Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Some final thoughts on Katrina and her aftermath

I spent all 3 days of this long weekend indoors. No, I did not go hiking, nor biking, nor shopping, heck the only time I stepped foot outside my apartment is when I had to go to the dumpster to dispose the mountains of empty beer bottles I had steadily been amassing throughout this period. All 3 days, I was either glued to the television or glued to my computer, devouring information, steadily becoming more and more aghast at what was happening in New Orleans. And after whittling down this information into coherent thoughts, these are what I was left with.

Many among us have had this sneaking suspicion all these years, and now it's been proven to be true. Mankind is Mother Nature's bitch, not the other way around, no matter what the Jesus freaks tell you. Mother Nature will take you from behind at every opportunity she gets, repeatedly and violently, then cast you aside hurt and bleeding, and there's not a fucking thing you can do about it.

Well, actually there is something you can do about it. How about strengthening the levees? Or stopping the destruction of coastal wetlands, which used to be a convenient hurricane buffer? Just a suggestion.

Just before the hurricane struck, I remember sitting at home, watching the weather channel, being informed by the weather guy that New Orleans was predicted to be, on an average, under 5 feet of water, maybe even 18 feet in some areas. I remember thinking to myself, goddamn, thats a lot of fucking water over my head, so I hope the government's on the case. But apparently, the government wasn't. If a fucking idiot like me, sitting in his apartment could realize that it was a lot of water, what prevented the fucking idiot in the White House from realizing the same thing?

George Bush is either a liar or an incompetent bastard or both. There is no way he can be neither. When he says "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees", when everyone he should have been asking questions to was saying the exact opposite, namely that it was well known that the levees could only withstand a category 3 hurricane at the most (Katrina was a category 5), that means that he either knew about it and was lying through his teeth, or there exists a total disconnect of communication in this administration between the people who know something about something and the people who have the power to do something about something.

The only scenario I can envision in which the right wing media and blogosphere would have stopped carrying water (so to speak) for George W Bush and would have held him responsible for this total failure of government machinery during this crisis, is one in which George W Bush would been caught on live television, personally hacking away at the levees of Lake Pontchartrain with a pickaxe while clad in the flowing white robes of the KKK.

George W Bush values the public's image of him more than the public itself.
"ZDF News reported that the president's visit was a completely staged event. Their crew witnessed how the open air food distribution point Bush visited in front of the cameras was torn down immediately after the president and the herd of 'news people' had left and that others which were allegedly being set up were abandoned at the same time."
Heck, even when CNN was talking about the president's photoshoots, it used words like "carefully choreographed" while describing them.

Three facts about America :
1. Poor folk in America are basically fucked.
2. Black folk in America are basically fucked.
3. Poor folk in America most often also happen to be the black folk.
So, when the main stream media fails to point out the obvious correlation between the race and class of the victims of the hurricane and the inexplicable delay in relief efforts by the most technologically advanced country in the world, a country which managed to send a robot to Mars, yet was incapable of sending choppers to drop food and water in downtown New Orleans a few hours after flooding began, when it is left up to rappers like Kanye West to hijack television fund-raising events in order to point this fact out to America, it is safe to assume that not only have media standards deteriorated, but in fact, the media, no longer being the fourth estate, has been converted into a lackey of the establishment.

Henceforth, whenever the word "cronyism" will be used in a sentence during any spelling bee contest it will be used thusly :

"Cronyism is when George Bush appointed his long-time crony from Texas, Joe Allbaugh to the extremely important position as head of FEMA, the organization in charge of disaster management. Cronyism can also be defined alternatively as when Joe Allbaugh, in turn, appointed his college chum Michael Brown to this post, who had no experience in disaster management either, after he was done with his term."

Speaking of cronyism, everything bad and terrible that happens anywhere in the world, Halliburton always seems to profit from it.

Price gouging, as I understand it, is when companies take advantage of a short-supply of goods to raise prices of that good. When right-wingers define it, price-gouging can also be called as a market stabilizing factor (via *shudder* Instapundit). Ok, granted, my knowledge of economics is but rudimentary, and I can understand what it means in theory when you say that when something is in short supply, the only way to avoid running out of it is to raise prices so that it is only consumed by people who demand it the most, who would be willing to pay more for it, this reduces the demand and the amount sold, thus giving the supplier an incentive to increase the supply in order to reduce the price, which would, in turn increase the demand, thus increasing the amount sold. Yes, I fucking get it. But, this is my point. When I look at price gouging, this is what I see : When you increase the price of gas, only the rich can afford it, the poor have to do without it and the oil companies, who are already up to their necks in cash, get paid extra for selling the same amount of gas. Explain that to me.

The age old question "Where the fuck does George W Bush get his cold, callous indifference from?" has been finally answered.

When America becomes so economically destitute trying to rebuild other nations that she can't even afford to rebuild her own devastated self, when she has to rely on so-called "enemies" of America, as well as third world tsunami-devastated countries like Sri Lanka to offer aid, America basically relinquishes her moral superiority as well as "Leader of the Free World" status.

Conservatism dictates that you do not think twice about allocating funds in order to rebuild Iraq, but balk at rebuilding your own fucking country.
Jonah Goldberg of NRO (via Atrios):
"Lots of readers ask why national taxpayers should be asked to foot the bill for the reconstruction of New Orleans. I think that is a perfectly legitimate question, even if I'm leaning toward reconstruction. It seems to me there are good arguments on both sides of the issue."

God has a poor aim. God is also extremely incompetent. God was trying to destroy the decadent homosexual population of New Orleans, but only managed to destroy the indigent poor who were neither homosexual nor decadent. God needs to work on His destroying skills.

The best way to cure hunger and thirst in the wake of a hurricane is to dispatch a truckload of bibles to the affected. (via Pharyngula)

Apparently, there is no difference between hurricane survivors in New Orleans and suicide bombers in Iraq.
"While some fight the insurgency in the city, other carry on with rescue and evacuation operations. Helicopters are still pulling hundreds of stranded people from rooftops of flooded homes."

Even after having had a ring side seat in George W Bush's disaster management circus, if Americans can give him a 53% rating of fair or better in his handling of the hurricane aftermath, it basically means that Americans are stuck in stage 2 of battered woman syndrome. Or is it stage 3? Who the fuck knows. Anyways, what matters is that they will forever refuse to accept the fact that they have elected an incompetent nincompoop as their leader.

And finally, Bill Clinton looks so goddamned old and tired, but he can still come off more compassionate and genuinely concerned about the tragedy than both George W and George H W Bush combined.


MattJ said...

I can assure you that it's only your 'Fair and Balanced'[sic] dubyah media ass-bitches that have failed to notice the correlation betweent he average member of New Orleans society and the lack of giving a shit about their wellfare!

I'm thousands of miles away, and I want to punch that barely simian white christian supremacist moron on the nose as much as you do. The guy has only two brain cells, one's lost and the other's lonely.

David said...

If you can look at this picture and say that Bush is not compassionate, then clearly you are not being objective. I won't go into all the blaring inaccuracies and out and out falsehoods in your post, since this is your blog. Just wanted you to see that picture, in case you missed it.

gawker said...

matt : Thanks for the comment and thanks for stopping by

david : I beg you to point out the blaring inaccuracies and falsehoods in this post. Also, I never claimed to be objective. And to your picture, I give you this.

Sakshi said...

Very well said...gawker.

Sujatha said...

Amazing post Gawker.

Anonymous said...

Irrespective of wheather we support Bush or not, I think only the most cluless and ignorant will claim that the rescue effort in New Orleans was the best that this country could do. It's a staggering shame. It's worse than disgraceful. - MINOTAUR

gawker said...

sakshi, sujatha, thanks

mino : Isn't the president of a country responsible for whatever a country does? Shouldn't he assume responsibility at least in part for what happened?

arZan said...


Great post. As usual !!

David.....are u fuckin nuts !! which world do u live in !! its people like you that make fox news the unworthy piece of shit that it is.

I am sorry for you. Maybe you should have been in New Orleans...for good or for worse. Then you would realize the idiocy of your comments.

Sunil said...

After three days of watching incompetence....i gave up and stopped watching TV.

I think it was on NPR or something....the National Guard was asked some questions. They said that they were ready to leave on rescue operations a day before the hurricane hit. Then they had to wait and wait.....and permission and orders for them to move came 3 days after the disaster. The Guard who was saying this looked so pained and disgusted...

gawker said...

Arzan : Thanks man

Sunil : Yes, there are numerous instances of willing rescuers not being allowed to do anything. Like the navy hospital ship which had helicopters, doctors, hospital beds, food and water. It also could make its own water, up to 100,000 gallons a day, and was in the vicinity, yet wasn't used at all.

lumi said...

The Three Stooges could have done a better job of handling the disaster. Once again the American people are finding out just what the rest of the world had long known....W is and idiot.

chappan said...

Bush bashing is a common sport when calamaity strikes, natural or man made.

WSJ had an article abt NO about 2 months ago, as to how a major hurricane, Level 5 would just destroy it. And thats what happened, even without the hurricane actually hitting. A few years ago, the mayor of city hall asked the employees to take the day off because of a hurricane scare, and he got roasted because no hurricane hit. So thats how it is. Damned if you do, damned if you dont.

Andrew happened in FL, but the aid there wasnt even close to what is being sent to NO. So a lil bit objectivism here, CG, is all I am saying.


gawker said...

Ok, first of all, I admit I indulge in a lot of wanton Bush bashing. But in this post, I have refrained from doing that. What I have presented are all facts. The only paragraph I accuse Bush of anything is where he lied about not knowing about the levees. And that WAS a lie. And maybe the one where I accuse him of being cold and callous. But that was more Barbara Bush bashing than George Bush bashing. And I am not contesting the fact that aid was sent. I am saying aid was sent 5 days too late. What was the reason for that? And look at the people in charge of this. They are all chronies of Bush, totally unfit for the position. These are facts, not biased bashing. More, later

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

hey! great post... read in a paper today that laura bush went on radio and said that people should be thankful for katrina because they were living in poverty anyway and at least now they're getting to enjoy the hospitality of Texans... is this true? i am shocked and horrified that anyone ANYONE could be that insensitive and stupid.

gawker said...

shoe : Thanks, yeah actually it was Barbara Bush who said that, and I address that in the post as well :

"The age old question "Where the fuck does George W Bush get his cold, callous indifference from?" has been finally answered."

Michael Higgins said...

Hi Gawker:
I tend to agree with Sourin; there is a lot of blame out there and W is just one of the ones deserving it. I agree that his choice of FEMA director was terrible.

However consider this: Sunil Laxman pointed out that the National Guard had to wait several days before they were called up. They can only be called up by the Governor of Lousiana (a Democrat). In fact, I read that she refuse other federal offers to help. I don't know why, but it seems odd. The state could have done much more.

The mayor of New Orleans and the local government never had a plan in case of such a disastor. N.O. sits 5 feet below sea level: this was a well known probability. No plan. They didn't even have police protection for the refugees left at the Superdome. Incredible.

The levees were known to be a risk for some time. None of the past presidents (including Bush) approved of upgrading them. On the other hand, if the city of New Orleans (the only beneficiary of the levees) had come in with some of the money, I strongly suspect that if the local government had coughed up some of the money, it would have happened. The local goveernment is Democrat.

So both parties let New Orleans down. Politician really stink when it comes to preparing for low probability events, because they cannot be re-elected on the slogan "I spent a lot of your money preparing for something that never happened but it could have."

If we want be crisis management, we need organisations that aren't so political.

gawker said...

Hey Michael
I agree too that there were a lot of other people who should share the blame too but consider this :

Bush weakened FEMA by putting it under the department of homeland security and giving it less funding.

The moment everyone knew NOLA was going to be be struck by a category 5 hurricane, the federal government should have gone into action, regardless of whether the state government asked them to or not. As Sunil said, it was all red tape. As it is, with 40% of the LA national guard in Iraq, it would have been impossible for LA to carry out rescue operations on it's own, And to invite NAtional guards from neighbouring states, wouldn't that be something the feds would have to do?

I agree every president from Kennedy onwards ignored the levees. Notife I did not pin this on Bush. However, what I can pin on Bush is that he reduced funding for strengthening the levees, the only president in 37 years to have done so.

And finally, what I AM asking for from Bush is accountability. Even after it was obvious that FEMA had fucked up, he still went on a podium and said to Michael Brown, head of FEMA, "You are doing an amazing job, Brownie". When the president himself rewards incompetence with words of praise, who the fuck is going to accept responsibility?

Again, to reiterate, I am not saying it was only Bush's fault. But when every-fucking-one screws up and yet Bush goes around acting like he doesn't accept even a single bit of responsibility for it, I WILL yell at him. The buck should stop at the top of the chain. But in Bush's case, it fucking never does.

gawker said...

I'm sorry if I appeared to yell at you, I wasn't. Its just that its hard to stomach 10,000 people dead in this country by a natural disaster, all of them the weakest section of society the government should be protecting, and not a single person willing to share responsibility.

gawker said...

And now this : The first assignment given to firefighters who arrived at NOLA was to stand beside the president for his photo shoot. That was while people were dying in the flooded streets. This is just outrageous.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, that preparing for the hurricane was the mayor's responsibility. Agreed that calling the national guard was the governor's responsibility. But where was FEMA? Didn't they know that the state alone will not be able to weather a disaster of this magnitude. Shouldn't they have been doing something about it ? Agreed that Bush/ Cheney or Rice are not the only ones to blame. Agreed that a whole system exists to address these kind of situations (that it did not work is a whole different story altogether) but shouldn't the three most powerful people in the country have been doing something other than vacationing and buying shoes when a catestrophe of biblical proportions was starring America in its face ? I don't know ...All i know is that thousands of people are dead in the richest most powerful country in the world and somebody is responsible. We need to fix blame and work to ensure that the disaster management plan is made fool-proof. But i don't see that happening. All i see is people trying to score points against their political rivals. Liberal media and politicos are going shrill blaming the republicans for everything saying nothing about the democrats involved . The right-wingers are similarly going red in the face denying any slip-ups by republicans and blaming the whole mess on the democrats. This is no friggin way to run a country. I don't know when people of this country will understand that they are Americans first and democrats or republicans second. - MINOTAUR

Anonymous said...

whoa ...that's a big friggin post ...sorry Gawker ...perhaps i should get my own blog :-))) -MINO

gawker said...

This Katrina timeline authoratively proves that it was FEMA failure more than failure at the state government level. This says the gulf states requested federal troops on friday itself. Saturday, the democratic governor of LA asked Bush to declare a federal emergency, thereby putting everything in FEMA's hands, which Bush did the same day. Monday the hurricane struck. monday morning the levee breached. Tuesday afternoon Bush was still playing the guitar in San Diego, Wednesday night Condoleezza Rice was taking in a Broadway show, thursday morning she visits the US open. Thursday afternoon, Michael Brown claims he doesnt know about looting. Friday Bush praises Michael Brown.

So in summary, it was on friday itself that FEMA had complete control over the rescue operations, so between friday and the next thursday, it basically sat on it's ass doing nothing. This is inexcusable.

gawker said...

mino you should get a blog of your own. it's very cathartic. and if you blogroll me, it saves a place for you in heaven.

gawker said...

via Sivacracy :

A memo sent by Brown to Michael Chertoff reveals that the man in charge of disaster preparation for the nation waited five hours after Katrina hit landfall before requesting DHS assistance, and then he was pretty leisurely about it; the New York Post says "he proposed sending 1,000 Homeland Security workers within 48 hours and then another 2,000 within seven days." Also, he "urged local fire and rescue departments outside Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi not to send trucks or emergency workers into disaster areas without an explicit request for help from state or local governments." That would be the state and local governments who had no phones and whatnot. He also suggested that the relief efforts might help "Convey a positive image of disaster operations to government officials, community organizations and the general public."


Brown explicitly forbade things from progressing without permission from the state government when the state government had already declared it a federal emergency.

You know, I revised my opinion. It is FEMA and only FEMA responsible for the tragedy. And since FEMA falls under the domain of the federal government, ultimately, it is Bush who is responsible. Here is one more interesting tidbit :

via Yahoo :

At a news conference, Pelosi, D-Calif., said Bush's choice for head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency had "absolutely no credentials."

She related that she had urged Bush at the White House on Tuesday to fire Michael Brown.

"He said 'Why would I do that?'" Pelosi said.

"'I said because of all that went wrong, of all that didn't go right last week.' And he said 'What didn't go right?'"


"What didn't go right", he asked. Is this guy for real?

Charu said...

did barbara Bush really say that?! father-son, mother-son, minlaw-dinlaw, the whole family is competing for the biggest foot in the history of the mnouth kind of thing.
and I loved your post...

jaygee said...

Superb and well said.. Just hope god (who kinda misplaced his aim as u say gawker) gives them strength to come back out of this tragedy, and go to the pelt the president and his wife with stones.. sigh thats reflex.

After the initial few links in your post.. i just could not read anymore. I can imagine the frustration of being helpless, stuck, wet and no end sight scenario....

gawker said...

charu : thanks, yeah, they even showed it on tv.

jaygee : i know, what i saw on tv looked pretty bad, and I couldn't imagine being in that situation.