Saturday, September 03, 2005
(This post is safe to skip unless you enjoy rants, for rant I shall.)
Sri Lanka is offering aid to the survivors of hurricane Katrina. At least twenty other countries are offering aid to these survivors, including Cuba and Venezuela. Other American states have been offering aid, pleading, begging, praying to be allowed to offer aid. Nearly three hundred million dollars have been sent to the American Red Cross by ordinary people of all types.
Nobody knows how many have drowned in the filthy waters of Katrina's wake, how many have died of thirst, of hunger, of the absence of someone who knows how to help. Nobody knows how many have died of gunshot wounds, how many have been raped, how many have just been too tired to stand on tiptoe in their hot attics, in water up to their necks, hoping for aid.
Nobody knows who gave the orders that keeps aid agencies outside New Orleans, though we know that the reason for these orders is in Order itself: the god of rigidity, ranking and property. Let's not spread food and water around freely; people might not leave and others might come back. Chaos. That keeping order will result in neatly ordered tiers of corpses seems like a small price to pay.
Let's not let anyone out of the city on their own, either. That way lies chaos. Decide on a few collecting points and have people gather there for the purpose of being picked up by buses. But where are the collecting points, does anyone know? Do those know who are standing in the heat without water or food? Does the woman with untreated diabetes know? Or the old man in his attic? Or the family with all those crying children? At least there are collecting points, neatly marked in the planning files. So there is Order.
I'm a stupid goddess. The god of Order knows that help must be under control, under one capable director. Otherwise chaos results. It is good to ban aid from entering the ravaged city, good to ban pedestrians from leaving, good to ban other states or countries from helping, because we need one leader, one pyramid of operations, one voice telling us what to do.
And do we hear this voice? What is it telling the suffering people of New Orleans and Louisiana? Is it whispering? Why can't I hear anything? Something?
Wait a minute! I do hear something! Excuses and accusations, lots of spin. Masterful spin! Yes, someone is in charge who knows how to spin. What a relief. If only those pictures from the city would leave my retinas, if those voices of survivors, reporters and doctors in the stinking wrecks of hospitals would be silenced, if I could somehow stop finding more and more evidence of callous, uncaring, unthinking, unplanning greed and cowardice, then I could sleep.
Sleep in my clean bed, in my safe room, far away from those who can't sleep or don't have beds. Sleep like an innocent, like a corpse, like the members of this administration. Sleep like the city of New Orleans will, for months, if not for years. Sleep.
A harsh title, but it is deserved for those who have kept the aid agencies out of New Orleans, and for those who caused this delay:
Several states ready and willing to send National Guard troops to the rescue in hurricane-ravaged New Orleans didn't get the go-ahead until days after the storm struck - a delay nearly certain to be investigated by Congress.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson offered Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco help from his state's National Guard on Sunday, the day before Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana. Blanco accepted, but paperwork needed to get the troops en route didn't come from Washington until late Thursday
And for those who didn't activate the CRAF provision earlier:
In addition to Guard help, the federal government could have activated, but did not, a major air support plan under a pre-existing contract with airlines. The program, called Civilian Reserve Air Fleet, lets the government quickly put private cargo and passenger planes into service.
The CRAF provision has been activated twice, once for the Persian Gulf War and again for the Iraq war.
The actual rescue is getting better, finally, and I am very happy to read about that. Now, how many days did it take? Let me think, the storm struck on Monday...
This is their answer. Read and weep:
Hurricane Katrina: Why is the Red Cross not in New Orleans?
* Acess to New Orleans is controlled by the National Guard and local authorities and while we are in constant contact with them, we simply cannot enter New Orleans against their orders.
* The state Homeland Security Department had requested--and continues to request--that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city.
* The Red Cross has been meeting the needs of thousands of New Orleans residents in some 90 shelters throughout the state of Louisiana and elsewhere since before landfall. All told, the Red Cross is today operating 149 shelters for almost 93,000 residents.
* The Red Cross shares the nation's anguish over the worsening situation inside the city. We will continue to work under the direction of the military, state and local authorities and to focus all our efforts on our lifesaving mission of feeding and sheltering.
* The Red Cross does not conduct search and rescue operations. We are an organization of civilian volunteers and cannot get relief aid into any location until the local authorities say it is safe and provide us with security and access.
* The original plan was to evacuate all the residents of New Orleans to safe places outside the city. With the hurricane bearing down, the city government decided to open a shelter of last resort in the Superdome downtown. We applaud this decision and believe it saved a significant number of lives.
* As the remaining people are evacuated from New Orleans, the most appropriate role for the Red Cross is to provide a safe place for people to stay and to see that their emergency needs are met. We are fully staffed and equipped to handle these individuals once they are evacuated.
Nice and logical. Too bad that the dead and the dying are inside New Orleans, and that most of us have been giving our money to an organization that has been frozen out.
Friday, September 02, 2005
CNN has an article which compares what officials say about the aftermath of Katrina to what journalists and other eyewitnesses actually on the site say. The disconnect is enormous. Granted, eyewitnesses can fail to see the totality of a disaster, but in this case the sum of all the eyewitness accounts does not make the totality of "things-under-control" that we fear from officials.
Physicians in hospitals are desperate for help, for example. Any disaster-control plan worth its salt would start with hospitals and other places where the truly helpless will be found.
This is what her office sent me:
Washington, DC - Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Rules, issues the following statement in response to the lack of accountability and poor response in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by the devastating destruction of Hurricane Katrina. I hope everyone will take a moment to lend their support to the recovery effort by making a donation to the American Red Cross.
Our brothers and sisters in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama need our help right now and it is incumbent upon each of us, as Americans, to reach out to them.
But make no mistake, the shock and grief we feel right now is giving way to anger. The Federal Government's woefully inadequate response to this disaster has been stunning.
We found out this week that we have no real, effective emergency preparedness in America. And it borders on criminal that our government could allow people to go without food and water for five days after a disaster of this magnitude, right here on American soil.
The lack of an adequate, swift response to this emergency should not be covered up with political grand standing and slaps on the back. This failure must not be swept under the rug.
Today, Congress will pass a $10.5 billion dollar emergency supplemental appropriation for Hurricane Katrina relief, which I will support. But this is simply not enough.
Over the last four years, the Bush Administration repeatedly cut funding which would have upgraded and improved the levees that protected New Orleans.
The American people must demand accountability for the lack of prevention and slow response to this disaster and Congress must work to ensure that these events are not ever repeated."
Why are they not happening in adequate numbers in New Orleans? I understand that snipers are shooting at the planes but is that the only reason? Don't we have enough planes to remove the patients and the staff from hospitals in the area? If there is an inadequate number of military planes, what about requisitioning private airline planes? As far as I can see this was done in 2003 for Iraq purposes.
September is the National Preparedness Month:
National Preparedness Month is a nationwide coordinated effort held each September to encourage Americans to take simple steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses and schools. National Preparedness Month 2005 is being co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the American Red Cross.
Attytood gives us this little lesson, via Eschaton:
We heard this on CNN (on satellite radio) last night while we were driving home and almost ran off the road. It was an exchange between anchor Aaron Brown and Jamie McIntyre, CNN's senior Pentagon correspondent, about the military seeking to explain it's slow response to Katrina:
MCINTYRE: And as to your question about political, I talked to a lot of people at the Pentagon today who were very frustrated about the fact that the perception was being created that the military didn't move fast enough. And they did it somewhat as political. They thought that part of the motivation was the critics of the administration to make the president look bad.
And they seemed to question the motives of some of our reporters who were out there and hearing these stories from the victims about why they had so much sympathy for the victims, and not as much sympathy for the challenges that the government met in meeting this challenge.
And I have to say thinking about that, it doesn't really seem all that unusual that you would tend to understand the plight of the victims a little more than the bureaucrats in Washington.
Jesus wept on hearing that one. I kicked the garage door in, again. When you show me the bureaucrat who has not had food or water for five days, who is living in a congested sports arena or on the street, among feces and corpses, who is watching infants and the elderly die and hearing gunshots in the distance, then I will have as much understanding for the bureaucrats as I have for the plight of the victims.
This has been the most fucking demonstration of incompetency I have ever observed in my life. What are the qualifications of the Bush appointed head of FEMA? Is it true that he used to be an estate lawyer?
Do you feel that the government can cope with a major terrorist attack after watching the events of the last five days unfold? Gah.
Added: This must be the best demonstration of what is wrong with the new media fashion of deciding that neutrality from the media requires giving each viewpoint equal weight, as in the idea that "Opinions on the Shape of the Earth Vary", as if there are no objective criteria to decide on anything. I thought that relativism was something extreme lefties are accused of? It doesn't take a long discussion to decide that job stresses of the bureaucrats are not equal causes for concern with people quite possibly dying from the effects of hurricane, lawlessness and government ineptitude.
Things are still bad:
Lt. Gen. Steven Blum of the National Guard said 7,000 National Guardsmen arriving in Louisiana on Friday would be dedicated to restoring order in New Orleans. He said half of them had just returned from assignments overseas and are ``highly proficient in the use of lethal force.'' He pledged to ``put down'' the violence ``in a quick and efficient manner.''
``But they are coming here to save Louisiana citizens. The only thing we are attacking is the effects of this hurricane,'' he said. Blum said that a huge airlift of supplies was landing Friday and that it signaled ``the cavalry is and will continue to arrive.''
As he left the White House for his visit to the devastated area, Bush said 600 newly arrived military police officers would be sent to the convention center to secure the site so that food and medicine could get there.
City officials have accused the government - namely the Federal Emergency Management Agency - of being slow to recognize the magnitude of the tragedy and slow to send help.
``Get off your asses and let's do something,'' Mayor Ray Nagin told WWL-AM Thursday night in a rambling interview in which he cursed, yelled and ultimately burst into tears. At one point he said: ``Excuse my French - everybody in America - but I am pissed.''
Across the city, law and order broke down. Police officers turned in their badges. Rescuers, law officers and helicopter were shot at by storm victims. Fistfights and fires broke out Thursday at the hot and stinking Superdome as thousands of people waited in misery to board buses for the Houston Astrodome. Corpses lay out in the open in wheelchairs and in bedsheets. The looting continued.
Thursday, September 01, 2005
A man covers the body of a man who died Thursday outside the Convention Center in New Orleans
And this is what people saw:
"There are multiple people dying at the convention center," Lawrence said. "There was an old woman, dead in a wheelchair with a blanket draped over her, pushed up against a wall. Horrible, horrible conditions.
"We saw a man who went into a seizure, literally dying right in front of us."
In a statement Thursday, Nagin said that "the convention center is unsanitary and unsafe and we are running out of supplies for (15,000 to 20,000) people."
He said the city would allow people to march up the Crescent City Connection to the Westbank Expressway in an effort to find help.
People were "being forced to live like animals," Lawrence said, surrounded by piles of trash and feces.
He said thousands of people were just laying in the ground outside the building -- many old, or sick, or caring for infants and small children.
And this is what people saw:
Doctors said there is lots of water in Charity Hospital's hallways. There's poor electricity and poor resources.
They are trying to move their patients down to Tulane's hospital.
The doctors were frightened for their lives. There was no police presence except for the private armed guards. There was no U.S. military presence. They were very concerned about this.
This is shocking as a doctor. As a human being, it's unbelievable.
Right now, I'm sitting at this airstrip in Baton Rouge waiting for a helicopter that is coming to evacuate infants. But they are indefinitely delayed because they think it is too dangerous to go in there and land a helicopter and bring these infants to Houston.
I've been in Iraq and Sri Lanka. It is remarkable that this is happening at hospitals here where patients are trying to be evacuated.
For where to donate, check Katrina 3.
This morning, about 7:05 am Eastern time, George Bush was interviewed by Diane Sawyers on ABC's Good Morning America. This is what he said:
"I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees."
Mm. Here is a quote from an article originally published on June 8, 2004 in the Times-Picayune:
For the first time in 37 years, federal budget cuts have all but stopped major work on the New Orleans area's east bank hurricane levees, a complex network of concrete walls, metal gates and giant earthen berms that won't be finished for at least another decade.
"I guess people look around and think there's a complete system in place, that we're just out here trying to put icing on the cake," said Mervin Morehiser, who manages the "Lake Pontchartrain and vicinity" levee project for the Army Corps of Engineers. "And we aren't saying that the sky is falling, but people should know that this is a work in progress, and there's more important work yet to do before there is a complete system in place."
"I can't tell you exactly what that could mean this hurricane season if we get a major storm," Naomi said. "It would depend on the path and speed of the storm, the angle that it hits us.
"But I can tell you that we would be better off if the levees were raised, . . . and I think it's important and only fair that those people who live behind the levee know the status of these projects."
The Bush administration's proposed fiscal 2005 budget includes only $3.9 million for the east bank hurricane project. Congress likely will increase that amount, although last year it bumped up the administration's $3 million proposal only to $5.5 million.
"I needed $11 million this year, and I got $5.5 million," Naomi said. "I need $22.5 million next year to do everything that needs doing, and the first $4.5 million of that will go to pay four contractors who couldn't get paid this year."
And here is an excerpt from May of this year:
In the event of a slow-moving Category 4 or Category 5 hurricane (with winds up to or exceeding 155 miles per hour), it's possible that only those crow's nests would remain above the water level. Such a storm, plowing over the lake, could generate a 20-foot surge that would easily overwhelm the levees of New Orleans, which only protect against a hybrid Category 2 or Category 3 storm (with winds up to about 110 miles per hour and a storm surge up to 12 feet). Soon the geographical "bowl" of the Crescent City would fill up with the waters of the lake, leaving those unable to evacuate with little option but to cluster on rooftops -- terrain they would have to share with hungry rats, fire ants, nutria, snakes, and perhaps alligators. The water itself would become a festering stew of sewage, gasoline, refinery chemicals, and debris.
I guess it all depends on what one means by "nobody" and "breach" and so on.
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
and never urged us to save gasoline.
This is the first observation for your deep thought of the day.
The second observation is that the speech was timed to fall within that short period of time when many people will be commuting and therefore unable to hear what Bush says. Good for another deep thought of the day.
Or you could just run around crazily when you realize that possibly, just possibly, we are being governed by someone who is totally out of it.
I dont know why she swallowed the fly Perhaps shell die
I know an old lady who swallowed a spider That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her She swallowed the spider to catch the fly But I dont know why she swallowed the fly Perhaps shell die
I know an old lady who swallowed a bird How absurd to swallow a bird She swallowed the bird to catch the spider That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her She swallowed the spider to catch the fly But I dont know why she swallowed the fly Perhaps shell die
I know an old lady who swallowed a cat Imagine that. she swallowed a cat. She swallowed the cat to catch the bird She swallowed the bird to catch the spider That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her She swallowed the spider to catch the fly But I dont know why she swallowed that fly Perhaps shell die
I know an old lady who swallowed a dog What a hog to swallow a dog! She swallowed the dog to catch the cat She swallowed the cat to catch the bird She swallowed the bird to catch the spider That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her She swallowed the spider to catch the fly But I dont know why she swallowed that fly Perhaps shell die
I know an old lady who swallowed a goat Opened her throat and down went the goat! She swallowed the goat to catch the dog She swallowed the dog to catch the cat She swallowed the cat to catch the bird She swallowed the bird to catch the spider That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her She swallowed the spider to catch the fly
Bush gives new reason for Iraq war
Says US must prevent oil fields from falling into hands of terrorists
By Jennifer Loven, Associated Press | August 31, 2005
CORONADO, Calif. -- President Bush answered growing antiwar protests yesterday with a fresh reason for US troops to continue fighting in Iraq: protection of the country's vast oil fields, which he said would otherwise fall under the control of terrorist extremists.
You most likely haven't heard of her. Neither did I. But she is a woman of principles, and she used to work for Bush's Food and Drug Administration:
A high-ranking Food and Drug Administration official resigned Wednesday in protest over the agency's refusal to allow over-the-counter sales of emergency contraception.
Susan Wood, director of FDA's Office of Women's Health, announced her resignation in an e-mail to colleagues at the agency. The e-mail was released by contraception advocates.
The FDA last Friday postponed indefinitely its decision on whether to allow the morning-after pill, called Plan B, to be sold without a prescription. The agency said it was safe for adults to use without a doctor's guidance but was unable to decide how to keep it out of the hands of young teenagers without a prescription -- a decision contrary to the advice of its own scientific advisers.
"I can no longer serve as staff when scientific and clinical evidence, fully evaluated and recommended for approval by the professional staff here, has been overruled," wrote Wood, who also was assistant commissioner for women's health. "The recent decision announced by the Commissioner about emergency contraception, which continues to limit women's access to a product that would reduce unintended pregnancies and reduce abortions, is contrary to my core commitment to improving and advancing women's health."
But it's ultimately a fairly powerless act. Don't take me wrong, I admire her for her resignation. But resignation is resignation, in all terms of the word, and it will leave the Food and Drug Administration with fewer reality-people and with more faith-based fanatics. But maybe this is the only workable alternative right now: don't play wingnut games and watch the world collapse.
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
I don't, but the people of Mississippi and Louisiana most certainly do. Where are you? Atrios has the answer:
Jack Cafferty just now on CNN.
Cafferty: Where's President Bush? Is he still on vacation?
Blitzer: He's cut short his vacation he's coming back to Washington tomorrow.
Cafferty: Oh, that would be a good idea. He was out in San Diego I think at a Naval air station giving a speech on Japan and the war in Iraq today. Based on his approval rating, based on the latest polls, my guess is getting back to work might not be a terrible idea.
Cut short his vacation by how much? He was expected to vacation the month of August and tomorrow is the last day of August. Perhaps he is indeed cutting it short by a day or two, but this looks bad, especially when contrasted with the pictures from the aftermath of Katrina and the suffering of people right now there. What is wrong with this man?
He tried to sit out most catastrophies, of course, beginning from 9/11. He was nowhere to be found during the horrible tsunami and now he is somewhere talking about his policies when a large chunk of the country he's supposed to take care of is facing an enormous emergency. What kind of a president is this?
It is really too early to focus on George Bush. The disaster is happening right when I type, but I feel so powerless, even after sending money, and the one man who does have the power to do things is somewhere in his own private no-empathy reservation.
Meanwhile, the Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, the one whom Pat Robertson doesn't like, has offered to give the Americans water, food and fuel aid in this latest disaster...
New Orleans still exists but that is one of the few good things that can be said in the aftermath of this hurricane. The other one is the willingness of others to help. If you would like to, you can contribute money to the Red Cross. Noah's Wish takes care of the nonhuman critters in disaster areas.
But not in this particular disaster area: Before Katrina George Bush tried to slash the funding of the New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He also started a war in Iraq which absorbed many of the troops that could have helped with the rescue operations after Katrina.
Monday, August 29, 2005
Hank With Tongue
This is Hank with her George Bush chewtoy. Hank is now hopping on three legs, like an Everready bunny rabbit. Never mind that she has sprained something in one of her front legs when she crashed into another Lab while playing, and never mind that she can barely walk. She's still trying to hop and jump and leap and barge into other dogs. That's brains for you.
She's going to be on an anti-inflammatory drug for ten days, and if that doesn't work then the Dreaded Dog Hospital looms. We are all worried except for Hank. Hank doesn't know the word "worried". Nor any other word, actually. When I give her a command she gets Henrietta (my other dog) to come over and translate.
Henrietta, on the other hand, knows about 20,000 words. It's extremely discombobulating to try to have a telephone conversation with someone and to suddenly notice that your dog is making notes of the conversation, for the future purpose of blackmailing you if you ever become a Really Famous Blogger. On the other hand, Henrietta's brains come in handy when I need reminding about something that I've forgotten. Like now; she just told me that I had no dog blogging on Friday or Saturday, and that I need to get some in before it is too late. Too late for what, I asked her. She looked at me with that pitying expression she often gets when communicating with us less endowed with intelligence.
These are some of his thoughts during the Reagan era:
Roberts, working as an assistant to Attorney General William French Smith in 1982, co-wrote a memo to the attorney general advocating codifying the department's conservative policies, saying decisions not to seek busing or hiring quotas, "could be instantly reversed when a new administration took office."
"In certain areas _ busing and quotas, for example _ it makes eminent sense to pursue legislation to guarantee that our policies cannot be easily undone," said Roberts in a March 15, 1982 memo he co-wrote with fellow special assistant Carolyn Kuhl.
Roberts, who faces Senate confirmation hearings starting next week, also seemed to express some displeasure with the federal judiciary in that memo.
"Conservative distaste for the growing influence of courts in society suggests the development of alternatives to litigation which are less dependent on the fiat of unelected jurists," he and Kuhl said in their joint memo.
They noted that Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger and the American Bar Association were calling for exploration of arbitration, and some Christian fundamentalist groups had formed negotiation programs.
"Exploring some of these areas would be fully consistent with a desire to abate the influence of the courts and also to ease the burden on them," they wrote.
We are getting to know our John, better and better, even though slowly.
I've had a preview of them, and it seems that we are going to be given the old idea that blacks and women aren't as smart as white men where it counts. Charles Murray is coming out with a long article (which I will skewer later on) about how this is indeed what we should all be talking about in the next few months.
The idea, of course, is that whatever exists, the status quo, is fair, just and reasonable. Because thinking people often doubt it, the wingnuts must try to prove it, over and over again, and the proof is based on the idea of group differences in intelligence. Intelligence, that nebulous, multi-dimensional and qualitative concept, is then naturally defined by the answers one gives to a small number of questions during one single day of ones life, and the questions often have to do with things like fishing or baseball scores or whether the respondent can fix the electrical system in the respondent's house etcetera.
Group differences in the answers to such questions, if they exist, are then often interpreted by people who don't understand the concept of a statistical distribution as meaning that ALL members of a specific group (say, white men)
Come to think of it, maybe I shouldn't give Murray's article any column space here. It's a totally crappy one, and talking about it may give it excessive meaning. I'll have to think about that one.
One of those heartwarming things! Remember how the radical cleric Pat Robertson said that he wants to see Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, assassinated? Now Chavez has said this in return:
"I announce that my government is going to take legal action in the United States ... to call for the assassination of a head of state is an act of terrorism." Chavez said in a televised speech.
The fiery left-wing critic of Bush's foreign policy who frequently charges the U.S. government is plotting to kill him, called Robertson "crazy" and a "public menace."
He said Venezuela could seek Robertson's extradition under international treaties and take its claim to the United Nations if the Bush administration did not act.
He is a little bit crazy, himself, perhaps. But he's right, too. Robertson's statement does indeed qualify as terrorism. Too bad that the U.S. won't extradite him. Then we would be free of one major wingnut and Robertson could become a martyr for all the remaining ones.
Sunday, August 28, 2005
I just finished this book by Douglas Adams. For some reason I assumed that I had read it before, but it was some other book with a similar theme. This is the first time in my life that I have read the book after seeing the movie, and also the first time when I thought that the movie adaptation wasn't too bad. Though I saw the movie on the plane over the Atlantic and that may have made it look more interesting than it really is, of course.
Adams was a funny writer, especially in the way he fails to meet the reader's expectations. Like in this scene where the Earthman, Arthur, is trying to find some tea to drink on the spaceship:
He [Arthur] had found a Nutri-Matic machine which had provided him with a plastic cup filled with a liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.
Very nicely done. It would be even funnier if it didn't sound a little like George Bush's ideas in his speeches.
But for an economist this was the best bit in the book: When the spaceship approaches the planet of Magrathea which used to specialize in making luxury planets Ford Prefect and Zaphod Beeblebrox get into an argument whether Magrathea is just a myth or a real planet. Ford says this:
"You're crazy, Zaphod," he was saying, "Magrathea is a myth, a fairy story, it's what parents tell their kids about at night if they want them to grow up to become economists, it's..."
I loved that one, though nobody told me fairy tales about Magrathea.