Friday, September 30, 2005

That's kind of his schtick

For future reference: George Carlin always does dark comedy, so expect nothing different if he comes to your town.

Show them the money

Four of Alabama's five Republican congressmen have chipped in to the legal defense fund for former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas. All five, meanwhile, have received campaign donations from DeLay's political action committee over the years.

Actually, it's tough to find a GOP congressman who hasn't taken contributions from DeLay. Probably the most famous member of that short list is U.S. Rep. Tom Osborne, R-Neb., who won three national championships as Nebraska's head football coach.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

She's talking

New York Times reporter Judith Miller, after almost three months behind bars, has agreed to testify before a grand jury investigating the 2003 outing of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame. Business may be about to pick up in a hurry in that case.

Entirely expected

As I predicted a couple of months ago, John Roberts has ridden his stellar legal background and unoffensive nature to easy confirmation for a spot on the U.S. Supreme Court. He'll become the nation's 17th chief justice today after picking up support from all of the Republican senators and half of the Democratic senators. The real Washington showdown, over moderate conservative Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's replacement, still looms.

Mr. Riley goes to videoconference

Gov. Bob Riley on Wednesday argued before a U.S. Senate committee that Congress shouldn't cut Alabama's share of Medicaid funding this year because the state has absorbed thousands of Hurricane Katrina evacuees who use the program.

U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, D-Birmingham, is sponsoring just such a bill in the House, with a trio of Republican congressmen from Alabama as co-sponsors. Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., is co-sponsoring similar Senate legislation.

If you pave it, they will park

As gas prices begin to settle in around $3 a gallon -- remember a few months ago when $2 a gallon seemed insanely expensive? -- Alabama's park-and-ride lots are becoming more than just attractive places for small-town teenagers to hang out and drink.

As The Birmingham News reports today, usage of the state's lots has increased dramatically in the last year as more commuters living in fringe suburbs have begun to carpool to cut down on gas costs. Transportation officials hope to encourage further fuel conservation by building 11 more lots near Birmingham and extending mass transit services to them.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

He actually holds elective office

State Sen. Hank Erwin, R-Montevallo, thinks God sent Hurricane Katrina to punish New Orleans and the Mississippi coast for their sinful indulgences of gambling and other general debauchery.

Thankfully, now that Erwin has revealed himself as an expert on divine punishment, we know who to ask for an explanation of why Hurricane Ivan slammed into southern Alabama and the Florida Panhandle last year. Or why a killer F5 tornado demolished the tiny town of Oak Grove in 1998. Or why Las Vegas, gambling haven that it is, hasn't been obliterated in a giant sandstorm.

Perhaps geography and shifting weather patterns play integral roles in determining where and when natural disasters strike. Still, just to be on the safe side, maybe we can earn some immunity if we ban gay adoption once and gay marriage twice.

Damn liberal indictment

In another sign that out-of-control activist judges -- sometimes they use the Internet! -- are the top threat confronting the nation, a Texas grand jury today indicted House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, on a criminal conspiracy charge.

The indictment will force DeLay, at least temporarily, from his House leadership role, something that his three House ethics admonishments last year didn't do. Fortunately, DeLay's spokesman assures everyone that today's indictment is just an example of crass partisanship from Travis County prosecutor Ronnie Earle, a Democrat.

Of course, 11 of the 15 cases in which Earle prosecuted public officials involved Democratic defendants, but facts like that shouldn't keep you from seeing the horrible truth: At some point, unbeknownst to the public, Earle may have visited a website.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Always with the questions

Will Alabama head coach Mike Shula finally get his signature win this weekend as Florida rolls into Tuscaloosa? When will South Carolina start throwing more passes to its 40-year-old wide receiver? How did LSU blow that huge lead against Tennessee? When will Vanderbilt be ranked?

Consider this your college football week four open thread.

And then they'll eat cake

Gov. Bob Riley's backers expect him to announce his re-election bid during his birthday party Oct. 8 in Birmingham. That declaration would come five days after Granite King former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore makes his gubernatorial intentions known -- hint: he's running -- in Gadsden.

Riley's original announcement was to come during a Labor Day picnic in Montgomery, but Hurricane Katrina had other plans.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Roy can't like those numbers

Gov. Bob Riley's approval rating rose 12 percentage points in the last month, jumping to 58 percent, according to SurveyUSA's latest 50-state tracking poll. That increase has to be attributable mostly to his administration's calm, swift preparation and response in the days immediately before and after Hurricane Katrina. Of course, Alabama's plummeting unemployment rate probably also played a part.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Bad, but not Katrina

Hurricane Rita threatened to pound Houston with Category 4 or 5 winds this weekend, but at the last minute, the storm fell to Category 3 and cut to the east to slam the Louisiana-Texas border instead. Still, Texas officials' mandatory evacuation orders for Galveston and Houston were the right call. At the time, Rita looked like a meteorological buzz saw headed straight for those cities, and humanity takes a Category 5 threat lightly at its peril.

Though Rita weakened, it still left 25 dead, including 24 elderly evacuees who died Friday in a freak bus explosion south of Dallas. The hurricane also did about $8 billion of damage in Texas, and Louisiana has asked for almost $32 billion in federal money to restore infrastructure. Here in Alabama, tornadoes swirled around the northern half of the state all day, but I've only heard reports of a couple of injuries. Fortunately, though Rita's death toll and damage are tremendous, they aren't on the enormous, broad scale of Hurricane Katrina's devastation.

Meanwhile, only four more names remain on the National Hurricane Center's list for this Atlantic hurricane season, which will last for two more months. If those names run out, storms then will take their monikers from the Greek alphabet. With global warming doing its thing, we may be only a few years away from hurricanes sharing names with fraternities and sororities.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

There goes that vow of silence

An unnamed Roman Catholic cardinal, risking excommunication, has revealed to an Italian magazine his diary accounts of the April conclave that elected Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI. The magazine's report reveals that Ratzinger got 84 of the 115 votes on the final ballot -- fewer than his two immediate predecessors are thought to have received -- and that Cardinal Jorge Maria Bergoglio of Argentina was the runner-up.

It's unclear why the anonymous cardinal chose to leak now, but one has to wonder if the recent leak of a proposed Vatican ban on gay seminary students had anything to do with it. Regardless, as a Vatican observer said, "It does seem that somebody wants to indicate that the conclave was a more complex process than was being depicted and that Benedict's mandate was not a slam dunk."

Friday, September 23, 2005

Yes, we elect our Supreme Court

Next year's Republican gubernatorial primary battle between ousted Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore and Gov. Bob Riley may spread by proxy to the party's race for chief justice.

The current chief justice, Drayton Nabers, announced Thursday that he'll seek a full term in the job to which Riley appointed him last year. But The Birmingham News reports today that Associate Justice Tom Parker, a key Moore aide who forced Jean Brown from the bench last year after a campaign that focused almost entirely on Moore's Ten Commandments controversy, may challenge Nabers for chief justice in 2006.

At the time, Parker's narrow win was seen widely as a victory for Moore, who was removed from office after he decided a mere federal court order wasn't reason enough to change his building's granitic decoration scheme. Still, Parker was the only victor out of the three Moore backers who sought spots on the state's high court last year, and turnout for the June primaries was low because both parties long ago had selected their presidential nominees, so the size of Moore's coattail effect remains unclear.

Nabers has a little more than a year of experience as a judge, but Parker has even less. Meanwhile, Nabers' background as state finance director and his 20-plus years as an insurance company executive give him a big edge on the job's administrative side. Regardless, though, Nabers' primary fate may be tied inexorably to that of the governor who appointed him.

The general election may get interesting, too. The Birmingham News reports that Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Sue Bell Cobb, the lone Democrat remaining on Alabama's three appellate courts, plans to run for the state's top judicial job. Cobb has sat on the bench for decades longer than either of her prospective GOP opponents, but she faces an uphill battle running as a Democrat in a state that's been trending red in recent elections.

Out of print

The Magic City's "scrappy almost-daily paper," the Birmingham Post-Herald, ended its long life today with a final edition filled with nostalgia, tributes, and historical context.

Highly recommended are the farewells by columnist Clarke Stallworth and editorial page editor Karl Seitz. But as often was the case, the highlight of today's edition was the sports section, which featured a trifecta of powerful goodbyes from sports editor Scott Adamson and columnists Bill Lumpkin and Ray Melick.

One of the unanswered questions in the wake of the Post-Herald's sudden closure: Who will sponsor the annual quest for Alabama's spelling masters in the future?

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Wave hello

The temporarily homeless Tulane football team may play two home games in Mobile this year, including a nationally televised contest against UTEP, according to today's Mobile Register. The Miners are scheduled to play UAB in November, so the move would bring UTEP coach Mike Price back in touch twice this year with the state where he and his last job were separated forcibly.

Stop the presses

The long-rumored death of the Birmingham Post-Herald will occur Friday, when the newspaper will publish its final edition after operating for more than 80 years under that name and others. The newspaper's joint operating agreement with The Birmingham News was supposed to last until 2015, but with the Post-Herald hemorrhaging circulation like it was, the owners had little choice but to go ahead and pull the plug.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

At least they had a rocking chair

When a team of people spend more than an entire day nonstop reading aloud in shifts and they still don't make it even most of the way through your state's constitution, then it's probably too long.

Not again

First we saw Hurricane Katrina destroy New Orleans and the Mississippi coast. Now Hurricane Rita, another Category 4 storm, is heading for Galveston, Texas, which got wiped out by a monster hurricane 105 years ago and may face the same fate again if the storm breaches the city's seawall. Houston, where thousands of New Orleans evacuees now reside, isn't much farther inland.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

'The conscience of the Holocaust'

Simon Wiesenthal, a Holocaust survivor who later helped round up more than 1,100 Nazi war criminals, died today at age 96. He did a lot of great things for humanity, and he'll be missed.

Death and taxes

The Birmingham News today confirms that U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., called a Birmingham estate tax expert a couple of weeks after Hurricane Katrina to share "his plan to use the death of a Gulf Coast business owner to argue for the repeal of the estate tax."

Time magazine reported about that phone call on Saturday, but what that article didn't tell you is that those damn liberals and their omnipresent agenda bear every bit of the blame. No, seriously, that's Sessions' explanation: "It was just a push back to the group that was trying to use Katrina as a basis to block permanently or indefinitely the death tax (repeal)."

Fortunately, Sessions sees that now is no time for finger-pointing or opportunism. Now is the time for action, and there's no better way to alleviate the misery of Alabamians, Louisianans, and Mississippians who have lost everything than by lending a hand to estate tax victims like this one: "If somebody had died during this storm ... and their business was substantially damaged and the revenue was lost, ... a counterargument would be, how can these business owners ever recover if they pay a 45 percent death tax?"

And a counterargument to that would be that perhaps being dead frustrates the hypothetical business owner's recovery efforts more than the estate tax, but you get the idea.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Plus, Alabama's ranked again

Auburn, BYU, Clemson, Miami, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Tennessee, and Washington.

What's the common bond? Aside from each having at least one national championship in their illustrious football histories, they're all among the teams with a worse record than SEC East leader Vanderbilt so far this year as we head into late September.

Who said college football isn't the greatest, quirkiest game around? This is your week three open thread.

Much better than the alternative

I don't trust North Korea's leaders any further than I can throw them, but it's nonetheless a hopeful sign that they promised today to give up their nuclear weapons program in exchange for energy assistance and mutual pledges of security and better relations. If everyone sticks to the agreement, the Pacific Rim will be a much safer place, and living conditions could improve considerably for everyday North Koreans.

A successful deal also would be a huge victory for the increasingly unpopular Bush administration, which badly needs something good to happen these days, and the other participants in the six-party talks. Still, the proof will be in the execution.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

He's back

After months of "listening posts" (like informal campaign events, but semantically different), former Gov. Don Siegelman told The Associated Press on Saturday that he's in the race for Alabama's top job next year. He'll join Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley, the first major gubernatorial contender to make her candidacy official, in a battle for the Democratic nomination.

Siegelman said he's eager to begin debates as soon as November, which is incredibly early even in the modern era of wall-to-wall politics, but Baxley wants to wait until early next year. Meanwhile, neither of the top Republican contenders for governor -- former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore and Gov. Bob Riley -- has made his candidacy official yet, but it's only a matter of time.

Yes, Virginia, there are blind partisans

A recent Mobile Register poll published today finds that most Alabama Republicans are pleased with President Bush's response to Hurricane Katrina, while most Alabama Democrats aren't. In the words of poll director Keith Nicholls: "I would go so far as to say (Bush's) actual performance is virtually irrelevant. If you are a Republican supporter of George Bush, he can do no wrong. If you are a Democratic opponent, he can do nothing right."

An Auburn University Montgomery political science professor, though, says the poll, conducted before Bush's prime-time speech Thursday night on Gulf Coast reconstruction, may not reflect conservative Republicans' distaste for the president's promises of big domestic spending. (My take on Bush's pledges: Many of them sound good, but I'll withhold judgment until we start seeing action, or inaction, on them in the next few weeks.)

The poll results also suggest that some people still support Bush but nonetheless are unhappy with the federal government's response in Katrina's immediate aftermath. Almost two-thirds of respondents, for example, gave negative marks to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The greatest catch I've ever seen

Undeterred by the University of Alabama's pending trademark infringement lawsuit against him, artist Daniel Moore has revealed that he'll make a painting of Crimson Tide wide receiver Tyrone Prothro's magnificent behind-the-defender's-back catch late in the first half of last week's Southern Miss game.

It can drive in five more months

Alabama: proud home of the world's oldest chicken.

Friday, September 16, 2005

It could happen here

Some people -- your faithful writer not included -- complained in July when Gov. Bob Riley ordered a mandatory evacuation of the Alabama coast in advance of Hurricane Dennis, which looked ferocious at the time but weakened before landfall. But after Hurricane Katrina brought the worst-case scenario to life in Louisiana and Mississippi last month, Riley's abundance of caution began to look like the wise decision it was.

The Birmingham News today examines how prepared Alabama would have been had Katrina scored a direct hit on the Mobile Bay area. On the plus side, the Riley administration regularly orders the flow reversed on southbound lanes of Interstate 65 in the Mobile area during evacuations to ease the traffic crunch. (Flow reversal should have occurred on interstates in the New Orleans area before Katrina hit, but if it did, I missed the images.)

In the "needs work" department, Riley says Alabama needs more shelters to house victims of a Category 4 or 5 hurricane, and it's not entirely clear how state and local officials would evacuate coastal residents too poor to own a car. But Riley has shown throughout his term that he's a governor who takes hurricane threats seriously, so I'm confident that the state will shore up any preparation shortcomings soon.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Some meaty legislation

U.S. Reps. Spencer Bachus, R-Vestavia Hills, and Artur Davis, D-Birmingham, have suggested several measures designed to help Hurricane Katrina victims rebuild their lives, The Birmingham News reports today.

Among the proposals are Bachus' plan to ease requirements for evacuees to show identification before cashing checks and Davis' bill to allow hurricane survivors to make penalty-free withdrawals from their retirement accounts in the next half year.

Davis also has proposed measures to permit evacuees to vote absentee in the next two election cycles, which should be common sense if they remain registered only in their home states, and to eliminate the scheduled Medicaid funding cuts for Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, which may raise other states' hackles.

Some fraudsters will try to game the system, of course, but that's the case with just about anything the government does. As Bachus said, "You have some bad actors, and people will take advantage of the situation, but you have to get relief and it has to function for the victims, and 99 percent of them are law-abiding citizens who aren't going to take advantage of these relaxations."

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

'It's different when it's your own country'

Today's Mobile Register has a well-written, detailed feature on life for the handful of people who remain in New Orleans. On the bright side, the story notes that about half of the city is dry now and that the French Quarter, which fuels the city's tourism industry, is largely intact after Hurricane Katrina.

But plenty of grim news remains, too. The city's Ninth Ward, already one of New Orleans' poorest neighborhoods, essentially is ruined, and U.S. troops are encountering indescribable scenes of death and destruction as they work tirelessly to clean up the mess. As a commander whose soldiers recently served in Afghanistan and Iraq said, "This is comparable in a way, but it's different when it's your own country."

Thus ends this week's mayoral blogging

Sam Jones cruised to victory in Mobile's mayoral runoff Tuesday, while Walt Maddox pulled a mild but not entirely unexpected upset in the showdown for Tuscaloosa's top job. Based on the media reports I've read about the runoff campaigns, it looks like the better candidate won in each race.

Memo to President Bush

First, thank you for hinting Tuesday, at long last, that there exists even the slightest possibility that your administration may have fallen a millimeter or two short of absolute infallibility in at least one particular instance during the last four and a half years. Amazingly enough, in this environment in which it's news when a president admits he actually is answerable for what the federal government does, that constitutes progress.

Still, please know that your decision to announce publicly that you "take responsibility" "to the extent the federal government didn't fully do its job right" in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath wasn't any sort of bold leadership stroke or magnanimous gesture. As the federal government's chief executive, you already bore that responsibility regardless of whether you admitted it aloud.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Round two

Voters in Mobile and Tuscaloosa still have a few more hours to have their say in today's runoffs about who should succeed their longtime mayors.

Mobile County Commissioner Sam Jones, who came close to an outright victory in Mobile's first round of mayoral voting, carries the Mobile Register's emphatic endorsement. The Vanguard editorial board, meanwhile, gave its support to Jones' runoff challenger, City Councilman John Peavy, before last month's mayoral election.

Tuscaloosa's race was a bit closer the first time around, and the race between City Councilman Walt Maddox and former City Council President Sammy Watson could be a tight one again. The Tuscaloosa News editorial board, despite some concerns about "negative campaign messages," is backing Watson, while The Crimson White has given Maddox a resounding endorsement.

Jones and Watson are the favorites to take the reins of their home cities, but a Maddox win certainly isn't out of the question.

Monday, September 12, 2005

A heck of a resignation

With 63 percent of Americans saying the federal government's response in Hurricane Katrina's immediate aftermath was poor, it was only a matter of time before a Bush administration official was out of a job.

Today, that someone turned out to be Michael Brown, who somehow became the Federal Emergency Management Agency's director two years ago despite little prior background in emergency response and some discrepancies in his online profiles.

Brown's resignation comes about a week and a half after a truly disturbing sequence of events in which he said on Sept. 1 that the federal government didn't know about the thousands of hurricane survivors in New Orleans' convention center until three days after the city flooded. Then he claimed those survivors were receiving at least one meal a day despite on-the-ground reporting that clearly disproved that assertion. The next day, President Bush said Brown was "doing a heck of a job."

No, he wasn't. Brown's resignation is a good start, but if our nation is to be more prepared in the event of another catastrophe, the federal housecleaning in Katrina's wake can't stop there.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

They're still undefeated

It's the middle of September, and Vanderbilt is atop the SEC East.

No, seriously.

OK, Georgia is tied for the lead, too, but Vandy's 28-24 road win over Arkansas on Saturday was quite a sight to see. If the Commodores beat Ole Miss next week, they'll likely knock out Richmond and Middle Tennessee State and be 5-0 headed into a home showdown with LSU.

To quote another football fan, will this season be Vanderbilt's "Northwestern year"? Is Notre Dame for real, or was Michigan just overrated? Will Pittsburgh win a single game this year?

Treat this as your week two college football open thread.

Four years later

Is America any safer on the fourth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks than it was on that horrible day? As a story in today's Montgomery Advertiser suggests, air travel may be more secure, but the Department of Homeland Security's intense focus on anti-terrorism measures may have hurt its ability to respond to gigantic natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Zero traction for 'zero access'

The U.S. government on Friday tried to cut off the media's right to cover the recovery of Hurricane Katrina victims' bodies in New Orleans, asserting that such coverage was improper.

Prior restraint of reporting on unclassified governmental actions is about as egregious as First Amendment violations get, and U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison on Friday issued a temporary restraining order against the plan. The government then dropped its "zero access" policy today in the face of a CNN lawsuit.

To give the government the benefit of the doubt, I'll assume the policy aimed not to improve the public's increasingly negative view of officials' hurricane response but to protect victims' dignity and to avoid upsetting their family members with highly graphic images. Even so, such coverage decisions and the fallout from them belong to media outlets, not public officials. In the words of CNN's brief, "It is not the place of government to replace its own internal judgment for that of a free and independent media."

Kudos to CNN and Ellison for preserving the First Amendment.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Great idea

A group of Alabama legislators -- the story reports that eight were at the press conference, but only seven names are mentioned -- pledged Thursday to donate $1,000 to the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund and challenged every other state legislator in the country to do the same. Sen. Gerald Dial, D-Lineville, observed that a 100 percent contribution rate would raise about $3.3 million for Hurricane Katrina victims.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Please donate

Relief agencies are trying desperately to save lives after Hurricane Katrina, and they need your help. Please give whatever cash you can to the American Red Cross or the Salvation Army or the other reputable charity of your choice. If you have any special skills -- medical or engineering training, for example -- and you want to volunteer your time, you can do so here.

This post is postdated and will remain at the top of the page for at least a week. Please help our fellow Americans in a time of need.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Just find out the truth

Pro: Congressional Republicans have approved a bipartisan joint congressional committee to investigate federal, state, and local actions in the run-up to Hurricane Katrina and in its aftermath.

Con: Unlike the 9/11 commission, the committee won't be independent and won't be split evenly down partisan lines.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Just because

It's time for an open thread about college football's opening week. Just how overrated was Oklahoma? Just how good are USC and Texas? Is Auburn still committing second-half turnovers?


Monday, September 05, 2005

Just a thought

If Alabama's legislators aren't too busy next year -- you know, if they have time left over after outlawing stuff that's already illegal and passing laws that say they can't pass laws -- it sure would be nice of them to approve a statewide water use policy.

Unless, of course, our lawmakers like it when counties feel compelled to respond to their neighbors' protectionism with protectionism of their own.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

On the clock

Secretary of State Nancy Worley a few months ago picked Diebold to set up Alabama's voter registration system despite a bipartisan committee's unanimous recommendations to the contrary. This week, with a Jan. 1 federal deadline approaching, she tossed out the plan due to a dispute over "whether the state would license software from Diebold or buy it," The Huntsville Times reports.

Worley offers assurances that the state still will meet the deadline, an outcome that would be much more certain if her office had a vendor finalized four months from the finish line.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Another vacancy

Chief Justice William Rehnquist died today in his Virginia home. With Hurricane Katrina relief and two Supreme Court nominations pending, Congress should have no higher priorities when it returns Tuesday. Of course, there's no guarantee it won't anyway.

Friday, September 02, 2005

How you can help in Alabama

Thousands of evacuees from New Orleans and southern Mississippi are in Alabama right now, and they need assistance. Below are some of the ways people are helping in a few of the state's major cities. Please post updates in the comments if you know of other local projects to aid Hurricane Katrina's victims.

Auburn: Conservative Progress passes along some information about Auburn University's relief efforts. The university has set up a website with news about donation drives and transfer programs.

Birmingham: Birmingham Blues is keeping track of relief agencies' needs in the Magic City and notes that the shelter at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center is asking for diapers, pillows, sheets, and towels. The site's proprietor also provided several helpful updates in the comments to this post.

Huntsville: The Rocket City only has one official shelter thus far, but calls for help have begun pouring in at the local Red Cross chapter. Several relief agencies have started collecting money for relief efforts.

Montgomery: About 6,000 evacuees are staying in motels and at least five shelters in the capital city area. City officials ask volunteers to contact the Emergency Operations Center for more information on how to help. The United Way also needs donations.

Troy: Unlocked Wordhoard reports that Troy has about 300 evacuees who need assistance and shelter.

Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama has set up an evacuation shelter at its Rec Center, and the Red Cross needs volunteers there. The university also has rushed its admission of displaced students from New Orleans universities and has asked Crimson Tide football fans to give up their motel rooms for this weekend's football game to make room for Katrina refugees. More information is available here.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

'It's like they're punishing us'

Great Britain's MI5 security service estimated recently that Western civilization is about "four meals away from anarchy."

Those words are proving sadly prescient in New Orleans, which in a week's time has gone from one of the world's most beautiful cities to Hell on the Mississippi. Armed gangs now control the city's streets, overwhelming the comparative handful of police trying to keep order, and hospital evacuations stopped today after snipers opened fire on the National Guard.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people remain stranded on the streets or rooftops or in cramped refuges like the Louisiana Superdome, the Riverwalk, or the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, where the bodies are beginning to pile up as the city's food and water supplies continue to dwindle. Looting is widespread, with some people taking advantage of the crisis to steal weapons and expensive items but with many others desperately seeking food and water to stay alive.

Rescuers and relief workers are doing everything they can on the ground and in the air, but there just aren't enough of them to reach everyone who's in trouble, and anger toward city, state, and federal officials is growing. "They've been teasing us with buses for days," one refugee said. "It's like they're punishing us," another said. Publishing online today from its new home in Houma, La., the New Orleans Times-Picayune editorialized that "[v]irtually everyone in public safety has failed the people left in New Orleans who are trying desperately to survive."

The Bush administration right now may well be doing what it can in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath, but some area residents blame the president for what they see as an inadequate response. A refugee outside the city's convention center expressed his outrage today: "You can do everything for other countries but you can't do nothing for your own people. You can go overseas with the military but you can't get them down here."