Thursday, September 01, 2005


Considering only eight or so people read this site, there is typically no point in writing about serious matters, whether they be political, religious, sexual, culinary, emotional, neurological, or any other adjective that desribes something that aflicts people. However, I feel compelled to write something about what is currently occurring in the Gulf and specifically, in New Orleans. Now, I realize that me writing a little something here is right below driving home with a box of Wheat Thins and taking a nap on my sofa on the futility scale, but so be it. Let me vent and get some things of my chest, if you don't mind. And while you're at, be my guest to stop reading now and go about your day, as the following will surely be boring, rehashed in the days to come, and pitifully wrong-sighted once this whole mess continues.

For one thing, I am really fucking angry. (How angry are you??) Well, I already told you. I'm really fucking angry. I'm angry that I feel so completely ineffectual and useless and that the only recourse I have is to give some money to the Red Cross. But watching people die - uh, actually fucking die!! - on the side of a road because no medicine, food, or supplies can get to them really chaps my cushy-Los Angeles-job ass. I am appaled at our government. Specifically, our President and his Cabinet. Of course, I've been no fan of Bush, but I am also not one to put blame on the shoulders of those who do not deserve it. However, his response to what has happened and continues to happen is just so typical (emphasis mine, der) it makes me want to actually be a better person or at least a more courageous person, a person so courageous he could easily imagine punching that grinning Nero in the fucking maw and wear his shattered teeth like an elastic bracelet and then shove something disgusting, like, say the fecal matter floating through New Orleans, in his smirking little mouth.

But Bush didn't cause the Hurricane just as God or Allah or the gays or the hot little college girls going wild (mmm...) caused it, and I don't begrudge him the fact that this is a horrible tragedy that no President would want to fall on his watch. But guess what, head-honcho-senor-in-chargo? You're the Big Cheese. You're the Man. We look to you in times of trouble and as Americans tend to gauge our response and actions on your behavior, your words, the faces you make, your posture - we're even watching you as you carry your well-groomed dog on and off planes during National Emergencies. And it adds up. And it adds up. And when the Nation sees you playing guitar on the TUESDAY after the hurricane hit (Sunday night/Monday morning), well, guess what? Sorry, lost my train of thought. Oh, right. Fuck. You.

Let's go back in history. Remember that Clinton guy? He sure was a prick, huh? Loose-moraled and opportunistic. I bet if this happened on his watch, he'd be out at some nightclub dancing with interns and getting blowjobs from hookers!! Actually, history tells a different story. One, unfortunately, we can now only hope would have been repeated by this President.

But like I said earlier, I don't blame Bush for what happened. The hurricane would have happened anyway. And to cart out the fact that we are at war and New Orleans would have been saved if only - oh, if only!! - some of the money we are spending in Iraq were diverted to engineering projects designed to fortify the levees seems particularly erroneous. The fact is, people have known about the problem inherent in the topography of New Orleans for centuries and the thing standing in the way of properly protecting the city was not George Bush but the political process in our country, a process that always and uniformly rewards quick results. What sort of a politician introduces long-term, expensive projects that benefit the next mayor, or the next governor? The sort of politicians that lose.

Still, Bush's response and the response of our Homeland Security and FEMA has been pathetic and ridiculous. This is what we've been paying millions (billions) of dollars for? This is how our government has fortified and streamlined our resources so as to assuage our fears in a time of anxiety and "war"? By doing fuck all? I'm sorry, for this, I really am, but color me, uh, non-plussed.

What this has led to, as we have all seen, is chaos and anarchy. Left behind after the evacuations were the elderly, the incapable, and the poor. Most of them were black. Any racists out there who think that this is just black people being black certainly hasn't been to parts of southern Ohio or Indiana, or West Virginia or Tennessee, places where similar sights would certainly occur if some section of the state found itself underwater - albeit, the ragged and overweight and wheelchair-bound would be white, not black. They would also be in the possession of guns, roving the countryside in gangs and getting while the getting is good. You can count on that. Being poor and desperate and resorting to tribal allegiance knows no color.

Which brings me to this: watching the footage the last couple of days has further solidified my previously tenuous belief that I need to acquire a gun. Maybe not right now, not this year, but at some point. We live in a society where guns are not only allowed, they are owned in massive proliferation, by preachers and criminals and schoolteachers and doctors. What's the point of denying myself a weapon to protect myself? The scenes coming out of New Orleans are chaotic, and there was a two-day warning for people to evacuate. If a massive earthquake hits the west coast, if there is another terrorist attack (specifically if it is a coordinated attack), or if heaven forbid China or some such nation gets the idea in 20 years or so to stick a thorn in our side, then I'd like to have a gun.

To those who say that it is silly to have a gun for whatever reason, I say, I don't care. The nature of the world is violence and chaos and disorder and I'm a grown man and that means I can have a gun. And as I walk from the ashes of some bombed-out or earthquake-rattled city with my belongings in a backpack, I'll have a gun with me. That might sound paranoid and apocalyptic, but you know what? After seeing what has happened in New Orleans, I think it's foolish to think that that scene couldn't be played out in another American city. Dresden was destroyed. The whole of Japan, obliterated. New York could have taken a much worse hit than two jets ramming into buildings and someday very well may. There will be another Great War in the next 50 years, and natural disasters, if you believe some scientists, will only increase in frequency and intensity. We saw what happened after the tsunami. Imagine a massive earthquake in San Francisco. Gas lines breaking, fires destroying city blocks, possible flooding. Then the guns come out and the looting begins and the exodus - but to where? What if the bridges crumble? Even if they don't, cars will be useless as people walk over the three bridges. It may sound like a nightmare scenario but compare it to New Orleans.

Sometimes we have to be reminded that this is what panic and desperation looks like, writ large. In the future, I'll have my gun.

Or my guitar, if I ever get elected President.


VerbalGerbil said...

I read that the federal funds usually given to maintain the levees were diverted into homeland security and spent on protecting the absolutly nothing of value in Montana. On the other hand senators from Montana seem likely to be re-elected.

Mathis said...

Nothing of value in Montana? How dare you! Walter Kirn lives in Montana.

I agree that if those funds had actually made their way to the levee project, the city might be faring better than it is. But diverting funding away from the Army Corps of Engineers has been a pastime of all presidents, Clinton and on down the line. More correctly put, Bush was not exceptional in his failure to protect New Orleans. He is exceptional in being an asswad.

cna said...

No guns in the apartment. Keep it in your car. You want to tumble in the apartment, we use the machete I bought in Mexico or that screwpull wine-opener I got for Christmas last year.

Mathis said...

Too late. We're now fully stocked. To the fucking gills, man. I went to a trade show last night and got the five cheapest guns I could. I have no idea how to use them, but I did put one under your mattress.

Just in case.

King Koopa said...

Hey, if you wanna get a gun and you think you'll feel safer and secure with it, by all means get yourself one. Me, I've never fired one and the fear that I'd somehow mess up when it came time to use it would only cancel out whatever feelings of safety the gun had in the first place. In typical Koopa fashion, I would end up shooting my friend's dog with it or something.

Maybe it's my contrarian nature and my inexorable need to state the obvious, but there's a LOT of blame to go around before we get back to Bush. Local officials are responsible for preparing emergency plans, not federal officials. Call me a sexist, but Louisiana's Governor has seemed pretty worthless to me. Quit being "heartbroken" and start cracking whips and get some things moving! There'll be time for crying when the whole thing's over. We're just starting to address the race and class issues of this tragedy, but are we to afraid to blame the female governor? Hmmmm...The FEMA Director seems to be the most worthless of this whole operation, though. He's the guy who should be pulling all the strings at this point and getting people and supplies where they need to go. I want to see some Howard Dean-type intensity out of you! "We're gonna get guardsmen from Michigan and Kansas and Alabama and Mississippi and Louisiana and then we're gonna go to New Orleans and Biloxi and we're gonna get these poor people some damn water to drink already!!!" (I can't help it if that is funny, I need to try and laugh during tragedies, as well)

And, to be further contrarianish, you can raise the levees higher and higher, but Murphy's Law will tell you that eventually it's going to fail. It will. Being a hydraulic engineer (I have to pull rank, sorry), technology is never a fail-safe and you've got to have better emergency/evacuation plans. Pumps will fail, levees will be constructed by BillyBob the contractor and fail, things don't always go according to plan. It's just another way to say that if we'd thrown enough money at this problem that it would've never happened. Too political for my taste. Money could have been spent on the levees and this still could've happened, but maybe not this time, true...It's a secondary issue and a great way to place blame though...we'll be hearing about this for months if technology and human resources can protect us from everything. That to me is hubris on par with any hubris Bush has...We should've been a LOT more prepared for this eventuality, which is what it is, this was eventually going to happen. There will "eventually" be a BIG earthquake in San Francisco. Humans and Americans in particular are just very good/bad at ignoring these concerns and pressing forward and hoping for the best, and making a few bucks along the way...and then leaving the poor people to take the brunt of the bad stuff once it eventually happens.

Mathis said...

Koopa: I completely agree with you regarding the levees and was trying to get that across in my post. But I also think that it is more than clear that Bush and the Bush administration are not capable leaders. Besides the obvious Nero moment (how can you dismiss that?), keep in mind that these are the people that are in charge of the country. There should be a top-down contingency plan in effect. To blame this on the governor of LA is fine, I guess, and it's true that she's shown herself ineffectual, but this is not a local problem. This is not a state problem. This is a national problem. Is anything ever the fault of the executive branch? They take credit for everything that goes right and pass the buck on everything that goes wrong. That is wretched leadership. It's cowardly and wrong. And it has me frightened that they truly have no idea how to protect and safeguard this nation. Who cares if you vote for republican or democrat? What we need our actual leaders again, actual fucking adults. Unfortunately, we don't have that now.

King Koopa said...

Like I said, I think the biggest failure in this has been FEMA. Expect to see that Michael Brown guy get fired, VERY SOON. State and local emergency plans started off as pathetic which has made everything worse. But, ultimately, it comes down to FEMA, no doubt about it. Bush can push FEMA all he wants (which he might not be, true enough) but if the director isn't an effective administrator and delegator, things aren't going to get done. (FEMA is the arm of the executive branch that does this work, I know I don't want Bush coming in and monkeying around with people who are SUPPOSED to know their jobs.) It's the nuts and bolts of the operation which are falling apart. I guess I'm just not concerned about the politics of what Bush should be doing, he's so far removed from actually having a REAL impact on what's going on. He's the figurehead of a poor governmental operation, no doubt, but he's no more than a figurehead in something like this (anymore than he's a figurehead for governmental successes). We would be attacking him for gimmickry if he suited up again, rolled up his sleaves and drove a semi-trailer of supplies into downtown New Orleans...and then announced, "Mission Accomplished!" and gave us a thumbs up. It would look great on camera, but it wouldn't really matter. I haven't been paying attention to him or what he's been saying so I don't know the Nero moment you're referring to. Whenever politicians come on screen I've been changing the channel. I don't want to hear political-speak in a time like this. It just makes me feel sick to hear them. It's the directors of governmental agencies who are dropping the ball, the ball which was already slipping because of poor planning on the local/state level. I'm reminded of "The Sweet Hereafter". Great book and movie about our need to place blame on people and institutions after times of tragedy. We're hard-wired to do it. The thing getting the blame is usually only one piece in a crazy puzzle of horrible sequences and tragedy. Bush has been a poor leader, but we'll be ignoring the bigger picture if we focus on him and what he should've done...

Mathis said...

I haven't been paying attention to him or what he's been saying so I don't know the Nero moment you're referring to.

So you didn't read my post, then? Click on the links, and compare Bush's response to the greatest natural disaster in our country's history with Clinton's response and preparation relating to an incoming hurricane.

Don't politicize this? Fuck that. Fuck. That. This is why we have politicians. This is their jobs. They protect us. We pay taxes so civil works projects can get accomplished. We pay for police officers and the military and the National Guard. We pay the salaries of Governors and Mayors and Presidents and their secretaries and officials. Just keep saying that Bush isn't in any way culpable. Say that he couldn't have comandeered Greyhound buses, helicopter fleets, water tankers. Bring them in from Texas and Arkansas. Not exactly the Governor of Louisana's fault, now is it? Ok, so it's the FEMA's director fault. Why was he hired? What were his qualifications?

To everyone who continues to apologize for Bush... Jesus, man, I honestly can't understand it.

Mathis said...

Koopa: A timeline of FEMA during the Bush presidency.

Keep apologizing for him.

King Koopa said...

I honestly don't care whether Bush was holding a guitar Tuesday or when Clinton came back from New Zealand, I think politicians are there to provide the ILLUSION of normalcy and leadership after a tragedy like this. It comes down to Bush's obviously culpable role in handicapping FEMA. I was ignorant of his FEMA history. New shit has come to light man, and you're right, Bush has definitely hog-tied the effectiveness of FEMA. He's guilty of that. Poor planning, dumbass ideas, dumbass directors. It's the FEMA Director's job to commandeer Greyhounds, helicopter fleets, and water tankers. So, yes, Bush is guilty by connection with hiring a dumbass who can't do his job.

But, I just think that looking to elected politicians to make you feel secure is illusionary. If Clinton was still president with the same dumbass Michael Brown as FEMA Director, nothing would be different on the ground in New Orleans...we'd probably feel better about the whole thing, but nothing would really be different.

Mathis said...

I honestly don't care whether Bush was holding a guitar Tuesday or when Clinton came back from New Zealand

I think you're in the small, small minority there. I'd venture to guess that the people of New Orleans cared and care very much what their President was doing while their city flooded.

Bush's gutting of FEMA only points to a much larger picture of government that people will be discussing for years after this. Strong governments can affect people's lives in positive ways. Weak governments rely on a variety of private entities to do it instead. In times of crisis, it is clear which kind of government is most needed.

Were you also aware that yesterday - on THURSDAY! - Ken Mehlman (head of the Republican Party) sent an email to constituents in Ohio asking them to repeal the death tax. At a time when we need even more federal money, the Republicans are asking for more tax cuts for the super rich.

If this has devolved into some sort of internet argument about too many things at once, so be it. I'd rather have a discussion with you at a nice cafe in Indy but that just ain't possible. Our current politicians have let us down, man. The ones that are in power are Republicans. They have consistently let this country down. They need to be voted out.

Kev said...

Its sad to see people in such hardship. i wish that on no one!!

Really what is that best plan of action?

King Koopa said...

I've got my post on all of this over on Koopa's Hideaway. There's no point in getting into a discussion on the role of government right now. Or maybe I'm just too mentally exhausted to discuss it...whichever.