Starving The Beast In The Kingdom Of Fear  

Posted by Big Gav

(Attention conservation notice - almost no peak oil news in here - just appalled commentary on the aftermath of the Hurricane)

This morning's serious weekly TV news show here labelled the US a "Banana Republic" (my continuous "What The Fuck !" response to news from New orleans has been amplified by the fact that the TV networks and real newspapers here are commenting on events in almost the same way I would - with phrases like "criminal negligence", "incompetence" and "racism" being bandied about). "Banana Police State" is probably a more appropriate tag line though and I'm unsurprised to see some of the commentary out on the fringes referring to subtle ethnic cleansing and comparing downtown New Orleans to the Warsaw Ghetto.

I'd didn't think my contempt for George Bush could get any greater but watching him spout off about "zero tolerance" for looters - even those stealing food and water to avoid dying of starvation or dehydration (although people stealing TVs and the like could do with a good beating in my opinion) - managed to do it. Reports about Condi Rice going shoe shopping in New York for $5000 shoes and having security throw out people who asked her why she isn't doing her job don't help much matters much. And while I'm talking about Republican bigwigs, is it just me or does Michael Chertoff resemble both a vampire and a caricature of a secret police chief ? Seeing him standing in news conferences looking smug while his "Homeland Security" department totally fails to do its job just seems wrong - wouldn't he be resigning in ignominy in a decent country ?

There was quite a bit of unfavourable comment about US refusal to allow Australian rescue teams in to collect our citizens (even Alexander Downer failed to come up with a decent excuse on their behalf) - apparently much the same reaction is occuring in Canada and the UK. Once again the job is being done by Australan media groups, with a different TV station today bussing out a group of tourists from the Superdome past the road blocks, and again showing a large fleet of empty buses sitting on a highway outside the city and going nowhere. If TV crews can get buses into town and pick up people why can't disaster response groups ? (my memory is a bit hazy but I vaguely recall the tourists complaining of being locked in and basically having to be smuggled out)

This video of Geraldo at the Superdome complaining about the inmates not being allowed to leave seems to back up this story - why aren't they allowed to just start walking up the highway out of town ?

Digby says Republican talking points are based around "blame the victim", along with an inexplicable tale of a local contractor performing repairs on a canal that the army corps of engineers said they couldn't get to.

For three days, Corps officials had lamented the difficulty of gaining access to the canal, but yesterday a local contractor, Boh Bros. Construction Co., apparently drove to the mouth of the canal and started placing a set of steel sheet pilings to isolate the canal from the lake. This job was finished yesterday afternoon.

What's the deal? Aren't engineers usually pretty good at figuring out how to get into inaccessible places?

I wonder if maybe they were actually all askeered of the roving thugs that seem to have been reported everywhere, but rarely seen? A number of reports in today's newspapers are much more skeptical of the criminal anarchy that was reported all day yesterday. It was more than a little bit odd that the news crews that had access all over the city weren't able to get any pictures of these roving gangs of beasts that were said to be stalking everyone.

Digby also has an interesting story about Fox News reporters not playing the "Be afraid" game, to the chagrin of O'Reilly and Hannity, who were keen to do some demonising of roving gangs of heavily armed black looters and rapists. Probably a career limiting move for a reporter when you're working for a brownshirt propaganda network, but its good to see some people there have integrity (Slate also has a column on other media people start to lose their cool when confronted with the reality of the situation rather than some neo-con fantasy bullshit).
Bill O'Reilly is trying with all his might to make this story about "thugs" and bad Democrats but both Fox news reporters on the ground are having none of it. Shepard Smith and Steve Harrigan are both insisting that the story is about people dying and starving on the streets of New Orleans. Smith is particularly upset that the mayor sent buses to the Hyatt today and took tourists over to the Superdome and let them off at the front of the line.

O'Reilly says "you sound so bitter" and said they need a strong leader like Rudy Giuliani. Smith replies that what they needed "on the first day was food and water and what they needed on the second day was food and water and what they needed on the third day was food and water."

O'Reilly is practically rolling his eyes with impatience at Smith's pussified outrage about the plight of a bunch of losers who were asking for it. He really, really wants to talk about scary black boogeymen and steppin-fetchit politicans. It doesn't work out. He looks relieved to move over to the Natalee Holloway story.

Pardon me, but if you've had a major city wiped out why is a 3 month old story about a missing tourist still news ?

A final horror story from Digby involves relief flights being suspended while Bush visited the southern states for a PR stunt, which seemed to involve hugging some mortified looking refugees a long way away from New Orleans itself.

The tales of bands of lawless looters also seemed to be belied in this morning's news reports, with most of the footage showing helpless people cooking in the sun and wondering when they were going to be evacuated or delivered food and water. Again, this seems to be in stark contrast to this "Army Times" article that talks about New Orleans being like Somalia and full of "insurgents". Since when are starving refugees in your own country insurgents ?
NEW ORLEANS — Combat operations are underway on the streets “to take this city back” in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

“This place is going to look like Little Somalia,” Brig. Gen. Gary Jones, commander of the Louisiana National Guard’s Joint Task Force told Army Times Friday as hundreds of armed troops under his charge prepared to launch a massive citywide security mission from a staging area outside the Louisiana Superdome. “We’re going to go out and take this city back. This will be a combat operation to get this city under control.”

Jones said the military first needs to establish security throughout the city. Military and police officials have said there are several large areas of the city are in a full state of anarchy.

Dozens of military trucks and up-armored Humvees left the staging area just after 11 a.m. Friday, while hundreds more troops arrived at the same staging area in the city via Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters.

“We’re here to do whatever they need us to do,” Sgt. 1st Class Ron Dixon, of the Oklahoma National Guard’s 1345th Transportation Company. “We packed to stay as long as it takes.”

While some fight the insurgency in the city, other carry on with rescue and evacuation operations.

Seems alarmingly reminiscent of a Naomi Klein article a few years ago about the government bringing the "War On Terror" back to the US.

In other commentary on the Hurricane aftermath: Paul Roberts is calling for Bush to be impeached. The Red Cross is being refused access to New orleans by the National Guard and Homeland Security. Past Peak has some "WTF ?" questions of his own - in particular why people are still left in the Superdome and Convention Centre. Michael Parenti has a marxist take on it saying that "the free market killed New orleans" (I think he, along with a lot of Republicans, misunderstands the value of free markets and where they should and should not be applied, but his criticisms are nice and direct - if poor, communist Cuba can manage hurricane evacuations properly why can't the US).
It is a beautiful thing this free market in which every individual pursues his or her own personal interests and thereby effects an optimal outcome for the entire society. This is the way the invisible hand works its wonders.

There would be none of the collectivistic regimented evacuation as occurred in Cuba. When an especially powerful hurricane hit that island last year, the Castro government, abetted by neighborhood citizen committees and local Communist party cadres, evacuated 1.3 million people, more than 10 percent of the country's population, with not a single life lost, a heartening feat that went largely unmentioned in the U.S. press.

On Day One of the disaster caused by Hurricane Katrina, it was already clear that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of American lives had been lost in New Orleans. Many people had "refused" to evacuate, media reporters explained, because they were just plain "stubborn."

It was not until Day Three that the relatively affluent telecasters began to realize that tens of thousands of people had failed to flee because they had nowhere to go and no means of getting there. With hardly any cash at hand or no motor vehicle to call their own, they had to sit tight and hope for the best. In the end, the free market did not work so well for them.

Steve at Deconsumption has a number of good posts up, including this one with a quote from Ran Prieur along with a more alarming one about "Area Denial".
"People are calling this "anarchy." I call it reality, a painful transition back to a world where people are intelligent and adaptable and empathic and take care of each other, instead of putting their trust in "whoever is in charge." The dying people of New Orleans are being told they're "on their own." If only they'd been told that years ago, they would have had a chance to get ready. The rest of us still have that chance. The President is not going to help you. Congress is not going to "do something." Your imaginary sky father deity is not going to intervene. Only your equals will help you, and you will help them. There's nobody here but us chickens."

Billmon has a few posts of his usual quality up, including one comparing this flood to one in 1927 and an even better one comparing the disaster response to hurricane damage in Florida last year to the response to hurricane damage in Louisiana this year - hint: last year was an election year.

On a technical note for the peak oil bloggers, I noticed this in the logs today - going through each of the links on FTD. Apparently USAAISC is "United States Army Information Systems Command ". Bit spooky, though on a purely technical front I'd love to see what they are doing with the data. In the pre-internet world I worked on some systems that gathered and collated electronic intelligence and I'm sure you can do some pretty impressive things these days. Lets just hope they are curious about peak oil...
Domain Name army.mil ? (Military)
IP Address 143.81.248.# (Headquarters, USAAISC)
ISP Headquarters, USAAISC
Location
Continent North America
Country United States (Facts)
State Arizona
City Fort Huachuca
Lat/Long 31.5591, -110.3187 (Map)

I'll return to energy focused news from tomorrow - most of the sites I've linked to here will no doubt continue commenting on progress in the GOM.

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