Frustration
Google Earth in Emulation?

Our Own Chernobyl

BAG News Notes has been doing a nice job of analyzing media photos emerging from New Orleans.

Certainly, most of the Katrina images last week were unvarnished and pulled no punches.  At the same time, however, I'm wondering how much of what we saw was still edited according to the taste of a mainstream viewing audience (MSVA?) that tends to alternate in disaster preference between sensationalism and denial.

Meanwhile, Josh Marshall describes the Bush administration's emerging priorities in New Orleans:

At first the evidence was scattered and anecdotal. But now it's pretty clear that a key aim of the Bush administration's takeover of the NOLA situation is to cut off press access to report the story.  . . .

Take a moment to note what's happening here: these are the marks of repressive government, which mixes inefficiency with authoritarianism. The crew that couldn't get key aid on the scene in time last week is coming in in force now. And one of the key missions appears to be cutting off public information about what's happening in the city.

This is a domestic, natural disaster. Absent specific cases where members of the press would interfere or get in the way of some particular clean up operation, or perhaps demolition work, there is simply no reason why credentialed members of the press should not be able to cover everything that is happening in that city.

Too bad Karl Rove hasn't taken his frog-march off to jail yet. Otherwise they might not be trying so hard to staunch the flow of inforation.

25000bodybags_1This morning, CNN reports that 25,000 body bags have been shipped to Louisiana. "This is our tsunami," Biloxi Mayor AJ Holloway told the Biloxi Sun Herald. But the tsunami happened for the most part to countries with little infrastructure and very little warning. It seems to me more accurate to say that this is our Chernobyl.

Xeni Jardin posted a long account by Jasmina Tesanovic, Serbian native best known for her work documenting war in the former Yugoslavia. Tesanovic writes about visiting the temporary occupants of Austin's Convention Center with great attention to psychological nuance filtered through her experience working on the book The Suitcase: Interviews with Refugees from Bosnia and Croatia:

Who is this old respectable thin woman staring out of the window in silence?

The other old woman is all dolled up; she is sitting in the terrace, chain-smoking, chain-talking. The chair next to her is empty. People come and go and listen to her, but she never stops talking. She has thin legs and a big belly, a pretty old face and fancy sexy clothes: everybody seems to know her. They are offering her stuff and want to help, to carry her, amuse her, bring her music. But she talks and talks only. She reminds me of a raped woman who compulsively talked after she escaped the war zone; she talked sweetly and mildly of everything, even of her rapist... This woman is telling us all how happy she is with life as such, happy to be alive, happy to be here.... I wonder when she will break down, from that chair, from that cigarette to which she is clinging to as if it were a pillar.

(Can anyone who still asks where all the women bloggers are please slink away in embarrassment right now?)

Tesovicsteeleandnewton
Jasmina Tesanovic, left, with science fiction folk Linda Steele and Deborah Newton at Utopiales, the Jules Verne Conference in Nantes, France last fall.

The LA Times writes about the issue of whether the people of New Orleans should be called refugees or evacuees:

In Houston, where tens of thousands of Hurricane Katrina victims have sought temporary shelter, officials distributed a terse memo Wednesday dealing not with food, lodging or human connections, but with something that in its own way has become just as emotionally loaded: the word "refugee."

"The term is perceived negatively by many of those housed at the Astrodome, who prefer to be called evacuees," said the memo to reporters, which addressed a heated conversation that has echoed in recent days from emergency shelters through the media to the White House.

"I'm not a refugee; I'm an American," said Daphne Carr, 37, who fled New Orleans with her niece, Loasha, 9, and is staying at the Astrodome.

The people displaced by Katrina deserve vastly more respect than they have been getting, but Americans should not deny the commonality that their experiences have with refugees throughout the world. We need to stop telling ourselves that this shouldn't be happening to these people because they are Americans. It shouldn't happen to anyone, anywhere, ever. The fact that they live(d) in the US simply made it less likely. (And if we adopt the term "evacuees," what then do we call the people who were not evacuated, but rather managed to escape New Orleans after the fact on their own. Escapees?) The blanket adoption of that term implies that something was done for them that may not have been.

In a longer post on our ecosuicide, Bruce Sterling remarks:

Over and over last week, people said that the scenes from the convention center, the highway overpasses, and the other suddenly infamous Crescent City venues didn't "look like America," that they seemed instead to be straight from the Third World. That was almost literally accurate, for poor, black New Orleans (whose life had never previously been of any interest to the larger public) is not so different from other poor and black parts of the world: its infant mortality and life expectancy rates, its educational achievement statistics mirroring scores of African and Latin American enclaves.

Nathan Newman has a thoughful post on the role of privatization in this strange new America:

This is the challenge to the Left. Not just demanding accountability for Katrina, but looking systematically at every vulnerable facility or area in the country, and highlighting the hacks and scoundrels Bush has put in charge of our security.

Because SEIU has labor disputes with Wackenhut, they've put the energy into exposing these other problems with the company, so it's a great place to start the investigation. Check out their Eye on Wackenhut site for more.

In the context of Katrina, Dana Milibank also has this story about how private security guards from Wackenhut blocking press access to an HHS building, despite a decision by HHS officials to give them access. As Milbank said, "Thus was the true hierarchy within the federal government revealed: DHS outranks the White House, and Wackenhut trumps them all."

Which of course is no joke. Of course, the private corporate donors to the GOP, who loot the public treasury through their privatization deals, outrank the White House. As with any feudal system, it's the folks with the money who run the system. Government officials, and that applies to Bush, are only their useful vassals.

And the losers are the public who have to live -- and die -- based on the competence of folks like Wackenhut who have been entrusted with the security of our most vulnerable facilities.

As I have composed this post, a little girl in fairy wings kept trying to climb into my lap -- quite a contrast between my setting ans this post's subject matter -- but of course protecting our children is an important reason why the task Newman puts us must be done.

Provide for the common defense. Promote the general welfare. That's what America is supposed to be about.

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