Friday, September 30, 2005

FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING

Frankie and Phil



Paz



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General: Number of capable Iraqi battalions falls

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

The number of Iraqi battalions capable of combat without U.S. support has dropped from three to one, the top American commander in Iraq told Congress today, prompting Republicans to question whether U.S. troops will be able to withdraw next year.

Gen. George Casey, softening his previous comments that a "fairly substantial" pull out could begin next spring and summer, told lawmakers that troops could begin coming home from Iraq next year depending on conditions during and after the upcoming elections there.


Click here for the rest.

So, lemme get this straight. The US cannot pull out, says the White House, until the Iraqi army is capable of defending the country from the insurgency, and that is supposed to happen soon. But the Iraqi army is getting smaller, not bigger. Something about this doesn't seem quite right.

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QUIS CUSTODIET IPSOS CUSTODES
Means "Who Polices the Police?"

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

New Orleans probes possible police looting

The police department has launched an investigation into whether officers participated in the giant looting spree that overtook the city after Hurricane Katrina, a spokesman said today.

News reports in the aftermath of the storm put officers at the scene of some of the heaviest looting, the Wal-Mart in the Lower Garden District. Some witnesses — including a Times-Picayune reporter — said police were taking items from shelves.

"Out of 1,750 officers, we're looking into the possibility that maybe 12 officers were involved in misconduct," police spokesman Marlon Defillo said.

He rejected the use of the term "looting," but said authorities were investigating "the possibility of appropriation of non-essential items during the height of Katrina, from businesses."


Click here for the rest.

For all the good work the the NOPD did during the Reign of Chaos in the week after Katrina, this comes as no surprise: New Orleans cops have a well deserved bad reputation. My older brother, a cop-loving, far-right Republican who lived there for a time in the 90s, once warned me about police in the Big Easy, "If you get mugged, don't call the cops; they're liable to push the criminals out of the way and finish the job for them." Maybe Nagin will treat reconstruction as an opportunity to clean up New Orleans' "finest."

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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

THE SCANDAL RIDDEN REPUBLICAN PARTY

Well, my young blogging sidekick Miles, off for his first year at the University in Austin, jumps back into the fold and beats me to the punch by reporting the amazing indictment of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on a conspiracy charge. So to read an excerpt on that, check Miles' post below. However, you, like me, may be curious as to how DeLay was indicted, when it had already become pretty clear that Travis County DA Ronnie Earle didn't appear to have the jurisdictional right to go after him. What happened?

From the Austin American-Statesman courtesy of Eschaton:

DeLay indicted, gives up leadership post temporarily

DeLay had appeared to escape criminal scrutiny as early as last year when Travis County prosecutors concluded they did not have the jurisdiction to pursue election code violations against him. Under the law, only DeLay's local district attorney, a Republican, had jurisdiction, and he expressed no interest in the case.

But a conspiracy charge falls under the criminal code, not the election statute that bans corporate money from being spent on a campaign. And Earle has the jurisdiction to prosecute DeLay for conspiring with others to circumvent state law.

Click here for the rest.

So there you have it. Conspiracy can be prosecuted from Austin, and, praise the Creator, that's what they're doing. The article also points out that DeLay is possibly facing two years in prison. Ha! I've been waiting a long time for this.

But the overall story is not just about DeLay. This high profile indictment simply reinforces the fact that the Republicans are now being rocked by multiple scandals. Why, the Senate Majority Leader is now under investigation.

From Bloomberg courtesy, again, of Eschaton:

Frist Faces Heat as SEC Orders Formal Investigation

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist faces a near-term ordeal unwelcome to anyone, particularly an ambitious politician: an official probe into his personal financial dealings by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The SEC authorized a formal order of investigation of Frist's sale in June of HCA Inc. shares, people with direct knowledge of the inquiry said yesterday.

And

The Department of Justice is also investigating the matter. HCA said Sept. 23 that it received a subpoena from the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, and Frist said he will cooperate with the prosecutor's office. HCA also said it "intends to cooperate fully.''

Click here for the rest.

Really, this is incredible. DeLay is under indictment, yes, but his counterpart in the Senate is under investigation by not one, but two Federal agencies. Ha! Adding fuel to this Republican scandal furnace is the arrest of a political appointee in Bush's White House last week.

From the Washington Post:

Bush Official Arrested in Corruption Probe

The Bush administration's top federal procurement official resigned Friday and was arrested yesterday, accused of lying and obstructing a criminal investigation into Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff's dealings with the federal government. It was the first criminal complaint filed against a government official in the ongoing corruption probe related to Abramoff's activities in Washington.

The complaint, filed by the FBI, alleges that David H. Safavian, 38, a White House procurement official involved until last week in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, made repeated false statements to government officials and investigators about a golf trip with Abramoff to Scotland in 2002.

Click here for the rest.

It is very important to note that the lobbyist about whom Safavian is accused of lying to the FBI, Jack Abramoff, is linked to DeLay, former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed, and a whole host of other powerful Republicans. The GOP has, quite obviously, created a wicked web of corruption that would make the crooked Democrats of the past green with envy.

And let's not forget the cloud hanging over the White House concerning the outing of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame in a botched scheme of political retaliation against her husband, vocal Bush critic Joseph Wilson. Bush's brain, Karl Rove, and Cheney aid, Scooter Libby, are neck deep in that one, and there are probably more involved than we know about.

I've known for years how criminals are running the Republican Party, but my knowing doesn't really amount to much. Now the GOP looks as crooked as they are in reality, and the Democrats have the best opportunity they've had since Watergate to throw out the trash. Of course, opportunity and capitalizing on opportunity are two entirely different things. The Democrats have been handed a gift: alas, I only give them fifty-fifty odds to make something out of it. And I fear my odds-making is overly generous. They've got a good chance to take back both houses of Congress in '06, but do they have the balls to do what it will take?

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Guest Blogger Miles

The Lizard King Slithers Away in Disgrace

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was indicted today of "conspiracy in a campaign finance scheme."

"A Texas grand jury on Wednesday indicted Rep. Tom DeLay and two political associates on charges of conspiracy in a campaign finance scheme, forcing the House majority leader to temporarily relinquish his post. A defiant DeLay insisted he was innocent and called the prosecutor a “partisan fanatic.”

“I have done nothing wrong. ... I am innocent,” DeLay told a Capitol Hill news conference during which he criticized the Texas prosecutor, Ronnie Earle, repeatedly. DeLay said the charges amounted to “one of the weakest and most baseless indictments in American history.”

In Austin, Earle told reporters, “Our job is to prosecute abuses of power and to bring those abuses to the public.” He has noted previously that he has prosecuted many Democrats in the past.


...

"
Republicans expressed their backing for DeLay, the first House leader to be indicted in office in at least a century.

“He will fight this and we give him our utmost support,” said Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois following a private GOP meeting.
DeLay said he was certain the indictment would be dismissed and shrugged off the charges as a “political witch hunt” designed to drive a wedge in the Republican ranks.



Ron will no doubt comment once he recovers from cardiac arrest.


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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Ex-FEMA director defends Katrina response

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Brown admitted making mistakes during the storm and subsequent flooding that devastated large swaths of the Gulf Coast. But he accused New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, both Democrats, of fostering chaos by failing to order a mandatory evacuation more than a day before Katrina hit.

"My biggest mistake was not recognizing by Saturday that Louisiana was dysfunctional," Brown told a special panel set up by House Republican leaders to investigate the catastrophe which killed more than 1,000 people across Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

"I very strongly personally regret that I was unable to persuade Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin to sit down, get over their differences and work together. I just couldn't pull that off."


And

"I know what I'm doing, and I think I do a pretty darn good job of it," he said.

Click
here for the rest.

I also heard him saying on the News Hour earlier this evening that the reason FEMA brought in so little ice is because the Federal Government shouldn't be in the "ice business." Brown's testimony today was nothing short of jaw-dropping. I'm reminded of former Enron CEO
Jeff Skilling's claim before Congress that he did nothing wrong: despite FEMA's dismal failures parading for weeks in the press for the whole world to see, Brown thinks he did just fine. If he wasn't perjuring himself today, he's insane.

I could refute Brown's blame-shifting in detail if I was up for it, but why do that when David Neiwert over at
Orcinus has already done it much better and more concisely than I could ever hope to do? Check it out:

Here's what FEMA does do, though: It provides emergency food and water. It coordinates emergency personnel, including rescue and medical workers. It oversees, coordinates, and helps facilitate such efforts as evacuation and communication when the disaster is a regional one.

Brown is trying to paint a picture of FEMA as a minor role player in disaster relief. The reality is that when a federal disaster is declared, FEMA takes charge of the scene, and every other agency defers to its directives and initiatives. But FEMA didn't show up in New Orleans until three days later. Why was that?

When Brown can answer that question, we may start getting a clearer picture of what happened in New Orleans.

Click here for the rest.

In other words, even if what he says about Nagin and Blanco is true, which it isn't, it doesn't matter. It's FEMA's job to smooth all that out, and they didn't show up until it was far too late. Brown's assertion of innocence is yet another amazing event in this era already saturated with amazing events. I'm pretty grossed out, actually.

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How the Katrina catastrophe proves that conservatives'
tax cut zealotry has left america vulnerable to disaster


From
In These Times courtesy of the Daily Kos:

Overall, Bush's first budget introduced in February 2001 proposed more than half a billion dollars worth of cuts to the Army Corps of Engineers for the 2002 fiscal year. To be sure, these budget cuts were one in a number of cuts to public priorities like health care, human services, infrastructure and job training.

And it is true that the cuts to the corps came as the agency was being legitimately criticized: Some of its projects in recent years had run roughshod over environmental concerns, and others had been unnecessarily expensive products of congressional pork. However, instead of reforming the corps and getting it back on track, the White House used the criticism as a cover to gut the entire agency. The cuts were so deep, Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.) broke ranks with her party and penned a nationally-syndicated op-ed in April 2001 saying that "lives very likely will be lost."

Consider just a few of the specific examples: In the same budget that provided more than a trillion dollars in tax cuts, Bush proposed providing only half of what his own administration officials said was necessary to sustain the critical Southeast Louisiana Flood Control Project (SELA)--a project started after a 1995 rainstorm flooded 25,000 homes and caused a half billion dollars in damage. This 2001 budget proposal came in the same year that, according to the Houston Chronicle, federal officials publicly ranked the potential damage to New Orleans by a major hurricane "among the three likeliest, most catastrophic disasters facing this country."

Similarly, less than two weeks after Bush signed his tax cut on June 7, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that "despite warnings that it could slow emergency response to future flood and hurricane victims, House Republicans stripped $389 million in disaster relief money from the budget."


Click
here for the rest.

Of course, there is some truth to the notion that taxation, in some circumstances, can go to far, or be unjust, or needlessly retard the economy. That's only common sense. Government is no more than the individuals who run it, and, like all human beings, such individuals are prone to error and corruption. However, the Conservative Movement has completely lost sight of the common sense that once drove it to demand responsible governance. Tax cuts for their own sake is now the principle that rules the minds of American conservatives, and that's really bad because taxes are absolutely necessary for government to provide the environment in which civilization is able to exist. That's ultimately what this is all about. Do we want civilization or not? Conservatives, most of them anyway, aren't even able to conceptualize the issue in such terms, but it doesn't matter because the results are the same: without taxes accompanied by wise spending, civilization does not exist. Katrina proved that. If conservative rule continues, we can kiss this nation goodbye.

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Monday, September 26, 2005

THE END OF HURRICANE BLOGGING AT REAL ART

Until another one comes along, that is.

So we lost power here about thirty minutes after I managed to get Friday's post up and we didn't get it back until yesterday afternoon. Needless to say, it was a sucky couple of nights. I know; I know: numerous individuals had it way worse than we did.
East Texas got hit quite hard, as did southwest Louisiana. Even though the death toll from the storm itself was quite low, with a Mississippi man dying when a tornado overturned his mobile home, and a Texas man dying after being hit by a tree, there have been several deaths associated with the storm, like the tragic fire aboard an evacuating bus filled with elderly people from Houston, or the heat exhaustion death of a disabled girl stuck in evacuation traffic, or the horrible carbon monoxide deaths of five from a generator inside an apartment in Beaumont. Hell, the evacuation itself was a major hardship for hundreds of thousands, and we most certainly didn't have to deal with that. This time. But as my buddy Lex has observed, as relatively insignificant as my problems were, they were my problems--nobody had to deal with them but me.

And let me tell you, once Becky fell asleep, and I moved into my daily night owl thing, it sucked. The heat was bad, but I now know why, for most of human history, people slept at night instead of the day: with nothing but a candle and lame-ass radio stations to keep me company, I was bored out of my mind. I know Abraham Lincoln was great and all that, but there was no way I was going to try to blast out my eyes reading by candlelight.

It's all very ironic that I spent a few days worried sick about Houston being blasted to hell, and then, come to find out, we got hit here in Baton Rouge worse than most of my hometown did. Granted, Houston metro areas near the coast were pounded pretty hard--the town where I used to teach, Baytown, ended up without power or water. But it's still quite a twist.

So what happened? From the Houston Chronicle:

High pressure pushed Rita away from the
most dangerous paths for Houston area

Forecasters had thought the high pressure system dominating Texas — a common summer feature that yields warm, clear days and droughts — would weaken, allowing Rita to come storming through Texas.

But the state's high pressure system was butted up against another such system along the upper Gulf Coast, stretching across the southeastern United States.

That high pressure system turned out to be the one that weakened, steering Rita away from the middle of Texas' coast toward Louisiana.

"The Texas high just didn't weaken as anticipated," said Jill Hasling, president of Houston's Weather Research Center. "We got lucky."

Click
here for the rest.

The rest of the article observes just how bad it was going to be if the original forecast had proven correct, which is why the decision that so many people made to evacuate was such a good call, even though most everything turned out all right, as far as life and death is concerned. I’m pretty amazed, in fact, by the mass exodus: my early guess is that so many people were freaked out by Katrina, and this includes me and my dad, that they decided not to fuck around. Quite a good thing, if you ask me.

Another good thing is that my favorite city, Katrina ravaged New Orleans, is in better shape than originally believed. From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Corps: N.O. may be dry again sooner than expected

Areas of the city newly flooded by Hurricane Rita could be pumped dry again within a week after levee damage is repaired, far sooner than initially predicted, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman said today.

Workers dumped rock and sandbags into breaches in the city's Industrial Canal throughout the night and were expected to complete the repair Sunday, said Mitch Frazier, a spokesman for the corps.

The storm surge created by Rita eroded repairs made after Hurricane Katrina and sent water surging back into the already devastated Ninth Ward. Once the breach is closed, engineers now believe the area could be dry in a week, Frazier said.

Federal officials had said Saturday it would take two to three weeks to pump out the water delivered by Rita.

Click
here for the rest.

And now some pics.

Like I said, Baton Rouge got hit harder than expected, with winds clocking near forty miles per hour along with around nine inches of rain, a rather nasty tropical storm effect. There was some flooding, like in our backyard:



Yes, Louisiana's newest marsh, our backyard.



Uh, the boat belongs to the guy next door. It's not here to rescue us--really, it wasn't that bad, at least, not here. Actually, things were somewhat worse way down the street:



And one block over, way down the street:



But we didn't have to deal with that. Like I said, not that bad. What was bad, however, was the psychological torment the electric company put us through. As I said above, we, like tens of thousands of other people in Baton Rouge, lost power the night Rita hit. But, the next day, the hard working men of Entergy showed up down the street to do their thing:



Unfortunately, their "thing" was to restore power for only the people at the end of the street, and not us or our neighbors.


Were these other guys going to help us out?



Hell, no! What about these guys over here?



'Fraid not.


So we got to spend Saturday night in 90 degree heat and darkness, and could look out the window at the houses down the street with all their fancy light and air conditioning. Torment!

Remember how I've written about the six cats from New Orleans that we're sheltering on our screened-in back porch? Well, we had been keeping the back door shut in order to keep the alien kitties from mingling with our own three cats inside the house, but the heat was so intense, that I just had to say "what the hell" and open it up to try to get a cross breeze going. Two of the youngest ones, Kali and Gaia, managed to snake their way through the screen door and went wild:



Our three cats simply looked on, perplexed. Fortunately, there were no fights, just some errant hissing.

Out of all the minor annoyances did come one really nice event: they finally managed to come and pick up the debris left over from the previous hurricane.



Given the makeshift nature of this heavy trash unit, it's clear that the reason it's taken three weeks for them to come is that their resources have been stretched to the max. I'm grateful that they finally made it.

At last, life is returning to normal.

And now, the final word on Hurricane Rita, from my pal Mike over at This is not a compliment, who stayed in Houston during the storm, in weird ee cummings poetic form:

the tequila

the tequila
would like
me to tell you
we played chicken
with God
and we won.


'Nuff said.

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I'M BACK

And I just lost a post that took me two hours to put together. No need to bore you with the details, but I think it's safe to say that even when you know that you should always save your work before publishing, weird unforseen events occur to blow that all to hell. I'll try to re-do it tomorrow because it's just too damned late now.

It's all hurricane stuff that you've probably read already anyway.

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Friday, September 23, 2005

HURRICANE RITA GRAB BAG

I'm trying to get this post up in a hurry. We've got some heavy winds and rain here in Baton Rouge: Becky and I just heard a transformer blow, and the houses on the block behind us seem to be dark; fortunately, we've still got power, but who knows for how long? I just heard on television that the biggest problems here from wind and rain are supposed to be right now, from 8:00 to 10:00. Here's what WAFB TV posted yesterday about the potential for Rita riff raff here:

What Can Baton Rouge Expect from Rita?

Jay Grymes in the Channel 9 Weather Center wants residents of Baton Rouge and the surrounding areas to know what impacts we can expect locally from Hurricane Rita.

The metro area will experience wind gusts on the lower end of the tropical storm force scale, so expect up to 18 hours of winds reaching around 20 mph.

Rainfall expectations are between 3-5 inches, with localized pockets receiving between 6-8 inches depending on the severity of thunderstorms.

Jay says Baton Rouge will experience the worst of it beginning Friday afternoon until about mid-morning Saturday.


That's pretty much the whole story, but if you want to see it in context, click
here.

I really should have posted earlier. What am I going to do without the internet? Read a book? Who does that anymore? Okay, I do still read books, but doing so by candlelight is no fun. At least I've got a roof over my head.

The Houston Chronicle is now saying that Rita is inching ever closer in our direction. It is now currently slated to make landfall just east of Port Arthur, Texas, very close to the Louisiana state line. Indeed, Katrina-ravaged New Orleans is being hurt by the storm surge and outer bands of rain--apparently the weakened levees have been breached again.

From the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

New Orleans' Ninth Ward under water again

Hurricane Rita's steady rains sent water pouring through breaches in a patched levee Friday, cascading into one of the city's lowest-lying neighborhoods in a devastating repeat of New Orleans' flooding nightmare. But levees on other canals were holding their own.

Dozens of blocks in the Ninth Ward were under water as a waterfall at least 100 feet wide poured over and through a dike that had been used to patch breaks in the Industrial Canal levee.

"Our worst fears came true," said Maj. Barry Guidry of the Georgia National Guard.

"We have three significant breaches in the levee and the water is rising rapidly," he said. "At daybreak I found substantial breaks and they've grown larger."

The levee on the other side of the Industrial Canal, which protected other sections of the city proper, were holding.


Click
here for the rest.


The levee breaks. Again.

Guess what? As I write this, I've just discovered that we've lost our cable service, and therefore our internet access. I'm going to have to save this post, move it to my laptop, and use Becky's dial-up AOL service in order to get it up. I'd better hurry up with this. Woo-hoo. But then, given how things aren't so bad, I really ought not to complain.

I was going to move a couple of comments made by friends of mine on the post below up to the main page, but I'll just have to refer you down to them. My buddy Kevin, who lives in my and Becky's old place along I-10, not far from Baytown, which is in the mandatory evacuation area, has gone up to Kingwood to shelter with an old high school buddy, and left some interesting info in his comment. Mike Switzer, of
This is not a compliment, left a good comment about staying in Houston, and people who tried to leave town, but had to turn around and come back due to the traffic chaos. Check 'em out, in the comment section beneath the post.

Actually, Mike's blogging this thing as long as he has power and internet access:

well...

we still don't know what exactly is going to happen here...
the "official" pronouncement is that Rita'll hit closer to the LA/TX border,
but Dr. Neil is still talking about a possible
direct hit to Galveston.

We should start seeing rain and tropical storm level winds in the next few hours...


Click
here for the rest.

I think the Galveston scenario is definitely not going to happen now, but it seems like Houston's still going to get some heavy weather, probably much worse than what we get here in Baton Rouge. My friend Adam, who writes the
Shattered Soapbox blog who currently attends the high school where I used to teach in Baytown is also staying, and he, too, is blogging about it:

Came back

We left at 6:30 am for Big Spring, Texas.

By about 2:20 pm we were in Liberty, and the storm had turned a lot more east, so we just came back. Took us like 20 minutes.

I really don't agree with being back here, mostly because we're planning on leaving again if we find out that the storm turns back this direction.


Click
here for the rest.

Well, I guess that's all for now. I'm going to try to keep up with what's happening in Houston via dreaded dial-up internet access. Of course, you can go directly to my Houston news source yourself,
the Houston Chronicle, if you like. Also, there's Houston television news; all three local news divisions are streaming their stuff live over the internet. Here's a link to KTRK's feed. If you're interested in Louisiana TV news, here's a link to the live feed from the combined resources of New Orleans' WGNO and Baton Rouge's WBRZ.

I'm really, really, really starting to get sick of this shit.

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FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING

Yet another hurricane edition.

Frankie



Phil



Paz



Of course, we still temporarily have six more cats from New Orleans. Maybe I'll post more pics of them tomorrow.

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QUICK NOTE ON RITA

I'm planning a couple of larger posts later today, but in all the hooplah about Houston I kind of forgot that we're going to be dealing with the so called "dirty" side of the storm here in Baton Rouge--at the very least it'll be like a tropical storm. Hell, New Orleans' Ninth Ward neighborhood is flooding again because of the storm surge. At any rate, it's quite within the realm of possibility that we may lose power before I'm able to post again, so Real Art might go dark for a while.

Probably not, but who knows anything anymore about all this?

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HURRICANE RITA

I'm wondering if I should change the title of my blog to "Hurricane Blog." Is this a sign of things to come? Are we in for monster hurricane after monster hurricane? What's up with this? I have no idea.

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Rita turns farther from Houston

Hurricane Rita weakened this morning from a top-of-the-scale Category 5 hurricane to a Category 4 as it swirled across the Gulf of Mexico, and forecasters said it could lose more steam by the time it comes ashore late Friday or early Saturday.

And in the afternoon, Rita closed in on the Texas Gulf Coast and the heart of the U.S. oil-refining industry with howling 145 mph winds Thursday, but a sharper-than-expected turn to the right set it on a course that could spare Houston and nearby Galveston a direct hit. Instead, it looked as if Rita might come ashore near Port Arthur or Lake Charles, La., at least 60 miles up the coast.

But it was still an extremely dangerous storm — and one aimed at a section of coastline with the nation's biggest concentration of oil refineries. Environmentalists warned of the possibility of a toxic spill from the 87 industrial plants and storage installations that represent more than one-fourth of U.S. refining capacity.

And

NASA evacuated Johnson Space Center and transferred control of the international space station to the Russians. Storm surge projections put most of the NASA space center, situated about 20 miles southeast of downtown Houston, under water in the event of a hurricane above Category 2.

Click here for the rest.

Good news. For my friends and family, at least. However, my understanding is that Rita seems to be headed toward Beaumont, and that's still pretty close. Fortunately, my family all managed to get out. My younger brother somehow managed to get his boss to allow him to head up to College Station, but he'll have to go back pretty quickly. I think my email to my Dad did the trick: he's up in Austin at my older brother's place with my Mom and their dog. So, if worse comes to worse, my thousands of comic books stored at my folks place in Kingwood will be lost, but not my loved ones. Really, at a time like this, I wouldn't care if I lost everything I owned if the people I love are safe.

But it was hell for them getting out. My parent's exodus to Austin took twelve hours. You must understand, the trip from Kingwood, which is on the extreme northeast side of H-Town, to Austin usually takes only three and a half hours. The overall evacuation sounds like an even bigger mess than getting out of New Orleans was for most people.

Again from the Houston Chronicle:

Havoc from hurricane comes early to Houston's freeways

Sixteen hours to San Antonio and Dallas. Eleven hours to Austin. With over a million people trying to flee vulnerable parts of the Houston area, Hurricane Rita will be a nightmare even if Galveston doesn't take a direct hit. .

Trying to leave Houston on I-10, Ella Corder drove 15 hours to go just 13 miles today. Noticing cars out of gas littering the freeway, she turned off her air-conditioner to save fuel, but the 52-year-old heart patient worried the heat and exhaustion were taking a toll on her.

"All I want to do is go home," she said tearfully by cell phone. "Can't anyone get me out of here? "

Other evacuees' frustration turned into anger as the day wore on.

And

An elderly woman caught in a traffic jam in Fort Bend County died, apparently from the heat. Katy police, meanwhile, arrested a woman they said lost her cool on the freeway and assaulted another woman, who may have suffered a broken arm.

Click
here for more.

What hell.

Of course, some of my friends either can't get out, won't get out, or aren't sure about whether to stay or leave. Here are some comments from the post below:

To leave, to stay. What a fucking mess. Pray for us all, Ron - I think we're gonna need it.

Anne Z

Anne is one of the two bigwigs with my theater home in Houston,
dos chicas theater commune. She's extraordinarily talented, as is her husband Bob. Stay safe, ya'll.

Hey Ron, this is victoria. I was in your debate class your last year at Sterling.. I am sure you don't remember me, but I still check up on your website. I keep hearing different things about the hurricane--it's going to be a monster 5 and then I hear it is going to slow down to a 3. Things are always changing.. Almost everyone has left, but for those who decided not to, and then changed their mind, I think it's too late for them to leave(thanks to traffic), which is awful. I can understand how your dad is. Mine is the same, but he's working in El Paso, and my mom and I are stubborn, so he can't affect our decision to stay. We are just going to wait it out, and see how it goes. Hopefully, things go well. Of course, pray for all.

~~victoria

Actually, Victoria was one of my better debate students, and one of the most intelligent freshmen to ever come through my classroom over the years. I've forgotten lots of former students over the years - it's impossible to not forget some of them given the numbers - but I remember Victoria well. She's in Baytown, which is only about an hour's drive or so from Beaumont. Send her your good energy.

My buddy Mike, whose blog
This is not a compliment is one of my daily stops, is also staying:

Yeah, there's no leaving now...

people are running out of gas before they get to Katy.

My friend Charlie has been on the road since 4 am and is only half way to Arkansas...

My car would overheat long before I ran out of gas.

So I've taped up my windows, and I'm about to head out to clean up the porch and then tomorrow it's moving things to the middle of the room, elevating what I can and covering records with tarps...

whoohooo!

I know a few folks here who REALLY didn't want to stay, but they waited too long and now they're giving up the idea of getting on the roads...

It's gonna be rough no matter what they do now, especially if they didn't prepare to stay before today.

My neighborhood Kroger was open still today, and they still had plenty of wolf brand chili and spaghetti-o's...so I'm all set...

and I've got Dr. Neil Frank to hold my hand and show me weather porn till I lose power...

and tequila, and whiskey, and the smoke...

I fully intend to be the king of New Atlantis by Sunday.

Mike

Mike, I hope to pay tribute and give you a courtly bow sometime soon in your aquatic kingdom. You stay safe, too.


Anybody who's interested can watch Houston's KTRK TV news coverage of the storm-event streaming over the internet--they've moved into 24/7 reporting, and it looks like they're bucking for some kind of award or something; they're doing good work.

Okay, I'm off to bite my nails.

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Thursday, September 22, 2005

Rita grows into monster Category 5 hurricane

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Late Wednesday, Rita was centered about 570 miles east-southeast of Galveston and was moving west near 9 mph. Forecasters predicted it would come ashore along the central Texas coast between Galveston and Corpus Christi. Hurricane-force winds extended up to 70 miles from the center of the storm.

But with its breathtaking size — tropical storm-force winds extending 370 miles across — practically the entire western end of the U.S. Gulf Coast was in peril, and even a slight rightward turn could prove devastating to the fractured levees protecting New Orleans.

In the Galveston-Houston-Corpus Christi area, about 1.3 million people were under orders to get out, in addition to 20,000 or more along with the Louisiana coast. Special attention was given to hospitals and nursing homes, three weeks after scores of sick and elderly patients in the New Orleans area drowned in Katrina's floodwaters or died in the stifling heat while waiting to be rescued.

Military personnel in South Texas started moving north, too. Schools, businesses and universities were also shut down. Some sporting events were canceled.

Galveston was a virtual ghost town by mid-afternoon Wednesday. In neighborhoods throughout the island city, the few people left were packing the last of their valuables and getting ready to head north.


Click
here for the rest.

I'm starting to get sick of this shit.

If I understand the science here correctly, global warming isn't behind the number of hurricanes created in the Atlantic, but it is behind the supercharging of them into monster storms--apparently, the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico are the direct result of greenhouse gasses heating our planet's atmosphere; this, in turn, creates the perfect environment for incubating small hurricanes into massive hurricanes. Remember, Rita was barely a category one storm as it passed the Florida Keys. Now it's really, really dangerous, and it stands to beat the crap out of my hometown, Houston.

Thanks a lot, fossil fuels. Yes, they keep our economy humming, but in the long run, they're destroying it, too. This is no longer something that's fucking over our grandchildren: this is fucking over us.

And - this is just so fucking typical - the man whose empassioned and logical rhetoric
convinced me to flee Baton Rouge as Katrina was coming to Louisiana, my father, wants to stay in Houston!!! I'm beginning to think I'll never understand my old man. He's really stubborn, too, and the rest of the family has given up trying to convince him to leave--fortunately, my Mom's headed to Austin tomorrow morning, to take refuge with my older brother, Chris. That has me a bit worried, too, because the latest projections have Rita making landfall in Victoria, and then making a bee-line north to Texas' capitol city, but one hopes it will be decidedly weaker by the time it starts pounding the home of the Texas Longhorns.

At any rate, I decided not to speak with my Dad personally about this, because I'm afraid it would just piss him off. But he can't yell at an email. Here's what I sent him:

Dear Dad,

I understand that you've made up your mind about staying, so I'll be brief. As I'm sure you're aware, Rita is more powerful than Katrina was, and may very well maintain it's category 5 status when it makes landfall. It is ironic, indeed, that I now find myself compelled to make the same appeal to you that you made to me only a few short weeks ago.

I remember how you began your argument: "I have never run from a hurricane before, but..." Your reasoning was impeccable. You freely acknowledged that Katrina was probably not going to be a big factor in Baton Rouge, but you also observed that hurricanes often seem to have minds of their own, and it was in the realm of possiblity that we could have been directly hit. If we stayed and nothing happened, then fine. But if we stayed and Katrina hit, as unlikely as it seemed at the time, we could have been in serious trouble. Your logic was so compelling that I had absolutely no difficulty in deciding to hit the road, as much of a hassle as it was to do so.

You are now in exactly the same situation I was in when you called me with your passionate plea. Actually, your situation may even be more acute. I'm afraid you may be endangering your own life.

I understand your desire to stay and look after your home--you've put a lot of money, effort, and time into it. Decades, in fact. I don't need to tell you, however, that houses can be rebuilt, and possessions can be replaced. Human life cannot. Consequently, I very respectfully ask you to reconsider your decision not to evacuate.

Whatever you finally decide to do, please remember that I love you and you are in my prayers.

your son,
Ron


I hope this does some good. Man, even if my email is able to talk some sense into the old man, there's still the issue of my younger brother, Steve. He, like my father did for decades, works for Southwestern Bell, and is required to stay and work. After all, communications are a vital service; he's essentially in the category of "emergency personnel." This is going to be one hell of a nail-biter. Send your good vibes out to Texas, if you believe in that sort of thing.


At least I know the Feds will do their job this time around: Houston is where our President's father lives, too. I'm sure W's old man had enough horse sense to get the hell out.



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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

THIS MONTH'S STAR TREK CALENDAR PICTURE



Mr. Chekov immediately after being shot, but right before collapsing in a lifeless heap! Scream, Chekov, scream!

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LAST MONTH'S STAR TREK CALENDAR PICTURE

I got so caught up with the start of the semester and Katrina chaos that I forgot to post the calendar pic for August. I figure better late than never. Here it is:



Dr. McCoy with a bogus triox hypo!

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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

TWO FROM WORKING FOR CHANGE

Once again, my busy schedule is keeping me from doing much more than dropping a couple of excerpts and links. But it is good stuff. Check it out.

America learns the hard way that
Bush provides flash, not substance

Unfortunately, what the Bush White House is good at when it comes to national security is providing flash over substance, as Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana found out the hard way. After riding in a helicopter with the president and seeing machinery apparently working on the breached 17th Street levee, she was shocked the next day to find the work had mysteriously stopped.

"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," said the senator in a press release.

For far too long, this kind of shenanigan worked well for Bush, allowing him to narrowly win a second term. His administration was asleep at the switch on 9-11 even though "the system was blinking red," according to the then-CIA chief. Bush grabbed a bullhorn at ground zero and remade himself as a "war president" -- and suffered no real political damage from the failure to either capture Osama bin Laden or find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Click
here for more.

Katrina reconstruction would be easier,
had Bush not squandered Clinton's surplus

It is an unenviable position for any president to be in: having to accommodate some $200 billion or more in unanticipated expenditures for what is clearly a federal responsibility to help the families of the region get back on their feet.

But that doesn't mean Bush didn't have it coming.

This president, you'll recall, inherited a budget surplus from the previous administration -- a cushion that could have been used to soften the budgetary blow of exactly this sort of monetary emergency. He made his bed, by recklessly wasting that surplus on bloated government spending, reckless tax cuts for his wealthy pals, and an even more reckless war in Iraq.

Now that he finds himself here, he has proposed to pay for it all by a combination of favorite conservative devices -- tax credits, enterprise zones, privatization -- that are a big part of how the budget surplus became a budget deficit in the first place.

Click here for more.

More of my always witty and poignant commentary tomorrow. I hope. Actually, I mean that I hope my commentary is always witty and poignant. I also hope I'll be able to produce some of that tomorrow. Okay, I'm always witty, at least. Right? Don't answer that.

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Monday, September 19, 2005

KRUGMAN ON KATRINA

The New York Times' resident Princeton economist takes a look at a couple of Katrina related issues, courtesy of
the Unofficial Paul Krugman Web Page.

Not the New Deal

But George W. Bush isn't F.D.R. Indeed, in crucial respects he's the anti-F.D.R.

President Bush subscribes to a political philosophy that opposes government activism - that's why he has tried to downsize and privatize programs wherever he can. (He still hopes to privatize Social Security, F.D.R.'s biggest legacy.) So even his policy failures don't bother his strongest supporters: many conservatives view the inept response to Katrina as a vindication of their lack of faith in government, rather than as a reason to reconsider their faith in Mr. Bush.

And to date the Bush administration, which has no stake in showing that good government is possible, has been averse to investigating itself. On the contrary, it has consistently stonewalled corruption investigations and punished its own investigators if they try to do their jobs.

That's why Mr. Bush's promise last night that he will have "a team of inspectors general reviewing all expenditures" rings hollow. Whoever these inspectors general are, they'll be mindful of the fate of Bunnatine Greenhouse, a highly regarded auditor at the Army Corps of Engineers who suddenly got poor performance reviews after she raised questions about Halliburton's contracts in Iraq. She was demoted late last month.


Click
here for the rest.

So, the reason we have such a crappy Federal Government is that it is run by people who don't believe in the Federal Government as an entity. It's quite amazing, actually, how the government-is-the-problem meme, which was so effective in catapulting the Republicans into their position of absolute power, has become so utterly dominant that it threatens literally to destroy the nation. I think this idea has essentially run its course: if we go any further in an anti-government direction, there won't be a government. Now if only our leaders could figure out how stupid they are, as if that's going to happen.

I wonder what kind of country this would be if conservatives had simply chosen to fight waste and fraud, instead of government itself: hell, if that were so, I might have some rightward tendencies myself.

Tragedy in Black and White

By three to one, African-Americans believe that federal aid took so long to arrive in New Orleans in part because the city was poor and black. By an equally large margin, whites disagree.

The truth is that there's no way to know. Maybe President Bush would have been mugging with a guitar the day after the levees broke even if New Orleans had been a mostly white city. Maybe Palm Beach would also have had to wait five days after a hurricane hit before key military units received orders to join rescue operations.

But in a larger sense, the administration's lethally inept response to Hurricane Katrina had a lot to do with race. For race is the biggest reason the United States, uniquely among advanced countries, is ruled by a political movement that is hostile to the idea of helping citizens in need.

Race, after all, was central to the emergence of a Republican majority: essentially, the South switched sides after the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Today, states that had slavery in 1860 are much more likely to vote Republican than states that didn't.


Click
here for the rest.

I continue to be amazed how so many white Americans, including countless liberals, are able to look at the African-American victims of Katrina all over television for weeks and still say "there was no racism." What would it take? Bush in a KKK robe and mask? I think it's safe to say that most whites tend to think of race in terms of individual attitudes and actions. Consequently, Bush's extraordinarily slow response in dealing with the disaster in New Orleans cannot, for most whites, be racism unless Bush is racist as an individual. Clearly, Bush is not in the Klan, but he does ride herd over numerous Federal institutions for which black Americans are simply not a priority. By the popularly believed racism-is-individual standard, that's not racism. But it's still whites with power screwing over blacks. In other words, it's what's known as institutional racism. Call it what you want: it still stinks.

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Sunday, September 18, 2005

Grief, anxiety and depression follow disasters

From the Houston Chronicle:

The worst may be over for many Katrina evacuees, but for some the hardest part is just beginning: the emotional toll. Victims are struggling with large-scale trauma — grief, depression, anxiety, anger, guilt — and the next few months will tell whether the nation's overburdened mental health community is equipped to respond to the fallout.

The federal agency coordinating the nation's mental-health response estimates that as many as one-third of evacuees — or about 66,000 in Houston — could develop a stress-related disorder that requires professional help. Two in Houston who didn't get such help committed suicide during the evacuees' first two weeks here.

In Katrina's aftermath, more than one million people have been displaced, more than 400,000 jobs have been lost, more than 1,750 children are missing. Mental health specialists say they're staggered by the enormity of it all.

Click
here for the rest.

I've mentioned how my and Becky's own evacuation has made me feel a weird empathy for the victims of Katrina: we hit the road in a hurry, with three cats, having no idea where we were going or what it would be like when we got there; we had car trouble and feared that we'd be caught out in the storm on the side of the road--uncertainty and fear ruled us for a couple of days. Of course, we got to come back to our home very quickly, with no damages, and all our creature comforts fully intact. We haven't even suffered a fraction of what the people of New Orleans have suffered. On the other hand, we've been depressed by the loss of our favorite city; we've been constantly in the presence of the people to whom the city belonged, but, again, our depression must be nothing like what they've had to deal with. I guess what I'm trying to say is that if the victims of Katrina have gone through even twice as much as I have, they've got to be hurting pretty badly in terms of their emotional lives. My suspicion is that many of them are hurting much, much more than twice as badly as us. Somehow the phrase "post-traumatic stress disorder" just doesn't do justice to it all.

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How the Free Market Killed New Orleans

From
ZNet:

The free market played a crucial role in the destruction of New Orleans and the death of thousands of its residents. Forewarned that a momentous (force 5) hurricane was going to hit that city and surrounding areas, what did officials do? They played the free market.

They announced that everyone should evacuate. Everyone was expected to devise their own way out of the disaster area by private means, just like people do when disaster hits free-market Third World countries.

It is a beautiful thing this free market in which every individual pursues his or her own personal interests and thereby effects an optimal outcome for the entire society. Thus does the invisible hand work its wonders in mysterious ways.

In New Orleans there would be none of the collectivistic regimented evacuation as occurred in Cuba. When an especially powerful hurricane hit that island in 2004, the Castro government, abetted by neighborhood citizen committees and local Communist party cadres, evacuated 1.5 million people, more than 10 percent of the country’s population. The Cubans lost 20,000 homes to that hurricane---but not a single life was lost, a heartening feat that went largely unmentioned in the U.S. press.


Click
here for the rest.

One of the students I teach in my entry level acting class came in wearing a gag "Nixon in '88" tee shirt last Thursday. Despite my liberalism and understanding of his crimes, I have a weird admiration for old Tricky Dick, which made me compliment my student's shirt. This led to a very brief conversation about politics--fearing that I might potentially alienate a pupil so early in the semester, I simply told him that I was actually conservative back in 1988, but now I'm very far to the left. "What about you?" I asked.

Great answer: "Man, I don't know. In my economics class I learned that some people think we should cut taxes to help business thrive, but others think we need to use tax money to help the needy. As far as what Bush is doing in those terms, I just don't get it one way or the other."

I responded that the truth about taxation and welfare was probably somewhere between the extremes, and that the Bush era has been making me reevaluate my understanding of conservatism: how can the Republicans possibly claim to be the party of fiscal restraint these days?

Despite our conversation's simplicity, I think we did a pretty good job of nailing down the central question in contemporary American politics: should we "tax and spend" or cut taxes and spending? Or, to make the question even more in line with current conservative thinking, should we cut taxes and increase spending? I think that the closing years of the 20th century made it pretty clear that the old, hardline ideolgies of absolute socialism and communism have been discredited as being ultimately impractical, although the reference above to Cuba's success with hurricane evacuation makes such an analysis somewhat problematic--actually, such a story makes a good point: despite overall failure, socialism has some good ideas. On the other hand, New Orleans' disasterous fending for itself for nearly a week after Katrina, coupled with Republicans' inability to abide by their own fiscal philosophy, show that there are serious flaws with the neo-liberal or "free market" ideology. That is, as with communism, absolute capitalism has also been discredited as being ultimately impractical. The problem is that our ruling class and media haven't yet figured it out; they're as blind as the old Soviet Politburo was in the days before Gorbachev.

So the problem facing America these days is twofold. First, we must, as a society, come to terms with the fact that the dominant economic ideology has severe problems in the real world. Second, after realizing that capitalism is just as flawed as communism, we must then figure out how to strike a working balance between freedom for money and meeting the needs of citizens. What I really want to know is when we're going to get serious about this, because, until then, American life is a big fucking joke.

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Saturday, September 17, 2005

HARD TIMES AT THE HURRICANE PET SHELTER
Guest Blogger Becky on How She Got Four Cats Out

I’ve been staying in touch with Debbie since she left for California, and she called Thursday in a mild panic.

While registering their cats a couple of weeks ago at the animal hurricane shelter down in Gonzalez, which is midway between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, her son befriended one of the volunteers, who promised to keep a special eye on their kitties. The volunteer, Jason, called them Wednesday evening with a scary warning: they had better get their cats out or they could be shipped out of state, or worse. The shelter is overflowing, and he feared they would never find their pets again.

After a series of back-and-forth conversations between me, Debbie, her daughter-in-law and Jason, I hit the road with cat carriers, required paperwork, bottled water, and details describing the kitties’ precise location. Jason works for Cat Haven locally, and has been volunteering at the hurricane shelter. His dire warning to me: “It’s a really bad situation.”

I tried to steel myself for what I was about to encounter.

I was greeted by a couple of National Guardsmen, who directed me around the compound. The shelter is set up at the Lamar Dixon Expo Center, which typically hosts livestock events. Behind the long horse arena one sees from the road are eight shed buildings. Each building is about 75’ wide by 150’ long, and contains at least 100 stalls, each suitable for a single cow.

The bad situation was immediately obvious: every shed was stuffed to the gills. Not full of 100 cows, but full of thousands of cats, and dogs, and other critters I didn’t see.

I had to walk through a dog shed to submit the initial paperwork. A handful of volunteers were busy washing cages. Mountains of carriers were stacked outside, having been replaced by slightly larger wire cages. More volunteers could be seen taking dogs for a walk, one at a time in the sweltering heat. Inside the heat was even more oppressive, despite the shade. Most dogs lay panting. A few were wagging their tails and panting. One pair was viciously growling at each other from cages that were only about one foot apart. Other dogs were out of their cages, being treated by courageous volunteer veterinarians.

Both man and beast were hot, tired, and much too crowded.

After running back and forth a few times, I finally obtained clearance to retrieve all four cats. The volunteer tracked down a doctor at the cat shed, who almost jumped up and down when she realized I was actually taking some cats home. Most visitors are still dropping pets off, or wandering from stall to stall, hoping to find their lost companions.

I lugged out the cages, and by the time I got there, one of “our” cats was being swabbed with ice: they were concerned about his panting. No surprise.

I started the car and set the air-conditioner on high. The doc helped me lumber out with the heavier carriers, and secure the cats in the back seat. Several began to wail immediately once we were in motion. I heard the sounds of barf. Great, just keep driving, it’s only about 20 miles. Then I smelled crap, and louder wailings. My stress level went up, and the windows went down. Even louder wails. I cried a little, wishing Ron wasn’t at school and could have come with me. I felt angry and everyone and everything. I tried desperately not to think about the past two hours and the reality of the shelter. Focus, don’t crash, get home safe.

We did. That was Thursday afternoon.

Five cats on the porch: Kali and Triangle, who were already here, along with Blacky, Jynx and Gaia. At least they already know each other, and are settling into their tiny territories. Blacky keeps escaping, but coming back. Four cats inside: Mambo, who won’t tolerate any other felines, is locked in our study while we try to find a new, permanent one-cat human for her. And the originals: Paz, Phil and Frankie, who are a bit cranky, but generally good-natured under the circumstances.

And now it’s time to scoop some litter.

(Becky knows good and well that I'm the litter box guy: that's one mess she's not having to deal with. Anyway, here are some cat pics to go with her essay. The first two we were already housing, the next four were the ones she picked up on Thursday.)

Kali




Triangle



Blacky



Jynx



Gaia



Mambo



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KEEPING POOR BLACKS OUT OF THE BIG EASY
Don't Be Surprised Who Shows Up in New Orleans

From
CounterPunch:

So, as Sonny Landreth puts it in his song "Levee Town," "Don't be surprised at who shows up, down in the Levee Town." As the waters recede, poor neighborhoods will be swiftly redtagged for the bulldozers and their erstwhile occupants scheduled for permanent expulsion. The post-Katrina "reconstruction" of New Orleans promises to be the first really big outing for the Kelo decision. Kelo? It will be recalled that on June 23 of this year, the US Supreme Court's liberals, plus Souter and Kennedy, decreed that between private property rights on the one side and big time developers with city councils in their pockets on the other, the latter win every time, using the weapon of eminent domain in the furtherance of "public purpose." As Sandra Day O'Connor wrote in her dissent, "the spectre of condemnation hangs over all property. Nothing is to prevent the state from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton. Any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory." Or any black neighborhood with some simulacrum of the Garden District.

And


The scarcely suppressed class war in New Orleans was always what gave the place, and its music, its edge. And why, at least until now, the Disneyfication of the core city could never quite be consummated. Barely had the hurricane passed before Speaker of the House Hastert caught the Republican mood nicely with his remarks that the city should be abandoned to the alligators and Barbara Bush followed through with her considered view that for black people the Houston Astrodome represented ne plus ultra in domestic amenities.

Click here for the rest.

This essay doesn't even get into the fact that many poor African-American New Orleanians won't want to come back if their lives end up being better wherever they ended up after evacuating. The destruction of New Orleans does, indeed, present a big opportunity for developers and racists to re-color the city in their favorite shades of white, but, conversely, it also presents a big opportunity to address the longstanding poverty issues facing blacks there for many decades: from the enormous amounts of federal money now flowing into the Crescent City, large chunks of it should be earmarked for revitalizing schools, job training, black entrepreneurialism, public health and child care, and public transportation to allow citizens to get to their jobs more easily. Poor New Orleans blacks should also be given low or no interest loans so that they can buy their own houses. In other words, all this reconstruction money can easily be used to entice the Big Easy's cultural backbone to return.

I've got a bad feeling, however, that's not going to happen.

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Friday, September 16, 2005

TRIAGE FOR N.O.
LSU To The Rescue

From Sports Illustrated, courtesy of CoSIDA, courtesy of
BuzzFlash:

Blackhawk helicopters were carrying in victims who'd been stranded on roofs. Buses rolled in from New Orleans.... A lady fell out of her wheelchair and we scrambled to help her up.... A man from New Orleans was badly injured on his head. Five minutes later he was dead. Mothers were giving birth in the locker rooms.... A man was rolled in on a stretcher [suffering from] gunshots. A paramedic said a looter needed his boat and he wouldn't give it to him.... The auxiliary gym was being used as a morgue. I couldn't take myself down there to see it.

Click
here for the rest.

Of course, I've already mentioned my school's massive triage for New Orleans on several occasions. I even took some pictures of all the activity. Thing is, I never got to see all the drama taking place inside LSU's basketball arena. From what I've read in this article, I'm glad I didn't try to get in--I'm sure it would have depressed me more than I already was. Fortunately, it's all over now. As far as I can tell, they've pretty much shut down most of it. Earlier today, I saw a large pile of military issue stretchers and straps behind the PMAC waiting to be picked up; all the Humvees in the nearby parking lot are gone, as is the constant stream of helicopters. But while it was all going on, it was a huge testimony to the good that people can do when they have to. All is not lost for the human race.

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FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING

Phil



Frankie



Paz


NOTE: We're now sheltering a total of six cats from New Orleans. Pics of them later today.

ANOTHER NOTE: Rehearsal has once again drained my blogging abilities for the evening. I was too optimistic in promising six more cat pictures for tonight. But I'll get to then soon.

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Thursday, September 15, 2005

MORE ON THE NEW ORLEANS WHITE ELITE'S
CONSPIRACY TO BAR BLACKS FROM RETURNING

Lending credibility to
Wayne Madsen's report of a plan to keep poor African-Americans from returning to New Orleans, the Raw Story covers a Wall Street Journal article about how rich white New Orleanians want the city rebuilt, courtesy of Orcinus:

How do they want the city rebuilt?

"The power elite of New Orleans -- whether they are still in the city or have moved temporarily to enclaves such as Destin, Fla., and Vail, Colo. -- insist the remade city won't simply restore the old order. New Orleans before the flood was burdened by a teeming underclass, substandard schools and a high crime rate. The city has few corporate headquarters.

"The new city must be something very different, Mr. Reiss says, with better services and fewer poor people. "Those who want to see this city rebuilt want to see it done in a completely different way: demographically, geographically and politically," he says. "I'm not just speaking for myself here. The way we've been living is not going to happen again, or we're out."


Click
here for the rest.

Obviously, such sentiments are expressed in the carefully coded language of Southern racism in the post civil-rights era. Allow me to translate: "We're going to keep all those filthy violent lazy ni$$ers out of our once proud and pure white city. We're rich. We can do this. Fuck you." I'll give you one guess as to who these bastards voted for last November, and to whom they heavily contribute. That's right; they have a strong ally in the Oval Office who understands their special language all too well. I've got a really sinking feeling that these Nazi fucks are going to pull it off.

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THE REAL PRESIDENT BUSH
Living Too Much in the Bubble?

From Time courtesy of
This Modern World:

Just as Katrina exposed the lurking problems of race and poverty, it also revealed the limitations of Bush's rigid, top-down approach to the presidency. "The extremely highly centralized control of the government--the engine of Bush's success--failed him this time," a key adviser said.

And

A related factor, aides and outside allies concede, is what many of them see as the President's increasing isolation. Bush's bubble has grown more hermetic in the second term, they say, with fewer people willing or able to bring him bad news--or tell him when he's wrong. Bush has never been adroit about this. A youngish aide who is a Bush favorite described the perils of correcting the boss. "The first time I told him he was wrong, he started yelling at me," the aide recalled about a session during the first term. "Then I showed him where he was wrong, and he said, 'All right. I understand. Good job.' He patted me on the shoulder. I went and had dry heaves in the bathroom."

And

Finally, if the Bush team initially missed the significance of a city with a majority of black citizens in peril, it may be because he has organized his presidency around a different segment of the population.

Click
here for the rest.

This is nothing new. It's the same kind of blind arrogance and willful ignorance that's been coming out of the White House for five years now. The only difference is that the corporate media aren't playing along the way they used to. Earlier this evening, right before Bush's desperate address to the nation from the Big Easy's Jackson Square, Ted Koppel, according to my wife, ran a montage of White House statements about what was happening in New Orleans during the reign of chaos crosscut with scenes from what was actually happening on the ground; the effect clearly showed the White House's total divorce from reality. It makes me wonder if the President has any idea at all about what's actually going on in Iraq: the New Orleans debacle was played out live on television, piped into millions of American households, which ultimately forced Bush to do his job; Iraq, however, is thousands of miles away, and most US reporters are still "embedded." It's really difficult not to believe that this bubble reality within which Bush lives his life affects his entire Presidency, and, therefore, the entire nation.

One last thing. I threw in that final excerpt about race simply because it states well why I think that racism was a major factor in the White House's slow response to Hurricane Katrina. It's been quite surprising to me that so many white Americans are hesitant to consider the possibility that race played a role: "It's not race; it's class," I've heard people say countless times. Well, class did, indeed, play a role, but it is impossible to deny that poverty and race in America are hopelessly intertwined. Racism did play a role, but it wasn't the kind of Simon Legree, moustache twirling, archetypal racist media image that white Americans typically envision when they consider racism; rather, it was racism by indifference. As Kanye West observed a few days back, "George Bush doesn't care about black people."


Look at me! I'm the President!

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