Thursday, September 29, 2005

C’est ça

And so it has come to pass that John Roberts, a charming, accomplished man whose interpretation of the U.S. Constitution defers to the desires of those in authority, has been confirmed Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. The vote was 78-22.

Among the senators who just voted against Judge Roberts, your blogstress especially wishes to commend Evan Bayh, who hails from the virtually red state of Indiana, where his vote is unlikely to be viewed with tolerance. Also due kudos for their nay votes are Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and Senator Dianne Feinstein (Calif.). Given his strong anti-choice stance, your cybertrix found the Reid vote to be a bit of a surprise.

Due a lashing (and not that good kind) by your Webwench are, first and foremost, Senator Patrick Leahy (Vt.) of the Judiciary Committee, and both of Connecticut's senators, who all, evincing a waning of certain hormones, voted yes to a Justice Roberts. Lieberman, well, what did your écrivaine expect? The man just needs to change parties. But Dodd?! What on earth has happened to that man?

Your net-tête is, however, pleased to report that the two most excellent senators from her most excellent home state know from the Constitution. Thank you, Senators Corzine and Lautenberg, the pride of the Garden State.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Justice DeLayed

On the heels of Brownie's clueless, blame-laying testimony yesterday before Congress (just as we learned he was still on FEMA's payroll) comes the delicious indictment of one Hammer that seems not to be hangin' so happily this morning.

But before liberals commence their happy dance, it behooves us to issue a warning to our own representatives on the Hill, for your blogstress has, alas, too little confidence in the Democrats' ability to use these latest Republican setbacks to their own advantage. Though, combined with the administration's callous and inept response to Hurricane Katrina, the indictment of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay should guarantee a Democratic takeback of Congress next year, your Webwench cautions her readers against underestimating the Democrats' lack of political fortitude and competence in embracing the Force, even when it is with them.

Given the current set of political dynamics (Republicans revealed--in detailed relief--as the corrupt, treasury-looting, Constitution-killing louts they truly are), anything short of a string of victories in 2006 will be evidence of a moral failing. For in times such as these, ineptitude truly is a moral failing. Far too much is at stake.

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Monday, September 26, 2005

The place to be seen
with the J. Scales Quartet

This Saturday evening, Washingtonians (and visitors to our fair city) can catch the incomparable J. Scales doin' her thang at the big annual hoo-ha of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). Joined by a group of smokin' hot women--including the agile Genny Jam--J will be plucking the bass strings to a tasty mix of jazz, rock, neo-soul and more. (Stick a dollah in her G-string, and ya might get her to sing--a rare treat.)

Details found here. (Click!)

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Baton Rouge lives and booms

Louisiana's new boom town, state capital Baton Rouge, emerged from the winds and rains of Hurricane Rita without loss of life, though plenty of (tree) limbs lay at Rita's feet. You'll recall your blogstress's fears for the survivors of Katrina should Baton Rouge take a bad hit, as the Red Stick is now the staging area for virtually all the hurricane relief efforts taking place in Louisiana.

Click here for a report from the Baton Rouge Advocate by Mark Bonner, Vicki Ferstel, David Mitchell and Jessica Fender.

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Friday, September 23, 2005

The Red Stick:
In for a beating?

2005 © Adele M. Stan for AFGE
Inside the Red Cross staging facility in Baton Rouge.

WASHINGTON, D.C.--Having recently returned from a whirlwind tour of southeastern Louisiana in its post-Katrina state, your blogstress has found it difficult to put words to the sights and smells she encountered there, and tonight proves no exception.

What your écrivaine can speak of tonight is her anxiety--not a state to which she readily admits--in examining the track of Hurricane Rita and finding Baton Rouge in its path. Though not expected to take the brunt of it, Baton Rouge is expected to receive torrents of rain.

What distinguishes the forecast for Baton Rouge from the more dire ones given the coastal cities? Baton Rouge is THE staging ground for relief efforts for the survivors of Hurricane Katrina. Red Cross operations are centralized there in a giant Wal-Mart warehouse. Most of the Border Patrol and CBP officers who serve as law enforcement for New Orleans sleep in Baton Rouge at night, in accomodations that are less than sturdy: RVs, an open helicopter hangar. Many FEMA folk and medical professionals are living in a tent city under an I-10 overpass. Interstate 10 is the designated danger zone for anyone who hopes to weather dear Rita.

It would be unnatural not to fear for the health and lives of the relief workers stationed in Baton Rouge. But then imagine the compounded misery if Louisiana’s state capital takes a bad hit. Who, then, will minister to the millions in already living in the region’s shelters? Right now, the supplies and the food are coming out of Baton Rouge. So are the law and order.

If you’re of the praying sort, do say one for the Red Baton.

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Sunday, September 18, 2005

Drove my Chevy to the levee

2005 © Adele M. Stan for AFGE

Canal Street in New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS, LA--Your blogstress wishes that she didn't have all manner of reports to file for her pesky day job, but she promises her readers that she does indeed have tales to tell. There's no cliche that can possibly describe all the things New Orleans is now. It remains, as always, an exceptional and surreal place. Only now, not in that good way.

It's an empty city policed by troops of men in fatigues and hired guns in Blackwater caps. It smells like every bad smell you've ever encountered, all rolled up in one.

There is no music right now.

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Thursday, September 15, 2005

New Orleans musicians

From the incomparable J. Scales comes word of the deliverance of the members of two outstanding New Orleans bands: Zion Trinity and Mother Tongue. The members of both groups, however, have lost nearly everything, and need the help of fellow musicians and music-lovers to make it to the next phase of their recovery. To assist to Zion Trinity, buy their CD, "Eyes on Zion" (featuring the incomparable J. Scales on bass), and/or send donations to:

ZION Trinity
c/o Melody Friday
2258 Wild Turkey Court
Decatur, GA 30035

To help their colleagues in Mother Tongue (Dorise Blackmon, Michaela Harrison, and Tanya), send your contribution to:

Fundraiser for Dorise, Michaela, and Tanya
c/o E. Christi Cunningham
1335 Jefferson St. NW
Washington, D.C. 20011

Click here to purchase Mother Tongue's CD.

From a member of Zion Trinity:

September 3, 2005

Andaiye [made contact] today after many days of concern and prayer....she's dry and still at her home at 1555 Gentilly in New Orleans....she's unable to move anywhere because there are no more accommodations at the Superdome and the water level is still high where she is.......she's dry and well at home and waiting for the water to receed so she can drive out to safety - when the van dries out...Thank you for your thoughtfulness and the tremendous outpouring of love...Trisha is well in Dallas with her husband and will have the baby at the end of October ...Their area was hit the hardest, so they've lost their home, which is under 22 feet of water...My area, as i understand it, is under 15 feet of water, so I won't know my damage until I return home...

My vehicle is lost (under water) and as we all know Sister Andaiye - QUEEN OF FAITH - said her house was marked for the passover...the water only reached the porch level with no water inside.....Once I reconnect with Andaiye, Ali and Sam, we'll restart our lives in Atlanta temporarily until our precious New Orleans opens up...I am now in New Jersey with my family and will move on to Atlanta where my Friend Melody has agreed to house us..Andaiyes' mother was airlifted to a hospital in Alexandria, Louisiana, and is well. and out of ICU...

We ARE SOOOOO GRATEFUL to be is precious ......possessions can be replaced...We will have a powerful story to tell once this is over...ZION Trinity loves everyone and we appreciate greatly all the love shown....Please continue to be in prayer for the safe return of Andaiye and her family...GOD IS SO MERCIFUL AND WE ARE BLESSED .....One in Love and Light - Sula Janet

And from the entire trio:

September 4, 2005

ZION Trinity is safe. Sula is in New Jersey with her sister and learned that Sister Andaiye and her family were airlifted out of N.O. last night (Sunday). They've arrived safely in San Antonio, Texas, and, as you know, we will not be able to return to N.O. any time soon.

We've all lost everything material but praise God for life and the safe return of our sister.

On Thursday, Oshun will fly to Atlanta where my friend, Melody, has agreed to give housing to me and mine. Andaiye will be in Plano, Texas, with her mom and family until we can meet again in Houston or another part of Texas in the coming weeks.

Trisha and Shawn will be in Houston where she will deliver her baby in five weeks. We have quite the praise story to tell and are so grateful for the love from everyone. Keep praying for us, okay? We will rebuild and have our losses replaced tenfold in Yahweh’s name!!!

One In Spirit -
sula, oshun and andaiye
ZION Trinity

The women of Mother Tongue speak to us through E. Christi Cunningham, a friend in Washington, DC. They recently put together a killer CD, “Sister,” which features a version of Jobim’s “Agua de Beber” that will just slay you. Brazilian Portuguese with a New Orleans twist. The album also includes some tasty originals, as well as more familiar pieces. The sound is a cross between Tuck and Patti, Sweet Honey and DeeDee Bridgewater. Your purchase of the CD is strongly recommended.

3 September 2005

I am writing to request monetary donations for Dorise Blackmon, Michaela Harrison, and Tanya – survivors of hurricane Katrina.

We know them now as Mother Tongue, a successful trio that has appeared on BET, at the Essence festival, and at New Orleans Jazzfest; shared the stage with artists like Meshell N’degeochello and Sweet Honey in the Rock; produced and released a debut CD entitled “Wonderwomen”; and performed in venues across the United States.

But before Mother Tongue, for more than a decade, they, individually, were active and generous participants in communities in D.C., in general, and the women’s community, in particular. Their contributions include teaching in the D.C. public schools, providing HIV/AIDS research, counseling, and education, organizing and hosting WITL poetry readings, providing entertainment at June’s Annual Black Pride Cookout and Sistah Summerfest, and offering love, advice, and laughter.

They continued to demonstrate their commitment to uplifting communities even after leaving D.C. by teaching in public schools in New York and New Orleans, teaching at an HBCU in New Orleans, organizing a conference on traditional spiritual healing practices at NYU, working with underprivileged youth, opening their homes to friends and strangers alike, and making positive music.

Now Dorise, Michaela, and Tanya need our help. Their homes were located near Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans. They lost almost every material thing in the hurricane and subsequent flooding – their houses, jobs, clothes, recording equipment, original recordings – everything.

They need financial assistance to support them immediately and in the coming months. Please help. (See address above.)

In addition, they have CDs for sale and are available for performances at social events

Thank you.


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Diaspora in Seattle

Your blogstress’s new friend, Wilson Kolb of Seattle, has begun a blog, WillieSnout, chronicling his experience “adopting” a married couple who evacuated New Orleans.

Here’s Wilson:

This article by Dr. Red Head really hit home. I am here in Seattle and as of last Friday I am one of those well-meaning people who has paid the rent on an apartment for a displaced family of fellow Americans made homeless by the storm. Even before reading her article I had been thinking about the issues Doc Redhead raised and, boy, could I ever use some practical ideas. Meantime, I'm making it up as I go along, and am hoping that a lot of caring and some common sense will get us through.

This is a family of five who made it up here in their car. I only met two of them, a husband and wife who I'd say are in their mid-40s. I had learned about them through an article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and met them at the Central Area Motivation Project (CAMP), which specializes in helping low-income black folks here. I had never heard of CAMP, but I called them to ask what was being done for their housing. I wound up offering to pay their rent for a couple months.

Click here to read more on WillieSnout

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Wherefore art the blogstress?

Your blogstress asks her readers' forbearance in chaotic times. A family emergency and frenetic activity at her pesky day job have interfered with your ecrivaine's blogging, and in the interim, she has received many interesting pieces from readers that she has yet to post. Don't give up on the cybertrix--not you, Leigh, nor Wilson Kolb nor the incomparable J. Scales. Your net-tete will do yas right--really.

Tomorrow, your Webwench departs for Baton Rouge. Posting may be sporadic.

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Martial law

Well, here’s one way that his administration’s abject failure--its criminal negligence--in its lack of response to the nation’s most devastating disaster is working for it: the president promises that the next time disaster strikes, the federal government will simply take over, with a “much greater role for the armed forces.”

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What about the diaspora?

While the president focused his speech on what needs to happen to rebuild the Gulf Coast, he said precious little about the disaspora of Louisianans and Mississippians now dispersed throught the lower 48. Today, the city of Dallas announced it was sick of waiting for the feds to deal with the thousands of evacuees they’re housing in a convention center and an arena, so they’re raising money from private sources to get these folks situated in Dallas apartments.

Is it fair to leave this massive undertaking to the efforts of a municipal government? Is it smart? How long before the people of the suburbs and the inner cities begin to resent the newcomers?

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War on poverty

Okay, your cybertrix is calming down a bit--at least enough to grock that the president has pledged a lot of dollars and efforts to rebuilding lives and real estate in the Gulf Coast region. Amen to that. And he has admitted that discrimination causes poverty (though he did seem to imply that it was the discrimination of the bad old days that caused the poverty endemic among African-Americans in the South), not that it exists today, n'est-ce pas?

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How dare he!

Your blogstress is willing to bet that George W. Bush wouldn't know John Coltrane from Gary Coleman. Hence her outrage at the closing lines of the president's speech tonight. Invoking the funerals given for jazz musicians in New Orleans, he spoke condescendingly of the joyful strains played by the living on their return from the cemetary--after playing a mournful dirge on the walk between church and grave. New Orleans is still in the dirge phase, he said, but the joy is just around the corner. Yeah, right.

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Days of sorrow and outrage

“This is an unprecedented response to an unprecedented disaster,” so the president just said in his address to the nation on the disaster called Katrina. He cited a litiany of efforts and supplies, measured in tons and dollars and numbers of staff, to demonstrate the breadth of his administration’s response.

It is actually amazing that he is touting his response without apology up top, without recognition of his failure.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Courting Roberts

With the nation drowning in the endless tale of Katrina, the disaster that didn't have to happen, it's easy to forget that the Senate is presently going through the motions of advising the president on his pick for Supreme Court Chief Justice. Herewith, your blogstress's latest opinionating at The American Prospect Online on that very subject.

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Gay bodies

From your blogstress's favorite pen-pal, Studley Do-Right at Delusional Duck, comes this little gem:

Commanders Ordered Not To Fire Gays Until War's End

Santa Barbara, California--Scholars studying military personnel policy have discovered a document halting the discharge of gay soldiers in units that are about to be mobilized.


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Keeping the healers from the sick

From your blogstress's homegirl radio station in Newark, New Jersey, comes this story on the Web site of WBGO-FM, perhaps the best jazz station in the world:

Dr. Critty Hymes has been a staff physician with the Charity Hospital in New Orleans for the past 27 years.

She evacuated the city early Sunday morning just before the storm hit. From a family members home in Houston she watched in horror as her home town filled with water and thousands of people were left to fend for themselves.

"I know a lot of these people were my patients from Charity Hospital."

As soon as evacuees were bused to the Astrodome, she went with her medical credentials to volunteer and was stunned to be turned away at the door.

"I'm a doctor. I have 27 years of experence in OBGYN and all I wanted to do was help."

After visiting the Red Cross, entering her name and credientials on an internet medical volunteer database and getting a call from officials at the Astrodome , she has yet to be given the green light to give medical aid to those so desperately in need.

© 2005 WBGO News

Oh, and here's the story of tons of ice with nowhere to go, from Woody Baird of the Associated Press via the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

About 200 tractor-trailer trucks with ice and water for victims of Hurricane Katrina took a convoluted, weeklong trip to a storage depot in Memphis, partly because of what the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers called "miscommunication."

The drivers were sent to cities that didn't end up needing water or ice and were final directed to Memphis, said Corps spokesman Bob Anderson.

"They're in the right place now," Anderson said Monday.

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Monday, September 12, 2005

Somebody got it right

Media hit by grain of truth.

Thanks to St. Jacques du Fenway for sending along the image, and to the chiron tech who wrote the screen caption for Sky News.

If you can't see the image, right-click your mouse and click "Show picture."

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Friday, September 09, 2005

From the front lines

From your blogstress's dear friend, Spirit Guide, comes this first-hand account from a clinical psychologist who has been working as a volunteer with evacuees housed in the Dallas Reunion Arena and the Dallas Civic Center. Until permission is received to call her by name, she will be known on this site as "Dr. Red Head".

Your écrivaine here posts only snippets of her missive, so long and harrowing it is to read in its entirety. For the whole account, click here.

Among the most mortifying aspects of Dr. Red Head's story is her tale of jockeying for position among medical professional assigned to work with the evacuees:

Turf wars have already sprung up. In the name of "I know better than you do," chaos and wasted energy are multiplying. The Red Cross was initially in charge of certifying the credentials of the helping therapists. After Oklahoma City and the pretenders who arrived there, this seemed like a wonderful clearing house.

Everyone who wanted to help had to go through a brief orientation and a thorough checking of credentials. Only licensed professionals were allowed. Driver's licenses were checked for criminal records. This seemed to be a common sense excellent approach to the question of rapists, pedophiles, and other thugs being denied access to a vulnerable population.

Actually, things ran better than I expected at the beginning. Then in came the physicians who I guess felt that their non-existent coursework in this area qualified them to better run things. Immediate chaos, disorganization, and all sorts of ersatz "helpers" began running around. They grabbed our current Red Cross badges and then stopped us from going back on the floor to finish seeing our patients without the new badges, which they just happened to be out of.

We had an optometrist with prescriptive lenses but no glasses or
readers and no idea when he'd ever see any. We had a deaf booth but no
deaf helpers. In the midst of all this chaos, thousands and thousands
of the walking wounded mixing with the powerless well-intentioned came the whispered word, pandemic. Lots of people are suddenly getting sick, and we have to have precautions. Don't eat or drink or touch the patients.

We only have one bottle of disinfectant in the mental health section,
so have to come back here--the length of the Convention Center--
after each patient.

"What of the people who are being cycled out of here?" "What are we
sending into the population?" If people are sick and contagious, where
are the precautions to separate the vulnerable? What of precautions
such as masks and gloves to keep the medical professionals and first
responders safe? All the here and now is suspended in the hope that
maybe tomorrow will take care of itself and the worst won't happen.

Those are the question we asked on the first day. NO ONE IS IN

Therefore, there is no consistent answer or approach or forethought. I am no infection guru but as soon as I heard on day one that people with no water were forced to drink water with bloated bodies, feces, and rats in it, the thought of cholera, typhoid, and delayed disease immediately occurred to me. What if the fears of disease are correct? People are fanning out throughout America. Where is the CDC?

The convention centers have no bathing facilities so the filth and skin reactions are getting worse. What of lice? There are no clothes for the really heavy and large. I was reduced to writing the women I knew who went to Weight Watchers to comb their attics for "before" outfits. When I arrived with the sack of my gatherings, I had to engage in a full-scale battle and puff myself up to all my red-headed doctor fury to get them distributed to the women still sitting there in their stinking clothes.

Red Hed finds herself incredulous at the lack of resources provided by the homeland security honchos:

Finally, to hell with this "no blame game." The stories that I know to be true are enough to make me boil. The compassionate foreign doctors who can't find anyone to validate their credentials, the expensive mobile hospital still sitting parked waiting for federal paperwork to move into Louisiana, the five C130s sitting on the Tarmac in San Diego since the night of Katrina, still waiting for orders to move. Where the hell are the beds? We have some old people sleeping on hot plastic pool floats with no sheets. They are still no showers for people who have walked for hours through fetid waters. Their skin is breaking out in rashes. Still no showers. Where the hell are the DeCon showers bought with Homeland Security money that can shower 30 people at a time?

Despite all the reports of government ineptitude running through the mainstream media, Red Head rightly points out that the broadcast folk are short-shrifting the mental-health impact of this diaspora on the country as a whole, all the while seeking out the feel-good stories that will easy the soul of a troubled nation:

I am sure that there is a special ring of hell for the media: The survivor stories end-on-end for the titillation of the public. I heard Soledad O'Brien say something about the still unrecognized need to address the psychological trauma. I sent a response to the CNN tip-line that there were hordes of every manner of mental health professional working 24/7. CNN's response? Dr. Phil and the stories of the survivors" on Larry King. They went to the guy who lost his clinical license for serious professional infractions to tell the stories? I could see the "entertainer" down there gathering tales of the already exploited so that he and Larry could both pimp their ratings. The real unsung mental health heroes, the counselors, psychologists, social workers and psychiatrists dealing with un-medicated psychosis and severe traumatic responses were represented by Dr. "Keep-It-Real"? We don't need tabloid help from the media.

Scream about accountability and point fingers for those who can't. Where is the real help from the media? Help us find those babies and parents and missing family. We have a man in one of the shelters who is caring for four kids. They call him uncle. He is actually the cousin of the fiancé of the mother who is probably dead. The children are silent. They sit and play and weep with open mouths that can't scream. Where are the media to scream for them?

And finally, your cyberscribe here excerpts Red Head's ruminations on the "let-them-eat-cake" attitude of the mismanagers who created the nonsystem meant to locate the missing:

In the age of computers, we are doing worse than the pencil squibs and the rolls of paper to log in the displaced after World War II. Literacy and computer access seems to be considered as a given for people who have lost it all. Accessing FEMA is through a website. People are in shelters waiting for FEMA to come "in a few days." "Be patient." The Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana pumped my hand and replied to my desperate queries about how to help people find their parents and babies, "Be patient--give us a few days."

The mothers who have lost their children, and there are many, and the
children who have lost their parents, have had it with the "be patient"response. The shelters are surprisingly silent. It is hard to find the traumatized mothers because they cry silently. One mother asked how patient I would be if my five-month-old was somewhere unknown for over a week. Over and over, others would ask," Do you think my baby has milk and diapers?" "Do you think they are being kind to my baby?" And then, so softly that I would have to ask them to repeat, "Do you think my baby is okay?" My response--the convenient lie. Every time I said, "of course"; I prayed to God that it was true.

For Red Head's complete missive, click here.

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Thursday, September 08, 2005

Naked flight

Among the many inexplicable hold-ups, tie-ups, and frig-ups committed by incompetent government responding to Hurricane Katrina comes this report, as shown on Tuesday's Countdown with Keith Olbermann, from NBC's Lisa Myers, on the contribution of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to the boondoggled evacuation of New Orleans.

MYERS: One huge bottleneck in the evacuation, the New Orleans Airport.

(on camera): Officials say flights were delayed while screeners and air marshals were flown in to comply with post-9/11 security requirements and then further delayed because screening machines were not working. Finally, someone at Homeland Security signed an order to allow evacuees to be screened by hand.

What makes this all the more remarkable is the decision, made just a week or so before the storm, to change TSA guidelines to allow a range of small weaponry aboard passenger aircraft. In the Washington Post, Sarah Kehaulani Goo reported:

An agency panel has recommended allowing passengers to bring knives and scissors less than 5 inches long aboard airplanes, as well as ice picks, throwing stars, and bows and arrows...Officials familiar with the plans say the TSA's new leader, Edmund S. "Kip" Hawley, and other top security officials are no longer as concerned about another Sept. 11-style hijacking as they are about other threats, such as suicide bombers boarding airplanes.

In a fit of elation, your blogstress confided to her friend, Mr. Furley, her delight in being able to return her throwing star to her cosmetic kit.

Not so fast, said Mr. Furley, explaining that even without a throwing star--or any other dangerous or contraband item--in one's bag, TSA can easily find a reason to give one the full Checkpoint-Charlie treatment. He writes:

When I returned on my ever so eventful journey from California, I was given a boarding pass with “SSSS” at the bottom. I was happy: after a night of poker, a man likes to see four of any kind. My happiness was short-lived, as I remembered hearing this was the “random” search code.

I aborted my plan to hijack a plane. (It was going to Vegas anyhow; why would I want to divert this flight to anywhere else?) So I got the full shakedown... I sat next to senior citizen who was also given the dreaded SSSS by the new SS troops.

I think the government should be responsible for preventing the large-scale terrorist attacks like nukes, smallpox, and Mariah Carey
diva-meltdowns that shut down our vast tabloid TV networks. The little stuff like plane-jackings--I would prefer that the public take care of this. I want to kick some terrorist ass, too...

If, however, public intervention and participation is a part of the larger scheme of Homeland Defense, I demand that all passengers get a weapon of their choice, with only business class getting gun-power-based systems, and coach getting police clubs or large MagLight flashlights.

Armed passengers notwithstanding, Mr. Furley offers an even simpler solution to those long lines at the passenger screening stations:

I recommend that everyone travel naked. My friends’ kids...have these backpacks that we love: they are see-thru vinyl, typically with Dora the Explorer or the Wiggles emblazoned. I assume this is so that if they are packing guns, the parents can be fully informed.

Think of how mandatory clear backpacks would make those encounters at the Israel-Palestine border so much more festive.

I once thought the future of air travel was gravity-defying cold-fusion powered hovercraft trickled down so that Everyman could travel like Buck Rogers. Now our only hope is Nude Travel with Clear Vinyl Packbacks.

On a good note, I understand W has declared war on all hurricanes that affect Red States. I feel safer already.

Well, thinks your Webwench, nude travel in America would certainly justify the absence of in-flight food service. (However, any girl lucky enough to travel al fresco with Mr. Furley might be in for quite a treat.)

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Lights on, nobody home

Short of the knock-knock jokes told by a brilliant five-year-old who goes by the handle, Fire Dragon, your cybertrix's favorite form of funny is the ubiquitous light bulb joke.

From our friend Bassman, via the Fabulous Frankie G. (your blogstress's partner in musical crimes), comes this latest shot 'round the internet:

How many members of the Bush administration does it take to change a light bulb?
> 1. One to deny that a light bulb needs to be changed
> 2. One to attack the patriotism of anyone who says the light bulb
> needs to be changed
> 3. One to blame Clinton for burning out the light bulb
> 4. One to arrange the invasion of a country rumored to have a secret stockpile of light bulbs
> 5. One to give a billion dollar, no-bid contract to Halliburton for
> the new light bulb
> 6. One to arrange a photograph of Bush, dressed as a janitor,
> standing on a step ladder under the banner: Light Bulb Change
> Accomplished
> 7. One administration insider to resign and write a book documenting in detail how Bush was literally in the dark
> 8. One insider to viciously smear #7
> 9. One surrogate to campaign on TV and at rallies on how George Bush has had a strong light-bulb-changing policy all along
> 10. And finally, one to confuse Americans about the difference
> between screwing a light bulb and screwing the country.

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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

No room at the ranchion?

From the Fabulous Frankie G., your blogstress's partner in musical crimes, comes this thought:

The great state of Texas; The land of MILLIONS and MILLIONS of acres of luxury "ranchions" (ranch-mansions), and they cannot take in any more refugees from Louisiana.

Perhaps they're thinking, who needs African-Americans when you've got Mexicans (who work much more cheaply)?

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Family intervention

Yes, there is more going on in the world than the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but your blogstress finds it difficult to focus on anything else, for nothing illustrates the dire straits in which the whole nation finds itself better than the administration's callous and craven response to this disaster. As the water recedes, along with the bodies of New Orleans' beloved, perhaps the American people will find themselves staring the corpse of their own republic in the face.

Note to the American people: This is not your country. It belongs to to the corporations and their largest shareholders. You pay the freight for the pleasure of living under their hand.

And the saddest part of all this? This is still one of the best places to live on earth. So imagine the hell lived by far too many of the earth's people, all for the beast's feeding pleasure.

In today's Washington Post, we find an amazing piece by Elizabeth Williamson that tells of aid offers ignored by the administration--for things desperately needed, like the water purification system offered by Sweden. (Geez, fellas, might that interfere with giving our corporate cronies a set-aside, no-bid contract for water purification?)

Soon after the flooding, the government of Sweden offered a C-130 Hercules transport plane, loaded with water purification equipment, and a cellular network donated by Ericsson.

Offers of foreign aid worth tens of millions of dollars -- including a Swedish water purification system, a German cellular telephone network and two Canadian rescue ships -- have been delayed for days awaiting review by backlogged federal agencies, according to European diplomats and information collected by the State Department.

Maybe it's the cell-phone network the administration doesn't want the emergency workers in New Orleans to have. You'll recall that the feds cut the emergency lines in Jackson Parish last week, leaving the parish president no choice but to place sheriffs along the infrastructure, in order to protect the people's phones from the federal insurgency.

Williamson goes on to report on the frustration of many in the international aid community who desperately want to help the drowning, starving and ailing black people of New Orleans, only to be turned away by an arrogant Caucasian-centric administration that chants a mantra, "We'll do it ourselves."

In an open letter released yesterday, though, Ambassador John Bruton, head of the Delegation of the European Commission to the United States, wrote:

"Perhaps one of those lessons will be that rugged individualism is not always enough in such a crisis, particularly if an individual does not have the material and psychological means to escape the fury of a hurricane in time."

Now don't get your Webwench wrong; she's big on the rugged individualism thing (though, in her case, it's more like silky-smooth, highly exfoliated individualism). But when she finds herself in trouble, she's mighty grateful to be part of a clan of willful, capable people who tend to show up en masse when called for. (Thanks, Ma. Thanks, Dad. Merci beaucoup, mes frères. Gracias, cousins, aunties, second cousins, nieces, nephews, grand-nephews. You dig?)

In the family of your cybertrix, dysfunctional though it may sometimes be, "family" includes anyone related by blood, marriage, adoption, or by just having hung around for awhile. Consequently, like America, we're a pretty multicultural lot. We speak a bunch of languages, and we can't all speak each other's mother tongues. But screw with one of us, and you'd better be ready to deal with all of us--white, brown, yellow, Catholic, Protestant, Jew, Buddhist, agnostic. We didn't start out particularly enlightened on such matters, but life kept mixing us up with "others," creating a collective US, and there you have it.

As the cognitive linguist George Lakoff has noted, America likes to think of itself as a family. Problem is, in the family of America, dad seems to have his favorites and his disinherited. Here's Jimmy Breslin, writing this weekend in Newsday:

Friday, showing up on the fifth day of a national tragedy, Bush made a little humorous aside about the times he was in New Orleans celebrating too much. Beautiful! If he tried to walk fifty yards he could have tripped over somebody's dead black grandmother under a blanket.

How do you like it? How do you like having a president who at a time like this reminisces about getting drunk in New Orleans? White boy with Daddy's money roaring at Mardi Gras in a town black for the rest of the year.

If whites were in trouble in New Orleans, trust that his government would have been there early and the aid massive.

Many thanks to our friend, St. Jacques du Fenway, for sending the Breslin piece along.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Donated relief turned away;
Halliburton wins clean-up contract

WASHINGTON, D.C.--If anyone had any doubt of the deep corruption and criminality of the Bush administration, your blogstress suggests that the reader consider this series of news stories in combination:

Red Cross Turned Away from New Orleans

FEMA turns back water trucks, diesel fuel; cuts emergency communications lines, says Jefferson Parish president

Halliburton gets Katrina contract, hires former FEMA director

Houston Finds Business Boon After Katrina

Brown pushed from last job: Horse group: FEMA chief had to be `asked to resign'

Via Evan Derkacz at AlterNet’s blogs, we learn of the American Red Cross being turned away from the devastated birthplace of jazz, a city awash in bodies, water-borne disease and stranded people still clinging to life. Here, direct from the Red Cross’s own Web site, we find this under the headline, Hurricane Katrina: Why is the Red Cross not in New Orleans?

* Access to New Orleans is controlled by the National Guard and local authorities and while we are in constant contact with them, we simply cannot enter New Orleans against their orders.

* The state Homeland Security Department had requested--and continues to request--that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city.

On this weekend’s "Meet the Press," Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard offered breathtaking testimony of betrayal by the federal government:

We had Wal-Mart deliver three trucks of water, trailer trucks of water. FEMA turned them back. They said we didn't need them. This was a week ago. FEMA--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 away." 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 of our emergency communication lines. They cut them without notice. Our sheriff, Harry Lee, goes back in, he reconnects the line. He posts armed guards on our line and says, "No one is getting near these lines." Sheriff Harry Lee said that if America--American government would have responded like Wal-Mart has responded, we wouldn't be in this crisis.

Broussard then offered a simple recipe for the future: restore FEMA to the status and efficiency it enjoyed under the Clinton administration and then-FEMA Director James Lee Witt. Oh, yeah, and get the priorities straight: lives over property. Broussard asserted:

Bureaucracy has committed murder here in the greater New Orleans area, and bureaucracy has to stand trial before Congress now. It's so obvious. FEMA needs more congressional funding. It needs more presidential support. It needs to be a Cabinet-level director...Forget about the property. We can rebuild the property. It's got to be able to come in and save lives.

As several bloggers have reminded us, the demise of FEMA under the Bush administration is a screaming example of the agenda advocated by Bush-booster Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform. A famous quote of Norquist’s has taken on enhanced meaning as television viewers hear countless references to New Orleans as a “bathtub”:

“My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”

As FEMA officials and the National Guard turn away relief supplies and medical help from New Orleans, Halliburton, not long ago the charge of CEO Dick Cheney, has won itself a contract to repair naval installations damaged by Katrina. How long ya wanna bet that they’ll soon be racking up civic contracts for gasoline line repair and the like?

From Halliburton Watch* comes this:

In March, the former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is tasked with responding to hurricane disasters, became a lobbyist for KBR [Kellogg, Brown & Root, a Halliburton subsidiary]. Joe Allbaugh was director of FEMA during the first two years of the Bush administration.

Today, FEMA is widely criticized for its slow response to the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Allbaugh managed Bush's campaign for Texas governor in 1994, served as Gov. Bush's chief of staff and was the national campaign manager for the Bush campaign in 2000. Along with Karen Hughes and Karl Rove, Allbaugh was one of Bush's closest advisers.

Allbaugh is also the guy who hired the current FEMA director, Michael Brown, an apparently hapless manager who, unlike Clinton’s FEMA guy, James Lee Witt, has no emergency management experience. Kudos to Brett Arends of the Boston Herald, who brought into public view the ignominious circumstances by which Brown became available to take his first position at FEMA:

The federal official in charge of the bungled New Orleans rescue was fired from his last private-sector job overseeing horse shows.

And before joining the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a deputy director in 2001, GOP activist Mike Brown had no significant experience that would have qualified him for the position.

The Oklahoman got the job through an old college friend who at the time was heading up FEMA.

Finally, we learn that that president’s pals in Houston are already rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of a boon set to come their way, thanks to the demise of the crescent city. Especially delicious is the context, given in this piece by Simon Romero of the New York Times (with reporting by Damon Darlin and Maureen Balleza), for Houston’s current travails, thanks to a little operation called Enron, one of the major funders of George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential election:

A surge of business activity in Houston this time around might lift the fortunes of a city that is still struggling to recover from the collapse of Enron and two decades of job cuts in the energy industry, which has shrunk as production of oil in Texas and the United States has declined.

"I always hate to talk about positives in a situation like this, but this is certainly a growth business over the next 6 to 12 months," said Geoffrey M. Hertel, Tetra [Technology]’s chief executive. By Friday, Tetra had been able to send an 800-ton barge it owns, the Arapaho, to the gulf to be used for platform repairs, Mr. Hertel said.

Looks like Vice President Dick Cheney (a CEO hereafter to be known, as in the tradition of CEO Trump, as "the Dick") is going to have to buy his buddies a big ol’ set of carpet bags.

NOTE: is a project of Essential Information, a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization, and the Center for Corporate Policy, a nonprofit, non-partisan organization working to stop corporate threats to democracy.

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Monday, September 05, 2005

A bit of good news

The incomparable J. Scales reports that Andaiye of the New Orleans singing group, Zion Trinity, has been found--safe and sound so far.

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Sunday, September 04, 2005

Not just for Asians anymore

WESTFIELD, N.J.--Tonight as your blogstress ponders news of the death of William Rehnquist, chief justice of the Supreme Court, she finds it difficult to avoid stumbling on the possibility that the apocalypse may just be at hand. On the heels of the destruction of the Gulf Coast and the administration's callous response--or virtual lack thereof--the political dynamic is itself one of chaotic and unpredictable outcomes. The currents are swirling against each other, and who knows what may emerge from the chiascoros.

The incomparable J. Scales writes of a musician friend still stranded in her New Orleans home, awaiting rescue. Her name is Andaiye, member of Zion Trinity, to which J. has lent her trademark basslines. J. is still awaiting word of another member of the group.

Your Webwench's new friend, Mr. Furley, has recommended some somber listening that has now become your écrivaine's soundtrack for this challenging time--two tracks by Bob Marley: "Natural Mystic" and "Exodus". Indeed, while the first is a virtually existential poem, your cybertrix has found an odd calm in its message that pain is a part of life.

Mr. Furley also reminds us that Americans could stand to learn a thing from the people of Bangladesh, who experience devastation by flood with great regularity.

For a second time, our arrogance has yielded us inept and hysterical. After 9-11, we cried that we never believed it could happen here--thousands killed by a premeditated act of malice and display of force.

Why, though, should we have ever thought that anything of the sort shouldn't happen here, when we've been mucking around the world, encouraging other countries to screw their own people for some time now? Sooner or later, some bad actor was destined to use that as an excuse to show us what's what. In an age when genocide is all the rage, why should our innocents rank higher than the people of Darfur or Cambodia?

And why on earth should we think that, somehow, our vast expanse of national real estate should be spared the sort of eschatological natural disasters that the rest of the world weathers as a matter of course? Just who the hell do we think we are? Better than everybody else? Children of a greater God?

Earlier this week, Chris Matthews explained, on MSNBC's "Hardball", said that the Bush-père/Clinton team were up to something a little something different with their New Orleans relief effort than they were for the tsunami victims. "This time, they're helping out Americans, not just people in Asia," Matthews said with incredulity.

Not just Asians. Disaster--not just for Asians anymore.

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Friday, September 02, 2005

Just take 'em out

Via we learn of possible collusion between Bush's FEMA and the religious right:

The website noticed that FEMA (which has been decimated by the Bush administration) has been directing concerned Americans to make Hurricane Katrina relief donations to Pat Robertson's Operation Blessing. At one point, Robertson's outfit was listed second on a list of suggested recipients, right under the Red Cross. I doubt Hugo Chavez will be clicking on that link. And maybe if the Mafia sets up a relief organization, FEMA will endorse it as well.

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Trading public safety
for tax cuts

For those of her readers perplexed by the slow response of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to the disaster on the Gulf Coast, your blogstress suggests a look at a prescient piece of journalism done nearly a year ago by Jon Elliston in the Orlando Weekly. In his article, Disaster in the Making, Elliston reported:

[L]ong before this hurricane season, some emergency managers inside and outside of government started sounding an alarm that still rings loudly. Bush administration policy changes and budget cuts, they say, are sapping FEMA's long-term ability to cushion the blow of hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, tornados, wildfires and other natural disasters.

Among emergency specialists, "mitigation" – measures taken in advance to minimize damage caused by natural disasters – is a crucial part of the strategy to save lives and cut recovery costs. But since 2001, key federal disaster mitigation programs, developed over many years, have been slashed and tossed aside. FEMA's Project Impact, a model mitigation program created under Clinton, has been canceled outright. Federal funding of post-disaster mitigation efforts designed to protect people and property from the next disaster has been cut in half, and now, communities across the country must compete for pre-disaster mitigation dollars.

On Bella Ciao, Chris Sal posts a number of snips with informative links, including this from the Elliston piece as it ran in the Gambit Weekly at The Best of New Orleans on September 29, 2004:

[Walter] Maestri [director of Jefferson Parish’s Office of Emergency Management] is still awaiting word from FEMA officials as to why Louisiana, despite being called the "floodplain of the nation" in a 2002 FEMA report, received no disaster mitigation grant money from FEMA in 2003 ("Homeland Insecurity," Sept. 28). Maestri says the rejection left emergency officials around the state "flabbergasted."

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Thursday, September 01, 2005

So fine, so cold, so fair

Although there is no shortage of Bush administraton shenanigans on which to report, your blogstress finds it impossible to do in the wake of Katrina's gruesome destruction of the birthplace of jazz.

Jazz is not just a form of music, it's a kind of people--of which the people of New Orleans are the progenitor. People descended from a blend of Yoruban Africans and American Indians--with a dash of French European--gave us our national classical music, however neglected and unappreciated by its nation it may be.

Today those people are drowning in the neglect of a government that looked away from their imminent doom, just as it has turned its back on nurturing the art form their ancestors gave us.

Shame on us--all of us. And let the dirge begin.

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