the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Politics After Tragedy


In today’s Huffington Post, writer/editor Katrina Vanden Heuvel writes about Hurricane Katrina:

Like all Americans I have been horrified watching the destruction wrought on New Orleans by this natural disaster. And I suppose like others who share the name Katrina, it has been eerie hearing and reading my name all over the news. But when Fox News started calling the hurricane, Killer Katrina, I started praying some rightwing idiot wouldn’t stoop so low as to personalize or politicize all of this human suffering.

I found this statement a little odd.  First of all, I doubt that this well-known liberal editor of the Nation was home watching Fox News.  Even if she were, why is she assuming that someone would personalize this human suffering?  Because the hurricane is called Katrina?  And her name is Katrina?  Right off the back, I know that this is someone with a big ego. 

Of course, someone with a bigger ego, Rush Limbaugh, actually did stupidly call the storm Hurricane Katrina Vanden Heuvel and warned his listeners that the left would use this tragedy against the right.

Katrina Van Heuvel rightly takes Limbaugh to task, saying that this is no time for conservatives to use this tragedy as a political tool.

Of course, in the same Huffington Post, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. writes an article practically blaming the Republicans for energy policies that caused the hurricane.

As Hurricane Katrina dismantles Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, it’s worth recalling the central role that Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour played in derailing the Kyoto Protocol and kiboshing President Bush’s iron-clad campaign promise to regulate CO2….This month, a study published in the journal Nature by a renowned MIT climatologist linked the increasing prevalence of destructive hurricanes to human-induced global warming.

Now we are all learning what it’s like to reap the whirlwind of fossil fuel dependence which Barbour and his cronies have encouraged. Our destructive addiction has given us a catastrophic war in the Middle East and–now–Katrina is giving our nation a glimpse of the climate chaos we are bequeathing our children.

Can we at least wait until the LOOTING STOPS before we get into politics over this?


  1. kristine

    wow. those people need to go down to Mississippi to help some of those that are suffering. i think that would get them to switch gears momentarily. pricks.

  2. Marisa

    I can’t believe that they are spinning a storm, a tragic act of natural, into political fodder. Oh wait, I majored in politics in college, I totally believe it.

  3. brando

    I’m sorry Neil, but you have to face the facts. Every hurricane in the past 8 years has hit a red state. Please tell me there’s no conspiracy now. What’s scary is that every state impacted by a volcano in the past year has been a blue state. But it’s not the democrats’ fault they picked the better natural disaster to hurl at constituents.

  4. modigli

    Katrina has been amazingly AWFUL! I can’t beleive the havoc she’s wreaked on LA and MS and Alabama (what’s the two-letter code for that state? AL?)

    On a lighter note, I’ve ALWAYS wanted a beach cruiser bicycle that looks JUST LIKE that one in the picture!!!! Oh my! … It’s sad, I know, but that’s the FIRST thing I noticed in that picture!

  5. Bama Girl

    I wish Senator Kennedy would stop getting drunk and blaming republicans for everything going wrong in the world. He should go on and donate some money to help these poor people, rather than blaming them for their fate.

  6. Neil

    Bama, I think you got your Kennedys a little confused, which is easy since they think alike. This Kennedy is an attorney and environmentalist who currently co-hosts Ring of Fire on Air America Radio. He is actually a very intelligent man with many great ideas. I just thought his use of politics at this time was inappropriate, as was Rush Limbaugh’s.

  7. maribeth

    Totally agree with you…

    …although I confess that my second thought (after “What an awful tragedy”) was “So that’s what Haley Barbour’s doing now!” Everyone sorta forgot about him once he stopped making a mess of the GOP, but now he’s back on the radar and they just can’t stop talking about him.

  8. Sophia

    What great ideas does Robert F. Kennedy Jr. have? Would an example be an essay he wrote for the Rolling Stone, called “Crimes Against Nature” in which he accused Bush of every environmental problem on earth?

  9. Josia

    Excellent stuff Neil – it really takes a HUGE ego to launch a hurricane! I’ll be writing about this today – thanks!

  10. Amazing Anonymous

    how do i say this? everything is fair game for politicizing anymore. did the government have a place in the shiavo debacle? no. should the government have the right to examine my medical history if i have an abortion? no. and the list goes on and on. point is, i’m surprised it hasn’t popped up already. we have to trust ourselves to see through that crap (and while we’re at it, trust our fellow man to do the same, then vote accordingly)..

    as a tinfoil-beanie-wearing paranoid conspiracy theorist, i have to contend that we’ve had more hurricanes than in years past, AND demand and consumption of oil is up, AND pirates are nowhere to be found..does anyone else think this is merely coincidence?

    as for RFK and GWB, i won’t pick fights.
    used to be, a catholic democrat wasn’t a bad person to know. now you can’t find ’em. in kansas, anyhow.

  11. Claven

    Uh, W has made his father and Reagan look like greenies. Now that has been an accomplishment.

  12. sunshine

    I agree with you on the editress Katrina — not to be confused with Natural Disaster Katrina! I wonder how big of a newsroom it takes to contain her ego.

    And that last line you wrote was so well said! Hear, hear!

  13. JJ MacMillan

    You have to understand that the Left has been jumping up and down pointing to the destruction of the estuaries and delta overrun for decades, correctly pointing out that New Orleans is at incredible risk for exactly this kind of disaster while business interests have continually stymied any legislation that might limit or undo the damage. Katrina is just the first of many storms that are going to arrive at New Orleans’ front door without any natural barrier to slow them down or weaken them.

  14. Nancy French

    My daughter is named Camille, which has been referred to on the news this week a great deal. “This is the worst storm since Camille,” which makes my first grader’s ears perk up — not that she’s upset at sharing the name of a deadly storm, but that she doesn’t want to be outdone. She keeps watching the news to determine if Katrina is a Category 4 or 5, and trying to determine wind speeds compared to Hurricane Camille.

    But, she’s only 6.

  15. kate

    I heard they declared Martial Law because of all the looting. It’s terrible. Especially because any coverage I see about it on television they always focus in on all the black looters. Where are all the white people looting? I’m sure they exist.

  16. ubermilf

    I’m too upset to comment rationally on this.

    The governance of this country, and this WORLD, is not a game that we can take sides over and root for our team to win.

    We should get over arguing about who’s “right” and re-discover the art of compromise toward fixing problems.

    Does it matter who caused it? We’ve got problems we need to solve, and both sides could have constructive ideas if they focused their energies on making the world better instead of making each other look bad.

    AND BOTH SIDES ARE GUILTY. I don’t want to read “Well, they’re MORE guilty…” or “They started it…” Get over it, people. Shut the fuck up and get to work!

  17. Bama Girl

    Sorry about mistaking one kennedy for another. I am a science teacher, and I love the environment, but I think blaming anyone at this point is just blatantly evil. Let’s help people!

  18. Neil

    JJ – I think there’s going to be a lot of discussion about that now. It always takes a tragedy to get anyone to do anything. When gas is $6 a gallon, the government and car companies will start taking that issue seriously also.

    Kate — Those areas have a large African-American population, and a lot of poor, so it’s not surprising that you see mostly black looters. Sad, but reality. But I’m sure when they make the TV movie, CBS will throw in a couple of white and Asian looters to even things out.

  19. M

    hear hear…
    and that is all.

  20. anonymous city girl

    I was looking thru the photos of the areas hit. I could feel my anxiety level sky rocketing. I can’t imagine having to deal with what they are going through. The man they keep showing on the new whose wife’s last words before washing away were, “you can’t hold me, take care of the children.” And the reports that they have to move the people from the stadium in the next few days… do you think they really thought they’d be there this long, much less “the next few days”?
    I saw pictures of a police man trying to hold people back from looting a drug store. I understand that people own those stores and it is their livelihood, but is it really “looting” when you have nothing but the clothes on your back and looking for something to eat or healthcare produces? I would not hesitate to walk into a ravaged store and take what I needed if I had nothing. Does that make me a criminal? Is it even right to deny entry to those people just looking for food and a few products to take care of themselves?

  21. Tatyana

    You’re a hopeless Democrat, Neil: population is poor so you see a lot of looters (puting aside racial squabbles now).
    These are not consequential articles. F.ex, on 9/11 and around in NY (or at the blackout night, for that matter) there were virtually no looters here. You’re not saying whole 5 NY boroughs are rich, are you?

  22. Neil

    Tatyana, No, I think New Yorkers are so trendy that looting during a blackout is just “oh so obvious.”

  23. Nancy French

    >but the clothes on your back and looking for something to eat or healthcare produces?

    ACG, are you seriously thinking that these people are getting only food and health care products? I saw them walking out with televisions and DVD players!

    It reminds me of the old joke about the metor hitting the earth and the New York Times headline “Meteor wipes out all of Southeast — women and minorities hardest hit!”

  24. Nancy French

    Because of this ABC headline:

    “Poorest Hit Hardest By Hurricane Katrina “

  25. anonymous city girl

    of course there are the asshats who are looting those types of things… but I think there are plenty of people just scared trying to gather some food and essentials. It sucks that a criminal element is exploiting the situation and that’s what is getting on the news… but I am sure that there were mothers in that same Walmart just looking for dry diapers and formula.

  26. MA

    What a mess. What a huge mess.

  27. ms. sizzle

    that just makes me sick. people are dead and floating in the flood waters. people are stranded and scared and these people are saying this shit?

    no wonder people hate america.

    where is our heart?!

  28. Edgy Mama

    Thanks, Neil, as always, for perspective.

  29. Eternal Ramblings

    I’m surprised Editor Katrina didn’t report this believable story:

    That Osama conjured up the hurricane after reading Harry Potter and was in cohorts with Bush and all his lemmings to raise gas prices to $3 a gallon to fill the republican’s pockets and insure that Hillary didn’t get elected in 2008.

    Why does everything have to be political?

  30. jamy

    No, the taking ourselves too seriously must continue at all costs.

  31. Jack

    Even in the midst of chaos you need to try and keep some sort of order. I’d be more lenient towards those who stole food, but it doesn’t mean that I’d ignore that they acted like thieves.

  32. Neil

    Are all our troops in Iraq? Where is everyone? So, far the Bush Administration and FEMA don’t look very organized…

  33. Megan

    I can’t believe anyone could be so blatantly disrespectful to the people who have lost their lives in this disaster by discussing anything other than what has happened.

    I already hate the media (for personal reasons), but I’m sick of everyone trying to spin this horrible event.

    My heart goes out to the people in LA, AL, and MS. What is most sad is the fact that many of the people who died simply died because they were too poor to have the means to escape. I’m saddened for them all.

  34. Bill

    It’s dismaying and discouraging that something like this elicits the same old tiresome political rhetoric but, even more dismaying and discouraging, it’s not surprising.

    The reality is, everything and everyone have been dwarfed by scale. Do some people not understand this? This was big. Really big.

    How does it help any of the people affected by this to hear the asinine opinions of comfortable people mouthing off from comfortable circumstances?

    They should at least have the decency to wait a while before blaming the other guy for an unprecedented natural disaster.

  35. anonymous

    Tatyana, a HUGE difference between this and the NYC 9/11 disaster is that the financial district was destroyed in 9/11, but most people still had homes to go to. The people in the gulf have nowhere to go and are completely desperate for anything to simply survive. While I don’t agree with the looting for material goods, I can understand the desperation for basic necessities like food and water.

  36. anonymous city girl

    I’d be more lenient towards those who stole food, but it doesn’t mean that I’d ignore that they acted like thieves.

    Jack, have we learned nothing from musicals like Les Miserables?

  37. anonymous city girl

    I went out last night with a group of guys from New Orleans. They were planning to move here in the next few weeks, and were part of the mass evacuations. They said that the mass looting of non-essencials (like TV’s and DVD’s) or the reports of people shooting at police or any of the bad stuff being reported. In Philly, our little city motto is “Philly, the city that loves you back”… in New Orleans, the guys said the unofficial motto of the city’s residents is “New Orleans, the city that just stopped caring about anything”.
    We all (being liberal democrats northerners) noted the difference between how New Yorkers reacted when they had that recent black out vs. reaction of the people of New Orleans in the face of this tragedy.

  38. Neil

    Obviously, this looting is terrible, and makes us (the safe watchers) uncomfortable because we have all this compassion for these people and we don’t like seeing all these thugs making it ugly. These things happen during chaos. Law and order breaks down. From what I see on TV, it certainly doesn’t look like food and water is what everyone is taking. Of course, stealing a TV when your city is under water doesn’t make much sense, but people do it anyway. The situation is a mess, and there will always be those who will loot. It’s a very small percentage of people doing this, mostly poor people who aren’t thinking very clearly.

    On the other hand, I don’t need to compare the looters to the characters in Les Miserables to feel sympathy for them. If the looter start waving those flags and singing like in the show, then maybe I’ll change my mind.

    I still put a lot of the blame on the government for a slow response. I would think with all this homeland security, that we would be ready for anything. What if rather than a natural disaster, there was another big terrorist attack? I still don’t get why troops weren’t parachuted in.

    Sophia had a weird thought that maybe because of the large black population, the government didn’t want to send too much force in because it would look like something racist. Although, I can’t believe that — because sending in more help would only help the population.

  39. Neil

    That’s also nonsense about New York. New York was still reeling from 9/11 during the blackout. The economy was relatively strong during the blackout. In the 70’s, there was looting. I’m not sure where this argument is going — that the East Coast underclass is more polite than Gulf Coasters?

  40. anonymous city girl

    the les mis comment was meant to be tongue in cheek… my bad for posting before having coffee.

    and we did discuss that nyc was in a different state of mind, just having dealt with 9/11… i just didn’t think anyone really wanted the ENTIRE conversation word for word… it was just an interesting point brought up along with the fact these men who have lived there were no surprised about the mass looting and other crimes being commited. maybe the government should have step in with aid before the residence were plunged into such an extreme situation. These people who lived there described the living conditions in large sections of New Orleans as “3rd world”.

  41. Tatyana

    Anon, I would agree with you, if I wouldn’t just catch morning Fox where they showed footage of people looting the stores, not even hiding, pushing DUMPSTERS full of stuff, and not the food/water stuff, for sure. Voice-over said there were cases of looters waving AK-47s at the police, and there was also a case of a gang stopping and looting a transport with medicines.

    And don’t tell me there were no residents affected by 9/11. I was here in NY on that day. My boss’s apartment is in Battery Park, my friend lives below Houston, my son was a freshman at Stuyvesant H.S., right where the barges with debris and remains had been loaded.

    Residents were evacuated for months, apartments were empty but there was stealing.

  42. Tatyana

    Was NO stealing.

  43. Neil

    ACG – Good point about the lousy conditions in that area before the disaster. And I apologize for not seeing your tongue in that cheek.

  44. anonymous city girl

    I really should be more careful where I put it.

  45. Nancy French

    Peggy Noonan talks about the looting in her column today. Here is her conclusion:

    We had a bad time in the 1960s, and in the New York blackout in the ’70s, and in the Los Angeles riots in the ’90s. But the whole story of our last national crisis, 9/11, was courage–among the passersby, among the firemen, among those who walked down there stairs slowly to help a less able colleague, among those who fought their way past the flames in the Pentagon to get people out. And it gave us quite a sense of who we are as a people. It gave us a lot of renewed pride.

    If New Orleans damages that sense, it’s going to be painful to face. It’s going to be damaging to the national spirit. More damaging even than a hurricane, even than the worst in decades.

    I wonder if the cruel and stupid young people who are doing the looting know the power they have to damage their country. I wonder, if they knew, if they’d stop it.

  46. Neil

    ACG — I’ll let someone of more wit than me deal with that statement.

  47. Tatyana

    Ah, so Neil, these are “poor people who’re not thinking very clearly”? Are you conflating being poor with being retarded? Because if the person is capable to distinguish right from wrong, being mentally healthy (even some retards can do that) – and still chooses to steal, I don’t care how poor (s)he is, a thief is a thief. And even if these people didn’t go to school (which I find hard to believe), they do go to church – or simply their mama taught them that it’s not nice to smash somebody’s window and steal their belongings.

    I don’t quite get your rift on economy: from what I know, economy at the time of blackout was in worse shape than now (before Katrina, anyway). 9/11 is fresh in our collective memory, today just like 2 and 4 yrs ago, so I don’t buy your “reeling” argument.

    I agree the government could display more mobility – but it’s fundamental statist mistake to put your faith in ANY government. There is no better governments, period. People should think for themselves, assume responsibility for their actions and be judged on individual merit. Assuming otherwise – we have current LA situation: people were warned way in advance, but they relied on uncle Sam (oh hell if I know on whom they relied on) and didn’t move out. And now you blame oficials. Nonsense!

  48. anonymous city girl

    Nancy – from what I have seen, the stupidity is spread amoung the young, middle aged, and old.

    Tatyana – the fact is the majority of people in New Orleans right now… the people looting… the people shooting at police and rescue choppers are the poor. The Poor were the people left in the city. And not just the poor, we are talking poorest of the poor. If you had money, you had it to leave the city. The people still in the city are people who did not have the money for a bus ticket. This is just a simple and true fact. It is not a judgement call.

    I think that is another thing that needs to be addressed in every city. Developing a mass transit way to evacuate everyone, not just those with a car or enough money for a ticket. If they had begun a calm orderly mass evacuation run by the city days before the hurricane made landfall, things would have been much different.

  49. Tatyana

    People in Ukraine and Belorussia in July 1941 not only didn’t have a bus ticket, they didn’t have buses – and they had enemy planes bombing them from above along the roads. They ran, on feet and carrying their disabled on their backs and many escaped, nevertheless.

    I’m not saying the government inability is not appalling: after all, that’s their job and we pay huge “protection money” to them – anticipating exactly disaster situations like this. But to explain looting, gangs forming, shooting at police and National Guard, maurodeuring (sp?) by assigning it to poverty is simply being blind.

    From the recent comments section of my favorite blogger, Alan Sullivan:
    -It will soon be law of the jungle in New Orleans ….
    What was it before? [Tim Hulsley]
    – Late imperial Rome.
    [Alan Sullivan]

    And here’s another post on the subject, from same source.

  50. anonymous city girl

    People in Ukraine and Belorussia in July 1941 not only didn’t have a bus ticket, they didn’t have buses – and they had enemy planes bombing them from above along the roads. They ran, on feet and carrying their disabled on their backs and many escaped, nevertheless.

    then i guess our poor people are retarted.

  51. Neil

    Tatyana — I’m finding the discussion between ACG and you very intriguing, mostly because you both represent my own contraditory feeling about the whole situation: the anger at the people who exploit the situation and the guilt about how these same people seem to have so little in their lives — and show no pride or connection to their own home city.

    I guess Sophia wasn’t able to totally stamp out that liberal Jewish guilt…

  52. Tatyana

    Neilochka, you read my thoughts: I was just thinking if Sophia hasn’t succeded with wiping out socialism from your brains in 7 yrs, what could be expected from a comment thread?

  53. Neil

    As much as I hated what Robert Kennedy Jr. said as a partisan speaker at the wrong time, there does seem to be some experts who think that this disaster was preventable if not for some bad governmental decisions by both parties:

    Also, this NY Times editorial says that if American history is any indication of what’s to come after a disaster of this magnitude, it’s a lot of infighting and soul-searching.

  54. Tatyana

    Right back at’ya, what with the links on the subject (Ben H.)

  55. Neil

    List of charities, from Jack.

  56. MQ

    If there had not been a big political fuss about Federal government incompetence right after the hurricane that I don’t think we would be seeing anything like the response we have seen, which FINALLY managed to effectively evacuate people and get some aid in. It is not unproductive to criticize government for doing a lousy job. In a democratic system it is often the most productive thing you can do.

  57. Neil

    Maybe, but I think it was the cable newscasts that really drove the embarrassment home. When you have the anchors on FOX news playing up the incompetence of the government, you know things are bad.

  58. Neil

    With this news that FEMA’s Michael Brown’s main experience for the job was a a horse show judge, and got his latest job mostly because of a college buddy with the Bush Administration — it makes my prior post about Jay McGraw’s nepotism with daddy Dr. Phil look pretty unimportant.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial