Dried Roses

Question—I suppose it’s rhetorical…

Is there any way in which the present administration is not corrupt? Read Hunter at Daily Kos. Very well put. (On dismantling FEMA, read Jon Elliston, “Disaster in the making”, Durham Independent Weekly, 22 Sep 2004; Attytood, and a 2002 series, “Washing Away” in the New Orleans Times-Picayune.)
Meanwhile: when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping (via Gawker; also at Daily Kos). Addendum 3 Sep 2005: The Daily News (“I swear by every word”, as Steely Dan said), in its inimitable way, describes how New Yorkers, in their inimitable way, chased Condi Rice out of the Big Apple.
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Added 2 Sep: A priceless moment with the Homeland Security Secretary: Mr. Chertoff managed not to know that thousands of people were stranded at the Convention Center. On being told this, he tried to dismiss the news as rumor. When his interlocutor pointed out that the “rumors” were coming from experienced reporters, Chertoff retreated to solipsism: yeah, but I haven’t heard anything. The interview was on NPR, which will probably lose funding for this. From Brad DeLong; also at ThinkProgress.
It turns out that Michael Brown, the head of FEMA, was fired by the International Arabian Horse Association after “decimating” its finances (from Goldy at DailyKos; for more on Brown’s qualifications, see Talking Points Memo, quoting a Knight-Ridder story by Matt Stearns and Seth Borenstein). Being the “chief rules enforcer” of the IAHA was good preparation because “A lot of what he had to do was stand in the breach in difficult, controversial situations”. So says his old friend Andrew Lester. Being a college pal of his predecessor Joseph Allbaugh was good preparation too. (See further reports at Talking Points Memo.
That FEMA was not doing well was already in evidence after Hurricane Frances, when by their own admission $12 million was wrongly spent in Miami. “FEMA,  however, continues to deny additional systematic problems and cites the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to prove that there were legitimate hurricane conditions in  Miami-Dade. Yet, according to the Sun-Sentinel, NOAA has refuted the weather maps FEMA claims to  have obtained from them”. I seem to see a pattern: Brown didn’t know about the Convention Center either. Source: Donald Harrison, Jewishsightseeing; see also Hector Solon at DailyKos, quoting news reports from May 2003, and a story by Cory Reiss on FEMA’s response to Hurricane Dennis this year (at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune).
Addendum 3 Sep: Matt Wells of the BBC puts some of the pieces together (“New Orleans crisis shames Americans”, 3 Sep 2005).
At the end of an unforgettable week, one broadcaster on Friday bitterly encapsulated the sense of burning shame and anger that many American citizens are feeling. The only difference between the chaos of New Orleans and a Third World disaster operation, he said, was that a foreign dictator would have responded better.
Confirmation—a reporter from the German Tagesschau:
2 minutes ago the President drove past in his convoi. But what has happened in Biloxi all day long is truly unbelievable. Suddenly recovery units appeared, suddenly bulldozers were there, those hadn't been seen here all the days before, and this in an area, in which it really wouldn't be necessary to do a big clean up, because far and wide nobody lives here anymore, the people are more inland in the city. The President travels with a press baggage [big crew]. This press baggage got very beautiful pictures which are supposed to say, that the President was here and help is on the way, too. The extent of the natural disaster shocked me, but the extent of the staging is shocking me at least the same way. With that back to Hamburg.
Another report from ZDF News:
Wo der US-Präsident das Katastrophengebiet besuchte, räumten Hilfstrupps vorher ordentlich auf - aber nur dort. Aus Biloxi zitierte ZDF-Korrespondentin Claudia Rüggeberg verzweifelte Einwohner, Bush solle in seinen Limousinen statt lauter Bodyguards und Assistenten lieber Hilfsgüter herbeischaffen.
Entlang seiner Route hätte Räumtrupps vor Bushs Besuch Schutt weggeräumt und Leichen geborgen. Dann sei Bush wieder abgereist "und mit ihm", so Rüggeberg, "die ganzen Hilfstrupps". An der Lage in Biloxi habe sich sonst nichts verändert, es fehle an allem.
Rough translation:
Wherever the US President visits in the area of the catastrophe, troops clean up everything beforehand—but only there. In Biloxi, ZDF-Correspondent Claudia Rüggeberg quoted desperate inhabitants who said that Bush should have brought relief supplies in his limousine instead of noisy bodyguards and aides.
All along his route cleanup troops had removed debris and hidden corpses. When Bush left, says Rüggeberg, “so did all the relief troops”. On the ground in Biloxi nothing has changed: everything is lacking.
I’m reminded of Mary McCarthy’s famous remark about Lillian Hellman: “Every word she writes is a lie, including and and the.”
Added 4 Sep: Maureen Dowd has done her homework: see “United States of Shame”, New York Times 3 Sep 2005; also at Common Dreams. On the visit to Biloxi, see “The Potemkin Photo-Op” at Blah3. On Brown’s resignation from the IAHA, see the cached version of a separation agreement between Brown and the IAHA (via Daily Kos).

LinkSeptember 1, 2005 in Current Affairs

A report from Lafayette, La.

Laura Bush, refugees, abandoned animals. At DailyKos.

LinkSeptember 4, 2005 in Current Affairs

Things to come

A little history of the present and future
  • A general declares that New Orleans is going to look like Little Somalia. (Life-Size Somalia looks like this: John DeSio, AlertNet.)
  • Invoking the Insurrection Act, the Bush administration takes exclusive control of relief efforts in New Orleans.
  • It immediately issues orders forbidding representatives of the media to enter the city or its surrounding parishes without permission from the newly appointed “Operation Rise Again” press liaison.
  • Shortly thereafter, an independent journalist who had entered the city without permission is arrested and a Reuters soundman is shot. Government officials, agreeing that “freedom of the press is critical for building a democratic order”, promise to investigate. (Actual event: “People here said there were now 22 bodies of adults and children stored inside the building, but troops guarding the building refused to confirm that and threatened to beat reporters seeking access to the makeshift morgue” — Mark Egan, Reuters 3 Sep.)
  • A division of Halliburton is awarded the first reconstruction contracts.
  • A massive oil spill in Plaquemines Parish renders most of it uninhabitable. Twenty thousand residents are permanently displaced.
  • The Superdome, closed after the last refugee was evacuated, is reopened to serve as a holding pen for people arrested in the city. FEMA head Michael Brown, when asked how many were being held, said that he wasn’t aware that anyone was in the Superdome.
  • A Rise Again spokesman refuses to provide figures on the number of bodies that have been recovered, saying that “We don’t do body counts, we’re too busy preparing for a new future for New Orleans”. She added that the condition of the bodies made identification almost impossible, and that in the interest of public health they would be incinerated. Browning-Ferris Industries has received the contract.
  • In a light-hearted moment, President Bush sits in a rocking chair on the front porch of Trent Lott’s new house. “We said we’d rebuild, and we have rebuilt, and we will continue to rebuild, and that’s what we said we’d do”, he told reporters.
  • After a spate of criticism about the decision to incinerate corpses, administration officials announced that a “good-sized” monument, funded by corporate donations, would be built near the site of the former City Hall. Lynne Cheney has been picked to head the “Katrina Hope” Commission, which will be in charge of collecting funds and choosing a design. (Actual: the overturned Camille Monument in Pass Christian. Credit: Josh Norman.)
  • Citing the desirability of “keeping communities whole”, the New Horizons Commission, which is responsible for the relocation of refugees, says it will build housing in East Saint Louis for the former residents of Chalmette. “It’s a flood plain. They’ll feel at home there”, said one official.

LinkSeptember 4, 2005 in Current Affairs

That part of the world

Do you get the feeling that for Bush New Orleans and Baghdad are sorta the same? After all, they’re poor and filled with people who don’t look like him.
And I'm not looking forward to this trip. I got a feel for it when I flew over before. It -- for those who have not -- trying to conceive what we're talking about, it's as if the entire Gulf Coast were obliterated by a -- the worst kind of weapon you can imagine. And now we're going to go try to comfort people in that part of the world.

LinkSeptember 4, 2005 in Current Affairs

The Watermelon Vendor

An entry at The Cassandra Pages. In less than 700 words, a distant world is brought to life, in a present no less vivid.

LinkSeptember 9, 2005 in Reading Notes · Society

Wednesday garden pix

The hibiscus is flourishing.

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LinkSeptember 9, 2005 in Garden

Sunday cat pix

A snug fit.

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LinkSeptember 11, 2005 in Cats

A press that hardly deserves to be free…

On a charitable reading, the point is that when there’s no official line you don’t have to filter it out to discover the truth. But it didn’t come out well in the telling.
“In some ways, it’s refreshing in a way to not have the official line, where your only choice is just to see it in front of you,” The New York Times’ Kate Zernike told the Observer after reporting for her paper from Gulfport, Miss. “We’ve all gotten used to doing Google searches and so forth. This was the unfiltered experience,” Zernike said.
What next? Thinking for yourself?
Sometimes the reporters were so far out ahead of the story that they found themselves ignoring official statements, instead filing reports of what they were seeing themselves.
Karen Hughes is going to have to send out a SWAT team.
PRWatch covers public relations efforts and the companies behind them. I stop reading after one page, lest I lose all faith in humanity.

LinkSeptember 12, 2005 in Current Affairs

Wednesday garden pix

Zinnias in the early evening.

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LinkSeptember 14, 2005 in Garden

Disclaimerizing

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You probably don’t remember that little—tiny, almost invisibleitem in which I mentioned—inadvertently, as it were—a Mr. Garrison Keillor in the course of discussing modern poetry. In view of the fact that the aforementioned Mr. Keillor has threatened to sue a weblogger for producing and selling T-shirts on which the words “Prairie Ho Companion” are printed (I’m mentioning that phrase, Mr. Nilsson, I’m not using it), I thought I should say that I think the world of Mr. Keillor, Prairie Home Companion, and Minnesota (where all my grandparents lived), and would of course never do or write anything to mislead people into thinking that I am Garrison Keillor, that Philosophical Fortnights is even remotely similar to Prairie Home Companion, or that Saint Louis resembles Minneapolis in any respect whatsoever. Saint Louis is French, after all; Minneapolis is, um, Minnean or something. Nor should anything I wrote be taken to imply that Mr. Keillor or anyone associated with Prairie Home Productions, LLC has ever engaged in anything other than sexual acts regarded as licit by those in whom is vested the authority to decide such matters.
I think that should do it.

LinkSeptember 15, 2005 in Current Affairs