Friday, September 02, 2005


Bush to N.O.: "Drop dead."

You've probably been just like me these past five days, eyes glued to the television, ears fastened to the radio, unable to really comprehend the news from New Orleans and the Mississippi coast. Could it really be? An American metro area of over a million people laid to waste, almost abandandoned and uninhabitable? People left behind forced to live as animals as the subhumans among them have ravaged the streets, taking anything they can get their hands on and shooting anything that moves. And then the stories of thousands forgotten and forsaken, the sun beating down on them and water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.

For four days they've waited at the convention center, and no one has come to help until today. Consider that throughout the city, people have been so isolated in their despair, they haven't a clue what's going on anywhere. You and I know infinitely more about what's happening in their own city than they do. They must think the world has ended. And for all the help they've gotten, it might as well have.

A woman is photographed by the shrouded cancer-ridden body of her husband, who suffocated after running out of the oxygen he needed. A boy of about 10 or 11 among the throngs at the convention center telling reporters that he had passed out earlier from the heat. An old man joining looters at a Walgreen's, expressing regret that he's been reduced to this. His plunder? A box of Depends for his incontinence.

And you've probably watched all this with that same awful feeling in your gut that you felt on Sept. 11. You sure never thought you'd feel this way four years later, if ever again in your life, certainly not by anything on the news. At least on Sept. 11, there were uplifting stories about humans helping humans. This time there seems to be little but ugliness in what pundit David Brooks referred to on this evening's News Hour as the "anti-9/11."

The whole sad spectacle, the struggle for human survival, plays out as we sit in our living rooms like a bad network miniseries. Just picture Christine Lahti trying to fight her way out of hurricane-ravaged city against all sorts of perils, both human and natural.

And toward the end of this third-rate production, President Bush comes swaggering into the city with his entourage, letting us know that everything would be OK now. Four days after the dreaded Big One finally hits New Orleans our president arrives accompanied by the first real convoy of National Guard troops, not just the skeleton crew we've seen working valiantly but futilely.

"I'm not going to foget what I've seen," Bush says.

Isn't that nice? Never mind the people killed in the hurricane. We have perhaps thousnds who have died of dehydration and exposure, as well as goodness knows what, and all because nobody showed up to help. But at least Bush feels really bad about this whole mess.

"The results are not enough," Bush said, laughably understating the response.

I know what some of my critics might be thinking. I'm shamelessly exploiting this catastrophe for the sake of a few political points. But that's not it at all. What I'm expressing is pure rage. Plenty of Republicans, including Newt Gingrich, have expressed their own outrage over how badly President Bush responded to this mess. There should have been 50,000 troops down there by now. They should have been rolling in within hours after the storm. Of course the question will be increasingly asked in coming days whether the ongoing commitment to Iraq has affected the military's ability to provide the assistance really needed on the Gulf Coast.

There's also a larger, more disturbing side to this pathetic response from Washington, a true slap in the face compared with the hundreds of billions of dollars thrown at Iraq and for tax cuts for the wealthy. This sad situation appears to be the logical end result in an ongoing 30-year attack on our government and its ability to help average Americans or even (Gasp!) the poor. Government is evil, we've been told. It's our enemy. And we shouldn't rely on the government's help anyway. Right?

I know that nobody of any political persuasion would wish the suffering of the last few days on anyone. And I also know that everyone across the ideological spectrum would have preferred a more decisive response. But when we continue to shrink government to the size that we can drag it into the bathtub and drown it, as Grover Norquist put it, should we be surprised that this is all our government can do for us?

News from New Orleans
Since Sunday night, I've been keeping a close watch on the New Orleans Times-Picayune website. The staff had to evacuate the newspaper's building, and the paper was published only as a blog from Tuesday until today, when it appears to have again come out in paper. To read those blog postings with all their drama and pathos is truly heartbreaking. Perhaps the most heart-wrenching part was to read postings by people trapped in their homes:

From the files of the Peter Principle
I don't know if FEMA Director Michael Brown, whom President Bush praised today as doing a swell job, is a big liar or if he is so incredibly incompetent that he hasn't a clue what's happening in New Orleans, but CNN juxtaposes his outrageously rosy statements with the observations of people who actually are on the scene:

Wonder what Uncle Sam was doing to stave off this catastrophe? You can read about it in this story in an obscure New Orleans business journal from last June:

Although I don't want to politicize a serious situation in New Orleans, I don't want to hear it from my conservative friends criticizing the politicizing this catastrophe also. Remember, there were some conservative voices who blamed 9-11 on the Liberal state of our country. If I hear one of God's so-called pundits blame this as God's revenge on a licentious, morally corrupt society, I will personally hunt them down and shoot them myself.
What an incredibly mean spirited petty lump of hogwash, South Mouth. You really need to search your soul, this is beneath you. Its obvious that you ARE politicizing this. Saying that you aren't, doesn't make it so. You hate Bush, and its crystal clear from all of your post that you will find some angle to demonize him in everything he does.

And I guess that's what it all comes down to - your hatrid of Bush. Your mad because you hate Bush, and because you hate him, you don't trust him, and because you don't trust him, you assume he does every evil thing possible. In this case you assume he's sitting around twiddling his thumbs, laughing at the little people. In other cases, you assume he had knowledge of the lack of WMD that nobody else in the world has, and lied.
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