Republicans Party On as Hurricane and Disaster Loom
(Before the Deluge.)
How much has been learned in the seven years since Hurricane Katrina? Even the $10 billion invested in its hurricane risk reduction system hasn't fixed the attitudes of some:
Jefferson Parish officials issued a stern warning to anyone who dares tread outside during Tropical Storm Isaac. "If you create damage, you are going to jail,'' Sheriff Newell Normand said during a news conference that just wrapped up.
In the days before the hurricane, when other citizens of New Orleans were ordered to leave, city leaders were asked: "What about the prisoners in the jail?"
"The prisoners will stay where they belong," replied Marlin Gusman, the criminal sheriff in charge of the city jail. .
Most of those in the Orleans Parish Prison were there for minor offenses like unpaid fines and jaywalking. Some hadn't been charged. One third were charged but couldn't make bond and were waiting for their trials --still cloaked in innocence. After Katrina hit, violent offenders from other prisons were moved in with them.
Some of the heaviest looters were the police. Among those who were not: three people who looted a liquor store got 15 year sentences. They were lucky compared to the unarmed civilians who were just shot and killed by police: A developmentally disabled man was shot in the back. Part of a woman's arm was "blown off." Two of the men died. The officers were cleared by the New Orleans Police Department's internal investigation. Then they were indicted for murder. then, due to misconduct by the district attorney's office, charges were dropped. In 2010, they were charged and convicted by a federal jury of a coverup and civil rights violations.
Katrina was a colossal failure for the Bush Administration from GW Bush on down to "Heck of a job Brownie," Michael Brown.
It was also a civil rights disaster, from martial law being imposed, to orders by the Governor to shoot to kill, to rampant inmate abuse, and the abandonment of the elderly and sick who were left to die. 46 bodies were recovered from one hospital alone.
Then there was the Louisiana National Guard's Combat Operations:
Combat operations are underway on the streets “to take this city back” in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. “This place is going to look like Little Somalia,” Brig. Gen. Gary Jones, commander of the Louisiana National Guard’s Joint Task Force told Army Times Friday as hundreds of armed troops under his charge prepared to launch a massive citywide security mission from a staging area outside the Louisiana Superdome. “We’re going to go out and take this city back. This will be a combat operation to get this city under control.”
As Republicans gather in Tampa to celebrate the coronation of their lackluster candidate, Mitt Romney, here's a smattering of Republican responses at the time to the plight of Hurricane Katrina victims:
There's Barbara Bush, giving her informed opinion that the plight of those in the Houston Astrodome wasn't too bad -- they were mostly poor people anyway, so they must be used to these conditions:
"And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them."
Putting aside the elitism in her Marie Antoinette-ish comment, how was it working well for them? Here's a picture of the evacuees at the Astrodome. Conditions were better than at the Superdome, but still inadequate for such huge numbers of people. Is anyone used to living like that?
Condi Rice went shopping for shoes in New York. Dick Cheney was nowhere to be found. But he was heard from -- he directed that power be restored to a pipeline pumping station in Southern Mississippi, at the expense of restoring power to a rural hospital first. The repair crews were diverted.
Rick Santorum was concerned with those who didn't voluntarily evacuate, saying they should be fined:
You have people who don't heed those warnings and then put people at risk as a result of not heeding those warnings. There may be a need to look at tougher penalties on those who decide to ride it out and understand that there are consequences to not leaving."
Then-President Bush proposed militarizing part of FEMA.
Republicans were concerned about the cost of Katrina relief. One of their proposals: cut funding to PBS (but nothing about cutting the infamous bridge to nowhere in Alaska.) Another absurd Republican suggestion: Audit the tax returns of poor people to make sure they qualify for the earned income tax credit.
The Bush Administration's massive Fail during Katrina was all the worse considering the damage from Katrina was predictable. On Sunday, August 28, 2005, the day before Katrina hit, experts predicted New Orleans will turn into an Atlantis and more than 1 million people will be homeless.
When Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans on Monday, it could turn one of America's most charming cities into a vast cesspool tainted with toxic chemicals, human waste and even coffins released by floodwaters from the city's legendary cemeteries.
Here was the NOA's official description of the potential damage the night before Katrina hit:
Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks...perhaps longer. At least one half of well constructed homes will have roof and wall failure. All gabled roofs will fail...leaving those homes severely damaged or destroyed.
The majority of industrial buildings will become non functional. Partial to complete wall and roof failure is expected. All wood framed low rising apartment buildings will be destroyed. Concrete block low rise apartments will sustain major damage...including some wall and roof failure.
High rise office and apartment buildings will sway dangerously...a few to the point of total collapse. All windows will blow out.
Airborne debris will be widespread...and may include heavy items such as household appliances and even light vehicles. Sport utility vehicles and light trucks will be moved. The blown debris will create additional destruction. Persons...pets...and livestock exposed to the winds will face certain death if struck.
Power outages will last for weeks...as most power poles will be down and transformers destroyed. Water shortages will make human suffering incredible by modern standards.
The vast majority of native trees will be snapped or uprooted. Only the heartiest will remain standing...but be totally defoliated. Few crops will remain. Livestock left exposed to the winds will be killed.
Republicans carried on business as usual in the wake of Katrina. President Bush was blasted from both sides, including this conservative newspaper in New Hampshire for giving a speech(like Republicans will be giving tonight and Wednesday night) in San Diego right after Katrina:
AS THE EXTENT of Hurricane Katrina's devastation became clearer on Tuesday millions without power, tens of thousands homeless, a death toll unknowable because rescue crews cant reach some regions President Bush carried on with his plans to speak in San Diego, as if nothing important had happened the day before. Katrina already is measured as one of the worst storms in American history. And yet, President Bush decided that his plans to commemorate the 60th anniversary of VJ Day with a speech were more pressing than responding to the carnage.
The New York Times recounted the political fallout and the blame game tactics used by Republicans in the months after Katrina.
Leopards don't change their spots. Republicans will dine and and drink and listen to speeches while the Gulf Coast goes down. They will pay more attention to the ditzy tea partier and former TV actress giving a convention speech on (of all things) the importance of the Constitution than they will to the plight of those affected by the hurricane.
For all their lip service to family values and patriotism, it's a marvel how out of touch Republicans are with America. Perhaps tonight and Wednesday, as people channel surf from hurricane news to vapid Republican speeches, the disconnect will be too glaring to overlook.
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