I’ve spent most of this past Labor Day weekend around the house (most of the last week, actually), getting ready for the coming school year, but also following the Hurricane Katrina story via NPR, the web, CNN, network news, etc. Here’s kind of a summary of a few things I’ve come across lately:
- Kevin “Political Animal” Drum gives a telling chronology of W. et al and FEMA. Actually, there are a ton of entries about all this on Drum’s blog, stories about how FEMA’s funding has gone down every year since it became part of the Department of Homeland Security, how the guy who is running FEMA used to be in charge of a group having to do with horses and had little experience in disasters, etc.
- Here’s one entry that aired on that ultra-liberal Tim Russert. Let me quote from the site, which is really a transcript from last week’s show:
MR. RUSSERT: Hold on. Hold on, sir. Shouldn’t the mayor of New Orleans and the governor of New Orleans bear some responsibility? Couldn’t they have been much more forceful, much more effective and much more organized in evacuating the area?
MR. BROUSSARD (that is, Aaron Broussard, president of Jefferson Parish): Sir, they were told like me, every single day, “The cavalry’s coming,” on a federal level, “The cavalry’s coming, the cavalry’s coming, the cavalry’s coming.” I have just begun to hear the hoofs of the cavalry. The cavalry’s still not here yet, but I’ve begun to hear the hoofs, and we’re almost a week out.
Let me give you just three quick examples. We had Wal-Mart deliver three trucks of water, trailer trucks of water. FEMA turned them back. They said we didn’t need them. This was a week ago. FEMA–we had 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel on a Coast Guard vessel docked in my parish. The Coast Guard said, “Come get the fuel right away.” When we got there with our trucks, they got a word. “FEMA says don’t give you the fuel.” Yesterday–yesterday–FEMA comes in and cuts all of our emergency communication lines. They cut them without notice. Our sheriff, Harry Lee, goes back in, he reconnects the line. He posts armed guards on our line and says, “No one is getting near these lines.” Sheriff Harry Lee said that if America–American government would have responded like Wal-Mart has responded, we wouldn’t be in this crisis.
But I want to thank Governor Blanco for all she’s done and all her leadership. She sent in the National Guard. I just repaired a breach on my side of the 17th Street canal that the secretary didn’t foresee, a 300-foot breach. I just completed it yesterday with convoys of National Guard and local parish workers and levee board people. It took us two and a half days working 24/7. I just closed it.
Oh, and just to be clear: these sorts of national (beyond state borders) disasters is what FEMA is supposed to do.
- Michael Moore has weighed in, too. Okay, okay, maybe he is a bit biased, but I think he’s right, too.
- Cuba wants to help, but W. et al won’t take it. Here’s a pretty interesting quote from this piece:
Last September, a Category 5 hurricane battered the small island of Cuba with 160-mile-per-hour winds. More than 1.5 million Cubans were evacuated to higher ground ahead of the storm. Although the hurricane destroyed 20,000 houses, no one died.
What is Cuban President Fidel Castro’s secret? According to Dr. Nelson Valdes, a sociology professor at the University of New Mexico, and specialist in Latin America, “the whole civil defense is embedded in the community to begin with. People know ahead of time where they are to go.”
“Cuba’s leaders go on TV and take charge,” said Valdes. Contrast this with George W. Bush’s reaction to Hurricane Katrina. The day after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, Bush was playing golf. He waited three days to make a TV appearance and five days before visiting the disaster site. In a scathing editorial on Thursday, the New York Times said, “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.”
“Merely sticking people in a stadium is unthinkable” in Cuba, Valdes said. “Shelters all have medical personnel, from the neighborhood. They have family doctors in Cuba, who evacuate together with the neighborhood, and already know, for example, who needs insulin.”
- W. et al nominated Roberts to be chief justice before Rehnquist’s body was even cold. Oh yeah, and what about Katrina? The “duck and cover” political strategy has been intiated. Here are two quotes of note from today’s New York Times article:
It (meaning the White House) orchestrated visits by cabinet members to the region, leading up to an extraordinary return visit by Mr. Bush planned for Monday, directed administration officials not to respond to attacks from Democrats on the relief efforts, and sought to move the blame for the slow response to Louisiana state officials, according to Republicans familiar with the White House plan.
In a reflection of what has long been a hallmark of Mr. Rove’s tough political style, the administration is also working to shift the blame away from the White House and toward officials of New Orleans and Louisiana who, as it happens, are Democrats.
“The way that emergency operations act under the law is the responsibility and the power, the authority, to order an evacuation rests with state and local officials,” Mr. Chertoff said in his television interview. “The federal government comes in and supports those officials.”
That line of argument was echoed throughout the day, in harsher language, by Republicans reflecting the White House line.
- New Orleans newspaper, The Times-Picayune, wrote an open letter to W. that I think kind of sums things up pretty well. I’m guessing that W. won’t be writing back.
- Finally, I’ll say this, and I don’t offer it as a critique of the Bush administration per se because I’m not sure the Democrats are a whole lot better on this score. Like everyone else, I’ve been watching the news footage of rescues, of the Super Dome, of the NOLA convention center, of angry people in the streets, etc., and I cannot get by the fact that damn near all of these people are black. Why? Well, because most of these people are poor and they had no way out– see this Washington Post article about that— and because I think it’s pretty clear that our government (local, state, federal) doesn’t care a whole lot about poor black people (or poor people of other colors, either), I’m not so sure that it ever did, and I’m fairly convinced that it never will.
I guess I have known for a long time that the United States– which is my country, and which is a country that I do love– is simply not “the best in the world,” despite the myths we tell ourselves. It just isn’t, and you can’t look at what’s happening on the Gulf Coast and still think that it is. And I guess this is what saddens me most about the whole thing.
Barbara “Babs” Bush said that things are working out “very well” for the poor. Afterall, they are getting out of that shithole of New Orleans to live in the great state of Texas– and even Houston! Jeesh….