Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Katrina Encours et Toujours XV

1. (deleted for inaccuracy about fatality) pswartz

2) Here is a lengthy and difficult eyewitness posting about what folks experienced in Bywater off Poland Ave. It does support the conclusion that chaos broke out in the wake of the hurricane -- at least in Bywater. My brother has photos of a city bus which wrecked a block from his house in Bywater after a night of joy riding:


3) After reading this posting, I imagine several more New Orleanians will revert to paganism, or worse yet, unreconstructed Papism:

Just wanted to pass this along!

Interesting Revelations about Katrina:

The name Katrina means pure. The dictionary defines pure as ... free from adulterants or impurities, free of dirt, defilement, or pollution, containing nothing inappropriate or extraneous. It has been previously stated that Katrina was a cleansing, a washing way for those cities & states that have been known for sin. Calculated stats indicate that Katrina hit almost 5 years [isn't it only four years?] to the date of 9/11. But to be a little more exact it had been 1,814 days since 9/11. Here is what Revelations chapter 18, verses 14-19 (1814) says.
Revelation 18:

14: And the fruits that thy soul lusted after are departed from thee, and all things which were dainty and goodly are departed from thee, and thou shalt find them no more at all.
15: The merchants of these things, which were made rich by her, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing.
** Merchants are those who supported the sin. **
16: And saying, alas, alas that great city, that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls!
** Purple & gold (The colors of Mardi Gras) **
17: For in one hour so great riches is come to nought. And every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off.
** One hour, about the length of time that Katrina stayed over New Orleans. **
18: And cried when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, What city is like unto this great city!
19: And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, saying, Alas, alas that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate.

Desolate - Devoid of inhabitants
Devoid - Completely lacking; destitute or empty
Inhabitant - One that inhabits a place, especially as a permanent resident

4) Here's an African-American New Orleanian responding to what he sees/hears from others in a diner. Note the connection between this message and the one immediately prior:


This is an open letter to the man sitting behind me at La Paz today, in Nashville, at lunchtime, with the Brooks Brothers shirt:

You don't know me. But I know you.

I watched you as you held hands with your tablemates at the restaurant where we both ate this afternoon. I listened as you prayed, and thanked God for the food you were about to eat, and for your own safety, several hundred miles away from the unfolding catastrophe in New Orleans.

You blessed your chimichanga in the name of Jesus Christ, and then proceeded to spend the better part of your meal – and mine, since I was too near your table to avoid hearing every word – morally scolding the people of that devastated city, heaping scorn on them for not heeding the warnings to leave before disaster struck. Then you attacked them – all of them, without distinction it seemed – for the behavior of a relative handful: those who have looted items like guns, or big screen TVs.

I heard you ask, amid the din of your colleagues "Amens," why it was that instead of pitching in to help their fellow Americans, the people of New Orleans instead – again, all of them in your mind – choose to steal and shoot at relief helicopters.

I watched you wipe salsa from the corners of your mouth, as you nodded agreement to the statement of one of your friends, sitting to your right, her hair neatly coiffed, her makeup flawless, her jewelry sparkling. When you asked, rhetorically, why it was that people were so much more decent amid the tragedy of 9-11, as compared to the aftermath of Katrina, she had offered her response, but only after apologizing for what she admitted was going to sound harsh.

"Well," Buffy explained. "It's probably because in New Orleans, it seems to be mostly poor people, and you know, they just don't have the same regard."

She then added that police should shoot the looters, and should have done so from the beginning, so as to send a message to the rest that theft would not be tolerated. You, who had just thanked Jesus for your chips and guacamole, said you agreed. They should be shot. Praise the Lord.

Your God is one with whom I am not familiar.

Two thoughts.

First, it is a very fortunate thing for you, and likely for me, that my two young children were with me as I sat there, choking back fish tacos and my own seething rage, listening to you pontificate about shit you know nothing about.

Have you ever even been to New Orleans?

And no, by that I don't mean the New Orleans of your company's sales conference. I don't mean Emeril's New Orleans, or the New Orleans of Uptown Mardi Gras parties.

I mean the New Orleans that is buried as if it were Atlantis, in places like the lower 9th ward: 98 percent black, 40 percent poor, where bodies are floating down the street, flowing with the water as it seeks its own level. Have you met the people from that New Orleans? The New Orleans that is dying as I write this, and as you order another sweet tea?

I didn't think so.

Your God – the one to whom you prayed today, and likely do before every meal, because this gesture proves what a good Christian you are – is one with whom I am not familiar.

Your God is one who you sincerely believe gives a flying fuck about your lunch. Your God is one who you seem to believe watches over you and blesses you, and brings good tidings your way, while simultaneously letting thousands of people watch their homes be destroyed, and perhaps ten thousand or more die, many of them in the streets for lack of water or food.

Did you ever stop to think just what a rancid asshole such a God would have to be, such that he would take care of the likes of you, while letting babies die in their mother's arms, and old people in wheelchairs, at the foot of Canal Street?

Your God is one with whom I am not familiar.

But no, it isn't God who's the asshole here, Skip (or Brad, or Braxton, or whatever your name is).

God doesn't feed you, and it isn't God that kept me from turning around and beating your lily white privileged ass today either.

God has nothing to do with it.

God doesn't care who wins the Super Bowl.

God doesn't help anyone win an Academy Award.

God didn't get you your last raise, or your SUV.

And if God is even half as tired as I am of having to listen to self-righteous bastards like you blame the victims of this nightmare for their fate, then you had best eat slowly from this point forward.

Why didn't they evacuate like they were told?

Are you serious?

There were 100,000 people in that city without cars. Folks who are too poor to own their own vehicle, and who rely on public transportation every day. I know this might shock you. They don't have a Hummer2, or whatever gas-guzzling piece of crap you either already own or probably are saving up for.

And no, they didn't just choose not to own a car because the buses are so gosh-darned efficient and great, as Rush Limbaugh implied, and as you likely heard, since you're the kind of person who hangs on the every word of such bloviating hacks as these.

Why did they loot?

Are you serious?

People are dying, in the streets, on live television. Fathers and mothers are watching their baby's eyes bulge in their skulls from dehydration, and you are begrudging them some Goddamned candy bars, diapers and water?

If anything the poor of New Orleans have exercised restraint.

Maybe you didn't know it, but the people of that city with whom you likely identify – the wealthy white folks of Uptown – were barely touched by this storm. Yeah, I guess God was watching over them: protecting them, and rewarding them for their faith and superior morality. If the folks downtown who are waiting desperately for their government to send help – a government whose resources have been stretched thin by a war that I'm sure you support, because you love freedom and democracy – were half as crazed as you think, they'd have marched down St. Charles Avenue and burned every mansion in sight. That they didn’t suggests a decency and compassion for their fellow man and woman that sadly people like you lack.

Can you even imagine what you would do in their place?

Can you imagine what would happen if it were well-off white folks stranded without buses to get them out, without nourishment, without hope?

Putting aside the absurdity of the imagery--after all, such folks always have the means to seek safety, or the money to rebuild, or the political significance to ensure a much speedier response for their concerns – can you just imagine?

Can you imagine what would happen if the pampered, overfed corporate class, which complains about taxes taking a third of their bloated incomes, had to sit in the hot sun for four, going on five days? Without a Margarita or hotel swimming pool to comfort them I mean?

Oh, and please, I know. I'm stereotyping you. Imagine that. I've assumed, based only on your words, what kind of person you are, even though I suppose I could be wrong. How does that feel Biff? Hurt your feelings? So sorry. But hey, at least my stereotypes of you aren't deadly. They won't effect your life one bit, unlike the ones you carry around with you and display within earshot of people like me, supposing that no one could possibly disagree.

But I'm not wrong, am I Chip? I know you. I see people like you all the time, in airports, in business suits, on their lunch breaks. People who will take advantage of any opportunity to ratify and reify their pre-existing prejudices towards the poor, towards black folks. You see the same three video loops of the same dozen or so looters on Fox News and you conclude that poor black people are crazy, immoral, criminal.

You, or others quite a bit like you, are the ones posting messages on chat room boards, calling looters sub-human "vermin," "scum," or "cockroaches." I heard you use the word "animals" three times today: you and that woman across from you – what was her name? Skyler?

What was it you said as you scooped the last bite of black beans and rice into your eager mouth? Like zoo animals? Yes, I think that was it.

Well Chuck, it's a free country, and so you certainly have the right I suppose to continue lecturing the poor, in between checking your Blackberry and dropping the kids off at soccer practice. If you want to believe that the poor of New Orleans are immoral and greedy, and unworthy of support at a time like this – or somehow more in need of your scolding than whatever donation you might make to a relief fund – so be it.

But let's leave God out of it, shall we? All of it.

Your God is one with whom I am not familiar, and I'd prefer to keep it that way.

Tim Wise is the author of White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son (2005: Soft Skull Press). He lived in New Orleans from 1986-1996. He can be reached at timjwise@msn.com.

5) Here's another response by one of this list/blog's readers to one of those right-wing "told you so, NO" letters, the same one I sent around a couple of days ago.

Concerning this response, I only disagree with the assertion that FEMA was incompetent. I more or less side with the lefty conspiracy theorists that it's actually worse than that -- although it's not simply a question of race war as they say. I think FEMA actually did precisely as they were set up to do, and it wasn't really Brown's fault. FEMA originally was set up both to preserve state sovereignty after a nuclear apocalypse and to better manage federal disaster relief (I understand late in the Carter Admin).

They're more concerned with control than with actualrelief, which makes them a different beast than eithernormal citizens or true "first responders". Theyexerted control quite well over themselves and theirgoals, but they also actively repulsed citizens'attempts to bring relief -- which in turn led to abrief spasm of looting, which itself has been exaggerated. That active repulsion of private reliefis not incompetence, it's a sign of a bloody-mindedbureaucratic zeal to control everything all the time. The militarization of the damage zone after FEMAfailed is nothing more than a continuation of the sameorientation. In the end, the sooner we all get back to the city, the less damage to our community:


One of my relatives forwarded to me an unattributed email that gives an analysis of the governmental responses (or lack thereof) to Katrina. This is the second one that I have seen that absolves the feds and goes after city and state (mostly city) officials.

I will no longer let these pass. If you have the time and a good sense of humor, scroll down to read the original critique. My response is directly below the preface that you are reading now.

Please note that I do not absolve local or state officials in any way, and I have serious misgivings about the behavior of many (though not all) individuals in the New Orleans Police Department. I do try to make sure that we do not lower the bar of expectations for the executive branch of the federal government.

Unlike the author of the "must read" email, I sign my work.

Peace (and here's to a new New Orleans),
Chris Wiseman

The "analysis" below isn't just finger-pointing. It's ignorant finger-pointing. This person seems especially upset with African-American people, but I don't even need to get into that.

One doesn't need to go past point #1.

Five days before the storm was Wednesday morning. Did anyone in the UNITED STATES or the WORLD think that Katrina was a serious threat to New Orleans? I can safely tell you "NO."

The biggest nervines in the metropolitan area didn't evacuate until late Friday and Saturday. Was ANYONE, even people with easy access to cars, evacuating New Orleans on Wednesday morning? No, I don't think so. The "five days notice" thing is completely laughable.

Second, good luck to this critic or anyone else finding over 500 school bus drivers for evacuation in ANY city, much less New Orleans. In addition, I would like to find any city in the United States that could evacuate over 400,000 people (1.5 million metro) in the span of two days.

As of Saturday morning, there was still some serious question as to the track of the storm. Add to this the poverty, age, illness, and lack-of-vehicle factors in the population of the city, and a reasonable observer could not expect a full evacuation.

Also, the population surveys previously done showed that fully 20 percent of the city's population would not evacuate in the event of a Category 4 or above storm. In a city and nation that treasure freedom--no, dear critic, New Orleans is not a "socialist" city--we believe in taking people at their word and planning accordingly. Cambodia in 1975 could count on a 100 percent evacuation if necessary. New Orleans, or any other democratic city worthy of its name, cannot.

Third, last time I checked, New Orleans and Louisiana are part of a nation-state with vital national interests that must be protected by the national government. A port and oil interests, not to mention the lives of citizens, would seem to be worthy of national protection, especially in a post-9/11 era when the Department of Homeland "Security" has had four years to prepare for something like this--regardless of the cause. If Al-Qaeda had blown the levee at the 17th street canal, what would be the difference in net result? Is that all it takes to create complete mayhem in a major city?

Fourth, part of the reason for having a federal government at all is to mediate competition over limited resources, particularly in stressful times. When citizens of my city are met (after WALKING across the bridge) at the foot of the Crescent City Connection bridge by Gretna police with guns and dogs, something's wrong. Yes, there were bad people in that crowd, but there were a lot of good people too. When one parish government is fighting with another, somebody up the chain is screwing up. I'm perfectly prepared to go after the governor on that one, but an active federal presence would have made this moot.

Even if one is upset with the mayor of New Orleans, please know this: the Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrived in St. Bernard Parish WELL before the feds did. Junior Rodriguez, the parish president, has publicly confirmed this. St. Bernard Parish is majority white, with a white president and a virtually all-white leadership. I don't think FEMA's problems are racist stupidity and incompetence. I think it's the rawest, purist form of incompetence, so pure that they're incapable of being effective racists even if they wanted to.
Finally, the fact is that every level of government will have to shoulder major blame. I personally find it easier to be hard on the federal and state levels of government, given the resources at their disposal. (It has been well-known for a long time that New Orleans is a poor city. Given that knowledge, it is negligent at best for the higher levels of government to assume that the city has the requisite resources at hand to deal with a force of nature that crosses parish and state lines.)

I was in my house in New Orleans on Saturday. The mayor mad it very clear that EVERYONE needed to take this storm seriously and get out.

This critic can't have it both ways. If New Orleans were a "socialist" city, the cops would have been at my door forcing me to leave at gunpoint. They weren't. I left with my children by choice on Sunday morning.

Add to all this the reality (and it is a reality) that rather than ask everyone to sacrifice for the war on terrorism (e.g. via a draft), the president has chosen to use the various national guards as "piggy banks" for international action. (I thought it was a "national" guard, but I guess I was wrong.) A substantial proportion of the Louisiana National Guard troops and their equipment are in the Middle East. It is ludicrous to say that this was not a factor in the poor response.

This is the second time I've seen this kind of "must read" email going around. I will no longer let these go by without being challenged.

Please forward this to anyone you received this from, or at least let me have the chance to do so.

Thanks for showing this to me.

Chris Wiseman

P. S. Do the math on the school bus issue, which is the whole basis of this "essay's" argument against the mayor. This critic's numbers point to an average of over 50 people on each school bus. I've taken high school kids on an overnight senior retreat. We couldn't get 100 of them plus possessions on two buses. I needed more vehicles. And that was at a tightly-run Catholic high school. Imagine trying to evacuate complete strangers for an INDEFINITE amount of time. Do you really think you'd average more than 50 people per school bus? This critic's head is in the clouds, or perhaps someplace else.

6) All the stupid quotes of the past two weeks pulled together in one posting. A great source for those wanting to remember exactly what Barbara Bush, W, DeLay, Hastert, Baker, Santorum, and Tancredo have said to insult New Orleans and its citizens:


7) This from one of our readers, anonymously:

I wanted to tell you about a personal Katrina tragedy. My mother in law, _______ passed away this evening in Texas, where she and her husband had evacuated. ...I wonder how many others have died of a broken heart and soul upon seeing New Orleans like it is now. Somebody told me Clarence Gatemouth Brown had passed, probably due to a broken heart. These are not statistics being measured because the CDC has no steady in-place population to examine. But I bet people all over this country are dying this way, now, because of the experience of Katrina.

8) Another posting by Jordan Flaherty. Compare his posting with that of Mike Clark about Bywater -- clearly the stories are mixed:

Back Inside New Orleans
by Jordan Flaherty
September 12, 2005

What actually happened in New Orleans these past two weeks? We need to sort through the rumors and distortions. Perhaps we need our version of South Africa’s Truth And Reconciliation Commission. Some way to sort through the many narratives and find a truth, and to find justice.

I spent yesterday inside the city of New Orleans, speaking to a few of the last holdouts in the 9th ward/bywater neighborhood. Their stories paint a very different picture from what we’ve heard in the media. Instead of stories of gangs of criminals and police and soldiers keeping order, there were stories of collective action, everyone looking out for each other, communal responses.

The first few nights there was a large, free community barbecue at a neighborhood bar called The Country Club. People brought food and cooked and cooked and drank and went swimming (yes, there's a pool in the bar).

Emily Harris and Richie Kay, from Desire Street, traveled out on their boat and brought supplies and gave rides. They have been doing this almost every day since the hurricane struck. They estimate that they have rescued at least a hundred people. Emily doesn’t want to leave. She is a carpenter and builder, and says, “I want to stay and rebuild. I love New Orleans.”

Emily describes a community working together in the first days after the hurricane. She also describes a scene of abandonment and disappointment. “A lot of people came to the high ground at St. Claude Avenue. They really thought someone would come and rescue them, and they waited all day for something - a boat, a helicopter, anything. There were helicopters in the sky, but none coming down.”

So people started walking as a mass uptown to Canal Street. Along the way, youths would break into grocery stores, take the food and distribute it evenly among houses in the community.

“Then they reached Canal Street, and saw that there was still no one that wanted to rescue them. That's when people broke into the stores on Canal Street.”

I asked Okra, in his house off of Piety Street, what the biggest problem has been. He said, “It’s been the police - they’ve lost the last restraints on their behavior they had, and gotten a license to go wild. They can do anything they want. I saw one cop beat a guy so hard that he almost took his ear off. And this was someone just trying to walk home.”

Walking through the streets, I witnessed hundreds of soldiers patrolling the streets. Everyone I spoke to said that soldiers were coming to their house at least once a day, trying to convince them to leave, bringing stories of disease and quarantine and violence. I didn’t see or speak to any soldiers involved in any clean up or rebuilding.

There are surely reasons to leave - I would not be living in the city at this point. I’m too attached to electricity and phone lines. But I can attest that those holdouts I spoke to are doing fine. They have enough food and water and have been very careful to avoid exposing themselves to the many health risks in the city.
I saw more city busses rolling through poor areas of town than I ever saw pre-hurricane. Unfortunately, these buses were filled with patrols of soldiers. What if the massive effort placed into patrolling this city and chasing everyone out were placed into beginning the rebuilding process?

Some neighborhoods are underwater still, and the water has turned into a sticky sludge of sewage and death that turns the stomach and breaks my heart. However, some neighborhoods are barely damaged at all, and if a large-scale effort were put into bringing back electricity and clearing the streets of debris, people could begin to move back in now.

Certainly some people do not want to move back, but many of us do. We want to rebuild our city that we love. The People’s Hurricane Fund - a grassroots, community based group made up of New Orleans community organizers and allies from around the US - has already made one of their first demands a “right of return” for the displaced of New Orleans.

In the last week, I’ve traveled between Houston, Baton Rouge, Covington, Jackson and New Orleans and spoken to many of my former friends and neighbors. We feel shell shocked. It used to be we would see each other in a coffee shop or a bar or on the street and talk and find out what we’re doing. Those of us who were working for social justice felt a community. We could share stories, combine efforts, and we never felt alone. Now we’re alone and dispersed and we miss our homes and our communities and we still don’t know where so many of our loved ones even are.

It may be months before we start to get a clear picture of what happened in New Orleans. As people are dispersed around the US reconstructing that story becomes even harder than reconstructing the city. Certain sites, like the Convention Center and Superdome, have become legendary, but despite the thousands of people who were there, it still is hard to find out exactly what did happen.

According to a report that’s been circulated, Denise Young, one of those trapped in the convention center told family members, “yes, there were young men with guns there, but they organized the crowd. They went to Canal Street and ‘looted,’ and brought back food and water for the old people and the babies, because nobody had eaten in days. When the police rolled down windows and yelled out ‘the buses are coming,’ the young men with guns organized the crowd in order: old people in front, women and children next, men in the back,just so that when the buses came, there would be priorities of who got out first.” But the buses never came. “Lots of people being dropped off, nobody being picked up. Cops passing by, speeding off. We thought we were being left to die.”

Larry Bradshaw and Lorrie Beth Slonsky, paramedics from Service Employees International Union Local 790 reported on their experience downtown, after leaving a hotel they were staying at for a convention. “We walked to the police command center at Harrah's on Canal Street and were told ...that we were on our own, and no they did not have water to give us. We now numbered several hundred. We held a mass meeting to decide a course of action. We agreed to camp outside the police command post. We would be plainly visible to the media and would constitute a highly visible embarrassment to the City officials. The police told us that we could not stay. Regardless, we began to settle in and set up camp. In short order, the police commander came across the street to address our group. He told us he had a solution: we should walk to the Pontchartrain Expressway and cross the greater New Orleans Bridge where the police had buses lined up to take us out of the City...

“We organized ourselves and the 200 of us set off for the bridge with great excitement and hope. ...As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions...

“Our small group retreated back down Highway 90 to seek shelter from the rain under an overpass. We debated our options and in the end decided to build an encampment in the middle of the Ponchartrain Expressway on the center divide, between the O'Keefe and Tchoupitoulas exits. We reasoned we would be visible to everyone, we would have some security being on an elevated freeway and we could wait and watch for the arrival of the yet to be seen buses.

“All day long, we saw other families, individuals and groups make the same trip up the incline in an attempt to cross the bridge, only to be turned away. Some chased away with gunfire, others simply told no, others to be verbally berated and humiliated. Thousands of New Orleanians were prevented and prohibited from self-evacuating the City on foot. Meanwhile, the only two City shelters sank further into squalor and disrepair. The only way across the bridge was by vehicle. We saw workers stealing trucks, buses, moving vans, semi-trucks and any car that could be hot wired. All were packed with people trying to escape the misery New Orleans had become.”

Media reports of armed gangs focused on black youth, but New Orleans community activist, Black Panther, and former Green Party candidate for City Council Malik Rahim reported from the West Bank of New Orleans, “There are gangs of white vigilantes near here riding around in pickup trucks, all of them armed.” I also heard similar reports from two of my neighbors - a white gay couple - who i visited on Esplanade Avenue.

The reconstruction of New Orleans starts now. We need to reconstruct the truth, we need to reconstruct families, who are still separated, we need to reconstruct the lives and community of the people of New Orleans, and, finally, we need to reconstruct the city.

Since I moved to New Orleans, I’ve been inspired and educated by the grassroots community organizing that is an integral part of the life of the city. It is this community infrastructure that is needed to step forward and fight for restructuring with justice.

In 1970, when hundreds of New Orleans police came to kick the Black Panthers out of the Desire Housing Projects, the entire community stood between the police and the Panthers, and the police were forced to retreat.

The grassroots infrastructure of New Orleans is the infrastructure of secondlines and Black Mardi Gras: true community support. The Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs organize New Orleans’ legendary secondline parades - roving street parties that happen almost every weekend. These societies were formed to provide insurance to the Black community because Black people could not buy insurance legally, and to this day the “social aid” is as important as the pleasure.

The only way that New Orleans will be reconstructed as even a shadow of its former self is if the people of New Orleans have direct control over that reconstruction.

But, our community dislocation is only increasing. Every day, we are spread out further. People leave Houston for Oregon and Chicago. We are losing contact with each other, losing our community that has nurtured us.

Already, the usual forces of corporate restructuring are lining up. Halliburton's Kellogg Brown & Root subsidiary has begun work on a $500 million US Navy contract for emergency repairs at Gulf Coast naval and marine facilities damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Blackwell Security - the folks that brought you Abu Ghraib - are patrolling the streets of our city.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the rich white elite is already planning their vision of New Orleans’ reconstruction, from the super-rich gated compounds of Audubon Place Uptown, where they have set up a heliport and brought in a heavily-armed Israeli security company. “The new city must be something very different,” one of these city leaders was quoted as saying, “with better services and fewer poor people. Those who want to see this city rebuilt want to see it done in a completely different way: demographically, geographically and politically.”

While the world’s attention is focused on New Orleans, in a time when its clear to most of the world that the federal government’s greed and heartlessness has caused this tragedy, we have an opportunity to make a case for a people’s restructuring, rather than a Halliburton restructuring.

The people of New Orleans have the will. Today, I met up with Andrea Garland, a community activist with Get Your Act On who is planning a bold direct action; she and several of her friends are moving back in to their homes. They have generators and supplies, and they invite anyone who is willing to fight for New Orleans to move back in with them. Malik Rahim, in New Orleans’ West Bank, is refusing to leave and is inviting others to join him. Community organizer Shana Sassoon, exiled in Houston, is planning a community mapping project to map out where our diaspora is being sent, to aid in our coming back together. Abram Himmelstein and Rachel Breulin of The Neighborhood Story Project are beginning the long task of documenting oral histories of our exile.

Please join us in this fight. This is not just about New Orleans. This is about community and collaboration versus corporate profiteering. The struggle for New Orleans lives on.

9) Reading this posting makes me quite optimistic about the 9th Ward / Bywater 'hood. I think the Bohemians will be back, better than ever:

The Ninth Ward neighborhood in New Orleans has been on the tip of many tongues over the course of the past two weeks. This area, also known as the Bywater, is the part of the city that has been under the most water since Katrina hit and the levee broke. Just down-river from the French Quarter, this is an historical neighborhood that many famous residents have called home: trumpeter Kermit Ruffins, the musical Lastie family, poet and author Kalamu ya Salaam, and rock-and-roll legend Fats Domino, who was rescued from his house in the Ninth Ward just last week. But on the corner of Saint Claude Avenue and Clouet Street, there is another star in this neighborhood’s galaxy.
The Saturn Bar is a humble little building with a small sign and a few bits of neon lighting the way to the corner door. Inside, the light from the neon soon reveals an array of treasures from wall to wall and ceiling to floor. O’Neil Broyard is the caretaker of its contents; he is a native of the city and has been at the helm of this neighborhood joint for more than forty years. When his regulars come calling, you’ll find him behind the bar, popping the cap off of an Abita or pouring a little Wild Turkey. But if it’s slow, he’ll be busying himself somewhere among his vast collection of baseball caps and garage sale paintings, tending to his flock of animals, or fiddling with his urban garden. With the time Broyard spends cultivating seeds, he could garnish more cocktails than he cares to even sell. He has a collection of fruit trees, a few vegetables and dozens of tomato plants. There have actually been times that Broyard has reaped such a harvest that he would share the bounty with his customers, regulars and tourists alike. He even grows mirlitons, a squash that’s used regularly in Creole cooking and a vegetable that is celebrated each year with the community-wide Mirliton Festival.

What constitutes the fabric of a community? The streets? The buildings? The businesses? The people? These things are certainly part of the warp and woof of any neighborhood. But what about the corner bar? Clouet Street is under water, but The Saturn Bar beckons to all of us as a reminder of the small treasures tucked in and around a city like New Orleans and the role that they can play in a neighborhood like the Ninth Ward. It’s not Galatoire’s or Commander’s Palace. It’s a little brown building with a door that opens to a community. It’s the thing that connects that community to the rest of us—and to the rings of Saturn.

While there have been so very many losses to mourn these last two weeks, we can now allow ourselves a hint of celebration: O’Neil Broyard and his beloved Saturn Bar have survived the storm. Now, he and his flock wait for the streets to dry up and for their neighbors to return.

10) Bill Maher a couple of nights ago on Bush and Katrina:

"Mr. President, this job can't be fun for you anymore. There's no more money to spend--you used upall of that. You can't start another war becauseyou used up the army. And now, darn the luck, therest of your term has become the Bush familynightmare: helping poor people. Listen to your Mom.The cupboard's bare, the credit cards maxed out. No one's speaking to you. Mission accomplished. "Now it's time to do what you've always done best:lose interest and walk away. Like you did with yourmilitary service and the oil company and thebaseball team. It's time. Time to move on and trythe next fantasy job. How about cowboy or spaceman? Now I know what you're saying: there's somany other things that you as President couldinvolve yourself in. Please don't. I know, I know.There's a lot left to do. There's a war with Venezuela. Eliminating the sales tax on yachts.Turning the space program over to the church. AndSocial Security to Fannie Mae. Giving embryos thevote.

"But, Sir, none of that is going to happen now. Why? Because you govern like Billy Joel drives. You've performed so poorly I'm surprised that youhaven't given yourself a medal. You're acatastrophe that walks like a man. Herbert Hooverwas a shitty president, but even he never concededan entire city to rising water and snakes. "On your watch, we've lost almost all of our allies,the surplus, four airliners, two trade centers, apiece of the Pentagon and the City ofNew Orleans. Maybe you're just not lucky. I'm not saying youdon't love this country. I'm just wondering howmuch worse it could be if you were on the otherside.
"So, yes, God does speak to you. What he is sayingis: 'Take a hint.' "

11) Is it just me, or do any others think that Baghdad and New Orleans should declare each other "sister cities" after their respective disasters in the past 2 years? The parallels just keep coming on:

- city under military occupation
- looting and breakdown of order
- Bush contractors getting all the reconstructioncontracts
- archives under water
- militarization of relief efforts
- mercenary "contractors" all over town protecting thewealthy and/or robber barons


Mercenaries guard homes of the rich in New Orleans
Jamie Wilson in New Orleans
Monday September 12, 2005
The Guardian

Hundreds of mercenaries have descended on New Orleansto guard the property of the city's millionaires fromlooters.

The heavily armed men, employed by private militarycompanies including Blackwater and ISI, are part ofthe militarisation of a city which had a reputationfor being one of the most relaxed and easy-going inAmerica...

12) Bad, bad news from St. Bernard Parish, the hardest hit area of all (along with Plaquemines):


Associated Press

Thousands of St. Bernard Parish residents who journeyed to the state Capitol, desperate for information about their homes, received only grim news Monday: Every part of the parish was flooded by Hurricane Katrina. Some homes were coated with oil from a nearby refinery. And one official estimated no one would live in the parish until at least summertime.

"When you go back to St. Bernard, the only memories you're going to have is what you left with," Parish President Henry "Junior" Rodriguez told a crowd in the House chamber that lined the walls, filled up the balcony and spilled down the stairs of the building.

State police estimated the crowd reached as many as 5,000 people, who filled hallways of the Capitol, hoping to gather scraps of information about a parish whose devastation was overshadowed by the flooding of New Orleans and the chaos that followed there.

"It's sort of like the stepchild and the forgotten parish," said Frances Smith, a resident of Meraux, awaiting a briefing from parish officials.

Rodriguez was upfront about the status of the parish. To Shell Beach residents, he told them a few buildings weathered the storm but may not be repairable. To Hopedale residents, he said not one structure was standing.

"When you go back, you won't recognize it," he told all residents.

For homes that may have been repairable after the waters receded, an oil spill at Murphy Oil in Meraux may have made them uninhabitable, officials warned.

Amid the questions and the descriptions of devastation, a bitterness tinged with pride was obvious among both the residents and parish officials, who said they were left to rescue their own as the floodwaters swallowed homes and businesses. State Sen. Walter Boasso, whose business and home were submerged in the flooding, noted Canadian help arrived before the U.S. Army did.

"Did we get neglected? Absolutely we got neglected," he said. "But did the local people take up the slack? You're damn right we did. We didn't wait for anybody to show up."

"Good thing," a resident shouted back.

Bodies of the dead still were being collected Monday. Sheriff Jack Stephens said the parish death toll stood at 56 but officials knew of at least 10 more locations where they needed to recover bodies. He said the highest risk areas, where water covered the roofs of houses, hadn't been searched yet.

Boasso said 30,000 homes were completely lost and he's heard estimates that it would take at least four months to clean up the parish that is home to 68,000 residents.

"I'm told we're going to be able to go back in an organized fashion to our homes and try and recover what we want," said Boasso, choking up.

He said the water should be drained by Tuesday, but officials said environmental testing to determine whether the soil or air was contaminated must be completed before residents would be allowed back into the parish to collect what belongings they could. And Rodriguez said when people are allowed to briefly return, they should bring rubber gloves, boots and masks.

No one should expect to live in the parish again until next summer, according to Craig Taffaro, a parish councilman.

Despite estimates of a long recovery, officials said they hoped the community would rebuild and that residents would return.

"You give us such hope. Please, please stay with us. We will come back again," said Judy Darby Hoffmeister, a member of the parish council.

13) NOLA.com job database:

An open message to our NOLA.com audience:

Due to the tremendous changes in the New Orleans community, we have created a new resume database for individuals needing to find a job anywhere in the country. Employers will be given access to this database.
If you are in need of permanent or temporary employment, no matter where you are living at the present time, please post your profile, and if you have one, attach a resume, at http://backtowork.nola.com. There are no charges to you for this service. You will be able to post your profile confidentially or you can choose to make your contact information public.

There are many companies trying to help. The more information you provide about your skills and your current location, the easier it will be for employers to determine if they have openings that would match your abilities.

Mark Rose
General Manager

14) The Feds gear up for a hostile takeover, and the locals gear up for a reconstruction fight:


Officials: N.O.'s rebuild should be locally based
Washington-run redesign remains a big worry
By Bill Walsh
Washington bureau

WASHINGTON - Local residents and civic and politicalleaders, not Washington policy-makers, should take thelead in charting the future for New Orleans and theGulf Coast region in the wake of Hurricane Katrina,Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said Monday.

"We know how people like to have their houses builtand where they want to stay," Landrieu said after apress conference with Louisiana clergy. "While weappreciate the help in rebuilding and expect attentionand support unprecedented in the nation, it will beled by the people of Louisiana, Mississippi andAlabama."
Landrieu was reacting to what she said was a "generalsense" that members of Congress already are hatchingplans to redesign the city of New Orleans.

As the scope of destruction from the Aug. 29 storm hasstarted to become clear, powerful lawmakers have allbut insisted that New Orleans be fundamentallyredeveloped to ensure it doesn't fall victim to futurehurricanes. Unsaid, but implied, is the fact thatCongress would resist approving the billions ofdollars necessary to rebuild unless the plans meetwith lawmakers' approval.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., has said itdoesn't "make sense" to rebuild New Orleans the way itwas before Katrina struck and that whole neighborhoodsshould be bulldozed. He also said it is important thatas New Orleans is revived "we rebuild smart."

He didn't explain what he meant by "smart," but urbanplanners, architects and construction firms around thecountry already have begun to float ideas formega-levees slicing through the city where submergedneighborhoods now stand, towering flood wallspartitioning New Orleans to keep flooding in check andmassive landfill operations to raise low-lying areasthat frequently flood.

At the same time, lawmakers have discussed legislationto clamp down on the federal flood insurance program,which effectively would deny coverage to homes infrequently flooded areas; such legislation wouldrequire a large-scale redevelopment of the areas nowunder water in New Orleans and surrounding suburbs.One member suggested a large park in New Orleans toreplace submerged neighborhoods; it would serve asboth a memorial to flood victims and a buffer againstfuture disasters.

This week, the Louisiana delegation hopes to unveilits package of legislation intended to put a localmark on the flurry of Katrina-related legislation inCongress.

Rep. Thomas Tancredo, R-Colo., went furthest inraising fears about who will sketch the plans for arebuilt New Orleans. He urged Hastert and otherRepublican leaders last week not to give anyrebuilding money to Louisiana officials because ofwhat he called "mind-boggling incompetence" in dealingwith the disaster and a "long history of publiccorruption." He has offered a resolution, so farwithout much support, to create a 15-member Housecommission to oversee the disbursal of $62.3 billionin disaster assistance already approved by Congress.

During a visit to New Orleans on Monday, PresidentBush gave support to the idea that the city shouldchart its own future.

"My attitude is this: The people of New Orleans candesign the vision, the people of New Orleans can layout what New Orleans ought to look like in the future,and the federal government will help," Bush said. "Ithink the best policy is one in which the federalgovernment doesn't come down and say, 'Here's whatyour city will look like."

15) Another parallel with Baghdad, with historical archives flooded in basements:

Traister, Rebecca. History is being flooded, too: Slave records, jazz archives, Jefferson Davis' mansion: Hurricane Katrina has put them all in peril. Salon.Com. 2005 Sep. 10.


"... Last weekend, archivists attempted to get back into the Notarial Archives, a one-of-a-kind collection of over 40 million pages of signed acts compiled by New Orleans notaries dating back to 1699. Some of the archives were in the old Amoco building in the French Quarter, while others were in the basement of the civil courts building. The archivists were blocked by Federal Troops. The story was reported by the Times-Picayune, perhaps spurring guards to finally allow the curators into the archives on Tuesday June 6, along with representatives from Munters, a Swedish disaster recovery firm.

Reports from Notarial Archives were encouraging. Curator Ann Wakefield posted to the SSA message board that the archive's research center, on the third floor of the Amoco building, had sustained minimal damage, though the civil courts building had taken in some water. On Sept. 8, Wakefield reported that Munters had pumped out the Civil District Courthouse office, and that "The plans are to remove all records from the courthouse location tomorrow." As for the Amoco building, Wakefield wrote, "The most cost-effective thing we can do to stabilize the research center is to block up the broken windows and pump air conditioning in. It is still uncertain whether this can be accomplished."

Other archivists were feeling relatively lucky as well, though anxious about gaining access. Brenda Square heads the Amistad Research Center, which houses the records of the American Missionary Association, the first abolitionist missionary society in the United States, and contains art, photographs, and over 15 million documents charting African American history. Reached by phone, Square said, "Fortunately, the news has been good. We have yet to get in to evaluate our collection. But our building, which is on the Tulane campus, did not get any water." Square noted that she had been as prepared as possible, and had spent recent years "monitoring information which indicated the high probabilities of high water levels [in the case of flooding]. So over the last five years we've moved valuable things up to higher levels." ...

It's also not lost on those who pay attention to preservation that they are living through world-changing history right now. Brent Hightower, the only archivist at the Times-Picayune after the hurricane, posted a notice on message boards looking for preservation materials. "The first priority," said Hightower by phone, "is my friends and coworkers who are taking pictures and writing stories, making sure their stuff is backed up and not lost." Hightower said he is making every effort to "preserve a historical record" of the current events, as well as preserving paper copies of current newspapers. He said he's also trying to keep contiguous microfilm records and hard copy records. "I've looked at those records from Betsy in 1965 so many times," said Hightower. "It would destroy me if I couldn't figure out a way to provide that for future generations."."

16) Move-On petition calling for an independent Katrina investigative commission:


17) Here is a posting said to be by the commanding officer of the USS Iwo Jima, the aircraft carrier docked in New Orleans and directing relief efforts. I wonder if it's authentic, although I don't see anything that would immediately disqualify it:

Subject: IWO Update - 6 Sep 05
Hello All;

Since I took over IWO JIMA over a year ago, I felt as though I had control of the destiny of the ship. I thought I lost it today, the first time ever, and that we were merely reacting to events rather than controlling them.
Within the first 24 hours after arriving pierside in New Orleans, IWO JIMA has become many things. We are one of the few full service airports in the area and have been operating aircraft on and off our deck for almost 15 hours each day. We are also one of the only air conditioned facilities within a ten mile radius and though we have had problems making water from the polluted Mississippi, we are also the only hot shower within miles. All day long we have been accommodating local policemen, firemen, state troopers, national guard, 82nd Airborne division personnel with hot showers and hot food. I met an ambulance team from Minnesota who just drove straight to New Orleans when they heard of the tragedy and have been supporting hospitals free of charge for the last week. They hadn't had a hot meal in over a week and were grateful to have the opportunity to have lunch onboard. The Deputy Commander of the RI National Guard reported to me that he had guardsmen who were whipped, but after a hot shower and an IWO JIMA breakfast were ready to hit the patrols again. Rarely have I seen so many smiling, happy faces than on these people. After two weeks in the trenches sleeping on concrete floors, no shower, and eating MREs, good ship IWO JIMA has been a Godsend. I had an opportunity to talk to the Director of Homeland Security for a few minutes in my cabin. I asked him if there was anything more I could do for him, he asked if he could get a shower. I was glad to turnover my cabin to him. The local FEMA coordinator and his logistics and security teams were on my quarterdeck this afternoon asking permission to set up their command center on the pier next to the ship. While they had sophisticated command and control equipment, they had no place to berth their 250 FEMA members. We were glad to give them a home. Contrary to the press, all the FEMA people I met had been on station since last Sunday (before the Hurricane hit), never left the area, and have been in the field ever since. The command duty officer was told that one state trooper had driven 80 miles to get to the ship. He said that the word was out: Come to IWO JIMA. We expect that the flood gates will open on us.
Early this morning we received our first medical emergency: an elderly woman with st
roke-like symptoms. Throughout the day we received about a dozen medical emergencies, the most serious was an elderly man who was stabbed in the chest and was bleeding to death. The doctors performed surgery on him and saved his life. I toured the hospital ward; all our charges were elderly and disadvantaged individuals. As with Hotel IWO JIMA, we expect to see many more casualties tomorrow.

Our curse appears to be our flight deck and our extraordinary command and control capabilities. Our challenge today was the tidal wave of Flag and General Officers that flooded onboard, 17 total, virtually all without notice. I couldn't believe there were so many involved in this effort and they all wanted to come here. They poured onto the flight deck in one helicopter after another in order to meet with General Honore, the Joint Task Force Commander. The majority showed up around the same time and all wanted to leave at the same time, making it a nightmare for our flight deck team to control and coordinate flights on and off the ship for all these admirals and generals while supporting the humanitarian effort. I spent most of the day running around the ship getting these people off and on helicopters and in and out of the meetings and command spaces. It was like herding cats. But the ship performed superbly and "flexed" to meet the challenge. Regretfully, we expect nearly 20 admirals and generals onboard tomorrow for more meetings. To add to the challenges, virtually all of these commands are sending liaison staffs to help coordinate issues, and already a number of admirals and generals have "permanently" embarked. The Inn is full.
I talked to one of the FEMA team members who had also worked the disaster relief for 9/11. I asked him how much more difficult was the Katrina relief effort compared to 9/11. He said it was without measure: thousand of times worse than 9/11. He couldn't articulate the magnitude of the destruction.

Despite all the challenges, I think we regained control by the end of the day. We are forearmed for tomorrow's onslaught. At our evening Dept Head meeting, I asked all my principals to tell me what the stupidest thing they heard or saw today. The list was enormous. But the most absurd item was when my Tactical Action Officer, who runs our 24 hour command center (CIC) got a phone call from the Director of the New Orleans Zoo. Apparently, there was a large fire near the zoo. It was so intense that the fire department had to abandon the cause, but military helos were heavily engaged in scooping up giant buckets of water and dumping in on the blaze in an effort to put it out. The director complained to us that the noise from the helos was disturbing the animals, especially the elephants, which he was most concerned about, and asked us to stop. The TAO thanked him for his interest in national defense.

It is inspiring to meet and talk to such a huge number of individuals who are doing the Lord's work to recover this city. They have had little sleep, little food, no showers, working 16-18 hours a day, and in some cases no pay, and they are thanking ME for a hot meal! Only in America. We have turned the corner. It will take an awful long time, but we have turned the corner.
All the best,

------------------------------------------------------Subject: IWO Update - 7 Sep 05

Hello All;
We finally had a chance to have Captain's Call this morning. The ship has been running at full speed for 8 days straight with a myriad of changing missions and requirements piled on top of us. I thought it best to tell the crew where I thought this was going and what impact we have made. I told them that as with any contingency operations there is that initial surge of energy and inspiration that often times gives way to frustration and tedium; I did not want them to underestimate the magnitude of what they were accomplishing each day by their hard work on the flight deck, the galley, the well deck, CIC, Radio Central (JMC), on the pier, and in the engineering spaces to support this great undertaking. Every job on the ship is important and the contribution of IWO JIMA has already been enormous.

Our contributions have been growing. Today, we opened out doors to 900-1,200 Army, National Guard, and local law enforcement personnel to take showers and get hot meals. We were getting overwhelmed. There was a steady stream of 60 to 100 every hour on the quarterdeck asking to come onboard and get refreshed. The word has obviously gotten out. One Army Captain told the Command Master Chief that his unit of 60 soldiers had come from 60 miles away because his general told him to "go to IWO JIMA and they'll take care of you." We couldn't say no.

Not satisfied with the record-setting flight operations yesterday, the flight deck team nearly doubled the number of aircraft hits. At one point the team was bringing in Army Blackhawks two at a time, one group after another in perfect sequence. It was an impressive sight to behold. Medical casualties continued to come onboard the ship, some by stretcher and ambulance, others by air or boat. After yesterday, the Medical folks reworked their procedures, so today everything flowed smoothly. Supply department has served up thousands of meals; the mess line never closes. Deck department got back to their roots and conducted boat operations and a sterngate marriage with TORTUGA's LCM-8 landing craft, moving more supplies to our sister ship. But lest we forget, the bedrock of IWO JIMA's strength lies in three simple things: electricity, air conditioning, hot water - all provided by the uncomplaining engineers.

But of all the manifold capabilities of good ship IWO JIMA, medical, logistic, and air support, our command and control capabilities have moved to the forefront. It almost sounds surreal but IWO JIMA has literally become the headquarters, the "center of the universe" for all Federal recovery efforts - DoD as well as civilian. It is on this ship that the myriad efforts have all come together. Yesterday, for the first time ever, some 17 admirals and generals got together with the Joint Task Force Commander, General Honore, face to face to coordinate the numerous and ever growing military recovery and support efforts. Today, the same cadre of admirals and generals were back onboard but this time accompanied by the civilian side. FEMA has now established their headquarters on the pier along side (and onboard IWO JIMA) to better coordinate their efforts with us. But with this has come an ever growing number of staff members embarking on the ship. Our population has grown from a crew of some 1,200 to nearly 2,500 (including several hundred guardsmen and soldiers living onboard) with all the detachments, augments, and now senior staffs. I think we are now up to one three-star, one two-star, and four one-stars embarked good ship IWO JIMA. We are bursting at the seams. We have spent the vast majority of our days taking care of and chasing down the myriad staff members. It is like herding cats, except these cats fly on and off our flight deck periodically.

I had a chance to meet Governor Blanco of Louisiana and her Lieutenant Governor today when she came onboard for the giant 1200 briefing with General Honore and were later joined by Admiral Nathman and Vice Admiral Fitzgerald. The ships Ready Room was bursting at the seams with senior officers and high officials - you had to step outside just to change your mind. I had seen the Governor on TV many times. She looked different in person: tired and worn out. She told me that she was averaging about 4 hours of sleep a night, but smiled, "I guess that's about what you get in the military." You could see the severe strain of the past weeks events. I quoted her the famous line from Churchill the night be became Prime Minister of wartime Britain, "that it was as if I were walking with Destiny, and that all of my past life had been but preparation for this moment and this trial." The recovery from the damage of Hurricane Katrina is an unprecedented trial for the Governor and many, many others. My observation is that America, throughtout her history, has always been slow to respond, but once that powerful engine gets into gear it is massive and unstoppable. I suspect this will also be the case for the Gulf Coast.

It has become our tradition at the evening department head meeting to go around the room and have each person list the stupidest or silliest thing they heard or saw during the day. As you can imagine, the log book is overflowing with accounts. Yesterday it was the helos and the elephants at the zoo. Today it was me. I have been inundated with doing interviews: CNN, Pentagon press, Regina Mobley and Channel 13 news, the Boston Globe, Carla McCabe and the Army Times, and finally Greta Van Susturen. We did a spot with Greta on the pier this morning with the massive bow of IWO JIMA in the background and helos flying on and off the ship with great noise - an impressive backdrop for this puffed up officer. As I was being interviewed by Greta, a pair of Blackhawks swooped onto the flight deck sending up a great wind which blew off my ball cap. I instinctively scrambled after it before it blew into the water. When I turned around the FOX News photographer looked at me and smiled, "I got that on film."

Look for me chasing my hat down the pier on the next Fox News spot.

All the best,

18) Bush Joke:

Q: What is George W. Bush's position on Roe vs.Wade?
A: He really doesn't care how people get out of New Orleans.

19) More complaints and comparisons about Bush's relief reaction:

Subject: FW: How SHOULD a President Respond

In September 1999, Hurricane Floyd -- a category 3 -- was bearing down on the Carolinas and Virginia.
President Clinton was in Christchurch, New Zealand - meeting with President Jiang of China (you know, actually working). He made the proclamation that only Presidents can make and declared the areas affected by Floyd "Federal Disaster Areas" so the National Guard and Military can begin to Mobilize. Then he cut short his meetings overseas and flew home to coordinate the rescue efforts. This all one day BEFORE a Cat-3 hit the coast. That is how you do it.

How about this dope's own father during Hurricane Andrew? Once again, President Bush (41) -- August, 1992 -- was in the midst of a brutal campaign for re-election. Yet, he cut off his campaigning the day before and went to Washington where he marshaled the largest military operation on US soil in history. He sent in 7,000 National Guard and 22,000 regular military personnel, and all the gear to begin the clean up within hours after Andrew passed through Florida. "Cause, you know, those people and their stuff was actually where it belonged, rather than being used for insurgent target-practice halfway around the world in a vain effort to make Iraq safe for Iranian takeover."

In August of 1969 when Cat-5 Hurricane Camille hit roughly the same area as Katrina, President Nixon had already readied the National Guard and ordered all Gulf rescue vessels and equipment from Tampa and Houston to follow the Hurricane in. There were over 1,000 regular military with two dozen helicopters to assist the Coast Guard and National Guard within hours after the skies cleared.

Bush 43 - August 2005 - Cat-5 Hurricane Katrina bears down on New Orleans and the Mississippi gulf. Both states are down nearly 8,000 National Guard troops because they are in Iraq -- with most of the rescue gear needed. Bush is on vacation. The day before Katrina makes landfall, Bush rides his bike for two hours. The day she hits, he goes to John McCain's birthday party; and lies to old people about the multi-billion-dollar pharmaceutical company welfare boondoggle. People are dying, the largest port of entry in the United States (and fifth largest in the World) is under attack. Troops and supplies are desperately needed. The levees are cracking and the emergency 1-1/2 ton sandbags are ready, but there aren't enough helicopters or pilots to set them before the levees fail. The mayor of New Orleans begs for Federal coordination, but there is none, and the sandbagging never gets done. So Bush -- naturally -- goes to San Diego, to play guitar with country singer and lie to the military about how Iraq is just exactly like WWII. The levees give way, filling New Orleans with water, sewage, oil and chemicals. Ten percent of all US exports and 50% of all agricultural exports ordinarily go through this port. It is totally destroyed. Bush decides he'll end his vacation a couple of days early -- TOMORROW --BECAUSE HE HAS TICKETS TO A PADRES GAME! He goes back to the Fake Farm in Crawford, with every intention of doing something on WEDNESDAY about this disaster that happened starting last Sunday night. He had time for a couple of rounds of golf, too.

20) Simon Schama compares 9/11 to Katrina:

Sorry Mr President, Katrina is not 9/11
America this weekend marked the fourth anniversary of9/11 as anger over the hurricane continued to mount.The two disasters, says Simon Schama, revealed verydifferent faces of the same country
Monday September 12, 2005
The Guardian

Slipstreaming behind the annual rituals of sorrow andreverence for 9/11, George W Bush has decreed that,five days later, on the 16th, there is to be a furtherday of solemnities on which the nation will pray forthe unnumbered victims of Hurricane Katrina. Prayers (like vacations) are the default mode for thispresident who knows how to chuckle and bow the head inthe midst of disaster but not, when it counts, how togovern or to command. If you feel the prickly heat ofpolitics, summon a hymn to make it go away; makeaccountability seem a blasphemy.

Thus has George Bush become the Archbishop ofWashington even as his aura as lord protector slidesinto the putrid black lagoon, bobbing with cadaversand slick with oil, that has swallowed New Orleans. Nodoubt the born-again president is himself sincereabout invoking the Almighty. But you can hear themuttered advice in the White House: Mr President, wewere in trouble after 9/11; the unfortunate episode ofthe schoolroom, My Little Goat and all that. But dowhat you did then; set yourself once more at thecentre of the nation; go to the epicentre of thehorror and embrace its heroes; make yourself thecountry's patriotic invigorator and all may yet bewell.

So this weekend it was predictable that the presidentwould shamelessly invoke the spirit of 9/11 to coverhis shamefully exposed rear end - "resolve of nation... defend freedom ... rebuild wounded city ... carefor our neighbours". But comparisons with 9/11 - thefourth anniversary of which was marked in New Yorkyesterday - will only serve now to reinforce thedifferences between what the two calamities said aboutAmerica, and especially about those entrusted with itsgovernment. The carnage of 9/11 generated an intensesurge of patriotic solidarity, even with America'sBabylon, a city scandalously and notoriouslyindifferent to Heartland values. This was because themass murders had been committed by people who definedforeignness: theocratic nihilists who equatedpluralist democracy with depravity. A hard-ass citysupposedly abandoned to the most brutal forms ofaggressive individualism (a fiction it liked tocultivate) showed instead the face of Americanmutualism as volunteers poured into the smoulderingtoxic crater. Blood and food donations piled up and amayor disregarded his personal safety to be where hehad to be, in the thick of the inferno; his dailypress conferences astoundingly bullshit-free, unafraidof bearing bad news; treating his fellow-citizens,mirabile dictu, like grown-ups.

The rest of the country looked at Zoo York and,astoundingly, saw images and heard stories that madethemselves feel good about being American: the flag ofdefiance flown by firemen amid the Gothic ruins; thecountless tales of bravery and sacrifice among thosetrapped inside the towers. For all the horror, thiscould be made into a good epic of the Americancharacter. It was this redeeming sense of nationalcommunity that protected the president from any kindof serious political scrutiny whenever he invoked 9/11as the overwhelming reason for launching the invasionof Iraq. As John Kerry found to his cost, unexaminedpassion triumphed over reasoned argument. Bush wonre-election simply by making debate a kind of treason;an offence against the entombed.

Out of the genuinely noble response to 9/11, then,came an unconscionable deceit. Out of the ignobleresponse to Katrina will come a salutary truth. Foralong with much of New Orleans, the hurricane hasswept away, at last, the shameful American era of thefearfully buttoned lip. Television networks that haveself-censored themselves into abject deference havenot flinched from their responsibility to show corpsesdrifting in the water; lines of the forlorn and theabandoned sitting amid piles of garbage outside theConvention Centre; patients from Charity Hospitalwaiting in the broiling sun in vain for water andmedical supplies; helicopters too frightened of armedlooters to actually land, but throwing bottles ofwater down from their 20ft hover. Embarrassed by theirignorance of the cesspool that was the ConventionCentre, members of the government protested that itwas hard to know what was really going on "on theground". All they had to do was to turn on the TV tofind out.
Millions of ordinary Americans did. And what they saw,as so
many of them have said, was the brutality,destitution, desperation and chaos of the Third World.Instead of instinctive solidarity and compassion, theyhave witnessed a descent into a Hobbesian state ofnature; with Leviathan offering fly-by compassion,30,000ft up, and then, once returned to the WhiteHouse, broadcasting a defensive laundry list ofdeliveries, few of which showed up when and where theywere needed. Instead of acts of mutual succour, therewas the police force of Gretna, south of New Orleans,sealing off a bridge against incoming evacuees, andturning them back under threats of gunfire. Instead ofa ubiquitous mayor with his finger on the pulse, andthe guts to tell the truth, enter Michael Brown, apathetically inadequate director of the FederalEmergency Management Agency, Fema, hounded from his11-year tenure as supervisor of commissioners andstewards of the International Arabian HorseAssociation by legal proceedings. Instead of summarilyfiring "Brownie", the president ostentatiouslycongratulated him on camera for doing "a heck of ajob".

Only on Friday, in an attempt at damage control, wasthe hapless Brown "recalled" to W
ashington, hisposition as Fema director intact.

And instead of an urban community of every conceivablerace, religion and even class brought together bytrauma, another kind of city, startlingly divided byrace and fortune, has symbolised everything aboutAmerica that makes its people uneasy, ashamed and,finally, perhaps lethally for the conservativeascendancy and its myths, angry. A faint butdetectable whiff of mortality is steaming up, not justfrom the Louisiana mire, but from this Republicanadministration. Call me a cynic but is it entirely acoincidence that suddenly the great black hope ofmoderate Republicanism, Colin Powell, is everywhere,publicly repenting of his speech to the UN (and byimplication damning those who supplied him withunreliable intelligence), and offering, unbidden, hisown lament for the institutional meltdown thatfollowed the breach of the levee. The administrationis already thought of as a turkey and the turkeyvultures are starting to wheel.

Historians ought not to be in the prophecy businessbut I'll venture this one: Katrina will be seen as awatershed in the public and political life of the US,because it has put back into play the profoundquestion of American government. Ever since RonaldReagan proclaimed that government was not the answerbut the problem, conservatism has stigmatised publicservice as parasitically unpatriotic, an anomaly inthe robust self-sufficiency of American life. For themost part, Democrats have been too supine, tooembarrassed and too inarticulate to fight back with acoherent defence of the legitimacy of democraticgovernment. Now, if ever, is their moment; not torevive the New Deal or the Great Society (thoughunapologetically preserving social security might be astart) but to stake a claim to being the party thatdelivers competent, humane, responsive government, theparty of public trust.

For the most shocking difference between 9/11 andKatrina was in what might have been expected in theaftermath of disaster. For all the intelligencesoundings, it was impossible to predict the ferocity,much less the timing, of the 9/11 attacks. But Katrinawas the most anticipated catastrophe in modernAmerican history. Perhaps the lowest point in Bush'sabject performance last week was when he claimed thatno one could have predicted the breach in the NewOrleans levees, when report after report commissionedby him, not to mention a simulation just last year,had done precisely that. But he had cut the budgetappropriation for maintaining flood defences by nearly50%, so that for the first time in 37 years Louisianawas unable to supply the protection it knew it wouldneed in the event of catastrophe. Likewise Fema, whichunder Bill Clinton had been a cabinet level agencyreporting directly to the president, had under hissuccessor been turned into a hiring opportunity forpolitical hacks and cronies and disappeared into thelumbering behemoth of Homeland Security. It was Femathat failed the Gulf; Fema which failed to secure thedelivery of food, water, ice and medical suppliesdesperately asked for by the Mayor of New Orleans; andit was the president and his government-averseadministration that had made Fema a bad joke.

In the last election campaign George W Bush askedAmericans to vote for him as the man who would bestfulfil the most essential obligation of government:the impartial and vigilant protection of its citizens.Now the fraudulence of the claim has come back tohaunt him, not in Baghdad but in the drowned countiesof Louisiana. In the recoil, disgust and fury felt bymillions of Americans at this abdication ofresponsibility, the president - notwithstanding hiscomically self-serving promise to lead an inquiry intothe fiasco - will assuredly reap the whirlwind.

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