Tuesday, September 27, 2005

It Ain't My Fault

For all of you who know the song by Mystikal (It Ain't My Fault), it should be playing in your head right now. Former FEMA director Micheal Brown's testimony to the Congressional Committee invesitgating the government failure in response to Hurricane Katrina said that all members involved in the response should share the blame... except himself of course. His arguments ranged from his requisitions for improved response equipment being sent to the chopping block by Homeland Security down to Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin's inability to sit down at a table together and talk despite their "differences" to blaming the President himself for ignoring his "concerns that this was going to be a big one."
In that case, for all intensive purposes, I suppose he was vacationing in Tahiti when Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast. It seems to me, from his standpoint, that he wasn't even there.

Well, he does admit one personal failing. "My biggest mistake was not realizing by Saturday night that Louisiana was dysfunctional." Ummmm... ok... so what? True, Louisiana may have been dysfunctional. Perhaps their commmunication and evacuation plans were not up to snuff. That their disaster security protocols were a little ill prepared. Then isn't it the governement's role to shore up those areas so that people don't die? Not according to Brown. "Those aren't FEMA roles." I guess that's the kind of response you would expect from someone who LIED on his resume and used CRONYISM to get his job. Why should he know what FEMA is supposed to do if he's never done the job before.

And by the way, let's not talk about saying he did his job last year during hurrican season. Let us not forget 3 things:

1. It was an election year.
2. Florida belongs to the President's baby brother Jeb, and
3. Many people whose homes were damaged by hurricanes are to this day being low-balled by FEMA for funds to repair their homes.

But I digress...

Pardon me, but I thought FEMA stood for Federal Emergency MANAGEMENT Agency. All of those responsbilities that he said should not have deferred to FEMA are part of EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT. If they failed at the local level, government should be able to step in with a plan, developed AHEAD OF TIME to prevent complete and total chaos. Otherwise, what the heck do they do over there all the time? Play Tiddly- Winks? Or maybe its the $1,300 lunches on our tax money... *shrug* who knows?

Governement did screw up on all levels... this is true. But placing blame instead of placing resources, arguments over "juris-my-DICtion" bulls**t, and at the end of the day saying "but it was a HURRICANE!" is not going to save lives or prevent the same thing from happening again.
A responsible ADULT and LEADER would have said "Yes, its true, there were screw ups all over and we had our fair share. For that, I sincerely apologize and we are working to make it right." The American people deserve at least that.

Micheal Brown... you should be ashamed yourself.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Other America... I know I said I'd leave it alone...

...But its MY blog, dammit, and I can reopen a dialogue if I feel like it. And I do.

Awesome Newsweek Article here:


For as long as this link is active, you can read this article that echoes what I've been saying in recent weeks. Namely that Hurrican Katrina, while catastrophic and heart breaking, was a necessary evil. She put a mangifying glass over issues that have been present in America that no one has wanted to talk about for quite some time. Well, they're talking about it now.

And since the "president's" approval ratings are so low, this would present an excellent opportunity for him to create more for his legacy than this useless war.(Oops, did I say "useless war" out loud? My bad. Damn this truth/venom spewing tounge of mine!) It would also save him from bearing the windfall of his mother's statement, made during her visit to the Houston Astrodome.

"So many of the people in the arenas here, you know, were underprivileged anyway. So this (living in the Astrodome with 10,000 of their closest friends) is working very well for them."

I'll give her the benefit of the doubt and attribute this statement to her impending senility-- unless she's just really that ignorant.

Just some friendly and free political advice for our "leader."

Photo credit: Newsweek

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Response and Closing

Point well taken "Me Again." Everything is NOT about racism. You are absolutely correct in that respect

Sometimes it just sucks to be poor. In some cases, being poor is worse than being of another heritage. In this world, it is DANGEROUS to be poor. Lack of access to adequate healthcare, preventative medicine, education, safe housing... the list goes on. So if you want to let the race issue go, that's fine with me. But there is no denying the fact that most of the people in the affected areas are not as affluent as other people in this country. The South in general is disproportionately poor compared with the rest of the country. Not just the people... the state governments have far smaller budgets than some northern and midwest states of comparable population size. In fact, its widely known that Mississippi has the unfortunate honor of being per capita, the poorest state in the Union.

There are so many factors that play into this that its hard to isolate and issue and point a finger of blame at someone or a particular group. However, its a little difficult to ignore the fact that these people overall contribute less to the national budget than other states. In fact, I remember last summer when Florida was pummeled by 4 hurricanes that people in the North were up in arms that FEMA disproportionately benefits the South, which overall contributes less to the fund.

All I can say is that it takes a catastrophe like this to place a magnifying glass on the issues and problems that we all know exist, but have been swept under the rug and forgotten. For instance, people in Philadelphia, my home town are OUTRAGED that Mayor John Street is offering temporary to permanent housing, health and economic relief for 1000 displaced families from New Orleans. The reason? They claim that he has ignored the issue of homeless people in Philly for his entire administration, but is willing to extend services to people who aren't Philadelphians.

That is a prime example of what I'm talking about. No one really seemed to want to put a spotlight on that until Philly decided to accept survivors from New Orleans. No one wants to talk about how majority of the people who were victims of the governments slow relief response were in fact poor blacks, asians, latinos and whites. No on wants to talk about how New Orleans was set up for disaster by blocking legislation and not issuing evacuation orders early enough to get the people out who could not do so for themselves.

But I'm going to stop talking about the negative. While the government failed, the American people succeeded. The moving response has been amazing and it gives me hope by reminding me that above all the issues, people really are good at heart. And that's what matters the most.

I'm now closing the dialogue in terms of responding to comments on the recent posts. If you want to continue posting comments, I will continue to read them.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Battle of Wits... Unfair advantage to ME.

Thank you to the two people who left such articulate comments on my most recent post. I have one word of admonition however: before you challenge me on a topic upon which I hold a degree in, read up on the subject. I do not engage in battles of wit with those who come ill prepared. Its too easy to tromp over you like a mealyworm in my front yard. However, I'm at work, between meetings and slightly bored.... so....

To commenter number one: prejudice and racism are 2 different things. Prejudice is an adverse judgment or opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge or examination of the facts. Racism is discriminatory or abusive behavior towards members of another race. While it is true that many black people may be prejudiced against whites, they are incapable if being racists. How you ask? In order to excercise racism, you must be a member of a group of people that has control of a majority of a region's resources and are therefore able to withold access to those resources from other groups. Since, to my knowledge, black people do not absolutely control access to ANY socioeconomic resources in America ( you could argue sports and entertainement, but COME ON... like those two areas actually MATTER), they CANNOT by definition, be racist. I'm sorry you are having trouble accepting your sordid heritage but every group has ancestors that have done things to be ashamed of. White people have just managed to continue to profit off of it for hundreds of years AFTER the fact. NOW THAT'S SKILL.

To commenter number two: I think its time to face the ugly truth. If it weren't about racism, then the following facts would not be true. The levee broke on Tuesday (Monday night if you want to get technical) sure. The section of the levee that broke is in the 9th Ward which is (GASP) the PROJECTS. If you look back over the legislative history of the past 3 years in New Orleans, the Bush administration you so proudly defend VETOED legislation that would have:

1. made the funds available for the Army Corps of Engineers to employ more people who would have had the task of examining the structural integrity of the levees which were falling into disrepair and
2. provided the funding for them to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT... like augmenting the system so that they could stand up to storms stronger than a category 3... but let's not get to technical with design flaws... I digress...

"But, since New Orleans is a Demoratic stronghold in the Republican South, why bother saving those poor Black (and White!) wannabe Yankee Blue Staters anyway? They didn't vote for me."

Alright.... I'm bored with lacerating the two of you. Have a nice day ;)

Friday, September 02, 2005

Addendum to Aftermath--2

I was aggravated to hear a black reporter say the following...

"America is a fast food nation and we want what we want when we want it. The people in 3rd world countries often fare better in natural disasters, because they are more accustomed to having to wait for aid than Americans."

Give me a break. Give me a freakin' break!


The whole reason why we're not used to things like waiting for aid and rescue is because we shouldn't have to. This is the reason we pay taxes, we encourage people to join the National Guard, that we have organizations like FEMA. We trust that if we are law abiding, tax paying citizens, that in our time of need, our government will come to our aid.
That is the very reason why people in third world nations break their necks trying to buffet unjust immigration policies to settle here. It is the hope of a better life, of a government that will take care of its own before looking outside or to its own interests.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. If you're poor and black that is. And yes... I am going to harp on the race issue because every other international news agency is not shying away from it. Only American news agencies are scared to inject the race issue and raise the difficult questions. But you can't ignore it. You cannot. Can you imagine if this disaster struck Martha's Vineyard? The Hamptons? Would the fine residents of those cities be waiting for 5 days to be rescued from rising flood waters? I don't think so.

What do you all think?

The Aftermath...2

I'm moving beyond hearbreak to sheer and unadulterated rage right now. I'm not the only one who is angry, but since I have a forum for expression, I'm going to use it, dammit. I'm sitting here (supposedly working from home) watching our illustrious "President" touring the disaster stricken area.

I'm SO PISSED, SO FRUSTRATED THAT I'M MOVED TO TEARS... you will have to forgive me if I blather on.

It SICKENS me that this country has the money to spend $50 million per day in Iraq on a war that is not supported by at least half of the population is JUST NOW sending relief convoys of National Guardsmen, food, water and supplies to striken New Orleans. That the lawmakers of the United States wonder if they will be able to pay for the repairs and relief neded by the region. That they are letting people die in the floodwaters to ease the burden of the rescue effort. It has been fully 4 days since Hurricane Katrina tore through the Gulf Coast and people who have been trapped on the roofs or in the attics of their homes are just now beginning to see signs of rescue. Are you kidding me? This is America? This is the country that takes 1/3 of my income in taxes? This is what I'm paying for? UNACCETABLE. Every single person in this country should be completely OUTRAGED.

But as much as it sickens me... it does not surprise me. Let us look at the facts, shall we?

New Orleans is a southern city where 2/3 of the population is poor and Black. The mayor of New Orleans is a Black man. Majority of the people who were left in the city were the elderly, indigent, poor and infirmed. They had NO WAY of being able to evacuate, or were unwilling to leave behind relatives for whom the journey would have meant sickness or death. When you look at the images on the nightly news, you can hardly believe that its America you are looking at.

The leader of this country just arrived today in Biloxi, Mississippi to survey the devastation. TODAY.... 4 days later. The people of that region are in a desperate situation and he just arrived today. Some say he has alread seen the devastation, but and aerial survey from the comfort and safety of Air Force One doesn't seem to count to me. He should have been there days earlier. Even more so, there should have been a federally mandated evacuation ordered when there was even the slightest chance that a Category 5 hurricane was heading toward a city that is boardered by water on 3 sides and sits below sea level. Even if the storm had missed entirely, the cost of evacuation will be exceeded by leaps and bounds by the human cost we are going to incurr.

New Orleans is now a public health nightmare. Look at it from whatever angle you wish. Those floodwaters are a petri dish of waterborne illnesses like cholera and dysentery, amplified by the presence of the decaying dead. There is not adequate water, food or emergency healthcare. The average temperature in New Orleans for the last week has been 90 degrees with 75% humidity, which will lead to heat exhaustion. Perhaps the saddest situation is that the youngest victims, newborn and premature babies trapped in waterlogged hospitals could die, before they even have a chance to live

Meanwhile "President" Bush is down there listening to these disaster stricken families cling to him and tell their stories, surrounded by the press like this is damn a photo op. When I saw that today on the news, it took all I had in me not to vomit.

Part of my outrage is personal in nature. I have friends who are desperately seeking their family members and fearing the worst. They are wondering aloud to me why something isn't being done faster. Why are they relying on Houston's Astrodome and Relient Center (which by the way can only hold about 40,000 people between the two of them) for shelters? Why wasn't there a more effective plan in place for this inevitability? WHY DID THEY SEEM TO HAVE THE ABILITY TO AIRLIFT DOLPHINS FROM THE AQUARIUM TO OUT TO FLORIDA, YET PEOPLE ARE STILL STRANDED IN THE CITY? WHERE ARE THIS COUNTRY'S PRIORITIES?

As the people of New Orleans, and indeed the rest of the nation wonder what is coming next for the Crescent City. Will they ever be able to rebuild? Will the Big Easy ever be easy again? Or will this jewel of the south, and its people, be wiped from the face of the country forever?

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Aftermath

My heart goes out to everyone on the Gulf Coast who is suffering through the misery left by Hurricane Katrina. This shows what kind of fury God's earth can unleash. I heard one forcaster say during the hours before the hurricane made landfall that if New Orleans took a direct hit, the city would never be the same. I thought it was a hyperbolic statement at the time; the news has a tendency to overblow things for the sake of ratings. However, watching the devastation... its true. The city of New Orleans as we knew it will never exist again. I visited New Orleans once before and hung out in the French Quarter and the Garden District. I had a fabulous time with my friends and soaked up the beauty and history the city had to offer. I breaks my heart knowing that when we are able to travel to the Big Easy again, its quite possible that many of the places where I have fond memories will no longer exist. What hurts my heart even more is that the people who live down there... their lives have been destroyed. Their homes, possessions and memories have been washed away. Who's to say how many will actually return? Will the city of New Orleans return to its former glory? Will they even think to rebuild in the same risky location? Think about it... who thought it was a good idea to build a city below sea level in a bowl shaped depression between massive Lake Ponchartrain , the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico? Didn't someone think that one day, something like this was going to happen? They know now that its very possible that it could happen again. In my true nerdy fashion, I looked into some almanac weather forecasts. Apparently, this episode, not to mention Florida's devastating hurricane season last year, is just the beginning of an active hurricane trend that could last anywhere from the next 8 to 35 years! I truly think that the risks should be weighed when considering rebuilding New Orleans. If there is anyway to move the city to a safer location in the area (say, above sea level) that option should be explored. Relying on a system of levees to protect them obviously did not work. Its time for an engineering miracle to emerge from the nightmare.

I'm praying for the people down there... in particular:

Bunchie- my friend Nechi's grandmother
Teach for America- New Orleans Corps Members
Daniel Konecky and Family

I'm planning to help in any way I can. Our local news station KYW-3 on CBS is sponsoring a telethon in conjuction with The Red Cross. It called Operation Brotherly Love (yay Philly!)
The link to that website is in the title of this post and below. Its a small way to help, but if everyone does a little, the results will be great.