George W. Bush, after the suggestion from Nancy Pelosi that Michael Brown ought to be fired due to the incompetent intitial FEMA response to Hurricane Katrina
Barbara Bush, the mother of the current president, after touring the Astrodome and meeting some of the evacuees from New Orleans:
What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them.
As my friend Nathanael remarked, this is not all that far from "Let them eat cake." It's always good to be reminded where George W. Bush's lack of empathy, cluelessness about the real world, and lack of any sense of his great personal privilege came from.
I never hated Bush's father, the former President, when he was in office. Oh, I disagreed with many of his policies, sometimes vigorously so, and I thought he (like his son) took too many vacations, but I was also aware that GHWB had a solid record of things he had achieved on his own, without relying overly much on his powerful father. Because of that, he arrived in the Presidency with a sense that he was there to serve the people. (My objection was that he didn't have much of an idea of what the people needed, or even what he himself wanted to accomplish in office. His was very much a caretaker government, connected to and continuing the Reagan Revolution, without actually being strongly committed to it.)
Whatever his faults, Bush, as former head of the CIA and Ambassador to China, among other posts, had built up a pretty good understanding of the way the world works. I thought, for instance, that the way he painstakingly built international support for the First Gulf War and then assembled a broad multi-national coalition of forces to fight it was one of the most deft acts of diplomatic achievement in my adult lifetime. There are a lot of things about Bush Senior's time in office that can be questioned, but his participation in "reality-based" thinking was not one of them.
Sadly, the same thing cannot be said for his son, who has had everything handed to him on a silver platter, and who, as a result, really has no sense whatever of what the world is like for 98% of the people who live in it -- and has never shown any interest in learning. It's perilous to blame an adult's behavior and personality on his or her parents (since children often go their own way, and siblings can often be quite dissimilar in outlook), but in Bush's case it's been increasingly clear to me that he's much more like his mother than he is his father -- and that's really a shame, as Barbara Bush's remarks remind us once again.
Barbara Bush had raised eyebrows two days before U.S. troops invaded Iraq, when she told ABC television that she was not interested in media commentators' concerns about the war's potential human toll.
"Why should we hear about body bags, and deaths, and how many, what day it's gonna happen, and how many this or what do you suppose?" she said. "It's not relevant. So, why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?"
That people wll die is a given in any war, which is why undertaking one should be a momentous and difficult step for anyone to take, but death is never irrelevant in a war. That concern about war dead doesn't enter her "beautiful" mind, I certainly believe, and I suspect it spends as little time in the minds of her son and his advisors as well -- except as something to be hidden from the American people.
On a sultry morning earlier this week, Ashton O'Dwyer stepped out of his home on this city's grandest street and made a beeline for his neighbor's pool. Wearing nothing but a pair of blue swim trunks and carrying two milk jugs, he drew enough pool water to flush the toilet in his home.
The mostly African-American neighborhoods of New Orleans are largely underwater, and the people who lived there have scattered across the country. But in many of the predominantly white and more affluent areas, streets are dry and passable. Gracious homes are mostly intact and powered by generators. Wednesday, officials reiterated that all residents must leave New Orleans, but it's still unclear how far they will go to enforce the order.
The green expanse of Audubon Park, in the city's Uptown area, has doubled in recent days as a heliport for the city's rich -- and a terminus for the small armies of private security guards who have been dispatched to keep the homes there safe and habitable. Mr. O'Dwyer has cellphone service and ice cubes to cool off his highballs in the evening. By Wednesday, the city water service even sprang to life, making the daily trips to his neighbor's pool unnecessary. A pair of oil-company engineers, dispatched by his son-in-law, delivered four cases of water, a box of delicacies including herring with mustard sauce and 15 gallons of generator gasoline.
Despite the disaster that has overwhelmed New Orleans, the city's monied, mostly white elite is hanging on and maneuvering to play a role in the recovery when the floodwaters of Katrina are gone. "New Orleans is ready to be rebuilt. Let's start right here," says Mr. O'Dwyer, standing in his expansive kitchen, next to a counter covered with a jumble of weaponry and electric wires.
The power elite of New Orleans -- whether they are still in the city or have moved temporarily to enclaves such as Destin, Fla., and Vail, Colo. -- insist the remade city won't simply restore the old order. New Orleans before the flood was burdened by a teeming underclass, substandard schools and a high crime rate. The city has few corporate headquarters.
The new city must be something very different, Mr. Reiss says, with better services and fewer poor people. "Those who want to see this city rebuilt want to see it done in a completely different way: demographically, geographically and politically," he says. "I'm not just speaking for myself here. The way we've been living is not going to happen again, or we're out."
[Thanks to Peggy]
Unfortunately, when he says that there will be "fewer poor people," I don't think that he means that a radical readjustment of the social system will gradually bring the underclass into the mainstream of American society. I think, rather, that poor people just won't be allowed in. If these people get their way, look for New Orleans to be something like a cross between an urban festival marketplace and a gated community, which, of course, won't really be New Orleans at all.
Maybe it's too soon to think about the future, with the shocking images of so many of our fellow citizens' suffering so fresh.
Clearly, it's way too soon to put aside the sadness we all feel over our hometown's devastation, the rage over the emergency response bureaucracy that sputtered for days while storm victims went without food, water and shelter.
Yet it's worth trying to focus on what's to come, because out of the ruins, there's reason for hope. The new New Orleans area will be different, sure, and depleted in countless ways -- but restored and perhaps even improved in others.
This much we know: Our problems have now, belatedly, gotten the undivided attention of the federal government. As U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon put it, President Bush's photo-op flyover morphed into a reality check; he and all those other federal officials who've been so cavalier about protecting the coastal buffer zone and investing in flood control finally get it, and are ready to open their wallets.
Maybe the feds' promised largesse comes from guilt over their disastrous initial response. Maybe it's simple political cover. Some will surely call it blood money.
Doesn't matter. We'll take it.
"A tragic opportunity," is how U.S. Sen. David Vitter described it. "This is our chance to get it in one lump sum."
So what's the "it"? Let's start with the obvious: Money to build new levees, repair the ones that breached and raise those that survived. Then there's the coastal restoration funding that Vitter, his Senate colleague Mary Landrieu and other Louisiana politicians have been seeking for years. There's the cash to replace the decimated I-10 twin spans and reconnect New Orleans to points east.
And there's more. The flooded-out areas include wealthy neighborhoods that will be rebuilt with insurance, but they also encompass poorer regions that were full of dilapidated houses and schools. This is the government's chance to make sure families that return live in decent surroundings, that kids learn in clean, modern buildings that actually have air conditioning and functional bathrooms. That ruined neighborhoods are filled in, so people can rebuild on higher, safer ground.
By the time it gets rolling, we could be looking at the something akin to the Works Progress Administration, the massive depression-era public works project, all over again.[Emphasis added - Ed]
Her suggestion that neighborhoods be filled in to create higher ground is an interesting one, reminiscent of this:
On June 6, 1889, most of Seattle's central business district burned to the ground in the Great Seattle Fire.
It was decided to rebuild the city one to two stories higher than the original street grade, as Pioneer Square had been built mostly on filled-in tidelands and often flooded ... The new street level also assisted in ensuring that gravity-assisted flush toilets didn't back up during high tide in Elliott Bay. ... Several city blocks in the downtown region were enclosed with brick and timber barracades and the pavements between were raised. This left sidewalks and some storefronts as much as 36 feet below street level.
[Update (9/13): I've also been reminded that in the wake of the disastrous Hurricane of 1900, Galveston, Texas, which sits on a barrier island, the highest natural elevation of which was 8 feet, raised the level of the city by 13 feet.]
[P]erhaps there is a sense in which this disaster, like others, does represent a human moral failing — that of hubris. Our conceit in insisting on living on lowlying hurricane-ridden coasts, in wildfire and mudslide zones, on earthquake fault lines, on flood plains, at the mercy of increasingly vigorous weather caused by manmade precipitants of climate change, is a moral decision, and should be made deliberately, recognizing that it relies on our dubious interminable belief that we can live at odds with nature and can vanquish natural forces no matter what their fury. Increasingly, that 'war with nature' requires the protection of massive public expenditure and institutional support to be sustainable. People need to wake up to realize that, in voting as they did in the last two presidential elections for an administration that inherently believes government should have no role in protecting its citizens against larger forces, they have voted against the safety they need to continue to inhabit dubious environmental niches.
I've often had thoughts like this, but I do wonder how much land would be available to live on once all the danger zones (and agricultural land, for that matter) were eliminated from consideration.
Not actually evil, but bad tempered, bureaucratic, officious and callous. They wouldn't even lift a finger to save their own grandmothers ... without orders signed in triplicate, sent in, sent back, queried, lost, found, subjected to public enquiry, lost again, and finally buried in soft peat for three months and recycled as firelighters.
(Fri 12:30am): Spunky Ricky Santorum shows his true colors once again.
(Probably he's just trying to avoid that darn slippery slope -- you know, first you start showing your feelings of good will for your fellow man, and the next thing you know you're dressed in furs and spiked heels and going mano-a-cano with Fido.)
(2:30am): Last Tuesday night, I referred to Bush as a "Potemkin President." It's not a thought that's new with me, but it must have been on a lot of people's minds on watching Bush's reactions to Katrina, because a few days later Billmon, one of the best bloggers on the web, posted this, followed by this later on. Well worth reading (as is almost always the case with Billmon).
hostile to science
lacking in empathy
lacking in public spirit
out of control
Thanks to: Breeze, Chuck, Ivan Raikov, Kaiju, Kathy, Roger, Shirley, S.M. Dixon
i've got a little list...
Steven Abrams (Kansas BofE)
Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson
Roger Ailes (FNC)
Alan Bonsell (Dover BofE)
Bill Buckingham (Dover BofE)
George W. Bush
Bruce Chapman (DI)
The Coors Family
William A. Dembski
Leonard Downie (WaPo)
John Gibson (FNC)
Fred Hiatt (WaPo)
James F. Inhofe
Philip E. Johnson
by Joel Pelletier
(click on image for more info)
Stephen C. Meyer (DI)
Judith Miller (ex-NYT)
Sun Myung Moon
Elspeth Reeve (TNR)
Martin Peretz (TNR)
Richard Mellon Scaife
Susan Schmidt (WaPo)
John Solomon (WaPo)
Richard Thompson (TMLC)
Bob Woodward (WaPo)
All the fine sites I've
Be sure to visit them all!!
Arthur C. Clarke
Daniel C. Dennett
Philip K. Dick
Stephen Jay Gould
"The Harder They Come"
Ursula K. LeGuin
The Marx Brothers
Michael C. Penta
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
"The Red Shoes"
"Singin' in the Rain"
Talking Heads/David Byrne
Hunter S. Thompson
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
If you read unfutz at least once a week, without fail, your teeth will be whiter and your love life more satisfying.
If you read it daily, I will come to your house, kiss you on the forehead, bathe your feet, and cook pancakes for you, with yummy syrup and everything.
(You might want to keep a watch on me, though, just to avoid the syrup ending up on your feet and the pancakes on your forehead.)
Finally, on a more mundane level, since I don't believe that anyone actually reads this stuff, I make this offer: I'll give five bucks to the first person who contacts me and asks for it -- and, believe me, right now five bucks might as well be five hundred, so this is no trivial offer.