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Thread: Hurricane Katrina

  1. #61

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ninjahedge
    The key for eliminating racial profiling and seperation is for ALL people to stop using it, not just the ones abusing it.
    And who exactly would this benefit, minus the people who have never experienced systematic racial stereotyping and prejudices? Singing Kumbaya and holding hands doesn't really do much more than make people feel better about themselves.

    If you're seriously trying to claim that you've never seen instances of racial bias against non-whites, you're either delusional, lying or ignorant.

  2. #62
    Crabby airline hostess - stache's Avatar
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    I think it's possible, from the people that did not leave for whatever reason crowd, that some chose to remain in order to protect their property. N.O. had a similar evacuation order last year, many people stayed put and the storm never came. So maybe they had a false sense of security.
    Last edited by stache; September 3rd, 2005 at 08:42 PM. Reason: typo

  3. #63

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    I think you're correct, Stache.

    A friend of mine just purchased her first home in New Orleans a few months ago. She had planned on riding out the storm until Sunday morning, when it became apparent that this hurricane would be stronger than those in the past. Luckily, she had access to a car and was able to flee quickly. Unluckily, she didn't pack many personal belongings and has discovered that her house is in one of the most flooded areas.

    The only difference between my friend and many others, I imagine, was the simple access to an escape vehicle. I'm very glad that she's okay, and that she's managed to maintain her sanity and a sense of kindness throughout this.

    When I spoke with her yesterday, instead of bemoaning her fate, she expressed hope that if anyone was able to loot her house, they'd be able to use what they found. Her home is ruined and anything inside is gone to her at this point.

  4. #64
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Maybe this offers a partial explanation why things in New Orleans went from bad to worse ...

    Brown pushed from last job: Horse group: FEMA chief had to be 'asked to resign'

    By Brett Arends
    Saturday, September 3, 2005 - Updated: 02:01 PM EST
    http://business.bostonherald.com/bus...ticleid=100857

    The federal official in charge of the bungled New Orleans rescue was fired from his last private-sector job overseeing horse shows.

    And before joining the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a deputy director in 2001, GOP activist Mike Brown had no significant experience that would have qualified him for the position.

    The Oklahoman got the job through an old college friend who at the time was heading up FEMA.

    The agency, run by Brown since 2003, is now at the center of a growing fury over the handling of the New Orleans disaster.

    "I look at FEMA and I shake my head," said a furious Gov. Mitt Romney yesterday, calling the response "an embarrassment.''

    President Bush, after touring the Big Easy, said he was "not satisfied'' with the emergency response to Hurricane Katrina's devastation.

    And U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch predicted there would be hearings on Capitol Hill over the mishandled operation.

    Brown - formerly an estates and family lawyer - this week has has made several shocking public admissions, including interviews where he suggested FEMA was unaware of the misery and desperation of refugees stranded at the New Orleans convention center.

    Before joining the Bush administration in 2001, Brown spent 11 years as the commissioner of judges and stewards for the International Arabian Horse Association, a breeders' and horse-show organization based in Colorado.

    "We do disciplinary actions, certification of (show trial) judges. We hold classes to train people to become judges and stewards. And we keep records,'' explained a spokeswoman for the IAHA commissioner's office. "This was his full-time job . . . for 11 years,'' she added.

    Brown was forced out of the position after a spate of lawsuits over alleged supervision failures.

    "He was asked to resign,'' Bill Pennington, president of the IAHA at the time, confirmed last night.

    Soon after, Brown was invited to join the administration by his old Oklahoma college roommate Joseph Allbaugh, the previous head of FEMA until he quit in 2003 to work for the president's re-election campaign.

    The White House last night defended Brown's appointment. A spokesman noted Brown served as FEMA deputy director and general counsel before taking the top job, and that he has now overseen the response to "more than 164 declared disasters and emergencies,'' including last year's record-setting hurricane season.

  5. #65
    Crabby airline hostess - stache's Avatar
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    In my memory, FEMA has never really risen to any occasion.

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    I really liked this picture; it's good to know that in the face everything bad that's happened in the past few days, something that speaks of humanity's good side has come out of it:



    Nita LaGarde, 105, holds hands with Tanisha Blevin, 5, as they evacuate the New Orleans Convention Center.

    There was a second picture of the same scene that had a better angle, but I couldn't copy the URL, so this was the best I could do.

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    Miami Herald

    Posted on Sat, Sep. 03, 2005

    New Orleans left to the dead and dying

    ALLEN G. BREED

    Associated Press

    NEW ORLEANS - Thousands more bedraggled refugees were bused and airlifted to salvation Saturday, leaving the heart of New Orleans to the dead and dying, the elderly and frail stranded too many days without food, water or medical care.

    No one knows how many were killed by Hurricane Katrina's floods and how many more succumbed waiting to be rescued. But the bodies are everywhere: hidden in attics, floating among the ruined city, crumpled on wheelchairs, abandoned on highways.

    And the dying goes on - at the convention center and an airport triage center, where bodies were kept in a refrigerated truck.

    Gov. Kathleen Blanco said Saturday that she expected the death toll to reach the thousands. And Craig Vanderwagen, rear admiral of the U.S. Public Health Service, said one morgue alone, at a St. Gabriel prison, expected 1,000 to 2,000 bodies.

    Touring the airport triage center, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., a physician, said "a lot more than eight to 10 people are dying a day."

    Most were those too sick or weak to survive. But not all.

    Charles Womack, a 30-year-old roofer, said he saw one man beaten to death and another commit suicide at the Superdome. Womack was beaten with a pipe and being treated at the airport triage center.

    "One guy jumped off a balcony. I saw him do it. He was talking to a lady about it. He said it reminded him of the war and he couldn't leave," he said.

    Three babies died at the New Orleans Convention Center from heat exhaustion, said Mark Kyle, a medical relief provider.

    But some progress was evident. The last 300 refugees at the Superdome climbed aboard buses Saturday, eliciting cheers from members of the Texas National Guard who had been standing watch over the facility for nearly a week as some 20,000 hurricane survivors waited for rescue.

    The convention center was "almost empty" after 4,200 people were removed, according to Marty Bahamonde, a spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

    At the convention center, where earlier estimates of the crowd climbed as high as 25,000, thousands of refugees dragged their meager belongings to buses, the mood more numb than jubilant. Yolando Sanders, who had been stuck at the convention center for five days, was among those who filed past corpses to reach the buses.

    "Anyplace is better than here," she said.

    "People are dying over there."

    Nearby, a woman lay dead in a wheelchair on the front steps. A man was covered in a black drape with a dry line of blood running to the gutter, where it had pooled. Another had lain on a chaise lounge for four days, his stocking feet peeking out from under a quilt.

    By mid-afternoon, only pockets of stragglers remained in the streets around the convention center, and New Orleans paramedics began carting away the dead.

    A once-vibrant city of 480,000 people, overtaken just days ago by floods, looting, rape and arson, was now an empty, sodden tomb.

    The exact number of dead won't be known for some time. Survivors were still being plucked from roofs and shattered highways across the city. President Bush ordered more than 7,000 active duty forces to the Gulf Coast on Saturday.

    "There are people in apartments and hotels that you didn't know were there," Army Brig. Gen. Mark Graham said.

    The overwhelming majority of those stranded in the post-Katrina chaos were those without the resources to escape - and, overwhelmingly, they were black.

    "The first few days were a natural disaster. The last four days were a man-made disaster," said Phillip Holt, 51, who was rescued from his home Saturday with his partner and three of their aging Chihuahuas. They left a fourth behind they couldn't grab in time.

    Tens of thousands of people had been evacuated from the city, seeking safety in Texas, Tennessee, Indiana and Arkansas.

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry warned Saturday that his enormous state was running out of room, with more than 220,000 hurricane refugees camped out there and more coming.

    Emergency workers at the Astrodome were told to expect 10,000 new arrivals daily for the next three days.

    Thousands of people remained at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, where officials turned a Delta Blue terminal into a triage unit. Officials said 3,000 to 5,000 people had been treated at the triage unit, but fewer than 200 remain. Others throughout the airport awaited transport out of the city.

    "In the beginning it was like trying to lasso an octopus. When we got here it was overwhelming," said Jake Jacoby, a physician helping run the center.

    Airport director Roy Williams said about 30 people had died, some of them elderly and ill. The bodies were being kept in refrigerated trucks as a temporary morgue.

    At the convention center, people stumbled toward the helicopters, dehydrated and nearly passing out from exhaustion. Many had to be carried by National Guard troops and police on stretchers. And some were being pushed up the street on office chairs and on dollies.

    Nita LaGarde, 105, was pushed down the street in her wheelchair as her nurse's 5-year-old granddaughter, Tanisha Blevin, held her hand. The pair spent two days in an attic, two days on an interstate island and the last four days on the pavement in front of the convention center.

    "They're good to see," LaGarde said, with remarkable gusto as she waited to be loaded onto a gray Marine helicopter. She said they were sent by God. "Whatever He has for you, He'll take care of you. He'll sure take care of you."

    LaGarde's nurse, Ernestine Dangerfield, 60, said LaGarde had not had a clean adult diaper in more than two days. "I just want to get somewhere where I can get her nice and clean," she said.

    Around the corner, a motley fleet of luxury tour buses and yellow school buses lined up two deep to pick up some of the healthier refugees. National Guardsmen confiscated a gun, knives and letter openers from people before they got on the buses.

    "It's been a long time coming," Derek Dabon, 29, said as he waited to pass through a guard checkpoint. "There's no way I'm coming back. To what? That don't make sense. I'm going to start a new life."

    Hillary Snowton, 40, sat on the sidewalk outside with a piece of white sheet tied around his face like a bandanna as he stared at a body that had been lying on a chaise lounge for four days, its stocking feet peeking out from under a quilt.

    "It's for the smell of the dead body," he said of the sheet. His brother-in-law, Octave Carter, 42, said it has been "every day, every morning, breakfast lunch and dinner looking at it."

    When asked why he didn't move further away from the corpse, Carter replied, "it stinks everywhere, Blood."

    Dan Craig, director of recovery at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said it could take up to six months to get the water out of New Orleans, and the city would then need to dry out, which could take up to three more months.

    A Saks Fifth Avenue store billowed smoke Saturday, as did rows of warehouses on the east bank of the Mississippi River, where corrugated roofs buckled and tiny explosions erupted. Gunfire - almost two dozen shots - broke out in the French Quarter overnight.

    In the French Quarter, some residents refused or did not know how to get out. Some holed up with guns.

    As the warehouse district burned, Ron Seitzer, 61, washed his dirty laundry in the even dirtier waters of the Mississippi River and said he didn't know how much longer he could stay without water or power, surrounded by looters.

    "I've never even had a nightmare or a beautiful dream about this," he said as he watched the warehouses burn. "People are just not themselves."

    ---

    Associated Press reporters Kevin McGill, Robert Tanner, Melinda Deslatte, Brett Martel and Mary Foster contributed to this report.

    © The Associated Press, 2005

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    Associated Press

    Mississippians' Suffering Overshadowed

    By EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS, AP

    JACKSON, Miss. (Sept. 3) - Mississippi hurricane survivors looked around Saturday and wondered just how long it would take to get food, clean water and shelter. And they were more than angry at the federal government and the national news media.

    Richard Gibbs was disgusted by reports of looting in New Orleans and upset at the lack of attention hurricane victims in his state were getting.

    "I say burn the bridges and let 'em all rot there," he said. "We're suffering over here too, but we're not killing each other. We've got to help each other. We need gas and food and water and medical supplies."

    Gibbs and his wife, Holly, have been stuck at their flooded home in Gulfport just off the Biloxi River. Water comes up to the second floor, they are out of gasoline, and food supplies are running perilously low.

    Until recently, they also had Holly's 75-year-old father, who has a pacemaker and severe diabetes, with them. Finally they got an ambulance to take him to the airport so he could be airlifted to Lafayette, La., for medical help.

    In poverty-stricken north Gulfport, Grover Chapman was angry at the lack of aid.

    "Something should've been on this corner three days ago," Chapman, 60, said Saturday as he whipped up dinner for his neighbors.

    He used wood from his demolished produce stand to cook fish, rabbit, okra and butter beans he'd been keeping in his freezer. Although many houses here, about five miles inland, are still standing, they are severely damaged. Corrugated tin roofs lie scattered on the ground.

    "I'm just doing what I can do," Chapman said. "These people support me with my produce stand every day. Now it's time to pay them back."

    One neighbor, 78-year-old Georgia Smylie, knew little about what's happening elsewhere. She was too worried about her own situation.

    "My medicine is running out. I need high blood pressure medicine, medicine for my heart," she said.

    Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist, said he's been watching hours of Katrina coverage every day and most of the national media attention has focused on the devastation and looting in New Orleans.

    "Mississippi needs more coverage," Sabato said. "Until people see it on TV, they don't think it's real."

    Along the battered Mississippi Gulf Coast, crews started searching boats for corpses on Saturday. Several shrimpers are believed to have died as they tried to ride out the storm aboard their boats on the Intracoastal Waterway.

    President Bush toured ravaged areas of the Mississippi coast on Friday with Gov. Haley Barbour and other state officials. They also flew over flooded New Orleans.

    "I'm going to tell you, Mississippi got hit much harder than they did, but what happened in the aftermath - it makes your stomach hurt to go miles and miles and miles and the houses are all under water up to the roof," Barbour said.

    Keisha Moran has been living in a tent in a department store parking lot in Bay St. Louis with her boyfriend and three young children since the hurricane struck. She said National Guardsmen have brought her water but no other aid so far, and she was furious that it took Bush several days before he came to see the damage in Mississippi.

    "It's how many days later? How many people are dead?" Moran said.

    Mississippi's death toll from Hurricane Katrina stood at 144 on Saturday, according to confirmed reports from coroners and the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency. Barbour had said Friday the total was 147, but he didn't provide a county-by-county breakdown.

    In a strongly worded editorial, The Sun Herald of Biloxi-Gulfport pleaded for help and questioned why a massive National Guard presence wasn't already visible.

    "We understand that New Orleans also was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, but surely this nation has the resources to rescue both that metropolitan (area) and ours," the newspaper editorialized, saying survival basics like ice, gasoline and medicine have been too slow to arrive.

    "We are not calling on the nation and the state to make life more comfortable in South Mississippi, we are calling on the nation and the state to make life here possible," the paper wrote.

    Associated Press reporter David Royse and Brian Skoloff in Gulfport and Jay Reeves in Bay St. Louis contributed to this report.

    09/03/05 16:52 EDT

    Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.

  9. #69
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    Just a quick note to people who are thinking aof contributing dollars....

    Habitat for Humanity has a huge fundraising effort underway and it is a charity that will rebuild for victims as opposed to relocating them. I hope you'll considre a donation.

    I'm not sure if this counts as an advertisement. I apologize if it does.

  10. #70
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BrooklynRider
    Just a quick note to people who are thinking aof contributing dollars....Habitat for Humanity has a huge fundraising effort underway and it is a charity that will rebuild for victims as opposed to relocating them. I hope you'll considre a donation.
    I second the motion.

    Habitat for Humanity has a plan to construct "Houses in a Box" where structures will be pre-constructed away from the disaster area then taken apart and readied for delivery to the areas where needed. After delivery these instant homes can be re-constructed in a short time, thereby offering much needed housing.

    The re-building of New Orleans will be a gargantuan challenge.

    IMO better to give to an organization that has a proven track record for achieving results, especially when you consider the following...

    The Ugly Truth

    Why we couldn’t save the people of New Orleans

    NY Daily News
    Errol Louis
    September 4, 2005
    http://www.nydailynews.com/front/sto...p-292991c.html

    Bubbling up from the flood that destroyed New Orleans are images, beamed around the world, of America's original and continuing sin: the shabby, contemptuous treatment this country metes out, decade after decade, to poor people in general and the descendants of African slaves in particular. The world sees New Orleans burning and dying today, but the televised anarchy - the shooting and looting, needless deaths, helpless rage and maddening governmental incompetence - was centuries in the making.

    To the casual viewer, the situation is an incomprehensible mess that raises questions about the intelligence, sanity and moral worth of those trapped in the city. Why didn't those people evacuate before the hurricane? Why don't they just walk out of town now? And why should anyone care about people who are stealing and fighting the police?

    That hard, unsympathetic view is the traditional American response to the poverty, ignorance and rage that afflict many of us whose great-great-grandparents once made up the captive African slave labor pool. In far too many cities, including New Orleans, the marching orders on the front lines of American race relations are to control and contain the very poor in ghettos as cheaply as possible; ignore them completely if possible; and call in the troops if the brutes get out of line.

    By almost every statistical measure, New Orleans is a bad place to be poor. Half the city's households make less than $28,000 a year, and 28% of the population lives in poverty.

    In the late 1990s, the state's school systems ranked dead last in the nation in the number of computers per student (1 per 88), and Louisiana has the nation's second-highest percentage of adults who never finished high school. By the state's own measure, 47% of the public schools in New Orleans rank as "academically unacceptable."

    And Louisiana is the only one of the 50 states where the state legislature doesn't allocate money to pay for the legal defense of indigent defendants. The Associated Press reported this year that it's not unusual for poor people charged with crimes to stay in jail for nine months before getting a lawyer appointed.

    These government failures are not merely a matter of incompetence. Louisiana and New Orleans have a long, well-known reputation for corruption: as former congressman Billy Tauzin once put it, "half of Louisiana is under water and the other half is under indictment."

    That's putting it mildly. Adjusted for population size, the state ranks third in the number of elected officials convicted of crimes (Mississippi is No. 1). Recent scandals include the conviction of 14 state judges and an FBI raid on the business and personal files of a Louisiana congressman.

    In 1991, a notoriously corrupt Democrat named Edwin Edwards ran for governor against Republican David Duke, a former head of the Ku Klux Klan. Edwards, whose winning campaign included bumper stickers saying "Elect the Crook," is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for taking bribes from casino owners. Duke recently completed his own prison term for tax fraud.

    The rot included the New Orleans Police Department, which in the 1990s had the dubious distinction of being the nation's most corrupt police force and the least effective: the city had the highest murder rate in America. More than 50 officers were eventually convicted of crimes including murder, rape and robbery; two are currently on Death Row.

    The decision to subject an entire population to poverty, ignorance, injustice and government corruption as a way of life has its ugly moments, as the world is now seeing. New Orleans officials issued an almost cynical evacuation order in a city where they know full well that thousands have no car, no money for airfare or an interstate bus, no credit cards for hotels, and therefore no way to leave town before the deadly storm and flood arrived.

    The authorities provided no transportation out of the danger zone, apparently figuring the neglected thousands would somehow weather the storm in their uninsured, low-lying shacks and public housing projects. The poor were expected to remain invisible at the bottom of the pecking order and somehow weather the storm.

    But the flood confounded the plan, and the world began to see a tide of human misery rising from the water - ragged, sick, desperate and disorderly. Some foraged for food, some took advantage of the chaos to commit crimes. All in all, they acted exactly the way you could predict people would act who have been locked up in a ghetto for generations.

    The world also saw the breezy indifference with which government officials treated these tens of thousands of sick and dying citizens, even as the scope of the disaster became clear. President Bush initially shunned the Gulf Coast and headed to political fund-raisers in the West.

    That left matters in the bumbling hands of the director of emergency management, Michael Brown, who ranks No. 1 on the list of officials who ought to be fired when the crisis has passed. Even as local officials were publicly reporting assaults, fires and bedlam at local hospitals, Brown took to the airwaves to declare that "things are going well" as mayhem engulfed the city. When asked about the rising death toll, Brown attributed it to "people who did not heed the advance warnings." Brown's smug ignorance of the conditions of the place he was tasked to save became the final door slammed on the trap that tens of thousands of the city's poorest found themselves.

    The challenge for America is to remember the faces of the evacuees who will surely be ushered back into a black hole of public indifference as soon as the White House and local officials can manage it. While pledging ourselves to remember their mistreatment and fight for their cause, we should also be sure to cast a searching, skeptical eye on the money that Bush has pledged for rebuilding.

    Ten billion dollars are about to pass into the sticky hands of politicians in the No. 1 and No. 3 most corrupt states in America. Worried about looting? You ain't seen nothing yet.

  11. #71
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    Louisiana senator hits Bush 'photo opportunity'

    RAW STORY

    http://rawstory.com/news/2005/Louisi...oppo_0904.html

    In a bold move and seeming turnaround from a relatively placid appearance on CNN's Anderson Cooper, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) took President Bush to task Saturday for what she believes the use of a tragedy for a "presidential photo opportunity," RAW STORY has learned.

    Landrieu leveled the following criticism regarding her call for President Bush to appoint a cabinet-level official to oversee Katrina relief and recovery efforts.

    #

    "Yesterday, I was hoping President Bush would come away from his tour of the regional devastation triggered by Hurricane Katrina with a new understanding for the magnitude of the suffering and for the abject failures of the current Federal Emergency Management Agency. 24 hours later, the President has yet to answer my call for a cabinet-level official to lead our efforts. Meanwhile, FEMA, now a shell of what it once was, continues to be overwhelmed by the task at hand.

    I understand that the U.S. Forest Service had water-tanker aircraft available to help douse the fires raging on our riverfront, but FEMA has yet to accept the aid. When Amtrak offered trains to evacuate significant numbers of victims – far more efficiently than buses – FEMA again dragged its feet. Offers of medicine, communications equipment and other desperately needed items continue to flow in, only to be ignored by the agency.

    "But perhaps the greatest disappointment stands at the breached 17th Street levee. 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.

    "Mr. President, I'm imploring you once again to get a cabinet-level official stood up as soon as possible to get this entire operation moving forward regionwide with all the resources – military and otherwise – necessary to relieve the unmitigated suffering and economic damage that is unfolding."

  12. #72
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    Falluja Floods the Superdome

    By FRANK RICH
    September 4, 2005

    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/04/opinion/04rich.html

    As the levees cracked open and ushered hell into New Orleans on Tuesday, President Bush once again chose to fly away from Washington, not toward it, while disaster struck. We can all enumerate the many differences between a natural catastrophe and a terrorist attack. But character doesn't change: it is immutable, and it is destiny.

    As always, the president's first priority, the one that sped him from Crawford toward California, was saving himself: he had to combat the flood of record-low poll numbers that was as uncontrollable as the surging of Lake Pontchartrain. It was time, therefore, for another disingenuous pep talk, in which he would exploit the cataclysm that defined his first term, 9/11, even at the price of failing to recognize the emerging fiasco likely to engulf Term 2.

    After dispatching Katrina with a few sentences of sanctimonious boilerplate ("our hearts and prayers are with our fellow citizens"), he turned to his more important task. The war in Iraq is World War II. George W. Bush is F.D.R. And anyone who refuses to stay his course is soft on terrorism and guilty of a pre-9/11 "mind-set of isolation and retreat." Yet even as Mr. Bush promised "victory" (a word used nine times in this speech on Tuesday), he was standing at the totemic scene of his failure. It was along this same San Diego coastline that he declared "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln more than two years ago. For this return engagement, The Washington Post reported, the president's stage managers made sure he was positioned so that another hulking aircraft carrier nearby would stay off-camera, lest anyone be reminded of that premature end of "major combat operations."

    This administration would like us to forget a lot, starting with the simple fact that next Sunday is the fourth anniversary of the day we were attacked by Al Qaeda, not Iraq. Even before Katrina took command of the news, Sept. 11, 2005, was destined to be a half-forgotten occasion, distorted and sullied by a grotesquely inappropriate Pentagon-sponsored country music jamboree on the Mall. But hard as it is to reflect upon so much sorrow at once, we cannot allow ourselves to forget the real history surrounding 9/11; it is the Rosetta stone for what is happening now. If we are to pull ourselves out of the disasters of Katrina and Iraq alike, we must live in the real world, not the fantasyland of the administration's faith-based propaganda. Everything connects.

    Though history is supposed to occur first as tragedy, then as farce, even at this early stage we can see that tragedy is being repeated once more as tragedy. From the president's administration's inattention to threats before 9/11 to his disappearing act on the day itself to the reckless blundering in the ill-planned war of choice that was 9/11's bastard offspring, Katrina is déjà vu with a vengeance.

    The president's declaration that "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees" has instantly achieved the notoriety of Condoleezza Rice's "I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center." The administration's complete obliviousness to the possibilities for energy failures, food and water deprivation, and civil disorder in a major city under siege needs only the Donald Rumsfeld punch line of "Stuff happens" for a coup de grâce. How about shared sacrifice, so that this time we might get the job done right? After Mr. Bush's visit on "Good Morning America" on Thursday, Diane Sawyer reported on a postinterview conversation in which he said, "There won't have to be tax increases."

    But on a second go-round, even the right isn't so easily fooled by this drill (with the reliable exception of Peggy Noonan, who found much reassurance in Mr. Bush's initial autopilot statement about the hurricane, with its laundry list of tarps and blankets). This time the fecklessness and deceit were all too familiar. They couldn't be obliterated by a bullhorn or by the inspiring initial post-9/11 national unity that bolstered the president until he betrayed it. This time the heartlessness beneath the surface of his actions was more pronounced.

    You could almost see Mr. Bush's political base starting to crumble at its very epicenter, Fox News, by Thursday night. Even there it was impossible to ignore that the administration was no more successful at securing New Orleans than it had been at pacifying Falluja.

    A visibly exasperated Shepard Smith, covering the story on the ground in Louisiana, went further still, tossing hand grenades of harsh reality into Bill O'Reilly's usually spin-shellacked "No Spin Zone." Among other hard facts, Mr. Smith noted "that the haves of this city, the movers and shakers of this city, evacuated the city either immediately before or immediately after the storm." What he didn't have to say, since it was visible to the entire world, was that it was the poor who were left behind to drown.

    In that sense, the inequality of the suffering has not only exposed the sham of the relentless photo-ops with black schoolchildren whom the president trots out at campaign time to sell his "compassionate conservatism"; it has also positioned Katrina before a rapt late-summer audience as a replay of the sinking of the Titanic. New Orleans's first-class passengers made it safely into lifeboats; for those in steerage, it was a horrifying spectacle of every man, woman and child for himself.

    THE captain in this case, Michael Chertoff, the homeland security secretary, was so oblivious to those on the lower decks that on Thursday he applauded the federal response to the still rampaging nightmare as "really exceptional." He told NPR that he had "not heard a report of thousands of people in the convention center who don't have food and water" - even though every television viewer in the country had been hearing of those 25,000 stranded refugees for at least a day. This Titanic syndrome, too, precisely echoes the post-9/11 wartime history of an administration that has rewarded the haves at home with economic goodies while leaving the have-nots to fight in Iraq without proper support in manpower or armor. Surely it's only a matter of time before Mr. Chertoff and the equally at sea FEMA director, Michael Brown (who also was among the last to hear about the convention center), are each awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom in line with past architects of lethal administration calamity like George Tenet and Paul Bremer.

    On Thursday morning, the president told Diane Sawyer that he hoped "people don't play politics during this period of time." Presumably that means that the photos of him wistfully surveying the Katrina damage from Air Force One won't be sold to campaign donors as the equivalent 9/11 photos were. Maybe he'll even call off the right-wing attack machine so it won't Swift-boat the Katrina survivors who emerge to ask tough questions as it has Cindy Sheehan and those New Jersey widows who had the gall to demand a formal 9/11 inquiry.

    But a president who flew from Crawford to Washington in a heartbeat to intervene in the medical case of a single patient, Terri Schiavo, has no business lecturing anyone about playing politics with tragedy. Eventually we're going to have to examine the administration's behavior before, during and after this storm as closely as its history before, during and after 9/11. We're going to have to ask if troops and matériel of all kinds could have arrived faster without the drain of national resources into a quagmire. We're going to have to ask why it took almost two days of people being without food, shelter and water for Mr. Bush to get back to Washington.

    Most of all, we're going to have to face the reality that with this disaster, the administration has again increased our vulnerability to the terrorists we were supposed to be fighting after 9/11. As Richard Clarke, the former counterterrorism czar, pointed out to The Washington Post last week in talking about the fallout from the war in Iraq, there have been twice as many terrorist attacks outside Iraq in the three years after 9/11 than in the three years before. Now, thanks to Mr. Bush's variously incompetent, diffident and hubristic mismanagement of the attack by Katrina, he has sent the entire world a simple and unambiguous message: whatever the explanation, the United States is unable to fight its current war and protect homeland security at the same time.

    The answers to what went wrong in Washington and on the Gulf Coast will come later, and, if the history of 9/11 is any guide, all too slowly, after the administration and its apologists erect every possible barrier to keep us from learning the truth. But as Americans dig out from Katrina and slouch toward another anniversary of Al Qaeda's strike, we have to acknowledge the full extent and urgency of our crisis. The world is more perilous than ever, and for now, to paraphrase Mr. Rumsfeld, we have no choice but to fight the war with the president we have.

  13. #73
    Crabby airline hostess - stache's Avatar
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    I don't understand why it is considered unsympathetic to wonder why able bodied people did not walk out of town after the flood. You can bet I would have. If it was too hot, I would have done my walking at night. Have we become so vehicle dependant that it is considered an insult to walk away from disaster?

  14. #74
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Not sure where people would have walked to...and what they might have found.

    The affected area of ruin covers 90,000 square miles -- amazingly that is an area the size of all of Great Britain.

    Bridges and roads were out. Dead ends were undoubtedly encountered at many turns.

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    I think people found more danger in walking than in staying put. The flood water was quite deep and swift in many places, much more suited to a motor boat than a swimmer.

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