
Wednesday, 10:46 p.m.

WWL-TV reporter Karen Swensen related a particularlysad tale from a region overflowing with sad tales.

One New Orleans woman waded through the streets of thecity, trying to get her husband to Charity Hospital.He had died earlier and she floated his body throughthe inundated streets on a door that dome off theirhome.



7) www.nola.com

Mayor: Katrina may have killed thousands
8/31/2005, 1:38 p.m.
CTBy BRETT MARTEL
The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The mayor said Wednesday thatHurricane Katrina probably killed thousands of peoplein New Orleans.

"We know there is a significant number of dead bodiesin the water," and others dead in attics, Mayor RayNagin said. Asked how many, he said: "Minimum,hundreds. Most likely, thousands."

The frightening prediction came as Army engineersstruggled to plug New Orleans' breached levees withgiant sandbags and concrete barriers, whileauthorities drew up plans to move some 25,000 stormrefugees out of the city to Houston in a huge busconvoy and all but abandon flooded-out New Orleans.

Gov. Kathleen Blanco said the situation was desperateand there was no choice but to clear out.
"The logistical problems are impossible and we have toevacuate people in shelters," the governor said. "It'sbecoming untenable. There's no power. It's gettingmore difficult to get food and water supplies in, justbasic essentials."

The Pentagon, meanwhile, began mounting one of thelargest search-and-rescue operations in U.S. history,sending four Navy ships to the Gulf Coast withdrinking water and other emergency supplies, alongwith the hospital ship USNS Comfort, searchhelicopters and elite SEAL water-rescue teams.American Red Cross workers from across the countryconverged on the devastated region in the agency'sbiggest-ever relief operation.

The death toll from Hurricane Katrina has reached atleast 110 in Mississippi alone. But Louisiana has putaside the counting of the dead to concentrate onrescuing the living, many of whom were still trappedon rooftops and in attics.

A full day after the Big Easy thought it had escapedKatrina's full fury, two levees broke and spilledwater into the streets Tuesday, swamping an estimated80 percent of the bowl-shaped, below-sea-level city,inundating miles and miles of homes and rendering muchof New Orleans uninhabitable for weeks or months.

"We are looking at 12 to 16 weeks before people cancome in," Nagin said on ABC's "Good Morning America,"and the other issue that's concerning me is we havedead bodies in the water. At some point in time thedead bodies are going to start to create a seriousdisease issue."

With the streets awash and looters brazenly cleaningout stores, authorities planned to move at least25,000 of New Orlean's storm refugees — most of themtaking shelter in the dank and sweltering Superdome —to the Astrodome in Houston in a vast exodus by bus.

Around midday, officials with the state and the ArmyCorps of Engineers said the water levels between thecity and Lake Pontchartrain had equalized, and waterhad stopped rising in New Orleans, and even appearedto be falling, at least in some places. But the dangerwas far from over.

The Army Corps of Engineers said it planned to useheavy-duty Chinook helicopters to drop 3,000-poundsandbags Wednesday into the 500-foot gap in the failedfloodwall. But the agency said it was having troublegetting the sandbags and dozens of 15-foot highwaybarriers to the site because the city's waterways wereblocked by loose barges, boats and large debris.

Officials said they were also looking at a moreaudacious plan: finding a barge to plug the 500-foothole.

"The challenge is an engineering nightmare," thegovernor said on ABC's "Good Morning America."

As New Orleans descended deeper into chaos, hundredsof people wandered aimlessly up and down Interstate10, pushing shopping carts, laundry racks, anythingthey could find to carry their belongings. Dozens offishermen from up to 200 miles away floated in oncaravans of boats to pull residents out of floodedneighborhoods.

On some of the few roads that were still passable,people waved at passing cars with empty water jugs,begging for relief. Hundreds of people appeared tohave spent the night on a crippled highway.

In one east New orleans neighborhood, refugees werebeing loaded onto the backs of moving vans likecattle, and in one case emergency workers with asledgehammer and an ax broke open the back of a mailtruck and used it to ferry sick and elderly residents.

Police officers were asking residents to give up anyguns they had before they boarded buses and trucksbecause police desperately needed the firepower: Someofficers who had been stranded on the roof of a motelsaid they were being shot at overnight.



8) It's our turn, Metairie:

East Jeff flooding worsening;
west bank deluged withevacuees
Wednesday, 11:05 a.m.
By Matt BrownWest Bank bureau

Jefferson Parish Director of Emergency ManagementWalter Maestri said Wednesday morning that theflooding situation in East Jefferson was worsening.

Officials said water from the breach in the 17thStreet Canal levee was flowing across I-10 at theOrleans-Jefferson parish line and flowing into EastJefferson.

Maestri said the parish was scrambling to buildtemporary levees at various Metairie locations to tryto stop the flow.

On the West Bank, where flooding was less prevalent,Jefferson Parish officials were grappling with adifferent crisis: Refugees from New Orleans werestreaming over the Crescent City Connection in searchof food, shelter and water.

Maestri said the population at three west bankshelters was increasing by 200 people per hour. He putout a call for large food distributors that might beinterested in donating food to the shelters to callthe Emergency Management Center at (504) 349-5360.



9) Hello, where is our LA National Guard? Don't let any politician try and persuade you that there's no price to pay for sending your guard units overseas:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,1280,-5245935,00.html

Officials Helpless Against Looters
Wednesday August 31, 2005 6:16 PM
AP Photo LAEG108
By KEVIN McGILL
Associated Press Writer

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Authorities frantically tried torestore order Wednesday to the devastated city asbrazen looters ransacked stores and houses for food,clothing, appliances - and guns.

Thieves chased a state police truck full of food. TheNew Orleans police chief ran off looters while cityofficials themselves were commandeering equipment froman Office Depot.

Officials tried to balance security needs with savinglives.

``We're multitasking right now,'' said New OrleansPolice Capt. Marlon Defillo. ``Rescue, recovery,stabilizataion of looting, we're trying to feed thehungry.''

Gov. Kathleen Blanco appealed to the White House tosend more people to help with evacuations and rescues,thereby freeing up National Guardsmen to stop looters.

``We need to free up the National Guard to do securityin the city,'' Blanco said.

Meanwhile, city officials were taking advantage of thestate of emergency to empty an Office Depot, whichalready had been looted, of supplies they needed for atemporary command center. During a state of emergency,authorities have broad powers to take private suppliesand buildings for their use.

At 4 a.m., while officials were loading up routers andother technical equipment, Police chief Eddie Compass``starts screaming -- he had to chase some looters outthat were coming in to loot some more,'' Defillo said.

City security chief Greg Meffert said he was awakenedto help form a human chain to quickly unload a statepolice truck filled with food.

``The truck was about to be attacked by looters. ...Ithad state troopers in it,'' he said.

In the city's Carrollton section, which is onrelatively high geround, looters commandeered aforklift and used it to push up the storm shutters andbreak the glass of a Rite-Aid pharmacy. The crowdstormed the store, carrying out so much ice, water andfood that it dropped from their arms as they ran. Thestreet was littered with packages of ramen noodles andother items.
Defillo said looters were also taking guns andammunition.

``We're very concerned about that,'' Defillo said.``We will maintain order. Let me say that. We willstabilize the situation.''

Gunshots were heard throughout the night inCarrollton.

Defillo said an officer and a looter were wounded in ashootout. Defillo had no word on their condition.Three or four others were also arrested, he said.

One looter shot and wounded a fellow looter, who wastaken to a hospital and survived.

Staff members at Children's Hospital huddled with sickyoungsters and waited in vain for help to arrive aslooters tried to break through the locked door, Blancospokeswoman Denise Bottcher told the newspaper.Neither the police nor the National Guard arrived.

Authorities planned to send more than 70 additionalofficers and an armed personnel carrier into the city.

In the meantime, city authorities were putting ahigher priority on rescuing victims and repairing thelevee breach that was spilling water into the streets.

``One of our fears is if we don't stop the breach,that we will put good people's lives in jeopardy andthey would lose theirs, too,'' the governor said. ``Weare concerned about essentials. We are asking for moremilitary presence in the city to control the situationbetter.

On New Orleans' Canal Street, dozens of looters rippedopen the steel gates on clothing and jewelry storesand grabbed merchandise. In Biloxi, Miss., peoplepicked through casino slot machines for coins andransacked other businesses. In some cases, the lootingwas in full view of police and National Guardsmen.

The historic French Quarter appeared to have beenspared the worst flooding, but its stores were gettingthe worst of human nature.

``The looting is out of control. The French Quarterhas been attacked,'' Councilwoman Jackie Clarksonsaid. ``We're using exhausted, scarce police tocontrol looting when they should be used for searchand rescue while we still have people on rooftops.''

Sen. Mary Landrieu's helicopter was taking off Tuesdayfor a flyover of the devastation and she watched as agroup of people smashed a window at a gas-stationconvenience store and jumped in.

At a drug store in the French Quarter, people wererunning out with grocery baskets and coolers full ofsoft drinks, chips and diapers.



11) Another eyewitness account from one of our New Orleans friends, Chris Wiseman:

Folks, Spoke to a buddy who STAYED and lives on Camp Street two blocks from Audubon Park (about four blocks from the Miss. River and 10-12 blocks from Loyola).

They are high and dry for the moment. Water is apparently coming up on St. Charles Ave. I would assume Loyola is beginning to take water, but I haven't confirmed. Ricky told me looters had broken into Loyola and stolen computers, but that security chased them off. Looters have hit all the businesses on Magazine Street, which had seen an incredible boom over the past year or so. Ricky has charcoal to last awhile. He plans to stay with his wife and kids (wife is a Catholic school teacher).

Two days after, the situation continues to get worse. New Orleans is going away as it exists. It will either die, go on as a small city, or be rebuilt elsewhere. I can't currently imagine another option.

My wife is a physician. She worked all night in the Assembly Center at LSU. It is now a hospital. The place where Shaquille O'Neal used to play basketball and where I saw U2 in concert now houses beds with elderly and sick people.

Things were not well-organized there. CDC and FEMA people seemed to be around, but no one had really taken charge. I roamed freely without anyone asking me who I was or why I was there (I was there to pick up my wife after a 14 hour overnight shift). Security guards were getting themselves coffee. Many talented and good people were there, but there wasn't much direction. Isn't that why we have a FEMA? Healthcare people are healthcare people, not manageers.

I'm not angry with federal efforts here, but I'm not impressed either. Why does my friend Ricky have to choose between troops doing search and rescue, and troops doing basic security?

A man my wife cared for is 60 years old. He was horribly sunburned. He had spent two days on a rooftop in the Lower Ninth Ward. He said he did two tours in Vietnam, and that was better than this. If you are reading this, I appeal to you to keep us in the family.

I think New Orleans has given a lot to our nation and the world in terms of culture, good times, cheap gasoline, etc. Please help us rebuild, not in the same old way but in a new way that preserves the best. Charity will not do it. This will require a Depression-era effort--systematic, engaging the best of us, which is damned impressive. Don't give up on us. We're not done yet.

Chris Wiseman



12) This story is now a tad out of date, as the Lake waters are starting to recede. Generally speaking, however, New Orleans is in BIG trouble with floodwaters:

http://www.nola.com/hurricane/t-p/katrina.ssf?/hurricane/katrina/stories/083105_a01_floodgetworse.html

Flooding will only get worse
Wednesday August 31, 2005
Mark Schleifstein
Staff writer

The catastrophic flooding that filled the bowl that isNew Orleans on Monday and Tuesday will only get worseover the next few days because rainfall from HurricaneKatrina continues to flow into Lake Pontchartrain fromnorth shore rivers and streams, and east winds and a17.5-foot storm crest on the Pearl River block theoutflow water through the Rigolets and Chef MenteurPass.

The lake is normally 1 foot above sea level, while thecity of New Orleans is an average of 6 feet below sealevel. But a combination of storm surge and rainfallfrom Katrina have raised the lake's surface to 6 feetabove sea level, or more.

All of that water moving from the lake has foundseveral holes in the lake's banks - all pouring intoNew Orleans. Water that crossed St. Charles Parish inan area where the lakefront levee has not yet beencompleted, and that backed up from the lake inJefferson Parish canals, is funneling into Kenner andMetairie.

A 500-yard and growing breach in the eastern wall ofthe 17th Street Canal separating New Orleans fromMetairie is pouring hundreds of thousands of gallonsof lake water per second into the New Orleans area.Water also is flowing through two more levee breachesalong the Industrial Canal, which created a HurricaneBetsy-on-steroids flood in the Lower 9th Ward onMonday that is now spreading south into the FrenchQuarter and other parts of the city.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin warned Tuesday eveningthat an attempt to plug the holes in the 17th StreetCanal had failed, and the floodwaters were expected tocontinue to rise rapidly throughout the night.Eventually, Nagin said, the water could reach as highas 3 feet above sea level, meaning it could rise to 12to 15 feet high in some parts of the city.

Louisiana State University Hurricane Center researcherIvor van Heerden warned that Nagin's estimates couldbe too low because the lake water won't fall quicklyduring the next few days.
"We don't have the weather conditions to drive thewater out of Lake Pontchartrain, and at the same time,all the rivers on the north shore are in flood," hesaid. "That water is just going to keep rising in thecity until it's equal to the level of the lake.

"Unless they can use sandbags to compartmentalize theflooded areas, the water in the city will riseeverywhere to the same level as the lake."

This isn't the first time that the 17th Street Canalhas proved to be a hurricane-flooding Achilles heel.Following a 1947 hurricane that made a direct hit onNew Orleans and Metairie, officials were unable toclear floodwaters from Metairie through the canal fortwo weeks.

Sewage from a treatment plant that stagnated in thecanal created enough sulfuric acid fumes that nearbyhomes in Lakeview painted with lead-based paint turnedblack.

The slow-motion flooding of the south shore mirrors asimilar flooding event during Tropical Storm Isidore,when weather conditions blocked water from leaving thelake as heavy rainfall pushed its surface higher andhigher, causing extensive flooding in low-lying areasof Slidell a day after the storm had passed by.

Van Heerden said water flowing through New Orleans.back door used a weakness that he and many others havebeen concerned about for years: a V-shaped funnelformed by the joining of the Mississippi River-GulfOutlet and the Inner Harbor Navigation Channel. Stormsurge as high as 18 feet pushed through the funnel,into the Industrial Canal and on to the lake. It'sthat surge water that is thought to have caused breaksin the Industrial Canal levees breaks that lake wateris now flowing through into the 9th Ward.

Water entering that funnel also is thought to havetopped levees surrounding Chalmette and eastern NewOrleans, causing extensive flooding in both places.

Van Heerden said that if there's a silver lining tothis disastrous event, it's that the eye of Katrinadidn't go directly over or to the west of the city. Ifthat had happened, the storm surge could have beenmuch higher and would have directly topped levees allalong the lake and much more rapidly filled the bowl,which would have meant an even higher death toll thanis anticipated from this slow-moving event, he said.

This flood event contains many of the features used byfederal, state and local planners early this year tobegin shaping what was supposed to be a catastropherecovery plan for New Orleans: failed pumpingstations, breached levees, rooftop rescues, makeshiftmedical triage zones.
In drawing the plan, officials assumed that it wouldtake several days to a week before enough manpower andequipment could be staged to deal with many of theproblems they're facing now, such as how to close thebreach in the 17th Street Canal.

There, the problem is how to close the hole quickly.Strategies suggested during tabletop exercisesindicated it could take several days to positionbarges and cranes in place to more permanently fillsuch a gap, assuming it was part of the worst-case,storm-surge-driven flooding scenario.

The slow-motion reality of the collapsing canal wallhas the state Department of Transportation andDevelopment and the Army Corps of Engineers workinginto the night to plug the breach and try to stem theflooding in Lakeview, West End, Bucktown and largeswaths of East Jefferson.

A convoy of trucks carrying 108 15,000-pound concretebarriers - like those used as highway constructiondividers - was en route to the site Tuesday night,said Mark Lambert, chief spokesman for the agency.Helicopters will lift the barriers above the hole anddrop them in place, even as another 50 sandbags, eachweighing 3,000 pounds, are also being maneuvered intoplace.

"That's 800 tons of concrete," Lambert said. .What weare trying to do is just stop the water from goinginto the city."

More difficult will be the overtopping of levees alongthe Industrial Canal caused by the high lake waterflowing in. Lambert didn't say how the state wouldaddress that problem.

The problems caused by floodwaters will only getworse, according to van Heerden and the earliertabletop exercises. For one, if the water in the citydoes rise to the height of levees along the lakefront,it may be difficult to open floodgates designed tokeep the lake out that would now be needed to allowthe lake to leave. Van Heerden said the risingfloodwaters also would cause major pollution problemsin coming days, as they float dozens of fuel andchemical storage tanks off their fittings, severingpipelines and allowing the material to seep into thefloodwaters.

"In our surveys of the parish, a lot of the storagetanks we looked at weren't bolted down with bigbolts," he said. "They rely on gravity to hold themdown. If an industrial property is 5 feet below sealevel and the water gets to 5 feet above sea level,that's 10 feet of water, and I'm certain many welooked at will float free.

"You'll see a lot of highly volatile stuff on thesurface, and one spark and we'll have a major fire,"he said.



13) New Orleans' T-P now only a "virtual" T-P. I've never cared much for the Times-Picayune over the years, but their website (nola.com) is doing a grand job at keeping up with things, along with wwltv.com:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,1280,-5245639,00.html

New Orleans Paper Publishes Online Only
Wednesday August 31, 2005 3:46 PM
By ERIN McCLAM
Associated Press Writer

Working out of a small office where some staffers aresleeping, The Times-Picayune of New Orleans publisheda 13-page online edition Wednesday detailing thecatastrophic flooding in the city.

The newspaper's staff evacuated its New Orleansbuilding on Tuesday as the waters rose, and moved toan emergency office in Baton Rouge, La., that belongsto that city's newspaper, the Advocate.

It was the second consecutive day the Times-Picayunecould not publish a paper edition. Instead, it postedimages of 13 news pages on its Web site.

Wednesday's edition carried an icon of tatteredhurricane-warning flags next to the paper's logo,along with the words, ``Katrina: The Storm We'veAlways Feared.''

The editorial page criticized the looting in NewOrleans and bore an editorial cartoon of a man in aT-shirt that reads, ``You Gotta Have Faith.'' The mansays: ``It's not just the Saints' slogan anymore.''

Bret Dupre, creative services manager for theAdvocate, said the Times-Picayune had bought about$21,000 of laptops for use at the emergency office inBaton Rouge, which has about 15 seats.

``Some of them are actually sleeping there. They can'tfind hotel rooms,'' he said.

Relying on satellite phones, blogs and the hospitalityof colleagues, news organizations whose offices andproduction systems were devastated by HurricaneKatrina have improvised to report the storm's awesomedamage.

The Sun Herald of Gulfport, Miss. - one of the placesmost brutally pounded by Katrina - relied on a team ofeditors and page designers in Columbus, Ga., to printabout 20,000 copies of its Tuesday edition.

Lee Ann Schlatter, a spokeswoman for Knight Ridder,the owner of both the Gulfport and Columbus papers,said the company was sending in dozens of additionaljournalists from other papers as well as supplies.

``We're trying to get food and water in there,'' shesaid Tuesday. ``It's real basic survival needs to makeit possible for these people to do the job.''

With most regular telephones and cell phones rendereduseless after the storm, Schlatter said the companywas sending in satellite phones - the same piece ofequipment used by many reporters covering the war inIraq.

The Sun Herald also relied on its Web site to carrynews of the hurricane. At one point Tuesday, theheadline read, ``Our tsunami.''

The newspaper posted a Web log, or blog, of dispatchesfrom its reporters. It paper also posted a telephonenumber and asked its employees to call in to reportthey were safe.

In New Orleans, talk radio station WWL-AM becamesomething of a crisis line, with callers reporting thelocations of people who needed to be rescued fromattics and rooftops.

On the air Monday night, host Bob Del Giorno describedhuddling near a closet with employees at the station,near the Superdome, when windows in the station blewout at the height of the storm.

As of Tuesday afternoon, The Associated Press stilldid not know the condition of its bureau, on the 25thfloor of a building near the Superdome.

While five of its reporters stayed in New Orleans tocover the devastation, other staffers set up animprovised bureau at the Baton Rouge newspaper.

Most of the bureau had been working since Saturday atthe offices of the Hammond Daily Star, a newspaperabout 55 miles away from New Orleans, until thefurious storm hit Monday.

``The phones went out, and then after the power faileda few hours later, water started coming through theroof,'' said Charlotte Porter, the AP's chief ofbureau for Louisiana.

In all, the news cooperative had 30 staffers - text,audio, video and photo - covering the disaster, APspokesman Jack Stokes said.

Television stations in the storm's path also had toscramble to make alternate plans.

WWL, the CBS affiliate in New Orleans, moved on Sundaynight from its studios in the city's French Quarter tothe campus of Louisiana State University in BatonRouge.

And WDSU, an NBC affiliate, sent its main anchors toJackson, Miss., where a station there - both are ownedby Hearst Argyle - broadcast its signal onto WDSU'sair in New Orleans.
For news outlets of all kinds, simply getting in touchwith reporters proved to be extremely difficult.Editors and managers spent much of Monday and Tuesdayjust trying to track down their staffs and make surethey were safe.

``We're having tremendous problems with phoneservice,'' said Carl Redman, managing editor of theBaton Rouge Advocate. ``The reporters can't dial inhere. The land lines are all messed up. Communicationis a very, very big problem.''



14) More local color:

http://www.nola.com/newslogs/breakingtp/index.ssf?/mtlogs/nola_Times-Picayune/archives/2005_08.html#075458

Searching for Jesus' finger
Wednesday, 2:10 p.m.

In the garden behind St. Louis Cathedral on Royal Street lies an incredible tangle of zig-zagging broken tree trunks and branches, mixed with smashed wrought iron fences.

But right in the middle, a statue of Jesus is still standing, unscathed by the storm, save for the left thumb and index finger, which are missing.

The missing digits immediately set off speculation of divine intervention.

New Orleans has a long history praying to saints for guidance and protection in times of great peril. In fact it was Our Lady of Prompt Succor who was said to be responsible for saving the Ursulines Convent in the French Quarter from a raging fire that consumed the rest of the city centuries ago.

Since then, New Orlenians have prayed to the saint for protection from natural disasters. On Saturday, Archbishop Alfred Hughes read a prayer over the radio asking for Our Lady's intervention to spare the city a direct hit by Hurricane Katrina.

Many in the Quarter are now saying it was the hand of Jesus, the missing digits to be precise, that flicked the hurricane east just a little to keep the city from suffering a direct blow.
And the search is one for those missing fingers.

Shortly after Katrina passed, several men went to Robert Buras, who owns the Royal Street Grocery and told him they know who has the finger. Buras said he'd give them all the water and beer they need if they bring him the finger.

They told him they'd find it and asked to be paid upfront. But Buras told them he wouldn't take it on credit

"I'm going to find Jesus' finger,'' Buras said. ''I've got a lead on it.''



15) Bobby Jindal has all but disappeared, but he did have this to contribute to the looming debate concerning Katrina:

"If we had been investing resources in restoring ourcoast, it wouldn't have prevented the storm but thebarrier islands would have absorbed some of the tidalsurge," said Rep. Bobby Jindal, R-La. "People's livesare at stake. We need to take this more seriously."

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