Category Archives: Hurricane Katrina & Federal Flood

The Three Thousand & Where Power Lies

It doesn’t matter whose fault it is:

He’s a feral animal, of course, who can only see things in terms of how they affect him. You know this and so do I and I think so does he, not that it matters. I’m so tired of spending time in his psyche. Who cares if he’s crazy or evil or crazy-evil; three thousand still died.

And more will, and more. When this was all going down this week I thought of friends who died years after Katrina, after wars, after trauma. Kick and I drove home from a festival Saturday night listening to Springsteen’s concert in New Orleans in ’06, barely seven months after the storm:

And I thought of Ashley, who Adrastos wrote about this week, and Betty, and Morwen, and Greg, and all the people who died later, much later, because their lives got ripped to shreds and never quite got put back together, because everything that happens to you wears you down a little more, because it’s hard to tell when all the threads are woven together which one will unravel you when it’s pulled.

These things have long tails, have a half-life and you can’t just say the waters receded and then everything was all right again. More will die in Puerto Rico. More will die on the Carolina coast. More will die every day and the point isn’t how many, when. The point is we could have stopped it, and helped, and didn’t.

That’s all that matters to the three thousand.

The story in Puerto Rico, it matters less who’s to blame for it than who’s supposed to handle it. Yelling at Trump isn’t about finding someone to blame. It’s about getting someone to DO THINGS. Like okay, the bottled water isn’t getting where it should go, SO FIX IT ALREADY.

Government is, six days of the year, an actual job and not just cutting ribbons on new supermarkets and shit. I thought Trump was supposed to be this colossus. I thought he was this great legendary thing, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound and overcome ordinary obstacles with his giant business penis or whatever the hell he was on about during the campaign.

“I alone can fix it” is a promise you’d best be prepared to make real, time comes.

The three thousand people who died in Puerto Rico don’t care if Trump is to blame or not. If he saved them, they’d just be glad to be alive. And we had the capability to save them; this “well, FEMA just drops stuff off, derp derp derp” is horseshit. We can override laws and rules and regulations whenever we feel like it, and there are lots of people at, say, Mar-A-Lago and in Iraq who can attest to those things.

It’s amazing how Trump wants to violate every norm and rule when it’s time to put some money in his bank account, and how Republicans are all WHAT EVEN IS REGULAR ORDER when they want to put the personification of 6-month-old sour cream on the United States Supreme Court, but when there’s bottled water to be distributed in Puerto Rico it’s “well, somebody else was supposed to do this one thing and we were powerless to override that vague convention.” Like just send in the 82nd, you’ve already proved literally nobody is gonna fuck with you.

I mean, even if you grant that we have an imperial presidency and have since around 9/11/01: PUT IT TO USE ALREADY. Unless you just didn’t want to do that, in which case, fucking own it. Admit that you have power where you want to have it, so that we can assess, and make decisions, without somebody throwing a giant tantrum all day long about FAKE NEWS and DEMOCRAT PERFIDY and other shit that doesn’t matter one bit to three thousand dead.

A.

Your President* Speaks: A New Low

I’ve been doing fewer Your President* Speaks posts as the Trump administration slogs along. The stupid fucker wants us obsessing over his tweets and I prefer not to give him what he wants. There are, of course, exceptions to every rule and this is one of them. I woke up mad, now it’s time to get even.

I briefly considered using Rock Bottom instead of A New Low in the title. Unfortunately, there *is* no rock bottom for the Insult Comedian. He thinks he stoops to conquer when instead he shoots himself in the foot every time he pulls a stunt like this:

It goes without saying that none of this is true. Fuck you, Donald.

It goes without saying that this is obscene. Fuck you, Donald.

It goes without saying that Trump thinks Hurricanes Maria and Florence are about him. Fuck you, Donald.

It goes without saying that he is desecrating the memory of those who died in Puerto Rico and those who might die as a result of Florence. Fuck you, Donald.

The real reason this president* never cared about the deaths of some 3,000 Puerto Ricans is that they were never going to vote for him. It’s a horrible thing to say about anyone but it’s true. Fuck you, Donald.

As someone who lived through Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood, I take this very seriously. When a major storm makes landfall, I feel twinges of PTSD and I was one of the lucky ones. You shouldn’t play politics with hurricanes. This is about human suffering, not about a ridiculous man who sits in the White House live tweeting Fox News. Fuck you, Donald.

Having said that, I disagree with those who think Trump should be thrown off twitter. I want to know what the enemy is up to. I believe in turning over rocks and exposing the evil underneath. Besides, the Insult Comedian keeps saying damaging things on twitter. Let the stupid fucker tweet to his heart’s content.

This tweet in response to Trump’s new low is perfect:

In the immortal words of my late and much missed friend Ashley Morris:

FUCK YOU, YOU FUCKING FUCKS.

The Bayou Brief Makes Landfall

My latest piece at The Bayou Brief is a review of Landfall by Greg Meffert. Meffert was former New Orleans Mayor C Ray Nagin’s fixer. Meffert flipped on Nagin and testified against him at his 2014 corruption trial.

What’s a fixer to do after he gets out of jail? Write his memoirs, of course. Meffert has bills to pay and scores to settle, after all.  Click here for the gory details.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Too Late To Turn Back Now

Parade by Jacob Lawrence

It was Katrinaversary week along the Gulf Coast. I wrote about that on the day itself. Nuff said. In related news, former Nagin henchman Greg Meffert aka Muppet crawled out from whatever stone he’s been hiding under since testifying against C Ray. He has a new book out, which I will be reviewing for the Bayou Brief next week. It’s bound to be unintentional comedy gold.

This week’s theme song, Too Late To Turn Back Now, was written by Eddie Cornelius. It was a monster hit in 1972 hitting #2 on the Billboard charts. It’s featured in the new Spike Lee joint; more about that later.

We have 2 versions for your listening pleasure. The original hit song by the Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose and a reggae-fied cover by the Chi-Lites.

It’s too late to turn back now, which is why we’re jumping to the break. Make that falling…

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The Spirit Of ’05

Root Beer Blues. Photograph by Dr. A.

I hate to go Dickensian on your asses but the period after Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood was indeed the best of times and the worst of times. My Katrina experience was nothing compared to many people but it has stayed with me in a way that few life experiences have.

Each Katrinaversary gets a bit less painful. Today almost feels like an ordinary Wednesday but I still have the survivor’s guilt I wrote about last year when parts of New Orleans flooded on my birthday:

It’s a common malady for those of us who live in what has come to be known as “the sliver by the river.” We did not flood in 2005, so I do not like arguing with those who did. It makes me uncomfortable and uncharacteristically deferential. In the year immediately after the storm, I  cringed every time I had to tell *our* Katrina story to those worse off since we were so lucky. We did have $20K worth of damage and were in exile for 7 weeks but that was nothing compared to what so many others went through. Hence my survivor’s guilt and this weekend’s survivor’s guilt flashback. I re-posted my account of Dr. A and my sneaking into the city at First Draft in 2015. Here’s the link.

As bad as that period was for all concerned, there was an esprit de corps that I miss. Everyone was in the same leaky boat so we helped one another out. Spontaneous and random acts of kindness were commonplace. I recall a day when we helped our neighbors duct tape their dead refrigerators and drag them to the curb. It was dirty, stinky work but it felt good to help.

Cajun Tomb. Photograph by Dr. A.

The Spirit of ’05 endured for several years, which looking back is remarkable. It could not last forever but those were heady days. I wish we could recapture the camaraderie but crisis brings out both the best and worst in people. And when the crisis ends, everything changes.  I met many people after the storm, made some enduring friendships and others that were more fleeting. But I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything, it has made me who I am in 2018.

The lasting impact of the storm on my life is that I started blogging. I never expected to still be at it thirteen years after the day that everything changed, but here I am. I landed at First Draft because of Scout Prime who not only wrote about her experiences helping in New Orleans after the storm, but came up with the idea for the Rising Tide conference. My friendships with Scout and Athenae are two that have endured over the years. Thanks for letting me tell jokes here, y’all.

Speaking of enduring friendships, here’s an apt tweet from my dear friend Julie:

In past years, the blog has stayed dark for the entire Katrinaversary thereby allowing this solemn image to dominate:

I decided it was time for a change. I also wanted to mention my empathy for the people of Puerto Rico where  2,975 American citizens died as a result of Hurricane Maria. It’s what happens when you have bad leadership: in our case it was the Bush-Cheney gang, with Maria it’s the Trump-Pence regime; both of whom lost the popular vote, then lost the thread when it came to hurricane relief. It’s what happens when you give power to people who hate government. Heckuva job, Trumpy.

The Spirit of ’05 is a touchstone for all that’s good about human nature. It’s still lurking in a city that has changed radically since the storm and its aftermath. Here’s how I put it in a post five days before the 10th Katrinaversary:

After the water receded, there was a second inundation of people flooding into the city. Some were do-gooders, some were hipsters seeking the next trend, still others were here to make a buck. Very few of them understood the essence of New Orleans and what makes the city and its inhabitants tick. Many of them, especially on social media, have come up with an orthodoxy of what it means to be a New Orleanian. That has come to be known as copping a NOLAier than thou attitude, a swell phrase that was coined by Karen Dalton Beninato.  Some of the NOLAier than thou set seem to have spent way too much time watching Treme. Instead of a Cabaret, life is apparently a second line, old chum.

On the 13th anniversary, we continue to struggle with what happened that August day. There’s still a special feeling among those of who went through it together. If only we could fully recapture the Spirit of ’05.

The last word goes to Peter Gabriel with a song that’s been on my mind and in my head thirteen times over:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Icy Blue Heart

The Mediterranean Coast by Henri-Edmond Cross.

It’s hot as hell in New Orleans. Anyone surprised? I’m certainly not.

The big local story remains the mess at the Sewerage & Water Board.  The temporary head of the agency tried to give two employees raises but they were all forced out instead. Score one for Mayor Cantrell. She finally put some points on the board amidst an early rebellion by the City Council.

The SWB billing melodrama continues. One of the people caught up in that clusterfuck is my old friend Karen Gadbois who wrote about it in the online publication she co-founded, The Lens. Check it out. You may need to check your blood pressure after reading it.

The SWB saga poses the eternal question: where have you gone Ed Norton?

That concludes this impromptu edition of Album Cover Art Saturday. Time to go down the sewer with Norton:

This week’s theme song was written by John Hiatt for his classic 1988 album Slow Turning. Icy Blue Heart is one of the best “tears in your beer” weepers of all-time. We have John’s original followed by a cover by the sublime Emmylou Harris with Bonnie Raitt on backing vocals. The Bonster is pretty awesome too.

The opening lines of that song get me every time:

She came on to him like a slow moving cold front.

His beer was warmer than the look in her eyes.

Now that we’ve wept bitter tears, it’s time to dry off and jump to the break.

Continue reading

Kirstjen’s Katrina Connection

It had to happen. Some pundits are calling the caged children scandal “Trump’s Katrina.” First, former Failing NYT editor Jill Abramson in the former Manchester Guardian followed by New Yorker editor David Remnick. To be fair, Remnick acknowledges a crucial difference:

Some pundits have suggested that what is happening now in Texas will be “Trump’s Katrina.” But, without excusing the racism and the indifference shown by the authorities in that horrific episode, it ought to be pointed out that at least the federal government did not order the flooding of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. What is happening now is purely gratuitous, a deliberate act of cruelty intended as leverage to build a “beautiful wall.” And it is a wall intended not only to block Mexicans and Central Americans from making their way into the United States but to divide the United States itself, in order to retain power.

Bush’s Katrina moment was based on incompetence and casual racism whereas the separated family scandal (I’m trying out different rubrics) is deliberate and based on incompetence as well as malicious racism. Shorter Adrastos: the shitheads want to keep out people from shithole countries. Team Trump *wanted* the outrage thinking it would gin up the baser elements of their base. This is what happens when Jeff Sessions, Stephen Miller and the Insult Comedian are driving the train. Hopefully, it will cause a wreck in November.

There’s a more interesting direct link to Katrina involving the very white lady at DHS:

Nielsen moved over to the White House as special assistant to the president and senior director for prevention, preparedness and response. She had that job in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast. Nielsen’s job didn’t involve coordinating storm response—she served more as an information conduit to the White House—but the George W. Bush administration’s botched response to Katrina reflected poorly on all involved.

A bipartisan report (pdf) prepared by the House of Representatives after Katrina specifically cites Nielsen for not recognizing the storm’s potential for destruction, although her office had received warnings. The Washington Post reported that “Nielsen was one of a handful of White House officials warned of the so-called ‘New Orleans scenario’: a hurricane rated Category 3 or higher hitting the city and bursting its aging levees.” Even after in the storm’s aftermath, with hundreds of people awaiting rescue, Nielsen’s office had trouble getting the attention of Bush, who went to California to give a speech. “It does not appear the president received adequate advice and counsel from a senior disaster professional,” according to the House report.

Nielsen is yet another example of upward mobility based on failure. She helped screw the Katrina pooch and ended up Homeland Security secretary.

I rarely watch Trump administration press briefings but I saw Nielsen the other day. It’s bad enough when the Press Secretary pleads ignorance, it’s infinitely worse when the person in charge of things does so. Nielsen made like Huck’s horrible spawn and said she hadn’t seen the images from South Texas or heard the heartbreaking recording of the weeping six-year-old Salvadoran girl. She told the assembled press corps that she’d look into it and get back to them. She’s done neither. Sarah Huckabee Sanders is a shitty role model, y’all.

Harry Truman famously had a sign on his desk saying “the buck stops here.” Team Trump is intent on passing the buck. Bigly. So much so that Dahlia Lithwick compiled a list of Trumper excuses, evasions, and downright lies in defense of this disgusting policy. Their spin doctors are so dizzy that *they* need a doctor. It’s a pity Ronnie Jackson is no longer there to minister to their needs.

Speaking of pointing the finger of blame, I recently read Bob Mann’s fabulous biography of Gret Stet Senator Russell Long. The events involving the very white lady at DHS put me in mind of Long’s legendary aphorism:

To say these are trying times is a grotesque understatement. We have a president* who tweets out shit like this:

Applying the word “infest” to human beings is straight out of the Goebbels playbook. The fucking moron president* may not know the history behind this but Stephen Miller does. Making matters even more grotesque is the fact that Miller is Jewish. Oy, just oy.

Back to the very white lady at DHS. I’d like to praise the folks who heckled her out of a Mexican restaurant in Washington City. And they say that irony is dead. Nielsen puts the tacky in taco.

I was tempted to call this post Kirstjen’s Katrina Konnection but decided that was a bit heavy-handed. I’m as fond of alliteration as anyone but it’s what the Ku Kluxers do, so include me out.

Finally, it may be a struggle in 2018 but I *still* try to be a glass half full person. That’s why Todd Rundgren gets the last word:

Viva Puerto Rico: Heckuva Job, Trumpy

Donald Trump’s war on common decency intensified this morning. He woke up angry and decided it was time to lash out at American citizens who need help, not hateful harangues.

Once again, the Insult Comedian reveals his ignorance. FEMA stays as long as it takes for an area to recover. The city of New Orleans is still dealing with FEMA some twelve years after Katrina and the federal flood.

Conditions in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico are dire. The vast majority of people are without cell phone service, power, and fresh water. Human beings need clean water to survive. There are signs of a looming public health crisis involving leptospirosis, which is a malady caused by drinking contaminated water. It can be fatal and the cure is a simple one: clean water. This is NOT a disease that people should die of in 2017, especially not American citizens who were promised help by the same president* who is now threatening to wash his hands of them.

Even if Trump’s tweets are meaningless, the message conveyed by them is chilling: the lives of American citizens who happen to be Puerto Rican are less valuable than the lives of people who were hit by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. And why? Because their government had financial issues before the storm hit? In a word: disgusting.

People are suffering. People are dying. The color of their skin and the language they speak should not matter. Trump’s handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Maria is a new low point in an administration without any high points. It vividly illustrates that millions of people voted for a man with no empathy whatsoever. He couldn’t be a colder fish if he were a cylon.

I think the gutsy Mayor of San Juan nails it in this tweet:

Now that’s an uppity woman after my own heart. Fuck you sideways, Donald.

As a New Orleanian, I identify with the beleaguered people of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. We had to endure a lot of abuse during our recovery effort but the worst of it NEVER CAME FROM THE PRESIDENT. Congressional Republicans treated us like shit and said horrible things but Bush never did. Trump is not only worse than Nixon, he’s worse than George W. Bush as much as it pains me to say that.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Heckuva Job, Trumpy.

Your President* Speaks: The Boy Ain’t Right

Just when we think the Insult Comedian’s behavior can’t get more bizarre, he tops himself by throwing paper towels to a crowd of Puerto Rican hurricane victims. It’s hard to tell if the stupid bastard thinks he’s on a Carnival float or believes he’s a mascot at an NBA game. For the latter, he’d need the T-shirt cannon. I’m glad Reince is gone, he probably would have gotten one for him.

The president’s* brief visit to Puerto Rico shows why I call him the Insult Comedian. I have to give him credit for originality, past presidents did not insult storm victims. Dubya left it to Congressional Republicans but Trump does his own dirty work. He has paper towels to clean up with, after all.

He gave us a lot of material to work with yesterday. There was the lazy Latin shtick. There were attacks on the Mayor of San Juan for insufficient subservience as well as the inevitable  bragging about what a beautiful and perfect job his minions have done. Another day, another lie.

I’ll let TPM’s Esme Cribb (my new favorite name) provide the gobsmacking narrative:

When he landed on the island, Trump informed Puerto Ricans that the federal relief effort to rebuild their shattered infrastructure is coming out of government coffers.

“I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack, because we spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico, and that’s fine,” Trump said.

He then compared Hurricane Maria to Katrina, which he called a “real catastrophe.”

“If you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina, and you look at the tremendous hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died, and you look at what happened here with really a storm that was just totally overbearing, nobody has seen anything like this,” Trump said.

He compared the number of fatalities after each storm, though the present death toll on Puerto Rico is not final, and Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said before Trump’s arrival that he expected the count to rise.

“What is your death count as of this moment?” Trump said. “Sixteen people versus in the thousands. You can be very proud of all of your people, all of our people working together. Sixteen versus literally thousands of people. You can be very proud.”

There’s so much to unpack here. First, as someone who went through Katrina, the federal flood, and its aftermath, I’m not big on playing comparative catastrophes. Before landing in San Juan, Trump talked about the island being “destroyed.” That’s a catastrophe where I come from.

Then there’s the bit about the budget. These are American citizens in need: penny-pinching should be on nobody’s agenda. Besides, this is the president* who wants to cut taxes on the rich without releasing his own taxes to prove that he won’t benefit. Of course, every time he opens his mouth, he lies. Sometimes impulsively, sometimes with calculation but he always lies. Believe me, not him.

I never thought we’d have a president* who would make Bush the younger look statesmanlike. Bush was capable of delivering a “national unity” speech and once he sent General Honore to take charge of the Katrina relief effort, shit got done. The General put in charge of Maria relief has only 5,000 troops whereas Honore had 10 times that many. The good people of Puerto Rico are being nickeled and dimed to death by Team Trump.

We’ve had some bad presidents in my lifetime but we’ve never had one who had no idea how to behave in public. I had to watch the video of Trump tossing paper towels to the crowd several times before I believed it.

Who does shit like that? It’s something one would expect an 18th Century autocrat to do. It’s as if Marie Antoinette lost her head and tossed cupcakes at the Parisian rabble. Trump expects the people of Puerto Rico to survive on crumbs provided by their betters. What a maroon.

I never thought I’d find myself quoting cartoon Texan and propane aficionado Hank Hill about a POTUS* even one with an asterisk. Hank did not understand his zany, non-conformist son Bobby. His stock line about the fat kid who wanted to be a rodeo clown can be seen below:

Of course, Bobby Hill was not only fictional, he was a kid.  Donald Trump only seems like a fictional character but he’s for real. He *is* a clown but this is no rodeo, it’s deadly serious. We’ve survived bad presidents, but Trump is already circling the bowl and he’s only been in office for 256 days.

Heckuva job, Trumpy. The boy ain’t right.

Heckuva Job, Trumpy

I rarely write the  next day on the same topic as Athenae. It has to be important. It is: Puerto Rico is drowning and the current administration* is throwing it a life-preserver weighted down with conditions. That’s not how our government should treat American citizens. I’m not even certain that Trump knew Puerto Ricans are Americans before Hurricane Maria decimated that beautiful island. If it’s not about him, it doesn’t matter.

I guess Fox News is running stories about Puerto Rico. That could explain why the president* interrupted his #takeaknee diversion with some stray commentary on Puerto Rico’s plight. In his pea brain, if it’s important it must be tweeted about:

This coming from a man who stiffs contractors and declares bankruptcy as often as some people change their socks.  Also, Texas and Florida are not “doing great.” A friend of mine volunteered in Port Arthur, Texas last weekend and they still need help.

The Insult Comedian spoke more positively later Monday about helping Puerto Rico, but with this bozo the initial, off-the-cuff reaction is what matters. He only pretended to give a shit after being subjected to withering criticism. The proof is in the administration’s* refusal to waive provisions in the Jones Act that are interfering with the relief effort:

The Trump administration on Tuesday denied a request from several members of Congress to waive shipping restrictions to help get gasoline and other supplies to Puerto Rico as the island recovers from Hurricane Maria.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) declined the request to waive the Jones Act, which limits shipping between coasts to U.S.-flagged vessels, according to Reuters. DHS waived the act following hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which hit the mainland U.S.

The agency has in the past waived the rule to allow cheaper and more readily-available foreign vessels to supply goods to devastated areas. But DHS said Tuesday that waiving the act for Puerto Rico would not help the U.S. island territory due to damaged ports preventing ships from docking.

 “The limitation is going to be port capacity to offload and transit, not vessel availability,” a spokesperson for Customs and Border Protection told Reuters.

In a letter to the department on Tuesday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) urgedDHS to rethink the decision, citing the agency’s willingness to waive the Jones Act for relief efforts in the wake of hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

“The Department of Homeland Security has been given the ability to waive the Jones Act to accommodate national security concerns, and has done so twice in the last month,” McCain wrote. “These emergency waivers have been valuable to speed up recovery efforts in the impacted regions. However, I am very concerned by the Department’s decision not to waive the Jones Act for current relief efforts in Puerto Rico, which is facing a worsening humanitarian crisis following Hurricane Maria.”

The fact that John McCain is one of the members of Congress urging a waiver makes the more cynical among us (myself included) wonder if this is payback for his role in scuttling Graham-Cassidy. It’s doubtful that this decision went to the White House but some ambitious bureaucrat might be pandering to the Idiot in Chief. Let’s hope not. The waiver should be granted. Pronto.

Even if revenge is not involved in this decision, discrimination is since waivers were granted in Florida and Texas, both states with Republican governors. I guess Houston is lucky that Trump thinks it’s a town full of plucky white people instead of one of the most diverse cities in the country. As many have pointed out, one reason Puerto Rico is dying is that Trump doesn’t like “brown people.” That led me to point out something on the Insult Comedian’s favorite medium:

That’s right, folks, Puerto Rico is a white supremacist’s nightmare. It’s enough to give the average MAGA Maggot a migraine or Jeff Sessions a seizure. The late great Roberto Clemente would tell them to STFU and roll up their sleeves to help his people; make that our people. As New Orleans writer Edward Branley said on the book of Zucker:

My post-Katrina/Federal Flood PTSD has not been far from the surface of late. Watching the events in Puerto Rico and the American Virgin Islands reminds me of the dilatory response of the Bush administration as New Orleans flooded. Dr. A and I were in exile in Bossier City and Dallas during the worst parts of the disaster and I recall being approached in the parking lot of an upscale mall in Plano, Texas where we went to use the internet because the cousin with whom we were staying has mildly Luddite tendencies. We were hailed by a man wearing a classic Dallas power outfit: an expensive suit, Stetson, and hand-made cowboy boots. Initially, I thought he was a wingnut prepared to dance on my city’s watery grave. Instead, he said in a thick Texas accent, “I see from looking at your car that y’all are from New Orleans. I bet you’re pissed at that pissant president for fucking you over.”

I bet people in Puerto Rico are pissed at *this* pissant president* for fucking them over. Obviously, NFL protests are more important than suffering in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. #sarcasm. Heckuva job, Trumpy.

Our fate is your fate.

UPDATE: After days of lame excuses, the administration* has waived the Jones Act. It’s unclear if a player to be named later was part of the deal.

Thank You. These Things Don’t End.

Today I’m sending $3,136 to the Houston Food Bank, that you all contributed in the past week. I can’t tell you what this will mean to the people there who’ll be dealing with this for decades: 

Low-income communities frequently sustain more damage in storms because they tend to be built on cheaper land that is often more flood-prone, said Shannon Van Zandt, an urban-planning scholar with Texas A&M University’s Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center, who spoke with me by phone recently. It can also be harder for poorer people — who may not have cars, may be more afraid to leave their possessions and jobs, may not speak English or may fear immigration authorities — to evacuate before disasters.

These things have a long tail. There will be people who will be lost from the storm, long after the storm is over. Years after.

A.

Old Tweets Never Die

There’s a  hurricane themed tweet from February making the rounds on the tweeter tube right now. I have no idea if the twit who tweeted it is a troll but it’s some crazy shit:

Where to start? Michelle Obama wasn’t FLOTUS in September, 2005 so it doesn’t matter if she went shopping. Besides, that’s a picture of then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. They should be frying Rice instead of Michelle. I don’t give a rat’s ass if Condi went shopping right after Katrina. Correct me if I’m wrong but there appears to be an iPhone in the picture. The first generation iPhone wasn’t released until June, 2007. Oops.

I didn’t bother to investigate the Rice photo because it’s more fun to pile on to Bikergirl4Trump whoever the hell she?he/it is. My hunch is that it’s a Team Trump troll because the account wasn’t created until March, 2016. Neither subtlety nor accuracy is important in Trumper troll world.

Old tweets never die but I wish they would fade away.

Then & Now: Katrina & Harvey

People who know me well, know that I don’t care for poetry. One exception to this rather malleable rule is TS Eliot. I’ve been thinking of The Wasteland the last few days while watching events in Houston unfold. Eliot wrote “April is the cruelest month.” August is the cruelest month in the Gulf South.

I put it less elegantly but more succinctly on FB:

I’ve been pondering some of the differences between my storm, Katrina and Hurricane Harvey. (For the pedants out there, I’m lumping the federal flood  in with Katrina.) There weren’t a plethora of social media outlets in 2005. We had to rely on message boards, emails, phone calls,and smoke signals to get the message out.  Eventually, we got in touch with a guy in our neighborhood who told us that our house hadn’t flooded but that our neighbor’s tree was leaning on it. It turned out not to be a big deal. The tree was too weak to total the back of Adrastos World HQ. So it goes.

In 2017, social media is, on balance, a plus. I already know how my friends in Houston, Galveston, and Corpus Christi fared during the storm. They’ve been lucky so far. So far. If their luck holds, they’ll have to deal with the survivor’s guilt I’ve had since Katrina. It beats the hell out of being homeless or drowning.

Social media, however, is a double-edged sword. There are Trumpers informing us that the Kaiser of Chaos is doing a better job with Harvey than Obama did with Katrina. No fucking comment. Then there are some wayward lefties who remain convinced that red state residents are less worthy than those in blue states. This is, of course, rubbish as our old friend Jude pointed out on da twittahs:

There are also some folks who think that the “Cajun Navy” is a para-military group bent on mayhem and other assorted bad deeds. Why? Many of those guys voted for Trump and have some retrograde views. I don’t know about you but if somebody saves me from drowning, I’m not asking who they voted for. I had a surreal argument about whether members of the original Cajun Navy shot and killed people after Katrina. There’s no evidence that they shot anyone. I was asked to prove a negative: that they did not do so. I declined the invitation.  I guess this person would have been opposed to the demon private boats that did most of the evacuating at Dunkirk.

In fact, the Cajun Navy group that set off those people has been repudiated by other “units.” They claimed to have been robbed and were unmasked as scamsters. I told you so. I love saying that, y’all. The people I argued with still don’t get it. Schmucks.

Here’s the deal: help can come from the unlikeliest sources. People with crappy politics can help people too. We never had these arguments before 2005 and it’s outrageous how many people to my left sound like Republicans circa 2005. I’ll let it go now but first something from my friend Troy Gilbert who was part of the *original* Cajun Navy:

Anyone who thinks that’s sinister should put down the smart phone and take a break from social media. In a perfect world, it would be best for federal, state, and local authorities to take care of all relief and rescue operations. We don’t live in such a world and it’s getting more imperfect all the time. I guess I didn’t let it go. I will now.

One thing Harvey survivors will have to get used to is telling their hurricane story over and over again. Dr. A and I have done it many times over the years and it gets old but it’s usually asked out of curiosity and empathy. It’s what happens when you’re a part of a historic event. Anyway, prepare to expound, y’all. You might be able to get some free meals out of it if you play your cards right. My old friends Maitri and Domingo may have to charge double. They’re Katrina *and* Harvey survivors. Sadly, they’re not alone in this.

I bitched about twitter earlier. It’s only fair to share something positive even if it’s self-serving. It’s from a complete stranger:

I expect I’ll have more to say about Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath. I wanted to keep this personal so I skipped discussing the Insult Comedian’s embarrassing Texas sojourn. I think there’s a Your President* Speaks post in my future.

Last word time. This has been my personal theme song for the last few days:

It’s The Water, Not The Wind

There’s a cookie-cutter aspect to teevee Hurricane coverage. They’re fixated on what category a storm is. It’s human nature to grab on to something tangible (in this case, a number) when confronting something inherently irrational such as a major storm system. Most of the damage Harvey has done has been *after* its category was reduced; it’s a tropical storm as of this writing. The wind is scary and produces spectacular pictures but it’s the water that does most of the damage.

Everyone who lived through Katrina and the subsequent federal flood is experiencing PTSD right now, especially since the 12th anniversary is a mere 2 days away. The images coming out of Houston are heartbreaking and depressingly familiar to those of us from the New Orleans metro area. We’re also hearing some of the same criticisms of those who live in Houston and elsewhere on the Texas Gulf Coast. Houston tried mandatory evacuations in 2005 and 2008. They were clusterfucks. What was called for this time around was an evacuation of low-lying and flood-prone areas. It would have had to start as early as Monday or Tuesday. It’s very hard to get people to do that. Additionally, many low-income people cannot afford the cost of evacuating for that long. There’s no easy or good way to handle a system as wet and dangerous as Harvey. Nature is always more powerful than human beings.

We’re seeing some tut-tutting on social media about the hypocrisy of Texas Senators Cruz and Cornyn right now. Let’s stipulate that they’re hypocrites and assholes. They’ve both been malaka of the week and I call them by nasty names: Senator Cornhole and Tailgunner Ted. That’s irrelevant. People are suffering and need help. It doesn’t matter who represents them or whether it’s a blue or red state. People on the left shouldn’t sound like right-wingers circa 2005. I firmly believe that you become what you hate. It reminds me of a line from Justified wherein Raylan Givens said: “If you run into an asshole in the morning, you ran into an asshole. If you run into assholes all day, you’re the asshole.” Don’t be that asshole.

Finally, the fact that this deluge is happening in Houston makes it doubly horrible. The people of Houston opened their hearts to people fleeing the floodwaters in Southeast Louisiana in 2005. Some of those Louisianians never left Houston and now many of them have experienced flooding again, It’s called a double whammy and it’s never been crueler than it is right now.

We’re trying to figure out how First Draft can help the people of Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast. We’ll have an announcement sometime in the next few days. Ain’t nobody getting into Harvey zone until the rain relents. It’s the water, not the wind.

The last word goes to Houston native Rodney Crowell with his hurricane song, Telephone Road:

 

 

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: I Can’t Stand The Rain

Landscape in the Rain by Vincent Van Gogh.

It was the week from hell in New Orleans. There turned out to be much more human error involved in the flood I wrote about Monday. It has led to an orgy of recrimination and paranoia. The bottom line is that the city’s pumping system is in poor shape at the peak of hurricane season. It makes me glad to live in the so-called sliver by the river but it still bites the big one.

Mayor Landrieu has been re-enacting my Russell Long meme:

Comparisons to Katrina and the Federal Flood remain overwrought but things should not have gotten as bad as they did. It was also my birthday and in the future the August 5th flash flood will join the list of local flood dates. Heckuva job, Mitch. Btw, your fantasies of a presidential bid are underwater, both literally and figuratively.

This week’s theme song was an easy choice since I live in a city with marginally functional drainage as of this writing. I Can’t Stand The Rain was written by Ann Peebles, Don Bryant, and Bernie Miller. It was a big hit in 1973 and could be the theme song not only of this post but of the city of New Orleans in the summer of 2017. Heckuva job, Mitch.

Here are two versions of this superb song: the Ann Peebles original and a live version from the great Paul Rodgers. Rodgers recorded the song in Memphis for his Royal Sessions album. It was one of my birthday albums. It’s a good ‘un.

I’m feeling terse and not particularly funny as I write this on Friday morning. I’ve been on the receiving end of some extraordinarily bad customer service this week and I’m still fuming as you can see from this tweet:

The post was already assembled so I’ll play hurt as it were. We’ll see how that works out after the break. At least I’m not concussed…

Continue reading

Survivor’s Guilt Flashback

We had another weather event last Saturday. Parts of New Orleans got 8+ inches of rain in three hours. The rain was random and much worse in parts of the city leading to some flooding in the affected areas. Adrastos World HQ got 2 inches that day so we were fine.

Some of the post-rain incident discussion has danced on my last nerve. It’s not analogous to Katina/Federal Flood in that it didn’t impact 80% of the city and nobody died. It’s also less clear as of this writing that human error was a major factor as it was in 2005.  The human factor may have caused some problems around the edges but that sort of deluge is going to wreak havoc no matter how well prepared we are. Sometimes shit just happens. This was one of my initial reactions on social media:

There was much lively debate and disagreement on the thread but I remain convinced that we have to learn how to live with water in New Orleans as the Dutch have. We need cleaner catch basins and better infrastructure but severe weather is going to happen, particularly in the age of climate change. This was a random freak event and there will be more to come.

This is not the first non-hurricane/levee break style flood the city has had. It won’t be the last. One of my FB commenters, Carlos Froggy May, posted this list on the thread:

Summarizing between May ’78 and the 2005 Federal Flood, leaving out hurricanes/major tropical storms, New Orleans floods from rain alone include:

May 1978. Well documented.

Feb 1979. “Hundreds of Area Homes Flooded. New Orleans Times-Picayune, 7 February 1979 I”

April 1980. A few references.

April 1983. Major event. National media reporting.

June 1991. National media, though only sparse traces online. “The deluge, which started during the evening rush hour Monday, caught New Orleans by surprise. The downpour abated overnight, then resumed Tuesday morning.” “To have it flood two separate times in 24 hours is just unheard of,” said Rob Spangenberg, who measured 16 inches of water on the ground floor of his house.”

May 1995. Major event, very well documented online.

September 1998. Described.

June 2005. Seems largely forgotten given what happened a few months later. What have I missed?

Any time someone insists that people can triumph over nature, I think of a passage in one of Tony Hillerman’s Joe Leaphorn novels. Leaphorn is a detective on the Navajo tribal police in Arizona. I wish I could quote it directly but it involves Leaphorn marveling at white people planting lawns in the desert and being shocked when they die every time they’re planted. Hillerman’s point is that you have to learn to live with your environment. You can sand down the rough edges and minimize damage but nature will win in the end. Some may think this is fatalistic but I think it’s realistic. Can they abolish earthquakes in my native California?

It’s time to address the post title. Every time something like this happens, my post-K/Federal Flood survivor’s guilt kicks in. It’s a common malady for those of us who live in what has come to be known as “the sliver by the river.” We did not flood in 2005, so I do not like arguing with those who did. It makes me uncomfortable and uncharacteristically deferential. In the year immediately after the storm, I  cringed every time I had to tell *our* Katrina story to those worse off since we were so lucky. We did have $20K worth of damage and were in exile for 7 weeks but that was nothing compared to what so many others went through. Hence my survivor’s guilt and this weekend’s survivor’s guilt flashback. I re-posted my account of Dr. A and my sneaking into the city at First Draft in 2015. Here’s the link.

This was a terrible event but all the people acting as if it’s 2005 all over again need to take a deep breath followed by a chill  pill. Nobody died, only pockets of the city flooded, and nobody was forced out of their homes at gun point. I had some advice on twitter for local voters in the upcoming mayoral election:

Perspective not drama is called for. We should fix anything that contributed to the recent flooding but we cannot abolish nature even if there were times we wish that was possible. It is not.

That was exhausting. Any time I dredge up these memories, I feel rotten until the feeling passes a few hours later.

Finally, one of my theories in life is that there’s a Kinks song for every occasion. We’ll give the Davies brothers the last word:

Jared Kushner: Renaissance Man?

See Jared Ski. Ski, Jared, Ski.

Trump’s son-in-law is everywhere. Jared Kushner missed the Trumpcare meltdown because he was skiing at that well-known populist resort town, Aspen. He’s being called before the Senate Intelligence Committee to testify about his meetings with the Russians. He still has a greasy finger in the foreign policy/national security pie. And today we’ve learned he’ll be in charge of deforming the Federal bureaucracy even though he never worked in government before 2017:

Kushner will report directly to Trump and will staff the office with former business leaders, according to the Washington Post. The office will work with business executives like Apple’s Tim Cook and Micrsoft’s Bill Gates, per the Post.

“We should have excellence in government,” Kushner told the Post on Sunday. “The government should be run like a great American company. Our hope is that we can achieve successes and efficiencies for our customers, who are the citizens.”

So much for the president* as a different kind of Republican. This is GOP boilerplate. The problem is that government is nothing like business and cannot be run as such. The purpose of business is to make money and show a profit. That’s particularly true for privately held outfits like the Trump and Kushner family businesses. They have no accountability to shareholders or anyone else. Now that I think of it, Trump’s White House is run like his company only they’re LOSING, not winning as promised.

The whole “run guvmint like a bidness” meme reminds me of a certain former New Orleans Mayor who is currently serving a 10-year stretch in Club Fed. Like Trump, C Ray Nagin promised to run City Hall like a business. The result was comic ineptitude in his first term and a series of second term scandals that led to what Meshach Taylor’s character on Designing Women called his “unfortunate incarceration.”

Nagin’s downfall was caused by his propensity to shake down people  to use his son’s business, the hilariously named Stone Age Quarry. Nepotism has always been a thing in New Orleans. It certainly is with the Trumps and Kushners as well. Nagin at least had the sense-I cannot believe I used that word in a sentence with C Ray’s name-to hide his filial malefactions. The Trumps do it in broad daylight as the president’s* frequent forays to Trump branded golf courses and hotels indicates. They’re not only above the law, they think they *are* the law. Hubris is not only an unattractive quality, it usually ends up biting one in the ass.

Back to young Jared’s new role as the White House’s point man on guvmint innovation and “reform.” It’s usually wise to appoint someone who has worked in the Federal bureaucracy to change it. Jerry Brown’s 1992 Presidential effort was based on the idea that only a reformed fund-raising sinner could change the way campaigns were financed. It didn’t turn out that way but it was a pretty good argument.

More famously, when FDR appointed Joe Kennedy head of the newly formed SEC, he was accused of putting a fox in charge of the hen-house. FDR’s reply was that only a fox knew where the bodies were buried. He didn’t exactly say that but it’s the whole “it takes a thief to catch a thief” thing writ large. Just ask Cary Grant or Robert Wagner

The Trumpers have already planted hundreds of political spies/commissars at departments and agencies. In some cases, the appointees have been even less qualified than Jared including a recent high school graduate. I am not making this up. It’s another example of the almost breathtaking ineptitude of these bozos. They remind me of the title of a book by the late, great Jimmy Breslin: The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.

I used the word commissars because those were the loyal communists the Soviets appointed to supervise all arms of government including the military. As far as we know, the Trumpers haven’t tried that trick. Yet. That brings me to a fascinating NYT article by Anne O’Donnell about a strike by Russian civil servants against the Bolsheviks in 1917. The employees resisted the new government and even though they lost, it’s still a fascinating chapter in history. I don’t think of Jared as the next Trotsky or Bannon as the next Lenin but they can dream.

I wonder if the Insult Comedian is inspired by the second Red Scare attack on government employees by Senator Joe McCarthy and Trump’s mentor Roy Cohn. There’s that name again. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Oy, such a mentor.

I suspect that this attempt to run guvmint like a bidness will end up on the ash-heap of history alongside other failed Trump ventures. I hope that Bill Gates and Tim Cook will reconsider co-operating with the Kushner initiative. The Apple honcho should know by now that working with the Trump White House is bad for business. Of course, it wouldn’t surprise me if that part of the story turned out to be another snow job.

I have a suggestion for Team Trump. The Insult Comedian could pardon C Ray and put him to work on this misbegotten effort to run guvmint like a bidness. Nagin may not have been a Trump-level asshole but he has one thing in common with the Trumpers: INCOMPETENCE.

Bannon’s B3 Brownshirts & The Chaos Principle

It’s official: Donald Trump had the worst first week of any President* in American history. It was so bad that I debated with a friend as to whether he was already the worst ever. I still think it’s too early to tell since Buchanan and W are responsible for wars and economic calamity. Trump hasn’t passed Andrew Johnson either BUT he’s building a strong case for worst ever and he’s only been at it for 10 days. I don’t think our cause benefits from hyperbole and overstatement. You can only fight lies with the truth and delusion with reality.

I admitted the other day to knowing very little about higher maths. I have, however, heard of the Chaos Principle:

Chaos is the science of surprises, of the nonlinear and the unpredictable. It teaches us to expect the unexpected. While most traditional science deals with supposedly predictable phenomena like gravity, electricity, or chemical reactions, Chaos Theory deals with nonlinear things that are effectively impossible to predict or control, like turbulence, weather, the stock market, our brain states, and so on.

It looks like Steve Bannon and his B3 Brownshirts are inspired by the Chaos Principle, at least by analogy. Team Trump is trying to inject so much chaos and confusion into our polity that repression will be required to maintain order. I seriously doubt if the Insult Comedian himself has such a plan: all he ever does is wing it without thought to the implications. Bannon, however, has emerged as first among equals in the West Wing. He’s capable of complex, devious, and downright evil thought. Bannon has Trump’s ear and the Dear Leader Wannabe seems to agree with the last person he spoke to.

In short, Bannon and his fellow white nationalists want to create the circumstances in which a right-wing revolution is possible. Those circumstances do not currently exist. Bitching about the government is as American as apple pie, it doesn’t amount to instant homegrown fascism. That is definitely a long-term threat but we have the mechanisms to stop it: people power and lawyers, lawyers, lawyers. Political courage on the part of elected officials seems to be in short supply but the longer this constitutional crisis lasts the bolder they will become. Talk of collaboration with the Trumpers has become much less common since they came to power.

The good news is that Team Trump’s Muslim ban was issued without co-ordination with the agencies obliged to enforce it and they didn’t even run it by their own lawyers. That makes it eminently susceptible to legal challenge. It was, apparently, pulled out of Rudy Noun Verb 9/11’s ass:

I’ll tell you the whole history of it. So when he first announced it he said, “Muslim ban.” He called me up and said, “Put a commission together, show me the right way to do it legally.” I put a commission together with Judge Mukasey, with Congressman McCaul, Pete King, a whole group of other very expert lawyers on this. And what we did was we focused on, instead of religion, danger. The areas of the world that create danger for us. Which is a factual basis. Not a religious basis. Perfectly legal, perfectly sensible, and that’s what the ban is based on. It’s not based on religion. It’s based on places where there are substantial evidence that people are sending terrorists into our country.

That is, of course, nonsense. The order discriminates against people because of their religion, and all the lies in the world won’t change that. The fact that an exception was made for Christians from the affected countries is proof of discriminatory intent as is Giuliani’s need to brag about his role in the ban. He’s really turning into his master. Giuliani’s success in masterminding the Comey coup has gone to his head, and he was already a raging egomaniac. This is terrific evidence for the legal eagles to pounce on. Thanks, Rudy. I can imagine Justice Anthony Kennedy’s head spinning as I write this. I am as likely to vote Republican as he is to uphold this executive order if it reaches SCOTUS.

This policy is based on Islamophobic fantasies, not reality. That’s a recurring theme for Team Trump’s Bannon wing. In addition to the Chaos Principle, they believe in what one might call the Goebbels corollary: the bigger the lie, the more believable it is. This is propaganda, not spin. The MSM is finally showing signs of coming to grips with that. It’s a pity that they didn’t do so during the late campaign. The MSM and the “Clinton is just as bad as Trump” crowd bear a lot of responsibility for the mess we find ourselves in. I hope the Steiners and Busters enjoyed the events of this weekend. They have a share of the blame. I may “Nazi punch” the next purity troll who tells me their vote didn’t matter because they were in a red state or some other lame excuse. Every vote in every election matters.

The Trumpers have clearly overreached. The order placing Steve Bannon on the National Security Council is the best example I can think of. That body has been moribund for many years BUT excluding the Director of National Intelligence and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff sends a dangerous signal that Steve Bannon is running the show. It doesn’t get much worse than that but the order’s impact is symbolic for now. For now. That’s always the rub with this crowd.

One thing I’ve noticed about Bannon and his B3 Brownshirts is that they admire Soviet-style tactics. They’ve done some things that Stalin would have applauded such as placing what amounts to “political commissars” at cabinet departments and agencies. This sort of convergence of the far left and extreme right doesn’t surprise me at all.  This creeping Sovietism/Putinism is also reflected by their Holocaust remembrance day proclamation. It’s the first time an American administration has referred to the Holocaust without mentioning Jews. They’re pandering to the Holocaust denialists and minimizers. What’s next? An invitation for Davids Irving and Duke to visit the White House? Nothing would surprise me in the Chaos Principle era.

The one piece of advice I have for the nascent anti-Trump movement is to pace yourselves. The world is a complicated place and it cannot be changed in a day. This is going to be a long, hard slog and burn-out is a risk. Make sure to do whatever it is you do for fun It’s a lesson that New Orleanians learned during the post-Katrina/Federal Flood era. We were widely criticized for having Carnival in 2006. We knew better. It was necessary for our collective mental health. We continued rebuilding and pressuring the local, state, federal government for assistance but we took time out to enjoy life. It’s something that we can teach the rest of the country. There *is* a constitutional crisis now but stopping it won’t be helped by freaking out. Instead of freaking out: become better informed about American political history, and organize, organize, organize.

Vive les Maquis.