September 8, 2005

it was the worst of the lord some of the worst of the lord

Steven Roebuck, Overdose, Oil on Masonite

* Sidney Blumenthal in Salon:

"The Bush administration's mishandling of Hurricane Katrina stands as the pluperfect case study of the Republican Party's theory and practice of government. For decades conservatives have funded think tanks, filled libraries and conducted political campaigns to promote the idea of limited government. Now, in New Orleans, the theory has been tested. The floodwaters have rolled over the rhetoric.

"Under Bush, government has been 'limited' only in certain weak spots, like levees, while in other spots it has vastly expanded into a behemoth subsisting on the greatest deficit spending in our history. State and local governments have not been empowered, but rendered impotent, in the face of circumstances beyond their means in which they have desperately requested federal intervention. Experienced professionals in government have been forced out, tried-and-true policies discarded, expert research ignored, and cronies elevated to senior management."
The White House released a waterfall of themes. No matter how contradictory, administration officials maintained message discipline. The first imperative was to disclaim and deflect responsibility. White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan admonished the press corps, 'This is not a time to get into any finger-pointing or politics or anything of that nature.' [ed. note: as john stewart said, anyone who doesn't want to play the blame game is to blame.] The president down to the lowliest talk show hosts echoed the line that criticism during the crisis and reporting its causes were unseemly and vaguely unpatriotic.
"On Sept. 1, the Pentagon announced the award of a major contract for repair of damaged naval facilities on the Gulf Coast to Halliburton, the firm whose former CEO is Vice President Dick Cheney and whose chief lobbyist is Joe Allbaugh.

"Hurricane Katrina is the anti-9/11 in its divisive political effect, its unearthing of underlying domestic problems, and its disorienting impact on the president and his administration. Yet, in other ways, the failure of government before the hurricane struck is reminiscent of the failures leading into 9/11. The demotion of FEMA resembles the demotion of counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke. In both cases, the administration ignored clear warnings.

"In a conversation with a former diplomat with decades of experience, I raised these parallels. But the Bush administration response evoked something else for him. 'It reminds me of Africa,' he said. 'Governments that prey on their people.'"

related: Ray Davies on New Orleans [via]:

"I have been astonished by the reactions and apparent shame of some of the U.S. television reporters who seemed overwhelmed to discover that there actually is poverty in America. They made me want to grab my television and shout 'Hello, dear reporter, yes, America actually does have poor and underprivileged people as well. Hello, yes, the president might well be slow to react but at times like this, that's all that an over-burdened, out-of-touch president can be."

* clusterfuck nation. excerpt:

"The actual tendency in practice, is to build back pretty much what was there before, because the insurance companies demand it. If a strip mall was washed away, then the insurer will only finance the rebuilding of a strip mall. This is most unfortunate, particularly for those places further east of New Orleans along the Gulf Coast, and a hundred miles inland, because they were composed primarily of suburban sprawl. If they rebuild along that template, they will do so in the face of strong signals from reality that the age of Easy Motoring is over. The romance of the car may be too great to overcome in Dixie.
"The biggest shock to the public lies a couple of months ahead when the cost of natural gas for home heating (50 percent of the dwellings in America) combines with stubbornly higher pump prices to whap them upside the head. Natural gas at around $12.00 is now many times what it cost as recently as 2003 ($3.00). A lot of Americans will be shivering this winter and some of the weak, old, and poor will die as a result.

"President Bush has already taken a hit on his appointees' Chinese Fire Drill response to disaster management. But the toll from the energy problems the whole nation faces will be more insidious. Strapped for cash from filling their gas tanks, unable to buy Christmas presents at WalMart, and huddled around space heaters, the public will be wondering why they were so poorly prepared."

* Interesting Roy Kesey interview of George Saunders over at Maud Newton's site.

* "The man who by swindling or wrongdoing acquires great wealth for himself at the expense of his fellow, stands as low morally as any predatory medieval nobleman." -- Theodore Roosevelt


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