My country is out of its COT DAMN MIND

First of all, the XML community way to help with Katrina (thanks, Alan).

So Katrina, which we fully anticipated, which smacked the Gulf Coast with much less force than it could have, which worked its devastation in a slow series of stages rather than one furious blow, still kicked our ever loving asses. We panic and spend billions of dollars on homeland security because we're afraid that some punk terrorist will blow up a test tube of Strontium 90 in a paper bag of C4? When we diverted this country's entire emergency management ledger over to terrorism prevention, all while we were busy cutting taxes and borrowing hundreds of billions from the very Asians we speak of in 21st century "yellow peril" terms, how did our most highly placed thinkers miss the simple fact that a natural disaster can inflict a hell of a lot more damage than human terrorists?

We want to despoil the environment in Anwar, Alaska for a modest mess of crude, when we haven't even taken common sense precautions to deal with the effect of natural disaster on the Gulf Coast refinery complex that is a couple of orders of magnitude more important to energy supply than Anwar will ever be.

We're forming post-apocalyptic gangs and shooting at rescuers. Hold up, what, what was that? Yeah. We're shooting at rescuers.

We're finding that we don't have enough resources to deal with the above problem at the same time we try to contain what could end up being a tertiary disaster in public health. Dead bodies float and loll, bloated, maturating, and mixed rudely in with the wretched living as if to mock their will to live.

We're seeing how a natural disaster, sentimentally an event that should bring people together, underscores the disparity between the races in much of this country. The geography and demographics of this disaster means that it is mostly a scourge of dark skinned people, and it is very hard, even for someone (like me) who is not very sensitive to racial matters not to see in the spasmodic official response a case of lesser concern about what happens to dark skinned people.

We're passing laws against small business petrol stations proprietors for "price gouging" despite the fact that stations throughout the region are out of gasoline, and station owners do not know how steep replacement prices will be (fuel futures are soaring, mind you), nor even how long it will be before they get can be re-stocked. Our energy policy has compounded long-term price pressures with a sharp, immediate scarcity, and we somehow prefer to use small businessmen as scapegoats for the inevitable spike in prices.

As I post this they are badly botching the relief effort to move tens of thousands of refugees from the Superdome (New Orleans) to the Astrodome (Houston), and the Astrodome is apparently turning into as much of a dirty, diseased and dangerous camp as the Superdome was.

And speaking of the Superdome environs, there was a horrible exchange yesterday on NPR between anchor Robert Siegel and Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff. First Siegel confronted Chertoff about thousands of people stranded at the Ernest N. Morial New Orleans Convention Center (NOCC), 8-10 blocks from the Superdome. Chertoff at first petulantly tried to brush this off as rumor-mongering. Siegel pointed out that these were details from reporters in the field, and Chertoff pretty much made a throw-up-the-hands response. Then reporter John Burnett came on the air and offered his first-hand description of the situation at the NOCC. You just have to hear the ghastly account yourself. "2000 people living like animals". No food, water or any provisions whatsoever, no security, and no one having even stopped by to tell them when to expect relief. It seems this is because no one even knew they existed except for reporters, despite the fact that they had been thronged there for three days. This isn't a handful of folks clustered on a flyover. It's a couple of thousand refugees stranded within blocks of the Superdome, which had been a similarly squalid scene, but on a greater scale until the evacuations started yesterday.

Chertoff's spokesperson contacted NPR later on, to admit that he had confirmed the NOCC situation, and that they are working tirelessly to address the full humanitarian disaster. The funny thing is that early on in the Siegel/Chertoff exchange the secretary had said rather piquantly that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has plans in place for every conceivable disaster. You could have bloody fooled me. I repeat: Katrina was a good ways from the worst case scenario of a hurricane hitting New Orleans.

We have botched the search and rescue. We have botched public health. We have botched security. We have botched management of the economic effects. Our leaders are mewling about commentators "politicizing" the situation while they continue to botch matters for hundreds of thousands of displaced citizens who have already lost everything and don't even know when they will be afforded the basic necessities of life.

Most of the executive branch of the U.S., starting with the president, truly this week deserves to have their heads dunked into the fouled waters of the Pontchartrain, before they are relieved of duty for the grossest possible mismanagement. It's too bad that it's only criminal activity that is grounds for impeachment. Bush this morning calls the response to the disaster "unacceptable". Quick. Someone get that man a mirror while he is still in this moment of lucidity.

I don't know whether to ascribe to left wing agitprop the tales of Condi Rice shopping in Manhattan and practicing tennis with Monica Seles while the Bush cabinet purports to be on an emergency footing, but at this point it wouldn't surprise me the merest bit.

I mean, someone call up the Last Poets, because this is true madness.

Update: Thanks to Micah Dubinko for a link to a good summary of Bush mismanagement and belligerence and how it made things worse in New Orleans.

And please listen to Michael Rys:

And do not forget the situation in Iraq, Darfour and Niger, Malawi and other forgotten emergencies...

Wikipedia says that report claim up to 20,000 at the Convention Center, rather than the 2,000 estimated by Burnett.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia
9 responses
Right now, the estimate for the convention center is about 25,000. CNN showed footage of what it looked like in there. It was truly depressing.

The level of mismanagement involved in how this happened was stunning. I have an article up on my blog about it as well as links to a 3 year old NPR show predicting pretty much what happened.

In this country, of all places, I would not have expected this
Thank you Uche for this post.

It won't change anything per se but it'll help historians one day in the future to understand why Humanity collapsed during the dawn of the 21st century.

Mind you, we are no better here Europe. Well we do have a longer History than you but it's also because 400 years ago some of us decided to invade the Americas to erase your History. I suppose America is just waking up from its own History.

Anyway, I think the one thing that stroke me when I saw all the different images was that we could only see coloured people over there. Since I don't know the US demography very well, either New Orleans is (was) primarly a city inhabited by coloured people or maybe only white people got the right to be evacuated before Katarina arrived which I hope it's not the case :(

It'd so easy to go again on "look at how Bush and its administration react... they don't care about the american people, they never did and they never will... what matters to them is the money they can take from you, them, wherever!"

But it'd be useless. Bush has just made things worse but it's us who are responsible for that, all of us, our parents, everyone.

We keep on consuming all the time, we want more, we want everything right now, we want it cheap and we don't care if some ice will melt in some unknown places up in the North pole.

Now it's up to us to change things and we need to change them NOW!

Let's be realistic, we don't want to go back to the fields and live like our gran-gran-gran-gran-parents used to, but we can imrpove little by little all of that.

Maybe Katarina is not the result of the global warming of course, but who can believe the global warming didn't have an impact on it?

You know lately we were talking with some friends and at some points we got to the point that maybe we shouldn't have children because we don't want them to suffer in the world we will server them...

Where do we go from here?
Complementary commentary:

“If terrorists came to America and killed 1,000 people a year, it wouldn’t even begin to show up on the causes of death. We can safely ignore terrorism.”

Of course, terrorism is a much better vehicle for scaremongering: you can’t use natural disasters, terrifyingly more potent as they may be, to justify wars, to erode civil liberties and base rights, or to corrode the separation of powers.

Well said.  I'll feature your piece a bit more tonight.


Read Kwasi's entry at

For an excellent analysis of why the poor (and predominantly black) didn't evacuate.  They were allowed to flee, but they didn't have the means.
"We panic and spend billions of dollars on homeland security because we're afraid that some punk terrorist will blow up a test tube of Strontium 90 in a paper bag of C4? "

actually one of the stated purposes of the Dept. Of Homeland Security is swift response in cases of Natural Disaster. So I suppose this is the level of response one could expect from said punk terrorist blowing up a test tube etc. etc.
Bindings seem to be gaining a lot of attention lately - indeed, if you filtered out the GIS side from the discussions at the SVG Open 2005 conference, you'd think that the conference should have been named Open Bindings (which...
[Another cartoon inspired by current news. Please feel free to comment!]