Our tsunami?

From Boing Boing, an email attributed to NOLA rescue worker reads:

There are dead animals floating in the water, pets left behind. Surely people thought they would be back to collect the pets. Not so. The rescuers smell like gas when they come back in; there’s gas in all of the water that consumes the area. Fires are burning all over the place. Our teams are tired and they are thirsty and they are hungry. And they have a place to sleep and water to drink and food to eat. I can only imagine how the people without these “luxuries” are feeling right now.

Each night will be a race against time. When night falls, people can’t get picked up from roofs, the rescuers can’t chop into people’s roofs to check the attics for anyone alive or for anyone dead (sadly, there are dead). At night we can’t see power lines we can’t see obstacles, we can’t see any of the things that will bring down a helicopter or pose a danger to boats rescuers.

One of the teams came in today after having been out for hours at a time. One particular rescuer went straight to a corner and collapsed into tears. I went directly to him and just held his hand. What else could I do? I said nothing. He said it all. They lowered him 26 times and he pulled 26 people to safety. He wants to be back out there but there are mandatory rest periods. His tears are tears of frustration.

Entire teams are working on nothing but evacuating the hospitals. All four of the major hospitals are beginning to flood. Critical patients have to get out or surely they will be lost. Generators cannot run forever; that’s just the way it is. There are limited facilities to take those that are rescued and those that need to be evacuated. Anything that leaves by air leaves by helicopter. There are no runways for planes that aren’t under water. Only one drivable way in and out.

Water everywhere and more keeps coming. Until they can do something about the three levees that are broken, more water will come and more water will kill. The water poses major health threats. Anyone with even a small open cut is prone to infection. Anyone who touches this water and touches his eyes, nose or mouth without find a way to “clean” himself first will be sick with stomach problems before long. It’s bad and it’s getting worse. It’s not going to be anything better than devastating for days or weeks at best.

I wish I could tell you that I’ll check in again soon. I can’t. I don’t know when my next message will get out. We’ll be leaving where we are within just an hour or so.

The BoingBoing reader who passed along the email noted this:

The poorest 20% (you can argue with the number — 10%? 18%? no one knows) of the city was left behind to drown. This was the plan. Forget the sanctimonious bullshit about the bullheaded people who wouldn’t leave. The evacuation plan was strictly laissez-faire. It depended on privately owned vehicles, and on having ready cash to fund an evacuation. The planners knew full well that the poor, who in new orleans are overwhelmingly black, wouldn’t be able to get out. The resources — meaning, the political will — weren’t there to get them out.

White per capita income in Orleans parish, 2000 census: $31,971. Black per capita: $11,332. Median *household* income in B.W. Cooper (Calliope) Housing Projects, 2000: $13,263.

This is a crisis, wrapped around a tragedy, soaked in disaster–all neatly curled around the true, racist heart of our deepest American shame.

Cool travel site

Kayak.com searches 551 airlines from over 100 sites, as well as hotels, cars and cruises. The search output is ass-kickingly cool, way better than the major sites. And the little display while it’s searching looks like old-school train schedule boards. Check it out!

“Oil Storm”

Fiction? Must be, because the plot of this “hurricane hits oil field” drama features a US administration that does something right. The rest of the plot? We may soon be watching it in real-time if Katrina has really hit Port Fourchon as hard as it looks like she has.

And by the way– if this hurricane does lead to a crisis that prompted the US to use less oil, I will definitely start praying to Gaia.

City Questions Circumcision Ritual After Baby Dies – New York Times

I don’t mean to be flip… but just to be clear: a religion that believes consensual cocksucking is a sin wants to keep doing it to babies even though it kills some of them?

“The Orthodox Jewish community will continue the practice that has been practiced for over 5,000 years,” said Rabbi David Niederman of the United Jewish Organization in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, after the meeting with the mayor. “We do not change. And we will not change.”

Right. The Jewish religion never changes. That’s Orthodoxy’s brave stand, which I’m sure the religious right salutes. But remember all the patrilinear “begats” in the Old Testament? Judaism is matrilinear now. Know why? Because the mass rape that accompanied Crusades and pogroms alike would have meant the end of the Jewish people–nobody knew who the fathers of all those babies were, but they could be sure they were Christians, not Jews. Only the doctrinal suppleness of the Rabbis–about one of the defining characteristics of any faith culture–kept the faith alive.

That’s one of my favorite examples of the limits of dogma–and its threat to individuals and their ability to exist in a community of faith. While laxity can of course go to laughable lengths that turn a faith into a coffee klatsch [yes I’m picking on Unitarians, nice folks though they are!], if you make faith brittle it will break. That’s not a function of modernity–it’s a fact of history and of human nature.

Of course the real threat here is that there are plenty of Jews who wonder if circumcision itself is such a great idea. Apparently there are some slippery slope fears around burning issues of teeny weeny penii!