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August 31, 2005


George W Bush, MIA until now, is giving a press conference. Weakly articulate, his whole Crawford vacation thing is a disgrace to the office , and only now is he beginning the role of Communicator-In-Chief that Clinton did so well and he does so poorly.

How bad could it be if the President is still on vacation?

Those who said beforehand that this could be "our tsunami" turn out, sadly, to have been anything but hyperbolic.

Every time I make the mistake of turning on "Hurricane Headquarters" at CNN and watch the lame crew they call reporters/anchors shift from faux seriousness over this catastrophe to goofy smiles in the transition to a segment on something other than Katrina's aftermath, I wonder why I even own a television set.

And then there's Bush, whose response in this matter makes me wonder why we even have a president.

I think many people are in shock and denial. I agree with everything you wrote as I, myself am feeling an empty, helpless feeling.

I am hoping that the outrage will follow and I sincerely hope that the outrage is not about gas prices, but about the loss and what could have been done, but wasn't, to minimize the disaster we are now witnessing.

Sunday night there was foreboding. Monday night there was a sigh of relief that NO wasn't hit as strongly as anticipated. Now we know the reality of it all and it is indeed as bad as we had imagined, but it is taking folks a while to get it. Most of the country is sitting in air conditioned offices and homes and carrying on life as usual. When 9/11 struck, we all felt vulnerable. Now, only those of us living in parts of the country along traditional hurricane paths personally identify.

Meanwhile there is a terrible drought in the mid-west ruining many farms. The drought in the mountain states threatens the forests. We are all vulnerable and that's hard to fathom. Denial is a strong force which helps keep us sane.

God help those dealing with Katrina and God help us all to open our hearts and checkbooks to do what we can to help.

I really hadn't realized the extent of the destruction until today. For some reason, I didn't think the destruction caused by floods would - could be this bad.

You are correct. The extent of the death and damage simply hasn't sunk in yet. This is a lot worse than 9/11, but 9/11 was designed to attract TV attention. Katrina hit and literally killed all TV reports. No power, no roads, no communications. I don't think we believe anything has happened until it has appeared on TV these days.

Rick, that's an obvious point when you think about it, but I don't know that many of us have stepped back and acknowledged that a major difference was exactly the aspect that you mention, that 9-11 was designed to instill terror by taking place in two of the most prominent cities in the world, and much of it happened live on television. Thanks for making that point.

No, people do not get it. I'll repeat what I said in an email to you last night -- people just don't seem to appreciate the magnitude of it all.

New Orleans is largely destroyed. The US now has 1.5 million refugees who are homeless and jobless. I mean, approximately 1% of Americans -- from every socioeconomic niche -- are ruined. Best case scenario, half of them have homes and jobs in two or three months. Worst case scenario . . . Who knows?

The economic cost is going to be unimaginable, but it's hitting home already, what with the Labor Day weekend $4.00 gas. That's just the pimento in the olive on the shit sandwich we're all about to eat.

I'll be surprised if the death toll is less than 5000 -- southern Plaquemines Parish is GONE. By which I mean that there's nothing left except a slender, 8-foot wide ribbon of road. Every house south of Empire is gone. And there were a lot of folks who tried to ride it out down there. They're all dead. Same in St. Bernard and big portions of St. Tammany.

And we can't even conceptualize the cultural void that has been created by the death of one of America's most vibrant cities. Why? Because nothing remotely like this has happened before to our country. (Don't bring up Galveston, please. This is New Fucking Orleans.)

It's the only story that matters right now, and it'll be the only story that matters for the foreseeable future. The fact that people are still moving along like this was a really bad hurricane is amazing to me. Katrina was as defining an event as 9/11 was -- there was a Before Katrina, and there will be an After Katrina. If people don't get that yet, they will real soon.

As I was writing this post I looked up the census bureau data on some of these parishes. St. Bernard had 66,000 people in 2000. Plaquemines had 25,000. If just ten percent of the people in just those two parishes stayed--and those two parishes appear to have gotten the worst of the storm--in just those two parishes Trapper's 5,000 total may have been exceeded. That's to say nothing of Mississippi, Alabama, or Jefferson and Orleans parishes.

As for New Orleans, the home of our only truly homegrown "high art" may now be uninhabitable.

I listened to Satchmo and the Nevilles last night.

I mean, how the fuck is the latest CindySheehanJavascriptDiaryGenerator 2.0 product high on the recommended list on dKos? I'm not saying that Iraq isn't important anymore, but I'm definitely saying that Cindyfest ranks below the most trivial news out of the disaster zone.

Completely agreed this is nothing like Galveston. Galveston then was a city of less than 40,000 -- the size of one of these parishes. This is more than thirty Galvestons in population and property alone -- not to even touch on the uniqueness of New Orleans. You can't insure po boys. You can't rebuild a jazz song.

I certainly didn't mean to offend by obsessing on Galveston in all my posts this afternoon. It is the only frame of reference I have found to even begin to comprehend this. It is the only thing I have read that even begins to make it compute. And I'm finding Clara Barton's report just amazing as a text to understand what's happening. I would be grateful for better ones, though, if you have suggestions.

Here's one thing she says that just really strikes me. "It is probable that no people in the world are more tender of heart, or ready of sympathy for the woes of others than our own. Impulsive and generous, almost to a fault, there is nothing that can exceed the spontaneous rush with which we spring to the relief of the first cry of distress that goes out, unless it should be the readiness with which it is forgotten after the first effort, and the proneness to feel that nothing more in that line can be needed, and the impulsive spirit waits for something new." Clara Barton would have made a terrific blogger.

Numbness is right. And heartbreak at the scope of this disaster whose consequences, as you rightly point out DH, have just begun to unfold.

Our thoughts go to the victims first, and all those still caught up in the catastrophe.

But we also should keep in mind the ENORMITY of the economic consequences, for the nation as a whole...and, in particular for New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. That's something that we have to pay attention to as well.

I would point out the analogies that those who've SEEN this that folks are using:

9/11. The Tsunami. Hiroshima.

Nothing in the rhetoric of Bush, of the media is commensurate with that.

And, frankly, the local response, in the face of this, is lacking. I'm listening to Governor Blanco right now...and as much as you sympathize with her: it's clear that local officials are literally in over their heads. They are waiting for slings to carry the sand bags...they are lambasteing looters when there's still people in danger of drowning.

Our job, in my view is to advocate for all the victims of Katrina, and, in doing so, hold our government accountable....for now, to live up to the best our federal government is capable of (and Bush has been CRIMINALLY lacking if you ask me)...and in the long term, to have a full accounting of why this happened when so much had been written warning of just this threat.

We can't stop nature. But the basic responsiblity of any government is the safety of its citizens.

Our government has failed New Orleans and the gulf coast. There's no question about that.

Why didn't people realize how bad it was? I have talked to people who don't have cable and relied only on network news (or have goven up on TV news altogether) who had no idea. Some of cable has been very good. I watched 3 hours yesterday between 4:00pm and 7:00pm PDT, CNN and MSNBC, with a little bit of Fox. (I tend to watch a lot of TV while visiting my mother between those hours.) Some of it was very, very good, particularly Anderson Cooper, who had just driven to Biloxi from Meridian, MS. There was one 10 min segment that was a flyover of the Gulf Shores area, I believe, narrated by a local TV person. It was much like what I remember from the pictures of the tsunami (which, by the way, took days for the full horror to unfold as well).

People who haven't seen these pictures, or the pictures of flooded New Orleans, have no idea.

As with the tsunami, the lack of communication and power makes it difficult to account for people. Not knowing who got out and who didn't, and no way to communicate. And unlike the tsunami, which rolled in and out a few times and then was gone, in many areas the water is staying.

One thing that brought it home to me was a local (KTVU) news program last night that showed a map with the area that was devastated, a circle of about 170 mi in diameter, and then superimposed the same circle on a map of the Bay Area. The devastation would have stretched from Bodega Bay to Big Sur, with the SF metro area in the middle. Without a visual like that, it is hard to grasp.

This is obviously much, much worse than 9/11. With all due respect to the victims of that tragedy, it destroyed largely offices, not so many homes. The severe damage was limited to a specific downtown area, not whole cities like this. While Wall Street was knocked out because of power outages, the port of NY was ok.

Here there are hundreds of thousands of people who are homeless with their livelihoods destroyed. They are now refugees. The whole port area is devastated. It is unclear at this point how serious the damage to oil rigs and terminals was because many were apparently to the west of NO. And many square miles are uninhabitable for the foreseeable future.

The experts who have dealt with levee breaks on the Sacramento/San Joaquin River Delta in CA (what flows into SF Bay) say it takes a month at least to repair levee breaks and pump the water from a large area.

As I mentioned in one of my posts, I was tuned into this because I was reading "Forty Signs of Rain", a not-so-great book about trying to get people to understand the coming of global warming that ends with a flood in DC. I also saw (twice recently) a CNN documentary on global warming that talked about NO and nearby wetlands that will probably be lost to rising sea levels. These things tuned me into the worst case scenario that some people were predicting on Sunday night.

I think many people were grasping for reassurance on Monday night and Tuesday am that it wasn't worse, and then I saw the Kos diaries about the levee breaks and knew it was going to be really, really serious. At that point I watched a little TV and got a real flavor.

But I am retired, and a news junkie. People who spent the day at work had no idea at all. Many weren't aware that this wasn't just another hurricane. Now many people know. They say teams are leaving the Bay Area for Houston and many people are being trained to be deployed as relief workers.

People have said that NY didn't get all its promised relief, but then there is Jeb's Florida, which got more than it needed, so that people were getting reimbursed for phony claims. So we have two paradigms to measure the response by.

As I said in the other thread, I've just been walking around in this sad funk. And, like you, I resent anyone who isn't feeling it. A few times today, I overheard people responding to "How are you?" with "fine", and I've felt like screaming out, Then you're not paying attention!

I think initially people missed this because of Monday's "Whew -- near miss" coverage. The oddity of the aftermath, not the storm, causing the real damage has confounded some people (though some of course are just the usual "it wasn't in my neighborhood" sorts). I think Koppel last night captured the desolation best of all the media -- in fact, so well, I had to turn it off before it made me cry.

I think, sadly, the event will hit home for some people only when the death tolls start rising geometrically -- as they did after the tsunami, and, as you and Trapper John rightly say, they will here. This is an event fully on the scale of September 11th.

"People are already wondering what effect Hurricane Katrina will have on the US economy. So far, most of the discussion I’ve seen has focused on very simplified Keynesian or GDP-based views of the economy, in which the resources that go into rebuilding New Orleans and the surrounding regions count as a net addition to economic activity.

As far as the national accounts go, this may be right. As the name says, GDP is a gross measure, which means it takes no account of depreciation, including the massive destruction caused by events like hurricanes. Depending on how things like insurance payouts are counted, there could easily be an increase in measured GDP. The main lesson from this is that, if you’re interested in economic welfare, don’t look at GDP.

But I don’t think the old-style Keynesian story, in which a reconstruction effort brings unused resources into use and thereby stimulates more economic activity, is likely to be applicable. I assume any injection of funds will come primarily from the national government, which is already running massive deficits, to the point where its capacity for fiscal stimulus is pretty much exhausted. The impact of any further expenditure will almost certainly offset, in part by cuts to other areas, but even more by tighter monetary policy and upward market pressure on interest rates.

The immediate reaction of oil prices shows how tightly stretched the entire market has become, but I don’t think the effect on supplies will be great enough to have much effect in the medium term (say in six months time). However, that’s just a guess.

The real problem I haven’t seen discussed much so far is what will happen if, as is now predicted, it takes three to six months to pump all the water out of the city of New Orleans. In the absence of well-designed and large-scale intervention, that would imply bankruptcy for the vast majority of private businesses based in the city. This in turn would imply unemployment for many people who might otherwise return, and a whole lot of second-round effects working through supply chains. It’s unclear what kind of economic activity will survive, beyond a tourist market centred on the French Quarter (apparently relatively undamaged).

Even in the best of all possible worlds it would be hard to design a policy response to a disaster of this magnitude and duration. In practice, based on recent past experience, I think we’re likely to see some impressive rhetoric, a lot of gigantic boondoggles as favoured interests cash in on the reconstruction program, but not much effective alleviation of hardship or coherent thinking about sustainable economic recovery.

I think there are a few things here. One is that this doesn't happen in America. It happens in third world countries. So no matter what people see they think it's just not possible that it could be as bad as it is. American exceptionalism strikes again.

Then you have the anchors. For the most part they are reporting it as if it's not that big a deal. There's no Walter Chronckite tears for these people. They don't give you a sense of just how horribe this is. As usual their hair is perfect and so is their make-up.

Finally, it didn't happen to them. It happened to people they don't know. And it almost seems like it happened before because we've seen pictures of houses under water when levies break along the Miss and they always seem to come out fine.

The thing that brought it home for me was that man who had his wife ripped froom his hands. As the reporter was asking hm what happened I could feel the dread coming over me. I pictured exactly what he was saying but instead of him it was me and my wife and I just lost it. It was involuntary but unstoppable, when the reporter cried so did I.

I haven't been able to watch much of the coverage since.

Catastrophe doesn't begin to describe this. I am glad that everyone here understands the enormity of the whole thing. I have been unable to sleep at night worrying about it all.

Probably tens of thousands dead. Maybe up to 100,000, especially if we don't get all those people out of the Superdome ASAP. That's a public health nightmare. In MS, AL, other areas of LA, probably disease will set in. Believe it or not, cholera is endemic to the Gulf Water shellfish, it could set in in a human population too. Not to mention the lovely mosquito breeding ground NO is right now, yellow fever, possibly malaria, typhus, you name it.

Economic impacts: The Port of South Louisiana is THE LARGEST in the nation. And virtually all of our harvest goes through there to be exported to other countries. It's almost harvest time in the Midwest, already it's been really bad due to drought. How are all those farmers going to cope when they can't sell their grain?

Oil/nat gas: I've seen reports by the USCG that up to 20 platforms are lost or badly damaged. There are at least 6 refineries in the region that are currently shut down and may be damaged, I think it represents almost 10% of our refining capacity. The Colonial pipeline is down, possibly due to power outages, could also be damaged, esp. in MS. How is refined product going to get to the East coast?

Regarding NG, supposedly the Henry Hub facility is online again, but if all those platforms are out, how will we pump any nat gas anywhere? Almost all of our domestic nat gas comes through Henry Hub. THey had to briefly declare force majeure at nymex on Monday, but apparently it's okay now, at least until they run out of NG to pump.

Oh, and of course the airlines will be whalloped by this too.

Ugghh... like you all it galls me that people just don't understand the enormity of this all. And the leadership is zilch, nothing, the networks are all pretending that the emeperor has no clothes.

It's possible that most Americans no longer possess the mental flexibility to acknowledge something that's going to change their lives until they have absolutely no choice in the matter. I was watching CNN today, and in the morning the ex-mayor of New Orleans told Soledad O'Brien that unless Bush did something immediately, the city would be destroyed along with up to 90,000 people. O'Brien could do nothing but sputter that this couldn't be possible. Later they did an interview with an Army Corps of Engineers rep about the levee repair. This rep said that they were moving forward by attempting to get a private contractor they'd worked with before to get heavy equipment to the site. This struck me as simply insane.

And the governor is simply clueless, or worse, has absolutely no resources at her command and is afraid to admit it. Yesterday her big decision was to call for a day of prayer today.

Viget, your comments are chilling. Midwestern harvests, having to be trucked to Houston or some other port, except that there isn't enough gasoline and it costs $4.00 or $5.00 a gallon. This is a real recipe for a very, very bad fall and winter.

Not only is the Port of Southern Louisiana the largest port in the US, it is the FIFTH LARGEST PORT IN THE WORLD, after Rotterdam, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore.

The difficulty in getting midwestern grains and other crops to market could cause world food prices to increase. Now, this might actually be good for farmers in the poorer parts of the world, but it isn't going to be good for Kansas. Or Nebraska. Or Minnesota. Or Iowa. Or the Dakotas.

This is indeed going to be unprecedented. The disaster is really going to disrupt transportation and put some parts of the country much more on their own than we have been used to. An end to "just in time" inventories, and a lot more cost to move things around. While in some respects that could be good, the dislocations are going to be hard for people to adjust to.


To be fair, I don't know the extent of the damage of the port (though I expect it's pretty bad). The Coast Guard still has the Mississippi closed all the way up to Baton Rouge, so it's anyone's guess as to when barge traffic will resume. I don't think people realize the vital artery the Mississippi is to this country, as others have commented, Andrew Jackson fought like a madman to preserve New Orleans as a port, this country needs it, big time.

Which brings me to another big elephant in the room. Assuming that most of the people who work at this vital infrastructure and have the specialized skills required to run it actually live in the greater NO area, how in the hell are we going to run these facilities when these people have no houses? Where will they live? Are we going to set up temporary shelters for all these workers (cause NO ain't gonna be inhabitable for a LONG time). Or is there going to be a sudden surge in the population of Baton Rouge?

Not that I'm a pessimist or anything, but since Monday, the recurring image I've had in my mind is a line of dominoes, falling one by one....

May be just may be they won't be able to rebuild New Orleans. It's in a vulnerable location and there is nothing but mothing to stop a big storm coming in to the same area next month, next year - every year for the next ten years.

The big re-insurers are going to be looking at this very hard. The biggest, Munich Re, has been talking about not re-insuring risks in unstable climate areas for some time.

Without re-insurance, primary insurance doesn't get written. Without primary insurance banks don't lend for construction.

Looking at TV news on CNN, Fox etc out heart goes out to the victims. But the sight of grossly overweight people huffing and puffing out of their SUVs at gas stations in unaffected areas and bitching about gas prices is not edifying. You Americanos are going to have to undergo a paradigm shift. How are you going to pay for reconstruction whilst waging war on the peoples of the ME? How are you going to pay without raising taxes.

You have around a million people without homes, business and infrastructure. This is serious.

You have a President who cannot even read a speech about the disaster without stumbling. You have got problems.

It's so sad.

I saw a segment on ?CNN or CBS tonight where a "poor" woman was out on the elevated I-10 road hoping/waiting for help. No food, no shelter, no water nothing. There were dead rotting bodies next to her! When interviewed, she asked why there was so much quite response and federal help when the hurricanes hit Florida last year, but for the poor black folks on the I-10 overpass in the scorching heat of New Orleans, there was seemingly nothing but death for relief.

It seems what she said is true, and it made me feel sick, just sick. I believe she is correct, and the one thing about death is that it is irreversible. If help comes too late to prevent death, it is no help at all.

This lack of a life-saving timely response is where the Bush administration, with its touted tons of homeland security money spent for big improvements to emergency responses, is very vulnerable, IMO! What is all this money and supposed homeland security protection getting us in light of this disaster? Does anyone feel safer now?

Many parts of the country have their potential disasters. Here in CA we have droughts and fires and earthquakes. In the Midwest they have floods and tornadoes and droughts. In the east coast they have hurricanes and mammoth snowstorms. Yes, we had 9/11, but look at what else we have had in the last 5 years alone. It is time to stop seeing everything as an an opportunity for politics and start solving some real problems now, starting with getting help to Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, and, yes, to Texas and whoever else is takiong these refugees in, and then addressing preparedness for potential disasters in other areas.

It will take a while to sink in. Depends on speed of photographs/video from the areas hardest hit.. and the rate of rising gas prices, I suppose. You are right, things will change like after 9/11. I don't have much to say. What can one do? I don't think too many of the government officials know what they are doing.

Maybe that's when it will sink in. Maybe people assume the government and relief agencies will just step in and fix things over the course of a few weeks, and then everything will be back to normal. I had that kind of reaction myself when the levee was breached.. immediately thinking, well, can't the US Army Corps of Engineers just fix it? This is America, we can fix anything, right? No, I don't suppose we always can.

Thank all of you for this thread. I was beginning to feel very alone in how utterly devastated I am feeling. Last night, I decided to just stay up and watch TV after reading about the mayor's comments that the levees would not be fixed.

Well, welcome to the world of 24 hour cable news. By 11:00 MDT, I could not get ANY live news coverage of Katrina. Everything was being repeated, in the normal rotating cycle. I watched the Weather Channel for about an hour until their endless commercials and oh-so-slight updates became absurd. Then tried to sleep. Today, I sent an incensed email to CNN and MSNBC about their lack of live coverage but that wasn't much satisfaction.

I have just felt absolute dread since Sunday... And whenever it seems it might dissipate -- when it didn't seem as bad as anticipated on Monday, when NO wasn't totally underwater today -- it only takes an hour or so for all the dread to fully reinvest.

As a historian living in distant Wyoming, I mourn for the lost treasure of NO. The more I read about the drilling rigs gone, the more I am also seeing how hard this will impact even distant Wyoming by dramatically exacerbating the already acute shortage of drilling equipment for the massive coalbed methane industry. I'll bet most states have some vital commercial connection to the industries of the Gulf Coast that they haven't yet begun to comprehend. The ripples of this are going to be long and deep.

Also annoying to me has been the sanctimoniousness of the talking heads regarding the looting, especially of the casinos, and the price gouging. After all, what do casinos teach people? That they can get something for nothing. That riches are simply waiting there to be claimed. And now we're surprised that people want to take those riches? Looting stores? People who have nothing but the clothes on their back? What could they need? And, as for gouging, hey, isn't unfettered free market capitalism the be-all and end-all? Doesn't the market know best? Doesn't that mean that if the market will bear a $200/night Comfort Inn room that you should charge that for it? If you don't, wouldn't that make you unAmerican in George Bush's America? If you're gonna preach unfettered capitalism & a gambler's society, don't pretend to cry when those cut throat, anti-humane characteristics flare up.

I am sick at heart and looking forward now to another night of blacked out information. At least, this thread has reassured me that I am not alone in this horror I'm experiencing.

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