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  1. #31


    "You could watch the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and feel horrified at the sheer violence and destruction of it; angry at the murderous evil of Mohamed Atta and the other hijackrs; heartbroken at the awful suffering and loss. But there wasn't any cause to feel embarrassed and ashamed.

    "Those are the emotions evoked by sights of the massive lawlessness in New Orleans in the days after the storm and the inability of anyone to stop it..."

    This is Rich Lowry of the National Review, quoted in the New York Post. He mainly places the blame at the state and local level, but does not exempt the federal government from culpability:

    "One wonders: Has anyone in the administration read their Hobbes? Or does he not make the 'compassionate conservative' reading list?"

    I don't think that anybody can spin their way out of this one. George is even taking lumps from his defenders.

  2. #32

    A note from my boss

    Text of an actual email sent around our office today by my boss. His brother is a relief worker with the Red Cross. Believe me, this guy is Mr. Professionalism, so it shocked us all to see him the agitated, anxious state he was in today. It really drove home just how bad things really are down there.


    As some of you may know, my brother Tom is a Red Cross volunteer and is now working in what is called an "extreme disaster zone" in Covington, Louisiana. Tom is in charge of twelve shelters, which are housing over 5,000 people. The shelters are beyond capacity and cannot take any more refugees, but the people keep coming.

    Tom has told our family first-hand that people are dying needlessly in the shelters -- right before his own eyes. The shelters are short of food, water, and medicine. A Budweiser plant is bottling water instead of beer and that is all there is to drink. Yesterday, Tom's team served 15,000 meals to the refugees (mostly MRE's or other Meals Ready To Eat). There are essentially no homes standing and some parts are still under water. There is no electricity, no running water, no toilet facilities. Tom sleeps on a floor or in a cot and, like everyone else, cannot take a shower and uses a bucket as a bathroom.

    My parents spoke to Tom last night (for a 60 second call from a special satellite hook-up) and Tom told them that there is still no sign of the National Guard, no FEMA officials and no deployment of any other federal personnel. Apparently, FEMA did drop off some supplies but then left with no one to unload them; the local mayor had to employ prisoners to unpack the goods.

    Only the local police guard the shelters and they are stretched thin – which means no one is safe. There is no hospital facility or doctors to treat the very sick. As of last night, there was no insulin for the diabetics, no heart medicine for the cardiac patients, little help for anyone. Tom has requested 450 more Red Cross volunteers (he has 150) and they have none to send into this type of danger zone. Like the other volunteers on site, Tom signed up for a 10-14 day commitment but is not sure when he can leave.

    Tom has always felt the need to give back to his country, a country that has given him the opportunity to enjoy the spectacular success that he has achieved. I am not asking that any of you even attempt to mimic the sacrifice that my brother is making – leaving his wife and my two young nephews behind, and risking his own life to save the lives of people he has never even met. But I do have a few requests.

    First, please consider Tom’s struggle when you watch the devastation and tragedies on the news and give to the American Red Cross (www.redcross.org).

    Second, like most Americans, though proud of the spirit and courage of so many of Hurricane Katrina's victims and aid-workers, I want our federal government to do even more to contribute to Hurricane Katrina's relief efforts. Please call your Congressman, Senator and anyone else you think can help and demand that our government to do more.

    For instance: We have so many bright and inspired government employees right here in Washington and all over the country who want to help . . .

    Why isn’t someone mobilizing every available federal worker, at least to help out with relief efforts in their area (even loading a truck or making phone calls)? Why can’t every federal agency dedicate a day, a week or even a month to orchestrate some initiatives and pitch in to help with this catastrophe? Why not grant administrative leave to any federal employee who volunteers for the Red Cross (or any other federal relief organization)?

    Finally, please get creative. You are some of the best and sharpest -- and also some of the most accomplished -- folks I know. I am asking you to think of other ways you can help and I am asking you to take action. Please help get Tom’s desperate message out. The shocking frontline news reports are already prodding our government into doing more. Keep the pressure on. If there is anyone you know who has the power to take action, call them, email them, forward this note to them. Implore them to act.

    Most of you know I am not much of an activist or rabble-rouser. But I am not only saddened by the heartache and despair of the news accounts, I also want to help Tom help these poor people. And though proud of my big brother, I am also very worried about him.

    Thanks in advance for anything you can to do to help Tom help those victims in dire need.


  3. #33

    Re: A note from my boss

    Wow, 'Scribe ... That was really poignant & heart wrenching. Thanks for posting it. It gives us all a lot to think about.


  4. #34


    I wanted to send it to Bob Sarles, but my message was bounced. Does he have a new email?

  5. #35

    Re: .

    Try SarlesWire@aol.com or BSarles@aol.com Explain to him who your boss is. If those don't work let me know & I'll find another address for you.


  6. #36


    This is from someone that I work with in the music biz who is a New Orleans native.




    Geno*Delafose, his band French Rockin' Boogie,*and all of here at Ritmo Artists want to thank all of you who have*contacted us over the past few days*offering help and wanting information on how Geno and his family have faired during this tragic situation now facing Louisiana and the Gulf Coast in general.


    The good news is that Geno, the band, and their families are all safe and sound, the storm having placed the brunt of its fury into the New Orleans area and points Eastward.


    Geno's brother Tony, who lives in New Orleans, was able to get his family evacuated prior to the storm*and they are safe in Eunice, Louisiana at the home of Geno's*mother JoAnne.**The fate of*Tony's New Orleans home remains unknown, but with the current state in affairs, everyone is thankful just to be outside of the city and out of harms way.


    We are in the planning stages for*a benefit show to aid those affected by this heartbreaking tragedy, and details of that event*will be announced soon.


    In the meantime, we urge all of you to make a donation, earmarked for Hurricane Katrina Relief,**to an appropriate aid organization of your choice.**A few reputable charities include:







    I*include below a moving*essay from our dear friend Michael Tisserand, who is author of the fantastic "Kingdom of Zydeco" book and the managing editor of New Orleans' weekly Gambit Magazine.**It is a heartfelt and personal piece on leaving behind*the city that he and his family have called home.



    Looking forward to better times ahead.....




    Best Regards,



    David Gaar


    Ritmo Artists
    Box 684705 - Austin, TX* 78768
    Phone:* 512-447-5661 /* Fax:* 512-447-5886
    E-Mail:* david@ritmoartists.com
    Web:* www.ritmoartists.com







    By Michael Tisserand (Staff)

    "Some people got lost in the flood, some people got away alright." --*
    Randy Newman, "Louisiana 1927"



    New** Orleans is gone.

    I left it behind me on Saturday, with my two kids in the backseat, the soundtrack to Shrek on the CD player. My wife, a pediatrician, was on call for the weekend and stayed behind.* She joined us in a town just outside Lafayette, La., Sunday evening after a harrowing odyssey along the southern route of Highway 90, driving without her glasses or a cell phone, our three cats roaming in the back of a shaky Volvo.


    Together that night, we watched the same show that all who'd gotten out were watching. The straight line for our city.* The familiar "Cat-4" and "Cat-5." And for those of us who thought we'd seen this before, the much-hoped-for right turn.


    It didn't matter.** It hit.


    Even those who could read the tea leaves in John McPhee's Forces of Nature or John Barry's Rising Tide, or who had seen the diagrams of a bowl-shaped city, are in disbelief.


    New Orleans is gone, along with the newspaper where I work, the home where I live, my kids' beloved school, my neighborhood sno-ball stand, my neighborhood anything.


    On The Times-Picayune's Web site and on cable news, I see my former home's dark and distorted reflection: submerged rooftops; a battered Superdome filled with the desperate; looters grabbing guns and VCRs and racks of shirts; a mob storming Children's Hospital; a house scrawled in red with "diabetic inside"; the breach in the levee.


    The future is recited: a bowl of toxic stew. The gas, the sewage, the dead.

    On the local news shows in south Louisiana, the crawl beneath the picture lists statewide evacuation centers in Rayne and Opelousas, and announces that "Evacuees in need of dialysis should call ..." Above these details are shots of aerial superheroes in short red jumpsuits or head-to-toe military green, alighting on rooftops and loading old women and little boys in wire baskets for their ride out.


    Scan along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and it's tragedy and timber. A man holds his two boys. "I can't find my wife,"he tells the reporter. "Our house split in two."


    This is all via TV. Direct information is harder to come by. Cell phones aren't working; contact with others is haphazard. I haven't been able to talk with my publisher yet. But this morning, my wife reached her boss. This is a man who embodies the New Orleans peculiarly dark joie de vivre to such an extent that he dressed as the tsunami for this year's Mardi Gras.


    On the phone, he was blunt. "I don't know if we're going to have a practice to come back to," he said. "What families will return to the city with their children?"



    Other cities are mightier. Los Angeles, Chicago, New York. But New Orleans is where I wanted to make my home.


    I first hitchhiked to the city as a college dropout who wanted to hear jazz and see Mardi Gras. The ride I got was with a preacher who warned me about sin and temptation. Just like every drunk tourist on Bourbon Street, that's exactly what I was looking for.


    Soon after, I heard zydeco and followed the blast of brass bands on the streets, and started writing about musicians who seemed like magicians, the way they could conjure a mood. I even covered Hurricane Andrew, drove straight toward it, fueled by recklessness and a USA Today day rate.

    For the past 20 years, I have moved in and out of New Orleans. This last time, the roots buried deep: job, house, family, school. Early notions of the city of good times were tempered by the closer looks at poverty, illiteracy and crime I obtained as editor of the city's alternative weekly.


    Being a parent in the public school system brought me even closer. Long before the rain started, New Orleans was a troubled city.

    But it's still the hallowed ground of Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong, of Mardi Gras and jazz funerals that send off the dead with "Didn't He Ramble?"* Of lesser-known purveyors of high spirits in bleak houses. I love New Orleans more than I've ever loved a particular place.

    Most recently, I loved my neighborhood. Every morning, friends passed by our corner on their way to school. We'd hurry up tying our shoes to join them.

    Of the thousands who evacuated to the towns surrounding Lafayette, a handful are from my street. We fled on the buddy system and hooked up when we got here.* We've met for pizza and seen ourselves in each other, and we've drawn some comfort from that.


    Now, as the TV news reports rising floodwaters and worse, it is becoming more difficult to speak to each other about our plans and how long we can hold on.




    I haven't told you about Katy Reckdahl.


    She's a staff writer I hired a couple years back, and she writes about the hardest-hit citizens of New Orleans, including those who put themselves on the trigger side of a gun. She cares about all kinds of people. She knows this city better than most, and I am better for having worked with her.

    On Saturday, when I was driving my kids out, she was having her first child, a boy, in Touro Infirmary. Last I heard, they were moving people from floor to floor in Touro, and will now be evacuating them, along with others stranded in hospitals with no air conditioning and sealed windows, generators running out of gas.


    Where is Katy?


    At The Times-Picayune's Web site, stories like mine pile on top of each other. Looking for grandfather. Want to hear from my friend. What do you know?

    It's harder to access pleas that aren't online.

    Meanwhile, the TV stations traffic in comparisons: a war zone, Hiroshima, the tsunami, a third-world refugee camp, 9/11.


    I try not to think like that, but Woody Guthrie's Dust Bowl Ballads keep coming to mind.* He wrote them about another time when the forces of man and nature sent refugees into America:


    "So long, it's been good to know you."


    As I write, what's left of New Orleans is being swallowed up. Gov. Kathleen Blanco -- whose maternal concern has helped me through each day -- is removing the last of us from the flooding city. The next journey belongs to the tens of thousands in the Superdome, now on to the Astrodome in a fleet of buses.

    A couple hundred miles away, we have new household decisions to make.


    "I'm getting pretty bored of not having school," my 7-year-old daughter announced today. A week ago, her life was filled with first-day-of-school excitement.* Now, there's maybe a Catholic girl's academy. The public schools are also taking in the children of New Orleans.* My wife returned from a registration session, speaking through tears about the warmth and efficiency.

    We're staying with friends who just keep saying "as long as it takes." Last night, one of their neighbors showed up with smothered steak, rice and gravy, cabbage and sausage, and bread pudding. Another showed up with margaritas.

    Decisions. Maybe we'll call my daughter's first-grade teacher, who evacuated to a nearby town, and we'll set up a home school.


    The Saturday we left, my daughter was in his classroom a block up the street, playing on the computers while he put together lesson plans. "I want to go to Mr.
    Reynaud's," she'd beg every week until we relented.* That's one of those memories that seems untraceable now.*


    It leads nowhere.

    I also have a 4-year-old son. Last night, we were unfolding our hide-a-bed and putting blankets on the floor. "Did you see this?" my wife said, holding a book he'd made last month, before this hurricane had begun to form.* He had drawn the pictures and recited the story, and my wife had taken his dictation.


    It was titled "Miles and the Sun!" and it goes like this:


    "One spring day, Miles came out of his house in New Orleans. The sun was happy to see Miles. The sun was wearing sunglasses.* Miles moved to his new house and the sun got very very hot. Now it was even hotter!* A fearful wild storm came with lots of monsters. Luckily Miles wasn't in it.* The water splashed all over it."

    The drawing for that last page was all deep, hard-pressed scribbles.

    Last night, he sat on my lap and looked at the TV and the people walking through the water. "Are those the people who didn't evacuate?" he asked, carefully enunciating his new word.

    New Orleans is gone and I can't say when it will come back.** My neighborhood, my job, all of it might somehow return.

    Yet I don't know what a rebuilt New Orleans will look like and I don't know if I'll be there for it.


    For now, we're living on the generosity of others.

    That's what it's like to be a refugee. You never know what's next.


    (Michael Tisserand is editor of Gambit Weekly)

  7. #37



    Check out mgno.com It's a blog that a New Orleans native has started. He's taken hundreds of pictures that are astounding!


  8. #38


    I agree with Peteleo. I also agree with Roberto.

    First of all, the city of new orleans should have had better emergency plans. If you're going to tell people to take shelter in the superdome, then you sure as hell have better stock it with enough food and water for at least a week.
    The first minute you knew the hurricane was comming, emergency calls should have gone out to national guardsman around the country to go on the alert. rescue aircraft and ships should have been on their way even before the hurricane hit. Better safe than sorry.

    Better safe than sorry... on that note, why weren't there better levee's in place or at least an emergency protocol if a levee were to break? why aren't there better pumping stations available if you knew that the city might one day be under water. Spend a few bucks in preparation rather than billions after the fact.
    Those in new orleans knew they lived below sea level and that a hurricane was comming. They had decades to plan in case of emergency.

    politicizing this crisis is a disgrace. This is not Bush's fault. There are enough guardsman available, they are not all in Iraq. Michael moore should shut his fat mouth and help with the recovery instead of throwing stones right now. there will be plenty of time to see where the system went wrong.
    Its a f**king disgrace that the media is allready trying to pin the blame on someone . Every interview i see with every guest puts forth the same question, "who's to blame?"
    As far as I'm concerned, any politician who is trying to make themselves look good during this emergency by bashing anyone instead of providing support, they are just as bad as the looters.

    I donated some this past week and my company matched the amount. throwing money at the problem right now is not the solution. People lost everything in this disaster. Add to that all the jobs and sources of income that are lost to the people, and you have a national emergency for years to come.

    I do feel we should put a halt to any aid we give to other countries untill we take care of our own.
    as tragic as this is, remember, it will not be anywhere near the 250,000 lives that were lost during the tsunami. We can be greatful for that at least.

    I agree with peteleo in defending the president right now because I feel he is unjustly being blamed for many things. Lets just wait and see what the reports have to say about the system before we start stoning people.

  9. #39

    Re: disaster

    I went down to the local Lowe's in order to make
    a donation to the fund set up by Lowe's and the
    Red Cross. During the fifty or so years that I
    have been on this earth, the New Orleans
    disaster drawfs all others that took place

    - Chuck Johnston

  10. #40

    What If?

    I was wondering -- the brunt of the storm actually missed NO, didn't it? If the two levees hadn't failed, about how extensive might the actual damage have been? I know the city was living on borrowed time with its unique construction, but if only those ramparts had held out, maybe the death toll would have been significantly lower and this could have been a wakeup for the people in charge.
    Most of Biloxi's damage was from the hurricane itself, right? PeteLeo.

  11. #41

    Re: What If?

    I hate to think of the death total as it no doubt will be immense. Back on 9/11, I started and helped organized a car wash at my college, a small college, but we still managed to raise around $1700 for the Red Cross and hopefully we can do something similar now for New Orleans...it's not a lot of money, but efforts all around the country added together can add up to a lot.

    Imagine, if anyone can, one day you are out working on your yard, something that you have always taken pride in...the next day not only is you yard gone, but your house, everything in it and most importantly you cannot find family members...it's just something that most of us can imagine, but no way can we actually fathom what the people are actually going through! It's so heartbreaking!

  12. #42
    Juan C Ayllon

    Horrible Stuff...

    Wow. I cannot imagine suffering something like that. Incredible.

    My thoughts and prayers are with those in harms way down there.


    Juan C. Ayllon

  13. #43

    Re: Horrible Stuff...

    They had a new orleans native on the radio this morning with some interesting comments. He said traditionally, most of the residents ignored hurricane warnings. Some even had hurricane parties whenever there was an alert.

    He also said during the elections, the politicians had no problem bussing people from projects to the voting booths.

    Someone said there were over 900 school buses under water and the mayor should have used them to help evacuate people sooner. The same mayor who is screaming the government didn't do enough.

    40 something murders in the superdome . The chief of police walked thru a walmart, there was still plenty of food on the shelves, but all the electronic equipment was gone/stolen.

  14. #44
    Roberto Aqui


    Guys, I've been volunteering in my local community's shelter effort for the refugees from Katrina.

    Many of the refugees are the overflow from the Astrodome. We are set up to be the minor emergency clinic and temp shelter. Major emergencies are sent to Brack, the biggest full service hospital in the region, and the healthy refugees, a few thousand, will stay at the Convention Center..

    Probably close to half our refugees are elderly, those over 60. Probably a third of those are morbidly obese and need wheelchairs. Surprisingly, some are families who made it through intact, though a few are separated briefly by the system set up to treat them. Keep in mind this is the limited perspective of those needing minor health care.

    They are all tired, though relatively unscathed physically from the hurricane, but the elderly seem to be very limited both mentally and physically. I have no idea how the refugees will adapt as most will likely never be able to live where they were living in NO. A few have family in Texas, but the real problems will likely surface in the coming months and years.

    This was a terrible, tragic event, perhaps greater in scale than 9/11 even if less compactly dramatic for TV. Unlike 9/11, the bodies should be easier to identify and much more horrific for the front line authorities assigned the grisly door to door duty. Already there have been several suicides and resignations in local law enforcement. Sadly, the worst is coming. Pray if you can, or hope for the best, whatever you can do.

  15. #45

    Re: Volunteer

    Roberto Aqui- That is a fine service that you are doing
    for your fellow human beings. It looks like the troops,
    the private relief organizations, and many other
    individuals are doing a terrific job. Let us hope
    that we learn from this disaster so correctable
    mistakes don't happen again.

    - Chuck Johnston

  16. #46

    Re: Volunteer

    I applaud you as well, it's a fantastic thing that you are doing. To be honest, I really don't know if I could handle, first hand, hearing all the sad stories and seeing all of the sad faces that have lost everything. It's terrible to think that many of the older victims will have to spend the remaining years of their lives in a strange and unfamiliar enviroment than they had been no doubt accustomed to for many years, as their familiar enviroments have been completely destroyed...it is truly heartbreaking beyond words!

  17. #47

    Re: Volunteer


    Even though we both come from opposite sides of the politclal perspective, I want you to know that I have nothing bu respect for you.

    You're a real MAN ... On the front line.

    A Tiip O' The Fedora to you, sir ...


  18. #48


    New Orleans' WWOZ, my favorite radio station, went off of the air on 8/27 as Katrina headed for The Big Easy. Now back on the air curtousey of WMFU in Hoboken, NJ. You can listen to WWOZ in exile by goint to WWOZ.org
    New Orleans Music and Louisiana Music Radio WWOZ
    List of New Orleans Musicians Who Survived the Hurricane:

    Allen, Shamar
    Anderson, Theresa
    Andrews, Troy "Trombone Shorty"
    Ankar, Jim(Aural Elixir)
    Barnes, Sunpie
    Batiste, Russell
    Bandrowski, David
    Banjo Grayson, Roberto, Washboard Lisa
    Braun, Joe
    Brotherhood of Groove
    Brown, Leon
    Brunious, Wendell
    Butler, Henry
    Capps, Grayson
    Cleary, John
    Clifton, Chris
    Brian from Country Fried
    Crooks and Nannies
    Davenport, Jeremy
    David & Roselyn
    DelRosario, Anthony (Turducken Productions)
    Dillon, Monica
    Dirty Dozen Brass Band
    Doc Otis
    Doctor John
    Domino, Fats
    Drums & Tuba
    Drury, Lynn
    Eaglin, Snooks
    Edegran, Lars
    Fardela, Charlie
    Fisher, Patrice
    Fohl, John
    Forrest, Andy J.
    Freilich, Jonathan (New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars)
    Forsyth, Gina
    Funky Meters
    Griffin, Tracy
    Hall, James
    Hampsey, Matt
    Harvey, Tom
    Hot Club of New Orleans
    Ingraffia, Burke
    Jeff & Vida
    Johnny Sketch & the Dirty Notes
    Kerin, Josh
    Leonard, Herman
    Lil Stooges Brass Band
    Lonzo, Freddie
    Lucia, Ingrid
    Lyons, Jeremy
    MacLuckie, Tommy
    Marsalis, Jason
    Marsalis, Wynton
    Martyn, Barry
    Masa & Masako (Dragon's Den)
    Mayfield, Irvin
    McMurray, Alex
    Mem Shannon & The Membership
    Mother Tongue
    Neville Brothers
    Osborne, Anders
    Phillips, Devin
    George Porter Jr
    OTRA: Brent Rose (VA), Pupi Menes (Baton Rouge), Eric Lucero, Sam Price (Denmark)
    Ozaki, Nobu
    Panorama Jazz Band
    Quintron & Miss Pussycat
    Paxton, Josh
    Pistol Pete
    Rebirth Brass Band
    Riley, Josh (Saaraba)
    Rodli, John
    Ruffins, Kermit
    Samuels, Mark & Will (Basin St. Records)
    Schatz, Greg (Schatzy)
    Singleton, James
    Skinkus, Michael
    Slewfoot & Cary B
    Sneaky Pete
    Snow, Robert
    Stoltz, Brian
    Stone, Marc
    Summers, Bill
    Thomas, Irma
    Toussaint, Alan
    Trolsen, Rick
    Truckstop Honeymoon
    Venet, Seva
    Vidacovich, Johnny
    Wagner, Rob
    Washboard Chaz
    West, Mike
    White, Dr. Michael
    Wolf, Andy(Los Vecinos, Iris May Tango)
    Wright, Marva
    Zaorski, Linnzi

  19. #49


    Why New Orleans is sunk
    A geologist explains how Mother Nature has wrought revenge on an area where humans walled off the river and drained the marshlands. And by the way, California, you're next.

    By Katharine Mieszkowski/Salon.com

    University of California at Davis geologist Jeffrey Mount and his geologist friends admit to being "natural disaster ghouls." For them, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is a chance to see geology in action, the changes wrought by the confluence of winds, waves, sediment, wetlands and drained tidal lands.

    Not that Mount's taking it lightly. His sister lives in the French Quarter in New Orleans and evacuated to North Carolina. Her home isn't underwater because, Mount explains, the French Quarter was built on the natural levee of the Mississippi River. It's about 5 feet above sea level. But his sister doesn't know what will be left of her place when she gets back.

    "Floods are my business," says Mount, who directs the U.C. Davis Center for Watershed Sciences. He's also a member of California's State Reclamation Board, which controls floods along the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

    Reached at his home in Davis, Calif., Mount describes why the levees in New Orleans are bound to breach again.

    Salon: Why is New Orleans underwater today?

    JM: The problem is New Orleans is caught between two threats. One is the Mississippi River and the other is hurricanes. And it is in a bowl.

    Salon: How was the bowl formed?

    JM: Geologically, it's an amazing thing. Imagine this massive river that has been dumping piles and piles of sediment into the Gulf of Mexico. Now, that mass of the sediment is so large it literally causes the earth's crust to sag underneath it. That is a natural process of subsidence. And every time a sag forms, the space is filled up by sediment. It fills it up because there is so much sediment coming down the Mississippi River. So these massive marshlands, or delta, where the river transports sediment into a standing water body -- the Gulf of Mexico -- basically stayed at sea level the whole time, even though the land was subsiding.

    Salon: What is unique about the delta?

    JM: It's a combination of fresh and saltwater marsh but it's mostly freshwater. It's some of the most productive environments for birds and fish. The city was first built on the bits of high ground. And the high ground itself was built by the river, which was depositing sediment next to the river channel to form a natural levee. Originally, New Orleans was just a series of marshlands around the natural levee on the side of the Mississippi.

    Salon: The French Quarter's on the natural high ground, right?

    JM: Yes, and I can tell you it ain't very high. High ground in New Orleans is relative. In developing the city, they leveed off the low-lying areas and pumped the water out. They leveed off and drained these wetlands, and then they built a city. And the city expanded in this bowl, and grew inside the bowl. They are in a constant battle with seepage. The pumps are going all the time, trying to keep the water out.

    Salon: The first buildings were erected on the natural levees?

    JM: Exactly, above the tidal influence. So, the tide wouldn't inundate you every day, and you'd be at high ground. When the French showed up and tried to make a city there, they built levees that would surround the city, so they wouldn't be flooded all the time. These levees are wonderfully and carefully engineered.

    However, there isn't an engineer who isn't totally aware of the risk involved in New Orleans. That's because when the water comes in, there is nowhere for people to go. You can't run to high ground. Most cities that are prone to flooding, whether it's Sacramento or St. Louis on the Mississippi, you can move to high ground during floods. You can't in New Orleans. There is no high ground. When you're up in a skyscraper in New Orleans, you can see forever.

    And it gets even more complicated. When you levee off this city, the whole area is continuing to subside. That means you're not replenishing your marshes. So things continue to sink. Many of these reclaimed areas were already below sea level. They just stuck a levee up around them, and drained them, and built houses. Some places in New Orleans are 5 feet below sea level.

    In the early days of the French, when the city was surrounded by marshlands, the hurricanes trashed the city because it didn't have these big levees. But when the hurricanes did come, the storm surges and windblown waves would be slowed by or absorbed by these tremendous marsh areas.

    Now, the marshes are gone. Because what they did is levee the Mississippi River, which goes past New Orleans, all the way out into the Gulf of Mexico. And the sediment and water, which used to flow into these marshes, is now directed out into the gulf, bypassing the marshes. They put up levees to get ships up and down the river. It's a transportation corridor and you've got to keep the water deep. The way to keep it deep is to have the river scour itself, and the way you get the river to scour itself is to put levees up on either side, so the water gets real deep as it flows. The deeper the water, the more powerful it flows. But it also means that the wetlands, which are not being replenished by sediment from the Mississippi, are disappearing.

    Salon: How exactly has the decimation of all these wetlands contributed to the disaster?

    The conventional wisdom is that by removing all these marshes, you have eliminated a shock-absorber that absorbed a lot of the energy of hurricanes, and the waves generated by hurricanes. The waves would have to roll across marshes. Now, they roll across open water. That's conventional wisdom. The scientist in me, who is naturally skeptical about everything, is not so sure that in the end we're going to decide that was the case for New Orleans.

    The hurricane was in the middle of a jog and it turned right at New Orleans. It went east of the city and created the most interesting, wicked complication. It basically created winds that blew northeast to southwest across Lake Pontchartrain, which is connected to the Gulf, which sits north of New Orleans. These waves were blown across Lake Pontchartrain, and the storm surge piled up water against the north side of the city, and that's where the levees failed.

    I don't know how much of Lake Pontchartrain was a marsh beforehand. Until I know that, I can't really say: Was it really all loss of marsh or did we get unlucky?

    Do you think it's crazy to have a major metropolitan area in a place like New Orleans? Should we rebuild the whole city?

    Oh, I don't think we have a choice. If you could go back in time, you would say, "This is a crazy place to build a city." If you could go back in time, at the time the French were standing on the levee, looking around, and someone said, "Sacre blue! We're going to build a city here." You would say, "Fine, but keep it small." But then it became one of the most important commercial ports at the bottom of the Mississippi, the Midwest, and then the entire nation. So you've got to rebuild it. It's a vibrant, thriving, wonderful city.

    Is it inevitable that this will happen again?

    Yep. You could sit down right now and say we're going to design a new levee system, which will be stronger and more powerful. But you're designing it based on the conditions for today. But all the conditions are changing. The climate is changing. The ocean circulation patterns are changing. The city is subsiding at about 3 feet a century, and if sea level is rising at about 3 feet a century, that's 6 feet. You tell me what the long-term prospects are.

    At the same time, the geologist in me says you just have to live with natural disasters and you can't engineer your way out of them. Even so, we sure as hell need to take another look at how we can evacuate people in and out of New Orleans when we know a hurricane is coming.

    Salon: Isn't there something strange about people in California scratching their heads about New Orleans: "Wow, how could they get in this situation?" Who are we to say that?

    JM: Totally. We are the state that is waiting to fall down at a moment's notice from a major earthquake. We're definitely in the same kind of boat. We've concentrated our populations in the worst possible place, when it comes to natural disasters. Who are we to talk?

    Our capital city is the most flood-threatened major metropolitan area in the country. Period. Sacramento has the highest flood risk of a major metropolitan area in the United States. So, hello! We've just gotten lucky. And we will lose the battle of the inevitable.

    I laugh, only in a gallows humor sort of way, when people in California go: "How stupid are those people to build a whole city down there in a subsiding bowl." Huh? Been to Stockton?

  20. #50


    My New Orleans
    The magical spirit of my hometown does not lie in the buildings destroyed by Hurricane Katrina -- it lives in the people who call it home.

    By Christopher Rice/Salon.com

    Before he died of a brain tumor three years ago, my father's last wish was for my mother to build a regal family tomb in Metairie Cemetery. It took two years to complete. Several days before the interment ceremony we held late last year, my mother's assistant surprised her with the news that she had traveled to California and located the unmarked grave of my sister Michele, who died in 1972, when my parents were too financially strapped to buy a headstone. On a crisp November afternoon, my mother and I united a father and a daughter who had been separated by both death and physical distance for too long. I didn't even think about their final resting place until three days after Hurricane Katrina destroyed my hometown. My family's mausoleum stands several yards from where an oblivious motorist drove straight into a lake of water on Interstate 10 in full view of television viewers across the nation.

    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. Each new helicopter shot of the city's drowned streets reveals another radius of ruin that encompasses the homes of friends and former lovers. The sight of Tad Gormley Stadium in City Park suggests the destruction of an eccentric drama teacher's opulently decorated home. He held decadent Christmas parties and kept an authentic sealskin top hat perched atop his bookshelves. East of the breach in the levee at the 17th Street Canal lie the ruined homes of the first boy I ever loved and the first boy I ever had a true intimate relationship with, as well as the home of my mother's loyal assistant, who brought my sister back to us.

    One of my friends did not evacuate. "We're playing cards," she assured me by phone the night before Katrina struck. "We've got a boat and an ax so we should be OK." Around midnight, the phone lines jammed. Then came a message from her, after the hurricane passed. "Everything's fine. There's no water in my neighborhood." Her tone was soothing, lighthearted. Maybe I had a done a lousy job of hiding my fear (and my anger) when she told me she wasn't going to evacuate. Clearly, she did not have access to CNN. After the levees broke and her neighborhood filled with 12 feet of water, she was unreachable once again. The enormity of what has happened to New Orleans makes it difficult to worry about her specifically. I end up listing the cold facts about our friendship like a mantra that might hold her in my thoughts before I'm hit with the next television image of the devastation -- I've known her since we were 17. She took me to my first gay bar. She drove a Cadillac that was in such a state of disrepair she had used masking tape to keep the taillights in place.

    Those of us who have migrated to the coasts of the country from its often maligned middle like to view our hometowns as time capsules. We fault them for being too fixed and too rigid, but we also enjoy the ability to slip back into familiar routines upon returning home. Both of those luxuries have been taken from me; New Orleans has spilled past the boundaries of my conflicted feelings for it. Those of us who are from there are being left with a storehouse of memories that have lost their physical referents.

    It has been difficult for me to summon immediate hope for the city's recovery. New Orleans was financially strapped to begin with, its roads ranked among the worst in the nation, its new mayor making his first valiant strikes against the rampant political corruption that has plagued the city since its inception. But it is also one of the few cities that even hardened cynics refer to as having a certain spirit. That spirit does not depend on the specifics of its infrastructure. In the words of my friend Eric Shaw Quinn, New Orleans has never offered permanence to anyone and there's no reason not to believe that something just as unique will replace her.

    Instead it has managed to foster a wild hybrid spirituality that combines Catholic and Pagan influences into an adamant insistence upon enjoying the city's sensual beauty in the face of nature's constant encroachment. Mardi Gras, the city's most defining communal celebration, requires only the creative expression of the city's residents, not the specific use of landmarks and buildings. Hopefully, the current violence will not mask the fact that this city has responded to insurmountable obstacles with an institutionalized kindness and generosity. (It is criminal that a city that gives so freely of itself to outsiders has been subject to such ambivalence and ineptitude from our federal government.)

    This is also a city with a long history of wearing down any invader that has tried to bring it mediocrity, convention, or most importantly, despair. There is no reason New Orleanians should view Hurricane Katrina as any different from the corporate influences that failed to escalate the city's lackadaisical pace or deprive it of its cultural identity. The continuing news coverage of the catastrophe remains rightly focused on the refugees. However, the rest of the city's population, the evacuees, remain too scattered throughout the South to have a coherent voice in the media. While the New Orleans we know may be gone, I believe the city's many evacuees will find a sense of righteous indignation over this natural assault, and with that anger will come a determination to replace the city they once knew with something just as unique and magical.

    About the writer
    Christopher Rice is the author of the novels "A Density of Souls," "The Snow Garden" and, most recently, "Light Before Day."

  21. #51


    The Perfect Storm and the Feral City

    By Tom Engelhardt/TomDispatch.com

    The headline was: "Direct hit in New Orleans could mean a modern Atlantis," and the first paragraph of the story read: "More than 1.2 million people in metropolitan New Orleans were warned to get out Tuesday as [the] 140-mph hurricane churned toward the Gulf Coast, threatening to submerge this below-sea-level city in what could be the most disastrous storm to hit in nearly 40 years." That was USA Today and the only catch was -- the piece had been written on September 14, 2004 as Hurricane Ivan seemed to be barreling toward New Orleans.

    I commented at the time: "When ‘Ivan the Terrible' threatened New Orleans, correspondents there had a field day discussing whether the city might literally disappear beneath the waves -- this was referred to as the ‘Atlantis scenario.'" I was then trying to point out that we might indeed be entering a new, globally warmed world of Xtreme weather and no connections whatsoever were being made in the media. At the time, global warming, if discussed at all, was a captive of the far north (melting glaciers, unnerved Inuit, robins making miraculous appearances in Alaska), and "Atlantis scenarios" were the property of distant islands like the atolls that make up the tiny South Pacific nation of Tuvalu, threatened with abandonment due to rising ocean waters and ever fiercer, ever less seasonal storms And yet just short of a year ago, not only! was it well known that New Orleans' levees weren't fit for a class 5 hurricane or that the Bush administration was slashing the budget of the Army Corps of Engineers, but the "Atlantis scenario" was already somewhere on the collective mind. Now, it has been upon us for almost a week.

    Much of New Orleans has become the Atlantis from hell, a toxic sludge pool of a looted former city, filled with dead bodies, burning in places, threatened with diseases like cholera and typhus that haven't visited the Big Easy since early in the last century, and with thousands upon thousands of the black poor and a few of the stranded better-to-do like doctors, nurses, and a few local officials left for days on end with next to no way out. It is, in short, the feral city that thirty years of science fiction films (and post-apocalyptic novels) have delivered to the American public as entertainment as well as prophesy. (Think, Escape from New York).

    Now, try this passage: "The evacuation of New Orleans in the face of [the] hurricane... looked sinisterly like Strom Thurmond's version of the Rapture. Affluent white people fled the Big Easy in their SUVs, while the old and car-less -- mainly Black -- were left behind in their below-sea-level shotgun shacks and aging tenements to face the watery wrath." Admittedly a vivid description, but certainly commonplace enough at the moment -- except that it, too, was written back in September 2004 by Mike Davis, also for Tomdispatch, and prophetically labeled, "Poor, Black, and Left Behind." It, too, concerned not Katrina's but Ivan's approach to New Orleans. So there we are. It was possible to know then the fundaments of just about everything that's happened now -- and not just from Tomdispatch either.

    In the last week, we've seen many of the black poor of New Orleans not only left behind in a new Atlantis, but thousands upon thousands of them -- those who didn't die in their wheelchairs, or on highway overpasses, or in the ill-fated convention center, or unattended and forgotten in their homes -- sent off on what looked very much like a new trail of tears. Right now, above all, New Orleans and the Mississippi coast, as so many reporters have observed with shock, are simply the Bangladesh of North America (after a disastrous set of monsoons), or a Kinshasa (without the resources). Soon, if Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert has anything to do with it, the city may simply be consigned to the slagheap of history or a lot of it, as he so delicately put it to a suburban weekly in Illinois (where a few farmers who need the crucial deep water port of New Orleans to send their upcoming crops onto the global market may take umbrage), perhaps "bulldozed." Someday, Katrina may be seen as the "perfect storm," the harbinger of a future for which we remain far more adamantly, obdurately unwilling to prepare than even the Bush administration was for this localized "Atlantis scenario."

    Iraq in America: Parallels and Connections

    New Orleans is not the only toxic sludge pool in sight. Let's not forget the toxic sludge pool of Bush administration policy which came so clearly into view as Katrina ripped the scrim off our society, revealing an Iraqi-style reality here at home. Unlike conquered and occupied Iraq, the strip-mining of this country in recent years has taken place largely out of sight. While Baghdad was turned into some kind of dead zone of insecurity, lack of electricity, lack of gas, lack of jobs, lack of just about everything a human being in a modern city has come to expect, American cities -- until last week -- stood seemingly untouched in what was still proudly called "the world's last superpower." But just out of sight, the coring, gutting, and dismantling of the civilian governmental support system of the United States, that famed "safety net," was well underway. Bush administration proponents and conservative ideologues had long talked about "starving the beast"; but, until Kat! rina hit, it remained for many Americans at best a kind of political figure of speech.

    Now we know for real. The beast has been starved; or rather, the beasts have been fed and the much-maligned part of the state that protected its citizens with something other than guns has been starved. What Katrina's course through Mississippi and Louisiana revealed was the real meaning of starvation. It seems we no longer have the capacity for a full-scale civilian response to a major disaster. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), absorbed into the Department of Homeland Security and led by an incompetent who had been fired from his previous job as head of the International Arabian Horse Association, has had "its ties to state emergency programs… weakened, and… has r! educed spending on disaster preparation." In the same way, we now know that the Army Corps of Engineers was financially reined in on crucial levee work in New Orleans. Much of this sort of thing was done under the guise of preparing for, or fighting, or funding the war on terror at home and abroad. Many pundits, for instance, have remarked on the obvious fact -- which had previously worried the governors of many states -- that significant chunks of the National Guard and, just as important for disaster relief, its heavy equipment are to be found in Iraq, not here to be called upon in an emergency. (And when the avian flu, or the next health disaster, suddenly hits our country, consider it a guarantee -- the media will again be filled with the same sort of shock about the civilian response to the crisis, because our public health system has also bee! n gutted and de-funded under the guise of the war on terrorism! .)

    Over the last years, just about everything of a helping nature that is governmental, other than the military, has begun to be starved or stripped by the looters of this administration -- set loose in Washington rather than Baghdad or New Orleans. If you want a signal of this, we should all be wincing every time the President gets up, as he did the other day in the presence of his father and Bill Clinton, and shakes the tin cup, urging "the private sector" and generous citizens to fill in -- an impossibility -- for what his administration won't pony up.

    The Bush people undoubtedly thought that they would be able to slip out of town in 2008 without paying the price. But when Katrina roared onto the vulnerable coasts of Mississippi and Louisiana, it swept all of the Bush administration's devastating policies -- environmental, fiscal, energy, and military, as well as its plans for the unraveling of the civilian infrastructure -- into a perfect storm of policy catastrophe that, ironically, may threaten the administration itself. By the time motorists in non-disaster states return from a Labor Day with $3-4 a gallon (or more) gas (and possibly long lines) to an ongoing catastrophe which will take months, if not our lifetime, to fully unfold, it's possible that the levees of the President's base of support -- that 40% which still approved of his administration in the latest Gallup Poll, conducted the week before! Katrina hit -- will have been breached for the first time.

    Think of our last two years in Iraq, which has left the world's most powerful military running on baling wire and duct tape, as a kind of coming attractions for Katrina. In fact, so many bizarre connections or parallels are suggested by the Bush administration's war in Iraq as to stagger the imagination. Here are just six of the parallels that immediately came to my mind:

    1. Revelations of unexpected superpower helplessness: A single catastrophic war against a modest-sized, not particularly dramatically armed minority insurgency in one oil land has brought the planet's mightiest military to a complete, grinding, disastrous halt and sent its wheels flying off in all directions. A single not-exactly-unexpected hurricane leveling a major American city and the coastlines of two states, has brought the emergency infrastructure of the world's mightiest power to a complete, grinding, disastrous halt and sent its wheels flying off in all directions.

    2. Planning ignored: It's now notorious that the State Department did copious planning for a post-invasion, occupied Iraq, all of which was ignored by the Pentagon and Bush administration neocons when the country was taken. In New Orleans, it's already practically notorious that endless planning, disaster war-gaming, and the like were done for how to deal with a future "Atlantis scenario," none of which was attended to as Katrina bore down on the southeastern coast.

    3. Lack of Boots on the ground: It's no less notorious that, from the moment before the invasion of Iraq when General Eric Shinseki told a congressional committee that "several hundred thousand troops" would minimally be needed to successfully occupy Iraq and was more or less laughed out of Washington, Donald Rumsfeld's new, lean, mean military has desperately lacked boots on the ground (hence those Louisiana and Mississippi National Guards off in Iraq). Significant numbers of National Guard only made it to New Orleans on the fifth and sixth days after Katrina struck and regular military boots-on-the-ground have been few and far between. No Pentagon help was pre-positioned for Katrina and, typically enough, the Navy hospital ship Comfort, scheduled to help, had not left Baltimore harbor by Friday morning for its many day voyage to the Gulf.

    4. Looting: The inability (or unwillingness) to deploy occupying American troops to stem a wave of looting that left the complete administrative, security, and even cultural infrastructure of Baghdad destroyed is now nearly legendary, as is Donald Rumsfeld's response to the looting at the time. ("Freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. They're also free to live their lives and do wonderful things. And that's what's going to happen here." To which he added, on the issue of the wholesale looting of Baghdad, "Stuff happens.") In New Orleans, the President never declared martial law while, for days, gangs of armed looters along with desperate individuals abandoned and in need of food and supplies of all kinds, roamed the city uncontested as buildings began to burn.

    What, facing this crisis, did the Bush administration actually do? The two early, symbolic actions it took were typical. Neither would have a significant effect on the immediate situation at hand, but both forwarded long-term administration agendas that had little to do with Katrina or the crisis in the southeastern United States: First, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it was relaxing pollution standards on gasoline blends in order to counteract the energy crisis Katrina had immediately put on the table. This was, of course, but a small further step in the gutting of general environmental, clean air and pollution laws that strike hard at another kind of safety net -- the one protecting our planet. And second, its officials began to organize a major operation out of Northcom, Joint Task Force Katrina, to act! as the military's on-scene command in "support" of an enfeebled FEMA. The U.S. Northern Command was set up by the Bush administration in 2002 and ever since has been prepared to take on ever larger, previously civilian tasks on our home continent. (As the Northcom site quotes the President as saying, "There is an overriding and urgent mission here in America today, and that's to protect our homeland. We have been called into action, and we've got to act.")

    There were to be swift boats in the Gulf and Green Berets at the New Orleans airport, and yet Donald Rumsfeld's new, stripped-down, high-tech military either couldn't (or wouldn't) deploy any faster to New Orleans than it did to Baghdad, perhaps because it had already been so badly torn up and stressed out in Iraq (and had left most of its local "first responders" there).

    5. Nation-building: As practically nobody remembers, George Bush in his first run for the presidency humbly eschewed the very idea of "nation-building" abroad. That was only until he sent the Pentagon blasting into Iraq. Over two years and endless billions of dollars later -- the Iraq War now being, on a monthly basis, more expensive than Vietnam -- the evidence of the administration's nation-building success in its "reconstruction" of Iraq is at hand for all to see. That country is now a catastrophe beyond imagining without repair in sight. (For Baghdad, think New Orleans without water, but with a full-scale insurgency.) So as the Pentagon ramps up in its ponderous manner to launch a campaign in the United States and as the Marines finally land in the streets of New Orleans, don't hold your bre! ath about either the Pentagon's or the administration's nation-building skills in the U.S. (But count on "reconstruction" contracts going to Halliburton.) If Rumsfeld's Pentagon -- where so much of our money has gone in recent years -- turns out to be even a significant factor in the "reconstruction" of New Orleans, we'll never have that city back.

    6. Predictions: Given the last two years in which the President as well as top administration officials have regularly insisted that we had reached the turning point, or turned that corner, or hit the necessary tipping point in Iraq, that success or progress or even victory was endlessly at hand (and then at hand again and then again), consider what we should think of the President's repeated statements of Katrina "confidence," his insistence that his administration can deal successfully with the hurricane's aftereffects and is capable of overseeing the successful rebuilding of New Orleans. ("All Americans can be certain our nation has the character, the resources, and the resolve to overcome this disaster. We will comfort and care for the victims. We will restore the towns and neighborhoods that have been lost in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. We'll rebuild the great city of New Orlea! ns. And we'll once again show the world that the worst adversities bring out the best in America.")

    Feral Continent?

    As an aside, one great difference between the American public's experience of the Iraqi War and of the aftermath of Katrina shouldn't be overlooked. This time, our reporters weren't embedded with the troops, and so weren't experiencing mainly the administration's artificially-created version of reality. Instead, they made it to the distressed areas of the southeastern U.S. way ahead of the troops, remained in their absence, saw unreconstructed, unspun reality for themselves, and were generally outraged. So, for instance, when Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff made ridiculous claims about what the government had accomplished, reporters were able to say, emphatically, that his version was a lie and other Americans knew it was so, because they had seen it for themselves.

    And don't even get me started on comparisons to Bush administration behavior from the moment, also in Crawford in August 2001, that the President and his advisors ignored the infamous CIA daily intelligence briefing on Osama bin Laden ("Bin Laden determined to attack inside the U.S."), delivered at a length and with a simplicity that even George Bush should have been able to absorb. Speaking of déjà vu all over again, his recent behavior re: Katrina echoed strangely his 9/11 behavior. After all, on 9/11, he first sat paralyzed in a classroom in Florida, then boarded Air Force One and headed not for Washington but (gulp…) for Louisiana. It was an act of panic if not cowardice that was quickly covered over when he finally did make it to Washington and later New York City, talking tough and launching his war against Evil.

    When Katrina hit, he sat in Crawford; then (perhaps -- to have a thoroughly unkind thought -- continuing his flight from Cindy Sheehan), he boarded his plane and headed in the wrong direction, for San Diego where he stood against the backdrop of an aircraft carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan (don't these people ever learn?), and pretended it was actually World War II and we were occupying Japan. By this time, every excuse for his war in Iraq having peeled away (the al-Qaeda connection, the wmds, even "freedom"), he finally arrived at a new explanation for why we were there. It was... oil -- or to be more exact, an oil fantasy. ("If Zarqawi and bin Laden gain control of Iraq, they would create a new training ground for future terrorist attacks; they'd seize oil fields to fund their ambitions; they could recruit more terrorists by claiming an historic victory over the United States and ou! r coalition.")

    Maybe he should send David Kay, who headed his fruitless weapons-of-mass-destruction search team, back to Iraq to look for oil, since it's been in short supply there, and now is about to be here. Only then did our President get on a jet heading in the right direction -- towards Louisiana, where he had the pilot swoop down to 1,700 feet (as if that were something daring) for a close look -- on his way to Washington. Nobody in the administration, it seems, thought to put boot to the soil of Mississippi or Louisiana in the first crucial days of this crisis. (If you want the details -- Vice-President Cheney remained on vacation in Wyoming and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in New York buying shoes by the scads while offers of aid poured in from such disparate countries as Australia, Israel, Sri Lanka, and! Venezuela -- check out Maureen Dowd's latest New York Times blast, United States of Shame.) The one constant of this President and his administration is that their most essential impulse is never to head for the frontlines themselves -- not in war, not in disaster, not for our safety or our planet's safety, not even on the campaign trail. They are invariably at the front of nowhere at all, and more than happy to be there. The old "chickenhawk" label has a deeper meaning than we ever realized.

    In the meantime, what we know from Katrina is that, in George Bush's new America, we are no longer capable, as a civilian society, of rescuing ourselves. Even the more civilian part of our military is gone. The Louisiana and Mississippi National Guard, after all, are mainly in Iraq, feeling, I'm sure, mighty helpless right now, while chaos reigns in their home cities. Thank you, George. Mission Accomplished!

    Before the Iraq War, it was already evident that the State Department -- the foreign policy equivalent of a civilian effort -- was atrophying. (Administration officials were, after all, starving that beast too.) "Diplomacy," such as it was, was being conducted with other nations ever more regularly by our military proconsuls like our Centcom commander in the Middle East on a military-to-military basis. A grim wag suggested to me recently that the only way New Orleans would have gotten some quick action was if the administration had renamed Katrina "Osama," claimed it left behind weapons of mass destruction (as it may, in fact, have), and then invaded the city.

    When an administration which has long believed that the resort to force should be the initial impulse behind any policy finally acts, force is unsurprisingly all it knows. If what we've observed in the last week is the response of the Bush administration to an essentially predictable civilian catastrophe, then imagine how prepared it is, after these four years of "homeland security," for an unpredictable one. Or what about, for instance, just another massive hurricane in this age of Xtreme weather? After all, though you can't find a word in the papers about it at the moment, we are only halfway through the fiercest, longest hurricane season in memory. We should be scared. Very scared.

    In the end, this country remains in a powerful state of denial on two major matters which help explain why the elevation of George Bush and his cronies was no mistake. We are now a highly militarized society in all sorts of ways that any of us could see, but that is seldom recognized or discussed (except when the threat of base closings sends specific communities into a panic). Unrecognized and unconsidered, the militarized nature of our society is likely in the future to prove both dangerous and highly destructive. Right now, we are a weakened superpower wired for force and force alone -- and if Iraq has shown us one thing, it's that, when it comes to solving human problems of any sort, military force is highly overrated.

    And of course, we are as a society in denial over the toxic sludge pool where climate change (or global warming) meets Middle Eastern energy dependence. On this, our future rests. If someone doesn't get to the frontlines of planetary security soon, we may be living not just with one feral city, but on a feral continent, part of a feral world.

    Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's Tomdispatch.com ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The End of Victory Culture, a history of American triumphalism in the Cold War.

  22. #52


    Do You Know What It Means to Lose New Orleans?


    La Jolla, Calif.

    What do people really know about New Orleans?

    Do they take away with them an awareness that it has always been not only a great white metropolis but also a great black city, a city where African-Americans have come together again and again to form the strongest African-American culture in the land?

    The first literary magazine ever published in Louisiana was the work of black men, French-speaking poets and writers who brought together their work in three issues of a little book called L'Album Littéraire. That was in the 1840's, and by that time the city had a prosperous class of free black artisans, sculptors, businessmen, property owners, skilled laborers in all fields. Thousands of slaves lived on their own in the city, too, making a living at various jobs, and sending home a few dollars to their owners in the country at the end of the month.

    This is not to diminish the horror of the slave market in the middle of the famous St. Louis Hotel, or the injustice of the slave labor on plantations from one end of the state to the other. It is merely to say that it was never all "have or have not" in this strange and beautiful city.

    Later in the 19th century, as the Irish immigrants poured in by the thousands, filling the holds of ships that had emptied their cargoes of cotton in Liverpool, and as the German and Italian immigrants soon followed, a vital and complex culture emerged. Huge churches went up to serve the great faith of the city's European-born Catholics; convents and schools and orphanages were built for the newly arrived and the struggling; the city expanded in all directions with new neighborhoods of large, graceful houses, or areas of more humble cottages, even the smallest of which, with their floor-length shutters and deep-pitched roofs, possessed an undeniable Caribbean charm.

    Through this all, black culture never declined in Louisiana. In fact, New Orleans became home to blacks in a way, perhaps, that few other American cities have ever been. Dillard University and Xavier University became two of the most outstanding black colleges in America; and once the battles of desegregation had been won, black New Orleanians entered all levels of life, building a visible middle class that is absent in far too many Western and Northern American cities to this day.

    The influence of blacks on the music of the city and the nation is too immense and too well known to be described. It was black musicians coming down to New Orleans for work who nicknamed the city "the Big Easy" because it was a place where they could always find a job. But it's not fair to the nature of New Orleans to think of jazz and the blues as the poor man's music, or the music of the oppressed.

    Something else was going on in New Orleans. The living was good there. The clock ticked more slowly; people laughed more easily; people kissed; people loved; there was joy.

    Which is why so many New Orleanians, black and white, never went north. They didn't want to leave a place where they felt at home in neighborhoods that dated back centuries; they didn't want to leave families whose rounds of weddings, births and funerals had become the fabric of their lives. They didn't want to leave a city where tolerance had always been able to outweigh prejudice, where patience had always been able to outweigh rage. They didn't want to leave a place that was theirs.

    And so New Orleans prospered, slowly, unevenly, but surely - home to Protestants and Catholics, including the Irish parading through the old neighborhood on St. Patrick's Day as they hand out cabbages and potatoes and onions to the eager crowds; including the Italians, with their lavish St. Joseph's altars spread out with cakes and cookies in homes and restaurants and churches every March; including the uptown traditionalists who seek to preserve the peace and beauty of the Garden District; including the Germans with their clubs and traditions; including the black population playing an ever increasing role in the city's civic affairs.

    Now nature has done what the Civil War couldn't do. Nature has done what the labor riots of the 1920's couldn't do. Nature had done what "modern life" with its relentless pursuit of efficiency couldn't do. It has done what racism couldn't do, and what segregation couldn't do either. Nature has laid the city waste - with a scope that brings to mind the end of Pompeii. •

    I share this history for a reason - and to answer questions that have arisen these last few days. Almost as soon as the cameras began panning over the rooftops, and the helicopters began chopping free those trapped in their attics, a chorus of voices rose. "Why didn't they leave?" people asked both on and off camera. "Why did they stay there when they knew a storm was coming?" One reporter even asked me, "Why do people live in such a place?"

    Then as conditions became unbearable, the looters took to the streets. Windows were smashed, jewelry snatched, stores broken open, water and food and televisions carried out by fierce and uninhibited crowds.

    Now the voices grew even louder. How could these thieves loot and pillage in a time of such crisis? How could people shoot one another? Because the faces of those drowning and the faces of those looting were largely black faces, race came into the picture. What kind of people are these, the people of New Orleans, who stay in a city about to be flooded, and then turn on one another?

    Well, here's an answer. Thousands didn't leave New Orleans because they couldn't leave. They didn't have the money. They didn't have the vehicles. They didn't have any place to go. They are the poor, black and white, who dwell in any city in great numbers; and they did what they felt they could do - they huddled together in the strongest houses they could find. There was no way to up and leave and check into the nearest Ramada Inn.

    What's more, thousands more who could have left stayed behind to help others. They went out in the helicopters and pulled the survivors off rooftops; they went through the flooded streets in their boats trying to gather those they could find. Meanwhile, city officials tried desperately to alleviate the worsening conditions in the Superdome, while makeshift shelters and hotels and hospitals struggled.

    And where was everyone else during all this? Oh, help is coming, New Orleans was told. We are a rich country. Congress is acting. Someone will come to stop the looting and care for the refugees.

    And it's true: eventually, help did come. But how many times did Gov. Kathleen Blanco have to say that the situation was desperate? How many times did Mayor Ray Nagin have to call for aid? Why did America ask a city cherished by millions and excoriated by some, but ignored by no one, to fight for its own life for so long? That's my question.

    I know that New Orleans will win its fight in the end. I was born in the city and lived there for many years. It shaped who and what I am. Never have I experienced a place where people knew more about love, about family, about loyalty and about getting along than the people of New Orleans. It is perhaps their very gentleness that gives them their endurance.

    They will rebuild as they have after storms of the past; and they will stay in New Orleans because it is where they have always lived, where their mothers and their fathers lived, where their churches were built by their ancestors, where their family graves carry names that go back 200 years. They will stay in New Orleans where they can enjoy a sweetness of family life that other communities lost long ago.

    But to my country I want to say this: During this crisis you failed us. You looked down on us; you dismissed our victims; you dismissed us. You want our Jazz Fest, you want our Mardi Gras, you want our cooking and our music. Then when you saw us in real trouble, when you saw a tiny minority preying on the weak among us, you called us "Sin City," and turned your backs.

    Well, we are a lot more than all that. And though we may seem the most exotic, the most atmospheric and, at times, the most downtrodden part of this land, we are still part of it. We are Americans. We are you.

  23. #53
    Roberto Aqui

    Wind down

    Today we pulled the plug on the medical unit and pulled everybody over to the Convention center. We cleaned up and kept the basic infrastructure in place in case a new flood of refugees comes in.

    I'm doing nothing heroic, just expediting a bruised and battered people through the system. The true frontliners are in the damaged areas dealing in hellish conditions. Today all I did was help folks pack and get them into buses. Then I sorted masses of men's, women's, girls, boy's underwear, NEW of course!

    One woman I helped was elderly, obese, diabetic and could barely walk so was in a wheelchair. She told me she saw young girls raped and murdered, old ladies raped, and general mayhem from young thugs. Her roof on her apartment bldg tore off and rains flooded everything. Fortunately she didn't have to walk far before receiving help.

    Gor, I'm an independent voter who votes for the best candidate and the larger picture, so if you're at the opposite extremes to me you must be be the revolutionary Shining Path or Al Queda!

  24. #54

    Re: Wind down

    Naw Roberto, I ain't part of Shining Path or Al Queda - that was funny by the way ... Basically let's just say I'm WAY to the left of Ted Kennedy.

    & btw: What you are doing is heroic. Your contributing in a very positive way & are able to actually help people. Most of us live too far away to be able to.

    & you stepped in & our doing whatever you can to help. I have nothing but respect for that & for you ...


  25. #55

    Re: Wind down

    After Failures, Government Officials Play Blame Game
    By SCOTT SHANE, The New York Times

    FEMA Flip-Flops
    Mayor Lashes Out

    WASHINGTON (Sept. 5) -- As the Bush administration tried to show a more forceful effort to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina, government officials on Sunday escalated their criticism and sniping over who was to blame for the problems plaguing the initial response.

    While rescuers were still trying to reach people stranded by the floods, perhaps the only consensus among local, state and federal officials was that the system had failed.

    Some federal officials said uncertainty over who was in charge had contributed to delays in providing aid and imposing order, and officials in Louisiana complained that Washington disaster officials had blocked some aid efforts.

    Local and state resources were so weakened, said Michael Chertoff, the homeland security secretary, that in the future federal authorities need to take "more of an upfront role earlier on, when we have these truly ultracatastrophes."

    But furious state and local officials insisted that the real problem was that the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which Mr. Chertoff's department oversees, failed to deliver urgently needed help and, through incomprehensible red tape, even thwarted others' efforts to help.

    "We wanted soldiers, helicopters, food and water," said Denise Bottcher, press secretary for Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco of Louisiana. "They wanted to negotiate an organizational chart."

    Mayor C. Ray Nagin of New Orleans expressed similar frustrations. "We're still fighting over authority," he told reporters on Saturday. "A bunch of people are the boss. The state and federal government are doing a two-step dance."
    Storm of Finger-Pointing
    "Considering the dire circumstances that we have in New Orleans -- virtually a city that has been destroyed -- things are going relatively well."
    -- FEMA Director Michael Brown in CNN interview Thursday, Sept. 1

    "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."
    -- President Bush praises Brown during visit to Alabama Friday

    "We're angry, Mr. President, and we'll be angry long after our beloved city and surrounding parishes have been pumped dry... Every official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency should be fired, Director Michael Brown especially.''
    -- The Times-Picayune Sunday editorial

    "Mr. President, Madame Governor, you two have to get in sync. If you don't get in sync, more people are going to die."
    -- New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin recounts what he told President Bush and Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco Friday.

    "If one person criticizes them, or says one more thing, including the president of the United States, he will hear from me. One more word about it... and I -- I might likely have to punch him."
    -- Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., on ABC's 'This Week' defends sheriff's department.

    "They've had press conferences. I'm sick of the press conferences. For God's sakes, shut up and send us somebody."
    -- Aaron Broussard Jefferson Parish president pleads for help on NBC's 'Meet the Press' Sunday.

    Sources: AP, NOLA.com, CNN, ABC

    In one of several such appeals, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, called on President Bush on Sunday to appoint an independent national commission to examine the relief effort. She also said that she intends to introduce legislation to remove FEMA from the Department of Homeland Security and restore its previous status as an independent agency with cabinet-level status.

    Mr. Chertoff tried to deflect the criticism of his department and FEMA by saying there would be time later to decide what went wrong.

    "Whatever the criticisms and the after-action report may be about what was right and what was wrong looking back, what would be a horrible tragedy would be to distract ourselves from avoiding further problems because we're spending time talking about problems that have already occurred," he told Tim Russert on "Meet the Press" on NBC.

    But local officials, who still feel overwhelmed by the continuing tragedy, demanded accountability and as well as action.

    "Why did it happen? Who needs to be fired?" asked Aaron Broussard, president of Jefferson Parish, south of New Orleans.

    Far from deferring to state or local officials, FEMA asserted its authority and made things worse, Mr. Broussard complained on "Meet the Press."

    When Wal-Mart sent three trailer trucks loaded with water, FEMA officials turned them away, he said. Agency workers prevented the Coast Guard from delivering 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel, and on Saturday they cut the parish's emergency communications line, leading the sheriff to restore it and post armed guards to protect it from FEMA, Mr. Broussard said.

    One sign of the continuing battle over who was in charge was Governor Blanco's refusal to sign an agreement proposed by the White House to share control of National Guard forces with the federal authorities.
    How to Help

    Network for Good links you to organizations that help disaster victims.
    · How You Can Help

    Under the White House plan, Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honoré would oversee both the National Guard and the active duty federal troops, reporting jointly to the president and Ms. Blanco.

    "She would lose control when she had been in control from the very beginning," said Ms. Bottcher, the governor's press secretary.

    Ms. Bottcher was one of several officials yesterday who said she believed FEMA had interfered with the delivery of aid, including offers from the mayor of Chicago, Richard M. Daley, and the governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson.

    Adam Sharp, a spokesman for Senator Mary L. Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, said the problem was not who was in command. FEMA repeatedly held up assistance that could have been critical, he said.

    "FEMA has just been very slow to make these decisions," Mr. Sharp said.

    In a clear slap at Mr. Chertoff and the FEMA director, Michael D. Brown, Governor Blanco announced Saturday that she had hired James Lee Witt, the director of FEMA during the Clinton administration, to advise her on the recovery.

    Nearly every emergency worker told agonizing stories of communications failures, some of them most likely fatal to victims. Police officers called Senator Landrieu's Washington office because they could not reach commanders on the ground in New Orleans, Mr. Sharp said.

    Dr. Ross Judice, chief medical officer for a large ambulance company, recounted how on Tuesday, unable to find out when helicopters would land to pick up critically ill patients at the Superdome, he walked outside and discovered that two helicopters, donated by an oil services company, had been waiting in the parking lot.
    More From the Times

    * · Amid Criticism of Federal Efforts, Charges of Racism Lodged
    * · New Orleans to Offer Free Trips to Las Vegas for Officers
    * · Fox Says U.S. Shares Blame for Problems Along Border

    Louisiana and New Orleans have received a total of about $750 million in federal emergency and terrorism preparedness grants in the last four years, Homeland Security Department officials said.

    Mr. Chertoff said he recognized that the local government's capacity to respond to the disaster was severely compromised by the hurricane and flood.

    "What happened here was that essentially, the demolishment of that state and local infrastructure, and I think that really caused the cascading series of breakdowns," he said.

    But Mayor Nagin said the root of the breakdown was the failure of the federal government to deliver relief supplies and personnel quickly.

    "They kept promising and saying things would happen," he said. "I was getting excited and telling people that. They kept making promises and promises."

    Scott Shane and Eric Lipton reported from Washington, and Christopher Drew from New Orleans. Jeremy Alford contributed reporting from Baton Rouge, La., and Gardiner Harris from Lafayette, La.

  26. #56

    Re: Wind down

  27. #57

    Re: Wind down

    like I said, those trying to gain politically from this disaster are just as bad as the looters. f**ing political vultures.

  28. #58

    Re: Wind down

    Hey, this is America ... Doesn't EVERBODY have a right to express their views? Or did I not notice when they took Freedom Of Speech out of the constitution?


  29. #59
    Roberto Aqui

    Re: Wind down

    Ivins is the liberal answer to Rush Limbaugh. Any valid points they may possess is lost in their kneejerk diatribes against the other. I'm hoping they marry and retire to the Polynesian Island that Brando thankfully left for.

  30. #60

    Re: Wind down

    But we get the truth from Ivins
    which is more that you can say
    about W

    Frank B.

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