Friday, April 28, 2006

Surrealism as Public Policy

Inspiration for the pic courtesy of Billmon:

I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the news (from Harper's via TPM Muckraker) that Porter Goss, director of the CIA, may be implicated in a hooker service for corrupt (and horny) congressmen paid for by defense contractors and run out of -- you really gotta love this part -- the Watergate Hotel.

So what are we supposed to call this new scandal? Watergategate?

It sounds like a game of can-you-top-this played by a couple of spy novelists (say, Tom Clancy and Robert Ludlum) after a night of snorting cocaine and downing tequila shooters. Or maybe a screenplay cooked up by Fellini and Costa-Gavras -- with some help from Spike Lee and Salvador Dali.

And how are these assclowns expecting to refill the treasury's coffers? By beating down on disabled veterans:

Army specialist Tyson Johnson of Mobile, Ala., had just been promoted in a field ceremony in Iraq when a mortar round exploded outside his tent, almost killing him.

"It took my kidney, my left kidney, shrapnel came in through my head, back of my head," he recounted.

His injuries forced him out of the military, and the Army demanded he repay an enlistment bonus of $2,700 because he'd only served two-thirds of his three-year tour.

When he couldn't pay, Johnson's account was turned over to bill collectors. He ended up living out of his car when the Army reported him to credit agencies as having bad debts, making it impossible for him to rent an apartment.

"Oh, man, I felt betrayed," Johnson said. "I felt like, oh, my heart dropped."...

Staff Sgt. Ryan Kelly lost his leg in a roadside bomb attack in Iraq.

He didn't realize it, but the Army continued to mistakenly pay him combat bonus pay, about $2,000, while he was in the hospital rehabilitating, and then demanded that he pay it back.

He, too, was threatened by the Army with debt collectors and a negative credit report.

"By law, he's not entitled to the money, so he must pay it back," said Col. Richard Shrank, the commander of the United States Army Finance Command.

Lends a whole new meaning to the term "costing an arm and a leg."

Meanwhile, Shrub's doggedly determined (emphasis on "dog") to turn SOMETHING over to Dubai...something...anything...let's, how about military manufacturing plants? Yep:

President Bush is expected on Friday to announce his approval of a deal under which a Dubai-owned company would take control of nine plants in the United States that manufacture parts for American military vehicles and aircraft, say two administration officials familiar with the terms of the deal.

And, via The Rude Pundit, here's something from Georgia 10 that should have everyone in this country furious at the government...oh, but that's right: Bay "Bitch" Buchanan speaks for the rest of the country when she asserts that we're "tired" of Katrina. I guess sorta like we're tired of civil rights, the Constitution, and everything but the war in Iraq--which is going so well that the dingbat who insisted on starting it took time come out against singing the National Anthem in Spanish. Wow. How courageous. Really stepping out on a limb there, George.

Will you personally deliver that message to the foreign nationals currently serving in our military? Or will you just let your treasury department handle that by presenting the wounded ones with a bill?

Besides, in Spanish, it's not "freedom," it's "libertad."
Lasereyes Takes Offense

I guess Rummy's a tad upset that he's having to play the fool:

A full 10 seconds of silence passed after a reporter asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld what the intense secrecy and security surrounding their visit to Iraq signified about the stability of the country three years after the U.S.-led invasion. Rice turned to Rumsfeld to provide the answer. Rumsfeld glared at the reporter.

"I guess I don't think it says anything about it," he snapped. He went on to say that President Bush had directed him and Rice to go to Iraq to "meet with the new leadership, and it happens that they are located here," a reference to the heavily fortified Green Zone where U.S. officials -- and many Iraqi leaders -- live and work.

History's verdict can be harsh, Donald.
Flitting About

The Crony Fairy

by Paul Krugman

The U.S. government is being stalked by an invisible bandit, the Crony Fairy, who visits key agencies by dead of night, snatches away qualified people and replaces them with unqualified political appointees. There's no way to catch or stop the Crony Fairy, so our only hope is to change the agencies' names. That way she might get confused, and leave our government able to function.

That, at least, is how I interpret the report on responses to Hurricane Katrina that was just released by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

The report points out that the Federal Emergency Management Agency "had been operating at a more than 15 percent staff-vacancy rate for over a year before Katrina struck" — that means many of the people who knew what they were doing had left. And it adds that "FEMA's senior political appointees ... had little or no prior relevant emergency-management experience."

But the report says nothing about what caused the qualified people to leave and who appointed unqualified people to take their place. There's no hint that, say, President Bush might have had any role. So those political appointees must have been installed by the Crony Fairy.

Rather than trying to fix FEMA, the report calls for replacing it with a new organization, the National Preparedness and Response Agency. As far as I can tell, the new agency would have exactly the same responsibilities as FEMA. But "senior N.P.R.A. officials would be selected from the ranks of professionals with experience in crisis management." I guess it's impossible to select qualified people to run FEMA; if you try, the Crony Fairy will spirit them away and replace them with Michael Brown. But she might not know her way to N.P.R.A.

O.K., enough sarcasm. Let's talk about the history of FEMA.

In the early 1990's, FEMA's reputation was as bad as it is today. It was a dumping ground for political cronies, headed by a man whose only apparent qualification for the job was that he was a close friend of the first President Bush's chief of staff. FEMA's response to Hurricane Andrew in 1992 perfectly foreshadowed Katrina: the agency took three days to arrive on the scene, and when it did, it proved utterly incompetent.

Many people thought that FEMA was a lost cause. But Bill Clinton proved them wrong. He appointed qualified people to lead the agency and gave them leeway to hire other qualified people, and within a year FEMA's morale and performance had soared. For the rest of the Clinton years, FEMA was among the most highly regarded agencies in the federal government.

What happened to that reputation? The answer, of course, is that the second President Bush returned to his father's practices. Once again, FEMA became a dumping ground for cronies, and many of the good people who had come in during the Clinton years left. It took only a few years to transform one of the best agencies in the U.S. government into what Senator Susan Collins calls "a shambles and beyond repair."

In other words, the Crony Fairy is named George W. Bush.

So what's the point of creating a new agency to replace FEMA? The history of FEMA and other agencies during the Clinton years shows that a president who is serious about governing can rebuild effective government without renaming the boxes on the organizational chart.

On the other hand, the history of the Bush administration, from the botched reconstruction of Iraq to the botched start-up of the prescription drug program, shows that a president who isn't serious about governing, who prizes loyalty and personal connections over competence, can quickly reduce the government of the world's most powerful nation to third-world levels of ineffectiveness.

And bear in mind that Mr. Bush's pattern of cronyism didn't change after Katrina. For example, he appointed Julie Myers, the inexperienced niece of Gen. Richard Myers, to head Immigration and Customs Enforcement — an agency that, like FEMA, is supposed to protect us against terrorism as well as other threats. Even at the C.I.A., the administration seems more interested in purging Democrats than in improving the quality of intelligence.

So let's skip the name change for FEMA, O.K.? The United States will regain effective government if and when it gets a president who cares more about serving the nation than about rewarding his friends and scoring political points. That's at least a thousand days away. Meanwhile, don't count on FEMA, or on any other government agency, to do its job.
Mission Almost Accomplished

OK, I've managed to dump that smelly, old, dead bat Bay Buchanan into the garbage can where she all that's left is to bring the can down to the curb...and fumigate/disinfect.

See here, here, here and here.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Your Government in Action

Apologies--it was a long day in class, and I'm a little burnt out...however, I managed to catch a few tidbits, newswise, during the day, and the first thought running through my head has gotta be the opening lines from Elvis Costello's Red Shoes:

Oh I used to be disgusted
and now I try to be amused.

The GOP wants to give us gas money, while bitching about ANWR as if THAT was the only thing standing between the United States and enough petrol to turn Earth into Venus, while the Democrats are countering by proposing to make the stuff tax free...well, for a little while.

Drive on up, everyone!

FEMA's once again threatening to pull THEIR plug on evacuees...hmmm...maybe THAT'S why the GOP Senators are going all out for a literal palm greasing...but then again, it could be the terminal gasps of the agency, given that a new report argues that it should be gutted like so many NOLA residences (residences that FEMA insists are habitable, which makes me think they ought to set an example and move into them--let's see how THEY like it).

The cost of the Iraq war is rising, well, as fast as the price of a gallon of gas, with no end in sight...on the domestic side, here's the fruit of your "business friendly" GOP government...

Joe Bageant has his usual mix and match of laughs and despair:

"Bomb Their Ass and Take Their Gas." An armed, petroleum addicted Jesus on steroids roughing up the world for gas money.

And, since I can't find a link on the internets, I'll close here with the entirety of Bob Herbert's latest--as he notes, we've still got two and a half YEARS of Team Bush...geez.

Back tomorrow.

Stuck With Bush

If George W. Bush could have been removed from office for being a bad president, he would have been sent back to his ranch a long time ago.

If incompetence were a criminal offense, he'd be behind bars.

But that's just daydreaming. The reality is that there are more than two and a half years left in the long dark night of the Bush presidency — nearly as long as the entire time John Kennedy was in office.

The nation seems, very belatedly, to be catching on to the tragic failures and monumental ineptitude of its president. Mr. Bush's poll numbers are abysmal. Republicans up for re-election are running from him as if he were the bogyman.
Callers to conservative talk radio programs who were once ecstatic about the president and his policies are now deeply disillusioned.

The libertarian Cato Institute is about to release a study titled "Power Surge: The Constitutional Record of George W. Bush." It says, "Unfortunately, far from defending the Constitution, President Bush has repeatedly sought to strip out the limits the document places on federal power." While I disagree with parts of the study, I certainly agree with that particular comment.

In the current issue of Rolling Stone, Sean Wilentz, a distinguished historian and the director of the American Studies program at Princeton University, takes a serious look at the possibility that Mr. Bush may be the worst president in the nation's history.

What in the world took so long? Some of us have known since the moment he hopped behind the wheel that this reckless president was driving the nation headlong toward a cliff.

The worst thing he did, of course, was to employ a massive campaign of deceit to lead the nation into a catastrophic war in Iraq — a war with no end in sight that has already claimed tens of thousands of lives and inflicted scores of thousands of crippling injuries.

When he was a young man, Mr. Bush used the Air National Guard to hide out from the draft in a time of war. Then, as president, he's suddenly G. I. George, strutting around in a flight suit, threatening to wage war on all and sundry, and taunting the insurgents in Iraq with a cry of "bring them on."

When the nation needed leadership on the critical problem of global warming, Mr. Bush took his cues from the honchos in the oil and gasoline industry, the very people who were setting the planet on fire. Now he talks about overcoming the nation's addiction to oil! This is amazing. Here's the president of the United States scaling the very heights of chutzpah. The Bush people and the oil people are indistinguishable. Condoleezza Rice, a former Chevron director, even had an oil tanker named after her.

Among the complaints in the Cato study is that the Bush administration has taken the position that despite validly enacted laws to the contrary, the president cannot be restrained "from pursuing any tactic he believes to be effective in the war on terror."

This view has led to activities that I believe have brought great shame to the nation: the warrantless spying on Americans, the abuses at Abu Ghraib, the creation of the C.I.A.'s network of secret prisons, extraordinary rendition and the barbaric encampment at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in which detainees are held, without regard to guilt or innocence, in a nightmarish no man's land beyond the reach of any reasonable judicial process.

The sins of the Bush administration are so extensive and so egregious, they could never be adequately addressed in a newspaper column. History will be the final judge. But I've no doubt about the ultimate verdict.

Remember the Clinton budget surplus?

It was the largest in American history. President Bush and his cronies went after it like vultures feasting in a field of carcasses. They didn't invest the surplus. They devoured it.

Remember how most of the world responded with an extraordinary outpouring of sympathy and support for America in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11?

Mr. Bush had no idea how to seize that golden opportunity to build new alliances and strengthen existing ones. Much of that solidarity with America has morphed into outright hostility.

Remember Katrina?

The major task of Congress and the voters for the remainder of the Bush presidency is to curtail the destructive impulses of this administration, and to learn the lessons that will prevent similar horrors from ever happening again.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

You Deserve a Break Today


McDonald's Guantanamo Bay celebrated their 20th anniversary--and all Duncan Hunter got was a choice between "honey glazed chicken" and "lemon baked fish."
Cowardly Commencement Speaker

From Jeffrey.

Big Time brings his lack of courage to Baton Rouge next month.
Not Just a River in Egypt

This merely underscores the need for FULL CATEGORY 5 protection for ALL cities in the United States that could be affected by hurricanes:

The record Atlantic hurricane season last year can be attributed to global warming, several top experts, including a leading U.S. government storm researcher, said on Monday.

"The hurricanes we are seeing are indeed a direct result of climate change, and it's no longer something we'll see in the future; it's happening now," said Greg Holland, a division director at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.

Holland told a packed hall at the American Meteorological Society's 27th Conference on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology that the wind and warmer water conditions that fuel storms that form in the Caribbean are "increasingly due to greenhouse gases. There seems to be no other conclusion you can logically draw."

His conclusion will be debated throughout the weeklong conference, as other researchers present opposing papers that say changing wind and temperature conditions in the tropics are due to natural events, not the accumulation of carbon dioxide emissions clouding the Earth.

Many of the experts gathered in the coastal city of Monterey, Calif., are federal employees. The Bush administration contends global warming is an unproven theory...

Whatever the cause, computer projections indicate the warming to date--about one degree Fahrenheit (half a degree Celsius) in tropical water--is "the tip of the iceberg" and the water will warm three to four times as much in the next century, said Thomas Knutson, explaining projections from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, N.J.

Adam Lea, a postdoctoral student at Britain's University College London in Dorking, Surrey, presented research based on British, German, Russian and Canadian studies that concludes half of the increased hurricane activity in the tropics could be attributed to global warming...

Hurricane Katrina, which tore onto the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts on August 29, was the deadliest Atlantic hurricane in 77 years and the costliest ever, with property damages estimated at $75 billion.

But instead of making wise investments here, where we'd reap long term benefits, Team Bush decided to shoot their wad all at once, pissing away the treasury on their idiotic invasion of Iraq, with the added, incalculable loss of lives, both American and Iraqi. What a waste.

Add to that their infantile stubborness in refusing to acknowledge the science that quite clearly indicates global temperatures are getting warmer, and you've got a perfect storm of stupidity and mendaciousness.

Could we PLEASE get some adults to take charge?

Today it was Condi and Rummy who made the "unannounced" or "surprise" visit to Iraq...and let's face it: any "announced" visit by an administration official in the forseeable future will either require essentially movable "Green Zone" security throughout, or you might as well give said official their own Red Uniform and congratulate them for their selection to the landing party...

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Trading "The Laffer Curve for the Sign of the Cross"

Billmon continues his series, Profiles in Chickenshit, with a look at the GOP.
Proper Attire

Humid Haney has the goods. And they're good goods.
Fuel Adjustment

The Decider came out today with his own proposal to counter rising gasoline prices, saying that while supplies of crude might be in a tight market, his own "special" brand of snake oil was available in abundance...and, not only will it power "the vehicle you see behind me, which I really want you to drive away in TODAY," it would also "cure rheumatism, warts, bunyans, high blood pressure, vapors, arthritis, phlebitis, impotence, and a host of other ailments," as well as provide us with "the key ingredient we need to bring about a successful conclusion to the war in Iraq."

The president made these remarks while alternately leaning on a beater car a late model automobile or standing on a soapbox. His political advisors tell us he plans to continue with his traveling circus on a "nationwide" tour, exulting his "miraculous elixir."

Interestingly, Karl Rove hasn't been seen much of late--rumors persist that he spends most of his time in or around the White House sauna/steamroom, dressed in a sweatsuit...

Monday, April 24, 2006

Jefferson Cheney

"Jefferson Davis numbers" is how Countdown described Big-Time's 19 percent approval rating...while Shrub isn't likely to crow too much about his own rating of 33 percent.

I generally don't post too much about these numbers, because, oddly, I'm somewhat in agreement with at least the public pronouncements of Shrubusto: I don't base my own opinions on how popular they are or not. But we can always hope these latest ratings give us a decent idea of how many genuine wingnuts we've got to deal with. My own guess is that the 33 percent includes a fair number of "support the president...because he's the president" types, while Dick's base is likely the hardest of the hard core 'nuts.

And it's at least comforting to think that only about 20 percent of the public is ready to embrace, well, a form of corporatism that I thought went out of favor, oh, about 60 years ago or so. And while I don't think that's why the LA Times opined that Dick should go, I'm willing to make common cause.

And while they're sweeping out the dirt, I wouldn't mind an early retirement for "The Decider," too.
Gut Wrenching

There's no way I could add a silly photoshopped picture to this article (link courtesy of Suspect-Device and YRHT). Excerpts at First-Draft were sufficient to get me to register with WWL so I could read the entire piece. Ouch.

Reading these stories (see below) makes it Team Bush's DELIBERATE DECISION to predicate their response, or, more accurately, their NON-response, completely on the political benefit, all the more egregious. I'm beginning to find myself slightly surprised they didn't send folks down to the Gulf Coast with sharp sticks to poke survivors in the eye.

For the benefit of those who don't want to register with WWL, here's the entire story. If you're short timewise, check out the First-Draft link. And, as Scout says, realize that Team Bush is hoping everyone ignores the makings of a huge crisis:

Amid the ruins, Katrina's children struggle

03:32 PM CDT on Sunday, April 23, 2006
Associated Press Writer

NEW ORLEANS — Each time the 3-year-old gets in the bathtub, she thinks she's going to drown. Monica whimpers when her grandmother turns on the faucet, sobbing softly at first, then wailing as the tub begins to fill.

"She cries and cries. 'Don't be crying,' I tell her. 'I gotta wash your hair,'" says her exasperated grandmother, Ruth May Smith.

There's no use telling her she won't drown; the word isn't yet part of the toddler's vocabulary. And it won't do much good to tell her that grandma will take care of her, either; Monica learned the hard way that those she loves can't always protect her.

There were seven children inside the family's Gulf Coast home on Aug. 29 when the 30-foot wave, unleashed by Hurricane Katrina, crashed down upon it. As the walls began to crumble, the older children swam out. Monica, the littlest, was still inside with her grandmother and two aunts. None could swim.

The toddler went under. She would have drowned if not for a family friend who dove in, fished her out and placed her inside a floating cooler.

In her plastic ark, the girl bobbed to safety _ but the storm's high water mark is still imprinted inside her, as it is in thousands of others who survived the storm.

Some 1.2 million children under 18 were living in counties rendered disaster zones by Katrina. As many as 8 percent, or 100,000, are expected to develop post-traumatic stress disorder, according to one assessment.

Most experts say the toll is likely far higher. Of the first 1,000 children screened by the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, 27 percent displayed symptoms of trauma, including nightmares, flashbacks, heightened anxiety and bedwetting, says Dr. Joy Osofsky, a professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at LSU's Harris Center for Infant Mental Health.

A study by the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University and the Children's Health Fund compared children displaced by Katrina with other kids surveyed in urban Louisiana in 2003. Katrina's victims were more than twice as likely to have behavioral or conduct problems; the same was true of depression or anxiety.

How children respond and the severity of their reaction varies widely. But eight months after Katrina, patterns are beginning to surface.

For teenagers, depression is setting in, as they realize it could be years before they're back in their homes, if ever.

Elementary- and middle-school children are struggling with the loss of their toys. They battle nightmares and intrusive thoughts. Their anxiety comes out in physical symptoms, like recurring stomach aches.

For children under 6, their faith in their parents' ability to protect them has been shattered. To make themselves feel secure, they regress, sticking close to their parents and returning to behavior they'd previously outgrown, such as thumbsucking and bedwetting.

"Huffing and puffing and blowing your house down is only supposed to happen in fairy tales. Now, anything can happen," says Dr. Lynne Rubin, a founding member of the New York Disaster Counseling Coalition, which counseled children after 9/11.

During the London blitz in World War II, Anna Freud, the daughter of the famed psychoanalyst, observed that children sent to safe homes in the countryside fared worse than those who waited out the bombings in shelters alongside their mothers.

It was the separation, rather than the exposure to the war, that proved more traumatic.

More than 5,000 children were separated from their families in the hectic days after Katrina made landfall, according to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Those who lost a parent often become unmoored, focusing their angst on their surviving parent.

When her father takes a nap, 8-year-old Gabrielle Riley circles the bedroom, on edge. Eventually, she quietly turns the doorknob. "I just go in his room and see if he's OK. But sometimes he don't answer me so I just scream loud, 'Daddy are you OK?'" she explains.

Gabrielle's mother caught pneumonia during the family's evacuation to Houston and died in her sleep. Ever since, Gabrielle has been unable to fall asleep by herself, curling up with her grandmother, instead. It's a recurring pattern, say child psychologists, as children retreat into what is most familiar.

More than 60 years ago, Anna Freud had a second observation: While children who hunkered down in London's bomb shelters with their guardian fared better emotionally than those sent out of harm's way, the children who did best of all were those whose mothers stayed calm. If the mother showed fear, the child sensed the threat implicitly _ and symptoms of trauma surfaced later.

Like youngsters in London, many child victims of the story sensed the threat in their parents' reaction and, in Katrina's aftermath, in TV footage.

April Ocker didn't let her daughter out of her sight during the hurricane. But since then, 5-year-old Breanna has harbored a horrible fear: "I'm afraid my Mommy is going to go away and not come back," says the little girl, her brown bangs covering saucer-like eyes.

Sitting nearby, her mother tries to comfort her, stroking her hair. But it's hard to reassure a child who saw trees crashing around her family's trailer, parked 5 1/2 miles from the beach in Pass Christian on Mississippi's Gulf Coast. Katrina nearly wiped the quaint city off the map.

With the hurricane bearing down, April placed Breanna and her 8-year-old brother inside the trailer's bathtub, hoping the tub's strong walls would protect them. The tub survived, but the children are scarred.

When it rains, Breanna says, she hides under the coffee table. She can fall asleep only in her mother's bed; she trails her mother like a shadow. April occasionally gets called to Breanna's school, three minutes from home, because of the girl's sobbing.

April has taken a job at the local Boys & Girls Club, which runs an after-school program for children, so she can be near Breanna in the afternoons.

Breanna describes the hurricane like this: "It sounds like a monster."

It's a monster that's never far away. Even in her mother's arms sleeping at night, Breanna says she often has nightmares.

"A monster is running after me. There's a bear, too," she says.

For adults, the hurricane's damage is the twisted houses, ripped from their foundations, and such things as bloated couches, spit out onto the street.

For their children, it's the muddy teddy bear and the headless stuffed rabbit, poking out of the rubble of one ruined house. It's the baby doll lying in another heap, her arms raised above her head, as if waiting to be picked up. It's the stuffed frog impaled on a radiator fan and the alphabet magnets still adhering to the side of a toppled refrigerator.

A beloved toy is much more than a physical object for a child.

"If you lose a favorite teddy bear, you haven't just lost a toy. You've lost one of the means by which you keep yourself feeling safe," says Dr. Claude Chemtob, a clinical professor of psychology and pediatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.

But the loss extends far beyond their favorite teddy bear.

For Katrina's children, their destroyed homes have become their Ground Zero. They go back again and again, sifting through the rubble, looking for tiny pieces of their rooms. They mourn each destroyed toy, each fragment of a school art project, each mottled action figure.

Objects that were insignificant before the storm have become loaded with meaning.

Like the pink, plastic barrette 10-year-old Jasmine Lombard found on the dank carpet of her flooded room. It's the kind sold by the dozen for $3.99 at the corner grocery.

Returning for the first time, Jasmine spotted the barrette and picked it up. She held it close in her cupped hands, as if she'd stumbled across a family heirloom. "This is the only memory I have of this entire neighborhood," she says.

Some kids _ like 6-year-old Michael Watts, Jasmine's next-door neighbor _ are taking matters into their own hands. As the storm approached, he did what his parents told him: Pack a single bag. Don't take more than a few day's worth of clothes.

He returned to find his toys caked in mud.

That's when he asked his parents for a suitcase, one with wheels and a handle. In it, he began storing every new toy he was given since the storm.

Now, he doesn't let the suitcase out of his sight, lugging it behind him on errands, to the store, to restaurants and to sleep-overs. Inside are his treasures: Sponge Bob and Batman. A Game Boy. A growing collection of plastic, Hulk-like men.

It annoys his grandmother, Deirdre Domino. No more taking the suitcase to school, she says.

"I tell him, 'Michael, take out a few and take them with us,'" Domino says. "He says 'Mawmaw, what if we have another hurricane?'"

"Make no mistake: This is a crisis and it should be dealt with as an emergency," says Marian Wright Edelman, the founder and president of the Washington, D.C.-based Children's Defense Fund, which in a recently released report called for immediate emergency mental health services in the Gulf states.

Overwhelmed, child psychologists in New Orleans say case loads have doubled, both because of the heightened need and because so many doctors have not returned. "I used to be able to book a new child within two weeks. Now, I'm booking appointments two months out," says child psychologist Carlos Reinoso, author of the book "Little Ducky Jr. and the Whirlwind Storm," which tries to explain the hurricane to children.

What mental health professionals fear most is the impact down the road. The 1988 earthquake in Armenia that killed 25,000 people. Tracking more than 200 children over five years, researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles' Trauma Psychiatry Program found that those who were given professional help early on fared better and showed fewer symptoms at the end of the study. Those who got no help did not improve.

A child such as 3-year-old Monica _ so traumatized she thinks she's going to drown in a bathtub _ clearly needs help, says Dr. Bruce Perry, a senior fellow at the Child Trauma Academy in Houston. Without it, he says, she risks a future of drug and alcohol abuse, high blood pressure, crime and child abuse.

"This crisis is foreseeable, and much of its destructive impact is preventable," Perry says. "Yet our society may not have the wisdom to see that the real crisis of Katrina is the hundreds of thousands of ravaged, displaced and traumatized children."

Some may already be beyond help.

No one noticed that a 14-year-old girl in Pass Christian _ once a straight-A student _ had stopped reading since Katrina.

The girl, who asked that she not be identified because she felt embarrassed, used to lose herself in books. "I would picture myself as the main character in whatever I was reading. I read so much that I would lose track of time," she says.

Now, she has a hard time concentrating. Horrible images intrude as she reads.

She remembers the drowned man, impaled on his plywood fence. She pictures her favorite skirt high up in the branches of a tree.

Last month, she locked herself inside the bathroom of her family's FEMA trailer and lifted a bottle of Lysol to her lips. Her mother found her passed out on the toilet seat, her head leaning against the trailer's plastic wall, the floor slick with the disinfectant.

The girl recovered from the suicide attempt, but her family doesn't have the resources to get her professional help, relying instead on teachers and school counselors.

To this girl, the world is a tunnel of darkness. She sees no way out.

"It's like I can't see my future anymore," she says.
Class Based

I'm in a training class all week, which will limit my postings during the day--I'll try to catch up after-hours.

However, I did manage to sneak a peek at a few headlines--Kenny Boy's playing the crying game, James Baker's once again attempting to play Mr. Fix-It for Shrub's epic Iraqi mess (he's got about as much chance as a snowball in Houston in August)...the online Pic has lots of analysis from the election--though I'd prefer to read the blogs...but that's not so easy in the classroom--including this interesting .pdf/graphic showing where each candidate polled strongly.

Also, web surfing is officially a sanctioned activity--enjoy.

Anyway...sorry to opt for a "miscellaneous" here, and hopefully I'll have some time a little later...

Oh--and finally, web surfing might be ok, but blogger is, of course, screwing up...I tried to post this right around lunchtime, but, fat chance.

Back later--if I'm able.