This is unbelievable. This is beyond reprehensible. This is beyond impeachable. How dare these people stage faked repairs and stage-managed photo ops instead of getting to work, doing their jobs, and helping people in dire need? I honestly don't know what should be done with Bush and the people responsible for this. I can't think of anything the law provides that's even close to appropriate for the crimes against humanity perpetuated by this president. Impeachment should be just the first step. These are crimes against the American people. Here goes:
Friday, Bush spent several hours in New Orleans photogenically overseeing food deliveries and hugging children. But for the entire time Bush was in New Orleans, all helicopter flights were suspended, further delaying deliveries of critically needed food and water. Three tons of food sat on the tarmac for hours waiting for Bush to finish posing for the cameras. (AP/Macon Telegraph, New Orleans Times-Picayune)
"There was a striking discrepancy between the CNN International report on the Bush visit to the New Orleans disaster zone, yesterday, and reports of the same event by German TV. ZDF News reported that the president's visit was a completely staged event. Their crew witnessed how the open air food distribution point Bush visited in front of the cameras was torn down immediately after the president and the herd of 'news people' had left and that others which were allegedly being set up were abandoned at the same time. The people in the area were once again left to fend for themselves, said ZDF." (Emphasis mine.) German reporter Christine Adelhardt reports (translated), "The extent of the natural disaster shocked me, but the extent of the staging is shocking me at least the same way." A translation of the German ZDF news report, a link to a video of the photo op, and a link to the original German story, can be seen here, along with other information about the faked levee repair (below) and more. (Daily Kos)
While in Biloxi to review the damage with Mississippi governor Haley Barbour, two photogenic young black women "spontaneously" approach the president for assistance; they tell him they are looking for clothes, that they "don't have anything," and Bush directs them to where they can receive food and water. It looked good on television, but was fake. The two women were NOT hurricane victims, they weren't even Biloxi residents. Instead, they were on vacation, and had come to Biloxi to try to "salvage" clothes for one of the women's sons (the blogger who contributed this article wonders if they were looters). It's apparent that the two photogenic women were recruited by Bush's handlers to "represent" the area. (It is later revealed that guru Karl Rove did not want Bush to visit black victims in New Orleans because he and others were terrified of the reaction. One black Bush supporter with strong ties to the administration says, "If I'm Karl, do I want the visual of black people hollering at the president as if we're living in Rwanda?")
The critically important 17th Street Levee in New Orleans appeared to be repaired, or close to it, when Louisiana senator Mary Landrieu toured the area with Bush on Friday. The next day, Landrieu reported, "Touring this critical site yesterday with the President, I saw what I believed to be a real and significant effort to get a handle on a major cause of this catastrophe. Flying over this critical spot again this morning, less than 24 hours later, it became apparent that yesterday we witnessed a hastily prepared stage set for a Presidential photo opportunity; and the desperately needed resources we saw were this morning reduced to a single, lonely piece of equipment. The good and decent people of southeast Louisiana and the Gulf Coast -- black and white, rich and poor, young and old -- deserve far better from their national government." Bush has so far refused to fulfill Landrieu's request for a cabinet-level official to lead the rescue efforts; as Landrieu writes, "Meanwhile, FEMA, now a shell of what it once was, continues to be overwhelmed by the task at hand." (Emphasis mine.) (Mary Landrieu, AmericaBlog)
The director of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, ordered that Red Cross rescue workers be kept out of New Orleans because their presence would discourage victims from evacuating. The Salvation Army is experiencing the same restriction. This is apparently Homeland Security policy for any and all disasters. (DailyKos)
Similar photos printed in the mainstream press show New Orleans residents scrounging food from flooded grocery stores. Photos picturing black residents describe the residents as "looters," while similar pictures of white residents say they "found" food. Though the two pictures shown on the Web site linked above give somewhat plausible reasons why the particular captions read as they do, many other photos printed in the press follow the same path of labeling blacks as looters and whites as mere scroungers.
Laura Bush visited the Cajundome in Lafayette, Louisiana, on Saturday, September 3. During the eight hours that she was there (including prep time for her visit), the center shut down the food distribution center, the women's showers, and the communication room, the only room where victims could go to call or e-mail family members to let them know they were alive. The writer, a volunteer at the Cajundome, writes, "You may have seen it on CNN; apparently seven refugees were allowed back so Laura could help them in front of the cameras. ...Now, I know this is the sort of thing that happens whenever a VIP tours a disaster site, and maybe Laura Bush handing out that loaf of bread really will lead to an increase in donations. All I can say is, to have paralyzed a third of a day of operations at this stage of the game, it f*cking well better." A Daily Kos blogger adds, "They are so afraid of the American people, they can't help, they can't even allow people to be helped while they are around. It could be too dangerous. I have to admit, they do have a point. There are a lot of people upset with them. But maybe people wouldn't be so upset if they had leaders who showed courage and that they cared."
While diseases such as dysentary rage through the refugee population in the Gulf Coast, hundreds of doctors who have volunteered their efforts are being denied access to those in need because of federal red tape. A state-of-the-art mobile hospital from North Carolina sits unused in rural Mississippi, and the doctors are still waiting to see their first patient. Other doctors who attempted to volunteer their services were turned down by the Department of Homeland Security. According to one article, "Dr. Jeffrey Guy, a trauma surgeon at Vanderbilt University who has been in contact with the mobile hospital doctors, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview, 'There are entire hospitals that are contacting me, saying, "We need to take on patients," but they can't get through the bureaucracy. The crime of this story is, you've got millions of dollars in assets and it's not deployed,' he said. 'We mount a better response in a Third World country.'" In a related incident that same Saturday (September 3), more than 250 emergency medical workers, over 50 ambulances and other medical support assets in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina were mobilized, and 22 local hospitals were put on on alert to receive multiple planeloads of Gulf coast evacuees. Those emergency workers, pulled away from their regular duties, sat idle for nearly 6 hours before being dismissed by local officials, who were unable to obtain a straight answer from federal officials. On Wednesday, August 31, Winston-Salem, NC surgeon Jamie Koufman spends an endlessly frustrating time trying to find a way to contribute her services. The first emergency response team told her she would need six months of training before she could be used. The Red Cross also tried to palm her off, and finally told her to call FEMA. Two days of nonstop calling the FEMA hotline resulted in nothing except a barrage of voice mails; not one single FEMA employee ever answered the phone or returned Dr. Koufman's calls. The office of her senator, Republican Richard Burr, was no more helpful, giving her the number of an emergency response team that never answered their phones, and otherwise recommending her efforts be focused on working through FEMA. "At a time of national disaster with so many lives at stake, how is it possible that medical professionals were rebuffed by credentialing, red tape and poor communication issues from several different emergency response groups?" Dr. Koufman asks.
On Friday, September 2, Michael Brown, the head of FEMA, told the press that FEMA had seen to it that all of the refugees at the New Orleans Convention Center were regularly provided with food: "We've provided food to the people at the Convention Center so that they've gotten at least one, if not two meals, every single day," he said. The editors of the New Orleans Times-Picayune call Brown a "bald-faced liar" and demand his immediate firing; instead, Bush publicly tells Brown that he and his organization have "done a heck of a job."
On Sunday, September 4, a thousand firefighters who were en route to New Orleans to help in disaster relief were, instead, stuck in an Atlanta hotel for an entire day's worth of "training" as "community relations officers." Their duties? Pass out pamphlets extolling the virtues of FEMA. Many stripped off the T-shirts given to them with the FEMA logo and refused to participate in the public relations offensive. "What are we doing here?" they asked each other. "They've got people here who are search-and-rescue certified, paramedics, haz-mat certified," said a Texas firefighter. "We're sitting in here having a sexual-harassment class while there are still [victims] in Louisiana who haven't been contacted yet. ...It's a misallocation of resources. Completely." A Utah fire chief, who sent a team of firefighters to Atlanta in the belief that they would be used in rescue and relief operations, said, "It's just an under-utilization of very talented people." One "use" of the highly trained, desperately needed firefighters: "[A] team of 50 Monday morning quickly was ushered onto a flight headed for Louisiana. The crew's first assignment: to stand beside President Bush as he tours devastated areas."
During a Monday photo op at Houston's Astrodome, Barbara Bush says of the victims being "housed" in the sports arena, "Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this, this is working very well for them." She then trundled off back to her million-dollar mansion, where no doubt she ordered Beulah the maid to fetch her a cup of tea to ease her nerves after spending so much time with the great unwashed.
Numerous instances of FEMA officials deliberately impeding relief efforts are documented. During the first days of the crisis, FEMA officials turned back at least three trucks full of water for New Orleans victims sent by Wal-Mart, telling the drivers that the water wasn't needed. Two other tractor trucks carrying thousands of bottles of water were not allowed in the city by FEMA officials. "FEMA would not let the trucks unload," said William Vines, who helped coordinate the water delivery. "The drivers were stuck for several days on the side of the road about 10 miles from Camp Beauregard. FEMA said we had to have a 'tasker number.' What in the world is a tasker number? I have no idea. It's just paperwork, and it's ridiculous." FEMA blocked the delivery of 1000 gallons of diesel fuel from a Coast Guard ship docked offshore of New Orleans. On September 5, essential emergency communications lines were cut by FEMA officials, who then gave orders that the communications lines were not to be restored. New Orleans sheriff Harry Lee reconnected the lines anyway, and posted armed guards on the lines to protect them from being cut again. In other words, local authorities had to protect essential resources from being destroyed by FEMA. The report reads, "We now have multiple reports of police being ordered to guard key infrastructures in order to defend them from FEMA federal agents. Sheriffs in numerous different counties are guarding highways to keep FEMA out. FEMA is being treated as the enemy because they are sabotaging key facilities in an effort to intentionally worsen the already desperate scenes of horror in New Orleans." Why? Apparently in a deliberate effort to seize control of the area for the federal government. It sounds paranoid...but I'll go with paranoia until I hear a better explanation of why FEMA is sabotaging communications and blocking deliveries of water and fuel.
On September 1, Michael Chertoff, head of the Department of Homeland Security, blamed the people of New Orleans who were unable to evacuate for bringing the tragedy down on their own heads: "The critical thing was to get people out of [New Orleans] before the disaster. Some people chose not to obey that order. That was a mistake on their part." Chertoff was either unaware or didn't care that most of those victims had no other choice than to stay. Senator Barack Obama said in response to Chertoff's and others' statements: "Whoever was in charge of planning was so detached from the realities of inner city life in New Orleans...that they couldn't conceive of the notion that they couldn't load up their SUV's, put $100 worth of gas in there, put some sparkling water and drive off to a hotel and check in with a credit card."
Senator Rick Santorum suggested on September 6 that those residents of New Orleans and other stricken Gulf Coast cities who did not evacuate should pay some sort of penalty for not leaving: "I mean, you have people who don't heed those warnings and then put people at risk as a result of not heeding those warnings. There may be a need to look at tougher penalties on those who decide to ride it out and understand that there are consequences to not leaving," he said. After being hammered for his "insensitivity," and reminded that many residents were unable to leave, Santorum shifted the blame to "local officials" for not providing the stranded residents transportation. As the New York Times reported, "The victims, they note, were largely black and poor, those who toiled in the background of the tourist havens, living in tumbledown neighborhoods that were long known to be vulnerable to disaster if the levees failed. Without so much as a car or bus fare to escape ahead of time, they found themselves left behind by a failure to plan for their rescue should the dreaded day ever arrive."
Republican strategist Jack Burkman says on September 7, "I understand there are 10,000 people dead. It's terrible. It's tragic. But in a democracy of 300 million people, over years and years and years, these things happen."
On Friday, September 9, GOP representative Richard Baker of Baton Rouge was overheard giggling to lobbyists, "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did." Want to tell him what you think of his comment? His office phone is 202-225-3901. Note: According to research done at the Booman Tribute, Baker might be in a position to profit from the rebuilding necessary. Does God work in mysterious ways to fatten rich developers' bank accounts?
Rush Limbaugh, the drug-addled conservative doyen of talk radio, told his audience on September 1 that the humanitarian disaster in New Orleans stemmed from "the welfare and entitlement thinking of government." More specifically, Limbaugh ranted, "If you, as a mayor, or if you, as a city council, run a city based on the welfare and entitlement thinking of government -- bammo! -- you're going to get poor citizens!" He also accused New Orleans city officials of "passing the buck all over the place and accepting all the money that the government's sending in to you," instead of taking the initiative themselves to fix the levee system that was designed to help protect the city from flooding, and added, "[S]ocialism versus capitalism; entrepreneurialism and self-reliance versus the entitlement mentality -- so much on display here. That's what nobody's got the guts to say."
While visiting refugees from New Orleans at a shelter in Texas's Reliant Park on September 9, Republican congressman Tom DeLay stopped to chat with three young boys lying on cots. He compared their stay to a sojourn at summer camp and asked them, "Now tell me the truth boys, is this kind of fun?" He didn't ask them how many family members, friends, or beloved pets they had lost in the flood, how long they had gone without food or water before being rescued, or what they thought might happen to them in the near future. Critics point to DeLay's comments as yet another example of conservatives' failure to understand and emphathize with the hurricane victims; supporters claim DeLay was merely trying to buck up the boys' spirits. One message board to DeLay read, "If you had lost all material items you had, possibly family members and even family pets, your security, sanctuity [sp], family photos and trinkets, feeling of home, would you liken that to being at camp just because you're sleeping on a cot, scrounging for food and shelter, and living day to day without any luxury items? For your information, there's a hell of a difference and that's when you leave camp, you get to go HOME!!!! American Republicans ignorance of a segment of society that they do not understand, respect or sympathize with is showing again."
Republican talk show host Glenn Beck said on September 9 that he developed a hatred for the New Orleans victims even faster than he learned to hate the 9/11 victims after watching scenes of looting, devastation, and chaos on the news. He also refers to the New Orleans victims as "scumbags," and wonders why victims in other areas aren't getting any media attention.
On his home page, talk show maven Rush Limbaugh quoted himself from his September 11 broadcast: "I got a sneaking suspicion that the left's reaction to this is something that they had in the works ever since 9/11. I think the left has been waiting for the next terrorist attack. They've got their battle plan in motion, and they knew when the terrorist attack came that they were going to jump on Bush's case as being ill-prepared, unprepared, lousy, having done nothing, make the case for bigger government, roll out all the video of all the disasters and misery...."
In another "let them eat cake" comment endemic to members of the administration as well as Bush family members, Vice President Dick Cheney said after meeting with evacuees in the Austin, Texas convention center that none of them had mentioned the removal of FEMA head Michael Brown from heading operations in the Gulf Coast: "Not one of them mentioned any of it. They're all very thankful where they find themselves right now."
Calling New Orleans "sin City," and referring to its licentious reputation and large population of homosexuals, Texas pastor Dwight McKissic asked on September 10 if Katrina wasn't sent by God "to purify our nation." Texas governor Rick Perry, who spoke at the same pair of private events as McKissic, refused to repudiate McKissic's statements. Another attending pastor, Don Wilkey, said the comments offended him, especially at Christian gatherings.
On September 4, South Carolina anti-abortion activist Steve Lefemine claimed to have seen the image of an 8-week old fetus in a radar map of Katrina, and drew the conclusion that God had struck New Orleans with the hurricane as a punishment for America's support of abortion rights. "Providence punishes national sins by national calamities," Lefemine said. "Greater divine judgment is coming upon America unless we repent of the national sin of abortion."
On the September 13 broadcast of The Radio Factor, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly claimed that "many of the poor in New Orleans" did not evacuate the city before Hurricane Katrina because "[t]hey were drug-addicted" and "weren't going to get turned off from their source." O'Reilly added, "They were thugs."
Renee Holcombe, an associate vice president for student services at Greenville Technical College in South Carolina, twice told employees that the school's aid for the mostly black hurricane victims staying at the Palmetto Expo Center would include sending yellow buses to pick up the "yard apes." According to one school official, her comments were specifically directed at the children of evacuees currently staying in shelters at the Expo Center. Holcombe, who had worked at the school for 19 years, resigned after her comments were made public. She describes herself as "numb and shocked;" no word as to how the children feel.
It is indisputably clear that the police officers from Gretna, Louisiana, a largely white satellite community of New Orleans, took the violent measures that they did to refuse entry to New Orleans refugees because the overwhelming majority of the refugees trying to enter the city were black. It is also quite clear that authorities were content with herding the largely black population of refugees into the Superdome and convention center, and essentially abandoning them, because of racial issues. As Los Angeles CityBeat reporter Andrew Gumbel writes, "How could any reasonable person not be disturbed by the sight of black Southerners being consigned to a cage filled with their own excrement and guarded by predominantly white uniformed men with guns?" The media, and the governor of Louisiana, bear their own burdens. The media refused to distinguish between broadcast footage of the vast majority of people -- again, mostly black -- taking food and drink from stores because of need, and the few who took advantage of the temporary chaos to engage in criminal behavior. (After the article this entry is based on was published, it was proven -- to little media attention -- that the stories of gangs of thugs terrorizing the drowning city were tremendously exaggerated. It has also been shown that the media tended to characterize white refugees looking for supplies as victims, and black refugees looking for supplies as criminals.)
Gumbel wrote, "The crowds were characterized more or less uniformly as looters and anarchists, and when Governor Kathleen Blanco announced on the Friday that she was sending in 300 members of the Arkansas National Guard to restore order, she commented: 'These troops know how to shoot and kill and they are more than willing to do so if necessary and I expect they will.' All of sudden, the victims had morphed into dangerous criminals, and the rescuers had become military occupiers. If nothing else, all sense of proportion was cast to the winds, much as the city had been." Comparing the federal response to Katrina with the lavish response granted the Florida coastal areas after last year's hurricane strikes, Gumbel concludes that it is politics even more than racism that controlled the response: "Florida presented itself as a political opportunity as well as a call to humanitarian assistance. By contrast, the Gulf Coast -- and specifically New Orleans -- presented itself only as an impoverished region of negligible electoral value in an off-year. There are linkages to be made between the fact that New Orleans is one of the poorest cities in the United States, the fact that it contains a high proportion of residents who either vote Democrat or do not vote at all, and the fact that it is two-thirds African American. The politics of levee maintenance and flood prevention may not be overtly about race, but the systemic flaws that left the city so exposed unmistakably have their roots in the dark Southern legacy of race discrimination." He concludes, "New Orleans's blackness may not, in the end, be as significant in the minds of unreconstructed Southern whites and their allies in Washington as the fact that New Orleans is a city of racial mixture, of sensual pleasures, of Catholics and Jews and jazz musicians and libertines and corrupt city-machine politicians -- all characteristics that, historically and continuously, have yanked the white Southern Protestant chain entirely the wrong way. In other words, the threat the city posed, psychologically speaking, was not that it was a black ghetto but that -- in spite of all its economic gulfs and glaring social flaws -- it was not ghetto-ized enough. The mindset of ethnic cleansing is not all that far from the mindset of segregation, and ethnic cleansing as envisioned by Congressman Baker may -- if the politicians play this the wrong way -- be the most damning legacy that Katrina and its aftermath can leave."
The far-right evangelical Christian organization Repent America noted that Katrina laid waste to New Orleans days before the annual "southern Decadence" celebration of homosexuals and their lifestyles. The organization drew the obvious, to them, conclusion: "Although the loss of lives is deeply saddening, this act of God destroyed a wicked city," stated Repent America director Michael Marcavage. "From 'Girls Gone Wild' to 'Southern Decadence,' New Orleans was a city that had its doors wide open to the public celebration of sin. From the devastation may a city full of righteousness emerge." The organization blames the famous Mardi Gras celebrations for starting the "Girls Gone Wild" series of soft-core pornographic videos, notes that half of Louisiana's ten abortion clinics are in New Orleans, and exaggerates the city's murder rate. The organization concluded, "We must help and pray for those ravaged by this disaster, but let us not forget that the citizens of New Orleans tolerated and welcomed the wickedness in their city for so long. May this act of God cause us all to think about what we tolerate in our city limits, and bring us trembling before the throne of Almighty God."
Republican state senator Hank Erwin writes, "New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast have always been known for gambling, sin and wickedness. It is the kind of behavior that ultimately brings the judgment of God." Erwin is a former conservative talk-radio host and is now a media consultant. He continues, "Warnings year after year by godly evangelists and preachers went unheeded. So why were we surprised when finally the hand of judgment fell? ...Sadly, innocents suffered along with the guilty. Sin always brings suffering to good people as well as the bad." He explains the flooding of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary by saying that the Baptists knew they had put themselves on the front lines ministering in a sinful place that could be targeted.
In a truly hateful op-ed published in September 28's Wall Street Journal, author Charles Murray (The Bell Curve) writes that what we're seeing in the post-Katrina Gulf isn't poverty but a once-again visible "underclass," a sort of shadow society of unsocialized black men with no appetite for work, no capacity to hold jobs, and no ability to be helped through conventional methods. They are, quite literally, savages, unable to function in the world the rest of us inhabit. They are, as he puts it, the "looters and the thugs," along with the "inert women doing nothing to help themselves or their children." And, as Exra Klein comments on Murray's column, government attempts to craft helpful policy will fail because, after all, it doesn't matter if you give a gorilla a college loan, it's still a gorilla. Klein writes, "I've no idea where Murray got the idea that the New Orleans evacuees lacked jobs rather than cars and social skills rather than transportation -- from deep within his own prejudices, I'd guess. And where he got the concept that these men and women are somehow incapable of holding jobs and unwilling to send their children to school -- that's all similarly obscure. The absence of autos affects the social and the unsocialized alike; the folks you see on buses are often en route to jobs they hold, contra Murray, perfectly well. But if his argument is flawed, its aim is clear. All those [now-disproven] stories of urban anarchy were, to Murray, accurate, everyday manifestations of the black people we'd hidden from sight. The normal explanation, that their assumed bad behavior was a reaction to extraordinary circumstance -- that was the wrong part. This had nothing to do with Katrina; it was part and parcel of an inferior race, an incorrigible culture. ...As has happened so often in the past, racial fable proved far more attractive than fact."
On October 4, Franklin Graham, the evangelist son of Billy Graham, told an audience, "There's been Satanic worship in New Orleans. There's been sexual perversion. God is going to use that storm to bring a revival. God has a plan. God has a purpose." Graham later denied, on CNN, that he was referring to the Lord punishing New Orleans as the latest God-driven plague. Journalist Steve Sabludowsky observed, "After reading his quote and then the transcript of an interview with CNN, I am sorry to say that I honestly do not believe Franklin Graham. I personally think he was hit by a storm of controversy due to his amazing comments and backed off -- after realizing how absolutely and incredibly diabolical it made him look. ...The truth is the City of New Orleans is teetering on the brink. It will take forward thinking, hard working, honest men and women to revive the economy of one of the world's greatest jewels. For Graham to even link satanic worship and sexual perversion to a catastrophe is an incredible insult to so many of us who make our living in New Orleans. For those who only know New Orleans as a place of Satan and sexual perversion simply does not know New Orleans. We have incredibly hard working people living in this city, many who are worshipers of the same God as Franklin Graham. They have children who go to schools, do homework, and try their best to be great citizens of the world. In fact, I think a very good number are in Iraq fighting for America while their loved ones are dispersed throughout America due to Katrina and Rita. Yes, New Orleans does have Mardi Gras which many non-New Orleans visitors seem to attend yearly, and has a gay population as does any major city in the world. So what? It also has some of the finest people you will ever locate who make large sacrifices to their house of religion, who are focused upon bringing up their families as morally as possible.
"Graham also referred to the issue of trailor homes that are available. He stated 'these mobile homes ought to be given to the churches for the ministers in the community to decide what are the poor families that need these trailers and not the government. I don't think the government should be in the trailer-park business. I don't think they know how to run a trailer park. But if you give these five trailers to every church and let every church in Louisiana have five trailers and to take in five families that lost their homes and let the church look after them and care for them, and then at the end of one year let the church take possession of the trailer.' Before giving a trailor or anything over to Franklin Graham or any religious group under his stead, perhaps we should first ask if the religious organization is going to deny access to the trailor home based upon religious or sexual orientation. Further, based upon Graham's comments, perhaps we should make certain that the religious organization is not going to make the trailor occupiers convert or repent before having access. Today, in Baton Rouge, former President Clinton stated it would be a good idea to have the faith based organizations involved with helping the victims of Hurricane Katrina and Rita. Somehow, I think President Clinton, President George H. Bush and even President George W. Bush will think twice before entrusting any home for victims to Franklin Graham and others who are so wrong in their characterization of the hundreds of thousands of wonderful people of New Orleans and surrounding regions who are looking for answers to their new misery and who might have power over what type of people would live in new homes. We also do not need blatant discrimination by a so-called person of the cloth who sees very little in slandering some really great people, a wonderful city and who is putting the entire faith-based relief program into severe jeopardy by his comments."
Dissident Voice's Peter Kurth received an e-mail from a Bush supporter who wisely chose to remain anonymous. His commentary sums up literally thousands of responses I've seen and heard from conservatives around this country: "If there's one good thing Katrina did, she took that c*nt Cindy Sh*thead Bin Sheehan off the front pages. ...No Morelins was known nationwide for its corruption. In a way, I'm glad they got what they got. ...If they had spent more money on raising dykes [sic] instead of funding queer parades, maybe fewer of those n*ggers would have died, but I like seeing worthless n*ggers die, so it's no great loss, if you know what I mean." Kurth's response? "I am ashamed to share a nationality with you." And a white Waveland, Mississippi resident who used to live in New Orleans but recently moved explained why he feels there was such a problem in that city before and after the hurricane: "You can't print this, but it has a lot to do with ethnicity." After some stumbling over terminology, he explained flatly that he was talking about black people. "They're animals," he said, "and they're ruining the place." In Waveland, whites and blacks lived on different sides of the railroad tracks; they even went to different rescue centers after the hurricane, with little or no intermingling.
My God, how low will this administration stoop? Combine this with the stories pouring in of the federal authorities turning down offers of help from all over the globe -- shelters for 40,000 from Germany, water purification units from France, free oil and gasoline from Venezuela, and even assistance from our own Chicago -- and you tell me how seriously this administration is taking this disaster. An offer from New Mexico for National Guard assistance was made Sunday, before Katrina hit, but paperwork delays kept the troops from reporting for duty until Thursday. Other states -- Michigan, California -- made similar offers that were not processed until Thursday or Friday. A hospital ship, the USS Bataan,, has sat off the coast of Louisiana since Monday, with no request for aid from the federal government. (The Bataan has six operating rooms, hundreds of hospital beds and the ability to produce 100,000 gallons of fresh water a day.) The Bataan was part of an entire relief effort organized before Katrina even hit by Northern Command, the organization which oversees all military activities within the US. Northcom was ready to deploy, but had to wait on the president's authorization. And wait. And wait.
And the federal government could have activated, but refused to activate, 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 for disaster relief. The CRAF provision has been activated twice, once for the Persian Gulf War and again for the Iraq war. And the US Forest Service has water-tanker aircraft that could be used to douse the fires raging along the riverfront, but so far FEMA has refused to request them: (AP/Guardian, Mary Landrieu) Scores of doctors who have attempted to volunteer their services have been told by Homeland Security not to bother. And the US Northern Command had a detailed disaster relief plan in place well before the strike, but did not receive authorization from Bush to implement the plan for days after the hurricane had passed. (AP/Washington Post/DailyKos, AP/San Francisco Chronicle)
Op-Ed News's Rob Kall writes a scathing, illuminating editorial revealing how it is not federal incompetence that doomed the stricken Gulf Coast to rot after Katrina, but instead a result of core Republican values as manifested by the Bush administration. Kall writes, in part, "One of the most core principles of Republican philosophy is to get rid of big government, and worse, to disparage all sorts of government. But emergency planning is a government job and function. FEMA is a government organization. Stockpiling of emergency resources is the responsibility of government. The way Republicans not very subtly attempt to dismantle government and the agencies of government is to cut taxes and starve it. Republican philosopher Grover Norquist said he wanted to starve government so it was small enough to drown in a bathtub. Drown was a sadly ironic word. The fact is, the Republicans have, with majorities in the house and senate and with Bush in the White House, been very successful at cutting taxes and starving government. They've cut back on program after program, including FEMA."
Another corporation-friendly Republican policy is privatization -- taking government programs and outsourcing them to private industry. Early in Bush's first term, FEMA was designated as an agency that would be privatized. To make matters worse, FEMA was downgraded and almost dismantled as it was nebulously assimilated by the Homeland Security Agency, with FEMA employees directed NOT to become involved in disaster preparedness functions. Supposedly, a new directorate of preparedness was supposed to be established. I guess they didn't get THAT prepared in time for this disaster. But they did cut the funds to FEMA and massively reduced its effectiveness. A political appointee was chosen to head it and it has become clear that he is a total incompetent. But that's Bush's style, chosing politically loyal people over qualified, excellent candidates." Kall reveals that after Katrina hit, the company that FEMA outsourced its hurricane preparedness plan to, Innovative Emergency Management, removed any mention of its contract with FEMA from its Web site. All part of IEM's, and FEMA's, ducking of any responsibility towards managing disaster response. "Republicans are pro-business," Kall continues. "Another cause of the disaster in New Orleans was excessive development of land that had been acting as a protective barrier to the storm surges and flooding. Land development weakened this natural protection. Republicans argue that supporting business leads to jobs. Sadly, now, there are no businesses in New Orleans. There are hundreds of thousands of unemployed people. Now, not only your gasoline prices will go up, but also all the things you buy that it takes trucks to deliver. ...Bottom line -- it's not enough to blame Bush. He was inspired, directed, enabled and empowered by Republican philosophy and Republican legislators."
"...I think it is a source of tremendous pride to me to work with people who have pulled off this really exceptional response." -- Michael Chertoff, head of Homeland Security
"The only difference between the chaos of New Orleans and a Third World disaster operation, [an American broadcaster] said, was that a foreign dictator would have responded better." -- Matt Wells, BBC
"If it's a Category 5 hurricane, then frankly it doesn't take an Einstein to figure out that it's going to overwhelm local capacity and that they are going to be in a world of hurt. You don't have to wait until there are bodies floating around in the water to start activating the National Guard." -- Dr. Michael Lindell, a senior scholar at Texas A&M's Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center
The Department of Homeland Security actually has a national emergency plan fully developed and available on its Website -- it just didn't choose to follow its own plan. The New Orleans government admitted as early as July 24 that its emergency plans would not handle a devastating hurricane of the magnitude of Katrina, and was dependant on federal emergency management to lead the way. Though FEMA accepted responsibility for such disasters as early as 2004, the actual response was limp, late, and insouciant.