Friday, September 09, 2005
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Friday, September 9, 2005
Everyone is slamming poor Dubya. Everyone is saying, oh my God, he's more inept than we ever imagined, he has no idea what's really going on, he's oblivious and in denial and he pretty much let all those poor black people die in filth and misery, and he basically ignored the massive Katrina disaster for days before finally being pressured into cutting his umpteenth vacation short and actually taking action.
This is what they're saying. Kanye West was right, Bush doesn't care about black people, or the poor, or anything that doesn't directly serve his handlers' agenda or flatter his monochromatic ego or anything that isn't spelled out for him in nice simplistic pie charts and reassuring matronly tones.
And lo, the darts are slinging in from around the world, according to SF Gate's own World Views column: "Maddening incompetence ... reminiscent of a drought-stricken African state," says Britain's Daily Mail. "Can't get it together," says a major paper in Italy. "A plethora of grim tales of disaster," says the Scotsman. "Superpower or Third World?" asks the Spanish daily Noticias de Álava. Why did BushCo fail its first great national-security test since Sept. 11, despite having two days' advance notice of Katrina's wrath? asks Le Monde. And on it goes, the world's powers looking on in one part shock and one part disgust and all parts repugnance for Bush's rampant ineptitude and America's apparent inability to take care of its own.
But it's so unfair, isn't it, to attack poor Dubya like this? Just a little misplaced? After all, Bush has always been the rich white man's president. He is the CEO president, the megacorporate businessman's friend, the thug of the religious right, a big reservoir-tipped condom for all energy magnates, protecting against the nasty STDs of humanitarianism and progress and social responsibility.
He has always been merely an entirely selective figurehead, out of touch and eternally dumbfounded, a hand puppet of the neoconservative machine built and fluffed up and carefully placed for the very specific job of protecting their interests, no matter what. Repeat: No. Matter. What. Flood hurricane disaster war social breakdown economic collapse? Doesn't matter. Corporate interests über alles, baby. Protect the core, reassure the base, screw everyone else unless it begins to affect the poll numbers and then finger-point, deflect, prevaricate. All of a piece, really. Because Bush, he was never actually meant to, you know, lead.
So maybe it's time to stop with the savaging of poor Dubya. He is, after all, doing a simply beautiful job of kowtowing to his wealthiest supporters while slamming the poor and running the nation into a deep hole and creating the largest deficit in American history, all while his cronies in oil and industry and military supply and Big Energy gain immense and staggering wealth and pay less and less tax on it. This is what he was hired to do. This is why he is in office. Hell, the day after Katrina, Bush flew right by Louisiana and headed straight to San Diego to party with his Greatest Generation cronies. Reassure the masters, first and foremost, eh Shrub? Understood.
Is this not what we all expected? Can you reasonably say you thought it would be different? Just look. All major social services are being gutted. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is a joke, second in line only to the ungodly useless Homeland Security Department, which has become about as reassuring and trustworthy and humane an organization as a prison in Guantánamo.
The Associated Press reported that the Army Corps of Engineers asked for $105 million for hurricane and flood programs in New Orleans just last year. The White House hacked that down to about $40 million, even as it passed the most bloated and nauseatingly pork-filled $12.3 billion energy bill in recent history, one that guaranteed we'd be sucking at the tit of foreign oil and kneeling before Bush's pals in Big Energy for decades to come, even as more and more teenagers die in Iraq for Bush's inept and failed war. Yay politics.
Why didn't National Guardsmen from Louisiana and Mississippi march into New Orleans immediately after Katrina exited to take charge and keep the peace? Why, because most of them are serving in that same violent and brutally costly war in Iraq, silly. Fully 30 percent of the guard is stuck over there, along with 50 percent of their equipment. Yay Vietnam 2.0.
Why did FEMA chief Michael Brown wait hours after Katrina struck to timidly plead with his parent company, Homeland Security, for some backup, not to actually get their hands dirty but rather to help "convey a positive image" about the government's response to the victims? Why, because he's an incompetent lackey Bush appointee who was fired from his former job as head of something called the International Arabian Horse Association. Yay pathetic nepotism.
Just look. Senate majority leader Sen. Bill Frist, icon of hollow self-righteousness and the energy magnate's friend, has already leveraged the Katrina nightmare to argue for more drilling in Alaska, much in the way BushCo whored Sept. 11 to cram the Patriot Act down the nation's throat and make fear and xenophobia a national pastime. And let's not forget trusty profit-sucking sidekick Halliburton, which has already scored a sweet deal to help repair Katrina damage, thanks to the fact that the former director of FEMA is now a Halliburton lobbyist. Ah, war and death and tragedy. They are just so goddamn profitable, right, Dubya?
And then, the kicker. Then you read that Bush has actually ordered an official probe into the botched Katrina relief efforts, a formal federal investigation into what went wrong, which is a bit like a shark ordering an investigation into what happened to all the fish. Unless this probe starts and ends in the White House, unless it hangs Bush himself up by his monkey ears and dangles him over a river of toxic Louisiana sewage, it's merely useless and insulting and more than a little sad.
Let's say it outright. The truest measure of any president, of any leader, is how well he takes care of his own people. And Bush, well, Bush has done a simply spectacular job of taking care of exactly his own people -- the wealthy, the corporate, the extreme religious right, his core base of supporters -- while happily and fiercely ignoring, restricting, condemning, destroying the rest. Are you educated or progressive or liberal or alternative-minded or sexually open or homosexual or anti-war? This means you. Are you dirt poor and belong to a minority and don't drive an SUV and contribute six figures per annum to the RNC and maybe live in a flooded swamp in the Louisiana bayou? This means you, squared. Sucker.
Here, then, is the new American motto, as reimagined by BushCo: Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, and we'll let them die in a filthy and decrepit storm-ravaged American football stadium while our president languishes on vacation and ponders his oil futures and fondly remembers his good ol' days of getting drunk at Mardi Gras before going AWOL from the military. God bless America.
Thursday, September 08, 2005
LORD OF THE RINGS!
DENVER - Passengers on a Frontier Airlines plane carrying Hurricane Katrina evacuees from Houston to Denver subdued a man and tied him up with duct tape after he assaulted a flight attendant, police said.
The altercation began Tuesday when Jason Glen Tervort, 26, walked up to the flight attendant in the center aisle and said: "Ladies and gentleman, I have an announcement to make. My name is Jason," according to the federal arrest warrant.
When the flight attendant tried to get Tervort back to his seat, he allegedly poked her while saying, "I'm a man," then began pushing and slapping her.
Several men got out of their seats to subdue Tervort, who was spitting, biting and yelling profanities, Denver police spokeswoman Virginia Lopez said Wednesday. The men then used duct tape to tie Tervort's arms and legs to a rail on the seats.
Tervort, who had recently been discharged from the Army, did not appear to be one of the evacuees. It was unclear how many of the men who subdued him were among the evacuees being taken to a shelter in Colorado.
Tervort suffered minor injuries in the incident. Police officers who met the plane at the airport noticed blood on the floor where Tervort had been tied up.
None of the passengers who subdued Tervort will face charges, police said. "They used the amount of force necessary," Lopez said.
Tervort faces a federal charge of interference with flight crew members and attendants.
Frontier Airlines spokesman Joe Hodas said the flight attendant was shaken, but physically unharmed.
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
By Ray Gronberg : The Herald-Sun
Sep 4, 2005 : 9:36 pm ET
DURHAM -- A trio of Duke University sophomores say they drove to New Orleans late last week, posed as journalists to slip inside the hurricane-soaked city twice, and evacuated seven people who weren't receiving help from authorities.
The group, led by South Carolina native Sonny Byrd, say they also managed to drive all the way to the New Orleans Convention Center, where they encountered scenes early Saturday evening that they say were disgraceful.
"We found it absolutely incredible that the authorities had no way to get there for four or five days, that they didn't go in and help these people, and we made it in a two-wheel-drive Hyundai," said Hans Buder, who made the trip with his roommate Byrd and another student, David Hankla.
Buder's account -- told by cell phone Sunday evening as the trio neared Montgomery, Ala., on their way home -- chronicled a three-day odyssey that began when the students, angered by the news reports they were seeing on CNN, loaded up their car with bottled water and headed for the Gulf coast to see if they could lend a hand.
The trio say they left Durham about 6 p.m. Thursday and reached Montgomery about 12 hours later. After catching 1½ hours of sleep, they reached the coast at Mobile. From there, they traveled through the Mississippi cities of Biloxi and Gulfport.
They say they elected to keep going because it seemed like Mississippi authorities had things well in hand.
Pushing on, they passed through Slidell, La., and tried to get into New Orleans by a couple of routes. Each time, police and National Guard troops turned them away. By 2 p.m. they'd wound up in Baton Rouge.
Stopping first at a Red Cross shelter and then at offices of a Baton Rouge TV station, WAFB, they eventually made their way to the campus of Louisiana State University. By 8 p.m. Friday they were working as volunteers in an emergency assistance area set up inside LSU's indoor track arena.
The students worked until about 2 a.m. Saturday, then slept on the floor of a dorm room. When they awoke, they went back to the TV station, which was hosting what Buder termed "a distribution center" for supplies.
At 2 p.m., the trio decided to head for New Orleans, Buder said. After looking around, they swiped an Associated Press identification and one of the TV station's crew shirts, and found a Kinko's where they could make copies of the ID.
They were stopped again by authorities at the edge of New Orleans, but this time were able to make it through.
"We waved the press pass, and they looked at each other, the two guards, and waved us on in," Buder said.
Inside the city, they found a surreal environment.
"It was wild," Buder said. "It really felt like it was 'Independence Day,' the movie."
The trio dodged downed trees and power lines until they happened upon Magazine Street, which runs in a semi-circle around the city parallel to and about four blocks north of the Mississippi River.
They stopped to give water to a 15-year-old boy sitting beside the road holding a sign that said "Need Water/Food," then went to the convention center.
The evacuation was basically complete by the time they arrived, at about 6:30 or 6:45 p.m. What the trio saw there horrified them.
"The only way I can describe this, it was the epicenter," Buder said. "Inside there were National Guard running around, there was feces, people had urinated, soiled the carpet. There were dead bodies. The smell will never leave me."
Buder said the students saw four or five bodies. National Guard troopers seemed to be checking the second and third floors of the building to try to secure the site.
"Anyone who knows that area, if you had a bus, it would take you no more than 20 minutes to drive in with a bus and get these people out," Buder said. "They sat there for four or five days with no food, no water, babies getting raped in the bathrooms, there were murders, nobody was doing anything for these people. And we just drove right in, really disgraceful. I don't want to get too fired up with the rhetoric, but some blame needs to be placed somewhere."
By about 7 p.m., the students made their way back to the boy on Magazine Street. He directed them to some people "who really needed to get out." The resulting evacuation began at a house at the corner of Magazine and Peniston streets.
The first group included three women and a man. The students climbed into the front seats of the four-door Hyundai, and the evacuees filled the back seat. They left the city and headed back to Baton Rouge. There they deposited the man at the LSU medical center and took the women to dinner. The women later found shelter with relatives, and the students got about four hours' sleep inside the LSU chapel.
At 6:30 a.m. Sunday, they made their second run into New Orleans, returning to the house at Magazine and Peniston streets. This time they picked up three men and headed back to Baton Rouge. Two of the men were the husbands of two of the women evacuated the night before. The students reunited them with their wives and put the two families on a bus for Texas.
Buder is from Martha's Vineyard, Mass.; Byrd is from Rock Hill, S.C.; and Hankla is from Washington, D.C.
Do you get it now??
Surely, Karl Rove, who had seen Bush's approval ratings drop to all-time lows, knew days ahead that a category 5 hurricane was bearing down on New Orleans and that a terrible disaster was likely to unfold there if and when the levees were unable to hold back the water. What better way to improve those horrendous ratings than for Bush to be photographed the day after the disaster struck, standing on top of debris, bullhorn in hand, righteously vowing that the government would do all it could to help Gulf Coast states rebuild from this catastrophe?
But none of that happened.
They bungled their own political resurrection! Nearly a full week went by, while thousands were dying and starving or were kenneled in unbelievable filth in New Orleans. Nobody seemed to be in charge. Bush remained "on vacation" in Crawford, travelling around to fundraisers, playing golf, etc. Condi was theater-going and buying thousand-dollar shoes on Fifth Avenue. What was going on? Did Karl Rove not understand the significance of what was happening? Was Bush "incapacitated"? What about Cheney, "on vacation" in Wyoming? Was he "incapacitated," too?
Are the Bush people really that politically obtuse? Is their perception of things seriously that far off?
So here's the question I have for those of you who voted for Bush in 2004:
Do you get it now?