September 15th, 2005


New Orleans -- the new Disneyland or the new Baghdad?

Nearly three weeks after Hurricane Katrina, Bush is finally saying something about the reconstruction of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. The way he did it, though, was highly staged.

For example, consider this picture of Bush giving his speech in front of Jackson Square's St. Louis Cathedral.

Compare this to what the cathedral normally looks like at night, illuminated with the nearby streetlights.

No sign of those streetlights in Bush's appearance. They're all out. Instead, in the middle of a reconstruction, in an area which is off limits to its citizens, a large professional lighting crew was called in to illuminate the huge building and its environs with blue flood lights situated behind trees to the left of the picture, and an additional lighting crew in front of the president. Bush isn't speaking in a suit, but is instead wearing a blue shirt with unbuttoned shirt sleeves, as if he had actually lifted a finger to dig in and do the dirty work of bringing life back to New Orleans.

If that wasn't enough, they also seemed to find the time amidst the hunt for and removal of survivors and the dead to reset the cathedral's clock to the right time for the speech. The overall effect is one of staged unreality, like some kind of Disneyland.

Of course, there's also the story of the returning soldier who says that New Orleans -- with its burnt out buildings, destroyed markets, and large piles of trash -- looked like Baghdad... maybe worse.

Meanwhile, many of Bush's diehard believers are happily commenting on how few bodies have been found so far, despite reports that people were washed out to sea, eaten by alligators, etc., and that over 2000 children can't find their parents. These are the same idiots that deny the deaths of so many tens of thousands of Iraqis. Now, they're playing the same game at home, the modern-day equivalent of holocaust deniers. Over 710 bodies have been found so far amidst the wreckage and debris, and that is certainly not a full accounting, given that the worst death tolls have undoubtedly occurred in those areas that are the least accessable and most flooded.

The Bush administration is badly in need of spinning this disaster, so it perhaps figures who is going to be the pointman for their reality distortion field. None other than Karl Rove, who is now apparently in charge of the reconstruction effort.

Having a spinmeister and minister of propaganda like Rove calling the shots in the areas effected by the hurricane is a supremely stupid act of political expediency. His talent lies in distorting the perception of the facts, but he lacks the experience you would want in someone who is in charge of actually improving the reality of the situation. It's an act that is nearly as flawed as naming a horse lawyer to head up FEMA. The idea, I guess, is that Rove, with his false claims of Texas residency, will be more effective distorting the reality of Katrina than he might be waiting for an indictment back in D.C. on perjury, obstruction of justice, and revealing the indentity of a CIA agent.

Once the president flies off, New Orleans will still be a disaster area, flooded in toxic junk, with an oil spill that rivals the Exxon Valdez screwing with their coastline for years to come. The hurricane survivors, however, are still incredibly screwed, with little to be thankful for other than their lives, and the caring and hospitality shown by their fellow Americans and the members of the Red Cross. As for the Bush administration though, it's still a case of too little, far too late.