Thursday, September 01, 2005
I’m finding it exceptionally difficult to grasp the magnitude of the disaster in the Gulf Coast. Quite apart from the initial damage and the post-hurricane flooding, the homelessness and starvation, the horrors of the Superdome and the stupefying ineptitude of the Dauphin, there’s the question of what will happen over the next few months as all that water sloshes around with all those nasty pathogens. I mean, it’s not like we have a health care system for poor people, now.
Two mass-media things jumped out at me yesterday after I completed my Secret Mission in northern Virginia. One was USA Today, which I picked up as I left my hotel, and whose headlines, throughout the first two sections, amounted basically to one large composite headline, USA: Y’ALL ARE SCREWED. Amidst all the Katrina coverage, there were two magazine-length essays on what amounts to the collapse of our health care system for anyone who’s not affected by the repeal of the estate tax; I found it hard to believe I was reading the McPaper, which, back in the day, I used to rely on for 800-word stories and graphics like “USA Brighter, Happier than Sweden and El Salvador.” Apparently USA Today is running a three-day series on health care; it began here, continued here, and today’s installment features six separate stories, starting with this one on the cost of asthma medication. (Jamie is the only person in our family who does not have asthma; the rest of us are basically Flonase-Vanceril Center.) The health care crisis, multiplied by Katrina, looks to me more or less like the looming oil crisis multiplied by Katrina: bad, worse, worst. No doubt Republicans will propose a tax cut to respond to all this.
Speaking of Republicans, the other thing was the palpable desperation of Christian-Stalinist Radio, whose apparatchiks were flailing all day trying to insist that Bush’s response to the crisis in the Gulf Coast was full of compassionated concern. Three or four times as I drove back to Pennsylvania I heard right-wing radio “reporters” “report” that the President looked out the window of Air Force One from a distance of only a few thousand feet and remarked repeatedly about the devastation. Now there’s a leader, these reports said. After only a couple of days, he went and looked out the window. As for me, I shudder to think what his remarks might have been—most likely bon mots along the line of his initial 9/11 response, “there’s one terrible pilot.” But I expect we’ll be hearing a lot along these lines in the coming days, about how moved and tearful the Commander in Chief is. There will be no accounts of Dear Leader playing the guitar or riding his bicycle or clearing brush or flying to San Diego to preen and liken himself to FDR. People who insist that Bush actually spent his time in this way as the hurricane bore down on the coast will be detained indefinitely for questioning. And then in a few months, there will be a TV movie, Katrina: Time of Crisis, in which Timothy Bottoms demands to leave Crawford at once, snarling, “If some tinhorn hurricane wants me, tell it to come and get me!”
In the meantime, let’s check in on the Bizarro Gulf Coast, where a huge hurricane has left tens of thousands of well-to-do white people homeless. In response to the crisis in the Bizarro Gulf World,
– C-5, C-17, and C-130 transport planes are flown repeatedly to the Bizarro New Orleans airport in order to evacuate refugees. Some fool suggests sending fleets of buses to take well-to-do white people to a stadium in Texas, and is immediately fired.
– Bizarro news services report on how some intrepid well-to-do white people are “finding” food and drink in shuttered and battered stores.
– Bizarro Jonah Goldberg demands that we speak of the starving and desperate refugees with respect.
There’s more heartbreaking, infuriating info on what should have been done, or would have been done under any competent national leadership, from Will Bunch at Editor and Publisher. And a comprehensive list of disaster-relief organizations, compiled by Barry Ritholtz at the Big Picture. Give what you can, and then do it again.