Thursday, September 29, 2005

Memo: Squid Dick Spin Squad

"But males get round their inferior size by being endowed with a particularly long penis, which means they can inject the female without having to get too close to her chomping beak. The male's sexual organ is actually a bit like a high-pressure fire hose and is normally nearly as long as his body - excluding legs and head.

"But having such a big penis does have one drawback: it seems that co-ordinating eight legs, two feeding tentacles and a huge penis, whilst fending off an irate female, is a bit too much to ask, and one of the two males stranded on the Spanish coast had accidentally injected himself with sperm packages in the legs and body. And this does not seem to have been an isolated incident since two of the eight males that had stranded in the north-east Atlantic before had also accidentally inseminated themselves."
Suckers for gay trysts, fiery females and rough sex - squid secrets exposed.

To: Members
From: Carl
RE: Squid spin

It may be that some in the Media will attempt to use this story, or stories like it, in a misguided effort to discredit the tenets of Intelligent Design.

"After all," you might hear them say, "what Intelligent Being other than Tom DeLay would design huge creatures with eyes like volleyballs that fuck themselves by mistake?"

Some talking points for immediate use - work-up of detailed scholarship to follow:
  1. Evidence of design does not always unambiguously uncover the purpose, or telos, of said design.

  2. For centuries in the West, serious scholars have regarded the World of Creatures as a Book of Beasts, living emblems designed by the Creator to bring us allegorical lessons that speak to the world of man. (Ammo for anti-gay marriage platform?)

  3. It's a mystery.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Much Complete Washout of N.O. Reality Not Exaggerated - [feeble update]

It now appears that a good deal of the Media wet dream after Katrina -- babies raped, murders galore, widespread social devolution -- was, according to New York TimeSpeak, "exaggerated." The exact headline is:
Some Reports of N.O. Violence Exaggerated
It's not even a Times story, but an AP story, which is attempting, wimpily, to at least report the fact that the reporting in the wake of Katrina offered some Grand Guignol without the theater, tickets, or enjoyably dissolute patrons. You gotta love that "Some." The Independent is, if nothing else, clearer:
"It just morphed into this mythical place where the most unthinkable deeds were being done," Ed Bush of the National Guard told yesterday's Los Angeles Times. Only now, one month later, is the record being set straight.
So the US media, given a chance now to clear up a few fantasias, once more turns its attention to Brownie, or to Jon Voigt playing John Paul. Anything, in fact, except the truth about your own ability to accurately report the truth.

If you tried to distort some fact about the NY Times even nowhere close to the extent it and its fellow high priests of the 4th Estate have distorted the Katrina chronicles, e.g., "The New York Times Understands Public Discourse" - (ha haaaaaaaaaaaa, hohohohohewhewhewhahahahohoheehahaheeeeeee!!!!) the Times would have its entire bevy of lawyers doing the Hamster Dance on your tympana.

The big errors - the real whoppers - are simply too obese to fit into the precise, clinical genre of the Correction.

One story that appears to still hold up is the reporting by Burnett and the Post on the Morial Center. Especially that bit, overlooked by everyone (1), about the 257 National Guardsmen, sons of Louisiana, Past Masters of the Arts of Self Concealment.

One reads the Times, (the free bits) because its daily self-deceptions, its normative swerve from its own headlight-haloed face, when decoded, offer wisps of insight into the bowels of USian news production, where the light mayn't shine.
(1) Update: The Times of Sept. 28th, 2005, buries the Morial story inside a big picture account of why the National Guard deserves our understanding. It helpfully points out that the fellow commanding the guard at the Morial is an architect in real life. It still does not explain why emergency messages about the Morial did not get to people in a position to offer relief in a timely manner. There were two - count 'em: 2 - places where large quantities of the unraptured had been huddled: the Superdome and the Morial. One - the Dome - got help after the Guard moved its own headquarters there. The other got bupkis.

Monday, September 26, 2005

lost tooth

...all the scandals now surfacing are linked. Something is rotten in the state of the U.S. government. And the lesson of Hurricane Katrina is that a culture of cronyism and corruption can have lethal consequences.
That's the conclusion of "Find the Brownie," Krugman's latest, curiously AWOL from its place behind the NY Times Self-Selected Wall of Idiocy.

His point is that Bush hires cronies. Loyalty is the succubus of Bushism. No suckie, no bushie. Who knew. But the suggestion that all the scandals are linked - this is interesting. How? By Intelligent Design? See the figure in the carpet, the signature in the press corps whore? Or is this less design than character - Bush, carver of his own inflamed fortune, drawn like a lady moth to the cozy loins of clean-cut numbskulls who bark on command?

Bush, plummeting(1) incisor from the hound of hell.

(1) courtesy of Harry.

unsmack of gob

China Tightens Web-Content Rules

Regulations Seek to Curb
Information on News Sites
As Internet Access Spreads

September 26, 2005; Page B3

BEIJING -- China issued new regulations to govern the publication of news stories on the Internet, amid what appears to be an ongoing campaign to clean up the media industry.

The Ministry of Information Industry and the State Council Information Office, under China's cabinet, yesterday issued the rules restricting online news services from publishing certain kinds of news.

These include stories that jeopardize state security or disclose state secrets; those that destroy the country's unity or hurt the state's reputation and interests; and those that disturb social order and stability.


They have begun an investigation into some of News Corp.'s practices in China. New [sic] Corp. has said it would work within China's regulatory framework.


Dear Mr. and Ms. China!

You don't need no steenking regulators! US Media Very Very Clean!! Big Media cover Big Government attack on Iraq most hygienically e.g.!!! US Democracy -- Whiter Whites - no ironing!!!

Mr. and Ms. America

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Chant of the prole

Notker the stutterer (what's in a name?), had come up with a mnemonic device to remember the incredibly difficult melismas...
Last night it was airless and warm by the bay. The kid and I wandered among the crowd of kids playing on the swings and slides, and their parents speaking in various languages, Russian, Spanish, Creole, Cracker, and the like. Some people brought food, others had frisbees, dogs, blankets for watching the sun which had contracted to set over the orange efflorescence of Rita. One rather large group sang, but only one song, apparently just for themselves.

Along the peninsular park extending into the bay were the docks with the yachts. Each yacht managing to look prouder than the other. Sawyer and I watched one 40-footer trot gracefully out to open water. At the helm was a small group of manicured bots, glasses of red wine poised in their webbed hands. Toward the stern -- aft -- another, smaller group, festooned with sailor's clothes and drinks, looked almost lifelike. The boat easily slid through the water. We saw no dolphins or whales, though Sawyer kept talking about how if a whale came along, we could ride on its back over to the bar on the other side, and watch a movie, and then come back. The talent above us on the large boat - The Rubicon - had its empty stare fixed on the horizon, west.

In an airless time in the subtropics, even bots need a break. Perhaps they were taking Katrina refugees out for a little diversion. Or maybe they'd packed boxes of toilet paper and smoked oysters to bring to weary Texan drivers, a 25-hour journey across open water. There is no judging the rich. Not even God, bless his heart, can fathom their needs, intentions, designs.

Carpe Diem. Ora pro nobis.
Caper Deum. Ora pro nobis.
Copper Canyon. Ora pro nobis.
Cooper Union. Ora pro nobis.
Cop a Doobie. Ora pro nobis.

Heading home, we passed a fine steakhouse, with fine wines, as it was pleased to bill itself. Large SUVs lined up awaiting valets. Candlelight melisma, sottovoce tinkle of glasses encased in winedark light, nearly audible even from the road.

Friday, September 23, 2005

sign apophenic

Mere coincidence, to happen upon this sign:

Just an accident.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Aaaaah oh

Statement from James Hilton, University of Michigan associate provost and interim librarian, regarding the lawsuit against the Google library project:

"...we cannot lose sight of the tremendous benefits this project will bring for society."

"The Google library project will transform the way we do research and scholarship. For the first time, everyone will be able to search the written record of human knowledge. It also allows libraries to create a digital archive that preserves this material for all time."

"It is important to note that we will not be sharing the full text of copyrighted works with the public. The Google library project will point searchers toward the works, and tell them how to buy or borrow a copy, but will not give them the full content of works in copyright."

Monday, September 19, 2005

Now we lose sight of the idea

It should be clear by now that actual emergency response is inconsistent with unreality-based statecraft.

It should also be clear that the more we hear about FEMA, the less we will actually attend. We'll hear chatter instead.
Citizens in a republic of voyeurs, we are intent on microscopic moralism, incapable of appreciating more gracefully the contradictions, tensions, and ragged edges of all lives and unwilling to take ideas seriously, as something more than bandages for personal wounds. Seyla Benhabib, writing beautifully about a completely different thing.
As FEMA is the Enron of the moment, this blog's FEMA-related cry in the wilderness will stand down. Posthaste. Mostly. Almost immediately. But first....

The Fort Laud Sun Sentinel has been studying the allergy to common sense known as FEMA. Where the money goes and doesn't go. With a lot of sidebars, anecdotes and charts. The project includes a look at Punta Gorda's "FEMA City," the future of po' folk in La., Miss. and Ala., and an equal opportunity dead end for those yet to lose their homes to a hurricane.

Speaking of which, hundreds of trailers brought to FL last year by FEMA are standing around the state, empty, never put to use. It has been suggested that these trailers could be moved to where they are needed.

But FEMA has probably forgotten about them, as forgetting is one of its key mission principles. The only activity it seems never to forget, as this splendid story from the Salt Lake Tribune documents, is PR.

The Salt Lake Tribune story was cited in Frank Rich in his last "free" column, in yesterday's NY Times. So highly does the Times prize its public mission to speak truth for dollars that it has consigned its entire battery of pundits to oblivion.

Now about those Emmys...

::Update:: on the Times fiasco:
It acknowledges that I'm a Times Select member when I try to sign in, but when I try to actually read protected content it doesn't recognize that I already have the service and offers no option other than signing up for the service and no way back to the content.

"The NYT Select thing is a total catastrophe." ~ Laura Rozen.
The Times and FEMA are One.

::Update 2::Sheila Lennon: I expect to see the columns "pirated" on the file-sharing applications that has the RIAA suing over music, passed around like contraband, or emailed around to small groups like jokes.

Indeed, as she notes, this has begun. The routing around will probably provoke the Times to sue, which will, in turn, provoke a large contest between the routarounders and the routedaround.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

editor's note to Holderlin

Angelina Jolie the New Face of St. John

Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Angelina Jolie, the tattooed actress and U.N. goodwill ambassador, is the new face of St. John.

Frieddy -- consider:
The god
Is near, and maybe not so hard to grasp. - ed.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

National Disgrace

It's finally coming out that during much of the time that people young and old were starving, shitting, knifing, bleeding, praying, weeping and dying in the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, 257 "Citizen Soldiers" of the US National Guard were billeted in a separate part of the center.

Only a wall separated them from the thousands suffering there in the dark. A wall that our 257 heroes kept firmly in place, reinforcing it even. Listen up.
"We didn't want another Kent State," said Army Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honore, commander of the active-duty military forces responding to Katrina.
Apparently, if these reports from the Washington Post and NPR's John Burnett (Burnett's account is essential) are even remotely accurate, Kent State is exactly what you got, General. Listen up.

In one protracted blaze of sheer inhumanity, the National Guard has captured the spirit and the moral blackwater of the Bush Era for all time. Let us not let this moment pass without a salute, so kindly listen up.

I can't imagine any more suitable memorial to the Bush years than to enshrine all the dead bodies, the filth and shit of the living, the murdered, the raped, the starving -- don't clean up a thing. Pity the hygiene's already started. Leave it all there. Laminate it. Then remove Mr. Morales' monicker, and rename it the George W. Bush National Guard Memorial. Invite what's left of the National Guard to "billet" there, to drill there, to have no water there, no food, no electricity, no toilets, no paper, no radio, no safety, no news, no word from above. See how they do. How long it takes before they eat one another.

Fuck it. Even outrage is a listless boil on the arse of - not Satan, no. On the arse of...the arse of...the arse of...


Listen up.

no exit

That night, Mr. Brown said, he called Mr. Chertoff and the White House again in desperation. "Guys, this is bigger than what we can handle," he told them, he said. "This is bigger than what FEMA can do. I am asking for help."
These words, pleading the excuse of urgency, can be found on Michael Brown's winding sheet. He'll likely not be heard from again.

I would direct the gentle reader's attention to This American Life's show from last week. In the final 8 minutes or so of the program (the file is not broken down into segments), there's a report from the FEMA trailer park that was thrown together in Punta Gorda, FL, next to the county jail, in hasty response to Hurricane Charley.

A year later the trailers are still there, the people are there, FEMA is there, and the absence of an exit strategy alas, is still there.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

march of the emaciated expectations

I love food....I eat a lot! I'm just naturally small...I'm 5'2! It's just that people are so obsessed with clothing size these days that they have to wear a smaller number, meaning small people like me have to suffer as the smallest sizes are getting larger and larger!

Three years ago, I fit perfectly into size 1 Gap jeans. Now, size 1 is HUGE on me.
~ NT Times "Forum"

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Sit on it

When George Bush was talking about rebuilding the house of Trent Lott and sitting on the porch with Lott, this language acted as a shout-out to the racist part of this administration’s base because,

whatever the complexities of the actually existing Trent Lott, he resonates across the white supremacist U.S. as a defender of segregation [archive: newspapers, magazines, online fora (eg. The Free, everyday discussions, etc.].

The resounding noise of that shout-out helps provide cover for the privatization of reconstruction (Hello Halliburton) [archive: government documents, newspaper accounts, official correspondence, etc.] and disaster management (Hello IEM) [IEM Press Release, New Orleans Times-Picayune article],

and a reward to the refiners via the lifting of environmental protections [various newspaper articles, White House Press Release] – an enrichment that is a shoutout to the richest part of Bush’s base.
Whaneema Lubiano

"heck of a job"

Documents Reveal Extent of Fumbles On Storm Relief

September 13, 2005; Page A3

WASHINGTON – As the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency stepped down yesterday, government documents surfaced showing that vital resources, such as buses and environmental health specialists, weren't deployed to the Gulf region for several days, even after federal officials seized control of Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.
Separately, internal documents and emails from FEMA and other government agencies dating back to Aug. 31 and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal show the extent to which the federal government bungled its response to the hurricane. The documents highlight serious deficiencies in the Department of Homeland Security's National Response Plan, a post-Sept. 11 playbook on how to deal with catastrophic events. Mr. Chertoff activated the National Response Plan last Tuesday by declaring the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina an "Incident of National Significance."

The plan, which was rolled out to much fanfare in January, essentially enables Washington to move federal assets to the disaster without waiting for requests from state officials. It then funnels help from all federal agencies through a single point of contact -- usually the secretary of homeland security -- a reform demanded after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.


See Michael Brown's legal profile on FindLaw.


In one instance, federal environmental health specialists, who were charged with protecting both rescue workers and evacuees, weren't called in by the Department of Homeland Security until Sunday -- 12 days after the Occupational Safety & Health Administration announced it had teams from various agencies standing by ready to assist. Even now, with mounting evidence of environmental problems, the deployment is being held up by continuing interagency wrangling, according to officials at the National Institutes of Health, which also is involved in the effort.

Homeland Security officials said that when Mr. Chertoff declared Katrina a nationally significant event, all provisions of the National Response Plan -- including ones for health and safety -- were activated. "This is the first test of the NRP and we will have lessons learned," said Valerie Smith, a department spokeswoman.

In addition, FEMA's official requests, known as tasking assignments and used by the agency to demand help from other government agencies, show that it first asked the Department of Transportation to look for buses to help evacuate the more than 20,000 people who had taken refuge at the Superdome in New Orleans at 1:45 a.m. on Aug. 31. At the time, it only asked for 455 buses and 300 ambulances for the enormous task. Almost 18 hours later, it canceled the request for the ambulances because it turned out, as one FEMA employee put it, "the DOT doesn't do ambulances."

FEMA ended up modifying the number of buses it thought it needed to get the job done, until it settled on a final request of 1,355 buses at 8:05 p.m. on Sept. 3. The buses, though, trickled into New Orleans, with only a dozen or so arriving on the first day.

Hours before FEMA realized that it needed buses, Jonathan L. Snare, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, said he was prepared to offer the full resources of the agency to help protect the safety and health of workers responding to Katrina.

Health and safety experts play an important role by testing the environment at a disaster for toxins, disease and pathogens. They then advise rescue workers about needs for protective clothing for themselves as well as for the people they are trying to move from harm's way.

The National Response Plan gives OSHA responsibility to coordinate efforts to protect and monitor disaster workers and victims from environmental hazards.

But the part of the plan that authorizes OSHA's role as coordinator and allows it to mobilize experts from other agencies such as NIH wasn't activated by FEMA until shortly before 5 p.m. Sunday. The delay came despite repeated efforts by the agencies to mobilize.

Attempts by officials at NIH to reach FEMA officials and send them briefing materials by email failed as the agency's server failed.

"I noticed that every email to a FEMA person bounced back this week. They need a better internet provider during disasters!!" one frustrated Department of Health official wrote to colleagues last Thursday.

By Friday, experts and officials from NIH, the Department of Labor and the Environmental Protection Agency began to make frantic calls to the Department of Homeland Security and members of Congress, demanding that the worker-safety portion of the national response plan be activated.

No reason has been offered by either FEMA or the Department of Homeland Security for the delay in activating OSHA's role.

Some Homeland Security officials are already starting to acknowledge significant weaknesses in the national response plan, which was completely disregarded at times during the crisis.

"We at the department are not well prepared, and unfortunately, recent history has shown that that's the case," Lee Holcomb, the department chief technology officer told a breakfast meeting of Information Technology executives on Wednesday in Washington.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Lord Fartquad manages his crisis

From today's Wall Street Journal:
FEMA, meanwhile, has announced four major contracts with firms charged with providing emergency housing relief in storm-battered areas of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. The $100 million contracts with Bechtel, Fluor, Shaw Group and Denver-based CH2M Hill Cos. were awarded after what FEMA described as "limited competition." ...

FEMA has been given primary responsibility for spending the more than $50 billion in aid approved by lawmakers last week, which means it will be the lead contracting agency for months to come. That gives it a responsibility well beyond its normal role in past disasters. The agency has never before been asked to disburse money at the level that it will for Katrina. ...

All the deals include cost-plus language, which means the companies can pass along all their costs -- plus a predetermined profit -- to the government. Similar provisions were routinely used in Iraq. Critics said they encouraged waste by removing any incentive to control costs

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Insider trading in Miami-Dade

This is not about FEMA. It's more about why roomates of Washington insiders sometimes get appointed to certain key positions.

Dissident Voice, via Mike Golby:
Michael Brown, the embattled head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, approved payments in excess of $31 million in taxpayer money to thousands of Florida residents who were unaffected by Hurricane Frances and three other hurricanes last year in an effort to help President Bush win a majority of votes in that state during his reelection campaign, according to published reports.

...the most interesting charge against Brown is that he helped speed up payments in Florida and purposely bypassed FEMA’s lengthy reviews process for distributing funds in order to help Bush secure votes in the state during last year’s presidential election.

Bob Hunter, Director of Insurance for the Consumer Federation of America, who was a top federal flood insurance official in the 1970s and 1980s and a Texas insurance commissioner in the 1990s, told the Post, “that in the vast majority of hurricanes, other than those in Florida in 2004, complaints are rife that FEMA has vastly underpaid hurricane victims. The Frances overpayments are questionable given the timing of the election and Florida's importance as a battleground state.”
We had. our. suspicions.

fuck the New York Times. I mean, really, fuck it.

It would be slightly helpful if some "journalistic" organ, instead of apportioning blame, would actually analyze the diffusion strategies being employed by a reportedly incompetent and confused administration.

To look back, as the Times invariably does today and every day, and decide what "went wrong" and who's to blame is to miss the story that is going on right now, right under your nose. The US government is being brilliant.

Its sole fumble was assembling large masses of people into two large places in New Orleans (Superbowl Stadium and Convention Center). Where they could get counted, and perhaps attract some media muscle. But that was just a temporary glitch - a rather too sizeable holding pen. Having a Michael Brown in charge to "account for" the inept indifference of the first response - genius.

The second response is where the real money is.

The deft and dexterous recovery was to fashion a diaspora. Decimate them the fuck out of there. Smaller units all over the place, then fractionate still further. Disperse the media. Disable attention. Got a bolus of them at the Astrodome? Use Homeless Diversion Templates we all know and love: hand them a wad of cash to make them go away. Then lock the door. We in Florida are familiar with US Disaster Aid Exit Strategies.

This is the stuff of backdoor craft. If you don't think so, just look at how it's handled by the Times:
Hurricane Katrina has produced a diaspora of historic proportions. Not since the Dust Bowl of the 1930's or the end of the Civil War in the 1860's have so many Americans been on the move from a single event. Federal officials who are guiding the evacuation say 400,000 to upwards of one million people have been displaced from ruined homes, mainly in the New Orleans metropolitan area.

Texas has taken in more than 230,000 people, according to Gov. Rick Perry. But others are scattered across the United States, airlifted from a city that is nine feet below sea level to mile-high shelters in Colorado, to desert mesas in New Mexico, piney woods in Arkansas, flatlands in Oklahoma, the breezy shore of Cape Cod and the beige-colored Wasatch Mountain front in Utah.
A few notes on this grotesquerie - everyone can do their own:

" many Americans been on the move" - on the move? as in, pack up the wagon, Sadie, we're headin' to the Promised Land? Why attribute motive force (implicitly linked to choice, deliberation, independence, manifest destiny) to a large group of New Orleanseans who have been trucked or otherwise cargoed to Anywhere USA - just in time to get them off the national radar for 9/11 ceremonies?

"Texas has taken in" - Begging any journalistic question. E.g., What sort of taking is this? What is the actual situation, and what do the debited few do when the Astrodome shuts its doors?

"mile-high shelters...desert mesas...piney woods...flatlands...the breezy shore of Cape Cod and the beige-colored Wasatch Mountain..."

Mom! - We want a freakin huge hurricane so we can go see all these neat places!

The treacly prose collaborates in the enabling of forgetting. Recovery under way. A better tomorrow. The New York Times (just for example, since it has pretensions) does not analyze anything that is actually worth analyzing: It sets up frames that enable us to square away consciences and crises in order to get down to business. Sufficient to each day is the merchantry thereof.

Someone is making a lot of very shrewd decisions. Incompetence is a most serviceable cover story.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

red plate special

Of course no motels were available. So we decided to spend the night at the airport. Another man offered to take us. As we were getting in his car, he also offered us a shower at his house. We took him up on it and headed off. We showered, chatted, etc. I made plane reservations for 7 am the next morning. They invited us to stay and sleep for the hour and half that remained of the night. They gave us food and little presents, a tee-shirt from their local high school baseball team, etc. They were kind, concerned, and really wanted to help and do the right thing. As we talked, it was also clear that they were religious conservatives, racist, homophobic, etc. East Texas. Kindness and hatefulness on the same plate. "We Went into the Mall and Began 'Looting,'" Peter Berkowitz

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

for want of a pencil

"In every disaster FEMA is in, you love us in the beginning, then you get mad. We do such a good job that you expect us to do everything, and we can't." FEMA's Michael Brown, March 28, 2005, Port Charlotte High School auditorium, Florida.
Calling for the head of equine lawyer and FEMA poster boy Michael Brown is like viewing a mob hit in Vegas and demanding that Francis Ford Coppola be held accountable.

Not that Mr. Brown should not be elevated to the Supreme Court or other face-saving appointment. But it was clear last year in Florida that the agency he was supposed to be in charge of had deeper problems than managerial incompetence.

FEMA's absence of accountability, for example, is unaccountable. As we discovered one hot morning a few days after Hurricane Charley had put a small part of Florida in harm's way. After a couple of false starts, FEMA had opened its operations center in Port Charlotte. People came in and were given numbers. They were then invited to use phones on scattered tables to call FEMA's 800 number in Washington DC.

One monitory signal: the FEMA people "on the ground" did not know that the FEMA people in Washington didn't start answering the "24-hour" FEMA emergency phone until 8 a.m. A few of us who tried calling got the agency's answering machine explaining as much.

Many of the people in the room had homes that were destroyed or sustained major damage. None of the FEMA people so much as made eye contact with them, let alone explained what we were doing. Once the lines began to open, we got taped messages informing us that the purpose of the call was to go through a 30-minute-or-so interview in which a person at a computer in Washington would take our basic information and create a case number.

When we finally reached an allegedly living FEMA representative, the first thing we learned was that we'd need to write down our case numbers in order to proceed with any claim or loan. We were also told that the interview would result, invariably, in a letter from FEMA denying our claims. We were told to ignore that, as it was simply part of the routine.

So we sat there at tables in the recreation center, making our calls. When it became evident that we would need to write down case numbers, I asked for a pencil. I hadn't come with one, nor had most other people.

FEMA had not brought pencils.

Not such a hopeful sign: An agency whose prime directive is to address immediate need in the face of a catastrophic event, a crew of freshly scrubbed professional emergency workers in crisp blue shirts, failing to bring the only things everyone undergoing their process would be sure to need: a pencil and a piece of paper.

A black woman who had finished her interview gave me her pen.

As I left the "operations center," I saw a line stretching out into the parking lot. The sun was already harsh and hot. No one on the line was offered water. No attempt was made to let the line move inside and snake around the lobby. No one told them (well, I tried) that the only thing they would receive inside was an 800 phone number, which could have been called from anywhere, which would eventually issue in a letter denying them any assistance, at which time they could play Bureaucratic Nightmare, but only if they managed to record their case numbers. They and their kids baked in the sun for hours blissfully unaware.

Later I met FEMA folk brought in from as far away as Hawaii, who were put up in expensive condos - one guy had a 3 BR condo that could have housed a family whose home had been lost. Another guy had a rental car, and was using his agency's supply of bottled water to keep it from overheating. We've all heard the stories.

There is no way Michael Brown "caused" this void where a community of people should have been. It is difficult to imagine what concatenated effort had to occur to produce an emergency agency chock full of personnel that had no practical acquaintance with what an emergency is. The deer-in-headlight stares suggested the real emergency for FEMA was having to look like it was handling an emergency.

Despite everything that has been learned since last year about FEMA's incompetence, at a meeting last March, Florida legacy elected official Connie Mack IV introduced Michael Brown to a small group of Floridians who were not entirely pleased with FEMA (or with Jeb Bush for that matter) by telling them "FEMA did a fantastic job." Brown was supposed to be there to hear from the very people his agency failed that this was not the case. But in the world of Bushes and Macks, that moment of hearing never comes, and there is never a pencil to record its misadventure.

So, just for what it's worth, whether Brown is put out to pasture or not, the enabling factors that made him and his agency's catatonic debacle possible were visible last year, and will all still be in place after he's gone.

Even Bush's staring into a mirror isn't quite it.

The only other time I saw hurricane behavior in Florida achieve FEMATIC levels was among Florida drivers waiting in line on long gas lines. Lines of cars backed up at the few stations that had some gas, and invariably there would be within view a station across the road that seemed to not have long lines, but a steady stream of cars nonetheless. It seemed improbable that so many cars would be going to an empty station, but in fact that is what was happening. Lines would form, each car would drive up in turn to the pump, try all the levers, discover there was no gas, and move on, leaving the next driver to make the same discovery.

The striking thing here was the remarkable breakdown in communication. It would have taken one sign on the pump, or better, on the station's marquis, to save hundreds of gas-starved people the experience of learning an identical thing, over and over. Any single driver could have hollered or made signs to the folks behind indicating the pump was empty. Somehow it was like the very option of giving voice to another was unavailable. Language had not yet been discovered. There was no other. Or maybe no one had a pencil.

Something catastrophic seems to happen to human literacy in certain conditions in this country. War being one of those conditions. Addressing emergencies has to begin by assuming the worst case. Removing the head (Brown or Bush) assumes that the aphasia that strikes us in the US -- us with our lack of us, our lack of community -- will thus be cured. It will only further conceal the loss of voice in which every bureaucracy has its end and its beginning.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The logic of bad governance

the federal government's lethal ineptitude wasn't just a consequence of Mr. Bush's personal inadequacy; it was a consequence of ideological hostility to the very idea of using government to serve the public good. For 25 years the right has been denigrating the public sector, telling us that government is always the problem, not the solution. Why should we be surprised that when we needed a government solution, it wasn't forthcoming?
So by proving that government doesn't work, has Mr. Bush furthered his rapturous agenda, or Cheney's?
Some investors believe Katrina will hold the stock market back, as rising oil prices and shipping disruptions hurt corporate profits and economic growth. Others think Katrina actually could help stocks in the longer term, since the rebuilding effort eventually should spur consumption and investment in new equipment. They also see the Fed, at least temporarily, supporting the economy by suspending its campaign of interest-rate increases. WSJ
"this is working very well."

So's this:
"It feels like the only things left in south Louisiana are snakes and alligators," said John Olson, co-manager of Houston Energy Partners, a hedge fund that operates out of a skyscraper downtown. "Houston is positioned for a boom."

Monday, September 05, 2005

Every man a Haitian refugee

Katrina has brought something up.

I can't recall anything like the sustained strenuous blogging of the past week. It's like something offstage has shown itself, gone off-script. And before it, or we, slip back into normalcy, those who have registered it want to capture its lineaments.

A few to not miss include Driftglass, Bionic Octopus (e.g., this), Alphonse.

The word "mismanaged" demonstrates caste limitations. This is not something that can be corrected by firing Michael Brown from FEMA - not that he's any more likely to be sacrificed than was Rummy or Rove. Nor is it something that will be laid to rest by newspaper editorials viewing the entire event as an admonition to the Chamber of Commerce and local planning and zoning officials to be more assiduous in their jobs.

Katrina brings up things like:
  • Every community in the US is, in the best of times, a dynamic economic system designed to flee Haiti. Every community, except a few that have entirely succeeded in their flight, contains Haiti. Social failure is to be consigned to Haiti. Success is to escape it, and thereby become a refugee.
  • Model Refugee Bush's 345 or so vacation days since taking office might have been better spent.
  • The difference between addressing what needs doing and addressing the appearance of addressing what needs doing is often misconstrued.
Things to do via Sheila Lennon.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Orifice of Homey's AssCurity

PR conditions for the Administration are more than elevated.

Stock up

- you never can tell when FEMA will strike. From Those Bastards.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

derring don't

If nothing else emerges from the federal reluctance to deal with Katrina, the voice of N.O. Mayor Ray Nagin has the potential to redefine political officialese. The man talks, and people listen, and next to what he says, the tedious nostrums of Bush, Brown, and Chertoff wilt.

He's worth rereading - good on Jeneane for preserving that. People might hear Nagin and think they've not heard anyone talk like that in a while. While Mr. Kerry compassionates, Nagin reminds us what adequate democratic speech is like.

And Sheila Lennon points to this analysis of FEMA, where, among other things, we learn that
Before Michael Brown, the current head, joined the agency as its legal counsel, he headed the International Arabian Horse Association.
The Bush Brigade's response to Florida last year was no less lame. In the days after "Hurricane Charley" struck, it became clear that there was an intense desire on the part of all kinds of volunteer agencies to offer what services and relief they could. I remember speaking with the heads of a few of these agencies, who told me that their offers of coordination, information, space, workers, etc. were met with complete apathy by FEMA officials.

The FEMA people had no sense of the lay of the land, of who needed help, of where the biggest needs were, because they had no local knowledge. The local charitable organizations knew their own people's needs. They were being given money, furniture, blankets, which they wanted to share. Eventually several of the charitable groups formed an umbrella group to reach out on their own, but that came later. There at the beginning, at the point where the agency with funds and resources needed local intelligence most desperately, it blew off every offer, every opportunity.

The federal response - the dead, vacant, career-vampire inertia - was what there was. Only now, it's writ larger.

I first encountered FEMAfolk on the day they opened their first emergency center after "Charley." It was more like a tableau vivant storyboard for a film then in production than anything resembling community. They never made eye contact with any actual person, and spoke only to each other. Blue shirts. The thing in their eyes was fear. Fear of violence, fear of bad press, fear of having to actually do something, fear of our noticing that they hadn't any idea that they were on a mission, or what its purpose was. It was Capt. Kirk beaming down to a dying planet, equipped with his ignorance and arrogance, but without his derring-do.
P.S.: A friend notes that FEMA lists Pat Robertson's boodle, "Operation Blessing," as the #3 site for hurricane help.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

tipping point of the iceberg

In early 2004, as the cost of the conflict in Iraq soared, President Bush proposed spending less than 20 percent of what the Corps said was needed for Lake Pontchartrain, according to a Feb. 16, 2004, article, in New Orleans CityBusiness.

On June 8, 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; told the Times-Picayune: "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us."
Editor and Publisher
President Bush in 2002 fired his own Army Corps chief, former Mississippi congressman Michael Parker, after Mr. Parker backed lawmakers' efforts to push through a number of big projects, including a $188 million proposal to build a massive flood-control pump for the lower Mississippi River. Wall St. Journal

"What has happened down here is the wind have changed."
R. Newman.
The US has been living an emergency since the hour Mr. Bush was elected. Thanks Kat!