Thursday, September 01, 2005

Gotta Get Mine

The sheer grief of death is mesmerizing. I watched a man on the news Tuesday night disintegrate. The flooding split his home, and he could no longer hand onto his wife's hands. He and the children lived;she swept and drowned.

"I've lost everything."

This was not about stuff. This was about the debilitating loss of a rock in your life.

He wept. The reporter cried. My tears fell,too. I did not know this woman, but I understood that this family had been ripped apart as simply as she'd been torn from his grip.

Looking at the sea that is New Orleans is like watching another country. Unrecognizable devastation has little face time in America. We've had spots of drama, bits of opportunities for courage and toughing it out, but these moments are nearly edifying. We like their bracing affirmation that we are hardy, we can handle it. Last year in the Florida hurricanes, I saw this often. I felt it in myself. We can absorb the hardship when we can see the end of it. We can strive to rebuild when there is some sort of recognizable path. It's kind of like giving birth. You're willing to handle the pain, because it will end. No one stays in labor forever.

In New Orleans, the city is ruined. Not damaged. Uninhabitable. The government cannot provide any viability, and anarchy is upon them. The culprit was not the eye of the storm, but the fragility of the levees that protect the city.

Fragile? Levees?

New Orleans had long known it was highly vulnerable to flooding and a direct hit from a hurricane. In fact, the federal government has been working with state and local officials in the region since the late 1960s on major hurricane and flood relief efforts. When flooding from a massive rainstorm in May 1995 killed six people, Congress authorized the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, or SELA.Over the next 10 years, the Army Corps of Engineers, tasked with carrying out SELA, spent $430 million on shoring up levees and building pumping stations, with $50 million in local aid. But at least $250 million in crucial projects remained, even as hurricane activity in
the Atlantic Basin increased dramatically and the levees surrounding New Orleans continued to subside. --
Editor & Publisher

You see, there was a little problem. In 2003, SELA funding was cut drastically. The Army Corps of Engineer acknowledged that the funding problem was due to the war in Iraq. The Times Picayune ran nine articles stating the cost of Iraq was the reason the hurricane and flood-control dollars weren't there.

In early 2004, as the cost of the conflict in Iraq soared, President Bush proposed spending less than 20 percent of what the Corps said was
needed for Lake Pontchartrain, according to a Feb. 16, 2004, article, in New Orleans CityBusiness.On June 8, 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; told the Times-Picayune: "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us." --
Editor & Publisher

In retrospect, I think is the case for the preservation of the city as a security issue has been made abundantly. Sure, we're not dealing with imported terrorists, but a home grown variety born of desperation, frustration and greed. There is no underlying religious justification for the terror, just the religion of "gotta get mine" that Have vs. Have-Not society nurtures. New Orleans, a city of wealth and vagrancy, is full of frightened impoverished Have-Nots at the mercy of our newly minted urban terrorists. We are quick to imply unworthiness because of race, but the real root cause is greed, and the addictive desire to tier our society for self wealth preservation.

The war in Iraq is about oil and it's control and profitability to a few select American corporations; this was confirmed by our President. I take no comfort in this magnamonious display of truth. I doubt the people of New Orleans, staring down the barrel of looted pawn shop weaponry into the eyes of our "gotta get mine" terrorists, do either.

The Newhouse News Service article published Tuesday night observed, "The Louisiana congressional delegation urged Congress earlier this year to dedicate a stream of federal money to Louisiana's coast, only to be opposed by the White House. ... In its budget, the Bush administration proposed a significant reduction in funding for southeast Louisiana's chief hurricane protection project. Bush proposed $10.4 million, a sixth of what local officials say they need."Local officials are now saying, the article reported, that had
Washington heeded their warnings about the dire need for hurricane protection, including building up levees and repairing barrier islands, "the damage might not have been nearly as bad as it turned out to be." --
Editor & Publisher

Congratulations, American cities. Crucial funding is being cut from all of you, but when the earth came calling, it wasn't for you. This time. Oh, and New Orleans?

Bang, bang. You're dead.


At September 02, 2005 9:14 AM, Blogger liberalprogressive said...


I couldn't agree with you more. When are we going to wake up? We cannot go on like this, thinking that we do not need each other or rely on each other. This didn't have to happen like this and the fact that it has now been five days and most people have not seen any help is infuriating. What is it going to take for us to get help to these people?

At September 02, 2005 9:14 AM, Blogger liberalprogressive said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At September 02, 2005 9:14 AM, Blogger liberalprogressive said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At September 02, 2005 9:14 AM, Blogger liberalprogressive said...

sorry i posted 3 computer was acting up and i kept hitting the post button....oops

At September 02, 2005 10:00 AM, Blogger Jet said...

No problem. I'll delete the duplicates. ;-D

We'll probably never know how many people we killed post Katrina due to no timely national response. It really underscores the dismissiveness of a Have vs. Have-Not mindset. It's annoying and expensive to deal with these poor people. By the time you get around to it, they go and die on you cause they're such weak needy annoyances.


At September 02, 2005 11:32 AM, Blogger Tracey said...

I'm still pissed that the director of FEMA decided to blame the victims--you know, the people that were too poor, elderly or sick to evacuate--for not evacuating in time.

And don't forget about Condi dropping 3K on shoes the other day while people were dying on rooftops. The Republicans in charge of this country...what a bunch of sweethearts!

At September 02, 2005 1:51 PM, Blogger Brother Kenya said...

I just read on Raw Story that New Orleans had prepared a message for widespread distribution in the city that, in effect, people would be "on their own" in the event of a category 3 hurricane. The reason for this ominous message was lack of resources.

There will be permanent consequences to this disaster.

Good post, Jet.

At September 02, 2005 4:45 PM, Blogger windspike said...

The American Spirit has been shredded - and its not just by Katrina. The W, Rove and Co Romp in Iraq is a big part of the equation.

At September 02, 2005 6:34 PM, Blogger Jet said...

Tracey, the Director of FEMA will be handed his walking papers for that performance. He SHOULD get them for being inept, but he WILL get them because a public scape goat is required.

Hey BK, thanks for the compliment. The permanant consequences are already coming to the fore. NOLA is being battered for stupidly building below sea level, and I suspect the right will use the reasoning to mount a campaign to not spend the money to deal with it.

Birthplace of Louie Armstong, my personal music hero, and Fats Domino, who may have died there during Katrina.

Screw culture. We've got reality TV.

Wind, I agree on the shred part. I'm just not sure if Mother Nature or low down skunks are responsible.

At September 02, 2005 7:44 PM, Blogger Tom Harper said...

This is just tragic beyond description. I've been to New Orleans twice; there's no place even remotely like it. I always thought San Francisco was the most wacky, anything-goes city in America, but it looks like Mayberry compared to New Orleans.

In addition to the human tragedy, there's the musical heritage. Not just Dixieland Jazz and Fats Domino, their best known music, but in the early '60s half the music on the radio seemed to be New Orleans groups. Ernie K-Doe, the Jarmels, Chris Kenner, the Dixie Cups, Lee Dorsey -- these aren't household names, but for anyone old enough to be listening to the radio in 1961-63, their music was everywhere.

At September 02, 2005 8:48 PM, Blogger Brad said...

Everyone, relax! Fats Domino is okay. I just read it somewhere that he was rescued from his home by boat.

Nicely done, Jet. Great post. Next thing you know, Bush is going to declare a "war on Nature". Oh, shit. He already did.

At September 02, 2005 9:13 PM, Blogger ~Betsy said...

So many people are baking in the sun on rooftops and dying from the inability to get medical care ~ like the person who was without oxygen and had to have someone pump a bag of air by hand into their lungs. It's because the Louisiana National Guard troops and equipment, including rescue helicopters, are over in Iraq.

It's appalling that it took GW two days to decide he needed to make an appearance. He never stops surprising me; I expect the worst and he delivers more.

My heart goes out to the thousands of people in such desperate situations, no food or water; rampant rape, beatings, muggings; and the sheer terror of not knowing what has happened to the rest of your family. The word tragedy does not suffice.

The re-allocation of levee-building funds to Iraq has to be in the forefront of this recovery discussion. And at some point, some of the blame HAS to stick the shrub, right? Some legacy.

At September 02, 2005 10:35 PM, Blogger Brad said...

It's totally fucked up, but the country's going to survive this, for better or worse, and George Bush is going to go down as the hero.

The great, big, gigantic, Alfred E. Newman, fuckwad that he is.

(I apologize for simply resorting to petty name-calling and swearing, but I've tried logic, and it doesn't work. Sorry.)

At September 05, 2005 8:48 AM, Blogger pia savage said...

we are going to pull together as a country and become stronger for this. Now everybody knows what we have long known; we have a disfunctional government that wouldn't know a crisis from a vacation.

I didn't want my personal blog to become political but...

if I couldn't watch a Broadway play on Tuesday because I couldn't stop thinking about the hurricane what the hell was Condi Rice doing at Spamalot on Wednesday?

I keep on bringing that example up, because it's the only way I can comprehend the callousness and sickness of our government

At September 05, 2005 12:05 PM, Blogger Unadulterated Underdog said...

Bush said he was taking the nation to war to protect the people. He said he would do everything in his power to protect America. He has failed utterly and for all time.

He took money that should have been used to protect New Orleans and used to to fund his war. $30 million that would have made safe the city was not used to do so. Now, instead of spending $30 to finish building the city's defenses, we will spend $10 + billion rebuilding it. New Orleans is to foreer be a monument to his utter failure and depth of dishonesty. The deaths of the people of the south are on his hands.

At September 05, 2005 10:59 PM, Blogger Gun-Toting Liberal said...

My heart was SHATTERED when I saw that guy talking, and grieving over his lost wife. Even my beloved, "right winger" wife (God Bless her heart!) paused in her condemnation of the weak of Nawlins' for their "self imposed plight" for a moment to wipe a tear from her eye. I wish they would stop showing that video feed, because I cannot help but to feel this man's unimagineable pain everytime they show it again (and again, and again). What a freaking TRAGEDY!


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