Bush Fiddles While Rome Burns

Judith Moriarty
It was 2:00 am and I couldn't sleep. The house was quiet as I stood at the screen door taking in the whisper of the trees [they only talk at night], the smells of a brief summer shower, and the sounds of crickets singing peace on earth. I stood there in the dark and I cried.
In the hush of a New England summer night, all seemed well with the world. New Orleans and the devastation of the Gulf States seemed to exist outside of time. I cried because I couldn't get the imagery out of my mind of the suffering humanity in the South. I had just finished reading, The Times Picayune, and going through their galley of photographs, of the tragedy in New Orleans [not shown on news].  On Aug 31, 2005, it was reported: "At 91 years old, Booker Harris ended his days propped on a lawn chair, covered by a yellow quilt and abandoned, dead, in front of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. "
"Mr. Harris died in the back of a Ryder panel truck, as he and his 93-year-old wife, Allie, were evacuated from eastern New Orleans. The truck's driver deposited [like garbage] Allie and her husband's body on the Convention Center Boulevard. And there it remained. With so much need and so few resources, [in Super Power, U.S.A.] the weakest and frailest were bound to suffer the most. Seated next to her husband's body, 93 year old Allie Harris munched on crackers, seemingly unaware of all the tragedy unfolding around her."  I cried thinking of a frail old Black woman munching on crackers with her spouse dead in a lawn chair!
I thought of the other pictures, which showed the elderly, and wheelchair bound nursing home patients, left on an over-pass in the baking New Orleans sun.  I watched a newscast of a Black woman sobbing inconsolably because her husband had died due to lack of oxygen. Thousands of people are still stranded in attics, on rooftops, and various housing projects throughout the town. Surrounded by water, some of it 20 feet deep, they are screaming and crying to helicopters to HELP THEM. I don't suppose President Bush on his fly-over in Air Force One, [gas-$6,030.00 an hour] back from vacation, could see this?  He wouldn't know that doctors and nurses have been calling into news stations begging for help. They are trapped with their patients in various hospitals, with no water, no electricity and their emergency generators out of gas.  FEMA and the contingency of some 180,000 Homeland Defense personnel will not arrive in time for the many that are dying. Bodies are lying in the streets.
As the levees broke on Tues, Aug 30, 2005, trapping the poor, handicapped, elderly, and youngsters, in an Apocalypse scenario; President Bush was at the Naval Base, in Coronado, California, celebrating V - J Day.  While refugees of, the beaded Mardi Gras, celebrations of old, stood in torrential rains, waiting to enter the Superdome;  President Bush strummed on a guitar,  presented to him at the VJ ceremony by Mark Wills.  I thought of the elderly Harris couple dumped on a New Orleans street, and wondered if he was singing Mark's song, "Wish You Were Here"?  
"Wish you were here, wish you could see this place/Wish you were near, I wish I could touch your face/The weather's nice, in paradise/It's summertime all year and all the folks we know/They say, 'Hello', I miss you so, wish you were here".
I thought of The Times Picayune, article, of June 8th-2004. "For the first time in 37 years, federal budget cuts have all but stopped major work on the New Orleans area's east bank hurricane levees, a complex network of concrete walls, metal gates and giant earthen berms that won't be finished for at least another decade. Mervin Morehier, who manages the 'Lake Pontchartrain and vicinity' levee project for the Army Corps of Engineers, says, 'I can't tell you exactly what that could mean this hurricane season if we get a major storm. It would depend on the path and speed of the storm, the angle that it hits us. But I could tell you we would be better off if the levees were raised..and I think it's important and only fair that those people who live behind the levee know the status of these projects."
"The Bush administration's proposed fiscal 2005 budget includes only $3.9 million for the east bank hurricane project. 'The challenge now, said emergency management chiefs Walter Maestri in Jefferson Parish and Terry Tullier in New Orleans, is for southeast Louisiana somehow to persuade those who control federal spending that protection from major storms and flooding are matters of homeland security'"  
"'It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay,"   Maestri said. "Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us.'  Levee-raising is only part of the flood-related work that has stopped since the federal government began reducing Corps of Engineers appropriations in 2001, as more money was diverted to homeland security, the fight against terrorism and the war in Iraq."
"The New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers bore the brunt of a record $71.2 million reduction in federal funding for fiscal year 2006. The Bush administration has been cutting funding for federal disaster relief funds since 2001. FEMA's Project Impact, a model mitigation program has been cancelled outright. Federal funding of post-disaster mitigation efforts designed to protect people and property from the next disaster has been cut in half. Communities across the country must now compete for pre-disaster mitigation dollars."
"The Bush administration's move to merge FEMA [not being told by the media jm], with Homeland Security meant that the two had to compete for funding.  Much of the Netherlands lies below sea level and after the 1953 flood which killed 1,800 people; the Dutch launched a major flood prevention program called the Delta Plan. Engineers fortified dykes and bolstered other water defenses against a future disaster and there hasn't been one since."  Paul Joseph Watson
"Patricia McDonald Gomez of Aunt Sally's Original Creole Pralines said, 'You're almost fatalistic. Living in a soup bowl will do it to you, like Romans dancing while Nero fiddled and the city burned'  How do you rebuild the city of Stella, Blanche and Stanley, the city that to William Faulkner was the 'labyrinthine mass of oleander and jasmine, lantana and mimosa', the city of the Italianate mansions of the Garden District and the teeming housing projects like the one where the streetcar named Desire now arrives---a place that gave America most of its music, much of its literature, a cracked mirror glimpse of America exotica and a fair piece of its soul." New York Times
And today, Sept 1, 2005, the city is imploding, and New Orleans is drowning/burning.  Prisoners [maybe a reason for all the anarchy] were released from local jails. The editor of the Picayune, stated last night on the news, that five levees are broken. Looting is widespread with reports that some police have joined in the melee. Dr. Quigley from Memorial Hospital, on the phone to the media last evening stated, "There are no communications in the city between police, fire, and rescue personnel. The hospital is full we've had to turn people away. The poor couldn't leave, nor those in nursing homes, they had no means. Officials have advised citizens to take a boat to the Interstate. These people don't have cars let along boats. New Orleans has now become Haiti" It has also been reported that the police have no transportation, communications, and food or water themselves. One would be better off if they'd careened off a Vermont mountain, into a ditch. At least in a world of GPS they'd be rescued!
The National Guard lost total control of the Superdome, and who can blame them? This was an untenable situation to put these men in. They are soldiers' not trained social or medical workers.  You don't herd [mostly Blacks you might note] into a sports stadium with thousands of; special needs, nursing home patients, group home residents, those with chronic health needs, babies, and those who've lost everything,  and expect a day in the park.  A disaster plan, is not corralling people into arena seats, with the roof ripping off, no water, overflowing toilets, and no electricity! There's bound to be 'trouble in River City', with this explosive mixture of fear-despair-and physical trauma. I note that in this colossal disaster; that the good Reverend Jackson, who always has his mini-rap sermons ready for any occasion, is down in Venezuela being knighted or whatever.  He'll be back after dying time is over; to give his Monday morning quarter-back sermon of how he would have handled things.  I think it's about time the good Reverend [after child support payments],  cough up some of the  Rainbow millions he's extorted from corporate America;  and give it to the poor, hungry, thirsty, sick, and homeless, like the good Word says !  
With the billions, upon billions,  being spent for;  weapons, rockets, missiles, tanks, guns, prison camps, gas, clubs, barbed wire, tsar guns, bunker busters, scanners, ships, planes, spy satellites, fact finding missions to Bermuda, concrete  barriers, cameras, Ninja outfits, obscene political pensions/full health care,  fleets of SUVs, [armored-unlike Iraq vehicles], a Foggy Bottom Visitor's Center, exorbitant salaries, et al;  one would think that somewhere in all this,  someone might have thought about protecting the citizens [one of the few real jobs of government-duh].  And now we have anarchy because of; ineptness, stupidity and a legion of bureaucrats with their dumb ass volumes of policies, procedures and agendas!
I'm not sure what more it will take to awaken people from their entrenched allegiance to an elephant and a jackass? The Democrats are just as useless as the Republicans, like tits on a bull. They're all slopping around in the public trough, grabbing what they can, for them and theirs, and piss on the people----! This section of the country; Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama are amongst the poorest in the nation.   Gosh-just everyone can't be a blackjack dealer, in a Mississippi riverboat casino. The shacks in the shadows of these temples of greed are destroyed. God help the poor here [like New Orleans], who wanted to leave and begged store owners for gas money [to no avail]. Moral being: Mandatory or not if you're poor you die. A life lost for want of a tank of gas. One would think, that the corporate oil hucksters,  who've realized BILLIONS in profits these past few years, plus BILLIONS in subsidies,  might have given these folks FREE a patriotic gesture mind you. No matter now.they're buried somewhere in the rubble.
"Great Babylon is come up before me", shuddered Andrew Jackson's wife Rachel upon encountering New Orleans a century and a half ago. "Oh, the wickedness, the idolatry of this place."



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