Getting the News About Ike
September 19, 2008 10:30 AM   Subscribe

Has there been a media blackout in the wake of Hurricane Ike? The following remarkable exchange between a local reporter and TX Governor Rick Perry (during a press conference) regarding the restricted access to the Bolivar Peninsula suggests Federal officials have still not allowed news helicopters to view the devastation in that area. That the peninsula remains restricted for returning residents is perhaps understandable, given the destruction, but it is less clear why media access to the area should remain restricted.
posted by ornate insect (106 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think it's clear...you're doin a helluva job, Brownie.
posted by spicynuts at 10:32 AM on September 19, 2008


MEDIA KEEP OUT - PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION IN PROGRESS
posted by DU at 10:33 AM on September 19, 2008 [16 favorites]


This has been creeping me out too. Good post.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 10:34 AM on September 19, 2008


I suspect they don't want video of dozens of bodies to hit the airwaves at the same time as the current economic trouble, because it would cement in many people's minds that George W. Bush is the worst president in the history of our nation, and might hurt McCain as a result.

Just a guess.
posted by SaintCynr at 10:36 AM on September 19, 2008 [5 favorites]


Didn't mean to bite your style, DU. I was having a conversation and it took me a couple minutes to finish my comment.
posted by SaintCynr at 10:38 AM on September 19, 2008


Seems like they learned their lesson after Katrina. It's working too.
posted by aramaic at 10:42 AM on September 19, 2008


I thought I heard a report from Bolivar on NPR last night. Yeah, here it is.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 10:45 AM on September 19, 2008


Weasel words are an integral part of hurricane recovery efforts.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:47 AM on September 19, 2008


Media: for crying out loud, ignore these edicts and go on in. Stop lining up at the I-45 blockade. Stop hanging out near the FEMA hut. Go take a rubber dinghy across West Bay in middle of the night. Get in there and get some Pulitzer material. It's good practice for learning to be resourceful and adventurous in more prestigious assignments overseas.
posted by crapmatic at 10:48 AM on September 19, 2008 [52 favorites]


Maybe the storm uncovered the legendary lost treasure of pirate Jean Lafitte, and they want it all for themselves?

Well, probably not. But I did spend a fair amount of time on the beach there as a kid, hoping to dig my way into it. There's a personal sadness when I look at these pictures, because my family was lucky enough to spend a lot of time most every summer at Crystal Beach on Bolivar Peninsula. It was a unique and wonderful spot.

It does seem odd that this has mostly disappeared from coverage. I get my news via radio, and All Things Considered had a very affecting story on yesterday and has had daily coverage (the hardest part to hear is when a man who had lived there 66 years could not find a single landmark by which he could locate the former location of his house - the whole town is gone). But why restrict video access? That is decidedly odd. But it might very well be about images of the dead.
posted by Miko at 10:48 AM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I am surprised no reporter has chartered a Cessna and done their own fly-over. What's keeping them? The youtube interview mentioned a no-fly-zone but there was only finger-pointing about who might actually enforce it.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 10:50 AM on September 19, 2008 [10 favorites]


A guy on IRC has been providing our channel with updates regarding the situation on the ground there. The way he writes about it, it almost seems Katrina-esque.

Last I had spoken with him, it was 5 days after the storm and the power was still off in Galveston.
posted by smackwich at 10:50 AM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Kudos to that reporter who interviewed the Governor. That was some tough questioning, and he did not let up, even if it resulting in so satisfactory answers.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:56 AM on September 19, 2008


It all depends how strong this media "blockade" really is, and the quality of the reporters on the scene.

There should be someone who's managing to get in, right?

There has to be.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 10:57 AM on September 19, 2008


WHERE IS YOUR LIBERAL MEDIA NOW?
posted by kcds at 10:58 AM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Media: for crying out loud, ignore these edicts and go on in.

Seriously, when a dude would rather rail at the governor about how "inappropriate" it is than find another way in, you're talking about precisely the lack of initiative that has come to characterize journalism in the country over the last 8 years. We need to have posters of Woodward and Bernstein in the offices of all of these guys.
posted by shmegegge at 10:58 AM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


with a little message at the bottom that reads "better than you."
posted by shmegegge at 10:59 AM on September 19, 2008 [11 favorites]


AZ, that's Wayne Dolcefino, for the win.
posted by fiercecupcake at 10:59 AM on September 19, 2008


From the article at the last link:
""I absolutely understand they want to get back to their homes ... I'd like to get back to the mansion," said Perry, who moved into temporary quarters about a year ago for renovations to his official residence, which then took heavy damage from a fire in June."

Oh, yeah, that directly compares, Governor Perry. That's exactly the fucking same.

Idiot.
posted by batmonkey at 11:02 AM on September 19, 2008 [13 favorites]


I can see, from a disaster management perspective, saying "don't go in, its not safe". You've warned people, you've put the responsibility for going in on their shoulders; they can't blame you for the risk.

I can't see good reporters who don't ignore that, take the risk, and get the news any way.
posted by sandraregina at 11:02 AM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Thank you!!

The problem with media blackouts is that it leads to major speculation. That, and plenty of time, since people in Beaumont/Winnie aren't working and don't have electricity or internet access right now, leads to lots of opportunities for grapevine mischief.

My dad is normally very responsible about gossip and he's been hearing and repeating that there's something going on at the Big Store. We think that, most likely, a bunch of people went there to stay through the storm and didn't make it. The Big Store was like the town square of Bolivar. It had concrete walls, no windows, and was one of only two structures most residents would have considered truly hurricane-proof. The other was Crenshaw Elementary. So far we've seen lots of pictures of Crenshaw and none of the Big Store. The pics may be out there though - can someone find the Big Store in the most recent photos of Bolivar?

If you're a twitterer, SleepyDude2007 is doing a great job of keeping up with media reports on Bolivar.
posted by pomegranate at 11:04 AM on September 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


(To clarify why my dad would care, we're from Beaumont and Houston and had a house on Bolivar, just in front of Crenshaw Elementary. Beaumont house lost 6 trees but held up fine, Bolivar house is 100% gone.)
posted by pomegranate at 11:07 AM on September 19, 2008


That the peninsula remains restricted for returning residents is perhaps understandable, given the destruction, but it is less clear why media access to the area should remain restricted.
You disgust me, ornate insect. I guess you like a n-tier society where some professions make their practitioners better people than others and they have more rights, and the people that just want to live quietly and go about their lives without interference are at the bottom of the totem pole. So you want people banned from their homes (and their guns taken, I'm sure) so they can't watch their property, and then let some special "class" of people go in and traipse around and put on national TV what they found that blew out of people's offices and medicine cabinets and bedrooms?
posted by vsync at 11:07 AM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Think back on the various horrifying events of the past eight years which the "liberal" media has given a "meh" on; this is par for the course.
posted by maxwelton at 11:12 AM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


and then let some special "class" of people go in and traipse around and put on national TV what they found that blew out of people's offices and medicine cabinets and bedrooms?

Yes. It's called journalism. Just like I would like people in this country to see what war looks like, for real.
posted by spicynuts at 11:13 AM on September 19, 2008 [17 favorites]


Thanks for posting the NPR link, These Premises Are Alarmed.

I'm up here in Houston and was (and am) only vaguely aware of the extent of the destruction a little to the south of us. I too would like to see more media access if only to quell horrible rumors. Very scary stuff.
posted by Neofelis at 11:14 AM on September 19, 2008


You disgust me, ornate insect.

Well, the crazy has shown up in thread.
posted by maxwelton at 11:14 AM on September 19, 2008 [15 favorites]


You disgust me, ornate insect. ...

I honestly can't tell if you're being sarcastic or not.
posted by voltairemodern at 11:14 AM on September 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


How many people died?

Ike has passed into memory and nobody seems to realize how fucking huge it really was, or that it simply leveled a huge portion of coastal SE texas and LA.

Fucked up stuff.
posted by Lord_Pall at 11:14 AM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


vsync, there's a pretty damned big difference between a helicopter flyover documenting the destruction in the hopes of quelling rampant speculation and reporters picking though the rubble looking for morbid memorabilia to put on television.
posted by JaredSeth at 11:17 AM on September 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


pomegranate, I know what you mean about the Big Store and I'm thinking that's what it is, too. It's making me sick to think about. I haven't seen any pictures -- I don't want to, really -- but it wouldn't surprise me if some leaked soon, maybe to less-than-savory places like rotten.com and the like.

All this is really horrible and unimaginable for someone who grew up in the Bay Area (you know which Bay Area I mean). Sure, people say, "They built their house on the water," but you know, many of us haven't seen shit like this in Galveston/Bolivar/Seabrook/Kemah/Nassau Bay/Clear Lake in our lifetimes. Even in Alicia. Even in Allison. These places don't get blown down every year.
posted by fiercecupcake at 11:18 AM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


A few interesting photos of the post-Ike Bolivar Peninsula on Flickr (click on "most recent"). From the pics that are there, it does look like there was much wholescale destruction. It's really hard to maintian a "media blackout" when there are so many other ways for information to get out.
posted by oozy rat in a sanitary zoo at 11:18 AM on September 19, 2008


Your links are a few days old and out of date. The Youtube links says the restriction was until "today" and it was posted on the 17th. And the other story is from the 15th.
posted by smackfu at 11:19 AM on September 19, 2008


We need to have posters of Woodward and Bernstein in the offices of all of these guys.

Posters of who, now?
posted by blucevalo at 11:20 AM on September 19, 2008


guys, i'm pretty sure vsync is kidding.
posted by shmegegge at 11:20 AM on September 19, 2008


Someone who flew in on a helicopter posted these public photos to Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/30598569@N06/

(Link found among many heart-breaking pleas for information at www.swedesrealestate.com/News/tabid/86/ctl/ArticleView/mid/832/articleId/770/Default.aspx)
posted by wenestvedt at 11:21 AM on September 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


Grrr...that link didn't work. Let's try this one instead.
posted by oozy rat in a sanitary zoo at 11:22 AM on September 19, 2008


Maybe not bodies. This article (from SleepyDude2007 on Twitter) suggests that the dead (assuming any) were swept out to sea.

I found these pics a couple days ago and sent them to my folks. These are sobering.
posted by Miko at 11:26 AM on September 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


Here is a huge collection of images from Crystal Beach. They guy is wearing some shirt for a web site, however there are a lot of good pictures.
posted by Mr_Zero at 11:31 AM on September 19, 2008


We need to have posters of Woodward and Bernstein in the offices of all of these guys.

Posters of who, now?


I think they wrote The Pirates of Penzance.
posted by ryoshu at 11:32 AM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Mr_Zero found it! Here are pics of the big store (This and the next four-five pics.) I'm not seeing bodies there or anything, just a lot of destruction.
posted by pomegranate at 11:37 AM on September 19, 2008


Your links are a few days old and out of date.

But possibly still relevant. Part of the hope here was that the thread responses would help clarify what is actually going on, and make a better chronology of events possible. It's quite possible any media restriction of the area in question has been lifted in the last 24 hours. I was hoping to get some perspective from people down in that area about the aftermath and situation in general, and to stimulate discussion about what's been going on.
posted by ornate insect at 11:40 AM on September 19, 2008


The Big Store! She still stands!
posted by fiercecupcake at 11:41 AM on September 19, 2008


Jake and Elwood seem to have made it through all right.
posted by Miko at 11:43 AM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Some before and after pictures from the USGS.

Some NOAA pictures afterwards.

I imagine that a small news organization heading into airspace restricted by FEMA during a
disaster would be punished out of existence by the Federal Government.
posted by the Real Dan at 11:51 AM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


The Beaumont Enterprise is the local paper, pretty good for tracking events there.

I imagine that a small news organization heading into airspace restricted by FEMA during a
disaster would be punished out of existence by the Federal Government.


I don't think so. What would they do? A fine, some imprisonment of the perps? There'd be a long court battle, and some nonprofits and the ACLU maybe weighing in on the defense.

Is the airspace indeed restricted by FEMA? The governor seemed to suggest it was local officials.
posted by Miko at 11:56 AM on September 19, 2008


Is the airspace indeed restricted by FEMA? The governor seemed to suggest it was local officials.

Miko: Actually, Perry said in the YT clip that all airspace is federally controlled.

The Real Dan: FWIW, the reporter sounded as if he was seasoned, with a network affiliated news station, presumably out of Houston, and also mentioned that he had had no similar access problems in the wake of Katrina.
posted by ornate insect at 12:01 PM on September 19, 2008


Yes, all airspace is federally controlled, but not by FEMA, by the FAA. Did FEMA assume control of the airspace over the peninsula? Even if they didn't, the FAA doesn't prohibit small aircraft from flying at low elevations, as long as regulations are followed. I might have missed something, but it didn't sound like the governor was saying that FEMA was controlling airspace, just making the general statement that he didn't have jurisdiction, which as governor, he doesn't.
posted by Miko at 12:08 PM on September 19, 2008




Miko--I agree the details of what was or was not restricted remain unclear.

Either way, unless the reporter on the YT link was crazy, it does seem clear that someone or some entity told at least some local news agencies not to fly their helicopters over the peninsula--at least until Wednesday, and possibly later.

It's not exactly the Burmese junta restricting access in the wake of the cyclone there, but given how negatively images from Katrina effected Bush, one cannot help but be suspicious as to what the motivations were.

posted by ornate insect at 12:18 PM on September 19, 2008


Well, I just poked around some of the real-time tracking blogs, and I get the sense that this isn't really much of a conspiratorial coverup. It sounds like the FAA did comply with a request that airspace be restricted so that a couple of dozen rescue helicopters belonging to the Coast Guard and others could operate easily without having to track news aircraft in what is a fairly narrow band of airspace. It sounds legit to me, though of course it's responsible to note it and raise the questions. People who are on the ground aren't communicating a Katrina-like situation - and by now, that certainly was the case in Katrina - so I'd wager that if there were some horrors going on, we'd be hearing about it from the witnesses that are on the island (formerly peninsula).
posted by Miko at 12:21 PM on September 19, 2008


It seems like such a lottery. Must be strange to be the guy who owns the one house almost untouched when all neighbors' homes completely destroyed. In almost every photo you see the one lucky family...
posted by Meatbomb at 12:23 PM on September 19, 2008




I know thousands stayed behind. I would think many of them are just gone now, sucked out to sea. What I don't understand is WHY thousands would stay? I mean, I've never heard a hurricane warning worded as severely as that one: "If you stay you will face certain death." That's a pretty damn unambiguous statement. It can't be that thousands of people *wanted* to die...right?

In any case, where's the hell is Geraldo? If there's a story with some glory (even if it's gory), he's usually there!
posted by jamstigator at 12:28 PM on September 19, 2008




In Iraqi they learned from Vietnam in how controlling the media keeps a lid on public outrage, in Ike they learned from Katrina how.... aw fuck it.
posted by edgeways at 12:32 PM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Model airplane + GPS + digital camera anyone?
posted by localroger at 12:37 PM on September 19, 2008


Thousands of people can't just go missing without someone clamoring about them. In 9/11 and Katrina there were people actively looking for relatives, and a few missing lists online. Is there a missing list for Ike? I don't doubt that some people were swept away and killed, but I don't think it could be thousands. It doesn't stand to reason. Many of those people who said they were staying probably made last-minute escapes, or did so during the storm's eye.
posted by Miko at 12:39 PM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


“I imagine that a small news organization heading into airspace restricted by FEMA during a disaster would be punished out of existence by the Federal Government.”

Scary that folks might think that. Even worse, that it wouldn’t be worth it.
Oh, if they’re worried about impeding the rescue effort, sure, reporters should be held responsible and prosecuted if they ignore a warning like that and fly around (their organizations, I don’t think so). But there’s other ways of getting in (boat, etc.) that wouldn’t impede rescue work.

But, as has been said above, the real problem is the rumor mill and gov. folks saying “No way, no how” to coverage is stupid. Especially since it raises concerns (and quite valid ones considering recent past history) as to whether something is being covered up - etc.

Always tell the truth and the whole truth and be as open and honest as you can. You’re opinion might be wrong or right (no shame in honest folks seeing things differently), or you might miss certain facts or misjudge something and make a mistake - those can be remedied. If you lie about one thing, cover things up, try to hide your mistakes, people almost never believe you again.Whether they have to go along or not.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:46 PM on September 19, 2008 [10 favorites]


Well said, Smedleyman...the problem really isn't so much the access issue, which could be figured out, but the defensive posture that governmental officials so comfortably adopt now. It's unecessarily obstructive.
posted by Miko at 12:50 PM on September 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


This must be a big insurance hit, and it must be public knowledge which companies are most exposed, at least in general terms.

Maybe they're limiting coverage to try to keep lurid photos from panicking investors into selling their stock in those companies and deepening the financial crisis.
posted by jamjam at 12:55 PM on September 19, 2008


pomegranate: The problem with media blackouts is that it leads to major speculation.

The problem with media blackouts is that they're all too easy to manipulate for political ends.
posted by JHarris at 12:56 PM on September 19, 2008


Smedleyman: If you lie about one thing, cover things up, try to hide your mistakes, people almost never believe you again.Whether they have to go along or not.

You'd think this, yes, but what percentage of the country still supports Bush again? (blah blah Crazification Factor blah)
posted by JHarris at 1:00 PM on September 19, 2008


Yes, there was (is?) an FAA instituted no-fly zone. NOAA has released a whole-bunch of imagery [via], some of which is available on this gMap. There's a whole bunch more photos here.

[Note: If you want to view a KMZ/KML and don't have Google Earth, you can just paste the URL into Google Maps, like this.]
posted by rzklkng at 1:04 PM on September 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


The photos that Mr_Zero linked to make me a bit curious. It looks like practically all of the homes there are built on stilts, but stick-built. In contrast, the buildings that survived pretty much intact were the school and one of the churches, both of brick construction.

Does anybody know why the houses wouldn't have been constructed more substantially? My uneducated speculation would guess it's because these are second homes, and covered by insurance anyway.

I've seen sturdier looking buildings in Central America.
posted by SteveInMaine at 1:12 PM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Another problem, and I speak with some minor authority here (I am not a journalist, but only work IT support at a newspaper), is this is an area declared unsafe, and the government is telling people to stay away, and a journalist goes in anyway, well, there's a good chance that if anything bad happens to him he'll be on his own.

And by this I mean insurance. If he falls down a well or gets a disease or some other totally predictable accident happens, he's screwed. The insurance company is not going to be thinking he was doing his job, but being where he shouldn't have been.

At least that was the story I was told. In the recent Iowa flooding this came about. Reporters were told they had to leave certain areas. They, for the most part, complied.

Oh course when it comes to war, we embed them with the Army, so not sure why it's different when a disaster.

I had a friend who worked for the AP and he was told a train full of alcohol was on fire. They had the area closed off. He snuck through a corn field, got his shots, and on the way back was stopped by a cop who confiscated the film in his camera. It was the 11th roll he'd shot. So yeah, he got his pics, but I do wonder what would have happened had he been injured.

Metafilter's funny. There was another thread on here about how people didn't understand why we needed to have reporters reporting live from a hurricane, since we all know what they do, and we have radar and such. I realize the immediacy is over, but it's probably still not the safest place.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:12 PM on September 19, 2008


The Real Dan -- awesome links and stunning photos, thanks.
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:17 PM on September 19, 2008


Screw the media. Nothing incensed me more then standing at a blockade after being denied being able to return to our island after a hurricane, and watching the news crews drive around the barricades. If the citizens aren't allowed back, neither should the media.
posted by cedar key at 1:18 PM on September 19, 2008


Does anybody know why the houses wouldn't have been constructed more substantially?...I've seen sturdier looking buildings in Central America.

When I was spending time there with my folks in the 70s and 80s, most of the houses were not really "houses" in any sense of the word. They were called "beach cabins" then, and that's what they were. They were like your basic Maine camp, only not weatherized.
No insulation, cheap furniture, really simply built. They weren't intended for year-round residency, they were intended for vacationing in summertime only.

These places were mostly built on stilts for obvious reasons...flooding is common. The peninsula is not much higher than sea level - maybe like 1-2 foot elevation in most cases. Heavy rainstorms caused the roadways to disappear under water - you didn't even need a hurricane. One year, we were there during Tropical Storm Alicia. The ocean basically covered the island to the depth of a couple feet. Waves passed under the house.

Some people did live there year-round and had more substantial houses, but they were located on the inlandmost roadway, not on the outer strip of beach. There were also stores and restuarants, so those were a bit more strongly built, too.

But most structures originated as totally recreational, improvisational, and really kind of rough beach cabins. I'd heard that the peninsula had gentrified, and from some of these pictures, it looks like people did replace beach cabins with the kind of neo-classical-esque Beach Castle that's taken over the East Coast up here too - more electronics, climate control (other than window screens and fans), palladian windows, nice stuff.

In my opinion, doing that on or around High Island was just a plain risk - it's not like people didn't know that the whole place is essentially a sandbar that goes underwater a lot. The 1900 Storm (which was in living memory when I was a kid) made clear how bad a Galveston-area hurricane would be, and as with all shoreline development in the hurricane zone, it's just a matter of time. So the people whose beach houses were still simple, weak sticks and paper were actually the smart ones, who didn't overinvest in what was understood to be a sort of temporary structure.

It seems like there must be many more year-rounders there now than when I was a kid, too.
posted by Miko at 1:30 PM on September 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


SteveInMaine asked: Does anybody know why the houses wouldn't have been constructed more substantially?

Yeah, they were mostly built in the 40's - 60's and not really repaired much. Most of them had been in the same families for two to three generations, and were used only on weekends and maybe a few full weeks. You could actually see the ground through the rotting plywood by the toilet in my house - we would just add another metal strap under the house when a piece of the floor started getting really, really soft. Everyone joked about who had the most rust and rot in their homes.

This was the last piece of relatively undeveloped beach in Texas. The water was dirty brown and full of tar, thanks to tides passing unfiltered effluvia coming out of the over-engineered mouth of the Mississippi. There were always problems with stinky seaweed, horrible mosquitoes, and Ford F-250s full of rednecks blasting Stryker up and down the beach. It was the exact opposite of Destin, Malibu, or Cape Cod.

95% of the visitors were from within a 100 mile radius, and many Beaumont neighborhoods replicated themselves at the beach - you had the same neighbors in both locations. The only other tourists were from Germany or England, there to see one of the largest and most diverse populations of coastal birds in the world.

My best guess is that three years from now, it will be completely built up with brand new, $400,000 three story, storm-safe homes for rich Houstonians. Maybe that's for the best, I don't know. I just know I'll miss that strange community and those rusted-out homes more than I can describe here.
posted by pomegranate at 1:38 PM on September 19, 2008 [7 favorites]


Miko - yes a lot of people who worked at the refineries were starting to retire there. Thanks to the persistent rumor that they were going to build a bridge so that Houstonians wouldn't have to take the ferry over from Galveston, there was more speculation and money around than ever before. Things were already changing - we already had a STRIP MALL with a COFFEE SHOP, and we all know that can only lead to trouble. There was a new development with a golf course, for God's sake.

There's this one picture of just one house standing on the north end of the peninsula - they were the exact kind of new Bolivar full-time resident who'll be moving in from here on out. They had the house built with very few windows on the beach side, and had it built to withstand a Cat5 or something.
posted by pomegranate at 1:45 PM on September 19, 2008


Everyone joked about who had the most rust and rot in their homes.

We had an annual springtime ritual of going down to "open up" the cabin, which meant mostly sweeping hundreds of dead bugs out of it.

That one house standing is an odd, odd picture. Seems like, even if the house itself is strong, the shifting sands underneath would still make such structures vulnerable over the long haul.
posted by Miko at 2:04 PM on September 19, 2008


Miko I think someone said that the house was on stilts, maybe even extra-high ones, but fell down off them.
posted by pomegranate at 2:11 PM on September 19, 2008


shmegegge writes "We need to have posters of Woodward and Bernstein in the offices of all of these guys."

Not any recent pictures, though, more like from the early '70s.

They blew it again, but it's election time and it's Bush's home state, and a Republican stronghold, that's affected the worst. In New Orleans, it was easy to blame someone else, at least for a while, but it looks like they're trying to keep the sub-par job they're doing a secret. This is par for the course.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:23 PM on September 19, 2008


cjorgensen writes "I had a friend who worked for the AP and he was told a train full of alcohol was on fire. They had the area closed off. He snuck through a corn field, got his shots, and on the way back was stopped by a cop who confiscated the film in his camera. It was the 11th roll he'd shot. So yeah, he got his pics"

Um ... I think it might be a good idea in those situations to have a digital camera, a laptop and a mobile satellite connection (although how realistic this is for stringers or freelancers, I don't know, but it seems like a good idea). Just upload ASAP, and let the cops have your gear if they want, because the shots will have been sent out already.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:26 PM on September 19, 2008


So much to say. I haven't been able to see much news about Ike since this weekend, because I lost access to 24 hour local Houston KHOU coverage. I have seen very little in the national media which I have access to. But on last Saturday and Sunday KHOU had a helicopter in the air broadcasting live. On Saturday they tried to get to Bolivar and Galveston, but had to turn around. They said it was "probably due to weather." Then on Sunday they did go over Galveston and Crystal Beach. They were required to fly above normal elevation so as not to interfere with rescue operations. Therefore the video quality was bad. I watched it all live. I think you can see their footage of Bolivar on their website. Also, other areas.

So, knowing that, I'm a little surprised to hear that helicopters aren't being allowed to fly over. I'm not sure what the limits really are.

A couple of people mentioned wondering about why that one house in all the photos was still standing. Here is an article about the couple who own that house. Apparently they lost their house in Rita and this one was rebuilt then. And it is almost a total loss due to interior damage anyway.

On the subject of why people didn't evacuate, I liked this article. It rings true to me.

I have been puzzled by the lack of coverage of Ike in the national media. I'm not ready to call conspiracy, but I think a lot of it does have to do with the media not wanting their broadcasts to be too full of horribly depressing news. We only deal with one catastrophe at a time in America these days.
posted by threeturtles at 2:28 PM on September 19, 2008


Sorry, should have specified about the AP guy in my above comment: This was in 1987 or so. Predates digital cameras in journalism and such suggested by a bit.
posted by cjorgensen at 2:52 PM on September 19, 2008


Last I had spoken with him, it was 5 days after the storm and the power was still off in Galveston.

It's now a week after the storm, and power is still out in much of Houston. Power will be out to the remaining buildings in Galveston and other coastal areas for months, simply because the power lines are gone. Galveston isn't the only place that got hit badly. Cameron got destroyed again. Lake Charles had 6 feet of water in downtown, ffs.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 3:36 PM on September 19, 2008


In any case, where's the hell is Geraldo?

Geraldo's all wet.
posted by dontoine at 3:38 PM on September 19, 2008


miss unpopular opinion here.

i don't understand where the heartburn is on this one. i returned to new orleans 6 weeks after katrina. as i was driving to my mid city home for the first time, dodging potholes and watching for downed power lines and seeing the incredible number of trees & tree parts lining every side street and the graveyard of hundreds & hundreds & hundreds of white-crusted, abandoned cars in the neutral ground on carrollton avenue (the main north-south roadway from uptown to city park). i thought, 'yikes. they were supposed to have phase i debris removal completed. what's all this crap?'

it finally dawned on me: phase i debris removal was done. phase i was getting everything IN the roadways OUT of the roadways. i had passable streets. gas & electric lines had been cut off to prevent electrocution and fires. and this was 6 weeks later.

for the first week after my return, i stayed with a friend in baton rouge & made the trip into nola every day to muck out the house & mop up the mold. i'd try to get there before 9 am, but the absolute crush of traffic sometimes made it difficult & i wouldn't get to my house until 10 or so. when the sun started to fade, i'd get in my car & drive through a deserted neighborhood and onto i-10 where i was in an immediate gridlock. it would take me 40-60 minutes to make the 20 minute trip from my house to the kenner city line.

fast forward to a few weeks ago, returning from gustav. while new orleans didn't take a direct hit, there were plenty of power outages and lots of wind damage. people returning were specifically told that they might not have power, in some cases for weeks, and that they should bring what they needed because basic services weren't available. so what was the buzz on local talk radio? I DON'T HAVE POWER AND I CAN'T FIND A HOTEL! I CAN'T FIND A RED CROSS STATION FOR WATER & ICE. WAH WAH WAH.

i'm all about securing the area from residents and from media. let 'em bitch. because they're either going to bitch about being locked out, or they're going to bitch about how devastated their homes and former lives are, and how the government isn't providing what they need. even though they knew it was a possibility all along. anyone who lives in a potential disaster area & is ignorant of the fact SHOULD be kept away from the site.

bolivar penninsula isn't a movie; it's a disaster site. if you've never seen one, you have no idea--none--of what that means. it's not 'grab a digital spy camera & a satellite hookup and take some pics.' it's 'jesus christ. am i going to fry myself driving around that tree and over that wire and oh my god is that a body?'

give the government some time to do its job, which is to restore some level of safety to the area. if they're going to allow reporters in there, i cannot state strongly enough: it should be the local media. let geraldo wait north of the island with anderson cooper & the rest of them and get *their* news from the local journalists. maybe they should allow residents to return on specified days and give as many of the first responders as possible a well-deserved day off when the residents return. but i see little, if any, gain from opening it up to a media circus and disaster-numbed former residents.

please don't misunderstand me. i have nothing but sympathy and empathy for residents of areas hit by ike, and most especially those who lived in the tidal surge areas. they face a long, difficult road ahead, with lots of decisions a human being should never be forced to make. many of them lost not only their material possessions, but a good part of their pasts. they will need real help for a long time to come. from my standpoint, sending some network media star in isn't going to help. it's just going to delay the way to recovery.
posted by msconduct at 3:48 PM on September 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


OK, first of all this is all second-hand and strictly anecdotal but...on another forum that I am a member, a respected member of the community said his best friend took his boat out into the water near Galveston to try and see if his house on the island was still standing. His goal was to get close enough to look at the shore through binoculars and confirm his house was gone. He was stopped well before getting in range by the Coast Guard, who told him he couldn't go any further. He talked to the CG for awhile and then said the waters were full of debris and bodies (human and animals). And the gators were feeding well.

Now this could be full of implausibilities and geographical inaccuracies; I have no idea. But the guy that posted this is not one to make shit up out of the air. What infuriates me is that the media doesn't have the savvy and balls to get past this blockade, to work their sources, spread some dough around and find out just how bad this situation is.
posted by Ber at 5:10 PM on September 19, 2008




My dad's household is still without lights. Otherwise, they've fared better than most. They're in the Westbury area. They've called me for news a few times, since that's the only way they're finding anything out. Dad had no idea Boliver was wiped out and is now really worried about friends he had there.

My sister's household got lights back on Monday, cable on Wednesday, and nothing else was interrupted. The school she teaches in was destroyed, however. They're in Deer Park.

My best-Houston-friend's place is sort of in the Navigation area, kinda...the more industrial, prostitute-ridden part. They're without lights and water and they've noticed whenever they're returning from an errand that people are collecting around homes that look like no one's home, potentially eying them for "content removal". They've quit leaving en masse, but also can't let one person go by themselves because other neighbours have been rolled (for groceries, beer, and, of course, money). It's getting tense for them. She's trying to figure out now how I can be of the most help, but she's understandably hesitant to just let go of everything in the place and come up here.

It's complicated. Between those with lack of resources, those concerned about safety, folks pre-occupied with liberty, and the ones who wanted to protect their property, I can't see one answer that solves the whole problem. Unless we could implicitly trust our government and we had the resources to literally scoop everyone up one by one - animals and all - and take everyone to a safe place until it's all fixed.

But we don't have that situation, so now we have this one. I hope those with a bend or responsibility for solving this sort of problem adds the Ike example in with our other recent disasters to model a better response in the future. That's really all I can think to wish for, at this point. Well, that and for those affected to be taken care of appropriately and quickly. And to hope for as little preying upon the vulnerable as possible, as futile as that may be.
posted by batmonkey at 5:23 PM on September 19, 2008


He snuck through a corn field, got his shots, and on the way back was stopped by a cop who confiscated the film in his camera.
And that constitutes theft and abuse of authority, and has absolutely nothing to do with the safety of the photographer. I hope to hell the paper/service threatened a lawsuit and got the film back.
posted by etaoin at 5:58 PM on September 19, 2008


I was watching a news report on Texas Cable News this evening. The reporters were at the blockade and they were showing the blockade guards who are tasked with the very challenging job of explaining to residents that they can't go back in...

well, in the report, tensions were super high between a guard and this Indian guy that was insisting that he should be allowed back in. As the Indian driver conceded to the officer and began to leave, the police officer shouted "GO BACK TO INDIA." It was fucked up. I know tensions & emotions are high... but come on, fellow white Americans, we can never pull out the race card. NEVER ... no matter how high tensions are.

I really wish I could find a video for ya'll... even the TXCN news reports were commenting on how crazy it was & how disciplinary action should be taken.
posted by eli_d at 6:04 PM on September 19, 2008


bolivar penninsula isn't a movie; it's a disaster site. if you've never seen one, you have no idea--none--of what that means. it's not 'grab a digital spy camera & a satellite hookup and take some pics.' it's 'jesus christ. am i going to fry myself driving around that tree and over that wire and oh my god is that a body?'

Yes, and there are war correspondents, too. It's a disaster, but it's also news. But our coverage of war is very sanitized these days, too.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:23 PM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


shmegegge writes "a little message at the bottom that reads 'better than you.'"
blucevalo writes "Posters of who, now?"

Poster
posted by Mitheral at 6:27 PM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


but i see little, if any, gain from opening it up to a media circus and disaster-numbed former residents.

I see a whole lot that we lose if we try to keep reporters from doing their jobs and reporting the reality of even the worst situations. I don't see that we gain much by being provincial and antagonistic in regards to the press. We fought pretty hard to have a free press in the first place. Seems like people are all too ready to give it up over some perceived annoyance. Was the press really the problem in New Orleans after Katrina? Would it have helped to cage off the whole area and try to hide it? ... well, actually, they sorta tried to do that. Yes, it was ugly. That's reality. We need to know this reality, or we can't collectively make good decisions about it.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:33 PM on September 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


The reporter asking the questions is Wayne Dolcefino. He's kinda like Houston's Geraldo.

Anecdote: At a happy hour Wednesday night before the storm, a bunch of co-workers and I were watching the TV's in the bar, pretty sure at that point that we weren't going to dodge this one. When talk inevitably turned to who planned to leave town and who was going to ride it out, one guy said, "I'm going to find out which way Wayne Dolcefino is going and head the other way as fast as I fucking can."
posted by Cyrano at 6:45 PM on September 19, 2008


but come on, fellow white Americans, we can never pull out the race card. NEVER ... no matter how high tensions are.

I think this would be applicable to all races, eh?
posted by Faze at 6:47 PM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


"what percentage of the country still supports Bush again?"

Sure, but they're suckered into believing they're in on it and don't believe he lied. I'm not saying propaganda doesn't work.

Also - f'ing looters. One possible danger is that Guy Smiley gets gunned down as a possible looter. Figure if no one is on the island who's supposed to be there other than your fellow troops, it's a target rich environment.

"i don't understand where the heartburn is on this one."

Yeah. But you can't discriminate between reporters. Let one in, you really have to let them all in. Although they shouldn't be 'let' in at all. If residents have a right to stay (and I think they do. Guy wants to risk his life, it's his neck) same deal with reporters if they want to take the risks.
And I'd like some fourth estate oversight. I might think the govt. is doing a swell job saving people, or they might be leaving folks to drown. They can tell me whatever they want. But I won't *know* either way without some independent confirmation.

A lot of folks though, don't think these things through. Oh, I get the getting stuck part. I've got sympathy for those people.
But - as a f'rinstnce. I've got a buddy who bought a nice car. We went shopping at the same time. I bought a 4x4. He put in a pool. I got a generator system. He goes out for meals. I generally spend time in the gym or at the range.

Bad things are going to happen to us. Most people pretend like they're not. And a lot of these folks couldn't afford to save up for a rainy day - ok.
But in the U.S. we're so silly with money we've got this idea we're invulnerable.
Had some storms out here a bit ago. I had to pick up my pal (in my beat up 4x4) because his sweet ride didn't have the clearance to go over some of the branches and public works hadn't hit the streets yet.
And at that - he might have wanted to help me if it were me that was in trouble - but there's no way he could have.
Bad stuff is going to happen to people we know too.
About time we put making all kinds of money on the back burner and start recognizing that if we don't get each other's back, no one's got it.
Ain't like a hurricane is going to not destroy everything around me because I've got a little more money in the bank.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:53 PM on September 19, 2008


Having been in a couple Emergency Operations Centers in Texas over the past few days let me add my .02. There is a LOT of media "management' going on. The message will be controlled. Up-thread, someone mentioned that lessons were learned in Viet Nam about message-control and again, more learned during Katrina. I'd say that the core of that answer is right.

The prolonged lack of media access is troubling. The public have a right to know what has happened. Viewing images is not a bad thing. Those images may lead to the public pushing for change. Pushing the government for more help. Both of which are their right to do. I have always gotten the "We are going to show the world that we are not New Orleans" vibe from those in Texas. I will not surmise to guess where that sentiment is based (race, class, etc.) but it's wellspring is somewhere.

To sum it up: Nobody gets the "disaster thing" right. There are always errors. You hope that they are "good" errors that don't cost life or limb. You hope that, at worst, you delay something. Not too long, mind you. But if there are errors, let them be in timing rather than in execution of plans. So if you get people water and food but you are 2 hours late in your delivery it is better than no delivery. Part of me thinks that this is the case here too, to some extent. They just didn't time the "media thing" well but they got the "Search and Rescue" thing right. Timing bad--execution good.

There is a LOT of work happening across Texas. Evacuees are in many other cities (San Antonio, Victoria, Corpus Christi, Dallas, etc.) and will be returning if they have a home that is inhabitable (inhabitable means that it might not have running water or electricity). Some evacuees will be moving from one shelter to another shelter in another city as the primary Mass Care facilities close. At one Mass Care Shelter (with about 1500 people living there) I learned about how in mass shelters, families start to build little colonies of cots to separate themselves from others and protect "their own". Evacuees would stand cots up to make walls for a modicum of privacy. For security reasons, they could not be allowed to stand. Seeing these folks really hit me hard. Especially the hundreds of special needs evacuees (read: bed bound senior citizens who did not have medical needs). There were sheet walls that separated the special needs evacuees from the rest of the evacuees. Picture rows of hospital beds with old folks lying in them. That broke my heart.

I was in Houston, Beaumont, Galveston, Victoria, Corpus Christi and San Antonio this week. Got to see a lot. Today, as I prepared to leave my hotel in Houston, I was talking on the phone with my office. An older woman and her daughter were standing next to me (as we were all waiting for the elevator). As I ended my call, we entered the elevator. The daughter turned to me and said "I heard your call. You runnin' or fightin'?" I said "Excuse me?". She said "The hurricane. You runnin' from it or fightin' it?" The doors opened and I went to exit. "Fightin' it. Trying to bring food in." She stepped toward the closing doors and said "Thank you. We appreciate your help." and the doors closed.

I hope that all are well tonight. Count your blessings. Kiss the kids. Smooch the significant other. Pat the dog/cat.

To those that are still in the mix: you are in my thoughts and prayers tonight.

I need some rack time. Good night Blue.
posted by zerobyproxy at 7:06 PM on September 19, 2008 [9 favorites]


We need to know this reality, or we can't collectively make good decisions about it.

i don't know who you are, but i don't want you making decisions for me, and i'd venture to guess that the good people of the state of texas feel the same way. the collective 'we' that should be making decisions includes emergency response (on all levels, but with oversight, which at this point comes from the feds), texas state & local governments, and the people affected by the storm.

It's a disaster, but it's also news.

agreed. but what you'll get is sensationalism, not news. i distinctly remember the cnn reporter 'reporting': 'we're traveling through this new orleans neighborhood by boat ... .' WHAT neighborhood, fucktard? he didn't know, because he didn't know anything about new orleans neighborhoods and even if he did, it's a whole different landscape when it's under water. i kept waiting for some actual news and what i got was an awful lot of coverage with very little information. as a side note, it also pissed me off to no end that oprah & anderson cooper & sean penn were allowed in my city and i was not.

i'm all about freedom of the press, and maybe we can start another thread to discuss what that means. in my opinion, it's not the infotainment of network news, and that's where most people are going to see the images and hear the stories that come out of the area. i contend that only local media be allowed in. they should have some perspective on the area, the people, and the economy; someone flying in from new york does not.

media wasn't the problem in new orleans, but it wasn't much of a solution, either. the problem in new orleans was that 1) no one expected anything of the magnitude of katrina, 2) fema is a bunch of blowhards who sit around and brainstorm but didn't think they'd ever have to put their money where their mouth is, so they were totally, woefully, unprepared for anything other than their little threat-level propoganda campaigns, 3) communication was zilch, 4) a small but significant number of people who stayed did not have good intentions and good will for their neighbors after the storm, and 5) local, state & federal gov'ts were either vying for control or running around in circles saying 'the sky is falling!' no one was in charge, and thousands of people suffered until some sort of power structure was in place.

perhaps the best thing to come out of katrina is that it helped people prepare for the response to ike. i have no idea what leads you to say They blew it again, krinklyflg. yes. they are the government and they are inept and they've proven over & over again that they're much better at blowing up things than they are at putting them back together. i hardly expect them, though, to be able to stop the wind from blowing and the water from rising.

unless i'm missing something, the best they can do in the short term is to try to make sure as many of the people affected by ike are as safe as possible and have their basic, immediate needs taken care of, and then to secure the area to make it as safe as possible so that 1) people can go in and do their jobs without getting fried by errant electric wires or structures that may collapse and 2) residents can go back and find out what, if anything, they have left and then try to figure out what their next few years are going to be like. i don't see either of those two groups of people benefiting from having geraldo stick a mic in their faces.
posted by msconduct at 7:32 PM on September 19, 2008


They were talking about putting a bioweapons lab in there. Maybe there was one there already.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:46 PM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


The public have a right to know what has happened. Viewing images is not a bad thing. Those images may lead to the public pushing for change. Pushing the government for more help. Both of which are their right to do.

Quoted for truth.

I have always gotten the "We are going to show the world that we are not New Orleans" vibe from those in Texas

I think you nailed the reason for the obstruction.

There's no reason for EMS officials to bar media access. It should be written into their disaster plans. Yes, people do need to know. The people affected by Katrina actually knew less in the days of the crisis than people watching the news thousands of miles away. They had less access to information. They couldn't use communications tools. Others, who could, compiled knowledge, fed information into missing lists (sometimes assuring families their loved ones were safe) and called our representatives urging more support. They headed down to the Red Cross to pack boxes, and those with the power authorized charitable organizations to devote attention to the problem. Don't underestimate the power of media coverage. It's often sloppy - but without it, we have darkness, ignorance, and indifference instead. Katrina would have been a far worse debacle without the attention of the entire nation focused on it via media reports.

Allowing media access, and being open and honest with the media, is the single most effective way to bring support, dollars, and legislative attention to a problem.
posted by Miko at 7:53 PM on September 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


msconduct supposed:
"i don't want you making decisions for me, and i'd venture to guess that the good people of the state of texas feel the same way."

I'm a Texan with family and friends affected by this. We are more than fine with having the rest of the nation being allowed to make personal decisions regarding the handling of this latest disaster.

I want independent oversight and so do they, so that we can all make better decisions.

We need to know whom we should support and and whom we should have answer for errors, to differentiate between those who can be trusted and those we need to look at a little more critically. We also need to know whether or not people are truly being protected and served, and whether or not property rights are being respected/will be respected during restoration.

Folks here ask questions like, "are they going to knock down anything that's still standing that they want to develop for resort space?" Hells, yes, these people want answers and oversight. They definitely want people to be able to see what's going on.

I get what you're saying msconduct, and I'm sorry to put this so bluntly, but it's naive.
posted by batmonkey at 7:56 PM on September 19, 2008


Searching finds some news from near the area, e.g.: County judge: Bolivar's missing may never be found
[Judge Jim Yarbrough] said search teams have scoured about 75 percent of the peninsula, [...]. He estimated too, that about 30 to 40 residents remain on Bolivar despite an order to vacate.

Thus far, no bodies have been found, but the county judge knows that is not likely going to be the case as the search expands.
[....]

The judge also put to rest rumors that the county had shut off the peninsula to open a temporary morgue and cover up mass finds of bodies. He said that in five days of searching no bodies had been found and that no morgue operation was present on the peninsula or at Galveston's UTMB, as had been rumored.
posted by hattifattener at 8:21 PM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


They are the government and they are inept and they've proven over & over again that they're much better at blowing up things than they are at putting them back together.

That's because it's easier to blow things up that build them. Second law of thermodynamics and all. Still, what your arguing here is the party line from the people who have been working very hard to make it true. There was a day and age when the US government excelled at putting things together.

I understand what you are saying about the media in the wake of a disaster (mine is the house with the green roof). Still, suppressing the news because some reporters are annoying is a level of slippery slope thinking that I would file with likening the local police to the Third Reich - I can roll my eyes when an adolescent skateboarder does it. It's harder when it's the people in charge.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:58 PM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


i don't know who you are, but i don't want you making decisions for me, and i'd venture to guess that the good people of the state of texas feel the same way. the collective 'we' that should be making decisions includes emergency response (on all levels, but with oversight, which at this point comes from the feds), texas state & local governments, and the people affected by the storm.

Without a press, you don't have a functioning democracy. This is the sort of test of our system which requires an open process that all can see and determine whether we need to improve it. Assuming we have a duty to just throw money at you and shut up and not be informed of what's going on is insulting. Yes, the press can be sensational. That's not a good argument against a free press.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:11 PM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


here's a link to the video that i couldn't find earlier of the officer at the blockade shouting "Go Back to India" to a victim trying to get back into his home... http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=1dc_1221778315

... it had 2000+ comments on the ABC news website: http://abcnews.go.com/comments?type=story&id=3029898

I probably should have mentioned last night, that I realize this is slightly off topic... & also that picking incidents like this to show over & over again (especially to a group of MeFites) probably isn't the most productive thing to do, but it's one of those rarely caught on tape incidents that I just can't help but share with you here.
posted by eli_d at 3:33 AM on September 20, 2008


Kid Charlemagne, just yikes. That must have been quite the ordeal.
posted by madamjujujive at 10:09 AM on September 20, 2008


There was an article in the little Dallas throwaway "paper" Quick that the state of Texas is going to seize all property within X (x was unstated) amount of feet away from the water. Using a 1959 law, and because so much of the beach has eroded, many people now find themselves in a zone where even if their house survived, the state can condemn it, and there will be no financial recompense to the property owners.

I'm still trying to find some more information, but it looks like a lot of homeowners are about to be really screwed by Rick Perry and his administration.
posted by dejah420 at 11:15 AM on September 20, 2008


dejah420--see this link that I posted upthread.
posted by ornate insect at 11:26 AM on September 20, 2008


OI, danke. That's a little more than I had...but still...it seems egregious when it was the land that changed, and not the house.
posted by dejah420 at 4:26 PM on September 20, 2008




Kid Charlemagne, whoa nelly, what an experience that must have been! yikes is right.
posted by nickyskye at 8:55 PM on September 20, 2008


« Older Reuse   |   CDSs and you. Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments