Thursday, September 01, 2005

the place where the bible belt came unbuckled

The situation in New Orleans continues to escalate from the disasterous to the obscene. Things are getting no better. In fact, they're getting worse. First I wake up to an article in the Guardian by Howell Raines, the former editor of the New York Times, who paints a picture of New Orleans, as "a golden bowl of memories, both sacred and profane", before damning the appalling inaction of both local politicians and the US government in the face of a crisis which needed dealing with quickly. There seems something slightly crass about using a disaster such as this as a platform for denouncing Bush, but Raines argues that every disaster has a political dimension. In this instance, he concludes:

"The church-going cultural populism of George Bush has given the United States an administration that worries about the house of Saud and the welfare of oil companies while the poor drown in their attics and their sons and daughters die on foreign deserts."

Since I read that, things have just got worse; to articulate the spiralling chaos, I'll turn to Krishnan Guru-Murthy's message in tonight's snowmail (a daily email from team behind the Channel 4 news):

"The news out of New Orleans is getting harder to believe every hour. The world's only superpower seems to have lost control of the situation. Thousands of people are still stranded without food, water or medicine. Tens of thousands more homeless.

Lawlessness is spreading around the city with police and national guard trying to control things but ambulances and rescue helicopters have been shot at by armed thugs. Those stranded at centres like the sports stadium are in appalling conditions with grim sanitation and supplies. There are attempts to get a few thousand people a day out of the city as the Mayor has ordered the forced evacuation of everyone, but it is pitifully slow and the people have little or nothing to go to. As for the bodies - there is still no reliable estimate of those dead. But now the Mayor and a senator have put it in the thousands.

People are starting to ask whether or not the warning and evacuation was mishandled. If people are being forced to leave now then why not at the weekend before Katrina struck? And there are increasing voices emerging about the warnings that were ignored.

Federal funds were denied to strengthen the levees. Was America so obsessed with fighting terror that it forgot what homeland security really means? And does the demographic breakdown of those worst hit - predominantly poor and black have anything to do with how little was done to help them?"



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