I Am That Girl Now

Friday, September 02, 2005

But first, I will attempt to say things about food and exercise.

Let's see. I like fruit. It's glorious weather to run outside, so I'm going to do so tomorrow morning. I'm exceedingly fond of string cheese. And, underneath the layer of fluff, I actually have muscles. My hamstrings have a nice curve to them that I've never seen before. There's a dent on the outside side of each thigh where the quad ends and hamstring begins. I just this morning discovered that my shoulder muscles have come along to the point where, when I flex my biceps, you can see a nice clean diagonal shadow-line where my shoulder muscle laps over my bicep. Also, in a highly disturbing discovery, I have figured out how to flex my pec muscles and made the mistake of trying it out while watching myself, nude, in the mirror. (Don't try this at home, kids. Boobs should not have a life of their own.)

Okay, that's all I've got. I'm sorry to do this two days in a row, but I'm losing my mind on this one.

What the hell is this line that officials are spouting, that "nobody ever expected the levee to break" in New Orleans? I keep seeing this. I'm boggled. I expected the levee to break. That was the only part I actually understood about the hurricane situation: I'd seen about eight different news reports beforehand on the danger of flooding if the storm surge topped the levee or if the levee broke under the stress. I have an elementary grasp of physics and water pressure, and how water will flow to the lowest point possible. It's not like I do this for a living, but I had a pretty good grasp of the situation for a former music major sitting on her ass in front of a computer in Chicago. Call me crazy, but I always kind of assumed that the people in charge of these sorts of things would have a far better grasp of them than I do.

Computer models predicted disaster-- an article on MSN.com. Hell, even Tim Russert says the same thing: But the fact is that, when there was no evacuation and no pre-positioning of supplies within the city, that led to the current situation.

President George W. Bush said the other day that no one expected the levees to break.

Well, with all respect, study after study, including FEMA's own tabletop exercises last year, all included the breaking or the giving of the levees. Everyone who had studied the issue knew that with a Category 3, 4 or 5 storm, that was a very strong likelihood.

I keep hearing more about what happened leading up to this thing, the complete lack of prep work, and my mind is just boggled. Completely boggled. The mayor didn't do anything. The governor asked the people of Louisiana to "pray the hurricane down to a category 2," which is all well and good, but frankly I would like to think that public officials have a better plan in mind than "pray that you don't get killed, folks, because otherwise we're screwed."

Want more? Okay. A National Geographic article from 2004. TWO-THOUSAND FOUR. Last year. Amazingly, in spite of it being a whole year before this tragedy, they've described it pretty much point for point. This is the worst-case scenario we heard about all week as they prepared for the storm.

FEMA rehearsed for this thing in 2004, calling it "Hurricane Pam". They knew, then, that they were screwed. Still: nothing. I cannot bloody believe this.

It gets worse. Read Left Turn editor Jordan Flaherty's account of being a New Orleans refugee (from personal experience!). The horror story doesn't end when people get out of the hellhole that was once one of our nation's most graceful and beloved cities. It just keeps going.

I am just wracked with rage, and helpless to feel much else. I've donated. My company is part of the effort to organize certain well-needed items for the rescue effort, and I'm proud of that, but it's not my department. I'm praying, but I'm having to intersperse prayers to help contain my rage with prayers for the hurricane victims and the aid workers striving to rescue them. Maybe it's tacky to start screaming for accountability at this point, but my God, when is the right time? If I bottle this up for later, I may explode in the meantime.

Sometimes when we come together in a tragedy, we Americans do so in a righteous fury. I think this may end up being one of those times. We were told, we were promised, that the reason for all the things that were being done to us over the past four years was for our own security-- so that the big bad men couldn't get us anymore. Currently I could give a rat's ass about the specifics of that sort of thing. I would much rather have a government that knows how to plan for and respond to a crisis. I don't ever want to be somewhere where this sort of thing could happen and find out, afterward, that my government hadn't done anything to mitigate the disaster.

I think I have to go cry now. Hopefully I can manage on-topic babbling tomorrow.


  • Not to mention -- did you see him? Did you see him? Our President, being questioned about why help and supplies haven't gotten to the drowning, dying, homeless, hungry people yet? Saying, with that shit-eating grin on his face, "Well, everyone wants it there yesterday, don't they?"

    Not. Effing. Good. Enough.

    Thanks for breaking the rules here, as Wendy said. It needs saying and saying and saying. The last FEMA director quit because of Bush's cuts. Let's remember it.

    By Anonymous JB, at 7:05 PM  

  • Okay, now I'm definitely crying. I hate to sound 5 years old, but... I think I need to call my mommy.

    By Blogger Meg, at 7:09 PM  

  • I actually am crying, along with my family and friends. I think I have to agree the saddest thing is that they could have done something beforehand to make this disaster easier to handle. Most of the damage is not due to the hurricane, but the stupidity of the government. Don't we love the saying "Hindsight is 20/20?"

    By Blogger ms ralph, at 7:16 PM  

  • Heyla,

    I too find this whole thing too horrendous for words and want to know how we avoid this ever happening again. It's horrific and frightening, and so terrible to see and contemplate.

    The one thing I want to say is to NOT let this become a case where we look for a scapegoat. This may come out sort of like I'm on a soapbox, and that's not my intention. I truly passionately belive what I'm typing, and not trying to browbeat anyone in any way.

    What went wrong and how we could have avoided it are topics that are always easier to see and talk about in hindsight. It's easy to say, well, duh, here are all these studies that say this is a problem, so why didn't anyone do anything about it, when we are looking back at them. It’s much harder to predict when Mother Nature will do something destructive. In the case of my current home (using this example since it’s a little less emotional), when will Mt Hood explode? It’s a volcano, it’s not dormant, and it’s been predicted to “due” for an explosion. But we aren’t prepared for it because no one really thinks it will happen to us, certainly not soon. (And we should know better – we just celebrated the 10th anniversary of Mt St Helens randomly popping her top!)

    Just for the sake of exploring why I'm so passionate about this, let's go down the path of how would anything have been done in advance?
    - New Orleans is an old city, most of that region is really old. There is an awful lot of infrastructure (including construction / electrical code standards) that just never got built into that area, which we take for granted in younger cities. The places that are better off, like Atlanta, are often better off because they had to be rebuilt completely after the Civil War, and / or benefited from the Works Projects. If you don’t have a good infrastructure, rigorous construction codes and an ongoing maintenance effort; the best initial design in the world won’t hold up over time.
    - Next problem: If someone had tried to raise the money to strengthen or redesign the levees, where would it have come from? Would the (already) poor people, that are the bulk of the population in that region, have been able (let alone WILLING) to give money in taxes to fund something that was a "doomsday scenario"? If you can’t get the money from the locals who it directly affects, where do you get it from? People in other states, who would feel that they have their own problems to contend with?
    - Past that, who'd have done the work? How would you get all the necessary people to agree on who knows how and should provide those services? It would have turned into a free-for-all, with all sorts of special interests fighting for the money. Combined with the “it can’t happen to me” attitude that humans generally have, I don’t see a good solution to that either.

    I think it’s all terribly stupid; but I don’t know how to solve it. I want to know that every city has an emergency response plan in case of something horrid. I also want us, as people, to respond to this as a nation that understands that these are HUMAN BEINGS that are out there, dying. These people are the same as our neighbours, friends, family, ourselves. Just as the ones that make the laws and spend the tax money are people. Sure they’re fallible; but we as a group have to realize Ben Franklin was spot on. “We survive together, or not at all.” It doesn't fix anything looking for someone to blame. At the least, we all have complained at some point about taxes or not enough services for our tax dollar. Look for a way to help the people that are involved, and vote with your voices and money for us to learn how to be a better human community from all this tragedy.

    By Anonymous Shawna, at 7:58 PM  

  • No, you know what? I'm tired of living in a nation where you have to know exactly when to demand accountability, because if it's "too early" then people claim you're pointing fingers, and if it's "too late" then everyone waves it off and says it's not important anymore, stop dwelling on the past, move on. That's no way to learn math, much less improve a society.

    This is the first national disaster occurring after FEMA was folded into Homeland Security. This was the first test of how it would go. It is not, to say the least, going well. I have watched footage today of women from nursing homes, women that the director of FEMA didn't know were at the convention center even when apparently the entire news corps did, dying on the sidewalk a short helicopter ride from safety and I therefore think that a bit of "Okay, let's step back here and figure out what went wrong so that we can FIX THE FUCKING THING" is called for. Pardon my French.

    I am doing things. I do not see how trying to figure out what in the blue hell happened to make the response to this so horrible-- how demanding accountability-- can in any way deride from my dollars or my prayers or my offerings of help. Nor do I see how they could possibly cock things up worse than they are right now.

    I do not believe in a lack of accountability. Ever. Not for any administration. Not for any member of Congress. Not for any mayor. Not for any state, any city, any political party. Without accountability, we have nothing. We learn nothing. We don't grow, we don't fix anything, we just continue to blunder forward making the same damn mistakes over and over again in the foolish belief that asking questions is traitorous. NO.

    Currently what we have here is a country where our government-- all of it-- failed to respond appropriately to a national disaster until it became a political problem for them. There is no reason that should be so. Terry bloody Schiavo got swifter action and closer scrutiny than bloody Katrina did.

    ...And now we see why I don't do politics on this blog. Sigh. I'm going back to strict exercise and food here tomorrow, I swear. (I also expect to see my readership drop significantly now that I'm a known nutjob. Heh.)

    By Blogger Meg, at 10:09 PM  

  • What makes me angry is hearing the race card played. Plenty of white people are suffering in Mississippi and Alabama, and they are getting a lot less media coverage. My friend in Alabama whose hub is in the Reserves and has been called to Mobile said that people down there are really frustrated by the amount of coverage New Orleans is getting. Now, I think it's warranted...

    But to play the race card? Poverty, yes. But the mayor of NOLA is black. Most of the power structure down there is, also. If someone failed the poor in NOLA, it's their OWN local government (in the days before) more than anyone else. The mayor and the city was well aware of the risks, as you state... and they were also well aware of how many were going to be stranded, how many had no where to go, no way to get out.

    I'd like to hope that this will facilitate relationships between mayors of major cities in high risk areas, so that when we have warning of an oncoming onslaught, maybe it can be arranged for people to be evacuated to other cities in advance... so the people in the Astrodome might have just been able to go there to begin with, and it wouldn't have gotten so bad.

    The answers are not easily found... it's very east to sit on your living room couch, angry, full of sorrow and frustration and the overwhelming sense of hopelessness and think, Something should have been done. It's much harder to try to figure out what, exactly.

    Sadly, humans learn through experience. This is universal. We can think, welll we, Americans, we are a SuperPower. We have tons of money and lots of smarts. Yes, this is true, and at the end of it all we are still just as human as the people struggling elsewhere... we are every bit as human as those people in the so-called third world countries, and if this doesn't prove it, nothing will.

    There is a definite story of poverty here, but it's about race when people make it about race... I've seen plenty of positive coverage about the black people who are waiting, frustrated, but as patient as possible. I've seen plenty of black people rescued from rooftops, far more than white people...

    There are poor white neighborhoods that this could've happened in, and the situation wouldn't be very different... but it happened in a black neighborhood, and so immediately, that's why help isn't getting there. I just don't think this is the case. I think there's been a failure to respond adequately and quickly enough, for sure. I don't think it would be a damn bit different if the majority of New Orleanians were stranded, poor whites.

    Their mayor failed them. Their government failed them... no denying this can be done. I hope that if they rebuild the city - and I'm not convinced they should, despite how I love it - they will learn lessons from this horrific experience. I like to hope that, because humans so often learn from experience...

    The sad part is, we so often don't, too. We so often think, well... it can't happen again, or it won't happen to me. And when this mindset takes over, even seeing the devastation Katrina caused can't teach the lessons we so desperately need to learn.

    By Anonymous Mae, at 11:00 PM  

  • Hello. I'm a fellow nutjob like yourself. I saw a quote were mr. bush (i refuse to call him President) said "i hope people don't play politics during this period of time" and an insider said "Seventy-two hours into this , to be openly posturing about this, to be attacking the president, is not only despicable and wrong, it's not politically smart" WHAT! This administration can NOT take criticism. They are never to blame, it's never their fault when the f it up. Which to me seems is every week. Where is RUDY? Ok, off my soap box. Hope you get a great run in today!

    By Blogger m, at 10:31 AM  

  • To me, the word that really sums up the week is demoralizing.

    It has been awful to see, and have it slowly sink in, that absolutely nothing was done to provide help to those who needed it, to evacuate. They were simply abandoned.

    As if this weren't bad enough, it became infinitely more awful to see that no help came to those who needed it, who were stranded in a drowning city, day after day after day.

    No food. No water. No toilets. No one coming to tell them what was being done to help.

    Bush golfed. Condi shopped. Who the hell knows where Cheney even is. While people suffered for DAYS ON END, with no help coming or even on the way, our leadership played.

    This, to me, is a very harsh lesson in what the Ownership Society really ends up looking like. I always thought the so-called Ownership Society was a truly shitty idea, a tarted-up incarnation of every person for themselves. And the reality has borne this out, in a truly horrifying way to watch.

    Oh, Meg. What are we to do?

    By Blogger Wendy, at 12:57 PM  

  • Just to toss in something about "the race card."

    New Orleans is -- was -- 67% black. 28% -- twenty-eight percent! -- live below the poverty line. Race matters. It matters economically, it matters because it's the South, it affects why people are poor when they're poor and to what extent and when and how they can stop being poor. It matters in every area of life and it matters now. And in fact, we have a lot of evidence that rescue efforts are different for whites than they are for blacks. Remember how, during 9/11, hundreds of people opened up their homes to stranded airline passengers? Mostly whites, those passengers, and at least wealthy enough to afford an airline ticket. We're not seeing that pattern here. Why would that be? Poverty, of course. But race, too, which in our country is inextricably mixed with socioeconomic class.

    And we can wish it was different, and say it's different, and say the race card is reprehensible, all we want to. But the poor are disproportionately affected in this, and the poor are disproportionately black. I pray one day it's different, and I work daily in a field that tries to make it so.

    By Anonymous JB, at 8:37 PM  

  • It would be grotesquely wrong NOT to point out that the obvious - that the people who were abandoned, and left to die like ANIMALS, who followed instructions and went to designated areas only to be ignored and left without even fucking WATER, for DAYS, to shit in public and then live alongside that shit, and CORPSES - are 99% BLACK.

    The fact that mostly-white areas in AL and MS got hit, too, but aren't getting as much screen time? Irrelevant. Not even comparable. The story in NOLA isn't the hurricane, it's the breached levees, the drowning city, the evacuated city - that somehow had thousands of people left behind.

    Even conservatives get this:
    "There are corpses floating down the streets of New Orleans, and warnings of cholera, typhoid fever and other diseases. One doctor told a reporter: "In a lot of ways, we're functioning as if we were in a developing country."

    Five years after discovering they had suicide terrorism within their borders, Americans are now being introduced to the notion of having their own "refugees", too. Tens of thousands of them are being bussed to neighbouring states from the city's convention and sports centres, where they have been sleeping for days. The state of Texas has announced that it will accept 23,000 refugees in Houston's Astrodome. An unsettling - and internationally embarrassing - aspect of this mass movement is the discovery that almost all the unfortunates stranded in New Orleans are black."

    From http://news.ft.com/cms/s/1ff4ced6-1be0-11da-9342-00000e2511c8.html

    OH, and guess what? NOLA refugees can't get quarter in their own state - mostly white Jefferson parish, for example, is too terrified to take them, having seen story after story after story that presented a crazily lopsided perspective of "looting" and lawlessness.

    We owe it not just to these people but to ourselves as humans to notice - or rather not ignore - the glaringly obvious and very ugly race issue here.

    By Blogger Wendy, at 10:55 PM  

  • But it's not just mostly (wealthy) white areas in MI and AL. There are poor whites - and blacks - in all three states that aren't even being talked about because they are in "back country" areas. There are people whose houses weren't destroyed by the hurricane, but who have no infrastructure left to live off of. There are still over half a million people in MI alone without power.

    As for people opening their homes after 9/11, but not now, that's simply NOT true. Go to cragslist... there are people all over the country offering to help the victims of Katrina, and I've yet to see an ad that says, "but only if you are white". People care. People DO want to help.

    9/11 was different because we had an enemy, an outside enemy. We can look at the inside failures in our government - in the Clinton administration (and there were many) and the Bush administration (there were some here, too despite the fact he hadn't been in office a year) - but we were attacked. Katrina wasn't an attack... we need someone to blame.

    There are major problems with how things were handled. It scares me to see how badly this situation was handled, but I'm sorry, I don't think it's about race. It's about a complete and utter lack of preparation for something that should NOT have come as a surprise. If I hear Michael Chertoff say one more time that on Monday "we thought New Orleans had dodged a bullet" I'm going to scream... it wasn't supposed to dodge it! Sunday that Cat 5 storm was still barreling towards that city, and disaster was imminent. That the storm moved at the 11th hour SHOULD have been a bit of luck, but it wasn't because as it turns out the levees couldn't handle the strain of even a Cat 3 storm (that's the equivalent winds the city got).

    I very much believe that the stranded people, those who chose to stay and those who had no choice, would be in the exact same situation if NOLA wasn't a predominantly black city with a black, democratic mayor. I will always believe this, and that this was a failure for ALL Americans - not just the black citizens of NOLA.

    By Anonymous Mae, at 1:35 AM  

  • I don't think the race problem can be ignored completely- there seems to be a large part of US society, predominantly black, which feels apart from the rest of society. I've been reading stories in the english papers of english white tourists who were molested and bullied in the Superdome because they were white and not american, and yet they were stranded with inadequate resources with everyone else in the Dome. But its now all poor black people- most were helpful and kind and shared resources. There is a whole section of society mostly young black and male who feel they haven't got much to live for- not just in New Orleans- which America urgently needs to find a way to re-engage with. or every natural disaster or terrorist attack in a major city will be the excuses for more of the lawlessness we have seen this week.

    By Anonymous Jane, at 4:40 AM  

  • I'm sorry, but Craigslist? Are you being serious? Putting ads on the Internet for people with no homes and no electricity -- people who were below the poverty line to begin with? And I mean the poverty line, not the lower-middle-class line. See John Scalzi's brilliant "Being Poor" (http://www.scalzi.com/whatever/ and scroll down to it) for what I mean. Are you even with me here?

    I wish I could honestly believe that New Orleans would be in the same economic position if it had a different racial makeup -- more white people and fewer black people. I'd love to believe that the authorities would have been equally casual about giving shoot-to-kill orders about the looters, if the looters had been hysterically hyped on television as being white.

    Half a million people in Mississippi (I assume you mean MS, not MI) without power a week after the hurricane is distressing. But if it's not being talked about, how did you find out? I for one have heard that from several sources. It's getting attention. I would love to believe that all things are equal, and New Orleans is screwed only because it was tragically mishandled in the best-intentioned and most colorblind way.

    But the numbers are against you, and the facts are arrayed. It simply is not so. The color of the sky is not pink in this world. It's grim grey, and it's not getting a lot brighter.

    By Anonymous JB, at 1:26 PM  

  • Amen, sister! Or should I say, RAmen?

    I am so angry, and I feel so helpless. And I fear for when the media becomes bored with this story. Dear g-d.

    By Blogger vj, at 1:47 PM  

  • We really have to start a movement to impeach Bush. He cut the funds that had been allocated to the Army Core of Engineers to fix the levee. He cut those funds for his ridiculous war. The war against terrorisim. He has lied and lied and lied. No he really doesn't care anything about the political fallout of this disgraceful situation, because he already got his second term. They impeached clinton for lieing about getting head in the oval office! Look at the state of this country right now!!! bodies floating down the streets of NOLA, soldiers dieing to make Bush and his cronies rich, our president is on vacation more often than not and is accountable for nothing!!! We are 24th out of 29 countries in education, our jobs are sent to other countries and the companies that send them away get a tax break, their bottom lines are better by sending jobs off shore!!!! THis whole 4+ years have been an absolute embarassment, this country has been raped and pilaged by those dick heads.


    By Blogger kelly, at 8:37 AM  

  • Kelly said...

    No he really doesn't care anything about the political fallout of this disgraceful situation, because he already got his second term.

    That's what's breaking my heart. I never liked Bush, and I never voted for him, but it just kills me even to try to face what is becoming increasingly evident: that when it got him political capital (and, eventually, a war, and oil), when a wealthy and influential city was hit, our President would leap into the breach of a disaster, stand tall, say the right things, go to Ground Zero, take risks, mobilize help instantly.

    When it nets him nothing? When most of the worst-hit victims are poor and black? When he's already got his second term and it doesn't really matter? We can't even manage to count the victims, much less get them help. (Of course, we can go talk to Trent Lott about the sad, sad loss of his house, though. DGMS.)

    I don't want to be that cynical, even about a President I dislike. There are better things to do here than Bush-bash -- mostly, as Meg said so well, and as I've been quoting lately, to demand accountability. But watching the news? It's getting harder every day.

    By Anonymous JB, at 9:37 AM  

  • This is my very, very last blogjacking comment, I promise.

    People who were there thought the relief effort was "callous, inept, and racist."

    And here is some excellent advice on how to take a step back and breathe. I am trying to do so, for the sake of my family, and my sanity.


    By Anonymous JB, at 2:56 PM  

  • I really like what you've written here Meg, as you can see this is my second comment!

    I also like the comments and thoughts you are generating. At least people are thinking about it!

    The truth is it is about poverty, and you cannot seperate poverty and race. The southern states have long had to suffer a major percentage of the US's poverty and now no one can ignore it any longer.

    The other states are being forced to deal with it, they are being forced to come to terms with how real the poverty/race issue really is, and I'm thinking not too many of them like it. It is causing an uncomfortable feeling. And should people who live in other areas such as Jefferson Parish (incidentally where my brother lives and where my mom and dad have sought shelter) feel afraid for their safety?

    Of course!

    There is a real safety issue when you have so many homeless that are desperate and who have nowhere to go. Whether you want to admitt it or not, safety in other cities like Baton Rouge is a big issue right now. Their population has doubled and they do not have the economic resources to take that amount of people who are homeless and jobless on, and really neither does Houston, TX.

    Other states need to step up and do their part. Last I heard there were 50 of them...

    By Blogger ms ralph, at 7:03 PM  

  • I don't really want to get involved in this debate. I have my own, very strong, opinions that I have stated in other places and don't want to get into it again. I would however, like to point out a couple of things.

    1) do you want to live in a country where the federal government steps in constantly?? I don't.

    2) Do you think trucks of food and water are just sitting around waiting to be sent out to areas? It takes time to marshall all those forces and get supplies gathered and people together. Things on this scale do not happen instantaneously.

    3) Do you really honestly believe that the powers that be sat around saying "Oh, NO is black don't worry about it"??? Do you really think that happened?? If you do I feel really sorry for you.

    4) Did you know LA has an emergency plan for just such a crisis and no one followed it?? You can read it here:

    This called for the LOCAL officials to use school buses to evacuate people - they didn't.

    I completely agree that Bush should have stepped in sooner and taken over because clearly the powers that be in LA are totally incompetent. But the vast amount of blame lies with the local authorities. If Rudy Guiliani had been mayor things would have been very, very different; he knows how to lead.

    Someone said folks are looking for someone to blame and that's true. It really comes down to personal responsibility and noone wants to take any.

    I live in Hawaii and whenever we have a hurricane I always assume if the worst happens I won't see help for days. Apparently I'm the only person who plans for disaster and doesn't count on my government to bail me out.....

    By Blogger Flo, at 10:04 PM  

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