Banda Aceh, meet Bourbon Street

There's something about the city of New Orleans. Something mystical, magical, evil.

I drove through there almost two years ago, returning from a tryout with a small newspaper in suburban Houston. I got off
I-10 and filled up my gas tank in a predominantly black neighborhood.

I was always taught to have tolerance for people of other races, religions and nationalities, so black people do not scare me -- early on in my life, I went to school with them (as they were bused in from places with exotic-sounding names like Springfield Gardens and St. Albans.)

But as I stood at this gas station in New Orleans, I could feel eyes boring into me. Those eyes said, "Boy, what are you doing here?" Nothing happened. All I did was fill the tank, get back in the car and go.

Far from a nice tale of beignets, crawfish and the French Quarter, no?

Still, what Hurricane Katrina laid on the city of New Orleans and Gulf Coast communities across Louisiana and Mississippi -- in spite of it being a natural disaster -- was horrific.

It was also inexcusable.

The United States is not a third-world nation, but you would not have known that from this past week's events. The Superdome and later the Houston Astrodome both used as refugee centers. Lawlessness leading to people being shot and killed as a matter of survival. The old, the infirm, the helpless dying in the streets. Stephen King's "The Stand" seemingly come to life.

Banda Aceh, meet Bourbon Street.

George Bush. Michael Chertoff. Michael Brown. These are three people who should pay dearly.

Anyone for a recall to get G-Dub out of the White House? Our fearless leader sees nothing wrong with spending billions on a war that makes no sense, but cannot tend to matters in his own country. He proved that on Sept. 11, 2001 by not heeding advance warnings did it again with this tragedy.

That inane smirk and the look on his face that essentially says "oh, well" that we have come to expect is the best he can muster. That and saddling us with $3.40 a gallon gas prices, but that's a story for another day.

Chertoff? Clueless. According to the Editor & Publisher Web site, Chertoff told Tim Russert of "Meet The Press" that one reason for the delay in rushing federal aid to the Gulf Coast was that "everyone" thought the crisis had passed when the storm left town: "I remember on Tuesday morning picking up newspapers and I saw headlines, 'New Orleans Dodged The Bullet.'"

Makes me long for the days of Tom Ridge and his color-coding alert system.

Brown -- also known as the head of FEMA ... the phrase to describe him right now during all this is "deer in the headlights." After all, being a former official with the International Arabian Horse Association clearly has readied him for dealing with the worst natural disaster to hit this country in a century.

All the so-called important people and those able to leave got out of Dodge. But New Orleans is perhaps the poorest major city in America. I don't think a family from one of New Orleans' poor sections was going to pack up their Lexus SUV and head for higher ground and a week's stay in the Holiday Inn to ride out the storm.

About 1 million got out of Louisiana. About 10,000 died. 9/11 times three.

We have become a throw-away society. I want to know when people became expendable.

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