September 2nd, 2005

Malice and stupidity.

There's an old saying "never atribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity". I have great respect for the power of stupidity, but at this point I'm not sure stupidity alone is adequate.

Yeah, stupidity would explain bush refusing to cut his record-breaking vacation short, but stupidity alone wouldn't refuse offers of aid.

I'm tempted to collect links, but there's just so many of them. Someone somewhere should collate all this stuff, so we can link to a big central "what's wrong with these people" archive. I can barely keep track of all the _topics_.

I fondly remember when we had two redundant disaster control agencies at the federal level: FEMA and the National Guard. Now both have been consumed by the executive branch's centralization of power: FEMA has been sucked into Fatherland Security and the National Guard is in Iraq and Afghanistan. FEMA is being run by somebody who was fired from his previous job for incompetence. And yeah, the
National Guard is hurting.

Yes we knew Bush was an idiot in 2000. Big part of the election, "but he's got all his father's advisors". (And true to form, those advisors stalled the economy, ran up a huge deficit, and went to war in Iraq.) But borrowing trillions of dollars (mostly from China, a country we'd really prefer not to have so much leverage over us), letting Haliburton _lose_track_ of $9 billion of the money it was given in its no-bid contracts as Dick Cheny's old firm, and then diverting Louisiana's already-allocated emergency levee construction funds to Iraq _and_ at the same time putting the army corps of engineers into a hiring freeze...

Right. Bush's entire presidency since the world trade center has been about "homeland security". New cabinet position (that ate FEMA and INS and half the bill of rights), color coded charts, we're supposed to buy plastic sheeting and duct tape, and airport security screeners now run a finger under the strap of my flip-flops (yes really)... And what did it get us? The feds had two days warning before New Orleans started to flood, yet not only did they do nothing, but FEMA was still completely clueless five days later. (During the first gulf war in 1991 they admitted the got half their early intel from CNN. Unfortunately they seem to have switched to Fox News since.)

Has anybody heard them even mention the inevitable disease we're going to get from an entire city flooded with swamp water, dead bodies everywhere, and no working plumbing coming in or going out? It's been five days since anybody was able to flush a toilet or shower, and no progress is expected on this front in the next month. There is no air conditioning or refrigeration. People can't drinkable water, let alone antibiotics. If my house was soaked with _clean_ water for a week I'd worry about mold, and here's a hundred thousand people living in an open sewer with floating corpses and nothing to drink from but the gutters. And this issue is _way_ down on anybody's priority list...

Sigh. By the time I start to wonder why the Red Cross is the only secular organization on
FEMA's donation list... (And of course remember that when Bob Dole was running for president, Elizabeth Dole was head of the Red Cross and accused of using the organization as her primary piggy bank...) It's a bit of a rounding error, really...

If terrorists had simply dropped a 10-kiloton nuke on New Orleans it would actually be in considerably _better_ shape than it is right now, as would mississippi. And yet the huge sweeping changes the feds have made to bring back J. Edgar Hoover (after all, who needs permission for wiretaps) were theoretically out of fear of something like this, and as it turns out the response to this disaster has clearly been _impaired_ by all that homeland security garbage; if they'd left FEMA and the National Guard alone they could have rolled into town between the hurricane and the flood.

And yet despite this enormous disaster and the catastrophic failure to cope, here I am in Austin, personally unaffected. Life goes on.
(My grandmother and my Aunt Barbara are going to live with my brother in New Jersey for a while, because their homes in Louisiana are underwater. But they got out before the hurricane hit.)

The US is a big place. The complete destruction of an american city does not mean the end of the united states. You can tell Bush and his cronies are still stuck in the cold war. The Enemy can rain down enough nuclear weapons to end civilization overnight! We must burn the constitution to save it!

Different enemy guys. We've had to deal with terrorists here in the US for years, what do you think the Unibomber was? The oklahoma city bombing? During the world trade center hysteria they thought the DC sniper was a foriegn terrorist, but he was domestic...

We've had natural disasters before. Lots of comparisons are being made to hurricane anderew, but this isn't even the first time we've had a city simultaneously under water and on fire. It's just that our national response was not previously based on profound incompetence and three consecutive days of heads buried in the sand...

Yeah, there's stupidity there. But stupdity in such bulk that the act of promoting this kind of thing to a position of authority where it can do real damage has to involve malice. Knowingly putting stupidity where it can do real damage, for the sake of personal gain, is an evil act.

And yeah there's personal gain involved. Not just Haliburton's unaccounted-for $9 billion, and not just an oil man pushing an energy policy relying exculsively on oil as it climbs to $50/barrel _before_ this (now over $70). The federal government is running a huge deficit, borrowing from china and spending it on trumped up projects while real domestic needs get their funding cut so they can spend more. Somebody receives every dime that is spent, and if you can't figure out what the money's being spent on it's because it's being pocketed. The deficit is EMBEZZLEMENT, guys. It's so big we can't even see it, but don't tell me Bush Sr is actually living off his $200k/year presidential pension, yet capable of marshalling hundreds of millions of dollars to get his son made president...

Right. I await the "blaming the victims" phase. The poorest 20% of the city didn't evactuate because they didn't own a car or couldn't afford $3/gallon gas. How is that their fault? (As far as anyone can tell, the looting started with people breaking into flooded powerless stores whose employees could afford to evactuate and aren't coming back to try to find food and water. It got out of hand because there's nobody in charge.)

Jamie Zawinski tracked down some good links:
http://www.livejournal.com/users/jwz/533128.html

Even neil Gaiman blogged about it:
http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal/2005/09/from-mailbag.asp

(Those link tom tomorrow, making light, and interdictor, which are all good sources of links. Also http://www.bobharris.com/)

I was pointed at this as one attempt to collate. Haven't had a chance to read it all yet...

http://www.livejournal.com/users/twistedchick/1365623.html
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