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Archives, 2005 Aug. 28

Monday September 5, 2005

They Say The Fruit Doesn’t Fall Very Far From The Tree…

Via Discourse.Net, Via Atrios, Via Editor and Publisher. Junior’s mother discusses the new American refugees:

The Modern "Let Them Eat Cake" Moment

When I saw this quote on Atrios's site, I thought it was a parody.

But Editor and Publisher, to whom he cites, is reporting it as straight news:

Barbara Bush: Things Working Out "Very Well" for Poor Evacuees from New Orleans NEW YORK Accompanying her husband, former President George H.W.Bush, on a tour of hurricane relief centers in Houston, Barbara Bush said today, referring to the poor who had lost everything back home and evacuated, "This is working very well for them."

The former First Lady's remarks were aired this evening on National Public Radio's "Marketplace" program.

Then she added: "What I'm hearing is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality.

"And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this--this [she chuckles slightly] is working very well for them."

And here's a link to the audio of the NPR Marketplace segment containing this incredible quote. It's real. Although some people might I suppose call it a nervous giggle rather than a chuckle.

PS. E&P actually ameliorated the quote from la Bush. What she said on the tape about New Orleans' newly destitute is: "What I'm hearing which is sort of scary is that they want to stay" in Texas.

Note that while Editor and Publisher ran with it, they still felt they had to soften the quote a tad. Journalists need to stop doing that. They’re saying that there may be as many as ten thousand dead in New Orleans alone with all is said and done. In the post mortem to all this they’ll be uncovering thousands of ways, large and small, in which the system failed, but the root of it is the staggering indifference to anyone and anything but themselves that pretty well shapes the Bush family tree. The system failed, because the man at the top doesn’t give a shit whether it works or not.

How do people like that get into positions of power where can profoundly affect the lives of millions of Americans? Because that indifference has been, and is still being kept out of public view, as though pointing it out is somehow unfair or out of bounds. But nothing could be more relevant. Voters need to know less about specific stands on specific issues, then these little flashes of insight into a person’s soul. This is exactly what you want to know about someone before you give them power.

And if that sounds harsh, consider this fact: over the weekend the white house political spin machine was more energized and coordinated then the rescue effort. All across the country White House and GOP operatives started putting out the story that this whole mess is the fault of the state and local governments, and the press (that part of it that was working outside the disaster zone anyway) dutifully reported that spin, even though it is patently false. You want to know what is important to these people, look at what works.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday September 4, 2005

Wow…

Via Steve Gilliard, via the New York Times:

Law Officers, Overwhelmed, Are Quitting the Force

NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 3 - Reeling from the chaos of this overwhelmed city, at least 200 New Orleans police officers have walked away from their jobs and two have committed suicide, police officials said on Saturday.

Some officers told their superiors they were leaving, police officials said. Others worked for a while and then stopped showing up. Still others, for reasons not always clear, never made it in after the storm.

...

Police officials did not identify the officers who took their lives, one on Saturday and the other the day before. But they said one had been a patrol officer, who a senior officer said "was absolutely outstanding." The other was an aide to Mr. Compass. The superintendent said his aide had lost his home in the hurricane and had been unable to find his family.

This thing just keeps getting worse and worse, every time you look at it. Atrios has this bit of transcript from a network news interview with the Jefferson Parish President:

Sir, they were told like me. Every single day. The cavalry is coming. On the federal level. The cavalry is coming. The cavalry is coming. The cavalry is coming. I have just begun to hear the hooves of the cavalry. The cavalry is still not here yet, but I have begun to hear the hooves and were almost a week out.

Three quick examples. We had Wal-mart deliver three trucks of water. Trailer trucks of water. Fema turned them back, said we didn't need them. This was a week go. We had 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel on a coast guard vessel docked in my parish. The coast guard said come get the fuel right way. When we got there with our trucks, they got a word, FEMA says don't give you the fuel. Yesterday, yesterday, fema comes in and cuts all our emergency communications lines. They cut them without notice. Our sheriff, Harry Lee, goes back in. he reconnects the line. He posts armed guards said no one is getting near these lines.

...

The guy who runs this building I'm in. Emergency management. He's responsible for everything. His mother was trapped in St. Bernard nursing home and every day she called him and said. Are you coming. Son? Is somebody coming? And he said yeah. Mama. Somebody's coming to get you.. Somebody's coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody's coming to get you on Friday. And she drowned Friday night. And she drowned Friday night. Nobody's coming to get us. Nobody's coming to get us. The Secretary has promised. Everybody's promised. They've had press conferences. I'm sick of the press conferences. For god's sakes, just shut up and send us somebody.

I’d be killing angry if that had happened to my mother.

Brad DeLong takes the words right out of my mouth

I really am naive. I did not expect this degree of unpreparedness and incompetence. I did not expect this even though I knew that the Bush administration is worse than you can imagine, even after having taken account of the fact that it is worse than you can imagine.

Emphasis mine…but those are words to live by. Put them on a plaque on your bedroom wall and read them every night before going to bed and every morning while getting up and ready for your day. It is hard to get the human head around the really, really big stuff. The size of a galaxy. The age of the earth. How much money a billion dollars actually is. The fact that the Bush administration is worse than you can imagine, even after having taken account of the fact that it is worse than you can imagine. I said once that the United States was going to be generations living down the taint of the Bush Administration, but that was with regard to our moral standing in the world. I’m beginning to think now that we may be generations rebuilding what it took Bush and the republicans only five years (just so far) to wreak right here in America. The economy. The infrastructure. The military. The sciences. The social contract. But on the bright side, Bush is against same sex marriage…

by Bruce Garrett | Link

He Had The Only Qualification That Mattered…He Was A Friend Of A Friend Of Junior’s

In case you’re wondering why the aftermath of Katrina got so fucked up:

WASHINGTON - (KRT) - From failed Republican congressional candidate to ousted "czar" of an Arabian horse association, there was little in Michael D. Brown's background to prepare him for the fury of Hurricane Katrina.

But as the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Brown now faces furious criticism of the federal response to the disaster that wiped out New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast. He provoked some of it himself when he conceded that FEMA didn't know that thousands of refugees were trapped at New Orleans' convention center without food or water until officials heard it on the news.

"He's done a hell of a job, because I'm not aware of any Arabian horses being killed in this storm," said Kate Hale, former Miami-Dade emergency management chief. "The world that this man operated in and the focus of this work does not in any way translate to this. He does not have the experience."

Brown ran for Congress in 1988 and won 27 percent of the vote against Democratic incumbent Glenn English. He spent the 1990s as judges and stewards commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association. His job was to ensure that horse-show judges followed the rules and to investigate allegations against those suspected of cheating.

"I wouldn't have regarded his position in the horse industry as a platform to where he is now," said Tom Connelly, a former association president.

Brown's ticket to FEMA was Joe Allbaugh, President Bush's 2000 campaign manager and an old friend of Brown's in Oklahoma. When Bush ran for president in 2000, Brown was ending a rocky tenure at the horse association.

Brown told several association officials that if Bush were elected, he'd be in line for a good job...

Now do you understand, why president smirking fratboy jackass diverted resources from the rescue effort to stage a photo-op?

I understand that the U.S. Forest Service had water-tanker aircraft available to help douse the fires raging on our riverfront, but FEMA has yet to accept the aid. When Amtrak offered trains to evacuate significant numbers of victims - far more efficiently than buses - FEMA again dragged its feet. Offers of medicine, communications equipment and other desperately needed items continue to flow in, only to be ignored by the agency.

But perhaps the greatest disappointment stands at the breached 17th Street levee. Touring this critical site yesterday with the President, I saw what I believed to be a real and significant effort to get a handle on a major cause of this catastrophe. Flying over this critical spot again this morning, less than 24 hours later, it became apparent that yesterday we witnessed a hastily prepared stage set for a Presidential photo opportunity; and the desperately needed resources we saw were this morning reduced to a single, lonely piece of equipment...

Dig it. Bush took pieces out of the rescue effort so he could pose for the U.S. news media. And of course, our media let him do it without comment. It was left once again to the European press to call it for what it was:

There was a striking dicrepancy between the CNN International report on the Bush visit to the New Orleans disaster zone, yesterday, and reports of the same event by German TV.

ZDF News reported that the president's visit was a completely staged event. Their crew witnessed how the open air food distribution point Bush visited in front of the cameras was torn down immediately after the president and the herd of 'news people' had left and that others which were allegedly being set up were abandoned at the same time.

The people in the area were once again left to fend for themselves, said ZDF.

In the middle of one of this nation’s biggest civil catastrophes, our news media is still looking the other way when he pulls crap like that. But I reckon they have to keep doing it now. Because if it was George Bush’s smirking indifference to anyone and anything other then himself that caused this disaster, it’s only because our news media carefully hid that side of him from the voters that he’s even able to put incompetent cronies of cronies like Michael Brown in charge of an agency like FEMA. They hated Al Gore for his geeky smarty pants attitude. They liked the smirking swaggerer. So they deliberately made Gore to look like a babbling idiot, and Bush like a down to earth get it done kinda guy. But it was all nothing more then cheapshit Washington Press Corps pique. I don’t think a goddamn one of them is surprised that Bush put a fucking fired horse judge in charge of FEMA. They didn’t think it mattered. They didn’t really give a shit, any more then junior gave a shit. Only pathetic limp wristed democratic policy wonks and geeks care about shit like that. Then the levees broke.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Saturday September 3, 2005

Tales From George Bush’s America…(continued)

From the Associated Press:

NEW ORLEANS - Buses taking Hurricane Katrina victims far from the squalor of the Superdome stopped rolling early Saturday. As many as 5,000 people remained in the stadium and could be there until Sunday, according to the Texas Air National Guard.

Officials had hoped to evacuate the last of the crowd before dawn Saturday. Guard members said they were told only that the buses had stopped coming and to shut down the area where the vehicles were being loaded.

"We were rolling," Capt. Jean Clark said. "If the buses had kept coming, we would have this whole place cleaned out already or pretty close to it."

...

Capt. John Pollard of the Texas Air Force National Guard said 20,000 people were in the dome when evacuation efforts began. That number swelled as people poured into the Superdome because they believed it was the best place to get a ride out of town.

He estimated Saturday morning that between 2,000 and 5,000 people were left at the Superdome. But it remained a mystery why the buses stopped coming to pick up refugees and shuttle them away.

Tina Miller, 47, had no shoes and cried with relief and exhaustion as she left the Superdome and 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.

...

At one point Friday, the evacuation was interrupted briefly when school buses pulled 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 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, near the Superdome, but conditions were considerably cleaner, even without running water, than the unsanitary crush inside the dome...

From the Washington Post:

One military official said that as of Friday morning, 4,200 people had been evacuated, including 1,000 from the convention center, where many times that number spent days without any aid and where several corpses lay on the street Thursday. Another military official said that commanders had not been aware of the large and desperate concentration of people at the convention center until Wednesday, that the focus had been on evacuating the Superdome and conducting other emergency operations in the city.

"It had not perhaps been raised to our consciousness by the reports we had received," Maj. Gen. Richard Rowe, the chief operations officer of the U.S. Northern Command, said in a phone interview.

...

By Friday night, the number of National Guard troops was expected to reach 11,700 in Louisiana and 8,000 in Mississippi, with more than 5,000 troops still to come over the weekend. Add to that more than 2,500 Coast Guard personnel on the scene with more than 50 aircraft. Four Coast Guard cutters are stationed in the Mississippi River to offer communications and logistics support, said U.S. Coast Guard spokeswoman Sharon Richey. Even so, one frustrated state senator announced that he has lined up barges to float aid down the Mississippi River to stranded individuals...

...

As reports continued of famished and dehydrated people isolated across the Gulf Coast, angry questions were pressed about why the military has not been dropping food packets for them -- as was done in Afghanistan, Bosnia and in the aftermath of the Asian tsunami.

Bill Wattenburg, a consultant for the University of California Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and one of the designers of the earlier food drop programs, said that he has lobbied the administration and the military to immediately begin something similar. He said he was told that the military was prepared to begin, but that it was awaiting a request from FEMA.

"We know very well how to do this, and it's just incomprehensible that we're not," Wattenburg said.

...

Canaan Spriggs, 31, and his extended family, including three infants, again prepared to sleep on the floor of a nearby parking garage. He said he was pleased by the sight of the military convoys but that the city was far from tame.

"It's quiet now, but the night-time is wild," he said. "They're sugarcoating it on the news. Come out here at night, but only if you have the National Guard with you. There are gunshots, and you hear people screaming for help.

From the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON - Several states ready and willing to send National Guard troops to the rescue in hurricane-ravaged New Orleans didn't get the go-ahead until days after the storm struck ó a delay nearly certain to be investigated by Congress.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson offered Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco help from his state's National Guard on Sunday, the day before Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana. Blanco accepted, but paperwork needed to get the troops en route didn't come from Washington until late Thursday.

From CNN:

The big disconnect on New Orleans

The official version; then there's the in-the-trenches version

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (CNN) -- Diverging views of a crumbling New Orleans emerged Thursday, with statements by some federal officials in contradiction with grittier, more desperate views from the streets. By late Friday response to those stranded in the city was more visible.

But the conflicting views on Thursday came within hours, sometimes minutes of each of each other, as reflected in CNN's transcripts. The speakers include Michael Brown, chief of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, evacuee Raymond Cooper, CNN correspondents and others. Here's what they had to say:

Conditions in the Convention Center

# FEMA chief Brown: We learned about that (Thursday), so I have directed that we have all available resources to get that convention center to make sure that they have the food and water and medical care that they need. (See video of Brown explaining how news reports alerted FEMA to convention center chaos. -- 2:11)

# Mayor Nagin: The convention center is unsanitary and unsafe, and we are running out of supplies for the 15,000 to 20,000 people. (Hear Nagin's angry demand for soldiers. 1:04)

# CNN Producer Kim Segal: It was chaos. There was nobody there, nobody in charge. And there was nobody giving even water. The children, you should see them, they're all just in tears. There are sick people. We saw... people who are dying in front of you.

# Evacuee Raymond Cooper: Sir, you've got about 3,000 people here in this -- in the Convention Center right now. They're hungry. Don't have any food. We were told two-and-a-half days ago to make our way to the Superdome or the Convention Center by our mayor. And which when we got here, was no one to tell us what to do, no one to direct us, no authority figure.

Uncollected corpses

# Brown: That's not been reported to me, so I'm not going to comment. Until I actually get a report from my teams that say, "We have bodies located here or there," I'm just not going to speculate.

# Segal: We saw one body. A person is in a wheelchair and someone had pushed (her) off to the side and draped just like a blanket over this person in the wheelchair. And then there is another body next to that. There were others they were willing to show us. ( See CNN report, 'People are dying in front of us' -- 4:36 )

# Evacuee Cooper: They had a couple of policemen out here, sir, about six or seven policemen told me directly, when I went to tell them, hey, man, you got bodies in there. You got two old ladies that just passed, just had died, people dragging the bodies into little corners. One guy -- that's how I found out. The guy had actually, hey, man, anybody sleeping over here? I'm like, no. He dragged two bodies in there. Now you just -- I just found out there was a lady and an old man, the lady went to nudge him. He's dead.

Hospital evacuations

# Brown: I've just learned today that we ... are in the process of completing the evacuations of the hospitals, that those are going very well.

# CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta: It's gruesome. I guess that is the best word for it. If you think about a hospital, for example, the morgue is in the basement, and the basement is completely flooded. So you can just imagine the scene down there. But when patients die in the hospital, there is no place to put them, so they're in the stairwells. It is one of the most unbelievable situations I've seen as a doctor, certainly as a journalist as well. There is no electricity. There is no water. There's over 200 patients still here remaining. ...We found our way in through a chopper and had to land at a landing strip and then take a boat. And it is exactly ... where the boat was traveling where the snipers opened fire yesterday, halting all the evacuations. ( Watch the video report of corpses stacked in stairwells -- 4:45 )

# Dr. Matthew Bellew, Charity Hospital: We still have 200 patients in this hospital, many of them needing care that they just can't get. The conditions are such that it's very dangerous for the patients. Just about all the patients in our services had fevers. Our toilets are overflowing. They are filled with stool and urine. And the smell, if you can imagine, is so bad, you know, many of us had gagging and some people even threw up. It's pretty rough.(Mayor's video: Armed addicts fighting for a fix -- 1:03)

Violence and civil unrest

# Brown: I've had no reports of unrest, if the connotation of the word unrest means that people are beginning to riot, or you know, they're banging on walls and screaming and hollering or burning tires or whatever. I've had no reports of that.

# CNN's Chris Lawrence: From here and from talking to the police officers, they're losing control of the city. We're now standing on the roof of one of the police stations. The police officers came by and told us in very, very strong terms it wasn't safe to be out on the street. (Watch the video report on explosions and gunfire -- 2:12)

The federal response:

# Brown: Considering the dire circumstances that we have in New Orleans, virtually a city that has been destroyed, things are going relatively well.

# Homeland Security Director Chertoff: Now, of course, a critical element of what we're doing is the process of evacuation and securing New Orleans and other areas that are afflicted. And here the Department of Defense has performed magnificently, as has the National Guard, in bringing enormous resources and capabilities to bear in the areas that are suffering.

# Crowd chanting outside the Convention Center: We want help.

# Nagin: They don't have a clue what's going on down there.

# Phyllis Petrich, a tourist stranded at the Ritz-Carlton: They are invisible. We have no idea where they are. We hear bits and pieces that the National Guard is around, but where? We have not seen them. We have not seen FEMA officials. We have seen no one.

Security

# Brown: I actually think the security is pretty darn good. There's some really bad people out there that are causing some problems, and it seems to me that every time a bad person wants to scream of cause a problem, there's somebody there with a camera to stick it in their face. ( See Jack Cafferty's rant on the government's 'bungled' response -- 0:57)

# Chertoff: In addition to local law enforcement, we have 2,800 National Guard in New Orleans as we speak today. One thousand four hundred additional National Guard military police trained soldiers will be arriving every day: 1,400 today, 1,400 tomorrow and 1,400 the next day.

# Nagin: I continue to hear that troops are on the way, but we are still protecting the city with only 1,500 New Orleans police officers, an additional 300 law enforcement personnel, 250 National Guard troops, and other military personnel who are primarily focused on evacuation.

# Lawrence: The police are very, very tense right now. They're literally riding around, full assault weapons, full tactical gear, in pickup trucks. Five, six, seven, eight officers. It is a very tense situation here.

From Maureen Dowd:

Shirt-sleeves rolled up, W. finally landed in Hell yesterday and chuckled about his wild boozing days in "the great city" of N'Awlins. He was clearly moved. "You know, I'm going to fly out of here in a minute," he said on the runway at the New Orleans International Airport, "but I want you to know that I'm not going to forget what I've seen." Out of the cameras' range, and avoided by W., was a convoy of thousands of sick and dying people, some sprawled on the floor or dumped on baggage carousels at a makeshift M*A*S*H unit inside the terminal.

...

Michael Brown, the blithering idiot in charge of FEMA - a job he trained for by running something called the International Arabian Horse Association - admitted he didn't know until Thursday that there were 15,000 desperate, dehydrated, hungry, angry, dying victims of Katrina in the New Orleans Convention Center.

Was he sacked instantly? No, our tone-deaf president hailed him in Mobile, Ala., yesterday: "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

It would be one thing if President Bush and his inner circle - Dick Cheney was vacationing in Wyoming; Condi Rice was shoe shopping at Ferragamo's on Fifth Avenue and attended "Spamalot" before bloggers chased her back to Washington; and Andy Card was off in Maine - lacked empathy but could get the job done. But it is a chilling lack of empathy combined with a stunning lack of efficiency that could make this administration implode.

From Steve Gilliard:

No matter how nervously Kanye West said what he did, it wasn't some revealed truth, but a long assumed feeling. Bush doesn't care about black people. No fucking kidding.

The problem is that he doesn't care about anybody.

The fact that the citizens of New Orleans are now Aligator MRE's is of concern to Bush, because it may make him look bad. But the world of George Bush is a narrow one, not much beyond his nose. Everything is about him.

Which is why he can praise Brown. Even the French fired Nivelle once he failed and replaced him with Petain. Bush only sees what affects him.

Just so. But the people who voted for him knew that. He was their boy all along. For generations the Republicans have played Americans against one another. As government in the late 20th century began to acknowledge and protect the rights of minorities and women, the republicans began a concerted effort to deliberately weaken government, so it could no longer do that. An America that extends the promise of liberty and justice to all is anathema to them. For decades they poured billions of right wing dollars into a relentless campaign to convince Americans that greed is good, and that their worst prejudices were righteous. American self reliance became self interest. American independence became insularity. In pulpits all across America, the Jesus who taught us to love our neighbor was crucified as a communist and a pervert, and a new one who taught that might makes right was put in his place. The payoff came with the election of George Bush. The punch line came this week in New Orleans.

It isn’t that America can’t respond to the need of New Orleans as well as it can the need of those places destroyed by the Indian Ocean Tsunami…it’s that it isn’t supposed to. That’s what all the vitriolic rhetoric about “nanny government” means. A government that can wage a successful fight against civil chaos after a devastating natural disaster, can also prevent lynchings, wife beatings, and gay bashings. Government isn’t supposed to take care of the powerless, whether they’ve been rendered helpless by a hurricane, or by a lynch mob. Rights are for the powerful. To be able to just get on with your life is a privilege, not a right. That is George Bush’s America.

Somewhere in a corner of the putrid stench the Superdome has become, are the rotting corpses of two elderly New Orleans women, laying where their bodies were dragged to get them out of the way of the still living. Take your mental camera into the Superdome. Pan it across the trash littered bleachers, move down the aisles, through the suffocating stench of hundreds of backed up toilets and cardboard boxes full of human excrement. There…there they are…in that dark corner over there. Two pitiful little bodies you could almost mistake for just another random pile of trash. But they were people once. Your fellow Americans. Slowly zoom your mental camera in on that image. There is the America the republicans have been doggedly leading us to for decades now. There is what is inside the shining city on the hill.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Thursday September 1, 2005

Jackass

"I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees."

President Junior on 'Good Morning America'

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday August 30, 2005

Crying For New Orleans

I visited there once, and it makes me heartsick to see what is happening to it. And all the more so for the fact that what is happening now could have been mitigated, at least somewhat, had we a real president, and not the smirking fratboy jackass we have in the White House now. Er…that is…on vacation now…

Playing guitar while New Orleans drowns

Or was that… eating cake with his pal John McCain?

The Louisiana National Guard is in Iraq, fighting junior’s Splendid Little War. And in any case, stabilizing a catastrophe of this scale will take a non-trivial amount of money the U.S. doesn’t have any more. Remember budget surpluses? Junior doesn’t need no stinking budget surpluses. He never learned the value of money. This is why you don’t live at the edge of your means:

New Orleans Under Water

Go read this from Steve Gilliard…and this…and this..horribly enough. Atrios picked up on that one too. Look at it. Black people loot…white people find.

And I’m with Steve when he calls Kevin Drum on his crack about not politicizing this catastrophe. You mean…like Bush didn’t politicize every fucking government agency he’s touched in the last five years? Via Atrios:

It appears that the money has been moved in the presidentís budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees canít be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us.

-Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; New Orleans Times-Picayune, June 8, 2004.

This would be a bad situation under any president, granted. But under this one it’s bad in ways it just didn’t have to be and that all by itself is inexcusable. That junior is still smirking around country clubs partying his ass off like the spoiled rich man’s brat he is and always was while New Orleans bleeds is just the entertainment you get when you put an emotional and moral runt into the highest office in the land. Nero fiddled. Bush was picking and grinnin’

Oh look…the guitar has the presidential seal on it… Cool!

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Cartoon Will Appear This Evening (EST)

Sorry for the delay. I have a lot of things going at work right now…

Oh…Now They Notice

Members of a church say God is punishing American soldiers for defending a country that harbors gays, and they brought their anti-gay message to the funerals Saturday of two Tennessee soldiers killed in Iraq.

Guess who. The debate about Phelps and his family/congregation has always been does he make homophobia look bad, or does he make main street republican suit and tie homophobia look respectable? Well now he’s taken it to a new level that I think can only make people sick and tired of any and all fag baiting.

The church members were met with scorn from local residents. They chased the church members cars' down a highway, waving flags and screaming "God bless America."

"My husband is over there, so I'm here to show my support," 41-year-old Connie Ditmore said as she waved and American flag and as tears came to her eyes. "To do this at a funeral is disrespectful of a family, no matter what your beliefs are."

The Rev. Fred Phelps, founder of Westboro Baptist in Kansas, contends that American soldiers are being killed in Iraq as vengeance from God for protecting a country that harbors gays. The church, which is not affiliated with a larger denomination, is made up mostly of Phelps' children, grandchildren and in-laws.

The church members carried signs and shouted things such as "God hates fags" and "God hates you."

Welcome to the world of prejudice, as your gay and lesbian neighbors experience it daily. The only thing unique about Fred is that he does in broad daylight, and with the cameras rolling, what a lot of people do when they think nobody is looking.

"If they were protesting the government, I might even join them," Danny Cotton, 56, said amid cries of "get out of our town" and "get out of our country."

"But for them to come during the worst time for this family ? it's just wrong."

Fred’s been doing that to the families of gay and lesbian people for decades. Long before he showed up a the funeral of Matthew Shepard, he was picketing funerals of gay people, waving his signs to families and friends, that their loved one was burning in hell. Years before Matthew Shepard died, Fred tried to picket a memorial service to Randy Shilts in San Francisco and the deafening howl that rose from the crowd around the church as the Phelps clan appeared drove them right back out of the city. He’s been picketing funerals for decades now.

But the only think different about Fred is that he’s saying openly what a lot of people believe. The killer of Billy Jack Gaither said in a prison interview once that since he’d been saved while in jail, he was going to heaven…and too bad for Billy, since he’d died in sin. The killer of Nicholas West complained in a prison interview that West and other gays are “doing things that god thinks is totally wrong…and look at all the nice things they have.” The difference between Fred and the others, is that Fred waves it in your face on a sign. But that sign is a mirror.

For decades this nation, this culture, has been tuning its back on the systematic persecution of homosexual people. The was a time once when the average citizen might have reason to believe that homosexuality was a threat to the well being of society, to the family, to the nation. But those days a long gone. When Evelyn Hooker proved that well adjusted gay man were clinically indistinguishable from well adjusted heterosexual men, the logic behind anti-gay discrimination began the downward collapse that continues to this day. When I was a teenager, the prevailing wisdom was that a person was introduced to homosexuality, that homosexuals recruited people into their ranks. Just a few months ago a new study showed that gay men respond to human pheromones differently. When I was a teen the belief was that homosexuality was something only humans engaged in, that animals having only instinct to guide them, only engaged in reproductive heterosexual mating. Now we know that just about every species that reproduces sexually, experiences some small percentage of homosexuality within it. It is as natural as the seasons. And yet the persecution of homosexual people continues. Gay people loose their jobs, we they are denied housing. As left handed kids once had their left arms tied to their chairs (I am old enough to have seen this when I was in first grade), gay teenagers are now being forced into ex gay conversion camps. And we’re being killed.

Fred is a symptom of a national sickness. He’s the face at the heart of John McCain’s call for Arizona to amend its constitution to make same sex couples second class citizens. He’s the face at the heart of George Bush’s call to do the same to the U.S. constitution. He was the face of every republican who ran a gay bashing campaign last election, and the candidate every person who voted for them, voted for. Now he’s picketing the funerals of their honored dead and they’re horrified. Instead, they should invite him to speak a few words over the coffins as they’re lowered into the earth. Let Fred speak the words damning their dead, damning them, damning everything they ever held dear. It’s what they meant, each and every one of them, when they voted to put a knife in the hearts of their gay and lesbian neighbors. Before you can destroy the lives of your neighbors, you have to destroy yourself. Don’t look away from Fred. He’s what you are, what you wanted to become.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday August 29, 2005

Free Z – Close The Straight Camps

Via Willie Hewes, creator of Free Z:

October 11 is national coming out day, a day to celebrate that people are free to love who they want to love, and be who they want to be. All over the country, people hold workshops and rallies to help dispel myths and prejudice about gay, lesbian and bisexual people.

This is needed, because even now, thirty years after homosexuality was officially declared to be normal by the American Psychiatric Association, parents can send their kids to straightening camps such as “Refuge” run by Love in Action, where they are closed off from all outside influence, and forced to confess their “sins” in intense group therapy sessions.

This summer, there was a widespread protest because of the blog of a 16 year old boy, who described his experiences and posted the rules to “Refuge”. He is not in the camp anymore, but his parents are monitoring his MySpace and limiting the time he spends hanging out with his friends. Love in Action is still open. The protest has to continue.

Free Z – http://www.free-z.tk – is a comic describing the experiences of a boy who is sent to Love in Action. The comic can be downloaded in a printable format, so that you can help spread the message that locking kids up who have done nothing wrong is not OK.

Spread the leaflet around in your school, college, club, library, mall or wherever you can. Spread the word on 11 October, whether you are gay, straight, white, black, blue or sideways. This isn’t about being gay, it’s about being free to be yourself.

If you decide to take part in this action, send an email to williehewes@yahoo.com saying who you are, where you spread the comics and what people’s reactions were. Include a link to your website if you would like Free Z to link to you. The five best stories go on the website, and get a free copy of the full colour printed comic when it comes out later this year.

Please repost this everywhere!

by Bruce Garrett | Link

New Cartoon

A Coming Out Story

Click on the graphic above and you’ll be taken to the beginning of a cartoon series I’ve been planning now for months. My regular readers here will know that it began with a one-shot slice of life comic I did a few months back, about the time my high school buddies dragged me to see my first X-rated movie. I got many requests to expand on that story, but even before I’d finished it I knew I wanted to tell more about that time in my life. Here it is, or at least, here is where it starts. I’m going to try and have a new episode up each week, but for the time being I can’t promise that. Just keep checking in, if it interests you.

As good as I had it, and I admit I had it really, really good compared to many gay teens, I still had a very awkward coming-out process. In part it was my Baptist upbringing. Though I had walked away from church by age 14, the experience left me very socially awkward, and with this embedded idea that boys shouldn’t be too interested in girls until they’re old enough to get married. Ironically enough, I was fine with that.

But mostly it was the horrible Sex Ed class I had in 1969, which was taught by our gym teachers who seemed to want to keep us as ignorant as they could about sex and human sexuality. Those classes were full of awful grainy black and white 1950s films about the dangers of “heavy petting” and VD. All we learned was a bit of human anatomy many of us already knew, and a hodge-podge of ignorant ideas about human sexuality that mostly consisted of Don’t Do That!

What we were taught about homosexuals and homosexuality was nothing more then the myths, lies and superstitions of the time…but the high octane version. We were taught that homosexuals usually killed the people they had sex with, that they mutilated the genitals of the people they had sex with, that homosexual men were mentally ill and thought they were really women, and wanted to have sex with children and sometimes animals too.

We all just listened to it raptly, like a group of kids being told ghost stories by the scoutmaster. Looking back, I realize now that if they had only laid it on a little less heavy, I might have grown up knowing I was gay, and loathing myself like a lot of other gay teens back then did. But what my gym teachers did was convince me absolutely that I couldn’t possibly be homosexual, because I wasn’t any of the monstrous things they taught us homosexuals were.

Problem was, I had this thing for good looking guys that kept yanking my chain the older I got. It didn’t make me afraid, so much as confused and irritated and disgusted with the whole love and sex thing generally. By the time I was 17 I figured I’d just skip the whole thing, and go live on a higher plain somewhere, and be beyond the reach of all that dating and mating stuff. Ha Ha Ha.

So this new cartoon series is about that first step your gay and lesbian neighbors take in the coming out process…the time when you come out to yourself. I’m old enough now to look back on a lot of it with a sense of humor, mixed in with a bit of amazement that I came through it all mostly okay. The 1970s were a different time. There were hardly any resources for gay adults back then, let alone gay teens. You just kind of flailed around on your own, grabbing whatever bits and pieces of knowledge you could, from wherever you could dig them up. The Stonewall riots had only happened a few years previously, the only national gay paper, The Advocate, was hard to find anywhere except inside of seedy bars and grimy adult bookstores, and if you subscribed it came in a plain brown envelope. There was no Internet, no personal computers, no way of discovering the larger gay community beyond your doorstep, other then fumbling your way down to the city’s one dank gay bar…not exactly the best place for a teenager to hang out.

Hopefully I can capture some of the sense of coming out back in those days for readers today, but not in a heavy handed way. The story I want to tell is mostly light-hearted, although it has it’s dark moments. About a third of what you’ll see as the series progresses really did happen to me…about a third is artistic license…and about a third is pure fantasy. It was a trip. I had great times, and I had terrible, awful moments that even now I really don’t like to revisit. On the whole, I think I’d rather have grown up in a society that didn’t give a good goddamn about sexual orientation. But I had to deal with coming of age, and coming out, during the Vietnam/Nixon/Counter Culture/LSD/Watergate/Long Hair and Bell Bottoms years. Black people were rioting for what decades of segregation was doing to them, women were fighting their way out of the 1950s womanhood straight-jacket, people were coming home from Vietnam crippled or in body bags, and hard hats were bashing long hairs in the streets. The adolescence we live is the one we’re tossed into. This was mine. Mostly.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Friday August 26, 2005

Summer’s End

The Hubble Swallows have left their summer nests.

When the building for the Space Telescope Science Institute was first built, there was only a small parking lot across the street. As the Institute grew, the small parking lot became a three level concrete parking garage. Shortly after that, and well before I came to work there, a couple of barn swallows began nesting in several nooks and crannies inside the garage, near the light fixtures, nestled up in the concrete ceilings.

Over time, the straggling nesters became a flock. Then, I think, two, maybe three. Every spring around April they arrive by the dozens. They spend a few days settling in, fixing up their nests, patching them where the winter ice and wind broke bits off, building new ones here and there, and then they begin turning out chicks that, like their parents, wheel and turn and zoom through the sky like arrogant little speedsters. They are fearless. As our cars roll in every morning, and out again every evening, they just go on about their business. We get out of our cars and walk to our offices, with the swallows zooming and darting here and there all around us. Sometimes you see a fight between them and the neighborhood sparrows, but they don’t last long. The swallows are smaller but they always win and the sparrows go perch somewhere nearby and sass at them. Even the big hawks that nest in the parks around the campus don’t faze them. I guess when you can out fly anything your size and bigger in horizontal flight, and turn on a dime mid-air, you don’t worry much about predators.

Every morning, all summer long, I whistle to them as I walk to the office. Sometimes they chirp back. Sometimes I’m suddenly surrounded by a handful of them, zooming all around me like little blue-grey arrows. They will whirl around me as I walk, until I step out into the open air and then they fly in all directions up into the sky. I have no idea what they make of us humans and our cars, but for the span of a short summer it’s kinda fun having them in there.

Then one day, usually late in August, they’re suddenly gone. I have no idea what cue it is they take, but whatever it is, when they take notice of it, that’s that. One morning you come to work and you notice it right away. The nests are suddenly empty. The little zoomers aren’t all darting around you as you walk through the garage. Things are silent and still, save for the engine whir of cars slowly going in and out and a few chirping sparrows and house wrens. Then I know the end of summer is near. It happened this week…last Tuesday. Suddenly they were gone. I saw a few stragglers wheeling around in the sky above the campus, but they’re from a different flock that nests somewhere else. The parking garage flocks are gone now. Heading back to their winter nesting grounds I reckon.

I’ve no idea where they go. Some years, I wish I could go with them.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Thursday August 25, 2005

Really… Sorry… Really…

One last one on Volokh: His position is that it is no myth that homosexuals seek to convert heterosexuals into homosexuality. Homosexuals Do seek to convert heterosexuals into homosexuals, he argues. And his argument, such as it is, is that gay people will encourage bisexuals who may be sticking to heterosexual relationships to be open towards having homosexual ones too.

Yes…that’s his argument.

It is on this basis, that he concludes that it is not a myth that homosexuals seek to convert heterosexuals. Homosexuals do convert heterosexuals. That is, they try to convert people who are engaging in heterosexual sex to the exclusion of homosexual sex. Specifically, the sexual behavior of bisexuals who avoid homosexual relationships. But as has been pointed out to him in his comments, That is not the myth. The myth is that homosexuals create homosexual desire where there was none before, instilling homosexuality into otherwise heterosexual people. Volokh, in defence of the myth rewrites it at its core, rephrasing it as a practice having to do only with behavior, not sexual desire. In the process, he redefines the meaning of the word “Convert”. A bisexual who engages in a same sex relationship they would have otherwise avoided, has been, according to Volokh, converted to homosexuality, at least from a purely behavioral point of view. But that is not what the word “conversion” means in this regard, that person is still bisexual, and this argument does not address the myth that homosexuals convert heterosexuals into homosexuals at all. It simply side-steps it, giving it a completely new meaning. Volokh then congratulates himself on discovering that the new meaning is true after all.

There is so obviously another term for all this that I’m disgusted beyond measure at even having to utter it. Volokh’s defenders argue that he’s right as far as it goes. But so what? Give Volokh the benefit of his intelligence. The man is not stupid. He knows perfectly well what he’s doing. It’s called, a strawman argument. He can’t agree with the religious right kooks that homosexuals turn heterosexuals into homosexuals, without making himself look (even more) like a moron in the process. Nobody with half a brain actually believes that any more, and nominally intelligent people are Volokh’s audience. So he does what hate apologists have done for ages, he builds himself a strawman, knocks it down, and then says that perhaps there is some truth in what the gay bashers are saying after all. Then he excuses himself for any consequences of whitewashing anti-gay myths in an time when those myths are killing homosexuals. Yes…I’m throwing gasoline on the fire here, but it’s the fire’s fault, not mine, if it burns…

Be nice if some of his defenders looked at this for what it is. As I said, give the man credit for his intellect. He isn’t stupid. Just sickeningly amoral. Guess they didn’t pick up on that when he tried to rationalize torture.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sorry. No…Really…

“If people misuse the data I post it, I’m sorry, in the sense that I wish they didn’t do that.” So says Eugene Volokh in one of several gay bashing posts made recently on his blog. The right wing blog pundit, who like Glen Reynolds frequently poses as a moderate, began the week insisting that homosexuals actually do try to convert people to homosexuality, and has now ended it insisting that to be homosexual is to spread disease and endanger your own life. The next step you have to assume, is that he connects the dots and comes to the conclusion that since homosexuals are trying to convert people, they’re not only a danger to themselves, but a danger to the community at large. Perhaps sodomy laws are useful things after all.

What’s interesting about all this is that one of the badges of political moderation among some of the more popular right wing blogs is their ersatz disdain of gay bashing. Some will even go so far as to aver they are perfectly comfortable with allowing their gay and lesbian neighbors equal rights, or nearly equal rights, or rights that are just as good as equal rights and gay people would recognize that if they would only stop listening to the militant homosexual lobby. These declarations are usually made along with some vicious attack on a democratic politician who only coincidentally really does support gay rights, or in the course of some breathless endorsement of a republican gay basher. It’s the some of my best friends are technique, where you babble a few slogans about the brotherhood of man, while setting fire to a cross on your neighbor’s lawn. Only a doctrinaire leftist communist politically correct pinko traitor would assume this is a burning cross, merely because it happens to be a burning cross… But it seems the act is getting stale now. Or perhaps, since the last election, it just doesn’t matter any more.

Andrew Sullivan found out how real the enlightenment of right wing bloggers was when he started being openly appalled at how Bush was giving a wink and a nod to torture in U.S. prisoner of war camps. But the vanishingly thin support for gay rights among right wing bloggers should come as no surprise to anyone. You don’t cheer on a man who as governor vowed to veto any attempt to repeal his state’s sodomy laws, calling them a legitimate expression of the moral values of the people, without knowing full well that he’s either a bigot or someone perfectly willing to throw innocent people to the wolves for votes. And what does that make you if you support him? Not a moderate, and that’s a fact. And after the gay bashing frenzy of the last election, there should be no doubt now about either the fact that gays are to the republican party as jews were to Nazis, or that the pundits who are supporting them know it perfectly well, and are fine with it. You support the republicans, you’re supporting an anti-gay pogrom. Tut-tutting gay bashing while working hard to elect gay bashing politicians isn’t hypocritical, it’s pathetic. Who do you think you’re fooling?

The gay community is paying the blood price for the last election. In Santa Fe a few months ago, a gay man was beaten so badly his lungs were burned by his own stomach acid. A lesbian was stabbed to death in New Jersey. A gay man killed in Colorado. A gay man in Brooklyn beaten. But even in the gay enclaves of America, people are becoming afraid. Anti-gay violence is on the rise, even in the fabulous ghettos. In Miami recently, a gay man was viciously beaten after he left a South Beach gay bar. As an article in the Miami New Times points out, that violence isn’t coming out of nowhere. It’s happening in a culture where open contempt for homosexual people is on the rise…

Bosserman tried to catch their waitress's attention. According to his friend's statement, the waitress said, "I can't deal with this right now. I have too much going on." Bosserman says the restaurant was nearly empty and there was no reason for her harried and (in his mind) cranky response. "It was poor service at a slow restaurant on a slow night," he says.

When the check arrived with an eighteen percent gratuity included, Bosserman was incensed. He marched over to the wait station to protest the tip, and a waiter intervened. Bosserman claims he was pushed three times by the waiter, who told him: "You have to go back to your table." The manager was summoned and the cost of one meal was removed from the check, although the gratuity remained. Bosserman and Linares paid in cash and left, at which point their waitress tried to get in the last word. "Have some couth, faggot," was her reported farewell.

Bosserman was furious. He reentered the restaurant, demanding to speak to a manager. Regardless of what had happened earlier, now a line had been crossed. "This was more harmful than being pushed by the other waiter," Bosserman says. "To use that word in a public environment -- and the manager says he won't do something about it?" The manager allegedly told Bosserman he could simply leave. Instead he stood outside, called the police, and made a complaint. Bosserman's experience technically may not have qualified as a hate crime, but nonetheless it left him feeling unsafe.

The owners of the restaurant are gay. According to the article, a significant percentage of the staff is gay too. Yet this happened. The waitress in question was fired, but the fact remains even in a gay owned and operated establishment, people feel perfectly free to express their contempt for homosexuals.

Why? Well…for one thing, the republican party, and the president of the United States, say that’s not only okay, it’s your patriotic duty:

This new wave of anti-gay violence also happens to be taking place during a new multi-million Ex-Gay ad campaign by one of the biggest anti-gay machines in the nation, Focus On The Family. The theme of the previous campaign which got off the ground back in 1998, and featured the smiling faces of Ann and John Paulk (this was before he was photographed inside a gay bar in Washington D.C.) was “Love Won Out”, this new one’s theme is “Question Homosexuality”. That’s more to the point, since the purpose here isn’t to make people aware that “Change Is Possible” but that “Homosexuals Deserve No Respect”.

The ex-gay movement serves Focus as a tool in their fight against gay and lesbian civil rights, but not primarily as a political argument, as many people think. The weapon here is contempt. With one arm, Focus swings a bucket of filthy lies about homosexuals and homosexuality…the same lies Eugene Volokh this week tried to prettify with his own particular gloss of rationalization…the same gloss with which he tried to rationalize torture not all that long ago. Homosexuals spread disease. Homosexuals will try to convert you…will try to convert your children. They are a danger, a threat, a menace… And with the other arm, the ex-gay arm, Focus assures people that homosexuals are a threat because they choose to be one. Homosexuals choose to spread disease. Homosexuals choose to convert people into homosexuality…homosexuals choose to recruit children into their lifestyle…They choose to be a danger, choose to be a threat, choose to be a menace… The message here isn’t salvation, it’s contempt, it’s fear, it’s loathing, and it gets results.

That one result is an increase in violence toward homosexual people should surprise no one, particularly on the second go-around. Recall that the last time Focus threw so much money into an ex-gay ad campaign a young college student, Matthew Shepard, was tortured and beaten to death by two heterosexual males nearly twice his size. A thing that Volokh, for all I know, may have also called “tragic”. But neither Focus, nor the republican party, spends this kind of money on ad campaigns for nothing. And right wing bloggers like Volokh, know exactly who they’re supporting, what they’re supporting, and what their words are doing for the cause. Contempt, fear and loathing, are sewn in the grassroots, and that drives voters to the polls. But the goal isn’t so much a political outcome, as a social one. And in that regard, contempt that breeds violence is also accomplishing the goal. Violence is a tool to achieve the desired outcome of a homosexual free society. Pundits like Volokh may be “sorry” about that, but that “sorry” means exactly nothing.

[edited a tad...]

by Bruce Garrett | Link

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