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26 September 2005

Is It Civil War Yet?

So asks Christopher of Back to Iraq 3.0. Defense News, the trade publication for defence contractors, says so. When will the media admit it?

17 September 2005

Sink or Swim

August Nimtz, a New Orleans native who is now a history professor at the University of Minnesota and a leading American Marxist scholar, has this brief but pithy interview with the City Pages' Jim Walsh.

12 September 2005

A smaller newspaper and a little self-disclosure

Of course, I had to buy the new Guardian today. Britannia has been all abuzz about the new "Berliner" format, quite like a tabloid but more serious and attractive. (I also had to buy an Independent, but that was because it had a banner that said "Life Without Sex" by Belle du Jour, which turned out to be a bit of a bait-and-switch. When will I ever learn?) The Guardian had this story, that everyone has, no exclusives, about the NHS recently discovering that - shock, horror - depression is rampant in the UK and the handing out of anti-depressants like candy is having almost no positive effect. A few skillion pounds is about to be invested in more cognitive-behavioural therapists. I could have told them this years ago. I first suspected the problem because almost everyone I know is clinically depressed, and almost all of them have tried drugs, and I don't know a single person who has "recovered" or even been helped. Oh, they sometimes say they are helped; they say they would be much worse without the drugs. But I wondered. So, after over 20 years as a diagnosed but unmedicated depressive myself, I gave two anti-depressants a try (not at once, obviously). The first made me want to die with almost the first dose so I quit it immediately. After a six month hiatus I tried again. The second one, I could tolerate and took for a few months. I noticed no improvement and stopped it on my own without consulting the GP. The only possible lingering side effect of this ignoble experiment is possibly a few (well more than a few) extra pounds I could ill afford. Grr. Bring on the CBT on the NHS, I say.

11 September 2005

Gore airlifts stranded patients, while elsewhere . . .

Here's a story that you may not have heard at the time. Ex-VP Al Gore paid to airlift the patients of a hospital in New Orleans to Tennessee when they were stranded in life-threatening circumstances. (Gore has apparently been a little shy about the story, no doubt due to his unfair and atrocious treatment by the press in the past.)
In an interesting if chilling parallel, I was watching the new Andrew Marr show Sunday AM this morning and in the ritual reading of the newspaper headlines, one of the national tabloids had a front page story alleging that hospital staff in New Orleans engaged in mercy killing of stranded and terminally ill patients. I could not find a link for this on the internet (I'm sure it must be out there*) but I did find a lot of other stuff, including this powerful accusation of ethnic cleansing in New Orleans. Here's a quote:

Buffalo-based columnist Michael I. Niman notes Sept. 8 how the feds effectively shut down citizen self-help rescue efforts such as [New Orleans resident Charmaine] Neville's:
The Â?too dangerous to rescueÂ? myth was also employed by FEMA as rationale for ordering rescue teams to stand down early in the crisis. Louisianans are a tough lot, and many private boat owners from areas surrounding New Orleans immediately entered the city as flooding began, creating an ad hoc rescue flotilla. Many survivors tell of strangers in small fishing boats plucking them out of second story windows or off of roofs, depositing them high and dry on highway overpasses. The Federal government put a stop to such heroism, while failing to replace the independent effort with one of their own. (Online at MediaStudy.com)
There appears to have been an overt policy of racial and class discrimination in the rescue effort. ThMilwaukeeee Journal-Sentinel Sept. 2 reports the ordeal of Kelli Nelson, an African-American Wisconsin native working as a nurse at Charity Hospital, New Orleans' largest public hospital and trauma center. She and other personnel and patients were finally airlifted out to San Antonio on the 2nd, after she stood on the roof with a big sign reading "Save the babies, please get us out of here." The city's big private hospitals like Tulane were evacuated days earlier. Trapped in the city, Kelli did manage to get out some chilling text messages to her friends and family.
"She says the situation has gotten worse," the friends relayed that Kelli had messaged them. "The evacuation was aborted... [T]hey had taken babies and mothers down to a boat to go to Tulane's helicopter pad and they were refused access to the pad... what a horror story.
"Does that mean indigent people have no rights...?
* Update: It was The Sunday Mail. I ended up buying the paper and reading it "offline". The pundits on the show pooh-poohed the possibility of accuracy of this story, but I have to say it had, for me, a ring of verisimilitude.

03 September 2005

New Orleans left to the dead and dying

A shocking story comes to a conclusion of sorts. Only read this if you have the stomach for the unpleasant truth.

Mississippi family all safe from Katrina


Okay, cast of characters for those who don't know me. Dad and Mom (79 and 72 respectively) are still alive. There are six of us "kids" : oldest, middle and youngest sisters and oldest, middle and youngest brothers. All but youngest brother, who is also the youngest, are married with one or more children. I am oldest sister (and the oldest). (It's beginning to sound like one of those nice logic puzzles, but never fear, this is just for orientation.)
Middle sister's family and Mom and Dad all live in Gulfport, not, thankfully, near the gulf. Youngest sister's family lives in Hattiesburg, MS. Oldest and youngest brothers both live in Alabama, youngest is in a nice little house in Birmingham. The middle brother is somewhat reclusive, so he actually is not very involved in this story. So, before Katrina hit, I phoned youngest sister Denise to check that Mom and Dad were with her and not left behind in Gulfport. Middle sister Cindy was in the midwest working on a contract. Her husband and son took refuge up in Northern Mississippi with another relation. And then, not surprisingly, we had phone silence for three days while I worried and fretted. Because we heard that things were not that good even in Hattiesburg. I now have news, even having received an e-mail from Mom, bless her, that they all had to abandon the house in Hattiesburg (not sure when - Tuesday or Wednesday) due to lack of water, power and food. By the way, there were other people sheltering there, too, a total of nine, including a baby. Denise and family and Mom and Dad set out in a 2-car convoy to the youngest brother's house, where my parents have been lodged and it looks like they may be there a while. All three houses are still standing, but damaged. That's "the blue house" that Cindy's husband built for their family, "the duplex" on the same land that he built for our parents and his very aged father (who apparently "rode it out" there and is also OK) and the lovely Victorian house in Hattiesburg that Denise's husband carefully restored. So it looks like Mom and Dad, at least, may be displaced persons for a couple of months at least. For one thing, the hurricane season is only started! Now there's a disquieting thought.
Oh, and. The parents' car died irreparibly just as they got to Birmingham. Still, we are all grateful, knowing it could have been a lot worse. Pray for those still suffering far crueler fates in Louisiana and Mississippi.

01 September 2005

Thousands feared drowned in New Orleans


And then there is this:

President Bush flew over New Orleans and parts of Mississippi's hurricane-blasted coastline in Air Force One. Turning to his aides, he said: "It's totally wiped out. ... It's devastating, it's got to be doubly devastating on the ground."

Although ex-President Clinton is too much of a gentleman to criticise Bush, this has got to be said. If Clinton were president, absolutely nothing would have prevented him from landing in New Orleans and doing his famous touching, feeling, comforting thing. I am just saying. The difference between the two men is searingly obvious.
I am in mourning for New Orleans, a city I loved, and Mississippi, a state where half of my family resides. On a personal level it is hard to get information. I know more or less where everyone is, but they are cut off by phone and power outages, so I do not know how much loss they have suffered. All we can do is wait and pray. And send money to the Red Cross or your choice of charity if you can.

Update: here is a whole bunch of news photos from LA and MS.

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