Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Anybody got a fiddle?

As I attempt to find a place to put my various, sometimes conflicting feelings about the disaster on the gulf coast, I read today a piece by novelist Christopher Rice, the son of Vampire Chronicles author Ann Rice, whose family has lived in New Orleans for decades. It’s noteworthy that the city has served as the backdrop and atmosphere for the stories written by both mother and son ~ a testament to the way the city becomes such an integral part of anyone who lives, or even visits there.

Christopher writes in Salon

“I am trying to find a quick and efficient method for mourning 20 years' worth of memories, and it is proving to be an impossible and irresponsible task. … Those of us who are from there are being left with a storehouse of memories that have lost their physical referents.”

The requiem for our grief has been decidedly non-musical; the din of cynical spin, finger-pointing, and diversion of blame typical of this government has all but drowned out the lamentations of the suffering people of the gulf coast region.

Chertoff and Brownie of Homeland Security and FEMA, respectively, have already begun blaming state and local officials for not calling for help earlier, not authorizing federal intervention, et cetera. Let’s nail the lid on that right now, shall we?

The Federal 2004 National Response Plan explicitly states that, at times of

any natural or manmade incident, including terrorism, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the population, infrastructure, environment, economy, national morale, and/or government functions, the federal government pre-empts local and state government in its responsibility to act quickly.

After 9/11, the administration wisely dispensed with the formalities of deferring to local authorities (which, of course, in this case had already issued a state of emergency as early as August 26). The attempt by the spinners to blame this on the obviously overwhelmed and incompetent local authorities, doesn't fit with the Bush administration's own rules.

We also now know that the military was prepared to help before Katrina hit, according to NorthCom's Lt Commander. All they needed was a presidential go-ahead. They didn't get one.

Apparently, that permission could have been given right away, but it wasn't. Bush was on vacation, sharing some cake with John McCain, and pretending to play some guitar.

And not for nothing, I heard on Sunday about an Urban Rescue Unit from Ohio which arrived in Meridien, Mississippi in time to ride out the hurricane along with the residents, and so was on hand immediately to begin the work of helping people get out of danger.

Now how’d they do that? Magic?

The relative quiet from the opposition party seems to be thawing out also. Former President Bill Clinton is finally speaking clearly about the federal government's failure to do more for the victims of the hurricane.

"Our government failed those people in the beginning, and I take it now there is no dispute about it," Clinton said in an interview with CNN Monday. "One hundred percent of the people recognize that -- that it was a failure."

But the news isn’t all bad, my people. There’s a silver lining – apart from Trent Lott getting a new beach house.

According to at least one learned, wizened source, notably Barbara Bush, the practically toga-clad solon whose most notable pearls of wisdom are worn around her appalling turkey neck, many of these wretched, teeming, tempest-tossed refugees have been blown right into a pot of jam.

The former first lady toured the Astrodome Monday, and along the way she opined that many of the refugees from New Orleans were so poor to begin with that they ought to be pretty happy with their temporary digs in Houston. "What I’m hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas," Barbara Bush said in comments first aired on the public radio program "Marketplace" and reprinted by Editor & Publisher. "Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them."

The former First Dragon could actually be heard on the video chuckling aloud as she uttered the words “you know…”

I don’t suppose the current president is entirely to blame for what he became in life if one cares to dwell for just a moment on the bizarre, contemptible, bloodless old bitch who bore him. If George W. Bush is the modern Nero, I wonder if that makes Barb the modern Agrippina? And if so, … well, I’ll leave the rest of that story alone…

So, as you join with me in trying to move through the Kubler-Ross stages of grief, take comfort that nothing was anybody’s fault, there was no way to know in advance that this might happen, our government was acting on all information available at the time, our bureaucratic response was absolutely the best it could be, and besides, many of those poor people blown out of their homes by a 28-foot wall of water are probably better off now anyway.

Somebody pass me a fiddle. I feel a song comin' on...

Friday, September 02, 2005

Mayor Nagin and I... Both Pissed!

Cheney is still on vacation in Wyoming. Condi just finished a shopping spree at Prada in New York. And we’ve got a C-student former cheerleader and draft dodger ostensibly in charge in D.C. Gosh, I feel good!

Everybody out there who, just before the last election, was sooooo worried about two guys kissing, or Jesus not liking embryonic stem cell research, or what-the-fuck ever flavor of the moment Rove had convinced the uptight right they need to obsess over, I hope you’re thinking about whether or not it matters who’s in charge at a given moment.

FEMA has been gutted and cannibalized by the Department of Homeland Security, and has done an abysmal job of responding to the incredibly urgent needs of the suffering people of New Orleans, but that didn’t’ stop Michael Chertoff from saying on Larry King what a bang-up job he thought they were all doing. Larry’s meds must have been kicking in, because even he was incredulous.

FEMA director Michael Brown, who up until his appointment to this job as a political reward was an estate lawyer (yup…), said to Ted Koppel Thursday night that the agency had only just learned of the presence of refugees at the New Orleans convention center, and the appalling conditions which prevailed there. Koppel looked at Brown like he’d grown an extra head, and asked him if anybody at FEMA watched television, because reporters had been on camera from the Center since Tuesday.

And… if Mary Landrieu, until recently one of my personal favorites in the Democratic party, if only because she’s about the last Democrat standing from south of Tennessee… if she opens her mealy mouth one more time and says some sycophantic shaved-ape stupid thing, I hope somebody gives her a good hard slap! Yesterday, I thought Anderson Cooper was going to be the guy to do it, God love him. What a worthless pile of goo she’s turned out to be.

At least New Orleans mayor Nagin is calling this game like he sees it. What choice does he have, we figure, because the once proud city of which he is mayor is no more… He said on the radio, and I quote… “Excuse my French, everybody in America, but I am pissed!” Apparently, he thinks the presidential fly-over planned for today does him about as much good as the White House circle jerk that’s been going down since the hurricane passed over. Hmmmm…

We can talk all day about the cause of this level of catastrophe, ending with the Bush administration’s under-funding the hurricane and flood control initiatives for southern Louisiana by 80%, and it does nothing to change the fact that it happened. But the level of ineptitude being demonstrated by government agencies attempting relief and recovery efforts in the hurricane’s aftermath is so appalling that it must be talked about, fingers pointed, blame assigned, and comeuppance meted out. And I do not mean Presidential Medals of Freedom for everybody.

When is there going to be some accountability for this puling band of suck-ups and incompetents? People are dead who shouldn’t be dead because of them, and I’m not talking about military casualties. I’m talking about people drowning, dying of exposure, insulin shock, heart failure, heat prostration, and dehydration. These are the kinds of things people die from in third world countries because of the sheer poverty and inability of their government to bring them services. Here, in the richest, most powerful democracy the world has ever known, how does this happen. How do old people die sitting in wheel chairs and lawn furniture right out in the open, and babies die in their mothers’ arms, right there on a public sidewalk? Because nobody was there to help them.

What about the looting and lawlessness? The social contract in this country for law enforcement is, basically, we’ll obey the law so long as the law protects us, and maintains order. One side of that equation breaks down, and the other follows suit. Who you gonna blame? The side that broke the contract first, that’s who gets the blame. But the President comes right out with “no tolerance for law breakers” as soon as somebody pulls his string, which is about as intelligent as anything he’s said so far, so why comment further.

I guess it’s time for Cheney to come out of his undisclosed location to tell somebody to “go fuck themselves,” and Condi can show up in her brand new shoes from Prada to take over the lying for a while, since for her, it’s about as natural as breathing is for the rest of us. That’s about all they’re going to be good for, folks.

Now does everybody agree that it kind of DOES matter who’s in charge at any given moment, because they either do something, do nothing, or do something stupid.

Does the next Republican nominee need Louisiana to win? Bush did. Will they need Mississippi to win? Bush needed it. What about Alabama? Can you imagine Alabama as a blue state? I can.

But for the immediate moment... like I said two days ago... we are so screwed.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Wipe that Smirk Off Your Face, You Arrogant Prick…

I hope you all feel better. I know I do. The president has spoken to the nation during this time of unthinkable crisis, as southern Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, Red States all, I might add, are awash in water, devastation and despair. He arrived in Washington to address the situation at least a day later than he needed to, as usual, and gave what the New York Times described as “the worst speech of his life.”

I must admit, it was an improvement over images we’ve all seen of the president blowing out birthday candles or playing guitar while the residents of the deep south fought for their lives, but once again the president squandered an opportunity to lead, or even to show compassion in any credible way.

He spoke for a few moments from the Rose Garden about ice and blankets, and then it happened; in the face of probably thousands dead, tens or hundreds of thousands homeless and displaced, the complete loss of a major American city and the economic center of an entire region in ruins, the President of the United States gave a nation trembling with grief, exhaustion, anticipation… a smirk. That famous smirky grin familiar to the entire world was flashed and broadcast globally as he said “make no mistake, we will get through this.” [smirk/grin/bob head stupidly…]

It reminded me of the “bring it on,” or the “dead or alive,” smirks I had already seen, but it was still the same stupid, arrogant, shit-eating grin. I’m just surprised he and Rove were able to take time away from the kegger they were throwing down in the WH bowling alley celebrating new front page headlines that didn’t say anything about Cindy Sheehan or Iraq or poll numbers.

Now I want to hear Condi and the Rumettes bragging about how many schools we’re building in Tikrit, or how we’re getting electricity restored to the Sunni Triangle when there’s no electricity to 80% of the American deep south, and all the schools there have been destroyed. I say give Halliburton the contract to rebuild southern Louisiana and Mississippi, and let the Iraqis pay somebody else to rebuild theirs, using revenue earned from selling us all their oil at twice the market rate, which is probably what will happen anyway.

Those of you who read here know of my special and personal grade of grief and anguish over the devastation in Louisiana, and how in my analysis, much of the blame for the lack of preparedness and loss of natural defense to such a disaster can be laid at the feet of government and corporate malfeasance, so I won’t belabor that again. Read below for details on that.

What I will say is this: now that the President has brought his usual brand of competence and compassion to the table, I can say without reservation that we are totally on our own here. In short – we’re screwed.

What would a real leader have done? By Tuesday of this week, a real leader who deserved to hold the office of President of these United States would have been airborne over Louisiana and Mississippi seeing for himself (or herself) the damage, displacement and despair of the citizens of his country. He (or she) would have been calling forth every available resource, both military and civilian, to help evacuate, restore order, rescue the living, and bury the dead. He (or she) would not have been blowing out birthday candles, or pretending to play guitar, mugging for the cameras, while Americans living in the path of unparalleled destruction wept, begged for help, and in some cases, lay dying in the mud.

Pray for the victims of this unthinkable disaster, both human and animal. Pray for strength in the loss of everything that’s been lost. Pray for hope in the face of black despair. And pray that we will never face another day like this one without the kind of strength and leadership that we as a nation need and deserve.

*NOTE – Please help as much as you can. Copy and past the following links -- pitch in.