Thursday, September 01, 2005


Holy Shit

Well, don’t I feel presidential, rhapsodizing about my Town Car ride while the entire Gulf Coast was sinking into unimaginable chaos? Could something constructive possibly come of this not-so-natural disaster? A tidal wave of get-the-fucking-national-guard-home-now and fucking-stop-global-warming-while-you’re-at-it sentiment washing the Bushcons out to sea without a paddle?
First of all, Alison, get this crystal clear: this Bushcon's politics aren't about to change because of a hurricane.

And I think it's disgusting to turn the hurricane into a political issue.

If you want to do "something constructive", I suggest you direct your readers to any of the very fine charities that are helping to provide for people. I've just made online donations to the Red Cross and United Jewish Communities. An extensive list of charities can be found at Instapundit. Please encourage your readers to get their credit cards out and help in any way they can.

Oh, and congratulations on the upcoming memoir. I'll be looking forward to reading it.
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Sorry is political.

Due to the fact that we have no leadership in this country, thousands of people may have died. Bush was eating cake with John McCain and playing guitar all the while there was a monumental disaster in the making. Republicans, such as yourself, decided it was more important to attack Iraq and give yourself tax cuts than to shore up the levees in New Orleans.

If this doesn't wake you up Shoshanna, nothing will. (Do you seriously want Condi for prez??)
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It certainly took everyone some time to sink in how great the catastrophe is. New Orleans never will be what it was.
Probably even the most convinced environmentalist could not really imagine how bad it was gonna be.
The news over here just reported the mayor of N O called for help - they have no more food, drinking water, and medical supplies for the people still not evacuated.

Alison, I fear that Bush and his cronies won't get the message. To bad, really.
CJ Germany
P.S.: I never before came across blog-spamming.
All those "removed posts" are weird spam things. Not sure what triggered them.
don't feel too bad about riding in a town car in's not like you're the secretary of state..who was also in ny and had plenty of time to see broadway shows and spend thousands on prada all while New Orleans was going down.
Bush won't change but this might push the voters back over the edge.

This is political, this is the *point* of politics. Our official planning has failed, and in the same way as in Iraq. There was no planning about the fact that 1/5th of the residents didn't do what they were told or did it belatedly. If 1/5th of the people were going to do that, the government should have been able to predict it and have a plan. Absolutely people have personal responsibility, and those folks are suffering for their poor decision. But also absolutely this is what we hire planners & government for, to take care of these situations. These people have responsibility too.

The administration replaced the old, deeply competent head of FEMA with a flunky early in 2005. The administration started a war that sent 1/3rd of the national guard to attack another country. The administration put FEMA under "homeland security" and `taxed' them to death to support the new department, and took FEMA out of the cabinet. These things must have had an impact on response time.

But the lame plans that didn't include post-hurricane evacuation have been in place despite 30 years of warnings about New Orleans. So that you can't blame on one administration. Voters need to learn about administrations, but political scientiests & planners had better be learning too.
Of course it's political, it always is...

As far as "doing something constructive," sure it's great to donate to the Red Cross, but an ounce of prevention is still worth a pound of cure. That's what we are talking about when we say it's political.

As the New York Times editorializes, "Why were developers permitted to destroy wetlands and barrier islands that could have held back the hurricane's surge? Why was Congress, before it wandered off to vacation, engaged in slashing the budget for correcting some of the gaping holes in the area's flood protection?"

Many members of the National Guard and much of its equipment - including high-water vehicles - are in Iraq. If that's not political, what is?

Maybe the conservative "leadership" (big air quotes here) won't change, but I never thought I'd live to see the day when George Bush was telling folks to conserve gasoline. That's got to count for something, even if it's only a moment of cynical laughter.

Turning the hurricane itself -- a specific, isolated meteorological event -- into a political issue isn't disgusting. It's silly. What would be disgusting is failing to hold people responsible for their decisions and actions, and turning the hurricane into nothing but an opportunity for charity. Charity is always, by its nature, insufficient -- not wrong or bad, but insufficient. Always, by its nature.

I largely agree with Jaibe's summary of what the Cheney and prior administrations are responsible for. I would only add that the money that went into tax cuts for the superrich and the Iraq quagmire could, potentially, have gone into funding for municipalities -- for instance, to improve New Orleans' levee system. Would it have? I don't know, and neither do you.

More broadly, the economic consequences of the hurricane would be less than they will be if the Cheney administration had not been busy over the last several years destabilizing critical oil producing regions -- the Persian Gulf and Venezuela -- and reducing further our already meager fuel economy requirements. Thinking about getting outraged over how I can possibly mention economics at a time of such human suffering? Think twice. Economics is how people feed, clothe, and house themselves. A worsening economy is going to mean more wife-beating, more murders, more suicides. Exactly how much of that could have been avoided? I don't know, and neither do you.

As for the personal responsibility of those who failed to evacuate, according to the Wall Street Journal one of the crucial determinants of who evacuated and who did not was ownership of a car. In other words, poverty.

Alison, if you had refused to ride in that Town Car it would have made absolutely zero difference to any of this. In fact, with all respect, there's the danger of a kind of egotism in drawing too close a connection. I am really looking forward to your memoir. When will it be out?

Also, did the deleted posts appear to be politically motivated or were they just advertising? Or something else?
I believe Alison said the deleted comments were spam. I noticed several spam comments myself before Alison got to them.

Jaibe, Ellen, and anon make good points. Any disaster puts our leadership to the test, and the leaders and agencies we depend on should be held accountable if they fail to peform. In the wake of Katrina, tough questions will quite rightly be asked of local, state, and Federal agencies, including the Bush Administration. I'm going to refrain from either attacking or defending Bush on the hurricane response until I've had a chance to learn a little more. If it comes out that the President's response to this disaster has been inadequate, I will not hesitate to criticize.

Regarding the deployment of the National Guard, there can be little doubt that the heavy NG commitment in Iraq has lessened our ability to deal with disasters like Katrina. It's not a consequence anybody accepts lightly. If our mission in Iraq and the Middle East weren't overwhelmingly important, I wouldn't be supporting the military effort as I do.

But it's because I do know something about Iraq, and what's at stake there, that I understand how important it is to finish the job.

Readers who want to know more about Iraq should visit Iraq the Model at . Be sure to follow the discussion in the Comments section, you'll find a lot of debate and a lot of information.
"If it comes out that the President's response to this disaster has been inadequate, I will not hesitate to criticize."

Go ahead and keep your blinders on, Shoshanna--what else do you need? Americans are dying in front of our eyes and wake up, we lost Iraq!
Regarding the National Guard, here are some figures provided by James Robbins at National Review:

"Take the Army for example. There are 1,012,000 soldiers on active duty, in the Reserves, or in the National Guard. Of them, 261,000 are deployed overseas in 120 countries. Iraq accounts for 103,000 soldiers, or 10.2 percent of the Army.

... If you add in Afghanistan (15,000) and the support troops in Kuwait (10,000) you still only have 12.6 percent.

So where are the rest? 751,000 (74.2 percent) are in the U.S. About half are active duty, and half Guard and Reserve. The Guard is the real issue of course ...

According to Lieutenant General H. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, 75 percent of the Army and Air National Guard are available nationwide. In addition, the federal government has agreed since the conflict in Iraq started not to mobilize more than 50 percent of Guard assets in any given state, in order to leave sufficient resources for governors to respond to emergencies. ..."

Read the rest of the article here.

I'm not going to burden Alison's comments any more on this subject, but I do think there will be plenty of time to discuss what went right, what went wrong, and what could be done better.
Yes, anonymous is right --- I was trying to keep my post relatively short & simple (& I was angry about shoshannah's first post!) but I spent some time on the live New Orleans chatroom (
talking about the reason most of the people left behind are black is because they are the ones who lacked cars, the fact that many `looters' were after the only clean water source they could get to for their families (so they shouldn't be all shot on sight as some were suggestiong), that even the guys shooting at the helicopters had a reason (they were trying to get them to come rescue their families --- hey, I didn't say the reason made sense! But these people are desperate. People are dying!)

Actually I am white & lack a car --- I wonder if the 4 white people in the superdome were carfree liberals? :-) But I could also have afforded to take the train out of town before they shut it down on Saturday. One big planning failure is not having gotten free busses into the poor areas before the storm, but still, some people would have refused to go. The next big planning failure was having no plan at all for the people who didn't or couldn't leave. Many want to evacuate now but can't figure out how & of course that's because there's no good way to. The LA Times has an article about that most cities have plans for a network of redcross-run shelters e.g. in schools but NO had no such plan (again, can't blame the federal government for that one, though you might be able to for the lack of advance-hurricane busses since that's FEMA domain too.)

Back to the Blog's topic... When is PO going to post last week's strip?

Sorry, the 1/3rd number (rather than 1/4th like shoshanna just quoted) refers only to poor southern states who have a disproportionate number of NG over there apparently. This apparently includes LA & Mississippi.
"In Louisiana only about a third of Guard personnel are deployed, and they will be returning in about a week as part of their normal rotation. The Mississippi Guard has 40 percent overseas. But Louisiana and Mississippi are not alone in this effort — under terms of Emergency Management Assistance Compacts (EMACs) between the states, Guard personnel are heading to the area from West Virginia, D.C., New Mexico, Utah, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Alabama, Washington, Indiana, Georgia, Kentucky, and Michigan. Thousands have already arrived, and more will over the next day or so."
Hey all.

First of all, AB, I'm sure you've sorted this out already, but the way to protect yourself from those crazy spams is to go your settings option, choose "comments," then the "verification" option. That prevents automated spam.

As for the ire that Shoshana's comment raised, I just wanted to offer my perspective on it. I do agree, OBVIOUSLY, that this event is political--deeply, deeply so, especially as evidence abounds that this disaster could've been avoided had Bush and his cronies taken heed of warnings stemming back to 2001.

But I also know, as a person who's lived in NYC for 13 golden, fucked-up years, that when the events of September 11, 2001 took place, and I was still smelling the charred ashes of human bodies and buildings, when I still mourning the deaths of two close friends and many associates, when I still trying to sort out how my beloved city and thus life would return to any semblance of normal, I almost ripped the heads off my well-meaning friends on the West Coast. Even during those first few days, when I'd talk to them they'd fast-forward past the fact that so many flesh and blood bodies had/were sufferering and would launch into ideological debates and conversations and future predictions and HOPES, much as you just did, Alison. It just didn't feel right yet to transform it into grist for the political debate mill. It felt....callous.

Any conversations that skip over the actual flesh-and-blood bodies in crisis right now flat-out make me wince. Any conversations that focus on Bush and policy rather than the denizens of New Orleans (and surrounding areas) seem almost as distanced and, yes, almost opportunistic as the Bush camp itself. Maybe that's what Shoshanna meant by "turning it into a political issue." She'd have to speak to that.

All I know, all I feel, I guess, is that the best thing we can do for all those suffering is to concentrate on what we can possibly do with our resources, our time, our thoughts until those in terrible danger are a little bit safer (obviously many lives will never be the same again). Our energy needs to go those folks rather than to our pathetic government, especially since they're clearly totally not up to the task of responding to this crisis with even a modicum of humanity. Can we please behave differently?
Well, Rubenfire, I really have to disagree with you on several points. At least you do concede that events like this have political dimensions, but you seem to think (as Shoshana does) that "politics" means only partisan politics. It doesn't. In fact, it seems to me to be the left that is addressing the fact of all those human bodies out there, while the right prefers to ignore them. Talking about what need to needs to be done in the wake of the hurricane is unavoidably going to have a partisan dimension, though, when the government responds so inadequately. What do do *now* is a political question. And refusing to look at that aspect of it while pointing *solely* to private charities is very clearly political in the very way you're complaining about. Shoshana's original remarks were completely irresponsible. ("First of all, Alison, get this crystal clear: th is Bushcon's politics aren't about to change because of a hurricane." I doubt that Alison imagined any such thing. But what *would* change a "Bushcon's politics"? Certainly nothing in the real world, almost by definition.)

That's not just a Democrat vs. Republican thing, of course. Clinton and his partisans played the same game that Bush and his partistans are playing now: if you questioned his policies, you were "playing politics", while he was merely being statesmanlike and trying to do what was right.

Your dragging 9/11 into the mix is interesting, since it plays the same game you're attacking in others. I don't know what airy-fairy ideological fantasies your West Coast friends were indulging in, but they couldn't have been any more unrealistic than Bush's response to the attack. (Which was, you may recall, to attack Afghanistan, while holding back government money from New York.) And I know that many other New Yorkers who lived close to the World Trade Center had very *political* responses to the attack -- Mark Crispin Miller, for one.
I find it highly disturbing that folks will defend Bush on this. What is the difference between this and a terrorist attack (other than a warning). We are not prepared for ANYTHING.
for the record, I would never dream of defending bush-or anyone in the federal gov't or state gov't for that matter. nor do i think that this isn't a political event. I was just inititally trying to interpret my own reaction to AB's response, which I'd felt uncomfortable with. And here's what I am still saying--and I don't think any of y'all responses make me feel any different--that we fast-forwarding to the good side on a policy-wonk level is fucked-up. Take the energy you're expounding now and send money/food/clothing to one of the nongovernmental agencies instead. I include myself in this (just got back from the post office). and saying how this can help environmentalists (which it won't, trust me, things are too far gone for this) is depressingly disassociative.

a. there was a fund that had been raised three years ago to raise the levys in new orleans that would have prevented the worst of the damage. bush took that fund to fund his invasion of a country that he had no business invading. millions in iraq dead as a result of that action (and his daddy's). now thousands of people in the u.s. dead as the direct result of the same action.

b. the u.s. is one of the few countries that refuses to sign the kyoto protocol. the administration is not only unwilling to take responsibility for its monumental environmental fuck-ups but refuses to take steps to slow down the destruction of the planet - whose weather will worsen and grow steadily more unpredictable as time goes on - worse storms than this will occur if it keeps refusing to stop pumping out waste at an unnecessarily and inordinately high rate.

c. here in sydney there is a plan in place whereby if there is some impending disaster the city will take control of all buses (including private ones) and use them to get people out of the city who can't get out otherwise. it is estimated that they could get out between 20,000-30,000 people an hour. funding for a plan such as this should have been in place for these people. taxpayers money should be paying for things like that, and healthcare and education, which your government seems blissfully unwilling to do. better off spending money on tanks and missiles to invade nations for oil (and don't try to tell me it was really about "replacing a dictator," the u.s. has no problem with dictators as is evidenced by the many democratic admininstrations they have helped to overthrow in order to install a military dicator, say in iran or many places in south america).

to say this flood is a political issue is not the minimise the tragic loss of lives. instead, it honours them by trying to look at why this problem happened, and look to ways to help prevent it happening again. yes, try and help the people suffering now, but also try and put in place measures to prevent this or similar things happening again. to say there is something hurtful in that, to say that it doesnt take "the bodies" into consideration is short-sighted, and does not really take humanity as a whole, or even these victims of a natural disaster that could have been not prevented but at least minimised, into consideration.
To Duncan's comment on private charities: Can you provide a link to that?

The reason Christianity out-competed Paganism in Rome is because it had better social support services (& the Roman state had none.) I think the NeoCons know that the reason that religion is on the fade in Europe is because democracy & public social welfare are doing a better job than religion can.

You get weird people on the message boards saying that people can't depend on the government but have to rely on each other. The government *is* the way re rely on each other! We vote for & pay for it! What they are really saying is they want to put power in a different place than the state, where they think they will have more control over it (& I do have some sympathy for needing more power to local government.) Religion is one of those places.

I think the more we get the hang of running our democracy, the better off we will be. This is the only power structure of, for & by the people, that we can really fix.

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While I would agree that a natural disaster is not (on its face) political, the response to it by the city, state, and federal governments surely is.

If I see one more photo of looters, I'm going to scream. The media doesn't seem to be considering the fact that the people left in NO -- some of whom are participating in 'genuine' looting and other crimes, most of whom are just displaced, starving, and terrified -- are the ones without means and opportunity to get out.

They showed gorgeous Architectural Digest homes under water. Note that there were no human beings on the roofs of those homes, frantically trying to get help. I'll bet that those homeowners have federal flood insurance, which will allow them to rebuild, while obviously they will have lost things that cannot be replaced.

There are thousands of poor people who have lost everything, who are certainly without federal flood insurance (it's an expensive extra), who stayed because they had nowhere to go and no means to get there. They were abandoned on all fronts.

A breach of the NO levees has long been atop a list of terrible things that might happen. Since 9/11, it's been on the list of potential terrorist targets. What the hell has the department of homeland security been doing if they haven't sorted out an evacuation plan for NO?

Whether or not the war in Iraq is a bad thing, if it left LA unable to cope with a disaster the federal government had a responsibility to step in right away to take up the slack.

So this is not about politicizing a natural disaster. The is about the total and complete failure of infrastructure -- and this is absolutely political.

I wondered why most photos of people still waiting for help showed black people. I wasn't sure if the reason was poverty - i.e. much more black people remained in the city because they hadn't the means to evacuate, or if it was a bias in the German media coverage. After the scope of the catasthrophe has become evident, it is treated much like any other - and we are so much more used to black people featuring as the victims of cathastrophe.

The news gets worse every day. Strengh and help to all coping with this thing.

It cannot be wrong to critcise the lack of planning now, maybe this will lead to better plans soon. Hurricane season is not over, unfortunately, and it'd be better to plan to much now than regret later.
CJ de
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