Posts filed under 'Katrina'

George W. Bush: Worse Than Racist?

I’ll stop being cynical when life gives me a reason.

I’m seeing a lot of polling and talk about how President Bush’s lame response to Hurricane Katrina was racially motivated, but I really don’t think that’s it. I think his lame response was simply a reflection of his innate lack of seriousness and engagement, and his inability to understand the concept that he is Ultimately Reponsible For Stuff, and can’t just twiddle his thumbs and wait for the grown-ups to take care of it.

Seriously, if New Orleans had been populated exclusively by white people who were not oil billionaires and/or assorted Pioneers and Rangers, I believe that Bush’s “response” would have been absolutely identical.

In fact, I would argue that accusations of racism actually let Bush off the hook for his bone-deep incompetence, by making it appear to be a matter of choice. This allows his base to continue believing that he could and would take care of them if disaster struck. It may even advance the Republican’s deeply evil “Southern Strategy,” by allowing the most racist troglodyte elements of the party to admire the bold and decisive way he sat back and let Mother Nature take care of all them damn nigras, unlike all those other fancy-pants Washington Republicans who just throw around weaselly code words without ever lifting a finger to do anything about The Negro Problem.

Our message should not be that Bush won’t save black people from disaster because he’s a stone-cold racist, it should be that he can’t save anyone from disaster because he’s a stone-cold fuckup. The beauty of it is that it attacks Bush on one of his supposed strengths (CEO president, my ass), and deprives the Republicans of another cherished opportunity to paint us as shrill, race-card-playing hippies with alarmingly large penises.

4 comments September 13th, 2005 at 06:27pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Favorites,Katrina,Republicans,Wankers

Dionne The Mark?

I sure hope E.J. is right…

The Bush Era is over. The sooner politicians in both parties realize that, the better for them — and the country.

Recent months, and especially the past two weeks, have brought home to a steadily growing majority of Americans the truth that President Bush’s government doesn’t work. His policies are failing, his approach to leadership is detached and self-indulgent, his way of politics has produced a divided, angry and dysfunctional public square. We dare not go on like this.

(snip)

If Bush had understood that his central task was to forge national unity, as he seemed to shortly after Sept. 11, the country would never have become so polarized. Instead, Bush put patriotism to the service of narrowly ideological policies and an extreme partisanship. He pushed for more tax cuts for his wealthiest supporters and shamelessly used relatively modest details in the bill creating a Department of Homeland Security as partisan cudgels in the 2002 elections.

He invoked our national anger over terrorism to win support for a war in Iraq. But he failed to pay heed to those who warned that the United States would need many more troops and careful planning to see the job through. The president assumed things would turn out fine, on the basis of wildly optimistic assumptions. Careful policymaking and thinking through potential flaws in your approach are not his administration’s strong suits.

(snip)

[I]f ever the phrase “reinventing government” had relevance, it is now that we have observed the performance of a government that allows political hacks to push aside the professionals.

I especially like Dionne’s implication that not only will the American people repudiate Bush, not only will they repudiate the Republicans, but they will repudiate the (mostly) Republican way of doing business, where cronyism and payback are elevated over competence and the public good.

And satisfying as it would be to see Bush and his posse finally dishonored as the charlatans and criminals they are, it buys us nothing if his Congressional enablers do not also pay a stiff price, and that should include the spineless appeasers on the Democratic side, the Liebermans and Bidens and Nelsons.

In a perfect world, the Republican-lite DLC would become the new Republican party and leave us liberal Democrats alone, and the hardline religious and fuck-the-poor Republicans would be relegated to the lunatic fringe where they have always belonged, and leave everyone alone.

Do I think it’ll happen? Well, not really, not anytime soon. I think Dionne underestimates the power of inertia and the status quo, fueled by the narrow self-interest of politicians on both sides of the aisle (think gerrymandering). As long as the Republicans control the media and the machinery of voting, and as long as the Democrats cower in their can’t-we-all-just-get-along defensive shell, American democracy will continue to suffocate and slowly expire before our eyes. But the Democrats need to fix themselves before they can even begin to think about fixing the country, and even then it’s going to be a long, hard slog.

September 13th, 2005 at 06:15pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Corruption/Cronyism,Democrats,Elections,Favorites,Iraq,Katrina,Politics,Republicans,Terrorism,War

It’s A Good Presidency

Separated at birth?

From How Bush Blew It at Newsweek:

It’s a standing joke among the president’s top aides: who gets to deliver the bad news? Warm and hearty in public, Bush can be cold and snappish in private, and aides sometimes cringe before the displeasure of the president of the United States…. The bad news on this early morning, Tuesday, Aug. 30, some 24 hours after Hurricane Katrina had ripped through New Orleans, was that the president would have to cut short his five-week vacation by a couple of days and return to Washington. The president’s chief of staff, Andrew Card; his deputy chief of staff, Joe Hagin; his counselor, Dan Bartlett, and his spokesman, Scott McClellan, held a conference call to discuss the question of the president’s early return and the delicate task of telling him. Hagin, it was decided, as senior aide on the ground, would do the deed.

And from a synopsis and analysis of classic Twilight Zone episode “It’s A Good Life,” presented as a metaphor for Narcissistic Personality Disorder:

Anthony Fremont is a six-year-old with extraordinary powers to control the little town where he lives by simply wishing away people and things that anger or bore him. He has isolated the town by banishing electricity and cars. Other than his powerful wishing, Anthony has the mind and imagination of a typical little boy…. The people in Peaksville have to smile all the time, think happy thoughts, and say happy things, because that’s what Anthony commands and, if they disobey, he can wish them into a cornfield or change them into grotesque versions of themselves. Anthony dislikes singing and punished Aunt Amy for thoughtlessly singing in his presence.

(snip)

Comment: Substitute a big person for the arbitrarily vindictive little boy and this story also gives a general idea of how groups, including families, work when they are dominated by narcissists. But bear in mind that there’s a necessary requirement for such a reign of terror to continue: the isolation of a captive audience. One of the ways tyrannical narcissists isolate their captives is by telling them that they must keep secret what goes on inside or face dreadful punishment, because they’re so special that no one outside the group is capable of understanding them…. For a real-life example, see the story of the Phelps family.

For all intents and purposes, our country is at the mercy of an extremely powerful, yet shallow and petulant child whom no-one dares contradict. The results have been predictably tragic, and there is no reason to hope for improvement.

6 comments September 12th, 2005 at 12:32am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Favorites,Katrina,Politics,Republicans,Wankers

The Trouble With Competence

Just another one of those posts where I want to, shall we say, formalize something I’ve been saying in the Eschaton comments.

The catastrophe in Louisiana and Mississippi has served to shine a glaring spotlight on the rot of incompetence at the Bush administration’s core. It is painfully clear that “Brownie” was woefully unqualified to run FEMA, and attained the position solely because he is a Friend Of Bush, as did his predecessor and his immediate subordinates. This is typically attributed to corruption and unseriousness about the important business of governing, but I don’t think that tells quite the entire story of why competence is like kryptonite for the Bush administration.

To put it simply, competence gets in the way of loyalty. (Or at least, loyalty in its most cramped and narrow yes-man sense) Competence requires at least a passing familiarity with reality, which is sometimes not what the boss wants it to be. If the boss cannot accept anything that does not fit in with his worldview, then the competent employee will inevitably come into conflict with the boss’s agenda. And the farther from reality the boss is, the more frequent such conflicts will be. So if the boss’s priority is to employ people who won’t rock the boat or tell him anything he doesn’t want to hear, then he will naturally turn to those who have always agreed with him in the past, who make him feel comfortable.

Now, of course, a real leader does not fear competence – a real leader welcomes competence and alternative viewpoints to his own, and uses them to make himself stronger. But, needless to say, President Bush is not a real leader, and surrounding himself with people who tell him he is only makes him less of one.

3 comments September 11th, 2005 at 08:09pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Corruption/Cronyism,Favorites,Katrina,Republicans,Wankers

Tone-Deaf And Dumb

Some more thoughts on the Katrina aftermath:

I understand the Republican strategy (which I just freudianly mistyped as “tragedy”) of trying to shift all responsibility to the Democratic state and local government. It’s craven and morally bankrupt, but Not Owning Your Fuck-Up is basic self-preservation, and is what passes for admirable behavior among politicians in general, and Republican politicians in particular. But it also looks like there is a remarkable lack of compassion for the victims among the Bushies, and outright hostility towards them by the right-wing pundits.

To recap the examples I can remember (with help from Atrios), in no particular order:

  • After remaining on vacation for a few days after the hurricane hits, Bush finally shows up and reminisces about the great partying he had in New Orleans in his younger days, talks about sitting on the great new porch Trent Lott is going to have, and tells “Brownie” that he’s doing a heck of a job. Meanwhile, Cheney is fishing and Condi is shopping and having her Grand Day Out at Spamalot and Ferragamo.
  • Barbara Bush expresses her fear of Texas being overrun by those uncouth refugees, and chuckles about what a sweet deal this Astrodome gig is for them. Tom DeLay compares it to summer camp and suggests that it’s “kind of fun.”
  • Baton Rouge Republican Representative Richard Baker expresses gratitude that God has “finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans.”

The thing here is, even if the Republicans somehow manage to succeed in diverting accountability away from the head of our entire government, that still doesn’t erase the impression that Bush and the Republicans very clearly DID NOT GIVE A FUCK. An entire American city gone, thousands dead, and Bush and his Republican cronies display absolutely zero awareness of or interest in the seriousness of the situation in any terms other than the purely political. Even if non-wingnuts can overlook or forgive incompetence, especially if it’s incompetence by proxy, can they overlook or forgive this kind of moral and spiritual vacuum?

Indeed, his choice of FEMA appointments suggests that he doesn’t much care about disaster preparedness at all. Perhaps he was counting on the next catastrophe to be the terrorist attack he’s been inviting, where wholesale casualties would give him a chance to once again wrap himself in the War-Preznit flag and bully everyone into “rallying around the president” again, as he invades Iran or Syria or Venezuela or Bhutan.

As I have said before in other venues, I think BushCo. really thought that the rest of America, or at least the Republican base, would care as little about the deaths and displacement of hundreds of thousands of poor and black people as they do (hey, it’s not like anyone important died, right?). I desperately hope that they’re wrong.

Another thing that seriously disturbs me about the administration’s response is the gratuitous, selfish phoniness of it, where valuable resources were diverted from relief efforts for the sole purpose of making the president look good. A fake levee repair effort was started and then swiftly abandoned after Bush posed with it. 50 of the 1,000 firemen who came to New Orleans from all over the country to help were assigned to stand-behind-the-president-so-he-can-bask-in-
your-reflected-9/11-glory duty as he toured the disaster area.

Yes, it’s appalling that the administration spinmeisters are this callous, but we already knew that. What’s chilling is that they’re this arrogant. They had to know that this sort of callousness would be absolutely devastating if it were widely reported, which means that they also knew that it would not be widely reported. This country is in serious trouble if they are right.

7 comments September 9th, 2005 at 10:35pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Corruption/Cronyism,Favorites,Katrina,Media,Politics,Republicans,Wankers

“I Don’t Think That’s A Total Stretch.”

Oopsie…

Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown, the principal target of harsh criticism of the Bush administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina, was relieved of his onsite command Friday.

(snip)

Earlier, Brown confirmed the switch. Asked if he was being made a scapegoat for a federal relief effort that has drawn widespread and sharp criticism, Brown told The Associated Press after a long pause: ”By the press, yes. By the president, no.”

(snip)

Bush administration documents have credited Brown with overseeing emergency services while working for the city of Edmond, Okla., in the mid-1970s. Brown’s official biography on the FEMA Web site says he served as ”an assistant city manager.” But a former mayor of Edmond, Randel Shadid, told AP on Friday that Brown had been an assistant to the city manager — never assistant city manager.

”I think there’s a difference between the two positions,” said Shadid. ”I would think that is a discrepancy.”

Asked later about the White House news release that said Brown oversaw Edmond’s emergency services divisions, Shadid said, ”I don’t think that’s a total stretch.”

Can I please, please start calling him “The FEMA Impersonator” now???

September 9th, 2005 at 07:25pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Corruption/Cronyism,Katrina,Puns,Republicans,Wankers

Who Needs It?

Well, great:

More than half the people in this country say the flooded areas of New Orleans lying below sea level should be abandoned and rebuilt on higher ground.

An AP-Ipsos poll found that 54 percent of Americans want the four-fifths of New Orleans that was flooded by Hurricane Katrina moved to a safer location.

Umm… so what? Let’s let the people of New Orleans make that call, shall we? Was there even a need to poll on this?

September 9th, 2005 at 09:28am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Katrina,Media,Polls,Wankers

Krugmania!

I started this post a couple of days ago with the intention of finishing it from the airport or my EschaCon hotel room, but I couldn’t get the right convergence of power, wi-fi, and bag-havingness. So, I apologize for the Krugman being a little stale, but hopefully my follow-up points are still razor-fresh.

The Esteemed Mr. Krugman (who I met yesterday!) espies a pattern…

Before 9/11 the Federal Emergency Management Agency listed the three most likely catastrophic disasters facing America: a terrorist attack on New York, a major earthquake in San Francisco and a hurricane strike on New Orleans. “The New Orleans hurricane scenario,” The Houston Chronicle wrote in December 2001, “may be the deadliest of all.” It described a potential catastrophe very much like the one now happening.

So why were New Orleans and the nation so unprepared? After 9/11, hard questions were deferred in the name of national unity, then buried under a thick coat of whitewash. This time, we need accountability.

Krugman then provides some depressing and infuriating examples of this administration’s now-familiar malign neglect: they simply do not care. Warnings of potential disaster make them yawn, look at their watches, and cut funding. Then, when the shit does hit the fan, they lament that they couldn’t possibly have known. Bin Laden determined to strike in the US? Bah! Iraqi occupation will be a bloody quagmire? Humbug! New Orleans vulnerable to massive, devastating flooding? Pshaw!

Of course, any attempt to demand accountability for this criminal inattention will be dismissed and demonized as “politicizing” this terrible national tragedy. Because, of course, any questioning of Republican incompetence and malfeasance can only be political. And no-one likes the “I told you so” guy.

This is vitally important beyond accountability for Hurricane Katrina (which, quite frankly, I am not holding my breath for). Why? Because the Republicans have opened us up to a whole bunch of crises and disasters down the road. Another terrorist attack? Another disputed election? A financial collapse? All-out civil war in Iraq? I don’t know what’s in store, but the Republicans are courting disaster on so many fronts that something bad is inevitable. And when we try to call them on it, the Republicans and their media army will accuse us of politicizing it, and may very well get away with it. Ironically, the worse the disaster, the more effective this spin will be.

So what to do? Pre-emptive strikes. Anywhere the Democrats see BushCo. leaving us open to disaster, they need to make noise about it, and they need to push legislation to fix it. It is vital that we get this stuff into the public consciousness prior to the disaster, in hopes that afterwards, some of them just might remember which party was sounding the alarm and which party was saying everything was just hunky-dory. Of course, some degree of media cooperation is needed before and after the fact (to, ah, remind people what it is that they remember) – I think some fighting words from Dr. Dean will guarantee the media coverage before the fact, although I’m honestly not sure how much we can do about the after other than crossing our fingers, and maybe incorporating a brief recap in campaign ads.

A couple of specific, personal hot-button topics I would like to see the Democrats take on loudly:

Election reform. I know this is a bit of a reach as far as disaster prevention goes, but what happens if another election is stolen, and definitive proof is found, say, 6-12 months after the fact? Would that not be a constitutional crisis? Or a somewhat lower-intensity scenario, where half the country no longer has any confidence in the legitimacy of our elected officials. Election reform has the added benefit of being a life-or-death issue for the Democratic party – one more dodgy election could eliminate their ability to filibuster, and making them effectively irrelevant.

Election reform has the added virtue of being a political no-brainer: There is no way to oppose it without tacitly admitting that you’re anti-democracy and have something to hide. If the Republicans insist that there’s no need for electoral reform because the 2004 elections were completely legit, the Democrats point out that they should have no objection to reform, and why wouldn’t they want to be able to prove how legit the elections are?

Homeland Security. Specifically and especially, any and all examples of corporate interests trumping our safety. The biggest examples I know of are chemical and (I think) nuclear plant security, where the chemical and energy companies don’t want to spend the money, and the Republicans are blocking any legislation. The Democrats need to start demanding to know why the keeping-you-safe-from-terrorists party is selling out our security to their corporate sponsors.

By their very nature, I’m sure there are other examples of Republicans blocking, crippling, or dragging their feet on concrete security measures, those are just the most glaring examples that are on my radar. Again, this is something the Republicans would have a hard time explaining and defending, and would put a serious dent in their Protector Daddy image with all but the most blindly faithful.

Inexplicably, the Democrats are not raising hell on either of these issues – yes, they may be working towards them quietly behind the scenes, but what good does that do? The Republicans will either quietly squash reform, or pass watered-down pseudo-reform and take credit for “fixing” the problem. The Democrats need to be loud enough that the Republicans either cave (without being able to take all the credit), or are forced to publicly defend the indefensible. Either way, it’s a win for us, although I’d prefer the concrete wins to the “image” wins.

*attempts to shake the Democratic party awake*

*rummages around for cattle prod*

Did I mention I met Krugman?

1 comment September 1st, 2005 at 11:25pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Bush,Democrats,Elections,Favorites,Iraq,Katrina,Media,Politics,Republicans,Torture,Wankers,War

Sunday Cat 5 Blogging

Just a quick post about Hurricane Katrina. My fervent hope is that the hurricane will be radically diminished by the powerful counterforce swirling around it, one of the most awesomely retardant forces in the universe: I speak, of course, of Hype. I firmly believe that it was Hype that dimmed Comet Kohoutek, emptied Capone’s vault, thwarted the electronic devastation of Y2K, and caused 90% of Superbowls to totally suck. Hype may even be the mysterious “dark matter” that will eventually halt the universe’s expansion.

But if even the power of Hype is helpless to subdue this beast, then it is going to be Bad. Very, Very Bad – homes and buildings flattened, animals killed, thousands or tens of thousands of deaths. There is a political dimension to the badness, in that global warming may be partially responsible for the storm’s power; in that National Guard resources have been sucked away to Iraq because we don’t have enough regular troops; in that FEMA resources have been cut and evacuation plans sloughed off; in that massive resources have not been mobilized to get people the fuck out of there. And heaven help the poor people who are huddled together in the Superdome as it creaks and groans and floods, hoping and praying that it doesn’t cave in or become a watery tomb.

But above and beyond the political aspect, the simple fact is that regardless of what we do to avert or escape it, Nature is still powerful, and Nature still kills. And Nature has a way of reminding us of that fact, hoping to snap us out of our complacent hubris. Of course, it never works, at least not for more than a few days or a few weeks, but Nature keeps trying.

I’ll just conclude with an atheist/agnostic prayer for the Orleansians’ safety, and a couple of donation links:

Red Cross

Noah’s Wish (disaster-abandoned pet rescue)

2 comments August 28th, 2005 at 10:14pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Katrina

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