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KATRINA CREEP (PART 2)! Today, we’ll try to speak so slowly that even professors can follow: // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2005

WE ALMOST FORGOT: Also amazing this weekend was Cynthia Tucker, editorial page editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She appeared on Sunday’s This Week roundtable. Try to puzzle this out:
TUCKER (9/4/05): I was one of the people who was very angry watching from the safety of my living room and with the New Orleans portion of my family—I have a sister who lives there with her husband and their small daughter—we were all watching it in the safety of my living room but I was furious and disappointed at my government that this looked like Bangladesh or Haiti or somewhere. And if we don't figure out what went wrong, I don't know how we can correct the mistakes that were made and let me also say that I think one of the things we have to focus on is those people who don't have the resources to get out, and I think that all of the officials knew—local, state and national—that there was a significant portion of residents of that area who didn't have the resources and I have to tell you, I was one of the people who was not aware of that. I'm one of those people—I'm middle class. My sister and her husband are middle class. They had the resources to get out and get to me. And I said, “Why didn't those people leave?” and my sister said, “You don't know how many desperately poor people there are in New Orleans.”
Perhaps it’s true—that our lives are merely a joke, a mirage, devised by the gods for their endless amusement. How else to explain that statement by Tucker? Just imagine: You’re the African-American editorial page editor of Atlanta’s biggest newspaper. You constantly appear on national TV, asked your opinions on the issues of the day. And when Katrina slams into New Orleans, you have to wait for your sister to tell you that New Orleans (like your own Atlanta) is full of “desperately poor people”—people who couldn’t afford to flee as Katrina bore down on their city! Faced with a statement like that, can sane people fail to ask if Homer was right? Fail to wonder if our lives are a joke, played on us by the immortals, who sit and laugh from the heights of Olympus at the mockeries they produce in our realm?

Let’s say it again: This well-known African-American editorial page editor didn’t know that New Orleans was full of poor people! And let’s understand this too: Tucker is constantly brought on TV, in panel discussions, to express the progressive viewpoint! But so it goes—so it endlessly goes—in our modern millionaire press corps. In the aftermath of a massive disaster, a millionaire host choppers off with a millionaire senator to see how her family’s summer home fared (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/6/05). On the same show, a “middle class” African-American editor says she didn’t know New Orleans was full of poor people—that she had to wait for her sister to tell her! The entire panel sits and listens, expressing no surprise at her statement. Can any sane person fail to ask if our lives are a joke of the gods?

MORE ON NAGIN: How stupid has our pseudo-liberal discourse become? Because Ray Nagin went on the radio and said loud cuss words while discussing George Bush, we are now supposed to pretend that he’s a brilliant public servant—incapable of error, innocent of flaw. We want to make sure that you know these facts when you hear these brainless discussions. The third fact here is a new one:

It wasn’t evil to support Bush and Jindal—millions of people did. And there’s nothing wrong with being a Republican—millions of people are. But Nagin is a millionaire former cable exec who says he’s a Dem but votes for the Reps. Despite this, all good pseudo-liberals now know to pretend that he is a man without flaw—although it’s obvious that he, like his predecessors, had no plan to protect his city’s poorest.

How stupid has our pseudo-liberal discourse become? Because Ray Nagin cussed at Bush, we all agree to pretend he’s a peach. But then, you can’t get dumber than what we have seen in pseudo-liberal land this past week. How stupid has our pseudo-liberal discourse become? Stupid—deeply, deeply stupid. Just keep reading for further examples.

GOOD REASON TO CRY: In today’s Post, Lisa Rein writes a heartfelt piece about a 6-year-old New Orleans flood evacuee who has now started first grade in Houston (no link available). “Wearing a borrowed navy-blue jumper, white polo shirt and shiny new knapsack that matched the pink sneakers that are her only shoes, Gabrielle Sorina stood inside the front door of Will Rogers Elementary School and cried,” Rein writes. And 6-year-old Gabrielle Sorina has a lot to cry about, despite the hospitality Houston is showing. From context, it is fairly clear that she is one of those “low income” kids we discussed last week (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/29/05). And here is the ugly, startling fact Bob Herbert pulled from that latest new study:

HERBERT (8/29/05): An education task force established by the center and the institute noted the following:

''Young low-income and minority children are more likely to start school without having gained important school readiness skills, such as recognizing letters and counting. By the fourth grade, low-income students read about three grade levels behind non-poor students.

If that study is right, then three years from now, Gabrielle Sorina will be reading “about three grade levels behind” non-poor kids. Yep! After attending school for three years, she’ll be about three years behind.

And make no mistake—the liberal elite walked away from such kids some time around the mid-1970s. Within the next week, we’ll return to the study from which Herbert drew that quote, and we’ll tell you why we were semi-disgusted when we read through it last week. But make no mistake—that 6-year-old child who started first grade had plenty of reason to cry this week. “I don’t know anybody,” Rein quotes her saying. But her future problems go well beyond that. We “liberals” left her kind for dead long ago. This week, we loudly rant at President Bush for committing the sins of our kind. More to follow.

WE’LL TRY TO SPEAK MUCH MORE SLOWLY SO THAT EVEN THE PROFESSORS CAN FOLLOW: Atrios was confused by our post. Poor guy! It was quite hard to follow:

ATRIOS (9/6/05): I'm not sure what Bob Somerby thinks he’s discovered here. It's well known that Bush I's response to Andrew was only slightly less awful than his son's response to Katrina, that in both cases they tried to push the blame onto state/local officials. I think it's a straw man to raise the question of whether FEMA's response was bad by historical standards, as I'm not sure who has been making that claim.
What did we think we’d “discovered” as we raised our puzzling straw man? With lightning speed, we e-mailed Atrios, keeping our recitation so simple that even professors could follow:
E-MAIL: What we discovered: Bush I was inept. Clinton wasn’t. Bush II was also inept.
There! Maybe now, even professors could take in our findings! Of course, we had forgotten to close our post by writing “Fuckers!” Presumably, this had made our presentation too complex.

But then, we have been amazed—and dismayed—in the past week by the screaming stupidity of Atrios’ work. How stupid are parts of the liberal web now becoming? Consider yesterday’s name-calling post about alleged remarks on the Imus program. In a momentary lapse of judgment, Josh Marshall interrupted his week’s superlative work to post a second- or third-hand claim:

MARSHALL (9/6/05): An exchange with a reader:

TPM Reader JS: "Conservative colleague of mine chortling this morning: said he heard on Imus this AM that the reason the poor didn't evacuate from New Orleans before the storm is because they were waiting for their welfare checks. If true, about on par with Barbara Bush. Can it be confirmed?”

Why was this a (momentary) lapse of judgment? Josh went on to “explain” this statement from Imus—a statement he couldn’t even confirm. Note: Neither Josh nor his reader knew what had (or hadn’t) been said on the Imus program. Josh was relying on his reader—and the reader was relying on a “conservative colleague.” Had some such statement actually been made? The reader didn’t know, and Josh didn’t either. For this reason, it would have been wiser if Josh had decided not to post.

And let’s be clear: It would have been better to avoid posting because of people like loud-and-proud Atrios. To state the obvious, Atrios had no way of knowing if any such statement had been made either. But he was eager to take to the ramparts—eager to yell some loud, pleasing names. Linking to Josh’s post (and to nothing else), a fiery professor showcased his fervor:

ATRIOS:
Not Just Welfare

All the laughing at the poor is really funny, especially, you know, the possible 10,000+ dead ones. I'm sure Katrina is bringing out the best in many—donations, volunteering, etc.—but it's shown the political Right to be the heartless racist fucks we always knew they are.

Giggling monsters aside, it isn't just welfare checks that people get early in the month. A large number of social security recipients (anyone who began receiving them before May, 1997) get their payments on the 3rd of the month, though the rest are staggered throughout. And, yes, SSI—welfare for the elderly—payments go out the first.
But, more to the point, as Josh points out, how the fuck could these people leave without their checks? Not everyone has a platinum Amex card like Imus and his buddies.

Sick sick motherfuckers.

You could tell that Atrios was really upset! Instead of closing by writing “Fuckers,” he expanded on his great trademark thought.

But what was wrong with this latest post? Let’s start with the matter of Imus. As it happened, we had taped yesterday’s Imus show from 6:30 to 9 AM—and Imus spent the entire time trashing Bush for his hurricane conduct, repeatedly saying that response had been slow because Bush “doesn’t care about black people enough.” (Today, Imus is being trashed for this on the conservative web.) During the two-and-a-half hours we taped, no one mocked flood victims—quite the contrary. Indeed, Imus is clueless about many things, but it was never likely that he would return from last week’s vacation by mocking poor people who had died in their attics. Did someone say something in his show’s first half-hour? Possibly—we don’t have tape—but any such theme was strangled in the crib. Imus spent the morning in dead-serious mode, as far on the “left” as any major pundit will ever go. But there was our liberal professor, calling Imus and his sick buddies names—based on a third-hand report.

But leave aside the Imus matter and note the wider generalizations. Linking only to Josh’s post, Atrios offered this stupid, disgusting statement—an ugly, stupid, nasty statement which makes for horrible politics:

ATRIOS: I'm sure Katrina is bringing out the best in many—donations, volunteering, etc.—but it's shown the political Right to be the heartless racist fucks we always knew they are.

Giggling monsters aside...

It has? As Atrios was making this inane, sweeping statement, Houston—the current capital of red-state America—was sending that 6-year-old child off to school, and it was opening its doors to tens of thousands of flood survivors. (By contrast, Jesse Jackson, a mayor of blue-state American, was going on TV to complain about the word “refugees.” Details below.) Everyone can see “the political Right” as they do this—but there we are, on the liberal web, calling them “heartless racist fucks” as they engage in large-scale, public humanitarian conduct. It’s not humanly possible to get dumber than this—on the merits, and also on the politics.

But then, how stupid have parts of the liberal web become? The “giggling monsters” had been trashing Bush, and the “heartless racist fucks” were housing the homeless. Result? Soon, Byron York was quoting this latest Atrios rant—and he had every right to do so; it would be political malpractice to ignore it. Meanwhile, progressives of a certain age can recall the last time such nonsense occurred—the time when the mindless “Yippies” did all they could be make progressives seem like clowns. As red-state Houston houses the homeless, our brilliant professors shout loud, nasty names. Result? This will become an increasingly conservative country, in which mature red-staters house the homeless—and institute their tax and military policies—while our dumb-ass liberals rant and rail. But so what! People who run with Atrios will have the thrill of having been so right! Why, everyone will have been racists but them! Readers! Oh what a feeling!

But then, all last week, as the waters rose, we saw the bullshit rise on the web. At Salon, we saw a brutally doctored transcript—whose author should have been instantly fired (details tomorrow). At the twin Posts (Wash— and Huff—), we read absurd, inane essays on race. At the Times, we saw Frank Rich misstate basic facts to “prove” preferred points, as he never fails to do. And we saw our professor yelling “Fuckers” in a string of factually- and logically-bungled posts. Yes, we once saw the Yippies do this—create an atmosphere which doomed liberal values and gave us Ronald Reagan’s tax policies. But then, if these are “liberal” values, who would want such values to prosper? As The Band asked when the bad moon was risin’: Oh, what kind of love is this, that goes from bad to worse?

JESSE FIDDLED: Is there any way to have less to say? On Monday, we marveled as we watched Jesse Jackson go round and round with Lou Dobbs. Jesse had his one key point—so he recited it three separate times. First, right out of the gate:

DOBBS (9/5/05): Reverend Jesse Jackson joins me tonight from Baton Rouge. Good to have you with us. Let's start with the—

JACKSON: Let me be quick to say—

DOBBS: Let me say welcome, and then you can do whatever you want.

JACKSON: Thank you. I want to be quick to say—though not referring to American citizens as refugees, they are American citizens—I do not know whether the slow response was a combination of racial insensitivity or incompetence or indifference. I'm not sure what the percentage was. Suffice it to say America was not in readiness for a storm that was anticipated. So there's been slowness in rescue, we've lost lives, more in dehydration and starvation maybe than even the flood itself.

For the record, no one had said “refugee” on this program. But while red-state Houston was housing the homeless, Jesse couldn’t stop complaining about that troubling word:
DOBBS: But as we get bogged down in this, my real question to you is, Jesse, what purpose does it serve to inject racism into the discussion when we've got thousands of our fellow citizens hurting? They need our help. There's going to be a—you and I both know there's going to be a complete broad and deep investigation into the failures of governance at the local, state and federal level after this. I think you and I both agree on that, right?

JACKSON: I did not inject race. When the media saw these long lines of African-American people, referring to them as refugees, in fact, they are citizens. And the media began to ask the question, what are the class/race implications?

I did not raise those questions. My concern is that we did not have lack of preparedness to save Americans, who in fact, were facing a storm that was predictable, unlike 9/11, unlike the tsunami.

Moments later, back to this point a third time! This is how a liberal spokesmen turns liberalism into a joke:
DOBBS: The fact is, four years after September 11th, we still don't have a homeland security department that cares about border security. We don't have a homeland security department that can manage a response to a disaster whether natural or terrorist. And that has to be changed.

JACKSON: So the issue of race and class did not come from me. This issue was raised by other media outlets who saw these long lines of old and sick and young African-Americans in these lines, who are less able to get out because in fact they were poorer. And there were not provisions made for them, in fact, to get out. And what pained me, frankly, was to see young soldiers in Iraq parents being referred to as refugees back home. That was utterly distasteful and not right.

There’s a term for it: Having nothing to say. Houston was housing and schooling the homeless. Jackson kept reciting this point.

For ourselves, we’re not sure when it became so wrong (or so racist) to describe storm victims as “refugees.” In fact, the first such usage in the Nexis archive last week occurred at 10 o’clock Monday morning. And uh-oh! CNN’s Drew Lewis was clearly referring to middle-class hotel dwellers:

DARYN KAGAN (8/29/05): As I mentioned, our Drew Griffin is standing by in Meridian, Mississippi, a place where a number of people went to take refuge but might have their own saga in getting through this part of the storm—Drew.

GRIFFIN: In fact, Daryn, the manager of our hotel had everybody in the lobby this morning who was staying there, and explaining to them what is going to happen. She fully expects the power to go out. And while the hotel does have a generator, it will only light the lobby. So she was telling them all to come down to the lobby when the power does go out later today.

The hotels are just packed. In fact, we got in late last night, and there was a stream of refugees going from hotel to hotel, desperately trying to find a room. They couldn't find them. The people at the hotel had a list of local shelters in Meridian that were taking people in. Some were taking advantage. Others were going further on down the highway, just trying to find a place.

But when you have absolutely nothing to say, you have to gimmick up something. By Friday morning, the Congressional Black Caucus—You know? The fiery progressives who want to repeal the estate tax, so their rich black patrons can make extra money?—held a press conference at which they complained about this deeply disturbing word. So we guess it’s time to cut Woody loose—Woody Guthrie, who wrote a famous topical song cruelly called “Dust Bowl Refugees.” Who knew? Who knew that Woody had been looking down on them Okies all along!

Yep! Spokesmen have to have something speak, even if they have nothing to say! Waiting for the chance to reward their rich donors—refugees from progressive values—America’s fiery liberal spokesmen thought up a pleasing new song.

SUPERLATIVE: Josh Marshall has done superlative work on that bogus claim in the Washington Post. But just where did that bogus claim come from? This question should be pursued very hard. And now, at last, hooray and hurrah! David Brock has written the Post, asking them the relevant questions. Everyone should insist—should insist—that the Post provide cogent answers.

Let’s mention the fact which liberal elites won’t discuss: The hapless George Bush is president today because the Washington Post and the New York Times spent two years during Campaign 2000 channeling cosmic bullshit like this—bullshit straight from the RNC. (We documented this over and over. And this is how Bush became president.) Finally, Brock is asking them where this sh*t comes from. (Gulp! When we tried this back in 12/99, the thoroughly repulsive Maralee Schwartz slammed down the phone on our obvious, polite questions. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/14/00.) We had hoped that Josh would use his deserved prestige to ask the Post himself. But Brock has now asked the key questions. Everyone—everyone—needs to insist that the Post explain what they wrote.

For the record, we’re not sure why Brock wrote ombudsman Michael Getler. We think Getler does a good job—but he wasn’t in charge of this bogus report. We wish Brock would write the relevant editor, asking him or her what happened. Careful though, David! If you call, they may decide to ball their fists, stamp their feet and slam down their pink princess telephones! When you work at the Post, you’re not used to answering obvious questions.