Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
August 31, 2005

WB: When the Levee Breaks +


Hurricane Relief


The real lesson of Katrina, though, is that the scenes we've been watching in New Orleans could be repeated in many other places in the decades ahead, if the worst-case scenarios generated by the global climate change models become realities.

When the Levee Breaks

Posted by b on August 31, 2005 at 04:58 PM | Permalink


I just read that the people sheltered in the Superdome are being bussed to the Houston AstroDome. Then it dawned on me, here we have American Refugees. The poorest of the poor, with no where to go and no possessions left at the whims of those with more power, determining the future of their lives.

At least these public stadia are getting some reasonably public benefit, for now a sad tent city under a dome. Lets hope they can at least have air conditioning.

American Refugees?!? It shouldn't be this way. It should never be this way. The rich get richer and the poor become refugees at the whims of nature. I always thought that Republican economics would take us to third world living and we are now officially there.

Posted by: Bubb Rubb | Aug 31, 2005 5:11:59 PM | 1

Likewise, the Great Mississippi flood of 1927 -- which inspired Memphis Minnie to write one of Led Zepplin's best songs -- broke levees from St. Louis to New Orleans and turned most of the Delta country of eastern Mississippi (the state, not the river) into an inland sea.

I believe that would be western Mississippi (whose border with Arkansas is the Mississippi River).

Great post Billmon, and I very much agree with your conclusion. Democrats would certainly have done a better job of keeping their finger in the dyke, er, levee than the Cheney administration with its lunatic priorities. But the only way to stop this kind of thing from happening in the future is to get truly serious about global climate change, and neither major party is willing to do that (though I suppose the Democrats deserve a few points for at least admitting it exists).

Posted by: BenA | Aug 31, 2005 5:12:04 PM | 2

I've recently read up about the Yellow River in China. Cities on its banks are in similar trouble: the river is actually higher than the cities. The water is transporting so many sediments that it has created something like a highwayed channel for itself. The leeves on the sides were build up for decades. So should the river break out, it will stream into the lower planes on the sides.

Posted by: MarcinGomulka | Aug 31, 2005 5:21:33 PM | 3

As the nodal point for two major transportation/commerce systems, between the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico, New Orleans or a city not too far from its former location is going to have an important economic role for the foreseeable future (however long that is)

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. | Aug 31, 2005 5:22:33 PM | 4

Bush just had a press conference where he said he had an overflight over the area - at 35,000 feet?

The stupidity, as Billmon points out in another way, is to now promise to rebuild everything. That city is lost. Landsides change because what we as humans do. Even if we change our influence, some damage will be permanent. NO is one of the damage sides.

On the side of human death. My estimate is 10-20,000. Compare that to 9/11 and the resources to prevent another 9/11.

Posted by: b | Aug 31, 2005 5:27:36 PM | 6

Great post, Billmon. I wish I could put it all together like you.

So they're going to bus 20,000 or so people from the SuperDome to the Astrodome. Great. Then what? The Astrodome isn't mean't for living. I can't sit still in one of those seats for three hours. Imagine trying too live in one--or maybe two or three. Do the while people get box seats, the latinos loge, light skinned blacks the mezzanine, and real darkies the upper decks? That was a particularly crass piece of sarcasm, but what I'm trying to get at is how inhuman these people are being treated.

I mean we've got 25,000 homeless, indigent people, who have lost everything, have not had a shower for nigh on a week, have had no functioning toilets for two days, and now we are going to bus them, en masse, to another stadium? Are we seeing the first concentration camp specifically for poor Americans? I'm not being totally facetious here. This is disgraceful.

I mean, each state in the union can't find 500 proper homes (apartments, rooms in houses, motels) for these people, and fly two planes or drive a few buses in to East Texas or Baton Rouge and pick them up. Watch the way America's newest untouchables are treated, folks, because this is a harbinger for the future. How will we give these people meaningful lives back? Will the federal government aid them, or will the invisible hand of the free market lead them to stand four abreast begging for jobs at Walmart and McD's.

Or will we keep them sequestered, and for how long, as if they have committed some sort of a crime, the crime of surviving, in America's newest Gulag. Will we arrest them and throw the books at them, when some inevitably crack from the pressure and lack of control and privacy? You know, a few bad apples, not grateful for all that we have done.....I don't know how long I could take it, and I've lived through 8 or more hurricanes in the Virgin Islands. I've lost a house and everything I own, but I was taken in by caring friends. If you put me in a stadium of 25,000 people with no privacy, I would have snapped.

This worries me. I certainly don't trust this administration at all. This smells of The New Fascism's first penal colony.

Posted by: Malooga | Aug 31, 2005 5:57:41 PM | 7

Exactly b, the city is lost. The GOP are spinning like tops to try and do something. This is truly a "Day After Tomorrow" event, they know it, and they haven't a fucking clue how to deal with it.

Posted by: Friendly Fire | Aug 31, 2005 5:57:52 PM | 8

Great post--the best writing about the hurricane I've seen all week reading the MSM and blogs. Beyond the immediate public policy, economic, and environmental context, you bring in the longer term historical basis of this mammoth disaster. The lunatic environmental and economic policies practiced by the administration echo the mindless process of development in the past century across the continent. Longer term environmental histories of are useful in understanding these processes. The works of Donald Worster (Rivers of Empire, etc.) as well as Marc Reisner (Cadillac Desert) and others are good resources....

Posted by: clio | Aug 31, 2005 6:16:46 PM | 9

What a bizarre Trail of Tears: to transport that most unfortunate element of New Orleans' population from one uninhabitable stadium to another hundreds of miles away. It is as if the poorest of the poor will be penalized for having the luck to survive the calamity. Will the Texans charge admission to see the refugees?

Posted by: Petronius | Aug 31, 2005 6:32:37 PM | 10

It does provide a bit of poltical air freshener for Texas.

They are looking all spiffy and in control.

Posted by: | Aug 31, 2005 6:44:45 PM | 11

Unfortunately, climate change policies won't solve the problem either. It goes much deeper. The greed that leads people to build societies in unstable places, thus overpopulating, over consuming, and creating waste disposal impossibilities is the culprit. Until we learn to live in harmony with our surroundings we will continue to experience these catastrophes. Man and water are especially at odds. People in the business tell me that flooding is the worst of disasters. And forcing its flow in all the wrong places and directions will eventually give in to greater forces. Or trying to block it. Water is the means to sustenance, transportation and wealth, so this constant courting of destruction will bear fruit.

The distribution of population is what I think has been our biggest problem. The growth of cities has also led to politics, as the means to control the group, and then the growth of corruption, coming full circle in inadequate planning for this inevitable event. The good old exit strategy that seems to have gone missing. Man often gets caught in the traps he so loves to construct.

Until people respect the earth and live in smaller groups that can sustain their survival in intelligently chosen locations, with reasonable consumption and waste removal, we will experience population control in this manner, and the earth's shedding of too much weight and density for the spot.
It's plain senseless. People can live in relatively safe places.

Posted by: jm | Aug 31, 2005 6:50:05 PM | 12

Yes, JM-

Imagine the banks of the Mississippi, its headwaters pure and unpolluted, unbound by levees and cities its whole length, and periodically flooding its banks in a controlled manner, like the ancient Nile, fertile again and producing some of the best organic crops in the world.


Posted by: Malooga | Aug 31, 2005 7:03:22 PM | 13

I've been waiting for two days for your thoughts-and as ever-wonderfully done.

After so much flack given to people saying it could be over for NO, you rationally imply the obvious. Remove the levees, and NO is no longer there, an under water attraction like the sunken ships at Pearl Harbor. If this storm could flatten houses in Biloxi that have stood since 1854, what is the point of restoring the levees (and the most active part of the hurricane season has not even started). Every attempt to dry out will be threatened with yet again, another couple inches of rain, not to mention another hurricane. Residents will want to return but businesses, not so much. It would be far more economical to hand people very big checks and say "you really have to move on".

I work a block from, as we in lower Manhatten affectonately call, the Big Hole. The spring was full of much whining and wailing about what to do with the Hole-Bloomberg was distracted by the West Side Stadium and the Olympics-nobody was moving forward-"We hate the plan, we need a plan, we need leadership, we need focus and direction" and then Donald the Trump states the obvious-to paraphase, "nobody is going to rent in a very tall building there again-it's a looser". Since then, NADA about rebuilding. And yet, as time has gone on, what had (I thought) become a tourist attraction for rubber neckers, has now (I think) become a place of pilgrimage for Americans and tourists from abroad, like a Mecca or a Bethlehem. That Hole means something. Maybe an NO forever returned to the Mississippi can become a monument to hubris, and another place of pilgrimage.

Posted by: Mary | Aug 31, 2005 7:09:57 PM | 14

They are going to say: "don't politicize a tragedy." Well, we didn't politicize 9/11 despite "The Pet Goat" and the "OBL determined to strike the US" memo. Bush made us (and the country) pay dearly for NOT politicizing it. Does anyone think the Rethugs would have cut President Gore any slack on 9/11? So fuck them. It's time to make the case that New Orleans is yet one more proof that Resident Bush is unfit to lead this country. Particularly when it's true.

Posted by: the exile | Aug 31, 2005 7:10:46 PM | 15

Slightly off topic but look at this President. In five short years he:

a) Gains power in the greatest subversion of Democracy in our country's history.
b) Presides over the greatest "terrorist" attack in our country's history. No one is held reponsible.
c) Turns the largest budget surpluses in our country's history into the largest deficits.
d) Embroils our country in what now looks like the worst military and diplomatic defeat in our nation's history.
e) Presides over the costliest and one of the deadliest (so far) natural disasters in our nations history.
d) Presides in a 250% increase in the cost of energy supplies for the country.
e) Presides over the greatest rise of partisanship in this country since the Civil War, and it's getting worse.

I mean who, in their right mind (maybe that's the key here), actually supports this guy. This is some bad news, and I fear we're not at the end of it. Even Ralph Nader should be able to get elected on a platform of "Are you better off now than you were eight years ago?"

Outside of Radical Statism, early-onset fascism, and faithism, this guy is just plain bad luck. He has always been bad luck his whole life. Looking in his eyes as he spoke today, you could see he knew it. Nothing he does works. Ever. His whole life. Something to remember and repeat. Just plain old bad luck to have this guy around. BAD LUCK.

Posted by: Malooga | Aug 31, 2005 7:25:49 PM | 16

As usual, an outstanding post.

Bush flew over at 2500 feet, not 35,000 feet, according to what I read this morning. Big deal, he's still clueless. I was thinking about him this morning, how he's never known a day of poverty or want in his entire life, how everyone has always been in his life to serve him and whatever he wants (with the exception of his forced time in the National Guard, which he managed to duck out of, incomplete).

For many years, while Daddy Bush was VP and Prez, I lived eleven miles from their Kennebunkport compound (how come everywhere they live is called a compound???). I don't think W would be capable of true empathy with anyone until the damned K'port compound fell into the ocean. THEN he MIGHT be able to relate to what others are experiencing. Of course, even then he would just go to one of the other Bush family mansions, er... compounds.

It should be a requirement for him to continue being President that he live at least three weeks in the Houston Astrodome with thousands of "refugees" after they've been "resettled" there (New Palestine???) At least he would be spared time in the N.O. Dome with no air conditioning, holes in the roof, sweltering temperatures, flood waters rising, and overloaded, putrefying toilets.

If it came to something that affected him personally, you can be damn sure we'd see plenty of action, pronto. No expense would be spared.

Posted by: stvwlf | Aug 31, 2005 7:54:05 PM | 17

Had to have one more blues, from Charley Patton, from the same 1927 flood.

High Water Everywhere.

So high the water was risin' our men sinkin' down,

Man, the water was risin' at places all around, boy, they's all around,

It was fifty men and children come to sink and drown,

Oh, Lordy, women and grown men drown,

Oh, women and children sinkin' down, Lord, have mercy,

I couldn't see nobody's home and wasn't no one to be found.

Posted by: James E. Powell | Aug 31, 2005 8:18:22 PM | 18

As a grand finale to the bus caravan to AstroDome, while the Houston Rockets are doing their half-time show, the President of the United States will personally release a cargo netting with 10,000 brightly colored balloons, each flying a miniature American flag souvenir, and a sugar-coated pretzel prize for each of the homeless refugees.

Wouldn't want anyone to choke on their pretzel....

Seriously though, these refugees are cash cows compared to 10M's of folks slowly drowning in Micronesia and Bangladesh, even as we speak.
Only the *working* Micronesians live on Ramen (eaten raw), Spam (the canned kind, eaten out of same) and God Bless America ... Pepsi-Cola.
Bangladeshi's live on chick peas, cracked rice and the occasional egg.
I've shared with them a delicious skewer of barbecued chicken guts,
cooked just past pink on a hibatchi of leaves, twigs and bark pieces,
while we watched big waves crash on land only 5' above the high tide.

You can say this was "our tsunamai", but that's just plain ignorant.
Dauphin Island, off Georgia, has been repeatedly wiped out ever since 1972, and FEMA keeps loaning money to rebuild it again, now $500M's.
The total of US aid for the Indonesian tsunamai victims was $350M.
Bush later renig'd on that promise, like the $10B for African AIDS.

Now if you want to talk about a natural disaster ... Africa? Hello!
10,000,000 children without parents and one dying every 3 *seconds*.

Let's not make ourselves out to be fools in front of a dying world.

Posted by: Popcorn Annie | Aug 31, 2005 8:18:50 PM | 19

The total annihilation of New Orleans will surely be the Albatross that finally drowns Team Bush.

There was a politician of Democratic stripe, who foresaw energy and environmental problems heading our way, this country's elite bet against him by selecting GW in 2000. And like good gambling addicts they doubled down again in 2004. Only now the bill from the first term is coming due. Can anyone really afford the bill that's accruing from the current term? We're barely 9 month into a second term and we've already lost a major historic southern port. How much more blood and treasure do we need to piss away?

If there was poetic justice in this world. Gore would be nominated and elected in 2008. No Democrat has had the spine to call Bush on his crap, where Gore has consistently done it. Gore has spoken elegantly and accurately in the face of omni-present media hostility- talk about character! Hillary may have the fundraising lead, but by right of honor, 2008 should be Gore's.

Al if you're out there, come back to us, we need you.

Posted by: patience | Aug 31, 2005 8:18:56 PM | 20

I have a first cousin down by NO but we aren't close so I haven't heard anything.

This whole thing go's back to people building and living in stupid god dam places. Living on the coast is more dangerous now than ever. The population of the midwest don't see this kind of shit. I saw a tornado about two years ago here in Michigan. Now we will pay greater insurance cost for these people to build agauin so sometime down the road it all be distroyed again. It's like the idiots in California who build houses on hillsides and the rains wash their home away and they rebuild.

Or on the east coast and Florida. Yet, these areas are the fastest growing states. I haven't heard of any natural disasters in South Dakota, Wisconson, Michigan.

My family on my mothers side is from the south, but these people living on the coast should not be allowed to continue to rebuild. Some f--king common sense should kick in sometime.

There, thats my rant.

Posted by: jdp | Aug 31, 2005 8:33:53 PM | 21

@jdp, imho one reason people build and live in impossible places is cheap fossil fuel. rice farming in SoCal. a city called Las Vegas in a hostile desert. Los Angeles, irrigated by terawatts' worth of pumped water from hundreds of miles away. cheap energy means we can make like the inky-dinky spider and build our home up the garden spout. those days are almost over.

Posted by: DeAnander | Aug 31, 2005 8:44:07 PM | 22

But the Big Easyians generally ignored their doom, just as most Angelenos pretend they don't know about the earthquake that one day will convert their lotus land into the world's biggest rubble pile in less than five minutes.

Retrofitting buildings here in Los Angeles has been, is and will continue to be a thriving business. The Long Beach earthquake (on the Newport/Inglewood fault) of 1933 taught Southern Californians much of what they needed to know about unreinforced brick masonry, and while an enormous event could shake everything down "to a rubble pile" it would probably destroy a lot more than Los Angeles. Some earthquake models predict less damage in Los Angeles if the temblor is on the ginormousSan Andreas fault zone, which is around ninety miles from Los Angeles at its closest point. The closer to the city, the more damage, so some of the less famous faults may end up causing more damage than the spot where our two friendly neighborhood tectonic plates get cozy. Nevertheless, fires, pollution, traffic, medical and emergency services: it will be a challenging time for all.

I have personally experienced many earthquakes in Southern California, and many of them in Los Angeles proper. Analogies notwithstanding, many of the contributing factors re flooding in NO were not etched in stone, they were carved in sand. The city was always in trouble, and still managed a great and spirited run. In earthquake country, when we go down it will be an event of such magnitude it would knock you off your chair if you were surf fishing in Cape Cod. The canary in the New Orleans cage used to sing swing and rock and jazz and blues--what's that poor bird going to sing now? Just blues?


Posted by: MJS | Aug 31, 2005 8:47:19 PM | 23

"...They'll also reduce into insignificance the price tag on the Kyoto Treaty -- which itself may be too little, too late. If Shrub really thinks that doing something about climate change would "wreck the economy," he should spend some of his unused vacation time thinking about what just happened to New Orleans."

As best I can tell, Bush Co. thinks "the economy" is synonymous with "dividends."

I think it reasonable to ask how much interest this regime has in the well-being of the country. In the modern world, capital has historically high mobility. I can see a Bush family "compound" in Riyadh. Then again, there's always the later nineteenth century model, where private police forces helped to keep a respectable distance between the paragons of our culture and the people who worked for them.

Posted by: | Aug 31, 2005 8:49:50 PM | 24

i cannot grieve as would be my custom with any unnecessary loss of life. when i know that ithe gravity of the damage done - was not nature's but mans - or more pertinantly - profit

when i know that the poorest will be the ones that suffer & that they will be saved - if they can be saved at all by other poor people - through 'telethons' - which hostorically receive the greatest & disproportionate amount of monies from the poorest. when in reality it is the civic responsibility of goverment to do that. not only do corrupt govts allow this situation to be so grave but they are not there to assist - on the contrary -they isolate the poor even more

when i know - the criminal crew in the white house will use this disaster - to take attention away from - other issues - - it is not a case of seeing conspiracies but simply now there is a history of that form of opportunism & also now a long history of such shamelessness

knowing for example what will happen with the photos of abu ghraib - which will be supressed, there are many many other issues which have an importance which will be literally drowned in the false concern for people they couldn't really give a fuck over

they are not concerned in the least for these people - other than public relations as they are completely unconcerned with the people of other countries; - that bulky fascis bolton will howl the house down at the un & he will be appmauded, they will attack iran & these people - the people who are being fucked over & who continue to be fucked over will act again & again against their own interests

to say they are poorly informed is not enough. we are bor with instincts - they need to be used as much at a civic level as a personal one. responsibility must be assumed even when govts are incapable of assuming any responsibility at all. a people must give way to their courage even if their leaders totally lack courage

people must see what is in fron of their eyes. the neglect, the corruption, the crime & they must call it by its real name & they have to understand their own responsibility in that context. if that is not done it will be caravan of sideshows of slaughter that will never end

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Aug 31, 2005 8:53:24 PM | 25

It is alarming to note that Canadian govts are poised to send aid but no one in the US govt can tell them what to send.

Wheels falling off?

Posted by: ab | Aug 31, 2005 9:06:28 PM | 26

... as always, powerful, polished commentary... thank you

Posted by: suttree | Aug 31, 2005 9:16:05 PM | 27


you are likely right. That time will soon be over. The place where I live, Michigan, is surrounded by one the greatest natural resources in the world. Fresj water. Our family is really thinking of taking advantage of the bust housing bubble nationwide and bust economy here in Michigan and buying some acreage for farming. I believe horse farming will again rise as one of the means of agricultural production. Las Vegas will go back to what it was, barron desert.

Posted by: jdp | Aug 31, 2005 9:31:04 PM | 28

Let's not make ourselves out to be fools in front of a dying world.

We seem to have forgotten how to do anything else.

Posted by: Billmon | Aug 31, 2005 9:50:29 PM | 29

& all the time the suffering of people - represented in som for ov volkspirit. the demeaned & degraded media do nothing but charge their deaderotic eys on damage, on loss, on carnage - as long as they are far from the centre of it - or worse they profit directly from the suffering of others

this culture which tries to control in every sense - that which is beautiful in man - his sense of wonder - & equally his sense of shame. his sense of construction & of a human atonement. human not religious qualities that exist in every man & woman - that is being demolished - & demolished utterly by that which passes for information

why do they not speak of why a situation - such as this is allowed to become as grave as it is & - then pose the question of why is it that the poor in these situation suffer loss dispoportionately to the those who have too much already

i will not be made to cry over what man has created in his infinite venality - i will not raise my fist when those who suffer are my natural brothers & sisters - because they do not pose nor activate the obvious question. marx put it a great deal more eloquently than i am capable - but the poor must ask & respond to that very basic question - why is it they who must always carry the burden - in every sense

there are those of a generation who experienced est, forum rajaneesh guru maharaji etc etc who will say that the poor demand their proper suffering - these fuckwits who are now technocrats - a culture of which billmon is part even if he does not share their implicit hatred of people - but that is what i hear or read - in commentaries in all media - the false tears - the false concern - & the playing with that falseness until it turns into a burlesque - until it is transformed into something so sordidly vaudevillian - the real person dissapear as they do literally in the floods of new orleans or in the cities & villages of iraq

these people who are lost to us, their histories, their legends, their myths, their gifts are lost to us forever - & they are - these people - based not in some conception of people - but of their concrete reality - human flesh - they are reality based. they are not floating bit of flotsam or jetsam but human history that is dissapearing

why do these pornographers degrade all that is - constitutionally honourable in humanity & turn it into some competition of celebrity or carnage. the biggest. the worst. the smallest. why do they never speak of our common humanity - why do they never speak - of that which is the richest in us - instinct. o would suggest because that is what they want to destroy most & they are not afraid to use the most fearful means & take advantage of human tragedy

when the russian armies swalllowed germany armies whole - the corrupt leadership was never concerned with the story of their soldiers, they were not even concerned with historical forces - they were concerned with their own benefit - to the last second - to the last hour

the theology of liberation was perhaps the only real moment in divided cultures when groups of persons could ascertain the human cost both in the short term & long term - & could see the impoverishment that would happen at almost every level & of why power needs to create victims - naturally or unnaturally. power does so in the end because it can profit from it. as it always has

someone has said here in a post - that this could be the last straw - but for five years we have been waitin g for the last straw - for the deception or the cruelty to be exposed for what it is & for the people to wake up. & they do not

we are being sent as quietly as any jew to birkenau - to the degredation of our species

when there is no fight in humanity - when it has lost the power to question - then for me it has almost lost everything & that then everything becomes then a machinery for creating victims

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Aug 31, 2005 9:52:53 PM | 30

Somebody - Official - just said on CNN, what I've been waiting to hear.....only 80% left - that leaves ~250,000 people. Where are they? Yes, I've been thinking there could be deaths in 6 figures 'cuz Mayor of NO said They Knew ~1/3-1/4 of NO (don't know if that was Metro or entire area) didn't have cars & could not afford to flee...

Posted by: jj | Aug 31, 2005 9:56:37 PM | 31

I was stunned watching Tv the morning Katrina reached shore. I kept hearing how New Orleans had dodged the blow, and what I was seeing on TV looked even then like almost a worst case scenario.

I think the TV people become to fixed on the location of the little red icon they put on a map. They completely seemed to forget both what happens around that red icon, and also their main talking point about New Orleans and hurricanes.

The main talking point, for every storm in the gulf in my lifetime is how New Orleans is below sea level, protected only by levees, and that is very vulnerable to a hurricane.

But when the little red icon moved to the right of the city on their tv maps, they seemed to forget this. They only focused on the fact that the little red icon wasn't going to pass over the dot on the map that represented New Orleans.

I looked at that Monday morning, and saw the following. First, the stroms rotation was such that water would be pushed counter-clockwise up towards Lake Ponchatrain. Second, as the storm passed by to the east of the city, that same counter-clockwise rotation was going to mean that the winds in New Orleans were going to be coming from the north across Lake Ponchatrain into the city. This of course meant that the water in Lake Ponchatrain was going to be pushed up against the levees protecting the city by that north wind.

And besides, a hurricane is bigger than that little red icon on the maps. Even though the little red icon missed the city, the eye-wall of the hurricane pushed right across the city.

So the course of the little red icon did mean that New Orleans had slightly lower wind speeds ... like maybe 110 instead of a 140 or so that hit the MS gulf coast.

But, the threat to New Orleans from a hurricane was never the high winds. At least no more than anywhere else along the coast. The threat to New Orleans, as we've heard endlessly every time there's a hurricane in the gulf was that the city was below sea level and vulnerable to flooding.

And what I was seeing on the maps on tv, at the same time the people with the pretty hair were blathering about how New Orleans had been spared a direct hit, was that this looked like an almost worst-case scnenario for flooding in New Orleans, with those still strong winds in the eye-wall blowing from the north across the lake towards the levees. That looked like a coming disaster from the moment I saw it. If you remembered that New Orleans unique danger was flooding, this looked very bad.

But hey, all that counts on TV is the location of that little red icon and its latest updated position from the National Weather Service.

I guess that's why I usually don't listen much to the people with the pretty hair on TV. They seem to tend to be idiots.

Pretty much the same reaction to every single news person I've heard whine about how the water started rising AFTER the city appeared to be safe. Obviously brains is not a criteria to becoming a news reporter. Its the hair that counts.

In ANY flooding situation, the worst is likely to occur AFTER the heaviest rains stop. The reason for this is obvious. It takes time for the water that falls on a parking lot to run off across the land, find a creek, flow to a river, then eventually flow to the sea or a lake.

Again, the basic point is the unique danger to New Orleans has always been flooding. Anyone who walks outside right as the rain stops and the wind lets off and says "wow, we survived the worst" has forgotten that.

The question of what to do with New Orleans is interesting. For those not paid by oil companies to be in denial about global warming, its a dead cinch certainty that the sea levels are going to rise. Its also equally certain that major storms are going to be more frequent and stronger because of the increase in surface temperature in the ocean. Especially the Gulf of Mexico.

So not only do they need to fix the current levees, if you are going to rebuild New Orleans, then you absolutely have to build bigger, taller levees to keep stronger storms out when the sea level is higher than it is today. Or else this is a sure bet to happen again.

There is of course going to be a major city in the region. But would it make sense to find some higher ground to the north and put it there?

It might make sense, but it ain't gonna happen. The people with power and money who own land and other investments in New Orleans aren't going to give that up. Their attitude is going to be "this is what we have insurance for". And if the insurance companies decide this is too big of a risk in the future, they won't choose not to write the policies. No, they'll just go to their bought-off congress people and get a bill passed putting the US taxpayers on the hook if the city gets destroyed again.

I feel for the people caught by this. I love New Orleans as a city. I loved walking its streets. The feel of the city. The openness of the city as opposed to the puritanical oppression that most of the rest of America runs by.

But the train of stupidity that led to this is amazing. From ignoring the problem of floods in New Orleans for too long. Then when they do spend some money to try to address the problem, it instead gets diverted to fight a war against an imaginary threat in Iraq. Then, the National Guard troops, who were the only organization in the area that might have had a chance to plug the hole in the levee when it was small and there wasn't much flooding, well they are off in Iraq fighting that war against an imaginary threat. And no one at the state or national level of government, nor the morons with the pretty hair on tv, seemed to have any notion of how this train of stupidity added up to a coming disaster, thus did nothing to even try to cover the gap in the city's defenses. For instance, knowing the dangerous state of the levees, and the removal of the national guard units, why weren't groups like the Army Corps of Engineers mobilizing to help defend those levees two days before the storm even hit the coast.

It was obvious that if the hurricane came near New Orleans that a disaster was coming. But no one seemed to do anything but sit and watch it on TV.

Posted by: Marc | Aug 31, 2005 10:09:09 PM | 32

my erstwhile comrade in ars aul craig roberts has written something short & sweet on the leveesbreaking on 'counterpunch'

from far sides of the fence - there are those forced to speak of horror & neglect by their real name

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Aug 31, 2005 10:22:23 PM | 33

patience, I wish you were right. But nothing nothing nothing seems to bring down Dubyanocchio. Indeed, although it's enough to putrefy my few remaining brain cells just thinking about it, I can see his approval ratings going up as a consequence of this disaster.

Posted by: | Aug 31, 2005 10:31:39 PM | 34

just wanted to note the solidity of billmons article - but there is something that troubles me & i have spoken of it before. & that is a return to normality

i cannot see any such return in the near future & as for normality it has dissapeared altogether

i don't think i am by nature apocalyptic but only an epochal change will undo the evil work of the cheney bush junta

the criminality is complete. the venality as rapacious as it has ever been since mad king leopold. the negligence, total

what will be there to return to. profit. & at whose expense this time. we are all inside a painting by goya it seems to me - we are being devoured & the elements are at least the most compassionate of forces we have to endure

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Aug 31, 2005 10:47:18 PM | 35

Humans are great at denial and believing the world around them is permanent. In four years, two separate engineering failures destroyed two towers and flooded a city. All preventable except the fixes cost money and required foresight. Blame has to be placed on a society that worships accumulation of the almighty buck and selects a President remarkable for his lack of insight.

Posted by: Jim S | Aug 31, 2005 11:19:38 PM | 36

And the Great Passing of the Buck has already begun by the Republicans. Robert Kennedy Jr. blamed environmental policies for hurricane Katrina. Already, the Republicans have called his remarks inappropriate and derided him as an "eco-nutjob".

So what that 9/11 happened on the Republican's watch? Blame Bush's predecessor. So what that they lied to us to get us into Iraq? Blame the CIA. So what that they diverted the National Guard from its duties to fight in a completely disastrous and entirely unnecessary war leaving das Vaterland as unprotected as they possibly could? Blame nature. So what that they crippled FEMA's ability to respond to emergencies by turning it into a bloated bureaucracy more intent on chasing phantom "terrorists" or prosecuting innocent Americans and funneled every available red cent of taxpayer's money into corporate pockets or "defense" spending? Blame Al Qaeda. So what that their EVERY policy harms human lives, whether it is political, economic, or environmental? Blame the liberals. Blame the media. Blame Islam. Blame ANYONE EXCEPT THE MOTHERFUCKERS WHO KEEP PERPETUATING AND PROFITING FROM OUR MISERY!

When is the accountability moment? Seriously. When does reparation happen? When does this gluttonous and destructive beast of a culture FINALLY accept some goddamned responsibility instead of scouring the landscape for newer and better scapegoats? When are we finally going to recognise that the common denominator here are the people reaping the biggest and best rewards they can get FOR SCREWING US?!

Patience wrote above that the New Orleans clusterfuck would be the final straw. No. It isn't. They are already playing the same marketing ploys that have gone over so well with the slack-jawed zombies for the past five years. They've already started. It's like a reflex... and our Charlie Brown keeps kicking that football to their Lucy Van Pelt who keeps pulling it away at the last moment. Of course the American version of the cartoon isn't quite so funny, what with the humanity being crushed and all... but hey! It seems to keep working! Our jails and gutters are getting fuller of what used to be a middle class and corporate stooges keep walking away free as birds. Nobody who has passed their BushCo loyalty test is going to suffer, so the machine works.

So when is the accountability moment? When do we finally say "ENOUGH!" We moan and we whine about it... which is our little way of saying "Yeah, I know, but it's none of my doing." Yeah. It is none of our doing. And that's why the machine keeps chewing us up one by one. They invented the disaster of Katrina every bit as surely with their negligence and gluttony as they invented the holocaust of Iraq.

"But... but... but... I can't take to the streets! I have so much to lose!" Sure. And the White House Press Corps who agreed to stick to the script were afraid of "losing access to the President". They never had access, and you no longer have anything to lose that is not already in the process of being taken away from you. Your lives, your families, your property... all gone in service to the Emperor. And the thousands of lives lost and property destroyed in New Orleans will join the ranks of the thousands of other lives lost and property destroyed in the name of these corporate swine.

I'm sickened, I'm outraged, and I'm fucking tired of the formulaic power plays, excuses, profiteering and homocide. And I'm tired of analysing. What more confirmation do you need that you are being screwed? Do you want more details about the degree of screwed you are? The Buddha told of a man who was shot by a poisoned arrow. He would not have it removed until he knew who had made the arrow, what wood was used in its construction, how the poison was applied to it, et cetera. And, of course, he died. There is a time for analysis... but not when you are being bled to death.

Posted by: Monolycus | Aug 31, 2005 11:33:56 PM | 37

Thank God we Control Nature now. Life musta been tough before :)

Posted by: jj | Aug 31, 2005 11:34:33 PM | 38

Few years back, at a symposium on ocean wave energy, an Irish engineer told of mounting a Well's turbine type device in a blow hole type mounting engineered to meet one hundred year wave specs requirements, insuring the thing, and putting it on line only to have a hundred-fifty year wave come along the first month and blow the whole apparatus high into the air. Between 1969 and 2005 implies Katrina a 35 year storm. Even if they rebuild New Orleans, when the next Katrina hits in 35 or less years will they then again rebuild? If the hurricane frequency becomes obviously greater, at what point will they say no mas? When the city started sinking and the river bed began to rise praying was Ok but someone should have started doing some arithmetic. When sea level rises one foot or the land subsides one foot, is the answer one foot of dirt forty foot wide five hundred miles long to be repeated at least once every few years forever?

Not to seem callous, but I hope light is shone on the politicians, especially those of Alabama and Mississippi, and Louisiana too. From what I've read, as far as the city was concerned thousands and thousands of people in New Orleans didn't exist. They received no police protection, no nothing. Been twenty years since I 've been in southern cities, but then , get off the main downtown drag and you found poor blacks living in shacks on dirt streets with no sidewalks. Be you white, black or whatever, once you become dirt poor you no longer exist. Mississippi and Alabama have gotten by with this forever. These bastards tax the poor, not the rich.

Posted by: ken melvin | Aug 31, 2005 11:43:55 PM | 39

From Pravda on the Potomac, Dan Froomkin's blog.

Very interesting, and a fill in the blank poll on Iraq at the end.


Posted by: Groucho | Sep 1, 2005 12:04:00 AM | 40

powerful stuff, R'giap. But you gotta see the upside in all this. There's a saying 'where there's muck, there's brass'. Halliburton can pick up the reconstruction contracts. All this economic activity will be good for the economy. Wall Street will love it, as misery can be profitable. And if it happens again anytime soon, well, money can be made all over again. Isn't capitalism wonderful?

Posted by: theodor | Sep 1, 2005 12:04:28 AM | 41


The fetishism of the commodity — the domination of society by “intangible as well as tangible things” — attains its ultimate fulfillment in the spectacle, where the real world is replaced by a selection of images which are projected above it, yet which at the same time succeed in making themselves regarded as the epitome of reality.


The world at once present and absent that the spectacle holds up to view is the world of the commodity dominating all living experience. The world of the commodity is thus shown for what it is, because its development is identical to people’s estrangement from each other and from everything they produce.

From "The Society of the Spectacle" by Guy Debord 1967 Translated by Ken Knabb
One of the greatest and most subtle books of the last century. Where would John Berger be without Debord? Where would Las Vegas be???? Like a flavor you know but can't identify. A memory from the womb. Ineluctable.

For all the great posts here: RGiap, Mono, Marc, and of course, Billmon, for showing us the way...when, perhaps, there appears to be none.

Posted by: Malooga | Sep 1, 2005 12:35:52 AM | 42

Can't help noting that ours' is a "Just God". No electricity, no drinkable water, no sewers, demomished homes , schools, hospitals; beginnings of insurgency; chaos. Two great cities wasted in the same year.
What the USAF can do, so can a "Just God".

Posted by: | Sep 1, 2005 12:49:14 AM | 43

In colonial times, it was the one American city where Afro-Caribbean and Creole culture enjoyed at least a measure of tolerance under a succession of masters - Spanish, French, British and American. In 1814, it was the site of the United States' most complete victory over the Redcoats, a victory all the sweeter because it was crafted by the raw Celtic cunning of our most quintessentially American president, Andrew Jackson, and the Gallic conniving of his pirate ally, Jean Lafitte. Even the handful of Americans who died at the battle of New Orleans did so in Mardi Gras style, dancing atop the barricades before the last of the British snipers had skulked away.

For millions of Americans who grew up in strait-laced towns, the Big Easy has always been the city to dance, the one Southern place where the Bible Belt came unbuckled. A hundred years ago, the Storyville section was America's best place for the world's oldest profession and the birthplace of America's best contribution to world music, jazz. Like millions of other young people in the preacher-haunted Southland, I bought my first legal drink in the French Quarter. We went for the booze, and in that world of cobbled streets and hidden gardens, some of us glimpsed the glory and costs of pursuing art or individualism.

This was the place where Thomas Williams of St Louis became "Tennessee", and where that much-ridiculed postal clerk from Oxford, Mississippi made himself into William Faulkner, novelist. This was the place where you could come to find or lose yourself. Across the river in Algiers, William Burroughs shot his wife, and Kerouac and Cassady ate Benzedrine like gumdrops. In the backroom of the Maple Leaf Bar on upper Magazine Street, my classmate Everette Maddox, a poet so precocious he had published in the New Yorker before he left the University of Alabama, succeeded after two decades of steady effort in drinking himself to death. Oh, wondrous city of music that floats from the horn and poems drowned in drink! Oh, cheesy clip-clop metropolis of phony coach-and-fours hauling the drunken Dodge salesmen of Centralia, Illinois, of shaky-handed failed watercolourists hanging unloved pictures on the wrought-iron fence at Jackson Square, of gaunt-eyed superannuated transvestite hookers, of Baptist girls suddenly inspired to show their tits on Chartres Street in return for a string of beads flung by a drunken college boy on the balcony of his daddy's $1,500 suite at the Soniat House - must we lose even these dubious glories of the only American city that's never been psychoanalysed?

Posted by: fauxreal | Sep 1, 2005 12:51:27 AM | 44

What a bizarre Trail of Tears: to transport that most unfortunate element of New Orleans' population from one uninhabitable stadium to another hundreds of miles away.

And what's the name of the first federal ship to arrive on scene? I shit you not: The USS Bataan. "OK kids, everybody on the buses for Camp Dachau!"

Posted by: | Sep 1, 2005 1:04:37 AM | 45

great post, billmon!

mono....when i get frustrated as you seem, i always fall back on the reality that 80+% of the populace truly are ignorant fools unable ton connect one event to another.
connecting the dots is the great talent that billmon displays.
keep it up!

Posted by: lenin's ghost | Sep 1, 2005 1:18:52 AM | 46

Reconstruction is sequential deconstruction.
All it takes is money, labor, equipment, time.
The entire Mississippi valley was flooded in 1993, and they gradually completely recovered.

Rows and rows of newly-gentrified New Orleans town-housing, (where the spouse and I like to spend our winters away from the northern cold),
all paid for by FEMA reconstruction loans, and
3 out of 4 poor home owners without insurance
having to take what they could get, then sell.

Meanwhile, across the bay over in Biloxi, all the homes completely gone, leaving only lawns, no records left of the owner or what the place looked like, city hall records destroyed. The legal carpetbaggers will descend with a frenzy on those waterfront lots. What they can't just highgrade by loan promises and clever swindles, they'll get at auction for 10c on the dollar.

Five years on, they'll have rebuilt the bridge from New Orleans over to Biloxi, and renamed it the George W. Bush Memorial Causeway. Wealthy Northerners will drive across it in the evening to play pachinko at the new FEMA-rebuilt casino boat:hotels owned by Atlantic City mafiosas.

The Federal deficit will be twice what it is now and short-term interest rates will have crossed long-term long time ago, everyone a day-flipper.
Taxes now punishing, fees and surcharges up the wazoo, >75% of Americans with negative savings,
Iraq the 51st State, Puerto Rico a basket case.

Life will go on, American style. For those who think this will have a Kyoto-payback, dream on. Recent computer predictions show the point of no return may have already passed. Even if we go 100% hydrogen tomorrow, temperatures will keep rising for 50 years. The ocean will keep rising too, on the thermal expansion, some dozen feet.

It's completely unreasonable to believe that in times of crisis that a reasonable candidate has any potential to win. Many scientists in many fields say we have reached some cumulative point of oversaturation, rainforest desertification,
wholesale terraforming, gazigaBTU's of carbon in coal, tar sands and after-peak oil left to burn.

Our trees have never grown so lushly, if only we don't run out of water first. Maybe New Orleans will become the last Garden of Eden, after the Colorado dries up, the Oglalla is drained, the rains stop coming to Puget Sound, and most of Alaska and Northern Canada is just year-around tundra-fire smudge over a now open Artic Sea.

Thirty five years ago I met someone's elderly great grandfather at a Midwest wedding. He had come across to Illinois in a covered wagon as a child after the Civil War decimated his family.
I asked him, you know, he would have read of Walt Whitman and Walden Pond while those guys were still alive, and been too old for WWI, you know, what was the biggest change in your life?
And he looked at me, pretty clear-eyed for a guy near 100 years old, and pointed up in the air.
Overhead, a jumbo jet just taking off, something I didn't even notice. Then he winked at me.

From covered wagon to jumbo jet in one lifetime!
They say we will go through changes like that in one *decade*, seven times in our lives. I was still working outdoors in 1984 when the PC came out, living in a cabin in the woods without TV. That was twenty years ago. Now I'm a computer programming analyst trying to get a job in some Heavy Lift Mars program, and haven't smelled a campfire or seen the stars at night in probably a good year now.

"K, you're scaring your partner". Anyway, don't worry, New Orleans will get rebuilt. Nothing to it. Don't make such a big deal over it. Stick to Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby Meets a Pet Goat.

History? Who cares? We'll all be dead by then!

Posted by: tante aime | Sep 1, 2005 1:19:08 AM | 47

Apropos of a number of upthread comments, I DON'T think the Bush administration will suffer any more political problems from this disaster than they would from any one for which their policies were any less responsible.

People will be annoyed, angry, or outraged, and they will to some degree vent on the powers that be, including local, state, and federal authorities.

But the policies of the Bush administration that have materially worsened this crisis -- notably drastic de-funding of ACE levee repairs and drawdowns of local Reserves to support the Iraq joyride -- will go largely unremarked and will not figure materially in the political effects.

Or at least, they won't unless some enterprising media outlet makes a big deal out of it, and let's face it, that ain't very likely these days.

Meanwhile, the fundamental Republican task -- the upward redistribution of wealth -- will continue. For example, did you hear that the hurricane is going to cause all sorts of upward price pressures on oil AND gasoline? And any loans from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which of course would immensely benefit the oil industry, still can't possibly have ANY beneficial effect on prices? And has anyone read anything recently about DOWNWARD pressure on oil prices?

Sorry, folks. It's just another sideshow as far as the Bush administration is concerned.

Posted by: bleh | Sep 1, 2005 1:24:11 AM | 48

From Marc,

It was obvious that if the hurricane came near New Orleans that a disaster was coming. But no one seemed to do anything but sit and watch it on TV.

From Guy Debord,(Malooga)


The world at once present and absent that the spectacle holds up to view is the world of the commodity dominating all living experience. The world of the commodity is thus shown for what it is, because its development is identical to people’s estrangement from each other and from everything they produce.

case closed.

Posted by: anna missed | Sep 1, 2005 1:38:12 AM | 49

In deed. Thanks anna missed.

To me, the flooding of New Orleans feels very William Gibson-esque. The major catastrophe followed - we shall see(?) - by those not directly affected, and eventually even those that are, blithly continuing their sleep-walking down the consumer's path toward the monoculture of multi-national global colonization.

Posted by: stoy | Sep 1, 2005 1:51:33 AM | 50

that should be: " colonization by multi-national corporations."

Posted by: stoy | Sep 1, 2005 1:53:27 AM | 51

As I wrote yesterday on Kos, this, more than Iraq, evidences the failure of the US as a society, just as the USSR failed similarly.

(At least by western european standards. As a third world country, we're doing OK.)

Greed, avarice, incompetence, stupidity.

The American People itself, not just its leadership (and many, but not enough, good people excluded) are at fault.

If it helps get rid of Bush I suppose it'll be a silver lining.

On a personal note, I'm not the intuitive kind of person but my wife is one of those folks you'd call a "sensitive" if you believe in psychic stuff. I like my facts rational, but I've learned (over the course of 25 years) to respect her "feelings."

One of the many reasons we finally left the country last year -- and were strangely propelled by an "invisible wind" that got us a top sale on our previous house and an almost miraculous purchase on our new house in a place we'd bever been before yet felt immediately at home (the wife again) -- is that she had that strong "feeling" of impending doom (no other words for it) over the United States. Like never before; chilly, really.

Personally, I think there's plenty of rational reasons to forecast disasters for the US, and I had not, never until Katrina, factored in *natural* disasters.

Now I worry about California too. I remember in 94 before the Northridge Quake (we lived a mile down from the epicenter) there'd been a lot of tropical storms and abnormally hot weather. I know this is silly, and there's no correlation, but I can't help shake the feeling that we're entering into a new era, and not a nice one.

Posted by: Lupin | Sep 1, 2005 2:01:22 AM | 52


The fetishism of the commodity — the domination of society by “intangible as well as tangible things” — attains its ultimate fulfillment in the spectacle, where the real world is replaced by a selection of images which are projected above it, yet which at the same time succeed in making themselves regarded as the epitome of reality.

Ment to post this one above (although both work) in that, when "their" version, the scripted reality ment to supplant the real is overcome somehow, either by being overwhelmed by the facts (as in the NO story) or by the uncomfortable lack of facts (WMD) there is this queer sort awkwardness in the media when they appear to know they're on the thin ice of veneer -- either afraid of what they might reveal, but compelled all the same to reveal it, or are knowingly (by them) locked out of whats happening, but can't say it.. So they loose their timing, their seemlessness and start for a moment to seem, well, almost human in projecting vulnerability -- but then in their attempt to regain control, usually overstep and end up looking authoritarian instead. You can almost determine the gravity of any particular story, by how elaborate or strained the reporting of it is. I've come to watch for such slip-ups as away of watching the news, kind of in reverse: Giant, slick reportage, Michael Jackson, nothing here --- Uncomfortable, clumsy, or spotty reportage, probably something important.

Posted by: anna missed | Sep 1, 2005 2:10:01 AM | 53

Billmon provides links to a wide variety of disaster relief organizations. For those who don't mind giving through a religious organizattion, msy I suggest Episcopal Relief and Development.

Posted by: Abby | Sep 1, 2005 2:26:15 AM | 54

@anna missed,

I'm glad you're making the connections. The text--both allusive and elusive.

Here's one for your experience with the Media related aboove:


The spectacle, like modern society itself, is at once united and divided. The unity of each is based on violent divisions. But when this contradiction emerges in the spectacle, it is itself contradicted by a reversal of its meaning: the division it presents is unitary, while the unity it presents is divided.

Posted by: Malooga | Sep 1, 2005 2:31:11 AM | 55

the scary thing is national geographic wrote this story last year -

Posted by: Geoff | Sep 1, 2005 2:50:25 AM | 56

The world of the commodity is thus shown for what it is, because its development is identical to people’s estrangement from each other and from everything they produce.

Yes. I think the estrangement comes at birth when we are severed from the umbilical and faced with the longing left in its place. Then comes the lifelong pursuit of relationship and connectedness which never obliterates the feeling of isolation and alienation.

In come commodities to fill the void. To dominate all living experience,as you say, anna. And all that we do to get them. Unfortunately these beings in power are the ones who deliver these precious goods so we are locked into subservience. Yet remain unfulfilled and express our longing by hooking apocalyptic characteristics to ordinary calamities.

Television is a grade B horror show with its perfectly coiffed, pancaked faced dummies telling the latest tales of catastrophe with taunting eyes and glee in their voices. The only thing missing is the glistening spit falling from their mouths streaked with the blood of the latest quarry. I had to throw my set in the dumpster. 30 years ago.
I could no longer be one of those who searched for this false excitement.
It all comes back to that endless void.

New Orleans was not a jewel anymore. It had become largely a fetid mass of consumers and tourists throwing oyster shells about ad infinitim. It's rich past is all memory and is archived in photos, film, books, movies, and people's stories. And one of our greatest cultural achievements, the Blues, is well recorded for posterity. The tradition is so powerful it is being carried on by modern musicians. All of this will continue no matter what happens to the city.

Posted by: jm | Sep 1, 2005 2:56:33 AM | 57

And there is this one from the 1984 text:

The construction of a present where fashion itself, from clothes to music, has come to a halt, which wants to forget the past and no longer seems to believe in a future, is achieved by the ceaseless circular passage of information, always returning to the same short list of trivialities, passionately proclaimed as major discoveries. Meanwhile news of what is genuinely important, of what is actually changing, comes rarely, and then in fits and starts. It always concerns this world's apparent condemnation of its own existence, the stages in its programmed self-destruction.

Posted by: anna missed | Sep 1, 2005 2:59:25 AM | 58

And there is this one from the 1984 text:

The construction of a present where fashion itself, from clothes to music, has come to a halt, which wants to forget the past and no longer seems to believe in a future, is achieved by the ceaseless circular passage of information, always returning to the same short list of trivialities, passionately proclaimed as major discoveries. Meanwhile news of what is genuinely important, of what is actually changing, comes rarely, and then in fits and starts. It always concerns this world's apparent condemnation of its own existence, the stages in its programmed self-destruction.>1984 text

Posted by: anna missed | Sep 1, 2005 3:02:00 AM | 59

Orwellian slip: its 1988 text, not 1984.

Posted by: anna missed | Sep 1, 2005 3:08:09 AM | 60

We're on the CalTech e-mail list. We get their automated reports. Lots of "micro-quakes" (3.0) in Southern California in the last few days.

link to map.

Posted by: Lupin | Sep 1, 2005 3:09:35 AM | 61

Is there anything really genuinely important?

One definition I came across of a genius is one who recognizes the folly of society in his time.

Posted by: jm | Sep 1, 2005 3:13:06 AM | 62

For once I agree with a NYT editorial:

Waiting for a Leader

George W. Bush gave one of the worst speeches of his life yesterday, especially given the level of national distress and the need for words of consolation and wisdom. In what seems to be a ritual in this administration, the president appeared a day later than he was needed. He then read an address of a quality more appropriate for an Arbor Day celebration: a long laundry list of pounds of ice, generators and blankets delivered to the stricken Gulf Coast. He advised the public that anybody who wanted to help should send cash, grinned, and promised that everything would work out in the end.
Sacrifices may be necessary to make sure that all these things happen in an orderly, efficient way. But this administration has never been one to counsel sacrifice. And nothing about the president's demeanor yesterday - which seemed casual to the point of carelessness - suggested that he understood the depth of the current crisis.

While our attention must now be on the Gulf Coast's most immediate needs, the nation will soon ask why New Orleans's levees remained so inadequate. Publications from the local newspaper to National Geographic have fulminated about the bad state of flood protection in this beloved city, which is below sea level. Why were developers permitted to destroy wetlands and barrier islands that could have held back the hurricane's surge? Why was Congress, before it wandered off to vacation, engaged in slashing the budget for correcting some of the gaping holes in the area's flood protection?

It would be some comfort to think that, as Mr. Bush cheerily announced, America "will be a stronger place" for enduring this crisis. Complacency will no longer suffice, especially if experts are right in warning that global warming may increase the intensity of future hurricanes. But since this administration won't acknowledge that global warming exists, the chances of leadership seem minimal.

Posted by: b | Sep 1, 2005 3:13:10 AM | 63

If this were the action of a 'just' god why is it just the poor of Louisiana and Mississippi that are copping it? It could be karma in the sense that doing bad can leave you unable to look after yourself because you don't 'deserve' something good but even then we'd be watching fat paleskins rolling and bobbing in the stagnant cess seeping throughout the only town in the US where it doesn't feel like some angry presbyterian is gonna get you.

This isn't about justice. If it were people would be thinking of the 1000 women children and old people trampled and drowned in Bagdhad by the actions of sociopaths. We'll never know for sure whether the stampede was deliberately started and if it was which 'side' started it. I betcha there aren't too many people in Amerika thinking about the Iraqi dead today. Not too many on any day but today is a day where self obssession can be blatantly displayed.

The only positive that may come outta this is that people could insist that New Orleans be rebuilt. My old town was levelled by a cyclone in 1974, over 90% of the buildings were destroyed and it was rebuilt even though it shouldn't have been. That is there was no reason for the city except to show Indonesia that people lived in it and they better not think about moving in.
What follwed was a good lesson in Keynsian economics at a time when Tories were trying to supress govt spending on anything that they didn't get all of.

The town took off and boomed and became a self fulfilling prophecy in that once it was rebuilt politicians kept throwing money to justify what they had already spent.

If that happens the poor in the South will get benefit and if it becomes an issue of spend the money in Iraq or in the South you'd have to think the south will win after the repugs try and pull the old switcheroo and get caught out. That means the eventual upshot will be a quicker end to the invasion. Not good long term for Iraqis since they'll have Buckley's chance of getting any reparations but it may save thousands of lives.

There won't be any meaningful blowback on BushCo for neglecting the levees cause the media will be too busy flag waving and talking about the US pulling together and alla that crap they use to fool the sheeple. BushCo will want to be seen to be doing something though and can't afford to be thought to be not doing enough because of ME committments. This is awful in the short term for humans but long term it may actually put an end to US Middle Eastern imperialism.

That's what I'm hoping for.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Sep 1, 2005 3:15:42 AM | 64

@b. There is almost no point in berating Bush; you might as well berate a scorpion for stinging; "it's in my nature" as the fable says.

Let's not forget that 3 million more Americans chose Bush over Kerry; Bush is the symptom, not the cause.

I've often compared the US to the old USSR in the last few years and it has never been truer than today, with their refusing of foreign help.

Today, America is reaping in one fell swoop the fruits of decades of collective delusions.

Posted by: Lupin | Sep 1, 2005 3:19:10 AM | 65

Why stop the dying when you can stop the looting?

Posted by: b | Sep 1, 2005 3:23:40 AM | 66

I sort of understand the word "looting" is technically accurate but unfortunately it's only being used in connection with an understandable revolt of the poor and downtrodden.

I don't read much about Halliburton's "looting" of the US treasure or BushCo's "looting" of Iraq in the MSM.

If I was in NO right now, I'd very likely be looting too. In the months to come some of these folks will need whatever kind of wealth they can get their hands on.

Posted by: Lupin | Sep 1, 2005 3:37:20 AM | 67

@Lupin the only problem with the reaping what you sow allusion is that from what I've seen the people doin the reaping are almost 100% old or black or old and black ie the poor so I can't see anyone that deserves a lesson getting one outta this. Chances are those drowning and being shot wouldn't have been able to vote even if they had bothered to since they would have been chased outta the booth by some rednecked whitefella demanding to know why they hadn't paid a fine for being poor in 1973 or somesuch.

One of the most upsetting subtexts in all this is the 'looting' bizzo. What sort of a human shoots another who is trying to eat. Yeah I'm sure that a few did grab plasmas etc at the start when they imagined life would get back to 'normal' soon. It won't have taken long to figure that you can't eat electronics and when there's no power alla that consumerist shit is exactly that.

The stuff is all history anyway whether or not it gets 'stolen' since by the time New Orleans is up and running again alla the fashions and electronics will be outta date. Two months is a long time for retailing garbage and I'd be surprised if there's much normalacy in 2 months.

So the worries about anarchy are just the rich not wanting the poor to find out that when you're hungry it's your duty to help yourself.

The other image that is hard to assimilate is the scenes of what I suppose to be Angola prison where inmates are balanced on the walls dividing their cells from each other as the water rises. Even in that circumstance the poor buggers are in orange with guards pointing guns at them. When our town was hit by a cyclone they freed most of the inmates apart from those that were dangerous to themselves or others or unable to look after themselves. I mean the poor buggers aren't gonna be goin anywhere so why point guns at em?

Posted by: Debs is dead | Sep 1, 2005 3:48:48 AM | 68

@Debs. I'm sure there's a lot of very decent, kind-hearted folks who died when the events of history brought about the bombings of Dresden, Hiroshima or Baghdad. Life is not fair that way.

My point when I wrote: "Today, America is reaping in one fell swoop the fruits of decades of collective delusions." is that society as a whole suffers when it's made bad choices, even though -- and I agree with you there -- the poor suffer disproportionately.

Posted by: Lupin | Sep 1, 2005 4:00:54 AM | 69


Supposedly, 70% of N.O. residents vote democratic, hence the focus on the poor, the destitute, and the black -- looting in virtual iconic archival video footage of S.E.L.A. R.King gun toting riot-ers loading up TV's and liquor. The Iraqi model of saving the oil ministry in the midst of looting will no doubt work here as well. Most of the "reconstruction" money will be spent on the economic infrastructure, then we'll get the Warner disclaimer of "what are the Iraqi (New Orleanians) people giving us back?" to account for the pathetic civilian infrastructure reconstruction a-la S.E.L.A. post riot .

Posted by: anna missed | Sep 1, 2005 4:19:24 AM | 70

"stuck, like used gum, to the underside of the American dream"

Posted by: a | Sep 1, 2005 7:23:16 AM | 71

Katrina exposed the shaky foundation of our "sustainable" way of living. Not only is our fossil energy supply finite and shrinking, our infrastructure weak and vulnerable to natural disaster and terrorist attack, but the ecological base supporting our lives is eroding. Katrina is a fateful example of how we have sacrificed the future for our short term interests, of how we have really warped our sense of priority and values.

We dream of how to get men on mars while we have failed to learn to live on earth. We unleash development on fragile ecosystems and condemn environmentalists as some evil force interfering with progress. We create jobs and taxes by building casinos, superdomes, and prisons.

If we do not soon learn how to uncouple our economy from this insane path of blind, unsustainable growth at any cost and couple it with energy security and ecological restoration we are certainly doomed to a continuous nightmare scenario like Katrina.

Posted by: lou | Sep 1, 2005 7:43:35 AM | 72

Lupin, my wife too occasionally glimps the future in a way that cannot be explained. Unlink myself, she doesn't sit in front of her computer all evening reading the news and blogs. She relies on me for the details, while she sees better than I the underlying direction of things. But to the point, when the news was reporting that Katrina was a tropical storm, my wife had a feeling, no she knew, it was going to be very bad.

Posted by: stoy | Sep 1, 2005 12:27:47 PM | 73

There is a build-in bias. I always remember when the uneasy feeling turn out to be true, but NOT when it is not true. It is easy to overrate one's prescience.

Prudence probably has survival value.

Posted by: | Sep 1, 2005 12:55:46 PM | 74

I am not a native english-speaker. That is why I post in Pidgin.

Posted by: | Sep 1, 2005 12:56:42 PM | 75>I see I'm not alone in being concerned about the toxic soup.

and yes, whoever upthead said this is Gibsonesque, or even Sterlingesque (Distraction?), I agree.

Posted by: DeAnander | Sep 1, 2005 3:25:34 PM | 76

100 % Distraction

alien spindoctors needed to make what I saw on tv tonight look good for america let alone bush

English terrorists with english accents on al jazeera a month after the bombings, abandoned black people dying of thirst after a storm in america and hundreds of coffins in iraq. Police with machineguns visible in all three locations from the clips I saw.

Posted by: dru*k a* a F**l | Sep 1, 2005 7:00:53 PM | 77

Bernhard it pains me to know that you even read NYT, let alone copy a big chunk of it into yr own blog. You quote them in preference to me or other equally loquatious writers because they are what, the paper of record? You must then admit to being an idol-worshipper. And your idol is a documented liar.

Nice to seeya gain DeA.

Posted by: rapt | Sep 1, 2005 9:05:07 PM | 78

Think of the NYT and other corporate quotes as weather vanes, not news or analysis.

Here's another from a Rethug and Bush loyalist paper expressing disappointment over his Katrina performance:

AS THE EXTENT of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation became clearer on Tuesday....President Bush carried on with his plans to speak in San Diego, as if nothing important had happened the day before.

Katrina already is measured as one of the worst storms in American history. And yet, President Bush decided that his plans to commemorate the 60th anniversary of VJ Day with a speech were more pressing than responding to the carnage.

A better leader would have flown straight to the disaster zone and announced the immediate mobilization of every available resource to rescue the stranded, find and bury the dead, and keep the survivors fed, clothed, sheltered and free of disease.

The cool, confident, intuitive leadership Bush exhibited in his first term, particularly in the months immediately following Sept. 11, 2001, has vanished. In its place is a diffident detachment unsuitable for the leader of a nation facing war, natural disaster and economic uncertainty.

Wherever the old George W. Bush went, we sure wish we had him back.

The disillusioned typists at the UL don't realize, of course, that Bush hasn't changed; their perception of him has. It does seem as though Rove has mis-managed the theatrics on this one, but then his specialty doesn't apply here. After all, how does one slime a hurricane?

Posted by: lonesomeG | Sep 1, 2005 9:45:07 PM | 79

"After all, how does one slime a hurricane?"

Say god did it because of the unpatriotic, the unfaithful and gay marriage...

Posted by: gmac | Sep 1, 2005 10:10:22 PM | 80

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