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Hollywood to the Rescue

    Last night on the Daily Show they had a clip of Sean Penn trying to rescue people in New Orleans. Apparently his boat sprang a leak, however. Meanwhile Oprah has been at the Astrodome, and has enlisted many friends in the relief effort. John Travolta, who has a pilot's license, has been flying supplies to NOLA. Comedian Chris Rock and unspellable actor Matthew McConaughey have been helping victims, along with Faith Hill and Lisa Marie Presley. This morning the AP moved a story about Jamie Foxx dropping by the 'Dome.

    All this is laudable and heart-warming. Oprah is doing her part. Celebrities care. But soon we will have to confront the obvious question: Why have some celebrities failed to show up on the Gulf Coast? Where are Brad and Angie? Warren and Jack? Nicole? Denzel??? The new rule is: Appearing in a fundraising telethon isn't enough. Donating your catwalk earnings from New York Fashion Week (the Naomi Campbell strategy) doesn't quite cut it. YOU MUST RESCUE VICTIMS PERSONALLY.

      In recent years we have seen a developing trend: First, actors started testifying in Congress about the urgent social problems depicted in movies in which they had starred ("I am not an impoverished farm wife struggling to stave off foreclosure, but I've played one on screen"). Then actors started getting elected to major political offices, such as President of the United States and Governor of California. Eventually we will reach the point where celebrities will actually fill all the heroic niches in society, such as Coast Guard rescuer, oil-well firefighter, commando paratrooper and astronaut. The local, state and federal response to Katrina was not only incompetent, but involved way too many no-names. FEMA won't be credible until it gets someone recognizable in charge, such as Keanu Reeves.

    [Related question: If a tree falls in the forest and no celebrity hears it, does it make a sound?]

    [Ancillary thought that comes dangerously close to being substantive: In Tina's column today, she writes, "It's as if the tragedy in the Gulf Coast has awakened us from a deep materialistic sleep to acknowledge the pain of poverty and racial inequality for the first time in years." Never mind that she's speaking for certain zip codes in New York City and the Hamptons, and that lots of Americans didn't need the wake-up call. Her central point is correct, and echoes something I heard yesterday from a top-shelf Republican: That Katrina has changed the political climate drastically in Washington, and made it harder to implement the GOP agenda, which includes such things as cuts to Medicaid.]

By Joel Achenbach  |  September 8, 2005; 12:04 PM ET
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Next: Discovering the Poor


The sound of one hand clapping is...
the sound of a tree falling in a forest when no one is there to hear it.

Posted by: omnigoof | September 8, 2005 12:12 PM | Report abuse

first poster...yeah!

Posted by: omnigoof | September 8, 2005 12:12 PM | Report abuse

With the following comment I am aiming for the most inane comment ever posted on the Achenblog:

You have an extra space between "been flying" and "supplies to NOLA" in the fifth line.

And the runner-up:

I might have rearranged the last sentence to read, "FEMA won't be credible until it gets someone like Keanu Reeves in charge."

Great Kit, though.

[Returns to lurker status]

Posted by: Tom fan | September 8, 2005 12:16 PM | Report abuse

I thought Gilligan was in charge of FEMA.

"Skipper, I put the New Orleans relief on a raft like you asked for!"

(George taking off hat) Gillllligan!!!!

Posted by: Videlicet | September 8, 2005 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Hey Joel, just the other day my local paper devoted some space to a special box o' information related to the hurricane.

They took care with this space. To give it prominence, they even used a Ben Day screen, which, folks, is not an ointment. It's where an area is shaded.

Anyway, the special box o' information with the Ben Day screen was laden with facts and factoids of importance. It cried to be savored as a reference tool, or perhaps to be cut out and put on a refrigerator for safekeeping.

It was a seemingly exhaustive list of celebrities and what they are doing for hurricane relief.

Posted by: Bayou Self | September 8, 2005 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Tom fan, please don't fiddle with the writing of a professional. In the closing sentence, Joel was saving "Keanu Reeves" as something of a punchline.

Or maybe he was just crankin' out the copy.

Posted by: Bayou Self | September 8, 2005 12:32 PM | Report abuse

ok i think i fixed. took the vernacular a step too fur there.

Posted by: Achenbach | September 8, 2005 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of celebrities, where's Cheney?

Posted by: Videlicet | September 8, 2005 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Some celebrities do have "Hero" jobs. David Lee Roth is an EMT. Shaquille O'Neill has worked as a sheriff's deputy.

There was a blurb on the radio this morning about Geraldo Rivera rescuing (or shoving someone out of the way to appear to be rescuing) a victim of the hurricane. Good stuff!

Posted by: CelebTracker | September 8, 2005 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Finally, the trickle-down theory at work. You don't need the Government to help you; it's more efficient to skip the middleman. Cut taxes & let hard-working Americans keep the money. They will then do the jobs that Government used to do (search & rescue, food / water / medicine aid, etc.).

Next up: the Exxon-Mobil Levee?

Posted by: mizerock | September 8, 2005 12:42 PM | Report abuse

I think Joel's Ancillary thought is to hopefull.

Things will smoothe out. Soon the world, including the USA, will focus it's attention on other stuff. NOLA's tragedy will become an historic event, not something current.
People will talk about the damage done but the raw feeling of anger about the plight of the victims will pass. I give it maximum six months, or to be completely honnest, I'll give it two.

Look at 9/11. It's there as an historical event. But for people outside NY does it still have the resonance it had? Is it still 9/11, as you felt it then, with the fear of the world going down? Do you still think of it every day?

Look at Iraq. The war is still going on. But it's running it's own course. There is no real debate about it exept for the small minority who follow politics.
There are no great peace marches on Washington. Even without Katrina Cindy Sheehan would have left the front pages because the SCOTUS confirmation hearings would have replaced it as news du jour.

I don't think it is because we are shallow, but new things happen all the time and we only have so much attention to give. As long as our lives are not directly impacted we will go on and slowly forget about the last big event.

Posted by: Eurotrash | September 8, 2005 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of celebrities clapping in a forest, I think they hire people to do it for them:

Is the Boodle an Achenclique or an Achenclaque?

Posted by: Videlicet | September 8, 2005 12:44 PM | Report abuse

CelebTracker: Bob Denver worked as a mailman, and as a high school teacher. Are those Hero jobs?

Posted by: Videlicet | September 8, 2005 12:46 PM | Report abuse

so FEMA says no photography of dead bodies.

how about we cordon off the whole area, allow no video whatsoever, and we will all feel better.

Posted by: pete | September 8, 2005 12:55 PM | Report abuse

I always wondered who was the better Catwoman, Julie Newmar or Eartha Kitt. After reading Joel's catty column, now I know: Joel is the perfect Catwoman. Meow, baby!

Posted by: E. Etage | September 8, 2005 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Suppose you're a starving person in New Orleans, and you see Sean Penn, Oprah, and John Travolta advancing on you in a boat. Unfortunately your shotgun only has two shells ...

Posted by: Videlicet | September 8, 2005 12:59 PM | Report abuse


I'd say the mailman profession is definitely a Hero job when Bob Denver is working it. Where would be be if our catalogues didn't arrive on time? Naked. Without little knicknacks from the ABC company. There would be very few accessories with our first initials embroidered onto the front. We may only get one Victoria's Secret catalogue a month instead of five of the same. See where I'm going with this? Without the mailman everything would be chaos. Bob Denver provided an irreplaceable service when he donned those tiny blue shorts.

No offense to any mailmen. The mail really does make my day. I love my Anthropologie catalogue and my letters and the fact that I have barely any bills.

I actually have an exceptional mailman. He is really good friends with my dogs and stops to pet them and brings them treats. They're always so excited to see him coming. He's the type of mailman you give lemonade and Christmas cookies to. Not together, of course. Lemonade and cookies don't mingle well.

Posted by: Sara | September 8, 2005 1:00 PM | Report abuse

The wind has been taken out of Sean Penn's sails when blog readers connect to the link provided by Joel to read that Penn had a personal photographer on his sinking boat. Why, Sean, why...why the vanity? Was this for a Katrina photo-op as stage-managed as Bush's Katrina photo-ops? Is the experince of assisting others not real unless it's a "Kodak moment" or two days of Oprah shows? I now regret my mention of Penn in my blog posting of (what was it?) two (?) days ago, but Achenbach is good today, no?. Are these "celebrities" really helping the victims or simply taking advantage of the misery of the displaced for the glorification of their egos or their show's ratings?

The power of Joel's effort today is that he mentions Tina Brown's column, which delivers a one-two-whammo punch, a real knock-out piece of journalism today if ever I saw one. Kurtz's and Neal's efforts are also worth finding. Kurtz reports on a writer who asks why talking pundit-heads such as NBC's "Meet the Press" Tim Russert didn't show as much outrage and indignation over the Iraq War as [Russert did about] Hurricane Katrina.

We've blogged about Katrina and race over the weekend, but the key word that jumps out from me in today's Achen-thought is "poverty." Have any of you ever seen it? Lived it? Tasted it? Gotten up close and personal with it? Know (or knew) it on a first-name basis? Envied wealth, opportunity and the world of privileged cronyism connections? (I also think of Richard Cohen's op-ed today on John Roberts and failure.)

I am most tempted to write later on "sal si puedes"--Espanol, meaning, "Get out if you can."

And Nani, since we're in the same town, maybe you and I can have our own porching hour--for us, perhaps lunch together some day. Are you still in the Mission San Jose area? Nani, I've been meaning to ask you this for some time now.

Posted by: Linda Loomis | September 8, 2005 1:00 PM | Report abuse

E. Etage: You want to see Joel in a catsuit?

Posted by: Videlicet | September 8, 2005 1:02 PM | Report abuse

I don't have a problem with celebrities helping out, IF they can contribute something useful. Are they feeding their egos? Maybe. But they are also bringing even more visibility to a situation that cannot possibly be over-covered.

As far as I'm concerned, they can get all the face time they want; those faceless heroes you mention aren't doing it to get their names in the paper.

I'm the class correspondent for the Coast Guard Academy's alumni magazine, which means that I write the Class of '02's version of Reliable Source. I recently received this email:

"Hey everyone, I got an e-mail from Maria Roerick over the weekend. She ended up finishing HH-65 flight school in Mobile on the Friday before the storm hit, just in time to evacuate her dogs and then return on Tuesday to start flights for SAR ops. She said the first day her aircrew rescued 43 people and they've been flying 6-8hrs on, 18hrs off. She could only fly over her house and it had some flooding as far as she could tell, but not sure how bad the damage was."

These are the real heroes, folks.

Posted by: jw | September 8, 2005 1:05 PM | Report abuse

it's a CliqueClaque.

Posted by: omnigoof | September 8, 2005 1:05 PM | Report abuse

The proposed cuts to medicaid in the budget resolution wont actually come into effect for a year or two upon the event of passage, effectively allowing the GOP to remove Katrina from the debate. However, it would look really really bad to the public.

Posted by: so smart | September 8, 2005 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Linda Loomis: I was watching an old Chris Rock video last night, and he says that poverty is when your Mama buys you that generic peanut butter with the jelly already mixed in.

Kid: "Can't we have Jif?"

Mom: "Do you have any Jif money?!"

Even nastier than generic peanut butter is generic macaroni and cheese. I tried some in college, I swear the cheese was made from glue. I can't ever claim poverty, though.

Posted by: Videlicet | September 8, 2005 1:12 PM | Report abuse

I'm a regular reader of this blog, and I have lived in poverty. Like, not enough money to go to the laundromat--never mind being able to afford a washer and dryer. I remember gathering up loose change around the house to get together enough money to buy hot dogs and Wonder Bread for dinner. I was not unhappy in my poverty, because I was educated and engaged in artistic and political endeavors. I always felt superior to rich people, never envied them. However, I was often made aware that the Outside World judged me as inferior because I didn't have a car or a bank account or a credit card. And I am painfully aware that it costs money to be poor: poor people actually pay more for the same goods & services compared to rich people. The stores in poor neighborhoods have higher prices. Rent to Own is much more costly than paying cash. The check cashing store charges 10% to cash your paycheck. And so on.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 8, 2005 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Clique and Claque are the Magliozzi brothers. They run "Car Talque" on NPR.

Posted by: pj | September 8, 2005 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Interesting Kit today. I would like to also point out with the advent of reality tv, we live in an era where everyone is a celebrity, and where you can be rich and famous simply for being rich and famous. So Joel's prposition does not seem all that preposterous to me....

Posted by: LP | September 8, 2005 1:35 PM | Report abuse

I think I know why Brad and Angelina are staying out of it.

Brad and Jen did such a great job bringing peace to the Middle East, I guess he's ready to retire on that note.

Joel, if you haven't seen "Team America"'s take on Actor activism, enjoy a good chuckle. Or several.

Some thought-provoking reading on Poverty and managing Humanity the 21st century in Scientific American this month, too.


Posted by: bc | September 8, 2005 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Eurotrash, I dunno. I think maybe this one will be on our radar screens for quite a while, because it really lays bare the consequences of the current administration's policies. Yeah, we'll go on to other things, but this will stay on the stove, if for no other reason that the cleanup and reconstruction will be such huge projects. And if tight fuel supplies and high costs continue, it will definitely stay on the front burner.

Posted by: slyness | September 8, 2005 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Linda Loomis: I don't know why Sean Penn brought along his own photographer. But, considering that the military and FEMA are trying to restrict what pictures newspapers and TV show, it might not be a bad idea to bring along your own photog to document what you see.

Posted by: pj | September 8, 2005 1:43 PM | Report abuse

I've definitly experienced poverty before, and will never regret it. You never know what you have until you have nothing at all. These are the kinds of things you start to appreciate when you are living on borrowed and temporary everything - couch, food, job. Try sleeping in the back of a toyota tercel at five feet seven inches. That's pain, especially after a few weeks.

Posted by: LP | September 8, 2005 1:46 PM | Report abuse

jw, thanks for the reminder of what real heroes look like.


Posted by: bc | September 8, 2005 1:48 PM | Report abuse

I see that the Repubs are criticizing Hillary for calling to return FEMA to independent status, and to create an independent commission to investigate what went wrong. Is Ms. Clinton giving constructive criticism or just playing politics?

Posted by: Videlicet | September 8, 2005 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Related question: If a tree falls in the forest and no celebrity hears it, does it make a sound?]

Answer: Yes, because God is the ultimate Observer. This answers the question for those who believe in God(s). For everyone else, who knows?

Posted by: Susan | September 8, 2005 1:59 PM | Report abuse

I think one thing to remember about celebrities is that they are trying to overcome an inadequacy that they must feel, given that the only car ever named for them -- the Chevrolet Celebrity -- wasn't a car any of them would ever want to ride in.

Posted by: Bayou Self | September 8, 2005 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Sara: I used to shun my mail, because it was all bills and solicitations for funds, but with Netflix and eBay I now look forward to the sandaled tromp of my letter carrier.

Posted by: Videlicet | September 8, 2005 2:02 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Anonymous | September 8, 2005 2:05 PM | Report abuse

LP: I think that poverty bites the most when you can't fix anything. You pray that your car won't break down or you don't get ill because there's no money for repairs.

Sorry about the LP at 2:05:44 PM, I must've hit the wrong mouse button!

Posted by: Videlicet | September 8, 2005 2:07 PM | Report abuse

My mail carrier is a Carolina fan (that would be the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, of course), so he and my husband, a Carolina grad, always have stuff to chat about. We have terribly abused him in the last year, although not intentionally. When my mother died in May 2004, I changed her address to my home. The junk mail has been unbelievable. The P.O. now automatically changes the address with everybody, so it hasn't been unusual to get 12-15 pieces of mail a day addressed to her. I finally set out a paper sack to throw the stuff into, and put it in the garbage when it gets full.

Posted by: slyness | September 8, 2005 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Hi everyone,
I'm back from vacation and making the adjustment to work again. I got very good at loafing and am considering trying to specialize in it. It will be wonderful when I can get people to pay me to take their vacations for them.

I have it on good authority that moving FEMA under Homeland Security was a disastrous decision in the first place because it gave power over the agency to people who don't know the first thing about emergency management and also because Homeland Security is focused exclusively on terrorism. Furthermore, this friend also told me that a few weeks prior to the hurricane, Michael Chertoff suggested that Homeland Security would take lead authority over CDC and HHS if there were ever an outbreak of avian flu in the U.S. Talk about arrogance. So Hillary is not off base in her suggestion that this change be made, although her timing could be better.

Posted by: TA | September 8, 2005 2:17 PM | Report abuse

By chance I saw Oprah's item on NOLA yesterday and that I thought it was a showcase how celebrities can use their fame for good but also for self gratification.

The first part where she visited NOLA was realy good journalism. It was raw and spared no punches. Her fame literally opened doors which normal journalists couldn't. She got access to the Supperdome which normaly is off limits. Other items were horrific. I didn't know for exemple that in one of the triage centres the dying were put in the morgue so that they could die in peace.
It was realy powerfull stuff.

But then came the second part. (It could have been the item of a day later, I think I saw reruns) That was on how celebrities came to help. I had to turn it off. It was about the celebrities and how good they were. The victims became props.
And that sickend me aswel.

Posted by: Eurotrash | September 8, 2005 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Welcome back TA. Another problem with both DHS and FEMA is that they are both run by lawyers (Bush loyalists) with no large-scale management experience (who have surrounded themselves with more lawyers).

Posted by: omnigood | September 8, 2005 2:22 PM | Report abuse

I for one was happy to see the Coast Guard guy being put in charge of FEMA ops in NOLA. Providing I read that correctly, of course.


Posted by: bc | September 8, 2005 2:28 PM | Report abuse

bc: It wouldn't be a bad idea to permanently put a Coast Guard admiral in charge of FEMA.

Posted by: Videlicet | September 8, 2005 2:33 PM | Report abuse

I agree with slyness, I don't think Katrina will be disappearing from the radar anytime soon. It is different from 9/11 in that an entire city is destroyed/inhabitable. Many people lost loved ones (as in 9/11), but these people also lost their homes, their social networks, their jobs, their pets, everything. It is a bigger deal than 9/11.

I also think it's a good thing that 9/11 has less resonance now than it did because much of the feeling that lingered after the mourning was fear. That is no way to live, and those fears also allowed W to manipulate the public into giving him a blank check for Iraq and another four years in office. This attitude is the opposite, in that the public is finally questioning this administration. If the debate remains reasonable and causes some light to be shone on the problems of the poor in a balanced way, it will stay with us until some solutions are offered.

Posted by: TA | September 8, 2005 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Videlicet: re: Hillary Clinton--constructive criticism vs. playing politics? My answer: both. Feel free to weight them yourself according to your own perception.

NYT op-ed: It's Not a 'Blame Game'
"No administration could credibly investigate such an immense failure on its own watch. And we have learned through bitter experience - the Abu Ghraib nightmare is just one example - that when THIS ADMINISTRATION begins an internal investigation, it means a WHITEWASH in which no one important is held ACCOUNTABLE and NO REAL CHANGE occurs. [caps are mine]"

Videlicet, your post wouldn't have such resonance with me if I hadn't been listening to the second hour of the Diane Rehm show the day before yesterday. After 9/11, the feds completed a number of thick reports and analyses--one being the logistics of how to mobilize first-responders in an emergency situation. Apparently, according to a guest on Ms. Rehm's show, this voluminous report is quickly gathering dust on a shelf in the Department of Homeland Security. Aren't the Katrina failures self-evident? Couldn't the money for the investigation(s) or independent inquiry be better spent on improving some city's infrastructure, stripping an antiquated school of asbestos, raising some very deserving teachers' salaries, planting trees in get my drift.

Congress ignores need and spends like drunken sailors? fools? John Winthrop talked/preached about the "golden city on a hill." Where is it today? Please don't make me laugh.

And to return to the topic du jour, when does a celebrity do good works by using his/her "celebrityness?" I can hardly clobber Julia Roberts about testifying before Congress about a rare genetic disorder when I myself live with one. And as young jw writes, "Can this situation possibly NOT be overcovered [or overreported]?"

Where's Sean Penn when we need him? Sean, let's give you the benefit not of the doubt, perhaps, but of the question [journalists should never put words in another's mouth]: "Why did you bring along your own photographer? To document with pictures ones that the media couldn't capture? Other reason? Make some devastated family feel better by giving them the photo opportunity with you? Whhhhyyyyyyyy?"

Posted by: Linda Loomis | September 8, 2005 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Tina Brown's article made my blood run cold, especially the quote from Mother Bush.
Linda, I'm touched, flattered (and shocked?) that you would want to meet me. San Antonio is my birthplace and home for 48 years. Now we're in Amarillo. But SA will always be HOME. My favorite places, Little Flower Cathedral, Ursuline Academy, Majestic and Aztec Theatres, Trail Drive-In (I love the old neon artwork)Bexar County public library, the Farmer's Market, Luther Burbank Highschool, the sunken gardens (never enjoyed the zoo, always wanted to free the animals). My first presidential vote, age 18, was for JFK. When he and Jackie visited SA, Mr. Nani and I and our two babies planted ourselves on a curb on Military Drive at 4:00 a.m., to watch for the motorcade. President Kennedy and I actually made eye contact and he smiled at me! (The exclamation point is justified).
Grew up sort of poor, never experienced poverty; never envied wealth. My happiness is right in my own backyard.

Posted by: Nani | September 8, 2005 2:43 PM | Report abuse

That's UNinhabitable. Haven't gotten my blogging stride yet.

Posted by: TA | September 8, 2005 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Slyness and TA (and Joel). I hope you are right and that what has happened changes the discourse in public life for the better.

Posted by: Eurotrash | September 8, 2005 2:51 PM | Report abuse

No mistakes were made by any one in the Administration. No one at FEMA will be fired. There will be no hearings.

These are your talking points: repeat until true. Disagree? Who cares what you think, anyway?

Posted by: mizerock | September 8, 2005 2:57 PM | Report abuse

No one has has their eyes opened. No assumptions have been challenged.

All events can be shaped to fit your belief system. Either you believe that the Administration is responsible for running the country into the ground (and this proves it!), or you believe that poor people are just a drain on our economy (and this proves it!).

Either you believe that celebrities should shut up (because they disagree with me!), or you believe that they are natural leaders (because we can elect one and kick out a sitting member of the opposite party!)

Posted by: mizerock | September 8, 2005 3:02 PM | Report abuse

having lived as a struggling actor for several years i've lived with poverty several times. also grew up poor... poverty that overwhelming feeling, that crushing can't breath pressure on your chest when you realize your electricity or phone are getting cut off tomorrow and you have no way to pay for them... that feeling of what in the world are you going to do to get $$? when you write a check KNOWING that there's no $$ in the bank but you have no food in your house. but my mother has experienced absolute poverty of growing up in the jungles of panama... so when i weigh the two against each other - well... *shrug*
i read an interesting blip in the wp about the evacuees - one guy said it was weird how nobody cared about them at first and now everyone wants to treat them like movie stars...
and linda - the fact that sean penn has his own photog took the wind outta my sails as well...

Posted by: mo | September 8, 2005 3:30 PM | Report abuse

i just realized the irony that the celebrities (read actors) are helping the victims of K but struggling actors are impoverished... but by choice i spose...

Posted by: mo | September 8, 2005 3:32 PM | Report abuse

My concern with celebrities helping out here has mostly to do with finances, and a little to do with hoping they don't get in the way of the real heros. Mostly I want to know where the money is that they've donated? We hear that George Clooney has donated a million, Alan Jackson is donating a portion of proceeds from his latest concert, Hillary Duff has donated, etc., etc. Supposedly, money is absolutely pouring into the Gulf region. Hopefully it is being used wisely, and will continue to be used wisely two months from now when people begin to rebuild and need things like washers, dryers, new kitchen appliances, etc.

An earlier poster said that big events happen and then other things happen and they get the attention. I hope we won't forget about these victims two months, four months, 2 years down the road. And, speaking personally, I haven't forgotten 9/11, and I want those responsible brought to justice. That being said, I don't want to fight a war that doesn't make sense. Let's help the people that need help, now and down the road, in Louisiana, and let's get the people that need getting for any involvement in 9/11. Anything more or different than that needs a bit more justification in my book.

Posted by: Erica Snipes | September 8, 2005 3:35 PM | Report abuse

also i don't think that america will recover from K as quickly as from 9/11 - if for nothing but the guilt that maybe, just maybe, we didn't do enough to help these people quicker... and why... also, 9/11 was buildings (and yes, lives) but like TA said, this is a whole city, homes, jobs, lives, pets, and a natural disaster so their's no enemy to blame (which i guess is why there's so much finger-pointing right now)

Posted by: mo | September 8, 2005 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Harrison Ford once rescued a girl in his helicopter.

It was some time ago though. I guess his celebrity status doesn't require it to be a full time gig.

Posted by: lurker or was | September 8, 2005 3:43 PM | Report abuse

FEMA has been my customer for years, since before DHS was created. They were always a bit marginalized, having to make do with smallish budgets and insufficient data systems (bubble gum and band-aids to those of you in the IT biz). Once they were swept into DHS, they were essentially neutered. A shoestring budget, lousy upper management, and a big, shiny, new DHS boot on their necks makes for a rather ineffective organization.

Meanwhile, DHS (especially TSA) got billions upon billions of dollars and giant, fabulous new systems, but equally poor upper management, which we've all seen with our own eyes over the past 2 weeks.

We are so fscked if a WMD is ever detonated here.

Posted by: Pixel | September 8, 2005 3:52 PM | Report abuse

And yet, if the NeoCons hadn't been bold and creative enough to find a way to get the US military to do their bidding by invading Iraq, we might find ourselves in even more trouble. Here's how it might have played out:

So even our unavoidable, eventual WMD event won't be opening any eyes. You believe what you want to believe.

Posted by: mizerock | September 8, 2005 4:18 PM | Report abuse

We neeed to keep the media out and confiscate the cameras and cellphones of all the rescue squads as well. We learned this lesson at Abu Graib. Don't let anyone convince you this administration doesn't learn from its mistakes.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 8, 2005 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Now i get it..bash Bush..get on tv handing money over to a small child and all is well with the world!

Posted by: Wendy | September 8, 2005 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Pixel, you have a point about FEMA. Rule #1 of organizational life is that you cannot outperform management. My impression, from a quarter century in the fire service, is that James Lee Witt did an excellent job with the agency, and it's been downhill from there.

Posted by: slyness | September 8, 2005 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Here's a unique idea: fix the problem, not the spin. I don't care who does the work, or who gets the credit - celebrity, President, CEO - just do the job. Do we want leaders who care more about saving lives and property, or about saving their reputation? Do we slam Sean Penn for documenting his efforts, but give a pass to everyone who could do something, but instead goes shoe shopping?

Posted by: mizerock | September 8, 2005 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Someone asked where the VP was....

GULFPORT, Mississippi (AP) -- Walking a hurricane-riddled street, Vice President Dick Cheney declared Thursday that much progress is being made in a disaster relief effort he termed "very impressive."

According to Wonkette: The vice president was not uniformly welcomed in Gulfport. During a press availability in the middle of a street, a young man twice shouted obscenities at him before walking away.

Posted by: alert reader | September 8, 2005 5:29 PM | Report abuse



You make the mistake in assuming that every good deed is its own reward. But does it really matter what the motives of the people helping out in the ruins of the south are?

As long as the work gets done, who cares?

It's not like they are harming anyone, and they can bring well needed PR to situations the government will not let the press cover -- corpses on the streets, for example.

Work, as long as it is not shoddy, cannot be tainted. If work is both beneficial to society and to the person performing the task is that wrong? Where then does that leave people who get paid as police, firemen, civil servants, etc? Should they be criticized for only helping out if they did NOT get paid? And if you did not pay them, we would not have a professional police or fire or civil service.

It would be like the good old days in Tammany or the current Republican Congress when people could say, "I seem my oppostunities and I took 'em."

Let's put it this way, if I were hungry and in a disaster prone state and the government had failed ME, I would be eternally grateful if a celebrity came and helped out. My feeling would be the more the better because with PR I know I would get fed.

So lay off these guys, they are doing a good job and the people on the street know it.



Posted by: Kurt | September 8, 2005 5:59 PM | Report abuse

I am very disappointed to note that the Bush Administration had a choice between being courageous statesmanship and perfidious buck-passing - and decided to stick with perfidious buck-passing.

mizerock - The link on your 4:18:37 post is chilling. If we hadn't attacked Iraq, Al Quaeda would have nuked NYC and San Diego? People believe this?

Posted by: CowTown | September 8, 2005 6:08 PM | Report abuse

SCC Entry: Strike "being" from my first paragraph. My apologies.

Posted by: CowTown | September 8, 2005 6:13 PM | Report abuse

I hate to be using the same analogy the GW used last week in San Diego, but if were going to compare the war in Iraq with WWII we might as well bring in celebrities. During the second world war, hollywood in essence went to war too. Besides making numerous the propaganda like films. numerous celebrities served in the armed forces in combat. James Stewart, Calrk Gable,Robert Taylor to name a few. The point is this what we lack today but had then was a sense of purpose and national sacrifice. Despite what charitable efforts have been made, it is still painfully obvious that in all levels of society not everyone is prepared to do just that

Posted by: Tom | September 8, 2005 6:56 PM | Report abuse

For a liberal I am not impressed by liberal celebrities efforts to help victims - we all are victims- of Katrina.

Heed to the saying: any publicity is good publicity. The decadent life style they lead within their gated community is far away from the reality of segregated housing of the poor urban dweller. They are best at fetisizing the urban coolness and harsh lifestyle of the thug-life.

Especially white celebrities are disconnected and self-serving.

Posted by: Race card:) | September 9, 2005 12:26 AM | Report abuse

To the last portion of the last post I will add that black celebrities are equally disconnected>

I do not want to be reminded of reverse racism but whites who have been under similar duress of slavery, jim crow and segregation.

White people we do not have a racist society. Those days are gone for ever, and the poverty of urban cities has nothing to do with the preferential soxcial and economic policies of past and present administartions.

Posted by: Race card:) | September 9, 2005 12:34 AM | Report abuse

News-less vacation
Catching up on Kaboodle
Overwhelming sadness

Posted by: mostlylurking | September 9, 2005 2:35 AM | Report abuse

NPR had a first-hand report this morning from a NOLA resident who said the first official relief he received was two days after the storm, from Canadian Mounties (!)

And, with less official credibility than NPR, so take it with a grain of salt if you want, but it seems to have the ring of truth and it's all over the internet, this first-hand account:

Posted by: CyberPerson | September 9, 2005 8:20 AM | Report abuse

A quick google search shows that the authors of this are Socialists. Not that that neccessarily means that the story's not true, but good propaganda is always seeded with the truth.

Posted by: jw | September 9, 2005 9:30 AM | Report abuse

When the Socialist Workers Party is telling you the truth, and the Republican Party is lying to you, what conclusion do you draw from that?

Posted by: Former Fellow Traveler, Currently a Capitalist Running Dog | September 9, 2005 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Frank Gifford writes in his 1993 book, "The Whole Ten Yards":

"Not long ago, I took a nostalgia trip to a fence. The fence was just as I remembered it, a chain-link barrier about a dozen feet tall enclosing a high school football field. The high school is in Bakersfield, California, and the football team is called the Drillers. Once I was one of them, but the years before that, when still in grade school, I regularly snuck over that fence to watch the Drillers play.

"Those Friday nights are as vivid to me as yesterday. I can smell the special fragrance if freshly mowed San Joaquin Valley grass mingling with the tang of popcorn. Banks of lights have turned the field into something magical, and it seems the whole town is passing through the gates. I'm with my older brothr, Waine, and a few of his friends. We've jumped the fence because the admission is 25 cents--exactly 25 cents beyond our reach. We try to find seats, which usually improves impossible, so we run up and down the sidelines following the progress of the ball, then sit down wherever it winds up. No one bothers us. ...

"In a way, a lot of my life has been about climbing fences. My mother once figured out that by the time I started high school, we had lived in 47 different towns. When I mention that to friends today, they react with amazement. But to me back then, that kind of endless jumping around seemed to be the natural order of things. ...

"My high school in Bakersfield had more than five thousand kids, definitely the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder. Many of them were the children of farmers and oil workers. They were tough kids--black, Spanish, poor whites, kids like me. Consequently, the school enjoyed a great football tradition. The varsity was called the Drillers and the lightweights the Sand Dabs, another oil-field term. ..."

I lived one and a half blocks from Bakersfield High School's football field and stadium, and just beyond were the railroad tracks of the Santa Fe Railroad. My father, like Frank Gifford's father, was an oil field worker. This is the same high school that former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren attended.

"Sal si puedes" is Spanish for "get out if you can." It is the name of the barrio in South San Jose, Calif. where Cesar Chavez lived as a kid.

Justice Earl Warren studied law at Berkeley and got out, but I think he always looked back over his shoulder by guiding judicial decisions such as Brown v. Board and Miranda. Frank Gifford got out by going on to USC and its football team there, eventually becoming a sports braodcaster. He has settled on Connecticut's "Gold Coast." I not aware of of how involved Gifford and his wife Kathie Lee are in philanthropic activities, so I don't know if Gifford looks over his shoulder.

I studied for hours on end in high school and got out and like to think that I looked back. Cesar Chavez got out of his childhood San Jose barrio, but jumped right back in with two feet in organizing the United Farm Workers, basing his efforts in northern Kern County, in Delano.

How, oh how, do we best help those living in poverty today? Sal si puedes.

Posted by: Linda Loomis | September 9, 2005 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Well, "truth" is a pretty liberal description of that story, I think. Haha, get it? Liberal? I crack me up. Anyway, this story could be summarized as such: noble working class is oppressed by fascist government, but ultimately overcomes. Hm. Where have I heard that before? Proletariat unite! I'm surprised that they didn't follow a yellow brick road out of New Orleans.

In any case, some of this just seems WAY over the top. Using a helocopter to blow their shelters down? Contrary to popular belief most people are in the service to, um, serve.

Posted by: jw | September 9, 2005 9:58 AM | Report abuse

I see that the Post published Hunter Thompson's suicide note (via Rolling Stone) "Football Season Is Over.":

"No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun -- for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your old age. Relax -- This won't hurt."

50 seems like an awfully young age to decide to turn out the lights!

Posted by: Videlicet | September 9, 2005 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Linda Loomis: Was Frank Gifford a quarterback? He was featured in "The Fan Man", but I read it long ago. I remember the author getting free tickets to a Giants game and jumping around like a maniac, to the chagrin of his benefactor.

Posted by: Videlicet | September 9, 2005 10:03 AM | Report abuse

did anyone hear about the bodies in the superdome that were mutilated? mutilated! it's not bad enough to kill someone, huh?

question for everyone: if you were in NO and your house was fine, no water or other damage and you had enough food & water to sustain yourself for maybe a month or more, would you leave after being told that you must evacuate?

Posted by: mo | September 9, 2005 10:20 AM | Report abuse

Enough food and water to sustain yourself is a butt-load of food and water. And where are you going to go potty?

I am so eloquent today.

Posted by: jw | September 9, 2005 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Hmm. A football tangent this AM? Timely, I suppose.

I think Frank Gifford played several positions in his career, RB, receiver, and for some reason I think even DB and kicker, too.

Frank's had some good looks at poverty from both sides of the fence; from his own youth, and from site visits to "sweatshops" that made clothing for his wife's name brand lines about 10 years ago or so. Not sure if Frank looked over his shoulder at Susan Johnson or not.

jw, I saw that Hunter Thompson piece this AM, can't say I'm surprised about the headline for his suicide note, as I used to faithfully read his blog (before it was called such a thing) on's Page 2.

Now to more impertinent, er, important topics: I have Joe Horn and Deuce McAllister on my fantasy team.
Should I be concerned?



Posted by: bc | September 9, 2005 10:24 AM | Report abuse

SCC entry: the double "bc".

There may be more, I'm too depressed to look closely.


Posted by: bc | September 9, 2005 10:32 AM | Report abuse

let's say you stockpiled your food and water (since we are talking theoretically) and you have dry dirt ground around your house where you can dig a latrene (sp?)

i'm asking b/c i'm trying to understand the reasoning behind the ppl who are refusing to leave... i suppose if i thought i were fine right where i was at, why would i go to a shelter?

Posted by: mo | September 9, 2005 10:33 AM | Report abuse

mo, Denial ain't just a river.

Posted by: jw | September 9, 2005 10:36 AM | Report abuse

I have a funny observation about todays sports headlines posted online. One header reads "harris is a momma's boy" This young college man makes the sports section of the greatest paper in the land, not for his great on field sucess or anything like that. The Washington Post proclaims that he is a Momma's boy. Good Luck intimidating your opponents Harris.

Posted by: comment | September 9, 2005 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Ah! What is happening? Everything's changing!

Posted by: jw | September 9, 2005 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Eugene Robinson had a good NOLA quote today:

What was that about a rising tide lifting all boats? What if you don't have a boat?

Posted by: Videlicet | September 9, 2005 10:52 AM | Report abuse

jw, from the public safety side, here's another story. Again, unverified and labeled as a rant...

Posted by: slyness | September 9, 2005 10:55 AM | Report abuse

jw: Food and poop usually isn't a problem in survival situations, you need potable water.

Posted by: Videlicet | September 9, 2005 10:55 AM | Report abuse

But refusing to evacuate when ordered doesn't really fall under "survival."

Posted by: jw | September 9, 2005 10:57 AM | Report abuse

The first thing I'm doing is filling up my bathtub to drink from. You can always poop in your neighbor's yard! (a little doggie payback)

Posted by: Videlicet | September 9, 2005 10:59 AM | Report abuse

My mom gave me a crank-operated survival radio for my birthday back in May. She's not as crazy as I thought.

Posted by: jw | September 9, 2005 11:06 AM | Report abuse

My father was always most proud of the fact that he put food on our table and that we never went hungry.

Bakersfield was an ag town. My father would go to the fields in his '57 Chevy and collect the culls--the undersized produce not fit for market--before it was plowed back into the ground. I remember the cantaloupes more than anything. He brought home more than 60 one day. We distributed what we couldn't eat to our neighbors. If the next-door neighbors got ahold of some onions, they'd give away the surplus. Same with the Blairs across the street--when they came by some extra tomatoes. It was survival. We all got fed.

Posted by: Linda Loomis | September 9, 2005 11:18 AM | Report abuse

jw, again, my compliments to your mom. She sounds like a wise woman.

mo, a fellow in the French Quarter didn't want to evacuate because he said he'd be no better off elsewhere. He had stockpiled water and MRE's, I believe. But being on your own in a destruction zone would be pretty weird. I just wonder if some folks will hide away. The whole situation is so bizarre.

Posted by: mostlylurking | September 9, 2005 11:24 AM | Report abuse

mo, I'd leave if there were a mandatory evacuation, but otherwise I'd probably stay as long as I could. My house was hit by a tornado back in '97 and we were without all kinds of electricity and water for about three weeks. Got me into a food storage mindset. So now I always have cans of food and bottles of water to last about a month in the basement for just such emergencies.

Posted by: Sara | September 9, 2005 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Bottled water does have a shelf life:

• "First in, first out" is the best rule for bottled water. Use the older bottles first.

• Adjust your order so that you have no more than a 30-day supply on hand.

Posted by: omnigood | September 9, 2005 11:36 AM | Report abuse

It certainly is bizarre, mostlylurking. Somehow it brings post-apocalyptic movies to mind, or even zombie movies -- a deserted city, a fight for survival, a loss of trust in one's fellow man. Even the recent "War of the Worlds" movie doesn't seem so far-fetched in the current context.

(Are you all proud of me for being able to resist blogging for this long? I know *I'm* proud -- I have proven to myself that Achen indeed stop any time I want to. A*chen*!)

Posted by: Achenfan | September 9, 2005 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Hey guys, get yourselves over to the new Kit -- so many of you are quoted in it!

Posted by: Achenfan | September 9, 2005 11:42 AM | Report abuse

"this long" Ha! I went a week and a day.

Posted by: omnigoof | September 9, 2005 11:47 AM | Report abuse

That's true, omni, and you are certainly to be commended for that. I guess I'm still at the "one day at a time" stage.

Posted by: Achenfan | September 9, 2005 11:50 AM | Report abuse

A word of caution: the worst part isn't actually the withdrawal but the catching up.

Posted by: omnigoof | September 9, 2005 11:55 AM | Report abuse

You got it, omnigood/goof. I still haven't read all the boodles. Some seemed to be from a different universe...Blorph...

Posted by: mostlylurking | September 9, 2005 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Some of those Hurricane Katrina 'boodles were definitely reminiscent of the Rovestorm.

Posted by: Tom fan | September 9, 2005 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Oops -- definitely no pun intended with "storm." (Would that the Rovestorm had been called the Rovefest or some such thing.)

Posted by: Tom fan | September 9, 2005 12:19 PM | Report abuse

went cold turkey some point on 8/30. started back up on 9/7 every spare working moment and still took a day and half to catch (even though I skipped over a lot of the madness).

Posted by: omnigood | September 9, 2005 12:43 PM | Report abuse

so - see jw - some people would stay - i don't know what i would do but if i were in that situation and had seen what had happened at the superdome/convention center - you'd hafta pry me outta my house! screw food and water and a place to potty!

Posted by: mo | September 9, 2005 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Has anyone noticed that The Scorpions' "Rock Me Like a Hurricane" has been in heavy rotation on the classic rock stations? Is this in bad taste or what?

Posted by: jw | September 9, 2005 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Good Lord, jw -- that's unbelievable.

And here I was, hardly allowing myself to even call the hurricane "Katrina." (I prefer to simply call it "the hurricane" -- why give it a pretty name?)

Posted by: Achenfan | September 9, 2005 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, I noticed that, jw.

I heard "Winds of Change" on one of those stations the other day, and it did make me think. A hopeful song turned melancholy over time...

Achenfan, I hope that Katrina stays alone, in that respect, but as the world warms, we may have to refer to it by name, as people living in Florida talk about Andrew and Charlie and Ivan...


Posted by: bc | September 9, 2005 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Random fact, but did you know that the names of truly huge and devistating hurricanes get "retired"? So at least there won't be any more hurricanes named Katrina any time in the near future.

Posted by: jw | September 9, 2005 2:35 PM | Report abuse

We should rename Katrina "Bush", since he really deserves the credit for making this such a major screw-up.

His policies (including his failure to appoint competent people) and his response (no rich people died, so "what me worry?") turned a known and managable dangerous situation (the need to build structures to prevent flooding and to have plans to help people in emergencies)into a deadly disaster of "Bopal" preportions in the richest country in the world.

Posted by: Katrina should be named Bush | September 10, 2005 12:53 PM | Report abuse

It's probably way too late, but, today's posts at point out that at least one paper has run a correction regarding Sean Penn. Here it is ...

As of this writing, it appears that the New York Daily News is the first and only media outlet to run a correction stating that actor Sean Penn did not, in fact, bring a personal photographer along to document his relief efforts in New Orleans. Penn struck back in an  interview saying his efforts were "sincere" and now his publicist is making an effort to tell the media that reports of the photographer were incorrect. Penn friend and presidential historian Douglas Brinkley also told the News that reports of a leak in Penn's boat were also not true: "There was never a leak. The boat was overloaded with people. It got some water in it, as boats usually do..."

It appears that the report of a leak in the boat and the photographer originated with Australia's Herald Sun. This story says the paper reported Penn's efforts "foundered badly" because of a leaky boat "loaded with members of [the star's] entourage, including a personal photographer."

Here's the Daily News correction.We'll see if others pop up.

A story in yesterday's News contained an inaccurate description of Sean Penn's efforts to help victims of Hurricane Katrina. According to the actor's publicist, Penn did not travel with a photographer or crew; those reports, first made by a news agency, were incorrect.

Posted by: Bayou Self | September 12, 2005 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Who cares about Sean Penn?

Posted by: Wendy | September 12, 2005 6:52 PM | Report abuse

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