New Orleans Doomsday Scenario Foretold in 2001

I've been expecting to read a prescient article like this one since Hurricane Katrina hit three weeks ago. A friend sent this piece, which appeared in the Houston Chronicle on December 1, 2001, titled "KEEPING ITS HEAD ABOVE WATER: New Orleans faces doomsday scenario," by Eric Berger.

As Hurricane Rita gathered strength today over the increasingly warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, roaring from a Category 2 to a Category 5 Hurricane in 14 hours, one might ponder what the future holds for those living near oceans.
Earlier this year the Federal Emergency Management Agency ranked the potential damage to New Orleans as among the three likeliest, most castastrophic disasters facing this country.

The other two? A massive earthquake in San Francisco, and, almost prophetically, a terrorist attack on New York City. The New Orleans hurricane scenario may be the deadliest of all.

In the face of an approaching storm, scientists say, the city's less-than-adequate evacuation routes would strand 250,000 people or more, and probably kill one of 10 left behind as the city drowned under 20 feet of water. Thousands of refugees could land in Houston.

Economically, the toll would be shattering.

Southern Louisiana produces one-third of the country's seafood, one-fifth of its oil and one-quarter of its natural gas. The city's tourism, lifeblood of the French Quarter, would cease to exist. The Big Easy might never recover.
Berger and FEMA weren't the only ones who gave warnings. "The New Orleans project manager for the Army Corps of Engineers, Alfred Naomi, had warned for years of the need to shore up the levees, but the Bush Administration and the Republican Congress kept cutting back on the funding."
NATO Rations No Good For Hurricane Katrina Victims?!

What is this all about? As Hurricane Rita approaches the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast, one can only hope that this second Category 5 storm loses steam before it reaches ground, and FEMA leaves thousands of Americans to fend for themselves in the face of calamity.
Hundreds of tons of British food aid shipped to America for starving Hurricane Katrina survivors is to be burned.

US red tape is stopping it from reaching hungry evacuees.

Instead tons of the badly needed NATO ration packs, the same as those eaten by British troops in Iraq, has been condemned as unfit for human consumption.
But wait, it gets better!
The worker added: "There will be a cloud of smoke above Little Rock soon - of burned food, of anger and of shame that the world's richest nation couldn't organise a p**s up in a brewery and lets Americans starve while they arrogantly observe petty regulations.

"Everyone is revolted by the chaotic shambles the US is making of this crisis. Guys from UNICEF are walking around spitting blood.

"This is utter madness. People have worked their socks off to get food into the region.

"It is perfectly good NATO approved food of the type British servicemen have. Yet the FDA are saying that because there is a meat content and it has come from Britain it must be destroyed.

"If they are trying to argue there is a BSE reason then that is ludicrously out of date. There is more BSE in the States than there ever was in Britain and UK meat has been safe for years."

The Ministry of Defence said: "We understand there was a glitch and these packs have been impounded by the US Department of Agriculture under regulations relating to the import and export of meat.

"The situation is changing all the time and at our last meeting on Friday we were told progress was being made in relation to the release of these packs. The Americans certainly haven't indicated to us that there are any more problems and they haven't asked us to take them back."

Food from Spain and Italy is also being held because it fails to meet US standards and has been judged unfit for human consumption.

And Israeli relief agencies are furious that thousands of gallons of pear juice are to be destroyed because it has been judged unfit.
Bush Makes Potty Plea

During his visit this week to the United Nations, President Bush asked Secretary of State Rice:
"I think I may need a bathroom break? Is this possible? W."
Harper's Weekly Review

Yep, this just about sums it up.
Emergency officials in Louisiana requested 25,000 body bags for victims of Hurricane Katrina, and a total evacuation of New Orleans was ordered. Much of the city was still underwater, though several people who lived on high ground objected to the evacuation. "I haven't even run out of weed yet," said one woman.

Houston, Texas, the headquarters of contractors Halliburton and Baker Hughes, was preparing for a boom; one real-estate firm was offering special financing deals "for hurricane survivors only."

Wealthy residents of New Orleans were devising ways to rebuild the city with a minimum of poor people.

Barbara Bush visited the Astrodome and said that, given that the evacuees were "underprivileged anyway," things were "working out very well" for them,[Editor & Publisher] and Representative Richard Baker gave the hurricane credit for finally cleaning up public housing in New Orleans.

The government began to award no-bid contracts for the reconstruction, and President George W. Bush signed an executive order to allow federal contractors working in the wake of Katrina to pay their workers less than the prevailing wage.

When questioned by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi over his administration's response to the storm, Bush asked, "What didn't go right?"

He also declared September 16 to be a national day of prayer.

Dick Cheney toured the South. "Go fuck yourself, Mr. Cheney," yelled Ben Marble, a Mississippi physician who lost his home in the hurricane. "Go fuck yourself." Marble was handcuffed and later released.

Republicans promised to probe themselves.

It was revealed that evacuees from the hurricane had been flown to Charleston, West Virginia, where no one expected them, instead of Charleston, South Carolina, where accommodations and doctors were waiting.

Doctors in New Orleans admitted that they had euthanized critically ill patients rather than leaving them to suffer. "Those who had no chance of making it," said an emergency official, "were given a lot of morphine and lain down in a dark place to die."

Bob Denver, best known for his role as the hapless, incompetent, shipwrecked Gilligan, died.

Michael Brown, director of FEMA, was found to have lied on his resume and was removed from the Hurricane Katrina relief effort and sent back to Washington, D.C., to administer FEMA at a national level. "I'm going to go home," he said, "and walk my dog and hug my wife, and maybe get a good Mexican meal and a stiff margarita and a full night's sleep." He later resigned.

FEMA officials asked journalists not to take pictures of dead bodies, and China announced that the death tolls from natural disasters would no longer be classified as state secrets.

Up to 3.7 million gallons of crude oil leaked into the lower Mississippi River.

The Pentagon held a "Freedom Walk." Walkers were forced to register online ahead of time, to march along a fenced-in route, and to listen to Clint Black perform his song "Iraq and Roll."

Saparmurat Niyazov, President for Life of Turkmenistan, declared that a zoo for penguins would be built where the Kara Kum desert begins.

A Brussels woman urinating in a graveyard was crushed to death by a falling gravestone, a woman in India was freed from the outhouse where she had been confined for more than 25 years,and a British man died when he fell into a giant blender.
Dry Drunk Emperor

Here's a very powerful new track from the band TV On the Radio:

Download it free here:

The lyrics to "Dry Drunk Emperor":

baby boy
dieing under hot desert sun,
watch your colors run.

did you believe the lie they told you,
that christ would lead the way
and in a matter of days
hand us victory?

did you buy the bull they sold you,
that the bullets and the bombs
and all the strong arms
would bring home security?

all eyes upon
dry drunk emperor
gold cross cross jock skull and bones
mocking smile,
he's been
standing naked for a while!
get him gone, get him gone, get him gone!!
and bring all the thieves to trial.

end their promise
end their dream
watch it turn to steam
rising to the nose of some cross legged god
gog of magog
end times sort of thing.
oh unmentionable disgrace
shield the childrens faces
as all the monied apes
display unimaginably poor taste
in a scramble for mastery.

atta' boy get em with your gun
till mr. mega ton
tells us when we've won
what we're gonna leave undone.

all eyes upon
dry drunk emperor
gold cross jock skull and bones
mocking smile,
he's been
naked for a while.
get him gone, get him gone, get him gone!!!
and bring all his thieves to trial.

what if all the fathers and the sons
went marching with their guns
drawn on washington.
that would seal the deal,
show if it was real,
this supposed freedom.

what if all the bleeding hearts
took it on themselves
to make a brand new start.
organs pumpin on their sleeves,
paint murals on the white house
feed the leaders L.S.D
grab your fife and drum,
grab your gold baton
and let's meet on the lawn,
shut down this hypocrisy.
Like Mother, Like Son
"What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas."

"Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality."

"And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them."
-- Barbara Bush, on visiting the Houston Astrodome and seeing the thousands left homeless by Hurricane Katrina

I'm reminded of another clueless, insensitive, out-of-touch remark that Barbara Bush made last year about US casualties in Iraq.

Yep, Bill Maher got it right last Friday when he said, "The whole thing with the Bush people, they just can't imagine, 'Why don't you just pack up your Range Rover? Grab a case of Poland Spring Water out of the garage and go to your summer home. What's the problem?'"
Thank God for the (Journalist) Republicans!
Part 10 in a Series

David Brooks is a conservative Republican who often spars with liberal pundits on talk shows. He's a conservative, albeit more rational and measured than many, who admits without any apologies that he supports Bush's politics more than not. Here is what Brooks had to say to Jim Lehrer about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on The Newshour last Friday.
JIM LEHRER: David you said in a column this week that natural disasters, like Hurricane Katrina, exposed the basic fault lines in American society. Your thesis, please sir?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, what you get is you get these meteorological storms and then these political storms because in the moments of extremis people see who's up and who's down, who's at fault and who is suffering. So, for example in 1897 there was the famous Johnstown Flood, a pond owned by millionaires including Andrew Carnegie flooded the town of Johnstown. The public anger over that helped spawn the Progressive Movement.

Then in 1927 you had the great Mississippi Flood, which flooded New Orleans. And there you have first of all, you had great demand for the government to get involved in disaster relief which had not happened much before then. And that helped lead the way to the New Deal. You also had the situation where the town fathers flooded some of the poorer and middle class areas to relieve some of the pressure on the rest of the city and then reneged on their promises for compensation for the people who had their homes destroyed. The anger over that, helped lead to the rise of Huey Long, the populist governor.

So what you get is this moments of extremists, people see the power inequalities, the poor suffering, the rich benefiting and then they react. And so you get these political reactions.

JIM LEHRER: And okay, now, move it to Hurricane Katrina and what we are seeing down there now.

DAVID BROOKS: I think it is a huge reaction we are about to see. I mean, first of all, they violated the social fabric, which is in the moments of crisis you take care of the poor first. That didn't happen; it's like leaving wounded on the battlefield.

So there is just -- in 9/11 you had a great surge of public confidence. Now I think we are going to see a great decline in public confidence in our institutions. And so I just think this is sort of the anti-9/11 as one of the bloggers wrote.

JIM LEHRER: And you think, David, they will think about them, not just about those folks in New Orleans but the whole country now? You think that's a possibility that this has exposed more than just New Orleans?

DAVID BROOKS: This is -- first of all it is a national humiliation to see bodies floating in a river for five days in a major American city. But second, you have to remember, this was really a de-legitimization of institutions.

Our institutions completely failed us and it is not as if it is the first in the past three years -- this follows Abu Ghraib, the failure of planning in Iraq, the intelligence failures, the corporate scandals, the media scandals.

We have had over the past four or five years a whole series of scandals that soured the public mood. You've seen a rise in feeling the country is headed in the wrong direction.

And I think this is the biggest one and the bursting one, and I must say personally it is the one that really says hey, it feels like the 70s now where you really have a loss of faith in institutions. Let's get out of this mess. And I really think this is so important as a cultural moment, like the blackouts of 1977, just people are sick of it.

DAVID BROOKS: First of all, I'm hesitant to judge the government because a week ago I couldn't have picked Michael Brown out of a lineup.


DAVID BROOKS: But to reiterate the point I made earlier, which is this is the anti-9/11, just in terms of public confidence, when 9/11 happened Giuliani was right there and just as a public presence, forceful -- no public presence like that now. So you have had a surge of strength, people felt good about the country even though we had been hit on 9/11.

Now we've been hit again in a different way; people feel lousy; people feel ashamed and part of that is because of the public presentation. In part that is because of the failure of Bush to understand immediately the shame people felt.

Sitting up there on the airplane and looking out the window was terrible. And the three days of doing nothing, really, on Bush was terrible. And even today, I found myself, as you know, I support his politics quite often.


DAVID BROOKS: Look at him today earlier in the program, this is how Mark Shields must feel looking at him, I'm angry at the guy and maybe it will pass for me. But a lot of people and a lot of Republicans are furious right now.

DAVID BROOKS: The other issue is why are there so many poor people in New Orleans, why is Raleigh booming, why is Houston booming, why is Atlanta booming but New Orleans has not boomed? And in part, it's because of the corruption of the government that has been part of the charming New Orleans for decades.
With Qualifications Like These, No Wonder New Orleans Is A Disaster

CNN's Soledad O'Brien asked FEMA chief Mike Brown about his agency's response to the catastrophe in New Orleans and was astonished to learn that FEMA found out that the Superdome was being used as a shelter from watching the news, and that wasn't until last Thursday. So what exactly did Mike Brown do before joining the Bush Administration to justify his appointment?
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.

The agency, run by Brown since 2003, is now at the center of a growing fury over the handling of the New Orleans disaster.

"I look at FEMA and I shake my head,'' said a furious Gov. Mitt Romney yesterday, calling the response "an embarrassment.''

President Bush, after touring the Big Easy, said he was "not satisfied" with the emergency response to Hurricane Katrina's devastation.

"I'm sure Bush is sitting around today going,
'I was hugging Negroes all day long.
What do you want from me?'"
Bush Cuts Vacation Short; Embarks on Public Relations Campaign