St. Bernard and Plaquemines are screwed.

Oxfam has a report from the poor and isolated St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes in southern Louisiana.

The rural areas there are pretty much totally depopulated and everyone’s livelihoods are destroyed. There were a lot of farmers and fishermen there, and that ain’t happening. And, in general, the people in those parishes get screwed when government money is being handed out because they lose at the political game. Plus, as a bonus, the place is full of heavy chemical industries and refineries which got all stirred up and spread on those parishes like peanut butter. Householders are being told not to return home until they have tetanus and hep A and B inoculations.

Oxfam is trying to raise $2 million for both short- and long-term aid to St. Bernard and Plaquemines. Help if you can!

I have to say, things are going pretty darned well.

Had a bit of a scare in California this week, didn’t we? But our man Arnold held the line. Glad he had the spine to show them what a real conservative is, instead of that tree-hugging image he was trying to project or some “third way” nonsense. Sooner or later the queers will understand there’s no place for them here.

New Orleans is going to work out fine. Sure there’s a lot of talk about the President and the Federal Government and all these supposed problems, but no one remembers that after a few months, and we’re going to manage the media back into position. Those boys will understand they need to stay on message, especially with Roger over at Fox leading the way. Pretty soon it’ll just be crazy old Michael Moore making funny little movies and we can redefine the center where we want it. Fish in a barrel.

You have to understand what an opportunity this is for Homeland Security. We’re going to need a lot more of that kind of security in this country, and some of it is going to rile people a little. There’s inevitably going to be some unrest, especially as the next election comes up or we get a blip in the employment numbers. Sometimes people just can’t see past a couple hard years and understand what we’re doing for them, and you can’t just hope they’ll trust us.

We’re getting a real good run-through down there. The Guard has things locked down, FEMA is making sure we’re in control on the humanitarian end, and there’s going to be good management of the media from here on out. I think people got the message about what our authority means now, and what we’ll do to maintain the stability and the order that’s needed. Some of the new crowd control technologies and surveillance stuff has been stellar already. These are the kind of tools we’re going to need in the next election to keep on track. We can’t have 1968 all over again, that was just a stupid mess. And government all down the line has to get with the program. Some penny-ante local blowhard like Broussard messes around, he’ll get a lot worse than some cut phone lines next time, and he knows it.

Let me tell you, we’ve got some bumpy rides ahead. You’re going to be thankful for that hurricane later, because the lessons we learned this week will make 2008 a lot smoother for the people who need it. You wanna play hardball, you have to spend some time in the batting cage.

The Raft of the Medusa

( Larger version here )

It’s a famous painting, often parodied or quoted. Months ago I was talking to eyeteeth about it and we started looking up its history. The shipwreck and the painting have a story to tell that’s pertinent today.

After Napoleon was deposed, the French got a new royal government, the Bourbons. Shortly after they took over they sent some ships to West Africa on a colonial adventure. The Medusa carried 400 passengers and 160 crew.

The captain was an inexperienced political employee who should not have been given charge of a ship. He was chosen for his loyalty to the new regime, and was disliked by his crew.

The Medusa ran aground, and Captain De Chaumereys proceeded to fuck everything up. Instead of trying to float the ship free, he abandoned her. Special important privileged people were put in lifeboats, and everyone else was dumped on a raft. The lifeboats were to tow the raft.

Pretty soon the aristocrats in the lifeboats found it tiresome to pull the lesser beings in the raft and cut it loose. Their shipmates were now floating helplessly.

When the raft was found two weeks later, there were 15 survivors out of the 149 who had been abandoned and set adrift. Suicide, murder, and starvation took them. Five more died after their rescue. The French government declined to help the survivors to return home, so the British navy repatriated them.

The attempt at a coverup of this failed; survivors made sure that newspapers heard about it and at least one survivor published a popular book. GĂ©ricault was inspired to create the classic you see above, which was praised or condemned according to the politics of the viewer. The government nearly fell, and the captain was found guilty at court martial.

It was clear that some people on the raft had behaved badly (murder, cannibalism, madness). The blame for their degradation was, however, also clear. An arrogant government had given charge of people’s lives to an ignorant toady who had then shown incompetence and disregard for human life. The privileged had been saved and the others left to die.

In sum, the disaster and its aftermath showed the French people the true colors of their government.

The effect of Katrina on energy and the world economy

From that hysterical voice of apocalyptic leftist scaremongering, the Wall Street Journal:

Some highlights:

“The storm cut off about two million barrels a day of crude-oil refining capacity, resulting in the loss of one million barrels a day of gasoline production — or 10% of U.S. demand. Four refineries that together represent about 5% of U.S. oil-refining capacity will be out of commission for at least a month, while another 5% of refinery capacity knocked out by Katrina appears likely to restart in coming days and weeks.”

“The federal government’s decision to release crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is helping some crude-choked refineries resume normal operations. But ultimately restoring sufficient gasoline production appears to rely most heavily on repairing the refineries, not adding more crude oil to the market.”

“The huge blow to the Gulf of Mexico has led to long lines at filling stations in much of the U.S., and outright shortages in some places. Panic buying of gasoline was reported as far away as the Czech Republic. ”

“…the world has now started running on its reserve fuel tanks — oil and refined products stockpiled over the past two decades for use only in true emergencies. Western oil companies are already pumping at full capacity. Russia, the world’s No. 2 producer, is producing all it can. Even Saudi Arabia, the top exporter, and its fellow members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries can do little to alleviate the emerging crisis. OPEC has spare capacity of some 1.5 million barrels a day — which is just about equivalent to the production lost last week in the Gulf of Mexico because of Hurricane Katrina.”

full story here

Don’t believe the hype

Watch out for hysterical urban legends, unconfirmed reports, and exaggerated nightmare scenarios about looting in New Orleans. There’s looting and violence all right, and when all is told there are going to be some sad and frightening stories about it.

But who benefits from a lot of scare talk about masses of armed looters, snipers, and great crowds of the unwashed attacking rescue personnel? The people who want to blame the victims, that’s who.

All those officials who failed us are going to talk long and loud about the breakdown in civil order and the need for zero tolerance and lots of soldiers with guns. Don’t forget the real villains here: the people who didn’t give the evacuation order in time, the local agencies that left people on their own without transportion to leave, the federal agencies that pulled the funding for the levees, the President who couldn’t be bothered leaving his vacation until the corpses were floating already. They’d just love for you to concentrate on all those grimy underclass losers stealing beer and taking potshots at helicopters.

Keep your focus. The “grownups” in suits who were supposed to spend our tax money to save lives stood around while Americans died. If they try to look good later by shooting some pathetic losers for boosting a beer, it’s doubling their own crime.

Oxfam Katrina Relief

My own favorite charity, Oxfam, has a Katrina relief fund. They’re good at disaster relief but also good at long-term structural help with the economic and social problems that persist years after a catastrophe. If progressive politics give you the willies, you probably will prefer the Red Cross. If band-aid solutions and a refusal to address poverty and discrimination along with disaster make you grumpy, I suggest you give a few bucks to Oxfam America at this link.