September 2, 2005

Mail, then sleep

Unfortunately, the still-no-internet situation at my apartment means this will be a quiet weekend at xoverboard.com. I am happy to report that there will, in fact, be a new XQUZYPHYR & Overboard comic next week, but odds are it won't be up until Tuesday morning/afternoon when I have access to teh intarwebs again.

A lot of you wrote in about the stuff I've been writing the last few days about Katrina, and I appreciate the feedback and support.

Julia K. Steinberger sends this link from BoingBoing; definitely go give it a read, and send it to anyone you know who still thinks race and class isn't an issue in this disaster.

A lot of you wrote me and forwarded yesterday's e-mail blast from the GOP, in which they decided the big issue of the day was... repealing the Estate Tax. Chris Yohn responds,

It's sort of insignificant, I know.. but it sort of struck me as a bit odd that I received this message today from the RNC. With all that's happening in the U.S. right now, Ken Mehlman is encouraging Ohians to call George Voinovich about the "death tax." geez.
Finally, you should go read this post from Ross about Homeland Security, because it's one of the final thoughts I myself want to convey before I sign off for the weekend. DHS was one of the biggest projects to come out of the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, and was emphasized as one of the most sweeping reorganizations of government in a generation. And it would seem to be a unanimous opinion that in its very first challenge beyond a color-coding system, it has failed completely.

That I'm only going to hear scattered reports over the weekend now bothers me, but I hope that the news only gets better for the people of the Gulf Coast. Clearly asking for good news is sort of moot for many at this point. Nor is taking "consolation" in the fact that most of the country is finally realizing what idiots are running it right now. I have no intention of shutting up about pointing out that, yes goddammit, Bush is to blame for a fuckload of this. But that doesn't mean that's all you should do. Please, please, please, donate what you can.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 2:32 PM

Brilliant

Tom Gavaert has a plan:

We were also wondering if anyone else thought about at least temporarily (cough) relocating some of the victims of the NOLA disaster to a certain ranch that has just been vacated? It certainly seems to be rather large - maybe you could build a few shotgun shacks on approximately two and a half square miles?
That's a lot bigger than the Astrodome. Plus, Bush just spent a month clearing all the brush away; there's gotta be room to set up some tents.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 9:30 AM

Astrodome

I actually semi-disagree with Atrios on this. Given the immediacy of the situation in New Orleans, the Astrodome actually seems like a very good place for a refugee center. It's a building specifically designed to provide seating, bathroom facilities, food service, and space for several thousand people. Hell, given sports teams play there I'm guess there are also showers and medical facilities on premises. And with the exception of the loss of revenue to the city from cancelled games the only disruption to services would be stadium events, which, let's face it, are really unessential given the circumstances.

The problem, of course, is this morning's latest Moment of Absolute Incompetence™- the sudden "discovery" that the Astrodome cannot actually safely hold the 25,000 people being sent there that we've been told will safely hold them for the last, you know, three days or so.

So now we're sending refugees 400 miles to be told there's no room for them. This isn't a relief effort, it's the fucking Grapes of Wrath. Can someone please help these people?

Edit: a few people have written me to let me know they don't even play games at the Astrodome anymore- they play at Enron Minute Maid Field.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 9:26 AM

September 1, 2005

You all sound like idiots

Okay. For the benefit of certain bloggers, pundits, and various government officials making the nonsensical suggestion that we "shouldn't rebuild New Orleans" because of the devestation of hurricane Katrina:

First of all, port location- you can't exactly build ports and naval infrastructure further inland- being on the coastline is sort of a necessity. Likewise, it's sort of a burden, both in finance and productivity, to suggest people can't actually live near that very infrastructure they work at.

Second, the idea that you can "shift" a city is sort of ludicrous. Are you imagining the end of that Simpsons episode or something? It's an entire city; it's not like there's a perfectly suitable 350 square miles off to the left. You're talking about the mandatory mass relocation of 1.3 million people. This will happen... how? And when? And where?

Third, the government and the media is actively not giving a shit about several thousand people who are still there- you think they're going to care about the plausible logistics of telling them to move? Why not just ask why the homeless don't move to where it's warmer during the winter?

Fourth, the logic of turning the area into a no-mans land after this incident defies all other natural disaster responses in history. Granted, this is arguably the most devestating disaster to ever occur on U.S. soil, but to me saying that we should leave NOLA to rot because of the hurricane is like saying we should relocate the city of Los Angeles because of the earthquakes, or that we should never build anything where the World Trade Center once stood. You make it sound like a hurricane destroys the city on a weekly basis- "oh no, not again. Honey, we should really move up the street!" If we were to declare that any city or area damaged by the elements was an unlivable wasteland, half of Florida and California would be a John Carpenter movie right now.

Fifth- are you endorsing a law mandating people aren't allowed to live there or something? People settled and lived in New Orleans, and for that matter every other part of the country, because the land was there. There are people living in shotgun shacks and shitholes all across the nation; there are millions of people without a home at all, and you're asking why someone would be "stupid" enough to live in a perfectly livable area?

Sixth- the people of New Orleans were already "stupid enough" to rebuild and stay. The city burned to the ground in 1788 and 1795. Then they rebuilt it, this time less prone to fire. And amazingly, people somehow had the silly notion of living there for another 210 years. Buildings will fall. Cities will burn. Peope will rebuild. We call this fascinating cycle "life."

The notion that we should "abandon" New Orleans is the same misguided logic of people who say we should "just nuke Iraq" or that we should just "print more money" or any other comedian-style "boy, aren't you stupid for not thinking of something so obvious" which wasn't thought because it's actually, well, impossible. To throw away a million lives because it might be too hard to plan accordingly and respond appropriately is probably the biggest insult to the history of American ingenuity.

This could have been handled better, and despite the Administration's insistence, there were ample warnings about this. Laziness and ineptitude is why this disaster happened; laziness and ineptitude toward the rebuilding effort is inhumane.

If pundits want to debate the permanent abandonment of New Orleans because it's the simplest answer in their personal fantasy world, perhaps they can tell us how many of these displaced homeless people they'll be boarding for the next ten years while a new location for their city is found. Until then, it would be nice to drop the condescending attitude found in those who think it's so easy to tell other people how to give up everything they have because "it makes sense to them."

Posted by August J. Pollak at 3:31 PM

Oh, right

The Department of Homeland Security wants you to know that September is National Preparedness Month.

Well, gosh. Thanks a bundle, guys.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 1:46 PM

Tired, poor, huddled masses

If there is but one revelation to come from the last 24 hours of media coverage of the Katrina fallout, it is that a major percentage of America simply has absolutely no idea how another major percentage of America lives.

You know, I never really understood the magnitude of John Edwards' whole "Two Americas" schtick during the 2004 campaign. Not necessarily his actual points, but I get the overall message now. I don't know if it's insensitivity or ignorance or both, but it's there, and it's unavoidable: Americans actually can't grasp the concept that other Americans are poor.

The Secretary of Homeland Security, as well as numerous pundits, refuse to accept the idea that there are people too poor to evacuate their homes. People are discussing that New Orleans "would be too hard to rebuild," as if a few hundred thousand people will have their homes transplanted by magic. More than a dozen threads on Free Republic right now are about how the military should start shooting looters on sight.

Where 9/11 cast a light on the basic compassion of America in the light of a tragedy, Katrina has apparently cast a light on its hatred. In my wildest dreams I wouldn't have thought right-wingers would start attacking impoverished citizens, let alone start demanding their deaths. The are a lot of suggestions about this, the more plausible ones being racism, class ignorance, and of course, ass-saving fervor toward lines of dialogue not related to Bush's mistakes. I don't really know which one, or ones, are true, if any.

What I do know is that in less than 24 hours, a media punditry that spent the last four years insisting that they're the only people who "love America" is now discussing how much they hate other Americans.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 11:59 AM

August 31, 2005

Mission Accomplished

Last night I was going to write a shorter and generally harsher rant about the people complaining about the "partisanship" of parts of the discussion about Hurricane Katrina. Basically, my point is this: what the hell are you people all talking about? Of course this is a partisan issue. Pretending that there aren't significant aspects of the outcome of this disaster that reflect on certain decisions made by the Bush administration is an exercise in either blind devotion or total stupidity.

Already I hear the tapping of keyboards of right-wing bloggers rushing to find a snappy, quick response avoiding my point but mocking my partisanship- "Let me guess, you're saying Bush could have prevented the hurricane just like you said he could have prevented 9/11! Stupad Liberal! LOL!!!!1!!" Well, no, you dipshit, obviously I don't think anyone in the White House caused any form of weather- contrary to certain suggestions, the President is, in fact, not God. But the lack of priorities from the White House- and for that matter the media and the culture that supported it in general- is a major factor in the discussion of the events of the last 48 hours.

Tom wrote about this as well, and if you're desperate to pretend there's no partisanship here, at least take the general point of what he said into consideration: regardless of your feelings on the Iraq war, our response to 9/11, and the threat of global terrorism, what actually happened in the last 48 hours- what is continuing to happen right now - is worse than any reality of terrorism or war ever faced on American soil in our lifetimes.

I was in New York on 9/11, as were many other people. I lived in the "containment zone" following the attacks where for two weeks no cars could enter or exit. I waited a week to go home and visit my family because I was afraid once I left the city they wouldn't let me back in. But save for the closing of lower Manhattan for two weeks, generally the "fallout zone" was limited to a few blocks' radius. The rebuilding is limited to this same area. Hell, I have friends who moved into an apartment two blocks away from Ground Zero last year. And the destruction was immense and horrible, but people were in a position to rally and help out. We waited on lines to give blood; we offered shelter to the displaced.

Katrina left no ground to stand on, no lines to stand in, and no homes to offer shelter to. While 9/11 led to New Yorkers stacking food in piles in front of Gracie Mansion, in New Orleans right now people are trying to break into children's hospitals for food, shelter, and drugs. In New York they declared a State of Emergency; in New Orleans they have declared Martial Law.

If the waters hold for several weeks, it is likely any structure made of wood or built on erosion-prone ground will be destroyed or made structurally unsound and require razing. Reports indicate there is almost no power, running water, or waste facilities in major portions of the city, and there won't be until the water is removed- again, weeks, possibly months. Meanwhile, all that water is dangerous to drink or even swim in because of chemicals, debris, and rotting flesh contaminating it. 9/11 killed thousands, but its physical destruction was limited to a single block in New York. As Tom alluded to earlier, Katrina has very likely eliminated a major U.S. city. The citizens of Louisiana and Mississippi faced this weekend the closest America has ever come to the effects of a nuclear explosion- massive devastation, near-complete destruction of infrastructure, as-yet uncountable loss of life, and the entire city engulfed in a cesspool of toxic, deadly chemicals.

And we have no idea yet how many bodies will eventually be uncovered.

So even if you are for the war in Iraq, even if you think the President is the glue holding this entire nation together, I simply cannot understand, or for that matter even believe at this point, the suggestion that this is less important than "fighting terror." Nor would I understand you or believe you if you said the money and resources we currently don't have to aid this nightmare were "better spent" protecting us from imagined threats in Iraq.

Two years ago we were told we needed to attack Saddam so one of our cities wouldn't be destroyed. One of our cities was just destroyed. And it appears that many more lives could have been saved, and many things protected, if there was more funding for infrastructure, more devotion to protective efforts, and more National Guardsmen here at home to do their actual job- guarding our nation- rather than deployed in Iraq.

That is something that is not restricted to silly little weblog posts or slogans on t-shirts or "moonbats" and other smarmy inventions that Keyboard Kommandos made up to feel good about themselves when a whole bunch of other people are sent overseas to die for Weapons of Mass Destruction that don't exist. We have devoted a critical amount of resources and bodies to Iraq, that we did not need to, and as a result, we do not have the full potential and resources of American manpower at our disposal to face a situation that was not of choice, but thrust upon us. If saying that is "partisan," than so is the Weather Channel.

And I understand that right-wingers and conservatives alike are going to savage this- "how dare I blame the President." And if any of them even remotely opened a history book a day in their lives they would realize the correct statement is "how dare we not?" If you condensed every single official duty of the President of the United States into a list of perhaps four or five things, taking responsibility and management of his or her own citizen's welfare would be one of them. And on that topic the President has- not just in the last 36 hours but by the last 36 months- totally failed at this.

New Orleans is not a think-tank scenario with pretty graphics and detailed reports about what Saddam Hussein could have done if he actually had Anthrax. It's not a diagram of Kim-Jong Il 's nuclear status, or a simulation from the Pentagon. It's real. It actually happened. And unlike 9/11, where foaming right-wingers shoved pictures of burning buildings in our faces and told us we had no choice but to incinerate whoever did this to us, there is no "enemy" to respond to here. Our enemy was nature itself. The only thing we could have done was shielded ourselves, prepared ourselves better. But we didn't, because of a lack of funds, a lack of manpower, and a lack of leadership, all three of which were devoted to an unnecessary and avoidable war in Iraq. New Orleans should be a top priority for Bush, and it's not- it can't be, because Iraq is. He can't stop it from being his top priority anymore.

That was, is, and will remain a mistake. It was a mistake that did not need to be made. And it is beyond our right, but our duty, for the benefit of our fellow citizens, to notifiy the leadership of this country that these consistent fuckups are hurting us.

If right-wingers, conservative pundits, and the White House want to cast what I just said aside, or chastize me for "blaming this on the President," so be it. But unlike the lamentations of a mother who lost her son in Iraq, I doubt America will accept Bush responding to the tragedy in Louisiana merely by telling the victims it's time to move on with his life.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:22 PM

The negroes are stealing our food again!

Apparently, the evil black people are "looting" New Orleans of the food meant for the white people to "find."

God I wish I could be beating the shit out of Jonah Goldberg right now to get my mind off of this.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 9:19 AM

Jonah Goldberg: complete fucking asshole

Cowardly hateful fuckwit moron:

ATTN: SUPERDOME RESIDENTS [Jonah Goldberg] I think it's time to face facts. That place is going to be a Mad Max/thunderdome Waterworld/Lord of the Flies horror show within the next few hours. My advice is to prepare yourself now. Hoard weapons, grow gills and learn to communicate with serpents. While you're working on that, find the biggest guy you can and when he's not expecting it beat him senseless. Gather young fighters around you and tell the womenfolk you will feed and protect any female who agrees to participate without question in your plans to repopulate the earth with a race of gilled-supermen. It's never too soon to be prepared.

(later on:)

Doc Bainbridge chastises me for my insensitivity and implores my more mature colleagues to take me to task. He even goes so far as to call me Taranto-esque, for what that's worth.

Perhaps Professor Bainbridge -- of whom I am a fan -- thinks something really awful will befall the denizens of the Superdome and therefore making a joke at their expense is wrong. My guess is that it will simply be a really unpleasent time for the remainder of the day, but hardly so unpleasent as to sanctify them with refugee or some other victim status. I assumed the reference to gill-growing and whatnot made it clear where I was coming from. I'm sorry if we don't always fulfill the good professor's expectations around here. But it can't be all brandy-snifters and Latin puns in the Corner.

You think you could have waited, oh I don't know, at least 24 hours before making fun of a few thousand destitute people who don't have their whole livlihood paid for by Mommy?

Oh, and here's an update on that "really unpleasent time for the remainder of the day:"

LA governor wants Superdome evacuated

Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco has called for the evacuation of nearly 20,000 hurricane refugees from the deteriorating Superdome in New Orleans.

Blanco visited the facility Tuesday night, and learned toilets were backing up and violence was mounting in the complex, which also is without air conditioning with daytime temperatures around 90 degrees since the storm hit Monday.

Ha hah! No food, cooling, or plumbing facilities! That's fucking hysterical!

Is there even a chance Jonah Goldberg has ever lifted a damn finger to help another human being a single day in his life?

Posted by August J. Pollak at 9:14 AM

August 30, 2005

Graaaargh.

Hi all, I'm back. Sort of. The move into the new apartment went well and everything's great, save for the slight problem of my cable and internet service, which I expected to have today and now will not have for another week. After making sure to have everything taken care of in advance so the cable/internet fairies would be there ASAP, my new roomates decided to spring on me last night that they found a much better plan for service. So while I'm thrilled to get a cheaper rate, I had to cancel the old appointment and make a brand new one. So no internet for another week. Hopefully I'll be able to write something every now and then during the week, and I am planning on having a comic next Monday, but lord knows how the hell I'm getting it up since everything's on my internet-castrated home computer. E-mail access will remain equally tricky, so odds are if you write me this week you're not getting a response.

Yes, given the events of this weekend, my stupid internet problems and lack of watching The Daily Show for a week sort of pales in comparision to thousands of people losing their homes and lives. So kill two birds with one stone by taking the time you would have spent e-mailing me this week and instead spend it donating some time or money to the Red Cross or something.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 2:55 PM