Monday, September 05, 2005


THIS is how the world views our response to our very own tragedy of human suffering.

(A huge thank you to my friend Ken who keeps me current when I have other fish to fry in Houston. )

Shame and humiliation overwhelm us.

Trying to undo the shame....

In Houston, the outpouring of volunteer help is staggering. There are so many of us that some are actually turned away at the numerous shelters and agencies.

Turned away, myself, at the Astrodome today, I ended up at a church where I am not a member. The membership's volunteers at the church understood that my companions and I needed to work, so they found work for us. I thank them from the bottom of my heart for the opportunity.

So many have the need to mitigate the shame upon matter one's political or religious beliefs. Yes, we collectively understand that something horrible has happened to us as a nation. The realization that our leaders were unwilling and unable to save the people in their desperate and darkest hour is starkly apparent. Fellow Americans were abandoned and written off as if they did not count for anything.

I saw some of the victims today and you know what? They are you and I. LS


Read the 3 pieces below and figure it out for yourselves. LS


Post Katrina, Americans fume in anger
Chidanand Rajghatta
The Times Of India
September 03, 2005 11:08:03 Am

WASHINGTON: Americans are fuming in anger and shame this week as anarchy and mayhem swept over post-hurricane New Orleans amid a complete systemic and leadership failure.

There have been unbelievable scenes of death, despair and privation in the city, scenes that may well have been from deepest Africa or desperate Asia, not the worldís most advanced country.

People were dying in shelters and on the roads, survivors roamed the streets foraging for food like animals, and armed gangs took over the few habitable parts of the city in an orgy of looting and violence unimaginable in 21st century America.

Explosions and fires rocked the city that has now been all but abandoned after a levee-break flooded most of it throwing all plans out of whack.

President Bush sanctioned a $10-billion emergency aid and dispatched the military to regain control of the situation, but the damage to American pride and prestige has been done. A country famed for its systemic response and practical efficiency has been routed by a combination of nature and nearsightedness.

There is anger at Washington and Bush, who was just winding up a month-long vacation when the tragedy struck. He is expected to visit the city again on Friday amid unmistakable signs of racial tension because most of the victims are poor black people.

City and state officials begged Washington for aid with tears in their eyes, strong-hearted reporters broke down during dispatches, and Americans all across the country shed helpless tears at the scenes out of New Orleans, a party town if ever there was one.


This is actually the AP report, but I got it off the Taipei Times site, front page. (From Ken).

Desperation, anger grow amid chaos

INADEQUATE RESPONSE: The New Orleans mayor said federal officials were clueless, while the state's governor warned looters that guardsmen had shoot-to-kill orders
Saturday, Sep 03, 2005,Page 1

Cavel Fisher Clay, 33, is seen with her children, Dejon Fisher, 8, and Alexis Fisher, 14, as they wait in line to get onto buses to the Houston Astrodome, in New Orleans.

An explosion jolted New Orleans residents awake early yesterday, illuminating the pre-dawn sky with red and orange flames over a hurricane-ravaged city where corpses rotted along flooded sidewalks and bands of armed thugs thwarted fitful rescue efforts.

Congress was rushing through a US$10.5 billion aid package, the Pentagon promised 1,400 National Guardsmen a day to stop the looting and President George W. Bush planned to visit the region yesterday. But city officials were seething with anger about what they called a slow federal response following Hurricane Katrina.

"They don't have a clue what's going on down there," Mayor Ray Nagin told WWL-AM on Thursday night.

"They flew down here one time two days after the doggone event was over with TV cameras, AP reporters, all kind of goddamn -- excuse my French everybody in America, but I am pissed," he said.

Around 4:30am yesterday an explosion rocked a chemical storage facility near the Mississippi River east of the French Quarter, said Lieutenant Michael Francis of the Harbor Police.

A fire burns on the east side of New Orleans early yesterday morning. Firefighters say they will let the fire burn itself out.

A series of smaller blasts followed and then acrid, black smoke that could be seen even in the dark. The vibrations were felt all the way downtown.

Francis did not have any other information about the explosions and did not know if there were any casualties.

It was the opening strike in yet another day of sadly deteriorating conditions since Katrina slammed ashore on Monday.

Thursday saw thousands being evacuated by bus to Houston from the hot and stinking Superdome. Fistfights and fires erupted amid a seething sea of tense, suffering people who waited in long lines to board buses. The looting continued.

"God is looking down on all this and if they're not doing everything in their power to save people, they are going to pay the price because every day that we delay, people are dying and they're dying by the hundreds."

Ray Nagin, New Orleans mayor

Governor Kathleen Blanco called the looters "hoodlums" and issued a warning to lawbreakers: Hundreds of National Guard troops hardened on the battlefields of Iraq have landed in New Orleans.

"They have M-16s and they're locked and loaded," she said. "These troops know how to shoot and kill, and they are more than willing to do so, and I expect they will."

About 15,000 to 20,000 people who had taken shelter at New Orleans Convention Center grew ever more hostile after waiting for buses for days amid the filth and the dead.

Police Chief Eddie Compass said there was such a crush around a squad of 88 officers that they retreated when they went in to check out reports of assaults.

"We have individuals who are getting raped, we have individuals who are getting beaten," Compass said. "Tourists are walking in that direction and they are getting preyed upon."

By late Thursday, the flow of refugees to the Houston Astrodome was temporarily halted with a population of 11,325, less than half the estimated 23,000 people expected.

While floodwaters in New Orleans appeared to stabilize, efforts continued to plug three breaches that had opened up in the levee system that was designed to protect this below-sea-level city.

"There's a lot of very sick people -- elderly ones, infirm ones -- who can't stand this heat, and there's a lot of children who don't have water and basic necessities to survive on," said Daniel Edwards, 47, outside the convention center.

"We need to eat, or drink water at the very least," he said.

An old man in a chaise lounge lay dead in a grassy median as hungry babies wailed around him. Around the corner, an elderly woman lay dead in her wheelchair, covered up by a blanket, and another body lay beside her wrapped in a sheet.

"I don't treat my dog like that," Edwards said as he pointed at the woman in the wheelchair. "You can do everything for other countries, but you can't do nothing for your own people."

Federal Emergency Managment Agency Director Michael Brown said the agency just learned about the situation at the convention center on Thursday and quickly scrambled to provide food, water and medical care and remove the corpses.

The slow response frustrated Nagin: "I have no idea what they're doing but I will tell you this: God is looking down on all this and if they're not doing everything in their power to save people, they are going to pay the price because every day that we delay, people are dying and they're dying by the hundreds."

Hospitals struggled to evacuate critically ill patients who were dying for lack of oxygen, insulin or intravenous fluids.

But when some hospitals try to airlift patients, Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Cheri Ben-Iesan said, "there are people just taking potshots at police and at helicopters, telling them, `You better come get my family."'

Mississippi's confirmed death toll from Katrina rose to 126 on Thursday.


New Orleans crisis shames Americans
By Matt Wells
BBC News, Los Angeles 

At the end of an unforgettable week, one broadcaster on Friday bitterly encapsulated the sense of burning shame and anger that many American citizens are feeling.

The only difference between the chaos of New Orleans and a Third World disaster operation, he said, was that a foreign dictator would have responded better.

It has been a profoundly shocking experience for many across this vast country who, for the large part, believe the home-spun myth about the invulnerability of the American Dream.

The party in power in Washington is always happy to convey the impression of 50 states moving forward together in social and economic harmony towards a bigger and better America.

That is what presidential campaigning is all about.

But what the devastating consequences of Katrina have shown - along with the response to it - is that for too long now, the fabric of this complex and overstretched country, especially in states like Louisiana and Mississippi, has been neglected and ignored.

Borrowed time

The fitting metaphors relating to the New Orleans debacle are almost too numerous to mention.

First there was an extraordinary complacency, mixed together with what seemed like over-reaction, before the storm.

A genuinely heroic mayor orders a total evacuation of the city the day before Katrina arrives, knowing that for decades now, New Orleans has been living on borrowed time.

The National Guard and federal emergency personnel stay tucked up at home.

The havoc of Katrina had been predicted countless times on a local and federal level - even to the point where it was acknowledged that tens of thousands of the poorest residents would not be able to leave the city in advance.

No official plan was ever put in place for them.

Abandoned to the elements

The famous levees that were breached could have been strengthened and raised at what now seems like a trifling cost of a few billion dollars.

The Bush administration, together with Congress, cut the budgets for flood protection and army engineers, while local politicians failed to generate any enthusiasm for local tax increases.

New Orleans partied-on just hoping for the best, abandoned by anyone in national authority who could have put the money into really protecting the city.

Meanwhile, the poorest were similarly abandoned, as the horrifying images and stories from the Superdome and Convention Center prove.

The truth was simple and apparent to all. If journalists were there with cameras beaming the suffering live across America, where were the officers and troops?

The neglect that meant it took five days to get water, food, and medical care to thousands of mainly orderly African-American citizens desperately sheltering in huge downtown buildings of their native city, has been going on historically, for as long as the inadequate levees have been there.

Divided city

I should make a confession at this point: I have been to New Orleans on assignment three times in as many years, and I was smitten by the Big Easy, with its unique charms and temperament.

But behind the elegant intoxicants of the French Quarter, it was clearly a city grotesquely divided on several levels. It has twice the national average poverty rate.

The government approach to such deprivation looked more like thoughtless containment than anything else.

The nightly shootings and drugs-related homicides of recent years pointed to a small but vicious culture of largely black-on-black crime that everyone knew existed, but no-one seemed to have any real answers for.

Again, no-one wanted to pick up the bill or deal with the realities of race relations in the 21st Century.

Too often in the so-called "New South", they still look positively 19th Century.

"Shoot the looters" is good rhetoric, but no lasting solution.

Uneasy paradox

It is astonishing to me that so many Americans seem shocked by the existence of such concentrated poverty and social neglect in their own country.

In the workout room of the condo where I am currently staying in the affluent LA neighbourhood of Santa Monica, an executive and his personal trainer ignored the anguished television reports blaring above their heads on Friday evening.

Either they did not care, or it was somehow too painful to discuss.

When President Bush told "Good Morning America" on Thursday morning that nobody could have "anticipated" the breach of the New Orleans levees, it pointed to not only a remote leader in denial, but a whole political class.

The uneasy paradox which so many live with in this country - of being first-and-foremost rugged individuals, out to plunder what they can and paying as little tax as they can get away with, while at the same time believing that America is a robust, model society - has reached a crisis point this week.

Will there be real investment, or just more buck-passing between federal agencies and states?

The country has to choose whether it wants to rebuild the levees and destroyed communities, with no expense spared for the future - or once again brush off that responsibility, and blame the other guy.

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