Friday, September 02, 2005

Hurricane exploitation - the quotes 

Update: More here.

Arguably not as stupid and inane as some of the quotes following the Asian tsunami (see here and here), one of the biggest natural disasters in American history has nevertheless provided many with a delicious opportunity to bash President Bush and the right side of the politics and the country generally. Here's the selection of some of the choiciest commentary.

1. Robert F Kennedy Jr suggests
God is punishing those who scuttled the Kyoto Agreement:
As Hurricane Katrina dismantles Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, it’s worth recalling the central role that Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour played in derailing the Kyoto Protocol and kiboshing President Bush’s iron-clad campaign promise to regulate CO2…

Now we are all learning what it’s like to reap the whirlwind of fossil fuel dependence which Barbour and his cronies have encouraged. Our destructive addiction has given us a catastrophic war in the Middle East and--now--Katrina is giving our nation a glimpse of the climate chaos we are bequeathing our children.

In 1998, Republican icon Pat Robertson warned that hurricanes were likely to hit communities that offended God. Perhaps it was Barbour’s memo that caused Katrina, at the last moment, to spare New Orleans and save its worst flailings for the Mississippi coast.
When in the aftermath of the 2004 presidential election some observers suggested that the Democrats should "get some religion", I don't think that's quite what they meant.

2. Kennedy Jr. finds himself on the same wavelength as Muhammad Yousef Al-Mlaifi, director of the Kuwaiti Ministry of Endowment's research center, who penned an article titled
"The Terrorist Katrina is One of the Soldiers of Allah, But Not an Adherent of Al-Qaeda":
When the satellite channels reported on the scope of the terrifying destruction in America [caused by] this wind, I was reminded of the words of [Prophet Muhammad]: 'The wind sends torment to one group of people, and sends mercy to others.' I do not think – and only Allah [really] knows – that this wind, which completely wiped out American cities in these days, is a wind of mercy and blessing. It is almost certain that this is a wind of torment and evil that Allah has sent to this American empire. Out of my absolute belief in the truth of the words of the Prophet Muhammad, this wind is the fruit of the planning [of Allah], as is stated in the text of the Hadith of the Prophet.

But before I went to sleep, I opened the Koran and began to read in Surat Al-R'ad ['The Thunder' chapter], and stopped at these words [of Allah]: 'The disaster will keep striking the unbelievers for what they have done, or it will strike areas close to their territory, until the promise of Allah comes to pass, for, verily, Allah will not fail in His promise. ' [Koran 13:31].
As a citizen of one of the major oil producing nations in the world, I have a feeling that Al-Mlaifi probably doesn't share Kennedy Jr.'s attitude towards the Kyoto Protocol.

3. Assorted Jihadis, however, are on
a similar wavelength:
Islamic extremists rejoiced in America's misfortune, giving the storm a military rank and declaring in Internet chatter that "Private" Katrina had joined the global jihad, or holy war. With "God's help," they declared, oil prices would hit $100 a barrel this year.
4. Robert Kennedy Jr. was just one of a long list of those blaming the hurricane on global warming and therefore on that environmental vandal Bush. Ross Gelbspan in “The Boston Globe” was another one, but with far greater sweep:
The hurricane that struck Louisiana and Mississippi on Monday was nicknamed Katrina by the National Weather Service. Its real name is global warming.

When the year began with a 2-foot snowfall in Los Angeles, the cause was global warming.

When winds of 124 miles an hour shut down nuclear plants in Scandinavia and cut power to hundreds of thousands of people in Ireland and Britain, the driver was global warming.

When a severe drought in the Midwest dropped water levels in the Missouri River to their lowest on record earlier this summer, the reason was global warming.

In July, when the worst drought on record triggered wildfires in Spain and Portugal and left water levels in France at their lowest in 30 years, the explanation was global warming.

When a lethal heat wave in Arizona killed more than 20 people in one week, the culprit was global warming.

And when the Indian city of Mumbai received 37 inches of rain in one day - killing 1,000 people and disrupting the lives of 20 million others - the villain was global warming.
Global warming, currently curdling milk in Bulgaria and stealing pennies from orphans in central Africa, was unavailbale for comment.

5. Germany's environmental minister Jürgen Trittin
couldn't agree more, although he didn't have much to say about the recent spate of tornados, earthquakes, freak meteorite strikes and locust that devastated parts of Bavaria:
By neglecting environmental protection, America’s president shuts his eyes to the economic and human damage that natural catastrophes like Katrina inflict on his country and the world’s economy... Many Americans have long been unwilling to follow the president’s errant environmental policy. Indications are multiplying that Bush has more than Katrina’s headwind blowing in his face... When reason finally pays a visit to climate-polluter headquarters, the international community has to be prepared to hand America a worked out proposal for the future of international climate protection. The German Government stands ready.
The citizens of southern states are very much appreciative of Germany's offer to provide them with an emergency new climate change framework, which I'm sure can be used for kindling fires and as a toilet paper substitute (seriously though, as James Taranto points out, the German government has actually offered some real help, which is always appreciated).

6. But Germany's environment minister was not the only one laying into the United States - Germany's economy minister Wolfgang Clement was also on hand to give
a free kick:
Germany said on Wednesday the United States was partly to blame for record oil prices and should look to extend its refining capacity after Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc at U.S. refineries, hitting output.

Economy Minister Wolfgang Clement told German radio that the damage to U.S. refining capacity caused by the storm would likely prompt American industry to buy more oil in Europe, which could further inflate prices.

"On this I must say the United States has had insufficient refining capacity for a long time, and this is presumably now impaired, so the situation is coming to a head," he said.

"It's a U.S. problem, a problem with American policy. It's to do with American planning rights which lead to yield expectations in investments in the sector not being high enough. I hope the American government reacts differently to this."
If I were cynical, I would think that there is an election coming up in Germany and the current Social Democrat government is way behind in the opinion polls. But I'm not a cynic.

7. Foreigners, however, were positively civil and constructive in their criticism of the Bush Administration.
The real venom came from one's own, like Bob Brigham at Swing State Project:
Remember, this was a top-three "likeliest catastrophic disasters" and Bush shelved the study of how to protect against Category 5 hurricanes like Katrina? For most of Bush's time as President, FEMA has been saying this could be the deadliest scenario facing America. And Bush cut the preparedness funding, sent our strategic reserve National Guard troops to fight an unnecessary war and then went on vacation. Not only is Bush the worst President ever, but he is also a total a**hole for f***ing over New Orleans.
In the same vein, Patricia Taylor at the Daily Kos:
Historically, it is the National Guard, along with other emergency personnel, who attempt to provide emergency services to the community in disaster relief situations like Katrina.

And where are these National Guard right now?


If they are alive.
And Democrank at Democratic Underground:
EMERGENCY! EMERGENCY! I'm taking over for the Commander in Chief since he's busy lounging in California, all tanned and buff. Got to hand it to him.... he's got this wake-me-when-it's-over thing down pat. Just like during the Vietnam War. What a guy.

I want to reach the Louisiana and Mississippi National Guard units stranded in Iraq. Thought I could test this new Iraq "democracy" by asking each of them to vote either "yes" or "no" on coming home to help their family and friends. Katrina wrecked their states.
Or Mary MacElveen at Radio Left:
As we pray for those who are suffering in the aftermath of this horrific hurricane, in their memory let us fight back. Let us expose the duplicity and dishonesty of the Bush administration to all. He spent billions ending lives instead of using those billions to help a suffering people.
The angry left wasn't quite sure whether the Louisiana National Guard was unnecessarily getting killed or unnecessarily killing in Iraq, but all agreed that they should be brought home. A fuller list of natural disasters to pray for is being currently worked out to enable the left to call for the withdrawal from Iraq of the National Guard units from all other states. As an aside, it will be interesting to see whether the left, which criticised the Bush team for not getting the US military to stop the looting in the post-liberation Iraq, will now call for the troops to be brought back to shoot the looters in New Orleans.

8. The
prize for originality in "blame the Republicans" stakes, however, goes to Russell Shaw at the Huffington Post, for whom basing the current Republican president is not enough:
Would New Orleans and the nearby Gulf Coast be suffering so terribly today if President Carter beat back Reagan in 1980?...

I am wondering if those voters in Louisiana and Mississippi who helped polluter-allied Reagan win in 1980 would have found themselves fated differently under a second Carter term. If Carter came in, we could have had an alternative fuels program and tighter auto emission standards in effect by now.
Ronald Reagan who, as we all know, served as President from 1980 to 2000, should indeed be condemned. Would I be suffering so terribly today if President Carter beat back Reagan in 1980 is indeed a question that I ask myself every day of my life.

9. Aside from bashing Bush, the Katrina disaster has also enabled the left to
show their compassionate side, like Blunderford at Blogcritics:
I just stopped at the grocery store to pick up a candy bar... An employee approached me and said, "Would you like to give a dollar for Hurricane Katrina?"

I said, "No."

First off, I'm offended that the store employees are wandering around fundraising instead of helping customers, especially when it's so obvious that the store conglomerate uses these do-it-yourself machines to cut down on the number of employees necessary to help customers so that the store conglomerate can turn a larger profit while having fewer of those pesky union workers to deal with.

But beyond that, I'm sick of footing the bill for George W. Bush and the rest of his so-called compassionate conservatives.

Let Bush open his wallet. I'm sure he's still got a few nickels rolling around his pockets from flipping the Texas Rangers like a Miami condo.

You 60 million losers who voted for this loser open YOUR wallets. This president declared war on the poor long ago, and while some of us cared enough to vote for someone who gave a damn, you buried your heads in the sand, babbled about abortion and family values, and voted for the doofus.

And now you want to act all high and mighty and come asking me for a buck or two to help these poor people? Sorry, Charlie. Take an extra buck or two out of the fund you set aside to buy seventeen Support Our Troops magnets to stick all over your car to show how patriotic you are.

You want disaster relief? Impeach George W. Bush.
Oh well, but they care. Of course, when disaster strikes New York or Los Angeles, we can expect the same reaction from the right. Surely? Guys?

10. Joseph Cannon at BradBlog was initially feeling just as compassionate, but then he changed his mind -
So why was I thinking of starting a movement against giving aid to the stricken areas?

Because these are red states. They voted for Bush. These ninnies obviously wanted these policies, and they deserve to live with the consequences of their votes.

A large part of me still believes that many of these W-worshipping numbskulls deserve to suffer and to die. They brought it on themselves. Let them look to Jayzuss for aid: It's time they stopped leeching off the more productive blue staters...

But then (to paraphrase the old song) I thought I'd better think it out again.

Many of the victims, the ones who have suffered the most, are poor. The hardest hit were the blue state folk living among the red state maniacs. New Orleans, we should note, went heavily for Kerry.

And that's why we must help. Although it was very tempting to say otherwise.

But let us make one thing clear: We WILL politicize this issue.

The Republicans did not shirk from making political use of 9/11, and we should not shirk from reminding the country that Bush turned what should have been a mere problem into Ragnarok.

Conservatives may accuse us of lacking taste if we use this sad occasion to point out sadder facts of political life. Cable news pundits will try to pretend that now is not the time for partisan politics.

If they say that, screw 'em.

If the Bush-voters want Californians and New Yorkers and other blue staters to fork over dough, then they damn well had better take our words as well. Republican policies caused this catastrophe. Force them to hear that message -- again and again. That message is the price of the charity they now demand.
Helping people based on the way they voted? Nah, who would ever accuse you of lacking taste?

11. But why not - after all, it has all been a conspiracy to drown the lower class - at least according to Flip Floss at
the Daily Kos:
They will be scandal and rioting and rightly so in my opinion as the "Negroes" of New Orleans and tourists were left to drown.
More reading:

Global warming and hurricanes - The hurricanes
aren’t historically on the increase, and the number of the most serious – category 4 and 5 – is down compared to previous decades (EU Rota has some nice tables). Hurricanes are also a part of a natural decades-long cycle of changing temperature of the Atlantic Ocean.

Bush diverted the money away from flood-proofing New Orleans - Two problems with that – New Orleans has been on notice since the previous devastating hurricane Betsy in 1965. Bush has been in the White House for only the last five of these past 40 years, so one might as well blame every other President since LBJ for not doing enough – and then ask, why should all the blame be laid at the feet of the feds, instead of sharing it with state and local authorities?
Experts in the Netherlands expressed surprise that New Orleans' flood systems failed to restrain the raging waters.

With half of the country's population of 16 million living below sea level, the Netherlands prepared for a "perfect storm" soon after floods in 1953 killed 2,000 people. The nation installed massive hydraulic sea walls.

"I don't want to sound overly critical, but it's hard to imagine that (the damage caused by Katrina) could happen in a Western country," said Ted Sluijter, spokesman for the park where the sea walls are exhibited. "It seemed like plans for protection and evacuation weren't really in place, and once it happened, the coordination was on loose hinges."
There's plenty of blame to go around for the past four decades.

Louisiana National Guard -
Streiff at Red State actually knows what he's talking about.


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