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Don’t Let It Bring You Down June 20, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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2 comments

As the scenes in Iowa slowly turn the sullen depression of the last year into a warm and encouraging anger, we continue our program of leaning heavily upon ripping off the song titles of our youth to get our idea across.

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Good Morning, America, How Are You June 19, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, 8-29, Corps of Engineers, Federal Flood, Flood, flooding, home, levee, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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8 comments

GULFPORT, Ill. – Juli Parks didn’t worry when water began creeping up the levee that shields this town of about 750 from the Mississippi River — not even when volunteers began piling on sandbags. ..
Then on Tuesday, the worst happened: The levee burst and Gulfport was submerged in 10 feet of water. Only 28 property owners were insured against the damage…
It is unclear what, if anything, the uninsured Parks would get in government disaster relief. “We’re hoping to rebuild, but it depends what FEMA says and how much we get,” said Parks, who is staying with her husband in a horse trailer…

The rest is here.

A horse trailer: that is where Juli Parks and her husband are staying.

What will it be like to live in a horse trailer for a year. Or two. Or three? Better perhaps than to live in a FEMA trailer and learn too late you have been poisoned, that your children will suffer the rest of their lives.

What our brothers and sisters in Iowa are discovering is the hard truth learned in New Orleans. The levees will not protect you. The government will not save you. What you have still to learn I will get to in a moment. For now, know this: you are on your own.

I blame George Bush.

Wait, stop, don’t hit that comment button yet. Bush didn’t dynamite the levees or destroy their homes. Still, he is the top man in the political establishment that spun the story of New Orleans into a myth with no basis in reality, the ugly story on cable news and AM radio that said what happened in New Orleans couldn’t happen to real Americans. It was “those people” and their corrupt ways that flooded New Orleans. It was the stupidity of people who would choose to live in the shadow of a levee and feel safe.

What happened in New Orleans had nothing to do with you, they were told. Move on. Listen, we have a war to win and we can’t get bin Laden unless you go shopping. Who knows how many more blond high school girls might disappear in suspicious circumstances if you don’t convert to digital cable and get that iPhone. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

It was all a lie.

And now the people who, almost three years after the Federal Flood, chose to live in the shadow of a Federal levee without flood insurance are learning the truth the hard way. You will lose everything, and the government will give you little or nothing. Maybe you will get your own Road Home program that offers half the replacement cost of a house. Perhaps the mortgage holder will lie to you and insist you have to sign that money over (you don’t really have to but they will lie to you as they lied to us, just as your insurance company lied to you when it said you were covered.) You will be left with a piece of land you can’t afford to build on.

When you try to rebuild you anyway will find the cost of construction materials has doubled and tripled since 8-29. Your insurance will increase five-fold. You will have to bear alone the full cost of rebuilding every thing around you. Your grocery bill will double to pay for the new store. Your utility company will gouge you to pay for what they lost in the flood. They will sell off the current power contracts while the power’s out and when it comes back on, the rates will have tripled. Your children’s schools will go without books for a year, if they have schools at all.

You will be told you will be better off if you move away from your home and leave it behind, to go somewhere else. Perhaps it won’t matter. The last place I lived people changed houses like they bought shoes. People cheerfully uprooted themselves to follow careers or just for a change. America has become a rootless people. Perhaps you won’t care.

Or are you more like us? Did you grandfather or great grandfather first break that earth? Did he found a town, its first bank or oldest church? Do you feel an irresistible compulsion to stay? My family has lived in Louisiana for almost 300 years. I am not going anywhere. If you follow in our footsteps, you need to forget everything you’ve heard about New Orleans, and look hard at us, at the real story of what happened here 8-29- and all the days since, because ours is the life ahead of you.

You will have to max out your credit cards, empty your savings accounts and 401ks, and still it will not be enough. You will have to cram your family into a tiny travel trailer and live there for years, even if it is slowly poisoning you. You will need to go to work all day, and come home and rebuild you house yourself all night. If you hire contractors, many will be the same predators who descended on us. They will take what money you have, and disappear. You will go back into your trailer, and you will weep in front of your children.

And still I think many of you will rebuild.

I think those of you who live in the houses or on the farms your parents or grandparents built, in the towns founded by your families generations ago, will insist on rebuilding just as we have. Somehow you will survive it all. I have a tremendous respect for the American people. They have come in the tens of thousands and still come to give of their time and effort to help us rebuild. Many of you who flooded are of that stock, are perhaps people who came to Chalmette or the Ninth Ward to guy homes or hammer up drywall.

If I sound discouraging I do not mean to. I just want you to open your eyes and see what the people of New Orleans have lived. I want everyone in American who sympathizes with you today to understand the truth. What happened in New Orleans can happen to you, and any suggestion that what happened here was unique or the fault of the victims is a lie. Not an exaggeration, or a distortion, or “spin”: a lie. It can happen to you. Perhaps because it has happened to the good people of Iowa and the other Mississippi River states people in America will wake up.

I hope that now they will realize that the country is full of levees that could fail at any moment, bridges like the one in Minnesota that could collapse. They need to know that the government the ruling political classes have worked at gutting and making ineffective for the last 30 years cannot help you, not in its current form or with its current leadership (not just one party or the other: Reaganomics and Clinton Bubblenomics have both gutted our ability to do anything as a nation). Everyone in this nation needs to know that tomorrow it could happen to them if something is not done, and what it will mean to them when it happens.

I have hope for New Orleans. For a long time, I had lost hope for America. I wrote these words many times in the last several years: the American experiment is over, and the results are in. It failed. Part of me does not want to believe that in spite of all of the hard evidence around me living in a city still half a ruin three years later. I want to find the fire that made me take a job that paid nothing as a journalist, the spirit that left me in awe when I walked the halls of Congress because I worked there. I want to remember what it was like to believe in a perfectible world, in something as big as a continent worth fighting for. I believe in New Orleans, and will fight for it, but I don’t know if it is enough.

I want to believe that the people of Iowa and Illinois will make common cause with the people of Louisiana and Mississippi, will insist that things change, will demand that the United States once again be about its people, will be a nation and not just an economy: of the people, by the people, for the people, never to perish from the earth.

People in the Midwest with flooded out lives have no time to think of this right now, but the eyes of the nation are upon them. Those of us who have walked that path must tell this story, must demand on their behalf and for all of us–even as we reach out to help our brothers and sisters in the baptism of the flood–that the levees must not fail again somewhere else, that the slow motion, disaster-without-end lived in New Orleans and the whole hurricane coast from Cameron to Gulfport should not be repeated there or anywhere.

Oh, The Water June 15, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Corps of Engineers, Flood, flooding, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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4 comments

After the last post, I just want to say that everyone in New Orleans is concerned for the people of Iowa, just as they were for the people of Myanmar and the people of Tabasco, Mexico. Just because idiots seize on every catastrophe to dust off the old political whore mongering over Katrina has nothing to do with our sympathy for you, or the gratitude we feel for every Iowan and other American volunteer who has come down her to rebuild.

We are all of us, the people of the river and of the coast, at some time baptized in the waters of the flood. That immersion is no relief from the travails of this life. Instead it is like a plague out of the old book. But it promises we will come out after different, better and stronger.

I come back to this song written by Eliza Gilkyson after the Christmas tsunami of 2005 again and again, since I first heard it in September of 2005. This is the only on-line version I know of.

As I read about Iowa, I was irresistably drawn to hear it again.

This time it is for you: Requiem, by Eliza Gilkyson.

Boy Scouts Save Iowa June 14, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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32 comments

Is anyone surprised this sort of fuckmookery has crawled out from beneath the rocks where it lives?

Cedar Rapids is under water and 15 people have died as a result of the flooding. Of course this story has been in the news but I can’t help but wondering where all the network trailers are. I can’t help wondering where FEMA is and where are all the protesters demonstrating against perceived government inaction on this one?

Also, where are all the dead bodies floating around while hoodlums roam the streets shooting at people and looting stores?

What is it about this storm that is at least as bad, if not worse, than Katrina that has left us without stories of devastation caused by the government’s failure to swoop in and help people? Why don’t we have music stars on TV holding a telethon to raise money while they proclaim that George Bush hates white people?

Why is it that teen aged boys, members of the Boy Scouts, were able to respond immediately to render first aid to the injured and dig out those trapped in the rubble when adults in New Orleans seemed incapable of helping themselves?

Perhaps this goes back to the thoughts I had about dependence on government…

My initial response to this was to post a comment that 1) expressed surprise that 32,000 square miles of Iowa had been devastated and between 2 and 3 million people displaced from their homes. I had no idea. I’m so sorry. Oh, wait, what hundreds of people? Oh, never mind.

My next response was: fuckmook.

I grow weary but feel obligated to call these people out: what happened across the Hurricane Coast in 2005 was the largest disaster ever to strike the United States. Thousands died, and continue to die of Katrina and evacuation related causes. Eighty percent of New Orleans was flooded for weeks and in some cases months, and the coastal zones of Mississippi and Southwest Louisiana were wiped from the face of the earth. Hundreds of thousands of people remain displaced from their homes approaching three years later. So don’t be bringing me your piss ant little crick floods and ice storms and tell me, oh, people up here would never behave like those people in New Orleans after Katrina.

Let’s review the facts once again for the people who’ve been living exclusively on barbecue potato chips, Bud lite and Fox news for so long that they have suffered some sort of brain damage. The tens of thousands of “those people” trapped in New Orleans were primarily here because they had no car, no way to evacuate themselves. Some had cars but probably not enough ready cash to for the two or three tanks of gas it might have taken them to get out of state while crawling at 20 mph along the interstate in massive bumper-to-bumper traffic jams. Many of those cars were probably of the sort I drove when I first started out as a suburban newspaper journalist, earning a salary in the high four figures (pause for translation into an actual number). Many of the junk heaps people in that earning bracket drive would have broken down on the evacuation routes and caused further havoc.

When the Federal levees failed because of the well-demonstrated shoddy engineering practices of the United States Army Corps of Engineers (and may everyone involved in the design and construction of the levees be sent to Iraq to clear IEDs, with the people of New Orleans getting to vote on whether they get to have bomb squad armor or we get to have functional levees)–(sorry for the digression); when the Federal levees failed, most of the people who stayed had perhaps a day or two of food and water. They were not a few blocks from rescue by the local fire department or even, god forbid, Boy Scouts. They were miles from relief, surrounded by water that would stand for months.

There were not a few hundred of them. There were tens of thousands. I’m sure all of the Boy Scouts of Iowa could have taken care of this in a few hours, providing expert first aid as needed and then lashed together some lovely temporary housing for them and after they were done: s’mores for everyone. What actually happened is that Louisiana dispatched the guys (and gals) from the state’s Wildlife and Fisheries Department with their numerous flatboats for patrolling the marsh. And the indolent people of south Louisiana launched the Cajun Navy, thousands of guys with boats who just hitched up and came, unasked. The Coast Guard got a show in the Discovery Channel about Katrina. The WL&F folks and the Cajun Navy get forgotten by America. But not by us.

Meanwhile the United States and its armed forces sat on their hands and wondered what they should do. The Navy dispatched a hospital ship following directly in the hurricanes wake ready to help, and it sat idle off the coast waiting for orders form the C-I-C, who was busy elsewhere huddling with Karl Rove trying to figure out how to spin this instead of trying to figure out how to help. While George Bush (who I understand really does like Black people, just not overdone) sat with his thumb up his ass looking for plumbs, our otherwise ditzy former governor had managed to ask the National Guard of the other forty-nine states for help, and they promptly responded. Of course she later decided it was too dangerous for most of them to go in, based on the panicked statements of our mayor and former chief of police. Lots of government stupidity to go around at all levels, no doubt about that.

So while most of the out-of state rescuers sat parked outside of town people who could wade or swim made their way to the designated points, the Superdome and Convention center, and sat there. And sat there. And sat there until the food and the water ran out and the toilets stopped working. And then they sat there some more, and some of them died, while the national news crews who managed to get into the city watched them and their rescuers sat in Baton Rouge or the West Bank trying to decide what they should do. Those who showed the initiative to try to walk away from the Convention Center were met by helpful members of the Gretna, Louisiana Police Department, who pointed M-16s at their heads and told them to turn back. They would not be allowed into their dry city across the river.

Our fuckmook of the day finishes his comment with the usual talking point: what happened in New Orleans was the result of government dependence. Having apparently spent the 1990s surfing the internet for nude pictures of Michelle Malkin and Ann Coulter, he seems to have missed this thing called welfare reform. Most of the people at the convention center were the people who hold minimum wage (or in the hospitality industry, sub-minimum wage) jobs keeping our beer-and-beads, tits-and-t-shirt economy turning. The rest were the elderly and the disabled, the only people in this country who still qualify for any sort of long-term welfare. Instead he dusts off the old lie to make sure everyone understands that it was all our own fault and none of theirs.

Funny they always turn to this idea. When an email started circulating about how the people of North Dakota surviving an ice storm without looting or government rescue, they said the same thing. Now I know a thing or two about North Dakota, having lived their for 10 years. It’s a lovely place that would be an empty dust bowl if it were not for massive government subsidies of agriculture, and two large Air Force installations that exist primarily to prop up the local economy. They even get subsidized electricity, courtesy of the government-built WAPA power system out west. I sure could use some of that down here, but instead I get immense utility bills because our local utility has structured itself so that we have to pay the full cost of restoring our city’s electric and gas infrastructure ourselves.

The fact is the last real government-tit-sucking welfare queens are the row crop and sugar farmers, and I am sure that Iowa has its share. I won’t retype the entire long post I wrote about the North Dakota ice storm that addresses this. You can read it here.

In the end I want to return to the test I first proposed in 2005. I want to plop this asshole on the roof of a house down here in August, with no food and maybe a couple of bottle of water. Across the street will be a fully stocked convenience store. We will leave him up there and see precisely how long it takes him to climb down and smash that window and start taking water. I give him a couple of days at most.

I don’t want anyone to think I am taking this out on the people of Iowa. I am not. I’m only concerned with armchair fuckmooks of Big Dogs sort. Unless of course there are people in Iowa who hear stuff like this and think: yeah, we’re not like them. For those people I have this question: what have you done that your god has punished you so?

Update 9-16: If there is any doubt in your mind how I or people in New Orleans feel about our friends in Iowa (as opposed to fuckmooks like Big Dog), then please read this, and this,