31 August 2005

Economics of disaster

From an email attributed to a NOLA rescue worker:
The poorest 20% (you can argue with the number -- 10%? 18%? no one knows) of the city was left behind to drown. This was the plan. Forget the sanctimonious bullshit about the bullheaded people who wouldn't leave. The evacuation plan was strictly laissez-faire. It depended on privately owned vehicles, and on having ready cash to fund an evacuation. The planners knew full well that the poor, who in new orleans are overwhelmingly black, wouldn't be able to get out. The resources -- meaning, the political will -- weren't there to get them out.

Entire teams are working on nothing but evacuating the hospitals. All four of the major hospitals are beginning to flood. Critical patients have to get out or surely they will be lost. Generators cannot run forever; that's just the way it is. There are limited facilities to take those that are rescued and those that need to be evacuated. Anything that leaves by air leaves by helicopter. There are no runways for planes that aren't under water. Only one drivable way in and out.

Water everywhere and more keeps coming. Until they can do something about the three levees that are broken, more water will come and more water will kill. The water poses major health threats. Anyone with even a small open cut is prone to infection. Anyone who touches this water and touches his eyes, nose or mouth without find a way to "clean" himself first will be sick with stomach problems before long. It's bad and it's getting worse. It's not going to be anything better than devastating for days or weeks at best.

Meanwhile, during the greatest natural disaster in American history, the president is playing guitar and sharing cake.

And while much of the Louisiana National Guard has been yanked away to a foreign land, there are serious questions posed on why we weren't better prepared to deal with the impending Katrina emergency.

Point: The first thing I don't understand is why there isn't a line of Chinooks and Sea Kings bringing food to that god-damned dome, and taking people away. The sky should be black with them. There should be a line of helicopters from Atlanta to New Orleans.

Point: Why is FEMA, the one Federal agency that was once beholden to no one, and able to tell everyone from the Army on down what to do, now under control of the Dept. Of Homeland Security? Now, instead of being able to order goverment agencies to comply under their logistical control, they have to ask. As a result, the Coast Guard and National Guard, which used to have to drop everything at their behest, are now kind of operating on their own with no logistical advice.

Point: Why are the national guards of, say, North Dakota and Utah still sitting in their houses watching CNN?

17 August 2005

Bring back the real Republicans

An excellent, on-target assessment of the neoconservative cabal currently in power.
No, seriously. Remember Republicans? Sober men in suits, pipes, who'd nod thoughtfully over their latest tract on market-driven fiscal conservatism while grinding out the numbers on rocket science. Remember those serious-looking 1950's-1960's science guys in the movies -- Republican to a one.

They were the grown-ups. They were the realists. Sure they were a bummer, maaaaan, but on the way to La Revolution you need somebody to remember where you parked the car. I was never one (nor a Democrat, really, more an agnostic libertarian big on the social contract, but we don't have a party ...), but I genuinely liked them.

How did they become the party of fairy dust and make believe? How did they become the anti-science guys? The anti-fact guys? The anti-logic guys?

Against stem cell research, against separation of church and state, overseeing of biggest surplus to biggest debt (not counting war, even), failure to plan post-invasion, fraudulent deceptions floated about WMD to justify an illegal immoral war, anti-conservation, inadequate troop armor, denial of consensus of scientists on global warming, over costly missle shield expenditures, etc.…

14 August 2005

Cindy has lit a spark where Americans can identify with the human costs of the war

Cindy Sheehan has stolen President Bush's "frame" in her Crawford, Texas vigil, that asks what noble cause her son died for. Crawford, Texas is now the epicenter of the anti-war protest, complete with counter-protestors in support of the President.

Sheehan is prominently featured in a new television ad sponsored by Gold Star Families for Peace that continues to probe the President for the truth about the reasons for the illegal, immoral Iraq invasion.

He was only 24 and he died in his best friend’s arms," Sheehan says in the ad, directed at President Bush. "Casey was so good and so honest why can’t you be honest with us?"

"You were wrong about the weapons of mass destruction-you were wrong about the link between Iraq and Al Qaeda—you lied to us and because of your lies my son died," she adds.

Sheehan has handled herself admirably, despite the onslaught of neconservative attack poodles who salivate for the blood of a grief stricken mother.

This story continues to heat up, and you can follow along with Cindy's online diary or local KXXT 1010 AM radio producer Ernie Hancock who's journeyed to Crawford and is posting frequent audio updates. Or the Lone Star Iconoclast, local Crawford newspaper, and their coverage of Camp Casey.

2 August 2005

The Under-reported Purge of the U.S. Officer Corps

Scientist and popular author David Brin believes that the "ferocious and relentless political purge" of the U.S. Officer Corps is the most critical issue of our time. And the liberals who are complicit in this matter for their very reluctance to address it.
Today, only a few Democratic politicians will even comment on flagrant efforts by right-wing forces to politicize the intelligence and military communities. Nor are many members of those communities speaking up. Most are forbidden to do so until they retire. And even retirees (a rapidly growing group, as top officers resign) are reticent out of habit.

Still, they will speak, if you ask. If anybody bothers to ask. And I've had recent opportunities. As a frequent consultant on issues of "future threats to national defense," I was recently invited to speak at conferences on "Future WMD Dangers" and "Terror Threats to Soft Targets". (The latter was especially frightening, as we studied vulnerabilities of our schools, airports and shopping malls, charged to come up with imaginative ways to defend them.) At such conferences I get to listen to intelligence and military officers after hours, in the bar, when they can let their hair down. Off the record, of course. And even after a few drinks, they are still generally more guarded and circumspect than a civilian would be at any time. So I'll respect them by not naming names or even places. But they do talk, in general terms, about plummeting morale.

And make no mistake, things are getting VERY bad, boys and girls. The Officer Corps is being assaulted from both ends.

While radical congressmen are stocking the military academies with young fanatics, filling the pipeline with extremist zealots...