Last Sunday all the TV news channels were showing footage of people - just about all of them black, mind you - lining up in New Orleans. Authorities had told them if they couldn't find any other means, they could proceed to a closed-roof football stadium to wait out a hurricane that was forecast to flood the city and do immense damage.
They were told to bring five-days' worth of whatever medicines and other things they needed. Some of them looked bemused, like they figured they may as well make the best of it. So off they went to a dome that was dubbed "Super".
What can you do about the weather, right? Might as well go. The last outbound Greyhound buses had already left the city. The remainder of regularly-scheduled routes had been allowed to be cancelled in that good 'ol U.S.A. free-market society. These were people with no cars, and no money for a plane ticket or accomodations away from their homes.
A little background here: I (and just about everbody) survived the 1998 ice storm during some very cold days with no power, no drinkable water, and no heat.
I remember the first day of it, trying to pass my driver's test in the freezing rain (the pencil-pushing examiner cut me no slack and failed me). I was mad at the weather for screwing up my test, and totally oblivious to how bad it was going to get. We all were. We didn't know the stuff wasn't going to stop coming down for days. The weather forecasters weren't able to see it coming. Then it got bad when all the electrical transmission towers starting crashing down under the weight of all that ice.
It was damned scary for all of us, but in the end the disaster was mostly an economic one. Only a handful died, and most deaths were the result of self-administered suffocations, caused by the naïve use of gas cookers in unventilated homes. The downtown was closed for a few days due to the risk of mammoth icicles crashing down from tall buildings. The army came in and helped out.
After a week or so, the power and water supply was mostly restored in the city of Montreal. Some rural areas meanwhile had to wait about six long cold weeks. Eventually, we all bounced back. Our trees and roofs are still recovering however.
But back to New Orleans: who in their right mind could concoct the idea of leaving people to suffer up to five hot summer days in a closed stadium with tens of thousands of others (who can't shower either), with no air conditioning, all the septic system overflowing due to the flood-water backing up, and nothing to eat but crappy MRE pre-packaged meals that are probably designed to survive a direct nuclear hit?
(Oh, they knew what was likely coming. I read the alerts issued by the U.S. National Hurricane Center on Sunday evening. The warnings were unequivocable. The authors' sense of urgency could not be missed. They warned of levees likely being breached and massive flooding that would become a literal soup of toxicity and decay - all of which seems to be well underway.)
Now, with reports that other people rescued from their roofs were brought by the thousands to join the party (the estimates run from 25 to 30,000), the conditions must be getting unspeakable in there.
It conjures up images not unlike the gritty re-enactment of the trans-Atlantic slave-ships depicted in Roots.
In Quebec, I think we would consider it simply inhumane. Maybe it was just a bad decision, or the best of some very limited options. But now that the Authorities have brilliantly concluded that that's no place for people to be, what actions are they taking to ameliorate the situation?
Hey, I know, let's bus 'em all out on a twelve-hour trip to Houston, where they can hang out in the Astrodome! They got power there? Yipper. The toilets all flush? Mmmm...mostly. Hot damn! Somebody call Greyhound!!
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Meanwhile, Bushco has decided to let the oil refineries off the hook from removing sulphur from the gasoline they produce. (You will recall that this undoes yet another initiative from the days of GWH Bush, to staunch a main cause of sulphur-dioxide emissions, which creates acid rain.) All in the guise of getting more gas out to the pumps quicker:
The U.S. Environmental Protection agency said it's suspending summertime anti-pollution measures that force refiners to cut sulphur levels and lower fuel volatility. U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said that will boost the efficiency of refiners and allow earlier release of stockpiled winter fuels.
Whatever you say, Bushco. I bet those corporations are feeling just terrible about this new relaxing of the pollution standards. Just terrible.
Update: Sept.1, 07h15 Bush is being interviewed right now by Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America. When asked if he was satisfied with the speed of response in getting basic essentials to the people who need them, he could only come up with: "I don't think anybody expected the levee to be breached."
Jerk. If he doesn't smarten up soon, people are going to turn on him and in a big way.
NOTE: Cross-posting this as a diary on Daily Kos