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September 2005 Archives

September 30, 2005

Who would you rather be: Kate Bush or Madonna?

Kate Bush returns

Remember Kate Bush? Well, she still exists. She's going to release her eighth album in November, a double album called Aerial. The thing about Kate Bush is, nobody has any idea what she's been doing or what her life is about. 12 years ago she put out her last album, The Red Shoes. She had a son. Other than that, who knows?

An article about her in The Guardian (that due to the total absence of any information about what Kate Bush has been doing all this time has very little actual content,) mostly consists of various record industry people extolling the mystery that surrounds her. "Kate's one of those artists who records and makes music to her own timescale rather than meet a record company's deadlines, which is fine by us," says a rep from EMI, her label.

The article also points out that Kate Bush and Madonna are the same age, 47. Both are living in England and their lives are somewhat quieter and more withdrawn than they used to be. And sure, Madonna is the biggest superstar in the world, has a bajillion dollars, and has been a self-made one-woman industry for decades. But Kate's not doing half bad either: she got her start somewhat earlier, in 1978 when she was just 17, when she released "Wuthering Heights". That song was the first single written and performed by a solo British woman to reach number one. Now she's estimated to be worth 25 million pounds, over $40 million, and is the second wealthiest British female solo artist behind Annie Lennox.

And as the editor of Q Magazine says, "There's nothing left that you don't know about Madonna whereas with Kate Bush there is everything left to know. She's retained that sense of enigma. We don't really know what has gone on in her life in the last 12 years. That's the key to her longevity. There's a lot held back."

I can just imagine Kate puttering around in the country somewhere with her small family, being really rich and sort of endearingly crazy, working on her album on and off for a reported six years, and including one song on it in which she addresses a pigeon. While Madonna puts out increasingly sad-looking albums and has to publicly defend her husband's disappointing movies. I know who I'd rather be.

September 28, 2005

A Woman Will Be President? Madness!

Geena Davis is the president

With the new fall tv season well underway, I want to bring your attention to my favorite new science fiction show, Geena Davis is the President. What a refreshing glimpse into what the White House would look like under a female President!

As it turns out, when A Woman Will Be President, it means that:

1) Everyone who works for the government is black, a woman, or Donald Sutherland!

2) Computers haven't been invented, so Communications Directors write speeches in longhand on yellow legal pads!

3) "If Moses was a woman, he/she would have asked for directions!" It's funny because it's true!

4) If you're White House support staff, it's totally ok to tell the President to her face that working for her would make you feel "cheap"!

5) You can make menstrual jokes!

6) And "First Lady" jokes about her castrated husband - Hillary Clinton jokes are even funnier!

7) If you are the President's teenage daughter, you can be all "This is stupid!" and refuse to go to her inaugural address - and not have the Secret Service drag you there by your hair!

8) If you are a woman president, your youngest child will probably spill juice on you right before that inaugural address!

9) And no one on your staff will have brought extra clothes for you!

10) And then your teleprompter will go dead in front of the whole world! What kind of incompetent, brainlesss fucking Presidential staff is this anyway? You should fucking fire them, with their faulty teleprompters and no backup shirts and handwriting your speeches! But you probably won't, because you're a woman!

11) If a Nigerian woman is going to be stoned for adultery, you can use the U.S. military to airlift her out of Nigeria and - well - I don't know what happens after that - give her a job cleaning the White House toilets? Why not? You're fucking Commander in Chief, you can do whatever the fuck you want!

Make sure you tune in next Tuesday, when the First Daughter's diary is stolen! No, really. One can only imagine: "OMG my mom is soooo stupid. I can't believe I had to go to her inauguration instead of watching Laguna Beach. I wish Pat Buchanan was President."

In the meantime, even though Geena Davis is the President takes place before the invention of computers or online diaries, you can always check in on the "President Mackenzie Allen Watch" blog.

Donald Sutherland, you should be ashamed of yourself.

Recent hurricanes' silver lining

Amidst the death, destruction, and bureaucratic ineptitude in the Gulf coast during the past month, there have been some rare glimpses of hope for a better future. Some people living in poverty might get the financial help they need to get a better place to live, build some equity, and work toward a better future. Michael Jackson will collaborate on a Katrina benefit single with an as-yet undetermined group of exciting artists, none of whom can be reached for comment.

And today, Canadian party leaders have put aside their political differences and come together to flip hamburgers at a charity barbecue for hurricane victims. Prime Minister Paul Martin was joined by the Conservative Party leader, the Bloc Quebecois leader, the New Democratic Party leader, and the U.S. Ambassador to Canada.

Canadians barbecue for hurricane victims

September 26, 2005

Finally, a Company I Can Support

I'm delighted to report that after getting the runaround from candymakers across the land, I have at last achieved the impossible from the strangely cold and impersonal world of corporate candy - a friendly, personalized response. Even more touchingly, it came in the form of a thoughtful answer to an unbelievably moronic complaint.

It's no wonder that it came from Tootsie Roll Industries, which remains one of the country's only successful independent candy companies in the face of the Hershey/Mars juggernaut. This response came only moments after I sent the initial email, and was followed by an envelope of coupons in the mail.

To: Tootsie Consumer Service
From: Emily

Dear Tootsie Roll Industries:

First of all, I would like to thank you for the whole Tootsie Roll™ family of candies. I love candy of all kind, but Tootsie Roll is definitely on a delicious level all its own. However, today while enjoying a tasty Tootsie Pop™, I found my chin and shirt suddenly covered in a cherry-flavored drool! I realized that this Pop had an almost indetectable hole in the candy coating around the stick, which created a powerful suction and rendered the candy impossible to eat without staining oneself, or biting off the whole thing (sadly, my bite is not quite large enough to accommodate such an action). I checked the remaining Pops in the bag and found two others with the same issue. The lot number on this bag is E055116 12:21, and it was purchased in New York City.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. As I said, I do love all Tootsie products and will certainly continue to eat them - but I know as a company committed to high quality, you would want to know about this flaw.

To: Emily
From: xxxx@tootsie.com

Emily, thank you for contacting us. There are plant inspectors, as well as quality control inspectors to check for and remove any damaged, poorly formed, unwrapped products or empty wrappers before they reach the packaging areas. We make millions of treats each day, and we make every effort to package only top quality products. Unfortunately, mistakes do happen and we apologize for any oversights.

We regret any undue concern this matter may have caused you, and we appreciate your having taken the time to alert us to a situation which you felt was not in keeping with the high standards of quality which we set for our products.

Say it with candy

British officials refuse to apologize for last week's deadly raid on a Basra police station to release two undercover British soldiers being held there, or to offer special compensation to the families of Iraqis who were hurt or killed during the raid, or rebuild the police station. A British diplomat in Basra says, "Any citizen who was hurt can apply for compensation in the same way as if they had been hit by an army Humvee or truck."

The Guardian reports, "Many Basra residents are angry at what they said were 'suspicious' and heavy-handed tactics by the British military. The two soldiers, who were disguised in Arab dress, were arrested by Iraqi police then freed by British troops as tanks smashed down the wall of the police station. The raid infuriated locals, who set two British armoured vehicles ablaze and pelted soldiers with rocks."

The British, in a fit of diplomacy, have instead decided to give presents and a shitload of Starburst™ to some Basra orphans.

Starburst apology

September 23, 2005

Botched evacuation, take 2

Wilma Skinner and Dageneral Bellard in Houston

How have our nation's emergency preparation systems learned from the failure to effectively evacuate the Gulf coast in advance of Hurricane Katrina, resulting in needless loss of life? Let's look at an AP piece on what's happening in Houston.

Wilma Skinner would like to scream at the officials of this city. If only they would pick up their phones. "I done called for a shelter, I done called for help. There ain't none. No one answers," she said, standing in blistering heat outside a check-cashing store that had just run out of its main commodity. "Everyone just says, 'Get out, get out.' I've got no way of getting out. And now I've got no money."

"All the banks are closed and I just got off work," said Thomas Visor, holding his sweaty paycheck as he, too, tried to get inside the store, where more than 100 people, all of them black or Hispanic, fretted in line. "This is crazy. How are you supposed to evacuate a hurricane if you don't have money? Answer me that?"

Some of those who did have money, and did try to get out, didn't get very far.

Judie Anderson of La Porte, Texas, covered just 45 miles in 12 hours. She had been on the road since 10 p.m. Wednesday, headed toward Oklahoma, which by Thursday was still very far away.

"This is the worst planning I've ever seen," she said. "They say, 'We've learned a lot from Hurricane Katrina.' Well, you couldn't prove it by me."

On Bellaire Boulevard in southwest Houston, a weeping woman and her young daughter stood on the sidewalk, surrounded by plastic bags full of clothes and blankets. "I'd like to go, but nobody come get me," the woman said in broken English. When asked her name, she looked frightened. "No se, no se," she said: Spanish for "I don't know."

Her daughter, who appeared to be about 9, whispered in English, "We're from Mexico."

Skinner, accompanied by her 6-year-old grandson, Dageneral Bellard [Ed. note: This kid has an awesome name], would settle for a bus.

"They got them for the outlying areas, for the Gulf and Galveston, but they ain't made no preparations for us in the city, for the poor people here. There ain't no (evacuation) buses here. I got nowhere to go."

OK, so there are still people stranded in Houston. What about those who have cars and followed orders to evacuate? The NY Times reports:

Heeding days of dire warnings about Hurricane Rita, as many as 2.5 million people jammed evacuation routes on Thursday, creating colossal 100-mile-long traffic jams that left many people stranded and out of gas.

"The question is how many people will be gravely ill and die sitting on the side of the freeway," said State Representative Garnet Coleman, Democrat of Houston. "Dying not from the storm, but from the evacuation."

Timothy Adcock, 48, a Houston landscaper who was in the 15th hour of inching to Tyler in a companion's pickup truck after his car broke down under the grueling conditions, said, "I never saw anything so disorganized."

"We did everything we were supposed to do," Mr. Adcock said, "secure our house, left early, checked routes, checked on our neighbors." But he said, "when we got out there we were totally on our own."

A high-occupancy vehicle lane went unused, he said, and they saw no police officers. At one point, Mr. Adcock said, he called the Texas Department of Transportation for an alternate route, but the woman who answered could not find a map.

Officials in Texas also said they recognized a serious situation had arisen in the evacuation, with many people stranded on traffic-choked highways, without gas and without water. The state had promised to send gas trucks to relieve the problem, Houston Mayor Bill White said, but he could not say how long it would be before those trucks arrived.

Mayor White deflected questions from reporters asking him to assess who was to blame for what happened Thursday, specifically the lack of gasoline where needed.

"This is not the time to look at who should have done what on the emergency," the mayor said. "This is not the time we're going to get into who should've done what."

Yeah, this is not the time for the blame game! That was three weeks ago! I know it's almost impossible to tell the difference between the two, but come on, people, get your disasters straight.

Somebody get Anderson Cooper down there to start laying into some officials.

September 22, 2005

Röyksopp and Annie

I went to Webster Hall last night to see Röyksopp and Annie on what I wish they were calling their Monsters of Norwegian Rock tour. Annie makes some catchy synthed-out little pop numbers, and the admiration she's attracted from even the most po-faced critics (like Pitchfork, who ranked "Heartbeat" the best single of 2004) seems to have built her a nice little fanbase of hip young things over here. A straight-laced guy in my office in his mid-30's was walking around singing "Heartbeat" the other day, for crying out loud. I personally prefer "Chewing Gum", her collaboration with Richard X (see video here.)

Anyway, Annie performs live with two Finnish guys, one on guitar and one very enthusiastic porcine-looking guy with a mini-pompadour going bonkers on his keyboards and other beats-and-synths machines. Annie herself is very sweet, but doesn't seem to have worked out what to do on stage yet besides stand there and sing and occasionally point at the audience--I was hoping for a more energetic performance of such mind-arrestingly catchy songs.

The two guys in Röyksopp put in a lot more effort--they were both gotten up like Ralf and Florian from the Man Machine album, had a gigantic inflatable cassette tape with RöYKSOPP written on it in marker filling the stage behind them, and they both grooved vigorously but stiffly, in true Scandinavian style, to their music.

Pitchfork described their first album Melody A.M. as "house for people who don't actually like house," but also as the work of master pop craftsmen. I think it's like the best possible culmination of a thousand downtempo electronic compilation CDs. The new album, The Understanding, is probably better--the beats are a little harder and you can actually dance to most of it.

Live, these guys were just awesome. They didn't say much other than various combinations of "Thank you!" and "New York!" and "Good evening!", but they really got into the music, which has beautiful lush melodies and slamming basslines, they did live drumming (on electronic drums) and sang through a vocodor, and gave as energetic and rocking a show as one could expect from two men with super-slicked hair named Svein and Torbjorn who were dressed up like Kraftwerk.

September 20, 2005

A New Day Dawns

Tobias in Arrested Development

Arrested Development is back on the air! Finally I feel like my life has some structure again. What the hell do we do all summer when there's no TV?

The show has struggled through two incredibly funny seasons with the constant threat of cancellation, because nobody's watching. Still. People: this is it. This is the season when Arrested Development needs to take off. If the show gets cancelled this year, I will hold anyone not watching it personally responsible.

Sure, it's a difficult show to get into, but last night's episode (directed by Freaks and Geeks creator Paul Feig, who directs many of the best AD episodes) had enough broad appeal and smart jokes to hopefully attract some new loyal viewers. The MISSION ACCOMPLISHED banner in the Bluth Company office where the staff is celebrating being upgraded from a "Sell" rating to "Don't Buy". Tobias working at the Swallows Erotic Family Style Restaurant in Reno. Oscar's imoscar.com website--it's an actual site, and features 2 haikus and Rapists Against Violence Against Insects (RAVIOLI).

And of course my favorite, George Michael searching for an excuse for why he can't get out of the stair car after Maeby almost kisses him--he wants to stay to watch the sunset. In the side mirror. "It'll look closer!" That kid's comic genius is a gift.

NY Times looks at stay at home moms... again!

Today's Times has an article about young women at elite Ivy League schools who are planning to leave their careers and stay home once they have kids. You know, exactly like that other article they published almost exactly two years ago ("The Opt-Out Revolution"). The main difference is that, while the 2003 piece interviewed about five Princeton graduates to support its generalizations about American women, today's piece includes interviews with four students from Yale, as well as one from Penn and two from Harvard.

Questions neither article goes into: why aren't young men at these elite schools being interviewed by the NY Times about if they'll stay home once they have kids? Why are these young women all assuming that it is their choice and their right to have a man support them and their children for their entire lives? Why are privileged young women unable to think outside conventional gender roles in envisioning their futures? What do women at East Tennessee State University or Lehman College think about work and family? When discussing family values and personal goals, why don't issues like saving to buy your first home and building financial stability come up?

And I love this guy at Harvard who in his American Family class, during a discussion about women giving up careers to stay at home and raise their kids while their husbands support them, said "I think that's sexy." It sure is, dude! You know what else is sexy? When women don't vote. And are illiterate! That's fucking hot!

It is such a riot when the Times runs series like that one about class from earlier this year, to show how in touch they are with all the different sectors of Americans and all the struggles that working people face in their lives, and then they keep coming back to articles like this one about the young wealthy elite who can just flippantly decide whether they feel like having a job from one year to the next, and talk about having a job or not like it's some kind of moral issue of being a good parent.

Here's an idea: rather than blowing $250,000 on Ivy League college and graduate school when you know you're going to stop working once you have kids, how about donating that money to some low-income woman or man who wants to go to school and actually use their degrees to have a career in law or business or academia, while the most challenging thing you'll have to write is your kids' Montessori school applications?

September 18, 2005


freaks and geeks cast

It's tv premiere week, and you may notice a curious trend this year. All of a sudden, television and film have an abundance of riches in the form of almost the entire cast of the beloved and short-lived Freaks and Geeks. While the - for lack of a better description - better looking cast members have achieved mainstream success (meaning ER's Linda Cardellini and Spiderman's James Franco), the real anchors of the show haven't been in the public consciousness so much since for the past five years.

But all of a sudden, here they are! Cynical stoner Ken (Seth Rogen) not only totally steals The 40 Year Old Virgin, which he also co-produced, but is a writer for Da Ali G Show. Tonight, Rush-worshipping drummer Nick (Jason Segal) and dorky little brother Sam (John Francis Daley) will compete for the same time slot on How I Met Your Mother and Kitchen Confidential respectively. Comedic genius Bill (Martin Starr) was in the truly awful summer miniseries Revelations. Hell, even Lord-loving Mathlete Millie is on an Ask Jeeves commercial.

To what do we owe this good fortune? Is it that these actors have just kept plugging away? Is it Freaks and Geeks nostalgia fostered by the DVD release? Or is it that the creative forces involved in making Freaks and Geeks the show it was - namely Mike White, Paul Feig, and Judd Apatow - are now, finally, at the level in their careers when they've garnered the respect and authority that they deserve?

It's probably a combination of all those things - but most importantly, it's that the people behind Freaks and Geeks were the basis of its (critical) success. For a show that only aired 12 episodes, Freaks and Geeks generated one of the most rabid fanbases ever - fans that to this day, five years later, bitch and moan about its cancellation. A large part of that was the creative team - excellent writers and a phenomenally talented group of young actors that deserve all the work they can get, even if it means starring in a show with Bob Saget.

And if you want to right the great wrong that was done to those people, season three of Arrested Development begins tonight. Watch it.

September 16, 2005


While the increasingly massive crop of celebrity magazines love nothing more than focusing on stars' pet projects and extracurricular interests, I always find it amazing how - well, how boring they are. Some go to school. Some rescue animals. Some like hamburgers. And now, with every celebrity in the world is rushing to New Orleans to prove that they are humanitarians interested in the larger world, that seems even clearer.

But about some celebrities' "real" lives, we hear nothing. And that can be very confusing when, say, you're having trouble sleeping, and you think, "oh, maybe I'll watch this documentary on Roman aqueducts on the History channel," and then while they're interviewing an expert from Syracuse University you suddenly realize, oh my god, is that -

Distinguished professor

And yes. Yes, it actually is Peter Weller/Robocop, who holds a Master's degree in Roman and Renaissance Art, and is now one of Syracuse's most popular professors. He also collects first-century coins. Of course, since Robocop is, to this day, the most violent movie I've ever seen, Weller's interest in Ancient Rome seems a fitting pursuit.

By the way, he's also in a jazz band with Jeff Goldblum. Who knew?

[tx John for additional reporting]

The Neo Deal +

We can probably agree that last night's primetime address was the President's best speech, and that from a certain point of view, it was just about equal to the occasion. Despite going a little overboard on the religious aspects, he said what everyone wanted him to say, but didn't think he would: New Orleans will be rebuilt, and he accepts responsibility "for the problem and for the solution." Along with that, it sure sounded like we got a hefty dose of something even more unexpected: big government.

On its surface, the speech seemed to promise that the federal government, working closely with the cities and states, would take responsibility for the recovery and rebuilding of New Orleans and the gulf states. He talked about the funding directives he's signed, the ambitious initiatives he'll propose to Congress, and the federally-assisted job banks he wants to set up. Looking closer, though, you'll see that this rebuilding plan -- the largest in our nation's history, he says -- will be driven not by the public sector, but by private industry. And the responsibilities that remain in the public sector will be taken over by the military. In this way, Bush has found a way to appear to be embrace New Deal/Great Society-style big government while actually throwing open the doors to unbridled capitalization and militarization. Rather than the liberal social plans we've seen on such occasions in the past, this time around we will see a neo-conservative approach to a national project.

Up to now, neo-conservatism has been defined by its foreign policy agenda. Its domestic agenda -- to the extent that it even exists -- has been the subject of much less attention. However, just as 9/11 gave the neo-conservatives the chance to apply their ideas to the real world, I believe that Katrina will offer them a similar opportunity to shape and apply their domestic agenda.

9/11 was a world-changing event, and when they were called upon to do something -- anything -- Bush & Co. immediately recognized the opportunity for what it was: a chance to start fresh, to do whatever they wanted. The country was in crisis and unwilling to seriously question whatever Bush came up with, as long as some action was taken. So when Cheney unveiled "the Bush Doctrine" on Meet the Press a few days later, no one questioned it.

Katrina offers the same opportunity, but on the domestic front. We all know we need radical change in the way the government responds to disaster, and we all know that the rebuilding will be on unprecedented scale. No model exists for how to proceed. In other words, it's a chance to start fresh, to come up with a plan to do something. Anything. Because of the enormity of the situation, as with 9/11, Bush is free from precedent. He can make stuff up, he can single-handedly rewrite the law (see you later, posse comitatus), he can accuse people of being unpatriotic when they question him. These things will happen.

This time around, of course, Bush's approval ratings and credibility are in the basement, and this could hinder his efforts to enact his plans. But I'm certain his numbers will begin rising because of the speech. For the first time since this mess began, he sounded in control, almost authoritative, and it was clear that he had a plan for how to proceed. (Although his insistence that he would order all the cabinet secretaries to come up with emergency response plans begs the question, "What the hell have they been doing since 9/11?"). Regardless, next week the Republicans in Congress will rally around him, finally, and his agenda will start moving forward.

But what is that agenda? Again, listening to his speech, you'd think we were in for a grand federally-funded public works project. But beyond the funding of the initial clean-up efforts, it was hard to discern how much of the money for the rebuilding would actually come directly from the government. In the coming weeks, I believe we will see that the government's financial role in all of this will not actually be all that significant (relative to what we've seen in the past, and relative to the total cost of the rebuilding), and will prove to abandon all those liberal/centrist principles we thought we heard in the speech last night in favor of an emerging neo-conservative domestic agenda, the central component of which will be privately-funded, large-scale economic development programs.

One of his three major proposals, the creation of an economic opportunity zone in the gulf states, represents a massive expansion of a recovery method that is a familiar plank in every urban conservative's platform: give businesses incentives to operate in depressed areas, and they will create jobs and an economic engine. Sounds great. But we've already gotten an idea of what these "incentives" might entail: Bush has waived the restrictions guaranteeing a market wage for workers involved in reconstruction efforts. We can only assume that reduced taxes and the relaxation of other regulations designed to protect workers and communities will follow. If not, what incentives would the companies have to get involved in this decimated region of the country? He didn't say it directly, but it almost sounded like Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana would all be turned into one giant Business Improvement District. Presumably, low taxes and low wage requirements will be offered to draw corporations to the area, with the benefits supposedly trickling down to all these workers who will be making less than a fair market income.

Putting the interests of the corporations above the interests of the workers is a far cry from the days of FDR and LBJ. Bush said workers from the affected areas will be considered for the reconstruction jobs, but what guarantees will there be once the corporations who have to fund all this rebuilding have their say? I imagine a repeat of what happened in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 at Ground Zero: the initial wave of emergency personnel, Red Cross volunteers, and union workers will be replaced by a flood of low-wage immigrant workers cleaning up the mess, receiving support services (meals, etc) from other low-wage, immigrant workers. I'm all for giving jobs to immigrants, legal or otherwise, but I'm concerned in this case that the workers receiving the jobs will not be the same people who lost theirs in the disaster, and that the workers who do receive the jobs will not get the wages or benefits that should be part-and-parcel of any job, especially ones so vital to the national interest, symbolically and economically. Put another way: who do you think will be cleaning up all the toxic materials that have washed all over the landscape? The same folks who used to live on that land?

Bush also spoke repeatedly of having small businesses, particularly minority-owned businesses, involved in the effort, in part as a means of balancing out the racially-imbalanced effects of poverty that has characterized (at least) that area of the country since its earliest days. I'm glad he said all of that, even if he doesn't follow through on it. But at the same time, I'm worried it's going to be like after 9/11 when he told America not to blame the Muslims, and then he just started bombing all of them over there and arresting all of them over here. It's good to tell America we need to support minority-owned businesses, but let's hope that Bush has the guts to continue supporting them when Halliburton, et al., complain when they are denied a contract that instead went to a smaller, minority-owned local firm.

I'm also hopeful that Bush's specific mention of the link between poverty and race is an indication of an unexpected part of the neo-con's domestic agenda: some progressive form of social justice. The approach to establishing social justice -- the government-enhanced "free" market, apparently -- might differ from liberal methods (affirmative action, special protections), but just the fact that it's a consideration is an encouraging step forward from paleo-conservative attitudes. It has been said elsewhere that neo-conservatism has its roots in certain brands of liberalism, and the neo-cons are concerned with issues of equality, social justice, and so on; Bush's repeated and specific references to these topics suggest that we will be hearing more about them.

But we will also be hearing about a less appealing part of the neo-con's new domestic agenda: the militarization of formerly civilian operations. Bush very clearly stated that next time around, the military will be in charge from the beginning. And it didn't sound like he meant the National Guard...I'm pretty sure he meant the active duty armed forces.

The lesson learned from FEMA's failure should have been that you don't appoint political cronies to the agency that is called on to Manage Federal Emergencies. But Bush has ignored that lesson in favor of a false one far easier to sell to Americans in a "do anything" state of mind: civilians are incapable of responding effectively when the shit hits the fan, therefore we need the military to step in. Instead, he might have said that FEMA's failure has called attention to the need for better planning and training, to hire more people, to put together a reserve system of civilian workers trained in emergency response who will be immediately ready next time. But Bush skipped that step, and went straight to the more obvious, but ultimately, more dangerous solution. To be sure, the military is currently the only government apparatus that runs with the efficiency and precision mandated by large-scale disasters. But the military is trained to kill people, not save them. As one soldier, a member of 4th25, the hip-hop group who recorded the album Live from Baghdad, recently said in an interview (paraphrasing here): "I can't remember one time where I was trained to hand a goat to somebody. But that's what they have us doing over there in Iraq." How many exercises does the average soldier perform in which he takes a sick baby from a mother who can't get on a bus? How many in which he has to nicely persuade a person to leave his home?

Because of 9/11 and the war in Iraq, Americans are for some reason now conditioned to equate images of soldiers aiming their weapons at helpless fellow citizens as a sign of order, rather than one of a situation gone horribly wrong. If the Bush plan to give authority to the military in natural disasters is enacted, the sight of machine-gun toting soldiers patrolling our streets will be familiar, not shocking. In addition to just issuing directives about who is in charge, will Bush also provide the military with substantive training in emergency response and peace-keeping? I'm not saying our military is not capable of responding to nearly any situation. I'm just saying that asking them to do so without proper training is potentially at least as fatal as letting an unprepared civilian agency take over. The problem with FEMA wasn't that it was run by civilians. It was that it was run by incompetent civilians.

The other benefit to Bush & Co. of the militarization of emergency response is that it further blurs the line between the war over there and the war over here. We can increase military spending even during times of peace reduced conflict because we need to prepare the military for "the next Katrina." Disagree? You must not be very patriotic, then. Bush very noticeably used the word "united" to describe how the nation should be in its response to Katrina, a purposeful echo of his (and other Republicans') words after 9/11, the message being that those who express dissent or even question his policies are guilty of being anti-American. Will we hear Bush leaning on the phrase "the lessons of Hurricane Katrina," as much as we've heard about "the lessons of September the Eleventh"? Let me tell you something, America, in case everyone forgets in the next few months: Hurricanes and terrorists are not the same thing.

But apparently, we can triumph over both through our patriotism and, of course, our faith in God. I'm not quite sure how or whether it fits into any real neo-conservative agenda, but Bush sure came on strong with the religious stuff last night. I guess this is his/Rove's nod to the Christian right: a back-door method of funding faith-based initiatives. I was shocked when he mentioned only two kinds of recipients of the (already) $100 million assets of the Bush Clinton Katrina Fund: the governors of the three states (which I knew), and faith-based organizations (which, of course, I didn't). What about the non-faith based groups that have been down there working themselves to death, no doubt burning through every dime and contingency plan they have? They'll get nothing from the fund, simply because they don't work in the name of a higher power? I hope this doesn't turn out to be the case.

Apart from his reference to the BCKF, he also explicitly asked us to give directly to faith-based organizations, i.e., local churches. I know the churches are putting some people up temporarily, but Jesus, don't their expenses amount to a drop in the bucket compared to the relief needed by, say, the actual people who lost everything in the hurricane? Are those people just supposed to wait to get their $5000 debit cards and below-market wages from Halliburton and Bechtel? Regardless, Bush's repeated mentions of faith-based organizations, his direct discussion of "grace" and a higher power, and of course, the almost creepy, coded reference to "a house not made by hands" was, to me, an implication that from here on out, we can expect to be hearing a lot more about the importance of (quasi-)public funding of faith-based initiatives.

Of course, all that stuff he talked about -- the enterprise zones, the homesteading, the massive rebuilding, the loan programs, the faith-based funding -- may never happen. He's only got a couple more years before he's given unofficial lame duck status (or senioritis, maybe, in his case), and there just might not be enough time to jumpstart all these ideas. As Amy observed, it's been four years since 9/11, and since then, a whole lot of nothing has been built down at Ground Zero, and that's just a few acres, not thousands of square miles.

But, assuming he and those close to him maintain their political will power, it seems that Bush's speech last night will serve as a blueprint for his domestic policy agenda for the remainder of his term, just as his speech after 9/11 did for his foreign policy, and Americans will finally get a taste of what happens when neo-cons enter both foreign and domestic entanglements. -ADM

I don't have much to add to ADM's thorough analysis of Bush's attempt to cast himself as some sort of Socialist bastard offspring of FDR and Keynes. I agree with Bush's basic theory that small businesses and local entrepreneurship are what is going to make the Gulf region functional, and that it might even help lift some people out of the poverty they've lived in for generations.

But tax breaks for small business owners, like tax breaks for the poor, aren't the magic solution because many struggling small businesses don't pay significant taxes anyway. I was glad to hear Bush mention low-interest loans to help local businesses get off the ground, but then again, look at how the Small Business Administration's special loan program for businesses affected by 9/11 worked out: a dog boutique in Utah got a special loan.

Long-term recovery from the Katrina disaster is shaping up to be primarily a construction and re-development project. Given the enormous leeway that developers have been given in recent years to do whatever they want in the name of business and growth (especially in booming southern and Sun Belt states) without some muscular oversight provided by the federal government to ensure responsible and just practices in rebuilding the Gulf coast, we're just going to see huge corporations using cheap labor getting those gigantic contracts. And the people who were poor before the hurricane will just get more of the same. -Amy

September 15, 2005

Lessons in Photography

Lessons in Photography I: The Meta-Photo

Orrin Hatch gets meta

Orrin Hatch takes a picture of Arlen Specter with his cameraphone at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings today.

Lessons in Photography II: Choosing Your Shooting Angle

Bob Geldof and Tony Blair at the UN

Bob Geldof, British rock star, and Tony Blair, Prime Minister of Nigeria, meet at a briefing on world poverty at the UN General Assembly.

Lessons in Photography III: Presidential Portraiture

bathroom break

In a photo that captures the man inside the statesman, Bush asks permission to use the bathroom during the UN Security Council meeting.

September 14, 2005

The trouble with philanthropy

Some of the ideas in this post are going to horrify a lot of people. And I'm definitely going to go to philanthropy hell. But I'm going to say it anyway.

I'm not so sure that giving to Katrina relief organizations is such a great idea.

Now hold on there a second, charitably-minded Americans. The generous spirit and civic participation of our country is one of our best qualities, and our generous tax benefits that encourage giving are more sophisticated than most of the rest of the developed world's. But there are some services that our government is perfectly capable of providing with the tax revenue it already has, without everyone having to give even more.

Publicly funded government services exist for a reason. "The market" can go only so far in providing basic and necessary services such as education, healthcare, housing, defense and security, and public transportation for every citizen. Rescue and relief work after a catastrophic natural disaster is the kind of gigantic project that is best handled by the well funded government agencies that exist for the very purpose of providing recovery services.

Giving to post-Katrina relief efforts is now at about $740 million. Total giving could end up surpassing what was raised for 9/11 relief and for tsunami relief in Asia. It's great that Americans are so eager to help their countrypeople who are in desperate situations. But today I was reading an essay by pissed off lefty writer/cartoonist Ted Rall, which is titled "Charities Are For Suckers". I hate that title, but here's what he has to say:

"Government has been shirking its basic responsibilities since the '80s, when Ronald Reagan sold us his belief that the sick, poor and unlucky should no longer count on 'big government' to help them, but should rather live and die at the whim of contributors to private charities. The Katrina disaster, whose total damage estimate has risen from $100 to $125 billion, marks the culmination of Reagan's privatization of despair.

"Why should New Orleans' dispossessed have to live in private shelters? We live in the United States, not Mali. There's only one reason flood victims aren't getting help from the government: because the government refuses to help them. The Red Cross and its cohorts are letting lazy, incompetent and corrupt politicians off the hook, and so are their donors.

"It's ridiculous, but people evidently need to be reminded that the United States is not only the world's wealthiest nation but the wealthiest society that has existed anywhere, ever. The U.S. government can easily pick up the tab for people inconvenienced by bad weather--if helping them is a priority. That goes double for Katrina, a disaster caused by the government's conscious decision to eliminate the $50 million pittance needed to improve New Orleans' levees.

"Tragically, our generosity feeds into the mindset of the sinister ideologues who argue that government shouldn't help people--the very mindset that caused the levee break that turned Katrina into a holocaust and led to official unresponsiveness. And it is already setting the stage for the next avoidable disaster.

"It's time to 'starve the beast': private charities used by the government to justify the abdication of its duties to its citizens."

And please forgive me, but I totally agree.

The problem is, if all those generous people who donated to relief efforts didn't do so, all the displaced people from the Gulf coast who have lost everything would probably be even more screwed than they already are. And these people need services now. The government has (finally) gotten its shit together and has been running rescue operations and pumping water out of New Orleans. But thousands of evacuees are being fed and housed by the Red Cross with donated money.

If Americans do someday get fed up with donating to nonprofits to do the work they have already paid the government to do via taxes, it would still take years (and maybe a few administrations) for our government to react, pick up the slack, and start using its resources to serve its own people without depending so heavily on private nonprofits.

I'm not suggesting that the government provides all services better than private nonprofits do--far from it. Local organizations that run after-school programs for youth, community development agencies, environmental conservation groups, all kinds of advocates for various issues, legal aid, arts organizations--please keep giving to these. Local nonprofit organizations that provide focused services to specific populations generally do much better work than a government agency ever could.

And nonprofits may be best suited to manage successful long-term recovery for displaced Gulf coast people, with things like helping them find new jobs and new places to live, deal with medical problems, and start to cope with the trauma they've suffered. Organizations doing that kind of work do need donations. But we have a very big and very rich government that is best positioned to do the big immediate relief stuff. It's time for the government to take responsibility and stop shifting this work onto nonprofits.

September 13, 2005

It's Primary Day!

New Yorkers, don't forget to vote! If you don't know who the hell is running in your district (and really, who does), the Campaign Finance Board has a very helpful website with information on all your candidates.

And for your enjoyment, here's a little bit of political New York trivia: Representative Major Owens, from my own congressional district, is the father of Geoffrey Owens, better known as Elvin on The Cosby Show.

A Primary Day Endorsement


At the polls this morning, many of you may have faced the same problems I did in the "Democratic/Mayor" category. Ferrer is too eager to please everyone. Gifford Miller is guilty of wild fiscal mismanagement. Anthony Weiner wears a Kabbalah bracelet. Virginia Fields is reluctant to make waves. Who to vote for?

In fact, there's only one Democratic candidate who is not afraid to speak out loudly for change, to introduce controversial initiatives, and to demand more public bathrooms. One who leaves "profanity-laced messages" for Daily News reporters, and was arrested in January for harassing Mayor Bloomberg's press office.

That is why we are officially endorsing Christopher X. Brodeur for mayor. Yes, he may be overly emotional. Yes, he may need to be medicated. But only Christopher X. Brodeur embodies the total rage against inept city management that we feel a New York City mayor needs.

At a time when mayoral candidates are lucky to have ideas about one or two issues, Brodeur has proposed 100. He is ready to attack quality of life issues such as installing roof patios on all buildings (#21), making the DMV open on Saturdays (#63) and ensuring that all bathroom doors open out, and not in (#36). But he is also equally committed to larger reform, including making it illegal for politicians or the media to lie (in particular, he singles out the Village Voice for advertising sold-out shows), eliminating fiscal waste, and punishing school bullies.

Sadly, like all true idealists, even Brodeur is getting frustrated with our increasingly screwed up local government. In a recent voicemail for the Daily News, he concluded, "I'm not going to win. Thank God I'm not going to win. I don't want to clean up your city. I want to get the [expletive deleted] out of this city. I want to be free."

We can only hope that Brodeur is just voicing the same frustration we're all feeling. After all, he's been vibrating at the same fever pitch of self-righteous anger for over 10 years now. But even if he'll never be mayor, New York City needs a Christopher X. Brodeur to fight the good fight. Don't let him leave us. When you go to the polls today, vote Brodeur!

September 12, 2005

Bring out the little blond children

Today's hearings for the nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court began with long-standing cheap ingratiating stunt of many of our nation's major political events: parading around the cute blond children of the political figure in question. Take a look at Roberts' tow-headed imps, Josie and Jack. I don't think we can definitively rule out the idea that these are actually John Edwards' tow-headed imps, Emma Claire and Jack(!). Take a look.

Jack and Josie Roberts

Jack and Emma Claire Edwards

Although Jack Roberts appears to be better at gamboling adorably for the cameras.

Jack Roberts being photogenic

September 9, 2005

Bush's exaggeration of Brown's experience mirrors joke from 'The Office'

Time and the Washington Post reports 5 of 8 top FEMA officials were appointed because of political connections, not disaster experience, and that the administration's bio of Michael Brown, the head of FEMA, exaggerated his emergency management experience:

Brown's biography on the FEMA Web site said he had once served as an "assistant city manager with emergency services oversight," but Time quoted an official in Edmond, Oklahoma, as saying the job was actually "assistant to the city manager," with little responsibility. The magazine also said Brown padded his academic accomplishments.

You might recognize this distinction as the subject of a running joke on The Office, in which Ricky Gervais/Steve Carell insistently corrects the self-promotion of his assistant. Too bad Bush didn't do the same.

"The assistant is more like an intern," city spokeswoman Claudia Deakins told the magazine. "Department heads did not report to him."

September 8, 2005

Rebuilding New Orleans

Now that those affected by Katrina are mostly either staying somewhere safe or dead, media attention is turning to long-term recovery. Should New Orleans be rebuilt? Will people ever want to live there again? And some people are asking what I think is the real question here: what the hell are hundreds of thousands of evacuated people with no home, no job, and no money going to do for the next 6 months to a year while everybody discusses the first two questions?

Clearly, the government can't support the entire populations of New Orleans, Gulfport, Biloxi, and all those other ruined cities, for months on end. The evacuees' self-preservation instincts and the desire not to live in a football stadium in Houston has kicked in, and as of yesterday only about 3,000 evacuees are still in the Astrodome. Other shelters also report greatly reduced populations. Those $2,000 debit cards being given to evacuees should help more people get to other cities to stay with family and friends.

But wherever the evacuees go, before too long they'll have to find more permanent places to live, and jobs. The instantaneous unemployment of hundreds of thousands of people in all sectors is a huge deal, unlike anything our country has faced in recent years. New Orleans was a city with a lot of serious social problems before the hurricane hit, but social problems can be fixed through careful policymaking, time, and money. In the late '70's, New York was going down the tubes; today it still has some big problems, but it's a totally changed city.

A history of poverty is no reason for not rebuilding a damaged city, like Jack Shafer suggests on Slate. It's a reason to rebuild it into a better city, as David Brooks writes in the NYT. There's also a fantastic piece in the New York Press, which is usually full of reactionary garbage, about how the rebuilding of New Orleans "is an unprecedented chance to create something new and vital, to sow equality where there has been segregation, democracy where there has been corruption, and beauty where there has been ugliness."

Also, New Orleans is one of our country's most important ports. You can't just move the place where the Mississippi River ends. We're still a country largely dependent on shipping, both for imports and exports, and that's not going to change.

Another silver lining: the new request that Bush sent Congress for $51 billion in relief money is the start of a larger reassessment of some of the administration's biggest goals in social and economic policy. The Washington Post reports, "The disaster has forced the Republicans to temporarily set aside a planned fall agenda of tax relief, spending cuts and retirement savings initiatives, as well as to react to public outrage over the government's slow response to the crisis." Some of those spending cuts were to be for Medicaid, which is now where many evacuees will probably get their healthcare coverage for awhile. Looks like the plan to gut our government's social programs has been derailed, maybe for the next three years.

September 7, 2005

Rescue Me doesn't pull its punches

Rescue Me cast

In These Uncertain Times™, many of us turn to television, our earliest and best friend, for some distracting entertainment. If this is what you're looking for, steer clear of FX's successful series Rescue Me, which these days is like the opposite of escapism.

Rescue Me is a funny show, and every episode, no matter how gut-wrenching, has a lot of good jokes. Denis Leary's foul-tempered, recovering alcoholic, bitter old asshole of a lead character is great to watch. But take a look at the horrible events in last night's episode: a gruesome dementia-related throat-slitting suicide attempt, a savage and frightening domestic violence scene, and a hit-and-run accident that kills a little boy. All in one hour. What is this, 24? And this is after the show two weeks ago in which a teenage boy recounts years of abuse by his priest, then confronts the priest with a gun, then shoots himself in the head.

FX! Come on! Aren't our lives hard enough? I finish each week's episode of Rescue Me at least as traumatized as I have been watching MSNBC over the past week. Next week is the season finale, so watch for more unspeakably horrible things to happen.

But the thing is, after so much violence and pain and death, viewers tend to get desensitized. By the time the ER doctor gently shook his head at Denis Leary to indicate that his young son was dead, I was so inured to it all I was like "yeah yeah, no duh the kid's dead, can we get back to drunk Tatum O'Neal calling her father a ratbastard with a cigarette dangling out of her mouth? Oh, the episode's over? God, this show."

September 5, 2005

Go, journalists, go +

Some of the most impressive and diligent responders to the Katrina disaster this week have been our journalists. There's been some great work by TV journalists like Ted Koppel, Anderson Cooper, Tim Russert, hell, even Tucker Carlson, who seems to have gone through a dramatic awakening and has lately been showing up on camera in a dirty shirt with matted, greasy hair, ranting about "the shelter from hell" and the dead bodies piling up on the streets.

The media blew it so often during the start of the Iraq war and in covering the expanding scope of the Bush doctrine, so it's extra gratifying to see them getting scrappy and feisty again, demanding answers of government officials with questions like "Why haven't people been evacuated? Why are people dying in there?", asking Michael Chertoff how the government could possibly have been surprised by the flooding that has killed thousands of people, asking the FEMA Under Secretary "Don't you guys watch television?" and asking LA Senators exactly who they are angry at when they see bodies being eaten by rats on the street.

It's been especially great this week, when we haven't had much to be proud of in this country, to see our media standing up to the government administration that they rolled over for again and again over the last few years.

I don't know if any of the fire burning within the little bow-tied soul of Tucker Carlson is going to survive after he leaves the Gulf coast, but I sure hope it does. The administration is probably going to try hard to shift media attention away from the botched evacuation and needless deaths of innocent people (the disaster they are responsible for) to infrastructure recovery efforts in the flooded city of New Orleans and all the other wiped out cities (the disaster they have less direct responsiblity for.) It will be up to our journalists to keep asking the hard questions.

UPDATE: Here's a first-person account from a Reuters photographer who was in New Orleans from two days before the hurricane hit until the weekend, who recounts how dangerous the city was for anyone perceived as a part of the establishment, and also how desperate some evacuees were to get the attention of the media.

September 4, 2005

Let the spin begin

At his big press conference, Michael Chertoff, head of Homeland Security, couldn't stop going on about his "two catastrophes" theory: the reason the federal response was so slow is that no one anticipated that the hurricane (catastophe one) would be followed by the breach of the levees (catastrophe two). He repeated it over and over again, until finally a reporter said something like, "So are you saying that no one anticipated that a levee that was built to withstand a category 3 storm was destroyed by a category 5 [sic] storm?"

I expect we'll be hearing a lot more of this bullshit "two catastrophe" theory while we're waiting for bureaucracy to go on trial.

September 3, 2005

Perfect timing

Well, great. I guess we'll never find out what caused all those problems In Louisiana. I remember hearing something about a hurricane, and a slow response, or something.

Too bad. At the exact moment that the press was finally starting to grow some balls and start asking Bush & Co. some hard questions, Rehnquist takes one for the team.

No one, besides maybe Karl Rove, could be happier at this moment than the reporters who realize they won't have to be adversarial after all, and that they can just go back to civilization and start phoning in some reports about what a beacon Rehnquist was and recycle all their stories from a few months ago when O'Connor retired and Rehnquist first got sick. Gee, I wonder who's on the short list. I wonder what kind of ramifications this vacancy might have. I wonder what kind of media campaigns the PACs will mount. Good thing we still have the fourth estate to sort out all these tough questions for us.

Silver lining: when all is said and done, we'll still have our Second Amendment rights, anyway.

Hell isn't over: Photo ops, PR not enough to end violence, mayhem +++

See multiple updates below.

As everyone else celebrates the arrival of the troops and supplies, Reuters tells the stories no one else wants to:

Other survivors recounted horrific cases of sexual assault and murder.

Sitting with her daughter and other relatives, Trolkyn Joseph, 37, said men had wandered the cavernous convention center in recent nights raping and murdering children.

She said she found a dead 14-year old girl at 5 a.m. on Friday morning, four hours after the young girl went missing from her parents inside the convention center.

"She was raped for four hours until she was dead," Joseph said through tears. "Another child, a seven-year old boy was found raped and murdered in the kitchen freezer last night."

Several others interviewed by Reuters told similar stories of the abuse and murder of children, but they could not be independently verified.


Earlier tonight, Nightline did a good job of reporting that despite all of today's positive spin, the hell is far from over, and no effective civil command structure is yet in place.

Meanwhile, here's FEMA chief Michael Brown:

I actually think the security is pretty darn good.

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


Update: As of Saturday morning, evacuation of the Superdome has been suspended, possibly until tomorrow, leaving 2,000 people there, and until a couple hours ago no one had been evacuated from the convention center. Officials said they want to evacuate the Dome first, but then diverted all buses to the convention center. Why they are not clearing the two in parallel is beyond me.

Oh, and here's one for you, from the AP:

At one point Friday, the evacuation was interrupted briefly when school buses pulled up so some 700 guests and employees from the Hyatt Hotel could move to the head of the evacuation line -- much to the amazement of those who had been crammed in the Superdome since last Sunday.

''How does this work? They (are) clean, they are dry, they get out ahead of us?'' exclaimed Howard Blue, 22, who tried to get in their line. The National Guard blocked him as other guardsmen helped the well-dressed guests with their luggage.

Update (6 pm): And now more bad news. This Reuters article quotes people who say the National Guard and the police have killed two innocent people, one of whom was trying to report a gang rape. One soldier says they found a girl who had been raped and murdered, and that the crowd killed the perpetrator. Reuters reporters who attempted to reach a makeshift morgue were threatened with beatings by the Guard.

This article says 2/3 of the New Orleans police dept have abandoned their jobs. That leaves them with, what, around 500 officers? Meanwhile, federal law enforcement agencies imply everything is fine by saying, "The worst is behind us."

Update (10pm): Superdome and Convention Center are reportedly cleared. 100,000+ refugees in Houston.

September 2, 2005

Not to be callous, but looking ahead to 2008...

Bush's colossal mishandling of this whole thing sure makes the candidacy of Rudy Giuliani a lot more viable, and a lot more likely. After all, when there's a national emergency and we need to start shooting at desperate civilians as soon as possible, America needs America's Mayor!

New Orleans, Zombie City

As the situation on the ground in New Orleans has crumbled into complete chaos, danger, violence, and a failure by the powerful to protect the vulnerable, people have turned on each other with increased viciousness, moving through the city looking for safe shelter and fighting over scarce supplies. "We're just a bunch of rats," said Earle Young, an evacuee waiting to be taken out of the destroyed city by bus.

It seems not real. We normally only see people fighting for their lives in this way in movies about zombie attacks. Take a look at these pictures. One is from 2004's Dawn of the Dead. The other is from yesterday in New Orleans. Which is which? With these, and with others, it's too hard to tell.

save us from the zombies!

save us from the looters!

In movies, zombies represent us turned against ourselves -- humanity is stripped away, social order breaks down in the face of fear and chaos, and nothing matters anymore except survival. Of course, when you have 100,000 people stranded in a city with dead bodies everywhere, with no food, water, electricity, or medical supplies for four days, I don't see how they could be expected to act any other way.

Political leaders are encouraging the zombie attack metaphor by abandoning efforts to rescue people and threatening to kill anyone caught breaking the law -- treating citizens as if they were the living dead, things to be controlled and exterminated, rather than helped and saved. Governor Kathleen Blanco said that the National Guardsmen who are coming into the city are fresh from Iraq, ready for more: "They have M-16's and they are locked and loaded. These troops know how to shoot and kill, and they are more than willing to do so, and I expect they will."

Just be sure they shoot the zombies in the head, Kathleen, it's the only way to kill them. Or have the National Guard drop 100,000 copies of The Zombie Survival Guide onto the city, which I'm sure would delight all the starving, sick, exhausted evacuees for whom we should have "zero tolerance."

When Early Print Deadlines Make You Look Like An Asshole

Us Weekly Video Music Award Coverage
September 12 edition:

"With the hurricane, I didn't want to do anything too extreme," [Gwen Stefani] told Us of her high, sleek ponytail."
Best '60s Hair: Gwen Stefani

"When a flash of rain threatened to soak the event, partiers dashed to the hotel lobby for cover. But five minutes later, everyone was back outside busting a move!"
Jessica Alba Parties with Us!

"6:30 PM: As Hurricane Katrina whips up 75 mph winds, Diddy gambles and drinks champagne in his dressing room. "Turn up the music!" he says. "No one's going anywhere." Meanwhile, Missy Elliott tells Us, "I spent the hurricane at my crib. Everybody was drinking Bacardi!"
What You Didn't See

September 1, 2005

What the fuck is going on down there? +

Waiting for help in New Orleans

What the fuck is going on down there?

You mean to tell me the United States cannot get it together to save these people, feed these people, and have some semblance of law and order? We need to have dead people in the parking lot of the Convention Center, with no one around to tend to them? People need to break into the food stores in the Superdome?

Jesus. What is wrong with us. -ADM

A few selections from an AP article about what's going on in New Orleans:

"'Hospitals are trying to evacuate," said Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Cheri Ben-Iesan, spokesman at the city emergency operations center. 'At every one of them, there are reports that as the helicopters come in people are shooting at them. There are people just taking potshots at police and at helicopters, telling them, `You better come get my family.'"

This because there IS NO ONE coming to get these families. FEMA has been in New Orleans for three days, and this shit is still going on. Why is this happening in our own country, in a city that everybody knew was going to be hit by a massively destructive storm? Why is no one in charge?

"Mayor Nagin called for a total evacuation of New Orleans, saying the city had become uninhabitable for the 50,000 to 100,000 who remained behind after the city of nearly a half-million people was ordered cleared out over the weekend."

So there is still 10-20% of the city's population in the city? An effective emergency evacuation operated by the National Guard would not have left 100,000 people behind.

"Some Federal Emergency Management rescue operations were suspended in areas where gunfire has broken out, Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said in Washington. 'In areas where our employees have been determined to potentially be in danger, we have pulled back,' he said."

If FEMA staff get to leave areas where there is gunfire, then where is Homeland Security? Isn't it their job to work in the problem areas? Where is the National Guard?

"Outside the Convention Center, the sidewalks were packed with people without food, water or medical care, and with no sign of law enforcement. Thousands of storm refugees had been assembling outside for days, waiting for buses that did not come.

"47-year-old Daniel Edwards said, 'You can do everything for other countries but you can't do nothing for your own people. You can go overseas with the military but you can't get them down here.'"

Guess what? The Navy is finally sending an aircraft carrier to the Gulf of Mexico. Like NOW they send an aircraft carrier.

Cities like New York have learned to have a coordinated response to disaster. Maybe one problem is New Orleans' bad infrastructure and bad city management. But the national response has been disgraceful. The message to U.S. cities from the federal government seems to be "You're on your own."

And what do you want to bet that after it's all over, Bush comes out and says all this feel-good garbage about how inspiring it is that regular American citizens reached out to help their neighbors, all because all our public services completely fucked up?

Here's what Bush is saying about the looting and violence going on now: "I think there ought to be zero tolerance of people breaking the law during an emergency such as this — whether it be looting, or price gouging at the gasoline pump, or taking advantage of charitable giving or insurance fraud. And I've made that clear to our attorney general. The citizens ought to be working together."

Right. How about zero tolerance of leaving a large sector of a poor and largely non-mobile population behind to fend for themselves in a destroyed city? -Amy

According to our friend Mike: at the Bush-Bush-Clinton press conference right now, Bush is spending a lot of time talking about oil. Meanwhile, a sniper is shooting at the hospital. -ADM

About September 2005

This page contains all entries posted to Amy's Robot in September 2005. They are listed from oldest to newest.

August 2005 is the previous archive.

October 2005 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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