Saturday, September 10, 2005

spitting up what they feed us

"Seattle, Wash.: Why do the Bush advisors shield him from the reality all the rest of of see and manipulate his public encounters?

"Robert G. Kaiser: Well, do we know for sure that they do this? I share your suspicion that they do, but we also know that Bush DOES read the newspapers, despite saying he doesn't, and I bet he watches some TV too." Washington Post associate editor Robert G. Kaiser , September 8, "live" discussion

“The president, long reluctant to fire subordinates, came to a belated recognition that his administration was in trouble for the way it had dealt with the disaster, many of his supporters say. One moment of realization occurred on Thursday of last week when an aide carried a news agency report from New Orleans into the Oval Office for him to see.

The report was about the evacuees at the convention center, some dying and some already dead. Mr. Bush had been briefed that morning by his homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff, who was getting much of his information from Mr. Brown and was not aware of what was occurring there. The news account was the first that the president and his top advisers had heard not only of the conditions at the convention center but even that there were people there at all.

"He's not a screamer," a senior aide said of the president. But Mr. Bush, angry, directed the White House chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., to find out what was going on.

"The frustration throughout the week was getting good, reliable information," said the aide, who demanded anonymity so as not to be identified in disclosing inner workings of the White House. "Getting truth on the ground in New Orleans was very difficult." -Elizabeth Bumiller, September 9 Italics added


The bullhorns of the national greatness movement, who will no doubt surround Hillary in her triumphant second place finish in 2008, have been experiencing uncharacteristic depression about the whole greatness thing. Luckily, the White House has been throwing greatness at us in clumps and cities lately. Not content to preside over the flight of a million people from the NOLA area, the White House modestly tossed another 200,000 on the pile from Tal Afar

“In a bid to soften resistance, the U.S. military carried out repeated air and artillery strikes on targets in the city, where most of the population of 200,000 was reported to have fled to the surrounding countryside.”

As Tom Friedman might put it, those 200 thousand are the freest people in the Middle East right now, and so soft and squeezable, like Charmain's toilet tissue, after we tickled them with our high explosives. We are very enthusiastic here. Many have been freed from a burden that all Buddhists deplore – life and limb. Others are freed of their houses, their vehicles, and all potable property left behind. Freedom is what the Iraq war is all about, and… and greatness. Oh, some say the Huns were great, others plump for Tamerlane. But such are the prejudices of liberal historians. Surely an objective view of King George the Feeble would elevate him to his proper place.

One is especially pleased to see that the bombing of a civilian town wasn’t accompanied by any of that less than great preparation for refugees, which mars freedom by burdening down the population with objects and possessions.

That’s why we love this country of ours. So thoughtful!

Be sure to compare the AP story on the Tal Afer war crime with the latter softcore NYT account -- NYT is on the battlements again, guarding against the facts whereever they are inconvenient to our way of life. Bully for them!

Friday, September 09, 2005

marx and pavlov

The Bush culture has made it pretty clear that Marxist class analysis must be supplemented with Pavlovian psychology. The governing class in this country salivates to the bell that opens the NYSE every morning – and that is their only physiological/moral response to any public event, the cue that creates their entire world. The world of the dog in the cage is intentionally narrowed by the scientist. The world of the rich has also been narrowed, by self-choice, during the last twenty five or so years. Reagan’s tax cuts for the wealthy, in retrospect, signaled not just a change in a particular phase of American history (the return of a particular set of oligarchs), but looks, now, like a monument to the end of the civic sense among the oligarchs tout court. Among the governing class, the civic sense, with its complications of ritual, its sacrifices, its seriousness, its orientation to an imagined social collective, has been pretty much taken down, like an old and drafty building. In its place is a new, sleeker building – one composed of a degree of inhumanity and cultural blindness that is very difficult to reckon with if one is operating with the old tools of analysis, the old sense of some shared value system, the old responsive angers that once powered the Left, dependent as they were on a dialectical relationship with the builders of the post-war order. Dependent, that is, on a system of recognitions, however skewed.

This decade has given us the full flavor of the new order. The manysplendored disasters of Iraq and now New Orleans produce a schizoid split in assessment – for where, on the level of the cornered class, one sees failure and misery, on the level of the contracting class, one sees endless opportunity. The Bell rings, and out come the Pavlovian rich, salivating to beat the band, lining their pockets with the sweetest little contracts to come down the pike since God signed that no-bidder with Adam and said let her rip. And Adam didn’t get cost overruns. Halliburton, of course, does.

So it is no surprise that the money now pouring out of Washington (and there goes that little decline in the deficit the Bushies were so proud of – who knew that unexpected things could impact a budget?) is going to be spent largely to enrich the circle of the Bush culture’s favored companies.

This WP article about Bush’s campaign manager and ex head of FEMA, Joe Allbaugh, has been much circulated in the blogosphere. Still, there are touches of marvelous obscenity in the article. Our favorite of all is distilled in these two grafs:

Among those clients [which Allbaugh’s consulting company represents] are: the KBR division of Haliburton; TruePosition, a manufacturer of wireless location products, services and devices; the Shaw Group, a provider of engineering, design, construction, and maintenance services to government and the private sector; and UltraStrip, which is marketing the first water filtration system approved by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The firm's Web site quotes Allbaugh: "I carry pictures of close friends who died in the September 11th terrorist attacks as a constant reminder of what we lost that day. It's my personal commitment to always honor their memory by working to protect this nation. I'm dedicated to helping private industry meet the homeland security challenge."

A man who will pimp his dead friends is certainly a man to trust in trying times. I would bet that the upper management of the companies on the client list are going to have great Christmas parties this year. At LI, we wish them the best of luck and hope that all the delicacies they devour at those end of the year parties taste of human blood, mixed with a little toxic Mississippi river water.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

That debbil GOP

Scratchings linked to our post about Lieberman the other day. I was interested to read one of his commentators accuse me of being a Republican.

I have been accused of many things, but this is a new one for me. Yet, in one way, it is a very just accusation. Lately, from my point of view (that of an extinct beast, much like the mastodon), I have been trying to sort out the relationship between the sense that this decade has seen the great American failure and the sense that the two party system here is broken. That sorting out begins with the premise that the parties are secondary to the real political life of the Republic. This premise is a hypothesis – I’m not going to defend it as the ultimate truth of the matter, but I think there’s a strong case to be made for constructing an analysis from it.

That analysis would trespass on the current verities of political analysis on my side, the liberal side. Given my premise, the question I want to put is: why did liberalism become so attached to one of the parties? I think there are good reasons for thinking that that attachment was devoutly wished by academic political scientists in the fifties and sixties, who felt that American political parties weren’t following the more rational European pattern – a pattern that sorted out the conservatives into a Conservative party, the Socialists into a Socialist party, etc. Rather, the American pattern was rather a jigsaw puzzle, in which populists would pop up as Republicans and segregationists would pop up as Democrats, etc. The rationalization of politics, according to the school prevailing in the fifties and sixties, would create parties as monopolists of ideologies.

This idea so sank into the framework of official political discourse that it is now presupposed. So when, for instance, a “radical” analysis of politics appears – for instance, Thomas Franks “what’s the matter with Kansas” – the problem goes something like: why don’t Kansans vote for their economic self interest, i.e. Democrats?

Myself, I think the process of this rationalization has been a disaster. The real question, to me, is: why have Kansas Republicans deviated from the old Progressive Republican norm? I think the answer is: the monopolization of ideologies by the parties has destroyed the machinery that made progressive politics possible in this country.

Take, for instance, Texas, where I live at the moment. The next Senatorial election here is going to be utterly predictable. The Republican candidate will be a rightwinger from hell. The liberal element in the state will concentrate exclusively on finding a Democrat of acceptable views to lose to him or her. The liberal element will devote an incredible amount of creativity and passion in a project that, intellectually, they know is doomed to failure. The Democrat they pick will, in the campaign, veer farther to the right than any New York State Republican. And that will be that.

Lefties will proceed to bitch and moan about the rightwing Dem, and propose that we all rush into the Green party. The right, which will have no competition whatsoever within the Republican party, will use its leverage to make its reactionary candidate even more reactionary – while at the same time guaranteeing that the freerider politics of borrowing and siphoning money disproportionately from the Federal government to Red states continues. This money will, in truth, be less than the money siphoned from the primary products extracted in the Red states which profit the investors living in New York City and the surrounding wealthy states.

Now, a fair question for a liberal to ask is: what is the weak link in this chain? To me, the obvious answer is: continuing to support the Democratic party unilaterally. By refusing to contact the Republican party, liberalism loses any of the leverage it used to have. Period. Instead of searching for Republican Yarboroughs, the liberal element will continue to stick with promoting losers at the statewide level. Instead of seeing that the Republican base is avid to exploit the government, as rational economic agents, the liberals will continue to affirm that the Republicans stand for small government – under the cover of which delusion Republicans will continue to maintain an expanded government. The reality is that this is a non-issue – in the Keynesian world system, the GDP taken up by a modern industrial state will probably range about the same percentage, regardless of the party in power. The last thirty years should have taught us that much, at least.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

I had an Edward till a Michael Brown killed him

Tell o'er your woes again by viewing mine:
I had an Edward, till a Richard kill'd him;
I had a Harry, till a Richard kill'd him:
Thou hadst an Edward, till a Richard kill'd him;
Thou hadst a Richard, till a Richard killed him;
-- Richard III

In a previous post, the Counted and the Uncounted, LI wrote:

"One expects that the clearance of the Convention Center, since it is administered by thieves and murderers, will probably encompass hiding a number of corpses. This is evidence, after all, and you want to burn or bury evidence. So LI hopes that all those who knew the victims – the parents, or children, or friends – will not give up when the victims turn up in the “missing” list – will point the finger and make as much noise as possible."

This morning, in the LA Times, we read this:

"FEMA Wants No Photos of Dead
From Reuters

NEW ORLEANS — The U.S. agency leading Hurricane Katrina rescue efforts said Tuesday that it does not want the news media to photograph the dead as they are recovered.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, heavily criticized for its slow response to the devastation caused by the hurricane, rejected journalists' requests to accompany rescue boats searching for storm victims."

We saw them crushed in life, jeered at as they struggled to survive, and burned furtively by the criminals that rule in D.C. We can only offer a voodoo hope that the murdered of New Orleans will be revenged in one way or another.

tales from FEMA

I don’t know if I’ve told this story in some post. But here goes…

I once worked, temporarily, for FEMA. I was in Santa Fe, trying to write a novel. I needed a job, so I went to a temp agency and was sent out on various jobs.

The instructions I’d get from the temp agency sometimes merely consisted of an address. One morning I set out for one of those addresses. The previous night I’d been at a party, and indulged in a little doobie. I still felt a bit of the pleasant bloodborne vertiginousness of the joint in my system as I found myself driving into the parking lot of what looked like a police station. Vertigo turned immediately into paranoia. I went into a building that seemed occupied by cops, and went down several flights of stairs until I found the office I was to report to.

It was FEMA.

The place was crawling with ex military. My boss was recently retired from a fat gig with NORAD, about which he liked to reminisce at lunch time with the other ex Norad boys – the times they would commandeer planes and go to Labrador on fishing expeditions, or parties to which they would fly in girls, etc. It sounded like the defense of our nuclear capability was a lot of fun if you were in the right circles. That first day, however, when I was briefed as to what they wanted me to do, I had this feeling that I must have smoked more than pot the night before. This was their plan: they wanted me to transcribe into a computer a typed up list of places in New Mexico that had, check one, toilet facilities, check two, kitchen facilities, three sleeping facilities. This list was supposed to be pulled out in case of nuclear attack. My boss even, helpfully, pulled out a diagram illustrating nuclear attack on a city, with circles of the various degrees of salvation radiating out from the dead center.

I should point out that this was 1993. I should point out that my boss wanted this work done because they had the funding to do the work, even though, as he acknowledged, it might not be the most useful work. I should point out that the list I was using was last updated in 1970.

So for the next two weeks I became an expert on where New Mexicans could take a dump in 1970.

In my last post, I was trying to analyze the culture of busyness that, I believe, intersects with the macro ineffectuality which plagues all plans floated in the Bush culture. The emphasis here is that busyness can operate even better as the content of busyness – the acts of busyness – tend towards zero. At zero, there can be complete speed and control. The ur-Bushites – Bremer and Brown – were peculiarly talented in pushing busyness towards the zero. My little FEMA job (under Good King Clinton, it should be added) was no more nor less busy than other jobs I have had, but it is distinguished by its outstanding uselessness. It had one justification – it was funded.

Those who would say, hey, that is the government. Private enterprise can’t afford such luxuries should study the exemplary career of the CFO of Enron. Profit is not a sign of content, as any hedge fund trader could tell you.

Eventually, I was displaced from my office at FEMA by the Governor of New Mexico, as a real moral panic arose in the state. There was an outbreak of a hantavirus carried by field mice that seemed especially potent, and the Governor commandeered an office in FEMA to make it seem like he was in charge.

pissing while

“Many people use their social activities to mark time rather than the other way around. In parts of Madagascar, questions about how long something takes might receive an answer like "the time of a rice cooking" (about half an hour) or "the frying of a locust" (a quick moment). Similarly, natives of the Cross River in Nigeria have been quoted as saying "the man died in less than the time in which maize is not yet completely roasted" (less than fifteen minutes). Closer to home, not too many years ago the New English Dictionary included a listing for the term "pissing while"—not a particularly exact measurement, perhaps, but one with a certain cross-cultural translatability.” – Robert Levine.

It is no news that the President was not born the twin of industriousness. But blaming Bush’s indolence doesn’t really get us too far in understanding the culture that allowed New Orleans to drown, and the cornered class to either fight or starve; nor does it explain the spectacle of seeing the governing class and its thugs in the press jeering at drowning wheelchair victims for “not getting out when they were told” while waiting for their “welfare checks” (which is apparently what a social security payment has become).

That culture – the Bush culture – precedes, of course, its namesake. But Bush, a garbage fly in human form, is as wonderfully implicative of the American governing class as the garbage fly is of a garbage can: if one is buzzing around a can, you can guess there is rotting meat in it. Similarly, the buzzing of the President’s men tells us a lot about the decaying assumptions that are embedded, over the last thirty years, in those circles that have money and power.

How to approach the thing we have all seen, and still can’t comprehend?

Here’s one small approach. The latest issue of Social Research is devoted to busyness. This is one aspect of that culture which we saw, in appalling living color, last week, fail at every juncture. An understanding of busyness is essential to understanding how “Brownie” did an outstanding job last week in helping to kill ten people in the Civic Center, one hundred in Chalmette, and so on.

We think that you should start with Robert Levine’s article, “A Geography of Busyness.” Levine, who teaches at California State University, Fresno, has been studying cultural differences in the perception of time – and his researchers have gone so far as to clock the speed of your average walker in cities in Brazil, Germany, the U.S., etc., to understand the use of time, under the sign of busyness, in two respects:

“I propose that the subjective experience of feeling busy has two main components: speed and activity.

Speed refers to the rate at which an activity is performed. It is the amount of activity per unit of time. The speed may be measured over brief and immediate periods of time, as when one experiences rapidly oncoming traffic or an upcoming deadline; or over longer, more sustained intervals, such as when we speak of the accelerating tempo of modem life.

The second component of busyness, activity, is the absence of unscheduled time. It is the amount of time that is consumed with activity; or, the ratio of doing things to doing nothing.”

Levine hypothesized that walking would be faster in European countries than in Brazil and the middle range of developing countries, and faster still in the U.S. He found that “pedestrians in Rio de Janeiro walk only two-thirds as fast as do pedestrians in Zurich, Switzerland,” for instance. This was important, insofar as walking is emblematic of speed as a measure of busyness. It is also exemplary of one variety of the emptiness entailed by busyness. The value of that walk is purely in its being completed with speed from the perspective of busyness. It is, in a sense, clipped out of life. It is dead time.

In another sense, nothing can be clipped out of life, which is made up of all of its parts. Of course.

Now, LI’s feeling is that the men around Bush are busy men. The Homeland Security Secretary, the director of FEMA, they are of that quality that no one could deny them busyness. It is also our feeling that their busyness is at the root of their incompetence. And that they reflect a kind of incompetence-in-busyness endemic to the managerial class.

Levine makes an interesting observation, contrasting event time with scheduled time:

“Keeping time by natural events has become increasingly less useful, or even impossible, in most contemporary urban cultures. There is, however, a variation on this type of timekeeping, what we might call "event time," that continues to be dominant in much of the world. In clock-time cultures, the hour on the timepiece governs the beginning and ending of activities. When event time predominates, scheduling is determined by activities. Events begin and end when, by mutual
consensus, participants "feel" the time is right. The distinction between clock and event time deeply divides cultures. Sociologist Robert Lauer (1981) conducted an intensive review ofthe literature concerning the meaning of time throughout history. The most fundamental difference,
he found, has been between people operating by the clock versus those who measure time by social events.”

In a previous post, we noted the interesting coincidence of two functions that give us the two faces of the “then:” the logical then, which moves from a possible condition to an entailment; and the narrative then, which sequences events. Busyness complicates this relationship, and might explain why planning has become a lost art, in the Bush culture. We will expand on this in a later post. Meanwhile, we recommend the issue of Social Research, if you can get ahold of it.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


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Another account

Read this account of the escape from New Orleans, and the escape from the government’s idea of a refugee center (hint: they seem to have gotten their plans for it from Buchenwald)for the escapees from New Orleans, by Michael Homan. Let’s not let these histories go down the drain. Even if nothing changes, even if the monsters still rule us and the thugs in the press still ritually praise them and the whole mill grinds inevitably forward, making bonemeal of our bones, we can still preserve a record of how things really were in the U.S.A., circa 2005:

Here’s an excerpt:

“But then in the end I left. I learned that my father-in-law was flying to Jackson Saturday, and Friday those guys in the airboat showed up. I was very worried because I had heard that they were not letting people evacuate with their animals. But these guys said that had changed, and so I put my computer and a few papers in my backpack, loaded the dogs, let the birds go, and put Oot the sugar glider with food and water in Kalypso's room to await my return, much like Napoleon leaving for Elba I suppose. We drove in the boat all over the city looking for people. It was so surreal with the helicopters and all the boats up and down Canal Street amidst all the devastation. Towards dusk on Friday I arrived at I-10 and Banks Street, not far from my house. There they packed all of us pet owners from Mid City into a cargo truck and drove us away. They promised they would take us to Baton Rouge, and from there it would be relatively easy for me to get a cab or bus and meet the family in Jackson.

But then everything went to hell. They instead locked up the truck and drove us to the refugee camp on I-10 and Causeway and dropped us off. Many refused to get out of the van but they were forced. The van drove away as quickly as it could, as the drivers appeared to be terrified, and we were suddenly in the middle of 20,000 people. I would estimate that 98% of them were African Americans and the most impoverished people in the state. It was like something out of a Kafka novel. Nobody knew how to get out. People said they had been there 5 days, and that on that day only 3 buses had shown up. I saw murdered bodies, and elderly people who had died because they had been left in the sun with no water for such a long time. I’ve traveled quite a bit, and I have never seen the despair and tragedy that I saw at this refugee camp. It was the saddest think I have ever seen in my life. I am still so upset that there were not hundreds of buses immediately sent to get these people to shelters.”

Also, see this report from a Green Party member, Malik Rahim, who has remained in Algiers. The whole report is interesting, since it emphasizes one thing that should be made obvious:
1. the state not only abandoned New Orleans, but expended a lot of energy trying to keep a self-organizing population from rescuing each other, even as they allowed gangbangers and vigilantes to run wild.

"My son and his family -- his wife and kids, ages
1, 5 and 8 -- were flooded out of their home when
the levee broke. They had to swim out until they
found an abandoned building with two rooms above
water level.

There were 21 people in those two rooms for a day
and a half. A guy in a boat who just said "I'm
going to help regardless" rescued them and took
them to Highway I-10 and dropped them there.

They sat on the freeway for about three hours,
because someone said they'd be rescued and taken
to the Superdome. Finally they just started
walking, had to walk six and a half miles.

When they got to the Superdome, my son wasn't
allowed in -- I don't know why -- so his wife and
kids wouldn't go in. They kept walking, and they
happened to run across a guy with a tow truck
that they knew, and he gave them his own personal

When they got here, they had no gas, so I had to
punch a hole in my gas tank to give them some
gas, and now I'm trapped. I'm getting around by

People from Placquemine Parish were rescued on a
ferry and dropped off on a dock near here. All
day they were sitting on the dock in the hot sun
with no food, no water. Many were in a daze;
they've lost everything."

Monday, September 05, 2005

no comment

“I am glad the President has nominated someone already familiar with FEMA's mission to become Deputy Director. Mr. Brown is currently General Counsel and Chief Operating Officer of the agency, a position he has held since February of 2001. Before joining the Bush Administration, I note from his resume, he served as executive director of the Independent Electrical Contractors in Denver. In the early 1980s, Mr. Brown served as staff director of the Oklahoma Senate's Finance Committee, while serving on the Edmund, Oklahoma, City Council.

He ran for Congress in the sixth district, and, in what I think is
particularly useful experience, early in his career, was assistant city manager in Edmond, with responsibility for police, fire and emergency services.”


Via The Left Coaster.

Population of Edmond, Oklahoma: (year 2000): 68,315.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Being and the Wack

History is the superstition of intellectuals. They are always trawling among the time’s Rorschach blots for analogies, and for the determinants among the innumerable skirmishes of the night's ignorant armies, and for our particular future in the past, which contains all futures except one: the one where before and after are abolished. That future annihilates itself.

LI is as superstition as any of them. We do cling to the “then.” The then is where logic ( the possibilities encoded in the if/then) crosses temporality (the then that sequences the narrative). We do believe that we can create modest structures around the then, and imagine that history is coordinate with event, and that events are real. The then is my repository for what Santayana called animal faith. And so I am led down the path that led up to this week, and will lead from this week. Before we endorse any ideology whatsoever, we want to have a lucid sense of the then.

We have been thinking about this because we have been thinking about agency and structure. During the vacation, we read a lot of Sartre’s Being and Nothingness. This time, we did not read it with that undertone of Derridean derision we brought to our last reading of it. Sartre’s rewiring of the whole notion of transcendence, putting it in terms that resonate with the double face of the then, struck us as a pretty good project, even if the notion of liberty on which it is grounded is peculiar and unconvincing.

Which brings us by way of the backdoor to two comments about the drowning of New Orleans. Harry, in our comments section, objects to our instant personalization of the event in terms of Bush. Harry sees structure, here, as the overriding issue. My sense that Bush has made a difference – that there is a specific Bush signature to what we have seen happening – seems to him to be a bit naïve:

“Whoever comes after him [Bush] as the sockpuppet for his class and culture will fit that description too.”

The other comment is by Jim Henley at Unqualified offerings, who writes sarcastically that the drowning of New Orleans, like 9/11, has so far confirmed the liberal in his view, the conservative in his, and the libertarian in hers:

“From what I can tell in the last couple days’ reading, Katrina has chiefly served to confirm people in their previously held views. Liberals proclaim it proof of the need for a robust federal government (shades of Bill Moyers in September 2001), conservatives find themselves confirmed in their belief in the overriding importance of social order vigorously enforced, and libertarians regard the disaster and its aftermath as an exemplary failure of government. (Anarchists see government failing at even its core functions. State-accepting libertarians see government as having ignored its core functions for inappropriate pursuits.)”

Henley’s point is that the structure of the ideologies so determines the response as to make ideology an unfalsifiable structure – a thing no test can dent. It thus removes liberalism, conservatism and libertarianism from any real situation.

I grant that both of these points are valid, insofar as agency is largely determined by the background of the sense one makes of the world through structures one has neither created nor had any choice in assimilating. You can’t pull yourself out of your culture by the hair on your head. But I also think that they over-rely on the imperviousness and determinateness of structures which, to my mind, are always slightly out of equilibrium due to acts and events. Acts and events are the wack dimension (I would substitute wack for liberty in Sartre).

For instance: the liberal belief in a robust federal government doesn’t automatically translate into a liberal belief that we needed Homeland Security. LI, a liberal if there ever was one, for instance, thought it was a stupid idea when the Dems came up with it, and a scary idea when the GOP adopted it. That the increase in Government spending on Homeland security has gone up something like 22 percent per year since the boondoggle was started showed simply that the conservative critique of the robust federal roll stopped at its traditional limits, which are, not coincidentally, the limits of the economic interests of the conservative constituency. Like the robust Federal War Department, the robust Homeland Security department served to siphon off government money to a multitude of very GOP-ish military industrial corporations. Which is another way of saying that ideological structures aren’t necessarily homogenous and don’t necessarily serve as predictors of social action.

Those discrepancies and breaks create the Wack, which is where agency comes into play. And this is where I would have to protest against the idea that Bush is a sock puppet. Of course, we can trace a certain learning curve in Bush’s career and see how it corresponds to the culture he grew up in, but it is a mistake to think that you could put any man or woman from Bush’s class in that curve and come out with the same result.

the counted and the uncounted

One expects that the clearance of the Convention Center, since it is administered by thieves and murderers, will probably encompass hiding a number of corpses. This is evidence, after all, and you want to burn or bury evidence. So LI hopes that all those who knew the victims – the parents, or children, or friends – will not give up when the victims turn up in the “missing” list – will point the finger and make as much noise as possible. That the murderers Chertoff and Brown are directing efforts in NOLA means that men who have the motive for covering up their crimes are directing efforts in NOLA. There is a new chapter in the black book of the African-American massacres, and it will be curious to see how the media ignores it, and how it is swept under the rug all the way around.

John Barry’s article in the NYT (I wrote about Barry in an earlier post) includes this graf:

“The scope of the 1927 devastation also resembled today's. No one knows the death toll. The official government figures said 500, but one disaster expert said more than 1,000 in Mississippi alone. The homes of roughly one million people, nearly 1 percent of the entire population of the country, were flooded. The Red Cross fed 667,000 people for months, some for a year; 325,000 lived in tents, some sharing an eight-foot-wide levee crown with cattle, hogs and mules, with the river on one side and the flood on the other.”

Here’s an editorial from the Times-Pic, which has been one of the most reactionary papers in the U.S. for years:

"OUR OPINIONS: An open letter to the President
Dear Mr. President:

We heard you loud and clear Friday when you visited our devastated city and the Gulf Coast and said, "What is not working, we’re going to make it right."

Please forgive us if we wait to see proof of your promise before believing you. But we have good reason for our skepticism.

Bienville built New Orleans where he built it for one main reason: It’s accessible. The city between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain was easy to reach in 1718.

How much easier it is to access in 2005 now that there are interstates and bridges, airports and helipads, cruise ships, barges, buses and diesel-powered trucks.

Despite the city’s multiple points of entry, our nation’s bureaucrats spent days after last week’s hurricane wringing their hands, lamenting the fact that they could neither rescue the city’s stranded victims nor bring them food, water and medical supplies.

Meanwhile there were journalists, including some who work for The Times-Picayune, going in and out of the city via the Crescent City Connection. On Thursday morning, that crew saw a caravan of 13 Wal-Mart tractor trailers headed into town to bring food, water and supplies to a dying city.

Television reporters were doing live reports from downtown New Orleans streets. Harry Connick Jr. brought in some aid Thursday, and his efforts were the focus of a "Today" show story Friday morning.

Yet, the people trained to protect our nation, the people whose job it is to quickly bring in aid were absent. Those who should have been deploying troops were singing a sad song about how our city was impossible to reach.

We’re angry, Mr. President, and we’ll be angry long after our beloved city and surrounding parishes have been pumped dry. Our people deserved rescuing. Many who could have been were not. That’s to the government’s shame.

Mayor Ray Nagin did the right thing Sunday when he allowed those with no other alternative to seek shelter from the storm inside the Louisiana Superdome. We still don’t know what the death toll is, but one thing is certain: Had the Superdome not been opened, the city’s death toll would have been higher. The toll may even have been exponentially higher.

It was clear to us by late morning Monday that many people inside the Superdome would not be returning home. It should have been clear to our government, Mr. President. So why weren’t they evacuated out of the city immediately? We learned seven years ago, when Hurricane Georges threatened, that the Dome isn’t suitable as a long-term shelter. So what did state and national officials think would happen to tens of thousands of people trapped inside with no air conditioning, overflowing toilets and dwindling amounts of food, water and other essentials?

State Rep. Karen Carter was right Friday when she said the city didn’t have but two urgent needs: "Buses! And gas!" Every official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency should be fired, Director Michael Brown especially.

In a nationally televised interview Thursday night, he said his agency hadn’t known until that day that thousands of storm victims were stranded at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. He gave another nationally televised interview the next morning and said, "We’ve provided food to the people at the Convention Center so that they’ve gotten at least one, if not two meals, every single day."

Lies don’t get more bald-faced than that, Mr. President.

Yet, when you met with Mr. Brown Friday morning, you told him, "You’re doing a heck of a job."

That’s unbelievable.

There were thousands of people at the Convention Center because the riverfront is high ground. The fact that so many people had reached there on foot is proof that rescue vehicles could have gotten there, too.

We, who are from New Orleans, are no less American than those who live on the Great Plains or along the Atlantic Seaboard. We’re no less important than those from the Pacific Northwest or Appalachia. Our people deserved to be rescued.

No expense should have been spared. No excuses should have been voiced. Especially not one as preposterous as the claim that New Orleans couldn’t be reached.

Mr. President, we sincerely hope you fulfill your promise to make our beloved communities work right once again.

When you do, we will be the first to applaud."

perhaps not

Ann Rice’s op ed in the NYT was an exercise in perfectly controlled anger and despair – which is not something we can reproduce at LI, where we are at the mercy of the portals of the senses and those rumors of the heart that we can’t quell with antacids.

“But to my country I want to say this: During this crisis you failed us. You looked down on us; you dismissed our victims; you dismissed us. You want our Jazz Fest, you want our Mardi Gras, you want our cooking and our music. Then when you saw us in real trouble, when you saw a tiny minority preying on the weak among us, you called us "Sin City," and turned your backs.

Well, we are a lot more than all that. And though we may seem the most exotic, the most atmospheric and, at times, the most downtrodden part of this land, we are still part of it. We are Americans. We are you.”

I don’t know about the “Sin City” part – the worst people in the world, who are the great honchos of American politics and media, advocated shooting people who loot directly, while conniving at the great lynching of the city, and I don’t think it was Sin City they were thinking of as much as getting the Soweto massacre right this time. These people are the true descendents of the slave traders, in them runs the blood of everything treacherous and vile, they sweated through exotic fevers in jungle just to massacre Indians and strip them of their bangles, they scalphunted, union-busted, Red-scared and peculated because they are built that way, they are instinct with every trick that will produce a bogus product and a quick buck, and they keep weighing us down with their failures and they will until the country buckles. We are ruled by thugs, whose actions are then praised by other thugs, who call themselves journalists. That is how the system works – the bad Cesars are here.

But I do like the almost childish promise in the last graf. There is always life stirring among the catacombs. Because the more I read about it, the more I think that NOLA is not down for the count. The more I think that this disaster is as much about the government, all levels of it, operating to stifle the one thing that could have saved thousands this week – the self-organized population, the one that could have had boats and buses at the Civic Center five days ago, the one that almost managed an armada out of New Orleans for 45 dollars a seat from the Monteleone Hotel.

They will screw up pumping out the water. They will screw up getting clean water to drink. They will screw up re-building. They will screw up the levies again. They will screw up relief for the refugees. They will screw up the gas. They will screw up and screw up, but I am beginning to think that the belief that the city is gone is their belief, their triumph, and – like all of their triumphs – a lie.

in the front of the line

“At one point Friday, the evacuation was interrupted briefly when school buses rolled up so some 700 guests and employees from the Hyatt Hotel could move to the head of the evacuation line - much to the amazement of those who had been crammed in the stinking Superdome since last Sunday.

"How does this work? They (are) clean, they are dry, they get out ahead of us?" exclaimed Howard Blue, 22, who tried to get in their line. The National Guard blocked him as other guardsmen helped the well-dressed guests with their luggage.

The 700 had been trapped in the hotel, next to the Superdome, but conditions were considerably cleaner, even without running water, than the unsanitary crush inside the dome. The Hyatt was severely damaged by the storm. Every pane of glass on the riverside wall was blown out.” -- WWL
Hugo at Theophile Gautier’s Grave
--- Robert Lowell
“… and the great age with all its light departs.
The oaks cut for the pyre of Hercules,
what a harsh roar they make
in the night vaguely breaking into stars
Death’s horses toss their heads, neigh, roll their eyes;
they are joyful because the shining day now dies.
Our age that mastered the high winds and waves
Tina Miller, 47, had no shoes and cried with relief and exhaustion as she walked toward a bus. "I never thought I'd make it. Oh, God, I thought I'd die in there. I've never been through anything this awful."
The arena's second-story concourse looked like a dump, with more than a foot of trash except in the occasional area where people were working to keep things as tidy as possible.
Bathrooms had no lights, making people afraid to enter, and the stench from backed-up toilets inside killed any inclination toward bravery.
"When we have to go to the bathroom we just get a box. That's all you can do now," said Sandra Jones of eastern New Orleans.
Her newborn baby was running a fever, and all the small children in her area had rashes, she said.
-- WWL

I think we are all surprised that they didn’t have the Superdome’s inhabitants, some of them, carry the Hilton Hotel guests bags. But you know how it is: that kind of thing makes people feel entitled. In this country, only those who do the real work – the planning, the investing, the consulting, and all of the things that make this a truly great nation and, mind you, a great investment opportunity –should feel entitled, because haven't they earned it? We owe them so much, so very much.

Now… let’s get back to repairing the front porch on Trent Lott’s summer place, shall we?


  “In brief, cultural history only represents a surface strike against the insight [of historicism], but not that of dialectics. For it lack...