After being reminded of the terrible devastation wrought by hurricane Katrina this past week, seeing the National Hurricane Center predicting this path for Ernesto made my stomach a little queasy. A year ago, hurricane Katrina skimmed past south Florida and killed about a dozen people on its way to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.
Because the path of any hurricane is difficult to determine accurately, those growing circles on the map above represent the possible path as time goes on. The weather experts have names for this, such as a 3-day cone or a 5-day cone. Either way, if you happen to live in the cone representing the possible path of a hurricane, it's just the Awww Crap cone.
First, some good news.
Blogdrive has survived its own digital storm and is back online. The Blogdrive team will likely post some details of the nature of the problem they had to overcome in their news update blog, and also in other areas around Blogdrive to let people know the status of things, perhaps. I am sure of one thing -- these people worked 24/7 over the last few days to find ways to restore service to all of us -- despite the fact that part of the problem was beyond their control.
There is a general feeling that the Bush administration failed to respond to the disaster adequately or in a timely manner. Some blame the newly formed Department of Homeland Security, some blame FEMA's leader at the time, some blame the state and city government, and some blame racism for the catastrosphe of hurricane Katrina. Republicans and Democrats each have their own favorite scapegoats.
The people that often wish to pin the majority of the blame on the Bush/Cheney administration say things like, "Bush is incompetent." They miss the point entirely, and until they figure out there is a deeper cause to the Bush administration's actions -- beyond some incompetence -- they'll never understand, let alone solve some of the basic problems the country faced during the aftermath of Katrina or in any other important and vital social issue in the country.
It's Bush/Cheney ideology, stupid.
The Bush/Cheney administration likes to use the word ideology with regard to their Global War on Terror. After seeing a C-SPAN BookTV presentation by Berkeley linguistics professor George Lakoff on his new book "Whose Freedom?" -- I was intrigued enough to go look for a few articles he has written.
In June, Lakoff wrote "George Bush is not incompetent" for the Huffington Post. The basic linguistic and political breakdown of the core differences between the conservative and progressive mindsets explored more deeply in his book are echoed in the article and should be instructive to understand why the Bush/Cheney administration acted as it did a year ago in response to Katrina.
Conservative philosophy has three fundamental tenets: individual initiative, that is, government's positive role in people's lives outside of the military and police should be minimized; the President is the moral authority; and free markets are enough to foster freedom and opportunity.
The conservative vision for government is to shrink it - to "starve the beast" in Conservative Grover Norquist's words. The conservative tagline for this rationale is that "you can spend your money better than the government can." Social programs are considered unnecessary or "discretionary" since the primary role of government is to defend the country's border and police its interior. Stewardship of the commons, such as allocation of healthcare or energy policy, is left to people's own initiative within the free market. Where profits cannot be made -- conservation, healthcare for the poor -- charity is meant to replace justice and the government should not be involved.
Given this philosophy, then, is it any wonder that the government wasn't there for the residents of Louisiana and Mississippi in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina? Conservative philosophy places emphasis on the individual acting alone, independent of anything the government could provide. Some conservative Sunday morning talk show guests suggested that those who chose to live in New Orleans accepted the risk of a devastating hurricane, the implication being that they thus forfeited any entitlement to government assistance. If the people of New Orleans suffered, it was because of their own actions, their own choices and their own lack of preparedness. Bush couldn't have failed if he bore no responsibility.
The response to Hurricane Katrina -- rather, the lack of response -- was what one should expect from a philosophy that espouses that the government can have no positive role in its citizen's lives. This response was not about Bush's incompetence, it was a conservative, shrink-government response to a natural disaster.
Lakoff's article bullet-points many areas of Bush/Cheney non-incompetence, from Iraq to Katrina. Give it a read.
Why this basic concept is important to understand.
By portraying Bush as the bumbling idiot, the real problem is overlooked with the way our government has been evolving over the last decade -- Bush is just the icing on the cake. The 2006 elections are coming up soon. If you need a reason to vote some of these Congress-critters out of office, listen to Lakoff's summary:
Incompetence obscures the real issue. Conservatism itself is the villain that is harming our people, destroying our environment, and weakening our nation. Conservatives are undermining American values through legislation almost every day. This message applies to every conservative bill proposed to Congress. The issue that arises every day is which philosophy of governing should shape our country. It is the issue of our times. Unless conservative philosophy itself is discredited, Conservatives will continue their domination of public discourse, and with it, will continue their domination of politics.
Had enough Bush/Cheney compassionate conservatism yet?
Once again this week, Stuart Carlson boils down another national political issue into a concise editorial cartoon. With the troubling Hurricane Katrina anniversary, the celebratory Rovian spinmeisters are staging events all this week to repair the damage to the Bush administration's image. Some political observers note that the dismal Bushworld response to hurricane Katrina was a major cause of the freefall of Bush's job approval ratings in public opinion polls.
Knowing this, an advance team of GOP public relations experts has hand-picked the venues and even the people in attendance at those presidential appearances in which the president will read from artfully-crafted speeches and seem folksie, grateful, and optimistic. These are the videobytes that will be played over and over on local TV news, manufacturing consent, until the next grim anniversary arrives on September 11th.
There has been some progess in the Gulf states hit by Katrina in the last year, but there is still much to be desired by hundreds of thousands of affected residents. Don't expect Dubya to get too specific about the shortfalls — reporting fair and balanced news isn't part of his job description. Instead, expect the president to speak of a few individuals that support his administration doing everything right in the face of adversity. Perhaps historians will comment how truth evades this administration someday in the future.
I do have a few more political observations to make concerning this, but I think I shall save them for later this week, after my immediate concerns about Tropical Storm/Hurricane Ernesto has passed. In the meantime, check out one of the latest flash videos about Katrina from Ava Lowery, the 15-year-old peace activist.
Click on the STS-115 crew member's name (above) to read their pre-flight interviews. There are some candid photos of the astronauts taken during their training. The astronauts describe their motivation to become an astronaut, and their background, hometown, and early education. They also explain their individual mission objectives and why they feel space exploration is important.
The previous shuttle mission, STS-121, launched on July 4th with Discovery and was dubbed "Return to Flight." If I had to coin a phrase for STS-115, I would go with "Return to Construction" because this is the first mission since the Columbia accident 2½ years ago that will resume the construction of the International Space Station.
The Atlantis shuttle payload includes the 17-ton P3/P4 truss segments with solar panel arrays that will double the power available for the ISS. The 6 Atlantis crew members will meet up with the 3-man ISS crew during their 11-day mission. The nine astronauts on ISS will represent Russia, Germany, and Canada — in addition to the six Americans.
All nine astronauts will be extremely busy while on the ISS. Three EVAs or space walks are scheduled, each with two astronauts each. During these space walks, other astronauts will be operating the shuttle and station robotic arms in order to move the massive truss segments from the shuttle to their place on station. Once the trusses are securely in place, a dramatic deployment of the solar arrays will occur, spreading outwards almost 240 feet.
The next two years will be a very busy and intense construction schedule for the International Space Station and every space agency around the world, in part making up for lost time. People interested in space exploration, science and even international cooperation will have much to see and observe as the ISS moves toward completion.
Watch the Atlantis launch on the web via Nasa TV. That's what I'm doing.
"You shouldn't believe what I say is true. Nobody is going to pour truth into your brain. It's something you have to find out for yourself." -- Noam Chomsky
"I think we'd all be better off turning off the television once in a while, abstaining from the fast-food media propaganda being shovelled into our brains for a day or so, and taking that time to get to know someone better." -- John Furie Zacharias
Earlier this month, I got very riled up over the fear-mongering and paranoia being spread in the U.S. by the Bush administration. There has been a clear and established pattern of using fear and propaganda for political purposes by this administration in the past. With the upcoming elections drawing nearer every day, president Bush recently advised his fellow Republicons, "If I were facing an election, I would stress the economy and security."
While Frank Rich may think that our fellow citizens are finally wise to this Rovian game and won't have it any longer — stating, "the era of Americans' fearing fear itself is over" — I'm not entirely convinced this is true. Furthermore, the trickle-down effect I complained about doesn't seem to be stopping by any means.
Take the specific and recent example concerning the two Dearborn college students, Ali Houssaiky and Osama Abulhassan, being charged with terrorist-related felony crimes in Ohio. I said, "The specific facts about these college students will likely be that they were trying to make some Summer cash," despite the widespread media fear-mongering and outright racist hate speech by Michelle Malkin and Debbie Schlussel on their well-funded uber-blogs.
The Detroit Free Press newspaper, aka The Freep, reported several days later that the charges had been dropped for lack of evidence and the two had been released to go home to their families. I strongly encourage you to read this Freep article now, "Terror case has ended, but stigma remains," because older stories are taken offline and placed into a per-per-view archive.
Do you remember "Driving while Black?" The real stigma about which the Freep insuates is being an Arab or Muslim in the U.S. and therefore, branded a terrorist. One of the college students, Osama Abulhasan summed it up this way on the day of his release from the Ohio jail:
We were both born here in the United States. We are truly Americans in every sense and we are proud of our heritage.
I'm only asking that we be afforded the same rights and protections as our fellow Americans. There is no justification for treating us as second class citizens.
There seemed to be no presumption of innocence regarding the baseless charges that were brought forth. We were nowhere near being placed on trial, yet we were so readily associated with guilt and wrongdoing. Our reputations were tarnished, our names blackened and our families left to suffer without any justification.
I would hope that police, prosecutors and other law enforcement agencies exhibit a higher sense of responsibility in carrying out the crucial functions that they serve.
I would also hope that the media [would be] more responsible when reporting occurrences such as this one. Instead of sensationalizing these events and causing fear and mass hysteria, the media should be more vigilant and careful when reporting the news.
If you wish to understand some of the growing disappointment and anguish the Arab and Muslim populations are continuing to face, you need only imagine yourself in their place. Pretend for a minute that you are one of the college students. To add to the injury of being tossed into jail, you have to live with the hateful insults from the likes of Michelle Malkin and Debbie Schlussel. Googling your own name places these two hateful bigots at the top of the search results.
Unfortunately, neither the U.S. media nor law enforcement has an exactly stellar record in responsibility lately. From the very top of the federal government down to the state and local level, and even down to the private security personnel, an atmosphere of paranoia is pervasive.
Yesterday, he gave an interview to Democracy Now describing how he was harassed and stopped from boarding his airline flight for simply wearing a T-shirt that said "We will not be silent" in English and Arabic. Airport personnel told him that wearing a shirt with Arabic letters was like wearing a T-shirt that said, "I am a robber" into a bank.
Is this the kind of country we want to live in -- falling prey to fear and paranoia?