Lundi Gras

Begun on Lundi Gras 2006. To continue the discussions of things begun in Horslips and Other Music that seemed like they could use a blog of their own.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

"Now, your flag boy and my flag boy

Was sittin' by the fire"

"I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees."
George W Bush, speaking after the disaster
.

In an inversion of everything I was ever taught as a child, today felt great.

Mardi Gras week, on the other hand, was grim.

Because Ash Wednesday happened out of season this cycle. Ash Wednesday made landfall on a Monday in August last year. Monday, August 29 if you are the type for details. And the world watched as American leadership let an American city drown in a swamp of arrogance and incompetence.

So all last weekend, the news was painful:

Bittersweet Countdown to Mardi Gras

The first appeared Thursday night, when the biggest of three parades to roll, the all-woman Krewe of Muses parade, culminated with an empty float to symbolize the area's victims — more than 1,000 deaths and close to 2,000 still missing in the aftermath of the Aug. 29 storm.

The float, named Mnemosyne after the Greek goddess of memory and mother of the muses, was draped in black, with a swirl of gray and white bedecked with blue flowers. Above it was a banner reading, "We celebrate life, we mourn the past, we shall never forget."


New Orleans Gets Dressed Up for Mardi Gras

Zulu, the 97-year-old Mardi Gras club, or krewe, that lost 10 members to Katrina, paraded amid homes that still bear dirty brown water marks from the floodwaters that covered 80 percent of the city. Another krewe, Rex, King of Carnival, paraded past a boarded-up store bearing a spray-painted warning that looters would be shot.

Kevin and Marie Barre, a husband and wife from New Orleans, wore white plastic coveralls bearing the all-too-familiar spray-painted "X" that denotes a home that has been checked for bodies. "It's a reminder. A lot of people who are coming down here don't understand what we've been through," Kevin Barre said.

Members of another club called the Krewe of MRE covered themselves with brown labels from the Meals Ready to Eat that were served to thousands who huddled in the Superdome after the storm. Others dressed as giant maggots, recalling the days when city streets were lined with abandoned refrigerators full of rotting food.


Mardi Gras becomes homecoming

Katrina caused tens of billions of dollars in damage, killed hundreds of people and reduced the population of this city by almost two-thirds. Cleanup and rebuilding are under way, but the city's needs remain large and caught in ongoing political battles. Many of the former refugees have found jobs and lives elsewhere, so whether they ever will return remained unclear.

Still, Tuesday's parade carried a sense of homecoming. Many people, such as Donald Rhodes, a retired school employee who came back from Katy, Texas, a suburb of Houston, said he had to return. "I lost my job, my house, my neighborhood and my church," he said.

New Orleans has always been a tourist destination, and this year was no different, just on a smaller scale. Less than a third of the city's restaurants have reopened. About 40 percent of the city's hotel rooms were empty, and some of the others were occupied by evacuees or construction workers.


'Indian gangs' defiantly don their feathers

In normal years, Big Chief Larry Bannock would step out of his house on Edinburgh Street wrapped in a wild and glorious suit of feathers and beadwork, join his "gang" of similarly bejeweled "Indians," then dance and sing through the streets until the collective spirit of Gerttown was alight.

The neighborhood's families would follow behind and join in, then they'd head to another neighborhood and find another gang of Mardi Gras Indians, until all of Uptown came alive.

But nothing is normal in New Orleans anymore. All day cars drove past Bannock's blue-tarped shack, drivers stopping to ask whether the Big Chief was "masking" this year. Lionel Fields, 64, sat outside a temporary trailer nearby, with a beer in one hand and a tambourine in the other, doing the only thing he has ever done on Mardi Gras day - waiting for the Big Chief and his Golden Star Hunters to march by.

"If it's Mardi Gras, ain't nothing to do but wait here and see how pretty he's gonna be looking, how wild the Indians gonna get," said Fields. "When he comes around that corner, it's gonna excite everything, you watch. That will be my Mardi Gras, when I see the Big Chief marching through Gerttown again."


So that was Mardi Gras 2006. Brother John is gone.


***



And then today. Ash Wednesday 2006. A day they taught us was for penance and self-reflection. On today, we get the following:

Video shows Bush Katrina warning

Video has been obtained by a US news agency showing President George W Bush being briefed by officials on the eve of the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

The confidential video obtained by the Associated Press shows very strong warnings being given to Mr Bush about the potential strength of the storm.

It appears to contradict subsequent suggestions by the Bush administration that the threat had been unclear.

Critics say more could have been done sooner to evacuate the city.

Speaking by video link from a room in his Texan holiday ranch on 28 August last year, Mr Bush is shown telling officials: "We are fully prepared".

He does not ask any questions as the situation is outlined to him.

Along with the video, AP obtained transcripts of seven days of briefings relating to Katrina.

The footage does the president no favours, the BBC's Justin Webb reports from Washington.

It shows plainly worried officials telling Mr Bush very clearly before the storm hit that it could breach New Orleans flood barriers.

In the past, the president has said nobody anticipated a breach but the video shows Michael Brown, the top emergency response official who has since resigned, saying the storm would be "a bad one, a big one".


From Wikipedia:

In early 2001, FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency of the U.S. government, listed a major hurricane hitting New Orleans as one of the three most serious threats to the nation. The other two were a terrorist attack in New York City and a large earthquake hitting San Francisco.

In 2004, an Army Corps of Engineers report noted that a Category 5 hurricane directly striking New Orleans was a one in 500 year event (PDF format document).

National Geographic ran a feature in October 2004 [2]
.

Doing A Heck Of a Job, President Bush

In many ways, this is impeachment language. The same type of impeachment cry used against President Clinton when he said that he never had sex with that woman, Monica Lewinsky. The same words of one Howard Baker during Watergate.

It is now coming out that President Bush knew full well about the incredible risks involved with Hurricane Katrina and his own knowledge, pretension of lack of knowledge yet his own claiming he forced mandatory evacuation is now issue number one. And, the irony is, he is still hiding behind executive privilege regarding an event that is of biblical proportions while a few years ago we heard testimony from a secret service man protecting President Bush on the issue of sex.


Alright then...

My flag boy told your flag boy
'I'm gonna set your flag on fire.'

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