Saturday, August 29, 2015

In a PM, Character Matters - Be Wary of Mulcair

Years ago when Parliament was looking into Brian Mulroney's envelopes of cash from an arms dealer, I followed every minute on TV. I was most impressed by two MPs on the committee: Pat Martin and Tom Mulcair, both of the NDP. Both were particularly focused, prepared, and effective. When Mulcair became NDP party leader, I was pleased.

Now, not so much.

I have heard Mulcair tell this little joke: "NDP governments always balance the budget. There was one exception, but he turned out to be a Liberal." Hardy har har. I have heard this "joke" three times and I don't own a TV anymore, so Mulcair must have told it about a million times. It's offensive to me on several levels. One is that it's a lie that the NDP has such a great history of fiscal responsibility. Another is that his target, Bob Rae, was much more fiscally responsible than the rest of the Ontario NDP, which kept hearing Ka-ching Ka-ching and went to the mattresses to oppose any compromise on civil service payrolls. Another is that such casual condemnation of a great statesman like Rae is just icky, especially since they're former colleagues.

It's well known that Mulcair has a bad temper and can be a mean guy. We hear about how hard the NDP spin doctors are working to soften his image, even how his performance in the debate was affected by his attempts to repress his natural temperament. This should be a red flag. There is a very real chance that Mulcair will be our next prime minister, so there should be serious discussion about his character.

The last nine years have shown how much character matters in a prime minister. We have suffered through nearly a decade with a PM who is an uncaring jerk, and Harper's mean streak has been the cause of attacks on our social safety net, justice system, and other things.

I'm very much afraid that Mulcair walks the same road as Harper, character-wise. That won't result in identical policies, but could mean something like the following: we could continue to have a too-powerful, too-secretive PMO; with a power-madness that focuses too much on polls and not enough on good governance; with an inability to compromise and collaborate; that is paranoid and vindictive. I'm very afraid that Mulcair does not have the right character to be a decent prime minister of Canada.

Katrina remembered

Today is the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which struck on August 29, 2005. In the days following the hurricane, I copied messages off a New Orleans message board and published them on this blog. Here are some of them.

Aug 30:
From Greg Henderson, MD
Thanks to all of you who have sent your notes of concern and your prayers. I am writing this note on Tuesday at 2PM . I wanted to update all of you as to the situation here. I don't know how much information you are getting but I am certain it is more than we are getting. Be advised that almost everything I am telling you is from direct observation or rumor from reasonable sources. They are allowing limited internet access, so I hope to send this dispatch today.

Personally, my family and I are fine. My family is safe in Jackson, MS, and I am now a temporary resident of the Ritz Carleton Hotel in New Orleans. I figured if it was my time to go, I wanted to go in a place with a good wine list. In addition, this hotel is in a very old building on Canal Street that could and did sustain little damage. Many of the other hotels sustained significant loss of windows, and we expect that many of the guests may be evacuated here.

Things were obviously bad yesterday, but they are much worse today. Overnight the water arrived. Now Canal Street (true to its origins) is indeed a canal. The first floor of all downtown buildings is underwater. I have heard that Charity Hospital and Tulane are limited in their ability to care for patients because of water. Ochsner is the only hospital that remains fully functional. However, I spoke with them today and they too are on generator and losing food and water fast. The city now has no clean water, no sewerage system, no electricity, and no real communications. Bodies are still being recovered floating in the floods. We are worried about a cholera epidemic. Even the police are without effective communications. We have a group of armed police here with us at the hotel that are admirably trying to exert some local law enforcement. This is tough because looting is now rampant. Most of it is not malicious looting. These are poor and desperate people with no housing and n!
o medical care and no food or water trying to take care of themselves and their families. Unfortunately, the people are armed and dangerous. We hear gunshots frequently. Most of Canal street is occupied by armed looters who have a low threshold for discharging their weapons. We hear gunshots frequently. The looters are using makeshift boats made of pieces of styrofoam to access. We are still waiting for a significant national guard presence.

The health care situation here has dramatically worsened overnight. Many people in the hotel are elderly and small children. Many other guests have
Have unusual diseases. They are unfortunately . 'We have better medical letter. There are ID physicians in at this hotel attending an HiV confection. We have commandered the world famous French Quarter Bar to turn into an makeshift clinic. There is a team of about 7 doctors and PA and pharmacists. We anticipate that this will be the major medical facility in the central business district and French Quarter.

Our biggest adventure today was raiding the Walgreens on Canal under police escort. The pharmacy was dark and fool of water. We basically scooped the entire drug sets into gargace bags and removed them. All uner police excort. The looters had to be held back at gun point. After a dose of prophylactic Cipro I hope to be fine.

In all we are faring well. We have set up a hospital in the the French Qarter bar in the hotel, and will start admitting patients today. Many with be from the hotel, but many with not. We are anticipating to dealing with multiple medical problems, medications and and acute injuries. Infection and perhaps even cholera are anticipated major problems. Food and water shortages are iminent.

The biggest question to all of us is where is the national guard. We hear jet fignters and helicopters, but no real armed presence, and hence the rampant looting. There is no Red Cross and no salvation army.

In a sort of cliché way, this is an edifying experience. Once is rapidly focused away from the transient and material to the bare necessities of life. It has been challenging to me to learn how to be a primary care phyisican. We are under martial law so return to our homes is impossible. I don't know how long it will be and this is my greatest fear. Despite it all, this is a soul edify experience. The greatest pain is to think about the loss. And how long the rebuid will. And the horror of so many dead people .

PLEASE SEND THIS DISPATCH TO ALL YOU THING MA Y BE INTERSTED IN A DISPATCH From the front. I will send more according to your interest. Hopefully their collective prayers will be answered. By the way suture packs, sterile gloves and stethoscopes will be needed as the Ritz turns into a MASH

Sept 2:
I have a friend who along with a group of about a dozen others are still holed up in the French Quarter, inside and in the vicinity of the Chateau Motor Hotel. St. Phillip @ Chartres. They do have shelter and are all in relatively good health for now, but they have a very limited supply of food and water.

They are all afraid to move to the buses at the Superdome or Convention Center. They have limited communications and are NOT fully aware of the situation outside the neighborhood. They need help to get out.

The National Guard is in town, but are assisting other parts of the city. Those in the French Quarter are venturing out to find supplies for the neighbors. This area is in need of immediate relief.

If someone in the city can get the word out, please. They're not alone in the neighborhood. Other tourists are stuck in hotels. If anyone gets information about when this area is supposed to get relief, please let me know!

Sept 2:
Will Someone please tell whoever will listen that they still have people in
St.Bernard parish that are very much alive and their families are not hearing
anything about them on the news. WHERE IS THE HELP FOR ST.BERNARD
The men and women of the Levee Board are pumping water out and the sheriffs
office and fire depatment or still rescuing people off of rooftops and out of
BACK BURNER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sept 2:
Please help me to get this story out. We need to get the truth out and these people helped.

Jeff Rau, a family and now personal friend to whom I will forever be linked, and I were volunteering with a boat and pulling people out of the water on Wednesday. I have a first-hand experience of what we encountered. In my opinion, everything that is going on in the media is a complete bastardization of what is really happening. The result is that good people are dying and losing family members.

Eight people in particular who stood out during our rescue and whose stories deserve to be told:

1.) We were in motor boats all day ferrying people back and forth approximately a mile and a half each way (from Carrolton down Airline Hwy to the Causeway overpass). Early in the day, we witnessed a black man in a boat with no motor paddling with a piece of lumber. He rescued people in the boat and paddled them to safety (a mile and a half). He then, amidst all of the boats with motors, turned around and paddled back out across the mile and a half stretch to do his part in getting more people out. He refused to give up or occupy any of the motored boat resources because he did not want to slow us down in our efforts. I saw him at about 5:00 p.m., paddling away from the rescue point back out into the neighborhoods with about a half mile until he got to the neighborhood, just two hours before nightfall. I am sure that his trip took at least an hour and a half each trip, and he was going back to get more people knowing that he'd run out of daylight. He did all of this wit! h a t!

2.) One of the groups that we rescued were 50 people standing on the bridge that crosses over Airline Hwy just before getting to Carrolton Ave going toward downtown. Most of these people had been there, with no food, water, or anyplace to go since Monday morning (we got to them Wed afternoon) and surrounded by 10 feet of water all around them. There was one guy who had been there since the beginning, organizing people and helping more people to get to the bridge safely as more water rose on Wednesday morning. He did not leave the bridge until everyone got off safely, even deferring to people who had gotten to the bridge Wed a.m. and, although inconvenienced by loss of power and weather damage, did have the luxury of some food and some water as late as Tuesday evening. This guy waited on the bridge until dusk, and was one of the last boats out that night. He could have easily not made it out that night and been stranded on the bridge alone.

3.) The third story may be the most compelling. I will not mince words. This was in a really rough neighborhood and we came across five seemingly unsavory characters. One had scars from what seemed to be gunshot wounds. We found these guys at a two-story recreational complex, one of the only two-story buildings in the neighborhood. They broke into the center and tried to rustle as many people as possible from the neighborhood into the center. These guys stayed outside in the center all day, getting everyone out of the rec center onto boats. We approached them at approximately 6:30 p.m., obviously one of the last trips of the day, and they sent us further into the neighborhood to get more people out of homes and off rooftops instead of getting on themselves. This at the risk of their not getting out and having to stay in the water for an undetermined (you have to understand the uncertainly that all of the people in these accounts faced without having any info on the resc! ue ef!
forts, how far or deep the flooding was, or where to go if they want to swim or walk out) amount of time. These five guys were on the last boat out of the neighborhood at sundown. They were incredibly grateful, mentioned numerous times 'God is going to bless y'all for this'. When we got them to the dock, they offered us an Allen Iverson jersey off of one of their backs as a gesture of gratitude, which was literally probably the most valuable possession among them all. Obviously, we declined, but I remain tremendously impacted by this gesture.

I don't know what to do with all of this, but I think we need to get this story out. Some of what is being portrayed among the media is happening and is terrible, but it is among a very small group of people, not the majority. They make it seem like New Orleans has somehow taken the atmosphere of the mobs in Mogadishu portrayed in the book and movie "Black Hawk Down," which is making volunteers (including us) more hesitant and rescue attempts more difficult. As a result, people are dying. My family has been volunteering at the shelters here in Houma and can count on one hand the number of people among thousands who have not said "Thank You." or "God Bless You." Their lives shattered and families torn apart, gracious just to have us serve them beans and rice.

If anything, these eight people's stories deserve to be told, so that people across the world will know what they really did in the midst of this devastation. So that it will not be assumed that they were looting hospitals, they were shooting at helicopters. It must be known that they, like many other people that we encountered, sacrificed themselves during all of this to help other people in more dire straits than their own.

It is also important to know that this account is coming from someone who is politically conservative, believes in capitalism and free enterprise, and is traditionally against many of the opinions and stances of activists like Michael Moore and other liberals on most of the hot-topic political issues of the day. Believe me, I am not the political activist. This transcends politics. This is about humanity and helping mankind. We need to get these people out. Save their lives. We can sort out all of the political and social issues later. People need to know the truth of what is going on at the ground level so that they know that New Orleans and the people stranded there are, despite being panicked and desperate, gracious people and they deserve the chance to live. They need all of our help, as well.

This is an accurate account of things. Jeffery Rau would probably tell the same exact stories.

Sept 2:
Is it possible for you to contact someone (media) ,senators, and the governor about University Hospital with 1100 people STILL STRANDED 9/2/2005 8:30 pm? It seems to have fallen off the priority list. I'm just heartbroken about the way my community is being treated!!

Sept 2:
I live in Oregon, but like Americans all over the country, I've been horrified and heartbroken by the news stories from New Orleans, a city I've always loved not only for its beauty but for the warm-heartedness of its citizens.

Finally, this morning, I'd had enough. I emailed Mark C. Smith, Public Information Officer at the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness. I thought you might be interested in his response to what I had to say. Note especially the description of the Convention Center as "not an approved site"!

From: Amelia Hard
Date: Fri, 02 Sep 2005 09:20:48

I don't understand why you aren't moving heaven and earth to get water IMMEDIATELY to the refugees in the N.O. Convention Center. As of this
morning, according to NBC news reports, they STILL DON'T HAVE WATER, two babies have died already of dehydration, and more will die today if they don't get water and formula.

There is no excuse not to do WHATEVER IS NEEDED, be it air-drops or armed convoys. It is TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE for American babies to die of dehydration.

Amelia Hard

From:"Mark Smith"
Date: Fri, 2 Sep 2005 20:34:41 +0000 GMT

Lady as soon as we found out that residents were at the convention center-not an approved site-we dispatched trucks with food
and water. That was yesterday. Don't believe you see on the news

Mark C. Smith
Public Information Officer
Louisiana Office of Homeland Security &
Emergency Preparedness

(225) 925-7427 Office
(225) 276-7177 Cell

Sept 3:
Art Thompson trapped in Park Plaza hotel with 100 plus guest. No water and no food. Please evacuate asap. Art is manager of hotel

Sept 3:
Please tell authorities, there are about 300 people trapped in the Crowne Plaza hotel on Canal Street. The water there is still up to theee 2nd floor and they can't get out!!PLEASE send help!! My cousin Tracy Smith is one of them.

Sept 3:
Story: There are 100+ people trapped at the former Radisson/Wyndham Hotel on Canal street. It is at the end of Canal near the I-10 overpass. They are running out of food and water only one day left. Please help, Please contact authorities.

Sept 3:
Can someone get to the authorities there. I have worked for the past three years at the Park Plaza Hotel in NO. The GM called me yesterday from a pay phone that works in the hotel. There are between 100-150 ppl still trapped in there surrounded by water. NO one has been there at all, no one knows they are there. They have been on the fire escapes outside of the building but because of the water, no one has been close to them. There are four elderly people that were guest there that are critical and the GM is desperate to get them out to get help but it needs to be by boat. I have tried and tried emergency lines but cannot get anyone to answer. If you can help, please pass this along.

Sept 3:
Ten federal employees are trapped on the roof of the police jury complex in St. Bernard parish in Chalmette, LA. St. Bernard parish has been hit harder by flooding than New Orleans. There has been no coverage. You can contact Kim Owens, who is on the roof, at 504.239.7105. They have a generator and can get cell calls and text messages. Please investigate why they haven't been rescued or had supplies dropped to them. There have been many deaths in St. Bernard's parish (county). Another contact is Christie Spegall at 225.664.2736 in Baton Rouge.

Sept 3:
I recieved email from family members about my niece who is a dispatcher for the St Bernard Sheriffs Deparment. They have been trapped inside the Courthouse Building on the third floor for 5 days now. No Food or water, and bodies of co workers float around them. My niece has a young son and husband that need her. Please send help.

Sept 3:
this letter is to let people be aware that there are people still alive and in need of medical attention. the area they are located in Delille Senior Citizens home . The address is 6924 chef menteur hwy. in n.o. east. a few people are still in there and in need of attention. please send someone over there to see about these persons.

Sept 3:
I wanted to respond to an article posted about 1100 people still at University Hospital. My boyfriend is a doctor there and called me around 4:30 EST and told me they had evacuated the entire hospital and he was on a bus to Dallas. I'm assuming the rest of the hospital staff is going to Dallas as well. If you can let Lisa Reidsema know that they have been evacuated, maybe that can bring some comfort.

More of my writing about Katrina: label=Katrina