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September 03, 2005

Tom Tomorrow:
Shorter right wing bloggers

Why aren't the media reporting the good news from New Orleans? It's because of their dad-gum bias! But they're not fooling anybody but themselves, I tell you! The American public won't fall for their malarky! Blah blah blah blah blah [/grumpy old man]


September 02, 2005

Tom Tomorrow:

They're so used to being able to "create their own reality," it's as if they don't even realize that people are watching all of this unfold live on television.

FEMA chief Brown: We learned about that (Thursday), so I have directed that we have all available resources to get that convention center to make sure that they have the food and water and medical care that they need. (See video of CNN asking why FEMA is clueless about conditions -- 2:11)

Mayor Nagin: The convention center is unsanitary and unsafe, and we are running out of supplies for the 15,000 to 20,000 people. (Hear Nagin's angry demand for soldiers. 1:04)
CNN Producer Kim Segal: It was chaos. There was nobody there, nobody in charge. And there was nobody giving even water. The children, you should see them, they're all just in tears. There are sick people. We saw... people who are dying in front of you.

Evacuee Raymond Cooper: Sir, you've got about 3,000 people here in this -- in the Convention Center right now. They're hungry. Don't have any food. We were told two-and-a-half days ago to make our way to the Superdome or the Convention Center by our mayor. And which when we got here, was no one to tell us what to do, no one to direct us, no authority figure.

Uncollected corpses

Brown: That's not been reported to me, so I'm not going to comment. Until I actually get a report from my teams that say, "We have bodies located here or there," I'm just not going to speculate.

Segal: We saw one body. A person is in a wheelchair and someone had pushed (her) off to the side and draped just like a blanket over this person in the wheelchair. And then there is another body next to that. There were others they were willing to show us. ( See CNN report, 'People are dying in front of us' -- 4:36 )

Evacuee Cooper: They had a couple of policemen out here, sir, about six or seven policemen told me directly, when I went to tell them, hey, man, you got bodies in there. You got two old ladies that just passed, just had died, people dragging the bodies into little corners. One guy -- that's how I found out. The guy had actually, hey, man, anybody sleeping over here? I'm like, no. He dragged two bodies in there. Now you just -- I just found out there was a lady and an old man, the lady went to nudge him. He's dead.

Hospital evacuations

Brown: I've just learned today that we ... are in the process of completing the evacuations of the hospitals, that those are going very well.

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta: It's gruesome. I guess that is the best word for it. If you think about a hospital, for example, the morgue is in the basement, and the basement is completely flooded. So you can just imagine the scene down there. But when patients die in the hospital, there is no place to put them, so they're in the stairwells. It is one of the most unbelievable situations I've seen as a doctor, certainly as a journalist as well. There is no electricity. There is no water. There's over 200 patients still here remaining. ...We found our way in through a chopper and had to land at a landing strip and then take a boat. And it is exactly ... where the boat was traveling where the snipers opened fire yesterday, halting all the evacuations. ( Watch the video report of corpses stacked in stairwells -- 4:45 )

Dr. Matthew Bellew, Charity Hospital: We still have 200 patients in this hospital, many of them needing care that they just can't get. The conditions are such that it's very dangerous for the patients. Just about all the patients in our services had fevers. Our toilets are overflowing. They are filled with stool and urine. And the smell, if you can imagine, is so bad, you know, many of us had gagging and some people even threw up. It's pretty rough.(Mayor's video: Armed addicts fighting for a fix -- 1:03)

Violence and civil unrest

Brown: I've had no reports of unrest, if the connotation of the word unrest means that people are beginning to riot, or you know, they're banging on walls and screaming and hollering or burning tires or whatever. I've had no reports of that.

CNN's Chris Lawrence: From here and from talking to the police officers, they're losing control of the city. We're now standing on the roof of one of the police stations. The police officers came by and told us in very, very strong terms it wasn't safe to be out on the street. (Watch the video report on explosions and gunfire -- 2:12

More here.

Tom Tomorrow:
Cafferty again

Stealing Atrios' transcription this time.

Cafferty: Wolf, the war in Iraq is part of the problem in New Orleans. The Boston Globe reporting today that National Guard units across the country have about half their usual equipment. Everything from helicopters, trucks, humvees, weapons available to them. All the rest of the stuff has been sent off to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are 78000 National Guard troops who are now deployed in those overseas war zones. Even the hardest hit states have 40% of their National Guard troops in Irraq right now. What happens if there's a terrorist attack tomorrow or a massive eearthquake in southern California? How would the nation respond? It's a frightening thought. The question is this - if we're to stay the course in Iraq should we bring the national guard troops home and institute a draft?

Wolf: blahlbahblah

Cafferty: Do you suppose, Wolf, that the arrival of the relief convoys and the political photo ops on the Gulf Coast happening at the same time were a coincidence today?

Wolf: blahblahblah. Jack, a final thought before I go.

Cafferty: It's embarrassing.

Boston Globe article here.

The possibility of another catastrophic event is something I've been thinking about too. We've got a war in Iraq and devastation at home. We are stretched to the goddamn limit. If something else happens now...

Tom Tomorrow:
Happier days

I wonder how much of this is left.

Tom Tomorrow:
Times Picayune messages


* * *

Subject: My Hurricane Story -- Mother trapped in building for the

Story: Please go to 2110 Royal St. apt 719 and rescue my 81 year old
mother, Rosalie Rabel who is trapped in the building with many other
elderly people in need of medication, food, and water. I beg for your help
before they dehydrate. God bless you and thank you for the help you
can give.

* * *

Subject: My Hurricane Story -- people trapped at overpass

Story: Hello my name is Carolyn Keaton and I am trying to let someone
know for a friend here that has family there, that there are people
trapped at Tulane and Broad sts overpass. They have been there for four
days without food or water. Could someone please let someone know about

Thanking you in advance

* * *

Subject: My Hurricane Story -- 80+ people trapped in the Medical Residence Hall at LSU Health Science Center at the corner of Tulane and Caiborne

Story: 80 people are trapped in the Medical Residence Hall at LSU Health Science Center there are three buildings located at the corner of Tulane and Caiborne, about a mile from the Superdome, they have a very limited supply of water and food. They can't break out of the building or go to the roof. Please let the rescue teams know about their situation

* * *

100 students trapped, 6th fl. Xavier U.
Date: Fri, 2 Sep 2005 11:05:12 -0400

About 100 students trapped at xavier univ. on the 6th flr. They are scared and hungry when will the police go and get them.

* * *

300 Trapped in St. Augustine H.S. on AP Tourreau
Date: Fri, 2 Sep 2005 10:36:55 -0400

Sandi Waltman from 35173 writes:

I received a message this morning from someone that there are about 300 people sheltered at St. Augustine High School on AP Tourreau in the 7th ward... not far from Dillard University and the St. Bernard housing project. They have no food and no water.

* * *

Children in attic, 3254 Gentilly Blvd
Date: Fri, 2 Sep 2005 10:03:50 -0400

Subject: My Hurricane Story -- Rescue Still Needed

Story: My cousin and his family have not yet been rescued. There are six people including a young child and three Tulane University students. The address is 3254 Gentilly Blvd. The name is Terry Simon.

Reports are that a rescue boat came on Tuesday and took the family across the street because they were in worst condition. However, no one came back for them. I understand that they are in the attic with no food or water...waiting to be rescued.

There's a lot more. I hope to god somebody who can do something is reading them.

Tom Tomorrow:
But what about the good news?

Honest to god: just heard some substitute host on Rush Limbaugh's show saying (a) "we" conservatives all know that the government can't do anything right anyway, so we certainly shouldn't rely on them now, and (b) the media aren't reporting the "good" news from New Orleans--i.e., the faith based charities that are moving into the gulf coast to hand out supplies.

Well gee whillikers, mister guest host, I guess when the darned liberal EmEssEm reporters are down there in New Orleans watching babies die before their eyes and rats gnaw on corpses left out in the street, somehow the tens of thousands of people facing imminent dehydration, starvation, dysentary and death seem like a slightly more important story. That's how biased they are.

Fucking moron.

Tom Tomorrow:
Jesus Christ redux


MICHAEL BROWN, DIRECTOR, FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY: Paula, I think it's so important for the American public to understand exactly how catastrophic this disaster is.

I mean, we have a major American city, a major urban area that has been totally demolished. And what we're finding is, is that, as we continue to do the evacuation and get people out, people who have completely lost everything, they have no place to go, they have nothing, that we're finding other people who are literally coming out of second stories of homes, that are suddenly appearing on bridges that are not under water, that people who were unable or chose not to evacuate are suddenly appearing.

And so, this -- this catastrophic disaster continues to grow. I will tell you this, though. Every person in that Convention Center, we just learned about that today. And so, I have directed that we have all available resources to get to that Convention Center to make certain that they have the food and water, the medical care that they need...

ZAHN: Sir, you aren't telling me...

BROWN: ... and that we take care of those bodies that are there.


ZAHN: Sir, you aren't just telling me you just learned that the folks at the Convention Center didn't have food and water until today, are you? You had no idea they were completely cut off?


BROWN: Paula, the federal government did not even know about the Convention Center people until today.

If you live in a major American city, you better pray there's never a terrorist attack of this magnitude. Because this is the best these fuckers can do with several day's notice before the disaster hits and 90% of the city having had time to evacuate beforehand. So unless the terrorists are kind enough to give advance notice, you are well and truly fucked.

Tom Tomorrow:

African American woman at a bus stop: "They wouldn't be taking this long if it was white people stuck down there!"


September 01, 2005

Tom Tomorrow:
Jesus Christ

What is wrong with these people? Condi spent the day playing tennis.

For the benefit of the truly dense, John at americablog explains why the story of Condi's lovely three-day getaway to the city matters:

The president, finally, has decided that the hurricane is a problem. He claims yesterday at 5pm, finally, that he's going to be devoting his entire administration to saving the lives of the people currently dying in this growing national disaster. And what does a top member of his cabinet do? She goes to a Broadway comedy and today is buying multi-thousand-dollar shoes on 5th Avenue at the same time CNN is showing dead grandmothers in wheelchairs abandoned on the streets of New Orleans.

This is more than just a cheap shot at Condi. What in the blazes is this woman doing at a Broadway show in the middle of a national emergency? This is akin to going to a Broadway show in the middle of September 11. Don't we expect the Secretary of State to work past 5pm on a day an entire American city is being wiped off the face of the planet? And shouldn't she be doing something else today than shopping at filthy rich stores on 5th Avenue? Could she be - oh, I don't know - working with foreign leaders, like the Mexicans, to see what immediate assistance they can offer to the neighbor?

New Orleans is ceasing to exist. What in God's name is Bush doing letting his secretary of state go on vacation in the middle of this?

Also from americablog, watch for this little soundbite: "those who chose not to leave the city."

Tom Tomorrow:
Shout out

To the reader who supplied the tape that forced Trent Lott's resignation as Majority Leader. Lost your email, got a message for you. Contact me. (Those of you who don't know what I'm talking about--the short story is that Trent Lott resigned after that tape passed through this website and was run on MSNBC. Oddly this crucial coup-de-grace is never mentioned in summaries of the incident, which just credit the blogs, usually Josh Marshall. Josh recognized the significance of Lott's comments about the desirability of a Thurmond presidency immediately, and the blogs kept the story alive, but what brought Lott down was one TMW reader in the midwest with a long memory and a tape of Lott making exactly the same comment several years prior. But that doesn't fit so neatly into the power-of-blogs narrative that's been constructed since.)

Tom Tomorrow:
Give 'em hell, Jack

An obviously angry Jack Cafferty on CNN:

I'm 62, I remember the riots in Watts, I remember the earthquake in San Francisco, I remember a lot of things--I have never, ever seen anything as badly bungled and poorly handled as this situation in New Orleans. Where the hell is the water for these people? Why can't sandwiches be dropped to those people in that Superdome down there? This is Thursday! This is Thursday! This storm happened five days ago. It's a disgrace, and don't think the world isn't watching. This is the government the taxpayers are paying for and it's fallen right flat on its face, in the way its handled this thing.

CNN is also reporting that Charity Hospital in New Orleans has no security, no Guardsmen, no military or police at all.

But don't worry--we've got all the troops we need to handle things.

Jesus Christ on a pogo stick.

People are dying, right now, as a result of the Bush administration's utter fucking incompetence.

...Cafferty's not the only one who's angry. I just can't believe what I'm seeing on the tv. For the past couple years, critics of the administration have been trying to point out a couple of things: (1) Iraq is diverting resources from actual homeland security and (2) the situation in Iraq is almost certainly a complete cock-up. Well, the first point has been proven at far too high a price, and as for the second--they can lie about Iraq and plenty of people will believe them. Iraq's a long ways away. But this is New Orleans, Louisianna, and we're all watching the biggest fuckup in history play out in real time.

Just think about this: we've all made a lot of jokes about the Department of Homeland Security over the past four years. But apparently, the Department of Homeland Security has absolutely no plan for dealing with devastation on this scale, which is supposedly the thing we've all been worried about for four years.

Neither do they seem to have given much thought to the transportation of refugees after a catastrophic event. In this case, we had 24 hours notice and the vast majority of the population got out on their own. If a terrorist attack of this magnitude were to occur, it would occur without warning, and the refugee problem would be exponentially greater. But right now, they can't even get in enough busses to get those people out of the Superdome.

It may turn out that that stupid color coded chart really is Homeland Security's proudest achievement.

* * *

I guess this is what you get when you elect leaders ideologically committed to the notion that government isn't good for anything.

Tom Tomorrow:

The mayor of the city of New Orleans ordered an evacuation on Sunday. For 24 hours, the cable newsies talked of the possibility of a catastrophic storm surge leaving the city under twenty feet of water. Whether or not anyone could have anticipated the breach of the levees, plenty of people were aware that they might be overwhelmed, and that New Orleans could soon face major devastation and flooding as a result.

It's not like we didn't know that this might happen.

So why weren't more emergency personnel and equipment in place and ready to go?

Why did it take the president two days to get back to DC? Why wasn't he in the White House on Sunday night, overseeing emergency preparations?

And what the fuck is Condi Rice doing attending Broadway shows and shopping for expensive shoes at a time like this?

Sorry--does it "politicize" the issue to wonder whether we are quite literally being led by sociopaths and insane people?

Oh, by the way--as August points out--the Department of Homeland Security wants you to know that September is National Preparedness Month.

Tom Tomorrow:
Gets better by the minute

From americablog:

CNN just announced that New Orleans has now become so dangerous that FEMA is calling off its search and rescue operations in the city.

Jesus Christ.

Glad Bush decided TODAY to send those extra troops on the aircraft carrier that should arrive, oh, when?

* * *

Just a reminder--this is what George Bush did on Tuesday, well after it was clear that New Orleans was getting wiped off the map:

Tom Tomorrow:
More from CNN

Also lifted from Atrios:

Spellman: Right now, and for several hours, a stream of people have been heading down Canal street heading for the the convention center looking for help. The Convention Center is along the Mississippi river on the southern side of town. They'lll be shocked at what they see when they get there. It's thousands and thousands of people who hav ebeen there all nigth sleeping out on the streets on the sidewalk wherever they can find a spot.

There's no one in control. No national guard. no police. And certainly no FEMA.

Inside we've gotten disturbing news of many dead bodies and nothing to be done with them. CNN's Chris Lawrence got word to us that right in front of him an infant died. That's where people are going for help and there's simply none for them.

But don't worry. We've got all the Guardsmen we need.

Tom Tomorrow:
The Superdome

Like something out of Bosch:

The sick and the disabled were the first to be led out. But late Wednesday afternoon, as the slow evacuation of the Superdome began, it was not always easy to distinguish them from the rest of the 20,000 or more storm refugees who had steeped for days in the arena's sickening heat and stench, unbathed, exhausted and hungry.

* * *

They had flocked to the arena seeking sanctuary from the winds and waters of Hurricane Katrina. But understaffed, undersupplied and without air-conditioning or even much lighting, the domed stadium quickly became a sweltering and surreal vault, a place of overflowing toilets and no showers. Food and water, blankets and sheets, were in short supply. And the dome's reluctant residents exchanged horror stories, including reports, which could not be confirmed by the authorities, of a suicide and of rapes.

* * *

By Wednesday the stink was staggering. Heaps of rotting garbage in bulging white plastic bags baked under a blazing Louisiana sun on the main entry plaza, choking new arrivals as they made their way into the stadium after being plucked off rooftops and balconies.

The odor billowing from toilets was even fouler. Trash spilled across corridors and aisles, slippery with smelly mud and scraps of food.

* * *

It got worse. Ms. Rousell recalled hearing a loud bang Tuesday afternoon as the body of a man slapped the concrete at the edge of the football field in a fatal suicidal plunge, after he apparently learned that his home had been destroyed. Others told of fights that broke out in food lines, and of a husband and wife who slugged each other in a wild argument.

Several residents said they had heard of children being raped, though it was not clear whether anyone reported such incidents to the authorities, and no officials could be found who could confirm the accounts.

Darcel Monroe, 21, a bakery cashier, stammered hysterically as she recounted seeing two young girls being raped in one of the women's bathrooms. "A lot of people saw it but they were afraid to do anything," she said. "He ran out past all of us."

And what CNN is reporting (via Atrios) is even worse:

We've just gotten word that there are many, many dead bodies, and while they were there they even saw a baby die.

I'm just glad that Jonah Goldberg was able to get a chuckle out of the whole thing back on Sunday:

ATTN: SUPERDOME RESIDENTS [Jonah Goldberg] I think it's time to face facts. That place is going to be a Mad Max/thunderdome Waterworld/Lord of the Flies horror show within the next few hours. My advice is to prepare yourself now. Hoard weapons, grow gills and learn to communicate with serpents. While you're working on that, find the biggest guy you can and when he's not expecting it beat him senseless. Gather young fighters around you and tell the womenfolk you will feed and protect any female who agrees to participate without question in your plans to repopulate the earth with a race of gilled-supermen. It's never too soon to be prepared.

Tom Tomorrow:
More to read

There are a lot of links in this Kos diary which back up Bob's assertion below--New Orleans is a casualty of the war in Iraq. I'm just going to post excerpts here, you can click through for the source links.

It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us. -- Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; New Orleans Times-Picayune, June 8, 2004.

* * *

The $750 million Lake Pontchartrain and Vicinity Hurricane Protection project is another major Corps project, which remains about 20% incomplete due to lack of funds, said Al Naomi, project manager. That project consists of building up levees and protection for pumping stations on the east bank of the Mississippi River in Orleans, St. Bernard, St. Charles and Jefferson parishes.
The Lake Pontchartrain project is slated to receive $3.9 million in the president's 2005 budget. Naomi said about $20 million is needed.

"The longer we wait without funding, the more we sink," he said. "I've got at least six levee construction contracts that need to be done to raise the levee protection back to where it should be (because of settling). Right now I owe my contractors about $5 million. And we're going to have to pay them interest."

* * *

That second study would take about four years to complete and would cost about $4 million, said Army Corps of Engineers project manager Al Naomi. About $300,000 in federal money was proposed for the 2005 fiscal-year budget, and the state had agreed to match that amount.
But the cost of the Iraq war forced the Bush administration to order the New Orleans district office not to begin any new studies, and the 2005 budget no longer includes the needed money, he said.

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

And then there's this:

The Senate was seeking to restore some of the SELA funding cuts for 2006. But now it's too late. One project that a contractor had been racing to finish this summer was a bridge and levee job right at the 17th Street Canal, site of the main breach. The levee failure appears to be causing a human tragedy of epic proportions:

"We probably have 80 percent of our city under water; with some sections of our city the water is as deep as 20 feet. Both airports are underwater," Mayor Ray Nagin told a radio interviewer.

Washington knew that this day could come at any time, and it knew the things that needed to be done to protect the citizens of New Orleans. But in the tradition of the riverboat gambler, the Bush administration decided to roll the dice on its fool's errand in Iraq, and on a tax cut that mainly benefitted the rich.

And now Bush has lost that gamble, big time. We hope that Congress will investigate what went wrong here.

The president told us that we needed to fight in Iraq to save lives here at home, and yet -- after moving billions of domestic dollars to the Persian Gulf -- there are bodies floating through the streets of Louisiana. What does George W. Bush have to say for himself now?

The first time I went to New Orleans, my reaction was probably similar that of most tourists: the city is below sea level? The only reason it's not flooded is because of machines that operate twenty four hours a day?

We used to call San Francisco "the city that waits to die." But New Orleans was a city on 24/7 life support. And what George Bush did, effectively, was pull the plug because he needed to spend the money elsewhere.

My emotions today run the gamut from anger to despair. Goddamn these incompetent motherfuckers.

* * *
...here's one more, via the same Kos diary:

JACKSON BARRACKS -- When members of the Louisiana National Guard left for Iraq in October, they took a lot equipment with them. Dozens of high water vehicles, humvees, refuelers and generators are now abroad, and in the event of a major natural disaster that, could be a problem. "The National Guard needs that equipment back home to support the homeland security mission," said Lt. Colonel Pete Schneider with the LA National Guard.

That article was datelined August 1.

You'll hear plenty of administration officials insisting that they have all the Guardsmen and equipment they need. And if you believe that, you probably also believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. The right-wing noise machine will do their best to drown out and discredit anyone who points this out now, but I promise you, within six months it will be conventional wisdom and the right wingers will simply clear their throats and look away when the topic comes up.

Tom Tomorrow:
And so it begins

From a reader:

i haven't seen too much about this (atrios has a little thing about gas shortages in atlanta), but i thought that since i live in northern mississippi i might as well shoot you a line about what's going on. basically, the gas stations here are running out and saying that they don't know when more gas will come. most of them have already instituted some type of rationing. the station down the road from my house has a $25 limit, and my boss visited one last night with a 5 gallon limit per customer. there are long, long lines at the gas pumps, prices are soaring, fights are breaking out, and people are getting into wrecks trying to get in there. i'm told that there are cities around here that are already completely dry.

Because this catastrophe snuck up on us in slow motion, I think a lot of people haven't really come to terms with the immensity of it. This is going to affect us all, for a long time, in ways we can't even begin to imagine. Gas lines and price gouging are only the beginning.

(What's happening in your area as a result of Katrina? Send your stories.)

Tom Tomorrow:

Thanks to the readers who took part in my little fundraiser yesterday. I'll forward payment to the Red Cross, and send out the posters, as soon as all the payments clear.

Raising a thousand bucks in a few hours isn't bad, but unfortunately it's a drop in a bottomless well right now. I do urge you all to click the (donated) ad over to the right and give something, even if it's just a couple of bucks. (If you can't see the ad yet, click the link at the top of the page.)

Tom Tomorrow:
Deja vu all over again

Four years ago it was Condi telling us that no one could have possibly foreseen the use of a jetliner in a terrorist attack, even though many people had suggested exactly that possibility. Now we have George Bush telling us:

"I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees."

Via Echidne, who provides various links which readily refute this idiocy. And here's one more, from Scientific American in 2001:

THE BOXES are stacked eight feet high and line the walls of the large, windowless room. Inside them are new body bags, 10,000 in all. If a big, slow-moving hurricane crossed the Gulf of Mexico on the right track, it would drive a sea surge that would drown New Orleans under 20 feet of water. "As the water recedes," says Walter Maestri, a local emergency management director, "we expect to find a lot of dead bodies."

New Orleans is a disaster waiting to happen. The city lies below sea level, in a bowl bordered by levees that fend off Lake Pontchartrain to the north and the Mississippi River to the south and west. And because of a damning confluence of factors, the city is sinking further, putting it at increasing flood risk after even minor storms. The low-lying Mississippi Delta. which buffers the city from the gulf, is also rapidly disappearing. A year from now another 25 to 30 square miles of delta marsh--an area the size of Manhattan--will have vanished. An acre disappears every 24 minutes. Each loss gives a storm surge a clearer path to wash over the delta and pour into the bowl, trapping one million people inside and another million in surrounding communities. Extensive evacuation would be impossible because the surging water would cut off the few escape routes. Scientists at Louisiana State University (L.S.U.), who have modeled hundreds of possible storm tracks on advanced computers, predict that more than 100,000 people could die. The body bags wouldn't go very far.

A direct hit is inevitable. Large hurricanes come close every year. In 1965 Hurricane Betsy put parts of the city under eight feet of water. In 1992 monstrous Hurricane Andrew missed the city by only 100 miles. In 1998 Hurricane Georges veered east at the last moment but still caused billions of dollars of damage. At fault are natural processes that have been artificially accelerated by human tinkering--levying rivers, draining wetlands, dredging channels and cutting canals through marshes [see map on pages 80 and 81]. Ironically, scientists and engineers say the only hope is more manipulation, although they don't necessarily agree on which proposed projects to pursue. Without intervention, experts at L.S.U. warn, the protective delta will be gone by 2090. The sunken city would sit directly on the sea--at best a troubled Venice, at worst a modern-day Atlantis.

But no one could have foreseen this.

Look, I've seen the conservatives and the Sensible Liberals saying that this disaster shouldn't be politicized. In other words, we shouldn't talk about the decisions that were made beforehand regarding the levee system, and we shouldn't discuss the ways in which the commitment of funds and manpower to Iraq will affect recovery efforts, and we shouldn't discuss Bush's bizarre decision to spend a day giving canned stump speeches before heading back to D.C., and we shouldn't discuss the decisions that will be made in the days ahead--and I say, bullshit. Bush is clearly operating under no such constraint--he's obviously anticipating the criticism and trying to deflect it.

And as Josh says:

I'm sorry. I know we're supposed to be observing an accountability free moment for the president. But there are just too many examples out there of the ways in which his policies have contributed to and accentuated this crisis: systematic cuts in levee and pump construction around New Orleans, phasing out FEMA and the apparently the whole concept of national coordination of the response to natural disasters. That's a great idea, isn't it?

* * *

Yes, let's save everyone and everything we can. People on the scene and in the surrounding region are pulling together in amazing ways. But no more letting this man's failures become his own argument against accountability. It's always been a live-for-today presidency.

Tom Tomorrow:
Waiting for a leader

NY Times lead editorial:

George W. Bush gave one of the worst speeches of his life yesterday, especially given the level of national distress and the need for words of consolation and wisdom. In what seems to be a ritual in this administration, the president appeared a day later than he was needed. He then read an address of a quality more appropriate for an Arbor Day celebration: a long laundry list of pounds of ice, generators and blankets delivered to the stricken Gulf Coast. He advised the public that anybody who wanted to help should send cash, grinned, and promised that everything would work out in the end.

We will, of course, endure, and the city of New Orleans must come back. But looking at the pictures on television yesterday of a place abandoned to the forces of flood, fire and looting, it was hard not to wonder exactly how that is going to come to pass. Right now, hundreds of thousands of American refugees need our national concern and care. Thousands of people still need to be rescued from imminent peril. Public health threats must be controlled in New Orleans and throughout southern Mississippi. Drivers must be given confidence that gasoline will be available, and profiteering must be brought under control at a moment when television has been showing long lines at some pumps and spot prices approaching $4 a gallon have been reported.

Sacrifices may be necessary to make sure that all these things happen in an orderly, efficient way. But this administration has never been one to counsel sacrifice. And nothing about the president's demeanor yesterday - which seemed casual to the point of carelessness - suggested that he understood the depth of the current crisis.

While our attention must now be on the Gulf Coast's most immediate needs, the nation will soon ask why New Orleans's levees remained so inadequate. Publications from the local newspaper to National Geographic have fulminated about the bad state of flood protection in this beloved city, which is below sea level. Why were developers permitted to destroy wetlands and barrier islands that could have held back the hurricane's surge? Why was Congress, before it wandered off to vacation, engaged in slashing the budget for correcting some of the gaping holes in the area's flood protection?



August 31, 2005

Tom Tomorrow:

This was a promotional piece for an alt-weekly convention held in New Orleans in 2001. There aren't many left but I've had a few tucked away in the flatfiles for a rainy day--and I'd say this qualifies. So I'm putting five of them up for sale now: $200 apiece postpaid and signed, every penny goes to the Red Cross.

Update: looks like all posters are spoken for.

Bob Harris:
New Orleans as a casualty of the war in Iraq

Horrible. Unthinkable. But read the article. (I've added emphasis to a few lines below.)

When flooding from a massive rainstorm in May 1995 killed six people, Congress authorized the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, or SELA.

Over the next 10 years, the Army Corps of Engineers, tasked with carrying out SELA, spent $430 million on shoring up levees and building pumping stations, with $50 million in local aid. But at least $250 million in crucial projects remained, even as hurricane activity in the Atlantic Basin increased dramatically and the levees surrounding New Orleans continued to subside.

Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a trickle. The [U.S. Army Corps of Engineers] never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming at the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the strain.

And this was reported at the time. Not as a partisan attack. As a public safety issue.

At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars.

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

On June 8, 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, told the Times-Picayune: "It appears that the money has been moved in the president’s budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that’s the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can’t be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us."

This is not a left/right issue. The Army Corps of Engineers, who described the reasons for the money shift, are hardly a left-wing organization. This is not a partisan issue. Plenty of Democrats bought into the war wholesale, and plenty of them still do.

Here it is: the money to maintain the levees was apparently yanked away for the same reason half the Louisiana National Guard was.

We may never know if the levees would have held if the funding hadn't been shifted to Iraq. But if so, there would be only one conclusion:

New Orleans has become a casualty of the war in Iraq.


August 30, 2005

Tom Tomorrow:
When the levee breaks

Think of everything this country has done over the past four years in the name of fighting terrorism--the Patriot Act, the invasion of Iraq, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, etc., etc. Americans have shrugged at some of it, eagerly embraced the rest. Why? Because of our collective inchoate fear of another catastrophic attack...an attack which only in the wildest neocon paranoid wet dream would inflict more damage than Hurricane Katrina actually has inflicted.

We've been told for four years that we're at war to preserve our freedom, our way of life, our very civilization.

Well, this is in no way meant to downplay the suffering along the Gulf Coast tonight, or the immensity of this tragedy--but this is what we've been afraid of for the past four years, this level of destruction.

This is bad, really bad, probably much worse than we know--but civilization itself is not at risk.

* * *

I'm not saying we should just roll over and let The Terrorists run willy nilly through the streets tossing dirty bombs every which way with gleeful abandon. I'm saying that even in a fairly worst-case scenario, another major terrorist attack which manages to inflict anything close to the destruction of Hurricane Katrina--even then, the the only real danger to our way of life, to democracy itself, comes from our own leaders deciding that a free society is just way too much damn trouble.

* * *

It's not the damage done to us, by whatever means--we can pick ourselves up and mourn our dead and rebuild. It's the damage we do to ourselves that may be irreparable.

* * *

Having said that...this really has been a disaster unfolding in slow motion. I was busy last week when Katrina first started making the news, and didn't pay a lot of attention. The catastrophic warnings on Sunday finally made me sit up and take notice--but then on Monday, we were told that New Orleans had dodged the bullet. And then the water started pouring in. And now--I think we're only starting to grasp the immensity of this. An entire major American city has been evacuated, and isn't slated to have power or basic necessities for months. That's a half million people homeless tonight, without even taking into account the rest of the coast. Add in the damage to the oil refineries, and I can't even begin to imagine what the cumulative effect of all this will be on an already-shaky economy--but if I had to guess I'd say that that economy is about to take a nose dive straight into the crapper. And that would be the good scenario.

Greg Saunders :
AWOL again....

I really hate to be the first person to "go there", but I'm a firm believer in the notion that it's during the tough times that you find out who your real friends are. Not to draw too fine a parallel or anything, but the President sure has a knack for skipping out on a crisis until other people have the situation under control. For example, there's this largely forgotten bit of trivia from a couple days after 9/11:

Over now familiar refrains of "that's unreal," and "I can't believe it," and pregnant moans of "wow," a spectacle of a different kind captured unblinking New Yorkers yesterday afternoon. Out of Manhattan's Union Square came a welcome and commanding sight: former President Bill Clinton, surrounded by a growing mass of people.
. . .
Clinton, who was in Australia when New York and Washington, D.C., were attacked, said he had spent the previous 24 hours flying to New York on an Air Force plane.
. . .
Many said Clinton's short appearance both magnified and made up for what they called President George W. Bush's shortcomings during this crisis. The White House announced that the president would visit New York, for the first time, today.

"So far he has not been a comforting presence," said Emily Vacchiano, 26, who lives in SoHo. "He has not conveyed compassion or strength. Just the sight of him [Clinton] cheered everyone up today."

At the same time, the recently departed Peter Jennings was taking flack from the right-wing for justifiably asking "Where is the President of the United States?". It's not that anyone expected him to jump into the rubble and start pulling out bodies, but it would be nice for our leaders to actually...y'know, lead every once in a while.

With that situation, of course, you could make the argument that Bush was being held back by the Secret Service or that there was enough uncertainty to make the case that traveling to New York or Washington might put the President in danger. (Besides, why rush back when Giuliani is doing a better job for him?) But this is a different matter entirely. The full potential of the levee breaks in New Orleans has been known for almost 24 hours now (3-4 days if you count the warnings over the weekend), yet the President has still been mostly M.I.A. Curious about how he's been spending his day??

Speaking to a crowd of sailors and Marines near San Diego, Bush described the Iraq war and World War II as crucial tests of American resolve in the face of evil. He also painted a grim picture of the consequences of failure, warning that Iraq could turn into an oil-rich haven for international terrorists.
. . .
The president's visit to Naval Air Station North Island was part of a White House effort to shore up support for the war. Recent polls show widespread unease over the war. An Aug. 5-7 Gallup Poll, for example, found that 54 percent of Americans thought the war was a mistake. Still, most Americans said they opposed a quick withdrawal.
And this was all after the levees broke. Thousands of people are missing or dead in what's being called one of the worst natural disasters in the nation's history, but the President is still worried about his poll numbers? Here's one small example of what's happening while the President tries to convince people that he's FDR :
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said hundreds, if not thousands, of people may still be stuck on roofs and in attics, and so rescue boats were bypassing the dead.

"We're not even dealing with dead bodies," Nagin said. "They're just pushing them on the side."

And I haven't even mentioned the declaration of martial law, the increased threat the flood will take as the waters become more polluted by toxic chemicals, the looming disease outbreak that will happen due to standing water and the rotting corpses of humans and animals, rampant looting, and the refugee situation in the Superdome. The news coming out of Louisiana has been growing steadily worse since last night and the country could really use a leader right now. Delaying your return to work for something as unimportant as a stump speech isn't gonna cut it. I wonder if Rudy is doing anything today?

Tom Tomorrow:
Catastrophe in slow motion

Just in case you haven't seen the news since everyone was saying that New Orleans had dodged the worst case scenario, things have gone steadily to hell today.

The historic city of New Orleans was steadily filling with water from nearby Lake Ponchartrain on Tuesday after its defenses were breached by the ferocity of hurricane Katrina.

With the floodwaters rising in many areas, threatening the French Quarter, residents were plucked from the roofs of their homes, bodies were seen floating in the streets and rescuers searched the city in boats and helicopters.

"We probably have 80 percent of our city under water; with some sections of our city the water is as deep as 20 feet. Both airports are underwater," Mayor Ray Nagin told a radio interviewer.

New Orleans, a city that usually throbs with the life of its carnivals and the sound of jazz and blues, was in a "state of devastation," Nagin said.

In many residential areas TV pictures showed the water was up to roof level after the surge caused by Katrina breached a section of the levee along a canal leading from Lake Ponchartrain, which looms to the north of the city.

Much of New Orleans, a city of some 500,000, lies in a bowl below sea level, bounded by the lake and the Mississippi River, North America's biggest river, which curves along the south of the city before discharging in the Gulf of Mexico.

"We always were afraid the bowl that is New Orleans would fill quickly," Walter Maestri, emergency management coordinator for Jefferson Parish, said in a radio interview. "Now with the water rising today, it appears to be filling slowly," he said.

Add to this the rest of the Gulf Coast devastation, and I don't think we've even begun to comprehend what this means. We're all going to be feeling the impact of this for a long time, one way or another. They're saying that it will be months before the city of New Orleans is even marginally functional again. For all practical purposes, a major American city has just been wiped off the map.

(On a personal note, here's hoping my friends from the Gambit Weekly are safe and well.)

Tom Tomorrow:

I'm not the first person to point this out, but how is the deployment of so many Guardsmen to Iraq going to affect rescue operations in hurricane-devasted areas? Are people dying down there because so many of the men and women who thought they were volunteering to help out in just this sort of emergency ended up in Iraq instead?

Tom Tomorrow:
Reading assignment

I read a lot of commentary and analysis each day, but it's rare that I read something as cogent as this:

The unbridgeable divide between the left and right’s approach to Iraq and the WoT is, among other things, a disagreement over the value of moral and material strength, with the left placing a premium on the former and the right on the latter. The right (broadly speaking) can’t fathom why the left is driven into fits of rage over every Abu Ghraib, every Gitmo, every secret rendition, every breach of civil liberties, every shifting rationale for war, every soldier and civilian killed in that war, every Bush platitude in support of it, every attempt to squelch dissent. They see the left's protestations as appeasement of a ruthless enemy. For the left (broadly speaking), America’s moral strength is of paramount importance; without it, all the brute force in the world won’t keep us safe, defeat our enemies, and preserve our role as the world’s moral leader.....

War hawks squeal about America-haters and traitors, heaping scorn on the so-called “blame America first" crowd, but they fail to comprehend that the left reserves the deepest disdain for those who squander our moral authority. The scars of a terrorist attack heal and we are sadder but stronger for having lived through it. When our moral leadership is compromised by people draped in the American flag, America is weakened. The loss of our moral compass leaves us rudderless, open to attacks on our character and our basic decency. And nothing makes our enemies prouder. They can't kill us all, but if they permanently stain our dignity, they've done irreparable harm to America.

The antiwar critique of Iraq is that it is an immoral war and every resulting death is a wrongful one. Opponents of the war view the invasion and occupation as a dangerous and shameful violation of international law. Iraq saps our moral strength and the sooner we leave the better. Opposing the invasion on the grounds that the administration lied its way into it, they see every subsequent death, American or foreign, as an ethical travesty and a stain on America's good name.

They have held this view consistently since 2002. Millions marched down the streets of our cities before the invasion, believing that the administration’s claim that Saddam Hussein constituted a dire and imminent threat to the US was absurd on its face (whether or not the exact word ‘imminent’ was used is a semantic exercise, the implication was clear). Where the hawks screamed that Saddam gassed his own people, the war's opponents countered that there is no shortage of murderous tyrants. Where the hawks said that Saddam wouldn't hesitate to arm terrorists, the war's opponents argued that there’s no lack of regimes that will help terrorists obtain lethal weapons.

For the less gullible among us, the administration’s alarmist rhetoric in 2002 was a grim farce, and the unfolding of the nightmare we see today was a foregone conclusion. Saddam was no greater or immediate a threat – and arguably a lesser one – than North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, or Saudi Arabia. Hindsight has proven these war critics correct. Few dispute that the threat from Saddam was over-stated - to put it mildly. And evidence continues to mount that the invasion was a fait accompli by 2002 if not 2001. Calling for an immediate pullout from Iraq has nothing to do with capitulation and everything to do with righting a moral wrong and undoing the damage done to America's moral standing.

As the kids say, read the whole thing.

Tom Tomorrow:
Make a chickenhawk squawk

Operation Yellow Elephant is having a contest.

Create signs relating to Operation Yellow Elephant's mission to expose the hypocrisy of hawkish College Republicans and other young conservatives who are too cowardly to fight in the war they demanded. Post these signs near roadways and pedestrian pathways on or near college campuses. Photograph your work and send it to me. I'll post them here. In early October, the OYE Contributing Writers and the Freeway Blogger will pick a winner.

They've got fabulous prizes, too.

* * *

On a related note, Steve Gilliard is handing out medals, here, here and here.

* * *

And while I'm on the topic...there's been an attempt lately to counter the 'chickenhawk' meme with a fairly obvious straw man--are you saying that only people with military experience are entitled to have opinions? It's a feeble attempt to deflect attention from the real question: how you can sleep at night if you really and truly believe the war is a necessary thing, as long as it is fought by others? Hell, most of these people would probably scream bloody murder if you even tried to rescind their tax cuts to help offset the expense of this fucking war.

* * *

Finally: that strange image at the top of this post is something I picked up in a souvenir shop in Nashville. It's also my gift to any blogger looking for an apporopriate graphic on this topic--take it, it's yours.

Tom Tomorrow:
Extreme Makeover: Iraq
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Amal Ramzi Ismail had been up since dawn glancing out the window of her neighbor's house at the wreckage of her own home, destroyed when American soldiers blew up a munitions cache nearby. Then, at 10:40 a.m., what she had been waiting for all morning finally arrived - an Iraqi television crew pulled up in a blue minivan with a flurry of dust and rushed over to Ms. Ismail's house.

Laborers were already toiling away, hammering planks, laying bricks and pouring concrete. They had begun their work in early August, when an Iraqi television network hired a contractor to rebuild the house.

"I get chills thinking about this," said Ms. Ismail, whose father had died from injuries he suffered in the explosion, as she raced across the street in a blue robe toward a cameraman filming the laborers. "Words can't express how grateful I am."

So went a recent taping in mid-August of "Materials and Labor," a homegrown Iraqi show inspired by "This Old House" and "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," but with a twist of "Apocalypse Now."

Reality TV could turn out to be the most durable Western import in Iraq. It has taken root with considerably greater ease than American-style democracy. Since spring 2004, when "Materials and Labor" made its debut, a constellation of reality shows has burst onto TV screens across Iraq.

True to the genre, "Materials and Labor" has a simple conceit at its heart - Al Sharqiya, an Iraqi satellite network, offers Baghdad residents the chance to have homes that were destroyed by the war rebuilt at no cost to them.

* * *

"This is the only good thing we've acquired from the American occupation," Majid al-Samarraie, the writer of "Materials and Labor," said as he watched the reconstruction of Ms. Ismail's home.

Since its start, the show has financed the repair of six homes. Two of those were destroyed by car bombs, two during the detonation of munitions by American soldiers, one by American armor and the sixth by an American airstrike. (After being rebuilt by Al Sharqiya, one of the homes had its windows blown out again by an explosion.)

Mr. Samarraie said each episode, by showing the ravages of war and the callousness of politicians, serves as a critique of the Americans and the Iraqi government.

"There are hundreds of homes damaged across Iraq," he said, his voice rising. "Falluja, Najaf, Karbala, Tal Afar, Haditha, Qaim - they're all asking for compensation, but it's hopeless. With our show, we're trying to plant a smile on the lips of those people."

Full story.


August 29, 2005

Tom Tomorrow:

So I'm looking through the hurricane photos on Yahoo, and I notice the little automatically generated ad at the bottom of the page:

My first thought is, well, gosh, that's tasteless. But then I wonder if there actually are Hurricane Katrina items up on eBay already. So I click through.

It will probably not surprise you to learn that there are, in plentiful quantities. Those of you seeking souvenirs of the destruction and human tragedy left in Katrina's wake can choose from several versions of "I survived Hurricane Katrina" t-shirts; shirts with the satellite map image which extoll survivors to "Prepare, Endure, Rebuild" (20% of profits donated to relief funds!); numerous Katrina & the Waves items which may or may not have been posted in reaction to the hurricane; several seashells washed up by Katrina; the seemingly ill-conceived "NOReliefFund" .net, .org and .com domain names (10% of selling price donated to the Red Cross!); the HurricaneKatrina.BIZ domain name (no mention of any donated percentages); hurricane photos on CD; containers of real Hurricane Katrina rain; Atlantic Ocean coral from Hurricane Katrina; a keepsake described as "HURRICANE KATRINA ENGRAVED TAG < BLING BLING!!> HOTTT!"; a Segway-knockoff called an Electric Chariot, described as "Fast & strong like HURRICANE KATRINA"; and one apparently genuine offer of shelter from someone in a small house with one spare bedroom.

* * *
It goes without saying that we're hoping for the best for our friends in New Orleans and other affected areas. If you want to do something tangible, donate to the Red Cross.


August 28, 2005

The Philadelphia Experiment

The Iraqi constitutional "process" (now careening towards a bitter and divisive referendum) has already inspired one of the silliest historical analogies I think I've ever heard, at least since Ronald Reagan shuffled off the stage. Hardcore supporters of the democratic transformation of Iraq -- i.e. the deadenders -- have taken to comparing the political camel market in Baghdad to the American constitutional convention of 1787.

I've seen the idea parroted on any number of conservative "news" sites and right-wing blogs over the past few weeks, and we got a strong dose of it yesterday from the Vacationer in Chief himself:

Like our own nation's founders over two centuries ago, the Iraqis are grappling with difficult issues, such as the role of the federal government. What is important is that Iraqis are now addressing these issues through debate and discussion -- not at the barrel of a gun.

Leaving aside the dubious accuracy of that last sentence (which I'm sure would come as a surprise to the Mahdi Army, the Badr Brigade, the Wolf Brigade, the peshmerga, Jaish-e-Mohammad, the Iraqi National Islamic Resistance Front, Al-Awdah, the Al-Haqq Army, and every other war band currently trying to address Iraq's issues with the barrel of a gun) the entire premise is absurd.

The men who met in Philadelpha in the summer of 1787 were the winners of a protracted revolutionary struggle for national independence -- not the leaders of a collection of squabbling ethnic and religious factions, many of whom spent years in exile and then rode back into their native land on the backs of foreign tanks. The framers of the U.S. constitution expelled an occupying army. The founders of the New Iraq are guarded by one.

I've already noted the questionable legitimacy of a constitutional settlement essentially brokered -- if not flat out dictated -- by a U.S. proconsul in a series of backroom meetings with the likes of Ahmed Chalabi and his newfound friends in the Islamist camp. Many of the participants in those meetings weren't even official members of Iraq's constitutional drafting committee -- the body supposedly emulating the spirit of 1787.

I don't doubt there were many smoke-filled back rooms in the taverns of Philadelphia that fateful summer, but in Baghdad this summer there was hardly anything else. And if anyone had tried imitating James Madison's copious notetaking at those sessions -- so that at least history would know how Iraq was dismembered -- he probably would have wound up at the bottom of the Tigris.

And what would America's founders have made of political negotiations so rigidly divided along sectarian lines? Would there have been a Great Compromise in Philadelphia if every question had split the Episcopalians from the Methodists, or the Anglo-Saxons from the Celts? Their ancestors had already been through that kind of constitutional process -- the English Civil War.

It's also hard to picture the delegates in Philadelphia waiting around while the more devout among them ran proposed deals by their church elders to see if they passed religious muster, or fighting a knock-down, drag-out battle over whether the Bible should be cited as "a" primary legal source or "the" primary legal source -- not unless a time machine carried the leaders of the last Justice Sunday rally back 218 years and dropped them off at the corner of Third and Chesnut.

Obviously, I could go on and on about the absurdity of Shrub's claim -- even more absurd, in its own way, than when Ronald Reagan called the Nicaraguan contras the "moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers." The contras, at least, weren't fighting to establish an Islamic theocracy.

More at the Whiskey Bar.


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