Monday, August 31, 2015

Ten Years of Katrina

If you thought that American leaders were traveling to New Orleans these past few days to solemnly remember the victims and to acknowledge and apologize for America's shameful, ongoing response to the still-ongoing disaster of Hurricane Katrina, think again.

From Barack Obama to George W. Bush to Bill Clinton and all the politicians in between, they came and they saw, not to mourn, but to gloat over the neoliberal rebirth of a city. The only thing worse than their initial response is their current response. They are actually still congratulating themselves on a heckuva job well done. They actually used the word "celebration" more times than anyone has been able to count.

I guess they are saving their phony solemnity and their crocodile tears for the upcoming great exceptional American holiday of 9/11.

Barack Obama raved about American strength and Cajun cuisine, even jovially broke out into the theme song from The Jeffersons ("movin' on up to the east side -- to a deluxe apartment in the sky") as he toured a partially rehabbed neighborhood.

 Far from being shamed and shunned, George W. Bush was greeted with open arms and plaudits by Democratic Mayor Mitch Landrieu and DNC Vice Chair Donna Brazile before he scurried to a photo-op with black children at one of the for-profit charter schools that replaced the entire city public school system. Protests against his jarring presence were few to nonexistent.

Smooth-talking Bill Clinton, surrounded by Nancy Pelosi, former Senator Mary Landrieu and other groveling Democrats, spoke at the Smoothie King sports arena in the downtown area. He fondly reminisced about his many visits over the years to the decadent French Quarter, which largely escaped damage. Without mentioning the 1,800 lives lost 10 years ago, he urged the audience to laugh, dance and have fun, because they've earned it.

None of the politicians mentioned that even as the military and Homeland Security began evacuating people or providing them with food and formaldehyde-laced FEMA trailers, they were rounding some of them up, imprisoning and torturing them in a makeshift prison (the "Greyhound Gulag") for the crime of existing in a flood-ravaged city. Blacks, Muslims, the mentally ill and all manner of suspects were accused of being terrorists or felons, caged without charge, even denied the usual phone call to loved ones. When they were eventually released, as much as months later, their confiscated money was missing, and they never got it, or their old lives, back.

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has gratuitously used the occasion of the Katrina anniversary to shoot more Republican fish in a barrel, and to prop up Obama and Obamacare and the Democrats while he's at it:
There are many things we should remember about late August and early September 2005, and the political fallout shouldn't be near the top of the list. Still, the disaster in New Orleans did the Bush administration a great deal of damage — and conservatives have never stopped trying to take their revenge. Every time something has gone wrong on President Obama’s watch, critics have been quick to declare the event “Obama’s Katrina.” How many Katrinas has Mr. Obama had so far? By one count, 23.
Beyond that, Krugman continued, Katrina served to highlight the huge gap between Bush's macho image and Bush's sick reality. And then Krugman proceeded to trounce Donald Trump and nearly all the occupants of the GOP clown car. (He obviously cannot let the anniversary of a human disaster go to waste when it can be so easily used to trash the other side of the Money Party.)

Never once did he mention how Katrina highlighted the huge gap between rich and poor, and between black people and white people. In my published comment (since "disappeared" by editors) I pointed  out the reality that George Bush and his cabal of war criminals and cronies have never been held accountable for anything. Not the tax cuts to the rich, not the wealth and racial disparity that Katrina highlighted to a shocked nation, not the invasion of Iraq, not torture. I quoted Donna Brazile's glowing words to the media in my soon-to-be censored comment:
"Well, I'm one of those individuals that believes under President Bush's leadership, we got it right. It was slow. … The federal government had to figure out its role, and it took a while for the federal government to really figure out how to help us. And I think once the president made the decision that New Orleans would be rebuilt … the president made a commitment and I think he kept his word.”

The White House quickly confirmed that the rehabilitation of George W. Bush is now official and complete. The elite conventional wisdom is that Bush got a bum rap over Katrina. The poor guy's been reduced to painting his toes in his bathtub, fer cryin' out loud, so the rest of the cruel world is urged to forget that New Orleans once got turned into an epic toxic bathtub on his passive-aggressive watch.

Meanwhile the politicians swooped down upon the city like vultures to bipartisanly party like it was Mardi Gras in August.  

Its centuries-old charity hospital has never re-opened. Instead, taxpayers footed the bill for a billion-dollar luxury medical center.  Obama gushed during his visit that the city has been transformed into "a laboratory for innovation" and "a place as entrepreneurial as any place in the country."

As his former chief of staff and now mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel once infamously said, "Never let a serious crisis go to waste." Use natural and man-made disasters to plunder the commons and privatize everything in sight and grow very, very rich at the expense of the pesky victims.

Incidentally, Paul Krugman is of course not the only pundit to either ignore the Katrina anniversary altogether, or to co-opt it for political, tribalistic purposes. FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) has an excellent piece critiquing not only the failure of government to respond to the disaster, but the continuing failure of the mass media to  cover the poverty and racism that Katrina unmasked. They were initially shocked, shocked at what they saw. And not only have they forgotten, they are enabling the political class to keep covering up the fact that half of all Americans are only a paycheck or a Social Security stipend away from the streets.

Half of all American schoolchildren live below the poverty line, yet Donald Trump is sucking up all the attention and Obama is lauded for "renaming" Mount McKinley as an act of stupendous statesmanship.

The truth is that the political class would rather spend money on the endless "war on terror" abroad than even begin to acknowledge or rectify the economic and social terrorism being waged, with their complicity and approval, here at home. New Orleans is the living legacy of Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine. Not only are our leaders punishing the dispossessed, they're cashing in on them. They never let a crisis go to waste, especially a crisis that they themselves had an iron fist in creating.

And they give each other their high-fives and their heckuva-jobs and promise us Nirvana if only we would vote for them, one more time.


Karen Garcia said...


Since posting the above entry I heard back from the NYT in response to my query about my comment being removed. They had no good explanation, but did restore it,tho of course it now languishes far below in reader recommendations from its early #3 spot, and the reader replies to it are still MIA. Here's the link if you're interested in reading it. (I did cover and expand upon its main points in my blogpost)

Karen Garcia said...


In case you are interested in my censorship saga, I got another reply from the Times, which to its credit, actually investigated the censorship. The head moderator tells me that my referring to Bush and Co as a "cartel of war criminals" wreaked havoc with something or other. I was actually afraid I had inadvertently referred to Bush as an effing asshole while I wrote my comment at 4:30 a.m. while still half asleep. Yes, I sometimes wake in the pre-dawn hours to write Times comments, but I never set my clock to join the fun. And I always, always go back to bed for a couple of hours. Trouble is, I then tend to have nightmares of Bush and the other bad actors still lurking inside my head.

Pearl said...

Karen: Speaking of censorship, I mentioned the following in your website some time ago which is worth repeating. When we were living in Israel in the l960's there was a huge scandal in the government which they were trying to repress and denied that any censorship of the truth was involved. One day the Jerusalem Post which was the English language newspaper printed a full first page article trying to expose the officials involved, but every other line was blacked out by the government censors.

It was then completely obvious where the truth lay.

Cirze said...

Great journalism, Karen.

We are honored to be here.

As for me, I think the whole "celebration" atmosphere was just another "Go Shopping!" admonition from the PTB. Because we need people shopping and using their credit cards to keep the banker accounts full (as it's obvious that people still have very limited incomes and that the rich never stopped shopping).

Who can watch these muddled monkeys and still vote Democratic?

annenigma said...


"Who can watch these muddled monkeys and still vote Democratic?"

Sadly, 'Independent' Bernie Sanders can and will. I'm referring to his pledge to support the Democratic nominee, whoever it is (Hillary), adding that he 'always has'. He's evidently never supported Jill Stein or Ralph Nader or anyone else. No one but Democrats for this longest-serving Independent in Congress.

Personally, I would never vote for corporatist Hillary but Bernie will. Most surprisingly, he hasn't held out his support/supporters as a negotiating tool and leverage for policy pledges, despite the fact that she's Democrat and he's ostensibly an Independent. It doesn't add up except that it's part of the same old political game that voters are now rebelling against. He's giving away the farm in advance just as Obama did with the Republicans in his attempted Grand Bargain.

Bernie:Independent::Obama:Democrat = 'just words' (credit to Deval Patrick, not Barack Obama).

WHY, Bernie, WHY? It's a betrayal of his supporters to announce that he would automatically support (and transfer his supporters to) the Democratic nominee over anyone else of any Party. That hardly what an independent leader of a Political Revolution would do. It must be easy and relatively risk free to campaign as a political revolutionary when you won't rock anyone's boat. Will the DNC allow him to wage that Political Revolution he promises us or is that 'just words' too?

I have no doubt that Bernie would do the right thing during and after something like a Katrina disaster IF the bigwigs in the Democratic Party let him. But he doesn't seem to be his own man. Will Obama or the Clintons (Chelsea) be pulling the strings in the future? Same corporate difference. Who would the DNC allow him to name to cabinet positions? Independents or someone from the tribe of muddled monkeys?

I'm not getting my hopes up on Bernie but I'm glad he's spreading his message. He's keeping the spirit of the Occupy movement alive and the kids deserve that, but they also deserve someone who will fight for them in action and not 'just words'. Their lives depend on a Political Revolution.

Earth to Bernie - Hillary is not going to carry that torch. She and the Democratic Party sold their souls long ago.

Pearl said...

"I'm not getting my hopes up on Bernie but I'm glad he's spreading his message. He's keeping the spirit of the Occupy movement alive and the kids deserve that, but they also deserve someone who will fight for them in action and not 'just words'. Their lives depend on a Political Revolution."


If you feel this way, why do you tear down Bernie's reputation by comments that are not verified in my eyes. No wonder many movements fail with people like yourself who don't have the guts to put yourself on the line. You are a chicken hawk where it counts.

Pearl said...

Annenigma (continued)

I think Bernie is playing a smarter game than you see. In order to make change you have to be directly involved where the problems exist and not cut yourself off if you don't win everything at once. Making enemies of the people you may work with is not wise for the future. Also, your attitude which may affect people you know, loses support and may discourage other potential leaders from stepping into the ring.
He is aware of the bumps in the road ahead but in order to stay in the fight has to keep connecting with people and current opposition who now respect him although they differ.
His aim also is to knock Hillary out of the race to allow better people to have a chance even if it is not himself but can still be a part of a general political revolution.
Many comments you have made have been refuted by people who know him well and one's attitudes can change with time.
Also, many people who read Sardonicky, may believe your comments although I and others don't necessarily agree.

annenigma said...


I hate to burst your bubble once again, but your personal attack warrants at least a defense and some advice at the end.

This 'chickenhawk' who 'doesn't have the guts to put herself on the line' has taken the long bus trip from home to Washington DC to march against the Viet Nam war. I have the black and white photos to prove it. And this chickenhawk who doesn't have the guts to put herself on the line has marched on the streets every weekend during the Occupy movement, even when it was 10 degrees outside. I have newspaper photos to prove that too.

I've made phone calls and knocked on doors for plenty of campaigns, including for big losing campaigns such as McGovern's. I've organized protest marches, been interviewed on the radio representing environmental protests, and written umpteen Letters to the Editor of numerous newspapers about various issues. I've served as a Union steward and helped win Unfair Labor Practice and EEOC discrimination cases by testifying in court, much to the disapproval of and retribution from my employer. Do you know how hard it is to win in court when those in power routinely tell outrageous lies because they get automatic credibility? Life teaches a lot when you get involved. Not all the lessons are pleasant. Some are costly to health and finances.

I've been a lifelong anti-war, environmental, labor, and political activist because I believe in living life responsibly for the benefit of my fellow humans and other living creatures and the Earth herself consistent with my faith. That doesn't happen to win me friends among the vast majority of Americans who prefer to keep it 'lite' and entertained instead. They don't want to talk politics or serious issues or allow themselves to "feel bad" in any way.

"Don't make me feel bad" is what I'm hearing you say to me. Pearl, we can vote for someone with eyes wide open. We don't have to stay starry-eyed and try to keep everyone else that way too. Realism is not a bad thing. Criticism is not tearing someone down. It doesn't warrant a personal attack. Pointing out important inconsistencies in our candidates and other elected representatives is responsible civic duty.

We all need to tolerate dissent and encourage others to do the same if we want to keep at least the semblance of a free country, if not a democracy.

Please save your name calling for someone who hasn't paid the price.

Karen Garcia said...


It is fine, even necessary,to disagree and have a lively debate, but please refrain from leveling personal attacks against your fellow commenters.

I would hate to have to shut down the comments feature, which I consider to be the most important (and interesting) part of this blog.

Pearl said...

Annenigma and Karen: I agree with you both that we should not have personal attacks but it is hard when I feel that some comments about Bernie is a VERY personal attack.
Especially when he represents everything I admire. What is confusing is your record of political involvement Ann, some of which I knew about,with the other side of the coin in rejecting in some personal comments that are not fully reliable what Bernie is trying to do. This is how the press and pundits talk about Bernie in order to destroy his message and I don't see you in their shoes.

What others have said when interviewed, "I don't necessarily agree with everything he stands for, but I know he is an honest man and therefore I will vote for him.' You haven't indicated that you will I don't believe.

Perhaps my history when our lives were almost destroyed during the McCARTHY years because many people who knew better did not speak out about the attacks on friends and neighbors, still festers in my soul. And why I have been equally active politically in my later years remembering how University officials did not have the courage to hire a brilliant man lest they be visited by the FBI with false warnings.

I apologize for anything you feel was a personal attack, but I stand by my reasons for using strong language when the future of the at stake and all the people who live terrible lives are swept under the rug.
I am also frightened that Bernie may win or lose depending on how people view him when there is the bigger picture involved.

Yes, please say what you feel, and I will also if necessary with more care. I know that I speak for many people who feel as I do but may not want to get involved.

One thing I wonder about is how you feel about his speeches when he uses very strong language in exposing so many things that have gone wrong. Something is not quite clear about this when you bring up personal issues of his past, which seems to intimate that what he says is not fully honest.

Jay–Ottawa said...

[Thanks to comments 8 & 9 I've been able to delete my @ and the first two paragraphs of my reaction to prior comments.]

It's appropriate that we keep scrutinizing the Sanders campaign. Haven't we let ourselves be fooled enough? Not sufficiently disillusioned yet? Either by deceit or ineptitude or both? It just might be a mistake to commit to a candidate this early and without reserve before hearing out all the serious challenges to that candidature from both opponents and commentators.

Sanders promises to lay out his foreign policy in detail soon. He will have my full and respectful attention.

A couple of posts back Karen reminded us of Simone Weil––intellectual, activist, saint, and self-sacrificing klutz––and her view of big parties: “designed for the purpose of killing in all souls the sense of truth and justice." Probably more true now than it was in the Thirties. Need we review here once again the main party histories of the past thirty years?

It may strike some of us as contradictory and self-defeating that Sanders, an Independent who aches for a "political revolution," has pledged himself to the Democratic Party and, by implication, to Hillary Clinton, or whoever else the DNC serves up at the finish line if Sanders himself doesn't win the nomination. Hillary? the Democratic Party? the DNC? –– he can't be serious. What better way to frustrate what Rousseau termed the "general will." That's why I can't put all my chips on Sanders this early; they stand a good chance of being swept into the caring side of the Money Party, yet again.

OK, Sanders is playing the Dems so he has a podium on the big stage in the early stages, but only to achieve nationwide name recognition. Fine. I'll vote for him if and not until he takes over and rules the Democratic Party or quits it to run on an Independent ticket with domestic and foreign policies that don't mock elemental justice. Otherwise, he'll just be sheep-dogging ever-hopeful progressives into the Democratic pen.

Pearl said...

Jay: Thank you for your usual well reasoned and carefully thought out response
to our differences.

Yes, we have been fooled too often - Bill Clinton, Obama for example, but the reason I feel differently about Bernie is that this is the first time someone running for higher office has challenged the rules of the game, criticized them and also changed the method of getting financial support among other things.

I agree that no one can tell what may happen down the line which is also the reason that I am concerned about early personal attacks about Bernie's integrity before we are even sure they are quite accurate.

But I am willing to support him politically and with a bit of a donation to give him the chance to prove himself. It could be a terrific loss if he doesn't get that chance and others continue with the status quo. Regardless, if he destroys Hillary's chances, that alone would be worthwhile.

So we will have to wait and see where this goes and hope the usual money and power doesn't hold sway.

At least our fortunes in Canada are improving with an almost certainty that the NDP will get into power. Let's hope they will be effective in improving many problems that have developed under the Harper regime.

Meredith NYC said...

Karen....i can't believe nyt removed your comment. Has this happened before? What dept responds to you about this? Do you email

re the Times and Bernie Sanders---continued snubs:

A Times headline today in Politics: “For Bernie Sanders, Brooklyn Roots Pose a Test, History Shows.”
Just imagine---it’s his Brooklyn roots that are deemed significant for an article—comparing him with past Brooklyn office seekers.

Push the trivial, distract from the issues. This when the US has among modern nations the widest inequality, the most poverty, the worst health care financing, the most atrocious criminal justice system and elections uniquely sponsored by billionaires---which tethers both parties though they lament it. And Sanders is the main one with some solutions.

The Times is wasting the time of readers and journalists both.

Pearl said...

I just sent in a comment which was printed after the next column instead of this. It is my thoughts about what I hope for after the intense arguments back and forth. Hope it isn't missed because I tried to be as sincere as possible about what we are all living through.

Pearl said...

Family of Drowned Syrian Boys Sought to Emigrate to Canada

In case you missed this in the NYTimes. At least the NDP tried to help them emigrate to Canada without response.

Pearl said...

Aylan Kurdi: What we know about the boy found dead on a Turkish beach

Story and pictures of the family and the two sweet boys who drowned. We can thank George Bush for starting the migration events and war in Syria that are occurring now as a result of his Iraq invasion.

Meredith NYC said...

Karen....the Times is screwing up comments. Which Times email is best to complain to?
To Charles Blow column today, I just re sent my comment. My 1st one was published but on this one, the email leads to a blank.

Meredith NYC Pending Approval
I'm posting this again. I posted it and got an email, but the link leads to a blank comment box. On this important issue I must make a point about the commentary and coverage.

I’m wondering why there is only one black columnist on the NYT op ed page. He replaced the previous one—Bob Herbert. It’s almost like the black columnist is the one designated to write on the racial issues roiling our justice system and society. That’s fine, and well done. But why can’t there be more than one black columnist, to write about the same range of issues that the white columnists write about?
And why only 2 woman regulars on the op ed page, year after year? It’s 2015. Why is the Times behind the times?

Meredith NYC said...

I can't get over Donna Brazile's 'glowing words' about Bush. What's with her?

Jay–Ottawa said...

If it prints howlers like the one the New York Times just featured declaring the US does not use or distribute cluster bombs, and if it doesn't print stories found on the front pages of the foreign press but often absent from the NYT, and if it fails to accept criticism like the NYT because some forgotten source once declared it "the paper of record" and therefore immune forever to the standards of the Columbia School of Journalism, and if it promulgates false reports about matters, like the presence of WMDs, as did the NYT, and if its editors and opinion writers love to shoot Republican fish in a barrel, just like the op-ed section of the New York Times, and if it prints just about anything put out by unnamed (but high!) sources of the DNC and AIPAC and big corps, and once in a great while does something grand and pure and worthy like the New York Times sometimes does, yet continues most of the time to frustrate the hell out of its strangely-loyal and clearly-addicted readership, and if it screws up reader comments on a regular basis like the NYT, and if it prints its paper edition in New Times Roman like the New York Times, then just maybe it's the New York Times. Why keep going there to make one's day?