The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Bush visit halts food delivery

Times-Picayune


Saturday, September 03, 2005

Bush visit halts food delivery
By Michelle Krupa
Staff writer

Three tons of food ready for delivery by air to refugees in St. Bernard Parish and on Algiers Point sat on the Crescent City Connection bridge Friday afternoon as air traffic was halted because of President Bush’s visit to New Orleans, officials said.

The provisions, secured by U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-Napoleonville, and state Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom, baked in the afternoon sun as Bush surveyed damage across southeast Louisiana five days after Katrina made landfall as a Category 4 storm, said Melancon’s chief of staff, Casey O’Shea.

“We had arrangements to airlift food by helicopter to these folks, and now the food is sitting in trucks because they won’t let helicopters fly,” O’Shea said Friday afternoon.

The food was expected to be in the hands of storm survivors after the president left the devastated region Friday night, he said.

http://www.nola.com/weblogs/print.ssf?/mtlogs/nola_Times-Picayune/archives/print076556.html


Update:

From a report about Laura Bush's photo-op trip to Lafayette:
http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2005/9/4/124532/7736


It goes to show how overwhelming things are here right now that I encountered the First Lady yesterday and I almost forgot to put it in this e-mail. It actually couldn't have been a worse experience; a team of us were working to put up a website with directions to every Red Cross shelter in the region when we were evicted from the computer room by the Secret Service. There's only one room in the Cajundome with telephones and internet access for refugees, and Laura Bush shut it down for eight hours (along with the food service rooms to the side and the women's showers). You may have seen it on CNN; apparently seven refugees were allowed back so Laura could help them in front of the cameras. If you saw that footage, that's where I put in half my volunteer hours. Not knowing Bush was still back there later I tried to insist on being allowed back into the room to a "Red Cross" guy who must have been a Secret Service agent undercover. A hint for future Secret Service agents: The real Red Cross guys don't look like they want to break your legs for walking too close to the barricade, because they're too busy passing out food and helping people. They're also less likely to use phrases like "Stand fast, sir!" Now, I know this is the sort of thing that happens whenever a VIP tours a disaster site, and maybe Laura Bush handing out that loaf of bread really will lead to an increase in donations. All I can say is, to have paralyzed a third of a day of operations at this stage of the game, it fucking well better. And I tried to position myself to say this to her in front of the television cameras too, but instead I only got a wave and a smile as she hurried past me. Looks like I'm going to have to become nationally infamous another day.

Falluja Floods the Superdome

September 4, 2005
Falluja Floods the Superdome

By FRANK RICH

AS the levees cracked open and ushered hell into New Orleans on Tuesday, President Bush once again chose to fly away from Washington, not toward it, while disaster struck. We can all enumerate the many differences between a natural catastrophe and a terrorist attack. But character doesn't change: it is immutable, and it is destiny.

As always, the president's first priority, the one that sped him from Crawford toward California, was saving himself: he had to combat the flood of record-low poll numbers that was as uncontrollable as the surging of Lake Pontchartrain. It was time, therefore, for another disingenuous pep talk, in which he would exploit the cataclysm that defined his first term, 9/11, even at the price of failing to recognize the emerging fiasco likely to engulf Term 2.

After dispatching Katrina with a few sentences of sanctimonious boilerplate ("our hearts and prayers are with our fellow citizens"), he turned to his more important task. The war in Iraq is World War II. George W. Bush is F.D.R. And anyone who refuses to stay his course is soft on terrorism and guilty of a pre-9/11 "mind-set of isolation and retreat." Yet even as Mr. Bush promised "victory" (a word used nine times in this speech on Tuesday), he was standing at the totemic scene of his failure. It was along this same San Diego coastline that he declared "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln more than two years ago. For this return engagement, The Washington Post reported, the president's stage managers made sure he was positioned so that another hulking aircraft carrier nearby would stay off-camera, lest anyone be reminded of that premature end of "major combat operations."

This administration would like us to forget a lot, starting with the simple fact that next Sunday is the fourth anniversary of the day we were attacked by Al Qaeda, not Iraq. Even before Katrina took command of the news, Sept. 11, 2005, was destined to be a half-forgotten occasion, distorted and sullied by a grotesquely inappropriate Pentagon-sponsored country music jamboree on the Mall. But hard as it is to reflect upon so much sorrow at once, we cannot allow ourselves to forget the real history surrounding 9/11; it is the Rosetta stone for what is happening now. If we are to pull ourselves out of the disasters of Katrina and Iraq alike, we must live in the real world, not the fantasyland of the administration's faith-based propaganda. Everything connects.

Though history is supposed to occur first as tragedy, then as farce, even at this early stage we can see that tragedy is being repeated once more as tragedy. From the president's administration's inattention to threats before 9/11 to his disappearing act on the day itself to the reckless blundering in the ill-planned war of choice that was 9/11's bastard offspring, Katrina is déjà vu with a vengeance.

The president's declaration that "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees" has instantly achieved the notoriety of Condoleezza Rice's "I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center." The administration's complete obliviousness to the possibilities for energy failures, food and water deprivation, and civil disorder in a major city under siege needs only the Donald Rumsfeld punch line of "Stuff happens" for a coup de grâce. How about shared sacrifice, so that this time we might get the job done right? After Mr. Bush's visit on "Good Morning America" on Thursday, Diane Sawyer reported on a postinterview conversation in which he said, "There won't have to be tax increases."

But on a second go-round, even the right isn't so easily fooled by this drill (with the reliable exception of Peggy Noonan, who found much reassurance in Mr. Bush's initial autopilot statement about the hurricane, with its laundry list of tarps and blankets). This time the fecklessness and deceit were all too familiar. They couldn't be obliterated by a bullhorn or by the inspiring initial post-9/11 national unity that bolstered the president until he betrayed it. This time the heartlessness beneath the surface of his actions was more pronounced.

You could almost see Mr. Bush's political base starting to crumble at its very epicenter, Fox News, by Thursday night. Even there it was impossible to ignore that the administration was no more successful at securing New Orleans than it had been at pacifying Falluja.

A visibly exasperated Shepard Smith, covering the story on the ground in Louisiana, went further still, tossing hand grenades of harsh reality into Bill O'Reilly's usually spin-shellacked "No Spin Zone." Among other hard facts, Mr. Smith noted "that the haves of this city, the movers and shakers of this city, evacuated the city either immediately before or immediately after the storm." What he didn't have to say, since it was visible to the entire world, was that it was the poor who were left behind to drown.

In that sense, the inequality of the suffering has not only exposed the sham of the relentless photo-ops with black schoolchildren whom the president trots out at campaign time to sell his "compassionate conservatism"; it has also positioned Katrina before a rapt late-summer audience as a replay of the sinking of the Titanic. New Orleans's first-class passengers made it safely into lifeboats; for those in steerage, it was a horrifying spectacle of every man, woman and child for himself.

THE captain in this case, Michael Chertoff, the homeland security secretary, was so oblivious to those on the lower decks that on Thursday he applauded the federal response to the still rampaging nightmare as "really exceptional." He told NPR that he had "not heard a report of thousands of people in the convention center who don't have food and water" - even though every television viewer in the country had been hearing of those 25,000 stranded refugees for at least a day. This Titanic syndrome, too, precisely echoes the post-9/11 wartime history of an administration that has rewarded the haves at home with economic goodies while leaving the have-nots to fight in Iraq without proper support in manpower or armor. Surely it's only a matter of time before Mr. Chertoff and the equally at sea FEMA director, Michael Brown (who also was among the last to hear about the convention center), are each awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom in line with past architects of lethal administration calamity like George Tenet and Paul Bremer.

On Thursday morning, the president told Diane Sawyer that he hoped "people don't play politics during this period of time." Presumably that means that the photos of him wistfully surveying the Katrina damage from Air Force One won't be sold to campaign donors as the equivalent 9/11 photos were. Maybe he'll even call off the right-wing attack machine so it won't Swift-boat the Katrina survivors who emerge to ask tough questions as it has Cindy Sheehan and those New Jersey widows who had the gall to demand a formal 9/11 inquiry.

But a president who flew from Crawford to Washington in a heartbeat to intervene in the medical case of a single patient, Terri Schiavo, has no business lecturing anyone about playing politics with tragedy. Eventually we're going to have to examine the administration's behavior before, during and after this storm as closely as its history before, during and after 9/11. We're going to have to ask if troops and matériel of all kinds could have arrived faster without the drain of national resources into a quagmire. We're going to have to ask why it took almost two days of people being without food, shelter and water for Mr. Bush to get back to Washington.

Most of all, we're going to have to face the reality that with this disaster, the administration has again increased our vulnerability to the terrorists we were supposed to be fighting after 9/11. As Richard Clarke, the former counterterrorism czar, pointed out to The Washington Post last week in talking about the fallout from the war in Iraq, there have been twice as many terrorist attacks outside Iraq in the three years after 9/11 than in the three years before. Now, thanks to Mr. Bush's variously incompetent, diffident and hubristic mismanagement of the attack by Katrina, he has sent the entire world a simple and unambiguous message: whatever the explanation, the United States is unable to fight its current war and protect homeland security at the same time.

The answers to what went wrong in Washington and on the Gulf Coast will come later, and, if the history of 9/11 is any guide, all too slowly, after the administration and its apologists erect every possible barrier to keep us from learning the truth. But as Americans dig out from Katrina and slouch toward another anniversary of Al Qaeda's strike, we have to acknowledge the full extent and urgency of our crisis. The world is more perilous than ever, and for now, to paraphrase Mr. Rumsfeld, we have no choice but to fight the war with the president we have.



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http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/04/opinion/04rich.html?pagewanted=print

Head of FEMA has an unlikely background

Head of FEMA has an unlikely background

BY MATT STEARNS AND SETH BORENSTEIN
Knight Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON - (KRT) - From failed Republican congressional candidate to ousted "czar" of an Arabian horse association, there was little in Michael D. Brown's background to prepare him for the fury of Hurricane Katrina.

But as the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Brown now faces furious criticism of the federal response to the disaster that wiped out New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast. He provoked some of it himself when he conceded that FEMA didn't know that thousands of refugees were trapped at New Orleans' convention center without food or water until officials heard it on the news.

"He's done a hell of a job, because I'm not aware of any Arabian horses being killed in this storm," said Kate Hale, former Miami-Dade emergency management chief. "The world that this man operated in and the focus of this work does not in any way translate to this. He does not have the experience."

Brown ran for Congress in 1988 and won 27 percent of the vote against Democratic incumbent Glenn English. He spent the 1990s as judges and stewards commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association. His job was to ensure that horse-show judges followed the rules and to investigate allegations against those suspected of cheating.

"I wouldn't have regarded his position in the horse industry as a platform to where he is now," said Tom Connelly, a former association president.

Brown's ticket to FEMA was Joe Allbaugh, President Bush's 2000 campaign manager and an old friend of Brown's in Oklahoma. When Bush ran for president in 2000, Brown was ending a rocky tenure at the horse association.

Brown told several association officials that if Bush were elected, he'd be in line for a good job. When Allbaugh, who managed Bush's campaign, took over FEMA in 2001, he took Brown with him as general counsel.

"He's known Joe Allbaugh for quite some time," said Andrew Lester, an Oklahoma lawyer who's been a friend of Brown's for more than 20 years. "I think they know each other from school days. I think they did some debate type of things against each other, and worked on some Republican politics together."

Brown practiced law in Enid, Okla., a city of about 45,000, during the 1980s and was counsel to a group of businesses run by a well-known Enid family. Before that, he worked for the city of Edmond, Okla., and was an aide in the state legislature.

From 1991 until 2000, Brown earned about $100,000 a year as the chief rules enforcer of the Arabian horse association.

He was known as "The Czar" for the breadth of his power and the enthusiasm with which he wielded it, said Mary Anne Grimmell, a former association president.

The suspensions Brown delivered to those suspected of cheating resulted in several lawsuits. Although the association won the suits, they were expensive to defend, and Brown became a controversial figure.

"It was positive controversy," Connelly said. "It got word out that we were serious about enforcing our rules."

But he said Brown could be "abrasive." Others were less charitable.

"He just wouldn't follow instruction," said Bill Pennington, another former association president. "Mike was bullheaded and he was gonna do it his way. Period."

At FEMA, Brown rose from general counsel to deputy director within a year. Bush named him to succeed Allbaugh in February 2003. With FEMA now part of the Department of Homeland Security, Brown's title is undersecretary for emergency preparedness and response.

Brown's old friend Lester said the progression from horse shows to hurricanes was natural.

"A lot of what he had to do was stand in the breach in difficult, controversial situations," Lester said. "Which I think would well prepare him for his work at FEMA."

Despite the withering criticism and a promised congressional investigation of FEMA's performance, Brown still has the support of his most important constituent.

In Mobile, Ala., on Friday, Bush said the response to Katrina was unsatisfactory. But he had nothing but praise for his FEMA director. "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job," the president said.

---

(Stearns reports from Washington for The Kansas City Star.)

---

Following are excerpts of some of Federal Emergency Management Agency director Michael Brown's remarks about Hurricane Katrina:

_"The federal government did not even know about the convention center people until today (Thursday). ... And I - my heart goes out to every - even if they chose not to evacuate, my heart still goes out to them, because they now find themselves in this catastrophic disaster. Now is not the time to be blaming."

_"I think the other thing that really caught me by surprise was the fact that there were so many people, and I'm not laying blame, but either chose not to evacuate or could not evacuate. And as we began to do the evacuations from the Superdome, all of a sudden, literally thousands of other people started showing up in other places, and we were not prepared for that. We were, we were surprised by that."

_"We pre-positioned all the manpower and equipment that we could prior to the storm making landfall. And I think once the storm made landfall, it was still at a Category 5, and the devastation became so widespread that it moved further inland and geographically wider than we expected. And so now we're having to work our way inward from a lot further out than we anticipated."

_An exchange with Ted Koppel on ABC's "Nightline":

Brown: "The people in the convention center are being fed; the people on the bridges are being provided with water. ..."

Koppel: "With all due respect, sir, the people, the people in the convention center are not being fed. Our reporters. ..."

Brown: "I misspoke. The people in the, the people in the Superdome. I'm sorry, you're absolutely correct. We're getting the supplies to the convention center now. But the people in the Superdome have been being fed, that supply chain has been working, and that has been moving along and those evacuations have been continuous."

_On CNN:

"I don't make judgments about why people chose not to leave but, you know, there was a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans."

"Considering the dire circumstances that we have in New Orleans - virtually a city that has been destroyed - that things are going relatively well."

"I've had no reports of unrest, if the connotation of the word unrest means that people are beginning to riot or, you know, they're banging on walls and screaming and hollering or burning tires or whatever. I've had no reports of that."

---

© 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

http://www.myrtlebeachonline.com/mld/myrtlebeachonline/news/politics/12554958.htm?template=contentModules/printstory.jsp

Do You Know What It Means to Lose New Orleans?

Do You Know What It Means to Lose New Orleans?

07:32 PM CDT on Saturday, September 3, 2005


Anne Rice



What do people really know about New Orleans?


Do they take away with them an awareness that it has always been not only a great white metropolis but also a great black city, a city where African-Americans have come together again and again to form the strongest African-American culture in the land?


The first literary magazine ever published in Louisiana was the work of black men, French-speaking poets and writers who brought together their work in three issues of a little book called L'Album Littéraire. That was in the 1840's, and by that time the city had a prosperous class of free black artisans, sculptors, businessmen, property owners, skilled laborers in all fields. Thousands of slaves lived on their own in the city, too, making a living at various jobs, and sending home a few dollars to their owners in the country at the end of the month.


This is not to diminish the horror of the slave market in the middle of the famous St. Louis Hotel, or the injustice of the slave labor on plantations from one end of the state to the other. It is merely to say that it was never all "have or have not" in this strange and beautiful city. Later in the 19th century, as the Irish immigrants poured in by the thousands, filling the holds of ships that had emptied their cargoes of cotton in Liverpool, and as the German and Italian immigrants soon followed, a vital and complex culture emerged.


Huge churches went up to serve the great faith of the city's European-born Catholics; convents and schools and orphanages were built for the newly arrived and the struggling; the city expanded in all directions with new neighborhoods of large, graceful houses, or areas of more humble cottages, even the smallest of which, with their floor-length shutters and deep-pitched roofs, possessed an undeniable Caribbean charm.


Through this all, black culture never declined in Louisiana. In fact, New Orleans became home to blacks in a way, perhaps, that few other American cities have ever been. Dillard University and Xavier University became two of the most outstanding black colleges in America; and once the battles of desegregation had been won, black New Orleanians entered all levels of life, building a visible middle class that is absent in far too many Western and Northern American cities to this day.


The influence of blacks on the music of the city and the nation is too immense and too well known to be described. It was black musicians coming down to New Orleans for work who nicknamed the city "the Big Easy" because it was a place where they could always find a job. But it's not fair to the nature of New Orleans to think of jazz and the blues as the poor man's music, or the music of the oppressed.


Something else was going on in New Orleans. The living was good there. The clock ticked more slowly; people laughed more easily; people kissed; people loved; there was joy. Which is why so many New Orleanians, black and white, never went north. They didn't want to leave a place where they felt at home in neighborhoods that dated back centuries; they didn't want to leave families whose rounds of weddings, births and funerals had become the fabric of their lives. They didn't want to leave a city where tolerance had always been able to outweigh prejudice, where patience had always been able to outweigh rage. They didn't want to leave a place that was theirs.


And so New Orleans prospered, slowly, unevenly, but surely - home to Protestants and Catholics, including the Irish parading through the old neighborhood on St. Patrick's Day as they hand out cabbages and potatoes and onions to the eager crowds; including the Italians, with their lavish St. Joseph's altars spread out with cakes and cookies in homes and restaurants and churches every March; including the uptown traditionalists who seek to preserve the peace and beauty of the Garden District; including the Germans with their clubs and traditions; including the black population playing an ever increasing role in the city's civic affairs.


Now nature has done what the Civil War couldn't do. Nature has done what the labor riots of the 1920's couldn't do. Nature had done what "modern life" with its relentless pursuit of efficiency couldn't do. It has done what racism couldn't do, and what segregation couldn't do either. Nature has laid the city waste - with a scope that brings to mind the end of Pompeii.


I share this history for a reason - and to answer questions that have arisen these last few days. Almost as soon as the cameras began panning over the rooftops, and the helicopters began chopping free those trapped in their attics, a chorus of voices rose. "Why didn't they leave?" people asked both on and off camera. "Why did they stay there when they knew a storm was coming?" One reporter even asked me, "Why do people live in such a place?"


Then as conditions became unbearable, the looters took to the streets. Windows were smashed, jewelry snatched, stores broken open, water and food and televisions carried out by fierce and uninhibited crowds. Now the voices grew even louder. How could these thieves loot and pillage in a time of such crisis? How could people shoot one another? Because the faces of those drowning and the faces of those looting were largely black faces, race came into the picture. What kind of people are these, the people of New Orleans, who stay in a city about to be flooded, and then turn on one another?


Well, here's an answer. Thousands didn't leave New Orleans because they couldn't leave. They didn't have the money. They didn't have the vehicles. They didn't have any place to go. They are the poor, black and white, who dwell in any city in great numbers; and they did what they felt they could do - they huddled together in the strongest houses they could find. There was no way to up and leave and check into the nearest Ramada Inn.


What's more, thousands more who could have left stayed behind to help others. They went out in the helicopters and pulled the survivors off rooftops; they went through the flooded streets in their boats trying to gather those they could find. Meanwhile, city officials tried desperately to alleviate the worsening conditions in the Superdome, while makeshift shelters and hotels and hospitals struggled.


And where was everyone else during all this? Oh, help is coming, New Orleans was told. We are a rich country. Congress is acting. Someone will come to stop the looting and care for the refugees. And it's true: eventually, help did come. But how many times did Gov. Kathleen Blanco have to say that the situation was desperate? How many times did Mayor Ray Nagin have to call for aid? Why did America ask a city cherished by millions and excoriated by some, but ignored by no one, to fight for its own life for so long? That's my question.


I know that New Orleans will win its fight in the end. I was born in the city and lived there for many years. It shaped who and what I am. Never have I experienced a place where people knew more about love, about family, about loyalty and about getting along than the people of New Orleans. It is perhaps their very gentleness that gives them their endurance.


They will rebuild as they have after storms of the past; and they will stay in New Orleans because it is where they have always lived, where their mothers and their fathers lived, where their churches were built by their ancestors, where their family graves carry names that go back 200 years. They will stay in New Orleans where they can enjoy a sweetness of family life that other communities lost long ago.


But to my country I want to say this: During this crisis you failed us. You looked down on us; you dismissed our victims; you dismissed us. You want our Jazz Fest, you want our Mardi Gras, you want our cooking and our music. Then when you saw us in real trouble, when you saw a tiny minority preying on the weak among us, you called us "Sin City," and turned your backs. Well, we are a lot more than all that. And though we may seem the most exotic, the most atmospheric and, at times, the most downtrodden part of this land, we are still part of it. We are Americans. We are you.


------


Anne Rice is the author of the forthcoming novel "Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt."


http://www.wwltv.com/topstories/stories/wwl090305annerice.21ad697f.html

Landrieu Implores President to "Relieve Unmitigated Suffering;" End FEMA's "Abject Failures"

Landrieu Implores President to "Relieve Unmitigated Suffering;" End FEMA's "Abject Failures"

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
09/03/2005

Landrieu Implores President to "Relieve Unmitigated Suffering;" End FEMA's "Abject Failures"

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu, D-La., issued the following statement this afternoon regarding her call yesterday for President Bush to appoint a cabinet-level official to oversee Hurricane Katrina relief and recovery efforts within 24 hours.

Sen. Landrieu said:

"Yesterday, I was hoping President Bush would come away from his tour of the regional devastation triggered by Hurricane Katrina with a new understanding for the magnitude of the suffering and for the abject failures of the current Federal Emergency Management Agency. 24 hours later, the President has yet to answer my call for a cabinet-level official to lead our efforts. Meanwhile, FEMA, now a shell of what it once was, continues to be overwhelmed by the task at hand.

"I understand that the U.S. Forest Service had water-tanker aircraft available to help douse the fires raging on our riverfront, but FEMA has yet to accept the aid. When Amtrak offered trains to evacuate significant numbers of victims -- far more efficiently than buses -- FEMA again dragged its feet. Offers of medicine, communications equipment and other desperately needed items continue to flow in, only to be ignored by the agency.

"But perhaps the greatest disappointment stands at the breached 17th Street levee. Touring this critical site yesterday with the President, I saw what I believed to be a real and significant effort to get a handle on a major cause of this catastrophe. Flying over this critical spot again this morning, less than 24 hours later, it became apparent that yesterday we witnessed a hastily prepared stage set for a Presidential photo opportunity; and the desperately needed resources we saw were this morning reduced to a single, lonely piece of equipment. The good and decent people of southeast Louisiana and the Gulf Coast -- black and white, rich and poor, young and old -- deserve far better from their national government.

"Mr. President, I'm imploring you once again to get a cabinet-level official stood up as soon as possible to get this entire operation moving forward regionwide with all the resources -- military and otherwise -- necessary to relieve the unmitigated suffering and economic damage that is unfolding."

Today's aerial tour of the 17th Street levee will be featured tomorrow on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Later, Sen. Landrieu will also appear on CBS's 60 Minutes.

51st Anniversary of The Road to Serfdom and the New New Deal

51st anniversary of The Road to Serfdom and the New New Deal

by Dunciad
Sat Sep 3rd, 2005 at 12:51:40 PDT

I'd like to note a historical irony: this month marks the 51st anniversary of the publication of F.W. Hayek's book The Road to Serfdom.

This book is easily the most important book of post-war conservativism. As Maynard Keynes was the presiding genius over Roosevelt's New Deal, Hayek's ideology provided the impetus for its dismantling during the Reagan years.

We should take this opportunity to return to Hayek's book. We should absorb its argument, if only because it represents a world-view which the world, frankly, can no longer afford to credit. Following Hayek away from the road to serfdom increasingly appears to lead directly onto the road to complete destruction.

Hayek's argument was simple. Economic planning is impossible. When it is attempted the inevitable result is totalitarianism. Therefore, the only economic model possible in a democracy is an unrestrained laissez-faire free market.

Hayek's idea is simple, elegant and brilliant, which explains its appeal. It is also categorically and utterly false.

It is false for two primary reasons. First, Hayek believed that price was a "spontaneous order" essentially free from the conscious operation of people. In refuting this idea we must always be careful to avoid a romantic attachment to the idea of humanity's free will and supreme agency, but we must also be careful not to assign some kind of abstract model of agency to "unconscious" forces like the "market". Hayek, like all liberal economists, bases his models on an ideally competitive scene of economic activity. In the real world economic activity is not ideally competitive; it is beset by monopolies, cabals, and corruption, all of which insert a disruptive element of human agency into this supposedly pure system. This is what makes government intervention essential - not as a means of fixing prices but as a means of off-setting the price fixing which occurs naturally in the market.

Secondly, Hayek falls into a trap which swallowed many European conservative intellectuals; even in refuting Marx's theses he accept one of his central assumptions. Hayek believes in historical inevitability, as does Marx. Economic control will inevitably lead to totalitarianism. This is, of course, utter nonsense, and flies in the face of both logic and historical reality. Just because economic controls have been endemic to 20th century totalitarian regimes does not imply there is a causal connection. Whether Sweden or Holland have a perfect social system is debatable, but no one in their right mind could suggest that either country is on the path to totalitarianism.

Hayek does not committ the error of suggest that any form of economic aid is somehow oppressive. This perversely stupid concept, trumpeted by that intellectual midget Ayn Rand, has somehow made its way into mainstream conservativism. It may well be responsible for the complete destruction of the infrastructure in America. This was not what Hayek wanted, but it is what his ideas have lead to.

I don't like the idea of "dangerous books", and Hayek deserves our utmost respect as a thinker. I think it is time we revist his ideas so we can fully reject them. It is also time, I think, for the Democratic to consider the time ripe for the introduction of a New New Deal. Armando likes to talk about a Lincoln 1860 approach; I would like to suggest a Roosevelt 1933 plan. It must be clear to all that the social infrastructure of the United States is near collapse. Only a concerted effort, and a purging of those Hayek-inspired ideologues who cling to a faulty vision of the world, can accomplish this.

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2005/9/3/155140/3662

Kid Oakland - Race and the N.O. Fiasco

[. . .]

I see how race, how bias, how fears, how people's inherent "comfort levels" all came into play...and, truly, were a major factor that messed up our government's response to this disaster. And, recalling the experience of watching two basketball teams both play well beneath their abilities in a segregated environment...I can tell you...I'm sure race and fear played a role in the response to hurricane Katrina across the board. There is no doubt about that.

I mean, think about it, we have a President who won't even speak to the NAACP, and whose appearance yesterday, in Mississippi and Alabama, two of the most African-American states in the nation, consisted of a bunch of white men. I'm sure that didn't even occur to him.

But it is also clear how racism...structural, virulent, real...came to play in New Orleans. And structural racism in America is a one-way street, and always has been:

First, because of racial segegation. While racial segregation is, first off, the reality that kept folks in the most flood-prone parts of New Orleans, segregation goes beyond geography; and it's as much a part of American life as apple pie. Segregation in America means one thing: whites keeping other people out...whether that's in Piedmont or Metairie or on Park Avenue.

Second, because of the racist structure of poverty in this country and our nation's thirty-five year affair with ignoring it and accepting it. That's the real meaning of Reaganism and "starving big government," and we all know it. The Reagan attack on big government came as a response to the War on Poverty and Civil Rights. People voted for it along race lines, and against their own self-interests; they still do.

Third, because of bipartisan governmental bias and corporate irresponsibility: from the lack of funding for the levees right on down to the absence of FEMA from the ground in New Orleans.

Fourth, in the treatment and characterization of the victims themselves. Director of FEMA Mike Brown's casual remark about the victims "bearing some responsibility" is a statement we all must keep in mind, and never forget, when we look at the faces of those mothers with children and old folks in wheelchairs at the Superdome and the Convention Center.

When blacks were in desperate need, large numbers of people in our government whose job it is to risk their lives to try to save them....simply did not do so. And when they failed to do their jobs, they blamed those victims.

That's racism. That's the consequence of power structures that simply do not value African-American lives as highly as they do the comfortable benefits that come from the existing system. And in the case of the GOP, those comfortable benefits include a forty year pattern of using racial bias to win elections. That's the truth.

We're not talking about a level of "racial comfort" that can be solved by George Bush, Mike Brown and Trent Lott going on Oprah and "talking about it." We're not talking about "race" simply throwing us "off our game."

We are talking about a legacy of structural bias in the way we run this country, from both political parties...and an abject lack of commitment from our large corporations. (You don't think that the big companies whose businesses run through New Orleans don't have a stake in the people of that city, do you?) Further, we're talking about one political party, the GOP, that has built its house on the Southern Strategy and systematically undercut reforms, spending and any basic government commitment directed at improving the lives of the poor and racial minorities. That bias is not a two-way street. It's called racism.

All of us in the cities know this. We see it every day. And we know that the real reason that we saw the scenes we did in New Orleans....the real reason that the United States of America has looked like a "third world country" for all the world to see...is structural, persistent racism in the conduct of our government and deep in the fabric of our society.

When the President's vision meant to inpsire this country, his vision of hope, was of someday sittin' on the porch in Mississippi with Trent Lott....a vision he entertained while thousands of our citizens were still abandoned and fighting for their lives in New Orleans, I have but one thing to say:

if folks don't realize that this is about race and racism, then it's time for this country to wake up.

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2005/9/3/125118/1812

In First Response to Crisis, Bush Strikes Off-Key Notes

September 3, 2005

In First Response to Crisis, Bush Strikes Off-Key Notes
By RICHARD W. STEVENSON


WASHINGTON, Sept. 2 - From the moment he walked out of the Oval Office toward his helicopter on Friday morning until he left New Orleans at the end of the day, President Bush's task was to erase the hardening impression that his administration had failed to act with sufficient urgency to address the suffering of tens of thousands of people.

Mr. Bush has been imperiled politically by the deep gulf between the disturbing reality in the storm-ravaged South and what was widely perceived to be a slow federal response detached from the desperation felt on the ground.

He used his trip to try to close the perception gap and made some progress, demonstrating compassion toward those he ran into, particularly in Mississippi, which represents politically solid ground. The impact of his trip was magnified by the fact that it coincided with those of convoys carrying food, water and troops.

But the overall impression Mr. Bush gave was tentative, particularly compared with the confident visit he paid to New York four years ago, just three days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Then, he took up a bullhorn to hail rescue workers at ground zero; on Friday, he steered clear of the streets of New Orleans, whose stricken population could not be counted on to hail him with open arms.

Mr. Bush began his day by saying on the South Lawn of the White House that the results of the federal effort so far were "not acceptable." But he qualified that criticism as the day wore on, apparently out of discomfort with the implication that he was criticizing rescue and relief workers.

At times he seemed off balance, on a trip that took him to Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, and he struck a few discordant notes along the way. In Mobile, Ala., he touched only briefly on how hundreds of thousands of displaced people in the region would be housed in the weeks and months ahead, but singled out Senator Trent Lott's intention to rebuild his home in Pascagoula, Miss.

At several stops Mr. Bush appeared as concerned with bucking up the morale of government officials, like Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi, as with reassuring people whose health and livelihoods were at risk. Even as he pledged to right what had gone wrong with the rescue and relief effort, he congratulated Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, whom he called Brownie, for doing "a heck of a job," an evaluation not widely shared in New Orleans.

Fortuitously or by design, Mr. Bush reached the region on the very day that a huge influx of supplies and waves of troops arrived in New Orleans, palpably easing the crisis. And he generated scenes that will no doubt help repair his image, as he hugged victims of the hurricane in Biloxi, Miss., and stood near the site of the main levee breach in New Orleans.

The White House's political recovery effort extended beyond Mr. Bush. With race looming as an issue, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the most prominent African-American member of the administration, said Friday that she would travel on Sunday to her native Alabama to see the storm damage and recovery efforts.

Mr. Bush often rebounds after faltering. He performed poorly last fall in his first debate against Senator John Kerry, his Democratic opponent in the presidential race, but then did much better in the next two. It took him a few days to regain his footing and find his voice after the terrorist attacks of nearly four years ago. The iconic image of his response to 9/11 came on Sept. 14, 2001, when he stood at ground zero with that bullhorn in his hands; his uncertain performance the day of the attacks is far less remembered.

"It's natural to want to blame somebody," said Ron Kaufman, a veteran Republican strategist and lobbyist. "But I don't think that in the end, as long as he carries through with the kind of tone he set today, that he'll pay any kind of price."

Democrats made clear that however much progress the administration shows in the days ahead in dealing with the disaster, they intended to make Mr. Bush's management of the response an issue for a long time to come.

"The lack of an adequate, swift response to this emergency should not be covered up with political grandstanding and slaps on the back," said Representative Louise M. Slaughter, Democrat of New York. "This failure must not be swept under the rug."

Until Friday, Mr. Bush had all but invited the torrent of criticism that he was out of touch with the scale of the human tragedy unfolding in Louisiana, often sounding off-key in the context of what may prove to be the worst natural disaster the nation has suffered.

On Thursday afternoon, with New Orleans in a state of near anarchy and tens of thousands of people there pleading for help, he stood before the cameras in the Oval Office to speak of his "sympathy," his desire "to make sure I fully understand the relief efforts" and his judgment that "the federal government has got an important role to play."

Earlier, in an interview with ABC, he said no one had expected the levees in New Orleans to be breached, when in fact engineers, members of Congress and other government officials had been warning of just such a risk for years.

"Katrina took away his agenda, and maybe his image as a leader, unless he pulls it out in the next few days," said James A. Thurber, director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University in Washington. "His initial reaction was certainly not as quick and compassionate as a lot of people would have liked."

If Mr. Bush is to keep from having the disaster and his response to it weigh him down for much of the rest of his presidency, he will have to use it as a springboard to improve the domestic security system and quickly develop a broad, appealing vision of how to rebuild the Gulf Coast, said former Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Republican.

"As a test of the homeland security system, this was a failure," Mr. Gingrich said. "It's important for the president to lead the nation in saying - and he has already said - that this is unacceptable. This is not a moment to defend inadequacy. It's a moment to respond very aggressively to human suffering and establish a vision of a more secure, more prosperous Gulf Coast."



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http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/03/national/nationalspecial/03assess.html?adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1125763458-u979oVg7G+YULCLQW1z15w&pagewanted=print

Maureen Dowd - United States of Shame

September 3, 2005
United States of Shame
By MAUREEN DOWD
Stuff happens.

And when you combine limited government with incompetent government, lethal stuff happens.

America is once more plunged into a snake pit of anarchy, death, looting, raping, marauding thugs, suffering innocents, a shattered infrastructure, a gutted police force, insufficient troop levels and criminally negligent government planning. But this time it's happening in America.

W. drove his budget-cutting Chevy to the levee, and it wasn't dry. Bye, bye, American lives. "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees," he told Diane Sawyer.

Shirt-sleeves rolled up, W. finally landed in Hell yesterday and chuckled about his wild boozing days in "the great city" of N'Awlins. He was clearly moved. "You know, I'm going to fly out of here in a minute," he said on the runway at the New Orleans International Airport, "but I want you to know that I'm not going to forget what I've seen." Out of the cameras' range, and avoided by W., was a convoy of thousands of sick and dying people, some sprawled on the floor or dumped on baggage carousels at a makeshift M*A*S*H unit inside the terminal.

Why does this self-styled "can do" president always lapse into such lame "who could have known?" excuses.

Who on earth could have known that Osama bin Laden wanted to attack us by flying planes into buildings? Any official who bothered to read the trellis of pre-9/11 intelligence briefs.

Who on earth could have known that an American invasion of Iraq would spawn a brutal insurgency, terrorist recruiting boom and possible civil war? Any official who bothered to read the C.I.A.'s prewar reports.

Who on earth could have known that New Orleans's sinking levees were at risk from a strong hurricane? Anybody who bothered to read the endless warnings over the years about the Big Easy's uneasy fishbowl.

In June 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, fretted to The Times-Picayune in New Orleans: "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."

Not only was the money depleted by the Bush folly in Iraq; 30 percent of the National Guard and about half its equipment are in Iraq.

Ron Fournier of The Associated Press reported that the Army Corps of Engineers asked for $105 million for hurricane and flood programs in New Orleans last year. The White House carved it to about $40 million. But President Bush and Congress agreed to a $286.4 billion pork-filled highway bill with 6,000 pet projects, including a $231 million bridge for a small, uninhabited Alaskan island.

Just last year, Federal Emergency Management Agency officials practiced how they would respond to a fake hurricane that caused floods and stranded New Orleans residents. Imagine the feeble FEMA's response to Katrina if they had not prepared.

Michael Brown, the blithering idiot in charge of FEMA - a job he trained for by running something called the International Arabian Horse Association - admitted he didn't know until Thursday that there were 15,000 desperate, dehydrated, hungry, angry, dying victims of Katrina in the New Orleans Convention Center.

Was he sacked instantly? No, our tone-deaf president hailed him in Mobile, Ala., yesterday: "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

It would be one thing if President Bush and his inner circle - Dick Cheney was vacationing in Wyoming; Condi Rice was shoe shopping at Ferragamo's on Fifth Avenue and attended "Spamalot" before bloggers chased her back to Washington; and Andy Card was off in Maine - lacked empathy but could get the job done. But it is a chilling lack of empathy combined with a stunning lack of efficiency that could make this administration implode.

When the president and vice president rashly shook off our allies and our respect for international law to pursue a war built on lies, when they sanctioned torture, they shook the faith of the world in American ideals.

When they were deaf for so long to the horrific misery and cries for help of the victims in New Orleans - most of them poor and black, like those stuck at the back of the evacuation line yesterday while 700 guests and employees of the Hyatt Hotel were bused out first - they shook the faith of all Americans in American ideals. And made us ashamed.

Who are we if we can't take care of our own?

E-mail: liberties@nytimes.com

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/03/opinion/03dowd.html?pagewanted=print

Friday, September 02, 2005

RIP, GOP (An Exhortation)

RIP, GOP (An Exhortation)
by kingubu
Fri Sep 2nd, 2005 at 17:40:01 PDT

I honestly believe that we are witnessing the beginning of the end of the so-called conservative movement, and the Republican Party that it currently inhabits. The slow-motion horror that the nation is witnessing on the flooded streets of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast is the final, irrefutable evidence that the GOP is not fit to govern this great nation. There is no amount of spin and slime that can erase what millions of Americans are seeing for themselves on the evening news.

But it is not Bush's obvious crocodile tears or the Feds' dithering while a city drowns that will be their undoing. It is something much larger. Something that strikes at the very soul of America.

Democrats and liberals have watched in apoplectic horror as Republicans have gained ground at all levels of government despite hard evidence of corruption, incompetence, and failure. Foolishly, we, navel-gazers that we often are, have thought that the trend was about us; something that we were doing wrong. We have had meeting after meeting to discuss where and how we went off-track.

Well, we have erred, but not in the way that we usually think. We have failed because we let doubt get the better of us. We have let America down by thinking there was something wrong with what we were doing in the first place. We lost our voice because we blinked when we should have advanced.

The Republicans haven't been winning because they have a better plan or sounder policies. They have been winning because they have spent billions of dollars on a coordinated media campaign to make a slim majority of voting America feel good about the worst aspects of their natures. They have succeeded, not by providing a national vision that inspires us to a higher nobility, but by telling us that giving in to our basest instincts is what's best for us as individuals and as a nation.

The product the GOP has been selling is absolution-- not the old-fashioned kind, purchased through self-sacrifice and dedication-- but a cheap, outsourced knock-off kind of absolution that says, "its okay, we do it, too. We won't tell."

How hard is it really to convince people that being selfish is the way to go? Where is the higher calling in predatory greed? What invention is required to pander to the lust for revenge?. Where is the challenge in stoking people's fears about personal safety, or in feeding the flames of prejudice?

Its not hard to aim for the lowest common denominator and that is exactly what the GOP has been doing. Rather than hatching a plan to make America a better place then convincing the public to support it, they have instead made a science of putting lipstick on a pig. They package greed and avarice and sell it as "sound market policy." They bind up cruelty and fear and slap on a label marked "national security." They take bigotry and hatred and push it out the door in a glossy package marked "traditional family values." There are no new ideas; only our darkest human frailties made bland with a double scoop of political weasel-words and sexed up with Madison Ave. sizzle.

Empathy is a uniquely human skill. We must be taught to play fair, to share, to think of others, to give without expecting something in return. We all, liberals and conservatives alike, teach our kids these basic human ethics; and we define their maturity based on the degree to which they internalize them. Yet those in the GOP who presume to lead us make a mockery of human civilization by denigrating those very principles.

Fairness? Equality? Shared interest? Working for a common good? These are ridiculed by Republican operatives as passe, bleeding-heart Hippie-speak, or worse, as insane and treasonous. They cry about their self-made straw-man of a "Democratic nanny state" but infantilize the nation by pushing aside or punishing those who would dare to advance policies that reach beyond the instinctual primitive obsessions of "I, me, and mine."

The litany of short-sighted GOP-authored legislation over the last several years-- the gutting of public works, tax cuts in the face of mounting debt, the single-minded redistribution of wealth to those with plenty, the blatant cronyism-- reveal the truth: the Republican Party has no plan and no vision for governing this nation. All they have is a strategy for getting elected-- and then redirecting public funds to campaign donors to get re-elected. It a strategy to snuff out our public institutions through attrition while making their supporters feel warm and fuzzy about being greedy, selfish, bigoted, cruel, and wasteful.

The Republicans encourage the worst elements of our society by creating a morality-free zone behind a painted facade of piety and strict morality but once you are inside, there is nothing to see. There is no show. They are there to trash the place and slink off with the loot, not to build or to work.

When faced with a crisis they run in front of the cameras with focus group-tested slogans and happy talk because that is all they have. Everything they do and are is bound up in their marketing scheme. Their only skill is in trying to make what's wrong seem right just long enough for the the check to clear. There is no substance, no deeper resources to draw from, no greater ideals to act as pole-star. There is only spin, counter-spin, and smear. Every problem is a PR problem.

Tragedy has a way of revealing character. The constant drumbeat of death from the war in Iraq, and now the cascading nightmare that is the Gulf Coast flood has peeled away the veneer and we can see the GOP leadership and the larger conservative movement for what it is: a sham. They have nothing. They offer nothing. They come to destroy, not to build. They have no vision for a greater public good because, for them, the very notion of a public good is anathema.

Make no mistake: as we watch our fellow citizens drown, starve, and die in the street in New Orleans, its not incompetence or lack of planning that is killing them. It is willful neglect. It is the direct result of reducing the government "down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub." This is what "starving the beast" looks like.

For some 30 years the Republican party has packaged humanity's darkest and most craven weaknesses and pawned them off as its greatest virtues. Well, the reckoning is here and the conservatives are found wanting. When the chips are down we are a nation that cares for our citizens and we expect our government to be strong enough, capable enough, and compassionate enough to do the same.

As Democrats, we call upon and support the nobler aspects of human nature. The time has come to put aside our doubts, get back on track, and inspire our brothers and sisters with our vision for a better nation and a better world.

Rest in peace, Grand Old Party. America can no longer afford the drag that your self-delusions and cheap justifications put on our spirit. For those who are willing to turn back from pandering to the lowest common denominator and who choose to join us lifting up the better angels of our nature, we offer the hand of friendship. For the the rest: may the God whose name you have scandalized and used as cover for your lack of humanity have mercy on your degenerate souls.

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2005/9/2/20401/46134

Van Jones - Bush's Role in the Drowning of New Orleans

Van Jones

Bush's Role in the Drowning of New Orleans

Don't say that a hurricane destroyed New Orleans. Hurricanes don't drown cities.

It was a "perfect storm" of a different kind that put that great city underwater: Bush-era neglect of our national infrastructure, combined with runaway global warming and a deep contempt for poor African-Americans.

The result: catastrophe. The flooding was not a result of heavy rains.
It is a result of a weak levee -- one that was in mid-repair when the storm hit. And that levee, which has held back floodwaters for time beyond memory, collapsed for one simple reason: Bush refused to fix it last summer, when local officials were begging him to do so. Instead, he diverted those funds to the war effort.

In other words, the dollars that could have saved New Orleans were used to wage war in Iraq, instead. What's worse: funds that might have spared the poor in New Orleans (had the dollars been properly invested in levees and modern pumping stations), were instead passed out to the rich, willy-nilly -- as tax breaks.

With those two simple steps, Bush squandered the hard-won Clinton-era surplus. He left the national piggy bank empty for fixing and maintaining basic U.S. infrastructure. (And what was Clinton doing next to the president, giving him cover at a time like this?)

Had the levee repairs been completed in a timely manner (two years ago), Katrina would have hit hard, destroyed buildings and probably taken some lives. But it would NOT have cracked open the floodwalls and submerged an entire CITY. It took Bush's criminal neglect of his domestic duties to produce that outcome.

But that is only one area of Bush's culpability. Ross Gelbspan says: "Katrina began as a relatively small hurricane that glanced off south Florida, [but] it was supercharged with extraordinary intensity by the relatively blistering sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico."

In other words, global warming likely super-charged this hurricane. Yet Bush's energy policies amount to an ongoing conspiracy to add even MORE carbon to the atmosphere, further destabilizing the climate.

So get ready for even worse storms next year, and the next. And the next.

And the human suffering was not -- and will not be -- equally distributed.

Poor people and Black people didn't "choose to stay behind." They were left behind. All evacuation plans required the city's residents to have working, private cars -- plus gas money, nearby relatives or funds for a hotel stay. And if you didn't have all those things, tough luck.

Had the responsible agencies valued the lives of the poor, they would have helped the destitute flee in the face of the hurricane -- even those who couldn't afford a car or a motel room. But when the "face of suffering" is Black, somehow our high standards for effective action and compassion begin to sag.

Of course, seeing this, Bush could have taken a strong stand for the poor and the suffering. But his half-hearted, emotionally flat statement on Wednesday did little to rally the nation. It seems that, as long as "the terrorists" didn't do it, Bush just can't get himself too worked up about Americans dying by the hundreds.

So tonight Americans are dying in the flooded streets of New Orleans like flies. And many of the men and women in uniform who could help rescue them and restore order are nowhere to be found. Instead of helping their grandparents and aiding their neighbors in this time of crisis, Louisiana and Mississippi guardsmen are half-a-world away, fighting for a lie.

We are witnessing a monumental leadership failure in the Bush White House, on top of five years of foolish policies that set the city of New Orleans up for this disaster in the first place.

We must not be afraid to speak that truth. Some will say that this is no time for playing the "blame game." No time for engaging in "divisive politics."

Pardon me. To the contrary: this is exactly the time to draw a clear line of distinction between those of us who have always fought to invest in this country -- and those who happily squandered the national treasure on give-aways and imperial adventures. Between those of us who have long fought to protect the most vulnerable among us, and those who have worked feverishly to undo those protections.

This is no time for progressives to be hemmed in by some false "unity" with a President whose policies are largely to blame for this disaster. Too much is at stake, going forward.

In the short term, we must exert maximum pressure on the federal government to pull out all stops to rescue people and re-establish peace and good order. And in the weeks to come, we must demand an immediate repeal of the tax cuts -- to enable a massive investment for rebuilding New Orleans and repairing the nation's crumbling infrastructure. Also, any Louisiana and Mississippi guardsmen who want to return home from Iraq to aid their statesmen should be allowed to do so.

The truth is that the poor people of Louisiana were deliberately left behind -- and not just over the weekend. Our political leaders as a class -- and George W. Bush, in particular -- left them behind a long time ago.

In the aftermath of this wholly avoidable catastrophe, let us do all we can to rescue those who have been abandoned. And then let us rescue the U.S. government from those who engineered that abandonment.

And let us recognize our sacred duty in completing BOTH acts.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/van-jones/bushs-role-in-the-drowni_b_6634.html

Sidney Blumenthal - "No One Can Say They Didn't See It Coming"

"No One Can Say They Didn't See It Coming"
By Sidney Blumenthal
Salon.com

Wednesday 31 August 2005

In 2001, FEMA warned that a hurricane striking New Orleans was one of the three most likely disasters in the U.S. But the Bush administration cut New Orleans flood control funding by 44 percent to pay for the Iraq war.

Biblical in its uncontrolled rage and scope, Hurricane Katrina has left millions of Americans to scavenge for food and shelter and hundreds to thousands reportedly dead. With its main levee broken, the evacuated city of New Orleans has become part of the Gulf of Mexico. But the damage wrought by the hurricane may not entirely be the result of an act of nature.

A year ago the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed to study how New Orleans could be protected from a catastrophic hurricane, but the Bush administration ordered that the research not be undertaken. After a flood killed six people in 1995, Congress created the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, in which the Corps of Engineers strengthened and renovated levees and pumping stations. In early 2001, the Federal Emergency Management Agency issued a report stating that a hurricane striking New Orleans was one of the three most likely disasters in the U.S., including a terrorist attack on New York City. But by 2003 the federal funding for the flood control project essentially dried up as it was drained into the Iraq war. In 2004, the Bush administration cut funding requested by the New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for holding back the waters of Lake Pontchartrain by more than 80 percent. Additional cuts at the beginning of this year (for a total reduction in funding of 44.2 percent since 2001) forced the New Orleans district of the Corps to impose a hiring freeze. The Senate had debated adding funds for fixing New Orleans' levees, but it was too late.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune, which before the hurricane published a series on the federal funding problem, and whose presses are now underwater, reported online: "No one can say they didn't see it coming ... Now in the wake of one of the worst storms ever, serious questions are being asked about the lack of preparation."

The Bush administration's policy of turning over wetlands to developers almost certainly also contributed to the heightened level of the storm surge. In 1990, a federal task force began restoring lost wetlands surrounding New Orleans. Every two miles of wetland between the Crescent City and the Gulf reduces a surge by half a foot. Bush had promised "no net loss" of wetlands, a policy launched by his father's administration and bolstered by President Clinton. But he reversed his approach in 2003, unleashing the developers. The Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency then announced they could no longer protect wetlands unless they were somehow related to interstate commerce.

In response to this potential crisis, four leading environmental groups conducted a joint expert study, concluding in 2004 that without wetlands protection New Orleans could be devastated by an ordinary, much less a Category 4 or 5, hurricane. "There's no way to describe how mindless a policy that is when it comes to wetlands protection," said one of the report's authors. The chairman of the White House's Council on Environmental Quality dismissed the study as "highly questionable," and boasted, "Everybody loves what we're doing."

"My administration's climate change policy will be science based," President Bush declared in June 2001. But in 2002, when the Environmental Protection Agency submitted a study on global warming to the United Nations reflecting its expert research, Bush derided it as "a report put out by a bureaucracy," and excised the climate change assessment from the agency's annual report. The next year, when the EPA issued its first comprehensive "Report on the Environment," stating, "Climate change has global consequences for human health and the environment," the White House simply demanded removal of the line and all similar conclusions. At the G-8 meeting in Scotland this year, Bush successfully stymied any common action on global warming. Scientists, meanwhile, have continued to accumulate impressive data on the rising temperature of the oceans, which has produced more severe hurricanes.

In February 2004, 60 of the nation's leading scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, warned in a statement, "Restoring Scientific Integrity in Policymaking": "Successful application of science has played a large part in the policies that have made the United States of America the world's most powerful nation and its citizens increasingly prosperous and healthy ... Indeed, this principle has long been adhered to by presidents and administrations of both parties in forming and implementing policies. The administration of George W. Bush has, however, disregarded this principle ... The distortion of scientific knowledge for partisan political ends must cease." Bush completely ignored this statement.

In the two weeks preceding the storm in the Gulf, the trumping of science by ideology and expertise by special interests accelerated. The Federal Drug Administration announced that it was postponing sale of the morning-after contraceptive pill, despite overwhelming scientific evidence of its safety and its approval by the FDA's scientific advisory board. The United Nations special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa accused the Bush administration of responsibility for a condom shortage in Uganda -- the result of the administration's evangelical Christian agenda of "abstinence." When the chief of the Bureau of Justice Statistics in the Justice Department was ordered by the White House to delete its study that African-Americans and other minorities are subject to racial profiling in police traffic stops and he refused to buckle under, he was forced out of his job. When the Army Corps of Engineers' chief contracting oversight analyst objected to a $7 billion no-bid contract awarded for work in Iraq to Halliburton (the firm at which Vice President Cheney was formerly CEO), she was demoted despite her superior professional ratings. At the National Park Service, a former Cheney aide, a political appointee lacking professional background, drew up a plan to overturn past environmental practices and prohibit any mention of evolution while allowing sale of religious materials through the Park Service.

On the day the levees burst in New Orleans, Bush delivered a speech in Colorado comparing the Iraq war to World War II and himself to Franklin D. Roosevelt: "And he knew that the best way to bring peace and stability to the region was by bringing freedom to Japan." Bush had boarded his very own "Streetcar Named Desire."

--------

Sidney Blumenthal, a former assistant and senior advisor to President Clinton and the author of The Clinton Wars, is writing a column for Salon and the Guardian of London.

http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/090105L.shtml

Molly Ivins - Why New Orleans Is in Deep Water

Why New Orleans Is in Deep Water
By Molly Ivins
Creators Syndicate

Thursday 01 September 2005

Austin, Texas - Like many of you who love New Orleans, I find myself taking short mental walks there today, turning a familiar corner, glimpsing a favorite scene, square or vista. And worrying about the beloved friends and the city, and how they are now.

To use a fine Southern word, it's tacky to start playing the blame game before the dead are even counted. It is not too soon, however, to make a point that needs to be hammered home again and again, and that is that government policies have real consequences in people's lives.

This is not "just politics" or blaming for political advantage. This is about the real consequences of what governments do and do not do about their responsibilities. And about who winds up paying the price for those policies.

This is a column for everyone in the path of Hurricane Katrina who ever said, "I'm sorry, I'm just not interested in politics," or, "There's nothing I can do about it," or, "Eh, they're all crooks anyway."

Nothing to do with me, nothing to do with my life, nothing I can do about any of it. Look around you this morning. I suppose the National Rifle Association would argue, "Government policies don't kill people, hurricanes kill people." Actually, hurricanes plus government policies kill people.

One of the main reasons New Orleans is so vulnerable to hurricanes is the gradual disappearance of the wetlands on the Gulf Coast that once stood as a natural buffer between the city and storms coming in from the water. The disappearance of those wetlands does not have the name of a political party or a particular administration attached to it. No one wants to play, "The Democrats did it," or, "It's all Reagan's fault." Many environmentalists will tell you more than a century's interference with the natural flow of the Mississippi is the root cause of the problem, cutting off the movement of alluvial soil to the river's delta.

But in addition to long-range consequences of long-term policies like letting the Corps of Engineers try to build a better river than God, there are real short-term consequences, as well. It is a fact that the Clinton administration set some tough policies on wetlands, and it is a fact that the Bush administration repealed those policies - ordering federal agencies to stop protecting as many as 20 million acres of wetlands.

Last year, four environmental groups cooperated on a joint report showing the Bush administration's policies had allowed developers to drain thousands of acres of wetlands.

Does this mean we should blame President Bush for the fact that New Orleans is underwater? No, but it means we can blame Bush when a Category 3 or Category 2 hurricane puts New Orleans under. At this point, it is a matter of making a bad situation worse, of failing to observe the First Rule of Holes (when you're in one, stop digging).

Had a storm the size of Katrina just had the grace to hold off for a while, it's quite likely no one would even remember what the Bush administration did two months ago. The national press corps has the attention span of a gnat, and trying to get anyone in Washington to remember longer than a year ago is like asking them what happened in Iznik, Turkey, in A.D. 325.

Just plain political bad luck that, in June, Bush took his little ax and chopped $71.2 million from the budget of the New Orleans Corps of Engineers, a 44 percent reduction. As was reported in New Orleans CityBusiness at the time, that meant "major hurricane and flood projects will not be awarded to local engineering firms. Also, a study to determine ways to protect the region from a Category 5 hurricane has been shelved for now."

The commander of the corps' New Orleans district also immediately instituted a hiring freeze and canceled the annual corps picnic.

Our friends at the Center for American Progress note the Office of Technology Assessment used to produce forward-thinking plans such as "Floods: A National Policy Concern" and "A Framework for Flood Hazards Management." Unfortunately, the office was targeted by Newt Gingrich and the Republican right, and gutted years ago.

In fact, there is now a governmentwide movement away from basing policy on science, expertise and professionalism, and in favor of choices based on ideology. If you're wondering what the ideological position on flood management might be, look at the pictures of New Orleans - it seems to consist of gutting the programs that do anything.

Unfortunately, the war in Iraq is directly related to the devastation left by the hurricane. About 35 percent of Louisiana's National Guard is now serving in Iraq, where four out of every 10 soldiers are guardsmen. Recruiting for the Guard is also down significantly because people are afraid of being sent to Iraq if they join, leaving the Guard even more short-handed.

The Louisiana National Guard also notes that dozens of its high-water vehicles, Humvees, refuelers and generators have also been sent abroad. (I hate to be picky, but why do they need high-water vehicles in Iraq?)

This, in turn, goes back to the original policy decision to go into Iraq without enough soldiers and the subsequent failure to admit that mistake and to rectify it by instituting a draft.

The levees of New Orleans, two of which are now broken and flooding the city, were also victims of Iraq war spending. Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, said on June 8, 2004, "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq."

This, friends, is why we need to pay attention to government policies, not political personalities, and to know whereon we vote. It is about our lives.

http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/090105Q.shtml

William Rivers Pitt - Wake of the Flood

Wake of the Flood
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Friday 02 September 2005

All last night sat on the levee and moaned,
All last night sat on the levee and moaned,
Thinkin' about my baby and my happy home.

-- Led Zeppelin, "When the Levee Breaks"

This will come as no surprise, but columnist Molly Ivins has again nailed it to the wall. "Government policies have real consequences in people's lives," Ivins wrote in her Thursday column. "This is not 'just politics' or blaming for political advantage. This is about the real consequences of what governments do and do not do about their responsibilities. And about who winds up paying the price for those policies."

Try this timeline on for size. In January of 2001, George W. Bush appointed Texas crony Joe Allbaugh to head FEMA, despite the fact that Allbaugh had exactly zero experience in disaster management. By April of 2001, the Bush administration announced that much of FEMA's work would be privatized and downsized. Allbaugh that month described FEMA as, "an oversized entitlement program."

In December 2002, Allbaugh quit as head of FEMA to create a consulting firm whose purpose was to advise and assist companies looking to do business in occupied Iraq. He was replaced by Michael D. Brown, whose experience in disaster management was gathered while working as an estate planning lawyer in Colorado, and while serving as counsel for the International Arabian Horse Association legal department. In other words, Bush chose back-to-back FEMA heads whose collective ability to work that position could fit inside a thimble with room to spare.

By March of 2003, FEMA was no longer a Cabinet-level position, and was folded into the Department of Homeland Security. Its primary mission was recast towards fighting acts of terrorism. In June of 2004, the Army Corps of Engineers' budget for levee construction in New Orleans was cut by a record $71.2 million. Jefferson Parish emergency management chief Walter Maestri said at the time, "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."

And then the storm came, and the sea rose, and the levees failed. Filthy sewage-laced water began to fill the bowl of New Orleans. Tens of thousands of poor people who did not have the resources to flee the storm became trapped in a slowly deteriorating city without food, water or electricity. The entire nation has since been glued to their televisions, watching footage of an apocalyptic human tragedy unfold before their eyes. Anyone who has put gasoline in their car since Tuesday has come to know what happens when the port that handles 40% of our national petroleum distribution becomes unusable.

And the response? "Bush mugs for the cameras," says Kevin Drum of The Washington Monthly, "cuts a cake for John McCain, plays the guitar for Mark Wills, delivers an address about V-J day, and continues with his vacation. When he finally gets around to acknowledging the scope of the unfolding disaster, he delivers only a photo op on Air Force One and a flat, defensive, laundry list speech in the Rose Garden."

Newsweek described it this way: "For all the president's statements ahead of the hurricane, the region seemed woefully unprepared for the flooding of New Orleans - a catastrophe that has long been predicted by experts and politicians alike. There seems to have been no contingency planning for a total evacuation of the city, including the final refuges of the city's Superdome and its hospitals. There were no supplies of food and water ready offshore - on Navy ships for instance - in the event of such flooding, even though government officials knew there were thousands of people stranded inside the sweltering and powerless city."

Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert twisted the knife on Thursday by bluntly suggesting that we should not bother rebuilding the city of New Orleans. "It doesn't make sense to me," Hastert said to the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago. "And it's a question that certainly we should ask. We help replace, we help relieve disaster. But I think federal insurance and everything that goes along with it ... we ought to take a second look at that." This sentiment was echoed by the Republican-American newspaper out of Waterbury, CT: "If the people of New Orleans and other low-lying areas insist on living in harm's way, they ought to accept responsibility for what happens to them and their property."

This is it, right here, right now. This is the Bush administration in a nutshell.

The decision to invade Iraq based on lies has left the federal government's budget woefully, and I daresay deliberately, unprepared for a disaster of this magnitude, despite the fact that decades worth of warnings have been put forth about what would happen to New Orleans should a storm like this hit. Louisiana National Guard soldiers and equipment, such as high-water Humvees for example, are sitting today in Iraq while hundreds or even thousands die because there are not enough hands to reach out and pull them from the water. FEMA - downsized, redirected, budget-slashed and incompetently led - has thus far failed utterly to cope with the scope of the catastrophe.

Actions have consequences. What you see on your television today is not some wild accident, but is a disaster that could have been averted had the priorities of this government been more in line with the needs of the people it pretends to serve. The city of New Orleans, home to so much of the culture that makes America unique and beautiful, is today drowning underneath an avalanche of polluted, diseased water. This, simply, did not have to happen.

Remember that the next time you hear Bush talk about noble causes, national priorities and responsibility. This has been an administration of death, disaster, fear and woe. The whole pack of them should be run out of Washington on a rail. Better yet, they should be air-dropped into the center of New Orleans and made to see and smell and touch and taste the newest disaster they have helped to create.

William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.

http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/090205Z.shtml

William S. Martin - Arrest this kid? He deserves a medal!!!

Arrest this kid? He deserves a medal!!!
by William S Martin
Fri Sep 2nd, 2005 at 16:08:56 PDT

I don't write many diaries, but the idea that anybody might be thinking of arresting this kid moved me to write.

HOUSTON -- Thousands of refugees of Hurricane Katrina were transported to the Astrodome in Houston this week. In an extreme act of looting, one group actually stole a bus to escape ravaged areas in Louisiana.

About 100 people packed into the stolen bus. They were the first to enter the Houston Astrodome, but they weren't exactly welcomed.

[SNIP]

Authorities eventually allowed the renegade passengers inside the dome. But the 18-year-old who ensured their safety could find himself in a world of trouble for stealing the school bus.


http://www.newschannel5.tv/2005/9/1/4255/Taking-refuge-in-the-Astrodome


Rather than die on the streets of New Orleans, a young guy named Jabbor Gibson grabbed on an abandoned bus and drove 7 hours straight to Houston, rescuing complete strangers, including women and children, according to the Houston Chronicle.

I'm sick of hearing people who were completely abandoned and left to fend for themselves described as looters for doing what any of us would do in the same situation. I'm not talking about stealing TVs. I'm talking about taking food, water, shoes, and about taking matters into their own hands when the government had left them for dead.

Again, from the news report:

One 8-day-old infant spent the first days of his life surrounded by chaos. He's one of the many who are homeless and hungry.

Authorities eventually allowed the renegade passengers inside the dome. But the 18-year-old who ensured their safety could find himself in a world of trouble for stealing the school bus.

"I dont care if I get blamed for it ," Gibson said, "as long as I saved my people."

Should he have left the bus to be destroyed by flood waters? Left 100 of his fellow citizens to drown or starve?

I hope this idea of this guy being "in a world of trouble" is just some reporter's conjecture. If the news repot is true, he's my hero.

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2005/9/2/19856/62219

Christian Press: N.O. Catastrophe is God's Judgment

From Agape Press "Reliable News from a Christian Source":


"Rev. Bill Shanks, pastor of New Covenant Fellowship of New Orleans, also sees God's mercy in the aftermath of Katrina -- but in a different way. Shanks says the hurricane has wiped out much of the rampant sin common to the city.

"New Orleans now is abortion free. New Orleans now is Mardi Gras free. New Orleans now is free of Southern Decadence and the sodomites, the witchcraft workers, false religion -- it's free of all of those things now," Shanks says. "God simply, I believe, in His mercy purged all of that stuff out of there -- and now we're going to start over again."

http://headlines.agapepress.org/archive/9/22005b.asp

CNN.com - The big disconnect on New Orleans - Sep 2, 2005

The big disconnect on New Orleans
The official version; then there's the in-the-trenches version

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (CNN) -- Diverging views of a crumbling New Orleans emerged Thursday, with statements by some federal officials in contradiction with grittier, more desperate views from the streets. By late Friday response to those stranded in the city was more visible.

But the conflicting views on Thursday came within hours, sometimes minutes of each of each other, as reflected in CNN's transcripts. The speakers include Michael Brown, chief of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, evacuee Raymond Cooper, CNN correspondents and others. Here's what they had to say:

Conditions in the Convention Center

* FEMA chief Brown: We learned about that (Thursday), so I have directed that we have all available resources to get that convention center to make sure that they have the food and water and medical care that they need. (See video of Brown explaining how news reports alerted FEMA to convention center chaos. -- 2:11)

* Mayor Nagin: The convention center is unsanitary and unsafe, and we are running out of supplies for the 15,000 to 20,000 people. (Hear Nagin's angry demand for soldiers. 1:04)

* CNN Producer Kim Segal: It was chaos. There was nobody there, nobody in charge. And there was nobody giving even water. The children, you should see them, they're all just in tears. There are sick people. We saw... people who are dying in front of you.

* Evacuee Raymond Cooper: Sir, you've got about 3,000 people here in this -- in the Convention Center right now. They're hungry. Don't have any food. We were told two-and-a-half days ago to make our way to the Superdome or the Convention Center by our mayor. And which when we got here, was no one to tell us what to do, no one to direct us, no authority figure.

Uncollected corpses

* Brown: That's not been reported to me, so I'm not going to comment. Until I actually get a report from my teams that say, "We have bodies located here or there," I'm just not going to speculate.

* Segal: We saw one body. A person is in a wheelchair and someone had pushed (her) off to the side and draped just like a blanket over this person in the wheelchair. And then there is another body next to that. There were others they were willing to show us. ( See CNN report, 'People are dying in front of us' -- 4:36 )

* Evacuee Cooper: They had a couple of policemen out here, sir, about six or seven policemen told me directly, when I went to tell them, hey, man, you got bodies in there. You got two old ladies that just passed, just had died, people dragging the bodies into little corners. One guy -- that's how I found out. The guy had actually, hey, man, anybody sleeping over here? I'm like, no. He dragged two bodies in there. Now you just -- I just found out there was a lady and an old man, the lady went to nudge him. He's dead.

Hospital evacuations

* Brown: I've just learned today that we ... are in the process of completing the evacuations of the hospitals, that those are going very well.

* CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta: It's gruesome. I guess that is the best word for it. If you think about a hospital, for example, the morgue is in the basement, and the basement is completely flooded. So you can just imagine the scene down there. But when patients die in the hospital, there is no place to put them, so they're in the stairwells. It is one of the most unbelievable situations I've seen as a doctor, certainly as a journalist as well. There is no electricity. There is no water. There's over 200 patients still here remaining. ...We found our way in through a chopper and had to land at a landing strip and then take a boat. And it is exactly ... where the boat was traveling where the snipers opened fire yesterday, halting all the evacuations. ( Watch the video report of corpses stacked in stairwells -- 4:45 )

* Dr. Matthew Bellew, Charity Hospital: We still have 200 patients in this hospital, many of them needing care that they just can't get. The conditions are such that it's very dangerous for the patients. Just about all the patients in our services had fevers. Our toilets are overflowing. They are filled with stool and urine. And the smell, if you can imagine, is so bad, you know, many of us had gagging and some people even threw up. It's pretty rough.(Mayor's video: Armed addicts fighting for a fix -- 1:03)

Violence and civil unrest

* Brown: I've had no reports of unrest, if the connotation of the word unrest means that people are beginning to riot, or you know, they're banging on walls and screaming and hollering or burning tires or whatever. I've had no reports of that.

* CNN's Chris Lawrence: From here and from talking to the police officers, they're losing control of the city. We're now standing on the roof of one of the police stations. The police officers came by and told us in very, very strong terms it wasn't safe to be out on the street. (Watch the video report on explosions and gunfire -- 2:12)

The federal response:

* Brown: Considering the dire circumstances that we have in New Orleans, virtually a city that has been destroyed, things are going relatively well.

* Homeland Security Director Chertoff: Now, of course, a critical element of what we're doing is the process of evacuation and securing New Orleans and other areas that are afflicted. And here the Department of Defense has performed magnificently, as has the National Guard, in bringing enormous resources and capabilities to bear in the areas that are suffering.

* Crowd chanting outside the Convention Center: We want help.

* Nagin: They don't have a clue what's going on down there.

* Phyllis Petrich, a tourist stranded at the Ritz-Carlton: They are invisible. We have no idea where they are. We hear bits and pieces that the National Guard is around, but where? We have not seen them. We have not seen FEMA officials. We have seen no one.

Security

* Brown: I actually think the security is pretty darn good. There's some really bad people out there that are causing some problems, and it seems to me that every time a bad person wants to scream of cause a problem, there's somebody there with a camera to stick it in their face. ( See Jack Cafferty's rant on the government's 'bungled' response -- 0:57)

* Chertoff: In addition to local law enforcement, we have 2,800 National Guard in New Orleans as we speak today. One thousand four hundred additional National Guard military police trained soldiers will be arriving every day: 1,400 today, 1,400 tomorrow and 1,400 the next day.

* Nagin: I continue to hear that troops are on the way, but we are still protecting the city with only 1,500 New Orleans police officers, an additional 300 law enforcement personnel, 250 National Guard troops, and other military personnel who are primarily focused on evacuation.

* Lawrence: The police are very, very tense right now. They're literally riding around, full assault weapons, full tactical gear, in pickup trucks. Five, six, seven, eight officers. It is a very tense situation here.


CNN.com - The big disconnect on New Orleans - Sep 2, 2005

World stunned as US struggles with Katrina

World stunned as US struggles with Katrina

By Andrew GrayFri Sep 2,10:16 AM ET

The world has watched amazed as the planet's only superpower struggles with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, with some saying the chaos has exposed flaws and deep divisions in American society.

World leaders and ordinary citizens have expressed sympathy with the people of the southern United States whose lives were devastated by the hurricane and the flooding that followed.

But many have also been shocked by the images of disorder beamed around the world -- looters roaming the debris-strewn streets and thousands of people gathered in New Orleans waiting for the authorities to provide food, water and other aid.

"Anarchy in the USA" declared Britain's best-selling newspaper The Sun.

"Apocalypse Now" headlined Germany's Handelsblatt daily.

The pictures of the catastrophe -- which has killed hundreds and possibly thousands -- have evoked memories of crises in the world's poorest nations such as last year's tsunami in Asia, which left more than 230,000 people dead or missing.

But some view the response to those disasters more favorably than the lawless aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

"I am absolutely disgusted. After the tsunami our people, even the ones who lost everything, wanted to help the others who were suffering," said Sajeewa Chinthaka, 36, as he watched a cricket match in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

"Not a single tourist caught in the tsunami was mugged. Now with all this happening in the U.S. we can easily see where the civilized part of the world's population is."

SINKING INTO ANARCHY

Many newspapers highlighted criticism of local and state authorities and of President Bush. Some compared the sputtering relief effort with the massive amounts of money and resources poured into the war in Iraq.

"A modern metropolis sinking in water and into anarchy -- it is a really cruel spectacle for a champion of security like Bush," France's left-leaning Liberation newspaper said.

"(Al Qaeda leader Osama) bin Laden, nice and dry in his hideaway, must be killing himself laughing."

A female employee at a multinational firm in South Korea said it may have been no accident the U.S. was hit.

"Maybe it was punishment for what it did to Iraq, which has a man-made disaster, not a natural disaster," said the woman, who did not want to be named as she has an American manager.

"A lot of the people I work with think this way. We spoke about it just the other day," she said.

Commentators noted the victims of the hurricane were overwhelmingly African Americans, too poor to flee the region as the hurricane loomed unlike some of their white neighbors.

New Orleans ranks fifth in the United States in terms of African American population and 67 percent of the city's residents are black.

"In one of the poorest states in the country, where black people earn half as much as white people, this has taken on a racial dimension," said a report in Britain's Guardian daily.

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, in a veiled criticism of U.S. political thought, said the disaster showed the need for a strong state that could help poor people.

"You see in this example that even in the 21st century you need the state, a good functioning state, and I hope that for all these people, these poor people, that the Americans will do their best," he told reporters at a European Union meeting in Newport, Wales.

David Fordham, 33, a hospital anesthetist speaking at a London underground rail station, said he had spent time in America and was not surprised the country had struggled to cope.

"Maybe they just thought they could sit it out and everything would be okay," he said.

"It's unbelievable though -- the TV images -- and your heart goes out to them."

(With reporting by Reuters bureaux around the world)

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http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/weather_katrina_reaction_dc&printer=1