Friday, September 02, 2005

Waiting Out The Storm After The Eye Has Passed

Watching And Waiting At The White House

Those of us who still have the stomach to watch the news on television can only begin to imagine the despair of the thousands of residents trapped in and around New Orleans, abandoned in the wake of the catastrophe named Katrina.

A city adrift in the void without leadership or law. A people foresaken by their own government.

Without food, water, shelter or medical care, those who could not get out before the storm, or buy their way out under cover of darkness after the storm, are left to fend for themselves and, in many instances, to simply die on the streets.

The images are shocking, numbing, to say the least. Infants, lethargic in their mothers' arms under sweltering heat, dehydrated and barely alive. The elderly, unable to walk, being cared for by relatives - and strangers - themselves too weak to care for their own basic needs. The refugees - and yes, they are refugees - who, with no aid imminent, no information forthcoming, and no authority present, have set out on that long march of despair along Highway 10 - debris and carnage strewn along the way.

And the face of this tragedy? The poorest of the poor. Those whose struggle was of no apparent consequence before the storm, and who can simply be ignored and discarded after the storm.

The response from ordinary Americans has been tremendous. An outpouring of generosity not seen since September 11th. Donations pour in to charitable organizations from all over the country and from around the globe. Volunteers, from every walk of life, offereing to serve on the front lines. Concern. Empathy. Compassion. Action.

The response of our government, on the other hand? Nothing short of disgraceful. Five days after the devastaing storm, we've been unable to get the largely minority population out of New Orleans - from areas that are no more under water than is the Mohave Desert. Yet somehow, miraculously, as if we were evacuating Hotel Rwanda, we managed to pluck the non-minority population from the once posh hotels in the French Quarter- on busses traveling without lights in the pre-dawn darkness.

While thousands go without food and water well beyond those critical 72 hours during which life can be sustained, the feds can only manage to bring in bottled water for no more than 100 of the stranded. In bygone days, we could muster an airlift over Berlin on a moment's notice. Today, under a White House paralyzed - be it by inertia, indifference, or the simple fact that they just don't get it - we can't even manage to secure a city. And whether that city is Najaf in Iraq, or New Orleans in Louisiana, we fail dismally, time and time again, in rendering assistance to those who need it most, and in so much as taking command.

And the excuse for this slow and paltry response after the storm? "We didn't know just how bad it would be?" "We had no warning." Nonsense! We all knew, days before the storm hit, that this would be a Hurricane of epic proportions. And there's not a soul on earth - even at the Pentagon and Homeland Security - who didn't understand the dire ramifications of a direct or near hit in New Orleans - a city in a bowl below sea level - by a Category 4 storm. There was more than ample time to mobilize, to prepare and to act. Our goverment, indecisive and isolated from reality, simply chose not to! [SEE From Margins of Society and Hope Is Fading.]

Odd how whenever there is a disaster to reckon with, George Bush, after his typical stumbling and bumbling - "Its gonna take a long time... Its gonna take years..." Duh! - calls upon Bill Clinton (and the elder Bush, just to save face, who, like his son, is a legend in disaster recovery) to mop up. Well, credit this President with doing at least one thing right!

Today the President does his perfunctory tour of the gulf coast. Keep an eye out for that "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED" banner, will ya?

As for the sudden rise of a half dollar or more at the gas pump - surprise. Funny, but up to now we've been told that most of our petroleum comes from a "gulf" other than the one bordering Mexico. Somehow, not even 24-hours after the storm hit, we've run short of gas. Bunk! This has absolutely nothing to do with supply and demand. This is greed and profiteering by the oil industry, pure and simple. Watch for Exxon-Mobil's 4th Quarter profits to drop to under $20 Billion. Yeah, right! [And you still haven't joined the BOYCOTT of Exxon-Mobil? Shame on you!]

Well, let's hunker down, hope for the best, and look at the bright side. When Haliburton gets the exclusive, no-bid contract to rebuild New Orleans, we can all breathe a sigh of relief!

Happy motoring, this Labor Day weekend. Take the President's sage advice: "If you don't have to use a car, don't!" Be sure to watch the Labor Day Telethon. And make a donation to your favorite relief fund. Somebody's gotta help. Looks like its gonna be us!

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