BEHIND THE CURTAIN.... George Bush's photo-op tour of New Orleans yesterday has apparently driven Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu over the edge. Today she blasted FEMA for its feeble response to Hurricane Katrina and Bush for his phony, stage managed promises of action:
Help process survivor data for missing-persons network (via BoingBoing) The Katrina PeopleFinder Project is an effort to gather online data on missing Katrina disaster victims into an easily searchable database, so their loved ones can be more easily contacted when they are finally found. Via a wiki-style site, volunteers are organized and assigned to enter information gathered from various blogs and online resources.
Is the former Republican mayor of New Orleans really blameless? Not by a long shot. From lefty blog Lenin's Tomb, which points to evidence that New Orleans officials "never put plans into place" to evacuate the poorest of the poor. [thanks, Aknaton]
Last September, a Category 5 hurricane battered the small island of Cuba with 160-mile-per-hour winds. More than 1.5 million Cubans were evacuated to higher ground ahead of the storm. Although the hurricane destroyed 20,000 houses, no one died. What is Cuban President Fidel Castro's secret? According to Dr. Nelson Valdes, a sociology professor at the University of New Mexico, and specialist in Latin America, "the whole civil defense is embedded in the community to begin with. People know ahead of time where they are to go. Cuba's leaders go on TV and take charge," said Valdes... "Merely sticking people in a stadium is unthinkable.. Shelters all have medical personnel, from the neighborhood. They have family doctors in Cuba, who evacuate together with the neighborhood, and already know, for example, who needs insulin." They also evacuate animals and veterinarians, TV sets and refrigerators, "so that people aren't reluctant to leave because people might steal their stuff," Valdes observed.
The Two Americas. See also A Nation's Castaways, 'To Me, It Just Seems Like Black People Are Marked' & White Man's Burden
The Two Americas. See also A Nation's Castaways, 'To Me, It Just Seems Like Black People Are Marked' & White Man's Burden
New Orleans: A Geopolitical Prize A very enlightening article for anyone needing a little refresher in geography. New Orleans is not optional for the United States' commercial infrastructure. The United States historically has depended on the Mississippi and its tributaries for transport. Barges navigate the river. Ships go on the ocean. The barges must offload to the ships and vice versa. There must be a facility to empower this exchange... Without this port, the river can't be used. Protecting that port has been, from the time of the Louisiana Purchase, a fundamental national security issue for the United States.
SomethingAwful.com, which has been running on fumes since Thursday because they're hosted in New Orleans, added a Paypal donation link for Katrina relief to their barebones status update site yesterday, raising more than $3,000 an hour. Paypal then froze the account for "suspicious activity," preventing over $30,000 in donations from reaching the Red Cross.
Unconfirmed good news: In case you were really, really, worried, like I was after reading this, it looks like Alex Chilton survived the hurricane after all...
Oh, the irony... The Bush administration, long critical of the United Nations, has accepted a U.N. offer of help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and a U.N. team has gone to Washington to see how it can complement American efforts.
There has been much criticism, both in the US and world media, of the handling of rescue operations after Hurricane Katrina. However, the Washington Post ran a survey Friday evening (registration required - bugmenot ) and of American's citizens 46 percent -- approve of the way Bush has handled relief efforts while 47 percent disapprove, a result that might offer some cheer to beleaguered White House staffers who feared a stronger negative reaction.
Storm Hits, Capitalism Preserves Profits, Humanity Drowns. Beyond pointing out that Bush cares greatly about rich white people, what does the Left have to say about Katrina? How accurate is it to blame racism and capitalism for the federal governments's lack of response?
FEMA fudging dates? (scroll down a bit). That's their screenshot, and then the current google cache, and the current page.
Mayor Ray Nagin Memorial Motor Pool? The city of New Orleans owns buses - lots of them. So why weren't they used to evacuate the citizens BEFORE Hurricane Katrina struck? A rough count shows two hundred and five buses owned by the city of New Orleans. "Houston is 350 miles from New Orleans. At 50 miles per hour, 13,530 people could have reached Houston in seven hours. Turn the buses around. 14 hours later another 13,530 people are in Houston, far away from Katrina's wrath. In a little more than a day's time, you've gotten the poorest people who wanted to leave but couldn't leave on their own out of the city".
"I'm sure the thugs at OMB are happily gnawing on Mike Parker's bones." Mike Parker, the former head of the Army Corps of Engineers from 2001-2002, was forced to retire because he vocally criticized Bush administration plans to cut funding for their anti-flooding projects. Here's a bit of Mike Parker's testimony from a Senate Budget Committee meeting in 2002, shortly before he was forced to resign: "After being in the administration and dealing with them, I still don't have warm and fuzzy feelings for them. I'm hoping that OMB (White House Office of Management and Budget) understands we're at the beginning of the process. If the corps is limited in what it does for the American people, there will be a negative impact." So, what is he saying now about what would've happened had New Orleans recieved proper funding? "Levees would have been higher, levees would have been bigger, there would have been other pumps put in. I'm not saying it would have been totally alleviated but it would have been less than the damage that we have got now."
As reported by New Orleans ABC affiliate WGNO / ABC26 LA National Guard Wants Equipment to Come Back From Iraq
"They killed a man here last night." Stories of rapes, murders, and suicides are emerging from survivors of the "shelter" of the Superdome. From a National Guard soldier: "We found a young girl raped and killed in the bathroom. Then the crowd got the man and they beat him to death."
"The guy who runs this building I'm in, emergency management, he's responsible for everything. His mother was trapped in St. Bernard nursing home and every day she called him and said, "Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?" And he said, "Yeah, Mama, somebody's coming to get you. Somebody's coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody's coming to get you on Friday." And she drowned Friday night. She drowned Friday night." Aaron Broussard, president of Jefferson Parish in New Orleans damns FEMA on Tim Russett this morning. (WMV clip)
Why some people stayed behind in New Orleans Wealth buys many things, not the least of which is safety and connections. What role does the society have in looking after all the poor? Should it have a role and if so, why? What could these people have done to help themselves? Why did it only take a few days for society to fall apart?
A cached google page says Loyola thought the city of New Orleans contracted with private companies for hurricane evacuation. Did I miss something? Where we these mysterious buses? From here and here.
Atchafalaya. As part of its coverage of the hurricane, the New Yorker has reposted on-line John McPhee's 1987 article on the Atchafalaya basin and the Army Corps of Engineer's long-running efforts to control the Mississippi. An excellent piece from one of our best writers.
Over 2000 Katrina refugees bused to Muskogee, Oklahoma will "be met by approximately 300-400 National Guardsmen" who will check them for weapons and interview them before allowing them into barracks and tents at Camp Gruber, a World War II training facility deactivated in 1947 and located 14 miles southeast of Muskogee near the village of Braggs (population 301). This after 250 were arrested during a riot as the buses were loading. A 9 pm curfew was passed by Braggs councilmen in anticipation of the refugees' arrival. However as of Friday night, "there is no food or water on site". Further, Braggs High School enrolls 60 students and Braggs Elementary School enrolls 168. For those (few) wondering why Camp Gruber sounds familiar!
The real disaster in New Orleans. David Aaronovitch of the London Times observes, "It isn’t the failure to act in New Orleans that is the story here, it’s the sheer, uninsured, uncared for, self-disenfranchised scale of the poverty that lies revealed. It looks like a scene from the Third World because that’s the truth. It’s a quiet disaster that ’s been going on for years." The truth is the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans has a poverty level of 36.4 percent. A quarter of households have an annual income of less than $10,000, while half live on less than $20,000. Over half of the population in the ward is categorized as “not in the labor force,” mainly because they have ceased looking for work. The truth is that even on a normal day, New Orleans is a sad city. "Sure, tourists think New Orleans is fun: you can drink and hop from strip club to strip club all night on Bourbon Street, and gamble all your money away at Harrah’s. But the city’s decline over the past three decades has left it impoverished and lacking the resources to build its economy from within. New Orleans can’t take care of itself even when it is not 80 percent underwater." The National Review is already blaming it - predictably - on the breakdown of the family. Conservatives in America are already dismissing the problem, as they have for years. But to those outside the United States, the scale of poverty in the world's richest country comes as a shock.
The U.S. government has chartered three cruise liners to act as temporary homes for Katrina victims. The three ships -- bearing the ironic (at least in this case) names Ecstasy, Sensation and Holiday -- have been chartered for the next 6 months and can house up to a maximum of 7,000 people combined. After all the screw-ups made at just about every level of government in the past week, I'm pleased and surprised to see a creative, "thinking outside the box" type of solution.
Post-Katrina satellite images are now available on Google Maps. Click 'satellite' to see the before. Here's Superdome. Here's Highway 610 disappearing into the water, abandoned cars littering it. via Google Sightseeing.
"Little Somalia" is how The Army Times has characterized post-Katrina New Orleans. And this isn't about race?
Dept. of Homeland Security: Emergencies and Disasters
Preparing America In the event of a terrorist attack, natural disaster or other large-scale emergency, the Department of Homeland Security will assume primary responsibility on March 1st for ensuring that emergency response professionals are prepared for any situation. This will entail providing a coordinated, comprehensive federal response to any large-scale crisis and mounting a swift and effective recovery effort. The new Department will also prioritize the important issue of citizen preparedness. Educating America's families on how best to prepare their homes for a disaster and tips for citizens on how to respond in a crisis will be given special attention at DHS.Clearly, we are in good hands.
Do You Know What It Means to Lose New Orleans? WHAT do people really know about New Orleans? Do they take away with them an awareness that it has always been not only a great white metropolis but also a great black city, a city where African-Americans have come together again and again to form the strongest African-American culture in the land?
The Red Cross has been ordered to stay out of New Orleans. Critical firefighting equipment is being left untouched. Chicago's offer of manpower and equipment is "snubbed" by FEMA, according to the Mayor. FEMA "forgets" to tell the military to airdrop food and water to the survivors. Northern Command has been ready for days, just waiting for the President to give the orders. Feds delayed paperwork giving permission for National Guard to act. Louisiana begged for federal help on Sunday in a formal request, but the Bush administration says they didn't know anything about problems until Wednesday. Meanwhile, reporters apparently grow weary of the spin doctors.
From a New York journalist's description of the days after the flood:
I saw persons take watches from dead men's jackets and brutally tore finger-rings from the hands of women. The ruffians also climbed into the overturned houses and ransacked the rooms, taking whatever they thought valuable.Sound familiar? This report about the Johnstown Flood was also filled with stories of "minority savegery", drunken Hungarians at the time that eventually turned out to be completely untrue or wildly exaggerated, such as the rescue helicoptor being shot at. also see previous mefi thread on LA looting here
Gone with the water - "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees" (October 2004)
The Matrix shatters before the eyes of the nation (sorry, WMP link) -- and on Fox News! For those old enough to remember, it's so significant that Geraldo Rivera says of conditions in the New Orleans Convention Center, "it's like Willowbrook in there." (Rivera became famous in 1972 by exposing the horrendous conditions in a home for the mentally retarded called Willowbrook; finally, after decades of degrading himself, he remembers what his job is.) And Slate's Jack Shafer on "the rebellion of the talking heads" -- the refusal of reporters on the ground in New Orleans to regurgitate the official spin. [via TalkLeft]
The Louisiana Superdome. The moment that thin white membrane flew off the roof to drown, the structure in the center of the storm became a metaphor. That sad, weathered, beaten, and war-torn roof represents the city and its plight.
Innovative Emergency Management So this private company got the contract to develop the plan last year. The original release: the Baton Rouge-based emergency management and homeland security consultant, will lead the development of a catastrophic hurricane disaster plan for Southeast Louisiana and the City of New Orleans under a more than half a million dollar contract with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Now all press releases regarding it have been pulled from their website post-Katrina.
Kanye West gets twitchy on Red Cross Benefit Oh goodness. The young prankster in me loves this kind of thing. The boring matured realist version of me finds this divisive bumper-stickerism toxic to our modern political dialogue. And worse still I see the following scenario unfold: Kanye West: "George Bush doesn't care about black people". Cut to: My mother-in-law in front of the tv, slowly putting her checkbook back into her purse.
CNN of all places has a great overview of the BS coming out of washington about Katrina - "security is really good", the bodies in the convention center are "rumors" - versus reports from the ground. Fantasy land.
Early reports on cultural institutions in Katrina's path. From The American Association of Museums.
Convoy on the go. Most of you probably already know this, but a massive convoy of food in and people out of downtown New Orleans is underway. On CNN they have video from helicopters, showing lines of hundreds of busses. This is a huge relief.
The Simple Life: When Socialites Get Displaced (NY Times, reg required)
Longtime Mefi member chuq offers a tiny respite from the misery with his report on the survival of many of Louisiana's beloved musicians, including the good news that Fats Domino was rescued from his roof. More coverage here and here. (more)
FEMA Director Mike Brown fired from prior job at Arabian Horse Association. Why is NOLA relief so unbelievably slow in arriving? Could the leadership of FEMA have anything to do with it? The current head of FEMA (Fedral Emergency Management Agency) "resigned" from his former post as head of an Arabian horse owners association under a cloud of litigation. He then moved on to FEMA as legal counsel for former FEMA head Joe Allbaugh, an old college buddy. When Allbaugh left, Brown took over. Nice how buddies can help each other, isn't it? Can anyone guess who Bush & Co will force to take the rap for the crisis of New Orleans? (via Daily Kos)
They are feeding the public a line of bull, and they are spinning, and people are dying down here: A post with a link to MP3 of an explosive WWL radio interview in which New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has a message for politicians: "I don't want to see anybody do any more goddamned press conferences... put a moratorium on press conferences, don't do another press conference until the resources are in this city, and then come down to this city and stand with us... Don't tell me 40,000 people are coming here - they're not here; it's too doggoned late. Now get off your asses and let's do something..."
Tulane University Emergency Information This informational website -- almost a blog -- has replaced Tulane's regular home page, and I found it strangely compelling as it described the encroaching emergency day by day. It set me to thinking about institutional " crisis management plans" and programs in disaster management. Can you plan for a disaster with rational management science, or is it an illusion?
While FEMA is slow to reach those in New Orleans, they were quick to promote Operation Blessing, Pat Robertson's controversial faith-based "charity", linking their website second only to the Red Cross. Hours after the federal agency was exposed by the blog Sploid today, they quickly tried to hide their support for the pastor's organization by changing their web pages.
KatarinaHelp Wiki Excellent resource for everything Katarina.
"It doesn't make sense to me." Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert weighs in on rebuilding New Orleans during an interview (bugmenot) by the Chigago Daily Herald. "It doesn’t make sense to me, and it’s a question that certainly we should ask. . . First of all your heart goes out to the people, the loss of their homes . . . but there are some real tough questions to ask about how you go about rebuilding this city. We help replace, we help relieve disaster . . . (Rebuilding) is certainly the decision the people of New Orleans are going to make. . . But I think federal insurance and everything goes along with it and we ought to take a second look at it. . . How do you go about rebuilding this city? What precautions do you take? . . . It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed. . . But you know we build Los Angeles and San Francisco on top of earthquake fissures and they rebuild, too. Stubbornness." Dennis Hastert was a sponsor of the legislation that cut the funding needed to upgrade New Orleans levee system to withstand category 5 hurricanes. He also failed to vote on legislation this year which would've provided additional funds for the Army Corps of Engineers.
The business of rebuilding --A range of companies that are expected to play a role in repairing damage, clearing debris and restoring power to the hurricane-battered Gulf Coast ... Some are saying that Katrina could actually boost the Gulf Coast's economic growth for the next few years, while others are forecasting higher energy prices, commodity shortages--and even steeper coffee prices. Worse, the storm may blast inflation throughout the economy.
Some of the best still images of what remains in Hurricane Katrina's wake are up over at the Washington Post; there are a lot of compelling shots there that put into perspective the horror of the situation. If you're looking for a well-edited group of photos that convey what the Gulf coast has faced over the past few days, and will face in the coming months, this is it; I'm in awe of the photographers that continue to work hard to document the disaster.