I was reading an article about the continuing , when I encountered this paragraph:

Among the miles and miles of devastated houses, rubble still there today in New Orleans, we found dry, beautiful homes. But their residents were told by guys dressed like Ninjas wearing “Blackwater” badges: “Try to go into your home and we’ll arrest you.”

And it was then that I realised that I’ve been hearing about and their activities far too much recently for me to be totally comfortable about it. Their Wikipedia article describes them as:

a private military company and security firm. Founded in 1997 by Erik Prince and Al Clark, it is based in North Carolina. The company markets itself as being “The most comprehensive professional military, law enforcement, security, peacekeeping, and stability operations company in the world”.

It seems their remit is wide and their operations diverse, from private security contracts, police training to operations in Iraq. It would seem that private military company is a non-too subtle way of saying “mercenaries”. Such companies have always existed, but it’s more concerning how often these people pop up in the employ of the US government.

And, as a final note, what exactly are “stability operations” and why do they sound suspiciously like the kind of stuff the CIA used to do to prop up regimes in the Developing World.

Pricelessly funny, but considering the full segment it’s actually a pleasantly human response from a politician. The article linked above is the most reliable source I can link to that only covers that story. I found a more full transcript , but it was a bit long, covering other topics too, so I’ll post the segment completely here.

The interview with Landrieu was taped yesterday, mostly on board a helicopter touring the carnage in and around New Orleans. Some of the footage was simply stunning: houses completely leveled next to houses that seemed to weather the hurricane with no problem on one island near New Orleans. “I don’t want to underestimate the horror of the damage, but you cannot understand the dimensions (of it).” Saint Bernard Parish looked to have been leveled. The helicopter flew over partially submerged train tracks as Landrieu said, “Doesn’t anyone hear us? We’re not asking for charity… We have roads that are only a few feet above water and unless something happens (because so much freight and oil goes through the New Orleans area), the whole country is going to suffer!” Stephanopoulos and Landrieu flew over a partially submerged FedEx shipping facility that serves Louisiana and Mississippi. The helicopter took a second pass over Saint Bernard Parish; every house was partially submerged. “When the police officers finally get access to the doors and open these houses, I have no idea what they’re going to find.”

The helicopter then took a pass over downtown New Orleans, showing enormous damage to the facades of high-rise buildings, and then near a prison. “The nation is criticizing us saying, why are you evacuating your prisoners? We had no choice! It was a high priority. ” Landrieu rightly pointed out that letting them loose would have created terror and chaos in New Orleans. The frustration in Landrieu’s voice rose noticeably: “I dare any sheriff in America to be able to execute that – and our sheriffs did – and if one person criticizes them or says one more thing, including the President of the United States, he will be hearing from me. One more word about it after this show airs and I might likely punch him – literally!”

The helicopter then passed over the break in the levy. “There is ONE CRANE for the whole breach? Is that pitiful? Now, the president came here yesterday for a photo op! He came here for a photo op. He got his photo op – but we’re never going to get this fixed if he does not send us help now! Now, George!… The president could have funded (levy reinforcement in previous years). He cut it out of the budget! Pitiful!”

At that point, Senator Landrieu began to cry as she spoke. We hope George gets an eyeful of this segment of This Week.

On the ground, Landrieu made it clear that it is not about only Louisiana or Mississippi – it is about the entire region. Valuable assets (and yes, that includes oil refinery and transportation) have to be reclaimed and restored. “Why the president did not send forces earlier” is the big question – and, she added, is inexcusable. “When I saw the president yesterday I looked him directly in the eye. I said, Mr. President, we need all the assets you have, more military assets, every resource the federal government can give us. We need it now, we needed it days ago, and we’ve got to have someone in charge that reports directly to you that takes responsibility for this.” Landrieu wants to see a cabinet level appointee to take responsibility for recovery and rebuilding of the Gulf region in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. “We supply the seafood, we supply the oil, we supply the goods coming to our ports [and the region is] torn to pieces. Will the president please stop taking photo ops and please come see what I’m trying to show him?”

I haven’t commented on Katrina yet. It’s a terrible tragedy, an awful natrual disaster and an atrocious human failing. But here are some articles that really made me mad. (Madder that is than hearing about gang rapes and people getting shot for trying to steal some food after not having eaten in three days)

Christian Group Blames Katrina on Gays

“Although the loss of lives is deeply saddening, this act of God destroyed a wicked city,” said Repent America director Michael Marcavage on the organization’s Web site. “From Girls Gone Wild to Southern Decadence, New Orleans was a city that had its doors wide open to the public celebration of sin. May it never be the same.”

Okay, the world is always full of fundamentalist psychos who will use a tragic event to bolster their own cause. But that doesn’t stop me feeling repulsed.

Why is the Red Cross not in New Orleans?

After seeing all the calls to donate to the Red Cross (not a bad thing in any circumstances) I find today that they aren’t even in New Orleans. Why?

Access to New Orleans is controlled by the National Guard and local authorities and while we are in constant contact with them, we simply cannot enter New Orleans against their orders.

The state Homeland Security Department had requested–and continues to request–that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city.

Penny sent me this link; Quite wierd. While I quite agree with people (in this case Everquest 2 subscribers) wanting to donate to the Red Cross account, I still find it a little wierd that they’re being encouraged to do so without leaving the game.

Furthermore, in a truly magnanimous act, Sony is not going to bill people resident in the affected area until they log in again.