Thursday, September 08, 2005


WORD OF THE DAY "Smuglican"

SMUGLICAN n. A republican exhibiting or feeling great or
offensive satisfaction with oneself or with one's situation;
self-righteously complacent: ... A smuglican uttered the words:
"Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the
people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway,
so this, this is working very well for them," Barbara Bush

After I heard the nonchalant statement by Mama Bush, I got a better understanding why sonny boy our spoiled child president, acts and thinks the way he does... Read below for a guaranteed feeling of sickness in the stomach characterized by an urge to VOMIT! Thinking Blue




The Nation -- Finally, we have discovered the roots of George W. Bush's "compassionate conservatism."On the heels of the president's "What, me worry?" response to the death, destruction and dislocation that followed upon Hurricane Katrina comes the news of his mother's Labor Day visit with hurricane evacuees at the Astrodome in Houston.

Commenting on the facilities that have been set up for the evacuees -- cots crammed side-by-side in a huge stadium where the lights never go out and the sound of sobbing children never
completely ceases -- former First Lady Barbara Bush concluded that the poor people of New Orleans had lucked out.

"Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this, this is working very well for them," Mrs. Bush told American Public Media's "Marketplace" program, before returning to her multi-million dollar Houston home.

On the tape of the interview, Mrs. Bush chuckles audibly as she observes just how great things are going for families that are separated from loved ones, people who have been forced to
abandon their homes and the only community where they have ever lived, and parents who are explaining to children that their pets, their toys and in some cases their friends may be lost
forever. Perhaps the former first lady was amusing herself with the notion that evacuees without bread could eat cake.

At the very least, she was expressing a measure of empathy commensurate with that evidenced by her son during his fly-ins for disaster-zone photo opportunities.

On Friday, when even Republican lawmakers were giving the federal government an "F" for its response to the crisis, President Bush heaped praise on embattled Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Michael Brown. As thousands of victims of the hurricane continued to plead for food, water, shelter, medical care and a way out of the nightmare to which federal neglect had consigned them, Brown cheerily announced that "people are getting the help they need."

Barbara Bush's son put his arm around the addled FEMA functionary and declared, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

Like mother, like son.

Even when a hurricane hits, the apple does not fall far from the tree.


Straight from the mouths of some hapless, out of town, victims who saw and felt the degradation first hand. ThinkingBlue

First By the Floods, Then By Martial Law

Trapped in New Orleans By LARRY BRADSHAW

Two days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, the Walgreens store at the corner of Royal and Iberville Streets in the city's historic French Quarter remained locked. The dairy display case was clearly visible through the widows. It was now 48 hours without electricity, running water, plumbing, and the milk, yogurt, and cheeses were beginning to spoil in the 90-degree heat.

The owners and managers had locked up the food, water, pampers and prescriptions, and fled the city. Outside Walgreen's' windows, residents and tourists grew increasingly thirsty and hungry. The much-promised federal, state and local aid never materialized, and the windows at Walgreens gave way to the looters. There was an alternative. The cops could have broken one small window and distributed the nuts, fruit juices and bottled water in an organized and systematic manner. But they did not. Instead, they spent hours playing cat and mouse, temporarily chasing away the looters.

We were finally airlifted out of New Orleans two days ago and arrived home on Saturday. We have yet to see any of the TV coverage or look at a newspaper. We are willing to guess that there were no video images or front-page pictures of European or affluent white tourists looting the Walgreens in the French Quarter.We also suspect the media will have been inundated with "hero" images of the National Guard, the troops and police struggling to help the "victims" of the hurricane. What you will not see, but what we witnessed, were the real heroes and sheroes of the hurricane relief effort: the working class of New Orleans.

The maintenance workers who used a forklift to carry the sick and disabled. The engineers who rigged, nurtured and kept the generators running. The electricians who improvised thick extension cords stretching over blocks to share the little electricity we had in order to free cars stuck on rooftop parking lots. Nurses who took over for mechanical ventilators and spent many hours on end manually forcing air into the lungs of unconscious patients to keep them alive. Doormen who rescued folks stuck in elevators. Refinery workers who broke into boat yards, "stealing" boats to rescue their neighbors clinging to their roofs in flood waters. Mechanics who helped hotwire any car that could be found to ferry people out of the city. And the food service workers who scoured the commercial kitchens, improvising
communal meals for hundreds of those stranded.

Most of these workers had lost their homes and had not heard from members of their families. Yet they stayed and provided the only infrastructure for the 20 percent of New Orleans that was not under water.

* * *

ON DAY Two, there were approximately 500 of us left in the hotels in the French Quarter. We were a mix of foreign tourists, conference attendees like ourselves and locals who had checked into hotels for safety and shelter from Katrina. Some of us had cell phone contact with family and friends outside of New Orleans. We were repeatedly told that all sorts of resources, including the National Guard and scores of buses, were pouring into the city. The buses and the other resources must have been invisible, because none of us had seen them.

We decided we had to save ourselves. So we pooled our money and came up with $25,000 to have ten buses come and take us out of the city. Those who didn't have the requisite $45 each were subsidized by those who did have extra money. We waited for 48 hours for the buses, spending the last 12 hours standing outside, sharing the limited water, food and clothes we had. We created a priority boarding area for the sick, elderly and newborn babies. We waited late into the night for the "imminent" arrival of the buses. The buses never arrived. We later learned that the minute they arrived at the city limits, they were commandeered by the military.

By Day Four, our hotels had run out of fuel and water. Sanitation was dangerously bad. As the desperation and despair increased, street crime as well as water levels began to rise. The hotels turned us out and locked their doors, telling us that "officials" had told us to report to the convention center to wait for more buses. As we entered the center of the city, we finally encountered the National Guard. The guard members told us we wouldn't be allowed into the Superdome, as the city's primary shelter had descended into a humanitarian and health hellhole. They further told us that the city's only other shelter--the convention center--was also descending into chaos and squalor, and that the police weren't allowing anyone else in.

Quite naturally, we asked, "If we can't go to the only two shelters in the city, what was our alternative?" The guards told us that this was our problem--and no, they didn't have extra water to give to us. This would be the start of our numerous encounters with callous and hostile "law enforcement."

* * *

WE WALKED to the police command center at Harrah's on Canal Street and were told the same thing--that we were on our own, and no, they didn't have water to give us. We now numbered several hundred. We held a mass meeting to decide a course of action. We agreed to camp outside the police command post. We would be plainly visible to the media and constitute a highly visible embarrassment to city officials. The police told us that we couldn't stay. Regardless, we began to settle in and set up camp.

In short order, the police commander came across the street to address our group. He told us he had a solution: we should walk to the Pontchartrain Expressway and cross the greater New Orleans Bridge to the south side of the Mississippi, where the police had buses lined up to take us out of the city. The crowd cheered and began to move. We called everyone back and explained to the commander that there had been lots of misinformation, so was he sure that there were buses waiting for us. The commander turned to the crowd and stated emphatically, "I swear to you that the buses are there."

We organized ourselves, and the 200 of us set off for the bridge with great excitement and hope. As we marched past the convention center, many locals saw our determined and optimistic group, and asked where we were headed. We told them about the great news. Families immediately grabbed their few belongings, and quickly, our numbers doubled and then doubled again. Babies in strollers now joined us, as did people using crutches, elderly clasping walkers and other people in wheelchairs. We marched the two to three miles to the freeway and up the steep incline to the bridge. It now began to pour down rain, but it didn't dampen our enthusiasm.

As we approached the bridge, armed sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions. As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of our conversation with the police commander and the commander's assurances. The sheriffs informed us that there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move.

We questioned why we couldn't cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the six-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans, and there would be no Superdomes in their city. These were code words for: if you are poor and Black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River, and you are not getting out of New Orleans.

* * *

OUR SMALL group retreated back down Highway 90 to seek shelter from the rain under an overpass. We debated our options and, in the end, decided to build an encampment in the middle of the Pontchartrain Expressway--on the center divide, between the O'Keefe and Tchoupitoulas exits. We reasoned that we would be visible to everyone, we would have some security being on an elevated freeway, and we could wait and watch for the arrival of the yet-to-be-seen buses.

All day long, we saw other families, individuals and groups make the same trip up the incline in an attempt to cross the bridge, only to be turned away--some chased away with gunfire, others simply told no, others verbally berated and humiliated. Thousands of New Orleaners were prevented and prohibited from self-evacuating the city on foot. Meanwhile, the only two city shelters sank further into squalor and disrepair. The only way across the bridge was by vehicle. We saw workers stealing trucks, buses, moving vans, semi-trucks and any car that could be hotwired. All were packed with people trying to escape the misery that New Orleans had become.

Our little encampment began to blossom. Someone stole a water delivery truck and brought it up to us. Let's hear it for looting! A mile or so down the freeway, an Army truck lost a couple of pallets of C-rations on a tight turn. We ferried the food back to our camp in shopping carts. Now--secure with these two necessities, food and water--cooperation, community and creativity flowered. We organized a clean-up and hung garbage bags from the rebar poles. We made beds from wood pallets and cardboard. We designated a storm drain as the bathroom, and the kids built an elaborate enclosure for privacy out of plastic, broken umbrellas and other scraps. We even organized a food-recycling system where individuals could swap out parts of C-rations (applesauce for babies and candies for kids!).

This was something we saw repeatedly in the aftermath of Katrina. when individuals had to fight to find food or water, it meant looking out for yourself. You had to do whatever it took to find water for your kids or food for your parents. But when these basic needs were met, people began to look out for each other, working together and constructing a community. If the relief organizations had saturated the city with food and water in the first two or three days, the desperation, frustration and ugliness would not have set in.

Flush with the necessities, we offered food and water to passing families and individuals. Many decided to stay and join us. Our encampment grew to 80 or 90 people. From a woman with a battery-powered radio, we learned that the media was talking about us. Up in full view on the freeway, every relief and news organizations saw us on their way into the city. Officials were being asked what they were going to do about all those families living up on the freeway. The officials responded that they were going to take care of us. Some of us got a sinking feeling. "Taking care of us" had an ominous tone to it.

Unfortunately, our sinking feeling (along with the sinking city) was accurate. Just as dusk set in, a sheriff showed up, jumped out of his patrol vehicle, aimed his gun at our faces and screamed, "Get off the fucking freeway." A helicopter arrived and used the wind from its blades to blow away our flimsy structures. As we retreated, the sheriff loaded up his truck with our food and water. Once again, at gunpoint, we were forced off the freeway. All the law enforcement agencies appeared threatened when we congregated into groups of 20 or more. In every congregation of "victims," they saw "mob" or "riot." We felt safety in numbers. Our "we must stay together" attitude was impossible because the agencies would force us into small atomized groups.

In the pandemonium of having our camp raided and destroyed, we scattered once again. Reduced to a small group of eight people, in the dark, we sought refuge in an abandoned school bus, under the freeway on Cilo Street. We were hiding from possible criminal elements, but equally and definitely, we were hiding from the police and sheriffs with their martial law, curfew and shoot-to-kill policies. The next day, our group of eight walked most of the day, made contact with the New Orleans Fire Department and were eventually airlifted out by an urban search-and-rescue team.

We were dropped off near the airport and managed to catch a ride with the National Guard. The two young guardsmen apologized for the limited response of the Louisiana guards. They explained that a large section of their unit was in Iraq and that meant they were shorthanded and were unable to complete all the tasks they were assigned.

* * *

WE ARRIVED at the airport on the day a massive airlift had begun. The airport had become another Superdome. We eight were caught in a press of humanity as flights were delayed for several hours while George Bush landed briefly at the airport for a photo op. After being evacuated on a Coast Guard cargo plane, we arrived in San Antonio, Texas. There, the humiliation and dehumanization of the official relief effort continued. We were placed on buses and driven to a large field where we were forced to sit for hours and hours. Some of the buses didn't have air conditioners. In the dark, hundreds of us were forced to share two filthy overflowing porta-potties. Those who managed to make it out with any possessions (often a few belongings in tattered plastic bags) were subjected to two different dog-sniffing searches.

Most of us had not eaten all day because our C-rations had been confiscated at the airport--because the rations set off the metal detectors. Yet no food had been provided to the men,women, children, elderly and disabled, as we sat for hours waiting to be "medically screened" to make sure we weren't carrying any communicable diseases.This official treatment was in sharp contrast to the warm, heartfelt reception given to us by ordinary Texans. We saw one airline worker give her shoes to someone who was barefoot. Strangers on the street offered us money and toiletries with words of welcome.

Throughout, the official relief effort was callous, inept and racist. There was more suffering than need be. Lives were lost that did not need to be lost.

and LORRIE BETH SLONSKY are emergency medical services (EMS) workers from San Francisco and contributors to
Socialist Worker. They were attending an EMS conference in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina struck. They spent most of the next week trapped by the flooding--and the martial law cordon around the city.


News, rage, needs in New Orleans blogs

'Nice safe attic turned into storm central' By LOUIS B. PARKS
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

"There were times the place was shaking like I was riding a train. My nice safe attic turned into storm central. The big window blew out right when the winds and storming was the worst. I ended up getting cut up something nasty on my hands and face as I tried to board it back over." — Bobbysan at on Monday.

"Send in troops to kill dead ender criminals. armed gangs roaming streets. Massive looting uptown, st charles, garden district." — TAG at, Wednesday morning. "I am looking for Fay Dautenhan of Slidell. she did not evacuate with her husband. Any infor please email me at" — One of many postings at looking for people from devastated Slidell, La.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, many survivors and their families are turning to blogs. They're turning out countless pages — mostly in short, choppy sentences — of news, thoughts, need and rage, along with frightening eyewitness accounts to the growing nightmare around them.

"They want to tell their story and they're also so desperate," said Patricia Averill, a clinical psychologist with the University of Texas-Harris County Psychiatric Center. "This is a way to seek help out there and interact with others going through the problem. It's the way to do it now. (It's) information, connection, a sense that you are not alone out there.

"I have a friend from New Orleans, she's in Houston now, I used the Internet and found out from a friend that her house is still standing," Averill said.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune, which was forced out of New Orleans, is now an online newspaper headquartered in an emergency office in Baton Rouge, La. In addition to staff reports, is filled with sometimes desperate, other times heartbreaking postings from survivors and people seeking information:

•Superdome Survival: This story is not about me but 15 members of my family who now call the Superdome home. ... My sister said they did not eat Tuesday because all their rations and food supply had run out. ... They fear for their well being and safety of
themselves and the children in their care.

•MISSING! HELP! My brother Malcolm M. Keller, Sr., Fernley Drive, N.O. East, Lake Bullard (wife, Johnnie, her mother Mrs. Givens, Peniston St., Uptown) HAVEN'T HEARD FROM THEM SINCE SUNDAY.

•Second homes for free: I am looking for victims of hurricane Katrina to use my second home free of charge. (family of four to six) Looking for others to do the same. The home is on the Jersey shore.

•My Daughter: She is stranded at 344 Saint Joseph Street, Apt. 336, N.O. Her name is Tricia Mercaldi. She is with her boy friend Todd Sousa. How will she be evacuated? ...
Who can I contact to let them know she is there? Other blogs expressed frustration.

New Orleans resident Chris Martel at on Wednesday argued that Mayor Ray Nagin's flood estimates were wrong. The night before he raged against TV stations that were continuing to broadcast shows such as Big Brother and Tommy Lee Goes to College while New Orleans slowly went under.

"These are the same networks that were airing commercial free tsunami coverage for days during that tragedy. What the (expletive deleted)?!?!"

Wednesday, September 7, 2005
Houston Update (Revised)
We worked at the Astrodome from 2 to 11 tonight, and we're getting up at 7 tomorrow morning for the Red Cross training. I've no time to write a proper post because I'm beat, but here's a brief something (a lagniappe!) about the day:The Red Cross is now marking volunteers with colored wristbands too, so the stigmatization thing is over;We didn't have nametags and neither do any of the clients (the Red Cross term for the evacuees), which frustrated the hell out of me more than once. Seems they've run out of them so tomorrow we're going to bring our own; I spent some of the day supervising (which in non-profit means doing most of it yourself!) the sanitization of hundreds of cots. I became the "cot lady" and was called upon to find working cots for clients and rid the floor of broken ones.
There are two kinds of cots: basic curved leg models that remind me of those we used in the Girl Scouts, and another with scissor legs and extra parts which sit higher but break easier, leaving dozens of them scattered around the outskirts of the dome, their legs bent and twisted;Some Red Cross volunteers have vests marked "Red Cross" on them. They are the ones we ask questions of, but many of them are unsupervised too and not so sure of what to do either. More than once we received contradictory directions from two vested volunteers. They were exhausted, spent, as many had been at the park for 20+ hours with minimal sleep, and on this schedule since last Wednesday; We were sent to the dome under 'General Task,' a joy to both of us because it meant we ended up doing all sorts of things, not just one.
The cots were earlier in the day -- a survey of the state of cots on the floor; the preparation and sanitation of used cots for clients who were going to move down to the floor from the 4th tier; the placement of said cots in the empty spots around the floor and always the actual minister to clients who needed help;
The whole "Reliant Park" is swarming with evacuees, volunteers, law enforcement officers, and families searching for their loved ones in the three shelters there. It is unbelievable and it is being run exclusively by the Red Cross and the city of Houston. It is organized chaos, but the good will of everyone involved makes the entire enterprise not just tolerable but actually joyful.
There is finally a FEMA office on the 4th floor of the dome. The room is marked with hand-painted signs: "FEMA Now Serving." We commented that they were now serving a fresh pile of crap;Celebrities and "ministers" (the term is very loose) don't seem to have to go through the orientation or even have wristbands. Steve Gutenberg (remember him?) sanitized a couple of cots with us then took a picture and left, just as the "Scientology Volunteer Ministers" in their yellow shirts with Christian-like crosses on the back stood around and manned the water station, apparently frightened to actually talk -- to minister -- to the people living at the dome. They never left that station.
One of these "ministers" was on the plane with me. He wore green fatigue pants and army boots along with that silly yellow shirt. I guess there aren't too many scientologists on the floor of the dome, but then there can always be a couple of evacuees open to the suggestion, right?;
Harry Connick, Jr. and Branford Marsalis came by tonight and played for the crowd. Half way through their set I found myself carrying an 8 year old to the medical triage station, her grandfather unable to carrry her all the way. She was shaking and shivering, struck with fever and shock, and I held her until they could find her mother and take her to the emergency room.
By the last song, "When the Saints Come Marching In," I was seated at the shot station getting my tetanus booster, something I hadn't done since 1994;We washed our hands and washed our hands again, sprinkled them with anti-bacterial rub and wore rubber gloves most of the day.
Dysentery is spreading throughout the dome, as is a rash that one nurse postulated was scabies. Those with diarrhea and vomiting are being quarantined at the Reliant Arena, one of three large structures being used for the care of Katrina victims; Lights shine down on the evacuees making the dome feel like the floor of a Vegas casino where there is no night, there is no day, there is only the same light hour after hour. It was only our brief glimpses outside the entries that let us know time was passing. The lights were to be dimmed around 11:30 or so, giving the clients some opportunity to rest, however difficult that is when you are sharing your room with 15,000 other people;
By night's end we were helping Winston, a diabetic who is blind and immobile and who had lost touch with his brother Ernest who was also medically needy. We think Ernest was sent to a local hospital but we don't know because still there is no tracking system, no way to make sure families stay together.
It is the most tragic thing at the park: families in search of each other, a brother missing here, a mother missing there. We escorted an evacuee family (two parents, five kids) around the dome to sneak them in so they could search for their relatives. I talked to a man who had come for his 18 year old daughter, but when he found her she refused to leave. She was having too much fun living with her friends at the dome, and though her father had money and an apartment in Houston (temporary, of course), she wouldn't go with him. He lamented that she was 18 so he couldn't force her and we talked about how much you think you know when you're her age, though in fact you know nothing;
Evacuees were also volunteers. Two medical professionals were in our orientation session and two children, a brother and sister around 8 and 14, helped me sanitize cots for about four hours. They were the most reliable volunteers working with me -- they didn't leave spontaneously (many did), they didn't do what they wanted to do (we had problems of redundancy as some decided to do what we'd already done all over again, since they didn't ask anyone first). They clung to my hips throughout the afternoon;
Every person I talked to had a friend or relative in Chicago. One man was born in Chicago but raised in New Orleans. Our cities are connected by water and held together by relations. I feel a kinship with every one of them.There is more, of course. But now it is 1 in the morning and I must go to bed. What will tomorrow bring?

CAROLYNCONNETION - I've got a mind and I'm going to use


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