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« More Stupid Excuses from the FDA The RantsNewdow Marches On »

Catching Up: On Katrina, William, John, John and Jon
2005.09.14 (Wed) 21:35

...and we're back. Most of the general craziness we've been dealing with lately has begun to subside, and we should be back to Ranting (as opposed to just barely keeping up with comments on our existing Rants). In all likelihood, we may start slowly, but we should be back up to speed within a few weeks. Of course, before we dive back in, we'll need to to actually figure out what's been going on in the world. For example, was it Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan who was seen wearing an awful blue dress last week? It's amazing what important details you miss when you aren't watching the news networks religiously.

Anyway, by way of catching up, we wanted to mention a few stories from the past week or so that caught our attention, but which we didn't get a chance to write about.

The big news lately has been Hurricane Katrina and the devastation it caused in the gulf region. Truly this is a terrible disaster, and if you are able, we recommend donations of time or money by way of a reputable organization such as the Red Cross. We won't get into the debate about which particular arm of the government is most to blame for how bad this disaster has been (and is still being) managed. Suffice it to say that the preparation and response by the government were awful, and Bush (among others) is suffering a well-deserved black eye over the debacle.

One thing that we want to mention is the incredible balls that some government officials displayed by claiming ignorance of well-established facts. Les Jenkins published a list of stupid Katrina quotes over on his site, and a few of them are worth special mention.

On ABC, on September 1st, then FEMA director Michael Brown said:

We just learned of the convention center — we being the federal government — today.

To which Ted Koppel responded:

Don't you guys watch television? Don't you guys listen to the radio? Our reporters have been reporting on it for more than just today.

Right on, Ted! Television, radio, newspapers, bloggers — in every form of mass media, folks have been informed of the entire Katrina debacle at every step along the way. And Brown is claiming the federal government was completely unaware of information concerning the vital safety of an entire region of our nation? This dials up two possibilities.

One: Brown is telling the truth. In this case, we should all be very, very frightened. This would mean we have quite possibly the most incompetent administration of all time currently running our country (into the ground).

Two: Brown is lying. In this case, too, we should all be very, very frightened. You see, if he's lying, then our government is not only corrupt, but callous and cruel. There is no question that this disaster could have been prepared for and confronted carefully, rationally, and expertly; so the government was able to do it. If they were able, and aware, and still did nothing — that's an exceptionally frightening (though by no means surprising) prospect. One more time, black and white, for the cheap seats: the government of our nation doesn't give a shit about the citizens of our nation...unless, of course, they're extremely rich and powerful.

From the Bush Boy himself, on Good Morning America, September 1st — six days after repeated warnings from experts regarding the predicted scope of the damage from Hurricane Katrina — we have the following lovely daydream:

I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees.

We've spent some time in Louisiana, and specifically New Orleans. Our own Two-Percenter Tom lived in New Orleans for about a year back in the late-nineties. Noting the fact that water envelopes the city on all sides, and examining the old and relatively small levees that hold back that water, Tom once asked a New Orleans native what would happen in the event of a big storm. The resident shrugged and said: "I guess we'll all be under water." To reiterate: everyone knew that this day would come; it wasn't a question of if, it was a question of when. The federal government's lackadaisical response speaks to their incompetence at best; or, more likely, to their disregard for the people whose lives are directly impacted by Katrina.

But hey, why didn't those folks just get out of there when the storm was on its way? As Michael "Brownie" Brown calls them on CNN (also September 1st):

...those who are stranded, who chose not to evacuate, who chose not to leave the city...
[our emphasis]

Hey, ASSHOLE. (We only wish doubling our font size for that one word wouldn't ruin our streamlined site design.) There was no choice involved. You know all those school buses that ended up in the middle of a lake? Those were the only means that most of Katrina's victims HAD to evacuate. Yes, those buses which never moved, which were never deployed to help people who had no resources or capacity to help themselves. Part of our government's responsibility is to aid our nation, our people, in desperate times. This certainly qualified, and our government certainly fell short of meeting that obligation.

Some have cried racism in reaction to the government's show of dispassion, since so many of the people who lost so much happened to be black. While we certainly do think that Bush and his cronies are racist assholes (with, perhaps, the exception of Condi "Uncle Tom" Rice), we believe the true nature of their prejudice in this case is classist, rather than racist. These weren't just black people...they were poor people of all creeds and colors. And the rich folks hit by Katrina...?

"Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house — he's lost his entire house — there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch."

— President George W. Bush, touring hurricane damage, Mobile, AL, September 2, 2005

Like Trent Lott, they get to sit on their newly rebuilt porches sipping mint juleps with Dubya.

One positive thing that came of this terrible tragedy — the mainstream media seems to have finally found its fucking spine. In addition to Ted Koppel challenging Mike Brown (above), CNN's Anderson Cooper reacted vehemently to Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), who oozed enthusiasm as she recounted the government's steps to "fix" the problems brought on by Hurricane Katrina. Said Cooper:

...for the last four days, I've been seeing dead bodies in the streets here in Mississippi. And to listen to politicians thanking each other and complimenting each other, you know, I got to tell you, there are a lot of people here who are very upset, and very angry, and very frustrated. And when they hear politicians slap — you know, thanking one another, it just, you know, it kind of cuts them the wrong way right now, because literally there was a body on the streets of this town yesterday being eaten by rats because this woman had been laying in the street for 48 hours. And there's not enough facilities to take her up. Do you get the anger that is out here?

We hope and wish that this sort of talk is a sign of things to come. Maybe the mainstream media will come to realize that "fair and balanced" doesn't mean "oblivious and impartial." Hey, if you ignore the government's shortcomings in response to, for example, Hurricane Katrina, then you're hardly being "fair" to the thousands killed or displaced by the event, are you? We'll cross our fingers, and keep watching.

In other news, Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist passed away. We'll pause for a moment before getting on to the rest of the story. Did we like Rehnquist? Well, we sure didn't like many of his decisions. Hell, just look at the opinions that he signed his name to in the recent Ten Commandments cases and you'll understand why we'd say that — he apparently didn't view the rights of atheists as equal to those of the religiosos. So no, we didn't agree with his point of view in many cases. Of course, we didn't wish him death, and we aren't happy that he's dead, but we aren't about to call him a "Great American" just because he died.

With Rehnquist's seat open, Bush decided to slide his nominee for the O'Connor post, John Roberts, into the Chief Justice spot. From our perspective, it was a smart move (we doubt Bush came up with it all by himself). Roberts is likely a shoe-in, as opposed to one of the few sitting justices that Bush might have bumped up (though we would have loved to have seen another Clarence Thomas confirmation hearing — go Pubester!).

Roberts has been navigating his confirmation in typical fashion, avoiding so-called litmus tests, and providing lots of answers that are making people on both sides of the abortion debate nervous. Bill Maher has already booked a cemetery plot for Roe v. Wade and declared that it is only a matter of time until that landmark abortion case is overturned. At the same time, Roberts' answers on abortion are causing the anti-choice folks to go into spasms of anxiety every time they hear the phrase stare decisis. We can't say for certain what will happen to abortion rights over the next decade as a result of these recent events; we just don't think it's as clear cut as some people have averred. If we had to guess, we'd say that a woman's right to choose will likely be diminished, but not abolished, and that the states will have more latitude to do as they wish, at least in the short term. This isn't a pretty picture in our opinion — it sounds like a throwback to days of old when women had to cross state lines in order to procure proper medical care, and back-alley abortions were commonplace. However, only time will tell. You never really know what kind of Supreme Court Justice someone will be until they are actually on the bench, and something tells us that Roberts might not be as bad as the left (or as good as the right) thinks he will be.

Of course, Bush also has another Supreme Court nomination on the way, and unless we've really missed something, he hasn't announced it yet. Just like last time, there's all the usual hoopla about how this nominee should be a woman or a minority.

Yeah. Right.

Bush picks his buddies for every single opening that crops up, and we see no reason to think he'll deviate here. The man takes cronyism to new heights at every appointment, so we expect to see a Long Time Friend and Associate™ nominated. Silly us, we'd opt for someone qualified, no matter their gender or background; but that's probably why we aren't in politics.

Speaking of political stupidity, in the ongoing battle to overcome the stupidity that is Creationism, Senator John McCain has gone over to the dark side. As Grendel pointed out in a comment on another post, and as PZ Myers touched upon last week, McCain has endorsed "teaching the controversy" as the best approach in public schools. Quoth McCain:

[McCain] sided with the president on two issues that have made headlines recently: teaching intelligent design in schools and Cindy Sheehan, the grieving mother who has come to personify the anti-war movement.

McCain told the Star that, like Bush, he believes "all points of view" should be available to students studying the origins of mankind.

Any politician who makes a statement like this falls into one of two categories.

The first category is the uninformed, who simply don't understand why there is no serious controversy on a scientific level. We have no respect for someone making a public statement on this topic when they possess so little understanding of science.

The second category fully understands that evolution is science, and creationism (no matter what you call it) is religion. They know that there is no scientific debate to teach about, and make this statement anyway in order to curry favor with the large contingent of voting aged morons in this country. We have no respect for this type of politician, either.

So, either way, we've lost a lot of respect for McCain at this point.

Was McCain perfect before this? Hell no. We disagreed with many of his stances on social issues. However, he seemed to us to be the safest of all possible Republicans who might seek the Presidency in 2008 (though he has said he isn't interested). Would we have voted for him? That's hard to say. Since most elections are of the "lesser of two evils" variety, it would depend largely on his opponent. But it's now safe to say that he has taken up residence in the nutbag camp, and we tend not to vote for nutbags — or their bedfellows.

In related news, and in case you don't already watch every night, the Daily Show is focusing this week on the, er, "debate" between Evolution and Creationism. Apparently, Senator McCain could stand to watch a few episodes so that he understands just how stupid his statement is.

From what we've seen of the Daily Show this week, they've been doing a decent job of presenting the subject. We only have two quibbles, which may be addressed tonight or tomorrow night.

First: would it hurt to get some actual experts on the show? We'd even be happy to see some of the "Intelligent Design" nutjobs (ooh! How about Duane Gish or Bill Dembski?) — simply because, knowing Jon Stewart's wit and whimsy, they would come off looking pretty darn stupid, thus emphasizing how ridiculous their claims are. But even better, an evolutionary biologist of some sort would be just what the doctor ordered (we vote for PZ Myers!). We understand that, in many ways, the Daily Show preaches to the choir — but it is a largely uneducated (or miseducated) choir, whose constituents could use a refresher course in why creationism is such bullshit.

Our other quibble is a minor one, and even a bit unfair (of us), but it applies to both the Daily Show, and Bill Maher's show, and far too much of Air America Radio. The thing is — we know, the primary goal of most of these shows is entertainment. It's about laughs, and celebrities, and off-the-wall zaniness. But there comes a point where the jokes lead into precisely the misinformation that the IDiots thrive on. As an example, both Ed Helms (of the Daily Show) and Bill Maher (on his show) made the same mistake: stating that humans are "descended from monkeys." We're not — we share a common ancestor with monkeys. The whole "descended from monkeys" thing is a major pet peeve of anyone who actually understands evolutionary theory, and a minor "victory" for the folks who trash science daily.

Jon (and company), Bill, all you Air America hosts: we understand the need for jokes, fellas, but please — no misinformation. We count on you guys to (humorously) spread reason and rationalism. Let's be careful out there.

— • —
[  Filed under: % Bush Watch  % Civil Liberties  % Creationism  % Government & Politics  ]

TrackBack URL for this entry: http://www.twopercentco.com/rants/tpc-trkbk.cgi/208

Comments (8)

Rockstar, 2005.09.15 (Thu) 10:25 [Link] »

Glad you're back.

I couldn't agree more on the McCain situation. How sad...he was one of the last "old-school badass" Republicans left.

S.T.R., 2005.09.15 (Thu) 12:06 [Link] »

I get a little more scared each day.

And a comment about Katrina, it seems to me the KNEW this sort of distaster could/would happen. then the hurricane came rumbling in and the KNEW when it was going to hit. the fact that they tried to evacuate the city shows that someone somewhere knew what the potential problems were.

It seems to me with all the knowledge and a couple days warning the US governement should have had Nationl Guard troops ready BEFORE the storm hit to go in as soon as it was over and help. They should have had supplies staged and ready, and an evacuation plan in place to commence immediately.

But did they, no. the Red Cross was there right away, but they are only equipped to do so much.

It infuriates me.

The only good thing that might come from this, though I have little real hope for it, is a broad realization from the people of this country that our governement sucks, and out country is sliding down the proverbeal slippery slope and maybe things could change for the better.

and with McCain's latest comments (which I had not been made aware of) I think the only repulican who might have ran for president that I dont dispise, has made me list of idiots.

Good post.

Grendel, 2005.09.15 (Thu) 15:40 [Link] »

Jon Stewart of The Daily Show had Dembski on last night, as part of a three person panel consisting of Dembski (IDiot), some Science Guy whose name escapes me now, and for some reason they had as the third panel member some New Age ditz who had absolutely nothing to say about evolution or creationism.

I think maybe there's a great deal of Monday morning quarterbacking concerning government response to Katrina. That "mistakes were made" at all levels is obvious, but what people feel needed to have happened is easy to point out -once the event has occurred and what was needed is now known with 100% accuracy.

It takes a considerable amount of time and effort to move the people, machines, and materials required to address such a catastrophic event. When it isn't known exactly where the event is going to occur, you can only move your assests in but so close -or later face the ire of the hind-sighters for having placed your assets errantly.

I was front and center, stranded in my home and surrounded by wate, for Hurricane Floyd and its resultant flood which killed dozens and dozens here in NC. The feds didn't arrive for three days. We understood the difficulties.

Anyway, I have much more to say on this but need to go pick up the youngins from school.

The Two Percent Company, 2005.09.15 (Thu) 22:27 [Link] »

Rockstar — we're glad to be back!

Gren, we did see Dembski (along with Ed Larson and that Newage bimbo) on the Daily Show...we're planning on putting up our own take on the whole "Evolution? Schmevolution!" Week after we've got them all on TiVo, and can nab quotations where necessary.

As for the Monday morning quarterbacking — yes, there is a lot of that going on, but from our perspective, there's more to it than that. We're more in agreement with S.T.R. on this one. See, we're not condemning the time the government took to execute rescue and recovery operations — what we're condemning is the time the government took to even give the orders in the first place. That's the abominable act, here. And instead of letting us know, "Hey, we're on it, we know what needs to be done, we just need a bit of time to do it!" — which would've been perfectly acceptable, we know it takes time to put these operations into action — the government kept claiming ignorance of the events transpiring down south.

Now, if they were telling the truth — they really were ignorant of the well-documented and reported events taking place — that's just pathetic. They're the United States government, for crying out loud! Should we really be trusting such an incompetent and ignorant government with our life, liberty, and happiness? Wait, don't answer that.

If they were lying — they did know what was going on — we have to question their motivations. There are plenty of possibilities, but some are quite probable, while others rate quite low on the scale of likelihood. Perhaps they were just so stunned, they didn't know what to do — again, that makes it all the more frightening that these are the people we're relying on to see us through emergency situations. Perhaps they simply didn't give a shit (as we've suggested), in which case they are the biggest assholes in the history of American government. Perhaps they were trying to buy some time, and didn't want to appear uncaring, so they claimed ignorance instead — if so, that plan backfired horribly, because it has us speculating on all the negative qualities we've just discussed!

In short (though it is, perhaps, too late for that!), we understand that it takes a while for the response to emergencies like this one to come to fruition. Assuming the three days you cited, Gren, we should have seen plenty of government action before September 1st — as both we and S.T.R. pointed out, the magnitude of this disaster was known well before it happened. Instead, on September 1st, we still had the officials in charge of such operations outright denying any knowledge of the current conditions! It's the time it took to send help, not the time it took for help to arrive, that we're condemning, if you see our point. We didn't expect omniscience, just competence.

Fan-man, 2005.09.16 (Fri) 11:25 [Link] »

Listening to Bush last night, I got the creepy feeling he was campaigning to get re-elected. Yikes.
The rescue and recovery efforts were sadly disrupted by a small percentage of low life trash. When the Red Cross first arrived on the scene, they were being shot at by these idiots. The Red Cross was not allowed to go back in until that threat was eliminated. That delay hurt many innocent people. The mayor of New Orleans went ape shit in front of the TV cameras and then promptly fled the state to enroll his daughter in a plush, private school in Texas (while people in HIS city were still sitting on their roof tops). Bottom line is that the federal government reacted slower than they should have, but local and city government sucked ass too.

Grendel, 2005.09.16 (Fri) 18:06 [Link] »

Local rescue efforts are the responsibility of local government, employing the 'up the chain' method. In New Orleans, the first level local government is the city government. If they need help they must ask for it from the next level up, the state. If the state needs help, it asks the federal government.

Excepting national security threats such as an invasion, the federal government cannot bust in without being requested and must coordinate with the next lower local government.

The state government of Mississippi requested help early, well before Louisiana, and got it -17,000 citizens evacuated in and around the coast.

The City of New Orleans and State of Louisiana didn not act so quickly. Going on this media news outlet and not that one asking for help is not the usual channel (said Grendel, tongue in cheek).

As stated in previous posts, I am no Bush fan and will not miss him when he's gone, but I am first and foremost a skeptic, more interested in the facts of things, where available.

It's my suspicion that if the federal government had done what so many people think it should have done -jumped right in there and saved the day before being requested by the local authorities responsible -the nation would be having a very different discussion right now. Instead of anti-Bush folks trying to pin the blame on him for dragging his feet, they'd have to spin it differently, and they would. Right about now they'd be screaming for his scalp for trampling all over state's rights by sending in federal forces without be requested by the local authorities. I don't know if the 2% folks would jump on that bandwagon or not, but I've no doubt that absolutely nothing unusual can occur without a large percentage of anti-Bush people finding some way to pin it on him. I'ts cheap -and unnecessary. The Bush administration's war on science is sufficient to impeach the Texas God-boy, IMO.

I'm talking about charges of 'cronyism', as if Bush invented this practice, and as if it weren't practiced by every president going back to and including George Washington. The term 'cronyism' implies that an official is appointed or nominated by the president despite a very weak or absent resume of experience to perform the required duties or service. Was Colin Powell a 'crony', without merit for his job? Condoleesa Rice? John Roberts?

"But Grendel! What about Michael Brown?"

What about Michael Brown? His is very much a case of what appears to be true cronyism, a man appointed more for his friendship than ability. The US Congress approved Brown nearly unanimously, meaning the Democrat minority also approved him nearly unanimously. The press gave him a free pass too. Where were the charges of cronyism then? No, that charge is only laid after the fact, after his abyssmal performance as FEMA director, and after the thinness of his resume was revealed.

Though I loathe to even appear to support Bush, the fact is that this horrible crony was approved by Congress and removed by...... George Bush.

You cannot deploy resources until you are asked by the local government. You cannot know where and how to deploy resources unless and until you know the specifics of the situation on the ground. It went off without a hitch in Mississippi. It did not in Louisiana. Why?

Much is said about how it was known well in advance what would happen and the federal government should have been there sitting in place waiting for it to happen. This is simply not true. In fact, the hurricane did not hit where predicted, and veered east at the last moment. What is the significance in that? The significance is huge. Had the federal government deployed based on the info it had at the time it would have needed to deploy, the resources would have placed on the wrong side of the Mississippi. Had that occurred, Bush would have been excoriated for that.

The bursting of two levees was not foreseen. Sure, it was predicted that *someday* conditions would conspire in such a way as to burst the levees that protect New Orleans, but that smacks of Nostrodamian prophecy -given the rest of eternity, just about any prediction will come true.

There are dozens of other tactical and technical complexities similar to the one I have exampled with the hurricane's last minute change of direction concerning resource deployment involving staging, personnel, communications, etc.

Personally, I'm not about to draw conclusions until I have sufficient data to evaluate. There will be an investigation. I suspect that investigation will reveal plenty of errors and plenty of blame to go around. I also suspect the bulk of that blame will shift from the federal government to the local government authorities. I don't really care who's to blame specifically and feel no need to direct it to a hated political adversary. I am not about to sacrifice my skepticism for mere politics.

The facts will out, then we'll see.

(As always, all is offered without acrimony to y'all, and please fire away -I'll not take it persoanlly ;o)

Fan-man, 2005.09.16 (Fri) 22:16 [Link] »

Wow, Grendel. That about covers it for me. Well done. The liberal media doesn't want to be confused with the facts, as they've already made up their mind.

The Two Percent Company, 2005.09.18 (Sun) 00:55 [Link] »

Well, first off, we completely agree that the state and local government officials in New Orleans (and Louisiana) screwed the pooch here. No argument from us on that point. As we said, we feel no need at this point to play the "which government official sucked the most" game. The bottom line is that the government (all inclusive) dropped the ball, and lots of people suffered and died.

Yes, we're anti-Bush, and yes, we often find it hard to be objective about the man. We try to keep reminding ourselves that even a moron does the right thing sometimes. We certainly aren't trying to lay all the blame on Dubya here, but when he says things like "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees," it's hard not to want to slap him right in his smug little face.

In addition, we wouldn't say that the predictions about the levees bursting were Nostradamian by any stretch. Unlike Nostradamus' prophecies, the prediction that the levees would burst if a category four or higher storm came through was based on empirical observation and knowledge, rather than some silly poems. Whether someone wants to blame the local government for these conditions (which does make sense), or simply blames Bush 'cause he sucks in general, is up to each of us individually; but when Bush pretends that the bursting of the levees was "such a surprise" to everyone, he's just insulting our intelligence.

Yes, there were technical (and meteorological) issues which made it hard to keep ahead of the disaster. Absolutely. However, there is no excuse for the claimed ignorance which we, admittedly, keep harping on. Everybody high up along the chain of command for this disaster kept claiming ignorance of the facts: Brown, Chertoff, Bush — all of them. As we said above, whether they were lying or telling the truth, that's just inexcusable for government officials.

And yes, if the federal government had barged into New Orleans to "save the day" without the explicit request from the state and local agencies, we agree that a lot of people would be shouting about stomping on states' rights. In answer to your question, Grendel, we would not be among them. The reason is that we believe that certain bureaucratic rigamarole can and should be skipped in extreme circumstances — and we believe that this was extreme enough to warrant action without following the chain of command. So, in point of fact, we would have been on Bush's side had he taken the more aggressive approach and gone in ambulances blazing. As you point out, though, others would not have been so kind.

As far as cronyism, we agree that it goes with politics like Oreos go with milk. Certainly, Bush isn't the first politician to employ the practice of employing his friends, and he won't be the last. To us (and this is very subjective), it seems as if he does it more than others. This could be because he does do it more, or because we are paying more attention these days (which we are), or because so many of his picks are so egregiously unqualified for their positions. Most likely, it's a little of each of these. Either way, and no matter who it is hiring their buddies, our perspective is that government posts should be filled by those most qualified to fill them, blind of personal connections, race, gender, or anything else. If one of Bush's buddies is the best person for the job, then bring him on. But when he appoints someone like Brown (or Bolton, or Gonzales...) who seems to be mis-qualified (not merely unqualified) for the job, we get steamed.

And what about the unanimous Congressional approval of Brown, and the lack of media coverage of his nomination? That sucks as well, and both Congress and the media dropped the ball (hardly shocking news for us). Bill Maher cornered Chuck Schumer about it the other night — Schumer's response boiled down to "Yeah, I'm not sure why we just let that one go by." By all accounts, FEMA used to be one of the best run government agencies, but on Bush's watch it fell on its face. Brown was one reason for that; rolling it under Homeland Security was probably another.

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