serving brain food since 1998


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Unconscionable Stories

If you saw this man crying on Meet the Press this morning, like I did, you shed a tear for his story and felt his pain and anger as if they were your own.

And if you read about this story of despair, you, like me, might have been hoping against hope that it somehow wasn’t true.

But nothing, in the plethora of grim tales of disaster, compares with a terrible incident recounted to me as the week drew to a close. There was a 380-pound man stranded on the seventh floor of a New Orleans hospital. Unable to get him down five flights of stairs to the second-floor exit, through which other patients were being evacuated onto rescue boats to escape the rising floodwater, a female manager took a shocking decision. She ordered that he be given euthanasia.

A bearded, middle-aged doctor, who is still wearing his green hospital garb, tells me the sad story as he and his colleagues sit at the muddy, squalid refugee-receiving post on New Orleans’ I10 Highway. He does not want to give me his name and will not identify the patient out of respect.

But he wants people to know what happened in there. His lower jaw quivers as he recalls the events of Wednesday night.

“We had minutes to get out, and I asked, ‘What are we going to do about this guy, because he’s a big man. It was going to be tough getting him down those stairs – the elevators weren’t working. That woman turned to me and said straight out, ‘We’re going to help him to heaven’. It makes me want to break down, how that man’s life was taken away.”

It is one of so many gruesome and desperate stories that have poured forth from the tens of thousands of refugees.


Comments Off on When The Saints…

When The Saints…

Ben Shahn
When The Saints… 1956
Tempera, 53; x 30 inches
Private Collection


Comments Off on What Again?

What Again?

Because enough public officials apparently did not already put their foot in their mouths concerning Hurricane Katrina, I saw Franklin Graham, son of Billy, on Fox’s Hannity and Colme’s making a late entry into the fold last night. Referring to the apparent looting and anarchy happening in the streets he observed an evident lack of scruples in uttering, “This happens when we take God out of our schools and God out of our society.”


No, this is what happens when people freak out because they think they’re going to die and there’s no sign of help in sight. Period.

Later I watched at least three or four different segments on different channels spotlighting people of admirable faith and courage unknowingly and quietly proving him wrong.

Homeland Insecurity

By now you’ve seen the shocking reality of what’s happened at the convention center in New Orleans.

To contrast, here’s an NPR interview from this morning. Robert Siegel asks the Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, about his supposedly in-depth knowledge of the events.

Robert Siegel: We are hearing from our reporter, he’s on another line right now, thousands of people at the convention center in New Orleans with no food, zero.

Chertoff: As I said, I’m telling you we are getting food and water to areas where people are staging. The one about an episode like this is if you talk to someone or you get a rumor or an anecdotal version of something I think it’s dangerous to extrapolate it all over the place.


Robert Siegel: But Mr. Secretary when you say we shouldn’t listen to rumors. These are things coming from reporters who have not only covered many many other hurricanes, they’ve covered wars and refugee camps. These aren’t rumors, they are saying there are thousands of people there.

Chertoff: I would be…I have not heard a report of thousands of people in the convention center without food and water.



Comments Off on Hitchens vs. Stewart

Hitchens vs. Stewart

I’m late for the ball on this, I know, and for that I should be soundly flogged.

But is it me or did comedian Jon Stewart give a rhetorical beating to Christopher Hitchens during a semi-intelligent discussion about the Iraq war the other night? I know the supposed representative antithesis of the liberal establishment has been slipping lately, even backing out of a statement an old Nation colleague challenged him on, and, yeah, there are the accusations of his excessive drinking, and, yeah, he was only on the show to plug his book, but I think Stewart emerged victorious if not far more clear-headed in his arguments—even outdoing that pissy little cat fight with Tucker Carlson.

Now, just imagine if the man who would be serious considered himself an intellectual equal to the sorry sobs to whom he’s so good at making fun. On second thought, scratch that. It only works (and the part of work here means being funny) if the subject is self-effacing.

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