The City That Care Bush Forgot

President Bush looks out the window of Air Force One inspecting damage from Hurricane Katrina while flying over New Orleans en route back to the White House, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2005. AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Even if you don’t think George W. Bush deserves blame for cutting federal funds allocated to reinforce and repair levees that may or may not have prevented the inundation of New Orleans, how does his response pre- and post-disaster measure up?

What if, for instance, there had been no storm but instead rumors of a terrorist plot to blow holes into New Orleans levees had reached the ears of federal officials last weekend? Would the terror alert level have been elevated? Is that all the administration would have done? Would Bush have hunkered down on his ranch, gone back to Washington, or continued his campaign against Social Security? Would that have been an appropriate response to the imminent devastation of a city of one-and-a-half million people, the possible deaths of hundreds or thousands of people, and the economic nightmare to follow? The greater New Orleans area had a civilian work force of over 600,000; anything that was a threat to the livelihoods of that many people should have been of some concern.

Then, in the face of an actual disaster, he wasn’t exactly quick to leap into action. He’s spent two days trying to tie his Iraq war onto the coattails of World War II and to foist off his dead dog of a Social Security plan, when the destruction of New Orleans, Biloxi, and much of the Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana coastal regions is going to be exceeded on his watch as an economic catastrophe only by the Iraq war.

If anyone’s wondering what to expect when terrorists strike the US again, your answer’s in the photos above and below.

President Bush pauses after having a look from the window of Air Force One of the damage to New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina. AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Memory of New Orleans

We haven’t had the opportunity to do nearly as much traveling as we’d have liked to over the years, so I try to make the most of it when I have to go somewhere for a conference and combine it with some tourism. One of the places that was on Barbara’s list for a long while was New Orleans.

Neither of us had ever been to the South (apart from a fly-though of the Atlanta airport and a 16-hour speaking stopover I made in Huntsville a few years back). I’d been promising a family member in Tallahassee a visit for years. Plans kept falling through, though, until Macromedia scheduled its yearly conference in New Orleans for just after Halloween last year.

Finally, things started to fall into place. I planned flights into Tallahassee, a convertible rental to New Orleans, and — in our typical fashion — looked for a condo or other accommodations where we could cook meals.

I found a nice, inexpensive apartment near the French Quarter, but the rental agency had trouble getting hold of the owners. I let that situation go on for a little longer than I should have, but eventually gave up and booked a more hotel-like room with kitchenette.

Then, in September, Hurricane Ivan formed and headed for the Gulf Coast. Concerns that the levees would be breached by the storm surge if Ivan hit New Orleans directly were voiced by New Orleans emergency manager Walter Maestri, who was said by The Washington Post to have 10,000 body bags ready in case a major hurricane ever hits New Orleans. Ivan’s eye veered east of the city, doing its worst in Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi instead. The hotel I’d picked was under renovation at the time, however, and the booking agency sent me a message in early October that emergency work in the areas affected by the story was affecting non-essential construction work, so the hotel wouldn’t reopen until after the conference. So I took what I could find at the last minute, which ended up being a room in a renovated coffee warehouse on Tchoupitoulas with windows onto the hallway.

That said, the trip was remarkable. After spending time with my cousin and her family, we drove along the Florida Panhandle coast into increasing signs of Ivan’s work. When we hit the overpasses of I110 in Pensacola, we could see blue tarps on the roof of nearly every house. The medians of the streets had debris, appliances, and garbage piled high as people cleaned out their water-damaged houses.

That was behind us by the time we got to New Orleans, which had survived another close call. And despite late October temperatures near 90 degrees that even New Orleaneans were complaining about, we had a fantastic time. We sat and watched the river traffic, we spent hours exploring Metarie Cemetery and riding the trolleys, walking through the French Quarter, and people-watching.

On Saturday, the night before Halloween, we wandered through the Quarter and ended up at a bar called The Abbey, where we offered space at our booth to a couple as the place — fairly small — began to fill up. It being the French Quarter and the day before Halloween, she was dressed as a nurse and he was dressed as Harry Potter. We got to talking, then Andrew and Monique invited us home for dinner the next afternoon, before they took their daughter to the zoo. Andrew had forty pounds of shrimp for a broil and fry, he did up some onion rings, it was fantastic. That gesture and meal will be my memory of the city and people of New Orleans.

Hard Work

George McGovern, from his 1972 presidential campaign commercial “Change”:

McGOVERN: He’s continuing the bombing not to get our men out of prison but to keep General Thieu in power. And that’s a price I’m not willing to pay. Let me just add one thing. One of the great problems that we’ve had in the leadership of this country is that we have had too many people that were unwilling to change their mind when they got new evidence. They, they were afraid they’d lose face and so they wouldn’t change. Now, I think we need a president who isn’t afraid to say, “I’m gonna change my mind. I made a mistake.” And sometimes you ought to be able to say to the people, “This is not going to be popular, but this is what we’re gonna have to do to save our country.”

You have to make those hard decisions.

More Hurricane Hilarity at NRO

Rich Lowry at NRO’s “The Corner” defends Jonah Goldberg’s stupid remarks about the people riding out Hurricane Katrina in the Superdome:

SUPERDOME [Rich Lowry]
Personally, I thought the Jonah Superdome riff was funny and clearly was poking fun at the media frenzy around Katrina at a time when it seemed especially over-blown.

“Over-blown.” Pretty funny. Of course, it’s always funny when hurricanes blow ashore. What could possibly happen?

Matt Yglesias Plays With Dominos

Matt Yglesias (mentioned in another fantastic post by Digby) claims that Vietnam proved that the “domino theory” was correct. Perhaps he ought to get out his history books and brush up.

He hinges his post on the statement that “Pro-Soviet regimes took over not only South Vietnam, but Laos, Cambodia, and Burma.”

Laos and Cambodia were both destabilized as a result of the lengthy Vietnam War.

Both American and Vietnamese forces entered landlocked Laos. It was ripe for picking off by the Chinese or the Vietnamese by the time the war in Vietnam ended. The Vietnamese nationalists had sponsored the Pathet Lao against the French colonial occupation since the 1950s.

Cambodia was so brutalized by its fate in the war that its monarchy fell to the Khmer Rouge, who were Chinese-influenced. The Vietnamese were able to extend their influence into that country by invading and installing their own regime.

Even after the devastation of forty years of war, Vietnam’s population was several times larger than Cambodia or Laos combined, something that made it easier for them to dominate the other countries.

Myanmar/Burma was ruled from 1962 by a military dictator. He didn’t leave power until 1988. Myanmar is still under military rule.

So what are we left with for the Southeast Asian domino theory? Two countries with small populations that neighbored Vietnam, were directly involved in the conflict, and whose governments were in disarray because of their involvement with the war, were invaded by their more populous neighbor. The third country in the example was ruled by the same person for 13 years before and 13 years after the fall of Saigon, and his former subordinates still run the country.

When you base a theory on faulty information, the whole thing collapses like a house of cards. Or perhaps dominos.

Yeeeah, Baby!

The International Game Developers Association announced something that should knock those of you one the fence about joining one way or the other in their latest email newsletter: the Sex SIG!

The Sex SIG will serve as a source for related industry news and will provide an online discussion forum and mailing list to promote developer interaction. The group is also working on several initiatives to fortify adult content representation, including conference lectures and white papers outlining responsible development practices and how to promote appropriate access to content.

Moog Music

ARP 2600 synthesizer

A generation ago at Lane Community College, I took a class in electronic music during what the end of the pre-digital ega. Not being a particularly gifted musician and even less talented as a composer, I didn’t contribute much to the world of synthrock. Like many others, however, I was intrigued by the sounds of synthesizers. My only contribution? A John Carpenter-inspired theme for the soundtrack of my parody script Escape from Eugene (in which Eugene, Oregon had been converted into an asylum by surrounding it with a forty foot rubber wall).

LCC provided us with an ARP 2600 — a thing of patch cables and knobs that could emit some unearthly squeals — but I remember that I wanted to be working on one of the real machines. One of the machines named for the man who was literally synonomous with the word synthesizer: Bob Moog.

Rest in peace, Mr. Moog.

Dr. K Injects Himself Into the Debate

Via First Draft, an article on IrelandOnline has Henry Kissinger expressing concern about the division of public opinion over the Iraq War, comparing it to Vietnam. If anyone’s qualified to make Vietnam War analogies, I guess you’d have to put Kissinger right up there.

What drew my attention was this quote:

If a radical government emerges in Baghdad or if any part of Iraq becomes what Afghanistan used to be, a training ground for terrorists, then this will be a catastrophe for the Islamic world and for Europe… reluctant as they may be to admit it, and eventually for us.

I’m trying to figure out what “reluctant … to admit it” means. I thought Europe and the Islamic world were concerned before the war started that it would be a catastrophe. Isn’t that why they were against it?

Doomed to Failure

For those of us with one foot (or maybe just a toe) in the gaming world, there’s an interesting Morning Edition story today about John Romero and Daikatana, the game he did after Doom and id software. More evidence, though, of the jittery broadcasting climate: they bleeped the word “bitch” from one of the game’s marketing slogans on the broadcast I heard.