Pulled post

September 15, 2005 at 11:46 am | In yulelogStories | 4 Comments

I just deleted an entry. Saved it in drafts, though.


September 13, 2005 at 9:28 am | In yulelogStories | 2 Comments

Via Crooks and Liars‘s entry, Bush Supporters Question Iraq War Tactics, here’s a link to an article by Paul Craig Roberts — who is not a leftist. Roberts published an article on Sept.6, 2005 called Impeach Bush Now. It’s available on Creators, which represents syndicated columnists. Creators is not some liberal-lefty hotbed, as this complaint against one of its representative columnists makes quite clear. So let’s just state up front that I’m not referencing Alternet or even Democracy Now here.


On to Paul Craig Roberts’s column, Impeach Bush Now. Among other trenchant observations, Roberts points out the following:

Bush’s single-minded focus on the “war against terrorism” has compounded a natural disaster and turned it into the greatest calamity in American history. The United States has lost its largest and most strategic port and thousands of lives, and 80 percent of one of America’s most historic cities is underwater.

If terrorists had achieved this result, it would rank as the greatest terrorist success in history.


The destruction of New Orleans is the responsibility of the most incompetent government in American history and perhaps in all history. Americans are rapidly learning that they were deceived by the superpower hubris. The powerful U.S. military cannot successfully occupy Baghdad or control the road to the airport — and this against an insurgency based in only 20 percent of the Iraqi population. Bush’s pointless war has left Washington so pressed for money that the federal government abandoned New Orleans to catastrophe.

The Bush administration is damned by its gross incompetence. Bush has squandered the lives and health of thousands of people. He has run through hundreds of billions of borrowed dollars. He has lost America’s reputation and its allies. With barbaric torture and destruction of our civil liberty, he has stripped America of its inherent goodness and morality. And now Bush has lost America’s largest port and 25 percent of its oil supply.

Why? Because Bush started a gratuitous war egged on by a claque of crazy neoconservatives who have sacrificed America’s interests to their insane agenda.

The neoconservatives have brought these disasters to all Americans, Democrat and Republican alike. Now, they must be held accountable. Bush and his neoconservatives are guilty of criminal negligence and must be prosecuted. [More…]

No kidding. Unfortunately.

The only downside I see in having the former Republican cheerleaders come out against Bush is that they will somehow manage to recoup power, to “fit” this event into a box of things already-known, and thereby lull the electorate back into its fitful sleep. If that happens, there’s a chance that the forces of the status quo (Rep or Dem, don’t matter) will once again secure the next election. “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss,” only not quite as completely beyond the pale as Bush.

Saying Bush is stupid is somehow akin to saying that Hitler fooled the German people: Not quite true.

It’s terribly important that this disaster doesn’t get homogenised and become like all the other disasters blighting our modern lives. Like other unique historical crimes and disasters, the Bush Administration’s criminal incompetence and consequences thereof in New Orleans are unique; it would be sad if, through spin and deceit, this were to blend into a kind of abysmal background, an entropic white noise. In its way, it’s incomparable; we shouldn’t be lulled into thinking this isn’t extraordinary and worthy of our continued regard.

During hiatus, the nostalgia crept in

September 11, 2005 at 10:21 pm | In yulelogStories | 2 Comments

It might be that anniversary in history, but I need a break from seriousness. And what better fix than …nostalgia?

‘Twas on a lovely August evening during my “vacation” month a few weeks back, before hurricanes and Brownies blighted the landscape — it was a Thursday, in fact (I always did get the hang of Thursdays) — when this bit of nostalgia crept up on me…

We put some old LPs on the turntable while I made dinner. First, Boz Scaggs‘s 1971 album Moments — an album approximately 900 years old, which I bought when I was …14-and-a-half.

I acquired this album in a downtown Victoria Bastion Square shop that today no longer exists. The shop was on the second storey of one of the old buildings in the square, prior to the final touristification of Victoria when those buildings were still decrepit and rents were cheap and hippy boutiques and headshops/ bookshops and wicca.dens flourished therein. No longer today, of course. Second storeys in Bastion Square now belong to real business people, not to woo-woo wetailers.

I bought the album because the owner was playing it as a new album demo, and the song that caught my attention was about rain. This absolutely rivetted me, for rain is something we know a thing or two about on the We(s)t Coast, and during the drought-struck summer months we even tend to get nostalgic about it.

On another occasion (and who knows how this happened), I visited the warren of second-storey shops (while trying very hard to get out of there as fast as possible) with my rather judgemental father, and he had occasion to comment that the record store owner must undoubtedly be a victim of syphilis due to the pattern of hair loss he exhibited, him being such a young man and all….

Oy. And parents wonder why they embarass teens… Although, I have to admit, even then I thought those older hippies who had those bald pates, but had long hair hanging below the timber line (so to speak) looked pretty terrible.

Next on the turntable: another (relatively) early find of mine — Ben Sidran. I must have bought this album, Free in America, very soon after it was released. It’s a great album, just fabulous. In fact, I recommend that Sidran’s version of the Jones/Hall song, You Talk Too Much, be adopted as the official (A-List?) blogger anthem:

You talk too much
You worry me to death
You talk too much
You even worry my pet

You just talk
Talk too much

You talk about people
That you don’t know
You talk about people
Wherever you go

You just talk
Talk too much

You talk about people
That you’ve never seen
You talk about people
You can make me scream

…Just substitute “blog” for “talk,” and there you are.

Sidran’s lyrics for the title song, “Free in America,” are still one of the very best political satirical commentaries in musical form around. Here’s my transcription — everything marked “chorus” you have to imagine/hear as a gospel choir:

[chorus] Freedom! Freedom!

The nicest thing about the United States is that everyone’s free to make their own mistakes.
You don’t have to look far, but then there you are: Everyone’s free in America!

For example, You’re free to vote, you’re free to hope against hope,
You’re free to split if you don’t like the stroke.
It might not sound like much, but it’ll do in a clutch.
Step right up sucker, don’t be afraid of the touch — ’cause you’re free!

[chorus] It’s so good, it’s so good!

Free to make a new life!

[chorus] It’s so good, it’s so good!

Free to watch the tv, feel like you, feel like me, for the rest of your life!

[chorus] Life!

You’ll never give it a second thought

[chorus] It’s so good, it’s so good!
For what your money’s bought
[chorus] It’s so good, it’s so good!
Well, from coast to coast, you know they call it The Most
From shore to shore, we got a lot, lots more
From sea to shining sea!
[chorus] Freedom! Freedom!

Roll down the highway in your big shiny car, you got the radio tellin’ you just where you are!

It might be cold advice, but then you can’t beat the price,
Step right up sucker, don’t be afraid of the dice!
‘Cause, the nicest thing about the United States
Everybody’s free to make their own mistakes
You don’t have to look far, but then there you are
In America, everyone’s FREE…!
[chorus] It’s so good, it’s so good

Free to make a new life
[chorus keeps repeating “It’s so good, it’s so good”]
Free to change your name
Free to change your game
Free to change your wife!
[chorus, with ironic emphasis] NICE!!!

You never give it a second thought, for what your money’s bought
From coast to coast, they call it the most
From shore to shore, we got a lot, lots more,
From sea to shining sea…
[chorus] FREEDOM!

And so on. Great song.

And then we ate the home-cooked meal and then it was time to clean up the kitchen…

Back then I of course didn’t just listen only to boys. Being Canadian-raised, Joni Mitchell was pretty much obligatory, although I was never a full devotee. It was my admiration for Flora Purim, whose 1971/72 Return to Forever (with Chick Corea — or by Chick Corea — and Airto Moreira) I carried from Victoria to Montreal to Munich, that provided the link to meeting my husband in the late 70s, and all the subsequent cooking and messin’ around. The 25th anniversary has come and gone. Now, how the heck did that happen?? Ou sont les neiges d’antan? Melted clean away by music.

NB: This entry, indirectly, is also for Maria, whose son is now ensconced at the number one party school in the US, the same campus that Ben Sidran and Steve Miller and Boz Scaggs attended … Party on!

Politics is dead. Run for office.

September 8, 2005 at 10:22 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Politics is dead. Run for office.

Maybe I should have been glad about not getting tv — it actually allowed me to live in a bubble of sorts — but now I see all the relevant tv news snippets on One good move, and they hurt. For example, this latest gem: a news guy verbally sparring with some ass from the DeadWhiteHouse: the news guy asks a straightforward question, and the DeadWhiteSpokeGuy responds with evasive nonsequitors about how he is not going to “play the blame game.” He never answers the question, of course. (The question was, “does the Shrub …ok: President …still have complete confidence in [Mr. Horsecrap FEMA chief] Brownie?”) Of course it’s infuriating to see this deadwhitejerk try to avoid answering the question, which is straightforward and basic. That’s a given. And of course it’s equally (if not more so) infuriating to see this same deadguy believe, at some level, that he’s succeeding (and to wonder how he can continue to live with himself).

But what’s really really painful is to see the death of politics live and in action — inaction — here, in these tv enactations. Politics has been slaughtered by this administration (if one can call it that). Katrina shows that politics is dead, absolutely dead in America. The country is moribund. There is no politics anymore, it’s all sham, show, and bullshit. Politics is real, for crying out loud: it’s about negotiation, participation, give and take — it’s not about blind and utter control. But this banter or whatever you want to call it is unreal, and illustrates that politics has devolved to the level of fantasy.

This administration — even if not solely responsible, because admittedly this didn’t happen overnight — has shown once and for all that politics is dead. Henceforth it’s either all smoke and mirrors, or plain brute force. No inbetween. Good faith is dead and buried, as is negotiation, strategy, and all nonviolent transfer of power. Dead, politics gone.

As long as dead politics means that nonviolent transfer of power is impossible, the best thing the “average” person (who really doesn’t want more violence) can do now is to become overtly political, even if it’s uncomfortable: to revitalise politics by getting involved in political leadership at every level of government. This state is not going to be revived or revised from the top down. The patient is too far gone for that.

Climate change and Katrina

September 8, 2005 at 9:32 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Climate change and Katrina

Somewhere recently I read that “The hurricane that struck Louisiana (…) was nicknamed Katrina by the National Weather Service. Its real name is global warming.” Turns out that was from an article by Ross Gelbspan in the Aug.31 edition of the Boston Globe. It’s copied on Winnipeg’s Indymedia site. Gelbspan itemises a litany of climate anomalies — from inconvenience to disaster — although none reached Katrina’s epic proportions. (Perhaps because human-caused incompetence lacked room to spread out…?)

Meanwhile, the August 31 issue of The Victoria News carried a front-page article about Dr. Terry Prowse, a University of Victoria geographer, who serves on the National Science Foundation Arctic System Science Committee, and whose findings on Arctic ice-melt were just published in the August 23 issue of Eos. Even if I grant that the newspaper reporter’s opening sentence is sensationalistic — or opportunistic, given that Katrina had just hit Louisiana, purportedly as a weaker-than-predicted disaster — he undeniably hits an anxiety homerun with this lead-in:

By the time today’s children have a mid-life crisis — around age 50 — they’ll feel the effects of dramatic climate change that will make Hurricane Katrina look like child’s play.

Katrina, child’s play?

Well, it’s not just the weather, is it? It’s also what we humans make of situations: the aftermath.

As for catastrophic climate change: the effect of the de-icing that has already begun in the Arctic will be felt by millions of people who live in coastal cities. Obviously, the ocean has a direct effect on the weather we’ll experience.

The ultimate question is whether Katrina’s power reflects human-caused global warming, or is at minimum a harbinger of the kinds of storms we can expect in a warmer world.

No single freak storm can be attributed to global climate trends. But for hurricanes to form, the surface temperature in the tropical Atlantic must exceed about 80 degrees Fahrenheit. That is more likely in a warmer world.

The best science to date suggests the frequency of hurricanes doesn’t reflect global warming. Straightforward physics, however, says their intensity might. As the seas and air warm, there is more evaporation, which fuels storms, and more energy available to pump them up. [More…]

Basically, though, the lesson I wish everyone would learn from Katrina is this: while we’re all implicated in contributing to whatever climate change is mixed into the equation that brings on Big (and Bad) Weather, we can’t fold our arms and say that social constructions are “natural,” part of nature, or a given. There’s a bit of wriggle-room here, no? We have to learn how to build and sustain just societies, because even if all hell breaks loose during emergencies, equitable societies will fare better than those wherein social darwinism is the order of the day …even if the morons calling the tune believe in fairy-tale-god-ordained creationism.

Via Shelley, links to One Good Move — just check out everything here, everything, especially Meet the Fuckers — but for purposes of climate change, absolutely don’t miss this video clip to a recent Bill Maher show that features climate change expert Stephen Schneider.

I appreciated Schneider’s frustrated comparison to “sewer” in how we use the atmosphere, especially since I live in Victoria, which uses the ocean as an open sewer (see People Opposed to Outfall Pollution [POOP Victoria]….

Media. Landscape.

September 5, 2005 at 8:08 am | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Media. Landscape.

Although I don’t get tv, I managed to catch up on some crucial items via Crooks and Liars on Sunday. For anyone who hasn’t seen these, watch and make up your own mind. Two that stood out:

The Shep Smith and Geraldo duo live on the Hannity/Colmes show (Fox, Friday), permalink to the video clip here (choose Quicktime or the other program).

Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard interviewed by Tim Russert on Meet the Press, permalink to both Quicktime and the other version here.

Crooks and Liars has many other interviews/ newsclips — a useful resource for the tv-less.

Judge Rehnquist has died, and the situation in Louisiana has almost entirely slipped off the “front page” of the news. It was strange. Wham, just like that, from a morning to an afternoon, the media landscape (*) simply changed. (* at least the internet news media landscape, google news, for example, and others.)

Just for the record, I despised David Brooks on the NewsHour via this video clip, and thought he was unloading a cart of horseshit. He says that Hurricane Katrina was “…the anti-9/11. Just in terms of public confidence. When 9/11 happened, Giuliani, was right there. And just as a public presence, he was forceful. No public presence like that now. So you had a surge of strength; people felt good about the country even though we’d been hit on 9/11. Now we’ve been hit again in a different way (and) people feel lousy. People feel ashamed. And in part that it because of the public presentation. In part that is because of the failure of Bush to understand immediately the shame people felt.”

What a pile of bs. People felt “good” about the alleged “surge of strength” after 9/11 (oh god, give me strength in the face of “virile man-talk” like this!) because they could identify an outsider as the enemy (which is why people who questioned whether or not America/ The West had done anything to bring this on itself were so reviled). Puh-lease. Surge of strength. What horsecrap.

Maybe people wouldn’t feel so “bad” now (presumably the opposite of how people were feeling so “good” after 9/11) if anyone had actually gone into the Hurricane Katrina disaster area in a timely fashion and in fact helped people…??

Oh, but wait. I wrote “watch and make up your own mind.” So don’t let me influence anybody here…

[Wanted to post this on 9/4, but couldn’t (server unavailable?), so it’s real old tv now. But still worth re-viewing. In fact, these clips, and Crooks & Liars other gems, are for the permanent archive.]

Social justice, continued

September 3, 2005 at 9:13 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Social justice, continued

About that social justice thing I’ve been on about in the last coupla entries…

Check out the New York Times’s In Manhattan, Poor Make 2¢ for Each Dollar to the Rich by Sam Roberts. Yowza. Does anyone think this is sustainable? Even tv (the opiate of the masses) conks out at some point — in Russia they had revolutions bent on overthrowing this kind of inequality. To whit:

The top fifth of earners in Manhattan now make 52 times what the lowest fifth make – $365,826 compared with $7,047 – which is roughly comparable to the income disparity in Namibia, according to the Times analysis of 2000 census data. Put another way, for every dollar made by households in the top fifth of Manhattan earners, households in the bottom fifth made about 2 cents.


The loss of good-paying jobs, especially in manufacturing, “has meant that the ‘hollowing out’ of the middle of the income distribution continued at a rapid pace,” the institute, a union-backed research group, concluded. It said the number of families earning between $35,000 and $150,000 declined by 50,000 from 2000 to 2003 while the number that earned above $150,000 and below $35,000 increased.


Jared Bernstein, senior economist at the liberal Economic Policy Institute, said the income gap, which in Manhattan has historically been large, can endure indefinitely.

“The elites, the top sliver of the income scale, can drive consumption and investment forward while the bottom half slogs along,” he said. “If inequality had embedded within it its own seeds of destruction, it would implode sooner than later. But that doesn’t appear to be the case. Many who have fallen behind have a skewed notion of their prospects for upward mobility.” [uhhmmm, they’ve been watching too much tv, ….”who wants to be a millionaire”….??]

Manhattan, he said, is “an amplified microcosm” of conditions elsewhere in the country. [More…]

It’s really amazing. This is not the way to be moving forward — it’s unsustainable.

Meanwhile, here’s an interesting, dispassionate comparison of the Japanese 1994 rebuilding response to the earthquake in Kobe and why (and how) rebuilding in New Orleans is essential:

Like New Orleans, Kobe is a major international port city. “The port of Kobe was the largest container port in Japan. There was a huge amount of money put into getting it back up. And while a lot of that business did come back, other business went to other ports” while the city was rebuilding its infrastructure. As a result, [Rob Olshansky] said, Kobe today has about 70 percent of its former level of port traffic.

“Another lesson from Kobe,” Olshansky said, “is where to locate temporary housing. They need to try to keep communities together, and they should also try to have those people who have nowhere else to go as close as possible to their original homes.” The rationale there, he said, is based on the expectation that “the port and tourism industries will be back up within a year, and once they’re going again, people need to be nearby.”

Still one more lesson – learned from Kobe and Los Angeles – he said, is that “those with fewer resources have more problems with recovery.” Those most at risk, he said, include “the unemployed, the underemployed, small-business owners, the elderly and renters.”

“In all these past disasters abroad and in the U.S., the immediate money goes to rebuilding infrastructure and temporary housing. That’s a good thing,” Olshansky said, “but in the longer term comes other issues, and we don’t deal with those right away. The people with means – and insurance – will ride things out. Within one to three years, most of them will move back into the city. But small-business owners can’t wait that long.”

As an example, Olshansky points to sidewalk sandwich vendors and other entrepreneurs who went under in the wake of the World Trade Center disaster. “The less well off need money thrown at them right away, but that doesn’t happen. There’s no mechanism for that.” “And that’s one of our conclusions from the study: We need to get people thinking about recovery planning. And we need to get people thinking about having mechanisms in place to get immediate resources to people most in need.”

Those conclusions link to a final lesson Olshansky promotes for municipal officials and citizens committed to improving disaster-recovery policies and practices: recognizing the value of hiring planners who can help develop long-term solutions by working directly with community residents, in the neighborhoods.

“They need to put money into having a planning process, having employees paid to get residents together and communicating,” he said. “If they’ve had community organizations involved in planning, if they have those networks established, they can contact those people – even with those who’ve moved elsewhere temporarily.”

And, as it’s happened in the initial phases of post-Katrina recovery, “communities are going to be operating more and more over cyberspace.” Olshansky emphasizes that the need for employing trained planners in New Orleans is “not just our generic idea – but in fact, one of the most innovative and successful actions taken in Kobe.” [More…]

Uh-oh. What he is saying applies equally well to my hometown, Victoria, BC, which is due for a major earthquake and is reliant on small businesses….

As for Louisiana, for anyone laughing at the idea that tourism is going to be back and running in New Orleans within a year, check out today’s column in the Toronto Star by Rosie DiManno, Doors never closed at this Big Easy bar. Sorry, I’m not going to quote the whole thing (did that with her column yesterday), so register already and read it online. (It’s free.) She writes about going for beers at Johnny White’s Sports Bar in the French Quarter, which survived the storm intact. The bartender, Joe Bellomy, even had enough food to weather things out, but now he’s faced with having no electricity or running water. But he has customers. Beer is $2.50, water $2. No gouging. There are customers, they talk:

Suspected corruption and the incompetence of officialdom are taken for granted here. Everywhere, people rage at the slow, disorganized response of emergency relief efforts, although — with little information filtering in — nobody knows much of what’s happening in the more severely-stricken parishes beyond New Orleans, where presumably first response efforts have been focused. And, while some remain harshly critical, there was much cheering in recent days for Mayor Ray Nagin, who tore a strip off the federal government for failing New Orleans so profoundly in its time of need.

“He’s got my vote,” said Bellomy.

More bitter is the reaction to Dennis Hastert, the Republican House speaker who has recommended that New Orleans just roll over, that the Crescent City rebuild from scratch and become something else entirely. Maybe something more GOP blue than sensually bluesy.

“Hastert,” snorts one tippler. “Rhymes with bastard.”


While it may seem, at first appearance, that all of New Orleans is either under water or ruinously trashed — palms and cypress trees uprooted, brick buildings crumbled, power lines downed — there are areas of the city that have survived with minimal structural damage. The French Quarter, or the vieux carré, must have been watched over by the gods and goddesses of Bacchanalia, who would not allow such an elegant and historical district — a place devoted to pleasure — to be wiped off the face of the earth.

The graceful wrought-iron balustrades have withstood Katrina’s fury. Antoines, where Oysters Rockefeller were invented, stands as solidly as before. The charm of the patio at The Court of Two Sisters — established in 1832 — is undiminished behind filigreed gates. Preservation Hall may look a shambles, but it’s always been thus, with its cement floor and worm-eaten planks for seating.

Here, amid the flesh parlours and the honky tonks, the now-silent zydeco cribs and the jazz clubs, the heart of the Big Easy is still beating.

In Cajun-speak — the patois still spoken by the descendants of Acadians who were expelled from Nova Scotia by the British, settling in the Louisiana bayous — they say: Laissez les bon temps rouler. Let the good times roll.

These aren’t good times, of course. They’re dreadful times. But the French Quarter, at least, rolls with the punches.

Yesterday, several restaurant owners and publicans were busy sweeping up glass, ripping off shredded plywood and bundling up branches. At Tony Moran’s, a famous Italian eatery, two workmen cleared debris, frustrated by the lack of power that prevented them from attempting a serious clean-up.

“If we had some power, there’s really no reason why we couldn’t reopen almost right away,” said Michael West, taking a break for a po’boy sandwich.

On the second-floor veranda of a block comprising peeler bars and blues clubs, property manager Zach Tamburrino is trying to establish order out of chaos.

“Won’t be an overnight process, getting up off our knees, but it’ll be faster than most people think. I bet we’ll be back to complete normal by next Mardi Gras. But those politicians up in Washington, and the state officials, have to get off their behinds. The French Quarter generates the biggest tax revenues for Louisiana. They’ve got to understand that, without us, there is no Louisiana.”

At the Blues Club, George Miller rattles off a list of things officials could be doing to ease the plight of the displaced: “There are military bases all around here that have been closed down. Why can’t they let these homeless people stay there? The barracks are still available.”

The 71-year-old ex-Air Force man continues: “We’re right on the river. Why can’t they load up some barges with food and water for those poor people who are going hungry? Why can’t they make food drops like we did in Berlin?”

This is the spirit and feistiness in New Orleans. [More…]

Come up for air, stand up for air

September 3, 2005 at 3:47 pm | In yulelogStories | Comments Off on Come up for air, stand up for air

Via Dave Pollard, a link to a video by DJ Paul Edge called We Will Not Be Silenced. Check it out.


I think it was while reading around on the links provided by Dave Pollard’s readers that I came across the notion that Hurricane Katrina could be the environmental movement’s “9/11,” in the sense that 9/11 focussed the Rightwingers and pro-war faction, allowing them to push for war, and Katrina could galvanise the environmentalists in the sense that it has made ecological disaster vivid. But hasn’t it really in fact made social injustice breathlessly vivid, to the point of having us all pass out in a heap of dissociation? Breathless, breathtaking injustice. Air, we need air.

That’s why I’m pointing to We Will Not Be Silenced. Justice is like air. It’s absolutely necessary. Stand up for justice. Breathe.

Smothered by lies, we consume pictures captioned like this: white people “find,” black people “loot” — see here. (This one via comments in The Happy Tutor.) That sort of bias is the crap smothering the last breath from decent society.

Many thanks to Shelley for her kind welcome back after my month-long hiatus, and for all her other great articles about Katrina — the prequel, and now the aftermath. No hot air here, just good clean oxygen. A must-read is her article A Will and a Big Water, which sums up the history of the great Mississippi flood of 1927. Back then,

“In Greenville, Mississippi over 13,000 blacks are stranded on the levee without food and water and little protection from the elements. When boats arrive to rescue those flooded out, only the whites are picked up, because the plantation owners in the area are worried that if the blacks are ferried out, they won’t return to farm the land.” [More…]

Justice. Everywhere, like air. For everyone. Not like this.

[update: the speaker in the video is probably Rev. Grayland Hagler, United Church of Christ pastor at the Plymouth Congregational Church in Washington DC. See here (scroll down 2/3rds) and here.]

Toronto Star editorial on Katrina aftermath

September 2, 2005 at 10:32 pm | In yulelogStories | 1 Comment

The following is from an article by Rosie DiManno in today’s TorontoStar. The Star requires registration, which might keep people from reading DiManno’s article, hence I’m quoting it. This is how America is seen abroad: an emerging third world nation. Here’s the article, in full:

Tales of woe shame a nation


NEW ORLEANS – Nature wrought destruction but human beings have brought disgrace.

It is disgraceful that countless people are still stranded five days after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf coastline, flattening communities and knocking a major metropolis on its ear.

It is disgraceful that hundreds of state troopers and National Guard soldiers have been deployed to protect property rather than help people.

It is disgraceful that thousands of hurricane refugees — including the elderly, the infirm, the sick, mothers with babes in arms, children separated from parents — have been essentially abandoned in the Superdome and the convention centre, left to fend for themselves without food or water.

It is disgraceful that not a single relief agency has any presence on the ground as far as those of us who are here can see. No Red Cross, no federal emergency administrators, no medical teams, no shelter officials, no angels of mercy.

That is why, beneath the damp and dank, New Orleans is seething.

That — and not rampant greed — is why there has been so much looting in recent days, to the extent that police and troops have been taken away from critical rescue operations and assigned to watch the inmates, or outcasts, who are being treated like vagrants.

And that’s all they do: Watch. Patrolling up and down the main arteries, in their armoured personnel carriers — as if this were Baghdad — automatic weapons hoisted on their shoulders, never stopping to assist fragile citizens in wheelchairs and walkers or mothers with ailing, wailing infants.

I’ve seen better disaster response efforts for earthquake victims in India and the ethnically cleansed exiles of Kosovo. Even the prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay are surely being cared for better than this.

Could it be because the overwhelming majority of these dispossessed are poor and black that their very lives are apparently of less worth than business properties in the French Quarter, deluxe hotels on Canal St., chi-chi mansions in the Garden District, and tourist casinos on the riverfront?

Harrahs Casino, one of the largest and sturdiest buildings near the Riverwalk Palisade, barely damaged, has bolted its front doors, while scores of homeless families that might have taken temporary refuge therein are left to huddle on the torn-up grass, in the dripping humidity — and, yesterday afternoon, the deluge of another thunderstorm — waiting forlornly for promised evacuation buses that have yet to appear.

“We are a Third World city in a First World country,” spat out one disgusted local as he propelled a grocery cart laden with personal possessions along Royal St., intent on getting the hell out of the city, out of the parish, even if he had to walk all the way to Baton Rouge, 130 kilometres northwest. Another frail fellow, a diabetic whose limbs are too swollen to walk — he’s been unable to obtain dialysis treatment for nearly a week — was being pushed along in his wheelchair by an elderly friend. They had no specific destination — just away from here. Out, out, out. But a speeding scout car almost ran them over in the middle of the street.

Julie Holzenphal, 31, delivered her first child on Aug. 22 in nearby St. Bernard Parish, shortly before Katrina hit, but was turned out of the hospital the next day, even though maternity ward staff kept her newborn daughter, Zoe, who required medical attention. When Holzenphal managed to make her way back Wednesday, she found all the babies had been transferred to distant hospitals, some even out of state.

“I don’t know where my baby is,” the single mom sobbed. “Somebody said Houston. How am I supposed to find her? Where are the records? My house is gone, but I don’t care about that. This is my baby daughter, for God’s sake!” [emphasis added]

Everywhere, the scenes are heartbreaking, the tales of woe pathetically similar.

“We spent four nights in the Superdome, but we just couldn’t stay there no more,” said Deion Franklin, as she and husband, Lamond, ushered five youngsters and one chow puppy onto an aluminum skiff — and how the couple managed to get hold of such a precious conveyance, they wouldn’t say.

“There must have been 100,000 people in the dome, and you just wouldn’t believe the mess, the heat, even the crime,” Franklin continued. (Officials put the figure at 25,000.)

“We were always being told: `We’ll get you out of here, there are buses coming.’ But we never saw no buses.

“I didn’t want my little girls in there any more. There were at least four girls raped, that’s what I heard. Shots being fired, knives being pulled, fights breaking out all over the place.”

The woman’s daughters excitedly come forward to recount the worst thing they’d seen: “This man, he jumped right off the top section. I saw him do it,” claims the oldest. “He was holding this little girl in his lap and then he put her down and then he just jumped, killed himself.”

Franklin claims the man had scrawled his name and address on a sink before committing suicide. “Apparently he’d lost the rest of his family in the hurricane. They’d all drowned.”

There was chaotic violence at the convention centre some 10 blocks south of the Superdome, as well.

Late Wednesday night, shooting broke out and at least one person was killed. But three or four others apparently died overnight and two bodies had yet to be removed yesterday morning. They were still lying on the pavement across from the centre.

“Police won’t come in here to help us out,” complained Leanne Zambloom, as she fretted over her 11-month-old son, Jahon, frantic over the child’s listlessness, his refusal to take in fluids. “We’ve had rapes, we’ve had murders, but all the cops do is drive around with their shotguns.”

Then, wrenchingly, she begs: “Will you take my baby? Please, get him some help. I’m willing to turn him over to somebody who can get him to a doctor. I’m terrified he’s going to die.”

For several blocks, to either side of the convention centre, thousands of refugees wait sprawled on the concrete, endlessly pleading for information and release. Insofar as they are surviving at all, it’s because they are taking poignant care of each other, sharing their dwindling provisions, minding one another’s children.

“I could never have lasted this long if it wasn’t for strangers,” adds Zambloom.

It is every day more apparent that these refugees and evacuees are on their own, to cope as best they can.

“I was stuck on the roof of my house for two days, and then a 240-foot barge smashed right into it,” said Joceryn Moses. “It wasn’t no police or soldiers who rescued me. It was just a man with a boat, and I never even got his name.

“So then I’m brought here and I end up sitting on the sidewalk for three days. Can’t they at least bring in some portable toilets? You got to do your business, you squat down behind a car. Is this America? Are we animals? I don’t know, maybe we’re turning into animals.”

But what I see are young people taking care of old people, the relatively healthy caring for the sick, people sharing their paltry supplies. It’s true there’s crime and violence, but tempers are terribly frayed, and feelings of hopelessness overwhelming. The only well-known and sympathetic face these people have seen was that of the musician and actor Harry Connick Jr. The New Orleans-born celebrity — his father was the city’s famous district attorney for decades — spent yesterday wandering among the stricken.

There is also, it must be remembered, the underlying reality of impoverished and ghettoized New Orleans, where dangerous neighbourhoods were already segregated by more than race. And it is from these neighbourhoods, these resentful enclaves, that many of the refugees originate.

They didn’t get out when they were told to get out because they couldn’t get out. They’re poor. They don’t have cars. They don’t have SUVs that could navigate the flooded streets. And they had nowhere to go, so they followed the advice of officials, pouring into the Superdome and the convention centre.

“Everybody’s angry, can people on the outside understand that?” asks Kathy Jenkins, a 26-year-old single mother with a toddler and an infant. “Then you get different gangs from different projects who already have their rivalries, and they’re thrown in together. What do you think is going to happen?”

The men, the heads of families, are palpably infuriated and shamed by their inability to look after loved ones. They feel impotent, and that also nourishes their rage.

“Every time I try to talk to a police officer, I just get blown off,” grumbled Carl Davis, a labourer who has lived all of his 50 years in New Orleans.

“Man, I know we got us a disaster here. But how could they have been so ill-prepared? They knowed this was coming. There must be hundreds of public school buses in this city. Why can’t they use those to get us out of here? What would it take to give a person two square meals a day?

“We’re always sending food and doctors to people on the other side of the world. We have soldiers dying in Iraq. And they can’t get help down to us poor people in New Orleans?

“I tell you, America has let us down.” [source: TorontoStar, Sept.2, 2005)

Scripting posted the audiotape of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin’s interview on WWL-AM here. It’s a must-listen. Nagin is just brilliant, no bullshit. Can we have him for US president instead, please?

« Previous PageNext Page »

Theme: Pool by Borja Fernandez.
Entries and comments feeds.